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Fandom Final Fantasy: The Age of Ophiuchus [Closed]

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I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Ivocia has always had twelve guardians looking down from the heavens over the world. They are so known as Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. They rule over different periods, and protect those born within those periods. This has been how it has always been, for millennia.

Until, one day….

The Zodiacs were cast from the sky, dying embers of their presence remaining above. It was a phenomenon noticed by scholars, astrologers, and sailors most of all, but by most, it went ignored after the day of the falling stars.

King Leander Arkidos, future Emperor, was among those aware, and from the fall he set out a campaign of conquest across the world. From his kingdom of Amarum, he conquered the lands before him, with a fiery bird at his back, which soon became the emblem of the Arkidian Empire, a dynasty that was followed by Emperor Lavi, and now, Empress Zariel.

Land upon land has fallen in their wake, Nalia, Ibec, Prumoor, and Eskander, with the most recent to fall being the kingdom of Ucantis. That leaves only the kingdom of Rozari left before the might of the Arkidian Empire.

Imperator Oleander Arkidos has taken to the ground to find and subdue to heir, Cleon Bandoethel, as have many others in the employ of Zariel.

In the wake of the fall of Ucantis, its people prepare to enter the Arkidian Empire…willingly or not.


Final Fantasy: The Age of Ophiuchus

Blood struck the stone floor as lightning flashed outside a stained-glass window.

The dark-haired Imperator of the Arkidian Empire cut his blade across the air, flinging the blood from it as he turned with the movement and rounded on the soldiers that occupied what had once been the throne room of the Bandoethel family. Now, Queen Inara Bandoethel lay slain in her throne.

Yet it was not her that fell or slumped further with the gesture, but a soldier with a red cloak who first fell to her knees, before keeling over to the right side, bleeding out from the new wound.

The eyes of the men and women she had once commanded moved to her prone form as she lay gasping for life, while Oleander stepped away from the two corpses, descending the steps that led up to the throne, to be at the level of the soldiers waiting below. Fury was still in his amber eyes, dancing in them like flames as he looked over the people standing around the platform.

“Zariel wanted her alive,” Oleander hissed between his teeth as he spoke to the soldiers present, “In order to force her to sue for peace and join the Arkidian Empire, or else to be kept a prisoner – not slain because she would not tell us where her son is!” Rain battered the window above the throne, as if it wanted to break through and cleanse the sin.

“It was Captain Gwin that took the action,” one of the soldiers said, “We couldn’t – we didn’t realize – there was no time to stop her.” His stammering was honest enough, and Oleander believed it, as he let the tip of his sword touch the ground, and he placed his fingers to his forehead. His helmet had been tossed aside in his fury when he stepped into the room to find Queen Inara Bandoethel dead.

“We will consider what to do about the rest of you, later,” Oleander stated, knowing who they were well enough by the captain he’d just slain. “Secure the perimeter, let no one in, and work in groups of three,” he said, as he hefted his blade back into the straps at his back, covered by his golden cloak. There was no way the sword could be held at his hip.

He went to his helmet, that black-and-gold ornamental thing, dark wings extending over it, and put it back on his head, “Send one if you spot either the viera or Cleon. The other two are to stay and fight to hold them.” He directed, “Cleon and the viera are not to leave here, and do not kill Cleon.”

“The viera, sir?”

He gave a dismissive wave.

She didn’t matter so much, and if her reputation was true and she was as dark a terror as rumor suggested, then it would be far better to kill her quick. Certainly, before she was ever brought aboard any of their mist warships. “Kill her.” He said, as he started to walk to the exit of the room, back the way he’d came.

He only paused once at the doors, watching the soldiers organize themselves for perimeter duty, to sigh at the dead body. They’d have to create another story for why the beloved Queen had to die, but Zariel was good at that. ‘And all who know otherwise….’ Well, all but him, of course.

The others might become new toys of Lixue.

It would not be hard for Zariel; she was good at spinning tales. After all, she spun the tale that Queen Inara had sent the assassin which killed Lavi and nearly killed her. ‘Story. Right.’ He still found himself questioning it, sometimes. That day had been a confusing mess.

He left them to their planning, as he considered where a prince might be if not hiding behind his mother’s skirts. So far, neither Cleon nor the Viera had been seen by any, but he knew castles tended to have plenty of secret passages. He had created perimeters all around, with the hopes that even if they got out, they would not get far before being spotted, now that their army had fallen, and Arkidian forces were marching through the streets, setting up perimeters at each block.

He, however, would search the castle a little longer.


‘I will protect him, Inara.’

It was never ‘Queen Inara’ when the Viera of the Faded Timberlands thought of her dear friend, a woman she hoped to see again, but knew, in her heart of hearts, it would not be in this lifetime. Inara had known it as well, and the warmth of her fingers still clung to Inara’s palm as she led the way through the castle that had once been as safe to her as the Timberlands.

She knew every sound.

She knew every passage.

Better, even, then Cleon Bandoethel, the long-haired heir she now led after they had all but been pushed out of the throne room to escape. It was hard, of course, for Reva to disguise what she was, but she had still draped a navy cloak over herself, and stuck as much as possible to shadows and secret passages of the castle, listening for the sounds of footsteps, breathing, armor – anything to help guide her and Cleon away from trouble.

The storm that was raging outside did not help her any, although it was fitting, and once she and Cleon were outside, it would be a boon, Reva was certain of it.

‘Another one….’

She and Cleon had gone nearly around the entirety of the castle, seeking an exit, but each one they found had guards posted. The perimeter of the castle was secured well; Reva could not fault the Arkidians for being so prepared, and so skilled. This was hardly the first kingdom they had conquered, though Reva hoped it would be their last. She just had to get Cleon out, and take him to Rozario, where they might find help, and a kingdom that could stand against the Arkidian Empire.

And if not them, perhaps into the Faded Timberlands. The viera did not often fight, and certainly not in human wars, but Reva wanted to believe they would listen to her, this time, about getting involved in these affairs – that this time, they would recognize the threat to their own livelihood and not ignore it.

First things first, though: get Cleon out of there, alive.

She grit her teeth as her red eyes assessed the situation of the three guards. They were on the eastern side of the castle. A stream flowed ahead of the guards, rain splattering against the shallow water and stones. A stone bridge was within sight, slick, no doubt – making a straight run for it had too many risks. Yet, it was on the other side of that stream that “Lalafell Town” was – the unofficial moniker of the side of Ucantis’s capital city where the majority of the lalafell population resided. It would be a risk, but Reva theorized that the Arkidian Empire would not have that area as well-guarded as the human areas. Lalafell weren’t likely to be fighting so much, and weren’t likely to be viewed as a great threat.

If they could get out there, they might find a way out from there.

“Your Grace,” Reva spoke in a low whisper so it would carry to Cleon, no further, “I think we will have to fight here. I do not hear many other guards of the Arkidian Empire near. If we strike swiftly, we can move into Lalafell Town and find sanctuary there, before leaving.”

It was nothing he wanted to hear, and Reva knew that.

His kingdom was falling. His people were suffering, and his mother was poised to receive the worst of it. Knowing this, feeling it herself, Reva did reach a hand to touch his shoulder, curling her fingers gently over him to bring him into focus in the present, and what needed to be done.

Lightning lit the scenery, casting her eyes in an eerie glow – not that red ever seemed ‘normal’ to humans, but it had a way of making her particularly terrifying on that stormy night, where much of her was covered, and her dark skin played on the shadowed nature. “Are you prepared?”

She would not act without his say, her words a suggestion, but one she still expected he would heed. Although he was, in a way, her liege, the respect they had built for each other through their mutual love of Inara had made their relationship easier, and their understanding deeper than would be between most guards and their wards.
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One Espresso Depresso
“Mother, I cannot...no, I will not leave you here.”

