Private Tales The Last Resort

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer
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She grunted as a response, a delicate sound that nevertheless conveyed the same determination that led her to live as long as she had. She spurred the stallion on, and the beast ran with a will. On its own, Draedamyr was right; they would not outrun the centaurs chasing them.

But she was not about to let that happen if she could avoid it. The prim was there and waiting for her, as always, and so she drew upon it. Not much, for she did not need much. Not for this, anyway; her affinity for fire also allowed her to imbue the strength of the flames unto whomever she so chose, although it was seldom a wise idea to do it for long. She placed a hand on Respite's withers, willing magic to flow into his flesh, specifically into his muscles.

The beast surged forward, snorting at the rush of strength into his frame. It was enough that they were pulling ever so slightly ahead of their pursuit, but every minute that the fae performed her work drained her a little more. It was not something she could do forever.

"Think of something," she said determinedly. "I cannot do this forever, but I can buy us some time."
 
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Draedamyr

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"Water," Draedamyr said bluntly. He could think of no other option.

He was not the best rider and the magically-forced surge of speed was already tiring his legs.

"Can you make another bridge and tear it down behind us?" he called over the sound of hooves and the rush of wind.
 
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"No need," she said briskly. No fear tinged her voice, but then, that had been a rare enough emotion for her to display in the first place. "I can make it insubstantial except where Respite touches it," she added.

That meant they needed to return to the stream that they had camped near. It was half a mile distant, at least, and a quick glance back showed her pursuit to be gaining on them rapidly. Unfortunately for the centaurs, it was nowhere near fast enough. Nevertheless, she urged more speed out of the stallion, and the beast willingly complied, throwing himself ahead with every ounce of speed he could muster.

The stream came into sight, and here it was wide enough and, she hoped, deep enough to slow their pursuit. The prim already raged through the seelie, a fount needing only a tap. Drawing upon it, she wove a ribbon of light, a lattice of magic that hung gleaming in the air before them. As Respite reached it, the beast did not shy, and instead stepped up onto that unsubstantial bridge; where is hooves hit it, the air became solid and opaque.

She was focused on the magic, and did not see the threat immediately. She felt the stir of magic, and looked up in time to see a trio of pixies with their heads bowed, and like that they lashed out with their magic, cutting the threads and undoing her bridge. She could have countered, but her inattention cost her the chance.

As one, the horse and its two riders plunged into the frigid stream.
 
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Draedamyr

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There was an intricacy in the magic beyond his senses. He saw the pixies, but didn't feel them picking at the threads of Seska's magic.

What he did feel was the sudden weightlessness as the platforms were dispelled from under them. Then came the sudden rush of ice cold water.

Respite quickly resurfaced, the horse floated easily. Draedamyr drew air in sharply, his body tensing from the shock of the cold. The horse had already started kicking beneath the surface.

"Fuck," went Draedamyr. He turned as he floated on his back. The centaurs were lined up across the far bank.

"Well they're...not...throwing spears...at us...yet..."
 
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She went in without so much as an undignified squeak, though the shock of the cold was unpleasant. The natural elements did not really touch her unless they were extreme and, well..running meltwater was certainly an extreme.

She surfaced and immediately headed toward the far bank, the one opposite the centaurs. The skirts of her dress tangled in her legs and threatened to drag her down into the relatively shallow water; Respite was already on the other bank where the the fae flitted about. She could feel the glam they laid upon the beast as he stopped there, dripping on the bank, and feel them turn towards her and attempt the same.

From the other bank, the horse-men were grumbling among themselves, and something about their speech made the ancient seelie pause as she got her feet under her, sloshing up from the waters cold embrace while the pixies, curious expressions on their faces at the failed attempt to glamour her, flitted to and fro.

She turned, and stopped dead at the sight of the pennons and banners that hung limp on the still air. She was naturally pale, but now she looked as white as a ghost. She recognized the language as common....but no common ever spoken here, on Arethil. It bore no resemblance to any spoken language on this world, either.

More pressing, though, were the banners. The gold and black with the chaotic figure centered squarely on its field: Leto, the God of Chaos. And, lesser and somehow more prominent despite it, the banner of an angel on one knee, also in gold and black, trimmed with red.

The Warguard of Rage.

"Ghosts..." she whispered to Draedamyr as she stood their staring. The Centaurs stared back, some with horn bows knocked and held at the sides, ready to loose if need be. "These are ghosts. They have to be..."
 
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Water trickled down the blade of his sword. He had drawn it as soon as he had crawled up onto the bank. He stood watching the pixies flitting about, unsure if they posed a risk.

"They don't look like ghosts," Draedamyr replied. "Shit, they have bows."

