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Officer William Duffrane

"The Sea Does Not Forgive, Why Should I?"

289 views · located in Soltrida, the Fallen Empire

a character in “Slayers of Soltrida”, as played by DecroMcQuin

Description

Name: Officer William Duffrane
Race: Human
Age: 49
Class: Swashbuckler (Warrior)

Physical description: Duffrane has a medium build but looks much bulkier when wearing his brown leather frock coat (which he does just a bout all the time.) The coat is beat and weathered from years of use at sea but he refuses to replace it. His boots are hard, black and covered in salt stains. He has unruly black tangled hair that goes down to his shoulders as well as a matching beard that are starting to show grey around the edges. His eyes are cold and flinty when in battle but more cheery outside of combat. He stands at about 6ft. He is fairly muscular and tanned from years of working at sea.

Personality: William is a reveler no matter what the situation. Whether working aboard a ship or being in the middle of a fray he is almost always loud and in a good mood. He also has a bit of an arrogance streak, often boasting of and embellishing prior accomplishments. Due to his past he has very little in the way of a moral compass, but does however always honor his word.

Weapons: William carries a Falchion named "Irontide" which rests in a fine leather scabbard when not in use, as well as a Blunderbuss rifle which he keeps strapped over his shoulder.

Skills: Swordsmanship, Expert Plunderer, Singer.
Magic: Ha! Who needs the stuff!

Backstory: William Duffrane was once employed on the pirate ship known as "The Last Witness" where he served as Gunnery Officer for about three years. He had been a pirate for as long as he could remember and didn't feel like giving it up any time soon, the songs, drink and plunder were all very convincing arguments after all. Eventually, however, the demons came and commerce slowed. Privateering became a much less profitable career choice and the crew of "The Last Witness" slowly left. William had been hanging around taverns where ever they could be found until he heard of a group banding together to bring back the world that once was, and he wanted in!

Character Theme: Gráinne Mhaol, Queen Of Pirates by Miracle Of Sound

So begins...

Officer William Duffrane's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Dragonrider Garland Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane

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Slayers of Soltrida
Act I: The First Campaign
Day 1


Image

A calm wave, a gentle shine. This solemn beach, a sanctuary for all. The setting sun lingered in the dimming blue skies. Several abodes, crafted from straw and wood, stood humbly on top of the smooth, sandy shores. The palm trees swayed back and forth in the distance, blown by the western wind. A rickety wooden ship with ragged, storm-torn sails bobbed, tied to an old pier. It seemed like a normal day. Simply dressed, sweaty, and dirt-ridden fishermen sat atop that pier, looking towards the horizon, playing cards, waiting for the setting of the sun to sail onwards. Their children laughed and trampled around the sand nearby, bonding together in their own way.

"Oscar, give me the ball!"

"Haha! Not like you can catch it!"

"Oh yeah?!"

A humble, simple day.

It has been five years since the skies turned black above the Capital. Since demons spawned from the ground and overwhelmed the Kingdom of Soltrida's best. Five years passed, fifty seven thousand dead. Were it not for the efforts of two unsung knights and a seer, even more blood would have been shed. But now.....

Beneath a roofed pavillion, a one-eyed, dark haired girl stood vigilantly, having stared out into the seas for what seemed like the entire day. Her sky blue armor clung onto her deep blue tunic, her hands clasping her hips. Her gaze was like a hawk, unrelenting, unblinking.....

Not too far from her is her brother-in-arms, a man in full ornate, dull-green plate armor, his chestplate, helmet, and pauldrons covered in prominent flutes. He sat on a wooden beach chair, one with a prominent, cracked hole on its top rail. His reversed-v-shaped visor and full face mask concealing all expression.

The dark haired girl sighed. "I hope help does come. Soltrida needs it," audibly frustrated, yet hopeful.

The man in green leaned against his chair and folded his arms. "Do you really think this is a good idea, Rena?," weary doubt in his voice.

She glanced to him briefly. Very briefly, before turning back to the seas. With gallant confidence, she raised her voice. Still calm, but headstrong."If we lose hope, then we will lose all. And I won't let that happen"

A strong gust of wind. Rena's hair seemed to dance under the radiant sunlight. She looked to the sky, closed her eye, and took a deep breath.

Brown, fur-lined boots dug into the warm sands. A petite, white haired girl clasped her hands over her chest. Her red eyes foggy, her smile quiet. She could hear every spray of the water, every gust of the wind. And though she could not see, she could feel it in her mind's eye. Ahead, on board wooden ships, help had finally came to the fallen kingdom. Some travel from distant lands. Others were returning to their ruined homes. Some seek glory. Fame. Gold. Honor. Trophies. Women.

Whoever they were, whatever they seek, the white haired girl was grateful. And she silently welcomed them...

...To Soltrida, the Fallen Kingdom.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Dragonrider Garland Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane

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There was a soft grinding of sand as the ship made landfall next to one of the piers. Duffrane vaulted over the gunwales of the ship and came down on to the pier, his thick boots making a solid thud as they landed. Strutting down the pier, his sack of possessions swinging loosely on his shoulder, he stretched his back and shoulder muscles. Despite his years working at sea this was one of the first times he had been on board a ship as a passenger in what must have been twenty years now. It was a relaxing trip to be sure, but maybe that had been the problem, he felt restless having been inactive for the length of the voyage.

Looking out towards the beach Duffrane noticed a shaded pavilion setup there. Seeing the movement of people he smiled and waved towards them. I started whistling to himself as he crossed the beach towards them, then called out once he was in shouting distance "Ahoy! I'm here about some arse that needs kicking, or so I've been told!"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Dragonrider Garland Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Tack Character Portrait: Japheth

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Running as fast as they could down from the only path leading from the town to the shoreline, a human boy was being quickly pursued by an elven woman dressed in full armor with a collection of weapons on her back.

“Get back here,” she called out, only seeming the slightest bit out of breath but very obviously not frustrated at the teenager she was chasing.

He appeared to be amusing her because she couldn't stop laughing.

She caught up to him hastily and leapt forward, catching him at his legs and tackling him to the ground. After fumbling around in the dirt for a few minutes, she clumsily caught ahold of the leather coin purse that was in the process of being stolen from her. She put the full weight of her body onto him and held her forearm over the thief's neck, not nearly enough to choke him, but just enough to make it hard for him to breathe and keep him from squirming out from under her. Using her free hand, she carelessly pushed the loose locks of brown hair from out of her face to behind her ears.

“Better luck next time,” she smiled, “I’m dead broke, kid. I’d suggest robbing someone who actually has enough coin to buy anything around here,” she said before swinging her clenched fist down and slugging him right in the face. That was definitely going to bruise, "Tell you what, I'll let you go but you have to promise to go after a dumber target next time. And don't be so obvious about it. That's how you get caught," her voice was light and fruity, her lilting accent mocking the boy.

The teenager spat in her face and began shouting profanities at her. She bounced up from him, gave the collar of his tunic a good yank, and shoved him up and away. It was only now did Serrina Deryn notice the alarmed gaze of nearby onlookers. The docks weren't as deserted as she had previously thought.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Dragonrider Garland Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Tack Character Portrait: Japheth

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As more people arrived, Rena's spirits rise. The first; an old sailor with a young spirit. She raised her voice after he did the same, "You were told correct!" The young woman in blue stood up, and walked out to the sands where the swashbuckler Duffrane was. From her position, she could see others coming, and nodded. She then glanced between Duffrane and Garland, and beckoned them to follow.

Garland stood up from his ruined chair, which took a bit of effort thanks to the heavy suit of steel he was wearing. His boots dug into the sand, and his eyes caught sight of an athletic-looking man in a red coat of plates and a stoic iron helmet. A sniper, by the looks of his light crossbow and agile frame.

Europa listened to the winds, and headed to the wooden pier. Many have chosen to come through the waters of the west, and though she couldn't see them, she could feel their presence. An unusual insect girl from Soltrida's own deserts, and her reserved eastern companion. A spirited pink haired girl with an exotic weapon on her back. And then nearby on the docks, looked upon by amused fishermen, an elven woman with a strong grip and bold voice, fresh from....telling off....a teenage miscreant.

