Titanfall In the Shadows of Giants

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Running. She hated running with a passion; her legs were not built for it. The strange little creature easily outpaced her, as did Kiros. Their long strides of basically every other person in this group meant that she quickly fell behind.

Well, some people's stride. It did not take long for one - an elfin rogue with sandy blond hair - to overtake her on...grass? She felt foolish she hadn't noticed it sooner; she could easily feel the magic that he was using to keep aloft, and she could feel the weird quavering present in all magic. The same oddities that she felt within her flesh and blood - dizzying at times, nauseating others - afflicted the fool's magic. She did not much care for the mortal races' use of magic, as it often was superfluous and trite when it wasn't dangerous. The Balance was ever at risk with these idiots misusing their pale imitation of the Art.

She was, thus, not surprised when the other idiot passed her by two, standing on a rock. The same oddities afflicted him too, and his own brazen misuse of magic. Panting as she sprinted as fast as her legs could carry her, she thought to herself that there would be a time, soon, where she could sit the fool down and explain to him the error of his ways.

Ostentatious displays of power did not prove anything, after all. The rule of convergence always held true, no matter the era, no matter anything. Power attracts itself, and in so coalescing brings about folly and ruin for all who seek to harness it to their own ends. A hard lesson to learn. Most did not.

The first ballista bolt sailed through the air, and unlike her companions who were now meters ahead of her, it landed in front of her. With a yelp, she maladroitly dodged around it and lost more ground. Above, she could hear the colossal creature cry out in indignation at the offending weapon.

Power still roared in her ears, hummed through her flesh, sang in her bones. But it was a sickly song, rife with wild surges and gut-wrenching pits where the power seemed to fall away entirely, only to surge once more. And the ancient sidhe really, really did not want to test her luck at actually using it in its current state.

The gates loomed close.
 
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Xzaar Vixneel

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"What fascinating magic! You must teach me how to travel in this manner!"
Xzaar looked at the man beside him in bewilderment. Are they not fleeing the talons of ruthless predators? He can't fathom how anybody could ask such a trivial question in a situation like this. Despite that... he found the man's eccentricity refreshing as Xzaar doesn't normally come across strange people. "I guess I can do that... if we survive this." A subtle reminder that they're still a very real danger.

The foreign creature had retreated into the underbrush as the walls grew closer. They'll make it! Everyone seemed accounted fo- "Shit. The child!" He yelled to the men beside him as he turned to face where the thud came from, seeing what he assumes is a child, lagging significantly behind them. "I know magic is... unpredictable at the moment, but are you willing to play a game of chance?" He addressed to Atrix, glancing down at his boulders slowing speed and cracking. It was then he noticed that his own flurry of plant matter is... red? He doesn't recall be able to change the pigmentation of his leaves. "That boulder is already fracturing, do you think you can hop off of it, shatter it into tiny fragments and launch it at the beasts above?" It was, frankly, an idiotic plan with dire consequences if failed, but he believes that, in this case, the risks are worth it. They have the take some of those bastards out so she can catch up. Hopefully Xzaar doesn't miss his targets either...

His torrent of leaves and grass dispersed as he leapt from it, stopping short of the gate and pivoting around to face the creatures behind. He thrust his arm forward as the legions of leaves and grass from before stiffen into sharp blades, turning skyward to impale some of the beasts.

Magic, sadly, still fucked up; some of the plant matter returned to their flaccid state, missed their mark entirely, stopped last second or didn't move at all. He hoped the assault would provide some time for her. Xzaar stopped using his magic and relied on something that rarely fails him. He drew his bow, loading back an arrow onto it and firing it above at them as well. He's used to hitting moving targets.. but Xzaar is back peddling towards the city so he had issues finding the correct trajectory so some missed.
 

Kiros Rahnel

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Aging as he may be, the life of a traveller had left Kiros with a fair degree of fitness. This, together with his long stride and strong desire to not perish gave him great speed in his sprint away from danger. Doubtless the pace he kept would have caused his knees pain, were fear-induced adrenaline were not present to quell it. In short order he was ahead of the others, with neither sight nor sign of them ahead.

But such an early lead would not last for long, as both of the other men of magic had prepared arcane solutions to their problems...possibly. Eyesight alone was enough to tell Kiros that the magic they entrusted their lives to was of questionable form. A flying rock that began to crumble upon conjuration, and plants that began to change colour on being placed under magical control. He knew not how their magic worked, but it seemed clear that these were unintended effects borne from the same disturbance that had caused his own spell to misfire. It was a stark reminder that cautioned him about the use of his own magic. While irksome, the misfiring of his own spell was merely an inconvenience; he feared how his other incantations might misbehave, given their more tangible effects.

While he had seen the other two speed past him, there was sign of neither the strange insect nor Sidhe until he turned his head to glance behind him, spotting the former with the latter trailing far behind. With his head turned away from the city, he could not witness the ballista fire, but heard the snap of the bolt's launch before the sight of it soared into view from above. About to conjure forth a barrier for her protection out of pure reflex, his better judgment did away with the notion in recollection of the strange effect that had befallen the magic of the others. The sight of her veering around the violent impact of the projectile striking the ground told him the bolt had gratefully missed her, but barely so.

