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X-DREAMERS [mission 01: ash and sand]

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Cistina ~ Different Idealism 

"I--I'm..." Duke looks taken aback by her words. For a moment, he looked uncertain--vulnerable--and it was gone. Duke pushed her away, then spoke, "I will not!" his voice starting with a light quiver. "There is clearly something wrong here, and I intend to fix it! You can't tell me you stare at people who are threatened daily with the possibility of beatings and death and do nothing? How can we expect to finish the mission by walking past such injustice?"

 

Jowen spoke up, as if supporting her, but Cistina didn't notice through her throat tightening. An icy claw gripped her heart, and she remembered... The beggars in the streets. The orphans in the port. Cerya had to stop her from spending what goth she had on food to give. "Cistina, we spoke on this before. Choose the battles you know you may win." Yes... She looked to the people who had stepped back to their work--or watching this strangeness as if on a stage. In the back of her mind, she sighed at the broken ruse. She agreed with Duke, that something must be done for them; her fingers even itched now to toss the contents of her purse to them.

No. Be rational. She should find someone in charge; perhaps a noble house of high standing, persuade them, show them the poverty in which these poor people lived, build hospitals, soup kitchens...

 

"And the lives of the men in the army? They too, you deem to be punished by death?" Cistina spoke the words before she even realized what she had said; they were almost familiar, kin to a battle she's fought before. "The horrors of what you propose will be wrought most strongly not upon who you fight against, but those whom you seek to protect!" she remembers now. Standing in the dilapidated room, she glared at her red-clothed sister, whom had her head adverted, expression weary. "What do you know of this place to make your claims of a better life so true?" This was not the first they fought over the insane plan. Denam and Catiua watched from the doorway, silent. "I had seen, I had lived through the destruction that resulted from the death of a king! The death of one man, one god will not ensure the prosperity of many!...There must be a better way." Did she think that? Or did she speak it?

It was only then did she turn and realized that Stan and the others had walked off, no doubt focused on the mission at hand. Cistina felt a prick of shame for forgetting her duty and took a step in their direction..But..... She turned back to face Duke. There was still hope to change his mind.

Edited by Pyrowings

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Arch - Alleyway ---> Fountain at Crossroads

 

Arch made a soft noise of affirmation as Theo scooted closer to him, slotting their hands together before laying his head on Arch’s shoulder. There was no doubt that once Theo had his mind set on something he would stop at nothing to achieve his goal no matter how big or small it could be. The corners of Arch’s lips twitched upwards as he recalled one particular time at the market when Theo was insisted on haggling with one of the merchants. Theo and the merchant kept going back and forth on the price of some fruit for at least three hours. Arch had to eventually drag Theo away from the stall. Jane had begun tugging on his sleeves complaining that she was hungry. While Arch loved Theo with every fiber of his being, he wasn’t going to sit around and watch him argue about some apples when their daughter was hungry.

 

A soft whisper underneath Theo’s breath anchored Arch back to reality. He glanced down at this partner, taking in the sight of his pursed lips and worried eyes. Arch tilted his head, careful not to dislodge Theo from his shoulder, and offered his husband a kind smile.


“You needn’t worry about me,” Arch said as he tightened his grip on Theo’s hand. “I’m capable of handling myself. Besides,” Arch nudged Theo teasingly. “If something does happen when to me when I’m in the air, you’ll catch me, won’t you?” Before Arch could say more, one of the agents, Badu Arch thought her name was, shoved a cube into Arch’s free hand. He blinked down at the cube curiously as Stan began to go him instructions on how to use it. “Noted,” Arch said, pocketing the cube just as Stan ushered everyone to follow him. Arch gave Theo one last reassuring before following Stan’s lead, Theo’s warm hand still intertwined with Arch’s.

 


The crossroads weren’t drastically different from ones Arch had traveled to in his native world. There was certainly more beggars vying for whoever was kind enough to spare them a coin, but beyond that, it looked relatively similar to some of the roads Arch had been to before. There was a handful of people staring at Arch’s wings, but Arch wasn’t too bothered by the lingering stares. He was used to people giving him strange looks back home so what difference did it make that people here were the same? Ignoring the stares, Arch walked towards the fountain that Badu and Stand appeared to be concerned about. He peered down at dark water, narrowing his eyes as watched something sparkle within it. With his free hand, Arch reached down and brushed his hand across the surface of the water. He idly watched the water gently lap over his fingertips as he pushed them a centimeter under the surface. When he pulled his fingers back, they were wet but it didn’t seem as though anything else had happened to them.

 

“Do you have a flask on you?” Arch asked, looking over at Theo. “There’s something strange about this water, but I’m not sure how far we’ll be able to examine it in a public place.”

Edited by Doctortear

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@ Duke

 

Lefevre's tattoo reminds him of the intricate designs circling the eyes of the Lord Ruler's Obligators and Inquisitors -- his personal servants and representations of his almighty power. The Obligators and Inquisitors were the Lord Ruler's eyes and ears, and even the nobles seemed to fear them. Combined with Levfevre's statement about harnessing a power of a god, the worker is swayed, convinced that perhaps this stranger with a cloak whiter than a king's really did have the power to use a god's ability against him.

 

Perhaps that was why the skaa was compelled to give his name. "Dynarst -- emphasis on the T," he returned the introduction, impassive. He was impressed, but still not comfortable enough to be amical. He trusted that someone of a Duke's aristocracy would manage to pronounce his name properly, for once in his life. 

 

Dynarst suddenly lowers his voice.

 

"Listen, Duke Lefevre," he leans in with his neck hunched and whispers to Duke and his two companions. "There's been rumors of a skaa rebellion circulating for a few moons now, led by a man as mythical and as passionate as you are. But your Lady is right, on every account. For a thousand years, every attempt to overthrow the Lord Ruler has ended in failure and mass execution."

 

"You there, skaa! What are you doing?" comes a bark from the street's mouth. Dynarst jolts upright like a frightened prey animal, preparing to run, but the looming figure was already too close and there was nowhere to flee to. The voice belonged to a much a much taller man in plate armor and a full, greying beard, striding forward at a brisk pace towards him.

 

Dynarst instinctively shields his head with his arms when he sees the guard pull his arm back for a punch -- but the strike never came. Surprise flashed through the armored man's eyes as his gauntlet was stopped in mid-air, striking an invisible wall that rippled with a jolt of blue energy. The rest of the skaa had soundlessly erased all evidence of their presence, leaving Dynarst the only witness to the Duke's power.

 

"Steelpush?" The guard's mouth forms a silent, two-syllable word, before he slowly retracts his hand in confusion.

 

 

Edited by TehUltimateMage

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[ how time changes things : duke -- ; ]

 

Cistina's words are ... familiar.

 

They are the words of a peacemaker, the words of someone deserving of a life much better than their current situation. He does not doubt her claim to have witnessed such things -- after all, what was life but an endless complication of the future against the rules of the past? 

 

Even so, they light up within him a memory -- of a past, of a childhood spent growing up on the plains, of nights spent witnessing this exact same debate play out before his eyes. Hana's idealism against Kouca's hard amber eyes, her tan skin alight with fire and the promise of revenge in her eyes. 

 

Elias' eyes reflect that, the same desire for revenge and victory and bloodshed over his enemies. What is a solder, indeed? Not a civilian -- if he fights for the other side.

 

But Duke is not that kind of person, even if he has supported countless rebellions in the past -- really, was it only two? The losses on both sides outnumber the idea of two small rebellions in the grand scheme of things -- and has seen how important it is to have that same passion, that same spite-fueled desire for victory. For nothing else burns itself as securely in the mind as hatred and despair.

 

"So have I," he argues back, his voice firm. "The people will not victimized if the justice is swift and sweet. The fall of a king is a universal symbol of freedom across the land, no matter where."

