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7th of Cylus 720

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False Confidence

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7th of Cylus, 720

Paranoia and pariah, paupers and the panderers, the city wasn’t what it used to be. Aylune had traveled to the countryside seeking answers to the questions Sintra’s domination over the city had posed his mind: “did men want to serve?” Leaders. Terrible ones, swapped like spit between lovers in legendary quarrels. Only, this was a choice between man and Immortal, and to Aylune, the choice was clear.

Sintra must be eradicated. I’d destroy her if I could.” Aylune’s fist clenched closed.

“Where the widow walks, watch for the webs she leaves, Aylune,” said Needle, his white-furred wolf familiar with horns and a mask of red about his eyes.

Aylune turned to gaze down upon his friend with a smile. “I know the danger I’m getting into, but think about it: if not me, who? Melrath has its own problems. They don’t need another Immortal on their borders. I’ll be a hero, I’ll have done something with my life.”

“What difference is there between bravery and stupidity backed by luck?” chided Needle with a question.

A cheery forest illuminated by the brightest, most golden sun Aylune’s mind could think of had risen up around them when they began this dream, the mage sitting in the branching boughs of a great tree. Then he saw it. The breath in his throat was stuck, eyes going wide. ”N-Needle-”

A guttural, primal growl resonated through the forest, the beast now right in front of his eyes, the sky dimming to a dark blue around them.

“Make scarce like wind!” shouted a voice, Aylune’s head already turning to slip forward off the branch. Chnk. “Agh, it’s got my leg, fhk!” shouted Aylune, but his heart raced so fast that instinct took over. Ether pooled within, and his shifting form slipped from the huge blackened maw, a vicious shriek following him as he hurtled towards the ground.

As his body took shape, he unfurled his wings and caught the air, feeling it race with him. He could feel the earth hurtling towards him with a warning whip of the weather, but his feathers caught the air just in time for him to land upon the ground. Only then did he realize his leg was broken, a limp and a hop on the ground as he awakened the senses of the Wolf out of fear, a sharp hearing sensing the beast above slipping after him through the branches.

As it crashed around him, Aylune took flight, flapping like mad through the dream. “Wh-what spirits did I piss off!?” screamed the Becomer through an Echoed voice. “Needle!”

“Aylune!”

Everything dimmed in Aylune’s mind, a sinking feeling in his chest as he heard the beast stop. Tilting his body, he sailed around a tree and hit the ground limping, the wind picking up around him as it matched his terror. Through his eyes, he saw his Familiar being lifted up in great claws, writhing. “Oh no, please, no!” yelled Aylune.

”When I’m gone, find yourself,” was all Needle could think to say, a deathly pallor in his eyes as the beast opened its maw of many teeth, strands of inky saliva snapping like the plucked strings of a twisted harp.

Aylune jumped on his mangled leg, ripping at the Ether in the air. Pain filled his mind to such an intense degree that he nearly blacked out then and there, but the adrenaline coursing through him kept him on the edge. Panicked wings fluttered at the air, which carried him forward as he Manifested flame in his beak that billowed around him, a streaking fireball of desperation.

Plink. Aylune’s body hit the monster, and then the flames fizzled, leaving a puff of smoke in his stead as he hit the ground with his wings spread wide by either side of him, beak stretched open as hollow, bright blue sunken eyes looking down at him as if he were a curious annoyance. Like his familiar, it reached to collect him as well, leaving him utterly, traumatically helpless to the point his mind could no longer cope, frozen in time in that moment of imminent despair.
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Re: False Confidence

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A curiously dull, but decidedly metallic "thunk" heralded the arrival of a strangely cheerful humanoid atop the head of the beast. Had he been at the feet of the monster, it would have towered over him the same as it made seeming dolls of its two current victims. "Now, now, Tom Tom, that's no way to welcome new friends!" He slammed his brow repeatedly on the back of the great scalp, generating a hollow beat; a possible basis for the nickname he used.

Aylune and his familiar were probably only just getting over their initial despair as the mouth of their doom opened to receive them, when the arms of this new arrival swept into this same mouth from both sides and pulled up and back with the force of leverage granted by the newcomer's freakishly strong legs having been firmly planted at the nape of the beast's neck.

For a moment, the two victims were forgotten, and allowed to drop to the ground a good fifteen feet below. This did nothing to help Aylune's injured leg, but even so, the bigger concern was the obvious vulnerability of the newcomer's arms. Even as the mage made to shout a warning up to the strange man poised at the back of the beast's head, the beast laughed a single roaring snort and snapped his great maw shut on them.

