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Thread: [M] Runes

  1. #11
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    “Wait.” Her pitiful attempt at stopping them flew over the archers heads. The Wanderer did not have to watch the arrows miss their target, she could see the failure in the fearful reaction of the men who had loosed those arrows. Her gaze flicked back to the small gathering of mages just in time for the wall to crumble beneath her feet. Before the earth would only move when she struck it with her pick, now it folded like sand with a flick of a man’s arms.

    The heat seared itself onto the flesh of her stomach and arms. Dust crept into every pore and the air was torn from her lungs. The wanderer blinked slowly, dirt clinging to her eyelashes. A man was walking towards her, the heel of her palm was pressed into the burning earth as she pushed herself to her feet. Her axe lay a few steps before her but the dust refused to settle.

    “You’re a good speaker.” he said in Ash as he marched through the smog towards her. “But who are you to lecture us about freedom?”

    Her gaze was glued to her axe, not even his pathetic words warranted eye contact.

    “I am no one.” The words left dry lips, her eyes remaining on her sole comfort. “I lecture no one.” There was something smug in his tone, in the way he strode through the smog as if he owned the very ground he walked upon. Her fingers twitched as she desperately wanted her axe back within her tight grip. One worn shoe shuffled forward, her right hand moved to cup the air. A harsh breath was taken in through her nose and her fingers turned claw like. The dust in the air halted before her.

    “I was merely informing them...informing those that you enslaved once again, that their freedom is a lie.” Rage had its dirty fingers tight around her throat as her fingers tensed closer to each other. Dust slowly drifted away from her body, moving like a curtain from her form. Congregating around her like a dirty glow, only when all the dust had shifted did she gift him eye contact. A deep seated fury was etched in the green of her eyes. Another shuffling step and her left hand copied her right, her knuckles slowly turning white with the tension. “But who are you to take their freedom hm?” Her head jerked back to the city revealed by the rumbling wall behind her.

    “Take their freedom?” the young mage looked up, following her line of sight. “We take no-one’s freedom. Only those who enslave themselves by standing with corrupt tyrants like the Enlightened need fear the Leveler’s wrath.”

    He began to pace up and down before her, like a caged lion; his head turning to keep his eyes on her.

    “We are here as liberators.”


    A sharp twist of her wrists and the settled dust beneath her axe vibrated violently. It held just enough power for the axe to lurch to arm height. Her fingers gripped the handle and she left it pointing at the newcomer. She had been in the city mere hours, she hadn’t received a single warm welcome from this place but she would not let its people meet the same fate as the army who stood before her.

    “Tell me stranger, who are you?

    A smile tugged at one corner of the young man’s mouth. “I am the Leveler’s Apprentice. Under the old rulers of Ash I was nothing. Now I have runes of my own to break the chains of the Valley. That is what the Leveler offers these Lightmen. I know the Enlightened are paying you, because that’s how they operate. They buy with gold or they threaten with their so-called divine authority. You’re not even from this city - I can tell by your accent. Wouldn’t you rather fight for something better than just money, for someone who would actually see your worth?”

    The arrogance in the young pup before her was overwhelming. “And under the new rulers of Ash...you are nothing.” Her words sickly sweet as they dripped from her lips. “You are exactly the type of man that those behind you would grind into the dirt if given the chance.” Her gaze momentarily shifted to the crowd standing still behind the ‘Apprentice’. The Wanderer’s jaw tensed as he plucked the true reason that she was fighting this fight….for gold. She raised an eyebrow as he blatantly tried to sway her to his side.

    The Apprentice shook his head, his expression hardening. “How little you know.” He ceased in his pacing, his fists clenched in fervour. “We have strength and purpose. Tell me, sister of Ash. What do you have?”

    Nothing. She had nothing but the clothes on her back, the axe in her hand. She didn’t yet know if she could trust those she travelled with. She didn’t have the purpose that this stranger had. A small smirk tugged itself onto her lips, strength was one thing she did have.

    “I have nothing. So I have nothing to lose. I stand before you not for those fucking Enlightened, they could rot for all I care. I stand before you as one of the last defences of the children in this city...the mothers, the fathers, the elderly. That will surely perish in your….liberation.”

    Her axe swung down beside her side and the dust surrounding her shifted. The flecks of dust were beckoned to her left hand. “But I am pleased you see my worth.” The smallest of smirks tugged itself onto her lips as the dust by her hand formed into a tight spinning ball of grit.

    “You have the right heart.” the Apprentice admitted. His lips were pressed together in a thin line, the muscles in his arms tense. “But if you won’t listen to reason then we have nothing more to say to each other.”

    He let out the slightest chuckle, a soft exhale of breath.

    “And I don’t suppose you’re going to run.”


    “I’ve run far too much from men like you.”

    Perhaps it was the ego that radiated from him, the smug smile he gave her, the suggestion that she should run….it all reeked of something that she left behind. The veins on her hands strained under her skin. The pick axe head dropped to the ground, dragging through the sand as she paced before him. Every speck of dust that burst upwards was captured in the bubbling ball of dust that spun by her side.

    The Apprentice tilted his head to one side, cracking his neck. He was no longer amused. “Men like me?”

    The Wanderer gently shook her head. “Monsters like you. Pitiful excuses for men.” Sweat was dripping down her forehead, standing directly under the sun was taking its toll on her. “Men who steal others freedom. Men who tear flesh from the people they own. No..not men.” The Wanderer stopped her axe from scoring the earth and raised it to point at the stranger once again. “Slavers. They are not worthy of being called men. They are monsters... exactly like you.”

    The rune-spell came without warning. An invisible force, like a chain that had suddenly wrapped around her waist and yanked backwards, lifted her up and slammed her into what was left of the city wall. Her back hit the rough sandstone with a crunch, the force pinning her against it like a huge hand.

    Slaver?” the Apprentice rasped, biting down hard on the end of the word. The muscles in his throat ticked, as if he was struggling to swallow.

    He stalked up the slope of tumbled rubble towards the Wanderer, his shoes digging hard into the gravel. Dust billowed around him like a stormcloud. He began to tear at the scarf around his neck, and then at the leather bindings around his wrists, throwing them furiously aside. Underneath, his wrists were scored by ragged white scar tissue - manacle marks.

    Do you see this?” he screamed at the Wanderer, flecks of spit flying from his lips. He jerked his head to one side and clawed at the edge of his shawl to reveal another ugly patch of scarring on the side of his neck. It was the kind of scar left by a strip of skin being torn away. A strip of skin that might have once held a slave brand.

    “I kill slavers!” he shouted through the dust-choked air between them, and the Wanderer felt the invisible pressure constrict around her ribs. “You’re about to die to a slave, you bitch!


    Hot stale breath was torn from her lungs as her back made contact with the crumbling wall. The power she had seen so far...was nothing compared to this. Fear started to trickle through her body as she failed to pry herself from the wall. Her left hand was frozen in it’s claw like form, the dust storm left behind where she had stood moments ago.

    If his reveal was meant to shock her...it failed. If anything, it forced rage to triumph over the fear in her stomach. He knew exactly what that life was like and he would force this city into it. “Are you so blind?” Her next breath was harsh. Invisible chains felt like they were digging into her flesh.

    The Wanderer knew he expected a pitiful plea for her life but instead he was gifted a deep growl. Rumbling from deep within her chest as her left hand snapped to facing skyward. The dust clouding between them shot towards the screeching Apprentice. Clinging to his clothing, staining his skin...crowding into his open mouth and fighting to get past his eyelashes. The man let out a cry of alarm that turned into a choking cough.

