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X-DREAMERS [mission 01: ash and sand]

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Jowan [ what about elias? ]

 

“Oh,” he says, dropping his eyes out of shame and to avoid seeing Duke’s strained expression. He feels like he’s made a terrible error -- a single comment and Duke’s levity is gone. The atmosphere was too fragile for such a question, and he should have seen that coming. “Ferelden hasn’t had a war in nearly thirty years. Well, unless you count the Blight. You probably should, but I wasn’t… there for it.” He stops and wrings his fingers, unsure of whether he said the right thing or not. Babbling about tangentially related things was rarely the way to go, but it seemed wrong to stay silent. Sharing information of his own seems the least he could do in response to bringing up what were clearly painful memories, but maybe it’s just insensitive. Maybe he should have apologized, or… 


Nodding in response to Duke’s explanation, he runs a finger along one of the markings of the brooch. It’s a bit disappointing to learn that Duke doesn’t know how the brooch works, but Jowan could say the same about his knowledge of enchantments. “I don’t really understand how the Tranquil make enchantment items either. There’s lyrium -- obviously -- but the specifics never stuck in my mind,” he admits. “So I guess we’re in the same boat, there.” 

 

Duke’s eyes suddenly narrow; Jowan nearly turns to look behind himself, but Duke is looking directly at him. He murmurs something -- about Elias again, but it’s a complete non-sequitur. Jowan frowns and his eyebrows knit together in concern. “...Is something wrong?” Fear flutters in his chest, and he tries to suppress it, but why would Duke look at him like that? With a hint of desperation he combs through what he's recently said, but he can't think of anything that would elicit this kind of reaction. 
 

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   Unknown World - The Channel

   "FIDDLESTICKS??"

 

   Typheus was shouting. He spun around in place, searching for the distinct, beaten umber hull of the ten-foot Pusher that was beside him. He completely ignored the fact that he had somehow spawned in a building, that people had scattered from him and the debris, that Yusei was still there and probably yelling at him. He whipped around, projecting his voice out over the water,
   "FIDDLESTICKS!"
   Too loud! He just made the people on the other side of the... canal? They were beside a canal? - run away, their efforts hindered by heavy clothing dusted by ash fall. This was certainly not Zirhon, just as he expected, but he didn't expect to lose a two-ton walking vehicle!
   Calm down! She must have spawned in the water. She's fine! he shouted at himself. The machine forced himself to calm down, sucking in air and keeping his wings still; it was too tempting to launch off and search for her from the sky, but he would probably light the place on fire. Check the water, his mind repeated. He numbly walked over to the canal's edge, peering down into it.

 

   It was like ink. The way the depths swirled reminded him of a particular Xinschi-uual drink, made by steeping coal, but it didn't have the brown hues of sewage in it; this had some unsavory colors mixed in, and unfortunately, none of them were red or had a slight glow like someone looking up at him.
   Typheus turned back to the building. Only one arm and one leg had caught in it, and the conflict of space resulted in the weaker substance shattering when he materialized. Pieces of brick and splinters of wood populated the scene, with only one human seen cowering behind some crude furniture. Fiddlesticks still wasn't there.
   He looked down the canal. Not there either. Up the canal. Still nothing. Across the canal. Only barges floated past, with astonished people riding on them, some staring open-mouthed, others trying not to make eye contact. The opposite docks only held more of the same. The black water had no clues, nor did the tightly-packed buildings running along the canal.
 

   Okay, analyze, he thought, she has to be here. She was right next to me. It's not like she was whisked off to another place. So, we know there are people here. It must be Earth. He looked up at the dark sky, lit up with an orange light, now paying more attention to his surroundings. He could see ash falling... He flashed his scanner on, searching the atmosphere. This is Earth... but who lives under a volcano? he thought, the air is too stagnant to be an island they're stuck with. He looked back down at his feet, and found with surprise that, like busy insects, people were already cautiously approaching the mess he had made. They were trying hard not to gawk, but weren't openly afraid anymore... it was almost like... they were used to this?
   This was conflicting. That's not how the people of Earth acted at all. If you scared one kid because he glimpsed you, the whole neighborhood would be in an uproar. These people though were pretending he wasn't there.
   Typheus stood very still while he watched, part of him listening for Yusei's response, part of him churning away, trying to figure out where Fiddlesticks went. This wasn't normal, right? It would have been disclosed first!

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[ blood spilt is not your own : duke -- ; ] 

 

It is interesting when Jowan speaks of his own world, but the other man is so reserved and guarded that it only makes Duke curious to know more -- about the land he has come from, about the rules and regulations and societal classes. Duke's face instantly relaxes upon hearing the other's words, and he frowns, but it is moreso concern about why Jowan seems so unsure than his own disappointment.

 

"Thirty years," Duke repeats, thinking to himself. "A short time when you really consider it, but ... I can't talk, seeing as Esteau and A-be went to war, and then the civil war followed that." Duke laughs a bit here, short and sweet. "But I suppose it was for the best. In any case, I think -- peace is something everyone desires, but hard to keep." 

 

He tilts his head then. "A 'Blight'? That doesn't sound pleasant."

 

Hearing about how magic works in Jowan's world is like revealing a hidden secret; a spark of pleasure rolls down Duke's spine, setting aflame his desire to know more -- about the world Jowan has left behind, about his thoughts on certain issues, and Duke -- Duke so desperately wants to share entirely everything with the man standing before him that he feel his throat dry in response. He is left blinking as the other finishes speaking, and Duke clears his throat.

 

Jowan is so guarded, so careful, and there is nothing in his voice to betray his emotions regarding ... anything. Duke does not want to intrude on the other's private matters that he surely holds so dearly to his heart, but -- he was never good at subtlety. Perhaps it is a trait learnt from Ace, but Duke -- wants to understand everything, make everything right.

 

But who defines 'right'? This reminds him of the green-eyed revolutionary once more, and Duke bites his lip before replying. He will approach this manner with delicacy, politeness, an act that Lifen will certainly be proud of him for.

 

"What's 'lyrium'?" he asks.

 

Oh god, Vylcan says. So this is why you left the diplomacy to Caspian.

 

Whatever could you mean?

 

You are about as subtle as an incoming beast, Champion. You're basically trapping this poor man.

 

"Don't answer that," Duke says hastily, and then blinks. "Or -- or do, if you're comfortable, but -- sorry, that was in poor taste -- how does magic work in your world, exactly? You know, we have these spirits and mind things but then sometimes they make people do awful things, but you know everyone makes mistakes, and -- you really don't have to explain if it's anything sensitive, but it's just so interesting to learn about other places."

 

He wants to slap Vylcan for making him so flustered all of a sudden, but -- he does not want to drive Jowan away, nor make him uncomfortable. And he does not see any way to punish Vylcan other than punishing himself, and Duke wonders how Jowan would react if he abruptly punched himself in the face right about now.

 

He decides against that particular action and decides to instead wait for a response. 

 

Jowan's concerned expression shakes him from his thoughts, and Duke blinks at the man before him before he regains his senses once more. Jowan's one-sentence reply shows obvious concern, and something in Duke's chest abruptly tightens at the thought of making the other worry.

 

"Oh, no," he says quickly. "My apologies -- just thinking. I --" Duke swallows. Well, if he must know -- and Jowan certainly deserves an explanation, because more than anything he does not wish to see the other distressed even slightly, and Jowan always looks so sad -- "have a friend," Duke says slowly.

 

He considers leaving it there, but then decides to continue. It would do no good to present himself as someone with only one friend, and he wants to make the best possible impression on Jowan -- considering everything that's happened. "And I think about him a lot."

 

Oh no. Did that sound too much like he only has thoughts for Elias? Elias occupies a large part of his daily thought, but so does Xander, and Natsuki, and Cistina and Stan, and all the members of the X-Dre -- and most importantly, Jowan.

 

"I mean -- I think about everyone a lot, sometimes i wake up in the middle of the night and wonder how Stan's doing, but more than anything I think about you -- anyways, I think about him, because he's just dumb."

 

A pause. Duke has the slight impression he might be dragging this one on a little too much.

 

"Not dumb in the literal sense -- although I would not be surprised if his mom dropped him on his head -- by the way, his mom is lovely, real pleasant -- but Elias -- that's his name -- is just stupid."

 

Duke blinks. Half of him is waiting for darkness to descend from the sky and smite him where he stands. "But -- I guess ... it's complicated. He contracted this dark entity, and then he tried to kill this --" Duke pauses. How to describe Caspian? -- "really pretty man, and then he tried to stab me when I told him he couldn't kill the pretty man. And then the pretty man ran away."

