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Majik Morose
« on: July 18, 2017, 10:32:39 am »
The weather held on to summer best it could, but the grasp of hot, oppressing rays were weighted by the promise in the air that would be written with well-grown droplets on the wind that hadn’t come yet. And then a well-known, returning story would remind them there was a fantastical lake not too far away, and that rivers liked to embellish any seasonal tale - some blue, some gray, to fade their parched wilt. Hadn’t it been good though, with the summer vegetables on tables that smelled like they were freshly sawed, and beast’s blood, drying to glass in the clearings that would be battlefields.

Elvan was cornered. The worn leather that softened the edges of the metal protecting his joints allowed for swift movement, but this beast was Spawned from a lynx. Overdeveloped torso and front paws made for enough murderous intent to challenge his lively dodging. The artifact had seen better days. The spear hummed in his hand, bright green lengths wrapped in metal - a guarantee that magic was present - but the Kin was long dead, and the residual blessings in this Husk wouldn't stand for many more battles. Still, the spear had been sought after by the knights when it just arrived, but that was a decade ago, this year. There was a small wail when he stopped the claws swatting at him from the side. He had locked the spear against the sharp curvatures, but the magic in the spear was complaining as his boots made lines in the earth. When the other paw came at his back he hoisted himself up on the spear to let the force of the attack throw him and the weapon into the air.

The sun that hadn't gone yet caught on the silver ring that the spear became around him, spinning with him as an axis. The verdant center vibrated in the failing casing and his hand felt the radiation. If he let go that would be the end of something, likely the town that trusted him, but absolutely his own road to becoming a Knight. When the cat leaped, agile for its monstrous size, eager for the morsel suspended in the air, he kept his aim on it despite his revolving world. He put the sole of his boot to its lower teeth before the jaws could clasp and pushed himself to land on the ground before the Spawned. With his footing back he finally threw the crackling weapon to lodge into the exposed abdomen of the landing feline enemy. He rolled out of its deft impact and the resulting billow of grains.

The cat, tall as the trees when on all its fours, was angered rather than deterred and swatted at him again unbothered by the javelin. Elvan lost some of the ends of his long hair to that swipe as he rolled into the beast to get away from the claws again. This close his reflexes were useful again, and he pressed himself against the base of its arm while it thrashed wildly to get at him with its long limbs and teeth. It was dizzying work, but he was able to learn its patterns and match it, aggravating it by holding on to the tufts of gray and white for leverage as he jabbed into sensitive places. A boxing match with a medium beast without a gestalt to protect him. A knight’s work is always madness.

Eventually his legs became too heavy to respond in time, and one of the cats turns sent him out of its circle of intimacy, rolling the knight in training into a tree where he heard cracks that he hoped was the bark. He crawled around the trunk just in time to see it erupt from the pressure of the cat’s maw. He grabbed the longest enamel weapons in the two rows. He was hoping the pressure of its bite wouldn’t match its ability to open. He was right, and might have been able to hold the mouth closed for a while if he wasn’t so spent already. The monster lifted the insistent man and tossed its head into the crown of a tree to shake the irritating restraint off. By the third acquaintance with cutting branches and rattling leaves, Elvan’s grip was slipping off its teeth. He thought of a priestess and a comrade when he finally lost the grip that was keeping the beast from eating him.

A dull burst reverberated through the toothy enemy and then stretches of light cut through its skin. Elvan could smell the sear of flesh before it convulsed and fell, skull landing on top of him. Exhausted, he used most of his last efforts to pull himself from underneath the lifeless head and stand. Its hind legs and rump had been separated from the triangular torso. He sighed and fell to his knees as blood steam charred the atmosphere. Some artifacts were volatile when they faded. By the ruckus the spear had made today, he’d taken a chance. Elvan wiped some sweat off his soft features and breathed in deeply through his sharp nose. Silver eyes were heavy when he put his hands on his knees, black hair released from its usual band hanging off the shoulder of his armor and shielding his cheek. Too often a hard victory looked so much like defeat.

-

Two townsmen came to greet him when he returned to the small gate. They weren’t very keen on asking about his health, they’d seen him worse off and not cared, but they were inclined to know where the felled beast was, pointing at the long fang he’d brought back. It had come out rather clean when he bent it out of its  growing direction. Elvan knew they needed to money they could get from selling the remains, and told them where he’d left the two halves of the cat. They ran off even as the he asked them to wait until the next knight’s shift started in half an hour.

Elvan found himself by the city fountain soon, most of his armor resting by his feet while he sat on the stone rim, retrieving fists of cold, clear comfort for his face. He laughed to himself as he wiped his chin, tilting his face to the sky. Not bad for the constant knight in training. And then the sense of duty that comes with such a mission weighted on the bright expression until it was the same set that always had the women in the square wondering what they might do to give him solace. He’d rather they have a replacement for the artifact that perished with the Spawn, than warm bread and blushing expressions.

Elvan was a long thing outside his armor, and while his bones spoke of a noble bloodline, that had seen ages when it could afford to mix the prettiest individuals to make their heirs beautiful, he preferred himself ready to defend the town, especially when the fragility of their borders were used by the Steelback Council to sell their own ‘protection’. The sullen lilt to his demeanor hardened slightly at that, as he slid his shoulder pad back on.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2017, 07:53:12 pm »
Aveline winced as she pulled the cord tight, dark hair tugging into a long, severe tail. She was methodic with her armor, setting the creaking buckles and thick straps tight with purpose. Being a knight was not about comfort, after all. In many ways, it was only about not dying. She had a novel sort of swagger to the way she walked, not feminine in the way her apple lips were, but sleek like some stealthy ancient Spawn beast who’d snapped up enough artifacts to be beautiful for it. Over her shoulder, she carried a bow that looked like it had been crafted from glass and strung with spider’s silk. At her hip, a quiver of arrows. In her hand, a glaive that hummed like autumn with bronzed shaft and blood-red blade. She’d been outfitted well before she’d come here, earning her artifacts and her knighthood in Orpha on campaign.

She grinned when she saw Elvan at the fountain, a brief flash of girlish familiarity in her dark eyes. Under the afternoon sun, they looked nearly as red as the tip of her glaive. “Elvan,” she said, when she’d come near. He looked tired, and there were signs of a fight on the armor he’d set aside. She reached for a few strands of his hair, where the beast had taken its due. “Haircut today?” she asked. A miniscule change, but Aveline noticed everything and she noticed even more about him. She always had. Sometimes, she joked that she had no choice. She’d known him too long.

She set the strands free and stretched, arching her back and holding the long glaive behind her. “Don’t look so sour about it. You’ll get wrinkles like an old man, and the girls will stop fawning over you.” She teased. “I take it you’ve made my shift easy?” a short laugh when she turned to go. She’d be tardy if she didn’t get on her way. “If you want, I’ll make you supper as thanks, when I’m done. If you’re still up.” She was casual about it, because she could be, and it made her saunter a little prouder past the pair of town girls flirting with the view of the fountain. They didn’t meet her stare when she passed. It was good to walk that way. When had her limp finally disappeared?

She’d done well on campaign, and paid for her artifacts in blood and scars down her back. In truth, she hadn’t come to quiet Salynus for the fun of it. She’d come to recover and stayed for Elvan. Not that they talked about it. The same way they hadn’t talked about it when she’d left their hometown for Orpha. Elvan was supposed to join her there when he was old enough, because that had always been the plan. Somehow, they were in this sleepy place instead now, and Elvan was still in training and she’d gotten lucky. Or something like that.

Aveline waved at the militia guards as she passed through the gate. She was well-liked here, pretty young war hero. Even the girls in town didn’t mind her so much, because she mattered but she wasn’t competition. Aveline wondered if that should bother her. She stopped a few yards past the main town gate and pressed her glaive into her shoulder, swinging her bow off the opposite and drawing an arrow in a single fluid motion. She exhaled slowly and let the arrow fly. Further afield, a rabbit squealed. The guards at the gate, who’d seen her, let out a quick and congratulatory whoop. She laughed, slinging her bow back over her shoulder and turning to give them a quick bow.

From atop the town wall, a cloaked figure perched small and hazy in the dipping sunlight. She had let her breath go in time with Aveline, imagining the hard press of the arrow ready to fly. How beautiful. A quick smile, and she quickly pushed herself up to stand, picking her way along the uneven wall toward an overgrown spot with thick vines. She brought herself down slowly, frowning when her feet touched the ground. Her adventures were so small.

She was quick about making her way back into the artifact temple, slipping in through the rear entrance that brought her closest to her living quarters. In some ways, it was good that the previous lore master had retired. With less oversight these days, she’d gotten out a bit more. Crisphie had been one of the few she was certain believed her, when she told them she was Kin, which she had to appreciate in her position. Still, it had seemed a great irony to be kept so carefully for a claim the town overwhelmingly humored rather than respected. She pulled back her hood once she was in her small room, and stared blandly at her reflection in the mirror. “Well, Nystali, just do what you can.” She said, soft voice and eyes like the sky after rain. She touched her chest lightly, as if to quiet herself, and set to work.

The town artifacts were modest, but Tali loved them dearly. They were family, to some extent, and history beyond that. A small offering to the great and harrowing world beyond, but her home’s safety nonetheless. Today, she cleaned the blades. Among them, her mother’s and father’s. Twin artifacts that gleamed like quicksilver, swirling and shifting patterns in the mercurial blades and a soft blue glow. “You’re so lovely,” she told the blades as she worked—to say temple life was somewhat lonely might be an understatement. “I hope I’m as perfect as you,” To her mother’s artifact, as she set it aside. They were the newest artifacts, her parents’, and they’d had no new knight to claim them. Crisphie said they’d drawn the blades from each other, traveling while Nystali had been just an infant. Neither of her parents were knights, but they’d defended Tali from the small serpentine beast that had fallen upon them in the forest. The blades hadn’t seen blood since, which Tali supposed she was glad for. “Aveline says any knight would be lucky to have you both.”

 

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2017, 09:40:16 am »
He did smile when Avaline came about. He always felt a warm pride these days, when she showed herself. It had been their dream, growing up, fighting with sticks when they weren't in training. She had changed the sticks for something else, lately. He wanted more for himself, also, but he usually forgot about that when he saw her, a fully accomplished knight. "I was due." they almost had the same length hair. She was pretty, extended to try her joints, but he rather noted she looked formidable. That reaching waist could fast whip in any direction, and if she was holding a blade she'd surely hit her target. Silver eyes admired her through the scope of their friendship, which was as long as his memory, and endowed her with all the feats he'd seen her preform.

"The pickers are probably dealing with the body now." about her shift. "Why wouldn't I be up?" and hungry. The light tone revealed a deliberate attempt at dispelling any suspicion of his fatigue. It was important to him Avaline knew he was physically capable. The notion of having earned a meal for slaying a beast made him grin. He always regretted not having gone to her Ceremony of First Blades in which trainees became knights, but if he could have gone to the capitol so freely, then he might have his own artifact now. Maybe this evening could be a smaller celebration, or at least a mention.

He secured the rest of his armor while he watched her walk away in her usual light mood. Ava wasn't compulsively happy, but they'd both seen enough to know a march through town on a day like this wasn't dreary. Besides, he thought to himself with a smiling cluck of his tongue, the land was sans one threat already, wasn't it? He tied his hair low on his back and considered himself in the broken surface of the fountain. Better be proper, next. He'd seen a shadow out of the rest, upsetting the outlines of the wall. He needed to see her.

The Temple of Salynus was well kept. He came here every day, more if he had the time. When Nystali's eyes were on him, he'd even pray. Today he offered the knight's salute, curled tight hands stacked over the heart, to the glass idols that glowed during the midday sun, but were red now. He heard the priestess soon, and moved toward her quarters. He announced himself with raps on her door frame at the same time as he spoke up.

"They're beautiful, as always." he said and thought it was enough before he looked inside. He knew her voice when she was speaking to the mementos of her parents. The not knight on her threshold. He'd been here many times, occasionally to help her oil and polish the artifacts, which usually meant more work for her since he'd been taught practical and not ceremonial upkeep of weapons. He tried not hearing about her own desire to give artifacts. It was impossible to avoid, and he'd encourage her now and then, but the event itself didn't thrill him the way it ought any knight hopeful.

“Sometimes Avaline knows what she’s talking about.” Tall soldier of little Salynus, leaning on the frame, inviting her to come out and roam the temple with him, or gesture for him to come in. He was being courteous, even though he wasn’t always. Something serious, today. “I fought a Spawn today, feline.” He started. No real pride in the low state of his shoulders, but no shame either, not yet, with his neck set straight, it’s columns always emphasized by his hair. “It’s not a problem anymore, pickers are cleaning it now. Should fetch a good price.” Elvan didn’t take a cut from the coins, even though some knights made their living that way. It felt out of place for him to mention, even. She might have noticed there was no great artifact accompanying him.

“I used Ariam to defeat it. His dying surge took the beast down.” Elvan didn’t look at her for that, head turned to the side with a lonely, black strand fallen from the band. If not for the Spawn, that hair would have stayed instead of dividing his cheek from the cheekbone, now. He faced her again. A soldier, after all, he could be brave even when his spirit was heavy. “I’m sorry.” And silver eyes were. “I will be more careful, next time.” It was inevitable that Lingering Artifacts might break, especially one dwindling like Ariam, but it still marked a great loss to their holy armory. He’d need one tomorrow, from her temple, since he was officially still here for training, and wasn’t allowed to get any help from the capitol or other towns of Jor Orpha. It would seem very self-serving to ask on the tail of telling her about his failure.

He didn’t mind confessing things like this to her, lonely boy at her threshold, because he knew this temple to always offer comfort and kind company. Perhaps he’d come to lean on it more than he needed, because he wanted it. His excuses were as thin as telling her the weather outside, sometimes. Perhaps it had become a pastime. He thought she could use someone to talk to, as well. When they didn’t disagree so deeply about the most important things, they were a good fit. In the end, maybe he was being unfair, or the world was.

