(OOC-thread can be found here.
If you've read my character introduction already, you can skip to the ---)
The world just seemed to spring into creation from one second to the next, at first blurred and colorless and seemingly filled with overwhelming light, but then slowly coming together until the light faded to more manageable levels, faint contours because tangible objects and the monotonous white darkened, gradually filtering through his thoughts and being divided into the colors of reality. His eyes hurt and his head throbbed from his eyes opening too soon and too quickly, but it had been a natural reaction - like someone gasping for breath as they surface after having been underwater for a prolonged duration, his senses had seemed to grasp for anything within reach when he had woken in an effort to prove to him that he was no longer dreaming, and that this was reality.
Jaelnec sat up in the bed, groaning to himself as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. His conscious self had already confirmed that he was awake, but his subconsciousness desperately kept scanning and verifying that everything was as it should be. He was still lying on a slightly too hard bed with sheets that had once been white, but had grayed with years of use. He was still in a small square inn-room with wooden walls, a single door on one side and a single window on the opposite, covered by midnight-blue curtains. The furniture was as he remembered it from when he had gone to sleep - a small wobbly nightstand by the bed with an unused candle in a pewter-holder on it, a small desk by the window, accompanied by a single wooden chair, a small, cracked mirror on the wall and a stool where Jaelnec had tossed his clothes when he went to bed. The smell was the same stagnant arid one, although another musky one had been added, though that probably came from himself. From beyond the door, the sounds of the inn just starting up for the morning's business could be heard, and past the window, the murmur of many voices jumbled together in a single, incomprehensive noise as merchants and buyers were going to the town's square to set up stalls and browse merchandise at the annual black market gathering. Everything was as it should be.
Jaelnec practically had to peel off the sheets from his pale skin as he stood out of bed, drenched with sweat. He realized that he was still trembling slightly from the nightmare, though the details of what it had been were already faded from his memory - not that it was even necessary to remember, since Jaelnec knew quite well what he had dreamt. It was always the same nightmare, each and every time: the clouds dyed red and black with flames and smoke, the dead littering the street, his parents and baby sister's corpses, and... the sword. Always that blood-dripping sword, and the twisted, wicked grin.
He did not remember if he had gotten far enough in the nightmare for Freagon to arrive and save him, but he figured that he had most likely not, or else his heart would not have galloped so when he had spontaneously awoken, and the sense of petrifying terror would not have lingered in his mind. Not that it mattered - whether Freagon saved him in the nightmare or not was inconsequential to his current situation. Freagon had been there in reality, he had killed the man that had been standing over the ten-year-old Jaelnec and his murdered family and saved Jaelnec's life. The real Freagon had not been absent or late, but arrived at the exact right time, and had rescued Jaelnec and taken him away from the burning ruins of his birthplace, lead him far from the smoldering corpses of his childhood friends, and had patiently spent the following months nursing Jaelnec away from the edge of madness and back upon the safer shores of sanity.
At the thought, Jaelnec could not help but to let out a short snort of laughter, despite everything still both amused and distressed by the irony of it all. Both from his parents and Freagon, after he became Jaelnec's guardian and master, Jaelnec had spent his entire life listening to myths and legends of great heroes of the past, and he remembered thinking several times how cliché it was for the hero of these tales to be motivated by having their family killed and homes burnt down, only to swear revenge. How truly cruel it was that the very same fate had overcome himself at the hand of the accursed Crusader's Guild. Even if Jaelnec had perchance survived that night ten years ago without Freagon's help, he would probably have ended up charging straight at the Guild soon after, blinded with rage, only to be killed himself - so in a way, Freagon's arrival saved his life twice at the same time by having his one-eyed patch-wearing rescuer prevent him from seeking vengeance against the Guild. Of course Freagon had saved Jaelnec numerous times since then, but Jaelnec felt more grateful for that first time than any other.
Standing up with his full 5' 11", Jaelnec went to the stool and grabbed the black trousers there, quickly pulling them on and moving on to the white shirt. As he buttoned the front, he could not help but to notice how the fabric tightened over his chest and his arms, hard and appealingly muscular as they were from the long, strenuous years Jaelnec had spent as Freagon's apprentice. Following Freagon about Rodoria and southern Wegam Fermos had been challenging enough, but at times Jaelnec had had the feeling that undergoing the old man's merciless training had nearly killed him more often than monsters, bandits and other villains. Freagon could correct him all that he wanted, remind Jaelnec of his true title and its significance, but to Jaelnec, none of that mattered - no matter how his master demanded to be called Sir Freagon, Knight of the Will, he remained Freagon Nightmaregaze in Jaelnec's thoughts, and those of most people he met.
Ten years... for ten long, exhausting and frequently downright dangerous years, Jaelnec had been Freagon's apprentice and undergone the training Freagon felt was necessary to ensure his survival and - one day - improve Jaelnec's skill enough so that he might one day become a Knight of the Will as well. Jaelnec's body had been pushed to the point where he cried out in agony at times, and he had practiced swordplay with the cheapest, heaviest and most poorly balanced iron longsword ever made, and fighting until his hands and feet were blistered and his arms bruised all over from repeatedly being hit by the far superior master. Freagon had even taken Jaelnec to a deo'iel base in southern Wegam Fermos, where he had made Jaelnec study the nature of various creatures to the point where his head felt like a hornet's nest.
Yet somehow Jaelnec could not imagine what his life would have been like if he had not met Freagon, if the Guild's raid had never happened and Jaelnec had remained with his parents, living a happy and peaceful life. Would he have become a common peasant? Followed in his mother, Sabina's footsteps and devoted himself to Laon? Would he have studied with his father, Kurt, and become a sorcerer? None of that seemed like it could ever have been reality to him, and Jaelnec could not imagine being anything but the apprentice of a Knight of the Will, and sometimes he had difficulty comprehending that his life could have been very different, normal... mundane. And inwardly, Jaelnec was ashamed to admit that he would have ended up bored to death, his thirst for adventure and glory inevitably having drawn him from his home regardless.
