1. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    You Are Not The Hero

    Discussion in 'Role Play' started by halisme, Sep 2, 2016.

    You are not the hero. There are no heroes anymore on the continent of Etvena. There is no need for heroes on Etvena. The Dragon Cult were subjugated. The Mortuary Circle drive into hiding. The Jotun torn from their mountains and reduced to brutes. Many would define these as a great kindness to the world. The first and second Iron Queen called it reducing the competition.

    Over the process of three centuries The Empire has expanded, her grip tightening around the continent, consuming countries and states like a gluttonous beast. Now, the last hold of those who consider themselves good are about to fall. The walls of Guardam are now under siege, and The Queen had come to see an end to this personally.

    To deal with any rebellions, The Steel Hand was formed. Inquisitors, enforcers, spies and assassins. When a land has been conquered they move in, suppressing any plans of descent through whatever means necessary. Be they intimidation, deception or outright murder.

    Your character is a member of The Hand, invited to take part in the battle and secure the city till a more permanent garrison can be formed.


    Etvena (Useful but not necessary Lore)


    Etvena was thought to be the sole continent of world eight years ago. A fact that brought great ire from the family that was close to claiming dominion over all. Now though, two others have been discovered, though neither have a formal name, nor does The Queen eye them for conquest, yet.

    Instead, her dominion stretches from The Long Beach in the north, to the frozen islands of the south, where giant mammoths and other strange creatures still roam. The centre of the continent varies massively, switching between great plains, thick forest, and rolling hills. The eastern shore of the continent is dominated almost entirely by mountains, formerly dominated by the Jotun. The only break in the chain contain a series of ruins with unknown architecture, and inhabited by strange masses of flesh that hunted any that came within or skirted the borders. The area was cleansed when the Jotun were brought low, allowing exploration across the sea and the discovery of the two new continents.

    The western coast is much more tame, ranging between sandy beaches and stony cliffs, holding a great many ports that are used to move goods along the continent, and is where Guardam rests, lying on a small peninsula of the same name slightly north of the centre.

    “You ask why there is no qualifier? Why we aren’t The Empire of The Venar? Or The Iron Empire? Why would we need one? There is no other worth remembering that came before, nor will there be another that succeeds us.” Reynius I at The Battle of Davham.

    As a land Etvena was never unified. Over eight centuries ago it was split into a score of kingdoms, republics and tribes. The Empire came from the latter that overcame the second, and became the first on the land they took. For the longest time they were unextraordinary, expanding, contracting, waxing and waning. Eight hundred and fifty years ago, that changed when Tyberius of Lymonte, a prominent philosopher and minor noble, presented his manifesto to the crown.

    1.Security may only be achieved through strength.

    2.All must have their place.

    3.People are their history.

    The Queen, Reyna I, took this to heart, and reformed her nation fit the ideology, while her descendants successfully expanded upon the code, and the lands owned by the family. Two hundred years after this, the kingdom officially renamed themselves to The Empire, and continued their expansion.

    Due to it’s large size and massively varying climates, there is little consistent culture, though the the three tenets remain universal. As such, warriors are often revered, however the actual intent is on all levels. Financial security can only be financial strength. As such, most people have a strong work ethic, something which has been infused in the population by state funded artists.

    This focus on culture is also seen after the empire conquers an area. Sculptures, paintings and play that display the ideals of the former rulers are destroyed and replaced, though it is impossible to remove aural traditions, some vestiges still remain.

    The current Iron Queen, Reyna II, see’s herself as the fulfilment of eight centuries of planning, despite the fact she was not intended to rule. The third child of Reynius I. She was born with magic, as such she was sent to one of the various academies, and showed great talent for Fulgurmancy and Terramancy.

    Her eldest sibling, Parcius, lacked talent in anything however, and was regarded by most as incompetent in all aspects. The middle child of the three, Darius, was significantly more competent than his brother, though not in line to inherit. This was not something that he was pleased with, and a large amount of tension brewed between the pair for several years till one unfortunate event.

    During a war with a southern state, their king was killed. However, the letter sent back to the capital by one of the generals participating in the campaign simply said “The king is dead, the natives have claimed his body”. Believing there to be little time before his brother was crowned, Darius acted without his blade and without thought. When Reynius returned to the capital, finding one son slain and the other upon his throne, he was overcome with anger, and commanded the boy be burnt alive, along with the general who sent the message in the first place.

