Private Tales The Sandstorm

Kiia Sidra

High Priestess
The Empire
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Kiia had spent the last few months in marble palaces and bustling desert metropolises. It had been comfortable, for sure, but she enjoyed the chances she got to go back to her nomadic, tribal roots. She was not always High Priestess; a century ago she was merely "priestess," or "healer," or even more simply: "kind woman." She had few regrets in her life, but not being able to walk the open sands as regularly was unfortunate.

So it was with great anticipation that she awaited her annual trip to Maraan. The trading city was a colorful and musical place, with goods from around the world. This time she had brought a small caravan with which she would transport the goods she bought back to Annuakat and had quite a bit more money to spend, but she still enjoyed the nostalgia of the ritual.

She moved through the market stalls slowly, and people seemed happy to move out of her way. Maybe it was because she was obviously a priestess, maybe it was because the silks she wore were obviously quite fine, or maybe it was because she walked with a golden cane to stifle the limp in her left leg. The leg itself, like the rest of her body, was adorned in ornate white tattoos of sprawling tree branches, but these did not disguise the fact that it was thin, wasted, and stiff.

Finally she reached the vendor she was looking for, and the elf greeted her with a smile warmer than the desert sun.

"Kiia Sidra, my dear it is good to see you." He moved around his stall with arms outstretched to embrace her. His face was partly shaded by the light turban he wore out of necessity. He was quite fair-skinned, and his blonde hair and blue eyes offered next to no defense from the relentless rays.

"Fhaerlevir, how have you been?" Kiia replied, matching his smile and accepting his embrace. "I trust the journey from the Falwood was uneventful?"

"Oh, you know it never is, but nothing I couldn't handle. But my sweet friend, what has happened to you?" His question was directed at both her handicap and her obviously expensive attire.

"It has been an eventful year, to say the least," she answered kindly, but in a voice that indicated no further questions would be needed at this time.

"Well, at day's end we must catch up. But first, please! Come see what I have brought you!"

Fhaelevir sold plants. Large plants, small plants, flowering plants, vines and mosses, magical and mundane. His entire stall was a verdant green interspersed with every color imaginable, and despite the dry air, it smelled of humid jungles and deep woods. Kiia knew there must be some magic employed to preserve them, but she had never been able to convince Fhaelevir to part with that secret.

She perused his goods while he helped other customers and made idle banter here and there. She inquired about where certain plants were from and what their properties were. The questions were as much a part of the ritual as anything, and she enjoyed them, but they were not strictly necessary. Kiia was looking for one thing: lifeforce. She did not need anyone else to assess that.

Her eyes wandered the market in between plants. The most interesting travelers came to Maraan, she wondered who she might find here.

 
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A scrap would likely catch her attention, ruining her peaceful browsing. The sounds of yelling, coming from within another nearby shop, this one selling various long living foods, such as jerky and dried fruits. A desert survival shop, being the exact term. "WE DON'T SERVE ELDERSPAWN HERE." Was something she'd distinctively hear as what seems to be a tiefling backpedals out of the shop. He seems to be bobbing and weaving for some reason, which would become prevalent when the dwarf follows the ship, swinging the vary axe that the tiefling was currently leaning away from, careful not to let that blade strike. In a lucky shot, the tiefling yells in pain as the axe slashes across his left arm, causing him to trip on his own leg in surprise, and fall on his ass.

The dwarf had his axe raised for another blow, but then he met those grey colored eyes, burning with an anger that froze the grumpy bearded dwarf solid as stone. The dwarf began slowly backing up as the tiefling he had attacked stuck a finger into the gash on his arm, and proceeded to draw a circle with a triangle within it on his right palm. The dwarf now new it was time to run, but it was too late. The tiefling casted it's palm outwards, the blood on his palms seeming to demanifest as an invisible blow of pure kinetic force sent the dwarf flying off his feet, straight back into the shop. The dwarf would live, a minor bone break at the most in terms of injury. The elf would have seen it clearly, what he did with that blood, how so little covered the cost to send a person flying off their feet. Standing up once again, he proceeded to take more blood from the gash, and paint a fire rune on his right palm. His hand began to glow with an infernal fire. He pushed that hand onto his wound, cauterizing it with an annoyed hiss of pain. With his injury solved, he decided to continue looking around the market. Funnily enough, the shop containing the priestess was his next stop!

