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Ignis

Everlast

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a part of Ignis, by The Stinky Hat.

Entered Everlast

The Stinky Hat holds sovereignty over Everlast, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

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Setting

A communist underground kingdom ruled by a large military army known as the Everlast Force. Everyone in this kingdom is treated equally, except from the Overseer and High General of Everlast, who approves or rejects all suggested military movements. Children are born into their role in society and work as they are told to work by the Overseer and High General. Most children are drafted into the army to increase the arm of the Force.
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Everlast

Entered Everlast

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Everlast is a part of Ignis.

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Weyellin [12] High General and Overseer of Everlast

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"What are our numbers?"
"Rounded to 500,000, sir."
Weyellin stood from his throne. He was an incredibly tall man, 7 feet at best, his large stature was built by his muscle, and furthered by his massive armour, and he towered over the smaller man. Weyellin removed his helm and placed it on the throne. His curled black hair finally released into the air after a long day, his forehead dripping beads of sweat atop the scar on his right eye. He crossed his arms and slightly bowed to the man as a signal for him to leave. The man hurried off past the elite guards next to the door, thanking them as the large stone doors swung open for him. As soon as he was out, the doors slammed shut.
"We are doing well, Grandmaster." He said monotonously, turning to an old man hidden by the shadows. "Who is next?"
"Our scout group from the Great Drakon, sir. They have reported a release from the Magi Tower."
Weyellin spat on the floor.
"That does not interest me."
The Grandmaster cleared his throat and took a step towards Weyellin.
"On the night of his release, sir, the authorities found several bodies of Gral men. Dead."
Weyellin's face changed to one of slight interest.
"Let them in."
The doors swung open once again and a group of five men in open leather armour armed with pikes walked in. The superior of the group led them ten paces from Weyellin, and all bowed in unison.
"So, this Mage of ours. What happened to the Gral men?"
The superior stood straight.
"The bodies were terribly unrecognizable. Two blackened by flame. One with an entry and exit wound in the head. Another with a turned ribcage." The superior paused and shuddered. Weyellin scoffed.
"A barbaric and murderous mage? Can hardly be a difference from the other savages from the Magi Tower."
"We don't think he was alone, sir. No man could take on that many Gral alone."
"Perhaps our mage is no man." Weyellin said with a half-smile. "You know what happens to murderers in Everlast? I am sure you are familiar. We clad ourselves in Lord Death's attire, and we execute them ourselves. Swiftly. Justly."
"Of course, sir. Alas, this particular mage is beyond our jurisdiction." The Grandmaster said with a hint of despair in his voice.
Weyellin sighed and walked down the throne steps to greet the superior. The scout group all let go of their weapons as he came five paces into the superior's line.
"You believe he was not alone?"
"No, sir. There were black-coloured wounds on a number of the Gral bodies."
"Cauterization, perhaps?"
"No, sir. Obsidian. Too small to be a blade of substantial size. A dagger. The only ones we know of were last in possession of the Blackmont child, Iaira."
"Huh." Weyellin stood and thought for a moment.
"I thought she had pride. I never thought her to stoop so low as to accept a mage into her company." He said in a mocking tone.
"Grandmaster. What do you make of this?"
"Nonsense. The Blackmont girl is dead."
"Well, then. If this truly is an inhuman mage, capable of this amount of destruction, then he must be stopped. Send a group of twenty Elite to Drakon. I would like to find out about this mage of ours."
With that, Weyellin turned and walked back up the stairs to his throne.
"You may leave. Thank you for the information. You have served your cause well." He turned again to face the group of scouts.
"Grandmaster. See to it that this group is rewarded for their efforts. The superior, a promotion." He bowed and waved his hand in dismissal.
"We live to serve Everlast, and will die to protect it further!" The scouts shouted in unison, and then turned around and left the building. Weyellin collected his helm from his throne and slumped himself down onto it.
"Bring this mage to me, Grandmaster." He said, placing the helm back onto his head. "I wish to speak with him."

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"The 20 Elite you requested are at the gates and ready to depart to the surface, sir." The Grandmaster followed with hurried steps behind the giant strides of Weyellin in the corridors of the Everlast Keep, clinging to his books dearly.
"Good. We will need to question the mage before bringing him to Everlast justice. Make sure they bring him here alive, or rather, in a state in which he can speak."
"Sir, you are aware we cannot deal our full justice to him. The walls of the Great Drakon are far beyond our reach. We will never be allowed into its gates."
"We do not need to get into the gates." Weyellin stopped and crossed his arms once again. "He cannot stay in that city as a murderer. He will be departing. Soon. We will need to leave before the stone has turned."
"'We', sir? Are you planning to go with the guard?"
"I had not planned it, but yes. If this mage truly is without the aid of others, we will need true force to withstand him." Weyellin reinforced his grip on his helm that was held against his side.
"Sir, I advise against this. If you should fail in your attempt to bring the mage to justi-"
"I will not fail." Weyellin cut him short. "And neither will the 20 Elite. They are Elite for a reason, Grandmaster."
"I-I apologise, sir. It is only... If this mage is as powerful as we suspect him to be, even a great warrior such as yourself may not be able to withstand his flame."
"As the commoners say: 'Get your tongue out of my arse', Grandmaster. I care nothing for flattery. I am only as good as my skill allows me to be. If you suspect this mage is able to topple me and 20 Elite, then I say take 50."
"Sir, 50 is a substantial amount-"
"Then we take 20." Weyellin said, turning to the Grandmaster, his face cold as stone.
"Y-yes, sir." The Grandmaster had no other choice but to accept whilst he was in the gloom of Weyellin's shadow.
"Will that be all?"
"Yes, sir."
"Then I shall head for the surface. Hold the keep while I am away. Do not make any military movements until I have returned. Understood?"
"Understood, sir."
Weyellin continued walking down the corridor and swiftly made a right turn to a spiral staircase. Two scholars threw themselves against the wall as he passed, not out of fear, but out of respect that perhaps they made give him space by doing so. Weyellin reached the top, and continued along a bridge to the Southernmost building of the keep - The Parish, carved into the natural rock, like the rest of Everlast. Once inside the Parish, Weyellin walked to the alter and kneeled before a great statue of the Dragon of Everlast. He respectfully removed his helm, held out his hand, and, as quietly as he could, cleared his throat.

