The truth will set Scalvoris free...
Once an isolated and dying township, an influx of academics, adventurers and thrill seekers have made Scalvoris Town their home. From scholars' tea shops to a new satellite campus for Viden Academy, this is an exciting place to visit or make your home!
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4 Ashan 718
"We don't know what really happened!" an older man shouted over the buzzing bar, his clenched fist coming down to slam upon his table to garner everyone's attention. A young man with black hair slicked back tight to his head frowned. His longsword slapped audibly upon his hip about as loudly as his boots when he crossed the floor to the bar. He shoved glasses and bottles aside before he climbed up onto the surface, paying no mind to the bartender behind him.
"Bull-fucking-shit," the young warrior roared to the agreeing cheers of his drinking peers. "We've all heard your stories, Kurt! You're a fuckin' Element veteran! Shut your mouth with ale." His audience at the Four in Hand clapped and whistled, and though they seemed to be supporting him, the speaker stomped his foot upon the bar to bring them to silence. "I was at the docks when they collapsed! I heard one of those men with the survivors say it was the Elements! We might not know what happened, but we know who is to blame!"
"Oh, so you're the big swingin' dick here from hearsay?" the older man rose with his mug in hand. A hush fell over the crowd as they realized the merit of that statement, every pair of eyes glancing around as though unsure of whose side to take. "You weren't there! None of us were!"
"I was," Maxine's stern voice rose ominously in the tavern. She threw back her shot of rum while everyone stared. The only fact that seemed consistent across the early reports was that only women had been kidnapped and killed in the event. Given her haunted expression and poor shape, she certainly fit the bill of a survivor from the horrific happenings at the docks. "So if you want to stand here and defend those fucks for another trill, the next thing you'll be defending is your teeth from my fist."
”You mean to tell us that you..."
"Yeah, asshole. I was one of those women." She poured herself another shot. The Element veteran blinked while the young warrior atop the bar hopped down. He strode up to her side before snatching a chair beside him, spinning it around to sit next to her with his arms across its back. He studied her face while she took the second shot before daring to address her, the look on his face a thoughtful one.
"Tell them," he coaxed her softly, seeking her eyes. His arms spread to gesture to the whole of the bar. "They need to know. We all need to know." A murmur signaling a mass concur erupted gently.
"What happened to me is none of your fucking business. None of you." The young man was silent for a few moments.
He sat back and tapped his fingers upon the back of the chair, lips pursed. Then he scooped up her rum bottle to pour her another shot. He glanced about before leaning back in. "Listen," he reasoned with her, voice low for her ears alone. "If you don't tell the story, the truth? The only story out there will be the ones like his." He thumbed toward the Element veteran drinking his ale a couple tables over. He placed the rum bottle back on the table before her. "And if that happens? The people who did all this to you? They win." Max's clutch on her shot glass tightened along with her jaw. She turned her head to search his eyes.
"We were all having a good time at the party like everyone else," the Rusalka's words filled the bar though by the way she faced the man, it was as though her loud storytelling was meant for him alone. "Next thing I knew, I woke up in a sack on the back of a cart with my hands and feet bound. My weapon gone. My friend was stuffed in the other sack beside me. We managed to get free of our ropes, but by then we'd already been pitched down a deep hole in the ground. We hadn't a clue what was happening. We just knew it was something bad. It was worse than we thought." Curious listeners from the corners of the bar had eased their way in to hear her more clearly. The old veteran sat and listened, his expression careful. Max paused and licked her lips. After a couple trills of working up to the next bit and figuring out just what she wanted to say about it, she dove in.
"We weren't the only ones. When we moved down the tunnel, we found that other women had been kidnapped and tossed down just like us. There were eight of us in the large room where all the tunnels merged. A voice told us we had until the last candle burned, maybe fifteen bits, to do what came next." Another pause. She knew this was the part of the story where Lavana had murdered the Element secretary long before they knew what needed to be done. It had been in cold blood. Her friend's action and words had set the killing into motion. She had to protect her. "They forced us to kill each other until only four of us were left. They gave us no choice, told us if we didn't then we'd all die. Even after all that it wasn't over. They'd just fucking started with us." Her new tavern friend nudged a new shot toward her. She happily took it, letting the buzz dull the awkward sensation of being the center of attention. She took a deep breath. She hated spreading her business, but the dark-haired man had been right. They needed to know. They all needed to know.
"A door opened into a new set of rooms. Another choice. Masked Elements filled every single one like they were watching a play or some shit. Like our lives were their entertainment. It was a game of Choose Your Death. There was a room with a big, ugly pig in a sandstorm. Another had a big ass hole that was impossible to cross. The next was filled with fire that would manifest and disappear at any given time without warning. The last one, the one we chose, was a room filled with water and a Mer guarding the exit. Four of us went in while a wall of masked Water Elements just...watched."
