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a goose

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  • Birthday 04/15/1998

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Savage Flood Awakened

Savage Flood Awakened (213/293)

  1. IC: The Ghost (The Tower) “Very good,” he said with a curt nod. If he had any awareness of Taldrix's renewed suspicion, he hid it well. “If you would be so kind, please close the door on your way out.” It was not a request. OOC: @Toru Nui IC: Tueris (Staff NPC; Killing Time) “Say whatever it is you want to say, boy, and put us both out of your misery.” Even as he spoke, the veteran Glatorian’s eye didn't so much as glance away from the cave opening. OOC: @Burnmad IC: Portia (NPC; Arena Hotel, Tajun) As the bell's chime echoed on, Vraek was left waiting. It took almost a minute before a door opened behind the reception desk, and a bright, ruffled young Agori stepped out, smiling so widely this could only be her first customer service job. "Welcome to the Arena Hotel!" She announced, with ear-piercing cheer. "How can I help you this evening?" OOC: @Toru Nui
  2. IC: Tueris (Staff NPC; Valley of Death) Tueris nodded. “Looks like you’re on third, Ferrum.” As the others settled in to rest, he found a spot near the cave mouth where he could sit semi-comfortably with his back against the wall, and turned his eye to the canyon. OOC: @~Xemnas~ @Burnmad
  3. IC: Tueris (Staff NPC; Valley of Death) Though Tueris looked unimpressed with the quiver in the the Vulcanusian’s voice and the condescending tone of the Tajunian, he held his tongue, and nodded. “Alright. We rest here, and keep watch in two-person shifts. I’ll take the first, and the rest of you can decide the remaining assignments amongst yourselves.” He walked towards the cave as he spoke, hardly even looking at the rest of the party. OOC: @Burnmad @oncertainty @~Xemnas~ @Toru Nui @Nato G
  4. IC: (CelTech workshop, Tajun) "Celrys to perform external diagnostic...? Test Del I?" “Exactly right, Del. But this is a test with no wrong answers – just give the response you find to be most fitting.” Celrys turned away from Del, producing two large, flat metal ovals, with strange cylinders attached. With a flourish, he unfolded them into two chairs; one he offered to Skyra, the other he took for himself. At last, he turned once more to Del. “Now, are you sitting comfortably?” ”Yeah, I’m feeling pretty comfortable.” Skyra responds as she sits down, even if she wasn’t the target of the question. For as much as the Ferrumite struggled to conceptualise 'comfort', they did seem to register the implicit command, turning and reclining back into the patient chair. A thumb rose from a closed hand at their side, signalling in the affirmative. “Then we’ll begin,” Celrys smiled, the scope over his eye sliding back into place, its glassy surface now rendered opaque by a dim glow. “Now, this examination will take the form of a series of questions. We’ll start off simple, in order to establish a baseline: what village are we currently in?” A deceptively complex question if one still doesn't quite grasp what a village is. Del focused hard, tracing back along previous lines of conversation and inquiry, lines now joining blazingly fast between dots of ever-increasing proximity. <<Find Celrys. Find. Locate. Location. Skyra Daring the best driver. Driver. Drive. Go. From and to. To Tajun. Tajun location. Celrys here in location. Celrys in Tajun. Tajun.>> "Tajun." Del droned. "Tajun what village are we—" they paused, reassessing. "...what village we are in. “Fascinating.” Celrys couldn’t help but lean forward in his seat. “Now, what is my name?” "Celrys." Del responded with startlingly minimal delay. Easy, names were established back in Atero. Their eyes left the ceiling and fell on the owner of that name. "Celrys you." “Very good. What about your companion, here? What’s her name?” "Skyra Daring the best driver." Their gaze now turning to the Tesaran. It became apparent that Del considered that their full name; still a ways to go. Skyra grinned, looking at Del. “****** right I am~” She'd been good about keeping quiet during the test so far, at least till now. Celrys couldn’t resist smiling, though he quickly suppressed it, adopting a studiously professional expression as he refocused his attention on Del. “And what about your name?” The tiniest, imperceptible to anyone but maybe Celrys, hesitation. The infinitesemal, non-zero, doubt. The name from the artificer's logs played on a thousand loops in a thousandth of a second. "Del I." the Iron Tribal stated, asserted. ]Celrys nodded, seriously. “And what village are you from, Del?” Got us out of Ferrum. <<Out of Ferrum. From and to. Ferrum. Ferrum Plague. Ferrum.