Private Tales First Tour of Duty

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer
Character Biography
"A rookie? Since when do they assign you rookies?"

It was about the reaction that Alyxander Quellchrist expected from his longest-serving lieutenant. Serrin always had an opinion on everything, and he wasn't shy about making it known even to his commanding officer.

The Knight Commander pulled his sword from his private rack, the sound echoing in the mostly empty barracks. Most of the men and women stationed this far towards the outer wall had suited up and reported for duty hours ago; Alyxander had planned to join them before his superiors informed him of a change in plans.

They had a new recruit, and they wanted him to show her the ropes.

It was an unusual assignment to be given on short notice, but as Alyx understood it, the recruit's acceptance into Dronoch's military wasn't exactly the norm either. Sheathing his blade, he turns to Serrin with a shrug. "Apparently they weren't expecting to have her. She just showed up in town a few days ago, and one of the Legionnaires spotted her fighting off some street crooks. Evidently, she can handle herself well in a fight."

Alyx repeated what he'd been told, but there was an unspoken truth between the two of them; both of the knights knew that the Matriarchy likely had their own reasons for picking the stranger up off of the street. There was always something more...

"Well hell, Alyx. If we took every woman with a set of workin' fists in the city, we'd be out of a job."

Alyx rolled his eyes, grabbing Serrin's helmet and shoving it into his old friend's chest. His mouth was going to get them both into trouble. "I know, but keep that to yourself. If they want her to serve, I'm obligated to give her a chance. You, my friend, are lucky enough to cover my patrols today, so have fun with that." Serrin glowered at him for a moment, before taking his helmet from his Commander's hands and slides it on over his head, leaving with a muted grumble.

Quellchrist looks after him, smirking a bit. He'd be sour for a day or two, but he'd get over it. Pulling black his raven hair and sliding on his own helmet, Alyx left the barracks and headed to the courtyard where he was due to meet his new 'charge'.

Aristeia Darke.

Well, let's see what she can do.

Aristeia Darke
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A young woman stood in place, eyes trained on her worn boots as her interest waned terribly while waiting in a courtyard far from the public eye. There had been no predetermined time for her to arrive, simply instructed to be here and ready to meet the Commander. Even after her many protests, Aristeia was not awarded much more information, even less details on how to get where she needed to. Did she find the right courtyard? Perhaps she overshot and was keeping the Commander waiting at the right location? Her grip tightened around the strap to her pack, slung over her right shoulder and a helm tucked into the crook of her left arm. It was one of the remnants of her origin, a place no one would have seen except in a fever dream as their souls sought for a reprieve from the hallucinations created by their subconscious.

Her arrival to this city, Dornoch she would come to learn, was not her usual occurrence. Aristeia believes she had visited many cities and villages in her time serving as a Guardian, traveling through dreams by those in the Waking Realm. The first impression she had of Dornoch was opulence and admiration at the architecture, taking on her usual form as she followed her Dreamer through the crowds and waited to step in when it was needed. Fear could change a being, and Aris had seen her fair share of hopelessness and severity overcome many minds... It was why she was forced to walk about from her home and kingdom. The King's Army had no use for a soldier that preferred to fight in dreams than to monitor the barrier between the Dreamlands and the Corrupted.

Aristeia's Dreamer had awoken before she could fight the nightmare, finding herself lost in the Waking Realm. This had never happened to her, and she could not even return with her ability. It were as if a power blocked her from returning, keeping her trapped and disoriented here in this city. That first day, she was in her armour. It gathered her many looks as her gear was battered and dirty, and even as she took off her helm in order to see Dornoch's busiest sector, that startled expression on her face gave the impression the partially blind woman was fair game. It took no effort for the unarmed woman to dispose of the four offendors, and even in the aftermath, she did not make it far before she was stopped and questioned.

So here she stands, brows knitting together at the thought she possibly got the wrong courtyard, and still attracting stares from others as they walked past to go about their duties. Chewing on her lip, she lifts her head up higher and turns her head towards all possible entrances and exits. Which way had she come from again?

Before doubt could settle any deeper within her, a figure appears and she knew this was it. This was the Commander, his face absent of any indication of whether or not she had kept him waiting. Aristeia bows her head when he was a few feet away, regarding the man with a neutral facade as he comes to a stop.

"You must be the Commander." She states, verbally seeking that the directions given to her did not set her up for failure in this place. "I am Aristeia Darke. Did they tell you everything I told them?" Her voice turns sheepish, sure that her story was incredulous on the first day, but it still would have the same effect days later. With her ruined eye and scarring crawling from it's epicenter, it wasn't uncommon for one to think of Aristeia to have lost her wits and peddling falsehoods. The mere fact some were witness to her skills at her arrival, she had been hoping that their sound word would be her saving grace coming up to this day. "I can assure you I am more than I appear to be." She quickly adds, standing taller and meeting his gaze unwavering. Why sell herself so adamantly? Did she intend to stay?

Alyxander Quellchrist
To say that his new trainee's demeanor was unusual would be putting it mildly. Alyx had arrived at the rear courtyard of the keep finding most of the few guards stationed there giving a wide berth to a singular figure standing as stiff as a board not far from the center of the yard. It wasn't uncommon for new recruits to be a bit nervous on their first day, but meat that fresh wasn't just tossed to a Commander, they were put through rigorous training first. It was a rite of passage.

So, they had either seen or heard something that made her an appealing prospect. It would be far from the first time those in charge played favorites, and it wouldn't be the last, either.

Whatever it was, Alyx could rule out sheer presence. The shifty eyes, uneven postured woman he saw before him now looked like a sheep in a field of wolves. Even so, when finally he did move within eyeshot of her, which was difficult to miss considering the glint of sun off of his armor, she assumed the correct position, bowing before leveling her head to his in respect.

The faintest hint of a smile came to his mustachioed lips. She wasn't completely clueless, after all. Turning to face her, Quellchrist salutes and removes his own helmet, tucking it underneath his arm as his long black locks fall over the side of his head. Alyx was a handsome man, as far as Dornoch men went, but his stern nature, love for his work, and the strange marking on his forehead precluded anything besides service.