He was not alone in noticing her predicament as the others ahead of him audibly concerned themselves with it as well. Yet the very disturbance that had been affecting magic did not seem to discourage their reliance upon it; rather, the two of them were having a discussion on what further spells they might now weave. Kiros’ pace began to slow down out of caution against approaching the two should disaster result. He himself held little means of dealing with the approaching winged beasts but he did have another incantation that could end their spells, should they prove uncontrollable. While his own incantation of immuting was most definitely magical itself, such a spell served to negate magic, and seemed far less likely to being disaster should it misfire. He was prepared to invoke it, yet further hesitant to attempt it unless absolutely necessary.

With situation so dire and tense, he was bound to find out whether or not it was soon.
 
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Heart pounding, sweat beading on her forehead, darkening her dress as she ran. Again and again, she cursed inwardly at her loathing of running from things. She was not prideful nor was she arrogant - usually, anyway - but she was not built for this kind of athletic activity.

Not arrogant, but still she longed to spin about and stand her ground, and strike her foes down. Whatever they were, fire solved a lot of problems and fire was one of the cardinal elements she was most potent with. The Seelie could have destroyed those things in mid flight and yet...and yet...

...she dare not. There were worse things than magic faltering, worse things than expending her strength to no avail. If something could so affect their magic, then why not hers? She had vastly more experience and strength, but against whatever was unraveling the prim she had no defense, let alone explanation for. The whole purpose of coming here, through the Stone and into an unknown land, was to protect the Balance, and to defend magic from whatever threat there might be.

Without it, she would die. Many of her kindred would perish as well, if not all of them. If not all the fae in all the world. The humans would go on, as would so many others...but the final end, after all her long life, would not come soon if she had any say in it.

She passed the others that were standing their ground, waiting for her, and launching their own ineffective attacks at the things following them. There would be time to thank them for that, later; for now, she made for the city before her, through the open gates, and into safety.
 

Kiros Rahnel

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Focused and ready, he stood prepared to invoke his counter-magic as insurance against whatever the wizards might cast. It was clear to him by now that magic was not in a state to be trusted, having witnessed his own spell misfire – but he remembered that it hadn’t directed itself upon any magical item or spell, but Seska herself. She was Sidhe, the same as Lyssia and certainly just as magical in nature.

It dawned on him that his spell could endanger her, should it misfire. Insight merely glanced upon the arcane, but his counter-magic could potentially inflict far more harmful effects against a magical being. He had intended to do so in her defence – a decision he now realized unwise. Whatever other incantations he had available would be stunted by the same arcane resistance that he had already encountered before. Despite his intentions, there was truly little he could do for her; and the wisest course of action was clearly the one she was frantically undertaking herself, having just passed him by.

Unable to assist or protect her in any reliable form, he too turned and fled towards the city. He kept an occasional glance on the mages and the chasing creatures behind him while sprinting at full speed toward the city gates.

He had no idea what awaited him within, but he envisioned the fate awaiting him with those winged terrors to be undoubtedly grisly and worse. Cautious, yet desperate to preserve his own life, Kiros rushed inside the gates to discover what was beyond for himself.
 
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Xihuitl

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The air was a din of screeches, thunderous ballista fire, and the whistle of bolts in the air. Another horn burst from the city walls sounded, and as Xihuitl burst from the underbrush into the clearing just ahead of the city he could see the gates begin to open. Tirnua was beckoning them inside.

The insectoid stopped, looked back. Two other skycre were circling, and the one on the ground already was lumbering forwards. If he ran now he could make it within the city walls but something held him back. It was a vague feeling, a wafting of emotion from a place not entirely of himself.

These interlopers were important, too important to fall to vultures.

He shuddered through the pain as another shriek tore through the sky and a massive body smashed through the canopy. A ballista had hit home, and one of the skycre had plummeted. He saw Seska run past him. Good, that was one. Not long after Kiros made his way across the clearing and into the town. Xihuitl waited at the wild's edge for the others, hoping to signal them forwards should they see him.


Those who entered Tirnua would see an alien yet impressive settlement. They would be met by beings of multiple races speaking in various languages. Some of the more learned among the travelers may note orcish or komodi. If they were very lucky, perhaps someone would speak their Common tongue.
 
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Xzaar Vixneel

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The kid is visibly annoyed but safe and those vultures are being struck by the defenses... so far so good! His magic didn't explode in his face either which is always an enjoyable thing. He saw the tiny creature from before signal him to get moving, so he ran with the rest into Tirnua. Hopefully Atrix saw that signal as well. He couldn't understand komodi in the slightest, but he did detect traces of orcish in a few, but he's no where near an expert. "... Any of you speak- whatever that is. Orcish is all I got." He really doesn't get out much.