And finally, making a grand entrance, an improbably dashing man arrived on a stunning galleon. Europa turned away and let out a restrained giggle, covering her mouth with one gloved hand, as the man caused a fisherman's wife to faint from sheer charisma, with the husband shooking his fist amidst the crowd. The young Europa then clapped her hands, and took a deep breath. Channeling her inner magic, she amplified the volume of her voice, audible to all in the docks. "Brave souls, who fear no demons! The gallant Starlight Rena awaits you nearby!" Europa pointed to the pavillion, and Rena in front of it, flanked by Garland and Duffrane.

Europa clasped her hands together in front of her chest, then bowed her head, smiling. "Please, come and gather." Finished with her message, she mentally shut off the spell.

Rena smiled and nodded in approval to Europa. Such a hard working girl. She gazed to all the brave souls who had come so far, and/or braved so much, to answer her call. An overwhelming gratefulness swelled inside her.


----

The Pavilion. A mundane structure of straw and wood, slightly ragged by age, but still standing in one piece. Night had fallen as Rena awaited for people to gather inside. She had arranged many wooden chairs in a half-circle, just about enough of them for the people she saw on the beach...and any potential late comers. In the middle of this half circle was a square, termite-eaten wooden table, with a map of Soltrida on top. Rena stood behind this table, her palms resting on the tabletop. She inspected the half-circle, at all the brave souls who had gathered here for Soltrida. Next to a wooden foundation, Garland lit a torch scone, providing warm, orange light to illuminate the dark blue night, before leaning against that foundation with his arms folded.

A brief silence.

Rena cleared her throat, and took a deep breath.

"I am grateful for your presence," she spoke earnestly, briefly taking a look at Serrina's purple eyes, and then Syra's black carapace-covered figure, as she analyzed the room. "For all of you."

"I wish we could all stay and share drinks and be merry till sunrise, but....I have to get to the point."

Rena glanced to the map briefly, before looking back at her new guild members. "We have a long journey ahead of us. Our destination....." The dark haired girl spun and walked slowly to the edge of the pavilion. She pointed ahead and upwards. "...is over there. Over the Grim Highlands, you can see it. The Great Rampart."

The Great Rampart. A truly massive, impenetrable wall surrounding the Capital. To the eyes of mortal men, the top of the Great Rampart was almost inseparable from the skies. "Once, our source of pride and joy. Behind those walls, the people of Soltrida were safe and peaceful."

Rena's jaws clenched.

".....But now, the demons control those walls. And the Capital behind them. Everyone, everything," her voice resonated with cold fury.

Rena turned, facing her congregation again, "The Capital. The source of this fell infestation, of Soltrida's bane. We will head there, and end whatever wretched thing caused this mess." Rena glanced over to Garland, who stepped away from the foundation he was leaning, and approached the square table, carefully slipping between Weilu and Jay's chairs. "Excuse me. Sorry, sorry."

Standing himself next to Rena, Garland told them of more details, "Now. I suppose it is quite obvious, but we can not just march towards the Rampart and scale it. No, we have to do this the hard way."

Garland pointed northwards, "You will travel, through the Forest of Shadows, the Grim Highlands, the Merciless Plains, and the Endless Dunes, to reach the Reaper's Pit." Garland lowered his hand, and folded his arms. "An ancient tunnel underneath the Shineless Mines which will lead you inside the City."

Garland wandered, his armor clanking as he walked, "Cut a bloody swathe through the demons, goblins, bandits, and anything else on your journey as you will. Just try not to die." He did not sound like a man with much confidence in this mission, or hope, for that matter. But he was a knight, and a knight knew his duty.

Rena put her left hand on her hip, which she cocked slightly. "This journey will take a long time, and I expect high standards from each and every one of you. Aside from fighting, we will all have different tasks. Some of us will carry the camping equipment. Some of us will be responsible for the meals. Some of us will have to be brave and scout ahead. And some of us..."

A short pause.

A slight smirk.

"....Will have to do the laundry."

A longer pause, so that everybody could take this in.

"So. Any questions?"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Dragonrider Garland Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Tack Character Portrait: Japheth

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Danger? Excitement? Adventure? Magic? The strangers had captured her full and undivided attention before they had even open their mouths. She followed them along, trailing in the back of the company, certain in her mind that a short discussion couldn’t hurt too much. It wasn’t as if she had anything to do.

Serrina listened closely to Rena's story, nodding along in affirmation. Occasionally, her eyes would wander around the large pavilion, staring at each and every person in her company, carefully sizing them up in case they would be trouble. They appeared formidable and untrustworthy to say the least, specifically the pair leading the meeting and especially the one with the eyepatch. Even in the dim light of night she could see them all clear as day.

Serrina glanced down at the table and inspected the map placed on it. It reminded her of the ones her troupe would use to navigate the vast plains of the Grim Highlands. Only, her friend’s maps were more worn down, dirtier and much bloodier. When Serrina had left her home, she hadn’t cared to bring a map with her. She had planned to wander the countryside aimlessly and simply let whatever excitement occurred in her travels carry her away to her next destination.

She was pulled abruptly from her thoughts when Rena had stopped talking and let the group voice their questions. Serrina rolled her eyes in amusement as two members of the party, remembering their names as Syra and Weilu, spoke of a title for their company. Of course the team name was going to be awesome! Serrina wouldn't have expected anything less from this odd bunch of strangers. But she ignored this for a moment and focused on the more pressing issue.

"Helmet-head here raises a good point," she said, gesturing toward the one she knew as Jay with a grin and a nudge of her thumb, "What are we getting out of this?" Serrina asked, "And please don't say how much you’re going to pay me. I can get coin just about anywhere in the land. I’ll need a better reason than the empty promise of gold and jewels to travel back to the Highlands,” she teased, raising her leg and placing her ankle just over her knee.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Dragonrider Garland Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Tack Character Portrait: Japheth

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Eccentric individuals, those not wearing simple garments befitting that of a small fishing village, attracted Abrahem's attention as he stood from kissing one of the fishwives on the hand. A long stride brought him to the side of the man whose wife he had kissed. Leaning down, Abrahem pressed his lips close to the man's ear, dropping his voice to a tantalizing whisper. "Sorry about that, chap. Can't keep the ladies disappointed, you know? Anyhow, if you want to surprise her, bring her this." The poor man's eyes widened greatly as Abrahem outlined the item and event, the magician slapping the dumb-founded fisherman on the back as he finished.

Following the other individuals, he languidly strolled, eyes flicking between the group. A plethora of women in a plethora of styles. 'Twas beautiful in more ways than one. One especially tantalized him, a young-looking woman with silver hair and paler skin. Her form was thin in a lithe manner, yet an unexplained premonition was the primary reason for his interest. It could mean nothing or everything. Only in the presence of other magic users did such a feeling come unto him. Though her face certainly was alluring.

Seating himself inside the shabby pavilion, Abrahem smiled ravishingly at Rena as her eyes scanned him, an open display of flirtation or simple play. Keeping his face trained on Rena and Garland as they spoke, his eyes remained looking sideways, examining the companions whom with which he would share an adventure. An adventure sounded appealing. He supposed they were downright dirty things, full of ruffians and robbery, and rapacious wit from time to time. He could not complain as to the current 'accommodations.'

A slight smirk played across Abrahem's features. Laundry, most certainly. His mind wandered for a moment back to the galleon he had managed to commandeer. Face becoming more perplexed and alarmed as time went by, a relief settled upon his features as he remembered that he had stored his belongings on the forecastle. That was above water. At least, he thought it was. He had not bothered to actually check the condition of the ship.

Weilu and Syra amused him with their questions. A slot turned within his head, marking down a possibility. Another possibility faded slightly at Serrina's comment. He generally tried to avoid dealing with the more combative types like the elf woman. At least she stated outright to not care for gold. Similar enough to his not-desires. Eyes twinkling, he concentrated briefly before sending a brief illusion of tactile feeling along Europa's back, a non-existant finger running the length of her spine yet for all sensory purposes, to the object of his attention, very much real.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Dragonrider Garland Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane

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Duffrane sat enjoying the pleasant evening. He took a few moments to recall the earlier arrivals as he briefly examined the other members sat around him. One that stood out the most was the younger man who he now knew as Abrahem and the spectacle of an entrance he had made. In all his years he wasn't sure he had seen anything quite so flashy, and he smiled at the memory.