"Indeed, I'm Commander Quellchrist. It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Darke." Alyxander offered his hand to her, a small smile on his lips. "You've made quite a lot of noise in very little time. It's not usual we give our new recruits such an impromptu crash course, but if they want you up to speed, that's what they'll get." The smile turned to a smirk as he shook her hand, lowering it to his side. "Long as you're up to it."

Alyx moved his hair up and slid his helmet back on over his head. Aristeia seemed confident enough, but there was something she'd said that confused him. Everything she'd told them? What did that imply? Whatever it was, the woman seemed rather bashful about it. Resting his hand on the hilt of his blade, Quellchrist shifted his weight to one leg. "They only told me to teach you how to serve as a Knight. Anything beyond that was skimmed over. Conveniently."

Great. What else had they left out?

Aristeia Darke
Surprise settles on her face, a brow raising at this piece of news. Should she keep it to herself then? No one else had told her otherwise, and Aristeia was new to this whole process. The army she had left in her home land had always treated her as new, and not as the princess they protected for years. In a way, she was appreciative of their extended kindness in that way, and kept things need to know.

Perhaps that will work in her favour again this time around. Aristeia simply smiles. "I only mean did they pass on to you of my experience? My last post I was in infiltration." Extracting information more like. Hardships made it easier for her to stomach what others could not do. The sad thought even no longer rendered her to tears with shame anymore, having come to terms with what she had suffered and what she could inflict. There was a mentality needed for such a task, and Aristeia found it too easy to fall into. For now, she looks either side of the courtyard and tilts her head curiously. "Right... what do we do to start? Is there somewhere I could leave my pack?" What did he have exactly planned for her, if he even had one to start with?

His words earlier made it sound as if he definitely had not expected her, even the sizing up of his gaze during their introduction gave way that he knew nothing of her. Aristeia did not know yet if she should make do and work with them or just simply abandon this idea and try her luck to return home. Hmm... perhaps a week. She thinks after reaching out to anyone and was met with no links to their subconscious. So she was unable to pull someone into a slumber? Was she numb to her abilities in the Waking Realm?

Alyxander Quellchrist
If Alyx had even the slightest reason to suspect the woman wished to lie to him, he would have caught the slick verbal maneuver disregarding the details of what she'd told his superiors. This time, though, he seemed satisfied with her answer. Infiltration... It wasn't a common specialty among the military. On the contrary, they rather lacked soldiers with such a specific skillset. Perhaps Miss Darke would be handy to have around after all.

With a small hum and the tilt of his head towards the building he'd exited, he nods. "Infiltration. We can work with that. Come, we'll put your things away in the barracks and find a horse for you. You'll be joining me on a prison transport job, and then we'll be following a possible lead on some stolen weaponry. Nothing too difficult or intense." Said lead wasn't likely to be solid, but somebody needed to check on it regardless, and since he was on training duty it might as well be him.

He quietly beckoned her to follow before leading her back into the barracks, still mostly empty. The bottom floor was full of equipment racks: Weapons, armor, and other tools of the trade practically lined every wall, aside from a few clear spaces for sitting and preparing, the actual amenities for the soldiers were on the second level, atop a wide staircase that the armored man slowly led her to ascend. "You'll be bunked in the west hall of this particular barracks. There are lots of them in the city, so don't get lost. The west hall is for all of our female soldiers; We're very stringent on giving the women their privacy and all that, so you won't see any men unless you travel to the east wing."

He didn't mention that the women's bunkrooms were far more spacious and well-kept than the men's, but then she didn't need to worry about that, did she? Besides, Alyx took care of his room well enough himself. Quellchrist led her into the west wing, ignoring the eyes of the few women who were prepping for their day. Aristeia would see multiple emotions in their eyes-- wariness, respect, spite and... some other things too.

Her room was near the back of the hall, her initials hastily engraved on a plate and tacked to the door. Inside was a bare-bones if not spacious room. A large bed, a chest, multiple armor stands, and a small bath were already prepared, but Alyx knew that with time more would be added with the respect she did or didn't earn.

"Make yourself at home here, later. The others will answer any questions about the barracks, I'm sure."
As soon as he made a move towards the barracks, Aristeia was quick to follow him so as to not be left behind and to her own devices when it came to navigating. Out here, she was running blind without her abilities. The silver haired woman listened to him speak with intent, repeating them over in her thoughts before entering the West Wing. The lodgings reserved for her was made apparent as rushed penmanship spelled out A.D on the door, matching the others in the same hallway.

She did not think about conferring with the other women in the barracks, and perhaps even casting a displeased look Quellchrist's way before moving past him and dropping her pack onto the invitingly large bed. "I seem to stick out a little here in this armour, don't I?" With her back to him, she dropped her helm beside the pack and thought better of it once she saw the unclean and battered state it was in. Her whole gear was in the same condition, and Aristeia had lived in it for almost a week since the skirmish that resulted in her weary state. "Possibly even overdressed for prison transport, right?" Her silver head turned to look at him over her left shoulder, showing her good grey eye and sparing him to look at the scarred cheek and eye on her right.

Back home, rumours were spun on those very scars. A reclusive princess that was left on the boundary of the military camps, hand clutching her bloody cheek as a medic came to her aide. She never spoke of it, and never will. It was her own little tragedy, something she was too afraid of letting go. Bottling it all up gave her the drive to do her work, to get the job done by any means necessary. Infiltration meant Aristeia needed to become cold, and most soldiers from the Dreamlands feared of toying the line closest to what was considered corrupt.

Now, Aristeia had to keep all of this to herself, once again. It felt like clockwork, keeping her head down and doing as she was told... just now she was in a foreign city in the Waking Realm. Alyxander would come to find out that the silver haired knight before him often kept to herself, and that once they retired for the day, her door would not open again until the dawn. "Do we have enough time for me to change out from this armour before I accompany you on the job?" She asked with furrowed brows. It was a good thing he hadn't asked her about the specially crafted armour she wore or the helm she held in her gloved hands, especially as it was designed with ornamental pieces that sat above the brow. Something befitting royalty.

Alyxander Quellchrist
Alyxander had noticed the battered condition of her armor, of course, but being a new recruit from gods-know-where, it didn't entirely shock him. She had nothing to worry about though, and Alyxander only seemed to half-listen to her woes about her appearance as he leaned on the doorway of her room, looking down the hall in his own thoughts.

