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Mikkel Zivkovic

A permission to live for nothing until you're no more.

0 · 565 views · located in Grishaverse

a character in “The Grisha Chronicles”, as played by Εpιmetheus

Description

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MIKKELZIVKOVIC
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I FOUND OUT RIGHT FROM THE START THAT I WAS FALLING APART

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xxNAME
..Mikkel Zivkovic
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x...ALIAS
....Sem Veturinn
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xx..AGE
x.xx.....23
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OCCUPATION
........Druskelle
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x....EYES
x.........Blue
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x..HEIGHT
x.........5'10
xxALLEGIANCE
.........Fjerda | Anya
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x......GENDER
...............Male
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.....SEXUALITY
.........Heterosexual
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.........POWER
...............None
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x.........HAIR
...............Black
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x.......WEIGHT
...............177 lbs






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                  ( QUIRKS *! )

                  Often zones out when he's not doing anything
                  engaging. Will focus intensely on one spot when
                  he does this, sometimes giving the impression
                  that he's staring intently at one specific person
                  when he's not. ◘ Hates candy, but he always car-
                  ries some around to give out to any kids he might
                  bump into. They're always fucking terrified of him.
                  Probably take the candy 'cause they're scared he'll
                  murder them. He's pleased with himself anyway. ◘
                  Rubs his thumb against the palm of his hand when
                  he's uncomfortable or nervous. ◘
                  __( LIKES *! )

                  Hot drinks. ◘ Seeing the stars at night. ◘ Running.
                  ◘ Very bitter chocolate. The more bitter, the better.
                  ◘ Fighting, hand to hand. The impact of his fist on
                  flesh, the ache of the bruises he accumulates, the
                  stinging in his hands for days after, the metallic
                  taste of blood at the back of his throat. Even the
                  color his knuckles take on, the ugly blend of purple
                  and red, like a flame against the pale white of his
                  skin. ◘ Liquor that burns deep in his gut. ◘ Children,
                  though he'd never admit to it. ◘ The bitter cold that
                  seeps deep into his bones.◘ Organization & order. ◘
                  __( DISLIKES *! )

                  Being wrong. He likes being told he was wrong
                  even less. ◘ Open space. He likes being able to
                  conceal his presence in some way, so being
                  completely exposed makes him feel vulnerable. ◘
                  Insects with many legs. They make his skin crawl.
                  ◘ The stain of red blood against the crystalline white
                  snow. ◘ Torturing ("questioning"). It takes too long
                  and never gets the desired results. He isn't inte-
                  rested in hurting the grisha for the sake of hurt-
                  ing them. ◘ Sweets. He used to love them, but
                  now they remind him too much of his father. ◘

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PERSONALITY


They whisper the name Sem Veturinn amidst themselves as well as they might whisper the name of Death himself, with a fear and touch of reverence. Anya teases him sometimes, tells him that someday he’ll be a folk monster mothers tell their children about—’behave, or Sem Veturinn will come to get you. He didn’t give himself the name; that’d be ridiculous. He doesn’t know who started the whispers of the harsh consonants, and he doesn’t bother trying to find out. A name means nothing, and if people fear him, dodge his gaze, then fine. All the better for him. He doesn’t need anybody getting in his way anyway. Which he supposes is part of the reason they chose that name for him. He knows how cold he can seem, how ruthless, how heartless. Like the tinman with no pulsing heart, Mikkel often seems to give the impression that his heart has been encased in a solid block of ice. From the time he was still a trainee, aiming to join the ranks of the Druskelle he has not seemed to have a shred of humanity in him. Him and his foster sister alike move through the landscape of ice and snow like a pair of ghosts, his pale skin and ice blue eyes bleeding into the surrounding scenery. All of himself, it seems sometimes, has bled into the scenery, the red of his fiery blood all extracted and replaced with the freezing water, petrified into ice within his veins. Even before he joined the Druskelle, Fjerda had taken all that he had, all that he was, and left him a husk of himself. He has convinced himself he loves it for this, wouldn’t just die for his country, would kill for it. His festering blistering rage that is constantly churning at the pit of his stomach is all he has left to give, gives it every time he rips a soul from a body, every time he pulls people down from the station of humanity, turns them into little more than dogs. Even less. They call him Sem Veturinn because the people who have seen him do this have never seen something quite so empty. His face betrays nothing of his emotions and his voice betrays even less (even now, he is sure Anya is the only person who can gather his meaning from the smattering of words he gives), to the point where people began to wonder if he had any emotions at all. He is as frigid as the land he was raised in. The Winter. They call him The Winter, and he cannot deny that it is as fitting a name as any.

