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Fantasy Hunter's Moon: Ascendancy [IC] [CLOSED]

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K0mori

Servant Supreme
Ah, so that's all he meant.

Sebastian didn't see any humor in Rajko's curse, and didn't know why the werebat felt compelled to interject when Takato made his offer. He turned back to the latter and shrugged. "Ohnehin, I appreciate the offer."

He sighed dejectedly and wanted to go back to his book, but he was growing frustrated with the slow action of the most recent chapters. Instead, the passing scenery offered a slightly better distraction, as the train had quickly emerged from the city and now offered a refreshing view to a young man who had been cooped up in the same city for months, surrounded by a hostile countryside.
 
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Infab

The Demon Fanatic
The train continued on across the plains, over rolling hills and vast fields of grass and farm land. It was a rather serene view of a land untouched by the horrors of the war to the north. And hopefully it would remain that way. Eventually, the blue sky above would slowly fade into an orange-red, and then into black as the moon and stars came out to light the night. The day was over, but the train carried ever onward to its destination on the northern coast.

--- --- --- ---





July 10th, 1881 - Night
Winfield Manor
Whitford, Sheridan, Atraca



"Woah there!" spoke a muffled voice, sitting atop the front of the covered carriage. Barely audible through the rapid taps of rain across the roof and on the cobblestone street outside. And soon enough, the carriage slowed to a stop. The wheels locked up, causing the carriage to rock a bit from the remaining momentum before settling still. Afterwards, it gently rocked as the driver climbed down from his seat at the front.

A few wet footsteps later across the stone, and the door to the carriage soon opened. "Winfield Manor, m'lady. Please, watch your step. The stone can get slick in spots." said the driver, his rough urban accent flowing forth. Seemingly from Northern Dorchester, from the cadence.

The passenger soon emerged, reaching up and grabbing the door frame before pulling themselves out of their seat. Carriage rides were always uncomfortable to her. A good horse and saddle were preferable. But Claude was resting up from the journey here to Whitford, currently sleeping in a nice, well kept stable on the south end of the city. She would have to remember to bring him a good apple or two later.

As the passenger stepped onto the cobblestone street, her boot heels clacking against the stone, she glanced to the driver. "Excellent timing, driver. Here." she stated, before reaching into her coat and drawing out a few bills. "For your trouble. Sorry for dragging you out into miserable weather. Especially at night." she added.

The driver nodded, taking the bills as she held them out to him. "Not a problem, m'lady. Been through worse. Remember the snow storm last year, 'round February? Was one of the few able to get people 'round. Proper mess, it was." he said, tucking the bills into his own coat's pocket. "Will you be needin' me later?" he asked, as he glanced towards the sky for a brief moment. It looked as though the rain would be continuing most, if not all, of the night.

She shook her head. "No, thank you. I can walk back from here. Shouldn't keep you out in this any longer." she replied, before looking towards the large iron gates in the stone fence surrounding the mansion. "Have a good night."

He tipped his rough looking flat cap to her, which she returned with her own homburg hat, before shutting the door of the carriage and climbing back into his seat. And with a flick of the reins, he was soon off. The carriage rolling away, and soon disappearing into the night. Leaving its former passenger standing in the rain, gazing up at the mansion before her.

She soon moved towards the gates, her coat gently fluttering behind her as she walked briskly. Next to the gate, in a small guard shack with a pair of armed guards inside. Both older gentlemen clad in the traditional navy blue uniforms of the local constabulary, carrying revolvers on their hips. Webleys, from the looks of things. One stood inside the guard post, looking through some sort of book, while the other stood outside next to the door under the guard post's roof overhang. A lit cigarette in hand, protected from being snuffed out by the rain by the roof overhang

As she approached, the one smoking took notice. "G'd evening, miss. Something I can help you with?" he asked, exhaling a puff of smoke into the air. He seemed disinterested. Likely bored and wanting to be elsewhere. Maybe halfway into a pint at the local pub. He seemed the type, really.

"Yes, you can." she said, stopping near him and digging into her inner coat pocket. "Does the name Lovelace mean anything to you?"

He shrugged. "Plenty of those, you know. Common name. Why?" he asked, slipping the cigarette back between his lips afterwards.

She then drew out what appeared to be a wallet of some sort. She then held it out to the guard, whom took it and examined it for a brief moment. Once he opened it and looked at the small pair of cards inside, however, his eyes widened slightly. His expression, one of surprise. "Ah, right. You mean the Lovelace family. Give me a moment." he soon said, flipping the wallet closed and handing it quickly back to the woman.

He then turned to the window of the guard house, giving it a rapid tap with his knuckles to alert the other guard inside. The other guard jumped a bit, startled by the noise, and snapped his attention to the window. A simple point towards the gate let him know just what to do. Out the other side of the guard house he went, on the inside of the gate, and he quickly unlocked it.

"Head on in, Lady McLachlan. Lord Lovelace is out and about at the moment, but he should be returning fairly soon." said the smoking guard, which earned a simple nod from the woman. She watched as one of the gates creaked open, the other guard tugging on it and pulling it just far enough to allow her inside.

"Hopefully it's not too long of a wait." she commented, soon approaching the gate and slipping through the opening that had been made. As soon as she was through, the guard shut the gate back and locked it once more.

Inside the walls was a far nicer environment, compared to the dull sidewalks and rough cobblestone streets. Well kept walkways, made of smooth red brick, surrounded by freshly cut grass and well tended bushes and flowers. Four large and sturdy trees lined the walkway leading towards the front door. White oak, oddly. It helped with the cover story of the mansion being owned and used by the Winfield family of railroad barons. Why would a major family of vampires have white oak trees planted outside their main estate, knowing full well a sliver of their wood would kill even purebloods? And why would a major clan of vampires live right here in the middle of a major Atracan city? Especially after the recent purges? Strange decisions to those not in the know.