    “If you th...think I will let c...chains take my breath again... .You are a f.fool.” Her words fought past the dust that was attempting to creep into his ears.

    The Apprentice twisted away, eyes screwed shut against the simple but effective runecraft, and the pressure against her chest suddenly evaporated.

    Her fingers were close to touching each other as she forced the dust to create as much annoyance as possible. The pressure against her chest was lifted and she fell forward. Her forehead nearly brushed the sand as her left hand unfurled to catch herself. Sharp harsh breaths were dragged past chapped lips before her gaze snapped up to the man before her.

    The dust slowly subsided as the Wanderer pushed herself to her feet. Pausing only for a brief moment, she flipped the axe gently in the air and caught it before pushing herself away from the wall. Worn shoe soles were little relief against the burning sand but she forced herself to run towards the spluttering man.

    Down on one knee, the Apprentice cuffed the sand out of his eyes just in time to see her bearing down on him. She got the pleasure of seeing his eyes widen in shock, before he swept his arm violently outward, as if to ward her away, and something smashed her sideways off her feet so that she went tumbling across the cracked earth. The Apprentice coughed and got to his feet, spitting a gummy mixture of saliva and dust onto the ground.

    There was something sweet in seeing someone who had previously underestimated her be shocked. Something heavy hit her side and she felt sand burn her skin again. Harsh breaths were forced from her nose as the Wanderer pressed her knee into the sand, pushing herself slowly to her feet. She twisted the axe in her hand as she approached the dust covered man. It pleased her to see how a thin layer of grey clung to his clothing.

    The sun caressed her shoulders as sweat glistened on her pale skin. “Come on then.”

    The Apprentice cuffed his lips with his knuckles, and offered her a smile that was as cold and hard as a dagger cut. He reached out to his right, clawed his hand, and swept it back. Chips of broken stone rose up from the ruins of the wall and hurled themselves at the Wanderer in a stinging hail.

    Her gaze was swept in the direction of his over the top gesture. A curse word sat on her lips as she curled herself to the ground. Leaving only her back vulnerable to the attack. Her left hand frantically tensed into a tight fist. A layer of dust rose up, forcing the rocks to slow in their attack and the smaller rocks to falter in their course.

    The Wanderer cradled her head against her knees and let the remaining rocks hit their target. Some missed. Not as many as she would have liked. The rocks that hit her flesh would leave her heavily bruised in the days to come. One particularly sharp broken stone sliced past her side, tearing her shirt and forcing the first trickle of blood to stain her skin.

    It took more effort than before but she forced herself to stand again. It was a rather familiar sensation, pain pulsing through her back. Her axe was raised before her as she strode purposefully forward, “Try again.”

    The Apprentice’s lips were peeled back, teeth gritted as he advanced to meet her. He held up his left hand, and a thunderbolt flash of light seared across the space between them. The Wanderer’s vision exploded and swam with blinding red and purple blotches.

    Blinded, she felt a hand close around her neck, flipping her backwards and slamming her back against the ground. The impact drove the breath from her lungs, and she couldn’t draw in another as the hand began to constrict. The other was wrapped around the wrist holding her pickaxe, pinning it down. The vice-like fingers were scarred; rough with calluses and scored with old wound-lines, just like her own.

    Her fingernails dug into his hand, her feet weakly kicking out at the sand. The axe was still firmly within her right hand but she couldn’t raise it. The pain and lack of oxygen made her limbs feel heavy. His hand was tight around her wrist making her feel helpless. The hand around her throat was another familiar sensation that she had promised herself that she would never feel again. The Wanderer had pictured her death in many different ways...but this had not been one. Not at the hands of another escaped slave.

    The Apprentice’s face swam back into view above her, backlit by the burning sky. His face was twisted into a snarl as he tried to choke the life out of her. Their eyes met in mutual hate, a predator’s target lock. But then the Apprentice’s gaze dropped, sliding down her left cheek. The pressure around her throat receded as he registered the small X branded into her skin - one scar among many, but one with a very specific meaning to the slaves of the Ash city. Master’s favourite.

    His fingers slackened for a moment and she could finally drag one feeble breath in.

    The hate slid off the Apprentice’s face like a mask, replaced by a look of blank shock. “You too?” he whispered.

    She held his gaze for a moment, letting the realisation hit his stomach. Then her left hand twisted his hand away from her throat as her knee made contact with that tender place between his legs. The Apprentice let out a sound that was half a gasp and half a grunt, instinctively folding up as he flinched away from the blow. As his head reeled forward, she lifted her shoulders and snapped her head back to violently headbutt the shocked Apprentice with as much force as she could muster. The other mage tumbled away, still half-curled around his injured groin. Twin rivulets of blood streamed from his nose, shockingly bright against the grey dust coating his skin. Gasping and spitting away the blood from his lips, he tried to rise.

    Ragged breaths echoed past her ears. Blood rushed back through her body and she slowly rolled over. Seeing blood pour from his nose made her chuckle softly. The Wanderer pressed the head of her axe into the ground beneath her and used it for leverage to push herself to her feet. She was tired of this fight, she was tired of this old slave who thought her an easy foe. Although shaky on her feet, her gaze was firmly latched onto the Apprentice. Like a predator zoning in on its prey, she crept towards him. Her axe slowly raising to her side, ready to swing.

    “Wait…” he implored. She didn’t, and the Apprentice was forced to leap back with arms spread wide, the pickaxe slicing the air centimetres from his stomach. She swung again, and again he just dodged the hissing bronze point. The third time he reached out and closed his fist, twisting it downward. The Wanderer felt the pickaxe jerk as he tried to rip it from her grip. The bronze head dragged sideways and down as she struggled against the invisible runecraft.

    “I don’t-” the Apprentice began.


    With her main weapon in his grip, she felt trapped. The blade dragged down towards the sand and she promptly let the handle drop from her grip. As he attempted to speak again, she let her fist rear back and swiftly make contact with his jaw. “Fight me.” Using her left hand, she curled it in the scarfs and cloth that covered his chest. Hauling him closer to her and not allowing him to stumble backwards. “You started this...now fight me.” She reared her fist back, ready to hit him again.

    The Apprentice raised his hands in defence, but open to block, rather than clenched to strike. His left hand closed around her fist, struggling to hold it back. His right hand caught the wrist of the hand twisted in his clothing. “I won’t fight another slave.”

    His sudden change of heart infuriated her. With his grip on her wrist and his other hand stopping her fist, she growled under her breath at him. The Wanderer yanked him closer to her, her nose nearly brushing his. “I am no slave. Not anymore.” Her fist slowly pressed against his, easily moving its way towards his face.

    A splintering crack slashed through the air. A jagged line in the earth fissured between the two struggling mages, and the earth bulged upward to fling them apart. As both staggered to retain their footing, the Wanderer saw another of the Ash mages, this one garbed from head to toe in red, striding back out of the city towards them.

    “Having fun?” the red mage asked. He was limping slightly, but he smirked through his dark beard and bead-clasped moustaches.

    “Wait, Redmoor.” the Apprentice barked, holding up a hand towards the newcomer. “Let her live.”

    The wizard called Redmoor frowned, an expression that contorted further as a twitch spasmed his face. “And why?”

    “This was a demonstration. We need to give them time to think on it.” The Apprentice was still panting, and cuffed blood from his lips as he raised his right fist towards the sky. Several pulses of light flickered out from him, throwing the three mages’ shadows against the ruined walls as stark black silhouettes. Flash flash. Flash flash.

