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Chapter VII: Revelations

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Auri Grashaal the Insatiable

- Drakkar Ambassador to Asgard -


Auri was ready. The huge Drakkar attempted to pluck Dina off of her mischievous feet until they dangled in the air. If this was succesful, Dina would find herself facing Violet in her background with Auri's face firmly in her foreground.

"That's the one thing about some hatchlings," Auri looked Dina in her very small eyes, "most of them see older people as never having been young like them. They think we've been like this all along.

"Dina, just a short while ago you spoke vigorusly about us trusting you. Do you not trust us? Trust Violet when she says these things are dangerous?

"You are less than 30 years alive. I am 320 years past that, and Violet here is an elf. Not to mention the rest of us." He pointed a hooked claw Violet's way. "'We cannot afford to distrust each other,'" he quoted Violet.

He placed Dina on the ground and crossed his arms. Auri took a few steps back to show that if she reached for them again he wouldn't try to stop her.

"Trust, Dina, is a two-way street."

* * *​

Unable to resist, he looked for a small chunk that was nearest to him. Hoping his leather gloves would protect him, Asher waited for a chance to quickly grab one and store it...
(ellipsis mine)

Auri had little reason to suspect Asher of taking one of the taint crystals, and unless chance played some part to the otherwise, Asher's thiefly ways were completely successful against Auri's level of alertness, especially now that he was distracted with Dina.
 

Rekai Leon

New Member
Faron Firestorm

- The Fiery Brawler -


He turned to Faron. 'Let us do as our honourable Commander Rains has suggested. Being far less skilled in flame magics in comparison, mayhap I can impose on your most excellent talents to set about burning these remains?'
Faron nodded, before flicking his fingers towards the dead wolves. They then quickly burst into flames in his sadness as he also wished he could carry what was left from the wolves with him, instead of having to burn them down like that. "Guess that's the best thing we could do," the Drakkar said, sighing a bit before making sure that all the corpses had been reduced to ashes, and moved on.

But soon they were through, and they found themselves suddenly next to a great chasm as the mountainside opened up and stretched around them. They were surrounded by the peaks of the Frostbacks on all sides, plunging down into the abyss whose far bottom could not be distinguished in the fog. Before them, unexpectedly, a bridge. And not a thing of rope and wood swaying in the breeze, but a bridge made of stone. Old, even ancient, but appearing as firm and unyielding as the very rock it was built into.
"Never trust random bridges," Faron's first gut instincts reminded him of what he had learned through both others and his own - needless to say, painful - experience. It looked safe, but it should not be judged by its cover. There was no way to know how long it had been there, or verify its inner structure, so whether or not his team could cross it safely was mainly luck-dependent. Unless… the bridge was enhanced with some kind of protective spell. Faron's ability to manipulate earth could be utilized to manipulate and hardened the structure of that bridge, making it relatively safe to cross. The problem was that, the bridge was really long, and he was not sure if he would be able to do it by himself. Even if he was able to do so, that would drain him a tremendous amount of energy. And what was the point of being able to cross the bridge if he would be too exhausted to deal with the dragons later on?

There, having emerged out of the lowest of the grey clouds and continuing to move just underneath them, was the massive, unmistakable form of a dragon.

The black shape moved fast and straight against the grey backdrop. Within just a few seconds it was already over the chasm. Ten more seconds and it overflew them, disappearing into the sky behind them. It happened fast, and it took the now alert company by surprise. The question that lingered in the dead quiet of the frozen mountainside was obvious.
While the Drakkar's mind was still occupied with finding an efficient way to move his team towards the other side of the chasm, the dragon soared into the sky, which startled Faron a bit. He was grateful that he had not been attacked while being caught off-guard by the bridge, and reminded himself to not forget why he was there and pay more attention to his surroundings next time. He quickly turned his attention towards the maleficent creature and observed its movement carefully, trying to catch as many details about it as possible before it flew away.

As the discussions continued, Faron agreed with the other dragon hunters that luck had been on their side when they had not been attacked by the dragon in such a disadvantageous position. When their attention were turning to the bridge again, he knew that they had to cross the chasm in one way or another quickly, before another surprise came, and when it did, it would most likely be a nasty one.