He preserves the image best he can, to be honest. His previously rare displays of emotions have become exclusively shown to Anya; his silence has turned deeper, more prolonged. He feels an obligation to become the monster people have already turned him into, but although he is more empty shell than human these days, there are remains clinging to the joints and crevices in his casing. He has a weak spot for children in particular, though if pressed he could not answer why. Perhaps he sees the ghost of his past in them, so frail and easily broken. When he bestows some kindness upon them, Anya pretends not to notice--not that he’d admit to anything anyway. He’s not much of a fan of admitting his faults or mistakes, will graze over a topic he’s been proven wrong on. He has to be fought tooth and claw to be forced into acknowledging his errors, and even then it is only Anya to whom he will concede defeat. If there is one quality most visible in him, it would be stubbornness, a trait that permeates through all of him. Even in his loyalty (fierce and unwavering) he will not budge, often blinded to the object of his allegiance’s flaws. It’s a shame, truly, that he does not acknowledge what he can so clearly see, cannot shake the hold that Fjerda has on him. If he could, he might be able to save both himself and his only friend from certain ruination.


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                    ( STRENGTHS *! )

                    Combat ; he's extremely proficient in combat of any kind. He is, in
                    fact, a relatively high ranking member of the Druskelle despite his age be-
                    cause he is considered something of a prodigy. at murder. Efficiency ;
                    he is ruthless and merciless in executing his orders. He does what he does
                    because he is told, not to be needlessly cruel. He's incredibly proficient at
                    completing whatever task he's been given. Poker face ; Mikkel is extraor-
                    dinarily talented at keeping his emotions from showing on his face. He is
                    careful not to betray any information through some sort of reaction. Secrecy ;
                    Mikkel does not easily let secrets or confidential information slide from his
                    lips. Aside from undergoing training to resist torture, he's also remarkably
                    silent in any given situation. Loyalty ; his loyalty is fierce and undying.
                    Whomever he grants it to is likely than not to enjoy his constant protection
                    from anything that threatens them, be it physical or not.
                    __( FLAWS *! )

                    Stubborn ; Hellishly so. It's not often you meet someone as spectacularly
                    thickheaded as Mikkel. He wouldn't admit to some wrongdoing of his if he
                    were on his deathbed and it was the only way to find his way to a pleasant
                    afterlife. Bottling ; Mikkel has no healthy way of dealing with his emotions,
                    so instead he just. doesn't. Humanity ; He certainly isn't a likable person,
                    and because of his iciness, he can't connect well with people. Anya remains
                    his only friend. Blinded ; While his loyalty and combat skills make him a
                    worthwhile ally to have, his blind devotion can often be more harmful than
                    not. Combined with his unwillingness to admit when he's wrong, these tra-
                    its of his can lead to him continuing to partake in something he no longer
                    wants to be involved in or is hurting other people he cares for. Morality ;
                    it cannot be denied that his moral compass is horribly skewed, and he is,
                    undeniably, a murderer.