Kiia Sidra
 
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Kiia Sidra

High Priestess
The Empire
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Kiia's head turned at the dwarf's outburst, along with a few other onlookers. The general noise of the market usually drowned out such things, but open violence was rare. She saw the axe bite, saw the horned man go down. She was glad that he had not been killed, but the manner in which he defended himself was most intriguing.

She had heard of blood being used as a magical catalyst, indeed it had been brought up when Drakormir had burst from the earth, but the concept was still strange to her.

"There's always one..." Fhaerlevir said quietly with a disapproving look, although it was not clear whether he was addressing the tiefling or the dwarf. Kiia made sure not to stare as the man approached the flowery stall, keeping watch from the corner of her eye. When he came near, she turned and spoke to him.

"I can help with that," she said in a voice like warm honey, indicating his burned skin. "Perhaps avoid a scar... though you don't seem the type to care about that, do you?" A sly smile, and a twinkle of topaz eyes.

"Eh, just keep the fires away from my plants, if you please," Fhaerlevir added, giving Aldenaxk a stern but not totally unwelcome gaze.

"Oh, I'm sure our friend knows better than that," she replied to the merchant, but she did not break eye contact with the tiefling.
 
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Alden spots the sand elf and stares for a moment. Pretty, really pretty. Then he shakes his head, bringing himself back to his senses. Her question draws a wry chuckle out of the tiefling, a grin on his face showing off those incisors in his mouth. "Believe it or not I used to. Got caught in an explosion with a copious amount of wooden shards a month or so back. At that point it was kinda hard to stop the scarring...But I'll take the help to keep another scar at bay if you're offerin."

With that said, his gaze turns to the shop owner. "Don't you worry, avoid swingin an axe my way and we'll get along famously." He states, grey eyed gaze turning back to the elf, locking eyes with her once again. He offers his hand for her to shake. "Name's Aldenaxk. What might the name of yer charming self be?" He grins, happy to find people that don't want to swing axes at him. If she can sense magic, this fellow has something about him...he's touched by something ancient. Most tieflings have the infernal sense about them, similar to demons. This one is more...eldritch.

Kiia Sidra
 
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Kiia Sidra

High Priestess
The Empire
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Kiia kept her lips turned up in a warm smile and her eyes hooded as she took Aldenaxk's hand in her dark fingers. She noted that the blood had left his palm, though it had been painted on twice. Curious. "Al-de-nax..." she struggled a bit with the pronunciation, "my name is Kiia. Now, just a moment."

She took her left hand and rested it gently on Alden's upper arm. The rough flesh was still hot to the touch. It was not a serious injury and thus would not take too much trouble to mend. With a small internal push, Kiia gently nudged some of the life energy from her own body into his. It went to work immediately, repairing the scoured skin and torn muscles. Color would return to normal, callus would become soft and smooth, and angry burning would cool to the normal heat of life.

She did feel some ripples from his own lifeforce. There was definitely something unusual in there, although what she could not say for sure. It made the hair on her arms and neck stand on end.

She exhaled when the job was done, lowering her hand. "There," she said, but her attention was brought skyward as the sunlight began to fade. The once blinding white orb was a dull orange, and growing deeper red by the second. The blue sky was hazy and dark, and almost immediately following the change in light, the wind hit.

A sandstorm was coming, and a large one by the looks of it. "Excitement seems to follow you closely, Aldenaxk. We must get inside." She bade farewell to Fhaerlevir as he hurredly began fastening down his stall, covering the hardier plants and starting to move the more fragile ones indoors as best he could.

"This way," she said to the tiefling, "There is a teahouse that I have been meaning to visit."
 
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Alden lets a relieved sigh leave his lips as she works. He's completely immune to fire, but searing a wound shut was painful in different ways to be certain. "Al-den-axk. There's like, a 'k' after the 'x'. My parents leave me nothing but a name and apparently it had to be that one." He says in a sort of wry humor. Once the healing is done, another relaxed sigh leaves him. "Thank you, that was quite helpful. So, what brings you to this city, or do you live here perhaps? I've spent most of my life on a boat...so....This is the direct opposite."

