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Orcimedes Lavatrina

Green is the mightiest flavor.

0 · 77 views · located in Zoltia

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

Description

Name
Orcimedes Lavatrina

Archetype
Orc "Shaman"

Age
71

Bbcode
#20ab7f

Theme
Ballad of Dwight Fry | Alice Cooper

Image


Appearance
Orcimedes is a profoundly large specimen of Orc. At a staggering eight and a half feet tall, and six feet through the shoulders, he weighs in at nearly seven-hundred pounds. Judging by the thickness of his arms, which rival the circumference of some mature trees, his weight is largely composed of muscle and he has the strength to match. Orcimedes is barrel-chested... in fact he is rather shaped like a barrel, thick through his chest, all the way to his waist. Each of his massive thighs are nearly an adult human apiece, and his gigantic, thick-fingered hands could comfortably close around most average-sized human heads. His skin is a pale green color, and he has a thick mop of wiry shock-white hair lining the entirety of his jaw. Sadly the top of his head is nearly bald save a long mess at the pinnacle of his crown which is kept in a messy high-tail. Even if it weren't tied up, it would stick out every-which way, just like his beard. He's clad in mostly furs and leather that's been patchwork stitched together and he keeps a necklace of lively fangs, odd totems, and the skulls of small creatures around his neck. Of course, he also keeps an alchemist pouch full of vials filled with suspicious liquids, salts, and other plants with which to practice his "arts." The only other thing he regularly keeps in his possession is a thick and sturdy staff which might qualify as a young tree by some standards. Judging by the condition of the skull at its head, it's regularly used as a bludgeon.

Personality
Articulate, in a word. Orcimedes is incredibly well spoken, especially for an Orc. His intelligence is questionable, however. Orcimedes has shown himself to be incredibly cunning in the way that a beast is, and sometimes it seems like there might be more happening behind the facade he presents to people... and then you'll take your eyes off him for a second and find him dining on laundry lint. He can be incredibly stubborn as he's used to getting his way, most often because the list of people strong enough to move him once he's made up his mind is incredibly small. In spite of this, he presents as very gentle and is generally only a terror to small animals, bugs, and laundry.

Skills
Wind Calling: Orcimedes is a skilled "Wind Caller," allowing him to call on the wind for aid. Sometimes it answers... Shamanism at its highest art.

Lightning Weaving: During a storm, if there was lightning... it was caused by Orcimedes. Such is the awesome power of Shamanism.

Earth Shock: Using the might of Shamanism, Orcimedes can hurl forth the very stones of the mountains, dealing Earth aspected damage to whatever they strike.

Orc: In spite of his quirks, at the end of the day Orcimedes is still an Orc. A big one at that. He's as strong as a squad of soldiers, can run faster than most horses, and leap frightening distances. His skin is thick and leathery, deflecting even skillfully shot arrows as though he were clad in armor. To top it off, when he is injured he recovers at an alarming rate.

History
Orcs... the unholy fusion of elf and beast by the Drow. An Orc is a huge, terrifying killing machine broken free from the shackles of their war-torn bondage... and then there is Orcimedes, who makes the largest, most fearsome Orc you've ever laid eyes upon seem child-like in comparison. Orcs rule by strength, and Orcimedes definitely has the size and strength to lead any tribe he wishes. Decades past, he was a feared and indomitable warlord, tearing at the borders of Stormhold and making the mountain passes to Helgarde impossible to traverse. And then it all suddenly stopped. Orcimedes vanished from the limelight, fading into obscurity. The fearsome tribe of orcs that ruled the mountains dissolved due to infighting and was generally driven out so the roads could be made safe again.

So begins...

Orcimedes Lavatrina'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: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Anaïs Botrel Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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Lio gave the group a flat look with burning red eyes. "You sorted?" He snapped, sniffed, then shook his head. "...Sorry. Here, let me get it."

He gripped the door handle and pulled, the ice cracking against his strength - then it flung open, and he ducked out the way with it, and Ashera's bowstring sprang back as the arrow flew through the doorway.




Though Dreador looked still, beneath her hood, her eyes were darting about in sync with her rush of thoughts. She followed the twitch of Anais's fingers, the hand on her chain, the woman's glances at it. Her chin lifted, just enough to raise her sky-blue eyes to meet hers with a wary expression. She lifted a dark, slender finger and wound the silver chain around it. And tugged.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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"LAUGSHAT FRUM, ISG URDAN LAT, ZA SHARA MADURZ!" A booming baritone commanded from the other side of the door. "LAUGSHAT FRUM, ISG URDAN LAT, ZA SHARA MADURZ!" It repeated, this time to the rhythmic slapping of enormous hands on flesh.

The door was flung open, allowing the light to splash inside, silhouetting the enormous figure undulating over the groaning form of a Red Hatchet bandit. They were splayed out in the middle of what appeared to be a magic circle etched in chalk on the grimy sewer floor. "FRUM BARASH!!!" It screamed, as it lifted a chunk of some kind of crystal and crushed it forcefully into the bandit's back.

"IZUB DUSH MADURZ LAT ZA BOLVAG!!!" it bellowed, hoisting the man up in front of him at the crescendo. There was a notable pause as the arrow struck the man, exploding brilliantly and showering the entire room with viscera. The figure held it's oaken arms aloft for a long moment before his shoulders slumped, and his massive hands thudded slack to the ground.

"Frum kul nurz..." it muttered. "Ah! Frum kul nurz!" it spluttered, more urgently as it scrambled to its feet. It locked crazed eyes with the elf for a long moment before suddenly lunging towards the door. Charging into the light was the massive 8 foot tall figure of a bloodsoaked orc. "FRUM KUL NURZ!" he screamed at them, grabbing the door and slamming it, nearly ripping it clean off its hinges. The force reverberated through the sewer, splintering the stone frame.

After a few moments, hurried scribbling and muttering could be heard faintly from the other side.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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"Orcish is pretty easy to understand. For example, if you beat them over the head that means 'start behaving'." Maria twirled her weapon in her hand, as if to soon demonstrate. "Might be a bit of a regional dialect though." She casually strolled up to the door and began rapping the head of her mace against its surface.

"Don't be shy, we just want to talk," she said, completely ignoring the fact that they just tried to kill them with an exploding arrow.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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#, as written by Byte
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Serena braced herself for an epic struggle between man and beast, the sort of fight you’d hear in the bard songs of old. Three brave adventurers (and an annoying pirate) stood posed, ready to strike as Lio opened the door. Blondie’s arrow zoomed past and blinded the room in an explosion of light and viscera. The creature scowled and bellowed; arms as big as ship masts reaching towards the group.