"You should always wear your armor unless you're on civilian duty, but..." It was true that while such a practice was enouraged, it wasn't enforced. Many soldiers in groups other than the one he led valued a little bit of freedom from the usual restricting protections. "It's not a rule." He shrugged. Standing from the doorframe. "You'll be provided with new armor tomorrow anyways, Somebody will be along to measure you at dawn, I imagine. For today, go in what you wish. I'll wait out here."

Personally, he'd want the armor on for both the prison transport and the stolen weapons. The last time he'd done a prison transport job... he'd wound up chasing the transport through half the city on horseback. after a particularly wily inmate hijacked the damned thing, and even though her outfit was damaged, it still looked to be of a high quality. Nevertheless, Quellchrist exits Aristeia's room, closing the door behind him to allow her privacy.

Only when the door clicked shut did Alyxander allow his mind to ponder on the stranger he'd just met. First impressions meant a lot in this world, and the pale-haired woman was certainly an interesting one. The Commander was no fool; she obviously had quite a bit of history in lands far removed from his own. The battered armor and scars she bore were testament to that. She was awkward, unsure of herself, but far from unpleasant.

Of course, she could also just be playing nice to a superior officer. He wouldn't blame her for it.

Still, there was definitely more than met the eye when it came to Aristeia Darke. Alyx only hoped he wouldn't live to regret being around if and when the hidden sides to her character came to light.

Or that he would have to witness the Matriarch take advantage of her.

Aristeia Darke
Aristeia was glad to have that door close behind him and leave her alone. Of course, she had been alone in the days prior to finally meeting the Commander, but this time she was sure of what was happening. For now, she was stuck in the Waking Realm, existing enough to simply agree to entertaining a position in the ranks of this army that took an interest in her. She would not come to learn exactly who gave the orders to apprehend her after defending herself against those thugs, but she also did not mind going about her day without that information.

She sat on the large bed, one that was much larger than the cot she had been sleeping on for over a decade with the King's Legion, and rifled through her satchel for that change of clothes she had desperately needed the past few days. Her bag had been returned to her only this morning, right before she was told to make haste and meet the Commander, leaving her no time to freshen up. With a sigh of relief, she stood up once more and began to work on the fastenings to her armour. Her fingers worked quicker, happy to be not be wearing her gear for another day and have full mobility again.

Just shy of ten minutes, her door would creak open and reveal a refreshed woman. Aristeia's attire consisted of dark slacks tucked beneath her worn knee-high boots she wore previously, and a strange material that seemed to glint in the light was fashioned to cover her torso, arms, and finishing high up her neck. It was material from the Dreamlands, enchanted to be molded however the wearer chose. It would resemble a thick cloth, akin to wool, but also a stronger defense than her armour provided. Her hair had been swept up into a braid that fell down her spine, leaving her face not obscured and staring steadily at the Commander, who waited patiently outside in the hall. "I think I am ready to face what Dornoch has to offer. Prison transport. Now is that more of an escort job?" She closed the door behind her, waiting for Alyxander to move on before abandoning her place before it. What a relief to feel the lightness of her attire, feeling no weight as she moved. This appearance was her accustomed uniform, the lutterme a Legion issued cloth for those working in stealth operations. It was expensive and rare material that allowed further enchantments, fluid enough to be molded in any which way. Aristeia was famous in pulling it up past her mouth and nose, that that only her eyes were visible. It was her way of ensuring her Father's sins were not to be forgotten, that he may one day hear of those haunting eyes himself.

Aristeia followed him to another small courtyard, and a thought began to form on whether or not she would truly become lost later. If she were to connect to her powers again, she would have no problem. Get through this first day, she thought to herself, and then we can try our best for connection when everyone else sleeps.

Alyxander Quellchrist
By the time Aristeia had reemerged from her quarters, Alyxander had moved to the small bench at the end of the hall, polishing a silver dagger. It had gathered a bit of grime over the last few weeks, and up until today he'd been keeping himself so busy with work or training that he scant remembered to perform upkeep on the underappreciated tool of the trade. At the sound of Aristeia's door, he raised his head to greet her, noticably raising a brow at the strange material she now wore.

It resembled cloth, but... there was something strange about it. It gave off an energy that was quite foreign to the Dornoch Commander, subtle as it was. The strange mark on his forehead made him somewhat sensitive to such things. Nevertheless, he stood, quickly sheathing his cleaned weapon and giving her a once over. It didn't matter what she wore, so long as she was happy with it. To her credit, she seemed much less stiff and uncomfortable now that she'd changed into an outfit of her choosing.

Good. She'd need to loosen up if she wanted anybody to take her seriously off of the field. Nobody liked to spend off time with somebody who didn't know how to relax.

That was why nobody spent their off time with Alyxander.

"I guess we'll see how ready you are." He replied with a smirk. "But I don't want you to go into this thinking it'll be simple." With a hand, he beckoned her to follow as they made their way back out of the barracks and towards the stables, where the transport wagon awaited them on the other side of the courtyard they'd met in.

"Prison transport can sound like a simple escort job, but we're moving dangerous criminals from smaller, less secure jails to the large prison complex in the center of town." The smaller establishments were fine for minor offenders, but it wasn't worth the risk to keep anybody too threatening in such a vulnerable place. Alyx, looked at her through the side of his vision as he continued to explain. "Some of these people are volatile and unhinged. Things can and have gone wrong, so keep vigilant, so you don't end up with a shiv lodged in your ribs, alright?"

The wagon waiting outside the stables was a simple one, two horses pulling a pair of seats in the front and a large iron cage behind them. This was actually the backup wagon, the one they usually used had been banged up on the last transport job, coincidentally also headed by Alyx.

Hopefully this one went a bit smoother.

Climbing up onto the seat, he waited for Aristeia to join him before cracking the reins to get them moving towards the gate of the complex and out into the city streets.

"So tell me, Aristeia, where've you come from? With that outfit, and the unfamiliarity you display about Dornoch and the greater Dalriada area, I find it doubtful it's anywhere remotely close."

Oddly, before she could answer, Quellchrist added something.