He looks at the sky as well when the darkness comes in fast, lips pursing into a frown. "Demon attack? Bloodmoon? What in the nine-" Then she begins speaking, assuaging his worries. This was his first time seeing a sandstorm after all. "Eh, even the worst sandstorm can't be as bad as a typhoon....I don't think? I dunno, I'm just trying to reassure meself, to tell you the truth. But yes, I do lead an annoyingly exciting life. Can't even get a rum without a dwarven axe to go with it."

When the elf gestures for him to follow, he's more than happy to oblige. Follow the pretty elf? Any time as long as she doesn't shank him. He's still a bit wary, but she's right. It would be best to get inside. "Teahouse eh? Hopefully this one lacks racism." He states, walking alongside her. He's definitely got the accent of a sailor. But what's a sailor doing so far out here? Upon noticing how close the storm is getting, Alden takes the hooded cloak off of his shoulders to offer it to her if she doesn't already have one. "Here' I'd hate to see sand get in those pretty eyes'o yours." He's a terrible flirt, but he seems to mean well.

Kiia Sidra
 
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Kiia Sidra

High Priestess
The Empire
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Character Biography
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The wind had picked up at an alarming rate even by the time the pair made it to the teahouse. Already the air had started to look hazy, as small bits of sand starting to lift from the streets. Kiia had been in many sandstorms, too many to remember, but very few of them had arrived so suddenly.

"Aldenaxk," she repeated correctly, her tongue getting used to the name. She accepted his offer of a cloak, more out of politeness than need. She noted the flirtation, and while she did not directly reciprocate, she did not dissuade it either. "Thank you. I cannot say I have witnessed a typhoon, but the stories told by sailors are terrific. Are you a sailor?"

They stepped into the teahouse and it was immediately clear than many people had the same idea. It was densely packed with standing room only as everyone attempted to avoid the coming storm. There was no sign of a seat, until a man called out in Kiia's native language, "[Priestess, sister! Come, take our table!]"

She turned to Aldenaxk with a wry expression. "Maraan has travelers from the world over. In truth, I am surprised you met discrimination, and I am sorry for it. You will get no such treatment from my people while you are with me." The man who had called was indeed a sand elf, and Kiia accepted his offer graciously. Two men stood to make room for her and the tiefling. "Sit," she whispered to him, "it would be rude to refuse." It felt good to rest her leg, already it had begun to ache, and she leaned her cane on the table.

"To answer your earlier question, I have not been 'from' anywhere for some time. All of Abtatu's lands are my home." Normally this was comforting, but as the sky grew angrier outside, she felt a small hint of worry. The wind was whistling loudly now, and workers were packing cloth under the door to keep out the invading sand.

The abtatu who had vacated his seat brought over two cups of tea for them, and as Kiia reached for it a spark arced between the copper handle and her fingers. The pain was minimal, but the static in the air worried her even more.
 
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"There ye go." He gives a thumbs up as she gets the name right this time. He then looks around. "I've got a bad feelin about this storm...." He mutters while following along behind her. When she poses that question, he lets out a sort of somber sigh. "Used to be, was part of a crew for a long time. Had a run in with something at sea...Somethin not meant for the mortal eyes...I can't remember what did us in, all I know is that it's for the best that I don't. Whatever it was hit out ship hard enough that wooden shards fell everywhere and..." he gestures to the scars across his body. "You get the idea. Been wandering around, trying to find my footing ever since. It's quite the change from pirate and slaver hunting.."

Then they step into the building. Alden's eyes were scanning about for a seat as well, before a voice in a foreign tongue seemed to beckon them. He takes her words about the discrimination in with a wry chuckle. "Good to know that it's lore a lack of luck than it is racism, though I feel like that was obvious with the timing of the sandstorm." Though he cracked a joke, he does seem happy to be amongst a group of accepting people. When she whispers for him to sit, he does so. Either aside her or across from here. Wherever is appropriate.