 

Duke wants to laugh at how ridiculous the tale sounds spoken aloud. It sounds like a story -- one that would be told in bars, taverns, after a good day of work, a jolly tale for amusement and crude jokes. But --

 

"I just think of him sometimes," Duke says, softer now. "I hope he's doing well, because -- he's hurting, and you don't abandon a friend just because they've made some mistakes along the way. That's life." 

 

Duke smiles. "So -- sorry. Didn't mean to glare at you. Just thinking a bit. Contrary to popular belief, I am capable of thought." He winks, a small joke to lighten up the mood. 

Edited by takatsuki

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Lara was in a state of ease when she heard the scream. That was her mistake. 

 

Her heart rate accelerated when she heard that scream, that boom that smacked into her eardrums. But luckily it wasn’t quite so loud. She looked to see something very large and white towards the west. It looked mechanic in nature, and Lara was in a way reminded of that robot that glitched out back at base. Lara grabbed her communicator and spoke, “Stan, I see something towards the west. It’s huge, whitish/silvery? Long legs, compact... Odd fin things? That’s all I’m getting. Did you hear that scream? I think that’s where it came from. You might want to have someone take a look, it’s reminding me of that other bot on base, I’m blanking on a name... But it was the one that glitched earlier? Similar to that. I’m near you, so if you want me to check it out I can, but only if you’re sure you don’t need my eyes.” Lara was ready now. Finally, something interesting.

Edited by Mikasa361

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Jowan [ can we speak later? ]

 

Jowan is relieved to hear the sound of Duke’s laugh, and his lips curl into a shy smile. Maybe he hadn’t ruined everything, then. Being given this information only makes him want more -- why did Estaue and A-be go to war, exactly? What were they like? And, most importantly, where was Duke from? 

 

Desperate as he is to ask, Jowan stays silent and lets Duke ask his question. A world without Blights… it’s not too hard to imagine. People had thought that they were over, after all, and the Fifth had only lasted a year. Living during any of the other Blights is far more difficult to imagine, but it still it takes him a moment to think of how to explain. Habitually, he looks upwards and to the left while thinking. “You could say that,” he says, looking back at Duke. “A Blight is when the Darkspawn -- Tainted monsters -- invade the rest of the world from the Deeproads, led by a Tainted draconic Old God.” He squints. “You do at least have dragons, right?” 

 

Jowan’s mouth is already open to reply when Duke tells him not to reply. For a moment he is confused, but after Duke elaborates he gives a quiet laugh that’s almost more of a smile. Why is Duke so worried about offending him? “I want to tell you,” he admits, and he does. Talking to Duke is enjoyable whatever the conversation is about, and there’s so much to say about magic. He wants to compare their magic systems -- find out what’s similar, what’s different, how they’re learned and how they’re treated by society.  Duke speaks of spirits and possession -- are those anything like how they are in his world? ‘Make people do awful things’ seemed like a supreme understatement when possession usually made people violently mad, but maybe there’s a connection, and he wants to talk about it. “It’s not sensitive at all.” Mostly. At the half-truth, he looks towards his hands and fidgets a bit. “But perhaps we could talk about this another time?” he says, glancing towards Cistina and Dynarst. They have work to do, unfortunately, and he doesn’t want to make their companions wait.

 

“Oh,” he says, relaxing a bit and allowing his shoulders to slump. He’d been so worried -- well, he’s glad that Duke hadn’t been upset with him. He tilts his head slightly to listen, but doesn’t say anything more until Duke finishes. 

 

A strange feeling of sadness wells up in Jowan when Duke talks about his "friend", although he isn’t entirely sure why. It’s hardly his business what friends Duke has -- and shouldn’t he be glad if Duke has people that he cares about? The feeling is uncomfortable, and Jowan tries to put his thoughts on the subject to rest for the moment. 

 

But more than anything, I think of you. Jowan gives a sharp exhale through his nose, because it’s almost funny, and he must have heard wrong. But then, they’ve known each other for all of a few hours -- it’s not unreasonable for Duke to have spent time thinking about the filthy man in chains that showed up bleeding everywhere. It’s just.. he doesn’t think that many people spend much time thinking about him, and he can’t help but feel flattered anyway. 

 

A dark entity? That sounds like a demon, and well, trying to stab people because they won’t let them stab other people sounds partially demonic. It’d sound entirely demonic if even that level of restraint wasn’t above the abilities of most abominations, but if spirits were different in Duke’s world demons probably were as well. In any case, Jowan doesn’t think that Duke will be pleased if he calls his friend an abomination. 

 

Didn’t it come to a point where a friend’s mistakes were too much to forgive them for? 

 

“Thank you. For explaining,” he says, smiling lightly in return. He feels as though he understands Duke a little better now, and he’s glad for that.
 

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[ evolution and ash : duke -- ; ]

 

Absolutely none of Jowan's words make sense, and Duke blinks -- surprised, he lets out a short, happy laugh as he attempts to process everything the other had just said. Information! Exactly what he had hoped for, but Duke hopes the look of utter confusion on his face is more than enough explanation as to how much of Jowan's words he had actually understood.

 

But he wants the other man to smile more, to look off into the distance before snapping back to attention at Duke's gaze once more. At his question, Duke blinks.

 

"Dragons?" he repeats, clearly taken aback. "I ... what's a dragon? The bloodline, like Xander has?" 

 

A creature of myth, Champion, Vylcan tells him, but Duke hushes the spirit. He would rather hear it from Jowan, and it is fascinating -- Jowan's question is so nonchalant, simplistic, and it makes the blond wonder -- are 'dragons' normal in the world he is from?

 

What a place -- with all these complicated words and mysterious creatures. He cannot say much for the structure of his world back home, but Duke is innately curious at just what sort of life people lead back in Jowan's homeworld -- because he cannot imagine saying such things with such a casual exterior. 

 

Duke can only stare when Jowan admits -- so openly! -- to wanting to tell him. It is an honour that allows something to blossom in his chest, an unfurling of the anxiety he has held at the thought that -- perhaps he is pushing Jowan too much, being too needy, but he wants to know about the other man, he must know what his thoughts are and his likes and dislikes and what occupies his mind on the common. There is something so fascinating -- and humbling -- to see that Jowan returns his sentiments, and Duke smiles in return to the other's short laugh.

 

"Glad to hear; I would like that," he says quietly. Jowan's look towards their companions makes Duke momentarily want to consider suggesting the group split up, just so he can take Jowan home and insist he talk on and on, but he knows -- that is not proper, and he has a job to do, even as much as he may ignore it outwardly. Plus, it would not do to leave Dynarst -- not so soon after Duke has promised him great things. He will not go back on his words, not in the slightest. 

 

"It's a date, then," Duke says, a little too casually. "As soon as we get back. I'd like to know more about everything you just said -- mostly because I did not understand any of it!" He laughs here, clearly excited rather than frustrated at the lack of comprehension from Jowan's sentence. And he holds true to his word -- as soon as they return, step foot into the base; he will ignore all the paperwork thrust his way if it means he can understand more about exactly who Jowan is and where he comes from.

 

Duke nods in response. "Maybe we'll meet him sometime," he says, a little too lightly, and a little too hopeful. "I'm sure somewhere along travelling the multiverse we'll end up going back to someone's homeworld -- and having to handle whatever happens there. Anyways," and here, Duke flutters a hand in the air, punctuating his words with an air of jovial smalltalk. "The pretty man is a whole other story; perhaps we can trade tales of ridiculous companions somewhere along the way. I certainly won't run out of ridiculous things Elias has done anytime soon. Do you know how we met? He tried to sneak into the city, so I arrested him, and then he spent the entire night yelling about his rights and freedoms. I don't think he even slept." Duke sighs to himself, folding his arms. "Strange how I'm now the one tossing city guards around," he muses, gazing off to the side, before his attention snaps back to Jowan and he smiles, waiting for a response. 

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Jowan [ the mission ruins everything ]

 

That’d be a no, then. A world without dragons and Darkspawn -- it sounds significantly more pleasant than Thedas, but Jowan knows that he can’t make assumptions like that so quickly. At the very least it sounds as though Duke’s world has more warfare, and Jowan has never thought of Thedas as ‘peaceful’. They have different struggles and hardships. Still, not having to worry about giant firebreathing lizards descending from the sky sounds nice; there were reasons why the dragons had nearly been driven to extinction. “Bloodline -- ? Who’s Xander?” he asks. “Dragons are like these giant reptiles with wings. And they breathe fire.” He pauses for a moment. “I mean that they spit fire at you through their mouths, not that they inhale flames, though they could probably do that as well. And it’s only the High Dragons that have wings -- the drakes don’t.”

