Rebirth and Return [All are welcome!]

The time is at hand!

Atop a stony plateau overlooking the lands of central Idalos, and growing wealthy from the gem stones pulled from the rocky soil, Etzos is a bastion of independence; firm in its belief that man should rule Idalos, not be servants of the vain Immortals who nearly destroyed it. But can the many factions set aside their conflicting agendas and see this through?

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Rebirth and Return [All are welcome!]

Thu Feb 25, 2021 6:05 am

Rebirth and Return


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Date: Cylus 1, 721


Charisma is polarizing.

An orator with both conviction and charisma leaves no middle ground. Either the words stand in support of your beliefs and vindication soars through your veins like electricity, bringing you to leap and cheer in unrestrained frenzy; or, in opposition, they tear down the fabric of your soul with dread knowledge of irreversible defeat.

The huge assembly now standing before High Marshall Parhn, gathered in the Crescent Arena, now gave vivid testimony to this fact. They were divided down the middle, this very division limned in the mail of the Web Guard, who themselves were burdened with the effort of not falling to cheering alongside their political fellows among the citizenry, concentrated on the right side of what faced Parhn as he spoke, his voice amplified with Hone charging on his ceremonial plate.

The portion on his left was the picture of a population bowed by the realization of abject surrender to an Immortal they knew to be putting on a benevolent face that must surely slough off like rot in the privacy of her own domain. Though both sides shared a semblance of disbelief at what they were hearing, the Pro-Sintra faction felt triumph and power finally being bestowed upon the one they felt had saved the city, regardless of what security measures she'd been forced to adopt by those who refused to face facts and embrace the revolution she represented.

The Anti group had been clinging to an ever-more-desperate hope that true evidence would arise in proof of the rumors of how she'd played the entire scenario to bring this about; eliminating all those with any potential to expose the truth of her long-term Manipulation, that foremost of her domains of influence. Added to this bitterness was the apparent sell out of Parhn himself. He being the latest in the bloodline of the one who'd founded the city on the policy of rejecting immortal influences. For three hundred and thirty two arcs, Etzos had had no need for the presence of an Immortal, even one of those considered to be among the 'good" ones. Old Morgan Parhn's spirit must have burned down its family lighthouse.

Sintra had never been held to be numbered among that group. It seemed like a nightmare come to horrific life on every face on the left side of the crowd facing Parhn. His words displayed with considerable subtlety the fool for which he was being played. Even as he went on with the rundown of all the supposed benefits and efforts to which Sintra had gone over the last arc and a half, none of them were quite entirely conclusive. While his words were damning of the great enemy of Etzos, the one whose works were finalized in Rhakros, the one who brought the greatest horrors of warfare ever faced by the mortals of Idalos, their overshadowing of the follow-up horrors of traumatized survivors devolving into bestial brutality and savagery both within and without the walls of the city, and all the details of carnage and bloodshed beyond what the war itself had been directly responsible for; they never quite explicitly named Lisirra as the perpetrator, nor Sintra as the avenger.

And always it was the impossible point brought stingingly to the face of those who questioned Sintra's true agenda; 'What, do you want Lisirra back? Do you deny she was our enemy? Did she not attack us first?' Any attempt to point out that it was not quite that simple, or that other details were being omitted often led to backlashes of accusation of treason, if not outright violence.

None could deny that Lisirra had always been Etzos' chief enemy. And none could deny the legitimate anger of those who'd lost loved ones to her latest assault. But those that were willing to remember that Etzos had besieged Rhakros only a couple arcs before that, and were more willing to keep an open mind had also lost loved ones. This detail seemed always to be disregarded, or shouted down.

It was true that Parhn had enacted several measures to halt the violence stemming from these opposing views, aiding in the reduction of such conflict, reminding everyone that they were all brothers and sisters of Etzos, and to respect the pains that led to hurtful speech, so as to restrain from overreaction.

Yet now he seemed to be fanning the flames. His speech taking a diversion in focus from the events themselves, and now bringing attention to the item he held in his hand; a small cube-shaped item. Many had heard mention of "the Cube", and how important it was to those in power. Parhn now revealed the reason why it was so important. His revelations took the form of brief accounts of how its use was the catalyst of every catastrophe associated with the last terrible arc.

It was the item that controlled the artifact that Rhakros - again, the mention of the city, but not the name of the Immortal - had used to extend the block of Emea, thereby stripping Etzos of the bulk of its defenses; how every setback had set up the ensuing one, and how the user of this "Cube" was the one responsible for every ill and death Etzos had endured. His ongoing speech essentially tying every type of woe the population of this entire part of the world up as a result of the one who'd wielded this cube. Slowly and subtly the point was fixed. The user of the Cube was the enemy.

All this time, Sintra stood serenely behind and a little to the side, letting him build the emotion to yet another cheering crescendo, knowing it was all a build up to some new level of promotion of her status; perhaps finally an acknowledgement of her right to co-rule. This was a crucial step in her plans, and it was within her grasp, she could hardly bear to maintain her calm as the city stepped ever closer to becoming the breeding ground for an army of devotees to march to her whim against all those who'd thwarted her schemes in the past.

There was a truth she'd found to be absolute fact. Converts make the greatest zealots.

When Etzos finally folded to her sovereignty, they would be as suicidally determined to please her as any crazed Aukari assassin, immolating themselves in an orgy of destruction. She could feel it coming, Parhn was going to give her The Cube. She would once again have the level of control she'd enjoyed when she was first tentatively welcomed into Etzos. Back then, she'd had to move slowly, as her support was minimal, it going so completely against the culture of the city. And then, after securing things sufficiently to step up her agenda, the Cube had been stripped from her possession by the treachery of Arlain, one of her supposed supporters.

This had not only set back her schedule considerably, it also let her know that the hold she was getting on the population was not as secure as she'd believed. It was a learning experience that was becoming a major thorn, as the burgeoning resistance was sabotaging her program of introducing Lisirra's mind-controlling chemical into Etzos' water supply. Without the cube, she could not employ the power of the artifact to the level of which she knew it was capable.

That insufferable Oberan had been the one that had ended up with the Cube. Looking offstage, she saw him bundled in chains, manacled to ineffectual helplessness, as was the inestimably dangerous Kasoria, one who'd been boundless in his effectiveness at ferreting out and eliminating her most useful agents. Lastly was Ulric, one who'd even been given her mark and restored to life by her power, only to betray her with a magnitude of disloyalty that a simple reversal of restoration would not suffice to satisfy.

Oh no, she wanted him to live a long and painful life of torture for his deed. Oberan was a surprisingly effective nuisance, and Kasoria was an outright murderous foe. but she 'd known where she stood with them and they did not feign otherwise. It was Ulric that had truly betrayed. And now, in addition to the gift of the returned Cube, Parhn was displaying his favor - and gullibility - with these three victims.

She managed to keep the malice from her laugh as the right side of the crowd cheered at yet another spike of emotion in the High Marshall's oratory. It was almost as if the very color had drained from the left side. The first step in her rise in the Immortal ranks was on the verge of completion. A slight edge of impatience crept in to deflate her merriment. By her reckoning, he'd said everything that could be said to show how completely her sister had wronged the entire region. 'What more does he need to say? Give me the Cube already.' she groused to herself, as her bright beam of a smile remained pasted upon her face.
word count: 1536
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Re: Rebirth and Return [All are welcome!]

