The Tiran Wars: Liberty, at all Costs


Hold on a second. What was that thing she said? Getting snowed in wouldn't be too bad? That wasn't right at all. Getting snowed in would be terrible. If you ran out of food, firewood, sanity, you'd die. It had happened before, in Oak Village, most recently shortly before her 3rd Walpurgisnacht visit. Matthias Wolkemann, a somewhat hermit who occasionally visited town proper to gather supplies, had become so engrossed in his research that he had allowed his winter stores to perish, starving him in about a week. Ironically, he had been studying how to predict the strongest snow storms, freeing people from having to constantly maintain large stores. When the Steintøysoldater destroyed Mauranger, one of the things they left behind was a series of small tubes piping steam beneath the cobblestone streets. They probably hadn't been tested, but had they worked, they just might have kept the streets clear and saved everyone from snow death. But the look that Loolayannie gave Akana had no knowledge of what terrible fate awaited those who weren't prepared for winter. They contained something else, something warm, like a fireplace or karsk. Which would have been fine if snow 15 feet high wasn't blocking your freedom and you were running low on the vital supplies of food and firewood. Loolayannie knew nothing of such suffering though; her musings seemed much more fluffy and cozy. And another word, some word that was on the cusp of Akana's consciousness, a word that she couldn't quite grasp. A word that meant...

And what was that just now? Akana blinked several times, her mind returning to the present and what had just transpired. The side of her mouth felt warm and blood flowed beneath her cheeks, staining them bright red. The reality of what had just happened accelerated that process. Loolayannie had just kissed her! It was very quick, but beneath the hesitation rested the suggestion of the sort of intimacy far in excess of the cordial. There, deep beneath the uncertainty in that kiss, Akana could sense the tinders of a future raging fire. It would need nurturing, and careful observation if it was to survive, but it was possible to get that fire lit and sustained. What would happen if that fire were lit, though? There was only one way to find out. "Loolayannie, I..." But the magician girl had already stammered out a thank you and had scurried away, leaving Akana alone on the lake shore, looking slightly goofy with her mouth agape, hand resting next to her mouth. Akana stood there for a moment, gathering her composure, before heading back to the campsite, adjusting her scarf along the way. When she arrived at the campsite, the logs were empty, and the fire pit was cold. Letting a sigh escape, Red entered her tent and set about working on that paperwork that was so important to complete. She wanted to find Loolayannie, and discuss anything with her. But she did mention that she had to study, and besides, Red didn't know what to talk about. Did she try to figure out what exactly was between them, idle musings about home, trying to learn more magic, or teach more science? There wasn't any way to decide accurately, and there was so much paperwork that required attention. Red decided on the passive approach. If Loolayannie wanted to discuss anything, she'd be more than welcome in Red's tent. If not, there was always tomorrow to figure everything out.


Alia thankfully snapped back to reality as Tywin let Daner take the lead. Her comment was interesting though, saying it was “like he’s killing them all over again”. The monster most certainly wasn’t a he… Maybe the screams had triggered something deeper? That wasn’t really something Daner much wanted to press right now though, especially given Alia’s present state of affairs. Helping the girl to her feet, he made sure he’d got all of his things before relighting his torch and setting out at the front of the group again. The tunnels remained dark, dingy, and filled with traps but nothing that Daner couldn’t handle on his own this time. As they travelled further into the labyrinth, sticking all the time to the right-hand wall, things slowly began to change around the group and before they knew it they had arrived at a set of stairs. There wasn’t any other option and, as they stared at them, Daner subconsciously ran through what they knew. “Well, it looks like we could well be getting closer to our artefact. Here’s hoping. Though, if we do, we need to figure out what we’re going to do. I very much doubt, if we make it out alive, they’re going to let us wander off free after we return it to them. Still, one thing at a time. Find it first, make it out alive second, worry about what next third. To that end… Onwards and upwards.” Keeping his throwing knife gripped in his right hand and the torch in his left, Daner slowly began to move up the stairs, both his eyes and Brahmoth’s peeled for any sign of a trap as they went up the stairs.


Practically running, Leilani quickly made her way back to the safety of her tent; earning herself more than a few disapproving frowns as she went, after all a nice Khitain girl like her shouldn't be running especially whilst wearing men's clothing that flaunted her legs for the whole world to see. A nice Khitain girl like her should know better than that and shouldn't be hanging around foreign devils and adopting their ways and she especially shouldn't be kissing...Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!

Upon reaching her tiny A-frame tent Leilani all be dove inside; awkwardly stripping out of those tight fitting breeches that showed the shapely tapering of her legs followed by the loose fitting blouse she’d chosen, the young mage girl not feeling rebellious enough to wear anything tighter, not that she had much to display anyway. Wearing nothing but her plain white cotton shift Leilani sat upon her bedding and held her head in her hands as she tried to figure out why she had done something so stupid as to risk being completely cast out over nothing more than a vague fancy. Why did I have to go and kiss her? It had only been a smile and what may have been a blush, not exactly the most compelling of reasons to believe that her friend was open to that sort of relationship with her, and why now!? She'd never been interested in Akana in that way before so why the sudden desire to kiss her? Because she's pretty, intelligent, kind and I'm very lonely.

Nobody understood what it was like; the distrustful looks, the whispered comments, she was the turncoat and nobody wanted to be friends with somebody that had changed their allegiance's so easily as she'd no doubt do it again, assuming of course that she simply wasn't a spy. It wasn't like she'd had much of a choice in the matter! Her sister had made her join up with her, brain washed her truth be told and then after being captured she'd been offered a very simple choice of change sides or be executed. No doubt there were people who would have died for their convictions but what were you supposed to do when those convictions weren't even yours to begin with?

After pulling on one of her dress', a nice pale green one she'd bartered for down at the village followed by a pair of woollen stockings and some sensible shoes, Leilani tried her best to study but no matter what she tried her thoughts were soon wandering back to a certain Northern girl stood beside a crystal clear lake, for a minute there it had been almost perfect.

Red had barely begun his paperwork when Arnold found him with an exasperated sigh “Where the hell have you been?” he asked in a tone of voice reserved for somebody who’d just spent the past half hour searching for somebody only to find them sitting right where they should have been to start with “Probably having a quicky with that pet mage of his” Daniel grumbled from somewhere behind, earning himself a glare from Arnold before the other man carried on regardless “Scouts have spotted something that looks like a burning village somewhere within the jungle, its far enough away so as not to be an immediate threat to us, though if we didn’t start that fire…” The mercenary let the rest of the question peter away into nothing along with his suggestion that they probably should go and investigate it, if only to make sure that the fire wouldn’t spread any further.

As Sync opened his eyes to gaze upon the illusion that she had placed upon him, Glasya braced herself for what he would reveal to be the object of his desires with images of busty blondes, petite Khitain girls or perhaps even fiery redheaded Soldevi springing to the fore of her mind, though what she hadn’t anticipated was that the object of his desires would be…her.

“W-what?” Glasya stammered out in a shocked voice as a guilty looking Sync; certain that he done something wrong to mess it all up told her that although her dress and their surroundings had changed that it was still her that he was seeing “M-me? Natural, real me?” she continued to stammer no he must mean my human guise he can’t really mean me as I am surely? But what did it matter it was still her! Not even in her wildest dreams had she ever imagined that Sync’s innermost carnal desire would be her.

Tears slowly ran down her cheeks as the gravity of the situation hit her and what she must do “Sync…I…I love you” she whispered before leaning in to kiss him. Although the night was nothing like either of them had expected it would certainly turn into a most memorable evening.

The following morning Sync would wake up to find Glasya and Lucy already awake with the blonde giving them both dirty looks from where she sat. However before Sync had chance to speak to the girl Glasya had moved to kneel before him. It was clear that she hadn’t slept at all last night; her usually neat and tidy hair was in disarray, there were bags under her eyes and...Was that soot on her cheek?
With a look of pure adoration mixed with more than a hint of fear on her face Glasy held out her hands towards him to present him with a ring made from some kind of glossy black stone with lettering carved about its circumference in what was presumably either ancient Jehennan or possibly even her native tongue; Efreeti as both were rather similar in appearance to one another.

