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Ashera Vallenai

A young and reckless archer with a sense for danger...

0 · 262 views · located in Zoltia

a character in “The Gala-Dor Expedition”, as played by Gamer_Templar

Description

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Name
Ashera Vallenai

Archetype
Elven Magic Archer

Age
Fifty-six

BBCode
#AEAE00

Theme
Divinity: Dragon Commander OST – For the Hand of a Princess

Appearance
As with many elves, Ashera has a youthful appearance and a tall, lithe build. She stands at 5’11” in height, a pale figure with long blonde hair and silver eyes. Her leather armour prioritises agility over protection, designed to be stylish yet practical, covered by a hooded white cloak fastened with a star-shaped brooch.

Personality
Ashera is an idealist at heart, driven by both wanderlust and a hunger for knowledge. Her travels in the world below her floating homeland have given her a grudging appreciation for human and dwarven cuisine, along with genuine fascination for Zoltia’s wildlife. She is eager to prove her worth to others through her actions, though she has yet to master that fine line between bravery and recklessness. Her upbringing in Valtensae has also given her a somewhat sheltered worldview, leaving her unaccustomed to the social norms of non-elven cultures.





Skills
Expert Marksman: Ashera’s preferred method of fighting is with her longbow, hitting her targets from afar with exceptional accuracy. For when a little extra punch is needed, she has taken up the extremely unorthodox habit of using overcharged magic crystals as arrowheads. While certainly effective, most elves would liken it to beating someone to death with an artificer’s tools.
Divination Magic: The gift of supernatural foresight is an especially treasured one among elvenkind. Knowing the future a few seconds in advance can be vital in spotting an ambush or judging the right moment to strike. And, perhaps, one might see even further still…
Warding Magic: Another of Ashera’s powers comes in the form of protecting herself and others from incoming harm. She can project solid barriers of energy with which to block projectiles and impede movement.
Ancient Lore: Not all of Ashera’s studies were directly related to the arcane. During her time in Valtensae, she learned much of Zoltia’s ancient history, helped in part by having tutors who could practically give her a first-hand account, albeit not without bias.

History
Ashera had spent much of her early life on Valtensae, studying ancient texts and honing her powers under the guidance of a sect of elven mages known as the Carnelian Conclave. Despite showing much promise in her studies, her desire to see the world – coupled with her impulsive nature – led to her leaving Valtensae a couple of years ago. Recently, she has heard rumours of a planned expedition to uncover the lost dwarven city of Gala-Dor. With the opportunity to make the discovery of even an elven lifetime, how could she resist?

So begins...

Ashera Vallenai's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Henri Le Chevalier

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A glint of sunset peered from between the sky and the river. Warm, orange light bathed Arc en Lume’s skyline, reflected over the canals which linked the city’s many districts. A gondola moved through the water, the weary faces of merchants settled in its seats. The boat passed under a bridge, where two lovers embraced and confessed their feelings. At the city center loomed the red and gold spires of the Sacred Flame’s grand cathedral. Before it, clergymen scooped the ash from a golden chalice, twice the size of the men attending to it.

On the eastern edge of the city, upon the outskirts which overlooked the primeval oaken forests, where old bricks had stood strong and steadfast for innumerable years, where crimson banners and flowering vines hung over sidewalks of tiled stone. The Commons. Home to labourers, louts, and adventurers desiring transient and affordable refuge. A dwarf lumbered across the pavement, a lithe, cloaked shadow trailing behind him. His broad, gloved hand waved off the scurrying forms of street urchins, then checked his pockets.

“These humans need to keep a better eye on their children, I tell ya,” the dwarf muttered to his companion. His voice hoarse and deep, with an accent too rough and uncouth for Beaucourt. He nodded to himself, satisfied with the amount of coin in his purse, then turned his attention to a nearby notice board. There was more paper than wood, with advertisements, missives, and public service announcements, all stacked upon each other without regard for organisation. The dwarf glanced left and right, to make sure that nobody important was watching, tore several sheets from the board, and crumpled them up to put inside his pockets. He looked to the board, and saw his own notice - loud, clear, and no longer buried under such frivolous requests.



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The dwarf huffed, pleased with himself, then turned and walked away. His concealed companion remained a moment before the missive board. A dark, slender hand reached out from the cloak and tugged the advertisement down. As they followed after the dwarf, the worn piece of parchment blew down the street behind them into obscurity.




Night fell, and the last trace of sunlight faded into the dark. But within the Jovial Jackalope tavern, the fires of the hearth burnt bright, casting light and warmth through brick walls and wooden ceilings. Bards strummed their lutes, patrons downed their drinks, and wenches weaved to avoid wandering hands. The dwarf sat in the corner alongside his hooded companion, his arms clasped over the table, his pauldrons reflecting the light of the candles and the fireplace. His eyes wandered from the door, to his half-empty mug, and back again. This is the day, he thought to himself. I can feel it in my jellies.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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After having spent much of her time in Zoltia among the more rural communities, Ashera could not help but feel mildly unnerved to be surrounded by so many people from all walks of life. Arc en Lume felt so crowded compared to Valtensae, but she could not leave now, especially after reading that fateful notice. The path to greater knowledge – and more – lay before her. It was up to her to take the first step.

As the appointed hour approached, the elf entered the Jovial Jackalope, met by the rough-hewn yet warm atmosphere she had come to expect from such establishments. Her immaculate appearance drew a few looks from the patrons, but none made any overt comments. Beaucourt’s capital saw many faces come and go. How many of those faces were of elven heritage, however, was up for debate.

Ashera picked her way through the tables, off towards the far corner where the man behind this bold expedition had set up shop. A dwarven fellow. Wide as he was tall (like just about any other dwarf she met) and with a beard as black as night. Oh yes… this was the one, alright. Beside him was… a drow. Ashera stiffened at the sight. She never thought she would see one up close before. This dwarf certainly travelled with some… interesting company. Of course, one could hardly expect the path ahead to be without its own pitfalls.

As expected, there were others who had come to sign up for this cause, ostensibly for their own reasons. Ashera pulled up another chair to join them without a second thought. “Hilgur Black-Mane, I presume?” the elf politely enquired. She gave a glance to the human beside her, who had given voice to a very pertinent question. “And if I may be so bold to follow up, how can one know for certain where Gala-Dor is buried?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Henri Le Chevalier

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“Sacred Flame hear my words. May you bring us the light and purge the darkness from our souls; with this prayer, I ask you to guide my path, show me my next step. Yours is the brightness, the guiding light, and the gift.”

The sun was high in the sky as a man dressed in simple garb knelt in the streets of Arc En Lume, the sundial in front of him casting no shadow. A simple symbol hung from his neck and he prayed. The streets of Arc En Lume are beautiful and dangerous all at once, like any great city however Henri felt safe making his prayer. One hand on his holy symbol, the other rested on a large blade wrapped in cloth.

It was on this day hours later, the day of his prayer that the cloth wrapped around the greatsword slipped in public. The light from a steadily setting sun bounced from the perfectly shined blade and at just the right angle, it illuminated the paper on the notice board. “Adventurers Wanted”. The sign. The way forward. Riches and secrets.

