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#1 Selena

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Posted 07 June 2010 - 11:38 PM

Selena had not slept well on during her voyage home. She blamed her insomnia on the restless seas, as she had never been comfortable on the open water after spending many lifetimes living underground. Her theory was incorrect. The discomfort increased with every step she took in the direction of Snowpeak. That could have been a sign of very bad things. Selena assumed that Chikara was up there and causing havoc, but she hadn't seen any smoke in the mountains and the rivers hadn't turned red from blood. Chikara would do something flashy like that if she were laying waste to Selena's kingdom. So, what was it? She forced her team to march at an abnormally quick speed in order to reach the Calatian capital as soon as possible.

Nothing was out of place. No one had perished. No buildings had been raised. Chikara had not been there. Selena had no reason for her agitation.

She let the others recover from their long journey before doing anything else, because they were allowed their rest even if Selena could not settle down. It was the dawn of their third day back. Selena had spent those days getting filled in on all that had occurred in her absence and, due to her inability to sleep, found herself buried in work. She had to get her army organized for war - to merge, relocate, and supply all of the various combat teams that existed all throughout Calatia. She had to send weapons and supplies to the armed villages that existed at the borders of her kingdom. Despite the progress construction teams had made under wisp's command, fortifications were still under construction, and...

There was that damn urge to pace again.

Something was wrong. Selena did not often behave in such a manner. She worked hard and then slept soundly no matter what was going on around her. General apathy always made sleep easy to acquire where other high-strung individuals might worry over minor issues all night. This was not in her nature. She wasn't worried. She didn't know what she had to worry about. The Calatian military was in fine shape and, according to her scouts, Koridai was still preoccupied with fighting off the Alliance. The actual war between the two rival domains would not occur for at least a few more weeks. Selena knew she'd kick plenty of ass. So... what was wrong, dammit? She'd done everything to try and get to sleep. Sparring. Mountain climbing. Hunting. Running. That one blonde warrior with a nice pair of legs. Nothing worked.

Her mind kept drifting to the Cursed Lands. Something was going on over those mountains. She didn't know what, but she could sense a major anomaly. It was getting ridiculous. She was tempted to go herself, but there was too much work to be done to prepare for the war. So, she went to one of her assistants, a Calatian officer named Eivor, and gave her the following orders:

"Make an announcement to any soldiers we have on duty. The strong-willed ones only. Tell them to head north over the mountains and proceed into the Cursed Lands. Tell them to search for any strange activity and then report back as soon as possible. Something isn't right."

"Yes, ma'am!"

Good. A scouting mission. That would help put her mind at ease. ...Right?

Selena was drained of energy and desperately needed to crash for an entire day in order to regain her lost hours of shut-eye. She retired to her room, bolted the door so that intruders could not get in, and, with a frustrated growl, flung herself into bed. She settled into the soft mattress and wrapped the warm bearskins around her body. For a fleeting moment she felt comfortable. Almost like she could get to sleep. And then nothing. Too much energy. Something wrong. Needed to run more laps around the castle. She tossed and turned and kicked her legs in rage.

"Go to sleep, you damned twit," she hissed to herself.

--

Elsewhere, Eivor relayed her message to the soldiers of Calatia. A scouting trip into the Cursed Lands. So very strange and unlike their commander.

#2 Crimson Lego

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 08:33 PM

“Aim! Fire!”

A rifle squad of the new Calatian recruits fired their weapons upon the newly made snowman made in the field outside of Snowpeak Ruins, their bullets smashing right into the snow people; their commanding staff sergeant stood nearby observing their actions. Those who blew off the heads of the targets usually had a very good chance of becoming a member of the Snakeheads or Huscarls. Those that completely missed the snowmen were failed, while many in between were at least able to join the ordinary fighting corps. The system worked perfectly and fairly, and many senior officers did not complain about it.

Standing above on a hill and watching the new soldiers of Calatia try their luck at getting a commissioned spot in one of the combat groups, Leo Crimson couldn’t help but feel impressed by the devotion the recruits showed in front of their superiors. He recalled that many of the warriors below him had been freshly recruited out of the civilian ranks by Colonel Henry, whom was known for being very picky about the people he let into the Snakeheads. These guys could be the next great heroes of Calatia if they do their stuff right. Jogging quickly down the hill and kicking up lots of snow on the way, the general addressed the officer watching over the training exercises. “Sergeant, may I have a word?” he called out.

Nodding in reply as he skied over, the officer quickly saluted his superior. “Do you need anything, sir?”

Leo shook his head. “What do you think of this group?” he asked. “Are they ready?”

The sergeant shrugged. “More or less, General. Do you have anything in mind for them?”

Before the dwarf could answer, he felt a tap on his shoulder; turning around, he was surprised to see a Calatian he was not familiar with looking down at him. “Can I help you, ma’am?” he said politely.

The warrior nodded. “Lady Selena wanted some of the, uh…strong willed men to get ready for a trip up in the Cursed Lands. She wants a scouting mission of some sort.”

A scouting mission up there? Won’t we all go crazy? Thinking for a moment, Leo gave the messenger a nod. “Tell her I’m in; when are we leaving?”

The woman shrugged in reply, already heading back towards the castle. “She didn’t say, sir.”

Turning back to the sergeant, the general felt deeply troubled. Why are we going up to the Cursed Lands? There’s nothing up there except rotting bodies, the curse, and Jordan’s friends. Nevertheless, he knew that Selena would not order a mission if it wasn’t important to the kingdom. I guess I don’t have a choice. Glancing up, he spoke quickly. “Where’s Mellish and Simkins?”

The officer pointed. “I think they’re eating at the Cuisine eating some of your stuff, sir. We’ve all been rather hungry lately and couldn’t resist,” he said with a grin.

Nodding back, Leo gave the sergeant a thumbs-up in appreciation and trudged off towards his restaurant, hand already reaching for his axe. The dwarf knew there were only 6 soldiers under his command that had a slim chance of resisting the effects of the Curse. Let’s hope they don’t think I’m crazy, he told himself.

#3 Sir Deimos

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 01:30 AM

"It's right this way sir. We took the liberty of moving all of your possessions already." Synile was following a scantily clad woman through the corridors of the castle. Before everyone had left to rendezvous with the witch, he had talked with Selena about moving into the castle. Upon returning from the mission, the preparations appeared to be complete, and his accommodations were ready. It had been a long trip, and Synile still seemed to be silent and introspective. Paired with the dangerous look in his eyes, everyone in the castle was rather on edge.