She’d refuse to reply to any questions asked of her; with her simply holding out the ring towards him clearly wishing for him to take it from her with all of her heart.

As Joshua explained the various pro’s and con’s concerning their situation and how to deal with it, Mei simple held onto him even tighter before whimpering “no” in a voice filled with misery. She didn’t want to stay here, she hadn’t been keen on staying here before but now that she’d fully grasped what had happened to the previous inhabitants she was all the more eager to leave this place and yet…Joshua was right, it wasn’t safe for them to leave right now, not in the dark whilst all those…things…were out there.

“Fine we’ll stay” Mei sobbed having finally reached her decision; pulling away from Joshua in order to collect a very ill and naked Gwyll and drag her back towards the bedroom in which she and Joshua had started the night.

Once all three of them were inside she’d help Joshua barricade the door before mixing something up to ease Gwyll’s stomach, which judging by the fuss the wild girl put up about drinking it, tasted vile.

With the three of them crammed together in the tiny bed and with a single candle burning, none of them would sleep well. The sound of the creatures stalking both inside and out of the house doing little to help them relax, though other than a single attempt to open the barricaded door the trio were left alone. Perhaps Joshua had been right and that after having seen their brethren cut down they were reluctant to attack them? Or perhaps it was simply because they were unwilling to go to the effort of tearing down the barricade in order to reach them? Either way they managed to pass the night without any further incident.

Mei would spend most of the night softly sobbing into Joshua’s chest as she clung to him; with the feel of Gwyll’s body pressing into her back not being an unwelcome sensation despite what had happened that morning.

All those people dead; killed by blasphemous blood magic to create those…those things!? Mei couldn’t begin to fathom what would drive somebody to do such a thing surely not even the Emperor’s men would do such a thing to a group of helpless villagers. No, there was something else happening here and she didn’t like it one bit.

Come morning a shattered and distraught Mei would quickly dress and gather her belongings before leaving, not even bothering to eat before doing so. She wanted to be gone from this place as soon as possible. On their way back she’d burn this place to the ground but for now she just wanted to get out of here as quickly as possible.

Following Daner’s lead the group slowly began to ascend the wooden stair case with every step resulting in an alarming creak that more than reminded them how old the wood was as well as how far up they were. It was also as they were ascending that they would notice a distant rumbling sound coming from somewhere below them though no one dared venture a guess as to what it could be.

After spending far longer than any of them really wanted to on the brittle but thankfully trap free stairs, they would eventually step onto solid stone once again as they stepped into a narrow corridor leading to a single room.

Entering the large square chamber at the end of the corridor they would be greeted by a pair of square stone basins stood either side of the door, each filled with a strange smelling liquid “its pitch black in here…there’s no way our torches are going to light up this” Alia said in an anguished whisper; the oppressive darkness before her making her or anybody else for that matter reluctant to speak any louder.

They would also notice that there was some kind of grid laid out upon the floor but again with only the meagre light of their torches to see by they couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of them and considering the amount of traps they’d had to bypass in order to get this far venturing forward blindly could prove… fatal.
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To the Mercenary Red of Mauranger... Did they just call her a mercenary? Red was definitely not a mercenary. She didn't run around the world, just searching for money and easy pillage, switching sides when the currency began flowing from the other line. She had principles. She stuck with the side she swore allegiance to until her services were no longer needed. She was a wandering warrior, not a dirty mercenary. But, at least they hadn't called her a soldier of fortune. That would be nearly unforgivable. From the Office of Logistics, Ministry of War: Your letter and attached document, Independent Scout Skirmishers and the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol has reached our desk and has created much interest. Even now, much discussion is to be heard concerning the implications of your idea. I myself found much appealing in the idea of using the LRRPs for disrupting enemy logistics, in addition to their main purpose of scouting. However, the OoL regrets to inform that the requested 200 light crossbows and 100,000 bolts cannot be supplied at this time. With the present situation, we are unable to divert the supplies for even a few weapons from strategically necessary industries. We will... Red crumpled up the letter, and threw it towards the wood stove, missing the flame by inches. They didn't understand that those crossbows would be vital for the winter calm. The enemy would probably show up in this area eventually, and they world require much in the way of supplies. If those logistics lines could be disrupted, then the enemy would be forced to pillage, destroying any support from the locals, or retreat to more hospitable climates. The longbows were just too cumbersome and difficult to use, especially if you hadn't been trained on one since childhood. Crossbows were easy to use, it took someone a day to learn how to use one, they were much less awkward to carry, could be used while laying down, and with everything Red still knew about making Maurangerian steel, they could be made much more powerful than longbows and be manufactured in less time. Certainly they had to see that they needed the crossbows. And if they didn't, Red would have to keep writing until they did.

But, before Red could so much as get a pen and ink out, Arnold came barging into the tent, demanding to know where Red had been all this time. Before that mystery could be explained, Daniel just had to say something about the supposed relationship between Red and Loolayannie. Such accusations were of course false, though there had been those few minutes where making those rumors true seemed like a very good option indeed. But that was unexplored territory; Red would need time to map out that wilderness. In the meantime, there was a much more pressing matter to attend to. Somebody had set one of the mountain villages to the torch. It was most likely an accidental fire caused by unsafe use of unsafe products, but given the war situation, it was necessary to verify this hypothesis, lest the entire camp be caught unawares by an enemy patrol. “Assemble the strike team at the campfire,” Red ordered, as she stood up and clasped the rapier's belt around her waist. “We will in one quarter hour to depart.” As Arnold left, Red grabbed up the few items needed for the trip: water canteen of nickel copper, a breadbag, a quiver of spare arrows for the other team members, the testament that Daniel hated so much. Red departed, throwing on her jacket. There was only one stop for her to make before departing, the tent currently occupied by the magician Loolayannie. She entered the tent to find the magician studying a textbook, wearing a fetching green dress and stockings. Sure, dresses were inconvenient, they lacked pockets, but they could be quite stylish. But such thoughts had to be pushed from her mind. "I depart soon," Red stated. "We must a village fire to investigate. We will soon to return. Hold this." Red brought out the letter and placed it on the magician's bed. "Open it not. I will return. If I return not, then open the letter. Worry not, I will return." Red turned to leave the tent, paused for a second, spoke "The dress pleases me," then left. She walked to the campfire, where the other strike team members were already assembled. In the distance, faint traces of smoke could be seen. "Let us to go," Red spoke, letting Arnold lead the way. He knew where the village was. It sounded like it'd be a few hours walk, but who knew how long they'd have to observe the situation.


Lying on her front with her legs gently kicking above her, Leilani all but jumped out of her skin as Red bustled into her tiny tent with the young mage hurriedly closing her book as she did so. The woman, for it was impossible for Leilani to think of her in any other way now, was a whirl of activity as she dropped a sealed envelope upon her bed followed by hurried instructions that Leilani couldn't quite follow before then turning to leave with the sudden and unexpected compliment concerning her dress causing Leilani to blush.

With Akana gone, Leilani would slowly turn the envelope over in her hands as she ran Akana's instructions through her mind several times before giving a horrified gasp when she finally grasped that she just been handed Akana’s last will and testament.

Letter in hand the young mage would hurriedly scramble out of her tent in pursuit only to find that Akana was long gone and that she had no choice but to hold on to the document until her return.

And so returning to her tent Leilani would reluctantly tuck the letter safely into the back of her book before reopening it back to the page she was on when Akana had come in revealing the charcoal drawing she'd quickly hidden there.

It was still only a basic sketch; a woman in a long flowing dress stood beside a lake, though enough of the facial features had been drawn so that anyone who knew her would tell straight away that the woman was Akana. It would be bad enough for the Akana to discover such a lovingly detailed drawing of herself within Leilani's possession as it was but an incomplete one would be simply embarrassing, better to put it away and concentrate on her studies Leilani decided as she picked up the stub of charcoal and continued to draw.

