Trial By Fire (Aeodan, Edalene, PM to join)

The Last Days of Free Mages

The capital city of the of Rynmere, here is seated the only King in Idalos.

Moderators: Basilisk, Plague, Pegasus


Trial By Fire (Aeodan, Edalene, PM to join)

Postby Plague » Wed Feb 07, 2018 7:39 pm

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“I allow it.” Kayled had not answered to Caius’ accusations before and his voice was sudden and sharp in the dark where he leaned. Thomas looked into that darkness for the man, confronted with only the gloom. Perhaps that was appropriate, perhaps that was the story. The rotund professor sagged in his bindings, his muscles trembling to keep himself from dislocation. It was a small wonder he had not passed out already. He turned his gaze on Caius, fierce eyes under his wire spectacles and haphazard hair. Caius felt naked before him, like those eyes could see through him, down to his soul, down to the secret date of his death inscribed. Much like with Kayled, two men honed by years in the wild and rigors of life. What was Caius to them but another soft-skinned noble, shielded by money? But there was no scorn in that gaze, no edged judgement. Caius saw concern, damnable concern, enough to turn his stomach again end over end over end. Despite the leaping and twisting of flames, Caius could not see past the vision of the beaten professor, a kind and jovial fellow. He could not separate the mage from the vision of his past.

It all felt wrong.

“Aha,” Croaked Thomas, nodding slowly, “The big question. How like an academic to eschew the details and focus on the thesis.” He chuckled, “I know you, Caius, or I’d like to say I know of you. Professor Verigan had quite a mouthful to say on the subject…ah, but he loves to pontificate.” Kayled cleared his throat, politely, quietly and Thomas sighed. “To have such a short time for lecture, you’d think years of teaching would prepare me.” Leaning forward, Thomas thrust his chin up so he could Caius full in the eyes. Around his neck, a set of pipes on a chain clinked against a ring, worn and simple. “Fear, Caius, the spear that tickles our imagination. I wish I could say it was a matter of one mage, one time, but I would do a disservice to mislead you. Magic is…not a choice to entertain lightly. We who teach must carefully consider giving the gift. Even the act of communicating such power can be dangerous, so both parties must grasp their fate in both hands.” He reached the end of his strength and swung back, dejected. Still, he chuckled, but it was such a small and wheezing sound. “I cannot disclose the details of my mission here. I apologize, Caius, but I cannot. When the edict came down, the banishment of mages from Rynmere, I did consider leaving. Certainly, if I had, we would not be conversing I think…but my purpose is unfinished.” Thomas twisted his head up at the ceiling, as if he might pierce through the darkness and beyond. “I am here, Caius, because there needs to be a first. One of us was going to burn for what we are, one of us was going to be the example.”

“It needn’t have been you, Professor.” Kayled reminded quietly.

“Of course it does,” Thomas snapped irritably, rolling his head toward the shadows, “Rather me than a child! I…I have seen so much of what this world can offer. I have seen wonders as far as Quacia, spent some brief time as a farmer in the Eternal Empire. I am old in travels, it is my time.” Caius was quiet, Thomas took another careful breath. “Young man. In this world there are some men who would strive their lives to be the perfect tools. There is honor, then, in service, in shaping to the standards and will of another.”

“Great Honor.” Kayled interjected and Thomas smiled.

“Great honor, then. But never forget that the hands of men shape the tools. The minds of men dream them. You may sacrifice everything to fear if you must, but never forget that you are mortal. You do not have to be just another sword.”

“Some choose to see service as choice enough,” Kayled offered, “To dedicate ones loyalty to a higher ideal or cause is a noble act. Could we not consider teachers dedicated to Knowledge? To passing that knowledge on?”

“Ah, perhaps,” Thomas sighed, “But tomorrow the people of Rynmere are not going to see a mage. I give my word as I gave it to the Lord Inquisitor. I will not fight, I will not resist. You shall not see me cast a single spell. The public will be in attendance and if this hatred is to be proven false, proven untrue, they cannot see the dangerous monsters your King would have us be. I may have been a mage before I was a teacher, but I intend to die as proud faculty of the Rynmere University.”

“Perhaps there will be comfort then,” Kayled spoke, not giving Caius a chance to retort, “In that assurance. I pray your comrades respect your wishes then, and allow you to die with dignity for your cause.” He pushed off the wall and put a hand on Caius’ shoulder, “Come, My Lord, finer last words will not be spoken. Let us not begrudge him his dignity.” Caius whirled on Kayled, careful to keep the instinct of fury from twisting his features. He found Kayled staring him back, calmly. “You will need to prepare yourself, Caius, for what lies ahead. Our enemies are clever, powerful, and determined to keep their secrets. If you have no stomach to extract them, someone will do it for you, but we must make ourselves strong before the face of the Seven, if we are to serve.”

“I am sorry for you, Caius,” Thomas offered, his voice soft, quavering, “This is an ugly business and it will grow darker before it ends. I fear…for what you may have to become to survive it.”

“Come,” Kayled said, less asking, “We have much to prepare for the dawn.”

Thomas slumped in his restraints, letting his head dangle down.

“Well, Cassion?” He said to the darkness quietly, as the door closed him again in silence, “How’s this for an ending?”

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Dawn had barely touched the roofs of Andaris. The square thronged with bodies. Colors twisted, mottled, were lost in the pushing and shoving as people navigated for a better view. A small force of Iron Hand, black cloaks framing their burnished armor, dispersed through the crowd to keep the peace. Already people had been called down from attempting to scale the nearby buildings to earn a spot to watch and three guards had escorted a group of protesting students to the far side of the scaffolding to hold an animated discussion. Twenty three students, clad only in white, were loudly protested the burning, asking for peace, clemency, sanity, rationality, anything to stop this from occurring. Caius stood in the crowd, no more than a few rows from the pole. It towered over him, the grim reminder of their purpose. Around the base of the raised platform, around the burning trunk, piles of kindling and wood had been stacked to accommodate the flames. The men who toiled to prepare the pyre were quiet, keeping their faces low as they worked. Caius did not want to be here, reaching instinctively to assure himself that his weapon was at his side. A hand reached out to clasp his shoulder and Caius seized up, only subsiding when he heard the familiar voice of Elizabet behind him. “Peace, My Lord. I am at your side. No harm will come to you.” Her words were little balm to the frustration and fear that coursed through his blood, fast as rainwater off roofing tiles. Kayled was out there somewhere, escorting a beaten Thomas toward the teeming crowd. Caius had elected to wait at the pyre rather than accompany the professor. He’d read enough about the mentality of mobs to know that the walk from the dungeon would not be a merciful one. Glancing to his side, he once more marked that the two men in peasant brown cloaks beside him were still wearing their armored boots. None of this felt right, but at least he wasn’t left to fend for himself.


*************************************************************************************

“We must be clever.” Kayled explained to Caius, indicating the hand drawn map on the table. It was less than a break after leaving Terrance’s company and Caius was starting to feel sleep creep in on the corner of his eyes. No matter how frightened, sickened, or angry he felt, it seemed like sleep would always win out in the end. That most potent poisoner. Kayled gestured down to the map again, a scale replica of the square where they were going to burn Thomas at dawn.

“If the mages can spy us,” Caius ventured, “Won’t they know it’s a trap?”

“They expect it,” Kayled confirmed, nodding, but the trick is to give them what they’re expecting.”

“The ambush.”

“The signs of one.” Kayled drew circled around the map. “The Order of the Mantis and Iron Hand will be stationed. It is expected for them to be at the burning and likely more will attend than traditionally necessary. The mages will assume I am requisitioning more forces, preparing for a rescue attempt.”

“Isn’t that what you’re doing?” Caius rubbed his eyes, most of tonight was exhausting. His emotions felt flayed, bare, raw.

“Yes, but that is not where we will be.” Kayled pointed down and drew a circle with his finger around the pyre scaffolding. “Dagget will station his men close, enough to draw the attention of the mages, no less than attacked them last evening.” He paused to step to the end of the table, refilling his goblet with dark, ruby wine from a nearly full decanter. Kayled inhaled the scent, swirled the liquid in the glass and carefully sipped it. Caius marked the nearly imperceptible frown dig at the corner of his mouth before he set it down. “Wine must be allowed a chance to breathe, without the perfect moment the entire experience is ruined.” His finger returned to the map and descended from the scaffolding and into where the crowd would be drawn. “Elizabet and our main body will be here, mixed with the commoners.”

Caius crossed his arms, none of this sounded correct. He wasn’t a tactician. Instead of an endless night with this snake of a man, he should be trying to sleep, getting ready for another long day at the printer tomorrow. This? This was surreal. “Will it not be difficult to respond quickly, thronged in by people?” It seemed too obvious not to point out and, besides, Kayled was the kind of man who liked to be prompted. Caius hated indulging it, but after the state of Thomas, he certainly didn’t want to invite any other indulgence of the sharp-faced inquisitor.

“Minimal armor, heavy cloaks, weapons hidden.” Kayled jutted his finger at five different spots around the scaffolding. “We will use the crowd to hide our number, close enough to step into the action when they make their move. The mages will have to deal with thrice the force they might have expected.”

“And the innocents?”

“The civilians know to shrink from danger,” he said, in a roundabout way of answer, “I will have another contingent of Iron Hand arrive when the pyre begins to evacuate the square without causing a panic. Unfortunately we cannot avoid it. Magic has a way of defying tactics and it is always indulgently bright.”

“If we know that one of their number can control fire, as your man Dagget reported,” Caius interjected, “What is the point of a Pyre? Won’t that simply be theirs to control?”

Kayled grinned and it was the kind of smile that chilled Caius more than any Gawyne air could have. “Ah, yes, quite adept, My Lord.” He opened out an arm, gesturing to another room in the cramped barracks. “Shall I show you my answer?”



*************************************************************************************


“Breathe, child, try to let time flow through you rather than catch and interrogate it.”

Edalene snorted. For a Shirvain such as herself, time always flowed through her. At her side, the glistening hide of her spirit companion shook as the creature plodded across the cobblestone. The crowd was loud, a dissonant din that reminded her a little of poor, mad Farafan, writing in its many voiced agony deep in stone. She hoped the song she had sung would be sufficient, that it would slumber deeper than the pain and nightmares could penetrate. It wasn’t that she believed, but she hoped. Around her shoulder, a worn leather band held a satchel full of at least ten smooth, colorful stones. She let a hand slip into the bag and caress them again, feeling the hum and faint buzz of the power they emanated.

From their position approaching the pyre, she could only make out the dark imposing top of the straight pole Thomas was to be burned on. It reached for the sky like a beacon, a vainly grasping pillar of shadow in the dawn light. The sight of it turned her stomach, remembering how it had looked just last night in the company of Ralaith. Nervously she glanced beside her to Vhalo, now wearing the shape of a young dark skinned woman she did not recognize. He, too, carried a satchel over one thin shoulder. It was still remarkable to her, watching the old man shift young and twist new supple flesh, spun from touch wrinkled calluses. The bone vambrace were still on her arms, and the strange necklace of grisly fetishes tucked between small, pert, breasts, but Vhalo moved seamlessly in this new form. Had she not seen him transform, she would have been fooled easily. It wasn’t that the mage had disguised himself as a woman, he simply was a woman, body and all.

Would he be the one to die, she wondered, would she need to let this kindly old man perish here in the market?

Vhalo bent at the corner of a building and placed one of the stones on the ground. He took care to rub dirt on the brilliant multi-hued color of the well, dulling its brilliance with filth. Edalene did the same, placing hers beside a wall. Even as she rubbed it with dust, she hesitated, looking up at the storehouse she had placed it against, wondering if there would be anyone inside.


*************************************************************************************

“They’re beautiful.”

Edalene marveled as she held one of the stones in her hand. Vhalo grinned, his old eyes bright and alive in the candlelight. Gently, he took it from her palm and held it to the light. Inside she could see the slow shapes of energy swirling and coalescing.

“They’re called wells,” Vhalo explained, “When we dream, our souls go a world of chaos and brilliance. Emea. Sometimes there are tears, fractures between our world and there.” Placing the stone on the table, he glanced over to Professor Nolan who was carefully scooping the last of some porridge into his mouth. “Ah…perhaps my colleague would better explain the technical details.”

“It is energy,” Nolan answered, scooting off the chair and walking over, “C-chaos, p-possibility, p-p-potential, forced to meet the rigid certainties of our world.” Placing his bowl on the table, he opened a hand for the well, Vhalo complying and stepping back to continue dividing them between the satchels. “For all our study, we are still not entirely sure why ether coalesces in such ways. Usually it is only in a Fracture where one c-c-can harvest them and mages c-can make easy use of this p-power in their c-c-c-casting.”

“Such as?” Edalene gripped her hand, the icy silence in her finger when she did so was jarring. Since Aeodan had lost his, she hadn’t been able to feel hers. The feeling did not return.

“Ah, Ensorcelling,” Nolan instructed, a smile working its way across his gaunt face, “An ent-t-tire other lesson, Edalene. M-m-most importantly, the wells Professor Vhalo and you shall share are sp-p-pecial.”

“What do they do?” The whole evening she had worried for the stuttering librarian. After his confrontation with Aegeo and the revelation of his curse, Nolan had been even more reticent than usual to offer any opinion or thoughts concerning their plans. He stayed as far as he could from where Aegeo leaned, scowling and Edalene couldn’t blame him. There was a kind of desperate menace in the air and this was the first time since they’d gotten to the safehouse that Nolan had smiled genuinely, back in his element as an instructor.

“They explode.” Nolan shrank away from the imposing shadow of Aegeo as he leaned in to snatch the well from Nolan’s hand. “Boom.” He juggled the well from palm to palm and Nolan visibly flinched each time. “You know it’s not that fragile,” the giant muttered, putting it back down on the table. “Activated with Ether, placed it by some gods damned walls and set it to explode, or throw it into someone. Little shit wells like this are hardly worth the effort. We used the good ones on those Audrae-licking Coven bastards.” Aegeo brushed past Nolan toward Ninacky, and little Tommy started to cry across the room. Edalene followed Aegeo with her eyes, burning on his broad shoulders. She hoped it was him. She almost dared pray it was him.

“W-well, yes,” Nolan had withdrawn again, taking up the well between two gentle fingers and handing it over to Vhalo, “Although they c-c-can be qu-qu-quiet d-d-d….harmful, we are using them t-to draw at-t-t-t-tention into many d-different p-places. Sp-pread them out.” Edalene nodded slowly, reaching out and taking Nolan’s hand in hers. It was cold and she pressed her other hand over the top of it. They shared a moment, it was quiet, and the terse smiles were all the comfort they could offer.



*************************************************************************************

It felt strange to be taller.

Aeodan moved through the crowd slowly, bending with the bodies like a bulrush on the wind. He centered himself as best he could, trying to keep his eyes on the imposing pillar rising above him. The closer he got to the center, the more of it he saw. His body was some alien machine, a borrowed thing too tall and ungainly. Pain flared where he had imagined none before and the more he pushed himself, quietly making his way toward the edge of the throng, the more his skin protested.

The object Ninacky had given him was clenched, white-knuckled, in his right hand. He kept it low, using the other to direct himself through a sea of skin and fabric toward where Thomas was to be burned. He wondered if he might see him there, beaten, bloody, slumped against the knots that would hold him to his fate. Everything felt too real, too overwhelming. Although even as the wave overtook him, Aeodan was breathing and remembering to place himself where he was. This was not the Ruins of the Shay temple. He was not, again, to face the demon of a million whispering bodies. Aeodan would have almost preferred that foe to the one he faced now, his own countryman. Around him the dissident whispers and fearful mutterings set the young scholar’s teeth on edge. Jokes. Some of these damned creatures were even joking about what color flame a burning mage might ignite. Furious bile rose in his throat, but Aeodan swallowed it down, pushing on grimly.

