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Fantasy Munus Deorum (open)

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Ari Number Two

Don't lose Ari~♪ Shine bright Ari~♪
rieve.png

Tags: Frozen Thyme Frozen Thyme AncientBird AncientBird Hazmat44 Hazmat44 Vulpes lagopus Vulpes lagopus SilverFlight SilverFlight

art by Dessa-nya
755ee2c403751ba29219335f16b0b20a.jpg
"My apologies... excitement seems to be getting the better of me." Though she said that, there was no helping the hyperventilating breaths that paused her sentences. Tamakai, God of Entertainments, was holding off on telling the news until Tevan arrived. A sound plan; it would be easier to explain if all four of the pillars were here at once. Aluma was present as well; Rieve wondered if the Goddess of Autumn hated her because of recent actions... And... upon taking a moment to look over the three, a thought crossed her mind: how long has it been since she's met with her companions...? Rieve mustered a smile at each of them. "My dear old friends... I am glad you all seem well."

Her gaze went to the Deity of Water. "Boscer..." she tenderly began. "I never had the chance to thank you for breaking the barriers between me and Tevan—telling him of how I felt when I could not—though neither of us ever had the chance to act on the news... I am glad you've returned to us."

Their meeting was then interrupted by the arrival of the Central Deity of Fire, Solaris. Her appearance only sparked further excitement in Rieve; Tevan has to be out and about. The Insect Goddess grinned at Sol's two word remark. She gently brought a fist over her chest, taking a solemn tone. "I am aware. What has happened to me is simply punishment. I'm the one who failed to save Tevan back then, after all."

Speaking of... The rest of group emerged from the trees.

All the sound went blank.

Rieve's vision blurred and welled with water.

Nobody else existed in that moment.

"Tevan..." Trembling in voice and body, Rieve stared holes into the Earthen God. She bided her time throughout Tamakai's rundown, expecting Tevan to vanish at any moment—if it was yet another hallucination molded by grief. But no matter how much she cleared her eyes and waited, he never disappeared. "Tevan. Tevan. Tevan!" Rieve stumbled across the ground, tripping and falling on her arms only to push herself back up in mere moments. She ran as fast as her legs could carry her. Towards Tevan. Nothing else mattered. "Tevan! Tevan! Tevan!" Funnily enough, it seemed like he didn't recognize her.

She was upon him at once. Rieve's arms reached around Tevan like a coiling snake, holding the Central Deity as tight as her own strength let her. "I missed you... So, so much..." She could feel him; smell him; embrace him. This was not the stone skin that had covered him for the past century; this was him. "I knew we were destined to reunite... It was all my fault... but..." Rieve laughed as tears finally fell down her cheeks. It had all paid off until now. "You're going to love what I have done to make up for it."

Rieve wept.
 

SilverFlight

Tende altum, volare altius
Tevan heard his name, the voice that carried it familiar, and yet, somehow different. The body that collided with him nearly bowled him over and he let out a soft "oof!" as she hugged him.
He recognized her now.
"R-Rieve! You're safe!" He returned the hug happily, and when she pulled back he saw her face.
"Rieve..." His smile faded, shifting into one of shock. Slowly, he reached a hand up to her cheek, skin darkened and corrupted, his fingers hovered over the ruined visage for a moment before he cupped her cheek gently. It could only mean one thing.
"You're going to love what I have done to make up for it."
His golden blood ran cold. There was little joy left in his expression now, only urgency, fear.
"What have you done?"
Ari Number Two Ari Number Two
 

Hazmat44

Ignore the radiation. I do that all the time.
Supporter
Boscer felt his heart drop from his chest at Rieve's breathless excitement, and when she told him of the feelings she had expressed to him so many years ago, it was like being sealed again.

How had he forgotten what she had told him? How could he have forgotten!?

He swallowed hard, giving Rieve a weak smile, still unable to do anything less than admire her beauty. He cursed his own weakness, his lack of self control in this matter. But at the same time... her face was full of joy, endless joy and hope, and it was not for him.

The coarse, thorned vine of jealousy that had been growing around his heart tightened its grip, and so he said nothing. He said nothing as Tevan entered the hollow, feeling incredible guilt that he could not greet his friend because of these traitorous feelings. He said nothing as Rieve charged forward, emanating bliss and peace as she wrapped her arms around the earthen deity. It was only when Tevan's voice hardened in shock and concern that Boscer stood forward, rebuking Tevan in an old and tired voice that for once matched how he felt, "Tevan, we have been gone one hundred years. The world has changed without us, and not for the better. Is it not enough that so many of our friends are safe? Must you judge them for their actions during a time of war?"

Boscer sent the words out like sharpened knives, curling in and dying inwardly. Tevan, my old friend. You do not deserve my treatment of you. One day I shall give you an appropriate apology, but I am too weak now. Please, forgive me until then.

Ari Number Two Ari Number Two SilverFlight SilverFlight
 

Ari Number Two

Don't lose Ari~♪ Shine bright Ari~♪

art by Dessa-nya
755ee2c403751ba29219335f16b0b20a.jpg
What a silly expression Tevan held. Perhaps he was still flabbergasted from emerging from petrification not too long ago? Or was it her own marred appearance that took him by surprise? "My dear Tevan... You do not need to fret about me. This..." She motioned to her own body, a far cry of what once was. "Everything that I have done, not just to myself, but to others in the past century, has been for you, my love."

Boscer spoke out just then. The Insect Goddess froze where she stood, the smile fading from her lips. With only the sound of sloshing mud to her turning, Rieve met the Water Deity's eye, urged and twitching. "Do not talk to Tevan like that." She held her tongue from saying more; that was the most she'd do for a friend.

Rieve withdrew from the Earth Deity's proximity; he must have needed space to think. "These usurpers mercilessly slew your followers like animals... one by one, making you watch... I was there... I did nothing to stop it... Nothing..." Her countenance soured as she spat each coming word. An air of shame drifted around her for a moment, then dissipating as her words came again. "So, I did the only thing I could have done to atone for my failure." A quiet exhale of relief, as though she removed the own weight bearing her shoulders. "I have done to them what they have done to you. Your people for their people. A way for them to truly realize their sins against you."

As if on cue, a dozen locusts emerged from her lantern, crawling up the chain and on Rieve's skin.
 

SilverFlight

Tende altum, volare altius
Tevan seemed bewildered by the hostility in his friend's voice. Had a hundred years of slumber truly changed them that much?
But Rieve's words confused him more. "Love"? What was that about? She pulled away from him and he listened as she explained, with every word the sinking feeling in his stomach grew.
"You...you took revenge...on the humans?"
Tevan staggered back, his face a mask of shock. His hand went to his forehead. "Oh Rieve..."

He stood for a moment in silence, wrestling his thoughts back under control.
"It's not her fault." He whispered softly to Boscer's accusations. "It's mine."
When he looked up his face held a grim determination. "If I had been stronger...hadn't been cornered."
He shook his head. "I'm here now. Rieve, we must speak, but for the moment at least, we must find shelter."
Tevan looked to the others. "Rieve will be my responsibility." He assured them, and his tone told them he would not be leaving without her.

Ari Number Two Ari Number Two Hazmat44 Hazmat44

Lioness075 Lioness075 AncientBird AncientBird Vulpes lagopus Vulpes lagopus Lekiel Lekiel Frozen Thyme Frozen Thyme
 

SilverFeathers

Ruler of the Sky
Ralis Crasmere
Divine Wood - Near the Cardinal Shrines

Ralis was broken out of his train of thought by a voice, one that only seemed oddly familiar until his eyes flew towards the golden tail behind the male approaching him. The lion, I see. He concluded, recalling him being called Falarion by the earth and fire deities. He was rather harsh to the trio earlier, so it was no surprise when the golden deity kept his distance. He should apologize, though it was a wonder to him why he hadn't been struck down by their godly powers yet.

"I'm not quite sure myself. Something pulled me here." He firstly answered his question with as polite a tone as he could muster, before looking him firmly in the eye. "I'm sorry for my rudeness earlier." He wasn't going to make excuses about how unbelievable it was that they were back, nor the minute chances of a human somehow meeting them. He undeniably lashed out at them for a prank they weren't doing, and he was now apologizing for that mistake.

Nodding his head slightly, he broke eye contact with Falarion just as one of the dark-coloured birds casually landed on his head, shooting a barrage of questions right at his face. He knew the little bird was chatty, considering he was listening in a little earlier whilst he was informing them of the imperial soldiers on the forest's edge, but he certainly wasn't expecting him to be so... friendly, to a stranger. Ralis couldn't help but freeze up whilst at a loss of what to do, uncomfortable with the idea of a stranger he had no idea the intentions of so close to him, but at the same time not being able to just throw him off since he was likely a god of some kind.

Fortunately, Tevan intervened quickly after, as he morphed into a gentle humanoid form that truly befitted his personality. Kind? Compassionate? Ralis could understand why he came to that misconception about himself, he supposed. But protection? From what? "...Didn't you guys just wake up? You should really protect yourselves first. The emperor's soldiers will be all over you guys once they find out you've awakened." He couldn't help but deny the latter half of the god's words, though in a much more reasonable way than he would have previously.

Demons, with imperial soldiers lurking to boot, were certainly things to worry about however. It didn't seem like he'd be able to return home for a while...

Another figure had interrupted alongside Tevan, the autumn-coloured lady with a woven horn-like object under her left arm. She stared holes through him for a period before speaking, causing him to focus his attention on the morphing deer first. Now, he was being offered a bunch of grapes, though her cryptic words confused him a little. His story? For a god to ask him his story... did that refer to his entire life history? Pondering the mind of a immortal being was difficult, though he was grateful for the fruits. He wanted nothing more than to rush home and share them with his family after a hard-earned supper, but like before, he instinctually realized that would not be possible.

"Thank you, goddess." He bobbed his head as thanks, unsure if there were other more appropriate gestures of gratitude. Wild grapes were often sour, and weren't really his foraging berry of choice, but after popping one in his mouth he realized these were no mere wild grapes. The sweetness exploded in his mouth, similarly to how his stolen candy usually does, but it was such a natural and enriching flavour that he was momentarily stunned. "Wow, thank you, really." He couldn't help but express his thanks again towards the sunset-coloured woman, before getting distracted by the interesting drama being played out between Tevan, Boscer and the ominous-looking goddess. Maybe it was because he was suddenly surrounded by so many gods amiable to him, but he didn't particularly feel a sense of urgency. The warming connection likely paid a part too, or so he told himself.

Ralis vaguely inferred that the goddess, Rieve, it seemed she was named, no longer appeared as she used to one hundred years ago, and that she was madly infatuated with Tevan. Watching her rebuke Boscer, the central deity of water, Ralis couldn't help but break out in cold sweat. If she finds out what he said to Tevan not too long ago... he was definitely more than dead. He had somewhat heard of the insect swarms and plagues that had haunted farmlands farther north from where he lived, though it had never been a big concern to him. But watching the locusts crawl up her arms, he instinctively realized that she was at least one of the causes for their despair.