With a single nod of agreement from Arnold and a snide comment from Daniel concerning a "Goodbye Kiss” the strike team would quickly descend the mountainside during which time Red would be able to see the plume of smoke in the distance and gauge that unless they became embroiled in a pitched battle they would have enough time to travel to the village and then return just before night fell meaning that they wouldn't need to weigh themselves down with extra equipment or spend the night within the jungle.

Entering the jungle a professional silence fell upon the group as they traversed the often thick undergrowth with only the sound of quietly issued orders breaking the silence; with Arnold taking point for much of the expedition as he had the best idea as to the village’s location having spoken with the scout.

Surrounded by rice paddies and fields of indeterminate crops, the village was located at the edge of the jungle looking over steep grasslands that descended into a rocky gully. From where she was at the edge of the jungle Red would be able to make out the charred remains of around two or three wooden farm buildings however save for a handful of chickens and a pair of pigs the village was completely deserted…or so it seemed.

It would be then that she would spot the trio of Northmen casually walking in amongst the houses, no doubt looking for easy plunder. Having spent so long delving into the rebel army’s paperwork Red would know for a fact that there were no Northmen save for Gwyll within their particular faction and with reports of Northern warriors having fought for the enemy during the previous skirmish around the ruins it was a pretty safe bet that they belonged to the other side. Now the question was; were they scouts? Or were they a part of a far larger force? And what should they do about it?

Sitting down outside of his tent Khalid gave a weary sigh; it had been a busy but thankfully hassle free day with only a few minor issues to resolve that had been made all the more easier for him to deal with now that Gwyll wasn’t constantly mothering him, though good to word Isolde had checked in on him a couple of times as per Gwyll’s instructions Gods why did the girl feel the need to be his mother? They were practically the same age for crying out loud!

It was as he was placing his freshly filled kettle over the fire in order to brew a much needed cup of tea that a messenger would approach him, with the man bowing deeply in the Khitain manner before silently handing him a letter upon which his name had been neatly written.

Examining the rather grubby envelope Khalid had to wonder where it had come from as messages were few and far between with the majority of them being either delivered verbally or written on and with whatever had been close to hand rather than with actual pen and paper like this was.

Opening the letter Khalid would be greeted by a long and detailed missive written in flowing and fluent Jehennan text with the letters content filling the young commander with dread “Oh Kraem!”


Daniel, of course, had to make a snide comment about Red's visit. It was only natural for the man to misinterpret Red's intentions to only deliver a will. His comments were about the last sound anybody in the Strike Group made before they departed. As they descended the mountainside, the signs of the conflagration that Arnold's scout had reported became more and more visible. The black smoke rising from the distance, a few animals running away in fear, the slight smell of burning materials. As they walked through the mountain passes, the tree density kept rising, eventually reaching that of a regular forest. And though the trees were mostly evergreen, they still provided enough cover for covert surveillance. They were nearly completely silent on the way to the razing, which was alright with Red; there wasn't much to talk about anyway. They eventually neared the village, or rather, what was left of it. The scene was typical of raids and pillages of the enemy army, and unfortunately, several elements of the rebellion. The mission with villages should be to win hearts and minds, not search and destroy. Those elements didn't understand that goodwill of the people was much better than killing indiscriminately.

When they got to the site, they had positioned themselves next to an artificial pond used to grow rice, and were now silently observing the results of this most recent federale raid. The few farms around this area were all burned down, supposedly the useful material was already stripped away or consumed in the conflagration that they created; the people that worked them either dead or shipped off into slavery. There were only a few farm animals left, either unable to be carted off or simply forgotten in the orgy of violence. It seemed as if this particular wave of destruction had passed a while ago, and there was not much to be gained by staying. Red was about to order the Strike Group to return back to camp, when they were joined by several new people. Three men, appearing to be from the North, had appeared in the village proper. They had the same general appearance that the Maurangerians possessed, though Red knew they couldn't have been from her home. And seeing as Red and Gwyll were the only two from anywhere near the Lands of the Midnight Sun fighting with the resistance in this area, so it was only natural that one assumed they had been part of this destruction. But it was not known whether these seekers of plunder were alone or had merely strayed a little way from a larger force. So, Red would split the Strike Team into two smaller forces. Daniel and Edward would circle the village from the left, Red and Arnold would circle around the right, and they would meet at the other side and report their observations. With a silent parting, the two groups split ways, and went to make their rounds.


The climb up the stairs was long, worrisome, creaky, but thankfully ultimately safe. Daner and Brahmoth breathed a silent sigh of relief as they reached the top of the stairs, deciding to put the rumbling from below them that had echoed after them as they headed up out of their mind. After all, there was nothing they could do about it. Still, the room they were in posed a much more significant problem. It appeared to be vast. So vast that their light did not reach from one end of the room to the other. Casting a glance around them, Daner and Brahmoth appraised the situation. Well, this looks more civilized than the maze earlier. More… designed. Which probably means there’s a source of light around here. Daner looked at the stone basins that flanked either side of the door through which they had just come and an idea formed in his head. That strange smelling liquid, it’s definitely not water. I’m not sure what it might be, but it could be some magical oil or something. Either way, this is worth a try. Daner motioned for the group to move backwards slightly away from him and then summoned everything Brahmoth had taught him and his body about fire magic. He clicked his fingers, waiting for the telltale spark. As it failed, he furrowed his brow and tried again. Another failure. Raising his hand towards his body, he brought it down with dramatic flourish as he clicked his fingers again, a small ball of flame igniting above his hand as he did so. “Third time’s the charm.” The comment was more of a mutter to himself but it was very much audible to the group, as was it’s follow up. “Now let’s hope this works.” Using the best of his magical ability and his focus, the ball of flame moved from Daner’s hand and steadily advanced towards the basin until Daner brought it into contact with the liquid, watching to see what happened.

Lord Regal

Well-Known Member
Though she was reluctant, Mei agreed to stay sheltered within the farmhouse, which was a relief to Joshua. He still wasn't sure how safe they would be on the whole, but knew that tactically it was the best choice. None of them really slept that night, with Gwyll recovering from her stomachache on the other side of a sobbing Mei, who was clinging to the monarch. A subdued mood met them as they rose that morning, and none of them seemed willing to talk much, only wanting to be gone. Wishing for that very thing himself, he did everything he could to help get them on their way...this place was cursed, and he had no desire to stay any longer than necessary. They had people of questionable character to find.


It was with bleary eyes and a mild headache that Sync awoke the next morning. Lucy was glaring at him for some reason, though he didn't understand why. His vision swam a little as he sat up, and it was only after a moment of peace that he felt able to take a real look around. Was this what being drunk felt like? Or had the comparison been to after being drunk? He had no idea, from what he knew of Joshua the man didn't drink. Glasya approached him, having been waiting for him to get to a stable position, she hadn't slept at all, and had been messing with fire. He frowned and opened his mouth to ask the Ifrit what she'd been up to when she held out a ring to him. it was gorgeous, even his untrained eyes could see that. Pitch black stone with writing he couldn't read all around it. Frowning, the construct considered for a moment, her intent clear that he take it even without reading her aura, though he had no idea why he deserved something that fine. Still, he trusted her more than anyone else, so it could only be a good thing for him. So deciding, he took the ring into his palm, looking at it with more intensity than he had a moment ago. "Thank's...beautiful. But...what is it? What does it do, or...what does it signify?" A fragment of knowledge from his f...from Riev drifted across his mind, and he looked her in the eyes, smiling. "I suppose the important question is what finger it's supposed to go me rings are finger-specific...where should I put it?"


Part 1
Upon being asked about the ring’s purpose and on which finger it was supposed to be placed Glasya’s cheeks would colour as she spoke in a coy, love struck voice that was most unlike her "its a gift...and it goes on this finger" she said tapping the ring finger on her right hand before hurriedly adding "...its just a ring I promise, nothing strange will happen to you" she promised with both her voice and aura backing up her claim that it was just an ordinary ring that Sync was holding and that he had nothing to fear from it, though judging from the look in her eyes she so dearly wanted him to place it upon his finger with all her heart.

