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Thread: The Cleansing Corruption

  1. #11
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    Storm Veritas's Avatar

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    How did these sorry sons of bitches ever get the drop on us?

    After Storm summarily dispatched the first of three cleric-types, he watched as the other two approached as both he and Shinsou waited. The councilors were confident, swaggering, and squared off like a child lining his foot to crush a wounded beetle. The rank, foul stench of burning hair and meat didnít seem to turn their stomachs, and the display of power he just unleashed didnít scare them off as he expected it would.

    Shifting his weight to the balls of his feet, he prepared for magic. Beneath his leather gloves sat the scales of Moonwing, a might dragon now reduced to gauntlet form, ready to block some fearsome magic.

    It was a magic that didnít arrive immediately. The snarling, thin Brotherhood representative lashed out with claws, his speed impressive Ė for a human.

    How do these motherf*ckers NOT know who theyíre dealing with?

    Flails of magic swished and hummed through the air as the opponents fists extended in clawlike apparitions. They were akin to black magic rapiers, but seemed to pop and hum with each swing. With each miss, the eyes of the Brotherhood champion grew wider and more desperate, an exasperation and obvious surprise that these blows were not landing. Storm reared to fire a blast of white anger at the jailor when he was finally struck.

    The leg sweep caught him; it was clever and creative. Spinning about his right leg, a left foot was fired from the Brotherhood councilor, sending the wizard tumbling backwards, landing with an awful thump against the unforgiving stone. Merciless, the tall opponent leapt at the downed electromancer, a deathblow of black misery ready to strike from a balled right fist.

    Oh, f*ck off already.

    With speed and venom, the experienced Veritas lashed out with a mighty blast, clapping his wrists together from his back and sending a twisting burst of blue and white firing out brutally. It hit the assailant, sending him screaming across the room in a charred, blackening huff, crashing into the other two duelers.

    ďHeadís up Shin!Ē

    Vaan Osiris didnít hear him, but soon enough eradicated his own opponent, smashing the skull of the other robed villain into a pasty mess of grey, red, and awful. Several extra strikes followed to the clearly downed carcass, Stormís exasperated companion brutally bludgeoning the dead bag of meat.

    Save some of that fury for the others, little fella.

    Anger issues unaddressed, the duo marched from their chamber, the low ceilinged would-be prison a simple set of abandoned hallways set at firm right angles. Reaching the center corridor, frequent torchlights clearly illuminated the two main paths. To their right, a large amphitheater was empty; a large table full of empty seats and unfinished food left about five settings. An eerie quiet fell as their footsteps clacked on the stone; only a few fruit flies hovered above a spread of banana and mango perched on the center table.

    ďAinít shit down here. Five seats, I think we know of three. Where are the others?Ē

    A flash of rage bubbled in his chest, wondering if the assailant who had trapped them accounted for one of the seats. His eyes continued to pop about the room and hallway behind them, which appeared to be completely devoid of any furniture, save the bloody pulp Shinsou had sculpted and the two steaming briquettes Storm had freshly roasted. Further still, a door led to the streetside.

    ďI suppose we can head out. Hit the street, and influence some townies to give us a lead on these pricks. This was still too easy; the mercenary who grabbed us sure as shit knew what we were capable of. Obviously, those roasted rubes back in the hallway had no idea, or didnít care enough to bother covering their asses. It doesnít add up.Ē

    As they marched back past the hallway where their impromptu prison had been erected, Storm peered in to once more admire his handiwork.

    The hell?

    There was nothing. No blood, no smoke, no smell, no bodies.

  2. #12
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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

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    “The hell is this?”

    Storm Veritas looked less than pleased at the contents of the room, or lack thereof, but Shinsou had gone way past that and straight to livid. Yes, they were there to do a job, and, yes, there had to be an element of professionalism about the operation, but the Telgradian had more of an axe to grind with the council than his partner and had considered his hard earned kill to be the ultimate retribution. Now, though, the Brotherhood’s council seemed to have taken even that away from him; their apparent trophies erased from existence along with any evidence of their struggle. Even in death they still taunted him.

    Taking a step back, Osiris tapped his knuckles on the wall next to him. It wasn’t so much a punch but more of an irritated rapping on the cracked plaster. Once again, they had more questions than answers and, once again, they were being toyed with.

    “Now what?” Osiris seethed quietly through clenched teeth, “Did they resurrect, or are Whitevale’s cleaners just really good at their jobs? Actually, you know what? I hope he resurrected, to be honest with you, because then I’d get the satisfaction of sucking his eyes out through his nose. I’ll rip out his lungs, sun dry them and wear them as a little waistcoat.”

    The aggression was wasted, and Osiris knew it, but it felt good to vent.

    Calm down. You’ve still got work to do, just move on. We’ll get to the bottom of this in the knowledge they’ll pay their dues in time.

    “Let’s get out of here, right after I get my weapons back. No Stygian – no plan.”

    Shinsou turned and noted a corridor that ran adjacent to the barren prison. A quick exploration revealed an unguarded room that held his possessions, and, with a feeling of relief, Osiris collected the entirety of his confiscated equipment. Traversing the passageway back, a further left turn looked as if it led to back to Whitevale outside. He tapped Storm on his shoulder and indicated the doorway to the exit in question; the electromancer, presumably sick of the barracks as well, was only too happy to oblige, powerfully striding forward as Shinsou followed.

    Whitevale had once been a fairly non-descript town by Coronian standards, but since the arrival of the Brotherhood had become something more akin to something that reminded the Telgradian of a Raiaeran town before the era of the Forgotten One. Its elegantly designed wood and stone buildings, wide paved thoroughfares, and abundance of Castigar related accentuation struck Shinsou as particularly outlandish and less subtle than he remembered. Unlike other faction-occupied settlements in the country, there was no mighty citadel in the settlement in which the Brotherhood took shelter. Instead, a smattering of odd government-style buildings on the surface marked their control of this strange city-state. Shinsou knew that Whitevale’s instestines, the underground complex, was where they would find the most success but they needed to know exactly where to get in.

    The pair had managed to hold out for a few dreadful hours against their captors, but as a result had been far removed from events outside. A swift advance into the streets, where the cold night air had transitioned into the warmth of dawn, revealed to Shinsou and Storm an eerie silence that had engulfed the rest of the city. Its denizens had been forced to move, apparently at short notice. Those citizens who had been living in Whitevale – and of these there were many – had been evacuated. Here and there the Telgradian could see strewn luggage in the road and unlatched open doors banging to and fro in the breeze.

    Everyone got out in a hell of a hurry, so it looks like our arrival here didn’t go un-noticed. Unlucky for us.

    Now, the Telgradian and his partner-in-crime faced the same problems as before, only on a far grander scale. Before, at least they had the element of surprise. That part of the plan had been well and truly blown to hell. There was no one here to lead them anywhere, either. It had been further screwed up by the exertion of the scuffle a few minutes ago. Worse still, they couldn’t be sure that the councillors they thought they had killed were even dead, though by all rights no amount of magic outside of that the Ai’Bron used could have possibly resurrected the misshapen eggshell-like mess that Shinsou had left in the cell.

    Adopting an uncharacteristically grim expression upon his youthful features, Shinsou turned to his ally.