He was indeed frightened of her. But a growing anger also flooded through him. If everything he assumed was true, did that not mean she ruined the livelihoods of hundreds, no thousands of humans due to her own personal despair and lost love? Watching Tevan comfort her and put her under his own protection only served to worsen his mood, though he tried not to show his further conflicted feelings towards the old gods.

With a sigh, Ralis confirmed once more, how he wanted nothing more, than to just go home.

Faintly recalling that there was a bird perched atop his head, one that had interrogated him rather suddenly at that, he decided to focus on his presence instead. It was less... irritating after all. "I'm sure you've heard my name by now, but I'm Ralis." He began discreetly, trying to recall all the questions he had been asked before the drama unfolded. "I come from the village located north-east from here, on the outskirts of the Divine Wood, named Crasmere." His last question caused him to ponder a bit, wondering if he'd be offended if he said no and smite him down, but he decided to be honest anyway. He already had a terrible headache from all these revelations, thinking too much more will likely exhaust him. "No. I don't worship any of you. But my family does, if that's anything. Even in these times, they worship Solaris, and are fond of the other central deities too."

Lioness075 Lioness075 AncientBird AncientBird SilverFlight SilverFlight Frozen Thyme Frozen Thyme
 

AncientBird

Reptile with wings and plumes.
Tamakai

Tamakai cheerfully hopped around the mortal’s head. Tevan had confirmed that the young man had indeed tried to save him and thus, making the minor god interested in this mortal even more. Aluma came over to grant him some grapes which Tamakai considered a big honor for a stranger to receive such a treat from her sacred cornucopia.

The atmosphere was going well and jolly, until something drawn Tamakai’s attention back to the old god group.

Rieve had finally approached her mentor, hugging Tevan from behind. Both reunited with one another. At long last, the wish of insect goddess had been full fill after a hundred years and Tamakai looked forward to see if she would revert back to her old self… However, what he witnessed had spun the other way around…

"So, I did the only thing I could have done to atone for my failure." Said Rieve. "I have done to them what they have done to you. Your people for their people. A way for them to truly realize their sins against you."

…She said it so confidently… She seemed so proud of her actions… As if no regret was ever in her mind.

Tamakai froze in place, his talons clutched tightly on the mortal’s hair. It was like his heart had suddenly stopped beating.

An image popped up in his head… Memory, one ingrained deep in the corner of his consciousness…

Tamakai was there… A small village near the forest corridor. It was abandoned, devoid of any sight of humans… However, in an empty space nearby, a horde of squabbling vultures, ravens and magpies had swarmed the area, feasting upon huge piles of corpses…

Upon her mad rampage, Rieve had summoned numerous swarms of insects… Locusts had mowed down all the crops and other pests like lice, flies and fleas were poured upon the inhabitants. This village was unfortunately on the path of her swarm. Disease had broken out and within weeks, it had claimed many villagers. Dead bodies piled up so much that it’s beyond the few survivors’ capability to bury them all. Thus, they ditched the village all together, seeking help somewhere else and left the remains to the mercy of nature.

Tamakai knew this village. It may not be big but its people were a joy to visit. He would come here occasionally to bless the mortal with his performance, children awaited his bonfire stories and many inspired artists looked up to his tutoring.

Once the usurpers had conquered the area. The village could do nothing but submit to their authority. They wanted nothing to do with Tamakai any longer out of fear. The minor god had never resented the villagers for their decision… They only did what they can to survive and the fact that Tamakai had seen them grow for many generations, they were like his own children and he could never blame his children for such necessity.

They were one of the settlements that the Cult of Rieve didn’t reach. They unknowingly missed their chance to avoid the fury of the mad goddess…

Tamakai stood alone in the middle of the graveyard watching the people he once knew, his beloved children, devoured by carrion eaters. He wasn’t angry at the winged beasts, for the vultures, ravens and his dear magpie friends were doing a favor for nature, making sure that the pestilence ended in their sturdy stomachs instead of tainting the land and risked spreading it somewhere else. Still such a sight pained him to his core…

There were many things stirred up inside that Tamakai couldn’t pinpoint what they were… Pity? Sorrow? Resentment? Anger?…

…Hatred?…


Tamakai snapped back to the present by the voice of the mortal, whose name had been revealed to be Ralis. He had just answered those many questions of Tamakai.

“Oh yes, yes… Where were we?… Ah!… Crasmere, yes? Now that’s a name I remember.” Said Tamakai, already snapping back to his more cheerful self. At least conversing with this mortal might help distract him from the undesired memory.

“Good village, very accepting, well at least it was a hundred years ago. I knew the elders of Crasmere back then. Always eager for my performance during the festivals. Nowadays they just want nothing to do with me anymore.” Said Tamakai as he fluttered.

At the mention that he didn’t worship any god, Tamakai cocked his head at Ralis. “You likely never know of my name then, what a pain to my pride this is! But it’s understandable… I am Tamakai, god of entertainment and tricks!” Said Tamakai, introducing himself.

“Now that you are fully available… Say, do you have any particular interest in arts? If so, then you are in luck! I have been looking to find some new chicks to brood upon. Join my course and I will make you the brightest star in Crasmere or even Averus! You could become so fabulous that every lass and lads in the town would swoon at the mere sight of your arrival!…

…Well, if you got what it takes, that’s it… Also there’s the risk of getting caught by the imperial guards for mingling with the old gods… But then life would be just a bowl full of black coals without a little bit of fire, wouldn’t it? Now what do you say, child?!”


Said Tamakai excitedly. The sight of shock and despair within him earlier seemed to have vanished…For now.

SilverFeathers SilverFeathers

SilverFlight SilverFlight Ari Number Two Ari Number Two
 
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Frozen Thyme

There’s a little witch in all of us.
Aluma, Goddess of Autumn

Aluma's features had turned more solemn as the conversation progressed. "The years have been hard on us. Few of us are who we used to be,” she reminded the central gods. “Many of our ilk also sought vengeance, however misguided. Some devolved into demons. Some even betrayed us, supporting a party of humans bent on conquest. It is my belief that those ‘usurper gods’ are also misguided, as even they adhere to Imperial law.”

No matter what was said, the loss of her power to bless the farmland weighed heavily on Aluma. She had fought behind the scenes for decades to keep her followers, but their numbers so quickly dwindled. Those who were afraid converted, reasonably enough. The stubborn where beaten, derided, and eventually destroyed for treason. Who, exactly, were the humans worshipping, if even the gods bowed to an emperor?

SilverFlight SilverFlight Vulpes lagopus Vulpes lagopus Hazmat44 Hazmat44 Lekiel Lekiel Lioness075 Lioness075 AncientBird AncientBird Ari Number Two Ari Number Two SilverFeathers SilverFeathers
 
Antonius, Lord of Pestilence
The Central Forest


The weak acknowledgement of their last battle together gave Antonius a bout of minor frustration. The lesser blond was concerned more with the woods than the stories of their past!
Even after Antonius shared his favorite drink with Aetius! The gall of it all was worthy of scorn and a vile insult, had it been any of their companions. Antonius would forgive Aetius these insults, the Lord of Pestilence had an inkling of what was going on in the God of Wind's mind. The nerves that were wracked within Aetius were doing a number on him—it was the Lord of Pestilence’s opinion that Aetius didn’t need to be dredged up and dragged through this forest.

But then again, Antonius thought this whole quest was little more than a farce.

The Lord of Pestilence was ready to drop onto a log adjacent to the burgeoning fire and finish the rest of his beverage when the cry came, warning of danger.

‘Pack of demons?’ The warning bounced through his head with utmost curiosity.

He blinked twice. They had barely trekked into the central forest and they were already assailed by such foes? The Lord of Pestilence was under the assumption any demon they found would be a loner and far deeper in the forgotten depths.

His musings were cut short however when the rustling of a nearby shrub caught his attention. Yellow eyes gleaming in the darkness were the final warning the Lord of Pestilence received before the silent predator roared to life, lunging through the thicket with daggers glinting above a luminous jaw filled with an unsavory green liquid. The mug of mead was forgotten, left to fall to the ground as the Lord of Pestilence leapt out of the predator’s path. The dark form sailed through the air, its claws anchoring in the tree right behind Antonius before pushing off with intentions of catching the admittedly poorly prepared Imperial Deity.

Emerald eyes shone through the night and met the burning yellow orbs of the demon, its hunger all too visceral. Surprising even himself, Antonius ducked below the creature, his knees scraping against the muck of the forest floor and dirtying his green silken robes—a thought that was far beyond Antonius in the moment. The demonic jaguar roared, its maw gaping at nearly a ninety degree. The Lord of Pestilence paled as he saw the rows of serrated teeth and the iridescent green slobber drip menacingly.

His eyes narrowed and Antonius direly wished to call out for help. Svakre and Athlios would be able to clear the mongrels out without issue and Aetius was far from a poor soldier either. His mind veered to the mortals and a repulsive taste filled the Lord of Pestilence’s mouth.

‘Have I fallen so low as to take aid from humanity?’ He was the Lord of Pestilence, famed Imperial General who helped to conquer Averus. He was a God, the shepherd of mortals and their guardian.

With reignited vigor, Antonius leapt to the side as the jaguar came charging at him for a third time. Its claws found purchase and tore into Antonius’ silken robes, slashing them in half and drawing long streaks of golden ichor from the Plague God. Antonius hissed his agony into the air and fell, his left shoulder striking the ground painfully hard. The demonic Averus spirit rebounded fast and was on the pursuit but the Lord of Pestilence would not be felled so easily.

Kicking his legs upwards, Antonius slammed the flat of his feet into the jaguar’s chest. It grunted in irritation and the Lord of Pestilence took no minor enjoyment at its suffering. It was a fleeting glory as its claws struck along Antonius’ legs and the Lord of Pestilence buckled, the panther demon falling atop Antonius at long last.

Its maw came for Antonius’ throat and mustering his strength, the Lord of Pestilence barely managed to avoid it piercing his jugular. The risk of having the beast accidentally decapitate him was too high, one of the few ways to remove the Lord of Pestilence for good. Instead its jaws fell heavy on his left shoulder, those fangs piercing his flesh and its lesser teeth tearing into his body with a ravenous hunger. Golden ichor spilled into the air, coating Antonius and his attacker.

The Lord of Pestilence grit his teeth, a scream reaching up from his stomach and waiting to be unleashed in the air. But he wouldn’t give this lowly beast the pleasure of his agony. Antonius set his eyes on the demonic panther as it tasted him, drawing more of his ichor into its maw. Scraps of his clothing were stuck in its teeth and falling to the ground beside him. To his right, the Lord of Pestilence saw his forsaken mug, the elk bone rim and oak form within arms reach. As Antonius wiggled for the tool, he felt the overpowering brute drop a meaty claw on his chest, digging into his skin as a warning to its prey.

Then came the second bite and Antonius did holler.

His pain laced shout was barely perceived by the victim, he felt a white heat envelop his body, centered square on his shoulder as the demon crunched on bone and muscle, painting the forest alongside the two of them in his divine blood. The demon held its jaws tightly around the shoulder, the rough texture of its tongue scraping against skin adding onto the fire inside Antonius. It was expected that the next bite would come, the demon pulling away its meal and swallowing it. Yet instead… It paused. It looked uncertain as it held Antonius there, tasting his body and blood.