"O Everlast,
talon - raw stone,
strength - unbreaking.
Entrust thine power to me,
and I shall strike down the foes
that challenge thy justice.

O Everlast,
will - marvelous,
foresight - vital.
Entrust thine wisdom to me,
and I shall follow the path
that leads to acuteness.

O Everlast,
bravery - frightful,
fortitude - awesome.
Entrust thine courage to me,
and I shall walk the dark road
not easily taken."

Weyellin's hand began to become imbued with a glowing light. He pressed it against his forehead, closed his eyes, and saw a vision of a great desert. He had been there before on a surface mission. It was the Raraku. A far land considered inhospitable to most. It was there he saw the pyromancer he had been seeking, clad in dark, drooping attire with a large red rose in his overcoat pocket. Weyellin had certainly never seen such a thing before. Perhaps it is his mark? He thought. All Tower mages wear a mark of their art. It is law. But the Red Rose? I am not familiar. A word began to flash before him in a strange writing style. He could only make out a 'C' before he was interrupted by a hand landing harshly on his spaulder.
"Lord Overseer and High General of Everlast. Sorry to cut you short, it is only the Elite Guard wait for you. Have you any leads?"
Weyellin stood slowly and shook himself so that his vision was clear. The man that awoke him from his trance was the High Priest of the Keep Parish, and older man with a kind face, yet he was void of all emotion.
"The Raraku. That is where I shall find this mage."
"I see. A large area. Your horse is ready, Overseer."
"Thank you, High Priest. Before I depart; Do you know of the Red Rose sign for a mage? It is a branch of pyromancy, I know that much."
The High Priest mumbled and squinted at the air in thought, then leaned in closer to Weyellin.
"Chaos, if I am not mistaken. Very rare art, that one, not many wear that rose. Not with pride anyway."
"Could you tell me more about it?"
"It is dangerous, even to the caster. It practices not only the art of casting flame, but also the art of the power underground. Of magma, lava, the sorts. Chaos Pyromancers are known for their accursed dark flame, which sticks to the skin and burns until there is almost no trace. They are also the only branch in Pyromancy to learn the higher art. If I am not mistaken, their initiation ceremony is quite messy, indeed. It involves the complete burning of the Pyromancer, so that he is one with the art. If you survive, you are released. Quite simple, really."
"Thank you. I will... Be careful around him."
"Safe travels, Overseer. May the Dragon guide you."
Weyellin turned and walked back the way he came, acknowledging all who bowed to him. He found his way to the throne room, and removed his ceremonial cape. He wouldn't be needing it where he was going.

