Open Chronicles Canary in the Coal Mine

Discussion in 'The Chronicles' started by Maranae, Jun 21, 2019.

  1. Maranae

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    Silence.

    It hung over everything here, a silence so thick it was suffocating, stifling. The fires had not lasted for very long, and the occasional pop of sap in timbers that had been milled and placed was the only sound to break the silence. No birds sang. No flies buzzed.

    It was as if the world held its breath, heart stuttering in stone chest. As if the world itself knew that the worst was yet to come, that all of this was but foreshadowing.

    The village stood partly destroyed, some buildings torn apart as if by a giant hand, timbers splintered and scattered in all direction, beams scorched and blackened in places. Trees, toppled, trunks snapped and shattered by some terrifying force. All through this little village, idyllic as its setting was with peaks piercing the heavens themselves as backdrop, was the destruction of some errant god.

    It extended to the people here, too. The mangled bodies of an elderly couple, twisted in the ruins of their shattered home. A child, dead and torn in half such that it was impossible to tell whether it was a girl or a boy. Others. Dozens.

    And despite this, no flies. No crows. No carrion animals of any kind, just the pervasive stench of some twisted magic that hinges about in the air, smelling like burning tin, raising the hairs in the back of the neck.

    If it had been on fire, if there had been screaming demons...it might have been hell on earth. As it was, it was an open grave posing a very real question:

    What had happened here?

    --

    She hummed a tuneless set of bars as she walked through the woods, bare feet careless of the sharp stones kicked loose from shallow, dark soil. The sun shone in the sky, already beginning its descent towards the horizon.

    Mara was as happy as she could be. She had left that dark place behind, the place with all the bad memories that made the Dark One in her head stir. She did not like the Dark One. It whispered cruel things to her, always reminding her of the rod and the whip that had been liberally applied by the Master and his helpers in the dark place.

    The bright smile on her sweet face slipped a little as she recalled that place, and all the memories that should have remained buried there. It only took a moment for that childish happiness to return, though.

    The woman made her way down the steep sides of a mountain ridge, the trackless wilderness strangely silent around her. She was tall and lithe, a beautiful creature that could turn any man's head with those green eyes like polished emeralds, fiery red hair that hung past her waist in a tangled mess. She wore a shirt that was basically a shapeless sack, too large for her and dirty beside. And worn, like the trousers she wore, full of homes that showed pale flesh. She wore no weapon, not even a belt knife. And she did not wear shoes.

    The smell of smoke had drawn her this way out of curiosity, and the sight of buildings - many of them, and above ground - had captivated her. She had never seen a settlement before, beyond the claustrophobic passages of the dark place. Here was a thing she could explore. She still revelled in the newfound freedom she had gained.

    The price had been steep, and that grin became glassy, slipping once more. It was easy to shy away from uncomfortable truths.

    At long last, the descent came to an end. Scratches on her face and arms dribbled blood, but those minor wounds were already healing. Even had they not been, she did not appear to take any more notice if them than she did of the dead lying unburied in the streets of this little hamlet.

    Maranae stopped in the middle of a vast expanse of scorched grass. Some kind of festival had been underway when the catastrophe struck, for there were far more bodies here, knocked down and mangled. A tent lay in a twisted ruin; Mara looked at all the colorful finery with a perplexed expression on her face. Shattered tables lined the green, and a pole, snapped off halfway up, stood canted to one side.

    She could feel the violence done here, taste the raw sorcery involved in it. She didn't understand any of what it was, and could not process all the information streaming through her senses. All except for smell. The tall redhead had an acute sense of smell, more akin to animals than humans...but then, she was necessarily human, was she?

    There was someone here. More than one someone, but definitely one person. She sniffed at the air rather comically, if there could be any humor amid the destruction surrounding her, and then set off at an easy pace, stepping over the dead without any sense that they were more than bits of scenery. She headed towards a house, stone and plaster of a distinct cottage style marred by half the roof blown off, part of a wall crumbled. The main door was still intact, though it looked out of kilter from the rest. She looked at it, then pushed it inwards. It fell off the hinges, landing in a clattered in the entry.

    The scent of flesh not rotting became stronger. But the house was eerily quiet, though that really didn't matter to her.

    She went inside.
     
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  2. Zilvra

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    "Well, I think it's safe to say our friend here is currently indisposed," Zilvra said in annoyance, using the side of her boot to reveal the face of the merchant she had traveled so far to deal with. His mouth aghast and his eyes wide with horror... Unfortunately, the face of the man was all there was left to recognize. The rest of his body was no doubt located somewhere here in the rest of the carnage. "How very inconvenient," she muttered with a shake of her head as her eyes scanned the area, taking in the horrific scene that lay before her.