"And if you don't wish to share, I would come up with a convincing lie now. People much more powerful than me will no doubt be asking you the same question before long, and silence won't be an option."
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She was able to follow him easily to the horse drawn transportation designed for prisoners, setting her boot on the step and hoisting herself upwards easily into the free seat before the horses were cued to move. Aris took this moment to look around, grey eyes wide with wonder at how different this city looked now than it did her first day. Albeit she was plunged into the streets, and now was her first opportunity at taking it all in.

It was accurate to say she was surprised her sprung the question on her, tearing her gaze from the street and to view the Commander a furrowed look, one that deepened as he continued to speak. It took her a moment to gather her thoughts for an answer, knowing that Alyxander would not mind that she was taking her time in preparation. Her gaze trained in on the horses before them, her scowl settling onto her facade as she thought it over. Should she tell him? Would he think she were lying? It was not lost on the Guardian that her origins were the unconventional type; who would believe that a young woman in gilded armour was able to walk through dreams and fight away the nightmares? And if he were to believe a morsel of what her truth was, would he take her seriously?

"I am afraid my home will sound a little farfetched. You are right, though. I definitely am not from around here... Not on this plane to be exact." Aristeia leaned back, lifting her boots to be tucked at the edge of her seat. "I am from the Dreamlands. I am not meant to exist outside, but here I am. I have only visited this city in Dreams, following this one woman and keeping an eye on her. I have fought unimaginable beasts on these streets, trying to pull them back to the Dreamlands and across the border to the Corrupt." Aris chanced a look at him before continuing. It had been quite some time since she divulged so much information to someone. Not even the guards that apprehended her had inquired so much.

"I do not know much about this city or the lands spreading from here. Not even enough to come up with a convincing lie. Actually... I am a terrible liar." She grimaced at how truthful that admission were. By now some people had glimpsed her sat beside the Commander, murmuring and whispering about her strange appearance. Her lutterme even caught some attention, earning gasps as they realised the fabric shone without light bouncing off of it. "Does that suffice for now, or is this a full interrogation you are conducting? Because, need I remind you, I am trained in infiltration and withholding information." Aristeia was comfortable. Able to let down that wall now that she admitted her origins to someone. Of course, she did not think he would be able to help steer her the right direction home, but Aristeia did not stress all that much in this moment that she was out of touch with her abilities. She had confidence they will return, and patience was a virtue she definitely practiced.

Alyxander Quellchrist
Aristeia wasn't the first mysterious recruit to suddenly appear in Dornoch. To think that there were none before her who had enlisted with the intent to hide their past or identity would be decidedly naive. And as the woman herself had just admitted, she wasn't particularly skilled at deception, or playing coy for that matter. Needless to say, the story she told was quite outlandish. Regardless of how far-fetched it was, it was with a small huff of laughter that he met her words as they turned a corner into the outer districts of the city.

"For somebody trained in withholding information, you certainly offered up a bevy at my first request." Alyx pointed out with a smirk as he watched her through the corner of his vision. "You've struck me as neither an insane woman or one prone to flights of fantasy in the time we've spent together so far. That being the case, you claim you're from a land of dreams a world apart from this one, I'm inclined to believe you." Quellchrist wasn't going to pretend that he understood the majority of what she'd just told him, but in that regard they were on even footing. After all, she knew so little about this place that it suddenly made sense how somebody so oblivious had suddenly appeared in the middle of the city.

The rolling of the wheels on the cobble was loud enough that he had to raise his voice a bit as they reached an older, less well-maintained section of the road, he leaned slightly, slowing to allow a few pedestrians to cross. "I guess we're going to have to get you up to speed on things then, when you have more time. Until you can figure out how to get home, you can't go running around the whole of Epressa not knowing anything." Alyx wasn't being paid to be a tutor, but in this new information he tasted something on his tongue that he always yearned for; adventure. A chance to break out and spread his wings a bit. This city would drive him mad before he made any more progress, after all.

"For now, let's focus on our job. We're almost at the first jail." Indeed the street they now thundered down was surrounded by brutalist designs, less residential and more forebodingly industrial. "If I had to guess, I'd say the Matriarchy knows about your home more than I do. Turn enough heads and you can probably get an audience." Indeed, Darke seemed the type capable of impressing her superiors. Coming to a stop in front of a tall stone building with nary a peep coming from inside, Quellchrist dismounted and circled the Wagon, still glancing up at her. "You may be a mighty warrior in your Dreamlands, but here in Dornoch, you're my trainee. That comes first."
Aristeia could not help the amusement tugging at her lips, her gaze facing forward as he made a good point of her training and easy admission of truth. It took a lot for her to keep from commenting back with a ‘you’re welcome to test my skills yourself’ and opted for a shrug instead. Her true admission meant she trusted him, despite making his acquaintance not even an hour prior. She had to put her trust in someone, especially in this foreign land.

So why not the person charged with showing her the ropes?

If that were not the case, and her trust in him was misplaced, Aristeia knew ways to extract herself from the situation… but usually that yielded more success when working as a team. She was a part of a team of six, specializing in stealth operations and working under a cloak of darkness. Aristeia was the only one that was able to stomach the worst of things. Were they looking for her? Was anyone wondering where she had gone off to?

Would they dare cross into the Waking Realm to retrieve her?

She was glad to be distracted from her thoughts, her attention called by the Commander promising to educate her on the area before she eventually went. Aristeia’s interest was piqued, curious to what this world had to offer in comparison to the world she knew existed in the Dreamlands. Of course, that would all have to wait after the task at hand.

The soldier made to move from her seat, landing on her feet quietly. Her head turned to stare at the building that seemingly dwarfed all others simply by its design. “This looks cold and depressing.” She had seen only a couple of prisons in the Dreamlands, and none compared to this architecture. Whereas the Dreamlands had prisons kept in cold and appalling conditions, they were not made in a structure crafted in cold stone. Even the dungeons of her father’s castle offered warmth by putting prisoners to work in lighting the fires to keep the Corrupted from creeping into the heart of the castle. “At your command, sir.” Aristeia stood up straight, nodding her head curtly in Quellchrist’s direction. He was right. She was his trainee, and this was not her usual line of work. Attentiveness and taking direction was best for the Guardian to thrive in her new life in Dornoch.
Cold and depressing. Alyx didn't even try to hide the smirk her brief appraisal brought to his face. She was absolutely right; these outer city jails were a joke. However, they were a necessary one. As he moved to the rear of the cart to unlock the wagon door and pull open the iron bars ahead of time, he told her as such. "The laws here can be strict, and the dichotomy between genders here tends to lead to heightened tensions. Hence why most of the crime here is perpetrated by men. We get so much rabble committing petty crime and disturbing the peace that we've always got the large prisons in the inner city full."

