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Fantasy Aeon of Heroes: Forging Ahead - Arc 1

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An expansive, narrative-driven roleplay focused on telling a unique story loosely inspired by various other animes and games.
This is a collaborative project that strictly maintains a small group for the sake of consistency and detail.

For potential invites, please contact Novelight through direct messages.
Discussions are held on a private Discord server.
Prologue: Shattered Skies


Reverence In Stars
Prologue: Shattered Skies
GM Event Post
Northlands of Paymonia

Since ancient times, the northern reaches of Paymona were always known for its dangerous terrain. As the northerners say, when one finds themselves traversing the lands of the vast emptiness, one must first remember their trails back, as the further you walk, the less likely it is that you will return with your heart intact. Such sayings have existed for thousands of years, warning travelers of the eternal forests that lead to nowhere, and towering mountains filled with dangerous beasts that care not for your survival. However, villages and other civilizations have seemingly existed for centuries, defying the very legend that speaks of the north as the devil’s playground. But like the other regions that had suffered at the hands of evil, the north could not escape the wrath of the Nephilims.

The scars of war exist to this day, in the form of abandoned outposts and pieces of armaments that can be found during the luckiest of hours. But most notably, the wreckage of an airship from a war that ended not too long ago. A vast vehicle powered by steam technologies of the past, it was abandoned when a more superior form of engine was discovered. The airship, named the Skypiercer by its first captain, formerly belonged to Aeslengard before it was taken down by a combined effort of Aerouants and Bestiards of the Godslayer’s regiment. After its destruction, the remnants of the ship remained on the ground, with pieces of the vessel stolen by looters. Fated to eventually return to the earth, the airship became the property of the villages of the heroes who took down the airship.

In the years to come, when the Ashen Knights arrived to build relations with those outside of the grand nations, the airship was given a purpose. In response to their valiant efforts, and by proving themselves an ally of peace, the villages gifted their spoils of war to Solara Evernight with hopes that she and her Ashen Knights will use it to stop the brewing Fifth Divine Conflict. With hundreds of workers and mechanics gathered to restore and modernize the vessel, it was not long before the Skypiercer was ready to continue its service, this time its weapons and mechanical functions being used for altruism and not destruction.

A few days have passed since the Ashen Knights boarded their flag vessel, and the interiors were renewed to better accommodate their living conditions. For the first time in a long while, the knights were given the opportunity to rest in their chambers in private. It was a luxury that they could not afford for a significant period. Knowing this, the princess left her warriors to their own devices and continued to strategize their next plans, not participating in the occasional group events.

It was not long until the princess called her knights to an assembly on the bridge. They knew that it would not be long until they would eventually reach the destination of their objective. Soaring deep into the skies of the mountains, they would slowly begin preparing for another round of battle that was simply unpreventable. As the dates on the calendar went closer to their estimated land date, the Ashen Knights came together and formed a strategy.

Beyond the sea of mountains was an unexplored region where no soul dared to pass. It was a land believed to be a territory of not only the vile beasts but hostile monsters that lived exclusively in these mountains. However, it was not these forces that left the Ashen Knights uncertain. It was the fact that these supposedly unmapped zones were used as fortified outposts for the Nephilims, guarded not by the common soldier but instead by specialists of the Aeslengardian church, trained and instilled with a creed that far exceeds the average tenacity of a Nephilim.

Upon discovering the supposed location of the individual that holds the answers to every tragedy of the past, and realizing that the Pythia Ordasterium had already discovered their whereabouts weeks before the Ashen Knights could, not a second was wasted before they armed the Skypiercer and began the voyage north, deep into the mountains that was left uncharted for ages.

By sending a raven days before the airship ascended into the clouds, Solara was able to discover that the Nephilims had built a fortress surrounding the entrance of the caves, each brick likely enchanted with arcane crystals that made infiltration difficult. In addition, it was likely that they anticipated the Ashen Knights would trail their footprints back to the mountains. For what other reason would they have gone through the trouble of building a fortification? With the time that’ll take to explore the caves to find the entrance of the Erudite’s home, and the Ashen Knights actively working to discover her location, it was only natural that they were prepared for the worst to occur, and made several contingencies to make certain that their plan bear fruit.

The hour reached into the afternoons. With roughly six hours left until the Skypiercer would have a view of the enemy fortress, Solara was quick to begin with the preparations for the assault.

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Solara Evernight
Ashen Knights / Vanguard
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

The command bridge was a spacious area, surrounded by cardinal walls and several control stations staffed by volunteer engineers formerly dedicated to the reconstruction efforts of the airship. Situated at the center of the bridge stood a metal table with an encased map, its surface safeguarded by a glass casing endowed with magnetic properties, allowing metal objects to stick onto the table with ease. One time believing that it was more inconvenient, having already grown accustomed to the old-fashioned map on a table, this change quickly became a favorite feature of the airship for Solara, who could often be seen meddling with the items as they discussed plans with the tacticians of the Ashen Knights.

Solara leaned onto the table with her hands over the surface, waiting for her knights to make an entry into the command bridge while Heimdal, a provisional member of the Ashen Knights, occupied her for a short while until the others would make their presence known. A skilled fighter and tactician in his own right, the two had spent hours discussing potential plans and contingencies that would be best in the worst-case scenario. “The forest remains too dark, and the dearth of information regarding the density levels of vile beast activity renders that plan difficult. If the battle gets heated, it might inadvertently attract them to the fortress... It won't do." Solara replied to Heimdal’s initial proposal of strategies. “It seems our best chance is to break through the fortress and fight from the inside.”

Solara crossed her arms and rhythmically tapped on her shoulder plates, showing signs of annoyance.

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Saligern Guild / Slayer
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

Heimdal was quick to notice the princess’ habitual movements. A silent laugh escaped his lips, going unnoticed by the other party, who was too heavily focused on the map before her to realize. Nevertheless, Heimdal acknowledged her statement and responded with an informational point to consider. “The Nephilims are taught to never spill their blood on foreign territories. Whether this disposition stems from a deeply ingrained moral code or an aversion to dealing with feral beasts, it's something to consider.” He would then place another metallic item on the table, this time a miniature model of the common Nephilim soldier. “What you’re worried about is the insanity of the Ordasterium… and their tendency to often play the wild card.”

The blonde was quick to notice Solara’s eye twitch. Having received that as an answer to his previous statement he furthered his point, “Under normal circumstances, it would be rational to believe that the fortress was built to keep invaders from intruding into their base. As obvious as that sounds, I suppose the thought has some holes if we’re considering that the Ordasterium sent one of their bloodthirsty soldiers to survey a foreign land, especially when there’s evidence about the Erudite’s whereabouts. It’s impractical at best. But I understand where you’re coming from. It could be a trap, as well.”

Heimdal could hear the sound of the stairs below being used, a light vibration that echoed in unity, signifying that the knights were entering in groups. “I respect your reliance on comrades during times like these. It’s far too rare to see a leader who not only cares for their soldiers but cherishes their opinions. It’s all about glory and honor these days—well, I suppose that part of this world never changed.”

Irradiant Irradiant Euclid Leaf Euclid Leaf AI10100 AI10100 Juju Juju ERode ERode Huntertabbysandshark3 Huntertabbysandshark3 seasonedcat seasonedcat lucenti lucenti locked n loaded locked n loaded NiftyNat NiftyNat November Witch November Witch Auda Auda hya_9REI hya_9REI

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Farris Meyer Lenore
Ashen Knights / Protector
Deck of Skypiercer

The usual hum of the Skypiercer’s engine was drowned out by a roar that echoed fiercely through the Mess Hall. A wave of hands and cards flew into the air, fluttering across the tables where the small crowd of airship staff were huddled. A confetti painted by outrage. From their defeated expressions alone, one can read the unwritten tale of a pyrrhic loss.

The aftermath of a tense game of fates.

“Curses. He won again…”
“How does this keep happening…”
“We'll end up with a food shortage at this rate…”

Gambling can be a horrific sin. But like all things, it’s not so black and white. This world was full of grays. Anything, when pushed to the extreme can be malignant to an individual. Water can support life, or it can drown. Fire is warmth and security, yet when let loose, can spiral in an unfettering blaze of chaos.

Composed of low stakes, the event in the Mess Hall was constructed for the sake of camaraderie and joy. Even something as simple as a deck of cards, can rouse otherwise reserved spirits when the right conditions are met. The unpredictable nature of a random outcome, paired with a good dose of showmanship. A combination that is unbeatable in bringing out uncharacteristic revelry. A bit of liquid courage also goes a long way.

By now, they were all at least several barley barrels down. Impassioned laughter, shouts of jolly fury, and inebriated chanting liberated the usual stern-lipped social grime.

The airship workers had been at hard at work for weeks now, clamoring to rush the repair of the battlefield artifact, readying the vessel for voyage in record time. They deserved to take a break, to get their mind off their laborious schedules.
Peasantry did not have much money to offer in such games. But in lieu, of particular, the staff of the Skypiercer's lofty kitchen, possessed something he held in much more value—

“To the winner, go the spoils!” Farris cheered, raising a shimmering bottle of wine into the air high over his head. Like he was brandishing a trophy.
This one in particular, was labeled with the image of a hewn wreathed plum. The crossed vineyard signature marking a century of age scratched into the sable surface. Once, a collectors item pilfered in one of their grand conquests across Paymonia. A coveted item everyone here has made a collective and heart-rending bid for. Unfortunately, there can only be one victor. Upon the darkened glass’s complexion, the disappointed faces of the wagerers can be seen in quick reflective flashes. As the valuable bottle was swung from left to right.

The pale monk, red-faced and clearly drunk, had stood up on his stool and was unleashing a flurry of blows and wild gyrating hip movements. An attempt to strike a rambunctious victory pose. Though with the alcohol swiveling in his system, the wobbly stance and flailing arms felt more like some sort of tipsy, haggard dance. To think ancient martial techniques, secrets closely guarded from prying eyes throughout the generations would be used in such a flagrant way.

Several crewmembers let out snarky, playful boos. Rallying in their unified disgruntlement, and horror.