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The twenty Elite stood straight in two ordered lines on either side of the perfectly smooth stone bridge before the Great Doors to the surface. Any other day, they would have worn their parade armour, a light mix of black cloth and steel, yet today they wore massive black armour much similar to that of Weyellin's, yet nowhere near as protective. They were armed with large halberds, yet also had a sword ready at their side for close combat. Weyellin made his way out of the keep with his grey horse onto the bridge, walking slowly before stopping at the fifth man and thumping his chest twice with his right hand. He was much more well armed, carrying his crested shield and sheathed sword at his side, with a compact repeating crossbow at his hip. A dagger concealed itself within his boot, and he smiled to himself before his face returned to it's regular sternness.
"You may stand at ease."
The two lines of Elite swung their arms behind their back in unison.
"Men. You are some of the best in the lower arm of the Everlast Force. This turn of the stone, I entrust my life unto you. We will travel to the Raraku, slamming any and every obstacle in our way. The man we are looking for is a mage, but do not be fooled; He is a pyromancer of the highest rank, and bloodthirsty, at that." Weyellin looked over the men. Not one had a strike of fear in their dark faces. This pleased him, and he continued.
"He is suspected of having an blade of obsidian in his possession, and if that is true, he will like nothing more than to colour your bodies black with it's edge. His flame will be his dominant weapon, however, and so we will need the aid of a magical barrier." He looked behind him to see the Grandmaster, who swiftly bowed and met Weyellin's eye.
"Grandmaster, go and collect the keep's Betrayed."
The Grandmaster bowed again and left hurriedly into the shadows between the two towers that guarded the entrance to the keep. Weyellin took another look at the keep. He had admired it since he was a boy, and it still amazed him to this day. It was built upon a large circular rock, it's black walls following the natural contours of the rock perfectly before coming to a halt halfway into the keep. The keep itself was very large, and was carved out of the natural pillar of rock that held up the great kingdom. From this distance, the keep appeared as if thorned, as many of the towers had incredibly spiked roofs. Below the great circular rock laid the kingdom of Everlast, a giant city of dark, blackened further by the shadow of the underground, all carved into the rock. Along the walls, lava flowed down into pools of stone, letting it run down further underneath the city for heating. It was an effective system that Weyellin himself had thought of.
Parish bells rang, and faintly, Weyellin could hear the bustle of the city's streets below the bridge, market traders shouting their prices, the metallic clang of a hammer against the forge. It was all too much to take in at once, yet Weyellin was used to it. He had ruled here most of his life, and it had taken him years to fully appreciate the beauty of the city. All throughout his admiration of the city, his face never once changed to one of emotion. It was blank. Cold. He turned to face the Elite and speak once again, but the Grandmaster's raspy voice interrupted him.
"The keep's Betrayed, sir."
Weyellin turned his head to the side and saw the girl out of the corner of his eye. Her mouth had been stitched shut, and her eyes were gleaming and watery.
"Betrayed. We are in need of a magical barrier to protect us from flame. Is this something you can do?"
The girl bowed silently.
"Good. Then we will take you along with us." He turned and walked towards the girl. He opened his mouth to speak before his eyes met hers. They were a gorgeous bright blue, almost turquoise in the light of the lantern the Grandmaster now had held close to her face. It didn't seem to bother her, however. Perhaps the warmth of the lantern made a change from the large and empty cell the Betrayed are kept in. Weyellin ran his finger across the girl's mouth.
"Mages are not to be trusted." He said, turning once again to face the Elite.
"There are 22 of us, and only one of him. Let us show him the true meaning of Everlast Justice!" He shouted, unsheathing is sword from his side and thrusting it into the air triumphantly.
"We live to serve Everlast, and will die to protect it further!" The Elite screamed together.
"Arahu!" Weyellin said, changing the position of his sword in the air towards the Great Doors in front of him, which had now slowly begun opening, the singing of chains bringing the doors to life. Weyellin hauled himself onto his large horse and began to trot down the centre of the two lines of Elite.
"Superiors! Orders!"
The two men at the front of either line barked orders to their men, and all men turned to face the doors, and began marching.
"It has begun." Weyellin said with a smile, taking his helm from the rope at his hip and placing it onto his head once again.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Iaira Blackmont Character Portrait: Weyellin
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Iaira stirred back into consciousness feeling as if she were trapped in an entangled web of the making of most certainly hideous creatures to be sure. The smell that entered her nostrils was heavy, a mixture of the black candles the priests used for rituals, myr essence and wood burning. Still, better than what she expected; Hood, you elegant bastard. I would have thought you'd be all bones and mould. Of course, I'm more surprised you didn't decapitate me right at the Gates. I'll give you this, it doesn't feel too comfortable. Perhaps Kallantir's influence for his prodigy did not extend to that. Her body ached faintly, but as it woke along with her mind, the pain intensified. Shuddering, rushing, burning. It struck her with such sudden force Iaira couldn't muster control of her own body. The assassin thrashed to each side, a scream rising up inside her throat, but she found that she was firmly bound in place, flat metallic bands, much like the ones she had been restrained by in the dungeons. Her eyes shot open, suddenly flooded with unfamiliar panic. I should be dead. The inconceivable pain joined her memories and mentally she began to check her injuries- the one she found most alarming was her hand. Iaira had to depend on her deft and quick movements, otherwise she was plainly useless, easy prey for any amateur Talon. She attempted to bring her wrist closer to her face for inspection but found that both her arms were tied above her head with something much softer than the chains she'd have expected. Perhaps boiled leather from the feel of it.
Her eyes had to adjust to the dimness of the room and yet her sight was still quite blurry. Black specks joined with crimson ashened her image of her dubious surroundings. This certainly is not Hood's realm. She could tell the walls were made of chiselled stone and she spotted the source of heat- a carved, dark marble fireplace with a fire burning, its warmth inviting. Iaira shifted, despite the pain piercing through her and the bedhseets she had been covered with- satin;crimson too,not bad at all- slipped lower. A subtle shock ran through her when she realised she had been stripped from all her clothing and most importantly, her weapons too.
'Fucking cunt,' she muttered, her voice husky and strained, tugging angrily once at her restraints. 'There were some antiques in there.'

