Close to the Heart (Astarte)


Tassadar

Panda King
Moderator
Nov 10, 2008
16,038
83
#41
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Laelia: HP = 76/61, PP = 47, EP = 54/56, Status = Probably Not Fine, Transformation X=5 for Body (+5 Speed +20 temp HP +15 grapple/attack/dodge +10 reflexes/damage +5 AV/PP dealt/Focus/Willpower/Perception/Stealth) Upkeep = 0 EP 5 HP, 6/9 bullets loaded, Whirling Death

NPCs
Raeglynn, innkeeper
Thomas the Younger

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>:3, taken 201 damage

Raenan the Bandit currently deceased

Rolls
Attacks: 104, 109, 89, 112
Damage: 39, 35, 40, 32, the last two ignoring 2 AV. Brings theoretical damage up to 201 total.

Attack: Her Dodge totals to 68. It rolled a 67 on the d100 alone. BUT. Her penalty stops it from being a hit.

If Laelia's change in tactics took the monstrous man by surprise, it didn't show in his reaction. He met her charge with a sweeping swing of the blade in his hand, the jagged, dirty metal whistling through the air. The kitsune ducked the blow, but a few hairs were split in the process before it thudded into a tree... And tore through the trunk of the ash like so much wet cardboard. The man's oversized knife might look like it was about to fall apart in his hand, but it apparently wasn't as fragile as it looked, and he clearly knew how to put it to deadly use.

At that point, however, Laelia's plan didn't involve letting him hit her with it, and as he recovered from his heavy handed swipe she launched into her barrage of attacks. He had shrugged off the bullet wounds, but that wasn't entirely unheard of, particularly among immortals like demons who could survive injuries that could outright kill a human and keep fighting. Land enough blows and they would fall, eventually, for even an immortal constitution couldn't survive complete exsanguination, multiple organ failure, or dismemberment.

The gun embedded in her fancifully engineered weapon barked as she made her first swing, adding an extra bit of speed to the initial swing while the loud noise would undoubtedly have disoriented a normal person. The bladed portion of her modified spear sliced through the man's neck, and Laelia saw blood burst from the fresh wound as her assailant let out a short choking noise, the first he'd made audibly since making his grim appearance. Her momentum carried her through a half spin, and as he reached for his throat with the hand to which the chain connected to the bear trap was affixed she freely jabbed the spear point into his shoulder.

The pained gurgling noise coming forth as he stumbled back suggested that her rapid assault was working, but to let up now was to risk another swipe of the monstrous man's massive knife. Her blow came as she withdrew her spear and spun her weapon in her hands, bringing the bladed portion up behind her and then down onto his already wounded shoulder, the cut biting through skin and muscle to scrape across bone as she withdrew it with a backwards step, half turning to jab the spear end into the monstrous man's knee opposite the arm she had just half crippled. The waving knife came, but the swipe at her face was slow and clumsy and Laelia got well away from it as she set up for her next move.

Her opponent seemed to be slowing down, giving Laelia an opportunity to choose her next course of action. If things continued as they were she might manage to do as she'd planned and wear her attacker down, but even the slower swings packed enough force to dig through bark and living wood with ease, and she had already seen what sort of carnage it might inflict on flesh second hand. If she wanted to try to flee and avoid first hand experience while the masked man was wounded, now would be the time to do it.
 

Astarte

Tentacle Monster
Dec 28, 2014
353
18
#42
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Laelia backed off to avoid a clumsy swipe from the oversized knife, legs bent slightly and tensed to leap back in the moment she saw an opening. Her plan seemed to be working, at least as far as she could tell. She'd wounded him badly enough that an ordinary man would have been dead several times over by now and he was barely showing a reaction, but it was more than she'd got by shooting him. He was definitely slowing down, even if the force behind his swings was still far too great for her to be comfortable even trying to block. Her weapon wasn't designed to handle that kind of force, and she'd be lucky if trying didn't get her something worse than a broken arm.

Running was an option she considered, but she still didn't understand how his uncanny ability to seemingly teleport actually worked. Was he limited to the forest, or could he use it to pursue her farther? Not to mention whatever else might be attracted by the sounds of their fight. It was too dangerous to risk turning her back on him, not with so many unknowns to worry about. She could only hope her own skills were up to the task of keeping him off balance until she could finish him—however long that was going to take.

She sprung into action as soon as the man was nearing the end of his swing, hoping it would buy her a little more time before he could bring his weapon to bear on her again. Keeping with her plan of trying to cripple his ability to harm her, Laelia's first slash was aimed at his arm holding the knife, the magically-crafted jade blade of the weapon coming down in a heavy overhead swing while she closed the distance. She allowed momentum to carry her further forward, transitioning smoothly from a downwards swing into a thrust, bringing her blade up from where it had come to rest at the end of its swing into a stab aimed at his stomach.

She fired the gun built into her weapon again as she struck, both firing a shot at point-blank and using the recoil to aid her change in direction as she tore the blade out to the side, hoping that tearing open his stomach wasn't something he could ignore as easily as everything else she had done. Stepping back to put a little more distance between them, Laelia flipped her weapon around in her hands, slashing at his arm once again with the short, blade-like spearhead on the opposite end, followed by another quick lunge to stab straight towards his face, aiming straight for his eye. Finally, she pulled away with a half-spin, aiming the blade half of her weapon at him once again and firing as she took a short hop back, trying to keep her distance in preparation for the inevitable counterattack.

Same tactic as last turn, still using Storm of Strikes. This time firing the revolver twice (And doing it properly this time), once for +5 Damage on the second sword attack, then again for +10 Dodge.

Flurry Stats
Sword Attack: 9d10+28
Sword Damage: 2d6 + 31
Sword Attack: 9d10+28
Sword Damage: 2d6 + 36
Spear Attack (x2): 9d10+27
Spear Damage: 2d8 + 26, Ignores 2 AV

All attacks ignore the "Strong Against" property of armour, and each successful hit gives the enemy a -10 attack penalty for their next turn.

Possibly relevant modified stats
Speed: 40
Dodge: 10d10+24
Grapple: 8d10+15
AV: 22 (3 Natural, 6 Worn, 13 from Buffs.)
Reflexes: 30
Focus: 16
Willpower: 22

Miscellaneous Bonuses/Penalties
+2 to Perception checks involving Sight or Hearing, no penalties for darkness.
+5 to Resistance checks when using skills.
+5 to checks made to resist being disarmed and to parry checks (And +5 max Parry DC) while wielding Chrysanta.
+5 to Spell/Power attack rolls while wielding Chrysanta.
-5 to Resistance checks to avoid being Blinded or Deafened, and an addition -2 versus being Blinded by bright lights.
+5 to Pregnancy rolls.
+5 to PP Damage taken.
+8 to PP Damage taken through her ears and tail.
1.5x Corruption gain.
 