 

That about sums it up, right? 

 

Duke’s reply is uncharacteristically quiet, and it prompts Jowan to look into Duke’s eyes. They are soft, serious, and Jowan almost feels as though the conversation is more significant than words alone imply. “I’ll look forward to it,” he says softly as his heart flutters in his chest. They’re still standing so close together. He wishes that they didn’t have to wait, but they had a job to do; it just feels as though it’s been far too long since he’s been able to properly talk to someone about magic. Secrets… he’d never noticed just how much distance they’d put between Neria and himself until that day, and he misses it. Talking with Duke won’t be the same, he knows, but he’s fine with that. 

 

He nods silently in agreement, but he’s not entirely sure how to feel about meeting this Elias. Duke clearly wanted to, but well -- he’d tried to stab Duke, which frankly makes him sound like someone that they shouldn’t want to meet. 

 

And that’s certainly the only reason why he’s concerned about meeting Elias. Definitely.

 

He doesn’t know if he really has any stories about companions to share. Neria’s certainly done a lot of ridiculous things, but he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to talk about her. Maybe he’ll be able to try for Duke, but if not, he’ll be content to listen to Duke’s stories.

 

He smiles -- Elias certainly does sound interesting, but more importantly Duke told him something else about his past. He wants to ask about it -- Duke had been a city guard, then? It’s difficult to imagine, but at the same time it would explain the commanding posture that Duke had adopted. 

 

Oh. Duke is looking at him. Is he waiting? “Sorry,” he says, a bit sheepish. “Just thinking a bit. I’d… like to hear more when the mission’s done, yes. If -- if that’s okay with you.” 
 

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[ that autumn, for me : duke --- ; ] 

 

Duke is slightly taken aback by Jowan's question, having long gotten used to the other being ... well, present. To hear that he has not met Xander is a surprise, simply because the Nohrian king is such a dominant force in their reality that it is strange to think he has not gotten around to meeting everyone.

 

"Another member of the X-Dreamers," he says quickly, wondering how to best summarize Xander. "Really tall, imposing, a king -- majestic curls, deep voice? You'll meet him," Duke reassures. "He welcomes everyone."

 

To hear such a creature described makes Duke squint at Jowan, attempting to imagine the 'dragon' in his mind. Was ... was Xander really related to the creature that Jowan's words had conjured in Duke's mind? A creature, a reptile -- and Duke remembers being young again, chasing lizards around in the new place Ace had decided they would stay in for a couple days; nothing more, nothing less. That animal, but with wings? And capable of shooting flames?

 

He imagines a tiny lizard floating in the air and angrily spitting little flames at children, and Duke stifles a laugh at the absurdity of it all. What strange animals must be commonplace for Jowan, and he is only more curious as to the world the other man comes from.

 

"Of course." His reply is sturdy and firm in response to Jowan's words, and he cannot emphasis how much he is looking forward to their future talk. Always deciding the best things at the wrong times, Duke thinks to himself, with a certain lament towards his situation, but even then his excitement is not dulled. They will finish up the mission, one way or another, and he does not intend to get stuck here if it means he can return to sort things out with Jowan in the near future. Whatever happens, he will not falter -- for what is incoming once they reach home. 

 

With this in mind, Duke hums to signal the end of their talk -- a good end, really -- and absentmindedly pats his breast pocket. The blond is surprised to feel a hard shape where he was expecting the fold of his uniform, and Duke opens the pocket to reveal --

 

Ah. 

 

"Hi, Xansuki," Duke says as he fishes out the cube, and it is a perfectly fine thing to do to name inanimate objects, thank you very much. Tapping the small cube, Duke watches as it sputters to life. He inspects the object, now able to take a look at the tracker without bothering Cistina and her voicecalling, and Duke blinks when he realises the tracker is pointing directly down the road leading to the castle of the aforementioned Lord Ruler.

 

"Well," he says, tilting the cube so Jowan can see. "I guess that settles it."

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Arch - Fountain at Crossroads

 

“Settle yourself,” Arch said with a faint smile. He had to suppress a chuckle when he noticed that Theo, puffed up and ready to fight anyone who got in his way, suddenly bore a resemblance to an agitated pomeranian. “That was a joke. There’s no need for concern.” Well, that wasn’t entirely true. More than once Arch had to firmly pry his wings away from the wandering hands of strangers; however, most of those strangers were starry-eyed children who had clearly never seen an angel before. Arch offered each of them a gentle smile least he scared them when he yanked his wing away.

 

Upon Theo mentioning the blonde stranger, Arch’s smile quickly faded. He glanced in the direction that Theo had been staring it just a moment prior, but Arch didn’t see anyone that looked like Theo’s description.

“Keep a lookout for him,” Arch said as he looked back over at Theo. “He might show up again.” Arch didn’t actually know if the stranger was going to be of any importance, but it was better to be safe by keeping tabs on anyone who could be useful to the mission.

Tucking the flask away for later, Arch turned to face Stan as he approached. The angel raised an eyebrow when Stan mentioned sand. He peered over Stan’s shoulder at the building Stan existed before glancing down at his glittering vial of sand.

 

“I’ll be sure to be careful with this water then,” Arch said. At least someone knew what was inside of the water. Arch didn’t know how useful a vial of dangerous sand was going to be, but it didn’t hurt to have it around. “I am at your service,” Arch said as he looked back up at Stan. “Where do you want me to—”Arch was interrupted mid-sentence by a loud shriek, The angel instantly became alert; Arch’s head snapped towards the source of the sound, eyes narrowed. His wings fluttered anxiously as Sherrkyle floated towards his hand. The natives around him didn’t appear overly concerned, but Arch knew better than to ignore any possible threats. “Is that something we should be worried about?” Arch said, his head still turned towards the direction of the scream.

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Yusei | Trap Card Activate?

 

Something's gone wrong....

 

The thought flashed through Yusei's mind as the environment solidified around him. Instantly, there was movement and noise, forcing the duelist into action before he could even make sense of the situation. He leapt backwards, putting space between himself and what he later recognized as fallen debris and thrashing metal. The impact of his boots hitting the ground kicked up ash and, possibly, dust. 

 

The noise became distinct shouting and the young man blinked, orienting on the source. Typheus was panicking, visible through the opening of the damaged wall. Fiddlesticks had vanished. They had been planted just inside the edge of a building. It was an uncommon occurrence that Yusei was trying to prevent entirely with modifications. 

 

Picking his way carefully, Yusei left the cover of the damaged building, glancing sideways at the inhabitants of the world. Most of them only noticed Typheus, leaving a few to give him strange or confused looks. Just like the ground, the people possessed layers of ash on their clothes and in their hair, brooms in their hands. He recognized poverty even in a foreign world.

 

The debris was odd. What he originally believed to just be wood or stone, was in fact more than that. Paint decorated some of the broken surfaces and Yusei frowned. Crouching down, he inspected some of the mess more closely. It went contrary to the people covered in ash. Abruptly, he looked up, standing as he did so and turning on his heels to face the ruined building. 

 

It toward above, spires piercing the gray sky like the claws of a duel monster. His dark blue eyes shifted downward, finding the gaping wound that once was a sturdy wall. Through it, Yusei noticed the painted interior, stained glass filtering light through from the far side of the building. "Typheus...," he started, voice low.

 

Clinking metal reached his ears, coming from his left, before he could make out the figures approaching from inside the building. Guards, both inside and outside of the building, were rushing towards the damage. Spears thrust into the air before lowering, tips pointed at Yusei and Typheus. Watching them, Yusei slowly stepped back towards Typheus, his arms lifting defensively. "Typheus," he called once more, hoping for the machine's attention. 

 

"What's all this about?" one guard questioned, stepping forward from the ring that had formed around them. "Are you responsible for the destruction of Lord Elikeller's residence?" The man seemed to hesitate as he spoke, regarding the unknown duo. The street-filth was questionable but the... beast, was particularly troubling. 

 

Fiddlesticks would have to wait....

Edited by ValidEmotions

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"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. 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."

Cistina raised her head and peered at the spire in the distance. Now that she was aware of it, it was now like a constant, screaming throbbing at the side of her head. She felt sick.... Can Stan feel it too?  He had stopped talking, and Cistina was about ask when Duke spoke up.

 

"How strong?" Duke asks, and Cistina wondered if her reaction was finally enough to persuade him from his horrifying task. "I don't go back on my word," he then said, but with less force behind them than before. "We may have to approach it anyways to retrieve the anchor." The anchors.... Surely neither would be in that dreadful location..! 
Cistina grimaced and took a breath, steeling herself as Stan's voice came out of the cube again.