Duffrane focused once Rena began addressing the group. As she spoke she reminded him of his old captain in a few ways. She seemed to have a good grasp on leadership, knew when it was time to get to business, and she knew what she wanted.

When Garland steeped up and explained the route they would be taking to get into the capital Duffrane found himself fairly impressed by the sound plan. He didn't like the sound of this "Reapers Pit", especially with his dislike of caves, but that would be a bridge to cross when it was reached.

After the question of chores was brought up, Duffrane mulled over what he could possibly contribute. On board his old ship he had helped the quartermaster with gear maintenance, but he sensed that the gathered were all capable (and likely inclined) to keep track of their own equipment. He shrugged mentally, they could probably find him something to do.

He returned to the conversation as a few others began to raise questions. After the others had spoken he raised a question of his own. "So what kind of demons are we looking to fight here exactly?"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Dragonrider Garland Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Japheth

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#, as written by Jaek
Japheth had only recently entered the fishing village upon nightfall and had gathered from heard conversations of nearby homeowners that a meeting was to take place at the village's pavilion. The location wasn't necessarily difficult to find given its rather central location, abundance of lights, and the sound of a very assertive woman giving some sort of grand speech on the woes that had befallen their land, righteous anger in her tones, and glories of reaching the Capital to retake what had been Soltrida's and eliminate the Demonic infection. It all sounded well and good, and to an impressionable and patriotic young man of Japheth's age, he would have been recruited right then on the spot. However Japheth was a little wiser than his years betrayed, having basically grown up living on his lonesome surrounded by the evils of both man and Demon. Things were not so simple and this sniper had become increasing cynical through his experiences. But alas, this his likely the best decision for him. Living on his own, a self-made pariah of sorts, just would not do anymore. Leaning against one of the support beams of the pavilion's entrance, Japheth listened intently to the succinct brief made and the questions that had arisen, curious as to what the answers might be.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Dragonrider Garland Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Tack Character Portrait: Japheth

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As Rena waited for everyone to post their questions, she glanced over and saw a tall, young man with a green coat appear and lean on one of the support beams. A latecomer, just in time.

She and Garland looked over to Weilu as she posted her question. Rena blinked her eyes twice, surprised at the girl's bubbly attitude. Garland chuckled, finding her hand gestures rather cute. Not that he would admit that out loud. Before she could answer, she saw the insectoid girl pipe in. She had to do a double take upon the sight. An insectoid, outside of the endless dunes? and a friendly one at that? A sight to see, for sure.

Garland went to the back of the pavillion, as Rena answered their questions, "Syra's right." She stepped aside, and Garland came forward, before planting a large, kite-shaped tower shield, with a jet black base, blood red paint splotched over it, and a prominent, gray head of a stag painted neatly atop those blood-like splatters. For a brief moment, those with sharp eyes could see the face of the shield flicker with blue-green runes, like star light.....

Rena gestured to the tower shield, "We call ourselves the 'Stag Brigade'.....after this shield." A brief pause. A frown.

"...And it's late owner". Rena and Garland bowed their heads briefly, and both knights looked like they were eager to move on.

Next, the arbalist Garland saw earlier, Jay, giving his short question, and supported by the elf Serrina, who taught a delinquent a lesson. Rena's expression was stoic, but...visibly impressed, by Serrina's high standards.

"I expected this question," Rena spoke boldly. She took a few steps forward, and circled the room as she continued, "We don't have much on hand right now, but Garland is willing to spare his family's coffers to pay each of you 10.000 gold per week." Rena glanced to Garland, who was leaning against a support beam and nodded.

"Excuse me, excuse me," a soft voice, like a bell. The girl from the beach, Europa, appeared, holding a silver tray in hand, with soup and tea for everybody. Her steps were delicate and precise, despite her unfocused gaze. She felt as her body brushed against the wooden chairs, and turned accordingly, providing everyone with their meal. They could smell the chicken soup as it was placed in front of them, the contents colorful, with orange and green vegetables amidst yellow broth. As Europa passed Abrahem's table and was about to place his soup, she was suddenly startled by a strange...and strangely real....vision of the handsome man touching her back in a sensual manner, causing her hand to jerk and for the hot soup to splash all over the man's expensive-smelling apparel. Rena paused briefly, and gave Europa a look. One she could not notice, for obvious reasons.

"Oh heavens! Heavens above! I-I am terribly sorry!", Europa squeaked in panic. She bent over with a napkin and tried to rub Abrahem's clothes in futility. Her face was red as a beet, and her hands shook nervously.....but was it because of the soup, or the illusory finger?

"That w-was careless of me! Ohhh dear! By the flying underpants of the endless Plains....", Europa continued to panic, mumbling and bumblingg, while everybody else waited for their soup. Any day now.

Rena sighed and her shoulders sagged briefly, before continuing her walk. She then placed her left hand on her hip, and stared into the night skies outside the pavilion, the dark skies accentuated with those sparkling stars. "...In addition, for those with....greater requirements....." Rena paused, glancing to Serrina. "I promise you all Knighthood of the Kingdom of Soltrida.....with all the privilege it entails. Your own piece of the land, the respect of the people, and your names written on the pages of lore....forever to be remembered."

Garland looked up at Rena suddenly, startled. What was she saying?! They were both high ranking knights, but he doubted they have such authority. Not them.

....Still. He knew that they needed the help, and thus remained silent, despite his displeasure at the potential deception.

The next question came from the old swashbuckler. Garland turned to face him, still leaning on the pillar. "...The demons Rena and I have been facing came to this world in the form of a dark, shapeless mist."

Garland glanced to the flickering torch scone on one of the support poles. "They take hold of the dead, the weak-willed, the broken-spirited......and deform them into twisted versions of themselves. A possessed host's body would rot, and horns would burst from their skulls. The older the possession, the greater the number and size of the horns."

Garland's right gauntlet fiddled with his left. "Humans, dwarves, goblins, orcs......even the trees are not immune to the touch of the demons' mist."

Garland paused, before looking back over the group,".....And sometimes......when a demon grows great and powerful, it would turn into something....more."

".....A reflection of the demon's true form, back in whatever hell it came from, perhaps?", Garland wondered himself.

Satisfied with all their questions, Rena decided it was time to move on, and slowly walked back to the table with the map of Soltrida on it. She stood there, and took a deep breath.

"We depart at dawn, tomorrow. Garland will stay in this beach, and watch over the people. Everyone else will come with me and Europa, towards the Forest of Shadows. Get plenty of rests in the inn. It's a small place, but it may be the last bit of home-like comfort for a long time. I have paid for all the rooms there....use them well."

The fire flickers at the torch scones on the outer areas of the pavilion's support columns. They could hear the burning wood crackle, in the otherwise silent night.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Dragonrider Garland Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Tack Character Portrait: Japheth

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If Serrina had been drinking just then, she would have choked. A payment of 10,000 gold per week was not something to be taken lightly. She very nearly felt bad for this Garland for having to pay them all so much. Well, at least he would have to pay 10,000 gold less than what he would have if Serrina had actually wanted the money.

Suddenly, a young human woman Serrina recognized from before appeared in the pavilion and promptly spilled the contents she had been carrying into the lap of one of the many guests in their semi-circle. Well, it was a good thing Serrina didn’t want the soup anyway.

As the stranger began to apologize profusely for her clumsy mistake, Serrina burst out a sharp, hearty laugh and smiled wickedly at the roguish one named Abrahem. Sure the accident was mostly likely just that, but she liked to think that it was much more intentional than it appeared. Good on her, Serrina thought, He probably deserves it. She didn’t like his look.

“It’s alright. No harm done,” Serrina leaned forward in her chair, “If anything, the stains will be an improvement,” she said, sending Abrahem a playful smirk. Insult to injury, her favorite combination.

Her attention was pulled away from the spilled soup and back to Rena when the rogue started speaking again. Ah, here it was. The details that would concern her. She leaned back and listened intently, crossing her arms over her chest and letting her eyes fall shut so that she could focus entirely on the words being said to her.