(Still tapped the hell out but I wanted to produce... something crappy. sorry for the shorty)
 
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Breathless.

Once through the gates, the seelie had to find a convenient wall to lean against and regain her breath. Chest heaving, she slid down into a seated position and huffed and puffed for several minutes. It wasn't that she was out of shape, but more along the lines of unaccustomed activity.

After she had regained her breath, she became more aware of her surroundings. Wherever this place was, it had the feel of decay, and the heavy weight of something ancient that echoed some part of her soul. In fact, the place stirred ancient memories within her, and she spent a few minutes snipe-hunting in the dusty corridors of her mind, trying to track down and capture those errant memories. It was a vain effort; she could remember The Fall as clearly as though it was yesterday, and yet there were things only a few thousand years in the past that were hazy or simply gone from her memory entirely.

It seemed that this place existed only as a fragment of some ancient memory, comprising but one ephemeral mote of knowledge: a name, Tirnua. That it was all she could recall was frustrating beyond belief, but that frustration was hardly unfamiliar to her.

Whatever. Tirnua exuded the feeling of many places she had been before. Constant decline, clutching to some forgotten glory long since gone. Bits of the ancient buildings revealed the metal skeletons within, and everywhere else was brick and stonework to conceal the vestiges of the past. The architecture was certainly not novel or especially beautiful, containing utilitarian elements over fanciful ones. Most of the ruins seemed to be long abandoned, crumbling into dissolution as the number of occupants here declined.

It tugged at a part of her soul, threatening to unleash the morose sentiment that was ever present, haphazardly buried within her mind.

Looking round, it was clear that this place had forgotten humanity in the distant past. The straline moving through the streets were oddly familiar, even though she could not recall having seen one in a very long time. Orcs and komodi moved through the streets as well, along with other species that she was entirely unfamiliar with.

With a sigh, the fae pushed herself back to her feet with the aid of the staff she carried, and looked for the others that had come with her to this forgotten corner of the world.
 

Kiros Rahnel

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He arrived beyond the gates at a death-fearing sprint, promptly slowing his pace into a halt upon feeling secure in his safety. Bracing himself on his staff held upright against the ground, he then took a moment to catch his breath with heavy, panting, gasps for air; soon followed by Xzaar. Once he had recovered from the exhausting run his ears picked up a flurry of different dialects, all unknown and of dissimilar structure. Xzaar mentioned the Orcish tongue, and Kiros too could recognize the familiar sounds that was the language’s hallmark; although his own command of it was rudimentary at best. Common and Kaliti, the two languages Kiros held complete fluency in, were unheard of among the scattered and unintelligible conversations transpiring around him.

While safe from heavy ballista bolts and gigantic flying monsters, his next problem was readily apparent. He understood none of the many languages he was currently hearing, and doubted his ability to converse with any of the city’s residents. The city itself was an unusual sight; despite the activity of its denizens within, the structures themselves appeared ancient and unmaintained. An unusual city, fitting for such an unusual land. But there was only so much time to marvel upon it; the Sidhe had arrived before him, and the others would no doubt approach soon as well. Having had his needed moment of respite, Kiros prepared to set off again to travel further into the city in search of those with whom he had arrived to the continent.

“I believe it is Orcish, but my grasp of the tongue is far from proficient. We ought seek the others; the short one is already further within.” He responded to Xzarr as he began to walk further into the city to search for the other two. Aside from the Orcs, none of those dwelling within appeared the least bit familiar. In greatest number were the straline; whom he had never seen, heard of, nor even imagined existed. He saw odd insectoid creatures as well; or at least the severed parts thereof. There, on full display was a table of chitinous, roasted limbs that bore uncanny resemblance to those of the odd creature that had guided them here. Kiros looked back to the entrance, having noted the creature did not enter along with him. Knowing what he knew of the city now, he rightfully doubted their guide would be following them in.

In a short while he managed to find another of his former companions, spotting the unmistakable form of Seska trekking through the city in likewise search. With a tap on Xzarr’s shoulder to gain his attention he strode towards her himself. Perhaps her understanding of this strange city was better than theirs – it certainly couldn’t be worse.
 
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Xihuitl

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As the great gates creaked shut, and the ballista fire slowed and ceased, the inhabitants turned their eyes on the newcomers. A galaxy of multicolored eyes washed over them, and conversations in foreign tongues floated about them like eels.

Xihuitl darted within the gates after the rest, and after casting about with lidless eyes, he found Kiros and Xzaar not far ahead. His sensitive antennae were assaulted with scents, and he gripped his spear tighter as he saw a few very large pieces of insects roasting upon spits. A low chittering escaped him. The bodies were not of his hive, but he doubted the locals would note the difference.

He kept close to the others. The straline gave him a wide birth with bared fangs and silent hisses, and he muttered similar curses at them as they passed. One such feline was glaring at him with such ferocity that they did not notice the large, armored orc in their path, and were quickly bowled aside. The orc was staring hard at the party, and they were closing with a group of armed individuals.