    It was clear that something had gone horribly wrong as her little boat approached the harbour. Her companion had started to row away when he saw the carnage, but Zilvra had insisted on a closer look. Vexatious as it may be that the deal had fallen through, this bizarre little mystery absolutely fascinated her. "What do you suppose could have happened?" she asked the man beside her. "Bandits? Pirates?" Of course, her companion had no way of answering, so Zilvra simply pondered the thoughts herself. "Strange, this doesn't appear to be the work of a large force," she said more to herself than to the mute that trailed her steps. "The attack seems recent, and if it had been perpetrated by a gang of miscreants, no doubt they'd still be looting by now. I'd suspect a spell if it were not for all the blood. These people were attacked, but from the looks of it, the poor souls had no idea what hit them. There are a few creatures that could cause such a scene of destruction... But if they were indeed some great beast that laid waste to the village, you'd imagine the citizens would have made some attempt to fight back or flee. But the bodies are too scattered. It is as if everyone of them was butchered where they stood, all in a matter of seconds... Fascinating," she whispered under her breath. "Completely fascinating."

    Well, no good standing here and lamenting a wasted contract. Might as well make the best of a bad situation. "Search the ruins, my pet," she instructed the mute. Salvage what you can. No doubt there has to be something left amidst the carnage that can make our journey worth our while."
     
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  3. Mute

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    The woman was mad. He'd grown used to her eccentric ways by now, but this was just ridiculous! As soon as he'd seen the slaughter that lay ahead, he'd started to turn the boat around, but Zilvra had insisted on docking at the harbour and inspecting the scene of bloodshed and butchery that lay before them... And like an idiot, he'd obeyed.

    How she could remain so calm, he had no idea. As Zilvra casually inspected the bloody remains of the villagers, as if she were glancing over trinkets at a market stall, it was all Mute could do to keep from throwing up. The entire village had been massacred! Not a few feet away lay what looked to be two sisters, still holding hands as they lay on the ground, a deep gash splitting the pair of them near in half, leaving their blood and entrails spilling on the ground. The gash going straight through one sister to the other. What kind of demon could've done something like this?

    Every instinct the man had told him to run. Whatever was responsible for this destruction could still be nearby, and they should get away from here as soon as possible. But, of course, Zilvra had other plans. She saw a village ravaged in blood and death and destruction and took it for an opportunity to explore. What the hell had he gotten himself into? Of course, Mute had no wish to go about looting the livelihoods of these poor souls, but a raised eyebrow from Zilvra was all it took to send him on his way. That drow was going to get him killed one day, and no mistake.

    He tried his best to avoid the bodies, instead opting to rummage through the remains of the houses, rummaging through cutlery draws and jewellery boxes to see if he could find anything worth salvaging. Unfortunately there seemed to be precious little that might impress Zilvra. These villagers mostly appeared to be simple folk, living by simple means. Why anyone would want to destroy them was completely beyond him.

    As he made his way deeper into the heart of the village though, the sound of the broken door collapsing caught his ear, and he turned just in time to see a figure enter the building. Someone was alive! Quickly making his way through the wreckage, he stood against the wall of the building, hand ready on his sword hilt. He had no idea who this person was, and for all he knew, they could be one of the people responsible for this hell. With a deep breath to calm his nerves, the mute turned into the doorway, and what he saw took him off his guard entirely... A woman.

    He found himself staring at the beauty for an uncomfortably long time. Was he dreaming this? What in the world was such a delicate creature doing in the midst of such carnage? A more striking contrast, he could not have imagined. The girl's clothes were plain and modest, but her face and her body were anything but. She looked like she should be a lady in some kind of noble's court, not a simple maiden in some back-water village in the middle of nowhere... But then, whoever she was, that life was lost to her now. The village and all it's inhabitants were completely destroyed. And from the looks of things, this girl was all that was left.

    The mute could not remember a moment in his life when he so sorely missed the use of his tongue. He wished so badly that he could offer the woman some words of comfort. To tell her it was all over. That she was safe now. That he was going to get her out of here. He could say nothing. All he could do was slowly approach the girl and offer her his hand.
     
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  4. Maranae

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    Moving forward, testing the air in front of her like some cautious predatory animal, muscles tense, ready for sudden motion if it was called for. The pervasive feel of gleeful violence hung about the air here as thickly as anywhere else in this shattered village. The dark thing in her head remained quiescent, at worst a single eye open with faint disinterest.

    Just as well.

    The smell of violent ends masked his scent, but the sound of movement alerted her. Maranae spun around in a low crouch, hands clawed as though she were some kind of feral animal. Her eyes were wide, fear reflected in her wide green eyes. For a moment, she struggled with fight or flight response, but ultimately she was able to force herself to relative calm.

    Her natural disposition righted itself quickly though. She slowly rise from her crouch, looking at the dark skinned man's hand with a little suspicion. She sniffed the air, and then her face split in a wide smile.

