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The Gift: Chapter Two

The Gift: Chapter Two

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[COMPLETE] With the gods dead and dragons slowly spreading their dominion over the land, will you fight for something? Or die with nothing?

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Introduction

So, back for another tale are we? And I see a few new faces too! Well, I suppose I shall have to trim it down so everybody will understand then...hmm. Almost half a century ago the gods themselves died out. Nobody knows why, and nobody cared once they realized what was at stake: A chance to ascend to divinity. Before the last god died, he proclaimed that the bloodline who ended all others would become the masters of the new world. So the battle between the races of the Civee and the Primah bloodlines began. They raged and clashed for years, until a third player showed their hand...the dragons. Great creatures of untold power thought to be long dead demolished the surprised forces of both the Civee and the Primah. In less than two years the dragons and those who worshipped them as deific beings, the Children of Fire, became the greatest superpower of Norr. The resurfacing of dragonkind would forever be known as the Day of Falling Ashes.

It was not long before the 'lesser' races began to fight back, however. Those races whose capitals had not been utterly destroyed, the lamia, dark elves, humans and gnolls rallied armies against their oppressors. Cities were reclaimed and rebuilt over time, and the mortal races started anew. This beginning was not without loss, however. The dragons devised a horrid, complete method of genocide that common folk refer to as the Slaying Spells. Massive amounts of magic that require a copious sacrifice in blood to complete. Within two years, the magics eat away at a specific race. No matter how far, how well hidden or how strong...none could survive once afflicted with the curse. By the end of the rebellion, the dwarves had been annihilated down to the very last man. Still, life had to go on. The new mortal leaders called the Paragon formed a specialized militia known as the Legion of Ashes to recruit every able-bodied man, woman and child to fight the dragons.

I'll skip over the gory details and get to the present. It's been about twenty-four years since the Day of Ashes. For the moment, the battle between the races of the Paragon and the Children of Fire seem to be at a stalemate. The Paragon control the western half of Norr, as the dragons have the east. It seems as if the dragons could call upon the power of Slaying Spells only once every decade or so, or else we would all have been killed long ago. Dwarves, goblins have gone extinct...minotaur are the latest victims of the horrific magic, and will be gone before the year's end. Humans and gnolls were proven early on to have some innate immunity to mass spells, although mankind's was more complete than that of gnolls. This came to light when the dragons created a curse that affected the mental stability of the gnolls over the course of a decade...now the canine peoples are less than feral animals walking upon two legs. Although humans could not be affected by such magic, they were actively hunted down by draconian forces. This genocide has left humans beaten and fear-stricken, their population severely reduced. The dragons, a rarity even during their resurgence, have drastically improved in terms of numbers. Although not as powerful as the dragons first seen, these smaller beasts are still deadly in their own right.

For now, we fight. The war for godhood has been put on hold as a struggle for mere survival is waged. Whose side do you stand on? Will you bring an end to the dragons once and for all? Or do you see the wisdom of these greater beings and seek to aid them in their right to rule? Perhaps the scars of the last war run too deep and you cannot bring yourself to work with those of other bloodlines? The next chapter of the story has yet to be written...what part will you play?


Things to know about Norr
Norr is a single, mega-continent that could be likened to Pangea. Other lands include the Ruins of Imperian, a once great country that is now little more than a series of destroyed castles and settlements. Terra is the great mountain range that divides Norr into eastern and western parts, which is in a state of perpetual war between the forces of the Paragon and the Dragons. The Ashwood is a massive forest that has been partially burned down, creating an ash layer coating the forest floor. The Jurial Plains are the most heavily occupied region held by the Paragon, housing the major cities and the council that controls the Legion of Ashes. The last land is at the most southern portion of Norr: Umbridge. A warped jungle of darkness, man-eating plants and home to the Nightmarians. All throughout Norr, lying underneath is a layer called the Sublands. It is a maze of tunnels and caves that house the deep humans, dark elves and once upon a time, the dwarves.

The current leaders of the Paragon are: Shokunen Helvaras of the lamia, Diloxi Ebon of the darklings, Lince Hekari of the deep humans, Kocarah of the elves and Sunwing of the harpies. The nightmarians live in a state of isolation aside from a few individuals who set out on their own, and have no say in the Paragon. The halflings and orcs are purely mercenaristic and do not wish to place all of their coins in a single purse, so to speak. Lastly, humans are too widespread and decimated to have any true governmental power.

The current dragon lords, the oldest, most powerful dragons are as follows: Nihalistrix(female) the Black, Heliotheris(dead) the Blue, Gurthenemon the Red, Astara(female) the White and Baelenforethus the Gold. Each holds a certain portion of eastern Norr called a territory, and each has their own personal portion of their standing army of Children of Fire. Every dragon lord has a Thane, a general to which they imbue a large amount of draconic power directly. These individuals are unknown as of now due to constant shifts in power.


Races of Norr
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Civee Bloodline Elf- The survivors
Once upon a time the elves were a race of peaceful and frail beings who lived alongside nature and preserved the forests of Norr. What exists of them today could scarcely be likened to the delicate creatures of old. Since the Day of Ashes many things have changed, and the elves were not without exception. A sort of survival instinct embedded deep within the core of the elves awakened, causing the race as a whole to evolve. They grew in height and muscle, forsaking the refined arts of the arcane for drastically increased martial ability. They now appear to be tall, primal cratures with toned muscle and long, tapered ears usually with brown skin although a few fare-skinned members of the race still exist. The elves now exist as large bands of powerful and deadly hunters seeking to slay any dragons they catch unawares and to reclaim their homeland. They live about 300 to 500 years.

Racial Abilities: Sense- Higher senses than average, allowing them to track by smell as well as sight, see clearly in dim light and hear minute sounds over longer distances.

Dreamless- By forsaking the dreaming sleep, elves can enter a meditative state in which they gain the same restorative qualities of an eight hour rest in only two, making them excellent sentries.

Favored Classes: Ranger, Berserker, Barbarian and Druid

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Primah Bloodline Nightmarian- The hidden
The nightmarish forms of these insectoid creatures is the stuff of legends and, as a whole, the race has always been enigmatic. With the relatively recent advent of the dragon incursions upon the jungles they call home the Nightmarians have become even more of a rarity. They are still much the same, strange and diverse half-breeds of humanoid and gigantic insects. Females are built larger than males and most individuals have dark skin and hair. Despite their inhuman strength and senses the Nightmarians have been forced to hole themselves up within the massive hive city Ecclavaria, the largest colony of their kind, to defend themselves against the dragons. The weakest castes of Nightmarians, Ants, beetles and flies live only about 30 years as the higher castes of spiders, mantises and scorpions can live up to 200 years.

Racial Abilities: Tremor Sense- Instead of using their eyes to see they can utilize special sensory organs in their neck to 'see' the world in vibrations, from the smallest grain of sand shifting to the wind rubbing against a human being.

Arc Shell- Their carapace's and exoskeletons have an innate resistance to arcane magic, reducing the amount of damage they take from that category of spells by about half.

Favored Classes: Fighter, Guardian, Mage and Psionicist

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Civee Bloodline Humans- The hunted
Once a proud and numerous race, mankind now teeters on the brink of extinction. Hunted to nearly the last man, humans were the primary targets of the dragons and suffered the worst of their fury by far. Only a handful of human settlements hidden away in the most obscure reaches of Norr have managed to survive. Even then, surviving is a generous word. The race still varies in appearance and mood greatly, although the general feeling is that of creeping despair and the realization that the end is near. The race is relatively short-lived, their lives spanning only around 75-90 years.

Favored Classes: Any

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Primah Bloodline Harpy- The watchers
A feral species that combines the fury and predatory flare of avians with the cunning of humanoids. Locked in a near-constant war for control of territory with the dragons, harpies have begun to enslave the rare males of their race to be used as tools for breeding. Due to this new practice the harpy population would have exploded, were not their numbers being depleted nearly as fast as new members of the race are born. Harpies generally appear to be females with wings sprouting from their backs or the edges of their arms as well as cruelly taloned hands and feet. Plumage varies based on region, and skin colors are just as diverse as that of mankind. Those who forsake the pointless struggles for territory usually end up as mercenaries or bandits, each reknown for their skill with the bow while in flight. Harpies grow excessively fast, maturing at the age of six months and can live up to 200 years, the oldest known harpy only being a century old due to their previous infighting.

Racial Abilities: Raptor Instinct- Smell, hearing and mainly sight are drastically superior to that of humans. They can spot prey from miles away on a clear day.

Jet Stream- By compacting the fibers of their wings, they can dive at extremely high speeds to capture prey completely unaware with great force or escape superior-positioned foes.

Favored Classes: Archer, Scout, Warrior, and Witch-Doctor

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Civee Bloodline Dark Elf- The conspirators
Unlike their pale-skinned cousins and like the lamia, darklings have thrived in the wake of the dragons. In their underground caverns and tunnels, the dark elves were relatively safe from the beasts and their agents. Having forged an alliance with the lamia, they retain a large foothold on economic power and are even more numerous than elves due to the shift in power. Darkling skin ranges from black to grey to dark blue, as their hair is generally white. Their eyes on the other hand are warm, bright colors such as red, orange and yellow. As a race they excel at stealth and the arcane arts, though as of recent years they have been taught of more primal powers by their allies. Dark elves usually only live about 600 years, but exceptional specimens have been reported to have survived a millenium.

Racial Abilities: Dark Sense- Allows for higher overall senses, the ability to see in utter darkness and to hear over relatively long distances--even through solid stone.

Grip- They can scale sheer surfaces and adhere to ceilings much like a spider, allowing for excellent climbing and multiple avenues of attack.

Favored Classes: Warlock, Assassin, Tracker and Mage

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Civee Bloodline Deep Human- The waiting
Descendants of those humans banished to the depths of Norr long ago, the Deep Humans are recognized by their bone-white hair. This used to be true for their skin as well, but as of recent years some darker-skinned members have arisen. Still, all deep humans have the same pale hair. They still live in close conjunction with the dark elves and humans. As a result, the race has experienced mixed results with survival. Those remaining with the darklings remain pale-skinned and live relatively sheltered lives. Those who remained above ground to defend their human bretheren were crushed along with them. These 'surfacers', had developed darker tones to cope with the sunlight and live grim lives. The average deep human is slightly more compact than a human, and their lifespans range from 90 to 150 years.

Racial Abilities: Deep Sense- Allows for higher overall senses, the ability to see in utter darkness and increases their sense of smell.

Fear- Calling upon an ancient pact, the user induces a state of supernatural fear within the target causing them to cringe helplessly for a few seconds.

Favored Classes: Mage, Arcblade, Rogue and Warlock

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Primah Bloodline Lamia- The leaders
Easily the most well-off race since the Day of Ashes, the snake-bodied lamia have come out virtually unscathed by the dragon's wrath. Their alliance with the dark elves and access to new, arcane magicks have served to keep the behemoths at bay and even allowed them to lay claim to new territory. The lamia appear to be attractive humanoids of varying skin-color with a serpentine tail beginning at the waist. Royals have bone-like protrusions on their skull, although all lamia share immense strength despite their appearance and a venomous temper. Normal lamia can live up to 300 years of age, while royals can live up to a millenium.

Racial Abilities: Sense- Higher senses than average, allowing them to track by smell and taste as well as sight, see in darker conditions and feel minute movements over longer distances.

Strike- Using retractable fangs lamia can lash out with a highly potent, poisonous bite up to three times a day. The type, paralytic, cell-destroying or hullicinagenic, varies from individual to individual.

Favored Classes: Archer, Warrior, Cleric and Sorcerer

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Primah Bloodline Orc- The guardians
Since the very beginning of their existence the orcs have been warriors. Be it for pride, gold, or even just the hell of it, the green-skinned brutes have always taken up any and every cause to sink their blade into something. The dragons changed all that. As a race, they were forced to make new alliances or die. The majority of orcs now live in large convents in or just outside of lamian and deep human cities, serving as guards, soldiers, hunters and just about any other physical job they can find. Those are in no short supply given the constant destruction wrought in this dark age. Orcs are burly, green or brown skinned humanoids with hard features and depending on the purity of their lineage, tusk-like fangs protruding from their bottom jaws. They live about as long as humans do and share many of the same beliefs in chivalry.

Racial Abilities: Sense- Higher senses than average, allowing them to track by smell as well as sight, see in darker conditions and smell faint scents over longer distances.

The Cold Rage- By severing nearly every nervous connection in the body as well as several hormone glands and utilizing a second set of internal wiring, orcs can negate any sense of feeling or touch and rationalize every move in the heat of battle effectively making themselves the perfect warrior for a roughly a minute, reusable once every hour. The process is draining and leaves the user vulnerable for a while afterwards. .

Favored Classes: Shaman, Hunter, Warrior and Cleric

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Civee Bloodline Halfling- The fearless
Jovial and carefree were the words that came to mind whenever halflings were involved. Such thinking is non-existant in this new age. The halflings have gone from a diminutive race of pranksters and stalwart friends to one of cold-hearted slayers and pragmatists. What was once "Live and let live, and shy from the immoral." has become "Let no slight go unavenged and if it works; Use it." They now serve most other races as assassins and mercenaries. They are still governed by a council of magi though, although the representatives have changed to match their race's new outlook. The race as a whole has suffered far less than expected during the rise of the dragons, given their knack for disappearing when things get particularly desperate. Their skin colors are usually normal shades and hair colors range across the full spectrum. Halflings are anatomically identical to humans, only on a smaller scale standing at a height of roughly three and a half feet and living 90 to 100 years.

Racial Abilities: Fearless- Halflings are extremely hard to intimidate and are immune to all unnatural fear-based magical effects.

Unfocus- By fighting in a group halflings can blur their bodies somewhat and make it harder for their foes to hit them.

Favored Classes: Assassin, Ranger, Scout and Mage


Other Races-
Civee Bloodline Dwarves and Iron Dwarves: The first races to be slain by the Slaying Spells of the dragons twenty-one years ago.

Primah Bloodline Goblins: The second race to be eradicated by the Slaying Spells eleven years ago.

Primah Bloodline Gnolls: Afflicted with a race-wide Feral Curse, making the gnolls little more than bipedal beasts.

Primah Bloodline Minotaur: The third race attacked by the dragon's Slaying Spells one year ago. The race has almost been wholly eliminated by the fel magic, and less than one-hundred minotaurs still live.


CHARACTER SHEET- First of all, no character should be above the average soldier in terms of equipment and fighting ability.
In addition to the site-provided guideline, please include the following:
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In Description...
[b]Full Name:[/b]

[b]Age:[/b] (at least 18)

[b]Gender:[/b] (...duh)

[b]Race:[/b] (Any race listed excluding the dwarves, goblins and gnolls)

[b]Class:[/b] (a general synopsis of your abilities, such as Spy, Warrior or Wizard)

[b]Physical Description:[/b] (Can be a description, picture or both)

In Personality...
This entire section is completely optional. You can make up your character's personality right now, or develope it as the roleplay progresses.

In Equipment...
[b]Starting Armor:[/b] (The clothing or armor you begin with)

[b]Starting Weaponry:[/b] (The weapons you begin with)

[b]Fighting Style:[/b] (How does your character engage in combat? Hand-to-hand? General soldier training with martial weapons?)

[b]Weapon of Choice:[/b] (What weapon or lack there of is your character most proficient with?)

[b]Other:[/b] (This includes travelling provisions, poisons and the like)

In History...
Just some basic background information.


The Gift: Part One for those of you who care enough to look in on past events and characters.

Side Note: I am Ghaarme :o sooo, i'm not ripping this off of the roleplay that ended a few months back, it's actually the same dude continuing it. Go figure~

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The Jurial Plains

Laeral wasn't bad as far as nameless little towns went. Twenty or so houses of folks who have known eachother by name since the dead gods knew when, ten family-owned shops and a town hall housing a steriotypical spineless whelp of a mayor all next to wide fields of fresh crops. Probably the only reason the dreary plot of a settlement didn't die from lack of revenue was the near constant stream of travellers and legionnaires arriving for a few nights of rest and piss-poor ale before going on their way to travel seventy-something odd miles to the nearest thing that one would consider another town. In the fading light of a particularly long day Wrath sighed and leaned against the fence on which he had been perched for the last half-hour.

On a large patch of dirt road inbetween Laeral and it's fields the sharply featured man stared at the ground as if it would yield what he was waiting for. Dressed in a colorful poncho and expensive tailored pants and boots, it was hard to think that the handsome young man was the kind of person who would tear someone's head off when made to wait too long. As he was now. A call from somewhere down the road sent Wrath looking to the east, his steely eyes locking onto a diminutive figure leading a motley assortment of...he couldn't find any words to describe them yet. As the halfling leading the procession drew within earshot she flashed Wrath a bright smile.

"Miss me?" Before he could answer she waved a hand dismissively and nodded those following her over. "Line up scrubs! Time ta' meet the man who'll be bossing you around for the next three-hundred and sixty-five days of your life. For those of you who missed it the first time, I'm Sid." She said with a smirk before leaning against the fence near Wrath. She had led the latest twenty recruits for the Legion of Ashes miles from the meeting place to arrive here, and her short legs were aching. Being apart of a conscripted army made you better at marching...but halflings just weren't built for it. So the raven haired little woman crossed her arms behind her head and watched the scene before her play out as she had two times before. Almost as an afterthought Sid tossed a folded scrap of parchment at her superior officer. Wrath caught in and shot her a venomous glance before moving to stand in front of those men and women arrayed before him.

"Good evening. I am Captain Liu-Wen, and that," he said while pointing as Sid, "Is first-sargeant Grimsmirk. We lead the fourtieth legion within the Legion of Ashes. We shall be addressed as such until given permission to do otherwise. You will speak only when addressed directly. From this day forward, your lives are no longer your own. They belong to Norr. To the Paragon." Wrath smoothed out the paper he had been given and began at the front of the line. "As I announce your squad assignment, you may proceed to enter the town of Laeral. You are required to report to the Boulon Brother's Inn by midnight."

The captain glanced from the paper to the first new legionnaire. His face twinged pink as he noticed the size of the lamian woman's chest. She was half-encased in steel plate armor and flicked her viridian tail in anticipation. "Iriana Kellas. Fighter. You are in my squad." As he moved to the next, an elf, Iriana sqealed in delight and slithered off in to town. He caught Sid muttering something about big jugs. Why would she be speaking about grandiose pottery at a time like this? "Hokkun Ga'Taro. Marksman...you will be in Grimsmirk's squad. Ten more went by, four more to Sid Grimsmirk's squad and seven to Wrath's squad. Nearing the end half of the line now, he stepped up to a pair of dark elven women. "Talae Shanir..." Wrath had to keep himself from curling his lip in distaste, and could not quite keep the tone of superiority--even more than usual--from his tone. "Assassin. You're with Grimsmirk."

Stepping over to the lighter of the pair he was surprised to see that the dossier listed her as a dark elf despite her relatively fair complexion. Even more surprising was her relation to the first darkling. "Faera Shanir. Mage...what?" The captain raised an eyebrow in silent question and tentatively waved his gloved hand in front of the darkling girl's face. Her eyes did not track it's movement. The file was correct; Faera was blind. Sid smiled at her superior's puzzlement at how such a woman could have passed even the most basic tests to enter the Legion...much less make it into a combat unit. He quickly recovered from the awkward silence and continued. "Excuse me." Medical mages were assigned to Sid's light-armor squad as combat mages came into Wrath's heavy-armor squad. He suspected that the siblings would not take well to being separated and decided to bend the rules a bit. Soemthing that was not lost on Sid. "Grimsmirk's team. Next..."

Another dark elf, this one male. By the Burning Dark, another assassin?! "Krealthanos Veldrin. Assassin. Grimsmirk. Go on." Trying to hide his growing annoyance with the proclivity for dark elves to fancy themselves assassins, Wrath came face to face with a man he had not wished to see in his lifetime. Sid smirked and mouthed the words 'play nice'. "Caine Abel. Berserker...frontliner, my squad. Good to see you again private Abel." Although the words rang hollow even to his own ears, Wrath was not about to let the past affect his ettiquete. Moving on was another human. Rare...there were never more than singular humans joining each legion nowadays. "Duran Cidovan. Druid...hm. We have three medics now, so you're with me." Three more. What he thought was another human came up next, but the dossier attested to the fact that he was a child of the caves. "Kisikoni Ayalen. Mixed fighter...go with Grimsmirk. She's lacking in melee capable warriors." A second deep human, this one girded with an absurdly thick looking shield. "Gileas Arkha. Guardian. My squad." Quickly he moved on to the last recruit in line. "Lailanae Korra. Special marksman. Grimsmirk's group. Now leave."

Finally finished, the captain moved to slump on to the ground next to Sid. With a profound sigh he crumpled up the dossier and tossed in at the halfling's head. She merelt smiled and nudged her human companion in the ribs. "Nice haul this time around eh?" Her voice was dripping with sarcasm.

"Yes, quite. Three generic orc meat-shields, some cookie-cutter elvish archers and--oh joy!" Sid laughed out the word 'assassin' before Wrath could finish his sentence. Still, he continued. "Oh, not to mention the angry hulk of a man that nearly wiped out our last legion in a fit of rage-"

"Hey, we won that battle 'cause of Muscles!"

"-a blind woman launching magic missles and an ex-Deep Guard. Nearly all of which are conscripted, looking for quick gold or blackmailed into service! Joy of joys." Wrath pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes, speaing to Sid without looking at her. "Why do we never get assigned a normal group of trained soldiers...?"

After wincing at the bit about blackmail, the halfling patted Wrath's shoulder. "The Fourtieth is the Mixed-Unit legion. Special tactics is a nicer way of saying 'people we have no idea what to do with but can't really spare because we're losing a desperate war'. We're the leftover giblets of the cusiine that is an army."

Wrath sighed and nodded. The very reason he was promoted at such a young age was hardly due to his skill. It was because he was someone that the Legion saw potential in, but not nearly enough to train properly. No. He was to manage the rejects of the Legion. The well-dressed captain sat up and dusted himself off, making his way towards the tavern in which his legennaires were to lodge. "Make sure the wagons are ready for tommorow, and that their new gear is up to snuff. We're going to reinforce Yan'vega's legion ten miles north of here."

"Near the mountains? Shit..." Her protests died when she caught the edge of Wrath's glare. "Yeah, yeah, i'll manage. At least there's some good sniping positions."

Wrath continued on to the inn with a slight scowl. The sun had finally set and travellers still flooded the streets of Laeral. "Welcome to the Legion."

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The Jurial Plains

Talae shot a glance to her side, where Faera was marching in silence, boots making the slightest of scuffing noises on the dirt road. Though both siblings were well-used to traversing miles of road without stopping by now, only the older could claim to have any ease doing so at march pace, and she'd taken to ensuring that her charge would not fall behind. It was obvious Fae was weary, but she was doing well at choosing not to show as much, clearly determined not to complain.

Truthfully, she was still displeased with this arrangement. She knew quite well that her sister was capable enough to be of use when it came to a fight, but that did not mean she belonged in the Legion of Ashes. Actually, Talae herself was beginning to wonder at her choice. If it hadn't been the most expedient way to find herself with the opportunity to do some dragons some damage, she probably would have stayed away from it altogether. She didn't have to know anything about her fellows to know that this was a ragtag bunch at best, not that she had expected any different. They'd let in a blind girl, of all things, with little more than a passing assurance that her other senses were good enough to prevent her from hitting anyone important- for the most part.

When Fae had insisted on accompanying her this time, Talae had refused bluntly. Unfortunately, her sister's methods of persuasion did not work in the form of aggressive argument, easily enough combated, but in a slow and gradual wearing down of resistance. Talae could wait, but Faera had the patience of a saint. So here she was, double-timing it to who-knew where, surrounded by people who obviously knew little more about what was coming than she did, but for the most part didn't seem to care either.

She'd been surprised to note that Caine was among the lot of them; she'd have thought someone like him would have up and died a long time ago. Berserker rage wasn't exactly conducive to lasting health, after all. Of course, it sure beat the hell out of her skills on an open field with nowhere to hide. Still, his face in the crowd meant that she knew exactly two other people here, which was probably a decent start as far as these things went, and she actually had some respect for this particular human, so it might not all be quite as horrendous as she expected.

The dull knives affixed to her braids clinked together softly as the group was called to halt and lined up in front of the man who called himself their Captain. This, she was more than a little skeptical of. Even as short-lived as humans tended to be, this one was young, and his manner of dress was... peculiar, to say the least. His obvious disdain for her (or perhaps simply her profession, not that the difference mattered a whit) was the least of her problems with him, since she felt exactly the same thing. She usually did, so this was unsurprising. It certainly didn't matter, considering that she'd follow orders regardless. Nothing said one had to like one's superior officers, only obey them.

She was for a moment concerned when she discovered there would be two groups, though, as she had even less desire to let Faera out of her sight than she had to be unpleasantly mauled by a fire-lizard, but luckily (or she would have thought so if she believed in luck), the two were placed together. Well, that was a positive for this entire arrangement, anyway. As soon as they were both allowed to leave, Talae started wordlessly for the village, knowing that her sister would hear and follow. They needed somewhere to rest, and even places this small usually had suitable establishments. If nothing else, they could find the inn early and take up residence in some corner or something.

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The Jurial Plains

Faera followed the distinct light tread of the halfling named Sid, mindful not to bump into anyone by accident. This was considerably easier than one might expect, when you could hear the minute sounds of breaths and rustling clothing and distinguish one set from another. She couldn't quite imagine what it would be like to be a blind human- without her species's enhanced sensory apparatuses, she would truly be afraid of making a serious nuisance of herself.

There wasn't that much talking going on. In her case at least, that was because there was a fair amount too much marching. Her feet were sore, and the reverberations of each step seemed to climb her legs and send their aftershocks up her spine. It was, quite frankly, a miserable experience, but one that she'd have to get used to. This sentiment was precisely the reason she'd chosen not to ease the ache, but to endure it, in the hope that in a few weeks or months, she wouldn't even notice it anymore.

She was, needless to say, unspeakably relieved when they all stopped moving, and she listened intently to the instructions she was given. She really didn't have any idea what she was doing; this was Tala's world, not hers. But Faera knew that, too, had to change. The fact of the matter was, she frequently worried herself sick when her sister was away fighting, and this was the best way she knew to do something about that.

Still... none of it sounded very pleasant. The Captain and Lieutenant Sid both had interesting voices, she decided, but the words themselves were discouraging at best. Don't speak unless spoken to, don't use anything but titles with them, your life belongs to Norr... it was all a bit harsh. Did Tala really deal with things like this all the time?

The creature on her shoulder shifted, perhaps sensing her discomfort, and she absently laid a hand on his scaly back as the first half were sorted. There was a low trill in her right ear, and Faera smiled. The Captain was getting closer, though, and so she shushed her friend and waited, not wanting to be the only person who already couldn't follow instructions.

She felt the disturbance in the air as a hand was waved in front of her, and she tilted her head slightly, waiting patiently. Many people did this sort of thing, and she didn't much mind. Blindness was an uncommon disability, since generally it wasn't good for your shot at survival these days, but Faera had always managed it all right. She was assigned to the same group as her sister, and let out a breath she hadn't quite realized she'd been holding. That much was a relief, anyway; it would be unfortunate to face her first battle with only strangers.

When they were dismissed, Fae bowed shallowly, unsure if that was what she was supposed to do but erring on the side of courtesy anyway, and followed the chime of Tala's movement, an easy sound to pick out even in a milieu of them. Sometimes, she suspected that was the reason for her sister's odd choice in hairstyle, but she never asked about it. The older Shanir sibling was likely to deny it even if it were true.

"Tala... where are we going?"

-=-
Laeral

Gods, could this swill taste any worse? Neira tilted the ceramic mug to get a better look at the so-called alcohol within. She might have inquired after it (rather rudely, she might add), from the owner, but she wasn't really in the mood to argue with idiots today.

What she was was bored, and she scanned the room with inhuman eyes, seeking out something to entertain herself. The long digits of her left hand, encased in smooth, hard exoskeleton, tapped a lazy rhythm on the bar, and noted from her peripherals that the man next to her was giving them a look of horrified fascination, apparently just having come to the correct conclusion: those were not gauntlets. That could be interesting.

Slowly, she turned her head to face him, and she had no doubt her eyes confirmed what her hands had suggested. Neira watched with a half-lidded, almost bored expression as he tried to figure out exactly what he was looking at. The hooded cloak she wore concealed her translucent wings well enough that it might remain a mystery for a bit. Watching the gears crank in a half-intoxicated mind was one of those things that was always mildly amusing.

The spread of her trademark sadist's grin was slow, but he seemed to recognize that it boded badly for him, and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "It's rude to stare, you know," she said, and she knew her high, almost childlike pitch confused him a bit. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she wondered if Nightmarians really were still so rare a sight; it did not seem that he'd understood just yet. Mmm... small town. I had rather forgotten that little detail.

Not two minutes later, the man had hastily paid for his drink and left, making his excuses to the barman, who shot her a mildly-reproachful look, which she returned with a flat stare. Neira resisted the urge to sigh. Now she was bored again, and this whiskey wasn't even good enough to get drunk on. she hoped something interesting showed up soon; she'd been rather bereft of amusement for too long if she was taunting barroom oafs.

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#, as written by Arke
Laeral, Jurial Plains

The town was a nice place. Well, it looked nice. Marching all day here meant that even a pile of ragged clothes looked pretty good to sleep on. Earth people focused on their arms, not legs. The marching, for Kisikoni Ayalen was worse than anything else they put him through. So used to his arms doing most of the moving, his legs tired easily and required long hours of training to work them up to suitable standards. The woman that lead him and the other recruits here stopped. It was hard to believe she was a woman, especially since deep humans were shorter than most. Many females he encountered, from whatever race, always stood at least an inch over his head. Halflings were different, and it made Kisikoni feel like the giant. He smiled at that thought, but the woman herself had a set of lungs indirectly related to her height.

"Line up scrubs! Time ta' meet the man who'll be bossing you around for the next three-hundred and sixty-five days of your life. For those of you who missed it the first time, I'm Sid." She said with a smirk

He snapped to attention, listening to the new man, a brightly dressed young human male step up. "Good evening. I am Captain Liu-Wen, and that," he said while pointing as Sid, "Is first-sargeant Grimsmirk. We lead the fourtieth legion within the Legion of Ashes. We shall be addressed as such until given permission to do otherwise. You will speak only when addressed directly. From this day forward, your lives are no longer your own. They belong to Norr. To the Paragon." Wrath smoothed out the paper he had been given and began at the front of the line. "As I announce your squad assignment, you may proceed to enter the town of Laeral. You are required to report to the Boulon Brother's Inn by midnight." The man said gruffly.

Liu-Wen? That name struck a chord in his mind. However, now was not the time for such trifles. He continued to listen until he was assigned to the halfling's squad. Deep in the caves, everyone depended on everyone else for survival- no gender barriers existed, but taking orders from a woman nearly two feet shorter than himself was rather unnerving. He noted early on that she too carried a crossbow, though not as large and clunky as his was. He saluted to the halfling vice-captain and made for the town like most of the others. He had been separated from his own five-man squad earlier to be signed up for the lacking 40th Legion. He briefly wondered how they were doing before disappearing into the city lights.

The shops provided little joy for Kisikoni and his meager funds. Outside of maintaining his equipment and purchasing supplies, it left very little money for the Deep Human to spend. He ended up not buying anything. He merely wandered through the alleys, and found himself spending the most time gambling with fake money along with some older men. The older men would be spinning a top, and based on the symbol one would groan in mock frustration and the other would giggling like his birthday had come early. Trying his hand at it, Kisikoni eventually left the table with a single sweet. A considerable reward, as he was a novice gambler himself.

Before long, he grew tired of walking, and entered the Boulon Brother's Inn quite earlier than he had anticipated. He ordered himself filling meal, as he was going to need the energy to march ten miles and expect to be fighting from there. He paid with some of his own money, because the Paragon's budget was stretched just as thin as their soldiers. As the platter of food arrived, he quickly dug in. He noted sourly that his hands used to be his utensils, but now he was using a fork and knife. Slowly, his own traditions of old slipped from his grasp. It did not deter him, though, from filling his stomach.


The howling wind. Dark skies, screeching metal. Red flowers bloomed in the sky and on chests.

"Come and get some, boys!" cackled a distinctly feminine voice. A kiss. A crack.

Rivers of steel and red freely flowed. Blackened, sturdy, and a web of metal.

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Road into Laeral

Hollow footsteps traced the ash seared ground. Body cold yet skin unfeeling to the gasping breaths of a dying breeze. Everything was dead. She stood naked in the failing sunlight, everything a shade of gray. Golden eyes peirced in the mottled landscape, alone in their own briliant color yet weary with exhaustion. Steady breathing slipped in and out yet she could not feel the own rise and fall of her chest or the air slipping through her nostrils. Hands clenched on a bleached white skull, ornate tusks curling from the upper jaw as a single flaw stretched across it. Another dead and gone. It fell from her fingers even when she was unaware of its touch, breaking on the ground at her feet. A glance down revealed her sole were on broken and scattered bnes. Clouds obscured the day. Silence ruled everything and muted the sounds of her own life. Before her lay Gia, broken and defeated. Lost.

Movement swept around behind. Figures, shadows they all seemed the same here. Her eyes turned to follow them, searching for life in the path of death. Blank faces met her sight and she turned. Rows of children, faces erased to blank slates and stretching out like fields of wheat. They faced her yet no eyes matched hers. Something was in her hands again, head dipping she looked at smoke gray hands covered in a black fluid that stained her skin. Nestled between her hands was an infant. Even with its limbs missing it seemed to writhe and cry, no sound to be given. Bloody tears slipped past snow white cheeks, even the blood seemed black. The clanking of chains muttered in the distance and her head turned towards it, hands dropping the baby gone and forgotten.

The chains clanked a second time, closer but always just out of sight. She turned and her golden eyes found a shadow. Humanoid in form though dark, head and body twisted to the shape of some kind of dragonoid. The dark black slithering away to show dirty crimson, the color of dried blood. Its lowered head rose, red eyes glaring from within its skull, hands lifted before it as a long coiled chain swung without the touch of wind. Her eyes dropped lower to see talons on its feet, and beneath those rested the mutliated body of Talik. Following it down the one body changed to that of a child and then a family, the farther down she looked the more bodies piled beneath it. The chain clanked a third time and she felt it.

The cold kiss of an edge gliding around her neck the edge gently itching her flesh, yearning for it to twitch or move across it. She heard only the intake of her breath as the hook jerked through her neck...




Illeyssa let her eyelids slip open as she exhaled. The cold air greeting her as her body shivered. Eyes looking dully at the casting stones before her. She had delved deeply this time, her body slow to wake from her walk on the other side. She slowly became aware of a presence to her right and turned, eyes lifting up to the smooth and concerned face of Silvyar. She read the face of her apprentice for a moment, noting the shiver in the girl's skin from the lack ow warmth, hands wrapped across her chest, fingers curled tightly with worry.

"I was walking for that long, huh?" She spoke without need of an answer and glanced up to the backs of her guard.

Gormun and Brack, two brothers who were skilled and strong. They had been under her watch since they were boys, still learning of her abilities when Gia wasn't just a bad dream. Both had grown strong in their time, their tusks sprouting from their mouths were wide and strong, Brack's left missing its curved tip from a fight. Their forms were in treated skins, a thick leather strap pulled diagonally across their shoulder. Gormun, the eldest and slightly taller of the two, had a wide sheath attached to it, the handle of his make-shift claymore waiting for his green skinned hand. Brack's had no sheath only a strap, wrapped around and supporting the a war hammer and battle axe, both smaller than normal but ready to be wielded one in either hand. Both stood watching ahead, and would have for as long as she was in her Premonition State, for it was punishable to glance upon her body when she was not fully in this world.

Illeyssa exhaled calmly and stretched out her left hand to sweep up the stones, moving them into their familiar cloth bag and placing the string back around her neck. Silvyar rose just before she did, slender arms helping her up though she did not need it. The girl meant well, though she was nervous, her face and actions clear enough about that. She was the youngest apprentice yet only she was asked to follow her in this travel. Still a year or two under her second decade, she was the only apprentice to even show a spark in the skill of premonitions.

"Silvyar. Do you know where we are?"

"We are in the Jurial Planes, near a place known as Laeral, Shawoman." The girl's voice was direct, almost like a soldier answering an officer, though it didn't take a sharp mind like Illeyssa's to read the respect in it.

"So we are..." Illeyssa didn't smile though she stretched a bit, feeling the physical attachment of her body to her mind once more, and the cold feel in the air drifting on her skin. Motioning for the other to her side she walked up to her two guards, soft fingers resting on the tall shoulder of Gormun, "It is time to move on to the town Gormun... Where is Durmond?"

"I do not know Shawoman. He moved off as you walked the planes of foresight." The tall orc looked at her then, eyes looking just below her own gaze, not wanting to show challenge to her authority.

"I see."

She nodded her head and moved past, Silvyar barely a step behind her as the brothers moved into their places, the younger at the front the older in the back, both drawing their weapons as eyes searched for unknown danger.

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Laeral, Jurial Plains

Caine strode into the town after "Captain" Wrath had assigned him to his squad. A frontliner no less, not like he was surprised. Caine didn't speak at all during the squad assigning, although he did pick up on the hollow tone the Captain had with him. He merely nodded and entered the city. Of course, distancing oneself from Caine was natural, seeing how the Captain had met the Berserker. Blind to all but bloody fury, he had the brilliant idea to try eviscerate everything that even deemed slightly hostile. Caine's anger was a brutal mistress, to enemies, to allies, and even to himself. The scars that adorned his face attested to that fact. The only thing that had stopped Caine's bloodlust was Wrath. Of course, this had bound to put a sour taste into the man's mouth.

He was part of another squad before being conscripted to the 40th. The outcast legion it seemed. They had been set upon and they had fought back valiantly. Though, not without cost. Caine was not sure of the losses, as he had devolved into the signature Berserker rage and lost all thought except kill or be killed. Dodge that attack, strike out with the sword, Kick at the assailant. Kill, kill, kill. He only snapped out of it when Wrath had shown up. That was when he was conscripted. Perhaps they saw something him. More likely however was that he was deemed too dangerous to be in a proper legion.

"Put me in front sir, I'm bound to get killed killing things," Caine mocked in a dark, low voice. Although he spoke the words, there was a hint of sarcasm in his tone. He wasn't expecting to get killed anytime soon. The sole reason he fought was to survive, to live. Hiding in a hovel isn't a way to live, and one is just as likely to die there as on the battlefield now-a-days. His true motivations to fight? He didn't completely understand them himself. A twisted sense of revenge perhaps? He was one of the dying breed of humans. And heavens knows what the man had experienced in his past. Caine shrugged, as if throwing all of these thoughts off of his shoulders.

He then moved further into the city, just to be moving. He had nowhere to go, he had nothing to do, and he didn't have any money to do it with. He was just there. Caine chuckled to himself. The story of his life. Then he stopped the laughter and grimaced. He was being dark and broody again. That never worked out. Pity for oneself is a sign of weakness. He was a warrior, a proud son of the dying human race. He shouldn't show weakness. He shook his head and try to cheer up. As cheery as the human berserker could get, which was very.

He decided to give up on the sight seeing and immediately found and entered the Boulon Brother's Inn. He found himself a unoccupied table and sunk into the uncomfortable chair. He grumbled about this fact, but didn't try to escape it, instead removing the blades strapped to his back and sat them beside him. Someone came up to him asked if he wanted to order. Caine did and ordered, "A bottle wit' a bite." As the person went to fetch his order, Caine drew a sword from one of the leather wrappings that was a sheath and looked over the blade. It was a grimy, low quality steel sword with flakes of dried blood on the blade. He licked his thumb and rubbed the flakes off. By now, the waiter had returned with a dark colored bottle.

Caine received the bottle and gave the waiter whatever coins he could fish off of his person. He bit the cork at the mouth of the bottle and spit it to the side. The bottle wasn't going to survive the night. He took a long drought, the bitter liquid sliding down his throat, burning. Perhaps it was bad form to drink while one's captain was so close, but honestly. Caine didn't give a damn.

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#, as written by Aythr
"Line up scrubs!'

That was all Duran needed to hear. He was accustom to the shrill, commanding voice of halflings; Most of his life was spent within forty yards of one for no less than five minutes at any given time. The druid seemed to stand out like a tree in the forest. The hood of his olive-green cloak was thrown up over his head as to give, at the very least, his race a degree of anonymity. Humans were becoming harder and harder to find these days, and Duran didn't feel like becoming a statistic, let alone a dragon's toothpick. Subtly, his eyes shifted beneath his cloak, having a look at the assortment of mismatched recruits.

"How many people here came out from underground?" he thought.

"Duran Cidovan. Druid...hm. We have three medics now, so you're with me."

Duran's ears perked up at the sound of his own name. He was relieved to learn that he'd be with Captain Liu-Wen, since halflings tended to have a cruel sense of humor when it came to bossing people around. He did take note that his faithful wolf, Goma, was nowhere to be seen. She was probably in the woods, hunting for some small animal to turn into their next meal. In any case, she would be close.

"Now leave."

Duran's straightened posture immediately relaxed, and he began to think about the squad assignments. He counted eleven members in his squad, not including Captain Liu-Wen or his own animal friend Goma the Wolf. Notably, there was a "gifted" armor-clad Lamia, a Human Berserker whose reputation appeared to precede him, and a Deep Human whose shield appeared to be important to him, at the very least. It appeared as though he was not going to be a front-line member of this squad, although he didn't necessarily wish to be.

As Duran turned around and headed into Laeral to spend the night, he put his thumb and pointer in his mouth, and let loose a loud whistle as he walked. A rather large, female wolf jumped out of the woods, a dead rabbit in its jaws. Goma had caught something, it seemed. Duran rolled his eyes, and kept walking.

As he entered, he made a mental note of where each building was. It was assumed that they would all stay at the inn for the night, however Duran was not one for comfy lodging or ale. He began to set up a small camp outside the inn and around the corner. Goma dropped the rabbit and sat down, wagging her scruffy tail, as Duran set up a fire and pot for a rabbit stew. He began skinning the rabbit with a few druidic prayers, thanking nature for its bounty before dropping tender rabbit morsels in the pot with a few vegetables that seemed to appear from Duran's cloak. This adventure was going to be interesting, to say the least.

The smell of rabbit stew wafted out from behind the Inn, and Duran let out a sigh or relief as he stirred the pot.

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Gileas walked into town after being assigned into the human captain's group. He was pleased that he would be led by some one of his heritage. Alll his life he had more respect for the humans who lived above ground. He found something about the deep humans to be somewhat weak. The appearance that they hid, that they had escaped the danger's of the above ground, and their lack of interest to save their own kind. If he had not lived in the underground for a few year's of his life he would naively believe that all deep humans were cowards.

His legs were tired from the long march, but unlike the other deep human he had walked with, Gileas was more accustomed to using his legs. He took a seat next to the fence next to where they had met up with the human captain. He watched as the other soldier's scattered off in all different directions. They all had something on their minds it seemed, the expressions on their faces were a mix of longing, fear, and anticipation. He watched for some time as they drifted apart from they large group they were. Some went into the Inn right away others stuck around at the market and browsed the many goods on sale.

Gileas stood up and let out a deep breath. He pondered his next move, being somewhat of a loner he was not very inclined to social interaction, although sometimes it could be pleasant. Gileas decided it would be best to head to the Inn. He would glance at the stores and see if there was anything of interest. He was aware that for such a small town there would be little to offer. He browsed through a couple of food stands but found nothing that appealed to his appetite. The smithy was small, and the weapons and armor they produced were of fairly good quality but his current equipment should be enough for the time being. He acknowledged a few shields on the wall to have been made with great care, but Gileas did not restrain the desire to correct the smith on his designs. The man took the criticism well and thanked him for the advice before he left.

The door opened for him as one of the townsfolk left. He caught the door and walked inside, closing it behind him. There was a lot of activity going on now, since most of the soldier's had made their way there. Many of the tables were taken up by multiple soldiers. The bar had already been filled and Gileas wan't in the mood for too much company. He spotted the table where the other deep human from the march had sat down and Gilleas made his way to one of the chairs at the table. Before sitting down Gileas unstrapped the thick shield from his back and set it on the ground and partially under the table. He stretched his shoulders and proceeded to sit down. He ordered a small meal. Just a slice of beef and a cooked potato. His hunger was not very great but the importance of eating did not escape him.

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#, as written by Smith
A sigh hissed through Sid's teeth as she glared up at a large board posted several feet above her head. She was inside the tavern, the Boulon brother's Inn, and glared up at the local recruitment board hanging on the wall. It was a glorified slab of dark wood with barely any quests--besides killing a few large rats in a corn field--and even fewer posts requesting aid. In her hand Sid was holding a rolled up sheet of paper about as tall as she was. It was an immediate recruitment letter requesting any non-local military or martial forces for aid in the mission tommorow. The pay was shit, as were the terms, but it would sate the appetites of any would-be adventurers and score some cheap assistance for the Legion.

Sadly, when the recruitment boards were instituted the height of halflings had not been taken into consideration. One look at the large spaceous inn interior would tell anyone that there was not a seat to be found, and therefore no chairs for the dark haired halfling to stand upon. Not that she would dignify any of the tall-folk with the sight of a halfling's only weakness...

"Need a lift?" Suddenly Sid was up in the air, hoisted onto broad shoulders by a pair of arms as thick around as her chest. She looked down upon a the toothy grin of an orc. One of the new legionnaires, Thanaros.

Sid returned the greenskin's smile with one of her own and patted his head of matted black hair. "Much oblidged, Thanny-boy." With her newfound position Sid unfurled her parchment and stuck it to the board. It adhered and spread out of it's own accord, having been enchanted. In seconds the blank paper was etched with ink that read in clear, bold letters;

The Legion of Ashes Wants You!
Image
IMMEDIATE RECRUITMENT REQUIRED! NO LOCALS! Must have past military or combat experience. 10 silver per day(NON-NEGOTIABLE) and you must provide your own travelling gear and equipment. Food and drink will be provided. Report to room 15 and request to speak to Captain if interested. FIGHT FOR NORR!


Sid smirked at the goofy looking add and patted the young orc holding her on the shoulder. "My thanks. Hm...you're pretty hot for an orc. Human mother?"

Thanaros colored slightly and rubbed the back of his head gingerly. At length, he said; "Human father. But i'm still as strong as Ferka and Junte! By the Nine Circles, i'm stronger!" Sid patted the riled up orc's leg and shot him a beaming smile. This seemed to calm Thanaros down. That settled, the halfling proceeded to talk his ear off about the inequalities and biases that the tall-folk unwittingly subjected halflings to over a few tall mugs of frothy ale. Which soon became seven. Then twelve...around there they lost count, and somewhere along the line the lamian legionnaire Iriana and the harpy Sura had joined in. By that time it was nearing midnight, and despite the fun she was having Sid ordered them to bed. It wouldn't do to have hung over soldiers...although the march would help to sober them up.

After a wave of protests Sid was back in the room she shaired with Wrath. He was hunched over a desk scribbling onto the thin parchment of a notebook. Writing songs for the upcoming battle, she supposed. The thought did not last long before the halfling was sprawled out on the bed snoring.

Wrath smiled for a moment and returned to his writing. What rhymes with orange? Forage? Cow range? Phalanges?

Back down in the bar room, almost completely sober the handsome orc Thanaros prodded his beer with a bored expression. He noticed a woman half-concealed and looked directly at her. He had thought she was merely armored earlier in the night, but for the first time he noticed that the edges of the dark 'metal' were grafted to her flesh. "A nightmarian..." he mumbled under his breath. Even when the world was more densely populated, nightmarians had easily been the scarcest race outside of their secretive homeland. If they had elected to devote the full force of their armies to the war effort the Primah would have wiped out the Civee in a matter of months...each platoon holding troops that were magically-resistant tanks in most cases...

"You should sign up for the mission!" the words came unbidden, and Thanaros's hand shot up to point at the board across the room. Immediately he regretted it though, blushing and scratching his cropped black hair. "S-sorry lady. It's just that soldiers are always needed and...excuse me." Having thoroughly embarassed himself Thanaros bulled through the crowd and up to his room. Tommorow's mission was his first, and would require rest anyway. The march would come soon enough.


"Damnit, Captain Yan'vega we can't keep this u--" An arrow planted itself between the speaker's eyes sending him sprawling onto the ground. The second in command Yari went down and Gerrit stepped up, the burly human hefting his crossbow to return fire at the white-robed warriors hot on their heels. The legion had been trying to retreat through the forest for hours now only to be cut off at every turn by the children. Their captain, Mercy, had chosen to divide the force into two parts for a better chance at escaping, as the captain herself rushed off on her own. Gerrit's unit was down to three men excluding himself and dwindling fast. Their cleric was half-blinded by a bandaged eye and the orc of the two warriors had his leg twisted at an awkward angle. Each nodded at their new commander with solemn expressions, knowing that his new rank would be short lived.

"Come on, we have to keep moving--" An arc of electricity reduced the trio of legionnaires to convulsing heaps of scorched flesh. Gerrit lifted his sword into a high guard position and furrowed his brow in confusion and consternation. That had been lightning. The Children only spat fire...that was...

A pair of figures robed in red with white designs depicting dancing fire appeared out of thin air in front of the lone legionnaire. Gerrit was too afraid to attack. In seconds a half dozen white-robed Children walked out of the woodwork to join the red newcomers. The foremost of the latter raised their hand, an orb of viscous emerald liquid materializing just in front of it. Gerrit's eyes widened in understanding. But that didn't make any sense...the Children of Fire did not have any magi. That was the last thought the soldier had before being eaten alive by the corrosive acid orb spell.

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#, as written by Arke
Boulon Brother's, Laeral

Kisikoni's meal was slightly interrupted by the arrival of a deep human like himself- however, the boy seemed no older than 20, if he was anything to be compared to. He was also carrying a heavy shield, something a Deep Human never fought with. He wondered if he was a mixed descendant- he certainly looked like he had lived on the surface during his life. It would be no surprise if he was able to be more heavily armed. Kisikoni didn't really get a chance to examine his comrades, as he out of all the legionnaires suffered the most when marching due to his ill-prepared physical fitness.

"Little Brother." He commented as he sat down, finishing a bite of his food and downing it with a swallow of hot water. Though the boy was much larger in bulk, Kisikoni had a lot more age. At 31, he was certain he would beat the boy in any sort of underground contest- but on the earth where he was still fresh, he would certainly lose. "Hard day's march."

He continued to dig in eagerly. The boy had not excused himself, but during these dark times, politeness hardly mattered. Soon, he felt full and slightly drowsy. Finishing off his mug, he ordered it to be refilled with tea- as the bitterness helped keep the mind sharp. Coffee wasn't really for him- it may be bitter like tea, but there was something... off... about the caffeine effect. He calmed himself, the thrill of eating good food fading and began taking measured sips of the hot beverage when it arrived.

He wondered what the situation was. Would they arrive to a massacre? A victory? A heated battle? He didn't know. Even he, Kisikoni of the Deep Humans recognized the name Yan'vega, or "Arachne". However, because he lived under the ground and disconnected from the world, only the wildest rumors flew around the caves when regarding the mercenary spider. A mercenary! Fighting for the Paragon as a soldier! It was absurd, they said. Kisikoni sighed, because in fact, it was quite true. His mind wandered elsewhere- his father had left to fight for the Paragon long ago- and he had never heard from him since. Half of him thought he was dead- no father by status left his family ignorant of his happenings. However, war changes people- as he had noticed. He quietly settled before that he'd hunt around if he could, but until he received confirmation of his death he wouldn't believe it was so until then.




Blood intoxicated the air, a glorious symphony of desire and slaughter- feeding the weeds in the undergrowth as a black shadow and the remnants of her squad fled the Children. Cries of the damned and dying pitched tone as unnatural magic rained down on the escaping survivors.

"Fooey. Who would have thought these darlings would be so tough?" A black haired Nightmarian exclaimed, ducking her head as a gout of fire roared over her head. Looking up, A child had took the opportunity to cut her off and lunged at her with a wicked blade. Mercy Yan'vega's web of steel roped around the sword, twisting it out her his hands and launching it backward where it collided with an arrow aimed for her. The pointed tip of the whip came back around, raking the stunned Child across the neck. She got lucky, again. This one was very inexperienced compared to the rest of them. Hunching, she made her trademark lewd expression as webbing erupted from her abdomen and glued two pursuers to the ground. They hadn't learned their lesson, attempting to freeze it. They struggled and realized the web bonded immediately to whatever they wore- armor, clothes, flesh.

Mercy looked back as she ran again, and was taken back by their determination. They were ripping flesh off to free themselves from the webbing and continue to make chase- all without uttering a single cry of pain. She noticed the one she felled earlier had gotten up and started making chase as well. "Oh, just give up already- The gray horseman should have paid you a little visit awhile ago." She complained, strafing slightly to avoid corrosive spells. Of course, her natural armor rejected magic- even those of the highest caliber had their effects dulled. It was best to avoid damage however- these children didn't mess around. An arrow screamed past her head, and another bounced off her abdomen.

"Ouchie!" She squealed, grinning at them before swinging her whip around her elbow and launching the pointed tip into the face of a quick pursuer. It punched straight through his left eye, and he stumbled back- however the Child could live half-blinded and started making a slightly off-balance pursuit after her. This was understandable- He had no depth perception now- though resilient and agile as he was, he occasionally tripped and bumped into objects. She giggled, focusing her mind back to the chase. Laeral was only about two miles away- she knew this because she smelled the traps she had laid in case they were to ever fall back. She picked up her pace, slightly frustrated she had run out of large rocks to sling at her enemies- She could still pick out the one that she had nailed in the head with- his forehead was swelling up so large the hood threatened to burst.

"Please stop, I know you want my body but I just can't consent to ugly boys like you all." she cooed, watching as two actually fell for her pit-trap and hung suspended in a ditch by webbing. Of course, the usual flesh-ripping could be heard as they froze and tried to claw themselves out, but they would be busy for awhile. Another tripped a wire, and two sharpened logs with her squad's feces smeared all over the tip swung in and gored the child on both sides. Insult to injury, disease with trauma.

Mercy resisted the urge to make a shitty joke as she pressed onward, alone.

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Laeral: Boulon Brother's

They'd reached the inn not long afterward, and Talae had led her sister inside, intent on getting them both whatever rest they could manage before the ground fell out from beneath them- as it was bound to do eventually.

There weren't any open tables left, but she did note Caine occupied one of them, nursing a glass bottle with a very familiar expression on his face. She'd seen it on too many faces not to recognize it now. Still, she willfully ignored the facet of it that warned off company and took hold of Faera's elbow, seating her across from the berserker with more care than she showed anything else in existence. "I hope you don't mind," she said, turning red eyes to the man himself, the slight lift of one shoulder an expression of restricted choice. Even if he did mind, there was nothing she could bloody do about it.

Someone approached again, and Talae ordered for the both of them before turning back to the third occupant of the table. "It's been a while. Where have you been for the last few months?" She asked not out of curiosity; caring was a luxury she didn't have enough of. It was simply an inquiry, the filling of a silence, a courtesy, perhaps. Her eyes wandered the room, studying its other occupants. The Deep Humans were seated together; a rare sight even alone, two in one place was rather unusual. A smell of cooking food filtered in from... outside? Apparently so. A hooded woman occupied the bar- Talae watched with mild interest as she spoke in low tones to the man next to her, who immediately left looking as though the dragons themselves were chasing him.

After a while, the Lieutenant showed up, along with a vaguely orcish-looking individual. The result was an image that earned itself a raised brow from Talae, by virtue of its rather... odd appearance. What kind of two-bit adventurer would ever... right. The desperate kind, she thought, glancing at Faera. I guess if it's maybe death or death, most people would go for the gamble. She noted that a couple people who looked too young to legally be in a tavern in the first place were already crowding around the recruitment poster, and she snorted. One of them, a boy of perhaps sixteen or so, was pointing, chatting animatedly to the twitter-pated girl beside him, who looked hesitant but eventually nodded anyway. Both of them were shoved out of the establishment by the owner not shortly after, and she rolled her eyes. They'd be dead this time next week... or maybe not. Wide-eyed idealists tended to have the strangest luck.

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Boulon Brother's

Another swig from the bottle, another smooth burn sliding down his throat. That was all the coin Caine had, and he spent it on booze. Good booze, but booze nonetheless. He still hadn't received his last pay from serving in the legion before the 40th, but he doubted that he was ever going to see that money. Times are desperate as it is without him begging for handouts from the Legion. He completely understood the reasoning, but understanding doesn't fill his belly nor his wallet. Perhaps if he just drank a little more, than he wouldn't feel as hungry.

He tilted the bottle slightly once more, another river of dark amber liquid down the hatch. The nagging hungry feeling dampened and Caine began to feel a bit more cheery. He held the unlabeled bottle away from his face and examined the dark bottle. No evidence of what liquid it held. Perhaps Scotch? Maybe Brandy? Whiskey? Either way, the drink was smooth and the burn was pleasant. Not bad for all the loose coins he had on him at the time.


What's this? Two deep human's were at the bar. When had they arrived? Was Caine already that deep into the bottle that he hadn't noticed two of his new found comrades. A slip like that could end him in battle he though with a tilt of his head and a mischievous smile. As if that was the only way he could end in battle. A missed parry, a misstep, over-extension of the arm, slowed reflexes, all these things could result in Caine's head detaching from his body. Or his skin being boiled. Either option was neither too pleasant. He snapped out of his thoughts and returned to the two deeps at the same table. About this time, Caine heard one remark "Hard day's march." Caine closed his eyes in thought. What had Captain Wrath called this man... Kisikoni Ayalen! Sid's squad, that's right. He remembered now. And the other? Another pause, another thinking spell... Gileas Arkha. Guardian! Chances were, he would be put up in front with Caine in order to help soak up heat... Well, in order to refrain from mistaking the man for a foe during battle, and no doubt during his berserker lust, Caine would have to know the man...

"Hard enough. Had worse," Caine grunted in a reply to Kisikoni. Upon reflection with Caine's scarred face, it was clear... He had had worse. "Could be worse," He added quickly, "Could have ended up dry," He said tilting the bottle in his hand back in forth for an example. He paused his gaze on the bottle for a moment before speaking once more, "To the fortieth, Cheers," He toasted and took another swig. Another cheerful wave came over Caine. He stayed quiet for a bit, switching gazes between the guardian and his shield and then back to Kisikoni. "Looks like we're goin' to be on the same side Guardian... Uh, Gileas is it?" He asked, temporarily forgetting the name in his buzz. "Mighty big shield for someone so young.." he added, just trying to make small talk. He needed to know this man in order to avoid attacking him in the heat of a berserker rage, should one come over him.

He then turned his attention to the older Deep Human. Kisikoni. He spoke with the same tone that he used with Gileas. "An' how about you? Where you think they goin' to fling us first?" More small talk.

"I hope you don't mind," His buzzed mind had shifted to directly in front of him. Talae had seated her sister, , in front of him and took a seat herself. Caine shrugged a shoulder slightly, he wasn't going to say no, wasn't his chair. Another swig albeit smaller than the others. He didn't want to get passed out drunk just yet.

"It's been a while. Where have you been for the last few months?" Talae asked. Another shrug as if he wasn't completely sure himself. "Here and there. Wherever the Legion decides to send me, ya know? I think it has something to do with my small anger tendencies." He said with a crack of a smile. Small was an understatement and Talae knew it. She had seen him in a anger induced bloodlust once. Caine believed she knew that he was too dangerous to stick to the same place for long.

"How 'bout yerself?"

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Outskirts to Laeral

The small town and the glowing lights of the few remaining places that remained awake within glowed calmly in the distance when Illeyssa stopped on the road. Her head turning to the left and watched out at the shadows of the sleeping wilderness and fields. Her apprentice drew up to her shoulder on the right and stopped, the guard behind as well as the youngest brother trailed ahead five more steps before he halted. Each Orc frozen in place as she gazed over every shadow that grew wise the rise of night fall. The faint glimmer of stairs budding on the dark canvas of the sky, the small trickle of moonlight pooling on the edge of the horizon. Her golden eyes rested on one curious shadow for a moment, determined to draw out whatever was there. Then another rose up, far to her right, pulling itself from a place no shadow existed and approached.

Her eyes moved to it with a hurried glance, picking out vague details as the thing drew closer. A beast of dark black, its form large and muscular, head bent low to the ground as two gleaming red eyes looked up at her. All four legs walking on the ground with little effort as its moves seemed natural and fluid. The creature drew close and stopped, head lifting up displaying its height without fear as its shoulders stood slightly higher than her waste. Silvyar looked over Illeyssa's shoulder as the great Worg sat down and yawed, eyes regarding the Shawoman.

"There are no animals close to here." The voice materialized from the shadows as quickly as the body.

Illeyssa felt her mind flinch but her body showed no reaction. She felt a hand tighten on her arm, her apprentice clearly spooked by the arrival of the last member of their party.

Dormund stood tall and proud, much like his other three Worgs that trailed behind him. Thick black hair lay tangled and tied in large sections, pieces of leather and worg fangs mixed within it. His face was broad and thick, broad cheek bones and slightly sunken eyes, large tusks protruding from his jaw, curved upward with thick cracks and pieces missing from it. He stood two heads taller than her, though his eyes showed no superiority only deep traces of devotion and respect. His form was thick with muscle, skin deep gray-green stitched with scars across his shoulders and chest. He looked a lot like his father, Talik, and his skills as a hunter were arguably even better. Of all of her guards, he was certainly the most formidable with the instincts much like the Worgs that followed him.

"What of your walk on the plains?" He moved beside her left shoulder, slightly behind to be equal with Silvyar, his Worgs dispersing all save the first that approached her, dark forms that watched just out of their sight.

Illeyssa began their procession forwards once more, each Orc in their respective place, her head looking forwards again, "Once we have a room or a safer place to rest I will tell you of what I saw... This is not the place or time to remain with the elements."

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#, as written by Aythr
Duran stuck a wooden bowl in his pot of now-cooked rabbit stew, ladling in as many large pieces of meat that he could with the vegetables he had collected from the woods not a day before. He was a druid after all, and druids didn't just survive off the land; They thrived on it. He did feel a little bit of a guilty pleasure when it came to eating meat, however. Though it wasn't against any of his druidic tenants, it wasn't something his family would be thrilled to see. Without utensils, he sipped, slurped, and chewed his stew from the bowl while Goma watched, drooling. Duran looked over at his wolf, and rolled his eyes with a smile.

"Here you go, girl."

Duran offered Goma his bowl, and she happily lapped up the broth, trying to devour as much rabbit as she could before Duran withdrew the stew. Most people would find it incredibly unappealing to share utensils and dishes with wild animals, but Duran was not so squeamish. In all honesty, there was probably an orc inside that had a more disgusting mouth than his own wolf. He stuck his bowl back into the pot, trying to get more rabbit morsels, since it appeared that Goma had eaten them all.

From outside the Boulon Brother's Inn, Duran could see the shadows of people moving around, and hear jovial noises. Jovial was probably a generous choice of words though, he thought. He got up, and looked in through the window, getting a look at everybody in the bar.

The halfling lieutenant was there, along with an orc, and a harpy. It appeared as though they were having an in-depth conversation about something. Duran might as well have been able to read lips when it came to halflings, since a favorite topic involved tall-folk, and any amount of incompetence, inferiority, inequality, or some other stereotypical injustice.

It appeared as though the couple of female dark elves were in the bar as well. He had never spent much time around a dark elf, though previous interactions led him to believe that they could be at least as trustworthy as regular elves, and stealthier to boot. He just kept coming back to one thing: The blind mage. It was an odd choice of profession for a blind individual; Duran wasn't sure exactly what kind of magic she practiced, though he didn't like the thought a magical projectile being let loose from somebody with such an impairment. It was probably best that she was a dark elf since they were probably the most accustomed to being in the dark for long periods of time.

The two deep humans were sitting at a table together, it seemed. A sense of racial comradery was probably the reason, though he couldn't blame them. It was the only thing that a lot of people had in these trying times. It also didn't help that the dragons were exterminating each race one at a time. It was probably a useful adaptation to be a Deep Human. Duran wasn't completely sure if the dragons would have the same problem killing off the Deep Humans as they had killing off plain Humans with their genocide spell, although things wouldn't fare well for them either way if the dragons decided to focus fire on them next.

In another area, the Human Berserker set to be in his squad was sitting by himself, drinking out of a bottle that was no doubt filled with something alcoholic. There was probably a story there, though Duran knew better than to ask somebody capable of flying into a murderous rage about their past. He kept an eye on him, patting Goma on the head as she unwittingly devoured the contents of his soup bowl.

Any normal person would probably have just gone inside and started a conversation, but Duran was very out of place when it came to these kinds of situations. It wasn't necessarily that he was anti-social, he just didn't "connect well" with the kind of people who would rather sleep inside than look up at the night sky, feel the grass on their skin, and experience the satisfying grit of dirt between their toes.

He didn't really try to keep a low profile as he looked through the window, thought it would probably require at least a second glance to notice him between the darkness outside and the light inside.

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Laeral, Boulon Brother's

This... inn is a very loud place, she thought to herself. It was not as though Faera had never been to an inn before, but perhaps not one quite so full to capacity downstairs, and she had never lingered for long. No one individual was making a nuisance of themselves or anything, but... there were so many people, and even speaking at reasonable volume, it was very loud all taken together.

It was making it harder for her to get her bearings, actually, and she was grateful when Talae grasped her elbow, guiding her to a seat. Her sister seemed to have an instinct for things like that, not that she'd ever say so aloud. Something about reputations or impressions or whatnot, Faera wasn't really sure.

Tala struck up a conversation with someone she seemed to know, and from the proximity of his voice, Faera guessed they were seated with him. She didn't know anyone that Tala knew; well, not many people anyway, but her essential nature was a friendly one, and any friend of Tala's was a friend of hers, as far as she was concerned. He had a human's voice, which were a bit different in cadence from an elf's or an orc's, for example. The inflection implied surfacer, or at least not-subterranean. She hadn't met that many surface humans, not with how scarce they were becoming.

There was a stirring of some form of magic a distance off, but warped, like there was something in the way, like a wall. She had the distinct impression of rustling leaves, the press of the scent of pine upon her nose. Odd... her brows furrowed together, and her head turned in the direction of the window, but she could make no sense of it.

Shaking her head, she refocused on what was going on more immediately, and caught the return of Tala's initial question. "Oh, we've been here and there, too," she replied, not really aware that this sort of answer was generally considered evasive. We decided to join the legion about a month ago, and just got our first assignment recently. Exciting, isn't it? Everyone seems so... different. I don't think I've ever met so many humans in one day before."

---

Neira eventually became sick of trying to treat bad alcohol like it was good alcohol, and ordered something decidedly more expensive. So much for getting piss-drunk and forgetting everything. She grimaced in distaste; that was not her ordinary method of wasting an evening. Generally, she preferred to pick fights until she was tired of the effort it took to throw punches and insults with equal viciousness. I need a more sustainable flow of morons to pummel, she reminded herself with a roll of her eyes.

The bartender, perhaps assuming that she was about to comment on the booze again, gave her a look, but she hardly noticed. A minor commotion over at the employment board had become irritating enough that she was now paying attention to it, and she watched the single most bizarre recruitment poster she'd ever seen deface what was otherwise a perfectly inane board. Legion of Ashes, huh? It should say, 'shit pay, shittier jobs, and one retirement package- a nice, scenic hole in the ground.'

She turned around again, entirely bored by this point, and knocked back another glass of brandy. Harlot's arse, and people actually make this a habit? They need better hobbies. Hell, she needed better hobbies, and she knew it.