Where surprise of such a development would normally take the form of a howl of pain and horror, the newcomer only gave a genuinely curious "Huh? Why, you're not Tom Tom, are you!"

This is not to say that the arms were NOT bitten off at the elbows, only that the stranger seemed to have expected that very thing. He then dropped to the ground behind the creature, stepping out of the way of the suddenly thrashing feet of the thing, as if his arms were just of no concern.

Two things would be noticed by Aylune and his familiar, were they of the ability to focus on such details at the time. The first was that the blood that looked to be pouring from the stumps of the stranger's arms did not drip to the ground, but continued to pool into greater and greater balls of roiling liquid at the ends of both. The second was the behavior of the beast. It's eyes widened in what had to be shock, and it's abnormally large hands clutched frantically at its own head as it twirled and rocked, screaming in apparent pain and terror.

The stranger shook his head as he looked on, "Naw...Tom Tom would have known better." What the fellow was referencing became gruesomely clear as two disembodied arms, now covered in blood and brains, came ripping out the beast's temples on either side. They both seemed made of metal, and as they hit the ground, one of them firmly grabbed the elbow end of the other and held it vertically to impale the throat of the beast as it fell.

The hand of the impaling arm stuck up from the back of the beast's neck, and the other arm managed to "inchworm" its way up to grab it and draw it through the rest of the way.

As the arms made their slow way, pulling on one handful of sod after another, toward the threesome, the newcomer held out what remained of one of his newly shortened arms as if to offer a handshake, then laughed uproariously at his own joke. "Good trial, good sirs." he managed to gasp between guffaws.

He motioned vaguely in the direction of his approaching arms, "Don't worry about them, they are already growing back. By the time I wake up, you'd have never even known they were gone."

His arms made a motion as one would make when shoving their hands in their pockets, and he chuckled slightly again at the missing extremities, "So, anyway, I am called Forge. Are you the new liaisons? We haven't seen Night in quite some time. Cricci said we should keep a look out since there's clearly some kind of trouble in Etzos. Do you know anything about that?"
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Re: False Confidence

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Thunk.

Staring aghast at an imminent doom, Aylune remained horrified and silent, his Familiar eyes shut, neck tucked, making itself small in that beast’s clutches. ”Needle, look.”

Though he dare not move his head, the horned wolf opened a single eye, staring forward as the pair heard that voice above them. Aylune’s wings twitched as his breath came back to him, already thinking through the haze of paralytic fear to proposition his Spark for the desire of returning to his Self-form.

Beginning to make the shift, he urged, and so Unleashed with the sound of crunching bones and popping sinew. Assimilated robes emerged, their feathers bristling in the wind of the glade as he leaned towards the beast, crawling on his broken leg with great pain.”Nnh-nnh-nn,” came his desperate voice as he watched the pair of monsters do battle.

On one foot, he lifted and reached for his familiar from so far away. “Needle,” said Aylune as he teetered weakly, arms spreading to catch as the familiar began to slip from the monster’s slackening grip.

”Aylune!” shouted the Familiar, but Aylune caught that falling wolf in his arms around the waist. The force sent him falling back, but there he lay, embracing his soul-bonded tightly for security, trembling there on the forest floor from a fright he’d had unlike any other.

Twisting his head to peer at that ...was it a mage? Another Emeyan creature, but friendly? Aylune locked eyes with the man unlike any he’d seen before. With those arms in the beast’s jaws, and the indomitable strength of such an inhuman creature, it didn’t cross his mind as the beast’s jaws clamped shut and severed those two limbs from the bicep.

Aylune’s brow tightened, eyes laden with scrutiny as the man shrugged off such an event. Stomp. A rush of air and a shake of the earth warned Aylune to scoot back along the grass, painfully inching along to get out of the way of the thrashing creature’s death throes. A horrible scream filled the air; ”it’s dying, it’s-”


Scrrkckt. Gore-speckled arms like two bony, parasitic worms burst from the creature’s innards, leaving Aylune in a gruesome, but respectful awe of such a spectacle. Patiently as pain throbbed through the pallor of a mind exhausted by utter terror, he watched the bizarre feat of the monster’s slaying by an equally bizarre man, taking note of how what remained of his arms bubbled and boiled along the pop, seeming to regenerate like how a lizard’s limbs always grew back.

Aylune stared incredulously at the offered partly-regenerated stub, but shared a weak, if nervous chuckle with the man’s laugh. “Good trial,” replied Aylune, “good sir?” This strange man was so animated, but perhaps it took such humor to be fine with the condition he was in. “Ah,” Aylune said to the explanation. “So, you’re a dreamer? Hrk.”

