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5th of Cylus 720

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Kasoria
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The Seeker

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5th of Cylus, 720




This was not hunting that he understood. Not only because it was not prey he wished to harm, just to find. There were no trails to sniff nor tracks to look for. Not in the way he knew. There were no informers to bribe or brutalize, family or friends to do much the same to. Trial after trial, season after season, the dreamer searched a sea vast and without true depth for a single droplet. A pearl in a mountain of shifting sands. He did not know how to seek his quarry. He just knew, in some nameless fashion, that if he hunted long enough, he would find him.

Forget what you know of hunting, he told himself before he set his mind to the task. This is a different plane. A different world.

Fortunately, that worked both ways.

He had discovered how to "escort", which was the official term to describe taking physical items from reality into or through the Emea. Kasoria had frowned once he heard it put that way. Was there some world-spanning council or Idalon mages, gathering in unity and harmony, solely to decide unanimously the proper words for magic? Including Dreamwalking? Well, he assumed so, and even if not, the word fit. That was much more likely. He was enamored with the concept, of course. Being able to carry his gladius, his karambit, his ax into his Dreamscape and practice with them rather than form them from his mind, but then-

-in one such session, after hacking through yet another counterfeit attacker-

He heard his son's laugh.

"Die, you foul-"

Kasoria didn't give an order to stop. He didn't even raise a hand. He just frowned, and his mind screamed "HALT!" in a place where it could never be silent, nor ignored. The three charging figures froze, almost looking surprised, and a second thought send them scattering like piles of black leaves in the wind. Kasoria's sweat-covered face shifted from a mask of concentration to shock in a blink. He looked around the courtyard, and saw nothing. Heard nothing, until-

There.

Clear as a bell on the breeze. He sheathed his weapons. He forgot his Dreamscape. Some... something was holding onto him. Like a rope thrown and looped over his torso. Something he'd been struggling to latch onto, like a sound or smell he couldn't quite detect, and now he was attuned to the nature of it. He walked out the door, fashioning it into a gateway to The Veil with barely a thought-

-stepping out into the Great Ocean his mind perceived it to be. Vast and glistening, with an undying, motionless sun above and a billion doorways under the surface. There were other spots, though. Things that glowed like comets or torches amidst the shards and specks of light. The Brands he had laid in the world. Mathia. Llyr. His home in Etzos, now left behind forever. And now one more-

The assassin frowned. No. No light. No Brand. Just a... feeling.

Knowing without knowing, feeling without thinking, Kasoria started walking across the water.
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Kasoria
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Re: The Seeker

He knew the right door, because... well, there was nothing more to it than that. Nothing he could explain or quantify into words. He'd walked across the Veil for what seemed like breaks, yet he'd never tired nor changed his course by a degree. Something was pulling him in the right direction. Seasons of searching dreams and 'scapes, and now this was almost... easy.

Because it was him. Because it was Martyn.

Kasoria knelt down and examined the doorway that was almost vibrating with power underneath the waves. It looked like the entrance to their home, in Westguard. He wondered if they were in the same one now. When last he'd been in the town, it was as abandoned and looted as much of the rest. The Plague Mother was coming, at the head of hells' hordes, and those who weren't fleeing were staying behind to loot and burn. Martyn and Jessye got out. They left him a message, telling him where they were going... and he sent one for them.

Why wouldn't it be the same cottage? It was theirs. Bought and paid for.

"Things change."

He murmured the words and reached under the water. Felt the same handle he'd used a hundred times in the past, almost expecting to hear an excited "Papa!" as he swung it wide and stepped through. But instead he submerged himself, gasping against the sudden cold from water that was not water and when he opened his eyes again-

"For Etzos!"

-he was not in a cottage. Not even close.
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Re: The Seeker

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"You there?! Get back into formation, damn ye!"

"What in the creepin' FUCK?!"

