Sylvie sat cross legged in the garden, looking over the flowers and filling them with life using her special magic. It seemed as though they weren’t being cared for as well as they could and she wouldn’t have it. She could think of all kinds of potions and elixirs she could mix with these, it would be a shame if they all died.
Arlia made her way out of the manor at a hastened pase. She still wasn’t sure whether she could trust these people… nor did she have the time to find out. The one thing she couldn’t do was stay in one place. Any form of pause in her travels, even a quick assassination, left her open to being recognized. She put her facemask back on and continued her leave.
However, on her way out, she accidently bumped into a smaller than average black haired girl carrying around scrap and other junk, sending it all falling to the ground. The young girl had blackish skin, a large grey backpack, most assuredly filled with more junk, and darkened goggles, which looked to cover and protect much more than normal. “Oh! Ah… No… I’m zorry.” She spoke in an interesting accent.
The moment she regained her footing, Arlia darted for the garden. There were too many people to worry about here. Any one of them could be from Stormrend. Any one of them could be members of her family traveling for vacation. Any one of them could identify her and force her back to her old life. Arlia refused to let that happen. Though grim, being an assassin was better than being a frail noblesse.
The black skinned girl watched as she ran, scratching her head as her Netzi friend approached from behind. “Ugh… Why am I not zurprised?”
Her small fuzzy friend put a paw to her chin, “Mean lady?”
“I don’t know… Maybe she’s just as new as we are.” The goggled girl noted.
Noticing the commotion and the running girl, Sylvie stood up, “Why are you running? Is something wrong?”
Arlia turned to the girl. “Why do you care?” Arlia, though being harsh, was slightly glad that someone noticed her distress.
“Because when someone runs like that, there’s usually something they are running from, like monsters?” Sylvie stated.
Arlia’s eye shifted away from the green haired girl. She was right, being only run when they running from something. Arlia had been running most of her life. She glanced back at the girl. She seemed so innocent… what would make her this way? Being so carefree and selfless when everything could go to hell at any minute. After a long pause, Arlia answered. “I guess you could say I’m running from life.”
“Deep… So, just to make this clear, you’re running from your life and you joined a guild whose goal is to hunt some of the most dangerous creatures around?” She said with a curious tone, “You must’ve done something pretty bad, right?”
“One: I have yet to join this guild.” Arlia corrected. “And two: my past is mine and mine alone, you have no business knowing what I couldn’t do.”
“I’m sorry.” She apologized quickly, “Where I come from, everyone sort of knows everyone else’s business. It’s a pretty small place, at least, compared to here.”
Arlia sighed and lowered her facemask. “I’m from one of the largest cities in the world, so I’ve seen things that I feel I shouldn’t have. I may not know where you’re coming from, but I understand what it’s like being in a place you don’t feel comfortable in.”
“You are?” A familiar voice from behind confirmed. Sylvie looked to see that the girl from earlier had walked over with her friend. “I’m from ze city too. So is my friend here.”
The Netzi looked up at her, “Uh… Magic city! Tech.”
“Themosa.” The black haired girl specified.
Arlia quickly placed her facemask back on. “I’m an assassin from Stormrend. Now… tell me why you were eavesdropping on us.”
“I ran into you. Then you ran away, so… I vanted to find out why?” She said, “I’m Betty.”
The assassin paused for a moment. “Arlia… what brings you to this place anyway?”
“My story is… Not that interesting, I came to help people, to work on things, like my parents did when they were in the guild.” Betty explained, “There is much opportunity here, to build things.”
Sylvie seemed intrigued, “So you make machines? I’ve never really seen any machines, they usually stay away from the forest, the trees are well protected.”
“Machines…” A voice said from the distance. “They’ve always seem to evolve into something better. They’re nothing like us… though we did make them to be like that.”
The owner of the voice was an elf, but he looked different. His skin was an ashy pale and his emerald green eyes had no pupils. A large scar traveled down his right arm, where it stopped abruptly at his gauntlet. The gauntlet seemed to be fused with his own skin, patch of metal touching his arm and vice versa.
Betty gave him a curious look, Sylvie however could feel something off about him, causing her to take a cautious step back. “Um… And who are you?”
“My name is Zulik Maverin.” The elf answered. “I was a priest, now I am a mage.”
Betty was about to speak when her friend pulled on her arm. “Yes Veeti?”
The Netzi tried to articulate something, “Man, something off. Bad feeling.”
Sylvie was inclined to agree, but said nothing.
Zulik approached the Netzi. “A bad feeling? Could you describe that feeling?”
Arlia placed her katana between him and Veeti. “You better explain yourself… and if you lie, I will have your head.”
The elf paused for a moment. “I am corrupted by a being only known as the Evil. You shouldn’t worry, as the corruption only affects my body. I still have pure mind.”
“And uh… How can we be sure of that?” Sylvie questioned, a little nervous.
“Because a truly corrupted man would have killed all of you by now.” Zulik answered.
Arlia moved her sword closer to his neck. “I’m not buying it. You have 30 seconds to get out of this city before I start looking for you.”
“Vell… Maybe ve should give him the benefit of the doubt?” Betty spoke up, “What kind of evil person would come to the den of all monster hunters and just com out an’ say all that?”
Arlia growled, still not believing the corrupted elf. She would’ve killed him, but instead sheathed her sword and turned away. “Consider yourself lucky.” She left the group and made her way back to the manor.
“Maybe I am playing Birusu’s advocate, but I zink you are okay, you deserve a chance.” Betty told him.
“I don’t blame her, nor do I blame you.” Zulik said, looking at Sylvie. “It is hard to accept someone so far turned, whether mental or physical.”
“I would be a hypocrite If I shunned you just on your appearance.” Betty said, lifting up her goggles and revealing a large pair of compound fly eyes.
Sylvie looked between them in surprise, “That’s… Interesting.”
“Consider yourself blessed young one.” Zulik stated, patting the black-skinned girl. “You have the vision needed to see the world as it is and fix it when it needs to be.”
“Uh… Zanks?” She replied, scratching her neck.
“I must leave you all for now.” The corrupted Elf said, walking towards the manor. “Until we meet again.”
“Um… Until then.” Sylvie said, giving him a cautious wave.
Veeti stuck her bottom lip out, “Elf still strange. Careful? Careful.”
“I’ll be vine friend, don’t be so paranoid.” Betty added, giving Sylvie a wave before walking off with her friend.
Click-clock. Click-clock. The horseshoes beat that pattern upon the road-drum that lay beneath their hooves. The steady fugue of travel had sounded for several hours now, and the pair of riders hardly noticed it; a lack of entertainment rendered the noise an irritating drone for one of them. The younger traveler let out a sigh. Exasperated by the taciturn state of her companion, she attempted to engage him.
"What do you imagine the guildhouse will be like, Solomon?" the golden-armored squire queried, turning her helmeted head so that her alabaster-plated companion lay in her visor's field of view.
Keeping his eyes in the sprawling hills surrounding the path, Solomon replied, "the recruiter mentioned that the base was sizeable. It will likely be well-decorated and expensive-looking, although it could simply be large and practical."
"Oh, come on. That's a vague answer," the young woman complained. "You can do better."
"I do not see the need to speculate when we do not have much farther to go," Solomon stated with a shrug of his shoulders. "We will soon see for ourselves, Sela."
The squire turned her head forward again. "You're terrible at the whole 'small talk' thing, you know that?" Solomon chuckled quietly. Sela swirled to glare at him. "Are you doing that on purpose?" she accused.
"I was testing your patience-"
"-you're damn right you were-"
"-and I find it lacking," Solomon finished. "Sometimes it is better to travel in silence - particularly when you must be vigilant."
"As if there would be monsters near a hunter guild. Everything's a lesson to you..."
"Constantly keeping your mind open is a reliable means to acquire wisdom," Solomon responded.
"See? There you are doing it ag- ...that was just to mess with me," Sela realized.
Another half-hour or so passed. The duo again fell silent; Solomon was keeping a watchful gaze on the rolling plains, contemplative, while Sela half-dozed in her saddle, aware enough to maintain her balance but not really process her surroundings. It was her master that caught first sight of the Havenbrook guildhouse. The wide form of the two-story structure towered above the surrounding hills; it was a wine-red edifice. Solomon cleared his throat with a baritone cough. "We are nearly there, Sela."
The squire blinked, snapping out of her daze. "Wow," she breathed, catching sight of the mansion. "Are you sure? That place looks like a castle."
"It would be safer to trust my navigational sense than yours, so I'd say we've arrived."
"...fair enough," Sela conceded.
The two travelers approached further, coming across a pair of hunters stationed on guard duty. Solomon presented the signed and stamped membership letters. After a perhaps-excessive stretch of scrutiny from the bored sentries, the two recruits were allowed to progress They dismounted; their horses were taken by the sentries to be fed and taken to the stables while their masters came to the palatial building's doors. The thick wooden slabs rose up about eight feet each, and were surrounded by a graceful granite arch - itself framed by more wine-colored wood. Behind the facade surrounding those durable doors, however, lay thick stone - impervious to any assault by weapons wielded by individual men.
Pressing his armored hands forward, Solomon opened the doors. They unlatched with a click and a smooth, mighty creak, sliding open to reveal the reception hall. It stretched for dozens of feet down the way, and was as decorated as the pair had expected. The floor was covered in clean marble tiles that glittered from the light of chandlers above. The ceiling was not uniform, but rather had recesses from which the luminous clusters hung, The walls were the same color as the outside, though here they had highlights of a rich brown color - somewhere between chocolate and oak wood in hue. The area was expansive - wide enough for a ball to be held - and allowed Sela plenty of room to look about in wonderment.
"I've never seen something this amazing," the desert elf whispered, awed by the incredible decor of the lavish chamber. "This is where we're going to be working?"
DarkGemini24601 and ExoGrim: “Grand Entrance” - Part Two
The two walked over to a reception desk. Finding it empty - the secretary likely off enjoying a midday meal - the knight and squire decided to take a seat on a comfortable bench while they waited. Solomon procured a book from his traveling pack, flipping to the page that he'd left on since his last moment of repose. Sela, too excited to focus on her latest read, instead went to polish her halberd. It wasn't long before the doors opened again, admitting additional newcomers.
Zulik walked into the room, looking around at all of the people around him. He was still getting used to the groups, but it was a nice change to his usual seclusion. As he examined the surrounded set of newcomers, he noticed the two knights on the bench. He tried to veer away from them, knowing that they would likely know of his corrupted presence and tried to dispose of him. Solomon noted the additional recruits as they made their way inside, although with his book still open he was able to do so discreetly.
Sela was less covert in her analysis, scanning the others with interest - her gaze ultimately settling on Zulik. What’s the deal with him?she wondered, having seen nothing like the corrupted elf before. Putting her halberd on her back once more, the squire rose to her feet and approached the man. “Hello,” she greeted him, her tone even - but the way she continued to study him a bit gave away her curiosity.
Zulik turned to the armored elf. After realizing her intention, he smirked. “A little curious for a knight like yourself. No matter, most would either avoid me or try to kill me… nice to see a change for once.” The elf extended his hand in greeting. “I am Zulik Maverin, what my I call you madam?”
“Sela Fay’thiel,” the female elf responded, shaking his hand. “And I doubt it would make a good impression on the person in charge if I struck down a fellow recruit out of nowhere. You might look scary, but you haven’t given me any reason to be concerned as of yet. Restraint, and all that nonsense about honor.”
“Honor?” Zulik took a moment to laugh. “I haven’t heard that word in years. Granted, I believe I was the last one to say it before I left, but that’s not important.” Zulik’s gaze shifted towards the knight on the bench. “So… are the two of you working together or is it a knight and their squire kind of deal?”
“I am Sir Solomon’s apprentice, although he’s not too overbearing,” Sela explained. “We share funds, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“So… he wouldn’t mind if we had a bit of a sparring match, would he?” the corrupted elf asked, a hint of glee in his voice. “It would be good practice for the both of us.”
“I could certainly ask him. Hold on.” Sela walked back over to her master, delivering the request to him. Solomon nodded, and rose from his seat.
He approached Zulik, placing his book in the pack on his back. “I suppose I can spar with you, although let’s not make it too lengthy, shall we? Wouldn’t want to keep the receptionist waiting, should they return soon.”
“Challenge is on the table.” Zulik stated as he scanned the room, incase he was being watched. “If you’re up for it, I know where the sparring grounds are… at least the outdoor ones.”
“Very well then. I shall follow your lead,” Solomon decided.
Zulik lead them to the outside training grounds. After positioning himself on the opposite end and entering battle stance, Zulik said, “Whenever you’re ready, sir.”
Solomon placed his shield in his left hand, and slid his partisan into his right. He rolled his shoulders for a moment, adjusting to the weight. “Let us begin,” he declared. Rather than make the first move, the Temporal Knight adopted a defensive stance, and waited for Zulik to act.
A purple, glowing chain formed around Zulik’s gauntlet arm. When the chain reached his hand, he swung in a wide arc. The chain unlatched itself from the gauntlet and whipped towards knight, aiming for the shield directly. Unwilling to have his aegis yanked away from him, Solomon shifted his position. He moved a foot to the side, and swung the bladed tip of his spear in a downward arc at the chain with the intent to sever it.