“Well, you know what they say, haha!” popping the cork of the bottle, and taking a swig, “One can never win, if they give up. How about it? Ready for another round? This time, I can put a blindfold on to even the playing—”

“Umm, wait, sire? Don't you have to be at a meeting right now?” said one of the chefs. There always had to be one designated to sobriety.

His blue eyes, now deflated, cast down. Of course, he hadn't forgotten.
“Oh. Right.” Farris grumbled, wiping the wine dribbling down his chin.

Meetings were always so tiresome. To put it lightly, all of the slogging politics and interpersonal drama were a large part of his duties that he didn't particularly enjoy. Change is felt in action, not with long hours of exchanging flowery promises and politely worded gratitude's. Often, Farris would have some conveniently timed emergency to attend to, an excuse to be relieved of attendance. Only, it was common for one of his fellows to catch Farris dozing off in the comforting shadow underneath a nearby tree. Completely free of such urgency. That is, if he even bothered to show up at all. But today, he might earn something more harsh from their leader than a stern scolding for any such absence.

Stuffing the bottle into his black shawl, along with the other edible winnings. “Haha, well, drink responsibly crew. There better still be a barrel left when I return!”
With a curt bow, the brazen drunk hopped of the wooden stool, and with a surprising display of clarity, initiated a complex heel kick in the air. A whip of wind was cast from his momentum, miraculously sweeping all of the cards scattered on the floor back onto the table. Falling one by one, into a neat pile. A look of confused wonder emerged as the crowd watched the man proceed to teeter and bumble around, nearly tripping over one of the unoccupied benches on the way out of the Mess Hall.

Truly, one can only imagine how one so carefree ended up in the esteemed ranks of the dignified Ashen Knights.

Farris continued to lean against the wall, swinging side to side, as he navigated down the corridor towards the flight of stairs to the Bridge.
Entering the grand room, he immediately straightened out while pushing the great door and slipping through. He walked now with a certain dignity and grace. If it wasn't for the red glow of his cheeks betraying him, one might think the man held an air of austerity. Of course, everyone present, and yet-to-be, would know better. Farris didn't need to hear any of the previous words shared between the commander and veteran. He immediately caught wind of the rather precarious situation just from the look on Solara's face alone. She was never the best at hiding her emotions.

"I was... in a rather intense meditative state. Time escaped my mind, as I was in deep contemplation. Please, pardon my tardiness." he answered, stepping to the side of Heimdal. Shifting to the side, as to not reveal the stowed drink and food.
To the man, he gave a quick smile and nod. To the commander, he bowed his head respectfully. "Ah. I've been thinking, regarding our upcoming engagement with the Ordasterium. But I'll wait for everyone to arrive, before I speak on it."

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Chen Tang-Ruo
Ashen Knights / Vanguard
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

To maximize one’s rest when afforded to was the common sense of a soldier, but it had been years since he shed that title, even as he held onto the moniker of ‘Knight’. And while the Skypiercer was ostensibly a vehicle meant for waging and delivering war, Tang Ruo had ensured that of the many mechanical functions that the workers of that village had restored, the full capacity of the kitchen was one of them. He had been the de-facto camp cook for the Ashen Knights for the past two years, after all, and when there was nothing to do but wait for one’s arrival, Tang-Ruo had taken to becoming the chef as well, dragging others off to the kitchen to help prepare meals for the crew, lest the more reticent Knights ended up growing mold in their room.

Certainly, there were too many types who lived their lives as if it were penance for their crimes.

So, being the middle-aged busybody he thought himself as (which was a strange thing, when the average age of the Ashen Knights skewed in the 200s), the Bestiard decided that refreshments could at least be fresh and hot. Those inside the Command Bridge of the Skypiercer could first smell him, the beastly musk of a tiger mixed with the sweetness of wildberries and pastries, the mind-quickening aroma of tea and coffee. Then, there was his voice, booming out with a “Hot, behind!” as he manoeuvred naturally, silently, through corridors that were just a bit too cramped for an individual like himself. And finally, with a gentle nudging of the door, Tang-Ruo stepped into the bridge, his striped arms fully extended to carry wooden trays filled with snacks of all sorts. Pastries, of course, were the highlight, puffed up and delicate, sweetened by the wildberry preserves from the village and given some extra heat with some liquor. There were sandwiches too, of course, the work of the Knights he had outsourced that assembly work to. Six hours away from the start of their next operation, it only made sense that amidst sugars and caffeine, one considered options for nutrition as well. And, balanced upon his biceps, metal pitchers of coffee and tea let out steam, hot to the touch but apparently unable to burn through the Bestiard’s flesh.

“Solaria,” Tang-Ruo called, rows of sharp teeth flashing, “Must’ve been talking all day, no? Go on and take a cup. Got some dandelion tea, but there’s coffee if you’ve no plans for taking a nap ‘fore our arrival.” Going by the lines in her brow, the bags under her eyes, it'd be a small miracle if she had even had a full night's rest last night.

Amber eyes caught one of the friendlier, less openly-haunted members of the Ashen Knights, and once there was prey in his sight, there was no chance of escape. “And Farris, both first to arrive and with both hands free? Be a friend and take two trays off this old man’s arms, could you? For all the work we spent on this airship, it’s a travesty that there’s not a single table here that isn’t bolted down.”

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Kyreth Ranolus
Ashen Knight / Healer
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

Kyreth wouldn't say that she had the absolute confidence Tang-Ruo had when it came to cooking, but it was close enough to making alchemical brews that she could keep up with the whirlwind of orders the bestiard had. Still, it wasn't like she didn't enjoy it— it was a great avenue for releasing the anxiety brewing in the pit of her stomach for their next mission. With her hands and mind too busy making sure their snacks were perfect, or at least edible, she could at least redirect the energy to something more productive instead of wasting away on the floor of the stables trying to teach Kon new tricks.

It was good that Kon was coming along nicely, the vile beast had been with her for many years now and had done her well. By the standards set by this society, Kon had even grown a couple of tiers since she had tamed him. Unfortunately, she couldn't keep bringing him around the Skypiercer; even though the other Knights had come to terms with her pet, he simply took too much space. Thankfully, with age, Kon had begun to calm down and preferred to stay in place if there was no grave danger around. It was good for that beast to get his rest now.

"Tang-Ruo-" Kyreth turned to call on the assigned chef but found him already with his hands and arms full. A reprimand was on her tongue about how dangerous it was but she swallowed it down. Instead, she let out a deep sigh and quickly followed him up to the Command Bridge. She slipped inside without much fanfare, practically following right behind the bestiard and eclipsed by his size. An effective deterrent to bumping into others, at the very least.

"To be fair, the Command Bridge isn't exactly the dining area. And I doubt Lady Solara would appreciate it if we placed them on the battle map." She piped up from behind him as gloved hands wrapped around one of the trays and took them for herself. "And don't call yourself old, it's making me feel old." Kyreth turned to Farris and gave him a nod of greeting; though it was quite clear that the healer was checking on his condition. It never failed to amaze her how this man could drink several people under the table and immediately snap into sobriety. She gave a bow towards Solara and another nod at Heimdal.

And finally, Kyreth curiously peered at the battle map— the source of their leader's stress and the topic of today's discussion. It would only be a few hours before they reached their destination and the plan was still incomplete. It brought great stress to whoever was working on it— and even when she stewed on her own thoughts about what they could possibly do, she came up with blanks. Kyreth was an adventurer, after all, and the plans they came up with were rudimentary and fell apart quickly.

A short laugh escaped her lips. "These Nephilim really do know how to make life difficult for us." The bitterness and grudge she had carried for years had mellowed, yet it was still ever present.

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Ashen Knights / Vanguard
command bridge, skypiercer

The buzzing filled Rubiliaxx's head as she walked through the belly of the airship, the scent of oil and metal as oppressive as the deafening sounds. It had been some time since they had taken off on their voyage, and yet Rubi still hadn't gotten used to the constant roar of engines and machinery. It grated against her sensitive ears, making conversations difficult to follow and rest near impossible. Thankfully, she had no need to sleep as of late, unlike her colleagues. At night, she would often ponder how on earth they managed to get any amount of sleep aboard such a loud monstrosity.

Not only was the floating prison a disturbance to the senses, but it was horribly confusing to manoeuvre. One hallway led into another and then another, joining up into a man-made hive. Like busy bees in the spring, workers passed by carrying supplies and tools. Rubiliax had to pause her wandering multiple times just to let them pass her, angling her horns up so they didn't catch onto their crates or scratch them.

Perhaps it would have been better to simply ask one of them where to go, but Rubiliaxx didn't have the heart to bother them when everyone looked so busy. She thought that eventually, she would come across the meeting room. It was a choice she had now come to regret, as it had been some time since she ran into another worker. Was there some sort of event going on?

And so Rbui continued onward in search of something she would recognize in the repeating halls. In the end, the only familiarity she found was that she had passed through this hallway at least twice. Possibly thrice. Rubiliax turned her head this way and that, smacking a horn against the doorway she stood under. Wincing, she reached a hand up to nurse her horn and tried again to assess her location.

No matter which way she looked at it, she was hopelessly lost in the maze of hallways and rooms. She wasn't even sure if this was the right level.

Close to giving up, Rubiliaxx let out a frustrated groan, tail lashing from side to side. "Flying would have been a lot easier..."

That's when her nose picked up something other than grease and oil. It was the delicate aroma of confectionaries and beverages. Rubi perked up, tilting her head back to better judge the direction of the scent. Perhaps her keen senses would do something other than confuse her. Hot on the trail, she followed the scent until she could just barely make out the sound of voices within the hum of engines. She spotted the tip of a feline tail entering through a door, and the scent of sugar and cream heavy in the thrumming air.

Relief washed over her as she realized this was the meeting room. She wasn't entirely sure why snacks were involved, but she was grateful for it. Without them, she doubted she would have found the room in a timely manner. Rubiliaxx shuffled into the room, slinking along the walls so that her horns didn't catch on anyone or anything.

"Hello, everyone," Rubi said once she picked a suitable spot to stand, glancing carefully at the others. Her eyes lingered on the treats for a moment, curious, before flicking to the princess, "I apologize for not arriving sooner. This structure is cramped and terribly confusing. It is...easy to get lost."