"Well, I can think of one thing that could be done to ensure our safety while crossing that bridge. If some Earth magic is casted on the bridge to cover up any of its vulnerability that could put us in harm, then it would be relatively safe for us to cross. I can do it, but with one that is so large and long like this, I am not sure if I am able to do it myself. Anyone willing to help or give other suggestions?" Faron said.
 
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Wolf Rawrrr

Wolf-Knight
Date: October 12th (Sunday), year 3321
Location: The Frostback Mountains
Weather: Overcast, gloomy, and cold.


  • Around 12:00 h
    Somewhere in the Frostback Mountains



    Her intentions thwarted unexpectedly by Auri, Dina went quickly from surprised to appearing as if she might get seriously angry. But the flash of anger came and went quickly, even if that's what it was, replaced by something more akin to annoyance. Once her feet were back on solid ground, the young girl looked up at the huge drakkar without so much as a hint of fear in her eyes.

    "Fine speech, Auri," she told him. "But even if you are ten times older than me, about the Taint you know ten times less than I do. Even Violet knows more than you do, and I trust that she thinks these rocks are still dangerous, but I also know that she doesn't know for certain. I'm the only one here with real firsthand knowledge of the Taint, so why am I not trusted then? But you know what? You don't have to trust what the only person who knows what they are talking about says. Be my guest. Spend your time sifting through the ashes! Shoot magic all over the place!"

    Dina threw her hands up in a gesture of frustration, then turned around and marched off, stopping again a few feet away.

    "There's more dark power in me than there was in all these sorry dead beasts while they were still alive. I could probably make these dead crystals dangerous again if I wanted to. Bring the wolves back to life! Who knows, I might be the most dangerous thing on this mountain! But when I tell you that I don't feel any darkness left in these rocks, by all means, choose not to trust me - better yet, accuse me of distrust on top of it. It doesn't make any sense at all, but by all means!"

    Having said her piece, Dina calmed down enough for Violet to try and get a word in.

    "Dina," the elf gently addressed her. "I'm sure that what Auri meant was simply that there's no reason to take any unnecessary risks. It's not about trust, really. I know you trust me, you just think that I'm wrong about the danger. And I trust you when you say otherwise - but even though you know more about this than I do, that doesn't mean you can't still be wrong. Do you see that, at least? I just really don't want a repeat of what happened in Raziel's temple. And for all that you've been through, for all that you've learned, you haven't actually been in direct contact with the Taint since. Think about it. Couldn't something bad happen, still? Why tempt fate?"

    Violet's reasoning seemed to work on Dina. The girl frowned, glancing down at the other scorched carcass that she was now closer to. The glance turned into a stare, and whatever thoughts went through her head, she did not, in the end, choose to pick up another tainted shard. She let out a long sigh that drained the rest of her frustration, and when she looked back at her companions she seemed her usual self again.

    "Fine," she yielded. "I still think that nothing could happen to me, though. At least nothing like last time. Not after what Ilhirel did for me - but you don't have to trust me, of course."

    "I do trust you, Dina," Violet replied. "It's the Sorceress that I'm not so sure about. A while ago, you wouldn't have been so sure, either."

    "What I'm sure of," Dina answered, "Is that the next time someone decides to dangle me in the air like a toy, they will learn a thing or two about the Taint. Now I'm going to climb what's left of this hill," she announced, turning before she was even done speaking. She hadn't forgotten to fix Auri with a mildly upset glare before that, however.

    Violet waited until Dina was out of earshot.