Aylune’s eyes crossed, then shut tight, teeth clenching as he squeezed his Familiar tight. The adrenaline was beginning to fade, and so his leg began to hurt immensely. “Something like that,” replied Aylune, figuring meeting him halfway on this matter was the best choice. What a strange development, meeting potential allies in a dream?

Sitting up, he let go of Needle, who was feeling good enough to at least stand.The two shared a look before gazing back up at Forge in unison. “Forge? An apt name for your talents.” He motioned to his friend. “I am Aylune, and this is my Familiar, Needle,” said the mage. “Sintra took over Etzos, so I’m trying to find a way to get rid of her before the people are too far gone to the Immortal of Deceit and Spiderwebs. We’re looking for loyalists to help oust the Immortal, and Vuda, if he still lives.” He thought it seemed prudent to neglect mentioning that he only had Deckard to assist him in all of this. The resistance was hardly a huge, roaring flame.

Reaching up to smooth over those canine ears of his, Aylune laughed a bit at his predicament. “Clearly, I need to take some time to improve my Sparks if I’m going to be any use. I thought I could handle what humanity could throw at me, and then I met that monster, and you.” Snapping his fingers, a shower of hot sparks billowed from his hands, Aylune rolling his head and sending them off into the wind to add Defiance to his resume before throwing his hat in the ring. “If your liaison is missing, I’d be happy to volunteer until she returns, and I’m no stranger to politics; I know when to share and not overshare. You’ll want someone who isn’t ensnared by Sintra,” said the crippled mage. “Are you a community of mages? A race of people in hiding? Tell me about your predicament.”
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Re: False Confidence

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The good humor faded somewhat from the oddly metallic-skinned face as it looked upon the injured leg of the one identifying himself as 'Aylune'.

"Yes, a Walker of Dreams, I am. Have been since I was a child. But this new...uh...skill is something I've only had for the last few arcs. Got it during the 'Padfoot Incident'. That's how most of us ended...up....."

It seemed as if he'd intended to complete the statement with the word 'here', but realized he may have said too much already. He did not have permission to expose the existence of the mutant city of Lakewatch to anyone.

Changing the subject quickly, he explained that his amazing regenerative power only worked while his soul was in the Dreamscape. If he got his arms cut off in the waking world, he would be in obvious danger of bleeding out before he'd be able to get to sleep and start regenerating them. He went on to say that the metal-esque skin he bore stayed with him in the waking world as well. But even though it made him resistant to injury, it made him slow as well. Here in the Dreamscape, he could move freely.

It became pretty obvious that Forge liked to spend the bulk of his time in the dreamscape. he also had noted that his new acquaintance made a small double-take at the mention of 'Padfoot'. He thought that might be another good subject to broach to change the subject further.

"Hey, it looks like you've heard of 'Padfoot'. W-...I don't know what's become of him since the incident. Have you seen him? Big Hyx-shape Becomer? It was all an honest but terrible mistake. He tried to feed the poor, but he used meat that he sort of..."created" with Becoming magic, by turning a rat into a deer. Didn't think about the potential backlash of feeding folks ether-tainted meat. It set off a bunch of dormant mutational capabilities, and made those that others already had blow up to some pretty incredible extremes."

He'd hoped to have succeeded in diverting the conversation away from the indication of a large group of mutants living somewhat nearby as Aylune began giving his own account of what had brought himself here. His eyes bugged at the mention of Sintra. "Taking over? ... Sintra? ... Etzos? ... Why the? ... What the? ... HOW could she even get into town without being attacked? Did she save Parhn's life or something? Vuda's?"

They bugged again at the suggestion that Vuda might be dead. "If he still lives? ... Vuda?" He whistled a long low note, shaking his head. "Damn ... Akkis is going to want to hear about that!" A slight cringe betrayed the likelihood that he should not have said that last name. Another change in subject was clearly called for.

He scrambled for anything, however mundane, "By the way...uh....Sintra is not the Queen of Deceit. That would be Audrae. Sintra is Manipulation, though the two concepts go hand in hand often enough. I heard that Audrae is actually on a sort of truce with Etzos right now. They like that she screwed over her own sister Lisirra down in Oscillus a few arcs ago. Of course, Sintra is her sister as well. damn, this is getting complicated ... sarding Immortals anyway."

The newcomer's offer to take on liaison duties went unanswered at first as Forge gasped in his first indication of fear when Aylune snapped a brief fire spout from his fingers. This time, the change of subject was not some ploy.