Strong, mailed hands grabbed the Raggedy Man by the tunic and yanked him forwards. A mustache that belonged on a walrus bristled under wide, glaring eyes used to command. "Mind your tongue in battle, man! And where in damnation is your pike?!"

"My... oh."

Kasoria looked around and took in the turgid field. The block of men stretching from one wooded side to the other, front ranks hidden behind locked shields, ten-foot pikes sticking out from between them. Perfect formation. Almost like a painting... or an illustration. The thought popped into Kasoria's head as he looked to the other side... and heard the banshee wail of a thousand barbaric bastards from across the sea.

This... I read him this!

"S-Sorry, sir!" He managed to stammer, knowing he had to spew out something halfway convincing, dream or not. "I-I-I-lost it! Still got my blades th-"

"Well, what bloody good is that?!" The sergeant (for no-one but sergeants could bellow that loud) snapped with a glance at the gladius in Kasoria's hand. "Fates, get behind the line and be ready for the charge! We'll discuss this later, trooper!"

Mercifully, the big man tossed the smaller one towards the army of Etzori, banners flying high from the middle of their formation. No more lies needed, thank Fuck. Kasoria scuttled across the grassy ground and took in more and more of this weirdness. Suits of armor without blood or grime. Faces clear of sweat and dirt. All of them steadfast, jaws set, eyes shining with subdued courage. No-one shitting or praying or cursing or hiding piss running down their legs.

Only a child could think of war like this. And we haven't even got to-

"Here they come, men!"

Kasoria turned to look but didn't need to be told who it was. The thunder of hooves, the screaming of foreign tongues, the curved, gleaming blades in the sun. This was the legion of Warlord Shakrare, just as he'd told Martyn about over an arc ago. He remembered that night, like he remembered all of them. Those stolen, precious breaks and trials where he could be with his son. Indulge the boy's curiosity and fantasy about what it was like to be a soldier.

Feed the lie, you mean. Because damned if you were ever a fucking trooper.

"Stand fast!" The Sergeant shouted, taking up position and catching a pike in the same instant. Kasoria nestled himself in the middle ranks, finding a spot for himself behind the hedgehog of spears and pikes and shields and armor. "Break and the spirit of Etzos breaks with ye!"

The green of the field was wiped away now; filled instead with the smear of hundreds of charging horsemen. Even from here, Kasoria could make out faces, mounts, weapons, rotten teeth and topknots, leather armor and trophy heads slapping into the sides of saddles. A child's imagination bringing very real nightmares to life, and yet... and yet there was something... almost sanitary about them. Uniform in a way he knew no mob of bandits or reavers never could be. They came on like a grisly tide, a stain upon a clean country, and Kasoria remembered just in time to-

"TAKE COVER!"

-as a cloud of arrows was loosed from the rear ranks of the horde. Damnit, he'd fucking well told the boy all about this! He should be one step ahead! Instead he was ducking under his neighbors shield just as the flurry hit them. There was a weird TOK-TOK-TOK sound as hundreds of arrows smacked into wood and metal. Men went down around him, wounded or dead, but... no blood. No gore. No screaming or begging or crying. These men, these figments either died quickly and quietly like good heroes, or shrugged off their wounds like even better ones. Huddled under his cover, Kasoria took the moment to grimace.

First time is really going to be a shock for the boy.

"BRAAAAAACE!"

Dream or not, Kasoria did as he was ordered, and congratulated himself on not being within the first few ranks. Able defense or not, standing upright in front of several thousands tons of horse meat and screaming savage hurtling along at forty miles an hour was going to leave a mark, no matter how big or well-drilled you were. Yet as Kasoria peered over the heads and shoulders of the others, he saw men fall and heard men scream, but... very little blood. No gaping wounds or shrieking horses. No arterial sprays or body parts twitching on the ground. The first ranks absorbed the charge, losing men but keeping formation... and slowly, the rest of the block started to feed men into the gaps.

"Move, move!"