Thu Feb 25, 2021 7:48 pm



Pahrn’s amplified voice boomed out over the hollow of the Crescent Arena, rushing over the ocean of gathered folk, words battering their eardrums. Powerful words, these, weighty too. Oberan hadn’t been mistaken in his assessment of the Marchall’s ability to rally and work a crowd. Even he could feel the insinuation of his speech beat down on his spirit, crackle like lightning within his bones, sink like stones within his stomach. If he didn’t know any better, he too would have despaired like part of the crowd undoubtedly was, crushed by the dawning realization that the words spoken by the last scion of Pahrn bloodline were the dying moans of the once-great bastion of humanity. Etzos’s last croaks before it stopped breathing.

And yet, the path to victory had not yet closed completely. Despite Etzos’s peril, despite the face-splitting grin Sintra hid behind a façade of serenity and benevolent smiles. And despite the fact that three key figures, three staunch protectors of the last remnants of Etzos’s honor, were stood in the wings of the stage, bound in heavy chain and even heavier manacles.

Well, one staunch protector, one unrepentant, incorrigible troublemaker, and one random fellow whose existence drew most of Sintra’s hatred and anger, keeping it away from Oberan.

Sintra glanced towards them for a moment, spiteful gaze gliding over each of the prisoners in turn, lingering on Ulric. Though her face remained placid, the malice in her eyes leaked out for a moment. Oberan still wasn’t entirely certain what Ulric had done to draw Sintra’s ire to this extent. Likely defy her in a way she could not fathom. Such things often set the Immortals off. It hurt their pride. Either way, Oberan was glad for it, as it meant his aunt forgot about how he’d made a fool out of her when he ran off with her cube.

He stared at the artefact Pahrn held in his hands, the item Sintra’s stare was glued to when she didn’t glare in triumph at the three chained peace offerings Pahrn would gift her. Oberan suppressed the urge to smirk back at her, knowing twinkle dancing behind his pupils. Sintra was in for a nasty surprise when the Marshall finally handed the Cube to her. Ah, he could picture the expression twisting her features, could almost taste the rage and frustration pouring out of the ruins of her façade.

But no. Not yet. Don’t spoil the fun. Don’t give her a reason to suspect anything was amiss. Don’t let her know that there were at least three ways for Oberan to escape his shackles, and that no amount of guards could stop his flight once he got going.

Instead he kept his face dour and crestfallen, the face of a man who’d gambled and lost. Chains jingling as he shivered in anticipation masked as terror. And he watched and listened, and most of all, he waited for that perfect moment, the peak of Sintra’s feelings of victory. The moment where she’d be swept up by a wave of triumphant glee, higher and higher, so she could fall all the lower when all that momentum was suddenly snatched out from underneath, and her tumble into shame and failure began.

word count: 568
Just because I shouldn't doesn't mean I won't.


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Re: Rebirth and Return [All are welcome!]

Fri Feb 26, 2021 4:13 am

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Theater. Showmanship. Spectacle. Always comes down to that, on these stones.

Another rushing cascade of noise from the crowd seemed to prove his mind's wandering. He'd heard much the same when he'd seen plays here. And blood games. And trials. It had been decades, but he still remembered. The way his own voice had been swallowed to the point of silence by fifty thousand Etzori all roaring alongside him, a choir of tens of thousands all crying out with one voice, directed by whatever display was on the stones below them. Whether it was high art, low comedy, or a man being gutted or condemned... it was all about the show.

In front of the masses. With nothing left to conceal, and nowhere to hide.

Parhn's words came back to him as he watched from the shadows. Bound and shackled like the other two. Standing behind the curtain like the next act to make it to the stage. Will the audience love them? Well, that would depend on who brought them on...

One of the armored giants at their flanks shifted, plate and polearm clanking. There were two for each man, with another squad behind them. The Tower Guard remembered how much it had taken to capture just these three miscreants the previous season. They were taking no chances now, even with their wrists heavy and ankles hobbled and Kasoria still wincing when he moved his head too quickly. He was lucky his skull hadn't fractured, but five trials on his back in the cells had been enough for him to heal well enough to stand.

More than that, when it comes. And oh... oh, it will come.

He cut the thought off these. Dared not even think it beyond that delicious thrill of anticipation, for suddenly that beautiful face made hideous by its origins flickered to him. Regal, she was. Poised and composed in a way the high queens of lost kingdoms were. Until you looked behind the smile, and saw the fangs there. Hidden. Waiting. Hungry. A flash of ravenous malice seemed to flicker across the three of them. These pointless wastes of organs and intent who had stymied her, betrayed her, warred on her. Her, who was beyond the schemes and striving of mortals. Who would now learn their place and oh, oh she could scarcely hold back her eagerness.

Kasoria breathed in noisily through his noise and spat on the floor. Without looking away. Defiance. Hatred. Contempt. Let that be all she would see on his weathered, battered old face. It wouldn't be hard to plaster such a mask to his face, when the feelings were all very real, and had been for all his adult life. He wouldn't risk a smirk or a wink now. Not even the suggestion of a hidden scheme, the seed of doubt planted in her that her mind honed by eons of scheming would pick up on and extrapolate to the truth.

The truth. As Parhn had told him. The grand strategy that the High Marshall had been maneuvering into place ever since Sintra had aided the Etzori. He remembered the Marshall with his perpetual frown and tired eyes tell him, deep in his cell strewn and coated with magical warding. He'd listened in silence but even his iron discipline had slipped when the final play was told to him. The sheer scope of the theater...

But this can't be done in the shadows. The whole city has to see.

Kasoria took a breath and bowed his head. Dejected. Defeated. Remembering. The meeting with Oberan seasons ago. When he'd admitted a simple murderer like him didn't have the reach or wit to deal with a leviathan like Sintra. This needed cunning and connections far beyond him, and the execution would have to be... something like this.

Again, that terrible roar. Again, the feelings of thousand encompassed into a wave of sound. It seemed like most of the living inhabitants were there, along with whole swathes of apparitions. Cheers mingled with jeers and curses. Half the city vindicated by their faith, the other half stewing and decrying. Split down the center of the seating... balanced on an edge not much thicker. Defeated he may have looked, but Kasoria still tested his manacles. They were around his wrists and ankles, but one would have to look close to see they were not locked. A jerk of his arms, a kick of his legs, and he would be free. And not only that...

His Sparks murmured to him again. Whispering and eager (though, in the case of his Transmutation, it never shut up, anyway). Without his talisman, the eternal swirl of wispy shadow curls around him constantly, as if his rotten soul was burning out through his skin. He was not warded anymore, either. The chains were part of a show, and his magic... that was very much back in his hands, too. No weapons, but he thought with a smirk he had to bite down to hide, if it came to that, there'd be plenty of men around him with iron in their hands. So, after a fashion, they'd be in his.

"I think that's our cue..."

Kasoria looked up as he heard the guard speak. They started to ready themselves. Straightening up, weapons held tight, eyes watchful. The plate-armored leader of Etzos was finishing his speech. That act was nearly at an end, and soon would come their scene.

Kasoria remembered. The last words the Marshall had spoken to him. The impossible thing he'd demanded from a man he hated for his past, but needed for the immediate future.

Trust. Hell of a thing to ask a man like you.

The Raggedy Man sighed, and rolled his shoulders.