Her son stood over her, so much taller than her but she was firm, steadfast in her stance. She stood at the entrance of the secret passage, blocking her son and Reva from re-entering the throne room. It was hidden behind the wall that was covered by the banner of the Bandoethel House; a silver, lone wolf, rearing its head back in a sea of blue. “My decision has been made, Cleon.” She spoke with unwavering authority in her tone, a trait of a true Queen. “You and Reva must leave this place.”

“Not without you,” Cleon took her hands, shaking his head, “we can run together. Reva will protect me, and I’ll protect you.”

Inara smiled sadly, pulling her hands back, and placing them on her son’s face. She gazed at his face, traced every feature, from his eyes, to the curve of his nose, and the quiver of his lips. How like his father he had become. “You’re a treasure to me, my son. From the moment you were born--no, the moment I knew I was carrying you. But the Empire prizes you highly, for reasons I cannot fathom. But I know that I cannot let them have you.”

Shouting echoed from down the corridor, just outside the throne room. She was wasting their precious time, selfishly holding onto Cleon and Reva before the inevitable would come to claim her. Inara’s fingers slipped from his cheeks and instead moved to clutch onto Reva’s hands. How they were so soft with the amount of training and fighting she had done, she would never understand. “I entrust him to you now, Reva.”

She stepped backwards, refusing to acknowledge the yearning touch of Cleon’s fingers trying to clutch onto her. Then came her final order. “Go to Rozari. Find sanctuary there.” Inara’s hand reached towards a panel in the wall before she looked to them both one final time. “I love you both...so very much.” She could barely contain the crack in her voice as she pressed against the panel. Before her son could even respond, the wall shifted back into place with a quick slam, and it was as if the wall had never parted in the first instance.

Inara gripped her stomach, letting out a choked sob before she backed away further from the wall. She knew rightly what her fate would be. But like any mother would for their child, she would throw herself even in front of a herd of Chocobos if it meant saving her son. It was no different here. Composing herself, she walked back to the throne before sitting on it. She gripped the arms, coated in a shining silver.

If any god would allow it, she had hoped Cleon would be sitting here in her place someday. It was a comforting, hopeful thought, even as the throne room doors flew off their hinges.


Cleon could taste the bile trying to inch its way through his throat. Every time he thought of his mother, the desire to release dinner became stronger. But he knew they couldn’t stop. She would buy them some time to escape as she so wished. She would talk them down, or at least, let herself be captured and held prisoner for their benefit. Perhaps he was foolish for not thinking they could so easily strike her down. But it was a happier thought for him. To think of such things would drive him further to despair.

Reva, as always, committed to her noble and personal duty to him. Cleon was lucky to have such a woman in his ranks, to protect him, to guide him, to educate him, as she had loyally done all these years. Her focus was on the swerving passageways, the same ones he used to hide or run in as a child. Who knew that those happy memories of his childhood could be tarred by danger so quickly? He could only continue to follow, lost in his thoughts of the Empire, and their conquest.

Cleon silently acknowledged yet another guard posting, and followed Reva further down another shadowy corridor. He wasn’t oblivious to the Empire’s conquests, their subjugations. He was oblivious to their intentions, however, for doing so. This was a war started two generations ago, a war that the tyrannical Empress seemed eager to continue. Why? Power? Wealth? Union? Greed? Cleon couldn’t make sense of it in his mind, and the more it seemed to distress him when realising they were another kingdom to fall to an Empire whose motives were nonsensical to him.

Cleon stopped behind Reva, patient, waiting for her assessment. Another guard posting. He had half expected her to make him turn and run again, but they had circled the castle already, and it wouldn’t be long until they bumped into someone in the shadows. They couldn’t risk that now. Reva knew this, for she relayed his plan to him, as he looked out towards their only exit.

The Prince, though knowing this was a necessary move, felt despair rise in him again. How cowardly of him, to run and hide, while good men, women, children, died for his sake. And his mother...no. Surely the Empire weren’t so heartless. And yet, here they were, sneaking around like thieves in a home that wasn’t theirs. Cleon was in half a mind to give up, give the Empire what they want. They didn’t need to hurt anyone for his sake. He wouldn’t have to kill for his own sake. He never killed before, and he was foolish to think he never would. Maybe it would be clearer if he offered himself up, to avoid the bloodshed altogether.

Cleon flinched at the hand on his shoulder, Reva’s, bringing him back to the present moment. The vacant look in his eyes must have given his hesitance away. He looked at her, two red eyes and her dark figure against the light cutting through the dark night. When he was younger, he never seemed so scared of her eyes. Even as a young child, where he would stare, unblinkingly, before he giggled at the Viera’s confusion. Now, he knew just why they were something to fear. And even now, despite him knowing her so well, for so long, they sent a chill down his spine.

He was quiet, for a time, after she asked him if she was prepared to fight. He wasn’t. He didn’t want to kill another man. Cleon only ever wanted to get stronger but to take life was never his intention. Now, though, it would have to be. Cleon slowly nodded, whispering, “I...I am. I’ll follow straight behind.” His hand moved to his blade, to signify that he was ready to go. He looked back to the three guards. “You go left, I’ll go right. Then we can pick off the one in the middle.”


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Reva felt her heart swell with pain at Cleon’s flinch, though she understood why it had occurred. It was why she had reached for him, after all. He was losing his focus to his thoughts, and though Reva would like to do much the same, she had always found the strength of will to fight that when it was necessary, just as she’d fought her wandering heart for so long.

At least she would get to wander now….

Reva gave a silent nod as Cleon agreed that he was ready. He wasn’t. She could hear it in his tone and the hesitation, but nonetheless, he would act. No one was ever, truly, ready for something like this, but having the ability to act would remain the difference between life and death.

She silently stepped away from Cleon, hand withdrawing from his shoulder as she stepped onto the soft grass. It did not betray her, it did not squelch nor squeak to give her away as she moved in the shadow of the castle, as she crossed her legs and moved left, lining herself up with the guard.

It would not be so easy as that.

The guards knew to watch the exits and entrances, besides just the bridge, and it was that middle one which had started to turn, started to speak, “How long do you think—” she abruptly cut herself off, eyes widening as they met the red of Reva through an ill-timed flash of lightning. “The viera!”

They never did say her name, it was always an identifier of her race.

Rather than stay, middle ran, as left and right started to turn.

Although Reva wanted to scream, she didn’t, biting down instead on the inside of her cheek as she lifted her hand in the air. Electricity danced between her fingers for a second, before she hurled it forward at the left guard, and followed with a sprint forward as the magic struck that armor. The climate, and the metal, served as good amplifiers, but the guard didn’t fall, so much as stumbled backwards with an outcry of surprise.

The silver-and-blue naginata still struck home as it was taken out from beneath the cloak.

The guard was not quick enough to bring their own weapon up, and found Reva’s polearm through their throat, where armor did not protect them, just as they were getting their bearings. The range had given Reva the advantage, and she was quick to pull it free and turn towards the right, in case Cleon was having any trouble.


One Espresso Depresso
Cleon was no fool. He knew that Reva knew he didn’t want to do this, that he wasn’t ready to take a life. His mother had sheltered him for so long that he never thought he would have to. More foolish thinking on his part. But he had no time to lament on what he had to do. He had to take action now, else they would fail his mother in sending them away.

Cleon forced himself to be on guard once the Viera’s hand slipped away. While she stepped onto the soft grass, Cleon went right, sticking to the shadows, recalling some of Reva’s old lessons to him spanning years back. He kept an eye on the Viera’s slinking form, watching for when she would strike, so that he wouldn’t take premature action himself.

