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1 Subscriber Days Lexy the Sexy (78126)
Staff: Staff
Posts: 14
Posted on 12/03 08:10
Chronicles of Athylon
Prince Cecilius Falbrecht stood at the bow of the Wings of Avaleria and looked out across the world with a smile on his face. From the edge of the great airship, he imagined he could see almost all of Athylon, from the idyllic seas and forests of Rotharia to the west to the endless grey mountain valleys of Valnesse to the east. The sun was beginning to disappear beyond the horizon like a great red eye closing, painting the sky a myriad of dazzling golds and violets. Despite the apprehensions that had haunted his mind as of late, Athylon's natural beauty never ceased to fill Cecil with a fierce, childlike wonder.

He felt a hand squeeze his shoulder and turned to see a woman watching him with a bemused expression on her face. She had the swarthy skin and self-assured air of a southern Rotharian, and the dark hair and round cheekbones of one of the Sakharvi, but she was Corvailian through and through. He knew her well: she was Captain Nikata Eberlin, star pilot of the imperial airforce, commander of the Wings of Avaleria, and his sister in all but blood.

"Well, someone looks happy," she said. A smirk tugged at the corners of her lips. "Course, I'd be too - you get to marry the most goddamn beautiful woman in Rotharia, Land of Goddamn Beautiful People, then fly right back to Corvail to get a pretty little crown on your pretty little head. If you looked anything less than pleased I might have had to smack you." She paused, grinned, and bowed low in mock apology. "... Your Grace."

Cecil returned the woman's smirk. "We've been over this, Kat," he chided. "I'm no more Your Grace to you than you are Captain Eberlin to me. When I'm crowned, my first decree will be to get you to stop that nonsense."

"'In the name of Avaleria and the Empyreal Six, I, Emperor Cecilius Falbrecht, hereby order you to never again refer to me as emperor, on punishment of a light scolding'," Nikata said. There was a mischievous gleam in her amber eyes. "How very like you. You're gonna have to learn how to lay down the law eventually, Cecil, if you want to rule the world and all. Take this flying hunk of metal, for example."

She gestured behind her with a theatrical sweep of her arms. The airship's crew was hard at work keeping everything running smoothly, other than a brown-haired woman in ornate armor and a dark-skinned giant of a man, both of whom kept a careful eye on Cecil from the other side of the ship.

"These people, they love me - I mean, who doesn't? But I'll be damned if I can't be an insufferable hardass, and sometimes they hate me for it. But that's the way it's gotta be if we don't want this thing falling into the sea. You want the people of the empire to adore you, I know, but you're their ruler, not their friend. If you let them forget that, and they grow proud, or insolent, or whatever else, then..."

She shrugged her shoulders, then pursed her lips and mimicked a slide whistle as she performed a passable impression of something collapsing or plummeting from the sky with her hands. "... then, 'BOOM'," she finished dramatically, and thrust her fingers outward in a gesture that Cecil could only assume was supposed to represent an explosion.

"Wow, impressive," he said dryly. "Tell me, have you considered leaving the imperial airforce to join one of Rotharia's ensembles?"

"Have you considered taking that crown of yours and shoving it up your royal ass?"

"Listen, Kat," he said with a gentle smile. "I get what you're trying to say. But it's not my intention to 'rule the world' - only the Empyreal Six have that divine authority. My father didn't build New Xenthia in order to control Athylon, he did it to unite it and lead it into prosperity, as Avaleria told him was his destiny. I'll do whatever's in my power to hold the land together and to honor my father's legacy and Avaleria's will. I just... I pray every day that my marriage to Evania ensures this can be done without further bloodshed."

Nikata raised an eyebrow and gave him a curious look. "So, Evania - do you really love her, or is this all politics?" she asked him, blunt as ever. "Because I'll take her if you don't want her," she added with a wink.

Cecil felt a tinge of red creep into his cheeks, and he turned back to face the horizon. Before he could form the words to manage some sort of reply, however, he heard her laughing behind him.

"Either way you're an idiot," she said. "Do you think a marriage will make Skarsgard and the Ashborn throw down their weapons? Do you think it'll make the Sakharvi clans bow before the empire? Sure, it'll satisfy the Rotharian silkdrawers, for a while, but you and your pretty wife-to-be have one hell of a hard life ahead of you, whatever your feelings for each other might or might not be."

Cecil heaved a sigh that seemed to leave him deflated. "You don't think I know that?"

"I know you know that." Nikata punched his shoulder, and smiled wryly. "I just think you should-"

Whatever she was about to say, Cecil would never hear it. Her voice was drowned out as the sudden droning blast of a warhorn cut through the silent twilight and reverberated across the ship.