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

The evening approached and the pale moonlight shone brightly on the sign reading “The Jovial Jackalope”. Within were many patrons, however, a gathering had begun surrounding a Dwarf and a hooded figure. A human woman, covered in powders and with an accent that betrayed her heritage. Another with a bird and a beautiful voice and an elf, very clean and well put together. He made note of the number of women but no obvious thoughts came to mind.

Henri shouldered his bag and held onto his wrapped blade tightly. He elected not to sit as the table was becoming very crowded rather quickly. A mug of ale in hand that he’d made sure to acquire moments before noticing the group. He nodded to the dwarf as he stood behind the ladies, he indicted to his blade resting on his shoulder careful not to interrupt the conversation but to display his interest.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Henri Le Chevalier

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Hilgur looked up, propping his chin atop his clasped hands. Red hair, strong build, and that accent - a human from Stormhold, and an alchemist, to boot. Good, he thought to himself. We needed a healer. The dwarf puffed out his chest with a huff, "I'm a scion of the Black-Manes, lass, a house most noble and ancient!... Grandeur is in my blood."

Esther's question drew the dwarf's black gaze. He took a moment to consider his answer. A moment which another took to join his table. Another human, barely taller than Hilgur himself, with an unkempt head of hair and an owl on her person. Everything about her screamed 'Port Jellico Rascal' - particularly the brand on her shoulder. Was it involuntary, or self-inflicted? Hilgur pondered as he stared. Either answer would have quite the story to tell. "Aye, girl, I'm a dwarf," Hilgur responded, then tapped a fist against his breastplate. "But I'm also a warrior, and I like making sure ya longlegs know that."

Hilgur reached for his mug, held it high, and poured the contents into his wide open mouth. Gold-red mead spilled from his lips and down his coarse, dark beard. He slammed his drink back on the table, what was left of the mead sloshing within the mug.

One more joined their table, slim and pretty, with the refined dialect of an elf. Hilgur raised one brow as he scrutinised her. His father didn't trust the elves, but none of them ever did Hilgur himself any wrong. "You presume right!" he bellowed, the pride obvious in his tone. "And great question, elf," He pointed to her with a nod, then beckoned the others closer.

The dwarf lowered his voice. His eyes squinted with a smile. "I found this map. Dark, worn, an' one of a kind." Hilgur held a massive hand up. "Can't tell you where I did. Trade secret," he flatly noted, before continuing, "Paid a good bit for it, too. But not as much as I should!"

The dwarf's shoulders shook up and down as he restrained his cackles into a chuckle. "Poor sod wasn't much for history. He didn't know what it was worth." The figure beside him bristled. He caught the silhouette of a man approaching from his peripherals, and cleared his throat.

Hilgur nodded back to the man. Despite his unassuming clothes, he walked with purpose. Precision. Rhythm. The way trained men do. The dwarf couldn't make out any heraldry, however.

He looked to the adventurers gathered before him, his fingers sinking into his beard as he stroked it. An alchemist, a scoundrel, an archer, and a man-at-arms. A healthy mix of might and utility.

The dwarf placed his hands on the table. "So! I assume you're all here for the job. The Gala-Dor expedition," the dwarf turned to Esther. "You wanted to know how serious I am?"

Hilgur bowed his head and drew his arms into a fold. "Gala-Dor was the ancestral home of my people. My clan, the Black-Manes, trace their ancestry to its glory days. My father used to tell me stories about the place. Stories that his father, and his father’s father, told him. Tales of brave heroes and clever craftsmen, and the wonders they brought to our shining city.”

The dwarf looked up, gazing into the distance. "We lost so much when the Blackblight War happened. So much culture, so much knowledge!" Hilgur held up a fist. "Why should it stay lost? Why should it stay hidden? That was a question I’ve pondered since before I grew my first chin-hairs."

Hilgur unclenched his fist, and looked to his palm. "A question… which fueled a dream." The dwarf nodded. "Now, I may live longer than you humans, but I ain’t getting any younger." His black eyes glinted with passion. "I’ve spent decades building up my skills, connections, and fortune, and I’m almost ready."

The dwarf leaned closer and lowered his voice. "Now, I don’t want mere hirelings. I want business partners." He raised one brow. "An’ that’s where you come in. This expedition ain’t gonna be cheap. We need food, supplies, equipment, money. We need..." Hilgur narrowed his eyes. "...A sponsor."

Hilgur leaned back. ”And I got two possible candidates.” The dwarf held a finger up. “The first, is the Order of the Sacred Flame. Now, I ain’t much for the faith.” the dwarf chuckled. “Obviously… but they have money, they have power, and they’re always lookin’ for a sword or two to help keep the peace.” He narrowed his eyes. ”Thing is, in my experience… they get a bit nosy with their investment. We find something in Gala-Dor, and they don’t like it?” Hilgur shook his head. “Good luck profiting from it.”

The dwarf held up another finger. ”Next, we have the Bilge Rats. They’re a group based off Port Jellico. Lockbreakers, cutpurses, smugglers, thugs - they do a little bit of every shady thing in the Empire short of assassinations.” The dwarf tossed a knowing - or accusatory - glance towards Serena. “They aren’t as big as the Order, they don’t have as many resources, and some squeamish types may find their methods disagreeable.” Hilgur looked to the rest of the crew. ”But, if we earn their trust, and give them their cut, they’ll finance our expedition, no questions asked.”

Hilgur exhaled. He reached for his drink, and downed the rest of its contents in three short gulps, before slamming the mug on the table. “Well! I’ll give you all the night to think. Get to know each other.” The chair creaked under him as he stood and walked away. The dwarf stopped, turned, and pointed at the crew. ”Oh, and I want you all to do this together. You’re going to work as a team, so you got to decide as a team.”. Hilgur turned away. ”If you’re still interested in making history, be here in the morning.”

As Hilgur departed, his companion remained in place. Golden earrings dangled alongside a dark, pointed chin and black and silver slips of hair protruding from their hood. They lifted their head, revealing feminine features, and regarded each member at the table with a striking blue glare. A thin silver chain raised higher with each step Hilgur took, tightening. Attached at her neck. It tugged at her. The drow raised from her seat with the dignity of someone who was not on a leash, flicked them all one last annoyed look, and began to trail after the dwarf.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Henri Le Chevalier

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#, as written by StarGW
Thoughout Hilgur's exposition, Esther remained calm and curious, keeping one leg over the other while leaning forward. She was a bit disappointed that she couldn't actually see the map; words only go so far to convince someone of another's cause. But what she heard: the motives, the journey, the adventure, the discovery of culture and history, THAT was sound as good as the taste of fine Stormhold wine; in fact, she almost wanted to lick her lips at the delight of this expedition... Provided this wasn't a dwarf's extremely elaborate idea of a con.

But there's... something about Hilgur, as difficult to read as his silent drow partner, that Esther could believe.

The alchemist stayed silent for a moment, letting the dwarf and drow take their leave of the tavern. Afterward, she looks up to the other three and chuckled. "Ah, dwarves. Can never get a good read on them." Her lighthearted banner to the three was combined with her wide smile to what are a group of strangers and an owl. "So maybe I can get to know you all better!" She stood up from her wooden seat and offered a handshake to each member. "Shall we do introductions here? Or should we move to someplace less... busy?"