The walk had seemed to take forever. Synile wasn't very familiar with the castle. Since he had arrived at Calatia upon the nations birth, he had always preferred to live on the outskirts. However he was also not fighting much of anything around then. "Here you are Sir Synile. These are your quarters." Synile exhaled sharply, and walked in to inspect the room. Aside from his belongings being moved in, the room was completely empty. His bed now occupied a space of the room, and racks of his past trophies and various weapons lined the walls. There were a great deal of katanas and nodachis among the racks, however Synile's primary arsenal was always the same. It never hurt to have a back up katana though... They weren't cursed like the nodachi, and could frequently break.

In the corner of the room, there was a desk, with a few books on top of it. Synile grabbed one of the volumes and flipped through the pages. Suddenly there was a knocking upon the door. Synile instinctually placed his hand on the hilt of his katana, and walked over to the door. Synile cracked the door open slightly.

"Orders from Lady Selena, sir." Synile didn't say a word. He stared into the eyes of the messenger. She seemed to stutter and shy away from his gaze. "It... um... it appears that Lady Selena wants to send a group of soldiers north through the Cursed Lands... She... she has reason to believe something threatening to the kingdom may be occurring..." Synile sighed. It appears that there is in fact no rest for the wicked.

"Fine. Get me when we're ready to disembark." Synile shut the door before the messenger could respond. After taking his weapons off, he collapses onto the bed. It seems someone took the liberty of getting him a new one. His old bed was as hard as a rock. Synile began to become drowsy almost immediately. "The Cursed Lands... In a worst case scenario, I'll go mad." The voices were laughing hysterically.

#4 JRPomazon

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 08:45 AM

At the heights of the viking stronghold, with the bitter chilling wind and snow Jordan watched the vast whiteness extending down the mountainside. He crossed his arms, his green armor beginning to show signs of frost after being out for so long. The cold was beginning to grow on him, it didn't seems as miserable as before. Or it could be that he had a lovely pelt coat draped over his shoulders. Or maybe he lost all feeling and didn't feel anything. He had overheard the messenger talking as he greeted Leo before he was at the heights of Snowpeak. Why in the world did Selena want to send men up to the Cursed Lands? As being someone who lived there for the past two years, he could think of a variety of options:

Raiding for Treasure

Looking for Artifacts that could be of use for the war

Looking for someone

Toying with people by sending them on suicide missions

He has seen all types living there, encountering people who came back for something and most of them didn't leave.

"I heard there was a famous goldsmith shop back in Resden during the old days, maybe the shop is still open if you know what I mean!"

"I'm looking for my family, we were separated during the chaos . . . I have to look for them!"

"We were sent by our lordship to recover his . . . prized Labrador that he was forced to leave behind."

"I've been told there is all sorts of treasure left behind, all of it is ripe for the picking!"

"I'm looking for my daughter, have you seen her?


A few samples of the various people he met during his stay, those fortune seekers and adventurers never returned from the cursed land. They all went made after the first half day or just plain died on the way, proving time and time again that this was now a land that had no hope and no future. Just creatures roaming the land, bloodthirsty and feral. Shades of their past lives, though technically they were still alive. How many of them had he had to put down? the number had to be in the hundreds, they always traveled together in hunting packs.

Did he try to save those stupid enough to wander in with naive thoughts of reckless adventure or sentimental reunions? Yes and no. If he stopped them from their search, he'd be a hypocrite since he was looking for something in the Cursed Lands as well. Rather, someone. So he let them go off at their own violation and whatever fortune fell upon them was not in Jordan's hands.

So, he was to return to the Cursed Lands? Khuffie's Lamentation? The Corpse of the Alliance? He didn't know if he wanted to go back. After leaving for only a short while it seemed true that there was no place on this earth worse than those lands. But he needed answers from Tiresias, about Horace, about what was going on with the Empire and this war, the Alliance, the witch and lastly, the painting and what it showed him. The painting, just thinking about that made him feel raw.

#5 Crimson Lego

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 07:57 PM

As he walked towards his own restaurant, Leo’s mind began drifting back yet again to the events in the past month: the deal with the Guild that turned out to be an Alliance trap, and retrieving the Sword of Diel from the witch of Voodoo Isle. Man, I should be sleeping right now, he told himself as he made his way slowly towards the Cuisine. Nevertheless, the general was determined to go through every mission that was necessary if it would help the Calatians win the war against Koridai. A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions. For the next quest, he vowed to follow by that motto all the way.

Opening the front door and hearing the familiar bell ring, Leo was surprised to see all 6 members of the Baker Team eating food cooked by his assistant chefs. Walking up to the table, he pulled a chair to the circular table and had to chuckle. “You boys just love the sweet and sour pork, huh?” he said.

The Snakeheads were too busy with chewing their food to stand to attention. “Yes, sir,” replied Mellish. “When the war is over, we’re all gonna get jobs here.”

Nodding in a half-joking approval, the dwarf leaned in closer. “I’ve got a job for you boys,” he whispered. “You wanna hear it?” As he saw the nods, he smiled and said what was in his mind. The reactions he got were...expected. Oops.

Jurgensen was staring at his commanding officer with an expression of confusion on his face. “Sir, not to sound rude or anything, but what are you smoking?

Rolling his eyes in exasperation, Leo asked the other customers to eat out in front of the Cuisine and tried to explain the situation. “Guys, the Cursed Lands are the regions that Chikara destroyed on her own,” he said in a low tone. “There could be another weapon up there that we could put to use or restore what was once Verden.”

Clearing his throat, Simkins spoke up. “General, we all experienced the Cataclysm and nearly died from it, losing 90% of our friends and family in the process. Why would you even bother ordering us to go up there with you?”

At that, the dwarf took a deep breath and let out the sentence. “This is by order of Lady Selena, soldiers. You guys can stay here and eat, but I don’t have a choice.” Getting up, he headed for the exit but paused before opening the door. “Meet me in the Snowpeak foyer if you’re interested.”

Leaving the restaurant, Leo donned his hood and began heading back towards Snowpeak; he had some business to take care of before leaving the Kingdom.