The middle guard turned, and had to bite down on his tongue so not to shout to Reva, alerting to his own position. Though, the woman was quick to make a run for it, and Cleon, briefly, couldn’t blame her for doing so. Reva’s eyes in the dark were enough to give anyone nightmares. While the two remaining were distracted by the flash of the red-eyed Viera, Cleon took his chance to strike at the guard nearest to him - the man on the right. His eyes gazed over him, resting on the back of his legs, and one of Reva’s lessons came flooding back to him.

The backs of the knees. A weak spot.

Cleon’s sword was unsheathed and at the ready, and he did not hesitate in letting the blade slice across the back of the man’s knees. He listened to the man screech, fall forward onto the grass, squirming in agony. That was when he hesitated. He watched as the guard rolled onto his back, cursing and still making that awful screeching before he looked up, saw the perpetrator was the trembling prince they were forced to keep watch for.

“You...you little--!”

Cleon panicked. Or at least, he couldn’t bear to listen to him any more, or to see him squirming like that. He wasn’t thinking clearly when he took his blade and drove it through the man’s eye, feeling how deeply it went. The man squirmed again, screamed, even go so far as to grab onto Cleon’s blade, as if he could undo this gruesome fate, before he stilled. His arms fell by his side. Trembling, Cleon lifted the blade out with a horrible squelch.

Another flash of lighting brought a flash of the man’s blood and gruesome end. The young man felt a churning in his stomach and he forced himself to turn away from it, his grip heavy and shaky on his sword. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, gods forgive me! He wanted to scream, yet, he feared if he tried, he would bring something else up. It had to be done, he knew that, but did it need to be done so brutally? Had he not panicked, could the death be less painful, swifter?

Cleon swallowed back before forcing himself to speak. “W-we...we need to keep moving...”


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Reva witnessed that Cleon had done well in using his training to kill his foe, but it wasn’t clean. Not that killing someone ever was. Even her assault on the guard, though quick and efficient, still left blood staining the grass, and an open wound over his throat. Still, Cleon’s displeasure and revulsion was more evident, as Reva caught him just as he turned away to stop looking at it.

There would be time to talk about this, later.

Time to let everything that was going on, sink in.

Now was not that time. Reva could hear more steps heading their way. The middle guard hadn’t run off in fear, but run off to alert others. She wished that she had thrown a lightning bolt at them, but it was too late for that now. As she took a step towards Cleon, intent to shake him from this and get him moving, he surprised her by coming out of it on his own.

He was shaky, but he was lucid.

“Yes,” Reva agreed simply, and stepped to his side only to step ahead, and towards the bridge, to get them moving, “Go ahead,” she would pause, to make sure he got ahead of her. Mostly, because she was expecting issues on their way to the bridge, not on their way across, or on the other side.

The perimeter was still stronger near the castle, not yet within the actual city, from what Reva would guess. She had to hope that was right.

Of course, they wouldn’t even get that far before more soldiers began to enter the area, rounding the corner and seeing them. Pointing and shouts began to rise up from further off as they were recognized as the escaping duo, and a new group of five soldiers rushed towards them, none including the woman who had run off earlier.

“On the bridge, Cleon,” Reva said, backing up, “We can keep them from flanking us, and keep them from being able to engage us with too many,” the bridge was narrow enough, after all. They would hold the advantage until they could make a break for it.

The guard from before was still running, seeking out one man in particular as she ran into the castle, cloak soaked. She caught sight of his cloak, the only one in the army to wear the golden cloak – well, besides one who wasn’t on the ground fighting, of course. “Imperator!”

Oleander turned his attention down to the soldier, on a second floor of the castle near the entryway.

“The viera—his grace—outside…near a bridge,” she panted, trying to catch her breath.

Oleander didn’t even bother with the stairs, he put his hand on the railing to brace, and then leapt right over it to land roughly on the stone ground below, knees bending before he straightened up. “Take me there, now,” he ordered, and although she looked momentarily upset with the direction – no doubt because of the haste that would be expected – she still gave a resolute nod, and took off running once again, Oleander keeping pace too easily.


One Espresso Depresso
Reva witnessed that Cleon had done well in using his training to kill his foe, but it wasn’t clean. Not that killing someone ever was. Even her assault on the guard, though quick and efficient, still left blood staining the grass, and an open wound over his throat. Still, Cleon’s displeasure and revulsion was more evident, as Reva caught him just as he turned away to stop looking at it.

There would be time to talk about this, later.

Time to let everything that was going on, sink in.

Now was not that time. Reva could hear more steps heading their way. The middle guard hadn’t run off in fear, but run off to alert others. She wished that she had thrown a lightning bolt at them, but it was too late for that now. As she took a step towards Cleon, intent to shake him from this and get him moving, he surprised her by coming out of it on his own.

He was shaky, but he was lucid.

Cleon could hear the footsteps too, and though he wanted to mourn his loss of innocence, and the blood shed at his feet, there was no time for any of it. Once Reva started moving, and encouraged him to go on ahead, he didn't hesitate and began moving. Anything to get him away from the bodies that lay on the grass.

He was eager to get ahead, to leave what he thought had been a peaceful and secure home. Though, part of him always looked back, expecting his mother to be a few steps behind them, having followed them all along. He loathed to leave her behind like this, but they hadn’t much of a choice.

And dilly-dallying would prove fatal, especially when he saw five soldiers round the corner, all shouting and pointing to them.

“Crap,” Cleon muttered under his breath, his knuckles growing whiter as his hand tightened around the hilt of his blade. Upon Reva’s suggestion of getting onto the bridge, forcing them to limit their numbers and their ability to flank them, the prince nodded, backing up along with her. Eventually, both had ended up on the bridge and were still backing up, weapons drawn and ready to fight.

For a moment, their tactic had made some of the soldiers hesitate as if they had expected them to just run off or idiotically stand their ground against them. They had to regroup almost, rethink their strategy, until two decided to take the plunge on the narrow bridge. One rushed towards Reva, the other for Cleon. Though they had orders not to kill the prince, this soldier figured a few cuts would teach the prince to stay under the Empire’s heel.

Cleon’s blade rose to meet the soldier’s, which had come hurtling down from above his head. What came next was a series of clashes, his blade swinging left, right, left, right. The soldier pushed him further back, in a bid to separate him from the Viera and give his comrade some space to finish her off. Though the prospect of being separated from his comrade gave him great worry, Cleon refused to let that take over him, and instead, continued to parry against the man. He shifted to the right, both men with their backs to either side of the railings. The parrying went on for long with Cleon slowing, and the soldier thinking he was finally getting ahead of the young man.

...until he feinted right, and the soldier, clearly not paying enough attention, stumbled forward. Cleon, seeing his chance, got behind him, and managed to kick him hard enough to send him toppling over the railing of the bridge with a scream. Cleaner, perhaps, but it made him no less guilty for what he had done. Cleon looked to Reva to see if she needed aid this time, and for any other soldiers who would have approached on the bridge to fight him.


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Reva had little need of clashing with foes. Her naginata was a part of that, the length of it giving her an advantage in some ways. When the first came for her, she swept the blade of it at them. They parried, but Reva let it open herself up, so she could throw another bolt of lightning at their helmet. That caused them to stagger backwards and grip their head, easily letting Reva once again cut through them almost effortlessly.

As the second and third came, now that their other guard had cleared space by pushing Cleon back, Reva jumped onto the railing of the bridge and swiped down.

She struck no one that time, but it was easier to dance away from their strikes as they tried to cut her down, and continue to make downward thrusts, eventually pushing through one of them.

They crumpled as the naginata was withdrawn from their chest, and the fifth stepped up, but was distracted from going after her, to charge Cleon while he was near the railing of the bridge to try and do the same as he’d done to their companion.

Reva jumped down at the sight of that rush, and struck the fourth with the blunt end of her naginata as she prepared to rush to help Cleon, only to be caught off guard by a piercing whistle.