    “The way I see it, we only have two options. Sweep the town for the entrance to the complex ourselves, which could take hours, or find a group of guards on the perimeter and try Stygian again. We’re making a lot of assumptions about who may or may not still be here; it could be the council are gone. But, they could also be bunkered up underground. Hang on…How far down beneath the earth could your electromagnetism go, and how much could you lift?”

    An idea crossed Shinsou's mind. It was a long shot, but if it worked...

    Why seek out the council if we can bring them to us? The bunker, the corridors themselves...they're all lined with steel.

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  3. #13
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    Storm Veritas's Avatar

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    The outraged epithet of the Telgradian showed a type of emotion that Storm rarely saw from Shinsou. It was clear that he saw the same thing that the aging wizard saw; the escape of the Brotherhood may have been a missed opportunity, even as the tandem’s own health felt like anything but a guarantee. For a duo which appeared fated for certain death only a few hours ago, there was far from an appreciation for their current predicament.

    Still, something felt very wrong here.

    Why is the town empty? And how powerful does this kid think I am?

    Shinsou had mentioned the possibility that the Brotherhood was bunkered underground, and quickly asked how deep beneath the earth the electromagnetic capabilities could reach. Truth be told, Storm wasn’t sure, but he found that complications arose when he tried to pull through the earth, which tended to be ripe with rocks and slabs of odd things that inevitably contained iron. Lifting anything of heft was chaos; precision in the blind was completely impossible.

    Unless chaos is a blessing in disguise.

    His face was licked pleasantly by the cold air of the late evening, however even in the dark environment of the small town things felt too quiet. The wind whispered with suspicious volume given the population of Whitevale. Some people worked nights, or early mornings; where the hell were they all?

    They’re all hiding.

    “I’m not sure how deep I can pull, to answer your question. Even I have my limits. Feels like just about everyone is missing – so I think you’re right with the bunker theory. Way too quick for the town to evacuate; my bet is the whole Brotherhood-infested town is under our feet. I can’t lift a bunker, but I can raise hell.”

    Eyes darted about the town, as the bunker was not particularly hidden. A large iron bunkhead was affixed flat to the earth in the center of a large clearing which represented the town market. Based on the orientation of the door, it was clear that the stairs would lead down westward. By his measure, thirty feet west of the door would be perfect.

    “Here we are.” Walking towards the area which he estimated would hold the bunker, Storm smiled with a sadistic, knowing grin as he extended a hand foreward, his magnetic field taking root as a large panel or rock was located quickly. He wasn’t sure what it was, but based on the strength of the field which buzzed his fingertips like the rattle of a wagon over cobblestones. It was either very large, or not very deep.

    The sleep deprived wizard grew deadly serious as his eyes fixed into a squint; his feet pressed firm into the earth as he turned his palms upward. The fields danced around the slab-or-rock-or-whatever, and he felt his energy pulse wildly as his fingertips flexed into claws, pulling that which was not present. It was moving, whatever it was, and it was heavy.

    Shit, it’s too much. Can’t f*cking lift it.

    The feet of Veritas were actually pushed more firmly into the earth as his magnetic resonance pulled his body down; his very bones ached as he felt like a great weight was pulling him into the earth’s very core. The ground began to tremble, dust and dirt popping and hopping around off the earth like small bugs stretching to escape the spider’s web. Just as his energy felt completely spent and his body nearly collapsed, a wonderful pulse of release and squealing sound exploded before him.

    ”Creeeaaaa—creaaa-shhing!”

    Like pulling free a stubborn scab or painful splinter, a wonderful relief washed over the adventurer’s body as a four-foot section of pipe tore free from the bowels of the city, a section of metal slab and chunk of cement still affixed to it. The cylinder sprung from the earth and landed beside him, crashing down with a thunk and a small splash.

    Water pipe. You beautiful son of a bitch.

    “Hope you’re ready for hell to come through that bulkhead. I don’t know where the other exit is, but we flooded the chamber; they’re going to pour out of every hole like rats of a sinking ship.”

    The sound of screams below him echoed a confirmation of his suspicion. They had been bunkered, and Storm had just ruined all of their plans.

  4. #14
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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
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    The night that sheltered Shinsou and Storm started to give way to dawn, but the faint light did little to alleviate the haunting atmosphere that now washed over the clearing. As the screams of Whitevale’s denizens rumbled underneath the empty streets, the two men looked at one another. Shinsou felt that their silent exchanges served only to gauge one another’s reaction; a test to see if either man had qualms about what they were doing, to see if either one had the mettle to see this accidentally achieved but conveniently brutal outcome through to the end and take advantage of the moment. If either one of them were expecting the other to baulk, they would have been disappointed; both men stood firm and ready and in full knowledge of what they had done.

    Together, we will break the council like brittle kindling. There is little I won’t do to meet that end. Like I said to him before; there can be no understanding without context, and what we bring to Whitevale today is the conviction that context needs.

    A sudden, rapid drumming of footsteps gave cause for them both to break their silent vigil.

    “Here we go,” Shinsou started, his hand hovering over the hilt of his blade, “sift the rats for their leaders. It wouldn’t be beyond the council to use their people as hostages or shields to make their escape.”

    The softer, faster paces of the fleeing citizens mingled with the inner sanctum guardsmen’s heavy advances and before long a stream of saturated, panicked men and women burst forth from the bulkhead’s doorway and declared their entrance into the abandoned quarter of Whitevale. Their heavy and sluggish movements told the Telgradian that they were sore and suffering, even the guards, and thus would look to flee rather than fight them. Even those who still had the Brotherhood’s doctrine embedded deeply into their minds and fire in their bellies would offer little resistance to the significantly healthier pair.

    “Stay here,” Shinsou suggested to his deadly partner as the crowd massed at the passage, “I’ll look for them in the crowd while you cover the exit. They’ll be wearing gloves like the others; ones that they can’t take off without three incantations. If you see anyone heading for the hills wearing one; roast them. No mercy. The bastards won’t afford us any.”

    Without waiting for Storm, Shinsou waded into the river of fleeing men, women and children in short order. The nimble Telgradian slipped between the gaps in the crowd expertly as if he were navigating into a small and busy thoroughfare in Radasanth; his determined expression held fast and golden eyes darting from face to face. It was here that his boyish charm was finally usurped by his vast experience. Unlike Veritas, Osiris’s quarry, the two remaining councillors, he would know by sight. If he hadn’t been told what to look for, Storm would likely have skipped over them without ever noticing. As Shinsou dove further into the solid mass of bodies, the cool scent of the morning’s air was replaced instead with the immutable, foul stench of urine and stagnant water. The ruptured pipe had obviously been for sanitation and now hundreds of people milled about, apparently, in their own filth. It gave the Telgradian an odd sense of satisfaction that somewhere here, the councillors were drenched in their own piss.

    …and, very soon, their own blood.

    The image was a forgivable indulgence, he reasoned, with all things considered. Death demanded payment. The corpses of the ruling council lying before the people they betrayed would serve as an edifice of respect for all those that had perished in the Brotherhood’s name to this day.

    Shinsou’s stony expression fell upon one face in the crowd as a man in front of him looked up and darted left out of the Telgradian’s sight. It didn’t matter; if the figure was of any consequence, Storm would fry him. The man that Shinsou was focused on was middle aged with soaking strands of nut brown hair bobbing about his face as he tried to trudge in time with his peers. He was robed in a soggy cape and was doing his best to keep his hands and face hidden from sight, but the man returned his patriarchal glare before widening it to a horrified stare, finally realizing through the haze of the chaos who it was who descended upon him.