    With Reyna left as an only child, and inheritor of the crown, her education was quickly changed to reflect what was now expected of her. Though she seemed a talented politician and governor, she believes herself to be a poor tactician, something which others agree upon, so she often leaves individual battles to more competent generals, though still takes part as a potent mage.

    The philosophy of Tyberius, renamed The Imperial Code, is embedded deeply within society, the second tenet being most prominent. To ensure that everyone is within the place most suited to them, a strict caste system is embedded into the day to day life, though based on ability and not on blood, until the royal family is reached.

    The lowest caste are the Unwilling. Criminals, dissidents, or outright separatists. While many other nations simply killed those who were uncooperative, The Empire considers that a waste of resources. Instead, they are used for jobs with a high risk of death, such deep mining, or cleansing certain areas. Though most die within a short period of being given their labour, those that succeed are given the chance to reintegrate into society. The most famous group, known informally as Kimbolt’s Mountaineers, were Jotun hunters, and earned their freedom after killing forty seven and capturing five of their quarry.

    The next caste are labourers, normally spread throughout small villages scattered across the land. Farmers, quarriers, merchants and anything else that needs little skill. That is not to say that the people lack wits. Often times it is due to either lack of motivation, or even a desire for a simple, peaceful life. However, in times of war, they may be drafted to form the bulk of the imperial army, acting as an anvil to the warrior caste’s hammer.

    Afterwards are the craftsman, those that are responsible for mass production of goods. Food, toos, arms and armour for the two lower castes, and everything else the populace needs to keep moving. Strangely, entertainers are often placed into this area, there being a great debate on whether they should even have a caste, their being little material use for them, though their cultural value being prized.

    Afterwards are warriors. To keep a large scale army is highly impractical, requiring food, armour and training, while giving nothing in return unless fighting. As such, a small core of professional, highly trained, heavily armed soldiers are kept. Small is a relative term however, and in its last few wars, The Empire’s elite often outnumbered the enemy’s rank and file, resulting in their being no need to draft the lower castes. Each warrior trained in as many weapons as possible so that they might fit whatever role is needed, though they receive further development in whatever area they are most effective at. In war, some would be spread amongst the drafted members of the army, maintaining morale and coordinating troops, while the rest will form the vanguard.

    Afterwards are the artisans. Masters at their work who train the craftsman, produce the tools of the warriors, and even serve the royals. These are the artisans who truly receive fame and fortune, be it the masons who built The Imperial Palace, or the range of master swordsmiths.

    Overseeing all of this, are the bureaucrats, a fact which annoys many. Scheduling deliveries, collecting taxes, and many, many other jobs that people consider unnecessary, but the empire would collapse without. They are also responsible for assigning people’s castes, giving them a great degree of power.

    Finally, are the Judges. For the law to be enforced, no one can be above it. As such, no one apart from the royalty is above their eye, sometimes not even then. Imperial Justice is collective. Everyone who knew of a crime, and either endorsed, or did not attempt to stop it despite knowing of it, are guilty. They often receive a reduced sentence than the perpetrator, often massively reduced, such as a small financial penalty, or placement in one of the less lethal tasks, though there is still danger of death. The Steel Hand also falls into this caste, though created to deal with armed and organised dissent, instead of crimes with non-political motivations.

    Throughout the years, dragons have always been a symbol of power. Though their existence is doubted by many, that has not stopped them from being idolised and envied. The Dragon Cult was one such group, though they took their admiration further than most. For they aspired to become dragons. Alchemy, metallurgy and magic were are all used. From the first, came black power, from the second, armour and arms beyond most, from the final, abominations.The Empire had just renamed itself when it came into conflict with The Cult, and it took over sixty years for there to be any resolution. Their land, while technically part of the empire, receives certain preferential treatments, such as appointing their own governors, not requiring the caste system, and still being permitted to practice Animancy. However, they must abide by the empire’s other laws, and provide arms and armour. This partnership, while strained in recent years, is seen as preferential to war, doubly so by the cult, who now lack any real perceived advantage over the empire.

    Death and taxes are the only certainties in the world. The former is something that has always fascinated many, and most would like to escape it. The Mortuary Circle, through means they are unwilling to share, seem to have found a way to escape old age. While still capable of being killed by traditional means, they are more resistant to them, requiring the destruction of vital organs. However, their bodies have been proven flammable, and they tend to avoid fire at all costs. The mere act of stabbing them is as easy as it is for any human. The problem is getting close enough.