He let the iron door hang open and secured his gear before moving back to Aristeia, gesturing towards the metal door of the building. "These jails aren't pretty, but they're cheap to get up and running. We just tidy up a vacant property and install some cells." Quellchrist began walking towards the door, his heavy armor clattering quietly as he moved. "Plus, working as a jailor is a simple enough job that we can give the task to people who would otherwise be out of work. It's a good way for people to get back on their feet, working in one of these places."

Alyxander obviously didn't agree with the methods, but he did believe in the silver linings present within them. Raising a metal clad fist and rapping on the door, the small slide on its face slid open briefly, before closing just as fast, before the clicking of the lock on the door could be heard, and it swung open slowly. Ont he other side was a young man, certainly no older than 20, dressed in dirtied clothes that were in need of a wash, but certainly far from the tatters that he'd be wearing if he hadn't accepted this position a few months ago.

"Hello Sir, Miss." The fellow took a quick bow and stepped aside to let them enter the cold stone building, the keys that hung from one of his wrists jangling as he hurried to stay clear of the bulky armored man, having been rather focused on Aristea's striking appearance for a moment. "I--I have em' all ready for you, but they're a nasty lot. 'Specially the woman."

Alyx stopped in the empty, narrow hallway lined with old wooden doors that led to rooms used for storage and the Jailor's quarters, turning with a raised eyebrow at the young man. "Really now?"

The boy's face may as well have melted with how red hot it became, realizing he may have said something that could be considered offensive to the Matriarchy, but Quellchrist merely shook his head at his apparent anxiety, smiling. "Ease yourself. It's just not usual here is all. Trust me, there's nothing that we can't handle. Go collect their paperwork while we load up, young man."

The young jailor quickly slid the keyring from his wrist and handed it to Alyxander before slipping into one of the side rooms with steam still rising from his face.

Alyx smiled, glancing at Darke.

"I think he likes you. Popular on your first day. Come on now, let's see what we're working with."
The staring was something she got used to over the past five years, having learned to tune out the ones that gawk at her scarred eye. Her attention remained fixed on the Commander before surveying the walls around them out of habit. Aristeia would knit her brows together when Quellchrist comments on her admirer, and the silver haired woman looked back at the doorway the jailer disappeared to. "I don't think I like him..." She murmured quietly, with a lack of interest setting on her face as she turned back to the Commander.

She followed him down the hallway, peering into each doorway that she could see into to take note. It was not until eyes met her own gaze that she realised they now made it to where the prisoners were housed. Aris stayed quiet, putting up a stony expression as she awaited command.

"Where's your shiny armour, girl?" "What a shock, they got another female guard in their ranks!" "What happened to your eye?"

Aristeia ignored them all with ease. Her silver gaze went to those already chained and waiting for them to escort to the transport. They were quiet, but their eyes showed glimmers of rage and restlessness. It reminded her of the front lines she was stationed at her first year in the King's Army. Chained and waiting, was that not so far off what she experienced back then? Waiting and unable to flee, waiting for the barrier between the Corrupted Wastes and the Dreamlands to weaken, and soldiers shaking in their armour...

She flexed her hands at her sides, curling them into fists before stretching once more. Prisoners, and not from a war. This was different. This was the Waking Realm. The Guardian was ready to accept the first prisoner, a young male much larger than her that openly stared at her right eye and did not offer a word as she grasped onto the chains and her other hand at his back to nudge him out from where they came from. This silence between them was preferred. She did not need to ask how his day was going or what crime put him behind bars, and he did not think to voice his curiosities.

This isn't too bad so far... Aristeia thought to herself as she secured his chains to the interior of the wagon.

Making quick work to ensure that indeed the prisoner was unable to escape his chains, she was back inside the building in no time, bumping into the young jailer as he checked the papers he was tasked to fetch.

"Oh! You again! I, uhh... didn't catch your name earlier." He stood in the middle of the narrow hallway, and Aristeia simply raised a brow at him.

"Do you know the Commander's name then?" She asked, lifting her arms to cross after he successfully blocked her chance to slip past him and continue the job.

"Ha! I think it was... Jer-- no... it was... something..."
He smiled sheepishly, going to rub the back of his neck as he watched her try to slip past again. "You don't look like the other girls here in Dornoch. And your eye..."

Aristeia held no guilt barging past him then. She had no interest for those that showed interest in her appearance, even less so of those wanting to know the story behind her scar. No one but herself and her father knew that. Her expression soured considerably by the time she made it back to the Commander and remaining prisoners. "Sorry for the delay."
Despite the possible danger Alyxander had warned her of, the loading of the prisoners had so far gone quite routine. There was the matter of the sheepish jailor, but that was humorous enough to Alyx for him to at as anything more than a mild annoyance. Quickly, efficiently, and with nary a word, he took a prisoner of his own along with Aristeia, and together they loaded the first pair into the back of the wagon before he ran her through the process of properly securing the cage.

She was a natural, even at the smallest tasks. It led credence to her claim that she had experience in service, even if her origins still seemed difficult to believe. Walking ahead of her as they reentered the old building, Quellchrist either failed to notice the Jailor as he began attempting to make conversation with his new recruit, or didn't think it trouble enough to intervene.

The remaining prisoners were all glowering at him when he returned, as one would expect. The sole female amongst them stared daggers almost sharp enough to wound without form. Her hair was raven, matted and knotted, but beneath the dirt and grease lie a conventionally attractive woman, he could tell. Shaking his head, he readied to escort her.

"Probably the only time you've gotten this close to a woman, isn't it lapdog?"

Alyxander rolled his eyes and delivered a soft, but firm blow of warning to the back of the lady's head with his palm. It was nothing he hadn't heard before. Uncreative mush spewed by bitter souls.