Tassadar

Panda King
Moderator
Nov 10, 2008
16,038
83
#43
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Laelia: HP = 71/61, PP = 47, EP = 54/56, Status = Probably Not Fine, Transformation X=5 for Body (+5 Speed +20 temp HP +15 grapple/attack/dodge +10 reflexes/damage +5 AV/PP dealt/Focus/Willpower/Perception/Stealth) Upkeep = 0 EP 5 HP, 4/9 bullets loaded, Whirling Death

NPCs
Raeglynn, innkeeper
Thomas the Younger

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>:3, taken 361 damage. Also under a tree.

Raenan the Bandit currently deceased

Rolls
Attacks: 89, 103, 91, 89
Damage: Totals to another 160

Attack: Her Dodge totals to 90. It rolled... A 10 and a 9. It did not hit.

Laelia's opening slash came down across the muscular arm holding her assailant's weapon, the jade blade tearing through flesh and once more scraping across bone. An easy turn jabbed it into the man's stomach next, and he seemed to double over as her weapon punctured his torso and dug into his guts. Such a wound would have been agonizing to a normal person, but neither it nor the severed muscle in his arm prevented him from taking another swing at her. The blade carved through the air in a wide arc, but Laelia ducked beneath it even as she squeezed the remote trigger on her gun, causing it to bark as it expelled a bullet directly into the monstrous man's already gored belly while she used the added momentum to tear her weapon out the side.

Blood gushed out of the man's shredded abdomen, but though he stumbled he did not fall. Its unwounded arm rose and slammed at her, but Laelia was already moving. The bear trap crashed into the side of a tree and closed with an audible clang, once more ripping into the wood that came off in a chunk as it ripped the weapon away. Even as the wood shattered in the teeth of the trap, however, Laelia's next strike was hacking through the flesh of his forearm. The knife tumbled from suddenly limp fingers, the vile man moving more slowly with every attack that landed, but she wasn't done yet.

With a swift thrust, Laelia drove the spear point of her weapon into the masked man's eye, causing his head to jerk back and inadvertently cause the blade to writhe around in his skull. The more he stumbled the worse the damage was, but eventually Laelia pulled back with another shot and a quick jump, leaving the maimed lunatic to stumble against the tree he had torn a chunk out of with the bear trap. The stress of the sudden impact caused the trunk to crack, a fissure appearing along a line in the midst of the gaping chunk of torn wood, and the first crack was soon followed by a second much louder one. Splinters burst out, spraying in a wide area as the ash broke and began to collapse.... Directly onto the one who had damaged it.

The tree's final vengeance fell upon the man with a mask of human skin, the trunk slamming down and tearing through the branches of neighboring trees. Such obstacles barely slowed its descent, and it fell onto the man and bore him to the ground with a thunderous crash. As the dust and leaf-litter settled, the masked figure lay unmoving below the fallen tree, blood still slowly oozing from the numerous injuries that Laelia had inflicted on him.
 

Astarte

Tentacle Monster
Dec 28, 2014
353
18
#44
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Laelia quickly retreated when she saw the tree beginning to tilt, cracking sounds growing louder until it finally collapsed on to of the man who had been trying to kill her. She just stood there, frozen in place and silent aside from quiet panting. She didn't take her eyes off the motionless figure, convinced he was going do somehow get up again. He'd taken two gunshots to the chest, one to the stomach—from the inside at that—been stabbed straight through the eye, had his throat and stomach cut open, and taken several bone-deep sword and spear wounds. And then an entire tree fell on him. Everything she knew about the human body, and even those of the immortal races, told her he was dead or very close to it. Should have been dead from half of that, if not less.

Somehow, she still couldn't believe it. Couldn't bring herself to relax until she was absolutely sure he wasn't getting back up. If he remained still she stood there for a full minute, until the hand holding her weapon started to feel sore from the death grip she had it in. Finally letting herself relax at least a little, she took a few steps back and slumped against another tree until she was sitting on the forest floor, eyes still not leaving the man's body for more than a few moments at a time. She reached into one of her belt pouches and withdrew some of the spare ammunition for her weapon, going through the short process of reloading as she tried to calm her nerves.

If he still showed no signs of moving, Laelia would finally force herself back to her feet, being sure to walk a wide circle around him on her way back to the road. She needed to keep moving if she wanted to make it to the castle before it got too dark. She kept her ears alert for any further sign of movement as she returned to the highwaymen camp, resolving herself to at least take a took around first. She tried to avoid any of the overly gruesome bodies, but they were certain to have something around here, and she would take whatever she could, especially after having given the survivor her last healing potion. As for what to do next, she was torn—she had expected danger, but not THAT. In the end though, need won out. She couldn't turn back now, no matter how dangerous it was. Doing nothing was an even surer death in the end, if a longer one. There was only one way for her to go.

How much of this actually happens depends on whether he's actually dead or not. Or at least if he gets up within 2 minutes or so. Regardless though, Whirling Death would fall off since she spent at least a round not attacking.
 

Tassadar

Panda King
Moderator
Nov 10, 2008
16,038
83
#45
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Laelia: HP = 71/61, PP = 47, EP = 54/56, Status = Probably Fine, Transformation X=5 for Body (+5 Speed +20 temp HP +15 grapple/attack/dodge +10 reflexes/damage +5 AV/PP dealt/Focus/Willpower/Perception/Stealth) Upkeep = 0 EP 5 HP, 9/9 bullets loaded

NPCs
Raeglynn, innkeeper
Thomas the Younger

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>:3, taken 361 damage. Also under a tree...

Raenan the Bandit currently deceased

Rolls
Perception: ???

Laelia finds 9 denarii, three dozen crossbow bolts, five sabers, four hatchets, a heavy crossbow, a bottle of lantern oil made up like a molotov cocktail, and a map.

The figure did not stir while Laelia stared down at it, nor when she finally stepped back a minute or so later and let herself slump against a tree to ultimately settle against the forest floor. Every furtive glance from the gun she was reloading to the prone man left her wondering if his position had changed, her eyes and her mind playing tricks on her... Or perhaps the monstrous thing playing possum until she let her guard down. The far-traveled mechanist wouldn't give him that opportunity, however, and when she regained her feet and carefully skirted around him he would still remain unmoving and, as far as she could tell, completely unmoved from where he'd fallen when the tree had collapsed onto him.

Back at the camp of the men who'd been slaughtered, Laelia might be pleased to find that none of the bodies had moved since she'd left them either. A crow was picking at one of the dead, but it let out a belligerent caw and took off as she approached the triangle of tents that marked the site of the massacre. The trail of blood that looked like it marked where bodies had been dragged away remained, as did the two destroyed tents and the dying flame. The soft drizzle hadn't broken since she had gone into the woods, and chill began to creep into Laelia's flesh as the adrenaline of combat wore off.

