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Saga of the Nineteen Islands

Thunder boomed. Lightning flashed. The pair reappeared. The pegasus was quick to spread its wings once more and the sights and sounds occurred again. This time, only Aezi disappeared. Kadri sighed, but otherwise didn't seem to bat an eye at this. There was a short distance between the lineaged and the rest of the group and she closed it with a couple of strides. The air seemed charged, both figuratively and literally. Kadri sat down, her legs crossed, her back straight and her eyes closed. She was trying to take deep breaths - all of them were shuddered. When her eyes opened a few seconds later, she looked across at her travelling companions.
"The artefact has been stored safely in my home nation of Volk. Nobody except for myself and Aezi should be able to find it there." Kadri said after a few seconds, realising she should inform her party of what she was doing with the artefacts. "I plan to do the same with the others." Her storm-filled eyes drifted across Isolde, Destrian and Keenan, seemingly passing over Velma as if she wasn't there. "Regardless of whether or not you intended to use them. That is something I simply can't allow to happen; not at this moment at the very least. In reality, I shouldn't even be using Aezi as much as I am." She allowed a pause before she continued, "The Orb has revealed the next location and the next artefact. We're looking to head northwards. The Frostveil currently occupies the land it is located in, as far as I'm aware. I'll speak to Elena and mention to her our destination."
Another pause. She wasn't sure how much of this information was sinking in. Maybe none of it was - she knew everyone else was exhausted from the fight. She stood up, intending to walk towards the ship and speak to the captain.
@Dominaiscna @Athanas @SilverFlight @A Not So Wonderful Story


Tende altum, volare altius
Keenan looked gratefully at Isolde. He was almost dead on his feet and the prospect of cooking daunted him.
"Take whatever you can find in the pack." He told her pleasantly.
A peel of thunder announced Kadri's return and Keenan glowered at her as she sat down and began to speak.
"We. Are going to rest." He said with a tone that told her he wouldn't allow an alternative. He could barley keep his feet but he stood in open defiance, arms crossed and a look that was beyond fed up.
"Since we started this farce of a quest you've asked us to put our lives in danger for these artifacts, you have given precious little information, no gratitude, no empathy, no sign that you even care what happens to the people who were crazy enough to follow you! You won't open up, or trust us, you're treating us like servants, or enemies! You hoard these objects of power, forbid us to hold them, but don't seem to have much of an issue using them yourself whenever you can't find a convenient solution. Your word is the only thing we have to assure us that these things aren't being used for evil as we speak!"
Keenan was angry, he'd raised his voice and Blue, so unused to hearing it began barking her distress.
He took a deep breath and stood in silence for a long moment, calming himself and his dog.
"Kadri, you are not fit to lead, and unless you can convince me otherwise...I will not follow you."
@Baconhands @Dominaiscna @Athanas @A Not So Wonderful Story
Keenan's outburst completely took Kadri off-guard. His demeanor, his tone, his body language; all of them spoke of nothing but anger and frustration that was ultimately her fault. Indeed, everything he was saying she was aware of, but wasn't this how leadership was supposed to work? All of the stories, the myths and legends, told of people following heroes blindly to find the hero's goal. It was in a moment that she realized everything she thought she should be doing, which she had been doing, was the complete opposite of what a leader should really be doing. The onslaught of criticisms kept coming and didn't seem to be stopping any time soon - lack of empathy being the one that stung the most. Of course she cared about them; at least whether they lived or died. Even his dog seemed to be joining in, and this verbal attack caused her to lose her composure. At one point she thought he would genuinely attack her, and for a couple of seconds she was trying to put distance between herself and the warrior, but only found the wall of the ruin behind her, blocking her escape, holding her in place and forcing her to listen to every last syllable.
Keenan's final sentence was the straw that broke the camel's back. Kadri's back slouched. The lineaged sunk slowly to the floor. She lowered her head and brought her knees up to her chest. Tears began to form and before she could even attempt to dry her eyes they started falling to the ground. Her voice, quiet and meek, almost choked on every syllable as it made itself known a few seconds later, "I'm sorry." She tried to recollect herself but this meager attempt failed, "I'm so sorry. I-I've been... such a fool. I-I didn't know, what I was supposed to do. I don't know what I'm supposed to do."
She looked up at Keenan, her eyes a light grey, "
You're right. I'm not a leader. I didn't want to be. But it's the responsibility I've got. These artefacts... can be used... for bad things, very bad things. I've seen them used... and I can't sit idly by. And I need help collecting them. And I know it's selfish of me to hoard them. But you speak of how you can't trust me, how can I trust you? I would love for one of you to lead us! Any one of you! But I can't let that happen! You could lead us in to a trap, or worse, have me hand over the artefacts to someone who would use them in war! I-I..."
She paused; she knew her argument was incoherent. But she couldn't think of a flowing case to keep Keenan from apparently deserting. She took a deep breath before she continued, her voice a bit louder and slightly more confident, "
All I want to do is go home. And have nothing to do with these artefacts. I want them to be cast away, so no one can find them. But I can't do that. Because there is something out there, using these powerful items to do nothing but cause death, destruction and chaos. And I can't go home until I'm certain that these artefacts are out of the hands of those that would do harm with them."
The lineaged looked down to the salt flats once more. This was it. She was certain any authority she had was gone. Why would they stay now?
@SilverFlight @Dominaiscna @Athanas @A Not So Wonderful Story
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When Keenan was done, Destrian looked down on his freshly-sewn chest, admiring the quality of his work."Not bad...If adventuring ever starts to let you down, consider becoming a field surgeon". He was evidently in less pain now, the glow on his chest slightly waning.
His good mood vanished however, as Kadri returned and immediately began informing them on their destination-seemingly unable to take in the simple fact that they had just taken the burnt from a dragon, and were, as a result, utterly unable to move an inch further. Anger began overtaking him once more. However, he still held back: Perhaps there was a clear reason for this odd behavior. Mayhaps she would be able to convince him, like she had done the night before.