    "Mara has never seen a light-skinned man before," she said in bright, childish tones. she stepped forward, eyes on his body. She was clearly marveling at this man-thing, his complexion which was so different from her own. She stopped to look at his hand, dark skin a strong contrast to her own pallid complexion. Reluctantly, she took it in her hand, her grip incredibly strong for one so lithe.

    "Did night-skinned-man do this?" She did not release his hand, maintaining that impossibly strong grip. She did not think he had, but the world was a wide new place to Mara.
     
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  5. Mute

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    Night skinned man? Despite the situation, the man managed a slight smile at the girl's description of him. He'd certainly never heard that one before. This young woman must have had a very secluded life if she'd never met a single person with dark skin before. Still, this was a rather remote little village. He supposed it was possible.

    Strange. This lady appeared to be a woman grown, but the way she spoke to him more closely resembled the naive observations of a child... Perhaps it was the shock. The poor girl must've been through hell, seeing her entire village slaughtered before her very eyes. It really was no surprise that her mind was wondering. Still, when the woman took his hand, he was surprised to find how strong her grip was. In fact, he was almost forced to wince with pain. If she'd but squeezed a little tighter, no doubt his fingers would've been crushed. Where in the name of the Gods was this delicate woman packing her strength?

    When asked if he was responsible for the destruction around him, Mute simply shook his head in response. Poor thing. She'd just lost her entire village, and probably the lives of everyone she'd ever known, and she didn't even know what had happened. She must be so scared. He only wished he had words with which to comfort her. As such, the gentle grip of his hand was all he had to offer.
     
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  6. Zilvra

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    Unlike her companion, Zilvra was far less reluctant to loot a for corpses. A ring here, a coin purse there... Pity, that woman was wearing a rather lovely silk scarf about her neck, but it was splattered with gore. Unlikely so much blood would ever wash out... Such a waste.

    After a quick scan of the area, she approached the building that she'd seen her mute companion enter. "Slim pickings here, I'm afraid," the drow said, disappointed. "A quaint little village, but certainly not an indulgent one. I doubt we'll find any goods here worth... And what is this?" she asked as her eyes suddenly fell on the woman that currently held her companions hand. A predatory smile crept over the woman's face as she observed the girl. An absolutely delightful creature to behold. Soft, shapely body, long red hair, full, supple lips and eyes that gleamed like emeralds... Very nice indeed. Perhaps her journey would not be a total waste after all.

    "My dear, are you the only one left?" she asked, trying to mask the hope in her voice. A handful of survivors could regroup and rebuild. A lone one had no choice but to cut her losses and move on. "You poor soul. Whatever happened here? How on earth did you survive?"
     
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  7. Maranae

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    She cocked her head to one side, unable to understand why the dark-skinned man did not reply to her. That sunny smile remained, but it was beginning to slip, to fade away like mist under a hot summer sun. Had she done something wrong, something to anger this man before her? It was enough to elicit worry, and the beatific grin changed character, becoming something brittle and uneasy.

    Would this man-thing beat her? Had she done something wrong, and would she be punished now? "Has Mara angered dark-skinned-man?" she asked in a tremulous voice, body language clearly indicating her unease and expectations of punishment.

    And before he could respond, she picked up sound. She heard someone else coming, and her unease heightened. Her sense of smell and of hearing were extremely acute, after all, and it was a minute or more before the source of the sound appeared before her.

    She gaped at the woman that appeared in the doorway. To date, she had seen only humans, even if she only had a rudimentary understanding of what a human was. She had never seen the like of the creature that stood before her. Skin as black as the deepest levels of the dark place, the place where all of the beatings had happened and all the pain had been found. Eyes an odd color she had never seen before. And those ears!

    Mara released the silent dark-skinned-man and ducked low, looking at the woman as if she were the most interesting thing in the world, eyes still wide but with curiosity now. The woman spoke to her - the scent of her femininity was especially strong to Maranae - and the girl cocked her head to one side. Again.

    "Mara does not know," she said cautiously. The silent one had not hit her, but would this new one be as restrained? Her experience with people beyond the Bad Place was limited, and she had no idea if people were like that place everywhere. "Pointy-eared lady cannot smell it?" She stopped, and deliberately tasted the air before her. "Bad smell, bad things here. Mara does not know what, only that it comes from the ground." She looked pensive for a moment. "Pointy-eared lady won't hit Mara, will she? Mara is sorry she cannot answer..."
     
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  8. Zilvra

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    Zilvra raised an eyebrow in confusion when the woman spoke of herself in the third person, referred to her as 'pointy-eared lady' and babbled her bizarre explanations like a half-wit... Wait. Was she a half-wit? The drow's smile only broadened at the realization. This was too good to be true. Half-wits, especially pretty ones, made for sure useful creatures... So very easy to manipulate.