Policing the dead was as unpleasant a task as ever. Picking through their pockets revealed only a handful of coins, though all of fairly old vintage. The one intact crossbow and assortment of ammunition for it, along with the various side arms the dead men had once wielded, were all still present. They weren't of particularly fine craftsmanship, but they were perfectly functional and arms weren't cheap. They could sell for a decent amount in the right place, if she wished to collect them, but then she would have to either stash them somewhere or haul them until she could pawn them off. None of their armor was in terribly good shape, unfortunately, and most was fairly low quality studded leather anyway, now good only for scraps. There was another bottle of oil with a rag in it under the faceless body, singeing on the cloth suggesting that it had once been lit, but the bottle was still salvageable as simple oil or as the improvised explosive it had become.

It was in the intact tents that Laelia discovered the most interesting find. Spread out on the floor was a map, much like the one that Raeglynn had given her, except... Different. It looked too well made to be someone's scrawls, and on it were marked a few things on interest. For one, Raven's Run wasn't called Raven's Run, it was called the Faeriewood, and it took up a lot of space that was marked as part of Terryn's Bog, which wasn't on this map at all. For two, it showed a bit more shore, less ice, and a point to the cliff off to the West with a lighthouse marked on it, none of which were on the map she possessed. For three, and perhaps most interesting, it had a small village within Raven's Run called 'Elkspring' that sat just on the bottom of the cliff face, towards the Northeast corner of the easternmost portion of the plateau, and a small path marked leading off of the main road.

Should she compare the map with what she could see, Laelia would plainly be able to spot where it differed from reality. The one she had at least seemed to be more accurate, judging solely by the state of the geography. The cliff ended about where it should judging by the map she'd already had, and the extension with the lighthouse weren't present at all. The bog she'd been warned away from was in plain sight, and the trees of Raven's Run ended along the border where she'd expect they should based on Raeglynn's map.

Regardless of how she reacted to the map and its oddness, Laelia still had a choice to make on how she wanted to proceed. The blood trails ultimately met up with the road, so if she wanted to continue along it she would have to find out just what her mysterious attacker had been doing with the corpses he had dragged away before she had left him pinned under a tree. Avoiding that terrible truth would require that she take a detour into the bog or the Northern Woods, however... And if her determination wavered here, she could always try to go back to town.
 
Last edited:

Astarte

Tentacle Monster
Dec 28, 2014
353
18
#46
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Searching the ruined camp was an unpleasant task, but she needed to be as prepared as she could. It wasn't as if anyone else was likely to come across this camp any time soon either, just more scavengers like the crow she'd scared off. What she found was less than she'd hoped for—for highwaymen they had very little in the way of money. Evidently they hadn't had much success recently.

The weapons were well-made enough to be worth something, but they were also too heavy for her to carry around. She already had Chrysanta as well, and none of these simple weapon were comparable to her creation. After some consideration of her options Laelia made her way over to one of the ruined tents, cutting a rough square out of the material with her blade. She lay the weapons she'd gathered on top of it, tying them up into a bundle, looking for or cutting a short length of rope of some kind, and carrying them over to the side of the road—the side opposite where she had left the body. She wasn't too worried about anyone passing by and finding it before she returned, only animals scattering whatever was left, so she simply tied the bundle to one of the lower-hanging tree branches, somewhere it wouldn't be immediately obvious from the road but would be easy for her to find again on her way back.

The money she kept, little as there was, as well as the bottle of oil. She sealed it up again rather than leaving it as it was, using her powers to fashion one out of whatever was on hand if she couldn't find what it had originally used. The map was the most interesting thing she found by far, however. It was clearly of the same area as the one she had, but there were some significant differences in both names and geography. The one she'd received from Raeglynn seemed more accurate to what she'd seen on her way in, which lead her to believe it was probably the more recent—if still quite old—of the two. This map didn't look much older though, certainly not enough to account for such drastic changes. Perhaps it was a copy of an even older map?

The most noticeable differences she could pick out were the size of the forest and smaller amount of ice shown around the coast. There was also both a lighthouse and small village that weren't present on her map at all. The lighthouse looked to have fallen into the ocean at some point if she assumed that this map was once accurate, the entire section of the cliffs where it had apparently once stood missing from the other. The village was on more interest, her own map making no indication it even existed. She remembered Raeglynn's mention of the supposed secret passage from the castle to an Abbey in the woods. If this 'Elkspring' did exist, there was a good chance that it was where that abbey was, but it was a long detour she wasn't keen on making. She would keep an eye out for the path marked on the map, but after so long in disuse she doubted much or it remained.

Rolling both maps up and stowing them away safely, Laelia checked once again to make sure the body had not moved from beneath the tree before she began to make her way down the road. She wasn't exactly eager to see what lay at the other end of the bloody trails, but she wasn't going to deviate from the road either. She pulled up her hood again, adjusting it with some discomfort to try to avoid hampering her hearing much. She felt fully justified in her paranoia after what she had just encountered.
 

Tassadar

Panda King
Moderator
Nov 10, 2008
16,038
83
#47
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Laelia: HP = 71/61, PP = 47, EP = 54/56, Status = Probably Fine, Transformation X=5 for Body (+5 Speed +20 temp HP +15 grapple/attack/dodge +10 reflexes/damage +5 AV/PP dealt/Focus/Willpower/Perception/Stealth) Upkeep = 0 EP 5 HP, 9/9 bullets loaded

NPCs
Raeglynn, innkeeper
Thomas the Younger

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>:3

Raenan the Bandit currently deceased

Weapon cache along the road (three dozen crossbow bolts, five sabers, four hatchets, a heavy crossbow) hanging from a tree branch

Rolls
Perception: ???

Laelia also gains 4 exp for fighting off the masked man.

The body was gone. She hadn't heard a thing, hadn't detected anything, but the tree had been rolled over, and the man who had been below it was simply gone. There were signs of his movement, a bloody trough in the ground where he had dragged himself up, a few bootprints surrounded by droplets of blood, and then nothing. His trail vanished suddenly without any further trace of where he'd gone.

However Laelia might feel about that revelation, she wouldn't have been prevented from storing the discarded weapons of the dead in a suspended sack out in the forest, nor would she be prevented from moving on. The grisly trail led her onto an even grislier sight, a sleigh of sorts whose blades had settled into the mud from time... And the weight sitting on it. There was a chain on the end that was most likely the front, but on the platform were the missing bodies of the bandits. Four more corpses lay upon it, two of them faceless and belonging to women if the overall shape of their mangled bodies were any indication. They too seemed to possess a few of their armaments, but by now they were covered in mud and gore, and extracting them would surely be an unpleasant task.

