Nerd of Death
[High Casual] Broken Crown - IC
(Link to OOC)
The air was quiet and still as a graveyard, as Atreus studied the map he had laid out on the table. It had been a month since the Silver Keep fell, and already General Tullis had gathered all of his strength and spread it out through Solaris, either hunting down the prince or wreaking havoc. Word had already reached him that pockets of resistance were taking root, but he wasn't sure how effective they would be - they had neither the strength nor the resources to compete with seasoned soldiers of the kingdom, after all. He had sent word to as many parties as he dared, asking for aid - one or two able-bodied fighters was all he needed. Raising an army against Tullis' troops would only result in heavy losses, and he did not wish to bleed the kingdom dry to fight this war.
It was troubling though - that Tullis had managed to find that many wraiths for his knights in the first place. It was the only reason why he could have so large a force of demon-empowered soldiers without word reaching the Black Hand. Their Binding ritual required each recruit to undergo several years of training to even stand a chance at subduing a demon and controlling its power. There was no way Tullis could have discovered the secret. The only other explanation was that his troops had been possessed by wraiths - demons who could only take physical form by possessing the body of another, but granting its host immense strength and physical ability. It made his enemy all the more dangerous - wraiths would simply move on to the next host when the current one was slain. Tullis could keep fielding his demon knights as long as he had bodies... and that currently amounted to every soul in Solaris. It also made Atreus wary of recruiting help from the common folk. He risked letting a wraith close enough to make an attempt on his life.
He glanced up from the map and looked out the window. Nothing but vast emptiness of the Rainbow Plains filled it, and the scenery fit his mood. He was now occupying an old ruin of a castle, long fallen into disrepair. It was hardly a defensible position, but it afforded him the luxury of being invisible - the ruins had so many nooks and crannies where he could hide from scouts or even a host of soldiers making camp for the night, while it allowed him to see anyone approaching a good distance off. If Tullis had gotten word of his location, Atreus could easily vanish long before his men even arrived here. He now occupied the top floor of the North Tower, which gave the best vantage point and had numerous escape routes ready in case he needed to make a run for it. Here, he waited for his guests to arrive. He would abandon this castle by nightfall, so if they did not arrive on time, they'd have no choice but to make a long detour and wait until they received word from him again.
Fiora was perched on the roof of the North Tower, keeping watch. She disliked the open air of her position, since it meant giving her position away to any scout with sharp eyes. Still, the crumbling stone walls of the castle provided some decent cover, as long as she leaned against it and didn't move too much. Her position sacrificed any use of her bow, she had no room to aim it and would have to stand and draw attention to herself in order to do so. She had never been religious, but prayed her arrows would go untouched for today. Her job was only to keep an eye out for their visitors, and warn Atreus when they approached. Unless the enemy was charging right at them, she was not to fire a single shot. She had food and water to last her till nightfall, and her cloak shielded her from the sun, but there was little to be done about the rocks pressing into her flesh. She didn't want to fidget too much and risk exposure.
It was still early in the morning, and aside from birds circling their prey, there was little else to watch. It was only the familiarity of the task that kept her from going insane out of boredom. That, and the fact that she was stockpiling her arrows with her demon's gift. It was slow work - she was creating her enchanted arrows which required more effort and concentration, and she needed to break her focus off her arrows to scan the area every few seconds. Still, it kept boredom at bay and she was willing to put up with the slow progress just for that. Fortunately the sun was half-hidden by clouds and wasn't baking her like a potato in a fire, else she would have just sounded a false alarm just to get Atreus to come up and join her. Though she supposed he was in no mood for her japes of late. He had never spent much time with his family to really feel a deep bond with them, but the fact hadn't afforded him any protection against the pain of losing them. She shuddered when she remembered it was only because he had her help that they had been able to escape the capital that night. If Fiora had not insisted on tagging along...