She cringed away at the sound, but it had drawn the attention of the guards on the bridge, thankfully. Reva was still bristling with anger as her eyes took in the source of the whistle, recognizing the figure not by their face, but by their cloak. Only two in the Arkidian Empire wore golden cloaks, only two were allowed to wear them, and this one had to be Oleander Arkidos.

He had almost a lazy stride as he came forward towards the bridge. “Cleon Bandoethel,” he called, no title at all in his greeting, “Lay down your arms. We don’t want to hurt you,” that was probably a lie given the bodies strewn about it, “If you do so, we’ll also not harm your pretty viera friend.”

Reva was certain she couldn’t kill Oleander with her glare, but it didn’t stop her from trying. So many humans took a look at her and thought her species and exoticism made her into something she wasn't, and she hated those sorts the most.

Still, this was not her moment to command or suggest, nor even to let her anger boil over – this was Cleon’s. He had to act his role as royalty and make decisions for himself. Reva would not steal that from him now, not in front of someone like Oleander Arkidos. Reports did not need to be returned to the Arkidian Empire that Cleon needed his companion to make decisions for him, or act on his behalf.

Even now, even through all of this, he had to give the appearance of a leader.


One Espresso Depresso
Reva, as always, was smooth and almost graceful in combat. Even when she taught Cleon when he was barely a young man, there was something so elegant about her attacks, yet, could always strike a frightening injury, or cut an enemy down. He supposed she wouldn’t have been appointed his bodyguard if she hadn’t the ability to strike down any in her way.

Where Cleon had managed one soldier, Reva had effortlessly taken on three of them. She made it look effortless, where an amateur like Cleon was struggling after two soldiers, and not even one after the other! His attention was drawn away from Reva to the sound of quickening footsteps, a soldier rushing straight towards him. It only clicked within him that they would attempt to send him to the same watery grave as he did with their friend. He panicked, unsure of what to do, and knew waiting for Reva to save him would do him no good. Before he could deliberate further on what to do, a whistle reached them on the bridge.

Cleon paused, looking towards the source. The other soldiers, including the one that would have knocked him off the bridge if they had a chance. There, at the foot of the bridge, stood a man, draped in a golden cloak, a clear sign this was no ordinary lackey of the Empire, but a nobleman. He knew the Emperor was a woman, Zariel Arkidos, so by process of elimination, this had to be her brother, Oleander, the Imperator.

His mother had taught him well when it came to their enemies. But their enemies cast a bigger and blacker shadow than what Cleon could do alone. The soldiers didn’t help, and the suave confidence of Oleander was even more off-putting. As much as his mother meant and taught him well, he felt severely underprepared to negotiate or speak with another noble - in this case, an enemy.

But he would have to try, even if he was lost within their looming shadow. Whether he liked it or not, he had to take charge in his mother’s absence. So, he turned to Oleander, not shifting his hand once to drop his weapon. Rain mixed with the sweat that ran into his eyebrow, trying to control his nervous tremors as best he could.

“At least have the decency to address us by our proper names and titles,” he started, and he could already hear the scoffs and the chuckles from the surrounding soldiers. He realised he was in no position to demand that, but he’d be damned if he didn’t try to regain some dignity in all of this. “Then again, I wouldn’t expect so much as that from you. Certainly not from scoundrels who infringe on so many other borders.” His words felt almost childish, as if from a boy who wasn’t content with losing what may had been a fair game. But this hadn’t been fair at all.

“I can’t say I believe the terms set by scoundrels either. Not when stories circulate that people are struck down even after complying with your rules, or that others are tortured and forced through some...inhumane treatment,” Cleon’s temper was well and truly rising now, after the reminders of all he had heard the Empire had done over the years, from before he was even born, come back to him. “How do you expect me to comply with you now, when all you do is burn your way through Ivocia? I’d rather have my blood spilled on Ucantis soil and rot in its ground than to ever comply with you.” He spat.


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
The prince, ‘No, King.’ Oleander mentally corrected himself, though he knew it not, was full of fire even in the midst of the rain, terribly outnumbered, and likely outmatched. Oleander knew his own skill, and though he had heard rumors of the viera, he was not afraid of her as he drew closer to the bridge, his gait never picking up, his confidence never wavering as Cleon spat at him, insult after insult.

He was used to that, too.

“Very well, King Bandoethel,” Oleander said, using the title to deliver the blow it implied – that his mother was dead, that he had, technically, taken over.

He saw the way the viera drooped for a moment, the shock of it loosening her grip on her weapon, widening her eyes.

Oleander continued as if he didn’t notice, though, “You will recall it was your mother who sent an assassin that took the life of my father, and nearly took the life of my sister, as well,” that was a lie, but a popular one, now. One that no doubt, Cleon was familiar with, as it was the lie that heralded Zariel’s ascension. ‘Lie or…?’

It didn’t matter what the truth was.

Or so he’d been told.

“I will honor any agreement we come to here. Empress Zariel wants you alive, she’d rather treat with you and create terms of surrender that still give your kingdom dignity. If you care so little about your own life, then be a King – consider your people. You can have control over their future, as you always have, by your decision to live or die here.”

Oleander did reach to pull his sword, though. “But I won’t hesitate to strike you down if I must…the Empress will forgive me.” A cocky smile touched his lips, barely visible beneath the helmet that shadowed his face, though all that mischief still glinted in his eyes.

Yes he would, but his foe did not need to know that. A foe who knew they’d be kept alive, already had the advantage.

The guards on the bridge tensed in preparation of needing to strike should the viera and now-king attempt to run, or fight. It would give Oleander time to close the distance onto the bridge to engage them personally.


One Espresso Depresso
Cleon stared and his breath caught in his throat. It was a title he didn't have, that he wasn't meant to have. He wasn't meant to be king, not yet. And it only began to hit him, like the first droplet of rain, before he truly felt the weight of such a blow to be as heavy as the rain pelting him and soaking his hair, of what that address meant.

He felt his legs go first. He turned grabbing onto the railing with one hand to steady himself, though, his hand and arm trembled, as he stared at the water below. The Imperator had struck him with a vicious blow, one that cut far more deeply than any wound. Dead. She was dead. No, surely the Empire couldn't have been that heartless. She was too important, too valuable to be struck down so mercilessly. But this was a nation who razed lands and burned everything in its wake. They knew no mercy, and they never would. He wanted so desperately to scream and yet his voice wouldn't allow it.

Cleon could still hear his words, those vile words trickle into his ears. "A lie...all lies..." Was as much as his throat could muster out, the feeblest little voice struggling to spring forth. His mother, though never forgiving of who had killed his father, of the allies they had tore through, wasn't so malicious as to send an assassin to the Empire. She wasn't that woman. Inara had never been that woman, to harbour resentment so deep that she would go so far as that to commit revenge.

Cleon laughed. A bitter, harsh laugh at the injustice of it all, at the hypocrisy of this man standing at the foot of the bridge, wanting to make nicities with him. He pushed himself away from the railing, turning back to Oleander. "Treat with me? Like you did with my mother? And after how the Empire slaughtered my father?!" His grip grew stronger on his sword, his tone rougher, like vicious barking from a dog. "What dignity is there in being under your boot?! Ucantis won't ever forgive you for such trangressions!" Oleander's suggestion that he think of his people first, his kingdom, the one he was sworn to protect as king, flew past him as easily as grains of sand move on the wind.

Cleon raised his blade, pointing it in the direction of Oleander, "You can go back to that Empress of yours," he spat, the very word poison on his lips, "and disappoint her. You all might be used to getting what you so desire, but I won't willingly give it here. Not as I stand here or if I'm on my knees." He growled, feeling a rage begin to bellow within him, a rage mixed with grief, and shock, and these horrible feelings that Cleon wished would just go away. It was clear he had nothing more to say, not when he stepped back, both hands on his sword again with no signs of yielding.