His pained expression turned upwards into a cruel, vindictive smile.

“What’s wrong?” Through gritted teeth, Antonius just barely managed to antagonize the demon with garbled speech. “Not the flavor you prefer?”

His blood.. His disease ridden blood was the answer! Even in the forest, where his powers dimmed and his strength was a fraction of its normal limits, Antonius’ blood was anything but healthy. Shrouded in these trees it couldn’t inflict infection on mortals with a touch or even cause his fellow gods and spirits to grow ill over time. But it was far from ideal for a demon, who hungered for power and strength. It tasted Antonius and found only rot and decay, contrary to the very alive meal itself.

The confusion the demon faced was enough for Antinius to strike back.

He grabbed the mug and swung with all his might, striking the demon’s face. The elk bone mug shattered, scraps of the mug digging into the panther’s unnatural body as the spirit howled. It unhooked its jaws from Antonius in pain and confusion as Antonius grabbed a shard of his mug and clutched it tightly. With a thrust, the Lord of Pestilence impaled the demon’s eyes and forced it to retreat from on top of him.

It howled pitifully, its paws trying to remove the shard from its eye socket and Antonius wobbled onto unsteady feet. His shirt fell from the wayside to reveal his bare form. Muscular as he was, the numerous cuts across his body, the green glow of the beasts’ saliva stinging at his shoulder bite and golden hue adopted from his blood made him far from the divine image he ought to be.

So wrapped up in his life or death struggle was he, Antonius hadn’t noticed the sacrifice in his name until the warmth of its embrace filled him. Strength renewed, the Lord of Pestilence gave the demon a sinister sneer. It responded with a growl, the two taking to circling each other. A veritable silent hum escaped Antonius’ body, a frequency too low to be heard and could only be felt by mortals, reverberating out of the clearing and the surrounding brush. It expanded out, far and fast, covering much of the Central Forest with this silent, ominous calling.

“Not only have you succumbed to this idle corruption, you thought to waylay us in this woodland turf.” The very sound of his voice came off strained, damaged, but Antonius couldn't resist. He spoke to it as if talking to an adversary and not some mindless abomination. “Whatever dignity you had in life has been stripped of you by your own relentless weakness.”

The beast again roared, testing its prey with a mock lunge. This time, Antonius stayed firm and the creature fell back as it questioned the new confidence that enveloped the Imperial Deity. There was a cry and call to remain together not far from Antonius, but his mind was clear and focused—the state of the rest of the companions were distant worries.

Demonic fury came at Antonius and the God of Pestilence slammed a fist forward, striking at the wounded right of the demon. It growled in pain and stalled, giving Antonius enough time to back pace. Its claws shot out to hug the God of Pestilence’s legs and nearly held them firm, if not for the arrival of a squawking bird.

A crow, pitch as black with a narrow orange beak fell onto the demon. It poked at its face and caused the monster to stall in confusion before shaking it off. Considered a momentary distraction, the panther once more prowled forward, but Antonius stood his ground. His emerald eyes were a brilliant green, brighter than even the glow of the monster’s mouth as the crow returned with two companions. The three crows rested their talons atop the demon’s head and jabbed at its injured right half. The Lord of Pestilence understood the pain that raced through the demon, his own body experiencing a stinging ache as well. The panther brushed the three off, but three more joined in.

Then eight.

Thirteen.

Twenty one.

Forty.

It was a murder of crows assembled by their carrion king, who besought the winged fiends all throughout the Averus Central Woodlands to come to his assistance. The panther struggled against them, prying a few off, ending the lives of multiple crows. But they were relentless, coming from the dark of the night to peck and pry at the panther’s strength. In less than a minute over sixty crows were atop its now golden body, ichor of its own leaking to the delight of the carrion eaters. Its other eye had been devoured along the way and the open holes left behind were fiercely desired as the crows began to fight among themselves for ownership of this rare meat.

Antonius watched for a minute longer, the demon collapsed on its side. It grew weak from the loss of blood and the pain the crows were causing it. Any resistance now came from pitiful mewling, but the creature was reduced to food for the common Averus Crow.

What strength held Antonius up fled him and his legs buckled as he clutched his left shoulder. The wounds were already regenerating, but the damage was nothing to scoff at. Hissing out, as to not demean himself with another pained cry, Antonius held his shoulder tightly and did his best to wipe away the green fluids that came with it. Kneeling against a tree, the Lord of Pestilence saw the others all congregating nearby. Sybis and Aetius were together, Svakre was running after a mortal woman as well.

They were safe together.

His own safety was a fleeting concern as more of his crows flew in. Those that couldn’t find a place to perch on the demon came to rest at his feet. They answered his call and would demand proper nourishment. Shining eyes of green scanned the campsite. No doubt they’d have a feast for them soon.


Interaction(s): Zero
Mention(s): Zero (none that matter at least)
 

Lioness075

Everyone's fighting some battle of their own.
Sun Wukong.png
Name: FalarionMinor God: Light
Affiliation: Old godFavorite Offering: Anything cat-related

Falarion groaned when Tamakai flew over to land on Ralis' head. So much for respecting the human's space after the central gods just made a reappearance. He imagined that Ralis was possibly still struggling to grasp this new reality and could understand that to a degree. He supposed he did not know how that would feel per say, but he knew humans could get caught up in things that would seem more normal to the gods.
Tamakai spewed question after question and Falarion shook his head before leaning on his own tree.
"Now I know where the magpies get it from," he said jokingly, sticking a tongue out at Tamakai and then grinning.

Nearby he could overhear Rieve and Tevan greeting one another and inwardly cringed at how desperate Rieve seemed. She had been one of the first of them to suffer from the central gods' absence and Falarion had greatly disliked how she had responded to their supposed deaths. Vengeance was not something Falarion ever sought and he knew it was a dark desire to fall for. In fact, he was actually rather surprised that Rieve had not turned into a demon by now. He felt like she had certainly gotten close to that point.

Sighing, Falarion rubbed the back of his neck again and then remembered Tevan's off-handed remark about smelling demons.
"Oh yeah, right, time to put my sniffer to good use!" He exclaimed before promptly shifting back into his glowing lion form. It was not really necessary for him to use his nose, but he found it was more fun this way.
While the others discussed Rieve's actions, Falarion put his nose to the ground and began slowly walking around their group.
He returned to Ralis and Tamakai just in time to hear Ralis responding to each question. As much as he wanted to jump back into that discussion, he was struggling to remind himself to inform Tevan of what he had smelled first.

Trotting away from the duo before anyone else joined them, Falarion rejoined Tevan's side and anxiously glanced at Rieve to make sure she was not about to have some kind of outburst.
Returning his gaze to Tevan, Falarion proudly announced, "You were correct, Tevan, there are indeed demons nearby. I, uh, also smell blood."
Shifting back into his human form, Falarion rubbed the back of his neck again. He had a bad feeling about what the demons may be doing.

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Athanas

You needed someone to blame, so you cast it on me.
The Thrice-Cursed Prophet, The Scion of the Forge, Athlios

What an agonizing pain, vindication. To have your fears, your calamitous prognostications proven correct before all. Of course, you take pride in your intellect, on your ability to draw the right conclusion ahead of time. Yet if the conclusion was so grim, you would most certainly be hoping you were wrong. No amount of preparation, no amount of bracing can truly eliminate the blow of things going wrong. The seer foresees the sinking of a ship, urges the captain to stay ashore until the omens are auspicious. Yet that very same seer does not rejoice when the ship that disregarded his advice sinks.


He knew they would be ambushed. Whether by cultists, spirits, demons, or something else. This forest hated them, and it would throw everything it had at them. And yet he had allowed himself to hope, the fool, that the dimwit Antonius and that simpleton Sybis would be correct. That it was just a bad feeling, smoke and mirrors intended to drive lesser souls away from the forest.

His foolishness in daring to hope would not be rewarded, and justly so, but his paranoia prevented it from also hampering him. When the creatures attacked he immediately was ready, maneuvers practiced a million and one times over for his inevitable confrontation with the tyrants. A bolt was fired from the freshly materialized mace, the force of a heavy javelin thrown with a speed that no mortal could achieve, crippling the beast closest to him and completely eradicating it's momentum. Immediately he took advantage, extending the chain and bringing the mace on a terrifying overhead. The crunch of bone was further enhanced as the mace released a burst of magical energy, aggravating the already severe injury and sending the poor creature careening backwards. Two gestures made from his empty hand finished the job as his sword struck true time and time again, completely beheading the panther in it's last strike.

He barely had enough time to congratulate himself on his prowess before he realized that both Antonius and Aetius had completely buckled under the pressure. Aetius was struggling with a panther that seemed to be goring him already, while Antonius, ever the simpleton, had no hope of repelling the beasts unarmed. Thus, it was quite easy for another of the creatures to slip past them, barreling straight towards Athlios.

The Prophet had time only to turn around before the creature pounced on him, using it's momentum and weight to throw him off his feet. Had Athlios not wore his armor that day, surely the demon could have then inflicted a devastating injury on him. Even so, the force of it's bite was considerable, much higher than any normal animal that existed on Averus. He felt the metal creak and dent under the pressure as the panther, using it's animal cunning, targetted his neck, where his armor had to be weakest. Pain, and a terrible burning sensation filled him as the teeth contact, the terrible liquid seeping in small quantities through the small gap. He clumsily tried to fight back and dislodge the predator, but his lack of melee practice showed.


What were they doing? Was the thought that passed through his head as he struggled. What were they doing? They were supposed to be well coordinated and competent combatants, veterans of the war against tyrrany, and here they were, outsmarted and almost overwhelmed by the most base of demons without any real offensive magic. How could they properly oppose the tyrants like that?

Then he heard Cicero's supplication, and accepted the blessing. The power was negligible, of course-an unfavorable offering given by a single mortal, but still, it snapped him out of it. They were not alone. He had warriors at his back, trained hunters who were not as fragile as Aetius or incompetent as Antonius. And they did as well! Roaring a foul curse he brought his additional arms to bear, pulling at the demon's limbs and causing it to lose it's balance, which allowed him to shift it's weight from him and spin, pinning it's head under his own armored bulk. The creature slashed at him quite violently, but without the penetrating power of it's momentum, all it could do was ruin the paint of his armor.

He breathed in deep before a portion of his faceplate opened, disgorging a torrent of foul grease on the creature, which solidified almost immediately upon contact, thick and pungent like well-made tar. It adhered to the creature, it's eyes, it's open mouth, every pore of it's face and upper body, and soon it's struggling turned considerably more frantic, blinded and half-suffocating as it was. With a final scraping of metallic arm on armor, a barrage of sparks rained into the panther, igniting the flammable substance, causing the entity's panic to reach a feverish pitch. He continued restraining the creature, completely unharmed by this strange toxic fire, until it's struggling and twitching ceased entirely, and it was wholly consumed by the blaze.