#6 Kwicky Koala

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 09:46 PM

Catt was sitting in a small room in a building that had been converted to provide shelter for refugees, immigrants, orphans and anyone else that had been lost among the paperwork of Snowpeak's burgeoning government. Catt hung around there most of the week trying to solve problems, offering advice to recent arrivals, many fleeing the coming war. He'd even persuaded a few to join his branch of the garrison, and once they'd been outfitted with equipment and given their Viking names, they would effectively become citizens. Catt hoped Snowpeak could become a genuine capital for all those opposed to the tyranny of Koridai, and this was a small step towards making the local populace friendly.

Of course, the one person most willing to sign up was the one Catt wasn't looking to recruit. "You're way too young to go into battle!" he exclaimed for the hundredth time.

"I could probably kill you, Mr. Moose!" Allie chirped. "Even in open combat, you know. Back in Koridai they taught me how to-"

"I don't want to hear what they taught you to do! Your graphic descriptions have been making people ill! Children should be allowed to be children, not forced to fight in someone else's war!!" - he paused for a moment, trying to calm down. "Besides, it took some doing to get you out of those doctors' clutches while Lena was away, not to mention smuggling your father up so he could see you..." Catt sighed, wondering why he bothered going to such trouble for the little things in life.

Allie soon piped up again. "I want to fight, though. I don't want to stay in this boring place any longer. I want to fight for Calatia and Lady Selena, not - she shuddered - the other one.."

Catt wasn't taken in. Privately he wondered whether the medicos hadn't reprogrammed her as a Calatian agent, not simply detoxed her as agreed. He was getting better at reading the child's moods and facades, but sometimes felt he was being toyed with by a far more powerful mind. It was not a nice feeling. Those doctors were... thorough, if nothing else. She's got to be clean. Just then there was a knock at the door.

"Morning, our Catt" said the man, smiling. It was Ebeneezer Goode, the friendly old gent he had met on his last mission, and who'd returned with them and now helped out at the refuge. "Have you heard the news? Selena's back"

Catterick gulped. "She's not coming here, is she?"

"Of course not, why should she?" laughed the old man, shaking his head as he brought in the papers. "Word on the street is that she's asking for volunteers to scout out the Cursed Lands next. I think she must be losing it".

"The Cursed Lands!? No-one will ever accept that death sentence! Who did you hear this from?"

"I'll go!" chimed in Allie, putting her hand in the air.

"I heard it round near Leo's restaurant. One of the guys was talking about it, whatshisname, Simkins?"

"Simkins!?" Catt exclaimed. "Nasty, tinny sort of name, Simkins! I don't believe it. I'm going to have a word with Leo about this!"

Saying this he marched out of the door, down the corridor, down the stairs and into the street. Meanwhile, Allie was grilling Ebeneezer on everything he knew about the Cursed Lands. The old man was knowlegable, and waffled on for hours once he had gotten comfortable. Allie tried to picture herself in the warped landscape he was describing, having adventures with the Calatians. She really wanted to be free.

---

Catt couldn't find his friend at Crimson Cuisine. He peered into the windows, but could only make out a few soldiers eating meals. Wandering around looking for a friendly face, he was suddenly stopped by two large Vikings, neither of whom had friendly faces at all.

"We've been looking for you, Mr Catterick" spoke one, from behind his helmet.

"Don't try to leave, sir - everyone knows where you live anyway" said the second, with a sardonic smile.

"Look, what do you two want?" replied Catt, tensing up. "If this is about some kid from the mission stealing an apple from a fruit stall or a gently cooling windowsill pie or a hydroelectric generator-"

"Dr Eichbower is very upset at that little mess you caused in his laboratory, Mr Catterick" the first one continued, edging Catt into a corner of the street. "It took him hours to get that stethoscope out from where you put it, and even then it was only fit for burning.."

"That man's no doctor, he has no interest in helping people!" Catt burst out, feeling more and more squeezed by the heavies. "he's just in it for the experimentation, he makes Hojo look like Marie Curie, he-"

"Calm down, sir, you'll strain yourself" said the second of the thugs. "the good doctor has done you a great favour. So you don't have to spend your days looking after refugee scum, he's fast tracked you straight onto the Cursed Lands expedition - Lady Selena is probably authorising it as we speak. And so you don't have to worry, he'll look in on your verminous friends and see they are properly cared for. How's that for a prescription??"

"Say hello to the cursed ones for us, won't you?" finished the first.

"You villains! You can't do this!" yelled Catt, as they dragged him off.

But they could. Even a veteran soldier is no match for bureaucracy in this day and age, especially when he has so many black marks against his name. Rules had been broken, stethescopes lodged in places unseemly to mention. The mission kids were running riot. And if the Calatian high-ups ever found out about the "Graveyard incident", well, Catt could be staying in the Cursed Lands for a very long time.

#7 Khallos

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 05:42 PM

Coming into his office in the morning later than he liked, Khallos grumbled to himself. Of course the previous night's drinking in the Mead Hall was all to blame, but that was a poor excuse. Amongst the paperwork that covered his desk, lay an envelope sealed with Selena's crest. Rapidly tearing it open he pulled out the letter inside, ignoring his dull headache as he read the orders.

The most brave and strong willed soldiers needed for an expedition to the Cursed Lands? He was expected to pick out some of his best men and throw them away on this folly? Normally Khallos was more than willing to follow Selena's orders to the letter, but this was one of the occasions where he doubted his leader. Sinking down into his chair, Khallos surveyed his office while thinking on the letter. Sure it was more of a small armoury with the walls covered in various weapons and the tattered banners of the foe, but in essence it was an office. Not that much administration ever got done inside it.

Giving command of today's training to a Captain, he left his office and started walking through the streets of Snowpeak, thinking on the radical orders and hoping he may find a friendly face with which to discuss it.

#8 Crimson Lego

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 09:12 PM

Inside his private office on the second floor of Snowpeak Ruins, Leo laid his battleaxe down on a table and began ruffling through the stack of papers on his desk. Taking a seat and using a match to light the makeshift lamp sitting on his desk, he moved stack after stack to the side, hoping the report was still where it was last. This could be a big help to the upcoming mission.