    At the signal, the other Ash mages began to reappear, vaulting over the collapsed wall foundations or streaming back on comet tails of black smoke.

    The Apprentice half-turned his head to spit blood onto the ground at his feet. “You’ve seen what we can do. At dawn tomorrow, we’ll be coming back through that breach, with all those spearmen behind us. Welcome us, and you’ll live - you’ll all live. Resist us, and you’ll die.” He looked at the Wanderer, his bloody, dust-streaked face almost pleading. “Don’t resist.”


    “Y..You can’t expect me to trust you.” Her words harsh as she kept her eyes on the Apprentice. She knew that when they entered those walls, every member of the Enlightened would be felled in seconds. “I’d rather die free than blindly follow a new master.”

    The mage that the Apprentice had called Redmoor grinned at her. “The Leveler has the Greater Moonstone, woman. Your days are numbered.”

    Rage filled eyes snapped to the man called Redmoor, “My days have been numbered since birth. I’ve fought through more than you can imagine...I’ve got more fight than you think, you Captain Hook wannabe.”

    The red mage smiled without humour, and turned to follow the others as they retreated. “We shall see.”


    Go vote for RPA!

  2. #12
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    The figure in the hooded tunic stood silent and still in the presence of the representatives of the Leveler. It seemed that one of the other members of his band of misfit mercenaries had taken it upon herself to speak on behalf of the entire party. While her words were not necessarily directly inflammatory, it was obvious that the situation was escalating and that direct confrontation was inevitable. As such, it did not really catch the Wraith off guard when he was suddenly victim to a powerful runespell that pulled the ground from beneath him and separated from his group while dealing him some damage. He may have been able to prevent the attack altogether had he been proactive, but he wanted to see the power he was up against for himself. Besides that, these strangers were not his foes unless they took first blood.

    As the Wraith recovered from the attack and stood to his feet, he let out a soft sigh. “I had no intention of fighting today. In fact, I had hoped to meet this Leveler to judge for myself her true intentions. But you have attacked me unprovoked, and that is not something that I can let stand.”

    The fire mage snorted, perhaps not recognising all of the Light words, but recognising enough to understand a challenge. His bare arms flickered, beginning to run with liquid fire.

    For the first time, the Wraith let down his hood and displayed his true identity. His reputation had reached far and wide throughout the cities of the Enlightened and the Risen God, but had word of his infamous assassinations, slayings, and other such judgements reached the City of Ash? He was curious to see. From the way the fire mage simply tilted his head - slowly, appraisingly - at the sight of his iron mask, he surmised not.

    His fingers curled around the hilts of the swords as he quickly unsheathed them and made ready for a fight. “Prepare yourself for judgement.”

    The fire mage laughed with all the charm and warmth of a rockfall. “Prepare yourself for death, Lightman.” He raised his hands to project the fire bleeding from them.

    The Wraith began his prayer. “May my feet be swift, my hands steady, my heart pure, my aim true, my vision reliable, and my mind committed. Blessed Ones that have come before, grant me your strength and commend me to your will.”

    With a swift motion, the Wraith’s blades sliced the air toward his foe and electricity crackled forth at the target. The Wraith’s intent with the attack was merely to assess whether this opponent possessed defensive magic. After all, he had already seen a fraction of the foe’s offensive capabilities. It was unfortunate, but perhaps he would earn this Leveler’s respect after her lieutenant paid for his sins.

    He saw the fire mage’s eyes narrow. His opponent let out an angry shout and slashed his arms outwards, and at the same moment that the Wraith’s lightning jagged forwards there was a burst of fire and light in the space between them. The Wraith felt the pressure wave as it blew outwards, and for an eyeblink he thought he saw a flickering sphere in the air as the explosion snuffed itself in vacuum.

    The Wraith’s lightning split and veered through the air as it sought the path of least resistance, fulgurating down to blast small clouds of burnt stone out of the earth. A split-second later the bubble collapsed, air re-filling the vacuum with a thunderclap crack and a reek of ozone from the lightning bolts.

    The fire mage’s face was striped by an unattended nosebleed, brought on by his own casting, but he seemed not to care. He smiled like someone who didn’t know what smiles were for. It was a murderer’s smile; a fanatic’s smile. Snatching a scorched spear from the hands of a shrunken, tar-black corpse, he wheeled it above his head as he came for the Wraith.


    The Wraith remained fixed in place, allowing the fire mage to charge him unhindered. He had fought hundreds if not thousands of opponents since he was a child, thus any attempt by this Ash devil to intimidate him fell woefully short. From the blood dripping from his opponent's nostrils, the Wraith figured that his foe's defensive vacuum spell was quite strenuous on its caster. The Wraith decided to use that to his advantage as he backed up swiftly, feigning a retreat of sorts as he let loose another bolt aimed at the charging mage’s feet. His enemy sidestepped, pushing off his right foot as the bolt threw up a geyser of dirt and molten sand. The Wraith aimed another three consecutive strikes of lightning at the ground, followed by another blast aimed for the body. He was silent as he did so, focused solely on making his target dance.

    The lightning bolts chaining off in front of the fire mage checked his advance. As he stalled, the final bolt earthed itself in his shoulder, spider-webbing a lattice of angry red welts down his bare arm. The mage spasmed back as his muscles contracted, only just catching himself on his back foot. His smile seemed to have frozen on his face as he inhaled through his teeth.

    The breath became a chuckle as he slashed the point of his stolen spear downwards, the smouldering bronze head striking the earth. A line of fire traced along the ground towards the Wraith, as if drawn by an invisible, white-hot finger. It split to either side and encircled him, the flames roaring high until their heat was a physical pressure against his uncovered skin. The very air hurt to breathe.

    For a brief instant the flames twisted and parted like a curtain - and through the portal leapt the burning mage, fire boiling along the length of his spear as he aimed it straight for the Wraith’s heart.


    The Wraith had experienced many powers from many mages in his lifetime, as could be expected from a man who had been at war since he was a boy. Even still, his foe's runes were surely as impressive as they were devastating. He was very thankful for years of his master's hellish training now, as that was the only thing keeping him calm in the presence of this precarious position. As the fire mage leapt through the portal, flying at him with lethal intent, the Wraith only just vaulted over his opponent, the flames singeing the back of his cloak. This battle needed to end, and quickly. He could feel the pain in his chest, in his lungs from the burning intensity and blanket suffocation of the flames. Unfortunately, he would need to use a more powerful rune.

    "If you wish to make yourself appear as the devil, then perhaps you should embrace your demons." The Wraith took one sword and slammed the blade into the ground, muttering an incantation. The close proximity of the fire mage made him easy prey to fall into the Reaper's Gaze and surrounding mist. The mage would be forced into hallucinations of his darkest imaginings if caught.

    Gyaah!

    The other mage reeled away, fire streaming in blazing ropes from his arms. They lashed this way and that, engulfing banners and canvas awnings, and leaping up the sides of the tenement buildings. One flare caught the Wraith in its fingers, clawing at his leather armour before an expanding pressure wave blew him back, snuffing the flames even as it hurled him into a mudbrick wall. The air was full of smoke, and through it the Wraith heard a breathless panting sound. The panting became a drawn-out grunt, became a laugh. The fire mage was striding through the rubble towards him, his eyes red with burst vessels and his bared teeth laced with blood. He had lost his spear, the wooden shaft withered to ash in his grip.

    Hnngh. No nightmares for me, Lightman. I fear nothing!