    Councillor Gan! Oh yes, you’re long overdue for your appointment with the reaper…

    Slowly but surely Shinsou got closer and the pair seemed to stride towards each other in perfect unison; footfall matched, arms striding in time, chests puffed out. Gan’s fear progressed into a seething anger, culminating with the drawing of a curved blade from underneath his cape. Lanes of frightened people seemed to snake around them, like magnets repelling each other, but the dark mud of Whitevale’s flooding road slowed the wayward refugees down to the point where most of them gave up, seemingly now more interested in becoming spectators to an imminent skirmish between the Councillor and his white coated aggressor. Roughly thirty feet in diameter, the ring of people encircled a courtyard retaining the scent of piss but none of the decadence of the Whitevale of the night before and watched as the Telgradian flung himself into action.

    With all of his agility and remaining stamina at the forefront of his attack, Osiris sprung from his left foot, Stygian drawn to his right and spun on his toes to bring the deadly blade screaming in an arc towards Gan’s unprotected midriff. The hard crash of metal upon metal brought a momentary silence from the crowd as the Councillor expertly guided his sabre upwards to parry the blow, but his head lolled back and his arms splayed loosely outwards from the recoil of the guard. Seeing the opening, the Telgradian kicked out and removed Gan’s legs from underneath him in a split second, sending the Brotherhood chief crashing into the dirt with a grunt. Cape and sabre became tangled amongst sprawled limbs, and before Gan had a chance to recover Osiris kicked out harshly at the hilt of the offending weapon. He watched with satisfaction as it spiralled out of reach, settling itself in a puddle of excrement from the overflow of the leaking pipe.

    “How does it feel, kneeling in your own shit?” Shinsou asked venomously as Stygian’s point hovered steadily against Gan’s pulsing jugular. “In front of the people you enslaved?”

    Something changed within his prey at that moment in time. Gan’s expression lit up as he clapped loudly and ironically, his heavy, chubby digits colliding with considerable force.

    “Quite the victory, eh?” The councillor’s thick Lornian accent sounded heavy and awkward amongst the relatively light Coronian dialect of his peers. He looked up at Shinsou with accusatory green eyes, and then gestured to the gathered crowd. “Oh, how you are so suited to our ranks. Tell me, Shinsou, what was the plan? Kill the council so you could lead the Brotherhood into a glorious era of peace and freedom, away from the tyranny of the council? You, of all people, a murderer of millions?! Surely you don’t mean to tell me that you and your friend become the heroes of this little game after all of the things you’ve done?”

    Shinsou tried not to reel from the swell of truth that hit him from the ground, but dropped his gaze momentarily. Gan was right about one thing. Regardless of the outcome here, the Telgradian was drawn and compelled to agree that he had done some terrible things. This absolutely made him a hypocrite. But, what of it, Osiris reasoned? Beneath the pressure of the councillor’s heavy words there was a single, immutable truth that buried all of his doubts.

    If he was corrupted…

    “Then this is a cleansing corruption; one that will corrode the iron grip of the council on the Brotherhood.” Shinsou murmured at first, before shouting it again at the gathered massed, blade still drawn to Gan’s throat. “Did you hear me, Whitevale? If I am corrupt, let that corrosion be the force that breaks down the control of the people who oppress you! I don’t fear them and neither should you!”

    The speech seemed to give force and energy to the crowd, but it wasn’t all positive. Storm watched on from beyond the circle as some people cheered and shouted, whilst others heckled and jeered. It wasn’t the reaction Shinsou had hoped for; clearly there were still loyalists in the town who answered to only one master, that of the Brotherhood council. Worse, there was still one councillor left, one who Shinsou hadn’t yet encountered.

    Something had to be done.

    Despite Shinsou’s apparently incompetent understanding of Whitevale’s broad political spectrum, the Telgradian knew of only one universal way to show the people that the regime change would be absolute. It was the only way to potentially mute an uprising and years of insurgency, though the act itself would create distrust and discomfort amongst the minority of those still in support of the Brotherhood council. A decision had to be made there and then. In the space of a breath, Osiris drew Stygian’s blade across the throat of the helpless councillor, who mustered only garbled choking as crimson and bile gushed from the gash in torrents. Moments later, the corpse crumpled in a gory tangle of limbs face first into the Whitevale dirt.

    Some people cheered voraciously and stamped their feet in approval. Some stood in abject horror of the brutality that had taken place in front of their crying children, too afraid to speak or voice their disdain, even if they had suffered under the council. The minority representing the Brotherhood’s old regime looked for a moment as if they might break out into a scuffle with the opposing citizens but soon realised that numbers were not on their side and looked away dejectedly. There would be another day for retribution. They stood in the cold morning air, surrounding the bloodied body of Councillor Gan.

    In the centre of the circle, surrounded by the Whitevale masses, stood Shinsou Vaan Osiris. Stygian’s blade was stained with fresh blood. The stench of murder surrounded him, filled his nostrils and flared his senses. In isolation, he had not enjoyed the execution, not one bit, but the unmistakeable feeling of vengeance overpowered him that night. Osiris had done what he had needed to do to cement their position, for now. Still, one thing concerned him. As Storm joined him in the centre, the crowd parting to let him through, Shinsou turned and faced his partner with fire in his eyes and in his belly.

    “We failed. There was one that got away, a man by the name of Ducos. Professor Ducos, to be exact. He’s the most dangerous of all of them. He studied the eternal tap and on a few occasions I heard he managed to find a way to harness an artificial power that bears a resemblance to that used by the forgotten ones that blighted Raiaera.”

    Shinsou looked to the sky, as if seeking divine guidance from Am'aleh. As he sheathed his sword, he looked back to the shambles of Gan’s corpse. She wouldn't have approved, but that was the least of his worries.

    “I shouldn’t have to tell you that he can’t be allowed to live. The power he possesses could cause us all sorts of problems..."

    The Telgradian tailed off as he heard a hissing behind him. Turning to face the sound, he frowned as the bloodied corpse of Councillor Gan shattered into a million tiny fragments of light and dissolved into the morning air. Even the blood on Stygian's blade crumbled into firefly trails and dissipated into the night.

    "A construct? Is that what happened to the other three we killed before?"

    It was frustrating, but Osiris at least had an answer for the mystery of the disappearing bodies. Someone was jerking them around and his money was on...

    "Ducos. This is his doing..."

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  5. #15
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    Madness begets madness. Entropy is a f*cking tidal wave.

    His plan had worked effectively enough; people screamed from the tunnels around the town, seeking refuge in masses, moving as a general swarm. They channeled away from Storm and Shinsou like a school of salmon avoiding rocks in the stream; a loud, muddled white noise accompanying the panic. Silently, the tired mage kept his eyes active, waiting for some overtly brave boy or plotting hero to try something foolish.

    There were no such heroes in Whitevale; collectively the masses clearly knew not whether they had just been emancipated or sentenced. Some hid in houses, others sought the shadows, but none went so far as to not see what was about to happen.

    Whatever the hell that might actually be.