>> "Ferrum is a village, like Tajun." they parroted. "Del I from Ferrum village...?" From their perspective, Del was from Ferrum as much as they were from Atero as much as they were from the deep desert. Inconclusive. “I see. Well, perhaps we can skip the ‘childhood memories’ section; how about some maths?” Though Celrys smiled sympathetically, there was a knowing glint in his eye. “What is three plus three?” "Six." Instant. “Three multiplied by three?” "Nine." Instant. “Three divided by three.” "One." Instant. “Three minus three.” "Zero." Like a ping-pong match. “The square root of three hundred and thirty-three, rounded to three significant figures.” "Eighteen point two." “Divided by two?” "Nine point one." “Divided by zero.” Tick. "Inconclusive. Non-conclusive" Nice try. Celrys smirked. “Multiplied by zero.” "Zero." Instant. “Excellent.” Celrys leaned back, looking satisfied. “Logic problems next. A woman orders a prosthetic right arm; she lost her original arm in an accident. The prosthetic is installed and works exactly according to specifications. Has it always been her arm?” "No." Not as quick as the maths test but remarkable in the firmness of the conclusion. Del did not show their working. “There are two ropes in front of you; each takes exactly one hour to burn, but they do so at inconsistent rates. Some segments may burn faster or slower than others, and you have no way to tell which are which. How can you use the ropes to measure forty-five minutes?” This took a little longer for the Ferrumite to puzzle out, although time is subjective and 'two seconds' is a longer span of time than 'two nanoseconds'. "Burn two end of one rope. Burn one end of two rope. Burn two end of two rope when one rope finish burn. Time when two rope finish burn: forty-five minutes." Celrys nodded. “Two men stand before two doors; only one can take you to your destination. One man only tells the truth, the other tells only lies. With only one question, how would you learn from them which door to choose?” The underlying language of a good riddle was pure logic, as was Del's. The overlying language still needed some work, a piecemeal of limited vocabulary and patchwork mimicry. Thus some words, and their adjoined meanings, slipped through the myriad cracks. <<Clarification.>> "Query: what truth is? What lies is?" Celrys perked up, sitting upright. “Truth is fact. Lies are not. For instance, it would be true to say that my name is Celrys; it would be a lie to claim that my name is Skyra Daring.” Rapid extrapolation. <<Facts, not. Truth, lies. One man would tell door to destination. One man would tell door not to destination. One question.>> An answer in the form of a— "Query: which door would not-you man tell to choose?” The meaning was hopefully communicated adequately. “Would you walk through the door the man answers with, or the other?” "Other door. Truth-man tell lies-door that lies-man tell. Lies-man tell lies-door that lies-man lies that truth-man tell. Truth. Lies." Cement filling cracks. “Perfect. One last puzzle: A woman orders a prosthetic right arm. She pays up-front. The parts are acquired only after she makes her order, to her specification, and it is tailored specifically for her. Once it is complete, she immediately claims it, and it is installed. Has it always been her arm?” Another linguistic trait to experiment with. An impressive five seconds passed. "...Yes. Always been her arm, not always been her arm." Celrys was absolutely beaming; if not for his earlier denial, he would seem every bit the proud parent. “Absolutely fantastic. This is simply marvellous.” He turned his chair to face Skyra. “Well, bad news first: Del here is dealing with some serious brain damage. It would take tests I’d rather not subject them to in order to confirm the exact cause and nature, but as you yourself have doubtless noticed, amnesia is the primary symptom.” Skyra nods solemnly, even the driver knowing when to be serious. “Right, I figured something like that was up.” He looked once again to Del. “The good news is that your short-term memory is in perfect working order, and your other cognitive functions are performing remarkably well, especially given the circumstances. There are only two lingering questions that remain: the first is your ability to convert short-term memories into long-term, and the second is the matter of your nervous system at large. I would like to observe you over the course of the next few days – not twenty-four seven, just a few check-ups – and, in addition to this, I would like to perform another test tomorrow. This one would be rather… different, in format, focusing primarily on your adrenal response and your physical coordination. Is this acceptable to the both of you?” <<Memory. . .>> As with many other things, the capacity for long-term memory had not occurred to Del. They set about performing an assessment of the events of the last few days, their own internal diagnostic; back past the long drive across the roiling dunes, the faces of denizens of a dive bar in Atero, waking up in a training ground tended to by a kindly Agori couple. Beyond that, there was... there was… A voice but no words. An answer but no answer. "Brain damage. Del I... damage?" they said more to themself than either Celrys or Skyra. Subjectivity and unsurety crept back into their voice. One would almost swear their tone was troubled. The truth of their scenario eluded them. Truth. It was vital they know. Anything less than optimal was un— "Acceptable. Just a few check-ups. Another test tomorrow." ”Well if Del is cool with it then so am I, guess we’ll be seeing you tomorrow Doc.” “Tomorrow, then,” Celrys said with a smile. OOC: Big thanks to @Techn0geist and @Snelly for the jam!