One of the links cracked at the impact sight, but the chain filled its purpose. It began to wrap around the spear and the moment it finished Zulik gave the chain fierce yank to attempt disarm his opponent. Solomon considered for a split-second, and then released his partisan. It flew to Zulik as the Solomon put his shield on his back, and drew his mighty warhammer. “It is in times like these that a backup weapon is helpful,” the knight remarked with a chuckle.
“Observant…” Zulik said, his hand on a second chain. “The question is, how fast can you react?” The corrupted elf throw his chain forward and dashed at the knight, Zulik attempted to feint him by acting reckless. A white glow flashed around Solomon, taking an ethereal form and then pouring from him onto the chain. The movement of the spell slowed by half, allowing Solomon to easily dodge it and meet Zulik’s charge with a forward sweep of his hammer - a movement combining offense and defense, as it struck out while precluding Zulik from getting in close from the front.
Zulik noticed the way of his swing. Having little to no time to react, the elf placed his gauntlet hand in between him and the hammer. He opened his hand and prepared to grab hold of the head of the weapon before it sent him flying. The hard block of iron met Zulik’s gauntlet with a powerful impact. Feeling his shoulder pop out, Zulik quickly jumped out of range of a possible second blow. With the time that he had, he attempted to relocate the bone before Solomon got back in range.
Halfway through the process, Solomon was upon him again - closing the short distance between the two. He delivered another strike with his hammer, this time angling it on a diagonal so that if Zulik attempted to counter again, the force might yank him by the arm onto the ground. Zulik took the full force of the attack, landing hard on the ground. Zulik grimaced for a moment before attempting to roll away from the knight. It wasn’t over yet. Acknowledging his resolve, Solomon did not yield. However, rather than keep attacking and overextend himself, he tossed his hammer back onto his back, and walked over to retrieve his partisan and redraw his shield.
“I must admit, you do hit pretty hard.” Zulik remarked, “But I have something that hits harder.” His arm began to form a snake-like flame around it. Zulik’s eyes began to glow as the spell channeled its way down the corrupted skin. Zulik unleashed the blast of energy at the knight. Though he didn’t put full force onto the spell, it would still be strong enough to do damage.
“I see you aren’t underestimating me. Good.” Solomon noted. This time a darker aura surrounded him, and a faint ticking noise could be heard for a moment before being abruptly shut off as quickly as it had come. A field of energy surrounded the Temporal Knight, clinging close to his form, and he ceased moving - the colors washing out from his armor and rendering him a dull gray. The fireblast impacted with him, kicking up dust and smoke - but in the seconds after it cleared, Solomon had not moved, and was unharmed.
Zulik sighed from exhaustion. “That’s the last I can do… you’ve earned yourself a victory today.” Zulik relaxed himself and began to finish replacing his arm. “You will make a great comrade that I would happily go to battle with.”
It was only by the time that Zulik started to fix his arm that Solomon began to move again. He was still in a battle stance as Zulik finished speaking, but - noting the posture of his sparring partner - registered that he must have conceded, and lowered his own weapons. “I appreciate the confidence. Apologies, friend - in that state I cannot perceive the world around me, so I did not realize you had given up for a moment or two.”
“No worries.” Zulik said, as his arm popped back into it’s socket. “I’ve always wanted someone that was a challenge to fight. Most of what I’ve faced were ignorant thieves and mercenaries looking for me and a ‘treasure’ I carried.”
“For one inexperienced in difficult battles, you are quite skilled with sorcery. I’m impressed,” Solomon replied.
“And you are good at holding your ground.” Zulik said, glee surrounding his face. “With my powers aside yours, we could make a great duo.”
Solomon nodded. “I look forward to that,” he agreed, walking back to the guildhouse with Zulik.
As the clearing of hunters started to disperse due to the rather late hour at hand, a pair of travelers arrived, one being rather tall and rather lightly armored, but sported a skeletal hand on a chain, which hung down to his chest. However, his companion was much different, she was short, and wore a hood, and topped it off with a gold pendant around her neck. As they approached closer to the manor, the short woman began to sheathe a longsword.
“Did we get the wrong place, Jay? ‘Cause it said manor and I think we found something of far better quality...” The shorter figure asked, gazing around the estate with a look of wonder much akin to a child at a fair.
The tall man nodded, gazing around at all the hunters who paid them attention, calculating their odds of success for getting hired versus how well equipped and strong the other Hunters looked. Noticing, after a brief moment of silence, that his companion was starstrucked with the manor and had missed his answer, he cleared his throat, and tried again. “I think we have, Tania.”
Arlia noticed the duo approaching and immediately hid to avoid the possibility being noticed. She was not one for interacting with others, but she was curious who these people were… and a little concerned. When she could guarantee that she would not be noticed, Arlia stalked closer to get a better idea of what they were talking about.
Meanwhile, the girl looked up at her taller compatriot, sticking out her tongue at him. “I thought I told you not to call me that! I hate that name…” She pouted, half-heartedly tossing her dagger at the tall man, hidden behind a scarf.
Jay moved quickly, raising his staff to block the blade’s progress. With the minor danger over, he sighed, a deep frown greeting his companion. “Y’know most people would kinda not appreciate having a dagger tossed at their head, and many more people would retaliate. But I’m just going to chalk it up to you being bored. So… we setting down roots here, Titania?”
“Maybe. I haven’t met their leaders yet, and if this place is as bad as the last guild we tried to join… well, that would suck.” Titania replied, as she stopped and began to look around, feeling something was off.
Arlia smirked at what she had heard. They look to join the guild, do they? I’m sure it wouldn’t be that big a deal if I tested their reflexes real quick. Arlia took two unpoisoned shurikens from her belt. With a quick flick of the wrist, she tossed the small circular blades. The shurikens curved through the air and moved at great speed. Arlia knew that if they were true hunters, they would be able to block the attack… if they noticed it in time.
Titania’s hood slid back, revealing two pointed ears. She turned towards the shurikens, and lifted her buckler, hoping that she was just mishearing things. Her compatriot on the other hand quickly casted a flash spell in the direction that Titania was facing, but was unable to move out of the way in time, and took the shuriken in his left eye, knocking him to the ground. Titania, however, was able to block the blow, and proceeded to charge forward, outraged at the random attack. As she ran towards her unknown assailant’s position, she unsheathed her longsword.
The sudden flash of light caught Arlia off guard. Through muscle memory, Arlia placed her hand on her blade. She took a moment to ignore the migraine and focus her mind, listening to see if someone was approaching.
Titania continued her charge, putting her blade between her and the assassin-like attacker, anticipating that her brash behaviour might have put her in a bad spot, and so switched to a defensive stance.
As Titania approached, Arlia prepared for counterattack. The moment the warrior came in range, a flash of steel slammed into her sword. Arlia lost balance slightly as she placed her sword back into its sheath with the same flashing speed.
Titania, now thrown off balance, lifted her sword back into a neutral stance before entering the fray once more. “Wow… I didn’t think people were such dicks that they’d attack strangers without a thought. Maybe… you’re a troubled person? Either way, I can’t let this go without figuring out why you’re doing this, so… I hope you can tell me.” The Thrope said softly, her blade moving towards Arlia’s side with extreme prejudice.
The blade slashed through Arlia’s armor as she jumped back. She grunted briefly in response to the pain before leaping a second time to widen gap further. She pulled out two kunai before replying to the question at hand. “It’s a tradition to test the reaction time of a new comer where I’m from. I had no intention on killing either of you.”
“Huh… you have a weird tradition then. My people don’t try to kill new members to our community. But then again, we’re neither in your homeland or mine, so… what’s your point?” Titania asked, frowning at Arlia’s logic. The Thrope charged forward again, hoping to close the distance.
“Traditions are merely habits that have been passed down from generation to generations.” Arlia explained, jumping on top of the manor. “It doesn’t matter where one is, the tradition will still stand… it’s one of the many reasons why peace is near impossible to achieve.”
“Only if people do not learn to compromise, will peace be impossible. If everyone just… stopped bickering and looked past each other’s faults, peace could be achieved.” The Thrope Swordswoman argued, as her body guard approached, the shuriken still in his eye.
“You… You’re really pissing me off.” Jay growled, as he started to cast a spell to hit Arlia, before being stopped by a quick yank on the shuriken, resulting in the eye popping out.
“Must all royalty be so ignorant?” Arlia stated harshly. “If peace was that easy, we would’ve had it by now. While you’re out arguing schematic with one another, people are dying to wars and monstrosities plague this land. What do you have to say about that, Lady Titania?”
A dagger quickly flew at Arlia, missing by inches. “And must all people put the blame on them? Do I have control of what some moron from my house thousands of years ago did? No. And if peace is so hard to find, why is there barely any war left in the world?” Titania replied, staring up at Arlia. “The most threats we have tend to be monsters, and when wars are committed, they end up being small-scale. So, please enlighten me to how this world is so dark. Or are you letting your feelings dictate your thoughts?”
Arlia looked away from the Thrope, showing signs of guilt. “You do not understand the true cost of this lifestyle, nor the feeling of betrayal.” Her eyes shifted back to the tall one. “You should consider yourself lucky… she is a kind soul who will help you recover from the hell you’ve been through.”
The anger from Jay’s face dissipated, and his weapons lowered. “I know. She’s the one who saved me in the first place.” The mage replied, tilting his head to the side, “And how do you know that?”
“You don’t have to tell her about that, Sancros…” Titania said softly, a memory of pain showing on her face. She threw her hood over her head once more, seemingly out of it.
Arlia paused for a moment. “We knew each other once, when times were different and darkness didn’t touch us.” Arlia dropped down and grabbed the eye, wiggling the shuriken out of it. “I believe this is yours.”
“Thank you, Ms…?” Jay asked, uncertain what the former assailant’s name was.
“Arlia.” The assassin answered.
Titania swiveled towards the woman, Arlia’s words having broken her out of her stupor. “Who are you, really? Are you royalty of some kind? A lower-class worker? Wha-”
“Titania. Manners.” Jay chastised, glowering at the short Thrope.
“Right. My apologies, Arlia. I shouldn't press you for details.”
“You are right about that.” Arlia stated, trying not to glare at the noble. “My identity is mine and mine alone. But, for now, we are allies in this war against evil’s creations. Let us learn from this day and move forward as comrades, not rivals.”
A slow clapping could be hear from the distance. A tall elf with ashen skin and void black hair walked towards the group, an ominous aura following him. “That was a nice display you two put on there. Too bad I was showed up for the last part.”
Arlia threw a kunai at the man the moment she turned around. He shifted his head to the side, the blade grazing his neck. He grimaced briefly before placing a hand on his wound. “Must you be so violent?”
“I want to know why you’re here… now.” The sharpness of Arlia’s blades was only rivaled by the sharpness of her voice.
Titania, still holding her longsword, looked between the two. With a mischievous smile, she started to reply, but a glare from her elven companion stopped the comment in record time.
“Who are you?” Jay inquired, a glare prominent on his face. Silently, he casted to detect whether the newcomer was evil as his aura suggested, but found rather good intentions from the dark elf.
“My name is Zulik Maverin.” The corrupted elf answered, raising an eyebrow. “And what may I call you? I think the Mumbles would work, but your real name would work too.”
The light elf struggled not to bare his teeth at what he thought was an insult. “My name, is-”
“I like that name! Jay, I think it suits you!” Titania interrupted, the glee in her voice melting Jay’s resistances to the name.
“Fine.” The light elf grumbled.
“Jay Mumbles.” Zulik chuckled slightly. “A fine name for a charming fellow like yourself.”
A flash of steel blurred by Zulik’s right arm, but bounced off of the metal surrounding it. Arlia looked at the man is surprise. “How?”
“The weight you put into the blade wasn’t strong enough to cut steel.” Zulik commented, his cheerful attitude morphing into a serious one. “You have much to learn, Arlia. Now if you want a real fight, meet me at the outdoor training grounds and we’ll see what you’re made of.”
Titania’s blade prodded in the direction of Zulik. “How about no, huh? We’re all here as hunters, obviously, and while some have… questionable practices,” Titania started, glancing at Arlia before moving on, “It doesn’t mean you can just fight anyone you want. Now… if we can all put the weapons away, maybe Jay and I can set up a campfire and make you guys some food. How does that sound?”
Zulik shifted back to his cheerfulness. “Food would sound nice… and the company would help too.”
Arlia glared at the elf. “You intend to challenge me and just forget about it because of some food? If you want to dual, then we shall dual.”
“Do keep in mind, Arlia, that I’m still rather angry at your ‘test.’ If anything… I should kill you on the spot for your obvious insult. But I let it slide, because you semi-apologized. Now that I have a guest, a guest I asked to join me in a meal with, you threaten him?” Titania growled, her voice raising.
Jay looked between the three warriors, and sighed, “Gods above, you all are ridiculous. Slights are slights regardless, but if you honestly think that a stupid battle, which will probably piss off the Guildmaster as it’s on their land, is worth it, go ahead. It’ll at least give me a good show to watch.”
“If I had known I was dealing with a warrior from Stormrend, I wouldn’t have challenged her so easily.” Zulik replied. “I’ve never been one for pointless fighting, but some people do need to be taught the hard way.”
Arlia growled. “You ignore my traditions and then insult my people. I will show you what happens when you challenge the pride of the Stormrend soldiers.”