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Saran Qacaye
Ashen Knights / Caster
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

There was an outlook on the airship. One that had become desolate after various new sensors were installed to ensure the early detection of obstacles and hostile forces. Technology that the naked eye could no longer keep up with. It had become a relic of the vessel. Maintained only because it was one of the few salvaged parts of the original model. But like so many useless objects, it was given a new purpose. Something worthy of the historical value it held. Indeed, there could certainly be no greater honour than to serve as a perch for one of the more restless Ashen Knights.

Even now, the winged Bestiard could be seen up there in the structure. Arms slightly spread, as if to embrace the domain they were currently travelling through; to slip closer to its reach. Something that most of the others did not understand. For them, just merely being on this vehicle was more than enough proximity.

However, for Saran, it was far from satisfying. The difference between flying himself and being confined to an inorganic machine was too great to simply ignore. It felt strange to hear the air whirring invisible loops, while his wings were not carried by its forces. The lack of flow too stifling. A suffocating inevitability, he was subjected to even in the comfort of his bedroom. Regardless of his appreciation for much-needed privacy, remaining in his chamber for longer than absolutely necessary would always succeed in agitating the Bestiard. Inadvertently, making the crow's nest his replacement in the process.

A silent solution to a problem that Saran would never voice to anyone, least of all Solara.

"Sire, your meeting!" called a voice from below. Sudden and unexpected; it jolted Saran out of his mediation.

Most of the workers had tacitly agreed to leave him alone once he perched, recognising the relief he derived from his temporary solitude. More often than not, he would become grumpy if interrupted too soon. Right now, though, Saran couldn't be happier with their reminding presence.

The Bestiard let himself fall, opening his arms just before impact to dampen the speed and cushion his landing. "I owe you, Patrice." He thanked, hurrying past the engineer. Their shoulders brushed lightly, feathers tickling their bare skin as Saran moved. A gentle touch; his own personal gesture of gratitude.

A mock salute and a chuckle followed. "I'll add another tally."

Orienting himself, Saran made his way to the command bridge. In his haste, he occasionally lost his grip on the floor, sliding a small distance before he could regain his footing. His appendages were simply not made for smooth surfaces like this, especially if he was to leave no claw marks. At least, the polished metal was not as bad as the steps. They had always been his worst enemy. After a short struggle, he finally reached the top. He pushed the door aside and entered, just behind Rubiliaxx and in time to hear the last words being spoken. Saran waved one arm as a greeting, taking in everyone already present before zeroing in on their only Azelthyrian. "Careful there," he grinned at Kyreth, more teasing than actually reprimanding, "almost sounded like you were accusing our Nephilims of being troublemakers."

His eyes moved on, now focusing on another knight. "Speaking of which, how are you, Farris? Heard you were wreaking havoc at the tables again." Their antics were always a joy to witness. Beaming smiles everywhere, despite the workers' growing alcohol debt to the man. Unfortunately, drinking and flying usually didn't end well for Saran, otherwise he would have gladly considered joining them. Perhaps when they were back on solid ground.

Turning around, Saran finally noticed the trays. He perked up visibly. "I'd definitely commit crimes for these." He commented before moving closer to take one baked good. While doing so, he noticed Rubiliaxx's curiosity about the pastries and quickly decided to take two instead of one. Stretching out a wing, he offered her one before biting into his own. He sighed happily. "Your fillings are still the best, Tang-Ruo."

As he devoured the treat, he didn't fail to notice the map spread out in front of them. Miniature mountains and trees mimicked their future destination and place of action. "Hopefully we'll arrive safely." And leave in one piece. Saran didn't want to think of a worse alternative.

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Ashen Knight / Caster
command bridge, skypiercer

Truly resting was an enigma Azrialo, he didn’t exactly do that simply a trait of his species and the long days spent locked away oh so long ago yet here he was in an airship ashen knight. Having to do so for the sake of his own sanity If anything, it was nice to have a proper bed for once even if the luxury of rest had been minimal it was still something the Aerouant appreciated greatly, of course now they Ashen Knights were all gathered in the command bridge of the airship with everyone else. The other Aerouant, miss Rubiliaxx, just arrived.

Azrialo however did appreciate the coffee and tea being brought by Tang-Ruo, giving a small bow. “Aah thank you, Tang, I’d love some coffee at the moment I could certainly use some before we have to deal with this… possible trap” they’d say in a calm voice the air of concern in his voice palatable. frankly, the whole situation they were walking into stunk of an intentional trap of some kind.. having to fight from the inside of the fortress out.

"I will admit from what, been said this all feels rather intentional made so we'd need to attack it in a specific way I have a feeling they may already know exactly what we are going to do and if that is the case it will make the situation all the more difficult for us all" Azrialo would reply with a soft huff.

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Ashen Knights / Vanguard
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

Ah, how pleasant it is to have access to modern conveniences while traveling, even if it comes at the cost of entertainment. After all, despite its luxurious if old facilities, the training hall has little on the thrills of genuine combat. For all of its provisions of pumping blood and well-bled partners, there's always something missing from manufactured environments. Still, Tsunbuyla is talented at nothing if not finding entertainment.

For the past few days, that's been in the engine rooms; old, stuffy, things that they are, just bothersome enough to take the edge off of the passing hours. Despite her lacking experience, there's always a few things that Tsunbuyla can help with, beating jammed doors and malfunctioning equipment into submission numbering among them.

So today, when Tsunbuyla exits her room, it's after a cool shower to counteract hours spent in those deep, boiling rooms, beads of water still rolling down. Still, despite her efforts, there's been a presence, a tension, slowly building underneath her skin.

Six hours left to go.

Knowing that, she enters the command bridge, pausing briefly by the tray of pastries in mild consideration; a testament to her coworker's skill. Tsunbuyla has never been one to think, to hesitate. But right now, she needs something a little stronger.

And so Tsunbuyla passes by, forgoing the treats to settle herself by the very edge of the pathway. She takes a pack of cigarettes out of her pocket and flicks one out, leaving the container tucked between her fourth and fifth fingers. With another fluid motion, a lighter appears and sparks the stick clamped between her lips before it, too, is left to wait in her palm. A silent invitation to share, made more often that not.

Now, the Draculus leans against the rails. Her pale hair dances in the breeze, wicking away moisture to bring a deep, refreshing chill, and her eyes flutter shut as she takes a deep inhale. The sparks under her skin settle, and for the first time since boarding this ship, Tsunbuyla can breathe. And so she does, one puff after the another, smoke conscientiously blown out and over the bridge to be carried away by the billowing winds.

For a while, Tsunbuyla lets the sound of conversation wash over her before her eyes flutter open upon hearing their own resident erudite. Crimson irises peer half-lidded at Azrialo, paired with a light chuckle and a smile that sends bits of smoke drifting out from between sharp teeth. "Seems like a challenge worthy of the source of all knowledge."

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Ashen Knights | Elementalist
command bridge, skypiercer

The moment Aldricor opened the door, he was greeted with silence. The once jovial atmosphere seemingly disturbed by his mere presence. The Nephilim could feel eyes dig into his body like daggers, knowing that the occupants of the room would have no problem doing it with the real thing. He was a Nephilim before he was an Ashen Knight, after all. Despite the whispers that followed his footsteps, he was confident that no one will act. To point a blade on him was the same as pointing a blade to Solara. Still, he wasn’t cruel enough nor was he a masochist to stay somewhere he wasn’t wanted, and he had a meeting to attend.

“Sorry, wrong room.” He smiled.

A beat.

“Well—” the room was still silent.


“Enjoy the rest of your day.” Aldricor closed the door as quickly as he opened it. In an instant, muffled conversation could be heard on the other side.

‘This would've been easier if Solara simply introduced me as a human.’

Aldricor was never good at telling time, but he knew he was already late. He would’ve preferred to be the first one in the meeting room so there were less eyes focused on him when he entered, but it looked like he’ll be one of the last. The Nephilim was still unfamiliar with the layout of the airship. Solara told them to rest, and Aldricor followed. But alas, it was hard to do so when situations like before always happened, so he primarily stayed in his own private chambers.

It took a few twists and turns, a couple more rooms with the same air of awkward silence, before Aldricor finally reached his destination. By what he could hear, at least half of his companions was already inside. He reached out to open the door before stopping. Aldricor has been a part multiple meetings such as this since he joined the ranks of the Ashen Knight, but the topic of the meeting made him hesitate.

It was around a year and a half ago since he joined Solara’s quest, and a couple more since he left Aeslengard behind. Despite it being a long time since, a part of him was still uncomfortable in the idea of facing his own kin. There was also the fact that despite the time, there were still hesitations in working with a Nephilim even within the ranks of the Ashen Knight.

Thus, Aldricor hesitated.

‘But how will the future generations know that a Nephilim fought for them as well?’ Aldricor was speechless.

'She did have a way with words.'

Without a second thought, the Nephilim delivered a swift, resounding slap to his cheeks. ‘What am I doing? Hesitating even before the fight happens.’ With newfound determination, Aldrichor approached the door and opened it with steady hands. Chatter and the smell of freshly baked pastries greeted him.

“Sorry for the wait,” without much of a greeting, Aldricor immediately made his way towards the pastries, “I—well, I got lost for a second.” The Nephilim gave everyone a wave midbite.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to contribute much to the discussion, being a deserter and all. But there should be another person who’s more familiar with the topic.” Aldricor, of course, was talking about the only other Nephilim member of the Ashen Knights.

End of Post
Jacoliene De Gunst
Ashen Knights / Hunter
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

After being deprived of personal space for quite some time, Liene revels in the newly acquired privacy. It may not be much, but her time in this world so far has taught her to be rather grateful for the things that were so graciously given to her. The ebony haired woman breathed a sigh and a yawn in her wake. She stretched her limbs as the familiar tune of the rumbling mechanism enveloped her. Liene has grown tired of exploring the ship and its other compartments. After her time in the giant airship, she has grown weary of familiarizing herself with its surroundings and needed to replenish her energy. But now, she was awake and grumbled softly as she swung her legs off and away from the bed. As she prepared herself and combed her messy hair properly, she couldn’t help but feel the vibrations beneath her bare feet.

