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Thread: Round 1: Team B

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    Round 1: Team B

    Round 1 will begin at 3 PM EST on Thursday, February 2, 2017.

    You stumble upon the refugee camp either to assist the Rangers or by other circumstances. The cat like race of people you encounter do not speak any known language. Three combat ships are bearing down on the camp. Their origins and purpose, like those of the refugees, is unknown. An ideal thread will address the communication issue with the cat people, the purpose of the combat ships, decipher the symbol and will identify the origins of both parties. Please note the term refugees was coined by Ceidon to describe an unknown group of crash victims. It is entirely up to you whether they are actually refugees.
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  2. #2
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    Les Misérables's Avatar

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    “And what business brings you to this encampment, mister Sa'resh?”

    Phyr Sa'resh looked down his long, crooked nose at the ranger, and straightened his clam-shaped cloak pin. The one armed dark elf had ridden through the night to arrive at the refugee camp, and he was in no mood for frivolous questions.

    “I come representing baron Aniel Marwena of Tylmerande,” Phyr said, unconsciously straightening his pin again. The clam shape had been forged after the Marwena family crest, a family who had found their fortune along the pearl coasts of Serenti. At the baron's behest Phyr had journeyed from Serenti the previous evening, and arrived at the camp set along the salt cliffs as mid morning sun scorched the plateau. He shrugged out of his heavy wool cloak and hung it across his mount's saddle, allowing his dark blue sifan clothing to breathe. The empty, knotted arm of his right sleeve flapped in the salty breeze coming off the sea.

    “And for what purpose did Baron Marwena send you?” Asked the short, stout man. Despite the heat he still wore his heavy cloak, the rifle crossed sword sigil of the Corone Rangers emblazoned over the heart.

    “To provide relief,” Phyr said, gesturing at the cart behind him. It was loaded with supplies for the refugees; tents, food and fresh water, and blankets and dry firewood to combat the chill of night. A surly faced man with a broad brimmed hat sat atop the cart's seat, slapping the reins against his thigh impatiently. Next to him Phyr's other companion straddled a black stallion, scarred face gazing impassively at the rangers, short white hair dancing in the wind. His cloak bore the emblem of the Serenti Watch, for he was one of the most trusted and experienced lieutenants on the force.

    “You are most welcome, then,” the ranger said. His disposition changed rapidly as he sorted through the contents of the cart. “We've had little enough relief since the initial supplies came down from Gisela. The cat folk will certainly be more comfortable now,” he said, plucking an apple from a basket and shining it on his cloak.

    Phyr looked past the security checkpoint and examined the refugee camp. Ramshackle shelters made from sailcloth and bits of deck timber dominated the center, with small fire pits scattered around the outskirts. The old elf shook his head, long silver ponytail swaying and brushing the back of his tailored jacket. He had seen worse living conditions. By Haide's fires, he'd lived in worse conditions when he'd been wrongfully imprisoned as a traitor to his nation. The thirty years he'd spent locked away were a distant memory, though. Since arriving in Corone he'd had a successful career, first as Captain of the Underwood Watch, and now as senior advisor to Aniel Marwena. He had become accustomed to the comforts of the baron's manor house, and seeing others living in such squalor stabbed at his heart.

    “Baron Marwena is more than happy to provide support for the Corone Rangers,” Phyr said tactfully, “he also hoped I would be permitted to stay on here as his representative, and to keep him apprised of the situation.”

    “I don't see why not,” the ranger mused, taking a large bite of apple. Juice from the plump fruit dribbled down his chin. “We can always use an extra pair of… er... we can use all the help we can get.” He finished awkwardly, eyeing the dark elf's empty sleeve.

    Phyr chuckled. “Worry not,” he said, “I brought two able bodied men with me. You'll have five extra hands to lighten the workload, so long as we're here.” He pointed at his companions in turn with a long, spindly finger. “The fellow in the hat is Darion Crookshank, a merchant whose cart we hired to bear our contribution. The other is Terrence Edim, an upstanding member of the Serenti Watch.” Edim performed a proper seated bow while Crookshank merely nodded and spat through his teeth.

    “We are glad for the assistance,” the ranger said around another bite of apple, “why, only yesterday-”

    His tale was cut short as bells rang from the nearby city of Gisela. The ranger's eyes glazed over as he listened to the repeated peals, and he cast his gaze out to sea as the ringing faded.

    “Ships approaching,” he translated the coded message and tossed his apple over the cliff, wiping his mouth on a leather sleeve. “Three of them, sailing up from the south.”

    Activity erupted within the refugee camp. Rangers raced about, calling orders and bearing weapons. The ships appeared on the horizon, sails bulging with wind, strange orange banners flying high. The cat folk frantically gathered up their meager belongings and made for the security checkpoint, recognizing it as their only safe passage out of the camp.

    “Edim!” Phyr called, “the looking-glass, if you would be so kind.” The elf rubbed his finger and thumb together nervously as he looked out at the approaching ships.

    Terrence slid out of the saddle and paced to the edge of the gray cliffs. He produced a brass tube from his pocket and pulled on both ends, expanding the telescope to its full length. The lieutenant braced the device atop his shoulder and gazed out to sea stoically.

    Phyr stood behind Edim and grasped the tube with his lone hand, aiming its large lens toward the vessels and closing one eye to look through the narrow end. He could see people moving about the decks, but they were little more than gray blurs. He focused instead on the sides of the ships beneath the strangely shaped gunwales, and saw cannons peeking out through open portholes. As the boats drew nearer he was able to identify them as a trio of well-armed corvettes, although they had a unique squarish shape, unlike any ship he had seen before. At first their path had seemed to point to the port of Gisela, but as they tacked against the wind Phyr realized they were heading straight for the crashed freighter, and the camp beyond it.

    “Look alive, you great lumps of rangers!” Phyr roared in his best parade-ground bawl. He tapped Edim on the shoulder and the man collapsed the telescope and returned it to his pocket. “Those ships are headed our way! We'd best take cover and wait for them to make land.”

    “Hold there a moment, old one,” the ranger manning the security checkpoint turned his attention from the camp to the dark elf. “We've got standing orders to keep this camp secure. We can't let this lot go running loose!” He gestured at the cat folk grouped around the checkpoint and and gripped his sword hilt.