Tried everything else. Might as well try that.
word count: 988

Appearance

  • Habitually dressed in boots, breeches, tunic, and cloak.
  • Long hair down to the shoulders, usually swept back or in a rough ponytail
  • Prefers a trimmed beard and mustache

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  • Star-shaped scar on each palm.
  • Air around him seems to thicken and become more turbulent the closer a person gets to him.
  • Pitch black eyes, from tear ducts to the pupils.
  • Arms from shoulder to palms appear as if heavy chains are wrapped around them.
  • Wisps of black smoke constantly drifts around his body, forming the rough outline of a cloak. The more agitated he becomes, the thicker the layers get.
    Note: the torch-motif medallion Kasoria wears negates the visible effects of this mutation.
  • Roughly circular pattern across breastbone, constantly transforming, and resettling
  • Sunken, closed eyes in the back of hands; they open when stared at
  • Skin takes on the tone and quality of whatever material he's just Transmuted
Ulric
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Re: Rebirth and Return [All are welcome!]

Sat Feb 27, 2021 7:28 pm

Image Image Image

1 Cylus 721 | Ulric
Ulric felt more free in the dark than he did in the trial so Cylus had quickly grown to become his favorite season. It was his first Cylus as a living man again, imbued with powers many considered unnatural. Powers he would have to take from this place so that they were not recognized so easily... but there was still work to be done. One last job and then he'd go. Kasoria had once insisted it was as easy as just leaving so he'd give it a shot, but he was far from freedom at the moment. His hands were bound with shackles that he knew he could move through like anything else and he was being lead with the other prisoners. Why him? He wondered why he had been the one who was taken. They'd come for him by name. A marked of Sintra. Someone she had resurrected. They came to him to betray her, to exact the vengeance Alex wanted on her, and there he was, a cog in the machine.

Ulric had never been paraded around as much as he was on the first of Cylus and he decided rather quickly that he did not like it. He didn't like the large crowds or masses of people speaking. Maybe that would change in time but in Etzos it felt like every crowd was on the brink of going at each other's throats. At least they'd gathered at the Crescent Arena. He liked that place. He had good memories there. If he had to make a stand or be utterly obliterated, there were worse places for it to happen. If this was where he had to face Sintra, he would enjoy it. Sintra. She thought him a traitor while she'd conspired to make him murder his best friend. She thought him a traitor while her agents had ruined his resurrection. Arlain. A thorn in her side and his own that driven them further apart. Arlain. Without her, none of this would have happened.

There was a speech being given by Pahrn but Ulric didn't listen to the word as much as he stared at the immortal who'd marked and resurrected him. Even now he was uncertain of the decision he had made but if he did not commit to something, he would die again for nothing. At least the first time he had died for love. There was a malice in the eyes of Sintra when they met Ulric's that admittedly frightened the man but there was little he could do to look worse than he did- chained up at the mercy of those holding the chains. He did not break eye his stare until she looked away and when she did, his eyes dropped to the ground. Don't do it. Was that Alex or his own thought? Don't warn her... Ulric's eyes shifted to Pahrn and a bad idea came into his mind. Don't...

She's better off free of the city.

word count: 513
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Re: Rebirth and Return [All are welcome!]

Thu Mar 11, 2021 3:46 am

Rebirth and Return

Four little words....

Four simple little words.

Nothing a linguistics professor would have private claim to. Nothing an educated, prestigious citizen would hoard for display at some high social function. These were the most basic of words, used by the most basic of people. It was very likely that every person presently in Etzos had uttered them at some point; perhaps this very trial.

They formed a simple question, challenging the expertise of another person on some subject. The subject in this case was the focus of all the oratory that High Marshall Parhn had been building in the last several bits. The other person stood even now just a few feet from him, beginning to fidget with impatience.

The four little words needed to be simple; needed to be swiftly grasped for the full ramifications of their meaning; needed to impact the mind and attitude of the entire gathered throng, those who came both with Sintra's favor or as focus of her ire.

The city balanced on a knife's edge. The one shared sense on both sides of the political divide being that the High Marshall himself was on the verge of handing the city over to the Immortal matron who now stood in poorly veiled anticipation of this same event. As the leader of the Immortal-free world made a last bout of rhetoric, Sintra stepped forward to receive her tribute, her thanks, her reward. There were as many tears as there were cheers.

On the right side was triumph; many among them feeling genuine sense that Sintra had truly been the difference between death at the hands of Lisirra, and a chance to rebuild with the backing of a misunderstood creature of great power and influence. There was also a minority among them who didn't care about the right or wrong of the course of events, but only in being on the winning side, and the fruits of power that would come from it. They envisioned the coming swagger, bullying and extortion they would bring with them from having been in on Her favor from the ground floor.

On the left side, doom strode on the hearts and minds of every soul that looked up to see the unthinkable; a lord of their independent city handing over that very independence to a known monster. One who would have them groveling before long. Many of them were already resigned to leaving their homes to find some existence where they might at least ultimately die free, if sooner than they'd hoped an arc-and-a-half ago.

Sintra's veil of diplomacy and benevolence slipped more with each prolonged bit of Parhn's speech. She could hardly wait to get her hands on the control device for the artifact of power, of which her sister Lisirra had made such pathetically weak use. It was amusingly ironic that High Marshall Parhn laid the charges of so many crimes that had been made possible by the artifact at Lisirra's feet, when Sintra knew that she herself had been the perpetrator of nearly all of them.

Naturally she was not about to admit to it. There would come a time, a generation or two from now, where it would not matter what cowed, brain-washed minions knew. But for now, she was content to let Lisirra take all the blame for all the things done, directly or indirectly, by the power of the artifact, as directed by "the one who wielded the cube", as Parhn said yet one more time.

But finally, a fanfare of trumpets heralded the giving of the gift. And as the entire city held its collective breath, Parhn turned slowly, in full view and with full awareness of every citizen present, to extend his hands toward Sintra, cupping the cubical item held within them.

Sintra's kept her composure admirably as Parhn dropped the item into her palms. But that composure fled in a sudden vent of fury as her face twisted and she turned in wrathful accusation. "This is a fake!"

Four little words. So easily understood. Yet not the four that carried the clarity of who had truly wielded the cataclysm of 719. Those four words were now posed by Parhn, whose eyes gleamed in a blend of satisfaction and rage; whose voice, though quiet and clear, was amplified by the Hone workings etched in his armor, to reach every ear, whether currently on the left side or the right, whose impact would be universal to both.


"How would you know?"


Sintra's anger was a livid counterpoint to the stunned silence and contemplative stillness of the crowd. But it went unnoticed for a moment as she spun back in disgust at what had initially struck her a stupid question. "Because I've yooo...." She began, realization of the trap she'd stepped into widening her eyes as the word "used" died on her lips.

Those lips now flapped slightly as every angle of answer that flashed before her analysis was found to lead to the same damning conclusion. It had been her the whole time. She could not possibly know it was a fake unless she was familiar with the true item. This same conclusion was hitting the crowd like a virus. On the left side, vindicated rage supplanted the hopelessness and despair as quiet murmurs rocketed into shouted accusations that almost went so far as to cite Lisirra herself as a victim of Sintra's plotting.

Similar accusations were hurled across the dividing line to assail the esteem of those who had been pro-Sintra up until now. It was far worse for them; at least for those that had genuinely meant well, but now knew they'd been horribly deceived. Knees hit the ground as tears of irrevocable guilt streamed from their eyes. But soon enough they rose back up, the entire scene adopting a haze of killing red rage in their vision. They joined in the shouting as Sintra seemed not so much to dwindle in size or spectacle, but in an intangible aura of steadily waning potency.