Knighthood? Really? The concept of being knighted held no interest to a mercenary such as herself. Criminal and knight never went hand in hand afterall. However, to be remembered in history even long after her death? With a promise like that, how could she possibly refuse? The piece of land didn’t hurt also. And the more the Knight spoke of what horrible creatures they would be facing while along their journey, the more eager she became to agree to their quest.

“And can I assume Elves are included in that list of Susceptible to Demon Mist as well?” Serrina kidded in a honeyed tone, the faintest trace of a smile on her lips to show that she wasn’t serious in the slightest. Perhaps the joke was off-color. Ah well, she didn’t care.

Wow! Serrina was definitely not going to waste a free night at an inn. No matter how squalid it was, it was infinitely better than her previous nights at Bed and Breakfast in the Forest of Shadows.

She realized this only now that she had just accepted a new job.

So when she hopped up from her chair and slung her weapons back over her shoulders, she stared at all the faces surrounding her. Serrina wondered how many of them were going to accompany her and just how many of those she'd have to keep an eye on during their travels together. She would have to watch her back with these people around.

“I guess I will see you all at dawn then,” she said with a grin.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Dragonrider Garland Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane

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It took a considerable amount of effort for Duffrane to not go into hysterics at the mention of 10,000 gold a week, but he managed. His eyes glowed with greed as he thought about the hills of gleaming coin. His dreaming was interrupted however when a cup of tea and bowl of soup was placed in front of him. He thanked the white haired girl who had served him. Once he was relatively sure that no one was looking he snuck a flask out from under his coat and poured some of the contents in to his tea, then for good measure poured slightly less into his soup and hid it back in his coat.

Just before he started eating the young girl from earlier seemed to have tripped and gotten the hot meal all over Abrahem. Duffrane gave a good hearted guffaw which redoubled with Serrina's catcalls. "Typically the soup goes in you, not on ya lad!" he called and then began another bout of good natured laughter.

As Garland answered his question however he grew serious. These demons seemed to only get stronger over time, and their had been a lot of time for them to do just that. His grip tightened around his sword hilt as he imagined a tree with massive horns and a twisted face carved in the bark.

His features reset to their usual demeanor at the mention of lodgings and for the first time that evening Duffrane had realized just how tired he was. Maybe he was getting old, he thought to himself with a tired smile. He got up and followed the others who were already leaving. "Last chance for a warm bed, best get it while you can." He called over his shoulder to those who still hadn't left.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Dragonrider Garland Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Tack Character Portrait: Japheth

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When the meeting concluded, by people quickly exiting to nab a room, Weilu hopped up, snatching her weapon out of the ground. Giving a twirl, she smoothly locks it onto her back while the topics of the evening lined up to be examined in her head. Knight-ship. She had already been one of those and had taken quite a liking to the free and unexpected life. 10,000 gold pieces?! That was.. Too much payment! Too much payment for justice. Blinking, she found herself standing by her chair, her eyes focused on the ground in front of her. Bouncing on her toes, she got her feet moving towards the inn by following the thin line of people heading in the same direction. To her band members she gave a bright smile as she passed. This was her way of giving quiet acknowledgement. She felt that a nod or a wiggle of the fingers, not a wave, was much too dull.

Managing to skip and dance her way through the people already at the inn, she caught herself a room at the very corner of the building. The room was small and the bed was made for strictly one person. But she had slept in worse. Stretching, she removes her weapon and stores it close to where she would be sleeping before starting on her nightly, before-bed routine. All while continuing to think.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Dragonrider Garland Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Tack Character Portrait: Japheth

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Soup spilled all over Abrahem's leather overcoat, sweeping through the seams and edges to stain the undershirt as well. Hot but not terribly so, his skin warmed greatly though the circumstances probably weren't clean. Europa reached down with a napkin to remove the offending soup yet Abrahem knew it was a rather wasted effort. Unbidden, a grin came to his face as the young woman's face reddened greatly. He truly was evil in some situations. Gently taking a hold of her ahnd, chuckling silently at her interesting exclamations, he gazed into her face.

"Don't worry about the soup, my dear. It isn't what I'm particularly hungry for at the moment." Serrina's jibe reached his ear, and this time he belted out a full laugh, glancing down at his sou-darkened clothing. She would need to do a bit better than that. "Nothing wrong with a small stain. I like a bit of darkness from time to time, anyways," he spoke, closing that remark with a wink towards the elven woman and a mischievous smile.

Good naturedly adding his laugh to Duffrane's, Abrahem responded, "I know, sir. But I wished to so thoroughly enjoy it I couldn't help myself." Oh what joy this was! No one had offered him a good bout of banter in months, likely due to those pesky demons wandering around the country. Not to mention his 'acquiring' of a galleon and manning it single-handedly. Those Elementary Telekinetic Manipulation lessons had not been so useless after all.

Finally turning his attention to the two knights briefing the meeting, his eyebrows rose slightly at the mention of ten-thousand gold pieces, even higher at the knighthood. Such a sum of money was not to be laughed at anywhere, and throwing in induction to the aristocracy on the side seemed too good to be true. Abrahem may not have cared much for politics, or care now for that matter, but he was fairly sure that normally only high-ranking nobles could offer such a distinction. Not that any situations had been normal with demons in the mix.

Much of the explanation as to demon's Abrahem could safely ignore considering that such a subject had been part of his magical studies when deciding which school to specialize in or if he wished to be a multi-talented individual. The summoning arts had never particularly called to him, and he doubted that one would want to summon more demons at a time such as this. Binding magic may not work as it normally did. The greater or ascended daemonhosts he had not particularly studied, nor was it particularly viable given that such beings had not been seen for an immeasurable time.

With the meeting at an end, he realised the nagging sense directed his gaze towards the kitsune. So another magic user. Storing that information in his thoughts for a later period. He had other concerns at the moment. Serrina dismissed herself, Abrahem casting a devilish, wolf-like smile when she looked at him. She was going to be interesting to work through. Once she had left, that prompted others to leave, although Abrahem himself stayed seated, slightly more aware of his shirt's somewhat damaged nature. Perhaps he could find someone to clean it for him. There must be fresh-water somewhere.

For the moment, Abrahem removed the leather vest and cloth shirt, leaving his torso and arms bare, revealing a tanned and well-formed figure which held no shame. Thinking briefly of retrieving his other belongings, he decided against it and stayed to observe the others in the tent, particularly Europa.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Dragonrider Garland Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Tack Character Portrait: Japheth

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#, as written by Jaek
Japheth's demeanor did not change despite his gratitude for the food that was offered or the small accident that the silver-haired woman had. What he'd give to smell like delicious soup only a week ago. The quiet rogue listened intently to the banter. One could pick up on a few character traits of individuals by the sort of humor they took to. This might be an interesting journey after all, especially with the promise of such rich rewards. More gold than he knew what to do with and supposed knighthood... It was all too good to be true. Obviously the mission would be dangerous, the trek there alone would be difficult enough, perhaps these two ring leaders were not expecting many of these recruits to survive the ordeal. Hm.

Once they were dismissed Japheth promptly left. Likely many of his fellow adventurers hadn't even noticed him. No matter. Relationships would only make dealing with loss more difficult as they worked to complete this quest. For now, he would not worry. It was time for rest. In an inn. With a bed. And blanket. No rocks, no grass, and no constant threat of death by wild beast or murderous demon. Ohhhh, he was going to enjoy this.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane

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The inn was yards better than the dives Duffrane had frequented in his past. The bed was comfortable and the room was well maintained. A lamp burned low on the window sill, casting a pleasant shadow over the room as he lay on top of his bed. The gentle breeze butting against the window pane reminded Duffrane of the sea and felt a twinge of nostalgia. He certainly missed "The Last Witness" and her crew. Was the old captain still out there sailing?

He thought about his new companions, the task ahead, the demons they would have to face, and all the other little thoughts that come to mind just before rest. When this quest was over he could buy his own pirate haven, maybe on an island somewhere. Where he could be the pirate king. Flights of fancy and the warm meal from earlier took him into a deep, dreaming sleep.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Japheth

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Europa glanced to Madam Serrina's general direction, and then Officer Duffrane's, her face still red as a beet, and her entire body froze up instantly. She felt relieved at their making light of the situation, which were further supported by Sir Abrahem's smooth, nonchalant remark. She proceeded to give...an odd smile. The smile by itself was not that strange, but while her lips moved, the rest of her face didn't. There was something unreal about it, almost fake. Her unfocused eyes certainly did not help matters.... a doll's smile, with a doll's eyes.