Xihuitl reached up with one of his middle arms and tugged the sleeve of Kiros, indicating their pursuers. “Oczn xilin.”

“Stop!” barked the leader in heavily accented common, “Outlanders. We talk.”

Though her weapons were sheathed, it was not a request.
 
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It did not take long to find her companions, blessedly. She moved through the crowds of strange creatures as a strange creature herself; their eyes upon her stirred no emotion, no reaction of any kind. Straline, orcs, any of the others...none of them really mattered much to her in the longrun. She had long ago stopped thinking of everyone else as pawns in the great game, but it was not because of any moral concerns. No, it was because the game was a waste of time, and never led anywhere that was good.

She kept to the shadows of the mortals before her, listening with half an ear to their limited conversation. Her eyes skipped through the crowds, impassive. She saw the orc staring at them but dismissed it as curiosity, however intense it was. Likely, many of the creatures here regarded the outlanders with curiosity and buried hostility, as many new things were difficult to trust.

Therefore, she was a touch shocked when they not only followed, but caught up and then spoke to strangers...and even more so, in common tongue.

She turned, and eyed the leader of the group with heavily lidded eyes. A sidelong look at Xzaar, and she shook her head slightly. It would be best if she spoke before the fool did. gripping her staff hard enough to turn her knuckles even whiter than they were normally, she returned her gaze to the group.

"Then talk," she said in imperfect orcish, heavily accented and of a different dialect than perhaps these were accustomed to. "You appear to have the advantage on us," she added in a neutral tone. She very much did not need any fighting right then, and very much did not want to find out how poorly her abilities would avail her if she was forced to use them. If they were useless to her, then she was as good as dead in this new land.
 
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Kiros Rahnel

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They were certainly getting attention here, far more than he cared to. Kiros continued alongside the group with staff held as walking stick – and potential bludgeon should attention progress into confrontation. Care was taken to remain perceptive of his surroundings as insurance against the possibility, but no such threat came. The only one to approach them, to his surprise, was the guide that had led him here. Quite bravely so, considering what could only be assumed as his kin served was openly as food. But whatever their guide spoke at the sight was unintelligible to Kiros. Which was probably for the best; such words couldn’t be pleasant to hear.

Noting the disdainful reception the straline gave, he made room for Xihuitl to travel at his side with his staff held at his other. Perhaps keeping close proximity to the insectoid would shunt the hostilities he received from the straline; he easily stood twice as tall as they did. On seeing yet another of the felines display threatening and insulting gesture, Kiros returned a glare of his own. The creature showed neither fear nor regret, and merely crossed to the other side of the street with another hiss from safe distance. Seemingly unable to prevent such reaction, the priest had at least managed to provide their companion with some personal space.

A tug on his robes distracted him from his concerns; he knew not what was spoken to him but understood it’s urgency. He paused in his tracks a moment before the orc who had been eyeing them spoke up in demand for their attention; gratefully, in Common. While larger than the straline and tall for a human, his stature paled in comparison to the orc before him. Yet before he could give reply, he heard Seska give one herself; in Orcish no less. He knew hardly enough of the language himself to gauge the level of her fluency with it, but he knew more than enough Common to doubt the orc’s in the one dialect he seemed to share with her. He had no idea what she was saying; curiosity as to what she said turned into fret that the orc might take offence to whatever it was. Kiros continued to stand in place with hidden unease, awaiting her response.
 
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Xzaar Vixneel

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“I believe it is Orcish, but my grasp of the tongue is far from proficient. We ought seek the others; the short one is already further within.”

They're lost in the same forest with that one. He had always hoped to study orcish just in case he found himself in the path of a stubborn one. He followed closely behind Kiro's as they searched for, what he's still convinced is, an e n t i r e child. The tap on his shoulder that came after Kiro's spotted her snapped Xzaar to attention. The ancient, abandoned city they wandered had mesmerized him; when others saw the tarnished remnants of a presumably long dead civilization, he saw beauty-- obviously not in the appealing sense-- but in the sense of history! He had a plethora of questions about this place. Could this place predate eleven civilization? Why haven't these people restored this city? Why are we the only foreigners? Wh-

Returning to Arethil, He walked alongside hjm to regroup. The kid looked exhausted, otherwise in good health. Now to explore--

He had not noticed it until now.. the confused stares and unintelligible murmurs of the assembling crowd. He was never in this situation before. Subjected to the xenophobic inquiries of a dreadlord? Yes. Being spoked about and watched by various people in a foreign land? No. He doesn't like crowds. Too many eyes- some of them the eyes of those he's never witnessed before. Are those cats?!? He wants to leave now.

The smell of roasting limbs has permeated the air, filling his nose with a putrid stench of.. are those bugs?? Gods, this place is growing exhausting. It was abhorrent, especially considering that their guides limbs are similar to those on pits. He too had saw the aggressive straline make attempts to, what he assumes, intimidate their guide. This must be why they were hesitant to enter the city. These fucks would eat him! Xzaar noticed the bold exchange between Kiros and some of the Straline, and it was clear that he stood there to protect their insect friend. Xzaar had done the same, joining them to stand opposite of them and help deter these creatures.