“Like I said, outdoor training grounds.” Zulik glared at Arlia’s arrogance. “Fighting here would cause too many problems.” His gaze shifted towards Titania. “I must apologize for the commotion, however. If I had known this would happened, I would’ve stayed where I was.”
“It’s okay. She’s just being… rude. I apologize for her behaviour as, apparently, some people have no manners.” Titania replied, glaring at the human assassin.
Three watery bullets flew past, nearly striking all three of the warriors. “ENOUGH. Arlia, knock it the hell off with your past vendettas. No one cares, and you’ll end up with nobody to pair up with. Zulik, I know you have good intentions, but stirring up the hornet’s nest doesn’t help anyone. Knock it off. Titania… You’re nearly instigating a brawl with no actual reason for it. Gods above are you all godsdamned children?” Jay yelled, pointing at each in turn before trudging off angrily.
Zulik sighed briefly before answering. “You have much to learn about arrogance child. It can affect even the wisest of souls… including you if you’re not careful.”
Titania sighed as well, “And you have much to learn too, if you cannot see why he acts the way he does already.”
Zulik turned to the thrope. “But isn’t life all about learning? Whether it be learning to cope with a tragedy or learning to find out who you truly are, life is all about learning something new that can help you.”
“I don’t have time for this pointless philosophical argument.” Arlia stated as calmly as she could. “I’ll be going for now. Until we see each other again.” Arlia walked into the shadows and disappeared into the night.
“Well… I suppose that might be true, but unfortunately, we’ll have to postpone this conversation for a later date. I still have to register with the guildmaster still, so… until we meet again, Zulik.” Titania replied curtly, realizing that she had better hurry to accomplish her task. She offered a slight curtsy, before quickly heading towards the Manor’s front doors.
ExoGrim & ZombieSplitter53
United Against Evil (Literally)
Serasam The Havenbrook Manor Office of Lady Havenbrook Jan. 18th, 3349
After the arrival of the newest Hunter’s, the Havenbrook Organization’s owner, administrator, and commander had more work to do then she cared to admit to herself. Adding the processing of over a dozen new hunters all at once to the mountain of paperwork she already had was enough to make most people’s heads spin, but you would never be able to tell Mina might be under any stress by the expression on her face, cool and relaxed. When a knock came from the door and she was informed the man she had sent for was there, she simply placed her pen in its inkwell and said, “Please, send him in.”
Zulik entered the room, quietly closing the door behind him. His ominous aura set it’s roots around the office in seconds. The corrupted elf hoped that this wouldn’t bother the commander much, as he had no control over it. He took a moment to bow and ask. “You wish to see me madam?”
If Mina was bothered at all, she gave no sign. “Have a seat,” she stated, motioning to the chair before her desk. “I wanted to see how you were fitting in. It’s only been a day, but you’re… for lack of better terms, unique.”
Zulik sat down in the seat she motioned to. He cleared his throat before speaking. “Not everyone here is trying to kill me… which is a first. To be honest, it’s nice to finally get out of that decrepitude temple. Also, no need to avoid being blunt. I have come with terms with what I am and how it affects the life I live.”
“I see. Well, I am a businesswoman above all else. You’d be surprise how far you’ll get by choosing your words carefully.” She cleared her throat, and leaned forward a bit. “You are a tempting individual for those of us in this business. Strong, imposing, and with some serious potential. I just need to be sure this malevolent aura of yours isn’t a plain sign that you’re dangerous. I just need to be sure you have a sound head on your shoulders.”
“Don’t you think that if I was dangerous I would’ve kill someone by now?” Zulik counter, sounding too casual for his choice of words. “I may be corrupted by body, but you must remember… a strong mind isn’t so easily fooled.”
“Naturally. But you can’t blame me for worrying that one of my new hires might suddenly go mad and be found eating someone’s face.” Mina gave him a small smile to show she isn’t being entirely serious. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to put you through some rigorous test or spy on you. If it got out I was profiling, my open door policy might look insincere.”
“I hadn’t the worry in the world.” The corrupted elf chuckled. “Worrying can blind a person of their capabilities. It can distract them from the task at hand… so I’ve learned to avoid it when necessary.” Zulik placed his gauntlet hand on his legs as he leaned forward. “I’ve always been one for a second outlook, however, so feel free to explain your reasoning if you want.”
“Well, the sinister air about you does raise an eyebrow. But it isn’t all about looks or feeling. After all, intimidating is good in this line of work. But there is the nature of how you came to be like this.” Mina popped a few grapes from a fruit bowl into her mouth and nodded her head towards it as an offer. “Tell me a little bit more about it. Describe the… whatever it was that corrupted you so.”
“You’ve heard stories of a great evil that plagued everything it touched, right?” Zulik asked, his mood changing to more of a serious one.
Lady Havenbrook slowly nodded. “Off and on. There are a number of great tragedies that seem to grip innocent people, even entire villages, with no seeming cause or warning. It is something we have to learn as a child, that sometimes great numbers of people can just die like that. And one source is a darkness, said to swoop in and engulf everything it touches with darkness. Really rare to find a survivor of it, though.”
“I guess you could call me a survivor.” Zulik gloomily stated. “My master had warned the village of it’s approach, but no one listened. So we left, but this darkness, The Evil we called it, had followed us. I’m not sure how I survived, but I did, and now I’m here. Whether through hell or high waters, I will find a way to stop this Evil and avenge those it corrupted and killed.”
“A noble cause to be sure. Though unfortunately, nobility doesn’t pay the bills.” Mina sat back. Despite the intense topic and seriousness of the situation, she was completely relaxed. “I can count on you, right? While you’re here, you’re free to pursue clues to both find the Evil and destroy it. I would never try and restrict that. But I need to know it won’t distract you to the duties as a Hunter in my Guild.”
“To follow a vendetta blindly would be a fool's errand.” Zulik replied. “I may be after it’s head, but I’m not strong enough to do that yet. I’d need to adsorb much more corruption just to be able to survive near it again. Not to mention that it has far more combat experience than I do.”
Mina grinned. “Well… assisting you in becoming even more corrupted. Interesting.” She shook her head. “Well, I think we have an understanding then.” She tapped her lip. “You know… my library isn’t exactly as big and bold as, say, a royal library or one in a capital city, but my family has collected quite a few books over the generations. And of course the library is open for the Hunters to look through. Please help yourself to all the knowledge it holds.”
“If you don’t mind, I have a few books that I’d like to add to that library…” Zulik mentioned as he pulled four ancient looking books from his tattered bag. “They were my masters, two of his journals and two of his research notes. I’ve been trying to decrypt them and I feel leaving them open to all may help with that.”
“That they might.” Mina laughed. “Our head librarian would love to get her hands on them. Why don’t you go bring them to the library yourself. Just… have some patience. She can be a bit spastic at times.”
“I’ll keep that in mind next time I drop by.” Zulik said, getting up from his seat. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to do that now. Take care of things so I can get to hunting as early as possible.”
Mina nodded her head. “Just down the hall. Doors are usually open so you can’t miss it. And welcome aboard.”
ExoGrim & ZombieSplitter53
United Against Evil (Literally)
As prompted, Zulik made his way down the hall to the open doors of the library. He entered quietly so not to disrupt does reading and studying. Zulik wandered the library looking for someone who would be in charge. There was no point in putting the books in the library if the librarian didn’t authorize them.
“Helooooooo.” Behind him, a Light Elf lowered herself, hanging upside down from one of the shorter shelves, a big smile on her face. “You’re new, right? I recognize everyone here and know all their names, and I don’t know your name, so I don’t think I know you.”
Zulik turned to the woman. “My apologies, but may I ask who you are? It seems rather odd to know everyone here unless you have some form of authority in this guildhouse.”
“Authority? Hmm… not really. Though I do keep the books, both literally and in terms of… you know, money.” She did a flip, one that would have been expertly done had she not slip onto her rear. She was quick to her feet again, and offered her hand. “Esmeralda. My friends call me Esy. And Meral. And E. And ‘hey, you’. Whatever works.”
“Nice to be of your acquaintance, Esmeralda.” Zulik said, bowing briefly. “I am Zulik Maverin.” After introducing himself, he shook her hand. The metal that formed his gauntlet felt rough and jagged under his firm grip. One would think the item was rusty and badly maintained. Though is was every evident that it would not be coming off anytime soon… as the metal and skin made a large scar where they had fused as one.
The young woman examined it with curiosity. “So many interesting people here. So many interesting stories.” She looked up at him with a big smile. “But thank you for shaking my hand. It means a lot to me.”
“No problem.” Zulik replied. “But, now that introductions are out of the way, I have some books that you might be interested in.”
Esmeralda’s eyes lit up. “I’m always interested in new books! Fiction, non-fiction. Fantasy, horror. Novels, short stories. Please…” She grasped his gauntlet and pulled him towards a desk. “Show me.”
Zulik took his traveling bag off his back and searched it for the four books. “These were my masters. Two journals he wrote about his time as a sage and two of this encrypted research note books. The journals are easy enough, but I haven’t been able to decode his research notes. They’re written like some form of travel log or something like that.”
“I see, I see.” Esmeralda carefully opened one of the research books, her eyes dancing about as she quickly read it. “Elvish… locations… people met. If you hadn’t said it was encrypted, I might not have noticed.” She adjusted her large glasses, reading over the same page again and again. “It is a toughy. What reason would he have to write this in code though? What was he researching?”
“From what I know…” Zulik paused for a moment. “A creature known as the Evil and the corruption it’s very presence spreads. During my time with him, he talked frequently about it and the horrors it’s created with mere corruption.”
“Oh, I see… I see…” She smiled at him. “Assuming there is anything to these notes, I know there are plenty of crazies out there that would like to get their hands on this. Maybe use the info to control the Evil or direct it in some way.” She slowly looked him up and down. “I doubt you’re one of them, though. Looks like you’ve learn about corruption the hard way.”
“That I have.” Zulik took a moment to sit down. “I still wonder how I survived that encounter. And why Maverin…” Zulik seemed to daze off and stopped speaking.
Esmeralda’s smile faltered a bit. In a more reserved tone, she said, “Who can say why anything in our lives happens, including why we live on when others don’t. Maybe it’s chance. Maybe the will of the gods. Maybe you survived… because you had the will to survive. Maybe you made it because you still have something important to do. Like, say… help find a way to stop the thing that took your master.”
“Important to do…” Zulik muttered slightly. He turned to notice that Esmeralda’s smile had lower. “Come on, you must know by now that you look prettier with that smile on your face. Don’t let my failures get you down.”
She smiled brightly again. “An Elf that speaks kindly to me, brings me books, and compliments me? Well now, I feel better then I have since leaving home. Thank you.” She gathered the notes and journals. “Well, the least I can do is help you with this mystery. And in the meantime, I can find books about this corrupting Evil for you to read.”
“I unfortunately won’t be able to read them now, but I will later.” Zulik began to turn towards the door as he spoke. “I have to prepare myself for my first hunt. Until we meet again, Esmeralda.”
“Don’t be a stranger,” she called after him. She cradled the books delicately as she pushed up her glasses. “I do like a good puzzle,” she whispered to herself.
Charter was on his dire wolf, looking at the guild mansion. "Hum, so that's the monster hunter guild? It looks more like a castle then a base. Huh, reminds me of home. Well then, better see if this guild is the real deal and if their cause is truly noble. I heard they had a leader that's a little more open then the last one." Charter rubbed his dire wolf. "Hopefully they will alow you in, come on, let's go."
Charter rode up to the front gate, where he was stopped by some guards. " Is there a problem here, soldiers?"
The men looked down at the creature he rode in on. "Well, it is late, and it is our job to keep the beasts out, not invite them inside," one of them said.
Charter's dire looked at the guards and started to growl at them. To which Charter simply put his hand on his companion to calm him down. "Relax slone, you will be fine for now." Charter looked at the guards. "If I leave my companion out here may I go in?"
"Well... yeah, I guess," the guard said. "Um... why don't you go see Master Velmonte? You can usually find him in the garden with his dogs at this time."
"Hum." Charter looked at his dire wolf and said to him, "Slone, they're not food, so guard them. Do you understand?" Slone turned around, and looked at the road he and his master came down as if he was guarding the gate. "Good boy, my wolf will help you guard this entrance for now. Just don't get to comfortable around him, alright?" Charter made his way into the building and saw that the inside was massive. "Reminds me of home. With a place this big, they must have a library." Charter shook his head. "Right, best I stay on track. Now they said that this Velmonte person is in the guardian, though they didn't say where that was."
It took Charter some time to make his way out the right exit, but luckily the manor wasn't very confusing to navigate. Walking into the expansive garden in the back, he soon spied an Elf in casual wear relaxing in the grass. On either side of him was a husky and a mastif, the latter's size and build making it look like a miniature bear, though it still wasn't as big as Charter's companion.
Charter walked up to the Elf and looked down at him. "I take that you're enjoying your time. Hate to interrupt that but I'm looking for the person in charge here, and I hear that's you."
The man grunted. "In charge? Yes and no. I run the Hunters but Lady Havenbrook is the boss." He sat up, and noted the way his dogs were sniffing the air. "Let me guess; you brought an animal? And since I don't see it, the guards made you leave it outside?"
"In a way. I'm sure if he wanted, he could just jump the fence if I ordered him to. But he's a good boy and since I don't want to cause problems on my first day here, or make a bad impressio. He's currently guarding the front with your guards."