Last edited by Max
on Sun Apr 15, 2018 3:58 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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By now half the tavern had congregated around Maxine. It wasn't that she was a good storyteller or that her tone was thrilling. For most of it she was as tense as her injured body. Her hands started to shake while she spoke. She wasn't sure whether that was because the anger that had laid dormant while she'd slept the trials after the order had resurfaced with the re-telling, or if it was adrenaline from reliving the horrors all over again.
"My friend broke the glass to drain the water throughout the room and rattle the Elements that had been watching from safety. The two others with us threw glass shards like knives to beat them back. We thought we just had to kill the Mer and we'd be through to the next room. That's when the leader of the masked Water Elements entered. A defier. My friend took on the Mer while I battled the Water Mask. It wasn't until my friend killed the Mer and pulled a dagger the creature had wedged into her chest out, that I stood a chance." Max slipped the blood-stained bone dagger from her pocket and place it on the table before her. She never released it though. Her fingers stayed locked around its handle as though afraid someone might snatch it from her grasp at the first opportunity. "She threw it to me. I stuck it in the fucker's neck. We went into the next room, and it was chaos. Other women had been kidnapped and left captive in this room as big as an amphitheater. There were hundreds of Elements, but like us, the women had broken free. The four of us joined in to kill as many of those masked cowards as we could...but they'd already sacrificed one woman with flames by the time we got there."
With one hand she did another shot of rum. The other gave the dagger a nervous spin upon the table. The man who had convinced her to speak in the first place gave her an encouraging nod. She sighed and leaned back in her chair. All that kept her lips moving was the need to control this narrative before the Elements and their allies wrenched the truth away, twisted it into something that protected the guilty and dishonored the survivors.
"We killed them. Against all odds, we killed them. We felt the building start to shake and we knew we had to go. There had been another defier though, the leader of the Earth Elements down there. Another masked asshole. I put a good hole in his throat with the dagger too, but when I was helping one of the other woman escape, it turned out the ground had protected him. He sent a stone spear up through my foot to trap me while the building started to come down. Others had to break the spearhead off so my foot could come off the shaft. Then there were explosions. Lots and lots of explosions. I was sure I was going to be trapped under there with the dead men I'd just killed moments before." Max smiled to herself. She took the dagger off the table and slipped it back in her pocket. Slowly, she shook her head. "But then my man came for me. He ran through, got me up where I'd fallen behind the others, and made sure I got out before everything came crashing down. Then, boom. The docks were gone. There was screaming...so much...screaming. The kind of wailing where someone is grieving, and you know there's nothing to be done? You know?"
The tavern audience need not struggle to understand what Max was describing. Many of them had been there, and it was clear in their teary eyes and quick chugs of alcohol. Property was the least of which was lost that day. Mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives had been cast down by the cultists to die in the dark. Yet while the kidnappings were discriminatory, the collapse of the docks was not. No gender, age, or race had been spared. Max guessed most of the loved ones lost hadn't yet been liberated from their rubble graves.
"So," one man in the back nervously started. "Did she live?" Max looked up to find the balding man among the others huddled in to hear what she had to say. Her brow furrowed.
"Did who survive?" she asked.
"You know," he licked his lips. "Your friend? The one who pulled the dagger out of her chest? Did she make it?"
"Yeah," Max relaxed a bit in her seat. The corner of her mouth twitched as though she might smile. "She lived." Lavana had been an idiot. A completely stupid, suicidal idiot for that stunt with the dagger that ended up saving Max's life. To this trial she didn't understand why the woman had done it. She didn't know what she would've done if her friend had done what she did and failed to live afterward. It was hard to imagine herself in a darker state than she was at the moment. Lavana's death certainly would've achieved something sinister beyond even Max's awareness.
She took a final shot and all but slammed the glass upon the table. She rose from her seat and settled her pair of crutches under her arms. Maxine's eyes bore into the Element veteran staring with mouth agape at her. "Make no mistake," she growled. "The Elements are to blame, and they all deserve to be punished for what they've done. If Scalvoris doesn't move first, they'll come to reap again."
Max crutched her way halfway to the door when the young man from earlier jogged up behind her. He moved ahead of her to get the door, a respectful smile upon his face. He placed a tentative hand upon her shoulder. "My name is Aidan," he introduced at last with a steely stare. "I lost my mother and the girl I loved that day. I promise, the day is coming when those Elements will pay. When it does come I hope to see you there with me." Max had nothing to offer Aidan but an approving nod. Then she crutched out the tavern, leaving the tavern-goers to ruminate over the crimes of the military once sworn to protect them. There was no hiding from it now. Scalvoris would know what the Elements really were, and if it took her the whole season to do it, she'd make sure the town brought the organization to its knees.