McLachlan walked along the path, gazing up at the trees as she walked, before a voice caught her attention. "May I help you, madam? A bit late for simple friendly visitation, isn't it?" said a man, a hint of annoyance in his voice. He was well dressed, in a fine suit with a blood red vest. His moustache was well maintained, curling at the edges as was still rather popular these days, and a long goatee jutted from his bottom lip and off his chin. His hair was slicked back, likely with pomade. White gloves covered his hands. Likely the butler.

"This is far from a simple friendly visit, sir." she responded, with the same tone of annoyance. She strolled up to the steps, which lead up onto the manor's poarch where he stood, before speaking again. "My name is Claire McLachlan. I am the enforcer of the Sanguine Laws. I've come to speak with Conor regarding a rather specific and urgent matter." she stated, "You will mind your tone when addressing me, sir, and you will address me as Lady McLachlan. Do you understand?"

The butler's shock was quite visible, even as he attempted to hide it by looking away from Claire. After a brief cough, he spoke again. "Yes, Lady McLachlan. I do apologize for my rudeness. Please, follow me." he replied. She nodded, taking one last glance up to the nearby white oak tree before climbing the steps to the poarch.

Once out of the rain, she removed her hat. Revealing long black hair with a few simple braids tied into it here and there. A habit drawn from a previous life, honestly. Her red eyes rolled moved about, inspecting the front of the mansion for a moment before following after the butler as he walked through the double doors before them.

As they stepped into the foyer, Claire was greeted by the sight of a large white marble statue. It was a beautiful woman, dressed in an elegant gown and holding a sword in one hand and a crown of some sort in the other. Claire knew exactly who it was, even if there was no nameplate to be found on it. Tabitha Lovelace, formerly Tabitha Karnstein. The founder of House Lovelace, after leaving House Karnstein after a dispute over who would ascend to become matriarch of the Karnstein clan.

Tabitha had comitted suicide only thirty years ago, after building up the Lovelace family and fighting a bitter cold war with Lilith Karnstein (whom had assumed the throne of matriarch of House Karnstein.) Claire didn't know the details of her suicide, and likely never would, as the Lovelace family were tight lipped on the incident. All Claire knew was that Tabitha had fallen into a deep depression and... eventually decided to end it all. And so she did, one beautiful August morning.

Claire had attended the funeral, having known Tabitha since even before her split from the Karnsteins. It was Tabitha's mother, Lady Isabelle Karnstein, whom had voiced her support of Claire assuming the role of Enforcer of the Sanguine Laws. And Tabitha also supported her, even after her split from the Karnsteins and the founding of House Lovelace.

Claire paused to look at the statue for a moment, smiling at the love and care that had been put into its craftsmanship. Beautiful work. The butler's voice earned her attention once more, as he motioned for her to follow. "You may wait in Lord Lovelace's study, if you wish. I'm sure he wouldn't mind." he said, leading on towards a large staircase leading up to the second floor of the mansion.

"I'm sure he'd prefer I wait out in the rain. Even better, in a gutter somewhere." she responded. "...Let's just say Conor doesn't like me very much." He really didn't. While she and Tabitha got along wonderfully, her relationship with Tabitha's heir was rather rough (to put it mildly.) Headstrong, barely listened to reason, and liked to think that he could boss her around because he was the head of a major vampire house. And she was quick to remind him that she was adjacent to him in power, and could stake him if given proper cause.

The room with the staircase was well lit with new electric bulbs, allowing one to view the large portraits and other art on the walls as one moved up the staircase or down the narrow hall next to it towards the rear rooms of the mansion. A notable one was a bust portrait of Tabitha Lovelace, with another next to it of the late Lady Isabelle Karnstein. Perhaps the only portrait of a Karnstein in the building.

Another portrait, as Claire and the butler climbed the staircase, was of Conor Lovelace himself. A young man, with medium length hair colored a bright reddish-blonde, and emerald green eyes. A horseshoe-shaped moustache adorned his upper lip, curling down around the corners of his mouth and reaching his jawline around his chin. A singular dimple marked the center of his chin, framed by his long moustache.

Claire eyed the portrait as she passed, frowning slightly, but soon turned her attention away to some of the art hung beside the portrait. Paintings of Atraca's rolling plains, Daristeinian hills and mountains, as well as its large castles. Tsavanian forests and tundra. Escarian vineyards and coastlines. Beautiful artwork, indeed.

At the top of the staircase, they rounded the corner to the right and made their way down a long wide hallway. Each side bore several doors, Leading likely to guest rooms or bathrooms. Some were open, people moving about inside. Likely Lovelace clan members and their guests. She earned a few looks from them as she passed by. Some bearing a bit more scrutiny with their gaze than others. And Claire returned their gazes as she walked.

Eventually, the pair stopped at a door near the end of the hall on the left side. "The study, Lady McLachlan. Please, make yourself comfortable." said the butler, as he opened the white door by simply pushing it inward. Claire gave him a simple nod, stepping past him and into the room. Once inside, she looked about. Taking in the rather cozy feel of the large room.

It certainly felt like a study, with crammed bookshelves lining the walls next to a large lit fireplace and a thick wooden desk. A comfortable leather chair sat pushed against the desk, with a partially used cigar resting in an ashtray next to a bottle of scotch sitting on the desktop. Across from the desk, a dark red quilted loveseat and another comfortable looking leather chair. The lit oil lamps around the room only added to the room's charm.

More paintings lined the walls here, along with some animals that had been taxidermied a long time ago. Someone in the house was a hunter, it seemed. Claire eyed the stuffed wolf in the corner, as she walked across the dark colored carpet and sat on the far end of the loveseat. Despite its looks, the loveseat was far from comfortable. The seat itself rather hard, allowing no give to those that sat upon it. She glanced down at the loveseat with some annoyance, but sat back. Time to wait.

