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Ter'Ciel Saga: The War of Akyel

The Kingdom of Valexia


a part of Ter'Ciel Saga: The War of Akyel, by ~Evil Cream Puff~.

The sights and sounds of bustling Valexia are enough to overload one's senses.

~Evil Cream Puff~ holds sovereignty over The Kingdom of Valexia, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

287 readers have been here.


Birthplace of the "Iron Renaissance", Valexia is a successful kingdom that boasts tremendous advances in technology. The largest city in Caldaria, it is ruled by King Reinhildt.
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The Kingdom of Valexia

The sights and sounds of bustling Valexia are enough to overload one's senses.


The Kingdom of Valexia is a part of The Caldarian Continent.

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Crixus Atani [1] Am I awake...or am I the dream?

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Character Portrait: Mariette Renard
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The sacred Mirror of Akyel. For eons it has served as a silent reminder of the will to live that dwells inside every creature. A holy relic that tantalizes the inhabitants of Ter'Ciel with tales of salvation, of a world without pain, without bloodshed. A selfish world where only those whom are judged worthy of life on the planet shall prosper. But this world has no such judge. There is no being that dictates which souls are granted salvation and which are not. And thus, as the mirror once helped rid Ter'Ciel of an unspeakable poison, it has now become a poison itself. A pawn in an arrogant game where humans play for keeps. This is the world of Ter'Ciel.

This is the world we live in.

Mariette Renard

Just as it had done since Ter'Ciel's first day, sweeping across mountains and rivers and forests, the sun was begining to bathe Harlemont in radiant shades of gold. Slowly but surely the noble rays made their way across cobbled streets, up stone walls, and over vast rooftops. Finally, the sun's light reached the tower, lighting it up like a torch set against the pastel sky.

The Temple of Akyel. Nestled into the side of a great hill, it loomed over the city, unmoving and silent. Commanding yet humble. There, residing in its sacred halls since Lahara, handmaiden to the hero Akyel, enshrined it within, the sacred mirror lay. A testament to the great deeds of legend.

Stretching high above the holy city, the tower appeared silent. Beautiful even. Ancient architecture stood steadfast, patrolled by stone gargoyles. Inside, marble floors still shined despite the unstoppable passage of time. Ancient tapestries hung on walls that, if able to speak, would whisper of rich tradition. With large, cathedral-style windows, polished woodwork, and religious paraphenalia placed throughout, it would appear that nothing was amiss. But as the sun continued its trek across the morning sky, its light crept upon and illuminated the altar. The empty altar.

Such a beautiful sunrise...

Mariette could not bear witness to the morning's ritual today. She could not, as she had so many times before, watch the day break while enjoying a freshly brewed cup of citrus tea. It was always the perfect way for her to clear her mind. But the girl's mind was anything but clear right now.

Wiping away the first sign of a tear, the young lady steeled herself. Feet planted firmly on the cobblestone, she willed them to move. One step. And another. And another. Soon she was moving, her footsteps being met by those of the crowds beginning to form around her. Another day had come for the kingdom of Valexia and soon the Iron City, as some would call it, was bustling with life. Venders opened their stalls, housewives began their chores, the Knights began their patrols.

'Oh, God. The Knights...!'

Would they find her? Had word already reached this far? As much as she dreaded to think it, it was likely that most of Caldaria had become privy to what had happened. It had been a week after all...

Mariette's trembling fingers tightened around her satchel. She had to move. She had to get as far away from Harlemont as possible, and although she was miles away already, the walls of Valexia did little to put her at ease. And again she assured herself...

'You're fine. Everything is fine. This isn't wrong. They're the ones who are wrong! Nobody knows it was me who' -

"Hey! Move it!"

Mariette was jolted from her thoughts by a gruff voice. Whipping around, she came face to face with a large, black horse.


Instinctively she cried out, shielding her face and stepping backward. The poor, startled creature bucked, standing on its hind legs as the cart it had been pulling overturned. With a soul-crushing racket, fruit spilled out into the street like blood from a fresh wound. As Mariette felt hundreds of eyes upon her, her face grew hot.

"Ahh...I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!"

Awkwardly stuck between the instinct to help and the want to flee, the girl hesitated for a moment longer before turning and running down a nearby alleyway. The winding paths led her down a few stone steps, around a corner, up a few more steps, and through a courtyard before she finally stopped to get her bearings.

This city was so huge! Of course she knew that already. Valexia was the largest city on the Caldarian continent. That was what prompted her decision to flee to here. Still, nothing could have prepared her for the sheer number of buildings and people of the Iron City. It was unlike Harlemont in nearly every sense of the word. And while it was certainly overwhelming, large places make for small targets...or so she figured.

Looking left and right, Mariette noticed what appeared to be steps leading down into a basement tavern. The old wooden sign outside the door seemed so out of place compared to the more modern, flashy sights of the main district. She guessed that even here in Valexia modernization didn't happen everywhere overnight.

The Rusty Timepiece.

A curious name for a tavern. Then again, Mariette had never really been to a tavern before. They were typically places where all sorts of people came to rest and socialize, right?

'I bet I could listen in and see if anyone's talking about what happened in Harlemont.'

It was as good an idea as any, she figured. And with that, the girl took a deep breath, held it, and pushed open the door.

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#, as written by Seerow
Locke Taurin

“At long last, I will be undeniable; I will be flocked to by women for miles around!”

Locke had to stifle his laughter. This man couldn’t be so serious, and yet the words that were pouring from the codger’s mouth were nothing short of comical genius. The curmudgeon wasn’t without his resources fortunately; it appeared the batty elder had amassed enough wealth to try and send Locke to the dangerous unknowns that were the forests of the north. All in search of a mysterious stone idol said to grant its owner an unrivaled aura of desire. It was said the idol was some trinket of an ancient fertility goddess and she gave such outlandish promises as one thousand mates to her priests and servants. A bit radical when Locke put it in perspective, but if his employer wanted to believe it was none of his business, his job after all, was only to return the idol to the old man and collect his reward.

