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Chapter VII: Revelations

"But of course I trust my queen."
To throw me in jail once we are free of the sorceress.

"Any thief such as myself swears their loyalty to the true ruling royalty,"
We'd be fools not to, makes stealing from them easier,

"Regardless of the current predicament your highness is in right now."

If the sorceress wasn't deserving of death as much as she was, my guild would have probably been the same despite whose head is adorned.

Asher said his well versed lines and lies typically used to placate nobles. Though well versed, he could hardly hide the sneer in his words, as he thought the question ridiculous given that he already stated his doubts before. Also because the ascent was draining him of more than just his stamina.

Dina's words reminded him of the way some of his less sneakier colleagues would racketeer business owners: with kind words, a pat on the shoulder, and a vile smile.
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter



"You speak as one who has lived for much longer than you have," she told Maggie. "Travel will do that to you. But you haven't traveled the north, have you?"
Maggie shook her head. "Not this far north. It's very... imposing, isn't it?" She gestured at the frozen heights. "Pretty, but intimidating. I'm glad I'm with friends and not by myself, aren't you?"

Carn drastically picked up his pace and walked past the front, placing a hand on his chest where a hole could be.
"Something's amiss between those two," Violet said to Maggie and Auri, interrupting the conversation they'd been having.
The priestess nodded, watching Carn with clear concern. She glanced back, but Dina had started talking to Asher instead. "Excuse me," she said to Violet and Auri, and hurried to catch up with Carn, kicking up snow in her wake as she tried to make her small steps equal his larger ones.

"Carn?" she began, a little out of breath. "What's wrong?" Maggie hoped it was something that could be fixed. They needed to keep their unity on a mission like this, and if there was a problem between Dina and Carn, it needed to be resolved before it went so wrong it couldn't be got over.
 

ParrotParfait

A White Budgerigar Chillin'
Carn Barley

- The Iron Wall -


Carn hadn’t actually noticed he’d placed a hand on his chest. As such, he wouldn’t have noticed lowering it nor have seen the woman scurrying towards him. Only when she caught up and spoke did he notice Maggie. His pace, though still quite brisk, slackened.

"What's wrong?" Maggie hoped it was something that could be fixed.
Maggie asked. At her question, Carn gave a snort. Plenty of things... with Dina. That was his desired response, but to say it in front of Maggie? One who is both a person he respected and Dina’s friend?

“Nothing,” he grumbled. Not much of a response, but it was all he could muster. In other words, he didn’t want to talk, at least not with current circumstances. Too irritated, too many spectators, and a dozen other factors lead him to the choice of silence over discussion. Not one of his more mature judgements considering he was creating unnecessary drama and knew it. The fact just made him feel guilty and more irritated and-

Carn’s mind continued on its discourse, causing him to forget Maggie was still walking right beside him.
 

Andei

New Member
Ingvar Sindram
- Seeker of the Maker -​


The skirmish was over quickly - a testament to the skill and experience of the group. However, the tension brought by the unexpected encounter was less eager to dissipate. Varys broke the silence first, and the hunters started to lower their equipment, but their breath was still ragged, eyes accusingly swift, senses uncomfortably sharp. The unease in their actions spoke of a silent assumption that the sudden attack was nature's brutal reminder that they remain acutely aware to the unpalatable truth - they were still very much in hostile territory, and it was very much looking forward to killing them.

Ingvar took a series of slow, unhurried breaths with a focused regulation of easing air in and out of his mouth and nostrils. In and out. Then eyes open.

The dwarf knelt down to examine one of the dead wolves. Attacks from beasts were far from unusual here in the mountains. They were hardy creatures, they had to be to survive here. But there had been something beyond just natural hardiness with the wolves they had just put down. He did not doubt that there were others in the company who had noticed. These animals had been more than rabid or starved - they had been malicious.

Arrow to the shoulder, clearly penetrated but registered neither pain nor physical impairment. With the temperature, flames should be uncommon, but there were no signs of alarm at the sight of Faron's fire spell. That's another thing, Faron is a Drakkar - they're both an unusual sight in the mountains and there aren't many creatures here that size - at least none that wolves would encounter on a regular basis. And their growling is unnaturally low, even for the larger wolves of this region. But most worrying... is this.

His gauntleted fingers carefully, almost gently sifted through the rough fur of the dead wolf. Tracing the tell-tale shards of dark glass, he pulled apart the hairs until he could clearly see the join between the crystal and the actual skin. His eyes widened as he noted the way in which the crystal seemed fused together with flesh, almost as if it was alive and growing out of the skin itself. Taking the wolf's eyelids with a thumb and forefinger, he used his other hand to block and unblock the sunlight falling on it.

The way the light catches is not consistent with the glow of the crystal's facets, he observed. Same can be confirmed with the purple glow in their eyes. One can conclude that the crystal itself is the origin of the luminescence.