 

He is just about to call her back when she begins to leave, when suddenly the peasant from earlier approaches. Duke's eyes widen -- bright and excited, the same joy at meeting a newcomer to the X-Dreamer's agency -- the feeling of knowing something is about to happen, someone is going to act --

 

"Dynarst," he repeats gleefully, like a small child handed a favourite candy, and as the other -- Dynarst, his mind helpfully supplies -- leans closer, Duke's eyes flash across the man's tired features. 

 

The information he provides is interesting, but Duke frowns. Dynarst speaks his name as if it is a title, the 'Duke' straightforward, quick, more a polite necessity than a significant means to communicate. He is a little offended, if anything -- it is his given name, after all. 

 

"A rebellion," he muses to himself. It would do good to chase down these rumours and gather them together -- after all, the more base support the better, but Duke cannot afford that kind of time. He is at a crossroads, with knowledge of the rebellion and the god he has to challenge in one hand, and Cistina's disapproving eyes and the swish of her dress turning away in the other, but -- he knows there are things, beliefs, people, he cannot abandon. 

 

However, his thoughts are interrupted just as a voice calls out. Dynarst immediately draws back, eyes frightened, wild -- where has he seen that exact same glance? -- just as a man throws a fist in his direction.

 

He reacts quickly, almost instinctively, and throws up a shield between Dynarst and the man. The guard's heavy metal gauntlet crashes against his glowing blue barrier, and Duke feels a wisp of anger stir up within him, quick and raging. That -- a direct hit from a metal object would be painful, absolutely.

 

"I may not be from around here," he says, polite, gleeful, and entirely unlike himself. The barrier curls as he unwinds himself from the closed way he and Dynarst had been conversing, brushing his cape from his shoulder in one quick move. A few fragments of icy-blue make scatter as the barrier slowly repairs itself, shimmering a light, translucent blue before fading away completely. 

 

"But I still think you should treat the citizens of your city with a little more respect." 

 

With that, Duke reacts -- he is quick, nimble, practised from years working as a captain of his Guard. He grabs the sheath of his rapier, his hand on the covered blade rather than the handle, and moves it forward. Just as he does so, the blue barrier covering Dynarst is briefly visible as he moves it forward with the momentum of his sword, thrusting at the guard just as the shield is slammed entirely into his being. 

 

The guard is sent flying backwards, kicking up mounds of black ash as he does so -- Duke watches as the glowing, bright blue aspects of his barrier pulse with energy from the sudden hit, his eyes narrowed and focused on the image of the guard before him. Just as the man hits the ground some twenty feet away, roughly skidding on the walkway, Duke straightens up and lets go of his sword, returning the weapon to its hanging position by his side. The barrier before him pulses once more, a bright blue in colour, before he dissipates it with a wave of his hand. 

 

--

 

[ where would i have pockets : theo -- ; ]

 

The thought of anything happening to Arch when he is faraway, so out of sight from Theo's reach, takes his breath away -- but despite this, Theo can't help but smile fondly up at the angel before him, taking in Arch's visage: his sky-clear eyes framed by long eyelashes, the slightest dust of white-gold against his cheek as he blinks. Arch's voice is gentle, light, reassuring, and Theo finds it almost funny that Arch is the one to dissipate his worries when it is not Theo that will be wandering into unknown lands. 

 

He reaches up then, lightly tracing the side of Arch's face with his gloved hand, feeling the warm skin and the slight stir of Arch's breath as he reacts. "Always," he says softly, and he means it -- no matter what happens, he will not leave the other behind. It is funny to him, how someone he had initially picked up simply because he didn't want to leave the enemy on a battlefield has now become such a fundamental core of his existence. Funny, if not a little sappy.

 

And then the moment is broken when someone pushes a cube into Arch's hands. His husband, ever-polite and so willing to accomplish the mission, accepts the cube with gratitude, but Theo scowls -- this same cube is what will force Arch to have to take flight. Childishly, Theo has the thought of pushing the cube from Arch's hands and shooting it with a bolt of lightning. Or spearing it into the ground.

 

But Arch, almost as if he knows what Theo is thinking, adjusts his hand and guides him in the direction of the rest of the group. Arch's hand is warm and real in his, and Theo thinks -- for the moment, it will not be necessary to murder the tiny cube.

 

--

 

The place they have arrived at is strange, although it is not a surprise to Theo -- he has spent so long wandering this land that new experiences are hardly ones that shock him, but that does not refrain him from glaring at every person who stares for a second too long at Arch's wings, slack-jawed and wide-eyed. 

 

He is in the middle of intensely staring down a little girl who had happened to reach forward for Arch, as if she could touch him from so far away, when his husband's voice breaks him from his thoughts.

 

A flask? Theo blinks. 

 

"I ... don't have pockets," he reminds the angel. He squints at the water then, wondering about the strange shimmer -- magic? "Do you plan on carrying it home?" he says, slightly teasingly, before he looks around. A flask, a flask ... 

 

Aha! The lady who had pushed the cube into Arch's hands earlier. He can see the vague shape of countless glassware hidden behind her robes.

 

"I have an idea," Theo says impulsively, and then -- without waiting for his husband's approval, Theo snatches the little cube from Arch's hands and walks over to the lady. Badoo?

 

"Here's your triangle," he says, the little cube in the centre of his palm. "I want a flask for the water." He stops. "Please." 

Edited by taire

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Jowan [ if you’re so sure ]

 

Jowan remains unconvinced. How could the situations be so different? There is always a limit. The idea that there isn’t, that one can do the impossible just by having something to fight for, is almost insulting. Was fighting for Lily no enough? He’s tempted to take back his faltered apology and tell Duke how naive he is. 

 

But maybe Duke is made of something different. Maybe he’s the strange one for being unwilling to take a stand. Always take the easy way out, right? Answer the enticing call of blood magic. Run instead of accepting fate. Be stupid enough to believe that the simple task of emptying a vial would be enough to fix things. His own attempts had hardly gotten good results. 

 

His eyes widen in surprise at Duke’s offer. Why, when he’d been nothing but disparaging? It’s a chance to make things better, and he feels as though he should accept it, but the words catch in his throat. Duke’s eyes are too trusting, and Jowan finds himself unable to meet them. “I-”

 

He wants to pretend that he isn’t worried about dying. The cause of freedom should be greater than his own meagre life, shouldn’t it? But the thought of going against an army and a god… it’s more than he expected. The red glow of the sun and the smell of ash makes everything feel far more real than it did in the twilight of the Gateway, where he had agreed to go on the mission. 

 

"The people will not victimized if the justice is swift and sweet. The fall of a king is a universal symbol of freedom across the land, no matter where."

 

A short, humorless laugh escapes his lips. The situations are different, he knows. His knowledge of politics is lacking, but he is aware that King Cailan wasn’t hated by the public, no rebellion had been lead against him, and Ferelden had been facing a Blight when Loghain took his place. Even so, Duke’s words are odd. In most cases, the death of a ruler weakens its nation. Issues of succession are common enough, but even when succession is smooth there is a period of time when the new ruler adjusts to their position. What did that have to do with freedom? It causes Jowan to wonder what plans Duke has for afterwards, or if he even has any. Creating a power vacuum wouldn't help the people. 

 

Before he can consider speaking his thoughts a harsh voice cuts through the air, and like a startled rabbit he freezes. The voice itself is not familiar, but the rough, arrogant tone is uncomfortably so. Dread pools in his stomach as he raises his eyes enough to see the approaching figure. 

 

The guard’s armor is unlike that of the Templars, but his squared shoulders and heavy stride are remarkably similar. Jowan grasps his injured forearm. The pain, and with it the knowledge that he is not helpless, is grounding. 

 

It is with practiced ease that he does nothing to help Dynarst. Those that draw the ire of the Templars are ignored, and only later comforted in the safety of their dorms or a hidden alcove. They all knew that. 

 

But Duke is not so constrained, and the guard’s fist collides with a barrier. It was a strong punch, and Jowan’s hand rises to his cheek to sooth the ghostly pain of metal on flesh. 