Curiosity overcame her, and the cold met her fingertips as she touched the sheet of metal below her. Through this, she could feel every vibration the whole vehicle made. Every buzz, hum and movement of the cogs that allow the entire contraption to fly, she could feel it. The knowledge, however, as to how all it works, she has yet to learn how it works, not like she would bother in the first place. The typical engine song, however, would sometimes be quickly extinguished when a particular group would roar cheerfully. Even from her private quarters, she could feel the ruckus they were making.

As Liene focused her attention on eavesdropping on the boisterous group, a loud knock on her door swiftly broke her concentration. Even the ripples of vibration could be felt with the sheet metal she was feeling, which disoriented her. Feared assassin versus loud knocking, zero and one, she thought to herself playfully. Liene, with her thin nightdress, greeted the person with a calm look. Her bare feet suddenly felt a spike in his heartbeat when she opened the door.

“Y-Your presence is requested at the bridge. Pardon me.” With a slight stutter, he excused himself just as quickly as he came.

She raised an eyebrow curiously at this action and swiftly closed the door behind her. Liene mumbled a quiet profanity, knowing she would need sufficient time to prepare herself and look presentable. While she was with the Bloodguards, her mentor would typically be the one to pick her clothing, and her complete blindness restricts her vision both literally and creatively. It is simply something she has to live with. Over time, she learned how to identify her clothes correctly, and any mistakes she could’ve made could have been hidden under her white coat, which covered most of her body. She slipped on her leather boots, slammed the door behind her and made her way towards the allocated location.

She sighed as she presumed there would be a map involved. From her knowledge, the bridge is where strategies are made and curated, hence the maps. Reading and writing have always been rather unhelpful; she prefers and loves audio whenever people are more vocal to her. Audio helps her connect with people much better, after all. And she dreaded that she might have to ask somebody for help when adequately visualising the map if it was ever used.

Her hand stretched to the walls, and she felt the smooth, sleek metal underneath her fingertips. The flight of stairs that had bruised her shin numerous times was the indication she needed that she was nearing the bridge. As she ascended upwards, she could hear familiar voices beyond the wall. She slightly tilted her face to the side to angle her ears more towards the door. However, as she heard the door creak open, the chatter immediately stopped at an individual's entrance. Liene paused behind the person and waited for them to reveal himself.

“Sorry for the wait.” She waited for Aldricor to close the door behind him before she continued up the stairs. At the moment, her view of them was quite a neutral one. In times like these, hate breeds hate, and if there would be a chance for the Ashen Knights to prevent another Divine Conflict, that hate must stop and embrace peace among them.

She approached the door carefully, and with a push, she introduced herself, “Apologies for my lack of punctuality, everyone. I had some slight trouble buttoning my blouse.” Liene said with a chuckle as she clutched her coat tightly, refusing anyone sight of the blouse she wore underneath it. Even if she could feel the straight fabric and aligned buttons, she felt embarrassed enough to admit her tardiness.

The familiar voices she heard earlier were Kyreth, Tsunbuyla, Tang Ruo, Rubi, Azrialo, Saran, Farris, Heimdal and the familiar finger-tapping from the princess. Liene never fails to distinguish and remember a voice in her life. Aside from her impeccable hearing, she could also determine a person by smell. And right now, the most prominent would be the scent of the Bestiard, Tang Ruo. Out of all the knights in the group, his scent would be the most notable for her nose; maybe it was the beastly musk he was born with, but she could also smell a hint of wildberry on him. Other than Tang Ruo, she also found Farris to be smelling quite funny. There was a certain sharp smell on him that she couldn’t quite pinpoint.

However, the finger-tapping from the princess snapped her to focus and be reminded why she was there in the first place. Despite the carefree air that wafts around the group, an underlying aura of stress and urgency must be attended to. She almost forgot the etiquette lessons she received when she was young. When a royal is present in the room, we must address them before anyone else. So she approached the sound she believed was where the princess was and acknowledged her politely.

Liene then quickly shifted her attention to the sweet scent of the pastries Tang Ruo brought. She breathed in the scent deeply and made a beeline for the sweet goods. “Hey Tang-Ruo, you make the best goods as always. I am thrilled we have you in the group.” With that praise, she smiled, continued to grab one more, and placed herself next to Tsunbuyla. Her reflexes helped her navigate properly, and thanks to her Chaos Root, she put herself adequately next to the Bestiard, who smelled sweat and stopped just before she could bump into the metal table.

Liene's fingertips were greeted with a smooth sensation. Aside from her fingertips, she could also feel a muffled vibration under her feet. Her shoes make it muffled and softer than the rugged and grumbling vibrations she could feel from the airship. It is smoother with a hint of the intensity of it. Liene has felt many heartbeats in her lifetime. Aside from the sweet scent of the pastries, there is also a hint of alcohol that wafts through the air.

So she concluded within herself that somebody had either been drinking, highly stressed, or the attendant from earlier was back, along with his racing heartbeat. Which one is which? Liene couldn't be bothered, and her attention was fixated on the current topic of conversation. “So! Have we come up with a proper plan yet?” Liene secretly hopes there will be a way for them to succeed in this mission without any bloodshed. An individual can only wish.

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Alexander Von Styrmir
Ashen Knights / Elementalist
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

The Altruistic Erudite was finally within their grasp, and the pitter-patter in Alexander’s chest could no longer hide his excitement at the prospect. Those old, dusty tomes in Orichalcos' Royal Library spoke of the Erudite as a curio of the past, something long forgotten and lost to the sands of time, a fleeting illusion of an oasis in the desert. But the Erudite was no fleeting illusion. Alexander found it amusing that the keeper of Paymonia’s greatest mysteries would also be a mystery all on her own. Fate truly has a way with irony.

The scarcity of information on the Erudite would be enough to discourage any scholar not worth their salt. Yet, to the chosen few who persist on the path to enlightenment, a vault of secrets so profound as to shake the foundations of the known world lies at the end of their journey. And the key to this vault? The Erudite herself, Yurisvild Evernight.

“Ow.” It took the slimy tongue of one Orichalcos-bred chameleon to break Alexander out of his spell. A split-second coldness, snapping the blonde-haired gentleman to reality.

The chameleon smacked him again. “Alright, Cell. I understand. Allow me a moment please.”

Crossed legs. A scrunched posture. Eyes red from boring holes on a page. This was Alexander’s current state.



Alexander had forsook them, and all to finish a book, from cover to cover, in a single night. His finger was still stuck on the preamble before its final chapter, which he re-read for clarity.

“Up we go!” Crack. Alexander rose to his feet. “Oops.” The papers on his side had scattered, the unbound pages no longer in chronological order.

Alexander flashed back to his first meeting with Tang-Ruo. Among his brethren in the Ashen Knights, Alexander was particularly quick to strike up relations with the lion Bestiard. After all, the Bestiard was formerly a knight in Exultius' military, and Alexander a Captain. There was common ground between them, and that was plenty to begin to sow the seeds of friendship.

If Tang-Ruo were able to see him now… Ooh. A shiver ran down Alexander’s spine. He could hardly imagine it.

A one-track mind for all things academic meant Alexander tended to neglect his surroundings while he immersed himself in his pursuits. He’d already been admonished once by Tang-Ruo, and the Bestiard had given him lectures on propriety and standards of conduct before. He was right, of course, and Alexander, unable to cobble together an excuse nor put up an objection, promised then and there to change his ways. Alas, old habits die hard. And in Alexander’s case, those habits were alive and well. Hence the countless treatises that were strewn about in his personal chambers, forming crests and troughs akin to waves on the floor.

“Heavens, what have I done?” An exasperated sigh. Worse, there was no time to clean the mess he had made. He would convene with the rest of the Ashen Knights soon.

And so, as a last resort… “This should do.”

…He shoved all of the clutter underneath his bed. A rudimentary trick he’d learned in his childhood, but one that served him well whenever his sister Isidora would check his room.

With that, he departed for the deck of the Skypiercer.


“Greetings, friends.” A pleasantry, from Alexander to the rest of the Ashen Knights that were present.

The smell of fresh pastries and coffee wafted from the trays that Tang-Ruo propped up on his arms. Yes, on his arms, and not with them. The man was as dexterous as he was loud. Once the energizing scent of the coffee crossed his nose, Alexander perked up immediately. He didn’t need caffeine coursing through his veins to rid himself of the dullness and atrophy induced by sleep deprivation. The coffee’s pungent aroma would accomplish that on its own.

A hurricane personified, this one. He’d come to expect as much from the Bestiard. Proactive, reliable, one of the “moodmakers” in the Ashen Knights: Alexander could only render compliments to the lion-man.

His gaze met the lion’s. “I’ll indulge myself in some of these delicacies of yours, if you don’t mind.”

Swipe. Unbeknownst to Alexander, Cell was roosting quietly on his shoulder. The chameleon's invisibility prevented Alexander from realizing it, though not for long. When the male chameleon flicked his tongue forward, he’d dispelled the “cloak” that kept him hidden, and in one swift motion... Gulp. He consumed the wildberry tart already in Alexander’s hands.

Alexander attempted to console himself. Cell must’ve been deathly hungry. Still, the slightest hint of disappointment could be observed on his face.

He took a seat next to Kyreth, an Azelthyrian and a fellow tamer of Vile Beasts. He wondered. Did she also face similar issues? It was a conversation for another time, however. A more pressing matter was laid out before them. Like Solara and Heimdal, Kyreth’s attention — and now Alexander’s — was fixed to a diorama of the surrounding area at the center of their table. “It seems a recipe for a migraine is brewing.” An attempt at levity, which Alexander sometimes deemed necessary in serious situations. He would turn to Solara, eyes glinting steely resolve. “But, rest assured, it’s nothing that a mingling of brilliant minds cannot work out.”

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Farris Meyer Lenore
Ashen Knights / Protector
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

(I was given permission to make a short reply by GM)

Farris couldn't help but sway slightly to the enchanting aromas, losing slight control over the buzzing alcohol threatening to collapse him. All his centuries alive, and the draculus can only count in one hand all those who matched Tang-Ruo's brilliant culinary art.

