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Darren Hearst

"A Friend is just another version of yourself."

0 · 825 views · located in Valcrest

a character in “Shadows of The Forgotten”, as played by Essence

Description

Darren Hearst (Great...Dweller in the wood) about 17yrs old violet/blue eyes/black curly hair,light tan skin...6‘2“ Medium muscle build. Darren has several black flame tattoos along his forearms and upon the back of his neck.


Enlightenment: Psychometry
Ability to relate details about the past or future condition of an object, person or location, usually by being in close contact with it. Information only comes in limited bursts, and is usually within his control, although objects with a lot of ‘history’ will project information onto him involuntarily. Side effects would result in be either in bleeds or blinding pain, which of course depends on the usage of his gift.

Personality

Darren likes to have fun, not always taking things too seriously but is quite intelligent even if he gives the impression to the contrary. He is big on loyalty and honor, telling the truth, making people laugh, and looking into the ‘bigger picture’ in life, not just his own horizon. It is quite difficult to enrage him, as he is laid back but is well versed in swordplay, hand to hand combat, and dabbles in explosives. He likes women, animals, kids, wrestling or arm wrestling, good food and parties. He dislikes selfish people, those in denial of the truth/reality, liars, those who break promises/their word, those who dishonor themselves or loved ones, betrayal, abuse, etc.

Theme Song: Metallica- Orion
- Muse:Uprising
VolBeat: A Warrior's Call
By The Sword
Radioactive

Equipment

Darren duel wields, versed in short swords, long swords, daggers, just about anything. He does prefer a combination short sword and sword and a half. Darren also carries components to set himself traps and minor explosive surprises.

History

Darren Hearst, son of Asher Hearst who was a questionable fellow to put it lightly. Asher ran a small smuggling ring of weapons etc, between the major cities, fueling the on going war as he was only interested in profit never the people. That was where Darren and Asher first came to odds, for Darren's childhood was mostly being kept 'in the dark' about most things and spending most of his time with his tutor and combat instructors. Darren never knew his mother, and was lied to for years by his father who told him she had died giving birth to him. On his 13th birthday Darren over heard his father talking about her, only to discover she didn't die but apparently worked in the brothels and gave him up as a baby because she refused to take on the responsibility of bringing up a child. When he confronted his father, Asher merely brushed it off as, "What kind of life would you expect from a whore, son?"

"She couldn't of been so unworthy if you kept going back to her, father...and if you thought it was important enough to take me into your care." Darren retorted, not liking the lack of respect the man had for his mother and the fact that he lied about her in the first place. The realization that Asher lied and may still be lying just added to their differences.

Last year, Darren was explained his father's business and the fundamentals of running it smoothly as he was expected to take over one day. Darren refused, not agreeing with war profiteering and the many friends he'd lost in one way or another from his family's contribution. In Asher's rage, he kicked Darren out of their home, leaving him to fend for himself which he did by taking on mercenary jobs here and there. One, was to sabotage his father's business, for what he thought was for the greater good of BlackPond, where he'd grown up. In reality, it was for a competitor who was looking to expand their own influences. Darren was tricked in the process, only to take the fall with his father by authorities resulting with spending the past six months in Blackpond's prison.

So begins...

Darren Hearst's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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Jake felt his amusement change into a painful sting of anger the moment Dani's name was mentioned, and it was clear; a deep frown wrinkled his forehead and his fists clenched at his sides. His eyes sparkled blue menancingly, and he took a deep shaky breath before he finally spoke, almost in a growl. "For what you heard?" He muttered, almost under his breath, but in a still perfectly audible tone. "For what I heard, Rita, your pal Hastings was a traitor who murdered his King because the old man was senile and no longer fit to rule this hellhole, and then got killed for it. However, I'm not the type of man who immediately believes everything he's told. Now, there are two sides to that story you just told, in both of them I am, in fact, responsible for the death of a woman who raised me as if I was her son and a great many things happened as result, including the near assassination of someone who is very important to me, so I won't bother to explain myself to you, because those aren't things you explain to a complete stranger in a prison. Maybe one day in the future, if we both live to see it, I can enlighten you on the matter. Now, I am man enough to admit to what I have done, and I understand that perhaps you need to dump your frustration on someone... I don't mind being that someone. However, don't dare utter Dani's name again as if she was a mere pawn in a chess board... Or I will break your neck."

After saying that, he seemed to calm as he sat on his own bed and heaved a sigh. "I think the Myths, whether they are true or not, excuse us for what we are. They show that the Twins were flawed, their children were worse, and if Gods are selfish, cruel, and murderous, why shouldn't we be?" He snickered softly, pulling the golden chain around his neck and absently fiddlling with it. "That's what people search for in the Gods, I believe... Themselves, a justification of some sort... Answers to inexistent questions..." He locked his gaze on the woman's for the first time and smiled. "You say the Twins, Mother and Father... They hide the truth. but do you truly believe we seek the truth, if there's one? People don't want the truth, they just want something to believe in. Look around you, this place is living proof of it."

Leaning back further on the bed, Jake pulled the chain further until the golden locket slipped out the insides of his shirt; spinning it slowly on its chain, he watched the movement of the jewelry as he continued speaking. "I've heard that Hastings murdered the King, but the few people I've spoken to who've met him believe he wouldn't have done it. Including the former leader of the White Shadows, and that tells me something since she was in no way fond of the man. So I'm far more interested in hearing what I haven't heard from anyone, because they didn't know what to answer; Who is this man you call a King? Because I'm pretty sure that he isn't Rory's son." He couldn't dare speak ill of Lamya in the underground city, but 'King Richard' wasn't a problem, and his brief encounter with the Blackpond ruler had made Jake intrigued, and not in a pleasant way.

-------------------------------

A crowd of men gathered around a table, hooting and hollaring cheers of encouragement and insults, tossing trinkets and coin about. In the center, two men were arm wrestling for more than a few minutes; their struggle teetering back and forth in their favor only to make the pot all the sweeter. On the right, a blond man roared as his free hand gripped the table to steady himself as the veins in his neck bulged in his attempt to pin his opponents arm down. On the left, a black curly haired man seemed calm even though he was losing at the moment. His blue eyes flickered with traces of purple as they narrowed in a defiant expression, an impertinent smirk curling his tightening lips.

“Darren, stop teasing and pin the guy already!” A man belted out, accompanied by an assortment of cheers in agreement.

Darren, tossed a few curly locs from his gaze, stretching his fingers from his grip while his opponnent still held on, pressing further to win, barely off the table. The man tightened and locked his fingers back around the blond’s hand, the flame tattoo along his forearm appearing to flicker to life as his muscle flexed. “I’m not teasing....” He chuckled as his arm began to rise, the blond’s eyes widening as he felt Darren’s strength grow. “Ok, this is getting boring.” Darren joked, suddenly slamming the blond’s hand hard against the table. Releasing his opponent with a satisfied grin plastered upon his face, he stood firmly patting the man’s shoulder respectfully. “Good match, friend!” The hilarity of the crowd’s exuberance was fueled with Darren raising his fists in the air dramatically with a chuckle before he collected his winnings. There was a nice assortment of coin and cigarettes(which he would trade back for other things later).

Gradually Darren made his way back down the halls to his cot, receiving nods, smiles, and handshakes from several who passed showing that this man was known throughout the place and was well liked overall. He relaxed stretching his lengthy yet muscular legs out, his back propped up along the wall as he reached for a tattered book he had been reading to pass the time. There wasn’t anything really all the special about the book, as it was just a collection of stories concerning the Twins and their descendents, but every time he held the book his Enlightenment would kick start, showing the same vision of a young brunette beauty. His eyes glowed in a purple hue for a few seconds before fading as the image of this woman came and went, unable to hold onto her face for too long at a time. Strange it was that this inanimate object held a single vision, this woman’s energy focused into the trinket more than anything else it may have encountered. Darren didn’t feel it was really crucial, he just couldn’t get over the girl’s beauty and the green of her eyes.

Darren’s smile faded as he gradually remembered the first time he discovered his gift only six years ago. He had been avoiding his tutor that day, not in the mood to work his numbers since it was his least favorite subject, and he had taken to the streets of Blackpond wandering aimlessly for amusement. He accidently happened to come across a shiny dagger that looked to have been dumped between two buildings, but not very discretely. Darren noticed the blade was crusted over with a red residue, further fueling his interest in the object so that he kneeled to pick it up. The second his fingers came into contact with the object, his hand involuntarily tightened around the hilt of the blade, the sight in front of him flashing a replacement horror. It came and went so suddenly, but it didn’t erase was had been burnt into his mind: Several different men and women stabbed repeatedly with the same blade, the looks of terror and pain always the same. As if they were in disbelief at what was happening to them or if it had been by a familiar or trusted individual.

Darren threw the blade clear across the street from himself, still he could see the victim’s wide eyes of shock and their mouths twisted in a final silent scream. That boy took off in frantic run, panicking all the way home only to hide in his room for the rest of the day. His father eventually got him to unlock the door, but he had refused to tell him what scared him so bad as he was unsure if his father would even believe him.

Each time it happened, it was always different. A different kind of vision triggered by touch to a person or object and even once a particular place. Sometimes the rush would cause dizziness and nausea and other times he would get blinding migraines accompanied by nose bleeds. With those side effects, he wasn’t able to hide it from his father Asher for long, but it did turn out better than expected. Asher was intrigued and found Darren another tutor, but this one taught him to hone his talent and use it on command. Although he didn’t always understand what was shown to him, it did make the next few years easier, knowing he wasn’t crazy.

Irvin tried to keep an eye on the man in Black armor like Jake had asked him to, but he truly wasn't interested in it, and he didn't quite understand what was the point. The excited cheers and shouts of a gathered crowd pulled his attention from the man he was supposed to follow. Making his way past the taller individuals Irvin managed to take a look at the arm wrestling match that was taking place at one of the tables. The boy's curiosity spiked as he observed the winner, who was being referred to as Darren. He'd heard of the guy, and had been hearing more and more in the past couple of months, but had never actually met him. Tilting his head to the side as the guy walked past him, he decided maybe it was about time and started to follow him from a distance, absently rolling a wet piece of cloth around his fist and using his enlightenment to form little ice crystals on the surface of the fabric. Once frozen, Irv pressed the fabric to the left side of his face, where a bruise had started to form itself from the punch he received from the sleeping woman. He snorted out in annoyance remembering he had been forced to apologize for that... It was a little humiliating.

Keeping one eye on Darren, he followed him to the dormitory, but stopped a few minutes before following him all the way through, re-frosting the now melted cloth he was holding, and again pressing it to his bruise. Walking into the dormitory he greeted with. "Hey there, winner." Leaning against the wall at a respectful distance. "That was a nice match, say... Care to spend some of those winnings? I could use some income right now. And before you ask what I'm selling; name it and I'll get it for you. Except girls, I don't do that. I do however know a guy." He stated, giving a light shrug.

Darren’s attention shattered from his current thoughts, his gaze lifting from the book to meet the man’s across from his cot. Giving a modest shrug, Darren smiled as he swung his legs over the side in a sitting position, tucking the book beneath his cot. “Thanks man...I’ve only lost once so far....” A snicker escaped him suddenly as he remembered that match, “You know..that beast of a guy, Kyle I think his name is? He’s bloodly huge! Big as an ox I swear...his arms are the thickness of my leg.” Cocking his head he quirked a brow looking over the man speaking to him, thinking he looked familiar, as he was around his age. When he mentioned being able to acquire whatever he desired for a fee Darren nodded as it all came together. “Oh...I’ve heard of you...sorry didn’t catch your name, but I’m Darren...”

Resting his elbows upon his knees, Darren slouched forward hanging his head in thought. “Well, I’m not into men, friend...and I’d like not to have to pay for a lady’s company anyways...what would I want? I’m afraid I’m not one for trinkets...I’m a ‘keep it simple’ kind of guy.” He muttered in distracted thought. “Besides, you seem like a ‘take what I want when I want it’ kind of guy. Why you interested in doing business?” He chuckled. “There..is this one...thing...but naw nevermind.” Flipping his body back around Darren laid down upon the cot, relaxing as if he were going to take a nap.

Irvin would have left it at that, but he was curious, and he also wasn't so fond of people telling him what kind of guy he was, even if it was almost a correct assumption. "Well, friend, like I said... I need the income, but if I was to explain further I'm afraid I'd have to kill you." He said playfully. "Besides, I don't take things because I want them. I rarely want them, actually. I take things, because I can. And when I can't, I try again. Because, who knows... Some day I just might need something. Practice makes perfect, wouldn't you say?" He asked, tilting his head playfully to one side. "And I've got lots and lots of practice. Now..." He started, unrolling the cloth he was using, and stretching it absently in front of his face, his eyes sparkling a brighter blue as a bit of steam rose from the fabric and it was dry. Once dry he folded the cloth and hid it in his shirt pocket, taking a flask from another pocket and taking a long drink of water from it as if he hadn't had any in days. "Now, I'm sure that whatever it is you want is worth something to you, right? I can usually get my hands on anything, or get favors from anyone, because a lot of people here have used my skill at one point or another. It's important to keep things peaceful and it's easier to snatch what you want than arguing over it, am I right?" He then shrugged. "If you don't want my help though... I'm sure is not too important."

He went silent for a bit staring at the ceiling before going into a completely different subject. "Did you get to see Her? She was here, possibly still is, roaming around the place... Brought this Black Knight with her too... Odd isn't it? Wonder what he's looking for..." His eyes sparkled slightly as he grinned. "Man... She's pretty though, ain't she?"

Crossing his arms behind his head for a pillow, Darren closed his eyes listening to the man speak. His tone remained even, friendly, almost carefree when he responded, “Hey..guy what you do with your money and such is your business, no sweat. I’m sure you’re good at whatever it is you do, as we all have our talents.” Darren peeked one eye open at the man, trying to remember if he had heard his name or not. He honestly wasn’t sure if he would give him such a task, as to the one he was comtemplating and as he thought it over in his mind his other eye opened at the change of subject. He had trained himself not to cringe whenever someone spoke of the woman who brought him here, as he found it easier to be liked by most if he simply played along with the popular vote down there.

Darren chuckled slightly, avoiding the man’s questions, “Ah, so you believe she’ll lead us all to greatness and glory? Who knows what that....” He paused trying to place an agreeable, yet not untruthful word to Lamya. “...enticing woman has truly planned for us all. I honestly am just missing the feeling of the wind on my back and the fresh air.” Clearing his throat, he glanced in the man’s direction, “Well, I have yet to come across an ugly redhead, but I prefer brunettes myself.” He smiled, not quite avoiding or answering that last question as well. Slowly Darren sat up, as if it were a chore and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to move, reaching to his side there were two pouches. Unhooking one from his waist he tossed it easily in the man’s direction. “Why not...not like I need the money really in here anyways...but I’ll give you half now in good faith and for a name...” A playful smiled widened his features, the whites of his teeth peeking past his lips. “The other half after you retrieve something from my father, Asher...you may have heard of him? Brown hair, blue eyes, a bit shorter than me...we have the same chin. He’s in his fifties I think now..” Darren trailed off, his brows narrowing when he thought of his father, showing he wasn’t to fond of the man, but not flaunting how deep the dislike went.

Irvin chuckled softly at Darren's question on his beliefs. "I don't believe in glory or greatness, friend... Only in survival, and that's the only thing on my plans, until I... Get what I truly seek." He walked to a vacant bed and jumped on it, casually stretching over it as if he owned it, still keeping one eye on Darren. "Wind and fresh air, huh? Well that might be a little more expensive, mate." He stated causally, a hint of a smirk crossing his features. "Not impossible though. Just pointing it out." Irvin sighed a little bit staring at the ceiling again. "Any brunettes or a particular one, mate?" He asked, raising an eyebrow comically. "Aye, redheads are pretty overall, but She is... I dunno... Different."

When the subject shifted back to business, Irvin jumped into a sitting position, picking the coin pouch in mid-air, not really bothering to check what, or how much, was in it, could be pebbles for all he cared. "Irvin. Irvin Grant. You can call me Irv, if you want. And aye, Asher, I've seen him. What should I be retrieving?"

Running a few fingers through his hair, the strands fell against his ears as he nodded distantly. “Survival is only instinctual after all....and if all goes well in this venture...perhaps I’ll inquire to your price for fresh air.” Darren sighed, the bulk of his chest rising and falling just slightly at the thought of the green eyed brunette from his visions. “Brunettes in general...course the ones from our dreams, the untouchable are always my favorite it seems. We always desire what we can’t have...or what doesn’t exist. Isn’t that Ironic?” He kept quiet at Irvin's mention of Her being different, thinking how much of an understatement that was, holding back a laugh.

Darren smiled, his hands gesturing into a small square like shape as he spoke, “Irv...you will find on Asher a small ledger that he keeps close to him at all times. Honestly, how that was not taken away from him when he was arrested, I don’t know. It’s red and black, easily concealed...and it has a list of all his contacts through life and business and who their connections are to.” Darren rolled his eyes as his smile faded to look at Irvin. “I don’t care if you read it, because honestly friend, I would be curious to. All I ask is that you bring it to me in one piece. It may or may not be important to others, but I have my own reasons for wanting that book. Honestly my father acts like he’s such a smart man, but I see this ledger as proof to the contrary.” Darren knew besides business contacts, enemies, there would be names of family and possibly other useful tidbits. He wasn’t positive since he’d only glimpsed the small book once before as a child. Hopefuly Irvin would prove successful because Darren knew interaction between his father and himself would only lead to out right conflict and trouble, and he needed to keep things easy going.

“So whatcha think Irv? Sound fair? I mean, in addition if all goes well I can definitely throw business your way...maybe even return the favor. I’d like to think I'm an honorable kind of guy.” Darren’s eyes glistened, bits of violet flecks prominent against the icy blue.

Irvin listened carefully to Darren's description of what he wanted from his father. It seemed simple enough for someone like him to get his hands on a ledger. "Alright mate, I take it I can have it for you within two days time. I like to observe my targets and I'll probably hold on to it for a day as well, I assume your old man will look for it once he knows it's gone, no? If you like I can even make a copy for you just in case, you know, something happens to the original." He offered with a light shrug. Irv wasn't what one could call and honorable man or even a reliable one, but when there was pay involved, he would be as thorough as possible. "Aside from that, anything I should know about? Is he enlightened, booby traps his pockets, sleepwalks, anything? I'd really hate to be caught off guard." He said, lazily laying back on the bed again, as if he owned that spot. "And then maybe we'll see about fresh air, bud, but I'd be quick about it if I were you. Offers as good as this tend to expire rather quickly." He said, giving a playful wink. He wasn't meant to speak a word of it to anyone, that's what he promised Jake, but he knew getting out wouldn't be very easy and allies wouldn't be easy to find in there as most were more than happy to stay down there forever. Hell, Irvin himself wouldn't mind living the rest of his days in that little city, wasn't for the fact he wanted revenge on the Alpha for what he'd done to his family.

Darren smiled, hopping to his feet in a final accomplished nod. “Sounds good friend...make a copy and we’ll figure where to stash it for ....insurance..and Yes....the old geezer will probably start with me first when it goes missing.” Walking over to Irvin he extended his hand waiting politely for Irvin’s in exchange to close the agreement. “Sounds like a deal then.” Darren’s grip was firm, the palm of his hand rough and dry as he gave a steady shake, staring into Irvin’s eyes, his own flashing a violet glow for a second, causing him to withdraw his grip suddenly. Darren let out a small groan, his fingers finding his temples as veins pulsed painfully along his forehead before it dissipated. He glanced aside for only a second, but in that moment his eyes faded back to their blue and violet detail, a smile breaking through the fading pain. Motioning towards the bruise on Irv's face he nodded slowly, the vision of a woman on a cot slugging Irvin already scattering into reality. “...No sweat friend, I wouldn’t want to hit a pretty lady either, even if she did clock me good.”

Clearing his throat he went back on the conversation. “Don’t worry about the old man...no enlightenments. But he’s not a sound sleeper...and he sleeps with his eyes open..so be careful. I don’t know for sure where he keeps this item on him.”

“Darren! Some fool thinks he can pin you in under 30 seconds. You ready?” A voice echoed from down the hall.

Darren shook his head comically and shrugged, “We’ll continue this at another time, no? Excuse me, but I need to acquire the rest of your payment.”

Irvin had gotten to his feet to shake Darren's hand and seal their deal, but as soon as they did so the man seemed to withdraw his hand as if he had been stung. Irv didn't quite understand what that was about until Darren pointed to his face and made a comment on his run-in with the sleeping Lady. Irvin scracthed the back of his head in confusion only half listening to Darren said next, only breaking out of his confused trance when the man turned to leave. "She was in my bed!" He stated. "And what are you, a freaking telepath?"

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Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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#, as written by Essence
Three rematches and Darren's opponent refused to be beaten, refused to give up. It was quite admirable and for that Darren tossed a few coins at the man's feet for his troubles, thinking it unfair to leave him empty handed. Ignoring some of the glances he received from the random act of pity, he collected what remained of his winnings and pushed his way through the crowd. His opponent was not amused in the slightest, taking much offense to the act and flicked a coin across his path, the sound whistling through the air as it smacked Darren in the back of his head, stopping him dead in his tracks. Slowly the crowd parted around the two in a square shape, Darren snickering as he turned. “Nice shot...you must teach me that trick.” He patronized, as he bent down to pick up the coin. “Don't want it? Could of just said no thank you, Josh.” A few scattered chuckles snuck out of the crowd, voices of encouragement wanting the competition to continue.

Josh cleared his throat and spat, a deep furrow in his brows wrinkling his face in annoyance. It was the man's only response before he crossed a few paces to meet Darren, his face turning a deep red as he appeared to be holding his breath, yet he huffed wildly swinging an arm wide with his fist slicing through the air. Darren easily stepped back, arching his back so his head missed the assault, smiling coyly. “You trying to give me a hug? You know, I like girls, friend.” He joked, ducking beneath several more swings, his own foot unnoticed as it pointed out behind the man causing him to trip backwards in his own clumsiness. “Looks like you need some dancing lessons, but it'll cost you.” The harder the man swung, the slower he got, Darren weaving in and out of the attacks followed by a half-assed roundhouse kick to the back of the man's knees. It was clear one was trying too hard and the other not much at all. The crowd went suddenly quiet, slowly dispersing away from the two, as if to give them more room, yet their attention was elsewhere.

Behind them, many meters across the square, Darren's name echoed into the air. “.........I’ll just have to begin killing until you show you’re pathetic self! Anyone who might want to be a hero, may I remind you, this armour isn’t fake and this blade is even less so! Come forward Darren and let’s settle this!”

Darren paused, not paying attention as Josh got to his feet, moving to attack from behind where he managed to land his fist in between Darren's shoulder blades. The hit wasn't weak by any means, causing Darren to groan, the pain spreading down his spine in a dull ache. “That'll leave a bruise maybe..” He muttered, whipping his body around, arms curling and snaking their way beneath Josh's arms and up around his neck as he held him tight, not letting him escape. After a moment of flailing about, Josh gradually became still as Darren slowed the blood flow to his brain, letting him fall to the ground unconscious.

Darren began walking towards the fountain where a rather massive individual stood calling for him. At first he assumed it was another challenge for coin, but the closer he got the more he realized he didn't recognize the man. 'What could he possibly want with him?' He wondered to himself, pushing past the crowd, his eyes empty against a comical smile that curled his lips when he reached the fountain.

“And....who may I ask is looking for Darren?” He spoke loud, but not quite yelling as he came to a stop before the man, looking up a bit. It was hard to tell exactly with the armor but the man was more than double Darren's muscle mass but around the same height, he figured while his eyes scanned over sizing him up. “I have a feeling you aren't looking to make some coin....”

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Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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#, as written by Essence
Darren couldn't stand having his nose wrapped up, giving the added illusion of the injury, yet trying to sleep breathing through his mouth was most unpleasant. He knew he'd overdone it there, so he felt it was perfectly fine to tear some holes in the gauze, hoping the rush of cool air would calm him into a relaxing slumber, but his mind could not shut up. Who was that man? Why did he seem to come off as a threat and then 'pretend' to injure him?

“I don’t want’ta see you hurt. I just need out and this is the only way I can do it.” The man had said. Was he trapped in this place like himself? He had mentioned NewHaven, where he was from and talked about possibly coming back one day for Darren. Why would a complete stranger, who knew nothing about him, offer to help him and protect him from harm? Not too many others Darren had met, showed much honor at all, especially in this place...unless of course it came to Lamya. Everything seemed to evolve around her....rising and setting like the sun.

Darren closed is eyes, rolling over to his side, his back against the cool wall. What was getting him more about the whole ordeal..is how Darren just stood there, and went with the charade. Something about the guy, reminded him of himself and even though it all happened within seconds, he played that crowd with the facade of shame and hurt pride of letting another get a hit in and do nothing about it afterwards. That in itself, was not like Darren, even if he was harder to anger than most.

Darren had done his part though, discusted just a bit at the bloody spit along his face, splattered below his eyes. Holding his face, he groaned in his 'pain', pushing aside any who appeared concerned and swearing out those who mocked him for being weak. Once he was back in his bunk, he cleaned up, using a bit of the blood he rubbed it into his skin to give the appearance of a newly forming bruise along his eye sockets. It was believable, but he had finally in the end decided to wrap it up so he wouldn't have to worry about how it looked. He was just glad he already won enough money to cover Irvin's fee for the favor he was doing. Darren would stay out of the public eye for the most part the next day or so, which also worked out as a good excuse for when his father came poking around accusingly later on for the stolen property.

Another deep breath and Darren began to finally settle, his last thought before he passed out, almost in a prayer to the Twins as he muttered to himself aloud. “Hope that was all worth it....hope you got out man...good luck.”

The setting changes from blackpond to Valcrest

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#, as written by Essence
~Somewhere between BlackPond and Raven's Nest~



Darren had gone quiet after the initial hour of their escape; lost in thought of the friend that he didn't want to leave behind. Chief. It had been the 'Giant's' decision, otherwise Darren may not have met Irvin and Jake in the end. A deep groan escaped the man as he stretched, nodding to Sham and Irvin who he accompanied after Jake went in another direction, pausing to take a brief break from their trip. Darren passed around his flask before sitting away from the two to peer over his father's journal Irvin had gained possession of. Flipping through the pages, he focused to keep his enlightenment in check, not wanting spiral through any visions at the moment. Gradually his mind wandered back to the day he first laid his hands on the small leather book.

~About Two/Three Weeks Ago~

"You lose... Again, killer." Irvin laughed softly as he collected his winnings from the table. "You really suck at Olith."
"Yeah, yeah... It has nothing to do with the fact that you cheat." Jake chuckled.
"If someone cheats, you can get angry, or you can cheat better." Irv retorted with a grin. "Your turn to deal, Killer."
Jake gathered the cards from the table with an annoyed sigh. "I could cheat." He stated, turning the cards invisible in his hands and smirking slightly. "I just choose not to."

Irvin raised an eyebrow at the man, his eyes sparkling slightly as the cards turned visible again, now sprinkled with little ice crystals. "What's that now?" He asked.
Jake laughed. "Very good, but..." He pulled a card from under his sleeve and dropped it on the table. "Like I said, I could cheat, I just don't. Ruins the fun."

"What are you five?" Irvin laughed. "Are you going to go on about how lying is bad and you should always wash your hands before meals?"

Jake chuckled, dealing the cards. "It's gross to eat with dirty hands, alright? And yes, lying is very bad, but sometimes you can't help doing bad things. What I mean is this is a friendly game, we're playing for beans, what does it matter?"

"Hey, I so happen to care enough to cheat! Not my fault if you're just not as committed." Irvin replied with a shrug.

"Whatever, kid." Jake sighed, placing his bet. "I'm just saying. And when is this friend of yours supposed to meet us?"

Irvin shrugged. "After breakfast is after breakfast... kinda hard to track time down here, I'm sure you've noticed." Irvin mumbled tossing a couple of beans on the table... And then a few more. "He'll show up. I have what he needs, right? Just relax."

"Irvin, Oliver was telling me that the guy you stole this from was freaking out looking for it, and you don't even know what it is... If I've learned one thing in my life is that you don't want to mess with anything if you don't know what it is. It'll come back and bite you. Besides, I don't want to be cooked up in here all day." Jake stated, motioning for the kid to show his cards and lowering his without much of a care for the fact he lost yet again. The dormitory was empty, as it usually was during the day. Irvin wanted to meet in one of the common areas, since it's usually more reasonable to get things from one hand to another in a crowd. However, since he mentioned Darren to be a possible ally to their plan of getting out, Jake wanted to talk to him, and that was something he'd rather not do in crowd. So they had Oliver pass a note to the guy to meet them in the dorm. Until then, they were just killing time.
Irvin chuckled. "Well, I'm sorry Killer, but even with the best of plans we're going to be cooked up in here for a while. And it's none of my business what the damn book is about... I was paid to get it and deliver it, nothing more. And if the guy said I could look it can't be all that dangerous."
Jake shook his head. "Fine, kid... Just deal." He said, pushing the cards across the table. "But he better show up soon, I'm running out of beans."

Darren couldn’t stop laughing, as much as he tried to contain himself; the simple fact of the matter was his father knew he had something to do with the theft but couldn’t prove it and now Asher had some eunuch looking fool trailing him where ever Darren went. He had let his father search him, not having anything to hide, therefore technically not lying and when he found nothing, his belongings ransacked as well. “Just as expected....” Darren mumbled to himself. The average man would be furious to be followed to the point of confrontation or assassination but Darren found it entertaining as he weaved in and out of the crowd. He purposely let the little bald headed man get close enough to touch him, then would disappear in the crowd, only to reappear at the man’s back side. This went on for some time, wanting to cause the man confusion so that Darren would be able to slip away unnoticed soon enough. When it felt like too long, Darren gestured to a friend who was watching him, making a break for it as the seven foot tall man blocked the eunuchs’ path.

“Get out of the way there...Chief.” The little man stammered, trying to move around the giant before him, already losing Darren in the crowd.

Chief was a nickname, since the man barely spoke never offering up his real name, so it had just simply stuck. “Mmm...” The man grunted, one massive arm, as thick as the midget’s leg deflected his path, a toothless grin staring down from above. When the eunuch tried again, he actually bounced off the arm and onto the floor, Chief not faltering in his stance. The man scrambled to his feet and took off in the opposite direction, Chief casually walking after him, stomping like the giant he was closing off the distance with ease. He’d keep that one busy for a while.

Darren was still chuckling when he appeared in the dormitory, catching his breath after he made sure he was in the clear. It was pretty empty so it was quite easy to spot Irvin across the room. Darren whistled playfully announcing his entrance. “Sorry if I’m late, pesky eunuchs taking orders like dogs because they don’t have a pair to hold onto.” Taking a deep breath, he composed himself as he approached Irvin and another playing some sort of card game, a devious smile curling his lips. “I heard things went well, my friend?”

Irvin snickered when Darren whistled on his way in, not looking up from his cards until Jake had lowered his, and which point he quickly replaced one of his cards by one he had been hiding up his sleeve, and lowered a winning hand. "Yeah, everything ran pretty smooth. Thanks to my friend here, actually. Quite the useful partner he is." He chuckled, noting the look of annoyance in Jake's face at his words. "Oh, I'm sorry, uh... This is Jake." He said, pointing at the man across the table. "Jake, Darren. Let me go get the thing."

Jake looked up from the table and gave Darren a friendly wave as he addressed Irv. "Kid, I'll need the cards you got tucked up your sleeves."
"Yeah, yeah..." Irv chuckled, going through a bag beside his bed, and getting the book that had been the reason behind an extensive search on the part of its former owner. As he walked back to his seat he dropped the book on the table as well as five playing cards. "So, buddy, I think this concludes our deal, unless you'd like to discuss some fresh air." Irvin stated, giving Darren a grin. "Now, I made a copy, as I said I would, but the thing is in code, so... That's for you to figure out."
"Irvin..." Jake muttered.
Irv chuckled. "Alright, alright, Killer." He said playfully, pulling a card from his boot. "Just testing you, is all." He frowned as he looked at Jake and realized the man was staring at Darren with a slightly confused look in his eyes, which caused him to promptly kick him under the table so that he would knock it off, mouthing 'what's your problem?' when Jake looked at him.

Jake cursed under his breath when Irvin kicked him, he didn't realize until then he had been staring at Darren from the moment he has locked up from the game; even while counting the cards, but the fact is the guy just seemed very familiar to him for whatever reason even though he knew they hadn't met, and Jake just couldn't shake that off.

Darren nodded at Irvin, reaching absently to his belt to retrieve a small black bag of coin. “Ok, as promised...the other half of what I owe you....ah and the code thing...yea I had a hunch, course which code is the real question...” He trailed off muttering to himself in amusement. “That man is paranoid...for good reason..” Dropping the coin upon the table, he turned facing Jake and extended his hand, smiling warmly as he quirked a brow inquisitively when he discovered he was being stared at, his hand waiting in mid-air to the unresponsive man. “...Nice to meet you..Jake....er..You ok there mate?”

Jake shook his head slightly as he stood up and shook Darren's hand. "Sorry, just... You look a bit familiar... I don't know why..." He shrugged. "Never mind, just a weird impression, I guess." He stated, chuckling a little bit and sitting back down, examining Darren with his eyes, not staring blankly like before, but really examining his expression as if looking for something. "So, tell me something Darren, if you could get out of here right now, what would you wanna do with your life?" He asked, a casual tone in his voice as if he talked about the weather. Irvin made a sound as if holding back laughter, but didn't say anything; he just gave Darren an amused look.