"Ah, a Nomad. You ever been outside of Abtatu? If you've ever got the time, I'd recommend you give it a try. Lots of wonders to see about. I have to say, this is definitely My first time traveling these lands. One other place I'd honestly be interested to see is the underrealms, I hear about all those pretty bio luminescent creatures and stuff. If only they weren't filled with-" he takes in a hiss as his cup shocks him as well. "Ok, this ain't no normal sandstorm, can't be." Then he remembers his manners, and almost looks sort of embarassed as he bows his head to the two men. "Name's Aldenaxk. Thanks for the tea."

Kiia Sidra
 
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Kiia Sidra

High Priestess
The Empire
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Kiia looked up from her cup, her eyes alight with concern. "No... it is not normal." She looked up at the sound of rattling shutters and a man and woman trying to bolt them closed. The wind had grown even louder, and no sunlight came through the cracks in the shades. Several of the patrons were visibly worried, and even some of the more grizzled desert travelers were beginning to lift their heads.

In an effort to keep from inciting panic, Kiia spoke quietly and attempting to maintain at least the appearance of a normal conversation. "I have not ventured beyond the desert more than a handful of times, and only just outside its bounds. I am most comfortable with sand beneath my feet, but the underrealm does sound-"

She was cut off by a cacophonous, crackling boom from outside. The shutters flew back and coarse sand began to fly into the teahouse. It was near pitch black outside, and the howling of wind was deafening. People screamed, scrambled to their feet to get away from the windows, but the crowds were dense enough that there was nowhere to go.

Kiia lifted her arms to shield her eyes against the stinging grains, and the abtati men at the table stood. The larger of the two kept the mob from crushing in on the four of them, while the other raised a hand to his forehead and began to chant.

There was second flash of red light, and sound so loud that it physically pushed Kiia back, and then darkness.

~

She blinked her eyes open. She was on her back, lying on hard, broken wood and stone. There were figures above her, and as they swam into focus she could see... a nightmare. It was open sky above and debris below. The sun was but a dim red eye in the sky, barely giving enough light to see by. The abtati men were there, but they were kneeling now. The one who had been chanting before was still doing so, Kiia saw, and she suddenly noticed that she was not being struck by sand. It was like they were inside an invisible bubble while the maelstrom raged without.

All Abtati had some geomancy magic. Kiia herself possessed the gift, but this man was clearly much more powerful to be able to shield four people in such a storm. She wondered if he were doing it by himself.

She sat up. "Aldenaxk?!" She called.
 
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Alden listened to the elf, concerned, but still polite and unafraid. He doesn't scare easy. It's then that the explosion happens. His arm reaches out to help cover her from the incoming sand. "What the he-" Then the boom came, it all went to shit. The explosion sent Kiia flying back, and Alden didn't black out at first. Those men though, they needed time to put up a barrier, debris was still a very real danger. As kiia was knocked back and the wind blow away, pieces of the wall were coming at them like arrow. "WOODEN SHARDS AGAIN, FUCK!" He howls. The men could defend themselves, but those wooden shards were on a direct course for the floored elf, until Alden dashed, teeth gritted, to stand over her. He felt each of them go into his back like blades, pieces of what used to be the shutters sinking into his skin. He then went down, pieces of wood sticking out from his back as if he were a porcupine, soaking the ground around him with blood. Everything went black.

He found himself floating in that cursed void he had visited a million times before. "Any minute now...Show yourself you fungal bastard." He muttered to himself. Then, a slitted yellow eye, large as the sun, opened, bathing him in light. "Here for another pep talk?" A wry chuckle, bigger than comprehension itself, shook the void as a tentacle reached from the darkness, the suction cups seemingly made from mushroom caps. It wraps around him as the voice begins to speak once again. "I must say child, I imagined a more glorious death to something....even as minor as you."

"I do not plan to die here you sick piece of shit, now wake me up." Alden hisses, teeth gritted in a snarl. Another chuckle shakes the void. "Then prove it. Wake up." Both the tentacle and the eye disappeared, and Alden found himself no longer floating. No, he was sinking, further and further into the depths of an unknown sea. The surface would not appear no matter how much he swam. He was running out of breath. he was dying. Then, a voice in the darkness caused beams of light to shine down into the sea, almost blindingly.