"You should sign up for the mission!" For a moment, Neira was uncertain if she was actually being directly addressed, but when she turned her head to the offending party, she was rather surprised to discover that yes, someone had actually decided they had the spine to issue her an imperative. She stared blankly at the half-orc for a few seconds, until he apologized and retreated. Red irises surrounded by uncanny yellow flicked back to the recruitment poster, and she shook her head at her own train of thought.

Not like I've got anything better to do, I guess... and a nice, scenic hole in the ground might be just what I need at the end of the line. The morbid thought only made her smile, though, and she stood, paying the bartender and advancing upstairs. Room 15... Room 15... ah, there it was.

Not really heeding the hour (which had just hit midnight or so), Neira rapped on the door, the sound distinctly different from what a fleshier knuckle would produce. Normally, she would hardly have bothered; you stopped caring about stupid shit like that after a while, but then not everyone thought so. She could be polite, in the sense that she knew how, she just didn't.

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#, as written by Smith
Laeral, Boulon Brother's Inn

A rap at the door startled Wrath, despite the fact that he had been expecting one sooner or later. The lead of the pencil he'd been writing with was broken and a long line slashed across a few lines of words. By the Burning Dark! The man abruptly stood up, the legs of the chair scrapping loudly against the wooden floor. On the bed, Sid mumured somethingin her sleep and turned over. Wrath stomped his way over to the door swinging it wide. He knew it was useless to be angry for something that was clearly of no one's fault...and the rage ebbed anyway.

Before him was a dusky skinned nightmarian woman. Statuesque too. Wrath was sure what exactly prompted him to think that the visitor was a nightmarian, but his suspicions were confirmed when he caught a glimpse of her plated hands. Without waiting for an explanation as to her appearance, Wrath produced a stamped seal of approval and handed it to Neira. "You're hired. Meet us on the main road at sun-up."

The door was summarily closed. Wrath slumped against it on the other side with a hand to his chest trying not to breath to heavily. A shudder passed through him as he closed his eyes in concentration. Nightmarians. They always evoked something...alien, within him. With a shake of his head Wrath moved to dous the candle and crawled in to bed. It was late, and if the legonnaires should have been in bed by now. If not...well, he would decide their punishment in the morning.


Laeral, South Road

"Alright soldiers! Form up!" Wrath stood before his new legion in a much more professional garb. He was dressed in form-fitting black leathers with the insignia of the Legion of Ashes on the breast; A gray dragon skull, as if blackened by fire. On his back was a thin-necked lute made of some yellow mineral. He pointed towards a large wagon loaded from top to bottom with supplies. On the back were more than twenty sets of similar clothing. "That, is your uniform. Each is made of Live Leather." A nickname for leathers made from the hide of shadow drakes. It would fit itself to the body of whomever donned it, and provided slightly more protection that boiled leather. Best of all, since the shadow drakes had been domesticated and farmed like cattle during recent years, it was cheap and mass-produceable. "There are fifteen sets of light armor, ten sets of armor with steel plating for the heavier warriors and five sets of robes just in case armor encumberance intereferes with any of your spellcasting. You've got ten minutes to get suited up!"

The minutes passed by and as the darkly clad legonnaires took up their positions once more, Sid awaited them this time, Wrath was taking stock of the supplies one more time. The halfling fixed her troops with a blank look. She was wearing a minature version of the Live Leather armor, a contraption nearly her size strapped to her back. "Good morning. We will be marching soon, and before we set off, I am required to set some ground rules. First of all: You are required to wear the uniform when on active duty. Second: You may use your own weapons, or choose from those on the battle-cart. Third...you must know what you are facing." Captain Grimsmirk paced, the rising sun silhouetting her form against the reddening sky. "Some of you have already faced our enemy, the Children of Fire, in combat. There are four rules to follow when fighting them:"

One. Stabbing them won't bring them down. Not like it would a normal adversary anyway. The Children have supernatural resilience to damage and can survive what most people would consider mortal wounds. Their pain threshold is ten times that of any normal man, and their physical prowess are doubled. Worst of all, each and every one of the bastards can shoot gouts of dragonfire. Not even nightmarian shell can resist it's burn." Sid's visage brightened for a moment. "Bright side? Non of them have any grasp of magic. So no lightning bolts from the sky to smite us."

By this time Wrath was back in front of the platoon. "Stay in groups of two at the very least while in combat. Each Child on their own is more than enough to bring some of you down. They lack compassion. They know no pain. They believe they have the power of gods on their side...for all we know, they just might." He motioned for Sid and Iriana to sit on the front of the wagon and take the reins. "You will be given further instruction upon arrival. Move out!" With only the barest amount of grumbling, the legion followed the wagon and began it's journey to aid their fellow legionnaires, trudging down the dirt road. Miles ahead, storm clouds loomed over like an ominous shroud.


The Jurial Plains, ???

All through the night the Children had pursued their quarry with unrelenting force. The elven captain, Zakair, drenched from the rain smiled at the dark sky and peered into the tree line. The last two members of the Legion that survived the initial onslaught were still in the forest. The halfling legionnaire had been harrying Zakair's troops with a slingshot and crudely designed traps. Yet, he had been wounded by the captain himself, and the halfling must have passed out by now from bloodloss. The nightmarian on the other hand...the thought made Zakair screw his face up in a scowl. She had killed seven out of his fifty-five Children herself, and made it within an arrowshot of the town of Laeral before they managed to herd her back to the forest. Zakair allowed his white hood to sink to his shoulders and nodded at the nearest four Children.

"I want the spider bitch alive." Zakair turned his gaze upon the quintet of crimson-robed Children, his lip upturned in a sneer of disgust. "Arcanites. Stay with me. Our scouts have reported another legion converging on our position. We shall deal with them in the same manner as the first..."

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Laeral, Boulon Brother's Inn

It was late in the night as Illeyssa and her band entered the town, the Worgs moving closer as they passed the simple made streets lined with simple made houses. Few windows still had light glowing from them as most were dark while their owners slept. The Inn still seemed active, though not as much as when twilight flooded the sky with its pastel reflections. Brack halted at the door, right hand planted on it as the side of his war hammer remained in his grasp. Shoulder dead still he paused as the four Worgs formed up behind him before pushing the door open to the smells of pis poor ale and sad excuses for a warm meal. The younger brother was through the door, closely trailed by the Worgs, the few heads that rose to see the new strangers stopping in their food, drink and talk at the sight of the beasts. Then she stepped in, closely trailed by Silvya and Dormund and finally Gormun who let the door swing behind him. The entry way seemed small and crowded and everyone who looked remained silence, their eyes clearly showing their discomfort.

The first reason was such a large group of Orcs was seldom seen so far from their remaining tribes, save the sparse few who went off to work as mercenaries or guards for whatever crummy pay was offered. Three broad and strong standing males and two females, with ornately braided locks of hair signaling the right of Shawomen. The second discomfort came from the Worgs, tall beasts larger than any wolf and those dark red eyes, head swiveling side to side and watching the patrons with cold eyes. Yet the first two reasons seemed small in ways of the last one that seemed to have struck the room dumb. Standing without care or fear of her appearance, the only thing Illeyssa proudly wore was the intricate tattoos that covered and circled her body, tracing along her stomach and chest, arms and back depicting the radiance of the Angels giving their powerful gift to the Orcs.

Her three guards moved off a bit, the Worgs moving to follow their master as Illeyssa calmly approached the bartender leaning over with a casual move, eyes matching his and locking them in place so they did not tray, her look commanding his eyes to remain on hers. "I am looking for a room."

"I..." His unease budded in his throat and he cleared it a bit hastily before looking the other way. "Sorry, we have no rooms left... The Legion has them all. But if you were to stay..."

He stopped talking as she lifted a hand, "The legion is here too? Then i understand the lack of space, if it is not of too much trouble, could I stay in this room for at least a few hours to rest. The journey is long after all."

The Inn keeper shifted a bit, raising a hand to rub his neck and stopped, "Er.. I guess I could. I mean it would be of no trouble if you were to..."

It was at this point he found himself talking to open space, Illeyssa moving off without response as Silvyar drew close again and the pair moved to an open table near the back. She watched her apprentice carefully as the girl leaned close, "Shawoman I-"

"Here will be fine. Now... Listen closely Silvyar so I don't have to repeat myself again. This is what I saw..." Illeyssa bent close and whispered in her apprentice's ear.



Laeral, South Road


"Alright soldiers! Form up!" The words were loud and clear in the early morning. The legion forces were lined up in a somewhat orderly fashion though it didn't take a soldier to see it wasn't a well trained group. Illeyssa rested near one of the houses, arms crossed and golden eyes watching them carefully. That boy looked so much like a man she remembered back in Gia. The name eluded her though and she didn't press further into old memories for it. Silvyar shuddered beside her, body not yet used to the cold mornings and nights in her apprentice robes, the faint trails of silver marking the beginnings of her tattoos. The pair watched the forces getting ready in the calm hours, aware that, while only Brack could be seen leaning against a house off to their right, Dormund and Gormun were watching from somewhere close and unseen. Resting beside the Shawoman was the same Worg that approached her last night, and now it stood alert, eyes watching the soldiers as well as her fingers wrapped in its fur.

The night was forgotten, her foretelling told to her apprentice, and the girl left to her own mind to think of what it truly meant. A test to see how strong her gift may be. Yet even as her own head formed the answers she had gained, she grew worried at the news and sight of the Legion of Ashes being here, in this remote little town. Could her foresight come sooner than she expected once again? The thought chilled her spine more than the clinging air on her skin. The sight of her nightmare at the end of her walk worried her more than when that dream began to reoccur almost every other night. Something was changing in Norr... And the last time she couldn't read it in time it devastated her people.

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The previous night had been uneventful for Gilleas. Aside from a small conversation at the inn during dinner he had passed on much social interaction. The bed was comfortable, it was much easier to rest on than the cots and the academy and the legion camp he had been living at. He wondered how many of them would survive, although he found it difficult to get close to people, he found the soldiers last night had gotten on his good side. He was weary about the berserker though. As a human Gilleas placed a lot of respect in the man but the stories about his rage made him hesitant to trust the man.

"Alright soldiers! Form up!" The young human captain snapped Gilleas out of his daze. The armor they presented was of good quality, although his plated leggings provided more protection than the armor the legion provided, he decided he would trade it for more mobility. The march had left him pretty tired last night so he figured it would be best if he shed the heavy plates. The armor fit well, he had been informed on the magical properties Living leather possessed and found the curiass and leggings to be quite comfortable. He did however keep his gauntlet's and shield finding the ones the legion provided to be of very low quality compared to his own. He also kept his own sword. He was already used to the weight of his own blade and did not want to experiment with a new sword in the middle of battle. He took his place among the formation, he was at the head of the group with the close range fighters. That probably meant Caine would march alongside him.


Lailanae donned the light armor uniform well. She like how comfortable it was, and was pleased that she would be more protected that with her old armor. She began to take formation. She found herself watching a blind mage, and her older sister. They were dark elves, Laila had not seen many of their kind. She was intrigued by them, to her they were distant relatives she had not yet met and decided she would try and become a friendly face. They would march under Girmsmirk's command. So she decided to wait until they were in formation to speak to them.

When they began to march Laila extended her hand to the older of the sisters and introduced herself. "Hello, I am Lailanae, Laila for short. I am glad to meet you."

Gilleas struggled to find words that he could use to begin a conversation. He tried to stray away from talking about battle but in the end found it to be of no use.
"Caine was it?" Gilleas began looking straight ahead, avoiding immediate eye contact. "It seems we are to fight soon, and as the captain suggested it would be wise to pair up. I figure my heavy defensive ability would compliment your berserker offense well. Do you agree?"

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Faera had throughly enjoyed herself the night before; talking to so many interesting people (and humans, no less!) had been quite the experience for her. She might have spent the entire evening asking probably-inane questions and annoying everyone to no end, but she had restrained herself for the most part, and the conversation had been rather surface-level, but pleasant all the same.

At around eleven-thirty, Tala had practically had to drag her upstairs to sleep, though she was highly glad of this the next morning. They were awake bright and early... well, early, the next morning. She really had no idea if it was bright or not, but the turn of phrase was still what came to mind. She practically skipped over to the gathering spot, though she schooled her expression and behavior both into something that she hoped resembled professionalism the instant she heard the Captain coming.

They were issued uniforms of something called... live leather. Living leather? One of the two. That didn't sound too pleasant, and truthfully it could have smelled better, but she did not protest, finding some of the robe-like ones and slipping them over her head. It was a strange feeling, how they just sort of... formed around her person like that. It almost tickled at first, but she could appreciate how the stuff resembled a second skin in terms of comfort.

She was just getting used to it when she and Talae were approached by someone. Wood, leaves, rain... Civee elf. Faera had a strange habit of identifying people by smell, though it wasn't usually person-specific, just location or something like that. the woman greeted the both of them, and Fae smiled enthusiastically. "Glad to meet you too! I'm Faera, and this is my sister Talae."

---

Neira was rather put off by her entirely too-brief meeting with the human who thought himself Captain of this little bunch, and thus she was not feeling particularly amenable the next morning, though how this was any different from her normal state of mind was an intricacy probably known only to her and a few people long dead and buried.

Unless she was mistaken, though, the Captain was wary of her. There was potential in that. She'd never bothered trying to scare her superior officers too much (though it had happened), but it might have worthwhile results. Or at the very least, amusing ones. Would it be a good thing for the teams? No, but she didn't give a damn about the teams. Would it compromise leadership? Only if she were really, really successful, and that would mean they had more problems to deal with than her.

So she fell in line with the rest of them, not even having been assigned a squad as of the moment, but nevertheless she played the part of good little soldier, the only oddity being the fact that she never let her eyes leave the human leader, save for when she donned her light leather armor. This... is going to be tricky.

If anyone had entertained any doubts as to her species, this was abruptly shut down when she removed her cloak. Orcs didn't exactly grow iridescent wings after all... and she wasn't sure this was going to work. Neira opted to slice a few approximately-sized gashes in the back, trusting the natural properties of the leather to do the rest. Damn armor... she'd rather be wearing robes and relying on her exoskeleton, but if the Children had ways to circumvent that, then ridiculous black leather it was.

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Character Portrait: Caine Abel

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Each sound felt as if it was multiplied by five. Every word the Captain said came in loud and clear, though mostly loud. A raise in tone and pitch had Caine wincing. The mere call to "Form up" startled Caine into a slight start. The night before, Caine had indulged into the demon drink a little too much. He stayed around the table, speaking to Talae and Faera, mostly nodding and saying few a few words. Though the amount of words increased with each sip of the bottle. He still wasn't quite the lip-flapping chatterbox, but he was more amiable. He had managed to make it into bed by the curfew, dragging himself to his room and collasping on the bed. And now here he was, nursing a slight hangover in the sun before a march. Things didn't look good for him.

"You've got ten minutes to get suited up!" Caine winced again and moved towards the cart. Apparently, the uniform was something called live leather. Caine wasn't too interested since armor tended to get decimated while he wore, but he dared not protest. He didn't think he could take a tongue lashing just yet. Besides, the leather was a neat shade of black and being a frontline warrior, he would also receive the armor that came with it. At least it was free. He began to don the armor. The Black leather came first, then the steel plate. He quickly threw the pieces on, looking to beat the ten minute deadline. Personalization came later.

Caine went back to the formation and listened to the captain again, the wincing was beginning to slow down a little bit. It wasn't as bad as when he first woke up, but still... Hangover. He was bound to get punished for that. IF, If he managed to survive the day. He cracked a smile at the thought, but it immediately vanished. He listened to the Captain speak about the weapons in the cart, and then listened to the speech on the Children. Tough blokes they sounded like, but what could one expect... His race wouldn't be dwindling otherwise... A grim thought, but such thoughts managed to keep him alive. A tingle of anger shot through him for a moment, thinking back on his race. He was quickly becoming alone in the world... All because of those bastards and their damned masters... He took a deep breath and suppressed the anger. Suppressed and bottled it up in order to be used later.

As he came back to his senses, he caught the ending bit of Grimsmirk's and Wrath's speech. In pairs? He'd have to remember that... Didn't want to needlessly endanger his partner just because he got a little miffed. Another crack of a small that got quickly hidden. He managed to quickly get back to the wagon and caroused the selection of weapons. Quite honestly, the swords, hammers, flail, spears, and other weapons looked to be in just as good shape as the swords on his back. Though, one bit of steel managed to catch his eye. It was a cutlass or saber of sorts. The hilt was simple wrapped leather held together with a line of metal and a simple metal hand guard. The blade itself was unremarkable, except for the fact that it was blunt on the back half-way up. He unfastened one sword from his back and tossed it into the wagon and tied the saber to his waist. Now he had a saber at his side and a steel longsword at his back.

Caine then quietly slipped back to his position at the front of the formation, behind the wagon, quite a ways from the squishy wizards and assassins. He did manage a spot beside Gilleas as he predicted. The deep human then tried at could be construed as conversation. He nodded at the question of his name and to the second question as well. Caine then added words, "Sound's good. Just don't stray too far in front of me... I tend to lose track of things in my... tendencies." He said. He didn't mean it to sound menacing or like a hostile warning, but that was what his voice made it out to be.

"Sorry," He grunted as he began to fiddle with his armor.

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#, as written by Aythr
Duran awoke the next morning with a stomach full of stew. He was startled awake by Goma, his wolf, licking his face until he was fully aware of what was going on around him. The recruits were gathered outside in what could only be called a group; Calling it a line might have been generous. He got up off the ground, noting a lack of people in the inn through the window, which made perfect sense in hindsight. He hurried over to the group with Goma just in time to hear Captain Wrath start screaming at the recruits.

"Alright soldiers! Form up!"

Duran took a once over of the Captain. He was formally dressed, to say the least. He was slightly jealous of the Captain's leather armor, being unable to wear metal armor of any kind, until he saw that there was an entire cart full of it.

Duran's eyes lit up. It was safe to say he was drooling.

"You've got ten minutes to get suited up!"

He immediately jumped on the cart and began ripping through it for a fine set of leather armor, one for him, and one for Goma; It did change shape to fit its wearer, after all. Goma began to scratch at it, in an attempt to get it off, but Duran thumped her on the head, to which she let loose a grunt of annoyance.

After putting on the armor, Duran then began to look through the weapons on the cart. Though he couldn't wear metal armor, there was no such restrictions on weapons, giving him a larger selection. While he had a quarterstaff, Duran had a feeling it would not be a very effective weapon to permanently dispatch enemies. He picked up a scimitar, giving it a few practice swings, and twirling it around elegantly. He sheathed it at his side, and continued browsing, eventually picking up a wooden shield, a shortspear, and a piece of leather that appeared to be a sling.

Duran once again took his position when he was done arming himself, awaiting further information. Sid began to speak about their enemy, The Children of Fire. He was quite familiar with them. Indeed, his Order had to fight them on several occasions when their home in the Vastwood was burned to the ground. They had been lucky to know their home better than The Children, and the rangers and druids of The Order were able to kill them with skirmish tactics, although it took a hell of a lot to down them. He remembered one in particular chasing after him with at least six arrows sticking out of his back and chest, and another that somehow survived a lightning strike called down from the heavens by one of the more powerful druids of The Order.

Fighting The Children head-on would likely be suicide if the front lines couldn't survive their fire breath. Hopefully, they wouldn't resort to running straight into their deaths.

"Move out!" Commander Wrath yelled.

Duran put the hood of his shroud up, and wrapped it around his body to partially conceal his arms and armor. Goma let loose a whimper, and Duran looked down at her worried eyes. He patted her on the head.

"It's okay girl. We'll all be okay. Just remember to smell for the scent of ashes."

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#, as written by Arke
Laeral, Jurial Plains

It was unfortunate, but most of his group were very shut-in socially. Aside from the Human Beserker, (who he liked) most of them remained relatively quiet and formal- something that surprised the Deep Human. He was surprised that he seemed so average among them. A blind spellcaster, a Nightmarian dragonfly, a several humans... He shook his head. However, now was not the time to be thinking nonsensical thoughts. He had become tentative acquaintances with Caine the Beserker, and Gilleas Arkha, which was a good start considering the small size of their legion. Like the others, he had formed up and paid close attention to the Captain.

The descriptions of the Children seemed very glorifying, and in these times nobody bothered trying to sugar-coat things. Kisikoni immediately tensed up- these opponents were not to be underestimated. He wasn't too sure if there was a difference, however, in magic and the ability to shoot dragonfire. Sure, there weren't any exterior tricks, but with dragonfire that can burn Nightmarian armor, it was almost too much to compensate for lack-of-magic. He tried calming the butterflies in his stomach. None of the training he was given back at base camp covered how to deal with dragonfire, just that avoiding it would be the best move.

Kisikoni took his ten minutes like everyone else- to suit up and find a partner. He picked the light Live Armor, because his style was very quick and focused more on his agility. Much of what he learned for self-defense relied on the ability to react, which would be hampered by heavier armor. He brought his own weapons- the Butterfly Swords and his personal crossbow. Comparing to the one he saw with his commander, Sid, Kisikoni's was much longer. He debated whether bringing it into battle would be viable. He decided that he had already carried it with him a majority of the way- and it was quite possible that he'd never make it back to Laeral to retrieve it. He looked into the available arms supply, and took with him a supple double-edged dirk. It would serve as a useful last-ditch weapon. He sheathed it to his lower leg. He was finished within the ten minutes, but only mere seconds after was he called to begin the march.

Falling in under his commander's group, he remembered what Captain Wrath had mentioned. A partner would be very, very useful when combating dangerous opponents such as the Children. He realized that both Gilleas and Caine had partnered up- which gave him the opportunity to get to know the rest of the group. Unfortunately, most of them consisted of female elves. The rest were mostly dark elves. He chuckled mentally as he assessed his position. Now, he was the outsider in this. To be honest, he was more familiar with the elves than the dark elves-who tended to be loners. He felt that he would have a better chance if he asked a elf to partner up. Most of the other legionnaires had already begun pairing up- but a particular group of three had caught his attention. Sure, two of them were dark elves, but with an odd number it was worth a shot.

"Sorry to interrupt, ladies." He said as carefully as he could, when the opportunity presented himself. "My name's Kisikoni Ayalen of the Deep Humans. I, er, am worried about the upcoming battles and," He decided to get to the point, "I need a partner to cover me." He smiled easily, trying not to let his butterflies get the better of him.




???

"Curses, cut off again." Mercy Yan'vega muttered. Two more Children had cut her off again, trying to trap her in the forest. However, such close quarters was a spider's domain, and forests came as naturally to her as a sword went with a shield. Her life in Ecclavaria had seen to it. She scurried up a tree, and as the quickest member of the children climbed up after her she dropped and slammed his head onto a branch. THe branch broke, and the child's head bent to an unnatural angle. Before she could go any further, two more Children had caught up. She spun her whip, keeping both at bay as they exchanged glancing blows with the web of steel.

The Child struggled on the branch, but with Mercy's legs pinning him down he could not call upon any sort of supernatural power. Especially due to the magic-repellant ability of the Nightmarian shell. When the two Children backed off, Mercy too the opportunity to dip her head down. Almost as graceful as a kiss, suddenly her fangs flashed and flesh was torn from the Child's throat.

"Ohhh, tasty." She whispered. Actually, it was rather spicy. Must be the influence of the dragons. If it were a real Dragon, Mercy would probably be spewing her own flames, and not because she became a Child herself. It was replenishing, actually. It focused her mind due to the prickling spiciness. Kicking the Child off the branch, she heard a crunching sound come from the ground below. She grinned and took off into the trees once more. They were getting a little angry. Magic and fireballs were few and far inbetween now, so she assumed that being killed wasn't in their plans. She used her legs, and swung down from a branch to snag a Child following her from below and strangling him. The Child wordlessly struggled against Mercy's unrelenting hold, and the chain-whip itself was unyielding in it's nature. Holding the Child up, another lunging enemy sliced into the Child's side with a nasty-looking killij. She laughed, pushing the limp Child caught in her whip into the other, knocking them both on the ground.

It had been more than two days of straight action, and Mercy was strung up on Child-flesh and Adrenaline. She holstered her whip, drawing her Kusarigama. She wasn't going to let them touch her without a good ol' fight. "Come and get some, boys." She taunted, waving her abdomen at the dark forest, light filtered by the canopy above her. Two Children jumped at her, and she rolled to the right and let them twist to dodge each other mid-jump. One had a black ball connect with his head, and the other charged in. The blade in his hand flashed, but was quickly maneuvered away and the Child felt a curved blade gut him. The child stumbled back, looking around wildly.

The Nightmarian had already fled the scene as both children recovered slightly and continued chase. They silently cursed Zakair- why couldn't they just kill her?

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Laeral: Jurial Plains

Talae hadn't indulged much the evening before, so she had no issues waking the following day. Getting Fae up and moving was a bit of a challenge- she seemed to have exhausted herself with the previous day's activity. Hopefully, she'd be able to make it through the rest of the day without incident. A slight frown crossed Talae's face. This really was a sink-or-swim situation, and if Fae was serious about helping, she couldn't continue to coddle her like this. In the end, it would only be counterproductive. She wasn't perfect; she would not always be able to be there, and if Faera didn't know how to work with the others or defend herself, she was as good as dead already.

The thought that her methods of watching out for her sister were doing her more harm than good was not a pleasant one, and Talae resolved to find some way to remedy this. If something happened to her, Fae would need other people to rely on, and to know that she could be relied upon in turn. "Blind spellcaster" was not exactly the most inspiring of categorizations, and she hadn't missed the skepticism it induced, even if Fae had.

They formed up outside, and she listened carefully to the instructions they were given regarding the Children- she'd fought them before, and they were indeed nasty pieces of work, and damned hard to kill. Nobody had never really put numbers like "twice as" to it before, but that didn't really change much.

Ten minutes was enough to slide into a suit of curious dragon-leather and inspect the available weapons. She already had her double-bladed knife and several smaller ones, but... it never hurt to have a spare or three, especially when you might not have time to retrieve things you had thrown. Checking each of the shortest blades for weight and balance, she took two more, plus a third, slightly longer one, which she pressed firmly into Fae's hand. "Never be without a defense," she informed her sister flatly, then turned as she was approached by another woman.

Fae chirped introductions before Talae had a chance to do more than grasp the archer's hand, and a thought struck Talae. That could work...

The three were approached by one of the Deep Humans Caine had been talking to last night, and she nodded in response to his tentatively-voiced request. "I can do that," she replied, turning to Leila. "Would you be willing to partner with my sister? I'm guessing you both fight at a range, so it should not be problematic..." she resisted the urge to add something about how people really could trust Fae's casting; he never let a spell go unless she had a definite target and nobody in the way. It wasn't as though Leila would be the one worrying about it anyway; she'd be quite close. Normally, she would not have even thought to speak that much, but where Fae was concerned, Talae tended to bend her own rules and tendencies a bit.

This could be the best opportunity she had to get Fae accustomed to working with other people; she rather hoped the other woman would agree. She'd already agreed to help this Kisikoni, and she did rather hate second-guessing her own decisions.

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#, as written by Smith
Jurial Plains, 7 Miles South of Laeral

The chatter amongst the troops, no matter how scarce, had begun to grate on Wrath's nerves by the first half-hour of marching. He let it slide though seeing as the troops were bonding. It was always good to work with people that you actually liked instead of feeling that you were being forced to do so. It became too much to bear when it began to rain an hour out. Wrath called for quiet and the legion continued on in silence. Merely ten minutes of this was all it took for a pair of volunteers--a young girl in mismatched leathers and a pimple-studded youth--to turn back for town. Shocking. he thought, looking back in mild interest. He scowled when a drop of icey water splashed into his eye. At the very least, Wrath thought thankfully, the Live Leather kept out moisture.

Dirt road became muddy and harder to traverse over time. Verdant grass as tall as a halfling grew on each side of the road and stormy winds sent ripples across the plains. At last, reaching the edge of the forest, the legion came to a halt. Sid and Wrath moved the legionnaires out of the rain and under some of the cover the trees provided for a short rest. The halfling motioned over Wrath with a look of consternation plain on her face.

"We can't take the battle cart in here." Sid said, motioning towards the dim interior of the forest before them. "Besides the obvious, if we're surrounded they can just light the damn thing up and scatter us like a torch with roaches."

Wrath frowned and looked into the murky woodland. At length, he nodded. "Yes, I think you are ri-" the human narrowed his eyes. He had always had a sharp eye, but was doubting his sight now. Some ways into the forest something flashed...if only briefly. It was either the faint light catching on water or..."Grimsmirk, take your unit and set up near those rocks over there." Wrath glanced toward an outcropping consisting of large stones about fifty yards from the treeline within the grass. "Be discrete."

Picking up on the hint as if having known the entire time, Sid Grimsmirk stretched her leather clad arms and moved over to whisper to one of her legionnaires the order to follow her. The harpy nodded and relayed the information to the next soldier, who in turn passed it on until all ten members of her squad were following her into the underbrush. "Stay low, and try not to rustle the grass too much." she said as she and her squad disappeared into the grass.

Wrath called out for the remaining soldiers to form up. "Heavy armor in front, light in the middle, medium in back." A basic, sound tactic. Fighters forward, magic users in the middle for optimal protection and rangers in the back just in case of a sneak attack. Wrath himself unsling his lute and strummed a note nearly inaudible within the steady patter of rain on leaves. A slight prickle would run down the spines of nearby legionnaires as his spellsong began. He kept up a rhythmic plucking that soon grew into a melody that sounded much like the rain itself, slow and inexorable. Iriana, the lamian dressed in heavy plate, hissed. This was followed by growls from the trio of orcs. They smelled something the others did not...but then it came into view.

A tiny form slumped forward out of the dim woods clutching a hand to his stomach. It was obvious from his garb that this was one of the legionnaires his legion had been sent to back up. At first Wrath thought he had been stabbed, but as the halfling came within twenty feet he saw that such was not the case: The halfling was missing his hand and trying to keep the crudely-wrapped wound away from the elements. Wrath started forward just as the wounded legionnaire collapsed. The first arrow shot right over the prone halfling soaring right at Wrath. His eyes widened and he plucked a high note, magic force knocking the projectile out of the air. Eight snow-white men and women of varying races appeared just within the limit of Wrath's sight. His legionnaire's tensed, awaiting orders.

"Don't worry, stay put, they will soon lose their heads"
Wrath's voice was melodious and carrying a palpable charge of energy. Something changed within the enemy Children and they charged recklessly towards the line of legionnaires. The first to reach Wrath--a minotaur, surprisingly--was decapitated when he strung a pealing note that materialized a cobalt blade of force before the hulking brute. The bard loosed a feral grin.
"In more ways than one...they'll all soon be dead."

Wrath jerked his head and the battle was joined. The lamia and the three orcs worked in concert and swiftly overwhelmed a single Child that was just barely too far from her comrades to receive immediate aid. The halfling and elf stayed back to loose projectiles into the enemy for a moment before drawing swords and joining the fray. One of the only two volunteers from Laeral that had opted to stay, died gurgling as a Child's scimitar slid from his neck. "Don't lose your heads boys, though this may seem like fun. For this is a battle, that has only begun." Wrath readied his magical weapon and continued playing his song as another Child rushed to engage him.


"Ok." Sid spoke only loud enough to be heard over the rain. "Luckily this drizzle hasn't produced any mist yet, so visibility isn't too poor. As the light squad our job is to lightly pepper any enemies we see so they will be weak enough for Liu-Wen and his boys to eat without chewing too much, but not causing so much of a threat to make them change course to attack us." The rock formation on which Sid crouched was much like a low wall of stone, providing not only excellent cover but an optimal shooting range. "Bows, crossbows and slings out."

That said, Sid unhooked the crossbow on her belt as well as five bolts and handed them to Talae. "No throwing until mid-range. Use that." Then she unhooked the large contraption on her back and went to work. After only a few clicks and snaps of assembling her items did the sounds of battle ring out from back where they had started. Only slightly elevated above the top of the grass, those on the rock would be able to see the clashing forms of black and white figures. There was a reason the Legion chose black for their uniforms. After a few more moments Sid was ready. With a grunt the halfling hefted a wallarmbrust; What basically amounted to a crossbow the size of a halfling, built for sieges, onto the rock wall and took aim. She knocked a large steel bolt into the lock, wound the winch back a few times and watched. Achiru, the harpy of her unit was about to ask why she hadn't given the order to fire yet when Sid smirked.

Seven Children came skulking out of the grass behind Wrath's embattled unit to deliver what would amount to a devastating rear attack. or at least it would have, if Sid's unit had not been there. "Fire." Sid's weapon was the first to loose it's high-caliber bolt. The metal tore through the rain and air to bury itself in the shoulder of a sneaking Child and blast out the other side in a spray of blood and sinew, severing the limb in a gory mess. The enemy fell to his knees and cried out in more shock than pain. The others slowed for a heartbeat to look in the direction of Sid's troops. The halfling waved before loading another round and beginning to wind up. Half of the undamaged robed dragon cultists moved to attack Duran, Gileas and Caine respectively as the other three rushed into the grass to put a stop to the ranged assault. Sadly, there was more than fifty feet inbetween them and the rock.

As Achiru knocked and loosed another arrow in his own bow, the harpy shot his commander a skeptical look. "Didn't you say we pepper?"

Sid smiled and took aim at her next target. "Well, you guys are pepper. I'm more of the jalapeno." Glancing over at Kisikoni and his slightly larger than normal crossbow, Sid patted her own massive weapon. "Mine's bigger'en yers."

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#, as written by Aythr
The long march began with some chit here and some chat there, just a little banter to pass the time. Duran, on the other hand, didn’t really make a conversation with anybody, preferring the company of Goma at his side, who seemed to keep looking up at him for recognition which she received as a pat on the head. Her tail wagged, and they continued on their way, Duran keeping his head low and in the hood of his cloak.

As it began to rain, Duran finally moved his head to feel the drops hit him in the face. It was refreshing to feel the cool, pure water on his skin. He smiled inwardly, as Goma let out a grunt of frustration. She had never liked rain.

As they continued to walk, the rain began to really soak in to Duran’s cloak, though the inner layer was still dry thanks to a thin leather interior. Goma let out occasional grunts to proclaim her great displeasure at being soaked. Duran savored this weather, and thought about how great nature was as his feet stomped from dirt into mud. He wiggled his toes, savoring the feeling of wet grit between them. He had some very curious interests, to say the least, though it was not completely unnatural for a druid to fully enjoy every aspect of nature.

As the grass on the side of the road grew to waist height, Duran immediately began thinking about what it could conceal. There were wolves, of course; there were also tigers, panthers, cougars, lions, any number of other predatory cats, snakes, birds, insects, and people. Specifically, people who wanted to cause him and his fellow legionnaires harm. He tapped Goma on the nose as he walked, a signal to keep a nose out while Duran used his eyes.

As the legion reached the edge of the forest, Duran’s tense nature seemed to unwind slightly as he laid eyes on the trees before him. It might as well have been home for him. Suddenly, he saw something in the woods. He wasn’t sure exactly what he saw, but his eyes rarely deceived him. He grew up in the forest. He knew when something was out of place. On Commander Wrath’s command, he drew in close with the rest of his squad for the orders, as Grimsmirk and her squad disappeared into the tall grass.

"Heavy armor in front, light in the middle, medium in back." Wrath said.

It made sense. Spellcasters wouldn’t survive more than a few seconds if they were ambushed from the grass. Duran took the back of the group, confidant in his abilities to at least hold off any attacker until Grimsmirk’s squad lent ranged support, or his own squad was able to turn around and deal with them face to face.

Duran turned around just in time to catch a group of Children charge out of the forest at Commander Wrath, Iriana, and a few orcs that he didn’t recognize. They seemed to be holding their own quite effectively, as a Minotaur’s head flopped off its shoulders and fell to the ground. Duran found it difficult to peel his eyes away from the frontlines, though he did just in time to miss a volunteer Legionnaire get a blade to the throat.

As Duran turned around, he heard a loud scream of some kind coming from the grass. He had the general idea of where it was coming from. He grabbed the wooden shield and shortspear from his back and waved them around in gestures of magic.

“How could you Children expect to have an advantage of terrain when nature is always on my side?”

Duran slammed the dull end of his shortspear into the ground, as his spell began to take effect on the grasses lining the road. Enemies who had the misfortune of entering the area would find that the very grass they were hiding in would attempt to entangle and wrap around them, immobilizing them, or at the very least impeding their advance.

Duran held his spear up, ready to strike the first enemy to charge from the now enchanted grasses, while Goma bared fang in a manner more ferocious than any of the orcs on the frontline.

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The silent march was grim but bearable; at least this way nobody had to hear anyone else complain. Talae was not uncomfortable with silence- she rather preferred it to anything else, truly. Her feet slogged through the mire, and she was surprised to find that for the most part, her armor did not let in any of the water that had begun its descent from the sky a while back. She supposed she should be grateful for this, but at the moment, this reaction was stymied by the discomforting dampness of her face and hair.

Which all disappeared into nothingness when they were called to form up, her own particular group moving to the side of the heavier unit, at first for unknown purpose. Within a few moments, though, the reason became abundantly clear. Talae was left with a moment of feeling rather useless, being out of throwing range for any of her knives or flasks of poison. This, too, was remedied, when the Lieutenant shoved a crossbow into her hands.

Talae was caught off-guard for a moment; she had absolutely no idea how to work one of these things, and spent a few moments watching Kisikoni load a bolt into his before she thought she might have some inclination as to how this was properly done. Right... so this mechanism goes... fit the bolt in, and... more than a little apprehensive, Talae took careful aim at one of the children, deciding that the throat was as good a target as any. At Sid's word, she sighted down the shaft of the bolt and slowly depressed the trigger, sending it flying in what she took to be at the very least the general direction of her target. She did not watch to see if it connected though; she'd need all the time she could get to reload and fire again.

The kickback was a bit unexpected, and had she mot been wearing the armor, it might have bruised something. Making a note to be ready for that next time, Talae reloaded, noting that the Children were getting closer. Though this was far from a good thing, she might actually be useful soon, which could be considered a small positive in an otherwise irritating situation such as this.

Though... she really would rather they were all dead by then. Not that she was holding out hope for any such thing, mind.

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Jurial Plains: Seven miles from Laeral

Faera, much to her chagrin, was so footsore that she was relieved when the group halted, or at least she was until she realized exactly why they were halting. Straining her ears, she could just make out the sounds of movement some distance beyond, and knew that couldn't mean anything good. But scant moments later, the group was split, and she was following the much softer noises of Sid's devision through tall grass, apparently setting up to fight at a perpendicular facing to the others.

She took a spot behind those with ranged weapons, trying to calm the frantic adrenaline-fueled beating of her own heart. The tension was palpable, and she could feel it acutely. It was almost a blessing when she could at last sense the Children approaching, and the characteristic clicks and twangs of bows and crossbows were at least better than inexorable silence. At the word fire, Faera couldn't help but think to herself that in weather like this, ice would be far more useful.

It was, of course, but a standard phrase, and even she was not quite so uneducated in the arts of war to know that, but she thought it all the same. For her own part, Fae called her magic to her palms, gesturing in somewhat odd-looking patterns. It wasn't completely necessary, but without eyes to direct the flow of energy, she found that directing movement with her hands helped her keep a finer control over what she was doing. She gathered together the droplets of rain on the Children's side of the field, then with a flick of the wrist, sent a pulse of magic through the collected water, freezing it into sharp icicles. A sweeping downward motion propelled the missiles toward the ground- and the oncoming children. This was Faera's strength- she would not hit all of them, and some icicles would doubtless strike naught but ground. Some of them, though, would hit, and probably do substantial damage.

-=-

When the group split, Neira realized with a degree of irritation that nobody had ever told her what damn squad she was in. Oh well, that just meant she got to choose, as she saw it, so she lined up in the middle of the more melee-oriented group, because despite her appearance, that was exactly where she belonged. Ranged combat was for people who didn't enjoy crunching noses into faces.

The line began to fragment, the general rule of strategy seeming to be "pick off the ones on the edges whenever possible." She noted the abrupt change in behavior of the children, and slid her eyes to the Captain. Psionics? Huh; now there was something unexpected. Her favorite sadist's grin crept over her face, and she decided it wasn't really fair to let the others have all the fun. That druid was doing something to impede progress, so she figured she might as well take advantage of it. Picking out the most-impeded looking Child, Neira launched herself forward, employing her wings for a burst of speed, intent on pummeling the lousy pale flesh-creature for as long as it took to overcome that damn endurance of theirs.

The initial blow, a punch aimed squarely for the center of his face, was accompanied by a string of virulent curses that would have made a sailor blush. She'd learned a lot over almost fifty years away from her own people, and the coloration of her vocabulary was fairly impressive by any standard. Which was good, really; she was no berserker, but there was nothing quite so satisfying as getting a sustainable level of irritation going during a fight. A nice refrain for the sound of crunching bones.

She followed up with an elbow to the jaw and a kick to his kneecaps, not sure yet exactly how much damage these hits were doing, but stubborn enough to keep at it until one of the two of them was stone-cold dead.

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#, as written by Arke
7 Miles South of Laeral

"Excellent!" Said Kisikoni, bowing to Talae. "Thank you! Er, you already know my name, so why don't you..."

After introductions, Kisikoni had tried to make idle chit-chat with the dark elf in order to understand her better, but she was quiet and eventually the amicable Deep Human gave up. He would talk to her later, but she seemed more concerned for Fae, who was her sister. He wasn't deaf, and despite his eavesdropping he knew the more he could gather about his squad, the better. She wasn't exactly too seclusive about that, either. By the time they had stopped, he was getting rather winded. Deep humans weren't meant to cover such expanses of land in such little time. Rubbing his forehead, he heard the order to follow his captain, and took off after the halfling commander. He threw himself into the ground. As they took out long-range weapons, Kisikoni was glad that he brought his crossbow with him. He laid it out in front, taking comfort in it's familiar form. All these drills, all this training came down to this.

He pulled the string back, carefully loading a standard bolt. It was wise to start with the basics. The tickle trigger lightly rested on the deep human's fingers, and he quickly took aim and shot. The bolt flew, but by then Sid's initial shot had already alerted them. He got up, put his foot in the ring and drew the string back with both hands to reduce the time it took, then loaded another bolt. He took aim and fired. He did not check to see if any hit, rather focused on looking down and making sure he loaded his bolts quickly and aimed for the closest approaching Child.

He kept checking to see how his partner was doing as he loaded a bolt, and figured she was doing well- if it came down to a fight he'd have to make his way to her, or find a partner if the fight became too heavy. At some point, vice-commander Sid made a snide comment about how her own weapon was larger than Kisikoni's. Kisikoni didn't really care in the thick of battle, but before he caught himself, he heard himself replying "It certainly does seem like you're compensating for something." Beelzes, one of the deep humans caught wind of the reply and chuckled before concentrating on her own devices.

???

The trees blurred in and out of her view as the Nightmarian Spider continued to lead her pursuers on a wild goose chase. There seemed to be no end to them, but she had to escape somehow. This was important stuff, and she had to get it somewhere before she either died or got caught. Twirling around a tree, she shot a globule of webbing into another child. Sadly, with this rate of exhaustion Mercy knew that shooting anymore unless she made it into Laeral or something would make her too tired to even speak coherently. The day had not passed quickly, and her strength had waned. She was completely wired on adrenaline now, and the pure will not to be captured.

Dropping from a branch, she landed on a unready Child, his sword skating off the armor on her abdomen. The sword was twisted out of his hand, and Mercy raised her fist and gave the man a nice punch to the face. She tore a hunk of flesh from his neck, and started chewing on it aimlessly as the Children of Fire swarmed around her. They finally had the Nightmarian cornered. Well, at least she would kill this one before they caught her. The Child pinned under the sheer mass of her body struggled, blood spattering from his open neck wound irregularly. She winked at him, grabbing his head. The man's hands clasped weakly on her arms as she ripped the head from the body, and crushed it with one of her many plated legs. This man was definitely dead. The body flopped slightly, and before she knew it, the Children were upon her.

"Well, I guess they did want me alive. I can tell you boys now, I'm not the best playmate." She said, smiling vivaciously at one Child. The Child scowled. She had been turned upside-down, and her eight legs had been bonded by some very strong rope. They carted her around by tying the rope to a large log that several carried on their shoulders. She was backwards as well, so she rotated her body to watch out for incoming foliage to dodge. The vain spider didn't want her head to be full of lumps this early in the game. Her arms were tied, her weapons were tied to the end of the log for compact travel. She could still fire her webbing, but that would only exhaust her and most of it would simply miss.

"Poo. The legion has sure does have some useless soldiers." She pouted.

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Jurial Plains, 7 Miles South of Laeral

Water began to splash in the face of Caine. He looked up and watched as the heaven's themselves began to cry tears. It had started to rain... Which only made Caine a little bit more frustrated. He already had a headache from the hangover from the following night, now it was beginning to rain... "Of course," He grunted... He did always manage to get the short-end of the stick whenever luck was involved. Caine grunted again, for good measure. It continued to rain for the rest of the march, progressively making the march a little bit more difficult as time wore on.

Mud was beginning to gum up Caine's boots and leggings, and generally gave them a gritty feeling. He was, however, dry thanks to the live leather or whatever the leather he wore was named. Fit almost like a second skin. Even so, the mud only add to the frustration Caine was experiencing... It was raining on him, he had a headache, he felt awful, and now even the mere process of walking was being hindered... It was a godsend when Captain Wrath ordered them out of the rain and under some trees.

Even so, this proved too good to be true as Wrath ordered Sid's team into the forest. Something was clearly... Off. Caine felt the beginning pangs of anxiety, waiting for what would happen next... Wrath mananaged to relieve him from this as well, as he ordered them to form up. He gave a short and curt whistle to Gilleas and prodded him with a elbow before taking his position at the front line. There, he waited, like Captain ordered. By then, Wrath had began a song on his lute. This was no ordinary song as it felt of something... Fey, something dangerous. A prickle ran up Caine's spine as he himself drew his weapon's, the Saber and the sword in his right hand and his left respectively.

The next actions were just a blur, as something burst from the woods. A halfling, injured from the looks.. Then an arrow flew over the collapsed small folk and towards Wrath. Deflected rather easily. Then, their enemies revealed themselves. A group of snow white children charge Wrath. Caine felt the itch at the base of his skull, he wished to be in this battle. The sight of the enemy had planted seeds of anger, of fury, held in check by Wrath's own admission to "stay put" in his war song. A war song that had decapitated a minotaur... Which if Caine would have been in the normal mindset, he would have found that rather interested, but as it was, he just wished to be in the fray himself.

Then, Wrath jerked his head... Caine rolled his blades in a circle, popping and stretching the bones and muscles in his wrists, the saber sang and the sword whispered in the wind. It also looked pretty intimidating, but what was that to a bunch of fearless sods? Then, a loud twang. He looked back just in time to see a large bolt completely destroy a child... Must have been the contraption on Sid's back.

By now... A couple of children had made their way to Gilleas and Caine. Caine pivotted on a foot in order to bare his back to the Guardian... The last rational thought that was not tainted by a primal fury was that of hoping the Guardian could watch his back. The various factors today had panned into Caine's berserker wrath. The hangover, the rain, the mud, the nasty day, and even the mere sight of the children lit the fires of Caine's fury.

Caine himself, upon witnessing the approach of the children, had begun to settle into something... More primal as black treacly anger began to course through his mind, taking control of his arms, of his legs, and of his mind. As a result, he uttered a guttural, primal growl as one particular child began to approach. He retained enough sense to realize that allies were near and did not completely lose himself to his berserker fury, but he was far enough gone to see a red haze where the child was... Then the battle was on.

Caine, running on pure instinct, reflex, and anger, only augmented slightly by Caine's military training. He threw up the longsword and savagely deflect a blow. The clang of metal had signaled the beginning of the war-drums in Caine's head. The drums only Cain could hear within berserker fury went very nicely with Wrath's own war song. Each movement, each deflection, each thrust, was accentuated by a raise in tempo and tone within his mind. The child again tried to strike at Caine, but he deflected this with the saber. If Caine had been in the right mind, he would have noticed these strikes were stronger than a normal persons.

Then he growled a feral growl, signaling the games were over. He snarled as he slashed upwards with the saber at a diagonal angle and immediately afterward he plunged forward with the sword, hoping to cut the thing in half and skewer it at the same time. The war-drums began began to sing with the carnage of battle.

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Laila smiled as the dark elf introduced herself Her request was simple and she found that it would be enjoyable to work with a mage. "I would gladly watch your sister's back for you."

That was the last she said before lining up and beginning the march. She moved gracefully each step seemed light and well placed. Her feet rarely made a sound as she stepped and the march was easy for her. Marching as she saw it was simply a menial daily task, her tall and powerful legs used to the long walks. The rain on the other hand, while she delighted in the cool mist as her skin became covered by the rain, did manage to make the march tougher. The sudden stop made Laila realize exactly was was about to happen.

With the order given, she followed her captain into the tall grass. She moved swiftly and gracefully through the field and reached the rock quicker than most of her squad. She pulled one of her quiver's off her back and removed the leather straps that held the arrows within the canister. Strapping it at her side for quicker access she pulled a single arrow from its sisters. She readied her bow and notched the arrow, pulling slowly on the string she aimed at the path in front of them. Hey body became a statue from anticipation. Her aim was focused and the first creature that dared to show it's face would be quickly taken out.

She noticed the dark elf was, preparing as well. Her elven senses could smell the adrenaline flowing though her body. Her heart was beating quickly.
"Relax a bit. You'll do fine." She said letting go of her arrow and striking an enemy square in the neck causing the child to drop to it's knees and gasp for life.

****

Gillias stood by Caine, his shield was raised and his sword arm ready. He led the blade outwards behind his back. Pulling back almost like and archer does with their arrows. He was ready for the first child to come foolishly seeking to confront him. As one did he was greeted by the forceful swing of the guardians anticipating strike. The mud was an advantage for him. He was a very stationary fighter and did not need to maneuver in the mud. The same could not be said for the children, he watched their feet noticing that it was effectively slowing their moments making them clumsy. Gilleas immediately began to take notes on the battle, forming strategies in his head. There were a lot of factors that favored his chances o survival. He liked that.

He stood by Caine, as he surrendered to the bestial nature his berserker skill provided. The guardian would do as his name suggested, whilst Caine became a massive attacking force he would be the unmovable defense that ensured his survival. Another child charged him, he held still and waited for the lunge of the blade. The sword crashed feebly against his shield. The enemy took a step back and asserted the situation. While he waited to attack again one of his friends joined him. Gilleas held his shield firm, slowly he prepared his blade to strike at the first opportunity. One more blow was deflected by his shield, before he could attack, the other child charged him as well. Gilleas moved his shield from one side to the other deflecting their blows respectively. He trust his blade out, leaving a large opening in his defense, he managed to stab at the child. He quickly pivoted on his back leg and held the shield close to his body. He extended the shield and managed to deflect another blow, and knocking the child to the ground. He then attempted to slash but had to lift his shield at the last moment as his friend cut in.

They were trying to flank him. Caine was preoccupied at the time so he would have to take care of them. He prepared his stance and became watchful of the two. One of them to his front the other was behind him. If they attacked at the same time it could prove problematic. As expected though the one behind him charged and swung his weapon for Gill's back. The guardian turned to block the blow and skillfully counterattacked driving the sword deeply into the child's' side leaving a massive gash in it's skin. It fell to the ground. Taking the opening his companion had given him the child attacked at Gill whose back was completely open for attack. Not wasting a single second Gill thrust his shield into the mud, it stuck vertically out of the ground. Gill then vaulted over the shield and took cover on the other side just in time to block the opponents attack. Gill then kicked the shield forcefully knocking it over as well as the child, he then leaped onto the body and slashed at it's neck cutting a deep and fatal wound. The guardian stood and recovered his shield rushing over to Caine's side to help his ally.

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Laeral, South Road

Illeyssa stood just outside the "limits" of the nameless town. Her eyes staring down the path the Legion had just taken. Since the unit had left she was thinking about that boy's face and why it seemed so familiar to her. What was left of her thought pieced the remaining pieces of her prediction, letting them slip into place. A fractured Premonition would be needed to glean what little influence was needed to avoid those circumstances, yet she wasn't so certain she could avoid it any more. Right hand resting under her chin her left hand propped up her elbow as she thought, Silvyar a few steps behind and her guards nowhere to be seen. The name Fong prodded in her mind and she paused to think about it closely. Fong was a hard man to read and she only caught glances of him when she walked the markets during midday to encourage those who were not of her orcs to seek her out if they needed comfort or insight. She took the boy's face, her own mental picture from when she glimpsed him and compared it to the man, finding similarities between the two.

"Shawoman." Silvyar's voice splashed over her connections between the boy and his father.

Illeyssa dropped her hand away and looked around, her apprentice's face etched with worry, "Have you come to a conclusion child?"

The girl nodded, "I do not know of how or when this is, but the Orcs will suffer a great loss, either of one of their own or the race as a whole. The War of countless years and the struggle with the dragons has claimed the future of untold numbers of youth, the vitality of the races as a whole, beyond individual success or failure, is crippled and weak. And for the last part I do not know... but the implications fill me with worry for your life Shawoman. What if you are-" Silvyar's voice was cut off with a wave of Illeyssa's hand and the apprentice fell silent.

For a girl as young as this one to grasp at fractured interpretations was almost unheard of, yet her conclusion was almost identical to her own. Although, her interpretation of the first and last point seemed too personalized, not surprising considering almost all others with the gift of foresight had been removed in the last 24 years. No Illeyssa, saw the first warning for what it was: Within this time one of her guards would die... And the final portion warned of an even more grave threat. In his death a gap would be opened, one that her unknown foe would use to come directly for her. If things couldn't be prevented she feared the impact over all. Something cold splashed on her cheek and her fingers rose to touch it, drawing away with moisture clinging to her skin. Rain.

She turned around without waiting for its fellow drops to fall and soak her completely, bare footsteps taking her back into the town towards the Inn. Her eyes looked forwards but her mind began to brood over what she was given, unaware that her guards emerged from their positions and fell into line.

Her ears picking up, yet ignoring, Silvyar's worried whispers into Dormund's ear about what she thought about Illeyssa's prediction in her own words.

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#, as written by Smith
"Pray to your dragons give in to my game,
So easy to play simply dancing with flame,"


Wrath's fingers were a blur as he worked the finely tuned strings of his lute. The man's eyes constantly switched between those of the roaring Child on the offensive and the enemy's sword. Wrath had never been one for fancy foot work, but he knew how to dodge as he worked his magic. When the orc cultist came in for another slash Wrath used the mud to slide under the high attack and pop up behind him. At the word fire flames surged in a cone shape at the robed foe, engulfing him in a screaming mass despite the rain. The bright flames dissipated as quickly as they had formed, leaving behind a thoroughly scorched orc who glared balefully at his attacker.

"Be sure not to get careless, you just wasted your turn,
I suppose I should add to the pain of your burns..."


At that verse the enraged, crispy Child rushed in to maul the bard. Wrath's ghostly weapon rematerialized once more however, forming between him and his assailant to skewer the orc. A high note from his lute sent a magical command making the spectral weapon twist violently and yank, disemboweling the enemy. As the orc scrambled to push his guts back into his torso Wrath surveyed the battle. Things appeared to be going well...for all of five seconds.


"Haha!" Iriana swung for the third time upon the skull of a Child she had wrapped in the crushing embrace of her snake tail. The deep human bared his bloodstained teeth in defiance and gnashed like a savage animal before laughing in her face. The lamian woman scowled at this, and raised her weapon to deliver the finishing blow when the Child opened his mouth wide to scour her upper body with a jet of dragon fire. Iriana instinctively shielded her face and shrieked in pain as the supernatural fires heated the metal of her vambraces to a an angry red and traced burns across her arms and neck. When the fiery breath subsided the Child laughed some more, the coils wrapped around him slackening...and stared into the face of one very angry snake-woman. Suddenly her tail tightened around the man once more and with a powerful swing sent him sailing across the forest floor to crash into a tree with bone-shattering force. He mumbled and did not move again.

Iriana gasped in pain and anger and retrieved her maul from the ground. Her head whipped around at the sound of a high-pitched voice wailing so hard that the sound hurt her ears. Near the edge of the grass the halfling of the squad--she hadn't bothered to learn his name yet--was writhing in agony as five more Children engulfed the little man in blasts of dragonfire. His screams died quickly and the newly arrived Children joined the fray, immediately orienting on the nearest legionnaire: Iriana. The lamia hissed and met their charge--joined by a battered Qinn, whose plumage was alight with green fire.


Hannan rushed in at Duran and would have fallen face-first on the ground due to some unseen impedement had not the same enchanted grass wrapped around his limbs and torso. The Child roared and lashed his tail, the lamian cultist steadily tearing free of his makeshift prison. He had dropped his sword and was using his claws to rend the foliage when the first hits rained down upon him. Wet cracks sounded off in rapid succession and the lamia didn't quite register the pain until a fractured skull, a broken arm, a shattered tail-bone and seven damaged ribs burst into pain-filled life. Eyes opening wide in shock--well, eye, as the other had burst under Neira's assault--and breathed deeply to release stream of fire not only onto the nightmarian, but into the tripwire grass. Again, as if the conflaguration ignored all moisture, the grass bundle and it's lamian occupant were alight in a fireball in seconds. Hannan hissed and laughed as the fires consumed his bondage and flesh at once and lashed out with a fire-covered tail to swipe Neira away.

Another Child, whom Caine was embattled with called out in surprise as his broadsword went skittering away in the mud. The human he faced was of greater strength than anticipated. The Child breathed in to gather strength for dragonbreath which came to an abrupt end as Caine buried his own weapon into the cultist's throat. Skin bubbled and seared as the fire bubbled out of the new opening in the Child's neck. He collapsed before Caine with fire devouring it's own summoner's head.

The pair attacking Gillias stopped for a moment in confusion as the deep human managed to slice one of their throats. The human Child who was now wounded did not so much as flinch, as his harpy partner who had been stabbed shot him a knowing glance. As one they raised their palms and unleashed twin blasts of dragonfire upon Gillian. Or, more precisely, his shield. Under the combined assault the metal warped and cracked in the sudden heat and cold of the rain. It was half melted and far beyond use now...and both Children came in quickly to slash at Gillian's head and stab at his kidneys, relishing the now defenseless man's horrid luck.


"Shit, shit, shit in a basket." Sid held her bolt and tried to hold back the panic in her voice. A halfling in Wrath's squad was already dead and one of the three orcs was slumped against a tree unmoving. More and more Children arrived from the grass and woodwork by the moment. Peering through the rain, the halfling tried to count them all. She applied a shot to the spine of an arriving Child to render him a null combatant while at it. Achiru spoke a number that made his commander's stomach sink.

"Thirty. Not including the three dead. Two incapacitated." The harpy whipped back his hair and took aim, loosing an arrow that grazed an advancing Child's side. The enemy glared and returned fire with fire, a gout that came up short of the squad's position. Still, Achiru ruffled his feathers and winced at the heat. "This is not good, commander Grimsmirk."

"No shit." She had nothing more to say as she loaded another bolt and trained on another more distant foe. "Melee range! Weapons free!"

The new command issued, the legionnaires dropped their ranged weapons as one and began to engage the enemy at mid range. One enemy, a vicious little halfling whose robes were stained with blood appeared as if out of thin air before the elf Laila. "Die bitch!" The words came out as little more than a gurgle, an arrow protruding from the Child's throat. Fired roared from his palms to blacken the elf woman's legs and waist. Horrible blisters rose on the scoured flesh in moments, the attack rendering her all but immobile for the time being. The halfling lost all interest in a crippled quarry and set his sights on Talae. He whipped both curved blades around and leaped at the dark elf.

Kisikoni and Talae's original target watched with passing interest as a pair of crossbow bolts tore a slight rip in her robes, and ran up to attack--and screamed in shock when icecicles stabbed into her gut and leg. The Child behind her cried out as well, but advanced. Back at the rock the pale Beelzes smirked and patted Faera on the back. "Nice!" She raised both gauntlet-covered hands and a fel-energy permeated the air as she called upon her patron. The rain water gathered in much the same way as Faera's spell, but instantly manifested as reddish black ice jutting from the wounds of the two Children the dark elf had harmed. The ice emitted a grotesque sucking sound that could be heard even over the screams of it's victims. Within seconds the Children lay shriveled husks in the grass as the hellish ice crystals had grown. The sodden Beelzes stuck her tongue out. "Vampire Ice! Or..." she took out a pair of black-tinted eye-glasses and levelled a serious stare at her fellow. "Nos-frost-tu."


The weather was absolutely dreadful. At first Zakair had been ecstatic at the possiblity of a light shower, but this deluge was ridiculous. The elven Child shrugged and prodded his newest captive. At least that helped brighten his mood. "You're a chatty one, bug. Would you mind very much if I cut out that sharp little tongue of yours? Or better yet, put that pretty fanged mouth to a task better suited for-"

The sound of battle somewhere ahead caught the leader's attention. It seemed that the next fools had stumbled upon their doom. Zakair looked to the two Children carrying Mercy, then at the crimson-robed arcanites. Scowling, he nodded the latter over. "Attack from the air." That said, they wordlessly moved off towards the combat and disappeared.

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Jurial Plains: Somewhere

A roar echoed throughout the immediate area as Caine ripped the sword from the throat of the Child he faced off against. Caine had howled like a beast, announcing his kill and surrendering a little bit more to his fury. He had tasted blood and death, now his bloodlust would not be satiated until all who opposed them lay dead or dying at their feet. The war drums' beat had heightened and raced as Adrenaline merged and mixed with the black treacly anger. As skin and flesh bubbled at the Child's face, no doubt due to the combination of it's fire breath and Caine's tear at the Child's throat, He stepped back out of instinct rather than personal safety. Fire had such odd effects on beasts like that. A stray glance here caught the Lamia, Iriana, beset by a couple of children. This did nothing but exacerbate Caine's fury. If he had been in a calmer mood, he would have wished her luck. In his current mood, he wished her their ]blood.

As he stepped back, he felt Gilleas brush against him. This merely registered in his mind for a split-second before whipping his head back and realizing it was, indeed, Gilleas, now Shield-less with two Children converging on the Guardian, one aiming for his head, the other his kidney... Whether the thought raced through the enraged Caine's mind or not, it was his turn to get his fellow Legionnaire's back. Caine spun on his heel and caught the weapon of the Child who was aiming for Gilleas's side with his saber. With the saber, Caine pushed downward and away at the weapon, causing the weapon to miss Gilleas, unharmed... One would figure the guardian could protect against a frontal assault to his face. Caine didn't figure that, as he was reacting on instinct and the child after Gilleas's side was the closest... The war drums slowed as Caine took more action.

Following the catching and deflecting of the child's blade, Caine stepped forward to Gilleas's side, savagely rushing and pushing at the child he had engaged, looking to put distance between Caine and the child. To try and put even more distance between the them and the Child, he kicked savagely at what should be the knees of the Child... Caine was too far into his feral fury to distinguish features such as feathers from a harpy or skin from a human. He just saw an enemy. An enemy who was about to die. In such a blood fury, the war-drums pounded their song, urging him to slay, urging him to kill.

With distance hopefully put between them and his Child, Caine grunted a few words to Gilleas, assuming he had evaded the other attack. "You get one, I get th' other," He said, words slurring. Caine's eyebrow was furrowed in anger, his lip twitched, and a vein was throbbing on his forehead, signaling the adrenaline coursing throughout his veins. He growled again, a low, violent sound from him belly, at the Child. Another monstrosity dared to breath on this battlefield, his battlefield. It was taunting him by merely living, by placing itself in front of Caine as if to challenge him. The idea that Caine was actually the one who put himself in front of the Child never crossed his mind. He was too far gone for such rational thought. The beats began to urge and tug at his hands. Kill, kill, kill, they sang rhythmically.

Next, without warning, Caine took a quick step looking to close the distance between the Child and him. Caine proceeded to heft the saber into the air, broadcasting the hew that was to come with the downward swing of the saber. This was a farce however, looking to try and draw attention to the saber. At the same time with the longsword, he quickly whipped it horizontally right to left, hoping the slash would open up the Child's midsection, or at least take the Child's mind off of the saber for a split-second... A split-second was all that he needed to split the Child's head vertically. Each strike was punctuated with a thump of the drums. Whatever the result, Caine shouted something at the creature. It didn't have any tangible form or diction, it was just a wordless shout that had escaped from his mouth.

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Jurial Plains: Seven Miles from Laeral

Faera heard a few of the icicles hit, though the knowledge brought her no measure of joy. Rather, she felt a little sick, but ignored the stirring in her stomach as best she could. The woman next to her made a joke, and she seized on the thought, giggling slightly. "I'd always heard that vampires were horrid, but you seem an 'ice' enough person," she replied, feeling a bit silly, but deciding that was far and away better than 'about-to-vomit.'

The creatures were still coming, though, and she picked up on Sid's conversations with the male harpy. That didn't sound good at all. Thirty of them, and only three dead after all that? It sounded like they were going to need a lot more firepower- and quite a dose of good fortune.

The sound of broiling flesh hit her ears a millisecond before the awful smell reached her nose, and she did retch then, but not badly enough to bring up breakfast- not yet anyway. She realized with trepidation that both were issuing from Laila and gasped, picking her way over the ground between them to the other woman's side. Faera's heart began to race, and her blood thundered in her ears. It was too familiar- the smell, the sound, all of it. It was just like the last attack on the village; she was helpless, she was despicable, it was all her fault, she- no!

Berating herself for the train of thought, Faera forced herself to focus on what was going on in the present, and began the litany for a complex healing spell. Her hands once again orchestrated the gathering of the power required, and her gestures appeared to pluck magic from the air and gather it together before spreading it, palms down, in the air over the injured area. Flaring her fingers, Faera set the spell in place. When it worked, it was a bit on the slow side, but the pain should start to subside almost immediately. At least, she hoped it did.

"I'm sorry, Laila; just lay still for a while. They haven't broken the line, yet- you should be okay until you're ready to move again. I have to go now, though; we're not doing so well." She bit her lip and stood, trying to regain her bearings. Everyone was much closer together now, which made her job a little more difficult. Her best bet would probably be single-target spells, aimed at Children who were off to the side for some reason or another- most likely already somewhat injured.

-=-

The wet crack of bones was a satisfying sound. The first time she'd beaten a foe to death, Neira had been sickened with herself, not for having done what was necessary, but because she had enjoyed it so damn much. Now, sadism was just another tool of survival. It prevented her from succumbing to something much, much worse and getting herself or someone else killed. Blood and gore spattered her face, but she simply smiled past the crimson stains, unrelenting.

The lamia upon whom she was laying her particularly slow brand of agony was not about to give up, though, and that only made it better. So much more satisfying when they didn't go down like weak maggots, writhing in the dirt and returning from whence they came at the slightest touch. No, this was most excellent indeed-

Neira hissed and muttered a string of oaths under her breath, using her wings to propel herself from the gout of fire with rapidity, though she did not miss the heat on her face. Seeing that the idiot was self-immolating, she assumed people would be smart enough to avoid him until he was nothing but a heap of ashes and hovered overhead for a moment, looking for another opening to take advantage of before she became a target for arrows or something. No cure for stupid, and if he wanted to be all kamikaze about it, she wasn't going to stick around.

Spotting the most likely bet- a black-clad lamia and harpy were beset by no less than five sodding Children- she made a beeline for them, landing noiselessly on the ground behind the fire-breathing freaks. She grabbed the nearest one's head and wrenched, intending to break its neck cleanly. One was making a swing for the harpy, and she decided that the numbers were enough to justify the annoyance of scrambling brains in an entirely different sense.

You don't want that attack to land, she projected into the Child's mind. Usually that was enough to do the trick. At the very least, there would probably be some minor hesitation, even if her suggestion were eventually dismissed or rejected. That was the thing about psionics- she couldn't actually force anyone to do anything, but most hated the feeling of having their minds invaded. It was almost laughable, actually- she'd met people who shied away from her the minute she mentioned this little sub-specialty of hers. As though she wanted to spend time in their boring minds or something.