She looked to her left, checking the bar's wooden table, crowded with patrons who drunk themselves silly in joy. The Jackalope's active scene almost added a fiery sensation to the building's warm lighting; everyone here was just impressively energetic. The heavy tap and rattling of boots and shoes on the wooden floor would've been overwhelming to Esther had this been her first visit to a Beaucourt tavern. "There's quite a lovely night sky out by the small port."

She didn't mind the Jackalope, per-se, but her job as an alchemist has taught her that things are better when they are nice and quiet. Besides, she couldn't be the only one who thought the drinks here looked positively dreadful. Gods, did she even want to imagine the sour bitterness she'd taste from it?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Henri Le Chevalier

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#, as written by Byte
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“This longlegs knows.”

Serena gave a nonchalant shrug. Didn’t think much of the comment, a bit dry in places but she figured the shinkicker wasn’t keen to play games. Seemed too rigid and serious for that sort of business so instead of prodding the beehive further and risk getting stung, Serena opted to claim one of the chairs; slinging it around, arms folded to rest on the back as she plopped onto the seat with a less than comfortable ‘thud’.

The owl shook for a moment but remained largely still, shifting slightly to balance itself. Presumably the bird was accustomed to its companion's sudden movements.

The young woman's eyes glazed over the people that had gathered around the table. Thoughts swaying between curiosity and slight discomfort. A dwarf, an elf, a drow and several humans… If she didn’t know any better this might have made the perfect set up for a joke. It was just missing a punchline.

Speeches on the other hand? Eh, she could do without one of those. It was pretty, Serena supposed but her thoughts couldn’t help but stray until the juicy details were spilled and Hilgur mentioned they’d need the help of a sponsor.

‘Talk ‘bout spoiled fer choice.’ She playfully weighed the options in her head with a tingle in her eyes. The order of the Sacred Flame? Morally sound and had the upside of getting faith behind your back, helped the overall profile of the job anyway. Serena didn’t fancy playing with literal fire, however, nevermind the bureaucracy that’s typically involved with organized religion.

The other group was far less likely to care about who or what they sponsored, and Serena pretended not to notice the stern glare that Hilgur flashed her way; challenging the look with a toothy grin. They both knew what was up. The Bilge Rats were an unsavoury sort, your average criminal collective that had dealings in almost every corner of the world… She didn’t even presume to have a good shot at convincing the rest to shack up with these lot. That was a hard sell by any stretch.

The point was, though, it’d be up to them to decide. Unanimously.

Serena’s gaze trailed after the silent partner that Hilgur had brought along, giving her an apologetic smile as the duo left the rest to their own devices. “Poor thing. Chains don't suit people.” She had never seen many drows, but this one she felt particularly sorry for. “Could see if cap’n shortstacks has got the key. Pinch it from him an’ all.” The young woman flashed the group a smirk, noting their reaction before turning to face the redhead. She ignored the offer to shake hands and jumped on the opportunity to get some fresh air.

“Don’t have to tell me twice. Wilthro is getting agitated.” Serena shook her head at the owl perched on her shoulder. The bird gave a soft ‘Hoot’ as if in greeting. “And the drinks are terrible.” She added with a jovial tone.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Henri Le Chevalier

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Ashera listened carefully to Hilgur’s tale, intrigued by the story behind the map. Or what little he told them of it, anyway. Still, if it really did show the way to Gala-Dor, there was no telling what treasures were entombed within. Long-forgotten libraries of magical and engineering knowledge, or perhaps even artifacts of great and terrible power…

But of course, this expedition would be nothing more than a dream-struck dwarf and a collection of curious onlookers without money. The thing that makes the world go round, in the words of the gold-loving groundfolk. To be adequately financed, they needed a sponsor, and both choices were not without their caveats. To Ashera’s surprise, Hilgur left that decision entirely up to them. Their future employer took his leave to let them discuss the matter, the drow being gently pulled along on a chain as he went.

Ashera took a good look at the motley bunch who had signed up alongside her. They might only be humans, but there was time a-plenty to prove their worth. She accepted Esther’s offered handshake in good faith. However, the elf gave a distasteful look to the piratical-looking human who contemplated freeing the drow.

“If a drow is in chains, it is not without reason,” she warned the human. “Setting her loose could be the last mistake you would ever make.” Eager to move on as the others were, the elf turned to address Esther. “As for our sponsor, perhaps discussing this elsewhere would be a wise idea indeed. Far less prying ears…”

Thankfully the would-be trailblazers did not have to walk far to reach the port. They found a spot some distance away from a local mariners’ pub, far enough to plan in peace but not so far that they would be lurking in the back alleys of the city. And if any brigands were to think of jumping them… well, safety in numbers was a good enough deterrent no matter the occasion.

Ashera had been giving the matter some thought along the way, weighing up their options. To choose between the Sacred Flame, or the Bilge Rats? By the time the group had called the meeting to order, as it were, the elf was among the first to speak.

“I can understand misgivings towards the Order, but despite that, can we not trust them to remain true to their word?” she asked the others. “Their inquisitive nature does pose its own problems, but these so-called Bilge Rats… were we to enlist their aid, how can we be certain of their loyalty?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Henri Le Chevalier

0.00 INK

#, as written by StarGW
Having followed the others, Esther took in the air of Arc en Lume's port. Alongside the familiar night sounds of soft waves hitting the wooden supports, distant ringing bells and a gentle quietness, was not the familiar sea salty air but instead a bizarre sweet feel that hung to her tongue like a snail. The Stormhold woman took no heed of the oddity, minus her smiling mouth briefly irked into a gulp on occasion. Besides Beaucourt's usual taste of the air, the port was a welcome change from the tavern.

Esther sat on the edge of the port's wooden edge with her cloak wrapped tightly around her. "You mean to base our decision on morals?" She asked with a light chuckle at Ashera's framing of this small dilemma. "Nothing wrong with doubting a few rats; they nibble quite painfully when you're not looking. But I prefer a slightly more pragmatic outlook. All the lockbreaking and smuggling? Quite fine with that." She looked down, under her cloak, at the pouches and vials across her bandoleer. She was, of course, a medical expert. And yet a member of the Winged Ones always knew a few tricks of the saboteur.

"But resources? The supplies and documents we may need for the long trek to and back? I'd gladly take the best we can afford. And if Hilgur is true..." She formed a small circle with her hand by tapping the ends of her right thumb and forefinger together, "he'll have all the gold we need to get the best from them. For the supplies we can get from the Order, I'll gladly risk them getting bossy in our expedition."

She turned her head over to look at Serena. "And how about yourself?" A brief pause. "Oh, my apologies, you and Wilthro." She gave a small smile to the owl. "Does the owl get his own vote too?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Henri Le Chevalier

0.00 INK

#, as written by Byte
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The piratical-looking human shot an equally disapproving look back towards the elf. “Maybe.” She retorted, giving a shrug. Pushing the subject further was a moot point, however, and Serena didn’t fancy gathering a collection of death stares in case any of them ended up working together.