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BIOGRAPHY

He doesn't remember his mother. Every time his father asked, he answered, "No, faðir, I don't remember her." Automatically, mechanically. A lie, of course. He was already seven when she disappeared; it'd be odd if he didn't have the odd memory of her floating around somewhere in his brainspace. But his father looked relieved every time he gave his answer, so he never said otherwise. Did all Druskelle live such short lives? He began to resent the country of his birth, the profession of both his mother and father. She'd gone somewhere, an instruction by them, and she'd never come back. So whose fault was it? Theirs. Theirs, all theirs, it would always be theirs, and he spent his nights fantasizing about soaking his hands in the blood of whoever led his mother to her death. This fantasy grew, multiplied, festered, until he could no longer stand to see his hands clean, had to decorate them with red. He picked fights with anyone who held his gaze for too long, didn't hold his gaze for long enough, any excuse to feel the crack of bone under his knuckles. He snarled like the wolves who stalked the countryside at anyone who came near him. He still fantasized about wringing the life from every Druskelle littering the earth.
He didn't like how his father was often off on missions either. Certainly didn't alleviate his disgust with the Fjerdan government. It was only barely made tolerable by the fact that he always returned with sweets of some sort. It was a steady constant in his life, something he could always expect. But then there was one day where no sweets came. He had to learn from listening in on someone else's conversation, never even got to attend his father's trial, didn't get to hear him plead his case. He learned through what he was told, and what he was told is this: On a mission taking place during the month of May, Druskelle soldier Kristian Zivkovic committed high treason against Fjerda. For his crimes, he has been sentenced to life imprisonment. The whispers reached him, exaggerated tales of his father's traitorous romance with a grisha of all things. Like mating with a beast. Revolting. Yes, it was his father's fault, wasn't it? His decision, his choices that left Mikkel without his sweets. That left Mikkel alone. His mother too. They had both failed the Druskelle, failed their country, failed him. His hatred for the Druskelle was replaced with a hatred for the parents that had left him, cold, abandoned, and alone.
His neighbor took him in after his father's imprisonment. He hadn't been on the best of terms with their daughter before then, but it didn't matter. Mikkel stopped being the quarrelsome troublemaker people knew him to be. His taunts ceased, his curses and exclamations quieted. For months, people wondered if he'd turned mute from the traumatic experience. He wasn't mute; he was just angry. But it was a different anger. If the one before was red-hot, this was a white flame rage, so boiling hot it had melted away all he had left in him. Before when he fought, he'd started it and had to be pulled, still throwing punches, from the curled up and howling bodies. Now, people picked fights with him, and he ended them before they'd even fully begun, a brutal and efficient knockout, somehow even more frightening than his previous wailing.
When he was of age, he joined the Druskelle. Within himself, he fostered a bone-deep loyalty to the order and all they stood for. He promised himself to right the wrongs of his parents, to never make the same mistakes. The training was difficult, but he was used to the bruising, and Anya (of all people) was there with him, and they crawled through the hell of it together. He was ruthless, even then, no kindness or pulled punches. He proved himself an incredible asset, and quickly made his way up the ranks. He might have been wary to take on so much so quickly had Anya not, once again, been right there with him. She was his lifeline, his anchor. Vividly, he still recalls the day he thought he'd lost like he'd lost his mother, the overwhelming sensation of terror and helplessness that threatened to swallow him whole. He himself had brought in the grisha they found alongside her, conducted his share of the torture (questioning, they called it), so convinced she had something to do with Anya's near death because they told him she had. Later, she told him in whispered tones, the truth, the guilt she shouldered, never knowing the acid that rose in the back of Mikkel's throat, the boulder settling in the pit of his stomach. She still doesn't know. If he has any say in the matter, she'll never know, and they'll both go on serving their country until the day they die, side by side.


