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The destructive power of the mage was astounding. It appeared she could do nearly as much damage as the demon as she sheered one of its wings off with her own magical might. On the other hand, it appeared the other woman that had joined them was mighty in her own way, a born warrior it would seem as she and her hound took to the beast without fear. With these two women and their skills Aurehn was confident in their victory... But their [i other] ally seemed a little less adept than his present company.
[+blue “Oh boy!”] The thief calls, running after the woman with the hound. With his pride a little wounded at her comment, he seemed to double-down on trying to be helpful. He went for the most damaged side of the beast, where the wing and part of its skeleton were exposed and began swiftly hacking away at the obsidian. His skill was raw, more than likely self-taught, but if he had the drive he could be moulded in to a formidable warrior... If he lived long enough that is.
Fortunately for him, the beast's eyes were on the Paladin , but thanks to the enchantments of the mage he was now nimble enough to avoid its attacks. There were extra seconds to think, and extra seconds to gain an advantage. It swiped at him and he moved out of its way more gracefully than he's ever moved, and faster than he could have imagined. It was met with the creature's fury, and it must have thought he was just being cautious. However it was much more simple than that. He was buying time.
And it paid off as the mage's stone golems crashed in to the demon with the furious might of an angry mob. It was magnificent, and it gave Aurehn a moment of reprieve. A moment to focus his own divine energy bestowed to him by a deity long forgotten, yet reached out to him when he believed all was lost. His powers were not unlike the mages, but his required a different kind of concentration and some times more time. Considering the beast they were fighting, he would need all the time he could get to slay it.
As the golems crashed and wrestled in to the demon, Aurehn's sword bursts with a silver light that glinted like the Moon. He places his shield on his back and sprints towards the beast as it battles the stone constructs. He weaves in between the battle, and when he finally closed the distance Aurehn jumps high in the air, higher than any human could, and well above the demon's head. The last thing it would see is the Paladin plunging his glowing blade in between its fiery eyes. The fire extinguished on the beast upon impact, and there was almost a shockwave from the sudden silence in the square, the demon standing in place like it was petrified. Pulling his sword from its skull, he pushes off of the frozen monster and lands on the ground, his divine powers fading as the demon did the same.
Its scales turned to dust, falling off of its obsidian skeleton that soon began to crack like glass before shattering to worthless dust. The silver glow from Aurehn's blade fades completely and he places it in the scabbard on his back, and he turns on his heel back towards the mage.
[+blue “Did you see that?! We won! By thee gods we won!”] The thief cheered to Aurehn as if they were best friends. The Paladin ignores him, simply moving passed him to the sorceress, offering his hand to her if she needed help. He wasn't experienced with her kind of magic, but he knew that was an incredible amount of power she used. Aurehn himself was beginning to feel the effects of the battle as well. When creatures of darkness rose up, so did the divine power in Aurehn so he might be able to strike them down. It did have its limits though and just like anything else, it took its toll.
[b “Thank you, Miss. We surely could not have done this without your aid.”] Many more lives would have been lost if it were not for their assistance... Although it appeared others did not share the same gratitude.
Marching footsteps came from down the street as it appeared Kulwinder's royal guard was finally arriving. The fight was already over, but they still held themselves like they were going to war, glaring intently at the group that stopped the ruin of their city. You'd think the group were the one's who were just rampaging through the streets with the way they stared. In response, Aurehn didn't make any sudden moves or move to grab hold of his weapons, he just stared back.
Finally, breaking the sea of ornately armour soldiers was an older man, clad in armour that looked more practical but still declared him as a Kulwinder royal guard. Instead of looking like he was going to execute them, he looked more concerned. “The King wishes to speak to the lot of you.”
... Well, that was certainly surprising.
At least [i one] of the men she had shielded from the wicked flames had the decency and manners to thank her, for which she was surprisingly grateful. The shield-bearer posited some explanation for the origins of the hell-beast. She could do little but nod in agreement. [#2F4F4F ''Most like, yes,''] Areth agreed. [#2F4F4F ''A hellspawn brought forth by some unruly cult or a mad sorcerer, by my reckoning. Paladin, you are best equipped to face it. Step beyond the shield if you must. I will try to bring it to the ground.'']