Shaking his head, not even wanting to follow that trail of thought any further down the road of paradoxes, he fetched the brown leather boots from below the stool and put them on, their heavy material feeling warm and soft to his feet. With a sigh, he picked up what could seem a shapeless pile of metal, but as it straightened, it revealed itself to be a cuirass of numerous overlapping metal-scales, shimmering in hues of purple and gold. It was more difficult to put on the ghiril-cuirass than he had thought, but after a couple of attempts he finally managed, wearing the feather-light and extremely valuable armor over his torso.
He took the leather belt and the leather shoulder strap, securing one around his waist and the other diagonally over his torso, from left shoulder to the right hip. The strap contained eight little throwing knives of alchemical silver, fitted to be drawn and thrown in an instant. The belt had a small sheath by the right hip, containing a dagger of fine steel, but common design.
He nearly forgot to take the leather scabbard from next to the stool, covering the thirty-five inch blade of the longsword sheathed in it, but not the golden hilt. Jaelnec took a moment to admire the design of the hilt - the guard artfully formed as extended dragon-wings, the dragon's tail wrapped around the handle, and the blade seemingly spawning from flames spewed from the tiny golden dragon's jaws. This single sword - Roct, it was called - was most likely worth more than an entire duchy, and now it was Jaelnec's. He fastened it to the belt by his left hip, where he could get to it quickly.
Boots, armor, knives, dagger and sword - all of it had been Freagon's, and all of it was the equipment of a Knight of the Will. It had been three days since Freagon's burial, and Jaelnec still found it strange to think that he was no longer his apprentice. That Freagon, in the end, had not been killed by one of the countless beasts he fought, but by the single enemy that not even one of the best fighters in all of Reniam could defeat: the Withering.
Jaelnec felt a lump in his throat, and although he tried he could not seem to swallow it. The Priest of Reina Jaelnec had found told him that Freagon had kept his condition secret from Jaelnec from at least four days after having contracted the plague, and had most likely been in horrid agony during this time. But Jaelnec could have sworn that Freagon seemed no different at all! He had simply endured the torments inflicted by the Withering while he kept training Jaelnec and hunting evil, right to the point when he could no longer stand and barely even remained conscious. Just before he had lost consciousness, and soon after perished, he had promoted Jaelnec to Squire of the Will and told Jaelnec that he would inherit all of Freagon's equipment... and all of his duties.
Jaelnec, trying to come to terms with being a squire without a master, took the largest bolt of cloth on the stool and folded it out, revealing it to be a long black coat, and as he put it on its lower hem reached him to his ankles. The coat had been Freagon's as well, and oddly, Jaelnec could not remember Freagon ever having taken it off other than for a rare bath or in the last moments, when the priests had removed it and revealed the spreading gray, blotched areas caused by the Withering. It had no pockets and offered no protection, and was designed just to keep him warm and to make him more intimidating to behold.
Grabbing the thick leather gauntlets - also Freagon's - which were all that remained on the stool, Jaelnec ponderously went to the mirror to see how it all suited him. Although Freagon had been dead for three days and these items had technically been Jaelnec's since then, this was his first time wearing them.
Jaelnec was shocked at his own reflection and appalled at how he looked like Freagon, only with a different head. His features were obviously more youthful than Freagon's, with Freagon being Spirits-know how old and Jaelnec only being twenty years old - but it was more than that. As the eyes looking back from the mirror revealed, black as Stupor as they were, Jaelnec was a Nightwalker, the same as Freagon, and as such he matured more slowly than humans. He was a twenty-year-old, but had the appearance of a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old. No facial hair marred his shapely chin or broad jaw, nor his thin red lips. His nose was perhaps a little too long, but it was narrow and generally appealing. His hair, a luminous shade of golden-blond, fell smoothly on his shoulders.
The overall impression was pretty good, Jaelnec thought nervously, though he was nowhere near as fearsome to behold as Freagon had been with all of his scars and the constant cold in his remaining left eye - that eye, from which a single glare could cause grown men to stutter and quiver in fear. Jaelnec's eyes were in stark contrast, being warm and, despite their color, calming and friendly. Jaelnec's only facial scar was the quite deep one that started at the right corner of his mouth and ran towards his right ear, and unlike Freagon's many scars, this one had not been inflicted during a breathtakingly exciting adventure or in battle against wicked beings. Rather, Freagon had not been too understanding about Jaelnec's teenage-tendencies to rebel against authority, and had reacted to Jaelnec's rebelliousness by taking the very dagger Jaelnec now carried by his hip and cutting open Jaelnec's cheek, all the way to the cheekbone. It had taken several stitches to hold the wound together long enough for a Cleric of Reina to heal it, but Jaelnec had never even questioned Freagon's orders since.
Putting on the gauntlets, Jaelnec went to the desk, where he found his hat - wide-brimmed to shield his sensitive Nightwalker eyes from the sun, and colored a dusty gray from long years of use. This hat, Jaelnec thought profoundly, was basically the only visible piece of equipment that was different from what Freagon had worn, aside from Jaelnec's trousers, but even these looked a lot like Freagon's pants. It was as if Jaelnec had more than taken up Freagon's duties - he had filled the void in Reniam left by him when he died, replacing a champion with a man, a knight with a squire. Jaelnec knew that he was far from as good as Freagon had been, but he also knew that he was talented nonetheless, and ten years of practice had made him a capable swordsman. He was far from Freagon's equal... but only time would tell if he would grow to face the challenge, becoming Freagon's successor, or fail miserably trying.
And his first step down this new road would be to attend to the black market gathering outside.