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#, as written by Aythr
Duran's spell had worked. As a Lamian cultist charged him, the grasses wrapped around it, immobilizing it for a few seconds. Immediately, it seemed to drop its weapon, a decision that would probably have come back to haunt it were it not for the claws and fangs it was naturally equipped with. He was a bit jealous on that account. Suddenly, A Nightmarian, propelled by its insectoid wings, came flying in and pummeled out of the Lamia any decency it may have had left. Duran nearly cringed as he heard the crack of the serpent's skull.

Immediately following the assault, the cultist seemed to have lost whatever mind it had left. Duran was taken aback when it took a deep breath and proceeded to set itself on fire. More than likely this was a horrible accident; The gout of flames was clearly aimed for the Nightmarian that had just concussed the Lamia into believing that setting itself on fire was a good idea. It was possible that the flames were magical in nature. In this case, it could mean any number of things. Perhaps it had a resistance to fire of some kind, perhaps it was completely immune to its own fire, though that hypothesis was becoming less and less plausible as he could see the Snake-man's flesh being eaten away by the fire.

Immediately, several strategies entered his mind. There was the obvious one; Wait for the Lamia to cremate itself. Then there were several others, all of which did not have the considerable amount of strategic heft that the first plan did. There was no doubt, however, that the Lamia knew he was there. It had charged for him, after all. Perhaps in its rage, it would attempt to kill Neira. Maybe it would just continue to be insane and, suffering from a pugilist-inflicted brain injury, it would simply flail around until it would be able to neatly fill an urn or two.

Despite the many extravagant battle-plans floating around in his head, Duran held up his shield and spear, intent on a defensive reaction rather than an offensive strike against a flaming zealot of a snake-person.

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Jurial Plains

Talae's breath took its exit with a slight huff as she noted the scant accuracy of her crossbow shot. When the icicles impaled the same figure, she embraced the irony of Faera hitting a target she could not. At least it meant her sister was adapting well enough.

Sid called out for melee weapons, which was marginally better for Talae. Removing two knives from each boot, she decided to take advantage of what was far and away her best skill- mid-range projectiles- while she still could. One of the blades went sailing towards an incoming harpy Child, the other on a direct trajectory for a halfling busy spilling fire from its palms at Leila. She did not have time to debate the wisdom of following these up with flasks of poison (though the knives were coated in a mild neurotoxin, she did not necessarily count on it to work against Children), because the halfling with firepower was coming at her now, blade in each hand.

Talae's hand flew to her lower back and she grasped the double-bladed knife there, sidestepping to avoid the initial charge. Using her new placement to her advantage as much as possible, the elf kicked at the Child's exposed back, intent on perhaps sending him to the ground, from where the next move would be as simple as stepping on his arms and stabbing him in the back, as many times as strictly necessary. Of course, if she hadn't kicked hard enough or he had excellent footing, she'd have a problem on her hands.

She wasn't exactly built for full-on melee, to say the least. It was certainly possible, and she had trained for it to an extent (if teaching yourself what you could learn from watching others counted as training), but it was definitely not her preference.

A dark elven Child approached, and she grimaced as the woman swung a longsword, intent on hacking Talae to pieces. The first few blows she blocked, but the fourth caught her shallowly across the ribs, and she stumbled. The swiftness of reflex embedded in her body from a lifetime of running, hiding, and striking from the dark was the only thing that stopped the next blow from being fatal, and instead she dived out of the way, landing rather uncomfortably on an exposed root. That would leave a bruise.

Gritting her teeth, Talae drew a glass flask of acid from her belt and threw it with steady hand. While it could be blocked with the woman's shield, she was at least reassured that it could not be deflected and hit someone else. Regaining her feet, Talae glanced around, checking the area for Kisikoni. Hopefully, he was presently a little better off than she was.

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#, as written by Arke
Jurial Plains, 7 miles outside of Laeral

Despite how calm he felt, Kisikoni's shots still went slightly. His hands were shaking, and the distance was just outside of his regular bolt range and too far inside the arrow-mode range. Growling to himself, he loaded another shot and fired it off quickly as his commander began to shout expletives- notifying him of how grave the situation was. While cocking his crossbow, he was told to get into melee range. He dropped his crossbow, the string snapping back and nearly lashing his fingers. He drew out his Butterfly swords in a smooth fashion, despite the internal panic that seized him. Calming himself, he knew he would only look bad if he continued to let fear hardwire his reflexes.

He moved closer to his partner, Talae as she threw her throwing knives. Covering her flank, he saw a lamian Child attempt to flank his partner with slithering motions. Intercepting the lamia's movements, he nodded slightly. The action was mostly out of habit, because it was customary to greet your opponent when fighting underground. Even the bitterest enemies back home in Kisikoni's village would give a firm handshake and bow before fighting. That was the way many disputes too deep for words were solved.

The Child did not react to it, rather charging him and initiating the conflict with a deadly overhead swipe of his tail. Kisikoni barely managed to duck, despite his nerves sparking him the moment that Lamian Child moved a muscle. With instinct coursing through his veins, he pushed forward, jabbing one sword toward the Lamia. The lamia easily dodged by dipping it's serpentine body back, and attempted to strike Kisikoni with the epieu (short spear) it held in it's hands. Kisikoni swung his left arm, deflecting the blow with his second sword and locked it in a fluid motion. The lamia wasted no time, dropping the spear and grabbing it with it's tail. The dextrous Lamia then slashed at Kisikoni, who barely dodged the blow. He felt the live leather armor shear as the blade came within centimeters of splitting flesh.

Stumbling back, Kisikoni remained wired- staring at the Lamia who spun the epieu once with the tail back into it's left arm. Kisikoni couldn't tell if it were a man or woman, since the robes were rather baggy and the face was androgynous-like. The spear-tip hummed, and once again it clashed with Kisikoni's sword. Kisikoni trapped the spear with both swords, ducked the punch the Lamia threw, and used his waist to tear the spear from it's arms. The Lamia retorted with a tail whip to the face, which sent Kisikoni sprawling. Rolling over, he got up just in time to avoid a deadly elbow drop from the Lamia, using the tail as a lashing weapon to keep the Deep Human from striking it while it was on the ground. The lamia got up, and slashed at Kisikoni again with it's tail. This time, Kisikoni swung the swords to meet it, the heavy blades sinking deep into the musclebound tail of the Lamia. The lamia screeched, And Kisikoni recovered from the shock he had absorbed from the tail attack, and abandoned his swords to deliver a stinging punch to the lamia's neck. The lamia tried to fall back but Kisikoni was upon it. His fists were his deadliest weapon- learned from just a lad, he used his body to become a force of nature. The Lamia hit the ground with Kisikoni above it, and without warning, a flurry of hard blows rained down on the Child's head. There was resilient thrashing, and Kisikoni even received a few blows himself, but through his mental training his fists kept flying. With lamia blood dampening his hands, he contined to throw punch after punch on the grounded Child, feeling bones break. Soon the lamia was only throwing token resistance. The damn thing was only almost unconscious after Kisikoni's attack!

Jumping back up, he staggered back and yanked his blades from the Child's tail. Suddenly, the lamia's eyes blazed as it's tail flashed once more and smacked Kisikoni across the face. Falling, Kisikoni found himself under the Child's serpent-like embrace. One arm was free, and with his sword, he stabbed the Lamia in the gut and dragged the sharp, heavy blade down it's waist. Blood poured out, and withdrawing, the Lamia merely got closer with it's venomous fangs. Desperately, he shoved the blade into it's head as it's fists held down Kisikoni's head to keep from avoiding the teeth. The Lamia reacted instantly, it's eyes of fire instantly wiped clean of thought. Kisikoni felt it slump over and hit the ground next to him, and he wriggled out of it's grasp. Standing upright, he felt his vision blur slightly as he held his head. He recognized the blood that stuck to his hand as his own- the lamia's last tail whip had caught him pretty hard. Raising his blades, he nodded at Talae tiredly as she gave him a quick glance.

"Keep your eyes forward, Talae!" He shouted hoarsely. "I've got your sixth!"

[b]???]/b]

Zakair, the leader seemed like such a poop-head. Arrogant, yet cold and calculating like those stories she used to be told as she was tucked in by her mommy. They were usually the ones that were eaten, because only the dead reserve the right to be emotionless.

"Well, mister," Mercy huffed, "I'm very grateful for the offer, but I don't deal with short-sticks." She smiled suggestively. It would take all the bonds in the world to secure her vivacious personality. She heard fighting in the distance- perhaps it was the legion she had requested. A letter before the attack had said the "Fortieth Legion" was coming to reinforce her. She had no clue, and didn't care who was in it, because they were all merely just obedient allies. Now, she was counting on these unknown soldiers to save her before lord-knows-what.

She tiredly spat out a globule of meat that had refused to go down. It was still spicy from dragon-magic pulsating through his former body.

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Laeral, Boulon Brother's Inn

Once again Illeyssa found herself in the room of this establishment, though her mind was elsewhere as she moved past the owner and for one of the open table. The place was slightly less crowded and noisy with the leave of the Legion but the faces that were gone for a night's sleep were here now to catch their first glimpse of the orc. The Owner watched her move past with a suspicious eye, but since she didn't engage him, he didn't bother with her. At this point the light in here was the same as out there to her, the difference in weather more of a minute detail to be overlooked. So much time now had to go into her predictions, thoughts and questions that seemed natural to her before were ever present with the influence of dragons on Norr. Such a strong distortion was troubling and she felt like an apprentice again. Of the world around her, she could feel the presence of Dormund and his Worgs close by, and she had no doubt Silvyar was hugging close. Maybe Brack and his brother Gormun had moved off for a meal or drink. It had been a day since they had eaten.

Her mind was reflected in, ignoring what her eyes saw, of the picture before her as Dormund waved off Silvyar and the startled apprentice moved over to the brothers instead, their heads turning to her as she waved them close, speaking to them about something. The pair watched each other and rose, hands close to their weapons as they opened the door into the beginnings of the rain and departed. The apprentice watching them leave the door, before returning to a seat close by Illeyssa, a faint smile on her lips as if she was self assured about something.

She had watched her apprentice do all this but she didn't focus on her reality. As her thoughts wrapped about her to assure and calm the storm of her mind, it seemed like the storm outside was just beginning.

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#, as written by Smith
Jurial Plains

Wrath's throat was raw and his voice was a hoarse rattle. It could have been minutes or hours, the passage of time grossly warped in the heat of battle. At some point the bard had taken a punch to the neck and was forced to make due with humming and instrument alone. Presently engaged with a lanky deep human Child who fought like a man posessed, Wrath could just barely create a magically manifested parrying dagger instead of his usual longsword. The Child advanced step after step however, knowing that he had the advantage in every aspect. Except allies, Wrath thought as a wicked bolt from an unseen crossbow blasted through the deep human's midsection allowing him to open up a long gash along the Child's neck. Wrath panted and turned to engage the next combatant of a seemingly endless pool of foes, to find none in the immediate vicinity.

The largest of the three orcs on his squad, Junte, was still resting against a tree spattered with mud and blood with a tear in his head that was trickling crimson. Ferka, his sister, and the ranger elf Melian were trading blows with a trio of Children. Wrath decided to risk damaging his vocal cords a little more to force out the last powerful spell he had prepared that day. He sucked in his breath, "What once was--"

A blinding flash of light and pealing thunder stunned the captain before he could enact the spellsong. When his vision cleared, Ferka was reeling in shock along with the three Children. Melian was not so lucky. He stood motionless, still gripping his blades in a battle position, but he was blackened beyond recognition. In moments the rain sent portions of the fried elf sloshing on the ground in steaming chunks. Ferka was already upon the Children before they could recover, the orcish woman displaying her battle experience. Wrath however, was looking to the sky.

Thirty feet above the ground two shapeless robes of bloody red blew in the wind, scarred hands pointing down towards the battle. Wrath was still trying to piece together what just happened when the smaller of the two charged arcane energy and loosed a beam of gray light. Wrath hastily murmered the words to a foolish rhyming song and erected a barrier that deflected most of the attack. A thin ray slipped through and struck his left arm, the nerotic energies causing the appendage to go limp. He was forced to sling his instrument and halt the song. Spellcasters. They have spellcasters...


These heretics were putting up a better fight than expected given the horrible odds. Mikana laughed and parried Caine's savage slash with practiced ease and backed away before his cut could do any damage to her legs. The elf was surprised for a breath when she saw her opponent ready such an obvious attack...then smiled fiercely. A powerful strike clashed against Caine's horizontal strike and sent the weapon spinning off into the murky gloom. With her free hand, Mikana caught Caine's large wrist--which was supposed to deliver a strike to rend her skull in twain--in her delicate palm. The elf, who was barely a third of the berserker's size, caught and held him like an adult would a child with a tantrum. She released a pulse of dragonfire that seared the skin of Caine's forearm from wrist to elbow, her grip tightening. "Do you feel it? What it's like to be powerless? That's how I felt when barbarians like you," this word was punctuated with a burning look at the Legion symbol on Caine's armor, "Came into my village and killed our men...defiled our women...defiled me..."

The Child looked to be on the verge of tears when she raised her sword in a strike that would cleave Caine in half. A spectral hawk the size of a hound tackled Mikana away at the last moment though, freeing up the damaged berserker. A few meters away the sorcerous harpy Qinn nodded at Caine and flew up to engage the enemy spellcasters. Gillias was still being beaten back by the other Child.


Even burning at a feverish rate, the lamian cultist only cackled and fought on, as though the pain of being burned alive was something to be celebrated. He was going to strike at the nightmarian bitch who broke his bones when she fled. Ourusse turned his burning gaze on Duran and the wolf, smiling the smile of a maniac, he simply waved at the druid before disappearing into thin air. High above, one of the arcanists completed the spell that made the flaming Child invisible before being summarily slammed by a lash of green fire. Quinn screeched and dove at the other red-robed enemy, tearing rents in their flesh with sharpened talons.

Two more Children ran from the forest behind Duran to attack, brandishing longswords and spitting fire.


Her target having flown away, the Child turned her blade on Iriana. A sudden thought struck her...a very odd one. Why wouldn't she want to attack a heret-- "Die!" The thought ended abruptly as Iriana's mace splattered the Child's skull. Neira's target was caught completely unawares, neck snapping like a dry twig in winter. Despite empowered bodies, anatomy still held true, as did weak points of the human body. An absurdly large harpy of a Child oriented on keeping Iriana busy as the other two cultists focused fire on Neira. Quite literally. One jumped high and the other came in at ground level firing draconic heat on the nightmarian. They had taken her wings into account and nullified any avenue of escape bar one: Backing up.

That hope was quashed instantly when the martyred lamia, still somehow in one, flaming piece, appeared behind Neira with his arms outspread to engulf her in a deadly embrace. Do nightmarians feel fear? Ourusse thought in the moment before he would end Neira's life. His query would never be answered despite it's interesting premise. Head, legs and tail seperated from torso in an instant, the body parts splashing to the mud with a sizzle. A dark blur flashed past Neira to plant itself in front of her. The dragonfire parted around the silhouetted figure for a long moment before guttering out. The Children furrowed their brows in confusion. Thanaros, the same orc that had spoken to her at the bar, rose from his crouch with polearm in hand. Without looking back he said, "I'm glad you took my advice. Even more so to find a fellow praticioner of the Power Within. I would like to speak with you more on this later."

His voice was hollow and level, but his words were spoken with the conviction of a man who knew only fact. Not presumptuous hope. The battlemind focused his psionic power in his muscles and moved with preternatural speed once more to bear down upon one of the enemies. The other widened her eyes, glinting with fear, and charged at Neira without a second glance at the battle-numbed orc mutilating her companion.


Sid cranked the last bolt into her wallarmbrust and loosed a string of curses of such vehemence Neira would've been impressed. She looked back at Hokunn and Laila were propped up against the rock, both badly wounded. The male elf had been disemboweled and was fighting to keep his innerts inside his stomach. It was a miracle he was till conscious. Returning to the battle, the halfling aimed at one of the arcane Children intending to take them out of the fight...but thought better of it. Instead Sid took the legs out from under an advancing orc Child. The enemy noticed that Sid's squad was doing the most damage and was surrounding them. Even more had wormed their way out of the woodwork, Achiru counting sixty or more before flying off to aid his fellow harpy against the floating spellcasters.

"Dead gods above, why is this happening? We weren't supposed to be involved in anything like this. We're going to die..." Sid had intended the comment to be fore herself, but it carried above the rain to every nearby legionnaire. Beelzes scowled at this and, peering past her shades, motioned for Faera to look at the inexorable approach of the Children of Fire's battle line. "I will handle the groups. My patron gives me many spells that bring mass pain. You try to ward us against those who had broken the line...like the trio upon your sister." With nothing more to say the warlock made a slicing gesture with her hands at the nearest group of enemies. Four of the six fell to the ground clutching bloody gashes that had opened up across their bodies.

The halfling Talae had struck with her thrown knife hissed an unintelligible curse which devolved into a scream when the flasks broke against his open wounds. The harpy Child swerved in midair to avoid the projectile and moved to attack Faera. The halfling was blinded and slashing wildly with his own weapon, and was stunned when he was tripped and stabbed repeatedly. The feeling in his legs was gone...arms too...all the cultist could do was growl in frustration as he lay bleeding on the rock. Dark elves, however, were more refined in their technique. The new Child raked at Talae with her longsword with methodical strikes and parries until she finally landed a blow. With a laugh the white-robed dark elf allowed the flask to splatter on her targe and rushed Talae with blinding speed. Bladed shield--one steeped with Talae's poison now--coming in high, sword sweeping low for a flawless trap. With Kisikoni now at her back, the legionnaire dark elf would have nowhere to go without bowling him over. Taking advantage of the situation the Child sucked in a breath to engulf them both in a fiery conflageration.

The end of a dagger slid out of the cultist's glowing throat, wrenched up and sent the dargonfire spewing harmlessly into the air. The weapon, now warped with heat was withdrawn and an ebon-covered hand wrapped around the dark elf's neck and gave another hard tug. The neck snapped audibly and her body dropped to the ground limp. Above the corpse, with one arm gray and lifeless, Wrath glared at Talae as if she had done something wrong. Without a word he stalked off toward Sid. Laying a hand on the halfling's shoulder, every symbol upon each legionnaire's armor began to glow red. The commnader proclaimed loudly, "We're leaving! Thirty seconds to prepare for the translocation!" All wearing the armor of the Legion would be able to hear his call...hopefully they would still be alive in thirty seconds.

Sid nodded, slapping the dragon skull symbol on her chest so it turned blue. Beelzes and the half-concious Hokunn did the same, the elf also smacking Laila's mark. Across the field beset by hostiles on all sides, Iriana, Ferka and Thanaros engaged the magic that would allow them to be taken when the spell was ready. The trio had formed a circle back-to-back, including Neira in it. Above the melee the arcanists hurled bolts of force that were only narrowly dodged by the harpy legionnaires. Each took a preicous moment to activate their own runes and resumed keeping the spellcasters occupied with charms and arrows.

25 Seconds remained, and seven Children leaped up on to the rock and looked for targets.


Finally. Having been skulking in the mud and leaves for the entirety of the battle, Pel Mekillot, another halfling in Sid's squad, halted in the shadows of a high tree a few feet from the Children holding Mercy hostage. Using her hands she made an intricat shape and blew through it, mimicking the low chitter of a spider. Hoping to catch Mercy's eye, the halfling gave an unconvincing smile and mimed her unbinding the nightmarian. All that was left was to think of how to do so while not getting killed by the sary looking elf...with a narrow time limit.

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Kill, Kill, Kill

Pain. A searing pain engulfed his arm, causing him to drop the saber on reaction alone. Caine howled in a mixture of pain, agony, and rage. He was slowly beginning to lose himself to the red haze. He snarled as the the Child spoke to him. As she spoke down to him, holding him like he was some errant infant. The thought made Caine rage, a mixture of pain and anger. He wanted her dead. He wanted her dead, now. She spoke of things. Of defiling her village, of defiling her. She had called him a barbarian, which sent a streak of anger into his eyes. He tilted up his head and looked down his nose at her. If this was to be his last moment, then dammit, it was going to be a defiant one. He growled, "I am no barbarian... I am a human." He said simply and locked eyes with the child. He was not about to give her the satisfaction of fear, of doubt, of weakness.

Then she was gone. The had been tackled by something, a bird perhaps? He scanned around looking for some sort of clue as to his savior. He was answered by a nod from a nearby harpy as she flew up to meet some airborne attacker. Now free, Caine cradled his scorched arm. Weary of his injuries, he knelt and picked up the saber he had dropped with his opposite, his left hand. While his right hand was the main hand, he was still proficient enough with this left. Though it still put him at a disadvantage. Held the saber with one hand, extended to fend off attackers and hugged his injured arm close to his chest to avoid further injury.

The attack, the relative ease he was injured and the helplessness he had felt came in waves. However, each wave only angered him further. He felt weakened, and that made him mad. He had been rendered helpless for moments, and that provoked the beast within. Caine's anger welled and raged within in a maelstrom. If he had been uninjured, there was a good chance that he would have just lost himself and given in to the torrent. Yet, he knew better. To lose himself now would mean certain death. Now was not the time for blunt rage, but cold ruthlessness.

His berserker torrent had died down and warped into a cold fury. He had to think, he had to keep his wits about him. He straightened out, became aware of the battle that surrounded him. He became aware that he was on the losing side. He grimaced, he hated losing and losing here would certainly mean death... Or worse. He spun the saber in his left hand confidently, effectively throwing a big middle finger to fate and holding the sword blade downwards, a defensive stance to be sure.

"We're leaving! Thirty seconds to prepare for the translocation!" He heard. He had no idea what translocation was, but he had seen other Legionnaires tapping the emblem on their armor, a feat Caine replicated with his injured arm. A burst of pain surged through the arm and threatened to engulf Caine once more in a Berserker's embrace. But thirty seconds... What could he do in thirty seconds? He glanced over at the Child who had threatened him earlier... Of course.

He skirted across to the Child, steps more sure and less boisterous than they had been in his wrath. He arrived at her side as she writhed on the ground, confused. He stood above her and stared down. An urge to kill her right now with a simple flick of his wrist. No, not that way, not yet. He stood, and spoke in a voice devoid of anger, a feat not easily accomplished. "I am a human," He repeated, "I defiled nothing. You," He began again, looking down at the Child. Their roles were reversed. Now it was him who looked down upon the grounded child. It was him who held the upper hand. However, he held no joy or pride in this fact. Caine's next words held hints of an overlying fury, the origins of his title of berserker, "It was you who took my Liera from me. For that alone, I'll kill every single damn one of you." With that, a wet squelch punctuated the sentence. He had stabbed the Child in throat in a fit of rage at the memory of this Liera. As he ripped the saber out of the slain child's throat, a spatter of blood landed on his scarred cheek.

He spun on his heels and began to walk. The walk turned to a run. The run to a sprint. In his cold mind, he began to think more rationally. He only had a few seconds left before the Translocation took place. What could he do in such little time? Surely he couldn't kill all of the children... But perhaps. Perhaps he could help some of the others survive the next few seconds... He was near Iriana, the Lamia who he had wished the best during the fight and two Orcs, Ferka and Thanaros, as well as the nightmarian Neira included. As he ran to the group who had backed up in a circle formation, he leaned to his left and hamstringed a Child from behind who was threatening the them, dropping the cultist to the ground in an instant and used the hole by sliding into the their formation, adding his strength to theirs, and making the four, five.

He leaned slightly on the Lamia and an Orc, still hugging himself with his injured arm. He pulled the saber across his chest, the blunted side of the blade running the length of his forearm and held in a defensive manner. He spoke in a gruff and tired manner, but still held the edge of dark humor and sarcasm, "How are we this evenin' ?" He asked those who's formation he had slid in, "Hope ya don't mind me cuttin' in like this." He said, a pun on the fact that he did, in fact, cut in, evidenced by the Child clutching the back of it's leg.

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There were those, Talae knew, who could, in the heat of battle, successfully narrow their focus to encompass only that which was absolutely necessary. They could cull the flow of sensory information with little repercussion, and their minds became little but tactical weaponry of their own kinds. Caine was like this, to an extent, and she had known others like him, to a lesser degree.

She was not. Her senses, sharper than most, were of the utmost importance in the dark home of her race, but here, in open combat, with bodies moving and weapons clashing all about, it was difficult to focus. The din hurt her ears, the constant motion begged her eye to be drawn, and she had to force herself to ignore what occurred in her peripherals unless it was immediately pressing. She could only imagine what Faera, deprived of sight and thus forced to compensate by relying heavily on the other senses available to her, was dealing with.

But though sound smell and sight might be troublesome, she could not allow herself to be so easily moved from her own task as to check on her sister. Rather than acknowledge Kisikoni's statement, she simply took his advice, resetting her focus on the enemies before her with grim determination. The halfling was near-fully debilitated; she was almost of a mind to end it mercifully, and soon. She was forced away from this course of action, however, by the realization that throwing acid at the elf's targe was a poor idea. Granted, the acid bit into and corroded the shield's surface, but not nearly fast enough that it was not a threat to her own health, and that of the man behind her as well.

She was cornered, and she well knew it- backing up could throw Kisikoni off his balance enough that it would end both of them, and she had no desire to be responsible for that. Instead, she slid one of her backup knives- the melee kind, not the throwing sort- from her left boot and decided to do what she could, come what may. The halfling, she ended with a well-placed slice to the throat, glad at least that his screaming would cease as a result. She was about to jump- despite the pain her acid caused, she was more likely to survive a blow from the targe than the sword- when the woman fell, leaving the captain in her place.

She did not understand why this man despised her so, though she had surmised it had something to do with her profession. A good guess was that someone he'd known had been killed by one such as herself, but she refused to be bothered about it. Her job was her job, and she did what she was paid to do, which in this case seemed to be retreating if the odd signaling mechanism were anything to go by. Observing the general pattern in the behavior of those around her, she too hit she red crest, which turned it blue.

Of course, thirty seconds could be quite a long time in the right situations, and she had a feeling this might be one of those. She could do nothing about the Children spellcasters- she had not even known that such things existed- as they were well out of range. Still, it wasn't as though they were about to run out of things to narrowly-avoid-being-killed-by down here either. That thought in mind, she parried the incoming thrust of a spear directed at her by an orcish Child who had apparently decided she made the best target. Talae, despite the ridiculous amounts of adrenaline setting her nerves on fire, retained the presence of mind to roll her eyes. The large ones always thought she made an easy target- why was that?

Ducking the next stroke and rolling clear, Talae contemplated her options for perhaps three of her precious remaining seconds before deciding that it was time to stop pretending she could fight melee and do what assassins did best- the unexpected, and the underhanded. Dashing abruptly for the nearest tree, she made full use of a dark elf's most unique trait- the ability to maintain a good grip on just about anything. The gauntlets and boots were actually a drawback here, but she was ascending so fast it didn't make a whole lot of difference. Pulling herself into a crouch atop a sturdy limb, she broke into a run, flinging herself off the limb with what probably looked like reckless abandon.

The orc, not having figured out what she was doing in sufficient time, was caught by surprise, and his stab went astray as Talae twisted, catlike, in the air, bracing herself for impact and hooking the business ends of her blades on the large humanoid's shoulders, her body weight only causing them to bite all the deeper. Immediately, he tried to throw her off, but before he could decide that backing into something solid was a smart idea (which it was) she relinquished the grip she had with her left hand and withdrew the third and final of her non-projectile knives, sinking it deep into the base of his neck at an upward angle that would surely hit his brain.

Her thirty seconds ended as she wrenched he blades from his shoulders, leaping lightly off him before he crashed to the ground.

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Faera could not see Beezles's gesture, but the words that accompanied them made her meaning obvious enough. Defense, right... Faera could do defense. Muttering softly under her breath, the elvish girl gathered the energies together that would form a rather impressive defensive barrier- albeit a temporary one. The short duration was offset by the fact that it only worked one way- a person could attack from within it, but not from without.

Her casting was interrupted though, when the wind of the harpy Child's passage caught her face. Sucking in air sharply, Faera hit the ground in just enough time to avoid the rake of sharp talons, clutching the spellshield carefully to her chest like a treasure that had to be protected. She had major problems now, though, she knew that much, and she quickly flung it at the two injured elves some distance beyond- one less worry, at least for a time. The spell would likely hold for no more than a minute, given its hasty construction.

She needed her arms back, though, to defend herself. As the harpy dove again, it was hit full in the face with an enraged wyrm, Zek having been most displeased to be so forcibly dislodged from her shoulder. As ineffective as such an assault would be unless the tiny dragonkin managed to get at its eyes, it bought her the time necessary to summon the ice to her fingertips once more, this time taking the risk that she'd hit something else and firing a direct spell straight upwards as she rolled and staggered to her feet. From the distinct shriek that followed, she judged that she had probably hit some part of the harpy's anatomy.

She heard the Captain's orders, and felt some kind of strange magic issuing from her armor. A... transport spell? Perhaps... she was not familiar enough with the properties of enchanted objects to say for sure, and she touched the crest on instinct alone, deciding that it would probably be best to keep Zek attached to her shoulder from this point forwards.

Thirty seconds... what could she possibly do with thirty seconds besides try and not get killed (or deafened, for that matter)? She knew more than a few of their number would require what treatment she could provide, but it was probably best to wait just a little longer for that. She heard a gathering of Children on a stone some distance away... or at least that's what it sounded like; footwear on stone, and not fighting, which meant Children. The Legionnaires were far too scant in number for such a number of them to be doing nothing.

Well... she supposed that was as good as anything else. Stone, stone... she wasn't very good with earth magics, and so as much as she would like to coax the rock to bind their feet and legs, she didn't think it would work very well. Her best option pragmatically unavailable, she settled for something less practical, but perhaps more damaging- if it hit anything. Gradually, Faera began drawing raindrops to herself, much as she had done with her first attack, only she did not freeze anything this time. Instead, she directed the orb of water (perhaps six feet in diameter) to hurtle past anyone else in its way and smack into the cluster. The force would not be life-threatening, but it would be disorienting enough to leave anyone affected on the ground for a bit, and the point was to stay alive for just a few more seconds, right? "Cannonball..." she mumbled under her breath.

Shortly afterward, time expired.

-=-


Neira grinned her satisfaction at that lovely wet breaking sound that human necks made, releasing the now-corpse without a second thought. It would seem her little mind-game had provided ample distraction for one of the others to make use of it, which was also perfectly adequate.

Of course, they were far from out of the woods yet, and when she was flanked by two Children, she swore a rather colorful kind of revenge against the traitorous back-alley whores they both called 'mother' and made to back up will all due haste when her antennae informed her that this, too was impossible. Swinging around, she caught sight of the lamia emerging from his concealment, apparently intent on taking her down with him.

She could not speak for her species, but the primal drive to end lives painfully with naught but her hands and her mind knew not what fear was- only surprise, and the desire that if she were to die, she would go down bathing in the blood of her foes. As it was, however, no such sentiments were necessary, for the burning blighter was soon enough replaced by a familiar face, this one clearly a stoic in the face of danger. It was really too bad they were on the same side- she loved screwing with the stoic ones the most.

She carelessly licked the blood and bile from her lips (humanoids of all kinds tasted terrible, but it was something of an unconscious habit), raising an eyebrow as he spoke. "Whatever you say, kiddo," she replied with a shrug, backing into a defensive circle with the other Legionnaires in her area. She had a habit- some would say an annoying one, not that she cared- to bestow rather diminutive nicknames on the people she didn't hate quite as much as everyone else. Well, that or the ones she hated more, but those were usually not the monikers of polite conversation.

The call for thirty seconds came, and Neira issued an exaggerated sigh, tapping the sigil emblazoned upon her armor. "It was just getting good, too... here's an idea. Anyone who can take down one of these suckers in thirty seconds gets a drink at the next tavern we hit- on me, of course. Unless I do it first, of course. They have to be fresh, though... not fun eating scraps, hm?"

With these... slightly less-than-sane words, Neira picked her own target: an eleven child with a hand axe. "You'll do nicely," she told him with a wicked smile, launching herself into the air and deciding that a roundhouse kick to the head really was her favorite way to start a match. From there forward, it was much the same as always- find new and creative methods to pummel and skewer, all the while avoiding those sharp bits of steel that some people liked to use to slice others to ribbons. Pah.

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Laeral, Boulon Brother's Inn

Illeyssa blinked. In a rush the sounds, smells and warmth of the gathering room washed over her senses in strong waves. Warm and freshly made meals mixed with the aroma of ale and other spirits. The sounds of laughter, crashing mugs and the uneven paces of footsteps paraded around her. The roughly cut wooden table and the warm air pressing at her skin welcomed her with both discomfort and safety. Hey eyes adjusted as if shut away in the darkness of a cellar for the night and she registered shapes and blurred figures about her. She felt the air slipping in and out of her lungs, calm steady breaths through the nose as she blinked again, trying to bring the world into focus.

Silvyar sat close to her right, leaning over the table, practically draping herself over her own shoulders, "Shawoman?"

"I am fine apprentice..." She slowed down and looked around the room. Dormund was leaning close to a wall near a smudged window, the sky beside him a picture gray as the signs of rain tapped against it. Looking around something seemed, wrong. "Where are Brack and Gormun?"

Her apprentice shifted, "You were in one of your trances Shawoman, and I couldn't take the chances of your prediction to bear so I informed the two brothers that they should go out and make sure the land was saf--"

The sound of the slap called across the room and many of the patrons close by stopped, in their silence those that didn't notice looked over to see a tattooed orc female standing over the sprawled form of another orc female, the first of which had her hand raised.

Illeyssa felt the tingle of where her skin had collided as what little angelic power that was there slipped back under her skin. Her apprentice stared wide eyed and with fear stitched into her face, one hand softly touching where she was struck.

"You have killed them, broken my trust, and discussed events that were not in your right to discuss!" Her voice was cold, no anger mixed with it and her voice did not raise into a shout, yet each word hung with the weight of an anvil in the silence.

"Shawoman, I didn't-"

"You will speak when I say so. I fear i have been to easy on a girl like you, thinking just because you may have the gift meant you knew what was expected of you. Silvyar Fornest until a future time is spoken you are stripped of your privilege as my apprentice."

"Sha-"

"You have no right to speak to me like my pupil anymore girl. You have set into motion things you will never understand. We are done here. Dormund, send out a worg and find us a path back to the Tribe. As for you." Her eyes stared down at the other, a soft green edge setting into them, "May the knowledge that you have sent two capable and strong warriors to their deaths. No. That you sent your brothers to their deaths. And from now until you can bear their presence on your shoulders will it haunt you."

Illeyssa moved off and away from Silvyar, leaving the girl with tears in her eyes where she lay without bothering to wait. Dormund moved to the door before her to open it and she stepped out into the cold wit little care. All the work she could have done here was lost.



Brack reached the edge of the forest first, back hitting the bark of the tree as he looked around, eyes sweeping left and right to make sure everything was clear as he rushed forwards. Dormund pushing ahead to a tree further in to scan again. Both their weapons were in their hands and ready as they pushed into the unknown. Minds worried of the news Silvyar had given them, from what they assumed was from their Shawoman. Unaware of the damage done by their action.

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#, as written by Aythr
"Shit."

It was the only word that entered Duran's mind as the flaming lamia disappeared. He was sure he had the upper hand, since he had been informed that The Children had none. There were a few possibilities that crossed his mind. They had either learned magic or they had enlisted itm. This was no time to think about who was flinging the spells, however. Duran was beginning to smell charred flesh, and a thought occurred: If a human could smell a burning cultist, a wolf would undoubtedly smell one. No sooner than he realized this did the cultist reappear only to be cut to ribbons by one of the orcs from the legion. Immediately, Goma set Duran on edge as she turned around and started barking at a couple of incoming cultists.

"They're everywhere." Duran thought out loud.

They were coming from all angles as far Duran could tell; the forest, the grass, even from the sky it seemed. There were dead and dying in all directions, casualties on both sides, but it looked bad for the legion. Realistically assuming that The Children didn't keep prisoners, they would probably all be dead in five or so minutes. No sooner had he thought about their remaining life expectancy did the captain yell,

"We're leaving! Thirty seconds to prepare for the translocation!"

Duran turned just in time to see Wrath tap the insignia on the armor, going from a red glow to a blue one. He immediately slapped his armor, and quickly leaned to Goma and tapped her underside to make sure it would work for her too. Duran was glad that he had thought so far as to equip him wolf with a set of the armor.

From this point on, the battle was not about winning or losing, but simply surviving. He had to live long enough for whatever magic that was going to happen actually did happen. His spell for fog immediately crossed his mind. If he blanketed the area, it would provide some cover for him and his fellow legionnaires. There were several potential complications, and Duran weighed them as quickly as he could in his mind.

If he did indeed drop a blanket of fog, everybody inside would be well protected from the sight of anybody outside; Legionnaires wouldn't get good shots at the Children inside, but the opposite was also true in the case of any spellcasters that may be left on the Children's side. Anyone inside the fog would not only be unable to see out, but see much farther than their own hand in front of their face while inside. With any luck, his fellow legionnaires would catch on, and would use the fog to evade any enemies for as long as they could until the translocation was ready.

He focused his gaze on the couple of incoming cultists as he invoked nature to come to his aid.

"Clouds to earth, from sky to ground, obscure the sight of those around!"

Immediately, a wall of thick fog erupted from beneath Duran and began to billow outwards and started to grow. It would take a moment to completely envelop the area, and Duran kept his spear and shield up to prepare for the worst as the distance closed between him and the two cultists.

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#, as written by Arke
The deep human's mind was in a haze. He stumbled at first, but after forcing himself to remember that he was in a battlefield, he focused just in time for a new Child to step into the fray- a bulky-looking elf that approached quickly. They were flowing in at a great pace- and at this rate Kisikoni would be torn to pieces. The Lamia had been a real pain in the ass- and there were more where he came from.

The Deep Human was busy contemplating a quick formula when a quick command interjected. "We're leaving! Thirty seconds to prepare for the translocation!"

He remembered his training at the camp, and quickly slapped the insignia. He looked quickly to see the symbol begin to glow blue. He looked up, and the elf had drawn a rapier. The Elf opened up with a fireball, which Kisikoni dodged by throwing himself to the side. Hitting the dirt, he scrambled to his feet and managed to catch the rapier that jabbed at his chest. Deflecting it, the deep human tried to get in close but the elf danced away. Suddenly, a thick fog engulfed the field. He could barely see a thing.

"Shit. Shit. SHIT." Kisikoni cursed, blindly looking around. He was already having trouble seeing through with the blows the Lamia had rained on his head, but now he couldn't see an inch from his face. Kisikoni tried to use his ears, which were important in the tunnels because often light was absent underground, but the sounds of battle drowned out any distinct noises. He tried to smell, but all he could smell was his own blood. All he could do was wait until his thirty seconds expired and he could leave.

He faintly heard Neira the Nightmarian shout something, but he could hardly hear it. Suddenly, the fresh elf lashed from the side, bringing the rapier swinging across. The sound of the blade cutting through the fog was close enough for Kisikoni to react, but instead of dodging it and leaving the Elf clueless, he blocked it. He instantly knew he was in danger. The rapier's blade snaked around the short blade of his butterfly sword, and nicked his upper cheek. This filthy fog had rendered Kisikoni completely useless, and all he could do was try to back away- but the Elf followed him. After beating down a strong Lamia child, he was pretty drained and clumsy. The rapier darted out of the haze once more. Kisikoni deflected it again, and caught the blade. Driving the swords down the length of the rapier, he tackled the elf to the ground. Rolling around, he was forced into submission as the calm Child knocked him off and rolled upright, slashing at the downed Deep Human. The blade raked up the leather armor, the Child's unnatural strength slicing the fibers and leaving a nice wound on his chest. It wasn't deep, as the Rapier didn't reach too far, but as the blade came up and around into a stabbing motion, Kisikoni rolled over and narrowly dodged the blade- just as thirty seconds came to an end.




The Nightmarian Spider heard the sounds of combat grow desperate. Very faint cries and roars of magic could be heard. But the most stunning of them all, was the faint chittering of a spider. Slowly, her voluminous red eyes turned and regarded the untrustworthy-looking halfling that was only a few feet away. She blinked once, then turned her head back.

Wasn't the worst way to be rescued, but at least somebody was trying. She'd been dying to get back at that filthy elf for talking down on her, the pervert. Her arms moved slightly as she lifted her bound arms just a tad to allow the halfling an easier time to untie the bonds. She had no weapons save for her webbing, fangs and poison, but that really should be all what the spider needed.

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#, as written by Smith
Jurial Plains

"Time's up." With a small flash of light each legionnaire was whisked away by virtue of their enchanted suits. One by one in rapid succession those who had taken the time to activate the rune of translocation upon their breast was teleported to the designated meeting place of the Legion. Wrath and Sid were the first to go. Then those closest to their position. Faera was gone before the harpy, who had managed to avoid her counter attack gouged out her eyes. It would have been a futile gesture anyway. Kisikoni was kicked hard in the ribs by yet another Child arriving on the scene who had stumbled upon the deep human before his rune activated. By the grace of sheer luck, Talae was gone before the fire ball that Kisikoni had so narrowly avoided exploded where she had been standing only seconds prior.

All those within the defensive circle on the forest edge vanished summarily. When the magic permeated the air Ferka's eyes widened and the orc cried out in dismay. Thanaros realized the cause of her concern and looked to their brother, who was still on the ground prone in the center of their circle...his rune still red. He pushed his psionic augmentation to it's limits and boosted his natural speed to reach Junte. His hand was a hair's bredth away when he was wrenched away from the field by the magic that had saved the legion, and condemned his brother.


"Oh fuck it." Pel muttered a prayer to her patron angel for a boon of speed and charged from concealment directly at the three Children guarding her target objective. With her newfound alacrity the pretty young halfling dashed below and hopped over the drawn weapons of cursing Children. She made a great leap, stomping on the face of a particularly angry elf and landed on Mercy's abdomen. As the energies of the spell worked to bring Pel away from that place, the halfling shot up two middle fingers. "Peace!"

Then Pel, and the nightmarian she had anchored herself to, were gone. Zakair roared into the rain and reduced the nearest of his subordinates to cinders in his rage. When he moved to survey the field of battle, he stared down at a blue-haired elf girl with her throat cut. Zakair's eyes softened and he stroked her cheek. Without looking away, he called to the arcanites who were floating down from the sky. "Heal Mikana...heal my daughter."


Jurial Plains, North-Ridge

The legionnaires found themselves sprawled out on the floor within a large stone basin. It's interior was inlaid with runes that glowed faintly in time with those on their armor before both guttered out. Wrath stood slowly, shaking off the disorienting sickness that accompanied teleportation spells and moved to meet the thirty black-plated knights guarding the portal. "Liu-Wen, Wrath, captain of the Fortieth legion. We were ambushed. Given incorrect or outdated intel. Forced to retreat. Are there any other legions in the camp?"

A knight of the Legion stepped forward, removing her helm. A human with blonde hair that spilled out over her armor. She stared at the captain for a long while before answering. "Your identity is confirmed. No sir, thre are no other legions present, so the luxury portions of the camp are open to you until a higher ranking officer arrives." Creasing her brow, she hastily added. "General Derenthi was here earlier. He had need of the healers stationed here, so your troops will have to wait until tommorow when the new clerics arrive for aid. Captain Mercy, please, feel free to make use of the commander's tent in the center of camp. Drinks have been prepared for your arrival."

Wrath's lips tightened to a thin line. It was obvious he was angry. Very angry. Yet, the man simply smoothed out his ruffled hair and nodded. "Thank you."

Sid, having regained her footing, helped Wrath in helping the other members of their battered troop to their temporary quarters. Outside of the portal building, a camp of fourty or so tents of varying sizes was arrayed before them. It was raining here too. Wrath lead them to the center of a ring of good sized tents and made the troops stand in the rain while he took stock. Sid bowed her head in silence, Iriana, Quinn, Beelzes and Achiru followed suit. Thanaros simply looked into the gray sky with a grim expression, as Ferka wailed in sorrow.

"Private Eyegouger. Scout O'uneiran. Recruit Veldrin. Killed in action. We will remember. Private First-Class Junte Hellstriker. Missing in action. We will remember." Wrath lowered his eyes for a moment of silence, then snapped to attention. "Those with heavy wounds, report to sargeant Mellikot. I can deal with light wounds. If you are simply bruised or tired get to a tent and get some rest..."

Achiru and Quinn were immediately dismissed, as the harpies had surprisingly few burns for those who had done battle with srocerers. They retreated to a tent together talking about the battle in low tones. Ferka and Thanaros were similarly sent away without healing, having only suffered minor cuts and bruises. Thanaros looked completely drained and walked away to sit down cross-legged in the rain watching the healing as his sister disappeared into a dark tent. Beelzes had suffered a deep cut in her side, but if the deep human was troubled by it, she gave no indication. Pel administered holy rejuvinative magicks to her and Hokunn...she layed the elf in a tent out of the rain and bandaged the damage on his stomach she could not heal. It was unclear of whether the elf would survive the night. The same could be said for Laila, as her burns were severe.

With a sigh Pel slapped a hand on Caine's burnt wrist and poured healing magic into it. "Don't let them grab you dolt! Didn't they teach you anything in boot camp?" The wounded flesh shifted from puffy and red to a pale, slightly bloated scar. "The swelling will go down in a couple days." As Caine would get up to leave, Sid patted his leg and whispered a word of encouragement. Kisikoni was next for healing. Four broken ribs and a fractured skull. No concussion though..."Stop squirmin' ya skinny little..." Pel got a look at his face and paused mid-sentence. "Hunk of man...erm. Yeah..." several prayers set the bones back in place and mended Kisikoni's bones. "Just don't move around too much until tommorow...uh..." Before he could get up to go to a tent though, the buxom halfling squeezed Kisikoni's hand. "Although, if you stop by my tent I could be inclined to go against that advice..." with that in the air she let the deep human go. Pel sagged slightly, wiping the streaking makeup from her heart-shaped face and shuffling to her tent for some rest.

"Neira...go on. Duran...you should have enough magic to heal what petty damage you've suffered. Gilleas, just some bruises. Good to go." Wrath inspected each soldier in turn and dismissed them almost immediately depending on their state. As Faera walked up he smiled faintly. "I'm glad you aren't dead, mageling. Unscathed as well." his eyes met those of the darkling's drake familiar. "It seems even you got your claws bloody..so to speak. You may go sit down in the tent on you six' and wait for your sister." As Talae was called up to sit in front of him, the last to be healed, his smiled waned only slightly. A palm was gently placed against the rent flesh in Talae's side. The same hand that had been all but dead a short while ago, was now fully colored and moving. "Talk to Sid or Caine tommorow. Learn to use heavier weapons...it's a little too obvious that you are new to warfare tactics." Before any response could be raised Wrath spoke a children's rhyme and white magic pulled the darkling's flesh back together, leaving only a thin gray scar. "And I am sorry for the way I looked at you earlier."

Without any explanation the captain arose, stretched and went off to his own tent. He did not even glance at the bed as he shed his sodden clothing. Donning a thin cloth vestment and cotton pants, Wrath sat at a desk provided by the Legion and began his report. There was a fair bit he wished to relay, and even more he wanted relayed back.


Back at the battlefield, all was silent. The Children had moved on and only the steady rain provided a break in the rhythym of the forest. A body stirred, pushing itself up from the muck with a groan. Yanis moved to rub his throbbing head and yowled in pain when his forehead bumped the stump that was his wrist. That's right...lost that thing. Ow...

The halfling legionnaire used his remaining hand to pick up a nearby shortsword and slung it in his belt. He turned towards the forest. Gotta reach the tower...have to warn the Legion. Yaris was wlking unsteadily towards his destination soon after. A pair of orcs were hot on his trail, not that he would know anything of that.

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Jurial Plains: Circle Formation

Legionnaires were beginning to be whisked away one by one by the magic of their armor. It seemed that they would make it out alive after all... Most of them anyway. Caine glanced to the orc at his side and saw him break the formation and slip into the circle, heading to another, prone orc. The emblem on his armor, it was unactivated. Caine felt another wave of helplessness. He only managed to slide his shoulder slightly before he was whisked off as well. He did not see if the Orc, Thanaros, had made it to the other orc. He was gone, in a flash of light and a vague nausious feeling...

??? Sickness... Lost.

Caine had arrived to wherever the magic had taken them, sprawled out on the ground with the saber sticking out of the ground, blade first. He laid prone for a few moments, allowing the wave of nausea to pass. He then sat upright, and took stock. The circle he had been with before the translocation still seemed to be alive, except... The orc Thanaros was after was no where to be seen. A pit welled deep within Caine's being, another lost to the forsaken Children... He beat the ground at his knees with his uninjured arm, and cursed.

He then placed a hand on the buried saber and rested his head on the Pommel. It looked as if he was almost praying. And he was, but not to some God, but to someone else. Someone he had lost. Anyone could hear him, and most likely they did. Everything the Berserker did wasn't subtle. He spoke, "I'm sorry Liera. I know this isn't what we promised each other... I'm sorry. I've gotten three more, and there is more to come..." He said, speaking the woman he mentioned in the fight with the Child. He glanced at the Orcs who had lost their partner, and added something else to his prayer, "Please, look over the allies we lost today..." He said, finishing and placing his saber back in the loop. A bit difficult considering the loop was placed for his right hand to sheath it. His right hand still hugged closely to his chest, finally feeling the pain and weariness rushing into him. The burn throbbed with every beat of his heart and every breath of his lungs... That was nice.

The berserker then grew solemn as he followed the rest of the legion into the circle of tents. He was positioned beside Thanaros, the orc who had tried to save his partner... Caine said nothing as he just placed his uninjured hand on the man's shoulder... And squeezed slightly. It was a knowing hand, knowing the loss of family and loved ones. He too looked up at the gray sky as the rain fell. As if the heaven's themselves were crying. And perhaps... Perhaps somewhere up there was Liera, looking after him... He shook his head after the procession. He was becoming soft. Becoming soft would get him killed and he knew it, but it was nice to feel again...

When Pel slapped his arm, Caine froze in pain and clenched his teeth together, flaring up his temper. He wanted to yell at the halfling but thought against it... The girl was healing him, after all. Instead, he merely grunted. He took the halflling's remark on the chin and shook his head yes, only saying, "They're quick." The arm was swollen and red, but the burn was gone and only a vague throbbing remained. A scar was still present, to which Caine looked over and sighed, muttering, "Oh goody.. Another one. It's not like I don't have enough." He nodded to Pel in thanks and patted Sid's shoulder in return for the encouragement she provided. Outside, Caine looked up at the sky once more... Still gray. Still raining... Fitting, considering the mood of the camp had turned somber.

Caine looked around, wondering what to do next. He paused outside of the tent and rubbed his healed arm. Giving up, he went to the center of the Tents, found a bench, and just sat. Sat and thought. He was still alive, and he had survived. Everytime he entered a frenzy, he fully expected to die. Just like he expected to die when the Child held his scorched arm and prepared to end him right there. Luck. That was all it was, luck, that the harpy managed to spot him in time to save him. Just a few seconds later and they would have said his name at the procession. He beat his now healed hand on the bench beside him in anger. He was useless in the grip of the child. They had lost people, friends, family, comrades, and he lived. By all rights, he should be dead too, why was he the one blessed enough to survive and the Halfling wasn't? Why did he make it out, and the orc was left behind? He hit the bench again, angry, pissed off at the world, at the children. At himself.

He leaned back, tired.. Sore. Mad... He'd have to make it up the next time he face the children... How many had they lost? Four? Then four children were to die by his hands... He hit the bench one final time, slightly cracking the wood.

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Talae had just enough time to wonder where on earth all this fog had come from before she was yanked from... well... here, and placed somewhere else. She staggered slightly on landing, but recovered well enough. She'd never been transported by such a method before, and her stomach informed her that she didn't much fancy doing it again... ever, if she could avoid it. Not that she was holding out hope. She cast her eyes over the group, counting the few heads that she knew and the fewer that she could profess to care about, relieved that everyone was there. She knew not all of the Legionnaires had made it, but this she had by now learned to accept as a matter of course.

There was always a moment, though, when she felt anxiety in the aftermath of a battle that she privately considered worse than the combat itself. It was an instant of panic, as she sorted through the faces presented to her sight and sought the one she would never be able to accept losing. Most of the time, it had been less necessary- Faera then had been but a healer,and was to be found without fail tending the injured in the wake of someone else's destruction. Now, though... now she knew she would have to accept that the possibility of not being able to find the one piece of familiarity she allowed herself. It was daunting.

She noted the Captain's irritation and wondered if perhaps the intelligence had been bad after all. Well, obviously it was bad, because they'd walked right into more Children than they could handle, and certainly more than anyone had seemed to expect. Was it mere incompetence, then, or something more sinister? It was in her nature to suspect the worst; it tended to keep a person alive. Still, there was nothing but idle speculation to go on, now, and so she dismissed the train of thought and filed into the camp area behind the rest. Studying the gash on her side, which was beginning to properly hurt now, she considered just having Fae deal with it, but decided that it would be an unnecessary burden. She'd barely been able to stand after her first battle, let alone do anything that required as much energy as magic.

She'd also been more than a bit traumatized, and though she had long since lost the majority of her sensitivity towards such matters, she did have enough of a soul to wonder with something approaching sympathy how many of her fellows were suffering that shell-shocked sensation at the moment. Talae filed silently into the line for lighter injuries, figuring that though it hurt like hell, it was far from life-threatening unless it got infected or something.

The pain receded, and she exhaled with relief. There was a scar, but she hardly could be bothered to care about that. "Talk to Sid or Caine tommorow. Learn to use heavier weapons...it's a little too obvious that you are new to warfare tactics." Talae simply nodded. Tell me something I do not know. Though he could not have heard the thought, the Captain's apology certainly qualified, and she blinked, the faintest traces of surprise appearing on her face.

"If looks could do harm, I would have died long ago," she replied with a hint of wryness. "Think nothing of it."

---

Talae considered making her way to the tent she'd been assigned immediately, but ultimately decided against it. She was weary, but not in the sort of way that meant she was likely to sleep anytime soon. Also... seeking her sister's company would probably mean that she'd have to help the younger one sift through her experiences- and she really couldn't do that just yet. It would mean, in all likelihood, a recounting of the first time she'd fought and killed someone, and that stood out among her subsequent experiences as a particularly ugly thing.

She glanced around camp; most people seemed to be going about their business or off in their own little worlds. She did not begrudge them this; as long as they stood up again and kept marching the next time, it probably shouldn't matter at all. Caine appeared to be having a minor fit from where he sat atop a nearby bench, and she sighed inwardly. She knew a little of the man- scant details, really, but enough to guess what he was thinking. It wasn't as though he were exactly subtle with it.

"Survivor's guilt?" though it was ostensibly inflected as such, it was not really a question. she stood with arm crossed, though otherwise she could have been talking about the weather for all her inflection. "It's still as useless as it was last time I told you so." She knew she wasn't helping, so she broached a more neutral, useful topic. "Boss says I have to learn to fight melee. I don't suppose you'd be willing to do an old comrade a favor and make sure I don't kill myself trying?" A white eyebrow forms a perfect arch over a red eye, and she plants herself at the other end of the bench, there to listen if he desires to speak. She wasn't good with advice- never had been, but that didn't mean she couldn't listen.

If he refused, she could always go to Sid, but she had a feeling the Lieutenant had more than enough problems on her hands already.

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Jurial Plains

The pair of brothers were making good time in the forest, their lives spent guarding the Shawoman insured they wouldn't fail or fall prey to some obvious detail. Moving in leap frog procession they stretched forwards, hiding behind trees and surveying their surroundings. The land smelled heavy of decaying plant life and wet earth. Other than their movements through leaves there was very little in the way of sound. Brack moved to lead again, taking three strides and stopping. His eyes looked down and he raised his right arm up, battle axe clenched in hand. The signal to stop. Not looking back to see if his brother saw he lowered his arm and hunkered himself down, making his large frame at least a bit smaller. His footsteps were slow and purposeful, war hammer sweeping through the brush and leaves in his way until they broke away into a clearing. Stopping at its edge his eyes traced up to the signs of battle. Soldiers and children lay on the ground, more soldiers than children but the fighting marred the earth and trees and told the picture clearly. The soldiers were trying to move out of the forest, the children disagreed, for whatever the reason.

Bending down now he looked around carefully, eyes trying to find hits or details to depict of any children might remain. A twig snapped behind him. In a moment he was up, war hammer drawing back over his head as his battle axe spun around, and stopped before hitting Dormund clean in the neck. Their eyes locked and the younger brother lowered his weapons, nodding towards the clearing. The pair moved out together, back to back and weapons up, ready for a surprise as they made their way to the center. Confirming they were alone they searched the battleground, noting where the enemies and allies fell and summarizing these soldiers were herded like cattle more likely than making a retreat at this point. Looking up at each other they nodded in agreement. They would explore further before returning to warn the Shawoman of what they saw. Eyes sweeping the trees around them they moved deeper into the forest, taking them further from the scene and leaving nature to handle with its clean up.

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#, as written by Aythr
Duran's fog spell came to fruition sooner than expected, as fog rolled over the road he was on. It would buy him some time. at least. He could hear rustling outside of the fog as whoever was outside of it made their way closer. immediately, one of the cultists' blades came flying through the fog, narrowly missing him thanks only to the fog that obscured it's sight. That was Goma's cue; nobody attacked her master and got away uninjured. She lept through the fog and disappeared, followed only a second later by the sound of a struggle. Duran rushed to the center of the commotion and found Goma atop a cultist, ripping through the flesh of the arm it put up to protect itself. Duran froze for but a second as he heard the sound of the cultist breathing in.

"GOMA! MOVE!"

Without hesitation, the wolf jumped off of the cultist, as a gout of fire blasted upwards where Goma's face had been. Duran could feel the heat from where he stood, and he knew that if Goma had stayed for even one instant longer, she'd have been caught in the flame and immolated. A rage from deep within festered and bubbled up to the surface. A hate the likes of which he had never felt gripped him, and he rushed in to deliver the killing blow to the cultist that had almost done the same to his beloved Goma. He lept through the air, his spear over his head, and came down on the cultist like crashing thunder. The instant before he felt the spear slide into flesh, however, he found himself in someplace he was not expecting to be in.

Duran landed on the ground with a thud, his spear still held in his hands as if he was poised to strike still. His head was spinning and his stomach churned. He immediately stumbled up and look around for Goma desperately. He saw her not but a few feet away, looking as puzzled as he was. He ran to her and inspected her head to paw for injuries. He gained his composure just in time to hear something about how there were no clerics available, which would surely complicate thing for the injured.




As Duran made his way into the camp, he thought about those that were not so lucky. He knew that it would happen, but he didn't know that the circumstances would be an ambush, which, it seemed, somebody should have known about before they set out on a mission that was sure to end in disaster. They had lost at least four in the battle, and it seemed that two were grievously injured. Duran couldn't find suitable emotions to react to what had happened. This is why he didn't want to get to know these people on the first night. This was the reason he slept outside. This is why he told nobody in his Order where he was going. People were sure to die. There was no "maybe" when it came down to a situation like this.

Duran felt guilty. He didn't know any of these people, but he felt powerless to help them. He was a druid. His healing magic was not nearly as potent as a cleric's magic. He could do nothing in a fight but cause some petty distractions. He could not wear heavy armor, he could not significantly heal the injured. What was he doing here? He had his reasons, but his revenge hardly seemed a worthy cause anymore.

"Duran...you should have enough magic to heal what petty damage you've suffered."

He couldn't look up. It was true; he hadn't suffered any injuries. No physical injuries at least. As soon as he was dismissed, he made his way to his tent with Goma. He sat down and looked her in the face and she whimpered.

"I don't know what I was thinking, girl. This is what I expected, but it's all so real. We survived today, but I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. This whole war...It just isn't right."

Goma responded with a soft nuzzle into Duran's chest as he pet her head.

Duran sighed and thought about his life. He worshiped nature, but more and more everyday, it seemed like nature was the problem with the world. The natural order of things was gone. The dragons sought to annihilate them all, and even if the other races managed to get rid of them, it would just go back to the race war between Primah and Civee. Balance was shattered, and there was no going back to the way things were.

Duran bowed his head, and prayed inwardly. He wasn't sure who he was praying to, or why, but he felt like it was the right thing to do.

"I don't know who's listening, but I know there is somebody or something out there. I just need to know that this is all for a reason. I can't just let this happen without justification. Just give anything you need to give to help me. A sign, a plan, a reason...the power to stop the bloodshed. The power to bring cessation to hostility. Don't do it for me. Do it for those that lay dying. Do it for those who have died. Do it for those that still live. I will give you whatever you need to bring my wish to life."

Duran opened his eyes once more, and lay down on the ground. Goma silently did the same, waiting for tomorrow, and presumably, another brush with death.

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Jurial Plains, North-Ridge

"Survivor's guilt?"

Caine looked up into the eyes of Talae, surprised to see her standing in front of him. He loosened up as the anger released it's grip on his mind. He was now leaning back, looking more relaxed than earlier. However, it wouldn't cover up his fit of rage moments ago. "Everytime," He said, coolly. "Everytime after battle, I'm somehow still alive, and others are dead. By all rights, I should be dead too." Caine said, shaking his head. "Must have a guardian angel watching over me," a cold smile cracked his scarred face. He looked up to the heaven's once more and mouthed the word Liera to himself

"It's still as useless as it was last time I told you so."

A rough, throaty laugh emanated from Caine. "Always useless," He agreed, "Nothing matters except what you do and how you act and how fast you do it," He tapped the saber at his side. "Feelings slow you down, guilt weakens your mind." He said, still rather coldly. "But..." He faltered for a moment. "Still never get used to the loss. Loss of friends, of comrades.. Of family. One moment they're here... then the next," he snapped, "They're gone." He said. He then looked into the eyes of the Dark Elf, solidly as ever, "Always keep your sister close... Always." He noted, a knowing tone clearly evident in his voice.

Tearing away from the somber mood he had set upon himself, rather savagely, he continued. "Four. We lost four today. Next time. I will personally take four out," He said, leaning back in cold anger. The glint in his eyes bespoke quiet confidence... He fully expected to take four Children to their graves next time.

"Boss says I have to learn to fight melee. I don't suppose you'd be willing to do an old comrade a favor and make sure I don't kill myself trying?"

A smirk tugged at the corner of his mouth. He pointed at where her knives would be, and spoke with a bemused tone, "Those flimsy things can only get you so far in a war... Sometime situations call for something a little more.. Rough," He said, tapping the saber again. However, this tap reminded him he had lost the longsword during the scuffle with the child.. He was going to have to get another replacement. He then rubbed his chin as he looked the Dark Elf over. Rather tall for an elf, but still small compared to Orcs or him. Wiry body that screamed assassin. "Right. Well, I wouldn't suggest an axe or hammer, to big and unwieldy for you. Need something that... complements your style. Hit and run." Caine said.

"I'd say light weapon, something quick and fast. Something you can move and dodge with. Wouldn't make sense to strap you down with a shield and block out your other... Specialties.." Assassinations and underhanded tactics. "But, you probably already know this. Go and get something you are comfortable with and come back and I'll see what I can do for you," He said. Although he looked like a meat-head, Caine was quite intelligent when he wasn't knee deep in blood and out of his mind in fury. Too bad was it was too often.

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Faera was deposited rather unceremoniously on the ground after the teleportation spell, not really having the ability to keep her balance under the nauseating spell-pressure. She was rather sensitive to things like that, and remained on the ground for a few moments longer than most of the others and clutching her stomach, breathing through her nose to fight the urge to vomit. Zek trilled in her ear, apparently concerned, and she fumbled for leverage on the ground, forcing herself up with care. Too much movement too fast at this point would simply be counterproductive.

When at last she was able to stand, she solemnly followed the others into the camp, thoughts roiling around in her head at speeds she dared not contemplated. She could still smell death, and the scent of it pressed upon her nose, bringing with it memories of the sounds she had learned to distinguish today- the slick puncture of a blade through flesh, the difference between a hiss of pain and a death rattle, between agony and despair. Things she had never thought to differentiate now seemed monumentally important in their significance; she could not help but think this as the Captain's voice named off the four dead.

She shivered involuntarily. Any one of those four could have been her. All four of them deserved it no more than she did, maybe less. And now they weren't there anymore, the lives they had led cut short, the people they had known left behind even as their own feet touched down on the last path they would ever have to travel, the journey to the beyond-life. Though she'd always been told that such a journey was peaceful, she didn't think it much comfort to those left behind in the wake of it, and she would dare not voice the thoughts aloud.

She thought about volunteering her assistance for healing also, but she realized that she was very weary indeed, and didn't honestly know if she would have the strength left. When it was her turn, she approached, fully intending to go ahead and help anyway, but found herself able to only offer a wan smile at the Captain's words. He told her she could use the tent behind her, but she didn't feel much inclined to be alone at the moment. Instead, she sought out the area where heavier healing was taking place and approached cautiously.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" she asked the halfling in charge. She could tell Beezles was here, and Leila, still injured. The smell of her burns made it obvious, really. "I'm not a master, but I've had a fair bit of practice..." she grimaced slightly, well-aware that the reason for this was that Talae seemed to get fairly injured in open-field combat situations.

-=-

Neira glanced around camp, looking for something to do. Her bloodlust had since faded, which meant that she was now bored. She wasn't one to waste the time and energy it took to mourn, but she was not quite so callus as to completely disregard anyone else's need to do the same, so she dismissed the idea of planting herself beside the chatty half-orc and listening to whatever he thought he wanted to say.

Besides, something was bothering her. She was unsure how many of the others had noticed or even cared, but she had, and for once she gave a damn about the answers. Granted, this was mostly because her own life was involved, but the reasons didn't really matter, did they? The Captain had disappeared into his tent, presumably to do whatever it was that officers did when they'd just had to beat a hasty retreat out of a hellhole of a situation that they had not expected to be in.

Well, might as well go directly to the top for the most accurate information, she figured. Plus, she was curious as to whether or not he was actually capable of speaking more than five words to her at any given time. It was probably- obviously- her species that did it, and while she cared not for the reasons, she was not going to deny that it might be rather amusing to confirm the hypothesis at the same time.

She made her approach obvious enough with sound, but one could not exactly knock on a tent, and she didn't give a damn anyway. Pushing aside the entrance flap, she noted that he was sitting at a desk, writing. Ah, reports. How dull.

Crossing her armored arms, Neira spoke bluntly and without wasting time. "Who hates your guts?" she asked, tone bored. "Because last time I checked, sending a bunch of ragtag rookies and a few unstable hands into a fight that big was called suicide. Since I'm guessing you don't have any particular inclination to be dead, that means someone somewhere else does. Or you've just pissed 'em off so much they don't care."

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Never get used to loss? No, that was inaccurate, at least where she was concerned. She was well-used to the death of people around her, but then she'd known the feeling for a very long time. Nevertheless, she understood what he meant. Being accustomed to it was not the same as feeling nothing about it, or being able to dismiss it as unimportant. The best she had ever managed was to ignore it for a large majority of the time, and remember it only when she had to.

"With an attitude like that, I'm surprised you aren't," she replied to his proclamation that he should be dead. "Who lives and who dies on the battlefield has nothing to do with who deserves it, you know that."

She was left once more with the impression that he had lost someone of paramount importance to himself. A wife, perhaps, or a sister. His reminder was largely unnecessary, but she nodded all the same. "I intend to," she replied truthfully, "but I also have to accept that i will not be able to stand at her side for every moment, and that this is a choice she made. I have no right to deny her her free will for her safety." It was not that she was unconcerned, and indeed, it was obvious enough that the circumstances troubled her, but Talae knew that there were limits to what any one person could do.