She had identified what he was quite quickly. The way he carried himself, the way he spoke, his knowledge of the beast - no doubt a follower of some human god or an adherent of a holy order. Though the Paladins played a great part in the Ruin, a culling of the followers of what they deemed heathen gods, she was glad to have one nearby all the same. She did not think the woman on her left, clad in furs, would indulge her thirst for glory, nor did she believe the roguish man with the cutlass to be any great warrior, let alone a man of courage. The Paladin dashed off after sending a great blast at the foe. Areth wove her spells, a whispered incantation lending her protector the speed of the winds.
Then, it was time. It reared its ugly head, facing away from Areth and the two others. She moved in a serpentine fashion, with all the grace of a trained dancer, the words of power leaving her lips in the form of a song. Old energies gathered around her, pooling around her forearms and hands. Her eyes took on a silvery glow, her veins seemed to darken, and then, with no further ado, she channeled the energy forward.
The beam of light was as radiant as it was destructive. It clipped one of the beast's wings, mangling it horrifically, but the power proved beyond Areth; her aim shifted, and so too the beam. A row of houses was nearly instantly obliterated before she fell to her knees. The earth shook as the demon slammed into the square, reducing everything underneath it to rubble. Then, she heard the savage woman speak, the fury of the North in her voice. [#778899 ''Fight like a man or die like a dog, pretty lad.''] She told the thief before taking her axe in her right hand and a dagger in the other. She rushed forth, hound loping behind, to fight the demon.
When Areth finally regained her senses, she found herself alone.The buildings to either side of her were smashed and afire, the demon was rampaging through the square, the Paladin leading it around in a merry dance. At least her spell had not worn off. She spied two figures climbing side-by-side onto the demon's back. It took her a while to realize that they were the Kulwinder and the ranger she had stood with earlier. The hound was running around, nimbly avoiding the demon's thrashing tail and nipping at its legs uselessly.
Areth lost the desire to play around. Another great exertion of her power, to be sure, but she knew she had to do it all the same. Her chanted incantation became little more than a primal scream, rattling what windows were still intact. The rubble on and around the square seemed to draw together into piles before the arcane energy bound them into vaguely humanoid shapes, golems of debris that locked ranks and began their inexorable march towards the dragon, the ground thumping with every step.
Walking with purpose out on to the street is when Aurehn came face to face with this draconic beast. He felt the ripple through the Material Plane—one of the many gifts he's received since being given the title of Paladin—and he didn't need to see the portal it was spewed out of to know it was demonic in nature. It appeared he was right to take the job delivering silk to Kulwinder; it was apparent his place was here.
The demon reared its head, read to spew its hellish fire and Aurehn was ready. Raising his sword in front of him, a faint silvery glow came to his sword. This looked treacherous, but he knew this would not be his end, it was only the beginning. And as predicted, the fire came and bloomed around him. For a second he stopped and looked down at his hands, but once the woman spoke he snapped out of it. Of course, a magic-user, and who was he to deny such a proposition? There was just one problem...
[+blue “What the hell is going on?!”] The thief almost shrieks. It looked almost as if he was frozen looking at the gaping maw of the demon, and he would surely be blown to cinders if he didn't move. He didn't know how long this mage could keep up her defences. He looks at Aurehn with dinner plate eyes, and... Dammit. It'd be easier just to leave him, but...
[b “Move!”] The Paladin commands grabbing the thief by the lapel and nearly throwing him at the two women's feet. He soon joins them, taking his shield from his back. [b “Appreciate the assistance.”] He tells the mage. The faint silvery glow moves to his shield and becomes more vibrant. What fortune, it would seem, that has bought all of these capable heroes together.