Instead of all that, Kadri just collapsed on the floor, sobbing and making up pathetic excuses. Destrian stood up, his chest begin to fire up again. This was the one who was supposed to lead them? And she couldn't even hold it together when confronted by an ally! If she broke down so easily,how could she expect to actually endure through a fight like the one they had just been through?
He looked at Isolde, then Keenan. If she didn't step up to her role as a leader, they all would die. He didn't care much about his one life-It had ended years ago. But the others did not deserve such an end. The mere prospect of them dying, not to an enemy, but to Kadri's naivety stoked his anger tenfold

He rose, fists clenched. The point Keenan was trying to make was not getting through to her. He walked up to where she was standing and crouched, grabbing her by the back of her neck and raising her head up in an iron grip, ensuring she was looking at him-all the while being barely an inch away from her.
"Snap out of it, dammit!" He barked, in a voice not very different from the one he usually used when trying to threaten an enemy.
"All I want is to go home" Well, darling, hate to break it you, but so does every other fucking person this side of the Nineteen Islands! No one cares about what you want-No one cares about what I want! The World doesn't fucking work like that!
We've come to your aid when you spoke of this quest not for gold, for you didn't offer, not for prestige, for you didn't have any, not for glory! We came because we wanted to give body, mind, and soul to something greater than ourselves. In these past two days, we've killed a whatever-the-fuck bone amalgam and a bloody Dragon! I alone have shed more blood for this mission than the rest combined-that's not bragging, that's a fact! Isolde, despite having never fought in her entire life, is doing her best to cope. Keenan has almost watched his companion die, and he himself is by no means unscathed.

His grip tightened slightly, becoming moderately painful."And you? What have you offered this expedition? You haven't fired a single bolt, in fact you spent most of the fights well away from danger. You haven't even used your powers to scout, distract-do anything, for crying out loud! We're bloody exhausted, and you just happily announce our next destination without even so much as a "good job!"
When your allies offer more for Your mission than you, then you fucking know someone's being a bumbling coward. You're expecting us to do more for you than you're willing to do for yourself!

And, when it's all said and done, you accuse us,the sole reason as to why this whole thing was made possible, of being untrustworthy? Granted, this would've been reasonable if we hadn't just been in two fucking fights together. But let's assume I would want to betray you. What was there to stop me from tearing your head from your spine, stealing the disk then running out of here while the others were too busy mourning the dog? huh? What was there to stop anyone else from doing just that?! You're just making up excuses to justify your idiocy! I'm not seeing the lineaged of Arbzus. I am seeing a sniveling, cowardly idiot with a burning desire to be the hero, even if that glory was only built on the corpses of people actually doing things!"

He stopped his rant, drawing a deep breath. His dark eyes had been locked with Kadri's the entire time, but now that he was thinking again, could he truly appreciate the fear and sadness they reflected back at him. She hadn't chosen this. She simply had been the only one to be able to decode the transcripts, therefore the only one to know the location. And he, Destrian Targon, was a bully, beating on a person who was already pretty much forced way out of their depth,Exactly like he had been years ago. His expression changed from one of fury to one of pity and sadness. He eased his grip on her head, letting it slide back onto the wall.

"Fuck... Sorry. I, uhh... I didn't mean all of these, okay? You just...need a little more experience is all. In fights, you know. And..."
He stopped to take a breath. It was clear that pushing an ally like this made him very uneasy, and rather sad. It was almost as if Kadri's feelings were reflecting onto Destrian
"We..can make this work, alright! Just,stop crying, please. Let's rest and... Fuck!
He stumbled over to his pack, brandishing a clean rag, which he handed to her. He then sat back down with resignation. His arms were very uncharacteristically wrapped around his shoulders
Well, I feel awful now-I'm sorry. I'm hard-pressed to watch what I say or how I act when under pressure, and almost being killed by a being of legend puts me under-lots of stress. And... just..." his words trailed off mid sentence, his eyes focusing on the ground, as to avoid eye contact with anyone. Compassion was something he usually tried to drown out, but sometimes he couldn't keep it down.
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Tende altum, volare altius
Kadri seemed to crumple before him, and as she did Keenan suddenly regretted being so harsh. The tears came and he stood there, gaping like a fish. Her motives were never malicious, or self-interested. She was trying to do what was right, but had no idea how to start and he, blinded by the injustices of his past had heaped responsibility onto her which she had never wanted, never been ready for.
Destrian was on his feet before Keenan could say another word. He grabbed her mercilessly and Keenan stepped forward to intervene, but something stopped him. The man was not going to lay it out in any kind way, but Kadri needed to hear it.
When Destrian retreated, both men were evidently more than a little ashamed.
Keenan thought for a long moment, the words spinning about inside his head.
"It's a burden too heavy to carry alone." He spoke softly, kindly, "A team is effective because it uses the strengths of every member. So, you haven't lead before. Lean on those who have. You're unused to combat," he gestured to Destrian, "You have warriors who were forged in it. Each person here has a power at your disposal. The enemies you described are powerful. You need to be as powerful. You can't do that as one person, but if you trust us, we'll succeed together."