Darren’s eyes flashed a brilliant blue, his pupils outlined in deep, violet specs, glittering flakes similar to mica rocks; his hand giving a friendly squeeze before releasing Jakes’. Darren snickered, several flashes taking over his vision, blocking out Jake and Irvin’s visage before coming back into focus. “Huh...” Clearing his throat, his eyes faded to their normal tone, fingers rubbing along his eyes at a dull ache before looking back at Jake with a comical smile. “Whoa there mate, you got a bit of thing for redheads I see...hmm?” Darren chuckled, his smile slightly devious. “...My father did too...do you think maybe one of those pretty things knew him too?...Huh..wouldn’t that be something else, hmmm?” Darren backed away, palms open as if to show he meant no harm, yet he was clearly amused. “And...if I COULD get out of here right now....I honestly am not sure..except I’d take a friend of mine along..” Pausing a moment, Darren held back a laugh at the look he was now getting yet moved forward as if he didn’t notice, whispering as he continued, pointing at the book upon the table. “Guess I’d start there...do a little personal digging...” Darren ran a hand through his hair, lightly tugging on a few black curls before releasing them absently.


Jake immediately jumped to his feet at Darren's words, but what he planned to say or do was quickly contained and he sat back down. "Humph... I'd say it's more like they have a thing for me." He muttered, remembering his exchange with Rick and scolding himself mentally for overreacting. "I doubt your father knew any of my redheads, but I won't call it impossible... Depending on which one you mean."
Irvin interrupted at those words. "Which one?! How many are there? Gee, Killer, you need to give me some pointers... I wouldn't mind a redhead of my own, you know."
"You can't handle a redhead Kid, maybe a blonde." Jake chuckled in response, but he later turned more serious as he turned his attention back to Darren. "Well, hypothetically speaking... Getting out of here is not a one person job, nor a two person job either, if you catch my drift... And I'd love nothing more than to leave this place. As I'm sure you could see, somehow... I have better things awaiting me on the outside. Also, let's say I'm not fond of ALL redheads; I might like a good distance from the one who put me here." He leaned on the table before him and shrugged casually. "Hypothetically speaking, I'd need people other than the kid here on my side."
Irvin chuckled and added. "Hypothetically speaking, in case it wasn't quite clear enough."

Darren winked at Irvin, “Redheads usually have quite a temper...and well two seemed to stand out, Jake...sorry I don’t mean to make a bad impression...er..can’t always control it you see.....they all yours?” His hand creeped along the table towards his father’s book, hovering along the bind. He wanted to pick it up, anxious to flip through it, but at the same time he didn’t know what to expect when he touched it. With a sigh, he withdrew his hand, glancing back at Jake with a chuckle. “Hypothetically..eh? Well...since we are only talking what if’s here, four should do it. Your concerns are shared, I assure you....that and I would love to put some miles between me and a few others as well. If you were gonna do it...Hypothetically...I’d suggest sooner than later...” Darren smiled, absently glancing around the room before turning towards Irvin. “Probably gonna involve stealing of the sorts..”

Irvin chuckled. "Well, I could go for a blonde, or a brunette... I'm not picky..." He said, a little hopeful note in his voice.
Jake chuckled, shaking his head slightly at Irvin's comment, but still watching Darren carefully. "They're all mine, in a way... You know? Like 'my friend', 'my family'... and other things like that..." He said, with a little shrug. "Now which is what, that's for me to know... Aren't you gonna take that?" He asked curiously, motioning towards the book that was still left on the table. "Hypothetically, if I was gonna do it, I'd need to be sure who is going to be involved, but... I'd already be working on it as we speak." Jake stated.
"We'd be working on it." Irvin corrected.
"I haven't seen you work on anything yet, kid." Jake chuckled.
"Yeah well... Hypothetically, I'd be waiting for the part that involves stealing." Irvin stated, raising an eyebrow. "You're not calling me lazy now, are you? I'd smack you for that, but I'm too tired." He stated, playfully faking a yawn. "Honestly though, I've been here longer than the two of you... So I'm telling ya... 'Sooner' ain't gonna be that soon." He snickered. "Hypothetically."

Darren smiled nodding at Jake’s question if he was gonna take the little black book sitting idle up on the table, honestly a bit timid it touching it but shrugged it off as if he was distracted. Again his hand made another pass across the leather before he clasped his fingers around it, lifting it to him in a semi-dramatic effect. At first he was surprised nothing happened, his other hand curiously fiddling with the pages, skimming through the odd shapes of another language mixed along with his own in some strange series of patterns. This would take some time to crack, but he had a few ideas in mind and it would definitely take up his free time. “Thanks....aga-” Darren paused abruptly, smile fading from view as his words trailed off. Both his eyes radiated a vivacious plum hue, taking over his irises like ink was spilt, permeating all corners of the blue.Continuing to stare at the open book, his gaze tore threw and past as if he were somewhere else, visions shifting so quickly, pausing upon a tall man, dark in flesh and clothing from head to toe, an emerald shade aflame emitting from his orbs. Involuntarily his fingers tightened, another moment before he forced himself to place it back upon the table, his expression blank and in that moment he saw more than he prepared himself for. A sickening shiver trembled through him, he could almost hear the screams...or were they giggles. He saw a young girl with short, red curls to another staring out from wide, raven-tinted eyes and chin length black hair, the image fading to darkness. An ominious feeling of greed was the most powerful feeling hanging over Darren’s head; swimming in the energy from Asher that was passed on to this object from where most of his time was spent. Darren knew this tiny object held not just personal information but transaction history, some of their imprinted energies lingered like an echo. Curious for one item to have so many imprinted faces, it was almost like looking into a person’s memory, but not as detailed.

‘Deep breath guy..’ Darren told himself as the glow dissapated from his gaze only tiny specs of violet floating amidst the dusk’s blue. Slowly the smile creaped back across Darren’s lips, “So....” His eyes flickered back and forth between Jake and Irvin. “Hypothetically....what do you two need me to do? What can we do to ...gain mutual trust?” Fingers found their way to his belt, unhooking a tiny bag of coin, tossing it upon the table beside his book. “I can get more...”


"Shit.." Darren mumbled to himself, remembering the faces from his vision. It wasn't the first time he'd seen the little girl with red curls or the dark skinned man, but the difference this time was their apparent age and the fact he never saw the girl's eyes. Indeed his visions were always of the past, but it was like a broken puzzle; a timeline out of wack. Without some time to himself and a lot of patience to even try to make sense out of it, would be folly and even still he doubted he'd get very far.

The past couple weeks he'd gotten a good start on the journal, splitting it up into sections and discovering that each section appeared to be a different kind of document with a different code. The first he was focusing on was the one with dates and detailed logs, assuming it was his father's personal thoughts. So far the basics were easy to decypher; and, a, is, the, and so forth. Even though they didn't explain much, it was still progress and a way to unlocking the other words. Slowly but surely he was finishing the first paragraph when he felt someone standing over him. Darren smiled without looking up, tossing his pen back into the book and wrapping it in a line of twine to keep it shut, "...Time again to move on I take it?"

The setting changes from valcrest to Raven's Nest

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Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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#, as written by Essence
Darren didn’t know what to expect when he arrived with Irvin and the blond woman, Sham. For the most part he was consumed with the puzzle in his pack, but when he let his mind wander he made sure to pass a few teasing comments to his young friend and how he stole stares at the woman who led the way. Granted, Darren paused to appreciate the woman’s grace confident way she carried herself. Like most women, Darren payed the most attention to their eyes and in particular, the green of her eyes, not shying away when he was caught staring, only instead smiling so the dimples appeared at the corners of his mouth. It was the same when he was brought before the Captain, the violet lining and flecs of his blue eyes glowing slightly when he extended his hand with a firm nod, a sweet smile curling his lips. He wasn’t overly friendly in his gestures, as he didn’t want to come off as a fake, or if he was hiding something even if it was his belief that everyone was at one point or another with something, no matter how small or insignificant it may be. He was the outsider here, the stranger, and he only expected the uncomfortable or annoyed gazes of intruding upon other’s territory. “Name’s Darren Hearst...Captain...” The young man sighed, “Have to say...if it wasn’t for your people, I don’t know if I would of ever gotten out of that fancy prison of sorts. I promise not to overwelcome my stay and do whatever I can to help out around here...”

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Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Sham (No Last Name) Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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Mageria smiled and bowed slightly in return, noticing the slight glow in the man's eyes and not about to take the hand he was holding out. She had been around far too long for that and given the look Sham was currently shooting him, she had to guess that it was a trick he had played on her already.
"Well, I'm glad we could help you out of a rough spot. I'm afraid that we're not in a good one ourselves, things are still really rough. But if you don't mind that there's no floor to the rooms beyond the dirt and treat the furniture carefully, I think we'll get along alright." She paused for a moment. "No, really. The furniture still tends to fall apart if you jump on it." She shrugged slightly. "We're soldiers. Good at the blowing things up and waving of swords, not so good with the building of things."

"But either way, welcome. Do you want something to eat or just to rest first?"

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Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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#, as written by Essence
Darren snickered, shaking his head at himself as he stared down at his own extended hand, slowly retracting his arm to itch the scruff of his beard that was filling in. Glancing over at Sham then back to the Captain, the young man drew his lips tight, holding back the random bits he’d caught from inside the blond’s mind; after all he was a gentleman and was not about to go running his mouth for he had more respect than that, especially for a pretty lady. “Many thanks Captain for the hospitality...something to eat would be very much appreciated and then you can just point me in the direction of the chores. I don’t like being idle for too long..” Darren’s eyes didn’t wander from Mageria’s gaze when he spoke to her, politely keeping his attention where it should be..something he had been chatting with Irvin about on the road as well. “If I may be so bold, may I ask if you would have any knowledge on code breaking? Or how about where I can find a good blacksmith?” Turning his attention to Irvin, Darren chuckled. “How about a crate in a tree...you know...something with a roof up high and out of sight? I’m sure I could figure something out..”

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Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Sham (No Last Name) Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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Mageria nodded at Irvin. “Well, we are a bit short of space, but there’s a corner or two we can tuck a spare bedroll in. If you want to head that way,” she nodded towards the barracks, “and ask anybody, they’ll find you a spot. Sleep as long as you like, we’ll find something for you to do after that.”

She looked at Darren. “As for you, we do know quite a bit about codes and breaking them. I’d be glad to look at whatever it is if you want, or you can just give me a sample. Whatever you’re comfortable with. The food is at the end room of the barracks, and then somebody will find you with the chores. We’re not shy about asking for help around here.”

She shrugged slightly then turned towards Sham. “And what happened that took you so long to break out? I thought for sure that you would have been here weeks ago.” She eyed Sham up and down. “Are you loosing your edge? And you obviously didn’t get enough to eat.” It was true, Sham was at least a size smaller than she had been and she was on the small side to begin with. “Come on then. You can give me your report along with a good hot meal. We’ve finally got enough meat in the stew for you to chew. Makes all the difference in the world.” She clapped Sham on the shoulder and steered her towards the barracks and their kitchens, waving for the two newcomers to follow them.
Sham sighed and followed helplessly, it was pointless to argue when Mageria was in this sort of mood. Better to just keep your head down and endure.

The setting changes from ravens-nest to Valcrest

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Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Dominic Adams Character Portrait: Ess Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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#, as written by Essence
“....Ebony....” Ess breathed, the color from her irises draining to a dull grey before flashing an iridescent violet, shadows circling her eyes. With a subtle pat, Shockwave had turned about, so that they faced the three figures directly, coming to a halt, staring long and hard from Xypher toward the haggard older woman. When Ess had heard her name called out, her form went rigged, recognizing the man’s voice yet not believing her eyes that either of them were standing before her. Ess absently glanced over the tall man in full armor, her attention focused mostly upon her old Mistress. It wasn’t possible. How was she found? Most importantly: How the hell was Ebony still alive.

“Lady Death spit you back from the bowels of hell, hmm?...Mistress...” Essence spat mockingly, her tone low, still soft as always but with an icy edge. She remembered the day the woman was found, gurgling and vomiting her last breaths...or so she thought. Ess saw the woman, wide-eyed and motionless hanging off her bed and she couldn’t understand what she did wrong. Over and over her mind retraced the steps she took in researching, preparing, and administering the poison into Ebony’s dinner. She had given more than was necessary for death, basking in the lengthy and torturing amount of time it took for the woman to pass...”...Guess I have ghosts haunting me as well, Luckas..” Ess mumbled to herself, sliding off the horse who was neighing and stamping uneasily, his head lowering as if listening to the group. Without a second thought, Ess drew her dagger and matching sword, the relic blades reflecting off the light, shining a beam across the trampled snow, a reflection of the strange markings written upon the white. Holding the blades in a relaxed position at her sides she took a step forward, noting how time and the aftermath of Ebony’s ‘illness’’ had only been fittingly cruel. The woman dressed as always, showing off the wealth she had accumulated from the slums of her business, her form pointy, the skin falling off the bones practically matching the skeletal appearance of her sunken in turquoise eyes. “Since you lost your way, I’ll be more than happy to send you in the right direction....about six feet that way..” Ess gave a short laugh, nodding towards her feet, Shockwave snorting an agreeable whinny.

Ebony lit up like the stars, clapping in her excitement. “Seems Lady Death couldn’t handle me, aye Birdie? I know....about your involvement, and Derrik and I had agreed to keep my...recovery a secret...you understand...” Ebony’s eyes narrowed, her amused expression fading as she stared at the weapons in Ess’ hands. “Those...are not yours, Pigeon....” The hag’s fingers clenched as the realization of her brother’s death came clear. “..So YOU thought you could take out our entire family....and steal from us? You still belong to me....you may believe you’ve changed..” Ebony gestured to the woman’s attire and black feathers dangling in her hair, “..prancing around like...a ...warrior? Only fooling yourself. Honestly, can’t blame you though.” Ebony’s voice hissed like a snake, “Revenge...seems rules us both...I took your family from you..and you took mine in return...”

Ess glanced from Xypher, to the man beside him, and back to Ebony, raising the blades higher at her sides. Her eyes flickered side to side, as she stepped forward thinking on the woman’s last words, not quite understanding. “You stole my ability to have a family...yes..”

Ebony suddenly laughed, interrupting Essence. “Oh! You still don’t know? How delightful....” Ebony slinked closer to Xypher and his guard as she continued, still smiling menacingly. “He didn’t die that day, Birdie...but what does it matter, hmm? You’ll always be a whore!”

Essence felt like someone had just hit her in the head, her knees shaking a bit, taking a step back as the memory came back to her. After her encounter with Luckas only earlier that day, her patience was in no mood for riddles or games. “No...you lying...bitch..”

~ 17 Years Ago, BlackPond~



“Puuush, Essence!” Jodi cried. “I can see the head, keep pushing!”

Ess was scared shitless, since she was only twelve years old and having a baby when she was still practically one herself. Living the life of a ‘working woman’ in the body of a child had not weighed lightly upon the young girl. This may have been her first child but she had been pregnant three other times and was either forced to end the pregnancy or it didn’t last through the second trimester due to the stresses of her profession. Not knowing what to do or what to expect, she did know that she wanted this one to live. The ideal of becoming a mother, even in her ignorance, gave her a new found hope that she had thought she lost over the years.

Ess gave one final push, sweat pouring down her neck, curly locs matted against her skin as her head fell back against the pillow. ‘In cleansing breath..and out...” She recited to herself as the midwife cut the cord and took the baby across the room to Ebony. Ess closed her eyes, listening to the sudden silence. “What is it? Why isn’t it crying? Is it ok?” Her eyes peeked open in tired slits as she continued to mutter questions in exhausted whispers.

The baby didn’t cry. It didn’t appear to move as Jodi began smacking it along it’s back, her eyes fluttering from Ess to Ebony with an empty look on her face. Ebony took the tiny baby from the midwife, wrapping it in a white cloth, now spotted from the after birth, and disappeared out the room with a sadistic smile curling her lips. Jodi came over to Ess, resting a hand sympathetically along her shoulder. “I’m so sorry darling...he didn’t make it.”

Ess’s eyes widened, her purple iris’ glistening as tears began leaking across her face. “He?...Where...is Ebony taking my baby...?” She whispered sadly, almost in a whine, gradually her tone growing louder as the realization that she would not be holding her baby finally seeped into her. “Where....is that BITCH taking my baby??!! Why can’t I see him?!” She began screaming and thrashing in her bed, Jodi pressed to hold her down afraid she would injure herself. When her screams and pleas faded into wails, she had managed to slip away from Jodi’s grip, falling onto the floor, her pale flesh stained with a rust like color. “Why....is she doing this to me? Jodi?!”

Jodi hugged the young girl close, gently rocking her back and forth. “Shh...now sweetie. It’ll be ok. Shhh....rest...I don’t want you bleeding out.”

“I don’t care....” Ess muttered between sobs.

Some time passed before Ess ran out of tears, her body still trembling in her despair. “Essence...what would you have named him?” Jodi whispered soothingly into her ear. “What name do we send with his soul to the Twins to watch over?”

Ess narrowed her brows as she thought through the few different names she had chosen, but that when she got to see the baby she thought one of them would speak to her. Now, she wasn’t sure what would be fitting for her son; that she had no memory of. With a sigh she muttered, “Aldwin...he could of been an Aldwin....”