"Captain Eberlin!" shouted one of the crewmen as he hurried towards them. He was short of breath, and his eyes were wide with fear. The rest of the crew seemed to be in a panic, and the man and woman that had been watching Cecil were rapidly approaching. "Y-Your Grace. There's a... a s-situation."

Nikata's levity suddenly drained from her face, and was replaced with narrowed eyes and a deathly serious expression. She was no longer Kat, but Captain Eberlin, commander of the imperial flagship. "Out with it, soldier," she said quickly.

"W-We've spotted an unidentified airship," he said, thrusting a finger towards the north. "Closing in fast!"

Cecil's eyes widened, and he felt himself shiver despite the warm summer air. "How is that possible?"

"It's not," Nikata said. But there it was - a white dot on the northern horizon, approaching the Wings of Avaleria at a speed faster than Cecil had ever seen an airship move and growing larger and larger by the second. "Lucia, Taebalt, take the prince and get below deck. Now."

The armored woman and the dark-skinned man stepped towards Cecil, but he shook his head quickly. "No. I want to see this. We control every airship in the world, don't we? Maybe... maybe they just bring a missive from home," he offered, but even as he said it he didn't believe it. A feeling of dread was creeping up his spine and spreading through his insides, chilling him to the core. Without their captain's command, the airship's crewmen were already springing to action and beginning to man the cannons.

"A few models were sold to Rotharian nobles," Nikata said, "but never the schematics - and I've never seen anything like that thing. I don't know how it's possible, but it's not one of ours." The airship was now close enough to make out its intricate details - its design was sleek, but more massive than even the Wings of Avaleria, and every inch of it was painted as white as freshly fallen snow. It seemed to drink in the fading sunlight and reflected countless glimmering colors across the sky that filled Cecil with awe alongside his growing fear. "Get the prince to his quarters," Nikata ordered once again. "He can chew me out all the hell he wants after we've neutralized that thing, but his safety is our number one concern."

"You can't just kill them," Lucia protested. "We don't even know who they are, or what they want. These people could be completely innocent!"

"Like hell I can't kill them," Nikata said, giving the woman a scowl. Cecil knew she had little love for the Order of Saint Alerion, of which Lucia was a representative, and had no love at all for someone telling her what to do on her own ship. "I don't care if every good shepherd in the empire is on it, we've got the future emperor and a delegate of Corvailian senators aboard this ship and I'm not about to take any chances. No, I'm sending that thing to the bottom of the Isirian Sea."

"Captain Eberlin!" shouted one of the men at the cannons. "Awaiting your orders to blast these bastards out of the sky!"

Nikata met Lucia's eyes, raised an arm, and was about to thrust it towards the approaching vessel when she realized something chillingly strange: the white ship had suddenly halted its approach. It hung still as death in the twilit sky, and it was only then that Nikata noticed the dark, grotesque shapes crawling atop its deck and clinging to the edges of the ship - and recognized with sudden fear what they were. Two dozen winged horrors detached themselves from the ship's hull and took to the skies with bloodcurdling, inhuman screams, the battlecries of their very human riders joining them - and behind them flew their leader, a giant of a man atop an albino wyvern with wings that stretched thirty feet end to end. It roared with mad bloodlust as its rider pointed a pale white spear towards the Wings of Avaleria.

"W-What in the six hells are those?" Cecil asked in panic. He knew in the back of his fear-addled mind that he should have bolted for the safety of his quarters, but he felt paralyzed him to the spot - be it out of terror or some witless manner of courage and a desire to stand alongside his men, he couldn't quite tell. His three protectors readied their weapons as the batlike abominations swarmed around the ship.

"Sakharvi bloodwings," Nikata spat, quickly shoving a final bullet into the chamber of the last of the multi-barreled firearms strapped to her chest. Cecil had no idea how she could remain so calm, even with death closing in all around them. His own hands were shaking wildly to the point where he couldn't even consider reaching for the dagger hidden in his doublet. "But I'm willing to bet those aren't Sakharvi riding them," she said. "No, it's Skarsgard's ilk, the Ashborn Brotherhood - 'the people's revolution', as they call themselves. They've come for vengeance at last, it seems."

"Vengeance?" There was a knot in his stomach that felt like a closed fist trying to force its way out of him.

"You don't build an empire without first razing the kingdoms that came before you to the ground, Prince Falbrecht," Taebalt growled, his words almost drowned out by the sudden blasts of the cannons. "The ghosts your father left in his wake return to haunt you."

