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Saga of the Nineteen Islands



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Destrian listened sceptically at Isolde's request to not use Violence on Selta's minions:"Look... I understand you're not very willing to go against your kin, and all that.... But do you really think they'll give it to us if we ask nicely? Sometimes, life doesn't allow you to choose. It's harsh, but it's true."

Admittedly, his mood had been steadily getting worse, despite his best efforts to remain cheerful. The minions seemed powerful, too powerful, even for him. Kadri was apparently implying that an all powerful-Lich, with the help of some things called-The Damned?! What? Was out to get them, and apparently she was also too powerful for them to deal with. The more he thought about it, the more the situation seemed like a dead end to him. No matter what their course of action was, they were destined for failure. He didn't mind, that was the whole point of him coming here... But the others shouldn't just die like this. They deserved better. Perhaps...

Blue's return, with Velma and Lili in tow dragged him out of his thoughts. He felt hopeful: Velma always had an aloof way of dealing with issues, and Lili showed wit. Also, if she was spending this much time with Velma, it's quite possible that she could be convinced to tag along. Any help would be appreciated at this point, after all. His smile actually briefly returned at that prospect was made very tangible...Only to be ruined as everyone was suddenly extremely suspicious, something that baffled him to no end. She wasn't any more trustworthy than any of them were about a week ago...And yet people denied her key information and made her think that they were just a bunch of lunatics. Velma was also denied information, which was even more baffling, considering she had fought a dragon with them, despite not even knowing their names.

Everyone's inability to actually communicate and actually secure allies, when it was made very apparent that manpower was just about the thing they lacked the most made him reach two conclusions: One, his fellows had serious trust issues, and, something that terrified him to no end, he'd actually have to convince both to join himself.

He was very self-aware of his social skills for that to work. The mere thought of actually talking seriously to someone made him very antsy. He suddenly became very concerned about the words he planned to use. Would he be coming off as too eager? Too suspicious? Too much of an idiot? Destrian toiled with the answer before finally arriving at the conclusion.

He raised his head, shaking himself out of his thoughts again. He looked at all of them for a short moment, and merely declared:"Like I've said once before, we're thinking about this far too much, and that can't be good for anyone. Let's just stop thinking, and you'll see that the situation will resolve itself.
And I happen to know the best way to stop thinking there is. Barkeep! Two bottles of your finest wine, 5 mugs of mead, and whatever the fuck the women want! Velma! Haul your ass over here, I'm going to grant you all the information you could possibly want to know, and more!

He eagerly feasted on the pastries before the drinks arrived, ignoring any looks of suspicion or worry from his companions-first rule of Not Thinking was to Not Care. Once they had arrived he filled his cup and Keenan's, gulped it down,filled it again, also gulped it down. After a short while,he was starting to feel tipsy enough so as not to care. Embracing this as a good sign, he turned to Velma again.
"So apparently, we're on this here mission to save the world, see? We're just some random folks, no organizations, nothing special, apart from the fact that we're all Lineaged! We're hunting down them artifacts, and..." He paused, feeling a considerable amount of nervousness over the fact that he was delivering crucial information in a rather loud voice. He drowned the thoughts by chugging another cup, as well as starting to drink the first mug of mead."And they're supposed to be really damned powerful, so much so that they have to be hidden from the rest of the world, so as not to fall into the wrong hands, yadayada. Along the way we're constantly being hunted by some special organisation, though they're mostly humans so they're not that bad, they're actually a great way to get the blood flowing. There's also this really powerful Lich that will probably kill us, but then again maybe she's just a pushover like that dragon. Hell if I know." He could practically feel the rest staring at him. There was another long pause as he drank some more, having now effectively drank more than two thirds of the first bottle."That's all. No one's forcing you to stay , but I'd appreciate it if you did, you make for jolly company, and also are really good at fighting."
He turned to Kadri, taking a break from drinking to grab two more of the pastries and stuffing them in his mouth."There you go, Boss. Was that so bloody difficult, now? No, don't answer me: Just have a drink. Our odds will look better with every cup that goes down the hatch, you'll see!

Keenan 'ole boy, I didn't order all these for myself! Get to drinking! Or do you have a code that disallows you to drink anything that's not holy water?"

He made a mental note to stop drinking once he was about to pass out: There was someone that still needed convincing, and he sure as hell didn't plan on doing it while he was sober in the morning.


The Traveller
With the various outbursts and statements, Kadri sat back. This wasn't something she necessarily thought she needed to get involved in immediately. Lili had rejected the offer of transport, and the lineaged simply nodded in response. Velma had walked away to get herself a drink and Keenan had followed to try and convince her to come with them. Flashbacks to the ruins played in Kadri's mind; was this going to tear the party apart? Would she have to travel by her own in the future?
Destrian, of all people, managed to somehow completely defuse the situation with two bottles of wine, mead and a surprisingly positive attitude that Kadri doubted actually existed within the man until that very moment. Two drinks came and went and suddenly he was spouting details about the quest, what they had come up against, what they were going to go up against and what they were looking for. Kadri's eyes were wide with shock and anger. She had gone to answer him but a drink was slid in front of her and Destrian curtly dismissed her.
She sat in stunned silence for a short while that to her felt like an age. A sigh escaped her lips, a long drawn out breath. A reminiscing smile tugged at the corners of her lips as she picked up the mug, raised it towards Destrian and then started drinking. Three seconds, four seconds, five, six. She had gotten half way through the mug before she took it away from her.
"You remind me of someone. I doubt you've met them. They spoke exactly like you did just then. Used to take me to the tournaments in Volk, me and another competitor. Paid for our entry. She was always in it for the money; used to bet on me to win and Hendrik to lose. Seems so long ago now given all that has happened." She paused, raised her mug again, "To old friends."
She started drinking once more, not stopping until the mug was empty. She then filled the mug with a red wine that had been brought to the table by the waitress.
@Dominaiscna @SilverFlight @Athanas @A Not So Wonderful Story


Tende altum, volare altius
Keenan just stared at Destrian, mouth agape as the truth poured from him faster than he was pouring them all drinks. His eyes darted to Kadri, almost afraid of what he'd find in her eyes. She had worked so hard to keep their quest a secret, it took bringing her to tears to get her to share all that Destrian was now giving to the room. As the drink was slid in front of her Keenan timidly raised his own glass to her.
"In the end," he began quietly, for her ears only. "Those who mean us harm apparently already know where we are, and what we're doing, so this," he gestured at Destrian, still speaking, his words growing louder and more slurred, "doesn't really change much at all."
Keenan smiled as they sat together, drinking. The mood in the group had been rather dour since they had come together. It was the first time he saw all of his companions having...fun.
"To old friends." Keenan took up the toast and drank deep.
"So Kadri! This is the first time I think we've heard you mention anything about your life." He leaned in conspiratorially. "You were in rigged fights?" His tone betrayed the fact that he was impressed, far from the judgement people might have been expecting. "What on earth possessed you?"
Keenan was grinning, the ale was making it much easier to smile, and to speak.
"Where are your friends now? Still in Volk getting into mischief without you?"
@Baconhands @Athanas
Velma raised her lip to show a fang to Keenan as he spoke to her, still quite upset. The more he talked, the more she calmed down. Her body relaxed, and she stared down at her own pint. She sighed heavily and looked Keenan in the eyes, no grin, no teeth.
"That pole sword she's hauling around was forged by her husband, whom she lost. She told me so in the room."
She turned to the pint and took a large gulp.
"When a woman her age lies, they change their posture, trying to become visibly relaxed. Their eyes dialate, and they tend to mess with their hair. She did none of these things."
Velma would take another large gulp of her ale.
"The woman is genuine and truthful to a girl that literally hadn't talked to her for more than a moon. She patched me up too! If that isn't trustworthy Tee-nin..."
She looked to Keenan with a serious stare.
"I'm not sure there's a soul that is."
For those few moments, Velma would seem very adult like, as she did to Kadri during their hunt. It wouldn't last long though. She finished her ale, and coughed a bit. Leaning back in her... Stool.
She fell onto the ground with a loud thud, groaning without a flinch of reaction. The groan turned into a laugh as she looked up to Keenan with a gold eye.
"I haven't drank in *hic*... A while... Hehehe..."
It was just typical ol' Velma!... Wasn't it? She had done the act to distract from her skill in reading people, hopefully drown out any questions. Cleverly, it's something she would do, too.