… And then the door shut with a reverberating *clang!*

“Well, that was rude.” The pirate offered still struck with a mixture of fright and awe; eyes glancing from one group member to the other. Neither of them probably knew what the hell had just happened. First time she heard about it, anyway. Not that every Orc was prone to leaving doors open, certainly not the ones with some form of education. But an enraged Orc? Yeah, manners were lacking with those.

“Maybe he’s a tourist come to sniff some posh shit?” Serena flashed an uncertain grin and a light shrug of her shoulders. It had been a weird couple of days anyway, why not add a freakishly big Orc with a headache to the mix?

Now Raven, she had the right idea about it all. “Didn’t look the talking type, but I want to feel like I’ve done something today.” The pirate strutted over towards the alchemist, exchanging a quick glance with Wilthro who took the sign and fluttered over towards Esther’s shoulder. “He hates it when I do this, might want to hang onto him for a bit.” She said with a smirk.

What followed was a series of grumbles, growls and screeches, a sort of… vocal warm up for the damned if there ever was such a thing. And Serena had to suppress her own enjoyment out of the weirdness of it all. “Sorry, haven’t spoken to an Orc in a while. Just making sure I get the inflections right, otherwise...” She not-so-subtly slammed a fist into the palm of her other hand.

Not unlike what the flame priestess was planning to do in the first place. Had some strange ideas about making friends with the locals as well, that one, given her odd mannerisms when knocking on the door and kindly asking the Orc to come out of hiding. All the while keeping a tight grip on that mace.

Yeah, friendly pat on the head her ass.

“Right, step aside missy.” Serena eyed the flame priestess carefully. “Don’t want to get killed a second time.”

Serena put an ear at the door (which had received several dents and gashes because of poor handling) hoping to catch something. Anything that might give away the ludicrousness of this whole plan. There was a faint muttering, something she didn’t quite catch but what might’ve been in the similar vein that she’d heard the Orc mumble and scream about earlier.

Whatever it meant… Orcs were an odd bunch, and this one was even odder still.

The pirate pondered for a moment, pausing before giving a gentle knock on the door. “BADZURZ!” She growled, face contorting to a frown. “Badzurz dagronk! Izishu nargzab flas! Nar skazga!”

If there was anything she’d learned in her lessons, it’s that the orcish language wasn’t simply banging two sticks together and waiting until a head got crushed between someone’s thigh muscles. She hoped it still wasn’t. That would make this conversation an awkward affair moving forward, who would crush who and all that.

There was another pause… And then, “Sharog nurz frum!”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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Ashera winced at the crude, guttural speech that answered her magic arrow. Orcish. The sound was like nails on a chalkboard to her. The brute's nightmarish features stared straight at her from the open doorway, almost as if poised to charge. And then...

SLAM!

...and then it just shut the door on them, almost like a disgruntled elder wishing to get away from the younglings. Ashera stood there, agape, uncertainly grabbing another arrow in case this was some kind of feint. But when no attack came, her posture gradually relaxed. Ashera truly didn't know what surprised her more. That an orc was living in Arc En Lume's sewers (though such an environment was fitting for the creature) or Esther's suggestion to try speaking with it. Whether fortunately or otherwise, Serena happened to know the... language, for lack of a better word, and made efforts to reason with this orc. Curious indeed.

What completely threw Ashera for a loop was that not only did the plan actually work, but the response that came forth was so... articulated. More at home in the voice of a human noble than an orc of any stature. Nevertheless, the elf jumped back when this unusual orc suddenly burst out of the door and introduced himself as Orcimedes. More importantly, he mentioned that he was in league with the Red Hatchets. After finishing explaining why he was down here, Orcimedes went on to ask the same of the band of misfits that came a-knocking.

“You are with the Red Hatchets?” Ashera cautiously enquired. “Are they not all merely degenerate junkies? Or does witchpowder work differently on orcs and make them erudite instead?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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"Ghru?" He guffawed, with a look of minor offense. "Young lady, I assure you that I don't require alchemical assistance to become erudite," he replied, pulling what was to him a tiny notebook and stick of charcoal from the satchel on his hip, flipping through towards the end and scribbling something hastily while carefully mouthing the word. "Erudite indeed," he muttered, snapping the book closed and stuffing it back into his pouch.

"You misunderstand, Golog: Orcimedes is not with the Red Hatchets. Guided by the Shamanic spirits, I have traveled here and discovered a den of Lesser Dagul. I've inducted them into my warband in order to exorcise them and impart the wisdom of the five tenets of Shamanism," he explained. "Red Hatchets are with the warband of Orcimedes."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

0.00 INK

#, as written by Byte
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In all honesty? Plans never went as they should when Serena had a finger to stir in that particular pot. So imagine the surprise and joy when the Orc actually wasn’t a cracking heads first, ask questions never sort of man.

With a loud roar the door flung open, and out came the eight foot greenskin muttering with a voice that could only suggest he’d wash his mouth with thumbtacks and a good strong pint of ale. Then again, most of his kind sounded like that anyway. So not a lot to complain about on that front.

“We’ve got ‘Open Sesame’, but yours works too.” The door had finally succumbed to its poor treatment and, with a metallic thud, came crashing off its hinges and down to the ground in unison with the Orc. All that was missing? A standing ovation, but Serena kept from bouncing up and down like some giddy girl come to meet her idol; Might’ve slipped a bemused giggle and a little smile in tow though.

Wilthro shook, visibly uncomfortable with the giant’s presence. The owl gave a weak ‘Coo’ as he inched closer to the alchemist’s head, a cautious glance taking stock of the situation.

“They don’t look very wise, probably the broken spines and torn limbs and all.” Serena commented jovially, daring a glance inside the room that had served as some makeshift summoning chamber or other unpleasant dealings that might as well scream Demon worship at work, don’t disturb.

“Hey, Raven, you know this big lump? Huh...” Maybe a legend like that wasn’t common knowledge if one didn’t live in or visited Stormhold on a regular basis, and Serena hadn’t a single clue what Esther was on about. Would be the mother of all coincidences if this Orcimedes was one and the same.

“Oh,” The pirate piped up. “You haven’t found some damsel lying around here have you?” Brown eyes turned back to the Orc, gleaming with their usual joy. “Or has she been imparted wisdom too?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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Through it all, Lio shivered against the slick stone walls, eye occasionally twitching. It was remarkable just how much paler the man could grow. And just how short he looked now that he was hunkered down with that green beast hovering over their heads. His brows perked up as the party began to trudge away, suddenly looking alert despite the… dark, glazed over pupils taking over his entire eyeballs.