Serena walked behind the other would-be adventurers, dancing along the streets and docks with the grace and finesse of a cat. Footsteps meticulous and measured. Thankfully their short stroll through the streets of Arc en Lume at night was uneventful. The young pirate managed to crawl onto a convenient stack of crates and sat cross-legged with a good view of the port; Wilthro taking the opportunity to flutter from his companion’s shoulder and perching beside her on the crate instead.

‘Wasn’t expecting that.’ The lone elf was the first to break the silence, spilling her preference without so much as a stammer. Well, maybe not as obvious, but her doubts were clearly aimed at the less savoury of the two potential sponsors and Serena was nothing if not happy to take stock of that little read.

Next was the beak-faced alchemist, eager to show her comfort amongst strangers with a lighthearted approach to the matter at hand. This one had smiles to spare, it seemed. The pirate nodded briefly at the other woman’s outlook. Practicality was good, however…

“Wilthro shouldn’t vote. We’d be appeasing the Great Wise Owl for money, then.” Serena remarked to the alchemist with a grin. The owl gave a quizzical ‘Coo’.

“I agree with Blondie.” Serena began, a shimmer of glee reflecting on her face; voice echoing with enthusiasm. “Shouldn't tumble with rats on a whim, good way to catch diseases an' all.”

She threw the elf a subtle wink. “And they stink, too.”

Thoughts danced around, ideas were toyed with and Serena allowed herself a moment of peace to gather and assess the options a second time. “You want my honest thoughts, though? Better a rat you know, than a snake who hides behind smiles and good manners.” Not that she had any solid evidence that the Sacred Flame was anywhere near as creepy and unnerving as she thought they were. They just have one of those faces, y'know.

“I don’t know the Order, I do know the Rats. They’re a proper business. Unsavoury, yes, but they wouldn’t do a one-eighty on the off-chance.” She paused, letting out a laugh. “Okay, maybe some of them would.”

If it were her sole vote, she'd contact her old pals in the criminal underworld in a heartbeat. However, they would have to agree on their decision as a group. Serena eyed the elf expectantly. “Two against one, y’know?”, and with a toothy grin she added; “I’ll Roshambo you for it.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

0.00 INK

Ashera gave the corsair a quizzical look. “Ro… sham… what?” She would have to enquire about the custom another time, perhaps. It appeared that Esther was on her side, but the other human was more in favour of turning to the Bilge Rats for sponsorship. At least she was aware of the risks involved with doing so. The elf glanced at Wilthro, with his overly-large eyes and itty-bitty beak. An endearing creature, though lacking the capacity to voice an opinion, whether to support or sway that of his mistress. Shame, really.

“I suppose that neither group can be fully trusted, at the end of the day,” she conceded to the pirate. Ashera racked her brains for another point of argument to advocate the Sacred Flame. “But consider, if you may, what hidden threats may still be buried with Gala-Dor. The Blackblight War had a great many horrors beside orcs and drow, and I believe the Order’s paladins would be better equipped to deal with such dangers than mere thieves. Not to mention, the Order have an ample supply of magic users at their disposal. Human magic may have its limits, but it is not without its uses, no?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

0.00 INK

#, as written by StarGW
Esther held back another chuckle from Serena's wonderfully playful words. "Oh, you wouldn't want to know what it means to Roshambo someone," she added in, despite not... actually knowing what that even meant. Is that a sailor term?

Ah, irrelevant, most likely, surely, maybe, perhaps until Serena demonstrated it in front of them.

The alchemist walked around and leaned back against a nearby warehouse building. If she would be arguing, she'd best stay comfortable. "But let us be honest, when you know a snake is as bad as a rat, is one really worse than the other?" She kept a sincere, if dissonant smile on her face. There was no real, ideal sponsor between the two groups; an actual adventurer's guild would've been perfect, if Arc en Lume had one set up... anywhere. "The Rats won't just willingly accept to fund and supply us, especially not without some persuasion," Her left hand, whose arm folded under her right, tapped gently at the hilt's end of her dagger. "The Order may need some negotiation, but at least we're not likely to cross blades until after they've given us our resources."

"And... do trust me," she eyed Serena and Wilthro with a momentary, brief, serious look with her blue eyes. "I do not, ever again, want to go on another under-supplied, under-prepared journey."

A pause.

Then her smile returns.

"So, is my stance clear on the matter?" she asked Serena.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

0.00 INK

#, as written by Byte
Image

A hard sell indeed.

Serena never pretended that playing for the underdog was an easy feat, and she wouldn’t have wanted to discuss the matter without a challenge. These lot, though? Had their heads screwed on right and tight. Brown eyes beamed at the alchemist, the grin contorting into a knowing smirk. “Don’t tease the secret, love. Might think you’re just playing to get good with little me.”

The pirate shifted slightly, uncrossing her legs to dangle over the edge of the crate and leaning forward with palms pressed against the wooden surface to keep her balance. Perhaps bracing for a proper debate after all. “They both bite.” She chuckled. “But which of the two is more likely?”

“Paladins and mages, eh? Useful, but dull…” The pirate pondered somewhat disappointedly, though her smirk showed no sign of diminishing. “Running away from danger is part of the fun, don't you think? Dragging along an army of pompous knights and wrinkly old wizards to do all the heavy lifting doesn't sound as exciting.”

It was true that the Bilge Rats would require some persuading, a favour for a favour as they’d say. A promise, a delivery, something that had equal weight to this expedition’s expenses. Crossing blades? Serena thought that the Order was a more fitting mold for that eventuality.

Both individuals on the other side of the fence seemed adamant about taking the high road, however, the alchemist now even more so. Her blue eyes pierced through the raven mask. As sharp as the dagger on her hip, no doubt. “As water, and not a speck.” Serena retorted.

She glanced at the two, allowing her excitement to ebb away; the smirk falling into an unimpressed pout. “They don't play, do they?” The young pirate looked at her feathery friend with an apologetic look. “Then I won’t play at all. C’mon, back to sweeping decks and cleaning pots.”

Wilthro, for much of the discussion had sat, quiet and observant, as the trio rattled on about matters he had little understanding of. His blank stare met the blue gaze of the red haired woman. He let out a 'Hoot', seemingly objecting as his companion slid off the crate ready to try and sate her wanderlust elsewhere. The owl stretched his wings, falling forward and fluttering over to Esther’s side; perching comfortably on the woman’s shoulder.

“Oh, this is so unfair.” Serena raised a single, disbelieving eyebrow at the sight of her friend's defiance. “You cheating git,” The pirate said jokingly, her grin back in its rightful place. The owl cooed in response, giving his companion the cold shoulder and turning his beady eyes at the alchemist.

“The Great Wise Owl has spoken.” Serena remarked with a sing-songy tune, followed by a giggle. “Fire it is, but I won’t stick my hand in it.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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Back at the Jovial Jackalope, second floor. The brick walls and plank floors of room twelve muffled the festivities from below. Hilgur sat upon a chair, his gloves set on the nearby table. Raw, callused hands brought a silver harmonica under his mustache, the metal glinting as it reflected lantern light.

