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Frigg

[abandoned]

0 · 421 views · located in Grishaverse

a character in “The Grisha Chronicles”, originally authored by esoteric, as played by RolePlayGateway

So begins...

Frigg's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alvida Giese Character Portrait: Anya Ivanov Character Portrait: Dmitri Giese Character Portrait: Taras Nikolaev Character Portrait: Katya Volkov Character Portrait: Faylan "Fang" Jae-Won Character Portrait: Aleksey Utkin Character Portrait: Adrian Naumov Character Portrait: Mikkel Zivkovic Character Portrait: Adisa Useni Character Portrait: Sin Nari Character Portrait: Bea Zaveri Character Portrait: Frigg
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#, as written by Layla
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xxxxxxThe sky emptied its pocket of stars and their brilliance freckled the abyss in molten gold. Night descended upon Ravka in rivers of coal, the burning suns dying embers in its chest and the moon a rounded stone. A gentle wind coursed through the city's thicket of wood and limestone, gliding over dappled rooftops and spiralling into the vaulted ceilings of the Grand Palace.
xxxxxxThe path to the royal grounds was born of Inferni fire, which flickered hotter and longer than ordinary flame. The stretch of torches had been lit to guide those unfamiliar to Os Alta, where all had been invited to celebrate ten years of peace between kingdoms after centuries of war.
xxxxxxTonight the moon devoured the sun, and all would feast on its bones. The Festival of Litha or resurrection was more a distraction than a celebration, the riot of colour and rows of suckling pig a desperate attempt at compensating for lifetimes of fear and death. They had renamed the Darkening following the obliteration of the Shadow Fold, when the Darkling had revealed himself to be the harbinger of ruin. Now they celebrated the ebbing of the moon and the return of the sun - the dark age that had come to pass.
xxxxxxMerchants hung the bones of saints from their stalls, or so it was they claimed. Superstition led many Ravkans to believe the bodies of saints held remnants of their souls and bestowed upon their bearers protection. On a day when darkness might triumph over light, the bones of the Sun Summoner were especially popular. Yet had all the fragments of fingertip and knuckle been hers, she would have been as much a saint as a cousin of the octopi.
xxxxxxCavalcades rumbled to a halt beyond the palace gates, their vehicles a sure determinant of the delegation they carried. The Ravkans rode in on great stallions and horse-drawn carriages crafted by the sturdy hands of Fabrikators, their amber, brown and ebony procession a stark contrast to the white wolves that walked alongside the procession of Fjerdan governors. They arrived as companions, their freedom evidence of the respect they had amongst the northerners.
xxxxxxMeanwhile, the Zemeni rode atop colourfully spun yarn and wooden coffers fashioned onto elephants, whose tusks were given points of brass and iron. The Kerch merchants arrived in their shining chariots wearing thick petticoats and fine suits that seemed understated compared to the sedan chairs that carried Shu royals in elaborate robes. They were inlaid with gold and jade and braced upon the soldiers of bent servants.
xxxxxxRavkan sentries could be seen at every turn, their spines pillars of steel that did not waver under scrutiny. No Grisha had been placed at the entrance so as to ease the transition of the various delegates into the palace. Never had the union of the five territories been attempted and some continued to harbour great hostility towards the Grisha.
xxxxxxKing Nikolai Lantsov and Queen Nazyalensky sat atop their velvet chairs, which had been elevated onto a stage. They were a paradox of hues. The king was dressed in a cape of embroidered gold and fur lining that mimicked his sun brown hair and warm hazel eyes. A smile played on his lips, the glint in his gaze rivalling the shine of his crown, they harboured a great many secrets and no small amount of wit. The queen was his mirror of silver and white, the translucent gauze of her dress shifting like liquid moonlight around her. It juxtaposed the obsidian of her dark hair and the brilliant azure of her eyes.
xxxxxxThe highest-ranking delegates from each kingdom sat on either side of the Ravkan monarchs, the legs of their chairs ever so slightly shorter, the difference so minimal they might have been attributed to architectural faults. A performance space stretched before them under the cover of stars, surrounded by lesser nobles and poorer merchants.
xxxxxxApplause erupted from the audience as the Kerch jesters retreated from the stage following their elaborate play involving twenty carrots and a single dart. The crowd dispersed momentarily in the transition between performances and servants dressed in white took the opportunity to weave between guests, offering trays of smoked duck and flutes of champagne. Music spilled from the towering branches of the Royal Eastern Gardens, where flutists and violinists were perched on trees. Cloths of gold and silver tumbled from the forest green trees, the colours of the the Lantsov family.

xxxxxxThe Lieutenant Commander of the Ravkan Army stood a ways behind her king and queen, eyes unblinking as if she might bore holes into the skull of the soldier dozing at his post. He jerked awake, searching frantically for any witnesses until he saw the Executioner and froze. Katya Volkov memorised the planes of his face and the gargantuan mole atop his left cheek, which she could see with perfect clarity hundreds of feet away. She swore to rain all the saints' wrath upon him.
xxxxxxAdmittedly, she might have slept as well if not for her place atop the dias. She was certainly unimpressed enough to. Each performance drained some of her life force and every courtier her faith in humanity. Lord Belov, the bane of her existence - and she was quite certain of Lady belov's as well - had somehow weaselled his way to the space by the dais and was at present licking his lips whilst attempting to maintain prolonged eye contact. Katya's deadpan gaze slid off of him with the enthusiasm of one at their deathbed.
xxxxxxShe felt naked without her light armour, and not in the way she found pleasant or liberating. Katya wore only a jarringly extravagant set of tunic and pants beneath the heavy weight of her kefta. Kir had insisted on "formalities," and had for a time insisted she wear a dress. You don't need to run to stop a heart, he'd reasoned. And you don't need two kidneys, she'd retorted.
xxxxxxKatya had put an end to his madness, but he had stuffed her in a thousand laces of death instead. They wove along the front of her blouse, the edge of of her belt and the front of her knee-high boots. She could not fathom what purpose they possibly served.
xxxxxxThe kefta she wore was not her usual. This was thicker and heavier, the hood trimmed with fur and the maroon patterns threaded with genuine rubies. She felt like a Yule tree and was not entirely certain she did not look like one either.
xxxxxxKir stood beside her now, his chestnut hair which never failed to curl at his nape and ears made sleek by tailors. Katya stopped herself from turning to admire the fitted jacket he wore, or to observe the way the firelight played in his dark eyes. She was glad he wore no heavy kefta, being non-Grisha. It made him easier to admire.
xxxxxxShe cursed the day he experienced puberty and promised death to herself if she were to become one of his many glossy-eyed admirers. She had better, more important things to look at. An attack could happen at any moment and she had to remain vigilant.
xxxxxx"Commander Volkov," someone whispered. Her hand leapt to the dagger at her side. "No- Please. There has been a-" The soldier's tone was hesitant as his gaze darted to the nobles seated on the platform.
xxxxxx"Is it important?" she asked. Sergeant Iosif glanced nervously at the hand she kept on the hilt of her jewelled dagger - another absurd prop for tonight's reverie.
xxxxxx"Ah, well, you see-"
xxxxxx"Is it important?" Katya asked slowly and deliberately.
xxxxxx"Yes."
xxxxxxShe bowed low to the king and queen, though their backs were turned to her. Kir did not spare her a glance as Katya leapt off the dais. She followed the soldier through the palace.
xxxxxx"Brief," she said.
xxxxxx"There's been a breach," Iosif replied as they walked quickly so as not to alarm the guests. "An unidentified carriage somehow slipped through our sentries at gate. When we stopped them, the riders ran. One was shot and killed by our archers and the other is being held for interrogation."
xxxxxx"You need me, why?"
xxxxxx"We're having trouble," Iosif's voice wavered. "Breaking him."
xxxxxx"What was he transporting?"
xxxxxx"We don't know. We searched the carriage but the cargo inside is completely sealed. We think a Durast must have tampered with it. The Fabrikators are celebrating with the other off-duty officers tonight and we haven't been able to get a hold of them." He shrugged.
xxxxxxThey walked to the Western end of the palace. The festivities had ebbed further from the gardens until none of the partygoers were left. A few soldiers stood around a lonely carriage, none of them Grisha. A man sat bound and gagged by the wheels, his eyes wide and frightened. Katya felt his heart stammering like a hummingbird in his chest. She ripped the cloth from his mouth.
xxxxxx"Please, you have to help me. These people, they're trying to kill me-" the man cried.
xxxxxx"What's in the carriage?" asked Katya.
xxxxxx"I don't know I don't know. Please, you have to-"
xxxxxx"What's in the carriage?" she repeated. The man offered the same unintelligible response. It was always difficult to decipher the truth from an anxious body. Panic made people sweat, their minds muddy and their hearts hammer so quickly it was impossible to tell if they were lying or simply afraid. It was why she never tortured them first if she could coerce the truth instead. It was too late now.
xxxxxxKatya turned to the carriage, her fingers feeling for the latch and handle. She swung the door open. Her eyes widened, then narrowed.
xxxxxx"There's nothing-“
xxxxxxThe last thing Katya felt was the shattering impact of something hard against her temple before she descended, enveloped in cold oblivion.