Instead of relief when the guard is tossed aside he feels the overwhelming desire to flee and hide. His hand shoots forward to grasp Duke’s wrist. “We have to leave,” he says, dilated pupils darting back and forth. His breathing is quick and shallow. 

 

No. He is no longer a child. The guard is not a Templar, and there is no need for exaggerated reactions. They are not helpless. He squeezes his eyes shut, exhales, and holds his breath for a moment. “I mean,” he says, words carefully measured, as he opens his eyes to stare at a cobblestone. “That more might be coming. We should try to avoid getting caught up in that. Can’t take down a king and find the anchor while fighting city guards, right?” He doesn’t let go of Duke’s wrist. If anything, his grip tightens. 

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Mage and Mika collab- Who the hell are you?

 

Lara looked at the young man with suspicion and set her communicator to hands-free mode. The way he casually addressed her worried her greatly- what could he possibly have wanted? There was the chance he wanted what every woman she knew feared. But he was so young, so what was his motive for approaching her? She wasn’t going to provide sufficient support for a while, that was certain. Lara backed up a bit, very wary of the new stranger.

 

Who… Are you? What the devil do you want?” The man was extremely sketchy, Lara did not like sketchy one bit.

 

“Answering a question with a question,” he stated, shrugging with his palms up. Lara could see that he was unarmed. His eyes drifted towards the floating cube, which he looked at intensely for a couple seconds before yielding to her inquiry. “Call me… Lamar. Not what my crew calls me, so you’ll find it a bit hard to track me down but, a name’s a name.” He gave a cheeky wink. “All I want is to make sure you’re not up to no good, missus.”

 

Lara sighed. “I can assure you, I’m not up to any trouble.” Lara sighed. She had no guns, which was not fun because they made things more convenient. Usually people didn’t approach when she was armed unless they were also armed. What could she do now? Maybe throw him off the roof if need be, or punch him in the face really hard. Judo flip would have suited as well, send him flying to the next rooftop. That calmed her down. Right, she could defend herself. She would have to see if he was going to come for her. “I’m just here to provide support while the rest of my group completes a mission….” Usually Lara hated exposing plans, but anything to get this guy off of her back…. Perhaps he would think she was crazy and go away. If she didn’t have to, she didn’t want to have a fight. She needed her strength for a more hostile foe. “This will sound absurd, but we come from an extra dimensional team, and there is something in this world that doesn’t belong. Our job is to return it to where it belongs. Would that explanation suffice?

 

Lamar’s disbelief was visible in his expression, until he consciously softened his face. Sure, he’ll believe it for now. “Mission, getting something back… So, you’re like bandits, but with an altruistic reason.” He took a few steps towards her, interested in hearing more.


Bandits. Not by any means, we’re just making sure that the multiverse doesn’t go out of whack… This item- actually, multiple items- are extremely important to other worlds and we must make sure they get back safely. This confused me when I first learned of all of this, I’m not shocked by your reaction.” Lara replied cooly, understanding her visitor’s shock and confusion. She stayed calm, knowing full well how weak this boy looked and how she could send him flying. But one thing unnerved her just the tiniest bit... what powers might he have? Would he be stronger than she thought? She couldn’t stay completely comfortable, letting her guard down was never smart. But she waited for his response.

Edited by Mikasa361

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Cistina~The best way to discipline is from the top down, right?

Cistina lowered her head. A part of her noted the strange way her hair seemed to swirl around her face, but…  Wherever she looked, there were corpses strewn around the town. Bodies of soldiers who fought, bodies of the civilians caught in the crossfire. “I…” War orphans, hungry, looking into the inn with dirt-stained faces. The crying widow sitting in the hospital. The men screaming in their sleep, horrors of what they had seen playing across their dreams.  She strode back to Duke, purpose blazing in her eyes. “How… How can you say that so easily?” A little voice from the corner of her mind noted that she was being so very rude, Duke was in the middle of a conversation with the servant he befriended, and he had even given him his name. “If you focus on the ends rather than the results by which to get them—

She was interrupted by the arrival of a guard. A guard who tried to punch Dynarst—but luckily, Duke’s reflexes too were honed, and his fist only met with one of the latter’s barriers. He reached for his weapon and Cistina crouched, ready to tackle him—His posture was flimsy, even if she couldn’t knock him over she could still take the time to disarm him and—"I may not be from around here," Duke said in a chillingly pleasant voice, "But I still think you should treat the citizens of your city with a little more respect." 

Duke slammed a barrier into him, knocking him flying. Cistina straightened up and stalked forward, putting herself between the man and their party, glancing back at Duke and giving him a small tilt of the head. I have a plan. The ruse she tried to pull had worked with Dynarst, no matter how momentary it might have been… So why not use it to her advantage?

“What are you doing?” she demanded, eyes narrowed. “Do you not have more important things to do than accost others? Who is your commander?! I shall have a word with him!”

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[ spokes on a wheel : duke -- ; ] 

 

Duke is surprised when he feels rough fingers curl around his wrist, his skin tingling where Jowan's hand brushes across the light-blue veins of his skin, the distant make of his bone against flesh. The other's breath is harsh and fast in his ears, and Duke's eyes widen when he speaks.

 

The other's words are ... fearful, if he can be so quick to judge. It reminds Duke of the times he had spent as a child, hiding in the corner of alleyways covered by cold cobblestones and big cobwebs, before he had been assured of the faith of the people in their revolution, before he had received the emblem that he would place all of his dreams and trusts towards. It has been a long time since he has thought of those times, the memories pushed away and replaced by happy ones: the rising of a country that was entirely their own; Ace's large, warm hands lifting him up into the sun; the warm, beating, alive drum of the barriers lulling him to sleep at night. If anything, Duke would have guessed -- he has almost forgotten that people learn to love their chains.

 

He watches as Jowan's eyes fluttered close, the other seemingly trying to control his breathing as he takes a deep breath in, and Duke takes this chance to bring over his free hand, resting it on top of Jowan's grip on his wrist. He remains perfectly lax, allowing the other to tighten his hold and regain his thoughts, and Duke hums lightly as he nods in response to Jowan's words.

 

"That's true," he says carefully, agreeing. "Stan would hate if I caused a scene in the middle of the street." Then, Duke laughs lightly, a faint chuckle carried along the wind. "It'll be fine. I'm sure we can find a way around fighting the entire city's guard."

 

He lifts his hand then, slowly, carefully, with his heart beating in his ears and his breath quickening in his throat -- allowing the other to stop him, if needed. Slowly, Duke traces the tips of his fingertips gently across the faint line of Jowan's jaw and smiles, his eyes warm and soft. 

 

"It'll be fine," he repeats lightly, and then drops his hand -- turns to Cistina, who has caught up with the guard he has just thrown across the alleyway. Their eyes meet, and Duke knows, suddenly -- an unspoken message has passed between them, and despite everything -- despite their arguments, their differences on opinions, he still trusts her, and what she plans. Cistina has not remained a member of the X-Dreamers, and he by her side for so long, without some kind of compromise.

 

He hears the words she says then, and he draws himself up, pulling his wrist gently from Jowan's to walk forwards, stopping halfway between Cistina and Dynarst's positions, a hand resting on the sword by his hip. 

 

"Right," he says, his voice firm, commanding, the tone he has used to lead armies in battle and command the men at his side during Chevire's glory days. "Who is in charge here? I'd like to exchange words with your Lord."

 

 

Edited by taire

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# Lara #

 

"Either way, saving the," Lamar suddenly snorted, trying to hold in a laugh at the foreign portmanteau, "multiverse or not, this -- this rooftop, but also this city in general -- is a rather unfortunate place to be even if you're quite the looker." He pursed his lips in a kissing gesture. With one hand he reached into his pocket and fished out a few coppery coins -- one held theatrically between each finger. "My boss probably won't be entertained as I am by your story, but I doubt I'd tell it as well as you have, anyway."