Pulling at its mouth so that its fangs were bared, Ingvar scratched at one of the revealed incisors, before taking out his knife to wrench it out. Holding it up to the light, he noted the same purple glow. Not only the flesh... could it be that it goes down even to the bone?

He brought his attention back to the crystals. They still had that same unsettling purple glow, quite unlike any he had seen before. These were not like the cheap illumined gemstones sold as trinkets on the streets of Alicante, but closer to some of the ancient artefacts he had encountered during his time as an archivist - devices involving powerful crystals that could hold immense magical energy in raw, volatile form. Yet even here was a difference. The neutral purity one would sense from those sources was not what was present here. There was a kind of wilful malevolence in the violet undulation of the crystals' light, as if it was alive and aching to run rampant. All of a sudden, Ingvar had to question whether the real beast was the wolf or the crystals embedded in it.

'Everyone - stay away from the wolves for now,' he called out to the rest of the company. 'There is something... not quite right. Faron! Areon!'

He beckoned to the two magicians in their company to join him in his autopsy. 'These crystals are quite unlike anything I've seen before, but I think they might be responsible for the unusual behaviour of these animals. Look at the way they're joined with the flesh here. It's almost like... it is a living part of them. I would like to try to extract one for a closer look. What do you think, my learned friends?'
 

Wolf Rawrrr

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


  • Around 11:00 h
    Somewhere in the Frostback Mountains



    Dina fixed Asher with a firm eye, looking ever more serious as he spoke. There was almost a tension building up between them, reaching its peak during the silence that came after. Then the girl burst out laughing, loud enough to draw everyone's attention. When she calmed down and spoke, her voice was deliberately too quiet to be overheard, at least by Carn and Maggie.

    "I jest, of course. You do realize that? I'm not sure that our drakkar friend did; I fear he's taken me far too seriously," she told him. "I don't really feel like a queen. I have lived for twenty years as an ordinary person - one night's worth of revelations and ceremony isn't enough to change that. What I care most about is our fellowship. This quest we're on. There may be greater responsibilities for me down the road, but for the time being, I think I can afford to remain simply Dina," she grinned.

    Ahead, Violet still kept pace alongside Auri. "We cannot afford to distrust each other," she said to him, or perhaps to anyone who could hear it. "Not if we are to get through this."
 

Dannigan

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

- Drakkar Ambassador to Asgard -


Auri was solidly with Carn, Asher, and Maggie on this one. Trust each other? Really? "Do you trust your queen?" Seriously? Auri could expect this kind of childish behavior out of the Sorceress, but Dina hardly knew the people she was addressing. And here Dina was going around promoting the idea of trusting of the Sorceress (the biggest threat to Asgard there ever was!) while simultaneously trying to get statements of loyalty out of people she just met! Clearly, the Sorceress had some incredible hold over Dina, for Dina was now acting as an apprentice to a master who was simply not present at the moment. Not terribly long ago, Dina had stated she simply wanted to be her nineteen-year-old self. Where had that Dina gone? It seemed she had taken a long hike elsewhere to be replaced by this.

And now here was Violet parroting Dina!

It was all Auri could do not slap his own forehead in confusion and irritation. Then he remembered - people could not use words against you that never came out of your mouth, so Auri continued to keep quiet and mosey onward lest he stuck in poor Asher's position. Auri was willing to bet his favorite dragon-headed cane Asher was saying what he thought Dina wanted to hear out of self-preservation, and who could blame the master of rogues and shadow?

With Dina's parade into the unknowable, Auri wished he too could disappear into shadow and take Maggie and Carn with him, at least for awhile until sanity returned like a cleansing dawn upon them all. His cheer for this adventure diminishing quickly, Auri kept his ears open and his feet moving.
 

Rekai Leon

New Member
Faron Firestorm

- The Fiery Brawler -


Faron was relieved that the battle had finally ended with no casualties or serious injuries. Although it was as quick as he had initially anticipated, the Drakkar stayed alerted, just in case of any hidden surprise. “Never better!” he replied to Varys cheerfully with his left thumb up.

He then quickly approached Ingvar when being called over, and heard him throughly. His theory did make sense, but Faron was unsure if it would be a good idea to carry those crystals with them. “Well, if we carry the crystals with us, there is a chance that we would discover their sources and eliminate their potential risks. However, the thing I am concern about is that we have no appropriate means to store the crystals and make sure that we are safe from them. They might be poisonous or have something worse inside that will harm us in ways that are beyond our imagination. So, if we are going to take them, we must first know how to keep them. Any suggestions?” Faron explained.
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter



“Nothing,” he grumbled. Not much of a response, but it was all he could muster.
Maggie had been the recipient of too many similar responses to either believe him, or be offended by his tone. She simply nodded and patted his arm, though between her mittens and his own cold-weather gear, it probably felt like being tapped with a feather. "If you want to talk later, I'm here," she said quietly. "And remember, I'm a priestess, so anything you tell me in confidence is sacred. No one else will know." It didn't occur to her to add that if what he told her was a problem she could fix, she'd do her best to fix it without betraying his confidence.