    When the venomous Osiris slaughtered a leader in the town square, Storm Veritas focused rather on the reaction of the people. Sadly, he knew what it looked like to watch a man die; more could be learned from what the people around him did. Children were pulled behind fathers’ cloaks and into mothers’ bosoms, eyes shielded to hide the horrors. Other eyes simply moved away, wishing not to see which they knew. Gasps, groans, and a few piercing cries soured the putrid air to welcome the truly foul dawn. More notably, very few moved away at speed, and none at all came to stop Shinsou.

    Ceremonial execution complete, the body wafted into light as a few knelt. Confused, the electromancer didn’t know what to make of the whole ordeal. This wasn’t a resurrection or miracle per se, but he certainly didn’t know of any magic to make such sorcery tangible. Were these councilmen real people, or apparitions? Their blood and screams smelled and sounded real enough to him.

    “Ducos? Ducos who? I’m not sure how long we screw around with someone that can…”

    His words trailed into ether as the wizard spotted a pair of large, deep set, darting eyes beneath a short hood. He knew those eyes.

    You mother*cker…

    Walking forward through the path of sludge and what was the disintegrated corpse, Storm was transfixed on the little covered man who had begun to attempt to flee in the crowd. The squish-splat of his stolen shoes through the mud and awful was totally ignored as Veritas burst into a dash, with impossibly long, gazelle-like strides closing the gap on the little man.

    “Kazui! Don’t take these people down with you, you chickenshit!”

    One tall blacksmith stepped in the path of Storm to slow him; the fool’s errand could normally have led to his swift death. Too focused on the little hooded assassin now twenty feet in front of him, the electromancer dealt with the shaved-headed tough as though he were an upturned table in a bar fight. With a quick hop, the lithe killer leapt above the man, kicking down hard on his collarbone to vault him higher still. An effortless somersault allowed him to contort himself into a greater state of balance as he landed five feet from the waiting Kazui, who had found himself cornered amongst a throng of villagers who also had nowhere left to run. The masses formed a human bottleneck, a wall of humanity not over six feet in either direction of the two. Only the downed, injured man who pushed himself away stood behind Storm; only Storm stood between Kazui and escape.

    Pulling his hood back from his scarred face, the squat little professional discarded the terrycloth covering as he defensively crouched, each fist brandishing a knuckle-duster with shining stone studs and a five-inch length of sharp black which the adventurer correctly assumed to be obsidian.

    No metal. He may be a f*cking scumbag, but he’s no fool.

    Without moving forward, Kazui spoke in a relaxed, even tone, no fear or panic in his voice.

    “You know how easily I could have killed you and him; had you couple of queens dead to rights! Let me go; even the score.”

    A deep inhale followed as Storm considered the proposition of the mercenary. The diminutive bastard was right; should the assassin have so wished, he could easily have slain both of them without a second consideration. Then again, this same little man had delivered them to the Brotherhood, with an expectation they would then be killed.

    "You're not wearing metal. You followed us both. You know who I am. You should have killed me when you had the chance."

  6. #16
    The Outlaw Torn
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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
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    Even amongst the chaotic rabble of Whitevale, Storm’s keen eye had somehow managed to pick Kazui out of the crowd and now the mercenary that had tailed them from Radasanth was about to pay his dues in full; very painfully indeed. As the electromancer pounced on his prey, almost salivating at the mouth at the prospect of leveling the score, Shinsou pushed his way through the now scattered but condensed crowd; the intention to simply watch his partner find the most creative of endings for the little bastard who had tried to serve them on a plate to the Brotherhood. There was no point keeping him alive now; Kazui would tell them nothing of any value.

    I hope it’s a painful goodbye. If there’s anyone who can whip up the furies as fiercely as Storm can, I’ve yet to meet them.

    His fantasising was interrupted by the pushing and the movement of the swell of people behind him who were keen to follow the action. Some of them called for mercy, some of them screamed for Kazui’s head and the rest stood in shocked silence as Storm’s damning indictment of his captor’s deliberate and decisive actions seethed through the night. A thirty-foot gap between the street and a set of large perimeter metal railings opened up as a current of people massed behind the Telgradian; afraid to step forth in case they should attract the ire of either of them.

    The clean shaven assassin met eyes with his aggressor Veritas as the electromancer delivered his verbal death sentence. There were only two ways out; either through Storm, or into the cold darkness of oblivion.

    The choice was easy.

    Lurching forwards, the assassin spat into Vertias’s eye and brought the obsidian blade upwards towards the electromancer’s face. Shinsou watched on impressed as Storm acted quickly, more than anyone could have been prepared for, and used his recoil to instinctively roll backwards to avoid the swipe. The gathered crowd offered a collective roar as Kazui twisted back onto his knees and pulled a razor garrotte from his tunic, the thin wire barely visible in the poor light.

    Shit. One touch from that and Storm’s going to lose a lot more than just his pride…

    Shinsou shuffled forward with one hand on Enpera’s hilt, ready to end the fight if it looked beyond his partner, but it was then that he noticed what Veritas was doing as the load creaking of metal shrieked across Whitevale. From his position in the road, Storm was using his magnetism to manipulate the spiked security railings now less than twenty feet away. As Kazui kept his clutch tight on the garrote, he broke into a sprint and attempted to swerve the cold, seething electromancer to get behind him. Extending an arm, Storm ripped the railings from their concrete base and commanded them forward.

    There was a scream as one of the many interlinked spikes drove through the flesh of Kazui’s foot, smashing sickeningly through his metatarsal and pinning him to the ground, causing thick torrents of blood to pour down the front of his boot. Futilely wresting at metal bar, he roared as the rest of the iron railings contorted around him, trapping him in a closely knit cage.

    That’s poetic, Shinsou admitted, as he recalled the similarities of how the Brotherhood had set up Storm for a fall; a murder where the politician had been unceremoniously skewered in a cage. Bravo, Storm.

    It was far too late for Kazui now. Pacing from his right foot, the electromancer tightened the clutch of the railings, causing them to crumple like paper inwards, but slowly; just long enough for the assassin to feel the abject horror of his impending death and for Storm to enjoy the satisfaction of one of his most poetic little creations. After a few seconds, Veritas snarled and tightened his fist, mercilessly driving the black painted rails into Kazui’s body, crushing his ribs first before the man’s skull shattered with a sickening crunch. Blood, gore and bursting flesh poured forth from the iron prison and spattered upon the ground, marking the end of the assassin’s relatively short life.

    The crowd were silenced as the remnants of the Brotherhood’s control over Whitevale bled into the open street. Defiantly, Veritas walked towards Shinsou, wiping the sleeve of his finery across his face to finally clear away the last of Kazui’s bodily fluids.

    “I don’t know about you, but that felt good and it was no less than the little bastard deserved. There’s one more thing we need to do, though.” Shinsou remarked , Enpera slung to his side as they trudged towards the epicenter of the council’s former stronghold. “I want to search the council chamber. They have something in there we need to confiscate from them…"

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  7. #17
    Moderator
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    Storm Veritas's Avatar

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    Storm Veritas
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    Compartmentalization had proven itself again the best friend of any true villain. It wasn’t as though Kazui was an exceptionally evil, wretched, or terrible man; the lethal magician sought him originally with a streak of vengeance driving him, but allowed logic to dictate action above and beyond either the hedonistic desire to feel powerful, or the moralist who wished to show empathy for a man just doing his job.