As Velma heard Destrian's booming voice, she would sit up readily and head over to the table in both excitement and suspicion. The mad man, would he actually say it? The more he spoke, the more her mischievous grin grew. The actual story. It was a lot to take in, but she's heard a lot of crazy things. Crazy mixes well with more crazy. Velma helped herself to some of the Mead and drank happily in thought. She really liked Destrian. He was a living in the moment kind of guy. Velma finally realized that he mentioned a "Lich," which was not her favorite enemy.
"By Olikah, we better hope they like us... No Lich is to be taken lightly."
She smiled as a toast was proposed, and was too drunk to realize what it was.
"A toast to-..."
She stopped, lowering her mug and sort of just smiling calmly. She never had a friend before. It sounded cheesey, but it was true. She grew up by herself, mastering her crafts, doing and done. No more than that. She raised her mug and looked to everyone.
"To new friends."
Her eye even seemed a little moist, but of course she would deny it. With actual souls around her that cared about her, it was overwhelming happiness for the sharp-toothed girl. Her grin was bright as shechugged down the Mead.

@Athanas @Pumpkin Spice Cyanide @Baconhands @SilverFlight @Dominaiscna
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The Dreamer
Though Isolde had been waiting on Kadri for her reply to her question, all attention was drawn to Destrian as he spoke out loudly, ordering many alcoholic drinks which were passed around the group. She watched as he downed a glass and then another and it wasn’t long before he showed signs of being tipsy.

As entertaining as it was to watch him, as soon as he began speaking loudly about their question, the lineaged’s blood ran cold. Her gaze flickered from the slightly drunk man to the faces of the people seated around them before she looked over at Kadri, her eyes reflecting her concern. Fortunately enough, though the lineaged of Arbuzs was obviously furious at what he had just done, a drink and dismissal from Destrian was enough to dispel her anger. And with a few seconds of downing her drink, Kadri was visibly more relaxed... and almost cheery. Looking around, Isolde spied the others as they all gathered around the table and her eyes crinkled slightly at the sight of them laughing and smiling together. She found herself smiling too as she watched them, a bunch of stranger, enjoying each others presences over a couple of drinks....like friends.

In truth, it was far from reality... but Isolde figured that they could all do with a little cheeriness and relaxation after everything. Even if it was only in such a moment, under the influence of alcohol, that they, such a ragtag group of lineaged, could come together... it was better than nothing. It was foolish, as with alcohol came the risk of loose lips and lowered guards, but they clearly needed time to just let go of their worries and live in a bit of bliss,

And so, even though she normally avoided alcohol, being rather bad at holding her liquor, Isolde decided to join in. As her members toasted, she silently lifted her mug too before bringing it to her lips. She managed a gulp before having to replace her mug back on the table. Undoubtedly she made a pained face, brow scrunched up and eyes squeezed shut as the alcohol burned its way down her throat.

Once the liquid was down, she let out a shaky breathe, deciding that the alcohol wasn’t too bad... until a hiccup bubbled out of her throat. Her hand immediately went to her mouth in embarassment and, while everyone’s attention was on Kadri, she slowly pushed the still relatively full mug away. That was enough for one night.

@Athanas @SilverFlight @A Not So Wonderful Story @Pumpkin Spice Cyanide @Baconhands


The Traveller
Kadri gave Keenan a smile but she shook her head. She took a sip of wine before she started explaining, "If only tournaments in Volk were so unfair. There are two different kinds: one for lineaged and one for non-lineaged. Hendrik... well... he always tried. Wasn't a bright soul - didn't know when to stop. Went around tournaments wearing a tabard with a weasel embroidered on it. The fiercest creature he's ever fought is what he used to say. Couldn't fight to save his life but boy, he could run when he wanted to." A grin came to her face.
"Now Sigrid. Sigrid's from one of the Commonwealth's colonies. Sly as you can get. She was always confident enough to exploit her apparently exotic nature and look since the day she arrived. She was perfectly happy to let everyone her age treat her to gifts and presents in return for acknowledgement that they existed. She was a fiercely intelligent person; always knew what she was doing, always in control. But she wasn't ruthless, she had... a heart if you could call it that."

Her smile dropped and she looked into her wine contemplatively, "We always did it for the income, but if you win a tournament, find some sort of artefact, maybe compose a great piece of writing or music then you gained Prestige in the eyes of some sort of spirit. The short of it is that our monarch is supposed to be the most prestigious individual in our Kingdom."
She took another sip as the smile returned to her face, albeit gentler as she fiddled with a ring on her right hand. "Sigrid and Hendrik... well I'm sure they're back home. I haven't spoken to them since... well..."
Velma mentioned a new toast and Kadri was happy to raise a cup to change the subject and honour 'new friends'.
She took another drink, "So... anyone got any lovers at home?"
@SilverFlight @Dominaiscna @Athanas @A Not So Wonderful Story


Tende altum, volare altius
"Hey now, no giving up." Keenan watched as Velma disappeared under the counter, then nudged her with his foot.
"You haven't had nearly enough for that. And I don't fancy my chances carrying you up those narrow stairs!"

The new toast by Velma had a good ring to it Keenan thought, and he followed suit with another draught before following the Olikah lineaged back to their table.

He caught sight of Isolde taking a swallow of one of their choice poisons and he couldn't hide his delight as he watched her. She scrunched her face up and when she hiccuped he broke into an uncontrollable laugh that stole his breath. It took him several moments to get it under control, and even then he was still grinning, albeit apologetically, in her direction.
He sobered a bit listening to Kadri. Happy that she had that type of person in her life.
"You'll get back to them, when this is over. They sound like good friends."

His eyes had drifted back to Isolde after that moment, and when Kadri asked about lovers Keenan nearly choked on his ale.
Taking a moment to recover Keenan cleared his throat. "Uh no." He answered, suddenly more reserved. "No lover...and no home."
@Baconhands @Dominaiscna @A Not So Wonderful Story @Athanas
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The Dreamer
Despite the dim light of the room, it was easy to see Isolde flushing red from embarrassment, and Keenan's laughter, proof that he had witness her little hiccup (no pun intended) did not help her situation at all. She spent a little while with her head leaning on her hand, partially obscuring her expression though it was easy to tell that she was trying to keep up a frown. But that didn't last long before she let out a sigh and surrendered to a growing grin on her lips, not before throwing one last light glare in Keenan's direction.

As Kadri began talking, Isolde turned her full attention to the other woman. Though the alcohol effectively made her feel warm and fuzzy inside, she was far from being tipsy or drunk and was relatively alert as she listened to the lineaged of Arbuzs tell of her old friends. Her interest peaked as Kadri explained the tournaments. She had lived in Eastern Volk for so many years yet this was the first time she was hearing of tournaments where both lineaged and non-lineaged participated in. Then again... her village was secluded as is.... and even then, she lived an isolated life, generally staying in the same bubble of the healer's home. Perhaps if she'd been braver... ventured out of her comfort zone sooner...

Shaking her head slightly, Isolde mentally brushed away such thoughts and refocused on Kadri. Her eyes studied the other lineage's face as she spoke of her friends. The smile she wore... would have been enough to show her feelings for the two people, Hendrik and Sigrid. Watching her talk made Isolde feel happy... and warm. Looking around from person to person, she wandered if their little rag tag group of lineaged would one day also be unified with such trust and friendship. It definitely would be nice to have... friends.

Her eyes flickered to Keenan while she was deep in thought, yet her gaze remained on him for a few seconds before he turned his head and she looked away, distracting herself with pouring another cup of tea. It was just as Kadri asked her question about lovers that Isolde took a sip of the tea and she almost choked on her drink. As she was awkwardly trying to stifle her coughs, Keenan answered and she found herself instinctively looking at him. For some reason... she felt a little happy at his confirmation on the subject... followed closely behind by a wave of embarrassment. "Neither do I..." she spoke, a little abruptly, before awkwardly looking at anyone not in Keenan's direction, "Destrian?"

@SilverFlight @Athanas @A Not So Wonderful Story @Baconhands
Velma was enjoying the tales of fighting while drinking her sweet ales before she tensed at the mention of lovers. Sexual fluster? Not a chance. But you so much as hand a flower to the girl and she will become too nervous to talk. She thought back, and decided to catch herself with a grin.
"I have a lover, myself!"
She drank more and pointed it around the group, her face was flushed in red as she swayed.
"Any of ya ever hear a mermaid sing before? OHHHHHHH- *gargle*"
She poured more ale down her gullet as she sang. Perfect girlfriend material.
She humored herself with her own joke.
"Hehehe... I remember when I got into fights! First time I got to Commonwealth! I sure showed em'! That was the first step to my career y'know!"
She was too drunk to remember that was a topic she didn't want to talk about, but her stupor nummed her worry.
"Je' tellenioden! Tarem! Pallesco!"
She shouted in Yur as she swung her mug and fists in the the air, enacting her fights.