Of course he wasn’t going to even try and brave the unmapped parts of the land. Much less go delving into some trap riddled temple to die a truly horrific death. No, the thief had to be much cleverer and for such a high price he couldn’t pass on the opportunity that presented itself. He was going to receive enough Akeli to eat off of for months.

Instead Locke had spent the better half of a month carefully researching the old fool’s idol. Then with the aid of some local artists had been painstakingly recreating and weathering a clay replica of the goddess’ vessel. Every chip in its surface was carefully placed by design, every coat of earthly hues applied was done in a loving gesture. All of it wrapped in some old cloth he found in the streets. The faux idol was lovingly placed in an old jewelry box he ‘acquired’, and packed with feathers and soft bedding in part to offer an idea that he was cautious and in part because clay was fragile.

Locke beamed and nodded to the old man, as he pushed the box gingerly toward him. It wouldn’t be much longer. He just had to play this out and he would walk away with the payment, no hitch, no worry.

“You are a remarkable man Davonshire Jack,” the delight of the senior’s voice seemed to hold endless mirth and anticipation. The wrinkled hands gently lifted the lid of the box to see the replica sitting quietly within. His malachite eyes lit with excitement and he licked at his lips with an eagerness that Locke found somewhat disturbing.

“Well, think of me next time you need an adventurer. Davonshire Jack, I get there and get back.”

“Oh yes, yes! I certainly will.”

“I hate to hurry, but about our agreement? I don’t want to be trapped here when this building is filled wall to wall with beautiful ladies.”

“Beautiful, do you think?” It appeared the aged brain was addled by the idea, he obviously heard Locke yet didn’t seem to understand. The thief couldn’t help but wonder privately just what would drive this man to such desperations? At first glance the old man wasn’t entirely deplorable, was it his personality perhaps?

“Pretty women as far as the eye can see. Now truly sir, I wish to go before you no doubt drown in heaving bosoms. There are other adventures for Davonshire Jack, I can’t afford to die a pleasant death here and now.” He offered with as courteous a bow he could manage. Beneath his mannerisms he was growing impatient. The longer this exchange took, the larger the chance of them discovering his little replica is a fake.

“Down the stairs, the guards will see to you. Now get going Jack, these halls are going to burst with my wives.”
Locke spun on his heels, the clatter of his boots echoing down the halls of the old alchemy building. It was said at one time they housed an entire guild for research. How the senile fool managed to own the entirety of the property is unknown. Locke drew in a deep breath of relief, the air was stale and held hints of dust and books even if the latter was completely out of sight. There was also another strange scent that he could only guess as some kind of chemical, or an old stain perhaps? Regardless it was unpleasant and he would be glad to walk into the fresh air again, a few hundred Akeli richer.

When he reached the doorway that would grant his freedom he was acknowledged by two dirty looking ruffians. No doubt some goons from a bar the old man had picked up. They were thugs at best and posed no threat so long as Locke wasn’t forced into a physical contest. He offered them a smile and approached with an unguarded stride. When dealing with hooligans it was far better to not show any kind of hesitance. Like dogs they could smell fear and used it to their advantage.

“Burt, Ren, take a few Akeli for some drinks later. On me.”

Their grins could down a gentle soul if said soul were not ready. The dumpy misshapen forms of their battle-scarred faces and the chipped snagged things they called teeth were a frightening visage reserved for ghouls. Locke could only guess they worked almost exclusively with intimidation, and it was a smart decision that he applauded the old fool for.

Each dipped their hands into a dirty leather sack drawing a few coins for themselves. They took more than Locke would have preferred, but if it meant their encounter shortened he was glad to give up the money. Eagerly they offered him the grimy bag and he took it without question. Locke made his way past the guards as they spouted a few jokes in parting.

“Ave’ a nice day Jack, be missing dat kurtin’ you wear.”

The air felt crisp and he was relieved for the sunlight that lit his face with its warmth. Already the day had begun and he could hear the distinct sounds of the people as they began to mill here and there. He loved Valexia, every footstep was another pathway to coin. Each voice a distinct piece of a puzzle that Locke could solve, and again walk away with Akeli, or perhaps something even greater.

Another fool had been conned and Locke couldn’t help but feel a satisfaction at the weight of the metal in his hand. It was cause for a celebration, but he would have to be a touch careful. Parading down the street like he had earned the world looking as he did, was the surest way to catch the attention of other lowlifes or worse still the guards that were in someone’s pocket. There was an entire underbelly to Valexia that warranted caution and only those who yearned for misery tried to walk the streets blissfully.
Locke moved down the winding ways of the city. His feet had traveled every square inch of Valexia and he knew the maze-like structures instinctively. What he longed for right now was some of Aunt Oba’s soup and he knew just where to find her. It wasn’t long before his eyes recognized the old courtyard and the steps that lead to one of his favorite hovels. The Rusty Timepiece it had been named. A bit of an oddity but it served as nice quiet place to recover and possibly hide should his scheme soon be discovered.

The heat and noise are always the first things felt getting past the door. The chatter of people was the loudest cacophony, the soft strumming of musicians trying their luck, the raucous of a few drunken patrons and of course the occasional joke or story. It wasn’t the worst tavern in Valexia by any account the keepers did well to serve their guests and managed visitors as best they were able. However that wasn’t what immediately caught his eye.

The golden edges of his orbs settled on the strangest company within the Rusty Timepiece. She was still standing almost awkwardly in the doorway. Downed in garments one would not see in the more questionable places of Valexia. The cloak of rich green and deep blacks signified a prestige that didn’t belong in the rustic tavern. Yet as he looked, there were many strange details that cropped up. Her boots were well traveled the scuff marks at the heel and sides gave this away. Her hair was well kept and from what he could gather staring at the small girl’s back she was far too finely dressed for where she was. Was she lost?