“What? Yeah? Follow the green giant? Wait, didn’t we blow it up?” He blinked a few times, shook out the sweats, then grimaced. “Ohhhhh, Flame forsake me, aha, ha... I’ve dabbled in the ol’ alch of mey myself but this, this, they’ve been mixing something strange in this. I think I felt bones when I held it.” His voice raised to a wheeze as he lumbered behind. “I’m fine. I’mmm fine.” Then in a mutter, “I’m going to kill that ring when I find her.”

With Orcimedes leading the way, the group ventured forth. Down ancient stone steps and through rusted iron grates, into the bowels of the sewers. The walls seemed greener the deeper they went, layered with centuries’ worth of grime and filth, left to fester and spread. Rats scurried away from the party’s approach. The further they went, the more rats they found. Even with their great numbers, Orcimedes’ booming stomps staved off any hostile intent. They retreated, into the cracks and crevices which beset the sewers.

Eventually, they came upon the end of the path. A great chasm laid ahead, thirty meters wide and pitch-black with no bottom to be seen. Surrounding the edge of the chasm was the heart of the Red Hatchet’s operations. A rickety fort of scaffolds and spikes, built into the walls and shrouded in patches of tarp.

On the highest peaks of the scaffolds were the Hatchets’ archers, three on one side, and three on the other, their fire-tipped arrows already trained upon the party. Eight more gathered to greet them, with axes and spears and sneering faces painted with blood. They stood there, hunched over into battle stances, and remained.

Thud.

The sound rang behind the scaffolds. A shadowy form emerged, its head a fang-filled, growling maw.

The Red Hatchets thumped their spears on to the ground, in tune with the encroaching steps.

Thud, thud, thud!

“Georgina! Georgina! Georgina! GEORGINA!” They chanted and chanted, the sound swiftly filling up the arena.

Heavy paws. Scraping metal. Nine metres from the head to the base of the tail. A giant beast, shrouded in damp and frayed grey fur, with a face that was somewhere between a rat and a direwolf. A moist, lolling tongue licked over its rotten, crooked fangs, and the reins of chains bolted onto its cheek armour. Its eyes were bloodshot red and unfocused, its body barded by layers and segments of rusted, blue-grey iron fastened by leather. It emerged to face the party, and upon its back was the largest, most heavily armoured bandit in the room. Their leader.

The Bandit Lord was dressed in armour that matched his mount; one that bore the scars of a hundred blades and the dents of a hundred hammers. Blood-red paint was slathered over the left side of his cuirass. A crooked, bucket-shaped helmet shrouded his face. He held Georgina’s chains in his left hand, while his right wielded an overlong, razor-sharp bardiche, rested upon his shoulder.

The Bandit Lord raised his left hand, and his men were silenced in an instance. He stared down the group, towering even Orcimedes atop his mount. “Well, well, well,” he spoke. “You’re the ones who’d given my men a lot of trouble.” His voice was low and deep, yet it lacked the other bandits’ manic intonations or their lowborn accents. He cocked his head, letting out a raspy chuckle as he observed the party.

“You don’t look like Sacred Flame...” He stopped at Maria. “...Most of you, that is. What brings you here, to this trash heap at the ass-end of Beaucourt?” He glanced towards Orcimedes and Esther, his voice rumbling into a purr. “The sewers are not exactly tourist traps, hehehe.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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Maria took great care not to let her boots tread over the roaming sewer fauna -- fauna that by now, must have caught the scent of fresh blood upon their clothes, mixed in with whatever sewer muck was wafting through the tunnels. Rats weren't exactly picky about their food sources, she expected their return trip may yield some new visitors around the cadavers they'd left behind.

Even as they pressed further into the depths, the sickly odor of burned skin seemed to follow her, long after the group had already moved on. It was a smell she despised, almost distinctly so. She preferred her mace and board anyway, but that was yet another reason for her to stay her hand from casting the spells she'd become familiar with over the years; such that it became something of a reputation in her circles. Why would such a talented flame mage trade her gifts for simple brute force? To that, she had no answer. Or rather, no answer that wouldn't leave others mildly unsettled.

Finally encroaching onto Red Hatchet territory proper, her gaze swiveled around to take in the ramshackle assortment of boards and ladders into something that could arguably be described as fortifications. Maintenance down here must not be very thorough if structures like these had managed to spring up beneath their notice...

The leader, she presumed, introduced himself in style, bearing down on the group aloft some manner of beast. After posing his question, Maria looked over her shoulder to address the group behind her and made a face that expressed something like, let me do the talking, okay?

Turning around, she stood with her back straight, shoulders broad, and head held up high with her shield at her side and her weapon held vertically over her chest.

"BY THE GRACE OF THE SACRED FLAME, YOU ARE HEREBY PRIVILEGED TO LAY DOWN YOUR ARMS AND SUBMIT QUIETLY TO THE CUSTODY OF THE ORDER." Her voice boomed throughout the hollowed space with unerring authority, the reverberating echoes spiraling down into the deep.

"FURTHERMORE, YOU WILL RELINQUISH TO US YOUR CAPTIVE, ALONG WITH ANY CONTRABAND YOU HAVE UNLAWFULLY OBTAINED. THERE WILL BE NO NEGOTIATION.

YIELD, OR LIBERATE YOURSELF INTO THIS CHASM BEFORE YOU, LEST THE FULL WEIGHT OF YOUR DIVINE PUNISHMENT REND YOUR SOUL FROM ITS VESSEL. YOUR MERCY RESTS WITHIN YOUR OWN HANDS." Maria let out strong, controlled breaths following her informal decree, fixing her eyes upon the bandit leader with a solemn confidence.

Then she turned around and did a small thumbs up. With a little reassuring smile.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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"Ooooooh!" squealed Orcimedes in a rising pitch, practically dancing with giddiness. "Hmm! Yes! Very rousing! Superb entrance!" he commended, stomping over to Maria and squatting down to her level.

"Deep breaths, puff out your chest. Speak with your diaphram, it helps command the tone," he explained, then stood up, taking a breath and sweeping the wyvern skull of his staff dramatically out towards the bandits. "BY THE GRACE OF THE ALMIGHTY SACRED FLAME!!" He bellowed, his voice boomed with the authority of a thunderclap, knocking the dust out of the rickety scaffold structures.