xxxxxxSalt permeated the night air, though the privateer had grown so accustomed to it he scarcely noticed its scent at all. Tonight the docks were illuminated by torches and oil lamps that seemed to float like sentient beings with those who held them. They bobbed like the ends of fishing lines cast across the sea, drifting down the pier to coalesce with the myriad of colours burning brightly in the festival. The flame called to him. He responded with silence.
xxxxxxHis crew was already immersed in the night's festivities, having docked not an hour before. He had chosen a nondescript location to steer their ship, which, as far as anyone was concerned was only a wealthy Kerch merchant's side hobby. Unlike the majority of pirate captains, Fang preferred they remain unidentifiable. The Crimson Tide had no distinguishing masts or billowing flags, or it did, but both were equally likely to be found on simple merchant ships. It was better to catch the others unawares when he drained them for all they were worth.
xxxxxxFang tilted his head against the mast of the Crimson Tide, lifting a bejewelled hand above his head. He squinted through one eye at the thumb he held over the moon, shifting until the sphere was hidden behind it. He imagined yielding the sky from its perch and turning it over in his fist. Perhaps he'd discover the great expanse of night was not unlike a hot lump of coal, burning brightly for a moment before turning cold.
xxxxxxAn arrow whistled past him and skewered the pillar by his ear.
xxxxxxFang barely winced. These things had happened before and seemed only to be increasing in frequency. He had not the faintest idea who it was who sent him on these little errands - or he did but preferred not to say - only that they always yielded great reward. Some of the errands seemed utterly mundane and unworthy of such significant pay, though he was not likely to complain. Whether it be gold, a rare collectible or information regarding a competitor, his payment appeared in the same way as his missions - suddenly.
xxxxxxHe only wished whoever was leaving him these little messages would leave his ship out of it. Fang rubbed the splintered wood.
xxxxxx"Ever heard of a carrier pigeon?” he called out into the dark. A seagull squawked in response.
xxxxxxFang wiggled the arrow head free from where it was lodged in his ship, taking care to be as gentle as he could. This was blatant vandalism. A crime against humanity. Still he tugged the envelope free from the feathered end of the spear where it had been tied.
xxxxxxThe seal was familiar to him now, though the symbol was merely a nonsense thing that bore some vague resemblance to a sun, or perhaps a kidney bean. It was always hard to tell. Fang slipped his fingers under the seal and flipped it open. The letter inside was small and harboured only a single sentence.
xxxxxxFlames danced from a nearby torch to lick the edge of the letter. Fang burned it to ash.
xxxxxxFang took a slip of paper from his pocket and a self-inking pen he stole from a merchant's desk. He scribbled his own message onto the surface and folded it into a perfect square, running his finger gently along the edge so the trickle of Inferni heat sealed it shut.
xxxxxx”Hey, old man!” Fang turned, searching the docks for the source of the shrill voice. “Down here!"
xxxxxxFang looked down. A scrawny boy peered at him with his hands on his hips, looking for all the world as if he owned it despite the dirt and grime that coated him like a second skin.
xxxxxx”’Old man?’” Fang echoed.”I’ll have you know I’m in my prime."
xxxxxx”Yeah, whatever. You got any work?"
xxxxxx”It’s Litha,” Fang said slowly.
xxxxxx”I’m poor, not stupid. I know what day it is."
xxxxxx”Clearly. Lucky for you, I do.” Fang held out the folded piece of paper. “I’ll give you a silver piece to deliver this-“ Fang snatched the paper away before the boy’s quick fingers could tear it from him. Unopened to a Mister Mikhail Pavus at the Dragonfly Inn. He’ll give you another coin if you hand it directly to him and if the letter remains unmolested."
xxxxxx”Should you be using that word in front of a kid?"
xxxxxx”Do you see any around?” asked Fang. “Because I certainly wouldn’t trust a kid with this very important letter."
xxxxxx”Fine. Deal. Just give me the letter. You want it delivered as soon as possible, don’t you?"
xxxxxx”Un-"
xxxxxx”-molested. I got it. Geez, old people are so chatty,” the boy grumbled.
xxxxxx”To Mikhail…” Fang prompted.
xxxxxx”Pancreas?"
xxxxxx”Pavus.”
xxxxxx”Panus."
xxxxxx”Pah. Vus.”
xxxxxx”Pavus. Yeah, yeah, that’s what I said.” The boy pocketed Fang’s silver coin and snatched the letter from his hands. He wasted no time, disappearing into a narrow alleyway Fang hadn’t noticed existed. He sighed, wondering if perhaps old age was coming upon him if his eyesight had grown so poor. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and started on his journey.
xxxxxxThe sentries stationed at the gates of the palace waved him through as they returned his merchant's papers to him. He smiled. They glowered. Even now, the Shu were not awfully popular in most places. He didn't blame them, though it had been long since he last considered himself a citizen of Shu Han. He preferred to think he was a child of the sea, forged of great and wondrous adventures, and a collector of pieces from every kingdom.
xxxxxxThe Eastern Gardens was a cacophony of music and noise. Laughter floated like the top notes of a sonnet and banter like the undercurrents of bass. The clinking of glasses was a punctuation and the shuffling feet a smooth legato. He saw a few of his crew lingering in the crowd, no doubt taking advantage of the myriad of pretty men and women. They knew better than to look his way, but they kept him in their periphery, always the loyal sailors protecting their captain, or as loyal as pirates could be.
xxxxxx"Ladies, gentlemen, a few words, if you will," called a woman from the dais. She spoke Kerch, the language of trade and the common tongue. Her skin was a dark contrast to the silver-rimmed chalice she held in her hand. The braids that spilled down her back swayed with her movements as she turned to address the audience. "A toast to the King and Queen of Ravka, and their unborn heir." She bent to give the Ravkan Queen a conspirator's smile, which the latter returned as she placed a hand over her swollen belly.
xxxxxx"After centuries of conflict, we have gathered here for the first time to celebrate peace," the woman continued. "The Zemeni delegation wishes to offer a special performance by our most famed troop of dancers as a token of our gratitude."
xxxxxxThe woman bowed and returned to her seat. The lights dimmed and eerie music trickled into the garden, seemingly from nowhere. Zemeni dancers crawled onto the stage like wraiths, their movements across the floor like the creeping vines of ivy. They wore the masks of animals - the Ravkan stag, Fjerdan wolf, Zemeni lion, Shu dragon and Kerch raven. They spun, their silk dresses floating around them like ripples on water. The audience was mesmerised.
xxxxxxSuddenly, a shock of drum echoed through the gardens, followed by another and another. The drumming rose in rapid succession as the beasts leapt as one, their backs arching as they danced barefoot across the stage. Flames erupted from the pillars rising from each corner and Fang found himself leaning forward, aching to submerge himself in the lure of heat.
xxxxxxAs abruptly as they came, the fire twisted away from him, feeling strange and foreign. Fang was thrown backwards as the flame arched towards the audience. They screamed, running before they were obliterated by the pillars of red. Some were not so lucky. Fang did not think - he reached out and pulled, yanking the path of fire away from the audience, but could not fight against whatever Inferni was manipulating the element for long. He had to find the source instead.
xxxxxxAn impossible gust of wind threw the tables and chairs arranged about the garden. Fang looked up and saw - it was impossible - but he saw a man levitating above the stage. Yet squallers could not fly. Onikh.
xxxxxx"The King!" screamed a voice in the audience. A dagger whistled through the air. The General moved quickly, shoving the king aside as the blade embedded itself in the centre of his seat. He unsheathed his sword and held it before him.
xxxxxxThe Stag stood before the dais, the dancer's mask illuminated by the flickering light of flame. Brown sun-streaked hair fell in thick curls down her back as she clutched a jewelled dagger in her hand. The audience shrieked, retreating frantically from the stage, only to be tossed back by the squaller's wind. Ravkan soldiers rushed forward to protect their king and seize the attackers. An arrow whistled from overhead where the archers were stationed.
xxxxxxThe stag's mask cracked with the impact of the arrowhead and fell to the ground.
xxxxxx"Katya?" the General whispered. The girl did not wait to explain. She leapt into a run as the arrows that came for her were scattered by a deafening howl of wind. Another squaller descended from the skies, their eyes bloodshot and lips moving to an invisible song.
xxxxxx"What is the meaning of this?" cried a man dressed in scarlet robes. The Shu royal turned to the king and queen, except the latter was nowhere to be found.
xxxxxx"Zoya-" Nikolai began. "The Queen. Where is the Queen?"
xxxxxx"My King, we must take you from here for your own safety," said the General.
xxxxxx"You would attack us with your sorcerers on a night of peace?" the Shu raged. "How dare you!" Suddenly the man dropped to his knees, clutching his throat as his eyes bulged. He jerked, seizing on the floor.
xxxxxx"Get the healers! Where are our Grisha?" the King barked.
xxxxxx"M-My lord." The soldier pointed at the squallers floating in the sky and the inferni raging havoc on the ground. "Those are our Grisha."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alvida Giese Character Portrait: Dmitri Giese Character Portrait: Frigg
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

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      xxx“Ever heard of a carrier pigeon?”

      xxxFrom the shadows, a smile spread. Hands came up to cup around it, amplifying a bird call as it was made; a call that was more like a seagull and less like the pigeon the privateer was referring to. Mirthful eyes watched as the arrow was retrieved and the message was read, glistening in the depths of a narrow alleyway as the paper was set aflame. Only then did the shrouded figure turn on their heels, bow quickly flung over their shoulder as they retreated, neither sound nor silhouette accompanying them as they went. "Message received," they thought, "Now to tell Zoya the good news."

      xxxOut of the darkness, the figure paused, pulling off their hood to greet the pale moonlight. Wild curls burst from their prison as the fabric was drawn down, framing the face of a young woman. Hers was a face of rebellious youth. Although her body was a palette of warm, neutral tones, her soul was made of vibrant color; carefully outlined and painted with the rarest hues. Her laugh could make a person feel the brightness and warmth of the color yellow and her smile was soft pink. Much like a child, she carried a hint of a smirk on her lips and mischief in her gaze, her body poised like a coiled spring. Now with the festival in full swing, she could barely seem to contain herself. She was vibrating in her skin with excitement, falling in step with the crowd as they made their way to the castle gardens.

      xxxMusic poured out of the garden as she entered, ensnaring her in its jovial swing. Immediately, her feet made towards the center of the grounds where patrons had gathered to dance, wanting to lose herself amidst twirling bodies and shimmering ball gowns. Whispers could be heard amongst the chattering nobility, huddled together like conspirators in a dark corner. Her ears ached to listen, her curiosity goading her desire to know what they were talking about so enthusiastically. She was, however, here on business – this she reminded herself as she took to the alcoves, attracting no one’s attention save for the occasional servant that passed her by. Dark eyes flit across the stage where the delegates of each kingdom sat, holding the queen’s visage in her gaze just as the music gradually came to an end. Jesters from Kerch took towards the stage, and it was in those brief moments where the crowd dispersed and the performance began that she sought out her majesty’s gaze.

      xxxThere she was… a beacon atop the stage, sitting proudly next to her husband in statuesque perfection. Eyes of crystalline blue were gleaming with an unearthly quality above her concave cheekbones, shining with the faraway look of a star gazer as they swept across the room. Frigg’s heart nearly stopped when she finally looked at her. Her breath caught in her throat for a brief moment, her body falling heavily against the pillar she’d been leaning on. Music fell to white noise and even time itself stood still. Everyone else faded away around her, as if they were the only two in the garden. Zoya raised a questioning brow not a second later, setting everything back into motion. True to form, the former general got right to the point. Did the message get delivered? Frigg threw a cheeky wink in her direction in affirmation, only to receive a private smile in return.