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                  ( OOC *! )

                  FACE CLAIM: Dan Zsolt
                  HEX CODE: #7e8a9f
                  PORTRAYED BY: Epimetheus
                  CS CREATED BY: Epimetheus
                  TIME ZONE: EST
                  ______( ASSOCIATED *! )
                  ..words and phrases

                  "When you've been in the Druskelle as long as I have, you
                  develop a thick skin."
                  "Navy blue is not your color!" "Navy
                  Blue?... Brings out my eyes, you prick!"
                  ◘ An unnameable
                  longing that grows unbearable during the foggy hours of early
                  morning. ◘ "I'm not bitter," I say, bitterly, with a bitter expres-
                  sion. ◘ "Forgive and forget? Haha, no, resent and remember."
                  ◘ Black trench coats and stark dark clothing. ◘ Breath fogg-
                  ing in the cold night air under the soft glow of street lamps.
                  This garbage meme. ◘ Also this photoset. ◘ Rare live footage
                  of Mikkel being human garbage. ◘ "COOL MOTIVE, STILL
                  MURDER." ◘ "You are misunderstanding something. I have
                  failed to find a single shred of evidence in our conversation
                  that proves I am nice."
                  ◘ "Apparently 'spite' is not an 'app-
                  ropriate answer' to 'what motivates you?'" ◘ Affection exp-
                  ressed only in bruising grips, bone crushing hugs, never
                  in words. ◘ Scowl lines and deep set eyes. ◘
                  _( MISC *! )

                  The song in Mikkel's edits is Lies Pt. II by Fyfe, his
                  character song (especially if you consider that the arc-
                  tic is another kind of desert lol) ◘ He makes Anya kill
                  every spider they encounter. One time, she told him
                  that people sometimes swallow spiders in their sleep
                  and he gagged himself before sleeping every day for
                  a month after. He insisted it was training for possible
                  torture situations he might find himself in. ◘ IN CASE
                  ANYONE MISSED IT btw, Sem Veturinn is Icelandic for
                  'The Winter' and since Fjerdan language seems to be
                  based off Norwegian and Icelandic from what I can tell
                  from Six of Crows lol, I'm just gonna pretend that it's
                  also 'The Winter' in Fjerdan. ◘ Probably physically rec-
                  oils from any kind of touch that doesn't come from
                  someone he's comfortable with. ◘ Anya is his only friend.
                  ◘ He has a fairly noticable accent speaking Ravkan. ◘

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So begins...

Mikkel Zivkovic's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Katya Volkov Character Portrait: Faylan "Fang" Jae-Won Character Portrait: Taras Nikolaev Character Portrait: Dmitri Giese Character Portrait: Alvida Giese Character Portrait: Sin Nari Character Portrait: Bea Zaveri Character Portrait: Aleksey Utkin Character Portrait: Anya Ivanov Character Portrait: Adisa Useni Character Portrait: Mikkel Zivkovic Character Portrait: Adrian Naumov Character Portrait: Frigg
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

#, 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: Anya Ivanov Character Portrait: Mikkel Zivkovic Character Portrait: Adrian Naumov
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

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#, as written by Verix
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The night was cool, calming, and Mikkel felt entirely at ease. Or, at least he would have, had Anya not spent the last twenty minutes dry heaving over the side of the ship.

“If you’re going to retch, just be done with it already.”

Anya lifted her head from her position and glared, “Gladly, if you’re offering to be the trashcan I throw up on.”

Mikkel only scowled, turning back to look up at the cloudless sky wordlessly. Anya could throw up her intestines for all he cared. Only fifteen minutes until port. Fifteen minutes, he repeated to himself, like a prayer.

-

As the ship was docking, the festivities were already well under way, at least judging by the far off din of the crowd gathered in the town square. For a moment, the briny air of the sea lingered in Mikkel’s lungs, and he lamented the fact that he’d be leaving the blissful solitude of the ship to head off into another sea, this time of sweaty bodies and muggy air.

Anya, however, could only give a sigh of relief and relished in the feeling of solid land beneath her feet. The ship ride had been an arduous journey, and with Mikkel’s constant jab at her fear, it was near torture. Perhaps she really should have made good on her promise and hurled on him. She tucked the idea away for the future.