'Aldenaxk?!' She had called. She would find him at her feet, face down in the sand, with at least five or six wooden spikes sticking out of his back, though there was no more danger, as the man had put up the barrier by now. In short, Alden doesn't look very alive, and it seems he took a few blows to the back in order to preserve her. That's when it happens, like a corpse rising from the dead, he gets up. Suddenly, unnaturally, as if the determination of a million spirits is fueling him. His eyes are hazy, unfocused. He doesn't stand up, simply sits there on his knees, staring at the puddle of blood that was under his body. Silently, he begins tracing with his finger on the blood wettened floor. He traces a sigil, not in any language Kiia would know. He would then slam his hand onto the stone. All that blood begins disappearing, steam rising from the floor as the stone cracked around them, folding upwards and tearing apart to form a dome over the kinetic shield, so that their current protector need not worry about them dying when his will to use the magic runs out. It is dark within the dome, but there is still visibility from cracks in between the rocks that make it up. Once the dome of stone made from the shop's floor is around them, shaped like the shell of a turtle, Alden's body shivers, as if preventing himself from collapse once again. His grey eyes look to Kiia, fearfully. Fear isn't something he shows often. He pulls one of the wooden spikes out of his back, and holds it out to her. "Use....this blood....as a cost for the spell...Heal me...hurry...I don't know how long I can...." With that, he once again crumples face down on the floor

Kiia Sidra
 
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Kiia Sidra

High Priestess
The Empire
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Kiia gasped as she saw Aldenaxk at her feet. The jagged wooden spikes in his back were gruesome, and she pulled her knees up and away from him as he shuddered to his knees. How was he alive? The was so much blood on the ground, surely he could not survive with so little. She watched with a morbid curiosity as he traced a symbol in his own blood, then confusion as it vanished, and understanding as the stone barrier formed.

The abtatu sorcerer let his hands fall in relief, releasing a breath that sounded like it had been held in effort for some time.

"Use....this blood....as a cost for the spell...Heal me...hurry...I don't know how long I can...."
She took the spike, words failing her, and turned it over in her hand. Blood magic... it was not something she was familiar with. It was a dark art, she knew, and forbidden in many civilized circles. It held tremendous power, though, and Aldenaxk's blood seemed particularly potent. How to use it, though? She didn't tend to "cast" spells as others did, not when she healed, all she did was shuffle lifeforce around, move it from one place to another. That is why she needed the plants. Properly cultivated they were a renewable source of such energy, but there were no plants here, and what little animal life surrounded them she intended to keep within its hosts.

Gingerly, she touched a finger to the dark, sticky substance, probing at it with a gentle pull. There was something there, almost a life of its own. Part of it was Aldenaxk, and part of it... terrible. She had no time to question the offer, no time to consider what risks there would be. With her face set in resolute focus, she grasped the end of the spike and bathed her palm in the tiefling's blood.

When she drew on its power she felt a surge. There hadn't been much lifeforce in it, but whatever energy it held seemed to multiply exponentially. There was so much raw energy that Kiia could almost feel the red lighting in the sky crackle within her own veins. She saw hazy visions of horrible yellow eyes, and for just a moment she was overtaken by a desire to keep this power for herself.

She forced the thoughts from her head. This power was awesome, but tainted. She dropped the spike and fell forwards to place both hands on Aldenaxk's shoulders, shoving the power back inside of him. It left her in a torrent, seemingly eager to return. The spikes in his back started to move as his body pushed them out and flesh knitted neatly beneath them. Bones would splint and heal, blood would return to vessels, and his heart would beat stronger.

Kiia let out a soft, whimpering moan as the last of the power left her, and she shivered as a cold tingle ran up her spine. Her fingers trembled as she took them away. She wasn't sure if she wished to host such a power again.

"Aldenaxk," she repeated, looking at the stone dome over them, glancing to the two other elves. "Thank you, you have saved our lives for the time being..." a few pebbles fell from the ceiling, "...but we will need to be on our feet soon."
 
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Alden's breathing, as it had nearly ceased right before their eyes, begins picking up again under the use of Kiia's magic. The tiefling slowly sits up, wiping the sand from his face with a weak cough. "That was....close." A shiver goes down his spine before he looks to Kiia. "Sorry to have put ya on the spot like that, that can't have been comfortable." He says, looking genuinely concerned. "You saw him....Didn't you? My uh...relative. I'll explain later, for now I need to know what sort of storm this is. This dome won't hold for too long, is there anywhere we can go to escape?" He questions.