And an hour later, Conor Lovelace made his presence known. She heard the man's loud voice and rough Highlands accent from where she was in the study. Curses flowed forth like a flood of river water, mainly on the topic of Claire's presence in his mansion. She couldn't help but smile as his voice grew ever closer to the door. And when it opened, she flashed him a grin as soon as she saw him.

The look he gave her was like he was trying to stake her using just his eyes. And it simply made her grin wider. "Claire." he muttered, before moving straight for his desk. Likely to gulp down that bottle of scotch he left sitting atop it.

"And just what has you in such an ill mood, Conor?" she said, tilting her head slightly as she watched him sit down.

"You. Bein' here." he responded bluntly, grabbing the bottle and surprisingly setting it off to the side of the desktop. Out of the way. "Why are ya here? Came ta bug me like ya usually do?"

Claire straightened up,. "Aw. Does me doing my job bother you?" she asked, her tone a bit more serious than before. As was her expression, as her grin had faded away completely.

Conor took notice, his own tone changing slightly. "Aye, it does. Brings me a big heap o' trouble, and a nice fat headache too." he said, sitting back in his chair and folding his arms. "I'll soon have all the other bastards in the other houses peerin' over ma' shoulder. Wonderin' just what the bloody hell I'm doin' that has your fockin' attention."

Claire nodded. "Of course, but that happens with the other houses too. I show up somewhere, and everyone wants to know why." she responded, "And often, the why is someone went and did something very wrong. Wrong enough to break Sanguine Law. And that's when I act accordingly."

Conor motioned across the desk at her a moment later. "Aye. Now, what the hell did I do that made ya come all th' way here from Gods know where?" he asked, tilting his head as he eyed her. "Let me guess, Lilith's fingerin' us for something stupid. She never got over me callin' her an ugly, soul-sucking bitch at the last little gatherin' of the houses."

Claire smirked slightly. "As much as she deserves the title at times, no. She's not pointing the finger at you for anything." She leaned forwards, clasping her hands together with her index fingers pointed outwards. "I'm here because a few of my sources have been hearing and seeing some rather interesting things regarding this big war we have going on."

She motioned to Conor. "You know that demons are involved in this. We've been hearing that from the Church as well as other less biased sources. What I have been hearing is that some vampires have also become involved in this power struggle... and not in the good, balance keeping way."

Conor cocked an eyebrow. "What yer sayin' is one of the Houses is tryin to tip the scales... by helpin' ol' Taranoch's boys and girls." he responded. "If somebody found out, and got proof, that house would be in for a right proper purgin'."

Claire nodded. "Exactly. So, I'm intending to do a little poking around. Chatting up each of you House lords. See what you all have to say on the matter while I dig." She then sat back in her seat. "So tell me, Conor. What have you been hearing as of late regarding the other Houses?

Conor shrugged. "Well, Velin's purges did a number on all o' us. You know that. And the war isn't helpin' a bit." he started, "But you want the notable things, right?"

He sat forward, resting his arms on the desk before him as he spoke. "There's rumors of Lilith tryin' to consolidate her power inside her own House. Tryin' to gather as many loyal lieutenants 'round her to make sure she doesn't just get ousted by someone inside the Karnstein house. Bitch is paranoid." He glanced to the fireplace as he spoke. "You already know as much as I do regarding Ossenfelder and Le Rouge. Numbers problem, both of 'em."

Claire chimed in afterwards. "Yeah, too few members in the former, and too many in the latter." she muttered. Conor slowly nodded, then continued.

"The Polidori twins are behavin' even stranger, with the two going weeks without makin' any sort of appearance to even their own. Real odd ones, they are. The Morgan clan is nuttier than a peanut farm, so who knows what they're up to." He paused for a brief moment, watching the fire flicker inside the fireplace again, before continuing. "The Visconti are busy tryin' ta move their wine business for a little bit, after Daristein invaded some o' their vineyards in Escaria. War isn't good for the grapes."

"Finally, you got Ruthven... that nobody has heard anything out of in quite a while. Ever since that mess with Ashwood. Real interesting, don't ya think?" he said, before looking back to Claire. "Why so quiet? Especially now, with the war and demons afoot. Somethin's up over there."

"Yes, it certainly is odd. Considering they're the second most powerful of the old houses." responded Claire. "Didn't they send Tabitha gifts when she broke from the Karnsteins?"

Conor nodded. "Aye, they did. Mainly ta spite Lilith." he said, with a chuckle. "Imagine the confusion she probably felt when the crates started arrivin'."

Claire smirked at the thought. "...Tabitha was a good person. She deserved far better than she got in the end."

Conor nodded, looking back to Claire. "...That we can both agree on. A hundred percent."

There was a brief moment of silence between the two, before Claire stood. "I think I've ruined your night enough. I have other places to be, though..." she said, before looking Conor right in the eyes, "...If I find anything out about you, or House Lovelace, know I'll be back here rather quickly."

"My nose is clean for once, Claire." he responded, a bit annoyed by her statement. "Go look at Ruthven, or one o' the others."

"In due time, Conor. Have a pleasant night." she finally said, turning about and moving towards the door. As she reached it and turned the door knob, she heard Conor's voice one last time.

"Oh. Forgot ta mention. Heard Le Rouge acquired a factory and rail yard down south near the border with Stilusil. Outskirts o' Crighton's Bend. Dunno why they need a factory, but might be a place ta check out if ya intend to visit them." he said, reaching for his bottle of scotch.

Claire glanced back to Conor, before nodding. "Thank you for the information. But for now, I'm heading towards Grimtham Isle."

He gave her a confused look. "Lookin' to revisit some memories of yer old pirate days?" he asked, before chuckling as he removed the top from his scotch bottle. "Didn't think you were the type to dwell on the past."

Claire shook her head gently. "More of a favor for an associate of mine. And besides... we all dwell on the past, right? Blinds us to what the future might bring."

And a moment later, she disappeared through the door. Quietly shutting it behind her.