Turning his body marginally at the request from the cook knight, the pale monk was forced to concentrate all of his years of mental mastery and meditation to maintain a composed state. Though, during this slight moment of recomposure, it seemed another beat him to the mark. Gently taking one of the remaining trays while Kyreth and the 'old' bestiard exchanged quips.
"Age exists in the mind. I've witnessed old crones, their faces and bodies wrinkled like sun-bathed raisins. Yet, lithe as a freshly sprouted reed." he smiled, "And don't fret, Lady Ranolus. You don't look a day past, er, one-hundred!"

Perhaps a misguided attempt at a compliment. In his mind, this seemed like a suitable period of years for prime youthfulness. For an immortal, the notion of maturity lay in a warped valley of perspective. Even in comparison to the eldest among them. Decades felt like long weeks, with years passing in a few blinks of the eyes. Upon hearing Saran's words, the pale monk pivoted with a friendly wink. The winged half-bestiard was, true to their nature, a kindred spirit of freedom. And drink. Over the year together, Farris could think back fondly to many memories beside a kindled fire, sharing embellished tales of yonder and embarking in many humorous antics. Alongside the other gallant members of the knighthood.

Though, to some of their more orderly companion's chagrin.
"Havoc? Me? Preposterous. I was merely..." he said, glancing over at Solara, "Rousing morale! Yes. The crew deserved much-needed reprieve after all their hard work. Perhaps next time, you can help me organize a true night of revelry! Your talent with magic will surely be a great boon with preparation, and I'm sure Tang-Ruo would love to cook under a big raging fire."

He smiled, nudging the orange and black striped knight, "Though, I hope you don't set blaze to another forest."

As Farris let out a hearty laugh, teasing his fellow jolly companions, the draculus silently took a step backwards and lowered the tray in his hand. Down to below his waist. A wordless discerning gesture of respect for the height impaired. Ensuring the tasty offerings were at an easy reach for the small disgruntled azure-horned aerouant, who had just entered the room shortly after. Rubi was far too proud to ask for aid. Not to mention, she did not seem to be in the mood to listen to any of his lengthy titles of endowment. With this subtle act, he did not wish to attract any unessesary acknowledgement either. The potential of catching her wide-eyed expression of temptation was more than enough of a reward.

Farris could barely hold back a smirk.
The pale monk nodded his head at the others entering the doorway, who were more privy to the levity of the situation. Keeping at the edge of the conversation.

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Solara Evernight
Ashen Knights / Vanguard
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

Trained in the ways of a royal princess, Solara was subjected to countless hours of formality and sensibility. Especially from the maids of the castle, who cared perhaps too much about her upbringing, would often teach her to assess the room before creating a formally appropriate response. As a result, her ability to absorb scents and detect lies never left her, despite attempting to lower her guard around her allies. Perhaps a curse or a blessing in its own right, when the (sometimes) solemn Draculus entered the vicinity soaked in alcoholic aroma, she was quick to lose her train of thought and sighed, shooting a somewhat unimpressed glare.

“Time and place, Farris. There will be plenty of time to celebrate once we’ve located and assured the safety of the Erudite.” Stern words left the lips of the crimson-haired princess, yet it was laced with a light tone inspired by fellowship. It was clear as day that Solara had trust in the tipsy monk. Heimdal had noticed this prior, and reacted with a smile that spoke enough about his thoughts on the matter.

Following behind the Draculus intermittently came the rest of her beloved family, each entering with words of their own, most excusing themselves for not being able to attend during the agreed hour. The first of many was Tang-Ruo, his quirks and strengths nothing short of impressive, even according to the Village Chief who scoffed at the might of Godslayer’s strongest knights. His delicacies had followed him onto the bridge, leaving Solara to realize that she had started the day with an empty stomach.

Kyreth was the third to make her presence known, surprising Solara as she revealed herself from behind Tang-Ruo, who must have accidentally towered her during her entrance. Her remarks caused Solara to raise her hand, gesturing to her that it was all right. At present not interested in satisfying her sweet tooth, she delightedly accepted his offer of beverages. “I appreciate your thoughtfulness,” she thanked the Bestiard, “the tea will be enough. I can seldom think clearly when I help myself to sweets. Especially of your quality—you already know I won’t be able to stop after the first bite.”

When the others had made their presence known, some choosing to share dialogues with those already present, Solara quietly allowed them to take a moment to adjust to the situation and stationed herself on the other side of the table, and discreetly asked Heimdal to remove the miniature models placed on the maps. Having heard of Azrialo’s comment about the possibility of the fortress being a trap, she responded appropriately, “It is a thought to consider—when everyone is here. But we have countermeasures in place in case the target proves itself to be a ploy. This airship is more than well equipped to deal with such scenarios.”

Then spoke the other pure-blooded Bestiard, who somehow managed to evade Solara’s attention, presumably because of Solara’s focus returning to the strategies that she had engineered throughout the week. Tsunbuyla’s confidence had lifted her spirits, reminding the princess that even during turmoil, problems were often solved not by following the plan, but rather by improvising when the situation called for it. With a smile, she responded, “Your expertise will be greatly needed for the battles to come. Should the plan shatter, it’s just a matter of doing what we do best. Not that… I—I would prefer we do not resort to that again.”

It was then Aldricor who had arrived, followed by a woman whose vision had made meetings such as these difficult. Taking the limitations into account, Solara had already shared the details of the terrain to the blind maiden in advance alongside Igris, to make certain that the discussion today would go smoothly without hiccups. Welcoming her and Aldricor verbally, she answered the former’s question and responded to the latter’s statement. “Several. Unfortunately somewhat unviable when taking into account other factors with limited information. I imagine it won’t be easy.” Then came the Nephilim’s comment, to which Solara would respond strongly. “Nonsense. Your previous wits and knowledge have helped us countless times. I will not be allowing anyone here to leave without letting their voice be heard on the matter.”

As Heimdal finished reorganizing the pieces near the edges of the table, a warrior of amicable character made their entrance, their reputation further proven with his friendly greetings. “Times have taught me that I cannot rely solely on my strategies.” Solara would then take a brief moment to consume the dandelion tea she had retrieved from the tray earlier. A sigh came after, “The battles of the past were always partially laced with luck. For the first time in over a year, the enemy has proven themselves once again ahead. What really concerns me, however, is the safety of the Erudite. The Ordasterium has persistently marshaled its resources to ensure her silence. A single wrong move from us will cost us dearly.”

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Mintha Lamiaceae
Ashen Knight / Healer
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

Carried on the breeze was a soft, harmonious tune from a usually quiet individual. Upon one of the many observation decks sat a ‘bestiard’ humming into the wind. Her legs hung off the platform, and she leaned against a vertical bar of the railing. The speed they were traveling and the occasional wind gusts at this altitude made it look as if she was kicking her legs back and forth. Her braids were blown about occasionally as well, but the girl didn’t mind. It was relaxing and it kept her mind from wandering to more stressful ideations. The bar her right cheek rested against was cool, and felt good against her warm skin. Although, her relaxation would soon be interrupted by a member of the airship staff. A meeting was being called. Mintha really didn’t want to attend, but she had no choice in the matter. She hoisted herself to her feet, and would walk the halls in the direction of the command room.

She’d been given the room closest to the engines. Which made sleeping difficult and her room a little too warm to be comfortable. While it would help Mintha and her less than warm bloodedness, staying cooped up in her room all day wasn’t a great option. It’s what the reptilian-looking girl would do if at all possible. But if she wanted to stay comfortable. It wasn’t uncommon for the crew or the other knights to find Mintha in some out of the way room, nook or cranny. Often she would be found reading a book or meditating.

The halls rumbled, eating the sound of her footsteps as she made her way from the complete opposite end of the ship to the meeting. The vibrations were the heartbeat of the mechanical and magical beast. It was an impressive feat of engineering, and propaganda. She traced the fingers of her metal gauntlet against the wall. A few hundred years ago, ships like these were the pride of Aeslengard. Paraded around the city and used as a moral boost. Mintha shook her head and her arm dropped to her side.

It was as if everywhere she went, her past followed her. A ghoul that wouldn’t let go. A lead weight always attached to her ankle she was bound to drag with her everywhere she went. As much as Mintha wanted to escape, thought processes, habits and decisions still infiltrated her life even now, left over from years ago. The gauntlet being the last trace of armor she clung to. Slowly but surely she had been shedding it since leaving Aeslengard, but she still felt exposed without the little bit that remained. It was partially the case with her bandages too. Partially because exposing her whole face made her feel uncomfortable. But also because the girl hated her heterochromia. It just drew attention to her, and it’s exactly what the girl didn’t want.

Four small clicks as the metal on her hand met the metal doorknob. It turned and showed that she was one of, if not, the last one to arrive. She said nothing, and simply moved to the far left of the group, where she could be near the table and study the map. Mintha could make out a vague idea of what their task was going to entail from the map alone. But she knew the two who likely called the meeting were the ones trained to make plans. So she would leave this to them.

Mintha, despite her quiet, cold exterior, had been starting to open up to a few of those around her. It happens after such a long, perilous journey with the same people. However, some weeks ago, someone had somehow found out she was a nephilim. She hadn’t spoken a word of it, and hid all the evidence thoroughly in her personal belongings. But somehow, a super sleuth had found out her deepest, most well kept secret. Mintha had immediately built up the walls she’d been lowering over time. She regarded everyone in the room with distrust and suspicion, aside from Solara. That girl had, intentionally or not, given Mintha a purpose once more. Something so massive and earth shaking it might make Mintha feel like she’s done enough good to alleviate her past mistakes.

Mintha wanted to do as much to distance herself from the name and stereotype of the Nephilims. But whomever had spilled her secret had ruined all of that. She felt so frustrated and saddened, she’d been keeping to herself and not speaking to anyone since it happened.