    An assassin, not so different from me in many ways. Still, with the city in tumult, a show of mercy is a death sentence for all three of us. These people need power to command them, and will never kneel for the weak and soft. Kazui is the perfect sacrificial lamb. This is the business you chose…

    He couldn’t deny the rush he derived from crushing the man within the self-fashioned cage. The gasp of men and women, the appalled wails of humans terrified by their own limitations in the presence of a walking half-deity. Most people fear what they do not understand; here in the low light of pre-dawn, the citizens were united in their abject terror regarding the two men they witnessed kill in cold blood.

    As the body fell in a tangled heap, blood poured indiscriminately as natives scrambled. Some ran understandably away from the horrifying wielder of lightning; other brave townies raced to show mercy and cover the body with bedsheets. There was no right or wrong in the mind of the killer; there were just shades of gray amongst a city of people found in a bad situation.

    Shinsou spoke to him with a coldness he had not experienced; clearly he had taken a liking to the carnage that he had not previously shown. It was understandable; Storm’s first embrace of the darkness brought an odd satisfaction to him as well.

    “Back into the tunnel, then. I doubt we have to worry about these people chasing us with pitchforks and torches at this point.” The low, scratchy voice of the tired adventurer was directed solely at Vaan Osiris, however his eyes caught the wild flow of humanity about him, giving the two wielders of magic a wide berth.

    New Alphas had been established in the pack; wherever the rest of the Brotherhood had flown to rendered moot in the ashes of Whitevale’s fall. A hand fell upon the dark mage’s shoulder as Storm pivoted, standing tall and speaking in a loud, strong, booming voice to the town.

    “I want to be done killing here. No more examples need to be set today, or ever again in Whitevale. Go to your homes; mourn your dead. The Council’s reign of terror is over!”

    There was a tepid mixture of applause and silence as the substance of his words washed over the town. There reaction was a mixture of shock, fear, and indecision, as the Council was likely no villain to the town it unknowingly held captive. The mild response was fine by the wizard; this was no impromptu rally. His desire was simply to keep any would-be heroes from chasing down a legacy and trying something stupid.

    The chambers were still abandoned, and the handful of townspeople who took shelter in the fracas covered their faces and sprinted out as the tandem marched into the stone-lined chamber. The floor had been covered for some fifteen feet with a thin layer of sludge which poured in through the door, but beyond that the chambers remained the cleanest, quietest area in the city. If anyone else dared run into the Council rooms, they’d certainly be cowering in corners, praying to their gods that the hellfire that rained down upon their city didn’t see them hiding or smell the urine on their pants.

    “Straight ahead, right? This place was under constant watch not so long ago; before we went and f*cked everything up it was probably the safest place in Whitevale. Let’s get in and out quickly.”

    Tired, covered in mud, blood, soot and sewage, Storm Veritas was in no mood for pleasantries or a half-assed scavenger hunt. From the sunken shoulders of his friend, he expected Shinsou to be similarly motivated to seek shower, suds, and sleep.
    Last edited by Storm Veritas; 01-05-17 at 04:27 PM.

  8. #18
    The Outlaw Torn
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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

    Name
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
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    31
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    Finally feeling the weight of tiredness bear on him, Shinsou rubbed a sore eye with his knuckle and rubbed at his forehead furiously to stave off the approaching fatigue, at least for a few more moments. He, like Storm, had been up for god-knows how long and had given everything he could to their task, both physically and mentally. But, with the end of the beginning in sight, Shinsou was determined to finish this one last errand before they headed for more comfortable lodgings and the promise of a solid day’s sleep.

    The sodden, churned surface of a mud path carved a puddle-ridden courtyard in two. It was littered with soggy leaves and as their footsteps crunched over crumbs of loose gravel one by one, the distinctive mixed smells of mud and rainwater filled the Telgradian's nostrils. The cool odor acted like smelling salts; perking up Osris’s senses and giving him a second wind.

    After a few more paces, Shinsou stopped to cast his gaze to the looming form of the Brotherhood’s now abandoned headquarters.

    Just ahead, an iron wrought gate stood at least three times the height of him and on either side there was a wall that encircled the inner sanctum of the chambers. The gate was topped with jagged iron spikes that jutted out dangerously, preventing any unwanted guests from vaulting the walls. The keep was made of some sort of washed limestone and finely carved statues adorned the edges of the fort around its wooden front doors. Assorted coats of arms were some of the more prominent statuary, breathtaking in their beauty and refinement but worn through age. They all represented the ancestry of the council; each a bloodline loyal to the Castigars.

    “Have you ever heard the story of Arius Mephisto?” The Telgradian suddenly turned to Storm, who wearily shook his head. The man held a polite expression of disinterest; one that Shinsou could sympathize with given the late hour of the day and the fact the electromancer was flagging as much as he was. “Perhaps another time, when our heads are fresher, I’ll tell you about him. But just to give some credence as to our errand here, he was the original Castigar leader, long ago. We’re here for his armor.”

    As he approached the main entrance, The Telgradian pressed his hand against the heavy oak door on the right, and after a bit of a struggle it slowly opened on its oiled hinges.

    The abandoned halls of the building were as silent as a crypt, and almost as dark and eerie. Shinsou knew that the place was well guarded during its use and kept away from the public. According to what he knew, it was used only to house the small and now-defunct Brotherhood of the Castigar council and was so scarcely attended by anyone from outside that many rumors circulated about what they kept here. As the heavily reinforced doors slammed behind him, his golden eyes fixated on nothing as Storm looked on.

    “The council believed the armor Arius wore gave him the ability to subjugate his followers. No-one quite knows how – after all, the piece we are looking for has been sealed away in the chamber for millennia, away from those who might study it. Ducos – the one who got away from us – told me once that he was using it to channel influence over the people of Whitevale. I have no idea how.”

    It was then that Storm realized why their efforts went mostly un-applauded by their lukewarm audience an hour ago. He still didn’t particularly care for their affection, but suddenly things were starting to make a little sense.

    “Yeah, I think he was telling the truth too,” Shinsou noticed the change of expression on his partner’s face. “That’s why they weren’t particularly receptive to us. Or, for that matter, to any outsiders since the Brotherhood took over here. Come on – we’re not far away. I’ve been here before.”

    Shinsou took a moment to get his bearings.

    Far over his head, vaults and arches sailed up and converged in a classical array of marble carved embellishments in the center of the hall. A row of marble columns rose to a second floor scarlet-carpeted staircase and created an avenue that extended to the end of the hall in which the Telgradian stood. At the end of this avenue two white statues of Arius Mephisto, shrouded in dark robes, flanked a pair of double doors. The floor of the hall consisted of an arrangement of black and white stone slabs that led to a center circle underneath the point of a crystal chandelier. Here, the emblem of the Castigars was sketched out over the circumference of the room; a clenched fist surrounded by a black circle.

    Shinsou, with Storm in tow, walked a straight path between the columns in silence towards what he knew to be the now-unguarded mausoleum where Mephisto was entombed. The lay-out of this section of the building was similar to Raiaeran architecture; high, narrow windows of plain leaded glass that alternated with the pillars, dark with the lack of any background light. Under these were pedestals that contained small statues and trinkets. Rows of lighted candles flickered in their iron holders positioned either side of these figurines, the smell of their smouldering wicks wafting through the hallway.