--- --- --- ---





July 11th, 1881 - Three Hours Before Dawn
Gravewood, Delaplaine, Atraca



The night had mostly passed by without incident, the train continuing its long trek to the north through the open plains and hills of Southern Atraca. The group aboard, using whatever means they could to pass the time, often got glipses of the local South Atracan wildlife as they peered through their open windows across the landscape. Deer, bison, coyotes, and a wide assortment of other wildlife. Some of the soldiers wanted to stop the train temporarily to bag some fresh meat for later, but opted not to. Time was of the essence, and they couldn't stop in the middle of nowhere just because someone wanted to bag a nice buck.

As the night hours passed, some of the group managed to get some sleep. Others occupied their time through other means. Star gazing, cleaning their equipment, or quietly chatting amongst one another. But shortly before dawn, something grabbed the attention of the soldiers in the front armored car. Something that forced the train to slow a bit, and wake some of its occupants.

Rebecca stood from her seat, rubbing her sleepy eyes and grabbing her sword with her free hand. "What's going on? Why are we stopping?" she asked, yawning briefly afterwards. Cassandra shrugged, as she stood herself and picked her rifle up from next to her seat.

As the train finally stopped, some of the soldiers dismounted, their gear clacking as they landed in the dirt beside the train. And soon, one came to the door of their cabin. As Rebecca opened it, the soldier spoke. "Lady Witlocke, there's something going on in the town ahead!" he shouted up to her as she peered down at him.

She gave him a confused look, before leaning as far as she could through the door to see ahead of the train.

Gravewood was formerly an old mining town, established in the early 1800s after vast deposits of silver were discovered nearby in the Black Ash Hills. Its population quickly grew from maybe a handful of lucky miners to around five thousand people almost in the span of a week, and with the population boom came business. But here, at the end of the century, the town had returned to a few hundred people. Most of the silver had been mined out of the hills, and people had left for greener pastures. At most, the supernatural hunting business was popular here, thanks to spectres and roaming werebeasts. Occasionally ghouls and vampires, but that wasn't often. But now, Gravewood had a bigger problem.

It was burning.
 

Dmaster

Sautekh Nemesor
Camille's mood was ever so slightly improved by Cassandra's discovery on how to operate the latch to the windows, and thus she spent the majority of the ride with her fist to her cheek as she watched the countryside go by. It was hard not to think of the distance being made between her and her family as the vehicle sped along the tracks, this excursion being her first since the Summit. And unlike the Summit she was extremely likely to see combat this time rather than be paranoid over it occurring.

Eventually she would fall asleep, arms cradling her head as she laid it against the table in an effort to make the discomfort as minimal as possible. While the train did possess beds, the noblewoman was not exactly keen on testing the likely scratchy sheets. Sleeping all bundled up in such an open train car didn't bode well with her either.

The huntress had obtained a decent amount of sleep, even if she awoke quite groggily to the train stopping and the commotion that was taking place. Quietly she rose from her seat, pushing her hands into her back before she took to stretching her arms and shaking out her wrists. "Hmnh... We aren't here already, are we?" she asks, starting to leave her booth before following behind Witlocke. Even over the saint's shoulder could Camille see the blaze raging, and she knew well enough that such an inferno was not caused naturally.

"We haven't a moment to lose. Those people need our help!"
 

joshuadim

the writer
As time passed on their journey on the train, Azathor had closed his eyes to take a nap as he took up his entire booth with his legs splayed out while he himself leaned against the window of his seat. Resting before any sort of venture outwards was always good for improving his own alertness as well as his capabilities. He didn't dream, for he didn't have the capacity to enjoy dreams for such a long time by this point. However, he did find peace in the black silence of his mind as he relaxed. It helped him take his attention off of everything happening and everything that has happened prior. However, he was jolted awake suddenly by an influx of conversational activity in the cabin and the train coming to a halt as he groggily moved his eyes about.

Something had transpired ahead, according to one of the soldiers, and as Azathor took a look himself he could see why. He quickly gathered his things and got himself ready as quickly as he could, now energized by the situation at hand. "Alright, let's get to it then shall we?" he asked aloud as he placed a hand on his blade's hilt.
 

Worthlessplebian

Worthless pleb
As the train and night rolled on, Rajko remained steadfast in his seat. You'd think one man would get cramped after so long but it was as if the werebat was like a statue. Or dead. Those notions were dissuaded as unexpectedly, Rajko's curled hands extended upwards. Stretching out the kinks in his muscles, a petite yawn to not disturb the rest of the sleeping party. The others were committed to their rest; they would need the rest. But with nothing to do, the inquisitor unhitched the latch on the window and allowed to stargaze while thumbs circled each other.

Abruptly the speeding vehicle began to grind on its' breaks, slowing down piece by piece until a full-stop. It was too soon, Rajko thought. He up righted himself to get a better view of the situation, as did the others. The orange of the raging inferno of the distant town filled Rajko's orbs, reflecting a reversed image back the pyre. The time to act was now! He spun around to retrieve his coat. He flicked it on then reached for his saber and Mauser. Fastened to his body, Rajko is ready for the battle ahead.

"Lead the way!"
 

K0mori

Servant Supreme
At some point during the ride, Sebastian had relocated himself to one of the cots to lay back and rest his back. He had only been sleeping for a couple of hours when the train arrived at Gravewood and the trouble began. Shaking his head and rubbing his eyes, he quickly threw his helmet back on his head, grabbed his pack and guns, and headed for the door.

"Where the hell are we?" he grumbled to no one in particular. Possibilities played through his mind about who or what might have caused the fire in the town ahead.
 

Breadman

Big loaf supreme
Royland had isolated himself and began his meditation to temper himself for what was to come. While he let his flames burn out he could hear the faint movements of the train. Then something else that sounded like footsteps walking pacing back and forth behind him. No one had entered to see him, but the presence was familiar all the same.

"You shouldn't be here, demon." The knight growled as his fists tightened. "Do not take the lack of enchantments against your kind as in invitation for you to barge in."