-

“Impressive.” Cougal Tremiss said as he strode closer. His hair was stark red and he had a tail of three knights behind him, so she must have seen him already on the road, since she’d ended that rabbit so expertly. They knew him well enough here, as did most towns in Jor Orpha. Knight of the Star Blade, a prominent general of the Steelback Council. His robes hid his armor but swayed convincingly with his steps. The blooden hair swayed too, from where it was tied ontop of his head. Sharp features, like they were blades too, and black wings on his eyes as he passed Avaline. He’d not seen her before, but her armor and artifacts revealed her to be official, so he gave her a friendly not. It might look like sarcasm in a self-important, delicate face like his.

“Where is the onyx hair youngster?” he asked an elder without stopping. Gire had taken it upon himself to deal with matters of the Steelbacks, and hurried to match Cougal’s pace to the square. There should be no real difference in age between the red and pale warrior, and the town protector he was asking for – it was clearly a way for the general to undermine Elvan and his lack of rank. Cougal had good reason to belittle the knight hopeful, since Elvan liked to stress that Steelbacks charged too much for their protection, and turned townsfolk  like those of Salynus into slaves with no prospect. Was it coincidence that beasts flocked where they came, or was it good foresight like they claimed?

“Not here? Well, that’s a pity. I was looking forward to the look on his face when I tell you we have information that beasts are coming. I suppose you’re still allowed to refuse our protection, but I don’t see why you’d think this town would last without it.” He folded his arms and looked around. Gire bowed by his side.

“I am sorry, Sir Tremiss, but right now we won’t…” he started, parroting back what the town had decided on, but the smith interrupted him, holding a basket of oily rags.

“Wait, we haven’t discussed what we’re going to do if there are more Spawn. I hear Iloim was overrun by minor beasts until Steelback saved them.”

This was meant with equal enthusiasm and doubt until the crowd was arguing. Cougal looked back at his knights with a grin.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2017, 05:45:08 pm »
Aveline knew Cougal, regardless of whether he knew her. Her polite smile was tight and drawn, sharp edge behind the line like her bowstring. “General.” She said, because they were passing within earshot and it would have been rude to ignore him. She gave him the knight’s salute with a slight bend at her hips. Respectful, if stiff. Aveline held much the same view as Elvan, on the Steelbacks. But, she had remained welcome in Orpha because she was better at holding her tongue.

She watched as they moved past her, and remained rooted in place with the rabbit in her fist for a long moment. She wanted to race back to warn Elvan it was time to be scarce, but she was on patrol. Cougal would certainly take note, if she seemed negligent. It was in his favor to do so. She hissed in annoyance, but turned smartly on her heel to continue her route. Today, she’d go a bit deeper into the scarred tree line to make sure the pickers weren’t getting into trouble. Sometimes Spawn blood called their own kind. If the pickers weren’t being careful, there might be more beasts lurking soon.

--

Nystali glanced over her shoulder, blade in her lap, when she heard Elvan arrive. They’d become comfortable with one another quickly after he’d come to Salynus but he wasn’t second nature for her, the way he was for Aveline. “Ser Van,” she said. A half-teasing nickname for the man who was not quite a knight. She didn’t smile, because Tali rarely seemed to smile, but she did wave him.

In that space, it was difficult to refuse that she must be Harbor Kin. Glittering artifacts, beautiful even when they were not grand, and the silver-robed girl whose opalescent hair had never been cut. Perhaps it was compensation, that she should look like Majik in the absence of her own artifact. “Ariam… it was near his time.” She said in consolation, though she sounded remorseful for the loss. Nystali picked herself off the floor to place her mother’s blade back on its stand, fingers tracing the hilt with affection.

She went to him then, drawing close and reaching to take his face between her hands. If she held much of the town at arm’s length, burying into books and scrolls to fill the spaces of her solitude, it seemed that attitude had never extended to Elvan. She had told him from their first meeting that she was drawn to him, that he must be important to her, with that same serious expression and those dizzying blue eyes. Now, she studied him closely, faint scent of night jasmine and temple incense in the folds of her sleeves. “Are you doing alright, though?” she asked. “You were doing your duty. Thank you for that. I will do my best to help you, of course…” she trailed off. Lately, Tali had gotten it in mind that Elvan might be the one to draw her artifact, but she tried not to press it. He hadn’t seemed at all pleased with the idea. “We have other artifacts that might take to you.” She finished.

“Do you have his remains?” she said then. In some towns, the loss of an artifact was mundane, but Salynus had never been wealthy in that resource. And Tali would not have stood for it. “I would like to give Ariam a final service, of course. For his loyalty, and for protecting you.” She let her hands drop then, folding them in front of her in the wealth of her long robes.

Outside of the quiet temple, in the square, the squabbling crowd was growing louder. For a moment, Tali looked toward the door as if she’d heard something, but then shook her head. Perhaps the pickers were already back with their haul from Elvan’s beast.

--

Aveline waved down the pickers when she came through the badly damaged trees. They had already stripped much of the beast, taking care to spill as little blood as possible, and were burning incense on a hanging burner. She was glad to see they were being careful. There had been more beasts near Salynus than usual, and she and Elvan had both seen more Spawn individually in the last week than they tended to see combined. “Our trainee has left you a nice gift, I see,” she said when she approached. “How kind. The Steelbacks are in town, though, so it might be best to head back home. I can accompany you to the forest storehouse, if you’d like.” She said. Because the Steelbacks had been known to take whatever they felt due.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2017, 09:07:53 pm »
He didn't hold back his smiles. His honesty got the better of him at times, but it kept his techniques true when he fought for something he needed to protect. He hung the corners of his mouth best he could but they still climbed to an awkward, showing expression when she used the nickname. It wasn't like even an official knight should stand over any priestess. Or that was the tower of respect he subscribed to. That structure had a different order elsewhere.

A sigh out of him, when she touched his face and arrived close with the pretty scents she wore in the folds of her abundant fabric. He felt a little spellbound between her soft fingers, and the softer set of his eyes let her know. "Bruises, cuts. Things children earn when they play." Yes, I am fine. And then the spell vacated the silver spheres like heat goes from the spine under cold rain. She was thinking a damnable thing. He'd seen knights take their right out of Harbor Kin. He couldn't do that to Nystali. He couldn't believe in destiny if it hurt her.

Perhaps she knew what he was thinking behind lips that didn't speak, because she turned the subject back to Ariam. Elvan nodded and reached to untie the pouch from his side. He held it up on both hands for her, steady fingers, but his breath was flawed. In her house, he could feel the magnitude of what laid dead between them. A lousy life for Ariam, who'd survived his parents and then fought for the remainder of his time. He suddenly wanted desperately for her to take the shards that made stale music inside the leather container, so that he could say the artifact was being treated the best it could be. Funerals are for the surviving.

"I was hoping to pick something." he said afterward. It should be a moment of pride, stopping at any artifact, but all these weapons had already belonged to someone. He was always borrowing power when he used the temple's treasures. It should not matter, only his duty should, but Elvan was afflicted with the kind of longing he tried not to see in himself, and failed to see in others. The ones on display, the trident Kahir, and the glass gauntlet Xeo, even the plated whip Quayli - he was just another collector, come to take the orphans, willing or not, to war. He liked to believe the ones that held on to their power wanted to fight, but with Ariam's fate so recent in his heart, it was hard to be so idealistic. "Would you help me?" he asked and looked toward the holy armory. "Would you tell me which ones would have me?" he took her hand, the one not holding the shards of the late spear, and thought it'd be fond, letting her practice her craft to court a new weapon for him.

His head turned and the loose hair whipped when he heard the commotion. "Steelbacks." he muttered and started to walk out. He was letting go of her hand when he realized he'd not yet, but they were already on their way together.

"Youngster! Hopeful!" Cougal said and held out his arms. The Star Blade sang from where it stuck up from his back. The black eyes turned from the knight in training toward the priestess. He knew her well, and was not so willfully blind to her sleeping talents. He'd been to the weapon farms of the capitol, and the dirties ones in the country, too. He knew something about spotting potential.

"And Nightingale Priestess!" he said as he strode over, arms now for her.

"What do you want, Cougal?" Elvan asked with a stern voice, harder brow than he'd even shown the feline beast when he stepped exactly between the advancing red knight and Nystali. Cougal wasn't deterred, and kept on walking right until their torsos collided, his head looking over Elvan's shoulder, hand extending beyond for her. he looked at her like he was a crow and she was a silver pin.

"I want to protect you. Hordes are coming. And packs and murders too. All manner of gathering of beasts." but his eyes were on her. "Let us be hospitable with you, priestess. People here don't know, but I do. You've got something great in you. Let me worship you in a much grander temple." he said.

-

Thomlin was his father's son with the broad design of his body. His father was heavy now, round where it was not effective, but the son still had youth's blessing, big and powerful. They had taken the valuable parts, save one fang that had been broken off, and carefully placed it in crates. They each had a cart to pull now, and Thomlin was sure to draw his muscles taut in his hanging arms when he saw Avaline.

"If you don't mind." he accepted. His father was quiet. Ayrion was an easy man to get along with if you understood his silence was not a rejection. They followed her, and despite their bravado, they were grateful to feel safe this close to darkness. "I don't know what the fuss is about, though." Thomlin said and didn't let his breath falter as he dragged the cargo. "It makes a lot of sense to me, going with Steelback. You could have more knights to help you keep us safe, and they'd only want a fee. I say it'd be worth it."

Even Ayrion huffed at that. A stupid reasoning to begin, and to add on, Thomlin was actually saying it to sound smart for the girl.

"Wouldn't you have more time to rest and live life?" Thomlin went on. "And leisure?" A meaning gleam in his brown eyes.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2017, 10:24:17 pm »
Tali was exceedingly gentle with the pouch, when he handed it to her. “I’ll give him a proper send off at dawn.” She told him. The shift in her expression was subtle, ripples in quiet water, but she surely understood the weight of the loss. Her fingers curled a little tighter on the bag. She’d expected him to ask for another artifact, but she hadn’t expected it to sting. “I’m not lying, you know,” she murmured, a vague flash of something in her eyes. She didn’t know if it would be worse for him to reject her or refuse to believe her. These days, it seemed she was forced to entertain the idea of both. They’d never been able to speak straight about it. “And it’s not as if I have a choice.” For it to be yours.

There were Kin who went their lives without meeting the right person to wield their artifacts, but even they brought their gifts into the world. Tali thought it was a sincere injustice that she should be so certain about everything—Elvan, her artifact, her place—and be denied all of it. She sighed softly. “Of course, I’ll help you.” She added, when he took her small hand in his. Syn and Saevir, her parents’ blades, winked in the light of the room’s many burners.

She hadn’t the time to begin, as Elvan’s head jerked toward the door. It seemed he’d been distracted by the disturbance too. “Steelbacks?” she echoed. She’d been certain it had been nothing of concern. “Why would they be here? Aveline has turned them down on behalf of Salynus several times already.” She said. Cougal was not the first of his pack to come. Elvan’s grip on her hand was tighter than she’d thought, and she caught herself as he tugged her out of the inner sanctuary.

“Wait, Ariam,” Nystali protested, dropping the bag before they crossed the threshold out of the sanctuary. She didn’t want the broken artifact to leave that place, nor see the discord beyond. It was unnecessary for a relic past its time. “Peace…” she called after it, brows furrowed, before she was towed out the door. In truth, Elvan had probably not thought to bring her with him at all, his hold on her hand dropping when they were already on their way out the door. She met his gaze briefly, that impassive expression always, and followed him anyway. They were already on their way, after all.

In the main square, she could barely see the fountain through the crowd that had gathered. Nystali had not met Cougal before, but her steps slowed upon seeing him. The blade on his back was a powerful artifact, independently stronger than most any combination of arms Salynus’ temple could hope to offer. It made her think of Ariam and the unfairness of that sacrifice, then. The Star Blade would surely serve knights for generations after this general, still strong and true. Tali didn’t know Ariam’s story, but fate had not been so kind to his Kin as the Star Blade’s.

She blinked when she heard Cougal address her, gaze drawn back from his artifact. “General,” she said, because she did not know his name, and bowed her head behind a raised sleeve. It was an odd gesture, found almost exclusively in the smaller temples, where Kin priests and priestesses shielded themselves from unknown knights. Quaint, but endearing, and further an unintended admission of familiarity with Elvan.

“Thank you for your kind offer, General, but my place is with my temple. I tend to our artifacts and keep our lore. It is the least I can do for my home’s kindness.” She said quietly, peeking out from behind her sleeve, the long falls of her pearlescent hair catching the setting sun. “There is no evidence that I carry anything, let alone anything worthy of praise.” She added. A humiliating thing to say, really, but the man’s gaze made her nervous and she stepped a bit closer to Elvan.

--

Aveline laughed and waved off Thomlin’s suggestion, striding ahead of them on her long legs. “I’d hate to be put out of work, honestly.” She said lightly. “But really, the Steelbacks are a heavier burden than Salynus needs to carry,” she said. She glanced back at the two men, grinning wryly. “Unless you’re telling me you don’t feel your knights are up to snuff.” She said.

She seemed surprised when Thomlin continued, and even blushed a sweet pink at the unexpected flirtation. “Well, that’s… ah, a knight shouldn’t ever really have too much leisure.” She replied. “We need to stay on our toes, you know?” she breathed a sigh of relief when they came in view of the forest storehouse, which had not been very far from the beast carcass but did require a direct cut toward the depths of the woods. “I’ll keep a lookout while you unload your goods.” She said.
   

 

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2017, 09:29:58 am »
Elvan was already an outspoken adversary to the general, so it didn’t help the red-haired brute to be so forward with the priestess in front of her knight in training. In most taverns or meeting grounds, this kind of contact was enough reason for any man to slug the other. The way Nystali was cornered into being polite in response grated him further, since he knew her predicament in town. Elvan wasn’t unaffected by his baser nature, here, and found himself palming Cougal’s shoulders and forcing him back.