Keenan stood back and surveyed the camp, hands on his hips, settling into his familiar stance and a more than familiar role: "We'll rest for three days. Rotate the watch twice a night, those who are least injured will help repair the ship. Velma, I know you're not really attached to our team, but we could use someone with your skill. Would you take Blue and...Shrimp? Hunt down more food."
He glanced back at Kadri, a comforting smile playing on his features. "After three days, we'll be ready to go wherever you point."

@Baconhands @Athanas @A Not So Wonderful Story @Dominaiscna
Kadri didn't need any more points hammered home; Destrian seemed to disagree with this. The lineaged had locked his hands on her shoulders and forced her to look into his eyes as he laid out every point about her cowardice and her misjudgement about their character. Much like Keenan, Destrian was correct. Ultimately every single thing he pointed out was valid in some way or another. When he finally released her, Kadri didn't have the mental energy to answer him as she had answered Keenan. Despite his attempt at an apology, Kadri felt as if her mind had been draped in a dark shadow of doubt, stress and melancholy submerged in a storm of clashing ideas of what should be done. Her entire body, the scales on her arm especially, urged her to lash out and subdue Keenan and Destrian. She could run: teleport away, summon Aezi and vanish and leave the rest of them to fate. Maybe she could... do nothing. Perhaps the situation would resolve itself.
This was ultimately the path she chose to take. How could she do anything active now? Even as Keenan spoke to her reassuringly, it was clear she was no longer in charge. In fact, authority seemed to have fallen to the warrior. And she was thankful for that. Maybe he could make all the decisions from now on and she simply advised him. That could work. But for now, she wasn't sure what to do. Her tear-filled eyes fell on Isolde and Velma, the pair who hadn't said anything yet. A long breath escaped her lips as she finally collected her thoughts. She looked at Keenan and Destrian, "I... I need to think for a moment. I admit... I can't lead this group any more. But I'm the only one here who can find the artefacts. And I appear to be the only one here who can help Isolde. I... I want to make up for my mistakes, if you will let me. Time is of the essence, however, and I strongly recommend we leave tomorrow, if not in the morning then at least in the evening, and recover on the journey. The ship is already floating again and I imagine it will be maneuverable soon enough."
She announced this somewhat sheepishly, knowing Keenan had declared a three day rest was in the works. But in this sentence was nothing more than a humble suggestion which showed she would bow to the will of the group.
@SilverFlight @Dominaiscna @Athanas @A Not So Wonderful Story
Shrimp would have been excited to play with Blue, playfully chopping at the wood she held in her maw. He prowled low in a stance as he waited for Blue's next action, but turned to see the outburst of Keenan the same way Blue had. Shrimp had essentially scuttled over to Velma, who was far beyond frightened or awkward.

Velma stared in excitement with a large grin as Keenan stated his case to Kadri, who seemed to be panicking. She scooped up Shrimp and hugged him close as she waited for a fight to break out.
"Ho ho!"
She would exclaim as Keenan delivered a verbal punch to Kadri. Her face would go sour as Kadri slumped and began to cry. She was disappointed for her lack of bite, but didn't dare say anything more. This was obviously how this group worked. She personally preferred a good fistfight to settle disputes! A good ol' one two oughta knock some sense into her, yeah? Of course the thought would be absurd to your average gent, but Velma was a little more vulgar than your average female! Besides, she didn't like the way Kadri treated her exhausted pegasus. It was a spiritual, rare beast. Especially to her and her people. Once Destrian took the more aggressive route, she grinned again, giggling lightly as Shrimp finally broke free from her excited squeezing and ran back over to Blue, playfully nudging her and scuttling off around the fire. Restating that Shrimp was over 3 feet tall, he was pretty fast as well.

Velma was in a happier mood now that she saw some violence, and sighed happily as it resolved. It was like a nice breath of fresh air. Once Keenan requested her to go hunting, and invited her to the group, it immediately took her by surprise. Her? A part of a team? No way!.... right? She got pretty lonely at times. Having a Krilk as your only friend only got you weird looks and a lack of social interaction. She definitely needed to think about it.
"I uh... We'll think about it on the hunt! C'mon Shrimp!"
Shrimp looked back at Blue as he scuttled over to Velma excitedly. She got up and turned before stopping, suddenly getting an idea.
"Say, Kadri, care to join? I could use a word with ya!"
She spoke casually as if nothing awkward just happened within the group. Her hand went to her bow and pulled it off her shoulder.
"Y'know... girl talk?"
She smiled extremely awkwardly now. How does one act... normal? She would much rather take Keenan on her little mission, but she thought she could surely help Kadri with her leadership problem. If there was one thing she was good at, it was hunting. She could teach practically anything through it.