As he continued to search for the missing paper, the dwarf recalled exactly why he was even in his office in the first place. Right, that’s it. A few months ago, he remembered that a Calatian patrol group up in the northern mountains had captured a stray squad of Koridaian soldiers. When they were brought back to be interrogated, Leo had noticed that most of them spoke rather aggressively and seemed to be jumpier than the usual person. At the time, he had passed it on as paranoia of being captured by Calatia (they were eventually executed), but now that he thought about it, the general wondered whether the imperials had been exposed slightly to the Curse. That report log should show the details and maybe some clues; after all, they leaked a lot of info about their mission.

Breathing a sigh of relief as he recovered the parchment, Leo took a quick glance at it for confirmation, shoved it in his pocket, and headed back out of the room. Exiting the castle through a side door, he was surprised to see 2 rather buff Calatians dragging a familiar looking man towards Snowpeak. Interesting. Walking up to the trio, he addressed the 2 captors. “Gentlemen, is there something wrong here?”

Immediately, both men whirled around and moved to a stance of attention. “No, sir, General,” replied the taller one, his left hand gripping Catterick’s arm tightly. “I think we’re fine here.”

Nodding, the dwarf gestured to their captive. “Why don’t you boys get a drink?” he suggested. “I can take it from here.”

“General, we have explicit orders from Doctor Eichbower to bring Mr. Catterick here to his laboratory,” said the second one.

“Soldier, do you know who you’re talking to?”

At that, both Vikings glanced at each other uncertainly. “You, sir.”

“Exactly my point; so when I give you an order, I expect to be followed, correct? Tell Eichbower that I’ll take care of the matter.”

The men nodded solemnly and released their detainee; they continued on their path towards Snowpeak, muttering to each other. Shaking his head as the insubordination, Leo nodded in greetings to the third Calatian in front of him. “How it’s going, Catt? Mind telling me what that was all about?”

#9 Kwicky Koala

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 10:06 PM

Catt sheepishly dusted himself off. "Its a long story, Leo. The doctors aren't happy with me for taking Allie away from their observations, and Eichbower is going to get me sent to the Cursed Lands to get his revenge..." he glumly sat down in a chair in Leo's office. "I just hope my friends are okay while I'm gone... do you know anything about this scouting mission though? I mean, what am I being sent to find out?"

#10 Crimson Lego

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Posted 13 June 2010 - 09:43 AM

When he heard the last statement from Catt’s mouth, Leo laughed grimly at the fact that his friend had also been ordered to travel northwards. “Don’t worry; you’re not the only one that’s being sent up to that place. One of Selena’s assistants gave me the message about 15 minutes ago.”

Taking a seat in his chair and leaning back against the wall, he tried to think why many of the Calatians were being sent up to the Lands. “It could be that there are secrets in the Cursed Lands that could help us fight Koridai,” said the dwarf slowly. “Jordan of the Whirlwind Spear and a bunch of his friends camped out on Windfall for more than 2 years; maybe they found some sort of magical item that gave them immunity to the Curse. If so, we should be able to find it and put it to good use during the war.”

Trying to think of a change of topic in order to bring his mind off the upcoming mission, Leo turned back to Catterick with a look of curiosity on his face. “How is Allie now?” he asked. “Did the doctors brainwash her correctly?”

#11 Kwicky Koala

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Posted 13 June 2010 - 12:41 PM

"They weren't meant to brainwash her, they were meant to detox her" Catt explained. "I can't work out whether they've done one or the other - she says she wants to fight for Calatia, but is that her free will talking? Anyway, the constant monitoring was unhealthy and unneccesery, so I put a stop to it. Feel free to come visit down at the mission anytime, I'm sure she'd appreciate seeing you". Catt got up, feeling as put off by the idea of journeying to the Cursed Lands as Leo looked. "I guess its good I'm going with someone I've worked with before. Why don't we walk and talk, you can tell me what you guys found out last mission with Lena, and maybe we'll run into someone else who's going with us on this next one. In particular, who is this Jordan guy you just mentioned?"

#12 Crimson Lego

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Posted 13 June 2010 - 06:16 PM

“Huh,” was all Leo could say after Catt described the situation to him involving the former Koridaian ‘tyke bomb’ the two of them had encountered on a supply carriage raid. I sure hope she isn’t faking it at all; otherwise, we’re going to be screwed if the imperials find out about the DumGorin. He was still awed by the fact the power of the great Diel was at the hands of the Calatians, and hoped that Turtlelot would put it to good use.

Listening to Catt’s suggestion, the dwarf nodded in agreement and led his friend out of the room. “Let’s got to the Supply Room; we should probably pick up some stuff before Selena gets us out of here.”

As the 2 of them walked through the halls of Snowpeak Ruins, Leo tried to tell as much as he could to Catt; he knew that the man was nothing close to a security risk. Besides, he used to be in Ikana; I doubt he’s gonna betray Selena now. Nodding in greeting to a passing by Calatian officer, he got on with the tale. “A couple weeks after we finished up with the carriage thing, I was sent on a mission with Archibald Khallos to the continent of Komitaa in order to establish a peace treaty with one of the countries there. Eventually, we managed to get one signed with a nation called Virrat, but some Koridaians came down from the northern realm of Vildmark, where my inside men said they managed get an alliance of their own there as well.”

Pausing as he pushed open a heavy door, the dwarf tried hard to remember the events in the capital of Vatenbaer. “After the battle started, some old hag named the Witch of Voodoo Isle came up to me and said to meet her on the southern tip of the continent of Korento if we wanted a weapon to kill Chikara. After we got back home, we tried to make a financial deal with the Guild, but it turned out to be an Alliance trap.” Pausing, Leo turned around, his expression grim. “There’s about 15-20000 of them marching on us and the Empire right now. We almost got screwed over by them too.”

Facing forward and heading down the stairs into the basement, he continued with the story. “Fortunately, Selena managed to rally together an expedition to go to Korento, which is where Jordan comes in. If you remember, he was the guy with the spears that could control the wind.” Showing the guard identification as they passed through a checkpoint, the general was relieved to see to that they were finally nearing their destination. “Anyways, we met up with the witch after some trials, and it turned out that the weapon she gave us…was the Sword of Diel. It was given to a metal man named Sir Turtlelot, who was apparently resurrected from the dead into a steel suit; you might have seen him walking around recently.”