"Good to hear. Not everyone is so careful." The Elf climbed to his feet and offered his hand. "Eraqus Velmonte."
"Charter Van Dam, it's a pleasure to meet you." Character shook Eraqus' hand. "So mind helping me get my companion into the house? I would like for you to see him before I consider joining your organization."
"Of course." He leaned down and whispered something to his dogs in the language of his people. They slowly stood up and made their way back to the house while Eraqus walked towards the entrance with Charter. "So where are you from, Charter?"
"Mirandia. I work as a mercenary. Well, a mercenary of sorts. I don't work for money. I'm more of a traveling knight. I just wish to help people that need it. My payment is my duty, that's all I know."
The Elf gave him a small smirk. "Well, most of the Hunters here make money, but if want to work for free, who am I to argue?"
"I live to serve my countrymen. There is no better reward then to help the innocent."
Eraqus have him a friendly pay on the shoulder. The two chatted about what the Havenbrook Manor had to offer as the made their way to the gate. Eraqus couldn't help an impressed smile when he saw Charter's partner. "I can see why the men were hesitant." He held his hand towards the dire wolf. "What's his name?"
"Slone. I've had him since he was a puppy. He lost his mom when he was a newborn. After that, I raised him, and he's been good ever since."
Eraqus nodded and moved his hand closer, offering Slone a chance to sniff his scent.
Slone sniffed Eraqus hand. As he continued to smell it, he saw two other dogs and decided to just ignore them. "That a boy. No biting."
Eraqus looked up at the guards. "Slone is free to come and go, just like his master. Tell the others to see him when they get a chance so they don't let in the wrong wolf... or a Worg for that matter." He patted Slone on the head and turned to Charter. "Come, Mr. Van Dam. I'll bring you to see lady Havenbrook."
Charter whistled at Slone for him to follow. As they left, Slone growled at the guards. "Easy boy. Which reminds me, it has been a few days. He might be getting a little hungry. I guess we will have to go hunting later. Anyway, I can't wait to meet this lady. I've heard very little about her."
"Well, Lady Havenbrook likes people to know more about the Guild then her. She's been working for more then a decade to improve its reputation." Eraqus nodded his head towards a pair of worker hoisting a stone Gargoyle up to one of two empty slots over the front of the building. "And I hope Slone can forgive us for being a bit jumpy. We were attacked about a week ago when our shield was down."
"Hmm, don't worry about it. With him around, he can definitely help with the defense. Dire wolves are very good at picking off weak enemies. I've also trained him so he's an excellent tracker as well, so if the perpetrators come back and try to retreat, he can track them back to their camp. Now as for the Guild, I heard old rumors that the old leader was prejudice to the other races, which made all the other races that weren't humans quit."
"Well, you have that half right," Eraqus said a a none-to-happy tone as he lend Charter through the grand entrance hall and up the stairs. "Alfred certainly had a problem with nom-humans for some reason. Trust me, I worked with him for five years, and I could never figure it out. The simply disliking them didn't make them quit, though. It was banning anyone that wasn't human from joining that made people quit in droves. That, and the pay, and the safety issues, and the poor handling of missions." Eraqus gave him a stern look. "Everything that the Havenbrook Organization isnotknown for today. Trust me, none of that is a problem. Hasn't been since Lady Havenbrook took over."
"That's good to hear. So this woman is a humanitarian. That's nice to hear at least. You're starting to win me over. But I would love to meet the person that would be my leader, if I decide to stay that is. I want to know more about the organization and see if their cause is truly noble."
"Understandable." They stopped in front of a pair of double doors, and Eraqus motioned for Charter to wait while he slipped in. A couple moments later, he stepped out again. "She'll see you. She's looking forward to meeting you and your friend."
"Right, come on boy." Charter and Slone entered the room. Charter looked at Mina and how she looked. "It's nice to meet you ma'am. My name is Charter Van Dam and my partner here is Slone. It's an honor to meet you. It helps that you're not to bad looking ether."
MIna couldn't help a small grin. "A charmer, I see. You talk in a respectful tone to a woman you have no alliance to, telling me you are no mere merc. A former noble, perhaps. Though you're not a slave to such a status, hence the carefree compliment." She stood from her desk and met Charter in the center of the room. "Wilhelmina Alexandria Havenbrook.And the pleasure is mine." She smiled done at Slone. "He like steak?"
Charter looked at Slone. "He'll eat nearly anything that isn't fruit or vegetables. Oh! Where are my manners, I'm still wearing my helmet." Charter took off his helmet and placed it on the ground, his face being very rugged, with a scar on his noes and right eye, as well as a small beard. "Charter Van Dam. As I said, it's an honor to meet you."
"Well now... you're kinda easy on the eyes too, Mr. Van Dam." Mina pulled a pair of large steaks out of a cold storage box and placed one on a plate. She put it in front of Sloan. "Enjoy. Now, Mr. Van Dam, I'm told you're thinking of joining us, but you're hesitant. You want to make sure we're honorable, yes?"
"I do. I was raised to defend the weak and help those that needed it. That's why I did not fully join the Iron Legion. I want to do more then just be a city guard for a few nobles. I wanted more, so I became a mercenary and did not charge anyone for what I did. I want to know if this place is worth joining or if it's a waist of time."
"Well, good sir, I will tell you that thisisa place of business. I'm afraid we can not survive without being paid. It might work for one man, but for an entire organization?" Mina placed the other steak on a plate and walk to the side of the room. "However, we do not refuse anyone based on race or creed. I do not except missions for the purpose of bringing nothing but harm. We occasionally deal with people, but we are most concerned with monsters. We might expect to be paid, but my grandfather started the Havenbrook Organization to help people, and I try to uphold that purpose."
Slone finally made his way to the plate, and started to eat the food in front of him. "Hum, well it all sounds like a very legit organization, and if I have to accept money, then so be it. I have to say this place does remind me of home. It's not bad."
Mina placed the second plate in front of a gargoyle by one of the windows and walked over to Charter again. "I hope reminding you of home is a good thing, considering you left home."
"I left home to help the world. I figured I can do more good helping across the world then staying in Miriandia. My parents were a little disappointed, especially my father, but when he heard why I did it, he agreed with me and he let me leave." Charter looked at Solne as his companion went to the second plate.
Mina's eyes followed him. "I wouldn't do that, Sloan." As the dire wolf sniffed the second plate, the gargoyle slowly opened its eyes and let out a low snarl."
Slone looked at the gargoyle and started to snarl back at it, then started to bark at it. "I see you keep pet's of your own as well. Slone, I'll give you a deer later, so stand down." Slone ignored his master and keep looking at the gargoyle, and snarling at it. "Slone!" The dire wolf looked at his master, then gave the creature a 'this isn't over' look, and went back to the first plate and laid down.
Mina chuckled softly as the gargoyle grabbed its dinner. "Sloan is well trained for a wild creature. Even a trained dog might not have been willing to part with such a prize. I'm sure he would make a fine addition to our Guild, as would you. So... what do you say? Wanna give us a try?"
"Hum, well your cause does seem noble, and the world is plagued with monsters. Hmm... very well, I will join your group, and you will have my sword and my shield as your own. It will be an honor to fight along side some of the other people here, and I'm sure Slone would love to fight some monsters instead of raiders." Slone looked at his master and put his head back down.
"Excellent." Mina picked up the two empty plates, the gargoyle once again still as a statue. "It is getting late. Why don't you go down to the kitchen and get something for the two of you two eat, then ask someone to show you to a room to get some rest? We'll worry about all the boring paperwork and such tomorrow."
"Great I look forward to working with you and everyone else." Charter picked up his helmet and motioned to Slone. "Well then, you have a good evening ma'am, I can't wait to meet the others."
The Shadow of Innocence
Havenbrook Manor, Outdoor Training Field
Late Night (12:33)
Zulik sat at the end of the training field. He had been waiting for a considerable amount of time. He wanted to make sure that no one could interrupt his challenge. Yes, he had to apologize for starting this fight, but he had to at least finish it. A figure showed up on the other side of the field. The figure moved from the shadows to reveal itself as Arlia. “You said this is the place.”
Zulik chuckled as he stood up slowly. “I didn’t think you would show up. I knew you were a master of the shadow, but I expected you to be asleep by now.”
“That’s where your ignorance shows.” Arlia countered, placing a hand on her blade. “It’s what will lead to your defeat.”
“Don’t be so full of yourself…” Zulik remarked, entering a battle stance. “Or that will lead to your defeat.”
Arlia examined her opponent’s stance carefully. The corrupted elf placed his gauntlet hand behind him and his normal hand in front. This seemed unusual to her as the protected hand was no where it could deflect or retaliate should it be needed. She unsheathed her blade and said. “We’ll have to see about that.”
Zulik merely waited for any sign that Arlia would attack. Seeing no indication of such attack, he prepared a void chain. He cracked the whip-like chain and threw it at the assassin. Unfortunately, she had seen this tactic when she spied on him fighting the knight. Instead of attacking the chain like the knight did, she ducked under it and dashed forward. Her blade carved it’s way through air and slashed through Zulik’s gut. The elf grimaced as the blade left it’s mark.
Arlia jumped into the air in an attempt to cut open his shoulder. Noticing her jumping, Zulik grabbed her sword arm and slammed her into the ground. Arlia quickly pulled out a kunai and slashed at Zulik’s ankle. The pain caused him to let of the assassin, giving her time to get back to her feet. The moment she regain her footing, Arlia spun around in an attempt to stab the elf in the head.
Zulik had barely enough time to block the attack with his normal hand. He gripped her wrist and used his own weight to spin her in the air. He then slammed her back into the ground with the palm of his gauntlet hand. Arlia coughed up blood as her back landed hard onto the ground. The corrupted elf let go of the assassin’s wrist and sighed. “You have much to learn…”
Zulik walked away, more disappointed than victorious. “You may challenge me again when you have more experience. In the meantime, don’t bother even trying to question me.”
Arlia, now filled with rage, charged Zulik at full speed. Zulik only had a split second to notice the blade slashing into his side. Blood erupted from his mouth as he fell to his knees. Arlia looked down upon her enemy, raising her blade to finish the job. Zulik grabbed the blade without hesitation, refusing to die so easily. A sudden surge of power filled the corrupted elf as he held the blade. He stood up, his eyes glowing brightly. Fire filled his normal hand and he unleashed it upon the assassin.
The blast sent Arlia flying back, forcing her to let go of her blade. Pain enveloped Zulik’s hand and caused him to drop the blade. He grabbed his throbbing hand as he shook uncontrollably. When he looked up, a transparent image of a wise man with a long grey beard stood before him. The image had blue robes and a wooden walking stick. “Maverin?” Zulik barely managed to say through the agony. The image merely shook its head and faded alongside the elf’s vision.
Arlia, wounded by the blast, limped towards the unconscious elf. She picked up her blackened katana, examining it cautiously. She held it over the elf’s head… ready to kill him. However, something stopped her. Arlia felt her knees buckle and her arm froze, as if something inside her was telling her not to do it. Then she heard a voice. I thought you promised to protect people, not slaughter them in cold blood.
The voice was familiar, but Arlia couldn’t figure out who, or what, it was. This caused her to sheath her blade and dash away from the training ground… leaving Zulik to bleed out in the field.
Charter is in the kitchen with his companion going through the fridge. “Sigh Slone I really need you to not eat everything, I mean we seriously need to go hunting just for you.” Charter is refilling the fridge with some meat he gathered for the morning hunt. “Well at least it’s restocked for now, so day one met the boss and her gargoyle pet not a bad first day.”
Arlia was wandering the halls when she heard Charter working in the kitchen. She approached the cautiously as to not make any noise. When she noticed that man placing the meat in the fridge, she relaxed a little and walked in. “You must be a hunter for the guild… seeing as you’re supplying us with more food.”
Charter looks and sees a young woman, standing over top of him. “No i’m not a hunter, it’s just that my companion eats so much food that I need to restock just for that.” Slone is laying on the ground looking at his master then back on the floor.
“I’m assuming the wolf there is your companion.” Arlia said, her eyes darting nervously at Slone. “A rather… different choice of pet to have. May I ask where you found him?”
“I found him in the woods seven years ago, his mom died and he was still a newborn. So I took him in and trained him, as long as you don’t do anything ridiculous then he’s harmless…. Well best to let him smell you just so he has your scent.”
Arlia looked at the wolf for a few seconds before saying. “I think I’ll be fine without him knowing where I am at all times. I’ve found it’s easier to sleep when you know you’re not being track… or about to die.”
Slone stood up and walked to Arlia and started to smell her, Slone then licked her arm and continued to lick her arm.
“Well it seems like he likes you, or he’s getting a taste of his next meal.” Charter said jokingly. “I’m kidding of course.”
Arlia was shaking while she was being licked. She eventually began to walk away from the wolf, as if trying to keep her distance and not provoke an attack. She then glared at Charter. “You should more careful who you kid with… if you weren’t helping this guild out, I would’ve already had you head.”
Slone started to growl at her, not liking that his master is being threatened. “Down boy, she’s not a raider you can’t eat her. So stand down.” Charter taped Slone's head, who went behind Charter and laid down. “That a boy, don’t worry he’s a good boy. He’s more of a military wolf then anything.”
“As long as I don’t wake up to him gnawing on my leg, I’ll be fine.” Arlia responded. “I’ve never been one for wolves, but exception can be made.”