The depth of the situation was still sinking in. They weren't escaping this.

"Why aren't they shooting us?"

It was a good party trick to deflect an arrow with the blade of a sword. It wasn't the same as coming under a volley of arrows whilst sodden and weighed down by his clothes.
 
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"Why would they do that? Why would they do that?"

The pixies were the ones that answered, not Seska, and they sang the words out with pure delight. The darted round Draedamyr and Seska as nimble as could be. Their laughter at the own response was piercing and high.

"Because these three have us captured as well as they do," the seelie replied, and the trio of overgrown flies tittered to themselves, singing something in a language even Seska did not know. The centaurs across the way steadied themselves, and seemed to resign themselves to waiting. What for, well, that was anyone's guess.

"Well, you have us, now what-"

"The Lord! the Lord!" One said.

Another, while the first was still chanting, chimed in. "He wants you, wants to see you. Now! Now!"

The third spun rapidly round Draedamyr's head, laughing wildly. "Maledict wants you! Alive, alive, he wan'ts you alive," she sang to Draedamyr.

Seska weighed the risk of standing up and fighting, and decided it was probably unwise. "Well...I suppose we do not have any choice, then," she replied unahppily, looking to Draedamyr sidelong. No fear in her eyes, no unease...only questions burning there.
 
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Draedamyr caught that look. He moved to slowly sheathed his sword. He ran his hands over his hair to try and wipe away some of the water, then shook his arms. None of them seemed to pay him all that much heed.

He had to wonder how much protection her ward would provide him if he decided to swat one of them out of the air. Could silence one of the irritating creatures.

"Maledict? He? I hope you have some idea of what's going on here," he said. It seemed unfair to put that on Seska, but he was irked beyond tiptoeing around the matter. This was otherworldly magic and only Seska had a chance of understanding it.
 
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"Lord Maledict," one of the pixies chimed in before the seelie could respond to Draedamyr. They flitted about in a maddening fashion, chattering among themselves like children. Dangerous children, though; far more dangerous than their minascule size and their rambunctious nature would lead one to believe.

"He was-," she began, then cast a glance at their dancing captors. "Is a lord of an alliance of nation states called the Warguard of Rage." She looked across the stream, and began to call upon the prim, to rebuild the bridge to cross. "A powerful force in service to the God Leto on the world of Tonan," she said, and she emphasized the last bit.

"Ah ah ah! You didn't say the magic word!" One of the annoying little winged dervishes said, and suddenly the ancient fae felt the power she was gathering ripped away from her. She could feel it, too, and only had to marvel at how skilled these pixies were to so effortlessly crush her magic before she could even respond.

It caused a kernel of anger to erupt deep within, but she kept her face smooth.

"Swim! Swim! Cross the stream," said another, and they darted in to push (ineffectually) at the larger beings, towards the water.
 
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"A conquering force then."

Draedamyr looked down at the pixie fluttering at his chest. He actually snarled. The frustration was something Seska wouldn't have seem quite this raw before. At his age he took most things in his stride. The last month however was pushing him towards the edge.

"If you keep pushing me, I will pull off your wings one by one," he growled.

Their magic could diffuse Seska. That was terrifying. He was beyond being cowed by the little beasts. Once he had caught an arrow out of the air with his sword. He would try his hand at a pixie if they didn't relent.

He slowly unbuckled his sword belt so that he could hold it out overhead this time.
 
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Irritation rose slowly as she waded out into the water, her skirts pushing against her legs in the current of cold water. The pixies seemed not to care what it was Draedamyr had to say to them, and danced about in the air like annoying children, only children that were a bit too quick to catch.

"If you can catch me," the one that he had snapped at teased back, flitting about like a blow fly, only more annoying. "And if you do, if you do, it will be a handful of smoke, of smoke," she sang, and vanished in a puff only to coalesce a little distance away out of that smoke, giggling madly all the while.

The centaur pranced a bit as they waited on the far side, their stern expressions carved into their human-like faces. One, with his arms crossed in front of his chest, scowled at the pair of them, looking first to the taller figure of Draedamyr and then to the more diminutive one. "No commoners are you," he said in perfectly serviceable common. The pixies danced about the pair, and then one of them took off to spin around his head as well, laughing and chittering ceaselessly.

The centaur took a swipe in the air at the annoying thing, and it dodged him effortlessly, to a chorus of muttered growls from the other horse-people round him. "Go bother someone else, you damned fool-faeries," he snarled, and then turned to Draedamyr. "You and your companion, step to it. We have a little ground to cover. His Lordship wishes to speak to you," he said.

Seska said nothing, hooded eyes taking in all and revealing nothing.
 