Garland turned to Serrina at her joke. He let out a tiny chuckle. Restrained, but approving. "I'm not sure myself. There are conflicting reports. But with your lively sense of humor, I doubt it would be so easy...for the demon".

Back to Europa, the girl bowed courteously towards Abrahem, her palms on her thighs as she did the prim and proper gesture. "I thank you for your gracefulness," she spoke softly, and calmly, a complete 180 from her nervous chitter barely two minutes ago. Looking to where she believed Sir Abrahem was, she gave a sweet smile, oblivious to the handsome man stripping and showing off his physique. With complete sincerity, she stated, "I am sure we would be the best of friends".

Rena and Garland watched as the entire group head off for the night, Rena's palms on the table, and Garland's body against one of the supporting columns. The two knights nodded towards Syra as she thanked them for the meal, with Rena calmly heeding her, "Good night, Syra". A calm, confident smile on her face. Garland did a quick, simple wave at Serrina as she said her farewells as well. The two knights gazed over as Duffrane called for the others. Rena gave an amused smile, "He looks like a good leader, hm?". Garland chuckled, his shoulders bobbing up and down with his arms folded. "Afraid you'll get replaced?"

Rena smirked and closed her eyes.

"Nah. He may have age and experience, but I have youth and tenacity."

"Isn't that right...."

The two knights watched as the others followed. Jay, the Iron-helmeted Arbalist. Weilu, the perky pink-haired girl with the exotic weapon. At first, they thought that everyone had left, until Garland noticed a subtle silhouette strolling away. Japheth, the quiet one. "That one would be handy for scouting, I think," Garland pointed discreetly to him. "Hm?" At first, Rena couldn't even see him, until she squinted well. "Ah." Rena smiled as she mused, "We certainly have all types of personality here, huh?"

Garland nodded. A quiet moment passed between the two knights, while Europa cleaned up behind them, still oblivious to Abrahem's shirtlessness. "Are you going to be okay, Garland? Here, guarding the beach by yourself?"

Garland glanced down, his arms still folded, his armor weighed upon his tired frame. "It's fine. Nothing I can't handle, this far south. You just worry about yourself and the team."

Rena smiled, "Thanks. We'll keep in touch."

Garland glanced to her, and gave her a thumbs up. He had worries and doubts about the group, but he had a good impression of them today. Hope they all survive to the end...


----

DAY 2

The night passed. The beds of the inn were simple, but comfortable. Nothing like soft, clean mattresses on your back....

Morning came. For breakfast, simple fish sandwiches, complimentary, from the fishermen. Europa then called for the Stag Brigade to gather at the outskirts of the Solemn Beach, just outside the Forest of Shadows.

The group gathered in a circle, with Rena placing three bags in front of her; a very large leather backpack, containing supplies, along with several stacks of rations on top, as well as a cooking pot, utensils, and firewood, tied together haphazardly with several belts. Several bottles of rum stuck out from within the pack, sealed nice and tight. Europa stood next to the blue knight, looking positively tiny next to her, with a sweet smile and hands clasped in front of her waist.

Then, there were two other smaller, but still large knapsacks; one dark, warm brown and the other a lighter, cooler brown, both containing folded bedrolls for everyone, repair kits, and water canteens.

Rena herself had one of the large knapsacks on her back, along with the tower kite shield bearing their group's emblem. With one hand on her hip, she greeted them with her bold voice, as she pointed to the large backpack and two knapsacks, "Good morning, Stag Brigade. I will need three brave souls to volunteer and carry these with them".

Rena clenched her left fist, and pumped it in front of her. "Together, we march for the Forest of Shadows. Tread carefully. I don't want to sound too....elvish.....but we should do our best to respect this place."

The blue knight turned as she stepped between the trees, the grass rustling against her feet. "...Many who did not do so....met unpleasant ends," she whispered. Europa lost her smile. The pale girl held one hand to the air, feeling the wind blow, and carefully trudged alongside the group.

----
Image

Away from the sand, and into the foliage. The glow from the newly rising sun passed gently between the soft, yellow-green leaves. The lively green vegetation barely moved as the winds gently push them. They could hear the birds singing in the air, as if greeting the Stag Brigade as they enter. Such a wonderful vista, would this place truly deserve its seedy moniker?

Time passed as the company marched through the forest. In this place nearly untouched by men, the path ahead was never straight. Holding an enchanted compass in one hand and the rolled up map of Soltrida in another, Rena lead the way, no hesitation in her steps. She seemed fairly experienced in this place already, with her legs if not her mind. Europa, on the other hand, kept bumping onto things. The tree trunks. The bushes. Officer Duffrane.

"Oops!"

"....Oof.."

"Sorry!"

Rena couldn't help but squint at her with annoyance as she kept doing so. She was blind, but her carelessness could cost them their lives...many things live in this forest, benevolent or otherwise. They must not lose focus.

After receiving a face full of leaves, Europa decided to change her strategy. Remembering yesterday, the girl shyly approached Sir Abrahem. Drawn to his magical aura, she poked his back once. Twice. And then she asked hesitantly, "Umm...Sir Abrahem? W-would you mind if I...hold your arm? This place.....is not very friendly to me...." Europa kept her head down, hoping to hide the burning red embarassment in her face.

Rena glanced back and smirked at the two. She didn't need to say anything. Just a teasing, amused smirk.

.....Suddenly, they were struck with a heavy feeling.

Like something was watching them.

Like something was following them.

Rena herself slowed down. Her eye darted left. Then right. She raised a hand towards the rest of the group, slowly, subtly.

The birds have stopped singing. All they could hear right now was the rustling of leaves, as the ocean of foliage brushed against their bodies.

Rena lowered her hand. Her fingers curled around the grip of her broadsword.

Then, a wild shriek!

leaves rustled violently around them, for a split second, as short green silhouettes seemingly leaped from between the trees, surrounding them!

Rena turned, and drew her sword, shouting, "GOBLINS!!"

"HEEEHEEEHEHEHEHEHEHHEHEHEHEHEHE!", high pitched, screeching laughter filled the air.

A hordes of goblins descended upon them; six at first, then followed by another six barely two seconds later. four to five feet tall, with slim limbs, large heads, bloated bellies, and enormous toothy grins taking up half their faces. Some were almost naked aside from loincloth over their privates, others were dressed in simple tattered leather armor over their torsos, a rare few were dressed with purple hoods and ragged suits of chain. They carry crude, jagged scimitars, spiked clubs, and cleavers, all of which had a greenish hue to their otherwise iron-grey forms.

Europa let go of Abrahem, her red eyes glowing faintly as she clasped her hands in prayer. In her mind's eye, she could see the goblins move as green, sinister blurs. "They've been stalking us! An invisibility potion clouded us from their forms!"

Rena wasted no time going to town on them. The first goblin she saw, she immediately bisected with a quick slash of her broadsword, sending him twirling and flying before literally spilling his guts against the tree. A second goblin tried to jump her from behind, but she stepped to the side, and fed the goblin the pointy end of her blade with a quick and simple, but efficient, thrust, without a blink of an eye or the turn of her head. His body hung limp, and his blood dripped from his carved up mouth. Another goblin leaped from a tree branch above, hoping to do plunge his cleaver onto her skull, but she simply spun and glared at him, before tossing a throwing knife right towards his throat.The goblin choked on his own blood, then broke his neck as he crashed onto another tree branch on the way down.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Dragonrider Garland Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Tack Character Portrait: Japheth

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Weilu was a deep sleeper so it was hard to wake up that morning, even harder to go through her daily routine. A free soul like her was used to waking up when she was well and rested, her day's plans revolving around when that was. Her eye-lids drooped, her hair portrayed her manner of sleeping and her movements were that of a person who had taken sleeping remedies.