“Stop!” barked the leader in heavily accented common, “Outlanders. We talk.”
The peremptory call snapped Xzaar around to origin. An orc, armed and with squad with him. Finally! Common tongue! He was relieved to hear it, but that was overshadowed by the situation. Orcs... at least in his experience, are a hassle to be reasoned with. His instinct was to use a little empathy magic to persuade them from this talk, but magic was going through something and that would be detrimental to an empathy mage if failed. The consequences could be dire as he needs to remain in control of his emotions.

Luckily a perk from being a manipulative, empathy mage has it's perks.

You learn how to read the room without using magic, course it could be less effective.

Sheathed weapons. cautious but ready to engage.

His eyes darted from the orcs to straline, gathering what he could.

Thin limbs on the felines. Certainly lacking in physical strength, but perhaps possess the agility and speed of normal cats. They could attack in numbers.

He lost a bet before and had to wrestle with an orc. No magic or weapons.

They can sometimes be talked down.. avoiding them is always the best tactic. They sometimes rely on instinct rather than strategy. Use their charging and large body against them.

He certainly didn't win that fight but he didn't lose either.
Xzaar had prepared to speak, using his expertise to hopefully dissuade the orcs, but the child, who didn't sound quite like one, spoke instead in orcish. He only understood one word and that was you. He begin looking for a place to escape in case things went south. It's he does, sometimes without realizing it. Escaping was slim to none with the predators outside and lack of familiarity with his surroundings. It'd be left up to chance which really isn't a good judge. Hopefully the girl knew what she was doing.
 
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Xihuitl

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"Then talk."

The apparent leader was a tall female, and tangles of red hair fell to her shoulders from her lofty head. She crossed her arms, thick as tree trunks, while Seska spoke, and though her face remained hard, her lips did twitch at hearing the orcish. A quick glance at the rest of the party told her that the others didn’t share this understanding. She would continue in her fragmented Common.

“Where you from? You with the others? Cartas, eh?” She took a step forwards. “They cause this.” She turned her attention to the insectoid. “Why does it follow?”

She had to stoop low to meet his legion gaze, and she hissed at him, “You’s pick at our border now. Daring to show your face. Why are you here?”

Xihuitl took a step forward of his own, obviously agitated by her words. “Chi’nzen iquili! Shaxa n’gati xilitz!” A chittering of harsh sounds and rude gestures with multiple limbs.

The orc stood. “Ye not have him speak?” She looked at them, rolled her eyes, and pressed a finger to the stone on Xihuitl’s throat. Surprisingly, he let her. “Speak,” said the orc in common.

“I am Chi’nzen, the Shaxa hive attack you. This is their land.” Xihuitl’s native sounds could still be heard but a voice projected over them in the common tongue. “They came through ~sqixi~ sto- za. The stone- bah!”

The stone at his throat had emitted a couple of blue sparks, and the voice had cut in and out as Xihuitl clasped a clawed hand to it. Whatever magic powered the device was waning.

“Stone, ke?" The orc narrowed her eyes at the group. "I am Rana, and you will explain youselves."
 
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A pause as she ran the quick words through her mind to decipher them. She was not, after all, fluent, and like many things trapped inside her weary head it was a chore to dig through all the detritus of the ages to find something needful.

"Not from here," she said in the same dialect. She wasn't about to tell her where she was from, not that she would believe her anyway. Most assumed the kind of travel that had landed here wasn't even possible. As to the travel that had brought her here specifically? Well, that was certainly plausible enough. She was going to further reply, but the insect creature spoke, clearly upset about something.

And then it touched the stone that it had pointed to earlier, and the ancient seelie stilled her thoughts, and listened instead of speaking. That was a skill that so many lacked, to actually listen and not interrupt. She carefully filed away the information that Chi'nzen gave them, assuming that it was the creatures name. And then groaned when it pointed its....appendage at them, effectively throwing them in front of the horse cart.

The diminutive woman sighed wearily, and shook her head so that the sea of silver shifted.

"I am Seska, Rana," she said carefully. They had no need to know more than that, and certainly no need to know her full name. Her real name, as it were. Just as well, because she did not believe she could recall all of it anymore. "I cannot-" Will not. "-speak for the others," she said in a neutral tone. "I am here because the prim is suffering from some malady, and it worries me greatly."

A pause.

"Magic," she added after a moment of thought, just in case Rana did not understand what she was talking about. Magic had many different names among all the people of the worlds she had been to. None were, to her, right; the prim was the proper name, the primal force of creation from which all else was derived. "I would seek the cause, and remedy it before..."

Before it all fades away, and I with it.
 