      xxxSadly, that was all it took. With that small gesture, the tracker fell a little in love with her, losing yet another piece of herself to the other woman. It felt idiotic, harboring a crush on someone so unattainable, but it couldn’t be helped. She’d long since deluded herself into thinking that she knew the queen, as if they were more than just private business associates. In spite of that, Frigg yearned to earn that smile again. She wanted to be the cause of all her smiles, however rare they might be. She wanted to talk to her about anything other than sending out messages or gathering information. She wanted to stand at the queen’s side, to be her confidant. She wanted to be noticed. God, that smile. It felt so special because it was the first time she’s ever seen her face lit up that way. For a moment she let herself believe that it wasn’t a farce, that the queen wasn’t wearing a mask of contentment in order to appease her guests. For a moment – if only a moment – Frigg let herself believe that Zoya was genuinely pleased to see her, and that was more destructive than anything she’d ever done before.

      xxx"Alright, you can go now." she told herself as the performance began, "You’ve done your part, now leave." but she couldn’t bring herself to move. While others watched the jesters, Frigg kept her eyes on the queen. She felt ridiculous. "She probably doesn’t even realize I’m still here." and it was true. One after another, groups performed in front of the stage and not once did Zoya spare a glance in her direction. Frigg could only huff a laugh, amused by her own hopelessness, forcing her gaze away to survey the other patrons in attendance.

      xxx“Ladies, gentlemen, a few words, if you will.” The familiarity of the accent drew her eyes towards the stage once more, confirming Frigg’s suspicions that the woman who took the stage was Zemeni; her darker complexion and the sheen on her braids further proving her assumption. Raising her glass high above the crowd, the Zemeni woman faced the audience with an air of self-importance remnant of Frigg’s homeland. “A toast to the King and Queen of Ravka, and their unborn heir.”

      xxx…-their unborn heir.

      xxxNo three words had ever torn her so asunder.

      xxxOf course she’d suspected. Just that morning she’d met with Zoya about the message she was to deliver before the festival. She’d been showing even then, but Frigg naively turned a blind eye to it. She thought she’d been sparing herself some heartbreak but – in reality – she’d only put off the inevitable. Despite everything else that's happened between them in the past, this seemed to be the last nail in the coffin. For her this was confirmation that her feelings would remain unrequited. This was closure. It was a miserable feeling, but one she was anticipating. Yet, although the wound was fresh, she did not put any blame on Zoya - or even the king, for that matter. She blamed herself more than anyone, mentally berating her own stupidity. Zoya was married, and quite happily too. She wouldn’t break that up, regardless of how she felt. Now there was no other option than for her to move on. She steeled herself for this as she sagged against the pillar, arms crossed over her chest as she vacantly watched as the performing dancers take the stage.

      xxxRadiant silk moved across the stage like water, capturing the dancers in its waves as they moved. It reminded her of the beaches back home, a welcome reprieve from her current thoughts. Masks of every kingdom adorned their faces, concealing the identity of each performer. Briefly, Frigg considered it odd. Growing up in Novyi Zem, she remembered having watched dancers perform at quite a few galas. Their faces were always done up in extravagant makeup, illuminated by candelabras so that they could be seen from any corner of the room. It’d always seemed like a desperate attempt to attain fame from their art, to be recognized on the streets as talented performers. Seeing these dancers now with their faces covered… it was peculiar. Perhaps it was some kind of performance art, or perhaps her homeland really has grown out of some of their vanity. A laugh bubbled up in her chest at the mere suggestion, but she couldn’t dwell on the absurdity for long.

      xxxSuddenly torches flared up overhead, creating a torrent of fire that nearly touched the moonlit sky.

      xxxScreams split the very fabric of sound. Calamity shook the people to their very core. Panic erupted in a flash.

      xxxFlames danced as though they had a will of their own, honing in on the unsuspecting people below. Quickly, Frigg threw herself onto the floor, a tunnel of fire roaring over her head, drowning out the terrified cries of the crowd. Everything happened in bulleted time, disaster unfurling frame by frame. One moment Frigg was on the ground, flames licking the back of her neck as she lied face down in the grass. In the next, the heat was gone from above her. She lifted her head up, watching as a familiar face pulled the flames away from the crowd, siphoning it into the palm of his hand. She’d know him anywhere, knew what he was from the tricks he played with a lighter, but she didn’t know he was capable of something like that. Pride swelled in her chest — "Atta boy, Ruffles" — and it spurred her into motion. She launched herself off of the ground in a full sprint, weaving her way through the stampede of people. In one fell swoop, she was thrown, tossed aside by a gust of wind that sent her and the people around her into the air. She crash landed in a heap in the dirt, shattered tables and chairs and split arrows surrounding her and the other guests. She pushed herself up as people scrambled to run away, crying out in utter terror. Yet, through all the madness and the noise, she heard something that made her take pause.

      xxx“Where is the Queen?”

      xxxHer heart sank in her chest. Without thinking, she threw a glance over her shoulder, eyes darting to the throne where she last saw the former general. Zoya was nowhere to be found. Dread rose in her throat like bile, her heart hammering in her chest as thoughts raced through her head. What happened to her? Where had she gone? Was she safe?

      xxxDanger pulled her gaze away from the vacant seat upon the stage. Towards her an Inferi came, his hands surrounded by great balls of fire. He was truly gruesome to behold: his eyes bloodshot and deranged, his lips pale and cracking. Frigg stood, poised to run, her hand rising to her weapon’s belt she hid beneath her coat as she ran through her options. She could fight. "Ha! No-..." There was no way she could take one of these onikh on her own. "Flight, then."

      xxx“You’re a little rough to look at, ain’tcha,” she taunts, but he doesn’t rise to the bait.

      xxxMuscles in the Inferi’s shoulder bunch, his arm recoiling to hurl a ball of fire in her direction. Frigg is quick to duck, her hands moving even quicker to pluck a smoke bomb from her belt. She throws it on the ground, her eyes on her target, and it explodes between the Inferi’s legs. Smoke spills out around the onikh's feet, spreading up and out in a cloud of dense, black smoke. In its depths she could hear the Inferi's cry of rage, a sound that elicits a shiver of fear that races up her spine. She willed herself to just move, but fear has her glued to her spot. Fire flickered beneath the shroud like lava covered ash, glowing brighter by the second. Realizing she can stay there no longer, Frigg turns on her heels and runs as her feet will carry her.

      xxxAnother gust of wind nearly knocks her off balance, but just as she braces herself the current changes direction. Frigg searches frantically for the source, hoping to find another familiar face at the core of it. She takes a sharp turn, running alongside the tunnel of wind, and then she spots her. An old friend. Alvida’s moniker leaves her lips on breathless relief, but it’s not the sight of the smuggler that stops her in her tracks. She's knocked to the ground, breathless from the impact of whatever was thrown at her before she ever hits the ground. Her hand flies to the back of her neck as a flare of pain suddenly ignites, her blood running cold as flames scorch her skin, the hairs on her nape singed from the fire. Her stomach twists, her face pinched in agony, her eyes tearing up as the scent of burning hair fills her nostrils. Rolling onto her back, she turns her gaze ahead of her, watching as the same Inferi from before closes in on her once again. His dark chuckle as her scrambling to her feet, poised to run as she puts more and more distance between them with every tentative step. Her back is covered in dirt, sweating from the hot leather clinging to her spine. She's nearly backed into a corner and she's running out of options.

      xxx“Oi, you piece of shit!” she hollers, “You burnt my damn hair!”

      xxxHer outburst seems to take the onikh by surprise, allowing her enough time to equip her bow. She slots an arrow as she stands before the onikh with a half-formed plan, releasing it into the onikh's thigh. It pierces his femoral artery, buried deep into the muscle. He screams in pain but it doesn’t stop the Inferi’s approach. Frigg doesn’t waver, holding her ground as he charges toward her with a hand outstretched. Fire gathers in his hands with every step, his breathing erratic as he backs Frigg up against a pillar. Suddenly he loses his footing. The Inferi staggers, his flame flickering out, and he falls onto the ground, completely unconscious. Temporarily, anyway. Frigg sags against the column, her breath quaking as her hands tremble around her bow, eyes glued to the onikh lying just a foot away from where she stood. That had been the strongest sleeping draught in her arsenal, imbued in only a few of her arrows that she kept in her quiver. Having never tested it on an onikh before, Frigg wasn't about to stick around and find out how long the effects will last. She had to get out of there... but not without them.

      xxx“Breezy! Eyebrows! Get your asses in gear and let’s go!”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alvida Giese Character Portrait: Dmitri Giese Character Portrait: Adrian Naumov Character Portrait: Frigg
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xxxxThe idea that Alvida and Dmitri were ‘fighting’ the onihk was a loose one. As the chaos spread and the drugged Grisha continued their unyielding attacks, it became more about avoidance and survival than any attempt to permanently bring down the Grisha. The siblings stayed close together, guarding the other’s back even as they scanned the few who had remained in the area. Their vision was frequently obstructed by walls of scorching flame, or stirred up dirt, so that their search for any of their targets remained slow.

xxxx “There!” Vida cried against the howl of a miniature tornado, her hair whipping across her face as she squinted across the fighting, “Is that-…” The rest of her sentence was lost as the winds hit the pair hard, small stones and saints’ bones picked up by the gusts pelting them like bullets from a fire arm. Vida raised her hands, pushing back against the winds. She couldn’t overcome the squallers sailing above, but her own powers gave Dima and herself enough time to escape from the whirlwind of slicing rock and bone.

xxxxBy the time the siblings had made it to a slightly quieter area, Vida had lost sight of the privateer she had thought she had caught sight of. Yet, another appeared at their side, playful nicknames rolling off the tip of their friend’s tongue as she raced towards them.

xxxx “Frigg!” Dmitri called in turn, eyes scouring over his friend for any signs of immediate damage.

xxxx “You’re here!” Vida exclaimed, her own eyes doing a quick inspection of the Zemeni tracker before adding, “Your hair!

xxxxIt was only then that the siblings registered Frigg’s earlier words. As much as they both might have wished to escape from the unwinnable battle, they had a job to do. “We have to find some people before we leave.” Dima said with a shake of his head, even as his eyes continued to survey their surroundings, making sure that their moment of distraction didn’t result in finding themselves burnt to a crisp.

xxxxFrigg’s coat was repeatedly buffeted by the howling gale, beating against her legs and nearly tripping her as she ran. Her name was carried on that very same wind, reaching her just before she slowed to a halt at their sides. Seeing the Giese siblings again was a beacon of light amidst the chaos; calming her, even after her brush with an onikh. She wouldn’t dwell on the fact that she could’ve just died. Not right now. "That’s a panic attack for another time." Of course it was easy when Vida graciously reminded her that some of her curls had been scorched from a fiery projectile. Throwing her a look of malcontent and an unspoken, ‘Now’s not a good time,, she effectively put a pin in the conversation. Once they were no longer under the threat of death, she’ll definitely have an animated rant about it. Dmitri, however, gave her something to be angry about now.