@Athanas @Pumpkin Spice Cyanide @Baconhands @SilverFlight @Dominaiscna
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The Traveller
It was exactly the sort of reaction Kadri was expecting; quick impulsive reactions from Keenan and Isolde, and what confirmed her suspicions more was the simultaneous and similar reactions of the both of them, followed by quick confirmations that neither of them had partners at home. How had she phrased it? Lovers? Perhaps that hadn't been as appropriate as she wanted but it certainly revealed the answer to the question she'd been mentally asking. Sendrin obviously approved - the aspect of fire was, in some countries, revered as an aspect of passion as well. This was the case with Kadri's home.
A ghost of a smile came to her lips and vanished a second later. Velma's response was also, to an extent, what Kadri was expecting. Seemed that they were a pack of lone wolves... though she was certain that wasn't a situation would persist for long.
"No lovers, no homes. I seem to have taken on quite the band of travellers, vagrants and lawbreakers," Kadri joked. She paused, finishing her mug of wine and pouring another, "Can't remember the last time I got drunk. Was way before the monarch was selected. What a mistake the Spirit made this time, right Isolde?" She looked at the lineaged of Selta with an uncomfortable and knowing smile, "Can't lead anything can she? Hasn't even been back to Volk since she was elected."
She shook her head, before she drunkenly grinned at those present, "Anyone else here royalty? Just me? I thought so. Hey Keenan! Remind me tomorrow to knight you because I will definitely forget! You too Velma. You can be... something... I'm sure... I'll find a role for you somewhere!"
@SilverFlight @Dominaiscna @Athanas @A Not So Wonderful Story @Pumpkin Spice Cyanide
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Tende altum, volare altius
Keenan hadn't look up from his cup again. He was staring into it, a bit of the sullenness he usually tried to keep hidden creeping to the surface.
His brooding was interrupted by Velma's attempt at a song. It made him smile, if only faintly.
"You should slow down a bit." He offered the advice carefully. "What career would that be by the way? Saving the rears of people too stupid to stay out of dragon caves?"
@A Not So Wonderful Story

Kadri's loose categorization of the party made Keenan return to brooding over his cup. "Not exactly by choice..." He mumbled quietly, and looked pained. He at least, had never wanted to leave his home. Everything he loved was back in Arenthor. It was only when Kadri spoke again that his brow furrowed and he looked up at her.
"'Royalty'?" He repeated, staring at her in puzzlement. Suddenly his eyes went wide.
"Noooo." The word dripped with absolute disbelief. The ring. The ring she showed him the night before they went into the cave in the flats. He remembered the symbol now.
"You...you can't be..."
Velma laughed as Keenan recommended her slowing down. She listened as Kadri talked before her smile quickly faded, and a lip raised to reveal a sharp fang. Kadri was a royal? She sure didn't act like one! Pah! To think that one of the people a part of her kind's conquering would be beside her. Once Kadri described her as 'something' her teeth clenched and eye widened. Her pupil focused and became small, rage filled her gold stare at Kadri as acid bubbled from her palm and melted the mug she held.
"No, I don't think I had nearly enough."
She answered Keenan with an eerie voice. She tossed a gold coin onto the table and snatched up a bottle of Mead, face still flushed red. She turned to give a last look towards the table.

"Following me would not be a good idea."
Shrimp seemed tense as he scuttled after her as she marched up the stairs towards her room. She would make sure the door was closed behind her before growling to herself in anger. She tossed her bow and quiver to the side before hauling a ball of acid to a wall and watched it slam and splatter. She panted as she caught her breath, still beyond infuriated. A mental storm raged within her mind.

She was supposed to follow Kadri? A royal?! How? Her entire life was built apon a hatred for such kind. Kadri was different, of course, but a royal nonetheless. Velma only knew one thing about royals, and that was that they were no good, gold biting, land taking brutes! Only in anything to benefit themselves! She's the one taking the artefacts, no doubt she's keeping them for herself because she's selfish!

Of course, this was a drunken rage of recklessness, and she would have been more reasonable if sober. 'I'll find a role for you somewhere,' tch, as if she wanted to work under a thumb of some lazy man in his chair!

Velma would cock back her hand to throw another acid bolt before Shrimp head butted her shin's, shaking nervously. Velma's barred teeth lowered to a frown, and she dropped her hand. She was really going overboard. She crouched and pet his head.
"It's alright fella, I'm me... I'm me."
Velma sighed heavily. She looked up at the roof joist made of strong spruce. She stripped her robes as she spoke, wearing simple trousers beneath them.
"You're right Shrimp, energy should fuel tasks of benefit, not destruction. Unlike those damn- hup! -Royals!"
She had jumped up and caught the thick joist, using no ledge, but her pure grip to hold herself on the beam. She began doing pull ups, keeping her legs outward and leting out small, soft grunts as she went up and finished a rep. Her teeth clenched as she tried to rid of her rage through exhuastion. Shrimp would settle and leap onto the bed, cozying up in the blanket.

@Athanas @Pumpkin Spice Cyanide @Baconhands @SilverFlight @Dominaiscna


Tende altum, volare altius
However surprised Keenan had been at Kadri’s unplanned admission Velma was apparently five times that, and she was furious. The fact that the anger seemed to stem from a past experience was obvious, but if they were going to be able to work together in the next challenge, the feelings would have to the aired out. Keenan watched Velma storm away for the second time that night--obviously alcohol did little to dampen her temper—and counted to thirty before slowly getting to his feet and padding up the stairs. Blue watched him go but made no move to follow. Whatever he faced, he did it alone.
Keenan’s heavy boots sounded like thunderclaps in the quiet hallway, or at least they did to him. It was painfully obvious whose door he had stopped at. He drew in a breath and knocked, waiting a second or two before saying in a mock-happy tone: “Room service!
He pushed the door carefully, but refrained from going in, “I come in peace.
From the sliver of light that crept into the room Keenan couldn’t see Velma, but he got a good look at the acid running down the wall, eating through the wood as it went. “Should I get a mop?
He waited for another moment, thinking of what he was going to say in seriousness. "...Do you want to talk about it?"

Velma would hold herself up on the joist as she heard Keenan enter, listening to his words before grumbling in acceptance. She dropped down with a suprisingly silent pat on the ground. She had her back to him as she grabbed her new, soft robes and pulled them over her, as too not make Keenan uncomfortable with her lack of clothing. Before she did, Keenan would be able to see the scars that riddled her back as she walked by the crack in the door, as well as the scales of her Lineage across her shoulder blades. "I would bet five gold that she doesn't even know what her kind has done. Royalty only cares about their pride, Keenan." She scooped up her second pair of robes and soaked up the acid off the wall, since she had acquired them to resist her own acid. She then tossed them to the bed and opened the door to see Keenan. "How fond are you of history, Keenan?" She still seemed tense, but not angry at Keenan specifically. It's not like he was a royal. Knights are different, according to her father. Since they were the ones to protect and not conquer, they were alright. Her gold eye had a piercing glare, nonetheless.

Keenan seemed surprised Velma had not taken his head off. As it was she walked into the light of the door and his eyes trailed down her body before he turned beet red and threw his gaze down at his toes. It took him a moment to register that she had scars all over her back and shoulders. When she opened the door she was fully clothed and he tried not to let the gratitude show on his face. “Royalty can be a pain. We’re agreed. But…does that mean we should tar all of them with the same brush?
“How fond are you of history, Keenan?”
He had a sinking feeling as he began to guess why the revelation had been so upsetting to her. “I... spent most of the lessons trying to stay awake…but I’m guessing this has something to do with an order given by a monarch…something that hurt you. Deeply.

" 'Hurt' doesn't quite do it justice, Keenan." She clenched her teeth and balled her fists. "We were slaughtered if we didn't accept! And while I had to walk barefoot through fire to get to where I am, she had it all passed down to her!" Her eyes were moist and her breath Shakey. She clearly exaggerated her message, but it was obvious what she meant. "How am I supposed to just ignore that? My elder's blood soaks her gold, and I'm supposed to follow her?" She walked back to the bed and sat in a chair beside it. "It doesn't make sense..." She hadn't told Keenan to come inside, but it was pretty implied at this point. She was once again, shaken by her choices, and needed counseling.

Keenan swallowed. Velma was intimidating when she was angry, still, he decided that the rest of the inn didn’t need to hear what she had to say. He stepped inside and closed the door. There was another quiet pause as again Keenan tried to choose his words carefully:
Rulers often make terrible decisions. They can decide the fates of thousands with a word and you’re right, not many of them have a thought for just how many lives they can ruin by it.
He drew in another steady breath, trying to speak softly, to sooth her anger by being calm himself, “but Kadri is not her empire. She isn’t the choices her predecessors made. It is possible, by traveling with her, and helping her, you might forge a queen that won’t repeat their mistakes.

Velma sighed heavily. She hated that Keenan was right. She took the bottle of Mead she had taken from the table and traced the symbols with her finger. "Should I apologise? Just because she didn't choose her heritage doesn't mean she doesn't have it's reputation." She pulled her soft robes close to herself. "I don't know. I've never had friends before, and now I have to befriend my sworn enemy..." She looked to Keenan, clearly embarrassed. "What would you do?"