    The candles flickered at the edges of Shinsou’s vision as they entered a new section from the west wing they had just left. More candles danced in the cool draught that blew through the open hallway; harbingers leading them to their goal. The glowing tips of their flames illuminated the corridor and gave light to the iron door ahead. As the breeze made them sputter and smoulder, the corner of Shinsou’s lips turned up.

    “Arius’s tomb,” Shinsou explained, “Was relocated from the outlands to Whitevale in the early parts of the century. What we are looking at now is his mausoleum. Let’s go.”

    The Telgradian had sensed the presence of the armour the moment that the twisting tendrils of the candle’s flames had given them line of sight. Osiris felt something a little different from it than the living things he was used to probing with his ability to sense life. Threats, as they usually were when they came, registered as a throbbing pulse within the pit of his stomach. From the intensity and timing of the pulses, Shinsou Vaan Osiris was able to gauge a living being. Here, though, the pulses were passing, drawing away from him even as he drew his breath. It heightened his senses. Saliva filled his mouth and scents from the corridor wafted into his nose, the heaviest of which was the bitter combination of musk and incense.

    Shinsou settled Enpera firmly against the side of his coat as they marched forward and opened the iron door at the end of the corridor.

    The walls in the tomb were hung with freshly pressed tapestries in honor of the deceased. More banners dangled from the vaulted rafters, and the room smelled of blended herbs that circulated from hanging incense pots. There were stone pews that dominated the middle of the hall, forming a pathway to what appeared to be a stone coffin.

    Shinsou, a wan smile fixed on his face, approached the sarcophagus and rubbed a hand over the engraved plate to remove the dust. The words were too worn to read, but he knew that part of what they said was A summer spent, a winter earned and Here lies Arius Mephisto, the Executor ISOS.

    Poetic to the last. Osiris mused as he removed the heavy lid, pushing all of his weight upwards on the edge until the stone crashed to the floor with an almighty crassshhhhh.

    The hall hung heavy with anticipation.

    “Holy fucking shit.”

    The Telgradian’s sudden exclamation startled Veritas, who rushed over to his side.

    Inside the white silk-lined coffin was a Mythril cuirass, topped with an overlapping gorget. The armor, polished to a mirror shine, was Mephisto’s, clearly developed in antiquity for the Castigar leader by the most skilled of armorers available to the militant icon. The craft work on the breastplate was obviously exemplary. But it wasn’t the quality of the piece, nor the symbolic or even physical attributes, that had shocked Osiris. Lifting the piece out carefully in both hands, Shinsou held the plate to the light, inspecting it closely.

    “It’s active.”

    Osiris marveled as the armor began to shine brightly, a cozened indigo electrical current swirling around interior the interior of the metal. Watching the strange energy snap and fizz in a cacophony of paranormal activity was captivating but also a stern reminder to the Telgradian that this artifact was likely driving events above; events he believed lead to the brainwashing of Whitevale. Time was short. It had to be destroyed if the new Brotherhood stood a chance of retaining the loyalty of the people.

    “This is the last hurdle. Put this out of commission and we’re home free.”

    Time was short. Osiris approached the pedestal as the light from the crystal began to resonate. It had to be destroyed. Enpera waited by his side. The Telgradian quickly and violently drew a dark matter spell from within his grasp and slashed it across the smooth face of the glistening plate but the magic blade simply scraped over its surface without making so much as a scratch. Osiris proceeded with another heavy assault. The razor sharp weapon was applied to the armor with such force that a tremendous clang rang out all around, but once again the attack proved fruitless as the blade simply bounced off the Mythril.

    “Magic resistance, eh? Fine. We’ll do it the hard way.”

    Shinsou, now visibly annoyed, snapped his sword arm backwards and brought Enpera crashing down one more time upon the glistening artifact face, this time with moderate success as a fissure snaked up the curved breastplate that up until now had remained defiant in the face of the Telgradian.

    At first the energy released from the armor was no more than a shimmer of purple mist that smelt of burned cobalt and diffused into the room. It drifted further from its midair epicentre and became slightly out of focus, like a poorly taken photograph, before suddenly ripping a giant void open from nothing with a pulsating crackle. The rift expanded further, its membrane humming as it pushed out, before imploding with a deafening shkkkkkkthuuukkkk!

    Silence took over once again.

    “The armor’s done, Shinsou. Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

    Only a moment later did Shinsou truly react, hearing the voice of his companion reverberate through the room. His shoulders drooped for a moment and he cocked his head to one side, his brain struggling to make sense of everything that had transpired that night. After all, their journey that morning had been one micro-scale goal after another – getting into Whitevale, escaping, flushing out the councilors, killing Kazui and now destroying the armor. Now that they had to think about a much more macro-scale, Shinsou released they were knee deep in it, now.

    Technically, they’d won. Hadn’t they? The Brotherhood as it was ceased to exist. However, Ducos was on the loose, a potential thorn in their side from now on. The professor, Shinsou knew, wouldn’t rest until he was back in control. Then there was the issue of Whitevale’s future, and keeping a leash on the loyal Brotherhood forces was a whole other problem entirely.

    All of them were problems the pair had to face, but all of them were also issues for another day.

    Fate would either deal them a winning hand, or they’d go down in flames.

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  9. #19
    Moderator
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    Morning slipped into midday, and as the bedlam ended with a slow, distressed chatter, the town of Whitevale became somewhat clear within a few hours. Completely spent, the conquerors fled not to a hearty (and well deserved) breakfast, but rather a simple set of beds in the local tavern. With the luxury of electrically fused locks and metal-shorn barricades upon their doors and windows, both Storm Veritas and Shinsou Vaan Osiris were not heard from for a full day before the waking sun delivered a ravenous, refreshed duo. Storm did not wait for his associate to begin his operations; there was work to do.

    “Yes, correct, transference. 3,000 gold from ‘Wired Woodwork’ to ‘Whitevale Woodwork’; I am the designee upon both accounts and would demand a notarized anonymous transfer.” Storm spoke to the clerk in the town bank over a two-inch thick sandwich; a sesame bun (boiled in proper Radasanthian fashion, of course), split parted wide with egg and imported, seasoned bacon.

    The little man across the table looked incredulously at the tall, thin, clean-shaven wizard, aghast at a man he had witnessed firsthand butcher a stranger in the open air only days before. There were none to stand against him now, but a certain itch gave the pudgy clerk a dragging sense of moral obligation to raise hurdles in the path of the electromancer. Conversely, a second feeling, a spectacularly powerful sensation, pressed the balding budgeteer to avoid angering a man of such capability.

    “Sir, I DO want to help you, but there are certain arrangements which must be made before we could consider allocating a transfer of such sight unseen. As you can imagine, the security of our clients is of the utmost importance, and I would never endanger your assets without following proper protocols for transference outward.”

    Protocol… sounds like a codename for bullshit to me. Little man has tiny brass ones dangling, I have to give him that. Won’t let me launder the cash in without raising a stink, even though I’m sure he’s at least –heard- by now of what we pulled off.

    A deep breath, Storm finished inhaling his sandwich, savoring the salty meat and savory egg flavors and snapping up the last pleasant aroma of melted Coronian Cheddar from the air. He smiled and paused, making a concerted effort not to lash out with anger. The wizard had already scared half the town into their homes; some showing of grace and humanity would be needed to oversee a land where citizens operated in a state of something less than abject terror.