xxxxWith a fist clenched over her mouth, she barely suppressed an aggrieved cry. “Remember when I said that your work ethic was going to get you killed one day, Eyebrows?” Frigg asked, her hand falling to her side, raising her voice over all the surrounding devastation, “This is the kind of shit I was talking about! Who the hell is so important that they need to be smuggled now?”

xxxxDespite the devastation and very real chance of being burnt to a crisp at any given second, Vida felt a smile quirk her lips at Frigg’s response. Any amusement Dima felt, however, would be kept subdued until their lives weren’t on the line.

xxxx “The queen, for one.” He answered, his gaze momentarily stopping its constant scan for danger to land on the young woman before him, “And a few others.”

xxxxHer reaction was immediate, if only miniscule. The hand on her bow tightened its grip, her posture straightening despite the pain in her back. “You’ll have better luck looking for the others,” she replied, her voice void of any emotion, “The queen’s nowhere to be found. Even the king hasn’t the fucking faintest idea where she is.” Quickly surveying the courtyard around her, she can see others fighting the onikh, grisha and non-grisha alike. This could be their chance to gather who they need and run, but they’ve only as long as the others can survive. “Who else are you looking for?”

xxxxThere was a moment of hesitation between the siblings, and a shared glance that seemed to convey an entire conversation. Then, with a slight nod they reached an agreement, “The second commander-…” Dmitri began.

xxxx “Volkov.” Vida interjected, recalling the woman standing to attention behind the royals.

xxxx “Commander of the third division, and the head of the jurda parem research group.” Dima finished, before movement from the corner of his eye saw his hands clasping around the girls arms and pulling hard. All three jumped back a step, and not a second later a large block of stone struck the ground where they had just been gathered. Dima followed the path of the projectile and felt his eyes go wide at the sight of two individuals – Fjerdan perhaps – taking on one of the onihk. He silently wished them luck, even as he turned his attention back to the two women before him.

xxxx “You’ve been working in Os Alta for a while, would you recognise any of them?” Vida probed hopefully.

xxxxFrigg had seen many a private conversation between the siblings before, but only a few of them were ever about her. With the whole of their exchange being eye contact, it was always sort of nerve wracking to be the subject of discussion when she didn’t know if it would work out in her favor. Thankfully, with how close they’ve all become, she won out this time. She preened a bit at being able to work with them again, especially since, instead of them helping her – as is so often the case - she was helping them.

xxxxThough her visits to Os Alta were always brief, they were often enough that she could recognize most, if not all, of the patrons who lived and worked there; if not by name then by what they did. She’d been able to put names to faces gradually over time, but not all of them. Thankfully, she didn’t need them. “I can help you find them,” she said, barely concealing a smug grin, “I haven’t seen the second commander or the other one since I got here, but I wager they’ll be somewhere fighting. We can probably find the nerd in his lab, I know the way.”

xxxxFrigg’s familiarity with the faces of Os Alta was an advantage, and both Vida and Dima were quick to see that there was a way to capitalise on their piece of luck.

xxxx “We’ll have to split up.” Vida announces, her hand gripping Dmitri’s arm to keep his tongue still as she continues, “I’ll stick around the fighting-…” Vida paused at a look from Dmitri and added with a roll of her eyes, “…the edge of the fighting, and I’ll look for the commander, while you two head towards the labs to find the fabricator. We’ll meet back…?”

xxxx “Safehouse by the docks.” Dmitri answered, leaning in to murmur the address to his sister over the howling of the winds. “If Aleksey Utkin is fighting here, the second commander should be able to recognise him.” Dmitri added, though another eye roll from his sister indicated that she had already figured out as much too.

xxxx “Be safe you two.” Vida said, resisting the urge to hug Dima and Frigg barely.

xxxx “Vida, wait.” Dima pulls her closer, “If you find them and need to convince them, mention Sturmhond.”

xxxx “Sturmhond?” Vida’s confusion was clear, but with limited time she merely nodded and made a mental note to ask Dmitri about it later.

xxxxShe let her gaze flit across the courtyard as the siblings spoke, her ears clinging to their every words as she remained the lookout for any oncoming attacks. Dmitri had pulled them into a corner secluded enough to be easily missed by the onikh, their attention solely on the stranglers that insisted on putting up a fight. It was a sanctuary in the middle of a battlefield, but they wouldn’t remain hidden for long. As Vida made to leave, Frigg turned to her, a look of adoration in her eyes. This woman was one of her best friends, and though she hated to see her go where she couldn’t keep her safe, Frigg knew she was more than capable of taking care of herself. “Stay breezy,” she told her, playing off of the squaller’s nickname in her signature goodbye. It was never really a goodbye though, but rather a promise to see her again.

xxxxTurning towards the older sibling, she catches his gaze, nodding towards the direction of the castle. “Cover me, I’ll lead the way.”

xxxxDima watched his little sister go, pushing down the fear that she’ll get hurt by reminding himself that she was fully capable of holding her own in a fight. Against onihk? Well, that was another a story. Dmitri merely had to hope that Vida would stay away from the dangerous Grisha, find her targets quickly, and leave this death trap. His and Frigg’s imminent health was also of some concern, as, if judging by Frigg’s trajectory, the pair would have to skirt around the heated fighting.

xxxx “The alkemi, can you describe what he looks like?” Dima asked, hefting his blades as he follows closely behind the tracker. His eyes dart around them, watching for danger as they run. The army’s Grisha had arrived, working in coordinated teams to bring down the onihk. Their teamwork was fast, efficient, and deadly, and Dmitri shuddered at the thought of how quickly they would be able to dispose of someone without any Grisha at all.

xxxxWith lips poised to answer, Frigg’s description – "Blonde hair, a bit bug eyed, looks like he’s never spent a day outside in his life" – is put on hold, her attention drawn to a flash of light… but hers isn’t the only set of eyes it’s caught. An onikh squaller shrieks, rushing toward the very scientist that she’d been told to find with murderous intent. She watched the scene as it unfurled with rapt fascination, slightly in awe despite the young man’s flailing. She watched as he bound the squaller in a tapestry and put it on its back, only to see him rooting around in the onikh’s mouth. "Bloody hell, this fucker’s mental," He’s thrown off, watching the onikh struggle to get out of her binding. Whatever he says to the squaller must piss her off because it’s her scream that finally startles him to moving, and it’s to their immense fortune that he almost immediately spots them. Frigg feels Dmitri’s attention shifting at her side as the scientist makes a run for them, and she decides it’s best to let the smuggler know what they’re about to get themselves into. “He looks like that,”

xxxxAt Frigg’s words Dmitri’s attention left the warring soldiers and followed the line of his friend’s gaze to land on a skinny man in the purple kefta of an army Grisha hurtling straight towards him. Only that split second of warning kept Dmitri on his feet. Though, with his daggers clutched tightly in his hands, Dima had to hold himself back from reflexively pushing the knife tip through his attackers flesh. It was a good thing too that he didn’t skewer the Grisha, for, in a pathetic voice, the man introduced himself as ‘Adrian’ and declared that he didn’t want to die.

xxxx“You ain’t the only one,” Frigg retorts, responding to the second half of the young man’s introduction, her eyes cutting briefly to the bound squaller the scientist left behind.

xxxx “Adrian Naumov?” Dima asked, as he stepped out of the path of a smouldering flame. Dmiti’s gaze turned to Frigg, an expression of bewildered surprise clear on his face. Had their target really just found them?

xxxxFrigg’s meets Dmitri’s gaze with a look of equal disbelief. "Oh you don’t know the half of it," she tries to convey, but there’ll be plenty of time for that later. From the looks of the tapestry, they don’t have very long before that onikh gets loose, and then they’ll have a very unhappy squaller on their hands. “…the mad scientist himself,” she says before turning her gaze to Adrian, “We’d best get you outta here before your friend comes looking for you,”

xxxxDmitri couldn’t agree with Frigg more, and with a firm look at the Grisha he nodded away from the fighting, “Stay close to us, Adrian.”. Dima fought the urge to glance back over his shoulder in search of Vida. He had to trust that his little sister would come out of the fighting unscathed. Instead, Dmitri focused on the closest route of escape, his feet slapping against the ground as he urged the others on. It was only as the winds picked up, whipping the tips of his coat against his legs, that Dima risked a look back at the battlefield. Amid a battered and torn tapestry, the drugged squaller was rising, a hurricane propelling her higher while her eyes glared daggers at Adrian.

xxxx “Frigg?” Dmitri called over the winds, “You got anything in your quiver?”

xxxx“Nah, stick close to him. He’ll protect you.” she interjected, her body moving as Dmitri’s did as he took the lead. Frigg kept the smuggler’s pace at his side as they ran, her eyes trained straight ahead, even as the wind picked up behind her. She heard Dmitri’s voice above the gales, his words causing her to look back at the angry squaller currently staring at the mad scientist with murderous intent. "Well shit-…" “Uhhh… yeah. Lead him out, I’ll cover you”

xxxxFrigg plucked an arrow from her quiver as she fell back, slotting it into place as she drew it back. She took aim as she ran, loosing it only for it to get thrown by the squaller’s surrounding winds. Cursing to herself, she stopped, turning to face the onikh as she equipped another. She loosed it, aiming slightly off target, and watched as it was caught in a whirlwind. The arrow flew around the squaller, but it did not circle her. It curved around her side, freed the moment it vanished behind her, shooting off to the onikh’s left. Frigg smirked. "Got you, you flying twat."

xxxxShe loosed another arrow, further off target, watching its trajectory as it circled round. She did the same with three more, none of them aimed for the squaller herself. Each one rode the wind, different ones offering different results. Though the squaller drew nearer, Frigg’s actions kept her attention off the encroaching Grisha soldiers and their pursuit. "That’s it," she thought, "just a little more." She lets loose another arrow, watching as it punctured the wind, dragging across the squaller’s upper arm before it was carried off. Frigg cheers, her spirits high as she reaches into her quiver for another, only for her heart to sink. That was her last one. Thankfully, it was enough. However minor, the scratch was enough to pull the squaller’s attention away, leaving her open to the soldiers as they closed in on her, capturing her in a cyclone of their own.

xxxxFrigg didn’t waste a second running away, her feet carrying her to Dmitri’s side as the squaller’s cries became gasps for air. “Bad news, brows. I’m out of arrows,”

xxxxDmitri and Adrian had barely cleared the courtyard when Frigg returned. “How many did you have?” Dmitri asked, his eyes flicking from Frigg back to the squaller behind them who was being torn down by a group of army grisha.

