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Sephira
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Whose Side Are You On? (Max)

Thu Dec 13, 2018 7:41 pm

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80 Vhalar 718, Night
She felt cold inside.

There was an emptiness there, a hollowness that could not be erased.


Betrayal....disappointment...self loathing. These emotions rolled through her like the north wind on an icy Cylus night.

Sephira’s jaw clenched and for a moment she winced. There was a dark purple bruise decorating the side of her face. It was one of many that dotted her body after her tireless crusade to find Rey’na these last several trials. The mage had left a trail of bodies in her wake in her fruitless search for her comrade and friend. The thin, slender woman lacked the poise and disciplined aesthetic that she normally worked so hard to maintain. Her hair was disheveled and her eyes were bloodshot.

Sephira sat in the dark within the top floor of the abandoned butchers’ shop that she had chosen for their latest base of operations. With the Mantis on their tails they never stayed anywhere for long.

A little under a break ago she had silenced the draw of ether that fed her scrying portal. Her time was often spent scrying for Rey’na in the hope to catching another clue as to her whereabouts.

To-trial she had indeed seen something that had gleaned new information...something horrible and beyond even her imagining.

Sephira’s breathing came in ragged gasps, and her body shuddering as she pushed her fingers through her tangled knots of hair. For some reason she couldn’t quite get her breath under control.

So this was how it was.

This was how Max finally slid that last and final knife into her back.

It hurt and shook the woman to her very core. Maxine had always been hard to deal with. She had always been a bit of a bitch and they had always nursed a loathing for each other’s choices in life. But that had never changed the fact that in the end they had once been friends. They had once fought side by side; back to back against the bastards of the world who were stupid enough to try and come at them.

In a way the soldier and the convict were two of a kind. They both hid their true selves behind masks.. Emotions were a weakness and they could shed them like a coat on a warm afternoon. Apathy was their armor, it protected them and the people they gave a damn about.

Everything had changed after Cylus and the Elements Cult. Maxine had taken it upon herself to hunt down every male Element she could get her hands on and Sephira had been given orders to bring the woman in for the murders she committed. Perhaps she had rationalized the arrest in her mind. That in apprehending Max she had protected her from further harm at the hands of less forgiving Elements. Or maybe that was just the lie she told herself so she could sleep at night...

Slags Deep was certainly no mercy, she had seen how skeletal and sickly Maxine had become following her incarceration. Maybe it would have been best if she had let another Element do her job. Max would not have come quietly, they would have hunted her like an animal. Maybe she would be dead now, or maybe halfway across the world instead of here in Andaris.

Kura you chose the wrong team. One backstabbing convict, one soldier incapable of keeping her team alive and a woman with too much mercy for her own good.

They shouldn’t be here. There was a chance that the portal stone wouldn’t even save Scalvoris. Sephira and her “team” were here on the basis of a mere hypothesis.

But it didn’t matter, none of it mattered. Not anymore.

The mage slowly came to her feet, her body aching as she came to stand. Her onyx eyes stung with a dampness that she shoved to the very back of her mind. Wyvern’s hilt came to rest in her hand. She squeezed the cool metal surface for a modicum of comfort. The futile gesture did little so the soldier numbly sent ether spilling into her Attunement Spark and drew forth Maxine’s Frequency within her mind.

The Special Assistant drew the hood of her cloak over her head to obscure her obsidian eyes and began channeling Static to cover her etheric signature.

There was a storm outside, the distant booming of thunder rippled across the noble infested city.

Good. - The sound of a storm always helped to cover her use of Rupturing and she had no intention of waiting any longer to find Maxine.

The use of Compass came easily to her and within a few bits the mage had a fairly good idea of where her tratorious teammate was.


Cracks of thunder reverberated through the muddied streets of low-town. The poor mingled here with the criminals and unwanted within the city. Across the street from the Blacksmith Arms stood a cheap flat roofed eatery. Hidden by the darkness following the setting sun stood an almost inhumanly thin figure in a cloak who looked down on the dilapidated entrance to the tavern below.

Sephira could feel Max’s Frequency clearly now. She was close, and was more than likely trying to drink herself under the table, as always seemed to be her custom after the sun went down. Indigo flashes of lightning lanced across the city skyline followed by a tremor of thunder.

Sephira opened her Blink portal in that same moment, the scarlet flare of light happening so quickly that it was mostly consumed by the flare of lightning in the distance. Her Spark fed off her emotions, funneling her fury into her portal in the form of an ear shattering boom that caused the walls of the tavern to tremble slightly. Hopefully to the untrained ear it would only would like a particularly loud batch of thunder. To to someone familiar with Sephira, it may as well have been announcing her arrival like the chiming of a doorbell.

The Special Assistant emerged out of the dark within the umbral haze of the adjacent alleyway before slipping through the door of the Blacksmith Arms. She was cold, damp and and in no mood to piss around with the convict seated at the back of the building.

She wanted answers, if Max didn’t give them freely then the Sephira had no idea how far she would go or if she would have the strength to stop herself from doing something unforgivable.

Her footsteps fell heavily as she strode toward Max with a desperate and merciless look in her night black eyes.

“You bitch...” The Element snarled, while rounding on the booth at the rear of the room.

“Did you think I was blind?” Her red bloodshot eyes narrowed as she came within a few steps of the traitor.

“Where the fuck is she Max?!” Wyvern was in hand and half drawn; not so different than when the resident of Slag’s Deep had first appeared on Kura’s doorstep.
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Last edited by Sephira on Mon Dec 17, 2018 9:35 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1201
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Re: Whose Side are You On? (Max)

Thu Dec 13, 2018 11:44 pm

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Why won't you just fucking go away?

Another flash of a recent memory flared across Maxine's menacing mindscape. She could see the eyes as if they were still fixated upon her, feel the terror and the anguish conveyed in their troubled widening before the horrors truly began. The ex-convict blinked the vision away as she approached her favorite booth, the further back, within the Blacksmith Arms. The shady tavern had become a favorite haunt of the mage hunter. It was dark and quiet most of the time. Unsavory characters flitted in and out throughout any given night, making deals and conspiring over mugs of ale. It was a place where few dignified entities ventured and even fewer asked questions of the occupants within.