    “Let’s clear the air, shall we?” Storm sat across from the thick red cyper wood. He leaned forward, rubbing his hands free of grease and crumbs before gently laying them in plain sight upon the table. “We both know that I’ve made life a hell of a lot more stressful around here over the last day or so. You’re nervous, probably a little scared, and unsure of what you’re supposed to do with me. We also both know the police aren’t coming, since the Brotherhood drove them out months ago, and the Council isn’t coming back any time soon.”

    Another deep breath, and Veritas waited patiently for the clerk to twitch in his chair, trying to straighten the cuffs on his sleeve before attempting to answer the wizard. Before he could issue a word, Storm continued.

    “Relax, my friend. Relax! It’s over. The fighting, the killing, the chaos… It’s over! My contemporary and I have had a longstanding issue with the Council, but now wish simply to live in Whitevale and conduct business in peace. We are powerful, and can protect you, and ask nothing in exchange aside from your commitment to welcome us into this community. Based on how I understand the laws as constructed by the Brotherhood, the only rules I’ve broken relate to destruction of property, which I will of course happily recompense.”

    Squirming, the little man began to settle a bit. There was something about the even charm, smooth voice, and calm demeanor of the conqueror which grabbed him and settled him.

    “Sir, I simply…” the little man waited to be interrupted, surprised to be given the opportunity to speak. He had been caught red-handed trying to harass one of the most powerful wizards on Althanas, and was met with grace and patience. He was given no alternative but to cooperate. “I simply want to make sure we’re all handling you fairly. You gave me, and my family a hell of a scare.” A nervous smile crept across his face as his doughy fingers produced large wax pad, which he suspended above his tabletop candle. Moments later, the request was notarized.

    “For your troubles.” Storm handed a pinch of warm golden coins to the small man, pressing them firmly into the sweating palm of the trembling banker. A weary, resigned smile was now wide about the face of the banker, and money would soon flow freely through Whitevale.

    “You can breathe, folks! We’re all going to be just fine. Let me just leave this here and thank you all for your hospitality…”

    Produced with such impossible slight of hand as to feel like magic, a heavy bundle of gold jingled softly atop the heavy marble counter in the center of Whitevale bank. No one dared sprint to grab it, and he would be out of the building long before they dared to open it, elation filling the room, fast growing eager to celebrate the massive windfall which would be spread happily amongst the many fortunate workers within the bank.

    Striding away from the large stone structure, Storm welcomed the after-breakfast smoke which he promptly popped to life, a pinch of tobacco fired imminently within the cherrywood bowl of his trusty pipe. His grin was ear to ear as he approached the town center, and began using his otherworldly skills to repair the pipe he had ruptured to cause such a literal shitstorm in the first place. The buzz of his smoke dulled the lingering aroma, and soon enough the pipe found itself fixed, as townspeople gathered to help him replace the earth and began re-laying the sod upon the stained earth. He flipped coins here freely as well, the warm sun rising and drying the dew from the existing grasses as a community began to fuse again.

    The hypnosis of the Brotherhood hadn't lasted long; none in his periphery appeared to come at him with anything but smiles and kind words. The pivot of the people was proving remarkable, as though they were awakening from a long slumber. To the adventurer, it was all far more simple.

    Bunch of half-witted rubes around here, trading their loyalty for two coins a head. Gold solves damned near everything.
    Last edited by Storm Veritas; 01-15-17 at 02:42 PM.

  10. #20
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    Thread Title: The Cleansing Corruption
    Judgment Type: Full Rubric
    Participants: Storm Veritas & Shinsou Vaan Osiris

    Gentlemen, let me start by thanking you for yet another excellent story. I much enjoyed your first, and as such, I had high expectations for its sequel. You did not disappoint. Note that, due to the high quality of this thread, much of my commentary is a bit nit-picky. I hope you can both benefit from at least some of it.



    Plot: 24/30

    • Story- 9/10

    I enjoyed the structure that you chose for Cleansing Corruption. You opened with a scene that introduced both men and their philosophies, thus providing some insight as to who they are as people. You had grand attacks broken up by more muted scheming scenes, which is something I think many authors overlook. Though I'll elaborate on this in my pacing commentary, the rising and falling action made for a very easy read. Rarely was I bored, or bogged down by too much action, or too little. I was also impressed by the simple skill with which you told a story together. Unlike A Game of Shadows, in which you mostly wrote your own unique storylines, your characters were together for the vast majority of the thread. You moved the story along almost seamlessly, speaking to both your writing and your collaboration abilities.

    There was one particular element of the story, however, that threw me off. The decision to search for Arius' armor felt a bit rushed, and I found myself scrambling to keep up with that sudden change in the mission. A bit more buildup here would have been really beneficial. And while I think that you did a nice job of making Shin shelve the story until another time, as a reader, I was really disappointed. I know nothing of Arius, and a bit more information would have helped with the buildup (and satisfied my curiosity).

    But the highest compliment that I can pay for this (or any story, really) is that you kept me guessing. I imagine I was just as dumbstruck as Shin and Storm when the bodies disappeared at the end of post eleven. Sharing in that confusion is such a neat experience, and few authors have succeeded in throwing me for a loop. The appearance of the assassin did something similar, though to a lesser degree. And Storm's decision to flood the bunker was not one that I could have predicted. I was incredibly impressed by your story telling.

    • Setting- 8/10

    In A Game of Shadows, setting was absolutely one of your strongest areas. Here, while it was still fantastic, I felt it did not serve as much purpose. You both did an excellent job of describing the darkness, and the rain, and that feeling of being totally and utterly drenched. I could feel it as I read along, a testament to your skill in this area. I also really enjoyed the way that you described the eeriness of the empty town, after everyone had retreated the bunker. But while your setting was immersive, I did not think you really used it to your advantage. How could you have used the surroundings to tell more about your characters? You defined the setting, and your characters acted within it. What more could you have done to give your setting more meaning?

    • Pacing- 7/10

    I have to start by commending you both. Pacing was something that I harped on when I judged A Game of Shadows. Then, you did not appear to have a clear start, middle, end, or climax; I was never sure if I was to be rushing or taking a breather. You have come absolute leaps and bounds since then, so thank you for paying close attention to this. It made for a more pleasant reading experience overall.

    However, there were a few spots where pacing felt a bit off. First, the matter of fight scenes. When it comes to combat, I stick by the rule that less is more. A few well-written sentences of action can be far more effective than an entire paragraph, keeping the reader along for the ride the entire time. Too much, and you leave your audience bogged down by what may be unnecessary facts. As a writer, I had to have this drilled into my head, but as a reader, I absolutely see how the raw excitement of a fast-paced scene can be dulled by too much detail. I felt that a few of your fights, specifically in the jail directly after their capture, were too descriptive. I would encourage you to keep this in mind for your next thread. While you want to help your reader picture things, you should also give them the freedom to fill in a few blanks themselves.

    Finally, I felt that acquiring the armor was a bit rushed, when compared to the rest of the thread. Considering the sheer power of the artifact, and what enormous role it played in your thread, I feel it could have used a bit more attention. Part of this could have come from more information, as I noted in the story category. Beyond that, you might have dedicated more than a few short paragraphs to locating and destroying it.



    Character: 23/30

    • Communication- 8/10

    When it came to communication, I had very few concerns. Both of you write your characters well, and the way that they communicate generally makes sense. I would still like to see more quirks, catch phrases, or unique speech patterns to give your dialogue some additional flare, but what you did have, for the most part, was solid. I did have an easier time telling your characters apart in this thread.