  5. IC: The Ghost (The Tower) “Our mercy?” The Ghost’s grin grew wider still. “You’re quite open in your ambitions. I can respect that.” Somehow, he seemed oddly satisfied, as if Taldrix had said something that pleased him greatly. “Now, unless there's anything else, you may take your leave. You know how to reach me.” OOC: @Toru Nui
  6. IC: Skrall (Markets; the Bone Hunter Stronghold) The scout glanced in the indicated direction, keeping his head still so as not to give away his redirected attention. Even so, he was caught off-guard by the singularly pitiable sight behind the bars, and felt his face contort in disgust. As if reading his comrade’s mind, he spoke quietly: “That one was broken long before it came here.” He knew the look in the not-Skrall’s eyes; living in Roxtus these past few years, he had seen such wretches more than once. They went into Skull Mountain as warriors, and came out… something else. What they did, they did for the furtherment of the Skrall race – it was the scout’s belief that this was a noble sacrifice for the good of all. These husks were the remains of heroes. But that was a belief that even he would not dare speak aloud, and it made the sight of them no less unsettling. “I don't believe in witchcraft, but such sights give me pause.” OOC: @Vezok's Friend @Mel @oncertainty @Burnmad @Toru Nui IC: The Ghost (The Tower) “Interesting.” The Ghost fixed his four-eyed gaze upon Taldrix, his wide smile brimming with condescension. “You are a quick study. Tell me, Taldrix: does it offend you, that I so easily came to control your people?” OOC: @Toru Nui IC: (Valley of Death) The cave opening yawned back at the two Glatorian, pitch-black and silent. A gentle sussuration passed along the ceiling above; bats, a small and relatively docile variety, who seemed uninterested in their new guests. OOC: @Burnmad
  7. IC: Crucius (The Crossroads) “Your techniques for mounted archery alone make you stand out, not to mention your skills in animal handling and the use of poisons. Also…” He paused, considering his next words carefully. Crucius was not a man who liked to tip his hand; it was a matter of habit as much as it was a mechanism for survival. There were only two beings he believed had ever truly known him, and Crucius had killed one of them himself. Showing vulnerability was an easy way to get oneself killed, and being seen was a singularly unsettling experience. Still, this was a new world, and the rules were changing; sacrifices would have to be made. “The Ghost knows what it means to be ostracised. To be… alone.” He took a breath to steady himself; his left hand was shaking. He balled it into a fist, and began to speak with a soft, seething passion, never once raising his voice. “You’re worth a hundred of your would-be clansmen, and I believe there's a part of you that knows it – that little whisper that you drown out by quoting everything the rest of the world has said to deny it. But that whisper is right. The world is wrong. Those fools forced you into the desert to fend for yourself, and they only made you stronger; you found new ways to survive, better ways. They live in a prison of their own making, and in forcing you out, they have freed you. Perhaps you can't see that yet, but I can, and He can. And if this is what you’ve accomplished alone and unsupported, I for one am eager to see what you can do with our resources at your disposal.” OOC: @Nato G
  8. IC: Crucius (The Crossroads) “If you know who I am, then I’m sure you’ve heard of the one I represent. He understands the value of loyalty… which is to say, He understands that it doesn't come cheap.” Crucius smirked. “You have skills that many others don't, and I share His view that we should have them on our side. If you’re willing, you could even teach some of your techniques.” OOC: @Nato G
  9. IC: Skrall (Markets; the Bone Hunter Stronghold) “Most of the southerners, perhaps. But their most powerful Tribe relies on the slaves they trade for here, and they know we would be fools to continue that trade with them if we were in charge, turning them immediately into our enemies. Worse, slaves can come from anywhere; they would only briefly be handicapped. On top of this, our ambitions would be immediately made clear by the proximity to Roxtus, and though some would praise us for wiping out the barbarians they would still be suspicious of our claiming a settlement just south of our border. They would begin preparing for war, while we would still be recovering from the effort of claiming this meager prize. Our conquest would be a drawn-out war across increasingly fortified settlements, on unfamiliar territory.” He paused, and looked towards the west. “No, our first target should be Tesara. They are just as close to the Black Spikes, but lack the fortifications of the Bone Hunters. We will lose fewer men, and though the South will become aware of our goals, we will have cut them off from a unique resource vital to all the Tribes: food. Take Tesara, and we can starve our enemies into surrender, and barely lose a Skrall in the process.” He turned back to the other Skrall. “You are like a Spikit, snapping at anything that comes close. A handler approaches and you attack for a single, short-lived meal, when restraint would see that same handler voluntarily feed you for weeks. We are not beasts or barbarians; we are Skrall. All of you need to start thinking with your brains, instead of your damned swords.” OOC: @ Skrall IC: Crucius (The Crossroads) “Naturally. There aren't many Gatherers who can survive on their own, even with four functional limbs.” He relaxed his grip, and glanced briefly down at his hand. “You’ve accomplished more than most, in spite of your handicap. Perhaps even because of it.” He rolled his right shoulder and flexed his exsidian arm. “Imagine what you could do with two working legs.” OOC: @Nato G IC: The Ghost (The Tower) “I am not one to engage in idle speculation. I know. Allow me to lay out the facts:” He pointed to the blank areas on the map. “My people had a settlement somewhere in these canyons. I am fairly confident it now lies abandoned and in ruins, and while I do have an archaeological interest, far more important to me is what lay below it. “Beneath the Wastelands there lie not only ruins and tombs, but also remarkably well-preserved laboratories and research stations. I know this because I have seen them with my own eyes, and what I learned there has led me to one definitive conclusion: the single greatest technological discovery of our time awaits us beneath the canyons.” There was a hungry gleam in the Ghost’s eyes as he stared down at the map, envisioning the scientific treasure trove its blank squares might represent. “There is power in that discovery; with my knowledge and the little I have scavenged already from other sites, I have given your people weapons and cybernetics to rival anything Tajun or Vulcanus can offer. But there is far more to it than that: everything that I have discovered leads here. It is a sentence marching inexorably towards a full stop. Do you understand?” OOC: @Toru Nui
  10. Kirbraz would not die tonight. The conclusion to The Shadiest Spot on Bara Magna, and the beginning of something else entirely.