“You have our answer, General.” Elvan reminded.

The buzzing crowd quieted. Despite Elvan’s role and position on the matter, Cougal was a decorated knight, even to those not entirely familiar with the hierarchy could see that the Tremiss general had realized knights under him, while Elvan did not carry an official title. For him to lay hands on Cougal in such a chastising manner was a profound breach of conduct. Elvan, who was known to be the master of his impulses, had not yet noticed.

In an instant Elvan was sitting on the ground, the metal on his forearms ringing from where the side of the Star Blade had swatted him. The sword itself held his chin up, tip to his throat, and Cougal’s eyes were still on Nystali. His arms were now clad in the partial Gestalt that came with his artifact, a strange amalgamation between porous wood and conditioned metal. The resulting alloy had a green sheen on its silver base, and snaking prongs ornamented its shields. He could have been a dragon Spawn himself with limbs and talons like that.

“Excuse the riffraff, Nightingale Priestess.” Cougal said and lifted Elvan’s head higher. Suddenly there were sparks in the air, like the stars that fall off the blacksmiths glowing bars when he hits it with a hammer. That was the signature tail of the Star Blade that could bring down hordes of beasts. There were stories of it setting forests on fire, but also that it seared Spawn fur like parched leaves. “Now, I don’t suppose you’d let me try?” he asked sweetly, though those dark eyes were not so enamored with her as with the chest underneath her robe when he reached metal knives at the end of the digits of his Gestalt gauntlet toward her.

Elvan’s hand shot out to grab the wrist of Cougal’s extended artifact. The grin on the general’s face suggested he’d been waiting for it and slapped the broad side of the Star Blade into Elvan’s abdomen. It sent the knight hopeful rolling back, but without the threat of decapitation Elvan was able to stand and dig his heels in before his collision with the crowd. The dust laid down around a fuming protector of Salynus. Cougal wasn’t impressed enough to stop his endeavor, and put the sword on his back again, grabbing Nystali by her arm and then laid his other palm on her chest.

“Will you have something nice for me, Nystali? Do your bones and veins quiver with anticipation for me to release you from your burden?”

The Star Blade and its Gestalt conversed with her magic, to try and lure something out of her that he could then pinch with his claws, and pull out.

-

“That’s not what I’m saying at all.” Thomlin assured her, and his father rolled his eyes. The boy had always had the confidence of the ignorant. That’s why he was never allowed to haggle for prices of their beast parts. The older man was surprised at Thomlin’s success though, and thought better of his son in that moment. His mother had been another story entirely.

“You can still stay on your toes on your free time in the right company.” Thomlin continued, fueled by her blush as he opened the door to the small cottage. “In fact, there’s a fair a town over, if you’d like to go? I’m sure you’re not spoiled with the company of real men often. It’ll be good for you.” He said. Ayrion almost dropped his crate of claws, then, looking back with something akin to horror at his son. Thomlin was still standing by Avaline, lightest box in his arms so he could subtly flex without letting the strain show on his face.

There were a few trees that tried to speak with the trio, and the grains in the earth danced, insistent if they’d look.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2017, 06:48:39 pm »
Aveline struggled not to laugh at Thomlin’s continued attempts at flirtation. Honestly, it had been a bit shocking to find him so bold. Most boys in town were not, or were more subtle. She found it endearing, in a way, and didn’t want to hurt his ego by making light of it. Still, she shook her head. “I promise you, a day out in town with me is hardly worth the Steelbacks in Salynus.” It was meant to be a lighthearted comment—she’d never thought to entertain Thomlin, but he was being charming in the earnestness of his efforts. However, her expression shifted toward something sharper before the words were off her lips.

“Get in the storehouse.” She said abruptly, pushing her glaive into the pocket of her shoulder and drawing her bow again. Aveline pressed the toes of her boots into the soft earth. “Shut the door.” She could practically taste the foul aura of Spawn on the air. She wasn’t particularly attuned to majik, but she knew how to pluck tension off the breeze and the hum in her artifacts that quivered in the presence of beasts. Slow breathing as she scanned the woods around them, keen gaze focusing through the shadows beyond the trees. It felt like time was passing slowly, concentrated as she was, and the tip of her arrow was poised toward a sudden rush from the underbrush.

Before she let the shaft fly, the deer burst out, a family of four animals, and charged past her without hesitation. The townsfolk hunted in these woods enough that the animals were usually leery, but something more frightening than human weapons was on the scent of the small herd. Aveline grit her teeth and let the tension out of her bowstring. “Thom, Ayrion, come out. We have to go.” She said. If she’d been on her own, or in the company of Elvan, it might have been worth holding their ground. With the two men here and the drying meats of felled beasts abundant, Aveline didn’t trust a confrontation with a great beast. Let alone, the possibility of more than one. There was a stir in the treetops as a flock of birds rapidly took flight, clearing the area with haste.

“Leave your carts. Hurry up.” She was snapping orders by then, throwing back open the storehouse door herself and reaching to grab Thomlin’s shoulder and pull him outside. “Time to run.” She told him. She’d not turn to follow them until they were nearly out of sight, headed back toward town. Distance between herself and the father and son seemed best, so whatever creatures were coming would find her first. Her fingers curled tightly around the shaft of her glaive, Mariposa.

--

Nystali bit her cheek when Cougal went after Elvan, reeling a few steps back to stay free of the encounter. Shocked by the open show of aggression, she forgot her practiced composure and dropped her arm. Pretty face, conflicted for once. “Good General, I assure you there is no riffraff in this town.” Tali spoke up, hands balling to fists under her sleeves. “Salynus is a loyal town of Jor Orpha. We pay our taxes, care for our temple, and care for our knights. There is no need for conflict here.” It was meant to be a show of her place in the town. The priestess was, if nothing else, a respected voice of her people. At least, so she’d been taught. Her voice was strong, louder than most were accustomed to hearing it, with the sort of tenor she carried when delivering their histories under the new moon. But it wavered, a soft tremble beneath the syllables, the belayed her fear.

When Cougal was unmoved, and reached instead toward her heart, she felt herself shrink beneath the gesture. “I wish for nothing of the sort,” she said, another step back and her arms folded across herself defensively. Elvan came to her defense, but was swatted aside. The crowd shifted in the wake of his roll, though the knight hopeful had caught himself before it was necessary. “Elvan!” Nystali’s voice was clear then, and she went to run toward him. Instead, she cried out as Cougal caught her arm before she could get away.

There was an intense heat beneath her skin when he touched her chest, something roiling and anxious, angry because he was an unwelcome caller. The girl’s expression was frightening then, venomous like a Spawn beast. In the myths, the Kin and the Spawn carried the same sort of majik. Intent made them heroic or vile. “I must ask you to unhand me, General. It is, by Jor Orpha’s own edicts, an act of war to steal an enshrined artifact. As Salynus’ Nightingale priestess, you would be found guilty.”

Gestalt flared, reacting violently to the artifact that stirred beneath Tali’s skin. It seared with a brilliant white heat, enough to force Cougal to unhand her at risk of injury. The girl stumbled, but caught herself quickly enough to rush over to Elvan. She was breathing fast, and trembling, but her eyes were shining with an unusual liveliness. “Thank you for the warning. We will have our defenses readied, but please, I must ask you and your men to leave us before you disrupt our peace further.” She said.
 

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2017, 09:08:52 pm »
"Don't you understand, Nystali? I am the war in Jor Orpha." he said into her ear when she warned him of what he was doing. And then he was excited, a maddening smile on his face when he saw the light and the majik defend the priestess and her cargo. Smoke still stood from the gauntlet when she'd gotten away, back to the man who was not even a knight. The three that had come with the general drew their weapons, not for whatever Elvan thought he could do, but for the actual harm Nystali's magic had caused the gestalt of the Star Blade. He calmed them down with wave of his still steaming talons. The sword on his back crackled, eager to have at the unborn artifact that had hurt its master.

The crowd were barely contained. They had finally seen evidence of her magic, which validated all their weakly kept faith, and made them holy in their own eyes for having been so pious. They would have stormed to their priestess's defense if there wasn't a knight with smoke on his dragon arms here.

Elvan wrapped an arm around her, and felt the residual heat. It spoke to him, her air, and climbed his arm and wrung his wrist. As he slowly shifted her from himself so that he could be between her and the unwelcome general again, his palm lingered where Cougal had touched her. If it was some desire to try the same draw, will for vengeance on her behalf, or some inward fuming that shadowed his expression, the small set of his mouth did not let it be known.

"We all agree." he added to her invitation for the four to vacate Salynus.

Cougal shrugged, but he might not be so cavalier after all, because his arms were still clad in war. The hilt of the Star Blade rung with power. It had the emotions its master knew to conceal. He wanted her now, wanted to see what she'd produce. "I think I overdid my respect for what you're capable of." he said with a bow, which only looked like a monster biding its time, gauntlet folded over his chest on his descent.

"Let me see you without the Star Blade. Then I can show your bruises and your dislocated jaw in Orpha, and they'll give me your post." Elvan said with a strained throat. The folk had never heard him like this, and when the smith's boy started to cheer, the others went in. They'd not been proud of their town in this way for quite some time, and now they had a priestess who surely carried a great weapon, and a knight-to-be who'd fight for her honor.

Cougal laughed at that and held out his grizzly palm toward Nystali. "If you accept this duel." he said, but then received the shake of his subordinate's head. It might be strange, but it was enough for the very proud general to change his mind about the fight. "On second thought, no. Why should I stoop when you're the one who didn't put in the work to arm yourself, youngling?" he pressed at Elvan instead. "Got borrow an artifact if you want to spar."

Elvan wanted to say that the artifacts of this town were not for games, but he had taken a greater offense on her behalf than he'd realized. At least he knew to hold his tongue and not ask her for it. In some ways, Cougal was right. Perhaps she could see it in the valley between his shoulder blades, his desire to fight the red knight.

If she was alert, because she had more of her mind than Elvan, she might find Cougal's sudden retreat from the original challenge more worrisome.

-

Thomlin hadn't really been concerned at first. Somewhere between boasting with his chest out for Avaline, and staying strong for his father, this was all becoming an act. But the faster they ran, the old man still had a set of legs on him, there more his quickening pulse felt like fear. Thinking back, he'd never really known Avaline to be overly worried about beasts, she'd be flippant about them when speaking to Elvan, but today she'd been adamant on their escape. He threw his head back during their barrel through the woods just in time to see the bushes disintegrate and spew out lanky monsters.

They were the fastest in a horde. Skeletal things, with long waists to connect narrow legs. They were a pain but not as hard to bring down as sturdier Spawn, but their presence here, their numbers, would tell her they were followed by bulkier creatures. Her bow would be a good fit for their demise, but acute, since they wouldn't be easy to deal with as a pack if they caught up. These beasts had cranium's outside their faces, which only left her their chests for targets.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2017, 11:03:35 pm »
Nystali reached to touch Elvan’s shoulder, a firm grip from her slim fingertips. “Elvan, he is baiting you.” She murmured, staring past him at the brash general. The girl had been sheltered here, perhaps because of the lack of faith. She’d never encountered a man like General Cougal, and the predatory quality of his gaze was unnerving. “His armor…” she trailed off, stare flitting over the subtle ripple of majik his artifacts were exuding. The Star Blade was well suited to that man’s hand, and it spoke orders for both the forging of the blade and the knight. “His ego would not permit a true retreat.” She said, a little louder, brow furrowed.

--

Aveline was several yards behind Thomlin and his father, twisting as she ran to loose arrows on the skeletal beasts that skittered toward them like a coordinated, undulating mass. There were more beasts here than the forest should hold, and she could see they were only the front of the encroaching horde. “Tell everyone to take shelter!” she yelled after the two men, stopping short at the gate to grab one of the guards. “Call out the militia and all knights.” She said. Aveline knew well enough that these were hardly the numbers needed to face the incoming stampede of beasts. Besides herself and Elvan, there were only three other knights in Salynus, and two of those were also in training. The militia did not wield artifacts, which left them sorely outclassed for any sort of confrontation, let alone something like this.

She cursed, recalling the Steelbacks she’d passed on her way out, and darted through the gate. The scene she was met with when she reached the square was hardly encouraging.

“General!” She barked, casting an uncomfortable glance toward Elvan and Tali. It was clear that she was interrupting something. It hadn’t seemed good. “Please forgive me for asking such a thing, at a time like this, but there is a horde of Spawn approaching from the forest. They are heading straight for Salynus. Please, will you lend us your strength?” she asked. She didn’t meet Elvan’s gaze then, because she understood what asking for aid meant. Still, she was willing to accept the consequences if they could defend their small home.

--

Nystali shook her head in disbelief. “Elvan, the temple. We need to go.” She said, urgency creeping in her voice. “Take Syn and Saevir.” Aveline wasn’t the sort to exaggerate, and throwing the town to the Steelbacks in a single, abrupt move could mean nothing but a terrible and imminent threat.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2017, 06:56:30 am »
Elvan listened to the priestess and looked Cougal up and down for it. The trainee had only extended the challenge because he thought there'd be a good chance the general would accept. Knights engaged in fisticuffs often. It wasn't even that uncommon for fellow knights to use real weapons in practice bouts instead of their artifacts.

Thomlin ran into the square and started shouting before Elvan could find a true seat for his and Nysatli's suspicions. The boy was a lot like the others in town, but there was no reason to doubt him when he announced beasts. The crowd was torn between their entertainment and fear, but soon they started to scatter. Their running shadows on the square in the late light made Elvan fearful when he realized he'd have to protect all of them, so there'd be as many shadows tomorrow.

"Avaline!" he called when she came in. If she'd still been in the forest he'd have to worry about her too, only a knight should never put another knight before the people. His hand was on Tali's again when Ava spoke to Cougal.