The will of fury and betrayal, coupled by the sudden tearing loose of devotion caused her to swoon slightly as she looked back to see Parhn, as well as Kasoria, Oberan and Ulric, no longer in chains - when had that happened? - joined by Kort Flaxxo, new Marshall Hinda Velora, and scores of Etzos' elite soldiers squaring off in a semi circle, a number of them in robes indicative of the casters of magic.


Sweltering in the heat of barely constrained fury, Parhn's words yet seemed coated in ice, "I ask you again...Lady...How would you know?"


Lightning would have fizzled had it struck the line if eye contact between them. Then Sintra laughed, "Well played, Marshall. Well played." she gave a slow clap worthy of theater. "As the holder of their spheres of influence, I can not but relish such manipulation and entrapment. But I suspect you did not think this through." her eyes shifted to draw attention to the still considerable number of well-armed Web Guards and supporters already working their way toward the stage.

"And if you think they are all I have to fight with, you may have forgotten the third sphere of influence I control." She did nothing more than lift her head slightly and a strange concussion swept across the city. nothing damaging in and of itself, but bearing a repercussion of ghastly proportions. Screams sounded from within and without as the number and various sizes of arachnids pouring forth from the many exits from the Underground took on the sound of a city-wide stampede.
word count: 1288
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Re: Rebirth and Return [All are welcome!]

Sat Mar 13, 2021 12:03 pm



All it took was four words.

Four words uttered by Sintra, countered by four words carefully selected by Pahrn.

Four of the simplest words, strung together in a basic sentence, a basic question that could not be misinterpreted. Even the most illiterate fool could understand the implication held within, the accusation concealed there, teasing the minds of those who heard it. Inviting them to consider it themselves, think up a logical explanation.

The atmosphere surrounding the crowd changed within an instant, anger and fury and righteous indignation bubbling to the surface. Hatred and rage born from guilt and shame at being so thoroughly manipulated by a hideously malicious creature pretending to be anything but.

The reaction spoke volumes about Sintra’s capabilities, about the threat she posed. Despite her title as the Immortal of Manipulation which should put suspicion and skepticism in the hearts of all who heard her honeyed words, she still managed to fool over half the population of a bastion of Immortal-loathing Etzori.

And it revealed just as much about Pahrn’s ability as an orator to scatter all the Immortals promises and words and schemes in the wind with a mere four short words. And just like that, Pahrn announced a checkmate in no uncertain terms.

Oberan cast off his chains, and grinned as Sintra’s face twisted and curled into an ugly snarl of frustration and anger at the realization she’d been played. She! The Immortal ruling the Domains of Manipulation and Entrapment, had been carefully and subtly maneuvered into a trap by pesky mortals using her flaws against her. She stewed and boiled and then laughed and lauded the last scion of Pahrn.

This wasn’t over though. That would be too easy. While Oberan did not know many Immortals personally, he knew enough about them to figure out what came next. Most Immortals liked to play games, but they did not like to lose. Accepting defeat when they did was not a common occurrence. Pahrn had outmaneuvered Sintra, ending the game of chess with a masterful move, and while she definitely did acknowledge the skillful play of her opponent, that was not the end of the conflict.

Immortals did not like to lose the games they played with mortals, just like they did not like mortals refusing their gifts or disobeying their orders. It tended to hit a nerve. Perhaps it reminded them of their own limitations, their flaws. It told them they were not the omnipotent and omniscient figures they portrayed themselves as.

So when faced with a complete and utter defeat, Sintra did the sensible thing: throw the board and all the pieces roughly aside, draw a knife, and proclaim “Well, if I kill you, I still win anyway”.

Oberan would probably have done the exact same thing. He was Sintra’s nephew, after all.

Both Kasoria and Ulric had thrown off their chains as well, and the guard around them reached for their weapons, preparing for Sintra’s expected final –far less elegant and subtle—struggle for control. Oberan reached inside his mouth, hand going in up to a few inches past the wrist. It returned gripping the hilt of a short blade, slowly drawing it out of himself as if he were a sheath. It seemed to appear from down his throat, but that couldn’t be true. It couldn’t even come from his mouth, the blade too wide to fit. True enough, looking closely, the steel --and hand-- actually phased through his flesh, accessing another place altogether.

“Kas, catch!” he called, throwing the gladius to the assassin. It was fair bit larger than his karambits, and a lot harder to conceal underneath his clothing, and to leave Sintra convinced all three prisoners were neutralized, larger weapons had to be left behind. The nearby guards carried some spares, of course, but waiting for them to distribute blades was a waste of time. This was faster.

Web Guard and spiders stormed the crescent arena. Screams come from further away too as Sintra decided to cleanse Etzos with a tidal wave of arachnids. Bad news for certain. Hopefully Pahrn had stationed a number of fire-wielding Defiers around the city just in case something like this occurred.

The first of Sintra’s militia jumped the podium, weapons drawn and hungering for blood. Kas cut down a solid number of them with deadly efficiency, and Ulric threw them around with invisible tendrils. Oberan simply waved a hand at those that engaged them --dodging between strikes and slashes, dancing closer to both Kasoria and Pahrn—and dropped a couple of them outright. His Thrill surged, prowess increasing dramatically. He sluiced it all into the Grand Marshal and the assassin, strengthening him with his boon. Yet he himself remained boosted as well, his Domain of Trill leeching off nearby enemies without pause.

Next came Ulric and the guardsmen on and near the stage, fighting for their city, their marshal, their Etzori pride. Web Guard collapsing into unconsciousness as Oberan stole their Thrill and funneled it into his allies.

He did not hold back, unconcerned about the backlash and consequences his Domain would have on both his own body and that of the others he bestowed his boon on. There were too many spiders, and Sintra was no pushover herself. Even with his ability empowering the mortals around him, many would die. Even with his ability suppressing pain and exhaustion, many would succumb to wounds.

This was a decisive battle. The time for restraint had long since passed.

word count: 933
Just because I shouldn't doesn't mean I won't.


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Kasoria
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Re: Rebirth and Return [All are welcome!]

Sun Mar 14, 2021 4:07 am

He'd waited seasons for this. Cycles. Maybe even arcs, if he thought back enough. As if he'd been lain under some malady that was beyond a healer's touch or mage's arts. Something oppressive and gnawing, a wasting infection of the soul instead of flesh or organs. Something intangible, ungraspable, always just beyond his reach to exorcize. But he'd been patient. Oh, he'd faltered, more than once. Chased his enemy down the wrong trail, took the wrong tack... and he'd paid for his mistakes. Yet it had been worth it. Worth all the tentrials of hunting and seasons of slaughter. Worth trials in the dark of those cells and the pain of being battered half-insensible by the Blackjack.

Just to make it look good. Just to play to the pantomime. Just to get him, him and all of them, from the foreign trickster to the High Marshal, on this stage. So he could hear those four words...

No, not those ones.

Kasoria didn't bother hiding his smile anymore. Not after Sintra had blurted - blurted! - out the words that would condemn her. That pride, that arrogance... she of all beings should have known how easy one was to be steered when they were pandered to. The High Marshall had done just that to her. Fed her ego, played to her sense of divine superiority, piled courtesy on flattery until she believed this was all just a formality. She had but to wait and a device as good as a crown would be given to her, and with it the crown to rule Etzos. But instead she was given a fake, a phoney, and she couldn't-

just-

Four more words. Each one a hammer to a nail. Whether that was a coffin or a crucifix, Kasoria didn't much care. The effect was the same.

But still, they were not the words.