"I am not here at all, my son." The entity responded. "The barriers between the mortal realms and the Abyss are weak enough for me to work my own magic for a brief conversation at least." It stopped pacing firmly behind Royland "You had invoked my name earlier after all."

"Why would I want to even speak with you?" Royland stood up and turned around to face the demon's form. Same grotesque face, with dark wells of hate and malice for eyes. One of his horns however was cracked and chipped. The old man had seen better days. "One is bad enough, now I would have two demons to content with?"

"So I've heard." Father Lozon crossed his arms behind his back as he inspected the knight. "Rest assured nobody else but the most attuned to the ways of magic will know I had projected myself here. I would rather not jeopardize your role in this, but I have to step in when necessary. That little display of yours is well and good when facing the wretches I created you to combat, but evoking my name while threatening our allies is something I will not tolerate! Not after how much was sacrificed to even get to this point. To fail now on account of some spat...well looking bad on our part is the least of our worries."

"Slow the pace for a moment, Lozon." Royland raised a hand. He detested the demon's very existence, but if he had an interest in this mission and talked as he was involved in any capacity, then something else was going on. "What is your stake in this? Last I knew, you were a bannerman for the Icon of wrath."

"Finally." The demon chuckled "You not only stop sneering, but ask a good question. No, Royland. My days as a bannerman are in the past as Vegras had made an example of me and your kin." He paused for a moment before continuing, holding his hand up while pointing towards the knight, gaze slightly off to the distance "It occurs to me now that you likely did not know of that development as our deeper connection was severed so long ago, but you know me well enough to tell if I'm lying or not. What led to that decision is a long and sorted tale I sadly cannot share right now. Rest assured that I support the rebellion against Taranoch."

"They made an enemy of the man who loved vengeance so much, he would damn his soul for it." Royland shook his head. "You're a mad old man, but at least you're on the right side."

"Yes." Lozon agreed with reluctance "I suppose you could call my sudden shift of allegiance madness, but its one of necessity." The demon looked to him again. "Now you do your part, join your comrades in arms and make sure I do not regret my decision."

"Do not presume you can command me, demon!" Royland snapped back "I severed your strings centuries ago!"

"I am making a request you fucking donkey! GAH!" Lozon sighed with anger barely contained behind it. "My time is running short so I'll take my leave now." The image started to fade. "I'm not the only one dependent on your success, remember that as you swing that sword around."

Much like his own powers, the projection left behind a stench of sulfur in the air. The agitating odor would do little to distract Royland from the conversation they just had. The demon was many things, but not a liar. If he was made an example of by humiliation it would follow that he would switch sides, but there was more. His own kind, the wraiths, had also paid the price. Whatever neutrality he had heard of before was surely gone now.

The train halting snapped him out of his thought and made him return to the passenger car, but would stop as soon as he looked at the flames burning in the distance through the window. Either the war had reached them sooner than expected, or something worse was on the horizon.
 

Damian0358

Roleplaying Procrastinator From Elsewhere
With his conversation with Sebastian and Rajko having come to its conclusion, Xiaòzhou would largely spend the rest of the day idly examining the interior where he felt appropriate, engaging in casual conversation with those present, even a few of the soldiers, as well as Zazriel, staring out at the sights passing by them, and engaging in his usual chantings in his booth. Despite the tumultuous start to this expedition, at least there was calm. With night approaching, so too would rest. He returned to the booth he had claimed during the ride, where he prepared his seat-cloth. Assured that things would be fine, he removed the robe he wore (though keeping the staff on him in case he needed to defend himself, and Zazriel wished to speak with him), now being in his underrobe and pants, and engaged in his pre-sleep chanting and meditation, before beginning his sleeping qigong, doing so sitting upright. As a Douean, he only slept as much as he needed, and while 'asleep' he remained consciously aware of himself, noticing his surroundings... such as that suspicious demonic aura next to what he recalled was Royland, as well as though who remained awake late or had awoken early, such as Rajko.

With the train slowing down and coming to a stop, Xiaòzhou quickly put his robe back on and grabbed his things, noting rushed movement onboard and aural flucations from those closer to the front or looking ahead of the train. Looking out himself, he quickly saw what had gotten everyone so worried. He rushed out the door and headed for where the others were, overhearing them.

"Has anything else been spotted near the settlement aside from the fire?! If not, I can head for the skies and attempt to see if we can make our way there unopposed!" he quickly suggested, getting as much info as they can being his top priority, given the suddenness of it all.
 
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Infab

The Demon Fanatic
"Where the hell are we?"

"Gravewood, Atraca." responded Cassandra, flipping the safety off on her Lebel and making sure it had been loaded fully as she stood behind the others. "I've been through here twice. It used to be a mining town, thanks to silver in the hills. Now its just a brief stop on the railroad. The 'blink and you'll miss it' kind of stop."

Meanwhile, Rebecca glanced back to the others as they spoke.

"We haven't a moment to lose. Those people need our help!"
"Alright, let's get to it then shall we?"
"Lead the way!"

Rebecca nodded, before looking down to the soldier at the door. "Find your commander, and let them know that we are going to proceed into town. I'll signal for the train to proceed through to the other side of town once we know its clear." she stated, "Guard this train with your lives."

She looked back. "Secure the windows in this car, then follow me. We'll search for survivors, and eliminate those that caused this, if they're still in town." she ordered, before moving past the group behind her and grabbing her towershield from her seat.

"Has anything else been spotted near the settlement aside from the fire?! If not, I can head for the skies and attempt to see if we can make our way there unopposed!"

The soldier outside shouted up to them again. "Nothing yet, sir! We're keeping an eye out!"

Rebecca glanced to Takato as she grabbed her shield. "That would be extremely helpful, yes. Be careful, though."

As Rebecca moved back towards the door, Cassandra spoke again. "I'll do a little scouting too. Of course, if that's alright with you, Witlocke."