It was still relatively early in the morning - the sun had only just passed above the confines of the surrounding rooftops, bathing the cobbled street in a red-hued golden luminance that promised a warm day, one which rose out of the many and defied the cold, wet grasp of the autumn and reminded all mortals that the summer had been there, and would come again. But this remained a promise only for the time being, as the chill of the night had not yet yielded to the warmth of the sunlight. Jaelnec found himself pulling Freagon's old coat closer around himself against the cold, though it remained open in the front. He drew his hat a little farther about his ears and pulled the brim a bit further in front of his eyes, which were already watering with the brightness of the day that approached from the east. It would get better as the sun moved its course further up on the sky, where the brim could easily shield him - and then worse again in the evening, as the sun lowered in the west. It was hard to be a Squire of the Will in Rodoria - he was a Nightwalker, and as such he was a nocturnal creature by nature, meant to prowl the night rather than walk in daylight. Yet his duties required him to interact with other races, which were only awake at day. His eyes were constantly sore, and every window-reflection and flash of metal stung them like needles.
He could not help it but to sigh as he looked around at the street leading up to the town square, which was already bustling with activity as several dozen people had already gathered and were busily trying to negotiate better deals and appraise the actual value of various merchandise held by shady characters. He stood apart from the rest, not dealing, walking or talking, but simply watching. A number of wooden stalls and a single elevated wooden platform had been set up for the occasion, and although only five of the stalls were occupied at the moment, Jaelnec had no doubt that within a couple of hours, it would be so crowded that people would be forced to sell their goods off the ground. These black market gatherings were popular - which was probably the reason that Nemhim allowed them. Jaelnec could think of no other duchy in Rodoria that would let all the worst criminals in Rodoria gather in one place and do nothing about it. As for this particular town allowing the gathering... well, there was not a single place in Rodoria where people would not welcome something that could take their minds off the black, charred pyres looming outside every settlement, where the bodies of those claimed by the Withering were burned in a desperate attempt at keeping the plague from spreading.
He tried to keep track of threatening presences and unusual characters - the problem was that everyone here was a threatening presence, and no one was usual. Humans, deigan and penin walking about, accompanied by Melenian slaves or tarken bodyguards, and the ones not openly armed were certain to have weapons concealed on them - even the slaves. A fair deal of people were moving about carefully, like thieves, dressed in cloaks with hoods pulled over their heads - and Jaelnec could only feel amused that these were almost certainly the law-abiding citizens amongst the crowd. No criminal would care if it was seen at the gathering, where smugglers and fences became merchants, and brigands and assassins became esteemed customers equal to warlocks and nobles.
And somewhere, hidden beneath the surface of all of this commotion, was the person who had announced the sale of a cure for the Withering. It had not taken many seconds after Jaelnec learned of this announcement until he had decided that he would not just wander about at random and stop any evil he happened upon, as Freagon had, but actually set a quest for himself and do something great. The Withering was the greatest catastrophe to come upon Reniam since the Age of Darkness, and the squire could think of no cause more worthy than to end the plague.
Of course he had seen far too much during his time with his master to naïvely believe that some shady character had just stumbled upon a cure by accident - especially considering how ducal soldiers and agents, as well as hundreds, if not thousands of independent people had sought actively and intently for that cure for the past twelve years. Jaelnec strongly suspected the promise of a cure to be a lie, likely just another rumor to lure in more customers for the gathering. But the possibility of a cure... even a tiny possibility such as this, he could not ignore. If there really was a cure, it needed to be made public as soon as possible. Every passing day meant more innocents contracted with the plague, and more diseased people dying.
His left hand subconsciously found its own way to the hilt of Roct, compulsively caressing the pommel of the hilt with his thumb: a nervous habit of his. Mages were buying gruesome, rare and outlawed spell-components, assassins and corrupt nobles were stockpiling poison, thugs and peasants were trying to find enough Rodlin to get the weapons with the illegal blades - purely for self-defense, of course. Collectors were buying foreign items and stolen art, merchants getting goods at black market-price to avoid paying taxes, craftsmen were filling carts with extraordinary materials, addicts and distributers were purchasing piaan in barrel-loads... and four out of five of all of them were getting scammed. More people kept arriving now that the big day had begun, either with purses jingling with currency or carts full of goods, and Jaelnec soon felt dizzy and exhausted from trying to keep an eye on all of it. His attention was spread out too wide, and he knew it - but any one of these people could be the one with the supposed cure for the Withering, or someone malevolent drawn there to prevent the cure from being brought to light.
And even so, he thought with a quiet sigh, this is just the start. This is going to be a long day...
Annabelle Silversmith was conflicted as to why she had decided to leave her family behind in Pelgaid to return to her duties as a Paladin of Liya- The Withering, over the many years it had been claiming victims and destroying lives and order wherever it surfaced, had become the reality at everyone's doorsteps. Being a family woman, her best interest was her close-knitted family consisting of a smithing husband, a daughter and a son. Yet... Annabelle was here, in Borstown, of all places.
To say that Annabelle had returned to her duties as an esteemed Paladin of Liya wasn't exactly accurate- She hadn't exactly declared her intention to rejoin the order to her peers, nor to the authorities and larger public. She wasn't in Pelgaid City, which was where she normally operate, where she kept the realm safe from Demonspawn insurrections and dark cultists practicing dangerous magic. More clearly, Annabelle was adventuring, but for what?
Annabelle herself was unsure of her grand scheme if she had any. She just felt pulled towards multiple places at the same time- There was her family, somewhat safe in Pelgaid, her renewed sense of duty as Paladin of Liya within the Duchy of Pelgaid, and an even greater concern born from her role as an agent of goodness- Her concern to help end the Withering and deaths once and for all, not to mention the disturbing rumours that the end of the world was close. A touch of wanderlust was on her mind as well. Then... There was something else, something dark within her, tempting- Quickly putting a stop to her train of thoughts there, Annabelle brought her attention back to reality.