Cecil swallowed down his fear, and nodded once. I will survive this, Evania. I promise.
«Ì¤Á»Kefka«Ì¤Á» (43683)
Posts: 2769
Posted on 12/03 08:21
None
The night air rushed through Sal’s hair as he stood on the deck of the airship. His scarred and calloused hands fumbled with the straps of the harness that would keep him secured to his mount. His mount, a Sakharvi bloodwing, flapped its wings impatiently and screeched. The frigid night air made the old wound on his chest ache, but he had learned to ignore it. Around him, the other members of the boarding party were sheathing their daggers, buttoning up jackets against the icy winds and pulling their goggles down over their eyes. Sal gently pet the bat on the neck to calm it down as he climbed onto its back and strapped himself in. Through the darkness, he could barely make out the silhouette of the Wings of Avaleria, where Prince Cecilius was said to be on board. He shivered, and not just because of the cold. In his jacket, tucked close to his heart was a single explosive. Its icy hardness a constant reminder of his task.

“Hey kid, you nervous?” A bearded man with a scarred face yelled over the sound of the propellers above them as he saddled a pure white wyvern. After a moment of silence, Sal turned and realized that he was being addressed. He shook his head almost imperceptibly. This man would be leading the attack and was the only member of the boarding party who Sal ever talked to before they boarded the airship. But Sal was positive that he wasn't the person who had ordered the attack or who had provided the transportation. He thought back to the debriefing they had received an hour before, in which this man had gone over the security measures on the airship, the floor plans, and how much time they would have. At the end, he told everyone that the prince was not to be touched or engaged by anyone other than himself. Sal wasn’t worried about that though, he had his own special assignment.

The people who hired him would not tolerate failure, they had already paid him well for this, but if everything went off without a hitch, they assured him that he would want for nothing. But there was something about this job made him feel uneasy. He had never killed more than five people to complete a job. And now, as he sat astride his mount, Sal thought over the orders he was given. “Take no prisoners.” The man said. “While the others are keeping the guards distracted, I want you to blow the Wings of Avaleria out of the sky.”

Sal gazed at the lights aboard the vessel coming from countless little windows. He wondered how many people were going to be on board. A hundred? Two hundred? How could he know that they all deserved to die? It was almost enough to make him hesitate. But then he remembered why he chose to pursue this profession and he felt nothing but exhilaration. If he played a part in Cecilius Falbrecht’s death, it would easily be the crowning achievement of his career. He had risked his life multiple times to get where he was now. His fingers shook with nervous energy and blood lust. Unbidden, a small smile crossed his lips.

He heard a whistle blow and around him, the other members of the boarding party mounted up and took hold of their reins. Sal took a deep breath. A few moments later, his bloodwing flapped its massive wings and he was soaring. The sounds of the engine and the whistle faded into the night and all was silent but for the sound of his mount’s wings. Sal had never been so cold in his life, yet that was nothing to him now. His bat, slightly smaller than the rest, was quickly outstripped. He heard a loud bang somewhere in the darkness and a cannon ball whizzed by, missing him by a couple yards.

But that was all part of the plan, the rest of the boarding party needed to distract the guards in order to let Sal through to the engine room. In his preparation for this assignment, Sal had studied the blueprints of the Wings of Avaleria in intimate detail, and he now he carried a map of the ship in his mind. He would be in and out in less than ten minutes.

As he drew closer, he saw that the first members of boarding party had already killed six or seven guards and were making their way through the ship, killing indiscriminately as they went.

As they approached a open air deck, Sal jumped from the bat. He drew a dagger from his boot and made his way through the well lit corridors of the airship. He heard running foot steps and crashing sounds in the upper deck and knew that the boarding party was making their way to the cockpit.

Sal, as he slunk through the corridors, silent as a cat, felt completely in his element. He surprised a couple guards on the way, cutting them down with his daggers before they even had a chance to scream and tossed them into an empty broom closet, without even hesitating to wipe the blood from his face.

He was pleasantly surprised to find no one guarding the door to the engine room. They’re probably all dealing with the .... show upstairs. It was the simplest thing to pick the lock of the door. As he stepped in, closing the door behind him, he noticed an elderly engineer sitting at a desk. It took Sal a second to notice that the man was looking right at him and had a small pistol pointed aimed at the doorway. He barely heard the bang over the deafening sound of the engine, but felt a horrible pain in his abdomen. Sal leaned against the heavy steel door in shock, staring at the engineer who was lamenting his poor aim and backing away, clumsily attempting to reload the pistol. Despite the blinding pain, Sal managed to cross the room in two strides and cut the engineer’s throat. The man never once begged for his life or even screamed before his lifeless body fell to the floor.

Sal studied the wound in his belly and concluded with relief that the bullet had passed through and that it would heal with time. I’ll deal with this later. I should have seen that one coming.

He did his best to ignore the pain as he walked towards the massive engine. Sal reached into his jacket, pulled the bundle of dynamite out, and placed it next to a giant vat of engine oil that fed into the main parts of the machine. He set the fuse, which was several yards long and his job was done. The length of the fuse would give him about five or six minutes to get off the airship before the bomb detonated.