    The most accomplished mage might master two types of magic. Members of the circle tend to have mastery of all of them, though they avoid Carnamancy and Manamancy. The reason for the first is unknown, perhaps they wish to preserve their forms, or see no need to it. Their view on the latter is of great interest to those that hunt them, however. When a member of The Circle enters an area with little magic, or a Manamancer deprives them, they physically slow down. Why is unknown, though this suggests they are dependant on magic as whole.

    Whether a person must discover the means of immortality to enter the group, or are made eternal upon joining is unknown. Their motives are just as unclear, and members seem to have conflicted in the past, suggesting a loose coalition over any formal group.

    Why The Empire is hostile to The Circle is not apparent at first, however, it relates to their first and third tenet. When a being can master almost all magic, little else can be stronger, as such, there is no security. Secondly, if people are there history, then The Mortuary Circle are more than most and near unknowable, and seem to refuse Imperial Culture whenever it is presented to them.


    Setting: Fantasy with mid-renaissance technology, further empowered by magic.


    Character sheet (must be checked with GM before being posted in discussion)

    Name:

    Appearance:

    Equipment:

    Magic: (Can be left blank.)

    History/Personality:

    Deep within the earth, invisible currents of energy drift. Most are irregular, though still usable. There are more regular sorts, either predictable flows named leylines, or even the sources in some points called nodes. These are much more easily accessed, and allow a greater strengths of spells, and more predictable casting.

    Those born with the gift of magic are placed within special education centres that ensure their loyalty to the nobility, and that their power is not wasted on frivolous tasks. Many are placed in the military, though Aquamancers are often aid in farming and Terramancers in construction. However, there are certain types of magic judged too dangerous to be used, even by those with imperial training, however, certain individuals who prove their loyalty may retrieve a permit. Most will learn one or two types before leaving their academy, expected to refine their craft out in the world.


    Legal Magic:

    Pyromancy - Control and creation of fire.

    Fulgurmancy-Control and creation of electricity.

    Terramancy - Control of the earth.

    Aquamancy - Control of water

    Itermancy- Allows the mage to teleport themselves and any item they’re holding short distances.

    Kinamancy- Allows for creation of short, violent burst of raw force.



    Illegal Magic

    Animancy - A strange magic that brings inanimate objects to life, and imprints them a purpose given by their master. Called necromancy when used on the dead, however, it has a much wider range of use.

    Carnamancy - Allows the user to manipulate life into other shapes, normally shambling monstrosities thanks to lack of knowledge, though even the most skilled master can do little better.

    Manamancy - Those who cast this sort of magic control the ebb and flow of magic itself and claim to see what lies beyond the ebb and tides of magic beneath the world, and are driven mad because of it.
     
  2. Kingtype
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    Kingtype Always writing or thinking things XD Staff Role Play Moderator Contributor

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  3. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Five hundred metres of flat land before our men reach the ruins of the small wall." Fyraxus stated, overlooking the war table and tracing his fingers over the map. "All of which are covered by ballistas. After that, they have a ten meter wide spiked pit, with only a few bridges across that they have raised. Worse still is that they can flood it. That leaves the middle wall." He continued, tapping the paper lightly and tracing. "Crossbowmen, oil and more siege weaponry. Afterwards, there's another pit, this one kept permanently flooded and twice as wide as the last." He began to place small, ivory models on the paper, having them lining the wall. "With eight thousand soldiers, and a rough estimate of twelve thousand militia." He gave a sigh before looking up, glancing between his lieutenants. "They're keeping this area magically inert, so our mages can't do anything, but those inside can. And she's going to tell people to keep running at it till it falls over."

    There was a sense of lethargy in the group. They'd spent six months outside the city, half a dozen ships blocking the sea to ensure that no supplies could get through while they did the same on land. It was a small force. Guardam was supposed to be a small city state. Unfortunately, the rulers of the city had either realised what was coming, or had someone on the inside of the military, and decided to reinforce their city. Fyraxus's army had not had such a luxury, and their attempt to assault the city three months ago had been a failure. Instead, they continued firing as the walls, attempting to deal as much damage as possible, though the damage dealt was repaired in the night.