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Character Portrait: Iaira Blackmont Character Portrait: Weyellin
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"You wound me with your cruel words, girl."
Weyellin's voice seemed to come as a surprise to Iaira, himself not present in the room, but on the balcony overlooking the South, and less wealthy side of his Kingdom, his hearing as acute as ever.
"Your possessions are safe, undamaged and on the carviettei beside you in several satchels. As for your clothing, washed and cleared of blood, soot, sand and dirt. They were also redyed Rockbeetle Black. As good as the Midnight they were dyed before, with hints of a slight dark blue." Weyellin walked from the balcony and into the room, gently lit and heated by the black marble pillar-like fireplace that stood in the centre of the room. The near-transparent crimson cloth that hung in the archway fluttered slightly from Weyellin's disrupture before it returned to it's stagnant and unlively station in the arch.
"On the edge of the bed. You're welcome."
Weyellin's legs continued to carry him beside Iaira, now, himself fully lit up by the warm glow of the fire. He was no longer in armour, and instead in a dark coated cloth material, decorated with dark grey lightmail, jagged like the rock around him, and a black animal fur around his neck. Below the long, drooping chained cloak was a deep crimson undergarment that matched the pattern and style of the room. He sat on the bed beside her, his stubble grown into a light and shaggy beard and his curled hair even blacker than before.
"It has been two days. I am truly sorry for your current state. Were it a regular Pacifier, the recovery would have been perfect. The memories fresh, but your flesh and bone reversed to a previous state. This Pacifier, though... Well... He was a little more rough with you than he should have been. Your wounds are fully healed, but there will be discomfort for some days."
His arms reached out to the satin sheet that was slipping from Iaira and pulled it over her breasts again, his eyes keeping away from her naked and beautiful figure's tempting allure, and preferring to keep to her eyes.
"I also must apologise for your stripping. Defense of Everlastian Citizens is our number one priority, and so all weapons must be removed to drastically prevent threat. Your clothes, however, are removed because it has been theorised by a leading official that one who is naked is much, much less likely to fight back due to the lack of coverage, support, armour and dignity. It will also, should you escape, allow us to easily sight and catch you when away from your chamber."
Weyellin looked at the girl, tied up and naked, and totally at his mercy.
"I must thank you for your lack of co-operation. It proved entertaining. And, to be honest, you have impressed me. You were very strong-willed to have actually attempted to fight the gas."

Setting

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Character Portrait: Iaira Blackmont Character Portrait: Weyellin
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'I will not feign my confusion if I tell you that I am at loss, Commander,' she said. Watching his movements intently, she couldn't help but notice his obvious lack of armour, the comfort with which he carried himself around her. He believes I am no threat, he believes he is safe and sound, drowned in the naivety of his power. I am a Blackmont; we hold grudges.
'Let me fully understand that chain of incidents that led us to your cozy chambers...' Iaira sucked in air, taking a deep breath, mostly to earn herself time to probe through her memories.
'I save your men's life from the Whirlwind which- dragon descendants or not- would have stripped you down to your bones. I suppose people from Everlast must have a peculiar sense of gratitude for instead of thanking me for saving your worthless hides, you turned against me and my companion, attacked me with a severe case of outnumbering me and for the coup de grace you crippled me with one of those nothing if not crude and ugly crossbows.'
She heard his words with a tone of exaggerated disbelief, her slender eyebrow arching upwards. Iaira had no doubt that he'd chosen the Pacifier very, very carefully. 'Alas, let me continue. You imprison me and torture me with every means at your disposal. You tell me that in the eyes of your justice I am a wanted criminal and yet you did not let me die- which I would have, judging by the blood loss. I've killed enough to know that much, trust me, love.' She had to slow down now. Her voice was wearing out. When she spoke again, it was lower.
'And I awake in some luxurious room, wearing nothing but my perfume -hoping you at least had the good grace to spray me with some- and immobilised. Facing my captor and torturer, who has deemed armour to be redundant because he underestimates me. Who is up for some idle discussion, strangely.'
Iaira made a point of ignoring the shifting bedsheet and sat up, her eyes level with his now, unmindful of her own nakedness. Her voice barely higher than a whisper. 'Now, Commander, I know the pleasure of my company is exquisite. You don't have to remind me that. I do not consider you a man of risk to simply keep me around for it, however. There must be another motive,' she straightened as long as her restraints would allow, the leather taut behind her head as she edged closer,'So tell me, Weyellin,' emerlad locked in charcoal, 'Why am I still alive?'

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Character Portrait: Iaira Blackmont Character Portrait: Weyellin
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Mindless. Utterly mi-
Weyellin released a deep sigh that seemed to speak for him and sharply extended his palm to meet Iaira's cheek.
"Don't you dare give me any sense of judgement. You are in no such place to do so. You're alive because you're useful, and you have valuable information about some... less reputable people and organisations that we can extract from you. Perhaps it is you that underestimates me, dear girl. This is Everlast, and false pride built upon a worthless surname will do you no favours. Here, we have castes and ranks. Forenames, if comfortable, but nothing more. This room, this treatment? A formality. I am charitable."
He lazily drew a cloth from his pocket and wiped it slowly across her bloody lips.
"Justice is why you have not been praised and cheered. Justice is why you are here at my orders and my disposal. Justice, my dear girl, comes above all, and you will come to learn this. You are nothing here. Dirt. Scum, like all the rest. Greatness comes from aspects such as will, servitude and prowess. Not last names."
He paused for a moment to avoid his digression.
"You are under Everlastian control. You are property. And the sooner we are done Pacifying your pyromancer companion in The Undercells, we will see how he fares against the Everlast Pets. You'll have a front seat view, for that one."
He stepped back and shuffled himself inches away from the brash fire that stood in the centre of the room, watching closely for the specific movements of the guardian spirit.
"I'll send a foremaid in to help you get your clothes on and she will escort you to meet me in the throne hall. Don't try to be clever or smart. I went the distance of doubling the guard at your room's door and balcony. I have allowed you to walk there, however. It is a magnificent city, after all."
His large, heavy feet fell silent against the stone flooring as he walked through a small passageway leading out of the room.
"And Iaira?" He paused. "Don't insult my crossbow again. It hurts so very badly."