A look around revealed that his fellows had all turned the tables on the ambushers too-A broken carcass lay at Svakre's feet, Aetius and Sybis had finally overpowered their foes, and A veritable murder of crows, no doubt summoned by the verminlord was pecking away at a dying beast. They were flawed and rusty, yes, but they were still powerful! All of them! And the tyrants would not triumph!

"Cicero! Seek cover by Sybis. I will go protect Lacero's bearer!"

No doubt these agents might try to deny him such a valued prize, and asset for his cause, all the while seeking to devour the tyrantslayer! Well, he would not allow this! Running at the maximum speed his curse allowed, he moved to the sounds of further fighting. With a swift motion his blade was in movement, slashing at the demon, spacing him away from the soldier. "To me, Slayer! We shall destroy this beast together!"


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AI10100

Expert Lurker

Felix Valerius Sergius
Location: Outskirts of the Divine Forest
Interacting with: Athanas Athanas

Felix could never afford being distracted on the field. Distractions caused a moment of weakness, something Felix could not afford if he wanted to keep his head on his shoulders. Still, on the battlefield, one needed to be aware of everything that is happening. The battlefield was a cruel place because of this. Trying to juggle your attention with everything. Felix was thankful that he had spent most of his life living in this kind of environment— it allowed him some breathing room even in a life-and-death situation.

The demon before him dropped close to the ground, prepared to pounce once again. In the distance, the area was bathed in a flash of red and fire. There was no time for him to understand what had caused it before the demon decided to take another gander at him. He struck forward and he felt the resistance of a hit. The spearhead made contact with the demon's skin, raking through its hide but not doing enough damage to truly incapacitate the demon. In turn, however, the demonic panther's claws scratched through his armor. Felix held his breath as he stumbled forward, looking down quickly.

The armor held true. He continued to live for now.

Lord Sybis' shout reached over to him. Felix looked at the demon he was fighting. It was no closer to death nor giving up. Regrouping for now would be the brighter idea. However, turning his back on the demon would simply spell his own tragic story. Felix switched his weaponry. From his spear to his shield and sword as he began to back away to inch closer to the group. The demon noticed his retreat and became more aggressive and it took all of Felix's focus just to keep himself from getting harmed by the demon. Getting hurt by demons was never a good thing and often led to a human's demise.

Those of higher power were truly terrifying if their corruption could lead to such devastating effects in one hit.

He had come close enough to the rest of the group that he was able to make sense of what was happening on their side— Lord Aetius had not come out unscathed in his fight, Lord Sybis was right there with him as he was intent on protecting all of them, Lord Svakre was with Rufia who was on fire. It came from her. Fire. Had she been like him? Had—

"Gah—!" In the moment of distraction, the demon that was preying on him had pounced once again. He managed to get his shield in between himself and the demon before it crashed into him— its claws raking against his shield and threw them both onto the ground. Felix should have been thankful that the demon wasn't smart enough as it tried to break through his shield first and he was barely keeping it up. By all the good graces, Lord Athlios came and swiped the dog off of him with his sword, clashing against its exposed side.

"My sincerest gratitude, Lord Athlios." Felix nodded as he clambered up and stood beside the god. With the demon grievously injured from the decisive strike so it would be an easy kill. He switched out to his spear again and gave a nod to the forgemaster. He charged forward and rammed his spear into the demon before it could react, forcing the spear through its open, injured side and staking it into the ground. The demon attempted to bite and scratch Felix but it could not reach him and it writhed on the ground. He was using all of his strength to keep the demon down on the ground but the fight inside of it was slowly dying out.
 

Vulpes lagopus

Pretend this is something clever.
Solaris


"Siuhaydis, I would hardly..." Solaris began, before catching sight of the other goddess' expression. That the jest had escaped her after years of enduring Siuhaydis' queer humor must have been a mark of fatigue. With a sigh, she shook her head wryly, the corner of her lips curving ever so slightly. "I see one hundred years of imprisonment has done little to dull your wit. So much the better that you have saved us the trouble of finding you, and of repeated explanations."

After another round of joyful greetings, Tamakai, as per her request, relayed the grim tale of Averus under Imperial Rule. If Falarion had offered too few details, he provided rather too many. Still, that was preferable. She listened attentively with head bowed, unseeing gaze fixed on the forest floor as the scenes described unfolded before her mind's eye. Little of it came as a surprise. Still, that did not make it easier to hear. Much that once was was lost. Many they once called friends were gone, or... worse. Mortals struggled on, coping with the change in power by their choice between resistance and submission. And then, there were those of their own number who had turned their backs on their duty. Solaris had wondered then, as she wondered now, what could possibly have been offered them that they found more precious even than honor. Unbidden, fire rose within. That, she could not forgive.

At Tamakai's mention of Imperial intruders, she snapped to attention. Prepared for an expedition, armed, and with enemy gods among them, at that... This did not bode well. Was it possible that the Emperor was aware of, or at least suspected, their return? In any case, the cardinal gods would not stand a chance in their condition. Their only option was to seek safety until more could be ascertained.

Such thoughts were scattered when the God of Tricks spied Ralis watching them from some distance away. So, their paths crossed again, just as she'd expected. Tevan did the honors of introducing him to the rest, changing to his human form as he did so. Solaris hoped this indicated he was feeling stronger. Lest the more excitable among them overwhelm the poor boy, she was about to step in, when Aluma spared her the trouble.

At the mention of demons, her right hand instinctively sought her sword hilt, only to close around empty air. Tevan's and Falarion's keen senses were not to be discounted.

Now, however, Rieve's... passionate greeting of her patron, and the ensuing tensions, provided an unwelcome distraction from the matter at hand. Ah, Rieve... Solaris looked on her with pity. It was a cruel fact that matters of the heart bore such potential for drastic consequences. Through her fixation on her loss, the little goddess had allowed guilt and a deformed love to warp her conscience in turn. Revenge was instinctive, natural, even; but the anger of creatures seldom served the justice of the heavens. In her fog of grief, she had become blind to all pain but her own. Eventually, the collateral damage of her tantrum enveloped even her beloved.

A tragic fate, indeed.

Yet, pitiful as she was, Rieve was responsible for her own actions. Though incapable of confronting it now, eventually, she would face a reckoning. Such situations warranted a delicate touch. First, a sick mind would need to be cured. To be cured, it would be made to face the truth- gently, but unequivocally. Then she would be held accountable, and reparations would be made. Trust would need to be earned anew. That would take time.

Of course, Tevan would not abandon her, but for all his generosity he was incredibly stingy with blame. One wounded soul could not hope to heal another.

"Tevan... all four of us failed in our duty that day." She spoke softly, but firmly. "However, Rieve's actions are not yours. She alone must take responsibility. Rieve, neither are you to blame for Tevan's fate. We all did what we could. If it wasn't enough, it wasn't enough. That is the fact we all must face. Tevan, as you wish, I will entrust Rieve to your care. But I too must speak with her, when the time comes."

One thing bothered her still, and that was Boscer's demeanor. For one so typically composed and rational, his earlier reply had seemed unduly sharp. She put it aside to ponder later.

Misguided. Such was Aluma's assessment of the usurper gods, and the traitors who willingly sought their ranks. At those words, Solaris frowned deeply. True enough. All sinners were misguided. Did that lessen the weight of their sins? If that were all, she would treat such a one as she would treat an injured beast, and there would be no need for judgement. Could she cure all evils in this way, she would. False beliefs could be amended; false teachings, unlearned. But some afflictions were chosen, and could not be undone but by another choice. Some had, in perfect freedom, chosen evil. If they persisted, only one course remained.

It was for such exigencies that she had come into being.

At this time, however, the demon threat took precedence over her ruminations. "We have lingered here too long."

"Tamakai!"
she called to the god currently perched, with utmost dignity, on Ralis' head. "The area must have changed in the time we've been gone. You would know best where to find shelter and concealment. Please, lead us somewhere we may remain until the danger passes."

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Arnalia

Junior Member
Rufia Dolabellae

She had just started to run away from the burning demon corpse when Cicero's shout reached her.
Rufia nodded and followed the crane, preparing an arrow. Her head felt dizzy, and her right hand, the one that burnt the demon, felt hot. Like an extinguished charcoal that could still be lit. She shook her head, not wanting to deal with that, especially now.

As she advanced, Rufia hear heavy footsteps behind and snapped her head toward it. Gods be blessed ! Now I might have a chance to get out of this alive, she thought.

"Lord Svakre! Follow me, Felix need help !" She shouted and continued running.

The crane passed near dead demons and far away Rufia noticed Lord Aetius, who looked exhausted, pushing on to join the others. Sybis was at his side, landing the final blow on another demon. She glanced briefly on the other side and almost gagged, a massive flock of ravenous crows were eating the shredded corpse of a demon. Not far away she saw Lord Antonius, heavily wounded. Please hold on my Divinity, she prayed.

Finally she and Lord Svakre saw Felix, and....Lord Athlios ? The God threw a blow at a demon near him. The two were holding out for now.
"Lord Svakre I will stay behind, go help them ! She said and took position.

She scanned the perimeter, the number of dead monster was higher than the one they were fighting. But those remaining fought viciously.
Rufia saw another demon approaching Felix and Lord Athlios from behind. Oh no, not again you wicked thing, she took an arrow and shot.
"Watch out !" She yelled.
The arrow flew past the two, lodging into the demon right side. The beast let out a roar of pain.

Out of the corner of her eyes she saw another demon coming for her. Damn it, Didn't remark that one.
"Should have took a sword," she muttered as she ran out of reach from the beast, throwing arrows after arrows after it.
And that worked. In a sense, now the corrupted leopard loud growls made it clear it was mad at her.
But it did not stop it.

"Why won't you die already!?" she hurled, shooting at the beast. Did she have to smother it in arrows ?! Fire worked better than this !
Wait.

Her eyes widened.
Fire. She needed fire.
Running far out of the demon reached she took one of the last arrow she had and snapped her fingers near the tip.
Nothing.
The enraged beast wasted no time running toward her.
Come on, come on, come on, come on, she frenetically snapped her fingers, sensing them grew hot.
The beast started to race, aiming to leap at her throat.
Nothing.
Anger and desperation flooded her sense. Brows furrowed, breathing heavy, chest tightened. The feeling that dominated her was not fear. It was rage.

"I'm NOT dying here,DAMN IT" !

Tiny sparks lighted on her fingers. FINALLY. Took you long enough, she jabbed at it, lighting the arrow. She waved the fire away, aimed at the demon's head, and shot.

"Parry this! You filthy beast!" She yelled.

The creature let out a shrill roar of pain, Rufia mind begged the fire to spread, as if it hear her the fire enveloped the beast, it cries of pain soon extinguished by the flame. Rufia let out a heavy sigh.


AI10100 AI10100
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Athanas Athanas
Basil the Bulgar Slayer Basil the Bulgar Slayer
 
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SilverFlight

Tende altum, volare altius
Tevan listened to Solaris as she spoke, in the end letting out a breath.

I wish I could dismiss the guilt as easily as you do my friend.” He mumbled softly. He couldn’t help but hang on to the blame, at least in part, though what he could do in recompense seemed frustratingly little at this point. She was right though, and he knew it. Still, a soul as gentle as he remembered Rieve to be, did not deserve to be treated like a demon. She hadn’t become one yet.