    Fyraxus shook his head, attaching his bearskin cloak as he left his tent and gave a gesture for the others to follow. Today was not going to be good. He glanced down to the coast, eyeing the array of sails that had appeared on the horizon. His gave a quizzical look at a strange, box like ship that seemed out of place next to the more elegant craft. He began to walk to the east of the camp, reluctantly meandering along his path, checking on the soldiers to ensure they were in a good state for her arrival.

    When he reached the edge of the camp he had his soldiers stand to attention at either side of the entrance, hoping to display the competence and discipline that his men had, not the bad luck and lack of supplies they'd suffered. He looked at the great caravan that continued to pour over the horizon. Carts carrying supplies, siege weapons and men. The three things he'd requested months ago. At the head was one of the mammoths from the south, its fur shaved to keep it cool in warmer climates. The tusks were decorated with gold bands, and a dark wooden howdah was attached to its back, silk curtains blocking anyone from viewing the rider. Behind it was another two of the beasts, these ones clearly much more geared for war.

    The one at the front halted, waiting as a group of men dragged a set of wooden stairs from a cart nearby. Yet before the figure within could descend, a group of riders interrupted his line of sight, most of them dismounting. At their head was a man whose armour was not dissimilar from Fyraxus's own, though it was much more ornate, and well polished. He recognised him almost immediately by the hyrda sigil pressed into the steel on his shoulder, and knew immediately what was contained in the papers he was handed. "I take it I am to be return to the capital."

    "No." The man said, his voice a booming bark."You are to head to Allerton, where you shall take a position as an instructor."

    "Yes sir, thank you." He murmured, glancing back to his men and bowing his head. He knew better than to question Belasarius, the Bloody Hydra and The Queen's favoured executioner.

    Another rider, a plump man with his right arm missing looked back at the caravan and gave a signal. The members of The Hand gathering before he gave his orders. "Spread throughout the camp and gather as much information as you can. If there are any signs of dissent, you know what to do."
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2016
  4. I.A. By the Barn
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    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    Tappaa stroked his belt, wondering how soon it would be before he could use his tools.
    He went right, past a tent where men were drinking. Alcohol loosens lips well like pain, Tappaa thought, standing by the back wall. He leaned in to listen when she called to him, the Beyond. "My sweet, not now," he said, his hands shaking, out of what would have once been fear. His body still felt it, but his mind didn't. He focused on the talking, his sound and vision returning to this reality.

    The men seemed unhappy, but he could only hear the tone, not the words. Still, it was enough for him to kill.
     
  5. Arvak
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    With Tappaa wandering off to the right, Aldia went forward meandering through the camp toward the front. He was one of the more recognizable members of the Hand and, unless he put some effort into being stealthy, he was bound to be noticed among the soldiers and so voices would lower as he passed, not by enough though, he was still able to heard them. Mainly complaints about the campaign, about it's unexpected difficulty but otherwise nothing worth bothering with.

    When he reached the front of the camp he stopped, silently glaring out at the city the army had laid siege upon only for moment before turning back to the camp looking for someone in charge he could get a report from.
     
  6. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    Moracen noticed Tappaa's wandering and briefed him on the situation. The expected length of the siege against the reality. The massive amount of fortifications and men. Of course, she had to portray Fyraxus as a little incompetent. The Empire was very much one to place blame, and she wasn't willing to be demoted over an event that wasn't her fault. Nor could she comment on the lack of supplies. To do so would insult her country's ability to provide for its troops. She'd also been responsible for hunting down deserters with the other Hand members. Otherwise, she'd just been bored.
     
  7. I.A. By the Barn
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    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    "Ah, I see," he said. "So are many of the men... displeased? How many am I permitted to kill? It is just these here," Tappaa waved his hand at the tent they were by, "Have the possibility of defecting." He really couldn't care about what Moracen was saying, he was too focused on the hum of a leyline that intersected the camp.
     
  8. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sera took the long way around the camp, soaking in the sights and gathering any details she could. The men weren't exactly in high spirits, nor did they seem as if they were about to mutiny at any moment. They watched her as she passed, clearly aware of what her presence meant. Everyone knew the Hand's members. They didn't need uniforms or emblems. The way they carried themselves spoke for itself.