 

He stretched out his arm and looked at the detailing on the coins, the lowest denomination of Boxing, cast like all coins with the handsome face of the Lord Ruler himself. "Only thing you'd usually find on the roof are Inquisitors and thieves like me, though at least thieves don't literally flay you alive and hang your corpse to dry. Maybe thieves would arrange a slit throat. Or a back alley accident."

 

Cautiously, Lamar scanned the horizon, all across the roofs of the city. "No hard feelings, by the way. I just gotta move you some, since the Canton of Inquisition doesn't take too well to weird things, even if they do come from 'different worlds'. And when they get here, they tend to, you know, murder everything?" He shook his head, unsure if this woman would even understand his warning.

 

"Maybe we can meet again when the circumstances are better. Maybe share a drink tonight? There's a real good tavern by the crossroads with the wells and the Lord Ruler statue, you know. Three doors left from the carpenter. You can see it right here," he said, pointing to the landscape, although it was a little hard to zero in on what exactly he was pointing at. "But for now, I gotta do my job."

 

He slowly drew his hand of coins back towards himself to wind up. Lamar then whipped his arm forwards, sending a single copper piece shooting towards Lara at a speed impossible to attain with a regular pitch.

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Lara did a quick dodge, refusing to get injured by currency. It soon landed next to her, making a little clattering noise against the shingles of the roof. Not today. “I’m afraid I can’t allow you to touch me like that. I’m a lady, I have class.” She took a running start and prepared herself to grab Lamar. As she prepared for contact, she immediately grabbed him, and...

 

Flipped him over her shoulder, sending him flying off of the roof. He fell the couple of meters, until...

 

 

Edited by Mikasa361

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# Duke, Cistina, Jowan #

 

 

The guard slowly rises, shaken but otherwise unharmed. His armor had protected him from much of the shock from his fall but for a moment he stared wide-eyed into the red sky, uncertain of what had transpired.

 

He apologizes to the woman in yellow and her fellow with the white cape. "I am sorry, Lord and Lady." The older man bows his head and stares at the ground, avoiding all accusing eyes. "I thought this hellion was harassing your grace, and I thought it best to intervene."

 

"I'm part of the Luthadel Garrison, serving the Lord Ruler himself -- not that we ever see him," the guard explains. He remains straight faced and stoic, but behind his eyes beamed a sense of pride an accomplishment at his position. "Not bound by any of the Noble Houses, our task as city guard is to make sure the city skaa aren't up to mischief."

 

Offering a salute by striking a closed fist to his chest, he continues with a stern nod. "It would be unwise to dwell in the alleyways of this district. They're quite unpredictable people," he said, motioning to Dynarst with his chin. "But I do not doubt that you have the means to defend yourself. Again, I apologize for the trouble."

 

The armored guard backs away, allowing Duke and his company to pass him in the small, narrow street and explore the city beyond.

 

"He's skaa," Dynarst said in a whisper once the guard was out of earshot. "Few nobles would stoop as low as to do casual patrolling. I can't fault that he's making a good living compared to the rest of us, but damn."

 

 

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#Lara#

 

Lamar's breath is forced out of his lungs when the woman lunged at him, grabbing his arm and twisting it, using her weight and impressive strength to toss him over her back and off the rooftop. It happened so quickly that all he recalled was his feet suddenly leaving the ground.

 

He didn't want to see how fast the ground was approaching -- not that two or three floors would injure him too bad, even if he wasn't a pewerburner, unless he landed right on his neck. He reached for his magic, willing the familiar warmth in his stomach to burn stronger.

 

Using one of the coins still in his hand, he throws it downward. It shoots straight into the ground, lifting a small cloud of dust, and when it struck the stones Lamar feels the jerk of a change in momentum. Having nowhere else to push the metal, the strength of his magic throws Lamar upwards slightly, but his center of mass is off and he is tossed sideways. With a cry he fumbles and crashes into a mound of ash, cursing his miscalculation and the nobles' exclusivity over the subject of mathematics.

 

"Don't worry, I'm okay!" he yelled after a pause to no one in particular.

 

 

Badu -- Crossroads Fountain

 

Badu tilts her head to the side like an inquisitive bird, the dark tint of her goggles masking any trace of her curiosity, humor, and slight irritation at the grey-haired man with the exposed pectoralis. He acted more like a very tall child than any sort of man (much less a man over nine hundred years old), almost pouting and reluctantly using the special P-word. She wondered if he and his companion were immortal or simply long-lived and her right index finger twitched involuntarily, eager to pull apart their secrets using her scalpel.

 

The feeling passed quickly, though, and the doctor waved a gloved hand dismissively at Theo who was still holding the communicator. "Keep the cube in the event you get lost," she said, as if the newcomers losing their way was a guaranteed occurrence.

 

As for his statement of his wants, Badu did have extra empty vials. The winged one seemed to be much more level headed and goal oriented than the childish one. There was no point in denying the request.

 

"Now, what do we say to someone who does you a favor?" she teased, before handing him an empty flask.

 

 

((advancing the plot with stan now/later))

 

 

Edited by TehUltimateMage

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[ towards the incoming silence : duke -- ; ]

 

There is something uncomfortable about being addressed so formally, and once again Duke reminds himself that he hates the status system common of most monarchies. Hypocritical -- repetitive, a thing of ages past. 

 

You're starting to sound very much like a certain someone, Vylcan tells him, and Duke hushes him. There is a difference, he reminds himself, as distinct as that may be. 

 

"You task as city guard is to not beat up your citizens," he snaps, the guard's words hitting a particularly sensitive area. He commanded the Guard in Chevire, and to think that any man could be capable of harming the people entrusted to his care -- the pride in the other man's eyes disgusts him, but he is not a cruel one. He will not raise a hand against this guard -- even if his viewpoints are completely contradictory to everything Duke has been raised with.

 

The way the guard regards Dynarst even after their predicament has been sorted makes Duke want to grab the man and repeatedly shake him. He restrains himself, however, if only because he does not think he can charm Jowan if he were to start grabbing people and hitting them. 

 

Unless Jowan happens to support the abolishment of the ruling classes in power, in which then Duke will have to hide Elias from him forever. The mention of his old friend makes Duke smile briefly -- if he could see him now, what would he think? They have had their differences, but he does not go back on his word -- and he is still fiercely loyal to the man he had once followed into hellfire and back. 

 

"A good living does not make a good man," he replies to Dynarst's words, scanning an eye around their setting once their small company has passed out from the alleyway into the big city. "But I suppose people do what they can in order to survive." A pause. "You would think they have moral codes," he murmurs quietly, half to himself. 

 

The city before him is alive, in the faintest of words; it is a sight he recognises, markets, laden with goods for the day, streets swept up by the familiar sounds of horses moving about, dragging along heavy carts filled with various goods. Among them, people scutter in and out, clearly without any intention to stop and converse on their daily routines. Duke recognises the hunched shoulders and guarded faces of a good many who have spent their lives working, and he wonders at the shape of this city they have suddenly landed in. it is so different in the distinct ways, but on the surface -- perhaps not as diverse as he had thought to his own. 

 

And in the distance, directly in the way of the long, winding road that revealed aspects of the everyday ordinary, a castle reaching towards the heavens. Duke recognises the curving spirals piercing through the skies, the falling ash not able to obscure the power radiating from the carved columns and shining headpiece.

 

"There," he says, inclining his head to the palace in the distance. "I want to go there." 

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Lara sighed in relief at the cry from down below. The man was alright, it meant she didn’t kill anybody. That was good. That was fine. She felt a little better knowing that she could rest at night from that. Would she see that man again? Who knew. Lara’s business was up here, to make sure the others didn’t get in trouble that would wind up deadly. Though they did seem to be taking their time getting to the tower. Didn’t they have items to retrieve? Lara sighed, waiting for something of interest to pop up.