The sound of Lucy packing away what meagre belongings she possessed as noisily as she possibly could broke into the moment causing Glasya to briefly glance over her shoulder at the still glaring girl before turning her attention back to Sync “also we…um…may have kept her awake last night when we were…um…yeah…she’s not happy with us” Glasya said in an embarrassed whisper with her cheeks yet again colouring ever so slightly as she did so. There were precious few things that Glasya wouldn’t do within the bedroom but one thing she was pretty firm on was her belief that what happened there remained private and so discovering that Lucy had unwittingly gotten a front row seat didn’t sit well with her at all “Please Lucy I’m sorry, we kind of got carried away…we didn’t mean to keep you awake” Glasya apologised, though judging from the look she got from the Blonde Khitain girl they wouldn’t be receiving any form of forgiveness anytime soon as she continued to give both of them the silent treatment.

While this was going on, however, Sync couldn’t help but notice that Glasya was still keeping half an eye on him as she eagerly awaited his decision as to whether or not he would wear her ring and that his indecision was weighing heavily on her mind. One way or another he would have to make his choice soon as leaving her in suspense like this would be nothing but cruel.

Once they’d put a mile or so between them and the village Mei would begin to calm down with the young mage no longer jumping at every unexpected noise within the jungle. Whatever those things were they didn’t seem to like the sun and just as Joshua had surmised they had gone into hiding just before morning had fully broken allowing them to leave the village unmolested.

After a relatively short walk the trio would stop to eat the breakfast they had missed in their hurry to leave the cursed village, with even Mei eagerly helping Joshua in preparing the meal though Gwyll would eat precious little of it stating that her stomach wasn’t feeling up to food. In truth she felt awful; her stomach was a roiling, bubbling mass causing her to fear that she’d simply sick up what little she did manage to eat with even the smell making her feel nauseous. Mei did her best of course, though the vile concoction the mage mixed for her didn’t seem to have much of an effect, or at least not one that Gwyll noticed, as her head started to pound thus adding to her misery.

By midday the pair were forced to carry the girl between them as she grew increasingly dizzy and weak with her breaking out in a fever that forced them to leave the trail they had been following and take refuge in amongst what appeared to be the ruins of some kind of building. Several buildings in fact, though it was hard to tell for certain beneath all of the vegetation that covered the collection of worn stone blocks “What are we going to do?” Mei asked in a low voice fraught with worry “…we can’t keep going to the camp with her in this state, especially if there’s any chance that the enemy are there…and at this rate if we try and carry her back home we’d arrive back at that horrid farm just in time for night to fall!” Mei said in an anguished voice knowing that she couldn’t spend another night in that village, she just couldn’t! It would drive her mad with fear because whatever those things were they weren’t natural and who knew what else lurked within the darkness around that place “Please Joshua…I…I don’t know what to do!”

The torch had barely touched the liquid when it ignited in a sudden burst of flame that threatened to singe the hairs on the back of Daner’s hands.

The flames rapidly raced along a set of shallow stone channels lining the chamber’s walls illuminating a vast room with a high domed ceiling that was soon echoing with the sound of Alia’s scream of terror “For crying out loud girl! It’s just a statue!” Tywin said in a despairing voice as the girl clung to him in fright, though in fairness it was a pretty scary sight to have it looming out of the darkness unexpected. Sculpted in bronze the dragon statue towered over them all; its eyes blazing within the darkness as its mouth displayed curving fangs almost as tall as they were and wings spread up into the darkness of the high ceiling.

Between its clawed feet there stood a low dais upon which sat a single star shaped pendant very much like the one that had been stolen from Daner’s person the previous day and no doubt the object of their quest. Also in front of them filling the space between the doorway and the dais was a flagstone floor intricately decorated with each slab displaying a letter of the alphabet, no doubt spelling out some kind of a message to anybody capable of looking down at the room from a higher level with another message carved about the base of the dais itself “What always runs but never walks, often murmurs, never talks, has a bed but never sleeps, has a mouth but never eats?” Tywin read aloud in a confused voice obviously hoping that one of the group would explain it to him “Who cares! Let’s just grab that thing and get out of here” Alia spoke up excitedly, having finally seen a way out of this hell she’d been dropped into.

However no sooner had she set foot upon the flagstone directly in front of her that it gave way, with only Taranis’ quick reaction stopping her from plunging into the fast flowing river far below “well that explains the rumbling sound” Tywin muttered as he helped his friend haul Alia out of the hole through which she’d fallen and back onto solid ground “I hate this place, I hate it, I hate it!” Alia sobbed as she threw her arms around Daner, burying her face into his chest, why was everything in this place so determined to kill her?


Part 2 (OOC: yeah I know its a double post but it was this or an R.R Martin style wait for part two)

Elbow deep in what was at best tepid water, Leilani cursed her luck as she continued to work her way through the ever increasing pile of laundry that had been forced upon her.

With neither Mei nor Red around to stand up for her the women within the camp had seized the opportunity to deal with the wayward girl and firmly remind her of her rightful place, and so after giving her a telling off that she wouldn’t forget for a while concerning her cavorting with foreign barbarians, playing with swords, her whorish taste in clothes whorish! Just they wait until I get back to my tent, I’ll sew the bodice of my dress so tight that even Akana will realise that not a child anymore! And her general laziness because studying to be a mage isn’t work apparently and a complete waste of my time when I should be cooking and cleaning!...and why wasn’t she married yet? And what were her parents thinking of letting her get away with all these unseemly antics and she should be ashamed of herself!

On the plus side however, doing laundry gave her plenty of time to think, not to mention watch the comings and goings of camp life or to put it more accurately checking out Cerys as she practised her sword strokes with the other Soldevi a short distance away.

The red headed Soldevi girl was gorgeous; with a figure to die for and curves that Leilani would kill to possess. Were it not for Akana she would be more than a little tempted to test the waters where Cerys was concerned and see if Soldevi women were as uninhibited as she’d been led to believe. But as it was she couldn’t help but try and imagine what Akana would look like wearing all that tight fitting studded leather with a plunging neckline that nicely displayed the girl’s ample cleavage. So caught up in her fantasies was she that she almost didn’t see Khalid as he walked on by and almost missed her only shot at escaping the clutches of these overbearing and judgemental women that held her captive “Khalid! Khalid! You still needing of me to help you?” she called; smiling at the young officer, hoping that he would understand what she was really asking of him only to receive a confused look followed by a rather curt response “Not now Leilani, I’ve got a serious problem that needs sorting…I’ll speak with you later” he said, leaving Leilani to watch as both Khalid and her only hope of escape walked away.

Slowly circling around the village Red would find no trace of the original inhabitants, nor would she catch sight of any further enemy, although there was a strange smell emanating from out of the village almost like…spoiled meat that was most off putting.

As their circuit brought them closer to the enemy patrol Red would be able to discern what the trio of Northmen were saying to one another; her native tongue being close enough to theirs so that she could decipher most if not all of what they were saying. As she listened it would quickly become clear that the Northmen were none the wiser as to what had happened within the village and were consequently blaming the rebellion for the fires with the leader of the small group stating “lets just grab those damn pigs and get the hell out of here…this place gives me the creeps” before leading his men towards the animals in question.

Upon linking up with the rest of the strike group Red would learn of another three Northmen within the village who were just as eager to leave as the ones she’d witnessed who also had no clue as to the fate of the village that they’d been sent to investigate which begged the question; if they hadn’t attacked this village and the rebellion, or at least their part of it hadn’t either…then who had? “Perhaps it was bandits?” Arnold suggested in a low voice, though he didn’t sound overly convinced by his suggestion. The village was large enough to warrant a fairly sizeable force to attack it which if such a force existed wouldn’t have escaped the notice of the Enemy or the Rebellion “Who cares! Those guys have the right idea…let’s just get out of here” Daniel retorted clearly rattled by the strange aura of dread surrounding the village.