Borstown was a stark contrast to her home, and to what she represents herself. The scenery before her was a shade of brown, grey and black, of age-old abodes and shady characters everywhere she turned. On the opposite end, Annabelle was a beacon of light standing in a sea of darkness and monsters ready to swallow unwitting travellers whole. Having 'returned to her job', she was in full plate and gear. Her armour shone brightly in gold and silver, the icons of Liya and her order clear on her chest and shoulders. Her helmet was clasped in her left hand instead of upon her head, as she didn't want some of the less desirable locals to think she was here to arrest and execute them.
A kite shield with the same icon was strapped to her back, and a longsword standing guard in a sheath strapped to a belt, on her left hip. Then there were a few more surprises... Surprises that her elders remarked jokingly upon discovering that Annabelle's mother could have been an assassin or brigand, though Annabelle, always sad upon remembering the truth, knew better who her mother was.
Before she could catch the attention of too many rogues, the Paladin guided her horse into a very well guarded public stable. After paying the stablemaster handsomely to ensure the safety of her horse (as in addition to being one of the family horse, he is a fast stallion, a good form of transport, and held her supplies). Before leaving, she took out a brown cloak and threw it over her plate- It covered most of her honor and goodness. After spending a moment thinking if she should leave like this, Annabelle took it off and threw it over the horse's back- She would rather die than to hide like a rat. Years of experience had thought her that such was the preferred behavior of a Paladin.
Leaving behind the stable, deciding to pursue her concerns for the greater good, Annabelle headed straight for the marketplace, where the annual black market gathering was being held- There were rumours and outright advertisements that an auction for the actual cure to the Withering is to be held there. As she made her way there- She thought about what she would have to do, as she had never really settled on a course of action yet.
Would she steal the cure for study and replication? 'No, I shalt not act like a common thief,' She thought, no matter how the idea enchanted her. Would she buy it off? 'Nay, even the arms and armour I wear combined with my bag of Rodlin cannot outbuy a wealthy merchant' She thought, at first her hopes uplifted, only to cave in on itself. Would she rob it from the man who bought it? Would she talk him into it? There were limitless possibilities, and anything could happen- Someone else could already be thinking of stealing it. Annabelle decided in the end, as she reached a growing crowd surrounding a wooden platform, that she would have to wait and see what happens.
Lethe was in the Borstown black market. That was the extent she knew of her surroundings, until she checked her scrolls. It had been almost a year since she left the Zerul Library. She knew this because it was clearly written in ink on her scrolls. Almost a year, and here she was in the Borstown Black Market. It had taken a few minutes to convince the guards to let her set up a storefront, a few more hours to hire a servant, a few weeks to learn the servant’s name and she still had to refer to the scrolls occasionally.
She had been here for at least a month now judging from her writings. A few days ago, a merchant rode into town claiming to have the cure for the withering. Lethe did not believe him, he was a quack who was making exaggerated claims in order to make money. She believed this, or rather, that’s what her scrolls recorded she believed two days ago. Today she felt the same way.
Sales have been slow recently, in part due to the scarcity of magi in the town. Still she managed to get sales sometimes. Bumbling inexperienced mages bought her spell tags to cheat on their charms exams. Those wishing to have cantrips at the ready without resorting to memorization bought her spell tags as well. Certain commoners bought her spelltags to impress their girlfriend. She assumed they knew what they were doing. That wasn't the majority, but rather a minority of gullible people who were willing to buy. Other sales came from homemade decorative paper, and calligraphy art. These two items were mostly harmless. Each and every sale was recorded in a scroll for bookkeeping. She really had a lot of scrolls and other papers.
Someone looking like a nobleman walked up to her booth. “Good day, miss, I happened to have perchance on your place of purveyance in the hopes to procure a possible parchment for my perusal”
“We don’t have parchment here.”, Lethe said firmly.
“Alrighty then, well I guess I’ll have to take my business elsewhere”
“Good bye then”, Lethe said.
The nobleman turned to leave but as he turned, he slipped several spell tags into his sleeve. Lethe was not surprised he did that, she was surprised by the obvious way in which he did it. Now he was walking away while whistling.
The thief still walked on, oblivious to the merchant mage following behind him. He made no effort to get away, and Lethe made no effort to call the guards. If anyone knew her storefront was unoccupied, there would be no end to it. She caught up with the thief, who instead of running turned to face her.
“Merchant, I paid for these already, what more do you want!?”, the thief screamed. He had a smug confident expression. Now a crowd was building at the scene. Lethe was taken aback at the insult and now if she pursued her case, the crowd would judge her for it. He knew what he was doing. There seemed no way to handle the situation calmly. “You even overcharged me, I demand my Rodlins back”, the thief demanded confidently. The situation was dire, the thief had now made himself the victim and her the oppressor.
“Then tell me, what did you buy from my storefront, so I may give you recompense?”, Lethe asked. There would not be a confrontation here.
“Um…ah…um…these slips of paper…with strange symbols on it”, the thief’s confident air was fading, “ I know what I bought”, the thief shouted angrily. “Do you really? You never asked me about the price or the product before making your purchase, you simply happened to perchance on my place of purveyance and pilfered papers without paying. By the way, how much did I overcharge you.”
“Um…ah…er…uh…”, the thief stammered as he struggled to think of a figure that was still reasonable to him, as well as the crowd. “Shut up”, he shouted angrily holding several spell tags. She could see the runes on the paper were glowing faintly. The paper was now burning, it would detonate once the small flame touched the glowing rune. The man knew magic but was untrained, a wild mage some would call him. But now he held six explosion tags in his hand like a fan of cards.
What did he think would happen, mystical magical blasts from the paper? Did he even know he had to throw them? Lethe began backing up,“No, drop all those tags now and run!!” The crowd scattered. “Prepare to die", the man threatened.
Moments after he said that a concussive force and a brilliant flash of light exploded from the slips of paper in his hand, he was knocked backwards many paces. He groaned and struggled to get up, but fell back down with a thud.The crowd reconvened to inspect the damage. Lethe stood by, her healing tags were back at the storefront so there was nothing she could do. With that in mind she simply left, and let the riff raff take care of itself.