Rebecca glanced back to Cassandra and nodded. "Return to us if you find anything of note." responded the Saint, before jumping down from the door onto the dusty ground beside the train.

Cassandra, meanwhile, gave the others a simple hat tip, before slipping out the window on the other side of the train car. Her rifle in her hand as she landed and darted away into the darkness towards the flank of the burning town. It was almost as if she teleported, her blinding speed making her vanish in the night and surprising some of the onlookers.

The soldiers moved into position on either side of the train, while those remaining on the train simply took up battle positions in their armored cars. A few even manning the cars' large belt fed machine guns. All looked about, eyes wandering. Searching for shapes or movement in the darkness.

As the others moved out of the train and onto the ground, they followed behind Rebecca as she marched towards the town. Sword at the ready, shield prepared in the event she needed it.
 
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Damian0358

Roleplaying Procrastinator From Elsewhere
Xiaòzhou nodded in response, before heading out the door first. First, he floated up to the roof of the train initially, to avoid being spotted by any theoretical onlookers from the town, before flying skyward in a twirling motion as to gain speed faster. Seeing the others slowly make their way out of the train and towards the town, sensing Cassandra and her fast movement, as well as those still on the train, he narrowed his focus towards the town and its surroundings, concentrating on sighting (or sensing) anyone not familiar to him.
 

Dmaster

Sautekh Nemesor
When the group began to disembark from the train, Camille retrieved a bolt from her pouch and loaded the crossbow on her arm intently. Despite the weapon now being loaded, she closed it back up and retrieved the sabers on her hips, unsheathing them as soon those gleaming blades reflected the lamp light in the train car. The more gifted members of the group saw to either blitzing out into the blaze or flying above it, but the huntress had no such luxuries as she marched behind Rebecca.

To her, they didn't know nearly enough about their enemy currently, so she was hopeful that their advance team would actually report back with information to make this situation less tense.
 

K0mori

Servant Supreme
Nodding in half-understanding, Sebastian wasn't quite satisfied with the answer Cassandra had given him. Although he now knew the name of the town they were approaching, he wasn't sure where it was in relation to the current warfront. He silently hoped that there hadn't been a failure of communication that had sent them close to a conflict zone with his own countrymen, but he nonetheless knew that it was a possibility. After all, even if the Escarians had anticipated the Daristeinian movements which entrapped much of their army in the east, the speed at which it had been accomplished still caught them off guard.

He also considered that this was merely an act of sabotage, and that once the fires were extinguished, they'd have nothing to worry about unless the locals mistook him for an enemy trooper.

He followed the lead of Rebecca and Camille, as he could easily keep up with them on foot, and selected his Mauser rifle to compliment their more close-range weapons. The only problem was the ammunition. The gun was already loaded with standard rounds, but he kept silver- and gold-loaded clips at the ready should he need to switch out.
 

Infab

The Demon Fanatic
As Xiaòzhou soared into the sky above and began to make his pass, circling around the burning town and its surrounding plains and rocks, he soon began to make out small traces of aura inside the village and around it. Most of them beginning to move in the direction of the train. It was odd, though. They had the aura of humans, but... tainted in some manner. Corrupted, and no longer the pure human souls that Xiaòzhou was so accustomed to seeing across the landscape of Adonia and Redonia before it. What had happened to these poor people?

On the ground, Cassandra only slowed her movements as she neared the northern flank of Gravewood. She eventually found herself in a light jog, the dirt and loose rocks making a crunching noise with each step as her boots touched the ground. She eventually paused behind a large bolder, near a path leading up into the hills towards the old mines. There were also a few old mine carts nearby, on a small track. Most looked as though they had been abandoned for a few decades. Further proof that the mines were barren.

She peeked out from her cover, rifle shouldered and at the ready. And as she began to scope out the northern side of the town, she began to notice the same auras that Xiaòzhou had seen from above. Altered souls, moving towards the train. And she also noticed something else.

The mangled and desecrated corpses of the towns residents scattering across the ground around the burning buildings. No traces of life. The people marching towards the train had likely slaughtered them all and set fire to Gravewood's buildings. Well, save for one. The white and grey wooden church at the western end of town was still pretty pristine in appearance, and there seemed to be some of those altered souls gathered around it. Trying to get inside. Perhaps there were some still alive in there?

She'd get her answer when she heard the sound of a shotgun being discharged. A double barrel, both shells being fired. One of the altered souls was snuffed from existence. "Guess I better go help." she muttered to herself. She began to jog towards the western side of the village, her rifle still shouldered as she picked up speed.

Back at the train, the soldiers had yet to see anything in the darkness. At least, until a rifle shot sounded off. One of the soldiers on the left side of the train dropped, his head having been turned into a canoe by a bullet. "SHIT! LAUNCH A FLARE!" shouted one of the soldiers from the front armored car. And a moment later, a flare gun was lifted to the sky. Its trigger was pulled, and a fireball launched high into the air above. Barely missing Xiaòzhou flying above.

As the flare reached its height and began to descend slowly, it produced an exponential amount of light. As if a second sun had appeared. And soon, the soldiers as well as Rebecca and her group saw just what they were dealing with.





Other Atracan soldiers. But they were far different than the ones aboard and next to the train.

These soldiers were covered with blood, their eyes piercing white with no iris or pupils to speak of. Drool and bile hung from their mouths, as if they barely had control over themselves. That, or whatever had overcame them had been quite violent and body wracking. Likely the latter.

Rebecca's eyes went wide, and she quickly brought her shield up. "THEY'VE BEEN POSSESSED! QUICKLY! PUT THEM DOWN!" she spat, looking back towards the train and soldiers behind them. The soldiers hesitated. These were their fellow countrymen! What if they could be saved!? Those thoughts were quickly cast aside, as numerous rifle shots sounded off from the enemy. These possessed soldiers seemed to know how to use their Lee-Enfields and Krag–Jørgensens well.