    A slight chuckle escaped her lips at the young woman's question. "Of course not, my dear. Why in the world would I hit you?" she asked, taking a few steps closer to get a better look at her. "Such a sweet, timid creature you are. Who in their right mind would lay a finger on you?" As she circled the young woman, she took a lock of her hair and brushed it gently between her fingers. "Love lovely red hair you have," she muttered quietly, leaning forward and taking the girl's chin in her hand to tilt her head up towards her. "And with eyes to die for." ... Yes. The girl was quite the find.

    That said, the girl's explanation did concern her. She spoke not of an army of villains, or of a terrible monster set loose on the village. What she spoke of, a bad smell, a bad thing that came from the ground. This sounded more like magic than anything else. What could be the cause? A spell? A curse? In all her years and studies, she'd never heard of any kind of magic that could cause this sort of destruction. Fascinating as it was, it certainly wasn't safe. Best to get well clear of this place and then listen carefully to any rumors regarding the unfortunate massacre of this village.

    "Tell me, little one, are you the only one left?" she asked in a gentle and kindly tone. "Did the bad thing kill all your friends? Your Mama and Papa?" There certainly were no other survivors that Zilvra had seen... Why had the beast spared her? Perhaps the poor girl had been out gathering water or firewood when the slaughter had began, and returned to nothing but death and destruction. Either way, it was probably best to get away from this place before she found out.
     
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  9. Mute

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    When asked if he had angered her, Mute shook his head once more, more adamantly this time. So, it was not merely the shock of the attack that hand numbed her into a stupor. The girl was simple... Gods above, the world was cruel. Not only had she lost everyone she'd ever known and loved this very day, but in all likelihood she lacked the essential skills and general common sense to care for herself. However would the poor thing survive?

    As if in answer to his thoughts, Zilvra entered the room... And started eyeing the poor, desolate woman like a piece of meat. Mute couldn't help but scowl as the drow started circling the girl like a vulture eagerly closing in on it's prey. Protectively, the man put his hand on the young girl's shoulder and didn't flinch at letting his Mistress see the glare in his eyes. Did the witch have no shame whatsoever?
     
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  10. Maranae

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    She bore the examination in silence, not entirely sure what the dark elf was doing. The long ears and dark skin both still fascinated her as such oddities though, if she had been out in the world a bit longer, they might not have been quite such novel things. Looking into her emerald eyes, though, would tell a story in and of itself. They looked almost normal....almost. There was something off there, though pinning it down would be quite the task.

    The beast that lay curled up in the back of her mind stirred a bit, one eye opening in the metaphorical sense. Maranae paid no attention to it for now, though she detested the dark thing that seemed wrapped firmly around her soul.

    The redhead stood fully upright, looking down on the dark elf, her head cocked to the other side now. "What are a mama and a papa?" she asked, tone inquisitive. She had heard the terms before, but did not understand them, and with good reason. "What are friends?" Strange concepts and terms.

    The beast in the back of her mind opened the other eyes, suddenly, and sat bolt upright. Mara's face went blank, pupils shrinking to pinpricks for a moment. "Bad things," she whispered, voice trembling.

    And then all of them could feel it, the sense of terrible sorcery. Rising, rising, rising to a crescendo, and overwhelming rush of power far greater than any being could possibly hope to control or contain. There was a resounding crash and a splash, and then timbers were raining down over the destroyed village. Timbers that had belonged to a boat moored to the dock on the river, and perhaps the dock itself.

    The taste of burning tin wafted through the air, and the sharper scent of blood.
     
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  11. Zilvra

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    Zilvra couldn't help but maintain the stare into the young woman's eyes. There was something decidedly strange about them. What in the world could it be? They were large and pretty, that was for certain, and green was a rather rare colour, but certainly not so unique that they should completely captivate her as this woman's eyes did. After all, she'd seen big green eyes every day since she'd taken the urchin under her wing... But these eyes... There was something bewitching about them. Almost... Unhuman.

    So, this woman had no parents. No friends either. Interesting. How on earth had she survived so long without a family watching over her? It then occurred to her that the first question the girl had asked was whether or not she would hit her. That certainly made sense. There were many primal and depraved men in the world, and a pretty naive creature like this... Well, no doubt they had found a us for her. "It's not important," she dismissed casually when asked what a Mama, Papa and friends were. "Tell me dear, who looks after Mara?" she asked, trying to puzzle the woman out. "Was there a man or a lady that used to give Mara food and water? What happened to them? Did the bad thing get them?" Tenderly, she added, "Was that person mean to Mara? Did they hurt her?"

    Suddenly, the girl's pupils suddenly shrunk to practically nothing, as if the girl were possessed. Was she mad? Prone to seizures maybe? ... But then Zilvra scented it. The terrible magic that the girl had spoken was. The 'bad things'. Whatever it was had returned, and what's worse it had marooned them. Damn. "Tell me, child, would you like to get away from the bad things?" she asked as sweetly as she could. "Would you like to come with me?"