    The fire mage stretched out his lightning-scarred arm, the fingers hooked and closing. The Wraith felt the iron mask against his face begin to grow warm. And then hot. And then burning.


    “Lets see what you look like under that mask.” the fire mage rasped over the sound of hissing iron, his scarred face twisted into a manic rictus grin.

    A blinding light surged through the abandoned street. Flash flash. Flash flash. A rune-cast light; some kind of signal.

    NO!” the Wraith heard his opponent rage. The burning against his face stopped increasing as the mage relinquished his hold, and then slowly faded as the iron mask began to cool.

    “Perhaps tomorrow then, Lightman.” The scarred mage leered at him through a mask of blood. “At dawn, you will meet the judgement of the Leveler...and feel the wrath of the Burning One.”

    He turned and limped away into the smoke, embers scattering in his wake.


    The Wraith made no movement nor sound until his foe disappeared from the scene. By will alone he remained standing until he was sure that the threat was gone, and only then did he allow himself to sink down on to his knees and intake painful gasps of breath. There was a stabbing ache in his lungs that was overpowered only by the pain of burning flesh from the seared mask. Only moments longer and he would have been permanently disfigured if not simply killed. The Wraith composed himself long enough to rise to his feet and limp toward an alleyway he could only just see through blurred vision while using his swords as crutches. Once there and away from suspicious eyes, he unbuckled his mask and let it fall as his hands felt at his face. He'd have new scarring, but he was spared a worse fate.

    Several more minutes of contemplation passed while he collected himself. As difficult as it was, there was one positive to take from this encounter. He had just went toe-to-toe with what he surmised was one of the Leveler's strongest warriors, and he had proven himself to be at least equal in strength. By that line of logic, and if it came down to it, he could handle his own against any of the Leveler's army. On the other hand, that did raise a question. If her entire army was below her in pure strength of power, just how much more powerful was the Leveler herself? With that unsettling thought and with his mind wandering to the well-being of the rest of his band of misfits, the Wraith rose, put on his mask, and limped off towards his best guess of their whereabouts.

  3. #13
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    Brannon felt the air rush to escape his lungs as the city wall crumbled beneath his feet. The Leveler's agents disappeared from view as he fell backwards and landed with a heavy thud against the cold ground. Bits of debris assailed his skin, and a huge chunk of the battlements crashed into the ground mere inches from his face. The Raven heard the screams of dying soldiers around him, cut short by the Leveler's forces, but he could do nothing. Suddenly, a wave of blistering heat washed over him, so close that he could feel it singe the hair on his arms. Seconds that felt like hours passed before he could finally rise to his feet and shake away the pain that blurred his vision. The back of his head throbbed like hell and dust from the rubble scratched at his throat, but Brannon was alive.

    As he rose from the pile of stones that was once a might barrier, he caught sight of a woman. Dark-skinned and beautiful in a terrifying way, she wielded a curved blade in one hand and moved towards him like a cat on the hunt. Brannon recognized her as one of the five mages representing the Leveler that stood beneath the wall not minutes ago. It felt like a lifetime had passed since then.

    A Lightman stepped forth to oppose her, but before Brannon could say anything she cut him down as if he were no more than parchment. Brannon's eyes were led to another Light soldier as he loosed an arrow, and he knew it would be a futile effort as soon as he saw the slight shimmer around the mage's body. Sure enough, the arrow struck the invisible wall and clattered away, and the Light archer soon joined his comrade in the afterlife. A barrier spell? That's hardly fair. The swordswoman set her icy gaze upon Brannon and raised her weapon.

    The Raven pursed his lips and unsheathed the sword at his hip. It was old, battered and marked with the bruises of many altercations, but it was a trustworthy weapon. "Now, now," Brannon spoke in Ash before the woman began her attack, "Is it not customary before a duel for the parties to introduce themselves?" He shifted his weight back and forth between his feet and readied himself for the fight. "I am Raven. Which of the Leveler's dogs do I have the pleasure of fighting today?"

    The woman seemed pleased to be addressed in her native tongue. "You fight the Blademaiden, sir." she answered, refusing to be goaded. Her actions spoke louder as she skipped to her right, to Brannon's undefended side, and lashed her sword towards his neck.

    As the Blademaiden moved, Brannon brought up his sword for a quick parry, and the clash of their blades was drowned in the noise of the surrounding battle. He was tempted to return the attack, but he hesitated, knowing her barrier spell would easily block his weapon. Instead, he decided to make use of his own magic. Brannon extended his hand and felt his body surge with sorcerous power. Spectral, glowing chains whipped out from his hand and flew towards the Blademaiden, vying to bind her arms to her sides. Brannon could only hope that her barrier spell wasn't going to do to his magic what it did to the Lightman's arrow.

    There was a crackling sound and a fountain of sparks as magic met magic. The spectral chains struck the barrier rune - and broke it. The Blademaiden twisted aside, sword arm wide for balance. The chain struck her left arm and coiled up like a viper, crushing the limb to her chest with bands of golden light. The other mage stumbled half a step, but caught herself.

    "Hm." she said, looking down at the chains, before launching herself at Brannon with one arm bound. Their blades met, twirled apart and then clashed again, and on the third stroke the Blademaiden turned her shoulder and sent Brannon's sword rebounding from his own rune-cast chains before forcing him to leap back from a skewering thrust.

    "You have some skill with a blade, Raven." the Ash mage commented as she returned to guard. "And some with runecraft, too."


    Brannon couldn't help but smirk at her comment. "I would hope so. Killing mages is my job." He took the short lull in the fight to catch his breath, and marveled at the woman's skill. Even with one arm literally tied, she still managed to put up a hell of a fight.

    Taking advantage of the spell while it still held strong, Brannon swiped at the Blademaiden's undefended side. The two warriors had been evenly matched so far; the Raven hoped this would turn the battle in his favor. His opponent parried hard across her body, knocking his sword point wide. He had to duck as she backslashed at his throat. She skipped away to his left and aimed a killing cut at his spine.

    Brannon spun on his heel and jolted backwards, his eyes straining to follow the Blademaiden's movements. Her sword stroke that had been aimed at his back now barely missed his chest, swiping at the air less than inches away. Damn, she's quick. He moved to her left again and arced his blade in a brief feint towards her side, but quickly changed to an upward thrust halfway through the movement.

    "Good." the Blademaiden praised as she parried and fell back. "The Leveler wouldn’t be disgraced to have someone like you on her side."

    A buzz of rune magic suddenly raised the hairs on Raven's arms, and a sleeve of blue flame flared into life around the Blademaiden's sword. She swept the blazing arc down across her bound arm, and the chains trapping it burst apart and vanished in golden smoke. The mage hissed briefly in pain at the magical exertion, then rallied as she drove at the Raven two handed, a whirlwind of sapphire flame. The burning sword left blue ghosts in its wake as it slashed, but then a brighter light eclipsed it, white and migraine bright.

    Flash flash. It came from somewhere beyond the walls. Flash flash.

    Evidently, it was some sort of signal for the Ashwoman. She ceased her attack, and let her sword point drop as the blue flames evaporated off the steel blade. A heat-haze shimmer flared between them as the Blademaiden threw up her rune wards once more. She was panting, just as Brannon was, but she still managed to raise a smile.

    “Don’t die before tomorrow’s dawn, Raven.” she said silkily, raising her sword’s crossguard to her lips in salute and then sweeping it elegantly aside. “I would hate for this to be our last encounter.”