Hilgur's fingers stroked over the top. He bobbed his head and breathed a tune into the instrument. Jovial, exuberant, high in pitch and fast in pace. His eyes squinted, and his cheeks puffed. His fingers moved and flicked to adjust the tone. His precision slipped as the song crescendoed, bringing out squeals that betrayed his amateurism and rang loudly in Dreador’s sensitive ears.

His drow companion sat beside the window gazing out below, where she had watched the mismatched trio of women leave the premises some time ago. Her hood was down, revealing long, starlight speckled ears that twitched in displeasure with every high note.

“Hilgur,” she murmured, her voice deep and ‘r’ rolling. The harmonica assault continued. “Hilgur.” The 'tune' reached a screeching crescendo. The drow slipped from her seat. Before Hilgur could comprehend her approach, the harmonica was out of his hands and hurtling across the room. It collided with a vase on the dresser and his performance ended on a shattering short note.

Hilgur furrowed his brows, and gazed at her like a hurt puppy. "I was getting to the best part!" He folded his arms, and raised his brow with a huff. "What's on your mind?"

The drow turned to him, her lips drawn into a tight line. “What... is on my mind?” She repeated slowly. Hilgur suddenly got the feeling that he had just unscrewed the lid of a jar of very unfriendly worms. With teeth. She tossed her head with a hiss, “Usst shar zra phlor vet’bol! Nin hargluk orn erak udos xul uk maav’rit!”

Hilgur narrowed his eyes. A chill crept up his spine, even as he failed to understand her words. The dwarf took one hesitant step forward, and replied, with a low, cold voice free of his typical bombast. "I think it's time for you to sleep." He drew a length of rope from his satchel nearby, and approached her. She glanced back at the rope with disdain, her features crinkling, and she backed away… into a chair. She sat still as Hilgur tied her down, wrapping rope over the innumerous rope burns already marring her arms and legs. She didn’t stop glaring at him as he did.

“You don’t know what you are walking into,” she taunted him, her voice mimicking the hiss of water on a red-hot blade, “Gorra’h.”




Deep into the ungodly hours of the night, fluttering on the edge of Ashera's subconscious...

The elf dreamed of a butterfly.

It was a pretty, fragile thing, its wings deep blue and spotted with white. A soft, pleasant tinkle accompanied its flapping like a metal windchime. It hovered before her nose, always out of reach, but flitted towards her occasionally, beckoning her to follow. Out of her sleeping quarters...

... and into pitch, unnatural black.

The tinkling faded out. She felt the butterfly delicately come to rest on her finger. There was no air or noise in the dark. Even the sound of her own breath couldn't breach her ears. But even so, something about the nothing that surrounded her... felt alive.

The butterfly's wings burst into flame. The fire spread quick, catching her hair and cloak, then the dark itself.

Ashera awoke with the image of the world on fire still scorched into her eyes.




"So, the Sacred Flame?" Hilgur remarked, one brow raised high. He whipped his head from Esther and Ashera towards Serena and Withro. "How'd they manage to convince ya?" The dwarf cackled and spat bread crumbs upon the table. His hearty laugh echoed through the inn, empty save for a few early birds in the dim hours of dawn. His silent companion seemed even more tested by his voice that morning, her face twitching beneath the hood.

"Hahahahaha-" Hilgur's guffaws were halted by a cough. And then several more. The dwarf beat his chest, once, twice, thrice, until he cleared his throat. "Ahem, anyway… glad to see ya comin' to a consensus. Pity that the other fella didn't make it, but! The world goes on. Now, to business…"

Hilgur leaned forward in his seat. His bushy brows knitted together, and he lowered his voice. "The nobles of Beaucourt have been whispering amongst each other." His eyes flicked left and right. "...A girl. Blue-blooded, lastborn, and the favourite granddaughter of Beaucourt's High Paladin. Kidnapped!... By a gang of brigands in the dregs below the city."

Hilgur clasped his hands together. "The Red Hatchets. Used to be the kings and queens of outlaws in the city. That is until, some, hmm, five years ago, when they started dabbling in witchpowder."

Hilgur shuddered. "They only trafficked the stuff, at first. Then one of their leaders got the bright idea to have a taste of his own product." Hilgur leaned back in his seat and sighed. "Didn't take long for everything to go to pot. Now, they're little more than blood-crazed, drug-addicted fiends, desperate for their next fix."

The dwarf folded his arms. "The nobles insisted on keeping this quiet. Didn't want to cause a panic, or worse, a scandal." He sighed and shook his head. "But it's been a couple days since she went missing. And the Sacred Flame clerics sent to save her haven't amounted to much."

Hilgur bowed his head. His jet-black eyes glinted with a smirk. "...That's where you come in. Go to the Merchants' District, head to the back alleys, and find a way into the sewers."

The dwarf held both hands up. "I know, I know. Nobody likes trudging through muck and shite. But if you make it out of there, alive and successful, I'll buy you all a round, eh?"

He flashed a wide, white-toothed grin. "And besides… this is the chance of a lifetime! Rescuing the High Paladin's own granddaughter… can you think of a better way to earn the Sacred Flame's favour?"

Hilgur cleared his throat, and leaned back. "So. Any questions? Cause I got one." He wiggled his brows. "Who are ya again? Didn't catch yer names last time." He gestured towards Esther. "Except for her. And I forgot it already."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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Ashera made certain to pay attention throughout the briefing, though she couldn’t help but throw a suspicious glance towards the drow every so often. Deep blue skin with white freckles, like the midnight sky on a moonless night. Just like the butterfly from her dream. The elf was unsure of what her dream meant specifically, but this drow was somehow involved. She was certain of it.

As for the more pressing matters of the present, the job set before them was the perfect opportunity to gain the favour of the Order, though Ashera couldn’t help but make a face when it was mentioned that the party would have to navigate the sewers. Delving into such a filth-ridden place was beneath her… but if they had no other choice, she would just have to put up with it. And be sure to take an extra long bath afterwards.

Sewer-spelunking aside, the task seemed simple enough, and they would be doing the city a service by way of pest control. Ashera could only hope that those vermin hadn’t done anything too brutal towards their hostage…

“Hm? N-names?” Ashera piped up as the dwarf concluded his briefing. Of course, they had yet to introduce themselves, had they? With a respectful nod of the head, the elf complied. “Ashera Vallenai. A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Hilgur.” She paused for a moment, her brow furrowed. “I may have a question. Will you accompany us on this job, or will you stay behind and see how we fare?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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#, as written by StarGW
The night turned out to be rather restless for Esther. While she never slept well in the first place, she was also genuinely excited to get the expedition underway. It didn't feel like a poor man's attempt at gathering a crew, however little she knew about Hilgur and his partner. She actually could adventure again instead of wander as a raven. For once, in a long time, she felt like she has something exciting to do.

Which is why she woke up with a bit of a yawn, joining the other four at the table with slightly baggy eyes while munching down loudly on a beautifully-red apple that paired nicely with the Jovial Jackalope's warm lighting and active chatting. Say what you would about Beaucourt, and there certainly was a lot to say, they knew how to grow and cultivate fruits.