The delegates whose ship they were on crept towards the mast of the ship, one stepping forward to take the lead. Sweat beaded at their receding hairlines, and the leader swallowed loudly. There was a certain look of fear in his eyes that both Mikkel and Anya had become familiarized long ago. Hesitantly, but with an obvious attempt to seem firm, he said, “We’ve done our duties in bringing you here, but we cannot be held accountable for returning you to Fjerda. We depart on the morn, no sooner nor later.”

Mikkel did not move, did not speak, did not so much as blink. Anya stood similarly behind him, gaze never leaving the wide eyes of the Fjerdan delegate. Mikkel watched in amusement as the man’s already twitchy nervous movements sped up. He could have sworn he heard Anya stifle a laugh.

“We’d wait if we could, of course,” the delegate said hastily, nearly tripping over his words. “But what you are doing is dangerous. Fjerda cannot afford to claim you should you—”

”Enough,” said Mikkel, a cutting tone in his voice. The delegate physically took a step back. ”Do you believe we’ve not already been made aware of our duties?”

The delegate opened his mouth to speak, but before he could Anya roughly grabbed Mikkel by the arm and stormed away without a word. They were given a mission to complete, and the faster it could be done the faster they could go home. She could only hope it would go according to plan.

Mikkel followed her into the dark night, but as soon as they were out of earshot of the delegates she turned around and gave him a harsh glare that soon melted into a soft gaze.

“I would have been more harsh, but you did well for the time allotted to you."

“I could have made him fall on his ass with another minute or two,” he huffed.

Anya rolled her eyes and let her grip on his arm fall,”I’m sure you could have, but we’re on a time constraint and you dicking off isn’t helping.”

“We have plenty of time. How hard can it be to find one damn grisha?”

“In a city full of them?”

Mikkel scoffed. “He’s the head of a research division. He must be distinctive in some way.”

“Of course, he’ll have a sign above his head signifying his position. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before,” Anya kept her voice monotone and looked at him as though he were an infant, and in some ways, he was.

A rumbling noise originated deep in Mikkel’s chest and forced its way out through his mouth as a growl. He didn’t answer her. Instead, he said, “We’ll split up once we reach the square and look for him then. Meet back at the docks in—”

He was cut short by the sudden noise of a thousand people screaming all at once.

As the fires engulfed the masses, and the screams of people echoed in her ears, all Anya could feel was melancholy. Perhaps some small part of her had been hopeful that the night would go as planned, but as always disappointment seemed to follow her endlessly. They were sent for a simple interrogation mission and they couldn’t even complete that.

She looked to her side and caught Mikkel’s eye.“You were saying?”

“Nothing can ever be simple, can it?”

Anya shook her head in response before breaking into a run, Mikkel hot on her heels.They were met with a scene straight from the reckoning. Fire rained on the fleeing crowds, people flew high in the sky, trailing broken pieces of cobblestone and wooden carts with them as they went. But this was no act of Djel.

Looking towards Anya, Mikkel knew that they were thinking the same thing. Not just Grisha, but the very thing they were on assignment to investigate.

“Onikh,” they confirmed simultaneously, nodding at each other.

Mikkel drew two daggers from his belt, quickly formulating a plan of attack. “You have your bow, yes?” he asked, without turning to face Anya.

“Fortunately,” she answered.

“Good.”

Without a word, they shifted into the position they felt most comfortable in, back to back, covering each other’s blind spots.

Anya was pressed against Mikkel’s in a defensive position, and as they both stood in the eye of the storm all she could think of was how right it felt to be there. She pulled an arrow from her quiver and placed it gently into its slot with steady hands.

She pulled her bow taut and brought it up to her line of vision where she aimed for the Onikh’s head. However Anya watched in dismay as her arrow was swept away in the wind until a few seconds later it landed in front of her feet. She picked it up with a snarl on her face.

Watching Anya’s arrow fall to the ground like a child’s toy, Mikkel cursed under his breath. This was no good; they’d never get anything done.