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Character Portrait: Iaira Blackmont Character Portrait: Weyellin
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Iaira scoffed, her eyes still locked in his, a provocative glare. Once he touched her, she recoiled as if bitten by a snake. Talk about familiar.
'In my view, Commander,'It is more important that innocence be protected than it that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished,' her voice had grown cold icicles and just as sharp. 'But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the people will say 'Whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection.' Air sucked in dry. A deep breath. 'And if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the people, that would be the end of security whatsoever.'
His mention of Ulysses had flared up something inside her. Something primal. A sense of...spite. The pyromancer had mocked her before about her loyalty to her companions but in fact, she prided in it. If Iaira could not so much as protect the men alongside her, she was no better than mindless rulers sending their armies to the slaughter. Like sheep.
'Who do you think bestows upon you the right to deliver Justice? Do you perceive the notion that you yourself are not a sinner? Go on. Look at the man you're holding in your dungeon. Question him. Torture him. You will find him to be purer than any of your men are. Certainly purer than you. You, Weyellin,' her voice had risen without her taking notice, 'will be condemning an innocent.'
Iaira settled back, her skin brushing the soft headstand, covered in crimson velvet.
'I don't mind social unrest. I excel in causing it. Truth be told, a part of me hopes you'll make that one misstep. Something tells me it would not be the very first time.' The assassin spat the last words out.
She chortled dryly at his last remark, her voice raised one last time, 'Look at your people, Commander. See the cold flames of rebellion taking over your precious city. And clench your teeth as you deliver more death unto "sinners".'

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Character Portrait: Iaira Blackmont Character Portrait: Weyellin
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Iaira's mocking words and attempted stabs at Weyellin's pride brought to him a memory of how he was as a boy in history classes learning about the failed leadership of Overseer Turckin, his greatuncle, who Weyellin's father decapitated in Proving Combat. With this memory came a wide smile in the view of his failure, his lack of power, righteousness and knowledge.
'...clench your teeth as you deliver more death unto "sinners".'
"A pleasure, my girl."
He chuckled lightly and continued walking out of the room.
Ignorance. She could not understand.
Then show her.
Upon his exit of the room, a post of four elite guardsmen stood to firm attention. A woman, young but frail, walked forth and knelt before him.
"My Overseer, am I to escort our prisoner now?"
"Yes, lady. But take her to the Parish first. She needs to be educated."
"At once, sir."

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Character Portrait: Iaira Blackmont
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Iaira had slumped back against the headstand, her body bent to the side. The show she had put up for Weyellin before had visibly drained her and for now she was just pleased to have a quiet moment before she had to face those stiff, uptight, false-duty driven men of his. Her throat felt parched and a look around the room had informed her of the various glass magna placed upon different tables and stands. A particular flash perched upon the firemantle had caught her attention. The warmth of the flames lighting the colour of its contents, like liquid fire.
The door opened and a figure stepped in, the footsteps barely audible. Iaira tensed once more. For all his talk of honour, Weyellin had used every means at his disposal to interrogate her and she had no doubt he'd reach any extent to get what he wanted. As the figure stepped out of the shadows and into the light cast by the fireplace, Iaira saw a small-framed woman, the expression in her eyes one of empty obedience. Another duty-driven puppet. Where's the fun in those?
'I've been sent to escort you.' The woman's voice was apathetic; The assassin wondered whether she'd even bleed, if she pricked her white skin with a needle.
'Could I interest you in something of a more sensual nature, firstly? I mean, I am conveniently naked and immobilised and I'd like to try everything once.'
She ignored her generous offer and brought herself closer to the bed with measured steps. A surprising strength filled her hands when she pushed Iaira's head to the side, ignoring her grunt of displeasure as she fumbled with her binds. Her arms were gently lowered to her sides, needles puncturing through them, no doubt an effect of the blood rushing back into them. It wasn't hard to note that her wrists remained restrained for the time being.
The woman pulled her clumsily, standing her on her feet. Her eyes made a point of not lingering a second on her nakedness. Quickly, she took hold of her renewed garments and did most of the dressing up herself- almost causing Iaira to stumble twice. Briefly, her hands were untied, only long enough for her to slide her arms through the sleeves of her tunic and then her thin, boiled-leather vest. Her silence frustrated the assassin.
'Follow me.' The same lifeless-fish tone. Hood's balls, is that what married women sound like?
The temperature was roughly the same outside of the room; it must have been around sunset, for the last shafts of light entered through the window slits in the walls. The girl had attached a small chain-like line to her bound wrists, the end of which rested in her palm as she led Iaira through the halls. They passed different rooms, most with high arched doors barred-shut. Through some there was sound to be heard, quiet and repetitive; in others there were guttural screams and in the rest, simplistic silence.
However, the girl made a halt before a very different section of the fortress. That much was evident. The darkness inside was absolute and when they stepped inside through the high doorframe shaped like dragon's jaws, her foosteps seemed to echo to the highly-hanging ceiling. In the walls, the rock had been carved sporadically to reveal a crimson-fiery light, but as much as Iaira sought for a light-source, a candle, a brazier or anything similar, she was disappointed. There were many levels to it, stone corridors seemingly overlapping one another in every direction. Rock held no warmth of any sort and judging by the lack of light, it should have been freezing cold, making her teeth rattle. On the contrary, the vastness of the area was filled with heat, supposedly emerging from below and somewhere further ahead.