~Present~

There was no warning, no hesitation. Ess didn’t even realize she was lunging at Ebony as she screamed in a hellish fury, darkened veins pulsating around her eyes as they darkened spreading out like branches across her cheekbones. “I AM NOT A WHORE! TELL ME WHERE MY SON IS?!! I’LL KILL YOU....KILL THE BOTH OF YOU!”

~~~~~~~~

RAVEN'S NEST

Darren followed the Captain, keeping in stride with Irvin, he playfully pushed back against the boy’s nudge and snickered. He couldn’t hold back his series of chuckles at the boy’s comment and simply nodded as the chuckles continued, his eyes trailing after the red head curiously. Leaning towards Irvin, his attention still in front of him he whispered, “...I dunno about trying to handle that one, buy hey, there were a couple more I saw in Jake’s head...maybe you’ll run into them here too?”

Darren didn’t realize how hungry he actually was until he began spooning the stew between his lips, a satisfied grin curling his lips. He waited til he got a few bites in before rummaging in his pack for his father’s journal, waiting for a moment to grab the Captain’s attention.“M’am? This..here was/is my father’s, which Irvin here and your man Jake was able acquire for me. Maybe you've heard of him? Asher Hearst?... I can only assure you..I am nothing like the man. I did not take over the family business...involving in his war profiteering or the people he involved himself in.” Darren took a breath, his expression serious yet his gaze was still soft, pushing the journal towards Mageria. “I know he’s involved in more than the obvious..and everything is in that book. Transactions...his own personal thoughts...and last up to date ‘inventory.’” Spooning the last of his meal into his mouth, he tilted back the bowl to drink the broth. “All of that is encoded. As you can see, each section is encoded differently and the bits I’ve started, I discovered are of his personal logs. I would be willing to share any and all information discovered within those pages in exchange for your assistance.” With a sigh, the young man absently began cracking his knuckles. “I believe I’m in well over my head...”

The setting changes from valcrest to Raven's Nest

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Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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#, as written by Essence
Darren sighed, retrieving back the journal from the Captain and as he listened to Irvin and the Captain speak; again the visions from physical contact with the journal, flashed across his eyes. An ominous and somewhat foreboding chill crept up his spine. Anyone looking at Darren would notice his sudden frozen stare and a curious, almost familiar violet-blue glow emitting from his sockets. It was as if his hand was glued to the journal for a few moments before his free hand forcibly pried his own fingers off the leather. Again, he witnessed the many faces of children; specifically two girls: Both young, fair skinned, one with red curly hair and the other with ear-length, raven locs. As their faces faded, a nauseating wave passed, thankfully quickly, but not before he pushed aside his empty bowl. Feeling sudden eyes upon him, he forced a tiny smirk.

“I have a horrid feeling...Irvin...those rumors of missing children....” Darren swallowed hard, pointing at the journal, “...have more truth to them than we may realize..” The young man wasn’t sure what he would find, once decoded; if there was a list of those responsible for his visions, a connection of some sort..or maybe at the very least, a clue. It was only the icing on the cake, as far as he was concerned and granted he was reaching in the dark at this point, yet still he trusted his gut and his gut was internally screaming. Leaning into his arm, he rested his head lazily upon his open palm, propping upon an elbow, turning his gaze towards the Captain once again. "I suppose I should tell you a bit about myself..." Darren's smirk faded as he went into vivid detail on his enlightenment, explaining a quick summary of how he ended up in the prison to meet Jake and Irvin. He kept his tone low, so only those sitting at the table could hear him. When he'd finished, he added, "It's...like always having a mystery to solve...without a timeline..."

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Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Sham (No Last Name) Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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Sham grabbed the bowl of leftover vegetables and almost ate them whole, finally slowing down a bit towards the end as she stopped to chew. An early childhood of never knowing where her dinner was going to come from had taught her that the best place to stoe food was where no one else could get at it. She glanced at Irvin as he walked away and then peered over at Mageria, a slight sideways grin on her face.
“Cap’n, I’m fairly certain that the club he’s talkin’ about, an’ the one you were talkin’ about, don’t happ’n to be the same thing.”
Mageria grinned briefly before looking back at the journal in her hands. “Why Sham, I don’t know what you mean. What could I possibly have said that would give him the wrong idea?”
Sham shook her head and got up, ready to seek out her own bedroll for the night. The Captain had the oddest sense of humor sometimes. . . .

Mageria leafed through a couple of the pages in front of her, face falling into somber lines as she thought about what it might contain.
“Darren, I promise you that if these rumors you’ve heard about the children are true, we’ll do something about it.” A hard smile slashed it’s way across her face. “Truth, it’d be harder to keep people here than get them to go, everybody here is used to solving their problems with a sword blade, we joined because we felt that we needed to, otherwise there were better ways to earn a living with a sword.” She looked him in the eye, her own slowly darkening to onyx. “Children are to be protected. Sometimes people need to be reminded of that. It’s not quite like what I did last time, but this is a different situation.” She took a deep breath and forced herself to relax, looking at the young man with a sharp assessing gaze.
“But if family was involved,” she gestured a bit with the journal, “are you going to be able to do what you have to?”

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Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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#, as written by Essence
Darren folded his hands upon the table with a heavy sigh, a somber stare went through and past the Captain. He didn't answer for a few minutes, nodding slowly, but to what, was locked away momentarily in his mind. It wasn't until recently Darren had taken his first life, just before his seventeenth birthday. He'd avoid it at all costs, until there was no other resort, no other way to survive. Even when he'd taken coin in exchange for a 'favor' or two, he'd try to find another way to resolve the situation in less blood shed. Of course, it never ended that way. He could give reasons for his decisions, but when it came down to it he found no honor in it. Down to the person's last breaths, Darren made sure to fight fair, especially when they didn't. He'd always had a choice and in those choices he was trying to live an honorable life and was struggling along the way. When he failed at taking down his father's business, cornered in a battle of the powerful, only then did he realize there was something bigger than him. Suddenly he snapped back into reality, realizing he had been asked a question. Slowly he smiled.

"...I hear....Family...isn't just blood.....Family is some dream of loved ones built on trust and sacrifice. So this man, who is technically my Father is very far from that." Darren took in a deep, cleansing breath, focusing his blue-lavender eyes upon the Captain. "I'm old enough to know that sometimes we just need to do the necessary evil, to salvage any good left in this world. I may not like it, but if normal justice is out of reach for Asher, I trust myself to do what is necessary." A slight smile widened upon his lips, a subtle wink fluttered from his right eye. "If you can't trust yourself at least, then WHO can you trust, no?"

Pushing himself away from the table, Darren stood, backing away toward the exit. "I'm going to make myself useful, if it pleases you Captain. Have a run there at that journal and I'll stop by to find you later to throw some ideas at you?" With a bow he waited politely, as if for permission to move on.

The setting changes from ravens-nest to The Ruins (Healer's camp)

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Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Annie Turner Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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[Raven’s Nest - Earlier in the day]

After Evin left, Crys had decided that it was time to go visit the healers, pay her respects and try to get some answers. Even if Ali was being a little paranoid with the journal thing, she did have a valid point; it was odd that Lena was now dead not long after Ali had been attacked. That not to mention that they still didn’t know how exactly she had died.

She walked back from the center of the camp and towards her tent where she slowly started packing a few items into a bag, a little absent to the fact Ali was following her movements.

“I’m going with you.”

Crys snickered. “If you didn’t already know I was going to ask you to stay, you wouldn’t really feel the need to announce that you’re going. So you know what my answer is, don’t you?”
“I want to pay my respects.” Ali argued. “I want to say goodbye.”
Crys sighed softly. “I hate that you make me point this out, but... She will still be dead tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that... Today, I need you to stay here.”
“What for?”
“Well, first of all, if Lena’s death did have something to do with protecting this information that she supposedly gave you, there’s no better place for you than a camp full of former Black Guard.” She smirked. “Besides, you did say you’d help make some furniture, so I suggest you get on it.”
“Humph.” Ali heaved a sigh. “I suppose I did say that.”
“Just let me find out what happened, alright? I’ll be back in a day or so, meanwhile you can find ways to make yourself useful for a change, huh? Maybe make some friends... Just don’t bite anyone.” She said in a playful tone.
“I’m not amused.” Ali muttered.
“Heh, yes you are.” Crys retorted, turning to face Ali with a smile. “It’ll be fine, and you’ll get to say your goodbyes, I promise.”
Ali sigh, giving a slight nod for a response, not caring that Crys couldn’t see. “Do you think Jake knows?”
Crys’ smile faded for a moment and she clenched her fists momentarily. “That I know of, he’s still in Blackpond.” She responded, turning away and starting to walk away. “Do not get in trouble.” She told Ali over her shoulder.

“I’m going to check out this side of camp, meet up with later Irv...” Darren spoke before parting ways, intrigued to find the perfect spot to build the ideal treehouse. Of course there were plenty of spots, technically, all above the camp, but Darren wanted the highest most strategic point. He also knew of a few names mentioned earlier in casual conversation, whom he should go to see if he wanted to be put to work. Still, he thought best to get a better idea of his new surroundings. “Know all your exits...hesitation gets you killed...” He whispered to himself as he nodded to an attractive blond as he passed, only to pause in mid step when he first noticed the redhead. He stood, watching her walk away, only to cross his arms and smile as the familiarity of the form flashed across his mind. ‘Another one of yours, Jake?’ He pondered to himself before jogging forward to catch up with her just as she crossed the treeline past the bridge.

“Excuse me, Miss? Which direction are you heading in? It’s just, I’m not from around here and not sure where to find a decent enough blacksmith. Any recommendations?” Darren hopped around Crys so he was standing in front of her, a charming smile accompanied the deep, gentle tone of his voice.

Crys slowed down her pace only slightly when she heard rushed footsteps behind her, but didn’t stop until she heard someone address her asking for directions. Crys didn’t know this man, but she had an odd feeling that he’d seen her before... Like when she ran into Luckas at the inn. It was an odd feeling, yes, but there was really nothing about this person that made her uncomfortable, so she opened a smile as she replied. “I’m heading out towards the plains at the moment. Not many blacksmiths to be found around those parts, I’m afraid.” She informed, tilting her head slightly as she thought. “I’m not sure if you will find one in camp, I haven’t been here that long to know everyone, but I do know of a good one in Newhaven, answers by the name Blackwell, used to craft weapons for the Wolves about ten years ago. He’s known to be a creative guy, if you catch my drift. The Crimson have a good guy too, but he won’t just craft for outsiders you’d have to travel there only to try and convince their leader to give his consent... Too much of a hassle.” She went silent for a moment, smiling pleasantly at this new acquaintance before asking. “So, where are you from, if not from around these parts? If you don’t know where to find a smith, I take it you didn’t come here with the Blacks.”

Darren shifted his position, absently cracking a few knuckles before tugging at his goatee as if he was rolling over a few ideas in his head. He noted the way the woman’s pale green eyes seemed to pass right through him, causing him to lean side to side with a smile as she appeared to instinctually follow. “Blackwell, hmm? I’ll keep that in mind, thanks much, especially since NewHaven appears to be the closest bet for me. East of here, right? Have business that way anyhow...” Darren cleared his throat, blue eyes flashing a subtle violet hue as his smile broadened. “My apologies...” He began, bowing his head slightly. “How rude of me,...Darren....Darren Hearst. And I was born, raised, trained, and employed in Blackpond, until my most recent liberation from that dreaded place. In a way, I came here with the Blacks....woman named Sham, and I believe...maybe a friend of yours? You seem to weigh heavily upon his mind, leaving a very strong impression.” Darren’s smile dimmed, only a slight smirk present as he continued. “He didn’t say where he was going though. Would of thought he’d come with, but he seemed distracted.”

Crys held back a small chuckle. “East of here, yes. I think... It’s... Uh... That way.” She said, absently pointing in the direction of the city. “A few minutes of walking and you should be able to spot the city walls, or so I’ve heard.” She bowed her head slightly to his introduction. “Nice to meet you Darren. My name is Crystal Rivers, but please do call me Crys, I prefer it. And Blackpond, huh? Trained and employed in what? If you don’t mind me asking. You carry yourself pretty well, but you still sound like a kid to me, late teens, yes? It’s a long way from Blackpond.” She said, her green eyes lighting up a little as she stared at him, her smile shutting slowly into an intrigued expression at his mention of this possible friend of hers. “Hum... You don’t say?” She asked, in a soft tone closer to a whisper. “You seem pretty sure of what you’re saying, that’s unusual for someone speaking of what goes through another’s mind. That’s rather interesting...” Her voice trailed off as she was quiet for a moment before opening a smile again, giving a light shrug. “I take it he’ll be coming here eventually... Suppose I’ll meet him then, but if you see him first ask him if he’s heard news from the White Shadows... Although I have a feeling he’ll pass through there, it’s important that he knows.”

“My my Crys, a lovely name to match a lovely smile. “ Darren commented with a quiet grace, still politely keeping his gaze locked with hers. “Yes, it is a long way from Blackpond, especially with no weapons....kind of makes a young man like myself feel a bit...eh naked I suppose. I lost the weapons after my last job, right before I was tossed into prison. Didn’t even get paid for that either. Makes me want to rethink this whole mercenary thing.” After another short chuckle he nodded to himself. “No one can ever be truly sure, but I come to my conclusions by other factors....as I assume you deduced I have some sort of telepathic ability, although I am still unsure of how, I cross check reactions with facts. I saw certain images in his mind that had a greater effect or impression which can only be absorbed through powerful energies which come from ‘important’ interactions. Guess that is how I can explain it.” Darren naturally winked, followed by a snicker. “I suppose you could be an enemy, but I do not see that kind of focus upon you. Those who are despised...they carry a different....aura...so to speak. Also, there’s the amount of times in those few seconds your face flashed before my eyes with only a simple handshake.” Darren gave a tired sigh, scratching along his chin, adding, “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, Crys, but his memories don’t do you justice...And If I see him before you, I will pass along the message.”

Crys chuckled softly. “Well, if I was to make such a long trip naked, there’s no one I’d trust more to accompany me than one of Mageria’s people... Except maybe my own, although they’d probably never let me forget having to travel naked, but I digress...” She chuckled a bit more before heaving a small sigh and speaking more seriously. “Your assumptions don’t seem so different from mine. I can’t know if you are telling me the truth, but I can know that you believe what you say. I can’t possibly know that you aren’t a threat, except by the fact that you don’t see me as one, I assume based on the fact that Jake doesn’t. Which, if true, I have to say is just adorable considering you can’t possibly know him for very long; I know he hasn’t been in Blackpond longer than a month.” She smiled. “Regardless, I’m definitely not a threat to you... To him, I’m not so sure yet. He should know better than to piss me off.” The tone she used was playful, but she wasn’t joking entirely, at which point she thought it best to change the subject. “Mercenary work is tricky, mostly because people love to get others to do their work for them and then just screw them over. Unless you make a pretty nasty reputation for yourself or have a group to watch your back... It’s bound to happen.”

“Beauty and brains....” Darren quickly glanced Crys in a once over and nodded. “Probably could kick my ass too...something about redheads and tempers...” He shrugged, taking a step back to give her more space. “I’ve learned through my short years that ‘time’ isn’t the only important factor in life; learning the truth about others or one’s self. I find first impressions explain a lot.” Darren sighed, holding a wide smile. “Good to know I don’t have to necessarily keep looking over my shoulder when you’re around...guess I should say a little prayer for Jake, no?” Again the young man chuckled, his cheeks flushing a soft rosy before a serious expression stealing his amusement. “..Maybe mercenary work isn’t for me....I’m not sure if I’m cut out for the work involved with ‘carving’ myself the necessary reputation for that...perhaps my calling is elsewhere....as yours seems to be as well. I won’t keep you much longer, Crys...although I’d love to talk your ear of some more.” Darren was always a laid back kind of guy, even when he was angry. Sometimes he was known for talking too much and was told he could be overly friendly, but the people in this camp just seemed “familiar” and he felt more trusting than normal. That, and he was never one for bullshit or lies. He forced the glow of his eyes away, weighing if he should extend his hand for manners sake, but decided against it when it suddenly dawned on him, a detail he hadn’t picked up from Crys before. He felt almost embarrassed as he kept his thoughts to himself, again taking another step back.

Crys shook her head slightly, a trace of a giggle escaping under her breath, but contained as she spoke. “I always found that term highly amusing... Calling... To be called, implies someone is there to call for you, no? Not sure how that applies to some scenarios, although I believe that if you are lucky someone, at some point, will call for you.” She chuckled. “And yet I’m still not sure how that applies. One can say that a calling is the call of fate, or the Gods, but that implies you believe in fate, or the Gods for that matter... Too many conditions for my liking.” She heaved a small sigh as she thought about it, but still smiling. “I do have to be somewhere else, but... Very nice meeting you, Darren. I don’t know why, but you remind me of someone. I’m sure there’ll be better opportunities for you to talk my ears off.” She chuckled. “And If you do go see Blackwell, send him my regards. I haven’t seen the old man in quite a while, not sure he’s aware that I’m alive.”

Darren shrugged, “Calling...well good points actually...but I wasn’t being metaphorical. More hoping that I’ll find what I’m good at in life...sometimes I don’t feel I’m cut out for the drama, but slowly finding a purpose is always nice to see upon the horizon.” Darren quirked a brow, angling his head in a slanted manner. “The pleasure is mine, Crys...funny how life leads us down those ironies, eh?” Crossing one arm behind his back, one along his waist, Darren bowed low, keeping his focus upon the woman. “I plan on visiting this Blackwell sooner than later, so I will be sure to mention how I was recommended. Safe journey.” Darren turned on his heels, slipping back towards the bridge in his continued search for the ‘perfect vantage point.’

[White Shadows Camp - Present Time]

Crys had made a slow walk to the plains, not in a hurry to deal with any level of grief aside her own and greatly enjoying the opportunity to be alone with her thoughts in the forest. As the afternoon moved on towards its end, and the night fell upon the land, she could feel the air gradually grow colder, but not as cold as it would be about a week before; it was sign that springtime was nearing and soon the remaining ice would melt.
It was after the sun had been down for about an hour or so that Crys reached the White Shadows’ camp. The healers immediately recognized her as she entered the camp and allowed her to visit Lena’s grave alone until Annie was free to talk. So she was left standing alone before the grave, where she remained in absolute silence until Annie came to meet her. She should maybe say a prayer, or say goodbye, or something, anything that would make this real to her, but she didn’t have the words to say or the will to speak. It wasn’t the time for that yet it seemed, she wasn’t ready.

“Do you need another minute?” Annie’s voice sounded a few steps away.
“No.” Crys replied, turning to face the girl. “I don’t think this is the time to pay my respects anyway.”
Annie sighed. “I understand. Come, I was just about to get some dinner... Have you eaten today?”
“I have, but that was hours ago, I wouldn’t refuse a warm meal.”
“Great, we can talk over a bowl of soup.” The girl retorted, beginning to walk towards the encampment, leading Crys to sit by a small campfire, where she could catch the pleasant and comforting scent of something being cooked. She smiled softly as Annie quietly reached for hand and led it to the bow she had been holding out. “Careful now, it’s hot.” She warned, releasing the bowl of soup onto Crys’ hands and taking a seat next to her.
“I will. Thank you.” Crys replied.
“Don’t thank me yet... It’s not as tasty as it smells.” She snickered. “It serves its purpose though, I suppose. I like it better when Alistair cooks, but he’s a little bit indisposed tonight.”
“Alistair cooks, huh? Wouldn’t have guessed.” Crys mentioned. “Is he feeling sick?”
“No... It’s stupid really... Isaac had a bit of a meltdown and Al got hurt trying to stop him. He’s going to be alright, just needs to treat some burns.” Annie replied.
“And how’s Isaac?” Crys asked, stirring the soup idly for a few moments before starting to eat.
“Still sedated, last I heard.” Annie replied.
“Hm.” Crys mumbled. “And what else is troubling you?”
“What do you... What do you mean?”
“You are concerned for Alistair’s health, and mourning your mother’s death, you are also stressed, which is not at all surprising considering what you told me just happened, but... I can tell there’s something else that is deeply concerning you.”
Annie heaved a long sigh and mumbled under her breath. “Damn empaths...”
Crys stifled a laugh. “And I wasn’t even trying. What is it?”
“I can’t talk about it, sorry.” Annie replied simply, digging into her bowl of soup and taking her time with chewing on the soggy vegetables.
“Confidentiality, huh?” Crys asked. “Does it have to do with your mother?”
“Can’t say.” Annie stated.
“Can you tell me how she died at least?” Crys asked, raising a brow as she scraped the bottom of the clay bowl with her spoon.
“My mother’s death was, as far as I can tell, a result of overusing her ability.” Annie said.
“Out of nowhere? Just like that?”
“Look... Talk to Jacob...” Annie mumbled. “And no, not just like that. I think... I think... She wasn’t in her perfect health, and she pushed herself too far, aware of that... So...”
“Alright, I understand.” Crys said, not wanting to upset the girl any more. “Can you tell me, when I last ran into Lena she was in Newhaven Castle. And she seemed, well... Very, very, worried and in a hurry. Unfortunately so was I, and I didn’t get to speak with her since. Do you know... Why she was there and what she has been doing?”
“Not much of it. I mean, I know she spoke with the Captain of the Whites and she planned on meeting with King Rick, but something made her change her mind about it. Other than that, she had been going through the archives repeatedly.” Annie heaved a long sigh. “I tried to get her to tell me, but you know...”
“I know.” Crys went silent, working on the last bits of vegetables in the otherwise tasteless soup.
“She left notes, but... They’re the most encrypted mess of gibberish I’ve ever seen. If it can even be decoded, it’s going to take me months. I’d like to ask for help with it, but aside from Alistair I don’t think I trust anyone else with it until I know what’s on it. Maybe it’s personal... I’m not sure.”
“Lena was a private person, I understand that.” Crys nodded, setting her vegetable-free bowl of soup aside. “Why... Do you say I should talk to Jake?”
“Aside from the fact that it’s about time... He knows some things I’m not at liberty to discuss with you. In fact, he was here just a couple of hours ago, I’m surprised you didn’t meet him on the way.”
“Oh, I passed him.” Crys stated simply.
Annie snorted a small laugh, but didn’t make any further comments on the subject.
“So your mother spoke to the Captain of the White Knights, huh? Maybe I’ll go see him then and ask about it.”
“So... I heard Ella Page made you heir to the throne... That...” Annie chuckled. “Quite the honor.”
“That girl... I don’t know if she’s incredibly stupid, incredibly smart, or just completely insane.” Crys sighed. “But then... She is Evin’s recruit and sometimes I’m not sure about him either.”
Annie snickered. “Of course. And speaking of Evin... When you see him again let him know that my mother left something for him... Whenever he has the time, he can come and get it... Water.”
“Huh?” Crys asked at Annie’s final word, only understanding what the girl meant when she felt something cool gently touch her hand. She took the metal cup Annie had been holding out and took a drink from it, snickering under her breath as she remembered Evin’s comment that the water tasted funny.
“Are you going to be staying the night?” Annie asked.
“Not the full night. I think I’m going to take a one or two hour rest and then move to Newhaven. See if I can get there by noon tomorrow.”
“You should rest properly now.” Annie scolded. “You’re going to make yourself sick you know, like J-...” Annie stopped talking and forced a cough to justify the sudden halt in her scolding, instead finishing with: “Just take care, alright?”
“I always do... Unlike J-... er... Some people.” Crys, smirked into her cup, taking another drink of water. “I’ve gone by on less sleep than this and once in Newhaven I can rest, or take a short trip back to Mageria’s camp and rest there.”
Annie chuckled. “Alright, alright...” She agreed, standing up to leave. "I have to check on some patients and then see if I can get some sleep myself, but make yourself at home Crys."

[Wolfpack’s Camp]

Sean reached the camp to the news that someone was there demanding to see the Alpha, annoyance taking over his expression as he listened to the Wolves who found the woman tell him how she saw the ring on one of them and starting ranting about how she had been cheated and demanded compensation. Sean, even though already displeased with this person, understood why his men didn’t immediately kill the woman; if she spoke the truth then it was his responsibility to compensate in order to maintain the clan’s honor intact. It wasn’t just any contract that was accepted by Wolfpack, as some would believe, but those that were accepted were to be fulfilled as the contractor demand them to be, no questions asked, and any Wolf knew that to sabotage a contract was a serious act of treason not to mention it damaged the clan’s reputation. Sean would have none of that. With a weary sigh he ordered the men to have the woman taken to the Leader’s Cabin after a couple of minutes had passed, and that Franklin accompanied her. Whatever she said, Sean wanted his confirmation that it wasn’t a lie, because if it was... He would gladly kill her where she stood.

Sean only had the time to go into his room to rid himself of his cloak and travel bag and grab a piece of bread before there was movement of people entering the office. He stepped out of his bedroom, locking the door behind him and nodding at Franklin in greeting, ignoring the old skinny mess of a woman he had brought with him; dirt on her clothes and a very freshly bandaged eye immediately drawing his attention, quietly biting into his ‘meal’ as he moved to sit by the desk. He didn’t managed to take more than one step in silence before the woman spoke up, apparently unable to grasp how insignificant anyone was in that forest when compared to the leader of the Wolfpack. “This boy is your leader!?”

Sean would have ignored that, he wanted to even, but he caught the woman’s one eyed gaze examining him from head to toe as if trying to decide whether he was worth her time, or maybe, very possibly, if she could take advantage of him in some way. He knew that look well and it irked him to no end. So before the conversation even took place, he decided to make clear to this woman where she was and who she was dealing with; slowly, he placed the bread he was holding on top of the table and in one swift motion he pulled a throwing knife and launched it in the moment direction, letting fly just past her head. “You better wipe away that condescending smile lest I carve it permanently on that ugly face of yours, old lady.” He muttered. “And you will address and refer to me as Alpha, call me boy one more time and you will be making your complaints in Hell.” With that said he sat by the table and retrieved his bread, taking a generous bite of it and idly nodding at the chair across from his as he chewed on it, motioning for his ‘visitor’ to take a seat.

The woman let out a startled yelp as the blade flew by her face, lodging itself in the wooden wall behind her, a deeply insulted and angered look immediately forming itself on her face as she glared at the Alpha, not sitting as he so rudely suggested, which caused Franklin to give her a very indelicate nudge towards the chair, after which she complied and sat, muttering curses and insults under her breath, out of which Sean only caught the words ‘brute’ and ‘filthy mutt’, after which the woman cleared her throat and remained silent watching him, still in that offended look.

Sean swallowed his bite of bread and groaned, trying to contain his annoyance at the woman’s attitude and the whispered insults towards his Second, simply taking a deep breath and leaning back in his chair. “State your business.” He asked, taking another bite off his piece of bread.
“You know, Alpha, it is considered extremely impolite to eat in front of guests. I expected the Alpha of the Wolfpack to have manners as a leader.” She spoke, her tone annoyed as if she expected, and truly believed she was worthy of, better treatment.
Sean raised an eyebrow at the woman, exchanging a slightly amused look with Franklin at her words. “This isn’t a tea party, and you are not my guest. The gravity of your accusations alone is what keeps me from permanently shutting that foul and petulant mouth of yours, so... And Twins help me for making such request... Speak.”
“Well, lad.. The situation is not a complicated one. I paid your clan to perform a service, not only was that service not provided, but the inconsequent fool who was assigned to perform said service attempted to take my life...”
“He shall be severely punished for his failure...” Sean muttered out, unable to control himself, causing Franklin to audibly chuckle behind the woman’s back.
“As is...” The woman continued. “I demand that the contract is fulfilled, since it was paid for. I also feel I deserve some form of reparation for the attempt on my own life. I will accept the life of the assassin who tried to kill me or another target of choosing as compensation for that.”

Sean didn’t respond to the woman, he looked to Franklin instead, almost hoping he exposed the bitch as a liar, but no; Franklin nodded as to confirm her story was true. With a slightly disappointed sigh Sean pushed pen and paper towards the woman. “Write down the target’s name and physical description as well as the Alias of the assassin assigned to your contract. We will execute the target, as it was established, and the assassin will be punished according to our laws; I see no reason for further compensation.” He told her, patiently waiting for the required information. When the paper was pushed across the table towards him, Sean’s eye caught the name of the assassin responsible for the woman’s contract and his eyes narrowed slightly. “This man is no longer under our authority.” Sean stated simply. “He is, however, a wanted man... He will be taken care of.” Looking further he caught the name of the target of the hit, ‘Jennifer Lessar’ was the woman’s name, followed by a short physical description. Below it, another name. “Essence Talon.” Sean looked from the name to the woman before him with a annoyed look in his eyes. “I said no further compensation.”

“I’m willing to pay, handsomely, for this one... More so if you bring her to me alive.”
“Alive? You don’t seem to understand what assassins are for, now do you?” He asked, contempt clear in his tone as well as his eyes as he continued, not giving the woman the time to respond. “Besides, I don’t believe any contract has ever been refused for such reasons before in the history of this clan, but you are the most unpleasant, arrogant, and disrespectful bitch I have ever met. You displease me to such a point that if someone came here wanting you dead, I would probably pay them just as handsomely for the pleasure of doing it myself.” He tore the extra name out of the paper and crushed it into a ball in his hand before tossing it at her face. “I will pay my debt, in that you have my word. You also have my word that if you do not leave this camp within two exact minutes I will take your remaining eye and shove it down your despicable throat.” As the woman opened her mouth as if to protest Sean cut her off again. “That’s exactly one hundred and twenty seconds... one hundred and nineteen... one hundred and eighteen...”
“One hundred and seventeen...” Franklin continued opening the door and chuckling as the woman jumped to her feet and rushed her way through it; the Second gladly following, keeping the count as he chased after her all the way to the exit.

The setting changes from the-ruins-healers-camp to Valcrest

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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#, as written by Essence
Jake didn’t slow down his pace as he walked away from Aiden to find Shadow; he could feel his heart beating so fast inside his chest he had to wonder how it was humanly possible. As he reached the horse, a voice snapped him out of his thoughts rather abruptly. “Where ya going, Killer?”
“Dammit... Irvin... You scared the shit out of me.” Jake muttered at the kid. “I’m on my way to Newhaven, to meet a friend.”
“That’s odd, you usually see me coming. Distracted are we?” The boy asked.
“In a hurry too.” Jake stated. “I won’t be gone too long though, just a couple of hours.”
“Can’t I go with you?”
“No, not this time. Remember your end of our deal?”Jake asked as he occupied himself with saddling the horse.
“Stay away from any Wolves until you say otherwise? Oh, your friend is a Wolf, of course.”
“She is a recruiter, she works at the Inn in Newhaven, and she’s a close friend so...”
“And your friend is a she, too.” Irvin snickered. “Is she attractive? Oooh, is she a redhead?”
“A brunette, actually.” Jake muttered, a little bit of amusement breaking through his annoyed tone. “And yes, she is very attractive, if you must know. Maybe one day I’ll let you meet her. You two would get along, I think, although you’d have zero chances with her.”
“Aw, why is that?”
“She has a rule that states ‘one must be at least eighteen years of age to go on this ride’.” Jake answered with a chuckle. “And you can’t pass as an eighteen year old to save your life, kid.”
“Well... Darren could though... And he likes brunettes, you should introduce them.” Irvin stated idly, going into thought for a second and smirking as he asked. “And how old were you when you met her, Killer?”
“Seventeen... And no. Don’t even think about asking that question.” Jake warned the boy with a severe look in his eyes. “Sheila is a very dear friend of mine, and that’s all she is. Are we clear? As for Darren, well... Maybe, but I don’t know if I’m comfortable setting up a teenager with a lady about ten years older than him. Sounds a bit creepy to me, even if the lady in question is a good friend of mine.” He said, with a little snicker, making sure the saddle wasn’t loose in any way before turning to face the kid. “You stay in camp, and don’t give Captain trouble while I’m away, then I’ll consider taking you with me next time.”
Irvin nodded, putting on a fake innocent face. “I’ll be good. After all, the last thing I’d want to cause Captain any trouble.” He stated, with a little playful smirk. “And do we get to start training when you get back?”
“Of course.” Jake confirmed. “And I’m pretty sure you can find some work to do in the meantime, right? Make yourself useful.”
Irvin nodded. “I’ll see about finding some work to do, sure. Lazy is one thing I’m not.” He stated, a rather proud note in his voice.
Jake smiled, patting the kid in the shoulder. “I believe you kiddo. Sure you’ll do a good job.”
“Gee, alright... Want some tea with all that sugar?” Irvin played. “Just don’t waste your whole day gossiping with your lady friend, kay?” With that said the kid turned back towards the camp and ran off.

Jake chuckled shaking his head and giving Shadow a gentle pat on the neck as he mounted. “Things are going to get complicated soon, my friend.” He sighed.

Darren was about ten minutes out from the Nest on foot, whistling happily as he took his time in the direction of NewHaven. He was smart to stay off the road, skimming along the treeline just far enough to spy any possible movement through the sleeping foliage. “Blackwell.....” He muttered to himself, focusing to remember who he was commissioning for new weapons, his heart set on something light, lethal, and manageable for an array of engagements. “Maybe an axe of some sort....” He mused, his eyes lighting up happily at the thought. Darren had mentioned to the Captain he would be out to do some errands and most likely be back by evening, joking about a search party if he wasn’t back in at most three days time. He planned on speaking to the blacksmith first before asking around how he would find the White Knight he had encountered in Blackpond's prison; perhaps leaving a message to meet with him when he next came back to pick up his new toys. Then again, Darren was getting a bit ahead of himself now.

Jake let Shadow stroll lazily down the path towards Newhaven, not caring much for how fast he’d get there. All things considered, even though he promised Irvin they would get some training done, he would welcome any reason to delay his return to the Nest. It seemed to be just inevitable for him to deal with Luckas soon. Sooner than he expected, even, but if things were anything like Aiden said they were... Inevitable. “I’m an idiot, Shadow, that’s what I am.” He muttered, receiving a rather condescending snort from the animal as if to show his agreement. Jake sighed softly simply shaking his head, even though his normal, if one could consider it normal, would be to argue with the horse. “Yeah, buddy... I’ve really done it now, huh?” He whispered.

Darren’s head turned to glance over his shoulder at a sudden, soft echo of hooves moving at what he guess wasn’t a very fast pace. He smiled as it grew closer, the sound of a snort confirming it was a horse which most likely meant it had a rider. His blue eyes brightened, flickering side to side at the trees that surrounded him until he spotted one beside the road he felt he could climb easily enough. Darren was always a curious type wondering about everything and everyone that crossed his path and this was just another example. With a chuckle he shimmied up a dying Pine, positioning himself so he dangled off a branch only partially hidden from another larger branch. If someone were to look up suddenly, they’d notice him but he didn’t seem to worry much about that. Darren squinted, focusing his vision on the figure that came closer, nodding some as he saw a rider that was expected, a smirk creeping along his lips. He wasn’t expecting to see a familiar face however and began whistling, the call almost like a nest of crickets and the humming of a Worm-eating Warbler. He paused, quirking a brow before taking another breath and repeating the action, waiting for Jake to approach.

Jake was mostly distracted with his thought, but not so much that his eyes didn’t catch a bit of movement amongst the trees not too far ahead, he didn’t make too much of it though, probably just someone moving to or from the camp... Anyone trying to sneak up on him would be more quiet; anyone who would pose as a threat at least. To be on the safe side, however, Jake let his hand casually move to the hilt of the sword at his waist, straightening himself up in the saddle, and absently giving Shadow a pat with his other hand. Not much further down the road he heard something the he would almost consider a bird call, its sound wasn’t something that stood out in the woods, but was only slightly off. Still he would have paid it no mind, but then he heard it a second time, which caused him to actually stop and look around for the source of the whistle. It only took him a few seconds to spot Darren perched up on top of a tree branch. Jake raised a brow, amusement crossing his face as he stared up at the boy. “Are you waiting for someone, or...” He chuckled softly. “Is your little ambush just for my benefit?” He played.

Darren chuckled, leaping down from the branch to land a few feet before Jake, bowing playfully. “Took ya long enough.” He joked. “Perhaps you’re not too familiar with bird species...the call I made you will only hear around these parts in warm, humid weather..otherwise they fly outside of Valcrest for the winter.” He shrugged. “Apparently I am waiting for you....” Darren paused glancing up at Jake. “Actually I was headed towards the city in search for a blacksmith....what about you?”

Jake gave a light shrug. “I don’t need to know so much about bird species to know that you don’t move like one of ‘em.” He said with a little smirk. “Maybe Sham has a point though, when she says I need to look up more often.” Running one hand through his hair, Jake was silent for a moment or two before addressing the question of where he was heading. “I’m going to see a friend at the city... And maybe run an errand or two while I’m at it. Been away for a month, as you know well... And things tend to pile up.” He said, heaving a discrete sigh as he idly released the hilt of his sword, only now realizing he was still gripping it, and giving Shadow a gentle nudge with his boot to get him moving again, just as slowly as before, if not even slower. Jake didn’t mind how fast he got to the city, but he didn’t feel like he was far enough from camp to just stop moving altogether. “A smith, huh? You looking for something specific?”

Darren raised his hand as Jake went to pass him, letting his fingers brush lightly along the horse’s neck and began walking beside the two, continuing forward. His smile widened, his attention facing forward as he spoke. “Aye, knowing one’s surroundings isn’t easy and we can’t forget to keep in mind all directions and positions...course I’m more detailed on sound than sight myself.” A few moments dragged on, Darren absently petting Shadow as they walked, his eyes shifting, feeling a bit uneasy being on the road yet not as much as before with his present company. “Well, I have something in mind, but who knows what I will find with this Blackwell I was recommended to. I hear...he’s …” Darren bit back a laugh, searching for a word. “...A bit eccentric? But your lovely friend recommended me to him, and I have a hard time doubting such a pretty face.” Darren glanced up at Jake with a playful wink, his smile falling slightly, a gentle, almost timid gaze shone out from his eyes as a flash of lavender crossed his stare. “This....is her horse, no?....Just...I see her same face on this creature’s mind...” Darren’s voice trailed off. “Very powerful, coming from an animal..”

“Blackwell, huh? He’s... An interesting fellow.” Jake stated simply, his voice lowering only slightly as continued. “I see you ran into Crys.” He gave Shadow a few more pats as he nodded. “You could say this is her horse, yes. She doesn’t really know I have him though... It’s a complicated story.” He said, once again finding himself staring at Darren and feeling that odd sense of familiarity, shaking his head a bit and snickering as if doubting his own state of mind as he moved on to another subject. “Ever been to Newhaven before? I can show you around if you need. I’m not so sure I know where Blackwell keeps his business nowadays, he moves around, but I’m sure I know someone who has that information.”

“Ah...complicated...say no more...” Darren went silent, thinking to himself how Jake seemed a bit pale and had a feeling he may have hit a slightly touchy subject, so didn’t push it further. His expression was mildly abashed as he went with the change of topic. “..No, never been to the city....I’d be happy to tag along, if you’re sure it’s no problem...” Darren jogged forward, turning to face Jake, walking now backwards, wagging his eyebrows comically in a playful manner. “You know you’d rather have some company...I mean...we are going the same way anyhow.” He was quiet after that for most of the trip, letting his mind wander until he saw the city upon the horizon.

Jake nodded quietly as Darren mentioned never being in the city before, he wasn’t sure if he wanted company, exactly, but maybe it was best if he had some anyway; especially considering where he planned on going in the first place.

NEWHAVEN

The trip to the city was a short one, so Jake didn’t mind the silence much, it gave him time to settle his thoughts at least for the moment. Only a couple of miles away from the city walls he dismounted and set Shadow loose, lovingly scratching the horse behind the ears. “You be good now... Unless some messes with you.” He told the horse. Shadow shook his head, giving a soft snort as if agreeing with him. “Good boy.” Jake chuckled, letting the horse wander off into the woods as he made his way towards the city gates.

There was no trouble getting through the gates, there hasn’t been for most travelers for a quite a while, to an outsider Newhaven seemed like it was doing fantastic, but to someone who had seen its better days, it was noticeable how the city had changed from the time before Perry’s death. In the past four years the city streets had grown less crowded and more silent; a change that actually reminded Jake of what Blackpond once used to be in its best days. It gave him an odd feeling, as if he was somehow watching history repeat itself... Hopefully just a feeling, but sometimes he wasn’t sure. Absently looking up from his scattered thoughts to see that Darren was still with him as he headed towards a particular path, walking slowly towards the building where the Wolves ran their business. It was too early in the day for there to be any considerable movement at the Inn, so Jake thought it would be an uneventful visit to Sheila; a friendly chat and maybe the whereabouts of Blackwell. Jake knew the man didn’t stay in the same place for too long, and he didn’t welcome just anyone into his ever-changing workshop... He was eccentric that way, but that was precisely what made him so talented.

As Jake pushed the door of the Inn open, the subtle sound of the bells above the door alerted the Innkeeper of the fact that customers had entered the establishment. Sheila was not behind the counter, and the bar was in fact completely empty. Knowing it wouldn’t take her long to show up, Jake took a seat at his usual table; the one that was just a bit more isolated from the rest, at corner near the entrance.

Darren cracked a curious smile as he wandered past Jake from where he sat and to the counter. “Kinda dead around here, no?” He muttered, reaching into his pocket for a few silver coins and began dropping them rather abruptly and noisily upon the counter top one at a time. By the time he got to the third one, a hand appeared seemingly out of nowhere, up from behind his line of sight and snatched the coin in mid air. Darren caught a bit of angry muttering before a messy haired brunette stood from behind the counter, a mix of annoyance and intrigue smiling out from an alluring gaze.

“Mornin’ hun..” She began before quirking a brow, absently brushing aside her hair from her eyes. “Aren’t you...a bit young to want a drink?”

Darren waggled his eyebrows, leaning in towards the woman invitingly, blue eyes flashing a subtle violet hue as they did a once over across the woman’s figure. “Who says I want a drink?” He played, retorting with, “...Aren’t you a bit young to be working in a joint like this?”

Both the woman and Darren chuckled. “That’s...rich Kid...” The woman whispered. “I just started the fire, so no food yet...least hot...so...what’ll it be?”

Darren stepped back a bit to glance over his shoulder. “Well...Jake....you up for starting early with a shot?”

Jake was just watching from his corner as Darren and Sheila talked, Irvin’s comment earlier causing him to lower his head as he stifled a fit of laughter. A playful look in his eyes as watched the woman, wondering how long it’d take her to notice him there. His wait was cut short, probably by a few full minutes, when Darren addressed him, causing Sheila to immediately look over the boy’s shoulder and look at him. The woman’s eyes narrowed as she glared at Jake in fake resentment as she spoke. “Jacob Turner... You... Have got some nerve showing up here after the mess you left on your last visit.”

Jake raised an eyebrow trying to look shocked by the accusation. “What... Ever... Do you mean?” He asked. “I paid for all the damage... The second fight wasn’t even my fault!”
“Uh-huh...” Sheila mumbled, a tone of disbelief in her voice as her expression broke into an amused smile. “We both know how behaved you are, Jake.”
Jake snorted a laugh at being called behaved, even if it was clearly in a sarcastic manner. “Don’t worry now, I have no intention of causing any trouble.” He smiled, failing to look innocent. “Do you... Happen to know though... Of Blackwell’s whereabouts?”

Sheila snorted softly. “Two of your usual, hun?” She asked, ignoring the question.
“Three... Or is it too inappropriate to buy the innkeeper a drink?” Jake played, giving her a little wink. “It’s not like you are very busy right now or anything...” He stated, indicating the empty bar.
“Since when do you care for what’s appropriate, huh?” She chuckled, grabbing three shot glasses and pouring the drink into them; pushing one across the counter, towards Darren, giving the boy a playful wink as she took the other two glasses and made her way over to the table, placing Jake’s drink on the table before him and taking a seat across from his. “Your girlfriend was here looking for you.” She stated, the playfulness in her voice disappearing. “Wouldn’t take no for an answer either.”

Jake reached for the glass, leaning forward in his seat, a frown taking over his expression as he caught a name carved onto the tabletop. “Hmm...” He mumbled, at first not catching Sheila’s words, but then abruptly lifting his head to meet her gaze, a slightly hopeful look in his eyes. “Wait, what, when?”
“A day or so after you came by.” Sheila muttered. “Quite the unfriendly chat, it was.” She mumbled a few curses under her breath and heaved a sigh. “Why do you need Blackwell... He doesn’t like you; you’ll only get yourself stabbed in the ass again... If you’re lucky.”
Jake snorted softly, emptying his glass and grimacing slightly as he chuckled. “Not my proudest scar, I’ll admit. Not for me though.” He said simply, indicating Darren with a nod. “Darren, by the way.” He absently pointed at the Innkeeper and smiled at Darren. “Sheila. Whatever she says about me, is a lie.” He stated, giving the woman a glare as if to warn her about telling any embarrassing stories.

“Why, Jakey, there’s absolutely nothing shameful in being stabbed in the ass.” She told him, trying to keep a straight face.
Jake shook his head in annoyance, not addressing her comment but simply muttering: “Don’t call me that.”

Darren couldn’t contain himself, a short roar of laughter erupting from his belly, playfully alternating quirked brows at Jake. “...Stabbed in the...ass? Really?....Huh, guess that’s what happens when you ‘turn the other cheek’, no?” Darren took another breath as if to calm himself, only laughing out loud some more. “Oh....could have been worse...” Darren downed his shot, walking over to an empty seat between Sheila and Jake, he rested his elbows upon the table smiling impishly over at Sheila. “What other stories do you know?” Darren teased. “Who doesn’t like Jake? I find that hard to understand..” Darren shrugged, leaning back in the chair he balanced on two legs. “..I have plenty of coin....or I can do favors....” Darren winked. “I’m good at those too..whatever is needed...just really looking for new ‘toys’....something that could define a person without a word spoken..and I was told Blackwell is the man to see...”

“Yes, yes... Hilarious...” Jake chuckled, shaking his head. “The guy is a lunatic, alright? I sat in ‘his’ chair and after he told me to piss off I carved my name in it.” Jake sighed. “So... He said he was going to carve his name on me.” He finished, rolling his eyes. “Didn’t get that far though, gladly.”
Sheila snickered giving Darren a playful nudge. “Oh, I’ve got stories, just be sure to stop by sometime when Jake isn’t anywhere around... You know, so he can’t choke me or anything.”
“I could just choke you now.” Jake said, raising an eyebrow at the woman. “I’ve got nothing better to do.”
“Hush you, not in front of the kid.” Sheila played. “And to answer your question... I’m not sure where the crazy old man’s shop is set up, but he does eat here almost everyday. He and Sean been exchanging letters on occasion too. Not sure if he’s working with the Pack again... Odd considering how close he was to Bastian and all that.”
“Hm...” Jake mumbled, his hand absently reaching for the sword at his waist. “Well, he was pretty good friends with Sean’s father too, you know. And Lena as well.”
“Speaking of... Is it true what I heard? That she’s...”
“Yes. That’s true.” Jake said, absently pushing his glass across the table in the woman’s direction.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, hun... Are you alright?”
“I’ve been worse.” Jake stated simply, giving a little shrug. “So you suppose the guy is going to show up today?” He changed the subject.
“Usually early, if he comes... In a few minutes.” She replied, turning her attention to Darren. “Like Jake says... Lunatic, but the man is a genius, so if you’re looking for something... Special, he’s the man to see. Just... Don’t move around too much when in his shop... Or stare at him for too long...”
“Or touch anything...” Jake added. “Or talk too loud... Or sneeze...”
“Are you sure you want to meet this guy, love? You can always take something from the ‘lost and found box’... We got some good blades in there...” She chuckled, pointing at a large wooden trunk near the staircase the led to the upper floors. “Besides, they’re free.” She added, pushing her full glass towards Jake and taking his and Darren’s empty ones for a refill.

Darren nodded slowly, glancing between Jake and Sheila. Darren made sure not to ask any questions about this Lena woman, unaware of what had occurred, instead he briefly rested a hand upon Jake’s shoulder, giving a firm squeeze before removing. “So....just don’t breathe...I get it...” He chuckled. “He’s a businessman, right? I’m sure we should be able to come to some sort of arrangement...See....I need something new with no previous owners...” Darren’s eyes flashed a dark violet, the blue flickering beneath the sudden change of color. “...Less...’distraction’ ...I appreciate the offer, but if he is a genius as you say, payment is not a problem.” Darren smiled, his eyes darting after Sheila as she walked back towards the bar, lingering for a moment before casually turning his attention back to Jake. A sudden thought swept across his face, closing his smile as he zoned out for a bit. Darren leaned forward, letting the chair fall back onto all four legs. Bending his fingers along the edge of the table, his knuckles began cracking one after another from left to right. After a pause the noises repeated from right to left. Realizing he was practically staring at Jake, but past him at the same time her muttered what was crossing his mind. “Sheila....know anyone who may have had encounters with an Asher..Hearst?” Darren shrugged, his smile slowly returning as he was curious to hear the answer, thinking of the rumors he had only to go by and wasn’t sure if the man’s reach was as far as they said.

Sheila had refilled the empty glasses and was on her way back towards the men when Darren asked his question, a curious expression crossing her features. “...Can’t tell for sure...but I’ve heard the name....”

Darren nodded, fingers idly touching the glass that was placed before him. “What else...have you heard?”

“..Not the kind of man you should mix yourself with....but also one who can make you rich pretty quick.....Also...I hear he’s in prison..”

Darren sipped at the drink this time. “...You heard right...least last time I checked...” Sheila moved as if to speak again, Darren not hearing what she was saying, finding himself distracted at the distant chime of bells, ringing softly.

Jake was listening to the exchange between Darren and Sheila with interest, his eyes catching the change in the man’s eyes, he waited for Sheila to walk back towards the counter; an action driven by the sound of the bells at the door announcing the entrance of another costumer. Jake made sure to not look at the doorway and simply accompanied the sound of the patron’s slow pacing towards the counter. His fingers quietly traced the lines carved on the surface of the table and he sighed, once again emptying his glass as he spoke. “Your eyes were purple...” He mumbled, eyes looking straight past Darren, before he slightly shook his head and nodded towards the counter. “That’s him. So, what Captain told me, about missing kids, it’s got something to do with that journal you had me and Irv take?” He asked, now turning his gaze towards the counter where Sheila was speaking to a man in a grey hooded cloak. The innkeeper’s usually casual manner replaced by a considerably more serious one as she addressed the man. After talking with him a while and pouring him a drink she looked over to the table. “You boys want something to eat while I’m at it?” After which she gave a discreet nod and mouthed the word ‘now’.