Mintha had only caught the tail end of Solara’s words and would silently wait for a rundown on the situation. She was no tactician, had no details of what this mission would entail, and had nothing to say to anyone else in the room. So Mintha would simply stand and listen, absorbing the words from those around her, arms crossed and a finger tapping her own arm. It was a habit of hers to always be moving. A bouncing leg, a tapping finger, it was hard for her to sit still. Especially in a scenario as up in the air as this one was…

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Alexander Von Styrmir
Ashen Knights / Elementalist
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

Alexander cracked a knuckle, a habit of his in times of deep ponderment. “True indeed.” And one he couldn’t shake either. “The Ordasterium will stop at nothing to see the Erudite dead, or worse.”

An involuntary snicker ejected from his lips. “Makes the mind wonder if our beloved Archbishop wishes to keep long-buried secrets — well — secret,” he spoke in between 'pops,' an obvious sarcasm punctuating 'beloved.'

“Killing the Erudite would certainly go a long way in achieving that.” An understatement, if there was ever a prime example of it.

Unceremoniously, he raised his head to meet the ceiling. This was yet another of his habits, and it too helped him to think. He let Solara’s words simmer in his mind.

The Crown Princess must feel as if the weight of the world is bearing down on her. This thought still lingered in Alexander’s subconscious. After all, it wasn’t long ago that the Prince lost his life, nor was it long ago that Solara was confronted with betrayal from the person she called “father.” To put on a brave face in spite of pain or injury is admirable, but wounds inflicted by grief do not bleed. That is to say, one cannot easily determine the extent of the damage at a glance, as is with all conditions of the heart.

The loss of a loved one was an experience that Alexander had yet to share with Solara. But the burden of responsibility was something he knew all too well. He’d felt the brunt of it during that fateful attack on the township of Platina. Once its ramparts crumbled, and the invaders from Aeslengard had overrun the settlement with Vile Beasts, Alexander, leading the charge against them, saw imaginary scales dangle from his hands. On one end lay the lives that would be inevitably lost in the aftermath, and on the other, the lives that Alexander would be able to save. Amidst the chaos of battle, the very concept of life itself became but a game of numbers and probability. Who can I save? How can I save as many people as I can? Who would I… have to abandon? Even as pleas for help rang in his ears, Alexander did not flinch. Or, so it seemed on the exterior. At the invasion's conclusion, one could find the lone Elementalist sobbing soundlessly in his chambers. Perhaps this was a rite of passage for those who wore the mantle of leadership.

“The makeshift blockades erected by the Ordasterium,” Alexander returned his gaze to the table, his eyes leveled at the map. “We truly cannot penetrate them?” It was a fair point, and one Alexander was sure both Solara and Heimdal had already considered, what with the firepower that certain members of the Ashen Knights were capable of. In particular, Alexander could think of few who could take the combined inferno of Rubiliaxx and Elkeas and live to tell tales of it. That said, the resulting blast would likely cause needless collateral damage and potentially endanger the Erudite. A bad idea, in any case.

Alexander cycled through other options. “If we cannot access the caverns through normal means, surely there are alternative routes that are available to us?” Slender fingers would skim through various geographical landmarks, only to stop at a forested area close to their destination. “Here, perhaps?” The suggestion flew from his mouth without so much as a thought.

Whether or not it stood up to scrutiny…

“Mm… Right, the Vile Beasts…”

…remained to be seen.

The creatures that roamed the Northlands were among the most fearsome in Paymonia, and simply entering their territory unprepared spelled death for even grizzled adventurers. But the Ashen Knights were pressed for time. With the Ordasterium’s advantage, they required a means to turn the tide in their favor. Though it was rather optimistic of Alexander, given the myriad of unknowns, he believed that a well-calculated risk could prove to be the antidote to their predicament.

An expectant expression would soon drift towards Solara and Heimdal.

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Kyreth Ranolus
Ashen Knight / Healer
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

"You truly know how to flatter a woman, Farris." Kyreth responded blithely, taking the compliment in stride with a light chuckle. It was clear that the Draculus was sincere in his words, even if it sounded a bit backhanded to people with short-lived lifespans. It had been comforting to her when she had found out that there were older beings that had joined the Ashen Knights; it gave her the courage to seek out a new way of life, after all. One that had a more solid cause. "And drop the formalities, both you and I know I do not come from a noble house to earn such respect."

The others started to file in and Kyreth gave them a small nod whenever their eyes would meet as greeting. However, her throwaway remark had been heard by their feathery companion so she merely responded with a light chuckle. "You fully know what I meant by it."

Their other Aerouant made his way up and commented about the possibility of it being a trap. Now that was a possibility, and one that could lead to fatal consequences, but Tsunbuyla appeared unbothered. In fact, she appeared more excited than worried about the idea of it. Hah, Kyreth wondered if the Bestiard had been an adventurer too. After all, only someone reckless could feel confident in an uncertain situation. "Still would be best to be careful. I'd rather not spend the next few days making sure you're all not bleeding to death, hm?" Kyreth wouldn't think of how they wouldn't win, but winning unscathed was almost out of the question. Hopefully, this excursion wouldn't be nearly as bloody as she expected it to be.

After all, the Ashen Knights tend to surprise her at the most crucial of moments.

Aldricor and Jacoliene followed soon after. Kyreth's opinion on the Nephilim aside, she appreciated that he had been open about who he was from the get-go, allowing the Azelthyrian to put herself in the more open mindset that Solara employed; a return to a mindset she attempted to visit when she was younger. When Alexander arrived, Kyreth gave him a wave. There were certainly only a few who would be foolish enough to attempt to domesticate them, much less humans who did not share the same privilege as her own race when it came to interactions with the Beasts.

"Here. Tang-Ruo still made it." Kyreth said as she gestured to the tray of pastries she had retrieved from the bestiard earlier to make his life a little easier. "Though I suppose you have to act fast, lest Cell decides to treat himself to the entire tray."

Their leader did have a point. Regrettably, the fight wasn't the only thing they had to worry about.

Alexander voiced out their worst case scenario— and likely the one that would happen the most. Losing the Erudite would mean reverting their progress back to zero and all the years and resources the late prince, and now Lady Solara, had poured into searching for them would be all for naught. They were in a race against time and they were already starting at a massive disadvantage. "Would it not be too dangerous?" She asked, looking over the battle map with a hum. "In the case that we do go through there and the Ordasterium's figures out our move, we'll be fighting a war on both sides."

"Or we might be too exhausted by the time we reach the Erudite. I doubt we'd be able to escape without having to fight a couple of the Ordasterium's Nephilim; and, well, if they're more dangerous than the usual, we'd find ourselves in a bit of a bind, no?" Still, it wasn't like she didn't know where Alexander was coming from. If they could get by this without provoking an all-out stampede, it might tilt the scales in their favor.

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Chen Tang-Ruo
Ashen Knights / Vanguard
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

Well, for all of Saran’s praise, this time around, Tang-Ruo’s work on the pastries was more on the pastry itself, flaky and buttery, rather than the filling which had just come from the jars of preserves that the villagers had given them on their way out. No need to mention the unnecessary though, not as others began to file on in. The Ashen Knights were a diverse bunch, certainly, conflicting races and cultures coming together under a singular banner. They were all haunted by their pasts, some with roots that sank far further into history than others, but they had oddities to them as well, the sorts that made the Bestiard wonder whether they truly were the centuries-old ancients that they claimed to be.

Rubi, for one, was on the latter end of a millennia, and yet he couldn’t tell if it was the senility of age or the absent-mindedness of childhood that made the Aerouant so prone to getting lost. Still, the Bestiard was quick to offer her the opportunity to lighten the plates on his arms, saying, “Aye, it’s a real confusing set-up, isn’t it? Honestly, I’d have liked em to knock down half the walls here if they could. Really open it up for widefolks like us.”

Liene was another friendly face, Tang-Ruo flexing his triceps slightly to shift the pastries into her grasp. She didn’t need that kind of assistance, of course, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t willing to provide it nonetheless. The trails of blood they both left ran parallel to each other, warfare and assassination only separated by numbers and circumstance, and as short-lived mortals, she was one of the Ashen Knights that the Bestiard hoped would find an exit from this lifestyle quickly. She hadn’t renounced her own family, after all, and was still young enough to enjoy life, to express happiness. Better to return to the grave content, rather than trudge on whilst shackled by guilt. That being said… “No need to thank me every time, Liene. Take a third while you’re at it. For good luck.”

A wince.

“And Farris, please. It was the will of the forest to bring forth a wildfire.” Which was only partially true, considering how during that dry summer, they really should’ve cleared out the area around them a bit more before setting up a campfire. Who would’ve known that the branches of the canopy overhead would’ve been set ablaze. “If one were to trace the path of faults, we’ll go back to blaming the first sapling of those woods.”

But as conversations changed from pastries to strategy, Tang-Ruo shifted to the side, moving backwards to give the smaller Knights a better vantage point before settling beside Mintha. He gestured with his trays, motioning for her to partake of beverage and snacks. She had never been a Bestiard in his eyes, and there was no reason for a human to hide such a fact either, so it never came up as much of a surprise for Tang-Ruo when words spread that she was a Nephilim.

Didn’t affect him either way; he had long grown sick of their blood.

“We’ve plenty of Nephilim Blood and more than a handful of Bestiards,” he spoke, looking towards Solara. “If it’s just a matter of drawing Vile Beasts away from our main fighting force, it’ll be easy enough to do so.”

He rolled his shoulders. If such an idea was approved of, there was no doubt in his mind that he would be the one to spearhead that particular suicide mission.

And there was confidence too, that if he did, it would no longer be a suicide mission.

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Saran Qacaye
Ashen Knights / Caster
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

Saran smiled at Farris' words. Even if he didn't quite believe his own praise.

The Bestiard's control of his arts was, to be brutally honest, pathetically poor. Trajectories missed their mark more often than not, while his output knew only two extremes, lacking any finer adjustments. Fortunately for Saran, he had far easier than most casters to target enemies from different angles and thus avoid bombing his own allies. Still, he was embarrassed when his shortcomings thwarted an action. It was something he had tried to improve on. With results rather lackluster than anything. However, giving up was something for cowards and that was something he promised himself to never repeat again.

"Just a clarification," he replied amiably to Kyreth. Followed by a small wink, before he concentrated on the growing number of new arrivals.