    She never quite adjusted to that, the feeling of being watched. The feeling that she was a predator and these men were her prey. Some took delight in that, wielding their power like a cudgel to bring dissidents to heel. Sera preferred a gentler touch. Force could yield quick results. But, to yield a lasting effect, one had to continuiously apply such force, lest the dissidents think you've gone 'soft.' It was all rather tiresome.

    She found it was better to begin soft. The cudgel would come when the time was right.

    A group of archers were sharing drinks around a small fire. One was slowly turning a rabbit on a rotisserie while the others passed a bottle and shared laughs. Their bows and quivers lay in a pile, too uncomfortable to be worn while sitting, but each had a shortsword on his hip. Five bows. Six men. Hmmm...

    She didn't go to them right away. No, she took her time, meandering through the tents, breathing in the heady scent of a war on pause. Then one of them made eye contact. It was brief. A cautious flickering of the pupils before returning his attention to his comrades, who were laughing about something that had happened last night. That was all the invitation she needed.

    Sera took a seat beside them, like any soldier might. The laughter promptly stopped. "May I?" she said, with a gesture to the bottle they had been passing around. One of the men offered it to her with a shaky hand and she took a long gulp. Ale. Weak ale, at that. Nevertheless, she smiled and passed it back to him. "Thank you. I needed that," she said. "It has been a long ride to get here."

    "Aye, milady," the man with the bottle said.

    "Tell me, how has the siege been going?" she said, getting right ot the point. She didn't expect them to spill their guts to her; she wasn't that naive. But this inquisition had to start somewhere.

    "Wonderfully," one of the bowmen said. "I think we'll breach the gates in-"

    Sera slowly shook her head and he immediately stopped. "Let's try something else. Tell me why an infantryman is in our midst." Her eyes narrowed on the one who'd made eye contact earlier. "You're a long way from home. How did you end up here, with the archers and crossbowmen and ballistae?"

    "I... umm... well, I... how did you..."

    "If I'm mistaken, tell me so," Sera said pleasantly. "I am here to serve you, after all. Are conditions poorer in the infantry camp? Are these men your friends?" she said with a gesture to the other five men. "That's good, building relationships among different camps." She looked to the others, so he wouldn't feel as if the pressure was only his to bear. "I am here to end the seige," Sera said, gesturing to herself. "Tell me how you think that can be done."
     
  9. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Same way you end any siege. Starve 'em out, or get enough men inside to deal with it. Problem with that is you need a way in, and the defectors we've captured refused to talk." One of the archers stated, tilting his head towards a muted red tent, indicating what was inside. "As for why he's here, they don't allow the good stuff near the front, had a little accident involving a flaming arrow." She finished, raising her mug. "Course, half the people here don't drink it."

    Four figures could be seen heading towards the red tent. The first was the plump man from early, his black, greasy hair reflecting the sun which shone down from overhead. He wore no armour, instead a black doublet made of silk draped from his form. He was smiling faintly as he laughed at something his associate said, his jowls seeming to flap before he pushed the entrance aside. The second was a short woman who lacked her companions appetite. Her skin was pale as if this was her first time outside for some time, and her eyes held a disdain for the area around her. She was wearing an unremarkable dress, apart from a shawl that was made from red scales.

    The other two figures were clearly with her. Both wore scaled armour, painted a dark matte red though the steel still glinted from underneath. On the left hip was a large, curved blade, while the right held a smaller dagger. Each wore the mask of dragon, their eyes and other features hidden.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2016
  10. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    There were very few official looking people around, the general had been dismissed, and his replacement also seemed to be getting his bearing on the situation, Belasarius chatting to the local men, though focusing on the sergeants and anyone of a higher rank in particular. Most of them were nervous around him eying the rope that rested next to his blade every few words, wanting to avoid the noose. A few things could be gathered though. The men, while not in high spirits, were not in particularly low ones either. Most of them had seen a siege before, and the initial attack, while a failure, wasn't seen as that important. The Empire had time on its side. The camp's supplies could be replenished. The city's could not. One of the men even chuckled when the discussion turned to what was happening on the inside. He perceived that, with the flood of refugees, supplies had to be stretched thin.
     
  11. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    Moracen frowned as he seemed to eye something else, shaking her head when she finished speaking. "Killing our own men before the assault would be a waste. I'm sure when we get inside the city you'll have free reign. I hear The Queen want's the population decimated anyway."
     