When she returned to her storefront she was surprised to find the store intact. And slowly a queue of customers lined up in front of her stall. All asking for explosion tags. Business had never been better. She was making a killing, literally and figuratively.
Thelos was in absolute glee, walking around amongst thieves and thugs. He could practically smell the chaos that was just waiting to occur. It would be like a line of dominoes. Thief thinks every man steals, after all. It would only be a matter of time before something deliciously chaotic would come around.
At first, Thelos had been in doubt about going to a place so crowded. Even if he was amongst thieves and murderers, there would still be the occasional fate-fearing moron that would try and take his life simply because it was given to him. He knew his kind was rare enough that the state of outlaw acceptance would be put on hold so they could watch his body wither away. But he was driven there by his desire, his dark and indescribable need, to see, feel, hear, taste or smell even the slightest bit of chaos. A place like this was chaos in itself, with people weaving in and out between each other, shoulders bumping together and hands sliding into pockets that did not belong to them. At some point, someone was bound to get their hands in the wrong pocket and draw upon themselves the anger of a person that was meant to be feared.
The mere thought of a fight ensuing in such a crowded place made him nearly chuckle with the mental imaginary of the scene. It would be a beautiful chaos, with innocent bodies getting caught in the line of fire, stands smashed and crashed as a total brawl would be brought on by the smothering feelings of nervous uncertainty that every and single one of these outlaws had to be feeling. It would be soon enough, he was certain, that someone would do something and cause such a beautiful occurrence. So why should he wait for that? He could as well lead the chaos on and sate his desires faster and in a way more rewarding way. If the chaos he caused was anything like the proportions of that he saw in his mind, he would be ecstatic for hours.
Running his claws along the bottom of a random passer-by's bag would be the first step. The contents of said bag spilling out on the ground below from the immediate cut would be the second. If only he could find a person that looked hotheaded enough to actually act on the immediate anger that would surely rise with the spill of his possessions, he was certain that his rage would be spreading soon and the entire market would erupt into a beautiful state of chaos.
Unfortunately for Thelos, he had a very small attention span. His deep thoughts and searching for the perfect prey was shattered by a single word catching his attention. Withering. He was pretty sure he had heard about it, but his mind failed to grasp what exactly it was. It could not have held much of an importance to him if he had forgotten it so easily. There were people talking about a cure for this Withering, so he assumed it was some kind of disease. By the tones of their voices, he guessed it was a very serious disease. He almost wanted to grin. A very serious, beautifully chaotic disease.
Apparently, from what he could gather from the conversation of the people he was currently tailing, there was a person that had declared that he had found a cure for this Withering and he was going to make it public somewhere there on the market. This time, Thelos really did grin. How wonderfully chaotic it would be if that cure just happened to be stolen before there was a chance to make it public.
This day began like many others for the old man, tucked away in a far corner room of the village temple’s library. He stirred for a moment before spinning to sit on the edge of the bed with a long stretch and yawn. Was it today? Of course it was. It had to be today with the amount of noise he could hear even from across town. A wrinkled hand reached up and took hold of the charm dangling from his neck, whispering to himself and hopeful that the Spirit of Good he prayed to was still able to hear his meager little mumblings in the dark, despite the rumors of her banishment into the Stupor.
He pushed himself up with a slight complaint of a pain in his back. and walked across the room to a waiting glass of water, then glanced over to the pile of scrolls awaiting translation. He ran calloused, old fingers over the ancient parchments with a slight twinge of a smile. Not now, he thought. These could wait until after the festival.
Theodore shrugged his robes off and settled to a cross legged position. His thickly muscled frame was well hidden by his clothes, as were the obvious telltale signs of his demonic heritage. Plates of glossy black bone started at the base of his neck and traveled downward to his lower back, crossing over his shoulders to cover the outsides of his chest as well, where many scars began. The plates moved as easily as skin to him with a deep breath to steady his mind. His meditation never came easily since as his mind quieted, his whore mother’s blood screamed at him from within, demanding his submission to her dark will. Voices he had detached himself from whispered to lock the priests in their bunks and set the temple on fire, to burn this whole town to the ground. Vivid images flickered across his mind as he was reminded how freeing the power flowing inside of him was, how it felt to be in such control over all around him. Then, blessed darkness.
He had power. No man could call himself Theodore’s king, or master, or lord, to control him with their petty mortal’s laws. He took a deep breath. He had power because he disowned his own blood long ago. Disowned a being that could wipe him out in an instant in an act of defiance and power from himself. A smirk tugged at his old face. He’s lived longer than any other demonspawn he’s known. That had to be power. Another deep breath completed his morning ritual, albeit shortened due to the excitement buzzing from the market. A cure for the Withering was whispered to be around, and today was the day of its anticipated arrival.
He pushed himself up to rest his weight on his hands, rocked a bit from his shoulders and swung his body up to a handstand, then bent backwards to his feet with a grin, wondering just what the day held for him. This supposed cure put a bit of a twist on things. The person who held that would be a good deal more than just a man. With it, someone could certainly change some things... A loud boom near the town square brought his attention back to reality.
With a spring in his step he snatched up his robes to settle into. Next came the mantle and then a warm cloak. One could never been too careful about the weather. He snatched up his staff and left the room, giving a nod and playful wink to a pretty young priestess with an armful of books who laughed and gave him a wave in return. The day greeted him kindly as he stepped outside with a lovely clear sky and sun just hidden by the avenue of buildings. A messenger sprint past him holding a bundle of letters, causing Theodore to chuckle at the rush. He supposed it made sense today. He hunched over a bit and held his staff firmly, walking with confidence toward the many tents and shouts near the market place, giving a bright smile to the group of youngsters who were still nursing their wounds after an ill-fated attempt at mugging the elderly man.