Here she could be left alone, bothered neither with the future of Scalvoris or the cause of the Order of the Mantis. The unassuming spot in the darkest corner of the room had become a sort of sanctuary. It was in this spot she chose to hide herself away in immediate company of none but her vices. A place to be left alone. To drink, to smoke until she forgot the unforgivable thing she'd just had to do.

A crack of thunder outside arrived in time with the agonized scream that bounced between Maxine's ears. Her left leg bounced beneath the table. She snatched the bottle of rum in front of her by the neck, hastily filling her shot glass with a furrowed brow before throwing it back. Maxine was no mage. She had a loose understanding, but she didn't really grasp the relationship between a mage and their Spark. Members of the Mantis referred to the bond as parasitic. To them, it was a corrosive entity that rotted its host from the inside out, wreaking havoc upon all those it could influence through its victim.

Biases aside, Max had at least gathered the intimacy between a Spark and a mage. For all intents and purposes they were one being joined at the soul. After a time, one could simply not be without the other. To destroy that bond would be as dangerous as it was agonizing for the victim. The more gifted the mage, the stronger the bond, and thus the more fatal the parting. The process was perhaps something which could be equated to death by a mage of any level. The Mantis had clung to this revelation with sinister purpose, utilizing it to "purify" mages in Rynmere when simple executions proved too final for their taste. It was this cruelty Rebekah had challenged her to partake in to prove her loyalty to the Order: the tearing of a Spark from a mage's soul. Rey'na's soul.

Another vivid flash from what she'd done mere breaks ago assaulted her consciousness again. Cursing, she shoved the shot aside in favor of the whole damn bottle to her lips. The burn of alcohol sliding down her throat did nothing to rival the moral compunction she could neither drown or shake. The mage hunter put the bottle down and ran her hands down her face. The next bout of thunder came from the storm waging outside the tavern, but it was far different from the ones which preceded it. Maxine raised her head at the shake of the building. Her eyes tightened as they trained themselves upon the tavern door. She knew the sound of that tell-tale boom anywhere.

The slender silhouette of a very familiar, very pissed off Rupturer stormed into view, the thunderous foot falls on a direct path to the ex-convict's subtle drinking spot. The ex-convict leaned back in her booth in the face of the violence of the entrance. Special Assistant Sephira Blackwood was a determined, disciplined soldier in the Element ranks of Scalvoris. Everywhere she went, she went with a poise and command befitting someone of her rank and reputation. The furious woman snarling at her now emerged with none of the grace Maxine had come to expect. A brow cocked, the surprise was written plainly on the ex-convict's face. Her caramel eyes searched Sephira's bruised visage and bloodshot eyes before the mask hardened.

"What the fuck are you talking about?" the marked woman deflected defensively. "Sit down before you do something stupid. Like piss me off."

Or make a scene.

When the shock of Sephira's whirlwind confrontation initially wore off, the ex-convict actually took the trill to think about the words thrown in her face. At first she said nothing more. Instead the Rusalka focused her mind on the intensity of the Special Assistant's spite. It didn't take long for her ability to strike her with the answer she dreaded. She took a long pull from the bottle before pressing her lips into a hard line.

She knows.

Maxine dropped her eyes from the woman's angry expression to discover the saber half-drawn from its sheath. She adjusted her jaw, caramel eyes visibly darkening as an indignant rage of her own rose in her chest. In a trill she was up out of her seat to stand practically toe-to-toe with the woman Kura had charged with leadership. Scoffing, Maxine looked the woman up and down with a curled lip.

"If you're going to pull that shit on me, you better be pulling it to use," she growled, animosity reaching the same level as Sephira's. Another look up and down the woman and she'd had enough. The marked woman snatched her bottle from the table before knocking her shoulder into the Special Assistant's on her way through. The proprietor of the tavern had noticed the flash of steel and had been hustling in their direction when the ex-convict met him half-way.

"We're using your back room. If anyone so much as puts their ear to the door, I'll repaint your tavern a color you won't like." Rufus went slack-jaw to protest, but the coin pressed into his hand silenced any thoughts of the sort. The marked woman didn't need to throw a dagger-like glare over her shoulder to bait the Special Assistant. Sephira seemed angry enough not to stay her blade a second time. The ex-convict had every reason to believe the Element would be all too happy to follow her into a place with far fewer eyes and ears.

Once within the lesser known depths of the Blacksmith Arms, Maxine spun around with wild eyes to face the Special Assistant. The single room wasn't anything special. A couple shelves of bottles and extra furnishing lined the walls, but for the most part, it was as empty as it was private.

"Are you out of your fucking mind, Blackwood?!" she snarled harshly, voice above a hiss now that they were largely out of earshot. "She's gone. You're not going to find her. Let it fucking go. Before you're next." Her right foot dropped back half a step. Right now, Sephira was uncharacteristically unpredictable. If she came looking for a fight, Maxine would have no qualms at quickly obliging her in kind.

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Re: Whose Side are You On? (Max)

Mon Dec 17, 2018 9:33 pm

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“Do not tempt me traitor.” The soldier snarled lowly with a dangerous and ugly edge to her voice when Maxine dared her to pull the sword on her. There was something very...unhinged about the woman. This was a side of her that the ex-convict had never seen before. Sephira rarely ever sunk down to this level, allowing her emotions to hold sway. Perhaps for a trill, she wondered herself if she would be able to stop herself from taking that first swing at the other woman.

It was a good thing that Max was the logical one that night. She broke off eye contact before the situation could unravel further, grabbing her drink and retreating into the backroom of the Blacksmith Arms.

Sephira followed, her obsidian eyes fixed on Max’s back as she entered the small storage room behind the rear booths. Somewhere in the back of her mind the soldier within her whispered a feeble warning.

If she did betray you...she’s taking you into close quarters...she’ll have the advantage.

That voice that was normally at the forefront of her mind was silenced with a mere flicker of anger. In that moment Sephira didn’t care about logic or tactics.