    “Yes you bloody well can, if you fancy living!” Phyr shot back, “so belay your standing orders, youngling. In a matter of minutes those corvettes will be lined up for a full broadside strike. So long as we're standing on these cliffs, we may as well smile and paint targets on each others' backs!” Phyr's old air of command rose within him. Many years had passed since he'd been an officer in the Alerian military, but his body and well-oiled mind remembered the way. He squared his shoulders, straightened his belt, and bellowed at the ranger. “Now let these whiskered folks pass, and bring your fighters to me!”

    The short man stood still a moment, stunned, and then turned and waved several of his compatriots aside.

    “Let these cat folk go, lads,” he called, “and rally to me! Rangers to me!”

    The cat people swarmed out of the camp, clutching their belongings and heading northward in a tight pack. Many of the rangers rallied into a semi-circle around Phyr and his followers, while the rest raced after their escaping wards. The dark elf took a deep breath, expanding his narrow chest. All eyes rested on him.

    “Right,” he said in a voice that carried to every ear present, “it looks as though we're to be Corone's first line of defense, lads. Spread out along the foothills beneath these cliffs. Hide as best you can among the bushes and long grass, and look for embankments where you have the cover of land. We don't want to present a target for their cannons. We'll force them to make landfall in their longboats, and when they do...” Phyr stopped rubbing his fingers together and stroked the silver stubble on his chin. “We'll be ready.”

    “Aye.” The single word of acknowledgment echoed from the mouth of every ranger present. They raced down to the foothills, putting their legendary camouflage skills to the test as they hid among the sparse foliage above the fractured freighter.

    “Edim,” Phyr said, and the guardsman snapped to attention. “Stay with me. We'll join the rangers in a moment. Darion,” he said to the burly man in the broad brimmed hat, “unhook your horse from the cart, and take ours alongside. I want you to ride for Serenti as if Xem'zund himself were at your heels. Ride the first horse until it flags, and then switch to the second, and then the third. Tell Baron Marwena of all that has transpired here.”

    “I’m a bleedin’ merchant, not a messenger. And what about my cart?” The stocky man protested. Even so, he sidled out of his seat and set to unbinding his horse.

    “The baron will replace your cart, if necessary. And you'll ride like the wind today,” Phyr said. A wry smile wrinkled his lined face further. “For every man serves as best he can when his nation goes to war!”

  3. #3
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    Leoric's Avatar

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    Leoric yawned as he stretched. He hadn’t been awake long before he offered to take the cart over to Gisela to pick up a few things that Joseph and he needed to finish Leoric’s house. It was going to be a rather long ride alone. The morning sun had not been kind to him and was constantly directly in his eyes. He ran his hand through his shoulder length curly hair and sighed, before leaning back and scratching his beard as he let out a yawn again. It wasn’t long before he heard a group of footsteps, but they didn’t sound like normal footsteps. He raised his head to see where the sound was coming from, and was shocked at what he saw. Cat people? The cat like creatures walked over to him, and started talking in a language he didn’t understand. It was nothing but gibberish to him.

    “I… I do not understand?” He stepped down from his seat and tried to focus on the black and white spotted feline in front of him as it continued to talk in gibberish. “Are you looking for something?”

    At this the cat creature got down on all fours and started to draw something in the dirt. Leoric couldn’t really make ears or tails of it, the lines looked like a map but for all he knew it could of been their written language. The exhausted cart driver stared down at the symbol for a second, and a warm breeze blew from the West, causing his hair to obscure the look of confusion on his face.

    “Sorry sir, we are still trying to sort out their language ourselves. We are escorting them to a safe place” an obvious guard said as he stepped around the group.

    “And where is this safe place?” Leoric asked as he leaned up against his cart. Folding his arms forced his white shirt under his leather vest to hug his form, and reveal just how large his arms actually were.

    “Somewhere safe, that is all you need to know” another man said. The exhausted man looked back at the the cat creatures, who were clearly frantic and trying to ask Leoric something; he couldn’t just ignore them. He looked down and reached inside his cart to grab his map. He opened it up and took a look for anything that could match what was drawn on the ground. When he gave up he placed the map down next to the marking and the cat people quickly gathered around looking at it.

    “Do you see what you are referring to?” Leoric asked as they began to jibber amongst each other happily. So many of the cat creatures gathered around the map that all Leoric could see was shadows. There was no more map to his eyes. “So you guys have no idea what these guys are saying or what they are after?”

    “Nope, not at all. Their ship crashed on the shore near Gisela and we were sent to make sure their camp was safe.” The first guard said.

    “Just the five of you? To protect a dozen of them?” Leoric asked with a raised eyebrow. “Either something has happened and you needed to abandon the camp, or you are just taking your little kitties out for a walk.”

    With this the guards looked at each-other, and then back to Leoric.

    “We are a part of the Corone Rangers, we were watching over these guys at their camp when three warships sailed into sight and headed straight for the camp. The cats immediately tried to flee, and the rest of our group stayed behind to defend the shore. We are charged with keeping an eye on them, so even if we have to retreat we will keep doing what we have been ordered.”

    “Such loyal pups.” Leoric sighed as a cat pawed at his arm to get his attention; and he was thankful for this. As much as he wanted to criticize them for not standing and fighting with their brothers in arms he also understood that sometimes you had to split the group for a mission’s success. He had heard stories of the Rangers and their prowess in combat, so as much as he wanted to rush to the shore to help defend his homeland, he bit his tongue and stayed with the cat people that couldn’t even say his name. When he looked down he noticed that almost all the cats were pointing at the same mountain. “Well, Rangers, looks like you now know where you are going.”

    The rangers came over to Leoric's side and looked down at the map and sighed. The northern mountain range was going to be one hell of a trek to do.

    The rangers turned away from Leoric and began to discuss amongst themselves what they were going to do. The brawler smirked as he could hear that some of the group were not that thrilled with the plan, or that it even came from a commoner. After a few minutes of discussion the man that Leoric had been talking with turned around and spoke directly to him.

    “Sir, you have gotten more out of these cats than what we could in the time we had been watching them.”

    “I do tend to have that effect on people… and animals apparently.” Leoric chuckled as he grabbed the map and scooped it back up. “The name is Leoric by the way”

    “Leoric, how would you like to join us on this expedition? As you can see we are a little under-manned, and you look like a man that can take care of himself. So would you like to assist us? Get these cat people to wherever they are going?”