The bustling activity of the town square reminded Theo why he had settled down here for the time being. With this many criminals keeping the city guard on their toes, one quiet demonspawn in hiding wouldn’t cause that much of a ruckus. He nudged a pair of spectacles designed to obscure his telltale eyes onto his nose, looking a good deal shorter than one might think with his stoop. It was already an interesting crowd. The shining, proud armor of a Paladin stood out, as did the Nightwalker. The both of them were a curiosity, though hardly the reason he was here today. Theodore clutched his staff in both hands as he weaved through the crowd with little stir, other than the one or two wealthier looking merchants who unknowingly donated a coin purse to Theo’s funds. How kind, he thought with a grin.
He eventually came to stand next to the rightfully wary Paladin and gave her a polite smile. “A place like this could keep someone like you busy, hm?” He turned his eyes back to the crowd with a little step up onto his toes to see if he could spy something in regards to the star of today’s market: the man who held the supposed cure.
Light. Blinding, merciless light. And it has no qualms because it can not feel pain. These are the thoughts running through Ez'rath's mind as he slowly opens his eyes. As he looks around, he realizes he's down to his underclothing, tied to... a wooden rack? Several feet off the ground. He's not sure. The sun's glaring, and the only sound to be heard are the birds chirping, looking for mates, searching for food.
He notices his gear piled up several feet from him. Grunting, he tries his bonds, and find himself unable to escape from them. Leather, perhaps. Taking a deep breath, he focuses his will on the legs that are holding the rack up, and the ground beneath it gives way, and he topples, lying now at an angle. Almost immediately, he feels slighly worn out. Now he wills a slim crystal from the earth, slicing through his left bond. Using his free hand, he frees himself from his other bonds, which causes him to roll to the ground.. Immediately, he goes to his gear and slips everything on, thinking as he does so. The pub. That's where it started. He must've been poisoned. As his boots are tied, an arrow wizzes past his head, missing his ear by milimeters. He rolls back to the structure that had previously restrained him, noticing now that it just a wooden table.
Ez'rath takes a moment to appreciate that they'd used a such sturdy table to restrain him on. Arrows smacked into the opposite end with a thunk. Ez sends out a "ping" through the earth, and immediately knew where the attackers were. Three, with two moving to flank him. Stringing his bow, he pulls an arrow out of his quiver, and sends out a fresh ping. He reveals himself for a single second, letting fly his arrow. As he ducked back behind his cover, two arrows wizzed through the air where he'd been standing, and one thunked into the wood. Almost immediately, he was rewarded with a cry from the attacker he'd fired upon.
Another ping revealed that the other flanker had altered his course slightly, now headed directly towards him. With a grunt, he builds up strength beneath the earth, while cocking an arrow onto the string. At once, he summons a small column up from the earth, launching the table at the flanker, and lets fly his arrow at the stationary attacker. Before the arrow had really left the bow, he flattened himself onto the ground. An arrow flew over him, and then everything was silent.
Picking himself up, he retrieves his arrow from the attackers, picking any money off of them, and anything worth anything. The last attacker wasn't dead, which is what Ez had intended. He sat next to him, a third human and looked at him. His bow was snapped in two, lying several feet away. His legs were pulverized, and one arm broken in several places, with bone sticking out of the skin.
"Who are you?" Ez asked him. He received a cold stare.
"You're not going to make it." He said to the human.
This seemed to break something in him. "I know," He said, tears now streaming from his face. "I didn't want to do it! I really didn't."
"Then why did you?" Ez asked.
"He threatened my family!" He said, spitting blood now. A rib must be broken, puncturing a lung.
"Who?" Ez'rath asked. The man, in response, looks back towards where the stationary attacker had been.
Ez nodded and closed the man's eyes for him. He wimpered, but drank from the vial that Ez offered him. "This will take away the pain," Ez said. "You'll fall asleep. You won't wake up." The man nodded, then reached into a pocket with his good arm. He pulled out a small sack, then gave it to Ez.
"Lisa," Was the last thing he said.
Ez nodded once more and stood, pocketing the sack. He would find her and give her the sack. He quickly checked the position of the sun, and started north, back towards Borstown.
Ez'rath entered Borstown once again. He checked the date at a nearby stall in the marketplace, deciding he'd been gone for about a day. He started asking around for a woman named Lisa. As he spoke to a woman at a stall, an explosion rang out behind him. Turning, he saw a man drop to the ground, possibly dead. He shrugged. Figures. That's what happens when people play with magic.
A distant explosion rang out behind her, muffled by another group forming to watch another show in progress. Normally, such a scene would have attracted Annabelle's attention, but something else had already caught it before the small incident could- The supposed cure for the Withering. Should she get a hold of even a few drops of it and send it to a High Priest for study and manufacture, it could save tens, if not hundreds of thousands of lives.
As the paladin was standing there, she realised that people are flocking to stand around her- Most of whom she noticed were some of the more innocent spirits and commoners. Some of the men were gazing at her, transfixed. Many were younger than her by at least a decade- Despite having celebrated her 40th birthday months ago back with her loving family, Annabelle still looked as if she was half that age, and she was blessed with unrivalled beauty, what with her light golden hair, fair, smooth skin and soft facial features... Many, including her superiors and elders, believed it was due to her devotion to Liya, but Annabelle knew better, where it all came from...
While Annabelle was concentrating on the centre stage and the ever-growing crowd ringing it, a man of advanced age managed to squeeze through the huge bulb of people gathered around her, to find a space to stand just next to her, "A place like this could keep someone like you busy, hm?" He tried to make conversation, but Annabelle did not notice at first, as she was busy staring at the stage, waiting for the auction to begin. It wasn't until a moment that she realised the old man was talking to her.
"I am not here to guard the town," Annabelle replied as she took a glance at the owner of the wise voice talking to her, and it turned out to be an old man whose appearance befits the voice, "wise old sage."