“Well that’s nice to hear, i’m sure that most people will have that same feeling about seeing him. I’m used to it by now. So I take it that you're a hunter, or do you work for the manor?”
“I am newly recruited by the guild,” Arlia answered. “My name is Arlia, if you’re wondering. I’m an assassin from Stormrend.”
“Hum Stormrend, a nice place there, a good grass land area. I’m from Mirandia, I’m more of a mercenary. Well calling me a mercenary would be a disrespect to mercenaries, I’m more of a traveling knight.”
“Mirandia…” Arlia paused for a moment, trying to remember the location. “Ah, yes, the Judges. I believe they called your home the ‘jack-of-all-trades.’ Also, I never did get your name.”
“The name is Charter Van dam sweet heart, and you already met Slone. I was born and raised in Mirandia, been raised to treat people as equals and with respect. Even light elves who I found to be great people.”
“I’m more concerned about the Elves than the light elves.” Arlia paused once more, not sure where she was going. “Specifically one by the name of Zulik.”
“I take that that’s another hunter here, is there something wrong with him or something?”
“He’s corrupted and could possibly be a threat to this guild if left unchecked.” Arlia replied. “I had a chance to end him, stop him before anything bad happened… but something stopped me.”
Charter looked at Arlia and thought to himself. “Hum so there is someone that is corrupted here, how very interesting. I understand where you're coming from, not many people survive being corrupted that fact that he did is amazing. However you can’t just go and kill a member of the guild all willy nilly, I’m sure Wilhelmina will not like that.”
“I understand that.” Arlia sighed briefly. “But when he challenged me at the training grounds, something felt off about myself. All I could think about was ending his life… and others as well. I almost lost all control over myself. How do I know that wasn’t him? His very aura is sickening to those around him, so what if it provoked that bloodlust? What do we do then?”
“Hum Tell me what kind of person are you? Are you a person that is used to front line combat, or are you used to fighting in the shadows taking out people from afar?”
“I almost always was sent out to do assassinations when I was in the line of duty. So the shadows part is more appropriate.” Arlia answered. “But what does that have to do with this bloodlust?”
“Being if the front of someone, actually being in a sword clashing battle when your addrlen is high and you senses are all over the place all you can do is kill the person in front of you. There is nothing else, if you think about anything else besides killing the person in front of you in a real battle like doubt or what if’s then you're dead. So what you went through is what most people go through it’s just combat.”
Arlia looked down, guilt showing in her eyes. “This isn’t the first time I didn’t kill someone when it felt like the right thing to do. It’s like I have this voice, this conscious, in my head that stops me.”
“That’s a good thing, it proves that you have a conscious and not just some killer that kills just because.” Charter patted his leg and slone came to him, Charter started to rub him companion. “Don’t worry having that little voice in your head telling you to stop is a good thing, it shows that you're human and not a cursed Vampire or anything like that.”
Arlia looked at the man. She smiled, though it was hidden by her mask. “That’s good then. For now, I must prepare for my first mission… whenever that is. So I must leave you for now.”
“Very well, Slone say goodbye to her.” Slone walked up to Arlia and, stood up very slightly and licked her face.
“Goodbye then, the two of you.” Arlia walked out of the room, wiping some of the slobber off her face as she went down the hall.I hope he’s right about that voice. It may stab us in the back later, since he’s still alive.
Dahlexpert and DarkGemini24601: “Three Proud Knights”
Crack. The yellow solid marked with a ‘1’ rolled into a corner pocket, propelled by the precisely-directed force of a cue stick impact. Solomon stepped back, admiring his handiwork - and to some extent the craftsmanship of the pine-wood table - while searching for his next shot. He and his squire were in the manor’s gameroom, a commodious chamber with cozy, unostentatious furnishings. The floor was wooden, although the majority of it - save for the rectangular spots immediately in front of the two doors on either side of the back wall - was covered by a moss-green carpet.
Without windows, torches on the walls were necessary to provide illumination. They suffused a soft yellow-orange glow throughout the room, shining their light onto the pool table and an assortment of other furniture such as chess tables, dartboards, and so on. Behind the table at which the two Kemarians played was an offshoot of the room, demarcated by two jutting walls that made a valley-like pathway into it. A series of couches adorned the ancillary room, situated around a roaring fireplace - its glow a hotter, harsher red-orange.
Another smack echoed off the oaken walls. The blue two-ball was sunk into a side pocket. Seeing that three of the stripes enclosed his next target - unfortunate five - Solomon allowed that to be the end of his turn. “You’re up, Sela,” he told his student.
“Giving up so easily?” Sela raised an eyebrow - her disapproving expression visible now that her helmet was off. The boldly-designed piece of armor was under her right shoulder at the moment; the two had recently been training out in the practice field, and had not done away with their armor completely - having just gotten back inside.
“A wise warrior knows a battle he cannot win,” Solomon enjoined with a shrug. “I’ll let you clear up the playing field for me a little.”
“Mmm… alright,” Sela mumbled. She applied some yellow chalk to her cue stick, and then paced along the side of the billiards table, studying the positioning of the striped balls she had to go after.
“I would use the eight ball to hit the stripe nine, then again you could use the three ball as well.” A voice came from the end of the room, originating from a very tall man with decent looks. “I have to say you two seem to be having fun, and I see you just came from training since you're still wearing your armor?” Charter looked behind him and sees his companion is not in the room just like he told him.
“Perceptive: you’re correct,” Solomon responded to the newcomer. “Looking to observe our game, friend?”
“No need. I can tell that in, oh, five or six shots you're gonna win - and your friend is going to lose. Because... I’m thinking you already have a plan for every single ball, that or your mapping every turn she does.”
“Hey, screw you! Don’t underestimate me,” Sela responded indignantly. Solomon had the wisdom not to chuckle, lest he incense her further.
Charter waved his hand over the table. “Then please prove me wrong, I hope you do win but, he’s mapped you out already honey you're going to lose, but some friendly advice go for the four-ball and see what happens.”
“How about I carve my own path?” Sela retorted. She lined up her cue stick to hit the ninth - which was nestled between the two of Solomon’s targets - four and six. With an expert accuracy, she tapped her first victim lightly - hitting just in-between the pair she didn’t want to hit. Nine rolled into a pocket, enabling her to continue. “See? I know what I’m doing.”
“Hum.” Charter looked at Solomon. “You want to hit these next two balls at once or do still want to toy with her? Personally I would just end it quickly it makes more of an impression on an apprentice.”
“She does still have another shot,” Solomon intoned.
“Yeah. Hold your camel’s reins.” Sela fixed her eyes on the blue-striped ten-ball, studying it for a few moments before landing a successful hit and sinking it. Red eleven was wedged in a more unassailable spot, dangerously close to the eightball. The dark elf tried to thread the needle again, but - holding back for fear of triggering an instant-loss condition - didn’t put enough force into the hit. The 11th sphere rolled close to a pocket, but did not tumble inside. With a miffed sigh, Sela handed the cue-stick back over to Solomon.
Having already assessed the field while the eleven-ball was coming to a short stop, Solomon smiled. Number four was freed up, and three was in close proximity. His muscles tensed, and he delivered a powerful hit, causing three and four to fall into the other side pocket in quick succession. Sela groaned. “Be lucky that our new friend here thinks more highly of me than he ought to,” Solomon told her. “You created a good lineup for me, but I’m not prescient.” He glanced over at Charter. “In battle it is wise to try and think ahead of time, but here… it tends to be more difficult.”
“My father always told me to plan ahead, to take down a group of enemies piece by piece. To aim for their weak spots and to finish them quickly. Take too long, and you give them a chance to fight back and catch their second wind, be arrogant and you might get a arrow in your neck or a sword in your gut.” Charter smiled at the squire. “But that’s what baby steps are for, and why mentors exist.”
Sela rolled her eyes. “Great… now there’s two of you,” she told Samuel dourly as he hit the fifth solid in, then the sixth independently. It was only on the seventh that he found himself unable to do more than just get the seventh freed up. The cue stick returned to Sela, and she finished what she’d started with #11. “Now…” she muttered to herself. “Indirect measures are needed.” Lining up a shot against the seven-ball, she hit it with a ‘whap’. Solomon’s next target tumbled into the twelve-ball, colliding with a ‘clack’ and an inelastic transfer of kinetic energy that sent Sela’s intended target rolling at half-speed - just barely enough to make it fall into a pocket. Gravity took over at the end as it neared the crevasse, allowing what might not have been enough to be sufficient.
“Hum… not bad, not bad at all, I have to say, she’s pretty good.” Charter could hear someone screaming in the hallway and he immediately rolled his eyes. “Can you give me one minute? I need to sort out something.” Charter ran out the game room and into the hallway. Trying to explain things to one of the people in the mansion. Charter peeked into the room. “Um you two won’t mind if I bring my friend in here right?”
“Is your friend a serial killer or something?” Sela questioned with plenty of mirth, but some degree of seriousness.
“No it’s just well... I forget that not everyone is not used to seeing a… well best I show you him.” Chatre brought in his dire wolf Slone into the game room -the room being a bit small since it wasn't meant to fit a monster in there. “Yeah, you can see why I wanted to keep him outside.”
“Big dog,” Sela commented, seeming unfazed.
“Curious… you managed to tame a monstrous wolf such as that?” Solomon wondered, surprised.
“Tame is a loose word, he’s my comrade and a good friend. I’m more of his leader and father since I raised him as a pup and I love him dearly.” Charter hugged Slone as his dire wolf licked him.
“That’s laying it on a little thick… he’s just an animal at the end of the day,” Sela noted, her arms crossed.
“That he is, but he’s mine and a loyal companion and a excellent friend to have. He’s also very smart. And truth be told I’m not sure why people are scared of him, I mean our leader did give me permission to keep him here and he can just walk around as he please.”
“Well, I’m sure some of them have fought direwolves before. It’s an odd experience to work alongside one. Fear probably is too strong of a word… caution is what I imagine they’re feeling,” Solomon decided.
“Yeah... ran into one of our comrades; she looked like she saw a ghost when she saw Slone. Wait, where are my manners? I never gave my name, I’m Charter Van Dam, it’s nice to meet you.”
“Solomon Duonnium,” the elder knight returned, extending a hand.
Charter shakes Solomon hand.”It’s good to see another knight around here, so who is your elf friend? Not many take a Elf as a squire.”
“Her name is-”
“I can answer for myself,” Sela interrupted him. “Sela Fay’thiel. And we…” she searched for the right words, “...came across eachother by chance, is all.”
“Humm well that’s a very vague answer... I found Slone in the Virando when his mother died, so stranger things have happened.”
Slone started to walk to the Dark Elf and started to smell her, he then licked her arm.
“Heh, great, that’s another woman that he’s licked today - guess he does need some female company since he’s around me most of the time.”
Sela suddenly was glad she hadn’t taken off her armor yet. Glancing at the slobber, she mouthed, ‘ick’ before shaking her head. “That’s… nice, though don’t think I’m going to marry your son after one meeting,” the squire said sarcastically.
“He’s just being kind. That’s how he shows his affection. Now that I think about it, he’s never been around this many people. As you can imagine I can’t bring a dire wolf into the city, so seeing him like this is new to me. Guess I trained him well.”
The waking world slowly come into focus for Zulik. Before he had the strength to open his eyes, he heard a pair of voices talking nearby.
“Well, he’s fine now. Honestly, next time call the doctor.”
“The doctor wasn’t awake. Only you keep odd hours like this.”
“Then wake him. I am awake for a reason. I can not interrupt my important for every simpleton who does not know the difference between sparing and battle.”
“Yeah, yeah. Relax.”
“I am relaxed. I am simply annoyed…”
Zulik slowly attempted to get up. A pain shot into his side, forcing him back into the bed. His eyes fluttered open. “What happened?” He muttered as his vision unblurred.
“I was hoping you could tell me that.” A serious-looking Elf leaned over him. “My name is Eraqus Velmonte, head of the Hunters. I found you bleeding out on the training grounds. How are you feeling?”
“I’m feeling better than I was last night, that’s for sure.” Zulik said as he attempted to get up once more. “Sometimes I question Stormrend’s culture… especially since it nearly killed me.”
“Stormrend.” Eraqus folded his arms. “I take it you know who did this to you then?”
“I’m the one who challenged her.” Zulik replied, now sitting on the bed he was placed in. “She needed to be taught a lesson, so I thought a simple duel would work. If I had know she was going to try and kill me, I wouldn’t have followed through with it.”
“Such brutish Hunters,” a female voice said from behind the curtain. “Always so violent. It is a wonder how things like this do not happen more often. Regardless, you are not in danger. You somehow absorbed some corrupted magic. It should have harmed you, but instead it stopped the bleeding. You are a… fascinating subject.”
“Adsorbed it?” Zulik inquired. “You mean I can adsorb more corruption than I already have? And that blade she carried was corrupted?”
“Unless you absorbed it from ‘her’, then yes.” The woman stepped over to the bed, a petite woman with rabbit ears, so young looking one might think her a child if not for the stern look in her eyes that challenged anyone to mock her appearance. “Granted, most of the corruption dissipated, but some yet remains. Would you mind…. if I studied you? I promise you would probably survive my tests.”