Tamakai at least was just as the old stag remembered him.
Falarion has reason Tamakai, peace. There will be time for all of your questions, when we are better defended.

Falarion confirmed his worry, and added another:
Blood? God or human? Oh dear…do you think the Imperials Tamakai’s friends spotted have been attacked?

It was against the god’s nature to turn his back on any in need…but times had changed, and a quick glance at their human companion reminded him that he had other priorities.

Tevan reached out a hand for the bird on Ralis’ head, discussing with him his thoughts on a place to rest. Even as they spoke, the forest seemed to pull them in one direction: Tevan, being a god of the plants, felt it more keenly, but it called to all of them. A path opened up to the side, or perhaps it had always been there? It was broad and easy and Tevan could detect the scent of a familiar part of the forest.

The Rune Temple.

He led the way.

Tevan remembered navigating this forest, he could hear it sometimes, the will it imposed upon the people and objects inside it. It took no time at all to reach the temple, which, at other times, had been at least half a day’s walk from where they had met at Boscer’s cardinal shrine.

***

The temple loomed up from the trees, broken, like the other structures, and somewhat foreboding, yet the outer stone stairs that lead to the second floor were mostly intact, and though a hole had been blasted in the roof, this would serve as a decent shelter with a good vantage point. Tevan went first, stamping on the steps to make sure they were stable, and reinforcing the weaker parts by strengthening the vines that clung to them, forcing their roots deep into the foundations. The steps lead to a central hallway. Tevan passed broken statues of himself and the other three, faces smashed beyond recognition by Imperial soldiers. The little there had been of value had been stripped away, and now, only shards of pottery and crumbling cloth and ornaments remained, a testament to the glory that the temple had been.

Tevan led the way past a hall tapestry, moth-eaten, stained and torn: He brushed the depiction of a white stag, antlers growing leaves and blossoms, merging with the forest canopy above. At his feet, nearly black with mold and age, several figures could be made out, human figures, ringing him and dancing. The delicate stitching captured smiles and laughter and for a moment, Tevan heard the laughter echo, until it faded into the silence of the present, gloomy ruin.

Moonlight beckoned him to a doorway, where the hole in the roof opened onto a sky full of stars: a rift in the shadowed darkness of the second story room. There were windows on all sides, small and low to the ground, offering good views in every direction but to the South. There wasn't much else but rubble in the room. Though there was a wooden chest in one corner, treated with resin so it had not rotted away. Its contents may be useful.

It’s ah…a little dustier than I remember it.” Tevan offered, trying to plant a little humour into their dour situation. “Tamakai, I know your birds are not accustomed to night, but would they help us keep watch?

((Someone can open the chest and invent some useful things for them, like a lantern, or blankets etc.))

Interactions: Vulpes lagopus Vulpes lagopus Lioness075 Lioness075 AncientBird AncientBird

Ari Number Two Ari Number Two Frozen Thyme Frozen Thyme Hazmat44 Hazmat44 AmbrosiaPuppy AmbrosiaPuppy SilverFeathers SilverFeathers Lekiel Lekiel

*~*~*



Sybis fought as he said he would, guarding Aetius’ injured side, all the while keeping an eye out for the others. They fought individually, but they fought just as the Imperium ran: with precision and efficiency.
It wasn’t long before the number of uninjured demons dwindled. Most of them slunk away then, keeping out of direct sight, but never quite leaving altogether.
Damn things, I’ve never been attacked en mass like that, not even in this blasted wood.” Sybis remarked the moment he caught his breath. “I wonder what in the world got into them?

He stood and took in the damage. If the god was rattled by what had just happened, he kept it to himself.

I’ve a few supplies back by the camp, should sort out most of this.” He said in a low voice, he was clutching his own wounded arm as he said it, golden blood slicking his fingers. In the distance, most of the creatures could be heard padding the soft leaves and earth of the forest floor.
Priestess. How did you do that?” Sybis asked, once he saw Rufia, and the charred remnants of her would-be predator. There was no judgement in his voice, but there was caution. He was weighing her carefully, and would weigh her answer more carefully still.

The creatures were still lurking nearby, but they didn't attack, they simply...waited.

((One more round to patch up, as questions and breathe before I move us on.))

Interactions: Arnalia Arnalia

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SilverFeathers

Ruler of the Sky
Ralis Crasmere
Divine Wood - Rune Temple

The pitter patter of bird talons atop his head was an odd feeling, but one he slowly got used to nonetheless. Hearing that the bird was indeed a god that had lived through that time period one hundred years ago, Ralis couldn't help but wonder. Was his family glorious back then? Were they loved by the people? Had this bird... met his ancestors? There were many questions he wanted to ask, but now was certainly not the time for them.

As the bird's identity was revealed, Ralis was both surprised and not surprised. He could've seen that cheerful lion being the god of entertainment and tricks, but having this chatterbox be him was very fitting as well. At Tamakai's sudden, enthusiastic self-advertisement however, he couldn't help but smile a little. To think someone would so actively recruit him of all people. Though, the mere idea of performing for other people's amusement sounded horrible to his ears. "Thanks for the offer, but I really don't have time for something like that, nor do I have an interest in being on stage." He declined politely, feeling a little strained from all this civil talk.

In all honesty, he didn't want to talk that much to these deities whilst he was still trying to figure out what was going on, though he was careful not to slight or ignore any of their words. He really couldn't help but feel uneasy being surrounded by the gods of old. After all, this wasn't as simple as his usual crimes of petty thievery, those repercussions he was used to. To be discovered 'aiding the gods of old that were painstakingly slain by the emperor's forces' certainly meant he, and likely his family, would meet a gruesome end. That reality was so very clear to him, and yet here he was. Still, whenever he thought about leaving, something kept him here. Not wanting to stay, yet being unable to leave, it was honestly infuriating.

Fortunately, with how many that were present, it was easy to distract himself with whatever was going on at the moment. Solaris' rebuttal of Tevan's words eased Ralis' disgruntled feelings ever so slightly, and at Falarion's mention of demons and blood, Tamakai and Tevan quickly set off to discuss locating shelter. Before long, another pull tugged at his consciousness, though not as strong and imposing as the one directed towards the central deities. Realizing it was just more of the forest's mysterious whims, Ralis showed little surprise as they somehow appeared at the doorstep to the Rune Temple in just a few moments. After all, if they could irritatingly prevent him from reaching the cardinal shrines over the last few days, they could definitely make certain areas easier to get to as well.

Initially, Ralis wondered if the central gods awakening would cause some magical change to the Rune Temple, but it was found just as decrepit as he remembered it. Though disappointed, he was glad just to be able to visit this place once again. The sense of wonder, excitement and awe he felt for this place as a child seemed to come flooding back, easing a little of his inner turmoil. He moved forward with familiarity, a gentle glint in his eyes, following after Tevan as he strengthened the steps although it was unneeded. He was at least partially doing it for him, so he chose to accept and use that kindness.

The worn tapestries and crumbling relics of old were nothing new to him, but he couldn't help but observe the old gods reaction as they passed through. He could only imagine what this place once looked like in its prime. But for them, that image was likely kept as an expectation. He couldn't imagine how great the contrast was.

To his surprise, Tevan led them to a particular room. One that Ralis was the most familiar with, in all honesty. He could almost envision himself as a child in front of him, sitting there beneath the sky's view, gazing upon all the stars with his arms wrapped around his knees... How coincidental.

His eyes flitted to the chest in the corner. His parents had always forbade him from disturbing anything in this sacred place, but he wondered what they would think now, considering those sacred beings were now right in front of him? He wasn't going to loot the place in their presence, but he did ponder if they would themselves.

A little tired from all the travelling today, and wary of the temperatures dropping quickly due to the time of day, Ralis felt weary, although he was reluctant to rest, or even sit down. He had a feeling that he would be plagued by his own whirling thoughts all night if he did so. So he sought a distraction, or at least something to busy himself with. There wasn't exactly much else to do besides tidying the place, so tidying was what he did. He slowly started moving out pieces of rubble from the room, and clearing larger spaces for people to sit, even though it was neither needed or requested. He assumed that the deities likely had more important matters to discuss, so by doing this, he was at least partially out of the way.

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Coyote Hart

Misguideful Moniker
Cicero Tarquinius.png
The unarmed poet was more than willing to fall back to the campfire at the urging of several others. Without a weapon, he would only be a nuisance if he were to get attacked, so it would've been better to stay out of the line of fire (no, I didn't mean a pun here). Part of him wished he had a crossbow on him, but knowing his bad luck with weaponry, he was more likely to accidentally shoot one of the gods than the actual monsters that they were fighting.

Underneath the blinding lights of the fire the monsters that lurked outside of the light were not visible. But with his crane, Cicero was still able to get a read on the monster's positions, which he shouted out to the others with a "Sybis, to your left!" or a "Felix, on your seven o'clock!" or the one that he was least proud of "watch your ass, Antonius!" The rare times that a monster took a liking to Cicero, the poet simply repositioned himself around the fire so that the flames were between him and the demon. After watching one of their brethren burnt to a crisp by Rufia the demons weren't too eager to get close to the fire.

Finally, the monsters dwindled, and Cicero was able to rest his voice. With the battle over, Cicero finally felt the bruise on his body. The demon hadn't broken skin, but such a powerful kick was painful as all hell. Cicero winced and clutched his ribcage.

Blood and monster bodies littered the ground as the remaining demons retreated to lick their wounds and strike once again when any of the people in the vicinity displayed weakness. Even with its role fulfilled, the crane continued to circle around the encampment, making sure that none of the demons in the shadows step too far out near them. The poet, curious about the demons, cautiously went to one of the bodies, inspecting the fur and its claws.

"How unique. It's a shame that I don't have a knife," Cicero sighed. The pelt would've made for some luxurious clothing and the claws and fangs would've made for a good souvenir. Maybe even a good weapon. With that thought, Cicero flexed his hand. He hadn't been able to find a weapon that worked for him, but claws... perhaps. The tips of Cicero's lips curved up as he joked, "Maybe we could have roasted demon for dinner tonight."

Now, it was time to address the elephant in the room: Rufia's fire. From what he observed, there wasn't any sleight of hand tricks involved in it. He had kept an eagle eye on the priestess and noticed that the second time she displayed the flames her hands were empty save for her weapon. So logically, the fire was magic, the same magic that powered Cicero's cranes.

But the way that Sybis questioned Rufia made Cicero wary. Cicero wasn't sure how the gods would react if they knew that mere humans were capable of wielding magic. Cicero doubted that the Emperor would eliminate them. Human magic-users would be a great boon to the military. But on the other hand, human magic-users would be unpredictable. The drive that humans had, capable of filling their meager lives with so much meaning, was an infinite potential pool. It would pose a danger to the empire.

"Have you been able to do that all your life?" Cicero asked Rufia. It was admittedly an odd question, but based on what Rufia said, it could confirm or dispel some of Cicero's suspicions. "Or is this something that you gained... say in the past month?"