With that, Sal strode out of the room, briefly pausing next to the engineer’s corpse to pocket the pistol. He made his way more quickly through the halls now, jogging slightly as a trail of dark blood was left in his wake. His hand clutched at his bleeding wound and he was starting to feel light headed and woozy. It was quieter upstairs now, which made Sal nervous. Did it mean that his companions had succeeded in killing the guards, or did it mean that they had retreated and he was the only one left on board? He hurried a little, and almost ran into the edge of an axe as he turned a corner. Standing before him was a massive, armored, dark skinned man. Upon closer inspection, Sal realized with a jolt of fear and exhilaration that he was wearing the insignia of the royal family of Corvail.

“Brigand!” He roared, swiping at Sal’s head with an axe. Sal, though wounded, still had the advantage of speed and agility over this hulking mass of a man. They danced, with Sal dodging every one of the body guard’s swings, all the while desperately searching for a way out, a weak point on this beast of a man.

Then, out of nowhere, the butt of the axe handle came down on Sal’s face. He fell to his knees; his sight and mind blurred with pain. He felt blood pour from his nose. The huge man stood above him, axe raised above his head. If he had brought the axe down a second faster, Sal’s head would have been a bloody mass of bone and brain tissue. But Sal managed to move out of the way just as the axe came down and got momentarily stuck in the wooden floor planks. This was Sal’s chance. Blinking through the pain in his nose and lips, his fingers wrapped found the hilt of the dagger and he rose up, and slashed upwards at the man’s face, cutting a deep gash from his nose to his right eye.

The man’s cry of agony was deafening. He dropped the axe and his hands flew to his ruined eye. Sal did not stop to look or to finish the man off. He took off sprinting, blindly charging forward. He tripped over a corpse or two, not stopping to check whose side they were on. Within two minutes, he found his way to the deck where he landed, his bat waiting for him. He vaulted onto the bloodwing's back and gave it a vicious kick in the sides. The bat screeched in pain and flew off into the night.
*THIS SPACE FOR RENT*
1 Subscriber Days Lexy the Sexy (78126)
Staff: Staff
Posts: 14
Posted on 12/03 08:23
None
Blood and slaughter surrounded Cecil. The shrieks and howls of the Ashborn’s bloodwings joined with the screams of the dying Corvailians in a cacophonous symphony that drowned out even the din of the airship propellers. The colossal albino wyvern continued to spiral through the sky around the Wings of Avaleria, roaring with rage and frustration at its master's refusal to let it sate its bloodlust. That draconic monstrosity was nearly as infamous as the man who rode it, and their presence only made Cecil’s terror stronger. The Corvailians outnumbered the assassins three to one, but half their ranks had broken the moment the bloodwings and the white wyvern had taken to the skies. A few had bravely - and vainly - stayed behind to man the cannons, but there was no outmaneuvering a Sakharvi bloodwing. Dodging the cannonballs with ease, the beasts swooped down upon the crewmen with high-pitched shrieks, tearing into them with fangs that could puncture iron armor like a blade through silk or wrapping them in their serpentine, prehensile tails and flinging them off the side of the ship. One crewman got in a lucky shot, and a cannonball blasted a bloodwing and its rider into the Isirian Sea below, but one of the Ashborn swiftly slipped behind him and slid a knife across his throat before pushing his corpse over the edge to join them.

Despite being in plain sight, none of the assassins had moved in on Cecil, who stood at the prow of the ship with Nikata, Taebalt, and Lucia circling him protectively. One of the bloodwings or the wyvern could have easily swooped down at any moment and have torn him to pieces or flung him to his death... yet they didn’t, even as his fellow countrymen screamed and begged and died all around him. Nikata was desperately shouting orders to the crew, waving a triple-barreled pistol around in her hand, but her words were lost in the chaos. One of the assassins strayed too close and was met with a bullet between the eyes, and she fired another shot at one she saw slipping into the lower decks with a strange bundle in his jacket. She shouted in frustration when her bullet missed, and quickly turned towards Taebalt.

"He’s heading for the engine room - you bring me his head and you do it now," she ordered.

Taebalt grit his teeth, his grip on his waraxe tightening. "My duty is to protect Prince Ceci-"

".... all that, we have no time," she said in a tone that brooked no argument. "If this ship goes down the sea will kill us sure as any beast or dagger. Lucia and I will stay here - I’ll cover you!"

"You do not-"

"Go!"