The grisly sleigh lay at the bottom of the hill, and up ahead was the slope of the next, a much gentler ascent than the last she'd climbed and hopefully without as grim a scene at the top. She had already seen the top from where she'd been, and other than a few large rocks and a single scraggly looking tree with a thick trunk set next to the largest of the boulders. Beyond that hill lay the final approach to the castle itself, the ramp up to the main gate, and the path into the ruins she had come to search for clues that might save her from the dagger buried in her heart... The dagger that was, even then, drawing her flagging stamina and leaving Laelia feeling even more tired than the day's events should have left her.
 

Astarte

Tentacle Monster
Dec 28, 2014
353
18
#48
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Laelia froze in her tracks as she returned to check on the body, finding it nowhere to be seen. How had she not heard him moving the tree, if nothing else? He seemed to have used whatever uncanny form of teleportation he employed though, his trail coming to an abrupt end not far from where she'd left him. Strangely, he hadn't used it until after freeing himself from the tree manually. There was no way for her to follow now, no way for her to find him and finish him off for good before he could come after her again. She should have done more, done something to make sure he wouldn't get up again. She had suspected he wasn't truly dead, but she hadn't wanted to believe it. He was obviously hurt, enough for him to leave instead of coming directly after her, but how long would that last?

Doing her best to push it from her mind, she returned to the road, continuing on her way to the castle, but keeping her senses alert. When she made it to the bottom of the hill, reaching the end of the blood trail, she ended up wishing she hadn't looked. She didn't even try to check these corpses, averting her eyes from the sight of what he'd been doing to them—what he probably would have done to her if she'd given him the chance.

What was he even? She'd never heard of anyone surviving injuries of the sort she'd inflicted on him, and certainly not without aid. Even the immortal races and shapeshifters like herself had limits, and she was certain she'd done more than enough. How he still lived through it, much less how he got up and walked away from it on his own, was a mystery to her. Some kind of magic, certainly, and she mentally kicked herself for not thinking to use her glasses to check for any sort of enchantments on his body after taking him down. And for not stabbing him a few more times for good measure.

Wanting nothing more to do with the man or his handiwork, Laelia was quick to leave the bodies behind, starting up the next hill on her way to her destination. It wasn't much farther now, but she was definitely starting to feel the effects of fatigue setting in. Even after that fight, she should have been capable of more than this, but it seemed that the dagger's effects were making themselves known again. She could only hope the strengthening effects of the potion she'd taken would last her long enough to get inside the walls. If she was going to need to rest, she wanted it to be in a building or room she could fortify, not out here in the open.
 

Tassadar

Panda King
Moderator
Nov 10, 2008
16,038
83
#49
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Laelia: HP = 71/61, PP = 47, EP = 54/56, Status = Probably Fine, Transformation X=5 for Body (+5 Speed +20 temp HP +15 grapple/attack/dodge +10 reflexes/damage +5 AV/PP dealt/Focus/Willpower/Perception/Stealth) Upkeep = 0 EP 5 HP, 9/9 bullets loaded

NPCs
Raeglynn, innkeeper
Thomas the Younger

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>:3

Raenan the Bandit currently deceased

Things
Weapon cache along the road (three dozen crossbow bolts, five sabers, four hatchets, a heavy crossbow) hanging from a tree branch

Old unmarked grave beneath the crab apple tree

Rolls
Perception: 4 success

Over one hill, then down again. The trip took minutes, but paranoia dragged at Laelia as she made her final approach towards the castle proper. Atop the last hill were a series of boulders and the one tree, a scraggly old crab apple tree that was sporting only a few pieces of mealy looking fruit. Rotted fruit littered the ground sparsely around it, among an equally sparse covering of dead leaves, and beside it a cross made out of old wood had been planted. It looked like it had been there a long while, and any writing or trinkets that had once adorned it were gone now.

The hill held no other objects of note, and unless Laelia wanted to try her hand at grave digging for some reason she would be free to continue onward. The last section of the road leading up to the castle had been paved, but it hadn't seen any upkeep in so long that it was only mildly helpful. It made the journey a little bit easier, a little bit less muddy, and when she reached the flat slope leading up to the gates she encountered a brief thickening of the slate tiles and cobbles that had slid down after centuries of rain and snowmelt. The final climb up was the roughest she'd encountered yet, forcing Laelia to proceed almost painfully slowly or risk slipping and falling face first into the muck she was trying to walk across.

The rain picked up as she was about a quarter of the way up, shifting from a soft drizzle to the heavy drops that felt like she was being pelted with something. After a few more moments it turned into outright hail, which only served to enhance the intense discomfort of her climb. For nearly fifteen minutes she ascended the muddy ramp, forced to move carefully lest she cause a mudslide, and if she even attempt to enact some magic that would allow her to simply fly over it she would feel it failing before she even tried. She was within the wards now, and certain forms of magic would no longer work.

The castle gates loomed above, larger and larger as the minutes trudged by. Foot by foot, yard by yard, Laelia made the ascent until she finally stepped up onto solid ground again. A glance back would reveal that she had climbed at least two hundred feet vertically, and significantly more than that horizontally even if the perspective made it seem a bit longer than it actually was. By the time she reached the top, Laelia was nearly as exhausted as she'd been upon stumbling into Raeglynn's tavern the night before, but the sight ahead was far less inviting than the library inn.

Ancient stone loomed high above and as far as the eye can see in either direction, the castle looking as much like a grim monolithic headstone as much as it did a fortress. Jagged bits of stone jutted outwards at various points, particularly at the top of the wall where they had obviously been installed deliberately to keep invaders at bay. The only obvious entrance available to her were the gates themselves, which thankfully stood open. The gigantic wooden doors that had once served as the outermost barrier, movable only by powerful magic or machinery, were gone. The rusted iron portcullis was still raised, its sharp feet hanging menacingly above, and beyond it stood the inner doors, small enough the a pair of strong men could probably open them without too much trouble. The one on the left stood in the closed position, but the one on the right was open wide enough the a trader's wagon could probably had slipped through it with a bit of maneuvering, and it would certainly permit Laelia's lithe frame. Unfortunately, beyond it lay several hundred feet of lightless stone corridor, no doubt lined with kill holes from which archers could pick off invaders who had breached the gates while safe from reprisal. There seemed no reason for her to have to worry about that sort of welcome now that it was a ruin, but she had already seen fairly unusual things today, and caution on her part might be warranted. None of the inner portcullis' were down, and the doors on the opposite end were either wide open or simply gone, leaving a small half-circle of light sitting off in the distance that marked the exit from the tunnel and where she would enter the primary courtyard.