With the abandoned pigs now safely within their care the Northmen would waste little time in leaving the village. Laden down with their prize it would be easy enough for the strike team to overtake and subsequently ambush the group if they so desired, alternately, with the enemy gone, they could either investigate the village or make their own departure from the place completely undetected.


The smell of burning wood and rotten flesh filled the air, and although many would assume that such olfactory insults were common to these scenes of conflagration, Red would have to disagree, if that question were posed to her. The wood smell was right, along with the smell of burning meat, but that rotten smell, that wasn't meant to be here. When Oak Village burned, all the humans and animals consumed by the flames gave off smells that would have been confused for a beach barbeque pit, if you only had your nose to judge. But this smell was different, almost as if someone had thrown spoiled pork onto the flames. Why was it here in such strength? Something was off, and it was giving everyone fright. And though they were trying to get themselves out of their worry, their efforts weren't quite working, and the strike team was beginning to get anxious. Daniel was the most vocal of the group, who was advocating their immediate departure. And Daniel did have a point; the group of Northern mercenaries was departing, taking with them a crop of pig survivors. If only those pigs could talk, then they would be able to solve the mystery of the rotten conflagration. This was not a fairy tail, unfortunately, and any answers would have to be searched for the hard way. If they wanted to learn this secret, they'd have to dig through the rubble, and hope that the fire had left them a hint as to who its creator had been. But those mercenaries were headed straight to their camp, and regardless of whether it was the main federalé base in the area or a small auxiliary, its location would serve the rebellion well.

“Gather here,” Red spoke to the team, as the enemy Northerners walked off with their haul. “Daniel, Arnold, you will the Nord to follow. Observe, attack not. Alert them to your presence not. Find their camp. Learn the population. Return to our camp. If the enemy you to discover, flee. Evade them. Lose them. Permit them our camp not to find. Edward and I will this village to investigate. Strangeness is here. I desire this strangeness to learn. We will the camp in 6 hours to return. You will the same to do. We will for you to search if in 6 hours you return not. You will the same for us to do. Have you understanding?” The strike team nodded, Daniel and Arnold visibly relieved that they would be rid of the burnt village, while Edward was trying to hide his anxiety. After Daniel and Arnold disappeared into the wilderness, Red and Edward descended into the village proper, rather what used to be the village proper, after verifying that there weren't any federalé remaining. Their search began by rooting around the wreckage, skirting around the hot spots, and investigating more closely anything that stood out. “Hey Iceman,” Edward asked before they got too far separated. “You aren't scared of this place? I think I'm handling it better than Daniel and Arnold, but I'm still feeling the creeps.” Red paused for a moment on top of a wreck, letting her hand wander to the pommel of her rapier. “I have fright not. It has mystery. I have curiosity. I will this mystery to solve.” And while that was most of it, Red did feel a bit of apprehension about the village remains. There wasn't any reason to feel that way, at least none that Red could find. But, if there was a cause to this worry, it would be best to be able to deal with it quickly. And that was why Red and Edward were still within eyeshot of each other, ready to respond if the other needed any help.

Lord Regal

Well-Known Member
Gwyll's worsening condition slowed them down more and more as the day progressed, with Joshua resorting to carrying her on his back after a time. The rotten, likely diseased flesh of the creatures was doing a number on her. Mei became distressed about their situation, which the Swordmaster understood...they were going into dangerous territory with an ill ally, and a retreat meant dealing with the farm again. There wasn't a great solution this time, and the tactical part of Joshua's mind started trying to come up with a reasonable solution. When his fiancée asked what they should do, he grit his teeth for a moment before replying, cursing the fact that Glasya and Sync of all people had brought the three of them to this state. "We don't have a lot of options, really...we can retreat to the farm and endure another night, but that would be hard on all of us and wouldn't be restful for Gwyll to recover. We could press on and hope the enemy aren't there, which causes the obvious problem of if they are. Or...we could split up." Reluctance entered his tone as he suggested it, knowing it wasn't an optimal solution by any means. "One of us stays with Gwyll, the other goes ahead to scout. If the farm is occupied by the enemy they return here and we can plot our next move, or if it's not they can check for our missing...acquaintances...and get back here." He frowned, looking over at Mei, worry on his face. "I think...I think I should do the scouting. I've gotten used to not leaving much of a trail while I was away, and you know how agile I am...I'll go check and be back by nightfall. No matter what, we can get out of this godsforsaken place, whether it's back to camp or a nearby village to get Gwyll help. Ok?" He had a feeling Mei wouldn't like this plan, and if he was being honest he didn't either...still, it was the only real way to attempt to achieve their goals while also starting to turn towards helping their young friend, who really didn't look good now. This whole thing was turning into a disaster, and the Swordmaster almost found himself hoping they found the pair of nonhumans...just so they'd have justification for putting their lives at risk.


Though appreciated, Sync didn't need Glasya's confirmation that the ring wouldn't do anything bad to him. He knew it wouldn't...after all, she was the one giving it to him, and she wouldn't do anything bad, he knew it. He was in the process of moving it to the correct finger when she told him why Lucy was angry with them, chuckling a little before giving the girl an apologetic look. Joshua would have been mortified, though the construct found he didn't care. So what if she'd seen and heard them? Didn't impact him in any wasn't like they'd done anything wrong, anything to be ashamed of. Or perhaps he was being naive? Regardless, he didn't really care. What was important was that he got the ring on, smiling as he realized how well it fit him. "I love it..." he murmured, honesty flaring in his aura. He twisted his hand around a little, admiring it with a small smile. "Thank you, Glasya...I only wish I had something to give you in return for it,'ve seen all I own and I don't have any way to make something nearly this nice." A small amount of guilt crept into his tone and aura, the young man looking downcast all of a sudden. "I'll...find a way to make it up to you...I promise. patient with me, ok?"


Upon seeing the ring placed upon his finger Glasya's face would light up with barely suppressed joy; her aura flaring up to a brief yet blindingly bright nimbus as she lovingly looked upon Sync "Oh Baby Boy, You've already given me far more than I could ever ask for" she replied to his rather downcast promise to return her gesture, with the Ifrit leaning in to kiss both cheeks and then his lips before speaking a phrase in her native tongue. Although neither himself or Joshua could speak Efreeti it was close enough to ancient Jehennan for them to pick out enough of the words she spoke and get a good idea as to the nature of the phrase she'd spoken, with the words Love, Heart and Life being the most prominent.

With nothing to eat and next to nothing to pack away the trio would soon be travelling again with Lucy leading the way through the winding jungle paths that seemed to lead ever closer to a range of mountains, though thankfully not up them, sparing them the steep and arduous trek.

During this time Lucy's mood would improve with the girl no longer glaring at the couple whenever she saw them though she still refused to talk to them instead opting to use brief hand gestures to get her message across even if it did take longer than simply talking. Glasya however was far too love struck to notice anything wrong with the situation as she held Sync's hand with a beaming smile that not even the shadows of her hood could hide from view.

Pretty soon however even Glasya was forced to return to the real world as they found themselves crossing paths with enemy patrols at an alarmingly frequent rate leading them to suspect that they had unwittingly stumbled upon an enemy camp, with it only being a matter of time before one of these patrol's discovered them and they would be forced to fight.

With one of their number severely weakened and another unarmed, Sync would be forced to try and take on a patrol of fully armed and armoured patrol by himself, and it was with such thoughts whirling through their heads that they realised that such a patrol was now on the path ahead of them and would discover them any minute now leaving them very little time in which to either hide or make ready an attack, and yet…something about the patrol’s aura didn’t seem quite right to Sync, not to mention alarmingly familiar.

Listening as Joshua ran through their rather grim choices Mei simply nodded her head to the suggestion that they split up. She didn’t like the idea but it was clear that they had little choice, after all if they could locate Joshua’s evil twin and the capricious Ifrit then they’d be in a far better position to face the nocturnal denizens lurking within the village “Promise me you’ll be careful” Mei spoke in a subdued whisper; the single tear rolling down her face hurriedly cuffed away by the young magi.

