An Expedition

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Mads
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Re: An Expedition

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Layer after layer, Mads continued to mould his either around his eyes. He could feel the oppressive heaviness of air, even as he carefully altered their structures, the slight shimmer in front of him growing thicker, more occluded. Like a mirage, the air seemed to shift back and forth, hardening in spirals, in cross-hatches, in little dots and squares and triangles. Soon, his vision was entirely blurred, as if he had submerged his head entirely in water and turned to stare up at the bleary, shifting ceiling above him.

He felt no fear, no sense of the oppressive “wrongness” in the atmosphere. In the back of his mind a familiar, cautioning voice warned him that he was, in fact, in danger, even as he felt the cool, almost soothing chill of his spark gently eat away at the ether it continued to slowly burn through, allowing him his calm – his objective removal from the situation at hand a benefit he was wholly unaware of.

Graciana had not spent arc upon arc extolling the virtue of self-preservation and prudence in combat for him to turn a blind eye to such things now; but his curiosity, as ever, proved stronger than any vague sense of danger. To his disappointment, the gamble he had taken in not feeling immediately offered him little return. From the sound of it, back still turned as the last of his vision obscuring shielding was hardened into place, Quiet had struck the creature with his staff.

There was no scent of ether in the air – none but his own –, and he quietly chastised himself for expecting anything more. Whatever domain the man laid claim over, it was a humble stake at best. Had he been a defier of any talent, the creature would have been aflame, not doubled over as it seemed to be when he turned around, testing his spell and seeing merely vague swatches of colour and light. Perhaps his magic was more subtle, transformative or suggestive, but his interest in such things had already begun to fade – whatever abilities the man possessed, clearly, he imagined his staff the more powerful option.

Though he didn’t quite understand what it was Quiet meant to say, their shared language painfully clumsy between the two of them, “boy”, “Quacia”, and “help” were clear enough. “Eu acredito que ele quer que você corra, Cecilio.” His voice was casual, steady, unhampered.

He didn’t both to translate Quiet’s request for help. Two faceless Quacians and a limp-tonged foreigner so far from the protective burn of the city’s outer limits were hardly a cause for alarm among the Dragoons. They were too few and too proud to risk their lives for a band of brainless buffoons prancing about the vicious verdant valleys in hopes of playing hero. Or, in Mads’ case, an over-interest in magic – one that had proven to be quite unhealthy this particular trial. No, no. No one would be coming, and he didn’t need to say so to the boy for him to realize the same.

“O que devo fazer?” Cecilio’s voice quivered with both fear and frustration. His eyes stared wide at the ground as his little hands clenched white-knuckled over the handle of his grubby knife. “O que devo fazer?”

“Eu não sei o que você deve fazer. Mas se você sair agora, garanto-lhe que não encontraremos seu irmão.” It wasn’t so much a request that the boy remain as it was a passing acknowledgement of how things were to be. After all, the creature had their scents now. It would be unwise to return, even if all them did escape, for quite some time - if ever. There was no chance of locating a wounded or lost man now – not unless the child was to do it himself.

“Eu estou… Eu estou indo encontrá-lo.” Where before there had been uncertainty, there was nothing left but resolve. Even as he spoke, the boy took off, not toward the way they had come but deeper still into the valley. His footsteps fell light and near soundless as he retreated and had either man had the mind to try to stop him, it would have been as futile as catching the wind in their hands.

But there were far more pressing matters to worry about, even as Cecilio disappeared over the ridge beyond – most certainly not to return.

Though he had effectively hampered his sigh enough that he could make out no true details of the creature before them beyond its strange, alien body of gem-like blue, the still painfully bright light the emanated from its head forced him to squint, focusing as much as he was able upon what he assumed to be the beast’s abdomen, though it all looked about the same behind the pallor he’d cast over himself.

Many different thoughts, perhaps, should have gone through his mind in the moment he tightened his grip around the sticky handle of his newly found dagger’s pommel. He should have been frightened, but he didn’t really feel fear much at all anymore. He should have been concerned about the boy to whom he had offered no guidance, but he’d never felt concern over anyone but himself – and then only vaguely.