  11. IC: Kirbraz (Staff NPC) (The Shadiest Spot on Bara Magna) Keep it together, Kirby. There wasn't far to go – the Hotel was at least twenty minutes away if he stuck to the open streets, but he could shave off five by cutting through alleys (and, better yet, stay out of sight while doing so). That made fifteen; he’d been in longer arena matches. Kirbraz would not die tonight. However, while determined, in his feverish panic, he’d failed to realize that in the past hour he’d gained another shadow. One cast from far above, faintly trailing a silent stalker. One cast by one of the most dangerous people in all the villages, at least statistically. Crouched behind roofs, nigh-invisible in Tajun’s night. At least for a time, Kirbraz’ personal ghost. The realisation came as a creeping chill, like a trickle of ice water down the nape of his neck. He didn't dare look behind him – he didn't need to, but more importantly, it would slow him down. He couldn't afford to stop now, not for anything, not when he was so close. Keep it together, Kirby. Keep it together. Beneath the mask, his pursuer’s ruby eyes slid down, a fixed scowl obscuring her expression below. Vitrum’s calloused digits grasped her crossbow - already unfolded and against her shoulder. Ears primed to hear every movement her mark would make. The ghostly green moon looming far above her, far above Tajun’s creviced walls - the only natural light in the village. In the nearby Arena Hotel, all was as still and as silent as the sands themselves. It was always like this, the night before the opening ceremony; the long held breath before the glorious battle-cry. Tarix didn't live for that moment the way some of his competitors might – not usually, at least. But tomorrow would mark his first match as Tajun’s First Glatorian, and he couldn't wait. For the first time in years, the nerves were truly getting to him, and his hotel room felt like a prison. At least out here, out in the cold night air, he could indulge a little. Sure, smoking wasn't healthy. Tarix knew that. But there were far worse habits to have, and he could work on giving it up now that Tajun would truly be relying on him. Tonight, though, he needed a little stress relief, and nothing calmed the nerves like a balcony view of his hometown rooftops and a hit of tobacco. Something tugged at Kirbraz, the same primal instinct that had won him his few arena victories, and he ducked beneath a shop tarp that had been left unfurled, backing up until he was hugging the wall. He turned his eyes to the sky, to the stars and the sickly green moon. His would-be killer was up there, somewhere; the alleys themselves were too empty, too silent, for the assassin to be on the ground with him. Already, he feared he had stalled for too long; he looked from side to side, weighing his options. He could keep running directly towards the Arena Hotel, but the fastest route was far too exposed. His every step would be bathed in moonlight. He set off again, a running start into a sprint so hard that he almost gave himself whiplash. He would take the long way around; the shadows could be his ally, too. (recommended listening: Uno (Alex Goose Instrumental Remix) (youtube.com)) Though nothing could betray it, Vitrum was right behind him, having crossed buildings in an instant. Something in the dark folded back into each of her legs as she dove into a quiet roll from a leap, and then entered into pursuit via the buildings above him. Kirbraz, concerned about his assassin’s line of sight, was being betrayed by every sound he made. Vitrum’s ears pricked upward inside her helmet as she lagged behind ever so slightly, turning her head along with her crossbow to the passageways below. Her red eyes narrowed for a quick shot. Kirbraz stumbled – and for one precious moment, his pursuer and her aim overtook him. The Lords themselves must have been on Kirbraz’s side as the bolt struck not him, but the ground just in front of him, the very spot where he should have been. Instinctively, he looked up to catch a glimpse of his assailant. Without hesitation Vitrum fired again, the crossbow’s oiled clockwork machinations dropping another bolt effortlessly. By the time the bolt took Kirbraz in the shoulder, he was already running. Any other night, it would have been agonising; tonight, he barely noticed. Pain didn’t matter, not to the adrenaline coursing through his system, not when he was so close. Kirbraz would not die tonight. Tick. Vitrum’s chase slowed even as Kirbraz’ flight quickened. Even with his eyes wide and lungs in overdrive his muscles weren’t reacting like they should - his gait was shrinking into a staggered sprint. The exhaustion was setting in, perhaps even faster than it should have been. No, it wasn’t exhaustion. His head was swimming. Something was wrong. And Vitrum knew it. Tock. Then it came to his head, like a tobacco head rush but fatal. His vision swayed from side to side across the alleyway, something was glaring up from the roof at him. Poison. Being forced into slow-motion made Kirbraz see one thing more clearly: somehow, the assassin had been following him, attacking with incredible accuracy, even when he should have been out of sight. They were working with cybernetics. What, then? Very likely visual – highly sensitive to movement, or tracking body heat or