"Like that. See how I used 'almighty' as the descriptor for your deity since a holy woman has to respect her own humility: Can't go throwing about phrases like 'Puny Mortals' like the heathenistic non God-fearing Orc I am," he snorted.

"Ooh, also! Ooh, you can add 'OR DIE' as an ultimatum to the end of any sentence to make it more intimidating. Try again... go ahead they'll wait,"
he said, ushering her towards the bandits like a small child.

"So precious," he whispered loudly as he turned back to the rest of the group. He wiped a tear from his eye, though it served mainly to smear more grime across his face. He gave her just the gentlest shove out into the spotlight like a doting parent... a doting mountainous parent looming behind her in the shadows, amber eyes gleaming in the shadows at the bandit leader.

The cunning, calculating gleam of a beast planning its next move, like he would leap out and unleash the unbridled ferocity for which his kind were known. Mercilessly smashing his way through their ranks, as a truly unstoppable wrecking ball of force. The intricacies of this kind of mental duel were often lost to those who weren't trained in the art of battle. True masters of the craft could strike their opponent down with only their gaze, without even having to lift a finger. A master, the bandit leader was clearly not... was that paralysis creeping into their bones as their gazes locked? Or just their imagination?

Orcimedes' thumb twitched, sending a jolt of tension through the air. The orc's presence was overwhelming, and the weight of his intent crushed down on everyone's shoulders. This is what it was like to face a true legend in the flesh... the bandit leader must have flinched involuntarily, as the orc's piercing amber gaze widened suddenly as he sensed his opening. He moved with terrifying quickness, far faster than any object with his girth had any right to, leaping over Maria and charging the bandit leader, his eyes locked straight onto their weakest point.

"HUNDUR!!" he shouted, with childlike glee as he dove to tackle the beast rider and all.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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It never ceased to amaze Ashera just how deep these old sewers continued to go. They had been down here for so long and gone so far that she almost started to wonder if they might never see the sun again. A shudder ran down her spine at the thought. She kept a watchful eye on Orcimedes, who was apparently amenable to leading them to the Red Hatchets; if he chose to turn against the group, the fight would doubtless be a bloody one. After yet more trudging through the damp and the filth – and more fervent wishing for a bath from the elf – the ever-growing band of misfits reached the mould-ridden heart of the sewers. Right into the Red Hatchets' encampment.

Despite Ashera's premonitions, even she was taken aback by the small army amassed before them. The entirety of the Red Hatchets had focused their attention on the would-be rescuers, ruling out any hope of sneaking their way out of this.

Maria was the first to respond to the bandit lord's challenge with a rousing ultimatum, to give up their hostage or suffer the consequences. Ashera was certainly emboldened. It almost felt like they stood a chance, horribly outnumbered though they were. The speech was undermined somewhat by the priestess' smile and thumbs up to the rest of the team, however. A nice gesture, but even Ashera had her doubts about doing so in full view of the enemy. What also didn't help was Orcimedes'... "contribution" afterward. Coddling their erstwhile spokeswoman like a child took the momentum out of the negotiations. By the time he went to do what orcs did best, Ashera had resigned herself to prepare for battle.

No sooner than Esther had called for the others to seek cover, Ashera pulled out a small crystal and attached it to her belt. The crystal flared with a silvery inner light at her touch, and a rectangular plane of invisible energy appeared before her, wide enough to shield herself and the others without fully blocking the way forward.

The elf felt her way closer to the left of the shield wall, preparing another one of her magic arrows. Through the barrier she had a good enough view of one of the enemy structures, for lack of a better word. When she noticed a pause in the hail of arrows from that side, Ashera leaned out of cover and returned fire, aiming more for the fort itself than the archers manning it. The overloaded crystal projectile impacted with a large blast of concussive force, dangerously shaking the ramshackle fortifications.

Unwilling to have to use another of her crystal arrows so soon, Ashera switched to the mundane variety and provided some covering fire for those who charged straight into the bandit horde.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

0.00 INK

#, as written by Byte
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They were certainly organised for a ragtag group of drugged-up bandits.

Serena stared at the makeshift fort, held up by only the smallest of threads and probably about to shift and tumble into the depths if you so much as sneezed a bit too hard. It made her feel somewhat uncomfortable standing there with the bellowing Orc the size of two trees.

“Ehm, I’ll second my motion to get the Hell out. Now?” The comment had fallen on deaf ears, and the pirate contemplated for the second time today why she hadn’t thought about bringing something sharp to shank someone with.

She was fairly used to running away from her problems in that regard, especially if they carried around a big fuck-off dograt to show off to the in-laws. And Serena felt her instinct nag her like an incessant fly buzzing around her ears.

Maybe she should’ve listened.

The flame priestess’s attempts at mediating the situation were dubious at best, and even Serena had to give some disapproval. However much the thumbs up made her grin.

“You have a terrible way with words.” Was an understatement.

Not long after it all, the newly acquired meatshield launched himself into the thick of it with a bellow and pounced on the beast and its rider. And Raven couldn’t have said it better. Diplomacy, indeed.

“If this plan fails, let me know. I’d like a headstart.” The pirate nodded to the alchemist’s suggestion to go and hide, pausing for a moment to allow Wilthro to flutter to his typical spot before taking cover behind the magic barrier that Blondie had so thoughtfully put up. Figured it was good enough of a cover. Magic was sturdy, right? Yeah, this was going to be a tough fight if she had anything to say about it. Which she didn’t, but that wouldn’t stop her from wanting to bring in a good word or two about dragging random strangers along for the ride.

The catch? Well, they’d have to live through this mess first...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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Maria's speech rang loud and true throughout the depths of the stronghold. Orcimedes' contribution bolstered the power of her voice even further. Those amongst the bandits who had retained enough sense and sanity to not be gibbering and drooling reeled back from the strength of their speeches. Two of them took one step back, then two more, then looked towards each other.

“Screw this!”

“L-let’s get outta here!”

The two bandits turned tail and ran away, never to be seen again.

The remaining bandits, save for their Lord, degraded into hysterics. They laughed, and spat, with bloodshot, bulging eyes and mouths lined with crooked and missing teeth… just as Orcimedes’ hulking form launched forth, straight towards the Bandit Lord. He smashed through a shield wielder and his spear partner, their puny bodies blown across the room on impact.

“AIEEE!”

“HIYAAA…!”

The shield wielder slammed against the wall. The spearman rolled dangerously close to the chasm, but recovered right before he fell.