The effect they had on the crowd packed into the Crescent was akin to a downpour being replaced by an inferno. The atmsphere froze immediately in time, warring combination of bloated victory and bitter despair suddenly silencing as the latter was on the cusp of winning... and then Kasoria could sense it. Not by magic or Marks, none of that shite. He knew his people. He knew their moods. Even the ones infected by Sintra's madness and turned by their own treachery. Now he looked up at those muddled faces and could see them plain. That was the true test of faith: seeing it it held even in the face of the utter demolition of the deity, the target of their love.

Kasoria could see it melt away from face after face. Memories of all they'd lost and suffered came flooding back. All those loved and cherished, taken away by... Lisirra? Now there was the question instead of the memory. The Plague Mother wasn't their only enemy anymore. Children of Etzos all, they knew even a fragment of a sentence was as much proof of a lie as a full confession, if you heard it right. And they had. The augmented voice had been broadcast across the sands of the Arena, to every pair of ears. Now Kasoria could see the control, the fanaticism, the loyalty... all of it was bleeding away like blood from a sliced artery. There would be a core of lunatics and those who had gouged too far into their own people to turn back, but most?

The citizens of Etzos roared as one voice, and this time it was of one mind. That of fury, of outrage, of raging grief and killing passion. The Arena rumbled as thousands got to their feet, a great swell of flesh heaving towards the stage as if Etzos had come alive with ten thousand hands and hearts all focused on ripping a god apart.

Kasoria smiled wider, upon seeing Sintra's disbelieving face. She took a step back, from these chattel, these animals, these puppets she'd so skillfully played... but when the shock faded and the plan was in tatters, she did what she'd expected. She tossed it away and went to the next one. The Mistress of Manipulation, after all, would always have another.

The rumble of the crowd was eclipsed a moment after she spoke by one that seemed to shake the entire city. From the forgotten caves to the sewers, a tidal wave of chittering, shining, angry arachnid flesh was pouring out of every crevice and crack and manhole and gutter. All around the Arena people once maddened into murderous rage were now shrieking and stomping on the living carpet that was assailing them. But it seemed like they just kept coming, moving like hissing, glittering black water, biting and nipping as it touched flesh. Kasoria pumped his hands to the sides and the wrist-shackles fell free. He kicked out with each legs, and his manacles did the same.

He strode forwards, and found he was not alone. Ulric. Oberan. Flaxxo, the tough bastard. They stood aside and behind the High Marshall as spiders invaded the Arena and Sintra's doomed Web Guard surged back towards her, hauling themselves up onto the raised surface from every direction. They and the spiders and a chunk of other Etzori were all that was left of her support, but that still counted into the hundreds of humans and Kasoria couldn't even count high enough to guess how many spiders. With one hand he drew the karambit that had been relieved from him nights before. Returned to him, along with his remaining throwing knives and dagger, easily hidden under his clothes. Only his gladius was gone and-

-suddenly he had another. Now Shadow Slayer, but a swish here and there was enough for him to gauge the weight and balance of the thing so it might well have been. He gripped each weapon tighter as the Webbers moved closer, madness and mindless loyalty outweighing any love they once had for their own people and then-

Then he heard the words. Just four. From the High Marshall. He knew they were coming as he summoned his Spark, Replicative layers of Abrogation starting to form just above his clothes. Masking the sight of him seem to shimmer and shift unnaturally to the eyes of the rabid horde advancing on them, determined to avenge and defend their Mistress. Not the exact grouping and placement of words, but the tone, the message, the intent-

"Kasoria? Tear them apart!"

The Raggedy Man smiled. A slash of ivory and gold across a dark, weathered face. Then he moved, and charged into the human wave with steel swinging.

About fucking time.

Kasoria hit the front line of Web Guard like a Lurker kicking a cripple. His roar was eclipsed by the kra-CRACK of his body slamming into the limbs and weapons of Sintra's minions, and the Backlash infused into his Replicative Fields sending them flying back as a half-dozen tried their luck at once. That was the problem with sheer numbers: you only had so many arms. Three, four at once, a master like himself could defend against. Maybe. Any more than that? It's like trying to keep sunlight off you with a house fan. Eventually, something's going to get through.

Unless you have layers of sparking, hissing Abrogation warding away blows. Then even after he'd laid open two throats and punctured three torsos in a blur of metal, the surviving clutch still hadn't harmed him. The dead were content to die for their Mistress, so long as it brought down The Raggedy Man, the monsrous heathen she'd spoken of. The ones who had laid the blows were happy to let them... but only if it worked. And as their weapons were torn from their hands or broken outight-

-and their silk-colored uniforms were splattered with blood and ripped apart by thrusting gladius and slashing karambit-

-as the rank before Kasoria died and he dropped down and slammed his fists into the ground-

CCRRRASSSSSSSSKKKKK!

A chorus of agony rose up thick and deafening as an abattoir being set ablaze. His Transmutation Spark flowed into the sand and exploded under it, spreading and congealing and infusing and at his command-

-a forest of foot-long spikes jutted out from the ground under Sintra's horde, or most of it. At once, half of them went down shrieking. Kasoria got back to his feet with a grunt, already feeling the drain on his Spark, but... but not as much as he was expecting. No, that was wrong. It was bad, but he seemed to be bearing it better than usual.

Oberan. He didn't need to think any longer, and didn't have time to. A fresh wave was charging towards them, blazing light of zealotry in their eyes, hurdling over the dying bodies of their comrades and the streams of blood, hobbling forward on their own battered limbs, white cloaks and jerkins and armor gleaming-

Until Kasoria's weapons were unleashed again. He didn't need to hold back anymore. Didn't need to worry about survivors. Just had to keep it clinical and efficient, no time or space to take pleasure in any particular kill. Each man he killed-

parry the thrust break the knee karambit across the throat kick the dying bastard back towards his mates

-was given exactly as much attention as it took to end them, then he moved on. Boosted by Oberan's wyrd (and he reminded himself to ask what the hells it was called), Kasoria was moving faster than before, reflexes making him look like a blur, hurling around arcs of blood as if he himself was sporting severed arteries... bit he wasn't. Wherever his blades fell, men died-

kick the spear coming for you into the leg of the man coming from the side open the spearman's throat continue the blow do the same to the man at the side

-and his Replicative Fields spasmed and groaned and died one by one as blows struck him, but didn't penetrate. Only when he was down to his last couple did Kasoria finally see the plumed figure he'd been waiting for. A Captain, or Commander, whatever fucking rank the Web Guard used. He was shouldering his way through the ranks of his minions, eager to get to grips with Flaxxo and his Tower Guard. Kort and his men were grinding through the Web Guard in their own way: where Kasoria was a singular tornado of brutality, they were a united front of trained, cooperative destruction.

Kasoria flashed a glance back at the High Marshal, and Oberan, and her. Most of all her. He couldn't let this go. Couldn't risk her escaping, not now.

Stupid old man. You can't kill a god.

Why not? We did it before.

Aye. But first-


Kasoria thrust out his gladius and the Web Guard Commander was lifted from the ground like a kitten by the scruff. Cursing and kicking at the air, Shackles tightening around him. Kasoria held the gladius in front of him with one hand... and his other hand grabbed the air above it... and the Commander gasped. He could feel the air around his helmet harden. Kasoria saw a glimmer of grey eyes beneath the helm. A shock of terror, as he realized, just before it happened-

His gladius went one way. His fist went another. So did the bands of Shackles encasing the Commander's helmet, and his body.