This act was quickly cleaned up at the mention of breakfast. The smell and thought of it snapped her back into reality and had her spry and bouncing again, nodding, smiling and singing a "Goodmorning~!" To all she passed.
Fish Sandwhiches. Gone in minutes. And when it was, she sat there with her hands in her lap and quietly waiting for everyone to finish. Whoever did not finish fell victim to her poking and prying for their leftovers. There was no dignity when food was involved. It took a lot of energy to wield the weapon she did!

The Forest was cool, tranquil and alive with birdsong. Weilu liked it. Liked the soft moss on her toes and how the sun filtering through the foliage turned the woods into a disco party. It made her want to skip, dance and talk to anyone close enough to hear. But until she familiarized herself with these people some more, she would contain her excitement and simply follow suit.
When everyone stood in a circle, listening to Rena, she was the one quietly rocking back and forth from heel to toe, her hands clasped behind her back and her balance never wavering. Biting her cheek she listened to the instructions while her golden irises darted about to gauge the expressions of everyone else in the circle. At the option to take on a pack, she had to step back. Her weapon already had a place on her back so carrying anything there would slow her down exponentially if anything required her to quickly take out her polearm.

As the group walked through the wood, Weilu quietly hopped and lightly danced along with them, moving to a song in her head. She strayed from those she felt she would annoy and did her thing beside those she felt she wouldn't. People such as Duffrane or Serrina, or Abrahem. Maybe even the loner in the back since he was like a colored shadow. His silence made her curious about him..
At the command to stop, she was midstep, all of her senses suddenly readying. And at the sudden hysterical giggling, squealing and shrieking, she reached back and smoothly brought forth her Ruby. When the Goblins showed themselves, she bounced on her feet, no longer needing to stay quiet since their cover was obviously blown "Oh finally~!" She grinned. When Rena sprang forth, cutting and slashing, she was whistling over a few targets of her own, keeping them away from the pack she associated with food. Her and the Goblins had a grand time. They giggled together and danced together, although, as her Glaive whirred and slashed through the air, they did the dipping and falling and never getting up..ing. The blood burned her skin as it spurt from their warm bodies or dripped from her weapon. But she was taking them down with minimal strike counts, her eyes focused and her pink tresses never getting in the way.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Japheth

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Abrahem's gaze searched Europa's face in the closing minutes of the meeting. He could now tell that there was definitely something different about the girl, an unnatural feel. Perhaps it was simply the way in which she had smiled, but even so he could not cease thinking about that fact. Pink eyes, while rare, were not a sign of any imperfections in and of themselves. Her meager frame and glassy eyes were what intrigued him. It took quite an extreme event or impression to drive Abrahem away from someone without his will, and the mysterious condition attracted his curiosity more than pull him away. He did always have a taste for secrets of all kinds.

Her sudden change in demeanor and strangely accented response further puzzled him. Was she oblivious, playing coy, simply uncaring of his attempts? In a way, she was almost wooden. As if she were programmed to do what she did. The thought was too disturbing to contemplate at the moment, as well as the implications which the thread would reveal.

Pensive, he stood up after the rest of the new-comers had exited the tent, offering a farewell to the three still in the tent, eyes flicking between each of them as he did so. Abrahem knew of some of the dangers which demons could bring, and the absence of Garland would be sorely missed in some of the more trying passages of the quest. Was this small fishing village really representative of the state of all of Soltrida, fallen to but a few secluded outposts almost oblivious to the outside world, hemmed in by the rampant manifestations of energy? A sad and worrying line of thought indeed.

Taking up the discarded clothes in his left hand, he strode under the moon across the beach, toes sinking into the silken sand, running through the fine grit with an almost imperceptible swishing sound. Light glowed softly around him, cascading through the night to illuminate the cove, the moon's face gazing up from its likeness on the water in accompaniment to its heavenly position. Brine floated through the air, a sharp smell permeating every facet of the area. Water meandered down along the shore, receding by unseen inches, revealing its movement hours later when one examined the level once again. A path towards the wreck of the galleon had half-way formed, stern castle breaching the surface of the water in a gleaming peak, varnished hull withstanding the wears of the sea.

Untying one of the smaller fishing dinghies, a modest affair with a minuscule lateen sail and pair of locked oars, several dedicated strokes brought Abrahem to the hull of the larger vessel. Wreckage wood had long since disappeared, claimed by the sea or the human inhabitants as they went along their way. Looping a trailing rope along the balustrade of the castle, Abrahem clambered out, dropping onto the battered deck, catching himself after a short slide down the slanted surface. Locating the door to the main cabin, he picked his way inside, pleased to see that his chest had survived the ordeal of the impact. Lugging the heavy object to the railing, he located one of the climbing openings, strategically located above the dinghy. Deftly did he lower the wooden box, settling it into the hull of the small ship with care. Hopping in, he made the short row back to share, returning the appropriated boat to its original berth. Taking the chest to a secluded palm tree, Abrahem settled down, eyes drifting closed...




Morning would see Abrahem joining the others for breakfast, clothed in clean vestments similar to that of last night, hair and body groomed carefully to remove traces of his rough sleeping location. Silently eating the fish sandwich, his spirit lightened at the sight of Weilu's exuberance, springing around the inn searching for ever more food with which to nourish herself.

Abrahem had recovered a sledge upon waking, and on it he had set his chest, allowing for easier travel. Normally he would have a beast of burden carry the item, but he was no stranger to having no means by which to ferry his personal possessions but through his own strength. The effect it had on the body's physical condition was appreciable. Flashing a smile, Abrahem retrieved one of the knap-sacks, securing it behind his chest. No reason not to help the group.

Most of the day's voyage would find Abrahem contemplative, inspecting the forest around him and the actions of the group's, especially Syra's choice of alchemical ingredients. Some of the rarer ingredients could only be found in the deep forests of the world. Perhaps some would present themselves along the 'quest.' For the moment, Abrahem's own reagents would prove more than sufficient for any creative tasks.

A light stabbing sensation pressed upon his back, once, twice, drawing his head backwards. He smiled at Europa; the poor girl had been stumbling into countless objects and people while walking. Perhaps the glassy state of her eyes represented blindness. It was not uncommon for mages to develop witch-sight to compensate for lack of vision. Stopping for a moment, he reached a hand and lifted up Europa's chin. "You look ravishing when you blush, dear Europa. Don't hide yourself. Please, I shall do whatever you require. My hand is here." He took her own in his left, leading her gently yet surely, enjoying her close presence and the feel of her skin.

The sudden shriek that burst through the air tore away his attention, his grip on the sledge, and Europa's hands. Reaching down to the leather holster strapped to his leg, an ornate tooling of material etched with arcane symbols from across the ocean, Abrahem drew the simple-looking weapon, a flint-lock pistol. Spotting the nearest goblin, he cast the illusion of a fire drake in front of two of the goblins, causing them to stumble, allowing him to dispatch the creatures with two shots from his enchanted pistol, made magically to carry multiple shots at one time.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Tack Character Portrait: Japheth

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Serrina’s night in the inn was quick and uneventful so let’s skip over it, shall we?

While gathered together once again, Serrina was greatly surprised to see so many of the same faces from the night before and was glad, and simultaneously irked, to see a few specific ones as well. The warrior named Duffrane seemed pleasant enough in both appearance and disposition but the one she remembered as Abrahem, oh she knew he was going to rub her the wrong way.

She was one of the earlier to arrive, light-sleeper habits and all that, her set of weapons sheathed tightly by the scabbards tied over her shoulders by the straps of leather she crudely sewed together herself. She was awake and agile even despite the hindering plate-armor she wore and the sword at her hip. Her pack consisted of: a change of clothes, a sharpening stone, her flask of water, a tiny amount of gold, dried fruits and meats, and a skinning knife. Whether or not she was missing anything didn’t matter. She would just swipe it someone else. Speaking of…

Reaching into her bag, she pulled out a small cloth bundle and unwrapped it to reveal a miniature apple tart that she had taken from a baker’s cart while in town. One tiny thing like this was hardly worth the silvers they were charging so she felt no guilt as she plopped it into her mouth. It was bitter and unpleasant and she cringed at the sour taste of the long-overripe apples. She listened carefully as Rena explained where they’d be heading. She swallowed down the tart with a cough before she started speaking.