    (Skip Mute for now.)
     
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  12. Maranae

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    "There are always bad things," she said in a low voice. "There are many bad things here, all around us. Mara must...must get away from them," she added. The beast was fully awake now, looking out of her eyes and listening with her ears. The one that they had wanted, their stated goal and mission. The one they had lost, and then found.

    Briefly. To their eternal sorrow.

    The other questions that Zilvra had asked remained unanswered, and would remain so unless she asked them again. The troubles of the current moment had distracted the red haired beauty from them, and the leering beast in her head set her heart to a terrific rate.

    "She does not know," she answered, wringing her hands. "Mara does not know, maybe pointy-eared lady is a bad person too?" And then she flung a perfect hand out, pointing towards the river. A robed figure was drunkenly stepping up from where the wharf had been, audibly coughing. A faint mist of red clouded before it, and it stumbled, getting back to unsteady feet.

    And raised a hand at them, and as it did so that terrible sorcery began to coalesce once again.

    Mara did not wait for a reply. She turned, and fled back towards the woods at the far side of town, moving with a surprising turn of speed, red hair streaming out behind her as she went.
     
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  13. Zilvra

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    What in the world was the girl talking about? What were the bad things she kept speaking of? Were they people, or something far more sinister? Damn, she should have listened to the mute and gotten out of here while she had the chance, but Zilvra's curiosity always got the better of her. She could only hope that her infamous luck held true.

    The drow did her best to mask a smile when the girl suggested that maybe she herself was another 'bad person'... Perhaps the child was not quite so brainless after all. "I can assure you, my dear, you have nothing to fear from me." ... Well, not from her personally anyway.

    As her eyes trailed towards the direction the girl was pointing, Zilvra felt her heart stop as she beheld the fearsome figure by the docks. What was this? Some kind of dark wizard? A necromancer? Some unfortunate sorcerer who had unwittingly summoned a demon? Whatever it was, it was certainly more powerful than she, so she wasn't going to stick around to find out. "Damn," she whispered under her breath as the monster raised a hand towards them. "Mute, go after the girl, I'm not leaving this place empty handed. I'll catch up to you shortly."

    Unfortunately, Zilvra had never been a master of physical spells. She could summon a fireball or send objects flying through the air when she needed to, but it wasn't her specialty. Besides, even if she were a master of magical combat, she doubted she'd stand a chance against this abomination. Instead, she took and deep breath and focused her power on what she knew best. Manipulation. This monster seemed intent on wiping out all forms of life it encountered... And so, with that in mind, she whispered an incantation to create the illusion of voices coming from elsewhere in the village. Running footsteps and weeping and screams for help. Hopefully the promise of a larger group of victims would distract the creature long enough that the three of them could escape the village before it realized there were no other lives to claim.
     
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  14. Mute

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    Oh sweet Gods above what was happening now. Was that the boat that's splinters were currently raining down on him through the gaps in the broken roof. With a deep breath to steel his nerves, the man made his way to the empty door-frame and dared to look out into the village below... Yep. The boat was gone. Even worse, some kind of demonic sorcerer with a faint red mist around him stood at the docks, blocking their escape. The mute silently mouthed a curse word at the sight of the bastard. No doubt this was the creature who had completely obliterated the entire village. Even worse, now it had it's eyes on them. Before he could do anything, the young girl ran out of the house towards the forest, leaving herself completely vulnerable and open to attack... Still, he was hesitant to leave when Zilvra sent him after the girl. He didn't like leaving his Mistress behind. That said, he had known the witch for years, and knew well that she was capable of magics beyond his understanding. How she would use it against this creature, she had no idea. Still, whatever kind of beast this villain was, it was far more powerful than anything his fists or his blade could handle. With an obedient nod, Mute darted out of the crumbling building and made a dash for the woods.
     
  15. Maranae

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    The dark elf could not know that her magic was utterly useless in this case. It was not necromancy at work here, nor some dark wizard, nor some poor deluded fool...or at least, not just some poor deluded fool.

    The figure stumbled before anything happened, and when it got back up it revealed a decidedly human face, albeit one smeared with blood. Blood ran from his eyes, trickled from his nose and mouth. It was a horrid visage to look upon. And it raised a hand again, barely able to stand, and then something lashed out, something insidious and violent. The ground before Zilvra erupted i na fountain of dirt and stone, the concussive force washing over her even as the figure staggered, stumbled, and then fell to the ground.

    And remained still.

    The miasma of that dark magic did not fade, though. In act, if anything it seemed to increase in volume, to become an overwhelming force that seeped from every blade of grass and every stone. Somewhere, beyond sight, someone laughed. It was harsh and cold.

    --

    She ran, but there were some things that could not be run from. The memories in her head, dark and full of terror as was the night, and neither could be avoided.