Some small part of her had to know if the ex-con really had betrayed them.....betrayed her. Even if that meant walking into what might be a death trap.

The bottles on the shelves shuddered as the soldier slammed the door shut behind them.

It took ever modicum of control she had left to stay silent when Max turned around on her to ask if she had lost her sanity. Sephira just stared at her wordlessly until she finished shouting.

There was a pause between them, it was perhaps only a few trills or maybe before before she spoke. Her voice was devoid of all emotion and bearing a frigid edge. Night black eyes were leveled at the other woman.

“Do you know what happens when you remove a Spark?” The Special Assistant hissed with a choked, almost hysterical laugh. She lifted her left hand and tugged on the fabric of reality around her fingers. Scarlet arcs of light cascaded around the digits before being silenced by the closing of her fist.

“It is a part of us, a part of our soul. When you remove it, a piece of the soul can be taken out with it. That is if it doesn't kill us outright.”

The fire seemed to returned to her face, the anger and disgust. But there was hurt there as well.

“If she survives then she won’t be who she was. That Rey that we knew is gone now...because of you.” The condemnation spilled from her lips without refrain or mercy. Whether or not Max would ever know it, Sephira blamed herself more than anyone for the young Element’s fate. She had offered to bring her on this mission and she had sent her running into the Mantis’s grasp after their argument.

“You know, I know you hate me. I know you fucking hate who I am and the choices I’ve made.” Sephira swore hotly as she advanced toward Maxine with rage brimming in her eyes. The brunette paused only a step or two away. Her Rupturing Spark crackled within her with the fury that soared through her veins, causing her witchmark to flicker within her eyes. The flecks of red light danced across what once would have been her visible irises.

“You hate that I stayed with the Elements after the cult took us. You hate that I chose them and their orders over you at the riot!” Her voice cracked as she struggled to continue.

Everything was coming out now, all the unspoken things that the two women had left unsaid for seasons upon seasons.

“What I don’t know is...” The Element hissed, her voice strained with a mixture of emotions.

Hate, fear, anger, and hurt they were all there.

“Why...why join the Mantis? Why did you have to take her Spark?” Her fervor had weakened and her voice broke as that same dampness from earlier stung at the corners of her eyes.

“I scryed you, I saw everything.” The Rupturer said with a hollow voice. “I watched you stand there with them and rip it out of her.” As the truth of how she knew of Max's treachery fell from her lips Sephira could only hear a single empty thought ripping through her mind. Max may have sinned but the Special Assistant was not without her own failings. Max had joined the Mantis, Rey was captured, tortured and sparkless....and Sephira had not been able to stop any of it.


I was supposed to keep us together, I was supposed to keep them safe.





I failed.

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Re: Whose Side Are You On? (Max)

Wed Dec 19, 2018 12:20 am

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There that scathing accusation came again.

Traitor.

It was just as sharp a dig as when Rey'na had said it to her before the spark removal began. She could feel the heat of Sephira's anger on her person for the duration of the short walk into the Blacksmith Arms' back room. The door slammed with dramatic flourish, and with no more prying eyes and ears to police them, the long overdue confrontation took hold.

Maxine's eyes narrowed at the Special Assistant's initial question, watching the small bursts of bright light appear and then strangle out of existence in the mage's fist. It seemed self explanatory for one not currently playing host to a Spark. The way it was briefed to her suggested it merely the reaping of magic from a mage. It was a horrific process, that much Maxine understood all too well. However, the more emotional the Element became as she clarified the specifics of the unforgivable thing the ex-convict had done, the quicker indignation drained from her eyes and blood from her face.

The screams. The writhing. The expression of agony on the captured Abrogation mage's face. It didn't amount only to the tearing of the Spark free. It was the dismantling of Rey'na as Maxine had known her, twisting and corrupting away aspects of her own teammate. They'd shattered and broken her to take what the Order regarded as an impure hindrance to their agenda. Then, without a care or a thought for what they've accomplished, they'd left her, missing some of her pieces, in that cold, dark dungeon cell. The unbearable, stomach-dropping guilt began to swirl within her chest. Maxine clutched the neck of her bottle.

No. You know why you did what you did. Live with it now.

Just as quickly as Sephira berated her for the torture, she pivoted into a conversation far more personal between them. The mask of ire returned to Maxine's face. She took a long pull from the bottle as the Rupturer advanced. Her free hand balled into a tight fist, lip curling at the very mention of root of the resentment between them. Yet the anger was as much her armor as it was a veil over Sephira's biting words. She felt a wall crack in time with the Special Assistant's accusing voice, fingernails digging into her palms when she spotted the pooling in those angry, red-flecked black eyes. A tightness grew in her own throat.

No.

One quick drink of rum and she warded the break away with a violent smash of the glass bottle against the nearby wall. The foot or two separating them was a dangerously short distance. Fury. Betrayal. Bitterness. It all radiated violently between them in this room too small to contain seasons of what had remained unsaid for so long. To-trial it would have to do.

"I don’t just hate you for being an Element and choosing the enemy over me," Maxine admitted darkly, closed fists shaking with restraint at her sides. "I hate you because you made me choose between my freedom and killing you. For the second time I chose you, and I paid for it. What you did to me that trial at the riot? Was it really much worse than what I just did to Rey’na? You didn’t just put me in shackles, Blackwood. You sent me to what you and Kura knew was my death." She exhaled a vexed, hollow laugh through her nostrils and shook her head. "You must’ve heard the stories...the rumors of what happens to people who go to Level Seven. I could see by the look on your face when I showed up at Kura’s what I already knew: that you never thought you’d see me come out of that pit alive. You were half right. Sometimes I don’t think I ever left.”

Maxine adjusted her jaw and eyed the Special Assistant with nothing short of contempt. Scrying. That was something the ex-convict never accounted for. Somehow Sephira evidently possessed the unique ability to spy on her with a deftness that struck lying from her short list of options. Rather than allow the revelation the woman had watched and listened to the terrible things that Maxine was a part of at the Mantis blacksite, she willed the anger always resting in her bones to swallow the threat of remorse. Sephira wanted answers? Fine. She'd get some.