One opened up in front of Kasoria, and the Raggedy Man surged forwards over the weirdly-bloodless body of the man before him. An unhorsed barbarian was yelling at him in a language he was sure no-one on Idalos spoke; just the gibberish Martyn's mind could craft. As long as it sounded sharp and aggressive and mean, that would do-

-especially when it came with a scimitar slashing towards him-

-Kasoria weaving away from the blow, slashing low at the same time, ripping open the raider's thighs down to the bone, sending him to his knees with a shriek, but still strong and battle-crazed enough to backhand at him-

-only for Kasoria to step into the blow, his own backhand knocking the scimitar away, left hand snatching the dagger from his boot-

SHUNK

-slamming it into the side of the man's neck, ripping it out with a twist, readying himself for the-

Blood?

The savage coughed and gurgled and there was a red trickle from the wound... but that was all. Kasoria swore the man seemed to sigh as he fell over, quite gracefully, joining the carpet of still and dead and clean bodies. All around him men fought and died, but... Fates, they were all fighting the same way. Either wild and childish, all strength without skill, or the careful, precise, drilled katas he'd taught his son. The pikemen were different, keeping their distance, jabbing away until their weapons were knocked aside or broken or stuck and then came out the swords and Kasoria was still craning his neck searching for-

The horns blew. Their echo had not faded before Kasoria realized what that meant. He remembered how the story, how the true history of this battle ended. He looked to the wooded flanks-

Which gleamed and shone with burnish steel armor. A whole line of it, solid ranks of armored knights with lances raised. Another blast of the horn and they started to trot. The lances came down a hundred feet from the roiling, embattled, disorderly horde of Eastern invaders. From within the unwashed mass, Kasoria could hear a single, baritone voice bellowing orders for retreat or resistance, and knew that was Shakrare himself... and if he knew his son-

"FOR ETZOS!"

Kasoria turned as if he knew exactly where to find his son. Saw a charging knight with lance lowered and face twisted into a shout. Plunging through dark ranks of shaggy human monsters, through the press of the hordes, and into the personal guard of the Warlord himself.

"Martyn?"
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Kasoria
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Re: The Seeker

It was glorious. It was thrilling. It was fantasy.

Kasoria knew that from the aftermath, as much from the routing of the Warlord's forces. There were no screaming, begging, crying men covering the ground. Holding themselves together with blood-slick hands. Laying in puddles of shit and piss and gore, promising anything for help, for life, for a sip of water. Just as telling, there were no hard-faced men drifting across the stinking field, long, thin daggers close to hand. Ready to lash out or stab down in quick, clinical blows. Ending lives that would only linger until nightfall, for when scavengers of all kinds came to pick the battlefield clean.

"Glory to Etzos!"

There was none of that. The dead were dead and the wounded merely hobbled away, limping or with ore arms, bandages that were so, so white they couldn't be real. Kasoria had to remind himself he was dreaming, even when it was obvious he was. No more so when he looked up and saw the boy grown to a man, or what he assumed he would look like as a man. Unhorsed now and standing with his retinue, he raised his longsword to the sky and the light seemed to catch it with a TING-

Fates, he needs to break himself of this shite.

Kasoria cheered along with the rest of them, even as he shook his head in disbelief. Well... he was still a boy, wasn't he? Entitled to such fantasies and deceptions about war. Not like he'd ever seen one for himself, after all. But that could be handled in the waking. The Raggedy Man was here for... something else. Something more important. His palms sizzled with power, latent and ready for use. As the knights began to shoulder through the foot-sloggers, Kasoria wound his way through them. Ducking through gaps, sliding through pairs or little knots. Hood up now, not wanting his son to see-

The black eyes. The signs of wear and age and... and...

Defeat, he thought, and staggered for a moment. An old man who tried and failed to stop an Immortal.

"Stop it," he ground out to himself, pressing onward. "Focus on the job."