Taebalt growled low, but after a nod from Cecil, charged off towards the entrance to the lower decks as Nikata shot down an assassin closing in. Still, none of the Ashborn attacked them. "Something’s wrong," Cecil said. "Why aren’t they-"

A deafening screech pierced the sky as the white wyvern descended upon them, each beat of its massive wings kicking up a cold, violent wind that made it hard for them to keep their footing. Two bloodwings and their Ashborn masters flanked either side of it, and as the winged demon stared down at them with pale red eyes and bared its jagged, knifelike fangs, its rider, a bearded northman with a scarred face, began to laugh wildly. "At long last, the Ashborn will have their righteous retribution," he shouted triumphantly, and raised a massive white spear towards the sky. "I dedicate this sacrifice to Kvadnir!"

Without hesitation Nikata aimed her pistol towards him and pulled the trigger, then cursed when the empty chambers clicked hollow. As she reached for another, one of the bloodwings’ tails wrapped around her arms and twisted, and with a sharp cry of pain she fell to her knees. The man on the wyvern looked down at her with a mad grin. "Nikata Eberlin," he said. He did not seem to like the taste the name left in his mouth, and spit on her. "You are unworthy of the vessel that left my kingdom in ashes. A shame Skywright is as dead as your boy prince’s tyrant father, I’d have liked for him to have been here to see his life’s work sink to the bottom of the Isirian Sea. So this is the Wings of Avaleria, is it? I’d often dreamed of this day, but I must admit to feeling some disappointment." His lips curled around his teeth, and he gestured lazily towards the white airship in the distance with his spear. "Mine is better, I think!"

"Skarsgard," Nikata growled through her pain. "You black-hearted bastard son of a ....., what in the six hells do you think you’re doing? Where did you get that airship?" The bloodwing’s tail was still wrapped tight around her arms, and the fiend shrieked towards Cecil and Lucia, spraying sickly green spittle and daring them to take another step.

"What am I doing?" Skarsgard seemed to find the question deeply amusing. He thrust the spear in Cecil’s direction, and Lucia stepped in front of him protectively, shield raised. "This is vengeance for Aeseri! Vengeance for Athylon! Aurelius Falbrecht took my lands and my father from me, it’s only fitting I take his son from his!" He narrowed his wild grey eyes at Cecil. "And after I make an offering of your corpse to Kvadnir, boy, your brother and sister are next. I'll bury New Xenthia at the bottom of the sea just as I will this airship that took everything from me. Yes - the bards and skalds will sing eternally of the day that Svenhardt Skarsgard and the Ashborn Brotherhood ended the Usurper’s lineage forever!"

"You'll be seen as a mad butcher and a treasonous ..... until the end of time," Lucia seethed through clenched teeth, "and after we hang you and toss your crow-picked corpse in the Great Divide, we'll burn an effigy of you every year until the day the moon cracks open and the world is bathed in flame." Cecil had never heard so much venom seep from a person's voice.

"Only if you win, wench, only if you win. And you won't." He grinned down at her, and the wyvern breathed hot air out through its nostrils. "You've got bigger balls than a basilisk, though, I like that - who might you be?" Then he saw the sunburst sigil on her shield, and the great phoenix rising above it with fire licking at its wings, and he smiled almost wisthully. "Aah - so a Knight of Avaleria is on board! This just got a lot more interesting, didn't it?"

"I am Lucia Rosselyn of the Order of Saint Alerion," she said defiantly. "I will see Prince Cecilius safely to Rotharia, and nothing you can do will stop me."

"Like this?" He laughed wildly and raised his spear to the skies. "I dedicate this death to Kvadnir!" he bellowed, then threw the spear directly towards Cecil. He was fast, but Lucia was faster. She tossed herself straight into its path, shield raised, and as she did, hurled her sword with all her might at the bloodwing ensnaring Nikata. The spear punctured through the steel of her shield and tore into Lucia’s flesh and bone the same moment that her sword buried itself in the beast's skull. It died almost as instantly as Nikata reacted: within seconds her second triple-barreled pistol was drawn, and she pulled the trigger again and again and again, unloading it into the white wyvern and its rider. One bullet took the wyvern in its scaly hide, while two took Skarsgard in his leg and side, and he roared in agony and rage, viciously kicking his feet against his mount to get it to take to the skies. Her ammo exhausted, Nikata drew a third pistol and took aim at Skarsgard when the second bloodwing suddenly swooped down upon her, grabbing her in its talons and swatting the weapon out of her hands with its tail.

"I'll not give you the honor of going down with your ship, imperial .....," Skarsgard roared as the bloodwing flew away from the Wings of Avaleria with Nikata still firmly entrapped in its talons. "You'll live to see your beloved airship destroyed and your crewmen slaughtered, and you'll return to your masters and tell them that the Ashborn Brotherhood did this, and that Silvius Falbrecht and the Senate are next! I’ll rip their empire from the skies in Kvadnir’s name and leave nothing but blood and ashes!"

"Kat! No!" Cecil rushed towards the edge of the ship as the bloodwing carried her off and out of sight, but Lucia grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him back. He turned to face her - Skarsgard's pale white spear was still impaled in her left arm, which was bleeding profusely, and her eyes were filled with pain and fear and sorrow.