At the very last second, the Bandit Lord tugged at Georgina’s chains. The she-beast reared up, roared, and weathered the hit meant for her master.

SLAM!!

Her bones rattled, her armour shook. But the beast would not be so easily downed, and neither would her master, who flinched, but was not unhorsed. She pushed back against Orcimedes, her lean, wiry form balanced by her overwhelming size. The Bandit Lord twirled his polearm over his head. The weapon spun and spun, gaining speed and momentum by the second. The rat-wolf shrieked then lunged forth, snapping her jaws once, twice, to bite at Orcimedes’ shoulder, then face. Barely a second later, the Bandit Lord slammed his bardiche down, aimed right at the orc’s head.

WOOSH!

Two ground bandits had fled. Six remained, not counting their leader. They surrounded Orcimedes, drawn by his threat, wielding spears and axes. Four of them enclosed him from behind, wailing and thrusting away with their weapons. A shield-wielder hunkered down. His spear-bearing accomplice dashed forth, stepped upon the shieldman’s board, and leapt, high into the air, sprung by his partner.

The spearman drew his spear back like a javelin, reached the highest point of his jump, and flung his spear with full force towards Orcimedes.

B o o m

A sound resounded behind them. It was a bassy, otherworldly boom, one that churned their stomach instead of their eardrums. Ashera’s magic arrow struck a critical area. The scaffolds shattered into a rain of splinters and stakes. The archers’ platform collapsed, taking the three archers with it. They screamed, and screamed, and flailed, until the fall silenced them with a splat, and the scaffolds crumbled into a pile of rubble and dust.

Drawn by the massive blow, two of the ground bandits turned his attention towards Ashera, Esther, Maria, and Wilthro.“Hiiihihihihihiihihi!” They charged, full-speed ahead, screaming and gibbering as they dodged Ashera’s suppressive fire, utterly oblivious to the shield wall the elf had erected, until-

Bonk!

The bandits struck their heads. One was instantly knocked prone. The other reeled back, groaning. His nose twitched. He drew back his twin axes, screamed, and wailed away at the invisible barrier. Left, right, left, right, left, right, left right, like a whirlwind of blade and fury. The shield held. For now.

The axe bandit’s blows formed ripples across the barrier. From the remaining archers’ platform, one of the three marksmen narrowed his eyes, observing. He couldn’t discern the width or height of the barrier, but he swiftly realised...“It’s a flat plane!” The archer whispered to his fellows.

An urgent, wordless warning gripped Ashera's heart. Instinctively, she was drawn towards Maria. An arrow was embedded in her chest. Fresh, stark red blood trickled down her dress.

The arrow disappeared. And with it, the blood. Above, from the archers’ platform, one of the marksmen lined up a shot, his sights set upon the cleric.

Meanwhile, Esther and Serena remained safe.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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"Whoa, everyone's fighting now," Maria foolishly said, pointing at the chaos instead of paying attention to her imminent peril.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina Character Portrait: Iz'Hana Daudol

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"Jalamzild..." she repeated to herself, skepticism colouring the word. He claimed to be unfamiliar with these lands, but she didn't believe him, not entirely. It wasn't because of a liar's tongue. But she refrained from trading her name with this Iz'Hana regardless.

"Ol zhah natha sief ulu thalra dos, Iz'Hana," she greeted. And a relief it was. It was a joy to use her tongue again, after using it so sparingly whilst in the company of those bright-eyed fools. "F'sarn ghil p'wal natha rivvil paken brou pholor uns'aa." Her hands moved up to tug on the silver collar around her neck. "Natha rivvil paken brou pholor uns'aa p'wal natha dwen'del sers uns'aa pholor natha sluda." Her lips twisted into a scornful smile. "Usstan brorn ka il orn'la plynnet brou pholor uns'aa ka usstan zhahus ulu l'chath zil High Paladin quarthen."

She crawled closer. The chains, the jewelry, all of the delicate metals on her person clinked softly as she did. "Dosst kyrom?" she asked in a whisper.




Back down in the sewers, Lio raised his fists in preparation to charge into combat, threw up, and accidentally stumbled out of the way of a killing blow.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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Ashera's heart nearly skipped a beat as the warning vision flashed before her eyes. Maria was just stood there, an inviting target if ever there was one. The elf looked up to the other nest of archers, already drawing back her bow as one of the bandits began to line up a shot on Maria. Her arrow found its mark. The would-be assassin screamed in mortal agony as his forearm was pinned to his chest. That was one future which, thankfully, would never come to pass.

With the immediate disaster averted, Ashera focused her attention on the remaining archers, grateful for Esther holding the line and buying her time to properly focus. Like half-formed after-images, she could see when and where each one would pop up and take their next shot. One by one, the elf picked them off with uncanny precision. Once the last of them had been dealt with, she glanced over to where Esther was taking cover, huddled between the barrier and a bandit's carcass.

“Esther! Are you alright?” Ashera called out to the alchemist. “It's safe to move now, there's no-one left on the ramparts.” With no more enemy archers to worry about for the time being, Ashera redoubled her efforts in providing fire support for the combatants up front.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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Orcimedes grunted as the beast bit him in the shoulder. It would leave a pretty nasty bruise, but didn't break the skin. When she lunged for his face he suddenly took a step forward, his heavy footstep thundering through the canyon as he thrust his considerable bulk forward and slammed his forehead straight into the beast's snout. It recoiled and lost its footing for just long enough to be shoved violently several inches towards the chasm edge. The sudden movement threw off the bandit leader's strike just enough for the halberd to hit Orcimedes in the shoulder with it's wooden shaft, though whether by design or dumb luck one could never really tell with him.

SNAP!

The thrown spear shattered against his side, and though Orcimedes flicked an amber eye towards the assailant, he didn't seem to take any further notice... his hands were full after all. A few arrows lodged themselves into the fur lining of his tunic, and the ones that struck his bare skin sprung away as though he were wearing armor before Ashera kindly took care of the pests. Orcimedes thrust his gut against the beast a second time to get his footing and then grasped the animal's barding for leverage with one of his massive hands.

He inhaled sharply, and a flex traveled up his legs, stretching the fabric of his leggings taut against his thighs and rump as he dipped. With a grunt he sprung back up, lifting the beast, rider and all, off the ground and swinging it into an overhead arc. There was a tangible moment of hesitation at the apex while a wicked grin spread across the orc's face as he locked gazes with the bandit leader.