She shoved the thoughts out of her mind and returned to her work. It wasn't long before she spotted silhouettes of people approaching their location. She gave a sharp whistle, their signal to warn each other that their guests were arriving. If she saw anything that gave her reason to suspect they were enemies, she would whistle twice and descend from the roof. At their current distance, it allowed them to communicate quickly with any visitors unaware they had been seen or that the two of them were preparing to either meet or evade them.
Fiora hastily gathered her arrows and placed them in her quiver, before making her way to the room where Atreus was. She took up her position by the arrow slit and watched, her bow at the ready and wishing she didn't have to use it.
A run down castle... Sure it gave off the allure of adventure but this seemed far to cliché to be the real meeting place she was told about, or perhaps this was all a hoax had she been so gullible? No, she had to put that thought out of her mind, many others had turned up so what point would there be to play such a charade on this many people? She would humour herself and stay, besides it's not like she has anything better to be doing. 'Erm... do we go inside?' She spoke to the other mercenaries that followed the pack, her voice a little hesitant to come out at first.
She looked around and her eyes met those of many people from different areas wielding a whole blacksmiths shop of armaments from armour plating to halberds. Not intentionally sizing them up Serenity couldn't help but feel she looked the most inexperienced of the lot, especially in her short leather robe, long boots and cape, which offered about as much protection as a dressing gown, it looked more like she was here for a pageant rather than a daring quest; this being said she didn't plan on getting hit and people would be nothing but amazed when they seen her true power revealed.
The tower of the keep hung over them, literally it seemed to have taken a knock from a catapult at some time in it's life and leaned forward she couldn't help but feel uneasy that the tip of that tower is where the elderly man told her she would meet the man in charge. Fear gripped her as she approached the withered building, she was never big on heights and scaling a high tower was the last thing on her mind, especially one that leaned with such eagerness to fall. 'Haha... Maybe you guys can tell them to meet me down here.' She said with nervous laughter filling every breath.
(Sorry, I might of made the assumption that the people Fiora saw were us approaching. ^^)
"Mari, please watch your step." Ugh. "Mari, I think I saw something. Get behind me." There was nothing there. "Mari, get in front of me. I can't guard you if I can't see you." Honestly, if this was how he was going to be for the entire trip Mari would rip her hair out in frustration. Sure, it really was the farthest that Mari had gone outside of their home, and she knew that her brother would be a bit nervous about the whole ordeal. His lecture before they left proved how much he disagreed with the entire idea. Not that she had listened to the lecture. Something about not being experienced enough and the quest being too dangerous. Mari had started to tune him out around that point, so she couldn't remember much of the scolding other than that. And who was he to scold her in the first place? She was the older one, shewas supposed to be scolding him.
Besides, from the looks of it they certainly weren't the only ones that wanted to help the prince. Was that one of the things Alphonse had been worried about? No matter. The important thing was that more people were here and that she and her brother weren't the only ones.
Alphonse had heard different stories from his friends about exploring the ruined castles and buildings that dotted all of the plains. He had assumed that most of them were just talking themselves up since he didn't see the point in leaving home to look at something that was about to fall apart anyway. But to have one as a meeting place was a good idea, he thought. The ruins were too dangerous structurally to use as a home, but a quick meeting would be fine.
In the back of his mind, Alphonse wondered what kind of man this Atreus was. The stories that he had heard about the invasion of the capital often varied from person to person, usually just rumors that he didn't want to believe. While indeed he had been interested in helping Atreus in his plight, Alphonse would not have taken the chance to be away from his sister. Somewhere way back in the part of his mind he didn't really care for, he was happy that Mari had wanted to do this because her insistence to participate allowed him to lend his arm too. He would never admit that, he didn't want to be happy over the fact that Mari had chosen to insert herself in something that could get her killed.