He should have been nervous. He should have fled. He should never have gone on the expedition in the first place. He should have, he should have, he should have… when the fact of the matter was there was only one thought that guided him forward with quick and certain steps, forearm placed over his throat to placate the nursery rhyme’s warning, his dagger held with its tip pointed downward and blade toward his body, ready to be plunged into whatever part of the creature’s substantial body he could manage:

Do nightmares bleed?

In the next moment, he was stumbling backwards, knocked off balance by the sheer force of the creature’s surprisingly swift retaliation, eye blinking uncomprehendingly as he felt several of his protective layers shatter into nothingness almost immediately. It was clear, though he could not see it, that the beast possessed a claw – or claws – of a sort, something he’d not stopped to consider. In hindsight, as he managed to centre his weight with a soft grunt, hand thoughtfully squeezing his dagger’s pommel, he chastised himself for his haste. The little voice in the back of his head grew a bit louder – just because it was large and slow didn’t make it any less dangerous.

Without a word, he tried a second time. Where before he had treated the mass of cerulean as a single entity, he focused closely on the swath nearest to him – the arm, as his shed layers of ether had found out the hard way. When it moved, he was better prepared, though as before, it was far faster than what one might expect from something with so lugubrious a gait. Rather than attempting to dodge the strike entirely, Mads instead shifted his body, allowing the bladed claw to slice along his stomach, where it most certainly would have cut a neat line directly across him out of which his entrails would have easily slithered out onto the ground in a steaming mess.

Instead, several more of the protective layers of air were torn apart, leaving him unscathed and uncomfortably close to the creature. If it was surprised, it didn’t make a sound nor did it flinch, even as the dagger was driven into the side of what Mads presumed to be its neck. Close as he was, the light was truly blinding, even through his protective layers of replicated air, and the moment he felt the dagger sink halfway into the flesh – if it were flesh at all – he yanked on the pommel and reeled backwards, his arm that had been guarding his neck flailing outward to keep his balance.

If the creature’s claws had been quick, whatever it was that struck him next – and truly struck him – was comparable that of a flash of lighting. He felt the unmistakable, though distant, sting of something break the soft skin of his throat, but only just so; the remainder of his shields shattered under piercing force, including those which obscured his vision, forcing him to look away and toward the ground as he stumbled backwards.

It was only once he had regained his balance, blinking wildly, still slightly disoriented from the sheer brilliance of the creatures other-worldly light, that he realized he no longer held the dagger. “Droga.”

Quickly running the tips of his fingers over where the creature had managed to break through his ether armour when he withdrew them he knew exactly the expression he was meant to wear: a very worried frown. It had drawn blood, though while he experienced pain in a far less visceral sense than most others, even he knew it wasn’t serious enough to warrant panic. That it had broken through all of his protective barriers with almost no effort at all, however, was concerning.

Curiosity ever overriding his sense of caution, he chanced a brief, squinting glance at the creature, but there was only the blinding light. He couldn’t tell if there was blood, if the creature had been wounded or impaired at all, but he could feel a nebulous desire rise up in the pit of his stomach that, perhaps, he should take a closer look, similar to the uncomfortable, invasive domain of empathy.

The little voice in the back of his head was no longer so little, and he could Graciana’s stern tone, the especially cold and stony lilt that meant she was as serious as death.

Get out.

At last, curiosity fell to caution. As casually as ever, Mads waved a blood-tipped fingered hand at the dark-skinned foreigner. The boy was gone; there was no sign of any survivors, not that they’d had much of a chance to search for them, and whatever magic Quiet possessed seemed to be too weak to be of use. There was nothing interesting left for him there – with the exception of the creature, who had proven to be far more dangerous than it was worth.

“Okay. Bye bye.”