Entering the Supply Room after the guard unlocked the door, Leo began to look around for a second suitable weapon. A sword would be nice. Reaching for a stool, he said one more thing to Catt. “Try to be quick as well; like you said, we’ll probably need to pick up some other guys before heading off.”

#13 JRPomazon

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Posted 14 June 2010 - 09:20 AM

Trekking through the snow, Jordan decided to head towards warmth after staying outside for too long. Feet were numb, hands were numb, damn near every patch of skin on him lost all feeling. It was during this time when people began to get weary from the cold and start to see things as the very blood in their veins solidifies and freezes. Jordan was no exception, as his vision was getting murky. He didn't take this cold weather as seriously as he should have. At least he was close to what appeared to be some sort of building, there was bound to be a door somewhere. A passing viking noticed Jordan slowly wandering through the snow, gracing him with a glance and going along his merry way assumed the green clad warrior was drunk. Jordan didn't notice the passerby and fell to his knees in the snow.

He turned himself around and rested his back against the building as he sat in the snow, looking up to see that a fresh layer of snow was beginning to fall. Damn, even at this time of year this place was harsh. Almost sobering. The spears hanging by slings on his back folded up against the ground, popping up behind him, a normally uncomfortable occurrence holding no power over the cold.

Through the wind and the snow a figure appeared before him, the manifestation of his weariness or perhaps a specter come to haunt him once again. It wasn't the first time he had seen him, for years he would show up in his vision during times of weakness. Smiling like a disgusting hyena waiting to feast and dressed in gray robes with a hood over his face. From the depths of darkness he would creep into his mind, a perpetual nightmare that was neither a dream nor reality.

Why are you here?

I don't know.

Running away?

Never.

It's OK to run away, not just anyone can do what you've done for the past two years.

I'm not running.

But you're so good at it, why don't you turn away from those horrible lands? You can live here, or Korento, or anywhere else.

I'm not running.

It's the girl, isn't it?

. . .

She's dead. If she was lucky she died.

Shut up.

She might just be a monster now.

Shut up.

Like all the other people you murdered after they remained cursed.

Shut up.

But I suppose they aren't people. Not anyone that is.

Be gone.

But it still stings, doesn't it? And the reality that you won't be able to save her this time cuts at you day after day. Two years Jordan. Two years and the only thing you have to go on are the words of your former comrade who, like me, is an opportunist who will use whatever he can for himself and the vision of a blind man. She's dead. She has been dead for two years. And you didn't save her.

LEAVE ME BE.

The visage of the cloaked nightmare dissipated into the night, in the snow and the cold is vanished into nothingness.

Never.

A second passerby noticed Jordan and quickly came to his aid, a young woman no older than he was.

"Hello? Are you well?"

Jordan lazily looked up at the sound of the woman, whose details he couldn't decipher.

"Help. Cold." He replied bluntly.

The young woman lifted him up quickly and took him inside the building he was leaned up against.

"How long have you been out here? You're practically frozen!"

Jordan looked behind him, checking to see whether his apparition had truly vanished.

"Too long." He replied.

Edited by JRPomazon, 14 June 2010 - 11:09 AM.


#14 Kwicky Koala

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Posted 14 June 2010 - 04:12 PM

As Leo related his story Catt chipped in with brief asides like "oh no, they're back" and "Oh yeah, the tin man!" until they got to the Supply Room.

"No problem Leo, I never worry over this stuff" said Catt, picking up the nearest sword and a small shield to go with his hatchet, which he always carried with him. As they left the halls of Snowpeak, the sky was turning an ominous, but beautiful shade of orange-crimson and some vikings were drilling in the courtyard. Catt wondered when he'd be able to see this place again, and if sunsets looked the same in the Cursed Lands.

#15 Crimson Lego

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Posted 14 June 2010 - 05:50 PM

Even before he had left Snowpeak Ruins along with Catterick, Leo was already thinking up anything else that would be useful on the trip northwards to the Cursed Lands. Some of the possibilities he had come up with were a rifle squad, horses, and even some of Calatia’s prisoners. That should be useful, he thought. If they wanna stay alive, I doubt they’re going to try and run away in the Cursed Lands; they’d have nowhere to go. As the duo turned a corner, the dwarf began formulating a plan of his own, as if he were getting ready for another battle against Koridai. We can use the horses to get up there, and then tie them up somewhere until we get back. A bear would be nice as well. He was not as confident about ordinary animals surviving the effects of the Curse than he was other Vikings. Even though the resistance of the Curse in an animal was unknown, many speculated that it was probably weaker than that of an ordinary human being.

Nearby, even in the falling snow, Leo caught a glimpse of a man being ushered into the building by a young Calatian woman. Good thing that guy didn’t freeze to death out here. He would have pushed the matter aside had he not caught a glimpse of a spear on the man’s back. It’s probably Jordan. “Let’s go this way,” he said to Catt, walking in the direction of the structure. “I think I just saw an old acquaintance.” Since Jordan had spent more than 2 years in the Cursed Lands, the general was sure he would know some kind of secret that could help the Calatians on their expedition.

Knocking on the door, it was opened quickly by the woman. “General Crimson,” she said in a rather startled tone.

Smiling, Leo nodded back. “May I speak to this gentleman here?” he asked kindly.

“Of course.”

Walking in as the woman shut the door behind him and Catt, Leo nodded in greetings to his friend. “Hey there, Jordan. You doing alright up here?”

#16 Khallos

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Posted 14 June 2010 - 06:12 PM

"Lady Selena is not available sir," the servant answered politely.

"What!? Well I want to speak to her now, tell her that Khallos is here"

"She is out at the moment, I don't know where before you ask, so your tirade will have to wait until another time."

"I remember when Calatia was a group of poor bastards huddling in the snow, nothing about anyone with appointments and forms and the like, damned bureaucrats"

Khallos spun on his heel and paced off in a suitably melodramatic manner. He knew it was immature but he had no patience at the moment and brooding on the plan. Damn the lives of my men, I'll go alone, if it is truly too dangerous she'll order me to stay behind personally.

Jogging back to the barracks Khallos started thinking on preparations.

#17 JRPomazon

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Posted 15 June 2010 - 05:11 AM

With a blanket resting over his shoulders, Jordan looked up to find Leo in front of him.