    "I'm sorry," the elf apologized to Auri. "She wouldn't actually go that far, you know? She just gets easily frustrated sometimes and then says whatever comes to her mind. I still wouldn't do that again if I were you, however. We're not supposed to pick up our queen and dangle her in the air. In fact, I do believe it's my job to stop people from doing that, among other things," she grinned, already in a good mood again. "Oh, and I'm not nearly as old as you make me out to be," she added with a grin.
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Auri Grashaal the Insatiable

- Drakkar Ambassador to Asgard -




"What I'm sure of," Dina answered, "Is that the next time someone decides to dangle me in the air like a toy, they will learn a thing or two about the Taint. Now I'm going to climb what's left of this hill," she announced, turning before she was even done speaking. She hadn't forgotten to fix Auri with a mildly upset glare before that, however.
"I'm sorry," the elf apologized to Auri. "She wouldn't actually go that far, you know? She just gets easily frustrated sometimes and then says whatever comes to her mind. I still wouldn't do that again if I were you, however. We're not supposed to pick up our queen and dangle her in the air. In fact, I do believe it's my job to stop people from doing that, among other things," she grinned, already in a good mood again. "Oh, and I'm not nearly as old as you make me out to be," she added with a grin.
"My point, which she completely disregarded, was that all of us are older and more experienced than she and she would be wise to at least listen to us. Dina wants trust? Perhaps friendship? Something besides blind obedience? Then this aged drakkar believes our opinions should mean something to her too. But they don't. Because Dina lacks compassion and empathy. You must see it too - Dina has more in common with The Sorceress than she may know.

"Now that Dina has gone so far to threaten me with Taint when I acted only on behalf of her safety, and even you have seen fit to warn me of such future actions, I am of a mind to let Dina walk off whatever cliff she will.

"Understand, good-hearted Violet, even if Dina does not - I am nearing the end of my long life. I refuse to spend what little time I have left on Asgard as some obsequious babysitter to a close-minded, spoiled creature less than one-tenth my own age. It is not my way nor is it the way of the drakkar. Respect matters. Except by the heart of the team - by which I mean Maggie - I am no prized friend here; I am but a gray audience upon which heavy expectations have been laid. Expectations I cannot hope to meet." He glanced at Dina and shrugged then grinned at Violet.
 

ParrotParfait

A White Budgerigar Chillin'
Carn Barley

- The Iron Wall -


Leaving the crystals alone looked best despite Carn disliking the idea. As he made another attempt at a solution, the young queen made a motion right before Auri snatching her up. Carn could have smirked at that moment. The sight of Auri dangling the young queen like a newborn puppy stirred some memories of when he dangled his siblings. However, with the atmosphere too dour and Carn too worried, his face remained stiff, leaving him to witness Auri’s reproof of the queen's behaviour. And there was a small satisfaction in Carn when his senior talked sense into the queen. However, despite Auri’s wise words, the queen was unmoved, no, livid, before her countenance softened to a less angry emotion. By the time Auri had set her down, she was already rolling out her retorts.

Carn should have been afraid when the young woman with ungodly powers became angry, but he didn’t. Whether it be his drakkar instincts picking up on desperation, Dina seeming more like a person, or an experience reminding him of some rowdy siblings, he did not know. As the young queen continued to vent her emotions, Carn lazily crossed his arm over the other, a habit of his when dealing with stubborn siblings.

When the queen finally finished with her speech and flew off in a rage, Carn let out a small breath of relief. He was content that he’d no longer had to bear with a brat’s incessant rantings when a small thought, nothing more than a whisper, called from the back of his head. He ignored it. In response, the thought pushed itself forward. No, he snapped, not my responsibility. His mind became quiet, but he felt it poised with its arms crossed, ever silent and waiting. When those unbearable moments had passed, he asserted No- and then he felt its disapproving gaze. It was expecting more from his promise. How could mere inaction satisfy it? Carn forcibly pushed his breath through his nostrils and remained still for a moment as if to brace himself.

“I’m talking with Dina,” Carn announced shortly Violet had finished with her age. Then, with a sudden motion, he made large steps over the snow towards Dina, muttering verses on how one should treat others mixed in with the phrase “Maker, and why am I doing this?” With a stride like his, little time passed before Carn was only paces behind Dina. What he would say, who knows. He only knew that he had a job and that it needed to be done.
 

Wolf Rawrrr

Wolf-Knight
Date: October 12th (Sunday), year 3321
Location: The Frostback Mountains
Weather: Overcast, gloomy, and cold, with even colder gusts of wind.


  • Around 12:00 h
    Somewhere in the Frostback Mountains



    Although with steps tiny in comparison to Carn's, Dina walked uphill with quite some determination, and had made it almost to the top when Carn's heavy footfalls were heard scraping along the frozen rock closely behind. The girl threw a quick glance behind her and, upon seeing who it was, let out an exasperated breath.