More soldiers on the flanks went down, as .303 and .30-40 shots ripped through their bodies. Then the soldiers remaining opened up on their former allies. Rifles shots, machine gun fire, and even pistol fire sounded off, aiming at the incoming forces from Gravewood.

"If you have a rifle, shoot back! If not, take cover behind me or behind those boulders!" said Rebecca, looking back to those following her. Nearby, scattered about, were large rocks. Perfect cover for those needing it. And it seemed the possessed soldiers were using the same cover ahead to fight back.
 
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K0mori

Servant Supreme
Sebastian dropped to the ground to aim in a prone position, his rifle more than accurate enough to handle the distance. The enemy, being possessed, was still human in form and he assumed they wouldn't need any special type of ammunition to take out. Falling back on his training, he fired one shot after another at the shadowy soldiers in the distance.
 

joshuadim

the writer
As he was lacking any long distance weapon, Azathor opted to take cover behind the nearby boulders as he dashed towards them and leaned against them with his back. The thrill of battle was returning as he felt himself become more and more tense from the combat that was erupting. He pulled out his pistols and decided that, once the opportunity came, he would give them their maiden bloodletting.
 

Breadman

Big loaf supreme
There was very little Royland could do from a distance so he would have to go behind cover. The knight poked his head long enough to see the soldiers approaching. The chain appeared again and coiled itself around his arm, but the head was different from before. Instead of a spearhead it looked like a scythe. It would have to do until the soldiers would come closer.
 
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Damian0358

Roleplaying Procrastinator From Elsewhere
Xiaòzhou felt genuinely troubled when he sensed the tainted aura of humans, their corruption penetrating deep within. As he circled around to get a better sight of things, he found himself nearly hit by a flare. The light of the flare forced me down, but Rebecca's yelling could be heard loud and clearly. Rubbing his eyes for but a moment first, he got into a defensive position atop the front armored car roof, and considered his options.

He could start off with a basic Mystic Barrage card, like one from the Talisman set - Converging Shot or Rapid Shot might be appropriate here. However, he also had the rifle he had obtained yesterday, the nine-shot gas-sealed revolver carbine. Perhaps now was a good time to try it out and do some field-testing. After considering its sights, and arguing to himself whether it had the range, he decided to take the opportunity. He opened the cylinder, and quickly loaded the bullets in using qi, shutting it close and taking aim at the incoming soldiers.
 

Worthlessplebian

Worthless pleb
Rajko marched alongside the others, prepared to face the worst possible situation. In truth, he hoped that it was only an accident-a freak occurrence that they only needed to smother with water. Alas reality never misses a beat to disappoint; Rebecca cried out! A warning that these were possessed. Atracan soldiers now turned against them, blank eyes and gargling mouths, stained by their lifeblood or the blood of others. Shots whizzed passed Rajko, his teeth grit. This was going to be a battle.

He dived forward into a roll before taking a crouched position. His rifle veered onto a distant soldier and fired!
 

Dmaster

Sautekh Nemesor
Camille was tense as they kept to their marching order, hands gripped tightly on her blades as she scanned the horizon. The launched flare gave them vital light so they could better see their enemy, and what the huntress saw made her stomach drop. This was not merely undead or thralls, these were living people possessed by demons - forced to fight and kill friends and innocents alike. It sickened her to the point she froze up, her husband's hatred for demons resonating within her for a moment before a stray bullet split the air beside her. Shocked back into action, she sprints off and makes a dive for cover, gritting her teeth.

Quickly she sheathed her blades and popped open her crossbow, glancing over her shoulder at the line of shambling soldiers before them. "Those monsters..!" she spat, rapidly looking for a target to put down yet was hesitating to do so. Was there no way to save these men? As her allies' gunfire erupted she realized she had to make a decision, popping her arm and head from her safe position for just a moment to fire off a bolt at one of the possessed riflemen.
 

Infab

The Demon Fanatic
Gravewood - Outskirts - Rail Line - Turn One
Possessed Atracan Riflemen
(Number of Enemies = 8. HP = 10 Each.)

Special Buffs:
Possessed Atracan Riflemen

Steeled Nerves: Can't be distracted, and aim can't be thrown off.

Rebecca's Group
Emergency Aid: As Rebecca's group is being escorted by soldiers, the soldiers can provide emergency aid if a player should be downed. Automatic revival to half health after one turn.

Special Debuffs:
Possessed Atracan Riflemen

Last Man Standing: No reinforcements will be provided, and they cannot flee the battle.

- - - - - - - - -

(An experimental thing I've come up with for ranged weaponry is the use of an Accuracy Roll. d10s are used to determine if a player or foe hits its target in the first place, much like melee attacks, but no critical hits are allowed with the d10 rolls. After the d10 is rolled and a hit is determined, a d20 is rolled to determine the severity of the hit. 1 to 6 is a grazing hit which does minimal damage. 7-12 is a limb shot. 13-18 is a body shot. 19-20 are critical hits (often a head shot or heart shot.) Critical hits can be instant kills, or simply do a lot of damage based on the situation. Players are immune to these kinds of instant kills, so they will suffer substantial damage instead.)

Sebastian = 9. Acc. Roll = 14. Does 5 DMG to Possessed Soldier #1. Possessed Soldier #1 HP = 5.
Azathor = 4. Misses Possessed Soldier #2.
Xiaòzhou = 2. Misses Possessed Soldier #3.
Rajko = 8. Acc. Roll = 19. Headshot! Possessed Soldier #4 has been killed!
Camille = 3. Misses Possessed Soldier #5.
Rebecca = 1. Critical Failure. Negligent Discharge. Does 1 DMG to self. Rebecca's HP = 9.