“… A rich traveler?”

He muttered in thought. The wheels of his mind were already turning. Could he make a profit from this? It was bold of him to try something again so soon, but it wasn’t everyday a possibly wealthy girl wound up on the wrong side of town. What’s worse, there would be others who note this as well. He would have to come up with something and quick. He wracked his brain what ploy would he try, what opening would be best? The back alley travel guide, or perhaps the gentlemen urchin trying to help, maybe if he was feeling brave he could pretend to be royalty that has been sent to rags. So many choices, but he had to act fast. He wanted more time to observe her, but she was in the wrong place. Other eyes were already leering at her no doubt there was opportunists among them. Perhaps he could use that knowledge to his advantage.

“Ah, there you are. My apologies for being late.”

There wasn’t any time and if he was going to make a show out of his lie he was going to need to make it believable. Quickly he went to take Mariette by the arm and tried to move her as briskly as he could toward a table. His words a sharp whisper into her ear as he drew close in proximity.

“Keep quiet and don’t make a scene and I’ll get you out of here alive. Just play along I’m here to help.”

He was overestimating the danger on purpose. His eyes were searching out over the other patrons, and looking over his shoulder as if expecting an assassin any minute. In truth if there was one among them bold enough to try something it wouldn’t be within the tavern. Yet, if Locke was anything of a good guesser, he was willing to bet she didn’t know this.

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Character Portrait: Locke Taurin Character Portrait: Mariette Renard Character Portrait: Crixus Atani
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Mariette Renard

“Keep quiet and don’t make a scene and I’ll get you out of here alive. Just play along I’m here to help.”

The stranger’s words echoed in her ear. Eyes suddenly wide, Mariette could feel her skin turn to ice. Trembling fingers clutched even tighter around her satchel.

Before she could make sense of the situation, she felt the man’s grip on her arm. Firm but not overpowering. Leading her through the rowdy tavern patrons and to the back of the room, he brought the confused girl to an open table. He motioned for her to have a seat. Unsure of what to do, Mariette’s gaze shifted about the room. It appeared that most of the patrons were staring at her. Did she truly look that suspicious? Turning back toward the stranger before her, she chose her actions carefully. Hesitantly she sat down.

“I’m sorry, sir, but…” she leaned in and spoke slowly, “I’m afraid you are mistaken. I do not seem to know you. If you’ll please excuse me…”

She managed a polite, albeit uncomfortable smile. Now to just get out of this place.

’How foolish of me. Thinking I could remain inconspicuous among so many people.’

With that, Mariette pushed her chair back and began to stand up. It was then that the tavern erupted.

“I said move!” One of the large men in the tavern was yelling.

Turning around, the girl saw the source of the altercation. It was a man. A thin, rather sickly looking man dressed in black. Dark bangs hid most of his face from view but from his clumsy actions it was obvious he was intoxicated. Suddenly, one of the men pushed him, sending the drunk crashing into a table. The clatter of silverware and breaking glass sounded above the already noisy room.

’Wh-what the!?’

As if by some testosterone-laden domino effect, the entire tavern erupted into a brawl. Drinks and food went flying, spilling onto the floor and on the other patrons. Mariette watched in horror, backed up against the wall and mentally kicking herself for choosing a place called The Rusty Timepiece as her safe haven. Whipping her head back around to the mysterious stranger from earlier, she saw his eyes narrow. In one fluid motion he darted forward, grabbing her arm once more and moved. The girl let out a yelp that went unheard amidst the commotion. Swiftly, the stranger crept around the far side of the scuffle toward the door.

’He’s getting me out of here?’

She didn’t know why, nor did she know where they were going, but at this point, Mariette decided anywhere was better than The Rusty Timepiece. Unseen, they managed to exit the tavern. The stranger paused for a moment, not letting up on the firm grip on her arm, before choosing a direction and running for it.

Mariette cast one final glance behind her and saw the black clad man being struck over the head by someone. His body went limp and fell in the street.

“H-hey! That man!” She called out instinctively. The stranger did not seem to care, however, as his grip merely tightened and his pace quickened down the dark alleyways of Valexia.

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Ilana had noticed the commotion coming from the tavern, but by the time she arrived, the chaos was already spilling outside. There was almost no way to determine who among the brawlers was an innocent party, and truly, anyone who chose to stick around and work out a nonexistent dispute with their fists was not someone Ilana was going to intervene on the behalf of. More than that, bar fights really weren’t her specialty.

What did catch her eye, however, were the two figures fleeing from the scene, one a young man who looked quite at home on the Valexian streets, the other a girl who looked quite the opposite. More or less dragging the girl by the arm he pulled her into an alley, the pair checking behind them often, probably for pursuers. Intrigued, Ilana urged Diana after them at a trot, getting off of the main streets, doing her best to keep them in sight while maintaining her distance. She hadn’t planned on getting involved in anything on her way back to the monastery, but ignoring this would not have sat well with her.

The Paladin found them stopped in a run-down neighborhood, in the street by an empty stone basin, facing off against two cudgel-armed thugs who appeared to mean business. The smaller man with the knife appeared to have taken somewhat of a defensive stance in front of the girl, and now Ilana felt she was required to intervene, before this got out of hand.

“Easy there, gentlemen,” she said, bringing her horse to a stop off to the side and smoothly dismounting. “Step away from these two, please.” Her tone was calm, controlled, even a bit gentle, but still quite serious. Her sword remained sheathed at her hip, but she slowly pulled her shield onto her arm. The thugs were both greater than her in size, and appeared unmoved.

“Dis none o’ your concern, lady,” the closer of the two replied, tapping his cudgel into the palm of his hand. “You’ll clear outta here if you know what’s good for ya.”