  12. I.A. By the Barn
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    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    "Just as long as you're sure they will not... betray us." he said, "I can not wait until that time when I am able to use my skills." Tappaa brushed past Moracen and went on to the leyline.
    He stroked it, the only beauty to ever catch his eye. Did they know they had built this camp upon such a powerful line? Tappaa doubted it.
     
  13. AnonyMouse
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    Sera nearly got up and left when the man mentioned there were defectors in the tent. I can make them talk, she thought. It was something of a specialty of hers. She could loosen lips. Being a carnamancer, she could loosen a great many things. Bowels, sphincters, various orifices. Unlike traditional torture, she could keep them alive through immense pain. And she’d learned to read the lies that pain often brought forth.

    But it looked as if someone was already on the case. Her superiors disappeared into the tent, presumably to do what she was contemplating. Satisfied that the wheels were in motion, Sera returned her attention to the archers.

    To be quite honest, she took no delight in causing others pain. But, if this siege carried on, there would be pain one way or another. Best to end it swiftly, efficiently. Torture one man and save a thousand others from the slow suffering of a prolonged war of attrition. She wasn’t a monster. She was a mathematician. Who needs a conscience when you have arithmetic?

    It was the same logic she used when she ‘betrayed’ her own people.

    “Where are your mages?” she said to the archer who’d answered her previous question. The woman had been very informative. “I sense something… odd about the magic in this area.”
     
  14. Arvak
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    With no real luck in finding someone of import, no desire to aimlessly wander the camp hoping to come across the tent with dissenters stupid enough to talk openly, and no real ability to simply make casual(or almost any worthwhile) conversation with the rank-and-file troops, Aldia made his way toward the red tent his superior hand gone into. He didn't go in himself, instead sitting on the ground outside to wait until they were to move against the city or he received other orders, he would likely appear to be meditating to others.
     
  15. halisme
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    "Scattered about, though their camp is to the north." The woman replied, sipping another drink. "And yes, one of them was rambling about something. He said something about a leyline, and that something about it was off. Said it had been redirected. Another one turned out to be an unsanctioned manamancer. Only found when he, looked below, is that how your kind puts it? Started rambling about how"the woman cleared her throat, before doing an imitation of a man with a booming voice, "the aegis is gone. Those inside have stolen it for themselves." When she finished her voice returned normal. "Boy went mad, started running towards the city. They put him down before we had a chance."

    Moracen decided to walk over at this point, a smile on her face as she noted the more inquisitive hand member. It would be nice to talk to a person, instead of some half-mad person who would just stare into the dirt. "Good afternoon." She began. "Any news from outside this place?"
     
  16. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    There was a series of screams over a thirty-second period. The sort that spoke of truly remarkable pain. About a minute later the four came out. "Are you telling me you pulverised the individual bones in his fingers?" The woman asked as they left, a smile on her face and a look of intrigue in her eyes.

    "You would be correct Miss. It took me many tries to powderise them without harming the flesh." The fat man replied, taking his hand to his mouth and removing his surgical white glove.

    "Could my men take him? The Pit could always need fresh meat."

    "Certainly, it's not as if he'll be able to fight anymore." He laughed. "I'm still surprised that you people are here." The pair began to walk away, one of the guards giving a nod to the other. The first followed the pair, while the other went inside the camp.

    "We won't get any live weapons test for some time. The Cult wishes to use as many prototypes while we still can. The Queen's armour included." The red woman finished, now walking out of earshot.
     
  17. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    "So, the lines have been tampered with," Sera said after the woman mentioned the manamancer's rant. She smield before adding, "Well, I'll have to see about untampering them." She said this as casually as one might say, 'oh, the sun has stopped rising? No worries, I'll fix it."

    She rose when the other woman approached. It only seemed right. Some of the Hand liked to abuse their power and lord over others, but that sort of thing had never felt right to Sera. This job was easier when people felt comfortable. Greeting each soldier as equals helped put them at ease. When she wanted to show them her superiority, both in rank and in power, she would do so, but only small dogs bark all the time.

    "More of the same," she said sorrowfully. "Our advance has been halted. More than anything, the Empire is waiting. I can feel it in the capital, on the roads, in the inns and taverns. Everyone is waiting..." Her gaze briefly panned across each soldier present around the fire, making it quite clear this little speech was meant for them as well. She delivered the words in a soothing, almost elegiac tone. "Waiting with baited breath for the walls of Guardam to come tumbling down."