For a moment his eyes lingered on Aldricor as he entered, visibly softening. The Nephilim never failed to elicit a gentle response from Saran. Much as he might have been biased by his past, the elementalist's passion and good-heartedness were something to be admired. Their ages were also much closer compared to the centuries he had between their oldest member. A fact that made conversation much easier. Moreover, their dreams seemed to coincide. Forgiveness, they both sought in themselves and in others. Good-natured coincidences that only added up the more Saran got to know him, laying the foundations for a possible friendship.

Nevertheless, Saran remained silent as the others shared their thoughts. He was much more comfortable leaving the planning to their usual strategists. Just because he had the opportunity to give advice didn't mean that his contributions were truly insightful. Saran simply lacked the actual experience that most of his companions had amassed over the years. Still, he appreciated Solara's insistence on including everyone in her meetings, no matter how passive they might remain. It was a reassuring gesture that touched the Bestiard deeply.

As some of the last members arrived, he caught a glimpse of the familiar bandaged figure. Her quiet arrival almost as loud as one of the louder ones. The change in Mintha's demeanour was subtle, but noticeably colder than in recent weeks. A consistent change that argued against a temporary bad mood. Only confirmed, when certain rumours began to circulate among the crew. But as much as he wanted to talk to her to clarify the situation, he never quite found the moment to do so.

She worried him, but for now they had to concentrate on the task at hand. Personal conflicts had to be put aside, now that they were so close to achieving one of their greater goals.

Tang-Ruo's suggestion made Saran perk up. A bold plan that would help a great deal if it succeeded. "There would be enough of us to cover each other," he added, "and the terrain offers enough opportunities to disengage safely if necessary."

Saran looked at Solara. "At best, we could even cut off possible routes to prevent the Ordasterium from surrounding us. There's still a chance that we'll be too exhausted, but I don't think there's anything that could reduce that." They had to live with the risk. As they have done many times before and will continue to do so.

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Jacoliene De Gunst
Ashen Knights / Hunter
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

Liene’s hands were still stuck to the glass; that way, she could feel the vibration of the pieces if they were moved. She was attentively listening to the way the pieces were made. Even though the princess had already informed her of the type of terrain she could expect, Liene knew within herself that she couldn’t be a liability and a hindrance to what they were trying to achieve. As she was lost in her thoughts, Alexander made his entrance. She briefly waved her hand towards Alexander in response to his greeting.

Alexander von Styrmir was a fellow noble, or at least was now that they are part of the Ashen Knights, who are labelled a criminal organisation. He would've made an exceptional baron if it weren’t for the world's current predicament. His family has pristine noble blood that her father would’ve loved for Liene to associate herself with. In the slimmest chance, perhaps he was even among the candidates her father considered for her to marry; she shook the thought as quickly as it came. Choosing a partner is one of the most critical decisions one would make in life. For Liene, being in a relationship with someone she didn't choose was simply intolerable. After all, how can one build a life with someone if they don't have a deep connection with them? To her, relationships and marriage are sacred. Alex is an honourable comrade and a great friend, and she intends to keep it that way.

She took a bite of the third pastry Tang-Ruo had given her earlier. Despite being one of the tallest members of the Knights, she found his gentleness and thoughtfulness quite kind and funny. His assistance earlier didn’t go unnoticed by her; he was one of the people who had aided her numerous times. Initially, their conduct triggered annoyance and frustration within her, and when they only extended kindness towards her, she took their actions as an act of pity and sympathy. Nevertheless, as she progressively spent more time with the group and familiarised herself with them, she gradually shed her initial apprehensions and became much more comfortable in their company.

When she heard the door click open, Liene turned her ear towards the noise and was only greeted by their heels clicking. She could feel a chill in the air, but the familiar tapping of her finger made Liene hyperfocus on deciphering who it may be. Her best guess is that it may be Mintha. How she distanced herself from the group and rhythmically tapped in a particular pattern is clear as day. The secret she has kept for so long revealed itself a few weeks ago.

Liene doesn’t particularly mind having another Nephilim in the group. What bothered her the most was how she hid herself from the group. It reminded her of her life in her parent's residence. It was suffocating, and it felt good when she was finally released from their grasp. She maintained a mask during those times and couldn’t help but wonder if Mintha did the same. Liene couldn’t help but wonder if their relationship was anything but artificial and untrue.

With a shake of her head and the final bite of her pastry, Liene decided to focus her thoughts more on the table. Liene has a habit of waiting for everyone to speak or take action at first, and this scenario was no different. She tilted her ear towards the table; she found herself looking down. To others unaware of her lack of sight, she looked like she was on the verge of slumber. But in reality, she is more alert than ever as she soaks up the ideas and plans of others.

There was a particular fact Liene didn’t like as the conversation moved forward. Their lack of information prevents them from making a cohesive plan. With the limited information they have, they are at a significant disadvantage.

She listened and absorbed everything before finally deciding to speak. Liene felt it was right to offer her services as a spy and a hunter. She was no strategist, but she knew her strengths and believed she could be helpful. She turned her face towards the table; she could feel her hair falling on her face.

“Hmm, it seems like we are lacking some information. I’m willing to scout ahead first and bring back knowledge as much as possible. Hunters, like Igris and I, are built exactly for this.” Liene paused momentarily, carefully thinking about her following words. She expressed her worry with a sigh. “But I’m afraid time will be an important and constricting factor to that idea. If I were to map everything thoroughly, I would need to take my time with it. And I doubt we would have that luxury.” She held her chin thoughtfully with her left hand, keeping her right hand on the glass. She couldn’t help but remember Lady Solara’s last words; she was right. A hasty move could cost them their lives.

Her thoughts soon drifted to Igris, another blind human hunter. She wondered if the boy was okay and if he had found himself lost in this fortress of metal sheets and rumbling pipes. She hoped wherever he was, he was alright. Liene’s heart grew to be relatively softer towards the other hunter. She hadn’t met another person like her with the same disability, and in a way, she sympathised with the group's youngest member. Liene didn’t have the luxury of seeing the world as he had the chance to in his earlier years. So, to be ripped of sight and to be devoid of the beauty the world has to offer is genuinely something tragic.

Liene refused to continue her sombre thoughts as she focused more on the task. “Another pressing matter is what happens if the Erudite doesn’t want anything to do with us and wishes to be non-compliant?” She asked a grim thought to be sure, but if the Erudite refuses the Knights, what then?

One thought remained on everyone’s mind: if this mission failed, the respectable prince's final wish and any progress the Knights had made in hopes of a world of peace would fall into the abyss.

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Farris Meyer Lenore
Ashen Knights / Protector
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

Farris looked down at the battle board before them, listening to the discussions about strategy. By this point, he had laid the platter down to a table on the side.

He no longer had the stomach to enjoy any of it. A darkness boiled in his mind. He tried to retain a passive expression. But his lips bent in a shivering scowl, as the man leaned back in a swirl of memories. The desperation fluttering in the words flowing through the air reminded him of heated war rooms long ago. Back then, it was to deter the Nephilim from attacking the villages in the southern region. After all this time, it was the same. Now, dealing with ghosts of the past. His eyes scanned around the darkness within closed lids, trying to avoid peering into flashing memories of fallen armies. Of the dead scattered in the mud of lost battlefields. Centuries have passed. Yet, the world has not changed one bit.

There seemed to be an important detail that was missing from the conversation. Now, that everyone was present he would speak.
"Haha, why do we insist on going about it the hard way? Scouting? Luring? Did you two become mice?" he says in the lull, smiling at Jacoliene and Tang-Ruo, "Chasing after cheese? When we do not know if a trap hangs above it. Why not let something else spring it, in our place?"

"Instead of one, or the other. Why not both?"
the pale man says, coming closer to the map before them all, "As the Vile Beasts are drawn to Nephilim blood... isn't there plenty within that very fortress? Instead of luring them away, why not use the fact that they are stationary to our advantage? Splitting our forces to be used as a diversion, when we must still deal with the Ordasterium inside might prove to be exactly what they want. Especially when we do not know what our enemy has in store... No doubt, their strongest fighters lay in wait. And I don't think we can avoid a confrontation once we reach the Erudite." his blue eyes lift up towards the horned healer, "Lady -- erm, Kyreth is right. We must conserve our strength for a crucial battle."

The pale monk then opens both palms, laughing as he spun around. "Look at the majesty that surrounds us!" stopping as his head raises, pointed up at the bobbing clouds passing behind the glass windows, "Are we not in the finest vessel ever to grace these skies? This is our greatest asset... so why scurry around in the ground, when we can soar? Albiet not with the same grace as our winged brethren... ahem. What I mean is, being sky-born would make us..."

His jaw tightened, as he struggled with the last words. Farris did not like the portrait of carnage that he had laid foundation for, in this brutal painting. This would spark a tide of bloodshed unlike any other they have seen yet. Of all their past campaigns. But the stakes were never higher either. What will happen otherwise, should the Ordasterium were to succeed would be far worse. At least this way, it was evil against evil. He took a deep breath, drawing in whatever calm left in the air. But all he could smell was blood.

"...The last targets of a raging stampede." Farris says, now finalizing his point by drawing another invisible stroke on the map with his finger. "By flying over here, and here, if we drop a trail of blood towards the fortress, the Vile Beasts will rage and hunt. The ensuing swarm will stir the defenses. I've seen many castles withstand the might of an army. But not even a mountain can withstand the weight of crashing waves."

Stepping back, he tried to hide the disgust gripping his face. Never did Farris imagine that he would suggest such tactics ever again. Of ancient wars fought long ago. However, these people were not interested in peace. Nor redemption. He made that mistake one too many times. "Once... the defenses are sallied, we can better judge our enemies' power. And while they fight against the hordes... We will have options."

He felt a stain in his soul. It would be asking to intiate a massacre. But this was the best shot at preserving their resources, while mitigating two threats at once.
And more importantly, his allies safest from harms way. After all, why have a flying ship if they were not to use it to its fullest capacity?