"I didn't come here to help you on your little suicide mission for Scalvoris," Maxine confessed with steady, dark eyes. "I took you for the free ride to Rynmere. I got my lead on Earth Mask. I knew he was here. I learned his name. I tracked him down and I faced him alone because I couldn't trust you." She could still see his face in her mind. Not the mask, but his true face. She could still feel what it was like to put her knuckles through his cheekbones over and over and over. "The Order of the Mantis showed up at the end and dragged us both off. You want to know why I joined them? They gave me what you and Kura were supposed to. In exchange for a grey cloak, Francis Higglebottom was mine to burn."

Her gaze refocused upon Sephira. Her eye contact was as unwavering as it was abyssal. There were more secrets and guarded realities to spill. There was so very much the Special Assistant did not know even with scrying talent. Yet there was one more truth Maxine wished to wield like a sword. A bastardization of the truth, but a truth nonetheless. And when she spoke it, she willed her Chrien-given ability to fan the flames of spite that Sephira already wore on her sleeve.

"No one forced me to help the Mantis rip Rey'na's Spark from her soul," Maxine said as though only a void rested in her chest where a beating, compassionate heart should have. "I chose to. I had to. And I'd do it again."
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Re: Whose Side Are You On? (Max)

Wed Jan 02, 2019 5:57 pm

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Glass shattered. The sound was sharp and split the heated air between the two women like a razor sharp blast of Cylus air. The bottle Maxine had shattered against the wall leaked droplets of foul smelling rum to the refuse littered floor of the room.

She spoke and Sephira saw the ire in the Marked woman’s eyes. The unspoken friction between them had been there for a long time. Somehow they remained as both friends and enemies for this long, but this was where they had reached their breaking point.

The Special Assistant would have never guessed that Rey’na would have been the reason for this eventual confrontation but now the deed was done. Their teammate was now entombed in a Mantis dungeon, her Spark ripped from her and her very soul torn apart.

Maxine’s words lashed against the mage like whitewater against a rocky shore. They stung, admittedly but she didn’t let an ounce of her show on her icy visage.

Then the topic of the riot came up again and heat flared within her veins and her entire body tensed. It had taken everything she had to arrest Maxine that trial. The Special Assistant had even spoken in her defense at the impromptu trial, as had Kura. Maxine had done a terrible thing but she had done it because of the actions of terrible men. The ex-convict had even defended Element's Hall on the night of an attack. Her character was not without flaws, but neither was it without value. The Rusalka had been afraid and angry because of what had happened to her. Sephira understood those emotions better than most. After that Cylus night she had become terrified of herself after causing the collapse of the docks during the fight against the Element's cult. Both she and Maxine had been changed by those events and put on very different paths.

“You know what you problem is Max?” she snarled at the caramel eyed Rusalka. “You never could figure out who the real enemy was. I honestly don't think you care to know. You just lash out at the first thing that looks like a threat.” The mage bristled, sucking in a breath.

“Those men failed the Elements, and they were hunted down for their crimes. You and I, we stopped them that night before they could do something worse.” Sephira’s voice grew low and a hint of pity snaked into her voice.

“Then Earth Mask hurt you and he got away, I’m sorry about that, truly . ” Then her voice hardened and a cold fire returned to her dark alien gaze.

“You were afraid of him, and you let it control you. So you started killing, you started that riot. You made the choice.” Black eyes flickered up, some of the old Sephira was still there. There was logic and restraint in her words even if she kept replaying the memory in her head of Max helping the mage hunters tear Rey’na’s soul apart.

“It killed me to turn my sword on you, it took everything I had to arrest you.” Regret seeped into her words but there was still an iron hard edge to her voice.

“I knew that if they didn’t kill you, that they would send you to that place. I knew, and I sent you there anyway. Because you were wrong.” Condemnation coated her words before she fell silent and Maxine continued, explaining in detail exactly why she had joined the Mantis.

The Special Assistant stood there in silence as the other woman defended her actions. Explaining that Earth Mask had fled to Rynmere and that Max had used their mission as a means to hunt him. She never had stopped wanting to kill him even after all this time.

For a handful of trills neither of them spoke and there was an uneasy quiet between them. The corner of Sephira’s lips twitched as she narrowed her pitch black eyes. The words can came next were chosen with care, and launched like a dagger at the woman.

“Was it worth it? Did you even feel anything when he was finally gone?” A knowing glance passed over the dark haired form of the Marked woman. There was anger there in her expression, and it burned like quietly glimmering coals. It was held back for that single moment as the question fell into the emptiness between them.

She didn’t care if she got an answer out of Max, she already knew the answer.

Maybe she would have walked away right then, had not the next few words spilled from Maxine’s throat. Emotions flared, even her Rupturing Spark twitched uncomfortably at the shift as unspoken spite bubbled to the surface. She had witnessed the Spark removal herself, she had seen Max’s hesitation, she had watched the lying bitch shoulder Rey’s weight as the poor girl slumped against the wall.

In that trill Sephira had nearly turned to leave, intent to find Rey on her own, but the motion swiftly turned as her right arm flexed back, her gloved fingers balling into a tight narrow fist as she hurled her weight into a swing at Maxine’s sneering face. The movement lacked the precision and expertise of a well timed saber slice. Not only was she only barely versed in the ways of unarmed combat, but the mage was totally and completely unhinged.

“Liar!” The Special Assistant howled wrathfully, not caring for a trill that she had utterly lost what small amount of restraint she had been clinging to.
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Re: Whose Side Are You On? (Max)

Fri Jan 04, 2019 1:59 am

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Most people who tried telling Maxine about herself didn't last too long. Little Finn had played that treacherous game in Rharne, bastardizing reality to get an easy rise out of her. He got what he wanted and probably more than he bargained for. If not for the Special Assistant, the ex-convict wasn't sure how much she would've left of the boy to drag behind them through that wretched bog. Especially after he wielded magic against her.