She wouldn't scold like Violet had, but it was true that they couldn't have any mistrust among them. Actual trust would be harder to come by, particularly if Dina kept poking people about it instead of letting it grow naturally, but for the time being, Maggie would settle for an absence of suspicion.

The priestess had her own mixed emotions regarding the Sorceress, and had ever since their chat in the palace, but she kept those to herself. She wasn't sure what to make of the "friendly" side of the woman (if she was even human after all) who had chosen to conquer all of Asgard with demons. The former might just be the Sorceress wanting something from Maggie, though she couldn't imagine what. The latter was established fact, and neither conquest nor demons were things Maggie could equate with friendship. Well, time would tell, and they had a while yet to sort out things, both inside and between each other.

For now, Maggie just kept pace with Carn at the front of the group, and kept her eyes and ears open for whatever came next.
 

Andei

New Member
Ingvar Sindram
- Seeker of the Maker -​


“Well, if we carry the crystals with us, there is a chance that we would discover their sources and eliminate their potential risks. However, the thing I am concern about is that we have no appropriate means to store the crystals and make sure that we are safe from them. They might be poisonous or have something worse inside that will harm us in ways that are beyond our imagination. So, if we are going to take them, we must first know how to keep them. Any suggestions?” Faron explained.
Holding up the tooth he had extracted, he was about to suggest taking a sliver of the wolf fang when Areon spoke up.

"I would not encourage handling the crystals. This is dark magic. Perhaps darker than anything we've known. Can you not feel something profoundly wrong about it? Taking a sample could well be a mistake... This thing is doubtless what drove these animals mad."
Ingvar watched the mage as he walked away, feeling no small pang of shame at allowing his curiosity to get the better of his judgment. Did not the teachings of the Creator command the believer to flee from evil lest they fall prey to its temptations? There would be no need to flee if it were so easy to resist its subtle and chameleonic attractions - it would take any form, play any weakness, work any fault in one's heart to worm its way in and take hold. Even with his years of experience and discipline in following the footsteps of his Creator, he was reminded that he was but as a young child in learning how to keep walking on the bright but narrow path that had been set before him.

'Areon is right,' he conceded as he placed the fang amidst the purple-encrusted fur of the wolf carcass. 'I thank him for keeping me from poor judgment. How easily wisdom slips away from youthful fingers and grizzled old palms alike in the face of selfish desires, hm!'

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?'

Looking up at the mountain face, he thought to himself: Though it still stands... what hidden malevolence festers among the snow that could bring such an aberration about?
 

ParrotParfait

A White Budgerigar Chillin'
Carn Barley

- The Iron Wall -


A soft tap on his arm, that was all it was, a soft tap. It was like how leaves would graze atop his head or like how the wind would brush against his scales. Usually, those were beneath one’s notice but when felt at a time when one was sensitive.

"If you want to talk later, I'm here," she said quietly. "And remember, I'm a priestess, so anything you tell me in confidence is sacred. No one else will know."

Everything, he heard it all, from the tone of her voice to the gentleness of her words. A great appreciation arose from within him for her offer had value, and a value that Carn did not take lightly. Confliction and resentment still broiled within him, but Maggie’s remark served to lessen that burden. However, a remark is just a remark and is hardly a substitute for an honest outpouring of the heart. As such, Carn gave his reply.

“I’ll take up your offer,” Carn sighed, the stiffness loosening from his posture. “Later tonight, let’s talk.” Now cleared of some anger, Carn’s mind could move onto strategizing battles, rehearsing techniques, and reminiscing about home.
 
Back in Kossar every now and then some merchant or miner would attain riches through sheer twist of fate, earning them and their family a new status in society. Young or new nobles, typically much more creative with their spending habits, were perfect targets for thieves like him.

Although Dina's reply reminded Asher of those kinds of people, he felt she was anything but prey.

"Of course, my queen."
 

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



    The Chosen's climb continued uneventfully from there, taking them farther and higher into the Frostback Mountains. What little sunlight there had been was gone entirely by midday, and the mountainside seemed all the more ominous for it. The wind had let up, mostly, but even so the air temperature remained bitterly cold. The quiet was unsettling; broken only here and there by the cries of birds of prey. The dragonhunters' tracks led them past a great cliff on the left, up yet another hill. Even as they approached it, they could spy wisps of smoke from near the top - thin and long, as if belonging to several dying fires.

    When they got to it, they saw that It was a campsite, just as it had seemed from afar. And recently abandoned - no more than a couple of hours old. There were also signs of struggle; evidence of chaotic movement through the snow, and half a dozen large animal carcasses thrown about. They'd been torched and were still smoldering.

    Violet bid the group to stop and proceeded to survey the area carefully, including the nearby top of the hill, beyond which they could not see. There wasn't a soul in sight, or a sound to be heard.
 

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