@SilverFlight @Dominaiscna @Athanas @Baconhands
Isolde silently watched the argument unfold before her, hands paused over the pack of unprepared food. She flinched as Keenan voices his anger at Kadri and though she did generally share his feelings on the situation, his outburst put her on edge. She didn't like it when there was conflict, after all conflict never brought anything good into her life... but then again, in such a situation as theirs, with tension high and a whole group of frustrated and discontented people, conflict was inevitable. And also, necessary.

As Kadri broke down crying, Isolde raised a hand to her mouth, feeling chills run down her spine. It was.. shocking, to say the least, to see the seemingly-confident Kadri break down in tears... and it made her remember back to her own break downs earlier in the faces of the strange creature and the dragon. Though she wanted to intervene and comfort Kadri... at the same time, she understood that it was something she needed to hear.

Suddenly Destrian moved towards the other lineaged, grabbing her by the neck and hauling her up. He began shouting at Kadri and though his words were true, Isolde frowned at his delivery, flinching at ever loud shout. She was already in an incredibly delicate state... it was not wise to put her under anymore stress. However, before she could intervene, Destrian had cooled off slightly and was apologizing profusely... even if it was probably the most awkward apology ever. @Athanas

However, soon the moment seemed to pass. Though tension still hung in the air and the group interacted with awkwardness, at least they had come to... some kind of resolution... almost. Slowly, Isolde approached Kadri, Destrian and Velma with a small bundle in her hands. As she passed Destrian, she placed a cool hand on his arm, in the hopes of reassuring the poor man. At her touch, some of her magic seeped into him through his armor and clothing. @Athanas

Turning her attention to Velma, she handed her the bundle. "I've... prepared something for you to eat while you're out there hunting," she said softly, "...it's not much but, it'll help you keep up your energy." Her gaze flickered over to Kadri and she kept her voice low and soothing as she addressed the lineaged of Arbuzs. "There's enough for both of you, in case you're going along... Kadri." @A Not So Wonderful Story

She hovered for a moment, feeling incredibly awkward. In truth, she had wanted to speak privately with Kadri ... but now was not the time and she did not want to overload her anymore than she already was. After all, as Kadri had said, she needed some time to think. However, Isolde wanted to provide some form of comfort for the lineaged. Remembering back to how Keenan had hugged her in the cave, she drew Kadri a light and very awkward hug. Unconsciously, her magic seeped into Kadri as per her will to calm and comfort her. @Baconhands

Stepping back, Isolde bobbed her head slightly, not meeting anyone's eyes out of embarrassment, before walking back to the fireplace to continue preparing food. As she worked, her mind was elsewhere, thinking about the predicament they were in. The main problem they have is trust... or the lack there of. In order for them to function properly...they needed to build at least some trust...some how. Slowly, she thought of something and she raised her head, eyes flickering around the dim room till they found who they were looking for. "Keenan...?" Though she only said his name, her voice, low and soft, conveyed that she had something she wanted to talk to him about.


Tende altum, volare altius
Keenan stood silently for a moment, then nodded. "I'll try to have everyone ready by tomorrow, but no promises. I know we're on a very strict time limit, but we'll be no use in any sort of situation if we're too hurt or exhausted to move." His tone was much softer now, he was still unsettled he had made the woman cry.
He went back to the fire in fatigued resignation and sat, bringing his knees up to his chest. His gold hair was disheveled still and stuck out at odd angles, his clothes and face were spotted with dirt. He watched Isolde care for the team and it made him smile. For all her power was control of ice and snow, she had such a warm heart. He felt his face flush as he thought it.
Keenan didn't speak when she returned to the fire, simply watched her quietly, afraid of what she thought of him for losing his temper.
When she said his name his heart skipped a beat, praying she wasn't about to scold him for acting like a brute.
"Y-yes?" He replied warily.
In truth she had been slightly unsettled by his earlier outburst... yet at the same time, she understood what emotions could make people do... how pressure and stress could make a person lash out at others. Keenan was no different to another other person and when he did lash out... it was for good reason. When she realized that he had been watching her while she was working, Isolde turned her face away slightly, a little too embarrassed to meet his eyes.

"...Um... I was just thinking... perhaps we should do something together as a group..." she started off, her voice reflecting her uncertainty in her own idea. "We all met under quite... rushed circumstances and most of us are little more than strangers..." she continued, finally turning to meet his gaze, "...so I was thinking that it may be beneficial if... some time soon, we could all sit down and just... talk. Get to know each other as people ... develop trust...?" her voice trailed off at the last bit, mind still whirring on what to say.

"What do you think..?"