    “Well I don’t think…” Leoric trailed off. He really wasn’t one to join people just ‘cause they asked, and he still had a full day’s work ahead for him and Joseph once he got back home with the supplies.

    “We will make it worth your while, the Rangers pay pretty well.” At that Leoric’s interest was piqued; he was running a little low on gold after buying Marina the spider silk dress. More money would never hurt.

    “Make it worth my while and we have an accord sir.” Leoric said as he offered his hand for a handshake to seal the deal.

    “Welcome to the Corone Rangers mister Leoric.” The guard said as he shook Leoric’s hand. As the handshake connected another strong gust of wind blew across the plain; messing up Leoric’s hair again. “Now we head north, mind if we pile into your cart?”

    “Well, we can probably get the cats up there, but you rangers will have to walk alongside”. The newly minted Ranger said as he jumped back up on his cart and motioned a few times for the cats to jump up before they began to realize what he was trying to tell them.

    “And North we go.”

  4. #4
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    The warm sun shone down on the face of the tall, relaxed Storm Veritas as he rode happily atop mighty Attila. The great stallion trotted with confidence and vigor, a swagger belonging to the pair since the Brotherhood of the Castigars had been reclaimed. Alongside the venerable Shinsou Vaan Osiris, Storm presided over the town of Whitevale, a fair and just Lord of equal parts diplomat and hedonist. Following a few weeks of memorable tributes to hedonism, the masterful mage was feeling simultaneously splendid and sore. His specific soreness tended to reside about the liver and groin, owed to dalliances of entirely different varieties. As such, a day of stoic diplomacy would serve him well.

    As the quickly rising sun met the face of the rider moving southeast from town, the adventurer looked every part the gentleman, from meticulously tailored jodhpurs to his perfectly manicured fingernails. To every end, a picture of chivalry. Beneath the veneer, he was a happy disaster.

    Up and out before the crack of noon. Already an accomplished day. Gods, I’m still sweating brandy… not sure I managed to wash all the skank off either.

    “Shit, is that you or me, Attila? Smell something awful…”

    The great horse simply galloped forward, chuffing at the suggestion of his indignity. Townspeople waved with minimal hesitation at the smiling charlatan, and he waved his way through the gates and onwards to the road. He nodded with chivalry at ladies, and gave knowing grins to the men he had seen drinking late into the night alongside him so many times. As a man of means, the wizard had seen to a great deal of mead imported through Whitevale, which purchased some considerable degree of hospitality amongst the local rubes.

    The port was only a few short miles from the gates, enough time for him to sweat out his remaining toxicity, drink a quarter canteen of fresh, blissfully cold water, and pause twice to piss out what felt like screaming fire, a reminder of several bad decisions he had recently made which were now serving him comeuppance.

    Knew that bitch was too good to be true… it’s never that easy without a price.

    The ride was only a few miles further south now, and to keep his bearings, the seasoned veteran opted to hug the shoreline until he would invariably come across the bustling port. Something was altogether different this morning, a jolting epiphany that gripped him rapidly and without remorse. The oceanic gulls, famous for patrolling the coastline with an unmerciful tenacity, had gone missing altogether. The travel of small horse and tram was nearly nonexistent. Before him, only a hundred yards forward, a considerable mess had been spilled upon the earth.

    “Well, shit, big fella. Never simple. Let’s see what we’ve got here. K’ya!”

    With a somewhat gentle prod of his heel, he spurred the fearsome black beast forward towards what appeared to be an abandoned landing site. There were several pieces of sun bleached driftwood, and broken components of what was most likely once a boat. The mud was stained with spatters of blood and fur, tiny thickets of mottled fur were scattered like ashes about a small fire pit. The mud was also dotted with countless tracks of what were very large cat prints, each in sets of two.

    The reality of it all sunk in for Storm swiftly, piecing together the puzzle to his great dissatisfaction.

    F*cking CAT-PEOPLE? Upright goddamned lions? In f*cking Corone? Off the coast of my precious Whitevale? You have GOT to be shitting me.

    Steeling his eyes to the horizon, Attila reared and nearly knocked Storm backwards as the first of three large ships came into view, deep in the distance. The three ships emerged on the horizon as black dots against a pink quickly fading to blue in the morning light. The ships were tautly packed, a consolidated group, a coordinated team. Their slim silhouettes relative to high masts suggested that they were bearing generally towards him. Attila brayed, kicking his front legs forward at the ships, a ferocious and futile display.

    “What the hell do we have here? Let’s get back, big fella. Let’s sit in the treeline, gain position, and hold tight for now.”

    In a blur, the adventurer made for the treeline, sending Attila some hundred yards deeper into the wood. From near absolute darkness, he hid in the shadows to present the incoming sailors with a proper welcome.

  5. #5
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    A dense bush full of thorns shook violently before spewing out a grown man. He sprawled panting for a moment, then yanked his cloak free of the clutching thing with a string of curses. Next time he would stick to the road; shortcuts weren't worth it in a forest. The miles of trees finally ended though, and clear plains were a welcome sight. The tall man dressed in tan made slow and halting progress through the underbrush, and ignored the smell of fresh deer shit. His steel-toed leather boots slid when he stumbled back onto the road, though. With an eye for travelers he brushed the leaves off his leather vest. The wanderer checked the large bastard sword over his shoulder, and then paused for a moment. Sweat started glistening on his stubble-covered face a few seconds later as he pushed energy into his enhancement technique. Rather than increase his speed or strength, he simply held the energy to bolster his body's reserves. The swordsman took off down the wide road at a brisk jog; he could keep that pace for hours.

    The merchants who had told him about the crashed ship full of cat people last night had seemed shady, but he didn't see what making up a tale like that would gain them. In any case, he hadn't gotten anywhere in his search for the ruins where he fought the twisted wraith. Days of cross-referencing ancient war records with the various types of trees native to Corone didn't mean a damn thing in a forest that dense. Luckily, rolling hills and open air soothed the smuggler's ire, and he focused on maintaining his rhythmic jog. Another day under that canopy and he would have probably just burned it down. Even that still sounded better than sitting around Radasanth at the request of the eccentric Senator Fordstein, though. In city slick with his slithering ilk, the man still stood tall among them, for his ambition if nothing else. The swordsman suspected the weasel had revolutionary aims; a few beggars to toy with wasn't payment enough to risk his neck like that. The sooner his stocky secretary Dulan got back with the airship the better; it was always wise to have an escape handy. Plenty of insects flitted around in the hot sunshine, but the short grass sat flat and still. Rolling waves played in the memory of Alerar's lush plains, and the simple green carpet seemed lacking. The winded wanderer slowed his jog to a walk as he spied a group of people traveling up the road; some of them looked awfully strange.