    I do have two small pieces of advice. First, I would encourage you to make sure that the tones you set through dialogue stay consistent. There were a couple of instances where the mood seemed to shift far too quickly from one line to another. For example, post five saw a very jarring shift from mocking "congratulations, gentlemen" to commanding "shut your f*cking mouth." You wrote that one cautiously drew his weapon, but that did not seem enough to warrant a complete shift in tone. Or was the first meant to be sarcastic? A bit more explanation here would have been excellent.

    Second, I would encourage you both to check your characters for overly-dramatic dialogue. While this is a fantasy story, and I usually live by the "go big or go home" motto, a few lines in this thread just felt outrageous. Shin, you are an incredible writer and a fantastic friend, but I spit out my drink when I read "wait a minute, that's it!" in post two. It felt like something out of an old Scooby Doo episode. I'm not sure it would be natural for someone to express their sudden realizations that way.

    • Action-7/10

    For the most part, your action was really fantastic. Both of your characters exhibited those quirks that I had hoped to see in their dialogue. For example, I loved the way Shin ran his hand across his neck to signal headlessness in post four. Another writer might have left that out entirely, as it was explained again using dialogue. But that little action just brought the scene to life. You both also did a fantastic job of outlining your characters' weaknesses and limits. Limits are incorporated into character profiles for a reason, but more importantly, good writers know how to weave them into a more believable tale. Acknowledging that Storm used his powers to frivolously in post seven, for example, was very well done. Considering his limits before flooding the bunker was also smart; a less skilled writer might have just had him lift the thing anyway. Shin, you mentioned not being able to use Stygian on every guard in post four, but did not elaborate. I was curious if this was a limitation on the blade itself, or if it was simply irrational to use the effects on everyone.

    Your action score is a bit lower than you might like, however, due to the concerns that I raised in the commentary on pacing. There were a few cases when both of your action felt a bit drawn out, and I had to force myself not to just skip ahead. You are both far better writers than that. Try asking a friend to read over your more action-heavy scenes with brevity in mind.

    • Persona- 8/10

    Persona was certainly a strength for you both. I was able to get a good feel for who your characters were, especially with the help of the first couple posts, in which they reflect on their philosophies. The reflections on their pasts, and the people who they left behind, were well done as well. As for consistency, which is equally as important, I would say you both did a nice job. There were a few parts that I really enjoyed, such as Storm fantasizing about mind reading, and hoping that the assassin had picked up on his plan to kill him in post nine.

    However, as I mentioned with communication, I would caution you to watch the tones of your internal monologues. These do wonders to carry the persona of your characters, but if they contradict the rest of the story, they can cause confusion. For example, in post eleven, Storm thinks "save some of that fury for the others, little fella." This thought comes across as more lighthearted, but you directly follow by stating that the men's anger issues were unaddressed. They were both so angry that it was worth noting, but his thoughts were joking? As I mentioned above, perhaps you had intended for that thought to be more mocking, or cynical. But without more elaboration, it can be difficult to judge.



    Prose: 22/30

    • Mechanics- 7/10

    Though you are both excellent writers, and clearly care about mechanics, I found more errors in this thread than I would have expected. There were a few run-on sentences, word repetition, and some missed punctuation. "As" was used instead of "at" in post three. "Load" was used instead of "loud" in post sixteen. Even with a thorough read-through, these small elements might be missed. I always recommend actually reading your posts out loud. I find my eyes can often fix mistakes for me, but when I have to actually speak them, they stick out like a sore thumb. Maybe that routine will work for you as well!

    • Clarity- 7/10

    To be honest with you both, there were quite a few instances where I had to go back and re-read. They did not necessarily change the meaning of the story, which is why you still earned a solid seven in this category. However, as someone who was giving the thread a critical read-over, I think I wrote "contradiction?" half a dozen times in my notes. In many cases, I eventually figured out what you meant - the part was simply written in a way that caused some confusion. For example, in post one, you wrote "the road was nearly silent, muted completely..." How could something be nearly silent, and muted completely? In post eight, you wrote that Storm occasionally looked at Shin "with a concerned expression," but then later, that "there was no need for small talk or false concern." Was the original concern false? Or was he doing it when there was no need? Of course, there is no way to account for everything that a reader might find confusing, but keeping an eye out for instances like this might help on your next thread!

    I was also left with some confusion regarding the townspeople of Whitevale. Your characters seemed to go back and forth, sometimes considering them ruthless Brotherhood supporters, and other times, merely poor, helpless, brainwashed souls. This frustrated me, but as your character themselves could not seem to agree on what they were, I considered it an artistic choice. However, I still do not know quite how the armor was affecting them. If the armor was still active when Shin and Storm found it, should they not have all been under its spell the entire time? So would the masses not have all acted together, if they were all touched? Perhaps this is why that section felt a bit rushed to me, but I would have loved more elaboration here.

    • Technique- 8/10

    As was the case with my previous judgment, I really liked what techniques you did use. I was very excited by the foreshadowing at the end of the first post. There were also some very nice metaphors, something you both have a knack for. You're also both very skilled at using that internal monologue to your advantage. But, as always, I think you could stand to work in even a bit more. When I find something I especially like, I circle it multiple times in my notes. There were not as many instances of that as I would have expected, but I know that you are both more than capable of giving me a bit more next time.

    As a final note, one thing that you both might consider is how you refer to your characters. You both use Storm, Shinsou, and Shin, which is great. But when it comes to last names only, Shin uses "Osiris." Storm, you use "Osiris," "Van Osiris" (post one), "Von Osiris" (post three), "Vaan Osiris" (post five). These are probably just simple typos, but even then, there is inconsistency here, and that detracts from the story being told. I would encourage you both to agree on one when you write together in the future. On that matter, I would also encourage you to think about the effect that names have on the tone of your story. This is entirely personal preference, but I like to use last names only when the situation calls for it. For example, if Rayleigh is in a tough situation, being chewed out by a superior, being especially formal, etc., I might use "Aston." When the tone is more relaxed, she is simply "Rayleigh." Again, this is not a stead-fast rule, by any means, but it might be worth thinking about!



    Wildcard: 9/10
    Another fantastic thread by S&S! Of any writers on this site, I think that you two do the best collaborations. You write each other's characters exceptionally well, and "share in the glory," so to speak. Too often, I see one partner working to outshine the other. The fact that you were both willing to let the other take center stage during important parts, such as the scheming scenes, says a lot about you.

    The ONLY reason I took away one point, and this is perhaps the most nit-picky of all, is because I was disappointed by how you both described your horses. Storm, you give your "mighty horse" a quick mention. Shin, you're not much better with your "great black mounts." And I nearly cried when you talked about Shin's "enormous steed beneath him." I would challenge you both to find more diverse ways to describe your horses, especially when you have gone so far as to give them a name! You are both so much more creative than that!



    Final Score: 78/100

    Storm Veritas receives:

    • 2600 EXP!
    • 160 GP!


    Shinsou Vaan Osiris receives:

    • 1900 EXP!
    • 150 GP!

    Congratulations!
    Althy's Judging Admin
    To try or not to try. To take a risk or play it safe.
    Your arguments have reminded me how precious the right to choose is.
    And because I've never been one to play it safe, I choose to try.




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