"Working us to the bone before we even start the expedition?" Esther commented with an amused look, more intrigued by a rescue mission than thinking it as busywork. "I guess even the nicest streets need some cleaning up." She opened her cloak for a moment and looked over her bandoleer of vials and pouches. "Hmm," she muttered quietly, noticing a couple missing powders and liquids that she had yet to restock. "No permafrost, low on peppermint and vile petals..." She shook her head, red hair gently swinging behind her, before closing the cloak. It was hard to find actual alchemy supplies at Arc en Lume.

She looked up at the dwarf again. "Name's Esther Alfsson. If you'd like, I can introduce myself each morning so you don't forget." She finished her apple and threw it into the tavern's wire-interlaced garbage pail, slightly prettier than Stormhold's generic large garbage buckets. "And speaking of names," she turned her head toward the drow with narrowly intrigued eyes. "I don't believe we've been introduced. Who are you? "

Dwarves, as always, love their secrets. Why would one work with a drow?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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#, as written by Byte
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Fire and steel. She had conceded, perhaps unwillingly, but to go as far as to say that Serena had agreed? Hardly. Her reservations about the Order were genuine and on the way back to the tavern the little pirate had shut down every attempt to try and convince her it was the right choice. ‘Agree to disagree’, wasn’t it? She was pretty sure that was a perfectly fine option.

‘A lot more jolly this time ‘round, ain’t he?’ Serena eyed the dwarf, trying her best not to smile too hard lest she set something off. Guessed the man was an early-riser, not like his silent little pet. The pirate only chanced a hasty look at the Drow sitting beside the rowdy dwarf, eyes trying to find some form of contact. Curiosity usually got the better of her only this time Hilgur managed to catch her attention. That plump and tiny body had some volume to it to be sure. She straightened, wondering for a moment before meeting the dwarf’s gaze with a smile.

“What can I say?” Serena shifted to face Esther. “I couldn’t refuse those sparkling blue eyes.” Buttering up some fellow adventurers? Nah, but she felt compelled to give the compliment anyway. Wide grin and a hearty chuckle in hand. In truth? She couldn’t think of a real reason why she hadn’t up and decided then and there to sod the lot and try her luck elsewhere. A coupon for a future argument? Maybe, but Serena figured ‘They’re not boring.’ was a good reason for the time being.

“Great, we’re digging through a latrine pit. Want me to haul a bucket back so you can smell too?” No round could wash the stink off of her, she’d rather just not crawl around in a shitpit at all to be honest. Why must it always be the big fishes these people wanted to catch? Nothing wrong with a fine sardine in the nets.

Didn’t think she was alone in that either. Wilthro managed to conceal a shiver underneath his feathery cloak, and Blondie wasn’t exactly subtle with her face pulling something between a grimace and a disgusted sneer. Like she’d already imagined wading through the grimy muck of feces and other unpleasant leftovers. Serena couldn’t blame her for second guessing, at least.

“Couldn’t we just, y’know, light a bonfire in the name of the Order and dance around in our undies? I can chant in Orcish if you want to make it look convincing.” She shrugged, probably another instance of dealing with it and hoping the light at the end of the tunnel is as bright as they say it’s going to be. “Got any perfume on one of those belts?” A furrowed brow turned to look at the alchemist of the group. “Failing that, maybe a nosepeg?”

She’d have to endure either way, didn’t want to fold and leave the table just yet. Had worse jobs, certainly. Serena kept her spine from letting a shiver crawl up into her neck hairs. Yeah, shitpit sounded about good in her mind, considering.

“Serena,” The pirate answered promptly, jutting a thumb at the owl on her shoulder. “And this feathery traitor is Wilthr-OW! The tiny beak managed to grab a hold of several strands of brown hair. Serena gave her companion a teary-eyed and stern look. “He’s a bit of a git.” She hastily added.

Where questions were concerned, Serena couldn’t claim she had any. She did however muse on the thought of their dwarven recruiter joining them in the sewer, probably neck deep in shit compared to everyone else dragging through at waist-height and she couldn’t help but grin at Hilgur. “Only if he’s about this tall.” She commented jokingly a flat hand raised at Esther’s midriff, knowingly mocking the dwarf’s short stature. Although Serena was fully aware of her own shortcomings in that regard.

The other one, though? Yeah, she wasn’t sure about that. The pirate chanced another look at the silent Drow as Esther prompted her for her name, expectant what this one would say. If she would speak at all. Hadn’t minced a whole lot of words last time they gathered, whether out of choice or inability… Serena could only guess. Still, she was curious.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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Hilgur scoffed, his eyes squinted with a smile at Serena’s sarcastic offer. ”A tempting offer. These nobles and their perfumes…” The dwarf cringed from head to shoulders. “...They set off my allergies.”

The dwarf then nodded at Ashera’s introduction. He brought a hand to rub his beard, two fingers disappearing within the coarse, hairy curtain. “Nah, lass. I got business elsewhere.” He wiggled his brows. “These rumours don’t hear themselves.” Hilgur gave an unimpressed look at Serena’s wisecrack, having evidently heard that one before… and variations thereof. ”That ain’t a fair comparison.” He gestured to all of Esther, his brows knitted together with a huff. ”These Stormhold longlegs are taller than the blasted doors!”

He looked to the other two - three, if he was counting the owl- in the party, a satisfied gleam in his eyes. ”Hmm, hmmm.” His mustache raised with a smirk as Esther inquired about Drei… as if he was waiting for someone to do that much. Hilgur turned to the drow, then prodded her with his elbow. ”She asked ya a question. It would be rude to ignore her, eh?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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Dreador's slight form didn't sway despite the prodding. Her head lifted and turned towards Esther as she regarded her. Dark lips pursed over her pointed chin. Slowly, her hands raised and shed her hood with a calculated effort. The metal collar around her throat shifted, its chain leading down beneath the table and tinkling like a metal chime.

"What will you use it for?" She asked. It was a voice that bled both eroticism and ire, thickly accented and distinct from the quirks of Beaucourt or Stormhold. Even from the drow they had encountered in these lands... but for Serena. Still, there was one thing they all could be certain of: it didn't come from Zoltia. She quirked a dark brow. "My name."

Her un-drow-like eyes flicked to scrutinize the others. All varying degrees of idealism, she concluded, scanning from Serena, to Esther, to Ashera. But each one still an eager, wide-eyed fool. And young, too. The elf, barely out of adolescence.

"Being made into property makes one particular about the little that belongs to them," she continued, her head tilting as a long fingernail scraped against the collar trapping her skin, like she was trying to burrow beneath to an itch. "I made the mistake of giving the gorra'h my name. I don't like the way he uses it." Her voice had become a low purr, every 'r' rolling off the tip of her tongue. "And so I am... particular."

Her head tossed. "If it's an order it's 'darkie', if it's a question it's 'sky eyes', and if I'm in the way it's 'move'." She stated like it exhausted her. A side-eyed glare was shot Hilgur's way. "The request extends to you." The drow's gaze then turned to Ashera. The corner of her lips twisted into a little antagonistic smirk. "I have seen your looks, dryulk. I will give you a treat. You may call me shakra vyelt on any occasion."