    "Well, I’ll be damned..."

    Traveling up the road was an odd procession. A half-dozen of the Corone Rangers were escorting a wooden cart driven by a large tanned thug, and the thing was crawling with actual cat people. That old saying came to mind, and he rested one leather glove on his dagger as he wondered how many ways there were. The dark-haired driver's expression hardened though, so he thought better of it. A brisk breeze blew through a wave of flicking feline ears, and the group slowed to a halt as the swordsman hailed them empty handed. The few furry people that weren't lounging on the cart starting clicking away at him insistently. He only had to meet the eyes of one to silence the lot of them; their animal instincts were good. After a few quick formalities, a talkative Ranger explained their predicament, and it was a very intriguing tail. The apparent fear the things had shown for those ships might mean the cat people could be useful bargaining chips, but far more interesting was where they wanted to go. There were only so many types of things people sought in straights such as theirs, and most of them were either valuable, powerful, or both.

    "It seems like you could use another sword arm."

    The guards lit up at the prospect of another meat shield nearly as big as their first, and the swordsman laughed along with them. The driver's eyes lingered long on the newcomer as he mingled, so the slimmer man approached. The buff bodyguard was barely contained in his fine leather chest-piece. He eyed the other man's large sword with a raised brow. "Compensating for something?" he asked, and the long-haired traveler chuckled. Though the larger man sported steel-knuckled gloves similar to his own, no other weapon was visible. "Some problems fists won't solve," the wanderer said, and his newfound companion shrugged. The man introduced himself as Leoric, so the smuggler revealed that his name was Nyadir.

    There was something of a mutual respect between the blue eyes they shared, and the tension dissipated; mostly. The group was moving again after a few minutes, wooden wheels creaking away as mottled paws of brown and orange flashed out at stray dragonflies. The prospect of sinking back into that forest didn't exactly excite him. Air stifling and silent under the swaying canopy, the place was a maze if you lost the road. Everything was dipped in that same dim light, and the ground itself clutched and confounded. The chance to get his hands on some real power was too tempting to resist, though. If these abominations did end up wasting his time, he would just have to get his kicks out of them the old fashioned way; it was difficult to not lick his lips. First, he needed to know more.

    "We'll be passing Radasanth; we could probably find a linguist there..."

  6. #6
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    Les Misérables's Avatar

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    “D'you reckon they're related to the Nekojin of Akashima in some way?” Terrence Edim asked from his position prone against a slight slope.

    “Difficult to say,” Phyr replied from where he crouched behind a large rock, “I've never visited Akashima.” The old dark elf had heard tell of the Nekojin, but knew nothing of them save that they were cat people. To him, cat people were cat people. He understood the bigotry of the sentiment, though. In Corone many folk considered an elf an elf, and hang the differences between the hardy Alerian elves and their prissy relatives in Raiaera.

    “Here they come,” Edim muttered, mostly to himself, “here they bloody well come...”

    The ships drew nearer and dropped anchor in a series of echoing splashes. The crew bustled about the deck, silver fur and bright blue uniforms flashing in the sun. They moved too quickly for Phyr to count accurately at such a distance, but he did not wish to risk using the looking-glass for fear it would cause a reflection and give away his position.

    The rangers had spread out all along the foothills that bordered the great salt cliffs. They found cover in small hollows in the land, behind bulky boulders, and within groves of shrubbery and stunted trees. Each of them had a longbow in hand, with an arrow already strung. Edim had his shoulder bow, but it would do little good at the distance from which Phyr planned to attack. The white haired man would stay at the one armed elf's side in case he needed an extra hand.

    Sa'resh sighed and shrugged bony shoulders under the straps of the haversack he'd pulled from his saddlebags before sending Crookshank back to Serenti. He'd also brought his flintlock cutlass along, for all the good it would do him. The small sword's simple leather sheath was strapped to his right hip, the weapon's weight a familiar comfort. Phyr stifled a yawn with the back of his hand and shook his head forcefully. Riding through the night had seemed a fine idea, when he didn't know he'd be commanding troops come morning.

    The silver furred felines had lowered their longboats into the water and piled in, leaving only a skeleton crew aboard the ships. Long oars reached out like the wings of swans, and the boats cut through the water towards the wreckage on shore. Muskets poked up above their perky ears like corn in a farmer's field, bayonets glistening in the sunlight.

    Phyr bit his lip. His strategy would still work, but with such firepower in the enemy's hands a single slip would prove fatal. He wondered how the great cities of Corone would react to the news of the corvettes' arrival. Surely the kingdom of Akashima could spare one of their great battle arks under such circumstances. He knew Aniel Marwena would provide whatever aid he could, and the baron had a few battle worthy ships at his disposal. Gisela had wisely kept the great boom that stretched across the opening in their stormwall sealed. They would only send out ships if there were a direct assault on the city. Perhaps they'd be able to spare some land troops though... Phyr tasted blood and stopped biting his lip. Yes, Gisela would be forced to send out some soldiers, with unknown military vessels making landfall so close to the great city.

    The longboats powered over waves as they approached the shoreline. The harsh, guttural clicking of their language could be heard from the cats calling the stroke.

    Phyr waited until they were about two hundred and fifty yards out, and then picked up a small stone. He rapped once on the large rock in front of him.

    Ten rangers, he thought as all along the foothills the archers took aim. I'm to defend a nation with ten rangers.

    “Stories will be told of this battle,” Sa'resh muttered to Edim, “so long as we bloody well survive.”

    The taciturn man merely nodded and grunted, gazing out at the approaching longboats.

    Phyr rapped his rock twice on the boulder.

    The rangers angled their aim upwards and bent their longbows.

    The longboats drew within two hundred yards.

    Phyr rapped three times.

    Ten rangers loosed in rough unison. The feathered shafts arced up and then fell like stinging rays of sunlight. The rangers hastened to lay fresh arrows on their bowstrings and fired a second shot each, these aimed directly at their targets.