"Just cold, just need to warm up."

He got to his feet slowly and moved to an open hearth in the middle of the room, a large pot resting by it clearly not being used for cooking. Aside from the large fire there were a few candles resting on shelves and counters. The walls were mostly stone, though traces of wood could be seen from the rafters and the support beams of the home. A very humble abode.

"I overheard about what the fossil wants, though I can't imagine why she would send people up there. It's not the most welcoming place to visit."

#18 Sir Turtlelot

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Posted 15 June 2010 - 11:21 AM

After returning to Snowpeak, Turtlelot headed straight to Leo's stalls to retrieve his pet. After feeding Winston, Turtlelot left a note in the stall, telling Leo where he could find him if he was needed. And with that, Turtlelot mounted his bison and rode past the town and into the forest once again. After riding through the forest, Turtlelot returned to the small valley by the castle.

Turtlelot dismounted Winston and walked him over to the side to lay down. Walking back into an open area, Turtlelot unsheathed the Sword of Diel. I need to train myself to control it's power. Taking one strong slash, Turtlelot saw the air in front of the the sword slam into the icy rock wall and crack it slightly. I see I'm going to have a lot of training.

After a few hours of swinging the sword around, trying to control the amount of power it exerts, Turtlelot decided it was time to meditate. Sheathing the sword on his back as he sat down, Turtlelot then crossed his legs and closed his eyes, and went into a deep meditative state.

Edited by Sir Turtlelot, 15 June 2010 - 11:21 AM.


#19 Crimson Lego

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Posted 15 June 2010 - 04:21 PM

Nodding, Leo was surprised to hear that Jordan knew about the upcoming mission already. Huh. He learns pretty fast up here. Taking into consideration what the man said, he didn’t have trouble agreeing with that fact. The dwarf himself had heard too many stories about the Cursed Lands to not believe them, and the sole name of the region could send fear into many people that remembered the destruction caused after the Battle of Olimandias.

Remembering the reason why he was in the building, Leo cleared his throat and made his request. “Yeah, Selena wants us to head up there soon for some scouting mission or something like that. Unfortunately, none of my men have ever had experience going up there, and those who tried never reported back. Thus, Calatia has no means of knowing what could be up there.”

Sighing, the general crossed his arms and looked into Jordan’s eyes, hoping his gamble would pay off. Here it goes. “With all of that being said, will you accompany us to the Cursed Lands, just to help us out in case we get infected?”

#20 JRPomazon

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Posted 16 June 2010 - 09:05 AM

"Infected?" Jordan said, confused by Leo's choice of words.

"This isn't a simple matter of getting sick Leo. What, do you think you just get sneezed on and suddenly your stark mad?"

Jordan looked over to the woman who had helped him in and just looked around the room as Leo remained silent. He wasn't 100% sure exactly where he was and the fact that he was partially frozen didn't help. Though his nerves were occasionally sending little hello messages, that was a good sign.

"I have a feeling you people need me there, if you don't understand what you're walking into you're as good as dead."

#21 Kwicky Koala

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Posted 16 June 2010 - 05:31 PM

Catt bristled at Jordan's words. Although he was not sure where he felt certain that he had seen this person before, and not in any friendly capacity. As easygoing as he was he felt insulted by the outsider's last comment.

"I think you'll find we're more than prepared for anything the Cursed Lands can throw at us, pal. Our commanders wouldn't send us there if this wasn't the case." Two outright lies, but oh well.

"Bring this guy along if you want Leo, but I can't say I trust him. I'm going to wait outside."

Saying this he headed into the cold evening, brooding under the eaves of the house and wondering what had got him all riled up. He did call Lena a fossil... nah, that wasn't it. Ah, whatever, just an weird reflex I suppose. I'll apologise when I next see the guy.

#22 Crimson Lego

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Posted 16 June 2010 - 08:10 PM

So it’s more complicated than just walking in and going crazy. For the short period after Jordan spoke his words and agreement of coming along with the expedition, Leo tried to wonder exactly what was the cause of all the madness in the Cursed Lands. Would you have to be in contact with one of the maddened people, or touch something infected? Do we have to go somewhere near the Labyrinth or one of the old dorms? Either way, he knew that the trip would be completely suicide without somebody who had experience; Jordan was the only outside ally Calatia had at the moment.

When Catt opened to speak, the general was surprised to hear the words coming out of the man’s mouth. What’s he talking about? We don’t have any of that. He was about to respond when Catt suddenly walked out the door stating that he did not trust Jordan. Is he alright today? Turning back, Leo gave a quick shrug. “He’s probably just tired or cranky today; I’ll be right back. Meet us in the front hall of Snowpeak when you’re ready.”

Walking out of the shack, the dwarf walked up to his friend. “You alright?” he asked softly. “What you said back there was….rather direct.”

#23 Sir Deimos

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Posted 16 June 2010 - 09:27 PM

Rest was not something Synile was having an easy time finding. Synile rolls of the bed and stretches. Maybe a walk around Snowpeak would do the trick... Synile grabbed for his katana, and stopped himself before touching the hilt. ... A stroll through friendly territory doesn't require a weapon... Synile made his way outside of the room and shut the door. Some unearthly force seemed to pull at him. A strong urge to re-enter the room gave rise in the deep recess of his mind. It felt as if something was physically pulling on him. His skin began to itch, and Synile began to break out into a cold sweat.

Opening the door slowly, Synile's eyes fall upon the sheathed nodachi. Perhaps it was a hallucination, but a purple aura had engulfed the sword. Synile picked up the weapon and looked it over. It appeared that the scabbard was beginning to crack. The sword naturally had no scabbard, or at least Synile had not found it with one. It was merely sealed away by some force, deep within a forest... It seemed that the energy the sword possessed, after many many years, had started to corrode the wood. Clutching the sword in his hands immediately satiated the itch. Synile threw the blade over his back and left the room once more.

Navigating the hallways of the castle was no easy task... It wasn't a tourist attraction, so there weren't sign anywhere, and Synile had at most spent several hours within it's walls, at most. I had a better sense of direction in the LABYRINTH! Damn this maze! However, it was only a matter of time. No stone fortress could hold Synile. No friendly stone fortress anyhow...