---

Possessed Soldier #1 = 7. Acc. Roll = 3. Does 1 DMG to Sebastian. Sebastian HP = 9.
Possessed Soldier #2 = 3 - 2 (1, Enemy in Cover.) Misses Azathor.
Possessed Soldier #3 = 10. Acc. Roll = 20. Critical Hit! Does 7 DMG to Xiaòzhou. Xiaòzhou HP = 3.
Possessed Soldier #5= 4. Misses Rajko.

Possessed Soldiers #6, #7, and #8 are attempting a bayonet charge!
Azathor, Camille, and Rebecca are targeted!


--- --- ---
As gunfire sounded off all around them, Rebecca and the rest of her group chose to focus on the eight soldiers directly before them. Their bodies lit by both the flare above and the fires of Gravewood behind, several of the group took aim and fired at these possessed soldiers. And it wasn't long before some of them were firing back. Sebastian's shot struck true, his skills and training as a proper soldier of Daristein allowing him to put an 8mm round straight through the possessed soldier he took aim at. Center mass, through the sternum. The problem was that it didn't exactly kill the soldier. The soldier stumbled a moment, before shouldering its weapon and firing back. The .303 round grazed Sebastian's shoulder, forcing the man to flinch and roll to the side.

Azathor opened fire at another soldier with his semi-auto pistols, but found his accuracy wanting. He had never used these sorts of weapons before, so the misses were explainable. And thankfully, the soldier he fired at missed him. His rifle shot striking the boulder that Azathor quickly slipped back behind. Xiaòzhou's aim proved worse than Azathor's, having slightly misjudged the qi he had poured into his shot as well as the weapon's recoil. The shot missed its target completely, sailing over the soldier's head. But the soldier's return fire was almost fatal. His .30-40 bullet struck Xiaòzhou squarely in the left side of his chest, sending his carbine sailing out of his hand and bouncing off the train's roof. Both he and the weapon rolled off the train's roof, falling and landing hard onto the ground beside the train. A friendly soldier rushed over, quickly helping the Oni monk back to his feet and giving him his carbine.

Rajko's aim would prove to be the truest of them all, as his rifle shot struck a soldier squarely in his forehead. A loud ping sounded, the round also hitting his helmet and sending it flying off into the air as the soldier collapsed. In retaliation, another possessed soldier took aim at Rajko and fired. His shot, however, missed by a wide margin. Camille's crossbow shot missed as well, sailing by the demon that had taken a shot at Rajko. She'd need slightly more practice with the weapon, it seemed.

Rebecca's attempt to use her own crossbow resulted in accidentally discharging it into the dirt as she attempted to pull the bolt into place. It also pinched her fingers, forcing a yelp from her. But she wouldn't have time to load another bolt. As she looked up over her shield, she noticed that three of the soldiers that were attacking them had fitted bayonets to their weapons. And were now charging them.

"They're charging!" she shouted, looking to Azathor and Camille nearby, whom it seemed the demons were also intending to hit with their bayonets. She quickly slipped the crossbow back onto her hip, before drawing her sword back out. It seemed it was time for a melee battle.
 

Breadman

Big loaf supreme
The possessed soldiers were beginning to form a charge. There was little Royland could do to the ones away, he could take a swing at those forsaking their advantage. He prepared the scythe's head to cut the wretches that got close.
 

K0mori

Servant Supreme
Sebastian let out a yelp, clutching at his shoulder for a moment before forcing himself to focus on the task at hand. He worked the bolt on his Mauser chambering another round, and aimed for the man he had traded shots with already. He had to kill him before he could think about rising to his feet and making himself a larger target, since the enemy doubtlessly still had a bead on him.
 

Dmaster

Sautekh Nemesor
Camille grit her teeth with visible frustration when her bolt missed its mark, looking to the weapon for a malfunction before she realized it was her own lack of practice with the device. Before she could even begin to reload or fiddle with it amidst the gunfire, Rebecca warned them of an impending charge as the huntress' expression slowly changed to one of excitement. "They're giving up their ranged advantage just like that? Splendid." she declared, unsheathing her sabres as she stood her ground.

She waited for the bayonet charge, taking up a combat stance as she readied to parry the advancing soldiers - hoping to cut them down after they were made open to her slashes.
 

Damian0358

Roleplaying Procrastinator From Elsewhere
Xiaòzhou already wasn't confident with his sharpshooting skills, even with the 'leverage' of having gained his shadow's outdated insight, so the fact he missed was not surprising. As he briefly considered whether the lingering qi on the bullet may have played a factor, he found himself shot off the train's roof. In that moment, he remembered why gunfire ultimately intimidated him. Unless a magic user prepares beforehand, a single bullet could end it all. The worst part wasn't the fact he was shot, but how the way he had positioned himself had led to the bullet passing through him to cut through more than it should have. It was an absolute shock to the senses, and he was bleeding fast.

As the soldier rushed over to get him off the ground, and handing him his carbine, he asked him to lean him behind some cover. First things first, he needs to heal himself, at minimum dealing with the bullet wounds in-and-out. Sensing the qi of the enemy, once he's dealt with his wounds, he'll use a Mystic Barrage instead of his gun, drawing out 'Talisman ~ Scattering Shot' and unleashing an AoE attack. To amplify it, however, he'll first charge the card further.
 

Worthlessplebian

Worthless pleb
With a keen eye, steady hand, and calm breath, Rajko fired a shot that punched through the possessed soldier. The fallen soldier's helmet bent and broke as the bullet effortlessly pierced it. Whatever remained of the brain was scattered out the exit bullet hole. Body dropped atop the ground, soon followed by the helmet. An enemy's gun popped, he swapped fire with the Atracan Bat. Alas the bullet whizzed past, not even approaching the broadside of a barn. Except Rajko knew not to underestimate such a foe; on cue he barreled to the side and landed flat on his stomach. He racked the bolt back to eject the spent cartridge, then swiftly aligned his sights towards the soldier that fired upon him. His hands admittedly shook with adrenaline.

Hopefully he can manage to kill this one so that he may assist the trio that were being charged.
 

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