Tende altum, volare altius
Keenan smiled as he listened. "I think that is a grand idea. I'd be willing to try it at least. I think if Kadri got to know us better, it might help her trust us. I'd like to learn more about you too. That is, you as in all of you...not...not just you."
He looked away quickly, feeling like a fool. "I'm sorry by the way...for losing my temper...it was unbecoming of me. I hope...I hope I didn't frighten you."
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When Keenan voiced his thoughts on the idea, a smile grew on Isolde's face. However, at his rather... misleading words, and his subsequent clarification on those words, caused a barely noticeable blush to bloom along her cheeks. Fortunately, he looked away and she followed suit, suddenly finding interest in the vegetable she had been peeling.

At his next words, Isolde's gaze lifted to his profile, eyes trained on his face. "...I'll admit that I was rather... taken aback..." she started softly, reaching out to place a comforting hand on his arm, "...but don't apologize for being human. In such circumstances, anyone would have lost their temper... you had every right and reason to."

She paused for a moment, pulling her hand back. "... and I.. I lost myself too... multiple times. I couldn't possibly think bad of you over this... " Isolde fell silent again, eyes flickered to the flames. "...Thank you Keenan, for what you did ... back there."



Tende altum, volare altius
Keenan kicked himself mentally and committed to keeping a better hold on his anger. Isolde had enough to deal with with mastering her own abilities.
"I was afraid, afraid that Kadri's mistakes might get us hurt, or worse. It's not an excuse. I'll do better." He promised.
When she thanked him for what happened earlier he blinked in surprise and his expression softened.
"I did say I would watch out for you.."
There was a short pause as he looked at her, the fire's reflection caught in her eyes. Suddenly he cleared his throat, a little embarrassed at himself.
"Um, please, put me to work. I can peel vegetables if you like." He was wearing a casual smile and dipped his head in a mock bow.
"I am your humble servant."
As Keenan said that he had previously promised to watch out for her, Isolde smiled softly, matching his expression. His voice trailed off and she found herself gazing back at him, unable to tear her eyes away for a moment. There was something so gentle about his smile... so warm about his eyes... she felt drawn to him... and at the sound of him clearing his throat, the moment was broken and she quickly looked away, just as embarrassed with herself.
"Ah well..." she couldn't quite look at him, focusing very intensely on the vegetable before her, yet a smile tugged at her lips at his playfulness. She paused for a moment, looking over her work space. She still had quite a bit to do but... she stole a glance at Keenan. He looked incredibly exhausted and worn out, more so than most of them, and seeing him in such a state made her incredibly worried. "...there's no need, I am almost done anyway..." She said softly, only able to meet his eyes for a second as she knew her own eyes would reflect her feelings of concern. "You can... help me with cleaning up later. In the mean time, you should go get some rest. It's been a... rough day."



Tende altum, volare altius
"Rough for all of us." He hinted, though his expression was grateful. Keenan was about to fall asleep where he sat, from fighting the dragon to healing Blue and Destrian that night, he had never been so exhausted in his life. It was a short crawl to his bedroll by the fire and he was too tired to pull of the dirty wool tunic.
"Thank you Isolde." He murmured, sleep already tugging at him. "You are remarkable..."
Keenan didn't remember much more after that, he fell asleep to the gentle sounds of a crackling fire, knowing that however things had happened, he was exactly where he wanted to be.
Destrian sat there, paying little heed to what Kadri and Keenan were going on about. He had failed to keep his emotions in check once more, nearly dashed Kadri's head against the stone wall, and was utterly convinced that whatever amount they had in him had diminished considerably. Why did this keep on happening to him? So far they had been triumphant. They already had a relic, and they had managed to butcher two particularly vile enemies without so much as a few miscellaneous injuries. So why on earth was he still so...Angry? Angry at what, even?

His self-loathing was cut short as he saw Isolde approaching. However, Instead of scolding him for his Irrational aggression, she merely placed her hand on his own arm. It was a simple gesture, yet it gave him a certain sense of comfort-He was unsure whether or not this was due to her magic, or if the gesture alone was enough. He looked up at her, nodding gratefully.

"It's as if she understands exactly how I feel-all this power, and yet I am the weakest person in this whole place. The Irony!
"You're thinking too much again. That never ends well"

Destrian realized that, as was becoming tradition, his mind was right. He shakily got up just as the Kadri and Velma were leaving to go hunting. He wished he could follow, but the whole "grabbing Kadri menacingly" had proven to be more taxing to his hurt arm than he had hoped. Instead, he merely moved over to his backpack, and looked for a fresh shirt-he was utterly sure he had made sure to bring a spare along.
Finally, he managed to find it. He had rolled it up and placed it at the bottom of his back-he had not actually thought he would survive long enough to need to change. Next to it lay the small cloth bundle, the first thing he had thought to pack. The sight made his blood run cold, and this time it was no magic that caused it. He looked back at Isolde. She appeared to be having a conversation with Keenan-and not the kind you interrupt. He could hear every word uttered,and it was becoming quite apparent that these two were starting to get close.