At Caine's behest, she found the supplies, rummaging through them for something that would be useful to her. She'd ideally like something with more than one use, since it would not be a great idea to be carrying around as many heavy weapons as she did knives. More than one use, not too heavy, nothing that she'd use with a shield... Talae's eyes fell on a hand-and-a-half sword. Pursing her lips thoughtfully, she hefted it in one hand. She'd seen these used before; the entire point was that the grip could easily be shifted from one to both hands. It would certainly keep her left hand free to throw things, but substitute for the absence of a shield with the capacity to block with two arms.

It was obviously a good deal heavier than anything else she was used to fighting with, but she could hold it without much difficulty and swing all right. If it turned out to be a bit much after a while, she'd simply have to build up strength. It seemed well-balanced at any rate, and she figured it was probably her best option. She remembered something else, and tried a few longswords before finding one that might work. If it didn't, oh well, but she might as well try.

Returning to the bench, she handed Caine the longsword. "Missing something?" she inquired flatly. "There's more over there, if that one is inadequate. I did fond this, though." She drew the hand-and-a-half with a minute shrug. He knew far more about such things than she did, but she thought she might not be so far off-base.

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#, as written by Arke
When the second Child had jumped into the fray, Kisikoni believed he was actually going to die before the magic would transport him to safety. The kick sent waves of fear through his veins as he watched them raise their blades. His unfocused, muddled mind worked too slowly to react, but thankfully the translocation worked.

He lay on the stone basin for quite awhile before deciding to drag himself upright and stagger over to who he thought was Pel. As he was healed, his befuddled mind saw her as a savior angel- as the adrenaline had long since stopped flowing and every breath was painful due to the kick that broke several ribs. He was so dazed, he completely missed the meaning behind Pel's last statement, and ultimately forgot about it. Lost in the sense of relief, he thanked her multiple times before walking unsteadily away. So acute was his relief of being alive, he decided to drop the anger he felt at Duran for effectively blinding him and stumbled over to the kitchens. He couldn't sleep, so he decided to focus his scrambled brains by ordering a cup of bitter tea.

After being promptly kicked out by some frustrated cooks, he sat down at the bar tent just outside. He was so lost in his thoughts he went directly to the food rather than going to order it. "Damn it, a cup of your bitterest tea." He said, angry at himself for once. The last confrontation was one of the first battles where the Children were so skilled and numerous, he nearly died. In the past, he HAD fought for the Legions, but most of them were minor skirmishes and the Children didn't outnumber them. In the ambush situation, he had lost most of his sensibility after felling the Lamian Child. When the steaming mug arrived, he sat there playing with the tea bag for a few minutes before throwing a quarter of the liquid down his throat.

"Pain. Pain pain painpainpainpainpain!" He choked. He wisely chose to put the mug down gently instead of dropping it and burning his thighs. The acrid flavor really did bring his mind back into focus, which is why he smiled despite the tears flowing down his face. It was times like these where he felt particularly lonely. He had acquaintances back then, but more often than not he wasn't very important in their book. In a time where your friend could be fried in an instant, very few people had close bonds with another. The pain would just be too great. He finished his mug of tea, leaving money despite the fact that he might not even have had to pay for it and left. He would then walk a distance to the training area in the rain, sit on a bench sheltered by a flap of leather, and pay remembrance to the fallen. During the reading of their names, he was too unsteady to honor them properly, and now that he was focused he could do so.

He remembered that three were dead, one was MIA, possibly dead. The earliest deep humans have made a pact- to support the great lord of the earth and in return gain the ability to call upon his fear-inducing strength. He did not use that in battle, as there were so many and the attacks came so fast in the one-on-one that he wasn't quick enough to summon it.

"O, Great Lord. Your blood cleanses the earth and blesses us. May you watch over those who have fallen on your domain." He muttered, holding his left fist in his right hand. "We will remember." He repeated. He did not specify anybody, as even the children received his same blessing. To not honor the dead that fight so savagely for their beliefs is a crime against nature itself. As if in response, the air around the deep human became almost thick and unsettling for a brief moment. It was nothing substantial, or even perceptible- just a acknowledgement of his prayer from a being far beyond Kisikoni's own comprehension or just a simple anomaly in the air.




The Spider sighed. She lost all her weapons AGAIN.

The moment the translocation finished, the Spider had given the Halfling Cleric a big hug. "You're a darling." She quipped, just before the blond knight turned and offered her regards. "Yes, madame." She replied, tilting her head. Sniffing slightly, she turned and regarded the tattered legion. Her eyes swept them, regarding Neira with some interest. Very rare indeed to see a Nightmarian outside of Ecclavaria. Her gaze rested finally on the Captain of the Fortieth Legion. She smiled slightly, her razor fang retaining the fine white appearance as it contrasted against the rain around her. What a motley crew of misfits.

Wandering away from the group, she paused at the bar. No, not yet. She needed to get new weapons and supplies before she became drunk out of her mind.

She entered the armory tent, and the knight guarding the equipment eyed her. "Dear, I lost all my weapons when I got captured." She explained tiredly. "My entire team was wiped out to my knowledge, and I just want some new toys." She gave him a exasperated look. The knight remained expressionless, but nodded slightly. She skittered about the boxes that lay about. Wasn't nearly as nice as some of the deposits she had been in, but they carried some good flexible weapons.

She fished out a three-section staff. It was essentially three hardwood sticks smoothed out and strengthened. Each stick was about the length of your arm, and one was chained to the other two to provide a powerful defensive and offensive weapon. Usually, the two outer sticks acted as strikers while the middle stick acted as a guard. It could easily trap foes hands by folding on the enemy, and for this particular three-section staff, it was modified with a metal outlining and is studded to act as a war instrument. Satisfied with this, she holstered this and started looking through the boxes once more.

She found another sling, but they were essentially useless because Children were much more resilient to large flying rocks than most other races. A slingshot would be equally as useless. She sighed. She was only ever really proficient with her sling as a long-ranged weapon. She picked up a tomahawk and weighed it in her hand. No way was she going to be able to throw this accurately. She looked around some more.

"Oh. What's this delicious-looking beauty?" She asked rhetorically. She hoisted up a heavy black ball tied to a chain. The Ball and Chain was an early weapon thrown to break a shield line and damage anything in it's way very heavily. She hoisted it up. It would require some practice, but she could make it work. She found three, and hooked the weapons to her abdomen. She pawed through the items at hand once more.

She hoisted out another Mourning Star. These weapons had been very useful in causing significant blunt trauma to armored opponents, something her whip-chain wasn't able to do. Holstering this weapon as well, she found herself another nine-section whip chain to finish off her set of weaponry. The knight watched her exit, before muttering some witty remark about chains.

She arrived at the bar, and saw a Deep Human walking away in the rain toward the training fields. How odd.

She preferred to stand, as no seats would fit her mass and like any spider, stood all the time unless so drunk she sleeps on the ground. Which is what she intended on doing. "I was promised drinks, dear." She said to the barman. "Be a sweetie and fetch five mugs of your best to start." The man moved away, returning (as she asked) with five mugs of fresh liquor. She downed the first one like it was nothing. The second one followed soon after that, and she slowed down on the third one to savor the flavor. After all, one had to have at least some finesse, right?

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#, as written by Smith
Jurial Plains, North-Ridge

After being caught in a crushing embrace with a nightmarian and expending every prayer she had asked her patron for that day, Pel was more than ready for some sleep. Padding along the loamy ground, the halfling was only a few feet away from her tent when a high voice caught her attention. Pel turned around slowly to lock a set of sleep-deprived eyes on Faera. "You realize that there's nothing left to do but wait, right?" Her heritage getting the better of her, Pel closed on the dark elf and allowed the barrier between her brain and mouth to thin.

"I thought you were a mage. What kind of mage has healing spells? You do realize that a body can only accept so much magic before it begins to reject it, much like an antivenom can be lethal with the wrong dosage, otherwise we'd all be in tip-top shape 24/7. Guessin' you haven't healed much more than superficial wounds before? Back on the mage thing, how can you heal? A better question: How can you study healing magic without your offensive magic suffering greatly? Why in the name of Avernus would you not specialize--"

"That's enough." an alabaster hand patted Pel's head, ceasing the endless flow of questions. Beelzes shooed the halfling off into her tent and spun on her heel to smile brightly at Faera. She still wore her tinted eye-glasses, as did many of those unaccustomed to sunlight, and rubbed her shaved head in mock exasperation. "Well! I figure you've had your fill of..." Beelzes scowled, leaning in close to Faera's face. Had the dark elf been gifted with sight, she would have seen the various tattoos writhing across the warlock's palid skin. Behing the shades, her eyes were alight with sudden understanding. "My word! Little Shanir! You're blind!"


What should have a been a quiet sigh of exasperation became a sharp intake of breath. Something in his chest produced a heated itching sensation and it was all Wrath could do to keep a straight face as he met Neira's eyes. The papers he had been writing on were pushed aside. Out of sight. The nightmarian's words were heard only distantly, and Wrath forced a rueful smile. "Lady...Noir? Forgive me if I did not...get your name correct. If nobody told you, we...the Fortieth, is a 'dump' legion. We are the very definition of expendable." Wrath took a steadying breath and wiped away the sweat beading at his forehead. "That is why we rarely do solo missions that require a good amount of skill or expertise. As to why this particular mission went so badly, despite having succeeded, I have sent an inquiry to high-command--"

"Should I not have come then?" A youthful deep human waltzed into the tent with a slight smile. It was pouring outside, and his leathers had not even a drop of water on them. He glanced at the mercenary and waved jovially. "Hello! You may want to step outside. I have something to discuss with captain Liu-Wen." wisps of white flames licked at the soles of the newcomers boots as he sat down on the bed facing Wrath. "So you say that there are magic-using Children of Fire now?"

As Neira would leave, a large lamia with ivory horns and a tall elf woman appeared through the doorway and moved to join the discussion.


Forest, ???

"Damnit..." The corpses littering the forest floor were numerous at first, but grew more scarce as Yanis made his way through the trees. His stump of a hand proved to be less of a hindrance than an annoyance, pulsing with a sickening ache with every heartbeat. The halfling was halfway to the tower now and approaching his goal. "Damnit..."

He had seen it. Seen it with his own eyes. Earlier when it was still dark, Yanis was skulking through the underbrush trying to meet up with commander Yan'vega. The Children captured her, and the elf stood over her with his eyes locked on hers. Something strange...alien passed between them, and Mercy appeared to faint for a moment. The elven Child smirked and said, So that's where they were spying from...north. Set the next trap and we shall move. I want to be at the tower by..." Somewhere around that time was when Yaris had been detected and his hand severed. The last time he laid eyes on Zakair, the elf flashed a toothy smile and said: "She won't remember."

Looking back on it, his meaning was obvious. Mercy's mind had been tampered with via psionics. The knowledge of the entire scouting mission she had led was wiped from her mind, so in the unlikely event of a successful rescue, she would be of no import to the Legion. So the task fell to Yaris, the last carrier of the vital intelligence that would save thousands of lives. Perhaps more. If only he could get to the tower to send the signal...

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Faera was rather caught off-guard by the questions, and she fumbled to come up with even one answer. Truthfully, she knew next to nothing of what kind of mage she might be, or even if that was the right way to describe what she did. Still, there was at least one point on which she could answer. She was opening her moth to say that her so-called "combat" magic was merely alteration spells and therefore not actually antithetical to the concept of healing, and so was her "healing," in the sense that it prodded the body to do the work on it's own with energy already present, only at an accelerated rate and with a bit of her own assistance (because she was fairly certain that was how it worked), but before she could force any of it past her tongue, Beezles stepped in and saved her the trouble.

Of course, this brought a rather different sort of questioning about, and Faera smiled brightly at the warlock's rather belated revelation. "I am indeed without sight," she replied, more entertained by the nature of the exclamation than offended. It wasn't as though blind mercenaries were just walking around all over the place, after all, and she had expected a certain degree of surprise or caution when it came to her.

"She's right about one thing, though..." Fae continued with a troubled frown. "I honestly don't know anything about magic apart from how to use it." She had never had a formal teacher, exactly, just picked up spells here or there from people who used them, and sometimes had Talae read aloud to her from books with further information. Specialization had never been a concern; when she found she couldn't preform a particular technique, she had simply thought it beyond her power and left it at that. She'd learned what she needed to learn, that both she and her sister would survive, and the underpinnings were completely unknown to her in this respect. She called herself a mage simply because she didn't know a better word.

-=-

Neira shook her head. She should have bloody well expected as much. "Well, shit, Captain," she said sarcastically. "There's a difference between expendable and useless, but I guess who ever runs this gods-awful parody of an army doesn't know that." Rolling her eyes, she complied when it was made obvious she should leave just as bereft of answers as she had entered. Whatever. It wasn't like she was fooled. He'd been damned angry earlier, and that meant he wasn't nearly as accepting of this situation as he pretended to be.

She hadn't missed the hitch in his breathing either, and contemplated the rather entertaining possibility that he was literally allergic to her on her way out, giving no acknowledgement to those who entered, though she did take note of them. Unless she was very much mistaken, the Captain had important friends. Expendable, indeed. Soft-skins made for terrible liars.

Now of course, she was presently unsure of what to do. She was feeling rather like killing something might be a good idea, but then killing things was always a pretty good idea as far as Neira was concerned. Maybe she should go for an alternative approach. making nice with the other soldiers was out. Even if she'd been inclined to, now was hardly the time, this hardly the place, and she hardly capable. Ah, parallelism.

So she opted for the middle ground- hitting the bar. It was already occupied, by a fellow Nightmarian, no less. Now there was an odd sight. The spider seemed to be knocking them back like it was going out of style, and for some reason, that seemed like a bloody good idea. "I'll have what she's having," Neira told the bartender. "Just... slower."

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Moments later, Talae returned, with a sword... For Caine. In mock excitement, he leaned forward, "A present? For me? How ever did you know?" He said, accepting the sword with his left hand. Probably the hand he was going to use it with. He stood and rolled the sword in his hand a couple of times, gauging the weight, the feel, and the way it cut through the air. It was satisfactory, standard fair and nothing completely fancy. Just like the sword he had lost, this one would do to cleave a couple of children in half.

Then his attention turned to Talae's sword, a larger, hand-and-a-half sword. "That'll carve a Child real nice," he said without a hint of a joke. "I suppose it'd be a lot more flexible to use than a big-ass claymore or a tiny shortsword." He said, inspecting the sword. He was going to have to do a good job of guiding her on the nuances of the blade and what he learned in Legion training, otherwise, she might be the one to not make it out of the next conflict.

He then looked up at the sky again. It was still raining and didn't look to let up soon. "Right, let's go ahead and get the basics out of the way now... Never know when we may be thrown into the next ambush," He said in a raw tone. He strode out into the open, in a clearer space and spoke, racking his brains for the right words. Most of this was coming from common sense and combat training. He wasn't the most... refined person in battle and didn't often think strategies in battle. He just did what came naturally and tried to kill his opponent.

"I help you out on what to do when you are beset by conventional means, but.." he interjected for a moment, "About the Children's ability to conjure fire out of their hands and throat? Get the hell out of the way and don't let them grab you." He said, holding up the scarred and red arm. "If you have to get close to one and fight, then end it damn quick. Aim for the throat, and if you're lucky, their head will melt before your eyes... Always an amusing sight," He said with a chuckle. "Otherwise, never stop and keep moving. Use your assassin skill set and underhanded tactics and always try to keep an advantage." He then looked away from Talae for a moment and into the sea of tents. "I can't teach you what to do when under fire," Clearly, he had an arm to testify.

"But, I can give you a fair shot of martial skills," He said, tossing the longsword to his dominant hand. He was tired from his fury and his injuries, but he was well enough to do this. "I never been the one much for words. So, we'll try this the old fashioned way. Come after me with that sword. See if you can't best me," he said with a mischievous grin. Always a man of action, Caine.

Perhaps the little activity will also take his minds off the ones that were lost today.

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#, as written by Aythr
As Duran lay on the ground, his eyelids became heavy as the exhaustion of the day had caught up with him. As he drifted off into darkness, he heard the voices of his family and teachers. Their voices rang loudly, yet by some strange paradox, he found himself falling deeper and deeper into sleep. One after the other, he heard their collective wisdom bit by bit. One particular phrase resonated with him in his dreams.

“Nature teaches us one fundamental lesson. Adapt or die.”

As those words sounded, an endless plane stretched out before him. Darkness as far as the eye could see stretched out into infinity. Duran was all alone in this void. Suddenly, from the horizon, a great battle came into view. Primah and Civee fought with each other. A storm brewed overhead. Lightning flashed and thunder crashed. A violent wind blew in, and on it a sick heat that swept over the battlefield. Slowly but surely, the battle halted, as warrior after warrior began to fall, grasping at some invisible combatant that had slain them with neither sword nor spell. From the horizon, a great black dragon rose to fill the sky, spewing fire and cackling wickedly. It hovered above Duran, and spoke words that he could not understand. Immediately, the rest of the life on the battlefield died. The trees, the grass, any warriors that were lucky enough to survive the sick wind of death that had fallen upon the battlefield. Everything was dead.

Duran fell to his knees, and before him, a single flower grew in front of him. Again, the dragon cursed the battlefield, but this time, nothing happened. It roared furiously in an upheaval of fire, but the more it thrashed about in the sky, the more futile it became. More and more flowers began to bloom from the bodies and bloodshed growing almost violently in opposition to the evil beast looming above. In the darkness above, the sun came into view, starting as a small point of light, but growing brighter and stronger.

A blinding explosion ripped through the battlefield from the sun above, and a pillar of fire pierced the dragon's heart. One final roar sounded into nothingness as the it was incinerated completely. From the fire, a great winged humanoid appeared. Duran was awe-stricken and fell to his knees almost instinctively. As he looked up, he was nearly blinded by the corona of light it shed.



Duran woke up with a startle. He was breathing hard, and a cold sweat covered his brow. He looked around the tent, only to get an inquisitive look from Goma. He looked down at his hands; they were trembling. He stood up and exited the tent, with only one thought on his mind.

"That was just a dream, right?"

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#, as written by Arke
The Deep Human looked up from his small prayer after hearing a discussion in the distance. His ears were a lot sharper without the din of battle clogging his senses, and he recognized the growling voice as Caine. He didn't mean to eavesdrop, but as he tried to determine the source of the sound he turned to see Talae and Caine over at an open space. Sparring? Just after a battle? He was slightly confused at this action- but who was he to judge. Of course, he'd been in many enough camps that interrupting a 1 on 1 was like taking a large piss on somebody's dinner in their face. He walked over, however and watched. It wasn't everyday that people had a good-natured sparring session now. Too little time, and the time was always too grim to be wasting energy horsing around.

Besides, in the thick of battle he hadn't been able to see either warriors fight, and he was particularly interested to see how his partner Talae did while he was busy punching a Lamia unconscious. Beforehand, he pulled out a butterfly sword- he hadn't had the time to inspect the weapon until now. Checking the edge, he knew that it required sharpening despite the durable, heavy blade. He resheathed it, making note that he'd do it later. His whetstones were in his tent anyways. Then it hit him. He had left his goddamn crossbow out in the field. His goddamn customized crossbow that cost him a pretty penny and a ton of time to learn how to use is fucking gone.

He cursed under his breath, looking away to make sure that nobody took this the wrong way. He would have to get some kind of substitute. Taking the makeshift crossbow arrows that were made for his weapon, he angrily stuck them into the ground. [i]God fuckin' damn it.[/spoiler] He thought as he turned back to watch the fight.




She finished her third drink just as the bartender tossed some mugs of liquor down to the newcomer. Mercy debated on ignoring her, because most Nightmarians outside of Ecclavaria were exiled or insane. However as her vision began to get funky she disregarded the idea. Taking a large swig of the fourth mug she turned her entire waist toward the Dragonfly.

"Never thought I'd see one of us outside of Ecchie, dear." She said softly, Her eight voluminous red eyes blinking out of unison. She tapped the wooden bar, and three more mugs were placed on the table in front of her by a very disgruntled looking barman. "Got tired of Antsies trying to get under your shell?"

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Talae had the distinct impression that she was going to regret this in the morning. She'd seen Caine fight on several occasions, and the man did not pull punches, so to speak. Not that she wanted him to- she knew that would only be to her detriment in the end, but all the same it would be nice to be able to move when she woke up in the morning.

Even so, she wasn't about to say no if he thought it was a good idea to begin right now. "That much, I had figured," she replied flatly to his comment about the Children-issued flames. The burn mark looked rather nasty, but she figured a healer had looked at it already and thus it probably wasn't causing him pain any longer. She considered herself lucky that she'd managed to escape such damage... she might have to thank the Captain for that later, now that she got to thinking about it.

They reached an open space, and Talae shifted her grip on the length of cold steel beneath her hands. A sound caught her ears, and she noted with some trepidation that Kisikoni had appeared. Nothing quite like an audience to make humiliation painful, she thought wryly, but perhaps it was a good thing. She didn't exactly relish the idea of her partner thinking her incompetent, but it was probably good information to have, now wasn't it?

The bastard sword was a common enough choice of armament, and she tried to recall how she might have seen them being held. She may not be the most experienced fighter out there, nor the strongest, but she did have something of an eye for detail, an absolute necessity when concocting acid and poison alike. Of course, the trick was remembering who she'd seen handle weapons well, and the difference between what they did, and how rookies handled it. Taking a solid but not white-knuckled grip, then, she heeded Caine's advice and decided that standing around wasn't going to help anything.

She came at him quickly, pivoting at the last second to try striking for his side instead of head-on. The fact of the matter was that he was far stronger than she could ever hope to be, and so in order to stand a chance of hitting anything, she'd have to be faster, and trickier.

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He knew the attack was coming and he braced himself for the attack. Even if he was stronger than her, she no doubt had speed and agility on her side. That, added to the fact that he, not Talae, was injured in the ambush. Even healed, the arm was swollen and tender and would probably end up being a target at some point. Not that he expected any less. Further compounding the fact, the little time he spent in a rage had taken it's toll on his energy.

Even though, Caine swung the longsword around and blocked the bastard sword, holding the blade in a downward angle and using his opposite hand to steady the blade and add support. By this point, Caine too had realized they were being watched by the Deep Human, Kisikoni. Great, an audience always proved to be fun, Caine told himself in his sardonic mind. But he didn't have time to voice any concern or pleasure. Caine pushed on the blade, as if trying to push Talae and her sword back and overwhelm her, a mark of the Berserker. Overwhelm one's enemy in any way possible, act quickly and strongly, either by a hail of strikes or pure brute power.

This was perhaps not the smartest thing to do, because the Dark Elf could simply move out of the way, and all of the weight behind the push would send him flying forward. He wondered for a second if she understood that. Talae had heightened senses, agility, speed, everything Caine didn't. Caine relied on mostly brute force and fierce intimidation, as the numerous roars, growls, and snarls on the battle field indicated.

He then spoke behind the locked swords to Talae, "I've stopped your blade and in seconds will overwhelm and crush you," He said, putting a little more strength behind the push of his blade, "Now how are you gonna act?" He asked in an intimidating voice. Then he took a step forward, closer to Talae and increased the pressure on the blades even more.

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#, as written by Smith
Once the nightmarian was out of earshot, the deep human who had first entered the tent leaned back on the bed and fixed Wrath with a level stare. The captain quickly arose and made to salute but Nhil waved him off. He was weary of the formalities of the military and decided to get straight to the point. Nhil waited for the lamia noble and the elven princess to take their seats on the bed as well, but the latter preferred to remain standing. With a shrug, Nhil spoke, "Wrath. Am I still allowed to call you that? It's been a couple years since we've spoken..."

The crimson-scaled lamia was issuing a low hiss. Shokunen Helvaras, newly coronated king of the lamian nation, had a torrid temper so common among his people. Most would have avoided him entirely if he hadn't had that face of an angel. "Stop beating around the bush pale mon..." Shokunen bit back the insult and raised his hands in supplication. "My apologies general, but we are pressed for time." The dark-skinned elf nodded in agreement.

"No offense taken." Nhil smiled. "As I was saying, you have encountered magic-wielding Children. Grimsmirk sent her report a few minutes ago...they wore red, she said?" Wrath nodded. "What sort of magic are we talking? Arcane? Divine? Infernal? Did any other features distinguish them from the other Children? Do you have any idea why they are there? When--"

"How do we kill them?" it was the first Kocarah had spoken since arriving, and her words cut the air like a knife. The elven princess was thumbing the pommel of the tomahawk resting on her belt. Nhil smiled and spread his arms as if that single sentece summed up the entirety of the meeting.

Wrath tried not to finch under the scrutiny of three of the most powerful individuals on Norr. He spent a few moments trying to recall what little he saw of the spell-duel in the skies. After a few minutes of strained silence, Wrath shook his head in frustration. "I'm not sure. I saw them hit with fire and lightning, scored with talons and pierced with arrows. By the time we were forced to retreat both of them were still there...just waiting. You would have to ask Qinn or Brightwing for more information."

Nhil, Shokunen and Kocarah looked to eachother with grave expressions. Both royals disappeared with a dull flash of light and a quiet crackling sound. Only the high general of the Legion of Ashes remained, standing up and moving closer to Wrath. Nhil searched his pockets and produced a small sunburst emblem. Wrath's eyes widened, then quickly narrowed in suspicion. "You are...promoting me? Why?"

"You're talents have finally been recognized." somehow, Nhil managed to look completely serious while saying this.


Beelzes tapped her chin in thought. "Hm." It took a long while of mental deliberation, but she eventually found the words that seemed most appropriate. "That can't be safe. You can't see, and you know next to nothing of the nature of the forces you wield like an extension of your will?" Beelzes shed the first layer of her leather tunic, only wearing a thin white shift and the armored pants. She pulled up a couple chairs and motioned for Faera to sit. "Oh. Right. No eyes. Sit! I have inquiries!" Setting her chin in her palms, Beelzes stared at Faera with wide, red orbs. "Your power is obviously arcane...no spirits or animistic passes accompanied your invocations. Since you can't see and therefore cannot study a spellbook, that rules out wizard or sage. Hm. Sorcerer? Do you feel the power of the arcane flowing through your veins? Oh! Maybe a savant! Just an abnormality of a person that creates magic instead of harnessing it! Wouldn't that be fun?!"

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Neira had almost completely forgotten the presence of the spider to her left, but only almost. It was the antennae. they didn't really let a person forget much of anything, truth be told. When the smallest motion was something you were aware of, not noticing would have been the more impressive feat.

"Never thought I'd see one of us outside of Ecchie, dear. Got tired of Antsies trying to get under your shell?" Neira scoffed slightly. Now there was a thought to dent your carapace.

"Well, you know, only so much nihilism, despair, and short-sighted idiocy you can take before you want to kill something, and apparently that's not the greatest idea when the only things around are your own people. Really, I was surprised to hear it, because frankly I never used to think that Nightmarians did the whole cower-in-fear thing. Guess you learn something new every day." This particular version of the story was one of her favorites, partially because it was actually fairly close to the truth, though how close was not something she was even sure she knew anymore. The truth was rusty, or something.

Downing her beverage, she set the flagon down and moved to the next unhurriedly. "Neira Valtegan," she offered carelessly, fixing her overlarge eyes on the spider beside her. "And I'd be inclined to ask the same of you."

-=-

Faera sat, inclined to be agreeable as she was, and tried to sort through the yet more questions being flung at her. Half the terms she'd only heard a few times, so she figured her best bet was probably just to describe what she knew of her magic and let Beelzes do the categorization bit. "Um... well... when I cast, it's kind of like... moving magic out of the air, maybe? Like this."

The elf made gestures that at first seemed largely meaningless, moving invisible strands into place in front of her. Slowly, the process gained visibility, though obviously Faera would have no way of knowing this. Pale wisps of energy flickered into view as she grasped them, having for all appearances not been there before, and she directed them to form a very small sphere, the initial formation for one of the healing spells she knew. "I can sense where it is, and move it by moving may arms or legs."

To demonstrate, she flicked her index finger, sending the little orb flying across the room, then directing it back with a beckon. "Since I've never actually... you know... seen someone do magic, I'm not sure what it's supposed to look like." She shrugged, causing Zek to growl, having been comfortably asleep on her shoulder, and a small stream of smoke issued from his nostrils.

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Forest, ???

The brothers pressed on, their footsteps hurried though their eyes and movements seemed more cautious. Gormun followed a few lengths behind his brother, who spent most of his time sweeping the ground for signs of what lay ahead of them. Looking away from the back of his brother he took in the sights of the trees pressed around them, of various size, shape and kind. He closed his eyes form a moment and looked ahead, his mind filled with stories the Shawoman told him… told all of them of a time before the Dragons. Where the Civee were the enemies but there was still a freedom to move around. Their father was one such hunter that combed the forests for threats to the horde and food.

The horde… another thing that died quickly with the dragons. Thousands of Orcs used to be under the Shawoman’s care, after the death of her husband and the War Lord. Guided by her premonitions and fighting the Civee when necessary, it was a sensation he’d never know. Their horde fell to shambles at the fall of Gia, so many Orcs dead in the aid of helping others escape… And for what? To watch two of them to be wiped from the face of the earth and third vanish, for some of their closest friends be turned into mindless animals.

Movement brought his mind back to the task at hand; Brack had raised his war hammer. Caution, something ahead, keep silent. The signals were practiced constantly between the two, a silent code only they knew, it helped make them efficient. Hunkering down, shoulders dropping as a hand clutched the handle of his sword his eyes peered around as he drew closer.

“More bodies. ‘Nother fight.” Brack motioned ahead a bit and when Gormun squinted his eyes a bit he could see them.

“Lead on.” He fell into place a few steps behind his younger brother, bodies crouched as them moved towards and past the corpses, his brother using his war hammer in short low swishes to knock aside the brush and look for tracks. The sound of their walking in the brush and fallen leaves had dropped dramatically. Looking at the back and side of his brother’s face, he didn’t need a signal to know he found someone’s tracks. With his free hand he patted his brother’s back and they pressed on.



The sound dropped again. Yanis sucked in his breath and kept as quiet as he cold, still moving on but trying not to make any noise as he moved on. Something or someone was following him and it seemed to have half a mind to hide its approach to an extent. Did the Children send someone back to makes sure they were all dead? Had they picked up his trail? That didn’t seem right. Since when did a single Child need to sneak around after one injured target? The approach was closer and he moved around a tree quickly and quietly, pressing himself to it and closing his eyes, trying to have his stomach and mind ignore the throb where his hand was missing.

Waiting and listening to the occasional sound from his pursuers set his mind on edge. Breathing slowly his eyes looked to the side, waiting for them to catch up and hopefully move on. He could hear their footfalls clearly now, there was two of them. At that moment a pair of Orcs moved past him and stopped, both standing up from their crouched run.

Looking at them closely their dark green bodies were covered with marks and scars, their armor died deep brown and some sort of leather, the shorter of the two seemed to be carrying both a war hammer AND a battle axe. The other had a sword that could easily be as large as he was. He saw no mark or hint of them being Children, and he doubted one of the Children would even remove their white robes. Perhaps they had been hunting the forest and led as well? But why would they need to sneak around, and why would they stop after just passing him?

He had to get to the tower and the signal as fast as he could, but moving around the orcs and keeping himself hidden from them may take more time than necessary. Stepping out from the tree he approached them, ”Were you looking for me?”



Brack spun around at the sound of the voice, hands clenching his weapons before he paused and looked down. The halfling before him wore armor, and was missing a hand, the wound untreated but the bleeding stopped. He seemed tired, bothered by pain, yet determined. “What’re you doing out here?”

“You’re not with the Children I take it?”

“Ha, we with the Shawoman. Sent us out here to stop premonition. Who’re you?” He pointed his finger back at the smaller of the three in the area.

“Yanis, soldier of the Legion of Ashes. I won’t ask about this Sha…woman or these premonitions, but I will take your help.”
The brothers looked between each other. “What you need?”

“I need to make it to a tower to raise a signal to warn the Legion about the Children. Skipping the details I’m slightly more than half way, could you help me get there?”

The brothers looked at each other again, “Maybe premonition helps legion?”
“Great threat to Legion may threaten Shawoman.”
“Threaten Shawoman, threaten tribe.”
“Yes.” The spoke as one and faced the Halfling.

“We give you our aid.” Brack smiled as best his tusks would allow. “Lead us to this tower.”


Forest, ?????

”Stop!

Only a whisper called out but in the forest of silence it was heard as clear as day. The brothers and Yanis stopped and turned, the larger two of the three ready and guarded for an attack.

In the trees a small bit away stood a huntress. She was a deep human and her skin was as pale as the full moon, untouched from the sun in a long time. Silver hair streaked with white fell down over her shoulders as a few remained forwards. Her armor was tanned and mixed of earthy browns and blacks, almost as if it sat with the shadows. In her hands was a smooth and intricately carved longbow, the quiver hovering near right shoulder. Two blade handles rested over her left shoulder as a long blade rested at her right hip. Her bow was drawn; arrow aimed at the small group though her hands shook slightly. Sapphire eyes watching them, as the barest edge of crimson lurked there.

”What are you doing here?”

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Talae knew right off the bat that attempting to win a contest of strength would be completely pointless, but she was no so familiar with this sort of combat that the answer to the problem was immediately evident, and she had to think through it rather than reacting on instinct. "I suppose," she answered Caine's question in a deadpan, "I'm going to disengage and try to hit you from behind." She was still an assassin, after all, and flanking people was the best way to go about killing them without getting cut to ribbons.

She leaped sideways, disengaging as suddenly as possible, which would hopefully have more of an effect on his balance than simply easing away. The slight scrape of steel on steel echoed in their clearing, but she scarcely took note of it, trying to focus only on what mattered. Her maneuver put her in a fairly good position, all things considered, and she took the perhaps too-obvious opening at his back, realizing only after she had committed to the swing that it would probably be apparent to him that she would do that. And predictability meant that there was probably some way around it.

Of course, it didn't help that she'd definitely just told him what she was going to do, but that particular piece of idiocy was forgiven by the fact that this was instructional in nature and she also didn't actually want to kill him or anything. Right, just keep telling yourself that, Talae. she resisted the urge to roll her eyes at herself only because it wasn't exactly an appropriate time to lose sight of her opponent.

Still, she couldn't well try to stop her momentum now; not only did she risk wrenching something in her arms, but it would make her position that mus more vulnerable. Instead, she shifted to the balls of her feet and adjusted her footing slightly- when the counter came, she'd be ready to deal with it in as many different was as possible. Options were always good.

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"I'm going to disengage and try to hit you from behind."

The complete deadpan tone of this sentence threw Caine off... Would Talae actually tell him her attack like that? Was there a chance that she was messing with his head? Damn Dark Elves and their mind games. She could be just as easily be lying as telling the truth, and the tone gave no indication of which. Caine would have been frustrated at her if this wasn't a spar.

Either way, Caine continued to press the sword lock. All the way up until she did, in fact, disengage and hopped to the side. The quickness of the Dark Elf disappearing from the front and the sudden emptiness where his blade was forced him to lurch forward, throwing him off-balance... Something you'd expect from a Dark Elf. Caine stumbled forward one step and hit his left knee with a wet thump into the mud.

Without pausing to stand and think, instinct took over and he twisted and contorted his body, sliding his knee over the wet ground (accompanied by a slight damp sucking sound) enough so that he was able to pull the longsword behind him and intercept Talae's bastard sword. Sparks flew from the blades and pushed the human backwards. Good thing she did take the obvious route and attacked at his back. If she chose to continued around and attack his opposite side, he may have been in trouble. However, even if Caine managed to stop the Bastard sword from cleaving him in twain, the uncomfortable and straining position he was in took it's toll. At the last minute, he pushed with all of his strength on the locked swords to try and push the attack off. This did, however, send him further backwards...

Immediately after deflection, Caine fell over backwards, head over heels, due to a combination of the force of the Bastard sword and positioning. Figuring this would be a great time to gain distance, he flowed with his body backwards. On his back he continued the roll over his shoulder and his legs continued to fly over him. With his legs pass his head and body, Caine used his free hand to push off of the ground and hopped back into a standing position. Even back on his feet, he shambled backwards, confused, disoriented, and still off-balance. The mud wasn't forgiving either as he slid back more than he stepped

If Talae chose to pursue him, Caine would be at a disadvantage with the quick and nimble Elf. He held out his longsword at a diagonal angle to defend most of his torso and his left hand flew out to his side to try and balance himself. The hand was encased in a film of mud as was his entire back, hair and left knee. He looked a mess, but he didn't seem to mind.

"Are you going to tell your next move?" he asked with sarcastic wit.

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As Talae had expected, Caine was able to block, but only awkwardly and over his shoulder. It was certain to be a disadvantageous position in the long run, and the mud slick that was developing beneath their feet at a rather alarming rate (their feet tearing at the damp ground only making it worse) didn't help anything.

He might have been pushed back, but her footing was nowhere near as solid as she would have liked either. Though she had balance in spades, even the considerable ability of her species to stay firmly where they wished to be- including hanging from things- did not really apply when there was nothing to grip onto. Her boots raked in the wet earth, leaving two obvious skid marks where she fought not to be pushed back and to the ground.

In the end, the leverage afforded by her relative positioning was enough to keep her on her feet, and it was Caine who moved, apparently with the intent of increasing distance and perhaps buying himself time enough to recover and start the exchange anew. Accustomed to using this tactic herself, she recognized it for what it was and knew that the best thing to do was press the advantage it gave her.

"Are you going to tell your next move?" His humor was as dry as her own at the moment, and the corner of her mouth twitched into a half-smile.

Without warning, she took off, mindful that running breakneck was likely to end badly. So it was not at full speed but quickly enough that she made her next approach, angling for his right side. "Mmm... I don't think so. It's hard for an assassin to be honest twice in the same day, you know." That in itself was a warning, albeit a subtle one, and at the last moment, Talae, who had looked highly dedicated to attacking the right, dove sideways and rolled, springing to her feet in enough time to level a double-handed blow to his left, which she knew to be his off-hand side.

She skidded slightly in the mud, and almost went down herself. As it was, the blow would not land exactly where she had aimed it (his ribcage), but rather slice at the side of his leg. Assuming, of course, that it managed to hit anything at all. "You know," she remarked, "I do think this would be rather more difficult if you swung at me every now and then." She knew that thus far he had been much more defensive than usual, and she understood the reason for it- frankly, she didn't stand much of a chance at besting him in such straightforward combat. She was without poison or terrain advantage, after all. But all the same... the Children weren't going to let up just because she was new at this. she might need more practice dodging and blocking than anything, really, at least if she planned to stay alive.

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#, as written by Arke
The observant deep human sat back and tried to take his mind off the last crossbow. Of course, when they drew sharpened swords fresh-from-the-armory, the man got a little worried. Training was fine and all, but hacking at each other is a bad idea without blocks. However, he decided to remain on hold. The human looked like he knew what he was doing. After the initial blow, he was not so sure. Kisikoni was never truly a weapons fighter. He knew that weapons were an extension of the hand, but he felt more at home up-close and personal. A fist-fight was where he really excelled, which is why he watched with fascination when the beserker contorted his body to block the back-shot from the Assassin Elf. He knew the reasonings behind body mechanics, which is what his fighting stems on- the knowledge of how limbs can move.

As the third contact took place Kisikoni began to worry for the healing Beserker. Instructional fighting was fine and all, but with the Assassin taking advantage of his weak spots with her blinding speed, there might be blood. Of course, he trusted the elf not to intentionally harm, but if Caine didn't react quickly enough even a dulled weapon could hurt him. And that'd just be trouble for the medics.

Spectating the fight began to put a little hop into Kisikoni's own hands. He wanted to get in on this, but this was an instructional fight. If anything, he could probably teach them a thing or two about hand-to-hand combat, but when it came to weaponry, he was only at about the same level as them. Give or take. He was beginning to get an idea of how the two fought in combat. As pertaining to their names, Talae often relied on her speed and agility to attack weak points. Caine liked to force opponents into submission. Kisikoni began to think about his own habits when fighting, and decided to try and correct them- as habits often lead into patterns, and patterns could easily be predicted by a dextrous enemy.




The Nightmarian Spider giggled at the remark. "Oh yes. Grim little bastards, no?" She replied. Neira, huh? She could get used to her. She was only half-serious with her remark about the ants, but her eight eyes did catch the subtle reaction. She remembered fondly the many denizens of the hive-city. She wondered if the Queen was still alive.

She decided to answer the Dragonfly's question. She saw no reason in enlightening her, especially after her fifth glass and her vision was already blurred as hell. "Me? Dear, I haven't seen Ecclavaria in over ninety years." She said, almost amused at how much time had passed since her expulsion. "I was exiled. Didn't want to fight in a war against other races. I was an idiot, because what am I doing now? Fighting." She laughed. "The one thing I haven't forgotten was this." She held her glass up to the sky, sloshing some liquor onto the bar table. In an instant, the liquid had gone down her throat. She paused. She almost forgotten her manners.

"My name is Murecialga Yan'vega. Mercy for short, dear." She hesitated slightly, her voluminous red eyes returning to the next glass. "Tell me, dear. How were things in the little Hive City before you left?"

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"Oh shit."

The pair of words escaped his mouth as Talae engaged once again, flying towards towards him at a brash pace. He had regained composure and footing once again and was beginning to realize that the Dark Elf was learning to use her assassin wiles in combination with the bastard sword. Which of course, would throw Caine off. Deception, misdirection, he was going to have to expect all of these things from the assassin... Easier said than done. Instead of charging her as well, something he would do in a berserk fury, he held his ground. The reasoning behind that was the ground was quickly becoming slosh under their feet. He wasn't completely sure he could keep his footing.

Unbeknown to Talae, this was much of a learning experience for Caine as her. He hadn't had to worry about an assassin charge him before. A slippery opponent is a hard one to fight, even more so if they could spit fire at you in a moments notice. So he hunkered down and prepared for her. He refrained from entering his berserker rage as this was just a spar and he didn't want to lose control and unintentionally wound her... As a result, he was also a bit more... Methodical in his approach. Without rage clouding his mind, he could think. Although, his calling card was to still try and overwhelm his opponent, he was working a little bit smarter to accomplish this goal.

Then she dove, away from his right. Instantly, Caine knew she was after his left... If had was using the saber in tandem with the longsword, then this wouldn't have been much of a problem... But as it was, it was elevated to an annoyance. Caine pivoted on a foot, sliding his left through the smooth mud and awaited contact. However, the strike was not aimed at center mass like he expected, but somewhere around his foot. He further slid his foot back in the mud away from the sharp blade. She had slid in the slick mud and that finally allowed him an opening... Finally.

"You know," she remarked, "I do think this would be rather more difficult if you swung at me every now and then."

"Well dammit, stop being so damn slippery then." He said to Talae, a hint of annoyance in his voice. Caine had realized that Talae slid in the mud and almost went down herself, which provided an opening for him and an idea. Instead of simply striking from the right with his sword, a he took a step forward and used his free hand, the left, and tried to push her down into the mud. If successful, Caine would pivot again, face Talae fully, and hew downward with his blade at the grounded elf. If she had fallen from the shove, then Caine could try and overwhelm her from his better positioning. Of course, Talae was slippery after all. He had no doubt that the elf could try and weasel her way out of this one... It was his job to try and stop that.

"Damn weather," He offered

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"Well dammit, stop being so damn slippery then." Talae uttered something that might have passed for a snicker, except that it was stopped short and thus sounded more like a scoff than anything.

"Oh, of course. Sorry; allow me to make it easy for you." There was a trace of amusement on her face, even as her sword whistled harmlessly past his leg and became embedded in the loamy ground. Unfortunately, this did force her to stop, at least for as long as it took to pull the length of steel from the earth once more.

Ample time for Caine's hand to connect with her shoulder, then, and send her sprawling, the healthy squelch of mud under her back a sign that she would need to spend some time cleaning her armor this evening, if at all possible. "Damn weather, indeed." the weather certainly hadn't toppled her over, but what the hell? Not like there wasn't plenty of blood and Child-gore all over the leather anyway- mud was an improvement. Scowling, she shot the berserker a dirty look and lashed out with her feet, trying to catch him in the back of the knee-joints and throw him off-balance.

Not wanting to leave enough time for him to press his advantage, though, mean that she was rolling to her side and scrambling to her feet as quickly as possible. She debated fleeing a few steps backwards to regain her bearings, but that would serve her poorly in the end, and she ultimately decided on something else.

He seemed reluctant to move, understandably so, given the precarious footing they were both on, and the fact that it would probably be a great deal harder for him to get up than her, what with relative mass and everything. She was also aware that between the exertion earlier today and the unfamiliar weight of this particular weapon, she didn't have much longer to go before she slowed drastically and became less than adept at doing much of anything.

So she stayed in at close range, darting around to try and get at his back again, her swing less strong than last time, for fear it might end up immobilizing her again otherwise.

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Caine did manage to raise his sword up... That was it however. Talae's foot managed to find the crook of Caine's knee and bash it. His knee bent forward and and his foot slid from the mud and from out under him. He was falling, so resigned to this fate he threw his weight backwards instead of forward. It would be painful if he toppled on the Talae and her sharp sword. Perhaps for both of them. As he lay on his back he suddenly felt the tiredness of the day. They had marched seven miles, most of it Caine had a hangover. Then the ambush. Then the spar. There were perhaps only a couple of hours of downtime between each of these. His arm throbbed harder, however the cold mud had reduced the swelling slightly. The redness was a mysterious... His arm was covered in mud.

"Oh, of course. Sorry; allow me to make it easy for you."

"Oh no, can't have that, can we? Nothing's easy, don't you know that?" Caine said sardonically to himself. He turned over and began to heft himself up, he size and weight detrimental to the speed of his rising. He slid around trying to gain solid footing. From the wallowing in the mud, Caine was now filthy. He was going to have to give his armor and leather and good scrubbing before the Captain initiates a dress check or something...

On his feet, Talae was already upon him, darting around trying to get as his back... Probably. Caine grunted as he tried to follow Talae's movements with his eyes, avoiding spinning in place in fear of splattering on the ground again. She swung at his back again and he pivoted to his right, the dominant side to block. As he fear, his left foot threatened to slide out from under him, but he managed to keep it in check. However it stopped his pivot short and he was only a quarter of the way around to face Talae.

To compensate, Caine arched his back and turned his torso around to catch the bastard sword in another uncomfortable position. However, unlike last time, his footing was relatively solid. He pressed a hand on flat part on the upper end of the blade to stabilize it and grant more strength the weapon. Then, he pushed with brute strength on the blade, hoping to send Talae stumbling backwards.

He finally picked a foot up and planted it in front of his solidly, digging into the mud. Another solid stomp forward would place him in front of Talae. Finally, feeling a bit more confident, he slashed at Talae's left shoulder followed by another slash aimed at her right. If she could not block these strikes then Caine would land the flat of the blade on her shoulders, probably leaving a bruise, but otherwise unharmed. This would probably be the last offensive move Caine could preform, now feeling tired and his movements sluggish.

Either way, Caine felt sure Talae had learned and adapted to the bastard sword proficiently.

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When he pushed, she stumbled back, only reflex and a hell of a lot of effort keeping Talae on her feet. It was not quite fast enough, though that she was able to get out of the way of the strike aimed at her right shoulder, and with great weariness, she raised her blade to block it, a maneuver that probably only succeeded because he chose to switch targets rather than fight it out right there.

The blow to her left shoulder connected, and though it was only the flat of the blade, the force was great, and she knew it would have sliced her arm off if his sword had been angled correctly. This in mind, Talae held up a hand in the signal for yield, leaning heavily on her blade, breath coming in short pants rather than the steady draws of resting readiness. "You got me," she said, "I'd be dead right now in a real fight, so we'll call it yours." a cleaving of her arm would have been enough to leave her vulnerable to a more vital strike, one which he would have taken advantage of if she were a Child and not an acerbic sparring partner.

She extended her right hand, intending to shake on it. That was what people did in situations like this, right? It was hard to say exactly, since she hadn't really made practice matches against actual people a habit before. "Thank you," she told him, with an incline of her head. "Now I think it might be a good idea to clean ourselves up and get some rest. No good to chew each other up and make it easier for a bloody white-robe to finish it, eh?"

She wondered idly what her sister was doing, and decided it might be an excellent time to return to the tent they'd be sharing, clean her armor (and herself, at that), and deal with whatever Faera had to say about the events of the day. It was likely to be unpleasant; her sister's rather sympathetic demeanor likely made the whole thing a bit difficult to stomach, and trying to explain the necessity of running Children through, while easy in terms of logic, was not by any stretch of the imagination pleasant.

She left her new sword unsheathed for the moment- she'd have to clean it too before she put it back in the sheath and figured out how best to strap it to her person. She wasn't exactly short, but she just might lack the height required to make the hip the best place. Perhaps it would do better affixed to her back? Something to try, anyway.

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#, as written by Smith
North-Ridge

Almost gleaming in the candle light, the twin weapons lay side by side inside their ebony wood casing. Each exotic sword was made of tempered steel fashioned into a thin blade that ended in sharpened u-shaped hooks. The hilts, wrapped in black leather, were guarded by crescent blades and on the very end of the weapons were small knife-like points. Oddly enough, down the center of each blade's body were miniscule holes no larger than the diameter of a bead. Wrath's eyes were as wide as saucers as he gaped at the infamous Tiger Hooks. His father's weapons. "Where...they were destroyed when he died...how?"

"Do you truly think we did not retrieve General Liu-Wen's equipment upon searching for his remains?" Nhil's smile was genuine enough, but something felt forced about the gesture. He held up the case where the swords lay and offered them to Wrath. "Granted, all we managed to recover were some tattered orange cloth and scraps of twisted metal, but," Nhil nodded at the Tiger Hooks, "What little was left we combined with enchanted steel to recreate Fong's weaponry. For you."

"For me? I don't understand. You of all people know how little I know of swordcraft...you almost kicked me out of basic training..." the words faded into silence as three iron golems stepped out of white fiery portals into the increasingly crowded tent. One held an embroidered suit of live leather armor that pulsed faintly with powerful enchantment before returning to it's normal luster, along with a crimson cloak. The second of the constructs cupped a velvet pillow between it's great hands. On top of the fabric was a small chain made of silver with a charm in the shape of a vortex.

"And you of all people know of my affinity for the spirit world." Nhil set the case holding the weapons on the bed and grabbed the pendant to dangle it's charm in front of Wrath's face. "I know you aren't the best swordsman...he knows too. Within this charms lies a small portion of your father's soul. Nothing valuable like the mind or personality," he said with a placating gesture to ward off any protest, "But something he won't need in the afterlife. His talent for dealing death. His skill." Wrath narrowed his eyes, sudden understanding dawning on him. "As long as you wear this, you will effectively become a mirror of the war hero you so splendidly fail to live up to as kin."

Wrath breathed slowly. He was trying to quell the rising emotion in his breast and failing miserably. Anger at being mocked. Skepticism at such an unbelievably generous offer. Confusion at what this portained. At length, only five words came to the younger Liu-Wen's lips: "What's in it for you?"

Nhil smiled at this. This time, the expression was definetly not warm. It wasn't a display of emotion at all really...just muscles stretching flesh across teeth. "Not me. The Legion. The Paragon. Our people, mortals, we need a hero. We need you." Nhil's face returned to a neutral state and he patted Wrath's shoulder. The golems set their burden down on the bed and disappeared in a flash of opaque flame. Nhil turned towards the tent entrance and headed outside into the rain. "Meet me in the center of camp in ten minutes, in your new garb."


Forest, Somewhere near the Terra Mountain Range

Well, that was easy enough. Yanis's vision swam as he jogged through the muggy woodland along with his newfound allies. He still did not trust the as far as he could throw them--considering how well a halfling lifted an orc, that was not at all. It would still be good to have more muscle along just in case he ran in to any straggling Children or wildlife. The one-handed halfling thought things were finally looking up when a striking woman appeared from the woodwork with an arrow poised to pierce something vital. She did not appear to be hostile so much as frightened though...maybe..."Miss. I am Yanis, corporal of special assault forces within the Legion of Ashes under commander Mercy Yan'vega's command. I and my...hired hands, are on an important mission to inform high-command of a dire new developement within the ranks of the Children of Fire."

As if that explained everything, Yanis advanced past the hunter and waved the two orcs on. "It would be greatly appreciated if you could guide us through the forest...my fellows and I lack the woodsmanship that you have displayed." that was probably untrue. He glanced back at Brack with a conspiratorial eye. He did not care for another addition to the mission, but it was better to keep her close at hand. There was no telling who was affiliated with the dragons these days and it was better to keep enemies close where you could watch them. "We move. Now."


North-Ridge

As he walked through the encampment the rain ran off of Wrath and his new equipment as if he was shielded by some unseen force. His gait was straighter, more confident as his cape billowed out peridoically with a gust of wind. Both hooked swords were strapped onto the belt of his new armor, bare steel glinting in the firelight. An air of calculating superiority practically radiated from the commander. Wrath stepped next to general Derenthi in the center square of the Legion camp, in a large circular clearing. Magical everburn torches were lit all across the camp now, as the cloud-obscured night came on in full, plunging them into darkness. Nhil nodded in approval and muttered a cantrip that amiplified his voice to carry over the expansive camp.

"This is General Derenthi of the Legion of Ashes. Every unit not assigned to this outpost is required to report to the bonfire located in the middle of the tent masses immediately. Those who fail to do so will receive martial punishment to the fullest extent." after a short pause, he added, "That includes you Yan'vega."

In minutes the troops began filing in. Since Wrath's was the only legion in camp, only his meager unit arrived. Sid was the first, followed by the remaining orcish siblings. The harpies came next, oddly staying away from one another and both looking rather flushed. Achiru had several bites and scratches across his bare torso and neck. Pel trudged into the gathering with eyes downcast towards the ground, Iriana setting a delicate palm on her head. Then came Beelzes, dragging along her blind mage 'student' and setting Faera in front of her. It wasn't long before the last of them arrived. When all were in attendance, Nhil made to speak but was cut off by a question from Wrath directed at Sid and Pel Mekillot.

"Where are privates Ga'Taro, Korra and Arkha?" Sid bit her lip and Pel looked away. Sid was the first to speak.

"Hokunn died almost as soon as we set him down. Laila passed away a couple minutes ago. Gilleas...he's gone. Deserted I think." Wrath simply nodded and motioned for Nhil to continue.

"A shame." the deep human said. Dressed in gray and black clothing lined with gold, several pins of rank upon his tunic, it was obvious that the stranger was someone of a high station. Obviously Nhil, leader of the Legion of Ashes. He did not bother with formalities. "Contrary to popular belief, the fortieth legion is not for rejects or oddities. It is a test. Those of you standing here are made of something greater than the average soldier...we simply needed some assurance that we were not mistaken in that assumption. The battle you just faced? A measure of your abilities. Do you think it is every day a legion of twenty-two fends off an assault three times their size? An assault comprised of combatants that are equal to three men each? Who can breath magical flames and tear a man apart with their bare hands? The answer is no. Had you been a normal unit, I would not be having the honor of speaking to you today. It is my pleasure, to announce that you, newest members of the Legion of Ashes, have all been promoted. You are now apart of the Black Guard: The Vanguard unit of the Legion of Ashes."

Without warning arcane gates came in to being behind Nhil and Wrath, admitting dozens of hulking armored golems. Glistening black iron brutes made of enchanted metal that does not rust, corrode, tire or complain. Half of them dragged along large metallic carts covered with tarps. With a snap from Nhil, the golems closest to each cart tore off the coverings to reveal carts filled to the brim with supple new live leather of all types, weapons of all makes and types from across Norr and potions, poisons and travel supplies of the highest quality. Most the the fortieth legion gasped. Nhil smirked and stepped back to allow Wrath to take the lead.

"It is true. All of it. General Derenthi and several benefactors of the Legion met me in my tent have been filling me in on the situation for the past hour." Silhouetted by the ghostly light of the spectral fires, Wrath looked across the bredth of his legion. "Each and every one of you is something beyond the norm. That includes Grimsmirk and myself...that is why we are the new spearpoint of the Legion. In ten days the invasion upon the dragon-controlled territory will begin. We will cross the mountains dividing east and west Norr, and bring the fight to the dragons. These golems are apart of our unit now, Darkgards forty in all, and we will also be replenished for those troops we have lost."

As if that was the signal another smaller gate opened and the first of the newest legionnaires stepped through.


Atalia City

"C'mon, c'mon, Nhilly wants you guys there pronto! Through the gate, look for the pale guy in black! Kinda cute in a stand-offish way with those round, steely eyes and soft-"

Miralight, you're doing it. Again. The halfling waving on the procession blushed and held her tome out in front of her. Miralight pouted and almost through the animated book away, but shrugged in agreement. It was true after all.

"Alright! Role call before I send you guys through!" In the citadel, within the capital city of the Paragon, the freshly issued soldiers that were to reinforce the newly minted Black Guard with new blood. "Sarish Tal'Asir! Lamian cleric...oooh! That's rare, what's the name of the angel you venerate? Who's-" the animated book cleared his throat and Mira smiled and pushed Sarish into the portal with a magical nudge of force. "Liliana Bloodleaf, elfy marksman. Do elves ever run out of people who use bows? It just seems odd to me, wouldn't you run out of wood to use for arrows eventually? Oh! Sorry! Through the gate!" another push. "Hm, next is Alistair Razoredge...oh! I fought against you in the last war that one time! You tore my wooden flying horse out of the air if I recall correctly, how is your wing doing? Healed all right? Get on through!"

The next two legionaries jumped through without being announced. Miralight scowled and called after them, "Don't do that kinda stuff! You might get lashed and nobody likes lashings, it's rather painful! Anyways, Gurgen and Turha Mialee, twin psionics. Did you know humans could even have twins any more? Wierd right?" the question was directed at the last of the new legionnaires. She smiled and shook her head, to which Miralight smiled. Don't worry, I know you can't talk. Be sure to keep those guys alive!" then the last soldier was through the portal, which closed behind her.


North-Ridge

Wrath nodded in approval when Nhil finished calling out the names and positions of each arrival through the gate. The final soldier caught him off guard for a brief moment, then regained his composure. If the girl was here, then she was in all likelihood much more than she seemed. The gates closed all around leaving the full force of the Black Guard in the rain. Nhil raised his arms and cried out in a trumphant roar, "Members of the Black Guard! Congratulations! Many would think of a vanguard as a foolish term to describe those who take the most risks meeting the enemy in battle first...but I have lead the Black Guard on several occassions. We are simply the first to taste victory!"

A deafening cheer, one that should not have been possible for so few people met this proclimation. Nhil, along with Mercy, was gone in the blink of an eye, disappearing. Wrath cleared his throat and called for silence. "Alright, alright. I know this is exciting...unexpected. But it seems as if fortune smiles on us. All of your martial payments have been increased five times over, and ration limits vastly increased. Over the next few days other legions will arrive in camp. We will be working in concert with them, so get familiar with your fellows. Be sure to make our new members feel welcome as well. Now get some sleep, it's late."

As the soldiers were dismissed Wrath approached Neira with a sealed scroll. The parcel was placed into her hand, and to his credit, Wrath looked her in the eye without showing any outward signs of discomfort. "You've been conscripted. Welcome to the Legion of Ashes." and went back to his tent for some rest. He was exhausted.

Of the new recruits, one of them had not moved since arriving in camp. She stared straight at Caine with wide eyes. Barely reaching five feet in height, with marble skin and azure hair, the young elven girl's expression was caught somewhere between curiosity and distant recognition. Without thinking she rubbed the scar across the front of her throat. Finally deciding she had never seen the hulk of a man before, Mikana made her way to her own tent to retire for the evenning.

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Forest, Somewhere near the Terra Mountain Range

The Deep Human slowly relaxed, dropping the arrow from the string and returning it to its place in the quiver. She turned and watched as the Halfling and Orcs ran on for a moment, considering the corporal’s offer as she slung the longbow over her shoulder. Shrugging her shoulder and feeling the location of her equipment she jogged after them, catching up and taking the lead, head bent slightly, as if to observe the ground before her, hiding her face from the others seeing the crimson growing stronger in her eyes.

In a moment she paused, “This place we are going… Is directly ahead?”

The Halfling seemed a bit perplexed… maybe upset? It seemed that in his mind he suspected something of her. A quick glance at either orc or earned her own glance, keeping her eyes hidden by some hair that had fallen over her face.

“Yes, it should be just ahead.”

“Maybe, I should cover our tracks, since I have no ideas of where we are going.” She turned and walked past them and stood to the side, watching them until the Halfling resigned to turn around and lead his two orc companions back on their way. Waiting for a while she glanced at the woods before following, taking up a pace just behind them as she followed them through the forest.



Yanis moved on through the forest a small scowl on his face. For a moment he was sure the Deep Human might have been the one that was with the Children. But when she stopped and asked for directions it was some-what clearer she may be the most honest one of the bunch. The two orcs though… What in the world was a Shawoman? Wasn’t the term a Shaman, despite the gender? And this premonition business, it didn’t hold water. Once he got to the tower he’d get some of the men there to restrain and interrogate them. It wasn’t far now, just beyond those trees.

He pushed slightly ahead of the orcs and broke into the clearing, slowing down a bit to gaze proudly at their scout tower, its reinforced form stretching into the sky, looking out across the land to report any business of the Children. The Ballistae on top ready to fire and looking out over three directions to remove any possible threat that approached. Clenching his one hand into a fist he silently cheered and pushed on for the tower, the sooner he gave out the warning the better. As he drew closer, something seemed wrong with what he saw. Pulling back into a walk he took a few steps then stopped. Peering out it looked as if the door to the tower was open. Were they shifting positions?

He took a few more steps and stopped dead. Inside he could make out dark forms across the floor, something clinging around their bodies. Not here… Was I too late? He took a step back and bumped into the tall form of one of the Orcs. He felt an anger boiling inside them as he turned, ”You! What did you and your cohorts do—“

The shout died in his throat.

Emerging from the trees behind them came white robes. Yet there wasn’t a handful or even a couple. What first seemed like ten quickly rose to much more. His skin began to drain of warmth and blood as he turned around, white cloaks appearing from within and around the tower and encircling them. There had to be at least a hundred!

Then he heard something that froze his heart in ice, eyes drawing to the top of the tower as his body shook with primal fear. A small dragon beat its great wings twice and dropped to the top of the tower, its form cracking apart a ballista as pieces fell from the tower. A lance of pure white streaked across the sky illuminating black scales. It rose up, and let lose a feral roar right as the thunder struck but the Halfling seemed to know, the dragon was louder.

Yanis felt his lips tremble and began to mumble a curse before he felt something strike him in the back of the head. Corporal Yanis of the special forces dropped dead, face frozen in pure despair, with the shaft of an arrow buried through the back of his skull.



Dracon dropped the long bow, hands moving mechanically as she reached over her shoulders, slender fingers wrapping around the hilts of her blades. The sapphire in her eyes almost completely drowning in the deep pools of fiery crimson that took over. Before her the only survivor from the ambush collapsed as the orcs turned to look where he fell and began to spin around in shock. A cold smile spread across her lips as her arms jerked forwards, wrists flicking as she threw the blades just as they cleared their sheaths, metal blades dancing end over end. The pair had turned towards her then, the one holding the great sword roaring in challenge as the shorter of the two began to raise his war hammer and battle axe over his head. Neither noticed the blades until they struck, one burrowing in the knee of the great sword wielder, the other driving almost clean through the dual wielder’s right elbow.

The impact startled the pair, leaving room as Dracon crossed the ground, eyes burning intently as the Children of Fire watched around them. Her left foot kicked up the long bow as she approached, left hand casually waiting as it snatched up its grip once more. She had closed the gap then, right hand dropping to grip the end of the bow as she approached Gormun, his sword in the mud, hands holding himself up as he tried to recover from the shock of being able to use his left leg from the knee down. All the warrior had time for was to look up into her frozen scowl as she swung the longbow across his head, the sturdy weapon shattering as it dropped him cold.

The roar of her second opponent tipped her off for the attack as she dropped low to the ground, left hand pressing into the damp, rain soaked earth as her right drew the short sword at her side. The presence of the heavy war hammer sailing over where she once had been. Standing up she turned, holding the weapon in reverse, crossed just below her neck as she faced off against Brack. The infuriated orc, ignoring the pain of his useless right arm as his left jerked the battle awe from its grasp. Throwing away caution and reason he charged, raising the weapon over his head as she stood before him.

Just as he stepped within striking distance she ducked, rolling her left shoulder forwards, her body following the motion as feet turned on the earth, dropping inside his reach as the battleaxe cleaved through open air. Her back to his, just under his hunched form her head jerked back, breaking his nose and stunning the large foe to prevent him from locking her in an embrace with his remaining arm. The orc stumbled away as she turned, blade racing across and up in a single spin.

She stood with her back to him again, arms resting at her sides as his head began to lean back, shoulders following until the body toppled over. Without much care for where it fell she dropped the blade to the ground. The drizzle grew stronger into true rain and she looked at her audience, eyes bathed in pure crimson as black forms pushed through the crowd. The figures walked on two legs though they looked as if they were dragon in nature, forms as black as the dragon atop the tower. They drew close to her as one carefully raised a helm before her. Its form was long, carefully crafted for a war that was long past, the surface a dull crimson, the color of blood. The mithril helm felt good in her hands once more as she donned the helm, crimson eyes gleaming out of draconian slits.

Dracon motioned for her soldiers to follow her, the other pair carrying the rest of her sacred armor.



As the four figures moved inside the tower, the Children of Fire began to gather outside, making room as a score of black dragons began to glide from the sky to land. Lightning pierced through the heavens again as the rain began to pick up, thunder booming like war drums into the night.

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Faera was spared any chance for elucidation when someone's magically-enhanced voice rang through camp. The amplified sound was so loud to her sensitive audits that she was forced to cover them with both hands before Beelzes grabbed her and dragged her to the center of camp, as they had been instructed.

The young dark elf knew the names of the people in charge of the Paragon; there were precious few who did not. However, even had she functional eyes, she would not have recognized any of them on sight without anything to reference. That did not stop her, though, from placing a rather accurate guess that the man who spoke after the Captain was very important. You could virtually hear it in his voice, or at the very least in the hushed silence that allowed his every word to drop like a boulder into it. She had never known such a large group of people to be so quiet, and that alone convinced her of the gravity of what was being said.

Of course, that didn't mean any of it made any sense. They were tested... they'd been thrown into that huge group of Children on purpose? But what about all those people that had died? If a normal troop wouldn't get put in a situation like that, then they would not have been killed if assigned to a normal troop! And what was all this about potential and such? She had just discovered she knew much less about anything than even she had thought, and suddenly she was part of a group who were all being promoted?

She could scarcely believe it; might not have if the Captain himself had not confirmed it but scant moments later. Him, she did believe, if only because he'd gotten them all this far, which truthfully was much further than she had thought in the thick of that battle earlier today. This was all a bit much, and by the conclusion of it all, Faera was feeling emotionally as well as physically drained. She had wanted to talk to Talae about everything that had happened, knowing that her sister was much more accustomed to dealing with this sort of thing, but it would not be a mistake in her estimation to suppose that this was all equally new to the elder Shanir.

So when everyone was dismissed, Faera decided she'd leave off meeting the new fighters until the morning. Right now, she needed nothing more than some sleep, lest it all overwhelm her completely. She trudged with unusual heaviness to the tent she had been pointed to (after a fashion) earlier and clambered under the covers, intent on not letting her racing thoughts keep her awake all night. It wouldn't have worked, had Zek not helped. He was a good little familiar like that.




Now there was a question Neira hadn't considered in a while. "The spawn seem to get smaller each time you look at them," she replied with uncharacteristic thoughtfulness. Shaking her head, she downed what remained of her flagon. She was pretty sure she was done drinking four in; she had no desire to be impaired at the moment, truth be told. "Of course, it's hardly a surprise, seeing as how their parents grow ever more spineless at virtually the same rate."