    Maranae recalled the long days spent within a cell, deep beneath the ground, while the bad ones had come and poked and prodded her. Given her bits of paper with words on them, so that she might learn to read. Taught her to speak, to handle a weapon. All of those lessons had, by and large, failed, although she could at least communicate in her own way, a skill that was growing day by day through repetition.

    They had wanted her to fight. They had set beasts upon her, trying to lure out the dark thing within her mind, but she had refused as stubbornly as they could. In turn, they had beaten her, they had hurt her, they had shut her away from the world. And, after three years of trying to get whatever it was they desired out of her, they had decided that she was to be disposed of. Their meddling with magic, science, and nature had to be destroyed, and started over from scratch.

    She squeezed her eyes shut as she run. She could not escape the screams, the terror. They were there, inside her head, in the beast that was coiled around her soul. That worthy thrashed an invisible tail, very much alert and aware of the world around her now. It had brought the screams and the terror before, the crunch of bone and the sharp, oddly alluring scent of coppery blood. There was no denying the beast when it decided it was time for action.

    It scared her. It scared her worse than the robed thing, enwreathed in chaotic sorcery that would surely destroy its user as it was used.

    And so she pelted into the woods, stones cutting bare feet but completely disregarded. But there were some things that could not be run from. And that was a truth of the world.
     
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  16. Zilvra

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    The sight of the ma was utterly ghastly. She'd seen no monster like this before. Horrific and drenched in blood like the very embodiment of the word 'undead'. Whatever it was, it chilled her to her very core. Her magic had no effect. The monster had eyes on her and her alone. Nothing could defeat or distract it. She was powerless. Suddenly, the ground beneath her trembled, and the very earth seemed to collapse in on itself, dragging her down with it. For a moment, the drow feared for her very life. Was this it? Was this the end of Zilvra De Valle? No! No, it couldn't be! Not like this!

    Then, suddenly, the thing collapsed... Nothing had struck it. No spell had been cast against it, not by her at least, it was just... Down. Could the thing have simply died from exhaustion? Just like that?

    Whether the thing was alive or not, the ominous laughter in the distance and the overwhelming force of dark magic in the air let her know that this wasn't over yet. With a deep breath, Zilvra assessed the situation. The fall had injured her, but not considerably so. A few scrapes and bruises and a twisted ankle, but no deep cuts or broken bones. Nothing that her magic couldn't heal in a day. Still, this would certainly hinder her. Damn it, why had she sent the mute after the girl? She could use him right now. In future, she'd be sure that there was always a meat-shield around to take the fall for her while she escaped. Cursing herself for her own over-confidence, Zilvra began crawling her way through the wreckage. She needed to get out of this place before it consumed her.
     
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  17. Mute

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    Mute ran after the girl with an uncertain conscience. In truth, he was uncertain if he wanted to catch up to the girl or not. He could only imagine what Zilvra had in mind for a pretty girl like that. No doubt she would exploit the girl and profit from her in any way possible. He would simply be taking her from one hell to another.

    Still, he couldn't just leave her though. She was a simple-minded girl, alone in the world with out a soul to protect her. How would she fend for herself? Would she be able to survive on her own? Had she the ability to find water in the wilderness? Could she tell the difference between which plants were safe to eat and which were poisoned? Would she be able to build a shelter and a fire to protect herself from the cold at night? He doubted it. He doubted the girl would last three days on her own. Whatever Zilvra had planned for her, at least she would survive.

    Finally, Mute caught up to her. Unable to form any actual words without the use of his tongue, he called out to the girl in a wordless cry. She had her eyes closed, running blind with seemingly no regard for where she was going. It was a miracle that she hadn't run into a tree by now... Or worse, off a cliff. With a quick boost of speed to gain on the girl, the mute man grabbed her in his arms. He knew such an action would probably frighten the girl, and he had no way of explaining self, but he had to stop her before she got herself hurt.
     
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  18. Maranae

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    Hands around her middle, breaking her run of thoughts, broken and disjointed though might be. Mara cried out, a piercing shriek. It might have been a trick if the eyes, or just the imagination at work, but for a moment the girl's shape seemed to blur, the clean lines of her body changing. But only for a moment.

    She thrashed in his arms with incredible strength, trying to pry her arms apart, to break that encircling grasp. The girl was strong, beyond any strength a girl could have, let alone a human. "Let Mara go," she said, but the words had odd harmonics to them. Something in them seemed to reach down into the most primitive part of the brain - the part of the monkey brain that controlled fear - and squeezed. This is a predator, it seemed to whisper insistently.

    Run. Flee.
     
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  19. Mute

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    The man's eyes went wide in shock as the girl seemed to blur before his eyes. What the hell was that? But as soon as he noticed the strange phenomenon, it seemed to finish before it had even began... Was it a trick of the mind? Perhaps he was disorientated from running too fast... Or maybe it was a trick of the heat? Whatever it was, the shock was quickly overpowered by that of the girl's overwhelming strength.