The red knight's eyes hollowed out as he listened. It seemed he'd already made up his mind. A quick look at the same knight who'd inspired him to keep his Gestalt and then he shrugged at Avaline. "Of course I'll help." Hearing this brought lightness to Elvan as he brought Nystali along toward the temple, passing by the general but not close enough for contact, even from the reach of the Star Blade. "Let the town show me the first payment and we'll keep these beasts from the town boarder."

Elvan stopped dead when heard the condition. He threw a horrified glance at Nystali. He was sure their asking price would be unreasonable, but the town had at least enough coin to cover the first installment. But they couldn't possibly be asked to find the money so quickly. They needed to be safe in their houses. This was just telling them that for some reason Cougal had changed his mind about protecting Salynus. The ground was already gossiping of thunderous amounts approaching. It reminded Elvan he had no time, either. "You're rotten." he spat and Cougal didn't respond as Elvan continued to bring Nystali toward the temple.

Elvan stayed at the doors as he let her in. He gasped when the treeline crawled and some of the black trees grew into the night. He considered having the folk run, but that would be worse. Better the beasts feel threatened than tempted to hunt. They didn't have enough mounts to make it viable, anyway. "Please, Nystali." he asked. "Syn and Saevir." just as the first beast slithered through the gates, pelted with arrows from one of the other trainees.

"You should have taken my offer sooner. Only the Star Blade could have saved you from this." Cougal said to Avaline as his guards ran at him, shouting things like 'there's too many. The summoner messed up.'.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2017, 06:35:07 pm »
“Elvan…” Nystali began, quick to follow his lead in a rush toward the temple. She wanted to tell him to take her artifact, because he must believe her now, but held her tongue. There was no reason for her to doubt he’d persist in refusing her and it was hardly the time to argue. The priestess exhaled harshly. It was hardly the time, and yet he needed to listen to her now more than ever before. “Yes, take Syn and Saevir.” She said. The newest artifacts, and therefore the pair with the greatest remaining strength. Those blades had been drawn to protect, too. If they were ever to serve, it should be now.

She was quick to draw the paired blades from their stands, murmuring a hurried incantation as she passed them to Elvan. It was the invocation given at the Ceremony of First Blades, tying a knight to his artifacts as their true master. In that way, it protected both knight and artifact, binding them so the artifacts could be wielded by no other until their knight’s death and opening their full majik to their new master. It was a ceremony Ariam had never been given with Elvan, who was not yet a knight. To bind Syn and Saevir to him now was no less against tradition, and in such a rush as well.

Nystali gave him the flicker of a smile. “You will need the extra protection, and they are my parents. I can only trust them to you.” She explained with a small shrug. “Go. I will stay here to defend our artifacts.” Tali said then, touching his cheek with a gentle hand. Her storm-blue eyes were too honest, and it was apparent she’d rather be with him—to send him with her own artifact. She glanced toward the door out of the inner sanctum. “Please be strong.” She said, and it was as much for herself as him. Beasts would not seek out artifacts of their own accord, but Steelbacks might. She remained as a line between the temple and Cougal more than anything else.

--

Aveline let fly a stream of incoherent curses at Cougal’s demand. “You’re a knight of Jor Orpha first and a Steelback second,” She hissed. “You’ll get your payment when the beasts are put down.” She said, slamming the butt of her glaive to the cobblestone. “That shouldn’t be a problem for you. If you can’t collect, it will only be because you’re bested today.” There wasn’t the time to press further. The creatures were at the gates and she’d not made enough of a mark on their numbers, running back to town. If Cougal was going to insist upon seeing payment first, he could extract it from the townsfolk himself. In as much time, the Spawn could easily overrun the town. Aveline didn’t have the time to fill his coffers.

Still, she hesitated when Cougal’s guards came running. In the rising clamor as the militia poured out of their barracks with their modest outfitting, she couldn’t be positive she’d heard correctly. Summoner, it sounded like they’d said. It made her stomach drop and she it was a great force of will that had her turning from the Star Blade knight without questioning. If they survived this, she’d have to speak with Elvan. But, if she’d heard right, the likelihood of them surviving was even lower than she’d feared.

She was quick to vault herself up onto the lowest portions of the outer wall, running along the barrier with sure feet and her glaive for balance. Aveline was fast, but it was apparent her sprint back to town had been strenuous. Still, there was no waver to her draw when she set her bow, arrows flying in rapid succession at the smaller beasts leading the pack. They were minor annoyances for even the trainees, but she had to reduce numbers first. Any time spent on the weaker Spawn was time for the greater beasts to reach Salynus and wreak havoc.

She and the other trainees were quick enough with their bows to take out a small mass of the lesser beasts charging into town, and the militia men were making reasonable work of the wounded Spawn that was limping through the gates. However, the larger beasts were rapidly approaching. Aveline went to draw an arrow against the first great creature, a boar Spawn with tusks that protruded like a monstrous fan from its jaw. Its eyes were dark, smoldering pits that burned when it squealed. Aveline felt herself grasp at air. She’d run through her entire quiver of arrows and a quick glance around told her the other trainees were fast running through their supplies too.

“Hurry up, Elvan,” she muttered, slinging the bow back across her shoulder and shifting her glaive into her hands. The blade flared like a flame, bloody red light winking in the dying sunlight. The boar Spawn was easily as tall as the gate arch was high. With a shout, she ran along the wall toward the arch and threw herself from it when the beast had come within range. She barely clear the boar’s head as she vaulted above, whirling the tip of her glaive down to catch the Spawn’s thick hide. She struck over its shoulder and the creature thrashed hard against her.

Aveline threw her weight down hard, swing around the glaive and planting her feet against the seizing hide. The boar lunged again, as if it meant to roll to throw or crush her. She pulled down hard, and the glaive’s lodged blade sliced downward with the added momentum of the beast’s movement. Pushing fast off her toes, she freed the blade as she slide closer to the ground, vaulting backwards to clear herself of the creature. There was a crimson spew, which only enraged the boar. She landed neatly off her own rotation, twirling the glaive overhead before planting and swinging herself upright.

When she was sparring in the yard, there was a small cadre of men, Thomlin among them, who liked to watch her. They joked that she was their priestess of the hunt, the way she twisted around her weapon like an art form. Nystali, who would sometimes attend, was always quick to agree that Aveline could be hypnotic to watch. Now, sweat slipping down her brow, she might have been more so for her gravity. The boar charged and she twirled to move out of the way, and it would have been a satisfying dance if the blood on the ground hadn’t been so thick; slick under her boot, it threw her off her trajectory and one of the Spawn’s great tusks clipped her side. The great ivory shaft tore through the buckles of her armor and sent her flying back. A wound for a wound. She spit on the ground when she stopped her roll and swung herself back onto her feet, rushing forward to retrieve her glaive from where it had flown from her hand.       

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #12 on: July 21, 2017, 11:03:38 pm »
He had to be ignorant to the things he saw in her eyes. His denial was a comfort for him, thought he'd not admit it, a constant that had to be left at its place, so he could stand the world's uproar. Protect Nystali. Something sentimental broke through the urgency of it, when she gave him the ceremony he'd dreamed of, tying him to the twin swords. When he held them, they were welcoming with their weight, lighter when he raised them and heavier when his hands dipped. Was this how Aveline felt with her glaive? How pretty the chant had been on his priestess's lips. And now he had new strength in his arms.

"I'll make you all proud." your family and you, for trusting me. He said it as a hum went through his arms and shoulders, the two swords communicating and adjusting through him. He nodded at her plan to stay, and would have suggested in anyway. It was her calling to keep the temple, but he was grateful he'd be afforded a chance to keep the threat from her. His heels lifted beyond his control when her hand warmed his face, and the surge had come from Syn in his left grip. He straightened out before the lean could be too conspicuous. Immediately Saevir became heavier. They didn't have time for this. Nystali mustn't come.

"You be strong too." he said, and it was stern before he turned to leave her.

Cougal sent Aveline a tired look, like they'd been haggling for hours and she really didn't have the funds for his goods. And then he turned from her, his back against the gates and the monsters. He buried his claws in the cobblestone and sent himself off for the farthest wall. One knight raised his sword and yelled "You should all have listened sooner!" to pave way for future arguments, before he also ran. Walls were no match for knights of their caliber.

Leading with the tandem blades of Syn, he could move faster without added effort. A red light sang between the red metals and found its crescendo in the single cutting edge of her longest blade. He saw Aveline leaping for her glaive beyond the bore he was chasing and the urgency in his heart strung the melody in Syn into a fervent aria, sending him off in a new, crisp velocity. Saevir, who followed in Elvan's right hand, rung in a azure and cobalt crescent to catch and free one of the hooves to halt the animal and run it to the ground.

Elvan lost speed when Syn's power ceased. His breaking soles drew almost a full circle around Aveline before he stood still. The beast started standing again and Elvan's right shoulder was electrified with intent to cut it down in it's unbalanced state. Temperamental Saevir. Ave had more than enough time to get her glaive. The beasts were pouring in and the arrows were sparse in the air.

"We have to..." he said and saw the treeline violated by something tall and jagged. The creature was larger than the cat he'd fought earlier today, which meant it was at least a Dusk category. His eyes took on the hue of either blade when the giant shadows crowded behind the outline of the first. He inhaled and both swords pulled at the sinew in his arms. They wanted to protect their daughter. "I don't know." he said and looked back at Avaline.

The militia were holding their strings but all quivers were gaping hollow. His brows gathered in something akin to anger. "Weapons!" he called and dreaded it when they obeyed. "I'll go." And launched himself toward the gate that had become a portal for the beasts now. On his way he drew Syn along the side of hissing skeletal runner. She had a kind cut, serene, and it halved the beast before it could realize its own end.

He dodged under a scaled Noon dragon and could easily sidestep the two others like it, a flightless bird and an abyssal rodent. His heart hurt at the damage they might do, but he was hoping the militia could to something with the cuts he left in his wake. Hopefully the run-by violence had marred something vital.

The Dusk Beast coming had a snarling wolf's head and a hairless, translucent body. Bone clad limbs. Elvan would have taken the time to asses and fret if his heart wasn't left in town, both its halves fighting for the same reason he ought. Saevir with helping anger, sent Elvan into the air, and he hooked the blue sword back as the beast reached for the critter that jumped at it. Saevir met the thumb and Syn propelled them along the arm, parting the bone plate and then splitting the shoulder. A quick twist continued the sonnet between the recently awoken artifacts at jaw's height, and the sharp of the song expanded to touch the beast's throat. By the time Elvan landed, ruby and sapphire tails to his fall, there was no strength left in the toppling behemoth, but tainted, lifting eyes saw other giants among the trees.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2017, 06:18:28 pm »
“Ah, fashionably late as usual, I see,” Aveline hummed as she darted away from Elvan to snatch her glaive in the opening he’d given her. She saw the blades he wielded then, and would have said something if there was more time. Aveline hadn’t realized that Ariam was gone. The coursing majik in Syn and Saevir was full and blossoming, resonating through Aveline’s own artifacts as she swept past. Another surprise. “With gifts from our Nightingale.” She laughed, because it was such a subversive thing for Tali to have done and it made her proud. “You better earn your knighthood today, Van!” She shouted as he dodged off toward the encroaching beasts.

Her ribs ached from where the boar had met her with its tusk, but she’d endured worse injuries. Teeth grit, she flicked her glaive outward, blade swinging in a wide arc like a dancer’s skirt. The boar Spawn squealed, hauling itself upward and out of the blade’s path, and rotating on its haunches to slam its hooves within striking distance. Aveline dropped, sliding through the space the boar had cleared and slamming the butt of the glaive into the earth as a pivot point. Back on her feet, she kicked high to cartwheel herself back toward the boar, glaive slicing above her and singing as she drew it town in a powerful thrust.

The boar, who had become more cautious for his injuries, turned out of the blade’s path mid-charge. It skittered, unbalanced, and regained its footing against Mariposa’s glancing blow. In the recovery, Aveline whirled the heavy polearm and locked it against her side to lance forward. This time, the boar was caught, and the red blade struck true. Slicing deep behind the whiskered jaw, she winced with the effort of pulling the glaive free. A spray of dark blood flew as the wound was opened wide and the boar reeled and fell with a wet, gargling scream.

Aveline spent no time over the carcass, vaulting over the fallen beast and sprinting toward Elvan. “Stop staring, you show off. We have work to do!” She yelped as she passed him by, boots hammering as she raced to meet one of the huge beasts bursting from the forest. The other Spawn with her target parted around them like a rushing tide, thundering toward the town gates. She would have looked on after them if there had been a moment to waste, but nobody challenged Dusk Spawn and then allowed for distraction.

The creature was huge; a twisted dragon Spawn with teeth curving from its thickly scaled lips in a violent snaggle. It was sleek, like obsidian, and reflected the early rising moonlight in a strange haze. Serpentine, with too many legs and too many eyes and strange mothlike wings that flashed dizzying patterns as the beast spread them and let the glittering appendages shiver. “Van!” she shouted for him even as she prayed Cougal and his cronies would hold their end of the bargain. She hated the gamble they were taking, letting the other beasts rush on, but even working separately there was no way they’d take down so many before they were at the town gates. It was better to coordinate and move quickly.

The great, armored Spawn snaked down toward her, rushing to slither past her. Aveline whirled, twisting to drive Mariposa along the creature’s side. The blade sparked off the beast’s scales, catching only when she hit a junction in the plates. The beast hissed and jerked away, coiling back around itself with tapping claws and rushing feet to face her again. “We have to be quick, they’re descending on the town,” She urged when Elvan had reached her. It was peculiar, because such disparate beasts rarely traveled together, let alone descended on human settlements.

“Something isn’t right.” She said, and thought of what Cougal’s knights had said. She cursed under her breath.

--

Nystali stood at the temple doors when the first wave of beasts poured into town. For knights, they were minor challenges, but for militiamen, they were harrowing fights. She heard shouting beyond and shifted uncomfortably. The Steelbacks should be helping. They had to be. She was certain Aveline would have ensured they agreed to it. Pressing her cheek to the door, she thought she heard the sing of the Star Blade, its resonating majik rippling through to reach her. “Please,” she murmured, and hated the taste of that wish in her mouth. Vile man, but she loved Salynus more than her pride.