    Brannon's eyes narrowed as he stepped back from his opponent. He didn't want to let her go, but he wasn't stupid. If this duel went on any longer, one of them would be the first to succumb to exhaustion, and he wasn't betting on the Blademaiden. As she raised her sword in salute, Brannon did the same. He hated to admit it, but he did hold some respect for her skills. He remained silent, however, at her comment, and kept his gaze glued on her sword until she left to answer the summons.

    With his opponent gone, Brannon was finally able to catch his breath, and he nearly collapsed on the ground. The cries of the wounded snapped him out of his daze, and he grunted while rising to his feet. There were four others among him, he recalled. Perhaps one of them was in need of aid.

    and dreadfully distinct/against the dark a tall white fountain played

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  4. #14
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    The silence grew like a deafening roar as the Apprentice finished up with his speech. Tension slowly began to grow as Sage heard roars of insults and megar talk from up above. The Lightmen grew impatient as she heard the orders “FIRE”.

    This was it… this was the beginning of a bloodbath. The Blademaiden tactfully began to cast on of her barrier spells to deny the incoming rain of arrows. Sage look at the group of mages she was with; the hunger for battle in their eyes and their ominous expression of joy was concerning as she new that THIS is what the Ashen mages were all about- power and destruction.


    “Redmoor, it’s time for a demonstration,” the Apprentice said to the red mage.

    Sage knew of his power and didn’t want of this to escalate any further. “REDMOOR STOP!” Sage screamed as she ran towards him to reason with him, but it was too late.

    Redmoor began to channel a mighty spell and with the movements of his arm, the great wall of the Enlightened began to crack and crumble. In that moment, Sage’s heart sank. Tears began to roll down her face as she empathized with the Lightmen. The wall began to deteriorate and falter. The screams of the Lightmen echoed in Sage’s ears as she began to cry even more. She couldn’t handle this attack any longer.

    “WHY APPRENTICE? WHY DO WE HAVE TO DO THIS? WE JUST NEEDED MORE TIME TO REASON WITH THEM AND THEY WOULD’VE ACCEPTED THE TERMS. WHY MUST WE CONSTANTLY DESTROY EVERYTHING IN OUR PATH TO GET FURTHER AHEAD.” Sage furiously screamed at the Apprentice.


    The Apprentice looked at her. Unlike the other mages, there was no joy in his eyes as he watched the wall crumble. “Because they keep resisting freedom.”

    He gently squeezed her shoulder and began to stride towards the city.


    The ghastly screams of the Lightmen, the crackling and thunderous booming of the wall continuing to fall was all too much for Sage to handle.

    “I can’t do this anymore,” Sage whispered to herself, “I can’t take this much more suffering. I can’t CAUSE this much pain to anyone else.” She began to dart towards the city, dodging the falling rocks.


    The Illusion met no resistance as she clambered over the sunken foundations, which were all that was left of this section of the wall. Among the once-proud rubble, Lightmen were coughing, shouting, and screaming in pain.

    No sooner had she stepped into the city then a fan of black needles ripped past her, whistling as they buried themselves into a still-standing section of the wall. Wheeling round to face the attack, she was greeted by the sight of a man - dressed in banded leather, streaked with mud and wet sand. Behind him, a woman in a soiled blue gown and one of the Lightmen’s gold-masked snake priests struggled in a pool of mud. The man’s broad, chiselled features were twisted into a mask of fury.

    “You bitch.” he cursed her. “You think you heretics can simply walk into our city!?”

    He drew his arm up across his chest, and then flung it out towards her. Another spread of glistening black needles materialised out of the air and screeched towards the Illusion.


    She quickly vaulted to the side. Shit, he is good. Sage thought to herself as she escaped the flurry of needles. They thunked into the remains of the wall, hissing venomously as they evaporated back into the ether.

    “Sir, I’m not here to hurt you. I’m only trying to come home to where I belong. I don’t belong with these feindous mages who only want power for themselves,” she said to the man, but he didn’t seem like the type for words. He continuously bombarded Sage with needles, but her quick feet made light work of the simple spell. Sage didn’t want to reveal her powers unless she was in a dire situation, but she decided to fight back; maybe a few blows would help him understand that she was on their side.

    Sage quickly composed herself and drew her blade. With a flash, she pressed forward towards this man, dodging his volley of needles when she finally got close enough to strike. She knew that if she murdered this man, she would never get back into the city, so she hastily changed her stance to connect a fierce roundhouse kick to his abdomen.
    The other mage took the kick on the overlapping leather of his bracer, turning it aside, but she followed with another kick to his stomach, causing him to stumble backwards.

    ‘I have no quarrel with you stranger, but just let me return to my home in PEACE.”


    The armoured mage gritted his teeth. “No peace with servants of that heathen Leveler.”

    He aimed a sweeping strike at Sage’s head, and as she evaded, exhaled hard into her face. A mist of dark smoke billowed from his lips, burning like acid as it hit Sage’s face and setting the membranes in her nose and throat on fire.


    Sage began to scream in pain as this black smoke left the man’s lips. “Why won’t you listen to me… OPEN YOUR FUCKING EYES!” she screamed in a mixed tone of anger and pain. Her body began to shake in rage as she locked eyes with the man. “I guess it’s time to show my abilities,” she whispered, frowning as she didn’t want to resort to using her magic.

    A flash of light illuminated the battlefield and her body became engulfed in light. “You will know the wrath of the heavens,” Sage spoke as her body continuously began to glow brighter.


    “Blasphemer!” the other mage spat. “We are the wrath of the heavens!” He took a step towards her, pulling back his fist to cast another rune.

    With a soft trot, she flourished her blade at the man, striking at a blinding speed. Her blade had found a weak spot in his armor, piercing his shoulder. She quickly pulled the blade from his shoulder as she leaped back to prepare for another strike. The Enlightened mage staggered, half doubled over as a thin line of blood trickled between the overlapping chevrons of his armour. He clutched at the wound with a look of shock on his face.

    “I will not die here,” Sage exclaimed, still in pain from the earlier spell. She quickly grasped her necklace and opened the locket revealing a small mirror. Within an instant, the man began to see copies of her… she was duplicating herself. Sage began another assault, weaving in and out of her clones to land a punch to the man’s jaw, sending him back a few feet.

    The armoured mage spat blood, his expression melting from shock into fury. “You’ll all die here.” he growled, casting out another spread of magical darts. Two of them lanced through one of Sage’s illusory copies, snuffing it out of existence in a shimmer of black smoke and fading light.

    “Can we please just talk this out? There is no more need of such violence and I don’t want to continue to quarrel with my own people.” Sage spoke out as her nose began to bleed.

    A sound like splitting glass crackled through the air. Looking down, Sage saw a rime of ice spreading across the ground, curling around her feet. Her clones flickered away as the frost caught them and revealed them for what they were.

    “I agree.” rasped a different voice.

    Tracing the line of ice back to its source, Sage saw that the blue-clad woman had risen to her hands and knees. One copper-skinned hand was pressed into the earth, radiating a spiderweb of ice crystals. The blue mage’s head was bleeding, but she ignored the injury even as frost-burn snaked up her bare arm.

    “This ends now.” the woman said, and with a pulsing thrumm the baking air turned frigid, and the ice around Sage’s feet leapt up in jagged spines; creeping upward to cover her feet, then her legs, then her chest in a crushing prison of frozen water.


    “This is becoming senseless. Your sordid view of me needs to be cleared, and you MUST know me. I’ve lived in the Enlightened City for all of my life. There is NO way in hell I’d forsake my people like this… I’d NEVER comply with this evil bitch who wants to turn you all into slaves.”