Cicero's hazel eyes stared intensely at Rufia, gauging every single move that she made. His paper crane, which had been circling around the camp, came to rest on Cicero's hand. With all the attention focused on Rufia, Cicero hoped nobody would notice it. But to Rufia, it was meant as a question. A paper crane flying through the air was just as odd as sudden pyromancy after all.

Arnalia Arnalia SilverFlight SilverFlight AI10100 AI10100
Worthlessplebian Worthlessplebian Basil the Bulgar Slayer Basil the Bulgar Slayer High Moon High Moon Athanas Athanas
 

AncientBird

Reptile with wings and plumes.
Tamakai

Upon hearing Ralis’s reply, Tamakai fluttered again.
“Ah, I see… What a shame indeed, but it’s understandable.” Said the magpie before he leaped off the mortal head and landed on a nearby branch of similar heights. “Well then, if you ever change your mind, just look for a magpie and utter my name. I will answer.”

“…Or if you want to just hang out or hear some stories from a lonely old bird, that is…”
Said Tamakai before blinking rapidly at the young man.

Hearing about demons lurking nearby from Tevan and Falarion got Tamakai to shake his head wearily. “Those bloodthirsty beasts never stop trying to ruin someone’s day, do they not? Just a couple days ago, I disposed of a couple of them in the quicksand… But these things just kept coming back. It has become much more regular since the purge of the old way. It is such a shame they might once have been someone of our kin…” Spoke Tamakai about demons, which even though he despises, a part of him still pity their fate.

Solaris asked Tamakai for a place that the group could stay through the night. The magpie paused to use his thoughts before replying. “Well, I suppose we could take shelter at the now ruined Rune Temple. Demons don’t usually dwell there and I don’t think the forest would permit the imperialists to reach it easily. It may be the best spot to settle down for the night.”

Tevan acknowledged Tamakai’s suggestion and thus he led the group forward, including the mortal Ralis who was suggested to stick around for safety. The forest seemed to understand their intention and supposedly lent the group its aid. The Rune Temple soon came to stand in front of the group, much faster than what Tamakai felt it would take to journey from the previous location.

Ever since the conquest of the empire. Rune Temple had become abandoned and left to rot to the wind and the rain. Its former glory was no longer in the picture after a hundred years.

As the group explored the temple, preparing to settle in, Tamakai joined Tevan, perching on his shoulder as he walked around, witnessing what had become of this sacred ground during the time of the central god’s imprisonment.

“It’s ah…a little dustier than I remember it.” Said Tevan as he looked around the ruin. “Well, the mortals no longer came to tend to it… And you know, I am not very keen on dusting and cleansing this entire place by myself… So, after some consideration, having the mosses and the vines looking after it was the only viable choice.” Replied Tamakai.

“Also the fact that the place is now infested with nesting owls… I wouldn’t even think of setting a foot here in the night if it wasn’t for you and the others are accompanying me now.” Said the magpie as he shuddered at the thought of his biggest nemesis.

Tevan then asked if Tamakai could have his magpies look out for them, in which the minor gods replied. “I will try asking them. There is a rookery nearby outside the temple. Not that they will be very efficient in this little light, but a marching demon army or imperialist party will at least be noti-“

Before Tamakai could finish his sentence, a loud eerie hoot could be heard atop of the two gods. Tamakai’s eyes widened, his body tensed up… And in the blink of an eye, his body immediately transformed. Tamakai resumed his human form once again. His limbs wrapped around Tevan’s body like a bunch of snakes. His usual fair skin paled even more as his eyes frantically looked into the darkness above.

Seeing nothing… The owner of the hoot was probably further away on the ceiling, perching somewhere out of sight, and may not even care about the existence of Tamakai there… The minor god eased up. He realized that he was constricting Tevan in his embrace, so he immediately let his friend go. Tamakai’s face flushed red with embarrassment. “Well that was uncalled for, I hope nobody other than you saw that…Please pardon me, my friend. I really do have some issues with owls.” Said Tamakai, scratching behind his head bashfully. He then looked up on the ceiling once again.

“You better not take any of my friends outside tonight, you pellet coughing, rat wrestling, round face fiend!” Shouted Tamakai, waving his clenched fist in the air.

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Arnalia

Junior Member
Rufia Dolabellae

Rufia walked with her head down, shoulders slumped and eyes vacant.
As the adrenaline started to left her, she felt soar all over, following the others back to the camp more as a reflex, than any conscious need for security.

Priestess. How did you do that?” Sybis asked her. Her head snapped back up, at his question.
"Ah, uh, Sorry, What was the question?" She gave him an apologetic smile, Sybis repeated. Her eyes widened. Oh that.
Slowly, the events of the night flashed before her eyes. The demon, The arrow, The fire.
Fire.
She made fire.
She a mere human had made fire like a God.

As soon as the realization hit her, Rufia frowned deeply, confusion and shock painted on her face. She fumbled a little before saying. "Um, Well, uh, the thing is- I'm- I don't know..." she shrugged and looked at Sybis, scratching her cheek.
"I don't remember making a big offering to any fire gods ?" She rubbed her chin, pensive then suddenly exclaimed "Oh ! Except for the Dragon Chalaza of course ! I make a small offering every day to help light the fire !" She started to count on her fingers. "For cooking, cleaning, bathing, make offerings, and also just to put some scented candle for the nice smell."
Rufia scratched the back of her head "He's the only one I can think of that may be responsible" Her chest tightened, Sybis question made her uneasy. What if this was, some evil magic ? Have I been cursed, she pondered.

As Cicero voices reached her, she turned toward him.
"Have you been able to do that all your life?" Cicero asked. "Or is this something that you gained... say in the past month."
Contrary to Sybis cautiousness, she felt that Cicero was curious, the crane on his hand a tentative question. Are you like me? Rufia hesitantly nodded and said.
"Not all my life no. I assure you I would have known." The corner of her lips curved up a little, more a grimace than a smile however. "But now that I think of it..." she trailed off and grew silent for a moment. "Recently....I've started to feel weird around fire. But...that's not all too be honest..." She put her hands up, palm showing, her voice nervous.
"But I swear by the Emperor! I never participated in any evil practice that could have cause that ! I love our gods more than anything !" She said passionately.



Coyote Hart Coyote Hart
AI10100 AI10100
Worthlessplebian Worthlessplebian
Basil the Bulgar Slayer Basil the Bulgar Slayer
Athanas Athanas
High Moon High Moon
SilverFlight SilverFlight
 

High Moon

Relic of a Bygone Age
Aetius, Lord of the Winds, Herald of Spring
Central Forest Outskirts, Imperial Camp.

As he staggered his way towards the Old Lord, something caught his attention, sword at hand, he could hear someone approaching from his rear, so he readied his hand to strike, and turned his head, expecting to see one of the demonic cats creeping behind to strike him down as it's kind had done just moments prior, only to see that it was none other than the Emperor's envoy. Offering his support, he must have been in a sorrier state than he had thought so with a gruff grunt he accepted the help.

The battle that had started all of a sudden was over as swiftly as it had begun. The claw marks on his back stung as they slowly healed, no doubt that the wounds inflicted by the fiends were the worst one could bear, nothing of human origin compared to it even, serrated steel blades that the vandal savages were so proud of. He thought of what could have happened had the beast been a little more precise with its strike. Would he be standing here, contemplating such a fate? Probably not, many a such mistake had been the end of warriors far more fabled than even himself.

His eyes searched the field of battle to take a survey of the situation at hand, it looked as if the Humans had fared better than the Gods, which was worrying and odd to say the least, either they had really gotten rusty over the years of peace or the gnawing gut feeling of his was right. He could understand Felix Sergius, his Master of the Hunt, to have braved this foe with ease, after all that was what he was trained for, ‘Maybe I should give that man a raise…’ he thought to himself in between the mess of thoughts making their way through his head, but what of the rest? They ought to have been dinner for the fiends of the woods. The eastern simpleton as for the his fellow lords, Athilios seemed to have suffered quite a bit of dents and scratches upon his metal frame, Skavre had fared the best it seemed, not even a scratch to him, he’d be impressed if Aetius didn’t know that the beast of a man was practically only good for such occasions, and of course: Antonius, who seemed to have suffered the worst injuries among them, mauled, his shoulder ripped apart by the savage beast yet alive.

Relief filled the young spirit once he saw that his old friend was still alive and about, but as soon as his worries were put to rest his mood shifted, "Nothin' to fear, me arse!" He spat with a snarl He walked with stride towards where Antonius stood with a steady pace, “Ya, Alf, ye worry wart! He says!” As his right hand clung to the hilt of his sword, his left hand tightened into a fist, not a moment sooner than he was within reach did he put a bit of force into his step and looked up to face the man and as soon as his bright green met the older man's emral did his fist meet the older god's chin with a loud crack. "FECK YE!" he uttered in anger "Almost got ye self mangle’ there ol’ man! Had me worried there! ye know ye ol' fool?!" by the end of it his tirade his anger had faded away, those last few words uttered with the certain softness of Aetius’ natural pitch.

While he was off, giving a piece of his mind and a taste of his fist to the lord of plights, The Spymaster had begun questioning the cleric youth, and that did garner his attention back to the group proper, as it seemed his senses hadn't been wrong, the young girl had indeed used an elemental power, the element of fire at that. All that he had thought of within that seconds that seemed to drag on for an eternity had been real. "By the winds of yore!! An I've thought me eyes'd been playin tricks' on me." His Imperial court accent, perfected through the years with many hours spent reading speeches and texts under the tutelage of the old man had slipped without even his own notice along the way, reverting to the old and imperfect pattern, maybe it was the stress situation or perhaps it was his thoughts about the implications of this whole ordeal taking its toll. "... Ahem, what I meant to say was that it's a wondrous occasion to see one blessed by the Emperor’s will in such a way." He played off, yet one could notice with ease that his pale face took on a rosy tint once he noticed his mistake, averting his gaze off from the group of god and mortal alike with a sudden interest in the dusky woods. His gregarious nature having hurt his own pride.

And then the Port began to speak, of such gall, as if among equals, in the presence of five of the Great Lords of the Empire no less, had this been done within the borders of his realm. Aetius' would have had the lad lashed across the back over a dozen times, right in the middle of the Market Square, for all the Free Folk to see what insolence against their Lord and Master would be rewarded with, yet here he was nothing but a simple servant of the Emperor. His autonomy in all aspects of governance was effectively null. The annoyance at least worked to will away his shame for the moment, so he hid the contempt behind a well practiced smile of cordiality. "I'll pass, not much into cannibalism myself." commented the Spirit Lord, passing off the indecent joke with a morbid one of his own.

As the young girl began to try and explain herself, Aetius grew weary, no doubt the priestess feared that she’d be branded a heretic right then and there so he interjected. “You needn’t explain yourself young Priestess, clearly it’s the will of none but the Emperor himself. Granting you such a gift in your hour of need.” Aetius lied through his teeth with a smile, no doubt hoping the other Lords would be wise enough to play along with his charade. The damned forest was out to get them, interrogation could wait till their return to civilization, no doubt a sense of ease out of danger would bring better results, also there were better tools at hand back in the city… to force someone to spill their truths if need be.