“I don’t see why not…” Zulik replied without a second thought. “If it means I can figure out what happened to me, I’ll do anything at this point. Plus, the more knowledge I have of my current state could be beneficial.”
Eraqus cleared his throat. “Before Ms. Starstorm starts a dissection of you…”
“Technically it is a vivisection if the subject is still alive,” the woman corrected.
“...let’s worry about the current situation.” Eraqus pulled out a pad of paper. “What is the name of the one who did this to you so that we might report this to Lady Havenbrook.”
“Her name is Arlia… last name is unknown to me.” Zulik answered. “She’s an assassin from Stormrend that I believe was looking at joining the guild.”
The rabbit girl scoffed. “Well, I doubt that will be happening now after such a incident.” She placed her hands on her hips. “Honestly though, I am not sure you should be here either. Going around, trying to teach others ‘lessons’. You might just be as uncouth as you look.”
“Erin…” Eraqus gave her a stern look. “You more then anyone should know better to judge based on appearances.”
She shrugged. “The expression is ‘you can’t always judge a book by its cover’. ‘Can’t always’, which means sometimes you can.”
“My apologies, but I was under the assumption that you had a little more respect than that.” Zulik said, half jokingly. “Guess you don’t want to run those test after all.”
That only made Erin scrunch up her head in frustration. Eraqus chuckled. “Don’t mind her. She’s the judgemental type.” He gave the corrupted elf a serious look. “Now, Lady Havenbrook will want to know what you want to do with this Arlia. Do you think she should be ejected from the Guild?”
“No, that won't be necessary.” Zulik got off the bed as he spoke. “She’s nearly been misguided. And judging by how much power that blade gave me, it was very possible that the corrupted weapon had control over her emotions.”
“He has a point,” Erin admitted. “It is well documented that handling objects that have been exposed to dark, corrupting energies can affect them in a number of negative ways. For example, remember how unpleasant I was during that week with that cursed staff?”
“Yeah.. ‘cause you’re a ray of sunshine otherwise,” Eraqus muttered. “Alright, Zulik. I’ll make sure she isn’t punished for this, though we should probably check on her. We don’t need her going off and actually killing someone should her sword still be cursed.”
“Fair enough.” Zulik said. His gaze shifted to the mage. “Now, about those tests…”
Erin grinned. “If you are not too put out from nearly dying, follow me to my lab.” She opened the door for him.
ExoGrim & ZombieSplitter53
Nature of a Corrupted One
Zulik followed the rabbit woman to her lab. He took a moment to examine the room, see what surrounded the walls of the new area. “What exactly do you plan to do?”
The room was filled with odd magical devices of all shapes and sizes, machines gently humming and various sized crystals glowing. There seemed to be several machines for every kind of magic field, from pure magic to megitech to alchemy. The room was surprisingly clean considering how much was going on at one time. Part of one of the walls was filled with small cages, eyes reflecting in the darkness staring out at Zulik.
“Oh, a little of this, a little of that… heheh…” Erin reached into a box and pulled out a large, intimidating syringe. “Might I borrow an arm?”
Zulik instinctively extended his right arm. Quickly realizing that the syringe would likely not be able to pierce the gauntlet, he lowered it and extended his left instead. “A blood sample shouldn’t be that big a deal, just be sure to not take too much.”
“Oh, hush dear, I am a professional. I will leave you with enough to survive.” Erin took her sample, a rather large one that left Zulik lightheaded for a minute. Placing some of it in half a dozen different machines, she walked over to one of the cages. She returned to the man and held out her arms, a rabbit in her hands. “Hold him. Gently please.”
Slightly puzzled, but cooperative, Zulik took the rabbit as gently as he could. He tried to make sure none of the loose shards of metal from his gauntlet hand cut the rabbit.
Erin chattered and snicked, and the rabbit responded in return, the two apparently speaking with each other. “Interesting. He is uncomfortable with your aura… but is in no pain. The corruption is contained quite well in your body.” She took the rabbit and put it away. She then walked over to a small box. Putting on a pair of thick gloves, she reached in and pulled out an old coin. “Catch,” she said, flipping it to the man.
Zulik snatched the coin out of the air without problem. He was beginning to question the point of all of these test, but he needed to do everything it took to find out what happened to him that day.
“Really? Nothing?” Erin walked over to him and looked him over carefully. She slowly pulled off a glove and lightly touched the coin. “Whoa…” She picked it up and examined it. “So it’s true. You really can absorb chaotic corruption. Most people would have felt like that coin was on fire.” She had a wicked smile for a moment, pocketing the coin and putting her gloves on again. She reached into another, larger box, and pull out a small sceptre. “Hold this,” she said, offering it to the man.
Zulik placed his hand on the sceptre. The rod burned on contact, causing him to let go immediately and wave his hand viciously. “What the hell was that?” He said as he checked his hand for any sign of permanent damage.
“Do not worry. You’ll be okay.” Erin put the sceptre away. “We found this in a pool of magic corrupted with pure celestial magic. I used it in my experiments for purifying such corruption. I guess your absorption powers only go one way. I suspected as much, but had to be sure.” She raised an eyebrow at him. “You going to live, or do we need to go back to the infirmary?”
“Looks like I’ll be fine.” The corrupted elf answered. “Nothing was permanently damage, so I can still use my hand. Is there anything else we need to do or may I leave?”
“Touchy, touchy. You scorched one little hand…” Erin walked over to the counter and picked up a small hand drill. “I just need a small sample of your brain matter and then you can go.”
Zulik paused for a moment. “Before that, I’d like to do a little test of my own… assuming this lab of yours is correct to imply you are a mage.”
Erin let out an exaggerated laugh. Holding up her hands, a small stone, a fireball, and a small swirl of wind floated above her head. “My good man, you are looking at one of the greatest mages in the world. So name your test.”
While she still had her spells active, Zulik walked close to her and began to focus. A purple, shadow-like mist extended from the corrupted elf and filled into Erin. This mist caused the mage to have a sudden surge of magical power. The stone suddenly popped, the fireball flared up, and the ball of wind surged, making her ears flap like they were caught in a torrent. “Whoa!” Erin quickly dispersed the spells, and breathed heavily. “That was… exhilarating.” She took a moment to catch her breath and laughed. “You, sir, will make for quite the interesting field partner.”
The mist left Erin, along with the surge, and returned to Zulik. “That, is what happens when you give a mage taste of corrupted energy. It was something I did by accident during a raid on my temple, just wanted to see if I could replicate the effect on a ‘willing’ subject.” Zulik chuckled. “But it’s not that hard it turns out… I only weaken my own magic to do it.”
“Well… ahem…” Erin adjusted her small spectacles, a little embarrassed by how she reacted. “I believe further experiments can wait for tomorrow. I need to run these tests on the blood samples. Um… you’re dismissed.”
“Guess you can wait for the brain matter.” Zulik chuckled again. “Guess we’ll continue this tomorrow. See you then.” Zulik exited the lab, a small smirk on his face.
Frostlich1228 & Zombiesplitter53, “Friends in Low Places.”
Jan. 17th, 3349
Betty looked over he gauntlet as she walked, making sure the parts were oiled properly as she made her way to The Armory. Betty had designed her gauntlet to be driven by large amounts of compressed air, vented out with each punch to increase the force of impact significantly. It was a good design, or at least she thought so, but she knew it wasn’t perfect. The Thrope could only do so much with the limited resources she had on the road and figured the most likely place to go for a second opinion was the forgemaster.
Veeti sat on her shoulder as she walked, looking around the forge, then back towards Betty. “Gauntlet works well. We made it. Can he do much?”
“Vell, if he is as good as his reputation, then quite possibly. Even so, what harm is there in checking?” Betty replied as she searched for the head engineer.
“Why Anmi here?” A short (shorter then normal) Netzi walked over. “Not recognize. Not work here? What…” He looked up at Veeti. “Oh… hello.”
“Oh!” Veeti smiled when she saw him, having seen few Netzi around the guild so far. Understandable of course, but disappointing. Veeti quickly decided to switch over to her native language to hopefully make a good impression. “I haven’t seen very many of my kind here, but I suppose they at least had use of our technological expertise. I am Veeti.”
“I-I’m Deru. Um… ahem, yes. I, I mean, we are all the most skilled in the world here. I just so happened to be one of the Forgemaster’s apprentices. I mean… there are eight of us, but… still, I’m one of them.”
Betty kneeled down, using what her adoptive family had taught her to follow and respond to the conversation. “Hello Deru… Me Betty, you could help us?”
“Oh! You no simp-Nez. That’s… very impressive. Well…” Deru smiled. “I guess it wouldn’t hurt to introduce you to the forgemaster. He can get you whatever you might need.”
“Thank you Deru.” Veeti smiled, patting her friend on the leg. “That was pretty good, I know you don’t get to use it often.”
“Only around house.” Betty shrugged.
Towards the center of the forge, the room nice and steamy as the workers repair and improved on the weapons of the Hunters, they stopped in front of a large (larger than normal) Netzi with greying fur and a prosthetic leg and arm. “Master Edminfar, I… I know this is unusual, but I told these two…”
“What did I tell you about practicing Doloran on shift?” The Netzi turned to them, and eyed Betty with his one good eye. “What have we here?”
“My name is Betty, I’m looking for zomeone to inspect my weapon.” She responded in Doloran, “It is a little makeshift, as you can see. Oh, and zis is my friend Veeti!”
He nodded to the younger Netzi. “Good to see a pairing such as you.” He floated up so he was eye level with Betty, and waved for her to follow. “Come, place your weapon over on this table. Where did you get it?”
Unlatching her gauntlet, gas was released from the compressor, hissing slightly as she laid it down. “Oh, I built it myself.”
“We build.” Veeti corrected.
“Yes zorry, my bad.” She replied awkwardly.
“Hmm…” The older Netzi pulled a few tools off his belt and started tweaking it. “Makeshift is right… yet surprisingly well put together.” He placed a magnifying scope over his eyes to examine the compressor. “You have a unique accent Betty, if you don’t mind me saying so. I haven’t met many with it, and I’ve only really worked with one.”
“Truly?” Betty seemed surprised. “Ze only one with an accent like mine that I’ve ever met is my mother.”
“Well… maybe I knew her. I have been around for seven decades. Travelled the world. You’d be surprised how many people I’ve met. What is her name?”
“Vesp. Vesp Vhemmina is her married name.” Betty explained, hopeful that he had heard something, but with her luck asking around so far, it seemed unlikely.
His single antennae twitched and he paused, looking back. “You.. are you Betty Vhemmina then? Interesting…”
“Yes! Yes I am! You know my parents!?” The Thrope said, almost bouncing with excitement.
“Yes, I do. I mean…” He turned back to the gauntlet, slowly fiddling with it. “I did. I’m afraid I haven’t seen them in… going on seventeen years…”
“I guess iz true that they went missing then? I didn’t doubt it, but it is good to be sure.” Betty confirmed, her excitement falling.
“Yes, I can understand your disappointment. While I am sure you would not want to hear they died, at least that would have given you closure. But I do not know what happened to them. I tried to look for them, but I had an accident, one that left me how I am now. By the time I was able to pick myself up, the trail went cold. I am sorry.”
“It okay.” Veeti responded, comforting her friend. “Are you sure? Nothing else?”
Betty nodded, “If you know anything else, I would be forever grateful.”
“Well, I a few notes,” he said, turning back to them again. “I’ll give them to you. I wish I could tell you exactly where they went, but all I know was the mission was help discover where some people were disappearing to. I wish I had thought to ask them where they were going at the time, but you never expect you’re seeing someone for the last time, you know?”
“Thank you so much!” Betty replied, hugging him.
“You’re welcome!” The Netzi’s eyes bulged a bit. “Oh… tight grip… like your mother. Name’s Edminfar, by the way. Call me Ed.”
“Hello Ed.” Veeti smiled, “You speak very good. Impressed.”
Ed let out a breath as he was released. “Thank you, Veeti. I should after seventy years.” He smile at her and rubbed her head. “I can teach you if you want. It’s hard, but you wouldn’t be the first I’ve taught.”
“Would love! Thank you. Very kind.” The younger Netzi stepped closer.
Ed nodded. “I try to be. Gets people to work with you better. As for you, Betty, the design of your weapon is excellent, though I have quite a few parts I can replace to make it work better.”
“Really, like what? I guess it could use a better quality oil, maybe a more efficient air compressor… Did you find something I may have missed?” She asked, looking in closer.
Ed chuckled. “No, no, just… well, I don’t want to be rude, but it looks like it was made out of whatever you happened to find here and there. The compressor could be replaced, and I could polish some parts to make the air flow smoother. When I’m done with it, you’ll be knocking the blocks off of monsters like never before.”
“Oh, They won’t know vhat hit them!” Betty exclaimed, wiping some sweat off of her brow, her goggles only making her face hot.
Ed nodded. “You can take those off, you know? It is safe here as long as you aren’t working on anything.”
“Ah vell… About this…” Betty said, putting a hand on her goggles. “You don’t have an aversion to insects, right?”
“Insects? No, not really. What an odd question…”
Betty nodded, then slowly pulled up her goggles, revealing her large, multi-lensed eyes. “You helped me so much, it is only fair I showed you.”
Edminfar floated up to her, using his magnifying scope to examine her eyes. “Fascinating. And I thought I’d seen everything.” He smiled. “You know… I know someone you might want to speak with.”