 

"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," Stan said this almost nonchalantly. Sand that turned people into monsters?! Cistina's thoughts immediately were of the ogreous king she had fought in the past, and she took a deep gasp of air--that sent her coughing from the ash again, so that she barely managed to catch Stan's ending sentence.

 

"If you find anything out about the world itself or about the sand, let me know," he finished. Cistina hacked a last few flecks of ash out of her lungs before grabbing her hair to filter the air before she breathed in again. She took a few deep breaths. During this, she was dimly aware of Duke and Jowan conversing to the side, and as she finished and let her hair fall back down, she turned back to look at the assembled group. A smile tugged on her mouth as she watched him talk to Jowan, then she looked over to Dynast, who looked a bit overwhelmed by suddenly getting swept into everything. She could relate.

 

"I'd hazard it is increasingly obvious to you that we are not native here?" Cistina approached and asked lightly. "It would be appreciated if you've the good grace to tell us more about your world." Cistina looked around them, taking in the darkened sky with the unnatural red sun, the walls of the city stained from upwards down, the common people in the streets... 

 

"Well, I guess that settles it," Duke spoke, loud and clear. Cistina cocked her head and approached as he tilted Xansuki to Jowan.

 

"What was settled?" she asked, her eyes flicking to the cube. And the mark pointing an anchor towards the castle of spires. "Ogres--Cistina gave a quick shake of her head as she cut off her swear. "I had hoped we've no need of heading there..." She fought the bile that raised in her throat as she became aware of the screaming thumping towards the side of her head again, hand reaching back to grasp at a spear that was not there. Cistina looked around the skyline, the road almost taunting them to head towards that castle, and saw nothing else there. The screaming continued, and she felt a shiver up her spine.

Almost as if echoing her thoughts, a faraway screech reached her ears. Cistina blinked herself from her trance and looked around. Did I hear that? Or was it a mere echoing of my imagination?

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[ pomeranian of lightning : theo -- ; ] 

 

Theo immediately calmed upon hearing Arch's words; a joke, perhaps, but still one that made him slightly wary. They were in unfamiliar lands, unknown territory, and the last thing he wants is for anyone even remotely suspicious to be anywhere within touching distance of Arch. Who knew what kind of tricks the people here had up their sleeves? What they could be capable of to unsuspecting newcomers?

 

Theo nods in response to Arch's words, immediately recognising the unease of his husband in his serious words. The blond man ... admittedly, he had been dressed a little strangely, and walked with a vengeance only familiar to someone on a mission. He would keep an eye out, just in case. 

 

Dangerous sand? Theo bristles at Stan's words, instantly on guard -- he did not like the connotation behind the other's words, what he could be implying if there was a weapon in this world that was too dangerous to even hold. Before he can voice his thoughts, however, they are interrupted by a scream that echoes through the sky.

 

Instantly, Theo is on his feet; Legios sparks into existence in his hands, red lightning dancing across his fingertips. Looking towards the direction where the scream had seemingly originated, Theo narrows his eyes and feels the familiar weight of the demonic weapon in his hands, comforting him. 

 

"What was that?" he questions, to no one in particular, moreso wanting to voice his thoughts so that he is not consumed by paranoia. Instinctively, Theo shuffles closer to Arch, the presence of the angel's wings fluttering steadily where he stands a calming sight to Theo's mind. 

 

--

 

[ onwards, to victory! -- duke ; ] 

 

Cistina, approaching them to draw him away from the comfortable lull the conversation with Jowan had lured him into, is a shocking reminder of reality. Duke blinks in response to Cistina's words; she is clearly shaken, and he does not like to see the people he cares for so uncomfortable. Snapping Xansuki in his palm and slipping it back into his pocket, Duke takes a glance at the long, straight road that leads to the castle of the overbearing Lord Ruler before nodding to himself, making up his mind.

 

"Cistina," he says, gently. "Are you alright?" She looks stunned, faraway, as the brown-haired woman looks around as if hearing something. Duke has not caught wind of any suspicious sounds on the horizon, but he does a quick survey of the surrounding area, just in case. 

 

Everything seems in order, at least. "I suppose we have no other choice," he says in response to her earlier words. "The mission is still the mission, and it seems even the cubes want us to head in that direction." A pause. "It'll be fine," he reassures. "Nothing the X-Dre can't handle, seeing as we've successfully acquired any and all other anchors before." 

 

With that settled, Duke turns and begins to walk down the clean path, clearly seeing what seemed like a bridge in the distance a little bit before the Lord Ruler's castle. So they would have to cross water? That didn't seem to be a problem. He would rather go first into any unknown territory, seeing as he could put forth a barrier in a split second; it would not do to put anyone else in unnecessary danger. Thinking back to how uneasy Cistina had seemed at approaching the darkness in the distance Duke quickens his pace; it would not hurt to scour ahead, just in case, and to assure her that there was no real danger, not currently. 

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   We Accidentallied the House
 

   Typheus's confusion about the lack of alarm among the people dissipated when they all scattered. At first all he heard was the heavy footfalls and the clanks of steel, and immediately his programming jumped to a conclusion:
   Drones! Or mechs?
   Before he could process how silly the thought was, he was already whirling around on his feet, claws spread wide, retrieval panel open in preparation of an attack. He brandished the mandibles, chain teeth glinting even with the dull light.
   "Typheus." It was Yusei's voice. The mech faltered, glancing down where the engineer was. He didn't recognize his posture, but he wasn't attacking, yet. He turned his yellow gaze to the crowd, scanning the metal-plated assembly. They resembled humans... so they must be humans wearing metal?
   That's new, he thought, I knew they had metal tools, but metal clothes? Isn't that impractical for them? He scanned the long objects they had pointed at the two, which were almost decorative. Skewers? He blinked, processing how trying to hurt something with an immense, pointy rod could also be practical. He knew of thermal rods, but they were much shorter and emitted heat. This steel was cold, and reflective like a mirror. It obviously wasn't very advanced technology, nor were the surrounding buildings, so wearing metal must have been an old human trait? Where on Earth were they?
   He looked down at Yusei, thinking. Maybe the mandibles were a bit much in this confrontation.
 

   Typheus folded up the bladed extensions, but kept his retrieval arms out, just in case he had to deal with the skewers. The metal humans' attempt to surround them didn't impress him. He flexed his wings a tiny bit, adjusting the thruster heads to face out so any metal men unlucky enough to flank him was in danger of burning. One of the men in the formation then stepped out from it; something in his stride spoke of authority. Typheus watched him very carefully, trying to read his intent.
   "What's all this about?" he asked, "Are you responsible for the destruction of Lord Erikeller's residence?"
   English. Typheus didn't expect that. Yusei didn't answer right away, so he didn't either, simply regarding the metal man with caution. He wasn't circling, his questions were blunt, he kept his distance and he didn't turn away. He maintained a flat, yet stern composure, his eyes flicking between the duo. He didn't know what to do with either of them.
   For a moment, the white machine entertained the thought of taking advantage of his uncertainty and establish a superior role so searching for Fiddlesticks was easier. Immediately though, it clashed with all of the logic that came with telling the truth. He was capable of spinning an entire web of lies, but something about the thought made his engine seize up.
 

   "We came out of the wall," Typheus finally answered, "It couldn't help but be destroyed." He didn't spare any details as to how or why they had been in the wall, nor jump to courtesy right away in case it just annoyed the man. He couldn't even confirm if Yusei had been inside it as well. Perhaps it was just him and that's why the hole was so big, and if that was the case, there was no point in apologizing on the engineer's behalf when it wasn't even his fault.
   Wondering if the man could pick up on subtle body language, the mech broke eye contact, briefly scanning the sky, then looking at the building he had marred. In a weird way, it reminded him of the first time he saw 84 walking among captive rebels: a tall, proud, imposing figure, rising up from a sea of the outlawed and the scavenged, looking everyone over with a delighted, commandeering eye. It wasn't necessarily the relationship of rich versus poor that bothered Typheus: it was the sense of material absorption. Only someone who who lacks self-satisfaction would bother having such an elaborate palace set up in the depths of this otherwise-ragtag community. There's no point, other than to make a statement. He had to admit though that the sheer contrast between the building and its neighbors was surreal.
   He then turned his eye to the robed people who populated the streets earlier. They didn't dare to come close with the armed humans here, and many still avoided eye contact as if the mere act would get them involved. Their stiff movements and self-absorption was a bit worrying on a personal level, but on the objective one, it told Typheus a lot about the society here and what he should expect.