The younger sibling was brought out of his own thoughts as one of the girls in the slowly growing group said something. He didn't really hear what it was, but the young woman looked a bit uncomfortable for some reason. "C'mon," Mari started to say, offering Serenity a smile. "What's the matter?" Mari didn't think that there would be anything dangerous inside the ruined castle. If there was, she figured that Prince Atreus would have taken care of it. Mari didn't even consider the height of the building to be a contributing factor to Serenity's nerves.
Eorlund trailed at the back of the group, discreetly eyeing every nook and cranny that they crossed. At the back of his mind, he was keenly aware of the possibility of an ambush. For all he knew, the lead he had followed was planted by Tullius's men to lure loyalists into a trap. He had crept into a hide to observe the abandoned castle in the dead of the night, and though he had spotted nothing to arouse suspicion, well...you're only paranoid if no one is out to get you. When morning came and the first of Prince Atreus's guests arrived, Eorlund considered staying in his hide to see how they would fare. He had decided against it. If it was a trap, such loyalists would need all the help they could get, and if it was the Prince, then all the better. Besides, he was itchy, cold and cramped from spending the night out over the loamy ground. Eorlund had retreated from his position to join them, still damp with morning dew. As they approached the castle, he glanced at the tall, leaning tower. It'd be where any good sentry would be, he thought. And whoever they were, they had remained undetected to him, indicating that whoever now occupied the castle were at least competent and disciplined. He only hoped they would turn out to be the Prince's allies, and not traitorous Grey Wolf soldiers.
The young girl in front made a comment, breaking the morning silence with a nervous laughter, and Eorlund filed away the useful fact that at least one member of the group had a thing against heights. One half of the sibling pair spoke up, and Eorlund decided to stay out what seemed to be an impending conversation. There would be time enough for that later on. For now, all he had was the quest on his mind. Eorlund had a Prince to find.
A ruined castle, a relic of past wars no doubt. Some bygone lord must have thought himself a conquerer, bringing his stone and mortar to the Rainbow Plains, planting a symbol of their power and influence. How fitting that it was now being used by a runaway Prince, a powerful lord in his own right now taken to hiding amongst the rats. However, like the decrepit fortress the Prince still stood, defiant to the winds of change that fought to topple him. That was why Tanya here, wasn't it? To fight the rising tide of darkness that threatened to swallow the land, to restore the power in the land to its rightful ruler? It was what she had told her village when her fellow warriors told her she was foolish, it was what she told her prospective husband when he tried to disallow her quest, and it was what she told her sage when she asked if Tanya knew exactly what she was getting herself into. The wise woman was the only one that seemed pleased with her answer, but not even her dissent would have stopped her. Tanya had a purpose now, something bigger than herself, something bigger than the village. It was this that she thought to herself as she rode up to the ruined walls of the castle, looking down upon the small crowd of loyalists that had made the same journey as she.
Tanya frowned when she heard the nervous tone in the voice of one of their party. Fear was not something that the Prince needed, fear would not win him his crown back. Fear was what kept the common folk from rising up against their oppressors, fear was what their enemy would try and use against them.
"Of course we go in," Tanya said with clear scorn in her voice, "Now is not the time for hesitation. We all know why we are here, let us not waste anytime standing around second-guessing ourselves. The longer we wait, the more time the enemy has to find us."
Tanya dismounted her horse and retrieved her spear, stabbing it into the ground. She used the weapon as a makeshift post, tying her mount to it to be sure it would not wander far. She then reached for her axe, holding it tightly as she made her way to the door. Tanya looked back at her companions, nodding her head for them to follow as she pushed her way into the ruins, keeping her eyes and ears open. It would not do them any good to drop their guard with so little a force.
Other than herself the first to speak amongst the group was a tall dark haired man who loomed over her like a giant, his size though large in stature his face was pleasant and happy, he even seemed to be offering her some sympathy through her obvious trauma. 'Heights is something I'm not fond of but nor is entering a half collapsed building, if the prince wants to start a crusade he could at least avoid buildings that seem eager to take us all out... I'm just saying, as far as safe things go this ain’t one of them.' Another person In the group spoke, this one less interested in the politics of the group and more eager to get going.