[b “That creature is anything [i but] good and holy. A ritual summon, most likely. Or a deal struck.”] He was quite adept at matters like this now, studying, training, and learning wherever and whenever he could. Which is why he wasn't shaken by this, even as the beast cascaded them with devil's breath. [b “I'm sorry, Miss, but we can't defeat this beast from behind your shield. I will draw its attention and create an opening for us; I have my own defences for evil such as this.”] It was lucky for him the dragon was demonic in nature; his power grew to fight such enemies.
As the beast rears its head again for another blast, Aurehn holds his shield up towards the thief. [b “Hit me.”]
[+blue “What?!”] He was stupefied.
[b “Just do it!”] And it seemed despite his first impression of the man, he had a modicum of skill. One of his cutlasses were drawn swiftly and struck Aurehn's shield which he angled towards the beast at the very last second. Upon impact, a ray of light flies from the shield, sheering through the devil's breath, and hits the monster. The light scorched the side of the demon's face and the shoulder of one of its forelegs, turning its burning scale-like skin in to ash. It rears backwards again with a roar of fury and pain, the ash brushing away in the wind to show an obsidian skeleton under where the skin and muscle was burned away.
Aurehn sprints to one side of the beast, its good and angry eye fixed upon him as planned. Despite all the wanton destruction from before, it appeared to be more cautious now, knowing there was someone capable wounding it. This creature was not infallible, and if it could bleed, it could die.
Ah, Kulwinder and its charms. Great ivory walls and spires made the capital seem a bastion of faith, nobility and virtue but Areth must have ended up in the wrong part of town. With a disdainful scowl painting her fair features, she slogged through the streets, her boots sucking into pools that could only be made of human excrement, rainwater, blood and urine. The stench was horrible. It wafted up to assail her nostrils. Now and then, she'd hear the buzzing of swarms of flies, crowding over the odd dead pet or draught animal. She detested the place, but nevertheless, she had to find a way to gain access to its great library. She had resolved to gain what knowledge she could of the kingdom's society before the Blue Ruin. She'd not sit idle while her kinfolk huddled and cowered amid the trees of the vast forests of Laurelorn.
She rejoiced when she spied a cobbled road. She nearly ran towards it, but just shy of the edge she could feel her left foot slipping out of the high, leather boot she'd been wearing. She stumbled forward with a curse, landing painfully on both knees. She sucked in a gasp of air and bit down on her lower lip. Only then did she find her hood had been knocked back.
The reaction was like a whirlwind in its ferocity and akin a thunderbolt, the way it came out of nowhere. [i ''Elven whore,''] a voice called. [i ''Kill her! Stick her like a pig,''] came the second. She soon found herself surrounded by a small mob of grimy, dirty peasants, bearing clubs and cleavers, and all manners of improvised weaponry. She cursed, again. She did not want to do this, but it seemed she had to. Her left hand quickly flashed up, the middle and index fingers briefly touching the Sunstone centrepiece of her rose-gold circlet. She spoke the old words, her fingers moving in an oddly serpentine fashion as she did. With a shrill shriek, a light grew in the palm of her hand, growing quickly in size and intensity, until it engulfed both the mob and herself. When it dissipated, the men and women gathered around her lie wailing in the mud, clutching their ears. She had pained them, to be sure, but no permanent harm would be done. She'd not kill over base ignorance.
Once she had fetched her boot and slipped it back over her muddied sock, she continued on her way, hood hiding her features once more. She walked with haste for she could not be sure if her would-be assailants would follower her. It wasn't long before the ground suddenly seemed to shift under her feet. She could feel it coming long before it happened, and so, she trained her eyes up to the sky. She could see the blue sky darkening, the clouds flocking together as though they were scared sheep. What was just a cripple in the clouds at first soon became a gaping gash, a portal between this world and another. Briefly did she glimpse the fiery hellscape that lie beneath, but she had no time to contemplate it. The beast clawed its way out.
It was draconic in its build and appearance, she could tell, but the hate that it bore in its eyes was far beyond anything mortal. It sped over the city, unharmed by the arrows and quarrels fired by panicked watchmen. She had no choice, she'd have to help these people.