   "We were summoned," he added, trying not to visibly hiccup at skirting lies so much, "and now we're looking for someone. We believe that person is in this vicinity."

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#Yusei (And Typheus!)#

 

"Lady Elise! I beg you stay inside for your safety!"

 

Shortly after the shout, the circle of guards parts in the middle.

 

A young woman steps forth, each hand holding a corner of her gown to avoid trailing the hem on the dirty ground. Her chestnut hair is pinned up in an updo, and she moves in her dress with practiced ease. It is dyed a creamy yellow -- that, somehow, has avoided collecting much soot from the air -- and decorated with details in intricate lace; silk gloves protect her delicate hands and a simple grey half-cloak protects her shoulders and neck from the elements. The only metallic objects on her seem to be a stud earring in each ear, as upon closer inspection her buttons, crescent-shaped hair clip and pendant are all made from painted wood. A wooden buckler shield is fastened to her arm, a utilitarian accessory to an otherwise fashionable ensemble.

 

She drops the corners of her skirt and waves a dismissive hand, motioning for the house guards to stand down. Worry is apparent in some of their eyes, uncertain of the command as they hesitantly relax their stances. Some were still tensed and ready to act should the bold Lady be erroneous in her judgement of these strange vandals.

 

Lady Elise tilts her chin up with regal poise, sending her gaze straight into the golden eye of the strange beast of steel and fire. She had caught the end of his explanation (his, for its voice was like a man's but with a tinge of inhumanity) and while she cannot verify its truth, she assumes that if it had the intention to rampage it would have done so already. And if it changed its mind and did choose to do so, she found safety in the warmth of the metals burning within her that were ready to be activated in a moment's notice.

 

"You? Did that?" Her fingers ball into fists, and she stomps the ground in indignation in a small tantrum. "I don't care which of the Great Houses put you up to this! We were about to host a ball this week, and now we're going to be the laughing stock of the city!"

 

It takes a moment for her to calm down. She crosses her arms and seems to deflate as she sighs, her lips pushed into a pout. "Daddy's probably going to be real upset about this..."

 

"Speak!" Straightening her posture, the noble suddenly addresses the strange man standing beside the metal machine, whose hair reminded her of the pointed spires of the keep's towers. "Who are you two and what were you doing in the wall of my house?"

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Yusei | I set two cards face down!

 

He needed to take his time.

 

Nine guards stood in a semi-circle around Yusei and Typheus, one of who was the authoritative figure that addressed the duo, placing their backs to the water. The guards were nervous, despite being clad in metal and armed. Yusei stood straighter, moving slowly, as Typheus spoke and captured the guards' attention. The mech was avoiding the whole truth and Yusei quickly noted that fact. 

 

Stan mentioned this world had a metal-based form of magic, a magnetic trait that allowed inhabitants to repel or attract even non-ferrous metals. Having Typheus and Fiddlesticks here might prove dangerous. The question that remained was: who was able to use this magic? Yusei didn't believe that just anyone could wield it. There had to be qualifiers, standards to meet. 

 

"Lady Elise! I beg you stay inside for your safety!"

 

His blue gaze drifted towards the interruption, watching as some of the guards stepped aside to allow a young girl passage. Clad in a yellow that sharply contrasted the atmosphere, Lady Elise presented herself, questioning Typheus about his actions before having a rather childish tantrum. The girl couldn't be much older than Lua and Luca. At the thought of the twins, Yusei suppressed the desire to lift his hand to the Crimson Dragon's mark on his right forearm. 

 

In a world that centered its magic around metals, it was important to take note of who didn't wear it.

 

The buckler shield on the girl's arm, unlike the armor that the guards wore, was distinctly made out of wood. She knows how... Yusei was certain of it. With the magic working like a strange magnet, it made sense that someone of nobility who could use such abilities would be surrounded by people wearing only metal. It protected them from armed rebellions. 

 

"Speak! Who are you two and what were you doing in the wall of my house?"

 

The girl had oriented upon him. Yusei blinked once, staring and steadily meeting Lady Elise's gaze. He stared down worse before. Yusei needed to get Typheus out of here and find Fiddlesticks before she could end up in trouble. The silver mech mentioned that both machines had anti-magnetic fields they could utilize. But, if they didn't work...?

 

And the anchor... He had caught a glimpse of the spired tower in the near distance behind Typheus when he first exited the ruined building.

 

"Fudo Yusei," the man introduced, voice level and reverting to old customs he grew up with. "It was by my mistake," Yusei answered the accusatory question. "I misjudged my magic..." He needed to be careful in his approach. His duel disk was made of metal and, if she chose to, Lady Elise could use her magic against him. Perhaps...

 

A faint smirk flickered across his face. He found his out for Typheus. 

 

Lifting his hands slowly, Yusei took a few steps forward. Immediately, most of the guards readied their spears again, two even stepping closer to the girl. The man stopped moving, sweeping his gaze across their faces. "I can show you." 

 

Through the fabric of his brown glove, the mark of the Crimson Dragon began to glow.

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   The Yellow Lady

  He had no experience with authority figures beyond his pilot and the immediate rank above it. Most such figures were male. So when a girl, dressed in yellow with laced adornments that reminded him of silk, came rushing through the rank of metal-clad men, he was initially confused. One part of him wanted to pin her as a soldier, as if she were Xinschi-uual, but she wore less protective clothes and was human. Yet his only experiences with human women were isolated to the scientists he knew, and they wore nothing like that, nor did they take lightly to being called "lady". They also lacked the ability to wave down armed guards, which the girl did with frustrated haste; they must have been protecting her. He noticed a strange, shallow bowl strapped to her arm when she did, and he cocked his head, puzzled by it. Humans were strange creatures… first metal clothes, then skewers, and now this.

 

  The mech was almost amused when the girl then looked at him condescendingly, ignoring the concern rippling through the guards.

  “You? Did that? she demanded. Typheus prepared a reply, but she went on, angrily stomping her feet, “I don’t care which of the Great Houses put you up to this! We were about to host a ball this week, and now we’re going to be the laughing stock of the city!”

  ...He still wasn’t sure if he should feel guilty, be further confused, or just laugh at her little fit. He wasn’t even sure of what to say. “Sorry we teleported into your house”? What were the Great Houses, anyway? Was this one of them?

  Typheus was becoming annoyed at how little he knew, even while in the thick of the scene. He looked down at Yusei, who appeared to be scrutinizing the situation. Funny, that used to be what he did.

 

  The girl frowned at the duo, muttering something, before turning on Yusei. “Speak! Who are you two and what were you doing in the wall of my house?”

  Good question, Typheus thought, turning back to the men that circled them. They hadn’t intended to cause this mess, but he was no stranger to fighting his way out of unjustified situations, either. He stepped closer to Yusei, the threads that were still distraught about Fiddlesticks’s absence falling back on protecting who was still here.

  “Fudo Yusei,” the engineer introduced himself. Typheus gauged his tone, uncertain if he was just being obedient or was up to something else. “It was by my mistake. I misjudged my magic…”

  The mech sharply turned to him. Was he taking the blame for him, now?... Maybe he can’t stomach lying either. His excusal of the teleport accident as “magic” did end on a note of uncertainty.

 

  Then Yusei straightened up a bit, looking a bit more composed. Typheus watched him carefully as he took a few, tentative steps forward, alarming the guards who lowered their skewers back at them. The mech growled loudly, wings twitching as he glared at each of them, but Yusei’s step didn’t falter. Instead, he stopped within the center of the circle, showing his right forearm to them. “I can show you,” he offered.

  Typheus was just as curious as everyone else, and especially when red-hued lines began etching themselves from underneath his glove. Glowing lines! Like circuitry! Did he have mechanical implements, like Stan? He was an engineer. Still, the realization that Yusei might also be a cyborg took the mech off guard. What is he up to...? he wondered.

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#Yusei (And Typheus!)#

 

"Allomancy?" the lead guard questioned out loud. He echoed Lady Elise's thoughts towards the stranger's claim to magic. "What kind of allomancy could make a hunk of metal suddenly appear?"

 

Other guards shuffled, producing sounds of metal brushing against metal as they prepared themselves in case the man made any sudden movements with his dangerously glowing arm. Two had approached to protect their ward, and Lady Elise let them do so. She stands her ground and puts a thoughtful hand on her lips, staring curiously at the man who had introduced himself as Fudo Yusei. The spike-haired stranger had a hint of a smirk on his lips, as if he had a plan all formulated, and even her entourage could see that he had a wildcard under his sleeve.