Kiros Rahnel

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What followed Seska’s words was a reply of heavily accented common tongue, addressed openly to all. The orc made inquiry as to where he had arrived from; an expected question he had already seen it worn on the expression of those who had given them notice. For all he knew, others had likely asked it themselves in language they didn’t comprehend. When she stepped forth, and he steeled himself to give no reaction – hiding his concern behind stone-faced expression as she laid the blame for magic’s faltering state on the shoulders of these others, whom she implied they conspired with.

Her next words were directed to one in particular; the insectoid that had guided them here. Kiros simply shook his head in response to her next question before becoming perplexed by the conversation that followed. But all became clear once she reached down and activated an unknown stone, causing the creature’s words to shift immediately into understandable speech.

“Kiros, of Liadain.” He responded. It was doubtful that she’d ever heard of the continent herself, much less Amol-Kalit. He hadn’t a clue where he was as all, aside from awareness that the stone had taken him a great distance away.

“No; I do not know whom you speak of. I have arrived under divine guidance in response to this event.” He replied, speaking of his role with a tone of dignity far greater than he himself personally held in it. This one clearly regarded them with distrust and ire already; seemingly more so upon hearing that they had travelled to the city through a portal stone.

“I know not the cause of magic’s growing ruin; only that this land holds the source.” He continued. He referred to the concept as ‘Heka’ himself, but there was no need to confound her further by introducing Kaliti terms – her patience seemed thin enough as it was already. He had plenty more questions himself, but it was apparent that she would be asking hers first.
 

Xihuitl

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The orc woman narrowed her eyes, but let them speak. The two males at her shoulders kept watch, and by the time the group had finished their introductions one leaned forwards to speak into her ear in quiet orcish. She nodded.

She appeared to think of their words for a long time, putting thick fingers to her chin and absently stroking her tusks. Finally she spoke again.

"When cartas came, moons ago, they trick us. Tell us they explore from afar, they make maps. Promise trade, find safe travel through badlands. When they leave, they examine stone. Then they go through valley, not return. We think they are dead, for they soft and weak." The males snorted a brief laugh at this, and Rana's lip did turn into an amused curve.

"But then magic stop. The bugs become more aggressive... and this one say you come through stone?" She looked to Xihuitl.

The insectoid nodded, a gesture he had learned from observation of the soft-skinned ones. "Shaxa hive qinz aggressive, seal borders, szilin communication. They move many to mxilica." His words, again, were broken as the translation stone struggled against its fading power. After a moment, he continued. "The li'qua- the changes happen just before stones awake."

Again the orcish woman considered, but it was clear that Xihuitl's words had shaken her. "Right." She nodded, then addressed the newcomers. "It grows late. Take the night to prepare. Rest, resupply. At first light we meet at gates, return to the stone. And..." she added, before turning to leave, "do not think to flee. Tirnuan guard track and kill worse beasts than you."
 

Kiros Rahnel

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“Were we up to treachery, we wouldn’t be speaking to you so.” he replied plainly at her veiled threat. Whoever the Cartas were, he didn’t wish to be confused for a troublemaker by association with an entity they held in high suspicion. Given the brash nature of the orcs, he doubted they would employ judgment before action should the party fall even slightly suspect. Yet they all shared the same goal, and the orcs accosting them further held information and direction which they themselves did not.

These answers would have to wait until the morning, leaving Kiros with the evening task of seeking lodging. Several of the buildings before him appeared to be inns, but the races that inhabited the city were odd and varied. Quarters suitable for the short-statured straline would not do; he eventually settled upon an orcish establishment, with sheets of thick fabric hanging from a skeletal frame. The sight of it hardly looked comfortable, but he could make do with whatever was suitable for an orc, he figured.

Once he passed through the exterior curtains that acted as makeshift entryway into the tent, all eyes were upon him. He ignored the gazes on his approach to the stone slab serving as a counter; once the onlookers had their curiosity sated, they ignored him likewise. The innkeeper acknowledged his presence with gruff and incomprehensible words to which Kiros responded with what little orcish he knew.

“[Room.]” he spoke straightly, setting some pieces of silver and gold on the counter. The innkeeper eyed the offered precious metals before looking back up, now speaking orcish with a tone seemingly persuasive but condescending. Kiros took this as a sign this bartering was getting somewhere, and unenthusiastically added more pieces to the pile. Further orcish words were barked at him, and with a moment of hesitation he added a bit more to the now generous assortment, only to hear the innkeeper utter the same unknown sentence again.

He paused and gave the innkeeper a glance; then began taking the pieces back. He had only recovered two before the orc slammed his arm down upon the table; a green, muscled barrier between Kiros and the pile of money. Further orcish words were uttered and he was pointed towards another, who gave a gesture to follow while the innkeeper counted his gold and silver.

With understanding but without words, he was led to a simple room with an uncomfortable looking bed sitting in a corner. Woven drapery acted as substitute for proper walls, with a table opposite the bed the only other furnishing his quarters held. Kiros began to unpack and sort through what belongings he had brought with him. From his satchel, he pulled out a pair of trousers and a tunic to toss them atop a table that sat tucked into the opposite corner.