    A hail of twenty arrows fell on the first longboat, causing chaos and confusion. One feline fell into the water with a gurgle, three feathered shafts protruding from its chest. Others thrashed about, wounded and dying. Dropped oars floated in the boat's bloody wake, but still it powered onward.

    “Second boat!” Phyr roared. The element of surprise had faded, and his nerves felt like fragments of glass crunching beneath his skin.

    The rangers employed the same tactic as before, dropping a hail of twenty arrows on the second boat, and then the third.

    Feline roars of pain resounded across the open water. With no armor and no shields, the cat folk could do little more than hunker down and continue rowing.

    “Fall back to the treeline!” Phyr called, watching the rangers follow his command. He stood up with a wince, his knees popping, and then raced after them with Edim at his heels. He could hear the white haired man panting, and feel his own heart thundering in his chest.

    A raucous call rose from the feline folk as they made land and hastened to form ranks of musket blocks. Small explosions rent the air, and ball shot whizzed among the stunted trees and rocks where the rangers weaved their way to safety. They ran up the foothills, over the plateau, and into the dense shadows of the forest beyond.

    Phyr stole a glance over his shoulder and saw cat folk reloading while the second rank lined up their shots. A feeling of elation chased the doubt from his mind. He had done it; he had thinned the enemy's ranks, and gotten away clean with all of his men. He had-

    Edim stumbled, and the old elf turned to catch him awkwardly, hooking his lone arm around the man's waist and dragging him along.

    “No more running for me today,” Terrence winced, his ordinarily impassive face twisted in agony. He clutched at a seeping wound to his lower leg.

    “You two!” Phyr yelled at a pair of rangers, “help me with this man!” Together they dragged Edim into the lee of a large oak and set him down with his back braced against the trunk. The guardsman groaned as the rangers wrapped lengths of cloth around his calf where the musket ball had torn through the muscle.

    “Guess it won’t be me who lives to tell this tale,” Terrence gasped. His eyes rolled with pain, and then settled on something a ways behind Phyr and the crouched rangers.

    “There’s a man back there.”

  7. #7
    Moderator
    EXP: 120,660, Level: 15
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    Level completed: 11%,
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    Storm Veritas's Avatar

    Name
    Storm Veritas
    Age
    38
    Race
    Human
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    More pepper than salt.
    Eye Color
    Grey or Blue
    Build
    6'1, 185 lbs
    Job
    Defiler.

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    The theater of war was never more dramatic. Everything unfolded so quickly before the wizard that he was left almost paralyzed. Indecision gripped him as he watched a group of stone-faced rangers take tactical positions on the shoreline, firing almost artfully upon the oncoming boats. The creatures aboard – uniformly silver furred bluecoats – were of a different sort than whatever had landed earlier. Despite their absurd appearance, humanity was showcased as they wailed wildly in howling tongues, thrashing as the arrows bit fiercely into flesh and bone.

    Rangers, cats… the hell is going on here? Any chance these assholes can collectively just kill each other off and get off my f*cking shore?

    Obviously a trained militia, the cats stormed the shore, beaching their three rugged ships and brandishing long, shining muskets. Men summarily bolted for the woods, many noticing Storm as he showed empty hands to them. The soldierly felines hopped from the boat to shore with an unmistakable feline grace, firing from formation and then sprinting forward in bounds. Their speed was breathtaking and terrifying as they closed at the forest front.

    Holy shit, so goddamned fast. Need to get these sons of bitches off my shores; they hit Whitevale and we’re f*cking screwed.

    A wounded ranger was dragged close to him, an athletic and rugged older man with a strikingly long, aquiline face. He was at some level of peace as a shimmering stream of ruby poured from an open wound.

    “Here, my friend.” Storm pounced to him, pulling a small flask of whiskey that the elder warrior needed far more than he did. “I’m here to help.”

    “Hah, no, I’ll face the gods with a sharp mind. Save the water for yourself, my friend. Save it for the men.”

    Water!?

    Storm looked to another ranger, a stern looking man with the sharp eyes of a hawk, and a slim physique which was sinewy, flawless. All of them were brave in the face of imminent terror. Their shining white eyes remained unflinching in the face of the oncoming force. The last of his hangover officially demolished with this wave of fear and excitement, the electromancer flipped a thin, sheen dagger between his fingers. There was no escape from this battle now, which had found its way to him. His only hope was that he had been surrounded by the winning side. If only they weren’t so staggeringly outnumbered.

    “Stay put. Silent. Let them come in, let them walk in to expose themselves amidst us.” Storm’s plans were largely stated to confirm he knew what the collective idea was.

    The younger, stoic ranger only stared on, as the feline presence bounded forward. They had landed in ranks, moving in formation, and maintained a firm alignment as they bound forward with breathtaking, uniform speed. Squatted behind a thick, ageless oak tree, the wizard clutched his hard kriss dagger tightly and took one last deep breath of the fresh, salty ocean air. For a brief moment, there was a disparate quiet as they awaited the crash of their attackers.

    Guess I’m a fellow ranger today. Time to cheat death with these brave idiots.

    The first few cat men that hit the trees made for very brave arrow fodder. The crash of leaves were echoed by an immediate song of thiftthiftthift, A hail of finely spun, feather tailed arrows punched their way through heavy blue cloth and sent them down, feet flailing upwards as they crashed on. As if to answer this song, a chorus of blasts sprayed through the forest, exploding harmless bark shrapnel or killing good men with a seemingly reckless abandon. One tall cat, fortunate to survive the first onslaught of arrows, bounded right by the waiting Storm Veritas.

    “Heeeeere, kitty kitty!”

    As fast as the cats had proven, Storm Veritas was a genuine phenomenon. With one quick drop step to plant his right foot against a tree, the veteran leapt with a precise grace, crashing into the pivoting feline. His left hand deflected the too-slow bayonet, his right hand drove the dagger behind the jawbone. He pressed the blade up through the soft palate of the tongue and mouth before the hilt met a furry chin, the tip of his blade somewhere in the brain. Instantly, the bizarre, furious snout and mouth fell limp, the body a perfect cushion for Storm as they landed.