The sun was setting, and the twilight sky was beautifully accentuated with the peaks of mountains, and pure white snow. Many of the houses had smoke emanating from their chimney. Synile didn't have a destination in mind, and just wandered around, making turns as he pleased. Suddenly a door slammed shut. Synile's head jerked towards the source of the slam. Catterick!? Leo was quick on his heels. Synile was less enthusiastic about that. Leo was always suspicious, and it seemed to make him err on the side of brandishing weapons.

Leo seemed to be concerned, "You alright? What you said back there was rather direct." The two hadn't noticed him yet... Maybe I should just slip away...

Approach them. Catterick is an old ally.

"You aren't in control this time. I'll act as I see fit."

What you see fit is nonsense. There is no reason to completely ignore an old comrade.

"You're too emotional. And chatty. And you think you're so God damned funny. No one cares."

Synile merely stood there. Internally arguing with himself.

#24 JRPomazon

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Posted 17 June 2010 - 09:20 AM

OoC: I'm sorry ahead of time, this got long without realizing it. Conversations are fun for me to write it seems.

As Leo left, Jordan crept closer to the fire to help stop the shaking his rejuvenated nerves were causing. They were planning to leave pretty soon, but they just got back from Korento. What the hell was Selena thinking, having her people work like this? Compensating for her failure with the witch by taking it out on everyone else?

"Here, it's coffee. It should warm you up a little." The young woman said, passing Jordan a small clay cup.

"Coffee? I don't think I ever had this drink before. What proof?"

"It's not alcohol or mead, it's made from beans in southern countries. A merchant came by the other week with a wagon of the beans."

Jordan took a sip, slightly burning his tongue.

"Ick. It's bitter."

"It's an acquired taste. I'm quite fond of it."

"Whatever works I suppose."

Jordan took another sip and placed the cup down.

"Do you have a name?" Jordan asked.

"Astrid." She replied.

"Focus on thawing yourself out before heading off to join the general, we can't have you freezing again."

As she headed towards the door to another room, Jordan took another sip of the coffee. He looked into the fire, the dancing flames calming him from his earlier "experience" in the cold. He was seeing things more frequently over the past years, even before the Cataclysm. He shook his head, avoiding the thoughts as they poured into his head. Astrid returned from the other room and took a seat by the fire, across from Jordan. Finally, a chance to see what she looks like in all this darkness. To Jordan's surprise, the Calatian maiden had fair features, a long ponytail that hung over her right shoulder with what appeared to be freckles on her face. Her eyes seemed dark, perhaps a light brown or hazel. In all respects, she didn't look half bad.

"Do you normally invite total strangers into your home or am I a special case?"

"Would you have enjoyed freezing to death in the cold? Any viking worth his pelts knows that this weather can kill you."

"I'm not a viking, just a traveler."

"And what inspired you to come all the way out here stranger?"

"You still haven't answered my question, you're up first."

Astrid took her hand and lightly brushed her bangs back from the front of her face as the light of the fire flickered in her eyes, looking away to another part of the room.

"I did. You were freezing and I was almost home, it all worked out. Nothing too hard to understand about it."

"Fair enough. Thank you for your kindness. But for all you know, I could have been a maniac or something."

"I'm a Calatian woman, we can handle ourselves."

"Such confidence. Are all the vikings like this?"

"I can really only speak for the women, so I can assure you at least half of us are. OK, your turn."

Jordan took another sip of his coffee.

"I was told a friend of mine was in trouble down here so I came to help him out."

"Did you find him?"

Horace's mutilated corpse came to mind.

"Yeah."

"Well, that's good. He must be lucky to have a friend like you to come down all the way to help him out."

Jordan was silent, unable to make direct eye contact with Astrid he turned to the fire. She sensed the sudden tension and began to look anxious.

"Is this a bad subject?" She asked.

"Don't worry about it. Anyway, I should get going. Leo seems to be waiting for me and all."

"You seemed friendly with the general, how long have you know each other?"

"We met just before the Cataclysm, during the summit of the old domains two years ago. We ended up getting wound up in a rather unfortunate mess and have been on good terms ever since."

"Oh, so you're one of those travelers."

"Excuse me?"

"An adventurer, always getting yourself into trouble."

"Yeah, I suppose so."

"So, what do you think you'll find in the cursed lands?"

"So you overheard what Leo was saying. In one word, hell."

"Is it as bad as I've heard?"

"Words don't describe what kind of place Verden has become. Hell is the closest thing I can think of to describe it."

"Then why in the world would you go there?"

"I'm an adventurer, always getting yourself into trouble. Besides, I'd been living there for the past two years as it is."

Astrid's eyes got wide.

"You're joking." She said, shocked from what Jordan said.

"'Fraid not."

"Why did you stay behind and . . . how did you manage to stay sane? The curse affects everyone that enters the Cursed Lands."

"Trying to find someone, someone who I left behind."

"I see. Did you-"

"No. I . . . I didn't find her. Not yet. I'm still looking."

Silence fell over the room, Astrid appearing slightly disappointed after hearing Jordan speak briefly about this person.

"She must be worth the trouble if you'd stay in the Cursed Lands just to find her."

"Yeah."

"I'm sure you'll find her." She said, trying to cheer him up.

Jordan nodded, taking another sip of the coffee. It was strange, the more he drank the more awake he felt. Strange stuff. He placed the cup down and got up.

"Thank you for the coffee. I should be off."

"You're Welcome. Come by again if you're around, we can't have you freezing to death now can we?"

Jordan looked over to Astrid, caught off guard by her forwardness.

"I appreciate it, thanks. Take care Astrid." He said, heading out the door.

"And you as well Jordan."

He left the small home and closed the door behind him. The snow was letting up, but not by much. He looked over to the right and found the torches lit in front of the main hall of Snowpeak. After a quick double checking his equipment, Jordan headed off into the snow.

Edited by JRPomazon, 17 June 2010 - 10:26 AM.


#25 Kwicky Koala

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Posted 17 June 2010 - 02:31 PM

"I am sorry for what I said. The fact remains that we cannot trust an outsider to the same degree that we would trust a Calatian. He's playing by different rules. I don't feel comfortable knowing he could fly off at any second" Catt said coldly. He sighed, and tried to explain to the purehearted dwarf his real feelings.