    The mute gave out a wordless cry as the girl effortlessly flung him from her like a rag doll, crashing into a tree in the process. With a wince of pain, the man looked up at the bizarre creature with the shape of a woman, the mind of a child and the strength of a bloody troll. What in God's name was she?

    He was getting in way over his head here. This girl was going to be far more trouble than she was worth, he knew it. Every fiber of his being told him that this was a bad idea. He should forget the girl, find Zilvra and get as far away from this place as soon as possible. In fact, that's exactly what he planned to do. With a wince of pain, the mute got to his feet, fully intending to run for his life... Still, despite her overwhelming physical strength, when he looked at the girl, all he could see was a scared and helpless girl, completely alone in the world, who had just lost everyone and everything she'd ever known. Could he really just leave her like this?

    For a moment, the man just stood there in complete silence, looking at the woman. His mind conflicted on whether he should try to help her or run fore his life. Damn him and his morals, why couldn't he just follow his gut instincts like a sensible man. In the end, all he could think to do was hold out his hand with his palm flat, as if he were trying to subdue a wild bear. It was the only gesture he could think, to try and convey that he was not a threat, and he meant the girl no harm.

    (Skip Zilvra for now.)
     
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  20. Maranae

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    Maranae Well-Known Member

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    #20 Maranae, Jul 5, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2019
    She broke free and spin around, eyes wild and breathes coming fast and short. For a moment she had her teeth bared like some feral animal...but then that faded away. With visible effort, the woman calmed herself. She looked at the offered hand, then to the face it belonged to.

    And then gave the mute a nervous smile. "Mara is sorry, Mara is sorry," she said. She kept darting glance back towards the village, eyes wide. "Mara thought you were bad man! She is sorry!"

    That feel of sorcery, not evil but certainly dark and pervasive. Unnatural, alien. It still saturated the air here, emanating from everywhere at once.

    Maranae took the mute's hand hesitantly in her unnaturally strong grip. She did not seem to he aware of her own strength, in fact. Bobbing her head, she cast frequent glances back towards the ruins. "Pointy-eared lady has not come back," she said, anxious. She looked agitated, ready to move at any moment. With the feel of that sorcery around, it was no wonder that she felt ill at ease.
     
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  21. Mute

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    The mute breathed a heavy sigh of relief when the girl finally calmed down and apologized. He gave a simple nod of his head in reply, though he couldn't help but wince slightly as the girl took his hand in her unnaturally strong grip. What in God's name was she? How in the world could a slight woman like this possess such unnatural strength. He'd heard of several beings that possessed physical power beyond their stature, but this girl certainly didn't seem to fit into the category of any super-natural beast he'd ever heard of... Perhaps Zilvra might know what she was.

    Zilvra... Damn, the girl was right. He'd expected her to have caught up by now. The fact that she wasn't even in sight but him very much on edge. Surely no man stood a chance against her magics... But then, considering the fate of the unfortunately village, it was unlikely that Zilvra stood against a man. Could she be in trouble?

    With a deep and frustrated breath, Mute made his choice. With his hand, he attempted to gesture for the girl to wait here. Whether or not she would understand the gesture, he had no idea. She would either stay, run, or follow, and considering her overwhelming power, he didn't really have any control over what she did. As for him, he cautiously started heading back to that God forsaken village to look for Zilvra.
     
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  22. Zilvra

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    Making her way through the wreckage was both painful and humiliating. She shouldn't have to endure this. It was not fitting for her. Still, by whatever measure of luck she had on her side, the fiend who had caused this destruction did not rise. How he had perished, she had not the slightest idea. It was nothing to do with her, that was for certain. Maybe one'd own life was the price that needed to be paid for such destructive power. Wrack her brains as she might, Zilvra had never heard of any kind of power even remotely similar to that which destroyed the village. She would have to find out more. She needed to know what this magic was, and how it could be controlled... But not right now. Right now, she just had to get as far away from it all as possible.

    Finally, she managed to hobble her way to the edge of the village, towards the forest where the girl and her associate had disappeared... And just as she arrived there, she was more than a little pleased to see the face of her companion looking down on her. "What kept you?" she asked sarcastically as she dragged herself closer to the forest's edge. Seeing that she was clearly injured, Mute headed back towards his Mistress to scoop her up in his arms and carry her into the forest with him. "Where's the girl?" the drow suddenly demanded, sounding rather distressed. "I told you to go after her. Where is she?"
     
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  23. Maranae

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    She looked at her hand after he'd released it, cocking a head to one side as she stood to her full height, fiery hair shifting in a breeze that brought the stench of decay into the woods. She was still perplexed by the fact that the dark-skinned man had not said a single word to her, not understanding if she had done something to offend him or if he simply did not know how to speak. The last she could relate to; it had taken a year for her to learn proper speech, or at least proper enough to convey things.