 

He was no allomancer, she was sure -- it didn't take a steelpusher's lines to see that his unusual and clean-looking clothing was dotted with shiny metal, as was the blade-shaped accessory on his arm. But, somehow, he reminds her of the ever crafty but admirable skaa criminals. At the comparison, the edges of her mouth couldn't help but curl into a smile, which she concealed with her hand.
 

"I've never seen any magic like yours before, Mr. Fudo," she interrupted him while his arm was still outstretched, her expression deliberately wide-eyed and inquisitive. The warmth in her chest increased as she drew on the arcane powers of the metals she had swallowed, activating first copper out of habit, then brass and zinc. With the brass she wished for him to feel more at ease, and with the zinc she subtly pulls at his sense of responsibility to try and plant the seed of an idea: that he now somehow owed this innocent little girl a debt for destroying her father's property. "Allomancy is too weak to break a wall," she explains without skipping a beat. "So how does yours work?"

 

~~~

 

#Cistina (and Duke and Jowan)#

 

Dynarst nods. He is superstitious and careful with what he chooses to believe in, but he believes that truly the trio was absolutely foreign, from the technology to their clothing and their mannerisms.

 

"Y-yes," he stammers to the woman after regaining his bearings after a yell of Fiddlesticks! echoed partway through the city (someone might have pissed off someone else, he assumed). "I'll try to explain everything I know... but sorry if I forget. Like you saw, there's skaa who work under the nobles, but the nobles report to the Lord Ruler, who has people working for Him called... o... obligators? You can tell them by the tattoos around the eyes--" --he forms circles with his thumb and index, then presses the rings to his eyes to demonstrate -- "and they're there to make trade deals official, or police the nobles like how the Garrison polices the Skaa. This city, Luthadel, is home to the ten Great Houses, each run by a family of nobles, but there are many smaller noble houses around as well. A lot of us are afraid of the nobles. They have a strange power that not many of us understand -- or want to know about. It's like they always get their way.

 

"And the sky has been this way for as long as my grandparents remember. It's hot during the day, but at night the mists come out... best to stay inside. Sometimes I see nobles walking around it like they think they're invincible, but I've heard of monsters hidden in the fog, ready to attack, and even the mists themselves choking unlucky victims. Rumor has it that there's a group of skaa who come out at night, using the mists as cover to plot to destroy the nobility and overthrow the Lord Ruler, but according  to the cautionary stories from the elders these kinds of rumors are nothing but false hopes."

 

When speaking, Dynarst gradually realizes while walking which way the group is heading. "Um... is it really... necessary to be heading this way right now?" The skaa averts his gaze, suddenly having second thoughts about following this Duke sir towards the Hill of a Thousand Spires.  Duke's flawless success rate sounds very impressive, though he didn't want to think too hard about how many excursions like this they had, exactly.

 

"But I know people on the canal," He adds helpfully. "They're all skaa running the barges, moving shipments between parts of the city and beyond. If we can't get through the bridge for some reason, we can ask them for a ride."

Edited by TehUltimateMage

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Yusei | It's my move!

 

He hadn't been aware of the tension in his shoulders until it started to ease. 

 

Yusei chose not to respond immediately to the young girl, examining her wide-eyes and listening to the tone of her voice. Shifting his gaze towards the head guardsman, the duelist continued to study the strange faces. The men were braced, ready to act at a moment's notice. And Lady Elise had a smile hidden away - he saw it at the corners of her eyes. Something had excited her.

 

The man did not doubt her curiosity.

 

But he recognized when someone was stalling. 

 

She was trying to learn about him just as he was learning about her. Does she get it from her father? Or someone else? Though it wasn't impossible, Yusei did not believe that the child would have such an inclination on her own. Not unless it benefited her to some end. He was not a stranger to being used for someone else's gain. From a child, however, it was... almost saddening. 

 

This mess was his. He couldn't forget that. 

 

Finally, "My magic does not involve Allomancy," he started to explain. I can't afford to drag this out. Glancing at the damaged wall behind the young girl and her guards, Yusei continued. "You're not familiar with it." Bringing his hand to his deck, he drew a card from the top and quickly glanced at the design on the front before sliding it into place on his duel disk. Instantly, the disk lit up. "I summon Sonic Chick."

 

Beside him, a pale blue circle of light expanded and a pink, feathered creature emerged to replace it. Without the power of the Crimson Dragon, his companion was nothing more than a holographic image, created by his duel disk. However, he trusted that the inhabitants of this world wouldn't realize this, being deceived by the solid appearance of the knee-high bird. 

 

"Junk Warrior stands behind me, one of my most trusted allies," Yusei stated, glancing back over his shoulder to catch the mech's gaze. I need to get him away.... Looking forward again, he stood straighter. I want to see what she knows, but I can't leave Fiddlesticks to fend for herself. "Let's make a trade. I'm new to your lands and know little about your magic. For every piece of information I share about my own, you share a bit of yours."

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#Duke (and Jowan)#

 

The bridge crossing the canal grew nearer as Duke and his group approached. The darkened steel of its arches forms a distinct, oddly-industrial looking silhouette against the afternoon sun when compared to the era of the city and its people, highlighting the world's connection with metal and the skill of its ironworking artisans. Similar bridges cross the canal along its length, set high enough for barges to pass but low enough for a man to survive if he were thrown into the darkened waters. Skaa-run ships sail both along and across its surface, some using the wind or current to carry them but most of them simply using their numbers to paddle to their destinations. There seems to be stone steps leading downwards to the water level.

 

Beyond the paved road of the bridge lies the pointed palace of the Lord Ruler, its spiked form and many ornamental spires rising from the center of the city like a persistent, unwelcome thistle growing dark against the red sky. And from that direction, where not many skaa wandered, comes running a human shape, his aquiline face and blond locks obscured by the dust-colored hood over his head. His most distinctive feature, perhaps, is his rust colored waistcoat over a long sleeved blouse and thin gloves, pegging him as a mid-ranking noble -- or at least several levels above the common skaa.

 

With an almost supernatural, catlike leap, he jumps high into the air and lands on one of the bridge's beams without even breaking his stride. He runs along the narrow piece of steel with balance and precision, even when he glances backwards at his pursuer.

 

Chasing the noble is another human figure -- one with its head shaved and skull decorated with elaborate ceremonial tattoos encircling the eye sockets, where instead of eyes were two shining pieces of steel that reflected the red sunlight like bright coins. Unlike the flighty movements of its quarry, the Inquisitor gives chase firmly and deliberately, as if it was certain that its target would eventually tire out.

 

The hooded man weaves through the bridge's trusses to climb as high as he can, then launches himself into the air. His shadow passes right above Duke, momentarily blocking out the sun from the agent's view, and in this time a coin whips downward, clattering with some force near his boot as if forced into the ground by an invisible push. The Inquisitor follows in a much less dramatic fashion, staying low near the road to attempt to intercept him before he escaped into the dense, twisting paths of the skaa districts.

 

Xansuki the tracker glowed with intensity, signalling that the anchor was very close -- but the communicator now pointed in the other direction, directly away from the Lord Ruler's palace.

 

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[ whatever it takes : duke -- ; ]

 

It all happens so fast.

 

One second he is scouting ahead, eyes locked on the distance palace rising into the sky above, and then he is -- surprised.

 

First, he hears footsteps behind him, and a quick sideways glance confirms what he had hoped -- Jowan is following, even if the other is running a bit to catch up to his quick strides, and Duke smiles. It is good to know he is not alone, even if he does slightly wonder why Jowan is always so quick to follow but never to lead. Or perhaps -- he is simply too impulsive. The thought is near enlightening, but Duke does not have time to wonder it further when --

 

Something passes by ahead, too quick for his eyes to follow, and Duke stirs, immediately on guard as a flash of something dark obscures the sun beating down from above. A flashing light reflecting the sun's rays tumbles down to a place very close to his feet, and in the time it takes Duke to sidestep out as an instinctual reaction the cloaked figure has vanished in the blink of an eye. He has enough time to regain his senses to look ahead of him, and --

 

What was that?

 

A figure is approaching in the near distance, very close now, and it is ... humanoid, but not. 

 

Everything is wrong. The sun's light glistering off the figure's eyes is bright and red and terrible, and where the eyes should be are instead two endless pieces of something he cannot quite place, and Duke swallows. They are not playing around now, even if he cannot understand the situation at hand -- something is different, and there is a heavy feeling laying low in the air of something being not-quite-right.

 

Xansuki's vibrations in his chest pocket draw him out from this momentary freeze, and Duke fumbles with his pocket, drawing the cube out with furrowed brows. The tracker! But -- huh?

 

The anchor is close, but the pointer is off, and Duke has a brief second of doubt before he shakes his head. Pascal's work was never wrong, and he has learnt to trust the teammates by his side -- if the tracker now points in the opposite direction, this is an opportunity he cannot afford to lose. Completing the mission here will lessen the workload on Stan's part and ensure that they return quicker, and that he can take care of other business. He briefly glances behind him, catching just the sight of the hooded figure disappearing into the distance, but then he looks back, and -- 

 

Well. Someone has to take care of the situation at hand. Duke draws the sword by his hip in a flash, the rapier's handle curving around the fit of his hand as he steps forward, a hand outstretched, his cloak following the curve of his movements, and he brushes Jowan's arm just slightly, a subtle note to stay behind. 

 

A glimmering blue follows up right where the Inquisitor moves, and as the barrier begins to take shape Duke walks forwards and places himself in the centre of his guard, eyes fixated on the human -- creature? -- before him. The silence that stretches between them is suffocating, long and tense, and Duke watches for any sudden movements as he takes the communicator and raises it up to his mouth, broadcasting a message to the agents with cubes that he hopes will be received and dealt upon quickly.

 

"One of the anchors is on the move," he says into the cube. "A hooded person just ran past me, and the tracker reacted accordingly. It disappeared into the alleyways -- I would chase it, but we have a slight ... situation. Anyone up for a much-needed round of fresh exercise?"

 

Just as he clicks the message off, he moves quickly, cube still in his hand. He feels the energy course through his veins as he suddenly steps forward, drumming his magic throughout the surrounding area as his barriers suddenly solidify, their bright blue glow prominent as it rushes towards the metal-eyed being, slamming into them with force. 

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Stan (+Badu)  -- Crossroads > Clock shop

 

A shout of Fiddlesticks! rippled through the city roads, and in less than an instant after the forceful curse (or what sounded like one), Arch and Theo had their weapons materialized and ready to defend against an attack. He was a little taken aback by how ready they were to fight -- and maybe their worlds were full of ambushes that needed them to be light on their feet.

 

"It's alright to relax. We'll address that if we ever come to it," he reassures the angel. "The city's pretty big, so we might not even encounter whatever... made a sound like that." Hopefully.

 

His phone piped up with Lara's voice, before he could speculate on the worst case scenario. "Stan, I see something towards the west."
 

He listened to her description, and a picture immediately popped into his mind. Typheus. The white robot at the tea party introduction, who he remembered sat awkwardly at the table with too much leg sticking up over the edge.

 

"Ugh, no... how did he get here?" Stan muttered. It was kind of looking like a worst case scenario, though nothing like he would have predicted. The agent squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose, massaging the spot to ease his frustration. "Pascal, I hope you didn't send a robot here unsupervised..."

 

Badu drifted beside him and let out a sound he could only describe as a prolonged snort. "That is very likely to have happened," she commented. Stan shook his head, unwilling to continue the conversation. The doctor seemed to find amusement in everything to a creepy degree -- and Stan wondered if she too, like Pascal, had a few screws loose in her brain.

 

"I’m near you," Lara continued, "so if you want me to check it out I can, but only if you’re sure you don’t need my eyes."

 

"We're grabbing one of the anchors right now and it's in a building, so you're free to come down if you'd like. It's better to seek out the white robot as a team after this, and it's not exactly hard to find him..." Realizing that she might have lacked context, he added, "His name is Typheus and he's one of the new recruits. Probably a good idea to take him home with us before we go."

 

Now with a slightly newer sense of urgency, Stan led Arch -- tailed by Theo -- to the unremarkable shop in the crossroads with its cogs and trinkets, and on the way he repeats what he had been told about the situation. "Same as what I mentioned before we left the Gateway -- there's this mysterious gold sand that doesn't belong -- but this is a lot worse than I thought. There's a girl named Cam from this world in the shop we're going to, who claims that the sand comes from an hourglass buried somewhere in the room, though she still doesn't quite trust us I don't think. Fair warning." He remembered to mention this, fearing that Theo might accidentally peg her as an enemy and use his spear without thinking. "I told her to wait for us in there, so please don't stab her out of surprise."

 

~~

 

Again, he pushes open the door to the watchmaker's shop with a slow, careful movement. Cam had somehow made it to the front of the shop unscathed, and was leaning against a counter with the mounds and plateaus of shimmering, golden sand behind her. Now that she isn't curled up, she looked bigger and taller than Stan initially thought; and her dust-brown locks were cut shorter than he had first assumed, falling barely past her ears. Her clothing is simple like most other things the skaa wear, but is many times cleaner than those who spend their days out in the streets.

 

Cam raises both eyebrows at Arch's appearance, though she does not comment. Suddenly Stan's story seems to have a little more credibility but still, she rubs her eyes and checks the logic of her thoughts to make sure it isn't simply a trick from an unknown type of allomancy. She positions herself near the door, behind the group, as she wordlessly listens to Stan give instructions to the four-winged angel.

 

"The goal is to be able to search this place without the sand getting in the way. I'm not sure how much sand it takes to actually turn someone into a monster--"

 

"Not a lot," Cam interrupts, then looks away when Stan tries with his eyes to encourage her to share more.

 

"So it's probably a good idea to stay out of the way," he continues after a pause. "If you could send the sand flying to the back of the shop without whipping too much backdraft, maybe, we can scour the floor and see what we find."

 

 