xxxxFrigg quickly added them up in her head. "One for Ruffles. One in the big guy. So, excluding those, that’s one two three four…" “Six,”

xxxx “Six?” Dmitri exclaimed, “There’s at least a dozen onihk!”

xxxx“And I shot that one!” Frigg countered, “You’re welcome!”

xxxxWith a groan Dmitri decided to drop the topic, instead focusing his energy on making sure he, Frigg, and Adrian made it safely to their destination. He glanced at the alkemi with them, wondering how best to convince the man to come with them to the safehouse now that they were further away from the heart of the mayhem. In the end he decided with the obvious route, “Come with me, we’ll keep you alive.” and hoped that Adrian’s desire to live would, at least temporarily stop him from asking questions.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alvida Giese Character Portrait: Dmitri Giese Character Portrait: Taras Nikolaev Character Portrait: Katya Volkov Character Portrait: Faylan "Fang" Jae-Won Character Portrait: Aleksey Utkin Character Portrait: Adrian Naumov Character Portrait: Adisa Useni Character Portrait: Sin Nari Character Portrait: Bea Zaveri Character Portrait: Frigg
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Adrian's eyes flickered up to the girl at the side of the man whose arm he embarassingly clutched as she responded to his desperate request with a snide retort that he didn't know whether to resent or enjoy. Given the situation, he simply ignored it and released the man's arm who uttered his name as the alkemi swung out of the way of a blast of fire. Adrian froze and eyed the dark-haired man apprehensively, not knowing quite what to make of him.
"How... do you know my name? I'm not exactly popular around here," Adrian growled warily, but the thought flew out of his head only a moment after the question had escaped his lips. The man grabbed his sandy brown hair in his fists, looking around at the scene that enveloped the trio.
"You know what?" he decided weakly, "I don't even care, just get me the hell out of here."
Adrian ignored the tiny facts that were eating away at his mind and tried to focus on staying alive. He ignored little streams of thought like 'Why did they know his name?' or 'How did they know about his "mad scientist" work in his lab?' or 'Why in the world had he antagonized a stupid little Onikh in exchange for the sorriest little saliva sample you ever saw in your whole life?'. Instead, Adrian went against his better judgement for maybe the third time ever and convinced himself that the answers to those questions didn't matter if it meant he got out of this bloodbath alive.
Adrian followed the man across the courtyard of the party, taking care not to make any dire mistakes that would sure spread him across the stone ground like butter across toast. As the two other counterparts of their tiny rag-tag group briefly bickered, Adrian's mind whirred away like it was sprinting. The man was smart enough to swallow all his questions, or at least lock them in the cage in his throat for later. He ran his thumb absentmindedly over the outside of the glass vial, trying to calm the nerves that stretched him into a crazy person. Or a "mad scientist". Whatever you prefer, he figured at this point, he had to be a little bit of both.
“Come with me, we’ll keep you alive.” the man said to him, breaking Adrian from his thoughts. The boy let out a bitter chuckle, flashing the man a grim smile.
"Mister, with a promise like that, I'd follow you to the end of the world."

Relieved that, for now, Adrian Naumov was not asking questions, Dmitri nodded and replied to the grisha, “Hopefully we won’t have to go that far to get to safety.". A small smile flickered across the smuggler’s face before he turned his focus to navigating through the mayhem seeping out of the festival. It almost seemed too easy, and Dmitri could only hope that Alvida was having as much luck with her search. Of course, the challenge now was bringing Adrian and Frigg to Fang’s safe house without being followed, maimed, or killed. Dmitri wasn’t sure how far the onihk’s attack had spread, and he could only hope that it was focused behind them.

“Stay close.” Dmitri added as he turned towards a side street.

Adrian followed Dmitri down the streets, silent if not a little brooding. What would happen after the battle stopped- if it stopped? What would come next? The man could almost feel his research work load double like the weight of the skies on his shoulders. People would be in demand for information as they always did when they didn't understand something that terrified them. The problem was that the information he already had wouldn't really satiate them enough to let him work in peace. No doubt his team would be so far up his ass to figure out the stupid drug. There wasn't a whole lot he could work with anyways and he didn't think any quick break through would be emminent unless they allowed him to have an Onikh in the lab.
That conversation would definitely go off without a hitch.
Still, if the display put on tonight didn't intrigue him, he'd be lying.
It was crazy to think every Grisha could have that level of power, that it could be in them the whole time, it just needed a dangerous nudge.
A shiver ran down Adrian's spine at the thought and he tried to focus on following the man in front of him thorugh the dim streets, his core shaking as adrenaline continued to flow through him.

Dmitri led the Grisha and Frigg further away from the fighting, glancing over his shoulder occasionally to check that no one was following them and that the two following him were at hand. His eyes swept over the Ravkan Grisha during one such glance, and Dima found himself wondering why this man was to be saved from the fray. Years of friendship had built up a solid trust between Dima and Fang, enough that each knew the other's real name, and enough that Dmitri would feel confident having Fang guard his back in any fight. Yet, that did not dampen the curiosity that Dmitri felt regarding this whole situation. As soon as he had time, he would have Fang explain everything to him. But, for now, his main priority was to bring Adrian to the safe house, preferably unmaimed.

Dima's eyes shifted from the alkemi to the tracker behind him, and some of the weight that had settled on Dima's shoulders eased. Like his relationship with Fang, Dima and Frigg had built up a solid amount of trust over the years they had known each other. He was glad to have her support now.

“The safe house shouldn't be much further." Dima murmured softly, so that only the two with him would hear. He had only been to the run-down inn once before, when Fang had first shown the smuggling siblings the place, yet he remembered the place well, and the path there was illuminated in his mind.

A safe house? The thought was reassuring to Adrian. It certainly was a lot better than hiding in an alley and hoping that they didn't get blindsided. Adrian straightened up a little bit, peering over Dmitri's shoulder to look ahead. In the distance, he saw an inn nestled among the buildings. A heavy wooden sign hung over the door, boasting the name: The Reverent Inn. Adrian had never heard of it and after briefly looking around, he didn't think he recognized any of his surroundings. That wasn't really saying much for him, though. Adrian hardly ever left the palace, let alone went outside.
"Is this it?" Adrian demanded, a hint incredulity to his tone. The place looked ordinary in the clearest sense of the word. Sure, it was a safe house and Adrian couldn't pretend he was really experienced with safe houses, but still. Maybe he should stop expecting for thing to be more poetic than they actually were. It was warping his view.
The crew stopped at the entrance of the inn and Adrian ran his eyes over it again, taking it all in with slow deliberation. A long sigh escaped his lips and he glanced over at Dmitri.
"Shall we go in?"

The inn looked just as desolate as Dima remembered. Hiding a smile at Adrian’s tone, Dima nodded and began running calloused fingers over the wooden boards covering one of the inn’s windows. He found the hinge and pulled, revealing a secret opening. With a wave of his hand he ushered Frigg and Adrian through, uttering a quiet, “Come inside, please.” before following them both through the window.

Dmitri closed the window after them, and moved through the dark bedroom to the single door that led into the main room. There, already gathered, was a small party of people. Though, ‘party’ was far from the right word to use given the evident tension in the air. Dmitri’s eyes flicked from his sister standing protectively in front of Fang, to the two soldiers opposite. There were others in the room, and Dmitri’s eyes swept over them in a calculating fashion before returning to his sister and friend. Satisfied that neither were hurt, Dima merely raised a questioning brow before turning to the others gathered in the safe house.

“Mikhail Pavus, the remaining associate.” Dima introduced himself, having caught the end of Fang's address. “Happy to see you haven't retired for the easy life yet, Fang."

Adrian watched the man who had saved him introduce himself as Mikhail and took a moment to note the uncomfortable air that was strung through the room. He desperately wanted to turn on his heel and crawl back through the boarded window. This was not what he had expected: a room full of people who all looked like they wanted to kill each other or be dead before it could come to that. What stopped him was the girl. The girl in the red kefta who had been up on the dais mere hours ago. Before the rest of the world had gone up in smoke. And she was still gorgeous, but definitely looked like she wanted to rip out the throat of the tall, dark, and handsome Shu man who all but commanded the attention of the people around him with some sort of unspoken charisma that was kind of terrifying to be in the prescence of. Still, these were the people who wanted to be safe like him. The alkemi resolved to stand next to the boarded window in case an escape needed to be made and carefully scanned the room with a slow gaze.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alvida Giese Character Portrait: Dmitri Giese Character Portrait: Taras Nikolaev Character Portrait: Katya Volkov Character Portrait: Faylan "Fang" Jae-Won Character Portrait: Aleksey Utkin Character Portrait: Adisa Useni Character Portrait: Sin Nari Character Portrait: Bea Zaveri Character Portrait: Frigg
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      Every part of Aleks’ subconscious mind was screaming. Nothing in particular, really, just a loud and urgent wailing, like his own body’s form of an alarm system. Something is wrong, something is wrong, it said, on repeat. Yes, thank you, he replied internally. I got the memo.

      He had gotten the memo some time ago. Perhaps when the first Onikh descended and nearly fried him to a crisp? No, not then. It might have been when his own soldier pointed a sword at his throat. No, no; probably it was when Katya and her purported treason forced him to near drown a high ranking officer. Though the news of Sturmhond certainly sent him for a loop. By then, though, he had already been overwhelmed, had hardly even reacted when some strange squaller girl dropped from the sky and helped them escape. He’d followed wordlessly, all the way to their rickety and downtrodden “safe house.” (Not that it looked particularly safe.)

      In fact, it wasn’t until they were already well situated in the inn that Aleks even noticed the presence of their other companion. The blonde healer looked vaguely frightened— Katya, probably, so he didn’t blame him— but also somewhat familiar. Aleks thought for a moment, but the adrenaline of the recent battle was clouding his memory. He gave the healer a sympathetic pat on the shoulder, the only comfort he could provide at the moment, and turned his attention back to Katya. Before he could even open his mouth to speak, the very air surrounding her turned hostile, and the hair on the back of Aleks’ neck rose slightly. Saints, ten years and somehow she still had the ability to make him shake in his boots. (Not often, mind you, only when she caught him unawares, and only for an instant.)

      There was just a second before Katya darted forward, grabbing the squaller and—oh, that wasn’t good. Wasn’t good at all. Was Katya incapable of thinking before she acted? He glanced quickly towards the object of her frustrations: a ridiculously tall Shu man with an, admittedly, ruggedly handsome demeanor. Yes, he could make a presumption or two about what was going on.