After making their goodbyes, Mei would carefully move herself and Gwyll in amongst the rocks; using the small fire she’d made to brew another batch of medicine for the ailing Shapeshifter. The act of gathering and mixing the various herbs and roots helping to keep her mind off of the fact that she was all alone and that their rather simple task of locating a pair of strays had gone horribly wrong “I’m so sorry Gwyll…I never meant for any of this to happen to you” she quietly spoke as she stroked the girl’s long blonde hair “…everything is falling apart and there’s nothing I can do to stop it” she finished; cuffing away yet more tears as she consoled herself that at least things couldn’t get any worse.

Unencumbered by Gwyll and with most of his possessions with Mei, Joshua was able to make rapid progress through the jungle. With the winding trail slowly ascending the side of the mountain offering him a view of the surrounding countryside that would have been breathtaking were it not for the camp full of soldiers below.

From his vantage point it was clear that anyone following the lowland trails would have no choice but to pass through the camp full of soldiers below, however armed with this knowledge Joshua merely stuck with the mountain path until he was well clear of the camp and its patrols…or so he thought.

He had barely rejoined the lowland path that would lead him to the old camp ground when he became aware of a group of people just ahead of him. The group was small, and with the element of surprise still on his side the odds of him winning a short and bloody skirmish were just as good as it was for him to hide and hope they passed him by. Though with Mei all alone with a defenceless Gwyll, how much time could he afford to spend?

No sooner had they entered the village the pair of soldiers would quickly discover that there was something seriously wrong about the place. There were no bodies, which for a place that had supposedly been attacked was rather strange, in fact it was almost as if the entire village had suddenly decided to get up and leave, with half cooked and eaten meals left on tables and in hearths to spoil. The Smouldering ruins meanwhile had seemingly been filled with timber and hay as if to make certain that they and the rest of the village would burn to the ground with only the width of the streets having prevented the fire from doing so.

It was as Red was walking towards the centre of the village that she would be hit by the same stench she’d detected upon entering only this time it was far worse and coming from the well.

A quick examination would reveal nothing but darkness though her over active brain would conjure what appeared to be movement within that darkness, though that was most likely just the surface of the water.

A sudden cry from Edward however would draw her attention away from the well to where he was stood just around the corner staring in horror at a message daubed upon the wall of a building in large letters:


“What in the hell is that supposed to mean?” Edward asked clearly unnerved by what he was seeing.

With time no longer on their side they would soon have to leave lest they wished to traverse the jungle in darkness, though perhaps there was still enough time to investigate further so long as they didn’t waste any further time?


The ball of magic fire did its trick and the flames raced up and along a set of channels in the wall, spreading around the room and revealing a massive dragon suspended from the ceiling. Daner gave a low whistle of appreciation at the intricate stonework carving, its ginormous body and harrowing claws striking a mixture of awe and admiration into the thief. Alia, however, was less appreciative, giving a frightened scream which resulted in Tywin responding in a despairing voice, almost causing Daner to chuckle, though he managed to restrain himself. The dias itself had their objective which both Daner and Brahmoth noted was going to be… troublesome. Their objective, however, could wait until they’d figured out how to get there. The floor was made up of flagstones, each covered with a letter. Upon the outer edge of the dais was inscribed a riddle as well, and Daner’s brain started working in tandem with Brahmoth, attempting to figure out, concentrating to the extent that he didn’t notice Alia stepping out until it was too late and Taranis had already grabbed the girl, stopping her from plunging to what would have undoubtedly been a watery grave. Watery… grave… Daner looked at the floor, an idea forming in his head. As Alia plunged her face into his chest, he gently stroked her back, calming her down. “I think… Hmm… I think I understand this room.” Softly disentangling himself from Alia, he stretched out his arm to Taranis. “I’m going to need your help to pull me up if this goes wrong, but I think I’ve figured out the way across.” Stepping forward and able to properly look down at the river that he would plunge to if he was wrong, Daner felt his breath catch in his chest. Only way you’re gonna get stronger kiddo. And you’re going to need to be stronger. Lucy isn’t going to save herself. Daner gritted his teeth, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. He cautiously raised his right foot and moved it forwards, placing it down on the common tongue tile for “r”, praying that he was right.


The quick descent into the village revealed very quickly that there were other very large abnormality with the scene. Despite the village having been severely razed, there were many buildings that had zero to no damage; the buildings that were burned showed evidence of additional kindling and fuel added to the structures, as if these specific structures were targeted, and any other buildings that were now ruins were unfortunate casualties of a directed campaign of selective destruction. The second thing that stood out to Red was the lack of corpses amongst the ruins. The village had obviously been attacked, and showed substantial signs of raiding and razing, but there were no bodies to show who the victims had been. Even in Village Oak, where the fires had burned so hot that the stone foundations were deformed and great gusts had thrown the flames into spiraling whirlwinds climbing high into the night sky, there were still bodies present, shrunk to a very small size and desiccated to the point of crumbling to dust if touched. There was no such evidence here, though the fires showed evidence no of having ever burned nearly as hot as the flames that consumed Village Oak. As Red explored the village further, the scene became even more confusing. Throughout the village, the scene kept repeating itself, patches of burnt buildings surrounded by intact structures, overlaid throughout with at least a hint of the foul smell that was so uncommon to this type of attack. As she approached the village square, the foul stench slowly grew until it was nearly overpowering, causing Red's usually durable sense of smell to try and convince her legs to flee away from the offending odor, which appeared to come from the well in the middle of the square. Overcoming her desire to escape this apparently damned city center, Red slowly approached the well and peered down, pinching her nose shut in an attempt to filter out some of that over offending stench.

The light was at the wrong angle to properly illuminate the bottom of the well, and in fact probably didn't reach anywhere near the waterline. If she stared down the well hard enough, she could imagine that there was movement in the wide space below. But there was no sound of splashing that one would expect from movement in water, and there wasn't any illuminating light to prove whether there was anything down there. The next logical step would be to throw an object down there and see if it made a splashing sound, as if it had landed in water, or a thunkish sound, as if it had landed on a solid. Before Red could throw such an object, a small chunk of burnt wood, down the well, she heard Edward let forth a mighty yell, probably indicating the presence of something worthy of causing great fright. She ran quickly to the source of the cry, drawing forth her sword, preparing for a mighty fight with a horde of terrible beasts. When she set her sight upon Edward, however, she saw him standing alone and frightened, staring at a wall of a surviving structure. Red slowed down to a walk, and returned her sword to its sheath. She stopped next to him and stared at what had caused him to yell in fear. Scribbled upon the wall in a suspiciously rust colored substance was written the words they fear the light. "I know not," Red replied to his question about the mysterious message's meaning. "I believe they the attackers to refer to. Why would the attackers the light to fear? I know not. This is a mystery." It was at this moment that Red noticed that the Sun's light only shone upon the very top of the building. The hour was getting late; there were only two hands between the Sun and the horizon, giving them roughly two hours to return to camp before nightfall. "We may this mystery more tomorrow to investigate. We must now towards camp to return. Let us go." Red and Edward left the eerie village behind, hardly closer to the center of the mystery, and headed back towards camp, wary of any enemy patrols that might be in the area.


Hastened on as much by the village’s eerie presence as by the rapidly fading light, Red and Edward would reach the rebel camp, high up in the mountains just in time to see the first campfires being lit to cook the evening meals. With their own campfire still dark it was clear that they were the first of the strike team to return from their little excursion into the jungle, though this wasn’t overly surprising considering the other team’s task.

It was as they were heading back towards their tents that Red would catch sight of Leilani sat outside her tent clearly sulking as she furiously worked on one of her dresses with needle and thread. It was only when she glanced up from her work and noticed that Red had returned that Leilani would brighten up, offering the pair of them a smile as she called across to them “Hey Red, I’ve having your letter for you!” she called, hurriedly setting aside her sewing in order to grab a nearby book and rush over to meet the pair “That was dirty trick to be leaving of will with me” she said with a scowl as she pulled the envelope out from between the pages of her book where she’d placed it for safe keeping. It was as she was doing this however that another piece of paper would fall from out of the book to land at Edward’s feet with the soldier immediately bending down to pick it up before Leilani had time to protest. It was just as he was about to hand the page back to the girl that he would pause having caught sight of what he was holding and what it contained “I didn’t know you could draw…these are pretty good, what do you reckon Iceman?” Edward asked, holding out the piece of paper for Red to see and make her own judgement much to Leilani’s alarm.