somesuch. The poison made the situation into even more of a race against time; if he didn't get help, he could be dead in a matter of minutes. He needed to lose his tail, and he had an idea. As Kirbraz stumbled and shambled along, he went crashing through a doorway. He was fairly confident the building would be empty – most places in Tajun were, especially at night. You didn't get real estate prices like these by selling to people who needed homes, after all. The clumsiness – some of it, at least – was an act; Kirbraz’s ability to hold his drink and play drunk simultaneously had always been useful in backroom dealings. Right now, he would use that skillset to keep his assailant confident and complacent. Once he was inside, his next priority was finding a hiding place, and there he finally had an advantage: he knew this place. It was one of Berix’s safehouses, and being the incompetent that he was, they all had nearly identical layouts, including places for stashing both people and drugs. He had seconds to choose a spot; beneath the floor was too risky. He’d be penned in, and worse, the assassin’s enhancements might be able to spot his movement through the gaps between the floorboards. That left the wall. Escape routes could be just as important as hiding spots, and Berix’s paranoia meant he kept plenty. Secret tunnels were a favourite; in this case, a false wall with a narrow passage leading into the next building. Kirbraz could lose his pursuer and get closer to the hotel in the process. The quiet patter of footsteps as the assassin advanced inside the breached building soon stopped. In fact, Vitrum had stopped moving entirely. Her eyes blinked behind the mask. Moments passed, and as far as Kirbraz could hear, it seemed as if she’d been stumped. Tick. If Kirbraz could have seen through walls, he would have seen his assassin staring directly at him from the other room. He breathed ragged and clumsy and although Vitrum couldn’t literally smell blood, she could certainly hear every tick of the clock towards the moment of Kirbraz’ death. Every snort, every intermittent groan and every inhale and exhale. If she was close enough, she could probably have heard his heart desperately trying to pump the alcoholic poison in his veins away from in his chest. Her wrapped feet carried her near silently towards the wall. Tock. She pushed at the wall forcibly with her leg. Kirbraz was practically crawling at this point, and he heard the wall crumple behind him just as he scrambled through the exit. She wasn't following by sight. It must have been sound. Trying to be quiet was pointless – it might even have been detrimental. With all the force he could muster, Kirbraz bellowed a veritable war-cry as he made a mad dash for the door, barreling clumsily through it. He would not die tonight. Not too far above, something gave Tarix pause. Someone, somewhere below, was shouting – no, practically screaming. He searched out the source, and saw a drunk Agori shambling out into the open street. He didn't know why, but something felt off, his well-honed combat instincts picking up on something his conscious mind couldn't identify. It might have been nothing, but he couldn't let it be; he turned from the balcony and walked to his hotel door, ready to make his way downstairs. Instead, he was met with a familiar face, his hand still raised to knock the open door. “Tarix,” the veteran Glatorian said with an easy smile. “I wasn't sure you’d be up.” Vitrum’s own blood pressure finally spiked as the Agori screamed and shambled outside, as she peered out. Not because of the risk of identification but because he was beginning to draw eyes to him. She could hear two people talking in the building nearby although she couldn’t make a word of what they were saying. A drunk Agori in Tajun is hardly a story but a drunk Agori with a crossbow bolt in his shoulder certainly is. The problem with the concoction smeared on the bolts was that they were ultimately meant to slow, not kill. That isn’t to say the poison never killed anyone but its main purpose was of utility, to make a target unable to resist capture or death. Thus it had effectively failed this task. The cybernetics in Vitrum’s legs folded outwards as the silent thrusters boosted her ever so slightly onto a nearby ledge, pulling herself up with little effort. She was back on the rooftops again, looking down at her injured mark. Kirbraz would suddenly hear a whistle from above. It took him a second to even process the sound; the poison had made his limbs and his head so heavy that he could barely even move, but it was already too late for his would-be killer. As he made it out into the street, he saw a light on in a room far above, and a figure silhouetted on the balcony. Already, the figure was gone, but the shutters on the balcony were still open, and Kirbraz knew whoever it was had recognised his plight. His war-cry, intended to deafen his hyper-sensitive opponent, had instead brought the attention of a saviour upon him. Somewhere, the Lords were looking out for Kirbraz, and a dozen prayers went through his mind at once as he struggled to comprehend why. In his short life, Kirbraz had been obsessed with ego and greed, inflicting uncountable evils upon the Wastelands in his attempts to claim power. No more – he had seen the light. He