Jake snickered. “I’m down for some food... Whatever you can spare.” He answered, giving Darren a nudge. “You go talk to him, I don’t think seeing me will do much for his mood.”

Darren stared down at the table as if he may burn a hole straight through the wood. “....That journal most likely will hold many answers...why else would it all be encoded? I don’t know for sure but, like I told the Captain..I trust my gut, and the flashes I saw...things I felt...” Darren exhaled a shaky breath before raising his stare trying to force a slight smile; a subtle nod acknowledging Jake’s words on food and Blackwell sitting at the counter. Pushing himself away from the table, Darren wandered over towards the bar, dropping a few more coins upon the counter. “..This should be enough to cover it, aye Sugah?” Darren smirked, sitting with an empty stool between the older man and himself. Sheila smiled, sliding the coins into her hand before moving about to prepare something for the men.

Darren sighed softly, glancing to his left where Blackwell sat sipping at a drink, a curious smile gradually widening along his lips. As he spoke, he let his eyes absently follow Sheila around the room whenever she popped into view. “...Excuse me....do I know you?” The man didn’t turn, his only response was a soft grunt. Again, Darren spoke, a bit slower this time. “...You’re...famous around here, no?....” Silence was Darren’s response. Clearing his throat he tried again. “Listen, I don’t mean to intrude or disturb-”

“...Then why do you feel the need to talk incessantly?” Blackwell grumbled, glancing discreetly out the corner of his eye. “What...a man can’t sit quietly and enjoy his breakfast?”

“....I do apologize....” Darren held back a chuckle. “..Technically there’s no food out yet..”

“..Don’t be a smart ass....” The man scowled.

“..Ok...but wouldn’t it more offensive to be..-”

“...A dumbass...yes yes...how old do you think I am, boy?” He interrupted Darren. “You got a point to be making or do you just like hearing yourself speak?”

Darren nodded, his smile closing slightly as he reached into his pocket to retrieve a black coin purse which he placed between the man and himself. “Ok, fair enough....little birdies tell me if I need a good, reliable weapon, I should go to the best...which I hear is you...”

“Not interested...” Blackwell grunted.

“...You didn’t let me finish...” Darren politely protested.

“Don’t need to. I only work for those worth my time, and you have only wasted it..”

Darren smiled again, pushing the pouch closer to the man. “Well...Miss Rivers thought to recommend you to me, so I can’t be a complete waste of time, no? She spoke quite highly of you....” Darren paused noting the man had turned slightly at his words and actually looked at him. Darren shrugged, turning his gaze away, once again trailing Sheila as she walked by. “..She sends her regards, by the way..” He continued.

Blackwell stared at Darren a moment before focusing back on his drink, his expression softened a second before his brows bunched together in question. “..Did she now? Hmph. And what if I said I’m not feeling so inspired right now?”

“...Well, Crys said you are creative...so I look at that as you take pride in your work and most likely take your time. I clearly do not expect the finished product in a day of sorts...” He paused, a serious expression taking hold of his normal grinning face. “...How can I help...inspire then?”

“....Time decides...” Blackwell didn’t look at the coin pouch as he picked it up and tested its weight before dropping it in his coat pocket. “...How old are you boy?”

“Names’ Darren...and seventeen sir.” Darren straightened a bit.

“Stand up, Darren.”

“Stand up?”

“Yes...am I speaking another language? Stand up”

Darren stood a bit confused as the man turned to look him over, pausing along his hands. “How’s your balance, boy?” He asked, not given Darren time to respond, kicking the empty stool towards his legs causing the boy to wobble slightly yet already ducking the mug that followed, flying just over Darren’s curly locs. “..Not bad reflexes...but”

“What the....” Darren couldn’t help but laugh.

“....you prefer strength or speed?” The older man continued.

“Both...” Darren quirked a brow. “Especially in close combat...but variety is best..”

Blackwell nodded, patting his pocket. “Variety costs more....but payment we can talk later...I haven’t decided yet...let me think about it..”

“..You’ll THINK about it?..uh...Well...guess that’s only ..fair....” Darren felt confused, but smiled thinking the bit of coin he fronted should be a good investment if what he heard was true.

“Come see me in a few days...should know by then.”

Jake took the opportunity to exchange a few words with Sheila in private while Darren was speaking to Blackwell, one eye watching in case the old man tried to pull something crazy, or more than his usual crazy at least. Sheila sat down when she had a few minutes to talk, giving Jake an overly sympathetic smile, as if she could see the exhaustion clear in his face; he didn’t really doubt she could. “So, seriously... Are you alright?”
“What, do I look really that terrible?” Jake asked, raising an eyebrow. “I’m not perfectly alright, but I’ve been worse, like I said. Now tell me something: What did Crys say?”
“She said that she was looking for you and that she needed to talk to you.”
“And you told her what, exactly?”
“Nothing at first, but... Well... Like I said, not a pleasant talk so once she pinned my hand to counter with a blade I told her pretty much all I knew, which admittedly wasn’t really much.”
“She did what?” Jake asked, raising his voice a little more than he would like, and lowering his head a bit as he realized it. Lowering his voice again, he continued. “Mind if I ask what you did to get her that angry?”
“Wh-... And what makes you think I did something?” Sheila muttered. “You know she doesn’t like me.”
“Uh-huh... What did you do?”
“Doesn’t matter.” Sheila mumbled, looking around the room and avoiding Jake’s gaze.
“All...Right... Then...” Jake said, looking at the woman with a suspecting look in his eyes. “Tell me something else then; the woman who signed this table...” He pointed out the signature by tapping it with his fingers. “Do you remember her?”
“Jacob... Not to be intruding in your personal affairs or anything, but... Seriously... Are you collecting redheads or something?”
“So you do remember her?” Jake asked, ignoring the question.
“Yes... I remember, was the same night Crys was here. The only reason I remember though is because of the weird looking kid she was with... He tried to get away with not paying for his drink... Although I’m not quite sure how... Crys had to set him straight. She paid for him even.”
Jake’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Weird looking kid?”
“Yes. I think... He told Crys his name was Luckas.”
“Son of a...” Jake sighed. “Alright, Sheila, thanks.”
“Your... Welcome?” The woman replied, a bit confused with the questioning. “I take it you know these people?”
“You can say that.” Jake replied, leaning back in his seat and letting out a weary sigh.
“Well, you tell your friend when you see her that she’s gotta pay for the table she vandalized... Sean wouldn’t shut up about it last time he was here... Even after he was stabbed... Annoying prick.” Sheila muttered out, heaving an irritated sigh before cracking a smile and standing up. “I’ll be right back with something to eat, alright hun? I’m sorry about your aunt, please send Annie my regards when you see her again.”
“Sure.” He said, nodding as the woman walked away. Jake ran his hands over his eyes and let out a discreet yawn as he turned his attention back to where to the only other two customers in the place. Blackwell didn’t seem to have notice him, that’s what Jake thought, so maybe he’d get to just eat breakfast and be on his way without any trouble. That’s what he thought.

“So, boy...” Blackwell spoke, without turning around, but clearly addressing Jake simply by the tone in which his spoke; as if still scolding a child who misbehaved one too many times. “Did he really let you have it?”
Jake sighed softly. “What are you talking about... Sir?”
The man was silent for a few moments following the question, and Jake almost thought he’d dropped whatever subject on his mind, but after some time he replied. “Kyle’s weapon; did Sebastian let you have it?”
“Yes, he gave the sword to me when I graduated.”
“Hmph... Pathetic waste of a perfectly crafted blade.” He muttered.
“What’s it to you?” Jake asked, started to get a little annoyed with the man.
“How often do you tend to it?”
“The blade is in perfect condition, if that is what you’re asking.”
Blackwell let out a low grunt and mumbled something under his breath that Jake couldn’t quite understand. “Let me see.”

Jake hesitated a moment, but after a while he stood and walked over to the man, placing the sheathed weapon on the countertop. He took a seat as he watched the older man unsheath the katana and examine the blade. Jake didn’t know exactly how long a blade like this was meant to last, but he knew the sword was older than Bastian himself would be if he was still alive, and yet it was just as good as any new blade; given the proper care. Even though it wasn’t his primary weapon, Jake did make sure the sword was in perfect condition, and usually he never let it out of his sight. After a moment of watching the smith examine the sword and mumble things to himself, Jake began to grow impatient with the man... It seemed like he was looking for a reason to say something was wrong with it. Finally he sheathed the sword and handed it back to Jake. “Seems you’re not completely useless.” He muttered.
“Oh, my...” Jake chuckled. “That was almost flattering.”
“Is the Kid yours?” The man asked suddenly.
Jake looked at the older man with a slightly confused look before looking to Darren, and then back to Blackwell. “He’s... Six years younger than me... Do I really look that crappy? I should go get some sleep.” He joked.
“I meant recruit... Wise-ass.”
“Not with the Wolves anymore, old man.” Jake replied, returning the sword to his belt. “Nice that you think I’d be an instructor by now though.”
Again the smith muttered something under his breath, shooting Jake a disapproving glance, but saying nothing more to him.

Darren bent down to pick up the fallen mug, noting a bit of liquid spilt on the floor. Placing the mug upon the counter he reached over the other side, swiping a rag to wipe up the spill. He smiled as Blackwell addressed Jake, absently using the point of his foot to flip the fallen bar stool upright. Darren walked around Blackwell, so that he was standing behind Jake when he placed his weapon upon the counter, peeking curiously over his shoulder. “Ooo I bet that has quite the history, no?” He whispered, blue eyes flickering before standing straight up once again. Chuckling, his gaze followed Jake’s when he looked at him and then to Blackwell curiously, when asked if he was ‘Jake’s’. Playfully he added, “It’s the black hair and blue eyes, Jake...we almost match.”

Sheila appeared behind the counter, smiling as she placed a few steaming bowls of something that looked like oatmeal before them. “Nice to see SOME people clean up after themselves around here..” She teased, slowly winking at Darren.

The boy nodded, staring down at the bowl, lightly pushing the spoon around as if deciding what was before him. Gradually he brought the spoon to his lips, trying the mushy substance and shrugged when he discovered it wasn’t half bad. After a few more mouthfuls of food, Darren spoke. “Jake...while we are in town...I thought I’d try to look up someone...I think I mentioned to you about this a few weeks back...I believe you said you knew the White Knight I described back in Blackpond...the one who ‘broke’ my nose? I’m quite curious why he only pretended to do harm and then mention how I may be ‘useful’...amongst other things.” Darren cleared his throat before shoveling another spoonful in his mouth. “Maybe there’s a way to send him a message?”

Jake chuckled softly when Darren mentioned they matched, the kid had a point there. Rolling his eyes at Sheila’s comment he quietly turned to his food; taking it as an excuse to do some silent thinking. Crys wanted to talk to him... A month ago. If she had a change of heart since then he’d never stop hitting himself for missing the chance.

Waking from his worried trance to an empty bowl and the sound of Darren’s voice Jake turned his attention back to him with an intrigued expression. Was Dominic still in the castle? He wasn’t with the Guard, so he must have stayed. Jake couldn’t blame the guy for not running off and deserting with the others; he probably believed this was the best way he could serve Newhaven. Finally he broke out of his reasoning with a little nod. “We’ve crossed paths a couple of times, in my short time in the Castle... I wouldn’t go as far as to say I know the guy... Just a very...” Jake paused and snickered. “Interesting... first impression.” He gave another moment of thought to Darren’s question, nodding his head here and there as he thought. “Well, you could go to the front gates and ask for him; but since you don’t know what he wants with you it might not be the best alternative... I suppose that to get a message to someone inside the Castle, the safest way to do it would be to write it down and pay one of the lower guards to deliver it to that person directly. Remembering not to write down anything you wouldn’t like others to read. It’s also not the best thing to sign your name either; instead add something to it that’ll let him know it’s you. The guards at the service entrances should be easier to pay off than the ones on the main gates, they suffer less pressure from superior officers. Does that help?” Jake asked; his tone casual as if it just normal for anyone to know the inner workings of the castle that well. “I have something I want to check on while you do that, shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes. Do you want to meet somewhere after that?”

Darren chewed on his lip thinking over Jake’s bit of advice and nodded. “...Makes sense...thanks man. Uh..I heard about some party where rumor has it was special invites only..” Darren quirked a brow, a mischievous smile curling his lips. “Know anything about it? I’m..thinking about going..but need something to wear. So, how about I meet you at that tailor shop we passed on the way in?” With another chuckle Darren stepped back from the counter. Muttering past Blackwell that he’d back back in a few days, he sent an innocent wink in Sheila’s direction as he disappeared out the door.

It took Darren more time to figure out what to write down in the damn message than to find the service entrance of the Castle or to find a willing Guard to pay off to deliver the message. If it hadn’t been for Jake, Darren wouldn’t have known who the Knight was, although he supposed description may have been enough. The expression he received from the Guard gave it away that this fellow was hard to miss. Just as Jake rightly assumed, when the Guard thought he was out of sight he ‘snuck’ a glance over the note which Darren hadn’t even bothered to seal.

Thought I’d look you up since my stay in Blackpond was cut pleasantly short. You’ve sparked my curiosity in how someone like myself could prove useful. If you can not find me at the Inn, leave a message with the barkeep and I will get it next time I’m in town. By the way, my nose ‘healed’ just fine.

The setting changes from valcrest to Blackpond

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Darren Hearst Character Portrait: Samantha 'Johnson'
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“Wait, wait, wait...” Irvin called as they stopped before an old crumbling house. “Don’t tell me this is where you...”
“Yes.”
“And wasn’t this where she...?”
“Yes, Irvin. This is exactly that place.”
“Why... Why in the name of the Twins would you want to go back in there!? You’re insane!”
“Probably.” Jake mumbled, his eyes fixed on his childhood home as if in a trance. “I’ll just stay out of the kitchen and it’ll be fine. Last I was here, I left something behind, I told myself it wasn’t important, but now I need it back. You two can stay out here or you can come in if you like, just... Stay out of the kitchen.” He glanced at Darren and gave a half smirk at the boy. “Especially you, trust me.”
“I’m not going in there, man. You go on ahead. I’m waiting right here.” Irvin stated, quite firmly, leaning against the external walls of the house and eyeing Jake with genuine concern. He didn’t know the man too long, but it was enough to tell he had been acting a bit off since the other morning when Irv had caught him running off to Newhaven. Something had happen then to make him act this way and whatever it was had to do with this city somehow. That became quite clear the moment they crossed the gates. He looked away from the man a moment and extended a concerned look to Darren as if silently asking if he had noticed it too, but Jake interrupted this by heaving a long sigh and addressing him from over his shoulder. “Kid, when we get to this party, you remember that you agreed to behave yourself?”
“Yes, I do.” Irvin replied, a slightly confused look in his eyes as if wondering why this was being brought up now of all times.
“And when we get there, what will you not do?” Jake asked him, seriousness in his tone.
Irvin sighed a bit impatiently. “Is this really necessary? Really?” He muttered under his breath before clearing his throat and reciting the rules Jake had imposed on him. “I will not gamble with, steal from, assault, intentionally offend, or grope, anyone. I will not use my enlightenment unless absolutely necessary, I will not get drunk, I will not approach Lamya, and I will not sneak in or out of any rooms alone. If there is any trouble at all I am to leave immediately and go straight back to camp without waiting on you.” He mumbled. “Although I strongly disagree with that last part. Are we good now?”
Jake nodded his approval without saying anything more and, taking a deep breath, he wandered into the house.

Jake didn’t look to see if there was anyone behind him as he wandered into the house. He had been there twice before, and this wasn’t nearly as painful as it was the first time, but it was somehow more difficult. The air stank of dust, mold, and rotting wood... The scent of death and abandon. Slowly he paced his way through the living room and down the hall to where his room used to be. Not taking him long to find what he was looking for under a loose floorboard on a spot that used to be under his bed. The broken down bed was now kicked to a corner, where Jake had pushed on his last visit. From the opening he pulled something just the size of his palm, wrapped in a dirty cloth, moving to sit on the broken bed as he slowly unwrapped what appeared to be just a plain piece of wood.

”Why are we here Jess?” Jake mumbled in a slightly annoyed tone as if wondering if his sister was mocking him somehow, although he didn’t see why she would ever do such a thing. They stopped by an ancient fallen tree that was blocking some of the paths of the city since it had fallen over the day before.
“The city workers will come and cut this tree to bits tomorrow, Jacob... They’ll probably chop it into firewood and it’ll burn. Now, I know how much it means to you, but there’s nothing I can do about that. Here’s... What we can do though...” Jessica spoke, offering Jake a small one hand axe. “...We can make sure it doesn’t all go to waste. Take a part of it with you and make something meaningful out of it.”


Jake took some time to steady his breaths, suddenly aware of the tears running down his face, his hands shivering slightly around the small chunk of wood. “I’m so sorry... I’m so sorry... I’m sorry...” He mumbled softly to himself, letting out a little choked sob before starting to slowly get a hold of himself again. “It’ll be fine... I’m fine...” He recited, wiping his face with the back of his hand. “It’s alright.” He closed his eyes and whispered. “Just breathe, Jacob... Don’t think... Just breathe...”

All Darren had wanted, the moment he got into the city, was a bloody, freakin apple. He hated the cold and the desolate farmland that came with it and found himself constantly thinking about how much he missed green apples. Silly to some, but Darren started obsessing over it so much that every time there was silence he would curse about it. Irvin had pointed out what was suppose to be a fruit and vegetable stand but of course it wasn’t even fit enough for a horse. Darren took one bite out of what was suppose to be an apple and chucked it into the side of a nearby building. “...This apple sucks...all I want..is it really so much to ask for!?” He sighed, a bit exasperated from the minor ordeal, crossing his arms casually as he eyed Jake and Irvin through their conversation, nodding to Jake on his advise to stay out of the kitchen. Once he was gone he turned towards Irvin and playfully elbowed him in the side. “Notice....how he didn’t lecture me on any rules?” He teased, chuckling a bit. “Anyway, I promised you I’d try to help you with women....so I agree...no groping....unless invited.” Darren winked, unfolding his arms to check on his pack before taking a step towards the doorway to the house quirking a brow. “Do you really think it’s ok to let him go in there alone...he has been acting...a bit ‘off’ from the bits I’ve seen. Maybe he could use a friend....” He trailed off as he contemplated if he should follow or not. Cracking his knuckles he chuckled at Irvin again before taking a cautious step inside, careful to not touch even the walls as he slinked inside to look around.

“Yeah, yeah....” Irvin mumbled a little bit irritated. “Grope one person and no one ever let’s you forget it...” His eyes widening a bit in disbelief as he caught Darren’s next couple of words. “Wait, I can get invited?” He asked, a hopeful and excited tone in his voice. “Awesome.” The boy sighed, glancing nervously towards the house. “I’m not sure man, but I really don’t want to go in there... I’ve got my own reasons...” He replied with a shrug, keeping his back to the house as he waited. “If you ask me that dude needs a good woman... Every times he sees a redhead he freaks...” The boy muttered, shaking his head as he watched Darren enter the house with the corner of his eyes. “Shadow has apples...” He stated playfully, just as Darren crossed the doorway. “No clue where Shadow is though... We’re not talking about it apparently.” He added under his breath.

Jake wasn’t sure if it had been seconds or minutes since he walked through the door, his attention immediately caught by a slight creak caused by someone stepping into the wooden floor of the old house. He lifted his head to listen in for a moment before standing from where he’d been sitting and walking out through the hallway, still looking a bit shaky but a lot more composed than he had been just a moment ago. As he reached the main room and spotted Darren he forced a small smiled and nodded at him. “So... Hm... Welcome to my house... Or one of them at least. I’ve got one in Newhaven that may be just a little bit less messy than this one.” He played, his smile not reaching his eyes as he looked around the place, wincing slightly as they caught the entrance to the kitchen and immediately looked away. “Well, I’ve got what I needed. And I think that’s just about the last thing of mine left to take from this place too. Was about time.”

Darren was muttering to himself about Irvin and how he may have taken on more than he originally planned, an amused smile crossing his lips as he peeked around a corner to find Jake. Darren didn’t really pay much attention to his surroundings and shrugged at Jake’s comment on the mess. “Can tell you don’t live here anymore...you should see what I did to my father’s house.” He partially joked, except the fact that he had been about to torch the place when he was interrupted by a dozen or so men in armor which had led him soon after to prison. “I am surprised that place stood for so long, especially how it was always in the center of all those raids when I was younger.” He nodded at Jake, stepping back a bit to make room for him to follow, his gaze falling onto a small object in his hand. “Hmph....you got what you came for, eh? You ready to go then or do you want more time alone with the hunk of wood?” Snickering he shook his head, wondering if his lame comment would lessen whatever strain he could see was plain upon Jacob’s face. He didn’t bring it up or ask any questions, instead just waiting in silence and absently, without thinking, leaned against the wall outside the room. The moment he realized what he had done he bounced away from the wall as if he was stung or electrocuted, a surprising chuckle leaving him. His eyes only flashed a moment as he closed them, slowly inhaling through his nostrils in quiet appreciation. “I can smell...cinnamon...funny, I don’t get it.”

Jake chuckled at Darren’s comment, quietly putting the small piece of wood away into his bag, shaking his head in amusement. “Yes, yes... Very funny.” He snickered. “This so happens to be a special hunk of wood, I’ll have you know.” He stated, a playful look of annoyance crossing him for a moment. “And yes, we can go no-...” Jake cut himself off as he noticed Darren come in contact with the wall, tensing only slightly and relaxing as the boy mentioned cinnamon. “...Now.” Jake finished his sentence, pulling Darren out of the house by his shirt before he accidentally touched anything else. “My sister used to make cinnamon cookies for me, on my birthday or whenever I got sick.” He explained. “They’re my favorite. Haven’t had any since she died.” He mumbled, releasing Darren the moment they were out the door.

“Something happen?” Irvin asked, pushing himself away from the house and looking from Jake to Darren with a curious expression. “Are we good to go?”
“Yes... We’re good to go.” Jake stated. “Tell me kid, you’ve got family around the city still, do you want to look them up after the party?”
“Ah... Gee... Killer... I don’t think that’s such a good idea. My brother and I didn’t quite see eye to eye. My sister is probably mad at me for leaving her...” The boy shrugged dismissively. “Why go there really? Besides... Last thing I want is get her involved in my stuff now, right?”
“That’s why you should see her now before you go on with the stuff.” Jake argued. “...But fine, just think about it.”
“I’ll think about it, fine.” Irvin muttered, now seeming annoyed by the conversation. “Maybe I’ll check on her or something...”
“Sure, if you want...” Jake replied, attempting to hide a smirk. “If we’re not forced to flee the city by the end of this thing, of course.” He added, starting to walk his way down towards the center of the city.

”Something happen?”

Darren’s expression shifted from somewhere between sympathy and confusion when he stepped outside giving a dismissive shake of his head. “Naw..Jake here was just talking about how special something of his was that he haaad to go back for.” He winked, holding back a smirk. “I’m ready to go....” Darren trailed off quirking a brow at Irvin. “I can’t say much about family there, Irv but Jake here has got a point.” He stated simply with a nod. “How old is your sister?” He teased, shaking his head jokingly, holding up his hands defensively. “Kidding....”

As he began to follow Jake further into the city he sighed. “Wouldn’t be the first time we’ve gone running from this place, no? Maybe....they’ll have apples at this party. You think?” He asked hopefully, glancing at Irvin with a large grin plastered across his face, speaking a stray thought as if he had plucked it straight from Irvin’s mind. “Yes, Irv, I’m sure there will be plenty of pretty ladies to choose from. Watch and learn.”

“Oh, was it another stuffed toy?” Irv asked Jake with a raised eyebrow. “Are you gonna sing to it too?”
Jake responded simply by glaring at the boy and muttering. “I wasn’t singing to it...”
“Oliver heard it” Irvin insisted. “I heard it at least once.”
“I wasn’t SINGING. I was humming... And not to it, to myself. Alright? And no, it wasn’t a toy I was here for.” He answered with a sigh.
Irvin snickered shaking his head in disbelief. “Suuure... Whatever you say Killer. I bet you had a collection of stuffed doggies though... And at least one of them was pink.” He teased, quickly running a few steps out of Jake’s reach as to not get smacked on the head. “My sister is eleven, Darren... My brother is eighteen though if you’d like to meet him.” He snickered. “You’re pretty, maybe he’d like you.”
Jake chuckled at the boy’s response. “You were doing good with that until you called him pretty, kid... And Drake is not a dog... He’s a dragon, okay? He’s a black dragon. Dragons are cool, so shut up.” He stated, a very unconvincing serious tone in his voice as he gave Irvin a glare.
“Alright, alright... Gee...” The boy laughed. “And I’m counting there will be pretty ladies there, why else would I bother showing up to this thing? Certainly not for a chance to see the King.” He said, rolling his eyes in annoyance as he spoke. “Hopefully I get to do more than just watch though...” Irvin shrugged slightly. “...Eventually.” He added.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

[The Manor]

“You are going as a boy? Are you sure of this?” Sam asked, an amused look crossing her features as she stared at the redhead boy standing in front of her. “You won’t be able to change later.”
“I’m fine with that, besides... Easier to dress up this way.” Amber stated, spreading her arms to display the plain tunic and pants she was dressed in; all in black as usual. “Simple and handsome.”
Sam chuckled softly. “Yes, some people have it easy, don’t they?” She asked, slowly sorting through a small jewelry box and picking out a thin silver chain from which hung a thin silver plaque engraved in a foreign dialect. She placed the necklace on Amber’s hand turned her back. “Would you please?”
Amber stared at the strange writings on the pendant for a moment before passing the chain around Sam’s neck. “What does it say?”
“Victory favors those who conquer pain.” Sam responded. “Father gave this to me on my tenth birthday... I don’t often wear it, but it is a fitting occasion. And before you start wondering; no you cannot strangle me with this, it would snap without a doubt.”
Amber snickered softly, immediately hooking both ends of the chain together and releasing it. “Far from me to be thinking such dreadful things, Mistress.” She spoke in an overly sweet and innocent tone. “I’m batshit insane, sure, but I’m not stupid.” She added, unable to hold back a small giggle fit.
“Too girly... Uh... What name are you using again?”
Amber brought her laughter to a slightly choked stop changing her voice to a more masculine tone and resuming her laughter for a few seconds more. “Better?” She asked innocently. “And my name for the day is Wyatt... Pleasure to meet you Miss.” She stated politely, taking an exaggerated bow before Sam, offering a hand as if asking her to dance.
“Wyatt, huh?” Sam asked. “What an odd choice of name, but very well, Mr. Wyatt...” She chuckled, joining the shapeshifter in her theatrics and giving a slight bow in return. “How do I look? Be honest now.” She said, standing from her bow and playfully spinning around to show off her dress.

‘Wyatt’ stood and gave Sam a good thorough look; blue eyes widening in playful excitement while jumping onto the woman’s bed and patting the spot at his side. “Gorgeous... The only way you could get prettier would be to just lose the dress entirely. In fact.... I say we skip the party and just hang out over here.”
Sam laughed loudly. “Oh, you’d like that huh?” She asked sitting beside the redhead boy.
“Not as much as you, sweetie.” Wyatt retorted with a playful wink. “I guarantee you.”
“Hm... Confidence... I like that in a man.” Sam snickered softly, slowly and teasingly running her index finger down the side of the boy’s face and tapping his chin. “Too bad I’m not into redheads, hm?”
“Nothing that can’t be fixed... I am, as always, at your service, my Mistress.”
“Hmm... Obedience... I like that too.” Sam sighed playfully, gripping the boy by the neck and pulling his face closer to hers. “What a pity... Such a delightful toy in my hands and not enough time to play...” She whispered, staring intensely into the boy’s familiar blue eyes.

“What... Are you doing?” A confused voice sounded from the open door.
“Uh oh, Daddy’s home.” Sam snickered. “We don’t get to misbehave now.” She teased, planting a firm kiss on one of the boy’s cheeks and a forceful slap on the other, ruffling up his copper colored locks as she rose from her seat on the bed. “Go wait downstairs, Mr. Wyatt, while the grown ups have a chat.”
Wyatt stood, taking a deep bow to Sam before turning to the door. “As you wish Milady.” The boy spoke, glaring at Zeke while passing the man in the doorway. “Party pooper.”
“Amber?” Zeke mumbled turning to get a second glance at the redhead boy as he walked down the hall to the stairs. Sighing he walked further into the bedroom and shut the door, giving Sam a slightly severe stare. “Why do you encourage her?”
“Oh, come on Zekey... We were just messing around a bit; perfectly harmless.” Sam laughed, playfully spinning around the man in her party dress. “Amber has a colorful imagination, I happen to find that rather... endearing. Don’t you?”
Zeke sighed a bit impatiently, but at the same time amused that the woman was in a good mood, clearly looking forward to the upcoming festivities; a pleasant smile spread wide across her features, green eyes sparkling in delight... It was a rare thing to see. “You seem to look forward to this party, Milady.”
“Oh, it sounds like it will be fun.” Sam chuckled. “Haven’t been in a party in forever.” She smiled swirling around and stopping before him with a small bow as if ending a dance. “Are you upset that I’m not taking you with me?” She asked, watching him with curious eyes.
“I’m not as upset as I am... Concerned... Mistress... For your safety.” Ezekiel replied, bowing his head obediently. “It is not my place to meddle in you personal affairs, but I’m afraid I am rather skeptical of your chosen companions’ ability to defend you if needed.”
“Oh?” She asked, quirking an eyebrow inquisitively. “And what about my ability to defend myself? I am not a helpless little girl, you know.”
“I know that, of course. I’m still concerned.”
“I’m going to a party, I’m not raiding the castle, love. It’ll be fine.” Sam reassured him. “How’s my dress... Not too simple I hope?” She asked, spinning around again.
Zeke shook his head, his eyes lingering along the woman’s form. Sam’s dress was indeed simple, not so different from what she wore on a daily basis, although it was somehow different enough from what the man was used to seeing to make an impact; a long velvet dress in a tone of green so dark it appeared black at first glance, like the forest trees under moonlight. While the neckline of the dress ran modestly along her collarbone, the back was open to her mid-back, the intricate design of a tattoo hidden only by the long strands of her hair, different bits and pieces of it showing in a teasing manner as she moved; as if inviting onlookers to make out what image lurked underneath. “Nothing is ever too simple with you, Kid.” The man replied in a mumble.
“I’m glad.” Sam smiled, seeming pleased by the man’s dazed expression as he stared at her. “And, speaking of my poor choice of companionship... Where is Luckas?”
“I haven’t seen the boy since this morning, but he didn’t leave the property, so I sent a servant girl after him. He should turn up any minute now.”
“Good. I don’t want to be late to this thing and miss something exciting.” She smiled. “I’m sure there will be some excitement to be had if my sources are to be believed... And they haven’t failed me yet.”

=========================

“It’s your turn.” A dark haired boy, aged around sixteen years old, stated smiling softly over a chessboard.
“You think, you’re going to win this time, don’t you?” Lena asked with a little chuckle. “You’re very sure of yourself, I can see.”
“Why don’t you move and let us find out?” He asked.
Lena chuckled. “You used your enlightenment, and that’s clever Bastian, but... Seeing one move ahead won’t help you much in this.... Checkmate.” She said absently. “See, a great Chess player will always see ahead of each move... A fantastic chess player sees the whole game before the first move is made.”
“Oh, and you consider yourself fantastic, I assume.” He retorted with a raised eyebrow, examining the board with his eyes.
“Not really, just better than you.” Lena played. “But hey, you’re doing better.”
“Comforting.” The boy scoffed.
“Bastian... Look at the board, what do you see?” Lena asked, leaning back on her seat, her blue eyes fixed on the boy sitting before her, examining his expression as his green eyes examined the finished game before him. He didn’t say anything for a very long while, so Lena spoke again, with an amused smile. “Not the game, silly boy... The board. Look at the board.”

“Squares?” Bastian asked.

“Squares.” Lena repeated. “Every piece in its place, its pre-determined place. Calculated moves, limited moves.” She stated, reaching for the chess board and tracing its marked lines with her index finger. “Squares, within squares, contained within one large square. Everything measurable and therefore somewhat deductible... You are one of the most observant people I have ever met, but you are too lazy to use your mind instead of your enlightenment on a simple board game, Sebastian... Keep this up and Life will swallow you whole and spit out your carcass. Because Life... Is not a game of chess. Life is not measurable, Life is not deductible, no amount of study will improve your skills at living it. How can you expect to handle that, if you can barely handle a simple game of strategy. Do you understand me?”

Bastian stared quietly at the board for a few moments, his expression contemplative as he seemed to mull over her words. “Why are you helping me, Lena?” He asked, raising his eyes to hers. “We both know why that may be foolish of you.”
“I believe in considerably little, Kid, but I do believe that if someone is dedicated, heart and mind, to something... Then it becomes fate. If I am fated to regret this decision, then so be it. In chess... The excellent player is the one who sees the outcome of the game before the first move is made... And plays even when seeing defeat. Because a true player plays for the game itself and not for the victory. That is one aspect similar to Life; the outcome is clear, you’ll die, how you play until then is what will define you.”
“You don’t think I’m a good enough player?”
“I wouldn't say that. I would say you are not playing to the best of your abilities, and that’s not acceptable if you are going to be hanging around my sister. So... Shall we play again?”


“Excuse me.... Are you alright, Sir? Sir?”

It took some time for Luckas to realize he was the one being spoken to; he was not used ever being addressed so politely. It was when he felt a hand hover just above his shoulder that he reacted by jumping to his feet rather abruptly, causing a little startled yelp from the young girl that had been trying to get his attention. His head ached terribly but he was sure it would fade in just a bit of time, hopefully the visions would go away as well in time as they were rather bothersome and disruptive considering they just came at random times. “You keep annoying me even from the grave, healer.” He muttered under his breath, turning and noticing the visibly frightened servant girl still standing there. As he looked her over she instinctively shivered and cowered as if his eyes could literally burn her. “Who... Who are you?”
“I’m no one Sir, just a servant girl.” She mumbled, averting her eyes from him and gazing intently at the grass beneath her bare feet.
Luckas frowned momentarily at the response, but he didn’t say anything at first, his eyes still looking over the girl; she didn’t seem to be older than twelve years old, her blond hair and light grey clothes were darkened with filth and she had visible bruises of different colors on her neck and wrists, which meant some were fresher than others. “What is your name, girl?” He rephrased his question. “I’m Luckas... You’ll call me Luckas... Not ‘Sir’, are we clear?”
“Yes, S-... Uh... Luckas...” She mumbled.
“What is your name?” He repeated.
“I’m not allowed...” She replied, a slightly pleading tone to her voice. “...Please don’t make me...”
“You have to do what I say. I won’t let anyone punish you for it... Tell me your name.”
“Emily.” She whispered, cowering further as if trying to make herself disappear. “My name is Emily.”
“Emily... Do you have family somewhere?” Luckas asked, taking a step towards the girl, halting as she retreated.
“Not anymore.” She replied, now seeming to be in the verge of panic, arms wrapped around herself as if trying to keep from running away.
“How did you get these bruises?” Luckas asked, his expression shutting down in a nearly frightening expression. “Did someone hurt you?”
“I fell.” The girl replied immediately, tugging on her sleeves to hide the marks around her wrists.
“You fell into someone’s hands?” Luckas asked, raising an eyebrow at the girl, but not pushing her further. “Why have you come here?”
“I was to let you know that you are being summoned.” She replied shyly. “You seemed to be in pain though...”
“So do you.” Luckas stated simply, his voice didn’t show any level of empathy, unlike hers, but he spoke as if he felt it to be necessary to point it out to her that she was hurt, otherwise the fact would go unnoticed. A moment passed in silence as he stared at the Lesser girl before he spoke again. “Look in my eyes.” He asked her.
“Please... Don’t...” She mumbled, retreating another step.
“I’m asking you.” Luckas stated calmly. “It won’t hurt, I promise.”
Emily winced slightly at Luckas’ words, but slowly lifted her head to look up at him, icy blue eyes staring into the darkness of his gaze. The moment the visions came she wanted to close her eyes, look away, run, but she found that she couldn’t escape his sight. As quickly as they came, the images faded, and she was able to look away. She had understood what he had done, and that he knew what had happened to her. “W-why...?” She whimpered, holding back shivers as she turned away from him again. “May I leave now, Luckas? Please?”
“Yes you may.” He mumbled, standing still for a moment, watching the girl rush her way back to the house before following the same path.

.......................................................

Luckas made to the main hall of the Manor to find that Sam was there waiting for him, already in her party clothes, Amber/Wyatt also nicely dressed and clad in fully black clothes, and a not so satisfied Zeke. Upon his entering he noticed that he was a bit late to join the other; a fact made clear to him by Sam’s expression of annoyance. “Are you not dressed yet, Luckas? I really don’t want to be late.”
“What? I am dressed.” Luke retorted, stopping before the woman with a look of confusion in his eyes. “I’ve been ready for about half an hour.”
“Seriously, Lukey?” Sam sighed. “You are seriously wearing this coat?”
“What? It’s clean!” Luckas argued, looking down at the black coat his wearing over his tunic; it had been stitched and washed from the morning of his encounter with the redhead woman, but the blood stain from where he had been stabbed was still clearly visible. “I like the pretty coloring.” He stated, with a giggle.
“It’s a stain, Luckas... You’re going to a party wearing a blood stained coat.”
“It’s for special occasions.” He said, a playful grin crossing his features as the woman glared at him in annoyance. “All black can get quite boring sometimes, you know.” As she didn’t seem amused in one bit he smiled sweetly and added. “It’s not like anyone will notice me while I’m standing next to you.”
"Hm...” She mumbled, trying to keep a straight face. “If you want to get something out of me through flattery, Lukey, you’ll have to do better than that.” She said, letting a slightly devious smile break through. “Fine though, have it your way... Not as if I would actually be able to make you change anyway.”
“No you wouldn't... I’m quite stubborn as you know.” He stated proudly. “But I do clean up nicely though, don’t I?”
“Mhm..." Sam smiled, brushing a few strands of hair away from his eyes. “You could do with a haircut, but not too bad love.”
“But I like my hair longer, Sammy; keeps my ears warm.” He chuckled.
“Oh, I can keep your ears warm Lukey... If you want me to...” Amber snickered. “Come on now... The carriage is ready although I still say that at this distance I’d much rather walk.”
“What does that even mean?” Luckas mumbled, turning to Sam with a questioning look.
“Beats me.” Sam shrugged. “Hard to know with that one... Be careful with your ears from now on though; she might want to set fire to them.” She smirked. “Shall we, Mr. Wyatt?”
Amber nodded simply, offering Sam her right arm and bowing her head slightly, replying in what she had decided, after much tweaking, would be Wyatt’s voice. “Yes, Milady.”
Sam smiled sweetly, clinging to the red haired boy's arm and giving Luke a provocative wink as they walked through the door.
Luckas frowned a bit, unsure of whether he was playfully annoyed or actually jealous as he followed suit. “Pfft... Mr. Wyatt...” He muttered under his breath.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Dastan Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Ess Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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#, as written by Essence
“Oh, hey, look; Apples!”

The mockery of Irv’s excitement managed to match the sincerity of Darren’s as his eyes lit up at the sound of his friend’s discovery. He gave the impression he was distracted since he wasted no time in inspecting the apples for bruises and such but he still managed to keep one eye on Irvin at all times. He casually grabbed a couple apples, one in each hand and stared at them with an uncertain curiosity, sniffing at them in an odd animalistic manner. For a moment an image flashed across his eyes but was quickly disregarded since it was nothing significant, just visions of those picking and loading the apples. Almost like a puppy he followed Jake, muttering to himself about the apples.

Darren was dressed simply in a black, silk shirt, tunic, pants and leather boots, the lacing in his shirt in white. He made sure to trim his goatee and even his curls so they didn’t linger too much in his eyes. Yes it wasn’t anything fancy but it was enough to compliment his physique, the tips of black flames managing to still peek out from his low collar along his neck and collarbone. He had a sweet yet handsome allure to him; a musky scent of pine freshly burned lingered in his hair and clothes. He couldn’t help the looks he was already receiving by a couple lovely ladies, returning their glances with winks and smiles that sent them giggling among themselves. Maybe it was the innocence of the dimples or perhaps the deep blues mixed with violet stirring behind a dim glow of his eyes. There was something he didn’t quite grasp that attracted the attention of those he wasn’t even aiming for; always had been.

“Do you think these are good enough to eat? Would the host poison the food you think?” His brows furrowed in annoyance at his own paranoia as he offered an apple to Jake. Darren’s ears perked up at the sound of soft shrieks of surprise, almost falling over as a wolf pushed its way past him and towards a redheaded woman. He was silent, acting as if he didn’t notice Crys and simply smiled noting the fact that one of Jake’s redheads had arrived, his gaze trailing the crowd around him in awe to see if he would recognize any others.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Essence was politely slinking between folks, muttering apologies as she tracked her wolf through the crowd. At times she was only catching the tip of her tail wagging only to vanish as Ess turned past a woman with an extravagant yet very puffy dress. Internally she cringed, noting how obnoxious that woman’s gown was and how uncomfortable it must be. ‘What was she thinking?’ She thought. The people parted slinking away from Tala out of instinct and fear, leaving her easy to spot beside a familiar woman giving love and attention to her furry companion.

“There you are, Tal-....Oh,Crys? Wonderful to see you again.” Ess gasped with a gentle smile, pausing to look between Tala, Crys and a man standing not too far behind them. “Ali is probably looking for you; she is...’keeping an eye’ on me.” Ess snickered, playfully winking at the tall gentleman behind Crys. “Apparently, I wasn’t allowed to come here alone...and miss Tala here didn’t think Ali was enough apparently. She bloody followed me all the way here.” She sighed, crossing her arms, still holding the flask between her fingertips. “Spirited this one is...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Dastan Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Ess Character Portrait: Darren Hearst Character Portrait: Samantha 'Johnson'
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Jacob was keeping a close eye on the party at first, but his attention was snatched away completely when Crys arrived; his eyes immediately drawn to her the moment she entered the ballroom, a shocked and dazed expression spreading across his features as if it was the first time he had ever seen a woman in his life. Compared to some other party guests, Crys was dressed simple; a long dark brown velvet dress, details and sleeves adorned with a transparent lace of a darker shade of brown mixed with dark red in a pattern, the transparent material extending just a bit past her fingertips. Jake wasn’t used to seeing her dressed up like this, he couldn’t help but stare at her in absolute awe for a few moments; she looked so beautiful it actually hurt.
The little conversation they had the day before was less than friendly, and she made sure to steer it as far away from personal matters as possible; it was tense and awkward and left Jake with a lingering and painful feeling of hopelessness. A great part of him was almost convinced she would never forgive him. Seeing her there hit him harder than he thought it would, especially considering the fact that she was there with Dastan. He stood there, eyes following her movements as if he was in a trance until Darren’s voice caught his attention, and he shook his head, turning to face the boy accepting the apple he was being offered and carelessly taking a bite of the fruit. “Poisoning all the guests would be just too simple, I don’t think that’s how they’d do it. Tastes normal, and I feel fine... Let me know if you start to feel sick though.” He played with a little smirk.

--------------------------------------

Crys smiled in response to Ess’ arrival before she even properly reached her; a small chuckle escaping her lips as she was greeted by the woman. “Speak of the devil...” She whispered in amusement. “Hello, Ess, always a pleasure. Ali is keeping an eye on you, huh? And who’s keeping an eye on her?” Crys asked, amusement clear in her tone as she heard Dastan force a small cough to catch her attention. Crys shook her head and turned to the man with a raised eyebrow. “Are you coming down with something, Dastan? I’m sure you’re not expecting me to introduce you since you are a grown man perfectly capable of speaking for himself and all.” She teased. Not giving Dastan the opportunity to reply she gave a playful bow as if to excuse herself. “I should go find Ali before the kid gets herself into some trouble. I’ll leave you two to get acquainted, I’m sure it’ll be interesting.” She smiled gently at Ess as she gave Tala one final scratch behind the ears. “I’m sure we’ll find each other again amongst the guests soon.” As she turn to walk away she added over her shoulder. “You be careful with that one.”
Dastan snickered softly at the comment. “Come on now, don’t scare the lady, I can be good.”
Crys stopped and shook her head, unable to hold back a small giggle. “I wasn’t talking to her, silly.” She told him, still chuckling softly as she moved amongst the small crowd of people.

Dastan scratched his head a bit taken aback by the warning, amusement in his eyes as he stepped forth and took a rather exaggerated and comical bow. “Ello there, miss... I’m Dastan and you are... Lovely.” He said with a playful smirk, standing up straight and offering a handshake. “I have to say, for what Crys says of you I’m intrigued; pretty, interesting and comes with a warning... My type of girl.”

---------------------------------------

Luckas was quiet on the way over to the city, Sam had once or twice asked him if he was feeling alright, to which he simply nodded to reassure her, but didn’t exactly answer. His head still ached a little from his little episode. He wondered if Lena knew he would be having these stupid visions... He wouldn’t doubt that she did. That wasn’t exactly what was bothering him though... It was more like an inexplicable annoying sensation in the pit of his stomach.
“Is this about the healer?” Sam asked calmly as they automatically stopped by the entrance of the party, expecting to be searched, but realizing that security in this place just didn’t seem to give much importance to people possibly carrying dangerous items. “I hear the party is for her death.”
“I wasn’t aware.” Luckas mumbled in response. “They should give me a medal if they’re so pleased with my work.”
“Luckas... What’s bothering you?” She insisted.
“I’m not sure.” He replied, with a shrug. “Some weird gut feeling... I’m sure it’ll go away.” He mumbled, eyes wandering around the room immediately spotting and then quickly darting away from the familiar figure of a woman dressed in red; glancing towards Sam to see the woman opening glaring at her. “Oh.” He muttered under his breath. “Right.”
A small chuckle reached his ears and he turned to see Wyatt staring intently at his expression with an amused grin. “Oh yes... This party will be memorable.”
“Shut up, Amb-”
“Hush. It’s Wyatt, remember?”
“What kind of a stupid name is Wyatt?” Luckas muttered.
“Quit your bickering, will you? It’s a party.” Sam interrupted, a calm tone in her voice as she turned to Luckas. “Lukey, no need to be so tense, hm? Everything is fine.” She assured him, reaching out to briefly run her fingers through his hair. “Now, the two of you should go on and explore. I’m sure there are some interesting individuals scattered around here.”
Luckas winced slightly at her affectionate gesture, but didn’t have the courage to pull away from her so openly, instead he nodded his agreement, although a bit unsure. “Are you sure, Sammy?”
“Of course I am.” She confirmed. “Go on.”
Luckas’ eyes narrowed slightly as if trying to see through the woman for a moment before he nodded once again and turned away to wander amongst the crowds, after a few steps he felt he was being followed and sighed as laughter reached his ears. “Do you really believe everything is fine? I mean really, you’re just ridiculously obvious Lukey.”
“Why wouldn’t everything be fine? And I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Wyatt chuckled softly, shaking his head, strands of copper colored hair falling over the boy’s blue eyes. “We entered this room, and it took you less than a minute to find her amongst the party guests. If I noticed, be sure that so did Sammy, and you know... You just may learn the hard way that when a woman says ‘it’s fine’, that’s a clear sign that you should be very worried; hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, my friend. And let’s face it, you seem to have a soft spot for crazy. I feel bad for you, honest.” He stated, a short moment passing before the boy exploded into a fit of giggles, playfully skipping around Luckas as he walked. “No, sorry... That was a lie... I’m going to love watching this whole thing blow up in your face. But hey... I’m not judging, she is very pretty. Sure the trouble is worth it.”
“Can we change the subject now? And quit giggling, if you want to be a guy, stop acting so girly.”
“Hey... I’m girly, but I bet I can get any girl in this party to dance with me. How about you, hm?”
“I don’t dance.”
“Booo....” Wyatt chuckled, pushing Luckas away as if he was contagious. “Party pooper...” The redhead boy suddenly stood in a more composed stance and smiled, tilting his head to the side as if in a look of pity. “You seriously need to live a little. Let’s make a deal, hm? Ask one girl, or woman, you seem to like older women, right? Any female in this party for a dance, and if she accepts I will owe you a favor.”
“Hm... Any favor I want?” Luckas asked, a smirk crossing his features.
“Any favor you want.”
“Rules?”
“Can’t be Sammy... Or your Lady, although I’m sure you wouldn’t have the balls to ask her either way. You can’t mention the bet, and you only have one chance. So... Deal?”
“Hmph... Okay deal.”
Wyatt nodded in acceptance a playful grin. “Oh, but if you can’t get a dance... You’ll owe me a favor.”
“Seems fair.” Luckas nodded in acceptance, following the boy’s blue eyes as they searched the ballroom. “Are you looking for someone?”
“Hm, well, he’s not here... That’s such a pity.”
“Who...?” Luckas cut himself off as he caught a familiar grin cross the redhead boy’s expression. “Ugh, not the Beast Boy... Gross. And you’re a boy, remember?.”
“Hey, it’s always flattering to have an admirer!” Wyatt protested with a playful frown.
Luckas shook his head. “I’m almost thinking it is a shame he’s not here. That would have been amusing, but then... So would stabbing him in the eyes with a fork. And I prefer the latter.”
“Noo... Not the eyes. He’s got such pretty eyes.” The boy whined, stomping his foot and pouting.
“Let’s compromise; you let me yank them out and I let you keep them. How’s that?”
“Hm... Does that apply to any other bits or just the eyes?”
“Wha-... Oh... Okay, we’re done talking now.” Luckas muttered, turning away and starting to walk in the opposite direction. “You heard Sammy... Explore.”
“Lovely... Exploring is my second favorite thing!”

----------------------------------

Sam’s eyes were scanning the room for any interesting activity, registering a few people here and there she thought it would be interesting to meet, but most of her attention was divided between Luckas and the redhead woman from the Raven’s encampment, small flickers of yellow light sparkling beneath the green of her irises. It was barely noticeable, but it was there; a spark of anger. She began to move along the ballroom, politely nodding to some other guests whose glances she caught along the way, a pleasant smile crossing her expression but not really reaching her eyes. She avoided the woman for the moment, giving herself time to observe as she spoke to a man who Sam imagined was a mercenary from the desert, judging by his attire and casual demeanor. There she stood for a few moments, listening to idle chat by other party guests and examining the woman’s behavior as she interacted with the man.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Dastan Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Ess Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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#, as written by Essence
Darren snickered, shaking his head in amusement as Jacob took the apple and instantly bit into it. He stared at the man, as if unsure if the effects would indeed be instantaneous or slow and after a few more moments he shrugged, turning to glance back at where he left Irvin. He was about to bite into the apple when he noticed a familiar face he’d seen in passing back at the Nest, engage in brief conversation with his friend. Darren’s eyes sparkled as he watched to see how Irv reacted to the attention of a pretty girl, smiling when he seemed to make it through without violence or offense. He wasn’t sure though, as the woman did end up moving on, but it seemed like he did alright. Turning back towards Jake he glanced past him to get a better look at the wolf. “Hey...do you know who brought the wolf? I’ve seen her in camp hanging around some of the guard.”
~~~
Ess’ eyes flickered in a few shades of purple before settling back to their dull violet, a warm smile following Crys as she left her alone with the man who had introduced himself as Dastan. Tala had started to follow the woman until Ess cleared her throat rather loudly causing the wolf to turn to look up at her. “Taaala...Stand at attention.” She commanded in a gentle request of sorts, the wolf turning to sniff at the mercenary before sitting on her haunches beside Essence, releasing an exasperated huff. Tala yawned, a high pitched whine lazily escalating into a bark as she fidgeted and stared off into the crowd, ignoring both Ess and Dastan. Something caught her attention, causing the hairs to rise along her neck, yet she fell silent and remained still at her friend’s request.