'Who died and made you leader.' She mumbled under her breath as the girl seemed to attempt to take control of the band of mercenaries, she wasn't entirely shocked and could feel a radiance of training around her, something she certainly had not. Jealously was an emotion that rarely ever ceased around Serenity and today was no different, this new girl seemed confident and strong, two traits that Serenity wished she had, although a sense of arrogance hung in the air and she found it vile. 'Cut the nobility sister, we may be here to assist a fallen prince, but don't talk like you know our own personal goals; I'm not interested in returning this guy to the throne, his rewards is the only thing I need.' Serenity confronted in an attempt to regain some of her pride and to feel less like a child spoken down to as if she'd done something silly. 'There is a reward isn't there?' She asked with a confused look on her face and at the same time defusing her previous statement.
Nerd of Death
Atreus paused at the door of the tower to listen in on the conversations going on outside. He did not trust these strangers, not yet. Hearing what they had to say in his absence would give him an idea of who they were. He was under no delusions that they would be loyal knights and noble hearts. The Black Hand had long beaten that out of him - his status as prince had afforded him no special treatment there, and he shared quarters with thugs, rapists, kinslayers and sellswords. He would do anything it took to reclaim his kingdom, even if it meant receiving help from criminals. Fortunately for him none of them seemed to be any of the sort.
"If you survive to see me reclaim Solaris, then you shall be duly rewarded." Atreus answered flatly as he opened the door and stepped out into the courtyard. Fiora was still keeping watch, so he wasn't worried about any assassins jumping out for now. There was no way for anyone to approach without being seen. His words would have let them know he heard every word they had said. "You are also welcome to keep anything you find off the enemies we slay. I will not lie to you and say I smuggled something precious out of the palace - the only object like that was my life, and I was fortunate to escape with even that much."
He looked around at the group. It was a motley band of people, and small. Though it served his purposes just fine. Smaller numbers were much harder to detect. "I will not lie to you - the rumours of General Tullis has demons aiding him are true. Even the lowest ranking soldier demon is more than a match for seasoned warriors, much less those untrained in the art of demon slaying. If that worries you, I suggest you best leave... we are likely to see more of them."
"I am Prince Atreus Ordoth, though I suppose that is obvious by now. I appreciate you responding to my call for aid, no matter the reason. Now, as the esteemed lady from the plains has made plain, forgive the pun, this isn't the best place to discuss our state of affairs. If you would just follow me in... I assure you the castle is in no danger of collapsing any time soon." Fiora had to be watching the courtyard now - and ready to shoot any disguised assassin the moment they drew their blade. None came.
He led the way in and stood behind the table where his map had been. Once everyone was in the room, he gestured at the map, pointing at the Eastern Plains of Solaris. "My brother's horsemen are charged with protecting the plains, and from what news I've gathered, they've been divided into two camps. My brother taught those men to watch out for each other, and the new Knight-Commander has bent his knee to Tullis in exchange for the lives of his men... and some of them have deserted to fight the General. Therein lies our first mission. I would not have my brother's own men and brother-in-arms killed needlessly, but I do not wish to go up in arms against them as well. I want to see if I can persuade this new commander to spy for us, while getting the rebels to be a thorn in Tullis' side for as long as he can... it wouldn't hurt if they could spare horses for us either."
Atreus next pointed to a small dark cloud that was on the map. "This is a small den of demons, in between us and our destination. This map is a handiwork of the Black Hand, and wherever scouts find a nest of demons, they mark it on their map and any other member with a map enchanted like this one will be able to see they've spawned. This hive is small enough that I could handle it with my right hand woman, who's keeping watch above, but I would like to see how each of you will fare against them. That aside, it's time you all met Fiora."