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Jowan [ how did we get dragged into this ]

 

Jowan's breath catches in his throat. The touch of Duke's fingertips upon his face sends the sensation of electric jolts down his skin, but it's Duke's eyes that capture his attention. Their gazes lock, and then--

 

--Duke drops his hand and turns away, and Jowan can breathe again. 

 

He wishes to think about what happened, but -- later. Now is neither the time nor place, and he needs time to process it. As it is, he's distracted enough to nearly miss what Duke says to the guard. 

 

Duke is impressive, even from behind. His voice is firm in a way that is almost inspiring -- the voice of a leader. It's so unlike the normal lightness that Jowan has come to associate with Duke, and it makes him wonder about Duke's past. What had he done before joining the X-Dreamers that had taught him to speak in such a way? What was his world like? Perhaps he'll get the chance to ask, once the mission is over and done with, but he has little idea how. Pasts were sensitive subjects, ones best brought up at the right time, and Jowan knows that his ability to identify the right time is poor. Normally he wouldn't be so bothered by this, but... he doesn't want to mess this up. 

 

The guard offers useful information, but Jowan is relieved to see the guard turn away and leave. Some tightness remains in his shoulders and the adrenaline running through his veins keeps him alert, but this is normal. He can't remember the last time he was truly able to relax.

 

Somewhat hesitantly, he takes a few steps forward so that he is standing beside Duke and Cistina rather than behind them. He doesn't want to be left out of the conversation, but the shame burning in him almost convinces him that he deserves to be. Trying to convince them to run from something that hadn't even been a threat -- wasn't that a sign that he couldn't control his emotions well enough? That his past held too tight a hold on his mind? 

 

He can't understand how Duke can put so much trust in him.

 

Following Duke's gaze, he lifts his head to see what must be a castle of sorts, though he can only tell because of its size and grandeur. The only thing that he could compare it to, Redcliffe Castle, had a few stocky towers built into its walls. This castle seemed to almost be made of numerous, spear-like spires. He could only guess that the spires had been built to convey power rather than to provide a defensible position. He considers arguing, but Duke had already made it clear that he would insist on trying to help the people. Whether killing the god would actually help -- Jowan has his doubts, but the castle has to be as good a place to get information as any. He glances towards Cistina, curious about whether she'll object to Duke's proposal. She doesn't look pleased, and he can't blame her. "Those... cube things. Pascal said that they can be used to contact the others. Shouldn't you tell them first?" He closes his eyes for a moment, hoping that he isn't making a mistake. "Lead the way."

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[ some kind of acceptance : theo -- ; ] 

 

Theo bristles at the connotation in Badu's voice, as if she knows him and knows what will happen. It is an assumption he dislikes; even back in the days of serving the Republic, he has never had patience for those that would assume before they understand. He nods, confirming her words, and clutches the cube in his hand; despite this, he vows silently to himself to not get lost. He is not a stranger in new lands, nor is he unable to adapt to uncertain circumstances -- he will not have to rely on technology he does not understand, nor trust, for his and the safety of those he cares about.

 

He takes the empty flask, eyes flickering upwards at her words -- he clenches his teeth initially, missing the tone of humour in her voice. Did she intend to withhold items? Degrade him in this way?

 

But to his surprise Badu hands him the vial all the same, and he takes it -- eyes wide, blinking. So it had been a jest, then? Well, he is no stranger to Arch's teasing, but he is all too familiar with Nyx unnecessarily displacing his possessions to trust those that would demand things from him, apart from the aforementioned angel.

 

He blinks at Badu, half expecting her to smile and whisk the vial away from him with a flash of dimensional magic and just a peak of Nyx' stupid shiny rock, but is not so. He stares at the glass in amazement, and then back up at the doctor.

 

"Thank you," he says, after a long pause, and although it sounds forced it is not as hostile as he would have initially made it out to be. She has not villianized him, so, well -- he will make an effort not to offend any other people in this strange land. 

 

He heads back to Arch then, holding the cube in one hand and the vial in the other.

 

"I have a surprise," he announces. "Right or left?" 

 

Before the angel can answer, Theo presents both items -- the cube, and the vial. He still does not like the idea of the cube in Arch's possession, but it would be childish of him to withhold important information just because of his own emotions. 

 

"Tada," he says flatly. "Like the world's worst anniversary present. A cube and some glass." Clearly frustrated he can not do more to help, Theo hands the items over to the angel and steps aside, watching intently at the water. If it so much as glimmers menacingly, he will make sure to electrocute it -- and the crossroads, and all the ash in the sky. 

Edited by takatsuki

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Stan -- Crossroads

Theoretically, it was easy. Just follow the tracker.

 

Practically, it was less so.

 

Stan wandered cautiously to one of the storefronts lining the crossroads, keeping his chin high and avoiding looking at anyone for more than a split second. He pushed on the unassuming entrance. The door opened on creaky hinges. He held his breath, then opened it the rest of the way.

 

Bits of gold shimmered on the surface of the floorboards, accumulating in small mounds of bright, valuable-looking dust on an otherwise dull-colored interior. The shop seemed to be home to some sort of technician or watchmaker, from the looks of the timepieces on the walls and the little metal and wooden toys on the shelves. Some looked like they were knocked down. Stan crouched down, reaching a hand out to examine the golden particles. Was... all of this the anchor?

 

"Don't touch the sand!" came shrieking voice. Stan's whole body jolted at the warning. He hadn't noticed anyone else in here, but now that he looked past the gold he could see a girl hunched in the shadows of the wooden stairs, her legs held close to her body and her arms wrapped around them, as if trying to curl up into a small enough ball to disappear entirely. Her dark eyes stared at his every move intensely and unblinking, even if they were partly hidden by her curly, dusty locks of hair.

 

Stan said the first thing that came to mind. "Why?"

 

"You'll turn into a monster," she said. "And then we'd have to kill you."

 

Brr. That was said with no hesitation, as if she killed people on a regular basis. And the use of the word we might have meant that she had other friends around. "Have you seen anything like this before?" he questioned -- painfully aware of how lame his questioning sounded when he had no partner to assist him. 

 

The girl paused and furrowed her brow, puzzled at his phrasing. "...No," she admitted.

 

"Good," Stan interrupted her before she could continue. The anchor had to be here, then, even if it was troublesome that it was also a force that could... turn people into monsters? "Keep doing what you're doing, lady. Me and my team are here to help."

 

"Who are you?" And why should I trust you?  said her expression with her narrowed eyes.

 

Stan almost wanted to take out a badge and show it off like during his days as a space cop. Maybe he could convince XDRS to make badges, or at least calling cards. But for now, he was content with just introducing himself normally even if it did feel a bit silly to explain. "Stan Gulliver. Agent of the X-tra Dimensional Rescue Squad, or XDRS for short. We go around cleaning up cross-world accidents, one of which is probably this stuff you got lying around." He motioned to the sand. "I'm not from here," he added mystically with a hint of a grin, pulling his sleeve up a little to expose the metal of his mechanical limb.

 

Usually it was an impressive trick if the world was ancient like this one. Either that or making his irises light up. That usually impressed locals. What impressed the girl the most, though, was when faint speaking came out from his cell phone as if someone forgot to hang up. The girl sat up, craning her neck to observe him, curious. Stan couldn't actually hear what was going on on the other end, and his Nokia said it was still connected to Lara.

 

So, unmuting the call, he put the device to his ear. "Lara, is everything alright? I think we might have found something... But it doesn't sound too good. Keep an eye out for gold sand. It's dangerous."

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Arch - Fountain at Crossroads

 

 “I have a surprise. Right or left?”