Finn was a child for most of the arcs Maxine had known him. In her eyes he remained that wide-eyed, petulant little boy hiding behind Zipper. Sephira was different. She wasn't a loud-mouthed drunk or an arrogant dick at the card table. Despite her status as an Element, Maxine regarded her as someone on her playing field. Someone she might even be accused of respecting. Perhaps that was why she was still standing. Perhaps, at times, the accusations she weaponized were even a painful truth. Ironic, too. With tensions this high and that look in her eye, Sephira looked exactly the part of a threat.

It seemed the events leading up to her incarceration were something the women would never agree upon. The Special Assistant would never see how married the Elements were to the cultists as she did. She'd never understand the need to root Earth Mask out of hiding or appreciate how efficient the riot had almost been to accomplish that end. In kind, Max would deny the hope Sephira held out for her comrades to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of corruption. She would not admit fault. No one would ever hear Maxine speak aloud the fear one man instilled in her, because she refused to acknowledge her actions as the product of fear and desperation they were. It was easier for one to stand fast and demonize the other.

She could still remember how heavy her gladius felt in her hand when she raised it to meet Sephira's saber in Scalvoris Town. Fight or surrender. The choice had been simple, and one of those options had always been out of the question for the belligerent, stubborn criminal. Her arm would not swing that sword. Like a sharp howl of wintry wind, the flame of her resistance had been inexplicably snuffed when the time to make a decision came. Max hadn't wanted to stand opposite the woman on the battlefield again any more than Sephira had wanted to be the one to put her in shackles.

Any disarming emotion she might've initially felt when her leader voiced that reality was strangled by the ire that raised when Sephira finally admitted what she'd always known. Maxine remained rooted firmly in place with eyes ablaze. Silence had been her reply to Sephira's smug, rhetorical question. After all, the Special Assistant already intuitively knew of the void that could not be filled or satiated with revenge. But, as she'd prove in just a trill, the process was a temporary catharsis all the same.

The Element was something to behold with that saber in her hand, but the same couldn't be said for her stand-up game. Maxine saw the swing coming from a mile away from the amateur fighter. Saw the arm cock back, the fingers curl tight, and the punch broadcasted by Sephira's emotional over-commitment to the attack long before she felt the knuckles hit her face. The traitor's head turned with the strike, right foot dropping back to compensate for the force wielded against her. The familiar taste of iron dripped onto her tongue. Slowly Maxine swiveled her face back to find Sephira, that fury ever-present in her eyes evolved into a hollow, bloodlusting, thousand-yard glare. Her thumb rose to swipe the stream of blood dribbling from her bottom lip. She brought the stained digit to her lips and sucked the blood from it.

About fucking time.

Maxine stormed forward with all the practiced precision of a woman who'd learned to fight by first taking beatings her whole life. Her left hand rose toward Sephira's face, but not lightning-quick jab came to punish her. Instead an irritating acid shot from the opened palm toward the Special Assistant's eyes, and then a strong overhand cross soared mercilessly toward the Element's chin to return the favor dealt. It was no ordinary straight. With the gloves on her clenched fist activated, Sephira would quickly discover just what purpose they served should the hit land and her connection to her Sparks temporarily severed.

"A liar?" Maxine growled with wild eyes. "I've been many things, but a liar? To you?" Her follow-up to a basic counter could've continued with a merciless rain of fists. Instead she immediately sought to capitalize any advantage she might've earned had her strike landed. Grasping the woman by the collar, the ex-convict would merely throw her leader over her hip, pinning her to the ground. A flinch and a flash of steel would be her only clue before the dagger was braced to her throat.

"After I got what I wanted, I didn't need the Mantis anymore. I stayed because after Rey'na exposed us, they were hunting you two. I stayed so I could stay ahead of them and find you first. When I found out they had Rey'na, when I found out what they were going to do to her, I did the math. I couldn't get her out. All I'd have done by trying and failing was give up the only advantage I had from the inside. I regret nothing. You know why?" Her grip on the dagger tightened along with her eyes. Her bruised jaw clenched, muscles tightening as though she were trying to work up to something. With a snarl she raised her dagger high and plunged it downward, burying the point in the wooden floorboard beside Sephira's ear.

"Because for some fucking reason I'm still protecting you," Maxine's voice softened despite the thread of frustration woven in her words, eyes softening as she straightened up and gestured to the dagger. "I still can't do it." She liberated the dagger from the floor and sat back with her elbows resting on her knees, liberating the Element from her position of control. "They made me take Rey's Spark because they're planning to use her against you. They're going to torture and manipulate her until she belongs to them, not us. If she's gone like you say...like what I saw...she's already lost. She's bait for you to walk into a trap. She's a sleeper cell if they let her out to get you with your guard down. We can't trust her anymore." Max ran her fingers through her hair, a rare glimmer of unadulterated distress in her expression as she steadied her gaze on Sephira. No more anger. No more deception. Just this once, Maxine too let her mask slip. The dagger dropped from her fingers, clattering weakly between them.

"I won't tell you where she is, I won't help you get her out. Because I'm not going to let them kill you."

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Re: Whose Side Are You On? (Max)

Fri Jan 04, 2019 7:35 pm

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She had to admit. It felt good to punch that smug, insolent face for the first time. There was something so satisfying about it that no flurry of heated words could ever provide. In the past she had always restrained herself, always held back her worst instincts. That discipline had always been a part of who she was, it was how she survived.

Now all of that was stripped away. Unspeakable acts had been carried out against one of her few friends and fellow Element. Even with the ability to rend reality Sephira had been unable to find the kidnapped and tortured soldier.

Desperation had plunged her further and further toward madness. She was standing at the edge of a yawning abyss and Maxine had been there waiting for her.

Typical.

A bright stain of scarlet flecked the marked woman’s lips as the mage began to step back, catching the shift in stance that rolled through the ex-con’s body. She may have seen it coming but she was too slow, her body took fraught with anger and vexation to react like the old Special Assistant might have.