He moved closer to his son, until he saw that he was in the boy's way. He stopped, and waiting for the parting masses to reach him. He risked a stupid, prideful glance upward. His son. His boy, grown and with features as strong as his, if with the stamp of his mother about them more than himself. Kasoria did not resent that. He just stared, admiring how even this fantasy, this dream of a beardless boy without battle or scars to his story, he could be... better.

Better than you.

"Noble victory, sir," he said, holding out his hand even as he looked down to hide his face. "F'I may shake yer-"

"Of course you can! Wouldn't have worked if you fellows hadn't..."

Martyn grasped the soldier's hand, and it felt like a bucket of water had been poured over him. The shock of it was that same icy, breathtaking coldness. It shook him from helmet to breeches and the knight almost staggered... but the hand he held, it was steady. It seemed... hot, for a moment. As if burning. But before his body could recognize the pain, the heat, the contact was broken. Now the knight was... Fates, everything seemed clearer now. He looked about and down, at himself, his armor, his hands... he had made this? Imagined this? Like his father had-

It worked both ways.

The boy looked up, and saw the man without knowing how. Already sliding and slipping through the crowd of men, towards the woods.

"F... Father?"

The figure stopped, for an instant. Enough for Martyn to know he was right, and then-

"Stop! You, stop!"

The knight pushed through the bodies in front of him, armored body heaving and shoving as he needed to. The figure kept ducking in and out of focus, able to move quicker thanks to his size and lack of armor. By the time Martyn was close, he was already at the treeline. Already slipping behind cover, with his hand on a tree, and Martyn was sure, sure that he saw the bark and wood of the trunk ripple and shudder like water-

"F-Father?"

The hooded man turned his way, but not entirely. Just a single eye he saw, but he was sure he had to be mistaken. His father had dark eyes, but these... these were-

"Bye, lad."

Kasoria cursed himself. If he'd not spoken, the boy would never know. But he couldn't just... ignore him. Even as he pressed his hand against the portal and Crosed back into The Veil, he cursed himself, but did not... regret it. Not truly. Because he had done what he'd intended. He knew the boy would spend the rest of his dream wondering why his hand tingled so. Why it seemed to both ache and numb at the same time, and the feeling continued in a ghostly fashion when he woke. The Raggedy Man smiled to himself as he was upon the Great Ocean again.

He breathed air that was not air, and sighed.

Soon, my boy.
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Re: The Seeker



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Pygmalion



Conscript Kasoria

Experience: 10 no magic

Knowledge:

Acting: Playing a Humble Soldier
Blade (Gladius): Disabling Slash Across the Thighs
Dual Wield - Dagger x Gladius: Sword Wounds and Defends, Dagger Provides the Killing Blow
Stealth: Hiding in a Crowd
Tactics: Using a Crowd to Approach a Target (and escape them)
Tacitcs: Use Crossing to Escape a Scene Quickly

Non-Skill Knowledge:
Dreamwalking: Advancing in Power Also Provides Ability to Track/Find Other Dreamers
NPC Martyn: Vivid Imagination, if Lamentably Innocent When it Comes to Real Battle
NPC Martyn: Dreams Often of Glorious Combat as an Etzori Knight

Renown: none

Skill Usage: Appropriate to level

Loot/Losses: Dreamwalking Brand placed on Martyn, Kasoria's son.

Injuries/Conditions: none

Consequences: Perhaps a slight impact on the dreams Martyn has from this moment forward.

Comments: Not your typical Kasoria action thread, with all the childish cartoon violence you'd expect of a young boy's fantasy of war. Still, it was a fun read, and I'm sure Martyn enjoyed being an Etzori Knight, defending the Rock against its enemies.

I will say it was amusing to see Kasoria out of his element, killing people without the visceral satisfaction of seeing them die as they realistically would. It makes me wonder if Martyn really is going to be the same kind of person that Kasoria is, or if he'll be better, or maybe turn into something entirely different from what Kasoria intends for him? Questions for a point in the distant future, I suppose.

If you have any concerns about this review, please PM me about them.




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