But there was something wrong with the old man, as she could feel chills running down her spine- An instinct that warns her of danger. Annabelle could feel a certain warmness in her chest the moment the old man got close to her. A decade of combating demonspawn and dark sorceror had trained her to detect them effortlessly, and a decade of retirement hasn't erased it yet. The old man in particular, she knew, was a demonspawn- A glance at the silver behind his vision aids confirmed that. Then again, Annabelle knew a small handful of such individuals who were friendly, almost allies. The demon heritage of such rare 'turncoats' of Kreshtaat was but a catalyst of evil ready to ignite, but had not done so- She knew that all too well.
Still, Annabelle could not be too careful. Resting her left hand on the hilt of her blessed longsword as if casually, she continued speaking to the 'wise old sage' next to her as her eyes remained transfixed on the stage and she returned the smile with a meaning only she would truly know, "So, old sage, what brings you to this place?"
There had been one too many occasions when assassins were sent after her, many of which were demonspawn who hated her for killing so many of their kind. Even after retirement, she had to dispose of one or two every year, until the tide of darkness sent against her lifted a few years back, bringing peace into her life. No doubt, after donning her plates again, some of the wretched demonspawn was bound to suspect she was up to it again, and assassins would no doubt follow after that.
EDIT: Made Theodore's speech silver. (26th February 2011 Night)
"Pray, for fate will truly be grim,
The Foe will end this world on its whim."
William had heard these words thousands of times. A man sat on the side of the dirt road mumbling the Prophecy mindlessly, his torn rags for clothing serving as his own shield against the wind beating against him, his long gray beard fluttering in the wind, his perfectly bald head contrasting the cleanliness of the rest of his body. The gray twilight refused to shed too much light upon the poor man, lest he be thought of as a teller of truth rather then the mumbling drunk he was. The man held himself tight, groaning in fear as night approached. He was without shelter, without companionship. On the verge of simply deciding to let himself die of exposure to the elements, or to go through the agonizing pain of another insignificant day in existance.
Just as the man was about to concede his soul to the Wanderer, he heard footsteps. The shivering, pathetic man slowly lifted his head, ceasing to mumble the Prophecy. A figure stood above him, covered in a black cloak. A gloved hand lifted from under the sleeve and pulled back the cowl, revealing a smile surrounded by a pale complexion, draped by long blonde hair down to the figure's shoulders. The smile was genuine, though. Not of sympathy or pity. Not of sadism or cruelty. A smile of... Hope. The man let a large silver sheathe with the hilt of a massive blade protruding from it slide off of one of his arms, and he lay it on the grass just beside the dirt path, next to where the old drunk sat. He kneeled down, placing his hand on the man's shoulder, and spoke in the gentlest voice the man had ever heard.
Black Magic? Arcane Magic? The man was half mad, so he only half remembered what the world outside of his insane mind was like. He did remember, however, that people used magic. And that some people used magic with words like that one. Spero. Suddenly, the man began to feel warmth from within. Not physical warmth, but a hopeful warmth, a comforting warmth. A sort of euphoria that could only be expressed through beautiful songs or writings, and he was feeling it without either. He could feel the madness leaving him. Could hear his insanity beating away at it's new prison trying to escape, and this stranger's magical warden holding it tight in it's cage. The man smiled. He felt the strength returning to his withered legs, and the stranger knelt down, holding the man by his shoulder and elbow, lifting him slowly. The lame man slowly began to stand, his limbs shaking furiously... And then his knees locked in place. He was standing straight up, the warmth overtaking him, his newfound strength helping him to stand. This savior, this man, now stumbled back, his own weakness becoming apparent as he had cast a rather powerful spell on the man.
The stranger nodded and smiled, regaining his balance as the lame an stood astute, straight, taller then his now limp and hunched savior. He then spoke again, in the same calm voice, almost a whisper.
"Grief can not control what we do. Lest we all go mad as you."
He chuckles at his little jest, the man at first thinking him to be insulting him, and then realizing with the chuckle that he had made his version of a joke. The now strengthened man began to tear up, realizing how much he now owed the mage standing before him. He quickly knelt down and attempted to lift the man's massive runeblade. He failed utterly, finding it impossibly heavy. The stranger smiled and stepped up to the man, kneeling next to him wearily and lifting the runeblade with his thumb and index finger effortlessly by the hilt. He turned it to his right and slid it over his arm, slinging it back across his back. The stranger thanked the man for trying to help in a rhyme, and kissed his forehead in kindness, standing back straight up with effort and with the man's aid. The stranger then smiled and spoke again.
"You soul is free. You have what you need."
The stranger then released the man and continued down the dirt road. The astonished man stared on in awe that the man had not wanted anything more of him. Just to help him... The astonished man wanted to follow. Wanted to worship the stumbling mage like a god. But the stranger was already too far away, and even with his new legs, the man would not be able to catch up. A smile creeped across the once mad-man's face. A smile of hope.
William's leather boots made no distinguishable sound. He missed it. The crunch of the dirt beneath his feet earlier in the morning had been musical. And now it was stolen, drowned out by the shouts of thieves and criminals. Merchants who charged far too much for things that where far too few. Men who hunted for means to become immortal. Drunks who hunted for the means to become sober. Sober who hunted for the means to become drunk. And everything in between. William could smell the greed and anguish expressed through the faces of the thieves and the victims. Stealing here was more a favor then a crime. Though William was no public servent. Nemhim was, after all, a land of thieves. And this market, in this insignificant town, would be where William would decide. As he was told so long ago. The future is now, and he must be he.
William's hands only slightly protruded from his sleeves with each step, mostly covering them. His entire body was cloaked besides his face and those few fingers that peered out at the criminal marketplace. Whispers. A cure. A cure. The Withering is cured. Lies. The Withering could not be cured by such means as a potion. William was absolutely convinced that it was a deep magical origin. Only the strength of the greatest mages of the land combined could subdue such a disease, as well as the death of all those who had contracted it. Quarantine. Unfortunate truths where always the most obvious ones.