"Ngh... You hit your scar-faced bitch like that so she tightens on you? Or are you too busy shining her shoes while she uses ya for a damn seat?"

A raised eyebrow this time. The mouth on this one... That was downright vulgar. Perhaps sensning she'd gotten a reaction, his prisoner arched her back and kept going. "Only thing sadder n' seeing a lass like her working under a man is seeing her work under a man with fewer balls n' her!"

Alyxander's fist came down on the back of the woman's head, not hard enough to hurt her, but enough to knock her unconscious. "Quite enough out of you, I think." He didn't much enjoy roughing up the prisoners, but she was going to make a scene. Once she went limp, he hoisted her up over his shoulder effortlessly, just as Aristeia returned.

"It's alright. Our friend here doesn't know when to shut her mouth, so she's taking a little nap. Grab another one and let's load them up."

The little display from the Commander seemed to make any other unruly behavior stop, and soon the back of the wagon was closed for the final time. Alyx handed the papers back to the young jailor and raised an arm up to pat Aristeia on the back.

"Your first assignment in the books. Know it wasn't much, but I've seen transport duty go very badly before. Handled it well."

Aristeia Darke
The jailer was unperturbed by Aristiea's earlier evading tactics, but thankfully he did not try to strike conversation again. She stared him down with a blank look, and he soon turned around to head back inside now that their business had concluded, but not before she saw him becoming unnerved. It was a reaction she recognised well, when one had stared at her scarred eye for a little longer than was polite. Indeed, how gruesome it looked the longer you stared.

Aris turned her head to the Commander, allowing a generous smile at his praise. "Simple enough for a first job. I had only wished they would be as unruly as you had warned!" She did not know what the female prisoner had said, nor cared to ask about her status once they had locked each prisoner securely. Placing a boot on the foothold, Aristeia hoisted herself up and back onto her seat. It was too soon to judge whether she made the right decision in accepting this position, but long enough for her to judge that working with Alyxander had been an easier experience than those back in the Dreamlands. Perhaps it was the constant scent of war and still burning fires on the front lines, but Dornoch was proving to be a worthwhile visit.

"Surely you have something with a hint of a challenge lined up next for me. How else am I to show my usefullness?" She could feel a surge of energy enter her, something so electric it was unfamiliar with her. It was not her power returned to her, but she felt elated and ready for the next step. It almost felt free to not be constantly pulled away for an infiltration job, to have herself be subjected to the Wall of Corruption in order to carry out military orders.

Aristeia was beginning to warm to the idea of Dornoch... but what did this city have planned for her?
Alyxander gave a smirk at his new recruit's gung ho attitude. Well, at least she was beginning to warm up to things. She looked far less apprehensive about the idea of serving alongside him than she had an hour or so prior. "You should really be more careful what you wish for, Aristeia. The fates have a tendency to listen in, and the last thing I need is another attempted prison break." Alyx playfully admonished her, though his words rang true. Last month's ordeal had been less than pleasant, and he was still getting flak for it.

There was the unmistakable murmur of discontent in the cage behind them, but Alyx had long since learned to tune out the voices of the malcontents. Quellchrist reached behind them and rapped on the iron to shut them up, as he responded to Aristeia. "But our next job is a little more involved, yes. We got a tip that an old trinket store has a stash of of stolen weapons in the back room. Allegedly, they're being sold at a premium after hours." To whom they were being sold had been conveniently omitted, and there was a chance the tip was bogus anyways, but they had to be sure, nevertheless.

They turned a corner onto a more respectable and less ramshackle part of the city, full of shops and market stalls. The day was just getting started, so foot traffic was acceptable. In a few hours though, these long roads would be teeming with noise and patrons, clogging the narrow road between two lines of shops like a clogged artery.

"We're going to go in and inspect the place. If they have contraband, we take it and question the owner of the shop. If not... well, I guess we're done here." Alyx shrugged, angling his head up to look over the wagon in front of them, his brow furrowing as he tapped Aristeia's arm. "Never mind. I think somebody might have beaten us to it." He nodded fowards, towards the black plume raising up into the sky down the road, shooting from a blazing building, screaming and shouting people running from its door.

"That's supposed to be our stop."
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Her elated mood soon came to a stop, her gloves hands tightening at the edge of her seat as he spoke of the next job. Still the smile was there, only fading into a soft curve as her thoughts turned to the dark path of memory.

How many times had she been tasked to investigate for illegal goods?

In the Dreamlands, the chosen elites of her team were brutal in their work, often tasked with showing force and intimidation to scare many citizens across the world. Some were selling false hope, others dangerous goods that were not cleared for production. And the worse offenders were given time in a damp, dark room, tied to their seat and Aristeia before them. After all, she had the stomach to get the answers the King wanted.

She was brought back to reality at this nudge to her arm, eyes perking up to the street as her wariness came alive. She smelled it before her pale eyes drifted upwards to the dark cloud thundering upwards to the sky, angry and very much alive.

"I say we get these prisoners transferred quickly and make our way over." The smoke brought her back to the front lines, the Wall of Corruption advancing and devouring towns and cities in it's wake as more and more nightmares came to fruition. No. This was Dornoch, in the Waking Realm. Whatever mischief was afoot here was no mimicry to what she lived with back home. Here, nightmares were quelled, not born. "Judging by that colour of smoke, there will be others responding to it. Multiple buildings burning too..."

Alyxander Quellchrist
Aristeia's reaction to the blaze was, oddly enough, markedly more reserved than her Commander's. Alyxander gripped the wagon's reins tightly, gritting his teeth as he looked out towards the growing blaze. This was no ordinary fire... "It's a setup." He seethed. "They knew we were coming, somehow. somebody must have..." Quellchrist trailed off as a look of realization dawned over his helmet-hidden face. An armored hand quickly darted for the small pouch at his waist, searching it frantically before he let out a loud swear.

"That damned kid at the jail! The key to the cage is gone!" He'd known that violent groups were on the rise, but to worm their way into positions of authority just to undermine it... Gods, how infuriating. Things were getting out of hand, far more than his leadership was willing to tell him. Turning to look back at their 'cargo,' he saw a few smirking faces, more or less confirming his suspicion.