Me?” Keenan seemed taken aback that Velma would ask him at all.
Well…I suppose that if I had a chance to make things better in the future…it wouldn’t matter how I saw Kadri in the past. Whatever your feelings toward her Kadri certainly doesn’t share them…maybe you don’t have to look at her as an enemy, just as a woman, trying to do the right thing.” He shrugged as he brought the conversation back to an apology.
To be honest I’m not sure how much of the night will be remembered.” He eyed the bottle in her grasp, “but, if you want to remember what I’ve said…” He held out his hand for it with a winning smile, “you probably shouldn’t drink that.

She stared at his hand for a bit as she soaked in what he said. She finally laughed whilst shaking her head, handing him the bottle. "You really do have the chivalry of a knight, Teen-pan." She grinned a bit before sighing. "Somethin' bout you is very approachable, Keenan. I bet Isolde likes that." She stuck her tongue out teasingly and chuckled mischievously. Anyone with half an eye could see the chemistry between the two.

Keenan took the bottle, and nearly dropped it at the sound of Isolde’s name. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He replied. Trying his best to recover but already feeling the heat creeping into his cheeks.
I meant to ask,” he began, desperate to change the subject, “I couldn’t help but see the scars on your skin.”
He chanced a glance up from the bottle in his hand, “by accident.” He added quickly. “Are they a part of why you hate royals so much?

Velma was quickly shut up, and stiffened up a bit. Her cheeks were a little pink, but she was drunk after all.
"Maybe..." She thought for a bit, and decided they found out at some point. She smirked to lighten the mood with some playfulness. "You guys really are dumb. You barely asked who I was! If I was an evil person in my line of work, you might've lost your lives!"
She gave him a wink, or a blink? It was hard to tell with the eye patch. She opened her robes innocently to point at each of the more larger scars, although there were much more.
"This one is from a rat of the empire. He put up a fight, but he wasn't so lucky to escape. He was feeding info to the enemies and causing the deaths of a lot of innocent people." She pointed to another.
"This one, seven bandits. Managed to land an arrow, but they didn't last too long after that. Brutes tend to try to be the first to land a hit, making them easy targets." Finally, a large one that covered roughly a third of her collar bone. She grinned menacingly. "An exicutioner's axe... I guess you could say I'm a little faster than it's swing... If you couldn't guess it by now, I'm an assassin, Keenan. Your entire team has invited an assassin to the group. Does that bother you?"
She buttoned and tied up her robes to cover her body and chuckled. "I wouldn't blame you if you guys left me here in the morning. Who'd want a killer for pay on their team? Des-treepan might be crazy, but they'd call me mad, no?"

Keenan’s brow furrowed in empathy to the pain those scars must have caused their bearer, but as she spoke the pieces began to fit together. Did it bother him? Velma might have been surprised to see no look of repulsion on his face, instead he was smiling, and his smile was insufferably smug.
An assassin. Hmm, well, I suppose that would bother me…if I didn’t know you were an assassin with a conscience. Admit it. You wouldn’t kill us even if you were contracted to do it. Not now that you know what we’re doing. What we’re up against. I’d guess that contract or no you’d still be helping. You’d still have joined.
Back at home, if he’d taken this sort of lordly tone with his brothers one of them would have hit him by now. “Besides. Where would you be without me to annoy you when you’re mopey?” He grinned and prepared to dodge. "Well! I suppose I should try and convince the others to turn in for the night. It'll be bad enough climbing a mountain with hangovers, hate to have to do it sleep-deprived too."

Velma blushed with a big grin on her lips. She swung a fist at her shoulder after all of the teasing.
"You wish, Silver Boy!" She laughed and leaned forward in her chair. "You're lucky to hear my moping! I tell excellent stories!"
She chuckled more, clearly in higher spirits. She seemed a little sad it had to end, but she understood. She then had the uncomfortable remembrance that she got mad at Kadri, and would have to make ends meet with their friendship. She sighed and looked to Keenan, taking off her eye patch. The eye would be much more dilated than the other, and would focus on the knight.
"I suppose so, if you guys want to keep up with me and Shrimp. Why don't you tell them that one of them can sleep in my room? We'll save an entire gold if we double each room. I don't like beds anyway, they're too soft."
The girl stood and stretched, she would walk Keenan to the door before standing in the doorway as he left. "Keenan!" She called out, smiling a bit. "Keep your trousers tight when you bunk with Isolde! We don't need a baby bump while fighting more dragons!"
She grinned and let out a laugh as she fucked back into her room, leaving it unlocked for whoever decided to join her. She moved to the small fireplace and used the lantern to light a fire. Shrimp came close as she curled up on the carpet and balled up to act as her pillow, soft and furry as his back raised up and down with each breath. Velma laid on her back in thought as she enjoyed the heat.
Keenan took the hit with practiced ease, laughing with her. When she offered to share her room with the others he had already stepped out of the door.
Well, I’ll put it to Kadri or Isolde. As long as you promise not to throw anymore acid at the walls.” He was still grinning.
As he turned to go he heard her vulgar suggestion loud and clear. “Not going to dignify that with a response!” He called as he reached the stairs, but he was still red when he reached the bottom of them. He returned to his seat back with the others and flopped into it with a heavy breath.
Velma's going to be fine. I don’t know about you lot, but I think I’m ready to call it a day.
@Dominaiscna @Baconhands @Athanas
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The Dreamer
Isolde had been staring intently at her cup of tea and while she was listening to what Kadri was saying, she also devoted a lot of her energy to calming down the uneasy fluttering in her chest. At the mention of her name, she looked up to regard the other woman, eyes narrowing ever so slightly at the question directed at her. It confused her and she wondered why Kadri would bring up such a thing... until her next words caused Isolde's eyes to widen in shock and realization.

While she lived a relatively secluded life in her little town, she'd have had to be a complete anti-social hermit and been buried under a rock to have not heard of the monarch of Volk. She couldn't remember how many years back, but she had heard whispers among the townsfolk that a new queen had been chosen. People questioned her ability to rule because of how young she was and were concerned over the future of Volk, but eventually, these voices died down. After all, their little town was generally unaffected by things happening in the rest of Volk such as politics. There was no need to worry over something that was a world away. Eventually, all went back to focusing on their little bubble lives.

That was the case for Isolde... until now. The day she chose to leave the town, she popped that comforting yet suffocating bubble and here she was, seated from before the Queen.

Her face paled at the reality of the situation and her tongue was caught in her throat. Her lips rested in a thin line as she regarded Kadri's knowing smile, the corners of her mouth turning down slightly. Fortunately, she didn't need to say anything as the others voiced their shock. Her gaze only left Kadri when Velma abruptly got up.

When Velma stormed off, Keenan followed her, and Destrian had gone to speak to Lili, Kadri looked to isolde with a drunk grin on her face. "I wonder if it was something I said?" She asked knowingly.
She lent forward, watching Isolde's reaction as Keenan left, "Don't worry. He's not following her for the reasons I'm sure you're worrying about... Cause I think he loves you. And you love him don't you? Do you want me to get Elena to get you a double bed for the ship?"
Her eyes studied Isolde for any reaction, watching her keenly.

Isolde's head had been turned towards the door when Kadri spoke. She watched as one by one each Velma, Keen and Destrian left, her eyes tracking each person across the room till they disappeared up the stairway. Though she didn't want to think about it, she couldn't help feeling a little dejected watching Keenan leave after the upset Velma and turned her gaze away from the door to spot Blue. Surprisingly, the dog had not followed him and with a soft sigh, she reached down and stroked Blue head warmly.

When Kadri began talking, Isolde initially kept her eyes on the dog. However, when the lineaged of Arbuzs changed the subject to Keenan, her head shot up, eyes blown wide. A second later, a furious blush burned bright along her cheeks and she forced a cup of tea down just to cover her face and put off the inevitable reality that she had to answer Kadri.

"...I don't know what you're talking about..." she attempted to sound relaxed, but could not meeting Kadri's eyes, " that isn't something you should tease about, Kadri.."

The furious blush said it all, and again Kadri was expecting it. Isolde's answer was also cryptic, or at least it was an attempt at encryption. It took very little for the lineaged to decode what she actually meant. Kadri simply gave Isolde a wink and sat back, a devious grin on her face, "Don't worry, I get it. He's quite a handsome lad, and noble to boot. And a fellow lineaged. And he's very chivalrous. What isn't there to love about him?" The grin faded as she continued, "I'm... happy for the both of you... you know? It's to think that you met because of me. At least one good thing came of this quest." There was a pause, "So when are you going to kiss him?"

At Kadri’s wink, Isolde visibly deflated. Without realizing it, she had hinted that there was actually something there for the other woman to tease. She had to force down a groan at her own stupidity when Kadri continued talking, mouth clamped shut in a frown. Though she was beyond embarassed, she managed to look at Kadri as she spoke. When the other woman paused, Isolde thought she would get a chance to escape the subject, but then Kadri dropped her kissing question that had her grimacing slightly.