For some reason, that made him feel-angry? Sad? Desperate? He couldn't quite put it in words, exactly. It was a bizarre feeling, like the kind one would get when hearing a tale of horror. He looked at the bundle intently, then back at Keenan and Isolde. Something he had heard a long time ago... In a cold winter night, standing inside a half-destroyed home, which until recently contained a very happy family of five.
"You've no doubt thought many times about turning away from all this...Madness. From all the pain, and the anger, and the guilt"
"You're not the only one to have this thought. Most of these men have thought about it, once or twice. Some think about it every day. Some might actually even achieve it. But not you. Not me. No, No. This is who we'll be, from now, till the end of time. We're the Damned, Destrian. Condemned to ever be the Monsters, the Villains of the story.

Destrian could feel his heart racing. He now remembered exactly how that conversation had ended. He remembered exactly what was contained in this bundle, and why it had caused him such horror.
Because Varestad, the Grinning Terror, The Butcher of the Guard, had been exactly right in his prediction, and in his tale...

Destrian grew paler. He was very grateful for the fact that his back had been turned to the other two. He did his best to empty his mind of all thought. He remembered exactly how Varestad's story continued, but he couldn't face it-he just refused to admit that he had been right.

Looking for anything to take his mind off of his recent thoughts, he placed the bundle back in the pack and moved closer to the fire. Keenan had gone to sleep apparently, having exhausted himself with healing everyone. Destrian wasn't about to complain, he had done a decent job. He spoke in a low voice, trying to not disturb the knight, while also being unable to completely conceal his panic.

"You..You probably need some rest too. Doesn't look like I'll be sleeping any time soon, so I'll just...keep watch until Kadri and Velma return"
Isolde watched Keenan slowly make his way over to his bedroll, a soft smile on her face. Her eyes remained on him for a moment as he collapsed into his bed, raising a hand to her mouth to cover a little laugh. She didn't not how to describe him in that moment... aside from... cute. The tips of her ears burned at that thought. @SilverFlight

Turning back, she refocused her attention on preparing the food. Some time while she was working, Destrian had moved closer to the fire. So engrossed was she on finishing preparations that she had missed his movements and was hence startled by his voice when he spoke. Looking up, her eyes flickered to him and she paused for a moment, studying his face and expression. He looked unsettled... panicky even... and while Isolde wanted to ask him how he was doing, she figured that talking about what had happened was the last thing Destrian wanted to do. They were all exhausted, stress and on edge. It was a conversation for another day.

"...Thank you, Destrian.." she said softly, gingerly placing the food into the small pot warming over the fire. She could do with some sleep... and though Destrian looked to be in worse condition than she was, Isolde took his word when he said that he would not be able to sleep any time soon. "... I'll get some rest then. When you can, do get some too... don't push yourself too much okay?" @Athanas

With that, she offered him a small smile and got up, making her way over to her own bedroll. She lay down, facing in the direction of the fire and for a few minutes, she just watched the flickering flames. And then, sleep came over her.
...you are a monster....


....things you've done and the things you will do...




...reaper will thank you for your ser-


Isolde shot up in her bedroll, gasping for air as cold sweat trickled down her face, glistening on her skin.
A dream... a dream just like the previous night. Except this time, she heard the voices.
Drawing her knees up to her chest, she hugged them close. Her entire body shivered uncontrollably like a leaf in the wind.
Why these dreams? Why now?
She tried to fall asleep, burrowing as deep into her bedroll as she could... yet sleep wouldn't take her. She lay wide awake, heart still thundering against her chest.
Thinking that perhaps some fresh air would help, Isolde got up from her bedroll and ventured outside of the house they had bunkered in. Whoever was on watch seemed to have dozed off for a moment... and for that, she was glad. She wanted to be left alone for a moment.

Isolde walked for a while around the area, never straying too far from the house they occupied. The night sky was cloudless; the moon and countless stars reigned over the darkness, casting light over the land and the ruins. She took her time studying the broken structures and totems... there was something strange about them...though she knew not what.
The air was cool and fresh... and it brought back memories from all those years before...at once both nostalgic and terrifying.
She thought back to that fateful day... a memory she had locked away, never to look at or touch. She remembered every moment, every second... like it was permanently carved into her mind. And that is when she saw the crater.
It was as it was the day they had arrived. Seeing it now, she was once again filled with a sense of dread. As well as curiosity. She'd been drawn to inspect it when she first laid eyes on it... but had never found a chance to. Now, she approached the large hole with hesitant feet.

When she reached the edge, some of the sand gave way, and she tumbled forward, rolling down the slope to the bottom. Though her landing was cushioned by the sand, her exposed hands and arms burned with countless tiny cuts, bleeding tiny beads of blood. Hissing softly, she pushed herself into sitting position and for the first time noticed what looked like minuscule shards of crystal glistening in the sand and protruding from the cuts in her skin. It was cold... very cold.
As Isolde attempted to get up, her foot slipped on something hard and she fell back into the sand. And as she turned around to inspect the hard object beside her foot, a scream ripped through her throat at the sight of a skull. She scrambled away gasping, blood turning to ice.

At then everything fell into place. The ruins and totems. Her uneasiness. Her familiarity. The dreams. The crater.
And as she gazed around herself, frozen in fear, her memories rewound the clock back to a time almost a decade before. She saw the ruins restored to their former glory, heard the laughter of children, the chatter of mothers and flow of music. She saw the village flourishing with people... with life. And she saw its end... in a storm of ice, blood and snow.