    The woman in blue didn’t reply, only rotated her hand. There was a cracking sound as the pressure of the ice around Sage’s body increased. The armoured mage, breathing heavily and still cradling his wounded shoulder, managed a rasping laugh. He clearly did not believe a word of what she had just said.

    “Are you begging, heretic?” he taunted.

    “If you’re one of our people,” the blue lady hissed, slowly beginning to close her hand into a fist, “Then what were you doing out there with them?


    Tears began to stream down Sage’s face. The expression of fear and absolute pain was written all over her. Sage began to scream louder and louder as the ice gained pressure upon her body. She knew that if this spell didn’t give, she was about to perish.

    “I only joined them because of my father Blaine! He murdered my mother in cold blood right before my eyes. All of these years I’ve just wanted revenge and to have his body six feet under, but have never had the appropriate opportunity. The City of Ash is vile and I don’t know how anyone could follow such cruel leadership. Please hear my cry. I’m BEGGING YOU, don’t do this. Spare my life and let me return home to my City. THIS IS WHERE I BELONG!”.

    The ice still grew tighter as she tried to get through to the blue lady, but her will seemed to be ironclad. Sage’s voice was slowly drawing to a whisper as the ice was compressed on her chest. It was getting harder for her to catch her breath. She was slowly fading out of consciousness when she heard another unfamiliar voice.


    Stop!

    The shout came from behind both mages, from the slender figure wearing a priest’s robe and mask.


    ”This mortal’s words hold truth.” said the Ambassador softly, “Can’t you all hear the pleading of the mind, breaking from their shell to speak them? They will be put in words, should the mortal allow me contact.”

    Without further word she reached her hand forward and began to step forward, in the direction of Sage.


    Sage was beginning to slip under, holding on to every ounce of willpower she had when the cloaked woman began to approach her with an outstretched hand. She wanted to intrude Sage’s mind; to delve deep into her memories to seek the truth of the situation at hand. But reading minds was a power that only the Mer could cast. No human possessed such a rune. Which meant that the rumours that the Enlightened had reached out to the sea creatures that they once despised were true, though Sage had no time to dwell on it. Sage was very hesitant at first as she didn’t want to bring certain repressed memories to light, but she knew she had to open up to this woman or she would die in the icy prison that was compressing her body. After moments of battling with herself and shedding a few more tears, she simply nodded and let the woman place her hand upon her cheek.

    Sage was resting on her bedroom floor when she began to hear a shouting battle between her parents.

    “You and Sage need to pack your bags immediately,” screamed Blaine to Sage’s mother, Scarlet, “The Leveler needs as many soldiers as she can get, and you and Sage would make great candidates for her cause.”

    Sage couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Her father actually believes that he belongs in the City of Ash, and that her and her mother needed to join this cause.

    “I’m not going to put myself or Sage in any danger, so if you want to, go ahead and join the bitch’s army but leave me and MY daughter out of it.” said Sage’s mother as she began to exit the room.

    “Those who oppose my leader oppose me!” Blaine said in a stern voice as he grabbed Scarlet’s arm, pulled her back to him, and drove a dagger right into her chest.

    There was a loud scream followed by an ominous thud from the living quarters. Sage had no idea what was happening, so she pulled herself off of her bed and ran into the other room. As she arrived in the room, she felt something… warm. She looked down to see her foot submerged in blood and her mother’s body lying just a few feet from her. The world froze…Sage’s heart skipped several beats…

    “Could this really be happening?” she thought as she observed her mother’s body on the ground. The color was slowly fading away from her tan complexion, fading to grey. “Dad… Dad…… DAD WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? WHY?! WHY?! WHY DID YOU KILL MOM!? I FUCKING HATE YOU! I SWEAR TO OUR SHATTERED GODS THAT ONE DAY, YOUR LIFE WILL BE AT THE MERCY OF MY HANDS!”

    She went to go punch her father, but everything fizzled out. Her muscles collapsed from exhaustion, her energy was completely gone. She began to fall when her father quickly acted and swooped her up.

    “Now dear, I want you to listen closely. You will join me in my journey to the City of Ash to join the Leveler’s army and you will be one of her best mages. The amount of sword training I have given you and the runes your mother blessed upon you will make you a force to be reckoned with. Now, go to sleep and when you wake, you will be in your new home.”

    All of the emotion confusion that Sage just witnessed was too much for her body to comprehend and it gave out on her. She blacked out in her father’s arms.


    The woman stepped back, the gold mask that she wore betraying no emotion. As she lowered her hand, her voice was likewise flat and inscrutable.

    “Yes.” she said simply, “I believe this mortal. You should let her go.” She did not elaborate further.


    The lady in mud-ruined blue listened, her expression neutral. Then, she slowly opened her hand. The crushing pressure of the ice against Sage’s body reduced slightly, and then with a splintering groan the ice began to crack and slough away, until Sage was free to move once more.

    The armoured mage scowled with wary vigilance. The blue lady probed her blood-matted hair gingerly, wincing as she looked up at Sage.

    “Even if all that’s true,” she said, “Why defect now? The city is surrounded.”

    “Because it’s right.” Sage said, simply.
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  5. #15
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    Solar awoke to the scrape and rumble of heavy stones being levered off him. When he opened his eyes, he saw Davin stooped over him, alongside a man in the green robe of a healer mage. He was a careworn man, whose profession and runecraft had added years to his face. His hands were pressed to Solar’s chest, and the young mage felt a soothing warmth spreading through his body as the bruises and scrapes of the previous fight stopped hurting.

    Solar blinked his eyes and realised that something was wrong. The right side of his vision was fuzzy and indistinct. He closed his left eye experimentally, but this time his blurred right eye didn’t return to normal, no matter how hard he strained to focus.

    “You’ll be alright.” said the mage, the healing glow fading from his hands.

    Davin offered a hand to help Solar up. Together they limped back to the ruins of the gate, where they saw their comrades milling about. Every one of them was marked from the recent fight. The Wanderer was covered in small cuts, while the Wraith’s iron mask was scorched black. Around them were soldiers and civilians; coughing, weeping, digging at the rubble with their hands in search of the wounded and the dead.

    “Fucking mages.” Davin complained as they gathered. “If I ever get out of this I'm going to sack off mercenary work and open a pub. I'll call it the Buggered Dream and charge any wizard who comes in double for every drink.”

    The healer walking beside him looked affronted. “Well that’s not very nice.” He indicated Solar’s comrades regrouping by the ruined wall. “It was also mages that just saved you all.”

    He suddenly turned, gasped, and went to his knees. The others looked up, and saw other Lightmen doing the same as two of the ruling mages from the pyramid came striding out of the dust towards them. They walked with dignity, but had clearly been in the fight themselves. The stately Blue Lady was soiled with mud and blood, while the armoured Scorpion was nursing a wounded shoulder. Behind them were a gold-masked snake priestess, and a dishevelled woman dressed in loose white and black.

    The kneeling citizens clearly did not know where to look first - at their mighty leaders wounded by battle, at the priestess ghosting at their heels, or at the red-haired woman who they had last seen standing alongside the Leveler’s mages.

    “She is with us now.” the Blue Lady said, resting a stern hand on the defector’s shoulder. “She has recanted the Leveler for the true faith. Praise be to the Shattered Gods.”

    “Praise be.” most of the crowd murmured, though they looked in bemusement at the snake priestess who did not speak to reinforce their rulers’ words. The Blue Lady huffed, and reached up to wipe away the blood that was running from her hairline.