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Ashen Knights|Archer
command bridge, skypiercer

Elkeas hadn't managed to slip into an unneeded sleep that night. No matter how many times he was near machinery, it gnawed painfully in his ears, making it impossible to descend into a mock rest. Instead, he spent his night lying in his bed, mask over his face. Hours slipped by easily, little more than a blink in his life span, and easy to dissociate out of when needed.

as night became day, a knock was sounded on his door, "there is to be a meeting in the bridge; your presence is requested, sire," spilled out through his door. Elkeas offered no movement or answer as he glared at the door. He despised the fake titles. He despised them all. No make-believe that all was fine would change the blood of his people that soaked the earth. No amount of pretending could change the fact that there would always be an 'us' and 'them' and that he would always be a 'them.'

Elkeas could hear the poor worker shuffle awkwardly on the other side of the door before hesitantly raising their hand and knocking again before they could repeat themself, Elkeas snapped, "I heard you. You're dismissed." They fled quickly once dismissed, and 'silence' returned to his room. He closed his eyes for a little longer, debating if he could just not show. Sadly, that would not end well, so begrudgingly, he began to get ready. Before he exited his room, he made sure to secure the mask lying on his bed to his hip, rubbing it with his thumb somberly one more time before turning back to the task at hand.

as Elkeas exited his room, a face of disgust graced his features as the stench of grease and oil met his nostrils. No amount of fresh air could cover the reek that came from machinery, one of the many reasons Elkeas continued to despise anything to do with it. Without issue, he made his way to the meeting, glaring at any who he noticed on his walk as they scurried out of his ill tempered way.

as expected, it had already started when he arrived at the meeting. He offered a glare at any glances towards him he noticed, sparing that only for his fellow Aerouant and his superiors. Without interrupting the meeting any further, he made his way into the room, standing beside the only person in the room he liked, Rubiliaxx. His tail curled tightly around his leg to hide the happy swishes it tended to do when he saw her, no longer dead but well. His gaze softened on her as he took his place next to her, offering her a small smile in greeting.

his annoyed gaze soon returned, as he turned his focus back to the matter at hand. As he listened, he took one of the arrows out of the quiver at his side, fidgeting with it absent-mindedly. He did not care for 'group projects,' but also understood he had no choice but to work with the group for such missions. As conversations continued, Elkeas busied himself with watching the Nephilim they had in their group, or the one he was aware of: Aldricor. It interested him how they would continue to react to the idea of the slaughter of their people. He understood that most others justified the deaths easily since they were of different races; he found himself wondering if the other could still distinguish in their mind if they still saw them as people, if they ever did.
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Igris Raywood
Ashen Knights / Hunter
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

Wisps of hair fluttered in the wind as Igris leaned against the balcony just a little ways away from the command bridge, making the most of what allotted break time the Knights had before they would have to reconvene. Peering out from the railing, where the sighted would gaze upon the foliage and occasionally spot Vile Beasts poking out from the forest greenery or the caves of jagged mountains, Igris saw floating specks of mana. It was calming, watching them as if he were looking at the lights of an illuminated city from above at midnight. The soft hums from the lower levels of the ship and the gentle breeze brushing against his face were also quite soothing, and Igris considered the open space around him a welcome change of pace. After several nights of being confined to stuffy cabins and rotating sleep shifts every so often, he could finally get some fresh air and have a moment to himself. Unfortunately, that moment would not last for very long; he would have been lulled to sleep by the tranquil ambience if not for the chatter that came from the command bridge.

As Igris silently approached the rendezvous point—using the railing to guide his hand to a nearby wall—the scents of freshly baked breads, powdered sugar, tart berries, and caffeine wafted into the air, although he could still detect the strong scent of the Bestiards among the delicacies delivered to the others. He would not yet admit it, but from a distance he appreciated Tang-Ruo for his sense of responsibility, his willingness to take care of others by doing what he could to maintain their health. If not for Tang-Ruo's culinary expertise, Igris would likely have set the place ablaze, even prior to becoming blind.

It had been a while since he last had something to eat, as he had forgotten for the umpteenth time. However, to risk the hot metalware clattering to the ground and spilling its contents on the floor, he decided not to take the chance. Perhaps once the conversation died down, he would grab a leftover sandwich and a pastry or two that had been left out, given they hadn't been gobbled up by the others.

The chatter grew busier as more members arrived, one by one or two by two, some helping themselves to the goods made this time with the help of Kyreth, who would make her voice known from behind the striped Bestiard.

Each Ashen Knight had their own distinct voice, as did they have their unique set of movements—Saran for example, with his bright yet dulcet tones, contrasted by the sometimes shrill tapping of claws against metal and wood. However, there was one amongst the rest who would often grab Igris’ attention, due not to the timbre, but rather the performance of character.

Whenever Farris spoke, it would take a few seconds for Igris to determine whether or not the man was sober. There were usually some giveaways in the way he carried himself, which grew apparent when wasted, the stench of alcohol never far behind. In this case, although not as obvious as other occasions, he was quite drunk. Igris would roll his eyes if he still had them. On the other hand, he found it impressive how he was able to hold his liquor.

A chill then, if but momentarily, filled the air…. Due to recent events, Igris could only surmise that Mintha had entered the room. He remembered that wary demeanor of hers back when the Ashen Knights had been formed, but he didn't imagine it would come across as coldly as it had since then, if not more so. Perhaps this was a poor way of thinking, but to Igris, whether she was truly a Nephilim or not did not matter to him. Why would it, when all he could see in front of him were indiscriminate vessels of mana, whose faces—save the Princess’s—he had not yet seen? His thoughts about her did not linger for long, however, as his attention would be demanded for the conversation that was to come.

Despite being a Hunter, strategic thinking was not innate to him, and more often than not, he would rely on his instincts to get the job done. This may have been due in part to the fact that he had little to no outside help in unlocking his Chaos Root. However, he believed that strategy facilitated success, and although he would have preferred for the plans to have been written, perhaps in braille or on a map with some sort of geospatial information provided alongside it, he supposed a verbal explanation would have to do. After all, it would require a greater amount of effort to create such material for Liene and himself to keep reference of, and he understood if it was too time-consuming of a task to perform.

Igris remembered wondering about how Liene would overcome her visual limitations as one who was born blind, as opposed to himself, but rather than asking, came to the conclusion that whatever issues arise, she managed to adapt to. After all, it was natural for her to live this way, whereas even after a few years of coming to terms with his visual impairment, it was still difficult at times for him to make do as quickly as she does. It was her unwavering strength and her ways of craft and cunning that inspired him to be like her. After all, they were in the same boat as blind hunters, and he could stand to learn something from her. Hopefully by now he could be considered by her as a friend, or at least an ally.

He remained silent as proposals to confront the Erudite and the Ordasterium were brought to the table, taking each idea into consideration as they would be suggested by another. Just then, Farris would bring forth, in Igris' opinion, “A brilliant idea…”, albeit one he never suspected would come from the Draculus’ very own mouth. “Good to know you still have some fight in you,” he added in an attempt to compliment Farris, his arms crossed and leaning against the wall.

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Ashen Knights / Vanguard
Command Bridge, Skypiercer

Tsunbuyla takes another puff while the remainder of the Ashen Knights file in. Though Jacoliene has taken the position beside her, the wolf remains unconcerned about offending her sharper senses, still allowing the smoke to billow away with the breeze as before. Of course, inclined away from the other now, but that’s the least she could do after the battles they’ve spent together. Expecting Jacoliene to be bothered by the remainder would be too disparaging, given the awareness she’s proven through her contributions as a scout and a combatant.

Hearing the remarks of the princess and Kyreth, though, Tsunbuyla finally pauses her smoking, a low laugh rumbling through her chest as she lets the hand holding her cigarette fall to splay across the rails. “Mm, I’ll give it a try. But in light of the trust I’ve just received, don’t hold my word too highly. We all know my style isn’t one of avoidance,” she says, an understatement coming from one of the knights with the highest injury rates. Then she grins, canines flashing. “Once this is over, I’ll complete a mission without serious injuries as thanks. Until then, I entrust myself to your ministrations.”

It’s been a long time since Tsunbuyla has feared death, whether it be her own or of her allies. Truth be told, she’s not quite sure she ever has. It wasn’t until she was educated in the arts that she learned of grief beyond the nostalgia for a time when the dead used to walk alongside her. Even in her youth, the loss of the criminals raising her accompanied her only in the light of a freedom lost as she walked the moonlit paths of Mu-Ka.

Perhaps one of the knights will be the first to shatter that apathy, or perhaps they, too, will be remembered not in mourning greys but in the vibrancy of shared pastries and late-night watches. In the sweetness that has led a wolf to strive for something more than strength and the thrill of the hunt.

Knowing this, when Tsunbuyla enters the discussion, it’s not to offer a debate over a morality she’s never known. Instead, she tips her head, crimson gaze confident as she considers the possibility of Farris’s suggestion.

“We would have to take care that the horde doesn’t threaten the Erudite as well,” the Draculus says. Her cigarette finally burns out, and she strides to the maps, dropping the butt into the trash can beside the command table before returning to her position by the rails. “While I believe the fact that she’s managed to elude the Ordasterium so far suggests that she would be safe from the initial attack, it is a risk.”

“As for whether she’ll come with us...” Tsunbuyla trails off, something sharp beneath her off-handed shrug. “There’s no one who’ll accept being caged. She may not share the knowledge we desire, but she shouldn’t refuse our offer of escape.”

She pauses, giving the others a moment of consideration before she bluntly addresses the tension within the room. “I can handle both of the plans that have been proposed. If we do not wish to cause a bloodbath, I’ll take part in luring the Vile Beasts. I have the stamina and mana reserves to keep them distracted for however long the infiltration takes. Benefits of being a Bestiard and a Vanguard. Save the more explosive classes for the confrontation with the Ordasterium’s forces.”

Throughout her time as a blade for hire, Tsunbuyla has carried out the orders of various commanders. It’s hardly uncommon for soldiers and leaders alike to avoid the most efficient tactics because of their brutality. It’s hardly uncommon for the inverse, too. Whatever the case may be for the Ashen Knights, she is willing to devote herself to their cause.

No longer shall her swords wander, for on this path, they have found purpose.

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