Ilana sighed slightly, still not drawing her weapon. “This is my concern now, I’m afraid, and unless you can somehow justify bashing these two’s heads in with clubs, I suggest you take a step back, and allow us to discuss this.”

The cretin shook his head. “Ain’t nuthin’ to discuss.” He gestured with his head to his friend, and the two of them attacked.

As much as she hadn’t wanted to do this, Ilana couldn’t say it was unexpected. Quickly she made sure to position herself between the two that the thugs threatened, raising her shield to meet the first swing that came her way. The cudgel bounced off its face with a clang, deflected harmlessly to the side. The other thought to attack her on her flank, but Ilana predicted this, delivering a solid kick to his gut when he had his weapon raised to strike. He staggered backwards, giving her a moment to deal with the first one.

Her short sword came free in a flash, and she rushed him, ramming against his body with the face of her shield, close enough such that his big club was more or less useless. With her sword she slashed low, slicing into the side of his leg, forcing him down onto one knee with a cry of pain. This she followed up with a knee strike to his forehead, the armored top of her boot knocking him senseless and onto his back.

Ilana turned back just in time to catch the other one rushing up behind her, a heavy two handed blow with the cudgel smashing into her shield. He had a great deal of strength, but she braced herself properly, and held up under the blow. While the force of the attack rebounded against him Ilana saw an opening, and slammed the bottom rim of her shield down, smashing the thug’s toes on one foot. He howled and jumped back, letting Ilana follow up with a second shield strike, this time with the top rim, directly into his face. His hands went to cover his bloodied nose and brow, and Ilana pushed forward, sweeping a leg behind him and tripping him onto his back. Before he could do more than roll over onto his side she sent a powerful kick to his head, knocking him out as well, and settling the scene into silence.

With the fight over, Ilana slowed her breathing. “Well, that was unwise of them,” she said, before heading back over to her horse and pulling a small cloth from one of the side packs, which she used to clean off her blade. That done, she sheathed her weapon again and settled her shield back in position across her back, turning to face the two she had just stepped in on behalf of.

“My name is Ilana. I’m with the Paladin Order. Are either of you hurt?”

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Mariette Renard

It was over in an instant.

The two ruffians who had followed her into the alleyway were now lying silently on the pavement. Wide eyed, Mariette was stunned by the woman's prowess. She seemed so calm. So confident. She moved between the two brigands like a dance, primly switching partners without missing a beat.

Ilana. Of the Paladin Order. Of course Mariette had heard of them before. She'd even met a few of their members who had stopped through Harlemont on their travels. Their stories were always among her favorites to hear. Tales of grand battles and confrontations all in the name of justice and the good of the people. How lucky for her that this Ilana had passed through when she did! Clearing her throat softly, Mariette took a small step forward.

"Thank you so much, Miss Ilana. I am ever grateful for your assistance." She kept her words formal, although the expression on her face was one of intense relief.

'Yes, she saved you, but you can't count on that happening again. You need to get out of here already!'

True. Mariette needed to keep moving. She apparently looked suspicious enough to perk up the noses of the locals. Any more attention and she might get caught.

'Is this what I am now? A felon? A wanted criminal?'

How ironic that it would be her inability to turn a blind eye to injustice that would land her on Caldaria's most wanted list.

'No. It's not like that. I'm not the criminal here. I'm just doing what's right.'

The thought sounded more like some feeble attempt to convince herself. It was a bit hard to believe that she was the righteous one when she was standing in the middle of a secluded alleyway clutching a satchel with -

'What are you still doing here!?'

Mariette forced a smile. It was time to move.

"Thank you again for the help, Miss. I always seem to forget how horrible the atmosphere is in this part of town." She laughed nervously before turning to the man the brigands had called Locke.

"And thank you, Mr. Locke. I'll be sure to recommend your escort services to my friends when I return home."

She curtseyed slightly, clutching her satchel to her chest, before turning and walking out of the alleyway.

'Escort service? God, what was I thinking?'

She'd never been very good at lying. As weak as her alibi may have been, she had to keep moving forward. Davonshire seemed the next logical place for her to go. The city was miles away, across the ocean, and free of any Valexian influence.

'And just how much longer are you planning on running?'

It was an uncomfortable thought that the girl was not ready to tackle just yet. All that mattered was getting the Mirror of Akyel as far away from Harlemont and her uncle as possible. All she needed to do was board a ship bound for Davonshire. If she could manage to avoid any more tavern fights, mysterious abductors, filthy brigands, and Paladin saviors, it would perhaps prove to be a rather simple journey. Perhaps.

Sighing softly to herself, Mariette emerged from the alley and back out into the main street. Once again drowning in the bustling crowd, she looked around for any indication of where the harbor might be.

A rather simple journey, indeed.

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#, as written by Seerow
Locke Taurin

It was over so much faster than Locke anticipated. For one moment he was drawn back, dagger at the ready his ground being intruded upon. Then as though the gods were to intervene, a glistening, golden maiden appeared from the busy passers of Valexia. Her skill went unmatched as she easily dispatched the ruffians before they even understood what they were up against.
Had Locke been of his mind he may had noted her style and tactics as being well taught, but ultimately merciful. She wasn’t looking to kill these hooligans, despite their intentions toward her being otherwise. This stranger had a grace in her movements, like every strike and blow flowed from her very core and ended in an extension of her arms and legs. A warrior the likes the thief had not seen in some time.

When it was over Ren and Burt were dispatched and bleeding, but for Locke he was still stunned, staring silently as he tried to blink away the stupefied expression on his face. Though he didn’t seem to register where he was or what was happening till after Ilana spoke directly to them.