“Oh!” Arch tore his gaze away from the glittering water as Theo’s voice, much closer than expected, dragged him out of his thoughts. He met his partner’s gaze before looking down at the two objects in his hands. Arch blinked slowly, raising an eyebrow as he glanced back up at Theo. He knew Theo well enough to know that he wasn’t going to withhold both items from him, but it was always fun to see how long Theo would hold out for. Fortunately for Arch, Theo didn’t even bother waiting for a reply before shoving both the flask and the cube into Arch’s hands.

 

“Even if it isn’t an ideal anniversary present, it’s still what I asked for,” Arch said, the corners of his lips twitching upward. He took a step forward, pressing a chaste kiss on Theo’s cheek. “Thank you,” Arch said softly before taking a step back. He quickly pocketed the cube and uncorked the flask. Gently, Arch dunked the flask into the sparkling water, careful not to soak his sleeves. After he was sure the vial was full, he pulled it out of the water and tightly sealed it with the cork. Holding the flask up so it could catch the sunlight, Arch admired the gentle glittering on the bottom of the flask. Arch brought the vial closer to his face for further inspection. It seemed as though it wasn’t the water itself wasn’t what was glittering so prettily but what appeared to be sand that settled on the bottom of the flask. Arch swirled the vial between his fingers, admiring the sand before lowering his hand.

 

“Did you see anything else worth investigating around here?” Arch asked, glancing over at Theo. “Besides the few people who’ve tried to rub my wings I haven’t seen much else out of the ordinary.”

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Got it. No gold sand. Lara sighed. I guess he didn’t hear the part where someone came at me and I flipped him off the roof. “Well, I’m fine. I just... Judo flipped someone off the roof. He was apparently curious as to why I was on the roof. I gave him my answer.Lara smiled to herself with satisfaction. Anything else? I see nothing of importance at the moment, no golden sand yet.Lara leaned back when she sat down. There really was a strange beauty to this place, like it was a tomb to be discovered. It was lovely, in spite of the dust that settled around her. 

 

She He was a bit bored though. Nothing interesting other than the incident with Lamar was happening. Being lookout sucked, but she supposed it was good that it was her. Who else would have been able to climb that- actually any of them could have, probably. Still, she needed some action, something to get her blood going...

Edited by Mikasa361

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"Hellion? You speak for yourself, interrupting and attacking someone you had no right to," Cistina reprimanded sharply at the same time Duke said:

 

"You task as city guard is to not beat up your citizens."

 

"I'm part of the Luthadel Garrison, serving the Lord Ruler himself -- not that we ever see him," the guard says. As he does, his posture straightened and his head raised the slightest bit higher, eyes shining.

The Lord Ruler... Who is this figure? A god that exists on the surface? What god goes by title rather than name? Her curiosity was soon muffled by a simmering rage at his next sentence, though. "Not bound by any of the Noble Houses, our task as city guard is to make sure the city skaa aren't up to mischief." He continued. Cistina's eyes narrowed.

 

He didn't seem to have noticed, though, as he offered a one-handed salute and an orderly nod. "It would be unwise to dwell in the alleyways of this district. They're quite unpredictable people," he said with a quick gesture to Dynast. "But I do not doubt that you have the means to defend yourself. Again, I apologize for the trouble."

 

"As you should," Cistina said coldly as he retreated, stepping aside to let them leave. Duke took the opportunity to move past him... In the opposite direction from where Stan and the others went. Cistina glanced back, towards where the other servants were looking (then quickly "returned" to their work when they noticed her looking back) the winding roads where the others went, then at the cube in her hand. I don't know where the others went... Pascal had said these would allow us to communicate as well, did she not? Cistina nodded to herself and followed Duke and company, stopping a few feet behind them and turning around so nothing surprised them from behind. 

 

"There," Duke says, inclining his head. "I want to go there." Cistina turned and looked to see the tips of a great castle and was simultaneously made aware of faint pulsing at the back of her consciousness. With a frown, she closed her eyes, feeling for it...

Waves of screaming energy, bringing with it impulses of intent and power. Cistina gasped and staggered back, stumbling at the pounding. DESTRUCTION... FREEDOM... CHAOS... CHANGE... FREEDOM... DEATH... RUIN.... How did she not feel this before? She shakily pushed herself up using the wall, biting her lip. Was.. Was that a god? The... Lord Ruler? Such... Violence....

"Duke, I don't believe we should, at least not as we are," Cistina said nervously. "I hear an intense power from there... I think it the Lord Ruler that was mentioned."   The others! They should know too..! Now which side of this cube was for communication? Cistina raised the cube and turned it about, tapping the faces until the one she (believed) was the right one glowed. She tapped it again and saw a list of names--Tap Stan's...

 

"I trust this is you, Stan?" Cistina asked, but even if it wasn't it would be good to have others know. "There's a... Powerful... Does "powerful" even begin to describe what I had felt? "Force charging from the... The spiraling keep in the distance. If you could avoid approaching, please by all means do."

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[ that flower underneath the sun, and : theo -- ; ] 

 

Being around Arch relaxes Theo immensely from the previously tensed up atmosphere he had felt in the interaction with Badu, and Theo hums happily as Arch comes closer. The angel's breath is soft on his cheek, warm against his skin, and the edge of Arch's mouth catches his own as his lips curve into a smile when his husband gently kisses the side of his face. 

 

"Anything for you," he whispers in return, voice heavy and deep and filled with unsaid emotions, and he opens his eyes just slightly to take in the sight of Arch's brilliant wings shifting against the angel's movements. The other steps back all too soon and Theo makes a faint sound of disappointment -- too quiet for anyone but the two of them to hear, as he wishes for Arch to return, for them to have spare time so he can spend time making up for those terrible months when Arch had disappeared and he had not known why.

 

But he is patient, if anything -- even if unwilling. For Arch he would wait a thousand years, and then some. It is not the passage of time he fears, but rather the abandonment by those he holds most dear.

 

Curiously, Theo watches the flask in Arch's hands as the angel tilts it upwards, watching the water shift and sparkle in the light. Theo keeps an eye focused on the vial in Arch's hands, just in case of a sudden attack, but it is his husband's words that draw him out of his stupor.

 

"Rub your wings?" he demands, suddenly bristling like a surprised cat, the angel's former words and question forgotten. "Where? When? Who?"

 

He looks around, glaring at the surrounding people in the plaza. "Do you need me to stab a peasant," he says flatly, a sparkle of red lightning on his fingertips as he moves. Visibly forcing himself to relax, Theo unfurls from his attack-ready position and thinks to himself for a second before speaking up once more. Right -- the mission. He could absolutely finish this mission and protect Arch at the same time, but it would not do good to neglect the important details.

 

Strange people. Truth be told, Theo is perspective when he wants to be -- he just chooses to scan over the crowds when nothing of interest catches his attention. He was a guard, once, and the instincts stay with him; the ability to distinguish good and bad, immediately pinpoint suspicious activity. Speaking of --

 

"A man," Theo says, very bluntly. "Blond, tall, and wearing a strange cape in two folds. He was here just a second ago, but seems to have disappeared into the crowd -- definitely not someone from around here, considering what everyone else is wearing." 

 

--

 

[ that fragrance of regrets, but : duke -- ; ] 

 

Duke beams at Jowan when the other is so open to his directions; Jowan accepts his suggestions with a reversed yet tempered state of mind, and it is so different from the usual troubleshooting he is used to that being by the other makes him feel lighthearted and cheerful, reliving the experiences of his childhood.

 

"Oh," Duke sighs, collapsing from his commanding position and purposefully shifting himself closer to Jowan. "Bureaucracy. Even in this world I can't escape it." Grumbling to himself, he mutters slight words as he fishes around in his pockets for the aforementioned cube -- something about "being the Commander, so you'd think I have the choice" to "you let a pretty bird in one time and suddenly Elias is screaming at you" to -- and here, he raises his voice high to mimic a nagging tone -- "we're in a war, Duke, you can't just take a walk in the middle of the day, be more like me instead, I stay up until 5 AM thinking about the revolution because I'm the golden child". From within the depths of his pocket he pulls out something and blinks at it, surprised.