      Again, Katya moved before he could act. He winced, slightly, at the sight of her slamming the man against the wall. He spared a glance towards the squaller girl. The healer wouldn’t be any help in combat, but if Katya was intent on provoking the strangers, he could handle her. The problem was, of course, that capable as Katya was, she was also gravely injured, and there would be no way for Aleks to take out the squaller and grab her if the Shu—Fang, the squaller had called him— managed to overtake her. And it wasn’t as though there was a decent supply of water anywhere nearby. A number of battle plans ran through his mind; he contemplated the outcomes of each and nearly missed when the squaller rushed forward to insert herself in between Fang and Katya. He drew a breath in then released it in quiet relief. So they wouldn’t be picking any fights with them then. That was good news. Aleks stepped forward, dropping his hand on Katya’s shoulder. Someone had to act as a retainer.

      There was no such thing as telepathy, of course, but in the several seconds Aleks held Katya’s gaze, he knew he was getting a message across. Those ten years meant something after all, it would seem.

      The mousy healer stumbled forward, and while this wasn’t the time to say anything about Katya’s very cruel words, Aleks felt a strong twang of sympathy deep in soul. He understood. Yes, he understood well.

      Subconsciously, Aleks kept his hand on Katya’s shoulder as he watched, first, the healer begin his work, and later, the residents of the room. He had barely taken stock of the four other people when a fifth burst in, obscenities fresh on her lips. Christ, did this Shu captain have a bone to pick with everyone? There was a breath after he responded, and then a girl, quiet until then, piped up with a very simple question. One Aleks did not, unfortunately, have an answer to.

      Turning his attention back to Katya, Aleks leaned down slightly to speak into her ear. “Katya,” he said, lowly, but with a subtle urgency. “We need to speak about—” He paused, wet his lips, unsure of how to describe the matter at hand. He settled, eventually, on waving his hand to encompass the surrounding…scenery. “This.”

      Katya might have responded to him with the venom that rolled from her tongue seemingly on instinct if not for the smallest issue of her inattention. Aleks could have been cursing their king and country for all the concern she granted him. The new arrivals had seized her focus, most especially the Alkemi nestled between two with which she could not imagine he had anything in common. She recognised him, though she doubted he could differentiate the Second Commander of his country’s military from a common kitchen maid. He had a reputation for being wholly enshrined in his work, a trait, she supposed, the leading investigator of jurda parem should possess.

      Keen silver eyes swept the length of the Alkemi’s body and slid over each member of their entourage. They were certainly not all Ravkan, and if the damp cheeks of one girl were any indication, at least some were civilians. She could not fathom what purpose any of them might have here or even, why she was here. There was only one other person she trusted besides Kir Egorov.

      ”We need to talk,” she told Aleks. “The room next door is unoccupied.”

      Aleks could only sigh. He wasn’t surprised, not by any stretch of the imagination. Katya rarely listened to him anyway; he was rather used to it by now. “Great idea,” he replied, pleasantly, through the grate of his gritted teeth shown in an unnatural smile. He pulled his hand away from Katya’s shoulder and moved across the floor to the doorway of the unoccupied room. His eyes scanned the new additions quickly. He recognized the Alkemi, of course, but the other two were strangers, and the uneasy feeling settling in the pit of his stomach deepened. Mentally, he urged Katya to cross to him quicker, his foot tapping against the floor in impatience.

      Katya moved away from the healer without warning and slipped out of the room with Aleks following closely behind. She shut the door behind them.

      ”Every Onikh tonight was a soldier of your division,” she said.

      Aleks’ brow furrowed instantly, his head tilting slightly forward in confusion. “What are you trying to say, Katya?” he asked, levelly, despite the heavy pounding of his heart, the blood rushing, loud, in his ears. Every soldier he’d run into that night had accused her of attempted assassination, but he had still followed her to this dismal building, hadn’t he?

      ”I’m saying you had no alibi,” she replied. “There was not the slightest possibility they would have freed you from the dungeons for any reason but to see your head removed from your shoulders, and yet you offered yourself to them as if nothing would please you more.” Anger laced her words as she stepped closer to him. He was taller and by all means, stronger and broader than she would ever be, but she stared at him as if he were a bird that could not differentiate sky from mirrored glass. “You should have run, and I should have left you to your fate.”

      To be entirely honest, Aleks hardly even registered the last of her words. She’d hadn’t quite finished her second sentence before he exhaled a shaky breath, lifting his hands to rub at his face before pulling them through his hair. “I thought—” he muttered, fingers still laced together at the back of his neck. “For a moment, I thought—” Overcome, he suddenly threw his arms around Katya’s body, trembling hands gripping at the delicate silk laid over her back. “I thought you might have doubted me too,” came his muffled words, mumbled into the thick mane of her hair. Then, just as suddenly, as though he’d been struck by lightning, Aleks recoiled, the rest of his limbs following his legs as he snapped back into the place he had been standing moments before.

      “Oh,” he said, eyes widening in surprise, as though he had been the one sprung upon and not the other way around. “I’m sorry.” A tinge of confusion colored his statement, as though he still wasn’t entirely sure what had just occurred. He blinked several times in succession. That was unexpected.

      For a moment, Katya was shocked into silence. She felt the echo of his warmth where Aleks had wrapped himself around her. It had been years since she’d felt the touch of another not as pleasure or pain, but comfort. For a breath, she returned to the Shadow Fold, or rather, what remained of it after Sankta Alina brought it to ruin. Aleks had held her then too, but their skin had been sticky with blood, and his armour had dug painfully into her side. She had ignored it, burying her face against his shoulder and clutching his back though her fingers ached and burned. They had clung onto each other like drowning souls, even as her heart shuttered and became the wastelands that was all that remained of the Unsea.

      ”I doubt your ability to craft a plan as elaborate as the events of tonight,” she said finally.

      “Hm,” hummed Aleks, bringing a hand up to scratch at his jaw. “Yes,” he said, a moment later. “You have a point.” Then, laughing, he added, “I suppose if I had planned the events of tonight, my scapegoats never would have escaped.”

      Katya gave him a wry smile. “I suppose you weren’t made colonel for your good looks alone.” She thought of the privateer and the strange coalition of people in the other room. “And for all we know, we’ve fallen into the trap of a less palatable, if not as formidable enemy.”

      “Ah!” said Aleks, slamming the bottom of his fist into an open palm, as though he’d just remembered he’d forgotten to buy something important at the market. “Yes, that’s just what I wanted to speak to you about.” His mind too turned to the people awaiting them on the other side of the door. It shot back to the time just minutes ago where he and Katya had been fighting for the lives. And the squaller girl, so eager to assist. No, not to help them, was it? She wanted them here, under the watchful gaze of the Shu captain and company. What was it she’d said? Fang is going to be so proud of me. Like she’d gone hunting and caught a big prize. And there was, of course, the rather troubling matter of her knowing the name Sturmhond. None of this seemed to be adding up to good fortune.

      “I think we need to need to get out of here as soon as possible.” He shot a glance towards the door and lowered his voice, just in case. “I don’t know why they were looking specifically for us, but this timing can’t be a coincidence. I’d rather take my chances fleeing the Ravkan forces.”

      ”And go where?” demanded Katya. ”By dusk tomorrow, our likeness will be plastered throughout every street in Ravka. Word will travel to every kingdom through the delegates who survived tonight and the bounty on our heads will have us hunted for the rest of our lives.” She gazed towards the boarded up windows that lined one wall, at the sliver of light that illuminated her dark hair falling loose from its braid. ”More importantly, we cannot abandon our King and Queen to the enemies that orchestrated the attack.”

      “I didn’t mean that,” replied Aleks, a small frown twisted his lips. “Of course I plan to set this right.” Of all people, he thought Katya would understand him. “But they were looking for us. For all we know, we could be walking directly to our deaths. We could go somewhere else. Somewhere safe. Regroup. Then counter this.”

      “What better way to sever the head of the snake than within the viper’s nest?” she countered. “We allow them to believe we’ve become complacent and we strike when they’re least expecting it.”

      Katya unlocked the door and stepped out, leaving silence in her wake.

      “Katya!” Aleks attempted to call after her, but there was no helping it. She had already gone. He sighed once more. But what if, he hadn’t gotten to tell her, these are two very different viper’s nests? Well, he supposed there was little to be done. He couldn’t very well leave without her (though he knew she’d hardly have the same qualms about leaving him to his own devices), so he could only follow after her. Resignedly, he took her lead, sliding back into the occupied room.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alvida Giese Character Portrait: Anya Ivanov Character Portrait: Dmitri Giese Character Portrait: Taras Nikolaev Character Portrait: Katya Volkov Character Portrait: Faylan "Fang" Jae-Won Character Portrait: Aleksey Utkin Character Portrait: Adrian Naumov Character Portrait: Mikkel Zivkovic Character Portrait: Adisa Useni Character Portrait: Sin Nari Character Portrait: Bea Zaveri Character Portrait: Frigg
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    Sighing wearily, Mikkel followed where Anya led. The palace, a looming building, was difficult to miss, so he wasn’t worried she didn’t know where she was going. But the problem would come when they got themselves to the palace. Mikkel still had no formulated plan on how to get inside the palace, let alone how to find the researcher in such a large building if they did manage to enter.

    “Slow down,” he called after Anya. Walking so briskly with a fractured leg. Sometimes Anya seemed to him more mechanical than human. Her hobbling, uneven gait reminded him she was not.

    “And give Naumov more time to run away?” Anya rolled her eyes, “Mikkel, I thought you were smarter than that.” In an act of defiance she then picked up her pace, and ignored the throbbing in her head. They had a job to do, and it would be over her dead body that it would remain undone.

    Mikkel groaned, unnecessarily loudly, and jogged to catch up to her. His legs were perfectly fine, but he was still battered and bruised, and he cursed Anya’s petulance for making him move any faster than was needed. “We need a plan, Anya,” he hissed. “Surely you don’t plan to waltz into the palace and face no resistance at all.”

    “We don’t need a plan, Mikkel,” she stopped walking suddenly, and before even she knew what her body was doing her hands were gripping his forearms in a bruising grip. She leveled his gaze with hers, and for the first time since docking at the shipyard Anya could feel the familiar fire in her veins. "We’ll do whatever is necessary.”

    Mikkel, stunned into silence, said nothing. She stared at him for a second too long to be considered polite, before releasing her grip on him and turning away to resume her trek. The dawning realization of how much she had to lose, how much they had to lose, finally making a home in her thoughts. They needed to complete their mission. Needed it like they needed air to breath, or the way she needed him to survive. It was their ticket to climbing the ranks, and Anya would be damned if some stupid Alkemi got in the way of their happiness.

    Mikkel followed quietly. He knew that look, that blaze which had settled in her gaze. It would not be wise to make any comment. At this point, it was looking like they’d have to make something up on the spot—a lamentable fact, especially considering how poorly Mikkel handled dealing with unplanned circumstances. Not that Anya was any better, really.