It was painfully apparent when the first of the larger beasts reached the gates. “Dusk Spawn?” she said to the temple stillness, and peered out of the thick glass windows of the sanctuary’s outer ring. The windows were colored, fragmented jewel tones, and distorted the scene beyond. Still, she could see people running and beasts looming. It made her heart race and her chest ache with the insistent burn of her unawakened gift. She saw what looked like the silhouette of a militiaman ragdoll off the great, descending swipe of one of the beasts. Another creature crashed against a building and frightened people spilled out.

Finally, she saw what she was certain was Cougal and his men. They were in a tight formation, working together defensively. Once, she saw the glimmer of the Star Blade in the evening light, but the general was not keeping the weapon drawn. When they struck at beasts, they did so together, and the blows were glancing at best. “What are they doing?” she breathed, a rising panic in her throat. When she saw the portly outline that was unmistakably Jorren the baker fall beneath the trample of two beasts fleeing Cougal’s reach.

She clenched her fists. The Steelbacks weren’t fighting back. They were practically encouraging the large beasts to frenzy. Tali left in a rush to her room, throwing off the long-sleeved over coat of her priestess garb and tucking the long tails of her skirts up at her hips. She grabbed her cloak and dug beneath her bed for a roll of fabric. Within, there was a bow and quiver, and a pair of small daggers.

The daggers were common among lore keepers, self-defense items for the temple keepers who would protect the artifacts they would not wield. The bow had been a gift from Aveline. Nystali had begged to be taught, and the two girls had practiced for some months under the cover of night. “I am sorry, Elvan,” she muttered, because she supposed he’d be cross with her after this. She was a priestess, not a knight, and he had seemed always to care very much about that distinction.

Taking the back door from the temple, Nystali rushed to her usual place to climb the wall. “I have to help,” she said to her bow, as if it might disagree with her. She had, perhaps, been alone in the company of artifacts a bit too long.   

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #14 on: July 25, 2017, 09:47:05 am »
Elvan had always thought highly of the knights that towered above him when he’d seen them in the city as a child. Later in life he’d come to terms with his idols being folk too, but he still held them up as moral beings. He tried to keep as many virtues around his heart as he could, and the ones that took harm from a reality that would not be pristine, he reevaluated and reinforced often. He was reminded of this when he swung Saevir and led with Syn as Aveline saw his new form. Circumstances were grave, to say the least, but there was a dark contentment in him, gathering all his inner resources to save lives. Pride, her recognized, and was shamed to feel it, but could also find strength. “I’ve got your back!” he called to her when her uplifting tone urged him to prove himself.

Elvan saw the worming Spawn brush past Aveline and then the wave of sparks that came off its moonlit hide when Marisol touched it. He wondered what Saevir could do to those scales, but wouldn’t want to test it if there was a surer way. Syn took him quickly to the other side of the Dragon thing and held Saevir out in that speed, aiming for the legs while listening to the repellant noise and thrumming air around the disturbing wings. “Then let’s be quick!” he said, certain because he had to be, but finding no flesh with Saevir’s edge. It seemed the many eyes were able to detect his swing and manipulated the limbs independently to avoid damage. He huffed. This was a Dusk Beast after all.

Its tail fractured on its length when he sought it out for a point from which to climb it. The apparent rattle became lances attached by long, naked appendages. During the task of climbing onto the glassy body and avoiding cutting himself up on the ends of the scales, Syn wasn’t able to help him avoid all of the many surging peaks, but his right arm moved hard, and shattered a lance just as it was about to enter through his chest plate. It was an uncomfortable promenade over the spine which caught the moonlight under the thick armoring, but it got him away from the many tails for a while.

By sliding one of Syn’s blades underneath a scale and twist, he was able to find an anchor for himself on the back of the Dragon’s neck. He could hear the birthing of more lances behind him, or the lengthening of the one he’d already encountered, so he hurried to raise Saevir and bring him down with some intent. As the targeted scale shattered, Elvan looked around for Aveline before plunging his blade into the exposed flesh framed by jagged shards.

The Dragon stretched in pain and it aided the goal of extending its spears and their holding limbs. It thrashed wildly with the reaching weapons and hoped to catch or impale something around it while also aiming for Elevan on the top of its spine.

-

In a particularly telling moment, Cougal caught a minor beast by the neck as it was barreling past him and his knights to leap at a woman. It might look as though he’d heeded Nystali’s plea. The Gestalt allowed him to throw the Spawn back toward the square, where more prey could be found. He looked around and threw his fingers in the direction of the wall where he could see the priestess. He’d rather not let her be wasted here. “Go.” He told one of his knights, who didn’t hesitate to throw himself in to the fighting and through it, to keep the beasts off the stone they meant to climb for the holy archer.

Cougal finally drew the Star Blade, and his impulse charged it to paint blinding traces in the air that had legs of their own. The beasts that meant to hunt single prey were scared back to keep jumping at the men in the square. Meanwhile, the general did nothing but hold the weapon that could be Salynu’s salvation.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #15 on: July 25, 2017, 04:52:17 pm »
“Hold on tight!” Aveline called from where she stood below the beast. She swung Mariposa to clip the tip of a bony lance thrust her way, leaping and twisting out of range of the flailing beast. Dodging forward quickly and sliding beneath the Spawn’s low-carried neck, she sliced an upward arc with the red blade. It caught in a softer portion of the creature’s throat, thick skin but no armored plates there. The beast’s blood was black and hot, flecking her face as she carved the glaive forward and brought the blade free. The dragon writhed and shuddered, rearing back to throw Elvan and then crashing forward onto the ground, its many legs splaying and claws flexing in empty, frantic gestures. Aveline vaulted herself out of the creature’s path in short time, the rush of air from the beast’s thick neck falling fanning against her back as she cleared its path.

She didn’t wait to see if Elvan was alright. Even if he’d been thrown, he was no knight if he couldn’t handle a few bruises. Her own injuries from the boar tusk were throbbing, but it did nothing to slow her. They were back near enough to the gates that she could hear a frenzy in town. It made heart leap into her throat. Whatever Spawn had come with this stampede had made their way into the square by now. The guards that watched Salynus’ gate were gone, save a lifeless body slumped on the wall.

Aveline rushed through the open gate to see her adopted home in flames. Beasts had rushed through most of the town, and their thrashing progress had sent lit coals from hearths and wooden homes ablaze. There was no one to tend to the fires, though. Small groups of militiamen still railed against the frenzy of smaller beasts, and a single Dusk Spawn adorned with a mass of arrows appeared to have fallen under the bulk of the town’s fletching supply. There were still five large Dusk Spawn raging through the square, and as many bodies on the ground for each.

Salynus was a small town, largely self-sufficient because of their modest population. Their temple had kept them relevant to Orpha’s interests, but it was hardly a strike on the map otherwise. Today, the town would easily lose over half their population of working men and the vast majority of their militia. And there, in the midst of it all, she saw the Steelbacks. That company of four men could have taken down a Dusk Spawn each, and the Star Blade scores more. Instead, they seemed to be herding the beasts around town, throwing them away when it was convenient and turning a blind eye otherwise. She watched in horror as one of the knights started toward Vera the seamstress and then seemed to change his mind, leaving her at the mercy of two smaller canine Spawn who were tearing viciously at the fallen woman.

“This was always the plan,” she breathed, understanding then that Salynus had been doomed the moment the General had set foot in her streets. Their small home was hardly enough to support the monetary demands of the Steelbacks, but he could take what they had and occupy their temple. She’d heard rumors about the Star Blade and how it had grown in strength, rather than diminished, over the years. Now, her gut twisted at the thought the rumors must be true.

--

Nystali fired two arrows at one of the smaller beasts nearest the foot of the temple. The first hit its mark when the second flew short, and she wished with all her might that she were stronger. So concentrated on aiming at the beasts accosting her home was she, that she saw Cougal’s man encroaching on her perch almost too late. Her reaction was sudden an visceral, a hot pain in her chest that shuddered down her fingertips. Taking aim in a rush, she sent an arrow into the back of the knight’s hand, where he’d gone to grab a handhold in the stone wall to reach her.

The knight bellowed, spitting curses at the girl as he stumbled back, but he was hardly deterred. He ripped the arrow from his hand, throwing it to the ground and crushing it beneath his boot, before rushing at the wall again in earnest. Nystali gasped and fled, picking her way along the top of the wall as quickly as she could, trying to head toward the gate. She saw Aveline come into town and felt a rush of relief. Surely, Elvan must be close behind too. Tali was not as agile as the glaive-wielding knight, and her progress along the wall was slow with Cougal’s knight on her heels. Still, she was sure enough of her footing to move confidently, and picked up her pace when she saw her friend. If she could only reach Aveline, surely the knight would leave her be.     

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #16 on: July 25, 2017, 10:08:22 pm »
The swords sung together when he landed, boots deep in the dirt. The dragon writhed with the delusion of recovery after such a wound. Mariposa had another life on her edge. Elvan felt a crimson kind of contentment as he set off fast, again with Syn as his guide, and already charged his right arm with strength to use Saevir when the time came. This inappropriate excitement fouled into something cold when he saw Tali on the wall with a knight after her, and the state of the town, with flames spreading embers like their beloved dandelion seeds flying in their hot season. He should have known by the order of his perception where his heart was, then.

The swords sang without symmetry. Their songs were of the same mood, but didn't meet. He knew what they wanted, because he felt it too. With a hard launch, the heel of his boot, he was running up the wall with all that Syn could provide, nearing the two faster than any climber could. It was hurtful to see her in trouble, but he was glad to have come when he did. He couldn't read the knight's reason but the stress in her eyes was enough for Elvan to know his own course of action. An angry, shallow slice with Saevir landed his arm-guard in the knight's temple, which was more than enough to send the ill-intent tumbling off the treacherous wall.

"Tali, are you alright?" he demanded, more anger in his voice than he'd meant, but she should be able to recognize it as worry.

Cougal let a real expression show, reaching well into his black eyes when he focused on Aveline. It was a confession as clear as he could make it, and a tongue of stars connected by billowing fire stood from the Star Blade to celebrate his plan. Nothing she'd be able to hold up as proof for the townsfolk, but more than enough for her idea to be cemented into her common sense.

There was something smug in Cougal's eyes to follow the content darkness. If she'd been close enough, Avaline could have made out the shadow of a titanic spider with a woman's torso on the arachnid pod ontop of all the legs. The Spawn was framed in fire, but it seemed she was immune where the flames could reach her, the low of her legs mirroring the inferno like metal, or crystals.

Elvan who'd thrown his arms around Nystali saw one of those legs rise impossibly high and then jut toward Aveline, never minding she might not be prepared.

The vigor he'd felt in his arms was partially gone, the bravado in the swords only available fully when protecting their daughter, but they had quite some will for the knight, too. He let go of Tali and kicked himself off from the wall. At this distance it'd be nothing less than flight that would help him save her.

He rolled on the ground too soon, the arch of the leap failing him even with the blades singing loudly to give him wings. There were salted, silver fragments in his wake when he stood during the slide of his impact, and he prayed to Syn as he built velocity. It wasn't enough. The moment was halted in his heart, but the beast's leg was still shooting toward Avaline.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #17 on: July 26, 2017, 10:53:29 pm »
Nystali nearly stumbled, whirling on her heel when Elvan landed on the wall behind her. He sent the pursuing knights flailing off the wall in a stroke. She gasped, flinching when turned to her, but nodded in relief. “Yes, I’m fine.” She said, glancing him over to assess the same of him. “The General and his men…” she started, and there was nothing she could say to coherently convey the horror unfolding in the town.

She didn’t need to. The Star Blade was known to strike down hordes, mighty Gestalt shielding Cougal so that he could proceed with an unmatched aggression. That the town was falling apart like this, and Spawn still screamed, was enough evidence that the Steelbacks had no love for little Salynus. It was comforting to have Elvan’s arms around her, for that brief moment. A miniscule safety in this awful, burning twilight. Nystali had never known a world beyond Salynus, and now she watched her home burn by the will of corrupt men.

There was no time to mourn.

Aveline met Cougal’s stare with a fiery determination that flared against everything that look confirmed. “You are no knight.” She spat, though he was too far from her to hear and there was very little reason for him to care. She saw his gaze shift subtly, a brief glance away from her. From across the square, she heard Nystali scream her name. She whirled to see the bladed limb descending on her.

Mariposa’s blade rang, resonating against the carapace of the creature’s leg as she stopped it’s plunge on the flat of the glaive. Teeth grit, it took all her energy to resist the creature’s force, and it seemed the beast had every intention to overwhelm her. She heard the pointed tip of the arachnid leg screech as it slid across Mariposa’s crimson surface, and made a valiant effort to shove against it hard enough to dodge out of the way. Suddenly, the beast screamed, a frightening twist of mangled humanoid vocal chords, and reeled back. She vaulted back several steps to clear the creature’s space in quick order.

When she had a breath to search for what had sent the beast off her, she saw the Spawn’s human hands clawing at its face, where an arrow had lodged itself firmly into its eye socket. Tali. Aveline grinned, tossing a glance over her shoulder in time to catch Nystali lowering her bow, the flicker of a smile on the girl’s lips. She laughed, twirled Mariposa toward her charge, and then lanced back toward the arachnid Spawn.

She cleared three of the spidery legs at the second joint with a broad tear of her red blade. The creature screamed, giving up on prying the arrow from its face, and focusing its one remaining eye on Aveline. The destroyed legs crackled and wheezed and new digits sliced outward from the hanging joints almost as quickly as Aveline had cleared them away. She needed Elvan’s speed, because the glaive was elegant death but not so quick as Syn and Saevir’s twin blades. “Van, stop slacking!” Aveline called, dodging beneath the creature’s bulbous body to twirl singing arcs of her polearm toward its legs.  She’d seen him when she’d looked for Tali, and was certain he’d been on his way to her.