Then his attention turned back to Sybis, with a certain expression of grim determination.``Now is not the time to lick our wounds while surrounded by enemies on all sides." 'Perhaps even from within.' the latter concern he did not voice. "We ought not sit idly and wait for another pack of these fiends to strike us." He spoke in a tone that bordered on a sneer. "God's blood has been spilt here, It'll only embolden their ranks." explained the Imperial spirit, "Either we march on, vanquish these beasts, put an end to their miserable existence and finish this mission to see what has stirred within these woods or we turn back, and ride forth for our destinations, having failed our duty." asserted the young lord, discarding his ruined cloak as he made his way to mount up his steed.

"So... What will it be?"

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Mentions: Athanas Athanas Worthlessplebian Worthlessplebian AI10100 AI10100
 

Lekiel

Two Thousand Club
Supporter
Siuhaydis, Goddess of Air, Lightning & Change

"I see one hundred years of imprisonment has done little to dull your wit. So much the better that you have saved us the trouble of finding you, and of repeated explanations."

The goddess of air let out a tinkling chuckle into the back of her hand at her dear friend’s comment, “I would hope not dearest Sol, you fill me with so much warmth everytime we speak.” Despite her jesting, It was true, moreso now than ever. On the onset, it would seem that Siuhaydis got along much better with Tevan - as he no doubt did with the rest. Even the straight-arrow Boscer with all his bluntness brought much amusement and respect from the Wind Deity.

With the Lady of Fire and Justice, things were a little different. Not that they’d ever had any hostilities but their interactions in the far past have always been of the titillating kind. Looking at all of them gathered, now together, Siuhaydis could not help but feel the darkness that had seeped within her soul during her imprisonment in oblivion begin to ebb away. The harrowed imperceptible voices that had continued to echo in her head too had quietened, just a little bit.

They finished up their pleasantries and soon, it was time for the Prince of Magpies to fill in the long gap. Though it’d been obvious what the consequences would’ve been when the four of them fell, hearing the atrocities wrecked by the Empire first hand wrenched at her gut. Instinctively, a pale hand reached for her side where the memory of stinging betrayal had begun to throb. Siuhaydis cast her silver eyes to the darkened canopy shrouding them, gleaning the minute winks of starlight that had begun to emerge. At the very least the Divine Woods still stood.

A chilly gust of wind rustled the foliage. She closed her eyes and breathed in deep. The wind often brought many tidings, to one who knew how to listen. Almost immediately, her eyes flew open, shock evident.

"I...I sense demons...Falarion, can you smell them?" Tevan suddenly spoke affirming her worries.

The Divine Woods always had its dangers but demons while not unheard of, would’ve been one of the last things Siuhaydis expected to hear; at least not a hundred years ago.

The rest of their hasty preparations to depart further into the woods flew by without much delay, although she did note the poignant reunion between Rieve and Tevan as well as the reactions from her counterparts. If the Lady of Change had any wisdom on the matter, she chose to keep her own counsel instead urging them on to safety.

~ * ~
They arrived at the Rune Temple sooner than anticipated, but such were the ways of the forest that the goddess wasn’t surprised. If anything, a little relieved that their divine presence was still welcome and that whatever magic dwelled in the wooded depths still resonated with them.

It was a melancholic sight, to say that her mood did not drag for the once hallowed temple now stood in crumbling ruins was an understatement. It was a queer feeling, the century of imprisonment that both seemed all too long and short at the same time. Her memories flooded in, filling in the cracks, rethreading worn tapestries and polishing away the moss draped pillars. Song and dances of worship whispering from the vestiges of thought, an echo of a forgotten past.

A flitting figure broke Siuhaydis away from her despondency and she cast her gaze forward to see the human called Ralis moving through the ruins with confident steps. Curious. . . most curious. For the second time that night, this lowly human had lifted her spirits, even if it was simply by being a distraction. She wondered what his memories spoke of him and vowed to find out more at the nearest opportune time.

She followed the group in, trailing after Tevan until he came upon the trove.

“It’s ah…a little dustier than I remember it,” he mused.

“Indeed it is Tevan,” Siuhaydis agreed, “but not for long.” The goddess gathered her spirit then with a wave of her hand a gust of wind swirled up the dust before another gesture sent it out a window. The goddess nodded to herself at her little handiwork, the little show had been more of her assessing her current abilities than any act of panache. She knelt forwards, cerulean hair cascading and began fussing with the clasp. For something abandoned for decades, the trove was surprisingly well preserved.

Finally getting it to open with an audible creak, she found worn cloths and prayer lanterns stashed within amongst other trinkets and objects of use. Reaching in she handed out the contents to any nearby. Rummaging further, her fingers touched against cold steel, she gripped and pulled. There was a flash of silver and a song of ringing steel as the goddess withdrew what appeared to be an ornate ceremonial blade.

“Sol,” the goddess called out, “a welcome home gift for you.” Siuhaydis reversed the grip and held the handle out for Solaris.


 
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AI10100

Expert Lurker

Felix Valerius Sergius
Location: Outskirts of the Divine Forest
Interacting with: Coyote Hart Coyote Hart

The demon grew tired of its fruitless expenditures and it went limp, dead on the ground like many of its brethren. Had Felix been a proudful being, he would have remarked at how much he regretted being outplayed by the priestess who he had said needed to be behind the front lines to be safe. However, he was not. He wrenched the spear out of the carcass of the demon. His head whipped to the side as another demon encroached upon them before being impaled by two arrows as Cicero called out to it. Not wasting a moment to let the demon breathe, Felix surged forward and drove the spear straight through its open jaws.

It was fascinating how quickly it had died compared to his earlier opponent. He let out a sigh as he pried his spear off of the demon once again. His muscles tensed up as another demon came into sight but it retreated as Felix raised his spear once again. Felix chanced a look around. The demons were retreating from their attack, to lick their wounds and mount another attack or to leave them alone, who really knows. Felix hasn't seen demons act like this before and he'd be dead if he made any assumptions. Still, he bowed his head in silent prayer before turning to return back to the camp. Perhaps it was useless to be praying when the god he prayed to was in front of him, but it was the norm at this point.


"Consuming demon meat would be considered sacrilegious, Cicero. It would not be wise to joke about these kinds of things." Felix wasn't known to be an extremely serious person, but demons were another thing entirely. It was his livelihood and everything he stood against. "They are not for us humans to make use of." Because there was one god who used their parts— the god who had created his spear and accepted demons as an acceptable sacrifice. Felix didn't care for what he did with the carcasses but they were certainly in no position to use them. Why would they?

Felix padded back to the group as they began their questions about Rufia's source of fire and how potent it had been. From what Felix had gleaned earlier, one strike was enough to char a demon. It was wildly impressive; not to mention, extremely powerful. If someone had powers like that, it would have been extremely useful to have in their squadron. Felix believed he had similar powers, that one time he had conjured a wind barrier to protect himself from a demon that had isolated him from the squad. He hadn't talked about it to anyone but believed it was a blessing that came from his Lord God. Still, with how wary everyone was being, Felix had his reservations about saying it. Perhaps when tensions weren't so high.

The priestess was unsure of how it had happened, just that it felt natural. Felix felt like he was hearing his own feelings parroted by Rufia. Still, once more, he kept silent even as Cicero's careful inquiries felt like there was something more to it. He took a seat on the ground and took in a deep breath, using what little time they had to recuperate before they had to move out. As Lord Aetius had claimed, this was no time to rest for too long. The demons might come back for a second round and he doubted that they would be capable of repelling them this time around. Felix surveyed the states of the generals. They had come out much more injured than them— whether it was from the lack of care or because of their too long of a time from the battlefield, Felix didn't dare assume. The only thing that was of importance was for them to keep moving and see where it takes them.

He closed his eyes for a moment. Felix had been in his own fair share of failed missions— everyone did. But there was a chill that ran down his spine at the idea of failing a mission that the Emperor had given. He would have rather faced death than the wrath of the Emperor for retreating. However, Felix found himself only nodding along to whatever the gods spoke about. It would be their decision whether to push on or not with their injuries, and Felix would accept the hardships that came along with either decision. His horse had made its way back to him, ever the loyal steed that had seen him through thick and thin. Felix reached out to pet the muzzle of the horse before turning to Sybis and the other gods, awaiting their call.
 

Worthlessplebian

Worthless pleb
Svakre, The Onyx Rhino

Though this mewling pack of demonic kittens left as soon as they appeared, they left a mark unmistakable. However, the black statue stood at the cusp of the camp. A blade, so ebony and argent, a simple bloodstain stood distinctive. After linking up with the Priestess, Svakre moved to assist his "imperial brother." Alas, as the Rhino God moved, another of those pantherine creatures impounded him. Him, of all the Gods. Now, he stood there. A hand on his chest, as auric fluid briefly oozed. Too deep to be called a scratch, too light to be honoured as lethal. His lungs strained the thrice cut wound, before shooting steam out his nostrils like a machine. Had he been careless? Decades of decadence dulling dangerous dexterity? Difficult to decide. It seemed that spars and abattoirs are no substitute for battle.

His knuckles tightened as Svakre hefted the blade over his shoulder again. With assured steps, he returned to the campfire. It seemed that his companions were more dullard than him. Divine bodies were rife with lesions, gashes, and grazes. In Athlios' case: bent and scratched. This revelation did uplift the Rhino's spirits, at least, he was the sharpest tool in this shed. Small triumphs in these trying times.

A smack had caught his attention as he turned to face the origin. Aetius delivered a blow to battered Antonius's jaw. A smirk malformed on the Rhino's obfuscated face, his left hand met his hip, as he watched the lowly wind god decompress. Inelegantly allowing his well-constructed facade of imperialism to fall by the wayside. By the end of it, Svakre felt immense amusement. Though he considered such crude display beneath the godly generals, like Aetius or Himself. "No need to chastise our plague bearer, Wind God. The panthers already accomplished that task for you." He loudly commented while discarding his stained blade by the warm fire.

Svakre wanted to question Rufia on the origination of her crimson glow, except, others already moved to defend or inquire. That another human did not slip Svakre's watchful eye, he seemed odd. The Rhino walked, the ground warped beneath his feet. "Fret not, Priestess." The air shook with his words. "By whatever means you acquired this power, your loyalty to the Imperium is the only qualifier that matters." Then it receded as if simply tweaking his tone gave off an entirely different aura. An aura of... Understanding? Though it does remind me of someone.
 

SilverFlight

Tende altum, volare altius
Sybis eyed the scene between Aetius and his mentor with surprise, but a smile soon replaced it. It warmed his heart to see that level of caring, even if it did some with a strike on the chin.

When Ciscero came within arm’s reach Sybis moved to cuff him over the back of the head for his thoughtless comment.
Those were once gods, even if they are only monsters now, show respect.

He listened to the others intently. They were perfectly willing to dismiss the gift as some effect of the emperor.
Will of the emperor himself…” Sybis mused. Then he made up his mind.
Svakre is right, as long as you are loyal, you are protected. And yes, we should move.