They’d heard the stories, of course, but they’d never actually seen an Onikh in person. Somehow, it was more terrifying than they’d dreamed. They’d never even heard of someone successfully killing one on their own— part of the reason they were there. To investigate methods of killing Onikh efficiently. As of now, they doubted even their superior commander could escape from a battle with an Onikh unscathed. But, they were there. And what else was there to do? Who knows, maybe they’d get lucky. At the very least, they’d learn first hand about the strength of an Onikh. Barring that, they’d probably die. Maybe they’d get a hero’s funeral. Probably not. They could dream.

“I’ll focus on the living flamethrowers. You take the flying monkeys.”

“With pleasure.”

Mikkel paused. Then, “Anya?”

“Yes?”

“If we…” His tongue darted out to wet his suddenly very dry lips. “Nevermind. First to ten. Loser pays for dinner tonight.”

Seeing her scoff, Mikkel replied with an arched brow and a quirk of his lips.

Mikkel was sure they’d die a horrible gruesome death before they ever even got near the death of ten Onikh. He could hear the strain in Anya’s voice, heavy and palpable, and was sure she could hear the same in his voice. Was there fear? Yes. But they were never going to admit to that anyway. “Lightening the mood” was not a phrase often acquainted with Mikkel, and yet there he was, laughing feebly through the tension that gripped his muscles.

Picking a target, Mikkel rushed the unsuspecting Inferni, his footsteps silent amidst the cacophony of the destruction. He had heard of their devilish ability to turn a man to ash with just a touch, but he had no intention of getting that close anyway. He stopped, some ten feet away from the Onikh, and, with a quick flick of his wrist, readied the dagger in his hand to be flung, hopefully, deep into the base of its neck. He stilled, exhaled, and in the instant before the knife left his grip, a wave of flames rushed towards him, almost too suddenly to notice. Relying purely on instinct, he pushed off the ground with his left foot, sending himself diving out of the way of the unexpected attack. Even with his well-trained movements, he was not fast enough to evade the fire completely, the outer fringes of the flame igniting the sleeve of his left arm. With a quick precision, he cut down the length of fabric before tearing the sleeve off from the rest of his shirt in its entirety. He winced, hesitating to even look at the nasty wound on his arm. The blistering red welts rising over the area of skin that spanned his forearm made him grimace. He hadn’t even noticed he’d been hissing in pain, but the sound rushed to his ears as the rest of the world came back into focus around him. Djel, that hurt. He didn’t have the time to dwell on it.

The Inferni was approaching him still, and he didn’t think he had another round in him. He rose to his feet, staggering, and managed to evade the other attacks the Onikh flung at him. It wasn’t going to catch him off-guard again. Some time and exhausting bouts of running and dodging later, he made his way back to Anya, who had been scoping out the area.

Anya watched with morbid fascination as Mikkel lurched toward her, his arm badly burned and his face pulled tight in a grimace. A soft gasp escaped her lips and with a sprint she was by his side in an instant.

“I suppose this means you’re paying for dinner then?” She didn’t bother asking him if he was hurt knowing very well he was, and despite the severity of the situation she had seen him suffer much worse before. He could handle it.

“Not unless you have a plan to beat me. Far as I can tell, we’re still tied.” He made a vague attempt at a smile, but his arm was still aching, and all he managed was an ugly distortion of his facial features.

“Not for long,” she replied. “Cover me.”

Damn. He didn’t bother asking just how she expected him to do that. Especially with his recently busted arm. As she darted out of sight, his gaze darted around the scene, trying to find something that might be useful. This was tricky. If he started a scene too early, he’d be dead before Anya even got close to it. If he waited too long, it wouldn’t be distracted enough to not notice her. In both of those situations, either he died or Anya did. He preferred an alternative.

Finally, he settled on a decently sized rock. With a swift motion, he threw the rock at the back of the head of the Squaller she’d pointed to before she’d gone.