Aveline was remarkable that way, swinging ballistic energy into each pass of her blade with full knowledge that the creature would continue to grow limbs back. She was smiling, too. She’d been like that since she and Elvan were very small. In many ways, they might have shared a similar heart. A strong sense of duty and desire to serve, the path to knighthood emblazoned so clearly in their sights. But, where Elvan had adopted some degree of somber, Aveline had worn an unwaveringly sincere enthusiasm. She had pride in her heart and in the challenge. Saving what was left of Salynus, in the face of the Steelbacks, was more than enough to remain brilliant.

From where she stood atop the wall, Nystali breathed a sigh of relief. Cougal put down one of the large beasts, and its dying howls were a peculiar comfort. Salynus was broken enough that the general had no more reason to humor the horde.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #18 on: July 27, 2017, 08:57:31 am »
Aveline’s first deflection resonated with his heart, and it let him sigh in a relief that felt painful at the end of the exhale. He scrambled faster, and laughed with perverse delight when the monster announced its suffering at Tali’s arrow. Syn gave him enough momentum to leave the ground, finally, and he smiled at the priestess on the wall as Saevir spun him once. ”I’m here.” He assured her as the blue blade divided a joint of a monstrous limb.

Falling back he was unable to reach the next leg as he’d planned. He cussed as the beast directed the arrow in its eye in his direction. She coughed, but seemed to be getting used to the sensation of being mutilated now. It was frustrating to land a severing blow and still not do enough damage to last, with her legs shooting out again before she could even bleed very much. He squeezed his new swords tight as his eyes narrowed, looking around. The time it took him to descend was enough for the spider to regenerate, so he’d have to find a way to cut her faster.

The bladed heel of another harrowing spider digit came for him, and he shifted out of its way barely. Close to it like this, the speed Syn provided wasn’t enough, but his own helped him run up the hard shell and then balance over the horizontal part of the leg until he could stand on the back of her body. She was not too pleased with her passenger. Standing close to her torso like this, atop the bulb of a spider belly, he realized she was proportional in shape, but twice his own size. His attempt at cutting her arm failed, but at least it made her rethink swatting at him without a weapon. The small victory was not enough to steady him on the swaying body and he missed when he swung Saevir at the base from which her right legs sprung.

Cougal saw the three battle with the impressive Dusk creature, but also that Salynus had already fallen apart around them. He shrugged to ready himself as a mid-day beast tried to catch him in his chest, and caught the buck by the horns with his gauntlets. Cougal’s body was not armored with the gestalt that clad his arms, but the majik extended, so the buck with barnacles on its back could not drive him over the cobblestone. The Star Blade crackled where he’d sheathed it over his shoulder. And then the beast tried to retreat, but Cougal wouldn’t let it. He continued to part his arms and its horns until its skull complained, seams of bone rattling to stay intact before they were undone, their breaking accompanied by its hide tearing. It was a gruesome way of destroying something, but it was equally impressive. The few townsfolk that were alive and fighting seemed to take strength from seeing the general stand above a split cranium with the brains and fallen out eyes at the toes of his boots.

The knight hopeful saw the gratuitous carnage and huffed. They should be grateful for any help, he supposed, but those kind of self-satisfying theatrics were obviously not to save anyone but himself. Elvan stabbed Saevir into the hard surface of the spider’s back, and twisted to keep the sword deep. This new-found balance let him cut with Syn in a pendulous motion through the base of the legs. It was an effective way of keeping them from regrowing too far. The sounds from her throat alternated between a gargle and imitations of screams around town. It affect him, but he still let Syn and her velocity slice the sprouting legs as the giant beast topple with him on her back.

“Incoming!” he shouted at Aveline. The spider should have no real defense left upon impact, and it seemed like a good time to bring a glaive to her.

Cougal, who’d sent a crescent of starfire to thunder against the spine of the last Dusk spawn, walked with triumphant cadence toward the center of the square, where shadows from burning homes converged. He’d be seen well, here, by the fountain where the baker’s wife floated in the water that reflected orange, yellow, and black. As the beast fell on a house and made it unlivable, a knight came up to the general and said, voice raised to defeat the ruckus, that the summoner had things under control again. The townsfolk flocked toward him while their assigned knight and the trainee, and even their priestess were still trying to save them.

“You’re welcome, Salynus.” He said and held his famous sword up. The people were tired but there was still cheer, which was morbid in the fires lighting them. “Are you done listening to your so called protectors now?” he asked as he pointed the Star Blade at the battle still ruining a corner of the square. “They fight well, but they’re not enough. I will be enough if you’ll have me.” He continued and the men and women and the children in their arms came closer to him, hungry for the safety he peddled. “But I can’t work without the proper help from you.” How modest, when his price was so steep. “Let me into your temple and keep these proud doubters away so I can focus on your borders.” And every heart wanted to appease him, because they’d seen him throw beasts with his hands, and torn them in two. He’d even brought down a Dusk Spawn with a whip of his wrist.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #19 on: July 27, 2017, 04:40:53 pm »
Aveline heard his warning and sprang into action, leaping after the toppling arachnid to drive Mariposa into the beast’s belly. “Clear out!” She shouted back, and the creature began to writhe and shudder with its encroaching demise. The remaining limbs on the Spawn were still bladed and wild, thrashing upward to strike at whatever they could. One of the legs caught Aveline across the arm, slicing through her vambrace even as she jerked it up to protect herself. The heavy leather had done well enough to mute the blow, and the inflicted wound was shallow. Grasping Mariposa’s shaft with both hands, she pried it free of the creature’s bulbous abdomen and swung herself out of reach.

In the square, the people were already swarming around Cougal, who had taken down the remaining beasts all too easily. Nystali didn’t understand why the townsfolk were eager. She thought they should have wondered why something that had come to the general so easily had been administered so late. She thought they should have been baffled by the destruction and the deceased, but they rallied in a frenzy instead. Panic was an awful sort of drug, and many of the survivors crowded around the tall knight with glassy eyes and a stench of desperation. Tali clenched her fists and scurried toward a crumbling portion of the wall, picking her way back down to the ground as quickly as she could.

She worried the general or his men might see her, racing toward the rear of the temple, but she managed to make it to the door unseen. Her breath was fast as she fumbled to open the door, but she charged toward the inner sanctum with all she could muster. She was grateful, then, that she’d passed Syn and Saevir to Elvan. It was a safety she hadn’t been able to ensure the other artifacts. Tali snatched up the bag of Ariam’s remains, which still lay discarded in the doorway. She tucked it into her cloak and then hurriedly went about gathering up whatever artifacts she could carry.

Aveline clenched her fist, the wound sliced across her arm smarting. Small, needle-like hairs had lodged themselves in the cut and irritated the injury at ever movement. Still, she picked her way toward Elvan, adjusting the bow Virtue across her shoulder. She exhaled sharply, barely noticing the clamor of the surviving townsfolk, and reached out to offer Elvan a hand up from where the Spawn had thrown him. “Remarkably, we’ve survived.” She said, with a rueful grin. A quick glance around would see that at least two of their trainees and a good portion of the militia had not been so lucky. It was best not to consider the full extent of the town’s destruction or the degree of civilian loss. Frankly, that assessment could only get worse into the darkest hours of the morning.

In the flood of relief that came with an end to the horde, Aveline had not yet registered that the crowd was making their way toward the temple with Cougal at the front.

Within, Nystali retreated with her arms burdened by whatever artifacts she could hold. It was less than half of Salynus’ trove, though none of the artifacts were exceptional. She’d done what she could take the weapons she feared in Cougal’s hands the most, but it left a terrible guilt in her that she was abandoning the least defended of their artifacts. Perhaps, if Elvan and Aveline could make it to her, they could save more.

It seemed there would be no such luck on her side, though. As she made her way toward the temple’s back door, it slammed open violently and sent her stumbling back. The knight that Elvan had sent from the wall leered at her from the doorway. He looked frightening, dark, dried blood over his eye and a malicious set to his teeth. “Where do you suppose you’re going, Nightingale?” he asked.

By the time Elvan would be able to notice where Cougal was headed and he and Aveline could make it to the temple, it would be much too late. Nystali had been brought out onto the front step to meet the people, her people, with the knight’s hand wrapped around her throat and her arms shaking as she clutched the modest pile of artifacts to her chest.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #20 on: July 27, 2017, 09:54:25 pm »
The impact hadn't hurt him too much. There had been weight to the topple of the spider, more than enough to put the glaive deep, but large things fighting their own death do not fall fast. Still he rolled on the ground, slipping off the blank surface of the spider's body and disturbing dust with his own. He came to a stop eventually, swords spread out, and allowed two deep breaths before he thought of standing. The fires were young and healthy, and there would be injured to help - he hoped - and dead to tend to. He hung Saevir in his wife's hand too as he sat, smiling with dirty cheeks at Aveline as he stood, relying on her grip.

"Then we have more work to do." because we did survive. He understood the person it made him when he chose to see that when she was reveling in her own way about their triumphs, and gave her another smile. "Let's see if we can do something about the fires. It seems the winds aren't making things worse." That which could have been eaten by the flames was already ablaze. Their efforts might be better spent on protecting people, now. He leaned in closer, until he could rest his forehead on her head. An unspoken thing, for their battle together. And then there was no more time for them to be friends, because their home was still breaking around them.

He saw the mass soon, by the temple, and silver eyes that were clear in a cinder-touched face flared wide with new life. It was nervous energy to a sleepy heart, but it put Saevir in the right hand as Elvan started running, forgetting about Aveline because he could. He rarely needed to worry about her.

Cougal thought she was lovely in a smaller way. The way she clung to those little morsels and her distress spoke to a part of him that was not very knightly. What a waste to plunder this town in that way, and have her like that when she could have more important things in her belly. Tranx was a good knight for his purpose, and held her still, proud to have made this scene. Cougal liked him because of the things he could stomach for his general.

Was she afraid when his talons came for her face? His arm was longer than any man's with the gestalt. "Look at your thief priestess!" he said to the crowd, and they were happy to have someone to be appalled at. They pelted her with accusation and he wondered if he could throw them into a frenzy if he snapped his fingers and opened up her skull. Crowds are known to adore bloodshed. "Going to the knight hopeful and the traitor with the glaive, I assume?" The outside of a talon caressed her cheek when he turned around. "Even when you're in need of faith now." How upset they were, staring at him, caring to be angry while their town burned. "Let the temple that couldn't save you pay your bill!" he suggested and their roars agreed. "No coin for the first period, on me, people of Salynus!" They could not agree more.

"She's protecting those artifacts from you and your greedy claws!" Elvan retorted, moving people aside with his elbows and shoulders until he could stand between them and Cougal. He turned to his side to look at Aveline, if she'd come. It would be to convey his worry.

Cougal saw that the man was willing to fight him, and wondered how those swords would taste when Elvan laid broken, but instead drew the Star Blade and held the scorching edge close to Nystali's neck and Tranx's fingers. "That's your perspective." he gave as he instead lowered the famished tip to the wealth she had in her arms. Their majik tried to retreat from the Eater, even willing to reach out of their husks to climb into Nystali's stomach, ready to infuse her inner cargo with themselves instead of being condemned to the Star Blade. But the blade was already suckling at the craft. Cougal's eyes were hollow as he felt the power, and the event was written in the veins of his gestalt.

"Stop!" Elvan tried and stepped closer, swords ready. Cougal replied by pushing the blade deeper into what she was holding, saying of course that he'd stab through the artifacts and run her through if Elvan moved in any unfavorable way.

"You only want to save her so you can run off with our treasures!" Mekeillan screamed and threw the shard of a cobblestone at the knight hopeful that had helped him dig his well. Others agreed with nods and worse insults.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #21 on: July 27, 2017, 10:42:39 pm »
It was wrong to say the artifacts were their Kin, but it was also wrong to say they were not. Among those who bore such bladed majiks in their hearts, it was impossible to separate one from the other. In that way, Nystali had loved the small hopes that were Salynus’ artifacts. She felt her heartbeat singing harmonies with their energies and had learned contentment from it. The priestess, who had worn meticulously practiced faces for her people, found her stoicism ripped from her.

Tears streamed down her pale cheeks, catching strands of her moonlight hair. It was not her own sorrow, but the overwhelming burden of the Kin who had left their artifacts behind and scrambled against the calling void of the Star Blade. It hurt, and she cried out, winking lights and smoke in dizzying hues flowing off the artifacts against her skin. The majik penetrated her, reaching for her own treasure, and when they nearly touched Cougal’s blade tore the majik away. Gasping sobs shook her small body as her dearest friends were torn violently away from her heart.

“Tali!” Aveline had been close on Elvan’s heels, following his gaze and catching the same horror. She lurched toward her friend, only to have Cougal’s two other knights step to intervene. Mariposa’s blade snapped with a frantic energy as Aveline ground the toes of her boots into the earth.

Salynus was a simple town, in the end. Aveline supposed she could have forgiven that fear might turn them away from Elvan and herself, but Nystali had been theirs since birth. Sometimes, her temple-dwelling friend would inundate her with questions about Orpha and its libraries and the places Aveline had gone on campaign. Aveline would promise adventures, and Tali would thank her and return to her books. It made Aveline’s heart ache to see the priestess abandoned so quickly. “You hypocrits! You turn on your lore keeper for carrying the burden you gave her!” Aveline spat, whirling to face Mekeillan with fury in her eyes.

She dared not keep her eyes off the general and his hostage for longer than a moment though, and was facing him with Mariposa at the ready again. Nystali met her friend’s gaze and quickly averted her stare, which only made Aveline grit her teeth and take another step forward. Of course, Tali would love Salynus to the end. But Cougal had already taken the battered husk of this town and his Blade had taken its artifacts. “Give her back to me, you bastard. Take the damned temple, but give us the Nightingale.” Aveline hissed.