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Iaira had slumped back against the headstand, her body bent to the side. The show she had put up for Weyellin before had visibly drained her and for now she was just pleased to have a quiet moment before she had to face those stiff, uptight, false-duty driven men of his. Her throat felt parched and a look around the room had informed her of the various glass magna placed upon different tables and stands. A particular flash perched upon the firemantle had caught her attention. The warmth of the flames lighting the colour of its contents, like liquid fire.
The door opened and a figure stepped in, the footsteps barely audible. Iaira tensed once more. For all his talk of honour, Weyellin had used every means at his disposal to interrogate her and she had no doubt he'd reach any extent to get what he wanted. As the figure stepped out of the shadows and into the light cast by the fireplace, Iaira saw a small-framed woman, the expression in her eyes one of empty obedience. Another duty-driven puppet. Where's the fun in those?
'I've been sent to escort you.' The woman's voice was apathetic; The assassin wondered whether she'd even bleed, if she pricked her white skin with a needle.
'Could I interest you in something of a more sensual nature, firstly? I mean, I am conveniently naked and immobilised and I'd like to try everything once.'
She ignored her generous offer and brought herself closer to the bed with measured steps. A surprising strength filled her hands when she pushed Iaira's head to the side, ignoring her grunt of displeasure as she fumbled with her binds. Her arms were gently lowered to her sides, needles puncturing through them, no doubt an effect of the blood rushing back into them. It wasn't hard to note that her wrists remained restrained for the time being.
The woman pulled her clumsily, standing her on her feet. Her eyes made a point of not lingering a second on her nakedness. Quickly, she took hold of her renewed garments and did most of the dressing up herself- almost causing Iaira to stumble twice. Briefly, her hands were untied, only long enough for her to slide her arms through the sleeves of her tunic and then her thin, boiled-leather vest. Her silence frustrated the assassin.
'Follow me.' The same lifeless-fish tone. Hood's balls, is that what married women sound like?
The temperature was roughly the same outside of the room; it must have been around sunset, for the last shafts of light entered through the window slits in the walls. The girl had attached a small chain-like line to her bound wrists, the end of which rested in her palm as she led Iaira through the halls. They passed different rooms, most with high arched doors barred-shut. Through some there was sound to be heard, quiet and repetitive; in others there were guttural screams and in the rest, simplistic silence.
However, the girl made a halt before a very different section of the fortress. That much was evident. The darkness inside was absolute and when they stepped inside through the high doorframe shaped like dragon's jaws, her foosteps seemed to echo to the highly-hanging ceiling. In the walls, the rock had been carved sporadically to reveal a crimson-fiery light, but as much as Iaira sought for a light-source, a candle, a brazier or anything similar, she was disappointed. There were many levels to it, stone corridors seemingly overlapping one another in every direction. Rock held no warmth of any sort and judging by the lack of light, it should have been freezing cold, making her teeth rattle. On the contrary, the vastness of the area was filled with heat, supposedly emerging from below and somewhere further ahead.

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From the Dragon.
For the Dragon.
To the Dragon.

The words were engraved beautifully with clear script into an obsidian-like rock, hardened still with age. Running her dry elderly-like fingers over the air in front of it, the lady in black spoke.
"These are the words pledged by all members of our great society, displaying their unyielding commitment to giving themselves solely to our Everlastian God. The Dragon's blood runs deep in us all, outsider. Mind that if you will before stepping 'cross an Everlastian."
She continued forth into the corridors of the Parish, the heat intensifying with each step of foot.
"This Parish was built by Propienne, of the Pre-history First Order. We know little of the degenerates before. Only that they woke the Dragon's ire, and brought mad wroth forth. The Dragon saw weakness in man and turned one against the other with promises of eternal life and power, such brought about the Battle of Hundred Scerecs. 'Tis human nature to us all, greed. All that is needed to proof man's inhumanity to man is the incentive to fulfil self. Alas, I digress. Propienne was unlike any other man. He, the fourth in his line, did not raise sword to brother in response to the Dragon's words, but instead proved , and allowed his own heart be taken. From that day forth, he and the Dragon became one and the same. The Secreleic tongue and po'ers of the Justicar came unto him. He was the first of the Everlast, a conduit of nothing but raw Holy Draconic justice. He constructed this keep within this mountain as his head of quarters. There was aught to be found in the ruins upon the natural platform our kingdom is upon today, and there he found the power to produce such light, iron and crabblecoal. Upon these three materials he composed the city you see today, with all under its shelter pledging their allegiance to the Dragon and Propienne's holy light. Cleric knights and Elite Guard of our society since have been blessed with a fragment of the Dragon's holy power, able to gain visions of Sinners within the world. Propienne is long and gone, yet his power is but in slumber. One day, it shall rise anew in the heart of an Everlastian Lord, and he himself will be granted the Dragon's light to become its new conduit, namely Godsbane. Only he is able to converse with the Great One, and only he will ever be able to wield His light."
The woman reached the end of the vast, imposing antechamber before turning upon one foot and facing Iaira. The heat was now so intense that it drew breath from the lungs. Magma ran with an ominous calmness from out high atop the Parish walls into small holes in the stone to fill the floor beneath, providing an awesome heat from all sides.
"Before us both is the Chamber of Everlast. It is where we stop. Its Holy Light will burn your putrid soul from your body, girl, and I am much too weak for its power. One day, when Godsbane is delivered unto us, Everlast shall once again be a name known across all lands."
She paused, her lifeless grey eyes delivering a sense of poisonous inexactness to Iaira.
"Questions, outsider?"