As he pushed through a whispering clump of four townsfolk he stopped short, bumping chest to chest with Lawrence Aster.

It was impossible to miss the long, thin nose and thick spectacles of his study partner in the University. Well, study partner for Philosophy anyways, as Professor Dewmorn was infamous for her withering grading scale and difficult papers. How many nights had Aeodan shared with Lawrence, bandying philosophy from Oscillus masters, trying to discover some insightful angle they might impress the Ogre of Free Thought with the next day? His breath caught in his throat, heart slamming against his ribcage. Lawrence looked up at him, full in the eye. The blood, slithered away from Aeodan’s face, nesting in the miasma of his heart. All at once the stress crashed down on him again. A word, a single word from Lawrence and their plan was gone. He had not gotten close enough yet for Ninacky. Every muscle in Aeodan clenched as the two young men looked at each other, held in a perfect moment of terror, before Lawrence adjusted his glasses, murmured an apology, and pushed past him.

He hadn’t recognized Aeodan at all.


*************************************************************************************


“I still feel it.” Aeodan was staring down at where gauze wrapped the empty space where his finger used to be. Strangely, he felt he could still feel it. He tried to wiggle but found that nothing responded to the thought. There was just an absence, a lack of pressure and weight that was surprisingly noticeable. Vhalo was laying out clothes across from him, quietly murmuring over the choices before settling on a palette of grays and browns.

“You may, yes, for a time,” Vhalo said, smoothing out the wrinkles on the tunic, “But your mind is just adjusting to the loss. Often our bodies are ready to move on before our head is.” He looked up, grinning, “I felt the same as you…ah…must have been thirty Arcs ago at least.” Straightening and cracking his back, the old man produced a small wooden box from within his professor cloak. Opening it, he removed a small grisly trophy and placed it gently next to a similar. Two fingers, wrapped in hair. One was merely a bone now, faded bloodstains on the tarnished digit and the other was still fresh. Aeodan imagined he might just slip it back on, like a glove, and be whole again.

His stomach turned.

Vhalo retrieved a small pot of ink and opened it, dabbing with a long nail and crouching over the young scholar. “Be still now,” He instructed, “For this is delicate work.” Aeodan could smell cloves on him, earth, and something that reminded him distantly of the farms he had sometimes seen on occasional trips outside Andaris. Closing his eyes, he waited…and the master worked.

Time passed slowly for the Burnett twin, and he resisted the urge to reach up and scratch at the tickling lines Vhalo drew along his face and body. The design must have been impressive as Aeodan felt it all the way from his face two his feet, swirls and whorls. They took shape in his mind like dancing water striders on the back of a placid pond, endlessly swaying and twisting in a language that was beyond him.

Language.

The dream…Envoy had whispered something to him…or was it…was it Envoy? It was hard to hold onto the past in such a mercurial place as a dream. His mind was on the edge of remembering, tantalizing, and yet slipping from his grasp each time he tried to pin it down.

He couldn’t shake off the feeling that it had been important.

“Done.”

Aeodan opened his eyes and Vhalo had stepped away from him, placing the empty third ink pot next to the other two. The scholar lifted his arms gently, feeling the wet itch of the ink across him. “What…next?”

Vhalo retrieved both fetishes, holding them grasped together in one dusk-skinned hand. “Becoming is the magic of leaving identities behind. When you take a new shape, it is the new ‘you’. There is no returning till you’ve Become again. Do you understand?”

Aeodan nodded, tasting the copper-tang blood in his own mouth. He was sharp with worry, so much so that he had bit the inside of his own cheek. It sounded terrifying, just abandoning ones identity, ones body like that. Had there been another plan or choice, he would have gladly volunteered. This? This…however, was uncharted territory.

“I need to hear you say it, child.”

“I understand.”

Vhalo nodded and reached out to gently take Aeodan’s hand. He thought of his sister, one room over, what she must be feeling. Both had been troubled with nightmares, it seemed, but they hadn’t had the opportunity to discuss it. He wished she was here now, at least to hold his hand. Vhalo closed his other palm over the hand he had grasped and closed his own eyes. “I cannot describe to you the sensation of Becoming,” he said at last, “I can only tell you to prepare for it. You must not draw your hand away, under any circumstances. If the magic stops midway through, I cannot guarantee your safety.” Aeodan committed the warning to memory, already feeling his nervous energy flicker in twitches. It was for Thomas, it was all for him.

Well.

Maybe not quite right.

Since Aeodan had been young, watching the other kids run and play through dappled cobbleston streets, he had wished to join them. His soul was too much for this city, for this mundane world, all he wanted to do was throw himself onto the danger of adventure and see what most would never dream. Much of that dreaming boy had followed Aeodan into early adulthood, Cassion help him, he couldn’t stand to live a life shut away in libraries or reading about the adventures of others. The ruins had changed him, changed both he and Edalene. If they left now, if they just set out for Viden, perhaps they could live an unassuming life pursuing their dusty studies. Maybe Edalene would like it and certainly she’d be safer…but it was all wrong. Neither of them could turn away from this destiny, now that it had hold of them. Aeodan, for the first time in his life, felt like a story was flowing through him. He felt like the character in the books he read or the people he pretended to be in those private moments of children games.

Who could turn away from this?

The magic crawled through him before he’d realized it had begun. Immediately all his muscles strained and clenched, as though strange shock was holding his body rigid. Horrified, he watched as a sunburnt dark roiled out from where his hand was clasped by Vhalo and crawled up his arm, guts twisted, knotted, and unknotted in a feeling Aeodan found too strange to even describe. Yes, this was agony, yes this was pain beyond what he thought he might experience. He was on his knees before he realized it, feeling his bones snap and grow back together, his face shifting and distorting, his hair falling long and dark across his brow and lower. It was sublime, this agony, and he couldn’t imagine how Vhalo did this to himself. Was this what magic was? Could this pain be the truth behind the mystery?

Aeodan didn’t have time to hold it in his head, everything was white-hot, burning and snapping. It was, Aeodan realized with some shock, not dissimilar to the growing pain he had as a child…but all at once.

What seemed like breaks happened over the space of bits and when Vhalo released Aeodan, he gasped and panted on the ground. He didn’t realize he’d been screaming, not till the door was open and Edalene was frozen in its entrance. She looked upon him and for a moment, Aeodan did not see recognition in her eyes. But it was only a moment, she fell upon his new skin, his new body and held him close to her. He noted how much taller he was than her now, gangly almost, his skin a lighter dusk than Vhalo’s and worn with age.

“Mirror.” He found himself croaking, his voice shockingly alien, tumbling from his lips.

“Do not get lost in the temporary,” Vhalo told him, shaking his head once, “We have little time. This is only a dream to your soul, child, do not dwell on it.”

Only a dream.

Envoy had still not returned.

Edalane’s hands were on his face and he touched her hands. “Am…am I different?” he asked her, the itching desire to KNOW, to SEE wild in his mind, “Do you know me?”

“I could never mistake you.” Edalene breathed, and pressed the warmth of her face into his newly formed chest.


*************************************************************************************


The crowd parted to the north. Grim faced Order guards, their strangely tinted black armor glistening in the new dawn, strode two by two in a single contingent. Four at the front, four at the back, and between them were two others. One had to nearly be dragged, his beaten and bruised face a canvas of blues, purples, greens, and browns. Thomas was barely recognizable as himself but did his best to march under direction. They had left him his glasses, catching the light as he lifted his head to the jeering and gasps of the crowd around him. One boy, perhaps only ten or so arcs of age, broke the line to hurl a small rock at the shackled mage. It glanced against the side of his head and shattered his right spectacle, leaving only jagged edges of glass in the wire frames. Immediately his mother was there to pull him back into the sea of flesh, her own face a mask of terror. Mostly, it was the curses that followed him, the fear. Thomas kept his head up through it all, tired eyes staring from the mass of damage that his face had become as he was led to his execution. Beside him came Kayled, clean-cut, cold and tall. The Venora tabard rolled off his beautiful (albeit night touched) armor and on his head sat a beautiful black hat, wide brimmed save for the sweeping curl on its left side. A long white Volarion feather danced to the tune of the breeze. He matched the pace of his prisoner, staring straight ahead at the platform.

Caius noted how the sticks and straw had been stacked around the edges of the platform, covering it from the earth to where it rose above it. The whole of the scaffolding would be taken then, burned up. Knitting ink-stained fingers against themselves again and again, he wondered if anyone thought it strange, why the whole scaffolding might be taken by the flames rather than just the pillar and the mage. It wasn’t as though this would be the last burning and the revelation tasted like acid in his throat. No…was acid. Caius resisted the urge to get sick, a little unsteady on his feet. He had been awake most of the night and had trouble courting Jesnine’s dreaming realm already. Thomas Theodore Terrance’s words ghosted back to him as the mage was marched up the walkway to the pillar.

None of this was right. None of it at all.

Aeodan had nearly reached the edge of the where the crowd gathered, sequestered away from the expected crackle of the flames. When he saw Thomas, struggling to hold his balance as he was marched to the pyre, something unlocked within him. Jagged rage, crushed glass between white-knuckled fingers, he felt like the splinters of fury were puncturing him all over. He stopped, shaking for a moment, his eyes locked on the well-dressed Inquisitor he had seen before at the University. Such finery, such decadence, as Thomas wore the colors etched in violence on his body. Unbidden, memories of their adventure, the time they shared together, everything swept over him like a dark cloud. This beaten and savaged man before him was an unfit state for the professor that had torn he and Edalane from mediocrity into fate.

Had he magic, then, Aeodan would have reached out and obliterated Inquisitor Kayled. He felt that now, the rage necessary to kill another, felt it overwhelmingly potent. His right hand creaked with the force he held Ninacky’s treasure but he was helpless to step forward and stop it all from happening. Without him, they would never have been able to get this close.

In his heart, he hoped that Edalene was alright, praying that Cassion would guide her away from the waiting fangs of these magic hunting dogs. Her job was a dangerous one, drawing the attention of the mage hunters. Aeodan wished he was with her, guarding her, but he would have to place his trust in Vhalo. Steeling himself, Aeodan stepped forward again brushing past another face in the crowd he had seen before. Caius Gawyne, an intellectual with the name of nobility. Aeodan resisted the urge to scowl and continued on. He didn’t take Caius for the type to witness such a grim and grisly spectacle, shoulder to shoulder with terrified townsfolk, hateful bigots. He might have said something too, but his purpose was clearer and he brushed past the noble with littler more than a muttered apology before he pressed up towards the front.

Thomas was being lashed to the pillar now, the guards working quickly to secure the knots across his round stomach and shoulders, bindng his hands behind his back. The mage slumped agains the bindings, clearly exhausted, but he never let his head fall to his chest. Instead he looked out at the assembled, mute, expression unreadable beneath the bruises. Aeodan could almost feel his pain, and he quickened his pace.


“Good People of Andaris!”

Beyond the crowd, Edalene faltered. A hush had fallen among the gathered and a single powerful voice rang out from beyond the lake of heads. Vhalo was gone now, having taken another direction around the outside of the crowd to cover the most ground. Edalene was shaded by the storehouses arranged in a semi-circle around what would usually be the main bazaar. Placing another stone at the corner, she did as she had been instructed. Within her there was power, energy, she simply imagined it pouring out through her fingers and breathed upon the well. It glistened suddenly, brilliant-bright against the light of the rising sun and then faded. It was ready. She placed it down and reached for another…only four remained.

“My name is Lord Inquisitor Kayled Wine. I have come from the lands of Khrome at the request of our Majesty, King Cassander, to save you from a danger lurking in your midst.”


Two of the guards broke from the crowd and Edalene noted the faint pink glowing in one of their hands. She recognized the spear first, held confidently by the man called Dagget, the broken end of his former spear currently tied loosely on Edalene’s back. He held up whatever was in his hand and she could hear a faint ringing, like the smallest bell. Although she was quick to duck into shadow, she noted the jerk of his head the moment she did, before she lost sight of them both. Along the side of the building, her heart thundering, Edalene scurried toward the city proper, pausing before she had gone the length of the building.

Was she running away?

“Magic, a perversion of the Fates, a poison of the soul. You have heard the stories, seen the damage its foul presence can bring to our populace, to our people. You fear it, and you are right to do so.”


Her fingers glided over the remainder of the stones. Thomas must be at the pillar by now, he must be lashed, the fire…Aeodan would be nearly to the front, unprotected and alone. Beside her, Ralaith’s granted companion snarled and shook its glimmering shoulders. No. She turned on her foot and turned back toward the sound, toward the people, toward the danger. No she would not abandon them. She was no coward.

“I bring to you a master of its practice, masquerading as a Professor. For years he has poisoned the minds of our youth, our brightest, and conspired against the throne and our noble King. What is the name of this demon? This monster? Thomas Theodore Terrance.”

Caius felt his stomach withdraw into his body. He felt faint. Kayled was holding a torch now, lit by one of the guards and was pacing the space in front of Thomas. There was a presence here, a kind of powerful and palpable threat that churned from his voice and rippled in the crowds around Caius. He could feel the fear of the people, feel that fear building towards hate. He read it on a thousand expressions. His hand found his hilt before he was pushed roughly aside. Caius staggered, staring after the small man that had barreled by and was pushing towards the empty space between the crowd of spectators and the pyre. Furious red hair, a green doublet accented with gold filigree, the leather rawhide strings of his eyepatch crossed in a knot behind his head.

DuKette.

He moved with a desperate kind of energy, but methodical and quiet. Caius waited for only a moment before pushing forward as well. If the mages were about to make their move, he couldn’t afford to be left behind. As much as he wanted to melt through the faces, vanish back into his unassuming life, he felt drawn forward. This was the inexorable tied and if he fought it, surely it would churn him to dust.


“Yes. A Mage can look like anyone. A Mage could wear the face of a friend, a lover, a family member…but they are all dangers to our Kingdom, to our Liege. Look to your histories for the truth, the monster Fridgar who stalked our streets, killed our loyal, and was plucked by magic from the King’s very dungeon. Where is his justice? Where is the justice for these would be gods?”


Aeodan was only two rows from the front now, his heart a thrumming maelstrom. He watched as Kayled dipped the flame perilously toward the kindling, dragged it up, gestured. The Inquisitor was alive with energy, a power that Aeodan could feel pulsing behind his skin and bone. Yes, this man was dangerous. He spoke and the crowd listened. He would burn this man to death, this innocent man, and they would cheer him for it.

All of them complicit.

Rage twisted inside him and his steps were more sure, more steady. His soul was dreaming of a different body, perhaps, but inside he was still Aeodan. He knew right from wrong and he would not abandon Thomas to the savage and the fearful. He had almost broke the edge of the crowd when a hand caught his shoulder, jerking him hard to the right. Aeodan barely kept his balance as he was spun around to face a short man with blazing crimson hair. A thick outlandish moustache framed his thick lips and one green eye stared up at him with an intensity that turned a shard of warning in Aeodan’s stomach. He was dressed flamboyantly, a green tunic with gold lining, maroon trousers tucked into tall, black leather boots. What drew Aeodan’s eye most, however, was both the thick leather belt around his waist, festooned with the handles of curiously shaped knives, blades that glistened with twisting colors, and the black eyepatch over his left eye, barely concealing the starburst of scar tissue around it.

Aeodan opened his mouth, would have spoken, was prepared to offer any sort of lie, but the small man spoke first. His voice was stilted, his accent thick and foreign.

“Not a word, lad,” He growled, and there was a throwing knife in his hand before Aeodan could blink. He hadn’t seen him draw it, only saw the kaleidoscope length, “Poor puppet, what curse have they wrought on you?” Aeodan felt his throat lock, his eyes widen. Somehow…somehow he had been found. His mind grappled, staring at the blade that menaced him. Behind the stranger, Caius pushed through the next rank of people and paused, stock still, staring at the altercation.