A wail of horror went up immediately after the wet, ripping, crunching tearing sound that followed. Both parts of the Commander were dropped unceremoniously afterwards, clattering down with an untidy clatter of armor turned from cream-white to dark red. Kasoria turned away from the shattered remains of the Web Guard, men already running from him now, even the most ardent fanatics unwilling to charge him when certain death was the only solution. Instead he turned back to Sintra, sparing her a few trills longer than usual-

His eyes widened at what was unfolding on the stage.

Fuck me. That ain't good.
word count: 2048

Appearance

  • Habitually dressed in boots, breeches, tunic, and cloak.
  • Long hair down to the shoulders, usually swept back or in a rough ponytail
  • Prefers a trimmed beard and mustache

Mutations

  • Star-shaped scar on each palm.
  • Air around him seems to thicken and become more turbulent the closer a person gets to him.
  • Pitch black eyes, from tear ducts to the pupils.
  • Arms from shoulder to palms appear as if heavy chains are wrapped around them.
  • Wisps of black smoke constantly drifts around his body, forming the rough outline of a cloak. The more agitated he becomes, the thicker the layers get.
    Note: the torch-motif medallion Kasoria wears negates the visible effects of this mutation.
  • Roughly circular pattern across breastbone, constantly transforming, and resettling
  • Sunken, closed eyes in the back of hands; they open when stared at
  • Skin takes on the tone and quality of whatever material he's just Transmuted
Ulric
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Re: Rebirth and Return [All are welcome!]

Wed Mar 17, 2021 10:11 pm

Image Image Image

1 Cylus 721 | Ulric
The moment Sintra declared the cube a fake, Ulric began to free his hands. Sides were taken and Parhn turned Sintra's words against her. In any other light against any other enemy, Ulric thought she might have admired the move but because it had been used against her they met fury. Sintra's web guard and supporters began working their way to the stage and Ulric's bindings fell to the floor in front of him. He was unarmed because it supported the ruse but he was not without some method of enhancement. He wore his ghost metal medallion around his neck and while it did not strengthen him at every moment anymore, it certainly made it easier to use his abilities.

Of course she'd bring an army of spiders to fight with her people... Ulric had grown used to the creatures so to be on the opposing side felt strange but there was little he could do now. Fate and a failed plan drove a wedge between them. When the first of Sintra's loyalists climbed the stage, not one reached Ulric on two feet. Kasoria moved in with terrifying and lethal efficiency while Oberan cut away at the enemies nearing him, but Ulric stood with his arms gently extended, easily throwing and pushing the living off the stage and onto others who tried to climb it. Others would find their arms yanked from beneath them as they tried to push up onto the stage, leading to painful collisions with the edge. Even enhanced by Oberan, he did not rush in. Eventually one tendril pulled a sword from a fallen guard into Ulric's hand but he only used it to parry those who got close and not many did.

Everyone around him fought for some deeper purpose or pride but the resurrected man felt he'd just been caught in the middle. He harbored no great hatred towards Sintra. It was hard to hate the one who'd brought you back from the dead even if she'd done it through horrible methods. However he'd made decisions in the daze of resurrection she would never forgive him for and so he had to do what was necessary to survive... for as long as it worked. He was no incredibly loyal Etzori fighting to repel an Immortal invader. He was just a swordsman looking to stay alive and Sintra had yet to present a better option. In light of Kasoria's rampage, Sintra's army of spiders didn't seem that bad. Still... Ulric focused more on the people than the spiders- only once using the body of a web guard to crush a small patch of arachnids running toward him. It was times like this that he missed the ability to turn his flesh harder than steel.

word count: 476
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Re: Rebirth and Return [All are welcome!]

Wed Mar 24, 2021 5:17 pm

Rebirth and Return

It was true that Sintra had not attended this assembly with plans for a full-on battle. For that reason, there were a few brief bits where hope of a swift, victory of retribution was at hand.

A few very brief bits...

Though not heralded as an immortal of any particular martial prowess, Sintra was not to be mistaken for a pushover. It took only moments for her to realize the workings of her enemies and find counters for them. The first, of course, being the shift into her massive arachnid form, a combination of spider and scorpion, with heavy natural armor. It was only the presence of Sovereign armor magic upon the plate of the soldiers teaming up against her, like a steel wolf-pack, that allowed them to survive impacts by her huge claw/pinchers.

As well, as Kasoria had seen a few trials earlier, their armor flared with runes of warding, altering in color and intensity, as attacks of magic by her minion magicians assailed them with etheric bombardments. But it was not long to see the wards showing signs of wearing down. Sintra taunted them with the insistence that her own weapons had no requisite store of energy to power them, and that she could keep this up as long as it took to crush all resistance. There was little that could be said to give a lie to this, as her "battle form" would be permanent until dispelled.

This was not true, however, of those powers she activated to offset Oberan's thrill. It was not that the Mortalborn's power was attacked or negated directly at its source, though that was in the works. It was more that she had powers of enhancement that made the loss of energy less of a problem for her fighters. Her marked would call them such things as Spider's Apathy, Agility of the Arachnids and Spider's Gaze. She had always rolled her eyes at this penchant for naming the aspects of her blessings, but they negated fear, gave inhuman agility and peripheral vision to give warnings of anything but an attack from directly behind.

As she almost effortlessly swatted off the weapons of the group attacking her she gave a wicked grin to Oberan. She could feel the surges of debilitating effects he sent forth into the crowd. And though she had no way to offset it, neither was it able to affect her. But as is often the case with adventurers beset by mayhem on their own level, they fail to look up.

Yet another power of her blessing was one her most exalted minions called "Natural Weapons". As far as Oberan was concerned, the impact of this ability was not in the fact of it being manifested upon many in the crowd fighting on her behalf, giving them stingers and pinchers of their own. It was more the venom within these stingers and fangs, which was now injected into the Mortalborn's shoulder by a small spider that had dropped there between surges of Thrill.

Everything suddenly became hazy and confused for Oberan; faces shifting and distorting until he was unsure of who he was leeching from and who to bestow the syphoned power to. Panic as well set in within moments, desperation that he had power to give, but could not be sure where to send it, coupled with the worry that he might drain the wrong person of their own energy. Adding to this the crucial nature of the situation brought the thief to near madness as Sintra looked on with satisfaction.

Like her sister Lissira, an arc before, Sintra had little to do to impact Ulric's ghostly powers, other than to simply win this battle and then take him apart at her leisure. When all was over she would use the artifact to place his soul into the body of some insect and let her pets feed upon him for eternity. The look of satisfaction intensified slightly.

As for Kasoria, whatever it was he might be concerned about onstage was offset by the screams of an hundred voices behind him. One of her Champions had just used the height of his blessing, unleashing his Familiar Friend, a power that would drain him of any Lethroda ability for a near ten-trial period. But what it gave to the fight was a horror nearly on par with Sintra herself; a massive arachnid monstrosity well over ten feet in height, even with its armored legs splayed out wide.

The fight took a decided turn for the worse with these developments.

And even as she looked about in something akin to glee, the spreading of so much power did have the upside of keeping her mind employed sufficiently to make little headway against those directly attacking her. She even had a few superficial wounds to show for their efforts. But stalemate would ultimately be a victory for her.

High Marshall Parhn was almost a forgotten element, as it was noticed that he was not doing much actual fighting, but seemed more focused on some signal from a spot on one of the towers. Only a select few knew what he was waiting for, and that was only because they were the ones to give the signals. Those signals came now, as confirmation of two other "Familiar Friend" horrors appeared elsewhere in the city. He now gave back a signal of his own.