Her body was twisting away, the spray of acid flying just past the tip of her nose as an exquisite wave of pain blossomed across her jaw. The shock of the impact from Maxine’s fist rocketed through her skull sending a ringing through her ears. A bloody bruise instantly formed as a cascade of dizziness washed over the Element. She wasn’t used to getting hit in all honesty. The benefit of being a saber wielding lightning fast Rupturer was that she often moved so swiftly that her opponents never saw her coming. Speed and range were where she shined but here in this concrete box filled with dusty rum bottles, Maxine was queen.

Then there was the hollow silence that clanged in her chest with alarm bells. She couldn’t feel her Sparks. It was like the Maze back in Scalvoris, it was as if they had vanished into thin air. A panicked gasp hissed from her throat while the mage struggled to clear her vision and stifled the fear from not being able to sense the source of her magic.

Sephira was only dimly aware of what was happening as a fist curled around her collar, snatching her off balance and tossing her with force over her body and to the very solid alcohol stained floor.

'Get up...the soldier growled in her head.

'You knew this could happen and you went in all the same... 'The same icy disciplined voice hissed.

'Why?'

'Because I had to know. ' she replied

The touch of cold steel to her throat almost seemed to grant her the answer she had sought.

'I had to know if I could still trust her. '

The thrum of her heartbeat thundered in her aching head as she met Maxine’s pained expression.

“You should have told me.” Sephira croaked weakly, tensing against the icy metal touching her windpipe. The pain was starting to fade in her head, enough that she could actually start to think clearly again.

“We could have killed every one of them together. You and me, we’ve faced worse odds before.” she argued, her voice certain. Her words were cut off as the dagger pressed in, nearly breaking the skin. Again Sephira’s heartbeat was practically drumming in her ears. This situation could not have possibly gone any further south than it had. Maybe they hadn’t faced an enemy quite like the Mantis before, and when they had fought the cult they’d had a bow wielding daughter of Karem at their side. But they had fought and won all the same. Sephira had even been a green recruit back then. It had nearly been a full arc since that awful night, it was strange irony it was that they were here now, one with a dagger pressed to the other.

Maxine’s face creased with some inner struggle. Obsidian eyes studied her from beneath the edge of the dagger in silence. Suddenly the wood at the side of the mage’s ear splintered as the dagger was sunk blade deep into it. The pressure at her throat vanished and finally she released the breath she had been holding.

The ex-con slumped back, releasing the other woman while she spoke. The soldier only stared at the marked woman, regarding her wordlessly; her face an unmoving mask.

Not knowing what to think or feel was an otherworldly sensation for the Element. The Special Assistant slowly sat up, listening with tense features to Max’s final defense of her actions.

“Oh Max...” The two words slipped from her lips, spoken with a combination of relief, sadness , and sincerity.

Rubbing the bridge of her nose an arm reached out to pluck a dusty bottle of rum off a nearby shelf. It looked to be the same filthy beverage Maxine had been indulging in earlier. The frosted amber bottle was uncorked with the rough swipe of a dagger and Sephira took a long draught before offering the bottle to the ex-con.

Her features were almost immediately pinched with disgust. “Fates, I don’t know how you drink that swill.” the mage coughed for a half trill before leaning back against the nearest wall, still seated on the slightly sticky floor. A pregnant pause filled the space between them while the broken soldier wrestled with her words. Finally after several trills she spoke.


“This....is a mess.” she sighed wearily, all vestiges of the disciplined soldier were gone. Shoulders slumped forward, her hair was a mess, and that sharp angular face was now bruised and bloodied.

“You were right, this was a suicide mission.” Sephira finally admitted glumly, flicking at a clump of dirty lint clinging to her left sleeve.

“Saved that damn island....I don’t know how many times and they send us into a death trap.” There was disgust and bitterness woven thickly throughout the words and she practically spat them out.

Her eyes finally drifted over to meet Maxine’s. There was fear there, and vulnerability. Sephira normally hid it so carefully and so well. That part of her was always hidden behind an iron clad mask that had never failed her before. Maxine was much the same,although her’s was a mask of fire and spite that lashed out at anyone that roamed close enough to be a threat.

Those masks were now gone.

“I’m sorry.” Her voice wavered while her hands nervously toyed with the glinting silver knife in her hands. “You are a better friend than I am.” Sephira finally admitted with a deep frown, her eyes falling to her fidgeting hands.

“You know, I shouted at her before she was taken; disciplined her for that feckless move at the burning. It’s what a commanding officer is supposed to do right?” The mages eyes grew damp but not a single tear fell. She wouldn’t allow that.

“I was too hard on her, and she ran. Right into the fucking Mantis.” The dagger in her hands was suddenly angrily flung across the room before crashing into a shelf of bottles. The sound of glass breaking erupted before going silent, only to be followed by the dripping of whatever liquid had spilled.

“I have to get her back Max.” Sephira uttered softly as she brought her knees up to her chest almost defensively. “I won’t leave her there, no matter what she's become.”
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Re: Whose Side Are You On? (Max)

Sat Jan 05, 2019 1:08 am

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Like a fierce shard of ice melted under the suns, Maxine watched the woman she'd battered snatch a forgotten bottle from the shelf. Her soft eyes watched the Element uncork and taste the contents with a glimmer of mirth. She scooped her dagger up off the floor. When the bottle was hastily handed off her way, Maxine merely answered Sephira's confusion with a half-hearted smirk. She never pinned the Rupturer as a drinker. The very image of her silhouette darkening a tavern doorway was as unrealistic as it was amusing to consider. Her aversion was anything but surprising. Poor city kids like Maxine had learned to love the vice early. Even the cheapest rum could warm a body in a pinch, and just as a salve tended an outer wound, alcohol numbed the piercing, invisible ones within.

The ex-convict slid back to rest her body against the wall beside the Special Assistant. She raised the bottle to her lips, taking a good long drink of the familiar concoction while she quietly considered her friend's confessions. There was no use in dishing out that irritating "I told you so." The truth that they had likely been sent here to die as part of a last-ditch plan was heavy enough. Taking a break from their roles in the game, there was no use in pretending to argue what they both believed. When she'd shown up at Kura's cabin she'd gotten the shortest, vaguest summary of what horrors had taken place in Scalvoris in her absence. The ex-convict didn't doubt Sephira had probably stood between that island and an ill fate countless time since the last time they saw each other. Not for a trill.