William's silver sheathe reflected the bright sunlight in all directions, and drew more attention then he would have liked. He stopped in the center of a street and looked about, curious as to he who claimed this cure. He wanted to see how much a fool would pay for a jar for of Tarken urine or Snake Oil.
"I am not here to guard the town, wise old sage."
Theodore offered her a pleasant smile and amused chuckle, leaning against his staff with a good portion of his weight. She was a lovely woman indeed, and as such a welcome sight in this rabble. “Mm, though it could certainly use something of the sort today, hm? And come now! I’m not but a good handful of decades or more older than you. Perhaps six. No more than seven. Entirely dependent on whose hand we speak of at this point.” His smile turned to a grin which remained steady even as he caught the subtle motion of her hand to the hilt of her blade.
Of course, he thought. A paladin would have some method of weeding out his kind. No matter, she hadn’t tried to decry his heritage and behead him just yet, so there was a small blessing in everything. People around the two eagerly awaited the appearance of this miracle worker with increasingly hushed whispers of excitement. Poor fools. Tarken were unaffected by this, as were his own kind. The source of this Withering was deeply magical or demonic, likely both. No simple merchant was going to happen upon a cure by chance. Even still, the tingling thought of maybe tickled the back of his mind, and that was enough for him. Her voice brought him out of his reverie.
"So, old sage, what brings you to this place?"
“Oh...curiosity, the hope of a new book to read, perhaps the pleasure of enjoying the company of a lovely paladin of your caliber drew me here. Perhaps a miracle cure. And please, Theodore, unless you would rather I go about calling you ‘wary youthful paladin’ for the duration of our acquaintance. And, I live here in this dismal little town of reprobates. It has its charms.” His smile was playful and genuine as he looked over to her. “And yourself? What could lure your curiosity to such a wondrous assortment of things that fell off of the back of a caravan?”
Old, bright eyes looked back toward the crowd as he stood a little taller to peer over the heads of the crowd for a moment before he stooped back over to hold his staff. She was polite enough, even if she did suspect his origins. She wore her armor far too easily for one who had little experience in the ways of things, so she had a reason for staying her hand, though he could guess it was as easily mercy as it was not wishing to cause a scene as she waited for this cure to be paraded out in front of the crowd.
Theodore sighed inwardly as she reminded him of his younger days as a foolish youth, so full of idiotic notions that he was the son of a goddess. He was a pawn in her game, though he realized this far later than he should have. Far too late and far too bloody of a time. His smile turned thoughtful, thinking of a possible time when he might not have been the spawn of a demon. Ah, wishes were fun sometimes but did little to change reality.
“Mm, though it could certainly use something of the sort today, hm? And come now! I’m not but a good handful of decades or more older than you. Perhaps six. No more than seven. Entirely dependent on whose hand we speak of at this point.” The 'wise old sage' said in response to her 'declaration' of intentions and also, much to her disappointment, her hand moving towards the longsword on her hip- She had gone far too long away from active training and fighting, not that Paladins like her were subtle at all.
"So, old sage, what brings you to this place?" Annabelle inquired after that as she was mentally cursing herself for her ineptitude. However, the retired Paladin could only accept her lost of touch when she was starting to feel the weight of her protection and arms- Normally, she could wear them for days on end, but this time, a single day was starting to defeat her. Hiding her the beginnings of her tiredness, she went on to listen to her new acquaintance, the old man.
“Oh...curiosity, the hope of a new book to read, perhaps the pleasure of enjoying the company of a lovely paladin of your caliber drew me here. Perhaps a miracle cure. And please, Theodore, unless you would rather I go about calling you ‘wary youthful paladin’ for the duration of our acquaintance. And, I live here in this dismal little town of reprobates. It has its charms.” The old man introduced himself as 'Theodore', patronising her looks and skill at the same time- Annabelle could not help but to smile genuinely. She had always had a weakness for old men, her grandfather-in-law, for one- She would always feel comforted by their presence and wisdom, and in these dark times, such luxury was hard to come by. There was so much pain and sadness to divulge, but Annabelle stopped herself, as Theodore was someone she doesn't know and couldn't trust just yet. It quickly became apparent from his age and her instincts that he was Demonspawn. It has always felt strange, awkward and distant, talking to a Demonspawn, no matter how familiar she was to them. Annabelle could never get used to it, after being attacked by hundreds ever since she started hunting them down, “And yourself? What could lure your curiosity to such a wondrous assortment of things that fell off of the back of a caravan?”
Annabelle's left hand went from resting on the hilt of her sword to gripping its tip, as her memories returned to the olden days, back when she was an active Paladin of Liya. There was more to it than just tending to the ill and assisting priests. Annabelle was one of those charged with putting down the spawns of darkness whenever they decided to go amok or rebel. Ten years of blood and tragedy on both sides of the perpetual civil war- Annabelle had witnessed a fair share of innocent lives lost and the persecution of demonspawns, some of whom were actually decent people, just either pressured by their own kind into horrible acts or gone mad from using their powers too much. But there was more to the darkness inside her than that, something else much more personal...
"Annabelle Silversmith is the name." The Paladin, after snapping out of her brief trance, introduced herself. Normally, her name was enough for people to recognise her due to her reputation within the Duchy of Pelgaid, but for good measure, she went on, "I am just a lady coming out of retirement as a Paladin of Liya. The nobles and peasantry alike named me the Banisher of evil. Your kind labeled me a cold-blooded murderer." Figuring that there was nothing of her identity to hide, as everyone, both the good and the bad, knew about her, decided to just lay out her introduction fearlessly. No amount of hiding or dodging would save her from what may come, once the underworld knew of her activities. Of her intentions, she decided not to let slip, "I am but rendering my elders a favour, travelling and recruiting the young and eager to join our benevolent order in these troubled times. I stumbled upon this ruckus by accident, wise old sage." Annabelle was used to calling Theodore as such now, despite the formalities.
EDIT: Changed Annabelle's introduction slightly from 'I am Annabelle Silversmith' to the current one. (27th February 2011 Morning)