“Well...since I seem to be in an honest mood today...” Ess began, extending her hand to firmly grip Dastan’s in a handshake. “..Talon actually...not Lovely.” She snickered. “..Essence Talon...or Ess if you like” Even though the bruises were barely noticeable along her neck, Ess had used her enlightenment to hide the fact she had been in any sort of brawl. It wasn't enough to drain her of any strength, but simple, something she didn't even need focus to hold. Still, she knew they were there and her fingers lingered along her collarbone as if to hide what was already hidden. Still holding the flask in her hand she took another sip before politely offering the liquor to her new acquaintance. “Your kind of girl, huh? How many fall into that category, hmm? How can you be so quick to assume anything with someone you’ve only just met? Appearances are very deceiving you know...” Ess couldn’t help a playful smirk as she looked over the man slowly, her eyes drinking in the details so it appeared she couldn’t take her eyes off him when she was putting the details to memory for her own reasons. Not that she didn’t find him attractive, she just had other intentions behind her stares. “You should listen to Crys though. Most men who get that kind of warning regret not listening.” She teased, biting at her bottom lip. Absently she began to sway at a stringed melody from across the room, unaware that she was hypnotized by the beat. “Dastan....” She whispered, liking the way his name rolled off her tongue. “Are you here for the pretty faces or did you have another agenda for complying to the voices in your head?”