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Draedamyr

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If the situation had been dire, he might have been tempted to test their confidence. Draedamyr might have been shaped of mortal stuff, but he was devilishly quick. And faeries, just like the demons, did not enjoy the kiss of iron or steel. Even if there hadn't been risk, swatting at pixies with his sword might have simply been amusement for the centaurs watching from the far side of the river.

The giggling continued to test his patience as they waded across.

The centaurs didn't ask for his sword so he didn't hand it over. There were enough of them that they likely assumed he wouldn't be foolish enough to draw it.

"Very well," said Draedamyr.

He cast a sidelong glance at Seska. That they addressed him actually gave him a modicum of hope. His initial fear was that they were after Seska, just as the demons had been. In fact it might just be as simple as having crossed the scouts of the moving army. It was small hope that it could be resolved peacefully.
 
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Their escort maintained a tight cordon round their prisoners, for that was all that the sidhe was prepared to believe they were for the moment. she kept pace with some difficulty, for they did not shorten their strides to suit hers, and even the taller elf would have struggled a little to maintain the quick pace set by the hooved horse-men.

The pixies left them as soon as they left the water, heading the opposite direction, further afield. There was a sigh of relief from more than one of their captors, and even she had to stifle it. They had been annoying, uncouth, and utterly merciless in their antics. Whatever their prospects for the near future, the diminutive woman might very well have cast the dice on their survival to show those annoying pipsqueaks exactly what she was capable of, rather than bandying about minor magics.

"A few more days," she overheard as their captors slowed their pace, and she was suddenly more easily able to keep up. "A few more days, and we'll encamp for a couple days before the final march," said the same one.

"That's assuming they don't raze the ground with hellfire in the meantime," another noted, and gave an odd whinnying laugh that rattled round her head. "Can't fight something that flings magic so casually, not without getting scorched."

There was an uncomfortable silence among the centaurs.

"This does not bode well," the ancient one said to Draedamyr. She was not entirely convinced of what it was they were dealing with, but she was utterly certain of the standards and banners being carried and shown. They were impossible, they had no place in Arethil, and yet....and yet, they were here. Along with an army large enough for any of the major city states to sit up and take notice of. "I...I cannot believe that were are actually on Tonan," she added. Tonan, the ancient and dead world, whose ashes haunted her nightmares every so often.
 
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They must have seen the two of them as such a minor threat to talk so openly of their plans. It either meant they thought the two of them were not enemies or that there was little chance of them escaping.

"This does not bode well,"

"That is putting it somewhat lightly," Draedamyr replied. An army on the move wouldn't waste much time interrogating possible spies, but it still wouldn't be a pleasant way to die.

we are actually on Tonan

Draedamyr almost stopped. A centaur barked out for him to keep moving.

"We can't be..." he hissed.
 
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"You are right, we can't be," she agreed. If there were a way to travel off of Arethil, she would have done so long before he had ever been born. Long before, in fact, most of the world he knew had been around in any meaningful way. "There are other possibilities, but...but I need to think," she added vehemently.

Was it possible that others had survived the end of the world? Was it possible the world had not ended at all, and that following her departure things had carried on, recovered eventually? If so, and they had followed in the footsteps of those that had brought about the calamity, then they were in for a rather nasty surprise. This was a one-way trip; there was no returning home, and much of the way of Tonan would fail miserably on this world.

Much, but not all. There was great damage that could be down to this world if, in fact, a handful of realms or - god forbid - a guild had managed to create a portal and cross between worlds. It was not an ultra-rare talent among her kind, at least not on a world where such a thing was possible.

"I hope this isn't some kind of particularly lucid dream," she said after a little while.
 
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Draedamyr poked her sharply in the shoulder, offering a shrug as way of apology. This place didn't seem all that different. If it had been night then maybe the moons and stars might have been different.

Red might have been waiting for them in the campsite back on some other world. The thought chilled him. Another thought crossed his mind.

"But it could be," he said. "And that would mean that you are finally home, wouldn't it?"

There were more signs of the force ahead. It didn't sound as if they were marching to drumbeat any longer so they might have broken up. From what the centaur had said they were marching hard to catch someone unawares. At least that was his interpretation for now.
 
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"No," she said simply. There was some emotion in her voice, but it was next to impossible to identify what it might be. The ancient was enigmatic at the best of times, her emotions and thoughts cloaked behind a sometimes inhuman visage, something unknowable to the mortals whom she wandered the world with.