“....Kadri,” she said out in a sigh, closing her eyes for a moment before opening them to look at Blue, “...you... think too much. There’s really nothing going on between Keenan and myself.” Her voice was soft and wavered slightly, but it did sound like she genuinely meant it. “We’re just... we’re barely more than acquaintances..“

"Barely more than acquaintances? My goodness Isolde, he's only saved your life once and you've only saved his life once. I suppose that would make you an acquaintance." The grin returned, "I'm sure you'll get well acquainted with him in the future. But I digress, such talk is beneath someone of my stature," Kadri admitted mockingly. "I suppose what advice I should give you is not to wait for him to make a move. If you like him tell him. And then you can get much better acquainted."
Kadri sat back, eyeing her fellow lineaged before she started drinking her next mug of wine. She slammed the mug down, "These guardians. Where do you think they're from. If they're Selta's children does that mean she got frisky with a deer?"

As Kadri spoke, Isolde lifted her gaze to her, eyes studying her face warily. The lineaged was right... in many ways. Though Isolde herself was uncertain about her relationship with Keenan, she couldn’t deny that she was inexplicably drawn to him...and that frightened her greatly, for many reasons.

Wanting to change the subject, Isolde remained silent, not giving a response to Kadri’s advice. She merely shifted her gaze away to pour herself a cup of tea, face still tinged slightly red. Her gae shifted restlessly, reflecting her unease.

When Kadri changed the subject, it took Isolde who had been thinking of something to say, by surprise. Nevertheless, she welcomed the new topic for discussion, her nose only scrunching slightly at Kadri’s drunken words. “Don’t drink anymore Kadri,” Isolde said quietly, lips pressed in a thin line that showed her concern, “you’ll regret it later.”

After that, she considered Kadri’s question. “Perhaps... they were given life by Selta’s magic... or transformed by her hand...” she started, lifting her cup to her lips,“I’m not sure... they may have come to be in a similar way to us as lineaged... but I don’t know how we were created.”

Kadri nodded in mocking thoughtfulness. She downed the rest of the mug, reached for the bottle of wine and clumsily knocked it over. Fortunately the bottle was empty and despite her inebriated state, the lineaged managed to stop the bottle as it rolled towards the edge of the table. Shaking her head, Kadri looked at Isolde with tired eyes, "You should always drink. Once you are this far committed, there's really no point in stopping. But fine! There is no more so I shall acquiesce to your request."
She rolled up her sleeve and showed Isolde her scales, including the clump of night-black ones, "These mean you are related to a dragon. It means at least eight HUNDRED years ago a dragon aspect got frisky with a human you're related to. Sooooo... the deer... Selta got it on with a deer?"

Isolde's eyes flickered in on Kadri's wrist, gaze trained on the straight black scales amidst the blue. However, her attention was pulled to the other woman's face when she grimaced at her rather blunt words, hardly trying to cover up her cringing. She may have found it amusing had the other not been talking about how they themselves were potentially created.

"Maybe... yes," she voiced, praying that Kadri would drop the topic if she agreed, "There is no way for us to know but maybe yes, maybe she did... copulate with a deer.... can we please move on?"

Kadri lowered the sleeve back down as she pondered Isolde's words, like a philosopher. Her hand started stroking her chin thoughtfully, and she pretended to have a beard for a few moments before she stopped, her hand resting on her mug. Lifting it, she looked at the last couple of drops; she pulled back her head and turned the cup vertically, trying to get the last precious drops to fall. She slammed the cup down in pretend fury.
"These are important questions Isolde! How did real dragons come about? I don't know! In fact, it's not something I want to know given that all of the Aspect Dragons are siblings! Does that, therefore, make the fact that you and Keenan will probably have children at some point, even creepier?" Her philosophical expression returned, "And... chances are they'll have green scales and not white. It's a toss up really. What would you even name them?"

Isolde didn't even need to look to feel the weird looks they were getting from the other patrons and she did her best to push down a groan when the conversation somehow rolled back over to her and Keenan. Reaching over, she plucked the mug out of the other woman's hands, placing her other free hand on the woman's arm should she try and get it back. "Calm down, Kadri," she said in a soft voice, turning her head away from the light of the nearby fireplace to hide her faint brush, "You're going to have the whole town knowing of our quest soon."

It was like a wave washing over her; a calming essence that spread from her arm throughout her whole body. It didn't return the lineaged to full sobriety, but it returned her to solid ground. The world was no longer spinning, and Isolde was no longer the only other person in the room. She blinked a couple of times, looking around. She hadn't any memory past talking about her old friends.
Her eyes registered the alcohol, the empty bottle of wine and the concern in Isolde, "Oh... oh... I didn't say anything too inappropriate did I?"

As Isolde watched Kadri come back into herself, she let out a sigh of relief. It seemed that somehow, her words had worked in calming her down and once she was sure that Kadri had sobered up enough, she retracted her hand, curling one finger around the handle of her cup. "Mmm... you were rather... blunt and um... unfiltered," she said with an awkward smile, hoping that the other understood her without need for her to go into detail.

With that, she lapped into awkward silence, taking a sip of her tea. Though outwardly she appeared calm with a slight blush on her cheeks, on the inside she was wracking her brain for something to say to change the topic. "Um... Kadri, if you don't mind me asking, how did you... um... learn to control your powers?" It was probably not the best choice of topic... but it was the first thing that came to mind.

Kadri let out a sigh which was quickly followed up by a curt yet awkward apology. The silence gave Kadri some room to think. She knew she had drank a lot. Enough to apparently black out for five minutes or so. Blunt and unfiltered. Gah, clearly she'd asked something inappropriate. Or worse said something inappropriate. Another sigh escaped her - no more drinking. At least, not until another artefact was safely acquired.
When Isolde asked her question, Kadri looked at her confused for a moment before she eventually nodded and began her answer. "Mandatory education. Part of a scheme to make sure people like you and me don't go around flaunting their powers or... well... I can't really phrase this delicately: losing control of them." She offered Isolde an awkward yet reassuring smile as compensation, "The books help, they really do. And you an borrow them for as long as you need to. But obviously more practical applications require... well... guidance."

Though Isolde had been mentally prepared for what Kadri would say, she still couldn't help wincing slightly when the other woman explained why mandatory lesson existed. She should have expected it... there was no other way to put it, but still she felt a sting.

Awkwardly, she sipped her tea, listening to Kadri speak. "They... they do help..." she said after a moment, voice quiet as if she wasn't very certain about what she was saying, "I haven't... used my powers yet but, I do feel like I'm a little more... confident in myself." She offered Kadri a weak smile, before offering another question. "What was it like for you? Learning and all..."

Kadri smiled, happy knowing that at least she was helping someone. If she were to die, she'd die at least confident in the knowledge that Isolde would be able to control her magic at least a little better. Another question, this time about what it was like to learn magic. It wasn't exactly a topic she'd really considered, and her face told of that, "Well... I suppose it was like any schooling I had already done." She stopped herself; she highly doubted Isolde had been to any form of formal schooling if she hadn't learned to control her magic, "Um... well. It's exhausting. Mentally and physically. Actually, much more demanding than non-lineaged have to go through. There's stress that comes with it, but ultimately you can only do magic that you can innately do. Though I hear the Commonwealth has schools of magic which allow people like us to learn spells so-say created by lineaged. How they do it; I don't know. Probably with Awramaar's guidance." She studied Isolde curiously, "Some can become dragons for brief amounts of time; others can create small islands; some apparently can change day to night and night to day. All are just rumours, but apparently these schools of magic have teachers that can do all that I have just mentioned and more. Um..." a moment of realization came to her, "Did I answer your question?"

As Kadri spoke, Isolde listened intently, eyes trained on the other lineaged. Everything she said was completely new to her.

She was keeping up fairly well with this new spill of information, till Kadri started talking about lineaged-created spells. The concept both baffled and intrigued her, but before she could respond, Keenan returned and she automatically turned to look in his direction, quite quickly noticing the slight redness of his face but she decided to not think too much about it.

At his words, she took a moment to look around the room. Most of the patrons had already retired to their own sleeping quarters and through there was still much Isolde had wanted to ask Kadri... it was indeed getting very late and everyone could do with a good rest.

“...yes, I think it’s about time we all get some rest,” she agreed, deciding to leave her remaining questions for another time. “...and thank you, Kadri.”