“DuKette!” Caius hissed, the crowd already starting to part around the scuffle, “What are you-“

“Aeodan Burnett.” DuKette said firmly, “Twisted by Becoming. Merciless monsters.”

Caius looked on in horror, noting there was indeed some familiarity to Aeodan in this curious middle-aged man’s dusky appearance. His cheek bones, yes, they were correct, but the rest of the face was all wrong. His hair was too light, too long, and easily this stranger was almost 30 Arcs or more, hard years lining his tired face with-

The eyes.

The eyes were right.


“Today we take back our safety. Today we reclaim what is ours. We will burn a swathe through this infection that haunts us and show these creatures that their defiance to the Seven will not go unchallenged, that their abominable will cannot be worked upon our lives. Today, we even the score and fight back.”

Kayled dropped the torch onto the kindling which roared into sudden hungry flames. He danced over them and held up his hands, presenting the fire that now began to rage across the scaffolding. Cheers, deafening cheers poured from the people in a great sudden calamity. The motion sent ripples through the assembled.

Aeodan had been afraid. Once.

Once he had let himself be paralyzed with fear. He had made his heart a prison and in terror kept his desires from the ear of his beloved. But Thomas had changed that. When Aeodan swore with Edalene and Thomas on the Waystone, he forged something that was stronger than all the terror he’d ever faced before. Their road was not over, their journey was not over, and by the sacrifice of truth at the Waystone, he would not allow his friend to fall here.

Rage tore him free of his terror and he roared, lost in the wild madness of the throng.




Note: Aight folks, we are in some freestyle now. I would ask you not kill any named NPC’s but feel free to mess them up so long as you take note of their skills in how they’ve been portrayed. By the end of post, Aeodan should be before the pyre, Edalene should be engaging with the guards (and a number of explosions should ripple around the crowd) and Caius…you do Caius stuff…whatever he would do in this circumstance. We are officially starting combat. I will reward initiative in taking injuries, but expect me to deal realistically with your skill vs those presented. DuKette is a high discipline, high martial skill warrior…but he is a kinda small guy. However this goes down, I am cool for allowing. Take some creative initiative with the scenery around you and wax poetic. This is your time before the next action post to up the stakes so make sure you enjoy yourselves!
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Trial By Fire (Aeodan, Edalene, PM to join)

Postby Aeodan » Thu Feb 08, 2018 4:57 pm



Aeodan's dark eyes remained unchanged, regardless of the rest of his body. Older, with lighter hair, a different height, but the same eyes... That was important to him. He wasn't sure, at the time, if he could guide the transformation, but he silently begged Vhalo to leave his eyes, as they were the ones that first beheld Edalene. They were there when his courage wasn't, providing him with the sense of adventure his weakened legs and fear of failure wouldn't allow him. The eyes, they mattered to him, he wanted to keep them, to comfort Edalene... To comfort himself.

And they had given him away. DuKette, through some means, had discovered that it was Aeodan, and though the man from Hiladrith didn't know Aeodan, Caius did. They'd shared some time together at the university, the northern noble arriving late to meet Professor Verigan. Aeodan, who was incapable of forgetting anything at all, remembered the desperation hidden deep behind the man's cool gaze then, and when DuKette announced him, the flicker of recognition in Caius' eyes was shared with that same look. Aeodan, whose rage was building in his gut, stared at the scholar briefly, accusatory as if to say, 'Why you? Why would you do this? Are you so narrow-minded as to believe all or nothing?' But nothing escaped his lips, and nothing escaped his mind. Instead, the gaze spoke for itself, burrowing deep into Caius, a look shared between two men who were not all that different, and yet were staring each other down on opposite ends of the battlefield, the circumstances of the narrative driving them to be implicit enemies. Aeodan hated it, but Caius, standing there wearing an ashen cloak, had chosen his side. And Aeodan, across from him, wearing the cloak of another guise, had chosen his. Every story had action that built, culminating, much as this was unfolding before them.

The loudly dressed knight, DuKette Aeodan read quickly, spoke with an accent Aeodan immediately placed as hailing from Hiladrith. He racked a brain pulsating with the desire to lash out and kill, trying to quiet the rage and sense of betrayal so that he may think clearly and logically. Unable to forget anything does not mean able to recall instantly, and if he knew anything of Hiladrith or who this man might be aside from the stout enemy before him, Aeodan recalled nothing. Instead, his divine gifts from Yvithia allowed him to place the accent, to know where the man called his birthplace but no more.

In finality, it did not matter. Standing his opposition, DuKette's birth or residence mattered little. Between Aeodan and the pyre so dangerously close to consuming Thomas, whom Aeodan knew would allow himself to be the martyr for the greater cause, DuKette and Lord Gawyne bore the weight of stopping him. In that trill, Aeodan considered their plan, considered Thomas' philosophy of sacrificing himself to show that mages were not all bad, just as mortals were not all bad. He considered, then, turning and leaving... Thomas would not want them to prove the Ashcloaks right, to show the citizens of Rynmere that they did, in fact, have to fear the mages. Thomas, Aegeo, Vhalo, Nolan... These were all men who provided for the citizens of Rynmere over the arcs, providing guidance and safety to hundreds of thousands in their times, and the people of Rynmere were eager to turn their backs on them in a fit of fearmongering and bigotry. Thomas may have been fine being the martyr.

But Aeodan would not leave him to die. Not ever.

Staring at DuKette, Aeodan considered the monumental task before him. White-hot rage, blinding him nearly to all, seeped from his skin, irradiating the air around him. His dark eyes, unchanged, stared deeply into the piercing green of DuKette's before they flicked to the cold blue of Caius. The minute they locked eyes, the northern noble heard Aeodan's voice clearly, as if the man were whispering to him from mere inches from his ear.

"I do not wish to harm you, Caius. Look the other way."

There was no room for discussion, the tone of the words flat and terse. He told the Lord Arbiter, not asked, and Aeodan broke the mental link immediately, returning back to DuKette's verdant stare. Dark eyes locked onto them, then, and it began, the link established. Aeodan's lips never moved, but the roar of pain and rage and fear and confusion surged between the two, echoing like an explosion in DuKette's mind. Aeodan's pent up fury exploded between them, silently booming louder than any noise DuKette had ever heard. The minute the stout man flinched, Aeodan rushed into motion, coming forward to put himself directly in front of the foreigner. DuKette, however, was a trained warrior, and he recovered from the mental assault immediately, staring at Aeodan strangely. He had protections of all sorts against the domains, but not the Divine. Aeodan would have smiled triumphantly, except there was no triumph in this day. Only misery and suffering, for all.

DuKette retaliated, far more quickly than Aeodan anticipated considering the mental onslaught, and the knife slashed across his forearm, more tan and hairy than the previous trial. Red blood pooled and dripped, the nasty gash painful but not life-threatening. Spinning the blade hilt-wise in his hand, DuKette reversed the direction in a back-handed stab, this one coming dangerous close to Aeodan's kidney region as the Zin'mataa practitioner turned on his axis, slipping behind the stab. Quickly, both hands snapped out, grasping DuKette's wrist as Aeodan spun underneath him and twisted, forcing DuKette to release the grip on the throwing knife. It clattered to the ground, but another appeared in his other hand just as rapidly as the first, and the blade cut a line across Aeodan's stomach, superficial but burning. The Burnett let DuKette go, and the man turned back on his, his face a grim mask adorned with a curious moustache. He brandished the dagger in front of him with a snarl, swiping at Aeodan.

Instead of stepping away from the slash, Aeodan stepped into it, taking a serious slash across his collarbone but putting him within the smaller man's range. Belying his training, Aeodan's hands caught DuKette's arm again, and this time, Aeodan twisted under and placed his shoulder in DuKette's armpit, lifting with all the strength in his new legs. The smaller man came off the ground wholly, suspended in the air by Aeodan's strength and fury, and when he was turned upside and dropped, the look on his face was one of calm acceptance. He was powerful, but Aeodan would not be stopped.

DuKette crashed into the ground on his head and neck, a loud crack echoing. Not dead, but likely seriously injured, DuKette twitched in the dirt, and Aeodan touched the wounds he'd received, tasting the blood to check for the bitterness of poison. It was unlikely, as the mage-hunter did not seem the type to use such a coward's weapon, but he would put nothing past the Order. He tasted nothing, and when he spit the blood, he looked back to Caius, his dark eyes lighting on the man for only a moment before he turned and strode, unhindered, toward the pyre. He had a job to do.

For Thomas. For Edalene. For Malena and the twins. For the Seekers.

And though they didn't see it, for the betterment of the citizens of Rynmere.
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Trial By Fire (Aeodan, Edalene, PM to join)

Postby Caius Gawyne » Fri Feb 09, 2018 12:11 pm

The crowd was suffocating: Caius far too introverted for such a throng of eager, curious, fearful people. He rubbed shoulders with common folk every day between class and work—but this sort of crowd as different. A current ran through it that stole sanity. Easily swayed, judgmental people who were in position here to believe whatever they were told without having had to even sift through the evidence with their own dirty sarding hands. He hadn't been stupid enough to agree to walk next to the Lord Inquisitor and the Professor, not yet ready for his Gawyne face to be so remembered as the noble who walked the condemned to their deaths. He didn't particularly want his boots spit on or a rock in his face or last ten-trial's vegetables somewhere on his person. No sarding way. But truth be told, he wasn't sure he really wanted to be standing here, either, in this moment more than anywhere else. A library would do. Or the Gazette. Thierry's bakery. Darcyanna's room—

Anywhere but here.

And yet, the truth was, there was nowhere else to be. Seven help him, this was madness, all of it, and the northern noble wondered if he would just wake up, confused and delirious in his bed, willing to count this entire evening and the trial that was surely about to follow as a horrible, sleep-deprived dream. It was not, and he knew it, but for a trill or two he hoped, desperately so. No, Kayled Wine was real and he was a serpent wrapped in flesh and given a suit of armor, handed power and followers, then assigned a dark task. A task he clearly excelled at. Was he any less evil than Terrance Thomas, a professor and teacher, a man of education and travel and experience?

No.

Caius couldn't see the distinction as clearly as he longed to, not from here, not now. It was either too soon or too late, and both made his chest tighten and his pulse quicken. Or, there would never be a real opportunity to make the distinction. Everyone made choices. Not all of them were beneficial. Would this always the end result? Academic history said yes. He knew it did.

Elizabet's words didn't comfort him and the knowledge of just how many of the crowd weren't simple observers didn't calm his nerves. He was a creature of research and process, quiet and distant, but here he was thrust face first into the twisted reality of a public mage execution as if it was some sarding garden party. Caius hated parties.

The Lord Inquisitor began to speak and the young Gawyne listened, but more than that he felt. He heard between the words and could feel the kind of presence Ser Wine commanded as if it was the tide and he was U'Frek himself, his words moving hearts in ways Caius could clearly see were calculated and purposeful. Perhaps underneath the charisma and fear mongering there was a genuine sense of purpose, but the northern noble worried that like the kindling at the base of the fire, such sense of purpose would quickly be burned away in the kind of chaos this systematic elimination had the possibility of becoming.

Because someone had to be the first.

Caius grit his teeth at the memory of Professor Terrence Thomas' words, sharp blue irises darkening as he focused not on the man who'd wakened him in the night and shoved responsibility onto his Gawyne-bred shoulders that he hadn't asked for, but instead on the beaten, condemned man tied to the pyre. His willingness disturbed the printer's diri as much as the Lord Inquisitor's convictions stirred him. Nothing felt right. Nothing good would come of these things.

The truth was a process. Knowledge took time to accumulate, to be evaluated, to be weighed.

This was foolishness—

Someone brushed roughly past him and his hand went for the saber at his hip. DuKette's shorter form passed him from the other side and Caius recognized the motions of pursuit. His feet carried him to follow even while his mind grumbled in objection. In the moment when things came together in front of him, the northern noble refused to believe them, holding the gaze of a friend whose face he didn't recognize even though the mage-hunter hissed his name like it was plain for all to see. In that trill as the young Gawyne's heart burned the back of his throat and he opened his mouth to object, he understood.

For the first time all evening, something fucking made sense.

And he had to keep up.

"Look away? No. I can't. I won't—"

Someone had to see it all. Someone had to weigh the sides. Someone who wasn't tangled in the middle. Someone raised to bear the burden by nature of their birthright in the halls of knowledge and truth—

Caius was slow to draw his weapon, breath stuck in his lungs as if someone unseen was squeezing his narrow chest, eyes widening as DuKette and Aeodan in someone else's skin began to engage one another in combat, the crowd that had pressed around them first murmuring and then moving, giving the pair room in fear and a rush of excitement. The fucking dangerous kind of excitement even as the Lord Inquisitor's words still rang in their ears and the roar of the fire filled the square, smoke and ashes from the swiftly consumed kindling. There were only moments, really, and the young Gawyne wasn't an idiot to see where his friend intended to go.

Far from experienced enough in melee to know when to step in without risking DuKette or getting himself tangled in Aeodan's clearly superior limbs, the northern noble instead held his saber out and moved the crowd, eyes wildly looking away from the blood for a frantic heartbeat or two to look for Elizabet and the others who were supposed to be with him, to get them moving,

"Ser Moru! This way!" He shouted even as some of the crowd began to press forward against him, pushing him toward the fight and wanting to get closer themselves, eager for blood, a few of them jeering already as Aeodan caught DuKette and lifted him off the ground. He turned and leveled his saber at the young man who'd made good fun of his social status, who'd smiled with him over lunch, who knew of his unusual lineage, and who seemed to have made all the decent choices in his young life, but Aeodan had closed on DuKette, the shorter red-headed Knight having sliced at the taller man but also put himself within grappling range.

The scarred woman had heard him, thank the Fates, and she drew her weapon, beginning to shoulder through the crowd not to come to DuKette's aid but to move to cut Aeodan off at the pass. It wouldn't be an easy task, the fire and the fighting exciting those in the front rows who were there for the show of violence anyway. A few of the crowd wanted to slow her, eager to see what the bleeding, unarmed man who appeared prepared to best DuKette could be planning to attempt. Caius heard the crack and saw the foreign mage hunter crumple against the cobblestones with the force of his once-friend's toss, and yet he met Aeodan's dark-eyed gaze with his own pale, silver hues, confused—

No, betrayed.

Nothing was sound, not even the ground beneath his feet as his knees felt weak for a moment, exhausted and now horrified. What he thought he knew about far too many things at once slipped from his tenuous grasp, twisting away from his mind like someone pulling a dagger from his gut, bleeding out. He hissed an exhale in frustration, some stranger curling fingers into his cloak from behind, wanting to tug him out of the way, perhaps to kick DuKette while he was down. One of the folks he held back slipped free from behind the northern noble's curved steel barrier, eager to get his hands on the brightly dressed man on the ground,

"Fuck off! Don't touch a Servant of the Crown."

Caius growled his warning, seeing another pair of metal boots pass to his left quickly after Elizabet to back her up, content for the moment that Aeodan now had pursuit because he'd gotten the right attention. He could have leapt after them, too, but with the mage hunter down, he didn't want to leave him to the ravages of the aroused crowd, blood spilled meant they'd be hungry for more. Besides, Elizabet and the Swords knew what they were doing, and they certainly wouldn't hesitate to stick a weapon between the ribs of a stranger, not like Caius might. The young Gawyne couldn't do that to a friend, no matter whose face he was wearing, no matter how much it hurt to realize they stood on opposite sides of something he didn't completely understand.

At least not yet.

Warren help him when the day came that he could.