"Down you go!" He informed with a laugh, twisting at the hips and slamming the animal down on top of the spear-throwing bandit along with its rider with bone crushing force. The impact shuddered through the stone, knocking a layer of dust out of the crevices. For an uncomfortably long minute Orcimedes wrestled furiously with the beast until he was in a superior position and had her pinned to the floor with his sheer strength. They were still for a moment before his hands started moving again... slowly at first, mussing the fur at its scruff without releasing his grip. He took a deep breath, as if to bellow a victory cry.

"Who's a good girl?!" he asked jubilantly while vigorously rubbing its belly. "Is it you?! Is it?? I bet it is!"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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While the bandits circled the rampaging giant looking for an opening to attack, Maria slipped into their formation and yanked the leader off of his mount with a strong tug on his wrist right before the beast was upended and thrown to the floor by the orc. She glared at Orcimedes, her features rigid as her eyes studied his movements with something like a mix of disappointment and annoyance.

"Who said you could attack?" she said coldly. Her gaze traveled to the others -- Ashera, Esther, Serena -- but said nothing else.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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"What? Attack?" Asked Orcimedes, looking up at the cleric. Georgina took the opportunity to bite and scratch furiously at his hand, though he didn't seem to take notice of it. "I wanted to pet the hundur!" He justified with a look of minor offense as Georgina twisted out from under his grasp and pounced him to the floor.

The pair wrestled for superiority for an awkward minute and Georgina broke free, lunging at Maria and snarling. Orcimedes casually caught her by the reins and snapped her away with a level of force that may have broken a lesser creature's neck. She thrashed against his strength, dragging him slowly across the sewer floor.

"I mean... look how cute she is!" Georgina lunged at him. The sudden slack on the reins made him stumble and they tumbled around on the ground again like a massive, furry carriage wreck. Orcimedes found his feet and snatched the creature up by its neck, holding her at arms length while she scrabbled at his arm fruitlessly with her claws and tried to twist her head down to bite him. He squinted at her for a long moment, trying to hold his head farther away like an old man trying to read small print.

"Hmm... maybe it's a Djoahulzsukad," he muttered, stroking his beard thoughtfully with his free hand. She gained purchase in the stone somewhere and thrust her mass against his strength. Orcimedes' arm buckled, but he ducked under her snapping jaws and tackled her to the floor once more with a resounding thud! He held her firmly to the ground by the scruff and continued rubbing her belly with a child-like grin.

"But she's so sociable! Who's a good girl??"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Anaïs Botrel Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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Esther’s strikes were swift, silent, and precise. It was as if the shadows themselves came alive to devour the bandits. Their screams dampened into choking gurgles, their blood a stark crimson against the raven’s armour. Meanwhile, Ashera’s arrows pierced scrap iron and flesh alike as if they were butter. Her foresight was faster than the archers’ minds, and none managed to loose another arrow. Two fell from atop the platform, while one more slumped down into a heap. On the ground, the bandits who crowded Orcimedes met similar fates. One by one they fell, arrowheads punching through their chests and eyes.

A thundering boom followed Orcimedes’ mighty toss. Cracks formed on the stone floors, caved in by several tons of iron and muscle. Pieces of armour fell and scattered from Georgina’s body. The giant rat beast wiggled, her body limp and her tail flaccid. Her eyes spun, and spun, and spun. Orcimedes’ gargantuan, cackling form blurred in and out of her vision, coming in as afterimages which slowly merged into one, and…

”Who’s a good girl?!”

Georgina paused. She stared at her foe, upside down, mouth agape, eyes bulging wide, and her tongue draped over her snout. For a moment, Orcimedes could see confusion written all over her face. Or was it just rabies?

Meanwhile, the Bandit Lord clattered and rolled across the stone. He scrambled to his knees with his hands held high. Maria saw the white of his wide, fearstruck eyes in the shadows of his visor. He was disarmed, dismounted, and had just narrowly avoided a gruesome death. There was only one course of action. "WAIT! I yield!" He announced. "We were no match for your party, cleric. I will do whatever you ask, but please…!" He cast his gaze aside. "Please, grant mercy to the rest of my men."

The bandits lied upon puddles of their own blood. Most were still and cold, but a twitching, gasping few clung to the barest thread of life, Ashera's arrows having missed their vitals. A wounded archer reached for the sky with bone-thin fingers. "Witch...witchpowder… please… give it to me…"

The Bandit Lord sighed and averted his eyes. "Sad, isn't it? Once, we held the fate of Arc 'en Lume in our hands." He looked up. "These sewers were another city beneath the surface. We used to have lights everywhere. Lights, life… and believe it or not, the smell of garbage and piss was almost tolerable."

The Bandit Lord's voice darkened. "Then those witches came, peddling their accursed powders. So many of us couldn’t resist. It was only my father and his inner council, at first. But it spread like a plague, and those of our made men who didn’t die were reduced into…”

A dying bandit curled up upon the floor. He clawed at the air and spat out blood.

The Bandit Lord glanced mournfully. “...Beasts.” He looked up towards Maria. “I just want us to be free from this curse. This addiction. But a cure doesn’t come cheap or easy. That’s why we took her, the High Paladin’s granddaughter. Hortensia Hecate Halifax. We sent a letter of ransom, but our demands fell on deaf ears.” He sighed. “Rest assured, I made sure my men left her unharmed.”

Meanwhile, Georgina continued to struggle under Orcimedes’ weight. Her pink paws clawed, flailed, and scratched against the orc, to little effect. “Rrrrroooooo!” She growled through bared, dagger-like fangs in an impotent rage.




The footsteps grew louder. Keys clicked and rustled. The door knob turned, creaked, and opened wide…

...And Anaïs was greeted by the sight of a Sacred Flame guard. His helmet obscured his face, but his tensing body language betrayed his surprise. He drew his blade. “HALT!” Even against a seemingly unarmed woman, the guard would not take any chances. “ Explain yourself, citizen. This room was registered to a dwarf and a drow. And you are neither.” The guard stepped closer, his sabatons thudding against the wooden floorboards. “Speak quickly, before I clap you in irons.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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#, as written by Byte
Image


“Oh right, we have an Orc.” The pirate had duly noted the defeat of the Red Hatchets and was all for celebrating their victory with a nice long bath and a pint or two to forget the stench. And maybe a reward for saving someone’s granddaughter would help ease the stress of this endeavour as well.

She sure hoped their stumpy-legged boss was at least grateful for their efforts, anyway.