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Oleander’s strike hit, and it hit hard, one devastating blow before swords would come into play. Sometimes, that was all the advantage that Oleander needed – usually, it was more than he needed. He had come into his position by luck of blood, but he made sure to earn it so he would be above criticism, just as well.

He knew the high politics, and though Zariel was more cutting with words, he could use them to effect.

Although, he’d admit, there was a part of himself that felt some sympathy. He’d dealt with the loss of his mom already, he didn’t think he was much older than Cleon, though his situation was markedly different. Still, deny it as he like, it was there as he looked at Cleon while he gripped the railing and pulled himself together.

Oleander allowed him that.

‘I wasn’t there to stop them from killing her.’ It was what he wanted to say, but not what he could say, or he’d blow his entire schtick. So, Oleander kept that smile on his lips, and gave a bit of a helpless shrug, “Well, if you insist, I guess I will. It was nice knowing you, King Bandoethel, Viera.” He didn’t bother titling her.

He figured it would aid in blinding Cleon, force him deeper into his rage to where mistakes might be made.

The guards on the bridge moved to engage first, the one before Reva quickly wheeling on her, and locking their blade with her own polearm.

The one by Cleon didn’t get such a chance, however.

Oleander moved at a speed that the rank-and-file were still not accustomed to, breezing by the guard – by Reva, who could only let out a startled cry as she saw it happen – to make a slash at Cleon’s legs. He wasn’t terribly concerned about actually connecting, and would prefer not to. His blade was large enough to telegraph his intent to Cleon.

He wanted to beat Cleon down, blunt force after blunt force, until he staggered and fell, until he could be easily picked off and carried back in chains. He could keep that up with his strength, and blows against Cleon’s sword, for quite a while longer than the young king – or so he thought.

Unbeknownst to him, Reva had much different plans as she lashed out in a fury at the guard who had come for her, and the other two who opted to leave Cleon to their Imperator.

All Reva needed was to clear the space and she could turn the tide.


One Espresso Depresso
The smug smile infuriated Cleon, more than anyone could ever believe. Though he felt massively underprepared for this fight, he wouldn't so easily give in. He may have been sheltered, and had little experience in fighting foes, but he was no coward. He couldn't afford to be...not now that he was king. The title felt distant, oddly cold to him. He didn't answer him, not even when he rudely disrespected Reva once more. He instead kept his blade up, ready to strike when he needed to.

Or, so he thought he was. Before he could blink, Oleander was upon him, his sword rushing towards his legs. Cleon wasn't sure how, but he managed to put his blade between his legs and Oleander's, just barely, to give him time to shift back. But the attack had left him shaken, realising how unprepared he was for this situation. No man could have been that fast. His soldiers even seemed surprised by his sudden appearance in front of the young man.

Reva could not help him. From the corner of his eye, he could see another soldier engaging her, and though she would have no problem with them, it meant he was on his own. He had to hold his ground for now, even if he felt cowardice creep in.

Attempting to regain himself, Cleon raised his sword again, aiming to slice at Oleander's arm. Yet, it was a futile move. He already knew it. But he couldn't stand around and wait for Oleander to strike him first again. He had to buy time until he figured out how to get out of this situation. Well...part of him also longed to fight back, to make him and his sister pay for the horrible crimes they had committed.

He would have to avenge his mother some way.


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Oleander’s attack had the intended effect, striking metal rather than flesh. He wouldn’t have been too upset if he hit flesh, but it would have been terribly boring, and he’d probably get yelled at for nearly killing the heir of Ucantis, given he had a summon. It was going to be hard to get him to join with them already, given he clearly hated them and was going to hate them for a while.

That was Zariel’s problem.

And possibly Lixue’s since they still didn’t know how to separate the Zodiacs from their hosts, or if that was even possible.

Oleander let Cleon have his moment to regroup, and he blocked the strike that came his way, and pushed against it to outbalance Cleon, before he’d strike, again, and again, consciously slowing himself so he wouldn’t end up actually hitting Cleon, working still on that goal of running him down, tiring his arms as he fought against the strength with each block, to tire his legs when he tried to feint or move aside instead. Oleander could be relentless, and here he pressed that advantage of years, and the magic in his veins, to overwhelm.

Clash, after clash, after clash.

Oleander was certain he had the advantage as he heard the scuffling behind him start to come to a close. He thought the viera must be down, because she wasn’t lunging at his back.

What happened, was not something he was expecting at all.

The air grew colder, and the rain that was falling seemed to still. This was noticed out of Oleander’s periphery, as drops seemed to just…hang. He ignored it, pressing on rather than marvel, even as the rain seemed to move upwards he ignored it, bearing down on Cleon until a form took shape above, and a shadow fell upon the duo as he had pushed Cleon to the end of the bridge on the Lalafell Town side.

Until he heard a screech that was terribly inhuman, and right above him.

He looked up, and then immediately broke away from Cleon as a large, translucent, dragon bore down on him. He rolled backwards, and the beast went clean through the bridge, cutting off his path to Cleon (although he suspected he could jump it), and letting Reva jump to the other side easily enough.

Leviathan was far from done, reeling upwards in a serpentine twist to spew a high-pressure beam of water at Oleander, that sent him rushing to the land on the other side of the bridge, while effectively destroying what remained of the bridge.

‘Thank you.’

Reva did not speak the thought as her feet landed lightly on the other side of the bridge, but she knew, He heard.

She was quick to move to Cleon’s side, and place a hand once again on his shoulder to turn him. “We move, now.” Before Oleander got his bearings, before they lost the advantage of running that Leviathan provided.


One Espresso Depresso
Cleon parried as best he could. Each strike that came, he raised his blade to block it, to block it again, to keep blocking each strike that seemed to grow heavier against him - or did he simply grow weaker? His legs wobbled, his arms grew sore at how long he had been taking to hold up the blade. His stamina was horrible, always had been ever since he was a young boy. Another glaring weakness in the Bandoethel line, another thing that illness so easily stole from the bloodline.

He couldn't do it anymore. His body screamed at him to give up, while his heart thumped against his chest, demanding he take revenge for the fallen, for those who had been wronged by the Arkadian Empire. But his strength and mental fortitude waned, and he considered shouting, "Yield!" to his opponent.

Until Cleon felt a chill tickle his cheek. The rain that had been nature's drumbeat around them had halted, stilled in the air. He had been distracted by it, and only when it was too late, did Cleon manage to hold his blade up to Oleander's, who pushed down upon him. He grunted against him, trying his damndest to push back, only, to fall further back to the other side of the bridge. He was tired. He couldn't continue like this. The world around him darkened, and he figured he was about to faint.

Then came the screech. Both Oleander and Cleon looked up, though, Cleon had remained where he had been forced to hold his ground, his face contorted in awe at the almighty beast casting the shadow from above. It was a beast -- no, a dragon -- that he had only remembered hearing about, wonderful descriptions by Reva over its sheer majestic size and scales. It was something he had thought he would never see in the flesh. How wrong he had been.

Cleon managed to break himself from such awe enough to notice the dragon coming down upon Oleander, and jumped back from where a gap in the bridge had now been made. Reva joined him, and together, they watched as Oleander was propelled from the bridge by a beam of water, and the rest of the bridge fell in chunks into the water below.

Cleon couldn't quite believe it, the majesty of it all. So that was the power Reva possessed. It was practically god-like, otherwordly!

But he would have to marvel over it later. He stared for a moment longer, before he turned on Reva's insistence. He mustered what reserve of strength he had left, and started running further into Lalafell Town.