 

"Huh," Duke says. "So that's where that went." Blinking, he turns to Jowan before stepping closer to the man, smiling.

 

"Here," he says. "Have this." Tilting his head so that Jowan has time to recognise his words, Duke closes the distance between them and pins something on the other's chest; upon closer recognition, it is a silvery brooch with intricate markings. Just as the brooch makes contact with the fabric of Jowan's shirt, the embedded pattern curls in and out, reflecting the light.

 

"If we're going to uncertain places," Duke says, his eyes not quite meeting Jowan's, "then I would feel better knowing that the people with me are safe." A pause. "That's just -- a little something from my world -- I hope it's okay, I mean, I'm not trying to hurt you or anything." Duke laughs nervously then, his fingers lingering slightly on the other's chest. "My sister -- her magic focuses on embedding magic into things, objects, and she made this for me as a joke. It's a barricade charm, but, well--" and here, Duke steps back, gesturing to himself, "human barrier, so I can't really use it."

 

He gives a soft laugh. "I just -- Xander would murder me if I let a new recruit get killed on the first mission. Despite everything, I still have some responsibilities." 

 

Duke realises abruptly that he is simply talking to fill up the air now, and that a flush is creeping up his neck. Clearing his throat, he gives a nervous little half wave and pats Jowan on the chest. 


"All good," he says, more talking to himself than anything. Just guys being buds. Looking out for one another. He gives Jowan another pat.

 

Cistina's voice breaks the atmosphere between the two of them, and Duke turns to her in a kind of daze, broken only by the seriousness of her voice. Immediately, he is concerned; CIstina is calm, ever-loyal, and absolutely resolute in her actions -- she would not easily be so disturbed, and it concerns him to hear the nervous tone of her voice and how she immediately reacts to pulling out her cube -- really, where was his? -- and phoning Stan.

 

"How strong?" he presses, concerned. But -- there is no other way. "I don't go back on my word," he says, but it is light, almost uncertain, in the concern that overshadows Cistina's urgency. "We may have to approach it anyways to retrieve the anchor."

 

He turns to Dynarst then, a concerned eye on Cistina as she communicates her findings. "Can you tell me more about the Lord Ruler?" he asks, interested. "Does anyone approach that castle?"

 

He is all too familiar with the unnecessary cruelties of gods who have been offended -- but never has it been said that any sort of lord is immortal, at least in his experience. And yet he is not at his strongest here, does not have the familiar backing of an entire nation by his side -- but he has never been one to give in, despite the odds. He has given his word that Dynarst will not have to return to a life of suffering if he follows, and he will see through to that -- just as he has promised everything else. The seasons and winds may change, but Duke -- Duke does not go back on the feelings he holds for the people he surrounds himself with. 

Edited by takatsuki

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Stan -- Abandoned Watch Store > Crossroads

 

 

Well, I’m fine," replied Lara's voice. "I just... Judo flipped someone off the roof. He was apparently curious as to why I was on the roof. I gave him my answer.

 

"You what." Stan said, his tone flat. "Assault isn't the only way out of a conversation! I mean, I guess I'm not the best example to follow since I literally set someone on fire so they would stop talking but I was seventeen and that was one time---"

 

The man stopped himself, one hand in mid-gesture and the other holding his phone to his ear, suddenly self-aware that he was being stared down by the wide, owl-like eyes of the other girl in the room. At least the silence between them was broken by a second ping.

 

"I trust this is you, Stan?" Cistina's voice cut in. He didn't know if her pauses were because of a bad connection, or if she was hesitating with her words for whatever reason. "There's a... Powerful... Force charging from the... The spiraling keep in the distance. If you could avoid approaching, please by all means do."

 

"Yeah, it's me. You mean that giant spiked thing in the middle of the city? Last time we tried to head too close to that, that's where me and Xker got chased out by the nail-eyed guys." He frowned at the memory. "And there's something about it -- I don't know if it's the architecture or whatever, but that place is super freaky. Makes the hair on my neck stand on end."

 

He pulled his hand back and took a look at his phone, flipping through a few options until he found out how to do a conference call and put both ladies on the line at once.

 

"Lara, Cistina? The tracker led me to a room full of golden, glittery sand. Evidence points to it being part of the anchor. There's a girl here who seems to be native to the world but I'm not sure, and she says that touching the sand can turn people into monsters which, presumably is a really bad thing.

 

"If you find anything out about the world itself or about the sand, let me know," he followed up, before turning back to the girl across the room.

 

"Is there uh, anything else you can tell me? And what is thine fair maiden's name?"

 

Stan punctuated the last part with a wink.

 

The girl tilted her head to the side and let out a dismissive huff, almost taken aback that this strange man from somewhere else was trying to be suave and flirty. Although... he seemed to be ready to trust anything she would say and so, raising her chin, she began with her name. "...Cam. The sand came from an old looking hourglass that doesn't look like it could hold all of this, but it did. Should still be here, somewhere, but I haven't taken a good look for obvious reasons."

 

Stan waited for her to give more context, but she didn't elaborate further. The agent furrowed his brow, trying to figure out how to search the shop without touching the sand.

 

"Ah, I got it," he said. "Wait here for a sec. And if you can, try to get close to the exit because we're going to de-dust this baby like it's spring cleaning day."

 

~~~

 

Stepping outside, Stan carefully pulled the door shut again to make sure no curious passerby would stumble upon the bits of the anchor. Easily, he spotted the two new recruits, Arch and Theo, speaking to each other by the plaza's central fountain. He approached them and waved them over.

 

"Arch? We're gonna have to use those wings of yours to whip up a breeze. I found a room of sand that's apparently really dangerous to touch, so could you try to fan it away so we can investigate?"

 

He paused. He squinted at the vial the angel was holding, with the shining particles within the murky liquid. "Yeah, like that stuff suspended in the water..."

 

~~~~

 

#Duke#

 

Dynarst opens his mouth to inquire about the mysterious cube the lady in yellow was holding that broadcasted a voice -- but then he shut his jaw, simply accepting it as further proof that Duke and his comrades were not of this world. He hangs his head low at Duke's questions, and shakes it from side to side. He is eager to tell him but at the same time, a little nervous about speaking so openly about the Lord Ruler. "No one really dares approach Kredik Shaw, that place you point to -- not even the nobles. It's the home of the Lord Ruler Himself, and the keep itself makes even the bravest men cower. I don't believe in superstitions as much as the next person but... It's said that His commanding aura surrounds the area around the palace and can instantly bring weak souls to their knees. That's probably what the voice of the cube felt, and maybe what you're feeling right now, yellow lady?

 

"I've had the chance to see the Lord Ruler in person, once, when I was a kid, and I've heard from elders that His appearance hasn't changed for a hundred years. Tall, pale, dark-haired and handsome; decorated all over with jewelry of all sorts of metals like gold and bronze and steel and pewter, It's almost like He can make crowds feel what he wants them to feel, whether that is fear, outrage, or nothing at all."

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Lara winced when Stan mentioned setting someone on fire at seventeen. Christ, he had that kind of capability on him?! Who knew he would- no, no, maybe it wasn’t murder, he wouldn’t have dropped that so casually. Would he? That man was full of surprises. Maybe it was just a minor burn. Yeah, yeah, that calmed her down a little. “Yeah, well for whatever reason he was fine,” she murmured. Lara sighed. Cistina had cut in, with some valuable information about that giant building nearby. It was a very eerie building indeed- of gravity were to allow her braid to stand on end, it would. But then Stan tried to flirt with the girl in the room he was discussing, and she face-palmed. Typical Stanley, of course he couldn’t go anywhere without flirting with the nearest girl in the area.