“… I er, no… I don’t think so,” he barely responded cohesively as he looked over his frame. There were no nicks or cuts, scrapes or bruises, for all purposes he was fine. It was hardly a surprise but yet he was compelled to check anyway. Still somewhat awe struck by their savior.

“Oh um, yes, I am Locke.” He muttered to Mariette’s polite comment.

He had been so inattentive that he didn’t even try to stop Mariette as she gave her words in parting. All of this was a lot for the stealer to take in. Words and actions were drifting past as he was gathering his resolve. He hadn’t ever been saved before, that was a first, and what’s more he had never really seen a paladin this close before. Sure he knew of the Order, had even heard a few interesting tales, but to see one with his own eyes, it was like viewing some exotic creature for Locke.

When at last he came to his senses, he glanced around his shoulder in the direction the young girl had taken off to. Should he peruse this to the end? Quietly he wondered if it was a worthy investment. He had gotten lucky and escaped a problematic situation. He could just go into hiding for a while, lay low and eat well for a week or so before the old man would no doubt give up. Then again, that codger was wealthier than Locke had first believed. There was no doubt he could afford better hunters then the thugs dreaming on the cobblestone.

He offered an exasperated sigh and slipped his dagger back into its sheath, buttoning down the lacing that held it firmly in place. No doubt the affairs would wind up like the job he pulled on the self-proclaimed Merchant King and he would have to leave Valexia for a time.

He offered as polite a bow an urchin could to the Paladin, and promptly approached his downed attackers. At the very least he could get his Akeli back. No need to pay for drinks of men whose intentions were to maul him. Casually he slipped their coin from their pockets and plunked the metal into the sack he was carrying.

“You two really messed up,” he spoke aloud to the thugs, ignorant of Ilana whilst he was in thought. “Who knows what that girl had, you just had to come and ruin it. Oh well, at least you idiots will feed me for another night.”

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Character Portrait: Locke Taurin Character Portrait: Ilana Valencia Character Portrait: Mariette Renard
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Ilana Valencia

It wasn’t the first time Ilana had left people somewhat dumbstruck by her arrival, and she was certain it wouldn’t be the last. Paladins were rare enough to be talked about a great deal more than they were seen, and she’d long since gotten used to the stares of varying levels of disbelief. What was more or less normal to her tended to be rather extraordinary for others. It was just a fact of her life.

What wasn’t normal was this girl. She was obviously not from these parts, yet she claimed to be, though even that delivery was largely fumbled. She was obviously nervous, which wasn’t surprising given the situation she’d just landed herself in, and she was obviously protective of what was in her possession. Also not surprising, as she appeared to be fairly well off judging by her manner of dress, and many young Valexians coveted that which they did not have. Still, she couldn’t help but feel concern for the girl. Her apparent predicament was one that tugged on Ilana’s own past.

Locke, however… Ilana sadly couldn’t say that she was unfamiliar with his type. Valexia was filled with urchins like him, and while she didn’t doubt he was normally a great deal smoother than he was for their first meeting here, he unwittingly revealed his less-than-noble motives while Ilana was still in earshot. She crossed her arms, narrowing her eyes slightly as he rifled through the pockets of the two thugs. Justice was often a tricky thing. Boys like Locke probably didn’t have much in the way of opportunity growing up; the city was a harsh place. It didn’t excuse what he planned to do, but Ilana could understand the pull of self-preservation, and how it could drive people to do unsavory things.

“Do try to stay out of trouble, Locke,” she said, heading back over to her horse. “Farewell.”

There wasn’t much else to be said. Ilana was not the type of woman to pass judgment by chopping off a thief’s hand. She much preferred to be reasonable, to give those who have done wrong a chance to correct themselves. She preferred to believe in bringing out the good in people, rather than bringing pain upon them for the vice.

Leaving Locke to his own devices, Ilana returned to the main street, remaining on foot and leading her horse behind her. Soon enough, as she had hoped, she spotted the girl from the alley. She blended in only slightly better than Ilana did, even in golden armor and red garments. When Ilana had made her way through the crowd enough to be at a comfortable distance to call out, she did so.

“Excuse me,” she said, to get her attention, “I apologize for following you, but I must admit I’m a bit concerned. Will you walk with me?” She gently tugged Diana up in step with her, until she was walking alongside the girl.

“I hope you don’t mind me saying, but you seem a bit out of your element.” She offered the girl a small smile, a knowing look in her eyes. “I was thirteen when I first came to the city. It was the most overwhelmed I’d ever been in my life. I didn’t have a drop of guile in me. Thankfully, I didn’t have more than a couple coins to my name.” She left it unsaid that it was obvious the girl had more than that, and that it wasn’t a thing to be thankful about on the streets of the Iron City.

“What I’m trying to say is that this city can do terrible things to the unprepared, and I would rather not see that happen to you. I’ve only just met you, but you seem like an honest young woman, with a kind heart.” If memory served her right, she imagined the girl was probably quite scared, so she wanted to do her best to try and put her a bit more at ease. A similar strategy to the one the thief would have tried, she didn’t doubt, but hopefully a paladin would have more transparent intentions. She meant no harm to the girl.

“So… is there anything I can help you with? Perhaps we could start with your name, since you already know mine.”

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Character Portrait: Ilana Valencia Character Portrait: Mariette Renard
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Mariette Renard

“Excuse me. I apologize for following you, but I must admit I’m a bit concerned. Will you walk with me?”

The Paladin had followed her. Of course she had. Mariette probably looked more suspicious with her less than graceful exit than if she had stayed behind with that Locke fellow.

’Just be casual. The Paladins are supposed to help people. It’s their job. She probably just wants to make sure I’m all right.’

Looking up at the armored woman, Mariette nodded softly. Her voice was knowing. Calm and not prying or saturated with false concern. It soothed the girl’s nerves, although she did not notice.