Kikiti wasn't sure where that almighty screech came from, but she was sure it didn't bode well for anyone at the other end of it.

She had just finished locking all the cabinets, hoping that no more rumbling would claim medicinal victims. She already cleared up glass bottles scattered on the floor today, broken on account of her clumsiness, and the few that had shook and fallen during the airship arrival, and then that rumbling. How on earth was she meant to explain any of this to her employer? Where was her employer during all of this? She was meant to have come back to the clinic ages ago! What was even going on? All she heard was some Empire airships arrived, and she was told to stay inside and hide, and that they wouldn't come anywhere near Lalafell Town. Phooey! Just as she thought she could give those invaders a piece of her mind!

Kikiti smushed her face against a window in the treatment room, frowning at the shadowy airships looming overhead like dark clouds. She wondered just what they wanted - probably another nation to conquer, for whatever reason. She was just told that that was what the Empire had done, had always done. Her mother compared it to Kikiti stealing potatoes off her father's plate - she took it unlawfully, when her father was desperate to keep what rightfully belonged to him. She was beginning to think it was a weird comparison.

There came a tinkling from the front of a clinic, and the slam of a door. Kikiti clambered down from the window, about to shout out a greeting to her employer, when she heard foreign voices. One sounded much deeper, more manlier than her employer, and the other that accompanied it was female, though calmer, smoother than her employer's. Intruders! Damn invaders were coming to loot the clinic! Well, not on her watch!

The mixed Lalafell grabbed her staff, a humble wooden one, though one that packed a lot of punch, and stayed close to the wall where the door led out of the treatment room. The voices became clearer.

"We can stay low here, for now..."

Not on her watch! Kikiti waited, listened, the footsteps growing closer, until the door finally creaked open...

And phwack! Right on the leg, a heavy blow to her foe! The man yelped, grabbing his leg in a fit of pain.

"Agh--! Jeez! What was--?!"

"Back, you Empire scum!" Kikiti cried, swinging her staff at the long-haired man as if scaring away a dog with fire. "I'll not let you raid this clinic! You'll pay for the products like every other customer has to!"


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
“HEY! BY THE TWELVE, STOP!” Oleander shouted at the retreating forms of the Viera and King Bandoethel, even if it was pointless and he knew it. Besides, it wasn’t as if the dragon was dematerializing anytime soon, no, it was coiling around again, and that’s when it hit him.

It wasn’t going after the Viera or Cleon.

‘Oh…Oh no.’

“You’re…one of the twelve, huh? Pisces…right?” He hoped he had his stars and zodiacs right. He was pretty sure there was only one other dragon.

He was pretty sure it was laughing at him as it prepared another beam. “Fuck my fucking life.” He lifted his blade and put it between himself and the beam that was launched, holding it firmly in the ground, all too aware that if he lost his balance to the pressure, he’d be quite wounded by that beam.

Thankfully, his blade held its strength and didn’t crack or break under the beam.

Unfortunately, Leviathan wasn’t stupid, and cut the beam short to gracefully swoop through the air and down to Oleander. Before he could muster the strength to pull his blade out of the ground, Leviathan swiped him with his tail and tossed him back against the castle wall. He struck it, hard, bit his tongue on the way, and slumped against the wall. He didn’t stay long. He saw Leviathan bearing down with fangs, and dodged to one side, only to receive another swipe of its tail that caused him to roll towards the river. ‘Oh yes, that’s what I need, to be tossed in a river in plate armor.’

He rolled, missing a slamming of the tail, and got to his sword again.

“I don’t know if you fuckers can die, but I swear I will fuck you up if you try that again!” Oleander shouted, even though he was pretty sure he tasted blood in his mouth. His tongue hurt. His back hurt.

He still gave it a defiant look, noticing for a moment that the beast seemed to be pulling apart.

It was not something Oleander understood, but Leviathan let out another roar, before he seemed to turn into a bunch of water.

A bunch of water that fell on Oleander in quite a bit of a pressure dump. He went sprawling to the ground once more, alive, hurt, and mostly pissed off. “Fuuuuck.” They had a problem. He let the brat get away, and the viera had a Zodiac. They hadn’t known about this. He clawed his way back to all fours as guards started to run over to the area, seeing the dragon and certain it meant something.


Reva had been certain that Lalafell Town would afford them a few moments to regroup, perhaps a few hours, although she had not known quite where to go. There were many shops, and many options, and she picked one that advertised healing. While Cleon did not look wounded from his fight – no doubt, a miracle – he still may need something to help him get his bearings. She wasn’t too concerned right then about stealing.

So, she was more than relieved to find the door unlocked, and they were able to just step in. She didn’t quite relax her guard, even as Cleon was speaking to her thoughts. She heard something. Smelled something. ‘Are the employees here, now?’ She sniffed again, but didn’t start to follow Cleon immediately. She smelled something else a bit more troubling.


But why?

As such, that distracting smell caused her to miss the potential danger Cleon was in. She immediately chastised herself as Cleon cried out, and sprinted to the door he’d opened, nearly ripping it off its hinges as she pulled it all the way open so she would have a good view of…nothing?


Reva looked down and saw a young woman with a staff. Despite her size, Reva was certain she was young. “We are not Empire!” Reva called out immediately, “We are not here to loot, we are here to hide!” Perhaps not what one should overtly say, but if she was trying to protect her goods, and herself, from the Empire, she was more likely an ally than an enemy.

The door behind opened again, and Reva gripped at her naginata which she had only recently replaced on her back, only to see a wide-eyed, soaked, auburn haired boy who looked as destitute as any in his wet rags.


He clearly wasn’t expecting the sight before him.

“Are you running from the Empire, as well?” Reva asked.

The man seemed to hesitate a moment, before spilling out, “Yeah—um, yeah, that’s what I’m doing.” Though as he said it, Reva moved away from Cleon. “I saw you open the door and thought I could get in here and be, uh, safe for a bit.”

The scent of the Mist hung around him, nothing that would harm her, but it was still…peculiar, nonetheless. “I—uh, is something wrong?” He stepped back as Reva got closer, and Reva frowned down at him.

“I do not know. You have a strange scent.”

“…is that good or bad?” His smile was awkward, tight, though what was to be expected of a human who hadn’t dealt with viera in a tense war?


One Espresso Depresso
Kikiti was about to go a-swinging again, and poor Cleon was about to shelter any...well, precious areas that may have been impacted, until she paused at Reva's shout. She considered her words for a moment, unsure of whether to believe them or not. Come to think of it, the Viera didn't look Empire-esque...nor did the long-haired fellow, who was holding his hands up now in his defense, rather than with the sword by his side.

And the only Viera around these parts was employed up in the castle, to protect the prince.

Everything started making sense, connecting up in her head. "Ohhhhhh!" She laughed a little in her realisation, wrapping her arms around her staff. "I see you ar--"

She head quickly turned to the sound of the door opening once again. She readied her staff and edged past Cleon, only, to find a young man, who may as well have been a wet and skinny dog, standing there in the clinic. Kikiti sighed, shaking her head. "Why is everyone coming here to hide from the Empire? I'm surprised no one has decided to steal all our medicine here..." She looked to Reva, who approached the young man with her nose wrinkled, talking about how peculiar he smelled. She, in turn, couldn't help but wrinkle her nose, but couldn't smell a thing.

"She's done this before," Cleon explained to Kikiti, his eyes still wandering over the young man who had rushed into the clinic behind them. He couldn't tell how old he was, if he was friend or foe...but surely one who looked so weak and impoverished couldn't have been a danger to them. If anything, Cleon felt more sympathy for him than fear or suspicion. So, instead, he stepped forward next to the Viera. "Reva, easy. I think you're scaring him..." 'Think' was a much nicer term to put than just 'you are'.