    To spare themselves any future difficulties, Mikkel set himself to discovering some semblance of a plan before they arrived at the palace doors. Fjerdan dignitaries seeking shelter? He glanced down, then at Anya’s bloodied clothing. No, not likely. Perhaps—

    A sharp and sudden explosion seen just out the left field of his vision stopped his train of thought right in its tracks. Reaching out instinctively, Mikkel grabbed ahold of Anya’s wrist. “Look,” he said quietly, pointing discreetly in the direction of a lanky male throwing blast powders at an Onikh. How idiotic. Nobody could possibly be that foolish. Unless…
    Mikkel and Anya watched on in morbid fascination as the man threw another explosion in a bag, then actually caught the Squaller in a tapestry. A tapestry of all things. Kind of incredible in its own way. “I think that might be him. Anya, I’m fairly certain we just found Adrian Naumov.”

    “And he’s going to die if we don’t save him,” she replied hastily but before she could even move more than a foot the Grisha was running into a pair of bystanders. Anya hissed not only pain in her legs but from the fact their prey was slipping away. She slipped her wrist from under his hand and with quick motions indicated that they should go capture the Alkemi.

    She had barely taken a step in the direction of their target when Mikkel roughly grasped Anya’s wrist once more. “What do you think you’re doing?” he hissed. “Do you have eyes? Those people he’s with now— they’re armed. I’m not under the impression they’d react kindly to us attempting to take the boy right from under their noses.”

    “Your point being? We’ll just kill them.”

    “Not that I’d normally disagree, but have you perhaps taken a look at yourself lately?” With an amused arch of his brow, Mikkel raised his own burnt arm then gestured to her bum leg. “We’re not even in any shape to be fighting a child.”

    “Are you ever in any shape to be fighting a child,” she snapped before pausing, “but I see your point.”

    “So what’s our plan of attack? We still have to get to him somehow.”

    “Let’s follow them then, or have you forgotten who I am?” she smirked.

    Mikkel couldn’t help but give a short laugh. “Of course, Vofa, how could I forget?” He paused, his fingers absentmindedly picking at his bottom lip as he worked the plan over in his mind. “Yes, that could work then. Wait until he’s alone and pick him off. He looks as though he’s never even seen the sun, how hard could it be?"

    Anya didn’t respond. Instead she seamlessly slipped into her role as Vofa and without a sound began to almost glide across the courtyard. She breathed in deeply and made sure to keep her movements light. It was almost as if she were floating above it all, a startling contrast to the heavy limp she was sporting earlier. Although not an advocate for miracles, she considered her ability to disassociate from pain to be one of the many small ones granted to her.

    Mikkel followed closely behind. He wasn’t nearly as skilled as Anya at practically disappearing, but even he was capable of this much. Together, the two tailed the trio as they traversed the dangerous path out of the gardens, then through the winding turns of the city’s backallys. They tailed them until they arrived at a small rundown building. Some kind of inn, or at least it appeared so from the rooftop of the building opposite the one their target was entering.

    After a moment’s breath, Mikkel muttered, only half angrily, “Well, what now?”

    “We have to follow them,” she replied, “Did you see how they opened the window? There was a hidden latch they knew was there. The Inn could be a coverup for a series of tunnels. If we wait we’ll lose the damned lab rat.”

    “You have a point,” said Mikkel, not too happily. If they attempted to enter, they risked being discovered, and subsequently, killed. If they waited, they risked losing their target, failing the mission, and facing, subsequently, something potentially far worse than death. “Well. Here goes nothing.” Anya said nothing but removed the bow and arrows from her person before throwing them to the ground below without a thought. She never really cared for long-ranged weapons.

    Carefully, Mikkel lowered his body down the face of the building, ignoring the sharp and unending pain that stabbed at his right shoulder. His left arm was really only marginally better, but he relied mainly on it as he scaled down. With his feet firmly on the ground, he glanced up at Anya, struggling with the descent, with a smug smile and could not resist calling, “Care to jump? I’ll catch you.”

    Anya silently groaned and looked over her shoulder to stare at Mikkel down below. He looked so full of himself, and more than anything she wanted to wipe the stupid grin off his face. “Let’s put that to the test then.” Even as she said that though Anya knew undoubtedly he would keep his end of the bargain. She had complete trust in him.
    She released her grip on the wall and let her body fall backwards.

    Mikkel’s eyes widened exponentially. “Anya, wait, no—” he cried, lifting his arms and grimacing in anticipation even as he called his warning. It was already too late. He knew that. He screwed his eyes shut as her body crashed into his and toppled him to the ground. Normally, he would have held steady, but then again, that was normally, and this was anything but normal. His right shoulder throbbed even more than it had moments before. And the chafing of his burnt skin against her clothes nearly brought him to the brink of tears. “I was kidding,” he croaked weakly.

    “Don’t make offers you don’t intend to keep,” she smiled sardonically. “Let’s go.” Picking herself off the ground she then brushed dirt off her clothing, and gathered her bow and arrows from where they dropped. Her eyes flickered to Mikkel on the ground, and with a sigh she offered her hand to him. She congratulated herself for only thinking about retracting her hand, not actually doing it.

    Mikkel grasped her arm with a low groan and pulled himself up. Thanks,” he said, caustically. “Very helpful.”

    Going ahead, he fumbled around the area he had seen the taller man pull the mystery switch. After a moment or two random grasping, he caught something in the old wood. “Found it,” he whispered back, with a crooked grin. And with no hesitation, he pulled it.

    The opening they’d seen earlier revealed itself, and Mikkel, with a mocking smile, bowed gallantly. “After you.”

    Anya ignored him, and carefully pulled herself through the window making sure to land silently. Mikkel followed shortly after, grumbling lowly, but landing with similar feline grace.

    The musty air of the dark bedroom invaded her lungs, and she choked momentarily. She heard Mikkel coughing behind her.

    “Can you hear anything?” she asked.

    Mikkel ceased his coughing for a moment to listen more intently. “No,” he said, after a moment. Then, “Wait. Yes. Barely. Whoever’s speaking is down there.” He gestured towards the sliver of light leaking from some crevice. A door, probably. Carefully, he picked his way across the room, then crossed the threshold into some short, narrow hallway. Anya trailed behind him, running her hands across the peeling wallpaper trying to keep herself steady.

    Mikkel reached the light source—a door, as he’d expected—and crouched down to try and get a look through the gap. Anya moved slowly behind him and hovered her head above his, eager to see what was going on as well. Perhaps had she been in a better state of mind and physical condition she would have stayed put and decreased their chances of getting seen, but as it was she was tired and just wanted to kidnap the Alkemi.
    The field of view was limited, and Mikkel could barely make anything out, but some sounds trickled through, and he heard the odd snippet of vague conversation. He remained still and watchful for some time, but with every passing moment, Anya’s presence above him grew increasingly overbearing. “Can you move?” he hissed, as quietly as he possibly could.

    “Can you stop breathing?” To prove a point she placed her head on top of his. “The answer is no.”

    Frustrated, perhaps, by the muggy air and limited space and, therefore, overheating, he jerked his head up, knocking into her chin. “Anya, move. I can’t see well with you hovering over me!”

    “And that’s my problem because?”

    “It’s both our problems. I need to check if Naumov is still there, obviously.” His patience was wearing thin very quickly. He leaned forward, extending his left arm with the intention of pushing her back, but at the same time she pressed down on his shoulders to keep her vantage point. But his movement had left him with an unsteady foundation, and her none too gentle shove rocked him off it, and in a terribly graceless movement, he toppled forward, Anya atop him.

    They had, of course, very naturally, crashed straight through the door, and fallen in a heap in front of all the occupants of the room. “Fuck,” said Mikkel, very quietly. He slowly scanned the various people, meeting the gaze of each one. Well. Death it was then.

    Anya stood up quickly, glancing around the room in despair. She mentally calculated their chance of bute forcing their way out, and grimaced at the number. Her body was tense and she kept eyeing the exit with anxiety, but she stopped when her gaze landed on Alkemi they were looking for. She let out a breath she hadn’t known she was holding in before doing the best she could.

    “Hello, do not be alarmed.” She managed to keep her voice level despite the ever increasing fear and pain. “This is my brother… Jorges, and I’m—”

    “—Helga,” cut in Mikkel, quickly, as he struggled to his feet. Jorges? They may have been on their death beds at this point, but dammit if he wasn’t going to retaliate if she came at him with something like that. It was his turn to pull his weight. Swallowing dryly, he said, “I am Jorges, and she is Helga. We are… traveling missionaries. We wanted to escape the fighting and happened to see the… kind looking men over there.” An uneasy and forced smile tugged his lips in an unnatural way.

    Anya was at a loss for words. Of all the job professions they had to masquerade under missionaries seemed to be the most unbelieveable. She looked down at her attire and grimaced, blood soaked and tattered, she was the epitome of friendliness. Mikkel had regretted the words the instant they left his mouth. Missionaries. Djel, between the two of them they must have had at least twelve shattered bones.

    The arrival of the two missionaries— or so they claimed to be— had stunned the inn’s present occupants, to say the least. Fang had not expected any more passengers en route to his ship, but it appeared he would have more. He certainly could not abandon the two strangers to their own devices when they’d seen the location of his safehouse, and they’d all seen enough death tonight that any more would be excessive.

    Despite not knowing who they were, Fang was certain they were not missionaries of any sort. If anything, he might have believed them to be congregants of hell. They were two facets of the abyss, one dark and the other light in the way blank pages were devoid of content. He had only known one other to possess a stare that could glare through space and time, and she likely wouldn’t spit on him if he was on fire.

    Fang smiled. He would humour them. “Welcome, messengers of the almighty. It is, of course, our honour and blessing to offer sanctuary to individuals of such pure intent.”

    In that instant, the Ravkan soldiers who had retired to the unoccupied bedroom next door returned from their riveting discussion.

    While Aleks was stopped dead in his tracks, Katya stared impassively at the cluster of limbs currently obscuring her view. “Is this dinner?” she asked drily.

    Mikkel stretched his arm out instinctively, knowing Anya well enough to catch her before she made any attempt to attack the rude woman. Missionaries, he seemed to tell her silently with a sharp glance. She retaliated by harshly shoving his broken arm away from her.

    “She’s harmless,” Fang assured the intruders.

    “As are we, of course,” Mikkel interjected quickly.

    “You only need one kidney,” said Katya.

    “Hey,” Aleks finally cut in, alarmed. “Enough!”