One mad dash later, she found herself in the town square. She checked herself there, skidding to a halt over the wet cobblestones. The rain suddenly lashed down. She could see the beast's jaws open, a gaping throat behind them that seemed filled with purple balefire. The first gout of flame smashed into the ground with a deafening crash, wiping out the market stalls and the pillory, setting ablaze some of the buildings around the square. The second blast reduced most of the battalion of watchmen, which had just assembled to defend Kulwinder, to cinders.
From a sidestreet came an armoured man, sword in hand. The steel blazed almost beautifully in the light of the violet flames. Another man came behind him, far less noble-looking. She could see the beast rear its head and spew its flames, but she was faster. With an open palm and a flick of the wrist, she raised a faintly translucent wall of energy before the two men, the balefire blooming around it. [#2F4F4F ''Here! To me,''] she called.[#2F4F4F ''I'll keep you shielded!''] As she spoke, she saw another woman entering the scene, though she came crashing rudely through the window of a burning building. She threw a javelin at the beast, which seemed to lodge itself tightly between wing and torso. The woman rolled to recover from her fall and was quickly by Areth's side, a massively muscular shaggy hound bounding after her.
All she could do now was hope the two men would make it to her.
She found herself in a dreadful little winesink, three hares dangling from the short rope in her left hand. Her hound, Ardal, padded in behind her, panting raggedly. Clad in boiled leathers and dirtied furs, she stuck out like a sore thumb. A bag holding three javelins hung over her shoulder, a single-edged axe dangled from her belt, and she had a plethora of daggers and hunting knives strewn over her person, sheathed in scabbards that clung to her body, held by straps of leather, or sewn into hidden pockets. She approaches the barkeep, heavy footfalls causing the boards to creak and leaving a trail of muddy footsteps.
[#778899 ''Wes thu hal, goodman,''] she speaks, placing the hares on the counter. [#778899 ''For you, these hares. For me, all the wine I can drink in one afternoon. Sound fair?''] She inquires. A few specks of mud sully her face, but they lend credence to her inherent ferocity. The stout man behind the counter agrees and hands her a goblet. [i ''Aye, she-devil. Come to me when you need a refill.'']
Thusly, she spent her afternoon. She met many new people and made as much new friends. She drank, she diced, she laughed and she wheedled. Her coinpouch was three times as heavy as it was when she came in. Not bad for three hares, she thought. She let out a jubilant cheer when the musicians in the corner started playing a jig, and soon she found herself up on her feet and dancing with a slew of other patrons. Never before had she known Kulwinder to be host to such merriments. She always thought the city stank of shit, and its inhabitants were a sour lot. At least today, good times could be had in the bustling metropolis.
That quickly went as sour as the usual disposition of a Kulwinder, however. She noticed the ground seemed to shift, ever so slightly. Suddenly, she heard a bellow, followed by a deafening crash. The windows blew in, shards of glass shredding those unlucky enough to be near said windows. Eona was blown off her feet and crashed into a tipped-over table. She spotted Ardal safely curled up in a corner. It only took her to whistle for the animal to rise. She heard crackling and saw the ominous glow on the wall around her dog. When she turned, she saw the violet flames spreading faster than she knew fire to grow.
With two javelins broken by the sudden impact, she took the final one and hurried up the stairs behind the counter. She was deep in her cups, so she was emboldened. She took the corner onto the top landing at a breakneck speed and saw what had ruined her day of drinking. [#778899 ''Gods be good.''] She growled as she adjusted the javelin in her hand. She kicked a chair towards the window, shattering it, and leapt through. As she hurtled through the air, she hurled her javelin. She could not see if it struck true. She let out a fierce cry all the same. She smashed through a broken stall, but she managed to break her momentum by rolling the moment she hit the ground. Soon, though, she was on her feet again, and she ran, Ardal on her heels.
That cloaked and hooded woman seemed to be a sorceress. She'd make a fine ally. Eona shrugged the bag off her shoulders and took her axe before skidding to a halt next to the woman. Only when she turned did she see the two men hurrying across the square, the bubble her newfound ally had conjured around them soaking up blast after blast of drakesbreath. [#778899 ''What is that creature, by all that is good and holy?''] She bellowed, rhetorically.