"Tonan was destroyed," she said. "The seas were boiling, throwing thick clouds into the skies as fire rained down. No green thing lived, no city remained standing. All was a choking pall of ash and smoke, dimly lit through an eternally hazy sky," she continued. It held the feel of a recitation, an ancient memory well remembered even if it was not blessed. "My keep was a pile of broken stone, molten slag running from those places that the most intense sorcery struck." She looked to Draedamyr, but her eyes held nothing of the woman he had known. Cold, haunted....unknowable. "I can still smell the rot, now, tens of thousands of years later."

The smell of the dead, buried in their homes. The dead numbering in the hundreds of thousands; fields of wind-blown ashes, forests blazing like matches. Liquid fire running from shattered peaks - not one or two or three, but hundreds. Thousands. Tens of thousands, while the land itself rocked and bucked and shattered, fissures opening to swallow settlements before slamming shut.

She shivered, as though someone had walked across her grave.

"This must be something else. We have to be on Arethil...the question is what are they doing here?" Whatever emotion had been there was gone, shoved brutally aside.
 
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His feelings had been mixed ok the possibility. She had only let him see a hint of the pain she carried before, but he had wondered if she held hope of returning home. That possibility had also frightened him. If that path had been opened to her then surely she would have left him behind for it?

Draedamyr had not felt that kind of ugly, twisting fear at the prospect of losing someone for a long time. All his relationships had either slowly faded or come to an abrupt, bloody end. It was a change from the deep hole he had found himself in.

Then Seska let him view just a little more of the scars laid down long ago by her past and suddenly his own problems seemed small.

He reached out, gently resting a hand on her slender shoulder. As he pursed his lips he gave a gentle squeeze.

"Let's go an ask whoever is in charge then," he said with a little more confidence in his tone.
 
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She cast a sidelong look at her companion, and after a little time, nodded. "Yes, lets," she said. She did not add that it was unlikely they would have a choice in the matter, anyway.

Their guards were mindful of them, but it was apparent that neither had any intention of running after the first mile or two. The banter and muffled grumbling between the assorted horse-warriors seldom stayed on a single topic for any length of time before drifting. It was infuriating, to Seska at least, that they did not talk more of current events beyond their march across the world. By silently listening, both she and Draedamyr overheard that they had been on the march for two weeks already.

Two weeks through Arethil. It was not possible that they had not encountered a village or other small settlement, that their passage would not have been remarked by someone in that time. The occasional glance to Draedamyr, to see if he was paying any mind to their words and perhaps coming up with some conclusion of his own, was the only indication she gave of having any thought beyond where her next step went.

It was drawing on evening before the steady roll of the drums returned, and shockingly they were upon the encamped army before they knew it.

It was a familiar scene to her, even if some of the memories were hazy. There was no easy way to keep units together amid the trees, so groups of tents or bedrolls gathered round fires only just now being set alight, while men tended to putting together what they could for food from what was foraged and what was provided from rations. The familiar scent of an army on the move assaulted her nose, the rank odor of unwashed bodies, the latrine pits, and horse manure.

Everything was not chaotic, though. The horse lines were neatly arranged so that they remained within the perimeter of the force, and a solid presence of pickets indicated whoever was in charge knew their business. Given that she and Draedamyr had been swept up by the scouts, it was easy to assume that they still had a screen of light cavalry - or centaurs, in this case - ranging ahead, keeping an eye for any threat.

They also had more pixies flitting about here than she expected to see, the subtle tang of their magic filling the air. "If only I could handle iron easily," she muttered to herself. She would love to wrap a horseshoe around one of their necks.

"You two, you come with me," one of their escorts suddenly said. He pranced about, and then indicated the path further into the encampment. "Don't try anything silly, now," he added, and then led the way. There was no need for further escort, here at least; there were thousands of men within easy call, and they couldn't hope to go far without being recaptured.
 
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"If only I could handle iron easily,"

"Steel would do," Draedamyr reflected dryly. "However I don't think I could slap all of them out of the air quickly enough to make it worthwhile."

Following the centaur's direction they walked unescorted deeper into the camp. Clearly no one thought they were suicidal assassins, willing to die for the chance at killing whoever was leading this force.

The army was so large that if they had managed to outpace the scouts they probably could have kept ahead of the army. Such a large force took time to make and break camp.

"Going to guess the tents," Draedamyr said, pointing ahead. "Pixies would have them them we're coming?"

He didn't feel like explaining himself.
 
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"Nuisances," she agreed. They had always been and always would be; among her kind, their were notorious tricksters and pranksters, even more so than the normal run-of-the-mill fae. They would sow discord and chaos anywhere and everywhere they could get away with it, and be happy for all of it.