Fiora entered the room on cue, and bowed humbly once she reached the table. "I am Fiora Leazel, another member of the Black Hand. I am skilled with a bow, and if my family name sounds familiar..." She spread out her hand before them and demonstrated her ability, producing a silver arrow from dust. "I specialise in working silver, which works best against demons. Though if anyone requires work on their weapons and armour, I am more than happy to help as well." It was likely she would need to work silver into their weapons sooner or later.
Atreus nodded at Fiora's statement. "That said, I suggest you get her to line your weapons with silver. It burns the demons like poison, though a lethal enough blow with normal steel works just as well. Now that you've heard the plan, and we've introduced ourselves, I believe it's time for the rest to do the same and get know each other, as well as voice any objections. Like I said, I will think no less of you should you choose to leave now."
So it is him, the shattered prince returned to take back his throne, yes this seemed to be the sort of adventure that seemed befitting of her powers. Giving a curtsy Serenity soaked in the nobility and from his initial intro could tell he had great confidence and power, his voice almost radiated his sheer force with every word that lovingly fell from it. He weaved words like an expert, they did exactly as they should and Serenity couldn't help but feel invincible. Such a small force was unusual to see but something she could only expect as a way to stay more discreet, he has loyal soldiers if he wanted to start a full scale war, no need to recruit mercenaries.
A magical map was revealed to the group and on it a location was pointed out by the Prince and they were told this hive of demons would become their initiation, a far more serious one than a girl with little combat experience would of expected, but after the speech was all to eager to throw herself into the deep end, surely nothing in this world could hold it's own against the power of ice; although she mused in the idea of the creatures being made of fire. But just as her ideals of her being one of the few magical beings in the world was shattered by the mystical map she met Fiora and she could summon silver at a mere thought.
'My name is Serenity, I'm from a small town called Belrem.' She didn't want to give away too much about the location of her village in case she placed it in danger. 'I'm humbled to be here and a little unnerved by being so high, but I'll attempt to skim past that rather looming thought!' She laughed awkwardly. 'Prince Atreus I bow to your rule and give you these fingers, which with my power can form ice.' As she spoke a sword made of razor sharp ice formed in the palms of her hands, it looked sharp enough to easily sever bone.
Tanya almost rolled her eyes at the little girl that seemed to take offense at Tanya trying to urge them along. Greed seemed to be this one's motivation for aiding the Prince. She would have to watch this one closely, the promise of gold only went so far for most people. She almost felt like confronting the woman now about it, but it would be no good to start a needless fight.
Her attention shifted away from the girl when the door opened to reveal the Prince himself, already addressing their group as soon as he came through the door. He must have heard them with his talk of rewards. Well, hopefully that would keep the girl satisfied for the duration of their quest. Blood and battle would be the true test of her loyalty, many people would not lay down their lives for a few coins at the end of all the struggle and strife.
What worried Tanya was this talk of demons in their enemies' ranks. She had heard rumors of strange creatures rising up out of the blue, harassing people in the night and killing the local wildlife. Her tribes own herds had seemed thin that year, and there had been increasing reports of tainted plants and sick animals. It did not bode well for the world, but no one knew exactly what was going on. If this General Tullis was not only allowing these abominations around, but actually using them to further his own cause, he had to be dealt with immediately. She was more than willing to follow Atreus inside and learn more, she hadn't come all this way just to turn back.
"That sounds like a sound plan... having more horses can only help us. Had I known it would have been an issue, I might have tried to bring some from the village," she said before Fiora entered the room.
This new woman looked like she could handle herself, bedecked in leathers and various weapons. Her company would be most welcome. Tanya did not recognize the name she mentioned, but her powers were quite intriguing. An arrow seemed to appear out of thin air, coming together from the dust in her palm. Tanya felt a bit envious, this Fiora would definitely not have any issues keeping her quiver full. Tanya looked down at her axe when the two began mentioning silver and its use against demons.
"I would greatly appreciate you working your silver onto my weapons. I have this axe and a spear, as well as this quiver full of arrows. If possible, I would request they all get silver lining, or at least the axe and arrows. I feel I will be using those most and it sounds like we will be fighting many demons if we are to defeat our enemy, I would like any edge I can get."