Sintra noted this and focused on her own efforts long enough to sweep aside those in the way and grab Parhn in one of her pinchers. Using her own Bite of the Spider power on him she demanded him to tell her what the signal had been for. Parhn did not resist her in the least, and shock gripped her face as she got her answer. "No...NO! HOW!! You CAN'T!! The ARTIFACT!! How did you...?" Then in dawned on her that where she had been given the fake, Parhn must have had the genuine cube to rework the artifact's directives.

Parhn's armor gave him protection long enough to give a laugh of defiance and spit in her face. The severity of what she'd seen actually offset her focus long enough that her claws sagged in stunned horror as Parhn was almost forgotten in her grip. The air shimmered around her as she wailed in disbelieving fury. Many of her eyes turned to the mayhem below the stage, on the street level. The chaos turned to absolute pandemonium as spiders everywhere began to ignite in flame.

She took a few staggering steps, realizing that she had no immediate means to offset this city-wide attack. The shimmering around Sintra herself began to intensify, as she growled to bring divine focus to keeping its effect from impacting her. This kept her mind off Parhn for a moment, but either the steadily building heat around her, or the malice she already possessed would bring his end quickly once her focus returned to him.

If he lived, he might be able to explain what he'd done and who had done it for him...
word count: 1197
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Re: Rebirth and Return [All are welcome!]

Mon Mar 29, 2021 5:43 pm



Things weren’t going exactly to plan, though that didn’t mean much. Things hadn’t been going to plan the moment Sintra called in a tidal wave of spiders to flood Etzos with. Oh, sure Oberan had expected resistance, Pahrn had planned for battle, but the scale of this battle had grown beyond the scope he’d imagined. Though perhaps the Marshall had foreseen this eventuality, devising strategies and countermeasures. He did have the Cube at his disposal, and a team of mages –etherists, attuners and other scholarly types—worked themselves to death to crack open its mysteries.

Still, all that was worth jack shit in the midst of the lethal brawl Oberan found himself in. Web Guard all around, some storming the stage, some being cut down by Kasoria or strangled by Ulric, others doing the slicing and dicing, butchering citizens unaccustomed to combat. Oberan intervened wherever he could.

He’d left the stage behind, ducking and weaving between combatants, attention split between dodging swipes and slashes, and knocking down foes with the power of his Domain. Spiders, Web Guard, it mattered not. All were equal before him; all balls of Thrill he could suck dry and redistribute. Pumping otherwise helpless Etzori full of strength and vigor. Bolstering them. Giving them a fighting chance. But he couldn’t be everywhere at once. Couldn’t reach all those in need in time.

A man in armor decorated with silver spiderwebs plunged an axe into the back of a woman huddled protectively around a small child. A moist sound, followed by the crunch of bones and the splash of blood. A scream, long and shrill and final. The executioner glanced up, making eye contact with Oberan, smiling, relishing. Pulling his axe out of his victim’s flesh. Again that wet sliding, but no shriek this time. Only the cries of an orphaned child.

The Web Guard rushed for him then, axe coming down in a powerful slam. One step back, arms up in guard position, angling his body away. Wind whooshing past alongside the axehead, blade biting into the gravel of the arena. Oberan struck back, arm lashing out like a whip, palm of his hand connecting to the chin. Faster than usual, more force behind it too. It’s path continued after contact, pushing the jawbone out of position. The web guard stumbled backward, dazed but not defeated.

Movement in his peripherals. Two more coming from behind, abandoning their easy prey to take out someone more threatening. Good. He released the Thrill amassed, sending it into nearby Etzori fighting for their lives. One young woman desperately holding back a knife encroaching on her stomach. A middle-aged man with a beer belly and thick arms, standing protectively over his family, throwing haymakers at a dog-sized spider.

Instantly the fatigue grabbed hold of Oberan, mind foggy, arms and legs heavy. The aching setting in, muscles screaming in a cacophony of searing pain. He drained one of the two approaching Web Guards, causing her to collapse like a marionette without strings. Strength returned. Mind focused. Pain dissipated. Blade swung. Oberan rolled, over the shoulder and back onto his feet. Blood on his clothes. A tear in the fabric. No pain other than a dull throb near his ribs. It didn’t bother him. It couldn’t stop him.

Lurching forward, flashing of steel to his left, duck and dive, barely avoiding a second injury. Use the momentum, swiping the legs from underneath the enemy. They fell, Oberan rose. Stomp to the nose the moment after they hit the sand. Purge the Thrill, empower others, drain the felled foe. Repeat on the next challenger. The guard with the crooked jaw collapsed a moment later.
Still more foes swarming around. A writhing mass of spiders, big and small, accompanied by several of Sintra’s pawns. Once more he funneled his hoarded Thrill into a nearby citizen, granting them a second wind, the power to run and keep running. Focus switching back to the skittering wave of arachnids, Domain lashing out. The smaller ones depleting in but a moment, legs giving out, chitin bodies immobile in the sand. The larger spiders were more trouble, slowing down and becoming sluggish, but not drained enough to fall unconscious.

It mattered not. Oberan danced between the blades of the web guard, bobbing his head, weaving his torso, spinning and whirling around his axis. Step, step, duck, roll. Manifest a set of stolen plate gauntlets over his hands and upper arms, deflecting weapons he couldn’t avoid. Retaliate when he could, lightning-fast and aimed for vulnerable spots. Throat, chin, nose, stomach, groin.

Stomping down on the armored forms of the monstrous spiders then, all Oberan’s body weight crashing onto the head from above. Legs snapped, joints gave away. Chitin screeched and dented. Viscous fluids leaking from the cracks.

There were the web guard again, lunging forward to catch Oberan as he landed on top of the spider’s head again after a leap. He turned sideways, out of the trajectory of the incoming spear, then jumped and flipped, avoiding the swipe that followed. Bring down his heel on the skull of the spearman while he recovered from his earlier swing. Backstep once, twice, narrowly causing the slashes of the other two to miss.

Back away further, the web guards unleashing a barrage of steel. Gauntleted arms swatting away what they could, using nimble footwork to dodge the rest. Eyes flicking back and forth, pupils seeming to bounce around within the sockets. Watching, observing, dissecting. Waiting for an opportunity—

There!

A swipe too wide, too uncontrolled. Wide open. Oberan blocked the slash of the other guard, rocketing forward, slipping into the man’s guard. Knife-hand to the wrist, once, twice, disarming him. Not letting go of the limb but seizing one of the belts of his breast-plate. Twisting, back pressing against him, center of gravity dropping. Then up again, arms whipping down, throwing the man onto the floor, winded.

Dodge another wide swing of the second one’s blade, hammering a series of blows into his torso. The first absorbed by the leather plate he wore, but the layers of armor vanished with each hit, and soon there was no protection between plated fist and bare ribs. They cracked, the guard doubled over, Oberan switched to pummeling his head instead.

Then turned, allowing the man to fall, caught the guard he’d thrown in the throat as they stumbled to their feet.

He was a dervish, a whirlwind. Mortalborn, powerful, mighty, unstoppable. Invincible.

Clothes torn and shredded, stained darker than usual. Wet and heavy. Body bleeding from more wounds than he realized. It didn’t bother him, he could not feel them. It would require far more than these to incapacitate an Oberan gorged on Thrill.

The enemy noticed.