@SilverFlight @Baconhands @Pumpkin Spice Cyanide @Athanas
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The Traveller
The next morning brought an end to the blizzard. It was eerily peaceful - the snow continued its unnatural path upwards, the townsfolk went about their days, and an uneasy silence punctuated the air. Kadri had spent little time walking back to the ship; the presence of the lich only yesterday terrified her and she didn't want to be outside any longer than she had to be. She wanted to be on the ship and travelling as soon as possible and thus, had forgone breakfast. To her relief, Elena was still very much alive. She'd secured the hatches and waited below decks for the blizzard to pass. The captain had no ill-will and was positively delighted when she was handed a fur-coat by Kadri. It took some time for the rest of the party to assemble on the ship, but as soon as the last individual (Blue, who had been enjoying the snow for as long as she could) was on board, the ship took off, navigating around the town and heading northwards into the Frost Veil's Interior.

The temperature continued to drop, falling well into the negative tens in the first ten minutes, and then to the negative twenties and then thirties. It settled at -38 degrees centigrade. For most of the journey, the party huddled for warmth, keeping close together like a group of shivering penguins sharing as much warmth as they could. Fires burned in a fruitless effort. The first day passed uneventfully. Wildlife passed by - predators kept their distance from the fast moving object. A pack of wolves with ice-blue fur and striking eyes managed to run along side the ship for a few minutes, but they soon realized that there was no way they would be able to bring down the wooden beast and broke off their hunt.

The next day seemed to be the same. The morning and the afternoon were uneventful once again. In the early evening, Kadri spotted a plume of smoke among the trees, though the smoke was intermittent, as if it were being used to send messages. Kadri, while initially fascinated, did not stop the ship to investigate; there was no sign of the lich, which either meant she was behind them, or far in front of them. As the evening threatened to change into night, Elena brought the ship to a halt. A dense pack of trees stood in front of them, blocking their paths. They were made of ice, their leaves of snow. Runes were carved into the ice, refracting the light awkwardly. They could only be spotted from a certain angle, and Kadri kept ordering the ship to move back and forth as she analysed them, comparing them to the runes in her note book.
"The Garden of Selta," she read aloud, "We're here".

@SilverFlight @Dominaiscna @Athanas @A Not So Wonderful Story


Tende altum, volare altius
Keenan had been up early packing the supplies. He'd had a bath, and a shave and was feeling much more like a human being than he had in days. He noticed Kadri had gone out without breakfast and made sure to ask the kitchen for extra food before they left. A lot had changed in one short night it seemed, Keenan was much less sure of how to approach Kadri now. She was a queen, as unconvincing as her manner was.
For Blue, he had fashioned a coat out of sheep skin and tied it about her with leather cord. To his surprise it held, even when she was rolling through the ice and snow, enjoying her last little bit of freedom before getting back on the boat. It took no end of cajoling and bribery from her master. In the end she could only be bought off with the bone from a lamb joint that the inn had kindly parted with.
Once Blue was on board they were off, Keenan made sure to set the food on Kadri's things where she could see it. The fact that they could take the boat was a blessing. Keenan made sure to pack extra furs and thick gloves and hats. The fur held true to its purpose, but even despite that, being on the windy deck of a boat all day took its toll. Keenan suggested they take shifts above and below deck, keeping warm as best they could. Even Blue by the third day was looking for warmth in the hull where the wind couldn't catch her.

Keenan saw the smoke as well and was about to protest them continuing past without investigating, but he remembered the lich, it could have been a trap, and what would he do if Kadri refused to stop? Could he really defy her now that he knew what she was? Kadri's single-minded, near obsessive drive to find the artifacts bothered him and queen or no, if she didn't at least consider what was happening beyond them...She and Keenan were bound to clash again.

There was also the matter of Isolde. Not that Keenan had had much of a chance to get to know anyone well, but he realized now that he had been drawn to Isolde. Since the night at the tavern however, a wall seemed to have grown up between them. Keenan could no longer approach her without his thoughts running rings about his mind. The result was that he didn't approach her at all, and it made him unhappy.
They stopped in the evening, with the air nearly freezing their breaths right out of their mouths. Keenan leapt from the port side and landed in a crunchy drift of thick snow, breaking through the crust to the soft powder underneath. In the dimming light the pristine surface glittered like diamond dust. He had always loved scenes like this. Absolutely beautiful. Kadri, had not even noticed it seemed. She was busy with her nose buried in her book. Keenan rolled his eyes, then, a horrible thought crossed his mind:
Very slowly, he bent down and scooped up a handful of snow, balling it carefully in one hand. He took aim, and sent the soft projectile hurtling towards the back of Kadri's head. For added measure he called out as he threw it: "Oi! Your majesty!"

@Baconhands @Dominaiscna @Athanas @A Not So Wonderful Story
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The Dreamer
The next morning, Isolde woke up refreshed, albeit a little groggy. She ran a bath, noticing too late that she'd only filled the tub with cold water and decided that perhaps a cold bath was just was she needed to clear her head. Fortunately, being lineaged of Selta meant that she wouldn't get hypothermia, if her general resistance to the cold was anything to go by. If not then... well...

She sunk into the water, barely shivering as she submerged herself in the frigid liquid. After a moment, she inhaled deeply and slid down the rest of the way so that her head disappeared below the surface. With the water all around her, the sounds of the world outside were muffled and muted. It allowed her to curl in on herself and gave her think over everything that had happened the previous night. But at the same time, the sensation of being submerged into freezing liquid was uncomfortably familiar and for the first time, she found no peace in the silence.

Opening her eyes to the clear water, she breathed out slowly, watching the bubbles rise to the surface before breaking it herself. She sat for a moment, listening to the sound of her breathing and the light plops of water droplets on the rippling surface. Her eyes tracked these ripples across the water, but her mind was elsewhere, deep in thought.

The memories were fuzzy at the edges, but she remembered every moment clearly. However, the new information did nothing to ease the uncertainty she felt. About the quest, the members, her powers... and Keenan.


As they traveled, Isolde seemed to have turned increasingly inwards. The change was subtle and would have been barely noticeable had the group been traveling together for quite some time now. She spent much of her time by herself, even when in the company of her group as they huddled for warmth. Her focus seemed to be on the books Kadri had lent her, devoting hours into studying the manuals, even during the night when she couldn't sleep.

Despite her seeming earnestness, inside she was restless. She couldn't feel at peace doing anything and often volunteered to monitor above deck just so she could move and give her body something to do. However, even then, though the cold didn't bother her physically, she found herself growing increasingly nervous and uncomfortable. Hence whenever she returned below deck, she sought refuge in the books as a means of distracting herself from the howling of the wind. But even then, in the hours she spent curled up in a corner or next to the group, only a sliver of the information she read sunk in.

Isolde would have blamed her inability to learn on her nervousness due to the cold... had there not been several other reasons. One of them was Keenan.

While they were on the boat, she avoided him like the plague, completely unsure of how to approach him. She tried to bury him in the back of her mind, yet due to the amount of time the group spent together for warmth, she would always see him. Her eyes always seemed to search for him among the heads of their group. And if not, then her body itself sought out his presence, reaching out for his warmth. It made her increasingly anxious and in response, she sought to push him out even more.

Still, thoughts of him always surfaced in her mind from time to time. She wanted to curse Kadri's words from that night... but somewhere deep down, she knew that there was truth in her words. There was something... Isolde didn't want to think what... but one thing was for certain. Isolde missed Keenan. She missed his words, his eyes, his smiles that were for her... she missed his warmth. Despite being together in the group, a wall had solidified between them overnight and she couldn't bring herself to tear it down.


Isolde had spent the day generally below deck and had hence missed the smoke on the horizon. But by the time they had stopped in the evening, she had joined the rest of the group on the main deck, having sensed a strange magic in the air. She had her suspicions... which were confirmed when Kadri announced that they had arrived at the Garden of Selta. A shiver ran down her spine at the words and she gazed around at the snowy forest before her. It was beautiful... yet she felt the magic radiating from the forest and it terrified her.

Suddenly there was a shout and she turned her head in time to see a snowball splatter across the back of Kadri's head. Her hand immediately shot up to her mouth to stifle a laugh as she traced the snowball back to its source : Keenan. Oh dear.

@Baconhands @SilverFlight @Athanas @A Not So Wonderful Story
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New Member
Destrian was overjoyed to see that his drunken ramblings were having an effect on Velma. She was visibly warming up to the rest of them, and even made a toast to friends, which he was pretty sure meant them. The thought that at least one person in this world viewed him as something more than a rabid warhound made him visibly smile. He raised his own cup.
"To friends. May you forever be able to go to bed hoping that tomorrow will be better."
A bizarre wish, one that only could be appreciated by the desperate, or those that are about to be.

Of course, someone had to begin asking awkward question, and who better to do it than Kadri? The question about home and lovers really rubbed him the wrong way. He visibly winced, finishing what little was left of the wine. Of course, he couldn't possibly miss the obvious tension between Keenan and Isolde.