Centuries ago, this place might have been lively, even pleasant. Torches, lanterns or lightstones might have lined the tunnel, and people might have come and gone freely down a well traveled and well maintained walkway that would undoubtedly have been an easier climb than the one she'd just endured. The courtyard would have been well tended and played host to traders from far and wide, offering goods that might not have been as impressive as those one might find in one of Therion's markets, but would still have undoubtedly been luxurious. Now, however, it was abandoned, a desiccated corpse now all the remained of a glorious past that had promised a brighter future than what had actually been delivered. If even a fraction of the tragic tales told about things that had happened here were true, the menace creeping into her spine alongside the exhaustion would only be the beginning of what Laelia might find within this place... But also within might be answers, a solution to the problem even then resting impossibly within her own beating heart.

She had now to choose, whether to stride forward... Go back... Or perhaps find another way, another path into the innards of the tomb she meant to plunder There were no obvious signs of such to be had here, but she might try walking along the walls, either towards Raven's Run on her right or towards the seaside cliffs to her left.
 

Astarte

Tentacle Monster
Dec 28, 2014
353
18
#50
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Laelia paused for a few moments to look over the grave she'd found, wondering who it might have belonged to. There was no name anywhere she could see, nor any other distinctive features, just an old wooden cross beneath a tree. It was enough to pique the curiosity of the student of history within her, but she didn't have the time to look into it, much less any ability to do so. Any information about this place and its inhabitants that survived the years would likely only be found inside.

Putting it out of her mind, she continued up the path. She was nearly there now, but the weather was only getting worse, and her stamina was beginning to fail. Once, a trip like this—even with the fight she'd just had—would have been no problem for her, but that was no longer the case. She would probably need to find some place to rest for at least a short time once she made it inside, investigating a place as supposedly dangerous as this in such an exhausted state was not a good idea.

Before long the rain grew heavy, and a few minutes later turned to hail, but she pressed on towards the ominous gates regardless. This might have once been a well-maintained path, but between disuse and the rain it was far too muddy to climb at any reasonable pace. It wasn't as if she could turn back though, this was too important for her to turn back out of fear or discomfort. Soaked and utterly exhausted, she eventually reached the top, standing before what must have once been massive gates, when they were still standing.

It struck her that if anyone wished, they could have easily fortified this entryway. The portcullis seemed to be intact and could likely be lowered. They were rusty but still looked strong, and the internal workings were only meant to hold it up, so if they had to still be in reasonable order or it would have fallen. The inner doors also could have been barred to dissuade any random traveller from just walking in, but they were left ajar. She couldn't help but shake the feeling that she was being invited in, and that didn't sit well with her at all.

Regardless of her worries though, Laelia had to keep moving. She hesitantly stepped through the open gate, her uneasiness growing as she looked down the dark passageway ahead. She could see in the dark better than an ordinary person could, but even that had limits, and didn't prevent the darkness from making everything that much creepier. If this place was manned with soldiers she would have no chance of making it through here unharmed, but so far she'd seen no sign of any movement here or on the walls. She was more than a little afraid of what might be waiting for her on the other end, the man in the woods having convinced her there was at least something to the stories about this place, but she forced herself to press on.

This was the best lead she'd found, her best chance of finding a way to remove or neutralize this dagger before it consumed her entirely. It would take months to find somewhere else as promising if she could at all, and she wasn't certain she had that long. And so she began the long walk down the dark tunnel, hoping that whatever was on the other side wasn't going to be as bad as she was fearing. She held Chrysanta loosely at her side in her right hand, not daring to put it away in such a potentially dangerous place, and her free hand pushed back her hood once again, freeing her ears to listen for any sign of movement on the other side of the walls around her.
 
Last edited:

Tassadar

Panda King
Moderator
Nov 10, 2008
16,038
83
#51
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Laelia: HP = 71/61, PP = 47, EP = 54/56, Status = Probably Fine, Transformation X=5 for Body (+5 Speed +20 temp HP +15 grapple/attack/dodge +10 reflexes/damage +5 AV/PP dealt/Focus/Willpower/Perception/Stealth) Upkeep = 0 EP 5 HP, 9/9 bullets loaded

NPCs
Raeglynn, innkeeper
Thomas the Younger

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>:3

Raenan the Bandit currently deceased

Things
Weapon cache along the road (three dozen crossbow bolts, five sabers, four hatchets, a heavy crossbow) hanging from a tree branch

Old unmarked grave beneath the crab apple tree

Rolls
Perception: 2 successes

The darkness closed in around Laelia as she stepped under the initial overhang of the castle entrance. She walked where many had, once... Long ago. Some had come through in peace, the people of the town or of the castle itself who came and went about the normal business of their lives. Some had come to pillage and conquer, and had likely died where Laelia stood, their blood wetting the cobblestone beneath her feet.

Were the bastions manned, any number of things could have dropped onto her from above. Caltrops, rocks, boiling oil, sharpened glass, or any number of other hazards might be released onto would-be invaders, all while those hiding behind the numerous kill-holes could fire missiles freely at them from the sides at the same time. Those same hazards could easily have been aimed at her, if some group of ne'er-do-wells had taken up residence in this section of the castle, and as she advanced into the encroaching darkness Laelia couldn't help but be conscious of that fact.

By the time she'd gone thirty paces into the dark tunnel, paranoia was already beginning to set in. The walls felt like they were closing in around her, the distance to either side distorted by the lack of light even to her enhanced vision. A distant rattling noise, caused no doubt by hail against the stone on the walkways above, echoed through the elongated chamber as Laelia walked down it with what little caution she could. The pathway itself was intact, protected from the elements by the castle above with only the occasional dislodged flagstone to cause her troubles with the terrain itself... But every last killhole she passed felt like someone was surely standing behind it, readying a bow or a rifle aimed at her chest.

The walk stretched on and on and on, nowhere near as physically as uncomfortable as the walk up the ramp had been but far far more emotionally draining as a result of the fear pulsing through her with every step. More than once she thought she heard the rustling clink of chain, but when she turned back found only darkness and the ever dwindling semi circle of light behind her, bereft of the silhouette of the imposing figure she had encountered only about an hour prior. Even as the light behind dwindled and she was left in what felt like an unending path of blackness, however, the circle of light up ahead only grew larger. Though it felt like much longer, in truth she was only under the gatehouse for a few minutes, and encountered nothing more threatening than a stubbed toe along the way.

When she finally emerged into the dim daylight again, hail was still falling but she had made it to the interior of the expansive castle at last. The courtyard itself had only an empty fountain and was otherwise flat, ruinous, and covered mostly in scraggly grass and the occasional sickly looking bush. The area directly in front of her was massive, nearly three hundred feet of open ground from where she stood just beneath the final lip of the gatehouse to the wall of the inner castle. There was no door into the secondary castle from here, only a monolithic wall of solid, smooth gray leading up to the creneled parapets. That dominated her view, rising even higher than the walls, but there was at least a hundred feet at the shortest distance from its wall to the outer wall, which was off to her right along an otherwise empty alleyway. The section of wall to the left was, at least on this side, fairly bare. There was a stairway leading up to the wall and a watchtower that had either crumbled at the top or been deliberately destroyed at some point just past it. Farther along the alley that would eventually dead end against the wall, however, Laelia could just see what looked like flickering light against the stone, as if a fire had been lit.