"Whoa! Don't do that! Not here in the Dreamscape! Not ANYwhere in Emea, really! That's probably what attracted big ugly over there." he gestured at the dead Brute Beast. "That'll bring monsters faster than anything. I don't know why. But it's not uncommon. I've seen folks go to use Defiance just to start a campfire, and have the fire itself rise up like a giant golem and attack them, swinging the logs that are suddenly burning like a bonfire. Or the smoke takes the form of some shadow beast and goes after them. Or both. You just never know what might pop up."

The mention of liaison duty then appeared to register. Along with a number of additional questions that made it clear that Aylune had already come to the cponclusion that there was some hidden community in the area. Forge grimaced slightly, "Umm...look, there's reasons I can't go into detail, yes or no, one way or the other right now. But let's get that leg fixed before you go back."
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Re: False Confidence

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“Same story here,” replied the painstricken Becomer. “When I was a child, I’m fairly certain I walked into a Fracture, and something brought me back. I like to think it was the Induk Myrkvior who brought me home~” said Aylune fondly. The conversation helping to distract his mind from the pain. Thinking clearly took a lot out of him, and his leg was mangled enough that he didn’t want to look down at his shin. It needed to be set, he knew.

Aylune nodded a few time as Forge kept talking, eyes widening a bit at the mention of Padfoot, but he kept silent. His eyes shifted down, catching on to Forge’s obvious verbal flightiness. He began to listen more closely. “Seems pretty useful to me at times, though with the strange nature of Ether there must be many of you with mutations that don’t have an upside,” commented Aylune. Clearly, he knew there were more of them now. “Would you cure your changes, given the chance?” asked the mage.

Aylune cocked his head; he hadn’t heard the mention of a Hyx before. “Yeah, someone asked me once if I was Padfoot. I don’t know a lot about him, but he sounds nice.” Recalling the power of blood and magic, Aylune hesitate, but the words rolled free from his lips. “...I could offer...my blood,” said Aylune. “If it meant giving your people a shot at finding a cure to this corruption.”

Vivid, twisted ideas had formed in the corners of the Becomer’s mind from Forge’s description of Ether-tainted meat. Could the same effects be replicated upon soulless beasts to create mutant war animals he could then derive totems from? The idea was mildly disturbing, a bite of the lip helping to subdue such thoughts; “is this the greed of my Spark thinking for me, or is this me?” he thought to himself.

Rolling his shoulders, Aylune shrugged at the subject of Sintra. “I’m not certain, but as far as I can tell, Vuda fell from power and she appeared at the High Marshall’s side with gifts and promises. Everyone just ate it up. It really feels like a spell on the populace out there, and I need to gather more information, but I’ve been weary about prying, what with her little spiders everywhere spying on every word.”

Aylune took note of the name Akkis. Likely some kind of superior, he thought. The mage noddle-nodded along, uttering a “huh” to register the subtle difference between the two Immortal’s domains. “So there’s a truce with Audrae? I wouldn’t trust either of them worth a stone’s throw, but manipulators seem prone to making deals to further their aims, and that sounds exploitable with a knife in the back to me...” muttered Aylune, indicating he wouldn’t be opposed to deceiving an Immortal. “As much as I want them all destroyed, I’d probably do the same thing, taking Audrae’s help. It sounds like Lisirra got hit hard thanks to her scheming.”

With Forge chastising him on his magic use, Aylune sat on his hands, eyes widening a bit like a weary puppy dog. “Ahhhhhhhhhhh,” said the ignorant mage, drawing out the realization so that he could remember why he was in this kind of pain. It was his fault. “Nobody ever taught me, but it seems pretty obvious now thinking back on things. The man who initiated me into Domain magic wasn’t a Dreamwalker, and I’ve been figuring things out on my own, so making mistakes is learning with me. It’s a miracle I’m still alive, really.”

Aylune puffed out his cheeks and blew wind through his lips, leaning back and covering his mouth with the sleeve of his robe. “Alright, let’s do this. I’ll head to an infirmary when I wake up; I’m in town right now. I’m ready. Tell this Akkis of yours that you’ve got the support of a Melrath Becomer who doesn’t care about the politics of Etzos. Getting rid of Sintra is my only aim.” Squinting his eyes and gathering a mouthful of sleeve, he bit down, waiting for Forge to set the bones in his shin. He’d had his body made and unmade through Becoming, but the pain was always hot and short lived. This was different.

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Forge was clearly looking towards the treatment of Aylune's fractured leg, largely "Mmmhmm"-ing his way through the latter's comments. But he looked up, his focus renewed, at one of them. "Cure our changes? ....I'm really not sure now. I don't see how any measure of success could be guaranteed. Oh, I know there's probably some who'd risk it, But I'd want to warn them it might just make it worse."