Shrugging off the grip of the audience that held him, another set of hands pawing at him in an attempt to attack the one-eyed man curled at his feet, he moved to roll DuKette over, reaching down to lift the man once he saw he was at least somewhat conscious,

"Come on, Ser." He began to heft him up with his free hand, the other still gripping his saber tightly, aware of the wary glances from the eager crowd. Someone hissed. Someone else booed. The same mouths that had cheered the Lord Inquisitor, that had shouted at the lighting of the pyre to burn alive a humble man turned evil mage had the nerve to growl threateningly at the two, the noble and the mage hunter. He glanced around, now in a sea of strangers who had seen blood, smoke filling his nostrils and the crackling of wood behind him. Caius sneered and shifted his guard with his saber, curved blade held ready to slice the next sarding arsehole who made a move for DuKette's slumping self or his own,

"Back up. Keep your hands off. I'm not going to fucking tell you lot twice." The young Gawyne continued to threaten, hesitant to begin cutting up the crowd in front of him to make them part, moving now with a groaning DuKette weighing him down, wanting to get the man away and into someone else's more capable hands. He hardly felt capable of anything in this moment, though perhaps it was just easier to tell himself that. The right thing felt so far out of reach,

"Out of the way."

Off Topic
As eager as I am OOC for combat, I didn't want to have the crowd jump them just yet. Let's see what you've got up your sleeve. Then, well, then I can write all the dirty.

For your edification, Caius has kindly sent Elizabet and a Sword or two after Aeodan. Sorry not sorry, friend-o. He couldn't stab you himself, but his coworkers might. Best of luck.


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Trial By Fire (Aeodan, Edalene, PM to join)

Postby Edalene » Sun Feb 11, 2018 7:20 pm

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Edalene skulked at the edges of the crowd. If she had a heart, it would have been beating loudly enough for any to hear. Instead, her skin felt as though it was thrumming, every inch of skin a tingle of nervous energy. From where she was standing, she couldn't see anyone she knew--Vhalo was somewhere she couldn't see, and she knew Aeodan was slowly making his way through the crowd, closer and closer to Thomas.

She could see Thomas.

That was possibly the most terrifying part of this whole nightmarish ordeal. Perhaps she had seen Thomas worse after the Temple; he had nearly been insensate from the near-loss of his magic, drained and bitten and bloody, but that was because of action. He had earned those wounds and scars fighting against an impossible creature, saving Edalene and her brother in the meantime. This, though? This bedraggled, dirty, malnourished man? They had done this to him.

And it made her angry.

As she stared at the man she had dared to think of as a father, she felt her blood boil. The nervous energy under her skin boiled into a roiling anger, and it was only the taste of metal that made her realise that she had bitten down on her lip hard enough to bleed. Harshly, she brought her sleeve up to her mouth, wiping it away, staining the linen with blood. Beside her, Arturius growled, feeding off of her emotions. In Arturius' anger, she felt herself become stronger, and she smiled bitterly, still looking at Thomas.

The Crown would regret this.

Suddenly, everything went to shit. She couldn't see what had happened, who had said what, but she knew - it was Aeodan. Even though he bore a different face, a different body, they were still one soul, and she could feel the thudding sensation of invisible blows he was taking. It took a slice to his forearm, appearing on her own pale skin, blood appearing from an invisible weapon, that spurred her into action.

Turning, she ran in the opposite direction from the fighting. To a stranger, it looked as though she was fleeing, though she remained within sight of the pyre. Heart thumping, Edalene took one of the wells - there were only four left - from the bag that Vhalo had done it, and focusing on the pulsing stone of Ether in her hand, she looked to the left and threw it.

It collided with a pole holding up a balcony over a shop that lined the square. As soon as it did, the wood exploded, catching fire, the balcony crumbling down to the ground. Edalene heard screams from those around her, already running away, while she stood dazedly looking at the destruction she had just caused. Gathering herself, she shook her head and ran again.

But she heard the clanking of armour behind her. Not close, not yet, but they were coming for her. She smiled as she ran, benefiting from the frenzied crowd running this way and that. Without armour, she could be more nimble, move more easily than the encumbered soldiers pursuing her could. And then she heard another explosion, saw smoke and fire in the distance, on the other side of the square. She smiled as she ran. Good. Vhalo was doing his work too. They could not be everywhere at once.

But the soldiers were getting closer, now. Here, the crowd was thicker, and they had the authority to push people out of the way. They were only yards away, now, still a few people in between her and the guards. Her mouth dry, she froze. If they caught her, she was dead, instantly. That was okay. She had been dead once before. But now, Aeodan would die too - and so would Thomas. Then the rest of the mages. She swallowed.

Her hand shaking, she made her decision. She took two wells from her bag, still backing away. It seemed as though there were at least ten people between her and the guards. Swallowing, she closed her eyes, focusing on the wells in her hand.

Ralaith, Vri ... Aeodan ... forgive me.

She lobbed the wells into the midst of the people, and turned and ran. Behind her, she heard agonising screams and an explosion. She did not stop to look. Edalene wept as she ran.
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Trial By Fire (Aeodan, Edalene, PM to join)

Postby Plague » Mon Feb 12, 2018 3:39 am

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The crowd had grown restless. A maw had opened in the assembled, vomiting the striding Aeodan as both Caius and DuKette remained among its jeering teeth. Rynmere could taste the foreigner, addled to action a stone found Caius' hip painfully. He hissed, swinging his blade in an arc that drew some of the people back. None would risk their skin to that naked blade, not with so keen a glimmer. DuKette had barely stumbled to his feet, crimson blood streaked against his brilliant red hair and filling the agonized folds of his forehead. He hissed quietly next to Caius, under his breath, and snatched up both blades he had dropped. Caius saw them, swirling, pretty things, no longer a maelstrom of spectrum but different shades of red. In his hands, both blades spun toward the retreating Aeodan.

"Underestimated tha lad," he muttered, voice nearly swallowed by the crowd around him, "Has a bit of the gleam to himself, some trick. Not Empathy but..." if he was to say something else, it was lost as screams tore their way through the assembled, a ripple, a wave that growled in crescendo as it roiled around them. Caius turned quickly back to DuKette, unsure which direction he could retreat to. Across the mage hunter's face, his patch had been sent askew by the young scholar, the black end revealing a half moon of the hollow beneath. But where Caius expected to see an absence, a fell light of swirling colors melted through instead, as though a witchlight were burning in DuKette's own skull. His other eye, sharp and inquisitive even under the duress of agony caught his and he quickly adjusted the path, cutting the light from view. "To the Pyre." He said shortly and turned on a heel, hurling one of the blood-marked blades up into the sky. Caius briefly caught its passage, flipping end over end high and then pointing straight, as it had before, zipping down at an angle toward the figure that had left them behind.

Cursing under his breath, the Gawyne hoisted DuKette, using his shoulder as leverage to stand for the smaller man and backed toward the pyre.

The crowd naturally closed around them, gobbling up the blood they left behind beneath their pounding feet.

********************************************************************************************


Elizabet broke the ranks of the crowd first, a blade drawn swiftly to catch the growing glare of the flame. Aeodan skidded to a stop, caught between the blaze with the Inquisitor and the woman closing behind him. He spun quickly, falling into a natural defensive stance as she charged. DuKette's knife caught him unaware, thundering from above him it was only by the chance of shifting his position that it didn't find his neck. Instead, the blade bit deep into his shoulder and a burning schism of pain followed shortly. Aeodan instinctively snatched for the dagger handle and tore it out, the blade gleaming a black-red mottled hunger and threw it at Elizabet.

The dagger sailed wide, clattering onto the stone and Elizabet spun up her sword as she closed the distance.

Aeodan could feel the rage within him shudder under the pressure, crack as the deluge of fear tried to shatter his resolve. Elizabet was not as well armored, but she moved with the practiced grace of a Knight. Skilled as he was unarmed, he couldn't guard against the blade with his flesh alone and exposed here would be his undoing. Aeodan gripped the object in his left hand harder, trying to coax Ninacky to see, to know that now was the time. Surely he was close enough. Behind him, the ring of steel sounded as Kayled pulled his own saber and his knights pulled their longswords. A few trills, bits, maybe less and he would feel the steel slip between his skin. Elizabet was only a few feet from him now, drawing her sword back and thrusting it forward, a straight and true thrust toward his chest. At this speed, this trajectory, Aeodan could not dodge.

What would Edalene feel?

Aeodan slammed his hands against the cracking barrier within him and let out a long breath. He would not die like a coward and he would not allow them to burn Thomas, not as a monument to their own ignorance.

He had faith in the mages, in the Seekers. He would not turn tail.

*****************************************************

"What's this?" Aeodan was clenching and unclenching unfamiliar hands obsessively. The skin felt wrong somehow, too lose over his own bones. Being this tall left him feeling a little dizzy and his movements had, so far, been uncoordinated. Since Vhalo had made the change, Aeodan had been given his own space to get used to his new body. He had precious little time to acclimate before starting out toward the town center and so far he had stumbled and fallen twice, just by crossing the room.

Ninacky was holding something out to him, worn oak it looked like, widdled inexpertly into the thin-shouldered figure of a woman. It was singed, pockmarks of black curling from its right edge up along the skit all the way to the hips. She smiled, sheepishly, and slipped it between his grasping fingers.

"My father was a skilled hunter, but terrible at wood carving." Her hand remained on it and for a moment, his was closed around hers. Aeodan marveled at how hot it was, warm and feverish, alive. She let it go and drew her fingers back, closing them, "He made this for me when I was...oh, maybe a few Arcs old. The pass to Hiladrith had closed early that winter, but he'd promised me a doll from from a certain shop there. I think he hoped this would be a way of apology." Aeodan smiled back, looking down at it and curling his fingers around the rough edges experimentally. It was worn smooth, he noted, by near constant handling. "I must have raised such an awful shrieking tantrum," laughing now she shook her head, "I caught fire then and there, burned up the edge before he grabbed me up with his big thick arms..." Ninacky was laughing but her eyes were wet, glistening. Aeodan remembered the shapes in the fire, black shadows consumed by the flames. "I never apologized, not once. Not while he was alive." She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "Anyways, to direct my portal I need you to hold this very close. It's important to me so I should be able to direct a portal right next to it. When you're near the pyre, I'll know. Just trust in us, yes? We'll keep you safe."

"Just me between an angry crowd and whoever is trying to execute Thomas," Aeodan sighed, opening and closing his hands again, "Dangerous place to be."

"You won't be alone," Ninacky winked, "Not for long."

********************************************************************************************


The air tore with a furious shriek, its edges trailing the flicker-hot sparks of flames. As Elizabet's sword plunged toward Aeodan's chest a brawny arm thrust out of that shrieking tear and caught her wrists in a callused, scarred hand. Elizabet gasped, digging her feet in the ground to halt her momentum but it was too late, the thick arm flexed and sent her crashing to the cobblestone. Although her immediate instinct was to roll away from the opening jaws of the portal, a broad, thick body followed the arm out into the cold air, kicking away her blade and planting a heavy hand over her face. She struggled as she was lifted off her feet in front of Aeodan, gripping at the arm, digging her fingers uselessly against the white scars and thick skin.

"Audrae-fuckin bitch." Aegeo growled, curling his fist and delivering three heavy blows to her chest, hurling her away from him. Elizabet hit the ground and moaned, curling around her stomach and spitting a splatter of blood onto the ice.

Kayled had not paused in his own charge and lifted up his blade confidently, changing his trajectory just slightly to impale the newly arrived Aegeo. But another hand reached through the opening to touch the ground, a glimmering discharge of ether scrawling along the cracks through the stone beneath Kayled's feet. The Inquisitor's eyes widened in horror as his foot slid out in front of him, as if the very ground he walked on had become a sheet of ice and slid past Aegeo and Aeodan both, rocketing toward the roaring mob. Reversing the blade in his hand he jammed it into the earth, the steel creaking under the pressure as it anchored him suddenly to where he stood, uncertainly, on the gleaming cobblestone.

Professor Nolan followed the hand pressed to the ground, sheepishly adjusting his glasses as he took his position beside Aegeo.

"Adequate," the shaved professor offered as way of a thanks, cracking his knuckles against an open palm, "I'd have preferred something a little more gods damned deadly."

"Saved your skin, d-did it not?" Nolan hissed back, turning back towards Kayled and leveling out an open palm. A sizzling bolt of incadescent energy roared from the open palm toward where Kayled stood, barely, by virtue of the sword planted in the ground. The Inquisitor could not push himself away, only stare into the crashing energy blast as it loomed over him.

DuKette hit the ground in front of Kayled, Drawing a longer shimmering blade from a sheathe crossed over the back of his hilt and grinding the blade against the ether gleam of the pathway Nolan had cast. It blazed bright and was gone in and instant and Kayled tore up his sword and pushed himself into a sideways roll as the blast of ether narrowly soared over his head, dissipating before it hit the crowd.

DuKette remained on the ground, groggy, disoriented, his face painted in his own blood as he struggled to regain his footing. Caius was right behind him, blade out and menacing the three mages by the portal beside Kayled. Elizabet had crawled to her sword and was already starting to rise, soldier in the crowd either breaking the ranks with their own weapons or trying to control the tumult of chaos that had enveloped the onlookers.

Fire roared as it grew toward Thomas but stopped short. Aegeo raised a hand and the flames curled and danced down the platform toward him, away from Thomas, sending the other few black-clad guards that had come with Kayled scurrying away from the glowing advance. Aegeo had found his breath again and even allowed himself something of a triumphant smile, especially when Ninacky stepped out of the portal next,her hair trailing smoke and flame as the excitement and passion curled at her guts. She grinned wildly at Aeodan and laughed.

"Burn a Defier?" Aegeo shouted at Kayled, shaking his head, "Stupid pricks."

"Yes," Kayled admitted, wiping grit from his blade over his sleeve, "It would be. If that was all there was." He held his blade aloft and twenty men stepped from the milling crowd, weapons drawn, striding toward the mages. Above their heads, loose stones torn from the earth rained haphazardly as the crowd roared their disapproval.

Aeodan turned to look at Thomas, hoping to see the flicker of hope in his bruised and swollen face.

All he saw was sadness, a hopelessness that tore its way through the professor's body and sagged his weight against the pillar. Even with the fire curling away from him, he did not seem overjoyed to see them. Thomas turned his eyes up and across the sea of heads, the teaming crowd frothing for justice. Above them all, across the skyline of Andaris. Foreboding curled a claw around Aeodan's relief, a sickening lurch as he followed Thomas' gaze beyond the marching wall of gleaming steal, beyond the savage, roaring throng, to the lone figure bent low on the rooftop with a long bow drawn taught. Its lit arrow was a point of furious light in the darkness.

********************************************************************************************

Caius stood uncertainly in the small courtyard outside the Order of the Mantis barracks. Once a living quarters for the Iron Hand, it was under construction being repurposed for their uses. Most notably the wall was nearly complete, neatly cutting the small barracks away from prying eyes in the Andaris street. Moonlight washed over the dirt and stopped there, sating the endless thirst of the mud for its silvery incandescence. A single, scorched pole sat in the middle of the makeshift arena. Curious black scorch marks marred the area around the pole, in which a narrow ditch had been filled with a dull, black liquid. Caius stepped past Kayled to get a closer look but the thin man put out a hand to stop him, pushing him back towards the door he stepped out of.

"Careful, my Lord," Kayled said quietly, "You must keep your distance."

"What...am I looking at?" Caius inquired, staring at the lone marker with some suspicion. Exhaustion had found the edges of his eyes and a yawn threatened his throat, still, he wrapped his arms around his chest and danced his ink-stained fingers over his sides.