knew at last just how precious life could be! Kirbraz was a man reborn, and he would dedicate every living moment to helping- Suddenly, he remembered the whistle, and looked up. In front of the moon and the deep green sky, his pursuer had the look of a ruby-eyed shadow; still, something about her posture, and those eyes, felt oddly familiar. “Don't I… know you?” “Ackar! Don't tell me you have pre-match jitters?” “You should know by now that I never compete in exhibition matches. Can’t be giving all my moves away before the main event.” He smiled and winked, but the sadness in his eyes betrayed the lie. Once upon a time, he really hadn't wanted to reveal his strategies too early; but now, after a decade representing Vulcanus without a Second Glatorian to succeed him, Ackar had begun to feel his years. That he had won last year's Tournament was a total shock, and he would have to conserve his energy if there was to be any chance of a repeat performance. “No, I came to check on you. Mind if I come in?” “Actually…” Just as Tarix was about to tell Ackar what he had witnessed, he paused. Was whatever he had seen really that serious? Ackar didn't need his years of hard-earned fluency in body language to know something was wrong. “Tell me.” Vitrum’s stance was static, but something about the familiarity in Kirbraz’ voice pierced through her hard boiled veneer. She froze. Thoughts of his new lease on life, even thoughts of survival, found themselves set aside as Kirbraz stared up at the assassin. The way she froze – it meant something, he knew it. If it weren't for this damned poison, he could have- The poison. Reality came crashing back down on Kirbraz, and with it a fresh burst of adrenaline. Even in his compromised state, he began backing away from Vitrum, shuffling across the street. No doubt his hands would be bruised and cut up like no one’s business come morning, but if he wasted any time thinking about that there wouldn't be a morning. Not for him, at least. “It was probably nothing – just a drunk, stumbling through the streets.” “But?” “But it didn't feel right.” Every instinct in Vitrum’s body wanted her to squeeze the trigger mechanism and kill him as he backed away like a cornered dog. And then, suddenly, she put down the crossbow. Her hands grasped around the bottom of her helmet, removing it from her face. One hand grasping the discarded helmet, the other picked up her weapon again, holding it in one hand. Her ruby eyes stared at him, the rest of her face now bare. “You tell me. Do you know me?” Her voice came like a hiss, not having moved from her position. Kirbraz kept crawling back, back into the shadow of the building. He didn't know what to say, didn't know whether to nod or shake his head – she was so familiar, and still he couldn't place her. “Show me where you saw him,” Ackar said, nodding to the balcony. Tarix stepped back to let him in. “No, you don’t. You’re just drunk, and dying.” Vitrum murmured. Her hearing implants had been deactivated in her moment of distraction, her focus broken. She dropped down onto the street, the moonlight catching her face for a moment. With one hand she placed her helmet-mask back on her head, securing the clasps as she approached him and slinging her crossbow over her shoulder again. No more running, no more risks. Kirbraz shook his head. “No- No, I know, I know I’ve seen you before…” He felt the wall of the hotel press against his back. There was nowhere left to run. And then she lunged forward, easily grabbing him by his shoulder and pulling him towards her. Something metal and sharp burst through his insides and poked out of his back with little but a quick whirr. Grunting, she then pushed the man off her sword with difficulty, before the sword collapsed into itself and folded into her hand and back into her belt as she turned to leave, quickly. Kirbraz was dying. He felt cold. Had Tajun nights always been this cold? His head swam with poison and pain, and he struggled to keep his eyes open as the blurry figure began her retreat. It couldn't end like this. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. He’d had a plan. It was Scodonius. It was always Scodonius. He just had to ruin everything. “Think of it as an opportunity.” “You think I want to profit from a man’s death?” And there he went again, running his mouth. Ruining everything. Kirbraz resisted the urge to sigh, and calmed himself with fantasies of beating his arena partner to death. Keep it together, Kirby. “No, we don't. I think what Scodonius meant to say is that this is our only chance to stand up for what’s right. If we as a people decide that this is okay, we won't be able to take that back – and doing nothing can only be interpreted as tacit approval. You knew the victim, didn't you?” Neptum nodded. “Gorum. He was a good kid. Could've had a long career ahead of him.” “Stygia allowed his killer to go free, with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Doesn't that make you angry?” “I’m sure it was more complex than that-” “It wasn't.” It was. Or, at least, it had been, before he and Scodonius had set the wheels of the rumour mill in motion. The most beautiful thing about a lie was that it was easy. ‘Hard truths’ were hard in more ways than one; a proper investigation and tribunal took weeks, weeks of impatience and gossip