    She gestured dismissively. "Next to that, all other news I've heard seems like child's play. The Baroness of Therafell is with child... again. Lady Margreave is whispering that the Baron isn't the father. The Duke of Greenwall is making a fuss about the high price of grain. The Duke of Riverdale wants it raised. The merchants don't care either way, as long as they get paid." She shrugged. "More of the same, really. The world turns."
     
  18. halisme
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    "As it always does." She replied, leaning back against a crate. Her mouth opened as if she was about to speak, before a shout interrupted her.

    "Hand members. Be at my tent in two hours." The fat man bellowed, his jolly voice being carried through the camp despite the chatter of the soldiers. "Do not get comfortable."

    Moracen sighed. "And I was thinking about having a nap." She murmured, before stretching. "I get the feeling the next few weeks are going to be just horrible."
     
  19. AnonyMouse
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    "Two hours? Good, that gives me enough time to swing by the mage camp and check on things there, and then see if I can be of any use to the wounded," Sera said, mostly to herself. She didn't know the meaning of the word 'comfortable.' She intended to make use of every minute.

    "Thanks for everything. The pleasure is all mine," she said to the soldiers who had shared their time and drink with her. Well, two of them had. the others remained mysteriously silent. Perhaps they were hiding something. Or maybe they were struck silent by her beauty. The two who'd spoken were women, a fact which did not slip by Sera. Few facts ever did.

    She bowed, or curseyed, depending on one's interpretation, then turned and departed.
     
  20. halisme
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    A great tent had been erected on the side of the camp. It was decorated with the Imperial Heraldry, a grey bull on a red background, and a declaration had been given that any soldier who sought audience with the queen might visit her. Some of the soldiers seemed invigorated at the opportunity, but the more pessimistic amongst them ignored it. Outside were a dozen guards, wearing antiquated armour that was more ceremonial than practical. In each of their hands was a long spear, twice the height of a man and with a blade with a gilded tip. In their other hand was a tower shield, each painted to show a golden sun encircled by iron chains.

    To the north was a camp by the sea, where the mages had decided to rest, though it was mostly for the hydromancers. Some of the soldiers spoke of how a second mage was discovered as an unsanctioned manamancer, and how the others were listening to him as he spoke, most feeling rather tense.

    Finally, in the centre of the camp, at the edge closest to the city walls itself, was The Dragon Cult. Three dozen carts had been brought to the fore, each with their contents covered by a mud-brown sheet to keep dirt and water off, along with any prying eyes. Two of the carts were being sent north, to the mages camp, and it appeared that the drivers were willing to ferry people there as the went. Six of them were twice as long as all the others, and lined up into three sets of two lengthways, cultists linking chains between them and seeming rather nervous.
     
  21. Arvak
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    Two hours was a long time to sit and wait for his orders, though by now he'd noticed the dragon cult's activities in the camp. He was one of them once, they were usually worth a look, and so he stood up and made his way toward the from of the camp coming up on the group of cultists and their wagons. He walked slowly around them, inspecting them, at the same time he asked "so what has the Dragon Cult brought this time?" he ran a hand along one of the chains as he said this, directing it at no one of them in particular, just expecting one of them to answer.
     
  22. I.A. By the Barn
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    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    Tappaa stood up, the Beyond's pull was becoming too great. He went about the camp again, no one here was really happy with operations. Someone seemed too happy though. To his right, a pair of men were laughing- at him.
    "You are about to go into battle again, what is it you find amusing?"
    One man managed to stop laughing and said "You look different, sir. You also seem to like the ground a lot."
    "I like more than the ground. The ground isn't even there. The ground is nothing. I like something you could not even understand."
    He forced his mouth into a smile. Killing isn't allowed yet. I'm sure punching is permitted. And with that, he slammed his fist into the man's jaw and turned swiftly around, not even caring what damage he may or may not have caused. This whole world is nothing compared to you, my dear.

    Up ahead he saw a caravan of chained wagons, another of the hand was inspecting them. He approached them, faintly aware of a pain in his fist.
     