He stands up to peek through one of the cracks in the dome, looking outside to see the situation. "This the work of demons? Monsters?" Despite him acting as if he's not even a bit fatigued, it's easy to tell he's tired himself out. He sways a bit when he moves, and there are pauses in between his words, as if he's repeatedly losing his train of thought. He needs some food, or a nap. "By the way, no need to thank me. I said I wanted to keep sand out of your eyes earlier, eh? I like to keep my word." He chuckles wryly.

Kiia Sidra
 
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Kiia Sidra

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Kiia could not deny that she was troubled by Aldenaxk's words. The visions had a name then, or at least an identity. It was becoming difficult to remember the yellow eyes in any detail, like her mind was desperately trying to erase any trace of them, terrified of what it could not comprehend. She was grateful for the storm that it was a suitable distraction, and she even cracked a small smile at Aldenaxk's clumsy flirting.

She looked around, peering out through cracks in the dome. "I don't know... it-" she cut off mid sentence and squinted into the sand. There were shadows... figures... walking in the storm. They stood straight and tall and she could not tell why they weren't bent by the fierce winds. "There are people in the storm but..."

Then they came into view. She saw heavy, curved swords. She saw fierce masks and tattered cloaks. In the center, she saw a figure with a long wooden staff with a red light atop it. Their head was bowed, and they moved as if in a procession. Kiia assumed this wizard was keeping them safe from the sands, but the storm almost seemed focused on the group, as if they were in the eye of the storm.

To her horror, she saw what they were dragging behind them. On long sand-sleds were goods, animals, and people. All tied down, and all unconscious.

"This is no natural sandstorm," she said darkly. "It was summoned." She looked between the tiefling and the other abtati they were with. "There must be buildings that still stand. If you can keep us safe from the sands for a time, we may be able to make it."

She hoped they would not be seen if they did decide to flee.
 
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Alden's mind did not function in the same way. Though he was immortal, his bloodline gives him a certain acclimation to what the average person's mind would try to cleanse in regards to the Elder gods. It certainly must be a scary thought, that he can just gaze upon such a being and not lose his mind. Alden seems to have spotted the same things Kiia has, able to see better through the sand due to darkvision. His eyes narrow.

"The hell are they? Slavers? We can't just let them start grabbin people. Spent my whole life fightin slavers, not about to quit now. I....have an idea. Ain't gonna be pretty, but it's an idea." He looks to Kiia, then the Abtati. "So, I can use blood magic to create exploding runes. I tie one of those runes to an arrow, and fire it into the storm. If I calculate the shot right, it'll land at the mage's feet, or actually hit the mage. Either way, when it hit's, I'll make it explode. Should be enough to either destroy that staff or take down the mage. Let me be clear, I have no idea what that will do, but it won't be good news for them. With...whatever they're using...dead, we go in with your magnetic shield thingy and finish the rest off, then pull the civilians to the nearest safe building." He peers out of the dome, and turns his gaze to Kiia once again. "Sound like a plan?"

Kiia Sidra
 
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Kiia Sidra

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Under all but the most dire of circumstances Kiia had perfected the art of inscrutability. It was paramount, in her profession, to be able to hide her true thoughts and emotions. Instead, she chose her outward expressions very carefully, tailoring each one to the situation at hand. She must never appear out of control, surprised, worried, or fearful.

But when she listened to Alden, her face showed concern. Concern for the danger of this storm, concern for the power required to summon and control it, and concern that whatever powered Alden's abilities may not entirely have their best interests at heart...

"I don't know..." she began, putting a hand to her chin in thoughts. Her brow furrowed, her mind flicking through a hundred scenarios. "We do not know the nature of this magic... if we kill these people the storm may subside... or it may worsen." She stood, just barely able to do so in the low rock shelter. The other abtati had not spoken, although Alden had been easy enough to hear over the storm. They seemed to be waiting for their priestess to make a decision.

Kiia closed her eyes and set her face, donning a mask of confidence once more. They did not have any choice, for their shelter would crumble within minutes. "Alright," she said finally. "Do it."