“Oh, don’t say that, Rena,” she said, already jumping to first-name basis with the fighter, “One can never be too elf-y. I myself however am just the right amount of elf-y,” Serrina chuckled but still took Rena’s warning into consideration. She may not be adept at being cautious but she wasn’t stupid. And hey, she’s survived this far hasn’t she?

Her thoughts were interrupted when she heard yet another accidental oof from their silver-haired travelling companion. Serrina wondered for a moment why a blind person was in their party and why she didn’t have something of a walking stick on hand. But the girl named Europa found her way to Abrahem’s arm and was doing much better at not tripping on the overgrown brush at their feet before the mercenary could say anything. I guess I don’t need to offer to carry her after all, Serrina thought and breathed out a light chuckle at her own jest. With a backward glance at the others in her company, she saw that from the smiles on their faces, she wasn’t the only one who wanted to help her.

When Rena slowed to a halt and signaled the rest to do the same, the corner of her mouth twitched upward in a smirk. It would appear that Serrina wasn’t the only one to realize that the forest had gone as dead as a necropolis. Get it? Necropolis? Dead? Hah!

Serrina was instantly on the defensive when the army of green creatures crashed down on them.

Goblins? Crap-in-a-hat. She hated goblins. So tiny and nasty. Sure they weren’t too difficult to kill, but they were disgusting little buggers that you could never get their smell out of your clothes no matter how many times you washed them.

Unsheathing the duel blades from her back, she lunged at the nearest two goblins and sliced at the first one’s belly with her left blade and then at the second, dragging the right blade over its neck in a single messy motion. She kicked them out of the way as they fell down dead and moved onto the next few.

She was startled for a few seconds as she watched Weilu… dance, yes, dance with the goblins through a magic spell of some sort. Serrina didn’t much care for magic, too limitless and uncontrollable in her eyes, but she was impressed to say the least. A goblin leapt onto her back clumsily but she shook it off with ease.

She whistled, “Some trick you got there, Weilu,” she said, slicing down on another pair.

Her smile faded rather quickly when she noticed that both Europa and Abrahem were casting spells of their own.

Well, bullspit on crackers. There were more of them.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane

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Duffrane woke slowly. He was loath to leave the comforts of his bed, especially knowing how it would be the last time he would be in a proper bed for a great deal of time. Eventually he did muster the resolve to get up. He collected his things and donned his coat, then headed off to breakfast.

The fish sandwiches were well made, and Duffrane was in good spirits. Everyone from last night also seemed to be in a good mood. These all seemed like people he could get used to, of course he would have to see how they fared in a fight before he made any final decisions. As he thought, the pink haired girl named Weilu came up and seemed to be eyeing his sandwich. Shrugging and smiling Duffrane tore a half off and offered it to her.

Walking along the forest path with the rest of The Stag Brigade was pleasant. Duffrane had elected to carry one of the extra bags since he could handle the weight and it didn't impede any of his weapons in case they had to fight. His blunderbuss hung over one of his shoulders and his falchion "Irontide" was tied to his hip waiting patiently in it's scabbard. He would have been singing a jaunty tune to help pass the time but had decided against it since Rena had warned about not disturbing the woods, and we wasn't sure what kind of music the forest liked.

As they walked the young blind girl, Europa bumped into things, including Duffrane a few times. She was too polite to stay mad at, and it would be a silly thing to be mad about anyway. He decided that if she ran into something else he would offer to guide her, but he wasn't needed as she asked Abrahem to guide her. Abrahem obliged as suave as humanly possible. Duffrane chuckled to himself, he was old enough to pick up on these sorts of signs, incidentally he was also old enough to jump to conclusions about these sorts of signs.

They stopped suddenly and Duffrane's hand dropped to the hilt of his blade, griping it firmly. Without warning a group of goblins burst from the foliage. Many of the other members of the Stag Brigade reacted with blinding speed. Duffrane shrugged his blunderbuss off his shoulder and into his hands instead of drawing his sword. He noticed Abrahem also had a powder gun and was impressed by his taste. "Nice flintlock thar Abrahem" He called as he sighted and aimed at one of the goblins "Can't see why you'd go about using magic on it though, all you really need is-". He was cut off by the small thunder clap of his weapon firing. The goblin he had fired at was more holes than goblin at that point. "Aye, all you need is a bit of that." With that he re-slung the gun and drew his sword.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane

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#, as written by Jaek
Japheth hadn't ever really been much of a sleeper. Much like Serrina it seemed, the young man had spent his years on the road surrounded by the constant threat of danger in the wilds. Being a heavy sleeper ran the risk of never waking up. He cherished the morning sunrise too much to give that up.

Breakfast was rather uneventful. By uneventful I mean Japheth had his machete readily available in the name of a vain defense for his sandwich at the hands of the pink-haired bottomless pit also known as Weilu. As soon as she had gone around scrounging for leftovers or scraps he scowled and slunk away to the porch of the inn to finish his food. Afterwards the sniper gathered up his gear and made way to the meeting place where they later embarked to the woods.

The walk had been silent for the most part. Japheth naturally went ahead of the others, taking the lead. It wasn't anything intentional towards Rena, the boy was a great scout and tracker. With his skill set and light equipment, it would only make sense that he go just a little bit ahead of the group. Old habits died hard, after all.

Something rustled behind him. It was unnatural. It broke the rhythm of their steps. Either someone tripped or a potential ambush just lost their element of surprise. Turning his head just enough to look behind them he saw that Europa had indeed tripped on something. Inwardly he groaned. Japheth groaned even further at the sound of Abrahem's remarks, that smooth dog. Sure the girl was special. Rena and Garland certainly kept her around for a reason. Likely some magic user, he figured. It made sense.

Japheth didn't have enough time to get angry at his inability to realize there had actually been an ambush. Within split seconds, it seemed as if those tiny green bastards materialized out of nothing and began descending upon the party. As expected, many of the adventurers were quick to respond. Rena began to slice and dice through several while Weilu cleaved several more. Serrina and Duffrane quickly entered the fray and to Japheth's own personal surprise, even Europa and Abrahem.

There was no time to reflect. It was time to take it all in and react. The rogue shook his head and immediately spun around to fire his flintlock in the face of a goblin attempting to attack him from behind, removing much of the goblin's face with the .58 caliber lead ball. A second received the blunt end of the pistol's grip to the side of his face before feeling Japheth insert his machete into his chest. These little savages surely wouldn't last.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Japheth

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#, as written by TJ93
The warm and cozy bed provided a much needed rest, a shame that they'd be leaving the comforts behind them. Still, it was better than nothing at all.

As Jay got out of bed and put his attire on, he could smell food being served and slowly made his way outside where the others were gathered and had starting eating. Grabbing himself a fish sandwich, he broke them off into tiny chunks and shoved them under his helmet and into his mouth. Weird, yes. But he was paranoid about plenty of things; surprise attacks being one of them. As he finished up his meal, Europa called the group over and he walked over with everyone else. Were they finally heading out? Rena soon answered that question when she laid out a few bags in front of her filled with various supplies and materials. They were prepared, no doubt. As Rena explained what the plan was, Jay couldn't help but look out into the vast forest ahead. He shook his head slightly, he didn't like the idea of being out in the open where an attack could come from all sides. But, if this was the route they had to go, then so be it. And with that, the journey began.

As the group made their way deeper into the forest, Jay took out his crossbow and loaded it with an explosive bolt. While the forest itself was an amazing sight to behold, he couldn't help but feel that something wasn't quite right. Suddenly, Rena raised her hand and he quickly shouldered his crossbow. Did she sense something? What was going on? Why did they stop? That was soon answered when a bunch of goblins appeared out of nowhere, screeching an annoying, but painful laugh. As everyone began to engage the various enemies around them with ease, Jay was not so lucky as two goblins jumped from a nearby tree and tried to jump on his head to stab him with a pair of crude looking cleavers. They may have had they element of surprise, but they were stupid enough to try and ambush him where his crossbow was raised at and he wasted no time firing at the first goblin midair. This proved to be a foolish mistake as the explosive bolt impacted the first goblin a few feet away from him, sending cooked bits of flesh, bone and entrails all over him while at the same time, the force of the explosion sent both Jay and the second goblin tumbling down a small hill. Thankfully his armor took most of the force of the explosion, but it made him lose his grip on his crossbow and caused his helmet to fly off.