Sybis went back to the fire, making a face as he heard the rustle of branches as the cats moved further back. He began stuffing things back into his pack.
We’ll travel in a group, keep the humans in the center, and on horseback. I’ll take the lead, there’s a place I know where we’ll be better defen—” He stopped himself mid-sentence. The rush of paws in the undergrowth made him tense and he drew his blade quickly.
The attack never came, and it took him a few moments to realize the paws were running away from them.
I don’t know what this is about…” Sybis began, “but I don’t think we’re the ones they’re running from.
Thud….Thud….

It was faint, but the distinct sound of something hitting the forest floor sounded in the distance. It grew louder, and louder. Suddenly there was a burst of chatter from the trees above them. The birds, in their panic had taken flight to get away, rising into the darkened sky. Some hit the trees about the group and fell, stunned to the ground. Something brushed Sybis’ boot and he kicked it in surprise. A mouse. There were dozens of them racing underfoot, as well as snakes, rates and all manner of little creatures, trying desperately to escape the source of the sound. Their fleeing sent an eerie hiss up through the underbrush. It was as if the entire forest had gone mad…

This isn’t natural. I’m...not even sure if it’s demonic.” Sybis muttered. “We need to leave. Now.
The problem was. The steady thuds were coming from the edge of the forest, where they had come from. Whatever it was…had cut off their escape in that direction. Their only option was…

Sybis turned, and suddenly, there was a path, narrow and root-ridden, but visible, even in the darkness of the forest. That had certainly not been there before.
Down that trail.” Sybis instructed. The fleeing animals were swarming past them in droves now, but even in their panic, they ran along the edges of the path, keeping it clear for the gods and humans to run.
Suddenly, the thudding stopped. For one heartbeat…two…three, everything held a breath. Then the thundering resumed. Faster, louder. Whatever it was had found them, and it was running.
GO NOW!”

The trail, if they chose to follow would lead them, straight and without delay. In little over half an hour they would see a clearing, set with old carved stones, and a two-story temple, with a hole in the second story roof. The Rune Temple.

((And now, our groups unite.))

High Moon High Moon Basil the Bulgar Slayer Basil the Bulgar Slayer Worthlessplebian Worthlessplebian Coyote Hart Coyote Hart
AI10100 AI10100 Arnalia Arnalia Athanas Athanas

*~*~*

Tevan braced as his friend practically leapt into his arms at the sound of the owl. Tevan held onto him tightly for just a moment, the shock evident on his face. Once Tamakai let him go, trying to salvage some form of dignity Tevan pressed his lips together and then…he burst out laughing.
Tevan laughed without reservation, despite all that had happened, all he had seen, with the temple in ruins, and faith in tatters, he laughed, and it was good to do it.

Sui made sure the place where they camped was dust free and Tevan dusted out his hair when she was done, giving the goddess of wind a happy smile. It was then he chose to take Rieve aside, speaking to her quietly in the gardens below, before returning to help the others ((In the side rp channel)).

He began to help Ralis clean, moving rubble aside, and collecting ruined wood for a small fire.

Solaris, if you would be so kind?” He gestured to the small pile of debris he had collected, a makeshift campfire.
The chest Sui had opened contained some useful things, among them was a thick wool blanket. This he brought to the human in their midst. “Are you cold?” He asked softly. “I know it can get fairly cold for humans in this forest at night.

Focused on the human for now, Tevan did not notice the distant canopy, where a black cloud began to rise in the sky…

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Antonius, Lord of Pestilence
The Central Forest



The pitch black birds were impossible to detect as individuals, they melded into the shadows of the forest with the only hints of life among them being the undulating wave of darkness that hypnotized Antonius. Dark feathers fluttered and flapped as the carrion eaters tore into the fallen spirit, any reverence the creatures may have shown the entity in life evaporated at the Lord of Pestilence’s call. Food was food and an injured panther was viable, no matter its origins. His brilliant eyes of green were reduced, their glow falling to a cold stare as his spell broke. The crows were preoccupied with their meal to realize that agency had returned to them in full—Antonius was prepared to let the black birds get their fill. He was hardly in any condition to attract animals that sought out the wounded and dying for easy prey.

Turning to himself, the Lord of Pestilence’s neutral expression fell. His legs were already recovering from the comparatively gentle scratching the fallen spirit handed him. His chest had deep lacerations crossing over his right breast down to his abdomen, coating the Lord of Pestilence in his own golden hue. The worst of the injuries was the mangled remains of his left shoulder. Bits of bone were exposed alongside torn muscle and hanging flesh from where the demonic jaguar attempted to pry meat fresh from the Imperial Deity. Antonius scrunched his nose at the gruesome display as he pushed himself to his feet.

There was no use applying self pity to his situation. He was already kicking himself for coming unprepared—But demons in such number and so quickly into the forest?—One would have to be paranoid to assume they’d face this fierce resistance.

Clutching the tattered remains of his silken gown, Antonius tore it in half. He immediately went to cleanse himself of the spilled blood. Not only did it attract unwanted attention from companions and predatory demons, but the fact that his blood was a vector of disease made it a priority. Numbed as his powers were, Antonius wouldn’t risk any of the mortals with his public blemish. The golden color faded and once Antionius was satisfied with himself, he discarded the half garment before turning to his shoulder.

It was healing… But very slowly.

‘That’s not supposed to happen,’ He thought, as if the realization would shame his body into proper procedure. His mind went to the glowing fangs of the fallen spirits and understanding flooded him. ‘A toxin of some sort, how inventive of those beasts.’

The Lord of Pestilence grimaced. Of the Imperial Gods, he was the hardiest. A long recuperation wouldn’t cause Antonius much grievance, but the notion that he’d carry an open wound in the forest was vexing. Clicking his tongue, Antonius wrapped the remains of his shirt around his mauled shoulder as delicately as he could. A hiss came from the Lord of Pestilence as he applied pressure in a foolhardy attempt to cease the meandering flow of his blood. The garment was soaked in half a minute and the Lord of Pestilence was forced to accept the situation.

Antonius’ priority was keeping the wound contained. He didn’t want to risk infection, as contrary to popular belief, he could succumb to his very domain under specific conditions.

‘Mangled by a demon and muffled by these brilliant though scornful woods would qualify as such a situation.’

The rest of the Gods and the mortal accomplices were assembling by the fire, causing the God to unleash a small sigh to himself. Hobbling ever closer, Antonius debated losing himself in the woods until he was fully regenerated. It would spare him the embarrassment of facing the Mad God’s gaze and the chastisement the mindless brute would unleash on the recovering Lord of Pestilence. The worst case for Antonius would be if Althios handed Antonius a shield, as if the sorcerer needed his pity.

‘I’m being ridiculous.’ The Lord of Pestilence scolded himself for what felt like the umpteenth time in the previous eight minutes. ‘The slew of mud leaking from Althios is of no concern to me.’ He’d have Aetius to support him, physically and emotionally, which would be more than enough to nullify any of the metal monstrosities' antagonisms.

The foreign deity stumbled into the clearing, embracing the heat of the flame as he would an old lover, just in time to hear Sybis’ words. His eyes fell upon the so-called priestess as the minor deity questioned her. The Lord of Pestilence stood a little taller, forcing his posture to be as divinely intimidating as was expected. It hurt and the pain found itself on his face, barely concealed by a strained grin that was as fitting on Antonius as lips were on a bird.

The colorful lift of Aetius—No, worse, Ælfweard’s—voice caught the Lord of Pestilence by surprise. His charade of perfect health was broken by a gaze of perplexment as his upper body slacked. The lesser blond swaggered up to Antonius before the Lord of Pestilence could work his tongue in a retort or apology, the fury within Ælfweard felt thoroughly by Antonius as pain struck his chin and an audible crack reverberated through his head.

As quickly as it had come, the Spring Storm that was Ælfweard faded with words of concern for Antonius. Though they registered seconds afterward as Antonius rubbed his reddening chin and felt a small pebble shake in his mouth.

‘Not a pebble.’ Antonius realized and spat, a shard of a tooth and more of his divine blood staining the forest floor.

Humiliation surged in Antonius as he realized the entire encampment witnessed this.. Exchange. Svakre mocked him and he felt the burning eyes of the others on his form, his skin suddenly felt brittle and his stomach heavy. His ego was wounded twice that day, he couldn’t be more wrong from the fact that danger did lurk in these woods and now in front of mortals his own former retainer acted like an Averian Spirit and assaulted him.

It wasn’t pain or humiliation that tore into Antonius, deeper than demonic claws ever could. It was that misplaced anger in Ælfweard’s green eyes as he rounded on him and those soft words of concern he spoke afterwards. The Lord of Pestilence had let his companion down, he’d let them all down. As the senior of their party he should’ve been the most prepared, meticulous in detailing this sortie and restless in identifying dangers. Yet he didn’t even bring a sword.

Aetius was anxious on the ride up and relied on his superior blond deity for support. So called support that mocked his concerns and came crashing down upon hardship, unable to endure the first signs of stress. Antonius’ face burned red and he concealed it behind his right palm, finding the discarded chunk of tooth of greater interest than whatever this business with the human priestess was about.

‘I deserve this.’ Antonius swallowed the thought. ‘I’ll make it up to him.’ A verbal apology was meaningless. The Lord of Pestilence rarely swore himself to words, they were as tangible as wind whereas his actions were undeniable.

With as much grace as he could muster, the shirtless deity paced deeper into the clearing and eyed the rest of the gods. Svakre had shallow wounds, Ælfweard was roughed up and Althios…

“Lord Athlios,” His emerald eyes found the very sight of that ugly armor to be painful but he sucked down the negativity. “I appear to be without arms. Would you be so kind as to provide me with a remedy? Undoubtedly the…” He clicked his tongue and forced the word out, Tyrants will send more of their minions after us the closer we get.”

It was less than ten seconds after the request was sent out that Antonius felt the vibrations. Sound accompanied them but the Lord of Pestilence felt his body shake—which resulted in a hiss of pain from his still recovering shoulder wound—before the parade of critters came from the woodlands. Had his strength not been devoted to recovery, Antonius would’ve attempted communication with the rodents. The Lord of Pestilence felt the vibrations stop, the thundering footfalls paused.

Then they resumed with a fierceness that made his stomach fall even further. Sybis instructed them to run and Antonius glared at the pack animals they brought and then looked at the path again. With the flurry of animals and the darkness obscuring their way, the horses would be of little value. The Lord of Pestilence looked at his white destrier with remorse.

“Strike the horses but leave them alive! They’ll buy us time,” His eyes found the mortals and he grimaced. Could they make it? Could they endure the same physical strains that a God could? Wherever that path led them, it would not pause whatever behemoth was on the prowl. It would be easier to sacrifice them for the deities sake.

The Lord of Pestilence didn’t have the luxury of time here to contemplate the issue. He turned on the balls of his feet and lunged forward. The attack from minutes ago fell away from his body as adrenaline pumped through him, urging the Disease Lord forward. He spared a gaze to the others as he fell into the narrow game trail, hoping to be greeted with the sight of the Gods and their mortal entourage joining him.


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