She turned to the geomancer. "Be ready. If the storm does not stop, you and I will need to work together against the sands." He nodded at her words, and also stood.

She looked back to Alden, and waited.
 
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"Eh, it'll be fine. Ain't no worse than a typhoon." Alden says in that relaxed manner of his. Death is something he stopped fearing long ago. That would perhaps change as time went one, but right now? He had lost everything, the fact that he has nothing to lose being the source of his fearlessness. Their shelter was already getting weaker. He casually punches a hole in the wall, which is still a slightly scary feat of strength for one so lanky in form. He then takes out his bow, and a piece of paper. Biting his thumb, he proceeds to paint a circle on the piece of paper, and then tie it to one of his arrows.

With that preparation done, he knocks the arrow, aiming it far ahead of the group outside, calculating wind strength. Finally, he lets the arrow fly. His aim is about as true as it can get in a sandstorm, as the wind would blow it of course, making the shot imperfect. If he's lucky, it'll hit the mage. If not, it'll at least land nearby the mage's feet. Either way, Alden snaps his fingers after the arrow lands, and an explosion of pure kinetic force is sent outwards, enough to send the average man flying off their feet. Hopefully that's enough to break the mage's concentration, or break the staff. If it the arrow actually did hit the mage, his companions would be horrified as he quite literally explodes from the inside.

Kiia Sidra
 
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The arrow flew true... about half way to its target. Just after Alden let the shot fly a fierce gust of wind whirled around the group of masked figures, taking the tiny arrow in its grasp and hurling it past its targets and into the darkness of whistling sand. A moment later, the detonation lit up the background, followed half a second later by a boom that Kiia felt in her chest.

It was not total loss, however, and while Kiia bit her lip as she saw the arrow miss she shot into action a moment later. The explosion had drawn the people's attention, and the whole ground turned away from their stony hiding place to look.

There was no time to lose, and she shouted orders over the wind. "You, carry me," she said to the tall sand elf, "and you, follow and protect us," she said to the geomancer. She whipped her head back to Alden and her black hair had begun to blow wildly around her head. "If we get you close, can you destroy the staff?"

She did not wait for an answer, instead telling the man who lifted her to take her directly towards the turned group. Between her own weak earth manipulation and the skilled sorcerer with them, they should be able to survive the storm long enough to reach their foes.

She hoped.
 
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"Or the man carryin it. Don't expect me to be nonlethal." He draws the sword he's had on a belt at his side. It's a simple longsword, not a greatsword, just a longsword that would typically be wielded with two hands. Alden however, easily wields it with one hand. "Ready when you folk are." He states.

When the barrier around them finally falls, he charges alongside them, their approach silenced by the roar of the sandstorm. Alden ended up charging up behind the mage, since the fellow was turned around and facing where the explosion went off. The mage wouldn't have time to react as Alden swings that longsword to chop off the top half of the staff, and then brings the blade about in another sweep just as the mage turns around in order to slash him across the neck. If the mage crumples to the ground, he turns to the remaining warriors, ready to fight, and defend his elven friends if need be.

Kiia Sidra
 
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Kiia Sidra

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The Empire
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The mage did not hear Alden's approach, and the staff was cleanly cut in half. The mage's blood found its way into the swirling storm as he fell. Kiia watched the tiefling dance through the sands and could not help but be impressed.

The moment the staff was severed there was a tremendous crash of red lightning above. The abtati men were thrown to the ground, dropping Kiia roughly in the sand. With a final burst of wind... the storm stopped. The howling maelstrom lessened as gales turned to gusts turned to a gentle breeze. The sand that had been whipped into the sky started to fall in a gentle snow, giving the appearance of a golden fog as the sun regained its light.

The masked men began to pick themselves up, yelling amongst themselves in harsh accents. They saw Alden, and their dead comrade, and a roar of berserk rage escaped them. All three hurled themselves at the elderspawn with large, jagged weapons.

Kiia pushed herself to her feet, adrenaline dulling the protests of her withered leg. She ran, uneven and clumsy, to the group just twenty feet away. She counted her blessings that they had not seen her, preoccupied with Alden's attack. There were three in total, and Kiia grabbed shoulder of the one closest to her and furthest from the tiefling.