“I hope you don’t mind me saying, but you seem a bit out of your element. I was thirteen when I first came to the city. It was the most overwhelmed I’d ever been in my life. I didn’t have a drop of guile in me. Thankfully, I didn’t have more than a couple coins to my name.”

Mariette felt her face grow hot and she looked down at her boots.

’How could I have been so careless? It’s obvious I know nothing about the outside world. I was a fool to think I could blend in here.’

She kept her face down as Ilana continued to speak, watching her steps over the worn cobblestone.

Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot…

“What I’m trying to say is that this city can do terrible things to the unprepared, and I would rather not see that happen to you. I’ve only just met you, but you seem like an honest young woman, with a kind heart. So… is there anything I can help you with? Perhaps we could start with your name, since you already know mine.”

“Oh! Forgive me, please.” On reaction, Mariette looked up, her eyes apologetic. It felt like such an agonizingly long time since she’d felt this close to someone. Ever since leaving Harlemont, Mariette hadn’t spoken more than a few words to anyone. Just enough to get by and to keep moving forward. Walking alongside this woman, one whose words were kind and helpful, made the girl realize just how lonely and frightened she’d been.

“My name is Mariette. Mariette Re-“ She stopped suddenly, anxiety taking hold of the edges of her mind once more.

’I can’t give anyone my family name. It would be too obvious…’

The girl’s words had trailed off awkwardly. Attempting to hide the blunder, she repeated herself politely.

“Mariette. I am grateful to make your acquaintance, Miss…Ilana, was it?” She stopped to give the Paladin a slight bow.

The two had rounded a corner and were now walking down a side street. The bustle of the main district had died down considerably. Feeling more at ease, Mariette found herself opening up to this stranger.

“I thank you for your concern. It’s true I am unfamiliar with Valexia. I don’t quite know my way about the city just yet. I ended up running into some trouble back in this old tavern and…the rest is as you see now.”

A soft sigh escaped her lips. The sudden remembrance that she was truly alone in her cause was overwhelming. Claustrophobic even.

’Davonshire. I must get to Davonshire.’

“If you please, Miss Ilana.” Mariette kept her voice as pleasant as possible, hoping the mask would reach the despair in her eyes. “I am hoping to board a ship for Davonshire as soon as possible. Would you be so kind as to point me in the direction of the harbor?”

She hoped this would be enough to end their conversation. In truth, Mariette was enjoying the woman’s company. She did not want to part ways just yet. But the weight of her satchel tugged on her arms and anxiety lingered impatiently at the edge of her mind. She couldn’t have this Paladin get involved.

Overhead, the sun had reached high. Bells tolled, marking the arrival of midday. The ships in the harbor would surely be setting off soon.

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Character Portrait: Ilana Valencia Character Portrait: Mariette Renard
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Ilana Valencia

Ilana found herself bothered by the situation, though of course not by the girl herself. Her concern for Mariette was being countered by a desire to avoid prying unnecessarily into the girl's life. She was obviously trying to hide a great deal from her, which wasn't surprising, but the fact that she even stopped herself from admitting her family name was troublesome. Where before Ilana might have simply thought she was overwhelmed by the city and simply in need of a little guidance, now the Paladin believed Mariette was concerned about her identity being known, which meant that she was actively fearing what would befall her if she were revealed.

She came to a half, putting a hand gently on the girl's shoulder for a moment to signal that she would be stopping. There were few enough ears around here, so it was a more comfortable place to stop than in the bustle of the main street.

"It isn't my place to force myself into your affairs," she began, still wary of causing Mariette to close herself off and flee, "but I can tell that you're concerned for your safety, and not just because you're unfamiliar with Valexia."

A man passed pulling a loaded cart, and Ilana paused while he went by, grateful for the time to help her choose her words. When he was beyond earshot, she continued.

"If you have friends in Davonshire who can help you get through whatever it is that's troubling you, then by all means, I'll see you to the harbor and make sure to set you on your way... but if not, there is no more difficult a way to face a challenge than alone."

She smiled a little at her. This was coercion to get Mariette to open up a bit more, plain and simple, but she liked to think that her methods were far more beneficial, and she knew that her motives were in the right place. Even if this girl somehow turned out to be a criminal of some kind, having done something others deemed worthy of punishment, Ilana intended only to help, regardless of what that entailed. It was the Paladin's way, and she took that very seriously.

"The decision has to be yours, of course. If my concern is misplaced, then we'll go our separate ways, and you'll never see me again. If that's what you want, I will of course respect your choice."

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Character Portrait: Ilana Valencia Character Portrait: Mariette Renard
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Mariette Renard

Ilana’s honey-dipped words were genuine. Slowly but surely they slipped through the cracks of Mariette’s facade, giving the girl a warmth she hadn’t felt in ages.


Emerald eyes trailed between the Paladin’s and the cobblestone beneath their feet.

“I-I just…”

Her voice was soft. Tired and forlorn.

“I…have something. Something…important. A-and…”

The grip on her satchel finally loosened as her arms drooped to her sides. Her hands ached with relief from the pressure.

’Just do it. Tell her and be done with it. You can trust her.’

It seemed as if the entire city had gone silent. Mariette could no longer hear the commotion of main street echoing in her head. She went quiet for a moment, mouth open, seemingly willing her voice to work. After what seemed like an eternity, a noise rose in her throat.

“…it’s…it’s the Mir -“

And suddenly she was falling.


In an instant, a shadow had darted past. Pushing Mariette to the ground, the stranger rushed her and the girl felt the coarse fabric of her satchel being wrenched from her fingertips.

For a moment she was stunned. On her hands and knees, she stared at the pavement, eyes wide with shock.

’My hands… Empty…!’

Her satchel was gone. The Mirror was gone! Mariette snapped her head up in time to see a cloaked someone running down an alleyway. Her satchel was tucked under their arm.

’No no no no no no!!’