"It's over," she said. "I'm sorry."

"No, no, it’s not," he said desperately, "we can… we can still-" Then he turned to face the rest of the ship, and the devastation the Ashborn had wrought made the words die in his throat. All his men were either dead or dying, and a hundred tendrils of flame were consuming the ship. It was all flying away - wood and flesh burned and went up in ash and were blown away by the wind. Cecil felt like he was about to retch. His father had not kept him sheltered, not at all, and he knew well the horrors of war, but this…

The Ashborn and their bloodwings had already retreated but for one pair. A final assassin suddenly scampered up from the lower decks and bolted for the last bloodwing, and Cecil realized with horror it had been the man Nikata had sent Taebalt after. The bundle in his jacket was no longer there. Taebalt immediately stumbled up after him, roaring in pain and fury and clutching the hollow pit where his right eye used to be, but before he could reach him the assassin had vaulted onto his bloodwing and was gone.

"Prince Falbrecht!" Taebalt shouted desperately, maneuvering his way through the flames towards them. Blood seeped between his fingers. "The engine room - it’s going to blow!"

Skarsgard's laughter carried over the crackling flames. "Ah - that's my cue to leave. It's time to die, boy. At least you couldn't ask for a day more beautiful, no? It's more than a Falbrecht deserves." He gave an almost nonchalant shrug of his shoulders, then waved. "Well, goodbye. Give your father my regards when you meet him in the deepest of the six hells - and tell him Kveikarr's son sent you."

With a thunderous beating of its wings, the white wyvern took off towards the airship in the distance, and Svenhardt Skarsgard and the Ashborn Brotherhood were gone.

Feeling hollow and broken, Cecilius Falbrecht looked across the horizon towards the setting sun for what he knew would be the last time. Only a thin line of red remained visible over the ocean. Skarsgard had been right - it was beautiful. Avaleria's Gift, the disciples of the goddess called it, and some part of Cecil found it darkly fitting that the airship named in her honor - the first airship that had ever been built - would leave the world at the same moment the sun did. Nikata survived, he tried to console himself, as the tears ran down his cheeks and the smoke burnt his eyes and lungs, and my family, and the rest of the Senate… this isn’t the end of my father’s legacy.

He turned to face his companions one last time, who stood bravely beside him in death. Even with the blood dripping down from the ruin that had once been his eye, and even knowing that he was about to die, Taebalt looked oddly dignified. Lucia's eyes were shut tight in concentration as she whispered a final prayer to Avaleria, but she stayed close to the two of them, even as the flames closed in on them from all sides.

Silvius and Reisseu will lead Athylon into prosperity. They must... blessed Avaleria, Empyreal Six, please protect them, don't let them fail as I did... oh gods, dear father, my people, I'm so sorry. Evania, I-
_____________________________________________________________________________________

The sun disappeared behind the horizon at the exact moment the Wings of Avaleria exploded in a brilliant burst of fire and light, illuminating the night sky for a brief, beautiful moment longer before the world faded into darkness and the flaming wreckage of the airship collapsed into the Isirian Sea. Fire collided into water with a sound that sounded like the end of the world, and then nothing of the proud airship remained but an ever-spinning fragment of earth that continued to hang suspended in the night sky, unscathed; once it had been the Wings of Avaleria’s core, but now its fate was to serve forevermore as a gravestone for Cecilius Falbrecht, Prince of Corvail, and the one hundred men and women that had died there.

Svenhardt Skarsgard was still laughing as his wyvern landed back on the white airship. He took a sweeping glance across the deck, and saw that only nine of his men were unaccounted for. The attack was an overwhelming victory. He thrust a fist into the sky, shouting triumphantly. "You’re heroes, now, boys!" he bellowed, and the Ashborn raised their weapons and roared in fierce joy. "The world will never forget the day that the Ashborn Brotherhood took down both the Usurper’s twisted brood and the airship that brought Athylon to its knees. The imperial cowards thought themselves safe in the skies, but we have shown New Xenthia that nothing is beyond our reach!"

"Your struggle means nothing so long as any of your oppressors continue to draw breath," a voice said, deep and velvety, and a dark-haired man in armor as snow white as the airship he commanded stepped up onto the deck. He had not taken part in the raid, but when the Ashborn saw him, they all fell suddenly silent and bowed to him in reverence - Svenhardt Skarsgard among them. "Only once the Rose of Rotharia has wilted and nothing remains of New Xenthia but blood and ashes will our vengeance will be final." He turned away from them, and for a brief moment he was illuminated by the torchlight, unveiling the sigil that was emblazoned upon his armor: a black and white sunburst, painted red and gold by the light of the flames, and a great phoenix rising above it as fire licked at its wings.