The sights to the left were a little more varied. That half of the area was even larger than the fore courtyard, and through a crumbled stone archway was a section of gardens that were now overgrown. In times of peace such places were meant to inhibit the martial appearance of one's home when they took such a place as their home, and to provide food in times of war. It stretched off to the left out of sight, towards where the wall would see it eventually dead end as well. While the garden stretched off to the left, protected by a low stone wall that was covered in scraggly ivy, to its right lay a well, its protective roof still somehow intact. That well lay between Laelia and what looked to have once been a storage building of sorts that was set against the wall, a stone foundation still supported by intact wooden beams, though much of the slanted tile roof had collapsed inwards or lay in scattered piles along the ground near it. Numerous doorways would allow entrance to the elongated building, though none of the doors now remained. Past it, leaving a narrow alley in between, was another ruined building that looked like it could have been an inn or a boarding house of some sort, possessing an intact roof and perhaps more interesting an intact and closed front door. Past that was another alley between it and the stable, which was barely recognizable as such given that it had collapsed entirely.

Then, past the buildings lay a series of shorter interconnected walls, small towers, and barricades with only one winding major thoroughfare through it. They ran between the outer wall and the inner wall, ensuring that any large organized force would have to take a while to get through it, particularly if they were meeting armed resistance. The secondary courtyard lay past it, though most of that was blocked from Laelia's sight by the secondary castle. She could still see the keep, however, a massive tower resting off in the distance, past yet another set of large walls that created another secondary point of defense besides the inner fortress. Somewhere past the secondary castle lay the manor, the grand house built for comfort over defense where the owners of this tower had once lived - and according to legend committed horrible acts of villainy and debauchery - though that too Laelia couldn't see from here.
 

Astarte

Tentacle Monster
Dec 28, 2014
353
18
#52
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Darkness was something that had never bothered Laelia much before, her natural night vision enough to prevent it from being a problem in anything but the darkest of nights or the deepest of the old ruins she had visited. Somehow though, the darkness in this tunnel felt almost physically oppressive, as if it was trying to surround and suffocate her. She pressed ahead at a quicker pace, trying not to think of the countless killholes in the walls and what could be lurking behind them. She had to constantly remind herself that the sound she was hearing was just the hail, and not the rattling of chains.

The path through the passageway felt much longer than it had looked, but she reached the other end without any incident. So far, she had seen no sign that anyone was here but her, and that worried her far more than if there had been signs of habitation. At least if she knew what was here should could make some kind of preparations. Laelia was someone who thrived on knowledge, and having next to none about this place was only feeding her paranoia even further.

When she finally reached the interior courtyard, Laelia was faced with my possible routs to take. This place was massive, and she was still only seeing a fraction of it. She knew from the maps that the manor where the lords of the place lived was still beyond, likely beyond several more layers of fortifications to protect it in the case than an assault actually managed to breach the walls. That seemed to be among the most likely places to find any sort of library that might contain what she needed, though as the sole building designed for comfort and luxury over defense it was also where anyone taking up residence here would be mostly likely to be living.

Regardless, she first had to find her way there. It was common practice in castles and other fortified complexes to have confusing and winding passageways, and naturally her maps would not have a route for her to follow. That way an enemy could not easily find their way around, giving any defenders who knew the place well a significant advantage. Unfortunately for her, that meant that she would need to do some exploring. Normally she would jump at the chance to take her time exploring a place as steeped in history as this, but everything about the place made her feel uneasy. Should she have tried to close the inner gates behind her? Something told her it wouldn't have mattered if that man chose to follow, and perhaps an open escape route was best. She still didn't know what was in here with her.

She pulled up her hood once again to ward off the hail at least a little, eyes scanning the buildings around her. She could already see several paths she could take, and no clear method of navigation. She could head up onto the wall, and there was likely a way down somewhere farther back, but that would be a long route to take and make her stand out to any observer. An alley led between the walls and the castle structure itself, and she couldn't tell from here whether it was a complete dead end or not. More notably though, she could see a flickering light, like firelight, an almost certain sign that someone else was here. Someone either unconcerned with hiding, or doing a poor job at it.

On the other side were the gardens, now entirely overgrown, and a few other structures. One was perhaps an inn of some kind, or other sort of temporary housing for travelers, and the other looked to have once been a stable. Both could potentially be of interest, though she doubted she would find anything relating to her true goals in either. No, what made her both curious and worried was the firelight, and she wouldn't be able to relax at all until she ascertained whether or not it represented a threat.

Hoping the hail would help to mask her approach, Laelia made her way towards the alley where she'd seen the light, keeping low and moving as fast as she dared until the reached the cover of the castle wall. Sticking close to the wall, she crept forward, Chrysanta's sword blade held at the ready to either fend off a surprise attack or shoot a distant threat as needed. Hopefully this time she could be the one with the element of surprise.

Trying to be sneaky. Currently 4d10+3 for being sneaky.
 

Tassadar

Panda King
Moderator
Nov 10, 2008
16,038
83
#53
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Laelia: HP = 71/61, PP = 47, EP = 54/56, Status = Probably Fine, Transformation X=5 for Body (+5 Speed +20 temp HP +15 grapple/attack/dodge +10 reflexes/damage +5 AV/PP dealt/Focus/Willpower/Perception/Stealth) Upkeep = 0 EP 5 HP, 9/9 bullets loaded

NPCs
Raeglynn, innkeeper
Thomas the Younger

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>:3

Raenan the Bandit currently deceased

Mysterious Armored Man with a Fuckton of Weapons

Things
Weapon cache along the road (three dozen crossbow bolts, five sabers, four hatchets, a heavy crossbow) hanging from a tree branch

Old unmarked grave beneath the crab apple tree

The closest path to the alley where she'd seen the flickering light took Laelia around the corner, past the edge of the tunnel's rounded doorway and the hinge for the door that had once stood there, now long gone. She walked carefully past a device of some sort, a winch attached to a chain with a wheel with numerous long handles set parallel to the ground, the chains of which had long ago broken and rusted away to nothing. The gatehouse bulged out, forming a square corner that obstructed her view but also concealed her from anyone who might be near the cause of the mysterious light, allowing her to get closer and ultimately peer around it to investigate while remaining hidden.