The girl’s heart sank into her chest as nausea and panic overtook her senses.

Scrambling to her feet, she cried out. The cutpurse was already a considerable distance away from her but she had to catch them. There was no other option for her. If she were to loose the Mirror now, all that she’d done would have been for naught.

A painful lump rose in her throat and her quickened pulse was making her eardrums rattle. So many thoughts and emotions swirled around her very core. A violent maelstrom of despair, anger, betrayal, guilt, and desperation. When she finally cleared her head, she found herself running after the assailant. When she realized she was running, she ran faster.

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Character Portrait: Ilana Valencia Character Portrait: Mariette Renard
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Ilana Valencia

The Paladin had been patiently awaiting the spilling of information that Mariette seemed about ready to perform, but she'd been so absorbed in whatever words were hanging on the girl's tongue that she had failed to notice the cloaked figure approach from the side, ramming poor Mariette to the ground and making off with her satchel. A far more direct method of thievery than Locke had attempted to pull off, and seemingly more effective.

Ilana reached out to try and snatch the thief's arm, but they'd already bolted out of her reach. She cursed her ignorance of her surroundings, thinking how she could have prevented this from happening, but there was no time for that right now. Mariette got to her feet quickly, apparently uninjured by the fall, and she took off after the figure. Ilana followed closely at her heels, whistling for her horse to follow. It was too tight and twisty in here for a horse to move quickly enough; they'd be better off chasing the thief down on foot.

Eager to stay in front of Mariette, in case they ran into some danger, Ilana quickened her running stride, leaving her shield on her back and sword sheathed for the moment so she could run faster. Her armor weighed her down somewhat, making it difficult to keep up with the thief, who was light, nimble, and very quick.

The chase brought a sheen of sweat to Ilana's brow, red hair whipping behind her as she ran. For all her talk of helping Mariette, she had no intention of failing her now that something bad had actually occurred. And whatever was in that bag was somehow important, the girl said herself.

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Character Portrait: Locke Taurin Character Portrait: Ilana Valencia Character Portrait: Mariette Renard
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#, as written by Seerow
Locke Taurin

Locke had been busy strolling down the back alleys. His eyes so careful to seek anyone else that could possibly be trying to hunt him down. Today had been an entirely different kind of a day. He had pulled off a great con, stumbled onto an ideal target, and even got saved by a paladin. Far more hectic than the thief preferred but he could not complain. He was escaping with a large sum of Akeli and even if he was forced to go into hiding for a time, it wasn’t honestly much more than an unfortunate nuisance. He offered a lofty sigh, his feet trampling over compacted dirt-

Gray and brown and the sound of his own voice mixing with another, Locke grunted with discomfort as another body smashed into his. The two tumbled wildly down but to his surprise the runner caught their feet and hurried off deeper into the maze of Valexia. The long muddy browns of the perpetrator’s cloaks flowed out almost like wings catching the wind, whoever this was, and whatever their reasoning, they were off to somewhere in a great panic. Lock strained his eyes to veer at whoever tripped him up, and though the brown cloak’s head was half-turned looking back as it fled, there just wasn’t enough time to distinguish anything before they were gone.

Locke hopped to his feet dusting his pants of the dirt, his fingers gliding over the contents on his belt. Nothing was missing near as he could tell, but he pieced a bit of the puzzle together when he shifted his stance, for his foot touched something alien. A satchel was at his feet, well worn, but crafted with expert hands. It didn’t take the urchin very long to realize that its craftsmanship alone gave it value. Maybe the goddess was smiling on him today after all. With a bit of glee he snatched up the lovely item its heft and weight telling him there was more inside.

“Hmmm now what have we here?”

The ends of his fingertips dug without hesitation but it was his eyes that surrendered all his thoughts. The golden orbs widened with such shock, and his jaw fell loose as he touched what was within. Quickly and violently he closed the satchel, his gaze darting wildly around almost in panic. Could it be? Was it true, had the goddess herself blessed him with such a prize? His heart was racing and he was stricken with fear, bliss, and anxiety. The runner couldn’t have possibly known what they had, or else they would have stayed and fought. No, Locke knew this had come to him through happenstance.

Somebody would be looking for it though. Worse still there were at least a dozen sellswords also seeking it. A thousand bloodied hands alone in the city would gut him if they had any idea what he possessed, and even gentle folk would stab at him if they knew. This was indeed a dangerous item to carry, and it made Locke uneasy. Yet, there was happiness, the reward, the praise; he could retire at long last. He just had to get this thing back where it belonged and who else but Locke could do it? He actually smiled broadly and laughed from his own dumb luck.

All of that changed immediately when he saw Ilana with Mariette in tow. He pieced everything together before they could even reach him. Of course, it all made so much sense. That strange rich girl lurking in the shadows of Valexia where she didn’t belong, the Paladin was her protector then? To be honest he wasn’t sure entirely what Illana’s purpose was. Still he knew the satchel in his hands belonged to one of them. The way they were running, the sort of desperate fear that clung in the younger girl’s features, she had been scared.

He masked his knowledge. Instead he looked just as confused as they must have been. They couldn’t know that he knew. If it was just Mariette he would have had no trouble taking the ultimate prize from her, but with Ilana the game changed. He would have to use cunning, wait, steal it out from under them when they least expected. He offered a warm grin, as friends might meet another with.

“Well, it would appear the goddess is determined that our paths cross. I’m afraid you missed the thief; they were a tad clumsy and dropped this after our collision,” he mused as he lifted the satchel.

“I’ve heard it said that a man should never examine the contents of a woman’s belongings, so perhaps I’ll forget seeing what’s inside in light of the circumstance.”

He offered Mariette’s belongings without pause, and with as polite a manner as he could.