He was taking off his shirt, and moistening the cloth with the contents of his waterskin as he weighed the prospect. "You need to understand something. Padfoot's stew meat was not just changed with magic, not just turned from rat meat into deer meat. This was magic that turned a handful of rat meat into many pounds of venison. There was only a few ounces of original meat. THAT amount may have only been "changed". But the rest was actually generated, created, by the magic."

As he wrapped and tied a loop of damp cloth around Aylune's ankle, he went on, "I don't know if you've gone anywhere near that far into that discipline. But speaking of discipline, you're going to need to exercise some right now if we're going to set that leg."

He slipped his arms under Aylune's and dragged him as gently as he could to a suitable spot, where he wrapped the cloth extending from the ankle one time around a small but stout stick, and then tied the far end to a similar small but sturdy sapling trunk. They were near a larger tree, around which he tied the sleeves of his jacket, after running them under Aylune's arms.

Forge began to turn the stick over and over, steadily shortening the overall length of the cloth tied to Aylune's ankle. The jacket, tied to a tree would soon be what held his body in place, while the tightening of the shirt length would draw the ankle down, giving enough leeway eventually for Forge to reset the bone. "Do I need to tell you that this will hurt?" Forge asked as the leg began to be stretched to where the broken bone ends within could be manipulated back into proper alignment.

Strangely though, while the mage knew it should hurt like the very Fires of Perdition, he found himself unable to completely convince himself that he was in unbearable pain. Likewise, this peculiar conflict with reality did not seem to warrant any further attention. Sure, it hurt, but it was nothing that seemed worth thinking about, as his mind roamed over green hills and sunny trials in places he'd heard about but never actually visited.

Strange that he could visualize them so clearly, And strange that he did not wonder how this was even possible.

All at once, pain returned, but it was the pain that accompanied a fully reset bone, not one with loose jagged ends still lacerating the nerves and muscles around them. Forge looked up and beyond his patient. "Thanks Mr. Cricci." he said with a bit of a grin to Aylune. "Did I mention that Empathy can be used to lessen the focus of the mind on anticipated pain? No, no, don't move." he made a waving gesture, beckoning some yet unseen individual to come around where the patient could see him without straining the newly set injury.

A devilish looking fellow, dressed in what would traditionally be viewed as buccaneer attire, stepped into view, an appraising look upon his horned features as he gave the injured applicant the once-over. "My name is Garen Cricci. I run our little community of oddities. We have not seen our current liaison since what you now suggest to have been an invasion and counter-invasion running north and south, just beyond our western border."

He waited a moment before continuing, "So you would offer your services to replace her, eh? I'm afraid we're going to need more details on how Sintra came to be in charge of Etzos, and what has become of Nightshade Eld, our missing liaison, before I just hand a relatively total stranger the means of betraying our security to those who drove us out of our home city in the first place."

He squatted down beside the injured mage. "Sorry if I come off as hard-nosed. But I am responsible for a number of innocent lives, and it needn't be you specifically that reveals our presence. Anyone you come to know and trust in Etzos could be one that would turn around and sell us out behind your back. I'm not going to sit here and waste our time with details of how we were made to be the scapegoats for every wrong that occurred in Etzos at the time, but many of us had families and loved ones, and often even THEY turned against us. Frightened and revulsed by us, afraid they were going to "catch" what we had."

He stood back up. "I have no doubt that Padfoot meant well, but he ruined our lives. Or rather, he inadvertently inflicted something that provoked the ignorant masses to ruin our lives. If you didn't know, this was something intended as a 'free feed' for the poor and homeless. What recourse do such people have to find mercy and understanding at the hands of the unaffected rich?"
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Bitterness cracked his voice, but he looked slightly away as he acknowledged the flip side of events. "It didn't help that many of the more severely affected went on angry rampages, when a reasonable interlude to try and encourage acceptance had not even begun to pass."

He looked back down sharply, "I put Miss Eld through some harsh paces, and I would impose the same on you if you want me to trust you with all our lives, as well as the lives we would take should angry mobs come to drive us out again."

His eyes narrowed slightly "So someone asked you if you were Padfoot? What else did they say? Anything nice? Ask around then. See what sort of responses you get. Maybe some folks are feeling bad about how we were treated. Find out details of Sintra's takeover. This is definitely something of which Miss Eld would have kept us up to date."

Genuine worried concern etched his features, "And see if you can find out what has become of her, as well. The only administrator you can safely make mention to, regarding our little meeting, is Lady Jillian Terris, the administrator of the Citizen's Committee. Bring me details of the things I ask, and an endorsement from Lady Terris, and the job is yours, though in all honesty I don't know why you'd want it."
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