“Might be good to get a leash for the hundur,” Serena helpfully offered. Bringing along a wild beast? Yeah, not the best idea to do that in Arc en Lume of all places. “Topside might get scared and all.”

The Orc had no trouble wrestling that thing to the ground, its attempts at snapping and clawing a moot endeavour between the giant's mighty grip. It was safe to say that he'd keep it in line proper. The logical thing, though, better safe than sorry and the Orc would most likely find other 'pets' to bring along. “Or how about a cat? They're… cuddly.”

Wilthro gave a dissatisfied coo, fighting the urge to put himself forward as the better pick. Or, y’know, cats and birds...

The pirate inched forward, circling the wrestling match before her with as big a space between them as she was comfortable allowing herself to make. And approached the beaten bandit lord with a lot less hesitation.

“Okay, before you smash his head into the consistency of applesauce,” Whether the flame priestess had intended to or not, she wasn't exactly the friendliest of people. “Let's take him at his word. Bring him and princess Hexagon to her granddaddy? If he spots any heresy, you have my blessing to enlighten this one.”

She’d leave the decision up to them, anyway. It wasn’t her business, these poor sods were doomed either way given the circumstances. While the flame priestess and the bandit talked out their differences - and Orcimedes was taming his new found friend - Serena offered an ear to Raven as she shared her thoughts on the immediate future. And the potential issues that could emerge.

“Maybe the dwarf wants another pet?” A shrug, nonchalant. Serena dared a glance at the Orc, judging perhaps. Sizing him up. He was a brutish force, sure, freakish big and freakish strong. Could be useful if given proper direction. “Plus, who’s going to tell him no? Arc en Lume’s guard?” Ever so skeptical, a single brow raised before she delved back into her usual cocky grin and laugh. “We should keep him.” She decided.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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In the wake of the battle, Ashera took in the surroundings. The Red Hatchets were utterly crushed. Their leader promptly surrendered and confessed the reason behind his actions. The motley crew had won the day without question, but the victory seemed to ring hollow for the elf. Had the negotiations not been scuppered, they might have been able to solve this with a lot less bloodshed.

“We are not taking this... 'hundur' thing with us,” she shot down Serena's suggestion with an admonishing look. “We've broken the Red Hatchets in body and in spirit. Stealing from them would be rubbing salt in their wounds. Would you really be so willing to throw your decency aside?”

Ashera noticed Esther waving the two of them over for a talk. It very quickly became clear what for; their latest tag-along was sure to cause trouble if left to his own devices. A concern that the elf wholeheartedly shared.

“Back home, my tutors had nothing good to say about orcs,” Ashera observed. She glanced back at Orcimedes, still wrestling with Georgina. “Seeing one for myself, I can understand why. If we cannot leave him with the Sacred Flame for them to deal with as they see fit, perhaps Hilgur would appreciate having some expendable muscle on the journey ahead?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

0.00 INK

"Tame? Hmm, no," he grunted rummaging noisily in his pouch for something. He'd been much too preoccupied with the creature to listen to the conversation before Esther approached him... or at least if he heard he wasn't saying anything about it. Sometimes it was hard to tell with him.

"A creature like this... there is no 'tame.' You are either food, or not food. Feared, or respected," He explained. "Like the 'cat' that one of the lads 'rescued' from a cave back at 'Chimera's Nest.' Do you know why they called our stronghold 'Chimera's Nest?'" He asked with a grin as he produced a large, unpleasantly fragrant strip of some kind of unidentified dried meat.

"Because that cat grew into a mighty fine specimen of Chimera and turned one of the stronghold peaks into a nest. We sieged it for weeks but the stubborn thing would just not die or leave. Finally we gave up, picked up the whole warcamp and moved it to the adjacent peak. Next weekend, I was out on the wall, in the dimmest, coldest morning of the winter enjoying a hot cup of Djansam when who should arrive... Aslak," he chuckled. "That Chimera chased him all the way to the base of the mountain," he said, with a great big smile at the memory.

Those were the days...

"Anyway, I fear your authorities will put her down after you take the owner in for his transgressions. So... I will release her in a safe location. If she respects me as 'not food' she may choose to accompany me for a time," he explained, looking up at the rest of the group for one moment and then leaning down towards Esther, whispering "quietly."

"I fear the Elf might always be 'food.' I hear Elf flesh is very succulent," he nodded to her sagely with a knowing look, dangling the "treat" over Georgina's head.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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As their voices echoed nonchalantly through the chasm, Maria offered a quiet prayer to the fallen. Just some junkies with no future, banging sticks together like animals. That was probably what they thought. But a life -- human or otherwise -- was so much more than that. A complex web of dreams, decisions, and little quirks that were unique and dear to each person. She gently shut the lids of a younger hatchet with her gloved fingertips, her gaze traveling down his face to his collar. Around his neck was a crude string necklace fashioned out of mismatched seashells. It was small, likely just barely enough to fit over his head. His jerkin, faintly decorated by numerous stitches painstakingly sewn and patched multiple times over by careful hands.

This man had a story, and it ended today. It didn't have to. Slowly, the priestess rose to her feet and watched the discussion unfold with superficial interest.

"Don't play coy, orc. You've got a brain like everyone else, I think you can piece together the results of your careless behavior." She gestured with her mace to the various bloody corpses strewn across the floor. "In any case..." Maria rolled the head of her weapon across her palm, back and forth as her eyes swept the chamber and her legs guided her around the edge of the pit. "Perhaps we could all stand to be more compassionate toward our fellow man, as we stand and... casually converse amongst their bodies as though they were little more than wild dogs."

Maria stopped square before the bandit leader, nodding at his words.

"The bloodshed that took place here today is a disgrace, and I take full responsibility. I pray it is not too late for you and your men to begin life anew, once this is over." She glanced towards Orcimedes once more.

"Well. Anyway. Accidents happen. But, I'd like to have your word -- presuming you value it -- that you won't cause any more problems as long as I have you within my sight. Can we get a little..." Maria bumped her fists together a few times. "...man-to-man agreement here? Man-to-woman. Whatever."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Anaïs Botrel Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina Character Portrait: Iz'Hana Daudol

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Georgina’s struggling halted. Her nose twitched, catching a familiar scent. Light, with the fragrance of exotic spices. Her pink tail whipped left and right, her red eyes were round and glossy, and she leapt up to snatch Orcimedes’ treat. “Roooooo…!” She bent low and rapidly shook her head, tearing into the jerky with a maw full of knife-like teeth.