"Our mage is a fire-caller, as is one of his compatriots," Kayled explained, indicating the small pillar several yards away, "Attempting to burn him to death would be ineffective, and only serve to arm our enemies."

"Than why bother?" Caius asked, still uncomfortable speaking about immolating a man alive, "Wouldn't a hanging or...beheading be more efficient?"

"Fire cleanses," Kayled answered, "It strips away the sinners and the saints and leaves only bone and ash behind. These...mages, they pervert the flames by seeking to be its master, its commander. DuKette tells me their command can be quite immense, but struggles when confronted with unexpected volume."

"What do you-" Caius started, but his attention was drawn by the sudden life of a flame on the low roof of the compound across the dirt courtyard. An archer drew back his bow and loosed an arrow into the ditch around the pillar. Caius watched the ember-bright arrow flicker to the bottom of the marker, pierce the liquid, and stepped back involuntarily as a pillar of furious flames roared from the liquid straight up into the night sky. Briefly it was almost divine, a strike of pure scorching flames that hissed and crackled, snarled and leaped before dwindling. In their wake, the scorched pillar was smoldering, cracked with orange-red fractures, and hissing tiny tongues of blue-red fire.

"DuKette calls it Absolution," Kayled almost purred, "It absolves even the elements of a mage's control. What you have seen here is the contents of a single bottle." He turned on Caius and the ghosts of the flames were still lit passion in his dark eyes, "We have emptied twenty beneath the scaffolding."

********************************************************************************************

"MOTHER!" The world spun and spit out Dagget into the cold and the painful. Distantly he could hear the cries around him, the screams and wails. His spear lay beside him, but it might as well have been on the moon. The world tilted and vomit rose, streaming from his mouth as he struggled to stay on his hands and knees. What...happened? The bitch had thrown something at them, bright points of light. The pink crystal in his hand glowed fitfully, pulling his focus back into the real world. Sobs came to his ears and he dragged himself toward them. Sound was distant now, a dull roar in his right ear and Idalos came back into focus bit by painful bit. A young man was bent over a woman, sobbing. Smoke rose from her shawl and dress like curling claws around his short brown hair. He was bleeding too, scorch marks along his clothes and the right side of his face bubbled with red-scarred flesh. Beside him, Amelia, one of the guards that had come with him to apprehend Edalene lay staring cold and dead. Rock had exploded outward and a sliver had found her eye, jammed deep into her skull. Impossible bile rose in Dagget's throat again and his hand found the shaft of his spear, gripping it tightly. Through the tattered dead she'd left behind, Edalane sprinted, leaving the milling confusion and panic as the crowd tried to disperse against itself. The Iron Hand meant to handle the crowd were swallowed within it. Madness had descended as fire twisted in the hands of the Defier and explosions rang out from either side of the execution. Dagget remembered her, the way she had brought the door back to wholeness, how she had slipped between his fingers. The pink crystal had pointed her out and now she had slain the innocent. Cursing, he threw himself to his feet and gave chase, twisting off bits of his armor to leave behind in order to aid his passage through the dispersing people.

Edalene was quick, dodging through the surprised and the shouting as she tried to make her way to Aeodan's side. Her job had been to lay the traps and return, but she could already feel Aeodan's pain as her pain and she would not leave him to stand against this monstrosity without her at his side. Arturious roared, ferocious, unheard but his strength was her strength. She took heart in that, the haunting screams of the victims she had left following her step by step. She turned a corner under the roof of a line of storehouses and stopped to catch her breath. Arturious snarled sudden warning and she hurled herself sideways as a spear head found the place she had put her hand moments before. Even as she turned, agony drilled into her shoulder and one hand went unbidden there, thinking she had also been pierced from above. There was blood, yes, but no cause.

Aeodan.

She whirled on Dagget, panting behind her, the right side of his head, including his ear, blistered black and white. Swiftly she drew the last well from her bag, the other hand slipping around to where the remains of Dagget's first spear had been tied behind her. Both were still a moment, gauging each other. Other guards had started to push their way through the people now, trying to make their way to Dagget. His eyes were ringed in insomnia, bloodshot and narrowed. Sneering, he bent forward and lay both hands against his spear. "Nowhere to run, murderous bitch," He spat, coiled, "How about I give your brother a taste of what you've left behind?" He lunged forward at her, spear frighteningly fast. Edalene dropped the well back into the satchel and ripped the end of his former spear free, pointing it toward him. The blessing of Ralaith rode her blood and when her other hand reached back, it found the completed shaft. She stepped sideways and thrust the spear forward with its new length, aiming for the guard's chest. Dagget drew in his breath sharply, not expecting another miracle of the same and barely changed the trajectory of his spear to slap her deadly aim down. Instead, the spear bit into leg, lodging deep in the bone and muscle.

Dagget screamed and stumbled back, tearing the spear from her hands and it immediately returns to the short length it had been before, although no less lodged in the soldier's upper leg. Edalene backed away from him, already grasping for the well. She could do away with him now, yes, throw it. But how would she make it to Aeodan without a weapon? The crowd seemed like a thing altogether alive, a thrashing beast of arms, legs, hateful yells and gnashing teeth. Would she even make it to him? If she was trampled, would he not feel the same? Together they would die, one dragging the other into the grave.

Edalene could not have that.

A gleam drew her eye away from the staggering guard briefly, eyes on the naked flashing sword of the Inquisitor as he held it aloft. Above her, weight moved with sudden purpose and she turned her eyes up.

An archer perched on the edge of the roof, flaming arrow already lit and drawn. She marked the aim, easily enough, and it did not angle toward Aeodan or the mages. It was centered on Thomas.

Without a thought, she hurled the last well upward with a defiant scream. Everything they had worked for, everything they had fought to do, she could not let it be in vain. She wouldn't let these hateful pricks cowardly shoot the man down from a rooftop while her brother struggled vainly against the demons between them. He loosed the arrow in the same breath she hurled the well. End over end it turned and glimmered, the archer turning his cloaked head down in surprise. There was a moment when their eyes locked.

Allan was swallowed in the creschendo of scorching flames and shrieking color as the well exploded at his feet, caving in the roof he perched on and dumping the smoking man into the storehouse with no more sound than a gasp. Tears were not swift enough to her eyes, shock no swifter to her mind as Edalene followed the path of the arrow.

There had been no time. No choice. This couldn't be who Ralaith had meant. The assertion repeated angrily in her head as the light streaked above the crowd, above the mages, and dipped as it reached the pillar. But the range, it was too shallow, it would never find Thomas' body. Edalene could feel a bitter stab of triumph as the arrow sped toward the ground. At its path, it would put it beneath the scaffolding itself, well short of the mage. Maybe her quick action had disrupted the shot, even a little, enough to save him.

********************************************************************************************

The arrow soared over Aeodan's head as Aegeo drew more of the flames toward himself. More fed along the wood and kindling, but they only fueled Aegeo's magic now. Chuckling, he lifted his hands and took a step toward Caius and Kayled. He barely even marked the arrow as it passed and Aeodan would have agreed, its path was much too low. Another explosion rocked the edge of the crowd where the archer had perched, who vanished in a clatter of debris. Still, both Aeodan and Thomas' eyes were on the ember of flame as it dipped to the foot of the scaffolding. Somehow...Aeodan could not feel triumph.

********************************************************************************************

The arrow soared overhead and Caius saw that its course was true. Cold terror roiled in his gut and he watched as Kayled turned his head away from the scaffolding, back toward the crowd, closing his eyes. Caius did so as well turning abruptly and stepping back the way he came, DuKette even burying his own bloodied mustache into the ground. The people screamed and scattered, some still hurled stones.

Caius remembered the courtyard.

It had all been a trap.

********************************************************************************************

A sun was born.

White-hot, brilliant, the roar of the solution catching fire was beyond a scream. The air itself sparked, breath drawn from Aeodan's lungs as though someone had hammered him in the gut. He gasped, instinctively, his eyes blinded in the single brilliant spout of flame. He had watched the arrow fall, sizzling down past Thomas' face. In that moment, their eyes had met.

Aeodan could not hear the words but he saw their grim passage across his face.

I'm
Sorry.

Thomas was gone, consumed instantly with the entire scaffolding. The pillar of flames, white-orange and howling, spun a cyclone of such incadesence toward the sky that for a moment all of that quarter was as bright as clearest morning. No sound was more complete than the scream of the timbers as they were torn away in the conflaguration, an inferno beyond anything Aeodan and Edalene had ever seen.

As though the very gods themselves had cast their judgement on lone figure tethered to the pole.

"NO!" Ninacky screamed, her hair suddenly brilliantly alight and her portal faltered. Aeodan had no words, he heard Aegeo scream as well, his voice the crackling of embers as the same brilliance burst out his eyes, spreading across his face like cracks on the surface of a frozen lake. Smoke billowed from his face as the cracks descended over his arm and across one outstretched hand, bathing the mage in fiery tongues of barely constrained fire. Even Nolan had been blinded, stumbling away and shaking his head. Aeodan heard her first, before the scarred face of Elizabet sharply snapped into focus. She was past him, sword up as Aegeo stumbled and drove the length of her blade through Aegeo's side.

Flames poured along the length, forcing her release it and leap away as the broad-shouldered mage fell heavily on his hands and knees. He wept inferno, he bled inferno. Aeodan could do nothing as the entire plan fell to pieces. Even as Malena's ghouls, (A secret repository she had been saving in case of the worst), poured out of the portal he could only stare with Ninacky at the blazing spout of flames that had consumed his teacher, the truest father he'd ever had, and his friend.

It was all lost, gone in an instant and locked behind a wall of towering inferno.

********************************************************************************************

Edalene could feel the dizzying crash of Aeodan's emotions and felt the phantom burn on her skin. She watched the flames rise with the rest of the crowd, frozen and transfixed. Thomas, the mage, was engulfed and consumed in that divine conflagration, no one else. It was as though Dagget had stabbed her, tearing through her mind with the blade of his spear and bleeding all the hope from her veins. Strength seemed to leave her and the word 'no' never made its way past her lips, though she shaped the word before it died.

She didn't see Dagget rise and draw the spear back again, she only began to turn at Arturius' urging as he thrust it toward her breast. Too late, too late. All the strength of this whole operation had been obliterated in a single moment. Feeling Aeodan's despair and her own only echoed the emotion within the twins, a tidal wave of hopelessness washing over her.

But Dagget's spear did not find her. Instead a green shape slipped into existence from above him, lithe and monkey-like with three cystal eyes, two of which danced with the fire-light mad gleam of bright pin-prick pupils. Envoy landed on Dagget with a thump that send the wounded guard sprawling, offering an eerily wide and human smile toward Edalene before vanishing once again, lost to its ephemeral realm. Above her, an animal shriek drew her eyes to a bird of immense wingspan, diving low over the crowd and bearing down on her with talons outstretched. Vhalo. She had no way of knowing for sure, but there was something about the bird's approach that did not ring predatory. Almost gently it grasped her arms and hoisted her into the air, keening out as it turned back toward the dying inferno and the surrounded mages. Elizabet had drawn a dagger from her boot and was turning on Nolan, still kneeling and feeling across the ground, momentarily blinded. Rage pushed up through Edalene's mind like shards of glass, burning through Aeodan's own hopelessness as well. Vhalo dropped her and Edalene drew her knees up, crashing into the larger woman's shoulders and sending her hurtling to the ground. Aeodan caught her before Edalene smacked against the cobblestone and pulled her towards him. She could feel his tears, hot on her own cheeks and on his. Elizabet regained her feet and turned only to find a furious jaguar, skin a molten maze of feathers reforming into fur, menacing her backward. The six ghouls Malena had made loped from the portal and menaced Kayled and the approaching guards as Ninacky shook on unsteady feet, unable to look away from the fire.


He was gone.

Gods. He was gone.

And Kayled's men closed around them in the heat of the furious pyre.


********************************************************************************************

"Necromancy." Kayled hissed the word and snatched up the blade. The creatures that loped toward them were not human. One, at least, might have once been a volaeron, rotting feathers trailing behind it as its feline shape prowled easily toward the crowd. Three wolves, a beast, and a bear made their way through the portal and toward the Inquisitor's men. DuKette, struggled to free another blade from his belt but clearly had trouble keeping his focus, Elizabet kept at bay by the Becomer.

It was the bear that trained its eyes on Caius. Something about its dead stare, the gleam of strange flickering light within its sunken skull. Caius had never seen something so clearly menacing, wrong...evil. Rot pooled on its matted fur and ichor dripped from bloody stained teeth. In life, it had been a grizzly of some size, not it lumbered toward him with half its fur peeled away from gleaming white-bone ripcage and dragging beneath its loping feet.

"Defend DuKette!" Kayled shouted at Caius, turning back toward his men as the Volareon opened its massive wings and shrieked, deathless, moldering, "Allow no monster to touch an innocent or breach our line!"

The crowd screamed as one, both hypnotized by the flames and terrified by the monsters that poured out of the hole Ninacky had torn in the sky. Two other Purifiers stepped forward, rank in rank with Caius as he rushed toward the still struggling DuKette. Every instinct howled at the noble to return to the crowd, lose himself in the pushing and pulling. But with eyes upon him, confronted by this horror, where could he truly go? DuKette struggled to his hands and knees, pushing a long, curved dagger up toward Caius.

"I...cannae...lad," He breathed, snarling the words as he tried to hold his balance, "Well. In the body. Glimmerstone. Touch the blade tae the stone."

The dead bear roared without sound and galloped forward, looming over the men, claws jagged and jaws hungry.

At least, Caius found himself thinking, Terrance's death was quick.

Looking up at this demon? He was almost jealous.
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Trial By Fire (Aeodan, Edalene, PM to join)

Postby Aeodan » Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:43 am



Relevant


The world came to a crashing halt, seared away with an orange-red glow. Aeodan watched as the flames unfurled upward, licking at the sky, their hungry forms consuming everything around them. Thomas... Aeodan couldn't process. Not then, not with so much unfinished, with so many of his friends and family still in peril. But the mission, the reason for that peril... They knew it would be a dangerous attempt, but Aeodan had never considered the possibility that they would not save Thomas. The Defier, even if he had wanted to save himself, which Aeodan understood in the end that he hadn't, couldn't overcome the sheer number of biting flame that roiled from beneath the scaffolding. It was a trap. The fucking Ashcloaks had planned this, had used Thomas to lure them out.

There was no rescue. Only a plan that they had executed for the Order of the Mantis.

He kissed Edalene's forehead, his strong and wide hand gripping Ninacky's shoulder as he turned to survey the growing tumult. Malena's beasts were fearsome, staring down the guards with eyes no longer alive with light. Aegeo's wound bubbled molten flame, his rage sustaining him far longer than he should have. Not rage. Loss. Aeodan felt it as clearly, it ringing like a bell deep within him, resonating on a frightening frequency he was unsure he possessed until that moment. Losing Edalene had ended him, curdling the desire to live like spoiled milk. But Thomas' death did something else. It took the fire of his desire for adventure, the kindling that Thomas had placed with Ruinfall, and ignited it like the pyre, swallowing him in flames of hurt and loss and rage. He balled his fists, gritting his teeth hard to stop himself from bursting into tears. There would be time to mourn this tragedy, time to allow his grief to assume him.

His dark eyes still moved, and they fell on Caius, cornered by a rotting bear and brandishing a sword. Then they moved to Kayled, then the downed DuKette, the wounded Elizabet, and finally the bloodthirsty crowd. Suddenly, everything made sense. In the agony of his loss, his mind cleared like parting clouds, leaving illumination shining on the scene before him.