~~~~~

 

#Yusei (and Typheus!)#

 

Lady Elise Erikeller gasps at the appearance of a bird, plumage pinker than the rosy cheeks of babes. She is obviously very entertained and legitimately enthralled, her hands on her cheeks as she mouthed the words 'It's adorable!'. Fudo was like the mystic men from books and fabricated stories -- able to materialize creatures of metal or flesh at will using the metal contraption on his arm that emitted streams of light upon his touch.

 

Elise entertains his suggestion, for she is no stranger to political games of information gathering. "A fair trade indeed. We have a deal then, Mr. Fudo?" she asks.

 

The head guard gives her an inquiring glance, silently asking her if this is really a good idea -- but it had been a dreadfully boring morning and Lady Elise finally found some excitement in the day, even if it was because a stranger from another land accidentally destroyed part of her estate. She soothes the worry of both he and agitated guards behind her (who eyed both of Yusei's monsters with suspicion), so that she could play Fudo's game without interruption.

 

"Alright then!" the noble claps. "Let's teach you about allomancy!"

 

"Number one," she lifts a gloved finger. "Allomancy is magic powered by the consumption of specific metals and alloys."

 

"Number two,' a second finger goes up. "Most allomancers can only burn -- that is, fuel their magic with -- one type of metal, which means that they are limited to a single ability based on which metal they can use."

 

"Number three," a third finger; with this she turns her hand to show off her shield, "I can burn iron. Iron pulls metals towards me, which, really, isn't too useful a skill when you're getting shot at by arrows, unless you're hiding behind a wall or shield or something."

 

Internally, she steadily extinguishes all her metals. She lets the subtle emotional effects of zinc and brass fade away, then turns off the copper before feeling for iron's power. Instantly, phantom blue lines appear in her vision, pointing to all nearby sources of metal: the spires of her keep, the armor and weapons of her guard squadron, Junk Warrior, and many of Fudo's buttons and accessories. She does not realize that while Sonic Chick is wearing a steel bell, there is no line heading towards it.

 

The noble focuses on the line connected to Fudo's summoning plate. She mentally pulls on it, trying to attract it towards her and upset his balance, but the stranger weighs more than she does and she is forced to hold onto a nearby guard's shoulder for support lest she herself get pulled off balance. "Like this!"

Edited by TehUltimateMage

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Lara nodded when Stan told her she could come down. She stood up and walked to the edge of the roof, kneeling and preparing to hang on the roof. Doing so, Lara made her way down carefully, placing her hands and feet wherever she could. Her athleticism made it much easier to make it onto the ground. As soon as she made it to the ground, she started walking in Stan’s direction. Whatever the white robot was could wait, clearly. Lara wanted to get something done, but maybe she could provide support from in the building. Who knew, really? She just wanted to buy a weapon to be able to take action if needed. Perhaps there was something that was not made of metal that she could use. If there was a tree branch somewhere in the area, for example…

 

Whatever. Lara saw Stan walk into the building. With caution, she opened the door and followed. She hoped that this place would be mostly safe, but that sand could kill her if she came across it. Nothing she wasn't used to, she's had to dodge things such as quicksand in the past. This was just a golden quicksand. Quicksand that turned someone into a monster when it comes into contact with them. Nothing too strange at all. She glanced at Stan, who was talking to someone she didn't appear to know. Whoever it was seemed to be familiar with the place, and how the sand worked. That was more than useful to Lara, who nodded when Stan talked about bringing the sand to the back of the building. She hoped with everything she had that she wouldn't touch that sand. It was so much worse than being attacked by animals, losing control of herself would be one of the worst things to ever happen to her. Lara stood still, taking in all of the information this girl provided. 
 