The page was covered in sketches focussing on one aspect or another of a young woman with a single central drawing that depicted her standing beside a lake shore, dressed in a long flowing gown with the ghost of an unfinished figure standing beside her. Though it would take no real stretch of the imagination to guess who that second figure would be when the young woman in the drawing was none other than Akana herself “To be having pictures backing please….they’re not being finished” Leilani nervously asked; her cheeks bright red with embarrassment “sorry, didn’t mean to make you blush, though they really are quite good…wish I knew who she was though, she’s a real looker” Edward said with a chuckle as he handed back the drawing and carried on his way to the strike team’s camp.

Clutching the drawing to her chest Leilani would offer Akana a deeply embarrassed smile before speaking in an unsteady voice, already backing away from the woman as she did so “I…I should be getting back to tent, am having things to be doing” she stammered out clearly wishing to flee like she had back at the lake shore, and would do just that… unless Red decided to stop her that is.

With both the riddle and the way across the stretch of flagstones seemingly solved, Alia watched with bated breath as Daner prepared to take his first step onto the flagstone floor through which she’d nearly plummeted to her death. It wasn’t until he had stepped on the “R” tile and it held his weight that she realised that she’d been holding her breath prompting her to let it out in a single relieved gasp.

After that it was a simple matter for Daner to hop from one tile to the next, spelling out the answer to the riddle which was ironically what he would have fallen into had he gotten it wrong.

With his feet now firmly upon the solid stone of the dais Daner was able to examine the pendant for which he’d risked his life. Save for a few subtle differences in the patterns that decorated it, the silver, star shaped pendant was almost exactly the same as the one that he and Lucy had found within the Forbidden City and was no doubt one of the keys required to open the door and release the dragon into the world.

Holding it within his hands it was strange to think that something so small could hold such sway over the fate of mankind, something that apparently hadn’t been lost by whoever had left it here “Daner my boy…you did check for a pressure plate right?” Brahmoth quietly asked; his question punctuated by the sound of grinding stone as the pedestal upon which the pendant had been sat sank into the Dais with a heavy clunk. The sound of ancient, un-greased cogs and gears could be heard all around him as some unseen machinery slowly came to life followed by a shower of dust coming from somewhere above him to reveal a section of cylindrical stonework above his head mere, moments before it fell.

Daner ran like he’d never ran before as the giant stone cylinder came crashing down behind him to then roll down the subtly tilted floor to follow him; shattering the fake flagstones in its path.

Tightly clutching onto his prize Daner would reach the doorway moments before the cylinder came to a crashing halt against its jambs, however not content with simply trying to crush him, it now wanted to cause him and his friends to plunge to their deaths as the sudden shock wave caused by the collision resulted in the fragile staircase to disintegrate beneath their feet requiring them to run in order to avoid falling to their deaths.

Hurtling down the staircase at break neck speed, an horrifically accurate term under the circumstances, it was a miracle that none of them tripped and fell as the stairs fell apart behind them. Had the gods been kind they would have been fine to carry on this way until they reached the bottom, but alas that wasn’t to be as they were swiftly overtaken and sent tumbling into the darkness below.

After plunging into the icy water, Daner would find himself within a shallow pool only just deep enough to soften his landing, though the sound of agonised cursing revealed that Tywin hadn’t been quite so fortunate. With their torches extinguished it was next to impossible to see anything within the darkness that filled the room so perfectly with its inky blackness. It was from out of this darkness that Daner would feel a small delicately boned hand cautiously take hold of his own “Daner? Is…Is that you?” Alia asked in terrified whisper, clearly praying that she wasn’t holding the hand of some nightmarish creature conjured by her own imagination but that of thief she had a crush on.

It was in that moment that Daner would spy a dim light coming from somewhere up ahead, a distant torch perhaps? And although his mind would no doubt ask who would be carrying a torch in a place like this, surely anything was better than remaining trapped within this darkness?

Lord Regal

Well-Known Member
It hurt to see Mei that upset, that forlorn. All Joshua could do was give her a lingering kiss goodbye and a promise to come back safe. "I've been away long enough, I'm not about to leave you again..." Then he was off, going as quick as he could without losing stealth, wanting this to be over as soon as possible. Either he'd find Sync and Glasya within a very short time or they weren't going to be found. Already he was unhappy with them...not that they could have known, but their disappearance had hurt Gwyll and had strained Mei...they were going to need to answer for that, one way or another. If they weren't at the farmhouse, he was going back and insisting they return to camp without them. This had gone on long enough, and for people he wanted as little to do with as possible.

A few deft decisions to avoid the soldier patrols and head around a mountain pass later found the Swordmaster on a road that should bring him to the farm. It had been almost absurdly easy to get around the enemy camp...whoever was in charge should be had no one seen the mountain pass? When he got back to their own camp he was going to have to make sure they didn't have those kinds of flaws in their own safety net. Though he hadn't gone much farther when he saw another small group coming his way. He cursed to himself, looking around...from their actions they hadn't seen him yet, though it was only a matter of time before they did...cover was somewhat sparse, but he could conceal himself behind a tree if he wanted to...but they were so far off he'd be hiding for a quarter hour at the very least at their current pace. And that wasn't acceptable, not when he could spend it moving forward. He'd just keep going in a confident manner, try to play off the fact he was a foreigner and therefore had no part in the war. And if that didn't far, he'd noticed people underestimating his abilities, for what could a foreign devil do against a proud Khitain? A wry smile touched Joshua's face. Quite a lot, in fact...they could do quite a lot...and for Mei, for the love of his life...he was willing to do whatever he could to get back to her as soon as possible.


Glasya lit up until she was almost painful to look at, aura filled with overflowing emotions. Sync didn't really understand what was so important about having put on a ring, and what he could glean from her sentence sounded positive but...he didn't get it. Still, he'd made her happy, and that was worth a bit of confusion any day. The good mood didn't extend to Lucy, though as they traveled she lightened up a bit, not angry but still unhappy with them as they made their way along the path. The farther they went, though, the more they ran across enemy patrols. Anywhere from one to five men, scouting for people who might cause them trouble...which, unfortunately for them, very much applied. From Sync's obvious foreign appearance to Glasya's distinct other-wordly visage, they were easy to make out as 'problems'. They'd had success hiding for the first while, but it was only a matter of time before something went wrong. The construct shook himself out of this line of thinking in time to see that it already had. Another patrol, too close to hide. Kramen kayle, he should have paid better attention. This was his fault. And he...recognized their aura. Kist, this was even worse, they were likely someone from the farmhouse. They'd had luck and their mysterious benefactor to help them before, but would take a miracle to avoid a confrontation. "Glasya...Lucy...I want you to get off the road...I'm going to have to take this one down...I think they've seen us already. Get into cover, keep your heads down...I'm going to kill them." Once he got agreement from them both, he leaped into a nearby tree with the aid of a little wind, glaring at the patrol as they approached. When they got close enough he'd sweep down and kill them before they had a chance to react.


Red and Edward were truly fortunate to have not run into any enemy patrols on the way back to the camp. The mystery of the village still occupied most of Red's thoughts, and she'd rather not have to deal with an enemy attack as well. That village was just too strange with its odd pattern of destruction and the cryptic message upon the building. It was nice to get to the friendly campfires without a hassle from roving federalés, though a quick glance towards the strike team's site saw no light twinkling there. It seemed the other two were still tracking the enemy Northmen. They should return in a couple hours, but with no portable means of timekeeping, it was obviously difficult to determine the time with any sort of accuracy. But, through experiments done in Oak Village, it appeared as if humans had an innate ability to determine time with a surprising accuracy. They still had a few hours to get back to the camp, and Red wasn't yet worried about Daniel and Arnold. As they were heading back to the campsite, they passed by Loolayannie's tent, where the magician was angrily sewing a dress up. If there was any sort of hazing happening to the magician, Red would have to make sure it stopped before it got any worse. There was some good news about this situation, for Loolayannie immediately brightened up when the two arrived at her campsite. It was revealed that Loolayannie believed that Red's will was joke. "It is a joke not. I would like my intentions if I die people to know." As Red accepted the envelope, another piece of paper fell out of its storage place in the book, retrieved by Edward from its resting place on the ground.