His decision to bring more casual attire was now regretted as useless, and the garments little more than a waste of packing space. He had noted the peculiar looks the city’s denizens, and doubted forgoing his holy vestments would make him appear any less conspicuous. By the gods; and one in particular at that! Had he known of magic’s faltering state, he might have come more prepared with at least armour and weaponry. He was no warrior in the slightest, but the situation he had been directed upon left him neither with trustworthy magic. But he had a bit of gold left with him; enough, he hoped, to procure something more sensible in the morning.

Kiros would be found by the gates at sunrise, still weary from the poor night of rest. Sleep had been fleeting. The bed was stiff and uncomfortable, and the night’s rest worse than in even the most frugal rooms he had rented before. His staff had been exchanged for a hefty steel spear. His coin purse, now completely devoid of wealth, instead held the bronze holy symbol that formerly served as the head of his quarterstaff. Beneath his robes was a crude leather brigandine; that it would interfere with his magic was of no concern given that such interference was expected regardless. Prepared as he could be for whatever the day may bring, Kiros pulled out his pipe and packed it again. The rising sun bathed the barren landscape beyond the gates with it’s heated red glow as he lit the leaf within and took a draw while waiting.
 
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"Whatever," the seelie replied to the orcish woman. She was neither intimidated by her, nor the lot that were with her. It was not a thing born of arrogance - given how things were, now, she doubted she was a match to anyone. Her sorcery was terrifying when it was fully unveiled, but no such unfettering would occur here and now, and if things did not change, maybe never again.

No, she just didn't care. They could likely rip her limb from limb, and what would she do about it? Nothing.

"In the morning, then," she said, and then turned away from them and the others that had arrived with her. It might have been wise to stick together...but they were every bit the stranger that the others in this crumbling city were to her. There were times it was difficult to fit in with the mortals; so long ago had she lost her ability to see through their eyes and understand their thoughts that it might as well have never been.

She did not like being entirely reliant upon another for her safety. There had been too many instances of that in her long life that had not ended well, and while she had survived all of them the scars in her mind remained to this day.

There was no sleep to be had that night, not that she needed it. She spent the evening hours carefully exploring the ruins of Tirnua not as a tourist or an archeologist looking back through a window of time; rather, she spent the evening trying to remember the place. There were no surviving memories in her mind, though, no hints to reveal the obscured truths of this place, this continent.

A night of frustration, to add to the other frustrations. A night spent wandering streets, at once a stranger and familiar, with people who looked askance at her even as she did them. None approached, none asked questions, and each went their own separate ways.

She came up along side one of her traveling companions - to be fair, one of the least annoying as far as she could tell. The sun was breaching the horizon, casting light like golden syrup across the strange landscape. "I see you've outfitted yourself," she remarked as she drew alongside him. "That couldn't have been cheap, here, in this strange land."
 
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Kiros Rahnel

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“Not in the slightest, and I’ve no doubt I’ve been fleeced.” The purchases had left him penniless but prepared; a situationally reasonable trade-off. When he had set off on his god-given quest he had outfitted himself as a man of magic, without awareness of the unstable state it was in. Had he known then what he knew now, he’d have brought better armaments along for the task; no doubt at a fraction of the cost the orcs had charged him at that. The inn had been priced for a noble, but was in such shoddy state as to be unfit for even a peasant. His newly acquired weaponry cost nearly as much; he had evidently needed to pay extra for a spear with a good quartersawn shaft. Language had proved barrier to what the orcs had spoken to him when he made his purchase, but time and time again they had presented him with spears of poor quality. Likely they were looking to sell off the worst they had available to one they thought new no better, before eventually offering one that was decently acceptable at a premium price.

“But better to be broke than unprepared and ill-rested. I’ve naught any idea what the day has in store for us.” He continued in between draws of his pipe. While not a trained or dedicated warrior, polearms were at least familiar enough, and all the better that it be tipped with sharpened steel. His staff had the benefit of containing his magical focus, now separated and safely tucked away should he need it. Leather armour further hindered his arcane ability; but without the ability to reliably protect himself with magic in the first place, it would have to do.

“Lodgings came no cheaper. How much were you charged?” He asked, without any idea that she’d simply kept up all night while he made attempt to sleep in his rented, uncomfortable bed. He figured she found an inn of the straline, but doubted they’d have been any more charitable than the orcs.
 
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"Nothing," she said in reply. "I simply walked the streets, trying to remember this place all the long night." And avoiding being mugged, stabbed, or carried off into the darkness. She had no idea if her magic would avail her at the moment; the prim had been decidedly unreliable, and the leys scarcely less. She had no desire to unveil her ability just yet, anyway; let it be a surprise to someone as much as it was to her.

She stared into the distance, beyond the walls of Tirnua - if they could even be granted so lofty a title. She could recall the vultures from the day before, and wondered at what other foul beasts inhabited these distant lands.