    The fog of war surrounded them all, the smell of gunpowder and death rising over them as both sides suffered rapid, terrible losses. The cats communicated in a high-pitched, yelping code; a sound that would haunt the nightmares of any survivors. Within minutes, a near endless array of cats were rhythmically jumping in and out of the tree line, retreating after each volley of bullets. Those muskets required significant reloading; a terrific, exploitable weakness if only the numbers were somewhat even.

    Way too many. Just waiting to die in here. We’re screwed, need a goddamned miracle.

    …lucky that they walk amongst a miracle.


    Storm sat in the bushes once more watching the stoic soldier draw his bow to silence another awful, yelping monstrosity. Sadly, the arrow missed, allowing the cat to turn his musket down to finish the brave, shockingly young man.

    “No!” With a word and a wave of his hand, Storm froze the musket between the sky and its target, a wave of electromagnetic energy preventing the vile cat from lowering the terrible weapon for the deathblow.

    Wild eyes met him behind the silver snout and flared nostrils of the cat. Storm rose from his position, speaking in loud, clear words to the pirate. His dagger sheathed at his belt, he moved more deliberately, with a supreme confidence.

    “Run home, or face the wrath of a GOD!” With a tandem movement, he seized the musket and fired a wild blast of concussive electric energy, burning clear through cloth and singeing the fur of the airborne assailant. The cat fell terribly back through the trees, landing violently and calling out a string of undecipherable yelps. Immediately, the wave of other terrible cat men deftly pounced backwards towards the shore, locking into a defensive position as they communicated in yips and yaps.

    “They don’t have the first idea what you’re on about…” The archer finally retorted to him, matter of factly.

    “Crazy is a universal language. Let’s get the f*ck out of here before they call my bluff. I’m rolling north.”

    Moments later, Storm had finished a short dash past a handful of the fallen and suffering, hopping upon the impatient but safely retreated Attila as the great horse rode north, away from the oncoming assault. He would follow wherever that first camp of fur-covered monsters went based on the direction of those muddied tracks, fortunate that the great horse was well rested and fed.

  8. #8
    Member
    EXP: 10,755, Level: 4
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    Level completed: 36%,
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    Les Misérables's Avatar

    Name
    Phyr Sa'resh
    Race
    Drow
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    Male
    Hair Color
    Grey
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    Azure
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    6'1" / 153 lbs.

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    “Don't be a fool, Terrence,” Phyr said through gritted teeth. His lone hand pressed firmly over the cloth the rangers had wrapped around Edim's calf. “Before you know it we'll be back in Serenti, smoking our pipes in peace.” Musket blasts sundered the air all around them, intermingled with yips from wounded cat folk and yells from dying rangers. “Just a bit of foul weather, this.” Phyr said over the noise, ignoring his racing heart.

    “You’re more fool than I, Sa'resh,” the old guardsman groaned, shifting his position against the oak, “if you don't escape while you can. Go on now, live to fight another day. I'll hold the line here.” Edim struggled to sit upright enough to lay an arrow across the string of his shoulder bow.

    Between the rangers' experience fighting out of the forest and the unbridled aggression of the tall electromancer, the cat folk had been pushed back to the brink of the plateau. They dragged their wailing wounded behind a single rank of muskets and held their fire, watching the trees, waiting for targets to present themselves.

    “Sir, we must retreat,” said the short, stocky ranger Phyr had spoken with at the security checkpoint. The man had lost his cloak, dirt caked his curly hair, and blood stained his sleeve where a bayonet had nicked his shoulder. “We've bought ourselves a brief reprieve, but we'll be overrun in minutes.” The ranger re-gripped his longsword, gazing across the plateau at the felines as they took up a defensive formation.

    Phyr looked around, the smell of death heavy in his crooked nose. Three of his rangers had fallen, and another two were mortally wounded. The rest had fled with the salt-and-pepper sorcerer. At least a dozen cat folk corpses littered the forest fringe. One remained alive, its shoulder pinned to a thick rowan by a feathered arrow. Its pathetic mewling grated the old elf's already raw nerves. He drew his sword and paced over to the wounded enemy, putting the thin blade through its heart without hesitation. The feline sagged lifelessly, and Phyr wiped his sword on its uniform jacket before returning the blade to its scabbard.

    “We're going nowhere without this man!” Phyr stormed at the ranger. He grabbed Edim's collar and attempted to haul the man upright. “Find your bloody feet, Terrence,” he growled.

    “Leave me be, Sa'resh!” Edim gathered his strength and shoved the elf away. “Trisgen is waiting to claim my soul. I can feel his fingers even now, reaching for me. Go. I'll hold the line until those furry bastards cut me down.”

    Phyr finally relented. “You are a braver warrior than I, my friend. I'll meet you in the afterlife.” He looked to the stocky ranger. “Take the lead, youngling.” The man sheathed his sword and ran deeper into the forest, expertly tracking his compatriots and the electromancer. Phyr followed with a final backward glance. He fixed the image of Edim's contorted visage in his mind and then ran for all he was worth. Despite his age the elf could run harder and longer than most soldiers, and he kept the ranger's pace with little difficulty, his haversack bouncing painfully on his back.

    They followed game trails and other hidden pathways that only rangers would know. They raced over protruding roots, around thickets of bramble bushes, and through small meadows. The smells of blood and gunpowder gave way to the forest's natural aromas, growing green things and decomposing loam. Sun filtered through the latticework of branches in odd patterns, throwing sharp shadows across the trail. Before long they rejoined the road and caught up with the other rangers, who walked in a loose formation around the electromancer and his horse.

    “My thanks for the assistance,” Phyr puffed as he drew level with the tall sorcerer and his gargantuan mount. “We might all have perished without your aid. My name is Phyr Sa'resh.”

    “Storm Veritas,” the rider said, reaching out with his right hand. Phyr twisted his lone left arm and shook the sorcerer's hand awkwardly. “You can thank me by telling me what the f*ck these cat people are doing in my country.” Veritas turned his head and spat into the bushes.

    “I wish I knew,” Phyr answered, a heavy sigh escaping his lips. “A group of mottle-furred cat folk made landfall in a ship fractured by canon fire. The rangers were there to protect and contain them, although to the best of my knowledge they never managed to communicate. I had only just arrived to provide some relief when those three ships appeared on the horizon, bearing the silver furs. We did our best to repel them.” A mutter passed among the remaining five rangers as they remembered the names of their fallen comrades. Phyr cast his azure gaze down the road, spotting an approaching wagon. It was drawn by a pair of dappled geldings, and ridden by a farmer and his wife.