Her hand made a sarcastic gesture, half-way between presenting herself and waving the lot of them off. If she was resentful before, now her tone was downright venomous.

"It will be my pleasure serving you."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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#, as written by Byte
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“Not that tall.”

Dwarf’s and their obsession with heights, Serena couldn’t quite tell what the problem was. You’d think a dwarf would get used to being the shortest straw in the room, but Hilgur sure sounded like it bothered him. Somewhat. “I’ve seen bigger.” A toothy grin beamed from the pirate’s face, first at Hilgur then, somewhat deliberate, at Esther.

She was taking far too much pleasure from making such a statement.

Maybe she could’ve savoured it more, but, well, there was something about the unison silence when the quiet Drow of the group was prompted to speak and the mood compelled even Serena to shut up and listen.

For the longest time she eyed the Drow, a cold lump of rock in comparison to the others surrounding the table. A jarring contrast, even. Maybe that was just how these people were, cool to the bone and unappreciative of anyone prodding too hard. She couldn’t claim to have any expertise on the matter, and back home there weren’t a lot of Drows who were willing to hang out and chat with the locals.

Skittish, unfriendly, quick to scarper. That was the general consensus where these darkies were concerned. There was something about this particular Drow, though. Something that hung around her neck. And it wasn’t the fancy collar. If Serena wasn’t curious now, it would certainly kill the cat at some point.

For the longest time she kept looking, and then it moved. Subtle, measured.

The Drow was judging. A look of contempt, or was it indifference? She could never remember. But Serena could feel those eyes piercing everything and everyone, and she had to try not to flinch too quickly. Wilthro krept closer to his companion’s back, careful not to fall off. He wasn’t keen on the looks either, it seemed. A weak ‘Coo’ emitted from its tiny beak; eyes glazing from one member of the group to the next. Careful to avoid the bright blue eyes of the Drow.

‘Gorra’h? Heh, clever.’ Serena wanted to brace herself for a laughing fit, and was glad only a meek chuckle escaped her. She hadn’t failed to pick up on the Drow’s pet name for her owner, and the woman’s eyes glanced knowingly at the dwarf; sizing him up once and nodding to herself, a smirk flashing only briefly in the presence of the frosty figure. Sure, Serena wouldn’t count herself comfortable. This one had a definite bite to her bark kinda vibe.

Hated, or wasn’t particularly sweet with, her dwarven companion at the least. Any other opinion was inferred through the contempt in her tone.

“Nice to meet you...” A wry smile. Particular.” Perhaps a bit casual, but anything to clear the air so to speak.

The pirate didn’t for one moment think she could play around too much. Liberties were taken where she could find them, but on the other hand she wasn’t stupid either. And she may have slowly and subtly inched closer to the looming height of the Stormhold giant for want of breaking that Drow line-of-sight.

Serena turned her attention to Esther. “They say the nobles here shit rose petals,” She retorted with a smile matched the alchemist’s own. “Let’s hope they’re right.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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If Ashera had been on edge around the drow before, it was nothing compared to after she spoke. The elf knew of drow slaves, many of whom reduced to relatively docile things with very little fight in them. She also knew of instances where particularly reckless and desperate drow attempted to steal elven magic for themselves, each time ending in abject, contemptible failure…

But this drow was neither of those, and she knew it. That alone made her one to watch out for. Ashera held her ground when the drow turned to address her directly, permitting her to refer to the slave as… well, something she’d rather not repeat out loud. The elf’s brow quirked, perplexed. Why ask to be named in such a degrading fashion, whether deserved or otherwise? If this was part of some insidious drow scheme, Ashera was not about to take the bait.

By the time Ashera finally averted her gaze from the drow slave, her new comrades – Esther and Serena, they introduced themselves as – were already making plans to combat the worst of the sewer’s dank and distasteful environs. Sound ideas, certainly, but there was always room for improvement.

“Perfume is one thing, but once we are out of there, the first thing I shall do is take a bath. A nice, long, hot soapy bath…” Ashera let out a dreamy sigh at the thought. She could almost feel the warm water against her skin already… Wait, no, it would not do to stand around daydreaming with such an important job ahead of them. “Ahem. Perhaps a mask of some form would not go amiss? Some cloth round the mouth and nose with sweet-smelling herbs stuffed inside. How feasible would it be to fashion something of the like, Esther?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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Hilgur regarded each of his crew one last time. Satisfied that they held no more questions, the dwarf nodded, yanked his companion’s chain, and stood. “Well! Off ya go, then. Try not to die.” He grinned, his teeth large and blocky and blindingly white. “We’re gonna make history, girls!” The black dots of his eyes flicked to acknowledge Withro. “...And owl.”




Out of the Jovial Jackalope, past the stone pavement. Serena, Esther, and Ashera rode a gondola down the eastern canal. The waters were still and placid, a radiant, stark blue glimmering with the light of day. The gondoleer stood behind them, his tall, spindly silhouette pitch black against the clear skies. A porcelain mask was tied over his face, obscuring all emotions. He rowed and rowed, the fingers on the oar long and bony and white as snow.

Half an hour passed, and the crew arrived at Beaucourt's Merchants' District. The hustle and bustle of life filled the area. A carriage wheel grinded against the stone pavement. Merchants cried out to promote their wares, encouraged by the footsteps of Men and women, youths and elders, and the ever present patrols of the Sacred Flame Clerics.

"Classic Beaucourt fashion! Tunics, dresses, jackets - clothing for all sizes. Come and support your local business!"

"Step right up folks! We got Dwarven imports, straight from Ruzmok-Dor!"

"Shiny trinkets. Necklaces and rings. Perfect for your beloved…"

The stones here gleamed an off-white colour, built into the walls, the steps, and the castle watching in the distance. Banners of red and blue hung all over, billowing against the morning breeze. The First Emperor's statue stood in the centre, 12 foot tall and sculpted from the finest marble, clad in a flowing coat over plate and mail, His royal sceptre pointed skywards.

The merchants' stalls gathered around the statue, spaced enough between each other to allow comfortable passage. Beyond the kiosks stood the shops of Beaucourt's oldest tradesmen. The smithy, the bookstore, the apothecary, amongst others, proudly showing their wares through the windows.

Away from the shine of the city. Within a narrow path, set between the smithy and the apothecary. The echo of their footsteps blended together within the alley. A beggar sat against the wall. Rags clung to skin, and skin clung to bone. Past the broken crates and discarded barrels, the rust-scarred lid of a manhole jutted out before a dead end.

As they moved to descend, however, something clanged against the manhole. Something from below. It shifted. A few more shifts, clangs and grunts followed before the lid was shoved aside. A dark head of hair pulled back in a ponytail emerged, a red cloth obscuring most of his face. The man wrestled his shoulders through the hole, his body far too broad for it to be a comfortable squeeze. "Pwagh…!" He exclaimed. He pulled his mask down over a chiseled jaw and took in a big breath. Then his dark eyes travelled up the legs in front of him. Up to meet the eyes of the women staring him down. "... Hello, ladies."