    The healer’s eyes flicked from the Scorpion to the Blue Lady. “Do you need help, holiness?” he ventured.

    “Not from you.” the Scorpion snapped.

    “Tend to the injured.” the Blue Lady told him. “The need of our faithful is greater.”

    As the healer scrambled to obey, the curious eyes of the crowd fell back upon the priestess and the red-haired Ashwoman.

    “The rest of you, away.” the Blue Lady told them, sharply. “Now!”

    The Lightmen’s deference to the Enlightened was ingrained. They fled, leaving their wounded to the healer. As the dusty street cleared, the Blue Lady fixed her eyes on the ragged group of mercenary mages. “Not you lot. You fought off the Leveler’s mages. I want to know what you saw.”

    Gah.” the Scorpion interrupted her bitterly. He was still clutching at the wound that the Illusion had left on his shoulder. “Where’s the fucking Hunchback when you need him?”

    The snake priestess looked around, taking in the battleground through the eye-slits of her gold mask. The eyes behind the mask were sea-blue, placid; almost detached from the chaos of the scene.

    “Here is your proof, Ambassador.” said the Blue Lady, speaking to the snake priestess. “As this Illusion has said, the Leveler claims to have found a Greater Moonstone. And this,” She swept her arms to encompass the ruins of the east gate, “Is what she plans to do with it.”

    The priestess called Ambassador looked around. “I see the work of underlings, not the Leveler. Maybe she has this power, maybe not. Maybe your city falls, maybe not. Maybe good change?”

    Her accent was strange; a singsong lilt that the group couldn’t pin down to any of the towns and cities they had visited throughout the Valley.

    “We’re not talking about a lesser moonstone here.” the Scorpion argued hotly. “No ordinary healing rune.”

    “If the legends are true,” the Blue Lady added sternly, “If the moonstone will give this unbeliever the creation power of the Brothers…” The mage’s hands curled into fists at her sides. “She’ll be invincible. She could take any form, heal any wound. She would be one with the gods.

    “So we give you Book of Names, and you will be invincible instead?” The Ambassador cocked her head, unmoved. “Mer are not like landwalkers. We are not sharp iron, we are water. Slow, shifting, timeless - and not without power. Mer will not hand over the Book of Names unless proof see.”

    Standing between Solar and Raven, Davin’s jaw dropped. “Mer? So it’s true?” His hand hovered close to his sword belt as he looked at the Ambassador, as if unsure whether he should draw the weapon.

    The Blue Lady caught the movement. “Stand down, believer.” she said. “Today we need to fight against a greater blasphemy.”

    Davin didn’t reply, but after a moment he took his hand away from his sword hilt, and instead folded his arms across his bronze breastplate.

    The Blue Lady turned to the Illusion. “You say the Leveler found it in the mines, yes?”

    Davin glanced at Solar. “The mines?” he muttered, “I thought we had finished fighting over those old hills. They haven’t mined a rune out of there in years, just iron and tin.”

    The Ambassador smoothed her toga, looking down and running her hands along the cloth as if momentarily fascinated by the strange material. “Your memories are true, Illusion, but they are not whole. You have not yet witnessed yourself. I will travel to this mine to see if the Leveler really has done what you say.”

    The Scorpion blinked his dark eyes at her. “You’ll what now? Did you miss that there’s an army standing outside?”

    “We sneak.” said the Ambassador, sounding almost mischievous. She pointed around, picking out Raven, Wraith, Wanderer, Archer and Solar in turn. “You have rune power. You shall come with me and the one called Illusion.”

    Davin muttered something under his breath. It sounded like suicide.

    The Blue Lady folded her arms. “If you need more proof, then fine. But find it quickly. Those mages weren’t making any secret of the fact that they’ll be back at dawn tomorrow.”

    Davin looked at the tumbled remains of the city wall, and kicked out angrily at a loose stone. “Dawn tomorrow? We’re fucked.

    In an alleyway nearby, a ragged urchin girl turned a single coin over in her hands, and blinked her little brown eyes at the Wanderer.
    Last edited by Azazeal849; 07-04-2018 at 10:42 AM.
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    Spoiler: Secrets - Volume 2 


    Part 2 - The Immortal


    The Ambassador and her picked mages snuck out of the river gate that night. The Greater Moon was a waxy crescent in the clear summer sky, and the Lesser was a silver one chasing it up across the starfield. They provided only enough light to outline the city walls against the gloom, and the river was black glass - shivering every time the wind sent wavelets scudding across it.

    They kept to the bank, where the long reeds broke up their outlines and turned them into just another shadow among the swaying river-plants. They would be fine here, as long as none of them stepped on a water snake and picked up a painful venomous bite for their trouble. Further upriver the Leveler’s war galleys barred the way, and they would have to find somewhere to cross the river before then, sneaking behind the encamped Ash army and escaping northeast towards the mountain mines.

    It was a task that would need both their runes and their cunning.
    Last edited by Azazeal849; 12-06-2018 at 07:43 PM.
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  7. #17
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    Grubby fingers twisted a coin over in her palm. Hope filled eyes settled on her and the smallest of smiles crept onto her lips. The image was on repeat in the wanderer's mind. That itching of a maternal instinct told her to stay, to protect the small girl. She had for a single moment kicked her heels in, told herself she would stay but the deep red scars on her arms told her to forget it. The child was safer in the city without her.

    The darkness felt comfortable. It was easier to pick through the outskirts without being noticed when the only light was the dim moon. Her fingertips drifted over the tips of the water reeds and let the soft lullaby of the water echo around her skull. The soft shuffling of the reeds covered the noise of their rustling footsteps. Her faithful axe was strapped to her back, yet her right hand itched for it to be in her fingertips.

    The Mer walked ahead, her body gracefully slinking through the tall grass. It was almost if happiness was flooding through her veins being this close to running water. The Wanderer did not trust the Mer. Mer were pompous. ‘Slow...shifting...timeless...and not without power.’ The Wanderer had internally scoffed at the words. It was mere words but she saw them as arrows aimed directly at her, it was as if they were children to the Mer.

    The soft thudding march of their small group reminded her of mornings long past. Walking from their small dirt hut to the mines, their bodies, minds and very souls broken. The Wanderer was not planning on entering those mines again. The cave walls held memories that were best left untouched. The mere thought of them had forced her wake in a cold sweat. Everything left a bad taste in her mouth. They were going to her city...her mines...they were passing her people...sneaking past them.

    Green tired eyes burned into the back of the Mer before them.“You better have a plan for this.” Her words were a harsh whisper against the lapping water beside them. This Mer had ‘power’ on her side...The Wanderer did not want to be fodder for her plan.

    “Keep your wits about you….Ashmen can see in the dark.” Her voice had an amused tone but she knew the statement held truth. It was why she travelled mostly by night, it was why she felt safe in the darkness. If they weren’t careful, they could easily be spotted.


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  8. #18
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    Solar & Everyone


    "You better have a plan for this." Wanderer said, her words a harsh whisper against the lapping water beside them.

    The Mer Ambassador glanced back over her shoulder as she (it?) crept through the reeds, one hand out to brush against the swaying stalks. Divested of the robe and mask she had worn for disguise back in the city, the Ambassador was striking. Her skin was so pale that it took on a blue tinge, a colour that was even more pronounced in her thin lips and slow-scanning eyes. Her hair was vibrant red, tangled into stiff dreadlocks now that it had dried. She was just human enough to be beautiful, and just inhuman enough for that beauty to be unsettling. As she brushed by Solar, he smelled salt and seaweed.