"I already told you once," Maxine shrugged after taking another drink of rum, staring into the empty space of the dim room ahead of them. "They don't deserve you. They never have." A death trap, indeed. Every trial it felt like the world was closing in on them. Like there was just a little bit less room to move, less oxygen for them to take in from the air. It wasn't really a question of "what" was coming to inevitably challenge them. Now it was more of a "when". She had a feeling it would be sooner than any of them were genuinely prepared for. They were already so very damaged.

Feeling Sephira's gaze upon her, Max rolled her head to the side to read her face. A pang rang in her chest at what she saw. She pressed her lips into a line and let out a sigh. As long as she had known her, the marked woman couldn't recall ever seeing the Element anything but poised. Now she saw the visible chinks in the armor, and that visible fear and vulnerability was just as out of place as it rattled Max to see it. It was something the hotheaded woman couldn't fix or hope to make better.

She too had exhausted her emotional barriers, and as for fear, a certain Immortal had blessed her to ensure she never fell under its possession again. The future was something they both rightfully should've been afraid of. To tell Sephira otherwise would've been a cruel lie. This mission had already claimed one of them. The marked woman was not a fool to believe it wouldn't seek to claim another. And so she raged against it.

Sorry?

Maxine stiffened at the words. The falter in her friend's voice hit harder than the punch thrown at her a bit ago. She bit her lip and averted her gaze in favor of the far wall. She shook her fingers through her raven hair before she took another drink of rum. There was a time when she thought she wanted to hear those words from the Special Assistant. Maybe even bits ago. Now that she got them they only felt wasted. Slowly she shook her head.

"I think Rey'na would disagree," the mage hunter scoffed sharply before returning to contemplative silence. Her brow furrowed while she listened to the Element share her last contact with the lost soldier. Max never had figured out how Rey'na fell into the Order's grasp. She assumed they just stumbled into the cross-hairs of some lucky patrol. Figured that one got away and the other didn't. This? This was nothing she would've guessed.

Her brow rose when the dagger suddenly whipped forward to shatter the innocent booze eavesdropping from the shelves. Max watched the alcohol drip down and spatter along with the glass upon the floor with a frown. It made sense now, the way Sephira had recklessly stormed into the tavern. It wasn't just that her subordinate had been lost and tortured. She felt responsible. Guilt was eating her alive. In that she was not alone.

"We all have our roles to play," the ex-convict attempted to soothe her remorse-laden friend beside her. She planted the bottle down closer to the Special Assistant, nudging it against the woman's side as encouragement to indulge. "All of them are shit. You're not to blame." Her thumb rubbed along the comforting grip of her worn dagger. "I keep trying not to think about it. About what I did but, uh..." Her voice caught and she immediately plunged herself into a brief pause. She swallowed hard and cleared her throat. "Every time I...stop..." Turning to gaze at Sephira, she gave her head a couple taps with the flat side of the dagger. "I can still hear her. Screaming. Like we're still in that room." Max sat up with a ragged breath and slipped the dagger beside the others along her belt. "You shouldn't have had to see that. I wish you hadn't."

The marked woman leaned forward off the wall to turn her body toward the curled up Element. A gloved hand reached out to gently rest on the woman's near shoulder. She'd heard the wounded resolve in her friend's voice. She knew the intentions that laid beneath that non-negotiable statement. "I couldn't save Rey," the mage hunter murmured regrettably. "I can still save you." She knew now what the Mantis was capable of. She'd helped them in every facet of it, from hunting and staged trials to torture and execution. The ex-convict had already lost everything before they left the damned island. Still she kept finding there was more to forfeit, and forfeit she would not.

"So if you plan on tracking her down and walking into that Mantis blacksite like they want you to," Maxine continued with a soft squeeze of her hand on the woman. Real pain wracked her eyes now as they leveled themselves on Sephira, commanding her focus as though she feared she miss a single word of this agonized promise. "Expect to find me waiting for you there. To stand in your way."
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Re: Whose Side Are You On? (Max)

Sat Jan 05, 2019 4:35 am

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A dry half laugh broke out of her chest before she could stop it when the ex-con repeated the words she had said many seasons ago. Her half lidded eyes rolled towards the other woman with a hint of amusement in them.

“You started a riot and killed a man to right their wrongs...I just chose keep them honest from the inside. At least as best I can.” The truth of her opinion of the Elements was rather easy to admit to Maxine. They had both seen the military of Scalvoris at their very worst. The Elements were far from perfect now, but Sephira stuck with them all the same. Far worse that she abandon them to corruption and an eventual but certain decline. Being close to the Militant certainly had its perks, it was easy to keep a close watch when needed.

The mage gave an exhausted and weary sight before running her hands through her damp tangled hair. The storm was still raging outside, the boom of thunder occasionally sending a subtle tremor through the walls of the Blacksmith Arms.

The conversation eventually made it back to the reason that Sephira had come there that night.

Rey’na.

Hands rose to the dark eyed brunette’s face and she clamped her palms to her face. It was hard to sit here with Maxine after what she had seen her do to the young Element but she didn’t question the woman’s defense. She couldn’t be totally furious with her any more, but nor could she forgive her outright.

“It...it can’t be helped.” The woman finally croaked between her splayed fingers that slid gradually down her bruised face. “It happened. This is our reality now.”

It was painful to finally confess aloud her part in Rey’na’s capture. The truth of that had been chewing away at her like plague rats greedily swarming a ship’s hold. Nothing was spared. She hated herself; hated the soldier within in her for being so hard on the girl. Rey’na had been compassionate,determined and foolishly kind. All those parts of her would have been torn away just from the torture and isolation. Then her Spark had been cruelly ripped from her. Who would she possibly be now if she even survived?

It took little encouragement when the bottle was nudged her way. The Element bolted down another swig, disregarding the bitter burn that rolled down her throat as best she could.