She might have said more on the subject, but it was then that the General's voice (she most certainly recognized it from the tent earlier, and wasn't stupid enough to fail in recalling his face) sounded, and the footnote to his summons caused her to grin. "Someone thinks he knows you too well, I'd say." It was with those parting words that Neira slid her coin onto the table and left. Mercy could do as she liked, of course, and her fellow Nightmarian would not make protest.

The explanation was mildly interesting, actually, and when she found out just how thoroughly they'd all been had, she chuckled darkly to herself. So many little puppets, dancing on your strings, she thought wryly at (but not to, because psionically she was capable of that) the white-haired general. The new recruits were of passing interest, as was the Captain's wardrobe change, more specifically the swords involved. Now those matched a story she'd heard a few times before, and the name connected to that story matched the unlikely officer's own. My, my... things do run in circles around here, don't they?

When all was said and done, the man himself approached and informed her she'd been conscripted. "Oh damn, and here I thought I was going to leave just as it got interesting," she replied archly, accepting the scroll anyway. Granted, she was unfond of having her choices made for her, but she saw little point in arguing the principle of the thing when it coincided with her own wishes anyway. Curiously, the conscription notice was not the only thing in the parcel, and she read over the other, much shorter missive before crushing it in her fist, a small smirk playing across her mouth and a dangerous glint in her eye. Oh, this could be fun.

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North-Ridge

"You got me," she said, "I'd be dead right now in a real fight, so we'll call it yours."

"Not like you made it easy for me," He said between pants. The fact of the matter was that he merely outlasted her. He was better able to handle swing a sword larger than a knife through an entire fight and if she perhaps had the same stamina he did, she may could have walked out of the spar the victor. Finally, with the end of the spar, the entire weight of the day came crashing on his shoulders. He hadn't felt it earlier because of the surges of adrenaline and such.

He straightened up, placed the sword back on his back, and began to accept Talae's extended hand... Though he missed the first time. The sudden shift in weight had slid his foot to his side. That and he was tired may had played some... Factor. The second time he hit the mark and shook the Dark Elf's hand firmly. "Just work on your stamina... Then you can really mess some children up," He said, a dark smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

"Now I think it might be a good idea to clean ourselves up and get some rest. No good to chew each other up and make it easier for a bloody white-robe to finish it, eh?"

"They'd have to try harder than that... But 'spose your right," Cain agreed, rubbing his neck and back. He was sore there as well due to the contortions and twisting he put himself through. "Imma go get... Cleaned up," He said, rubbing a muddy hand through muddy hair. Not like it made matters worse. He turned and strode carefully away from the clearing to avoid slipping on the torn up ground and threw a hand back in something one would call a good-bye. On his way, he passed the Deep Human who had watched... What was his name... Kisikoni? "Like the show?" He asked in sarcastic wit. He moved on passed the Deep Human and towards a tent. One he would call his own.

Inside the rudimentary shelter, there was a cot and a wash basin and not a whole lot else. He immediately went to the wash basin and set to getting the mud and grime from his hair, face, and hands. Suffciently cleaned, he removed the armor and placed it beside the cot with his weapons. Then he noticed that mud simply slides off of the leathers he wore. He merely ran a hand across the surface and it looked to be good as new. He then laid his weary head on the cot and proceeded to rest... Or at least he tried...

"This is General Derenthi of the Legion of Ashes. Every unit not assigned to this outpost is required to report to the bonfire located in the middle of the tent masses immediately. Those who fail to do so will receive martial punishment to the fullest extent." after a short pause, he added, "That includes you Yan'vega."


Anyone within hearing distance of the tent would hear a... Loud exclaimation of, "Motherfucker!"




Atalia City North Ridge

Lily was about to respond enthusiastically to the being calling the roll... Though the sudden force shoved her through the portal before she could even finish her high pitched, "Eeek!" As a result, she arrived on the other side of the portal yelping the tale end of the squeak. A couple of the legionaries glanced at her, to whom she responded with a smile and a wave... Then she began to blush, embarrassed at her outburst.

"Members of the Black Guard! Congratulations! Many would think of a vanguard as a foolish term to describe those who take the most risks meeting the enemy in battle first...but I have lead the Black Guard on several occassions. We are simply the first to taste victory!"

"Oooh! Blackguard! Doesn't that sound neat and strong!" Lily exclaimed to any who would listen. Then she bit her knuckle in thought. That meant she was in an elite group. That meant she should probably act like it... The thought was dashed almost as fast as it appeared and the bright smile wrapped around her face again. If she was an elite soldier in a prestigious Legion, then she could act however she very well pleased. Her eyes scanned the group of soldier's that had congregated in front of her... A group of battle-hard and red blooded warrior's it looked like... Especially the man with the face full of scars... "My, my... he doesn't look too happy..." Lily pointed out.




Caine was pissed. He had just closed his eyes to get some damn rest and he was summoned to the damned meeting around a damned bon-fire... Although, for good reason it seemed... They all were promoted to Blackguards... A fierce name to be sure. And the golems were a surprise. The fact they carried weapons in carts was the topping on the cake. Caine instantly assumed that was for them and anxiously awaited to check them out... Looks like he wasn't going to have to clean his weapons after all!

Caine kept quiet during the cheer, but he was with a pleased smirk. A gesture that spoke louder than any cheer could ever. Their payments were increased (Caine didn't care much... What good was payment when you fully expected to die each and every time you marched?) Ration were increased (He did enjoy this...) but the best part? He was a Blackguard. His pride welled and he glanced upward towards the heavens once more. "Proud?" He asked.

As the procession was dying down, he caught a glimpse of an elven girl staring him down. Strange, it seemed her throat had been scarred, normally a fatal wound... A sense of vague recognition pervaded his mind, but he could not for the life of him think who she was. A thought emerged in his head that he should investigate her. See who she was, why she was familiar. He simply disregarded this. This was a new girl, a replacement, a stranger. He didn't feel comfortable talking to one who had just entered. Instead, he made his way to the weapon's cart, eager to get new leathers, armor, and most importantly, weapons. He couldn't help himself from glancing at her as he walked though... Who was that?

At the weapons' cart, he took the standard leather and armor, though perused the selection of weapons... Weapons from all over Norr sat in the carts. Longswords, mallets, sabers, spears, bows and matching arrows, maces, anything and everything. His eyes hung on a ornately crafted White Saber with a tassel hanging from the hilt. Caine never was one much for looks, only effectiveness... But the saber was beautiful and deadly. He picked the saber up and removed it from it's sheath. The blade was just as stunning as the hilt... Caine merely said, "Mine," and looped the saber's sheath on his left, for right handed access.

Then he looked for the second in the pair of weapons. After scouring the cart for a couple of minutes, his spied something black. He picked up the weapon and it seemed to be a katana of some sort. He pulled it part way out of it's sheath and noticed that the blade was as black as the hilt... A fitting sword for one of the 'Blackguard'... "Also mine," The berserker claimed. He held this blade over his shoulder, with the set of new leathers and armor in his other. Now... Perhaps if the heavens bid it.. He could get some rest.




Lily was skipping through the camp, already wearing her leathers plus a bit of her old outfit. The black colored leather encased her legs and torso, while her one of her hand and both upper arms were free. Her wrists to her elbow were also encased in the leather with her right hand being gloved in the same material. "Helps with the bowstring," she told a wandering eye. She hoped that was, indeed, what the wandering eye was looking at... She was a beautiful and light creature, something the fortieth- Blackguard no doubt had not been accustomed to...

White fabrics roped around her hips in a white sash while a length of white cloth extended from the sash, over her groin and down to her knees. Also, the same white cloth hid her bare upper arms and a hood was laying flat at the base of her neck. As Lily skipped through the camp, the mud and soft ground appeared to not even affect the bubbly girl. No doubt due to her tenure as a hunter. She greeted each and every single person she came across with such enthusiasm the fortieth had seen as of yet. She did, however, keep her distance from the scarred man...

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#, as written by Aythr
Duran was still shaking from his dream when Goma pawed her way out of the tent. She gave a whimper to assess the state of her master, and nudged his arm with her nose, allowing it to rest on her snout for a moment. Duran immediately snapped back to reality, and bent down and pecked Goma on the nose with his lips.

"Just a bad.." He hesitated for a second, not sure what word was best to describe it. "Just a dream, girl. Just a dream."

Suddenly, a loud voice resonated over the encampment.

"This is General Derenthi of the Legion of Ashes. Every unit not assigned to this outpost is required to report to the bonfire located in the middle of the tent masses immediately."

Duran looked back at his own tent, and then noticed that the voice was closer than it sounded. He got up and headed towards the center of the tents, not realizing that the clearing was so close to his own tent.

"Saves us a walk, at least." he thought.

As he arrived on the spot, he noticed that not many were there. The orcs had arrived just before him, missing a member of the family. Duran gritted his teeth and tried not to think too much about it. Shortly after, the harpies showed up, and then the Lamia with a halfling. He couldn't seem to recall the halfling's name or even her face, but he expected that considering the social distance he put between him and the rest of the legion. After that, the coming members seemed to be all one big blur.

At the center of them all was a Deep Human. Pins and medals adorned his armor. As a druid, he wasn't sure exactly what this meant, but he could at least figure that it meant they were standing before a very high ranking member of The Legion. Before Duran could think any more, the man spoke.

"Contrary to popular belief, the fortieth legion is not for rejects or oddities. It is a test. Those of you standing here are made of something greater than the average soldier...we simply needed some assurance that we were not mistaken in that assumption. The battle you just faced? A measure of your abilities. Do you think it is every day a legion of twenty-two fends off an assault three times their size? An assault comprised of combatants that are equal to three men each? Who can breath magical flames and tear a man apart with their bare hands? The answer is no. Had you been a normal unit, I would not be having the honor of speaking to you today.

It all suddenly dawned on Duran. They knew. They knew all along that the fortieth was probably being sent to their deaths. It was only by luck, skill, or some combination of them all that he and everybody else was alive. The rage began to well up inside him, and he fought the urge to scream at the top of his lungs that this man would have sooner seen the fortieth dead. He was actually glad he didn't have a weapon on him.

"It is my pleasure, to announce that you, newest members of the Legion of Ashes, have all been promoted. You are now apart of the Black Guard: The Vanguard unit of the Legion of Ashes."

Duran didn't know what that meant, and he hardly cared. He fought back the anger, and slowly the boiling rage became a simmer.

Suddenly, portals appeared behind the man, and from them a great deal of metal monstrosities. Some of them were carrying carts adorned with sheets, only to pull them away at the behest of Nhil. Upon the carts, all kinds of different items, from armor, to weapons, potions, and other assorted gear that, presumably, he would be taking with him into the next slaughter that this insane Deep Human had planned.

Wrath spoke next.

"In ten days the invasion upon the dragon-controlled territory will begin. We will cross the mountains dividing east and west Norr, and bring the fight to the dragons."

Duran fought the urge to scream once more at the insanity of this plan. Suddenly an image of him running himself through with a spear crossed his mind. Probably a less gruesome fate than whatever the dragons might have in mind. Duran came back to reality just in time for another portal to open, this one spewing forth several new forms.


Sarish Tal'Asir! Lamian cleric...oooh! That's rare, what's the name of the angel you venerate? Who's-"

Sarish let out a low hiss at the idea that a book was about to speak aloud his patron's name before being forced through the portal. As he passed through, he noted a circle of legionnaires. His characteristic smile formed on his lips, and he brushed his hair back. Immediately after he appeared, he heard his name.

"A pleasure, I'm sure." he said out loud with considerable smug and oozing an almost sickening amount of charisma. He slithered past and took a spot in the crowd next to the elven woman he had entered the portal with. He looked at her up and down, and raised an eyebrow. It was probably a good idea to keep his thoughts to himself for now.

Before Sarish realized it, they were cheering for some reason that he had not been paying attention to, though he did catch something about a pay raise.

Now get some sleep, it's late.

"Come now, it's far too late for sleep." Sarish thought to himself.


Duran walked back to his tent and sat down with Goma upon dismissal. He knew why he was angry, but he began to question himself.

"This is what I wanted, right? This is what we wanted, Goma. To get rid of those dragons. By any means necessary. I'm done moping around. The destruction of the dragons. It is our new objective, Goma. It was always our objective. I'm done being sorry, sad, and angry. We're going to do this, because if we don't, it is the end of us all, and I won't stand around feeling sorry for myself, waiting for the end. We will face it, Goma, and to Hell with what happens next."

Goma's tail wagged as a striking look of determination appeared on Duran's face.

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Caine left, and his once-opponent decided to take her own advice and do the same. On her way, she passed Kisikoni, only then remembering that he had been spectating. "Thank you, for today," she said simply. She did not much like the thought of what would have happened had nobody been there to watch her back, and she was genuinely grateful for that, even if it would never be anything but understated.

Talae was in her tent running a whetstone along her simple-but-serviceable blade when the magnified shout echoed across camp. She rolled her eyes- did they really have to be so ostentatious about it?- but the obvious answer was yes, they did. She almost didn't believe the name the voice was giving itself; General Darenthi was about as close to a living legend as anyone anymore, and honestly she had no idea why such a personage would waste his time with cast-off legion that she belonged to.

Nevertheless, she was not so stupid as to ignore a summons. Glad that she'd had time to brush off her dead-useful leather armor and get most of the mud out of her hair, she clambered wearily to her feet, lifting her tent flap and exiting with a curious frown.

She was hardly surprised to hear that they'd been had- people with that much rank tended to think of themselves as entitled to toy with life as they would- and in some senses, they were. If it were in the best interests of the cause to send one squad to their deaths to buy time or positioning for another, then few commanders would probably hesitate. The threat the dragons presented was just that great. That didn't mean she much liked it, of course, but her opinion was ultimately inconsequential in the long run.

Although... the news took a turn for the strange as his speech continued. Talae was, on the one hand, glad of the increase in wage. It would make for easier living when this was all over- if it truly ended and she survived that long of course. If not, well... more for Fae, she supposed. On the other side of it, being a Vanguard was not exactly the safest of jobs, even in the Legion of Ashes. She could deal with it, but it meant also that her sister was now in exponentially more danger. She made the choice, Talae. It's your job only to make sure that she survives it.

When the meeting was adjourned, Talae made her way to the equipment caravans, procuring extra uniforms for both herself and Fae, forgoing the selection of weapons for the moment. She had more than enough knives, and a new sword as well. Any more would just weigh her down at this point. She returned with far less enthusiasm the greeting sent her way by an elvish archer, apparently new, with an inward flinch. She reminded Talae of Faera, only... louder. More aggressively cheerful, perhaps.

By the time she got back to her tent, Fae was inside and asleep, so she moved her work outside the tent itself. At least this way she was still in the general atmosphere of things, even if she wasn't exactly social.




Alistair waited a good deal more patiently than the archer in front of him for his turn to file into the portal. Perhaps fitting; she seemed inexperienced at best, and he was quite the opposite. Blood and death would find them all in due time, there was little need to rush them, or eagerly anticipate their arrival.

The snowy-hued harpy dipped his head in acknowledgment of Miralight. "I think I might have, at that," he replied in a musical tenor. "I have since recovered quite well, thank you for your concern." He had neither the time nor the inclination to say more, however, as it was his turn to step through, and he did just that, emerging into the campsite of the former fortieth in time to hear the conclusion of the General's speech. He, of course, had been assigned to the Vanguard this unit would become, not the fortieth Legion, though he was mildly surprised to note that it was only just being made so.

Ten days... an awfully short amount of time, all things considered. But, if the General saw potential in this unit, then he would serve it to the best of his ability, as was the duty he had taken upon himself. The group itself seemed to be well-mixed; a blend of humans, elves, harpies, halflings, lamia, and unless he was very much mistaken, that was a Nightmarian- a rare sight indeed. Quite the assortment.

He was not terribly tired at the moment, all things considered, and he contemplated seeking out any members of this new team that did not look over-wearied and introducing himself. It seemed, though, that the majority of them were actively involved in their own business, and he had no wish to make a nuisance of himself, certainly. So it was without a word to anyone that Alistair retired for the evening, selecting an unoccupied tent. If not for the niceties of convention amongst species not his own, the man would have probably chosen a tree instead, but it would be no great sacrifice to do otherwise.

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#, as written by Arke
The sparring match finished. It was rather surprising, the intuition of the Beserker. Of course, this was the first time he had seen both fight, but due to the pure mass of the human he was fairly surprised he managed to hold his own against such a quick member of the Fourtieth Legion. Well, for all he knew, he could be holding back. A beserker wasn't called a beserker unless he/she was in a flying rage when fighting. A few cuts wouldn't slow this behemoth down.

As they picked themselves up from the mud he was asked by Caine, with all sarcastic intent, his thoughts on the show. Kisikoni didn't really care, but he nodded rather enthusiastically. "It was very enlightening, comrade." He replied. He realized he had been clapping softly, and stopped as the dark elf passed him. What was surprising to the Deep Human, was that she thanked him, of all things. He decided to take it in stride. He was just as grateful for her presence, as if he had been attacked by multiple Children in the earlier battle he would have died long before the translocation was declared. "I only did what partners were supposed to do." He replied, waving off the thanks. Kisikoni was naturally humble, because something he feared was corruption. This was why if he were offered a promotion, he'd consider it but ultimately he might refuse.

"This is General Derenthi of the Legion of Ashes. Every unit not assigned to this outpost is required to report to the bonfire located in the middle of the tent masses immediately. Those who fail to do so will receive martial punishment to the fullest extent."

The deep human had been walking back to his tent to begin sharpening his butterfly swords when the announcement had been made. He noted that he had to pass through the bonfire to get to his tent, so he might as well stop there. He sadly regarded his nicked swords and promised them treatment later. He gathered, like everyone else at the center. He looked at his captain. He looked very different. A brilliant cloak rippled like water from his back, and his posture- very casual before when he had seen him, was now strong and cold. Two exotic swords hung from his waist.

Suddenly, he was given a high honor in the army- a position in the Black Guard. Kisikoni stared at the center, hoping this was some sick joke. Hidden potential? He barely managed to fend off just one child. He almost laughed, but it would be rude. However, when the Golems pulling carts entered the scene, he was sure they were serious. "No. Way." He gaped, and his jaw only dropped further when the carts revealed the best of the best equipment. Something even the armory here couldn't match.

However, the third point struck home. They were to lead the fight against the Dragons. This was going to be too much. In ten days, they will walk the territory of the fire-spitters. Luckily the golems would march with them, and they would receive more reinforcements. What relieved him was the increase in rations. It paid to be able to eat well- as it affected morale on the battlefield. Smart move. And with that, they were dismissed. The Lamia certainly brought back memories of the Child that so nearly killed him, and he looked no different. His humble nature rejected the charismatic outlook he gave out, and he struggled to accept him as part of the group. The elven archer gave off a sense of innocence, which while Kisikoni didn't particularly condone, it would probably be dangerous for her. He decided to meet them later. For now, the carts awaited him.

He rummaged through the carts, and pulled out a beautiful-looking crossbow. To his surprise, his bolts fit the thing perfectly. It held nothing compared to his lost customized crossbow, but it was long, accurate, and similar to what he was used to firing. This would be a fine substitute for his missing weapon. He hung it over his back, and found himself a very decent dirk dagger- double-edged and easy to hide. It was more for utility uses, but it could be thrown in a pinch and was strong enough to be used in a fight. He sheathed it and tied it to his boot. He took a skin of water, which smelled pure and the skins seemed to be devoid of all scent and taste. That meant as it went on, the water held in the skin wouldn't taste like cow hide. Thank the Earth. He took a fresh whetstone, and the lightest and most durable live leather armor he could find. Armor only hindered the methodical deep human in a fight, who relied on close-quarter fast strikes. The leather was strong enough- arrows would not penetrate them, unlike chainmail. He saw two short swords, but nothing like his butterfly swords.

His original swords had served him very well over the years he had been fighting the war, so he saw no point in taking the short swords, which he was unfamiliar with. He did, however, find some odd scroll that gave instructions on a one-time spell that would drastically increase the durability of his weapons. It was not something that required magical talent, rather just an alchemic transmution with the paper containing the circle- and the supplies in a pouch tied next to it. All he had to do was activate it. Very useful.

At this point, the Deep Human was ready to rest. All this information needed time to sink in, and he just wasn't ready to soak it in yet in a conscious state. He grabbed a uniform that the golem offered to him (it was odd, but oddly flattering) and made for his tent. It was time to prepare before he went to bed.

The first thing he did, was open the scroll, take his swords, and lay them in the circle. He took the bag and dumped the contents (most of which was a strange powder and some hunks of metal) onto the circle. He read the instructions carefully, then placed both palms on the edge. He focused, not too sure what to expect, but suddenly the paper consumed itself in a fire that burned white. Kisikoni flinched away from the light and when it cleared, he saw his two butterfly swords. They looked like new, almost better than new. He took them, and found that they were sharpened too. He grinned like a madman, testing them out. Perfect.

After rearranging his supplies to fit whatever he snagged from the cart, he placed his bag next to his cot and lay on it. His mind was buzzing so quickly, he couldn't sleep. He remembered that there was also a few new additions he forgot to greet. The harpy looked much older than he was- though it was very difficult to discern male from female. He decided to pay a visit. After asking around, he located the tent. Curiosity coursed through his veins.

He knocked on the frame once. "May I enter?" He asked.




"Really now." She replied interestedly, almost eagerly. "That's just terrible." Mercy too drank the rest of the contents in her glass, but with several more to go she wasn't finished yet. Suddenly, the made the annoucement. Mercy decided wholeheartedly to blow off th damn thing. If they thought they could bring her over just because they wanted to blow wind on stage or something, they were wrong. A pause, and the voice of Nhil Derenthi said:

"That includes you Yan'vega."

"Damn it." She whined, nearly spitting out the drink in her mouth. "I don't want to go." Before she could gather her wits and make a nice comeback to the Dragonfly, she had left. "Toodles." She called after in a lopsided voice. The bartender looked at her worriedly. Before he could ask, the Nightmarian spider waved him off. "I'm fine dear, thanks." She stumbled out the tent, leaving several mugs of drink and many other empty glasses. She made her way, very slowly, toward the bonfire- hampered by her unconcerned demeanor. She could walk just fine if she concentrated, but didn't care enough to. She was definitely the last to arrive, just as they began to speak.

She looked over the crowd, and when she spied Wrath, carrying his hooked swords and brilliant cloak, she began to cry. She held her face in her hands and just sobbed. "Stupid, stupid, stupid!" She keened softly. The words went in through Mercy's left ear, and out the other. She was in no mood to be listening to the General's worthless blathering. "They're all doomed." She muttered through her tears. "It's happening again."

It was only when Mercy was "swear-to-drunk-I'm-not-god" that she acted like this. She could barely see anything now, her voluminous red eyes all erratically blinking. Suddenly she felt the tug of magic on her bodice and recognized the cold, gaunt spell that took her away an instant later. She hoped Derenthi had a damn good explanation for this.

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Alistair hummed pleasantly to himself as he shuffled on bird-feet around the surprisingly spacious tent. There was a cot that the knew already would not accommodate his wingspan (and if you'd ever seen a harpy try to sleep on their stomach, you would understand why it was simply impossible), but that did not much bother him. There was a small washbasin as well, but what intrigued him most was the alchemist's hot-plate that stood in the center of the room. When activated, the thing was perfectly suitable for heating water, and the tent's occupant was suddenly quite pleased that he had thought to buy some elf-made tea last time he had the chance.

So it was with deliberate patience that he currently moved about, setting his supplies, few as they were, in order, and waiting for his water to come to a boil. A small jaunt outwards once again had yielded him a few cups; he hadn't the heart to protest that he needed but one. His trident, he had propped up against the far wall of the tent, and his unstrung bow and arrows occupied a corner.

Just as he was checking on the status of his water (it was coming to a pleasant boil), he heard the sound of someone approaching, followed by a knock and a polite question. Turning his head to one side in the manner of a much less humanoid feathered creature examining something, he drifted to the flap and opened it. Ah, a fellow legionnaire. "Certainly," the man replied amiably. "I was just making tea, would you care for some?" Stepping aside to allow the person- Deep Human, if he were to put a race to him- to enter, Alistair lowered himself gracefully to the floor and added some to two of the cups, filling them with hot water, and setting one across from him, and one in front, to let them steep.

"Ah, where are my manners?" he asked aloud. "My name is Alistair, and though I have been with the Legion for some time, I am, as you have surely guessed, rather new to this division. Might I inquire after you as well, friend?" His tone was pleasant, his face lent a certain degree of kindness by naught but the lack of any malicious intent.

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The elf was still skipping through the camp, now humming a gentle tune as she went. Lily was making herself comfortable with the surroundings and the immediate area. Many of the Blackguard had turned in for a well deserved rest, no doubt they had a difficult day... You could tell by their eyes and the way they carried themselves. It was quite sad, really. So many individuals, all fighting for their lives each and every day. Lily felt a sensation, as if it was all wrong, as if it wasn't natural. Indeed, it wasn't natural to have to claw and bite to survive on your own little piece of dirt.

She quickly turned away from such morbid thoughts. They always brought her down, and she didn't like to be depressed. It never did sit quite well with her. Then she halted mid-skip... She had smelt something. It was faint and hidden under all of the other smells. Between the smells of blood, of wet dirt, of sweat. Even under the metallic steel smells and oily smells. Something familiar, something... Sweet. Her thoughts hung in the air for moments, trying to place her tongue on the smell... It was familiar, something she had always liked since she was a young elf girl... Well, younger elf girl. True, her species mostly thought of her as a child, if not a baby, in the decently long lived species of elf.

But back to the scent... "Aha!" She exclaimed after seconds of thought, "I know it! It's tea! Elf tea!" She pointed out... The sudden outburst was sure to startle any soldier who was close enough. Of course, Lily didn't pay attention to the strange looks, as she turned and began to follow her nose. They used to brew tea just like that in her elven hunting band. However, it was rare that she could ever swipe a cup due to her young age. The tea was often brewed by the older elves and served to the same elves, often leaving her out. However, here? There was a chance she could score a cup! She was, after all, a soldier. No one should care about her age.

She weaved between tents, doubled back once or twice, and she was pretty sure she passed the same tent a couple of times, but finally, she had found the home of the aromatic scent. She suddenly poked her head into the tent and asked, "Is that elven tea I smell? Oh my, it is!" She said, the tone of her voice borderline giddy, "Do you understand how much I adore the tea?!" She said, forgetting herself. Remembering that she had just barged in the tent without even knocking or anything, she blushed again, embarrassed. She had finally noticed that the two occupants, Alistair, the Harpy who hopped into the portal after her, and a Deep Human.

"My.. apologies..." She said, still blushing. "It's just that the tea... Reminds me of home... Well, not home, but my family and friends," She hadn't had much of home due to the nomadic nature of the Elven hunting parties, but the people she was with more than constituted a home. She then bowed her head and looked at the ground, both guilty and interrupting them and embarrassed by her rash action.

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It wasn't but a scant moment more before another head poked into Alistair's tent, accompanied by the rather chipper sort of voice one did not usually associate with soldiers. Its owner was none other than Liliana, the rather energetic, perhaps a trifle too-twitchy lass who'd been in front of him in line through the portal. Her enthusiasm drew a small chuckle from the harpy, and he shook his head good-naturedly. "If you do indeed enjoy it so much, you are more than welcome to some," he replied sagely. "It is in times like these ones that we must hold onto those things which make us happy."

In so saying, he prepared a third cup, wondering if the Quartermaster's assistant from whom he had procured the dishware had some sort of ability to read the future. The thought did not sit well with him, and so he banished it, gesturing for the girl (for indeed, she was scarcely more than that) to take a seat as well. She spoke of family and friends, and Alistair recalled that it had been quite some time since he thought of his clan. Not a pitiable offense, since such thoughts brought him no joy at all, but he had had friends before.

Ah, the Murder... it had been a while since then, in truth, and to his knowledge the group was all but disbanded now, their leader dead. He'd taken up with the Legion in the years following. Much of Alistair's life had been spent devoted to blood and death; it was truly a shame that the world was still such that others had to also. He wondered somewhat sadly how long Liliana's good cheer would last before being crushed under the onslaught of violence that she was sure to experience. He counted himself lucky that he'd managed to keep his manners and general pleasantness intact, for the most part, though few were as lucky. Or perhaps just not inclined to it; the soldering life did tend to draw a certain type to it, after all.

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#, as written by Arke
He was admitted into the tent by the androgynous-looking harpy. He was amazed, even at this close proximity he was unable to tell the gender. Then again, Kisikoni was very unfamiliar with the differences between a male and female harpy. "Thank you." He said, as he entered the tent and took a seat on some free space. The harpy was very obviously older than Kisikoni, due to the way he held himself and his manner of speaking. When the Harpy, Alistair, introduced himself, Kisikoni decided solely on the name that the winged being was a male.

Taking the cup of tea, Kisikoni sniffed at it slightly. His heightened senses meant that the tea smelled rather strong. He remembered the acrid-tasting tea from earlier and nearly declined the offer, if the beverage currently offered to him didn't smell so appealing. "Thank you again, sir." He said. "I am Kisikoni Ayalen, Deep Human from Chochmingwu. I have only been with this legion for about a decade. I welcome you to our division."

The deep human was unsure on how to proceed with such a well-mannered acquaintance. Everything he said seemed to feel rude and brash compared to the styled prose of Alastair. "All of this is so much to take in." He commented. "From being the fortieth legion to the Black Guard of the army." He took a sip of the tea, and found it quite excellent- despite the fact that he used the boiling-water method of tea-making. He was more used to the tea-bag method, which was much cleaner but good bags are hard to come by.

Suddenly, an excited elf burst through the front of the tent, startling Kisikoni and nearly having him drop his cup. If the cup had been any fuller, or if Kisikoni would have taken less of a sip, the liquid would have spilled over. Looking closely, he realized it was the elvish girl from earlier- the one who he thought was rather innocent-looking. He silently agreed with Alastair. He had originally enlisted with the Paragon to fight and end the war so everybody could just go home and live a normal life. Now Kisikoni fought for the survival of his species. He rather envied the girl's bubbly attitude- very few people possessed it now, it was rather refreshing.

"Yes, please," Kisikoni concurred as the Elf looked rather ashamed, "This is excellent tea." He said enticingly. He turned back to Alastair. "It really is." He said, very seriously. The bar's tea was on par with the acid deep humans used to clean gems. He shuddered slightly as he remembered an idiot friend accepting a dare to drink some. Pride was something nobody should have too much of. Comparing the bar's tea with that seemed about right.

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"... Thank you," She said with a hint of coy shyness. She half expected to be turned away due to her entrance. She was, indeed, cheerful... Sometimes sickeningly so. Many these days can not handle the mirth and optimism Lily brought with her, when everything around them is either burning or dieing. It upset some people and sometimes alienated her. The cheerful elf in a band of solemn hunters... She was always the outcast. She entered the tent gingerly, gracefully as an elf could be.

She sat beside the group, sitting her bow beside her so it wouldn't be uncomfortable, and accepted the tea with both hands. "Again, sorry about earlier," She said, cheer slowly returning to her voice. She could not stand to be shy or melancholy for long. She looked into the tea and inhaled the aroma. Memories of the forests and her hunting band returned and she smiled... "Just like home..." She commented before taking a sip. The liquid slid down her throat slowly, enjoying each and every second of it. The taste was sweet, with just a tiny bite of bitterness and tang.

"Reminds me of the forests we traveled in..." She admitted before glancing at the Deep Human... "Oh! I'm sorry, I don't think I've introduced myself. My name is Liliana Bloodleaf. Lily, please," She added, followed by a sweet smile. So far, these two seemed to be kind and gracious enough... Something you wouldn't expect in something called the Blackguard. Really, one would expect a bunch of muscle-bound creatures with a bloody gleam in their eye and a wish to kill everything in sight... Sorta like that fellow with the scars...

"Oh! Yes, it is indeed excellent tea. Nothing like the 'water' you would usually find." She belatedly agreed with the Deep Human. She was trying to hide the fact that she never really had much tea before. Just what she could swipe or brew herself... Which always ended up tasting like mud. "I used to have tea like this in my old hunting clan," An innocent lie, "At least... Until we got.. Separated," She said, mulling over the right word choice for a moment. She still wasn't completely sure that was the right word... Words like 'left' and 'abandoned' came to mind instead.

She looked at her two companions... An odd bunch surely. A Deep Human, a Male Harpy, and an Elf. All brought together just to simply survive. It shouldn't be like this. They all should be in their homes. Her in her forests, the Deep Human in his caves, and the Harpy atop cliffs and peak. Every last thing was threatened and every day the outlook turned darker and darker... It took a strong person to smile in these times... She stared into her tea, herself steeping his her thoughts.

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"I am Kisikoni Ayalen, Deep Human from Chochmingwu. I have only been with this legion for about a decade. I welcome you to our division." Alistair tried to place Chochmingwu on the mental map he had of Norr, but was only partially successful. He resolved to check for it next time he saw one. To the welcome, he merely inclined his head in gratitude, sensing that perhaps Kisikoni had more to say yet. As it turned out, he was correct.

"All of this is so much to take in. From being the fortieth legion to the Black Guard of the army." That drew a smile from the harpy, for indeed he imagined it must be so. Sudden change was never easy and rarely welcomed, but Alistair had fought in enough battles masterminded by General Darenthi to know that the man was cunning in his savvy, and quite the strategist. A tad too ruthless, perhaps, but war was war, and it rarely made kind men of its leaders.

"I imagine that it is," he mused thoughtfully. "I think, though, that in the end, much of the work will be the same. The Legion of Ashes faces battles that many would think unwinnable daily. At least, when one marches to the enemy, one knows to expect this." He was under the impression that the last battle had caught them all quite off-guard, and he could certainly understand that. The Children of Flame were not enemies easily-bested, no matter one's level of skill or experience, and to face so many more than anticipated would be rather unsettling, even to himself.

Alistair waved off all compliments to his tea, though he did rather get the impression that Lily was less a connoisseur than she would perhaps have them believe. This, he accepted as rather harmless, and did not comment upon it. Her words regarding her clan were tinged with sadness, though, and he quite truthfully thought he must be a much older man than he had anticipated, if he were being met with the urge to offer sage advice so often in the course of a single conversation. He was scarcely out of the youth of his species, at least in terms of relative lifespans, but it had been an eventful sixty-some years, all things considered. He'd had a spear in his hand from the time he was six months old, using it in clan squabbles before the war then in service of the Murder and then for the Legion.

So he supposed it was advice that was his to give, and there was little purpose in keeping it to himself. But perhaps offering it in a more diluted fashion would be appropriate. "I myself lived with a clan for quite some time," he replied conversationally. "I have found that, somehow, it makes it an easier matter to come to think of new groups of people in similar ways." The past is hardly a fit place for the young to dwell, child.

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#, as written by Smith
North-Ridge

As the night drifted off into restless sleep, the preparations came under way. The Spring rains continued unabated and the wildlife hid in their holes while the Legion girded itself for war. Over the next several days legion upon legion joined the Black Guard in the North-Ridge camp. Inbetween setting up ballistae, battle-carts and siege rams the soldiers began to mix. This socizlization created new, if strong bonds between the rapidly swelling ranks of the legionnaires. By the ninth day, fifty legions had amassed in the camp. Wrath looked on in approval. An army. No, he thought. His army.

Dressed in only linen pants, the general was propped up on top of a tall beam of wood with only one hand to keep his balance. The rising sun casted orange and red streaks through the maze of tents and awakening soldiers. Of those early-birds milling about, Sid trotted up and cast a wary eye up at Wrath. "What the hell are you doing?"

"It would appear that I am honing my body, Grimsmirk." he replied with a cool edge. "The better question is, why aren't you taking morning inventory." The halfling held up a half-crumpled scrap of parchment and scoffed.

"Done. An hour ago. When did you get so into 'honing' and start giving a damn if I do my duty?" in response, Wrath vaulted off of the pole with an acrobatic skill that Sid had not known that the man posessed, landing in front of her with a neutral expression on his face. She noted how that pendant hanging from his neck cast a slightly green light as opposed to white when reflecting the sun's rays.

"My apologies, captain," there was a poorly veiled tone of sarcasm, "But I merely figued that, as the commanding officer, it was my duty to make sure what needed to be done has been." the general walked past Sid without sparing her another glance. Behind him, she seethed with rage and confusion. It was as if he became an arrogant...well, militaristic ass over night! Did rank really do that to a man? Wrath's voice met her ears one more time before he left, jolting the halfling from her thoughts. "Sid. Make sure everyone is ready for tommorow. We've failed enough as a unit. Even once is too many. This time, we set the standard. Not lower it."

Sid turned to watch Wrath leave for his tent and stared after him. Slowly, she nodded and went about the camp for rounds.


"That one doesn't need those--"

"Shaddap, I say it goes on and that's fina--"

Sid placed a hand on each of the twin's shoulders and raised an eyebrow quizzically. Both humans began a bout of flailing limbs and words that blended together in their frantic attempt to talk over one another. Sid smiled and pointed at Turha, the younger of the Mialee siblings. The dusky-skinned man grinned in triumph and began his explanation. First, he slapped the metal hide of the Darkguard that they had practically torn apart.

"So we're refitting these things for multi-terrain combat, and I'm thinking we need to be as lightweight as possible without compromising structural integrity, but-" Gurgen, the elder Mialee chimed in before he could finish.

"I just want to paint some flames on 'em! Seriously, the entire paint job adds barely half a pound!" Gurgen whined.

"That's a half-pound more of energy that the constructs have to compensate for before..."

Sid didn't care to hear the rest. It was all jibberish the to halfling anyway. She marked their names off of the list and continued on down the path to where the rest of what had been the Fortieth was probably still asleep. The first tent she checked was arguably the oddest. Floating sigils of strange power and books floated in the air within the enclosure. Amidst them all, a hairless, white-skinned woman was muttering and glancing about frantically looking for something within the aerial text. Before Sid could call out to Beelzes the woman's skin came alive with a multitude of ebon tattoos and she cried out in exultation. "I have it! Little Shanir! I have it!"


"Faera, wake up!" Beelzes squeezed the dark elf girl's cheeks with the force of an elderly woman upon a child and squeeled in delight. "Look! I have it!" she held up a vial of blood--Faera's, though how she aquired it was a mystery, and uncorked the glass to place a few drops on her flawless skin. "Normal. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? Look again!" the warlock willed one of her infernal markings to place itself on the skin under the blood. Instantly the crimson liquid sizzled and hissed, popping violently and radiating a faint golden light before evaporating completely. "Sensetivity to Avernus! It's remarkable--wait. You didn't see that did you? Um, your blood just got pissed off at touching my hell-brands."

The deep human placed both hands on either side of Faera's head and grinned savagely. "You're Plane-Touched! The ability to heal and cast arcane magicks with only the barest level of comprehension for either, your unnaturally light skin, the aura of good that wafts off you so much I can smell it!" her voice lowered to an almost reverent state. "You have an angel somewhere in your bloodline, and for some reason you inherited some of their traits. Why not your sister though, I cannot--" that was when the howling began.


Sid proceeded to watch the deep human go sprinting out into the foggy morning, crashing into Faera's tent and screaming something about plain-touching. Before she lost interest. The next tent on the list was also rather...strange. Caine lay sprawled out on his bed, dead to the world, while the new elven girl Mikana sat on the bedside just looking down at him. The scene reminded Sid of a mother watching over her sleeping child. It was when the elf reached down to touch Caine's scarred wrist did the halfling depart. Before she could make it to the next set of troops though, a blood-curdling scream rent the air.

Sid bounded through the camp towards the sound, and passing by other soldiers did not notice their non-chalance although someone was obviously in dire need of aid. The call rang out again, this time closer and more discernable. A man, she thought. The voice sounded somewhat familiar too...Sid skidded to a stop when she reached the clearing that the legion had gathered in nine-days prior. In place of the bonfire was a makeshift gibbet, on which Gilleas writhed in agony. The structure had been gifted with some malign enchantment that caused it's ropes to lash and tear at the man with horrid ease, separating flesh from bone without pause. The sight was horrific. Still, those soldiers who stopped by to watch only did so with passing interest.

The halfling ran up to the cloaked figure presiding over the torture and nearly bowled him over. "What's the meaning of this!?"

The executioner glanced down and quickly saluted. "Captain. This man is a deserter. As you know, the punishment is death."

Sid nearly screamed and turned towards the gibbet, intending to tear Gilleas down with her bare hands if she had to. Then she noticed...the cries of anguish had ceased. Gilleas Arkha hung by his arms from the gibbet, the entire lower half of his body piled on the ground in a gore-strewn heap. The executioner started forward to clean up the mess and Sid could only turn away in sheer terror. That was the first time she had witnessed the punishments the Legion of Ashes meated out. Could that have been her, at some point? Thanaros simply watched, his arms crossed. After a while the orc trudged off in the other direction towards the sparring grounds. The rain suddenly started up again, drenching the entire camp.


From inside his tent Wrath listened to the patter of rain against his tarp. He sat on the bed, still only in his pants absorbing the sounds of the world. It was still an hour before he was required for active duty so he decided to take off the necklace. Instantly, the world seemed to dull and he felt...heavier. His thoughts were no longer crystal clear, in such focus. "Almost like a drug." he muttered to the darkness of the tent.

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For Talae, the last few days had been spent in what few sorts of preparation she could help with, which didn't amount to much more than general equipment maintenance and the manufacture of poisons. The latter was something most often conducted by herself anyway, since she knew of few others with uses for debilitating chemicals and acids. They might even be beneath some people, if she bothered to take the time to check. Obviously, she did not, for they were one of the most effective tools of her trade and she was well-used to the scorn of others should they find her profession disagreeable. She was a pragmatist that way.

Of course, she also needed much more practice with her new sword, and so she readily volunteered if anyone decided they needed someone to knock around for a while. She was sore when she awoke every morning, but used vigorous stretching and the loosening provided by the movement of a match to work out the pain, at least for a while. It was getting to the point where she didn't notice much anymore.

This morning, she was facing off against Alistair, who despite her best efforts always seemed to somehow be up earlier than she was. He was also quite clearly taking it easy on her, which might once have insulted her very deeply, but presently was welcomed. She'd get nothing out of this if he took her out first thing- just as she'd have been less-than-useful if Caine had decided to use berserk-mode in their match. He did make a point of taking fatal swings anyway, but his control was fine enough that he could give her small nicks instead of slashes, reminders of places she needed to guard or move.

"Watch your left," he informed her mildly, and she moved in just enough time to fill the area with the clang of steel-on-steel instead of the much quieter sound of yet another averted fatality. "Your reflexes are getting better," he observed, and she wondered just how he managed to appear so completely pleasant about everything. She could manage neutrality most of the time, but Alistair was downright nice, and it had thrown her off at first. Well, that and his appearance. She had to admit that if she hadn't heard Faera call him sir without any degree of uncertainty, there might have been an awkward moment in there somewhere.

Before she could launch her planned counterattack, though, the camp was filled with pained howls, and she turned, intending to rush to the scene of whatever was going on. Had there been some kind of attack by the Children? Why was nobody sounding the alarm? Talae was stopped only by a hand on her shoulder, and the white-feathered harpy shook his head. "You do not wish to see that, Miss Talae," Alistair informed her quietly, and she raised a speculative eyebrow.

"Oh, and why might that be?" As far as she could tell, there was no reason for them to be standing here while a Legionnaire was in obvious agony some small distance from them.

"The Legion does not take kindly to the crime of desertion," was the reply, but the taloned arm moved away, freeing her to act as she would. "Look if you must, but be forewarned." It was something Alistair had seen enough times to not be even the slightest bit inclined to glimpse it again. Instead, he took to wandering the camp, avoiding the central area not from fear, but the sort of grim resignation that needed no explanation, perhaps hoping to bump into someone who felt the same. Conversation was ever a welcome distraction from the more shadowed corners of one's mind.




Talae followed the sound of yelling until she reached the source, which had died out just a moment ago. Perhaps that word choice was a tad too accurate, and she had to stop herself from cringing at the sight. Captain Grimsmirk looked quite distressed, and eventually turned and left, along with the half-orc she recognized by this point as Thanaros.

The sight was disgusting, and that was from someone who had watched victims writhe in all kinds of agony before they died as slow-acting toxins took hold of the body's systems. That... was decidedly different than this, and even she did not stoop to what would have amounted to torture. Fitting, perhaps, that the sky chose that moment to break open and drench everything in sight. Talae shook her head in disgust and began the grim walk back to the dining area. She needed something to eat, and she needed to do it in the company of people who were very much alive, and when she came back, the water would have washed the earth clean of the traces of what happened to deserters.

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Southern Jurial Plains/Northern Umbridge. A small farmstead.

Caine sat beside a babbling brooke under an apple tree. The man bore no scars, his eyes were softer, and he looked younger... However, the starkest aspect was that he was smiling... Smiling not out of blood spilled, not out of dark humor, and not out of a twisted sense of irony... But because of genuine joy. His eyes held a gleam, a cheerful gleam that had yet to be replaced by a murderous one. His lips was eternally in a cheerful smile and a soft hum emanated from his throat.

The armor and swords of the legion were conspicuously missing. Instead, a light brown tunic cut off at the sleeves and a pair of muddied farmer's breeches hung at his waist. A hoe laid beside him, gleaming in the sunlight. Then, a voice. A soft, feminine voice gently rolled through the sunlight. "Caine!? Caine! Where are you... Are you hiding from me?" It called. Caine shifted his body to meet the owner of this voice. A young woman of her twenties in a feathery white spring dress. Her hair was raven, her voice honeyed, and her eyes a deep brown. She was, for all intents and purposes, breathtaking...

"Hiding from you? Now love, why would I do something like that?" Caine asked, waving at the woman to call her over. The gleam in his eyes, it wasn't only just good cheer... It was love. The woman finally laid eyes on the man and sat her hands on her slender hips, trying her best to look mad... She was failing of course, smiles fracturing her determined angry face. Finally, she relented and hefted up the dress and began to stride towards Caine...

About halfway there, Caine saw the Hoe on the ground and threw a hand up to try and warn her, "Wait! Lie-" WHACK. She had stepped on the hoe and the thing flew up and bashed her on the forehead. Caine was up in moments and at her side immediately, holding her against him. He stammered and stuttered, "Liera... I-I'm sorry. I-I tried to warn-" Pop. Caine was interrupted by a slap to the face. "Why do you have to leave your junk laying about!" She yelled at the man, rubbing her head, nursing a new bruise and mouthing the word 'ow'. Caine, who was also rubbing his face took a step closer to the girl and began stroking her cheek.

"I'm sorry.. Can I do anything to make it up?" Caine asked, voice devoid of everything that made him the berserker and instead replaced by care, love, and tenderness. The woman smiled coyly and began to rub his wrist, a sensation that almost felt real. "I can think of something," She said playfully. Caine immediately picked up on the hint with a warm smile. In a flourish, Caine picked the young girl up in his arms, her dress fluttering as he spun her, "I think I can do that," He said, happiness tugging at his heart. And with that, he strode off towards the nearby cottage, with the girl in his arms, in a loving embrace.


North-Ridge

"What the hell is that racket!?" He shouted as he shot from his cot. A scream- no a wail. A death wail echoed throughout the camp. What was causing that horrible noise? Was it the Children? No... They would have seen them coming from the ridge... Punishment more than likely... But who? Caine hung his head, eyes still sleepy from being jerked awake. His upper body was completely bare, save for the numerous amount of scars. His chest leather was in a heap beside the cot as was his new armor... He had been tinkering with it, as well as using some of the services of his fellow comrades. His knew swords were hung up beside the cot. His legs were still wrapped in the old leather from the first batch he received. He wore those instead of mussing up the new ones.

Then, he noticed the elf at his side. She had been touching his wrist... Like in his dream. He stared at her for a moment before, "Who in the hell-" He cut himself off. He was being rude and sending the wrong impression could not be tolerated in times like this. Who knows, in the next couple of days either of them might die.

"I'm sorry..." He forget Mikana's name for a moment, still embattled with sleep. "But why are you-" He cut himself off again. Her scarred throat. He had forgotten that she couldn't speak either... That would make communicating... Difficult to say the least. "... here," He decided to finish. He looked into the eyes of the elf for a moment and just stared. Who was she? They had exchanged many glances over the last couple of days, but Caine had yet to place a finger on who she was. Yet, he held an sense that she was important... He didn't know why, or how... He just did.

Caine then swung his feet off of the cot and just sat, rolling his shoulders and arching his back, stretching. He had made enough room on the cot just in case Mikana wished to sit. Caine didn't say much for a while and finally, just decided to make small talk... Or try, "Is it morning already?" He asked, wishing for only a couple of more minutes to dream...




Lily was making herself comfortable in the camp, being awake from her trance-like state the elves used instead of sleep. She had been awake since the first rays of sunlight drifted over the ridge. She had begun the earlier morning honing her archery skills, using the crudely set up range, found adjacent to the sparring area, that she herself had helped to set up with, along with a couple of the other archers from the Legion. It was more or less five wooden targets set up at least fifty yards away... Small stuff for the elves. She was consistently tagging bulls eyes at something between one or two seconds a pop. Of course, these targets weren't moving, weren't defending, and weren't trying to breath fire down her neck.

However, she prided herself on the speed she had established, having been using a bow since she was a small elven child (Elflet?). Tagging a child in the face was no use if it took a minute to do and his buddies were already upon you. Feeling well enough about her skills, she continued through the camp, seeing her new captain, Wrath something or another... The captain was beginning to... cop and attitude. It seemed that he was letting the rank get to his head. Lily found nothing wrong with taking a little pride in ones place, and merely waved it off.

The next on her sojourn were the human twins, Turha and Gurgen. Sid had already moved on when Lily had arrived. They were still scuffling about the paint job on the hulking Darkgard beast... Or would be hulking if the thing wasn't eviscerated. Lily listened contently with a mild sense of humor as the twins continued their back and forth... Finally, she spoke up innocent and cheerful tone as clear as ever, "I think it should have the flames. I bet they would look neat on the golem!" She exclaimed in what seemed to be an inexperienced tone... Though, she proved it wrong by her next admission, "Besides... If we are to fight the dragons, then what better defiance than fighting wearing your enemies' own weapon... For decoration. Taunting them by using their hellfire as a reminder, 'we are not frightened, we will not surrender..." She paused for a moment, "We will not relent." She said, speaking with such pride and defiance that belied her age.

Then a scream, a piercing wail. Using her elven speed and agility, she raced to where it emanated from. Within moments, she arrived to see the last screams of a dieing deserter... And the subsequent man being split in half... The sight disturbed her greatly. She had never seen such a... display of sadism and horrid torture. She had to avert her eyes from the mess. As she did, the skies opened up and cried. How could such people do this to their own? She shook her head in disgust and left. Quickly, she made her way away from the massacre.. She both wished to be alone, but not alone at the same time... He gave up and decided to the dining area, a place full of people no doubt...

There, she found a bench and sat. She began to rock back and forth slighty, mulling over the sight... Was this the horrors of the war?

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Neira grimaced and rolled over onto her back, not particularly caring that this made it impossible to maneuver her wings. Wasn’t like she was totally dependant on the things like a harpy or something. She did not much appreciate being woken by tortured wails first thing in the morning, but maybe that was what you got when you signed up for the damned Legion of fucking Ashes. The nightmarian was not a morning person, which since they were all sort of expected to be up at around the same time every day really just meant that she was extra-sadistic and probably best avoided until after breakfast.

She had no idea what was going on, and at this particular point in time, she could not particularly say she cared. Nobody was sounding an alarm, and all motion in her general vicinity was at normal pace; nobody was rushing into battle, which meant there was nobody for her to obliterate and all was normal in camp. Save the screaming, obviously. Which was really just giving her a headache.

Donning her armor, Neira yawned and stretched, contemplated throwing her black robes on over the leather, but then decided that it was going to rain soon and thus this would be unwise. She wondered if that little elf with the big sword wanted to fight again today. Hopefully not; Neira rather hated hitting to bruise. It wasn’t really any fun, though it had been something of an amusing challenge for a while. She had been surprised anyone had enough guts to ask her actually, but she doubted many would after how it had turned out.

“Hmm…” she thought aloud, stepping outside to the first drops of rain. She contemplated going to eat, but she wasn’t really in the mood. Well, there was one thing she could do- this early in the morning, he was probably unoccupied. She wondered if he’d be the awkward one or the arrogant one today. Psionically, she knew what was to blame for the newly-minted General’s odd mood swings, but she had thus far chosen not to share this knowledge with anyone else.

Shrugging to herself, she decided to let it surprise her and headed for the command tent. Since situations where she knocked tended to result in a swifter exit than she wanted to bother with, she didn’t, simply stepping inside instead, crossing her arms and leaning against one of the framing poles. Wrath’s back was to her, and she noted the blackish plate there with a raised eyebrow. So, it’s as I thought…

“You wished to see me, O General?” she asked sardonically. The title meant absolutely nothing to Neira, and frankly, she thought all of them were pointless. If someone was leader, fine. Let them be. But the trappings that came with it were wholly unnecessary.




Faera rarely dreamed of anything pleasant, but she was almost certain she was not woken from a nightmare when someone grabbed her face. Knowing with stark certainty that Talae would not do that, she sat bolt upright, narrowly missing contact of her head against Beelzes’s own. It took a few seconds to make sense of all the sensory information that was flying at her, so she focused on the warlock’s voice.

"Look! I have it!" Her friend and sort-of teacher sounded much more enthusiastic than usual, and so Fae assumed that ‘it’ must be rather important indeed, though what qualified, she could not guess at.

“Umm…” she was pretty sure Beelzes would soon realize the futility of such an imperative, but wondered if she shouldn’t point it out anyway.

"Normal. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? Look again!" There was a sizzling sound, and Faera picked up the scent of blood, very close. She wondered for the briefest moment if Beelzes was trying out some new form of magic that involved making acid out of blood (because it really was about five seconds since she’d jolted awake and that made about as much sense as anything).

"Sensetivity to Avernus! It's remarkable--wait. You didn't see that did you? Um, your blood just got pissed off at touching my hell-brands." Well, that certainly was interesting, though she didn’t really get what it meant. Sensitivity to Avernus? Why would her blood possibly react any more violently than a normal person’s to relics of the underworld?

"You're Plane-Touched! The ability to heal and cast arcane magicks with only the barest level of comprehension for either, your unnaturally light skin, the aura of good that wafts off you so much I can smell it! You have an angel somewhere in your bloodline, and for some reason you inherited some of their traits. Why not your sister though, I cannot--"

Faera was about to explain that she and Talae were in fact half-sisters, because really that was the only part of any of it which she knew how to respond to at all, but Beelzes was cut off by a very loud, human shriek, and Faera shuddered. That was not a good sound. Even the ones on the battlefield were less bad than that. It smacked of drawn-out wounds or something. But why would such a sound be made here, of all places?

“What’s going on out there?” she asked, as mush to the air as to Beelzes. All thoughts and questions about the deep human’s recent revelation fled her for a moment, at least until the screaming ceased. To get any closer to the scene really wouldn’t help Fae figure anything out, so instead she simply listened- and it was uncanny how usual everything seemed in the wake of whatever had occurred. The dark elf swallowed audibly and shook her head. “Explain more at breakfast?” she asked, seeking for something to do that didn’t involve thinking about it, whatever it had been.

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#, as written by Aythr
As the sun rose on this particular day, Duran felt a renewal in his confidence, every day since assignment to the Black Guard, Duran was trying hard not only to set a standard, but to exceed it. He had been practicing with his arms and armor training, as well as his magical potency and accuracy. He was a new person for all intent and purpose regarding the end to the Dragons and their reign of terror. This particular morning, he awoke with a great hunger shaking his stomach. He left his tent in order to take advantage of the new "rations" that he got with his promotion.

On the way, he heard screaming that seemed largely out of place in the camp. Upon investigation, Duran found Gilleas being torn apart; The penalty for his desertion was clear. It appeared as though The Legion had gone out of their way not only to find him, but to execute him in the camp where his former legion was staying. It was a grim message to everybody who was there. Duran winced at the sickening sound of his lower half being torn away, as his innards became quite the opposite. Duran tried to at least look Gilleas' remains over, if not to just be ready for what the coming battles would bring.

Duran thought it seemed like a waste, even if he was a coward. The dragons were intent on killing every other race, and here they were doing it for them. He could have at least been sold into slavery, or left out in the middle of nowhere to try and survive.

Suddenly a thought occurred. The dragons didn't just kill, they exterminated. They committed genocide with their magic. Dots were connected by lines, as the big picture came into view. He walked from the deserter, doing nothing but thinking.

"The first race killed by the Slaying Spell was the Dwarves...Or was it?"



Sarish was already awake. It was a habit of his to be up early; or at least earlier than the other person in the bed. As he slithered innocently towards the Mess Hall, he heard the screams of a man. He was very familiar with that sound, though he wouldn't be the first to admit such a thing. As he investigated the sounds, he only caught the last half of the execution, just in time to hear the executioner talking to Commander Grimsmirk.

"Captain. This man is a deserter. As you know, the punishment is death."

Sarish held back a smirk. It served him right. A man lived by his word, and if he could not keep his promises. or at least talk his way out of them, he deserved whatever fate he was dealt.

"What a waste of good blood," Sarish said quietly to himself as he made his way once more to the Mess Hall. The gore of the execution only served to make him hungrier. Suddenly, the rain began to fall, and Sarish gave a low hiss of disapproval, speeding up his pace.



Duran sat inside his tent after his meal, going through his things for something to write in. He successfully found a journal, and had to think for a moment about whether or not his ideas were worth the destruction of a tree. He decided that these were "Extenuating Circumstances," as he started to write his theories in Druidic, a language known only to druids. He was going to make sure that nobody but him would be able to read what he was writing, for better or for worse.

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#, as written by Arke
The Deep Human continued to sleep late and wake up early. His internal clock, molded by centuries of ancestors living underground left the Deep Human unable to sleep comfortably even now- ten years after he arrived on the surface. Rubbing his eyes when the faintest of light had broken over the horizon, he was affixed with energy and knew he would be unable to go back to sleep even if he tried. He got up, and dressed lightly. He went over to a tent, and washed his face. He then crushed a bitter-smelling herb in his hands and washed his mouth with it. Spitting out the water in a ditch, he decided to rake his fingers through it until it looked acceptable (he had no comb) and left. He dressed in his soldier's pants and wore a light white tunic. Tying his butterfly knives to his waist, he slipped out into the quiet morning. He brought his new crossbow to the firing range, and spent most of his time trying to perfect his aim with the new weapon. By the time he felt that he had increased his efficiency to a satisfactory level, the camp was starting to buzz with activity. He retrieved his bolts one final time and brought his long-range weapon back to his tent.

He moved over to the mess hall, or tent rather, and grabbed a plate. The server noted that he was rather early, and Kisikoni merely joked about it. "I'm nocturnal." He said, as the food was dumped onto his platter. They shared a short laugh and he went to take a seat. There were several other deep humans, all of them looking tired and grumpy. He sympathized with them- and quickly consumed his breakfast. There was a slight racket as he exited the tent, a man being locked into a gibbet. He walked over, curious but hesitant.

It was the man that vanished since the battle, Gilleas Arkha. He had made acquaintance with him in the Inn. One look at him and Kisikoni was sure the man was oblivious to his presence. He was marked as a deserter- and they had found him. The deep human was very well aware of what the consequences were during his decade of service. Unlike most who walked by interestedly and then left in some form of disgust, Kisikoni remained to watch. The last thing anyone wanted was to be regarded as scum- just another criminal in war. He remembered that these punishments used to call for full attention- nowadays it was hardly practical. It was his kin, his little brother in a sense, hung up on that Gibbet. To not honor his death was something Kisikoni would never do.

So, Kisikoni watched until Gillieas Arkha finally had passed away. His face had remained stone-like throughout the entire scene, his howls bouncing off his exterior. He cupped his left fist into his right hand. "O, lord of earth. May your holiness find in way to have mercy on his soul. Accept his blood, spilled in vain. May your child live peacefully." He prayed softly. He turned away and started forging a path toward the sparring area. The rain came down, as if the lord himself cried for it's son that wanted to survive- but found death in it's place.

The people of the sparring area had remained rather undaunted by the weather, continuing to wrestle in the mud and duel while soaked. Most have already left to take a bite to eat. He got up, moving over to a wooden dummy. It had three protruding blocks arranged in a downward pointing triangle of wood to act as outstretched arms, and a 45 degree bent block to act as a leg. Raising his arms, he began striking the wooden arms, practicing what he did best- hand-to-hand combat. The sharp clacking of wood drowned away all thoughts of the deceased deserter, as the deep human's movements became faster and more precise. He noted that this particular dummy has not been used much- as dust would be expelled from the surface during the first few hits.

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Forest, Former Scout Tower

He was on a hard surface, arms bound behind him, skin raw from trying to loosen or break them but with little success. His thick black hair is matted and damp against his head, skin clammy yet the only moisture seems to pool near his face. His body aches, arms and shoulders as well as back cut and treated from many quick swipes, as if he had been mauled by some feral creature. In the darkness burning crimson eyes stab out at him as silence begins to drown his mind.

Gormun opened his eyes slowly, mind bent between want of sleep and the fear of the memories. His skin felt like old paper as stress and pain filled it with wrinkles, skin haggard and aged well beyond his years in only a few days. He closed his eyes again, a wounded noise rising from his throat as the gnawing push of his empty stomach greeted his fitful attempt at sleep. His body seemed asleep and numb, the cold stone floor beneath him offering no comfort as an almost continuous drip of water fell from above on the center of his head. If he were at his best it would be of no concern, but trapped in place devoid of time or strength each drop was a hammer into his skull. His mouth twitched, inside tasting foul of the dirt and grime he had sucked in with what pathetic moisture he could get from the floor. His only source of water.

He had come to in this darkness and time seemed different here. It was sluggish and thick, a soup that pressed in the air and caught in his throat with each breath. He feared it could suffocate him if the hunger didn’t kill him first. He knew someone- no, that wasn’t right… Something was in here with him. A dark presence that leaned on his exhausted mind and pressed him with the reminder: this could always get worse.

Something shifted, no sound made, as a metallic foot pressed into his back along with five long, sharp blades that seemed to move as talons would on another creature. Each one carefully pressing across his back, yet nowhere that would threaten his life if he tried to shove into it to die and escape it all. Each talon pressing into his flesh than releasing, the sensation almost like needle legs of a spider climbing his flesh, forcing his skin open to draw blood.

”Speak.” A cold whisper forced itself from the darkness. The presence was behind him yet the voice enveloped him, cold sound clear in his head and more commanding than any shout he could have mustered. A terrible voice that spoke little but demanded much.

He set his jaw, clenching it tight as lips quivered, not willing to give in yet. Eyes forced shut and drawing lines on his face as he waited for metal claws to set into his body, furrowing and shredding his skin and forcing them to mend, and repeat.

”Release them.”

The command was not to him yet it was confusing. His eyelids lifted as he gazed at the small margin of floor shown before him. Something forced into the back of his head, his resistance gone as forehead hit stone, fingers grabbing his hair as the metal claws wrapped just over the top of his head, each one scoring a cut on his brow. The pain came swiftly but it was dull to him now, he was losing connection with his body. The hand was gripped tight and strong, jerking his head back and forcing his gaze out as something was dumped across the floor.

A deathly white face, almost bleached of color with blue lips and bulging eyes, met his gaze, despair etched upon the other so cleanly it was as if it was set into marble. The lone arrow still protruding from the back of Corporal Yanis’ head as he was left before Gormun. The sight caused a cringe but the grip prevented him from looking away. The next thud made his body jump as something much darker obscured the halfling, skin tinged gray and black, face down in the floor as a deep and long cut had removed some of where his neck should have been.

His face was familiar.

Memories pushed in his head, ones he could not sift or ignore as they filed past him in a rush and a name came out, his voice stale from lack of use. “Brack…” At once the memories attached to the name overwhelmed him and Gormun realized his brother had been slain. A wound tore in his mind, greater than any pain he had felt, or the starvation he endured. His eyes closed but were devoid of tears he could not shed as his body clenched onto any water it held. His only brother was gone, dead from only one blow and not safe to warn the Shawoman. He heard a noise that sounded like a wounded animal and not his own voice yet he wasn’t sure if it was real.

”Speak.”

Another shriek tore from his chest, a savage roar as his hope was snatched away from him, “Demon Spawn! Your vileness is only measured by foul acts you reap. May the Horde and Shawoman smite your actions.”

”…Shawoman?”

His eyes opened as his mind froze. In his weakness his mind ignored his oath and broke his honor. For to guard the Shawoman was to deny her existence to those that did not know. His head hit the stone floor as he realized the foot and the hand had left him, the distinct sound of metal talons clacking around on the stone before him. The figure knelt down, even in a place devoid of most light he could see the faint, dark crimson of the armor. The being was just before him, yet just inside his reach, taunting him to try and make a move. Even if he could his body wouldn’t listen.

”Where?” The whisper pushed at him, drilling into his mind with a command that could tame worgs if it wished. Yet no magic touched it, just promises of what may come if disobedience was the answer.

Gormun twisted his head and tried to look away, biting on the tip of his tongue and pushing out the pain. Teeth weak yet desperate to try and cut through the muscle before he shed any more. Something traced over his neck, softly kissing yet cold and chilling. Head lifting up to break away as the movement followed until the claws hooked in the bottom of his chin, pressing until they drew droplets of his blood. He shut his eyes. He couldn’t take it anymore. Pleading for forgiveness from the angels his eyes snapped shut and in a wavering voice he divulged the location of the town and where the Shawoman should be.

His mind had broken.

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#, as written by Aythr
As Duran finished writing down his theories, he let loose a long sigh and simply stared at the last page. He closed the book, and slid it underneath his cot. He intended to talk with somebody higher up about his theories, but for now, it was time for combat training. As he began to exit the tent, he noticed the pattering of rain on the tent. He hadn’t realized how caught up in his writings he was to not even have noticed rain. He shook his head, but then realized that his wolf was gone too. He gave a loud whistle for her, and a few moments later, the wolf ran to the tent, covered in mud and water, as if she was rolling around in the dirt as the rain came in.

“Goma-“

Duran began to chastise her, but before he could finish her name, she shook her entire body, spreading mud and water everywhere, including on Duran. He closed his eyes and wiped off his face, and gave her a stern look before it broke down into genuine laugh. He couldn’t stay mad at her. He shook his head and exited the tent, putting the hood of his cloak up to shield his face from the rain.

Before heading out to the training area, Duran checked for his weapons. He still had all the same gear he had when the fortieth set off on their first adventure. It wouldn’t be long before they headed out on their grand mission, so it would probably be a good idea to at least exchange what he had for something that could be a little more reliable. He headed for the armor. They were in for quite a few strange requests.




Sarish sat in the Mess Hall gorging himself on the rations that he was no doubt going to earn in the coming days. The patter of rain collided with the roof of the tent, and he let loose a low hiss. There were few things he despised more than rain. He wasn’t sure exactly why he had a great aversion to it, but he had made up his mind that he wasn’t leaving the tent until it let up.

Looking around, it seemed like there should have been more people eating. He looked around for the members of The Black Guard to which he had been assigned, but he didn’t immediately recognize any faces, or at the very least didn’t spot any. He took a bite of what appeared to be the leg of either an oversized chicken, or an undersized turkey. He thought about it for a moment. He didn’t remember being any livestock near the tent. He scratched his head, pondering the mystery behind the unidentified drumstick, before looking outside to see if it had stopped raining.

It had not.




Duran headed towards the armory with a heavily scribbled on piece of paper. He was starting to grow uneasy that he would so easily allow himself to start using paper at all, but there was no specific rule against it as far as being a druid was concerned.