Growling under his breath, he cracks the reins and sets them off towards the burning building. People would be hurt, and there was no telling if anything in the shop was in danger of detonation. "Come on, we need to help clear the area. It's our fault they lit it up. I won't let these people's coffins rest on my conscience." The cart thundered closer, people fleeing in the opposite direction narrowly missed as they came to a stop just across from the old wooden building, billowing with orange molten wrath.

"Aristeia, you clear the surrounding buildings. I'm going to make sure everybody got out of the store." Alyxander ordered as he practically leaped from the seat and began to remove the metal armor from his body. Wearing it into a fire would mean cooking himself alive.

Aristeia Darke
She did not wait for him to be clear of his armour, already hitting the cobblestone and dashing towards the commotion. Rushing towards a fire was not new to the silver-eyed woman, her hands already pulling and shaping the lutterme garment that finished below her jaw to wrap around the lower half of her face. With only her eyes visible, she was able to breathe once the smoke became darker and thicker. It was pandemonium. Bodies, struggling and lifeless both, littered the street as many that were able to help did their best.

Aristeia paid no attention to those in the street, slipping through the wreckage of the building beside their intended store and paused in the middle of the smoked out room. What little remained of her power, she used to in hopes to feel out anyone as it pulsed from her. No one's here. Her hands began pulling at the dark foreign cloth, smoothing it over her hands and fingers as before pulling away a burning plank of wood that fell from the ceiling. Darting towards where she had entered from, Aristeia rubbed her arm over her eyes and let the tears clear away the smoke they had endured. Her face came away with ash, but that did not stop her.

What she had endured in the past could not compare to the destruction and hungry flames that roared around her. She did not allow fear or alarm to even surface as she broke through to the next building and repeated the same motion with her power. Finally, something weak filtered back to her. Without a moment to hesitate, she was sliding to her knees and ripping away rubble and wood from the being. With all the commotion going on and the task at hand, Darke did not notice the glint of steel in the firelight, flashing out to jab at her side. The lutterme protected her flesh, but the sting of the attack did not go unnoticed.

"I'm trying to help you!" She let out through gritted teeth.
By the time he'd dressed down to his undersuit, Aristeia had sprung into action admirably, ducking fearlessly into the neighboring structures without a second thought. It would have been a brazenly suicidal act under ordinary conditions, but Alyx was inclined to believe there was something special about that girl, and it didn't concern him a bit.

Besides, he had his own skin to worry about as he dove into the blaze of the shop. He had a cloth wrapped around the lower half of his face to help with the smoke, but angry tongues of fire lapped at his flesh incessantly, even as he lowered himself to crawl underneath the worst of the billowing fumes. The violent cracking of wood overhead deafened him from any cries for help, but the shop itself looked to be empty.

Even so, he crawled his way to the backroom. He needed to be certain, couldn't live with himself if...

Screams, from just outside the store. What could possibly be happening now? Alyx turned himself around, making his way back to the front of the building as splinters began to rain onto him from above, scorching him through his clothes and bringing seething hisses of pain through his teeth.

The roof was beginning to come down, and Quellchrist only barely made it through the door to the cobbled road before it did, the inferno collapsing in on itself with the sound of thunder.

Alyx didn't even hear it.

Everything seemed to go quiet around him as he stared out at the opened, empty cage of the transport wagon.
It was not clear to her at first that this being she was trying to help had hidden themselves there. They tried to stab and slice at Aristeia, hoping she would back off and leave them be, but the silver haired woman pulled strength from a reserve she rarely reached for. She was able to dislodge the knife from his hand, ignoring the unsavoury words flying out from their mouth as she pulled them out from underneath the pile.

What Aris did not expect was the blow from behind. With the overwhelming roar of fire spreading and the chaos continuin outside in the street, she was foolish to let her guard down. She was struck again, this time on the jaw. While the lutterme protected her, it did not stop the force from whipping her head in the follow through. Stunned, Aristeia stood up straight to meet the two before her. The one she pulled from the barricade pile retrieved their knife, and the woman from the prison sneered at her.

"We meet again, scar-faced bitch." The other woman gave Aristeia a glance, taking in the lutterme that covered her torso, arms, and below her grey eyes. "Interesting piece you got there. Didn't think you were actually a guard like that handsome one you were with..." She took a step forward, Aris took one back. She could feel heat clinging to her, an invisible lick of flame trying to consume her. She turned her head to the left, her peripherals giving her a chance to see smoke slowly filtering along the wall. The fire reached the inside the walls, and Aristeia wouldn't have much time.

Looking around, she could see that the back of the shop had been blocked, leaving one way in... and one way out. Her exit was blocked. Aristeia now glanced at her opponents. This was all planned, and without a weapon of her own, there was no way she could take on two like this. Her full power was in a slumber, unable to be roused while in the Waking Realm. She could easily pull the wool over their eyes and be on her way, but this time, she had to figure out a way.

"What? Nothing to say?" The other woman asked, advancing another step and narrowing her eyes at the silver haired one. "If you will not fight us, then we will gladly take you as prisoner. Give you a taste of chains, hm? What do you say?"

Aristeia knew there was no other exit. One of her opponents was armed, the other... it was unclear if she had a weapon concealed either. She could make a new exit, but in doing so, she would open up herself for attack... and possibly lose time in escaping. There was no element of surprise... think... think...

She was unarmed, a foolish mistake, but Aristeia was used to being able to call on her power in her realm. Here, she had no fallback. All she had was the malleable fabric engineered from the Dreamland. It coated her hands right to the fingers, and while the others were momentarily watching the structure of the building, Aris pried pieces from her hands. The fabric protested, not wishing to part from the rest of the cloth, but she quickly fashioned it into twin daggers. She would not concede and become their prisoner, even if she were trained to be one and keep a strong will. Aristeia had been a prisoner once, tucked away in a windowless room with meals admitted twice a day. A bath was brought in once a month, enough to clean her up before the gowns and royal tiara were forced onto her.