Kulwinder, the capital city of the kingdom. It is a massive city protected on one side by large stone walls constructed in the last millennium, and protecting it on the other side is the vast Limingrave Sea. The city is largely a place of trade and commerce, the ports seeing hundreds, if not thousands of ships each day. Kulwinder castle sits on a hill overlooking the city with a bright benevolence that makes its citizens feel closer to whoever it is they pray to. Its a city with everything and for everyone... Within reason, of course.
Its been just over a decade since the Blue Ruin where the human kingdoms went to war with the Fey and their brethren, cleansing the continent of their impurity. Despite the Fey and their forces possessing superior magic and technology, Mankind smothered them with their numbers and sheer tenacity. They beat the Fey and Elves back in to their forests, the Dwarves back in to their mountains, and purged anyone who got in their way. As a result, magic is slowly being outlawed as well as it was considered to be possessed by those with Fey or Draconic ancestry or by those who chose to deal with Fiends and Devils. Only people with special privileges are allowed to freely practice magic, and any person who is not fully-human is normally met with scorn, and in some regions—and this is becoming increasingly more common—they are met with execution.
Despite these dark times, it seems that a dark cloud has been cast over the continent for some time now. Stones shift, still water agitates, and people dream of a place that doesn't exist. It seems the world is already on a dark path, but soon a group of adventurers destined to be will be set upon the darkest.
Suffice to say, its been a long week. As was normal, Aurehn awoke earlier than the others to finish the delivery of fine silks and cloth. This wasn't normal a normal occurrence for the Paladin; delivering cloth that is. Clad in jet and silver armour, a grey cloak and hood with a sword and shield on his back, it was quite clear he wasn't your average caravaneer. Aurehn didn't make this journey for the money or to see the caravan to safety. There was something else here, drawing him to Kulwinder. Something casting a dark shadow in this place, and the light that shone through had put him on this path. He didn't know who or what he was looking for—it was just a feeling he got when he gazed at the caravan some days ago—but he knew he had to make this journey. The caravan was just a means to an end, and now Aurehn would discover his purpose for being put on this path and do what needed to be done.
He was content to wait until what he was doing here became clear to him. The one who bestowed him with the title of Paladin and powers along with it worked in mysterious ways. It was often indirectly, easy to miss. Sometimes after long occasions where he didn't see or feel anything, he might wonder if he had already somehow served whatever his purpose might be. On the opposite end of the spectrum, sometimes things lined up in such a way that it might nearly be a summon.
The large gates of Kulwinder laid open, inviting the caravan in to the bustling cobblestone streets. It was almost suffocating how many people suddenly surrounded them when they began walking in to the city, but to be fair, that could just be Aurehn. Since his ascension to that of a Paladin, his path has been a solitary one, his mission quiet and secluded. The people of the caravan often left him alone and when he did need to speak with them or the caravaneer, it was very curt and often just one word answers. The others who were hired on to guard the caravan also got the distinct impression that he didn't like them... And they weren't exactly wrong.
“Well, that'll be all then.” The caravaneer, Sanga, said to Aurehn as the Paladin brings the last few rolls of silk in to a warehouse. Sanga was an older man with a dusky complexion, black hair, and a Verdi beard that dominated his face. He holds out a bag of coins which Aurehn takes. "There will be a return leg back to Highsun in a few days if you are interested." But Aurehn simply nods at the man, turns, and exits the warehouse back in to the busy streets of Kulwinder.
Aurehn has never actually been in a city this large before, so he found it to be quite fascinating if not a little daunting with all of the people. There was everything here from taverns to fine crafted jewellers. The city was a spectacle, and he could understand why it seemed to be quite a popular place, and it just wasn't because of the trade and variety of goods. The large stone walls that surrounded the city provided obvious protection from those who would otherwise lay waste to the city... It was a good defence that made him think forlornly of his past. However, he didn't get much time to think on it as someone bumped shoulders with him.