The alleyway ended at the wall, but was not entirely empty. The gatehouse stretched on quite a ways, and a wider set of stairs with actual railings began some thirty feet or so from Laelia's vantage point, wide enough that four men could walk side by side without having to worry about crowding one another. Beyond the start of the stairs, the somewhat narrower alleyway eventually dead ended at the wall itself, but in it was a small hut with thatch roof with three walls made of wood. It looked somewhat rickety, and the one missing wall limited how well protected one might be from the elements, but it was small enough that the draft would likely not be too severe, especially as it sat against the wall.

In that hut was a small bonfire, the flickering light emanating from the fire, and sitting behind that bonfire was a man fully clad in ornate plate armor. He sat with his back to the castle wall, allowing him to see down the approaching alley. The plate armor covering him appeared to have a sort of splinted design, grooves in the armor between interlocking plates allowing for greater freedom of movement than solid plate would. Pauldrons, gauntlets, full greaves that protected both his calves and his thighs, and an enclosed helmet with a single dark arrow shaped eyeslit and rounded top completed the armored portions, but he also wore a thick cloak made out of some unknown animal's dark fur that acted something like a blanket for him to sit on. The armored figure sat cross legged with a sword that one might normally wield in both hands across his lap, and numerous other weapons were arrayed around his person or near to hand ranging from daggers, a short sword, a battleaxe, a mace, a heavy round shield, and several short spears that looked like they might be javelins. The man's armor showed clear signs of damage and field repair, some of the articulate markings scarred away and dents marring some of the plates, and though it was clearly cleaned and oiled it did not shine.

The warrior gave no indication that they had detected Laelia, though she would clearly be able to spot her if they looked directly at her and were paying attention. Of course, being unable to see their expression or indeed any of their face whatsoever left Laelia unable to see any tells as to their knowledge of her, their intentions, or indeed their state of being. They were slowly rubbing a stone against the blade of the sword in their lap with practiced motions, signalling that they were at least alive rather than a well armed corpse... Or perhaps they were a well armed walking corpse? It could go either way if the legends about this place were true, but he had both the alley in which he sat and the clearer course around the secondary castle clearly within his line of sight.
 

Astarte

Tentacle Monster
Dec 28, 2014
353
18
#54
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Whatever Laelia might have expected to see in this place, the man she found sitting by a fire was not it. Aside from the signs of wear on his armour, he was a perfect example of what she might have expected to see in some knightly order. The look seemed completely incongruous with the surroundings, though perhaps an entire garrison of such warriors might have once been stationed here. Laelia hadn't ever seen such armour in actual combat though, only for ceremonial purposes, or left on display. By the look of this man, his armour certainly wasn't for show.

Neither was the small armoury's worth of weapons he seemed to be in the process of maintaining. She could appreciate the effort he was putting into maintaining his equipment, though unfortunately it gave her little insight into his intentions. He certainly gave off a better impression than the man in the forest had, but she was still hesitant to make herself known to him. The sort of armour he was wearing had fallen out of common use for a reason, and the gun she was holding could likely punch through it without much trouble if she wanted to take the first shot. Regardless of what she wanted to do though, she had to decide quickly, she wasn't well hidden here and the man would likely notice her as soon as he looked up from the blade he was working on.

A few more moments dragged on as she watched in silence, hoping to pick out some detail that would make her decision easier, but none seemed to be forthcoming. Finally, she decided that the possibility he might not be hostile was worth giving up the element of surprise, hoping that just maybe there was someone here who wasn't a madman. Stepping around the corner, she didn't sheathe her weapons, but held them at her sides, pointed towards the ground in hopes of avoiding appearing too hostile when she made herself known, but still wary of an attack. She had the advantage if it came to a fight, both of range and the man's need to stand first, but after the encounter she had in the woods she wasn't as confident as she might otherwise be.

"Hello!" She called to him. She tried to keep her voice fairly low, in case there were others around, while still keeping a pleasant front. "I hadn't expected to see anyone else here, after all the stories. What brings you to a place like this?" Her words weren't entirely truthful, not after what she'd seen on the way here, but she didn't want to reveal too much until she was sure what she was dealing with. At worst, she was still confident in her ability to put a few bullets in the man before he reached her if he proved hostile.
 

Tassadar

Panda King
Moderator
Nov 10, 2008
16,038
83
#55
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Laelia: HP = 71/61, PP = 47, EP = 54/56, Status = Probably Fine, Transformation X=5 for Body (+5 Speed +20 temp HP +15 grapple/attack/dodge +10 reflexes/damage +5 AV/PP dealt/Focus/Willpower/Perception/Stealth) Upkeep = 0 EP 5 HP, 9/9 bullets loaded

NPCs
Raeglynn, innkeeper
Thomas the Younger

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>:3

Raenan the Bandit currently deceased

Mysterious Armored Man with a Fuckton of Weapons and a Scottish accent

Things
Weapon cache along the road (three dozen crossbow bolts, five sabers, four hatchets, a heavy crossbow) hanging from a tree branch

Old unmarked grave beneath the crab apple tree

Through the duration of her observation, the armored figure remained exactly where he'd began when Laelia had first spotted him, sitting cross legged on the ground with his back to the wall, slowly working the whetstone against the sword in his lap. The figure might have seemed placid were it not for his array of armaments and battle scarred armor, and as she waited in indecision the seated warrior continued to make no moves suggesting that they had detected her.

When finally Laelia came out of hiding, the figure still displayed no immediate reaction, and continued to grind the whetstone against his blade despite her appearance. Even for a moment after she called out in greeting he showed no reaction, letting her fall into silence entirely. Then he raised his head slowly and set aside his whetsone, though he made no effort to rise or offer any other threatening moves. After a moment of peering at her the armored man spoke, calling back to her in a deep, low voice and a thick accent with rolling r's; "The stories brought me here, to this place... But likely not the same that thee've heard, nor their draw the same.

"Come to rob the dead, have ye? Well, I'll not stop yah. Just see that yee du'not join their ranks. Fer' now... Greetings. Be welcome by my fire."
 

Astarte

Tentacle Monster
Dec 28, 2014
353
18
#56
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

The man barely seemed to react to her presence at first, causing Laelia toregard him curiously for a few moments after speaking. He did seem to have noticed her, but he hadn't made any move to get into a position where he could defend himself. Was he that confident, or did he not believe she would attack him for some reason? At one point she might have simply assumed he was arrogant or overconfident, but she wasn't willing to take that chance right now.

Regardless, he did seem friendly enough for the moment. He hadn't removed his helmet or given his name, so all she knew about him was his voice and accent, but he didn't seem likely to jump up and try to stab her as soon as she got close, which was already an improvement over her last encounter. His accent was vaguely familiar to her, but it wasn't one she was used to hearing often. From the northeastern end of Crolia of she was remembering correctly. Quite out of place here, considering this was practically the opposite end of the country, but after some thought that wasn't too surprising. She had come quite a long way herself, if not nearly as far, so it wasn't too strange that she might encounter another traveller far from home. The fact that he was here was surprising, but this place seemed like it held many secrets that many kinds of people might risk the trip for.