Aristeia waited no more, springing to her feet and striking the other woman. The lutterme daggers would not cut deep, but it was enough to wound and keep advances at bay. She had changed the game, catching them by surprise for a fraction of a second was enough for Aristeia to insert herself in a better position. Here she could keep a better eye on the two, her blind eye no longer a hindrance as instinct pulled her like strings and parried with them. She was silent, concentrating on the next move and anticipating their next.

A mistake now could be costly, but Dornoch's newest guard was well versed in unfair fights.
It was strange... usually with such a colossal failure staring him in the face, it was his own fate he would be concerned about, as well as those who would suffer the consequences of his failure. For the error was his own, and far more than he would pay the price for letting a gang of dangerous criminals loose upon the streets. Why then, as he rose to his feet before his empty wagon, did his mind immediately turn to thoughts of that mysterious woman he'd been leading around?

Aristea... he was her only ally in this new world, and this would put her under the eyes of even more than she already was. She had trusted him with information few would believe, and to allow her to come under such scrutiny would be a grievous betrayal of that trust.

No, he would go collect her, and they would find the runaways together.

Casting a quick glance around to determine if anyone was paying particular attention to him, Alyx slowly raised an index finger to the odd eye-like marking on his forehead. It warmed to his touch, emitting a faint glow as what seemed a tattoo gained depth and texture, sliding open to reveal a white orb underneath, piercing beams of light flickering from his head, strobing in a dome shape around the commander's body as he squinted in discomfort from the strain of the display.

A final flash of glimmering brilliance, and then Commander Quellchrist stood alone once more, a third eye that matched his other two resting on his forehead.

Then, he could see. He could see the imprints of the prisoner's feet against the old cobble, the individual embers in the air as they swirled around him, and the drops of sweat and blood that had fallen from those fleeing the blaze, injured and afraid. They would not escape him, and they would not fool him again.

He noted rather quickly, looking at the path underfoot, that several of them had left towards a building close by, and one of them was lighter than the rest. The woman, no doubt. following their trail, his chest sank as he realized which burning structure they'd taken refuge in.


The battle within the blaze was fierce, and yet oddly serene. Aristeia's opponents were bloodthirsty, but she outmatched them with sheer discipline. It would take more than two thugs to overwhelm her. Yet even so, her full might was lost to her in this world, and any opportunity to counter one of her attackers was quickly snuffed by the other.

They had locked her into a fiery stalemate, one that would only end if she dared risk an escape, or if she continued to stave off their attacks until the entire structure collapsed atop the lot of them. A chance at victory before that happened seemed slim.

Again the snarling female was riposted, only to have the opening filled by her companion increasing his efforts until she recovered. This time, though, she would not get the chance.

The moment Aristeia deflected the second thug's attack, a searing bolt of energy whizzed over her shoulder with a crackle of energy, colliding with the female escapee's chest before she could ready another attack, and sending her staggering back in a series of colorful swears.

"Aristeia! Take them now!"

Alyx called from just outside the room, his forehead steaming from where the bolt had fired from his third eye. He'd given her the opening she needed.

Somehow, he knew she'd make it count.

Aristeia Darke
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Makeshift blades sliced through the air to keep them at a distance, her only goal to keep them in front of her. They all moved in a savage dance, and Aristeia experienced no rest as one opponent took her focus and the other landing blows at her torso, heavily defended by the unnatural cloth she adorned. The blows were felt, and she gritted her teeth the more constant she felt them land.

They were relentless, exchanging blows and parries back and forth to a point she wondered if she were to fight until this structure collapsed over them in a fiery groan. Aristeia kicked back the woman, her boot landing at her abdomen and rendered her opponent winded. Her movements did not slow, already sailing her weapons to strike away the onslaught of the knife wielding male. The other woman moved, and Aristeia braced herself for the blow, chancing a look as she finally took notice of the energy sizzled past her and knocked the assailant.

Aristeia! Take them now!

Relief flooded through her, giving her that last boost of energy and determination to finish this. The knive dropped to the floor as Aristeia got close enough to shock his hand to release it before her forearm came up to sweep up into his nose and forcing it back to break. He roared in pain, but she did not pause to take victory and moved onwards to the other woman.

"You are wasting your time with them, girlie. You know how to fight dirty... I bet your friend rather enjoys that in b--" Aristeia silenced her with a boot to her chest, looking down at the prisoner. She crouched, adding weight to her footing as her lutterme fashioned blades pressed into the joints at her shoulders.

"You think scrapping is playing dirty? Sweet, sweet soul you possess. I have fought every nightmare imagined, and the very nightmare you will never comprehend. I will gladly take my time with you in getting answers of what happened here today." It was not a promise, the words whispered lowly that only the two could hear. The prisoner could see it in the single grey eye of Aristeia's, that what she spoke of was a truth best left unknown. As monstrous humans could be, there were still those that existed that only few can digest. Time was different between the Waking Realm and the Dreamlands, and Aristeia's fight to keep balance in her home world was a battle long fought. "Whatever witty remark you have or curated insult you harbour, nothing will break my resolve until you are so wounded, your bone shows."
His recruit did her job well and proved his faith was not misplaced. Swiftly, she disabled the man with a mighty blow to the face that sent him into a crumpled bleeding heap on the floor. Even Alyx felt himself wince at the sickening sound the impact made. The poor bastard would be tasting his own blood for weeks, not that he didn't rightly deserve it.

The walls of the building were beginning to crumble around them, but rather than show the same finality with her actions as she had with the male, she instead brought her boot up to the second criminal's chest, the strange blades that seemed to emerge from her foreign clothing pressing tightly against her shoulders. She was... talking. But Quellchrist couldn't hear what she said through the sounds of engulfing fire and panic outside.

She was playing with her food, so to speak. A rookie mistake, despite her history of combat.

His brow furrowed and he took a step further into the flames, the third eye on his forehead narrowing against the waves of heat that beat him back like a barrier. "Aristeia!" He called out to his taunting trainee, a sternness to his voice. "You haven't won if the damned building collapses on top of you! Get the hell out of there!" Alyx barked before a support from the roof collapsed in front of him; a long beam of fire nearly landing atop his head.

With a frustrated growl, he backed out of the building, retreating back to the wagon. There were still more runaways to find, and here she'd acted like she'd saved the day. No, their first tour of duty was far from over. In fact, it had just become a lot longer.

Aristeia Darke
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