[+blue “Sorry, mate!”] The man shouts over his shoulder before disappearing in to the crowd. Aurehn squints a little bit after the man and then touches his pocket. [i 'You have to be kidding me.'] He thinks, feeling the absence of his coin purse. He'd been robbed!
What an easy mark! It was almost laughable honestly. But he guessed he couldn't exactly blame the guy; he was obviously a newcomer and that made him easy prey for someone like Dexter Artorias. And plus, to be fair to Dex, if it wasn't him who robbed the guy, it most certainly would have been someone else! The streets were bright and full of happy and cheery people, but just like everywhere else, there were people who thrived on the scraps and in the muck and mire of the more prestigious. If you didn't know any better, the streets of Kulwinder could be pretty cutthroat with merchant ripping people off, illegal gambling dens, whores, and pickpockets and thieves! Alas, Dex's business was the latter, and business was good.
Gracefully slipping in to an alley, Dex crouches down and brings up the coin purse, feeling the weight in his hands. A handsome reward for such little work, the guy was basically asking for it strutting around in his half-plate armour and coin purse on his belt like he didn't have a care in the world. He wondered what someone like that was even doing in a place like this; there wasn't much work for sell-swords and the guy clearly wasn't a city guard... Eh, whatever. No use in worrying about the little details. All he needed to worry about was what he was going to do with this coin, and that answer was easy! Some wine to drink, and a woman to warm his bed. Oh yeah, this was the life.
Dex was about to stand up when the otherwise unoccupied alley got slightly more occupied. A long shadow cast over the brigand's shoulder as he began counting the coin. He stops, but he doesn't look over his shoulder, pulling a dagger from his belt covertly. He had two cutlass hanging from his belt, and usually that was enough to divert attention from his expertly placed dagger. [b “You have something that belongs to me.”] A baritone voice says from behind him, and Dex stands up, turning and putting both his hands behind his back in a casual manner. In reality he was hiding the coins and the dagger.
With a quizzical look, Dex eyes the man. It was that newcomer he'd just swiped the coin purse from, but how did he find him and how the hell didn't he hear him coming with all of that armour and weapons hanging off of his body... Which, [i shit], the guy looked a lot bigger and more intimidating now that he actually got a good look at him.
[+blue “I haven't the faintest what you're talking about there, [i Migun].”] Migun was a slang and slightly insulting thing the less classy folk of Kulwinder called newcomers. The guy didn't so much as flinch though, he simply takes the insult in stride and holds out his hand towards Dex.
[b “The coins. I would rather go about my day without teaching a thief a lesson.”] Oh ho ho, was this guy threatening him? He did not know who he was messing with, clearly. If he thought he was going to be teaching Dex a lesson, maybe it was Dex who should be teaching [i him] a lesson. From the slums of Kulwinder with love, of course.
[+blue “Alright, alright. Fairs fair then, Migun.”] Dex tells him while he saunters over casually. He holds out the coin purse for the guy to take it, and once he moves to do so, Dex slashes his dagger at him. It wasn't anything to kill, but more or less to distract for a speedy getaway. It was a pretty effective skill of his, and one he called-
His wrist was caught mid-flight, just as the dagger was about to deliver its shallow cut just above the eye. The guys grip was like a vice, and before Dex knew it or could react accordingly, a fist crashed in to his face, blood discharging from his nose as he flies backwards on to the ground. He was dazed for a second, trying to collect himself as he heard the man's armoured boots coming his way. He could've swore he heard the next punch connect, a crash like thunder in his ears, but when he blinked the tears out of his eyes, the guys was standing over him, looking back outside of the alley. He was about to take advantage of the distraction when another thunderclap, but this time he felt it. The ground shook upon impact, and Dex scrambled to his feet as screams began to fill the quiet alley.
[+blue “What the hell is that?”]
The man looks back at Dex, pulling his sword from its scabbard. [b “Kulwinder is under attack.”] And he rushes in to the streets.
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