Kayled had known they would come for Thomas, not content to allow their leader and friend to perish to the flames like some common witch. He had known that they would pull no punches, and rather than kill Thomas in the quiet and dignified manner a man of the University for so many arcs deserved, they made a spectacle of it. They asked the citizens of Rynmere to attend, to show them the evils of magic... But Aeodan watched as Kayled's Order brought out the evil in his friends. These were teachers, students, friends, family, lovers. A mother, a child, the twins. These were people who'd spent their lives seeking something better, pigeonholed into the position they were in, backed into a corner and called a predator for striking out. Ser Wine had orchestrated this charade, lighting the fuse on a bomb he knew would create havoc and confusion long before that trial. It was a master manipulation.

One he would fucking pay for.

His arms lifted from the two women, the pressure of his body weight alleviating from Edalene's shoulder. Aeodan knew Thomas had wished, in those final moments, that they had allowed him to die on his own terms, and he couldn't stand for that. He could not let that stand. Ghosting from his position with the women, Aeodan turned and set his sights on the battle unfolding behind him. The world hadn't moved yet, not in real time, and nobody had taken a single breath. The whole world hushed to witness the true inferno as it claimed their vision and memory for the coming events. The minute Aeodan turned, though, it all came rushing back, the sounds of screaming and fear and confusion mixing into a cacophony to wake the gods. The smell of burning flesh floated through the air like the little gray ashes of Thomas' body. Aeodan watched one as it fell in front of him, the charred remains of the hopes of his friends, and he sucked the inferno in through his nose. What he released in its place was inhuman, the voice of the lost and damned for a thousand thousand centuries, so guttural and primal that it was improbable it came from a human mouth. Aeodan's slow path towards the battle was a determined walk, and as he moved, he took quick note of the combatants, processing them quickly.

Cassion brought us all together in this journey. They chose the wrong destination, Aeodan mused grimly, coming up behind one of the soldiers that had emerged from the crowd, dressed plainly but brandishing a weapon too expertly to allow belief of her commonry. Aeodan's new hands, broader than his old and hairier, gripped either side of her head. In her surprise, she barely had time to murmur her recognition of danger before those new hands squeezed and twisted, snapping her neck like a twig. Fury replaced strength, misery driving him as it was Aegeo. The second warrior, a man larger than the woman he'd just killed by head, turned to witness the event.

Aeodan felt the bones crack and felt nothing. He emptily thought that the first mortal life he took would weigh heavier on his shoulders, but in that moment, the only thing he carried was the sight and sounds and smell of the burning Seeker, lashed to the pyre, resigned to be a martyr for a people screeching like animals for his blood. It was a fucking shame that he'd chosen to give himself to the people of Rynmere, the piss and shit soaked masses gathered around to witness his fiery eclipse not absorbing or appreciating a minute amount of his sacrifice.

On came the heavier soldier, mace held before him. Aeodan snarled, animalistic, as the man swung, and Aeodan ducked it. Unarmoured, he knew the mace would be a death sentence if it clanged against his head, and he determined not to let that happen. Setting his feet as solidly as stone, he waited for the man to come back in. As he did, Aeodan's knees bent, and the swing of the mace overbalanced the warrior. Aeodan braced for his weight, and both Order and Seeker fell to the ground. Aeodan rolled quickly, flipping over himself to bring himself to bear on top of the man. His first punch rained down, rocking the warrior's head back and causing his half-helm to jar off his crown. His head exposed, Aeodan rushed to rain down his fury.

Left after right smashed into the man's face, coating Aeodan in a hot spray of blood from the place where the man's nose once resided. Aeodan smashed and smashed, rocking the man's head back into the cobblestone. Blood spread out in a pool around him, and when Aeodan stopped, gore and blood coated his hands. Looking up with eyes of feral anger, Aeodan's left hand closed around the handle of the man's mace. It was plain and heavy, easily concealed, and Aeodan rose with determined vengeance. DuKette was well-guarded, and Aeodan wasn't sure he could face Caius' place in all this, not now, not with Thomas still crackling and sputtering behind him as the ample fat that a thousand meals dedicated to Cassion had placed on his midsection. The thought of Thomas burning sent a rippling wave of molten rage through him, and he set his jaw and set off with the mace.

It was heavy and clunky, but a relatively simple premise: Hit them with the heavy end. Coming upon the side of a man with a sword, Aeodan swung the mace in an arc. The sword parried, clumsily as he had not seen the scholar, and the man fell backwards. As he did, he drew a dagger and threw, the blade slicing into Aeodan's bicep with menacing wickedness. Wrong arm, though, and Aeodan's mace-bearing arm brought the weapon to keel, raining down on the man's head and caving it in.

Three dead, and Aeodan felt nothing. He was more than a little concerned. He'd beg Thomas' memory for forgiveness after he helped his new family escape.

He couldn't save Thomas, but he would be damned if he couldn't save them. At least most of them.

At least Edalene and Ninacky.
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Trial By Fire (Aeodan, Edalene, PM to join)

Postby Caius Gawyne » Mon Feb 12, 2018 2:28 pm

Everything didn't fall apart so much as splinter and explode.

There had never been a point in Caius' sheltered, noble life that he considered himself the type of man capable of processing all the things that were currently happening at once—and he wasn't, couldn't be.

He knew nothing.

He'd never known a thing.

Everything was wrong.

For a trill the young Gawyne stood still as everything else moved around him—the ground, the crowd, the mages, the flames, the arrow, the voices—and his grip tightened on the hilt of his saber until his knuckles stung in protest. His entire well-padded life was a lie and it was on fire while his friend wore someone else's skin and a bastion of knowledge was being put on gruesome display. The Lord Inquisitor had hauled him from his quiet, unassuming residence on the Rynmere University campus and shoved him into a deception so twisted that Caius was unsure he would ever grasp the truth of it. Kayled had orchestrated a show, all of it, knowing full well his supposed enemy, knowing full well how these particular mages would react to the execution of their companion.

Madness. This was madness.

What innocence the northern noble had hidden away in his calloused, carnal self suddenly felt burned away—smoke in the wind, ashes in his nostrils.

DuKette was still in his grip, and the shorter man's movements shook him back into a reality he didn't know how to accept anymore, every fiber of his being rejecting the scenes as they played out before his shifting irises. Filled now by adrenaline and flames, Caius could only do, react, and remember. The glow of Absolution stung at his senses and the smoke and fear brought tears to his eyes. People spilled out of a portal—mages, all of them—and a scene unfolded in front of his pale silver gaze that was as insane as it was immediate. He'd almost begun to grasp what was happening when more things poured into the courtyard chaos, things that were out of nightmares.

He heard the words shouted. He didn't know them—Necromancy? Defend? He was a printmaker. An Arts student. A Religion scholar. A noble of the House of Gawyne. An asshole. He was supposed to die—but today was the wrong fucking date.

DuKette shoved a dagger into his other hand, slipping out of his grip with a groan,

"Well? What's a fucking well? Wait. In the—IN?!" Oh by all the Seven, in the rotten bear? The beast was moving, rocks were flying, and people were shouting. His combat experience consisted of practicing on the University lawn and sparring with his brothers. He'd never faced wild animals, let alone ones that had obviously already died once. He wore no armor and carried no rank in any branch of the Andaris military, "Warren, Saint of Life, and any of your fucking friends, help me."

Shifting his grip with the strange dagger in his off-hand, the young Gawyne had no choice but to turn to engage the monster, ignoring the chaos that was bloodily playing out around him, the chaos that he feared the Lord Inquisitor had invited and the mages had leapt into without a single concern for all the innocents involved. No one was winning to-trial.

"Cover, my Lord!" Came a voice from his right, a Purifier in his dark-stained armor stepping between himself and the charging monster, the bulkier man turning himself sideways so that he presented less of a target, leveling his blade in preparation for impact.

"No—wait—" Caius shouted without thinking of his words or his actions, moving two steps slower than the Purifier who seemed fearless in the face of the creature as its claws came rending towards him. The other man's blade hit true, a clean insertion into the rotten bear's throat, and for a moment, the young Gawyne began to breathe in relief, only the creature didn't stop. It didn't stop! Sliding down the blade with a slick, sick noise, the bear's claws tore grated against armor and ripped through thick brigandine padding as if the Purifier were a decorative cake, Caius so close as to get a view of the other man's arm muscles and bone, to feel the warmth of blood that did not belong to him splatter his face and his clothes, eliciting an unfiltered shout of horror from the young Gawyne.

The dead bear's jaws snapped, ready to tear into the man who was howling in pain but still alive, wrenching his blade upward in an attempt to free it and strike again before he died, the only fading barrier between the northern noble and the beast with no life in its clouded eyes.

Screaming commoners brushed past him from behind, rushing away from something else, rushing past the line of defense as they overpowered it in waves of panic. A second armored ally appeared from nowhere, armored shoulder shoving against the opposite side of the bear, in the Purifier's hand an axe instead of a blade. He brought the weapon down where the bear's spine should have been, but again, the beast only rocked to one side a step or two, but didn't stop its assault on the first man.

Caius watched as the first Purifier struggled and for a brief moment, the bear up on its hind legs as a hulking beast of horror, his pale silver gaze caught glimpse of something strange, something out of place shoved beneath matted, bloodied fur and rotting flesh. Perhaps it was just another lump of gross hair, but it looked different,

"Shove harder." He hissed, wild eyes for a moment meeting the man with the axe, not wanting to look at the gruesome struggles of the dying first man.

"What?" Groaned the new attacker, shifting his grip on the axe as it'd become lodged in rotting flesh, the bear beginning to turn even as the first Purifier gurgled and wheezed. The second man did as he was told, however, putting his whole weight into his shoulder up against the bear's massive rib cage, sliding on ice and cobblestones, barely able to get a secure grip. The undead bear tilted a little, clawed paw raising.

"Do it."

He had no time to consider whether or not what he was looking at was the well DuKette had mentioned, the other man grew silent under the teeth of a creature that wasn't hungry anymore but still consumed. An arrow or two whistled, lit on fire from the guards on the walls, lodging in the bear and in the volareon, but still not stopping them.

Before the first Purifier hit the ground dead, no longer screaming but still fiercely struggling, the northern noble moved, hearing nothing but his pulse and feeling nothing but the weight of his still-beating heart against the back of his throat. As if the undead beast were his brother to wrestle with back in the cold woods of Umbridge, Caius leapt forward and past the maw that was now crushing the first Purifier's skull, the sickly sound of snapping bone and flesh filling his senses even as the stench of death threatened to overwhelm every ounce of his already tenuous existence. Instead of actually using his saber as a weapon, he landed roughly on his knees with some hissed noise of pain and shoved his shoulder against the beast in opposite to the axe-wielding man, blade arcing upward as a sort of support. He felt the creature begin to shift position above him, turning on the second Purifier with silent rage, and a string of curses left his lips, tasting the blood of a stranger as he strained further forward.

"My Lord Ga—"

The long, curved dagger DuKette had pressed into his hands seemed too short, Caius gritting his teeth under the dead bear as it lumbered to move now, jaws snapping again. He had but a breath, shoving his full reach forward to touch the strange weapon to whatever object was near-hidden inside the beast, quite aware that there were only a handful of endings to this moment: he could be crushed, mauled, or successful. Success didn't guarantee he wouldn't be crushed anyway, but it was either that or have the dead bear make a mess of his pretty self all over the now bloodied cobblestones.

Today was not that fucking day, but maybe it should have been.

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Trial By Fire (Aeodan, Edalene, PM to join)

Postby Edalene » Mon Feb 12, 2018 9:45 pm

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Dead creatures crawled through a hole in the sky, and fire burned around them. Their enemies were closing in, and death was inevitable. But all Edalene could do was pull herself close to Aeodan and bury her face in his chest. Now, with the heat of battle, she could tell that even his scent was different. He dwarfed her, now, his legs stronger and taller, his muscles more pronounced. With death looming, all Edalene could think was she wanted her brother back. His body. Her other half.

Aeodan pushed her away, a kiss to her forehead stained with ash and sweat, and then simply, as though he had done this every trial of his life, he walked calmly into the fray. Edalene watched, transfixed, as he walked up to a woman. Aeodan placed his hands on either side of her face, almost a lover's caress, and then - snap. She fell.

Edalene watched open mouthed. Aeodan turned, kept going, and it was this, seeing her other half kill for the very first time, that moved her. But what could she do? She had no wells left. She was not strong. She could not fight like Aeodan could. Looking down at Arturius, beside her growling in the spirit world, her breath hitched. Through him, a couple of steps away, Edalene could see a bag she recognised. Vhalo's bag.

Her breath hitched, Edalene darted forward without even thinking about it. She had to get those wells - then she could do something. But her movement drew the attention of another guard. He was not very tall, perhaps Edalene's height, and he only wore leather armour. Anger burned in her throat as he approached her, and summoning on her strength shared with Arturius, Edalene drew back her fist and punched.

His nose shattered, blood spraying over both of them. He dropped to the ground, but Edalene didn't stop. She grabbed the bag, and quickly looked inside, breathing a sigh of relief. There were six wells left. Perfect. Looking up, Edalene saw more Dustcloaks coming at them through the crowd. She didn't think about it this time. She didn't weep. She didn't even hesitate.

She threw two of the wells at the crowd, and a deafening explosion shook everyone, blasting Eda back. Screams took over, limbs detached, skin burning. Edalene hauled herself up, looking at the scratch on her arm - it was deep, and blood dripped out of it, but adrenaline meant she could not feel it. Grimly, she turned. She had to get to Ninacky. They had to get out of here.
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Trial By Fire (Aeodan, Edalene, PM to join)

Postby Plague » Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:52 pm

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"They say beyond the farthest seas and tallest mountains, there is a place where people have learned harmony. There is no hatred for the mage there. Instead they pursue the mysteries of existence together, and the gods tremble at their power. I have never seen this place, but it is why I am a Seeker. We do not pretend we will find the answers, but together...we might." - Thomas Theodore Terrance, Pioneer of the Seekers


In the second Dawn of the pyre, tragedies were written in blood and bone.

The crowd had begun to disintegrate, panic choking the reason of good folk. In fear they had gathered and the Lord Inquisitor had shown them exactly what he preached. The dead scrambled on rotting limbs, snarling soundlessly, Ashcloaks dead or dying in the wake as mages mourned in a language of violence. History would brand this day, an irrevocable mark on Rynmere's long story. The Volareon, rotted wings extended, clawed at the icy stone as it stalked the Lord Inquisitor. Kayled, the master of this moment, was awash in it. His hat had been lost, torn away by the hot wind that blew out from the blaze and his oily, dark hair framed dark, furious eyes. No, it had not meant to be this way. Plucked from the cold Khrome, he had been thrust into the crusade of a boy-king. Down came the beast's jaws and Kayled hurled himself away desperately, dancing past its talons where they scored white furrows across the ground.

"My Lord!"

"Lord Inquisitor!"

A man and a woman, Jeffrey and Elsa, leaped past the Inquisitor into range of the monster, blades up as they kept its focus. Screeching, it lacerated a blow across Jeffrey, sending him tumbling to his knees. Elsa swung her blade sideways, burying it into the same outstretched paw that had sliced Jeffrey, but it stuck in the bone and was torn from her grasp. Kayled hurled himself back into the fray, his sabre masterfully carving away the viscera of its staring eyes, slicing fur and feathers as he tried to hold it back.

"Get him out of here!" he snarled at Elsa, barely guarding against a thick paw that sent him stumbling to the ground, but the creature did not fall upon him as expected. Instead it was Elsa, her thin body like a ribbon on the back of the creature as she struggled to wrestle it away from him.

"My Lord!" She shouted over the whispering keen of the reanimated beast, "You are exposed here! Find safety! The Order dies with you!"

But no...that wasn't quite right.

As Elsa was shaken away and tumbled across the stone, Lord Inquisitor Kayled.