“Really? Who?” She tilted her head.
“Her name is Erin. She works in the magic labs. Out of the forge, down the hall and to the left.” Ed floated down to the gauntlet. “Why don’t you head down there now while I work on this?”
“Alright then, are you sure she won’t, you know… Freak out?” Betty hesitated.
“Not at all,” Ed assured her. “In fact, you might find you have a lot in common. Just… be patient with her. She’s a bit high strung.”
The Fly Thrope nodded, “I’ll do my best. Next time we meet… could you… tell me about my parents? I don’t remember much about them, certainly nothing about their adventures.”
“My dear, nothing would please me more than to recount the times with… with two of the best friends I have ever had.”
“I-I’m sorry. I guess we both lost a lot when they disappeared…” Betty sighed. “I’ll make sure to be back soon, friend.”
Ed gave her a pleasant smile. “Looking forward to it.”
Frostlich1228 & Zombiesplitter53, “Friends in Low Places, Part Two.”
It took Betty and her furry friend a bit to find the lab, the basement level of the manor even more expensive than the other floors. So enough, though, she came to one of the labs, and after explaining why she was down there, she was walked to the larger one. The room was dimly light, the main lights off and the various magical machines, devices, and apparatuses giving off the light that illuminated the lab. As the pair entered, they came to a row of cages against the wall, reflective eyes watching them closes, the sounds of soft clucking and squeaking coming from within.
“Are zose, chickens?” Betty looked close, but not too close. A twitching nose and a set of whiskers told her it was a rodent, not poultry. The rabbit hopped forward, sniffing.
Veeti floated up, trying to get a look as well before replying. “Magic lab. Test subjects?”
“Of sorts. I like to think of them more as lab partners.” The source of the voice slowly came forward. With the high counter in the way, the first thing they saw was a pair of large rabbit eyes. Erin stepped around into view, wearing a dark blue magical robe dotted with images of stars. “I might use them to help with my experiments, but I take care to make sure they stay as safe as possible.”
Betty quickly turned around, a little nervous at due to her sudden appearance, but also giving Erin a good look at the engineer and her small friend. “Ah… You made me jump just a bit.”
“Yes, I have that effect on people. People like to make rabbits jump. Why not do the same to people?” Erin laughed softly, and stopped in front of Betty. Despite being half a foot shorter than Betty, the proud way she stood and the aura of confidence she gave off made Erin look like she thought she was eight feet tall. “And who are you, child?” She glance at the goggles. “Are you supposed to be a new lab assistant?”
“Uh, I came to vind you, actually.” She responded, her hands in front of her. “Ed sent me your way.”
“The crotchety old lecher, huh? I hope he didn’t send you here to convince me have that date with him. Old man needs to find someone his age…” She walked around Betty, looking him up and down. “Hmm… you’re a Thrope, yes? But what kind? Dark skin… but no fur… or claws. Odd… it takes a lot to stump my intellect.”
“I’m zurprised to you could tell I’m a Thrope, but my affinity is much harder to guess, especially with zhese goggles on.” Betty said, pointing a finger up towards them.
“Ah. The eyes have it then.” Erin folded her arms. “Well? Come on, snap to it, I don’t have all day. Let’s see them.”
Betty chuckled a little a her seeming impatience as she pulled off her goggles, “Zurprise!”
Erin gasped. “Oh, my.” Erin cleared her throat, her own surprise embarrassing her. “Yes, um… an insect then. A fly, perhaps? Fascinating. I have never met one like you. You are quite unique, my child.”
“My child? You speak like you are so much older zhan me, but you do not look it.” The Insect Thrope pointed out.
Erin smiled. “I will take that as a compliment.” She wagged her finger. “I want to… I mean, may I have a closer look at your eyes… what did you say your name was?”
“Betty, and this is my friend Veeti.” She smiled, answering. “And you must be Erin, of course.”
“Naturally.” Erin grabbed a large magnifying glass. “Please, I would be ever so grateful if I could examine your eyes. I will not harm you.”
“Only If you let me touch your ears.” Betty replied, half seriously.
“An unusual request… but okay.” Erin held her head forward. “Go ahead. Knock yourself out.”
Betty carefully reached her hand out, gently rubbing her hand up and down her left ear. “Ooh… Zo soft…”
Erin giggled softly. “Yes, I have been told. People have a natural tendency to want to pet things that are small and furry. I suppose I should be offended that this includes me, but I am used to it. Got me what I needed back in Themosa.”
“Oh!? You’re from Themosa too? That’s where we grew up!” The engineer exclaimed as Veeti just rolled her eyes at her friend’s excitement.
Erin nodded. “My, my, you poor thing. Living in Themosa with those eyes. It is hard enough just being a Thrope there.” She sighed in annoyance. “You did well to get out of there.”
“There were zome, comments… I couldn’t exactly go to school either, rather, I was home schooled by Veeti and her father.” The black skinned girl explained. “But zere was no place like Themosa to practice my craft.”
The rabbit woman motioned for her to kneel down, and carefully examined her eyes. “Your craft, huh? Well… based on your clothing… and the fact that you were educated by a Netzi, and are here with one now… engineering?”
“You are pretty smart, or at least a very good guesser.” Betty chuckled lightly, looking up into the magnifying glass.
“Amazing,” Erin whispered. “These are some of the most… all the benefits of a regular Thrope eye, but with the range and processing power of ommatidia eyes. You must have one of the most advanced ranges of vision in the world. I can only wonder how quickly your brain must function to process the information.”
“All of zose are good, but there is one minor annoyance.” She stated, pulling out a soft rag, “Sadly, I have no eyelids, so every few hours or so I must wipe them. The goggles serve the dual purpose of hiding my eyes and protecting them from dust and other such debris.”
“Well, I can certainly see how that would be a pain.” Erin put the magnifying glass aside so Betty could put her goggles back on. “Still, they are unique in the best way. Remember that the next time someone gives you an unsavory comment about them.” What might be described as an evil smile crossed her face. “Heh heh… I wonder…”
“Vunder what?” She responded, leaning in.
“Hmm? Oh, nothing.” Erin chuckled. “Just thinking of a certain annoying bibliophile with an aversion for insects. Wonder how she would react…?” Clearing her throat, she suddenly ran off to a desk, and returned a minute later with a sheet of paper and a pen. “Do you mind signing this?”
“Are you… Asking for my autograph?” Betty asked, peeking over the paper. Based on the sheer number of words and the ledger, it looked to be some kind of contract.
Erin grinned. “Something like that. Don’t sweat the details, my dear. It’s just a little contract, saying this, and.. and that… and that I’ll get access to your body should you die so I can conduct my experiments…”
Veeti’s antennae twitched, causing her to pull on her friends sleeve. “You sure? T-Trust?”
“Why not? If I am dead, I have little use for my body, no?” Betty countered simply.
Veeti just lowered her head. “No like talk like that…”
Erin leaned in front of Veeti and gave her a gentle smile. “Apologies, I am told I have a tendency to be, what is the word? Unempathetic. But I assure you…” She placed a hand on her chest. “I swear to Nemesis herself, may she seek me out and give me the justice I deserve, I only ask this for the sake of science, and I would give Betty the respect she deserves. I am a scientist and a mage, not a butcher.”
Veeti nodded slowly, before whispering something in Nez under her breath. “If you don’t, Nemesis won’t be the first to make you pay.”
“Good.” Erin stood up and smiled at the taller woman. “Well, I have a lot of work to do. Just got in some fascinating blood samples. But perhaps the three of us can share a spot of tea later. I would love to talk with someone about Themosa, the bad and the good.”
“That’d be lovely! Is tomorrow okay?” Betty asked excitedly.
“That would be lovely.” Erin nodded to Betty and rubbed Veeti’s head. “Until tomorrow, my new friends.”
The Fly Thrope gave her new friend a happy wave goodbye as she turned around and went on her way. Veeti floated back up to her and rested on her shoulder as she walked, “Care Bet- uh… blush?”
“Uh! What no…” She quickly defended, “It’s just hot in here is all…”
ZombieSplitter53 & Black0ut present: A Civil Discussion
Outside of Wilhelmina's office
The Thrope Swordswoman walked nervously towards the Guildmaster’s room. I hope she doesn’t get upset at me… what if she doesn’t like thropes, o-or what if she thinks I’m not good enough as a fighter? Oh Gods above… She soon arrived at her destination, and knocked hesitantly on the door.
The door opened, Eraqus looking over Titania. “Your next appointment is here,” he said.
“Good, leave us,” Mina said from in the room. “Go down to the armory and ask Edminfar what we need. And tell him if I get one more complaint about wandering hands from a delivery girl, I’m going to make his left ear match the rest of his left limbs… by chopping it off.”
“Right.” Eraqus walked past Titania, whispering, “She’s in one of her moods, so… good luck.”
“T-thanks for the warning.” Titania whispered back, before walking forward in front of Mina. “U-umm… You, uh, wanted me, ma’am?”
“Yes, dear. Please, sit down.” Mina put some reading glasses to the side and motioned to the chair before her desk. “How are you getting along here. You and you… associate.”
“S-splendidly, ma’am. Your hospitality and generosity are much appreciated.” Titania replied, taking a seat as she was told. “Um… why do you ask?”
Mina sighed and folded her hands. “I’m going to be blunt. There is a certain problem we have with Light Elves around here, and I want to make sure you’re not adding to the problem. I’m not calling you out if you’ve done nothing wrong, but I need to be sure.”
Titania tilted her head, confused. “How so? Do you not usually accept light elves into the guild?”
“We do,” Mina answered. “All are welcome as long as they can do their job. We just usually don’t accept them when they have the kind of relationship I’m worried you two have.”
“And what relationship do you assume we have?” Titania asked, as she tried to hide her anger at what was being suggested.
Based on Titania’s body language, Mina tried to use her words carefully. “I am never one to jump to conclusion. You just have to understand… look, like everyone else, including you, he was given a physical when he started. We saw the scars and marks. The glass eye. The limp he does a good job hiding. Now, a lot of the injuries seem old, so I’m hoping you’ll put my worries to rest.”
“If you’re implying what I think you’re implying, then yes, technically he is my slave, bought from Helvan. I’ve already given him his leave, but to ensure no one else takes him and returns him to his former life, I keep documents. Now… I do believe that free men are allowed to join institutions such as these at their leisure.” Titania growled, doing her best to make the noise as quiet and non-threatening as possible.
Mina stayed relaxed, slowly nodding. “They are. And if he has, we don’t have a problem.”
Titania’s anger slowly ebbed away, and she soon no longer had to restrain her anger. “So… was that the only thing you wanted to talk to me about or…?”
Mina slowly smiled. “Well… I was hoping you could tell me a little about where you come from. There are some holes in the information you gave us. I don’t even know your family name.” She chuckled. “Assuming you’re not too upset at my implications.”
“There was… are several reasons for why I don’t reveal certain things about myself. My homeland, however, is not one of these things. It’s Bevland. Do… you have any more questions?”
Mina slowly shook her head. “I’m afraid we got of on the wrong foot. And that’s mostly my fault.” She stood up and walked over to a cold box. “You want anything to drink, dear?”
“Water, please.” Titania replied, as she moved her gloved hand over one of her ears.
Mina pulled her a nice, cold glass and leaned against her desk. “I feel like… you’re looking for something. Maybe adventure, maybe a little action. After all, why take the time and money to free a slave and keep him around if he can’t help you fight. I’m betting you come from someone with money if you can afford to free a slave like that. And… I admire you. I takes a lot to strike out like you did.”
“Quite perceptive aren’t we? You're correct, of course. But I'm not really much to admire, as I don’t have much in the way of prestige or renown like you do, except with maybe a couple of towns. I still have much to learn.” Titania responded, taking a glove off to reveal a hand that was more claw-like, and had white fur covering it.
Mina smiled at her, gently taking her hand. “We both have plenty to learn. After all, we’re about the same age. So let’s keep learning together.” She stood up again and stepped behind her desk once more. “Just know that you’re free to wear those gloves if you want, but they won’t be needed here. If anyone gives you trouble for your Thrope parts, I’ll personally put them down.”
Titania smiled, before that smile faltered for a moment. “I appreciate your open-mindedness, but this is still an age of inequality, and while some people may share your sentiments regarding this matter, many others don't. So… I'll keep the gloves on while I stay here, but for hunts, I'll take ‘em off.”
Mina gave her a sad look, and nodded. “Alright. Um… that’s all. Thank you for being so cooperative. And assure your friend that Light Elves are treated the same as anyone else here.”
“I will. And thank you for not being afraid of my hands. Not many look past that. Although… can I call you something different than ‘ma’am’?”
“Well, most call me Lady Havenbrook, or Wilhelmina. But… it would be nice for someone to call me something more casual every once in awhile.”
“Hmm… I hope I'm not overstepping by saying this, but how about… LW? Y’know, for the Lady part and your first name?”
“LW, huh?” MIna nodded. “I like it. Alright then. But only you and your friend can call me that, okay?”
“Well, I was kinda hoping it'd be our thing… besides, Jay tends to be incredibly formal, especially to an employer. So… he probably won't call you anything casual. He didn't relax around me for a year or two, so chances are he'll be as polite, and subsequently, change the way he usually talks.” Titania explained, putting her glove back on.