    "Yes?" she asked without stopping. Her head was covered by the hood of her fur coat once again, in defense against the cold wind that was starting to sweep the mountainside again.

    *** *** ***​

    A little ways down the hill, Violet was looking apologetically at Auri, but also Maggie.

    "I'm sorry," she said. "As I said, she is not usually like this. I mean, she gets stubborn and such, but not like this. She certainly doesn't threaten people - and I don't believe that she really meant what she said. People will say things when they're upset, you know? Whatever they think will make them feel better in that moment. You two never met before yesterday, and even Maggie has only known her for but a few days, but I do hope you'll believe me when I tell you, as someone who has known Dina for a long time, that this isn't her typical behavior. I'll speak with her," she explained, watching as Carn strode ahead to catch up with the girl.

    "I'm worried about her. I don't think that she is fully aware of the effect that this... infection has had on her. Even if it's been contained, even if it doesn't spread further and cause physical harm, I can't even begin to imagine the psychological effect that it's had. Not so long ago, she was infused with the power of Nature, as the Spectral Council saw fit to do. Then she was cursed with the Taint. Now these two conflicting forces clash inside her, the power of both at her fingertips, yet both trying to influence her at the same time as well. I don't know that there's ever been a person in her exact situation. It would mess anyone up."

    "And on top of that," Violet continued as she put away her dagger and rechecked her gear, "She spent two full days with the Sorceress. And not chained and tortured away in some dungeon, as I feared all along, but in her close company, treated like some kind of protege. I still don't know what to make of that. Perhaps that was what she wanted her for, why she abducted her - to convert her to her cause? Did it have anything to do with the Taint itself? Or her status as one of the Chosen? Or perhaps simply because she is a Tenárus?" She closed her eyes and took a long breath to calm down.

    "The last time that the Sorceress took such an interest in someone, my people lost their princess," she declared, glancing over at Asher but not mentioning the fact that the self-proclaimed master thief assassinated said princess not two days ago. "I don't know what the Sorceress did to Niara, but she's long ago forsaken her people in favor of her. I do not wish that to be Dina's fate as well - not as her friend, or her subject. Before the Chosen, Dina was alone in the world. She had me, and then us, and now she has the Resistance - but if these things fail her, or push her away, she will surely be driven right into Ilhirel's hands. That's what I'm afraid of the most," she said, wearing a grave expression on her face. "So please, do not judge her entirely based on this one thing, on these few words spoken hastily on the side of a frozen mountain. Give her a chance, whether you think she deserves it or not."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Auri Grashaal the Insatiable

- Drakkar Ambassador to Asgard -


Auri witnessed Dina's stomp-off with good-natured Carn having to chase her uphill through the snow. He sighed and shook his head. Inwardly, the vision of the two of them now had said it all. This, apparently, was what proud, haughty Dina expected of the whole party - absolute, obsequious servitude - mission be damned.

"You are a true friend to Dina," Auri replied calmly to Violet without taking his eyes off of Dina and Carn, "but I wonder if you are not enabling her? The one who should be apologizing is Dina, not you, and no other. Just as much if I had wronged you and Maggie came to my defense - I am responsible for my actions. No one else.

"It is not my life's responsibility to bow and scrape, please and satisfy one whom, as you have accurately put it, I have known for only a matter of days. That goes both ways too - Dina has not known me for any longer, has she?

"Put yourself in an old drakkar's place for a heartbeat or two. Do you or she expect that I just blindly throw what remains of my long life and aged limbs into harm's way for her? Perhaps upon command?" Auri mock-flailed for a moment. "'Ohh, my Queen! Allow me to die for you!' All this for a person who demands trust and respect purely out of station instead of making the slightest attempt at earning it?

"What is one to think? I try to help her against a threat even you alerted her against, and she threatens me with Taint while you throw in a warning to me against any further attempts at helping her not kill herself? And she meant it in the moment. You both meant it and still do. I feel if say, right now, we both saw Dina blindly in her rage, heading stepping off of a cliffside to fall down into a snowy doom, that if I tried to grab her again from danger, you have both told me I can expect to suffer your wraths for my risks and efforts. To which I ask the universe, to where has good sense fled? Where must I go to find it again?