No...Just Kayled, watched the scene unfold around him. He had led these bright minds, these talents to the task here. He had set them against monsters wearing the guise of man, all for the glory of a threatened King. The Volaeron stalked toward Elsa now, Jeffrey struggling to keep his stomach intact as he rose, feet slick with his own blood, to protect her. Around him, they all struggled. Mage against Purifier, person against person. Such strife and fear they brought, uncovered beneath so thin a veil. Kayled drew his blade up before his face, dark eyes studying the blade. Yes, if he died so might the order...but one would rise to take its place, again and again, and that is what today had proven. But there would not be one after his, no. To keep his beloved nation from descending into chaos, he would control the flames he had set in this dry field. For the peace of the Realm, he would need to make himself a monster as well...if just to hunt the dangerous scurrying in the night.

With a roar he leaped astride the back of the Volareon, burying his blade into its skull wish such force that he bore it to the earth, cut into the stone. Roaring, peppered with ichor and rotting blood, he twisted the sword sharply and splintered bone and beak. "Remove its limbs!" He shouted, "Grind it to dust!"

Elsa needed no further provocation to lay into it and Kayled kept his weight squarely on the beast's neck, keeping it off balance as its weapons were cut away from its body. Across the square, the cries of Hugo silenced under the brutal assault of Aeodan Burnett. Blood spattered, furious, he lifted his eyes and for a moment, both he and Kayled stared at each other. Neither balked under the intensity of the other. Drawing his blade, inch by bloody inch, from the skull of the crippled construct, Kayled pointed it across the field at Aeodan.

The intent was clear.

You, Kayled seemed to say, Will die with them.

Aeodan spit to the side, rising slowly off the guard he'd killed as if to reply:

I welcome you to try.


****************************************************************************************************

Vhalo snarled, eyes wide and brilliant-green as he narrowly avoided another sweep of Elizabet's long dagger. The solider was fast, perhaps too fast and Vhalo's narrow feline chest was already straining against the effort of keeping up his dodging. Both showed the superficial damage of their encounter, the bloody lashes of claw and slices from the edge of her sword. However, Elizabet seemed to hold more endurance and was wearing down the mage faster than he could finish it. Crouching, Vhalo narrowly avoided another swinging chop and leaped out at her, claws outstretched.

Elizabet feinted, drawing her swing back and side stepping to allow the cat to fly past her, landing awkwardly. Before he could recover, Elizabet swung her dagger down again, faster than the mage could avoid. Before her metal met skin, however, a crackle of furious red energy blasted her from her feet, sending her weapon clanging from her grasp once more. Ninacky, her eyes bright with tears too hot to shed, lowered her hand and blasted the Ashcloak again. Elizabet curled around the injuries, finding no cover or defense. Even as she crawled toward her blade, the ground bucked beneath her, rising up and curling around her, cold and unyielding. Professor Nolan lifted his hands from the ground, blinking away the harsh light, aghast in the pyre's afterglow.

"We have to go," He said, softly at first and then louder, "Through the portal! Ninacky! Everyone! We have to go!"

"Not gods damned done yet."

Aegeo tore the knight's blade from his side and struggled to his feet. Fire wept openly from his wound and eyes, his skin patchwork magma cracks with roiling element beneath. With two bounding steps he crashed in front of Aeodan, furiously menacing three approaching Ashcloaks and tore the flames form his own wounds in blindingly bright serpents to wrap them. Skin blistered and bubbled, but Aegeo did not let up, not till they had begun to choke as the furious element washed across their lips and face, burning it all to slag. "Where do you think YOU'RE going?" He growled at Aeodan, whipping the flames away from the soldiers to menace more than approached them, "I told you all once, you stupid shit, that Defiers won't burn to death." He indicated with one thick arm at the dwindling pyre, the shadow of Thomas Terrance slumped at the foot of the pillar. The rope had burned away, along with much of his clothes, but the scarred adventurer still breathed fitfully, unconscious on the scaffolding. "I might be a piece of shit," Aegeo growled, struggling to stand as his blood burned along his flesh, "But an apprentice of Terrance can at least do this much. Now goddamn get him and your sister out of here. You're crowding my battlefield."

Earth cracked and splintered before the feet of Aegeo, sending Dustcloaks tumbling off their feet. Sparks flared from the corner of Aegeo's mouth with each exhalation as his wound from Elizabet seemed only to grow with intensity. Fire rolled off his flesh, immolating his robe and searing his flesh. "COME THEN!" He roared, "COME, YOU LISIRRA KISSING CUNTS! I'LL SEND YOU ALL TO YOUR DAMN RYNALIST SHITREALM!"

And just like that, the urgency reignited in Aeodan's chest. Wrath unbalanced in discovery he pushed it aside and tore his way back towards the pyre. Edalene watched him, sprinting, and followed his eyes to the slumped Professor Terrance still very much alive at the base of the pillar. The SongStone in her heart thrummed and she hurled another well in his wake, sending two pursuing Ashcloaks tumbling away across the stone and dust.

"I..." Nolan shook, watching Aeodan leap onto the crumbling scaffolding, careless of the flames that still hissed and spat. He saw Vhalo shake away the exhaustion and snarl, keeping two men with wicked axes away, Ninacky doing her best to both maintain the splintering portal and blast etheric volleys at those in range...and Aegeo dying on his feet as he drew the focus. "I n-need t-to help." Forcing shuddering breath into his body, the frail professor stepped away from the protective circle of the portal, both Ninacky and Edalene, dashing to Aegeo's side. Dustcloaks, loaded with crossbows, had set themselves just beyond the frenzied crowd and as they launched a volley of bolts, Nolan drove his hands onto the ground and drew up a wall of stone in front of Aegeo just as the bolts pierced it. Aegeo snarled in response and swung a roundhouse kick at the wall, blasting stone outword, directed by his magic, to smash the archers away in a clatter of weapons and splintered bones.

"Thomas!" Ninacky cried, joy stole the terror of the situation for a moment as Aeodan knelt and hoisted the heavy professor. His bones sang and his muscles bucked against the weight, but Aeodan wouldn't let Thomas fall, wouldn't let him falter. Through the ashy smoke he stumbled, his flesh burning as he dragged the professor over his shoulder toward the glowing portal.

He could see Ninacky, her eyes only on he and Thomas, tears stark and bright in the fading glow of the pyre.

Perhaps.

Perhaps they would escape from here.

****************************************************************************************************


"EDALENE!"

She turned, her heart thundering in her throat. One well was clutched in her hand, prepared to send sailing at the approaching ranks of Ashcloaks. More had bled from the crowd as they gave up the fight to keep them contained and slowly the mages were being pushed backwards. One of them, smoke still trailing from his cloak stood across from her, bow raised and arrow already pointing to her breast. Allan, his blonde hair glancing sunlight in the crowd. A thousand unsaid words passed between them, gulfs of distance from those days of youth. He was grimacing, struggling, could have let the arrow fly at any moment. And Edalene? She could have finished her arc and thrown the well. Both were caught there, chained against their past, frozen as their allies struggled and bled around them.

"Allan..." She breathed, having no words to present to her childhood friend. Savior and traitor, so much known and unknown.

"I..." He gritted his teeth, tears stung at the corner of his eyes, "I can't." And he turned the bow slightly, adjusted the aim.

Time moved slowly as Edalene remained frozen, watching her past attack her future, the friend she had made. In her ears was the thundering motions of some immense clock, gears turning a universe away and all around them. Her choice. This was her choice. She could stop him, if she threw the well now, she could change the future. The weight of that pivot settled heavy on her shoulders, and in the moments of time she had to make the decision, she could feel the mass of those possibilities spreading out from her hands.

Ralaith's eyes. His sorrowful eyes. Had this been what he meant? Was this the responsibility of keeping the timeline? She didn't want it. Not like this, but as Allen let go of the arrow, she accepted it and all the responsibility it would be. She hardened her heart, grafted the hatred into stone and spread it over her emotions. Seeker, Mantis, Rynmere, they had all come to this. All their grubby hatred, all this pointless death, all this fear. In that moment, she hated them all for it.

And Allan to deliver this choice? Perhaps, now at least, she hated him most of all.

As Allan released the arrow she released the well. The archer did not seem surprised to mark its progress, to watch it tumble towards him. They did not smile at each other, not as they did, and in the explosion Edalene could feel that part of her past going dark as Allan was laid flat on the stone...bow broken.

****************************************************************************************************

Caius struggled against the weight of the monster above him, straining as flesh and fur closed around his entire world. DuKette's dagger was plunged as deep in the beast as he could have sent it, spearing for an anomaly he knew so little about. Fate was a funny thing. His entire life the date of his death was known and...maybe in a small way, he had considered himself immortal until then. All things would turn out, perhaps, he would make it if only to breathe and gasp his last when he always knew he might.

But mortality never felt so taxing as it did now, with so many dying and screaming around him, Caius was a small candle plunged into a current of thousands. The world was so much larger than he had ever known, wonders great and terrible had waged war before his eyes. Now he lay under a creature long dead, moments before as active as any bear furious and alive. Maybe he would wake to find himself in the small room once more. Maybe the long warm tongue of his dog would drag him from this nightmare, or the murmur touch of his beloved.

Instead it was another Ashcloak who pushed the beast away from him, holding out a hand to draw him to his feet. "My Lord Gawyne." Caius took the hand, remembering the face of those who had thrown themselves before the bear instead of him, who had sacrificed themselves for his own life. Could he carry that? Could he hold the weight of their faith?

The glowing portal drew his eye and Aeodan Burnett dragging the incensate Thomas toward it. All of this, would it be for naught? Could Kayled and himself live down the carnage of this failure? They weren't prepared. Who could have been prepared for this? At the corner of his vision, a bow was drawn taut. He watched Allan pull it back. Watched him struggle with it, then turn his aim and fire.

He watched Edalene mercilessly devour the archer in a crackling explosion, the bit after he had spared her life.

He watched the arrow streak across the square, and find its target.

****************************************************************************************************


Aeodan struggled. His breath came to him in short, painful gasps. Murder sat heavy on his mind, but he didn't have time to sort out the violence he had recently brought. He could feel Thomas' heart beating against his own back and that was enough of a drumbeat to keep his legs moving. Gods, gods he would have to keep moving. The Ashcloaks were too many, the Lord Inquisitor too well prepared for their attack. Even now they tore towards him, weapons out, and Aeodan knew he didn't have the strength or ability to hold them off. Halfway to the portal, if he could only get himself and the mages beyond it would be over, they could leave this horror intact.

Ninacky held both hands out toward the portal itself, stabilizing its wrathful scar between one place and another. Although her smile was colored with worry, there was a smile there. Aeodan couldn't stop a smile of his own. Thomas, the man they had come to save, he was here. He was alive. Even in the face of certain destruction, the pillar of immolation so high it blackened the sky, he had lived. Was that not at least some proof of their purpose here? Prostrate before the ignorant of Rynmere, those hateful masses, his sacrifice had been too noble for fate to allow. Aeodan wouldn't allow it. He would repay his debt to the man forever.

He would protect his promises.

Ninacky held out one hand, a hand Aeodan knew had longed to run through Thomas' hair, to hold him as he held Edalene. Perhaps with enough time, perhaps when this was all over...they would talk. There could be something given, a secret for the journey. Aeodan would gladly swear on that.

The arrow found Ninacky's throat, tearing through her neck with ease and lodging there, halfway along the shaft.

At first, Aeodan could not comprehend it. The archer was gone in a flash of fire from Edalene but Ninacky was still smiling, her throat tugging to try and take a breath, pulling against the arrow.

She collapsed, blood spraying from the wound and a shrieking wail echoing up from around her. Aeodan didn't even realize it was his own. Despite the weight of his teacher, Aeodan sprinted to her side as the portal vanished with a quiet sigh. All the battle receded into the distance as he knelt over her fallen body. Sorrow roiled within him, but he was too exhausted to do more than clutch and release the arrow in her throat, powerless even when he put his hand around it. Everything had shattered in a single moment. "No. No. NO!" Aeodan spit the words, hurled them at her. "No! I promised! We promised! NO! NO! NINACKY!" Loss tore hatred from him end over end. He had no heart to hate, he could remember only her bright eyes, the way she held him and the fear that tightened her muscles. The carved figure, her resolution to speak to Thomas, so much of this event had not predicated on danger touching her. Thomas...Thomas was always in danger, but somehow he had placed Ninacky and Edalene outside of it. He never considered their loss tangible and now he struggled against its reality at his feet.

"NINACKY!" Nolan screamed her name and stumbled back towards her, the teacher clammoring on all fours to Aeodan's side to grab her in his arms. "No! Oh g-g-g-g-gods no!" He forced the words through the stammer, gentle eyes frozen in the horror of holding his student. Around them lay the dead, but this was the first loss for the Seekers.

"Fuck." Aegeo had fallen to a knee now, unable to rise. The portal was gone and the Ashcloaks would surround them eventually. There were too many and the lot of them would face the flames for what had happened today. Digging into his cloak, the mage pulled out the tiny mirror he had stolen from Nolan. "Gods," he murmured as the Ashcloaks approached him, warily, "Forgive me, but this won't be for nothing." He turned the mirror on himself, reflecting his own fire-washed face, grim, and then slammed the mirror into the cobblestone. It cracked beneath the force and Aegeo forced himself to his feet, growling like a wild animal, catching the arm of a guard and hurling him into another as he backed toward the others.

Aeodan might have said a word to Nolan as he cradled the girl, but was interrupted by Aegeo, standing over them all suddenly. Nolan's body shook in sudden spasm as Aegeo tore Ninacky away from him and pushed the Professor out toward the Ashcloaks.

"Wh-What?" Nolan's hand flew to his chest, to where the long jagged slashes cursed his skin, "Aegeo?" The broad shouldered mage held out the cracked mirror in his palm, his eyes lost in the fire that bled out of them. He let Nolan see it before hurling it at the remains of the pyre, lost in the flames that swirled there.

"I'm sorry." Aegeo growled, every word a fight, "There's no other way for us."

"N-no. P-p-p-p-please." Nolan staggered back from them. Despair fought with horror as tremors shook through his body again, sending him to his knees. "P-P-please!" shouting, digging his nails into the stone till they burst and bled, "N-no! This isn't who-...I...I d-d-d-don't want t-t-to b-b-be. Help me. Aegeo. AEGEO! P-P-PLEASE!"

But he found no solace in the giant's stony expression.

"RAAGHSHSH!" Nolan spit, slamming his teeth together with enough force to bloody his own mouth. His glasses spun from his face and onto the ground, which he crushed under the palm of one hand. His eyes flared orange, bright witchlights as his body buckled and twisted. Muscles tore and reshaped as he burst from himself. White fur hurried along thin, grey-white arms and a second set of them clawed from his ribcage in gory desperation. His two good hands widened, splitting with thin talons as his legs snapped and re-arranged. His face pushed outward, maw-like and filled with jagged, hungry teeth. Roaring, midway between sobbing and fury, it rose from the ground to loom over Aegeo. Easily twice his size, baleful hungry, it shrieked down at him, covering his blazing countenance with blood and saliva, hissing against the flames.

Aeodan could feel terror again, gripping at his heart, and then it did something...something he would never forget.

It smiled, lips curling back from its long fangs.

It rounded on the crowd and the Ashcloaks.

"Gods," Kayled murmured, "One of them is a Sessfiend."

And then it was moving, faster than something of that size should have moved it leaped across the field. Where it stood, soldiers fell screaming in mutilated agony. It left death but did not stop to feast on THEM. No.

It's target was the people.

Even as the crowd tried to disperse, tried to panic and flee, it was among them carving bloody swathes through innocents and roaring. Caius could hear it roaring as cold terror gripped his very bones.

No. Not roaring.