    She was slow to follow him, this time, unsure, uneasy. This place was a Bad Place, much like the Bad Place she had come from. The people with their sharp steel and steel tipped poles that bit her flesh, brought pain and made her leak - bleed, the word is bleed - had followed her for a time, but ultimately they had been lost. But this was a new Bad Place, and there were Bad People here too. She could, just at the edge of her senses, feel them.

    She did not understand the man-who-did-not-speak, and she was curious of the pointy-eared one, with her dark skin. It was curiosity alone that drew her along now. Maranae had no tether, no place to belong. No home, no parents, no friends, no family. It could be argued - would be argued by some - that she did not even have a life at all.

    She trailed behind the mute at a distance, always aware of the magic that swirled around this place. It had an unpleasant flavor to it, somehow familiar but completely alien at the same time. The paradox was completely lost on the woman, who was simple at best.

    She met the pair of them coming back from the village, the pointy-eared one in the arms of the silent one. She slowed, and came to a stop many feet away from either of them. "Mara is here," she said as she stepped from around a tree. She moved with stealth despite not even trying. Truly a woman of many mysteries - even to herself. "Mara does not like this place anymore. Mara wants to lea-" she began, but then a faint, haunting voice - coming for nowhere and everywhere at once - cut her off.

    ...the unbeliever must not leave...

    ...the unclean must be purified...

    ...with holy fire...

    The red head snapped upright, looking around almost comically at, well, everything. Her eyes were wide, filled with confusion and fear. "What was that? What was that? What did Mara hear? Hear?" She looked upon the other two, clearly seeking guidance. Clearly out of her depth.
     
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  24. Zilvra

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    Zilvra managed a smile when she saw the girl standing not far away, "Thank the Gods," she muttered with a gentle voice, as Mute carried her to the edge of the forest. "You're not hurt, are you child? The bad thing didn't harm you?" Even one so heartless as Zilvra could sound extremely comforting when it suited her. "Yes, a good idea, let's get away from the bad place. We'll take you somewhere safe." Unfortunately, some sort of faceless voice seemed to object with that plan.

    "Damn," Zilvra whispered under her breath. She couldn't help but grit her teeth when the voice started speaking of cleansing the unbelievers with holy fire... What was this? Some kind of demonic being summoned by an ignorant and over confident cult? Damn. She was certainly out of her league with this one. No doubt the church would need to send out an entire army of holy paladin warriors to contend with such a being. "That, my dear..." Zilvra replied, trying to think of an answer when asked what the voice was. In all honesty, she had no idea. "That was the bad thing, and it's going to try and stop us from getting away. But you must be brave. Do everything I say, and I promise, I'll get you out of here." If worse came to worse, she could always attempt to sacrifice the girl to the creature while she escaped. "Now follow us. We're going to get away from this place now." And with those words, the Mute carried Zilvra into the forest, without a single clue as to what would happen next.

    (Skip Mute for now. Also, I'm going on holiday for a few days, so I'm afraid I won't be able to reply for awhile.)
     
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  25. Calla of Nuastone

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    Calla of Nuastone Sister of Nua Nua

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    Something, however, was coming out of the forest, almost perfectly in front of the path they had aimed to take. Something large, too, if the snapping of branches and the low thud of footfalls was to be believed. The pace was steady, not rushing but moving with purpose, and moving straight towards them... through the thick brush, easily taller than any of them, the shrubs rustled...

    ... until they parted to reveal a tall woman -- if she could be called that -- white-scaled and easily taller than any of them, her sharp face and red eyes taking them in curiously. White hair tumbled around a double set of curved horns, pulled back in several complex braids down her back, and she wore a series of light leathers as clothing and a large crystalline hammer resting lightly on her shoulder. Her tail curved behind her as she took in the three of them -- the man holding the woman, the other redhead with her obvious state of dishevelment…

    The big Komodo gripped her hammer, swinging it off of her shoulder as she took a step towards them.

    “Peace and care, little ones! I am Calla of Nuastone. Come hither, I shall protect you!”

    She held one big, claw-tipped hand out, gesturing for them to come closer to her… as she, quite frankly, towered over them. But there was nothing but genuine honesty on her scaled face, her voice booming forward with a strength of conviction that had a certain sort of energy humming through it. Even as she spoke, her eyes darted past them, taking in the destruction that she could see.

    “Were there others? Should I seek more survivors?” she prompted, turning her attention back to the three in front of her. It had taken her time, even after she’d smelled the devastation, for she’d been quite far away… still, she’d come as quickly as she could, knowing what the call for someone such as her was. If there was something evil, something dark in the world, she and Sunbeam had light aplenty.
     
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