"Still, though," he added, smiling as he looked back over his shoulder, "it’s a good start."
Miller the Tiller (72381)
Posts: 0
Posted on 12/08 21:26
None
If there was any tavern in the city of Avareux that would have garnered a lot of noise, it was The Phantom Froth. It sat on the one street that would have been the most idyllic in all of Rotharia. From decks two stories above gardens hung, cascading ivy, roses, and greenery in general overneath a street of ivory-dyed cobblestone and facades of elegantly-carved wood. This was Seaworth Avenue, and looking northwards from The Phantom Froth gave a glimpse of the ocean, and what would have been the calming sounds of bickering gulls.

Instead, the average passerby was met with bickering buffoons, especially given the kind of patrons in The Phantom Froth.

The Twin Mask Ensemble was in town.

Of course they were—Avareux was their home.

The Phantom Froth was their unofficial house. Even the sign which hung from its awning was the twin mask—laughter and despair divided by a single suture down the middle, the tavern's name emblazoned beneath in barely-legible calligraphy. The sea salt in the air, and the rain, has faded the paint, but not the colored glass on the windows, or the designs of dancing jesters carved into the glass.


A thrown tankard barely missed Havendesh's head. Being very short was something of a talent for him that way, because had he been a few inches above the bar counter it would have clocked him on his bald forehead. He watched for the rabble-rousers who might've done that—the Froth was a revolving door of regular patrons, and almost all of them had no scruples. If it wasn't sailors, it was street thugs. If it wasn't street thugs, it was actors, and they were the worst because they could easily chameleon as all three— yes, that did include themselves, especially the types who wanted to claim that acting in itself was recursive or whatever. Actors were out in droves, though, because the patron saints of the Phantom Froth were performing tonight. Surely, though, it was the group of stagehands waving at him from across the tavern who threw the tankard.

The largest of the three had a half-lidded stare, and his massive, ham-sized hand thrust forward and open, as if he had just thrown something. He had about a foot of space between his own mop-covered head and the ceiling, but then again this one was as giant as they could get—stagehands, anyway, if that was his actual occupation and not something more appropriate for his size. Like a bouncer.

His group of friends, substantially smaller, looked to be led by a smirking, dark-skinned, athletic, and green-haired (was it dyed?) woman laid back in her chair, her boot-covered feet kicked up onto the table. The second man next to her was something inbetween—his arms were crossed, but he wore his own scowl.

"Cyrus, ya gotta aim slightly lower," the woman said. This was Fraye 'Cinders,' so-nicknamed because she needed something to write on employment contracts for her lack of surname. "Besides, the dart board requires darts." She laughed and took a long swig of what was her third round of ale, leaving a "mustache" of beer above her lips.

The Phantom Froth was known for quite a few things—it's froth being mysteriously absent wasn't one of them.

"And is about ten feet that way." The second man pointed to the dartboard—substantially father away from the bar than the giant had anticipated. This man was Baragos 'The Bold,' also for lack of a surname. He shrugged and returned to his drinking.

Cyrus sat back down. As large as he was, and even though the tankard he just threw made a sizable dent in the wall behind Havendesh and left a dripping stain, he did not care. When the Ensemble employed him, he didn't even give a fake surname. If any care were to be given in any time, Cyrus was not the one to give it. He gave so little care that by the time he sat down he just nodded Havendesh over.

"You're gonna get another round? Thinking about a refund for the last one?" Fraye said.

"We pay him a lot to be here. Think he cares?" Cyrus said.

"More than you do."

Havendesh had to stare up a mile to meet Cyrus's face. He only shook his head and adjusted his mustache. He gave them another round, and Fraye tossed him another pouch of coin.

Even though the performance was tonight, it was going to be a long afternoon— especially if the rest of the Twin Mask were anything like those three. "Stagehands" even. If Havendesh remembered anything about the Ensemble, their "stagehands" were more likely a bunch of toughs and thieves; they looked like they would be.

It wouldn’t be long before these three rats (or maybe it was two rats and an overgrown hamster) were joined by the rest of them: like that blonde kid with the attitude problem, or the street rats with peppered faces, or that idiot with the tophat whose idea of piano playing involved getting drunk and pounding his hands on the keys like he was rubbing one off to The Twin.

It was going to be a long afternoon when all of these pieces of rabble arrived, even more so when the actors did.

It was too much to ask of them for them to meet in a different tavern, after all.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The square was several blocks away from The Phantom Froth, and it was abuzz with even more activity. Thankfully, it was only fewer than half of the Ensemble who elected to get drunk the afternoon before the performance. Between the rehearsals and the setup, it had been a chaotic week. Right now, one could relax if they wanted to put those weeks of practice to waste.