  23. halisme
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    The man smiled when he noticed another cult member arrived, though when he spotted Tappaa he seemed a little less pleased. "Anything the cult things might be ready for testing." The man replied, only facing Aldia as he took a list from one of the carts. "We've had some large advancements in the quality and production rate of curved plates, allowing us to make heavier armour that's still just as flexible. The three carts heading to the mages camp contain three suits of titan plate, as the smiths call it. Only terramancers can use it, unfortunately, though it's impervious to rifle and cannon fire from our own tests, though the latter still makes a mess of the person inside.

    After that are a new type of siege engine, more akin to an armoured carriage than anything, though with a cannon at the front. Once again, it needs a terramancer to move it. They seem to be a major theme in terms of armour at the moment.

    After that are a few refinements to weaponry. New longrifles that can penetrate plate from half a mile, though they don't seem to accurate at the moment. Pistols and rifles that allow the loading of three shots at once as well. A hand-carried mortar" He glanced down the list, now reading it instead of talking from memory. "And a series of less sane inventions that are being tested on the grounds of why the hell not."
     
  24. AnonyMouse
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    “Just calm down, man,” one of the soldiers said. He and three others were standing in a tight circle around a very angry man. ”Just let it go.”

    “Don’t tell me to calm down,” the angry man growled. He spat blood on the ground. “That son of a bitch hit me. He just fuckin’ hit me! Move! I’m gonna go over there and-”

    “You’re gonna get yourself killed,” one of the others said.

    “He’s a member of the Hand. You don’t stand a chance,” another added.

    “Then come with me. Five of us against one of him…” the angry man reasoned, but the others were already shaking their heads and looking doubtful. “Fuck this. I’ll do it myself.” He drew his sword and the circle instantly parted.

    The man stomped off, but only got five paces before he ran into a silver-haired woman in white. He collided with her and they both fell to the ground. His sword clattered into the mud.

    “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there,” the woman said, still sitting on the ground. She picked up the dropped sword and used it to get to her feet, before offering him a hand. “Are you okay?”

    “No, I ain’t. Watch where you’re going next time, bitch,” he snarled as he swatted her hand away and stood up on his own. “Give me my sword.”

    “That’s a nasty bruise you’ve got,” the woman said, caressing his chin. “You’re lucky your jaw isn’t broken. Does it hurt? I could give you something for the pain.”

    Again, he slapped her hand away. “Gimme my sword, dammit.”

    The other soldiers arrived shortly after. “Gavin, don’t do it! She’s one of them,” the first one said. He turned to the woman and bowed his head. “Ma’am, he’s really, really, really sorry. He didn’t mean to-”

    “No, no, no, I should be the one apologizing,” the woman said kindly. “I ran into him… on purpose.”

    The angry man began to sway slightly, as if drunk. “What did you… what’d you do to me?” He stumbled slightly, before falling flat on his face in the dirt.

    “Hmmm…” the woman said, looking down on him curiously. “That took longer than expected to kick in. Either he’s very resilient or I’m losing my touch.” She handed the sword to the nearest soldier. “He’ll wake up in an hour or so. Keep an eye on him until then.”

    “Thank you. Thank you for sparing his life,” the other soldier said. “He may be an idiot, but he’s my friend. We’ve fought many battles together.” He extended his hand to her. “Blake. Blake Smith. I won’t forget this.”

    “Seraphina,” the woman said with a warm smile and a deceptively firm shake. “Seraphina Eisenvald. I’ll have a word with my idiot friend, while you look after yours. And remember, the Hand is here to serve you. I will do everything I can to remind my people of that.”

    “Eisenvald?” one of the other soldiers said. “As in… the Demon of Silverlake?”

    The woman’s cold blue eyes zeroed in on him and, though her smile didn’t falter, the warning was very clear. Blake nudged him. “We should go,” he said as he lifted the unconscious man’s shoulders and gestured for his pals to get the feet. “Thank you again, Miss Eisenvald,” he added as they shuffled away. But, as they departed, she could hear them whispering amongst themselves. Rumors. Nasty rumors. Nothing she hadn’t heard before.

    Sera turned to the wagon train near the edge of the camp and made her way over to it. Some other members of the Hand were already there, including the one who’d struck that soldier. Despite what she’d said, she had no intention of speaking with the man about it; she wasn’t here to play mother hen to a bunch of bad eggs.

    “Are any of these headed north?” she said, with a gesture to the line of carts. “I’m trying to reach the mage encampment and see what I can learn about the leyline situation.”
     

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