With that, he turned and hastened down the path, back toward the city, his gait hurried but not quite a run, ether already slipping out and around him, a second spell to replace the shelled layers he’d lost. He could quite clearly feel the drain upon his ether this time, but he continued, carefully shaping and hardening the ether around him to the steady beat of his boots against the ground. All the while, he scanned the quiet, hissing grasses around him.

He had no plans to die that trial.
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Quiet
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Re: An Expedition

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Signing
"Signing while speaking"
"Speaking"

He had struggled.

The boy had run off and Quiet hadn’t the ability to stop him. If he had left to run after Cecilio, the beast would have taken Mads.

So he kept fighting, if he could even call it that.

He delivered blow after blow, doing everything he could to keep the beast from reaching his compatriots, attempting to keep the thing at bay.

When Mads had left, Quiet knew that he had been condemned to finish the fight alone. He had lost track of how much time he spent fighting to ensure his own safety. He had lost track of how much time he had spent sitting, attempting to meditate, mourning his choices that trial.

He sat, now, battered and tired, collapsed on his knees, breath sharp and quick.

In front of him, the lifeless body of a beast undefined, a concave mark beaten into the back of its skull. Its face lied in dirt, its talon outstretched towards where Quiet sat.

Quiet’s quarterstaff rested loosely in his hand, and he could already begin to feel the blisters forming on his palm.

For a moment, Quiet considered going after Cecilio, but he had learned his lesson of the Quacian wilds. It was ruthless, and actively thirsted for violence.

And Quiet was weak from its influence.

He wouldn’t be able to survive going farther.

He stood, breath ragged, and took the arm of the deceased man in the cart, pulling him from the ledge and slinging him over his shoulder, holding onto his leg with his other arm. Delicately, he grabbed his staff, sliding it under the corpse and holding it across his shoulders.

With that, he began the trek back to Quacia.

Quiet, mournful, and alone.
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Re: An Expedition

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Mads
XP: 15
Knowledge:
Abrogation: Replicative Vision Occlusion
Acrobatics: Regaining One’s Balance
Acrobatics: Sidestep
Acrobatics: Arms Out to Maintain Balance
Detection: Don’t Immediately Jump to Conclusions
Detection: Determining If One Can Understand a Foreign Language
Detection: The Wounds Inflicted by a Fracker
Detection: Examining a Wound for Tampering
Detection: The Sound of a Staff Striking Flesh
Detection: The Nature of a Weapon By How Quickly It Shreds Replicative Armor


Loot: Your Life is its own reward.
Injuries/Overstepping: Bruises. Minor Overstepping. Dizziness and Nausea for the next Six Trials.
Renown: +10 for Being On a Search Party.
Magic EXP: Yes. Abrogation. Expert Level Up Confirmed.

Quiet
XP: 15
Knowledge:
Defiance: Assist Your Swing
Defiance: When the Air Turns Sour
Defiance: The Natural Order
Defiance: Disgust of the Eldritch
Defiance: Whoosh
Meditation: Reflecting on Your Decisions
Meditation: Morality of a Just Killing
Meditation: Fatigue
Meditation: To Be Without Thought
Meditation: Regret
Polearm (Quarterstaff): Boom! Headshot! +50

Loot: A useless lifeless Corpse. You could probably sell it for twenty GN, if you'd like.

Injuries/Overstepping: Blisters upon your Hands, Bruises upon your body. Nothing severe. There will be acute dark spots on your vision for the next three Trials.
Renown: +10 for Being On a Search Party
Magic EXP: Yes. Defiance. Competent Level Up Granted



Comments: Altogether an exciting and enjoyable read. I particularly enjoyed the little rhyme and poetry that Mads implemented, and while I'll admit that having to Google Translate all of the Vahanic parts was a tad inconvenient, it actually did add quite a bit to the atmosphere. I do sincerely hope that you enjoyed getting to meet one of Quacia's eldritch terrors, and I look forward to implementing more of my sick creations in the future. :twisted:

Not that you'd mind... you people totally left a kid to die. Hope that never comes back to bite you. :roll:
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