More of Sintra’s chosen rushed forth, these ones more agile, more swift in both movements and reflexes. Able to keep up with Oberan’s own increased prowess, his main advantage against their superior numbers offset by their own unnatural speed. Troublesome.

They gave him no opportunity to push out all his Thrill and drain theirs completely. Not that he couldn’t, but that he would instantly regret it. Losing the Thrill slowed him down, giving the Webspinners a chance to easily subdue or kill Oberan. It already took all he had to react to the myriad strikes coming from the slew of opponents, continuously moving about to prevent getting trapped and encircled.

While Thrill Control could not instantly knock these Marked Web Guard out, there were other ways to deal with them. As he ran and backed away, Oberan funneled small amounts into nearby Blackguard, then drained his foes to top himself back up. Slowly, steadily chiseling away at the Web Guards’ reserves, making their speed and agility decrease gradually. A long process, but one Oberan could keep up for as long as needed. Boosted by the Thrill his body would fight until it died from exhaustion.

More and more Thrill sapped, the Web Guard slowed to normal levels. Evading their attacks became a whole lot easier, as they could no longer keep up with Oberan. More importantly, the nearby Blackguards experienced the opposite effect, cutting down their targets with greater ease. They descended upon Sintra’s soldiers with a vengeance, pushing them back and giving Oberan a chance to slip away, further towards the exit of the emptying arena.

Despite the chaos and pandemonium, many people had managed to get out off the building and off the battlefield, clearing the much-needed space required to assess the situation. However, a large throng still plugged the exit, a crowd of panicking citizens pushing and pulling others to get away from the immediate danger of Sintra, her spiders, and her goons.

Oberan had little time to stand back and observe though. The combat around him continued en masse, and new enemies popped up left and right. Of all the Blackguard, the Tower Guard, the skilled commanders of either, the deadly Kasoria and other key figures, they singled out him in particular. Oberan glanced toward the stage, picking out the form of his aunt in an instant. Sintra effortlessly defended herself from the assault of mortals, despite the sudden loss of power that’d occurred mere minutes prior. Her huge arachnid body skewered soldiers with its stinger and legs, crushed armor with its pincers, and flicked them aside with sweeps of her tail. Her eyes locked with his for just a brief moment, and a wicked grin spread across her features.

Well, that can’t be good.

It wasn’t. A woman with a scorpion tail and pincers fought her way through a squad of Blackguards, catching blades with the armored limbs, piercing their armor with her stinger. In her two human hands she wielded a pair of short swords, efficiently massacring the blackguard with a combination of the supernatural speed the previous Webspinners had demonstrated, and the arachnid modifications to her body. Like a storm of steel and black claws she approached, unstoppable in her own way, gaze trained on Oberan. Giving him the same wicked grin Sintra had.

Bad news.

But at least it was only one of them.

He took a moment to breathe, compose himself. Altered the position of his feet, the angle of his torso. Brought his gauntleted arms up in a guard position. A defensive yet mobile stance that focused on evading and deflecting incoming attacks, but could it deal with a coordinated barrage of multiple limbs?

The scorpion-hybrid rushed in, blades out for blood. Hacking and slashing while Oberan maneuvered out of their path. Her pincers worked in tandem, attempting to slam into his ribs from the side. He blocked those blows as best he could, stopping them with his hands and forearms, then dove into the sand as the tail lashed out from a downward angle.

She swooped down upon him, relentless. Stabbing down with swords and pincers and stinger as he rolled as fast he could, feeling the displaced air as he narrowly prevented being skewered. Using the momentum, he launched himself back on his feet, resuming his stance just in time to slap away one blade, and deflect another. One of the pincers caught him in the side, throwing him off balance. The second clamped around his wrist, pulling him close. The swords flashed, and Oberan twisted out of the way of one, and grabbed onto the arm that held the other. Over her shoulder, the tail positioned itself, stinger aimed for his torso. The second pincer seized a forearm. Oberan smashed his head into the woman’s nose. Her grip loosened, she stumbled backward. He didn’t let the opportunity slip away. Closing the distance immediately, he pummeled her with plated fists, landing punch after punch on her defenseless face, refusing to let up.

Until the Webspinner’s tail shot forward like a pouncing snake. Oberan jumped back, summoning a stolen shield from the vault just in time. With a thud, the stinger sank deep into the reinforced wood, whipping it out of his hands. Further back he retreated, retaking his stance, but the webspinner did not attack. She just grinned through bloodied teeth.

Something tickled on his shoulder, many legs pitter-pattering. He almost missed it in the heat of the moment. He slapped it, hard, fast. Smashed it into paste, smeared onto his palm. A reddish lump swelled on his shoulder, two tiny pinpricks at the center of it. His vision was going fuzzy, pulsing in and out of focus. The world spun around, making him feel as if he teetered on the brink of a precipice. Faces blurred, becoming indistinct. Bodies followed soon after, melting into rudimentary silhouettes. Few recognizable traits remained: virtually everyone looked the same. Silhouettes of similar sizes and shapes. Faces were featureless, yet somehow conveyed expressions. Armor, clothes, colors, details, all indistinguishable.

Who was who? Which outlines were friends, which were foes? His breathing grew quick and shallow. Cold sweat on his brow. Ice in his stomach. A whole arena full of shadows, full of indistinct shapes. All allies. All enemies. Which ones did he assist? Which ones did he hinder? Who to drain? Who to boost? Beads of sweat rolled down his face, body trembling.

He was powerless. Sintra’d taken him off the board. Oberan couldn’t keep using his Domain without syphoning or enhancing the wrong side. Both were disastrous. He couldn’t fight either. Apart from Sintra, whose huge form was hard to mistake, all combatants looked exactly the same.

Although…

One of the nearby humanoid shades possessed four arms and a tail-like protrusion. It retreated towards a more densely populated area of the battlefield. He snarled and gave chase, panic diminishing and anger taking over, goal in mind. Yet, the shape smirked, its extra limbs vanishing into its body as it fled between clashing combatants. Oberan pushed aside those in his path, but quickly lost sight of the webspinner. He whirled around his axis, franticly scanning his surroundings. Which one was it?

Other shapes flowed around him, closing in. He was surrounded by numerous silhouettes. Friend or foe? Which was it? How could he tell their intentions? Which ones would attack, which ones wouldn’t? Who to fight? Who to fight with? Who to trust, who to punch?

Spiders. Spiders! He could tell spiders from humans. Kill the spiders!

But… to reach them he needed to get through groups of people. Allies he might accidentally sucker punch. Foes that might ambush him when he passed.

Rapid breaths, trembling hands. Sweat splatting on sand.

He could not act like this. Could not support with his Domain. Could not join the fray. Could not squash spiders. Could not hunt down the multi-limbed shapes.

The shadow people around him shifted positions, flowing and moving like wild water. Ever-changing, yet remaining exactly the same. Friend or foe? Friends or foes?

No use in thinking. No use in trying to figure it out. He’d lose his mind. Deep breaths. Deep, steady breaths.

With the toe of his boot, Oberan drew a circle around him, ten feet in diameter. Painted it red with the blood flowing from his many wounds. His safe zone. His personal piece of battlefield.

Someone approached, stared at the red line in the sand. Ally or enemy? Oberan raised his guard. “This is my Zone of Truth,” he proclaimed. “And the Truth of this circle is that all who enter are the enemy! You will stay out, or you will regret it!”

word count: 2619
Just because I shouldn't doesn't mean I won't.


Mortalborn Abilities | Die Roller | Capstones
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