The paper contained a drawing of a woman. The woman was unknown to everyone present, except of course for Loolayannie and Red. The subject of the drawing was none other than Akana herself, wearing a flowing dress, standing next to a lake shore. Next to the figure of Akana was the rough sketch of another person. A gambling person who knew the situation would bet that the second figure was Loolayannie. The drawing was really well done, capable of competing with the best works of the late naturalist Charles Rashult. It was flattering, and the whole situation would have been easy to deal with, but Edward had to go and state that the womanin the drawing, who happened to be standing right next to him, though he didn't know it, was attractive. It was fortunate indeed that Red's scarf was covering her face, or everyone would see a blush that would rival that of the magician's in front of them. "Uh... yes... The woman... has allure. I will at the tent at a later time to arrive." Edward walked away, leaving behind a chuckle and the drawing in Loolayannie's hand. "I must with you to discuss," Red stated, as she walked into the magician's tent, removing the scarf from her head and lighting a cigarette as she sat down on Loolayannie's bed. "We saw a village. It had strangeness. Some of the buildings were burned. I heard a noise in the well. A message was written on the wall. They fear the light. It has sense not. Know you a legend about this? I have confusion."


"I must with you to discuss"

The moment that Akana uttered those words Leilani could feel the blood draining from out of her face with her fearing that she had crossed the line with her drawing and was about to receive a severe friendship ending, telling off from the other woman as a result, It was only a was meant to be a nice picture of the two of us by the lake, nothing more!

Slinking inside of her tent Leilani meekly knelt down upon her bedding in front of Akana as she removed her scarf and lit a cigarette, clutching the drawing to her chest as she awaited the angry tirade that was sure to follow. Only it never came. Instead she spoke of a deserted village, cryptic messages and whether Leilani knew of any legends pertaining to such events ", there being many stories no angry about drawing?" she asked, clearly baffled by the sudden change of direction the conversation had taken. Though judging by the way that Akana was simply sitting on her bed this wasn't the case, after all if you were going to tell somebody off surely you'd do that first rather than asking them strange questions about a deserted village?

Carefully taking the cigarette from out of Akana's hand with her fingertips gently brushing against Akana’s as she did so, Leilani would draw deeply from the smouldering herbs within before releasing the smoke from her lungs in a long, calming stream "I...I being sorry, you no meant to be seeing drawing, it's not finished," once again she found words failing her as she struggled to convey what exactly the half finished drawing meant to her, what the woman in the drawing meant to her and how she was never supposed to have bore witness to what she'd wrought upon that page and its deeply personal meaning "…it no very good, I getting of eyes wrong and figure being a guess" she spoke in a rather deflated voice; moving the drawing away from her chest in order to look down at it quietly wishing that she'd had more time to work on it before Akana had seen it so as to make it truly worthy of her “I sorry to being disappointing you Akana…I won’t do it again, I promise”

Taking Lucy’s hand into her own, Glasya would give a single nod of her head in response to Sync’s request that they take cover before then moving into the underbrush to hide.

From his vantage point within the trees Sync discovered that the patrol consisted of a single swordsman thus posing no real obstacle to a being of his skill. It was only as he was rapidly moving in for the kill that he would suddenly realise why the man’s aura had been so familiar after all he’d spent the first three months of his life tracking it!

Had either Sync or Joshua’s reactions been a fraction slower then the outcome of their brief skirmish would have proved fatal but as it was the pair of siblings merely found themselves facing one another; poised to kill each other had they not stopped themselves from doing so “Well…that would have been embarrassing” Glasya purred as she emerged from out of the jungle, closely followed by a rather nervous looking Lucy.

With her face hidden within the shadows of her hood and her hands covered by soft leather gloves, it was only her voice that would reveal the hooded figures identity to Joshua as she continued to softly speak with them “put him down Baby boy, he can’t help us save poor Lucy’s boyfriend if he’s dead now can he?” She stated clearly enjoying the situation the two men had found themselves in not that it didn’t stop her from putting in a jibe of her own “So Joshua, tell me what brings you out here all by yourself? Forget something?”


It took every inch of Daner’s willpower not to panic and leap back as his foot thudded down onto the tile. As it held his weight, both he and Alia let out a simultaneous deep breath, relief flooding Daner’s system. With his solution confirmed, Daner quickly made his way across, letting the others stay where they were, figuring it was safer for him to collect it and come back. As he climbed onto the raised platform, Daner marvelled at what they had risked their lives for. Stepping towards the pedestal, he admired the object in all its beauty, very much another keystone for the door with the dragon upon it. Still, there had been three holes in the door. With this, he knew the location of two. One was being sent back to the capital probably as he stood in front of this key. The other was sitting right in front of him. That left a third… it wasn’t too much of a leap to assume that the Emperor had already found it, given how close he’d been to this one. In that case, that made this all the more precious, as Daner held the last key between humanity’s freedom and its enslavement. Yes, yes, my dear boy. That occasionally happens you know. And it doesn’t get any easier with time, let me tell you. Big decisions that is, not just the fate of humanity and all that. Snapped out of his reverie by Brahmoth’s sardonic commentary, Daner picked up the star key to examine it more closely, before stashing it in his cloak.

It was at this point that Brahmoth made his comment about checking for pressure plates, and several expletives ran through Daner’s mind, coming simultaneously from himself and Brahmoth. With a shout of warning to the others, he leapt from the platform onto one of the stones and sprinted across them, throwing caution to the wind as an ancient death trap sprang into action. The group made it to the exit of the room with seconds to spare but were given no time to breath as the stairs started to give way underneath them and they were sent into a mad dash down the stairs as their method of escape collapsed behind them. Daner’s legs burned as the group was steadily overtaken. Despite a last ditch burst of speed, Daner’s right foot slipped as the step collapsed under it and Daner was sent plummeting backwards. Once in the air, he quickly righted himself and prayed for a soft landing. His prayers were answered as he slammed into a pool of water, the shock of the water combined with the fact that he was still alive meaning that he took several seconds to process what had just happened to him and come to his senses.

As Tywin lay with an agonised moan, Alia cautiously took hold of his hand and asked if it was him. Daner stroked the back of her hand with his thumb and reassured her that it was him.
It sounds like everyone’s okay, except Tywin. It was as Daner held this thought in his mind that he spotted a light in the darkness, coming from up ahead. Quietly, he whispered to Alia. “I’m going to go investigate up ahead, I need you to stay very quiet and go Tywin. There could be people up ahead and if there are, they might not be friendly. If you see Taranis, pass the message on and go wait with Tywin. I’ll come back once I’ve made sure that the route out of here is safe. In the meanwhile, if you can see how badly Tywin’s hurt and if you can help him at all, that’d be appreciated.” With that, Daner gently let go of her hand. For a moment, Brahmoth suggested a way to ensure her cooperation but Daner rejected it out of hand. I still have some morals, you lecherous old fart. Even if you never stick to them came the bitter retort. It was a common argument between them, and Brahmoth still had yet to fathom how of all the things in his life Daner could have chosen to feel strongly about, that Lucy was apparently the one thing on which he had a backbone. Anyway, the boy’s mind was made up and until the pair had a go at switching, something which they had not had the chance for since their surprise switch earlier, Brahmoth was merely a passenger for the ride. Daner pulled himself out of the water and, with water silent running off his clothing and onto the floor, he pressed himself against the wall of the cave in which they found themselves. Tucked into the shadows, he pulled a knife from its holder and gripped it in his hand, ready to strike down whoever was up ahead, should they prove dangerous.