Ess’ smile faltered for a mere second as she thought she caught a familiar figure out from the corner of her eye. Casually she glanced around the room, not seeing what she could have sworn she saw slinking behind the crowd that was accumulating more and more. Some were even now beginning to dance; extravagant and obnoxious dresses twirling about so carelessly she thought the men would get lost in the folds of material that dragged along the floor. Not wanting to appear distracted she pushed her attention back to Dastan, again catching a trail of familiar dark eyes. Now she felt like she was dreaming; like she was reading a page straight from her own journal as the feeling of being watched started to creep as shivers along her bare skin. Her smile grew in unison with a biting, twisty ache growing in her belly. ‘Perfect..’ Ess thought. ‘Just bloody perfect. Who else is going to show up at this damn party...'

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Grim Pondus 'War' Character Portrait: Dastan Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Annie Turner Character Portrait: Allison Blake Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher Character Portrait: Ess Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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Dastan smiled gently, bowing in a nearly sarcastic act of politeness as Ess shook his hand. “Very nice to meet you miss Talon.” He spoke softly, his smile changing slightly into a smirk as she offered him her flask. “What is there no booze in this party or are you just picky with you liquor?” He asked with amusement in his tone, accepting the flask and curiously sniffing it’s contents before taking a sip and returning it. “How many fall into that category, I suppose depends on context... I tend to be picky, but only for certain things... And while I have only just met you, Miss Essence, I’ve known Crys for about ten years and I have only heard her refer to anyone as ‘interesting’ exactly twice before. And she tends to be right, sooo.... I guess I’ll take my chances with you. I may regret it later, but then... We have a saying in my clan, you know... A man without regrets... Needs to drink a lot more.” He said, winking playfully. “Aye... We all have our own little reason to do things, but me I have a reputation to keep. Twins forbid people start saying that I’ve declined invitation to a party... I can’t have that. No.” Casually the mercenary followed the woman’s gaze as she glanced around the room, his eyes catching Jake staring at them with a rather odd expression on his face, the man looking away almost immediately. It was rather strange, and Dastan wondered what that was about. Shrugging it off, he turned his attention back to his new acquaintance. “What about you, Miss Essence... What is your agenda?”

.....................

Jake had lost Crys in the crowd the moment he turned his attention to Darren, his eyes glancing around the room here and there in a casual search for the woman as he chewed on the apple he’d been given. He wasn’t sure why exactly he felt the need to keep her under his watch, when he knew she probably wouldn’t want to speak to him. Of all the places and moments to pressure her for a talk, ‘here and now’ were not the most suited ones; Jake knew that well, but for some reason he continued to seek her out regardless. After scanning the ballroom a few times, Jake stopped to follow Darren’s gaze as he asked about the wolf, his eyes widening momentarily as he spotted the animal in the company of Dastan and yet another redhead who he immediately recognized. Holding back a wince Jake looked away, running one hand through his hair and scratching at the back of his head. “I don’t know...” He mumbled, forcing a shrug and avoiding the general direction of the woman and the wolf. His eyes catching a familiar figure enter the party, he realized he would possibly have more trouble getting Irvin to behave than he imagine once the boy realized the Alpha had attended.

.................

“I still say this is a mistake.” Ryan muttered out, unable to keep silent any longer.
“Well, then you shouldn’t have come, should you?” Sean replied calmly.
“I shouldn’t, but I promi-...” Ryan cut himself off as he realized he talked a bit too much.
“You promised what?” Sean asked, stopping at castle doors and offering his sword to one of the guards, his eyes however watching the guilty expression on the other man’s face. “What did you promise?”
“Katie cornered me and made me promise to, you know... Protect you.” Ryan mumbled, a look of pure embarrassment in his eyes as he held the Alpha’s gaze. “Your sister can be.... Very persuasive, Sean.”
Sean snorted, turning as he realize the soldier would not take his weapon, indicating that giving it up would not be necessary. Sean attached his sheathed sword back to his belt and gave a dismissive shrug to the oddity of it all as they proceeded into the ballroom. Sean immediately noticed a few glances from some young ladies as he walked past, a smile slowly spreading across his features at the attention. A familiar voice lured his attention away however as it sounded in his ears, a calm and disdainful tone.
“Funny. Just moments ago the guards told a friend of mine that no pets are allowed in this function, and yet... The King invited his. Now, that’s just not fair, is it?”
“Allison...” Sean greeted, reaching for Ryan’s arm as the man instinctively gripped his sword. “Not here.” He scolded. “Every faction known to Valcrest is represented here tonight, do we really want it to be remembered that we were the firsts to draw a weapon?” Ryan groaned still gripping the hilt of his sword tightly, Sean glared at him severely. “Go get something to drink, enjoy the fact that tonight you can... Just don’t murder anyone. I’ll be fine, won’t I?” He turned to Ali questioningly.
“Perfectly fine.” She replied, a fake innocent smile crossing her lips. “If I planned on hurting the Alpha, believe me, I wouldn’t have bothered announcing myself.”
Ryan released his sword, green eyes glaring at the blond woman as if he meant to burn a hole right through her. “Fine.” He muttered, moving towards the foods and drinks. “Traitor.” He muttered in Ali’s direction as he passed.
“He’s delightful, isn’t he?” Ali chuckled. “Are you making him your next Second?”
“The current Second is very much alive and well, thank you very much. So I don’t think I have any need to consider a new one.”
“Give it time.” Ali smirked. “How many have you gone through so far? That has to be a record, huh?”
Sean smirked. “Maybe, but enough about me... How’s your hand? Any better?”
“I was lucky, if the hand wielding the blade that slashed me was just a bit more skilled, I’d probably be unable to fire a bow ever again. As is though, I should be fully recovered soon enough.” She retorted.
“Oh well... Win some lose some, right? I guess I should do better next time.” He replied with a slight shrug, casually nodding towards a young girl who smiled at him as she walked past. The girl didn’t seem to be older than eighteen, about his sister’s age, and it made him momentarily question what he would do if he ever caught Katie smiling that way at someone like him. He’d probably have to kill the guy just in case. “It’s impressive how looks can be deceiving, isn’t it?” He mumbled. “No one would guess just from looking at either one of us... The things we’ve done, and are yet to do. Any man in this room who doesn’t know you too well may be foolish to take you for an innocent young lady, isn’t it so?”
“Just as much as any young lady in this room who doesn’t know you might take you for a charming and respectable young man, Sean... The difference between us, and the sadness of it all, is that even those closest to you won’t actually know you well enough to know who you really, truly are. And then I wonder... Is there anyone left you haven’t lied to or betrayed?” Ali shook her head, giving a slight bow, not bothering to conceal the mockery and contempt burning in her eyes as she turned away from the Alpha. “Enjoy the party while you can. The other people you backstabbed may not be as civil as me.”

.............................

Chaos. Absolute and complete chaos. That was what the White Shadows' encampment was turning into, and in an astonishingly rapid progression. Apparently it wasn't just the enlightened within the clan; a considerable number of people had been experiencing odd and sometimes even dangerous symptoms for weeks now, a sudden and inexplicable increase in the severity of those symptoms causing them to turn to the healers for help, or answers. Answers were something the Shadows didn't have to give this time around. Like many ailments, it was important to know where this was coming from, what could be causing it, and the healers had failed to find anything that was common to all of those affected, except the fact they all possessed a magical gift. The possibility that magic in itself was making those people ill read to Annie like a horrible end of the world prophecy, and her mind was constantly and hopelessly searching for any indication, anything, that showed it couldn't be true.

With all that was happening, the simple task of walking from her tent to where she had originally planned on going took hours longer than usual, and by the time she reached her intended destination she was hoping the person she had gone to see hadn't just up and left as people quite frequently did once they felt it was safe to stand. Gladly, it didn't seem to be this case with this particular patient; as Annie peeked into the tent where she had last seen the man the night before, she found him sitting there. Slowly stepping inside she looked around the tent and noted signs of a recently cleaned up mess consistent with what she had been told of the man's awakening. "Grim Pondus..." She called, taking a seat on a small wooden stool that had been left there by a previous healer. "My mother had nice things to say about you." She stated, a gentle smile crossing her features. "However, I don't believe we have ever met. My name is Annie Turner, I am... In charge of the White Shadows, currently. Considering what you have gone through, I'll understand if you prefer to be left alone, but may we speak?" She asked, her dark brown eyes examining the man with a mix of concern and curiosity. "Have you been offered any water? Or tea maybe?"

It was difficult to look his small visitor in the eyes, it was trying to escape the brooding nature that clung to the corners of the tent hiding where the flicker of candlelight couldn’t reach. There was less comfort even with the company of the White Shadows, and Annie’s kindness did little more then get a mild reaction from the Blade. He seemed to be lost, his eyes glassy and far from the little room where he idled. When at last he opted to respond he couldn’t meet her gaze fully, his tone drawn back into his throat.

“… You must be very brave young Turner, and the White Rose is generous in her words.”

His head lifted from its lull catching the Shadow with his full attention. A frown had worked its way into face and though it remained constant his watchfulness seemed shaky. Often he would glance aside or pull back to consider, thinking. Minutes were spent in silence while he pulled back into the conversation.

“Your formality is wasted. I hold no office, it’s just myself. It is entirely unnecessary we both know what I am.”

Quietly he looked to see if the doorway held any additional forms. He found himself curious to see Annie had entered alone. Especially after the ruckus he had already caused.

“Speak healer, but do not hope.”

Annie was patient with letting the man answer in his own time, her eyes persistently fixed on him despite his reluctance to look at her, a small sigh leaving her as she nodded in response to his words, pulling the bag she carried across her shoulder and fetching a flask of water inside of it. "Please drink, Pondus." The girl asked in a gentle tone, simply placing the flask on the ground before the man as she continued speaking. "Unfortunately I am obligated to go through some formalities before I speak of the more... Particular, reasons that brought me here in person. Since the healers who were in charge of your care didn’t quite get around to it.” She heaved a small sigh and paused for a few moments, fiddling with a loose thread hanging from the sleeves of her robes before speaking further. “First of all, I am required to inform you that anything you tell any healer in this camp is protected by the laws of the clan and will never be disclosed. Second, I must ask about your friend; the young woman you were brought here with. There was nothing we could do for her, as you probably already have been informed, and I would like to know if it is alright to bury her in our grounds... You can see her, if you would like to, of course.” The girl offered as an afterthought.

Once another silent moment had passed, Annie’s expression shifted to one of concern and a bit of weariness as she leaned into her knees, her voice lowering as if by instinct. “As for why I said I’ve come in person... I need to know something, and this is really, really, important... I need to know if your enlightenment has been manifesting itself differently in any way in the past months, or if you have been experiencing other odd symptoms... headaches, insomnia, and bleeds have been the most common as of late.”

Greedily he snatched the flask devouring its contents without restrain. Droplets of liquid began rolling down his chin, and he gasped after draining the flask. The water seemed to help steady the Blade, returning him to some sort of solidity. He appeared more alert, and sat up straighter once his breathing steadied.

“Nothing you could…”
He echoed the White Shadow’s words carefully. It appeared he was the only one who made it. Twice he averted death, and twice someone had paid in his stead. For a moment pain wracked his face but was forced under control.

“I… I couldn’t see her now.. And yes, please. Put that poor soul to rest. She has more than earned the right to peace.”

The silence appeared for the moment. Closing about them like a shroud, the Blade was to his thoughts and if he had to guess so was Annie. There was much to consider, things were in motion now that were irrevocable. So much more was pressing in both their lives, greater threats and purposes. Yet here they sat, Grim in his self-pity, and Annie in her caring nature. Grim wasn’t sure what to make of her honestly, he hardly knew the White Rose, how could he even guess what her daughter was like.

Then there was a question. Like lightning it struck, and his head snapped to attention. His eyes boring down the healer who pulled tighter to herself. He was almost panicked at how to reply, indeed his powers had been acting strange but he had always believed it to be merely part of a change within him. If others were suffering odd effects from their enlightenment, then perhaps there was hope after all. He spoke somewhat excitedly, losing his courage from pressing the words through his lips. Almost wheezing the syllables as though hushing some scandal between his teeth, yet quick to speak as though the gossip were irresistible.

“I had heard that Enlightenments can grow or modify, but that it was rare. Three years before, I began to lose control. In my time away I attempted to find a solution to no avail. Here within my homeland my rage boils over, and I lose my restraints. It has become amplified, and sensitive, reacting outside of its former boundaries. I feel the anger taking over, and in time it will spiral out of my control. It won’t be a year before I’m no longer Grim Pondus…”

“It shall be done.” Annie stated simply in response to Grim’s words on his friend, not lingering on the subject any further than it was necessary as to not to intrude on the man’s grief; her head lowering for a moment in a whispered prayer, her voice soft enough not to reach the man sitting right before her or really disturb the lingering silence in any significant way. Once the last of her inaudible words was cast into the winds Annie lifted her head, her focus now on Grim’s description of how his enlightenment had been manifesting itself, her expression shutting down into a preoccupied frown as she listened. She was silent still for a few moments, contemplating on what to say, on what was safe to say in a moment when she was so unsure of everything. In the end, she settled for being as honest in voicing her concerns as possible. In the end the news of this would spread way sooner than anyone would like, no matter how cautious she decided to be, and she knew she needed people to be conscious of what was happening.

“Three years ago, the very same day you and your men fought Blackpond in these grounds, my mother answered the call of a young healer who had the gift of seeing into the future... She had visions at random moments in time, and that day she had a vision that greatly disturbed her. She spoke to my mother alone and showed what she had seen. Whatever it was, it was not spoken of again once they left that tent, no one knows what happened between the two, but the woman fell ill that night and less than a week from having the vision, she died. My mother left us, with no explanation, days after being rescued from the dungeons. About a month ago she returned, she was... Clearly not in the best of states, but when asked about she would brush it off blaming it on the poor living conditions she endured while away... The past month she traveled across the land, meeting with people here and there... While she was here, she was incessantly seeking something in our archives. Two nights ago... She... died, due to the side effects of her enlightenment. Ever since, more and more enlightened have come to us; some with generic symptoms such as headaches and nosebleeds that have been gradually increasing over the past few months to critical levels... Others are experiencing dangerous changes in their enlightenment. One of our healers, Isaac, has been kept under sedation since last night because if he is as much as barely conscious everything around him starts to catch fire. Alistair, an empath, claims that his ability to sense others is completely gone. I have myself been experiencing severe migraines, they haven’t yet become debilitating, but with the nature of my ability I can guess that eventually this will prevent me from helping others. This... Ailment... Whatever it is... It seems to be getting worse and spreading fast. There haven’t many deaths yet, but I am safe to say that, however it manifests, it will eventually become fatal for those afflicted.”

She stopped speaking to take a long breath. As if on command the aching in her head abruptly returned, the burning pain spreading to her eyes and turning the sight of the man before her into a shapeless smudge before fading; just as quickly as it came it ended, the only indication that it had actually occurred was the lingering blurriness that caused the young healer to quietly rub her eyes and blink a few times to put everything back in focus. “Unfortunately, we are short on answers at the moment, and I am almost certain panic will spread before we have a chance to obtain them. With all our studies... How magic functions in itself is still an uncertainty, something that affects magical abilities this way... It’s unheard of, and we are greatly unprepared. There are herbs that have been helpful with some of the symptoms, but in time they cease to work. I assume you have tried those already, no?” She inquired.