As he entered the armory, he was given a once over by an orc.

“This is not going to be easy.” He thought loudly to himself.

“Hello. My name is Duran Cidovan. I’m a member of The Black Guard, and I’m trying to outfit myself with some arms and armor that I’m going to need for the coming days. Here’s a list of things I need. I’ll understand if there are a few things you might not have.”

Duran slipped the orc the piece of paper, on which his list of supplies was written in poor yet legible handwriting. He was unsure exactly what he could get out of the armory, and was prepared to hear a string of guttural curses from the orc.

- Set of Full Plate, preferably wooden
- A heavy wooden shield
- Up to 50 lbs. of wood (Darkwood preferred) if no armor is available
- Up to three shortspears
- A finely crafted scimitar
- A pouch of sling ammo
- A good enchanter


“I…uh…understand if you can’t help me with the armor and the enchanter, at least.”

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#, as written by Smith
Gungnir was already in a foul mood when the blasted torrential rain started up again. In seconds the scarred orc was drenched and grumbling curses. Deciding at least attempting to stay dry was the most sensible course of action, Gungnir stepped into the armory with which he had been charged to oversee and scowled out into the gray landscape beyond. For some reason, someone felt the need to darken Gungnir's mood by making him work. With a sigh, the orc took Duran's request form and skimmed over the soggy parchment. It wasn't long before he fixed the druid with a critical eye.

"Are you some kind of idiot? You realize we are not in a forest, right? And that this amount of raw material can not be spared to one man, but also that you can't even find some of this crap in an armory." crumpling up the form, Gungnir disappeared within the dark recesses of the massive structure grumbling something derogetory regarding the intelligence of humans. A few minutes later the orc returned to Cid carrying several items which he shoved into the druid's arms. "One tower shield, wooden. One short-spear, darkwood and tempered steel. One scimitar, cold steel. One ammunition pouch, iron slugs, 22 rounds. That's all you get. If you had taken the time to grab the shit while it was still in it's cart, you wouldn't have been cut out of some of your requested material. As for armor...don't you Blackguards get custom live leather armor? Why the hell do you need anything else?"

The question was obviously rhetorical, and the orc made it even more evident that he wanted the druid gone.


As Sarish was thoroughly examining the roasted fowl leg, a lithe form slid up to take a seat across from him. Flicking the end of her verdant tail against Sarish's hip, Iriana rested her chin in a delicate palm and waved her own hunk of bird meat in a small circle. She looked at the other lamia with a slight smile. "Cockatrice." she carefully enunciated each part of the word before taking a bite out of the leg. "Ish good. Kind'a tasht like basilisk, without that gross cow-flavor." Iriana swallowed the food and stared at Sarish for a short while. "Sooo...i've been here for a while and you're the first of the Kindred besides myself I have laid eyes upon..." she leaned forward so her...gifts were resting heavily on the tabletop. "Would you like to...?" Iriana let the sentence trail off, crossing her middle and forefingers in the sembelance of two intertwining tails.


Wrath turned towards Neira, her voice suddenly ringing out almost made him jump. He immediately noticed the nightmarian's eyes rove over the ten or so ebon plates grafted into his back and torso. He cursed silently. Upon waking up this morning, he had cast a glamour to make it appear as if his skin was smooth and normal. He hadn't takent the nightmarian resistance to arcane effects into account. Still, it was not as if he was going to get any answers by hiding anymore. Wrath gave himself a moment to let his racing heart calm and cleared his throat.

"Valtegan." he motioned for her to take a seat on the chair at the desk across from him, but didn't hold his breath. In his short time working with the sellsword it was plain to see that her mind ran a deviant course from those of the average mortal. Even moreso, considering the hive-like community in which her species thrived by not being so individualistic. "I'm sure you have taken notice of my...condition. I wanted to know if these," he tapped a chitin band of hide on his collar bone, "Were just as I was told by so many doctors: A simple birth defect resulting from an extreme dosage arcana in my life during my mother's pregnancy...or my other, much more obvious guess. Do I have nightmarian blood in me?" despite Wrath's best efforts, his pulse quickened and his breath came in increasingly shorter intakes.


Beelzes stared into Faera's unseeing eyes as if she had not heard the cries of anguish. "Wha? Breakfast? Sounds good!" the deep human shifted to leave and then glanced down, noticing for the first time that she was naked save for a breech cloth tied around her waste. "Hrm. Allow me to get dressed first...I seem to have forgotten my clothes again. Meet you at the mess hall in ten minutes!"


"Oh...?" the silibant voice, belonging to a male elf, tapped the crystal orb with interest. "So they plan to attack the Dragon Reaches? What fun! It's almost sad to think that they won't last an hour against my forces..." Zakair sat crouched over the burnt ruin that used to be a desk within the scout tower, reading into the scrying magic he had set in place. Within the foggy depths of the gem was the smiling face of his daughter, Mikana, and a rather burly human that she was dragging through the rain towards the mess hall. "Most interesting...I wonder what she will think of herself when she becomes herself again?"

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Faera nodded, making her own way to the mess, as she had gathered it was called for short (which was rather unfortunate in her opinion). The smells and sounds of food and eating were unmistakable, and she navigated mostly by smell, gathering what she judged to be an assortment of vegetables (relatively fresh) and some bread with cheese. Fae was not a vegetarian, but she was not excessively fond of the taste of most meat, and whatever they were cooking this morning did not seem particularly different in this respect.

She seated herself at the end of a table, and it wasn't long before Beelzes parked herself on the other side, plate heaped with so many different things that Faera almost had difficulty picking them out. Did she smell both eggs and... jam? She chose not to ask. The Deep human warlock always seemed to attack everything with enthusiasm, and food was no different, if the hasty stab of silverware against the ceramic plates they were provided with was any indication.

"So, you're really only half-sisters?" her self-appointed teacher asked by way of conversation, and Faera nodded.

"Mm-hm," the dark elf replied. "Our mother is the same. Tala's father was killed at the very end of the war between the Primah and the Civee,and I'm not really sure who mine is." She supposed people were supposed to be bothered, talking about things like this, but she had never been. How could she miss someone she'd never known? The only parent she'd ever had was also her sister, and that was simply the way of it for her.

"Huh. Well, guess that explains it then. It's not a secret or anything, is it?"

Fae shook her head. "Not really, but then I doubt it's really the sort of thing that comes up in casual conversation, is it?"

Beelzes laughed. "Clearly, you haven't met all my friends, Little Shanir." Fae wasn't exactly certain how to take that, but assumed that maybe some of the warlock's old friends were just as adamant about studying magic as she was? Would that make genealogy a valid topic, perhaps? "Don't think about it too hard," her friend chastised with amusement, and Fae smiled.




Neira did not take the proffered seat, but did move further inside arms still crossed as the fledgling general explained himself. When he reached the words "birth defect" she chuckled darkly, but waited for him to finish before she bothered speaking.

She knew the answer to his question, of course. He was precisely half as Nightmarian as she was, and she knew that if she showed him how, he'd be able to feel it too- the call of the hive. Ah, how she hated it. What use was the hive to her? The bloody hive did nothing useful, it hadn't in a while, for that matter. The hive grew weak, pathetic, reprehensible, and she had done everything mentally possible (and for her, that was a lot) to blunt her connection to it. Now, she only heard it when she let her guard down, or when she was too weak to maintain the block she had placed around that particualrly annoying little corner of her mind.

But he knew none of this, and she wasn't about begin by explaining that. No no, there were much more entertaining ways to go about it. Neira inhaled deeply for a moment, the slow, half-feral smile blooming over her face. He was doing it unintentionally, of course, giving off those pheromones, but it was giving her rather amusing ideas. If he wanted tangible proof, there was a very easy way to go about getting it.

"Hmm..." she drawled languidly, bringing herself out of her standstill and assuming a deliberate, predatory stalk, circling the officer with her hands now clasped loosely behind her back. "Nightmarian blood, you say? An... intriguing possibility." Her circles got smaller and smaller as she pretended to ponder this, until with an almost-lazy movement, she tapped the plate on his collarbone, flicking her eyes to his face. "Allow me to put it this way... if it is true, I'm about to make you very uncomfortable, at least for a bit."

Having said this, Neira stepped to the side, still turning circles, but letting her chitinous hand trail languidly around his neck as she moved, consciously doing what he did not appear to have control over: releasing Nightmarian pheromones into the air. They had some effect on anyone, but nothing quite so potent as would be felt by someone with the proper genetics. "Well?" she purred wickedly. "If I were male and you of the blood, you'd probably want to kill me right now. As it is, the feeling should be distinctly more... pleasant, no?" He might still want to kill her later, depending, but she could almost guarantee that no such thought was in his head at the moment.

It had occurred to Neira more than once that she might be irredeemably vile, but she did so enjoy it.

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Talae arrived at the mess hall completely drenched by the rain, but not really caring much. She did stop to wring some of the water out of her hair just so she wouldn't drip anywhere, but that was about it. She slid down the line, making sure her breakfast was at least somewhat sound (mostly eggs, but oh well), and taking up her customary spot next to Fae.

The younger Shanir was absorbed in conversation with Beelzes, and though the subject matter was somewhat sensitive, Talae did not interrupt, as she didn't particularly care what people knew or assumed about her family, though she was a tad curious as to what had brought the discussion about in the first place. Iriana and Sarish were talking a ways down the table, but she pointedly ignored them. Anything Sarish was talking about was bound to be rather... personal. She at least was not inclined to speak of such things in public.




Alistair was not particularly desirous of a meal at present, and so he spent a bit of time simply wandering around, passing Qinn and Achiru on their way to, well, presumably to eat, but the two were practically attached at the hip these days, which amused him somewhat. Eventually, he stumbled upon the halfling Captain.

"Does something trouble you, Captain Grimsmirk?" he asked kindly, settling himself beside the diminutive officer. Alistair was rather emotionally intelligent, and he was fairly certain that something did. However, he had long ago learned the difference between the truth and one's willingness to discuss it. He was ever a willing ear, but that half the equation could not function without an equally-voluntary tongue.

If he had to guess, he supposed she was probably either feuding with someone or had been disturbed by the scene created this morning by the execution of the deserter. Captain she might be, but that was no guarantee she would have seen such a thing before, and indeed having perhaps been responsible for the man at one point might well have made it worse. Of course, it could be nothing; he was as fallible in his intuition as anyone without psionic skills, after all.

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Mikana had retained the eye contact with Caine, perhaps feeling the same way he did. It was a stare that was familiar for Caine, as if he had stared into this woman's eyes before, but he couldn't be sure where... As time progressed in the camp, he could only summon a vague familiarity with the face, almost as if it was hidden behind a haze of some sort. Almost within grasp but not at the same time... Annoying really.

He scratched his neck as Mikana took Caine up on his subtle offer of a seat. The mere fact of the offer was something new for the normally stoic berskerker. It showed the creases and cracks in Caine's rock solid persona. Something about this woman set Caine off-balance, almost with a kind of kindred spirit. She seemed to have gone through a lot, as her scarred throat testified. Her voice was taken from her, no doubt a beautiful voice of elves. Caine felt a pang og guilt... Why was he comparing himself to her? She had lost her ability to speak and no telling what else, and here he was perfectly strong and healthy. He shook his head.

Mikana merely continued to gaze at the berserker, finally tilting her head in a questioning manner. Caine met her eyes, those familiar eyes, once more before breaking the contact and staring forward. "This war... This God forsaken war has taken a lot from us all hasn't it?" He asked. Mikana nodded in agreement, rubbing her throat for the evidence. "I wish it was all over... Hell, I wish it would have never happened. It just sucked us all in, tore lives apart, and turned everything we knew upside down," He said, a flare of anger in his voice. Mikana shifted away from the berserker's anger, a notion that glance from Caine saw. "I'm sorry... I get worked up over these issues." Clearly...

However, it was strange. Caine was talking to this womanly more openly than anyone else in the camp. More then Wrath, more than Sid, and even more than Talae. "It helps when you are fighting for your life in the thicket of things. To block out pain with rage, to remove fatigue with fury. Letting your own anger guide your hands. To forget everything except why you fight... Not so much for actually living your life," Caine said, staring at the dirt floor while Mikana nodded, understanding what Caine meant. "I wasn't always like this, you know. I wasn't always a barbarian," A meaningful echo... From somewhere in Caine's recent past,"... I was better man. A happier man. Without a care in the world. I didn't join this Legion out of some perverse sense of pride. Not to take the lives of others arbitrary. I joined it because I had a question... And this seemed like the only answer." He stated, finally meeting the elf's eyes again.

Mikana raised an eyebrow, as if asking what this question was. "The question? It was... 'What do I do now?'. I had lost everything, everything I had ever owned or loved, in a flash." he snapped. Mikana tilted her head in wonder. Caine averted his gaze again. He could only look her in the eyes for moments at a time before the vague remembrance and guilt began to eat away at him. Here he was, telling her all of his problems, while she couldn't even voice one of hers... It seemed selfish. But Caine kept talking. Something about her urged him to spill his guts. Perhaps it was the silence she held, the promise that she would never judge or speak down to him because of it...

A few silent moments passed, Caine digging into the ground with his eyes. Then, he finally he began to speak again. "I've began to have dreams again... Pleasant dreams, of a time before all of this blood, all of this hate, of this damned war. A time when I-I had a home and not 'Some Legionary camp'." Caine said, a minuet shake in his voice. No doubt without her voice, Mikana could hear this shake clear as day, and she placed a firm hand on his shoulder. "A happier time, in my small farmstead at the boarder between Jurial and Umbridge," And here it came... The deluge that the Berserker had pent up for years, tearing at him, eating at his soul. He never spoke of this to anyone ever before, but the Elf's silence and innocent nature urged him, begged him... He had to let it out.

Caine's Farmstead

It was a pleasant day, early morning, the birds were chattering happily in the trees beside a small cottage. The field next to the cottage was full of blossoming flowers, a good sign of the following yield. Corn stalks were popping up in rows, watermelon vines streaked across one corner, and numerous other crops had set their roots in the fertile land. Small fingers of weeds were just beginning to weave between the crop stalks. A small flower bed was situated near the cottage, the home of numerous colors of daisies, lilies, roses, and other flowers. It was an idyllic setting, far from the blood and war of the present.

Inside the small cottage, in a bed, there were two humans, happily lost in each others company. The raven haired beauty Liera, had her head laid upon Caine's unscarred barreled chest. Both had smiles that reached from ear to ear. It looked as if neither would move... But the days duties called. Caine stirred first and left the bed, putting on his breeches and tunic. Liera stayed in the bed and watched as Caine dressed, a hint of sadness in her eyes, "Do you have to?" She pleaded. "Of course. Otherwise the weeds will swallow the crops... Then we'd have nothing to eat... Unless you have a secret stash in those eyes of yours" He said playfully, finding the hoe in the closet. Liera smiled and laid head back down on the pillow. "Fine, go have fun with your plants... But if you leave that thing out in the open again, you won't have to worry about eating..." She threatened playfully.


North Ridge: Caine's Tent

"I-I was out in the far end of the field," Caine stuttered, "I didn't hear... Them coming until it was too late." Caine said, the shake in his voice fully fleshed out. He was also rocking back and forth slightly. He never spoke of this to anyone before, he hadn't even considered it. However with Mikana, it all came flooding out. "I turned and the Children were on the horizion. I don't know how many.. They were just... There. They... They beat me back to the cottage. When I got close enough. It... It was..." Caine's voice strained and twisted. It sounded dangerously close to breaking... Mikana wrapped her arm around Caine's shoulder. "On fire. The Children must of lit it... I heard... Dammit! I heard her screaming!" Caine said in a flurry of mournful anger.

"I snapped. Broke in half. A beast erupted inside me. I lost everything in that one moment. My home, my Liera... My self. I think I took a swing at the nearest one with the hoe. Planted the blade in the bastard's chest and shattered the haft. I picked up the weapon it dropped... and after that I blacked out in a bloody rage." He said, tears rolling down his face. "I think I killed a few of them... When I came to, I was on the ground bleeding from several places and covered in blood from several races." Caine said, clutching at his chin, as if he himself couldn't believe he was telling the elf this.

"A legion stood over me... No doubt wondering how I survived. They had been following that particular sect of Children... I think they saved my life..." Caine said, wincing... " Course, I took swing at one of them. Got settled down hard and it was explained to me what happened... Didn't listen of course. I was broke... Physically and emotionally. Then... One of them offered me a spot.. The only word I heard was 'Revenge'. Took it up in a heart beat." Caine said, shuddering and shaking from reliving the experience. He stared again into Mikana's eyes, his own filled with tears. "Remember when I told you I had a question? The answer was revenge... Was. I-I just don't know anymore. I suppose survival.. So this doesn't happen to anyone else? Hell I don't know... I just miss her so damn much..." He said, returning his gaze down to the ground, a tear falling into the dirt and disappearing.

They both were deadly silent for minutes. Mikana's arm over Caine's shoulders. The elf seemed to have been deeply touched by the man's story. Something that Caine appreciated completely. Then, the elf hopped off of the cot and took Caine's hand and began to drag the man. Caine quickly wiped his face, erasing all evidence that he had let tears fall before allowing the elf to drag him off.

Caine felt... Relieved. He felt a large burden fall from his chest. He felt... Happier. As Mikana dragged Caine (A strange sight, the smaller elf dragging the huge man across the camp) as she did, Caine wore a smile. A genuine smile, not sardonic, or ironic, but genuine...




Lily still sat in the mess tent as other slowly trickled in. She was slowly getting over the sight of Gilleas, and the fact that others were beginning to talk was helping her take her mind off of what she had seen. The two Dark Elf sisters, Talae and Faera were sitting together with a deep human. Sarish sat with another Lamia with rather... Noticeable assets. Seems everyone had someone else to talk to her... Everyone but her. She winced a bit at the thought... She didn't see many more elves in the Blackguard, and the only one she knew of was Mikana, the mute elf...

Of course, by the time this though bounded through her head, Mikana burst through the tent-flap with the scarred man, now identified as Caine, with a smile on his face. An extremely rare sight... She was positive she had never seen the man smile before. She stood up. This wasn't the place for her. These people in here all had another with them. Caine and Mikana, Talae, Faera, and Beelzes, Sarish and Iriana. She didn't have anyone like that in the tent... So she left. As she walked to the grounds, she finally noticed it was raining...

So she put up her hood so as to keep the rain out of her face. As she neared the training ground, she caught a familiar sight. The Orc Thanaros, who Lily had dubbed 'Ros for the man's nickname. She raised a hand in greeting and called, "Hey! 'Ros!" in a freindly tone. She neared him and noticed that he was practicing... Something. He seemed to be in a focused trance, with a practice dummy in front of him. She kept her distance and watched, curiously. She had heard rumors of Thanaros's battlemind but Lily had never witnessed it.

Then, all of the sudden, the Orc began to assault the dummy. He used speed that was unknown to even the elven Lily, striking the Dummy in many places, coming close to almost obliterating it... Then he switched it up, and began to attack another dummy. The Orc's face was focused and showed no hint of weakness nor distraction... At least, until Lily called.

"Hey! 'Ros! That's amazing!" She called... This seemed to have broke the orc's trance for a moment, as he turned to glance at the elf... At which point the dummy's wooden arm came around and popped him in the back of the head. Lily gasped and ran for the orc, and began to help him hold the back of his head. "Oh my, oh my! I' am so sorry! I-I didn't know! I'm sorry!" She said, clearly distressed. The orc just glanced at her and managed a small laugh...

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#, as written by Aythr
Duran knew what was coming before the foul tempered orc even opened his mouth.

“Are you some kind of idiot?”


Duran rolled his eyes, as the orc went off on a rant about how incredibly incompetent he was before stomping away and returning with at least some of the supplies he requested. He was surprised he had got that much. Though he was a little disappointed he hadn’t gotten the armor he wanted, he wasn’t shocked. It was a little odd however. One would expect an army whose sole purpose was to eradicate the dragons and their cultist followers to at least have an extra suit of armor lying around. Hopefully the faith put into The Black Guard would be less stingy than the armory allotment.

“One ammunition pouch, iron slugs, 22 rounds.”

Duran winced and reluctantly added, “Can you make those stone? I’m afraid I can’t do much with metal.”




“Cockatrice.”

As if somebody was reading Sarish’s mind, another lamia brushed up against him. She was assigned to the Black Guard just like he was, but he had yet to see another lamia in the camp at all. He set up his characteristic smile, taking a slow bite out of the leg he held. An almost awkward silence permeated the table, until Iriana spoke.
"Sooo...I've been here for a while and you're the first of the Kindred besides myself I have laid eyes upon..."

Sarish took another bite, but before he could swallow, Iriana leaned over and set herself on the table. He fought the urge to look down, and stayed on her face like a gentleman.

"Would you like to...?"

Sarish was actually caught off guard for once. Usually he was the one who had to work on his target, not the other way around. Before he realized it, he was choking on the cockatrice leg, and immediately began coughing to clear his throat
.
“Are you alright?” asked Iriana.

Tears welled up in Sarish’s eyes as he barely regained his breath.

“I…” he coughed. “I was choking. I think I still am. I might need your help with some “mouth-to-mouth.”

He paused and smiled.

“In my tent.”

They stared at each other intently before making great haste to get out of the Mess Hall, unintentionally knocking over the table with their tails as they slithered away.




Duran nearly cringed at the verbal assault he was getting from the orc. He had had just about enough.

“You’re lucky to get that much, you tree-loving pixie-stroking oaken-headed- ” the orc seemed absolutely irate over the simple request of stone instead of metal, before Goma suddenly made her way into the Armory and cut him off. She growled loudly and bore her fangs.

The orc immediately stopped his rant, and disappeared for a moment before returning with a pouch of stone slugs to replace the iron ones and letting out a small growl of his own.

“You’ve got all I can spare. Now get out of here, and take that “thing” with you.” He said, pointing at Goma.

Duran smirked and took a moment to situate his gear, heading back outside to head towards the training area to get a handle on his new weaponry. Goma followed closely behind him, prancing about in the rain.

“We’re going to try something new today, Goma. I need to get a handle on my shape-shifting.”

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#, as written by Smith
Having taken a seat on a bench somewhere near the center of camp, Sid was intent on wallowing in grim introspection heedless of the downpour...when a harpy decided to butt in. The halfling lifted her head from where she had been resting it in her palms and regarded Alistair with narrowed eyes. Eyes which immediately softened and gave way to tears. Sid wiped away the bitter tears with the back of her gloves and caught sight of several soldiers hauling off a black wooden box. From the bottom of the container rainwater mixed with a steady stream of blood dripping to the ground. A fresh fit of sobs wracked her tiny body forcing Sid to stare down at her lap.

"He did not...nobody, deserves that." it felt so surreal. She hadn't taken the time to realize how much things hurt until now. Even the time that she had witnessed Wrath being lashed for defending her upon first joining the Legion, insubordination or some such, Sid did not even shed a tear as she sat by the idiot's bedside. "I understand that he is a deserter....I can even understand martial punishment. Hell, even execution," Sid turned her wide-eyed gaze to meet Alistair's, "But I was pretty much raised with a bolt in my hand, nothing but armsmen and grunts for parents. They all knew what a bitch that life could be, and military life was on a whole 'nother level...they made sure I knew that too. I saw friends and brothers killed for war crimes before...

"But that was something else entirely." torture was the first word that came to mind. What really got to the captain though, was not so much the sheer brutality of it, but how nonchalant those passing by seemed. Was this really acceptable? Sid screwed up her face and quickly thought of a change of subject. "You're older than me, at least that's what your dossier said. Born before the dragons came back. Mitchel, one of my old caretakers, described your faction...um...the Savage? Yeah...he described them as relentless and depraved...but i've known orcs, minotaurs and a shitload of harpies, even a couple of lamia. Bedded some too." she smirked. "Besides a couple scars from orcish love bites, I don't really see it. Were you guys different before?"


She was toying with him, that much Wrath was aware of. Being a man in his physical prime and having a body that just happened to react with nightmarians however, shut down most resistance he could have offered. No witty comments came to mind. The urge to deck the snarky bitch was superceded by a sudden need to...well, needless to say, both reactions involved physical contact in one form or another. As Neira circled him, Wrath was under the impression that he was prey backed into a corner. "Well?" her voice reached Wrath only distantly, barely audible over the thudding beat in his chest, "If I were male and you of the blood, you'd probably want to kill me right now. As it is, the feeling should be distinctly more... pleasant, no?"

Wrath swallowed hard and averted his gaze. Without realizing it he had latched onto his seat with such force that the wooden grain of the chair cracked and splintered slightly. In his haste to put space between Neira and himself within the suffocating confines of the tent Wrath practiacally flew from the chair to his bed. He turned around and slid backwards until his back was agains the canvas. From the bed he glared at Neira with an expression caught somewhere between confusion, anger and fear. "P-pleasant is not...the word I would necessarily use to describe it." a lie, though he could not tell how obviously it showed. His skin still burned around the plates which she touched.

Blood was roaring in his ears now and it was a struggle not to move. What was truly frightening was that Wrath felt the need to move closer. With the power of the pendant, it would have been a simple matter to put Neira in her place...but that was inside his desk; Which the dark-skinned nightmarian was placed in front of. Wrath tried to clear his head, but only succeeded in muddling his thoughts. Shit, it's never been this bad before- Damn I want to just bite- Is it stronger now?! I was never near her this long- Burning Dark man just fu- Shut up- I need that charm- I need to get out- But they'll see the plates- Dead gods those curves are so- Can't focus for a spell- Gah! All that in the span of a breath, of which came in shallow and ragged. Wrath stared at the nightmarian from his corner, managing a meek smile.

"You might as well...tell me what it is you see. There's a g-good chance that one, maybe both of us will die in tommorow's...battle..." the words trailed off mid-sentence. Wrath's pupils were widened with the airborn drug Neira was emitting to taunt him. Leave- No! Got to fu- Go away please...

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North Ridge: Sparring grounds

"Are you alright!? I'm so very sorry!" Lily apologized profusely to Thanaros. The orc- no, half-orc it seemed. Lily finally had gotten a good look at the man and he looked to be more... Handsome than a normal orc. A furious fluttering erupted in Lily's stomach. Butterflies? Yes... Butterflies. In the middle of the rain before the storm... A great place to have them. The butterflies felt as if they could carry her off. Indeed, she wished they would, seeing as she had just embarrassed herself in front of the man. Oh, and plus she had inadvertently injured him! Great... Great, things were going swimmingly.

"I-I think I'll leave now... before you get hurt-" She was interrupted by Thanaros. The burly man was still rubbing the back of his head, but a playful smirk was tugging at his lips. "No, no. It's quite too late for that." He said, quite humorously... Or attempted humor, seeing as Lily blushed even furiously and began to shake in the beginnings of a sob. Thanaros realized what he had said and began to backpedal, "No, no! I didn't mean... I meant.. Not like that. I wasn't trying to be..." He said, flubbering. He had realized that the owner of the apologetic and crisp voice was an elf... A rather young elf, but showing the beauty and elegance her people can have. She had... Curves. Her skin was a dusky tint, almost like she was eternally in the shade of a great tree. She was like a wildflower hidden under the canopy of a great forest.

That only made things worse however... He had placed blame on the elf (even if it was her fault), and she seemed to have had her feeling hurt by it. An awkward moment all around!

Lily was the first to speak, "I'm sorry, 'Ros," She reiterated, looking a bit downtrodden. This time Thanaros managed a better word choice, "No, don't be sorry, it's not your fault," A lie, "I should have been paying attention. I should have saw you in my trance," Another lie. The man was too focused on striking the dummies and wouldn't have noticed the elf nothing short of riding a dragon... Though if he made the elf feel better, then the lie was worth it. "What are you doing over here anyway?" The man said, trying to eliminate any negative connotations from his voice.

Lily blushed, yet again... If the blood keeps running to her face like that, she may pass out very soon, "I had to... get away. From... Everything." Lily stammered. She didn't want to reveal her weakness. She didn't want to tell him that she shied away from the execution. She didn't want to tell him she couldn't stand to be in the tent, where everyone had another... Though, the battlemind saw right through her farce. Thanaros had seen her flee from the execution. However, he had no words to comfort her. As a member of the Blackguard, they were bound to see worse than that... If they were captured? They were going to experience worse...

Thanaros looked away from Lily for a moment and stared over the camp, where Gilleas was executed... Then he spoke, "Be strong, Liliana. You are going to need it in the coming days. We all are." He finished, finally meeting the eyes of Lily again.. Those baby blue orbs... Thanaros felt his face redden. Good thing Lily had averted her gaze to her feet.

"I know... It wasn't the blood. It wasn't the execution itself.. It was the fact that he was one of us. He was just thrown away like a busted arrow! Abandoned!" She said, finally meeting the man's eyes again. A knowing look, as if she knew the feeling of being abandoned... Perhaps she had seen herself in Gilleas's place. Tears were rolling down her face, but the rain hid it well. "He was one of us. Yes, he had problems. I bet he even had shortcomings and was different, but what right did that give them to just kill him like that!? Why did they have to abandon me... Him! Him." Lily caught herself, but it was too late. She had already said it...

Thanaros looked at her quizzically. Her? Abandoned... "We- I never would abandon you," Thanaros said. "I... Would hope so." She added, unsure. She seemed.. Weaker, more fragile. Then she threw all caution to the wind and hugged Thanaros. A gesture Thanaros was not expecting in the least... He hesitantly patted the girl's back, clearly unsure what to do in the situation. "Please... Don't leave me." She said in the embrace, "Don't leave me like they did..."




North Ridge: Mess Hall

Mikana had seated Caine at a table in the mess hall as she ran to get two trays, piling as much as she could in one. Clearly that was the Caine's. She came back and placed the tray in front of him and sat her's in front of herself. It was a quiet eat, neither speaking much (Matter-of-fact, Mikana didn't speak at all). Caine enjoyed this elf's company, even though he didn't know a lick about her, except for maybe a fleeting vague familiarity. However, he had shared his past with her, and that alone cemented his trust in the girl. She was the first he had actually told the story to. With that, a fondness for the elf grew in his heart.

The black treacly anger Caine held began to seep away, slowly. Still there were pangs of temper and frustration, but not as serious as before. He could actually be called... Amiable now. However, enough rage and fury burned within himself to last the coming battles. He still held a burning grudge for those who took Liera away from him. He would still fight like an unhinged beast. Yet, this would be complemented by Caine's new fondness for Mikana. He would remain in control for her sake. Not only would he be a raging demon of retribution of what he's lost, but a solid shield and unbreakable force for Mikana as well.

Tranquil Fury. Instead of his anger using him... He would use his anger.

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Faera finished breakfast at a more sedate pace than Beelzes, who seemed to inhale more than eat her food. Talae eventually joined them, and she chatted amiably, splitting her attention between her sibling and her teacher, or at least she did until the table directly next to hers was knocked over, bumping hard enough into hers that her own plate was knocked off the end rather unceremoniously.

"Dead gods, contain yourselves, ya hormone-addled idiots!" Beelzes shouted after them as her own tray suffered the same fate, but Fae knew the lamia were probably long out of earshot by now and giggled, shaking her head. She slid from her seat, collecting her spilled fruits as best she could and with a melodramatic sigh, Beelzes did the same. The two of them threw everything out, and Fae brushed off her knees of residue from the ground.

"Practice?" she asked hopefully, and though she couldn't see it, the warlock grinned.

"Sure, little Shanir. Practice it is."




As it turned out, "practice" today meant finding a relatively unoccupied space of ground, not too close to any of the other practicing people (Kisikoni was a while to their right and she could hear Lily talking to Thanaros a bit further still).

"Okay, kiddo, we're going to work on your accuracy today." Faera grimaced. Accuracy had for obvious reasons never been her strong suit. "Now, I'm guessing those ears of yours do a pretty good job substituting for eyes, since you don't crash into something every ten feet. So, now you're going to use that to aim as well." Beelzes, who had for some reason stopped at the equipment tent on their way here, deposited something on the ground. It was a plain sack, heavily laden with small, round clay disks, a few of which she took out in preparation for what she thought to be a rather ingenious lesson plan.

"We're gonna start with these, because they'll hurt less if you miss," Fae could have sworn there was mischief in the deep human's tone, and she smiled nervously. "I'm gonna throw 'em at you, and you have to find them with your ears and destroy them with magic."

Before Faera could reply, the first of the clay disks was thrown in her direction, and she emitted a squeak and ducked, the projectile passing over her head to break apart on a tree some distance behind her. The color rose to the skin of Fae's face, and she was about ready to apologize, but Beelzes didn't give her a chance before throwing the next one. Truthfully, the warlock was amused, but laughing right now would probably make it worse.

The rain had abated somewhat, but it was still coming down, and so Fae decided to use it, taking a hit to the abdomen as she gathered a mass of rainwater together before separating it into spears and freezing them all in the air behind her. The third projectile flew forward, and Fae tried to hit it with an icicle, but missed by a good two feet, the shard embedding itself in the ground. "You just hit an ally," Beelzes informed her, throwing again. "Listen for it, little Shanir!"

Faera grit her teeth and tried to do as she was being asked, but there were so many noises in the area... wooden clacking where Kisikoni hit the training device, the sounds of people speaking, laughing, even just Legionnaries walking around was louder than the whistle of the clay disks through the air...wait. There it was. If she concentrated hard enough, she could just hear it. Brow furrowing in concentration, Fae shot again, this time missing by a mere six inches. "Closer... try again!"

Concentrate... there! Fae fired her icicle without hesitation, and was rewarded with the sound of breaking clay as the shard of frozen water hit its target. She felt a surge of elation, and thirty feet away, Beelzes grinned like a madwoman. "There it is! Now do it again!"




”You might as well...tell me what it is you see. There's a g-good chance that one, maybe both of us will die in tommorow's...battle...” Neira stared him down for a long moment, and considered indulging him, but… no. At this point, he’d practically be coerced, and for all her talk of not giving a damn about anyone or anything aside from herself, if there was one thing she valued, it was her freedom, and she had not the inclination to take it from anyone else either. With a sigh, then, she ceased the release of pheremones.

That alone would not be quite enough, though, and so she took a hint from the necklace and brushed his very mind, pushing back the effects of her presence with what was effectively the psionic equivalent of a cold shower. What I see is one of the blood who could easily be made the thrall of someone with much less love for independence than I. If it is this easy, then you are more connected to the hive-mind than you realize, and you risk becoming enslaved to it. He would be able to hear her in his head, but the contact was by nature something of an intimate one, and she broke it as soon as she was certain he was able to think straight.

“Be as angry at me as you wish, but know this: were I a Child, you would be dead. I can teach you how to do what I have done; to resist the call of the hive, to be stronger then your instincts.” It was not an easy thing, especially not for a species which thrived on such primal inclinations. In this, his civee blood would help, but not without proper instruction.

“Give it some thought.” Neira shrugged, as though she could care less. He honestly had very little choice; Nightmarian Children were rare, but not entirely unheard-of, and any such adversary would likely be able to do as she had done and know that he was susceptible to a mental assault of this or another kind.

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Talae's eyes followed the pair of lamia out of the mess with a shake of her head. Really, some people made things so obvious. Maybe it was the constant threat of death that did it. The aftermath of their passage sent the plates on the end of the table off onto the floor, but Talae managed to grab hers in time to steady it. Fae and Beelzes took off, apparently to practice something, and Talae smiled to herself. A rare expression, on her face anyway, but she was glad her sister had found someone to help her figure out her powers. The elder Shanir was completely useless when it came to matters of the arcane.

She noted that Caine and the mute elf were eating together, and that he seemed to be talking a great deal more than usual. Odd, but not a bad sign. If he was willing to speak to someone about what bothered him, that was surely a good thing. Especially since she had no idea how to go about extracting such things from people. Conversations with Talae were always somewhat on the stilted side, probably because of her own reticence to give away too much information. Trust issues, perhaps.

She shrugged to herself and stowed away her dishes, righting the toppled table before heading out of the mess tent back into somewhat-rainy daylight. Frankly, she didn't have much of anything to do at the moment; her stock of poisons were currently in a stage where they had to be left alone for a while, she'd practiced this morning (and would later today as well, no doubt), and all her equipment was in good order. The weather didn't exactly make "walk around aimlessly" the best of options, but she decided it would work anyway. Actually, maybe taking a run in this weather would help increase her stamina? It was worth a try, and she made sure to stretch liberally before setting off around the perimeter of camp at a trot, glad of the fact that live leather was waterproof.




Alistair was distinctly uncomfortable around crying females, but his near-infinite patience and general ability to remain calm perhaps made him well-suited to handling it. Of course, the fact that she was undeniably right didn't really help matters. The harpy shook his head subtly, laying a taloned hand on the Captain's shoulder. "No, nobody deserves it. But... the situation is desperate enough that someone felt that a clear message was necessary. It is true that he was killed, and terribly, but if it stops even one person from meeting the same fate... at this point, the Legion cannot afford desertions. The numbers are thin enough as it is, and one deserter hurts not only himself, but the people he signed on to fight with." It certainly didn't justify what had been done, but Alistair liked to think that it at least a sign that the thought process might not be completely without redeeming features.

He half-smiled, placing both hands back beside him, when she brought up the not-so-delicate matter of his age. "Well, I suppose that depends on how old you are, Captain," he replied lightly, though he knew that the average life expectancy of halflings was not that far removed from humans'.

Her next question brought up something of an old wound, though, and he sobered quickly, clearing his throat somewhat uncomfortably at the words 'orcish love-bites'. He really didn't want to know. Still, the question itself was valid enough, and he gave it some consideration. "We were termed the Savage," he agreed, "but perhaps the designations enemies give each other in war are not the most appropriate, eh? Truthfully, primah races have always been thought of as relying a bit more on the instincts nature gave them, and if that should be seen as 'savage,' then the moniker is accurate enough. Ultimately, though, I see as little difference as you do. A pity it took a common enemy and the threat of mass extinction for others to realize as much, is it not?"

Truthfully, Alistair still had a few old wounds from the war, and seeing those who had fought his people in it was always a bit difficult, but he chose to set those old feelings aside for the sake of the present. Sometimes, he thought it might be nice to be a human; he would be entering the twilight of his life, and perhaps be able to forget that there were still enemies to be fought and killed, allies to be protected. A failing body might grant him a measure of peace. But alas, he was as young and strong as he had ever been, and would remain so for quite a while yet. Such was the way of it.

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#, as written by Aythr
Duran walked through the rain as he came upon two of the legionnaires that had been arguing for what seemed to be at least the last hour. It appeared that they were arguing about the constructs that would be joining The Black Guard. He wasn't particularly interested, but it seemed he didn't really have a say in the matter as one of the twins grabbed him by the arm.

"Hi, I'm Gurgen. Uh, so tell me, and him," he pointed at Turha, "that flames are a good idea."

"Yes, nothing strikes fear into a dragon's heart like fire," retorted Turha.

"Shut up! Just let me paint them!"

"Why are we still arguing about this? We're NOT doing it. That's final."

Duran looked down at the twin that was gripping his arm, while he was busy yelling at his brother. Slowly, he tried to pry his arm from Gurgen's grasp, but he yanked harder and forced Duran closer to whatever monstrous golem they were working on.

"Listen, just think about this logically-" Gurgen started.

"Logically? That's funny coming from you," said Turha, cutting Gurgen off.

Duran sighed. "Listen, I don't want to get between you two and you're big...statue...thing." He wasn't sure what to call it. He hadn't really seem such a thing before, being raised in the forest.

"Statue thing?" the twins said in unison, obviously peeved that Duran had included the Darkguard in either the "statue" or "thing" category.

"Crap." Duran said dryly. Goma simply looked up at him, and proceeded on her way as if she was avoiding the situation completely. Duran thought quickly, and only one solution came to mind.

"Whoa! Look at that thing over there!" shouted Duran. The twins immediately turned to see what he was pointing at. At the same instant, Duran's shape transformed into a weasel, quickly shaking loose the grip that Gurgen had on what was once his arm. Duran scurried away quickly, leaving the twins behind to continue their argument over the paint-job that was (or wasn't) going to be painted onto the golem.

He scurred to catch up to Goma, and looked at her with as much disdain as a weasel's face could muster. "I can't believe you sometimes." he thought loudly, before turning back into his human form.

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#, as written by Arke
Sweat clung to the deep humans form. He felt very much at home, the tent dulling what light could break through the rainclouds above. It was dank, and slightly muggy and it felt like home. The wooden dummy was very defeated now, Kisikoni's arms were red with all the colliding he did with the hardwood surface. Shaking his arms, the focus faded from his head as he started to feel his arms throb. He grinned, despite the pain for reasons he could not put touch on. He looked outside- it was still raining. He donned his jacket, and walked outside. Instantly, the humid air of the tent faded as the rain cooled the area around him. He walked through the alleys of the tents, the rain dousing his jacket. He took care not to chill himself, because that's what his family believed caused sickness- an imbalance in the temperature of the body.

So, when he saw Talae running along the perimeter of the camp, he worried. However, they were all in peak physical condition, so he decided not to call her out like an overbearing mother. He ducked into the mess hall tent once again, regarding a knocked over table with some curiosity. He asked a soldier about it, and he muttered something about Lamia and tails. He did not recall seeing his lamia comrade that had fought with him in the Jurial Plains, or the newcomer Sarish. He assumed the worst and decided to leave it at that. He was given a slice of bread, which he quickly ate and left. There wasn't much to do around here, especially in the rain. He moved back toward the sparring grounds. In time, it had been his only source around the camp for entertainment. He sat in a shaded area to avoid the rain, and decided to watch men in the mud fight. Most of them utilized weapons, the rest fought hand-to-hand. Those men reminded him of his own arms, which continued to send angry messages to his brain because of what he did to them earlier. He caught sight of what looked like a weasel and what he recognized as the Fog-Mage's animal companion as he made his way over to the grounds. He had seen Talae running the perimeter in the rain. He had seen the human beserker look rather... calm.

None of this was relevant to what was at hand, nor was it any of his business, but with so little to do, the small thing slowly floated up to the surface of his head. He shook himself from his reverie, and saw Beelzes and Faera practicing magic, his sharp tunnel-raised eyes catching them as somebody exited by flipping open the tent flap. He sighed. Everybody seemed to have something to occupy him for the day besides himself. Usually in the tunnels he would be with his father, hammering away new corridors or exploring natural dungeons. He had finished his physical exercise in the wee hours of the morning, something he was accustomed to, and now he was left with nothing to do. "This sucks." He muttered to himself aloud, feeling useless and counter productive. He fidgeted restlessly on the bench he sat on before making a long walk down to the armor to off himself as manual labor. Something to keep himself occupied.

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Laeral: Jurial Plains

The uncertain drops of rain became heavy with the advancement of another night. Since the absence of the legion the small town of Laeral had gone dormant once more, their last known bit of excitement vanishing with a tattooed female orc and falling back into the somewhat usual of what it was. A cross roads. In the shadows of the forest that lead towards the unmarked grave sites of Legionaries and Children alike four shadows detached themselves. Heavy forms striding at a calm pace, almost casual if one ignored the heavy armor that encased their bodies. Forms black and angular, not the armor of a Legionnaire or anything known for that matter. What poor amounts of forgotten torch lights slipped around the bodies, almost giving them a demonic look with fluid skin.

Most of the houses of the town were dark, leading down in steady rows and muddy streets to the only location with some life in it, Boulon Brother's Inn. The rumbling beginnings of thunder warning of another harsh night of rain. Each of the four stood at the entrance of the south road. Heads turned to glance at their neighbors but no sound was spoken as each readied their own weapon in turn. The right most of them flicking a catch over his shoulder as his left hand held onto a handle, following as a heavy object impacted into the mud behind him before dragging around the behemoth of a mace and lifting it up. The figure to his left raising his right arm, head turning a moment to regard to two crossbows that were expertly crafted into the armor, his other hand carefully pulling back the wires and fixing them in place. Beside him rattled the sound of a chain, the long coil of it falling to his feet as the whip was unfurled.

The last of the group stood still, watching the town before giving the barest of glances to the others and shaking his head. The other three broke off, slipping into the shadows of houses as their work began. The last figure looked up to the sky, rain sliding across the draconian shape of his helm as lighting streaked across the sky, illuminating the decayed and bony look that was worked into his armor, hands drawing up a club like weapon before hands dropped and rose rapidly, unhooking the folded form of the greater scythe as it swung out and locked into place, the blade almost half as tall as he was. The deafening roar almost covered the sound of smashing wood as his squad burst into the first of the houses. As the roar ended the silent gap was filled with the screams of the first of those fallen. He remained, watching as the small town began to stir to life, movement of those now rising and the sounds of others struggling to find items in the dark.

The was no thunder as the next house was breached, a heavy crunch and a shrill scream following, the first sound which could only be made by a heavy axe, the second by someone too close to escape it. Death and terror began to form a glorious melody as the sounds of their weapons moved to its tune, a symphony of death. The Greater Scythe user took it all in with a steady breath before looking forwards, once-black eye slits now filled with a glorious bloody crimson as he too entered the dying town of Laeral.




Aurran moved through one of the alleyways between houses, right hand firmly clasped around the wrist of his girlfriend Talli as they fled. The constant tap of his short sword at his side with each step a constant reminder that he could fight... only if it fell to nothing else. The rain had soaked through to their skin, icy drops that felt as if they stole away his warmth. Another shriek came from somewhere in the town, splintering wood and silence were the only other sounds that mixed with it.

He had no idea who was attacking yet this didn't match any story he had heard of the Children. Wasn't anyone trying to fight? Drawing to a stop he pressed his girlfriend's shoulder to the wall as he looked around the edge. Rain, muddy streets and lifeless houses greeted him. At the end of his site was the in, the haven where others could gather and fight back the attackers. Looking the other way showed more empty houses, yet just looking at them had his hair standing on end on his neck. Listening in he could only hear their breathing, no movement, no screams. Waterlogged mud and wood choked his sense of smell and, after tightening his grip on Talli's hand, rounded the corner in an attempt to flee.

Two steps. All it took was two steps until a heavily armored figure burst from one of the walls before him. Drawing up his free arm to shield his eyes from flecks of wood and splinters he gazed ahead at the figure. Ashen black armor with, what looked like, fiery read cracks spreading across it, spider-webbed as if the armor was ready to rupture all at once. Its angles were draconic in shape and resting over one should was a long haft attached to a massive mace head. The figure watched him almost casually. His hand released Talli and dropped to his sword, his other moving to his sheath to hide the nervous shake in his hand.

"What are you doing?" She pleaded with him as his arm began to draw the crude blade. Lifting it up to face his opponent as he widened his stance.

"Just run, I will protect you."

He glanced back in her silence to see if she understood and felt his mind stop as his heart died. Talli stood looking, but not at him. Her eyes drawn down with his at the greater scythe blade forced through her ribcage, hooked towards the sky. Even as the massive blade jerked upwards, he knew she was dead. Aurran only had time to face the front as the heavy mace slammed through and crushed his skull and neck.




The town managed a meager fight the deeper and closer they pushed towards the Inn, but their fight was determined well before engagement as the heavens wept for their loss. In the end the fours stood in the shell of the city, all life spent save their own, eyes searching in frustration for their prey that had escaped them. Their extermination was flawless but no sign of the Shawoman could be found. Turning around the attackers left at the same casual pace they arrived with, leaving the elements to drown or wash away those few that weren't fortunate enough to die under the force of the four.

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#, as written by Smith
North-Ridge

His thoughts coming clearer now, Wrath rubbed the his temples and tried to soothe his pulsing brain. Neira's mental intrusion left something behind that made the young halfbreed's teeth ache. With a wary look, he took the nightmarian's measure. "What are you? On your dossier, it said 'monk' as your fighting style...I have worked with a couple pugilists. They don't mind-fuck people." his anger quickly waned in the realization that sounds were eminating from all around the outside of the tent. Wrath loosed a muttered curse and moved up and past Neira to begin donning his equipment. The silence between them strectched on for some time. Just before Wrath pulled up the tent flap to leave, he cast a sidelong glance at Neira. "I...do not feel..." he stuggled to verbalize his feelings. "I don't hear any call...at least, not in the way you are thinking. What I feel is you. Still. I shall consider your offer. Dismissed."


"A shame indeed." Sid mulled that over shortly before smirking and patting Alistair's shoulder. "But maybe it's for the greater good. I mean, if we do survive the whole 'dragon' thing, the world will be a more unified place having faced such adversity together. Or something." the halfling hopped off of her seat and turned back to pat Alistair again. She smiled brightly, looking towards the gray skies and allowing raindrops to fall on her face. "I thank you, my feathered friend. I needed that! Expect some covering fire tommorow!" she might've said more but a magically amplified voice echoed across the field.

"Good morning. This is your general speaking. Those of you who do not have hauling, packing or preparatory duties are to refrain from any strenuous activities for the day. We need you well rested for tommorow's march. That is all."


The next day, Sunrise

Most of the army turned in early that night, and were rewarded for their efforts the next morning. Daybreak came quickly and the camp was already alive with the familiar drone of clanging metal and shouted orders. The tents were all but empty at this point, the majority of the soldiers lined up in a great mass of armored men and women. The army was slowly funneling into the portal building from which the fortieth legion had arrived barely two-weeks ago. It was here that Wrath took stock of his units. Five commanders stood before him, plus Sid.

"Sound off. Commander Wrynne, leader of the tenth legion." a petite lamia with a bow as large as she was tall strapped to her back saluted. "Commander Genki, of the seventh legion." an unusually large orc encase in black plate came to attention. "Commanders Hellione and Charis, of the twenty-fifth legion." two nightmarians, one beetle and the other moth raised their hands. As Hellione was male and heavily armored with natural plating, a hulk of a man, Charis was female, delicate and beautiful with her pearl-colored wings. "Horus, leader of the artemis legion." the last commander was a harpy whose skin was inked in a maze of crimson tattoos that danced with magical light. "Good. We are all here. Report to your sections of the army and await further orders. I will begin the march through the portal."

The commanders dispersed and made their way to their respective forces. Wrath turned to Sid and smiled. The halfling, her great crossbow strapped to her back, couldn't contain a smirk. "You first, oh general."

Wrath called for order and waved for the first rank--the Black Guard--to follow him through the portal. The platform on which he stood began to glow with eldritch radiance as the spell within activated. Wrath took a step forward and began the sojourn that would take them to the heart of the dragon's territory.


Terra, The Akaldai Pass

His first footfall came down with an oddly dry crunch. Wrath inhaled deeply, squeezing his eyes shut for a few moments to allow the nausea of translocation to pass. Upon opening them, he was met with a cloudless blue sky and a wide valley surrounded by cliff faces. Twenty miles down the green of a field could be seen at the end of the pass. Sid came through next, stumbling a few feet behind him and righting herself before--or so she thought--Wrath noticed. Over the next few minutes the rest of the Black Guard, their animated golems and the first battle carts arrived. The rest of the army slowly began trickling through the magical gate and the march got under way. Within hours they would be upon the cultists...

"Here, the dragons began anew their blight upon Norr. Here, begins their extinction."

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Talae debated with herself for a while, trying to decide if jogging really counted as strenuous activity, and concluded that it probably did, at least were it conducted for any length of time. Well, damn. That didn't leave her with a whole lot of options on what to do with herself for the rest of the day. She decided that the wisest course was probably to simply head back to her tent, perhaps try some of that meditation business someone had told her about- was it Kisikoni? She couldn't remember.

Perhaps at some point, Fae would show up and she could probably talk with her sister for a while before turning in. That was, in fact, exactly what she wound up doing, and though she was a bit sore the next morning, she was up well before she had to be and it wasn't really anything that would impede her marching... or her lining up for yet another slightly-nauseating round of magical transport. Lovely.

It looked they were going through first, which made sense now that they were the Black Guard and everything. The weight of her sword on her back did not yet feel familiar, but it was something of a comfort at any rate. She was sure that not too long from now, she probably wouldn't be able to feel it there at all. Whether this was a comforting thought or a chilling one was something she had yet to consider.

Taking a deep breath, Talae filed through the portal-

-and landed lightly on the other side, scanning her surroundings. Mountainous, but in a valley area perhaps. The air smelled... fresh. Much more so than camp, but then that wasn't really surprising, considering that this area had probably not hosted so many people in close proximity for so long. The fact that she found it so pleasant bothered her. It was as though the world belonged this way, and she wasn't having that. This was dragon territory, and that meant that nothing about it was as it should be. Not until every last one of them was dead.




Alistair was beginning to suspect he was someone's pet bird, what with all the patting, but the mild-mannered harpy let it slide, more amused than anything, and nodded serenely. "Of course, Captain. I would very much appreciate it." With that, she was off, and he left too, rather wishing the sky were a little clearer, that he might go flying. While such pursuits were not impossible in the rain per se, they were far from comfortable or enjoyable, especially when compared to the unbridled joy that was flight on a sunny day.

Sometimes, he felt sorry for the races that would never know the sensation of flight, but of course everything had adapted in its own way, and he was equally unsuited to a life underground, which he was given to believe that others very much enjoyed, so there it was. Simple as that. The contemplative white-winged man made his way to eat, and then to, oddly enough perhaps, write. He was not keeping a journal or writing his memoirs, exactly, and he certainly did not think anyone would ever pore over his musings for any length of time, but on occasion his thoughts did tend to run away from him, and even more rarely, he thought that perhaps he had manged to stumble across something important, at least enough to to bear the considerable difficulty his talons found in trying to keep the right kind of purchase on a writing implement.

The next morning, he found himself standing beside the Nightmarian woman, Neira. From what little he had gathered of her, her tongue was rather acidic, but he had grown up surrounded by aggressive female harpies, so it was not as though he were unused to such things. Even so, she did not seem the sort for idle speaking, and he respected this by maintaining his own silence, though if given the opportunity, there were several things he might have asked. Why she was in the Legion in the first place, for one.

Lilliana was at his other side, and he offered her a smile. "Did you enjoy the tea?" He asked, referring not to the cup they and Kisikoni had shared this first evening in camp, but the extra packet he had sent her off with afterwards. It was also elven, but of a lighter taste overall, much more for light repast or morning consumption. It was his turn to step into the portal before he heard her response, though, and his first thought was that this area was much drier than the one they had just left, which was something that Alistair relished in. He stretched his wings unconsciously, though not enough to hit anyone by accident. That would be a highly-mortifying experience indeed.

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#, as written by Aythr
A voice rang over the camp as Duran walked in the rain towards the training grounds.

"Good morning. This is your general speaking. Those of you who do not have hauling, packing or preparatory duties are to refrain from any strenuous activities for the day. We need you well rested for tomorrow's march. That is all."


"Well, you heard the man, Goma. No training tonight." He spoke in a disingenuous voice, as if he was looking for an excuse that had without warning presented itself. So, tomorrow would be the day, would it? It seemed too soon, as if this was just like the last march: a casual stroll into a deadly trap. Nevertheless, there would be no better way to die, fighting the dragons and their cultists. The alternative was a slow and painful death through any number of dragon-related causes. He marched slowly back to his tent, and in no time flat, he was asleep.




The next day was crystal clear. The rain had cleared up over night, and Duran took it as a sign that, hopefully, there was somebody or something watching out for them. In reality, he probably should have thought the other way around. A particularly nasty storm would probably ground the dragons, or at the very least hinder their direct intervention in a fight.

As he made his way into the portal room, he noticed it was more than just his unit. Other commanders were apparently under Wrath's command, something that Duran didn't know was going to happen. In retrospect, it made sense.

Duran took his place in his own unit, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw the Lamian cleric of his unit slither in with a black eye. Duran stared for a moment and began to open his mouth.

"So, what happe-"

He was instantly cut off by Sarish.

"I don't want to talk about it." said the cleric in a low tone. Immediately, Duran saw a tail brush up against Sarish's own tail, and tracked it back to Iriana, the only other Lamia in the same unit. It didn't take long for the dots to connect. He held back a snicker at the thought that Sarish was man-handled by Iriana.

It wasn't long before the portal began to glow, and opened. Duran felt a pit in his stomach even before they entered the portal. At Wrath's command, they advanced.

Upon reemerging from the portal, the pit in his stomach easily grew, and Duran stifled his urge to vomit on the legionnaire in front of him. As he recovered, he took a long look at the area they were in. It was normal for him to observe his environment as a druid, and he didn't like what he saw. Below, there was a valley surrounded by cliffs. This screamed ambush to him. He had been told on several occasions that the dragons and their cultists would not know of their attack, but he was also told that The Children couldn't use magic, and that appeared to be a lie judging by their previous encounter. Further down the way, the valley gave way to verdant grasslands. He began to have flashbacks once more to the last battle they had been in. What's more was that this terrain didn't provide any particular advantage to the druid. There were no trees, meaning no ambushes, or use of the materials he had hoped to take advantage of. The sky was crystal clear, which would make it all the more difficult to summon a potent bolt of lightning. It seemed to him as though he probably should have spent the previous evening shape-shifting like he had prepared himself to do. It would probably be the only thing that would be very effective for him today.

Duran took a deep breath to clear his head as the rest of their forces made their way through the portal.

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Neira laughed. Though his tone was angry, she wasn't terribly afraid of the consequences. "You think that was a mind-fuck? General, that was neither literally applicable nor the worst of it. If you are interested in discovering either, however, I would indeed be able to oblige." The nightmarian smirked, but decided to leave off teasing him for a while. He quite frankly seemed flustered enough as it was. "They asked me what I thought I was; I considered putting 'sadistic bitch with armored fists and the ability to use psionics,' but 'monk' was much more succinct." She shrugged.

What he said next though, turned the tables a bit and confused her. Just what did he mean by that? One's bodily reactions to the presence of other nightmarians was part of the entire hive-mind connection. She had done her damnedest to bring both under her own sway, and mostly succeeded. Perhaps it was not strong enough in him to register that way? But then why...? She shook her head. "It doesn't matter either way. Whatever it was, if it can be used to alter your consciousness, you need to be able to control it." With that, she was dismissed, and departed.




The next morning, she was once again standing in a line of fellow soldiers. To her right was the harpy-of-indeterminate-gender-until-he-spoke and to her left was the can't-see-a-damn-thing-but-apparently-slings-spells-without-collateral-damage dark elf girl. Dead gods, she had wound up with a load of bloody bizarre people.

The girl looked a bit spooked, but she supposed that was what happened when one was about to face their second battle as members of what Neira had internally termed the Suicide Squad. Not that they were all going to die, necessarily (she for one had an annoying habit of continuing to exist long past the point where someone should have killed her, and was under the impression that some of the others were the same), but that didn't mean the Legion wasn't trying its hardest to leave them in a damn ditch somewhere.

Between the battle last time and now their lovely little 'promotion,' she would not be at all surprised to find it was true. If she ever discovered for certain who was directly responsible for this (and she had her suspicions), she wasn't quite sure if she would kiss them or kill them first. On the one hand, she loved little more than an impossible fight, but she also greatly despised being used. No, definitely kill. Then maybe bring them flowers or something equally inane. That was what people did for dead people they still gave a shit about, right? She'd never cared about anyone, so she wouldn't know really.




It was too damn quiet out here, and mark her thoughts, somebody was gonna attack them. Maybe not right away, but it was going to happen. No doubt about it. Because really, what were the chances of being able to march on Dragon territory unassailed? Fuck all, that's what.

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"Don't leave me like they did..."

North-Ridge


Lily broke the embrace she had held with Thanaros, tilting her head down to allow her hood to skew the view of her face. She didn't want the half-orc to see that she was crying. Thanaros raised a questioning eyebrow, and his following words were as gentle as the man could manage... "Leave you... Like they did?" He asked. "We.. I'm not going to leave you, Lily... We are.. comrades. Friends," Thanaros added, hoping to bring the cheer back to Lily's voice. He ever so liked her cheer, her good nature. It was a welcome relief from the dreary doom and nay saying some of the other legion held.

Lily lifted her head and looked at Thanaros, her face moist from the rain... Or tears. "Thank you, 'Ros... Thank you. You don't know what that means to me... It's been such a long time since I was... accepted? Yes, Accepted," She said, genuine appreciation in her voice. Thanaros merely looked the elf in the eyes and asked, "Girl... What happened to you?" He asked... Lily scanned the ground at her feet, avoiding the prying eyes of Thanaros... Or at least tried to. When the man placed a strong hand on her shoulder, she grasped it with her own slender fingers... She grasped them with a feeling of never wanting to let go. She didn't want to lose him, she didn't want to lose anyone in the Blackguard. Strangely enough, she felt more welcomed here than...

"The Bloodleaf clan..." She began shakily, grabbing Thanaros's hand even harder, "They... They just up and left me one morning! They always said they would, but I didn't believe them.. They said that I don't act how an elf is supposed to! I'm supposed to be focused and ready to kill anything in a moments notice! They told me I don't have the time to be friendly and happy. It was a sign of weakness!" She said, the floodgates opening. Tears, and they were tears this time, streamed from her face. "They were my only family I've ever known. And they left me to fend for myself..." She said... Obviously, this was not the full story, and only the beginning, but Thanaros refused to make the girl dig into her soul in order to tell him... He merely pulled the girl in for an orc sized hug, looking to comfort and console her. He felt like it was the right thing to do.




It was late, the eve before they were to move out into dragon territory. Caine took advantage of this oppertunity to catch a great nights sleep after a monster sized meal. If it was to be the last he was to eat, then it was going to be the best damn meal he ever ate. Same deal with the sleep. If this was the last time he was going to sleep, then he was going to sleep long and hard. The morning's announcement echoed throughout his head.

"Good morning. This is your general speaking. Those of you who do not have hauling, packing or preparatory duties are to refrain from any strenuous activities for the day. We need you well rested for tomorrow's march. That is all."

Caine was more than happy to oblige the general and was tip-toeing on the doorsteps of sleep before movement caught his attention at the flap of his tent. He turned his head and caught a glimpse of a familiar figure floating over the ground towards where he lay. "Mikana?" Caine asked, beginning to sit up. However, he was stopped mid-ways by a strong but gentle elven hand. The elf then hushed him with a finger against her lips with a simple, "Shh" A coy smile playing at her lips... A part of the announcement came to mind.

"refrain from any strenuous activities"

"... Sorry General," He muttered to himself with a grin.




Lily was situated besides Alistair, the harpy she had met in her first day in the Blackguard. She was more calm and had her normal cheerful quality about her this morning, going so far as to even giggle every now and then. She felt... Freer than normal. Damn strange considering she was an elf, the epitome of free.

"Did you enjoy the tea?"

"Hmm? Oh yes," She replied to Alistair besider her, "Yes, thank you. I had it this morning... If I die today, I'd want to die with the taste of tea in my mouth," She said with near insane enthusiam. Only an elf could talk about dying and still have a smile plastered to her face, especially if that elf was Lily. She turned her eyes forward in time to see Alistair hop into the portal. Then it was her turn... At least she thought it was. No doubt any one would argue with her if it wasn't. She was through and...

... Out the other side with only minor nausea. She scanned the sorrounding area. It looked to be a verdant green valley or pass with a blue sky over hanging. It was a pretty day and Lily couldn't help but be excited about that fact. Of course, there were no trees, which the elf had become accustomed to. Alas, one has to make do with what she had.




"Here, the dragons began anew their blight upon Norr. Here, begins their extinction."

"Damn right," Caine agreed with the Captain. He was a little further up in the line, however, Mikana was nearby. Turned out the elf was a Paladin, a word that conjures images of a white knight besting evil foes with a shining sword. Fairy tales of course, because Mikana with her elven skin and blackguard armor did not envision the typical notion of Paladin... However, it meant she was damn profiecent in what ever weapon she chose. He caught her glance and he nodded, which was replied with a silent but sweet smile and a wink. A gesture Caine couldn't help but smile back at.

As it was, it would no doubt only be hours before they would come upon their quarry... Something Caine waited for with suicidely anticipation... He still had three Children he had to pay back for slaying his comrades...

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#, as written by Arke
The Deep Human had just finished setting up a pair of crates to be sent away when the announcement was made over the speakers. Blaring past the pattering of the rain, Kisikoni listened and sighed. The guilty feeling of being inactive when others were never really left him anyways, though he bade farewell to the workers near him. They teased him about getting to sleep early and relaxing the entire day, but everybody knew the Black Guard- the forefront and vanguard of the army took on the most strenuous jobs. They did not envy him in the slightest- especially when facing their foes the Dragons. He left the tent, walking back to his own and entering the flap. It had been a very uneventful day- his arms still throbbing slightly. Despite the fact that it was only morning and he had woken up a few hours before, he was tired. Perhaps it was the rain.

He sat on his cot, going over the manual he was given several times when he first enlisted. They stopped producing them now, as the materials were used to make more useful items. It was partly to stave off the boredom- and to stop himself from going to bed early. In the caves, sleeping this early was looked down upon- as there was always something to be done. He packed everything up well, and his weapons were in pristine condition.

He could hear sounds from the next tent through the rain. Kisikoni rather would rather not describe it, but it encouraged him to simply roll over onto his cot and sleep. He woke up several times throughout the day, fitfully raging against his internal clock, but was finally relieved when he woke up and it was dark out. He could tell by the frigid air that it was either very late night or very early morning. He was up, washing his face and rubbing what little sleep was left out of his eyes. He donned his uniform and equipped his weapons, slinging his pack over his shoulder. He was out of his tent before everyone else, taking it down and folding the props up.

And he sat in the darkness, waiting half an hour before the faintest shades of light peeked over the horizon and the camp began to bustle with activity. Once again, the deep humans seem to be the grumpiest or the most restless. He formed up with his peers in the front. On command, he stepped through the portal.

The air was crisp- unnaturally so. The dank cave air had not prepared the poor Deep Human when he first arrived to the surface. This was another thing. If he had surfaced first here, he probably would have returned back underground. So this was where the infamous day of ashes occured? His parents still wanted him to mourn that day. Many people had been incinerated in their armor. Such an inhumane way to die. He closed his eyes and clasped his hands together. "Great Lord Under. Bless the Fallen here." He prayed under his breath. They were in Dragon Territory now. Asking for the gods help would be foolhardy. He fell under the lull of march- he hated marching so. Talae walked next to him, Neira and Caine and Faera behind. Beelzes was in front.

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#, as written by Smith
Terra, the Dragon's Maw

Granted enhanced endurance by the new armor, the Black Guard was the first unit to arrive at the end of the Akaldai Pass. The stoney valley cut off abruptly, becoming clear, green grassland at an unnaturally defined line. At least it appeared that way to Wrath. He and his unit were barely a quarter mile from the edge of the pass concealed within the shadows of jagged rock, only one battle cart present along with their host of golems. Their target lay in sight: Scalescrossing. An odd name to be sure, but it was the first city in their line of conquest.

The moderately sized city had been erected some twelve years back right at the portion of land where the Akaldai met fields. With it's iron walls and great tower in the center, it effectively choked off any attempt to enter the Dragonlands by foot. Unless you wanted to pass through the city, pay the tax that supported the Children's armies and risk execution if you even winced at the word 'dragon'. From this distance Wrath could make out the shapes of snow-colored cloaks wafting in the breeze upon the battlements. Drawing on the mental clarity of his amulet, the general turned to his troops.

"The main army won't arrive for another ten minutes, give or take. As the vanguard it's our job to crash into their line, cause as much panic and damage as we can and allow the body of our assault to surge in through the opening we create." he nodded to Sid, who stepped in with the rest of the explanation. Wrath looked on with mild interest, both hands resting on the hilts of his untested blades and gaze flicking back to the target city periodically.