The place where it all started.

Isolde was paralyzed to the spot... and she didn't know when, but tears had started trickling down her cheeks. She wanted run... to hide away in a hole and tune out the world. But there was no where to escape to from the reality all around her. Left with no choice, she was forced to confront it all.

Getting onto her knees, she bowed her head to the cold sand, eyes squeezed shut.

"I'm sorry," she cried softly, her voice wavering with each word, "...I'm sorry for what I've done."
Yet she felt worse as she said it... as sorry would not bring back the dead. Nothing could. And so with much thought, she forced herself to continue speaking.

"I'll..... I'll get better, I promise. So... that I won't hurt anymore people... so that this won't happen again..."

"I'm sorry."
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With the ship repaired and operational the next morning, in a significantly shorter time period than Elena had originally said it would take, the party was once more on the move. It skimmed along the salt flats, travelling markedly quicker than it had been earlier - it became quickly apparent that Elena hadn't been running the ship at its highest speed before, but since the attack the captain had ensured that they wouldn't be so easily crippled again. There was space below deck for people to sleep; three hammocks that dared not move despite the gentle rocking of the ship. They weren't comfortable, but they provided a softer surface than the wooden floor of the ship.

After two days or so, the landscape began to change. Some parts of the salt flats were covered in snow that refused to melt. Kadri knew they were coming close to the Frost Veil, a geographical anomaly even for the Nineteen Islands. It was located further south than her home, but it's weather was comparable to that of... nothing. There was nothing she could accurately compare it to. Volk's winter was mild compared to the Frost Veil's permanent state of snow and ice. Even as the ship was beginning the transition from the Salts to the Veil the temperature was drastically dropping. In a matter of minutes, the temperature had plummeted from the mid twenties to the low tens and Elena was bringing the ship to a stop. When Kadri went to confront the captain, Elena quickly and bluntly explained that without proper winter clothing all of the party would freeze to death within a couple of hours of entering the snow covered landscape that was now visible in the distance, not to mention the need to pick up food and water. The lineaged didn't need any more information before she agreed to find a town where supplies could be collected.

After a few hours of skimming along the border of the two colonies, a cluster of three or four dozen wooden buildings came in to view. Many of these structures were a couple of stories tall and, unlike the party's last brush with civilisation, they all appeared to be in good repair. As the ship came to a stop a hundred or so metres from the village, it became quickly apparent that this was some form of outpost. About a quarter of the buildings had signs on them, indicating that they were traders of some sort.
The ground was covered in a thick layer of snow that, judging by watching the people of the town trek from building to building, was about ten inches deep. Kadri looked to her companions. She was shivering, and her speech was clearly indicating that she was both very cold and clearly nervous. She hadn't addressed them all at the same time since Keenan and Destrian had aggressively lectured her on her position. As she spoke, she kept looking at Keenan and Destrian, more so the former than the latter, looking to see if she was saying the correct thing.
"I think we know what we need to look for. Winter coats, boots, food, oil for burning. The essentials. That's priority one. If I give you all ten gold coins each that should cover anything you find and get you a decent meal if there's an inn around here. Second priority is to find any information about the artefact. Any information about a place called The Garden. And... Keenan I need to speak to you privately before you go."
@SilverFlight @Dominaiscna @Athanas @A Not So Wonderful Story


Tende altum, volare altius
It didn't take Keenan long to find the scales. He had only to change into a clean shirt. Part of him had known since Blue had been saved. What other explanation could their possibly be? But his mind balked at the facts, resisting the present and only possible truth. His father was not lineaged. He resented the power and title magic granted, with what he had said was no inner strength or talent on the part of the bearer. Just spending a few days with lineaged people had told Keenan that that wasn't true, but that still left him wondering painful questions. All his life he'd been proud to be part of his family, even as the youngest son, entitled to nothing but the name but he would wear it proudly. Now he wasn't sure if he had the right to wear it at all.
The air grew cooler and his temperament cooled with it. He was calmer, more patient, actively trying to make good on his promise to Isolde. Some night he would sit on his own, and allow his worries to hound him again, but they were easy enough to forget when he had others close by.
The outpost air was crisp and fresh, steeped in the scent of pine and frost. Keenan breathed deep, it reminded him of winter at home. Blue bounded out of the airship and straight into the first snowbank she saw, rolling in it and grinning her jowly grin as if nothing in the world was better. He couldn't help grinning at his dog, in many ways she was still a puppy.