Kikiti stepped forward, looking up at the three much taller individuals, frowning. "And you all chose here to hide? I thought the Empire would have busted in and stolen all our stock by now..." She muttered, rubbing the back of her head. "Anyway, that isn't the main concern right now. Who are you all? If I get your names, then I guess we won't be strangers anymore."


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Reva didn’t really want to give up so easily with her snooping, but she would at Cleon’s request, eyes narrowed a bit on the boy who did, in fact, appear frightened. He didn’t move further away, but shuffled a bit forward once Cleon spoke, casting a glance at Cleon and muttering, “Thank you,” before the lalafell addressed them about identities.

Reva took a glance towards the door, “Lock it,” she told the stranger.

He didn’t even hesitate, locking the door quickly before Reva spoke to introduce herself.

“I am Reva, royal guard for the Bandoethel family,” that likely gave away who was with her, but nonetheless, she gestured to Cleon, “This is…Prince Cleon Bandoethel,” perhaps she wanted to deny what Oleander said. In truth, she just didn’t want to put that pressure on him right then, or announce the news to this young woman in such a manner, either. They had no proof that Inara was dead, and all the hope in the world that she was not. That Oleander had been lying. It seemed like something he would do.

The new individual took an opportunity to speak and introduce himself. “I’m Diddy—er…Didymus McCallen, but everyone just calls me Diddy.” The auburn haired one answered, “No one important, just…saw the door open and ducked in. I’m not here to steal anything.”

‘How strange it is to say that and mean it.’ Diddy thought, even if it was half-true. He was there to steal Cleon, but he didn’t know how he was going to do that right then. He wouldn’t have any luck. He’d just have to bide his time, stick around with them, and wait for an opportunity. At least he’d be the one who knew where Cleon was, and when the time came, he was sure he’d be able to pull this off.

Reva nodded, committing it to memory. They had to take what they could, and Didymus might end up a good ally, “What is your name?” She asked the younger woman, “and do you know of any easy passages out of the city from here? I am not as familiar with Lalafell Town as I would like to be,” and now was no time to learn.

They may have a bit of time to wait, but eventually, they’d have to leave, unnoticed.


One Espresso Depresso
Cleon shifted slightly. Not even the title of prince seemed to sit well with him anymore, knowing well what he was -- or was supposed to be. But he appreciated not being introudced as king, and he couldn't help but direct a small, thankful smile to Reva. He forced one when he nodded to the young man, Diddy, and noted he was...not here to steal anything. Always good to hear, he supposed. He nodded to the Lalafell that stood much shorter than him too -- though, surprisingly a little taller than most he had seen. "It's...well. Not a great situation to meet you both in, but..." He shrugged, trailing off.

"You got that right, your Princeliness," Kikiti muttered, rubbing her head, though, couldn't help but look at Diddy with his insistence on not wanting to steal anything. Exactly what a thief would say, she thought, though, kept it to herself. No point in antagonising these people, she was otherwise outnumbered, even though she could definitely take them on. Kikiti nodded through all of the names. Cleon, easily remembered, Reva, another easy one, Diddy...odd, but then again, hers was just as odd. "Kikiti," she smiled, one hand on her hip, the other pressing her staff into the ground.

She listened to Reva's question, humming afterwards, though, she couldn't help but interrupt and say, "Not familiar with Lalafell Town? It's the most vibrant part of the city!" Though, she supposed she would have to forgive her for this transgression. She was thoughtful for a moment before she snapped her fingers, "The sewers! It's your best bet! You can easily move your way through there and outside a little bit aways from the city. It at least means you're not spotted by those airships, plus you'll be right under the pesky Arkadians's pointy noses, and they won't know a thing!"

Though it was a great escape route, one that may be easier to escape through than any other point in the city, Cleon's nose wrinkled at the thought of trapsing through a sewer.

Kikiti noticed the disgust playing on the prince's face. "It's pretty disgusting," she confirmed Cleon's worst fears, "but it's just the place to make a quick and handy escape. I can even show you to there, if you like." She smiled at Reva, trying to appeal to her now instead.


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Reva made a bit of an indignant sniff at the thought of going into the sewers, but she doubted they had much options outside of that. They had to get out of town, and it was quite unlikely that the Arkidian Empire was going to be searching the sewers for them. The problem might be getting to the sewers unseen, but they could manage it. At least, Reva hoped they could, and with Kikiti offering her assistance, she did give a smile.

No matter her displeasure, she was grateful for the help, and the assistance. “We will take the sewers,” Reva agreed, giving a momentarily sympathetic look to Cleon, “It will only be disgusting for a short while. We will be able to fix that, later.” Although they would certainly want new clothes sooner than later.

It was still a temporary problem. They’d have a much larger one if they let themselves be caught.

“Can I—I don’t mean to impose but—can I tag along? At least until the next town, or something? I can’t stay here.” Diddy said, and Reva took note of how he shifted his weight. He seemed terribly anxious, which wasn’t a surprise. With the war going on outside, she could not blame him for wanting to escape, but another with them could be detrimental if he gave them away.

Reva bit her bottom lip a moment, before nodding. She couldn’t turn him away, and he might be helpful. That was yet to be seen, but in either case, she wouldn’t be turning someone innocent and needing help getting out of a warzone.

He let out a sigh of relief, posture relaxing immediately.


One Espresso Depresso
Cleon, though still disheartened at having to trudge through a sewer, gave a simple nod to Reva in return. He rathered than then him being in the hands of the Empire, and his dear friend Reva dead. Of course, he was also sympathetic to Diddy's cause, for his life may have been thrown for a loop with this sudden war on his doorstep. and was glad Reva let him tag along to escape. He could certainly relate, even if his background was different.

Kikiti clapped her hands together, rubbing them. "Great! I'll take you right to the sewers then. Stay close. Can't have those Empire bootlickers catching a whiff of us." She grinned, grabbing a small over-the-shoulder bag and her staff. She'd have to head home at some stage, and though she regretted leaving her employer's shop, she was technically off her shift now. Her parents must have been worrying awfully about her, and so she'd have to go and alieve their worries after showing these three their escape route.

And so, Kikiti led them out a backdoor of the clinic - and making sure all appropriate doors and windows were locked beforehand - and began leading Cleon, Reva, and Diddy towards the entrance of the sewers.

Lalafell Town had been built like any other part of this city, although with some notable differences. Much of the buildings were cramped together, resulting in some alleyways where people would have often sat around, loitered, gossiped, that kind of thing. On this rainy evening, however, most Lalafell were inside, hiding from the weather and the threat of the Empire. Most doors of the buildings had mini doors attached, a clear modification for the smaller of the Lalafell to reach up to and get through rather easily. They were crafty things, able to make easy little stairs for themselves, lift and pulley systems, the whole lot. They even managed to use it in some of their construction sites, which lay abandoned with the current situation.

Kikiti had taken them to the end of an alley, stepping out into the light, before stumbling back and gesturing with a finger to her lip to the others. She peeked around the corner, and above her, Cleon couldn't help but do the same.

Two guards were loitering in the main plaza of the otherwise cramped Lalafell Town, no doubt on lookout, or to intimidate the folks into staying into their homes.

"Man, this has got to be the worst gig the Empire's given us," one grumbled.

"I'm not complaining. Scaring off the teeny tiny tots? Not even having to lift your sword? I say it's a win!" The other gave an ugly laugh.

"Crap," Cleon sword under his breath, looking back to Reva and Diddy. "Two guards in the plaza."

Kikiti grumbled, shaking her head. "And the entrance to the sewer is on the other end of the plaza, just down those steps!" She muttered, referring to cobblestone steps that disappeared further into the ground, just past the archway on the other side of the plaza. She turned to the other three before she already began divulging a plan. "Maybe I can distract those two long enough for you to get to the sewers. Or, maybe, I can even send them in another direction!"