Their sole escort did indeed lead them to tents. They were not lavish or grand things, clearly designed for the march and for utility. The pennons snapping in the light wind were known to her, and they should not have been; the personal sigil of Maledict. The trouble was, this was the Warguard if the banners were right, and Maledict had always controlled the Demonic Reality, not the Wargaurd of Rage.

"His Lordship will receive you now," the centaur replied in a gruff tone, and stepped aside as they came to a larger tent than the rest. Seska cast a side-eyed glance at Draedamyr, and then stepped forward and through the flaps.

What was waiting on the other side was not what she expected. Maledict was not there - which should not have been very surprising, truthfully. Her and Draedamyr were merely vagabonds caught out in the field, at best peasants that had failed to flee in time and at worst enemy agents that had done the same. The man seated at the large table, with maps spread across it and weighted down by inkwells and stones, looked up as they came in. Something in his face seemed familiar to her...but she could not place it.

He looked at her hard for a long moment, glancing at Draedamyr a moment before returning his eyes to her face. "Uncanny," he said under his breath.

"Uncanny?" She raised an eyebrow at him, and he shrugged.

"You have a striking likeness to the Sorceress," he said. "Not quite perfect though." He stood up, and looked to Draedamyr once more. "Regardless, if you were her, this whole valley would be molten slag and ashes by now. I very much suspect you are simply citizens of these lands that got caught in our screen and little else?" It was a question, directed to Draedamyr and not to Seska.
 
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Draedamyr

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He didn't look like a Meledict, Draedamyr thought to himself. Then again, he didn't think that Seska looked like a sorceress who would burn a valley to ash. It was a fact he still hadn't fully come to terms with.

He knew her now, not the version of her that had done terrible deeds. Those scars went deeper than those on her back and chest from when she had been killed.

He was being addressed and given his suspicions about Seska, it seemed wise to be the one talking back. The truth of the matter could wait. It seemed impossible to have someone who could recognise Seska, given her age. It seemed impossible to have a force of centaurs and pixies of this size too.

None of that would really matter to Draedamyr if they couldn't get out of this camp.

"It's good to talk to someone reasonable and not a jabbering pixie," Draedamyr said, but he moved on swiftly.

"Near enough. We're not from far away. When we heard the army on the move we tried to get out of the way."
 
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The man grunted in response to Draedamyr, and rose to the clink of his rather odd looking armor, a gambison with irridescent metal plates sewn on. He gave a sour look out the tent, and shook his head. "Necessary evil, those. If we'd had any brownies to do the work it would be better - their ilk can get into any place and back out again without being seen - but the pixies do well enough as scouts." He looked the swordsman up and down quite openly. "Mind, they make for much more interesting target practice," he added drily.

"You should not have heard about us moving just yet, though." The man seemed a trifle unsettled, but not entirely out of countenance. He paused, as though listening to something or someone, and then moved pieces on the map.

Seska was quite familiar with this. She had personally led innumerable sorties and assaults, coordinating a dozen nobles to strike at targets - often much stronger than her or her fellows collective strength. This was the beginnings of a war with someone, but there was nothing to identify who, or what, or why. Though, in truth, often the why was little more than the accretion of power and land, or gold, or a combination of all of those things.

"Regardless, it would be best if you did not leave for the moment. The fae and yourself can remain as our guests until this initial operation has concluded. Not that I do not trust you to keep your tongue from wagging-" one look said that he very much did not trust them to not do such - "and in any case, accidents happen in war."
 
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The pixies could have done a worse job as scouts and saved them from this trouble. Draedamyr grimaced at the thought of the flighty little beasts being their downfall.

Draedamyr was trying not to look at the table. He made so much of a conscious effort not to look at the arrangement of the pieces that he started to worry he would look like he was trying too hard, rather than the appearance of nonchalance he was going for.

"I don't even know where you're going to attack," Draedamyr glanced down at the table and shrugged. "Though I suppose it is there. We don't have much of a choice in the matter so where do you want us to go."

He meandered past the barely veiled threat. There was nothing of use left to ask. More than anything right now, he hoped that Seska - the sorceress lookalike - had some answers to everything going on.
 
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"No," the man said to Draedamyr, "you don't have any choice in this matter. Regardless, you may go. We'll release you as soon as the campaign commences. Do not do anything both of us will regret," he said in a clear tone of dismissal, and went back to the study of the map.

Outside the tent, the sorceress huffed. "I could not read that map," she said in a low voice, conscious of the faefolk flitting about. "It was blurred by some kind of magic - for me, at least." The fact that it had not been so for Draedamyr would not be apparent to her; she had sensed no magic while trying to decipher the thing.

She looked round the encampment. "Now what? Do we just sit on our hands and wait until they release us or...?"
 
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