If the Blade was shocked or surprised he hid it well. His face was stone, and he seemed more concerned with reading Annie’s expressions then he did listening. Of course, he heard everything and in short it caused much confusion and even more questions. Valcrest was a beautiful land, but it was a land that seemed to be made of secrets.
He couldn’t help but feel the workings of some unforeseen hand. A power or force that hid itself beyond their sight working against them, always preparing the next nasty step of their plans. Perhaps that kind of thought brought all the complexities to simple terms. If there was someone to blame then it made their course of action easy, and Grim decided he could believe such, if it meant staying steady for a while longer.
“I’ve tried any number of herbs, but you already guess their success. It strikes me as impossible to impact Enlightenments on such a large scale. If I recall there is little in the natural world that can even influence our gifts. Hmmm…”
He paused and found he possessed no answers for the young healer, at least not ones that made any sense. To what end would killing the Enlightened served? In terms of battle he believed one could weaken an opponent’s capabilities. Controlling the spread of such a curse would be next to impossible though or at least to his knowledge. It nagged on him, to what end could such a curse serve?
“Have any from Blackpond been noted with this problem? Such a thing would be a powerful weapon beyond a doubt. The Wolves are far too proud to abandon their traditions, and the desert folk I doubt have the capability. So that leaves only Blackpond or Newhaven with such a power unless….”
Grim cleared his thoughts on the matter and remembered the events of the past four years or so. The strange happenings within Newhaven, and its doppelganger lord that ruled. The events transpired that remained unanswered or unconcluded.
“Do you suppose another artifact was uncovered? The whereabouts of the dagger was never discovered. Yet there are certainly other artifacts, I’ve personally encountered a scythe with some kind of enchantment upon it.”
He stopped all his wondering now expired. There would be nothing concrete shared between them and he knew this. Everything he offered was conjecture, and he doubted Annie would leave anything out that was of importance. It was then he realized his own rudeness.
“I.. I am truly sorry lady Turner. I didn’t know about the White Rose, but… She was truly very brave. The world is poorer for her absence. If there is anything I can do, please count me among your humble servants.”

“Blackpond... Mother was to speak to their King, but... something changed her mind and she returned without having seen him. We have kept distance from the city ever since their soldiers attacked us three years ago, some... Some of the city folk were led to believe we had allied with Newhaven and our relations became less than friendly for a while then non-existent ever since. I do know that the people in charge of the city are mostly enlightened themselves and surely their lives as just as much at risk. Some amongst my people have been whispering that the Gods have been angered by the war and this is their punishment, I have no doubts they won’t be the only ones to think so...” She smiled a bit shaken by the thought. “I read somewhere when I was a child, that the end of times begins in the hearts of men, with the death of hope... And I thought to myself, that even with everything it has endured, Valcrest had never lost an ounce of hope. Lately though, whenever I look around I see it falter and I think, with all I have seen in my short years of life, I've finally found a sight I can refer to as ‘frightening’.”

Annie fell into a short silence, her expression giving away the fact she was making a small effort to collect her thoughts and maintain her usual calm exterior. At the end of that silence her voice came out a bit more steady. “Jake had been trying to get a hold of that dagger. If I’m not mistaken, he tracked it to the hands of the Blackpond king, the news came to me through Mageria before Jake visited, so it was some time ago. For what I understood, the man didn't know what he had, and I can’t say for sure that he still has it, but I know Jake hasn't given up the search for it. He can be quite stubborn that one.” The girl smiled, a hint of amusement crossing her dark eyes as she looked at the man. “I appreciate your kindness, sir. I am sure not all would see my mother’s death as a loss, in fact I've been told the party about to be held in Blackpond is in celebration of her death. I’m sure some would question my sanity for attending, but then... They were so nice to invite me, it would be insulting not to accept. Don’t you agree?” The girl asked, her tone soft as ever although a tone of bitterness was noticeable underneath if one was observant enough. “In light of current events, there is one thing I would like to ask of you, Pondus...” Annie once again reached into her bag, from it she pulled the book Sean had left her and offered it to the man. “I don’t know if you are aware of what exactly this is. I can’t honestly say that I am, entirely, but it seems as some extensive rule breaking has brought it to my hands. Ella Page, for some reason, believed it was fitting to let the Alpha of the Wolfpack have this, he in turn passed it along to me... And I would like you to have it. If there is one thing we seem to agree on, Sean and I, is that the ones writing the history of this Land were never the ones truly living it. I don’t know where this book will end up, if in a hundred or a thousand years it will be discovered and read by someone who only knows the facts that were chosen as real, but I feel it is fitting that we at least attempt to show Valcrest as we see it, from the inside. And you are one of the people I know have seen things most people can’t imagine, and I believe that people would greatly benefit from knowing the realities of the world, even if reality is often not as pretty as history would tell us."

"I see..."
He carefully to the book into his hands. Wistfully looking over its cover touching it with care. It was strange for a simple thing to hold so great a presence but it felt somewhat mystic. It was nothing more then a glorified journal, but it held the contents of three important figures within. He looked to it with curiosity and saw in its bindings great potential. To think that perhaps one day this book would be marked with the ancient histories of the land, or more importantly the truth. Looking up to Annie he found a sense of dread emerge from all the promise.

Such important pieces of knowledge were to be stored away for safekeeping. For Grim this meant there was a threat of losing such things. Could it be that dread had indeed found its way into the heart of Valcrest, that for the sake of preservation they were to fill this book. Perhaps it was nothing but a fleeting childish fear. Yet he couldn't shake the importance of it.

"Ella to the Wolves? Surely this book must be blessed to defy such boundaries. I will take it with care, and see that it is passed as it was given. Who knows, perhaps it will at last shed some light in the minds of Valcrest."

He took a moment to consider how to approach his next question. It was true that he trusted the White Shadows, and had found himself indebted to them. The news of Blackpond's party was fairly widespread, but as a Black Knight he couldn't help but feel distrust in their actions. At the same time he understood the neutrality that the healers had to keep, and to act hostile even if it is toward Blackpond could set some distrust between himself and the White Shadows. Still, he had to take action even if his loyalty could be questioned, Newhaven was still his home.

"A party in Blackpond for the White Rose? M'lady it doesn't require a keen mind to see such a facade. They have held no love as you said for the White Shadows. Why would they go to such troubles now?"

For Grim to be skeptical should come as no surprise. Blackpond has been his enemy for as long as he wore armor. Twice he has repelled them from his home, and drove them from the city of Newhaven. They were his opposition, and though he vied for peace, he couldn't help but feel hate for its people. A contradiction but what was to be expected? He was part of the wars.


“What are you thinking about?” Alistair’s voice pierced through Annie’s thinking as they crossed the gates of Blackpond. “You have been very quiet for the entire trip here.
“I’ve been thinking... About the future and what it may bring. And that is a very distracting subject, isn’t it? I’m sorry if I haven’t been the best of companies so far.”
“No need to apologize, I’m just worried that your brain will overheat or something like that, you’ve been acting introspective and concerned for quite a while.”
“And you have been acting twitchy and nervous because of it, I assume, since you can’t tell what I’m feeling anymore.” Annie smiled kindly at her friend. “I know how that must be frustrating for you, but I’m fine. At least for now.” She assured him.

Heads turned and eyes followed the young healer and her friend as they roamed the city streets, it was clearly a shock to see a White Shadow in Blackpond when they hadn't dared enter the city in the past three years. Ever since the city army made its attack on the healers’ encampment. Annie couldn't help but think of how strange it was to be there now after everything. As they reached the castle and joined the crowds heading for the party Annie noticed that they didn't blend in any more than in the city, the girl’s robes standing out amongst the fancy and colorful dresses. Spotting someone familiar Annie opened a smile and made her way amongst the guest until she reached the dark clad figure, both of the standing out much more while standing next to each other; the girl dressed all in white and the boy in full black. “Luckas.” She whispered, startling the young man. “What’re you staring at?” She asked, following the boy’s gaze to the leader of the Crimson Shadows and the woman he was speaking to.
Luckas winced as Annie called his name, the girl catching him off guard as his attention was caught up in staying out of sight. Reluctantly he let his attention be drawn away from the scene he had been watching and fall on the young healer. “Are you stalking me now?” He asked, raising an eyebrow playfully, his eye moving past Annie to catch Alistair’s disapproving gaze. “I see you brought a bodyguard, that’s clever of you, the city is dangerous after all. Me? You know me, I always find something interesting to stare at.” He snickered.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Dastan Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Ess Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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Dastan chuckled softly, his dark eyes sparkling in amusement as Essence mentioned not having spiked the contents of the flask. “Well, now you know my secret... I’m a very, very, trusty man... It would be extremely easy for a pretty lady such as yourself to take advantage of me... Crys herself has said I should not be left unattended.” He said in a not very convincing innocent tone. “If you do ever feel like poisoning me in the future though, sweetness... At least grant me one last request, hm? I’d like to assure that I die a happy man.” He stated, giving the woman a playful wink. “Aye, my clan... I am the proud leader of the Crimson Shadows, and the last living member of the royal family of Brightvale, but don’t let the title fool you into thinking I am in any way a responsible man.” He said, a slightly mischievous grin crossing his features. “Although the fact that I’ve come here tonight should speak for itself.” The man snickered softly, amusement still in his eyes.

Although Dastan was his usually casual self, playful and relaxed in his demeanor, he was ever so observant of his company. While nearly everything about Essence was alluring, there was also something about the woman that kept the man respectful, at least as much as he was capable of. It was somewhat clear to him, despite all subtlety, that the woman already knew this game all too well. “Do I dance? Hm, well... I guess you could say that I do, although where I’m from we tend to do it in a less.... uh... orderly fashion than what I’m seeing around here.” Dastan said, scratching his chin thoughtfully as he took a moment to watch some of the dancing couples, the mention of his scar drawing his focus back to Ess as he seemed to flinch for just a moment before nodding. “It is a good reminder to watch out for jealous boyfriends.” He spoke with a smile that made it unclear whether he was joking or not. “Hopefully that’s not something I need to worry about at the moment, or is it?”

--------------------------------------------------------

Irvin caught up with Jake and Darren still chewing on some apple, a playful smile crossing his expression as he nudged Jake. “Spotted any interesting redheads, Killer? You do look like you need to... Unwind, if you know what I mean.”
“Anyone older than five years old would know what you mean, Irvin.” Jake replied, his eyes narrowing slightly as he glanced off into the crowd. “And yes, one or two. I think my chances of... unwinding are around zero or less though. I do have great chances of being punched in the face, but then.... Considering where we are, I say we all do.”
Irvin chuckled softly. “Hey, I wouldn’t mind if a pretty woman punched me in the face. Which reminds me, speaking of face punching... Is that Rita lady around here? I should chat her up. She was pretty.”
Jake chuckled, shaking his head in amusement at the boy. “I haven’t seen her, Irv, but you shouldn’t assume that just because a woman sleeps on your bed and then hits you in the face you have any chance with her. Trust me, I’ve made that mistake once.”
The boy chuckled. “Well, maybe you’re not as charming as I am.” He played, still laughing for a few moments until his eyes caught someone in the crowd and sparkled with rage. “He’s here. You didn’t tell me he was going to be here!” The boy muttered out.
Jake flinched for a second at Irvin’s reaction, but immediately caught him by the arm as he tried to move in Sean’s direction. “No. Not yet and certainly not here! We have a deal. Getting yourself killed is not a part of it.”
Irvin groaned, trying to struggle for a moment against Jake’s hold, but eventually settling down. “You didn’t say he was going to be here.”
“I didn’t know.” Jake sighed. “And could you please stop freezing my hand? See, I’m rather attached to it.”
Irvin frowned, glancing down to notice that Jake’s fingers were turning to a blue-ish tone around his wrist. “Sorry.” He snorted.
Jake sighed, releasing the boy’s arm. “I get it that you really want him dead. I do. But you just have to set it aside for now so we can maybe make it through this party alive. Starting something here and now would just be suicidal, way too suicidal even for my standards."
"I'll try... I can't promise." Irvin mumbled in response.

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Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Ess Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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#, as written by Essence
Ess was light on her feet, her movements fluid so that it appeared effortless as she managed to avoid the flames. Still, she pondered over how the chains weren’t long nor light enough so her control was not as extensive as she would have liked. There was just so much more she could do and she began to create images in her mind of what the ideal pieces to use, in defense or for simple amusement, would look like and how to improve on the simple mechanics. Essence was, by no means a blacksmith, nor did she have any idea of how to go about the ideas in her head but it was something that temporarily cleared her mind of all other ailments and for a moment she forgot her dark stalker in the shadows. For a moment. Although, she couldn’t be sure it wasn’t an accident from the fire wielder’s cocky attitude that had burned him and not by some other ‘means’. Either way, she couldn’t hide the amused smile that stretched to her violet orbs. Even when she almost clocked the man in the side of the head with one of the flaming spikes and was given somewhat shocked and accusing glances from the patrons that rushed to put out the flames; still she smiled.

It had been a long time since she partook in any fire dancing, especially for her own amusement. The last time had been here in Blackpond, but as a tool in her attempt to cheer up her childhood friend. Ess had managed to sneak out many times to be with Blue Eyes, especially after his father had passed away. She understood, like many, what loss of family was like and made sure to be there to support him in the harsh reality of it all. Every smile she managed to steal from him made her appreciate the skill even if she kept it to herself mostly. For whatever reason, she didn’t care who saw her tonight and yet she purposely wanted a certain pair of eyes to see. She wondered if she could be truly seen or simply distracted in the facade. Beautiful and disheartening all at the same time. Just like she had mentioned to Dastan earlier, if someone were to pay enough attention, they may indeed discover a secret or two about her.

Ess didn’t pause more than a second until the music ended and in that time she spun so that flames, gown, and curls trailed in unison a scale of red shades that collided into what appeared to be one giant flame. Still she saw the man grumble at her side as he was doused in water, his pant leg shredded and burnt up to his knee and minor burns puffing to a head as the blisters were quick to form. Those who were not watching the flames appeared to be collecting themselves towards the center of the room where most were finding dance partners and trying to flow along to the melody. Many seemed stiff and fake; no feeling behind the dance. It wasn’t suppose to be so emotionless, the steps. They were meant to be a guide, no more, and the rest was left up to their story teller how it would play out. At least, that was how Ess was taught. It had been one of the few things she appreciated from her captivity as a child.

When Ess spotted Crys dancing with a figure not familiar to her, she didn’t pay it much mind. Then there were the whispers and murmurs that she only caught bits and pieces of but it was enough to slow her pace so she could get a better look. Did they realize their movements alone were enough to tell their story? Drawn together yet pushing to be apart with a curious tension that seemed to linger over their shoulders like a fog. It seemed familiar but distant. Heavy and light. Hands did not stray by either partner, but she couldn’t tell if it was respect or distaste. Maybe a hint of both? She saw something hidden behind the sparkle in their eyes but she wasn’t sure what it was until she heard the man’s name whispered. Fletcher.. Quirking a brows she knew she recognized the name but it all came clear as the murmurs continued. Alpha..
Her brows narrowed, her entertained smile fading to a cold yet curious ambitious sneer.

‘Interesting play....’ She thought, suddenly noticing the Captain out of of the corner of her eye off in the corner chatting with Pondus. It was a bit of a relief to see the Captain had made it to the party. The more allies the better. Where was she, but locked together with friends and foes in some sort of parlay waiting to erupt. What could the hostess she merely caught glimpses of, be planning? It seemed like neither Crys nor the current Alpha would make a move to initiate violence and even parted ways without so much as a scratch. Ess was sure Mageria had noticed the Alpha as well and wondered if she could show such restraint with someone disliked immensely to the point that all one could see was red. She figured it would be like acting; nothing she didn’t already know. Maybe they were trained to cool their anger when appropriate but who was to really say when it would be? It was an interesting gathering thus far, to say the least and this was just frosting on the cake. Captain guard, royalty, clan leaders of assassins and their members; it was a wonder who else of note was there.

Ess released a small sigh, dropping the morning-stars back into the bucket and approached a young man she had draped that piece of her gown upon, giving him her sweetest smile. “Thanks kid...er, Young Sir.” She corrected a bit awkwardly as she stared up into his blue eyes, smiling at the loose curls he shook from out his stare. Casually she took the jacket of her gown back, her fingers innocently brushing past his as she hung the material in folds over her forearm. Her smile dwindled some as she quirked a brow at the boy curiously. “Uh...you ok, hun?”

Darren had wandered away from Jake and Irvin, partially trying to find where the wolf suddenly bolted off to and partially after the redheaded woman who seemed to be it’s ‘companion’. Or maybe it was the other way around; it was a bit confusing the way they interacted and it was fascinating to see something so wild and yet that tame. It was a total surprise to have her suddenly turn about and hand him a piece of random clothing, his eyes widening in a bit of shock and embarrassment as if he should turn away. His shock could also be attributed to the lack of visions he received from the garment, bringing him to conclude it was something new to the woman since the fragments were pretty useless and didn’t make much sense. At least, more so than usual. As he watched her though he couldn’t take his eyes off her but it wasn’t in any way provocative to him, more in a way certain things just stood out as if he’d seen her before. The deep red curls of her hair were mostly responsible, but then again, there were many women out there with red curly hair. Then, there was also the scar that trailed down from her left eye and down her cheek. He was silent, absently glancing about for his companions that he’d left behind, his mind shifting back to the images from his father’s journal.

“Yea...fine..” Darren smiled with a confirmed nod, still staring a bit. Whatever pieces of his puzzle he was trying to piece together in his mind, he kept to himself...for the most part. “You didn’t seem comfortable with what you were doing...I mean...you made that...” He paused, motioning towards the grumbling fool on the ground behind her to gesture what had just taken place. “...look easy, but still you seemed like you had to improvise. Too heavy for you?” He asked quirking a brow. “Maybe the chains should be longer..give you more leeway.” He suggested with a shrug, running his fingers through his hair. “You from around here? Just haven’t...seen you in the city before...well not that it’s a small place per se..” Darren stated curiously as he thought knowingly, ‘Another...redhead...’

Essence chuckled, nodding up at the man. “Good eye....I was thinking of ways to improve the model but...” She shrugged as if pushing the thought aside. “That wasn’t the point of it all.” She stated, a puzzled expression crossing her features. “I...lived here for a time, but no...not from here.” Ess answered simply, rolling her shoulders to stretch her muscles a bit. Quickly back tracking on the subject to avoid the current she asked, “Are you a blacksmith? Or do you play? Just curious to how you know what I was concerned about over there..Mr...?”

“Darren...” He cleared his throat, purposely leaving out his last name, especially while in the city. Darren couldn’t be sure who knew his father and with his luck he was pretty sure most were either patrons or allies with the man. He did pay attention to the woman saying she was not from these parts, but merely a visitor of sorts maybe. “No, not a blacksmith...but yes I have played with fire here and there. How many times have you been burned before you got the hang of it...Miss...?”

Ess smiled as she began to walk in the direction of where she saw the Wolf pack Alpha meld into the crowd. It wasn’t that she was trying to be rude when she didn’t give her name but more that her mind was a bit preoccupied with following her current target of interest even if this boy before her seemed somewhat intriguing. Ess caught herself double taking the figure, staring back longer than she meant to as if she just noticed a detail she had previously missed. The blue of his eyes seemed to emanate a subtle purple hue; something she was not use to seeing which she chalked up to the kid probably having some sort of enlightenment. Raising her hand up slowly she let it hover before the man’s eyes and sighed, making sure he could see the blister forming on her fingertips before she retracted her hand. “I still get burned. We can’t play with fire and expect anything different, right? Things won’t always go as expected, so we improvise. Even if it’s something we don’t expect because if it’s expected or not, I think it hurts all the same. It’ll heal....just like the others and at least this one won’t leave a scar. But in the meantime, just like all the rest, we hide the wound...” Ess winked, triggering her ‘Mirage’ so that the blister suddenly disappeared as if it were never there.