    The Mer drank salt water instead of pure, or so the tales went, and dissolved into sea foam when they died. Solar didn't know the truth of that, any more than he knew if it was true that the Mer had once been human, before being blessed and cursed with the shapeshifting power that the Brother Gods had granted to no other.

    The Ambassador hmm'd softly to herself as she considered Wanderer's question. Unlike the others she carried no supplies over her thin wool tunic; not even any bedding save for the dark hooded cloak she wore about her shoulders.

    "Stay away from the lights." she suggested at last.

    It was not obvious whether the advice referred to the moons, or the torches winking distantly in the Ashmen camp, or something else entirely - and the Ambassador did not seem interested in elaborating as she tiptoed off ahead.



    Solar looked to the group keeping to the far right. He hated 'escaping' and hated running away. They could have fought them off right? Or he believed so. None the less it was his home they fled from and now traveling in a group for what? A greater cause? He didn't know nor did he care. The sooner the group had gotten to their destination the better. The man was still unclear on where they were going aside from sneaking around in the dead of night.

    When the mer-lady brushed by him he nearly cringed at the smell of salt. The seaweed wasn't to pleasant of a smell either but they still pressed on. Her skin reminded Solar of the moon and stars themselves and made him wonder if she was that pale from the sea or if she was merely pale from her curse. He could only imagine if he was caught with such a curse. Being at sea was great and he was sure there were wonderful perks to being there. Some runes that had possibly been sunk to the depths of the sea and only accessible by the merfolk themselves. But he could only imagine being stuck as so. He loved his human form and thought it was best to keep it that way.

    Coming up on the Ashmen's camp he listened when they spoke about staying away from the light. His eyes focused on the dim lit path ahead from the moon and then to the lights in the distance before looking back to the water only to shrug. If they could get past them any faster that would be good right? And what better way than to use the water itself. "Could just use the water to pass us on through. I can freeze it for a short period of time, but it'd be big enough for us to travel across, and I'll just freeze a path, it'll thaw within minutes behind us. Keep us hidden, out of sight, and when it unfreezes nobody will know the difference."
    “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    ― Mahatma Gandhi



  9. #19
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    The hooded Wraith moved quietly along with the company as they traveled along with the Mer. As for the creature herself, he gave no reaction to her presence one way or the other. The others in the group seemed far less than pleased with her company. That was certainly true for the supposed 'Enlightened', but the Wraith had no quarrels with her himself yet. As far as he was concerned, the Enlightened were untrustworthy pharisees who might deserve his blade themselves before this journey was finished. Even now they had no knowledge of who they really had in their employ. He had kept the hood of his cloak overturned in every interaction he had with them so as to appear as just another unremarkable mercenary. Whether his ruse had truly been enough to fool them or not would be more a statement as to their own true intelligence anyway. As for the Mer's words, the Wraith took them for what they were worth. If she believed herself to be superior, it was no matter. She would hardly be the first to have an over-inflated sense of their own worth. It was far more likely though, that her words held a different purpose. In being slow, perhaps their kind was more deliberate in their approach. Such a trait would be deserving of admiration. In being shifting, perhaps open to change. Timeless? Perhaps that was an account as to their aging or lack thereof. Perhaps their lifespans lasted longer leaving them far more versed in the nature of seemingly cataclysmic conflicts. Someone with all of those qualities would be a worthy ally indeed, even without the powers that the Mer possessed. The more that he pondered, the better his first impression of her was.

    That same praise could not be admonished to the Leveler though. He had hoped that this mystery lady would be a positive force for the kingdoms and not simply another adversary that he must face. Unfortunately, his initial impression of her was that she was not all that different from the Enlightened. She seemed to be simply another political power-player devoid of honor or shame, who would not hesitate to employ thugs to accomplish self-gratifying goals at the expense of false promises and innocent blood. Even still, it would not be fair to render her a judgement without allowing her to explain herself.

    The Wraith was pulled from his thoughts as one of his comrades, the one called Solar, spoke a suggestion. "Would the ice be thick enough to support our weight?" The Wraith asked, even in whisper his voice having a dark chill to it. He had to admit though, it did seem a rather nice plan. Perhaps this band of mercenaries were more than he had given them credit for.

  10. #20
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    Solar & Raven

    Solar shrugged at the question asked upon him by Wraith. "Will it work? Of course it will. But the longer we go down river the more stress it puts on my body. So the faster the better. I've actually carried a carriage with three horses tied to it across a lake. Nearly passed out and went blind in one eye by the time I had finished but hey, it worked."

    Solar nodded in agreement with his statement before looking to the water. As demonstration, he made his way over to the edge and touched the top of the water with just his fingertips. Upon the touch his rune in the pouch ignited with energy as it filled his hands and slowly spread across the water. First it was an almost clear touch as it froze it. Then as the ice solidified more and more of the water it slowly became a crystal-like light blue color. As Solar released his hand the ice stayed - though it would be a mere three minutes before melting away again into the river.

    Behind Solar, the Ambassador cocked her head to look at the ice, dark in the moonlight with the still-moving river lapping at its edges. She gave no comment, but sighed quietly to herself as she stepped up out of the reeds, as if sad to part from the water lapping around her ankles. Solar heard the tiniest meep escape the mer's blue lips as she put her bare foot down on the ice, drawing back for a moment before stepping up onto the cold platform.

    "Don't slip." she warned the others, although so quietly it was almost as if she was musing to herself. "Would be bad."

    The Ambassador began to cat-foot across the ice as Solar extended the spell towards the far bank. While the others were still climbing up onto the ice shelf, the mer spread her arms with a dramatic flourish and dived forward, sliding away on her belly into the darkness.

    The Archer rolled his eyes.

    The six humans proceeded slowly across Solar's ice bridge. Every now and then, the river would wash across the top of the glistening shelf and bathe their feet in brackish water. They were stealthy however, and all was well. All was well, that is, until there was a flicker of movement off to their left.

    The Wanderer saw it first: a coiling shadow that detached itself from the deeper black of the water, flaring like a threatened cobra. Only this snake was covered not in scales, but long, weedy leaves. Walking in front of her, Archer turned as the corner of his eye caught the movement, and was immediately snared as the long slimy vine curled around his neck. The living creeper flexed and Archer tumbled over himself, his back striking the edge of the ice with a loud crack as he vanished into the thrashing water. There was a slither of wet fronds against ice as more creepers appeared. One seized Wanderer by the ankle; another curled around Illusion's wrist and pulled hard.

    Nudging his night-vision rune into life with a thought, Raven was the first to see what they were truly up against. She was lying in the sand at the bed of the river, pale hair and dark robes drifting gently in the current. Raven could make out Ashman hieroglyphs embroidered on the robes. The woman's twig-thin arms were laced behind her head, and her ankles were crossed as if she were simply relaxing under the moonlight. Her pinched, olive-skinned face was distorted behind a shimmering bubble - some kind of breathing rune - but not so distorted that Raven couldn't see the woman giggling to herself. The long ropes of seaweed carpeting the sand around her had come alive, clawing upwards under a rune-cast force. Several of them already had Archer, closing around him like a slimy claw. The woman unwound a thin arm from behind her head, bracelets of runestones shimmering around her wrist as she reached up and wiggled her fingers at them all, waving playfully.

    The seaweed vines yanked back and water rushed up to meet them all, black and cold and suffocating.
    “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    ― Mahatma Gandhi



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