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Cruel torture, the taste of battle and blood, the frustrating anxiety over her now-unmasked companion; all of the above led to Iaira neglecting to hold her tongue and lash out with a not-so-refined form of sarcasm;
'You mean, apart from what in Hood's balls you mean?'
She had known many religious rituals, hell, she'd been part of a significant amount herself. Flies buzzing around, taking everyone's already flimsy sanity away, finding the open wounds and sucking blood from them, sticking to the honey covered bodies, blissful in their immobility. Wolves' hearts ripped from the beasts' chests, blue fires lit during magnificent fetés.
Therefore, the woman's words, in her head, could easily be taken literally. And Iaira liked the new hue of her attire too much to let it burn with her.
'History is lovely and all- though I do have some basic doubts on whether this should be called 'history'. I mean,' Iaira's incredulous tone was now becoming stronger, her eyes wandering around the Parish, 'Dragons? You mean to make me believe in dragons?'
She scoffed.
'The Eleint,' she continued,' are scarce. And almost extinct. That is because they are immortal divine beings. I only know of one species that has...' A brief pause. A glance at the woman. These people...they really did believe, with a blind, absurd amount of destructive faith. Faith that could be used as a barrier against an otherwise relatively advanced nation.
The assassin straightened. Emerald fixed on grey.
'Propienne,' she drawled, 'Weilder of an unthinkable amount of power. Godsbane. Favoured by the Dragon. And yet he is no longer here with you, his bones rotting somewhere, in some hole within this keep surely, or even more suitably, burnt to dust. Now, unless what I'm suggesting is false and you still preserve his body somewhere -the location unimportant for now, though I doubt you'd know, low-ranking as you are,' a grin slowly formed on her lips, tugging the corners upwards, as she looked down, beneath the raised platform to watch the magma rise and flow, 'you believe he won't just return. You harbour the illusion you will be in a position to bring him back.'
The liquid fire jumped and boiled, the flames emitting a heat strong enough to make one's vision blurry with tears if they tried to focus, licking the blackened rocks surrounding it. Somehow, so strangely...containing it.
'The real question is, love,' stone tearing in two, lava flowing between the cracks, filling the crevice, 'what happened to him?'

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The woman ignored the blind insults and arrogance of the girl, and would instead refer what Iaira had said to her superiors. She examined closely the sneering grin upon Iaira's face after stating the fact she was a low rank as if it were insult, and confused her slightly. Again, her thoughts digressed.
"Propienne cast himself into His light to return the power unto him. It is the blessing and curse same to be Godsbane - You are united with the Dragon, both in power and in life. His Light is the only cure for the disease of life that crawls to the likes of people like you. Quite simply: his time as Godsbane was finished, and there was naught upon this world he could purge any further. Now, in a time of such latent degeneracy, we need a Godsbane more than ever, but we have none who could possibly seek out the Dragon's Light. No-one will bring Godsbane back but the Dragon himself. We, as the sentient and righteous inhabitants and defenders of Everlast are the only ones of maintaining the Light's magick during this disequilibrium. It will be soon, and I suggest you run. Your name is high upon His list."
The woman turned, her feet, padded soft with cloth, made their way back the way they came.
"I suggest you follow me, little girl. The throne room is upon the base floor, and Overseer Weyellin is not fully... understood in his selection of patience."

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Iaira scoffed quietly at the use of powerful and hypocritical words such as 'righteous defenders' that these people seemingly revelled in. Indeed, she wondered, who had granted them those illusions? The illusion of faith, of devotion, of justice and superiority. She had cultivated her own thoughts on Propienne, with no mind to share them. Fanatics and zelots made for poor conversation partners. While the cherished Overseer seemed to be grey in all the right places, hiding behind a façade of austerity and harsh judgement. Deception was an assassin's trade, however. Even deception of one's self. There are some lies we cannot recognise unless they stare right into our face, and the revelation of their falsehood is able to make us crumble.
At the woman's comment, Iaira paused in her steps, briefly. Little girl? What, did I shrink? Nevertheless, she fell into pace behind her, for once obediently and without a sneer comment. After all, a walk through a strange fortress, full of secrets buried deep, mysteries -she suspected- not even the inhabitants knew or comprehended thoroughly. And if her pragmatic nature were to surface, hints about a possible escape route could be found among these walls. That, or some flammable substance she would utilise to burn them all. Depending on the daily entertainment and sleep deprivation.