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Character Portrait: Locke Taurin Character Portrait: Ilana Valencia Character Portrait: Mariette Renard
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Mariette Renard

The painful lump in Mariette’s throat only intensified when she finally came to a stop. Heaving breaths burned her lungs as she saw her satchel in the clutches of a very familiar-looking pair of hands. The dubious do-gooder from just moments before. The one they called Locke.

“Well, it would appear the goddess is determined that our paths cross. I’m afraid you missed the thief; they were a tad clumsy and dropped this after our collision.”

Had he truly retrieved it from the cutpurse? Mariette did not see her assailant anywhere in the vicinity. How exactly, she wondered, did this Locke fellow manage to get ahold of her satchel?

’You have to get it back. Get it back!’

It was a bitter yet obvious truth that this man had the edge over her. He was street-wise. Cool under pressure. The girl knew that getting the Mirror back wouldn’t be easy. But before she could begin to speak, the man continued, his voice honey dipped like a gentleman suitor.

“I’ve heard it said that a man should never examine the contents of a woman’s belongings, so perhaps I’ll forget seeing what’s inside in light of the circumstance.”

With that, he thrust the satchel out to her.

Her face contorted in dazed hesitation, Mariette paused.

’He’s…giving it back? Why? He must know what’s inside. He must have looked. So…why?’

Slowly, she reached out, fingers wrapping delicately around the top of the satchel. Feeling the all-too-familiar grip on her bag, Mariette snatched it, clutching it to her bosom protectively. Her words were carefully chosen, albeit clumsily delivered…

“Th-thank you. I…I cannot thank you enough…sir. I…”

If he had seen the contents of the bag, there was no way he would return it so eagerly.

Her hands felt around the outside of the satchel. Sure enough, the unmistakable outline of the Mirror of Akyel could be felt beneath the rugged fabric. The Mirror had only been out of her possession but a few minutes, but to Mariette, the reunion could have just as easily been a lifetime.

She cast another glance at Locke. He merely returned her gaze with a solid smile that she could only describe as…


Somehow, on the dirty streets of Valexia, amidst the clamor, the hungry stares, the wolves circling the lost sheep…she had found someone special. Someone trustworthy. Immediately, the girl felt a pang of guilt for dismissing the man as a liar and con artist. Truly, it seemed that the Goddess was on her side this day.

Mariette breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and suddenly noticed how exhausted she felt. It seemed that the day’s ordeal had taken a greater toll on her than she’d initially realized.

’Perhaps I should rest for today. I cannot afford to let my guard down again.’

With a renewed and welcome sense of security, the girl thanked Locke once more and offered a prim bow. She then turned to Ilana.

“If you please, Miss Ilana, would you perhaps escort me to a proper inn? I would like to retire for the rest of the day.”

The plan seemed simple enough. She would get some much needed rest before setting out on the first ship to Davonshire. Away from Valexia, away from Ata’hua… Freedom was within her grasp.

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Character Portrait: Locke Taurin Character Portrait: Ilana Valencia Character Portrait: Mariette Renard
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Ilana Valencia

The Paladin slowed her breathing when the chase came to an end, and she was surprised to see Locke awaiting them with Mariette's satchel. She allowed the exchange to take place, not interrupting any of the words between the girl and the thief, but she studied Locke closely with slightly narrowed eyes the whole time.

Her horse came up behind them at a trot, Ilana taking hold of her with a gloved hand and gently patting her to make sure she was calm. When Mariette asked to be escorted to an inn, she thought for a moment, glancing between her two companions.

"I can... but you're coming with us." She was looking at Locke. "I'd prefer if you stay somewhere I can see you. At least for the moment." It was pretty clear she wouldn't be giving him a choice in the matter. Whatever was in Mariette's bag, he'd clearly had a chance to see inside, and if it was dangerous, that made him a threat, at least to Mariette, and possible to more. In this case... it seemed better to keep an eye on him than risk what he would do if she were to let him go.

"Come on," she said, heading out slowly at first, "I know a place not far from the docks. One that's typically devoid of barfights." Ilana led the way, checking back behind her regularly to make sure her two charges were following. Mariette seemed a bit taken in by Locke's apparent generosity, but Ilana was not going to be won over so easily. She'd heard what he'd planned to do earlier, and obviously if he still intended that, his plans would need to change with Ilana around, lending her protection to Mariette. She would have voiced her concerns to the girl, but it didn't seem appropriate with Locke standing right there.

The inn she led them to was, as she said, not far from the docks, and not in quite so densely packed a part of town as the rest. It was a two story, fairly wide building, with its own stables, where she left her horse in the hands of the stableboy. She led them inside, stopping before the counter with her two charges behind her.

The innkeeper seemed to recognize her. "It's... Ilana, isn't it, my lady? It has been some time. Welcome back to the city."

"Thank you, Bertran. It has. I will be needing a room large enough for the three of us for one night, please." She pulled a small pouch of coins from her belt, tipping several into her hand and setting them on the table.

"Of course, my lady. I always welcome having a Paladin in my establishment. A discount is in order, I think." He took only half the coins she offered him, sliding back the rest. Having learned by now not to try and refuse people's kindness, Ilana took the coins back with a smile and her thanks.

The innkeeper led them upstairs to their room, promptly leaving them to their privacy. It was a sizable space, with beds for all three of them, a window overlooking the waterfront of the city. The ships had left by now, and the bustle of the streets having passed peak activity.

Setting her bags down at the base of the bed she chose, Ilana took a seat, thankful for a chance to get off her feet for a bit. And there were still a few things that needed clearing up.

"Before that unfortunate occurrence in the alley, I believe you were about to tell me what is in that bag. And I believe our friend Locke here already knows, so perhaps it's best to just get everything out in the open. This is a safe place." As safe as somewhere in Valexia could be, at least. She would have taken them to the monastery, but that was at least an hour's walk out of the city, and she wasn't too keen on bringing a thief there.