 

That was what always got on her nerves, even if it was just a benign little tease. Yet she always kept it to herself. Whatever it was, though, it always made her turn a bit green. Still, out of professionalism, she tried not to let it anger her… too much. Lara sighed and rubbed her temple. Lara, you ought to get a grip. It’s unsightly to be getting this riled up over something so silly. Maybe you ought to follow him to make sure nothing is going wrong. Or perhaps Duke to get him to get his ass in gear? Or perhaps Cistina? …..Stan. Stan might get himself into trouble. Lara followed in Stan’s direction, hopping from one roof to the next until she caught up at a building nearby. The tracker showed just how close Stan was, and thankfully his dot still showed up.

 

On that rooftop she sat, waiting for her chance to provide some support, if she could. She had some time to think, at least. Was it smart to even go on this mission? Would she provide any help at all up here? Or was she just sitting and waiting for this mission to be over, so that she could go home and pet Cicero? She missed that pup right about now. Was someone feeding him? Giving him love and affection? She really hoped so, because if nobody cared for him, Lara was going to rain some hell on the base. Her mind turned back to home for a brief moment. Perhaps she needed someone to help Winston tend to the manor. At his age, cleaning everything by himself had to prove difficult. Perhaps she would ask someone to come home with her to check up on the manor. It would also help to grab some ammo, and maybe a couple of targets to create some sort of range for the base. It sucked being one of the few members of the base to actually use guns. It was her and Stan, essentially. Go figure.

 

How would that gym go? Would Lara be on her own in creating it? She supposed so, nobody else seemed interested in making one. Ah, well. She supposed that it would be good to focus on that when she got home, maybe people would use it when it was finished. But for now, here Lara sat, anxious to be put to use

Edited by Mikasa361

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Jowan [ distractions ]

 

It’s a surprise when Duke abruptly shifts postures, but Jowan can’t help but think that this suits him better. Duke is a natural leader, surely, but there’s something beautiful about seeing the harsh lines leave his shoulders and spine. Conscious of the dwindling space between them, Jowan nearly takes a step back; he’s always preferred to have his own space. But it’s… not uncomfortable, being so close to Duke. He supposes that he can oblige Duke’s desire if Duke wants to be closer, and if he happens to enjoy the proximity as well that’s fine. 

“Truly a scourge everywhere,” he says, chuckling lightly at Duke’s dismay. He falls silent as Duke begins to search for the cube. There’s a wealth of information contained in Duke’s casual mutterings, and he finds himself struggling to commit it all to memory. Who is Elias? Duke must know him well, to speak of him like this.


“War?” The word slips out of his mouth. He’d meant to wait -- they were supposed to be on a mission, not talking about their pasts, but when has he been able to stay on task? It’s just -- a war sounds like a pretty major thing for Duke to have been involved in. 

 

Duke pins something to his chest, and Jowan appreciates that he was careful enough to avoid stabbing him through the fabric. He raises his hand to inspect the brooch, curious, and his fingers brush against Duke’s. Sunlight glints dully off the curls of the metal -- it’s beautiful. Despite Duke’s claim that it is enchanted, he can’t feel the ripples in the Fade that lyrium creates. It had to have been enchanted in some other way. “How does it-” he begins, but he’s asked enough for now. “How do you use it?”

 

He grits his teeth and bows his head; that sounded ungrateful, damn it. “Thank you,” he says, softer, and he hopes that Duke will understand. 

 

There’s a pause in the conversation, and Jowan is suddenly aware of how close they’re standing. He opens his mouth, feeling that maybe he should say something, and he isn’t sure whether to be relieved or upset when Cistina’s voice frees him from the responsibility. 

 

She sounds unsure of how to describe whatever she felt, and perhaps frightened. He shifts nervously from foot to foot, once again concerned that traveling to the castle isn’t the best of plans. Getting chased by people with nails in their eyes didn’t sound like a fun weekend plan, but then, this was what he’d signed up for. Dynarst’s description of the castle -- Kredik Shaw? -- sounded even worse, but he frowns. “Surely some other people live there- servants, at least. I can’t imagine that this Lord Ruler keeps up with the dusting on his own. It must be approachable somehow.” The part about the Lord Ruler never changing in appearance was a bit more worrisome, but minor details. 
 

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[ a direction away from the stars : duke -- ; ] 

 

Duke blinks, barely managing to catch Jowan's quick, one-worded question. He stays silent throughout the entire procedure, tilting his head as he steps back and takes in the sight of the brooch embedded on Jowan's chest now, and something tightens in his chest when he realises -- Jowan is wearing his item. 

 

"War," Duke confirms. The word hangs between them, the atmosphere heavy, and when Duke speaks his voice is tight, humour somewhat forced through the distinct awkwardness that comes with mentioning -- times where he has failed.

 

"You know," he says, too casual, "it happens. You have falling outs with people offending entire nations." His is a faint smile, touching the edges of his lips. "People choose sides, and sometimes they choose wrong." 

 

He clears his throat and taps a finger to his chin, staring at the brooch when Jowan questions its use. "I ... don't really know," he admits, looking sheepish. "It's an invention my sister -- Lifen -- made. She's a genius, really, but I'm afraid all I had to do was donate myself to being fiddled around with for a little bit until she figured out how to lock a small barrier inside the metal." He tilts his head. "I did manage to break it once by stabbing it and throwing it overhead, so I'm assuming you can shake it a bit to leak something ... maybe?" Duke says. "But not too harsh," he quickly adds on. "Just a light tap will do. I hope."

 

Duke considers telling Jowan that maybe he should also just pray for the barrier to sense when he's in danger, but decides against that. For one, he has no idea if Jowan is particularly religious, and -- at this, Duke stops abruptly in his thoughts and squints at Jowan, looking almost suspicious. 

 

Oh no, he thinks. What if he's a zealot?

 

You do tend to have a reputation for finding the worst possible candidate for friendship and then going after them, Vylcan comments lightly, and it is only through sheer force of will that Duke doesn't jump back at the sudden intrusion of the spirit inside his head.

 

I have no idea what you could potentially mean, he replies.

 

You befriended a doomsday revolutionary. 

 

That hits a nerve. "Elias was fine when I met him," Duke murmurs, aloud this time, and immediately goes to reply to other affairs instead of continuing this debate. 

 

Stan's report makes him bite the edges of his lips, thinking. Nail-eyed enemies, an oppressing dark force, and an enslaved city. It is as if they traveled backwards in time to the ancient years, and Duke cannot believe this is happening. By all accords, only an insane person would choose to willingly head towards such waves of danger, but, well -- Duke has never been sound in his reasoning, has he?

 

But he is also a commander, and he -- does not wish to risk the lives of the people around him. He takes a look at Cistina, so concerned, her brows knitted together with a slender hand absentmindedly brushing her hair back, Stan's voice cracking over the intercom as she listens intensely. And Jowan, who -- all jokes aside -- is quiet and thoughtful and has a certain awkward, amazed air to his every action, and who he does not wish to put in danger on his -- first mission.

 

Oh god, this is why they don't let him handle initiations. He wonders how well Stan would take the idea of flying to his homeland to find a wanted criminal with dark magic in his head and asking him to free an oppressed peoples, because this seems right up Elias' alley.

 

But he is not Elias -- not as reckless, not nearly as uncaring, so Duke hums in response to Dynarst's words and rests a hand on the sword handle by his hip. 

 

"Thank you, Dynarst," he says, nodding gratefully to the man. "You've been a big help." Then, almost as if he is thinking to himself, Duke speaks, but loud enough that the people by his side can hear. "An immortal ruler who inspires fear within the people," he says. "Who hopefully does not do his own dusting,"  he adds with a wink in Jowan's direction.

 

He hopes Cistina will not mind if he takes the initiative. "The sand," he says. "Stan says it turns people into monsters?" He frowns -- an anchor that actively harms the people of the city? That will not do well to remain in this world, however poor their socioeconomic standings.

 

"We might want to investigate that," he suggests, looking around at the small gathered group before him. "Two birds with one stone. We go looking for both the immortal ruler and sand-monster-people."

 

 

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