Navitia D'Taune of the Ensemble's Triumvirate was not happy with this idea, even if she didn’t have to call her assistants to swarm over her until two hours before the show, for the makeup that transformed her into one of the faces of the Ensemble. She stood below the stage, staring up at it from a chair in the center of the impromptu theatre—it was that Seth Lerender fellow's idea that the seats be arranged so that the back rows were higher up. It was the acoustics, he explained, though at the time he had a million other words, and a three page diagram for it.

It worked, of course, because such a design was common sense, although Seth's solution was only needed because Avareux's square didn't have an already-built theatre, and it's terrain required some temporary supports to hold up rows of chairs arranged this way.

It had the other advantage of dimming the noise of the sea, as it would be overpowered through an actor's voice.

Again—common sense, but that Lerender fellow didn't take it lightly, and for good reason. The seat beneath Navitia's feet was stable enough. She stepped up to the one behind her, and then the next one, and the next one. Each was stable enough. Except for one seat—just one seat in the middle— that wobbled slightly.

"Worrying over imperfections?" Someone said. "My Lady will have a heart attack if she finds out someone falls out of their chair in the middle of the show."

"Your lady, Grath, is far too south to have an immediate concern," Navitia said. "Now step out of the shadows where I can render your stubble as intimidating as a gaggle of bunnies."

"Whatever you say, poobah of pomp."

Grath stepped out from underneath the scaffolding holding the chairs up. He was a wiry man. His face was gaunt and covered in whiskers. His body was only filled out with a coat, that only made him appear thinner when he moved to adjust the pipe in his mouth. It emphasized his slouch as well. The coat of arms of Taerdre was emblazoned over a pin on his lapel -- a criss-crossed pattern of rose stem thorns over a deep red background.

"I hear there's a special guest who's taking interest in this one."

"Yes, yes, you don't need to tell me. The duchess's daughter is going to show up, everyone is going to act surprised and take their bow, and the show will go on. It's all the same as if any offspring of your lady showed up--not that she'll have any soon. She won't need to get jealous."

"That's not the problem," Grath said. "Our guest is walking into some dangerous territory here. Who knows who'll want her?"

"Oh hoh hoh, Grath. I will surely discipline anyone who can't keep their hands to themselves."

"I don't mean your employees."

"Now is the duchess-to-be such a concern for your lady that I have to be reminded of the obvious?"

"No, boss. Just don't want any problems... More problems, anyway."

He puffed from his pipe. Navitia watched the stage—the actress standing upon it was giving a cold reading—Lerender's request to test the acoustics.

The lines were the attrocious "testing, testing, one-two-check, check." Read with the drone of a mooing cow. This wasn’t one of Miss Valiquette’s finest performances, but it was just to test the acoustics, so it wasn’t more than her lovely voice droning on, threatening to put Navitia to sleep. Mister Lerender enthusiastically thrust his thumb in the air at every increment he stepped. Said increment was barely an inch at a time. Navitia didn’t have to look at him to tell he must have been grinning from ear to ear.

"I can hear it from back here just fine, Ellisen, dear," Navitia called. “And mister Lerender, quit making up excuses to eye-.... the poor dear.”

Seth grumbled to himself, and looked away, before stepping back a further increment--behind Navitia, to actually test the acoustics like he was supposed to.
1 Subscriber Days Evelyn Lovelace (78126)
Staff: Staff
Posts: 14
Posted on 12/22 07:35
None
LOL WHY IS THIS STILL UP
47 Subscriber Days AA Pamela (4115)
Staff: Admin Staff
Posts: 1873
Posted on 12/22 09:21
None
Why take it down?
Not every flower can say love,but a rose did.Not every plant can survive thirst,but a cactus did.Not every dummy can read,but look at you go...

Sigh....should of ask...tsk

[del] 05-Jul-14 23:34 You defeated Carduelis (58400)! You and surviving Knights earned 109972 NP/EXP each!
[del] 05-Jul-14 23:34 You defeated Carduelis (58400)! You and surviving Knights earned 109972 NP/EXP each!
279 Subscriber Days °†°Lady Paksenarian°†° (51315)
Posts: 2881
Posted on 01/22 22:14
LOL


Littlered bought you a White Rose Bouquet;Dark Destiny bought you Fluffy Unicorn Slippers&it says:Never can have too many fluffy unicorn slippers,& A violet kitten,To keep you company in your castle;Annette bought you an AppleJamTart &a Pink Rose Bouquet!Chris bought you a Fluffy Bunny,&a Unicorn Amulet4the bunny;Nikodemus bought you a Gold Necklace,is engraved: PAKSENARIAN;D®eadLo®d bought you a Valentines Day Scroll!The Valentines Day Scroll has written on it <3 ;FleckboughtU CarrotCake.

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