and attention-seeking. For every person who was actually there in the Arena Vulcanus that day, there were a dozen more ‘witnesses’ who were all too eager to tell their stories. That was another wonderful thing about lies: they were so much louder. Kirbraz had been in on the ground floor – he and Scodonius had a match scheduled for later that day, which meant they had front-row seats to the tragedy. They were the first to see what no one else could: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This was the situation: During an exhibition match in the city of Vulcanus, a young Water Tribe up-and-comer had gone toe-to-toe with the home team’s Second Glatorian. So far, so standard; the kid would probably lose, but if he didn't he would be a shoo-in for Tajun’s own Second. Bouts like these were a denarius a dozen, which only made it more shocking when the fight turned fatal. The opportunity came in the aftermath. What Kirbraz and Scodonius knew, from their ideal vantage points, was that Tueris was unlikely to suffer any real repercussions. And what Kirbraz realised before anyone else was that there was a very convenient narrative that he could encourage to emerge: namely, that the reason Tueris got off easy was his position as Second Glatorian, and Tajun’s failure of leadership on the part of Stygia. And the best part was that their new narrative would be unfalsifiable – the arena had been utter chaos that day, and a sufficiently relentless disinformation campaign could sow doubt in the mind of even the staunchest eye-witness. As for Stygia’s part in the tribunal, any attempt to set the record straight would be coming from the exact people who would benefit most from a cover-up; no one else was in the room where it happened. Better yet, people wanted to believe Kirbraz's version of events. Everyone in Tajun was desperate to make sense of a senseless tragedy, and conspiracy was always more comprehensible than coincidence. Truth was as hard to swallow as it was to establish; lies were beautifully easy. “The people of Tajun are protesting as we speak, but Stygia won't bow to political pressure. Not while she still believes she has your support. You're our First Glatorian; if you come out against her, she’ll have to listen.” Neptum stroked his chin, thoughtfully. “You have an ulterior motive.” “I do,” Kirbraz admitted. Scodonius’ jaw fell open, no doubt thinking of all the times Kirbraz had scolded him for showing his hand; still, Neptum was the type to respond to honesty (or, at least, the appearance of it). Kirbraz knew how to work an audience. “If Stygia steps down, I’m going to stand for election. I don't expect your support, and I won't be the only candidate.” This was also technically true; Scodonius would also be on the ballot. Everyone else they would bribe or threaten into dropping out of the running, and then whoever won – which would be Kirbraz – would co-operate with the other, who would get more leeway than any crime lord had ever had before. That was the pitch, anyway; in reality, Kirbraz knew Scodonius would only get greedy and fuck it all up, like he always did. Instead, Berix would be his puppet kingpin, and Scodonius would be assigned as the Tajunian representative to the Atero City Council, a position that was technically a political office, but would also keep him powerless and far away from Tajun (and, by extension, from Kirbraz). It was the perfect plan. Until it wasn't. Kirbraz had heard before that one’s life would flash in front of their eyes in the moments before their death, but why that memory? Why now? What did Neptum or Stygia have to do with this? Was that the moment when his fate was sealed? Surely that would have been earlier, or later, not- Not Neptum or Stygia. Not even Scodonius. Tueris? No, not him – but close. Another place, another time, another death in the arena. It was so close, on the tip of his tongue- “Filia.” As the realisation dawned, even as Kirbraz finally accepted the inescapability of his death, he couldn't help but laugh. “Of course… of course he would send you. I should've… known. Exile was too… easy.” Lies were easy. Conspiracy was always more comprehensible than coincidence. “Tell him… Tell your boss, that I…” “I don't see him.” Tarix took a step forward, looking out over the balcony railing himself. Ackar could tell by the look on his face that he wasn't satisfied, but the younger Glatorian just shook his head and sighed. “I guess it was nothing. I must be more anxious than I thought.” As Ackar lay a comforting hand on his colleague's shoulder and began dispensing sage advice, Kirbraz was drawing his final breath not too far below, hidden from sight by the shadow of the balcony. Scodonius had a few questions aimed his way. OOC: A massive thank you to @Jesse Pinkman, without whom I could never have given my best material to this subplot. It's been one of the best collaborations I've ever done, in no small part because he's always bringing his A-game. And can you believe I nearly began this whole plotline after the murder? @BULiK gets the credit for convincing me not to, because again, @Jesse Pinkman made this so much better than it would have been if I were working alone. Anyway, that's a wrap on Kirbraz, and a tantalising mystery for any interested PCs to investigate during these cold Tajun nights.