He listened to Kadri tentatively give orders and nodded his support of her. "We'll also need oiled canvases for tents, and to keep our supplies dry. Try and buy wool clothing if you can. Wool will keep you warm even when it gets soaked. Heavy pelted coats will slow us up the mountain, so you'll want beaver or fox, not bear. Try to be discrete when asking about the artifact. We're scholars from a faraway university, the information given is for 'academic purposes' only."
@Baconhands @Dominaiscna @Athanas @A Not So Wonderful Story

Once he had added what he felt was required Keenan turned to Kadri, still a little anxious speaking to her after he had lost his temper in the flats.
"Of course Kadri." He stepped to the side, out of earshot from the others. "What did you want to tell me?"
Kadri moved to lean on the wooden rail that ringed the perimeter of the ship. The lineaged let out a sigh, relaxing her shoulders as she turned her head to look at Keenan. "There are a few things I need to bring up. The first of which is... well... how are you holding up? I realise it can be... you know, stressful. Especially since you've just found out... well... you know..." Kadri soon realised her shoulders had become tense again. It was a touchy subject, she knew, and she didn't want to anger or provoke him.
"I want to offer you the same thing I've offered Isolde." She said, turning fully to face the new lineaged, a book in her hands and a sincere smile on her face, "It's not the same thing I gave Isolde originally, but it'll help you find out what you can do and how you can control your magic. I'm happy to instruct the both of you... if you want to learn that is."
As she handed over the book, Kadri's scales on her forearm became visible. Among the sea of blue clusters, a single scale was a deep raven black, and the scales immediately surrounding it were slowly transitioning to become the same colour.


Tende altum, volare altius
Keenan did not expect the first question out of Kadri's mouth to be that one. It made him smile. She was taking an interest in her team, but he wasn't about to say that now, lest his praise sound patronizing.
"I'm not sure what to think." He said finally after a thoughtful pause. "I left my family on...less than happy terms, I can't go back...but, if my heritage is in question, there may be answers for me out there somewhere." He gestured with a tilt of his chin out over the forest that hugged the outpost palisade. "For now, I'm content to focus on what we need to do."
Another surprise came next. He didn't dare hope that she still thought enough of him to offer training. The gesture humbled him.
"I'd be happy to have you as my teacher." He dipped his head in respect, taking the book with something akin to reverence.
He caught the blue of her scales, brows furrowing at the ebony one standing out in their midst.
"Is that normal?" He asked, gesturing to the black scale without touching it.
When Keenan pointed out the abnormality, Kadri's arm recoiled instinctively, and she went to immediately cover her scales up. In the middle of the action, she let out a long, low breath and rolled her sleeve up once more. She looked at it inquisitively before shaking her head in answer to Keenan's question. This was most definitely not normal; she'd never heard of a lineaged's scales changing before.
"Honestly Keenan... I'm kind of scared of it. It's certainly something I've never seen before, even heard of before. It's the other thing I wanted to talk about. It feels like its eating away at them. Sometimes it feels like a burrowing insect. I... whatever creature we face, when we find the next artefact... we can't attack it. Not initially. I want to know what's happening to them. Do you think that's fair of me to ask the others?"
It was a sincere question; this was a situation that was completely alien to her. At least earlier, even before the lecture, Kadri knew what she was looking for and had a decent understanding of most things magical.
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Tende altum, volare altius
Keenan wasn't expecting her to withdraw to quickly and he blinked at her in surprise. He could tell she was getting used to sharing information, and he felt honored she chose to share it with him.
"'Burrowing' doesn't sound good. And there's nothing to say it won't affect other lineaged; we're all at risk. If you think our best chance of getting answers is to ask whatever is guarding the next artifact, then I'm with you. And I think whatever we're facing, we should face it together, all of us, on the same page." He put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "We're always stronger as a team."
With that he turned back to the group, looking over his shoulder at her expectantly. "Shall we?"
For the few days they were on travelling for, Isolde had been a quieter than usual... however it wasn't the same silence as on the morning after the first nightmare. It was a calm and reflective silence... as opposed to unsettled and on edge.
When they were leaving for Frost Veil, she spent a while standing at the side of the boat, watching as the village disappeared into the distance... saying nothing. In her hands, she cradled a small piece of painted wood wrapped in cloth - a piece of totem as a memento so that she would never forget... or attempt to not remember.
She hadn't experienced any nightmares since they left the village yet Isolde didn't sleep particularly well. She'd find herself laying awake at night, just thinking. Sometimes she'd do some reading if she could find a spot where she could light a candle without disturbing her group mates... otherwise walking around the boat helped her use up energy and feeling the wind in her face helped her relax and quiet her mind. It was slowly but surely getting easier to sleep.
During the day, she spent her time helping wherever she could and put lots of effort into studying the books Kadri had given her. Though Isolde sometimes found herself struggling with the contents of the guides, she forced herself to not give into frustration. It was slow... but she wanted to think that she was getting somewhere. She hoped that was the case anyway.
With regards to her magic, Isolde hadn't racked up the courage to try to use her powers. Too scared of causing another accident, she held back from experimenting until they were back on land... where any damage she might cause would not hinder their travels.


As the days passed, the landscape around them transformed from sand to snow. The temperature plummeted, but despite the freezing cold, Isolde was faring quite well. She found herself spending time just staring off into the distance, lost in thought. The knowledge that they had entered Frost Veil had made her nervous... and the endless white of snow all around put her on edge... yet she tried to look past the fear that she'd assigned to anything related to her powers or her past. It was hard... but she tried to look through a different pair of eyes at the icy landscape. She remembered back to an earlier conversation with Keenan and how he loved snow... the thought both saddened and fascinated her. Would she come to love snow one day too?

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