"Ok. If nobody informed you yet, the live-leather uniforms that you have been given are Assault issue." the halfling pointed to her breast where the grayed dragonskull emblem was located. "Tap it once and think the word 'boost' as clearly as possible. That will give you a nice running start. Twice, and thinking the word 'leap' adds a bit of spring to your step. Last, three taps and thinking 'surge' give you a massive increase to strength. Just know this; All three of these abilities are tied to the armor, and won't be accessable if it is too badly damaged. The powers only last a few moments, and don't refresh until your adrenaline levels drop back down to normal--yeah, sounds dumb, but if we use it too often the armor bursts into flames or something so we needed a limiter. Good? Good. Private Mialee, Senior and Junior, report!"

Both twins marched out of the line with an odd amount of coordination and saluted. At Wrath's signal they relaxed and Turha withdrew a fist-sized orb of semi-transparent steel from his tool-pouch. With a thought the mystical item pulsed dimly, prompting the legion of Darkguards to take a single step forward. "I've already synchronized a contruct to each soldier's armor, including that of your own and captain Grimsmirk. The remaining twenty are under our control." At the human's words twenty of the darkguard moved to stand behind a legionnaire that was designated as their controller. Turha made an about-face and scanned his fellow soldiers. "Simply will it, and the constructs will follow even complex commands. Just remember that their first priority is protecting you."

"Good." Wrath said quietly, then glanced at the twenty golems under the twin's control. They looked like the other darkguards at first glance, but further scrutiny wold reveal a slightly clunky look. As if they had been disassembled and pieced back together in the wrong places. The general regarded the brothers out of the corner of his eye as he turned towards Scalescrossing. "Your heads are mine if those modifications comprimise my darkguards."

Their only response was a simultaneous nod. Then, Wrath was off. A few bounding steps took him into the light and onto the grass. With a slap to the chest the general seemed to move in a blur, crossing the the last quarter mile to the wall with blinding speed and his cape billowing in the wind. Arrows from a pair of alert guardsmen atop the walls thunked into the ground, missing Wrath by several feet. The darkguard assigned to him kept up with his supernatural speed with long, loping strides. As the enchantment of alacrity ended the next began, sending the warrior launching twenty feet into the air to land upon the battlements. Both swords were drawn before the nearest guard could call out, and a severed head came toppling down on the outside of the gate. A hulking ebon hand clutched the precipice of the wall and swatted away another guard as it heaved itself up onto the wall. Both moved to engage their next foes.

All of this happened in less than fifteen seconds. Sid smirked and unslung the hand crossbow at her hip. She glanced back at the rest of the Black Guard, some of which wore astonished expressions and grinned all the wider. "Shall we?" the halfling was gone before any response could be given, ducking an arrow and flying up onto the wall to join Wrath. Her darkguard had trouble keeping up.

The remainder of the legionnaires and their guardian golems followed suit. Thanaros's eyes grew sharp as he found his center within the balance of mind, body and soul. As he rushed off he cast a glance at Liliana and managed a faint smile. Ferka trailed after him, greatsword drawn and face drawn in a mask of rage, an anitithesis of her brother's perfect calm. Iriana slapped Sarish's rear playfully with the flat of one of her new twin scimitars before slithering swiftly into the fray. Both harpies took to the air, calling back to Alistair to join them in their sky-attack as they went. Strangely, the cleric halfling Pel and Beelzes were sharing their gift of rambling incessantly to one another about nothing as they rushed along their magically propelled feet. As an afterthought the warlock waved to the Shanir sisters before donning her sunglasses and scouring a section of the wall with black fire that sent three screaming corpses tumbling to the earth.

Mikana was only just managing to free her weapon from it's straps when the others were gone. During the march, the diminutive elf had lugged around a wheelbarrow that held a warhammer as large as she was from haft to head. She undid the straps and made a gesture over her heart. Golden radiance flowed from Mikana's skin, and she lifted the brutal weapon over her shoulder as if it was a stick...and smiled at Caine. There was a reason she was always on top. Clinking in her medium armor, the elven paladin activated her sigil and raced onward towards the skirmish.

That left the twins. They simply watched the beginnings of the battle and made some finishing touches to their darkguards. All the while, they grinned maniacally. These constructs wouldn't be the darkguards for much longer...

In the distance, on the wall of Scalescrossing, the local soldiers finally managed to raise an alarm.

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Huh... fancy new threads, Neira thought absently to herself. Nothing like a few extra bits of magic to get things started, perhaps. She was off at the word shall, not terribly concerned with whether or not her construct was keeping up (it was, barely). She leapt the battlements and slammed her fist into the face of a white-robed child without pause, the extra momentum sending the halfling straight over the wall and down the other side. Neira smirked, dropping to all fours as her psionic sense informed her of an incoming blow.

Human, big fancy sword. Go figure. Almost lazily, Neira directed her construct to block it with a massive arm, and slipped around the thing, jabbing two pointed, armor-encased digits at the soft flesh of his throat. It wasn't so hard working with one of these telepathic golems, not when you were used to flinging rational, calm-sounding thoughts around in the middle of a fight anyway.

The sweet metallic smell of blood was in her nose, and Neira inhaled deeply. They may not taste any good, but the smell of dying flesh-creatures was damned-near intoxicating at times. She reveled in it, and in the unholy sheen of the crimson rivulets winding slowly down the sleek black casing of her arms as gravity compelled the vitality of her victims to kiss the stone below. With a brutal twist, she broke the same man's arm and dropped him in just enough time to leap away from the incoming crossbow bolt. Right... probably best to forgo most of the exquisite fun and just kill them now that they were gathering their wits about them.

Leaving her construct behind with instructions to simply help the others in the way that made the most sense, Neria utilized her diaphanous wings and launched herself airborne, seeking the offending crossbowman with both eyes and mind. Ah, there he was, ruddy little bastard, presently turned and trying to fire down at someone on the other side of his short battlement tower, really just another story or so taller than the wall itself. Grinning, she dropped down behind him. "Didn't your mother ever teach you that it's rude to point that at people?" she asked of his bolt-thrower. "I always did hate ranged combat..."

The man swung around, and she realized with some surprise that he already had the thing loaded again, and he shot her point-blank. Neira moved, but not before the bolt thunked into the side of her lower abdomen, just above her waist. The armor plating that protected her sides just so happened to end there, but the combination of it, her leathers, and the extreme close range meant the bolt didn't have enough momentum to go very deep. Neira looked down at the protruding bolt with bored disdain and wrapped her fingers around it, tugging it from her skin with nary a wince before examining it as though she didn't quite know what it was. Looking up at the crossbowman, she shrugged. "You're going to have to do better than that." Lunging, she slammed her elbow into his solar plexus, then in a display of poetic irony that struck her, shoved the bolt into the juncture between his neck and chin.

"Ranged weapons," she muttered beneath her breath, shaking her head.




Faera was caught off-guard by the sheer effectiveness of the magic in her armor, and found it hard to keep the giddy delight from her face as she ran instep with her sister, grasping Tala's hand as they jumped, just to make sure she would land somewhere safe. As soon as her feet touched the battlements, though, she immediately dropped her smile and fell back on her training with Beelzes, using her ears and nose to get her bearings as quickly as possible. Legionnaires landed all around her, but she shifted about, picking out the panic of the guards and feeling a twinge of pity.

Then she remembered what the Children and the dragons had done to her home, to her parents, and at least this was enough for her to move. The weather was clear today, which meant that water wasn't going to be as useful a resource. She could still condense it from the air, but that would take a lot of effort. Instead, she picked out one of the places where enemy archers were posted, and, checking to make sure she couldn't hear any harpy wingbeats, raised her hands in the manner of one conducting an orchestra.

With a few small gestures and one great sweep, she sent a gust of wind right for them. The resounding yells as the archers struggled to keep their footing told her that she'd hit her targets, and she sustained the local whirlwind until the noise of scrabbling boots on stone ceased. Closer to her position, she heard someone moving in to attack her and had a moment of panic before remembering her construct and pleading with it to help her. She needn't have been quite so polite, but at any rate the golem's arm swung heavily at the mace-armed orc, and she was safe for a little while longer.

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When everyone got the signal to move, Talae shrugged at Kisikoni as if to say why not? and grasped Fae's hand, returning Beelze's wave even if she did feel a bit silly doing it. She had no desire for her sister to have to navigate the landing a few other had already made, after all, and so they activated their armor together, dashing across the ground at near-breathtaking speeds, their constructs not far behind.

When they launched into the air, Talae wondered if that was anything like flying, for surely the moment of weightless vertigo before they began their descent must have been close. The air whistled past her ears in a way that temporarily deafened her, and it wasn't until she bent her knees to absorb the impact and straightened again that sounds started to filter in normally again. Immediately, she left Fae to do whatever she though was best (though she wouldn't stray too far) and reached for her sword, a throwing knife, brand-new off the caravan, in her other hand.

Her first opponent carried two axes, and Talae let fly the knife only for it to be batted away by the right-hand one. Shifting her grip so that she was grasping her blade firmly in both hands, she crossed her body with it to take the impact of the first strike, shoving backwards with what strength she had and maneuvering to get to the elf's side while he staggered. The crash course in melee combat was paying off a bit, it seemed, for the sword found his side and came away with blood bathing the blade. The man fell to the side, and Talae wasted no time in finishing it before he could start spouting those damn flames.

Her next foe seemed to be an ordinary guardsman, and though something inside herself balked at this thought she shoved it aside. A Child's ally was the same as a Child to her; they had to be. Her moment's hesitation earned her a slice to the arm, though, and she resisted the urge to wince at the sting of it. She swung thrice, and was parried each time, the human's metal shield ringing like some kind of horrendous gong, only less melodious. He swung again and nicked her leg, but this time Talae was ready, and took a step forward, striking one handed with her blade to force another block while her second knife found a home within an armor juncture.




Alistair, too, took to the skies with Achiru and Qinn, or as he had collectively termed them "the kids." He really did feel like an old man sometimes, but at least only in mind. A construct that could not follow him into the air was fairly useless for him, so he tagged his to keep an eye on both Lilliana and the younger Shanir, since he'd picked them for 'most likely to hesitate in killing someone that would not show them the same courtesy.'

His sharp eyes picked out ranged combatants a little above the rest, and so it was his bow he drew first, flying just out of arrow range before swooping in to fire off a shot or two before retreating again. In this manner, the numbers began to thin, little by little, and he observed another few being knocked off their position by what appeared to be an errant wind. One of the magi then; he made a mental note not to interrupt that.

Eventualy, though, the ranged combatants grew savvy to his plan, and Alistair could not help but sigh as they seemed to discover that it was smarter to wit for him to come to them. Of course, inwardly he was somewhat pleased by this, because it meant it was time to use his preferred combat method- his trident spear.

Not a trace of the polite, civil gentleman remained on his face as he dove at the two remaining people on his target vantage point. Such niceties were replaced instead with the cold efficiency of one who has seen far too much battle and plans to see far too much more. Straight of the bat, he impaled one of them, the talons of one foot raking down the man's stomach and effectively eviscerating him. This gave the woman- a white robed lamia- plenty of time to draw what appeared to be a scythe on a chain and fling it in Alistair's general direction. An upwards thrust of his own weapon caught one of the chain links on an outside prong, and he twisted, yanking the entire assemblage and its owner towards himself.

Being a lamia and having a tail, she managed to maintain balance, but lost her grip on the chain, and that was all Alistair needed.

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#, as written by Aythr
Duran was a little surprised to find a small civilization of people living so close to the dragons. "Civil" might not have been the right word, in retrospect, but nevertheless, he was ready for the assault. A Darkguard, it seemed, backed him up. He was a little surprised by this, considering the previous night he made the mistake of calling it a moving statue to the brothers that seemed to be controlling all but the ones that personally guarded them.

As the rest of the legion tapped their armor, Duran did not hesitate to do the same. He rushed at a speed he didn't think was possible on two legs, as he readied his longspear for a fight that it would probably not last in. His own Darkguard seemed to be able to keep up with him, matching Duran's enchanted speed with long strides of his own. As he made his way to the top of the wall through the help of his enchanted armor, he was met with a rather startled Deep Human cultist who didn't have a weapon drawn yet. It seemed to be a poor decision for the poor man, but he wouldn't live long enough to have anything going through his head (besides a finely crafted spear, of course.) An upward thrust of the spear proved to be an exceptional point of attack as it made its way through the Deep Human's jaw and up into his brain. Duran yanked his weapon out, and shook it free of the pink, spongy gore that lightly decorated it. A second cultist, this one more prepared than the last, rushed Duran with heavy broadsword. Duran took the distance between him and his assailant as an advantage, and chucked his spear. It pierced the man's stomach, and he was taken aback by the injury. With the time gained by the man's shock, Duran rushed him, drawing his scimitar, and planting it in his neck. The guard fell to the ground, his eyes opened wide in horror and holding his stomach where the spear had hit him.

It seemed as though these guards were not well trained, although it was difficult to tell. Once the element of surprise had worn off, it would be time to see just exactly how formidable these foes truly were. A sudden thought occurred to him. Goma hadn't come up to the wall, no doubt due to the lack of magic that had given the rest of the legion the ability to jump so high. It was no matter. She would know best to stay away from the fighting, at least until they were reunited.

It seemd as though Goma always found her way back to Duran in one way or another.




Sarish felt a cold pat on his backside, supplied by Iriana's scimitar. He rubbed his freshly blackened eye, and could only think one thing.

"May the Dead Gods have mercy on those poor guards."

As he slithered to keep up with her, he drew his maul from his back, a tremendous spiked ball at the end of what was easily a four foot long shaft of wood. He very much enjoyed the sickening crack it made when connecting with a skull. His armor now activated, he quickly passed Iriana, and blew her a kiss.

"You'd better hurry, dear. I know I owe you some work after last night, but I can't do everything now, can I?" He clearly heard Iriana scoff and mutter something about how Sarish would never have to work a day in his life again if she got one more night in a tent with him again. He smiled, tapping his armor once more and somehow managing a leap that was particularly uncharacteristic of a man with the body of half a snake. As he landed on the wall, he realized that he was some decent distance away from the rest of the group. He had landed between two guards, both of them ready with swords in hand.

"Crap."

They rushed at the same time, one at his front and the other front behind. Sarish swung his mighty mace at the guard in front of him. It seemed he had just barely missed the kill shot, as he felt the man's nose crack. The spikes slashed across his face and caused considerable damage and sending him reeling backwards, but it seemed as though he was still alive by some miracle. Suddenly, the guard from behind made his way towards Sarish's tail. A swift flick sent the poor guard down the wrong side of the wall, and a loud thud ended the man's screaming. The first guard gritted his teeth and charged once again, but it seemed as though he had not learned from his previous mistake. Sarish's maul came around once more, connecting heavily with the man's already battered skull. A satisfying crunch rang out, as Sarish batted him off the wall as had done with his comrade, although this fall was not accompanied by any screaming. Sarish slowly backed up towards the rest of the squad that had landed, making his way towards the druid of the party, and simply took a stance in front of him, as an alarm sounded in the distance.

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#, as written by Arke
Scalescrossing, huh?

He didn't know people lived out here, other than the children and the dragons themselves. Well, it was time to end it. In war, there was no real rhyme or reason- the mission, the reason they fought would be lost amidst the fighting. They would be attacking, and all that would matter is surviving- must like that ambush. He took deep breaths, calming the butterflies in his stomach that rose every battle. He listened to his commanders, noting the new abilities of his Live Armor. How helpful.

Kisikoni watched as the Captain lead the charge- and by god he was fast. Something had change with the man, and it had turned him into a very strong fighter- if not as aloof as he used to be. He climbed onto his own Darkguard's hand, Which set off toward the front line at a blinding pace. The hulking arm shielded Kisikoni from oncoming arrowfire, which bounced off the golem's powerful structure. When they had closed the distance on the wall, Kisikoni signaled the Darkguard to throw. The arm propelled Kisikoni over the wall, landing admist a pair of surprised guards. He wasted no time, his withdrawn blade gutting the first one and forcing the second off the battlements. The crunch of his Darkguard stomping the life from the child could be heard. The gutted Child was beginning to recover, but Kisikoni had already come on top, driving both blades into the heart and neck, killing the Child. The alarm had finally been raised- the element of surprise wearing off very quickly. The wall was going to be overwhelmed soon- and Kisikoni would have preferred it if they had moved onto the streets before the alarm had raised.

The crash of his hulking Darkguard was music to his ears as it clambered over the wall to join him. Kisikoni was met with two more Children in the fighting, one which the Darkguard took and the other which had drawn it's battleaxe. Kisikoni deftly dodged the stroke, bashing the Child's hand. The child dropped the weapon, but it was an Orc- and the hulking being could fight well enough with it's hands. A roaring punch might have sent Kisikoni flying off the battlements if he hadn't rolled under the punch, sending both blades into the Child's stomach. Withdrawing, the Child smacked Kisikoni away, leaving a sizable bruise on his chest. Getting up, Kisikoni put the pain in the back of his mind and pressed his advantage. His Darkguard was absorbing hits from the deep Human child that engaged it, before managing to clasp the child in it's grasp and crush the life from him. He wondered where Talae was- as far as he knew she was still his partner. The orc swung heavily at Kisikoni, who jumped back. The child kept pressuring the deep human, but at one point Kisikoni charged again, side stepping a brutal punch an slicing the arm tendons. Watching the Child's arms go unnaturally limp, he slashed at the Child's chest multiple times, sending a spray of blood staining his body. Tackling the Orc, he dealt the final blow by jamming the heavy blade into it's skull with all the momentum he had. The Child flopped once and fell still.

"Who's next?!" Kisikoni roared.

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#, as written by Smith
Despite the freshly joined battle roaring in his ears and the calm demeanor granted by the pendant, Wrath could not suppress a smirk at Kisikoni's outburst. At one point he thought the man made of water, so easily did he flow with the currents of life. To see the deep human act in such a way was amusing. The musings were short-lived though as a platoon of the local defenders ascended the stairs to aid their fellows, who had also shaken off the initial shock of a band of dark warriors emerging out of nowhere.

With a vicious twist both Tiger Hooks tore free of the stomach of a heavy-set soldier. The weapons took a goodly amount of innerts with them, which were flung away with distaste as Wrath swung around to catch the haft of a halberd mid-swing and send the polearm spinning through the air. The wielder of the far-flung weapon, a surprisingly young deep human girl roared in defiance and charged the general bare-handed. Under normal circumstances Wrath would have conked the lass on the head and sought out a true fight but something within him made the halfbreed dance around the adolescent combatant and as she passed, dragged the end of a hooked blade across her unarmored neck.

A crimson fountain bubbled forth, spraying some of the men coming just arriving at the stairs with a warm red mist. Three of the six gaped in wide-eyed fascination at the calm legionnaire before them who had so ruthlessly ended the life of a soul barely out of childhood. The other three raised their spears and advanced two feet before being crushed under the hammering fists of his darkguard. As Wrath clashed with the next pair of opponents, one of them a Child of Fire, the general noted distantly how effortlessly battle had revealed it's secrets through a simple piece of jewelery. The wind sang through the gaps within the shaft of both hooks as the rended flesh.

The notion did not diminish even in the slightest when the first of the dragons screeched somewhere above.


A trio of the beasts, sinuous black streaks against the azure sky dove out of the clouds and engaged their prey. All three of the dragons measured forty feet from head to tail with a wingspan of roughly sixty paces across. Hatchlings, as the Legion referred to them as, were lesser dragons that began to appear a little over a decade ago. Despite their relatively smaller scale as opposed to the dragon lords and the lack of a breath weapon, the more deployable reptillians were still enough to decimate an entire legion of troops on their own. Three was overkill, in most situations.

The last of the beasts in the formation dropped from the land like some oversized gargoyle on the town wall. He grinned a mouth full of fangs at Kisikoni. Beelzes, who moved to stand by her comrade, bared her own teeth in response. "I think he is next in line, Coney." and then it lunged for the deep humans. Gigundelarex, the foremost of the three shrieked through the air and snapped at a pair of harpies who scattered under his attack. The hatchling spread his membranous wings and banked around for another pass, roaring in laughter that sounded like more akin to cracking stones than mirth. "Don't move so much, little birds! You'll leave a fowl taste in my mouth!" the dragon guffawed, flashing a maw full of pearly teeth the size of dirks.

Lelandreaz sighed at her brother's foolishness as she drove on past him towards the hillock where two humans and some tin cans thought they were well-concealed. Something flashed below and the female hatchling readied her claws to crash into the small gathering.

Chasing around the harpies, Gigundelarex laughed even harder as Quinn tried to raze his hyper-durable scales with spectral hounds and whips of verdant flame. Achiru buried arrow after arrow into his ebon hide with about as much effect as a flea biting a warg. The dragon only narrowly missed each swing of his claws or snap of his teeth.


"Dude...that thing is coming. Fast." Turha Mialee crossed his arms and furrowed his brow in concentration as the massive dark form made a steady approach from the air. Some seven paces behind him Gurgen was channeling the energies that his brother gathered into the shoddy golems left under their command. The artificer waved unconcernedly.

"Let them come. For they shall face the might of..." the joints of each of the contructs flashed briefly with red radiance and Gurgen leapt backwards, Turha grinning like a madman at the sight. All twenty of the golems seemed to tear their armor off, the plates folding behind the modified darkguards like wings. Their semi-armored bodies seemed more sleek without the original shells, almost draconian in design. The most heavily modified of the group crouched and launched himself into the air. The others followed instantly and met Lelandreaz in a storm of raking obsidian talons. As they flying darkguards passed, the dragon crumpled to the earth in a gorey heap of twisted flesh. As one, the twins screamed into the air:

"The Sin-Wings and Liliana MK-II!!" That golem leading the flock of darkguards sported a flaming paintjob of oranges and reds. They were sent to assist with the dragon heckling the harpies with a mental command. Gurgen and Turha collapsed in exhaustion. Turha kept up the connection to all of the golems fielded though, and noted sourly that the legion was outnumbered five to one already. Still...no casualties? That was bloody good.


Back on the wall Sid finished sliding a battle-needle from the ribs of a guardsman and finished setting up her wallarmbrust. With a raised eyebrow the halfling smirked and scoffed at the same time. The reinforcements, the dragons and they were still in one piece? At an advantage even? The captain braced her weapon on the edge of the wall and lay prone on the battlement, aiming her crossbow in the direction of the airborn lizard. It roared at the loss of it's fellow and swatted Qinn out of the air only to wheel towards the less immediate fight.

In seconds and with heavy wingbeats the beast was upon Alistair, claws posed to tear the skirmisher into ribbons. As Gigundelarex brought death to Alistair a heavy round slammed into his eyelid with a meaty thud. While not causing any true damage, the dragon was distracted enough to whip his head in the direction of the sniper--and expose his much softer underneck to Alistair.


Bending the light around himself, the Silenced allowed the sun to bathe him in it's rays once again. With robes the color of blood he regarded the battle raging around him with mild interest. The True Children had ordered him to watch for...exceptional individuals amongst the enemy ranks, and to engage with extreme predjudice. Ones within his range of skill, of course. That excluded the man with the cape and curved swords. The halfling was distracted, but something about her screamed beware. That left four more; The female warlock who reveled in the ruin, the lamian woman laying open defenders left and right, the unnaturally calm orc tearing down militia members alongside an elf and...yes.

With a deep breath the Silenced connected his mind to the Power Within and pulled himself through it. His body shifted through space and appeared on top of the tower with the hiss of displaced air, directly in front of Neira. He flipped back his hood to expose a face that may have belonged to a handsome dark elf once upon a time, but was so sewn up with stitches any such feature was negligible. His mouth, eyes and a single eye had been sewn shut. With one remaining orange eye the psionic Child regarded Neira. His gaze seemed cloudy, as if looking through a drug-induced haze.

With the power of his mind at work the dark elven Silenced would bring about a mental fog that slows the mind, dulls reactions and kills senses. With sudden ferocity that belied his calm face the Silenced lashed out with mental tendrils of raw pain.


"Cid?" the middle-aged man nearly dropped his pike. Beside him, a large lamian woman gaped as well. The defenders stared at Cidovan, the druid they had known some years back when he escorted their small troupe through the forest to the Pass. "Wha...what are you doing here?" although they were offput by the situation, the lamia raised her axe and stood ready. The man looked more betrayed than wary however. "Why are you attacking us?"

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Talae delivered a kick to her latest opponent, sending her off the side of the battlements, until an inhuman shriek rent the air above her. Snapping her head upwards, she caught sight of three dragons. Black... no. It can't be. And indeed they were not. Still, they were dragons, and she had joined the Legion of Ashes for the sole purpose of destroying them. One in particular, she did not delude herself into thinking that she was capable of that specific feat.

One of them landed just behind her, apparently prompted by Kisikoni's rather unexpected shout, and she shrugged, running another guardsman through to clear the area she was in before doubling back to help her partner and Beelzes. "Don't tell me you were going to start the party without me?" she asked flatly, though by now both of them would recognize such a pronouncement as a joke. Or at least as close to a joke as Talae got. She swung for the dragon's flank, but much to her surprise, her sword ricocheted off the ebon scales with arm-jarring force, and she gritted her teeth. She hadn't even made the damn thing bleed!

This was going to require some more subtle strategy. Maybe, if she could get the thing to open its mouth, she could toss in a flask of poison? Was that a good idea, or were dragons immune to such effects? She'd brewed some extremely potent toxins in preparation for this, and one in particular had enough venomous properties to take out an orc in less than a few drops, but... these things were pretty big, and she had no knowledge of dragonian immune systems. It wasn't like anyone had had the opportunity to study these kinds of things in detail after all.

Well, most armored creatures were softer on the underside, so that meant making it expose its belly somehow. Or getting it to open its maw, because the inside of the mouth and throat, poison-sensitive or not, was likely to be unarmored and thus susceptible to stabbing. Of course, dragons could understand and speak both, so simply telling this to the other two was highly pointless, though if Kisikoni had been with the Legion for ten years and Beelzes was even half as smart as Fae said she was, Talae figured she was the last one to figure this out and not the first.




Alistair had just finished spearing the chain-wielding Lamia when the Hatchlings appeared. He'd been at this business long enough to know that three was quite a few... but even so, there was little point in dwelling on that. He got distracted when a harpy guardsman dove at him from the sky, having used the dragons' approach as cover to do the same, and in the time it took Alistair to disarm and kill the girl, one of the Hatchlings had decided that he made a nice target.

In the air, perhaps he would have been able to dodge, but as he was still on the tower, his options were limited... at least until a crossbow bolt hit the thing in the eye. "Nice shot, Captain!" he called, knowing well who was responsible. Cover fire, indeed. The Hatchling exposed its neck, And Alistair thought fast, stabbing at the base of it with his trident, fully intending to catch the flesh and rip upwards with the wicked tines atop the metal pole. No mercy for dragons. Not after what he'd seen on the Day of Ashes.

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#, as written by Aythr
"Cid?"

Duran looked up as he liberated his spear from the stomach of the guard he had just finished, sheathing his bloody scimitar. His mind was foggy, but he felt like he should have recognized them. They were druids, or at least didn't appear to be, so it was a safe to say they were clients from his short time as a forest guide. He held up his spear defensively as their inquiry continued.

"Wha...what are you doing here? Why are you attacking us?"


"I've come to end the dragons. I have no qualms with slaying you. Stay out of my way." Duran spoke with no facial expression. What he was saying was true. He had no personal attachment to these villagers, especially if they represented the dragons, though he didn't necessarily want to slay people that he knew. They looked at him with some mixture of betrayal and hate as Sarish hissed at them, ready to crack at least two more skulls.

"This is your only warning. Stay. Away." He spoke decisively, ready to strike them down with his spear.

As soon as he spoke his last word, a loud screech rang out from above.

Both Duran and Sarish looked up at the dragons that had appeared while they were distracted. The beasts soared through the air at a speed that neither of the legionnaires could quite comprehend, before each one took their own fight to individual groups. One dragon crashed down on the wall of the city, its landing making a heavy reverberation up through Duran's body. Taking advantage of their distraction, the human that appeared to have known the druid charged. Duran's attention immediately snapped back to reality. He deflected the man's pike with his much shorter and quicker spear, planting its edge into the ground. Sarish quickly regained his composure as well, and in no short order, his maul came down on the wooden haft of the pike, snapping it in half. Duran drew in close, and with the blunt end of the spear, he tripped the man before planting the same end in the man's face, breaking his nose, concussing him, and rendering him unconscious all in the same blow. The female lamia growled in anger, as Duran held up the pointed end of his spear.

"Take him and get out of here. The legions will be coming soon, and they will not spare you so easily." Duran scowled as he spoke, unwilling to portray the kind survivalist that they had probably known better than the druid standing before them now.

Sarish raised an eyebrow to Duran. "Just telling them that is treason. You don't want to end up like that guy back at camp, do you?"

Duran gritted his teeth, and gave Sarish a nasty look. "Then go and report my treachery. I will not kill them for their silence."

"But-" started Sarish.

"Stop. Just go and help somebody who needs it, you vile creature." Duran cut off Sarish, and he dejectedly slithered towards the landing sight of the dragon that was now perched on the wall, attacking Kisikoni and Beelzes.

The female lamia held up her axe, but Duran walked towards her without any fear of being attacked.

"Go. Leave this place now, or you will be slaughtered by the coming forces. But I warn you. If you tell even a single soul of what I've said, I will come down upon your head, breathing a flame of destruction that would dwarf the breath of the mightiest dragon. The very sky will crash down upon your miserable form, and a storm of vengeance the likes of which you have never seen will end you and all you hold dear."

The Lamia stared wide-eyed for a moment, and seemed to back away like a wounded animal. She picked up the human and slithered off with tears in her eyes. Duran scowled, and quickly followed Sarish's path towards the dragon. If it was truly a dragon, they would need all the help they could get.

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After Laila had died in the last battle, Faera never had acquired a new partner, so the fact that she was able to control a construct was an enormous relief to her. There was another one in the general area which appeared to be assisting her also, but she did not know to whom it belonged. At any rate, having melee fighters around when one relied completely on magic was very useful, and they made so much noise that she didn’t have to worry about hitting them by accident, so she utilized them somewhat like moving, hitting walls, ducking between and around them, firing spells when she saw the opportunity.

Presently, she was perched on one’s shoulder (she climbed no less well than any of the other members of her species, after all), still conducting the orchestra of winds, so to speak. The infernal shriek halted her in her movements, however, and for a moment Faera was frozen in place by a fear almost older than her memory. It was almost too bad that it wasn’t in fact, because the memories themselves were much worse then the fear alone.

Ashes, smoke, and dust. Nobody within the small village could give voice to why the dragon had attacked in all its shrieking, flame-spewing, terrible glory, only that it had. Black as night, they had not seen it coming until half the small settlement was razed, most of the occupants dead or presumed to be, their remains so far beyond charred as to be indistinguishable from the cremated houses they had once lived in.

But why? Why would such a being deign to attack such a tiny dark elven settlement? They were nowhere near the capital, nor the royal family, nor anywhere associated in any but the loosest fashion with the Legion. None of it made sense.

Faera could not see the death and destruction, but she could smell it, the bitter scent of charred earth filled her nose till it ran out of space and filled her mind too. The only sounds in the unwelcome silence were the occasional wail of a grieving mother or the sound of Talae’s boots on the ground, slogging through the ashes with a merciless determination that no child of sixteen should ever have to possess.

Her sister’s hand was a wrought-iron grip on her wrist, but Fae did not struggle against it, only followed helplessly as their steps carried them further and further from the destruction. “Tala, where are we going?” The young girl flinched. Her voice sounded weak, tremulous, even to her own ears.

“Away from here,” was the terse reply, as though that explained everything. Nothing more was offered, and Fae asked no more questions, perhaps sensing that she would not like the answers. Maybe she was simply too much a coward, or too willing to allow her sibling to bear the knowledge alone. Maybe she was simply a scared little girl placing her trust the one place it had always belonged.


Faera was rudely awoken from her half-willing musings when a stray arrow struck her in the shoulder, embedding itself deep in the flesh there. With a strangled cry, she lost her grip on the construct and fell, landing in a heap on her back. For a moment, the agony was dizzying, and she couldn’t move. She could hear her construct beating back several soldiers who sought to take advantage of this, but it only dimly registered as she tried to fight her way past the agony and into clarity again. A small healing spell numbed the pain, but it would take a lot more time and concentration than a battlefield could afford her in order to do much more than that, so she left the arrow where it was, knowing enough to say that removing it and allowing the bleeding to proceed unimpeded was a very bad idea.

With the arm not connected to her injured shoulder, Faera pushed herself to her feet, ignoring her body’s rather violent protests to the very suggestion. She wasn’t ready to roll over and take it, not yet.




Neira felt a slight tug in the back of her mind, but had little time to puzzle over it before a red-robed figure appeared in front of her. Psionics… interesting. She grinned when the figure threw his hood back, revealing a rather grotesque visage and the glassy gaze of one who perhaps spent more time within than without.

“Oo-oh, you must be one of those poor bastards I’ve heard about. What do they call you? The Silent?” She knew perfectly well what they were called, of course, but it scarcely concerned her. What was important was that this disfigured dark elf probably qualified as an opponent she could sink her teeth into… perhaps literally, if he was a good little abomination.

The Fog was nothing new, and it didn’t much matter for the moment, for that was not going to be where the fight was truly decided. No, this was going to be an entirely different kind of confrontation, one she had not indulged in for quite some time. “Let’s see what goes on inside that ugly little head of yours, mime.”

Neira was lanced with agony that began in her head and psychosomatically spread down her limbs, causing a visible shudder down her spine. The Nightmarian chuckled darkly. “Ah ah ah,” she admonished lightly. “I think this would be much more fun if we took a moment to enjoy it, don’t you?” This time it was her Power that lashed out, sinking mental hooks deep into the Silenced’s consciousness, and thus mutually connected, slowly their perception of the world around the peeled away until they were both almost completely absorbed in the mental link.

Their minds perceiving what their senses never could, both were thrown into something of a vertigo as they both fought for control of what would follow. Within the consciousness, only that which is acknowledged was real, and so it was as much a contest to force the other to accept constructs of their own minds than anything else. The Silenced went for a realm of creeping darkness, dank chills, and bottomless despair. Neira scoffed. Such are the nightmares of human children. Horror looks more like this.

In so saying, she let down one of the mental barriers in her own mind and flooded the other with sensations. A darkened forest, in the centre of which stands the great Hive-city, monument to the sheer enduring obedience of those who built it. Endless labor accomplishes what even ingenuity cannot, slavery what a free man would not lower himself to endure. The ants march back and forth in endless trudging lines, doomed to live out their short, pathetic lifespans doing naught else, at the insistence of a will greater than any individual could ever hope to be. It is all linked to Her, for Her, the Queen, but even She is bound to it too strongly for anyone to break her chains.

Everything is peaceful, everything is orderly, and nothing matters but the rote motions of hands and feet and wings. The Power Within is painfully suppressed by the great droning in the back of her head, every almost-independent thought crushed by that overbearing weight. She is an automaton, just another faceless pair of hands and feet and this close to the center of it all, how can she be otherwise? She cannot feel, scarcely think, and she knows not whether even the minor rebellions she entertains are fed to her by the overarching Mind. She exists, she is, all because the Hive says it must be.

This is my nightmare. You think that after enduring this that a little bit of pain will bend me to your will when at last I am free of it? Do not make me laugh, fool.

The Silenced switches tactics, and now it is a more subtle contest, an invasion of thoughts, memories, feelings, anything to dredge up old weaknesses. For those that are so sternly gripped by ironclad resolve now were not always so, and he seeks to find that which will undo her resistance. He comes too close, and Neira lashes back, burying herself in every one of the Silenced’s most treasured memories, stored away far enough that he need not remember them while doing the bidding of his Dragon masters.

She opens what must have been Pandora’s Box: his name was once Xeron, he has lived for a good two hundred years at least. His parents were nobility- Neira sorts mercilessly through the information, tossing aside with callus disregard most everything that does not seem to be useful, until at last she stumbles upon it. His wife and child, dead at the hands of Legionnaires in a siege much like this one. So it is a recent burn, then. All the better.

She bombards him with all of it, the images, the sounds, the smell of his family’s lifeblood flowing onto the street, trying to stoke a fire of reckless rage, to build in the Silenced enough anger to circumvent his caution, to allow her to break the stalemate of paralysis that stops their bodies from moving from Without.

Too late does she realize her mistake. The Silenced at last breaks his muteness in their shared headspace and laughs, a sickening sensation that just makes her grit her teeth unconsciously. How sweet of you, my dear. You assumed that of all the things you saw there, I would actually care about my wife and son. It is rather unfortunate for you that I do not. But it does tell me something important about you, now doesn’t it?

The Silenced homes in on the memory she was hiding, and Neira braces herself to see it play once more. There is only one decision she has ever made which she still struggles with occasionally, no matter how often she manages to convince herself that it was all worth it, that regret is meaningless. Still, she retains her bravado. oh, is it your turn to try breaking me now? Have fun.

Still, he is confident that he has found it, the way to weaken her will, and he says nothing in response, merely flinging the first of the images into her brainspace while Neira works on something else entirely.

The room is dark, a few flickering candles the only light provided. A body, too indistinct to be identified, lays sprawled on the floor some distance from a standing figure. The flame-haired Nightmarian girl is examining her own arm with a fascinated curiosity, turning it this way and that, watching as the drops of blood hit the stone floor beneath as though she has never seen something quite so enthralling in all her life.

At length, the arm lowers, and red eyes flick to the crumpled pile of carapace and flesh before her. Her head tilts to the side, regarding the corpse with the same interest for a few moments. Something inscrutable passes over the dusky features, and the girl’s shoulders begin to shake.


Clearly, the Silenced thinks he has stumbled upon something important here, and Neira permits him to think so, disguising her true objective as a desire to ‘see’ as little of the image as possible. It will not be long now.

For all the world, she might be sobbing, except if one looks at her face, one would see the first of many terrifying grins beginning a slow, near-hesitant spread across her face. The eerie silence is shattered by a peal of girlish laughter, just a giggle at first, but increasing in volume and taking on a manic edge. Suddenly, it stops, and the smile vanishes, replaced with a scowl. She laughs because something in her has broken at last, and frowns because she is finally free.

With one final disdainful glance at the corpse, the Neria of memory turns on her heel in a swish of black robes, and marches straight out the door.


It was clear to the Silenced that his opponent was not the only one to make a mistake. Frantically, he tried to figure out what she’d actually been doing when pretending to squirm under his mental onslaught, and found his question answered rather painfully when a chitinous hand wrapped around his throat and he was lifted off the ground. How had she-?

“Sometimes, it pays to spend some time Without,” she informed him smugly, grinning an echo of the disturbing image from her own head. “I already told you- I freed myself from my nightmare. You didn’t think it was a simple thing, did you?”

Without giving him a chance to answer, Neira crushed his windpipe, dropping him unceremoniously upon the ground. Shaking her head and shoving her damned memories back into oblivion where they belonged, she realized only a few moments of actual time had passed, and that each of the dragons had chosen a target already. Shame.

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#, as written by Arke
Maybe he was too into this fighting business. In past years, he would have been hiding in the back hoping the children would be weakened enough for him to take them out. Now he was part of the vanguard, the Black Guard. He had a massive construct backing him up. His commanding officer had become a warrior akin to a beast. War changes people, it was surprising how fearless Kisikoni had become. When one lived under constant peril, some of the more frightening aspects lose weight when making decisions.

When the roar of the Hatchlings cut through the sky, he looked up. They had split, just as a bemused Beelzes enlightened Kisikoni about the situation. He clucked his tongue once, just as it landed on the edge of a building near the Deep Human's position. The golem regarded the dragon impassively, and turned back to an immediate threat- smashing a elf that tried to take the thoughtful Deep Human by surprise with a swing of it's fist. The dragon bared it's fangs, seemingly euphoric about killing it's first victim. The observing deep human wouldn't know. He wasn't too familiar with Dragon psychology.

Talae joined him, as well as Duran. He smiled once at Talae's little insert. "I only wish I had a witty response to that." He replied quickly, just as the dragon began to lunge. "Move. I have a plan." He urged. Beelzes did so- seeing as she was getting out of harms way at the same time. Kisikoni wasn't too sure about Talae or Duran, but he wasn't going to let this wall become rubble because of a dragon. A very big dragon. Much bigger up close. He calmed himself, as time seemed to slow down.

Long ago, the Deep Humans made an ancient pact with the gods of the Earth. With spilled blood, and the promise to never willingly live above ground ever again, they were given a significant power that differed them from their brother race. Lord of the Earth. I beg thou, grant me thy blessing. He thought, and the air seemed to stifle among Kisikoni.

It was a very risky plan. The deep human had no damned clue if this would work on a dragon- but he figured since it was just a Hatchling, it had a reasonable chance of affecting it. The best chance was while it was happening mid-lunge, it opened up a place to attack if it worked. Fear, was the key word here. The god-sent power gave Deep Humans to instill a state of supernatural fear into the enemy, which is what he was trying to force upon the lunging hatchling. He lunged toward the dragon, rolling just under it's gaping jaw and tried to sink both butterfly blades into the underside of the dragon.

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"Four. We lost four today. Next time. I will personally take four out,"

Terra, the Dragon's Maw

"Liera. I know you are watching over me... Us. Please. Try your best to protect us and Guide my hands and swords. I do this not for me, but for us... Today, I make them pay for attacking a lowly farmer... I will become their nightmares.. I love you." Caine said, looking up into the cloudless heavens... All that better for Liera to watch. He listened absent mindly to Sid explain the armor's uses and the ramblings... Then Wrath was off... Far be it for Caine to be left behind, he ran after his Captain. His long legs and magic enhanced speed carried him like the wind across the field and to the wall.

Caine began to delve into his anger, allowing the fury and anger fill his strength and vigor. Yet he did not allow it to consume him. He controlled it, he used it... He was not a tool of his anger anymore... His anger was his tool. He was an altered beast and would determined to be more useful in battle... He would not lose this day. As he ran, the construct kept pace behind him... Caine remembered something someone said about how it would listen to him and protect him... Nifty. All that more to destroy everything with. As they neared the wall, Caine saw Wrath use his armor to hop to the Wall... Caine planned something more... Complicated. He sent his golem up forward, whizzing past him as his speed decreased. There the golem knelt with it's back arched and placed both of it's hands on the back of it's neck...

Caine expertly ran up the things back and as soon as he stepped on it's hands it catapulted him to the wall. As he flew through the air, he let out a deafening roar mix with delirious laughter. This caused one child halt and look up... Just as Caine's blades lopped the bastard's head off. Now, the red gore glistened on Caine's ivory white saber and pitch black katana. He had tasted blood, and it tasted damn good. "One," Caine began count as he strode across the wall. His eyes held a flame of fury and anger, while his lips twirled in delirious excitement... It seemed as if he was furious and he completely excited by that fact. That combined with Caine's swords held to the front and tilted downward dangerously. Then he twirled the blades in a circle as he calmly strode to his next target, a rather beefy and tall orc. It was perhaps A foot taller and wider than Caine... However, the intimidation factor from Caine caused the Orc to take a step backwards... Caine had the look of a demon.

Without hesitating, Caine threw himself forward onto the orc, brashly slashing from the side with his saber. The Orc had only barely parried with it's claymore before another strike came from above with the Katana. Then a kick to the gut doubled the Orc over who then became quite acquainted with Caine's knee. The Orc grabbed it's face with a hand and stumbled Backwards, but Caine was there too. He struck again with the saber, again parried, but then Caine struck forward with the saber's handguard as a crude brass knuckle implement. At the same time, Caine sweeped a foot under the Orc sending it to the ground. There, Caine mounted the Orc and began to pummel the beast in the face with the hand guard.

Blood began to mist onto Caine as the pummeling continued, the Orc's limbs gone rigid long ago. He stood, and then plunged the black blade into the beast's heart, killing it.

"Two," He stated with a bloodied smile and furious eyes. The Golem finally finding it's way up to him.




Lily followed behind the others, Bow and arrow nocked and ready. As she neared the wall, she willed her Golem up to assist in the front line while she stayed back and firing arrows off at random stragglers... None would kill, only inhibit... However there was a crossbowman who had an aim rested on Thanaros, who was also on the wall. Lily fired a arrow first at the weapon, slinging it off the wall, then another arrow in the holder's hand, and another in the leg... Finally, finishing the handler off, one in the torso. She gave a wave to Thanaros before scrambling towards the wall and begin to climb it... She too would hold on to her jumping ability.

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#, as written by Smith
Gigundelarex roared in more fury than pain as the pale scales along his neck were torn open by Alistair's trident. The dragon moved with horrifying speed as it lashed out in an attempt to knock the harpy aside with force enough to break bones. Mind clouded by pain and rage, Gigundelarex launched from the tower back into the air to meet the oncoming swarm of flying golems. Having seen the demise of his kin however, the black dragon was ready for the storm. Within seconds the air above the wall became an indistinguishable blot of ebon wings, metal and sharpened edges. Blood and bits of shrapnel rained down on those combatants fighting below.

Some distance down the structure the final dragon, Jakanther loosed a hiss that sounded disturbingly close to human laughter. With a motion akin to a dog shaking water out of it's fur, the great beast shook itself free of the pinprick attacks the fleshlings were so keen on laying upon him. Jakanther was particularly intent on the pale one, who stared at him so intently...the dragon immediately recoiled in horror. It was an unfathomable fear that took root somewhere in the darkest recesses of his mind, one that the hatchling knew to be irrational but was completely unprepared for.

Within three seconds the fear had lost it's grip on Jakanther and he gathered himself for a wicked roar. Having lost touch with reality in that brief period of time however, an attack on three fronts had materialized. Steaming blood hissed down his neck onto Kisikoni, a heavy blow from Mikana's enchanted hammer upon his large ankle tripped up the reptilian and the axe of one battle-crazed orc--Ferka--biting deep into his foreleg. Jakanther jerked away from the ground, beating his wings once and buffeting the troops with a gale of pressurize air. Before gaining any true altitude, thick coils clamped down on the junction between the hatchling's wing and shoulder. Turning his head at an awkward angle Jakanther stared with one plate-sized eye into the grinning face of a crimson-haired lamia wrapped around the weakest part of his left wing.

Iriana laughed and began stabbing at the joint mercilessly, careful to avoid her own scaly hide. Jakanther slammed down onto the wall from his rearing position and snapped at the lamia while swiping at Kisikoni and Talae. The dragon's hate-filled gaze was reserved almost fully for the deep human and dark elf, and he lashed out with a barrage of lightning-quick slashes. Each and any would kill them with no more than half-contact.

On the first of two flights of stairs, the only way to get up onto the wall besides the much slower ladders, Thanaros zipped from foe to foe. The half-orc a sizeable chunk of the enemy reinforcements from reaching their allies with broad sweeps of his pole axe and did not seem the least bit tired while defending a ten-foot long entrance. On the other flight of stairs a a small, slowly moving barricade had been set up. Bodies littered the stone staircase, each holding a quarrel in it. Periodically one of the enemy soldiers would peek up from behind their protection and Sid would rack up another kill from her hidden sniper position. Down below in the streets Children of Fire roared out orders for more mobilization and a small platoon of more well trained Children began climbing the wall. Each had a mouthful of dragonfire waiting to be released.


Ugh...that hurt bitch. Xeron's silibant voice invaded Neira's head once more, followed immediately by a mental crush. The attack was of a mastery the nightmarian herself could only have attained had she taken her psionics to heart, instead of as a suppliment to her physical ability. As a result she would feel a massive pressure in her skull that threatened to press her brain into a blood little ball if she did not resist well enough. The Silenced did not waste any time engaging their psychic battleground once more. Hehe...you're a fucked up little fly, aren't you?

A desert. Xeron, whole and without stitching and scars stood some three yards away from Neira in the mindscape. With obsidian skin, a shock of white hair and a flawless face the dark elf could have passed for the image of some deific being. He was donned in nothing but a red robe open in the front and smiling at Neira. In the mindscape, the nightmarian would feel twenty times heavier and five times slower. In the time it took to blink an eye the air around her was filled with a thousand red pricks of light. The psionic torture would induce pain that grew exponentially for each speck of energy she came in contact with. Xeron smiled. "Like moving through burning syrup, no?"

In the physical ream the red-clad Silenced was cloaked in invisibility once more and scaling the wall back up to Neira with his natural abilities. With Each step a scene within the battle of their minds played out, and the bitch's death grew that much closer. Without even the slightest indication of pain he finished snapping his head back into place.


Over the lip of the canyon the first forces of the main army emerged from the Akaldai. It would be only a few more minutes before they were ready to attack, but the Black Guard was on the verge of being overwhelmed. Wrath was nowhere in sight.

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"Besides... If we are to fight the dragons, then what better defiance than fighting wearing your enemies' own weapon... For decoration. Taunting them by using their hellfire as a reminder, 'we are not frightened, we will not surrender..."

Liliana The Huntress

Lily was finally on the wall and had finally caught a glimpse of the Dragons... One in the air and another harassing the harpy... Or rather, Alistair and a flock of constructs were harassing it. One in particular, one sporting a flaming paint job caught her eye... That was the construct she had spoke to the twins about, the one with the dragon fire paint job. She cackled almost maniacally as she remembered it. However, it was not the target... the Dragon was. She began to nock an arrow and sent it flying... It missed due to the distance and the irregular flight pattern... She nocked another and missed again, this time coming dangeriously close to taking out a golem.

"Drat," She cursed rather... Mildly. She could not do anything when she was grounded as she was. Lily needed to be closer. She needed to be up in the air. She needed wings...

She needed a dragon.

Her eyes flitted to the golem sporting the flame job... Yes, of course! Liliana Mk. II! "That's brilliant! And a slight bit suicidal... Oh well, best get busy dying!" She mused as she ran close to the edge of the wall and began to frantically wave her hands and tried to get the contruct's attention. She didn't think it would notice but then it tilted it's wings and began to dip towards her. Lily was ecstatic. She couldn't believe it was actually listening to her... Hardly anyone listened to her. She wouldn't be a usless elf. No, she would make sure of that.

The construct flew slowly pass Lily, who used her elven grace and balance to hop off of the wall and land surely on the back of the golem... The elf was airborne now, riding a flaming dragon she felt she had helped design... The Bloodleaf Clan would not believe this, but they could go suck on some Ivy. Lily wasn't doing this for them, she was doing this for her new family, the Blackguard. The fortieth legion... The baddest clan this side of the dragon territory.

Lily and her construct fly back up into the fray with the Dragon. She caught a glimpse of Alistair who she ventured an intent nod. She was no longer the cheery and bubbly girl, but a precise and deadly elven Huntress... Her prey this evening? Dragon. Instead of crashing into the dragon like so many other constructs, Lily kept her distance and tried to stay on the side of the dragon where Sid had injured it's eye. It was better than nothing. From there, Lily pelted the beast with arrows, trying to aim between the scales and perhaps ventured an arrow towards it's eye once or twice. As she flew, Lily gripped the construct tightly with her legs and thighs... Good thing that those were Lily's greatest assets...

Then Lily pulled back her bowstring, Overdrawing it pass the normal draw point and let loose a wooden arrow towards one of it's eyes... Hoping the blow would connect and blind it. As the arrow left the bow string, Lily yelled in an harsh voice uncommon for the spritely girl... The huntress coming into her own. "WE. WILL. NOT. SURRENDER!"




Caine the Berserker

Caine too had seen the dragons, but since the one in the air was a no go for him, he concentrated on the one who was being assaulted by Kisikoni and Mikana. He quicked his stride, dodging in between hostile children... They would still be there when the dragon was taken care of. Although, he did venture to hamstring a foolish elf who was not paying close attention. Not fatal yet, but the blow would leave it helpless for anything else. He was within sight of the dragon. He heard and saw it recoil in fear, perhaps due to some magic the Kisikoni had... Of course, it didn't have much effect and it roared...

Caine moved and closed in on the dragon, but by then, the beast had already lashed out out those who were surrounding it... And a hate filled glance at Mikana. The beast was trying to kill her... That only struck a chord in Caine's psyche. Caine responded by a feral roar of his own. A challenge... A human challenging a dragon, perhaps the bravest or stupidest thing ever witnessed, but there it was.. He rushed the dragon from the side. All pretense of subtly or stealth was gone, but maybe Caine moved fast enough to not allow the Dragon to react... And since Caine had saved the leaping ability from his armor... He smashed the emblem on his chest and leaped into the air directly above the dragon's back. As he fell, he tried to angle himself between the beast's wings. Closing fast, Caine attempted to smash into the beast's back, planning to plunge both blades deep within the hatchling's back.

If the supernatural fear of a Deep Human wasn't going to work... Perhaps the real fear of a beserking human on the verge of bloodfilled insanity would... "You will make up for all four damn deaths, you scaly motherfucker!" Caine roared at the beast..

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When the shrapnel started raining down, Faera took cover underneath her construct, the shards of metal bouncing more-or-less harmlessly off the golem's carapace as it would not her own. She could hear the shouts of battle all around, but somehow she got the distinct feeling that they were heavily outnumbered and not doing so well. If the metal bits and pieces were anything to go by, the dragon in question was almost directly overhead. There had to be a way to push it to the ground, so that the others might be able to attack it from there.

Moving delicately due to her injured shoulder, Fae concentrated hard on the activity above herself, trying to pinpoint the thing's location. That would be important. She heard it collide with another skybound object and start mauling, and knew that this was as much a chance as she was going to get. Please let this work, she pleaded, though to whom, she could not say. The gods were dead- there was little point imploring them for such a thing. Even so, she released the spell, aiming the strongest gust of wind she could muster for the creature, hoping to hit a wing more than anything else, perhaps knock it off-balance.

Best case scenario, the dragon would fall out of the sky and not hit anyone on the way down. Worst-case... well, she'd probably have missed. The thudding sound of a construct's fist against armor brought her back to the battle immediately in front of her, and Fae lobbed a fireball in the general direction, flinching when she heard the guard she'd hit fall back over the battlements shrieking. Okay... so no more fire then. She could hear her sister and several others fighting another hatchling about ten yards away, but there were so many people there that she couldn't risk the shot.

Something moved behind her, and Fae whipped around, gasping when the movement pulled at her shoulder-wound, and was hit with a wave of vertigo. Staggering to one side, she avoided the swing of an axe only by sheer luck, and Zek dove from his position atop the construct to scrabble at the eyes of the harpy who had dropped in to attack her from behind. Panicked at her proximity, Fae didn't think- she simply acted, and the result was a blast of raw kinetic energy. Unfiltered, not transformed into anything, it simply issued from her hand and knocked away the oncoming attacker. There was a consequent heave in the younger Shanir's stomach, and she was glad she had elected to eat only the lightest of meals that morning, else she may well have lost it.




Ugh...that hurt, bitch. Neira's eyes went wide as she felt her mind once more invaded by the cold ooze of a presence that was perhaps once an ordinary being, complete with emotions, a conscience, and all that good shit that she more often than not wished she didn't have. The sensation of pain locked her in place as each nerve ending fired off pain receptors in response to a stimulus that didn't really exist. The pressure was crushing, and she abandoned most of the outer parts of her consciousness almost immediately, retreating into the innermost part of her being, what that old sage had called her center. The edifices that supported everything else; surface thoughts, general disposition, the impressions she gave to others, all of these shattered beneath the weight of his onslaught, and she felt him digging through what it had exposed.

Hehe...you're a fucked up little fly, aren't you? Her inner self couldn't help but smirk at that, for it was so very true. Well except the 'fly' part; she rather detested being compared to them. Surely the answer to that is at your leisure to find, is it not? The nightmarian finally opened her mind's eye to whatever he was choosing to show her, confident for the moment at least that her essential self was out of his reach for the time being. She may not be a psionic specialist, but her grasp of the fundamentals was complete anyway. And one of those basics was to never let someone break you completely. Protect what mattered most, even if it meant sacrificing the rest.

His control of the situation was making it difficult to move, so she decided to endeavor towards no such thing for the moment. She blinked, and at once the space between them was filled with thousands of red points of light. Experimentally, she moved a hand, finding that the sensation was much akin to forcing her limbs through water. It made contact with several of those points, and she hissed as the pain wracked her 'body.'

"Like moving through burning syrup, no?" Despite the agony she was in, Neira assembled her features into something resembling cool indifference and arched a brow. I'm sure I would not know. But really? Physical torture? I thought I made it clear that there are better ways to handle this. Did you know, for example, how thin the line between pain and pleasure can get? The parts of the brain responsible for each are very, very similar. Even more so for someone like me, who is, as you put it, 'fucked up.' Mind over matter, Xeron.

So saying, she passed her hand through the air again, but this time, she only smiled. Hm, it... tickles. It didn't, of course; in fact it still hurt like hell. But he didn't need to know that. And she had been telling the truth on one account: the two sensations most perceived as opposite were indeed closely-linked, and it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

He seemed to believe her, or at least he did if the frown on his face was any indication. How about we play a different game now? she questioned with mock innocence, easily-discernible as such. She would admit, he was still at an advantage, but because he had not managed to completely crush her, he'd never get the chance again, that much she would make sure of. Now it was all simply a matter of switching the circumstances until she found something she could work with. He had the power, but Neira had the finesse, the subtlety, and she wasn't going to lose.

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Kisikoni said move, and she wasn't about to argue. Talae sprang out of the way, though she felt the residue of a deep human's primeval horror and suppressed a shudder. It was not her that it was directed at, after all. Ultimately, though, the entirety of their combined attack seemed to do little but piss the thing off, and for whatever reason, it saw fit to address its grievances with herself and the knife-wielding Legionnaire.

And shit, did it hit fast! Still, speed was her primary talent, too, and she was able to keep up with the volley of attacks launched at her- if only enough to avoid dying. Under, left, under, over, right, back... dodging seemed like a much, much better idea than parrying at this point, as if she had the time to raise her blade at all anyway. A talon caught her a good one across the stomach, though, shredding through her hide-armor as though it were scarcely-present at all.

Stumbling back, Talae took rapid steps to avoid being thrown at the ground, but her position gave her a new perspective in the situation. It seemed Caine had launched himself into the air and was trying to position himself to land on the beast's back. Now there was an idea. Thinking it was worth a shot, she reached for one of the many belt-pouches at her waist and removed a flask of toxin. If by chance Kain managed to land as hard as she thought he would, it was entirely possible the dragon would open his maw wide enough for her to toss it in. This particular poison was only toxic when ingested or thrown into an open wound, so the risk in the event of regurgitation was minimal to everyone but her newly-injured self. Good thing she believed in antidotes.

Still, it was fast-acting and highly venomous, which made it a good option. This much probably wouldn't kill something as big as a dragon, but it would certainly slow it down, being of the depressant variety of toxin. She'd just have to time it right, but if at any point she saw that thing open it's jaws wide enough, it was going to be getting a mouthful of something awful. For the moment, she went for playing the distraction, wielding her sword one-handed and gripping the flask firmly in her left.

Sliding in at it's side, she went for the membranous wing, hoping that the leathery things would tear easier than scales. Didn't want it flying off with the berserker on board when he landed, after all.




Alistair was buffeted by the dragon's abrupt departure. Well, 'buffeted' might be putting it lightly. He was fairly certain that it had cracked a rib, but that wasn't going to slow him down. He thought of pursuing it immediately, but his sharp eyes caught something happening below, and he could make out Faera Shanir trying to fight off a tawny-plumed harpy woman. There was a blast of some kind of magic, which appeared to stun the woman, but not for long, and the dark elven mage looked overwhelmed. Her construct and his own both were too close to risk a hit in case the blind girl got caught in the crossfire.

Time was minimal, but Alistair pressed his wings in close to himself, diving at the feathered Child with impressive speed. His spear hit dead on-target, and burst out the woman's front with a spatter of gore which the part of him that was still good-natured, affable Alistair hoped dearly did not hit the young Shanir. "Careful," he cautioned gently, but he had no time to say more, for something passed overhead.

A construct, as it turned out. He caught sight of Lily upon it and shook his head slightly. An elf in the sky... just when he thought he'd seen it all. Smiling to himself, he decided now was not the time to let himself be outdone by a groundwalker, and with a few powerful strokes of his wings, he was once again level with both huntress and hatchling.

She shouted something suitably dramatic, and Alistair resisted the urge to roll his eyes. The young ones were like that sometimes. He was most certainly not, not anymore. Dispensing with extraneous motion, he wheeled to the side, maneuvering himself underneath the dragon's belly. Ideally, it would be distracted enough by Lily's rather... loud presence to scarcely notice the near-silent winged man beneath it. This in mind, Alistair stabbed for the juncture between jaw and throat, figuring that was as close to a vital spot as one of these things had, ready to move again in case it decided to stop defying gravity for any reason.

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#, as written by Aythr
Duran gritted his teeth as he headed towards the dragon Jakanther. It seemed that three legionnaires could keep it occupied, but Duran was relatively sure that it wasn't because the dragon was unable to utterly destroy any of them with one of its massive claws. There was no doubt that getting smacked by one of them was a death sentence without immediate medical attention. It was lucky then, that Sarish was following behind him. Though he had left first, Sarish found his speed relatively stunted compared to Duran's, whose long legs gave him a quick stride that would be the envy of any of the deer from the forest in which he had grown.

Duran began to mull around attack strategies in his head as both he and Sarish closed in on their target. It would be key to try and keep it on the ground, with the secondary objective of disabling its ability to attack. Of course, the beast's head was a particular cause of worry, between the teeth and the fiery breath that the species was known for. Then again, If these dragons had the ability to breath fire, they probably would have done so by now. There was no doubt that one well places blast of fire would take care of their intruder problem. Regardless, he made a quick mental note not to stand in front of the beast's head, or it's tail, for that matter.

A thought quickly entered his mind. The Darkguards. They could be immensely helpful in at least neutralizing the dragon's attacks while the legionnaires finished it off. However, it seemed that his own personal darkguard was nowhere to be found.

"Sarish!" he yelled back, "Where is your darkguard?"

"Good question." Sarish responded dryly.

"We gotta get them here and get them on that dragon! Hold its legs, keep its mouth shut, anything!" Duran said, huffing.

"Well, then think about it." Sarish wasn't exhausted at all, though he was in much heavier armor. It seemed being able to slither instead of stride had advantages all its own.

Duran felt like an idiot, though he wasn't sure exactly an expert on giant magical constructs. Quite the opposite, in fact. "Then think about your darkguard beating the living crap out of that dragon!" he shouted back to Sarish, as he did the same thing.

"Darkguard, we need assistance. Attack the dragon I'm looking at. More specifically, do anything you can to keep it on the ground or to cripple its attacks." He wasn't sure that it would work. He expected it not to since he couldn't see his obsidian protector, although he hoped that the magic used to control them was potent enough to carry at least a mile.

As the druid and the cleric made their way towards the dragon, the enemy forces seemed to become more lively. More and more enemy combatants seemed to pop out of nowhere in the same way a family of rabbits would. Hopefully it wouldn't take very long to dispatch them, but hope was in short demand these days. At least four weapon-brandishing city guards blocked their way, one of them wearing a white robe.

Duran growled. Literally. His canines began to grow, and fur began to sprout from his body. He face cracked and formed a snout, and his entire form began to grow massive bulk. Sarish raised a brow, but quickly decided that it would be better not to ask anything. Mid-run, Duran got down on all fours, and his now massive limbs shortened. As all his equipment merged with his new form, Sarish realized what had just happened. This was one of the abilities that druids were well known for.

Shapeshifting.

Duran collided with the wall of foes, now in the massive form of a bear. His new hide would offer about the same protection as his armor would against the weapons, but he decided that the Child of Fire in the group was the biggest problem. Duran charged the Child, his massive paw catching him before he had time to react. He was thrown to the ground, knocking another of the guards onto his backside. Without hesitation, Duran landed on the Child's chest with both massive paws, and without a thought, encompassed the Child's head with his jaws. A quick crunch was all that was heard, as the sheer force of his bite cracked the Child's skull. He tried to yell for assistance, though it was cut short by a quick jerk of Duran's own head. The two guards still standing jumped on Duran's new form, though Sarish quickly caught up to the fray.

Sarish let loose his spiked maul, colliding with one of the guard's heads with his favorite sound: A cracked skull.

The other guard did not hesitate, and plunged his short sword into Duran's large thigh. The sheer bulk of his form seemed to prevent most of the damage, though he still let out a stifled roar of pain through the head of the now half-decapitated child. He reared back and smacked the guard with his bear claw, ripping the calf from one of his legs. He fell to the ground in agony and the inability to further support his own form on more then one leg as Sarish lended his maul to the mans head, ending his suffering once and for all.

The final guard, finally getting back to his feet, quickly reared back and held out a now quivering sword.

Duran let out a furious roar, the thick scent of blood on his breath.

"That means run away." Sarish quipped.

The man did the opposite, and was quickly met with a claw to head, sending him reeling to the ground once more, this time landing on his chest. He tried to turn over, but by then it was too late. Duran was on top of the poor man, as his fate was not unlike the Child before him, his head encompassed in a deadly, toothed vice.

"Uh, I think we should get going. That dragon won't kill itself." Sarish said.

Duran grunted in agreement, and left the massacre behind, his heavy paws thudding against the ground as both the Druid and the Cleric continued on their way. A small limp was evident in Duran's left thigh where the guard had pierced him, though he wasn't bleeding heavily, it was still uncomfortable. There was little doubt that a blow like that to his human form would have done considerably more damage. He stayed in his animal form for now. It would be useful for barreling through any more enemies that were to appear, though he would probably have to discard it once not having thumbs became a loss of advantage.

Meanwhile, the darkguard that both Sarish and Duran had left behind became active, obeying the distant mental command of their charges, and heading towards the dragon. They would probably reach it before their masters did, though it would hopefully be enough to keep the dragon occupied until Duran and Sarish arrived to back up their fellows. They charged onward towards there targets, each of them praying.

Sarish prayed that the dragon would kill itself, while Duran prayed that the dragon would not be dead by the time he got to it.

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#, as written by Arke
Kisikoni bared his teeth as the Lord of Earth granted his prayer- but his following attack missed. However, three of his comrades had taken the opportunity to strike the dragon. It tried to take flight, but their Lamia friend had begun to impede it's wing movements with her wicked blades. The gust of air stunned Kisikoni, and he only barely managed to get away as the Dragon slammed onto the wall. "Damn it!" Kisikoni swore, the shock of the dragon right in front of him motivating him to scramble to his feet. Though the dragon was wounded in several places, it still managed to retain a healthy amount of hate- which it focused on Kisikoni himself and those behind him. Probably Talae and Beelzes. He dodged the swipes, noting that they had such force it could tear off a limb if he tried to block and if it made contact it would kill him instantly.

He couldn't outpace it, as it was much larger and it's reach was huge. He was granted a reprieve, as Talae had thrown a bottle of strange liquid at the dragon. He wondered where his Darkguard was, and it was further down the wall dealing with some guards while it cleared the way. Makes sense, a Darkguard can't take on a Dragon- otherwise they would have raised a massive army of them- and the powerful magic-wielding races would have been floored with the slaying spells. He took his chance, but now Children were beginning to scale the walls, sending orbs of fire up and razing those that tried to combat their ascent up. He turned and ran, ducking past another angry slash from the dragon Jakanther. He wasn't as fast as Talae, and he relied a lot upon close combat to deal damage. This dragon was way out of his league- now that his one trick had been used against the monstrous being.

Children began to attack in gusto. "Talae! The wall!" He called in warning, as she was beginning to try and flank the dragon. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Duran and the Lamia- Sarish begin to make their way toward the dragon. Thank Lord Earth. He clashed with a single Child that wielded a spear, breaking a part and leaping away just as another thrown slash from the dragon nearly sliced his arms off. He backed further away, hoping that Talae was alright taking on the dragon head on. The best he could do was continue distracting the dragon and the Children from attacking her as best he could. He couldn't concentrate anymore- as the battlefield had become cluttered with enemies. His fear tactic would not work, and he desperately flailed at the child, who leapt away to avoid the heavy butterfly sword. By the gods, there were so many. His Darkguard managed to come back to him, and beat back a child that was flanking Kisikoni. The deep human then remembered the abilities of the armor, but decided to keep it on. Using it to best a single child would be a poor waste of it's strength if he wasn't being outnumbered yet. With his Darkguard acting as a nice shield that hit back, Kisikoni could fight slightly more comfortably.