It was a voice that belonged to a bard, sauntering over to the bar after his recital. Not something that just came from a sewer, and smelled like it, too. He flashed them a friendly smile and leaned back on his elbows like that wasn't his predicament.

"You three dropping in, or passing by?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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#, as written by Byte
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While three women opted to take a sightseeing tour around the city via gondola, Wilthro had taken the opportunity to stretch his wings. For the future held lots of cramped corridors and bad odour, so better to get that flying in now where he had the space. Serena didn’t mind, her companion had earned some respite. Could use some time on his own.

“You call this a boat?”

Serena had eyed the gondolier with a healthy hint of skepticism and didn’t get very far without cracking at least a tiny smile. Yeah, this ride was a bit too fancy for her liking. The rigid, unsmiling face of the man (or lack thereof, given the porcelain mask) given a bemused grin in return.

“Don’t crack a smile now. It might just break your pretty little mask.”

Bunch of weirdos, she thought. She wanted to look, honestly. Peel away the strap and take a little peek behind the porcelain curtains. See if they weren’t some Phantom of the Opera-like monstrosity, scarred for life and forced to cover their once beautiful faces. “Pretty please? Just the once.”

The man didn’t even deign to look at Serena’s way when she tried to grab the oar in an rebellious attempt to row someplace else, just stepped back and kept on rowing his merry way. This was his role in life, and by the Gods was he taking it seriously!

The little pirate let out a sigh, a grump on her face as she locked eyes with her companions. “Could’ve walked instead, y’know. Maybe tumble with some rats, steal some pretty gal’s necklace.” She jutted a thumb at the gondolier. “This one doesn’t even talk.”

Thankfully, the Merchants’ District offered a less solitary environment with its bustling streets and shouting matches of salesmen beckoning every poor sod and their last pennies to check out their stalls. And their stalls alone, it seemed. “Bunch of greedy bastards,” Serena commented with a grin, waving off such a salesman offering to measure her size for a dress. “Think we could snag some of them fruity perfumes on the way?” Brown eyes beamed at the alchemist.

Seemed even a city as prim and proper as this one had its fair share of downtrodden back alley filth, and Serena was quick to follow closely behind the two taller women when they reached their destination. Wilthro back at her side with a graceful swoop. “Always in the last place you’d want to look.” Dead end, too. Double fun.

The pirate was keen to get this mess over with as quickly as they could and was about to take dibs on being the first to dive in when a series of clangs and shuffles made way for a sewer-rat to crawl out of the cover and give the trio a civil greeting. She flashed the stranger a grin. “So I guess it doesn’t smell like roses down there, huh?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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The gondola’s gentle passage down the canals of Beaucourt might have almost been a pleasant experience for Ashera, were it not for inescapable clamour of the crowds all around them. The elf had been in a city before, yes, but Valtensae was so much different. The streets there were practically deserted by comparison. Humankind, being far more populous, filled up every available space, and then some.

The Merchants’ District seemed to be even more packed, though that may have been down to walking through the throng like a ship sailing into a storm. Ashera stuck close to the others, keeping a tight grip on Esther’s arm lest she be swept away. Up until the moment that the alchemist briefly departed to purchase some perfume. Until she returned, Ashera huddled a little closer to Serena.

For a moment the elf felt glad to duck out of the crowds and into an alleyway. The squalor and filth that greeted Ashera left her swiftly revising her opinion. For all of Beaucourt’s alleged splendour, it was all a shallow façade once one began to dig just a little. Her thoughts turned to a brief pang of homesickness for her homeland, the wandering jewel of the skies… but were just as quickly interrupted by a sense of urgency, drawing her gaze to the manhole ahead.

Her hand was on the hilt of her dagger several moments before the manhole cover began to slide open, revealing a broad-shouldered, handsome (for a human) male who seemed… oddly at ease considering his situation. Ashera took a step back as the stench of the sewers wafted out, staring at the man in an almost accusing fashion. She would have spoken up, but Esther was quicker to convey the sentiments that she shared. All that was left to do was to see how this stranger might answer…

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Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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The man's smile curled into a smirk at Esther's wink. His fingers drummed against the ground. His hands were bandaged, and there was dried blood on them, by the knuckles. "Yes, ma'am. If it'll make me look better," he said, and his large shoulders jostled with a shrug, "The boss's fiance dropped her engagement ring down the gutter. He didn't want to dip his dainty little fingers back in the treasury, so here I am. Looking for a diamond amidst their holy shits. Pardon," he excused his language with a nod towards the elf, then flashed a white grin towards his fellow humans.

He flexed his fingers out, pulling his bulky arms up in a stretch. The bones popped in his joints. "Ach... well, there's nothing shiny down there. Only place left is in the southern tunnels, but that's Red Hatchet territory. It'll be hard going, trying to look while five men jump my back every minute." He let out an exaggerated sigh, then waved it off. "Well! It's a living. I'm sure you've got one of those to get back to. You didn't come down to listen to a stranger from the sewers complain. I'm Lio."

He held out a hand for them to shake, paused, then slapped the hand back onto the ground and hauled himself out, revealing himself to lord a few inches over Esther. His dark eyes flicked over them, so fast, not one could tell that a judgement had been made.

"Only thing I can think that'd bring you huddling around this stinking hole is that some noble's got you doing their dirty work, too. Who's wringing your neck?" His smile grew a little brighter. "...And are you adverse to breaking a few bandit bones?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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#, as written by Byte
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“Nothing like wading through someone’s leftovers to find if they’ve shat a diamond.” Serena commented, her voice ever jovial to dance around. The man was nonchalant. Seemed the cool-headed type, but appearances always provoked an image if you could play up the act enough times.

There were seeds of doubt. Losing a ring and dropping it into the nearest sewer were two sides of the same coin, it just meant you had to look on it from the proper side. Not that it was any of her business what this man was doing and for what reason.

It sure beat jumping into the sewers for the time being having someone to talk to. “Not exactly my idea of fun. To each their own, though, right?”

“I’m Serena.” The little pirate piped up, pointing a finger at Ashera. “That’s Blondie, and...” Brown eyes quickly flicked towards the alchemist; lingering for a fair few seconds with that playful gleam. “And this one’s our jolly redhead, Raven.” A smirk grew on her face. “The mask gives it away, I think.”

A little owl gave an inquiring ‘Hoot’. “Oh, and this fellow is Wilthro.”

Tall fellow, wasn’t he? Her jaw didn’t quite drop that far, but the pirate was willing to admit that having grown accustomed to everyone being several inches taller than yourself didn’t quite prepare her for this looming giant. Right, she should probably stop staring now.

“He’s not the type to wring necks.” The pirate flashed the man a toothy grin. “Don’t think he can reach them.” Of course a certain partner could always accommodate that particular need, and a dwarf wouldn’t even have to balance on a chair for it to work. But such thoughts were left far from Serena’s conscience when the people in question weren’t around to complain or glare menacingly with knives hidden behind their backs.

Not that she seemed to care much for that.

“I’d rather clob ‘m on the head with a mallet, less chance of setting alarms off.” She pondered for a moment. “But breaking bones works fine too. You look strong enough to manage that.”