As they both landed on a bunch of rocks on the ground below, Jay had the unfortunate luck of hitting the back of his head on of them and it briefly caused him to black out for a few short seconds. When he came to, he felt a warm liquid ooze out from his head and he slowly reached back to feel what had happened. He cried out in surprise as blood stained his hand. This was not a good way to start out. Before he could ponder his lack of luck, the other goblin came running out of one of the bushes and jumped on his chest as it started to scratch at his face. Jay quickly grabbed one of the goblin's hands and snapped the wrist back as hard as he could, but not before getting a few nicks on his face as a result. The sounds of bones breaking and the cry of pain filled his ears as the goblin briefly stopped its attack to hold its now broken wrist.

Using this opportunity, Jay quickly reached into the back of his belt and pulled his dagger out and plunged it into the goblin's belly and sliced upwards. Blood began to gush out, splashing all over his face and into his mouth as the goblin frantically tried to hold its guts in, but to no avail. Jay angrily spat into the goblin's face with its own blood as he plunged both hands into its body cavity and began to rip out ever organ he could. Intestines roped around his neck and other organs were flung along the forest until there was nothing left but an empty shell. After shoving the now dead goblin off his body, Jay grabbed his dagger and began to slice into the goblin's neck until he was able to decapitate it. Grabbing the head and slowly making his way up the hill, he was happy to see that everyone else had survived the ordeal. However, he couldn't help but call out to Rena with a few questions. "Rena, I need to ask you a few things." Jay muttered, holding the back of his head in pain. "First of all, are we going to have any more surprise visitors like our friends here?" He lifted up the goblin's head. "Also, have you seen my helmet and crossbow? I can't seem to recall where they went and I miss them dearly." He scratched his red beard slightly and then asked "Oh yea, when's the next time we'll be able to rest? I'm covered in goblin blood and it really smells like shit. I'd like to get this off of me. Not to mention I don't like having it seep into the gash on my head."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Japheth

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One by one the goblins fell. Rena watched over everyone while cutting down goblins in her way, curious at their combat potential. Weilu was like a surreal pink whirlwind, the goblins' gleeful giggling turned into pained screeching as she cut through them like razors. Syra and Juniper supported each other well; one firing at range and the other slashing close and personal. The goblins' ruptured bodies seemed to momentarily froze up and explode into fountains of blood as they made their way to Europa. Abrahem somehow made the goblins flinch in terror at.....something, allowing him to plant several good shots between their eyes.

Europa stayed close to Sir Abrahem, doing her best not to get in anyone's way. She could hear Madam Serrina's blades as they bisected a goblin and decapitated another with great precision, splattering the goblins' chunky red blood all over her. Then, she flinched as she heard Officer Duffrane's blunderbuss roar like thunder and 'tore a goblin a new one', as the soldiers would say. The wind rushed and blew upon Sir Japheth's coat as he spun and eviscerated a goblin's face with a single shot, with Europa's eyes widening in fascination at his lightning-fast reflexes. The second goblin screeched out in pain, its eternally grinning face squirming in pain as the machete was embedded deep in its chest, before falling limp, blood dripping from its cavernous wound.

An explosion from Jay's modified crossbow bolts blew splinters off of one of the myriad trees of the forest, as well as two unlucky goblins. The loud noise attracted Rena's attention, who rushed towards the tumbling Jay to help, shouting, "Jay!!". Thankfully, Jay was hardier than his relatively small frame suggested, and she watched as the iron-helmeted arbalest gutted the goblin like a fish. And with that, the last goblin fell, causing silence to return to the forest.

Rena gestured the others to come, shouting in alarm, "EVERYONE! Well done, but come quick!!". This section of the forest, previously a dazzling display of nature's beauty, was coated with red and green goblin chunks, on the grass, the trees, everywhere. Though the grass by their feet obscured it, they could hear their boots sloshing through the sticky, gooey goblin gibs. Those who took the time (And resisted the pungent smell) to loot the goblins could pick up their crude, borderline useless weapons, a small amount of gold from their raids, and a two vials of invisibility potions. Judging by the gold they had on their persons, these goblins were likely opportunistic raiders and bandits, preying upon those fleeing the onslaught of demons. Portly merchants, emaciated farmers, lone deserters, people they could overwhelm with numbers and an ambush.

Europa kneeled down besides Sir Jay, her face contorting into a worried frown. Her left hand held the back of his neck, while her right one hovered over his face. "Sir Jay, you're hurt! Hold still....", the girl meekly whimpered. Bright, soft light emanated from her right palm, and a soothing feeling came over Sir Jay as she slowly healed him. A standard healing spell, easy to learn, pivotal for those who wish to learn the dangers of magic. Even in death, the goblin's head continued its annoying grin as Sir Jay clutched it.

Rena put one of her hands on her hips, and sighed, glancing aside. "Most likely. I know tis' obvious, but we best keep on our toes, everyone." She looked around, unable to find Jay's crossbow and helmet immediately. She turned to Syra, and pointed to her. "Syra, go and find Jay's equipment. None of those green blighters survived, so they should be around here somewhere." She then folded her arms and cursed under her breath, "Wretched things. They grow bolder everyday..."

Considering Jay's question, Rena consulted her map, giving everyone some time to catch their breath. She gazed forward, deeper into the forest of shadows, and observed the skies. Still blue, still early. The blue knight took a few steps forward, before finally answering, "We can stop for a brief respite here, but not too long. We still have a long journey ahead of us, and I'm hoping to reach the abandoned elven outpost by tonight."

The abandoned elven outpost....a source of many childhood ghost stories for local Soltridans. The ancient elves who inhabited the pearl-white, dazzling building untold ages ago were said to still lurk nearby, staying vigilant against any who dared trespass inside. But would you believe in such ghost stories?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Japheth

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#, as written by Jaek
Our brief respite better stay brief, thought Japheth as he holstered his newly reloaded pistol. For all they knew, there could be more goblins out in the forest. There was no way the inhabitants of the forest didn't know of the party's presence, not after those black powder shots. The scout quietly yanked his machete out of a goblin carcass and wiped as much of the bloody grime off on the grass as he could before returning it to its resting place. The scout then approached a nearby tree and climbed it effortlessly. He squat down on closest branch and began observing their surroundings while the others took to their rest.

That had been their first real taste of combat as a group. Of course it was next to nothing. Jay seemed to get the worst out of it but not because of his lack of ability. Gravity could be a bitch sometimes. No, everyone seemed to perform at peek capacity, which was good. They should only get better. It wasn't everyone's ability to handle danger that concerned Japheth, but rather, it was the frequency that which danger would throw itself at them that had the sniper at a slight edge.

No matter, he'd worry about it when the time came.

Japheth began focusing on the sounds of the forest. There was the low rumble of the voices below talking amongst themselves, the quiet clatter of armor and equipment being moved in or moved about, and the gentle breeze of the wind as it ruffled the foliage surrounding them. It was beautiful. It was time to get in tune with his senses and perform his self-established duty as scout to the best of abilities. Perhaps he'd help them avoid an ambush like this in the future.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Starlight Rena Character Portrait: Syra Artekhi Character Portrait: Juniper Character Portrait: Serrina Deryn Character Portrait: Weilu Thane Character Portrait: Europa Aidios Character Portrait: Abrahem Ferrus Character Portrait: Jay Character Portrait: Officer William Duffrane Character Portrait: Japheth

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Despite its thin body, the tree was durable as a pillar and so tall, it almost seemed to claw at the skies. Rustling leaves fell from above as Japheth reached the top. His initiative paid off well; from below, the forest felt large, but narrow, Constricted. But above, the foliage ocean seemed limitless, where ever the scout turned his head. He could see the rugged highlands beyond, with its radiant grass and aged, stone-adorned valleys, slightly tinted blue from the atmosphere. A flock of honey-colored warblers scattered and flew besides Japheth, gliding across the skies with no care or worry.

He could not see the so-called 'elven outpost', but not too far ahead, less than half an hour of walk, judging from above, was a trail of smoke. Campfire smoke. This may be an information worth telling the group.....

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