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Kikiti’s enthusiasm was strange for Reva to witness, but she was appreciative of it nonetheless as she pushed her hood back up over her ears, and prepared to follow the young lalafell out and into the streets. She did stay close, and took note of how well their new companion, Didymus, was able to keep up. Not only that, it was a slight strain even for herself to hear him over the rain as they moved, and she knew how good her hearing was.

He was not unpracticed in this art.

There could be many reasons for that, she did not know his history, but it was something that she filed away all the same. One did not become a guard by overlooking things such as this, after all, and certainly not a guard for royalty.

She remained alert as they rounded the corners to the plaza area, where two guards were.

Kikiti was quick to turn to them to speak of a plan, “We do not wish to put you at risk, you have done much already to help us,” Reva said, imagining this may be where they parted.

“I, um. I can help.” Didymus spoke up, and before Reva or the others could ask how, he held up a finger, dug into the tan pouch that was resting on his hip, and pulled a black orb into sight. “It’s a smoke bomb, I have three,” he kept his voice low, well-practiced with this, “I know, I know, you probably have questions about why, let’s just save it? The rain will kind of hinder their effectiveness, but it could cloak us, and then if someone could make a sound further off in the plaza, the guards would probably head towards that, right?”

Reva did arch a brow, “It is possible.” She agreed with the theory, at least. “I do have questions, but they can wait,” at least until they were in the sewers, then she could ask about what else he was carrying, and why, for that matter. Perhaps he actually was a looter who was hoping to take advantage of the war to obtain some goods.

Or perhaps he had another good reason to be carrying such things.

Either way, at least right now he was planning to use them to help.


One Espresso Depresso
Kikiti would have protested to that. Surely they couldn't do such a thing on their own! And they wouldn't suspect a Lalafell like them, weak and childish as she looked, to be sending them off in the wrong direction. Before she planned to protest, Diddy had butt in, revealing he had some handy things to help with getting past them. She narrowed her eyes, about to ask...until he asked that they didn't.

Cleon also had his suspicions surrounding the man and his smoke bombs. It worried him, why a young man like him would have smoke bombs on his person. Was he being so naïve again? Reva and his mother often commented on that, saying he would have trusted anyone given the chance. Perhaps he was naïve in trusting his mother would fix things, without getting killed...he shook his head, and turned his attention back to the current situation.

"Alright. I guess that leaves who would make some noise to pull the others away from the plaza."

"Ooh!" Kikiti's hand shot up, and she grinned. "I have some potion glasses in here that would be great for making some noise." Sure, she would have liked to use them for storing medicines again, but the situation called for it unfortunately. She glanced around the corner again, with the two guards still loitering and throwing jibes at one another. She looked back to Diddy again, and she nodded.

"We can follow after your lead, since, well, you know, you can work those smoke bombs yourself, right?"


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Didymus nodded as Kikiti said she’d follow after his lead. He knew how these things worked, he made them, after all. Some of the problem would be getting them over there without the guards noticing what direction they had come from, but that was a risk he had to take, right? ‘Oooor….’ Or he could be obvious and maybe use the guards to help him distract the party so he could kidnap the Prince?

That seemed like a good idea, no one could overtly blame him if he failed, right?

He twisted the one smoke bomb he held, though figured with the rain he’d better be prepared to use two in this gambit to make it convincing. ‘Didn’t I hear that Oleander usually sets guards in three?’ The question came to mind as he hurled the first one, puffing smoke, towards the duo at the fountain.

Oleander would, in fact, be VERY disappointed with this grouping.

As he hoped, one saw the bomb while it was in mid-air, and followed its trajectory to see where it was thrown from. “Hey – over there!” The guard nudged his companion just before the smoke bomb hit the ground, and erupted into a mass of smoke spilling out from it, into the air, and around the two guards.

Shit,” Didymus cursed, even if that was what he wanted, he had to pretend like it wasn’t.

“No time,” Reva said, looking to Kikiti to still come up with a distraction as she moved ahead into the smoke, hoping to still avoid the guards even if they knew the direction that they were all coming from now. It was still possible, and if not…well, it was easier to strike at guards who were blinded than it was to strike at guards who could see well.


One Espresso Depresso
Each of the escaping party waited for Didymus's strike. Kikiti, having grabbed a few potions from her bag, and held them tightly in her small hands, ready to create some sort of distraction with it. Compared to Diddy's thoughts, Cleon was occupied with the best methods to slip past them, while Kikiti was simply worried where to aim her potions. It should have been able to make enough noise to divert their attention, though for how long was the question.

The time for thinking was over as the bomb was chucked, and much to the young girl's annoyance, and the prince's frustration, it had been spotted. No matter! Kikiti still had a job to do! Advancing as fast as her smaller legs could allow her, she moved to one side of the smoke where the others would be hopefully moving behind the soldiers. There, she began chucking the potions to the right, in the hopes that it would divert their attention away from the others and their escape route. Even if she was to be spotted throwing anything, at least then the heat could be taken off them.

Both guards turned towards the sound of crashing glass.

"Shit, those button-nosed gnomes are planning a counter-attack!" One of the soldiers shouted, sword already in hand and ready to strike. Not the brightest of the lot, but he was at least good with a sword...maybe.

Cleon, following Reva and Didymus into the smokey fray, struggled to keep an eye on Kikiti. As much as he admired her bravery and quick-thinking, he loathed to leave her behind, especially with two violent soldiers. Unless she had some quick escape route, they'd give chase and catch up to her in no time at all. But small waving hands through the smoke gestured for them all to keep moving.


I Could Tip You Like A Vintage Wine
Reva’s ear twitched a bit as she heard the guard’s insult to Kikiti, but she kept moving. Her mission was, first and foremost, getting Cleon to safety, even if that safety was sewers. Thankfully, the smokescreen didn’t cover the entirety of the plaza in the direction they were heading, and it broke up at the stairs they needed to descend.

Reva continued to usher them along, and at the entrance to the sewer, she was the first to kneel down and pry it up with her fingers, careful with it so it wouldn’t make a clattering sound when it was placed upon the cobblestone.

As much as she did want to go down to make sure it was safe, her attention was distracted by Kikiti.

She bit her bottom lip, and then, quietly, gestured for the two to figure it out amongst themselves as she rose, attention turning to the smoke and the sounds she could hear through it.

Didymus frowned at that, but did look back down into the hole. He thought he could hear the rain hitting the watery depths below, and considered that a good sign for how deep it was. “Okay, okay…I’ll go first,” he knew he was going to regret this when his hands found the ladder and it felt slick. Nonetheless, he still went down, wondering if he could knock Cleon out and escape while the viera was up above.

The smell knocked out all thought of that as he tried not to gag when it hit his nose once he was fully within the sewers. He kept climbing down, though, and eventually reached the end of it, on a side-platform that was at least higher up from the waste that was moving through the sewers. Still, the waste was there, and it reeked.

He pulled his shirt up over his nose to try and make it easier to breathe. ‘See? See? This is why we need to get a mask, besides all our bombs, shit literally happens.’ He was annoyed with himself as he called up in a muffled hiss, “All good,” it was not all good. He wanted to go home, desperately.

Within the smokescreen the guards had thankfully been distracted by the glass vials. Unfortunately for Kikiti, they had started to make out her figure, and saw her waving arms in the smoke when she was gesturing for the others to keep moving along. “Found you, you little brat!” The soldier declared, moving through the smoke and reaching through it to try and grab what he expected would be a tiny lalafell adult who was causing the fuss.

Someone, definitely, to take to Zariel at any rate, given he knew he saw a viera in the group. If the viera got away with the prince, at least they’d have someone to throw the blame onto and not have to suffer it themselves!

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