“Hey!” he shouted as the rock made impact, which served only to anger the Onikh. That was fine. It’s all he was looking for anyway. “Birdbrain! Over here!”

He braced himself for impact, ready to leap at the slightest movement from the Onikh. Its hand moved and he jumped, steadying his body in the air as the edge of the small tornado that had been launched in his direction shoved him forcefully. He avoided tumbling, but he was falling on his left side. Shit, shit, shit, shit— He forcibly twisted his body, managing to land instead on his right shoulder. Less than ideal, but he couldn’t imagine shoving his open wound all over the gravelly stone floor of the square.

Anya, meanwhile, had left Mikkel behind to do as she asked before shoving her bow back over her body and quickly moving onto the nearest vendor’s roof. From there she hopped from one building to the next before stopping on top of the structure closest to the Onikh, her grip still tight on the previously fallen arrow.

Mikkel struggled back to feet, seeing double for more than a few moments. He caught sight of Anya near the Squaller and hastily grabbed several more stones off the ground. If he didn’t move quick, he’d be seeing her body fall several hundred feet out of the air onto the waiting earth.

Both his arms were throbbing at this point, but he gritted his teeth, and, fighting through the pain, wound up once more and threw another rock at the Squaller.

“Is that all you’ve got?” he shouted, repeating the throwing process. He watched as the Onikh’s eyes narrowed in anger and breathed a sigh of relief. Was he asking to get killed? Possibly. Again, he braced for impact, knowing this time (as he saw the Onikh visibly turn its attention solely towards him) it would be a hell of a lot worse. He quickly glanced backwards. There was a stone wall there. That was good. Or bad. He supposed he’d see in just a moment then, wouldn’t he?

Just as the Squaller released a vicious gust of air in the direction of Mikkel, Anya readied her stance before propelling herself off the building twenty-five feet above ground. The momentary lapse in the Onikh’s concentration had allowed her just enough time to successfully break through and latch onto it’s body. However, the force of the wind had stolen the air from her lungs and for a moment Anya felt as though she never breath would again. She forced her eyes to squint only to find out she could no longer see clearly, the ugly form of the creature nothing more than a blur of colors.

Before she could waste another moment however Anya shoved the tip of the arrow’s head into it's neck, only to realize it didn’t embed itself in nearly as far as she would have wanted it to. However, it seemed to have done enough damage that with a deafening shriek it began it’s descent down, but still latching onto it was Anya.

Mikkel, meanwhile, was doing a different kind of flying. He’d tried the same tactic as before— wait, leap, steady, and hope for the best. But the blow was significantly stronger this time, and it had him doing flips midair as he was sent barreling into the wall behind him. His training had prepared him for a similar situation, but the concussive blast itself had knocked the wind out of him, and he was struggling to stay conscious, let alone cognizant enough of his actions to avoid breaking his spine against the stone. It was an uphill battle. He managed, somehow, again to twist his body before the impact, letting his right shoulder take the brunt of the impact once more. He couldn’t stop the cry of pain that escaped his lips, but when he crumpled to the ground, he was still breathing, and he was still (semi) alert. He’d live.

The descent left her stomaching churning, and as she neared inevitable death a myriad of hateful thoughts ran through her mind in quick succession. She braced her head with her arms and waited.

Her body hit the ground with a loud thud and with it a silence that terrified her. Perhaps she was still breathing, and her heart was still beating, but for her the world seemed to stop.

The sound of her own screams brought her back to reality however, and with it a pain she knew all too well. She tried to move her head but it felt as though it would shatter at the slightest of movements, and the right side of her body was numb with pain. She definitely had a few broken bones, but that was a miracle in itself as Anya knew she would survive.

Anya attempted to stand up, and almost did so successfully, but the slow movement of the Onikh underneath her made her freeze. Her breath hitched, and her heart stopped. The realization of what that meant crashing down on her all at once. Tears began to form around her eyes, threatening to spill at any moment.

The Onkih had almost killed her at her best, and it most definitely would do so at her worst.