He froze for a few seconds. He stared at her intently, his eyes revealing that this was a very delicate subject. Finally, he spoke. He appeared to have suddenly sobered up
"What do you think, Isolde? Do you think I'd be here if I had someone that gave enough of a damn to actually settle down with me? No, apparently they all either fear me, or are disgusted by me, or something along those lines. I've been told it's not the face: One even called me handsome, once. I'm also fairly certain it ain't a matter of intellect, I'm pretty good on that regard, too.
...No, they just avoid me like the plague. Most of the time they don't even know themselves. They just claim "Something is off" and just like that, they're off too. Hehe...

He chuckled for a brief moment before he stopped again, his stare now becoming intense. He smiled at her, a sad, defeated smile
"I'm certain you know exactly what I'm talking about, eh,Isolde?

He took his eyes off her and refocused on Keenan. He was feeling fairly light-headed, the alcohol was kicking in. He definitely felt like poking some fun at the knight's obvious feelings towards Isolde.
"Welp, guess we can't all be like this here fellow, eh? Look at him. Strong as a bull! Proud as a Peacock! So Gallant, So kind! Truly a hero! With his beautiful blonde hair and polished armor, and decent mannerisms! Hell, even his bloody magic is a light green, nothing threatening! Everything's just bloody adorable on that man, do you not agree, Isolde?
Try all you want to be humble, ol' boy, but there's no way you can convince you didn't attract your own personal throng of princesses and Damsels, not even if one of the aspect dragons came and agreed with you!"
His good mood having returned, he threw back his head, laughing loudly, and not without a considerable hint of mockery.

He downed another cup, finishing his bottle. The tiny vestige of reason he had left instructed him that he was close to passing out, and would therefore need to leave if he wanted to be able to speak to Lili in complete sentencesWell, fellas, it's about time I took my leave. Today has been very enjoyable. If we survive tomorrow, we should definitely repeat that sometime! he grabbed the final mug of mead he had ordered for himself and headed to the counter. After a brief exchange with the inkeep, he was stumbling up the stairs towards room 13. He stopped in front of the door. He could barely remember what he had prepared to say. She was a stranger that he had exchanged about a dozen words with. And he was about to barge in, in the middle of the night, and attempt to convince her to somehow join them on a bizzare, and dangerous quest. What was he thinking?
Destrian solved this problem easily by taking yet another large swig from his mug. He congratulated himself on his foresight to bring it along. He knocked on the door, somewhat louder than he had initially wanted to. He waited for a few seconds, eager to demonstrate his manners, before tripping over his own feet as he attempted to slowly open the door.
He stumbled back to a standing position, and did his best to focus on Lili. His initial plan was to apologize for being so rude, coming inside so late at night.

Instead he made a long, awkward pause, staring at Lili, before uttering the first words that came to him:"My, my, you look rather gorgeous in that!"
He visibly winced. Even in his pitiful state he could tell that this was most definitely not the way he wanted to start.
"I..I don't mean it in a weird way, of course! It just... is a fact, you know? I'm fairly certain telling the truth isn't considered dishonest, no? And...
He gave an exasperated sigh and motioned for her to wait. He drank another long swig from his mug.

"Alright, let me try again: I am sorry for barging into your room in the middle of the night, and all that. It's just... I wanted to speak with you, and there ain't no way I could have done that without being utterly wasted first. Hell, if I actually was sober right now, I'd have fled the room the second I saw you trying to sleep. Just bear with me for a moment, eh? I won't be long.

See, we're not just a bunch of lunatics that are simply trying to get themselves killed in creative ways, although I definitely can see why one might get that impression. Sure, we all have our quirks and whatnot, but that's just part of being a human, eh?
Now, you wanted to know what it was you'd be following us into, but the others very stupidly denied you an explanation. It's actually rather vexing when you come to think about it. We all met about ten days ago. We weren't any more trustworthy than you are now, and yet we all went along without a hitch. I'm really uncertain as to why they'd somehow be suspicious of you.

So, basically the idea is that we're trying to keep the world as we know it safe. Now, I know this might sound like a lie, but it actually isn't! See, there are these artifacts around, that have great power and whatnot. We're helping Kadri, that's the dark haired one, lock em up in some place that no evil will be able to get to them and use them for it's malicious deeds. So far we're doing pretty damn good, got two of them already.

Now, under normal circumstances, I wouldn't be bugging you about all this, but you... seem like a nice enough person. I'm a very decent judge of character, so, I think I'm right in my estimation. You look like you know how to fight, which is always a plus. Most importantly, though, you don't really have anything better to do at this point in time.

...Now, I am aware this sounds...Insulting, and all that, but trust me: I've seen my share of desperate people. Hell, I was the leader of said desperate people for a very long time, I know what I'm talking about. You've lost something, I can tell. You're unsure as to what you're supposed to be doing. That is also clear as day. And whoever this "Gorm the Grey" is, he's not the real reason you're here. You just don't want to be home, or no longer have a home. It's a bit difficult to tell.

Whatever it is that's happened to you, let me tell you: You will most definitely not improve so long as you're doing... Whatever it is you're doing. Isolating yourself here, in the middle of nowhere won't get you anywhere. Trust me, I have tried it. I'm not offering you the magical solution to your problems: Such a thing does not exist. I am merely here to give you a reason to get up from your bed every morning. You come with us, you'll meet people. you'll fight people. You''ll save people. Most importantly, you will live a life. And perhaps, you might be able to create good memories, and meet good people, and maybe all these good things will be able to somehow counterbalance all the bad things that have happened to you, and have been troubling you. And you''ll get to do all that while serving a noble cause! Trust me, that's not an offer that's made to most people in our situation.

But do not think this a fool's errand! We are all lineaged. We command a considerable amount of power. I can assure you that whatever danger we may face, We will be adequately prepared to handle it. Keenan's a master with his shield-I've seen him hold his ground against a creature almost thrice his size. I can treat any wounds you might have. We're all plenty capable of looking out for each other.

I guess... all I'm saying is: Give this a chance. See how living actually works out for you. And if you, at any point, decide that the stakes are too high, or that you aren't feeling it anymore, or just that you've had enough, I personally pledge to escort you to wherever you feel like being, no matter what the others say. You just need to trust me.

He finished his mug and turned to leave"I don't need you to answer me now. Think on what I've said, and If you decide to heed my advice, we'll be leaving at dawn."

Exhausted, wasted, and with a host of bad memories having surfaced from talking his mind, Destrian stumbled to his room and immediately passed out into a long, dreamless sleep.


The Traveller
A thud was audible as Kadri closed her book. She started thinking about a strategy - they hadn't seen the artefact, only the creatures that protected it. So they would have to distract the guardians, identify the artefact, continue to distract them and then-
"Oi! Your majesty!" Came Keenan's voice, though it lacked all trace of nobility and class. She was initially confused as to why he had called her that, and then it dawned on her. Had she revealed her status during the period of time she was drunk? It wasn't impossible. Maybe she-
Her thought process was interrupted again as a snowball smacked into the back of her head. It was a brief moment of cold and shock. Then anger began to burn inside her; how could she be so clumsy? HOW was HE being so JOVIAL? Isolde's laughter didn't help. Any other time, Kadri might have played along, but this was not any other time. A brief utterance took place; lightning struck her and a moment later struck in front of Keenan. She was standing in front of him, and her eyes and expression only spoke of anger.
Lightning danced along her fingers and a second later she had shoved him with as much force as she could muster.
"There is a time and place for that, this is not it!" She practically roared at him, "There are creatures in there that we need to plan to face, not to mention an artefact with unspeakable power. And out there," she pointed to the landscape from which they had just come, "Is a damn lich, that, need I remind you, is hunting these fucking things as well! AND could be only a few minutes behind us."
She paused, taking some deep breaths, "Please... just... not at the moment."

@SilverFlight @Dominaiscna @Athanas @A Not So Wonderful Story


Tende altum, volare altius
Keenan had seen Kadri, finally letting her guard down the night before, finally letting people in. He had hoped that some small part of her felt closer to them, such that the slight of a snowball would finally crack the unbearable layer of complete indifference to her team, the manic dogging of her quest goal. Oh how wrong he was...
Kadri flashed into being in front of him, shoved him hard, which made him stagger back a step, but not more. She screamed at him and through it Keenan could only give her a sober look of utter disappointment.
He wanted to shout back, he wanted to point out each and everything she had done wrong as a leader, as a queen, as a friend, but his will to do that began to die with the hope of getting through to her. He was also aware of his promise: as much as he wanted to give his temper free reign, the thought of upsetting Isolde stilled him.
There was a silence, sharp and frozen between them.
"All real threats." Keenan whispered, his voice chilled as the air. "But you still fail to see the biggest one."
He turned his back on her and walked away from the boat. "I'm going to keep watch." He announced irritably.

Blue whined. She had come up on deck when she heard Keenan's cold voice. Her paws were up on the rail and she watched as he picked an outcrop of rock where he had a clear vantage of the mountain slope and stood there, arms crossed.