As she walked away, Darren’s expression melted to one of pure confusion. He was dumbfounded. “Why do I have the feeling that was some cryptic woman chatter that I probably don’t want to even know about..?” He muttered to himself with a shiver, thinking she sounded a bit bitter and matter of fact like. He knew that sign well, feeling it was best to not pursue and question the woman further. Darren had been on the receiving line of that before. Turning to find Irv watching him with a curious expression, Darren snickered. “Now there my friend...is an example of the unpredictability of a redhead. A ticking time bomb. One second she appears ok, a smile on her face and the next she’s metaphorical and sounding like she’ll bite someone’s head off. Don’t even think about it man.”

~~~~
Tala had been slinking underneath chairs, tables; lurking behind tapestries and even trotted beneath one woman’s dress that was so wide she looked like a barrel that had exploded. The woman cursed the wolf with an annoyed shriek, complaining aloud, “Who let this animal in here?! Should be kept under control.” She snorted. Tala ignored her, nose stuck to the ground as she searched, catching sight of her ‘prey’ just as he seemed to walk away from another guest. Trotting forward, the wolf meandered past a few patrons, finagling her furry form in twists and turns trying not to bump into anything but it was difficult with the dancing figures. As she weaved out of the center of the room, she brushed by a woman in white. Tala slowed her pace into patient and calculated steps, head low to the floor and hackles raised before she froze, ears perking to attention as she stood behind Luckas. Casually sniffing the back of his pant leg she sneezed, a subtle whine mingled with a deep, throaty growl slowly growing louder before silencing again when her body suddenly lurched forward in some sort of gag like reflex. Sitting back on her haunches the wolf seemed to fall into a small fit of dry heaves, as if she were trying to wretch a hairball but nothing ever came. After a moment it passed and still the man’s back was turned to her in which she responded with a growl like bark that came and went in short bursts. It could almost be mistaken for words, if the wolf could talk. Tala then proceeded to walk through the man’s legs practically tipping him over as she pushed herself past to sit in front of him and stare defiantly up at Luckas, waiting to be acknowledged.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher Character Portrait: Ess Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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#, as written by Essence
Essence knew the general direction of where she’d last seen the Alpha in the ever moving crowd, yet she found herself momentarily distracted as she caught the distant barks of her furry companion from the other side of the dance floor. Coming to a halt she clicked her heels in thought, not even paying attention to the small crowd of people that passed briskly past her, her image appearing small and almost insignificant until it parted again and left her momentarily alone. Her expression was empty, violet orbs darting furiously through the many forms as she tried to pinpoint Tala. In a way, she appeared ‘lost’ in the manner she stood idle and as the thought of moving forward crossed her mind she didn’t even get a chance to turn before someone rammed into her with such purpose she indeed almost lost her balance if not for the firm grip on her arm. The coat of her gown had slipped to the floor at the small collision, her hand instantly covering the man’s and gripping over his fingers, her instincts at the ready. Yet, as her eyes reached his, a sweet smile took over, hiding her delighted surprise and the devilish idea of breaking his hand for touching her but she wasn’t stupid; it was just a natural thought that she quickly brushed aside.

“Oh...nice reflexes...” Ess giggled, shrugging off the apology. “No harm done. Hm, good grip too.” She winked, letting her fingers loosen and trace his fingers along her arm. “How...fortuitous...” Ess sang, shyly pulling her gaze from his. “You’re the Wolfpack Alpha...” She quickly stated, something in her tone that was a mix of interest and distaste, but she remained polite, honestly more curious than anything as it was clearly not her place to say or do anything in Mageria’s name. Again, she was here as a set of eyes and ears, not to pick fights with another’s foe especially when she knew next to nothing about the individual. “I’m sorry, how rude of me...My name is Essence. What is a good looking man like yourself doing here without a lovely woman on your arm? Maybe that’s what had you in such haste? It’s...usually a woman that sends a man in earnest in the opposite direction... ” Quirking a brow she stared at him, the violet of her orbs intensifying into a myst like glow passing across her irises like a fog. “I doubt it was Miss Rivers that sent you this way.” She added, matter of factly. “I just mean, you don’t seem like the type to run, even if it is something you fear.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Darren watched Jake wander off from the corner of his eye, noting he went in the same direction as the redhead and chuckled, leaning over towards Irvin. “Hey...I thought you liked girls...” He teased, nodding towards the Alpha. “You keep staring...hey, come now, lets get your mind off whatever that is and onto something more pleasant..” Casually he rested one hand on Irv’s shoulder and slowly turned him towards a group of girls chatting away over their wine glasses, catching one or two pairs of eyes and flashing a debonair smile. “Smile Irv...see that cute, blond one? She keeps looking at you...why don’t you go say hi? I’ll be right behind ya.” Darren gave Irvin a little shove and then crossed his arms to watch, turning abruptly when he thought he caught the wolf he had been searching for following a dark haired individual. He didn’t seen the man’s face as both disappeared in the crowd causing Darren to snort in annoyance. It was then Darren saw a group of men following an older looking woman around in an awkward circular wall-like shield. The scene caught him as odd because although the room was filled with many people who most likely disliked each other and were well armed, none had an entourage at their heels.

“Ah, young Hearst...not surprised to see you here...” A woman’s voice came from behind the men who slowly parted to the sides, backs to the older woman as they watched the perimeter. “Where’s your father? Still in prison? Pity....him and I have some old ‘business’ to discuss.”

Darren cringed when the woman came into view, making it hard to force a smile when she smiled a decaying smile. Even more so when she called out to him by name and asked for his father. Darren bowed in a polite fashion but really it was to avoid looking at the crone, the idea coming to mind that she looked like a walking corpse, especially with the eyepatch that smelled of rot. “I don’t know how my father is doing..” He answered simply. “Anything I can help with?” Darren asked curiously as he stood up straight, towering over the decrepit, hag before him.

Ebony snorted. “You have no authority in your father’s line of work...which I hear he runs pretty well from the prisons within this very city. Word....gets around.”

Darren shrugged, “Maybe I don’t have any direct authority, no.” His brows narrowed as his smile suddenly faded away, his gaze curious with a hint of disgust. “His business dealings never interested or sat well with me. Who are you to know of my father?”

“I know plenty of your father. We were longtime business partners, him and I. I was there the day you were born Darren. I was there when all of them were born.”

Darren’s eyes flashed a sharp blue, a subtle groan escaping him. “Who the hell are you and what the hell are you talking about?”

“Oh, you mean you don’t recognize me, Darren? It’s Aunty Ebony...don’t you remember?” The woman spat. “I remember you. One of the many screaming hells I had to do away with. Lucky for you, you were one of the few who got to live past the afterbirth. Which brings me back to this business deal of mine and Ashers’. You. Usually I send the little harlots off to the dumpster if not to their usual interested parties, but for some reason your father wanted to keep you.” Ebony rolled her eyes, shrugging as if truly confuse to why Asher would do such a thing. “Maybe because you were the first son he ever had..”

Darren’s eyes went wide, a swirling, nauseated sensation filling his stomach. Darren wasn’t one to get angry and not easily, but what concerned him more in that instant was why this woman he couldn’t remember acted as if she knew him. There was no rhyme or reason to her mocking and cruel words except that she was deliberately trying to get a rise out of him. His first instinct was to reach out to her. To hell with her riddle chatter, he could use his enlightenment and find out whatever it was she was going on about. Stepping forward, two of the mercenaries instantly blocked his path, not giving Darren an inch towards Ebony. “You....are not human...” Darren whispered, staring past the men in utter awe as Ebony spoke. “I have....sisters? My own father...sold his own blood? I was bought?”

Ebony chuckled a condescending choking sound that emanated from her haggard appearance. “Say hi to your father for me when you see him again...” The woman whispered, her smile somewhat innocent yet causing shivers to travel down Darren’s back. “Tell him he should remember what happens when he tries to screw me over. I promised I’d start with him, and destroy him from the bottom up.” Ebony sneered, motioning for some of the men to follow as she turned to leave, a feeling accomplishment making her cocky but not foolish. She pointed to two of the men who stayed behind to continue to block the boy as he began to sweat. “Make sure he doesn’t follow..”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher Character Portrait: Ess Character Portrait: Darren Hearst
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“Dancing with Sean... What are you trying to do to me, hm?”
Crys stopped in her tracks at the familiar whisper behind her back, her body tensing entirely and gradually relaxing as she held back her first instinctive reaction and calmly turned to face Jake. “What, if I may ask, would I be doing to you... Jacob?” She asked, her tone cold with a fake tone of curiosity. “Or rather, what could I possibly do to you that you don’t absolutely deserve?”
Jake flinched at her words, a sigh escaping him, his voice faltering. “Fair point... I just...”
“Don’t. Whatever this is, we’re not getting into it here.” Crys cut him off with a severe look in her eyes. “This is not the time or the place.”
“You do realize this hurts me, don’t you? He asked in a whisper.
“Yes. Yes, Jake... I do. This... Isn’t about you and me though. It’s just a matter of, trying to keep the peace... So find a way to deal. I know I have.”
“Trying to keep the peace... You know, I don’t think that phrase was ever uttered during peaceful times. The lengths we're all willing to go to fool ourselves...” Jake chuckled bitterly, raising his hands in a defensive manner. “I know... Not here. Not now. I won’t make a scene or anything don’t worry.” He played, heaving a deep sigh. “I just... Wanted to see you... I always want to see you.”
Crys closed her eyes for a moment, shaking her head and falling into silence for a few seconds, once her eyes opened again, her tone changed to one of warning. “Go back to your friends, Jakey.”

Jake frowned slightly at Crys’ words, eyes darting around the room looking for Darren and Irvin. He spotted Irv first, awkwardly approaching a group of girls, not too far from him he saw Darren, a woman walking away from him leaving two men who were obviously hired mercenaries behind with the boy. He didn’t have to look to know that Crys had walked away the moment he put his focus on Darren, so he didn’t bother looking back and simply started to calmly make his way to him and his... ‘companions’. Things didn’t look friendly between them and if someone was planning on messing with the boy, they’d be messing with him too. Moving around so that he reached the two mercenaries from behind Jake addressed the man in a calm yet firm tone of voice, right hand resting upon the hilt of his sword. “Gentlemen... Do you have some sort of... Issue... With my friend here?”

---------------------------------------------

Irvin wasn’t all too sure about going to talk to the girl Darren pointed out to him, but before he could say a word of protest the older boy had sent him on his way. Irvin wasn’t going to admit it, but he wasn’t too good in talking to girls around his age. There weren’t many of them around in the prisons and before that he was far too concerned with survival to think about socializing. Now that he was thinking about it, he has no idea how to go about actually doing it. The girl Darren had showed was in fact watching his approach with discreet glances and shy, yet welcoming, smiles. The boy was trying hard to keep his focus on what he wanted to do, he’d gone over it again and again in his head: ’Smile, say hi, don’t be weird.’, it seemed simple enough, but for some reason actually following through with the plan was a whole other story. Suddenly Irvin felt as if he had forgotten basic human behavior and he simply stood before the girl in silence, looking a bit as if he was about to throw up. The girl smile at him sweetly, amusement clear in her expression as her friends started to giggle around her. After a few seconds of patiently waiting for the boy to speak the girl let out a chuckle and greeted. “Hi.”
Irvin winced slightly, realizing his brain had momentarily shut down on him, forcing a small cough he tried unsuccessfully to swallow down the knot caught in his throat, his voice sounding a bit weak. “Hey... I... Uh... Hi... I’m Irvin.”
“Irvin, nice to meet you, I’m Joslin.” She said, sounding pleased that he was finally speaking, even if barely.
Irvin smiled back nervously, discreetly wiping his sweaty palms at the hem of his shirt. In his awkwardness the boy began to look around, eyes searching his surroundings for his friends, Darren wasn’t far, but Irv didn’t like the looks of his company and for what he could tell, neither did Jake. The girl was still talking, it seemed, but the boy’s attention was momentarily caught up in whatever was happening with his friends and he began to slowly wander off mumbling an apology.

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“You’re the Wolfpack Alpha...”

Never, to Sean’s experience, had that sentence been followed by a pleasant exchange of any sort and he was momentarily taken by surprise at the fact that this woman, whom he had nearly ran over, not only knew who he was, but was acting so pleasant. She mentioned Crys’ name, and yet there was no hostility in her tone... He would have been more comfortable if she slapped him in the face. It would just spare him the trouble of trying to figure out what her deal was exactly. His little flinch prevented him from paying full attention to the woman’s introduction, but as soon as he composed himself he realized why her name seemed so familiar... He’d read it twice before. He didn’t think the name was common enough for this to be a coincidence. “Essence? Are you the same Essence whose name is carved on a table in the Newhaven Inn? You know, I should make you pay me for vandalizing my establishment, Essence... But then it would probably ungentlemanly of me to demand compensation from a lady for such a small act, even if said act inflicted damage to my property.” Sean’s tone made it unclear whether or not he was joking about the table, his eyes playful although his voice was undeniably serious. Opening an amused smile the Alpha shook his head slightly. “Maybe I’m not interested in the type of woman who would find it acceptable to cling to a man’s arm for an entire evening pretending not to be incredibly bored. Or maybe I just can’t find a lady who won’t refer to me as ‘the Wolfpack’s Alpha’.” He stated, his smile growing more amused as he added. “It’s Sean by the way, miss Talon, in case that little detail is not a part of the many things being gossiped about my person. It’s been nice meeting you so far, let’s see how long that lasts, shall we?”

------------------------------------------

Luckas didn’t need to look too long to find the king, the man looked perfectly normal and respectable from a distance... They all did... but Luckas could see something else, something familiar in the man’s eyes; something that made him momentarily forget the nature of his task. He didn’t need to get to close, just wait for a moment where the he could see the man’s eyes, moving to a more quiet corner, where he was unlikely to be bothered he looked into the eyes of King Rick, and waited for the world around him to melt away.

"Do you smell that?" Lamya asked Simon, who had already noticed what was going on.
"Of course I do. Don't take me for a fool."
"I only take you for what-" Lamya said before Simon cut her completely out of the conversation along with the rest of the assassins.
All but Rick and Simon were now connected through mind. There was an extra visitor, however. He was so well hidden that only Simon and, surprisingly, Lamya were able to detect. Not even Rick, who seemed to be the person who was under attack could tell. There was a person within the chaos that was after the King's mind. Simon wouldn't let this happen.
Simon was still thrown off a little. The mental barriers that he had created to protect the people within his mind were top notch. No one should have been able to break through them from the time that he made it into the party. Regardless, before he even tried to evict this invader from Rick's mind, he was going to have to put up some mental barriers for his own safety. His mind was going to be like the mountains in the south of Valcrest. He created a huge wall protecting his mind from the attacker and then he went it.
"Leave now, or forever wish you had."

Luckas was surprised, that to say the least. He didn't expect to find anything interesting in the King, he only wanted a peek into the man's memories for the hell of it; he wasn't expecting to find someone else already there, he certainly wasn't expecting to find a link with several other people, and it made him wonder if there was in fact something interesting enough in this guy's mind that he needed someone to protect it. Luckas wandered from where he was standing until he could feel himself leaning against something solid; a wall or pillar, he wasn't quite certain. The other telepath's presence was sensed at first as a slight pressure against his attempts, it had now gotten a bit more forceful to the point where he could feel it physically as if someone was holding his head and slowly squeezing. It was a challenge though, and it was one interesting enough to take on. The fact that using his ability this way made it impossible to see his surroundings was slightly troubling if it were discovered he was the one trying to prey on the King's mind, but it was a risk worth taking; if anything turned out too badly he trusted Sammy to have his back. Having heard the guy's warning Luckas didn't answer in any way for a few moments, breathing slowly to keep his focus as he tried to assess the situation; the guy was good and it was somewhat intriguing how he managed to maintain such secure links with more than one person at a time, when Luckas had been repeatedly taught it was dangerous and nearly impossible to pull of successfully. This was going to be fun.

"Do you know what they say, mate, that when you run into a wild predator you try and make yourself as insignificant as possible and hope it goes away? You should have done that. I was going to be in and out pretty quick, but now you made this into a good challenge, so why not? Make me regret my intrusion."

Luckas dared the guy to push him out, waiting to see what his move would be, slowly looking for a crack in the armor, a vulnerable spot he could exploit. It could take him time, but if it was there he would find it and once he did, this would be over quite quickly.

People always seemed to think that the mind was a safe place. The only safe place. It was a place that the user only had control of. They thought that if there was something wrong with their mind, it was only their fault. Anyone with that dogma was completely wrong. Simon looked at the mind as something he could make impressions on. He could seep his way deep into the psyche and just put thoughts there. In the place where people feel safe, he could bring them into a whole new world. He could bring them somewhere where they feel completely vulnerable. Vulnerable... that was his first step.
"Call me arrogant, but now that Lena's dead, I'm probably one of the strongest enlightened Mind out there. If you think of yourself as such a predator, prove to me that there is something to be afraid of?"
With his last warning, he started attacking the intruder's mind. The first thing he looked for was a name. The next were a few of the simple images, the ones that he didn't protect. These were images that didn't matter too much for him. When it came to the chain of command of memories, these were at the bottom rung. Mostly full of dead bodies or him toying around with people's minds. Nothing too special.
"You're name's Luckas, now, is it? Interesting life you've lead Luckas." He said, attempting to distract Luke while he tried to creep deeper into his mind.


Weak, this was weak... Sure this guy could do better than this if he was bold enough to compare himself to Lena. The woman had tortured him in ways no one else had ever managed, even in death she still tortured him in the back of his mind... That kind of respect was hard to obtain. "Oh, I don't want to scare you off, friend... Where's the fun in that, hm? So you know my name and you've seen some of my playthings... There's nothing there I'm particularly secretive about. You haven't done better than the healer's dead carcass, oh Great mind!" Luckas mocked the man openly, always keeping his defenses just one step ahead of his advances while he was still only grazing the surface. Either way, Luckas had very little to protect anyway; and most of what could actually hurt him was so deeply buried he could barely reach it himself. "Talk is cheap Simon... I'm sure you can do better now... I feel sorry for you and your king if you can't." He provoked, the pressure building in his temples, but this time he pushed back, making sure the man didn't go any further even though there was nothing particularly meaningful at his reach just yet; simply to show that he could. "You don't want to be going there friend... That's bad for your health." He warned playfully, challenging Simon to push him further. If there was something he'd learned from the healer was that his mind was the one place he could control completely if he concentrated... Maybe not to the point of trapping someone inside, but surely enough to drive them to confusion if they wandered deep enough. He hadn't actually tried that before aside from training and he knew it would take its toll on him, but it was well worth the effort if it worked.

The man had some audacity to think that he could push Simon completely out of his mind that easily. In fact, it was rather pathetic to think that. He knew, however that if you push someone, you better be prepared to get pushed back ten times harder. He hoped Luckas didn't discover this little piece of life experience. With a little amount of thought, he pinpointed exactly where he wanted to attack this person's mind from. He focused his thought into the sharpness of a needle and then quickly trusted himself into Luckas' mind for his second round of attack. With, again, little thought, he focused his thought as big as he could, so it would expand as far out as possible through the mind of Luckas.
"Get out of our head!"
With just that thought, he brought Luckas back into reality. He was back on the wall he was standing on. The people around him were interacting and the music was playing. Everything would seem to be normal.


Luckas frowned slightly as he looked at his surroundings, for a split second he almost believed the man had succeeded to push him out, but then he realized that something felt off... Or rather, what was off was what he didn't feel. There was no pain, no blurriness in his sight, he didn't feel faint... Everything was absolutely normal, as it should be, and that was wrong. So Luckas smiled, an overly sweet smile, as he began to pace around the ballroom... His eyes wandering around and noticing a few more known faces amongst the crowd, but some people he knew to be there were missing from the scene, probably because Simon wouldn't know to place them. Still, it was impressive that he could so easily create and illusion inside Luke's mind when he was usually immune to such things. He took his time to appreciate the small details of the scene, before slowly starting to tweak it here and there... Some notes of the music failing as if the people playing occasionally forgot what they were doing, people's faces blurring beyond recognition as Luke passed them, color beginning to fade as if the room was turning into a black and white portrait... Until all the faces were blank, and the bright and beautiful colors had faded, and everything was blank noise in the background... The only thing standing out in the room being the site of a man with brown hair and brown eyes. A face Luckas didn't know until then, but now he could link to a name. "The was nicely played, mate... I almost bought it... Maybe if I wasn't so inclined to doubt reality as it is..." As he spoke everything else disappeared in the room, but the man and himself. He had let Simon in just enough to play with what the man was seeing. "I said this wasn't a place you'd like to be friend... One last chance to yield? Hm... No, I don't think so. I should teach you something instead..." At those words fire lit up the once darkened room, just a small circle around Simon so that he could see something, but not the whole room, Luke standing in the dark, just beyond the reach of the light. In the darkness there was movement, followed by growls and snarls as if hungry animals were lurking just a step beyond the fire; eyes would appear here and there, sparkling in the dark, the growls occasionally becoming louder and more vicious as if whatever creatures lurking there were growing impatient and unleashing violent attacks on one another. "For an illusion to have the proper effect, you should consider all the little details that make it believable... Not just plant an image and wait for the victim's mind to fill in the blanks with what should be there, as most telepaths tend to do... Control the environment... The sounds and smells... The feels... Like this fire; you can smell it... You can feel its warmth... And if I hadn't been here speaking I bet you would eventually believe that putting it out would lead to a terrible fate, hm? Who knows, maybe you will, but I'd like to think you are better than that... Shall we try it?" Luckas asked, a slight giggle echoing through the empty room as the fire suddenly faded and everything fell dark.

Simon didn't need a lot of time, he just needed deeper. That was all he was after from the illusion that he made. He didn't want to take the time or energy to create complete realism. In that split second that Luke believed he was back into reality as he perceived it, Simon had managed to get deeper into Luke's mind than even Luke knew about. Being this deep, it allowed him to almost guarantee that he will believe almost anything that he wanted Luke to believe. All he needed to do was create a couple of thoughts and plant a few more seeds.
During this entire time, Luke had been playing his own set of mind games. The room had grown dark and now there was a fire. He was about to walk out of the ring of fire surrounding him when Luke started talking to him. He went along his rant about how weak my illusions were, despite the fact that his illusion of a fire was far less complex than an entire room filled with people and things, with music playing and everything else going. Making a fire was far less complex, especially when there was the possibility of a distraction by the noises being made from beyond the darkness.
When the light went out, that was when he was attacked. The noises that came from the darkness came and surrounded him. Nothing was all too painful, he just had an uncomfortable feeling as if someone had shoved him in a cramped broom closet with no possibility for escape. What this Luckas had planned out was working to some degree, but not as he had planned it to. Simon closed his eyes and gave into the monsters, giving Luckas what he wanted. Quickly, he was ripped apart, limb from limb, until the monsters grew tired and left. They then turned their attention to Luckas on the other end of the darkness. Behind him was a wall of fire, so he couldn't move away from the monsters coming towards him. With the light behind him, Luckas would be able to see every detail of each monsters he had created. Each one disappeared one after another until only one was left. This one wasn't one that Luke had created.
It had a long white and slimy body, with enormous blue veins. There were tons of scars around what was supposed to be a face, but nothing was there. There was only one large mouth. It held itself up with two long and lanky legs, which only had enough strength to hold up it's middle. It's lack of head and tail dragged across the floor. It's center was the most interesting part. This is what made the creature look so peculiar. It had muscles that all lead to the legs which would contract and flex after every movement. This made it appear as if the creature was in fact inside out.
When it got close enough, it towered over Luke; it's body spewing out clear sticky liquids strait from the skin. It didn't do anything. It just stood right over him like it was knew he was there despite not having any eyes. Slowly, Luke's skin peeled from his body as if he were an orange getting picked away at from a guy who bites their fingernails often. When it had all fallen off, the monster opened in wide mouth and regurgitated Simon's skin onto Luke's body. It folded nicely over top and seemed to seal in as if it were air tight.
"Reality is only how your mind interprets the world around it. Right now, this is your reality."


Luckas was remarkably calm and still considering what he was faced with... This monster Simon had created was in no way as frightening as the thing he ran into in the woods not too long ago, however, and that thought alone made Luke simply stand looking up at the beast towering over him with mild curiosity, seemingly unfazed but what seemed to going on with his own body, simply staring at the monster as if questioning what it was supposed to be doing. Through the whole thing he was so motionless and still one could certainly question whether he even understood what was going on around it, maybe he was in some sort of shock, it surely did seem that way. "This... Is... MY... Reality..." He mumbled softly, the words were the only thing that seemed to cause a reaction as he slowly looked down at his hands. "Hmph..." He scoffed, spreading his arms wide open and slowly pacing back into the warmth of the flames until they swallowed him whole, the smell of burning skin and flesh filling the air, his sight blinded by bright red-orange flames as he felt the agonizing pain of burning alive; it was intense pain, but it felt somewhat comforting to Luckas, even familiar for some odd reason, it made him feel at peace. "Reality... Is only one figment of our imagination... But not just any illusion can be real. For it to be real, it has to be something my mind is capable of accepting. Let's be honest now... You will not make me accept any form of 'reality', no matter how many you try, and in the end, we are nothing but a couple of fools trying to make eachother laugh at old jokes. You can keep digging deeper, and deeper, and deeper into my mind if you like... I welcome you to... Go for it... But the last person who tried didn't live to tell any secrets, and I didn't have to put in an effort, but... Hey you're welcome, now you get to call yourself the strongest enlightened mind or whatever; although it would sound a lot more impressive if you had been the one to beat the healer instead of just sitting on your ass and waiting for her to drop... As is, I believe that at most you could drag me with you when you finally exhaust yourself from all the fun we're having, but what do I care? Sooner, later... What does it matter?" As he spoke the fire expanded to such extent that all it could be seen was flame and nothing more, as if the world itself was burning to the ground and there would be absolutely nothing left when the fire died.

The fire burned for what seemed like full hours, when it vanished both men were standing in the middle of the ballroom, completely unharmed and back to the ridiculously normal scenario Simon had first created, exactly as he had created it in the first place. "Now tell me, are you in my mind or am I in yours? Maybe we're now playing in your King's head; if so, how much of this do you think he can bear before becoming... Irreversibly damaged? Oh well... Maybe we're dead and this is hell: Fated to play stupid tricks for each other through all eternity..." Luckas laughed at the idea. "Can you honestly still tell one from the other without a doubt at this point friend? Because I tell you... Sooner or later lines begin to blur." Admittedly, Luckas was in no way done playing yet, but he wasn't going to be stupid about it either and he had, in his little fiery trick, pushed the fight back to the King, not dwelling too deep into the man's mind but just enough to maybe get something out of this little game.

Simon knew it. Luckas' plan was to take the battle into the Rick's mind. There really wasn't an option for Simon, he had to oblige, but he was happy to oblige. He would much rather exhaust Rick's mind rather than his own. He also knew Rick's mind better than Luckas did and it meant that he had a home advantage of sorts. He didn't care much for Rick anyways. So what if he went crazy in the process? He wasn't going to survive for much longer anyways, not if everything went as planned and they most likely were. With an entire city against him, things wouldn't look to good.
"You want to take the battle to the King? Fine. He will go insane and we will bring Blackpond to a new low together. Hey, maybe the people will finally decide to do something about it too. Maybe Blackpond will be brought back to its former glory. Maybe you'll be doing Blackpond a service. I'm willing to take the risk if it means I can have some more fun with you."
In this moment, he started walking around the crowd, as if he was supposed to blend in. It was nearly impossible to blend into someone's mind as they could easily change their point of view to wherever they wanted in order to find what they are looking for, regardless, he wanted a moment where he couldn't be seen. From there, he changed his appearance and just acted like the rest of the people. He then changed half of the people in the ballroom into replicas of Simon. The other half into replicas of Luckas. Along with that, there were about ten people who were both Simon and Luckas at the same time. Simon chose to be himself, the easier option.
"So Luckas." Simon's voice echoed through the room as if he were some omnipotent being. "From digging through your mind, I see something very interesting." Slowly, the appearance of every single body in the room started changing. "You knew someone very important to Valcrest. It looks like this person actually tried to help you... what a failure that was." The faces flashed to become recognizable. "Too bad Lena isn't around anymore to help you out with your problem. I take it, from what you said earlier that you were at least partially responsible for her death. That's no surprised; you are one sick fuck."
The Lena's walked around the room, just as if they were regular people, talking to one another in different, mindless conversation. Only the ten, that were once the Simon and Luckas combination stopped what they were doing to look directly at Luckas.
Simon's voice again boomed through the room "Too bad she will never be able to help you with whatever it was that she was helping you with."


Luckas watched with mild amusement in his expression as the figures around the ballroom changed their appearance as if the party was suddenly constituted of far less irritating Ambers. He snorted a laugh at Simon's little speech about Lena his dark eyes scanning the 'Lena clones' as if considering all the fun and violent ways he could tear them apart. "Yes, that's such a pity. I'll never be a functioning member of society. Aaaw..." He snickered, pacing around the room and noting with amusement that woman's copies were still watching him at all times. "Just like in real life!" He giggled softly. "Oh, what fun. You know... Funny of you to call me sick, considering where we are... Considering where you've been all your life mate, and who you hang around with... The King, the psychotic redhead I had some stabby fun with the other day... That dude that likes to play with dead things... Do you ever wonder just how fond of corpses that dude really is? I mean, how do you suppose he plays when no one's watching, or at least he assumes no one's watching, because you never know... You can't ever know, can you?" He whispered the last words, a grin spreading across his features. "You're all a cheery little group, huh? In other circumstances I almost think I'd like the lot of you, but... Nah... You are, as a group, too hypocritical and stupid for my liking, and the redhead's talk of chaos alone almost bored me for a life time. I was almost relieved when she stabbed me, really. I guess some women are better with their mouths shut, are they not?" He smiled, staring at the Lena clones as if asking them the question. "Stupid, stupid, stupid little words and promises... and lies..." He sighed. "They're all just full of it, ain't that right? So tell me friend, what's the point of the King anyway? Or you? You're all just little puppets are you not? Dancing to some random tune... just like the rest... Just like everyone else... And acting as if your existence makes a difference... As if the pathetic little town matters... Fuck Blackpond... Fuck the king... Fuck you and your Gods..." He muttered, putting a firm grip on the throat of one of the clones, squeezing, nails sinking into flesh as the figure's face changed from Lena's to his own, to Simon's, to several other guests of the party, until the figure turned to Sam, and then back to Lena as it dropped lifeless to the ground. Luckas laughed loudly spreading his arms wide, to face the remaining clones. "Who's next now?" He asked, more and more laughter escaping him growing louder and louder to a point where he was almost certain he wasn't only laughing in his head anymore. Slowly he composed himself, still chuckling here and there as he spoke. "You are all dead, you just don't know it yet... And it's freaking hilarious."

"You talk of my friends being boring or freaks, but then look at yourself. I've been standing here, pretty much begging you to play along, but all you can bother to do is stand here and act like you are so much more interesting than anyone else in this world. I bet you are as interesting as the typical person, with the same old problems and same feelings as every other human being. You love, you hate, you try to relive past experiences. You can be convinced to do or not do things by people you deemed important in your life. Then there's the fact that you probably feel alone. Are you really alone? No man's alone. The very fact of life is that human's are social creatures and crave some sort of social attention. That is the reason solitary confinement in dungeons can be enough to drive men insane."
"The only thing that makes you different is that you've killed a whole lot of people whom you don't find particularly interesting. What does that gain you? Does that gain you anything more than I gain from doing what I do or anyone else does for that matter? No, you are a pretty boring guy as well, with a pretty boring imagination. I mean... wow... you can imagine a fire and some monsters which can only be seen and heard and nothing more. Then you go around and kill people just for the sake of killing people. How imaginative and creative of you. You know there are more people in Blackpond prison for what you do than there are people at this party? Than on top of that, there is probably three times more who still haven't been caught. That is in Blackpond alone."
"What you have done bores me. Why you do it bores me even more. You are just an angsty young man who hates something about themselves or about others and loves to take it out on the world. I believe most intellectuals would call it an existential crisis and believe me everyone goes through it. You are boring."
He stopped talking, letting the ideas sink in. Honestly however, Simon knew that these ideas would not sink in at all. Luke didn't want to listen. He just wanted to continue on with what he was continuing on in.
In the mean time, while Simon was killing time shooting the shit with Luke, he was tapping into the memories that he knew Luke couldn't help but share. The things that have happened to him recently that he couldn't help but think about. There were two things. One thing that popped out more than anything was a conversation with Lena. She looked very terrible, probably very close to her death. He couldn't hear anything going on in the conversation, but it went on until Luckas freaked out and next thing he saw was Lena... dead.
The other memory was a recent conversation that he had with a woman who had red hair like Lamya. The woman had a lot of interesting things to say. It was something that he would keep with him to talk with Lamya about later. He knew that Lamya would find something interesting to do with it. So he kept the fact that he found it a secret.
What he wasn't going to keep a secret was the one with Lena. He recreated the memory, but what he did was make sure that Luckas could see it from the outside. He wanted to make sure that Luckas could see every single emotion that both him and Lena had. He wanted to make sure that he could see Lena's dead body so far away, but be sure that he wouldn't be able to go over to touch it. Then, when the whole thing was over, he'd let it happen again. He'd let the entire conversation go. The conversation could not be heard, just like when Simon had first seen it. To make it a little more believable, however, he would let only a murmur be heard by the two of them.
With each repetition, the memory became more clear as well. Things would be a little sharper and each time, Luckas would seem to remember a little more about how he had killed the old hag until he saw the whole murder take place as Simon imagined that it happened.


Luckas snickered softly. He had heard Simon's whole speech at least fifty times before, and hey, maybe it was true and he was just like all the others, but really what would ever change for him if he chose to believe that? Nothing. It was just a waste of energy. "You know, out of all the nonsense you just spat out at me... 'Friends' is the most nonsensical word of all. You have no friends, no one gives a shit if you die, you are expendable, replaceable, the only reason you lived past age 12 is because you proved useful, isn't that a fact? If you stop being useful tomorrow I'm pretty sure your... heh... 'Friends' will stab you in the back, probably just because why not." His tone was calm and casual, and almost bored even. He was starting to care less and less for playing with Simon now... But of course he wasn't going to just leave, even if he just sat there until the King completely lost what little sanity he had, he wasn't going to be the one to cave, it just wasn't in him to do such a thing. "I think this is one of the most amusing things about human behavior though, isn't it? We all think we matter so damn much. Like you right now saying I bore you as if somehow that mattered to me. As if the fact that I failed to make you interested would keep me up at night forever. It's like I said... Everything you and I are doing here is pointless. It doesn't matter. Because you are as meaningless to me as I am to you. I don't disagree with that, I do the things I do for myself... I do what I do because I enjoy it, and I kill who I kill because that's what satisfies me the most. That's what I gain; gratification. Why else would I bother killing for?Money? Power? That's just useless, I don't need it. I'm just an ordinary guy after all."

When the Lena memory began forming itself, Luckas blinked, seeming a bit confused at first, but then understanding what he was watching himself do. His only reaction was a slightly annoyed snort, deciding to turn his attention to Rick for a little while, choosing to ignore Simon and his silly little attempts to affect him, because he knew that the longer they played in there, the weaker the man's mind would get. He got some flashes of what the King liked to do in his spare time, which actually started to make him seem a bit more interesting to him than Simon... Maybe not someone he would bother playing with either, but just someone he'd enjoy seeing gone. He was probably not the only one, but then he wasn't concerned with Blackpond and its people and whatever consequences there may be. That wouldn't matter for long anyway. And then something odd happened; Luckas saw another flash of the ballroom, but this time all the faces had changed to someone else who wasn't him, or Simon, or Lena... It was the blind girl he often saw on Jake's mind; Crys. When the flash faded, the Lena memory was still repeating itself. Luckas shook his head, amusement spreading across his face. "Entertaining..." He mumbled under his breath. "Are you done?" He asked simply. "You know, I read that when Time's daughter went to hell, her punishment was to relive the same moment in time indefinitely, supposedly so that she would learn the importance of all the time she took from others... Are you trying to create some form of hell for me now? Hm? You're doing a poor job of it, if that's the case." He stated simply, with a mild shrug. "You talk plenty, but you still haven't made me leave, or wish I had, like you said you would. So either I don't bore you as much as you claim, or you simply can't do it."

Simon was through with the silly little games. It was very obvious to him that Luckas wanted to take this to the next level. He wanted to see some of the serious stuff. Luckas only really knew the blackness of the world. Luckas would look at the rose with his frigged black eyes and see the distorted blur of a bleeding heart.
"You kill for something better than anyone else does? For no reason at all? If it was for no reason, you wouldn't kill only the low lives of society who cheat and are dishonest. You would kill the honest priest, the innocent child and even the homeless man who is after nothing else but a bit of change to make it to the next day. You'd kill the noble nobleman, who would like nothing more than to just live his life and no one else's. No, from the memories I've seen from you, you only go after the low lives... and Lena, but those were for selfish reasons I'm sure."
Simon then did it. He pulled the trigger on the crossbow. He quickly siphoned through all the memories that Rick had. It didn't take long for him to figure out what he wanted to keep and what he wanted to get rid of. The only memories he chose to keep were those of Rick's sexual desires and also those of anything related to the Shadow's Conflict. In reality, if he wanted to create the perfect weapon in any of the Shadow's Conflict, the members were so comfortable with him looking through their brain that he would be able to remove all memories from them except those related to the Conflict. Their only desire would be to serve the conflict and they would be almost superhuman. What was the fun in that? Someone with a personality to pick through was always far more interesting.
"I don't know about you, but my friends will find usefulness in me until I'm dead. There is no way that they will ever kill me, so I have nothing to fear. Even if I was to betray them, the redhead whom you'd met the other day would find use enough in me. She would defiantly never kill me directly. I have nothing to worry about."
With that, he let all of Rick's sexual memories and fantasies all come to fruition within the scope of the ballroom. Now that this was all Rick could think of, a vision of the real ballroom as seen by Rick could be seen. All the real people in the ballroom could all also be seen. Soon, the scene of the ballroom changed to accompass Rick's real desires. A version of him instantly started to violate every single person in the room. Man, woman or animal in every imaginable way possible. "This is what you wanted to see?"


Luckas sighed softly, a tone of impatience breaking through his tone. "You are what, five, six years older than me, Simon? Don't tell me you are so... um... naive, as to believe there are such things as unselfish reasons to do anything. Regardless, I never said I kill for no reason. I said I kill for me. For my own reasons. That these particular people give me the most satisfaction... If you were as good in what you do as you say... You would be able to say exactly why after all the time we've spent together, but your reading of my..." Luckas paused, releasing his next word amongst a chuckle. "...Emotions... Is just as superficial as your view on human nature seems to be. Nonetheless... I've killed my share of innocents, you have to diversify to find the most suited prey, I've killed good men, women, children, and a bunny rabbit or two, but the low lives... The scum... They are more satisfying to break, because they are usually as arrogant as they are weak. It's a pretty fun combination for me... I like to watch them struggle even when there's no hope. It is as much a personal preference as it is a service to society in a way, even if society doesn't seem to agree with me most times." Luckas paced calmly through the ballroom as the scene began to shift again, a bothered expression crossing his features at what it portrayed, he snorted an shook his head in aggravation. This was actually exactly what Luckas wanted to see, although he didn't feel he needed to see much of it. Still, it served the same purpose. "Hmph, yes, that is in fact all I needed to see. I much appreciate it." He muttered, continuing his constant pacing through the scene, a mild look of annoyance in his eyes. "Now are you done?" He added.

Simon looked around the room, truly disgusted by what he was seeing. It was just... deplorable, but knowing Rick, he understood. It wasn't like he didn't know what would happen behind closed doors in the castle. If anyone knew, better than anyone, it would be him. Simon just ignored what he was looking at and focused on Luke. Luke's gaze made him appear unaffected. "You are really sick, you know that?" Simon said. "But I understand. It all has to do with your past; your brother; the 'special' therapy that Lena would give you. Oh, but you are nothing like your brother though. Am I right? You only go after the ones like him." Pointing to the Rick that was sitting at his throne, cherishing all these moments he was having in his mind. "Too bad you couldn't maintain any humanity while you were at it. Instead, you look at the memories that have affected your life and suppress them until they became nothing to you. That is why you can't remember anything Luke and that is why Lena could never help you. You didn't have any humanity left for her to dig into. You only kept the things that made you less human. If you wanted to become an individual, then you did it pretty well. I bet your brother wasn't even as twisted as you were. Hard to think isn't it? Well, enjoy killing Rick now." With that, Simon cut his connection to Rick's and Luke's minds and fell back into reality.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dastan Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher Character Portrait: Ess Character Portrait: Ari Lupir Character Portrait: Darren Hearst Character Portrait: Samantha 'Johnson'
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#, as written by Essence
Ess quirked a brow, playfully biting her lip as the Alpha mentioned her having left her named carved into the table back at the Inn; the night of the Xypher incident. “Hmm, my apologies...it was an act...simply done subconsciously while I had been preoccupied with thoughts elsewhere. I wouldn’t want you to have some sort of notion of me, because of something so small, so..” Essence dipped her head slightly, her fingers sliding along her waist as if checking for a coin purse, pausing in a momentary daze appearing as if she forgot what she was looking for. A teasing smile confirmed quite the opposite when she reached into her corset to retrieve a small pouch jingling with coin. “..This should cover it..” She whispered, dropping the pouch in his hand. “I can assure you, if I was the one on your arm, I doubt I’d be bored, but if I was you’d know by the amount of trouble I may start.” Ess giggled, drawing in a sharp breath when the Alpha mentioned her last name. “Alright..Sean. Funny how rumors are, they tend to be correct but lacking detail which is just another reason I like to meet the subject of said rumors and decide for myself. Tell me...If you know my name from your table at the Inn, tell me how you know my last name. I only carved Ess into the wood. Why would someone so insignificant like myself be known to you? Unless...” Ess was cut off, speaking to downplay herself as much as possible as she was momentarily distracted by a balled up handkerchief lightly bouncing off the Alpha’s shoulder. Glancing around to see if she could find the source of the flying object, something brushed between herself and Sean but when she looked to see what it had been, assuming Tala, a black blur simply disappeared into the crowd. That was when she noticed a dark-haired woman’s gaze upon her. Ess froze a moment, startled to realize she was being watched by the woman from Luckas’ memory; the one she drew for him and who had visited the camp. To say Ess was intrigued was an understatement. It was more like a trance which her curiosity had taken a firm hold of her so that she politely excused herself from Sean with a promise to return shortly and began to walk in the direction of the woman.

Sam had been watching, waiting. If there was one thing she believed was truly valuable it was an opportunity; a chance, because in life there were only so many of those to go around and she wouldn’t dare waste a single one. Especially not one that presented itself to her this way... So willingly. Almost like a gift. It was difficult to keep a politely curious expression as the woman she’d been watching from a small distance caught sight of her and excused herself from the Wolfpack’s Alpha. The man was another of the few people who peaked Sam’s interest, but the right opportunity to approach him hadn’t presented itself yet, unlike his female companion.

Once it was absolutely clear that the woman’s intention was to approach her, Sam moved from where she was standing and started calmly pacing in the redhead’s direction giving her a friendly nod as if greeting a long time acquaintance. “It was just about time... You know, I’ve been meaning to have a word with you.” She said to the woman in a tone of curiosity, her green eyes examining the woman standing before her in a more thorough assessment, her amusement fading momentarily from her features, quickly replaced by a polite smile. “Lukey has a point, you really are a pretty lady.”

The idea of being watched was no longer a paranoia but more of a validation when the familiar woman who caught Ess’ gaze moved to meet her. Ess had been relying on that little bit of time that it took to reach the figure, to ponder what she was going to exactly say to the woman from Luckas’ memory. It worked out when she spoke first while at the same time catching Essence off guard at the woman’s knowledge of her. “I take it, Luckas discovered I wasn’t lying when I told him I had heard of you searching for him.” She stated simply with a sigh, bowing her head slightly. “I’m surprised he mentioned me at all, honestly. You are quite gracious with the pleasantries but I fear I don’t compare much to you, now that we are side by side.” Ess’ eyes glossed over, violet hues burying any trace of their silver decor. She smiled sweetly to push aside any uncomfortable feelings that may have been lingering at the idea of this stranger knowing much of anything about her. It was an awkward disadvantage but this was also something Essence was use to and considering the past couple days, she braced herself, awaiting whatever else would lay in wait. “Luckas..” She quickly rushed over the name as she continued, “..he must be thrilled to know you are alive. I’m happy for him..”

Sam let out a small chuckle at the mention of Luckas being told about her, she wasn’t sure he would get the message, but she wasn’t surprised to know he didn’t believe it. “Oh, good, so he was told about me. I was wondering if he would get the message, not all were pleasant in your camp. Although, can’t blame your Captain for my troubles... She was actually quite nice... Not what I expected I’ll admit.” Sam let her gaze wander from her company to quietly scan the room as if searching for something before she snickered. “Oh, well... Truth be told... Luckas didn’t mention you to me. No. He has been as of late trying to pretend you don’t exist, and even if he is lousy as it... He hasn’t mentioned you once, not directly. I have been, as you know, looking for him for a very long time though... I’ve learned some things about his life in the process. More so in the past couple of days than in the last few years combined.” Sam’s green eyes once again scanned the woman standing before her and she nodded dismissively. “I’m not one for comparisons, miss... I’m sorry, I am yet to learn your name... Or should I just call you Lady?” She paused for a second as if the idea of using the nickname made her awkward. “I guess not... but either way... I would say beauty is in the eye of beholder, so I’m not inclined to disagree with Luckas if that is what he sees. Besides, I know him more than well enough to know he doesn’t usually take an interest on anyone unless they are... Special... Somehow.” The woman’s eyes darkened momentarily at the word ‘special’, but otherwise her tone remained friendly, and curious... If anything she was genuinely curious. “I wouldn’t describe Luckas as thrilled at the moment... Confused surely, angry I would guess, but not exactly thrilled, at least not yet. I can’t blame him, our... Separation... Was a rather traumatic event for us both. Nice that you are happy for him. I’m glad he has such a good friend.”

Ess nodded attentively as she half listened while the woman spoke. “Funny thing with expectations...were you disappointed? I admit, the boys mean well but they can be a bit extreme when strangers come strolling into a camp unexpectedly.” She shrugged off Sam’s comment on not being mentioned, her eyes narrowing briefly as her smile grew wider. “I wish him luck in wherever his path leads him.” Essence purposely didn’t respond at the insinuation of Sam knowing as much as she did without Luckas’ knowledge. ‘The Stalker has a Stalker..’ She thought in amusement to herself. “...Sam.... correct? Essence...”

“My fellow subjects, guests, figurehead… welcome—”

Ess crossed her arms lazily and glanced over Sam’s shoulder, pursing her lips she let out a shrill whistle that resonated in a quick tune. Letting her gaze fall back to the dark haired woman before her, she continued as if she hadn’t paused, acting as if she didn’t hear a distant series of barks and a small crash amidst the the clammer of people. Ess didn't even pay attention to the source of the crash, which was the chandelier that had momentarily interrupted the King's speech. “ Special is an interesting choice of words, but I don’t find it quite fitting for myself. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to matter much as Luckas made it quite clear that he doesn’t want me around. However, I am not one to break my word or lie so when I say I am his friend, that hasn’t and won’t change even with what traumatic experience he may be dealing with. Times like these, we need to hold onto what opportunities present themselves; twisted and serene alike.” Clearing her throat she quirked a brow, a curious and slightly condescending tone creeping into her sweet tone briefly before dissipating back to her gentle allure. “So, I assume it’s safe to believe you’ll help Luckas through whatever ails him, especially since you had been searching for him for so long.”

“Disappointed? Not quite the term I’d use. I mean, I do understand... I can be very, very, territorial, in my own way. I didn’t mind the way I was halted on my way in, and like I said, your Captain was quite nice, considering her history with... Matt...” Sam stopped to clear her throat, a small, very faint, spark of anger crossing her eyes. “I was bothered by one person in particular though, who was very hostile, not only towards me, but also towards Luckas, and that bothered me very much. I’m not, in any way easily angered, but I do hope I never see this man again. I don’t like people who talk too much of things they know nothing of.” The woman took a deep breath to push back the annoyance that had reached her voice as she spoke, shaking her head as if trying to physically push it all aside. “Doesn’t sound much like Luckas... To make anything clear. He’s rarely sure of anything, that boy... I’m sure, sooner or later he’ll turn up again. I’m curious though, Essence... What interest you have in Lukey? Don’t get me wrong, just... I’m sure you are well aware of that fact people don’t tend to warm up to him, and he’s a complicated boy. He sees something in you, and that’s why he comes back, if it’s still there he’ll keep coming back... That’s in his nature, but you... What do you see?” Sam went silent, leaving the question in the air for a few seconds before running her fingers through the strands of her hair, and letting out a small chuckle. “Hey, maybe it’s none of my business anymore after all this time, but I always have been... Insanely protective of my boys... And Lukey is still quite innocent in some ways. I worry for what messes he may get himself into.” Raising an eyebrow as if honestly confused by the question of whether she would help Luckas, Sam replied; her stance changing slightly to a more serious one. “Of course I’ll help him... With anything he needs.”

“Matt...” Ess whispered with a hint of sympathy. She only knew bits and pieces from what Luckas had mentioned of his brother to her, it didn’t seem like his brother’s end was unjustified or that Luckas held any ill will towards the Captain for taking Matthew’s life. Yet, she couldn’t imagine how difficult a situation like that must be for someone to still care and love someone that many only knew as a monster. “I can’t imagine how you could be so resolved around the person responsible for his death, no matter the reasoning. Please accept my.... sincere...condolences..” Ess didn’t know if she could understand, which was more the reasoning behind her inability to imagine how this woman felt. While she did honestly mean what she said, a subtle, sickening feeling was crawling from her stomach and up her throat. Swallowing hard, she tilted her head in curiosity. “I’m sure Luckas’ curiosity will bring him around again, but I just may not realize it. I understand and accept your protective nature over him as you do have somewhat of a claim upon him, which I respect.” Ess’ body shifted, unfolding her arms so that she appeared to be in more of defensive stance, yet her fingers were well away from any of her blades. “You’re right though, what I ‘See’ in him, if you don’t already know yourself, is not your business,...respectively. However, I will say this. Anyone who has the primal urge to do what he does and go against that instinct, has more to them than they let on. Even to himself, it seems. That and I enjoyed..his company...not that it really matters now.” Waving her hand dismissively she took a step back. “I feel you want to know if I am a threat to him. A natural thing to wonder. Have you come to any conclusions yet?”

“Responsibility has many levels, Essence... If I was to start blaming people for Matty, then I’d probably have a huge list on my hands, that would at some point include myself as well, it’s best to just leave it alone.” Sam stated, simply nodding and not addressing the offer of condolences, her gaze lowering for a brief moment before finding Ess’ eyes again. “I have to appreciate your Captain for her honesty, however brutal it may have been at that particular moment... Not many would look someone in the eyes and admit to killing someone they cared for... I certainly would not.” A smile crossed the woman’s expression again at Ess’ replies to her questioning, amusement crossing her eyes in the form of a faint yellow spark of light. “I apologize if this is considered... an intrusion of sorts... I don’t mean to pry, exactly.” The woman’s eyes once again scanned the room, and her smile changed slightly as she seemed to have spotted a familiar face, but she made no mention of it and continued to speak. “Threat is not the term, I think. I do have my concerns for Luckas though. He is young and rather impressionable still... If I have my facts straight, and if not please do say so, but Lukey was still a boy when the two of you met, no? Fourteen or fifteen, if my math is correct... About as long ago as he’s known that healer... The one who died... The one who used his faulty memories as an excuse to run experiments on him... I’m sure you see my point in asking these things. I know he has killed for you at least once before.... I just wonder what kind of influence you may be on him.”

“I apologize if this is considered... an intrusion of sorts... I don’t mean to pry, exactly.”

Essence brushed a stray curl behind her ear, holding back a snicker at Sam’s polite tip toeing as she pushed her questioning further. Ess looked away as if pretending to ponder the answer before focusing back on the woman’s green eyes. “No..I bet you don’t mean to intrude..” She stated with a bit of sarcasm. Listening as the woman continued, she straightened and shifted her stance once again as if she was uncomfortable at the sudden facts of herself that the woman was regurgitating. The reality of it was more annoyance than anything which she hide away, an innocent look of wonder taking over her expression instead. “Funny...for someone who seems to know so much about me, you didn’t even know my name. I find it quite interesting that you know so much as if you been keeping an eye on Luckas, especially if he hasn’t mentioned me to you. I wonder though, if that was the case, what makes now of all times the opportune moment to make yourself known to him?” Pausing to let the rhetorical question linger in the air, she let out a tired sigh. Essence didn’t feel she needed to answer the woman’s questions, especially since she didn’t talk about that encounter with anyone besides Luckas himself. It was definitely not common knowledge. Instead she focused on a detail Sam mentioned about Luckas’ faulty memories, a devilish sneer crossing her lips as her eyes darkened before flickering with a silverish glow. “Fake memories.....and since you are here before me, does that happen to include the one of your death? Huh...No...that didn’t come up around Lena..” Ess trailed off as if she was just remembering something important yet she neglected to revisit the conversation. “Lena, I only met briefly so I am actually ignorant to what you speak of. That’s quite alright though, especially since Luckas and I hadn’t known each other that long, I don’t expect to know everything. Luckas is a bright, young man. I’m sure he came make his own decisions and come to his own conclusions so if anything or anyone makes an impression upon him, that’s his choice...”

Ess’ attention was momentarily distracted as she heard another crash and a series of short barks. She couldn’t hold back her amusement, yet she knew she needed to restrain her furry friend from causing a scene. Bringing her fingers to her lips, in one single breath, she released a lower whistle, calling Tala back to her. Essence didn’t see Tala, but instead felt her as she appeared by her side, a wet nose brushing against her hand. The wolf’s growl was low enough to be heard only as a rumble, yet she could feel the severity of it with the vibrations along her fingertips. Glancing down she smiled at her, gently patting her head. “Shhh...easy, be polite now.” She whispered towards the wolf before pulling her attention back to Sam. “So...you seem to know plenty about me, at least where Luckas is concerned, so why ask questions you already know the answer to?”

"Welcome!" The king continued on with his speech, a faded buzzing of background noise since her attention was more focused with the woman before her.

Sam arched an eyebrow, an intrigued expression on her face as she repeated Ess’ words. “Fake... Memories...? Who told you that now? I guess that explains though, how you knew my face... My death... Did he show you? Not all of it was fake, no... But if you want details, ask him when you see him. I have nothing to say about that... To you. I will say this... I wasn’t really planning to just show up, I wanted him to come find me, ask questions first, because I didn’t want to shock him that way, but instead he showed up completely out of his mind so I had to change my plans. See... Something... Really upset him.” Sam’s tone was losing its gentleness along the conversation, not that it mattered anyway, she was well aware that it wasn’t really convincing anyone. At the wolf’s arrival Sam tensed, only slightly, a look of annoyance crossing her green eyes and fading as she continued on as if she hadn’t noticed the animal at all. “Why do people ask questions, Essence? Usually because there is something they are looking to learn from another, no? If I wanted facts, which yes, I know plenty about... I could simply ask Lukey about them, but what I’m looking to learn here is something a bit more subjective than that. I am... Taking my conclusions. As I’m sure you’ve drawn your own by now.”

“Did I misunderstand you? Only a few moments ago you mentioned Lena and..” Ess scratched the base of her neck as she quoted Sam’s words, as if unsure of herself but knowing what had been said. “...The one who used his faulty memories as an excuse to run experiments on him..” Even if I took that out of context, you confirmed seconds ago that there were false memories, as well when you asked who told me this, when it was you; twice now. How I found out, was simply...unintentional on either our parts.” Ess shrugged, stifling a fake yawn as she kept the details of how exactly she saw the false memory of Sam’s death, to herself. “I tried to ask him questions when I saw him clearly distraught but since he refused to answer them, guess I may never know.” Falling silent she simply nodded, quietly scratching Tala behind the ears, a bit of her smile returning. Ess was indeed drawing some conclusions of her own but they were still far from complete. The reasoning behind Luckas’ outburst and attempt at pushing Ess away from him was starting to make a bit more sense as she began gathering a couple theories in her mind. Either direction her mind went when contemplating the woman before her just ended in that sickening feeling that continued to creep up on her. It really seemed to her that this woman’s true motive of questioning was indeed far from what she was presenting and it was a tactic Ess knew more than most; a game she felt hell bent on not losing.

“Well, unless there’s something else of ernest that interests you, if you’ll excuse me, I have other acquaintances to visit with. I don’t wish to be rude, but there are some matters that need.. attending to...” ..Like a stiff drink... Ess thought to herself. Casually she slid her hand along her lower back, nail tapping gently along the hilt of her dagger as if to verify it was still there before she moved to turn from the woman, giving a polite nod. Tala didn’t move to follow at first, simply sitting on her haunches to stare at Sam, intent on not losing sight of her it seemed. Ess heard the wolf’s growl echo from behind her into a snarl causing her to snap her attention back, snapping her fingers for Tala to fall in at her side. Tala ignored Ess at first before slowly standing and taking careful steps around Sam to follow without taking her sapphire blues off the figure.

Essence tensed with each step, her eyes catching the King of Blackpond continuing with his speech, still only catching bits and pieces. 'Definitely need a drink...' She thought, making her way back towards Sean. On the way she passed by Dastan but after a few steps she turned around, not caring that he appeared to be engaged in conversation with a woman, and reached around him to snatch away a glass he was holding and down the liquor with a surprising haste. Handing back the empty glass she winked, muttering an apology for her rudeness. "...Don't look at me like that...I'll owe you something vintage and worth the impolite intrusion.." Continuing on she took a double take at the woman who had been talking to Dastan, pretty sure she recognized the blond from the distressed encounter the night of the Xypher encounter but she didn't say a word, only smiled, not thinking anything of it as she nodded and continued on.

"My apologies again, Sean, something came up.." Ess began, gently reaching out to lightly tap the man on his shoulder, just as she heard a raspy voice mutter cold and condescendingly behind her.

"Now I think I understand....Looks like you are still very good at what you do, Pigeon." Ebony began behind her. "All dressed up, still trying to be something you're not. No matter. You can try to scrub shit clean but it's still...shit. Once a whore...always a whore.."
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Darren was confused and deeply sickened by the Ebony's words as he tried to piece the puzzle together. He kept thinking of the journal and how badly he wished he could read it. The boy really had no idea what he was getting into as he tried to walk around the two men blocking his path.

“Nice try, Pal...but you aren’t going anywhere...”

“Awe, come now, Guy...I don’t have any issues with you....I doubt the woman is paying you enough to receive a beating for her pathetic troubles, so why not just skip the brutish attempt and let me pass..” Darren stated, crossing her arms nonchalantly.

“Gentlemen... Do you have some sort of... Issue... With my friend here?”
Darren smirked at the sound of Jake’s voice, announcing his presence behind the men, distracting one of them enough so he turned around to answer Jacob. “Hey, Buddie, this really isn’t any of your busin-”

”For Blackpond!”

Darren didn’t delay at the sudden cry followed by the clamor of armor and the metal of swords ringing out as a blockade of men held a line by the stairwell. Now with only one pair of eyes directly on him, the other mercenary left at the attention of Jake, he leapt forward, kicking out at the man’s knee cap with a sharp crack. It caught Darren as odd for mercenaries on the job to not be wearing much of anything for armor even if they were trying to fit in with the party decor. Nevertheless, the man only groaned at the pain, moving to swing his fists immediately at Darren’s face which he bounced in and out of range comically, avoiding every attempt with ease and amusement. Darren hadn’t carried in any weapons and wasn’t the least bit intimidated when he was cursed at, his opponent unsheathing his sword and releasing a flurry of lunges and attacks. Darren sidestepped, spinning so he was beside the man’s extended arms where they fought for control of the sword. Back and forth they tugged and twisted to gain control before finally Darren let go, the sword slicing through his shirt to just miss his torso and deliver a punch to the face followed by a series of snapping motions along the mercenary’s neck. Pinching off blood supply at the nape of his neck to his brain caused the man to stumble, dropping his sword before falling to his knees to receive a roundhouse to the side of his head.

“Man...I never get to have anything nice...” He muttered, complaining about his now ruined dress shirt.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dastan Character Portrait: Luckas Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Allison Blake Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher Character Portrait: Ess Character Portrait: Ari Lupir Character Portrait: Darren Hearst Character Portrait: Samantha 'Johnson'
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Adam had left Lizzy to play with her new toy. Even though he was less than pleased with her for dragging the boy this far, he knew it would be completely pointless to try and argue about it. So he wandered around the ballroom by himself idly observing the dancing couples and chatting groups, registering some suspicious behavior here and there, but not really making much of it; unless he had direct orders, he couldn’t care less for what other did with their time. In the middle of his quiet observation, the man was beyond startled by a rather forceful hand firmly gripping his... Behind... and an unknown voice speaking out in amusement. “Hello there, pretty, wanna dance?”
Adam responded by immediately turning on this stranger and pinning him against the nearest wall, his eyes meeting a familiar blue gaze as the redhead teenager who had ‘assaulted’ him snickered. “I love it when you play rough, Addy.” The man didn’t need anything else to recognize the assailant and he released the boy, snorting angrily and turning as if to walk away. “Wait, wait, wait... Adam, wait uuuup.” The boy called with laughter in his tone, literally skipping after Adam as he tried to get away. “I have a message for you... Hey... Stop... Hey... Adam... She’s here.”
The words halted Adam immediately and he turned around frantically looking about as if he even knew who it was he was searching for.
“Heh, thought that’d get your attention. Now you know very well Lizzy shouldn’t be bringing souvenirs from Newhaven. I already passed that message on to her. So your orders are to lose the kid... And do it discreetly... Nod if you understand me hun.”
Adam nodded giving up the search for the unfamiliar face of his Mistress and turning to face the boy. “Fine.” He muttered, leading the way to where he had last seen his sister and her new acquaintance.

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“That’s not fair...”
“I’m just passing the message along, Lizzy, do you want to disobey? Be my guest.”
“Fine, I’ll keep tabs on the boy, you go find Addy for me, okay?”
“Sounds like a plan.”


Ali opened her eyes, blue specks of light still flickering along her irises as she let her gaze fall to the teenage boy in guard’s uniform. Sean didn’t know his brother was there, that much she knew, and for what the boy’s companions were whispering, it seemed like no one else would either if they went through with what they were planning. She hoped that kid knew how to fend for himself, because those people didn’t seem like they were kidding around. Almost as if on cue at that thought a familiar and unfriendly voice spoke beside her, sounding a bit tipsy. “Don’t think we finished our talk.”
“I don’t think we ever started talking, Ryan, and I also think you are a bit drunk, but hopefully not drunk enough to be stupid... As much as it would be entertaining to watch people’s faces if I pushed you down from this balcony... That would draw a bit of unwanted attention to us both.”
“You think you’re so great because Dani trusted you... Pfft...”
“Dani took a long time to trust me, I’ll have you know, and I earned whatever amount of trust it was...” Ali stated calmly, leaning against the edge of the balcony where she had settled to watch the people below, not turning to face the man. “Don’t try to repeat Sean’s bullshit as if you knew me or what I’ve been through to get here, Ryan... Actually the best part of being exiled is that I don’t have to give a shit about Sean’s opinions anymore... Or move a finger to help that idiot brother of his.” She stated pointing Donovan out on the crowd. “You, on the other hand, better move... I have a feeling the kid’s disappearance would make the Alpha rather pissy.”

Ali waited for the Wolf to rush down to the lower level before moving herself; sure she didn’t have to help, but she had nothing against Donovan and finding who were those people he was with could be a good idea. While Ryan was making his way to snatch Donovan away from the woman that seemed to be dragging him around somewhere more quiet, Ali found the blond man that had been keeping them company just moments ago. She noticed that both of them, as well as the redhead boy that had later joined them, were wearing fully black clothing and it gave the impression they were on uniform; even though the clothes themselves were not the same, and she remembered AJ wearing similarly black clothes. Maybe it was unrelated; a lot of people wore black clothing, but something just didn’t seem right with those people, and Ali felt that regardless of whether they had anything to do with her former friend, it was important to know a bit more. Slowly she made her way after the two men, more trying to see how long it would take for them to notice the fact she was stalking them and not simply trying to cross the crowded ballroom.

The redhead boy didn’t seem to notice her, or maybe he didn’t care, but the blond man tensed slightly as he walked, and she was absolutely sure he was keeping track of her movements as well. She acted as though she didn’t notice the change however and keep following; the distance between them getting shorter every couple of steps until she reached them and grabbed the blond by his wrist, calling out to him as if he were a friend. “Hey, stranger!”
The man reacted extremely fast to the contact spinning around to push Ali away, lunging at her as if he wanted to rip her head right off. It took Ali all of her restraint to not react the way she was trained to and shrink down as if trying to take cover from a blow that never came; presumably because the redhead boy quickly stepped in between the two. “Easy now, Adam... That’s no way to treat a lady.” The kid half-scolded slowly pushing the taller man back a step. “I think he likes you, you two know each other?” he asked, making sure his friend was calm and turning to face Ali with a childish curiosity in his eyes.
Ali shook her head, a very convincing freaked out look in her eyes. “No, I... Mistook your friend for somebody else... I apologize.” She explained, raising her eyes to the man who was openly glaring at her over the boy’s head and directing her apology at him before turning back to his friend. “And I surely don’t want to find out how your friend acts with people he doesn’t like then.”
“I’m sorry if Adam startled you miss... He’s a little bit jumpy right now, that’s all.” He smiled a bit reassuringly. “It’s my fault, I like to play tricks on him and I might have overdone it.” Taking a polite bow the young man extended his hand in greeting. “I’m Wyatt, by the way.”
Ali was listening to the younger man, but her attention was mostly on his companion as the man had not stopped staring at her in annoyance as if she had spat in his face instead of simply trying to draw his attention and she was rather amused by the overreaction. “Wyatt... What a lovely name. I’m Allison.”
“Allison, that... Is a pretty pendant you have...” Wyatt asked, reaching for the wooden bird hanging from a string necklace over the woman’s chest, his index finger lightly grazing her skin in the process. “Did you make this?”
Ali wasn’t unaware of this boy was doing, and in other circumstances some fingers would be broken at this point, but she only reacted by quietly retreating a step and smiling politely. “Yes, I made it myself. It is quite simple, but I think it serves its purpose. Do you... Like birds?”

As she spoke those words a small commotion took place as a chandelier dropped down, Ali could see that the object had fallen, ironically, under the weight of a bird that had perched itself on it. Ali followed with the corner of her eyes as man rescued the animal, and she continued to observe long enough to watch the bird change into a wolf and the man walk away. Ali smirked at the scene and wondered if the Alpha knew what his new pups were off doing. Donovan, she was sure, was not meant to be here, what about the girl? Sean was biting off more than he could chew with that one.

Wyatt’s answer came as soon as Ali’s attention was back on him, which made it very clear he had been watching to see what she was so interested in. “I like many things... Maybe one day we’ll discuss them in detail somewhere more private.”
“You... Are very forward, sir.” Ali stated, her tone lingering somewhere between annoyance and amusement.
“I’ve been told.” Wyatt chuckled. “Is that a bad thing? Would it be preferable to hide my intentions, whatever they may be, behind mindless chatter? I feel that’s a bit dishonest.”
“You can learn quite a bit from mindless chatter, perhaps that intimidates you in some way?” Ali asked curiously. “Honesty now seems like a very subjective term. Personally I think that if attempt to control how people perceive you, you are not truly being honest, but that’s just my opinion.”
The boy snickered, amused by her words. “And now who is being forward, huh?”
“Perhaps I’m only being honest, Wyatt... It’s a bad habit of mine.”
“Perhaps, but then... I don’t know what your intentions are yet... Miss Blake.”
Ali’s eyes narrowed slightly although she made sure to keep a curious demeanor as she noted. “I don’t recall mentioning my family name... So perhaps you are less honest about your intentions that you say you are.”
“Perhaps we’re both being dishonest in some ways, or maybe... I’m just trying to keep you interested. Mystery is always a good thing.” Wyatt replied with a playful smirk. “It’s been nice, but we should be moving along before my friend here gets too antsy... We’ll meet again, I bet.”
“Oh, I look forward to it, sir... And your friend too.” She extended her gaze to Adam and gave the man a friendly nod, holding back amusement as he simply snorted in response and started to walk away. Ali wasn’t as good at reading people as some were, not like Bastian once was or like Jake could be at times, but... She could just tell... Something about her had bothered this Adam guy; bothered him in some deeper level for some reason. She wondered what it could be, and she wondered who they were. The younger boy had a slightly psychotic note to his speech, he hid it fairly well, but it was still there, and how did he know her last name? No one, aside from people she considered friends, was ever given her family name. She was curious, confused, and very suspicious of these people, but there was little time to dwell on it however... Bigger things were being set motion as she distracted herself with her new acquaintances and it all became very clear when a man shouted launching a strike against the king.

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“Hey, Buddie, this really isn’t any of your busin-”

“For Blackpond!”


Jake stood with arms crossed, unfazed by the commotion started by Alexander and his little group and just as unmoved by Darren’s attack on the other mercenary, the man standing right before him turned his attention momentarily to his colleague, and Jake could have taken him out there, but he’d rather not injure a man for simply doing his job. “Look... Buddie...” Jake started, acting as though there wasn’t a fight happening between the other two men. “You got a job to do, I get it, you’re being paid and all, but I doubt you’re being paid enough for what I’ll do to you. So maybe this here is the best time to back off.”
The man turned his attention back to Jake at his words, a look of amusement and disbelief plastered on his face as if he didn’t think Jake could possibly be serious. “Is this the part where I thank you for sparing me, boy?”
“That would be the polite thing to do, but as I feel you won’t be doing the polite thing, this is probably the part where you fail to hit me and ends up seriously injured. Too bad, pal... You seem like a decent guy, probably just trying to support your family, and I’d rather not leave you incapacitated and unable to provide for several weeks, but hey... suit yourself.” Jake spoke in a calm, matter-of-factly, almost bored, tone that made him sound like an arrogant prick, but he was being truthful; he didn’t see a point or purpose in hurting this guy, but he knew that he was going to, because guys like this didn’t back away from confrontation. It was a pride thing, Jake knew it well. He saw it coming as the man started to laugh, shaking his head in amusement, his laughter cut short as he sung his fist at Jake in one swift and forceful blow; it was a good effort, but it just wasn’t fast enough, not to mention ridiculously predictable. Jake ducked under the man’s fist and blocked another incoming blow with his open palm as he straightened himself up, pushing the man’s fist away from his face and hitting him back with an open palm almost in a mocking fashion. At this point he wasn’t bothering with trying to dissuade the man, but actually outright taunting him. “Last chance to walk away, mate... Take it while I’m feeling generous.”

The mercenary didn’t laugh this time, the man was angered by the provocation, the mockery was enough to make this personal for him, his fighting showed in its recklessness and fury, while Jake’s movements were calculated and nearly mechanical, quickly he avoided the man’s advances and breached the man’s defenses landing two precise blows to the man’s face; the first to the nose, the second to the jaw, which were followed by a forceful kick to the stomach which left him on his knees on the ground gasping for air. Jake kneeled as if he was going to check if the man was alright, but that wasn’t his intention in the slightest, and the moment he touched the mercenary the man fell unconscious, face down, to the floor, a glimpse of a dark needle disappearing underneath Jake’s sleeve as he stood up straight, pulling on the dark grey cuff of his jacket.

Darren had knocked out the other mercenary just as Jake looked up from the knocked out man at his feet; a look of utter annoyance slowly melting from his expression. Catching the boy’s complaint about his ruined shirt was enough to put a look of amusement back to Jake’s blue eyes and he laughed lightly. “Better it’d be the shirt than you, huh?” He teased, poking Darren where the sword would have slashed him. “What is the deal with these guys anyway?” He asked, his eyes absently looking around to the confusion Alexander had started, but not much caring to get involved. Not yet at least. As Irvin approached them looking a little bit disappointed to see that the mercenaries were taken care of, Jake gave the boy a nod. “Kid... Go check the ice on the doors... See if there’s something you can do about it.”
“Alright, but... I’m not sure if it’ll work.” Irvin replied, eyes scanning the frozen doors of the room one by one.
“Just go check it out and come right back, try to keep as far from this mess as possible, alright?”
“Okay, sounds easy enough.” Irvin stated, making off and half disappearing into the crowd as he made a way to one of the doors.

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Dastan was having fun at this party, surprisingly so. The music was fancier than he was used to and so were most of the guests, but the booze was of great quality and here and there he’d find something pretty to look at, and here and there... He’d get rewarded for his glances. After getting a few dances with some considerably attractive ladies and starting to get a little too tipsy to be charming in any respectable way, he approached one of the tables to get some food and maybe water for a change... Or maybe just the food... He wasn’t drunk to a point where he couldn’t afford to get any drunker quite yet. Just as he had finished pouring himself another drink he felt something collide into him, a hand grasping his arm for support. The man turned to see himself face to face with a little blond girl as she whispered an apology. Dastan snickered softly, his eyes scanning the girl from head to toe. He didn’t know her, or at least he didn’t think they’d met before but he thought he caught something in her eyes that told him otherwise... She seemed to know who he was. Either that or she was mistaking him for someone else. “No need to be apologizing now, miss... Takes a lot more than a little bump to knock me down.” He stated playfully, still looking over this girl as if searching for something he’d missed. “Do we know each other somehow? Or are you always this nervous-looking when you randomly grab strange men?” He asked with a curious look in his eyes. Just as he finished that sentence his attention was momentarily snatched by someone passing by and grabbing the drink out of his hand. By the time he managed to register what was happening he was being handed back his empty glass. "...Don't look at me like that...I'll owe you something vintage and worth the impolite intrusion.." Dastan scratched the back of his head in confusion as he watched Essence walk away, amusement slowly sinking in as he shook his head at the woman. “Great, that's the second redhead who owes me a drink." He whispered under his breath with a chuckle.

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Sean couldn’t help his complete amusement as Essence dropped a pouch of coin onto his hand as compensation for the table. He had been playing, obviously, and didn’t actually expect the woman to pay him for such a small thing; the one thing the Pack was not lacking was resources, but still he accepted the pay without as much as a hint of hesitation, weighing the pouch in his hand quietly and thinking that this was a bit more than enough for one little table. As he opened his mouth to speak however, his attention was caught by something soft hitting his shoulder, the man snatching a soft handkerchief before it had a chance to hit the ground. Unfolding the cloth Sean eyes narrowed as he read for only a second before he lifted his head to look around. As he turned his attention to his company once again, Essence was walking away, he thought he heard the woman say something about being right back, but he could barely catch her words. He kept one eyes on the woman curiously as he saw her approach a dark haired lady in a dark green dress. They both seemed way too polite with each other to be friendly, and it was an interesting interaction to watch, even if he couldn’t hear what was being said between them. Once again Sean turned his attention to the handkerchief and reread its message: ‘If you dare touch Ella or Jen today, I’ll be sure that today will also be the last day the Wolfpack ever threatens anyone’s lives in Valcrest.’

Sean knew very well who that message had come from and after reading it a couple of times more he couldn’t help a small fit of laughter. “Alright, Evin, I won’t touch them.” He mumbled under his breath, moving away from where he’d been waiting it didn’t take him too long to find Ryan. It wasn’t surprising that the man was hanging around him, what was surprising however was who was standing next to him. Sean frowned at the sight of Donovan, in guards uniform, in Blackpond, what the hell was that kid thinking? As he approached the two, Doni opened his mouth to speak, but Sean silenced him with a gesture. “I don’t want to hear it, Doni. You blew your cover completely by coming here tonight, do you know how many people in this room know your face? When the party ends, no matter how it ends, I want you to go straight back to camp.”
“What about Ari? You can’t leave her without backup.”
“Oh, I’ll take care of that kid, don’t you worry.” Sean muttered out, an annoyed snort escaping him as he handed Ryan the handkerchief. “This woman, Jen, I want you to care of it tonight, do you understand me? No bargaining, no taking prisoners, no nothing; Bana is not the target here and I don’t care about him right now, I just want this over and done with by morning.”

“I understand.” Ryan stated, taking the handkerchief into his pocket and bowing his head slightly. “Consider it done.” The man replied before wandering off into the crowd to tend to his task.
“Sean...” Donovan mumbled.
“Not here, we’ve already talked way too much. Just stay out of trouble and we’ll talk at home.” Sean replied turning away from the boy and looking around to see that Ess was still busy with the black haired woman.

Sean hung around the place where he was previously standing and watched with a hint of amusement in his eyes as the two women parted ways; that was not a friendly conversation, he could feel the tension as far as he was standing, and he was curious as to what could be the issue between his new acquaintance and that stranger. The man was soon distracted from that thought however as he spotted a silver wolf trotting after Essence on her way back to where he was standing. The young Alpha honestly seemed amazed by the sight as if he was a child; he had never even heard of a wolf following a human this way before. The forest wolves usually stayed away from people as much as possible, it was rare to even see one from afar. “Remarkable.” The man mumbled to himself as Ess reached him and the wolf started to sniff the hem of his pants curiously. His eyes only leaving the animal as the wolf tensed and emitted a low growl the somehow didn’t seem directed at him. It was clear that it was not the moment he spotted the woman approaching because his reaction was almost exactly the same; he tensed, and growled under his breath wondering what hell that bitch could possibly want this time.

"Now I think I understand....Looks like you are still very good at what you do, Pigeon."

Sean arched an eyebrow at the woman as she was addressing Essence. He wasn’t surprised that they knew one another; the old hag did try to order a hit on the woman, and it had become apparent to him by some people missing from her little guard detail that the woman had been involved in at least one more confrontation since the moment Sean last spotted her.

"All dressed up, still trying to be something you're not. No matter. You can try to scrub shit clean but it's still...shit. Once a whore...always a whore.."

Sean sighed softly, his clenched fist shivering slightly making it somewhat clear that he was really forcing himself to stand still and not immediately pull out a dagger and stab the woman’s face until it turned into something easier on the eyes. The only thing keeping him from doing so, in fact, was the realization that if he was... displeased... by this woman’s presence, it was nothing compared to his companion. “Well... Miss Talon... You were wondering how I knew your name... There you have it.” Sean spoke softly, his eyes glaring at the old had with nothing but pure contempt.

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Luckas felt the visions of Rick and his filth fade from his mind slowly, and he was glad. The man’s sickness would have revolted him much more if he hadn’t seen worse when he went after Jasper. It was not doubt Rick was equally sick, but Luke wasn’t fully in Rick’s mind, so if he had ever involved children in his depravities, it wasn’t clear, unlike Jasper... And that was the reason that guy was still number one; Luckas would never consider all the punishment he gave that son of a bitch to be enough. His black eyes immediately sought out the King amongst the crowd to see him be dragged away from the center of a huge commotion. It seemed their little playtime had caused Luke and Simon both to miss a bit of the action. From the corner where he had posted himself to watch Rick, Luckas’ eyes took in the sight of men moving on a half-organized attack against the Blackpond people, his mind slowly starting to register the situation. A fight had broken out, all exits were sealed, it wouldn’t be long until that turned into something incredibly ugly. Luke pushed himself away from the wall that had been supporting him through his conversation with Simon, looking around he felt a mix of relief and disappointment as he realized Tala was no longer following his footsteps; the wolf was a distraction, and in many ways an annoyance, but now Luckas felt somewhat alone without her. His eyes quickly scanned the ballroom again, spotting familiar faces one by one until they spotted the redhead woman from Jake’s memories... Crys. Luke’s eyes narrowed slightly and he started to pace towards the woman, but was halted by a familiar voice in his ear. “Another redhead, love? I’m starting to think you’ve got a fixation.”
Luckas snickered at the comment, but he couldn’t help but notice Sam’s tone was again that dangerously sweet one from before. “No, no fixation... Least not this time.” He replied turning to face the woman, his eyes searching her expression for any signs of aggravation, but finding none. Was he that bad at reading emotions was she that good at hiding them? “Are you upset?” He asked, his tone genuinely confused.
“Do I seem upset, Lukey?” Sam asked, raising an eyebrow questioningly at him. The woman didn’t seem to mind all the ruckus of fighting and shouting going in the background, nor did she seem concerned with being trapped in that room. In fact, Sam couldn’t possibly seem more calm and serene amongst all the chaos.
“I’m not sure, Sammy. If I knew, I wouldn’t need to ask.” Luckas replied, giving her a look of clear annoyance.
Sam smiled softly, reaching out and ruffling his hair playfully as if he were a little boy. “I know... And if you knew I was mocking you, you wouldn’t feel the need to explain that. I guess that’s just part of your charm though, hm?”
“I wouldn’t know about that. I don’t consider myself charming... Why would I?”
Sam snickered, shaking her head in silent disbelief. “Why would you, indeed.”
“Are you mocking me now?” He asked, sounding a bit confused by the whole conversation. Gladly he didn’t have to think about it for much longer as the loud redhead boy version of Amber appeared, bouncing towards them. “Heeeelllooooo!” The boy giggled. “Ain’t this a fun party!?”
Sam turned to redhead boys with pleased smile. “Ah, Mr. Wyatt... Is Lizzy’s little issue taken care of?”
“No, not exactly... Seems the boy wasn’t just a silly little Newhaven guard, we had to let him go, but... I don’t think he even remembers how he got here... You know Lizzy; she likes her men young and confused.”
Sam sighed softly and shook her head in disapproval. “Remind Adam of the conditions I’ve imposed on him and what happens if he can’t keep her in check.”
“Yes, Mistress.” Wyatt’s reply was short and respectful, and very uncharacteristic in its seriousness. Something in Sam’s words or tone had caused that reaction, and Luckas wasn’t exactly sure of what it was.
“Tell Adam to try and unlock the doors somehow, tell Lizzy to provide cover; she’ll know what to do.”
Wyatt bowed at the order and made off quickly to pass the orders along. Luckas had previously questioned the reason why Sammy kept Amber so close amongst all the others when she was so erratic, but Sam’s presence alone seemed to make the little psycho into an obedient and adoring puppy. It was really something interesting and frightening to see.
“Lukey... Are you still afraid of the dark?” Sam asked softly, her hand reaching for his in a firm grip.
“Uncomfortable maybe, but not afraid.” Luckas replied, unsure of what the woman was intending with the questioning and the hand holding. It all become very clear, metaphorically speaking at least, when a gust of wind crossed the ballroom, extinguishing every single flame in its path and engulfing the party and its guest in absolute darkness. As soon as everything went dark, Luckas felt himself being led by the hand, firmly, by Sam as if the woman knew exactly where to go, ignoring all the sounds of the disoriented party guests. “Don’t worry, Lukey.” She stated calmly.