I’m sorry, she thought, her eyes closing in anticipation but nothing came. Instead the sound of a familiar thud echoed in her ears. Tentatively, she opened one eye, and then the other. A distinctly recognizable hilt was jutting out at an awkward angle from the throat of the fallen Squaller. Yes, that was the sound of a blade sinking into flesh, wasn’t it?

Mikkel, barely recognizable through the shroud of dried blood accumulated on his face from a cut at his temple, was hobbling towards her, his arm, left, still extended from the throwing of the dagger. He was wincing, visibly in extensive pain, but pride and gratitude swelled in her chest. He’d even hit on target with his left arm.

There was a moment of silence, the two looking into each other’s eyes with weak smiles, before Mikkel chuckled feebly. “I suppose this means I get the dinner then, doesn’t it?”

“If you recall, I knocked it out of the air.” She stood, albeit with much difficulty, brushing the dirt off her pants and ignoring the pain for a nonchalant look. It wouldn’t do her well to show weakness. “That dinner is mine.”

“Ah, yes. But I dealt the killing blow. And that’s all that counts at the end of the day.” Mikkel crouched to pull his dagger from the Onikh’s neck, feigning a similar air of sangfroid. There was a pause as she glared at him.

“Well done,” he said, dropping the mirth in voice in favor of a more genuine, grave tone. Then, wincing, added, “Wish I hadn’t been the bait though. I think I broke a few bones.”

“Your arms will heal, Mikkel, try falling twenty-five feet in the air.” She looked at him coolly before kicking the body of the dead Onikh. She immediately regretted the decision as a searing pain shot up her leg. Anya let out a whimper that deeply contrasted with the steely look in her gaze. “I wish we’d completed our mission though.”

“We still can,” replied Mikkel, frowning as he watched Anya stupidly kick the body of the Onikh. She was, after all, an excellent decision maker. “Adrian Naumov hasn’t slipped through our fingers yet.”

“And you’ve seen him where?”

“Well, he must be around here somewhere. It’s chaos. He can’t have gotten far.”

“Such optimism, I wonder where you got it from.”

“Shut up,” he replied with a scoff. “We can still find him if we can get out of here.”

“With this many Onikhs?”

“We just survived a battle with one. We can handle evading a few.”

Earlier, Mikkel had noticed the presence of several others engaging in battle with the Onikh. Some were dressed in Ravkan military garb, others, in plain clothes. (He’d also seen some Grisha in the mix, but he was in no position to take out those who were assisting him at the moment. What was that saying? “The enemy of my enemy is my friend?” Silly, but he supposed he could see its meaning.) Their mission here was Adrian Naumov, and with any luck, the other attackers in the square would provide enough cover for them to find an escape route, despite their much slowed movements.

“Let’s head towards the palace. I imagine that’s where any bookworm chemist would retreat to at the first sign of danger.”

Anya didn’t dignify his response with one of her own, and instead began to look for the nearest exit.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Katya Volkov Character Portrait: Faylan "Fang" Jae-Won Character Portrait: Taras Nikolaev Character Portrait: Dmitri Giese Character Portrait: Alvida Giese Character Portrait: Sin Nari Character Portrait: Bea Zaveri Character Portrait: Aleksey Utkin Character Portrait: Anya Ivanov Character Portrait: Adisa Useni Character Portrait: Mikkel Zivkovic Character Portrait: Adrian Naumov Character Portrait: Frigg
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#, as written by Verix
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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: Katya Volkov Character Portrait: Faylan "Fang" Jae-Won Character Portrait: Taras Nikolaev Character Portrait: Dmitri Giese Character Portrait: Alvida Giese Character Portrait: Sin Nari Character Portrait: Bea Zaveri Character Portrait: Aleksey Utkin Character Portrait: Anya Ivanov Character Portrait: Adisa Useni Character Portrait: Mikkel Zivkovic Character Portrait: Adrian Naumov 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."