There was no time for subtlety, and Kiia pulled at his lifeforce savagely. She didn't drain it, she ripped it out of him. His skin split into bleeding tracts, his eyes shriveled, his bones cracked and pulverized. All of this invisible beneath his robes, and he crumpled in a heap before her within seconds. The surge of energy was disorienting, rarely had Kiia taken life so rapidly, and she was momentarily dazed.

A second barbarian took a swing at Alden, but a pillar of stone shot from the ground to deflect and break his arm. As he screamed, the large sand elf tackled him to the ground.

That left two more foes for Alden to face, and they both came for him in fury.
 
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Alden doesn't even look panicked as the two men charged him. One thing to note about the tiefling is that he has faced two on one fights before. Not only two on one fights, but two on one fights while on a rocking ship in the middle of a typhoon. He's no stranger to unlikely odds. The men both swing at Alden from different angles. He swings his sword, knocking one blade aside while he ducks under the other swing. That's where things get terribly savage.

After ducking under the swing of the second man, he thrusts his head forth at an upward angle, impaling both his horns into the man's chest as he begins to stand upright. This causes the impaled brigand to be thrown over Alden's head to land behind him, much like when someone is thrown by a bull. He swings his longsword outwards as the first man is thrown, knocking the second man's blow aside. Alden's unusual strength for his lanky form has enough power to knock the blade nearly out of the bandit's hands, causing him to fumble, and giving the tiefling just enough time to thrust his blade forward in a strike that drives straight through the the enemy's throat with a sickening crack, the man going limp and remaining suspended by Alden's blade until he pulls it out.

With one definitely dead, he makes his way over to the other one, who is bleeding out on the ground, two large circular puncture wounds in his chest. It was too late, this one was dying. Alden decides to make it fast, crouching down to grab his fallen foe's neck, and with a single flex of his muscles, the man is gone with a snap to announce his fate.

With an irritated sigh, Alden stands upright again, wiping the blood from his forehead that was the result of literally goring a man's chest as if he were a bull. "I'm gonna need a fuckin bath...." He mutters, gaze turning to Kiia and the others. "Are the rest of you folk doing alright?" He gives his sword a quick swing, hard enough to splatter that crimson on the blade onto the sand before he places it into the leather sheath that's at his side.

Kiia Sidra
 
  • Cthuloo
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Kiia Sidra

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Alden's brutality proved effective, and the masked men, whoever they were, died quickly. But why had they come here at all? How had they harnessed such power? Kiia moved as quickly as she could, ignoring the pain in her leg, to the abtati who had his opponent pinned and was beating him mercilessly.

"[Wait!]" Kiia called to him in the sand elf language, "We need to question him," she continued in the common tongue. The sand elf looked disappointed that his rage would not be sated just yet, but he obeyed the priestess. The masked figure gave no resistance, thoroughly bloodied and defeated.

She was relieved to hear Alden unharmed even though he was covered in blood. Looking at him in this state, it was easy to believe the bigoted rumors about tieflings and their infernal heritages. "We are fine," she answered. "Thank you. I am again in your debt."

She looked around. Much of the city had been half buried in sand, but mercifully only a handful of structures had been blown apart as the teahouse had. "We should move him inside." She didn't want whatever interrogation was to follow to be in the public eye, and she was already feeling tired at the amount of care she would likely be giving to the cityfolk very soon.
 
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"Eh, interestin lass such as yerself is worth a few dead bodies, I'd say." He says in response to her words about him being in her debt, chuckling a bit. He wipes more blood off of his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt before making his way over to them. "I see we have a prisoner. Nice work." He states, giving a thumbs up. "Let me help keep the fellow under control."

They might be expecting him to use some sort of fancy blood magic, like he's done thus far. But no, Alden has something much more efficient in mind. Grabbing the shirt of the bandit that their other sand elf companion was keeping held in place, he literally lifts the man to his feet with one arm, and then before the dazed man can retaliate, Alden's head leans forth at high speed, headbutting the man between the eyes with the blunt end of his horns and knocking him out. He then hoists the now unconscious brigand over his shoulder.

He once again looks to Kiia with a wide grin. "Alright, where to next?"

Kiia Sidra