"Its like this... even with my reservations, I wouldn't normally have acted the way I did. I felt something I haven't felt for a long time, an anxious irritability... I hope its merely a throwback from the past, and not a premonition of the effect the cursed lands will have on us - on me, rather..."

He continued: "I don't know if you know of my past. It's all shadows now anyway.. I suppose I've done things I'm not proud of." As he said this he felt like a war criminal, but looked more like a naughty child, shifting his feet and avoiding eye contact. "I did them in the name of - wait! Someone's watching us." he scanned around, trying to locate the prescence. It couldn't be.

Standing in the snow was a figure straight out of his past, the katana unmistakable. Catt's thought process identified the figure first as a shade summoned by his memories, then fearfully as a potential assassin, out to get him for betraying his old ties in some way, before calming down and realising he was just being paranoid. Convincing himself that the man being here sheer was coincidence, he called out:

"Ho there, Synile! Its me, Catt! Come over here!"

#26 Crimson Lego

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Posted 18 June 2010 - 09:12 AM

As he listened, Leo soon began to understand Catt's uneasiness with Jordan; though he was only 23 and knew little about the ancient dorms such as the Hall of Heroes or the Labyrinth, legends about them were well-known to many. Maybe that's why he doesn't seem to trust Jordan. The dwarf had already witnessed friction between former members of rival dorms: Selena and Jordan had bickered with each other for the past month and during the trip to Korento. Synile had also joined the argument by challenging the latter to a fight in the middle of the witch's home. Hopefully they'll be able to put their differences aside when we start the war.

While he stood there thinking, Leo heard Catt call out a name that was all too familiar. Synile? Is he here? Turning around, he could see the outline of the warrior standing in the blizzard. Instinctively reaching for his axe, the dwarf decided to try and not to create more gaps in the Kingdom. Let's see what he does. Lowering his arm, Leo stood by and waited for Synile to walk over.

#27 Sir Deimos

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Posted 18 June 2010 - 11:26 PM

"Ho there, Synile! Its me, Catt! Come over here!"

Synile was immediately jerked out of his internal debate. Whatever those two were discussing, it seemed Catterick wanted to change the subject. Synile slowly paced over towards the men, still cautious about Leo.

Now you have to talk to them, like it or not.

Synile's face remained emotionless as he gazed upon the two men. "Catterick... It's been some time since I've seen you last. I didn't quite expect you to be in Calatia, under Selena. It seems the years have found you well. You two seem rather grim. What happened in the building?"

#28 Kwicky Koala

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Posted 19 June 2010 - 08:15 AM

"Likewise" Catt replied. "It will be good to be working on the same side again" he continued, remembering the last time they had met, as enemies during one of the Domain Wars before the Cataclysm. "Leo and I have been sent on an expedition to the Cursed Lands, and we were just stopping here to ask the assistance of Jordan of the Whirlwind Spear, who apparently has experience in this area. ...Well, I guess some guidance couldn't hurt" he said, swallowing his pride.

Catt was about to ask Synile if he knew of this mission and would consider accompanying them, but at that moment the door behind them opened and Jordan walked out.

#29 Crimson Lego

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Posted 19 June 2010 - 08:54 AM

As he watched Synile walk over and engage in a conversation with Catterick, Leo was starting to feel less uneasy about the former Loddie. Maybe he isn’t such a crazy after all. He could tell that Synile was being just as cautious, which was probably due to the events of that had happened on Korento. Time to make it up to him; I don’t want to get halfway into the Cursed Lands and find out somebody turned on me.

Stepping forward, the dwarf stood up tall and tapped Synile on the shoulder. “Look, man, I know you and me got off to a bad start, but why don’t we start over again?” he said. “No hard feelings, alright?”

#30 Chikara Nadir

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Posted 20 June 2010 - 12:00 AM

"Sleep is overrated," the quietest of whispers sounded in Selena's bedchambers, attached to a shadow that might very well have been there all along at the corner of her vision, staring out the icy window into the wailing storms that frequented the mountain tundra. The visitor was quite satisfied staying inside and out of the cold, although the climate between they and Calatia's leader could also be frigid in its own right.

"I gave up on it months ago myself. It used to be the nightmares, the shadows that somehow were darker than the depths of the Labryinth, fiends more fearsome than even the most berserk of our brethren…but recently that's changed."

The lithe, fragile looking woman stepped away from the window to stare at the Calatian girl with night-lit red eyes, her skin ever porcelain in the glow of white snow. "I've become dangerous, Selena. Hungry to murder hundreds, thousands of soldiers and civilians alike. Desperate not to see them fall at my strength, but to taste their blood in my sweat, to rend their limbs and crush their bones…"

Chikara herself was wearing night clothes, a fine silk gown with a woolen afghan thrown over the top to keep her warm in this unfamiliar territory. It was night in Koridai as well, after all. "I've been coming for days…for weeks. I knew you would return eventually, apologies for appearing so unexpectedly. You must understand, while you are able to traverse the lands searching for new peoples to conquer and new attempts to overthrow me, my ability to go out from my castle and temples is…limited."

Her speech, of course, was far too polite. They were enemies at the best of times, and Chikara had never cared to act courteously toward Selena even when they worked together. There was no use in sugaring up words to get a blunt point across. Something was clearly wrong.

"I tried, Lena, I really did." The petite woman helped herself to a seat at the foot of Selena's bed, never taking her eyes off of her rival. Her hands were locked, fidgeting slightly. "I singlehandedly took out an Alliance battalion without Lazu killing one of my men. But their army…and the village nearby! We're soldiers, Lena, we're meant to cause chaos, to kill in order to survive. To make our enemies fear and respect us, because that's how a true Loddie has fun. But this is too far."

She jumped at the other woman, grabbing up Selena's hands in her own with a fearsome grip. "If I sleep, or get too angry, or even laugh too hard, I fear that Lazu will eat my brain from the inside out. And if he takes control, I don't know that I can fight him off again. I don't want to see my empire fall at my own hands…so I'm making some changes." Chikara pressed one of Selena's hands against the other's own mouth, hissing, "Shhh, don't tell. I'm making safeguards to protect Koridai against me, just in case! But if I destroy it, you need to be ready to save yourself. Or to kill me. I can't bear the thought of anyone else doing it. I doubt Lazu would allow any other to even get close enough to finish the job."




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