    “These two missionaries stumbled into our space seemingly by chance,” explained Fang.

    “If you believe these two Fjerdan spies to be harmless, you deserve whatever ruin they bring upon you,” snapped Katya. She felt the stutter of their heartbeats, almost indiscernible from the average. They were remarkably calm for the lies they uttered, giving her reason to believe they were even more dangerous than they seemed. The displeasure on her face dissipated into sweetness as her lips unfurled into a cloy smile. “Since you’re devout innocents, surely you won’t mind if we bind you. Merely as a precaution, of course. We will return you to your homelands soon enough.”

    Aleks had a long rope. A very long one. Katya was coming to the end of it. He stepped in front of her, using his stature to block her view of the latest intruders. “I know you have a habit of hearing no one but yourself, but there are times you need to open your ears,” he whispered lowly, enough for her to hear, but not to potentially humiliate her in front of any of the others.

    A lance of pain struck through Katya at his words. She recognised the truth in his claims, but it wasn’t very often that he or anyone criticised her so pointedly, if at all. Just as it always did, the hurt warped into rage. “Fine,” she said. “I hope they bury their blades in your chest.”

    Aleks sighed before turning back to the situation at hand. He was used to Katya’s occasionally petulant outbursts, and her words had lost their sting long ago. What was important were the Fjerdan spies, as Katya had so clearly pointed out, standing in their doorframe. Missionaries. Who were they fooling? One glance at their attire and general demeanor would let anybody in a five mile radius know that only lies spilled from their lips.

    “I’m sure our generous host has already said, but men and women of the cloth are always welcome wherever we may be,” he said to them, a genuinely kind look lighting his gaze. He shot a sidelong glance at the pleasantly smiling Shu captain. His opinion of the man was shifting to a more positive light.

    “You seem injured,” Aleks added, gently, with a slight frown. “Please, let us tend to your wounds. I’m afraid we’ve only bandages and herbal medicines, but it’d be a better alternatives to letting them fester.” He glanced once more towards Fang, a man he knew was thinking just as he was, in expectation of some assistance.

    Sensing the room’s attention once more, Anya released the tension in her body and acted the poor missionary she was supposed to be. Slumping her shoulders in faux defeat she then gave a wary smile to both the Shu man and the other. “I hardly even noticed my wounds,” which was partially true but even acting she couldn’t quite help but let venom seep into her voice. “However it would be much appreciated." Mikkel nearly scoffed at her act, but somehow managed to contain himself. Anya? Frail and meek? Never. He mentally shelved this experience to make fun of her for later on down the line.

    “We do apologise for our friend here,” said Fang.

    “We’re not friends,” Katya interjected.

    “She can be somewhat aggressive towards strangers,” he continued as if she hadn’t spoken.

    “Not at all,” said Katya. “We’re not strangers and I still hate you.”

    Mikkel coughed, loudly. At this point, he was beginning to think death was the preferable alternative. “Ahem. Yes, thank you.” As he spoke, he gently nudged Anya’s side, encouraging her to follow his gaze, which had settled directly on the blonde haired male at the back of the room. More specifically, his kefta. That of a healer. He caught Anya’s eye out of his peripheral vision. She nodded almost imperceptibly. With that small reassurance, Mikkel knew they were on the same page.

    They’d had their setbacks, granted, but they were far from fools. They knew when they were being played. Regardless, if they weren’t going to be killed, that was enough for them at the moment. Mikkel began working on a plan to get that healer to patch them up somehow almost instantly.

    Anya smiled through gritted teeth and pulled Mikkel close to her side with a tug at his shoulder, “Come on, Jorges.”

    Mikkel, sporting more grimace than grin, stepped over the final threshold of the door and, perhaps for the first time in his short life, knowingly and willingly entered straight into the heart of the lion’s den.


Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alvida Giese Character Portrait: Anya Ivanov Character Portrait: Dmitri Giese Character Portrait: Taras Nikolaev Character Portrait: Katya Volkov Character Portrait: Faylan "Fang" Jae-Won Character Portrait: Aleksey Utkin Character Portrait: Adrian Naumov Character Portrait: Mikkel Zivkovic Character Portrait: Adisa Useni Character Portrait: Sin Nari Character Portrait: Bea Zaveri Character Portrait: Frigg
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#, as written by Cloud
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Vida’s hands clung tightly to Fang’s wrists, her body poised in front of him as if she might somehow protect the tall Shu man from any sudden attack by the Heartrender. His tone and attitude shocked her, for in the years she had known the privateer, rarely had Vida seen him so aggressive. Nevertheless, she would side with him regardless, and only later, when the tension had dissipated somewhat, would Vida grill him with questions about the quarrel she had just witnessed, among other things. For now, she would merely watch and wait.

The blonde healer stumbled forward, his nervousness on obvious display as he neared the volatile soldier. Katya’s words were soft, yet Vida heard them nonetheless. Her brow furrowed at the implication behind them, and suddenly Vida felt a wave of guilt creep over her. She had merely assumed that the blonde, Taras, was with the other two. A friend or comrade. Had she thought him anything other than that, she wouldn’t have pulled him halfway to the safe house.

Though tension still laced the air, Vida sensed that the worst of it was over. For now. Reluctantly, her hands slowly loosened their hold on the privateer, though she remained close. Her gaze flicked towards the newest addition to the group, to find another individual of Shu descent; another wonderfully tall Shu. “Damn, those Shu genes are good.” She thought absently to herself, as the dark-skinned boy already in the room offered up the newcomer’s name – Sin.

Words were traded between those gathered, and Vida listened with one ear, while the majority of her attention was pulled instead to the entrance of three individuals. One was a bearded man of tall stature, an easy grace to his walk and a pair of knives at his hip indicating that he was, at the least, a decent fighter. It was, of course, her brother.

“Took him long enough. Vida thought with a cheeky wink at the elder Giese.

Beside him stood Frigg, and between them was a grisha she had never seen before. Vida could only assume that this was the alkemi Dima had been searching for. Fighting the urge to greet Dima and Frigg with a hug – her usual greeting, which seemed rather inappropriate in the current circumstances – Vida instead turned her gaze on the shaking healer as his patient abruptly left. Leaving Fang’s side, Alvida approached the blonde the way one might move towards an easily startled animal. Baby animal.

“Taras, right? Are you okay?” She asked softly, a hand coming up to idly brush a strand of his golden locks behind his shoulder. The squaller’s fingers itched to play more with the silky strands, yet she held herself in check. She didn’t need to scare the healer any more than he clearly was.

He was apprehensive, his eyes downcast and unwilling to meet Vida’s gaze. His eyes would have remained on his feet had Taras’ glasses not slid down his nose. Raising his head to keep them from slipping clean off and pushing them back up his nose, he found himself eye to eye with 'Marina'. Only then did the healer see the concern in the smuggler’s eyes. He managed a weak smile and shrugged, unsure how to explain the stress he was currently under. Being pulled through the city by an alleged traitor and told that any attempt to return to the palace might result in the death of his family… it was more than he could process in one moment.

"I'm fine. I-..." Taras began, not all that convincingly, before he was distracted. A small frown pulled at his mouth. "You're hurt."

Vida followed the blonde's gaze to find a shallow cut on her arm. She hadn't even noticed the wound, too concerned with the drama that had consumed her attention. Her fingers came up to prod at the graze, only to have them brushed aside by the healer's hands.

"Let me." He offered, his voice sounding slightly steadier now that he was doing something he was comfortable with. Taras' hands hovered over the wound, pale blue eyes concentrated on Vida's skin as he pulled his power forth. The skin beneath his palms began to itch, the skin creeping back into place, the wound sealing. It took less than a minute. The wound had been light, and despite seeing to some of Katya's injuries, Taras was still far from tired. When his hands fell back to his sides, Vida found her skin scarless, though still in need of a quick clean.

"Thank you, Taras!" Vida exclaimed quietly, a smile breaking across her face as her eyes flitted from her arm to the blonde healer. Without a thought she slung an arm around his shoulders in a one-armed hug, gave him a a squeeze, and then pulled back. The only reason she didn't notice his faint blush was because Vida had already turned to eye Aleks and Katya as they returned from a side room. If needed she was more than willing to stand between the second-commander and the privateer again.

And then-... "Jorges and Helga? She thought skeptically, eyeing up the pair of 'missionaries' who had fallen through the threshold. They were as likely to be missionaries as she was to be the emperor of Shu Han. Vida bit her tongue and watched as Fang humoured them, her initial confusion at his approach quickly turning to understanding as she realised his play. The squaller attempted to visibly relax her body, though her eyes remained calculating. Across the room Vida caught Dima's eye. He merely raised an amused eyebrow, and suddenly she was biting back a smile.

"You would think this was fun." Vida attempted to telepathically communicate to her brother. He must have recognised something in her expression for he responded by raising both eyebrows in a clear question. Vida's smile spread and she rolled her eyes, she was having fun, despite it all.

Beside her, Taras' momentary confidence quickly faded. He felt the weight of the 'missionaries'' eyes on him, and as he shifted nervously from foot to foot, he wished that he was in plain clothes rather than his palace healer kefta. Almost subconsciously he moved closer to Vida, his gaze falling from the new arrivals to flicker across the ground and land on his feet.

Before an awkward silence could engulf the group, or any more uncomfortable questions be fired across the room, Fang stepped forward. Vida's gaze naturally turned towards him, waiting expectantly for her friend to speak.

“We journey west tomorrow,” Fang said levelly. “You are welcome aboard our ship, if only to escape the chaos in Ravka. The same goes for all of you.” He turned to address the others in the room. “I can assure you there is a reason for our meeting tonight, but I’m afraid any explanations will have to wait for when we’re no longer on Ravkan soil. Some of you do not know me and some will not be comforted for having known me before today.” He offered Adisa and Sin a wry smile. “Frankly, you have no reason to trust me. However, I am in possession of information pertinent to all of you and I would ask only that you reserve your judgment until after you have heard what I have to say. What must be said. "

“You are pieces of a very important puzzle that will determine the fates of every Grisha and non-Grisha alike. If after you have shared in my revelations you do not wish to play any part in this war, I will gladly take you to wherever it is you wish to go. Until then, get some rest. We leave at first light.”


Alvida and Dmitri both trusted Fang with their lives, and there was no doubt in either of their minds that they would help their friend. An ideal situation would see them paid as well, but for now, Vida was willing to give Fang the time needed to explain himself. Besides, she hadn't had this much fun in weeks. With an easy step forward, the squaller slapped a hand on Fang's shoulder, a grin on her face as she gazed up at the man,

"Sure thing, captain." She teased, "You sounded very heroic, Fang. I think I might swoon."