The Bandit Leader looked up at Maria. The due she gave at the dead did not escape his notice… and neither did her mercy. She took his breath away, and he collapsed to his knees and palms, his head bowed low as he proclaimed, “P-Praise be to you and the Sacred Flame, my fair lady!”

He spent a moment there and offered his own silent prayer. Still, Esther’s request did not go unnoticed. The Bandit Leader stood to his feet, turned towards the raven, and pressed a fist against his chest with a nod. “Yes... Follow me.”

A firm hand clenched around his ankle and fixed him in place. He looked down to see a huge phantom of a man that had dragged himself across the sewer floor. “If she’s so much as missing a pinkie finger I will throw up all my blood on you,” Lio threatened, blood bubbling up over his lips, “Then I’ll take your head, grind your face in it, and if you’re so lucky that your skull doesn’t crack under my boot, you can fucking drown, you rancid, corpse breathed molerat.” The Bandit Leader froze in place. It was hard to discern his expression behind that bucket on his head, but Lio didn’t need to look to taste his fear. “Y..yes, that’s…” The Bandit Leader whipped away and struggled to find the right word. “...Motivating.”

The Bandit Leader led the way. Lio tried to flag down somebody to help him up, but he had no such luck and was stuck staggering after them thirty feet behind around the chasm, towards an iron door at the end of this long journey. It was unlike any other door they’d seen here, round and nine foot tall, forged from steel that had not rusted, even after so long at the dregs at the bottom of Arc-en-Lume. A massive wheel protruded from the centre of the door, not unlike those of a ship’s. The Bandit Leader slowed to a stop, grabbed the wheel, and began turning.

“Hrrkh!”

Metal grinded and ratcheted as he tugged at the wheel. Every inch drew the strength from his body. Finally, there was a booming thud, and the Bandit Leader motioned everybody to step back. The door dragged against the floor. A deep, grating noise followed its motions, it slowly swung open, and revealed...

A dark, wide room. The walls, floors, and ceiling were a grey, smooth colour, made of broad stone tiles wider and taller than the bricks they’d seen throughout the sewer. There were crates, barrels, and an assortment of junk strewn about the vault, but what stood out amongst the rest were the cages. Massive, rusted boxes of iron, scattered all around, filled with bodies upon bodies - some dressed in the blood-stained whites of the Sacred Flame, but most wore the crude leather and spiked iron of the Red Hatchets. Even within the dark, they could tell, the bodies were long cold.

Cough.

...Most of them, anyway.

At one end of the room, a silhouette stirred. The Bandit Leader stepped back. The group moved closer, and the shadow was brought into their light. Wavy black locks. A vermilion coat. Giant, puffed-up orange sleeves, adorned by strips of teal. Mud and cuts stained her dress, but its rich colours shined amidst the grime. She sat there, cross-legged, her wrists bound together in irons. Her almond-shaped eyes perused them. A smile graced her lips.

“Well, well, well! You don’t look raggedy enough to be Hatchets,” she remarked. “And none of you bear the cloth, save for…” Her gaze darted over to Maria, and she raised one brow curiously. “Hmm… white dress, freshly-burnt ash, and that ever-present air of lethargy…” The young woman scooted closer. Her face lit up. “Sister Maria, it is you! Darling, it’s been ages!”

It was difficult for Maria to forget her - Hortensia Hecate Halifax, granddaughter of Arc-en-Lume’s High Paladin. Always getting into trouble, even when Maria was an apprentice, and Hortensia, a teenager. Some things never changed. “Pardon me. It’s a right mess I’m caught up in.“ She shifted and tucked her chin onto her shoulder as her smile curled into a sheepish grin. “At least this time I’m not stuffing bugs into anyone’s breeches!”

Hortensia’s attention turned towards another, who had just stumbled into the room. Tall, handsomely built, and covered from head to toe in sewer dregs. Even with all that filth, Hortensia recognised him right away. She brought her hands to her nose and furrowed her brows. “O-oh! Lio, darling, that’s... not a good look for you.” The noblewoman waved away in a futile attempt to ward the stench. “Might I recommend a bath? Or several. Probably a massage, as well.”

Lio looked less than impressed. He let out the strained laugh of a man barely disguising his displeasure as he squatted in front of her. His dazzling grin, the only thing clean on him, dropped. “On the contrary, Horty, this cage is a great fit on you. Slimming. Maybe we should keep you in for another day or two.”

Hortensia’s hands crossed over her stomach, and her brows knit together. “Excuse you! Any slimmer and I won’t be much fun to hug!” The noblewoman turned away with a huff. “And then you’ll be in trouble with our mutual friend.” The tiniest hint of a grin remained on the corner of her mouth. Lio reached through the bars, pinched her nose between the knuckles of his middle and index finger, and that smile vanished.

“You’ve never had much fun hugging each other anyway. Don’t just say ‘take a bath’ to the person who crawled through a sewer to save you from your mistakes.” He glanced behind him at the party. He hadn’t done much of the actual saving part. He released her nose and wiped the grime from his fingers onto his singlet as an afterthought. “Well, that's why I'm here, but the master told me to make it explicit that he only gave me permission to come down here if I made sure his investment came back.” Lio held out a hand, palm up. “Do you still have the ring?”

Hortensia rubbed her own nose with a wince. The question came, and she sat up in attention. Slowly, she turned her gaze across the room, towards the hulking form of Orcimedes, and stopped. “Weeeeelllll…”

Lio looked over his shoulder at the party, big, green and slobbering especially, took in a suffering breath, and smiled.

“... Who has it?”




The guard’s eyes followed Anaïs’ hand, towards her scholar’s cross, and considered her words. After a moment, his posture relaxed, and he stayed his blade. “Stolen, you say?” He inquired, then stepped closer. “Then this is a matter of the law, and you should have filed a report.” The guard folded his arms, not taking his eyes off of Anaïs. “The Order of the Sacred Flame will take it from here. Please, turn out your pockets, and once I’m certain you haven’t taken or tampered with the evidence, you may go on your way.”




A thin, pretty smile crossed the drow’s face at her newly acquired ally’s words. She slunk back, her body still arched like a big cat ready to pounce, even as she backed off.

“Ajak, do'suul d'Arc en Lume,” she insisted in a whisper that tickled the back of his neck, despite her distance, “Tarthe dal l'Sacred Flame. Ol wo naut tlu verve hwuen dos kyorl l'anulo nin.”

And she settled back into her own shadowy corner, and went still, her sky-blue eyes turned up to the ceiling. Waiting.