Dragon-headed cane in hand, Auri continued along at his own pace, but he continued on instead of saying his farewells here and now to the Chosen and going back to the village and eventually to the fine, if temporary, comforts of Alicante. "No, I feel Dina will not apologize or follow the road toward friendship. Violet, may your chat with Dina go better than Carn's good-hearted attempts and mine, because it looks to me," he pointed towards Dina's childish antics as Carn had to chase after her like some apologetic lover in a bad stage-play, "that my fellow drakkar is not going to get any farther with Dina than any of the rest of us."
 

ParrotParfait

A White Budgerigar Chillin'
Carn Barley

- The Iron Wall -


Tell him off, ignore him completely, not gasp in shock at the sight of him, Carn was expecting something angrier. Of course, though, she hadn’t been expecting him to be here. Carn hadn’t been expecting himself to be here, and yet his conscience placed him there. He scratched the back of his neck, sighed, and then asked his question.

“What can I do to make you happy?” Carn asked, in a gratey tone of voice. A few years have passed since he’s used that question. Probably why it sounded raspy, or that and the fact he’s using it on a stranger, not a sibling. He often gave this offer to obstinate siblings on the condition that they’d finish their chores, and considering Carn saw Dina as being a little brat, he’d give this offer on the condition that she’d cooperate through the whole mission. He pressed the bridge of his snout in the embarrasment that he's actually doing this before placing his hand down.
 
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Wolf Rawrrr

Wolf-Knight
Date: October 12th (Sunday), year 3321
Location: The Frostback Mountains
Weather: Overcast, gloomy, and cold, with even colder gusts of wind.


  • Around 12:00 h
    Somewhere in the Frostback Mountains



    Auri's questions left Violet arching her brow. She didn't seem to know quite how to respond at first. "Auri, I really think that you are making this out to be far worse than it is. I've known Dina for years. I think I have a good understanding of what she's like and what she means and what she doesn't when she speaks - better than anyone else here. But if I still can't convince you, then you are free to think what you will, of course. As for the things you mentioned, of course you are not expected anything of the sort. You are a foreign ambassador, or perhaps just a member of the Chosen now if you so choose, but in either case loyalty and service towards the throne of Asgard are not things that are expected of you."

    She stopped short of following in Auri's footsteps and took a deep breath, clearly intending to hang back for now. "What is expected is that all of us will be able to work together and complete this mission. That's all that matters. We can settle differences and opinions later."

    *** *** ***​

    Dina paused and turned around then, and Carn could see the look of awkward surprise on her face. Whatever she'd been expecting him to say, it clearly wasn't that. "What an odd thing to ask," she said with a thoughtful expression and an entertained smile beneath, then turned and resumed climbing. The top of the hill was within reach. When she got there, she remained standing with her back towards Carn.

    On the other side, the mountain simply continued rising, sharply, too steep to scale without special equipment. Fortunately, the path continued in a straight fashion from here, wide and level, between the drop on their left and the even higher cliffs towering above to their right. It would be easy for a while, it seemed, but with no cover to shield them from the cold eastern wind.

    "You wish to make me happy?" she turned to him with an innocent smile. "I thought you didn't like me."
 

ParrotParfait

A White Budgerigar Chillin'
Carn Barley

- The Iron Wall -


“I still don’t,” He shot bluntly, narrowing his eyes down at Dina. “but I’m stuck with you for this mission. So, in exchange for a boon of mine, I want you to act more like an adult and listen more to your superiors.” He lifted a hand towards the rest of the group, gesturing individually to Auri, Maggie, skipping over Asher, Violet, and Laurolf. Upon placing his arm down, Carn turned back to Dina with a cold gaze. “They have been here longer than the both of us, and I’m pretty sure they also have a keener sense for danger, taint or not.”

* Sorry Jack ;')
 

Wolf Rawrrr

Wolf-Knight
Dina's smile quickly disappeared. She stared Carn down (or up, as it were) with a tired, annoyed gaze as he spoke.