    “Ho there,” Phyr said as they drew nearer, waving his hand, “where are you good folk bound for?”

    “The market at Gisela,” the farmer replied, bringing his cart to a halt. The aging man doffed his straw hat, revealing a thin rim of gray hair, and gestured at his wagon load of turnips and cabbages.

    “You would do well to make directly for the city,” Phyr said, “danger lurks on the salt cliffs beyond.”

    “What sort of danger?” Asked the farmer's wife, tugging nervously at the ribbons fastening her bonnet.

    “A squadron of cat folk made landfall there perhaps two hours ago. They are heavily armed and very dangerous.” Phyr flicked moss from the shoulder of his jacket.

    “Cat folk?” the farmer said, surprise creasing his brow, “now that is a coincidence. We passed a group of cat folk riding in a cart a ways back. They were escorted by rangers and two great broad-shouldered men.” The farmer plopped his hat back on his head and gave a low whistle. “Strangest thing I ever did see.”

    “Many thanks for the information,” Phyr said, moving aside to let the wagon pass, “may the road see you safely to Gisela.”

    “Same to you, wherever you may be bound,” the farmer said, giving a polite nod as his cart trundled away.

    “I intend to find those mottle-furred beasts,” said Storm Veritas, “I want answers.” He heeled his steed to a trot. Phyr and the rangers lengthened their stride to keep up.

    “You're not alone in that,” the old dark elf said, looking around at his grim-faced companions. All of them had lost comrades to the cat folk, and all of them wanted to know why.

  9. #9
    Brawler Extrordinaire
    EXP: 8,046, Level: 3
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    Level completed: 77%,
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    Leoric's Avatar

    Name
    Leoric "IronAbs" Bagua
    Age
    24
    Race
    Human
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Black
    Eye Color
    Ice Blue
    Build
    6'4/280
    Job
    Bar Brawler

    The trek to Radasanth was a long and boring one. It took all morning to make it through Concordia Forest, and the rangers were commended by their commanders in Underwood for continuing to guard the cat-people. Nyadir had insisted that they didn't need any extra ranger escorts, though, and that bothered Leoric. He wondered what the man’s purpose was. No man would just outright offer to help out a rag tag group of people, especially a rag tag group of people escorting cat people. There was only ever three things that anybody did anything for, fame, fortune, or power. Leoric wondered what exactly he aimed to get from this, and why the cat people seemed to avoid eye contact, and seemed a lot more jumpy now that he was around. Something else was going on around here, and Leoric wanted to figure out what.

    Most of the cat group had fallen asleep in the back of the cart, curled up into large balls of fur. In this state they almost seemed cute. Leoric had began to notice over the last few hours that his horse was getting slower as they continued on, and they were just barely on the outskirts of Radasanth. He didn’t want to push the animal any more than was necessary as it was their only horse. If something happened to it then they would have to walk the rest of the way, and he would owe Joseph a new one.

    “Hey.” Leoric called out to the rangers that were walking in formation around the cart. “My horse needs a breather, how about we make camp here and me and one of you can head into the city to find us someone who can translate. When we come back out we can all pile into the cart and continue on our way.”

    Leoric stopped the cart as the rangers grouped and discussed what to do. A few of them looked exhausted and said that they would need some rest. The man Leoric had gotten to know over their trip north as Rutherford turned around and faced the brawler as he jumped down off the cart, causing a few of the sleeping kitties to stir and poke their ears up.

    “We agree, we can set up camp here for the men while me and you head into the city to find a linguist. I am sure we could ask around the library and find who we are looking for.”

    “Agreed, what we need now is someone who knows many languages.” Leoric said as he reached underneath his cart and ripped off a piece of wood as a campfire kit and a longsword clamored to the ground. “I am sure you lot here can get a campfire going with that? Or do me and Rutherford need to babysit before we head on out?”

    A lot of unappreciative grunts were heard as Leoric spun and laid eyes on Nyadir, before turning around to face the rangers that would be staying behind as he attached the sword to his belt.

    “Keep an eye on Nyadir over there, something about this whole thing doesn’t feel right to me.”

    The rangers gave each other glances and nodded as both Leoric and Rutherford turned to head off. Leoric reached up and grabbed his coat that was rolled up next to his seat. It was of a blue velvet like material with white fur around the edges. The brawler unrolled it and draped it over his shoulders as he and Rutherford set off on the trail. It wasn’t long before Rutherford spoke up.

    “Why are you helping us Leoric?” Leoric was about to be snarky and mention the price they offered but Rutherford continued. “And I don’t mean for the money, on the trip over here your eyes have seemed distant. Like your mind is elsewhere. So why not be there instead of here?”

    “Rutherford, Do you have a lady at home?” Leoric asked as he rolled his shoulders while they continued their walk, Leoric’s gaze not shifting from the ground in front of his feet.

    “Yeah, I do, she is what makes all of this worth it.” Rutherford said as he glanced over at Leoric.

    “Same reason here, I recently fell in love with a woman who makes me feel like nothing could kill me. I just need more money so I can buy her nice stuff and make sure she is always taken care of.” Leoric offered a smile to Rutherford as they continued on. “This is the first time I have spent so much time away from her and she is always worried about me. I know that she is probably beside herself with worry right now. Let’s just finish this up so I can go home.”

    “I am with you on that one, Leoric.”

    The two gentlemen entered the busy city streets of Radasanth shortly after noon. They asked around to see if anyone knew of someone who would speak many languages but no one seemed to know. It wasn’t until they spoke to a librarian who was getting her morning tea before heading to the library that she mentioned a name. Farbis, he was a traveling scholar of sorts who liked to brag about knowing quite a few languages. She offered for the men to follow her to the library where Farbis would be waiting for her to open up for the day. They turned a corner to see a rather lanky, unkempt, fellow holding on to a few books waiting for the library to open.

    “Mister Farbis, we heard you are a man with a talented tongue. You are coming with us.” Leoric said as he pointed a finger and used a commanding voice.

    “Wha… What? I don’t under…” Farbis stammered before Rutherford put up a hand to stop Leoric from continuing.