Suddenly, flames burst on the ground, sending Kisikoni dancing away. More children. His Darkguard was completely occupied with several Children, taking some damage from the fire and weapons. The dragon seemed preoccupied, but Jakanther would be on him in no time. Fireballs and swords sang a vicious melody. Suddenly the ground at Kisikoni's feet combusted, and he got away just in time to avoid the catching of the fire- just as another flaming orb made contact with him. His heightened senses alerted him, but mid-jump was a terrible place to be when trying to absorb a hit. He raised his arms.

His enchanted Live Armor absorbed much of the impact. If it weren't for the armor, Kisikoni would have been fried to a crisp. The charred leather fell off in blackened scraps, all the defensive magic drained from it- as well as probably any ability he had. His left arm was numb. Looking down, he saw terrible burns, and was nearly sick. As the pain began to set in, Kisikoni screamed in agony, collapsing against the battlements of the wall. Surge. Surge damn it, SURGE. He thought angrily, but his armor failed to respond. Everyone else seemed to be doing so well- but Kisikoni himself had been wounded terribly. The thought humiliated him, cursing at his burned arm and looking up to see several Children occupying his Darkguard- and two more beginning to take notice. Kisikoni had to act fast. But how?

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#, as written by Smith
The halfling looked down upon Kisikoni with a sour expression. Sighing, the pretty young legionnaire slapped a hand to the scorched rune on Kisikoni's chest and whispered a prayer to her patron. Instead of healing the deep human as a normal prayer would however, the golden energy pieced portions of his armor back together. Immediately the live-leather dug needle-thin veins into Kisikoni's pale skin. True to it's name, the ebon casing fused with it's host and began pumping him with a liquid that burned like fire. Within seconds Kisikoni was whole and unblemished once more, his armor's energy depleted. Don't be such a whiney bitch. I'm the one taking all the damage here.

Pel, the one who had healed Coney's armor in the first place, was yanked away by another deep human and whisked off to another part of the battlement. The culprit of the abduction was Beelzes. She jogged up to the younger of the Shanir with her tiny load in tow, and set Pel in front of Faera. "Little Shanir! Be more careful!" was all the deep human said before leaping off of the wall into the interior of the city. Pel sighed and muttered a half-hearted prayer that mended the dark-elf's arm. "It's a temp-fix," she said before turning away, "meet me after the battle for better."




Jakanther roared and shuffled backwards as a golem of the Legion bashed at his shoulders. One, and then another joined it in the attack and soon the dragon was on the defensive. Jakanther opened his jaws to roar again and gagged as something smacked against his uvula. His eyes narrowed at the dark elf who had thrown the vial...and widened when the back of his throat began to burn with intense pain. The dragon hissed and thrashed, retching blood and bile onto Talae, whipping around to splash Duran and Sarish, and somehow missing Kisikoni entirely. The poison had run it's course by this time, but Jakanther felt numb, weary and angry. Numb.

The hatchling's eyes popped from his already skeletal head. Jakanther could not feel his legs, or wings! Craning his head back, the dragon witnessed Caine burrying twin weapons into his spine up the the hilts, somehow bypassing his natural armor. No wings, the dragon noted distantly, as only bloody stumps remained where Iriana had sawed them off. Now the lamia was right alongside Caine digging into Jakanther's back. The hatchling slumped, then sagged onto the ground. It was hard to move. Hard to think. It would be nice to sleep for a while...back at the hoard...among gold coins and some emeralds maybe. "Yes...emeralds..." the hissed words were the last Jakanther uttered. He was dead long after the golems were finished hammering his head and the legionnaire's carving his hide.


With superior size and speed, Gigundelarex easily outpaced the swarm of golems. Despite the numerous gashes and patches of bloody scales the crazed draconian seemed unconcerned. He was by far the largest of his clutch and easily the strongest, so such mockeries of his race were of no conseq--

"WE. WILL. NOT. SURRENDER!" the great hatchling dove towards the proclimation, the elf's arrow whizzing past his eye and thunking ineffectually into unfeeling scales. Inadvertantly, he also avoided Faera's psychic pulse. Just before he could snap up the tasty little morsel the Liliana MK II ascended, carrying it's passenger to safety. The distraction almost proved his undoing, keen draconian senses the only thing keeping Gigundelarex from joining his kin in the Mother's embrace. With astounding agility for his bulk, the dragon wheeled in midair. Alistair's weapon skidded on black hide hard enough to strike sparks. Gigundelarex bellowed out a laugh and snapped his leathery wings to release another gale, striking the harpy down from the air and forcing Liliana and her golem to withdraw unless they wanted to fall to their deaths.

Gigundelarex twisted and climbed through the air once more to land on the battlements among a knot of Children who had snuck up on the Legion without being noticed. The dragon grinned and raised his wedge-shaped head to the sky, breathing in for a long roar of triumph. The rumbling sound died in his massive throat as a lithe figure slid down it's length with twin hooks trailing a pair of crimson lines behind it. Wrath landed before the dragon lightly, calmly striding past the stunned Children as one of their gods began spewing blood from it's sinuous neck. Wrath was well out of range when the Children began to scatter from under Gigundelarex, who smashed most of the group under his dead weight. The great dragon's skull flopped down next the the general. Wrath sheathed his blades and stood atop the defeated dragon as the first of his true army flew across the wall astride drakes, griffons and giant hawks. The pass was in Legion control in all but name now. In the minutes that followed the city's defenses crumbled and gave way to the tide of Wrath's army.

Nearby, Thanaros panted heavily, leaning against a stone hedge and cradling his head against his polearm. Sid joined the half orc and gently set her wallarmbrust against the wall. A bloody taloned hand slapped against the edge next to the pair, heaving up a gore-strewn body behind it. Beelzes. The warlock had her sunglasses on and sighed as she lay her head against the halfling. With a smile, Beelzes took off the shades and looked towards the sky. "No clouds, no more enemies...looks like it'll be a, gore-ing day. Amirite?"

The others, no including Achiru and a limping Qinn couldn't help but laugh. If not at the joke, at the mere attempt. Members of numerous legions rushed past them on both sides like a tide of steel and darkness. Still... "Yeah, lame as it may be," Gurgen added while supporting his sallow-faced brother and sitting down amongst the Black Guard, "This was a good start." Turha smirked and nodded weakly in response. Pel patted the twin's shoulders as she took her seat. Mikana dragged her huge hammer behind her as only a small elven girl could, eventually dropping it and waving at Caine to come join the group.

Wrath smiled. He had stashed the pendant for the moment and felt more like himself. The general took off his cape and leaned against the dragon corpse. He motioned for Talae and Faera to come over first, then Sarish and Duran. God the druid could be beastly when he wanted to. "Looks like we're one for one now."


Neira was underestimating her foe too much. At least, that's how Xeron viewed their little bout. He had her. Within the mindscape, he had the power. Outside of that was a layer of mental mines that would practically liquify the bug's brains should she try to sneak out prematurely, and wrapped around that was yet another mindscape. On the very end of the track was the physical world, where the dark elf had a dagger pressed to the hollow of Neira's throat. Inside the mindscape, Xeron smiled disarmingly.

Lucky girl... the illusory worlds faded back into mere thoughts layer by layer. He allowed the lesser psion to see, to know how completely he had her in his grasp down to the steel pricking against one of the few softer spots on her body. Back to reality in full, the Legion's harpies flew by and arrows rained down on the town's last defenders. Xeron, stitched and silent once more, stepped back and dropped the weapon. Although the expression was beyond him it was clear that the Silenced would be grinning just by the glint in his single open eye. Until we meet again, my sweet. I left you a present in that dank cave you make your the home of your memories.

As the Legion of Ashes claimed it's prize, the last of the Children, the red-cloaked Silenced faded from view.

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Fae was barely-useful in the last moments of the battle; all she was really able to do was keep feeding her Darkguard instructions and try to stay on her feet. Perhaps it was to be expected, then, that she accumulated a number of assorted injuries, though none quite as bad as the arrow still in her shoulder. A gash to the thigh, a few nicks on her arms and face, all of them the result of not quite having enough steam left to keep actively listening to what was going on around her. Her construct protected her, for the most part, but she was relieved when Beelzes and Pel swung by, nodding her understanding when the latter informed her that it was only a temporary fix.

Somehow, she made it to the end of the battle, or rather she should say the Black Guard's part in it. She was unable to do much more than sink heavily against a wall for a few minutes, trying to keep her breathing steady. Unfortunately, her still-weak and injured self combined with her own aversions and a far too-fresh smell of blood meant that her rest wouldn't last long. Having just long enough to ensure that nobody was below her and beside the wall she was on, Faera lurched unsteadily to the edge of it and heaved, losing what little she had eaten that morning.

Half-dangling over the wall, she sat up unsteadily, limbs weak and trembling from the forces of exertion and mental fatigue. she drew her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, pressing her forehead to her knees, attempting to regain control of her gag reflex. Why she was doing this now, of all times, was beyond her. Granted, she'd felt ill and disoriented after the first battle, but she hadn't actually been sick. "Dead gods... it doesn't get easier, does it?" she whispered to herself, pressing her head harder into her leather-covered knees. The pressure within her skull was dizzying; oh, how she wished she were anywhere else right now.

But she'd gotten herself into this mess; she would see it through. Somehow. Picking herself up, she managed to make it over to the General before she had to sit again.




The feeling of the cold, pointed steel on her neck made her unspeakably angry. It was as though that slight pricking sensation, so trivial and unimportant compared to all she'd suffered, somehow encapsulated all that she had ever failed to become, and the rage bubbled beneath her skin, driving her to shred, to tear, and to kill, all to prove that she could.

But she couldn't. Not right now, not while he had a hold on her mind like this. Not while she played his infernal game and lost. ah, defeat. So bitter a pill to swallow. Beyond that simple fact, none of the rest of it mattered. She cared not that he mocked her, nor that he claimed to be allowing her to live. No, she was dead. Because right now, the power over her life belonged to someone else, and one was just the same as the other.

In the end, he refused to even give her that, and this only made her angrier. It was an impotent rage, and she knew it. Even as the last echoes of his voice left her mind, Neira wished for nothing more than to tear him apart, one limb tortuously rent at a time, to hear the howls of anguish that would have to echo in his mind and hers since he could not speak, to feel the that the absolute power over her life and his both was once again in her hands. Because if she could not, she was nothing. She was once again compelled by the will of another, once again nothing but the Hive's little progeny.

For now, she was nothing. But she would find him again, and she would show him what it was like to be powerless. Between then and now, no matter what it took, she would find the strength. And when next they met, he would regret nothing quite so deeply as thinking her too weak to kill.

The nature of her fight meant that she was relatively unscathed physically, so she dropped from the tower to the battlements, fixing her eyes on Thanaros for a moment. "You and I are going to have that talk," she told him bluntly, nodding to the rest of them. It would not be now, of course; she would wait until the injured were treated and camp set up.

For now, she decided to simply approach the gathering group. Not like there was much else to do, anyway.

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Talae found herself covered in dragon-bile, but even that wasn’t enough to stop the tiniest of smiles at the appearance of the army proper. They’d held out long enough. It hadn’t been pretty, and she really needed to find Kisikoni, because she could have sworn he was drawing Children off the rest of them and that can’t have been easy, but honestly other than that, she was pretty damn satisfied at the moment. Note to self: poison works on dragons.

Of course, that didn’t mean things were in the clear quite yet. Removing a different flask, she tugged the cork out with her teeth and took a swallow. Antidote, else even the amount of poison in diluted dragon-vomit would make her sick for a few hours. She took a swallow and glanced over to both Sarish and Duran. “You didn’t get any bile in an open wound did you? If so, drink some of this.” She offered the flask to each on turn before spotting a group over against the wall of one battlement tower.

It contained neither her sister nor her partner, though, and so she left it for the time being. It was hard to judge where anyone was, given all the other Legionnaires rushing past. Still, she managed to slip through enough of them to finally spot the deep human she was looking for. He didn’t look injured, but more like he’d run for far too long- completely exhausted. Perhaps a healer had gotten to him already? The vestiges of a smirk vanished, and Talae sighed.

“I seem to be doing a poor job being a partner,” she observed flatly, not really sure what else to say. He was clearly going to be fine now, even if that might not have been the case earlier. “I’m sorry.” She was not exactly certain what his strategy had been or even what had happened, but she did know that she had lost track of him at some stage, and that this was something she should not have done.

At last replacing the blade into the sheath strapped to her back, she grimaced at how this caused her abdominal wound to pull. It might not be in any more danger from her own poison, but that didn’t mean it didn’t sting like hell, and was still bleeding freely to boot. She should find Fae and see about getting it healed up. Pel was likely to be busy with people far more injured than she, and frankly she was glad of the sheer number of people that had been engaging the dragon, else she would likely be dead at the moment.

She covered the remaining- short- distance between herself and the others, her sister included, giving the general a small salute.




Alistair was buffeted hard by the dragon, and thrown off-balance when his spear hit much harder scales than it had been aimed at. His descent was rapid, and worse, backwards. He hit the battlements hard, and at a slight angle, and his breath left him in a great gust. He barely noticed, though, past the pain as several of the bones in his right wing shattered. His vision exploded with red sparks, and for a moment, he had to struggle to keep conscious.

It was several minutes before he could move, and he counted himself fortunate that the army had chosen that moment to arrive. The prone harpy was largely ignored as what few Children remained this close to the edge of the battle were swiftly overwhelmed by their fresh opponents.

With great difficulty, Alistair hauled himself to his feet, talons not finding purchase so easily on the smooth stone of the wall he walked on. It was with much awkwardness and little finesse that he progressed to the place where most of the others seemed to be gathering. His mangled wing stuck out at an odd angle, drooping against his back for the most part.

It was more than a physical wound for someone like him: his wings had ever been rather symbolic of his entire person. Without them, he was little more than a mal-formed human, largely useless for ground-bound movement. Like any other bird, the bones there were hollow, and so he knew that they had likely broken in several places, and it would not be a terribly easy fix.

He approached the largest group, presently laughing, no doubt at something Beelzes had said. His face made no betrayal of the excruciating pain he was in, but it would take Qinn or Achiru only one look to guess. “Pardon me,” he asked, voice slightly shakier than he would have liked. “But can anyone point me in the direction of a healer?”

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#, as written by Aythr
A tiny bit of disgust welled up in Sarish's stomach as the dragon's bile and blood coated him. He let out of an audible moan of disgust, and just barely managed to prevent a small panic attack at the gore covering him. It wasn't necessarily the blood that he was afraid of, he just never liked the idea of being puked on by something that could probably swallow him whole. Above the feeling of disgust, however, was a little bit of relief that he would not have to fight the massive beast.

Duran feeling was quite the opposite. The gore meant nothing to him. He was out to kill, and only the thought that he would have another chance to take down a dragon of some kind in the near future was enough to stop him from going berserk. The instincts of his animal form were almost too strong to control, and he decided that it would be better just to let his own emotions settle for the time being. His hind legs began to lengthen, as he reared back and balanced on them. Slowly his human body reformed, shedding the coat of fur, blood, and gore as his gear began to reappear on his bare, pink flesh.

Sarish waved his hand over himself, and in a wave of glimmering light, the gore fell away, and he was left neat and tidy. It was not a very powerful spell, but it served its purpose well enough.

Duran limped over to the Wrath as signaled, with Sarish close behind him. It seemed that the injury he had sustained was closed thanks to his transformation, but the pain hadn't completely gone away. Talae made her presence known, and offered an antidote to the poison that had killed the dragon. Though he had some magical resistances to natural poisons and venoms, there was no doubt that a well-trained assassin's poison would quickly overwhelm him. He decided not to take any chances and graciously accepted the swig of antidote that Talae had offered. Duran definitely did not want to give first hand account at what a gruesome death the beast endured.

Pain and injury seemed to be the overwhelming theme as member after member of the Vanguard began to close in on their commander. Sarish looked for the other clerics to present themselves before offering his own services. They would probably be much more efficient healers than him, though he would easily do in a pinch. As Alistair joined the group, Sarish sighed and gave a cheesy smirk.

"I'll take a look at that for you, Alistair. What good is a harpy without his wings, anyway?" Sarish had probably stepped over the line with the last sentence, though there were probably more pressing matters for the harpy to think about. He replaced his maul on his back, and his hand began to glow as he slithered over to administer healing to the wounded wing.

Duran immediately rolled his eyes, recalling that Goma had not made her presence known for the entirety of the battle. He let loose a sharp whistle, ensuring that she would be along shortly. The druid then limped his way over to the beckoning Wrath, and waited for the commander to speak or give the next command.

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Blood. Dragon blood. Caine had finally tasted dragon blood, even if that dragon had only been a hatchling. Plus to top it off, he had been relatively uninjured. Just minor nicks and scraps where the diamond hard scales dug into his skin and armor, but relatively unharmed... That's not to say that Caine wasn't unbloodied, just not his blood. A wet squelch followed Caine as he viciously ripped the swords out of the dragon's spine. Luckily, the strength boost he had used to pierce the dragon's scales was still in effect, otherwise the blades would still be inside the dragon, unmovable by the now unberserk Caine.

Then he spun the blades in a circle, a rather menacing display, to free the blades of any free blood. From the top of the dragon, he peered around the battlefield.. Things were dying down and it looked as if the battle was won. "About damn time," Caine said, looking back at the Lamia, Iriana. She had managed slither on the dragons back as well and had relieved the beast of it's wings. The human allowed the Lamia a wide grin and a nod of approval. He rather liked the girl. Then, without saying another word, he dismounted the dragon to the ground below. There, he patted the hatchling's side, muttering something about, "You count as two, big boy. My debt is repaid," and the left the slaughter and wandered the battlefield.

Of course, the first thing he saw was Mikana waving him over to the group of Blackguard who had congregated around their captain. Caine accepted the invitation with a nod and place his blades back into their proper places (Saber at his side, Katana on his back) before he took his place besides the Paladin who had dropped the hammer behind her. Caine placed a tired arm on her shoulder and leaned slightly... He just realized he was fatigued a bit... From what? He had just managed to hop on the dragon in it's death throes. Although... Sinking blades hilt deep into such a creature is bound to take energy, even if it was armor enhanced. Caine dismissed it as easily as it came, as was not the time to dwell, but to celebrate their first victory as the Blackguard... Which only meant that the Dragons knew what to expect next time.

In the group, Caine gave Wrath a half-assed salute, not due from some thought of superiority... Just because Caine wasn't used to it. The gesture itself was worth more than the salute itself... Caine wasn't the one easily impressed, but if he could take out a hatchling by himself, then dammit, he deserved the respect. Speaking of respect, Caine ventured a quick glance to the clear heavens and nodded... Someone seemed to like them up there. He then leveled his eyes and asked in complete deadpan, "Who's next?"




"Dammit!" The elf- Huntress cursed. She then made a rather rude gesture to the Hatchling as the Liliana MK. II rose to take her out of the dragon's range... An odd thing for the normally sweet elf. Perhaps the Bloodleaf Hunter in her was beginning to show itself. Perhaps she was just pissed. Either way, it was a side rarely seen of her, the strong and unbreakable huntress at the core of the sweet and innocent elf. As it stood, the distraction prove enough for Alistair to fly in for a strike. One that would probably have proven deadly had it met it's target.

The miss was punctuated by the dragon rearing back with something that sounded like a mocking laugh... Bastard, Lily thought. This was interrupted as the leathery wings snapped together sending a gust of air and buffeted Lily and her mount, as well Alistair. Due to the fact that she was higher up that Alistair, she didn't plant on the battlements, instead she hooked a strong lithe arm around the construct and held on to it, and her bow with her life. The construct spun in the air violently, but due to the strong arms and legs of the Huntress, she stayed on it. However, there was the real threat of the vicious spinning sending the Huntress unconscious. Luckily, it straightened out before this could happen... Unluckily, it straightened out hurdling at the ground.

"Gah! Pull up! Pull up!" Lily pleaded with the construct while pulling on the things neck. Either the pulling or pleading worked, as the Construct righted itself just as the battlements came into view. "Now turn around! I'm going to kill- Ah.. Too late it seems," Lily yelled furiously, before turning around and seeing that the dragon was indeed dead... Or dying. Their captain had gotten to it first. A spike of indigence shot through her. That was her kill, not his... The Kill stealer. Of course, she brushed these thoughts away with a brush of her hair. Those were not her thoughts, those were the thoughts of a huntress.

Instead, she patrolled the air, picking off any stragglers that seemed to be of any threat. She was high enough to not be worried about the Children's fire, having enough space to quickly dodge it, but close enough to efficiently harass them. Feeling the huntress within herself sated, she turned the construct around and angled it towards the group that had situated around Wrath.

She landed with a gust of wind next to the Blackguard and looked at them with the normal cheerful glint in her eye and a tone of enjoyment. "That.. Was amazing," She started and she chuckled. Catching the eyes of the twin she nodded at them whilst still beaming, "You two!? You two are the most amazing people I have ever met! To devise such a.. a.. thing! With my idea! I believe I am in love," She said... Sadly, the love wasn't directed at the twins, but the construct she sat upon. She hugged the thing around the neck, refusing to dismount before she looked back at the twins, "So... I suppose the next question is... Can I keep him? Please? Pretty please? Imagine how good I can hunt from the sky with this! Like a bird of prey!" She said, laughing maniacally... Indeed, seems as if Lily the Silly Elf had evolved into Lily the Silly Huntress.

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#, as written by Arke
Kisikoni barely felt the rush of his fellow legionnaires as they rushed over the wall to fight the Children. His arm was in a state of numbness and pain, but he only felt relief as the children were beaten back. Pel, his former healer from an earlier battle seemed frustrated with him- much to Kisikoni's confusion. His armor was repaired, which confused the wounded deep human even further. Then horrified amazement struck him as his Armor began healing his burn. Sure, he felt it and it hurt like hell, but when he looked down again his arm was just as good as new. He tested it, and affirmed it was all right when a small foreign voice in his mind whispered "Don't be such a whiney bitch. I'm the one taking all the damage here.

Kisikoni sighed in frustration. Why was everybody mad at him? He it took him a while to realize that his god damned armor was SENTIENT. He tentatively touched the mind-link and replied back with as much dignity as he could. "Who's the one dodging all the attacks here, you ungrateful slab of skin?" He asked back in a surly tone. He wondered briefly where the energy to repair such a massive burn came from, and he realize it was drawn from his own energy and part of the charm in the armor. Which was definitely why he felt completely exhausted, slumped against the side of the battlements until a familiar shadow and scent of some odd substance he'd rather not know about alerted him. Looking up, he saw Talae with an odd smirk on her face that vanished as she apologized. Well, at least she wasn't angry at him.

"Not much of a partner if you're constantly worrying about me and get killed mid-thought, is it?" He replied back with a smile. "Don't worry about it." He got up and took note with some alarm that Talae had sustained a abdominal wound. She wasn't bothered by it, and with the mastery of potions that the other legionnaires claimed she had, he decided nagging her about it like a nanny was unnecessary. He walked after her, as if in a daze hoping she knew where she was going. He paused, grouped around with fellow members of the Black Guard. He tried to focus, and did so with half-success. Everyone had already gathered, around the corpse of a dragon. For some reason, Kisikoni found this hilarious- but was sleepy enough to stop himself from laughing. Healing 3rd degree burns without a mark drains a person. He debated sleeping in, and receiving punishment later- but the Legion of Ashes never treated that lightly. He didn't want lash marks on his back- so he left the thought at that.

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#, as written by Smith
Nowhere

An old man sat on his stoop, somewhere, at some point in time and said: "Damn. I fer'got mah chewin' tabacky."

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#, as written by Smith
This was it. There had been victories before this, but...this one was so much more. This was a win that meant something more than another day of pay, rations and survival. It meant that the Legion of Ashes, the Paragon, was one step closer to ending this blight upon Norr. Dragonkind was one the path to extinction. Wrath smiled at the skewed salutes and bleary eyes of his unit. "Mekillot, tend to those of us who can't walk," he raised an eyebrow and sized up the group, "That appears to be around half of us."

Pel hopped up with even the slightest of complaints, a prayer to her patron angel already at her lips. The halfling approached Alistair and released a pulse of divine radiance. She winced as the sound of bones resetting themselves filled the air for a few seconds. "Sorry. Forgot to tell ya that was going to hurt like seven mothers...don't try flying for at least two days." next to be healed were Turha and Gurgen, who nodded gratefully as their weariness receded. Last, was Kisikoni. Pel padded over to crouch before the deep human, lips upturned in a half-smile. "Maybe I should've just healed you, ya lightweight. Can't stand after a bit of live-leather-luvvins?" still smiling, the cleric pressed her forehead to Kisikoni's and allowed a portion of her energizing aura to flow into him. Just before parting however, her bright eyes met his. "Next time you keep a gal waiting though, don't expect any better than sub-par battlefield healing."

With the cleric looking paler for her efforts and the group more or less mobile, it was time to move. Wrath was standing on the edge of the wall overlooking the interior of their captured city. He had his hand near his ear, the former of which held a stone with a rune inlaid with emerald. "Yes. Good. Make sure the smithy and the schools are held in check as well. I don't want any townsfolk, young or old thinking that they can cavort around under our noses. No way to make more weapons, none of the rebellious youth getting funny ideas." he was about to put the stone away when a thought occured to him. "Oh, yes, scavenge the corpses. From what you've said we haven't sustained any permanent losses but I still want our supplies fresh. I don't want to be here longer than is nece...hm? A scout? You caught him, correct? Good. I want you and Wrynne on the interrogation. Good work. Over."

The rune grew dim and Wrath looked to the sky, which was alive with the wingbeats of griffons, giant bats, tamed drakes and every other manner of winged mount. On the ground, within Scalescrossing his soldiers shouted out commands and herded the townspeople into their homes. A smile was growing on his sharp features, and Wrath turned to the Black Guard. "Excellent work. You are all free to go, it looks like we may be here for a little while."


Dusk

As the sun set on Scalescrossing, nobody could say that it was not officially under Legion control. The newly occupied city was alight even in the evening hours, the growing army of over three-thousand having taken up residence in almost all free space. Tents flooded the streets and parks, and temporary domiciles were set up within the tower and all fourteen inns. Even two or three ale-houses. Wrath was in simpler civillian clothing and walking down the cluttered main street of Scalescrossing. He saw the faces of his soldier light up as he passed by, and comments of his bravery. Of course. What kind of general attacked with the vanguard? It was not unheard of to be in the front lines, but to fight alongside the group most likely to perish? The notion bordered on lunacy.

Those faces that disappeared within the darkness of windows up high did not escape the young general's notice. Citizens, holed up in their homes cast loathesome looks down upon the legionnaires when they suspected the army was not looking. Wrath scowled. He had been in occupied settlements before...there was bound to be trouble. Especially if they missed any Children in their sweep of the city. Wrath sighed deeply and glanced around.

Without realizing it, he had stumbled upon one of the last uncrowded spots in Scalescrossing. He stood in the middle of a small recreational park, with a small pond and a single bench under an awning to sit on. Wrath shrugged and sat down. Under the growing moonlight the water appeared more silver than anything...beautiful. Even as the first drops of rain begain to distort the calm surface of the pond, he thought so.


"Oie say we get shome mo' brewsh! Wadd'ya say me hearties?!" Sid, standing on top of the bar alongside an equally smashed Iriana guffawed at her gods-awful pirate accent. When the sound of rain patting against the roof began Iriana cocked her head and grinned, bursting out in an uncontrollable fit of giggling. The legionnaire manning the bar couldn't help but join in and sent out a fresh round of ale for the entirety of those present. The Lion's Mane Taphouse was buzzing with the conversation, song and curses of around a hundred or so legionnaires. Each and every injured soldier had been tended to hours earlier, not a man, woman or nightmarian in the house with bandages.

Thanaros, sitting at a window-adjacent booth smirked at the display and growled at the fifth soldier who had tried to take a seat opposite to him. He was waiting for someone. Gurgen and Turha, both rather inebriated had their arms wrapped around Liliana and were professing their love for the elf. "N-No, I'm tha one who gave th...the ok, for the fire! Think of it! We could have kids! A-And, I'll give em all lil' flamey-*hic*-paint-jobs! Yesh, thas'"

"A shtoopid oidea!" Turha interjected, punctuating the last word with a squeeze of Liliana's backside. Despite his composure as the more level-headed of the twins, as a drunk, Turha's brain-to-hands filter was non-existant. The handsome human flashed a brilliant smile and danced away, bowing before the elven lass. "I shall give you the moon, the sun and the stars, my dear. Nay, the entirety of Norr itself, not for your love of my creations, but for the flower of love I feel can bloom between us if you allow it." Gurgen, still hanging off of Liliana, was stunned. Not by the words themselves, but with the coherance his brother had managed to muster in their booze-induced haze.

Near the center of the mass, Qinn was situated at a small, squat table and surrounded by roughly twenty other female harpies. At her side was Achiru, leaning back on his chair rather uncomfortably as the females eyed him like a freshly served steak. Across from Qinn the eleventh challenger of the night sat down, and the two harpies locked their right hands, pressing their elbows to the table. "Ready...set...go!" in moments Qinn slammed her opponent's arm against the table and crowed for the next challenger. Nobody was getting her mate today. Elsewhere in the bar, a smaller flock of females were searching for Alistair. unclaimed prey was easier, if not more satisfying, than the former choice.

At the stage, a band had just finished setting up and began playing a magically-amplified tune to carry over the general din of the taphouse. It was a raunchy tune about a tattooed whore who did nothing but drug herself silly and sing songs day and night. At this, most of the females in the room squealed in drunken delight.

Sid and Iriana began helping up any woman who wanted to hop onto the bar, and Pel even managed to drag the sulking Ferka up. They began dancing in unison, a jaunt that most girls--despite their parent's disapproval--learned at one point in their teenage lives. Alot of grinding, hip-shaking and leaning over for some cleavage-filled fanservice. Beelzes screamed and grabbed at Faera. "Come on, we need to dance! Spellcasters have to represent, you know?"

Below the sultry line of women, in the clamour of cheering and singing legionnaires, Mikana smiled awkwardly and looked downward blushing furiously. She had never even heard of this song, much less anything with that kind of...message...

"There once was a girl scan-ti-ly garbed, with ink in'er skin afar.
She danced and sucked and fucked said men, the girl, her name was Star!
Piles of white, weeds that burned, it was all good with this lass,
For the more ya showed, the more she blowed, and shook that tight 'lil ass!


At this, all the women on top of the bar jumped in a 180 and bent over smacked their rumps, drawing a fresh round of cheers from the crowd.

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Faera's insides felt... funny. Not bad, necessarily, just strange. Her head was spinning a bit, too, and amongst the laughter of her fellow Legionnaires and the music and the atmosphere it was all proving to be quite pleasant when combined just so. She wondered if the funny-tasting beverages Beelzes kept shoving at her had anything to do with it. Talae didn't usually allow her to drink anything when they stopped at taverns, but she'd never actually explained why, and she wasn't really here at the moment, so at Beelzes's insistence, she'd tried something called 'ale' and something else called 'gin' and right now she was feeling pretty good about those decisions.

A different song started up, and this was not really one Fae had heard before, but quite a few people seemed to be excited about it, so maybe it was a particularly good one or something. Though... the first verse in, and Fae was already coloring visibly about the ears. That... didn't mean what she thought it meant, did it? Oh dear. She decided to stop listening to the words and try listening to the people around instead, but it would seem that those people had other ideas, and it wasn't long before she felt an insistent tugging on her wrist.

"Come on, we need to dance! Spellcasters have to represent, you know?" It was apparently Beelzes, but Fae shook her head, even if it did send her head spinning. "N-no... I'm pretty suure I can' dansh," she replied, not really sure why her tongue felt so heavy in her mouth.

"Sure ya can, little Shanir! You've just gotta feel it!" Displaying considerable strength, Beelzes hauled the diminutive dark elf out of her stool and onto the counter with only minimal resistance from a completely-confused Faera, who simply stood there for a few seconds processing what had been said.

"I'm good at feeling," she announced hazily. "And hearing. Oh, and schmelling too! But not seeing," she admitted, somewhat disheartened.

"Well, then get to feeling!" Beelzes crowed, and by then the music was loud enough in Fae's ears and her head was spinning fast enough that that seemed like the best possible plan. It was plenty strange at first, but eventually she got an idea for what was going on, and her normal reservations and shyness were not quite so loud in her head for some reason, so dancing made perfect sense indeed.




Neira had avoided everyone and everything in the hours between the battle's end and dusk, and she would have been content to continue stewing in her own bitterness and desire for vengeance if the first step to getting what she wanted hadn't holed himself up in a bar. Shooting venomous glares at anyone who so much as looked at her through their drunken haze, she slid into the seat across from Thanaros, giving the half-orc a nod.

"Neira," he replied politely, and she took a second to smack away someone'e wandering hand (she had no idea who) before she spoke.

"Not here." She stood up again, and he did as well, fairly amenable to the suggestion. It was not the kind of discussion to hold in the middle of a spectacle after all. The door closed behind them, and cut off most of the noise from inside, but it wasn't quite enough for the nightmarian, who took the both of them down another road that was relatively deserted before getting to the crux of the matter.

"I need to better my psionics," she stated flatly, and Thanaros did not reply, merely waiting for further explanation. "I was never actually trained to use the power within, and I've only ever needed it for one thing: keeping myself myself." Her stride was too swift for a casual stroll, her words bitten off with much vitriol, but Thanaros was patient.

"I do not quite understand," the half-orc admitted. He didn't know much of nightmarians in general or this one in particular, so at this point he could only relate to about half of what she was saying.

"You're going to make me spell it out, aren't you?" she snapped. Nothing. He would not rise to the bait and bite back, but she had known that. Aggravating as it was, she knew it was also the reason he was the one to speak with about this. "Fine. Where I come from, the power within isn't heard-of. All there is is the hive, and obedience. It is... difficult to break away from it, and I was under more direct influence than most." Kind of happens when you hang around the Queen all the time.

"I hated every second of it, and the short version of the story is that eventually something... snapped, and I was free of it. I ran before it could hold me again, and I'm now, for lack of a better term, an exile. But I didn't know anything of psionics, not even the word. I would still know nothing, had not some old man pulled me aside and told me that I think far too loudly. I learned some basic things from him, but not enough, and today, in the battle, I was nearly killed because of it. I need to know more, or I'm going to get someone killed."

Thanaros considered that for a few moments, choosing his next words carefully. "When you are in battle, what is your state of mind?" He figured he knew the response already, but it would be better if she explained it.

Neira snorted. "I think everybody knows the answer to that, Thanaros. I'm a sadistic bitch. I enjoy crawling into the little spaces in people's heads and messing around in there. I like the wet sound a skull makes when it shatters. I'm fond of-" Thanaros held up a hand for her to stop, and the nightmarian laughed darkly.

"That's... part of your problem," the green-skinned man asserted delicately. "It's certainly a valid... erm, coping mechanism, but it's not the state you really need to be in to use your power correctly."

Neira's eyes narrowed. "I'm listening."

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#, as written by Arke
Kisikoni was surprised when Pel approached him again, and mentally braced himself for another round of bitching. However, when she made a quick joke and transferred some of his energy to him, he was once again confused. As she moved on, she mentioned to Kisikoni about keeping a girl waiting. Oh? Oh. OHHHHH.

He smacked his face with his hand, rubbing his nose. What a royal mess up. Was it his fault he was so tired he wasn't able to see properly back then? It didn't matter now. At least she wasn't angry anymore. He decided to make it up to her, but as of now, he was looking forward, like the rest of his fellow members, to celebrating their victory against the dragons. He'd had enough of flinching from shadows- to hell with it if the Dragons come and burn down the city while he was in a stupor. It wasn't like he didn't notice the hostile looks. His heightened senses caught brief scowls and looks of disdain. He couldn't let it ruin his victory. At long last, they were able to strike back against the dragons! Screw them!

Wrath let his troops go, and with a salute, Kisikoni disappeared into the streets.




Lion's Mane Taphouse

Kisikoni sat at the bar, laughing as Sid climbed up and announced more drinks. Several glasses sat in front of him. The poor man had learned the hard way to hold his liquor, many years back when he first entered the Legion- and it was paying off here. Taking a deep swig, he slammed the glass down and shouted his affirmation to the idea of more drinks. Even the women were inebriated- much more so than Kisikoni- and to his delight they began dancing as a tune began to strum in the Lion's Mane.

Oh god, he hoped that Talae wasn't part of this. For some reason, the Deep Human just couldn't see the serious dark-elf performing such lewd stunts. It would marr his mental image of her for life.

"Woo!" He roared, as the party began to go in full swing. Fae was doing the craziest dance he had ever seen, and Kisikoni fell out of his seat when he saw Beelzes with her. This was the life. "Hhhh...HEY. Ha-halp meh uppa' bit, will ya'?" He called. A man heaved him up, and he stumbled back, catching himself on a table.

" 'Ey Deep Human! Ye may have won the fight but ye' don't knock over my glass fer nothin'!" An elf roared. He was the violent type- and Kisikoni was too drunk to get into a fight here and now. The view was too costly to get a black eye.

"Serr-er, SORRY!" Kisikoni slurred, slapping whatever coin he grabbed in his pouch. The elf eyed the gold with saucer-like eyes and waved him away, laughing at his luck. God damn, it was hot in here. He threw himself against the doors, opening it and falling down the steps. "Woo. Ahem!" He growled, pulling himself upright onto his unsteady feet. His vision was slightly blurred as he began walking down the street. Fae's dancing was enough to get him to leave- he would certainly be teasing her about it in the morning... if he could remember that much.

He slammed into the sides of buildings, his equipment rattling. He had disregarded taking off his armor, his weapons, everything. He didn't care- and besides he was in a hostile town. His paranoia still had some sort of say with his subconscious. Kisikoni was one of those drunks that was rather clumsy, but had a very clear mind when it came to discussion. You just had to force him into it. Think of it as a genius who is incredibly lazy and laid-back, but you want to have a discussion with him regarding the inner workings of magic.

That aside, he found himself in a park- darkness coating his aimless wandering. A figure near the fountain caught his eye. "Comman'!" He called, walking (stumbling) over and giving a clean salute. That, he had not forgotten how to do. "The damned rain is picking up again, eh? What're you doin' sittin' here all by your lonesome?" He asked, plopping down on the far end of the bench.

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#, as written by Aythr
As nightfall fell upon the newly capture city, Duran could not feel anything more than worry. The town was conquered, but on shaky terms to say the least. He thought it was strange that there was little to no resistance from the guards or the townsfolk despite their fealty to the dragons. It was quiet.

Too quiet.

Duran was familiar with storms, and the calm that often came before them. His tenseness was not without its suspicions, but he tried to convince himself that he was overreacting. Everything about the conquering of the city seemed textbook, but could it really have been so easy? They had utterly crushed all resistance, from the guards to the hatchlings that had been called to the cities' defense. As far as Duran was aware, there were no casualties on their side besides the Darkguards, and a construct was far easier to replace than a soldier, at least as far as a life was concerned. There was something that seriously worried Duran, however.

Goma still had not returned.

He had called for her several hours ago while the sun was still up. Now, as the darkness fell upon the legion's latest conquest, Duran was terribly worried. He tried to retrace her every step, recalling that they had split up when Duran had gotten up the wall. She ran in another direction as she was incapable of jumping the wall, but that was the last he had seen of her. Duran thought it was another of her games, but hours later, it seemed less and less likely. It was fairly difficult to convince on-duty soldiers to help find the wolf, and there was little surprise that they held her life at a lesser degree than Duran did.

He decided to give up the search for the night; It wasn't the best idea to wander around a city where one was not welcome, especially in the dark. He had faith that she would turn up okay, though. After all, she was a wild animal. She could easily take care of herself if the need arose. He tried to put it in the back of his mind as he entered the Tavern where it seems many legionnaires and most of the Vanguard had gathered. They was revelry, drinking, dancing, and any number of unseen acts of debauchery going on behind closed doors. Duran did not necessarily have the cleanest of virtues, but even he found that the party was slowly closing the gap to orgy.

It had been quite a long time since he had been with another person, but he would be lying to himself if he said he wasn't thinking about it.

He felt so out of place in the tavern. He was a druid, and anybody would be hard-pressed to find a tavern in the middle of the forest. He hadn't yet sat down, but seriously considered spending the night outside just as the rain started.

"Even I am starting to get sick of the rain." Duran muttered under his breath.




Sarish had not wasted any time making his way to the epicenter of festivities when the legionnaires began their celebration. There was hardly an occasion that didn't deserve a raunchy party, after all. Beer and liquor seemed to flow like rivers, and the females weren't too far from doing the seem. Any number of sultry, tempestuous ladies were busy downing drinks and making his job of seducing them much, much easier. He had managed to avoid Iriana thus far, but he had a feeling that more than one thing would end up biting him in the ass, so to speak.

Iriana didn't seem like the kind of female that would become possessive over one encounter, although it had become a habit to avoid women that he had given such a gift and then taken away. Sarish didn't like being pinned down by one woman as it was. His preference was to take the love he would have normally given to one woman over a lifetime, and spread it out over as many females as physically possible. It wasn't as though this went over well with said females, however. He had been called many nasty insult, though he rather liked the label, "Man-slut."

And so, Sarish scouted out the bar, weaving his honeyed words. It wasn't long before an entire table of women had fallen to his charm and promises of booze. He kept them on a loose leash, however; The night was still young, and Sarish had plenty of time to find the quality he expected, or at least the quantity to make up for it.

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It was perhaps fortunate for everyone involved that Talae left the bar before the dancing started. This was mostly due to the fact that had she seen her sister being intoxicated without full knowledge and then dragged up to dance on a bar, there would probably have been a fight, and she was still sober enough that it would have been no contest. It was also, however, partially due to the fact that she could probably out-dance any of them. There was, as she had always maintained, more than one way to get close enough to a person to kill them, and stealth wasn’t always an option. When something else was necessary… well, that required an entirely different skill set, now didn’t it? Dancing was one of the more innocuous skills involved.

As it was, she did not fight and did not dance, but instead left the bar after hammering back just enough to get a nice buzz going, perhaps-foolishly entrusting her sister to Beelzes’s… care. She was never one for large social gatherings, in all honestly, the louder the worse. Nobody wanted their buzz killed, so she simply chose to leave. She certainly wasn’t going to say that they didn’t deserve it, though watching Kisikoni growing steadily more loose was an interesting process. She made a note to herself to prepare some kind of hangover remedy this evening and distribute it tomorrow.

She spent a while simply walking, alert of course to anyone that might try and sneak up on her. At one point, she caught sight of Neira and Thanaros, but left them alone. She didn’t know either particularly well, anyway, and honestly what she did know of the nightmarian suggested that she might be better off keeping her distance.

Really, she just wanted the opportunity to sleep, but her mind was a bit too restless to allow that at the moment, so she was seeking someplace silent as an alternative. At the very least she needed some time to reflect on the battle. This was something that she always did, usually as soon as possible. She’d go over everything she could remember, look for things that were done right and wrong, then process all of it and let it go. Regrets were pointless and she did not keep them, but there was always the opportunity to learn from the past, successes and failures alike.

More than anything, what surprised her was how easy it was to be… herself these days. Granted, she was overly serious, but she did manage to slide in the odd dry joke every now and then, and she certainly wasn’t forced to act quite so out-of-the-ordinary as she had been in other instances (mostly the same ones that had required the ‘entirely different skill set’). It was… almost pleasant, except for the part where her life was at daily risk, as were the lives of the people she fought with.

That was new, too, of course, the part where she cared much one way or another what happened to anyone but herself and her sister. Talae wasn’t certain it was the best of changes to be going through when they all might die at any second, but at this point, she doubted there was much she could do about it anyway.

She thought she’d found an unoccupied spot, but no, Kisikoni and the Cap- General were there. Talae hesitated for a moment, contemplating the wisdom of joining them, but eventually she shook her head and started forward again. She did not particularly desire to interrupt, after all.




Alistair had been intent on enjoying the atmosphere until it got much too rowdy, but that was about to be impossible, considering the small flock eyeing him as though he were a slab of particularly-tasty meat. No, he was most definitely going to avoid this. Still, there was one thing he had to take care of before he vacated the premises. “Pardon me, barkeep, but if you could deliver another round to the table over there-“ he pointed to the one Saresh and his impromptu harem occupied- “and tell them it’s from the lamia gentleman, I’d appreciate it.” He slid over the necessary coin and searched for the exit.

It might not have been the right moniker to use, calling Saresh a gentleman, but he did owe the lamia for helping with his wing earlier, and that should make them even, right? Close enough for Alistair, who while usually quite fastidious in his dealings with others was presently rather desperate to get away from the press of people.

Spotting what he needed, he took his exit as surreptitiously as possible, careful not to jostle his still-tender wing in the process. A good thing, too, as this was usually the point in the evening where men started to harass him also, and that was even more awkward than dealing with female harpies, if such a thing were possible. Whichever of the dead gods had thought it amusing to curse his bloodline with such obscure gender was probably better off dead.

Once outside, he noted the rain and sighed. There really had been rather a lot of it lately, though they had been in different locations each time. Still, he had not remembered this season being quite so bad… ah well, no matter. It was not as though he could fly at the moment anyway, so maybe it was better that the sky taunted him not with flying weather.

He did not much enjoy walking, but nor did he particularly wish to be found by any of the flock, and thus he took to ambling along rather sedately. Perhaps he would seek shelter from the weather at a quieter establishment. Not that much would be open around now, but… well he was sure to find some way of occupying his time.

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"Three.. Two.. One, go!" Caine counted as he tipped back the fresh tankard, downing the amber liquid inside. A half-orc sat across the table from him doing the same while a number of spectators had gathered round, drumming on the table and chanting, "Chug! Chug! Chug!" in unison... A drinking game between a Half-orc and a human. One would expect the easy money to be placed on the orc, however Caine surprised the spectators once more as he slammed his tankard on the table with a belch as the Orc uneasily wavered in his seat. Then a loud thunk punctuated the loss as the Orc fell on the ground, knocked out in a booze induced stupor. Caine raised both arms in victory as the spectators around his cheer and exchanged money with each other grudgingly.

The human looked to stand, perhaps rather too quickly as he fell back to into his chair... Perhaps he was a little bit intoxicated, nothing too big. "Damn," Caine said with a booze induced smile holding on to the table... Rising that quickly had set the room to spinning and he held on to the table for dear life. A few moments later, the room quit threatening to warp on him and he stood with a little bit more confidence, but still held on to the back of his chair. He picked his way through the tavern, using the backs of chair as he crossed to avoid falling on his face. Or worse yet, another's face..

He had managed to pick his way over to Mikana and her table, placing a hand on her shoulder as he sat... That still didn't keep him from missing his chair as he sat a little wide and hit the floor hard, "Gah! My ass!" He yelped, catching the attention of a few of the patrons, who of course did the only polite thing and laughed at the berserker's misfortune. Caine managed to find his way to his seat which was luckily sturdy as a rock and wasn't spinning around madly. Finally, he had gotten a look of Mikana's face, the elf covering her eyes and laughing quite hard at Caine's luck. Of course, the sight of the thick berserker missing his chair and planting on the ground was, indeed, hilarious and the laughter was infectious, causing him to laugh with the elf.

"Glad tah see I can still hold mah booze," He said with hints of a slur. He was holding himself quite well, especially concerning that he had just drank an orc under the table. No mean feat, and one Caine was damn proud of in his inebriated state. "So, whats we got goin' on over here?" He asked the elf, his reply a slender finger pointing at the bar where a number of women were dancing and singing something rather... suggestive. This envoked a chuckle from the berserker, but as soon as the women hit a 180 and smacked their asses, Caine lost it. Bellows of hearty laughs erupted from his belly as he turned away from the sight, eyes closed from the intensity of laughter. He placed his head on the back edge of Mikana's chair, still laughing. Again, the laughter was infectious, and Mikana began to laugh with the human.

Tonight was a night of celebration, that was for damn sure.




"Youse guys, are damn gen-hic- geniuseses.. Geni?" The Lily stuttered as she had both of the Mialee twins around the neck. A number of tankards, bottles, and shot glasses sat in front of them, indistinguishable who's from who's. Lily's face and ears were red from the alcohol and she had a obvious stammer. Her eyes were glazed over and had a hard time focusing... Looks like she wasn't going to drive her draconian construct tonight! Her Bloodleaf clan would have never let her drank and would have disapproved of her drunken antics, but "Dammit! They're not here, I don't give a damn what they think," She had said before her first drink, a bit of the Huntress temper flaring. Of course, that was a long time ago...

Gurgen began to stammer about how their kids would have flamming paint jobs? "Jus' what we need 'roun' here... Lil' elven hot head pitterin' bout," She stammered, entertaining Gurgen's idea when Turha interjected about how the idea was... Shtoopid. Lily's hand moved from around the neck of Turha to try and stifle her own laugh... Rather unsuccessfully. Then the cheeky man ventured a pinch of her ass. The elf eaked in surprise and slapped the man lightly upon instinct. Gurgen chuckled with the slap to his brother and Lily brought up a finger to Turha's face.

"I'ms not-hic- kinda girl..." She said, staring at the man with glazed eyes while wobbling uneasily... The fact that she had removed her arm from Turha's neck set her unbalanced a little... The elf, unbalanced... "I demands a dinner first... And perhaps a frolic in the woods," She said, her face reddening and a laugh replacing the finger as her arm returned around Turha's neck.

"I shall give you the moon, the sun and the stars, my dear. Nay, the entirety of Norr itself, not for your love of my creations, but for the flower of love I feel can bloom between us if you allow it."

The elf stared at Turha again, this time in awe... She stared just like Gurgen stared. That was rather... poetic concerning that they were drunk. She removed her gaze from the poet and looked at his brother before they both laughed cheerfully, "Thas was very ela-eloqu... Wordy of you," she said, opting to use the simpler word instead of the more difficult one. Gurgen laughed at Lily's attempt to say the word, to which she turned her head and spoke, "hursh you... I've hash a few drink, 'kay?" She said still wobbly... "I tells ya what... If you can managse to make me some arrowsh tha' 'splode, den we's a talk." Said said joking with the brothers. She was just talking drunken bull, and did not expect them to actually make the exploding arrows... Just a conversation piece really. However, at the chance of earning Lily's love, the brothers began to spat and argue over how and who would devise the best exploding, or 'Sploding arrows. Lily merely laughed at the continued conversation.

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#, as written by Aythr
Duran was having a difficult time stomaching exactly what was going on in the bar. He had never really been one for liquor, but he felt as though he was becoming drunk just from the smell of the place. He thought it was foolish to be making such regrettable decision as getting drunk the night after conquering a town, and having a hangover on the next day's battle. He had little doubt that if dragons were going to turn this city into a molten crater of charcoal and glass, now would be as good a time as any. It was the only thing he could think about besides Goma being missing. It weighed on his mind like the ladies were weighing on the table. He chuckled at the thought, but decided to keep that to himself. He didn't have the best social etiquette in the land, but there was little doubt that telling a drunk woman the next best thing to, "You're fat," was probably a horrible idea, especially when said women each carried deadly weapons.

He noticed Caine was in the bar as well, enjoying a drinking game with a half-orc. He was a little surprised at this. He had always thought that he and Caine were something of kindred spirits. Preference to solitude seemed to be one of the only things they had in common, although there were probably sides of him that had yet to be seen, and Duran supposed that this was one of them.

Then there was that Lamia Cleric. He was good enough to have around on the battlefield, but he wasn't high in the moral fiber department, it seemed. No less than four women were around him, his arms wrapped around two of them, while one ran their fingers through his thick hair, and yet another played with the tip of his tail suggestively. He was lucky he was a cleric; Anybody without the ability to heal would probably have been crippled by now from a few dozen venereal diseases.

The twin artificers were swooning over the ranger. Duran had a distinct feeling that they had something of a crush for the elf when they named one of their constructs the "Liliana MK-II." It would be a shame to find out that one of the brothers had strangled the other in their sleep over an above average looking elf. Though who could say they wouldn't do that?

"S-so what're you l-like a wild mans ors something?" Duran turned his head at the slurred question, asked by a less than cogent human male. "I ssaw you go all rwawr mearlier. I wass like "Wowsh, I's wishes I could bite peoples like you does, you know guy? You know?

"Uh...Yea." It was all Duran could really muster at the man. He preferred to be polite, but the man's breath was some disgusting combination of ale and any large amount of the "Weekly Special," which was probably just the meat that had recently gone bad.

"YEA? I-I KN-NOW! Cam yous teach me to be an bear? I'd do amythink."

Duran slowly began to back-peddle to get the man out of his face. He definitely didn't like the inflection he put into his slurred words. He was expecting some attention from drunk soldiers, but this was definitely not expected.

"Aremchu listemin'? Ankytheme." Duran raised one of his eyebrows inquisitively. Through some drunk paradox, he entirely understood the man despite his increasingly unintelligible words.

"Yea, listen, I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I don't know what you think I'm interested in, but it's definitely not you." Duran was trying to speak seriously, though the speed of his words probably wouldn't catch up with the drunk man right away.

"No, you'll libsen. I ain't gonna lepchu just walk aways, you know? You gotta gitta know me! You so absome, you know? I wants you, you know?" The soldier's hand began to get uncomfortably close to Duran's leg, as a finger crept up towards his crotch. Duran's face contorted in a strange combination of surprise and shock, as he instinctively balled up his fist and sucker punched the man. A loud thud was the only indication that he hit the floor, and Duran was not inclined to look down with a great deal of sympathy for him. It seemed as though he was out before he hit the ground, and it was probably a good thing, too. Duran bent down, and patted the man on the face.

"I think you've had about enough."

Duran got more than a few stares at his reaction, and he began to wonder if knocking the man out was the right thing to do. It wasn't as though he meant to, but it was difficult to be compassionate when a man tries to sneak his hand in places it definitely didn't belong.

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"The damned rain is picking up again, eh? What're you doin' sittin' here all by your lonesome?" Talae's ears caught the words and she stopped walking for a moment. That was... rather slurred. Kisikoni was usually an extremely articulate, if somewhat quiet, individual. Of course, she had seen him drinking quite a bit... all of a sudden it was a war between some kind of morbid curiosity to see just where that conversation was going and to leave well enough alone.

After a few more seconds of inner debate, the dark elf turned on her heel an approached the two from the other side. "It seems I'm not the only one who sought a bit of peace and quiet," she commented, both in something of a guess as to the answer to the only verbalized utterance thus far and also because she really had no idea how to make her entrance into this conversation any less awkward than that.

And with that statement, she had exhausted all possible options for things to say that didn't sound irreparably inane. Or maybe there had been no such thing to begin with, and she sounded even more ridiculous than she thought she did. Oh well. In for a penny, in for a pound. She didn't really want to turn the conversation back to the battle (though she was curious as to exactly how common those large-ish dragons from earlier before were), so she went for the next best thing. "I don't know about the two of you, but I get the distinct impression that the people here would rather we were anywhere else. When do we move out?"

Some small part of herself kind of hoped it was going to be early the next morning, just because seeing everyone try to manage that with the hangovers they were going to have would be rather funny. Mostly she just wanted to leave because she disliked being surrounded by potential enemies. She had learned to see such things everywhere she looked, not that the locals were making it hard, and she of all people knew it took no particular level of skill to does someone's food with toxin, especially if they wouldn't be able to taste the difference through the booze. It set her teeth on edge, being here, and even now she scanned the surroundings constantly, glad once again for her senses.




"I could have sworn I saw him go out the back door," a female voice said from somewhere behind Alistair, and he flinched.

"Well, he's not here now," another replied, and it sounded closer. He almost sighed, but that would have been a dead giveaway, and so instead he ducked around the next corner, presently cursing the fact that his plumage was the approximate color of a Child's robe and thus absolutely unhelpful when trying to conceal himself at night. A snowstorm, sure, he'd be completely invisible, useless as that was. Again, it seemed his genetics were out to get him. All of this was probably some form of karmic punishment for leaving his clan and taking up with the Murder, he just knew it.

"So we keep looking, then, unless you want to go back in and get your ass handed to you by Qinn again."

There was some inaudible grumbling, and Alistair tried very hard not to laugh despite himself. "Why didn't you try, anyway? You probably could have beaten her if you wanted to."

"For Achiru? Not worth it. I prefer my males considerably more... well, something." Oh no. Alistair moved again, trying to find someplace where he could properly conceal himself. Was he being something of a coward in this moment? Assuredly. But he had no desire to turn this into a confrontation, which was the other way of dealing with this sort of thing. Chivalry was not a particularly adaptive trait in his species, but he had it anyway.

"Really? But Alistair's so... weird. Cute, but weird." Well, yes, that might be the word for it, now that he got to thinking about it. Ah, how he wished he could fly right now! He'd be able to outrun them in the air, but on the ground, they were all about as useless as each other.

"He is not!" the first voice protested hotly, and if he hadn't been so busy darting around corners and trying to get outof hearing range, he might have dragged a hand down his face. This was why he avoided females at all costs. Glancing around frantically, he discovered what might be the very thing he was looking for: an elderly orcish woman was beckoning him in the direction of her small home. Reassuring himself that he was still armed, Alistair took the only way out available to him and made his way over.

He was ushered inside a small house, cozy but comfortable-looking, with a nice fire crackling in the hearth already. His rescuer closed the door softly behind them and smiled kindly, crossing to a small kitchen space and pulling out various cooking implements and foodstuffs. A quick glance around was all it took to confirm that she likely lived alone, so an ambush was unlikely. Even so, he checked the rafters and the one visible window, which drew a rolling chuckle from his savior.

"Nobody's going to jump in and kill you, Legionnaire." Alistair glanced up sharply, but she was only smiling and shaking her head good-naturedly, and so he relaxed marginally. "Take a seat. You look like you don't eat enough; I'll fix that soon enough."

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Faera at some point after that particular song had finished decided that she really was done dancing, because it was making her quite a bit too dizzy for her own liking. By methods not really understood to herself, she managed to get off the bar with what remained of her dignity still intact. Which was really only saying that she did not faceplant into the floor of the taphouse.

Her stomach was turning uncomfortably again, though, and she kind of wished she'd asked Talae for something for her stomach. For someone who spent so much time on poisons, her sister knew a few useful remedies, too. She was thinking maybe it would be a good idea to go outside and get some fresh air (even if she could hear it raining), but her path was blocked by a man falling over.

Well, falling over wasn't really the best way to describe what had happened, actually. Unless you could fall down a... flight of punches. Except there was only one. It's hard to think, she decided, at about the same time as what had actually happened registered with her. Duran had... had punched someone, and then that someone had fallen over! For some reason, Fae found this hilarious, and started giggling. It was full-blown laughter a few seconds later though, and she fell into a nearby chair, clutching her sides.

Part of her (the part that was still capable of not-silly thoughts) was reminding her that such a thing was absolutely not funny in any way, but it was drowned out by whatever was making her head so fuzzy, and so even when she managed to contain herself enough to speak, there was still clear amusement in her voice. "What... did he do? I wanna know becaush... I don't want to get punched. I thought druidsh ushed lotsh of magic, but you... you could probably hurt a dragon with your fistsh. Or your 'bear' handsh!" This brought on further gales of laughter, and she motioned to the other side of the table, which she presumed to include a seat.

"You should sh- sit! Beelzes made me try thish thing called 'brandy' and you should have shome too!"




"When you met this older fellow, how much did he teach you? About how your power actually works?" Thanaros questioned carefully. He and Neira were by now on the more residential side of town, a fact that both were aware of, but neither concerned themselves with particularly. Their walking did not have a destination, after all, only the movement itself.

"Well, I know about the difference between tangible and intangible, though I've never used anything tangible on purpose. There have been a few... accidents, though. Other than that, I know where my center is and how to protect it. That was basically all I learned. The rest of it was sort of figuring things out as I went." The nightmarian shrugged; she'd never needed skills other than the ones she had before, so it had never occurred to her to attempt to learn them. "Oh... and I'm pretty sure that Silenced I ran into left something in my head somewhere. I want to get it out, but I'm not so stupid as to go looking for it without knowing how to deal with it properly."

"That's probably wise," Thanaros replied with a nod. He was in his element discussing this sort of thing, so there wasn't an awkwardness to it, really. He'd been half-expecting to have his head bitten off (metaphorically, of course), but it wasn't actually that bad.

"So. What exactly is wrong with my approach?" There was something underlying the question, as though the wrong response would be a bad move for more reasons than one. He ignored it and tried to think of how best to phrase what he was getting at.

"It's best not to rely too heavily on being able to produce one certain state in order to use your power," he explained. "If you have to want to... hurt someone in order to use it, that naturally limits your power."

"Don't you basically do the same thing, only with calm?" she shot back irritably, but he shook his head.

"That's a symptom, not the cause. Using my power stunts my emotions, not the other way around."

She was surprised at that, and it showed in her face. "Is it possible that I am also...?"

"I don't know, but it's something worth finding out. Close your eyes, and try not to think of anything in particular."

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#, as written by Smith
The raunchy song had finally come to an end and a surprising amount of couples formed as the women hopped down off of the bar. Beelzes took great care to help her tiny ward down to level ground. Well, maybe not so level considering how much of the good-stuff she'd pumped into Faera. Beelzes patted Faera's head and beamed with pride as the little drunk made her own terrible puns. That pride melted into slight embarassment, her pale-tattooed skin coloring red as Faera divulged the source of her giddiness. "Shh, that's enough now dear. Have some bar-nuts!"

Mikana's laugh was barely above a whisper, her severed vocal cords not able to produce the full sound. Still, the petite elf enjoyed herself immensely in the company of her fellows. Mikana wrapped her arms around Caine's neck and tried to hoist the bumbling man up. Oaf... she thought with a smile. She moved some of her azure locks from her face and leaned forward to kiss the berserker.

A human, my dear? Disgusting. Truly, there are many less appaling choices to be found in Norr. the eloquent, distinctly male voice within her skull caused Mikana's spine to tingle. She froze and stared into Caine's eyes. Her expression was one of slight confusion and a twinge of fear. She found herself completely immobile. Come now my dear child, return to the fold. with that, it all came back to her in a flood. Memories, emotions, experiences, abilities...allegiances.

The elf's face broke into a seductive grin and she ran a slender finger down the Caine's jawline, moving slightly to trace her finger across his lips. Mikana's eyes flashed with a burning desire...maybe not the one Caine might have expected. It promised something much more sinister than a tumble in the sheets. With the speed of a striking snake her lips were locked to his in a rough kiss, her hand gripping the back of Caine's head by his hair. Without warning the embrace was broken and the blue-haired elf was lost in the crowd. Noticing the sudden change in atmosphere, Iriana waited for a minute or so before slithering out into the rain after Mikana.


A sigh almost hissed it's way out of Wrath's lips when he heard the approach of one of his legionnaires. It came a surprise when he glanced back to see Kisikoni; He normally never heard the deep human's approach. Looking past the wavering man though, Wrath thought he caught a glimpse of someone else in the pale moonlight. "The damned rain is picking up again, eh? What're you doin' sittin' here all by your lonesome?"

Wrath tried not to wince. Trying not to speak to drunks. "Just wanted some quiet, Ayalen. It's nice out here..." the general smirked and leaned back against one of the awning support-beams. "And I like the rain, alot." Wrath looked back to the rippling pond and observed the scene of water falling into water. Failing miserably at doing so, it seems.

"It seems I'm not the only one who sought a bit of peace and quiet," the second voice nearly made Wrath jump out of his seat. These footsteps Wrath had not heard coming. He set a level stare upon the winsome dark elf, moving over across the bench in case she opted to sit. "I don't know about the two of you, but I get the distinct impression that the people here would rather we were anywhere else. When do we move out?"

A good question. Wrath pretended to mull it over for a second before looking out across the water again. "No less than three days from now. That isn't even including the etire army...mostly just the Black Guard and our forward mounter ranks. Two or three scout-legions as well...only mobile units." he smirked at Talae. "Figure you could live the life of a spoiled soldier a bit longer if you hung back with our middling forces?" a joke, but not entirely unplausible. There were many legionnaires who would be 'helping out' in securing the town over the next week or so just to enjoy the spoils of war for a few days longer.

Out of the corner of his eye, Wrath caught a steady wave of movement. A line of twenty or so townsmen--almost all deep human, orc, elf or dark elf--was advancing on the gazebo. The figure in the lead was the most intriguing. At first he thought is was Child, for indeed it wore the flawless white robe emblazoned with crimson flame, but that seemed to account for most of it's body. The robe was overly large, as was the hood, and the edges billowed outward constantly despite the lack of wind while some sort of darkness permeated the interior of the cloak. Not even the rain helped to keep the fabric down. It was impossible to tell what race the occupant of the animated robes was. Wrath was already standing and trying not to curse.

"It seems we have some company, either of you have a knife?
I'm pretty sure we;ll have to fight, that is, if you value your life."

The Song came unsteadily. He had not prepared any spellsong for a couple weeks now and it already felt unfamiliar and cumbersome. Still, a faint blue aura radiated a few feet out from the bard, creating a field that would increase awareness and cleanse minor toxins. Hopefully that included the fog of intoxication. They were in the most isolated portion of the city, practically no legionnaires close enough to call to for help. Wrath cursed himself for leaving the remnant-chain in his quarters...the far-speaking stone only worked during the day. He stood, staring at the motly assortment of poorly armed townsmen and women who had simply stopped some thirty paces away. The ghostly-Child stared back from under the darkness of their hood.

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#, as written by Arke
Kisikoni wondered whether the Commander was really just an anti-social loner. "Air, eh?" He drawled, thinking about it. "Yeah. Nothin' bett'r than air during a rainstorm. Can taste that freshness ten feet under, even." He said, his head swaying from side to side. He had managed to retrieve his second butterfly sword shortly after the battle- when the god damned child burned him he dropped it but found it later amidst the bodies. Now the two swords clanked happily as they slapped the edge of the bench. The pattering of rain didn't calm the spirit he let loose.

He stared into the rain, picking out the form of Talae before he even recognized her. " 'Ey! There be my favorite dark elf!" He said before she drew close to make her snarky comment. He listened to her briefly, his hearing dropping in and out at odd moments.

"It seems... only one who sought a ...eace and quiet," He heard her, and his eyes blankly returned a confused stare. "...about the two of you, but I get the distinct impression that the ...'re anywhere else. When do we move out?" He was about to make a loud outburst, but what little discipline remained grounded in the storm that is his mind stopped him. He thought about it seriously as Wrath responded. Not for long, eh? Well, the Dragon's weren't going to let the Legion sit around and rest in it's towns. Better press the attack- strike the iron while it's still hot. Yes.

"Ehh. The citizens... they make their own choices. We... we.. be the same- if the Dragons invaded us a-a-and took o'er our lands." He slurred. "Shhhhpeaking of which..." he mumbled while bobbing his head in one motion toward the crowd of citizens gathering. He hoisted himself up, stumbling forward and grabbing Talae's shoulder for support. "Whoopsie. Sorry 'bout tha, partner." He said with unusual warmth, looking at the butterfly swords tied to his waste for a long time. A blue light flooded Kisikoni, and he felt a burning sensation in his stomach. "Ow." He complained, as his motor skills were somewhat restored and his head was slightly cleared. This would definitely assist in lessening the blow the hangover would give. Kisikoni didn't give the situation too much thought as of now- the lone child was fairly interesting though, robes that differed from the regular child.

He raised his fists, forgetting entirely about the weapons tied to his waist. The citizens had stopped about thirty paces away. Kisikoni's hands contorted themselves: the fingers curling in halfway and the wrists turning inward into a relaxed position- as if he had been sitting in that position all day. He swayed slightly.

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