"Well, hopefully we do not encounter any more 'friends' in the wilds," she said, eyeing his equipment. She still wore just the dress, robe, and staff and nothing else. Were she to wear a melee weapon, it would be the worlds most pitiful joke, even if she wore it just to show that she would be no easy prey to any would-be assailants. And, truthfully, not having any weapon but the staff and carrying herself in a sure, confident manner paid its own dividends in deterrence.

"Can you use those weapons?"
 
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Kiros Rahnel

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He still had his white robes donned beneath his brigandine, with little need to remove it. He likewise might require the use of magic, erratic as it was. Besides, even casual attire would remain conspicuous to the eyes of the denizens of this foreign land; robes at least gave hint to his aptitude with magic. If he had only recently learned of the chaos that magic was undergoing, it seemed likely that the unattuned would hold little clue and fail to call his bluff.

“You’ve been here before?” he remarked at her reply, in more surprise at the remark than the fact that she had foregone a night of sleep. It was an answer he didn’t expect in the slightest; he looked at her while wondering when and how such a thing could be, in ignorance of her nature.

“I hope not; I would be quite glad to go without opportunity to use this.” He replied, tapping the base of the spear against the hard packed sand in reference before giving her next question a scoff.

“As well as I can wield my staff. They are the same physical instrument, save for sharpened steel upon its end.” He responded in response to her query. While no master of combat, he’d enough experience to hold confidence in his skill. If he had to fight with a stick, better it be sharp, he reasoned.
 
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At first she did not say anything, implacable eyes staring into the distance, out over the horizon. And then, slowly, she shook her head. "I do not know. Probably." She sounded a little frustrated at that. "Its not as though I have amnesia," she continued, each word precise, "so much that I can only recall so much. I can not remember the land of my birth, or my parents - assuming I even had any, though surely I must have."

She idly ran a thumb across her staff, feeling the etchings in the wood - the rose-and-vines, but also the more subtle ones, the runes written in a language that did not belong to Arethil, and in fact might not belong to anyone other than her, now. Trying to think back to those days was like trying to look down a long, echoing tunnel. Trying to bring into focus those distant events twisted her scarred, ancient heart. So much lost, so much gone never to return.

And she couldn't even memorialize it in memory, because even memory was not forever.

She shook her head, dispelling the momentary pathos. "It doesn't matter. It'll end the same. It always ends the same." With a sigh, she looked to his weapons. "Well, that is good, then."

She said nothing of her own contribution to this quest. She certainly wasn't about to try to use her staff in any way that resembled fighting. It was not what it was for, and neither was she.
 

Kiros Rahnel

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“Probably? How long have you lived?” He asked in astonished curiosity; another response he hardly expected from her. The other Sidhe he had met, Lyssia, had been younger than him by a fair margin, but that hardly implied an upper limit to their lifespan. With little else known about such, he’d have wagered it to be on the order of centuries much as many of the other races. That she couldn’t remember herself implied it to be far longer than imagined; how she held memories pertaining to a place so distant and forgotten in the first place he could not know. From her tone and expression, she didn’t seem sure either.

Her next remark was met with a raised eyebrow by the priest – largely because he knew little other reaction to give. His lips twitched as if about to give response before he paused, wondering if her musings about ‘the end’ were merely insomnia induced rambling, or enigmatic commentary. Given how haggard the lack of sleep had left him, he thought the former likely.

“Magic would be my preferred tool, but the present issues with it are clear.” He added in response. He still held little clue why magic was acting the way it did; but he’d seen enough examples within the past day to be sure of it’s instability. A spear was crude but at least reliable under current conditions; with the party composed mostly of mages, physical weaponry provided peace of mind at least.
 
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She lifted her chin a little at his question. "What a rude question to ask a lady," she answered back. There was no affront in it, though, no offense taken insofar as could be seen. She turned and looked up at him, and her eyes seemed old. The cold wind blowing down from the beginning of time old.

She closed her eyes, and let her breath out slowly. "A long time. A long, long time," she said. There was a mixture of sadness, regret, and loss all entwined in those words. "I cannot put a number to it. I arrived on this world at least several thousand years ago, and prior to that...." She shook her head, silver shifting with the movement. "A long time."

Do you want to live forever? She had asked that of someone once, long ago. The mortals always answered yes, but they had no idea what they were asking for. For someone with a limited span, it was too easy to be fixated on an arbitrary number - a thousand, ten thousand years down the line. But...time is without beginning and without end. All sprang from the prim, which also has no beginning and no end. Philosophers of her people had speculated about the First Born, she knew, but their circumlocutions had no end and gave no meaningful answer that she could recall.

A sharply drawn breath, and a hand raised to her chest. A stab of pain that drove her breath from her. A momentary thing, but a thing that could stir panic in her, perhaps. But she was not dying - not yet, anyway. "I am afraid I will be of little aid in that regard," she said finally. She lifted her staff a little, mostly as a gesture to emphasize it. "This is made to ease the stress of the Laws on my body, but as a weapon it is only unbreakable. And even that, with the threat of the dissolution of magic, is not assured."
 
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