"Really?" she said when he was done, then turned sideways, and her next words did not seem to be meant for the drakkar. She did not even look at him. "Of course. What else?" Pausing for a while, she later added: "I don't care," and simultaneously turned fully away and kept on marching down the frozen path. She seemed disappointed, dejected even. She wrapped her arms tightly around herself and continued on like that, against the wind, not checking how far the others were behind her.
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter



Maggie could only look from one to the other of the group as they spoke, snapped, stamped off, and spoke again. Everyone prated about "needing to get along" but it seemed that what some meant by that was that everyone else needed to get along with them. She turned away for a moment, closing her eyes and offering up a brief prayer that they managed to stay in one group long enough to accomplish their actual mission.

..."now she has the Resistance - but if these things fail her, or push her away, she will surely be driven right into Ilhirel's hands. That's what I'm afraid of the most," she said, wearing a grave expression on her face.
"And if she pushes us away?" Maggie asked under her breath. She couldn't keep a hint of bitterness out of her voice, but she could at least manage to stay quiet enough that it was unlikely anyone who wasn't standing right next to her would hear. She remained facing away from the group, trying to get herself back under control. It was so frustrating to deal with people who didn't want to listen to each other. It was at times like this that she really felt her young age; for all her training, there were times when she just wanted to knock heads together for lack of anything better, and that would never work.

She stopped short of following in Auri's footsteps and took a deep breath, clearly intending to hang back for now. "What is expected is that all of us will be able to work together and complete this mission. That's all that matters. We can settle differences and opinions later."
Maggie shook her head as she moved up to walk next to Auri. "All of us need to be trying to work together," she replied pointedly. She stopped, realizing that she was doing just the same as everyone else, and tried to make her next sentence gentler. "Poking and prodding, sniping and scolding, that's a good way to divide. If Dina can't learn that out here in the freezing north, that bodes very ill for her success as a queen." She sighed. "And yes, I am worried about her. You just ran through the whole list of reasons why she isn't acting like herself -- but don't you see, that's what makes her hard to predict even for you. And I am very worried about what long-term effects her time with the Sorceress will have. I had only a few minutes' conversation with her, and it was disconcerting how likeable she can make herself. She appears young and attractive, as well, which adds to the effect. Even without any magical influence, what sort of influence could her sheer personality have? If I act like I don't trust Dina, it's because I don't trust how she is now -- which is very different from what she was when I met her in Dunn. She's gone from being afraid of the Taint to believing she knows everything about it; from knowing the Sorceress is her enemy to trusting that the magic she did use on her was completely benign!" Maggie shook her head again. She'd said far more than she'd intended to, and wondered if even Violet would understand. When she spoke once more, all the frustration had left her voice, replaced by weariness. "I just hope this trip is over soon, before we snipe each other too far to finish it."
 
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ParrotParfait

A White Budgerigar Chillin'
Carn Barley

- The Iron Wall -


Carn was taken slightly aback when Dina gave her annoyed remark. But what could he have expected? With an apparent adult, making such an offer had all the likelihood of shooting the moon from the sky. Sadly, this gambit was his best one he could think of, and it failed, leaving him with nothing else to say as Dina turned away, expressed her disappointment, and began walking away.

In those moments, Carn was ambivalent over what to do next. He wanted to call it “good enough” and return, but the nagging feeling from earlier still pestered him. Perhaps he made the situation worse than it was? He shook his head. She’s the one causing the friction. She didn’t even need to be here, and why chase after the wind when it refuses to be caught? He sighed before turning around but did not move beyond that. A quietness settled, only broken up by the crunching of footsteps and the whistling of the wind. Moments of calm passed, and then one more idea passed by. At this new development, Carn pressed the bridge of his snout before turning back around. His pace was quick, zooming right past Dina before Carn stood in her way.

“We need to talk to each other,” Carn calmly demanded with arms crossed, “because if I want this mission to go well, I need to know why you’re like this, and you need to know why I’m like this.” He put on a slightly angrier face, his pointed teeth showing at the ends of his mouth before resting his face to his usual neutral state.
 

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