@Baconhands @Dominaiscna @Athanas @A Not So Wonderful Story


The Traveller
The whispered words were like daggers for Kadri. Every syllable a needle. She knew she was in the right, at least to a degree. What Keenan was doing was... wrong? At least poorly timed. It didn't warrant a snap at him, but he definitely needed to be told that there was a time and a place for everything, and this was not the time or the place for a snowball fight. Her train of thought culminated in a sigh. She concluded that she was correct, but had gone about getting the message across incorrectly. How he knew she was a queen would have to wait.
A few metres from Keenan stood a young pine tree. At least it was a young tree. The organism was dead. Long dead. The bark was rotting away and weak, yet still sturdy enough to support the snow it was carrying on its branches. Kadri saw an opportunity, a slight smile came to her face - revenge, easing the tension and perhaps getting Keenan on side all in one stroke.
She did a small calculation in her head. An incantation was uttered and a lightning bolt thundered from her hand, striking the tree about half-way up, taking out a chunk of it. The tree began falling, most of the snow dislodged, covering the knight head to toe. The branches fell away harmlessly and the trunk hit the ground with a wet thud.
She paused, making sure Keenan was alright before a grin came to her face, "Don't call me your majesty ever again!"


Tende altum, volare altius
Keenan heard the crack of the tree much too late. The snow came down on him like an avalanche, slipping into his collar and sticking to every inch of exposed skin (mostly his face).
Keenan wrestled his way out of the drift, struggling to his feet. He turned quickly, nearly overbalancing again as his feet failed to find solid purchase in the pile of loose snow. He wiped the cold slush from his eyes and his gaze fell on Kadri, then the tree, and the smoking break where she had hit it. The smell of ozone in the air was thick and it didn't take the knight long to piece together what had happened.
He stood there for a long time, open-mouthed in complete disbelief. He couldn't decide whether she was getting him back in fun, or out of pure spite, then the grin appeared on her face and the outrage he had felt about being smothered in snow evaporated, as did his anger at her for yelling. He was smiling too then, narrowing his eyes in silent promise that this was not the end. For now though, he appreciated the need to go on with their task.
She shot him her warning and he shot back just as quickly: "Doesn't suit you anyway!"
Keenan then busied himself with trying to scoop the snow out of his collar, where it was still dripping cold ribbons down his back.
"If you want to get in, you might try asking for Isolde's help!" He called, "we're not just decorative you know."


The Dreamer
The mirth in Isolde's voice died down as she sensed a strange feeling coming off of Kadri. The young woman had not said anything... yet there was tension in her form, as if she contained within herself a storm, rippling and raging under her skin.
Suddenly lightning struck the ground where she stood and the lineaged disappeared. A flash of light drew Isolde's eyes to where Keenan had been standing in the snow and where now Kadri stood. And then she shoved him, roaring with anger that echoed in the cold air.
Isolde was paralyzed to the spot, hands gripping the wood of the side of the boat tightly so that her knuckles bled white. However, once the last echoes of Kadri's voice died down to silence, she found herself moving to the ladder, urged forward by some inner feeling to stop the conflict before things escalated out of hand.
However her hand froze in place at the first rung as she heard Keenan speak. Instinctively, she turned her head to look over her shoulder. And while she was glad to hear no rage in his voice, at least not predominantly, she was crushed by the disappointment in his face and the coldness of his tone. And as he turned and walked away, her gaze tracked him across the snow to the small rocky outcrop, pale blue eyes darkened.

Carefully, Isolde clambered the rest of the way down until her feet met wet mud and snow. The ice seemed to grow where her boots met the earth; frost creating a crystallized sheet across nearby uncovered ground.
She stood for a moment, hesitant as if she knew not what she intended to do, when her gaze flickered to Kadri and then to Keenan's back. She wanted to go to him, felt her feet lift up to near him, but she halted herself in her steps... the same strange and painful feeling gripping her heart.
Instead, she turned her attention solely to Kadri, intending on approaching the tense young woman.
However, before she could reach her, the lineaged of Arbuzs raised her hand in an action that made Isolde pause. Her gaze lowered to where the other's fingers glimmered with lightning power and she followed the direction of her hand to Keenan.

A sinking feeling chilled Isolde to the bone and almost instinctively, she felt magic forming at her finger tips. Ice rippled along the ground, glimmering and trembling as if it were alive... but almost as soon as the magic had come, it died down, as if nullified by some unknown force.
Helplessly, she could only watch as lightning flew out from Kadri's fingers. But instead of hitting Keenan, the magic struck a dead tree, causing it to topple over, spilling snow onto the unsuspecting knight.

For a moment, Isolde stood stunned... and then came the shame.
She had almost raised her hand against Kadri.... regardless of whether her magic would act to protect Keenan or attack Kadri, she felt ashamed with herself for thinking that Kadri would purposefully do harm to the knight.
Trust, Isolde had said that they needed trust, that they trust one another... yet look at her now.

Horrified, she turned from both of them and walked away from their laughter. Her breathe was ragged, having been unconsciously held in, and she closed her eyes, letting her feet guide her through the snow back to the ladder.
However, a sudden pull of magic at her core stopped her in her tracks. Her gaze lifted, drawn to the runes that Kadri had been studying before.
Frost magic, magic she recognized she had called on a moment before, spread across the cold air before thickening and crystallizing into solid ice.
And as the ice formed, new runes were revealed.

Isolde walked towards these strange pillars of ice, eyes on the mysterious runes and, as if she had known the language all her life, she slowly read the runes.
"Those who bring peace... may enter the Garden of Selta."

@Baconhands @SilverFlight @A Not So Wonderful Story @Athanas @Pumpkin Spice Cyanide


The Traveller
Kadri looked behind her as Isolde started walking away. She cocked her head to the side, curious as to why she had gotten so close. An idea came to Kadri's mind, but she shook it away - it was probably her overthinking it. Her attention was drawn away regardless, to the magic that was taking place in front of her. New runes! Glowing, ancient and... Isolde could read them! What wonderful news! Another person that could translate the runes; this surely meant that in the event something happened to Kadri, someone else could translate the runes in the future.
The exact words of the message Isolde read out sunk in to Kadri after a moment. Could... she enter the garden? Could any of them? They were there to steal an artefact. They were there to take something from the Guardians, by force if necessary. But if they could... somehow get it diplomatically, the much more preferable option, then they would.
As Isolde took one more step towards the trees of ice, several of them parted, revealing the many statues of the Garden.
"Dear child, descendent of Selta. You are like us, curious, you have questions you want answered. You are welcome in the Garden." The voice of the deer rang out, though the creature was not in sight.
Kadri ran to Isolde's side, though a wall of ice soon blocked her path, "Child of Arbuzs. You have faced many trials, however..." the voice paused, as if thinking. "We respect your achievements. Gathering our uncles' artefacts must be trying. You... have a burning question, you may ask it and then you must leave."
"Child of Olikah, my cousin. Your discovery must have been a tough one. To know you are related to such might beings as the ones that created our world. We grant you a question, but one alone, while you are within the Garden before you must leave."
"Cousin of Awramaar, you have much hatred burning within you. You have faced injustice and responded with only violence. Your story is a tragic one, but your violent responses make you... difficult to sympathise with, from our perspective. We will allow you entry, and a question to be answered, provided that you use no magic in any capacity."


Tende altum, volare altius
Keenan hadn't noticed the way Isolde had looked, the way her magic danced about her like a living thing before Kadri struck the tree. He did notice her expression afterward, she was afraid, and right away he wanted to comfort her, only he didn't know quite how.
He stepped up behind her as she read the inscription aloud. Then, the trees began to part, which made Keenan jump, sending his shield up instinctively. He had to force himself not to reach for his sword.
The garden was just as eerie as he remembered it to be, a very real promise of what awaited them if they chose to defy the masters here.
He listened to the deer carefully. He watched the ice wall appear, barring Kadri's path, and then the voice called on him and he felt ice in his heart despite the guardians doing nothing. How on earth did they know about him? It was unsettling.
So that was it then. Those not of Selta had one question each and then they had to leave, but his mind wasn't on what he was being given:
"Isolde," He began gently, reaching out to brush her shoulder with his gloved hand. "These beings...they might be able guide you to controlling your magic. You should ask them for help."

Before Kadri could do something rash Keenan took her arm and steered her away from the entrance to speak to her, motioning for Destrian too.
"They know far more than they should. It's not hard to believe they know what we plan to do. The guardian said 'Those who bring peace'. Suffice to say if we try to take the artifact by force things could go very badly."
Keenan paused for a moment to think. "If each of us gets one question, we could ask them to part with the artifact, risk the chance they refuse, or, we could ask for its location...which would make it easier to take, but in all honesty, whatever we decide to do, I want to wait and see if these creatures can help Isolde first."
He gave Kadri an imploring look. It was important to Isolde and so, it was important to him too.

@Dominaiscna @Baconhands @Athanas

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