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((Jowan's actions were given by Zor!))

 

Judging by Dynarst's startled jump, she didn't imagine the sound at all, but his stammer and explanation kept her from thinking too hard about where it might have echoed from, instead focusing on her cube. After he finished, Cistina automatically bowed in appreciation before drifting off again. When Duke's gentle question prompted her, she simply shook her head, focused on the terrible heartbeats coming from the giant structure ahead. Almost like the Shrines.... Cistina bit her lip: she saw herself again, standing on the stones of the fortress, hair and dress whipping about from a strong wind. Folcrut looked at her with nothing but concern, paying his full attention to her well-being. Bayin had noticed, though--his hat and Catiua's hair was barely jostled by the sea breeze, coming from the opposite way to boot--

"Um... is it really... necessary to be heading this way right now?" 

Cistina finished fiddling with her own tracker and watched as one of the two arrows blinked, then pointed down the road, towards the evil god and the imposing palace of spires. Cistina shivered and swallowed before replying:

"We appear to have no way around it." How did her voice sound so firm?

Yet despite his own hesitance, Dynarst spoke up, offering help. "But I know people on the canal. They're all skaa running the barges, moving shipments between parts of the city and beyond. If we can't get through the bridge for some reason, we can ask them for a ride." Cistina smiled.

"I thank you for your foresight, Dynarst," Cistina said, then turned to talk to Duke--her heart seized up in panic--what was Duke doing, heading forward alone?! Cistina ran forward, barely registering Jowan following to the side. But a shadow flashes by Duke, and she paused midstride as a coin moving with incredible speed clacked against the ground near his boot. Her head snapped up and she saw a man in dull red arcing upwards, as if tossed by some invisible force. 

 

She was watching the figure when, suddenly, a familiar voice--no, a familiar chorus of voices--hissed from the direction he came from. She turned sharply, and her breath caught. A bulky figure was heading towards them in an unnatural pace, head shaved, tattoos around his eyes and on his skull. Dynarst's description.... An Obligator? But.... His eyes.... They were too reflective, too... Divine?.... Those are not eyes...!

 

"Keep your guard up, Duke, Jowan! That being shares in the power of the god in the spire!" Cistina warned, taking a few measured steps back to put her hand on Dynarst's shoulder, then murmuring the words for a spell. Her eyes were fixed on the Obligator, but she felt the tug within her and the air move to obey her command. "Run if you must. I've commanded the winds to guard you, but only for a time," she said to Dynarst in a low voice before approaching Duke again. Duke, bless him, stepped forward to face the being, barriers shimmering into existence, before pulling out his tracker.

 

"A hooded person just ran past me, and the tracker reacted accordingly. It disappeared into the alleyways -- I would chase it, but we have a slight ... situation. Anyone up for a much-needed round of fresh exercise?" She heard Duke speak, but his voice also vibrated from the cube she had in her hand.

"Gladly!" Cistina didn't hesitate as--the winds swirled around her--she pivoted on the tip of a foot and ran, eyes trained on the flying figure. Her magic sang and the funnel around her picked up speed, and then there was the sensation of being lighter. Hair and dress whipping, she took one more step forward and let the magic in her boots activate, sailing into the air after the figure in the dust-colored hood. As she flew closer, she noted that instead of being one seamless flight, his movements were more jarred than her own. "Wait!" she called out.to the stranger in the rusty cloak. "Mayhap I could speak with you?"

 

((Cistina doesn't need to physically touch someone to put one of her spells on them: she did this time so she could whisper to Dynarst. She went about 15 meters before the tornado really picked up around her. It also dispersed when she flew up. Also she's mistaken the Inquisitor for an Obligator. That isn't an actual Obligator. XD ))

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#Duke#

 

The inquisitor slams right into Duke's barrier with a ripple of blue light and for a split second, surprise registers on the creature's face. On the agent's push, the inquisitor regains its footing, their boots sliding against the ground as they guard against the invisible force.

 

But they keep their balance and lift their chin, glittering spikeheads staring straight into Duke despite them having no eyes. Their teeth are bared and lips pulled back into a hateful sneer -- incredibly displeased at being slowed. The barrier is like no magic in this world, neither physically nor spiritually.

 

The inquisitor responds in turn with its own invisible magical force, which shoves against Duke's belt buckle with the strength of a tackle and threatens to rip his sword from his hand.

 

 

#Dynarst#

 

Dynarst does not know what to do, but the lady in yellow set some sort of protective charm on him and he is inclined to believe her. He mutters a thanks, but she had already taken off into the air, forcing the man to shield his face against the sudden wind and debris. Now left alone, he feels defenseless despite Cistina's spell guarding him.

 

He looks down the road, where Lefevre and his flag-like white cape were now toe to toe with a Steel Inquisitor.

 

By the Lord Ruler.

 

The skaa cannot decide if he wanted to witness Duke Lefevre become just another messy victim of the steel-eyed men, but one part of him held a sliver of hope that the Duke would emerge the victor with the power of his own god on his side. The people on the street had already moved away from the main road in reaction to the confrontation, and Dynarst followed them, ducking into an alleyway and peering around the corner to watch the otherwordly hero face off against one of the most powerful creatures the servant knew.

 

 

#Cistina#


With his senses enhanced by tin, the hooded allomancer could see the inquisitor far, far behind him, stopped for some reason by some sort of noble. Not his problem anymore. He does not stop question it.

 

Wait!" calls a woman. He glances backwards at the shout, astonished that she was in the air and quickly catching up to him. She had no metal on her, and her flight path was steady in comparison to his steel-pushed leaps and rooftop running. Even if he wasn't expecting to find anything, he burned bronze anyway to check for allomantic pulses.

 

Nothing.

 

Outside of that, he ignores her plea and drops closer to the ground to become more discreet. He plans to evade this noblewoman the same way he planned to escape the inquisitor -- by using his familiarity of the twisting streets of Luthadel. Flying through the air in broad daylight attracted attention, and it was best to stay low. However, today the consequences far outweighed the risks, and he chose to seize the opportunity to steal that artifact from the ministry when he had the chance. (His crew told him that he was crazy on a daily basis.) It simply wouldn't do for the whole plan to be ruined by a mistborn bold enough to fly in a full dress.

 

He tossed a coin to the ground, and this time instead of pushing off of it, he uses it to ease his fall and land lightly onto the paved road of an alleyway.

 

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[ how the mighty fall : duke -- ; ]

 

The stirring of the winds behind him only confirms Cistina's departure, and internally Duke sighs in relief to himself, knowing that Cistina will do a good job of completing the mission -- the anchor is safe. And so is she, as long as the hooded figure is not dangerous; Duke cannot confirm such things, but somehow he feels a little better knowing that whatever happens here will not affect his teammates. 

 

His barriers drum magic through his veins, the light blue sheen of his protection reflected by the sun, now beginning to lower from the sky to become a harsh sideways glare. Perhaps it was folly of him to challenge the -- human -- creature -- before him, but there a quick analysis of the situation had provided him with this as its only option. 

 

From the corner of his eye, Duke can see that Dynarst seems to have disappeared as well, and, well -- good, he supposes? It's not smart of a party in any unknown world to disband, but desperate times called for desperate measures, and Duke wants to ensure everyone's safety to the best of his ability. 

 

Which is why the fact Jowan is still within eye distance is a little concerning, just a bit. Duke turns his head, fully intending to tell Jowan to leave as well, but then --

 

He is taken by surprise, suddenly, and a harsh force is pressed against his chest and he has only just time to look back at the creature pressing against his barriers with wide eyes, mouth agape, before --

 

He does not know what happens next, only that he smashes into the ground, hard, pushed back by an invisible force, and his sword in his hand suddenly disappears from his loose grip, violently thrown to the side across the bridge. There is a moment of silence, and then the slight splash that indicates his weapon has met a watery grave. Duke gasps, a harsh sound of his surprise, and blinks, dazed. What -- what happened -- ? The barriers before him waver just slightly in the chaos, weakened greatly by his lack of focus, and for a brief moment they part altogether --

 

Don't let up, Vylcan says in his mind, calm despite the mania, and Duke focuses on strengthening his barriers before he makes any attempt to collect himself or stand. 

Edited by takatsuki

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