“No, you can’t!” Nystali blurted, squeezing the artifacts closer to her chest. Most had already lost their unnatural sheen. The Star Blade greedily sought everything she held. Tranx squeezed his hand a little tighter, as if to thrash her for speaking. The general’s stare stopped the gesture. Naturally, Nystali was not for anyone else to break. “Elvan, please,” she begged.

Aveline touched Elvan’s arm. “Don’t be stupid. We have to get Nystali,” she murmured. She was certain he’d want to do what the priestess wanted. It wasn’t as if Aveline wanted to simply hand over Salynus either. But, with all the pieces falling into place, she was certain the Steelbacks would take what they wanted by any means necessary. “You know what he can do to her.” A more urgent insistence then, because they’d both seen a Kin woman struck down by and artifact hunter, when they were small. The woman had stained the ground red, bones snapping as her artifact had been ripped from her body unwillingly. The dirt in that spot had stayed dark for quite some time after. The hunter had eventually been brought to justice by a Jor Orpha knight, but it had done nothing for the woman’s carcass.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #22 on: July 28, 2017, 07:50:27 am »
Elvan trembled as he saw the light within Nystali's embrace fade, climbing the cutting edge of the Star Blade and granting its metal a better shine. Syn and Saevir were singing angrily, shaking his nerves into a baseline. He wanted to take Cougal's head and see what the townsfolk would do then, without their new deity. But those thoughts were always young when they died in Elvan's heart. He couldn't just stand here, though, when his friend insisted and his priestess needed.

"If that's what you want." he said with all the dread he was able to push through his teeth. He wanted to cradle Tali and run, but Cougal's game was political, which meant there might be no need to measure their worth with their swords. That gave Elvan hope, since the Star Blade had no honor, or purity in purpose, but it was powerful, surely more so than a mother and a father fighting for their daughter. He turned around to see all the sets of eyes that had become familiar and dear to him, when all he wanted was to look at Nystali. "You want his protection instead?" And they were no longer cheerful when they agreed. Perhaps a sane part was struggling in them, now. He couldn't afford that kind of goodness. "You want to feel safe? You want this for your children and I understand." This put fire back in their sensationalist mood, and some of them raised their fists for no reason while they buzzed with eager.

Elvan put the swords in their sheaths, crossed on his side, which made the knights relax around him. "Who needs you then! A bunch of ungrateful peasants who kept me from my knighthood anyway. I'll go serve a city, or a lord with more gold than you people have rats." They were ignited. Another shard was thrown, and this one cut underneath his cheekbone, which let a stretch of blood wash some ash off his face. Eyes still clear as he took steps back, hand on Aveline's arm. He should be seen as no threat now, retreating.

"I'm glad you see it their way." Cougal said, holding the bustling sword and leaning it on his shoulder to keep it erect. He did not trust the sanctimonious brat he'd come to know over his visits here. But it was hard to imagine the yet to be knight could draw his weapons faster than Cougal could lower his own, and render him in two halves.

"Leave here! Leave for our children!" Mekeillan said and threw a lump of dirt toward Aveline, who they had least issues with. "You can't do anything for us, the three of you!"

With his hand not holding on to Aveline, Elvan reached to squeeze Tranx's wrist, which forced it to let go of Nystali. He caught her and brought her against his side when he continued back. Cougal's eyes swirled with insult, a possessive face. He was about to take the priestess back when the crowd let go of another shower of whatever was at their feet. Elvan held Tali closer to shield her as he went backward toward and exit they knew well. She’d still want to hug the spent treasures, he guessed.

“I am sorry.” For us all. His cheek not bleeding on her hair. How livid Saevir was. Elvan thought he would have comfort from Cougal’s frustrated expression as they went back, away from the people who rejected them, but there was sadness in his heart. He’d been avoiding Aveline’s eyes, having forced her along this path, but her turned his silver toward her now, his cheek still on Nystali as they kept backing off.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #23 on: July 28, 2017, 05:01:19 pm »
The dirt clod burst against Mariposa’s singing red blade, and Aveline’s eyes slid toward Mekeillan with a contempt in her expression that made the man take a step back. He was forced to wonder, in a cold grip, if Salynus was selling its soul. The way the knight looked at him seemed to say as much; in a moment, Aveline had severed herself from these people, too stupid to realize their own folly. It was a sharp contrast to the way Elvan gave them fuel to hate with, but Aveline had only loved the town as much as it had loved her friends. Fiercely loyal girl, but with a stark and judgmental morality.

She grit her teeth against the way Elvan stoked their frenzy, inviting them to force Cougal’s hand. It was a measured move and she hadn’t a better solution, but it stung to see familiar faces turn so ugly. “We’ll take our leave then, General.” Aveline said, stiff back and exacting tone. She gripped Mariposa tightly. Despite what Elvan had postured, there was no safe city to serve. The Steelbacks had overrun the vast majority of Jor Orpha, and there had been whispers back in the capitol that they had allied themselves with similar minded militaries in the surrounding regions. There was a level of coordination to the rumors that had made them exceptionally hard to ignore, but the Steelbacks had quietly held Orpha for so long it was preposterous to investigate. “Have you dead town.” She said.

Tali was holding the disenchanted artifacts in a death grip when Elvan pulled her close, and she was quivering with something caught between horror and rage. “But the others…” she began, but thought she could say no more because Elvan and Aveline were throwing themselves to the wilderness for her and she could not be so selfish. Numbly, she allowed Elvan to guide her along, and could not bring herself to look back at the people who’d raised her and acknowledge their abandonment.

It was, at least, a small comfort to Aveline to see Cougal’s frustration as they went. She stalked by with her chin high and Mariposa carried at an aggressive tilt. This was an exit, not a retreat, so far as she was concerned. And they’d take the Nightingale with them. She met Elvan’s stare with a fleeting smirk. It wasn’t wholly convincing. There was nothing to be proud of here, really, but it was enough to confirm that he had her support in this. “It’s for the best.” She assured in a low voice.

--

The trio walked for a long time before any of them bothered to look back in the direction of Salynus. At that distance, the town was still aglow in amber hues as pockets of homes still burned. Slowly, the lights winked out as Cougal and his men organized the people. Nobody had spoken, and the weight of their exodus seemed to have grown with every step. Nystali had not let go of the bundle of weapons she carried.

“We should find a place to stop for tonight. It’s been a long day, and tomorrow isn’t apt to be particularly restful.” Aveline said at last. Tali had remained close to Elvan, ashamed that she’d sought that sort of reassurance when her friends were surely suffering as much. They had been walking along one of the kingdom-built roads, which ran along the edge of the scarred forest from which the Spawn horde had burst. Now, they turned into the tree line, picking their way through the shadows until they came across a suitable clearing. It was best not to light fires within sight of the main roads; there were still bandits that lurked in the night to cause as much trouble as any small Spawn.

When they had built a small fire and settled down beside it, Aveline went about removing her armor. Broken buckles and torn bracers aside, she was glad her equipment had made it out in a semblance of working order. Nystali was watching. “You’re hurt.” Tali said, when Aveline had set her heavy leatherwork aside. Aveline glanced up at her.

“It’s nothing, honestly.” She said. Nystali shook her head. She hesitated before setting them down, but finally lay the meager pile of artifacts on the earth so that she could go to her friend. It was sad to see it, the way the white-haired girl set down the weapons with all the care of laying down an infant. Still, she went to Aveline and took her hand, frowning over the gash the arachnid Spawn had left and the lodged, spiny hairs there.

She hadn’t looked at Elvan yet, and it seemed she was torn. Certainly, Nystali understood what her friends had done for her, but she couldn’t help but feel Elvan had chosen to simply leave the remaining artifacts to their fate. She thought she could justify Aveline making that choice, but she had thought Elvan had loved Salynus and its temple the way she had. And Elvan could have taken her artifact. Surely, in that moment, they would have produced something worthy of taking on the general. At least enough to make the town see the truth of things. No matter how often he avoided it, Tali was certain he knew as well as she that her artifact had been calling to him since he’d arrived in town.

Now, she did turn toward him. “That thing you two fought in town. It’s left barbs in her arm.” She said. “Do you have any salve?” she asked, glancing between her friends for either to answer. Sometimes, the knights carried minimal medicinal supplies on them, but neither Aveline nor Elvan would have been expecting to be in need of them.   

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #24 on: July 28, 2017, 07:50:55 pm »
They had listened to Aveline about camp, and he'd taken the task from her when she started looking for flint. During their training, they'd always fought over who might be better at making fires, and often raced for the opportunity. He wasn't ignorant to her state, and she didn't miss the shadows that now nestled in his lashes, giving his usual expression a kind of wear that suggested he was tired in his soul. A kindness for both of them, then, if she'd let him set sparks to tinder without argument. He spoiled the fire, more than it was warranted to, given its temporary job. In the flames he saw what they left behind, and threw wood to disrupt the shapes.

It broke his heart to see Nystali lay the drained treasures down. When her shoulder was stiff as he brushed it, offering condolences for that specific pain of majik lost, he didn't understand why. He sat by the fire until Nystali spoke again. He left Syn and Saevir to guard the heat while he went to the other two. "Can I see?" he asked both of them, even though Aveline's answer would carried most weight. He would hold up the arm to catch the gleam of light that he'd built. It wasn't deadly by any means, not that he could see, but it looked irritated for the barbs.

"In the tip of the sheath." he said and handed Nystali a dagger, scabbard extended beyond the length of the blade it held, a brass cylinder with Woldsvort, a common antiseptic but with the priestess's own oils mixed in. He only used Nystali's medicine if he could help it. He tried to catch her eyes then. With new clarity while keeping Aveline's forearm up with Syn's fingers, he was brought back to their temple, and the few discussions they'd had about what she harbored, and his role in its destiny. It was quite unfair, he thought, to blame him, not for their exodus, but for refusing power he couldn't take from her. The Star Blade returned to his mind like a tear in denial. Was it even possible something that was truly Elvan's could challenge such a monstrous artifact? He snuffed the thought with something righteous and smarting, because he didn't want to know the answer.

It was a bitter mouth that met with the cut from spider's leg on Avaline's skin. Suction, light, to stand the stuck thorn up so his teeth could pinch the available end and pull it out. His head was lowered in a sullen bow. This silent conversation between Nystali and himself. He took the thorn out from between his lips with his free hand and raised a brow at its length. Must have grown once lodged. He left it on the protective plate on his thigh where he sat, and then brought another peck to the wound, not really interested in consent from Aveline for this. Her blood was hot, and it gave him a morbid smile far out on his cheeks. Eventually there were enough barbs on display on his armor that he was satisfied the wound was exorcised.

His quiet extended though, when Aveline got her arm back and a touch on her cheek with his cleanest hand. Bloodied lips didn't say, but the silence was laid out between himself and the former nightingale.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #25 on: July 28, 2017, 10:15:34 pm »
Nystali was quick with the instruction and found the small round disk of salve, sandwiched between two tiny metal plates so that it could lay snug in a confined space. “It’s not all that exciting,” Aveline was saying to Elvan’s question, and didn’t seem to mind if he wanted to inspect the wound. They had both endured much worse. The dark-haired knight flushed a little when he brought his lips to her skin. It was functional, she was aware, but she averted her eyes regardless. Tali caught the reaction and it would have brought on the ghost of a smile if she’d been in a better mood.

“Thanks,” Aveline muttered, when Elvan had finished. She was glad to be put back in Nystali’s care for the application of the cream. Even then, her cheeks had not lost their faint pink blush. Tali was gentle, working her fingers over the dry scab and the irritated flesh around it.

“I’m sure it will feel much better by morning. But, you should rest.” Nystali assured her, though it was unnecessary. Still, it felt a bit better to inject something into the sluggish quiet settling between them. She didn’t particularly want to acknowledge Elvan then, and avoided his gaze. She didn’t want to be upset with him, really, but she felt it was too difficult to be a bigger person right then. The day had already stolen so much from her. An absent-minded touch of her hand to her chest—a common mannerism in Elvan’s presence, and she left Aveline with him to return to the set-aside artifacts.

“I’m going to go for a moment. I’ll be close enough for you both to hear me, if there are any issues.” She said, because attempting to deny their worries would be fruitless and all three of them knew it. It wasn’t a question, and Nystali took the artifacts away with her with all the authority her priesthood afforded her. It was not much, and there was a good chance one or both would follow after her. She tried to make her posture indicate they were unwelcome. Aveline glanced at Elvan, frowning, but decided not to follow. Frankly, this was probably the safest any of them had been all day. That was not terribly encouraging, but it could do if Tali wasn’t going far. The lore keeper wasn’t stupid, just upset.

In the space left by Tali’s abrupt departure, Aveline let out a long sigh. “We need to be practical, but I guess we should let her have this much.” She said, to dissuade whatever impulse Elvan might have had to follow when he’d been given no room to protest. Outlined by the glow of the fire, Aveline was a curious sort of pretty. New, because her face rarely wore somber, and because they had been thrust together into a wilderness. She glanced at Elvan and tried a reassuring smile. “You did the right thing, I think.” She said, because Aveline’s right thing was safety for her friends in body and heart. If she didn’t understand the full weight of it, she at least understood his resistance to the fate Nystali was so certain of. In a way, it was her selfish wish to see him happy that allowed her to agree wholeheartedly with the path they’d taken.

She reached out to pull at a lock of his long hair. “We never got to cut it. And I owe you dinner.” She murmured. It had been meant to lighten the mood, but there was too much sincerity in the loss found there. It made her clear her throat, as if to make amends.

--

Nystali held the artifacts close to her chest as she picked her way a bit deeper into the forest. It was not hard to find a small patch of moonlight, only a few yards away. Carefully, she laid out her cloak on the ground with the artifacts on top of it. “I am sorry, my friends.” She said to them, touching each item in turn. “I wanted to help, but…” She exhaled softly. It was easy to think Elvan should have used her, but that didn’t amend her own weakness. “I’m sorry,” she repeated, because she had nothing else to offer. Standing slowly, she unknotted her long skirts and let them brush the ground again. It was not the correct ceremonial garb, but that hardly mattered under the circumstances.