“Then our thing alone it will be.” Mina laughed. “Not like I don’t appreciate a polite employee. You’d be surprised how hard they are to find in this business.” She bowed her head slightly. “Good luck out in the field, Titania. I expect good things from the two of you.”
Titania stood and bowed, “I'll try not to disappoint.” The swordswoman walked to the door, but before she opened it, she turned to face Mina once more. “And apologies for not doing a proper... curtsy? I think that's what it's called.” Without waiting for a response, Titania left the room. Mina smiled as she went out, satisfied with that meeting.
Black0ut and DarkGemini24601: “Copse Contest, Part 1”
Nestled in a ringlike cluster of gently-sloping hills was an offshoot of the main training grounds. The hillocks served as a marker for the edge of the outdoor part of the manor, but surrounding the circular field in all directions - most prominently separating this particular area from the rest of the practice location - was an enclosure of pine trees. The evergreens cast angular afternoon shadows onto the grassy field, further setting it apart from the rest of the world. Although manmade, the grove felt quite natural in arrangement. It was likely that one close to nature, such as a Thrope, had designed it.
Titania walked through the training grounds, fascinated with the scenery. In a rare moment of tranquility, the Thrope sat down, taking her longsword out and laying it across her lap. “Such peace is rare…” She murmured to herself.
For awhile, there was only peace and quiet, with the occasional chirping of birds and whisper of the wind to keep the repose from being monotonous. Then came the muted clank of armored boost from the path into the secluded grove. Pausing in the entryway as he noted the other hunter present, Solomon folded his hands behind his back. “Ah, hello,” he greeted her.
Titania glared at the armored man for a second, slightly upset at his disturbance of the natural sounds. “Hello.” she responded neutrally, eyeing him warily.
Noting the Thrope’s displeasure, Solomon chose to take a seat where he was - ceasing the noise his armor created. Quietly, though loud enough for her to hear, he commented, “a wonder of these lands that does not cease to dazzle me is their vibrant green. Kemar’s sands are golden and glittering in their own right, but there is something refreshing about being surrounded by life. It is certainly less lonely.”
Titania nodded, the glare fading away as a smile took its place. “Life is probably the most beautiful thing in the world, but… everything else has it’s merits as well. Guess it's a matter of opinion, Mr…?”
“Solomon,” the knight introduced himself, a smile beneath his helmet.
“Solomon. A strong name for a strong man, no doubt. But it would seem I’m at a disadvantage, as you’ve seen my face, but I haven’t seen yours…” Titania hinted, closing her eyes for a moment.
“An issue simply resolved.” Solomon reached up, unclasping his helmet and pulling it over his head. The bald-headed man set the article of armor gently onto the grass beside him.
Opening her eyes, Titania studied the man for a moment, finding him far more interesting than before. “Hmm… now that we’re on equal terms, and assuming I’m not wrong, I have question based on your armor… are you a knight or do you just like having fancy armor?”
“I am a knight,” Solomon answered with a nod, “although I am assigned to no particular mortal lord. My service is dedicated to a god, rather.”
“And to what god are you dedicated to?” Titania asked, as she closed her eyes once more.
“Tempora, th’ god of time,” Solomon replied curtly.
“Tempora, huh? So… you're a time knight is what you’re saying? That’s cool. And since you shared, I guess it’s my turn. I have two Gods I worship; Nemesis, as justice must be served, and Aratenda, because I actively engage in skirmishes and battles,” Titania replied quietly.
“Sensible choices for a warrior. My reasons for following Tempora are more fundamental. Although he may not have the raw power or authority of purportedly stronger members of the pantheon, I recognize that time conquers all eventually. Our mortality, the fragility of all things in this physical world… these are truths that canst not be denied. So I choose to submit to what is, in my opinion, the greatest of them,” Solomon explained.
“Also sensible and true, time does affect all, however, there are things time cannot conquer. Other Gods, for example, like Taydar and Mevah. Time must work with Life and Death, otherwise time’s power is weakened, for it relies on many things to be strong.” Titania argued, her eyes still closed, “All of the Pantheon are powerful, and all rely on each other for support. Thus… I believe that there is no ‘greatest god’ as there are none who can lay claim to that title.”
“That is a fair way to view it. I would argue that even without life and death, time’s weathering effect on the material would still continue. Would our lives become ceaseless without the other two?” Solomon pondered. “Perhaps, although I suspect our physical bodies would still wear out; what would happen to our souls, however, is anyone’s guess.”
“What would happen indeed… however, to steer away from our current conversation, I have another question for you: why did you join the guild? Your armor suggests wealth, so there shouldn’t be any reason to come to a small guild like this one.” Titania questioned, hoping to gain more knowledge of the time knight.
“I have amassed a sum during my years as a hunter,” Solomon affirmed. “Although all that time spent in Kemar left me yearning to explore more of the world in the years of youth I have left,” he continued. “Havenbrook may be small now, but I see potential… not to mention that everything I’ve heard of the leadership suggests that it is more amicable than groups I’ve worked with in the past - out of necessity more than anything, mind you.”
“I see. May I test your skill? I have yet to fight a knight of any kind, and brigands tend to be, well, unprepared to deal with people like me.” Titania requested, keeping her eyes closed as she waited for his answer.
“You’re welcome to,” Solomon agreed calmly. The Temporal Knight scooped up his helmet as he rose.
Titania opened her eyes, and sized up her competition, trying to perceive of any weakness he might have. She stood as well, making sure to hold her blade before doing so. “Let’s find a more suitable place for our sparring match. Oh, and please, try not to attempt to kill me? I’ve already been impaled by a spear, so…”
The knight placed his helmet back on. “I have no desire to slay a comrade,” he responded with a chuckle. “I will be cautious.” He turned, walking out of the grove and into the dusty arena where hunters could test one another’s mettle. Solomon placed his shield onto his left arm, and procured his partisan spear to wield in his right hand, standing at the ready. “Let me know whenever you are prepared.”
Titania swung her blade a few times to make sure its weight hadn’t changed, and proceeded to examine the rest of her equipment in a similar fashion. Once finished, she brought her blade up into a defensive stance, and nodded, “Let’s begin.”
“On guard.” Solomon took a step forward, experimentally thrusting his spear forward to see how Titania would react to the imminent threat.
Black0ut and DarkGemini24601: “Copse Contest, Part 2”
Titania sidestepped it, not taking any real damage, but her leather armor tore a little, as she was not fast enough to dodge it entirely. The Thrope Swordswoman took a dagger out, preparing to parry the knight’s next attack. Swiping his spear through the arc, the point tracing an arc downward at Titantia, Solomon followed up.Titania’s blades caught the spear, and hoping to close the distance, Titania moved forward quickly, hoping to get under the knight’s guard.
Solomon’s shield was ready and raised when Titania got close. Although he couldn’t make a good attack at this range, the iron bulwark in front of her afforded little attack opportunities against his torso.
Realizing she was at a disadvantage, she retreated back to her original position. “Nice block. Many people forget defense is a good thing.” Titania commented, preparing for another attack from the armored knight.
“Balance is rarely a poor idea.” Solomon stepped forward again, this time opening with a swipe in front of him - affording Titania no chance to attack from the front while his weapon was swinging.
Titania did her best to parry the initial blow, but slowly beat a retreat as she realized that Solomon out-ranged her by a fair deal.. “Agreed… and neither is learning from previous mistakes.”
“Have another plan of attack in mind, do you?” Solomon questioned, assuming a defensive stance and awaiting her next move.
“Maaaybe...” Titania replied, as she circled him, keeping a healthy distance so the knight’s spear would have a hard time reaching her. “Y’know, as far as opponents go, you’re currently ranking pretty high in my books. But… the only drawback I can see with your fighting style is that you’re vulnerable to magic. Might want to work on that.” With that, Titania charged at the knight with incredible speed, a small wince of pain nearly imperceptible on her face.
In response to the magically-enhanced rush, Solomon used one of his own sorceries. A time dilation placed upon his opponent slowed her down back to a manageable speed, allowing Solomon to throw up his shield oncemore. Titania’s daggers bounced off it with a spray of sparks on the first set of strikes, and - not wanting to risk her darting to the side and getting a jab in on an undefended area - Solomon thrust his aegis forward, repulsing the other warrior with a shield bash.
Titania’s head shook at the sudden stop, and even more so when the shield hit her, dazing her. She took a step or two back, and swung with her longsword at the spear, attempting to knock it out of Solomon’s hand. Solomon, however, was easily able to maintain his grip against the dizzied attempt at disarmament. He pulled his weapon backwards with the impact she’d delivered, and instead pushed the left side of his body forward. His shield was raised, and then slammed downwards, hitting the flat of Titania’s blade in a reprisal that mirrored her own, but was a great deal more effective.
Titania did indeed drop her longsword, and nearly fell from the blow, but managed to pull out her second dagger. A feral look passed through her eyes, but faded quickly. “Owww… you sure do hit hard.” Titania complained before attempting to knock the metal man over by jumping on him, as she realized that she had no way to last too much longer against her armored foe.
Heavy as he was in the iron suit, Solomon didn’t budge - though he was caught off-guard by the move of desperation. Titania was left awkwardly clinging to the knight for a moment, prompting him to mirthfully question, “are we still fighting, or is this something else?”
“Well, you were suppose to be knocked over by this point, but, ah, I seem to have underestimated how heavy you might be in your armor… Although, I can still take advantage of this situation! Probably!” Titania declared, as she jumped off, trying to outflank the knight, as he was distracted.
Unable to reliably - or safely - use his partisan at such close quarters, Solomon lowered the weapon and went purely on the defensive; it was not a sphere foreign to him. The watchful gaze of his heater shield followed Titania as she ran ever to the side. Solomon’s time dilation had run out, and it would be some time before he could use it again - affording Titania an unprecedented opportunity to outpace his ability to pivot and turn.
And outpace him she did, as she ran - this time at a faster rate. Small tears formed in her eyes from the pain. Finally, catching sight of his unguarded flank, Titania stabbed at the man’s legs, hoping to trip him up, or at the least cause him to pause.
Steel ground against steel, and Titania’s longsword left a groove in the Immoradio Regalia’s plates - but the heavy plate armor did not bend completely to the blow. The force might have jarred Solomon a little, but he wasn’t thrown off so much that he fell. Instead, while Titania was committed to the attack, he seized the opportunity to whirl and struck out with his shield again.
The blow connected, knocking Titania down, and almost knocking her out. She blinked slowly, her eyes showing afterimages of her opponent. Closing her eyes, she waited for the massive headache she had to fade away. Solomon put away his partisan, and shouldered his shield.
Once she’d recovered, the Temporal Knight offered a hand to help her up. “You fought well,” he told her in a conciliatory tone. “Not many manage to land a strike anywhere but my shield. You can be quite the lightning bolt when you push yourself. Hone that speed further, and few opponents will be able to keep up.”
Titania took his hand but grimaced when she stood up, nearly falling onto Solomon before putting her weight on her sword. “If that were only true… I kinda lied to you about my ‘magical’ attack. It’s more of I just run to the point my legs scream at me. I’m not exactly durable if, and when, I run that fast. Whereas you’re only downside is that a mage can outdo you pretty easily. Anything physical, however, can rarely hit you, making you probably one of the strongest here.” Titania replied, her legs buckling under her, causing the Swordswoman to fall to her knees.
“You’ve overexerted yourself,” Solomon noted, concerned. “I can help you get back to the manor to rest,” he therefore offered.
“N-no, it’s fine. I can drag myself to the manor if I have to, but I think I’ll just rest up by the pines for a moment or two.” Titania said with gritted teeth, as, true to her word, she started using her daggers to drag herself towards the pine tree enclosure.
Solomon knelt down, placing a hand on her shoulder. “‘Tis one thing to have pride in thineself; ‘tis another to be overly concerned with one’s dignity. I will help you get to the grove, at the very least,” he enjoined, moving to assist Titania to stand up and walk to the place they’d met.
Titania groaned at his help, but did not refuse it. “Y’know, most people, even if they’re decent folk, leave those they don’t know and don’t aid them in any manner. At -ow- least in the villages I protected, so… what are you getting out of helping me?”
“A clear conscience,” Solomon responded with a quiet laugh. “But chivalry is hardly an inconvenience here. I see no reason not to assist.”
Titania frowned but said no more. Instead, she studied the Knight’s armor, trying to discern whether or not it was divine in nature. Although finely-crafted, there was no indication of arcane symbols on the Immoradio Regalia. It was devoid of enchantment, it would seem. After finishing her examination of the armor, Titania remembered that there was someone in said armor. Turning her head away quickly, she focused on walking, and tried not to show any embarrassment on her face.
“Curious about the craftsmanship?” Solomon inquired.
“A little. Was wondering if it was blessed armor or something… I don’t know.” Titania replied, closing her eyes a little.
“No such luck as of yet. Skilled enchanters are hard to come by, and the only gods that frequently give out such gifts are the capricious, unreliable ones,” Solomon mused, lowering Titania to a seated position once they’d made it to the grove. “Get some rest. I look forward to your continued improvement in the times to come. I’ll be around when you feel ready for a rematch… just know I’ll be suspicious if you try tomorrow,” Solomon noted with a mirthful smile.
Titania smirked, “Yeah… maybe I’ll do that just to throw you off… then eventually you’ll let your guard down!” The swordswoman said playfully, as she slowly closed her eyes, and drifted off into a peaceful slumber.