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Weyellin ran his fingers through the thick, curled hair upon his head in sheer impatience. Iaira and her 'guide' were two ticks late already, and he would not suffer longer. He knew the girl was strong enough of mind not to attempt an evasion of Everlast orders whilst within the Keep walls. His deep gaze was directed and fixed upon a slim shaft of light emanating from behind a window in the stone by the great doors, a by product of his own ingenious city heating and lighting system. A strong mind is just as healthy as a strong arm.
Three ticks.
The great doors were painfully slowly pulled open by the palace guard, and two figures emerged from the light its new state produced. Weyellin found himself leaning forward upon his lap already in anticipation, his forearms digging heavy into his thighs.
"I suppose there is an adequate reasoning for your late arrival to this didactic event?"
"The girl, sir, she had many thoughts and questions." The grey lady promptly paused her step 20 paces from Weyellin's throne and fell to one knee, pulling Iaira down along with her. "Too many."
"We do sometimes like a thinker here in Everlast. Just not one that talks as much as she does." Weyellin spoke.
Muffled laughter sourced from within a few helmets of Elite guard that lined the pillars of the palace reached Weyellin's ear, forcing his gaze toward them. The laughter immediately stopped.
"So, girl, what were your thoughts of the origin of our society and order?"

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The assassin resisted the woman's attempt to make her kneel before a ruler she did not recognise. Admittedly, she staggered, but she hoped that at least she had staggered gracefully. Pulling her arm harshly from the servant's grip, she straightened, despite her back's ache from the abrupt movement. The Throne Hall -she imagined it was that- was quite grand. Not in the same imposing, primal way of the stony, firy hot pathways she had been led through, but in a much earthier way, luxurious in the human sense. Oddly, she received that as a comfort.
The laughter rang in her ears ruggedly. Malformed. Her head snapped sharply and she took them all in, standing upright, in their polished armour, protecting both their Overseer and their dignity. Alas, they were not as well protected as they all thought. Mirth came easily to them now. Now.
Iaira stepped forward, broke the line. Broke free from the woman's grip -she was still bound, either way. She broke free and walked towards Weyellin's towering figure, a sudden ray of heat on the back of her head, one that she welcomed. Knowing the frustration it would cause, she deliberately slowed her pace until she was standing on the man's opposite, separated only by a few yards.
Her voice would have to be high.
'Rot,' Iaira said. Her voice a whisper, but it was carried through the hall. These are things a seductress learns. 'You all believe you are serving some sort of higher cause. A righteous cause, burning in holy fire, destined to purge the sinners. Sinners by your standards. Let me say one thing, to you all,' she turned to face them, then. 'You're rotten. Each and every one of you. In some, there is the seed of doubt. In others, there is the flicker of distaste. But in those who blindly follow justice just as blind and depraved, there is only a singular truth: you fear. And in that horrid quest to cleanse the world, not once have you been allowed pause to ponder whether your crimes do not outweigh the ones you are attempting to punish.'
An idle, casual gesture to the grey woman.
'She showed me around, you see. Told me of your stories and your history- to me, almost identical, those two. I have this to say, to you, all. All that you do in your god’s name is at its core profoundly godless.'
Now Iaira was facing Weyellin again, weighing his gaze in her eyes. 'And you, you're the highest, most respected non-believer of them all. You revere in devotion to Propienne, Godsbane, the existence of dragons, for Hood's sake! Yet you hunt down magic and sorcerers like animals. You torture, you drive them to their knees like dogs, when your very object of worship is buried in magic.'
One step closer, yet another. She hoped his guards would not interfere. It would very much make her scene all the less effective. She was planning to position herself at a breath's distance. So that he might realise.
"All life is sorcery. In its very essence, the soul is magical, and each process of chemistry, of obeisance and cooperation, of surrender and struggle – at every scale conceivable – is a consort of sorcery. Destroy magic and you destroy life.'

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A moment's hesitation came from all in the hall. The silence lasted all too briefly before a select few of the guards laughed again under their helms, even Weyellin himself couldn't help but smile at the girl's outbreak.
"A small history lesson and the girl believes she knows the ins and outs of the world."
Weyellin stood, and struck Iaira hard with the back of his hand.
"You know nothing of Everlast, and I wager you have only scratched the surface of all life can offer. There is no soul in godless beings such as yourself, and magic certainly does not exist in all. Our race is heavy machinery. By our very nature, we drive forth seemingly without direction, we are weak, and that is why you must make yourself strong - that is why you must give or take direction. I do not agree with your mindless gabble of sorceries and magic. We've had hundreds of your ilk; hungering reformist nonsense from foolish youngsters who have no understanding of life's form. There is no magic in all beings, girl, there is only blood and flesh and bone. What you consider magic is your will. Your purpose. And that is not magic, no, not at all. That, my girl, is your mind begging you to succumb to the overwhelming need to obey those above you."
Weyellin placed his boot upon Iaira's stomach and rolled her away from him.
"Twenty paces, men."
The four elite guard closest to Weyellin rushed forth and dragged the girl back beside the grey lady before returning to the pillars they were stood at.
"You have no grasp of discipline, of worth, of purpose. No-one in your line does. You're sociopaths, driven to benefit yourself above all others. That is not our future as beings of this plain. To get to the future we are destined for, we must drive out those who stand in our way - those who stand in the way of humanity. That is why we hunt the guilty, Iaira, for we are the gardua protethe. Protectors of being."
He sat himself down once more, and removed a lock of hair obstructing his vision.
"We're putting your masked friend on trial for crimes against the people of Drakon and a breach of safety and trust of the Magi Tower. I use the word 'friend' loosely. I know you don't know what it means. But sure, a friend is only an enemy you haven't made yet. There is only small time now before he is delivered to me. Then we allow Justice to take hand. After all, he has come back from the dead once already."