Her feet knew the rhythm out of practice rather than necessity. She had never sent off an artifact before; Ariam would have been her first. Arms like swaying branches and a swirl of moonlight skirts and starlight hair, she beat a path around the laid-out artifacts. Her fingers played intricate music on unseen strings, curling and meeting to draw ancient glyphs in the shapes of her hands. Those languages were long forgotten, their majik diluted, but the heart of the dance remained. There was a soft glow to the dull weapons then, rising in brilliance to the rhythm of her movement.

It was a lonely farewell, because these artifacts were bound to no one and what was left within them were hardly ghosts of their former energy. The items burned with a white light, radiant until they winked out in a synchronous flash. Nystali twirled to a stop, drawing her hands down before her chest and opening her eyes. The weapons were gone, a twinkling dust dancing on the breeze in their place. “I am so sorry. Farewell,” she said. The dust was carried upward, brushing her cheeks as it blustered out into the night sky. When it was done, she returned her cloak to her shoulders and touched the pocket, where Ariam’s bag was still nestled.

--

“She probably understands. It’s just been a hard day.” Aveline said, returning to Nystali as an easier point of conversation. It was not any less of a sore spot, though, given all that had just occurred. “You take the first shift, okay?” she said, childish grin appearing for having assigned him the task. “Our priestess said I need to rest,” she said, pointing at the wound they’d just cleaned. “Probably, go get her if she’s not back soon.” Aveline suggested, piling her armor so that she could use the stack under her head. It was not particularly comfortable, but it was sufficient. “Even if she’s mad at you.”   

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #26 on: July 29, 2017, 12:01:27 am »
Elvan looked toward Nystali when she defended her right to leave. There were those eyes then, that held a little sadness because that expression had helped him in the past, when he was concerned for someone and they wanted the opposite of his advice. She wasn't Layli going out to collect berries when beasts had been seen in the woods, though. Nystali went away, unaffected by his opinion strewn across silver expanses, steps heavier than the weapons she carried. He had it in his head to stand, Tali would always need protection more than even an injured Aveline, but he understood the relative safety they were in, especially when Aveline spoke. He nodded at his friend, because the priestess had already gone.

He enjoyed Aveline's pretty, lamenting in the warmth it always brought to him. Maybe he'd relied on her too much for this, which was unfair to the woman, but he was hopelessly stuck in their friendship, and counted it as a part of him. She might have been happy to know how incomplete he'd felt when she was off, earning her title, but ultimately it couldn't be the assurance she deserved.  "It was the only thing I could think to do." he replied about this course of action he'd sent them on. Pride would have had him cutting at Cougal, and fear would have had him petition for the town's favor again. He couldn't trust either of those inclinations. "Thank you for staying with me."

His smile wasn't careless, how could it be, but it was honest when she toyed with his hair. Maybe it was more honest than his words. Elvan leaned on Aveline, after all, and she was the constant in his life that could steady him now, when he'd thrown them into the night. He might not be willing to see it, but his heart still needed it. He laughed quietly at the thought of food. "I was craving pork until I saw that bore today." he admitted. "Honestly, I think I could still have some." She did it well, on wild rice.

He rubbed his sleeve against the corners of his mouth. The blood was intimate, and he didn't mind it, but despite their experience with this kind of splattered life, he'd rather not wear hers on his face and teeth a night like this. Or any. "Well, you rest then." he encouraged, and was already planning to stay up all night, if he could avoid waking her up. It was the least he could do, he thought, which should have rung in his mind as a mistake, since fatigue was a killer and could turn Dawn beasts into abyssal adversaries. This flaw wasn't a new one in his compendium of shortcomings.

First he sat on his knees by her, and took a lot of strength from seeing her smile. He wanted to say something joking, to tease her like he would, but instead rested in the quiet for a while, and was then overwhelmed with a desire for comfort. He lowered his head until his forehead touched her temple, and loose hair fell on her cheek. "I'll make things better for us. I'll become stronger." he promised with a soft voice in her ear before making to stand.

He needed to go see if Nystali was alright. he needed to feel as though he was still doing something for her.


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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #27 on: July 31, 2017, 08:17:31 pm »
Tali had settled on the ground, legs crossed and fingers circled loosely as she rested her hands on her knees. The rising artifact dust glittered still, winking like so many fireflies in the dark. It was a solemn company, half-empty because the Star Blade had taken too much. The priestess did her best to meditate on the majik that had been released, willing it onward to whatever peace there was in its paltry freedom. It was difficult to focus, though. She could not help but listen closely to the night, for fear of something finding her alone. Nystali could be brave, but she was also pragmatic. This was her duty, or what was left of it, but she knew she was vulnerable and she knew any danger to her endangered her friends.

--

Aveline closed her eyes when he touched his head to hers, inhaling softly his familiar scent. There was an odd expression on her lips, something nostalgic, and she didn’t open her eyes when he pulled away. Once, Aveline had dreamed of standing against the world with Elvan. She supposed it was that way now, but it wasn’t anything like she’d imagined. When they had been very small, her father had often jested that Elvan was going to be the perfect son-in-law. Sometimes, Aveline wondered if she’d ever been a chance at all. It felt as if she’d been raised to love him.

She did open her eyes to watch him go, when he’d stood and turned his back to her. She hadn’t known what to say to his promise so she hadn’t answered it. Aveline sighed when he left. What did stronger even mean? As if he could carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. She thought Nystali was being unfair to him then, but saw her own hypocrisy in the same moment. Aveline rolled onto her side and tried to rest. She’d do her best not to fall asleep before the other two came back, but found her limbs were heavier in the silence.

--

Nystali had stood to go back to their small camp when Elvan found her. She drew her cloak a little tighter around herself and inclined her head, a distant sort of look in her sea storm eyes. Disappointed still, probably, and a little emptier for the loss of the artifacts she’d kept watch over. “You know the story of the Father, don’t you?” she said, when she felt the quiet had stretched too thin. There were many variations of the tale, and she told several of them at the Reaping Festival each year. He had rarely missed one of her songs or dances, so the question was firmly rhetorical.

“In some tellings, he was so distraught by the suffering of his children that he begged the earth to swallow him up. There, seeing the deep love of humanity he’d instilled in his precious offspring, and watching it claw away at their hearts.” Nystali tipped her head back so that she could watch the last swirls of artifacts dust disappear under the moonlight. “The first artifacts were the fated bond of their Harbor Kin and mankind, the inescapable ties woven by fate itself. Their sorrow tore their bones when the pulled their artifacts free.” She shrugged then. “Still, they brought their great weapons into the world.”

Tali stepped toward him to move past him. “Artifacts are the deepest manifestations of their Kin’s emotions, their soul, and the way those senses intertwine with another. It’s always violent, to some extent, but sometimes it’s also beautiful. And when Kin die they leave something behind nobody else can.” When she stood by his shoulder, both facing different ends of the same path, she finally looked him in the eye. “There is an end to everything, of course. But I will break the general and his Star Blade if it is the last thing I do with this body of mine.” With or without my artifact drawn. With or without you. The glint in her eyes was chilly, but only because even those dark dreams were nothing compared to her—their—potential.

And then she seemed to let it all go, her point made, and if she were still frustrated with Elvan it seemed she’d not carry on about it further. “I know you didn’t leave the rest of them lightly.” She said of the artifacts they had left behind. “I should thank you and Aveline both, really.” Serene expression and a little melancholy to her shoulders, but very little else to her tempest.

“I managed to take Ariam,” she told him, touching the pocket of her cloak. “Regardless of everything else, he should have his ceremony too. When you are ready.” She said.

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #28 on: August 01, 2017, 08:08:44 am »
This far from the fire it wasn't hard to find the traces of weapon light. He'd left Aveline to her rest in the orange and red garden, small, fortified, intimate, and gone out here in a pale world, with shadows of harrowing blue. The glittering places in the night were beautiful because they were desperately sad. A warrior, a soldier, Elvan wanted to move his hands through the hues Nystali had sent off, if he could reach, and close a fist to keep the majik. A childish impulse, because they weren't traveling the way his feet were, they were moving on. If Nystali hadn't taught him, and he'd come upon this departure on his own, he would have liked to think he'd still known there was sadness all around. And finality.

"I remember." the way he knew all the stories she sang. He'd thought it'd be a weakness, but her dances didn't soften his heart in battle. He saw her motions and it steadied his hand. Gravity for his missions, because her faith made it more than just the survival of Salynus, it gave him a context in the story of the their world, itself. He could only glimpse it, having to stay in the acute present, but she always lived like she was affected by every fiber of time's thread. She was carrying that burden now, mixed up about it like the colors she'd put in the air.

He listened to her chosen iteration of the story. To quell sadness, sometimes, he remembered her comforting others with a well lived life of an artifact. He didn't think that applied to the ones that had now left Husks behind, either. Elvan touched the tip of her chin when she raised it to see the leaving majik. He wanted soothe her, somehow. His need for that deepened when she had vengeance in her eyes. He thought to shrug it off, this sharp, unspoken promise, but he'd denied her too many things. "We'll see Cougal to justice." he offered, which was perhaps not the same, but it might result in saving her soul, if that outcome came about.

He was more grateful for the softening of her posture than her offered thanks. He lifted a heavy corner of his mouth to look at the shards she'd kept of the spear that had saved him earlier today. It seemed like that was so long ago, it might as well have been one of her songs about the First. Ariam hadn't gone like the others. Even in his dying he'd kept to a cause. Ariam had died well. He reached to brush the pocket, which let his arm grace her hip.

“Would the others carry his spirit?” he asked. It would make this graveyard into more of an altar, but that’d cost Ariam’s ceremony some fondness, wouldn’t it? “When he first came to us, I had to wrestle the other knights for him. He was so vigorous then. I don’t really know how he’d been assigned to Salynus.” Maybe those that distributed the artifacts had finally realized the dire state of the town. Maybe Ariam’s kin having lived in a neighboring village that was now a place of ghosts had something to do with it. “I used to try and learn him. He’d burn me when I threw him in the beginning, when my form wasn’t pure.” He laughed a little at that and flexed his hand. “Now I can handle a spear much better than even after specialized training.” He mused, remembering as he mocked a throw, still standing close to her.

The turn of his body touched his shoulder to hers, and his head followed in that motion to apologize. Her face under the cloak was as pretty as a sacred thing, wrapped in cloth to be kept. It stopped his remembering, and his spear hand touched soot-adorned knuckles to her cheek. “What do you want?” he asked, and thought he was still talking about Ariam’s ritual. Elvan leaned in closer, to see about her lips underneath the surrounding hood, his other hand placed on her chest, perhaps to calm her if she recoiled – though she hadn’t so far when they were alone – but more likely to create another physical connection just below her collarbones and inside the divide of her outwear. Beyond the propriety he’d stacked between them, which she often tumbled with her pretty, he could suddenly feel a warmth that was very clear and unhindered, and a desire in his palm to close inside the cavity of her torso. It was natural, and it felt correct in a way he’d not know before, and that’s how it became foreign to him.

He gasped as he saw the light that came off her, eviscerating the outline of her parted cloak, a kinder illumination than Cougal had elicited. With strength he didn’t know he had, denial’s full properties, he drew his longing hand back. “I… I’m sorry.” His fingers felt famished for it, and his forearm rung with starvation. He lowered that hand and then his head. He’d already thought this thing myriad times. It couldn’t happen.

VenomousEve

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Re: Majik Morose
« Reply #29 on: August 01, 2017, 04:52:51 pm »
It was difficult for her, when he touched her. That sort of closeness had developed between them quickly; if either of them bothered to reflect on it, it would be difficult to deny the way they’d been drawn toward one another. Nystali rarely denied anything, but Elvan had made an art of it. She supposed it would have been different, if she weren’t Kin and this were poetry rather than fate. A part of her suspected it would not have changed the way her heart ached, though. Her gaze shifted slightly, and she wanted to move closer against his touch. Had he realized they were always reaching for each other?

She shook her head at his question, regrettably it was not the case. “They have nothing to carry him with. Wisps, barely living things. It was a departure when it should have been a release.” She said of the Husks. “What would call to Ariam has been swallowed up.”

Tali was glad when he had fond memories to share. It was better to hear than her own words, which showed her tongue was still tied to the tragedy of the day. “If he had been bound to you, I imagine Ariam would have been even harder on you.” She said it with a serious face, because she said most things with such an expression, but there was some humor behind it. Surely he had noticed the way Syn and Saevir could drive him forward almost entirely of their own accord. A bound Artifact has more access to their knight, in the same way the knight had more access to them. “Rather, that Ariam guided you without a bond speaks to the trueness of your relationship, does it not?” she suggested. A small smile then.

That smile vanished when he came nearer, a constructed intimacy in the sweep of her cloak’s hood, and she couldn’t hold his gaze. She nearly met him across that distance, but inhaled sharply and held her place instead. “You know.” She mumbled, and it was true now more than ever. Cast out from their home, she wanted her purpose at least. A sense that she could be, in some way, capable of moving forward. Nystali had not considered having anything else to offer the world or Elvan. His palm on her chest made her pulse quicken and she felt herself leaning into that touch. Eyes shut, her pink lips hardly a breath from stealing a kiss, and a fracturing light that shifted and shattered like glass blooming from her skin.

When he pulled away from her, she drew her own arms across her chest, as if only physical effort might keep back that artifact stirring beneath. It made her gasp, a radiant and fiery pain splitting down her nerves from the place he’d touched. Protest, perhaps, against the way he’d left her. She turned away from him. “It’s fine.” She said, and it was very apparent that it was not, but they had played this sort of routine on the tail of their arguments many times before. She coughed into the back of her hand, and there was a thin trail of blood when she moved it away. She wiped it away before he might move to see. “We should get back to Aveline.” She said, and then turned to head back to camp.