Laughing.
****************************************************************************************************

Aeodan held both Thomas and Ninacky in the square. Edalene, two wells in her hands edged towards them. There was no longer a portal. "Vhalo." Aegeo snarled at the jungle cat. It stared at him with something akin to hatred, but did not lash out. "Take a wing and get Thomas out of here. He needs to be at the boat, or this whole thing was pointless."

"What of the Burrrrrrnetts?" Vhalo growled back, his voice overlaid with the panther, "And Nolan."

"Nolan is our distraction," Aegeo answered shortly, "The Burnetts and I will make our way to the docks from here and blast anything in our way. You and Malena be ready to shove off."

"MONSTER!" Edalene listed a well, almost half tempted to throw it at him and Aegeo grimaced, "We're all monsters now."

"Do it." Aeodan said quietly, letting Thomas fall from his shoulders so he could hold Ninacky, "We're out of time."

Vhalo moved to the Seeker leader, his form already melting and rearranging into feathers and wings. The Ashcloaks did not seem as intent on capturing them now, turning their attention to the near immortal beast wading a bloody path through the innocents. The bird was immense, gripping Thomas beneath his arms before hurling itself up into the sky. A few archers took half hearted shots at the creature as it winged away, but their focus was otherwise drawn.

Aegeo watched the bird go and slumped to the ground, his breath ragged. Edalene could not bare to touch Aeodan. They shared a mind sometimes, emotions, could he feel that she had let Ninacky die? Would he forgive her?

A trumpet sounded behind them and from the streets, armed Moseke Knights on horseback charged down the cobblestone path. Gleaming armor stark contrast to the black armor of the Order, they bore down on the mages with merciless intent. "Audrae's tits," Aegeo spat, flames flickering from the blood he'd expelled, "Guess it's my time then." Lumbering to his feet he stepped past the twins.

"Aeo..." Aeodan looked down, Ninacky was looking at him. Her face was pale and her body was so hot, oh so hot, her words little more than a whisper. She spoke around the arrow, but her chest did not rise or fall. Each time she struggled he could hear the gurgle of blood in her lungs.

"Ninacky. You...You shouldn't speak. You need to save your-" Was his voice so meek? So small? He didn't remember it ever sounding like that, so choked. She lifted a finger to his lips, silencing him.

"Thomas?" She asked, and Aeodan could see her heart in her eyes, so bright and hopeful, such a stark contrast to this grim horror. He nodded, feeling the ravages of the vent tear tears from his eyes and down his cheek. Edalene stood above him, looking down on the dying Aukari with horror. She could feel Aeodan's emotions and even past the armor she had drawn around her heart, she could feel the sting of that agony. Ninacky smiled and Aeodan sobbed, unable to stop his breath from hitching. Screams were such an unfitting chorus to lay Ninacky to her death but he was helpless. What could he do? What could he do...

"Be ready to run." Aegeo growled, falling to a knee.

Ninacky shook her head and lifted a burning hand to Aeodan's cheek. He felt his tears drying, whispers against the fire within. "I'm glad I knew you," she gasped, "But this isn't where your story ends." Her eyes fluttered, her body in the pain of suffocating, he wanted to tell her to stop speaking, to go to rest, anything but this torture here. He was looking at Edalene again, impaled on a spear of stone. "Tell Aegeo to use me, to help me save you. To save you all, for Thomas."

"Aegeo-" Aeodan started, his voice hollow and cold,

"I heard." He rumbled, "I'll honor that request." Reaching around, he gently lifted Ninacky in his own arms. Her trailing fingers were the last to leave Aeodan's face. Before her, she drew a line down from the air, struggling to tear another crackling portal above the cobblestone. The knights were closer, swords flashing, the armor on their horses blazing with the sun rising above the carnage. Somehow, Aegeo managed to rise, holding Ninacky up above his head, her face pointing to the sun. Aeodan and Edalene heard him, a rumble no louder than a wheeze, "Goodbye, kid."

"Goodbye." she whispered

Her body was flames and brilliance, lost in the sudden flickering pyre of her own death. Aegeo's hands were lost in the white-hot glare of her body and he turned them towards the knights. "Fuck. Your. Kingdom."

The fireball that roared out and away from Aegeo consumed the first six knights in a brilliant tower of flame, sending the other four galloping off course, their mounts bucking and shrieking in panic. Already the portal threatened to close, reality rushing in to take the place of her schism. Edalene and Aeodan bowled into the back of Aegeo, pushing all three through the portal which hissed closed behind them.

Leaving the monsters behind.

****************************************************************************************************

Caius fought against the crowd to close in on the monster. The Sessfiend seemed deliberate, targeting the youngest or frailest first, tearing into those who tried to leap up to defend it. Its cruelty was methodical and intelligent, keeping swift on its bent legs and nimble before the flashing blades. Kayled managed to bury a saber into its side before he was grabbed by the thing. It lifted him up before its blazing eyes and laughed in his face, hurling the man across the heads of other to crash and tumble over the stone and bodies. Caius remembered the bear, how it had been a very incarnation of evil...but this? This was the frightening horror they had only rid themselves of recently. Was there not another Sessfiend, a Hellhound, that had slaughtered more in its wake before? Did all mages keep company with such monsters?

He waded forward, preparing to try and bury his own blade into its grey-white flesh when he was caught. Behind him, a woman with short, dark hair and dusky skin had caught one ink-stained hand, pulling it close to her breast. "Please ser," She whimpered, "I'm scared." Caius resisted the urge to snatch his hand away, looking back to where another Ashcloak was slain, claws neatly cutting through his armor. Behind him, a scorching blast of flames revealed the mage's final attack, escaping into another portal and vanishing. They left their Sessfiend companion and escaped, turning their own comrade's body into an attack against the Moseke Knights. Disgust stung in Caius' chest. Was this what it was like...to agree with Kayled?

"I need to aid my allies!" He shouted back at her over the din, "Find somewhere safe to take shelter!"

"Won't Be Any Use," She answered, turning dark, seductive eyes on the Envoy, "Only One Way To Get It To Stop. Besides, I Think I Can Think Of Something A Little More Fun." Her voice, low, husky, was still so easy to hear, the words had changed...her voice had changed. Caius couldn't pull his hand away from her and she reached out and pulled him close, falling to the ground with him atop her. Caius tried to angle his sword but found it gone from his grasp, she was so gods damned strong, pulling him down against her and grinding up, writhing like an eel beneath his body. As horrifying as the situation was, as dire as it all felt, lust roared to life unexpectedly in Caius' gut, a warm low flame that fought against his terror. Her eyes, how had he ever thought they were dark? They glowed orange in the same unholy glow as the Sessfiend. At first, he thought it might actually be another, but his struggles would not free him. Desperately he slammed his head against her face, hoping to stun her. Instead hot blood streaked his brow and she only smiled wider, a fanged smile. "Such A Rough Lover."

"LET ME GO!" He snarled, squirming, turning his body desperately to try and wriggle free.

"Not Till You Hear My Proposal, Lover." Something clamped against his groin, suggestively, gently, something with fangs...as though in her nether was another fanged maw, waiting and hungry. "He Won't Cease," She continued, low, husky, "Not That One. Not After Keeping It Pent Up Sooooo Long. But I've Truly Enjoyed The Show You Mortals Performed." Syroa wrapped her legs around Caius' waist, nimble, and let free one arm so she could trace a black nail across his cheek. "I'm...Invested, You Might Say. I Can Give You The Power To Send It Away, My Fiend, Just This Once. In Return, You Will Accept My Interest And Investment In This...Sordid Story." Something wet from her second jaw pressed up against him and Caius shuddered, at war with revulsion and forced arousal. Around him, innocents screamed and died and he lay here in a demon's embrace, interlocked almost like lovers.

"Their Lives," She whispered, gnawing gently at one ear with her small pointed teeth, "For Your Service. I Get A Show Either Way, Lover. You Tell Me How The Third Act Ends."

****************************************************************************************************


OOC: Ok all. For Edalene And Aeodan, you have a mostly useless and critically heavy Aegeo and you'll be dumped out at the docks. You'll have to make your way to the ship. However...there should be some Iron Hand there to try and stop you, or that are trying to surround an exhausted and wounded Vhalo and Thomas. There should be quite a few of them, so feel free to throw yourself into the fray and even use Aegeo if you must, but do not overcome them in the end. Ya'll are exhausted and they'll probably be too much for you guys. I have one more dramatic entrance to plan so I'll need you in some danger to do it. As for Caius, however you choose, she will let you go. If you choose yes, she will mark you over your heart and do...something sinister and lascivious, I leave that part up to you, before vanishing into the crowd. At that point, all you need to do is order it to go. IT needs to hear you, but not everyone else, so make sure you do it carefully to avoid suspicion. If you choose NOT to, feel free to throw yourself into the fray and attack it. I'll write out its actions in the next post. We are coming to the end of combat either way.

We're only a few posts from the end, folks. Let's see how it goes down.
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Trial By Fire (Aeodan, Edalene, PM to join)

Postby Aeodan » Wed Feb 14, 2018 2:37 am



If time stopped when Aeodan watched Thomas' body engulf in flames, it rushed forward as the arrow suddenly appeared in Ninacky's neck, the quivering shift shaking and causing rivulets of blood to slide from the corners of her mouth, giving her the appearance of a high-quality wooden doll. Aeodan's dark eyes scowled, trying to fight back tears unsuccessfully. Her death was just another in the avoidable scheme of things. Her sacrifice, though, would not be in vain. They'd come to save Thomas.

They still could.

He hurtled himself, Edalene, and the flame-bleeding Aegeo through Ninacky's final Rupturing portal, her final and parting gift to them. They tumbled from it, landing hard on the shore in a heap. In his arms, Aeodan cradled Edalene, hoping to prevent her from finding impact on the solid ground. Aegeo, though, landed hard, flame spurting from his eyes to sear the sparse landscape around them. A few hundred feet away, the boat bobbed in the dock, the massive Bird-Vhalo and the limp, rotund body of the professor vaguely visible. Aeodan untangled himself and stood, lifting Edalene to stand by him. He looked down, frowning at the prone Defier, and nodded at him to Edalene.

"He won't move, not quickly. We're going to have to carry him. I'll take the head, you the feet. Be careful of the stab wound," he instructed, immediately taking charge in a way Eda could not have predicted. Without waiting for her to agree, he leaned over and grasped Aegeo by the shoulders, craning his neck to observe Eda until she did the same on her end. On three, they hefted, both of their breath catching to support the massive man's weight.

They started the slow trek towards the water, where Vhalo and the professor waited. Aeodan's dark eyes scanned the area, seeing no threats, and they emerged from the meager cover they had. Aegeo's eyes and wounds sputtered, spitting flames like a dying dragon might, and Aeodan knew that he needed medical attention. They needed to get him to the boat. With some urgency, Aeodan quickened his pace.

It was too late.

He had his back to the scene, but Edalene's widening eyes told him what he needed to know. There was a troop of guardsmen, presumably on a routine patrol, cautiously approaching the boat and the wounded Vhalo and Thomas. Eda heard Aeodan's new voice, deeper, swear in a string that would make the nearly-unconscious Aegeo proud.

"Sons of Syroa's fucking whorish influence." He spit the words venomously, as if the guards could hear him, but they couldn't. In fact, they paid the three little mind, despite the fire and steam rising from Aegeo. Turning his head back to Edalene, Aeodan's eyes came ablaze, the same fire in them as when he'd murdered those people.

Murdered. He knew it was. What justification did he have? They were protecting their own. They failed.

Ninacky. So did he.

He indicated to Eda to set Aegeo down, gently, on the ground. The man's fiery eyes fluttered open and closed, but the words he said were strong and vitriolic.

"Let's kill those fucking sons of brothel trash!" He tried to move, but Aeodan would not let him. He stood, turning back to the scene as it unfolded. Simultaneously, weapons appeared, and Aeodan knew he had to think fast. He spun and stepped over Aegeo, wrapping his arms around Edalene. He needed her to know it all, before he execute him plan. Hands, now rough from the work another man done, slipped into Edalene's pack without her knowing.

"I love you, Edalene. From the moment I could, I did. Before I knew what love was, it was you. I should have told you sooner, the moment I learned to speak, but I couldn't. My voice was stricken into stone. But no longer. No longer do I fear the road ahead, or the paths we will walk. I swore, Eda, I swore to keep Ninacky safe, to bring her through this nightmare to give her Offering... To tell Thomas her Truth. And I failed her. I stood there, and I watched her die. I failed her, and I would not dishonour her memory in failing her in this as well," he said soberly, tears springing back to his eyes. He pushed them down, resolving to deal with them when they were all safe. He would give her the proper mourning she deserved, so young and full of fire.

"Do you trust me, Eda?" He asked her, his intense gaze drawing a nod dripping with trepidation from her. "Good. Now is the time I need you to listen, and to trust me. Before she died, Ninacky told me that my story was not finished. She said it, and in my heart, I felt it, Eda. This is not the end of my story, of OUR story. I am going to get the guards' attention and turn myself in. I need you to pull Aegeo as closely to the boat as you can. Call for Vhalo's help when you are close if you must. Get him on the boat, and whatever you do, get them all to safety. I will not be far behind, I promise," he told her, his purposed gaze not even scratching the surface of the panicky fear she felt that he would never join them again.

Without waiting for a response, he kissed her, truly and deeply. The touch of their skin was electric, igniting his purpose like a fuse. When he pulled back, the smallest smile was on his lips despite the agony and misery that grew a black tumour in his innards. He stared into her eyes a trill longer, the look comforting her little in the face of such a terrifying truth: She could lose him.

But she knew she wouldn't, and Aeodan had faith in Ninacky's words. As he drew away from Edalene, one of the wells she had remaining was in his left hand. With a sad smile, he turned and began his trek to the guards. As he did so, he pleaded with Cassion, the Storyteller of Ages, to continue writing his path after this gambit.

My whole life, I have lived in the scared shadow of greater accomplishments, content to discover only that which came before me. I never wanted to find something new, because then I bore the responsibility of its care, of its growth, of its fruition, and that burden weighed too heavily on my weakened frame. But I found my strength at that Obelisk, Old Dust, and if you deem it so, I wish to use that strength to carry my love and I through many journeys, through the perils of mutilated gods and parenthood, into the final adventure of old age and death. I do not ask you to whisk me away to paradise shores, Great Wanderer, only to see me through this obstacle of my journey so that I may continue to be the husband, father, and Seeker I am destined to be. Show me the way, Cassion, and I will find my way through the dangers of this adventure. My life will be yours, so long as I may share it with those whose smiles already brighten my heart and hearth. And if this is my last trial on Idalos, please consider my sacrifice power enough to see Edalene and Thomas, Aegeo and Vhalo, Malena and her children to safety so that my story does not die on the freezing shores of a bigoted Rynmere. To you, First Hunger, I offer this prayer, should that I perish here this trial.

He came up behind the guards, planting his feet like a mountain would, becoming immovable. He took up the well his hand, balling a fist and holding it close to his torso. He shouted to gain the guards' attention, and when heads turned, Aeodan made his move.

"I AM YOUR TRUE FOE!" Heads turned, and Aeodan thrust his arm out to the side, launching the little well towards the guards, but off enough so as to not injure them in the explosion. As soon as it touched the ground, Aeodan focused the ether around it, and it exploded, clumps of earth and vegetation flying into the air to pepper the guards, who were shaken but unharmed. They scrambled to about face, and Aeodan raised his hands high, walking forward.

"I am your truest foe, the one who caused the destruction in the square. You want me," he said, walking forward menacingly. He angled to turn the guards from their vision of Edalene, then used his mental link with her to urge her to start moving the dying Defier. They only had one chance. It had to work.

Or my story ends here. I guess it would be fair if her last words to me were a lie as mine were to her. The tears fell silently from his face.
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