  12. IC: Crucius (The Crossroads) Lords above. She was a comedian. “Crucius,” he growled. Then again… Zha’ar. Where had he heard that name before? No. Not heard. Read. She was on the list. It all started to come back to him – the lone wanderer with the lame leg, and a truly impressive suite of skills to compensate. “You're the nomad who doesn't kill, aren't you?” His voice was surprisingly free of judgement. OOC: @Nato G
  13. IC: Crucius (The Crossroads) Crucius chuckled mirthlessly. There was a grim, all-too-predictable irony to it; of course he would be ambushed. On his own, he looked like any other traveller. Still, his would-be assailant appeared to be one of his own, if their decision to wave to him before they began shooting was any indication. He pulled his Cendox into a sharp turn, its front blades kicking up sand as it ground to a halt. He did not return the stranger’s gesture; his exsidian hand remained exactly where it was, ready to rev up the engine should the situation turn hostile. “What's your name, Gatherer?” OOC: @Nato G
  14. IC: Kirbraz (Staff NPC; The Shadiest Spot on Bara Magna) Is this guy screwing with me? For just a moment, blind panic was overwhelmed by sheer, all-consuming confusion. A moment was long enough; his terrified trance broken, Kirbraz could think again. Keep it together, Kirby. Kirbraz may not have been smart – he was relieved of such illusions when he got himself into this situation – but he wasn't stupid, either. If he took a second to breathe, he could break this down. What on Bara Magna is this guy’s deal? The more he thought about it, the more obvious the answer became; his jaw hung aloft with dawning horror. Good Lords above... The man's an idiot. It all made sense: his basic vocabulary, his gruff affect. Maybe he was brain-damaged; perhaps he was just born half-cooked. No matter the means, it was quite apparent that Kirbraz was dealing with some manner of simpleton. He really was fucked. There was no telling how long Skyra might be in there – for all he knew, she could be under heavy anaesthetic, receiving some new implant. She might not even be able to drive him when she came to (or, at least, being her passenger would be even more ill-advised than usual, and Kirbraz already had one death-sentence too many to deal with right now). There was no way Kirbraz could get out of Tajun. He needed a new plan. And he had an idea. “Uh… you know what, sir, I think I’ll just, uh, I think I'll be fine on my own. Just forget you ever saw me.” With that, he turned on his heels. There was still one place in Tajun where he might be safe – the Arena Hotel. Every village leader, bar Scodonius and Raanu, would be staying there ahead of the opening ceremony tomorrow. He wouldn't dare touch Kirbraz in there, and Kirbraz himself might be able to appeal to Ackar for help as Vulcanus' representative. He could still survive this. Probably. OOC: @Jesse Pinkman IC: Crucius (The Crossroads) It had been far too long since Crucius had last travelled alone. For the better part of a year, he had been the Ghost’s envoy and his emissary, spreading his message of change and unity to the disparate Gatherer clans. Naturally, change and unity being anathema to his people, that message was not always well-received. Despite being a formidable fighter, Crucius was not quite equipped to take on a whole clan by himself, and so diplomatic journeys were always undertaken with back-up. Most recently, he had travelled with Metus, perhaps the single most aggravating man he had ever met. If the Ghost allowed it, Crucius would happily have picked him up by the head and pulverised his smug, puny little overly-talkative skull. Unfortunately, he was the useful variety of idiot, and thus his cranium had to remain tragically and inconveniently convex. Thankfully, the two of them had parted ways in Vulcanus so that the Ice Agori could journey onward to Tajun for the Exhibition Matches, and although this left Crucius without a means of transportation, it was also doing wonders for his headache. With his Rock Steed back in the Stronghold, he had instead acquired a Cendox from a very cooperative dealership and set off on his journey home. His only hope was that Taldrix had not yet allowed Fero to burn the entire settlement to the ground in his absence. In the meantime, it was just Crucius, the sands and the desert sun. Simple, blessed peace, at long last. OOC: @Nato G IC: Tueris (Staff NPC; Valley of Death) Tueris looked to his fellow Vulcanusian and gave him the nod. “You go with him. Your cave, your call. Watch each other’s backs and the rest of us will keep a watch out here.” OOC: @oncertainty @Burnmad and all the other Ferrum folks
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