    “Mister Farbis, I am one of the Corone Rangers and we have a rather dire situation at the moment. We need a man who is well versed in other languages to assist us. You will be paid for your work and you will be under the protection of the rangers for the duration of said work.” There was a pause after Rutherford spoke before Farbis said anything.

    “... He isn’t going to beat me up if I say no will he?” Farbis said as he nodded at Leoric. Rutherford chuckled a little.

    “No no, nothing of the sort. He is some hired muscle to ensure our job gets done properly. For all we know your translating could mean the difference between all out war and peace. So please just come with us for at least a few hours?”

    “You know, if you go and do this it would lead to some more of your fun stories.” The librarian said as she gave him a warm smile. Farbis smirked and blushed a little as he looked down at his feet.

    “Fine, I will help out the rangers.”

    The trio of men turned and headed back towards camp, as Leoric began a rather brief rundown of the situation.

    “Alright Farbis, Just so you know you will be dealing with cat people. Yes, literal cat people. There is only speculation on what they are saying or where they come from but they want something at the Jagged Mountains to the north. Now from what I have been told these cat people crashed on our shores in a shot up ship. The rangers were dispatched to contain and monitor them. However, three ships showed up by sea and headed straight for the camp. They left in a hurry and a few rangers left with the cats to ensure containment while the bulk of the rangers stayed behind to defend our shores. We are counting on you to figure out what is going on here. Worst case scenario you have the rangers and me to defend you.”

    Leoric turned to face Farbis who seemed like he had just seen a ghost and was having a hard time swallowing, when the brawler realized that everything that was just said would seem a little overbearing to some.

    “Hey don’t sweat it, just do what you do best, and we will do what we do best.” Leoric gave the linguist a pat on the back as they marched on towards the camp.
    Last edited by Leoric; 02-08-17 at 03:14 AM.

  10. #10
    Member
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    Ebivoulya's Avatar

    Name
    Nyadir D'Var
    Age
    26
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    Half-Elf
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    Male
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    Eye Color
    Blue
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    6'3, 220lbs
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    Murder-Hobo

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    By the time the large Leoric returned with someone new in tow, the eastern horizon loomed dark and flickering; a storm was brewing. Without even a tent between them, the ramshackle camp squatted near a copse of trees, just a single fire beside the cart. Every head tracked the trio as they approached, and the mousey man skittering behind the buff bodyguard looked from whisker to paw in curiosity. Presumably the linguist, he had the disheveled look of an absent-minded professor, but his eyes sharpened as the furry bastards began clucking away at him, like they did with everyone. "His name is Farbis." the stocky bodyguard said as he took a seat on the wagon. "Did you snatch him from his class?" the swordsman asked, and Leoric chuckled. The pint-sized professor asked for a map out of the blue, and a helpful ranger handed it over. As the man crouched and unrolled it on the ground, he asked the cat folk which mountain they meant, as though they understood. They pointed and chittered at the same mountain as always, but the linguist paused and asked them an interesting question.

    "Save? Save who?"

    With a deft hand the mousey man snatched up a trio of stones and placed them on the south edge of Corone. He pointed between the mountain and the stones, and the cats started clicking more excitedly as they also pointed back and forth. One of the rangers asked what the things were saying, and after a few seconds the linguist nodded and stood to address the group. His voice was small as his stature, but his revelations large. Apparently, he had only learned three words: mountain, save, and need. From the context and pointing, he concluded that the people on the ships needed what waits in the Jagged Mountains to save themselves. The nefarious Nyadir became even more resolute in his desire for whatever these things sought; if it could save an entire civilization, it must be powerful indeed. The disheveled man went on to ramble about the aboriginal culture discovered in Dheathain that the cat-people's language resembled, and proceeded to describe the studies on them he had read in great detail. A vague idea rose nebulous in the smuggler's mind, but it was set aside for more pressing concerns, which he voiced to the group.

    "Someone should go back. Now that we know what they want, we can negotiate."

    They generally agreed, though it took a moment to decide who should go. The tall wanderer volunteered, despite his desire to be present when they reached the mountains. It only made sense, with his enhancement he could run for hours on end. He could make it back through Concordia Forest much faster than their first trip, probably by nightfall. It would be even more difficult to avoid the do-gooder rangers in Underwood foisting an escort onto him this time though, now that he was alone. More eyes were the last thing the smuggler needed. He had heard the green-cloaks mention a dark-elven ambassador with the other rangers who stayed behind with the ships, though. He would know who to bring this information to, if things hadn't already escalated. There was no guarantee the swordsman could stop an army, even after he got the feline relic, so it was in his best interests to facilitate peace. With short goodbyes the group split up, Leoric leading the cat-people north with linguist in tow, and the half-elf jogging steadily across the rolling plains of short grass in the other direction. The ever-present storm crackling in the east drew slowly nearer, and the swordsman lingered on those rumors he had heard, about a man wielding lightning to slay senators in Radasanth.

    The chances must be miniscule...

    It wasn't more than a few hours of steady running later that a group appeared over a distant hill. The sweating smuggler would've paid them little heed but for the green cloaks most of them sported. They looked like a group of Corone Rangers. He slowed to a stop, breaths heaving still as he released the remaining energy to end his enhancement; only enough left for two more. With a quiet moment, and a sinking mind, the swordsman's vision swirled crimson at the edges as the world jumped closer. The sudden shift in visual acuity took a moment to adjust to, but practice had negated the nausea. He was surprised to see a one-armed dark elf among the group, possibly the ambassador he had heard of, but the man with the horse was the one who drew his eye. The pale face and dark hair of the tall man brought back flashes of crackling daggers, and a desperate escape. It turned out his forecast had been more accurate than he would've liked. The mage looked more lively and well fed now, too; how nice.

    "Shit."

    It had been a desperate time on the streets of Ettermire when the wanderer was approached by a lightning mage with a massive steed and a sailor's mouth. His urges had been more difficult to control back then, when the swordsman still fought them, and the distrust had spread quickly between the pair. They had not parted on good terms; it turned out lightning hurt like a bitch. The folder he kept had proven exceptionally useful in stealing his airship, but the thunder-f’ker might still hold a grudge. Things could turn sour very quickly if he didn't immediately declare his intentions toward the group, and the lightning mage still might not care. Just to be safe, he prepared the last of his reserves to double his usual enhancement, and kept his hands clear of his belt as he watched his old employer approach.

    "So it does strike twice..."

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