“Oh that really is bad.” the woman hissed sardonically just before forcing down another drink to cover up the first. It didn’t help much but at least there was a pleasant warmth burning in her stomach now. The alcohol blurred the sharp edges of the terrible memory of Rey’na fleeing from the cabin and Sephira’s cold words. She really could see why the ex-con enjoyed partaking in the stuff. The bottle clinked back to the ground to settle the space in between the two rather unconventional friends.

When Maxine tried to give what comfort she could, the Element just waved off her words with a slow shake of her head. Her eyes had begun to wander back to the non-descript wall opposite her when the marked woman’s own guilt slipped out. Onyx eyes flicked back, glinted darkly as she met Max’s caramel ones.

The words came slowly, they weren’t forgiveness, not by a long shot but they were all the comfort the Special Assistant could give.

“You did what you thought was right.” The words echoed strangely within the dim interior of the room. That was all Maxine ever did; what she thought was right. Starting the riot, killing those Elements...not such stretch when you were kidnapped and attacked by a bunch of mask wearing misogynists who deserved to be neutered with a rusty spoon.

“There’s no going back now, not for either of us.”

Those words offered no comfort to the soldier who started chewing nervously on her thumbnail. It was an old childhood habit, her mother had hated it.

The rain soaked mage shrugged when the marked woman commented that she wish that she hadn’t seen what had been done to Rey. Sephira wouldn’t have changed anything about that grisly discovery, otherwise Max would have never told her the truth. The Rusalka was stubborn beyond words. She would probably have quite happily taken this secret to her grave if she had been able to.

To say Sephira nearly jumped out of her skin when Max put her hand on her shoulder would have been an understatement. The Special Assistant jerked faintly before eyeing the woman with surprised. She wasn’t used to being touched by people to begin with, and here the ex-con was doing just that. Liam, her wanna-be beau back on Faldrass would have been jealous.

A wry smirk cracked the corner of her lips into a twisted version of a smile.

“Its like you don’t even know me at all.” the woman uttered as she flex her fingertips toward her chest as if deeply insulted. A have half formed laugh cut the air like a knife as Sephira looked at the marked woman with an amused gleam in her eyes. The bottle of that horrid rum was in her hand again and another final gulp was tossed back with an obvious shuddering grimace.

“You know damn well I’m going to find her eventually.” Sephira seemed to straighten up a little, regaining a small pinch of her normal intensity.

“You can either help me, and we do this together or I do it on my own. Your choice...and I will not make it in any way fun or enjoyable to stop me.” A smug grin inched its way across her features as she clumsily found her footing. The soldier swayed a bit as a weird ringing started playing up in her head and her jaw ached from the shift in position. The woman did have a mean swing.

“Come on, for old times sake. It's time we stop running from those bastards.” A slender hand was proffered to Max to help her get to her feet.
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Re: Whose Side Are You On? (Max)

Sat Jan 05, 2019 6:27 am

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The words they reserved now for each other were not ones designed for comfort. It was fitting, really. Coddling one another had never been a part of their strange friendship, wherein half the time they were drawing weapons on each other. There was no reason to change pace now. Sephira Blackwood had not come like a whirlwind into this tavern comfort-seeking. She'd come for confrontation and answers. For the most part, she'd gotten what she must've come for. The rest they seemed to share between them were confessions of their own pain and remorse. They just voiced them. Maybe that was all they needed. What's done had been done. There was no fixing it or changing it. Things just...were. What they carried was a part of them now. And at least one other now knew what was shouldered beneath the veil of indifference.

Maxine's vow to remain an obstacle between Sephira and the Mantis was as serious as the circumstances that brought them to this storage closet. The Special Assistant heard it. Then she smiled, made a mockery of what they both knew she'd try to do next. The sardonic laugh was met with nothing but a firm, steadfast expression. The only amusement Max had to find in the exchange was how much the Special Assistant complained about the taste of her favorite drink...only to indulge a trill later. The twisted faces of disgust she made were likened to that of an adolescent first trying to forbidden drink. She would've harassed her mercilessly for that, and for being such an obvious lightweight, had the implications of what was said been of less importance.

"Yeah," the ex-convict sighed irritably at the suggestion she'd make Max work to hold up her intentions. "I figured as much." She withdrew her hand and rested her elbow on a bent knee. The marked woman wanted to remain oh-so-serious. Her lips twitched as she watched the half-intoxicated soldier search for her feet. She slowly shook her head.

Like a fucking fawn on ice.

Find her feet though, she did, albeit with a sway Max knew just about as well as a drunken stagger. From the floor she listened to Sephira's coaxing. Then she eyed the hand offered her way. Just as Max knew well enough that the soldier would ignore the danger and look for Rey anyways, the Element knew how hard it was for the ex-convict to walk away from a good fight.

When it was down to the wire and violence was the spoken language of the trial, Maxine always felt at her best. The moments she had time to think were the dangerous ones. It was then that her twisted ideas of right and wrong became altered. It was when she slowed down that she made fatal errors. Ironically, it was in a few instances of violence that Maxine ever felt...good. The offer here was a compromise. Sephira had asked her to fight with her, to help her rather than allow her to go into the trap designed for her alone. How was the marked woman supposed to deny her? Max took the offered hand and rose to her feet. She searched Sephira's face for a moment as she dropped her arm back to her side. She would have her answer.

"No," Max replied firmly, regrettably before she reached down to pry the rum bottle away from the soldier. "You forget. I'm not running." She gave her ashcloak a tug for effect. The bottle was raised to her greedy lips. It was her turn to fall back into the familiar routine of drowning out what should've never come to surface. "Make it as shitty a chore as you want. I don't care. Not happening." She gave a shard in her way a kick as she advanced ominously past the woman, raising a finger. "I will not be the end of Sephira Blackwood." Not a part of the final mission. Not a part of the organization vying for the boast. She would have none of it.The ex-convict put a hand on the door, gestured toward the tavern with a hard expression.

"Hide your magic shit, however you do it. Let's go home before some idiot figures out what you are." Or the cover she'd worked so hard to protect got blown. She tilted her head from one side to the next with a gentle roll of her eyes. "And before Rufus bitches about the damage. Come on." Max offered a half coaxing grin and shook the lightened rum bottle. "We can even drink it on the way."
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