Her gaze shifted to Serenity as she spoke to Atreus. She was startled by the sudden accumulation of ice in her hand, forming into a rather sharp-looking sword. It seemed this one would be useful after all despite her nervous nature.
While they had been walking, Alphonse struggled to make sure that Mari was staying close to him without her noticing the fact. She would be upset with him if he physically tried to keep her by his side, so the best that he could do at the moment was follow behind her and make sure nothing occurred that would possibly hurt her. He did not believe the area was safe, nor did he trust any of the people they were around.
After arriving in the room and studying the map for a few moments as well as the surrounding area, Alphonse and Mari watched curiously as this Fiora woman seemed to materialize an arrow out of thin air. "That was very impressive." Mari said, a little bit awestruck. "And that silver power of yours will come in handy for everyone. The easier it is to kill these demons, the better." The bodyguard said with a firm nod, agreeing with warrior woman. If they really were going to go through with this, it was nice to have another resident of the plains in the group.
Alphonse smiled and gently nudged Mari. "Did you hear that? We can leave at any time. Uncle and Auntie are probably scared that we're gone, you know." It was very weak reasoning, Alphonse knew that. But he had silently prayed that his sister would suddenly see reason and give up this pointless venture.
"Well," Mari started, looking up at her brother with a smile, "you're free to leave if you want to. I told you when we left home that I was going to help Prince Atreus regardless of whether you think it's dangerous or not. If you wish to stay, then stay. If you wish to go, then go. I'm perfectly safe and I'll be fine." With a curt nod to the younger man signaling that their discussion of the matter was over, Mari held a finger up to her lips as a silent sign to tell her brother to shut it while one of the other women introduced herself.
Alphonse could tell by the look on Mari's face that she was very impressed with Serenity, mainly with her fancy ice conjuring powers. It was very interesting, to say the least. Alphonse didn't think that there were many other magics besides healing and elemental control. When it seemed like Serenity was finished with her own introduction, Mari nudged Alphonse. She wanted him to speak first. Alright then.
Sighing, Alphonse gave the group a quick bow in greeting. "My name is Alphonse Idaria of the Kierre Tribe. I'm one of the warriors as well as a protector to my sister. So I will " Alphonse nodded his head toward the shorter woman mentioned. "I use my halberd for fighting and I can help with battle plans too. And Mari likes to say that I'm a pretty good cook, so I suppose I can do that if it's needed. I don't have any special magical abilities, but I'm hoping that my..." Alphonse paused, looking to his sister for assistance. She merely tilted her head and suggested, "Prowess?" The taller sibling nodded in confirmation, not really knowing what the word meant but trusting that his sister wouldn't suggest a word that would make him out to be a fool. "I'm hoping that my prowess as a warrior will be enough help." Giving the group a slight nod, Alphonse once again looked to his sister and silently urged her to speak.
Mimicking her brother, Mari also bowed in greeting. "And I'm Mari Idaria, also of the Kierre Tribe. It's an honor to meet you all. I'm afraid I may not have a lot to offer in combat compared to my brother, but I am a very skilled healer. If you'll allow me to brag, I think I just might be the best in the village. But, I can't exactly demonstrate that unless someone gets hurt. So until that happens I hope you'll take my word for it. I can also summon a little bit of fire, if that's any consolation."
Handing her staff to Alphonse so her hands could be free, Mari began to strike one palm against the other as though she was truly holding a rock of flint and steel. Several sparks of flame sprouted from her hands and died before she finally managed to make a small fire in one of her palms. "I can't exactly make or control a flame bigger than this, but it might come in handy if we need to light a campfire," Mari said before smothering the small flame with one of her hands and blowing the smoke away upon separating her hands. "Hopefully my skills will be useful to everyone." The young healer finished her introduction with a smile before grabbing her staff back from her brother.