She didn't let her guard down completely, but she did sheathe her weapons as she approached in a sign of peace. She would need to take some time to maintain her own weapon before long, as he was. Even if the crystalline blades wouldn't rust like metal, it was still important to keep them clean, especially the inner workings within the sword.

"Thank you. More to learn from the dead than rob them, however." Laelia replied simply to his comment, deciding that revealing at least a little of her goals couldn't hurt. If this man had been here for some time, he might even be able to point her in the right direction. The offer of the warm fire and shelter from the hail was a welcome one, and so she gladly accepted it, not quite letting her guard down but letting her tired body relax a little in the comforting heat.

"Ah, but I forget my manners. My name is Laelia, a pleasure to meet you, and thank you for your hospitality." She introduced herself, hoping he might do the same but deciding not to push if he chose not to. It wasn't as though she had much to lose from giving her name, and she'd never even had a title or surname to further identify her. "In truth, I'm looking for a way to break a curse. My search led me here, though all of the stories are frustratingly vague about what truly happened in this place, so I can only hope something might still be intact." It wasn't the entire truth, but it was close, and enough to try to gauge whether the man might be able to point her in the right direction at the very least.
 

Tassadar

Panda King
Moderator
Nov 10, 2008
16,038
83
#57
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Laelia: HP = 71/61, PP = 47, EP = 54/56, Status = Probably Fine, Transformation X=5 for Body (+5 Speed +20 temp HP +15 grapple/attack/dodge +10 reflexes/damage +5 AV/PP dealt/Focus/Willpower/Perception/Stealth) Upkeep = 0 EP 5 HP, 9/9 bullets loaded

NPCs
Raeglynn, innkeeper
Thomas the Younger

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>:3

Raenan the Bandit currently deceased

Aegen

Things
Weapon cache along the road (three dozen crossbow bolts, five sabers, four hatchets, a heavy crossbow) hanging from a tree branch

Old unmarked grave beneath the crab apple tree

When Laelia put away her weapon the mysterious armored man did the same, sliding the long blade into a sheath made out of black leather that was slitted about halfway down. He set the weapon aside as Laelia accepted his invitation and approached the fire. Warmth once more dug through the entrenched cold seeking to drive her flagging strength away, and the roof protected her from the hail which began to pick up the moment she was out of it, to the point that she would have to raise her voice to introduce herself as it rattled against stone and thatch above.

"Hospitality... Hah! There's little enough of that here," he retorted once she had introduced herself, but before she could continue he simply said; "Aegen Wartooth, of no order but my own." His first name was elven, but his surname was more like an orcish clan name than a proper family name. Whatever Laelia might make of that, he wouldn't move much besides settling his sheathed sword back into his lap while she moved to settle in by the fire. There was a pile of wood that looked like it had been chopped from the ruins here rather than gathered out in the forest just to his left, while his array of weapons lay to his right.

Aegen settled into silence after offering his name, letting Laelia explain her purpose here without interruption, and as she spoke his helmeted head slowly turned toward her. Another short bark of laughter would issue a moment after she'd finished, his gaze drifting back to the fire. "Come to a cursed place to lift a curse, eh? Well, I guess that logic must make sense somewhere," Aegen said, sounding bemused and falling into silence again after speaking.

"Dunno which stories ye'hve heard that drew ye here, but it dunna' matter. Anythin' an' everythin' left here is steeped in evil, surrounded by it and swallowed whole. Ye' won't find what yer lookin fer without havin' tah kill for it."
 

Astarte

Tentacle Monster
Dec 28, 2014
353
18
#58
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Laelia took a moment to consider the name he had given. She could see both the elven and orcish influences, leaving a question of which of the two he actually was, if either. His helmet obscured any details of his face and his armour left no exposed skin visible, so she had no good way of finding out. It wasn't important though, nor was it particularly surprising considering where she'd recognized his accent from.

"I suppose it doesn't seem like the smartest choice, does it?" Laelia gave a dry laugh at that, shaking her head at the absurdity of the situation she found herself in. She'd known it was bad, but it sounded even worse when he put it so bluntly. "I've already tried everything else I could think of. Best option left seemed to find any records left by someone who might have practised the same sort of magic, see if there were any clues there."

Laelia sighed, once again reminded of how slim her chances of finding something useful here. "I came here expecting to have to fight, though. Honestly, I hadn't expected to run into anyone remotely pleasant out here at all. I might be a scholar, but I can hold my own in a fight, don't worry about that."

Taking Aegen's example, Laelia set her pack down beside her and retrieved the small tool kit she carried for general weapon maintenance. It was different to the traditional methods he was using, but her weapon was also constructed in a very different manner. "So, what is it that brings you here, then? If you don't mind my prying." She asked as she lay her own sword out across her lap, examining the blade for any chips or other signs of damage before taking a cloth to the crystalline blade to clean it of blood and dirt. She didn't want to take the risk of disassembling it here to clean the revolver and other inner workings, but at the very least she could make sure the rest of it was in good condition.
 

Tassadar

Panda King
Moderator
Nov 10, 2008
16,038
83
#59
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Laelia: HP = 71/61, PP = 47, EP = 54/56, Status = Probably Fine, Transformation X=5 for Body (+5 Speed +20 temp HP +15 grapple/attack/dodge +10 reflexes/damage +5 AV/PP dealt/Focus/Willpower/Perception/Stealth) Upkeep = 0 EP 5 HP, 9/9 bullets loaded

NPCs
Raeglynn, innkeeper
Thomas the Younger

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>:3

Raenan the Bandit currently deceased

Aegen

Things
Weapon cache along the road (three dozen crossbow bolts, five sabers, four hatchets, a heavy crossbow) hanging from a tree branch

Old unmarked grave beneath the crab apple tree

"Magic... Bah!" Aegen said vehemently, shaking his head and letting out a low, almost animalistic growl. "If sorcerers and their ilk are what you seek, ye'll find 'em here... Though none in my wake that retain life or unlife. No mage yer likely to find here will be keen to give up their secrets, save in their vile practice on their victims. Better to destroy 'em and their arts together!"

The man's apparent disdain for magic wasn't entirely unheard of. Even to that many sections of orcish society were disdainful of the studied forms of magic, and some human societies still held to similar beliefs. The advancement of technology with minimal or no reliance on magic had somewhat diminished its necessity, but it might seem unlikely that a man wielding a broadsword and clad in archaic plate armor would be from an area where machines had replaced magic.

"Good. Yeh'll not go long without having ter defend yerself, if yeh haven't already had to. Dunno where you plan to go lookin first, but if I'm around an ye run intah trouble, I'll be a sword at yer side."

Argen lapsed into silence and stared into the fire, but as Laelia began a partial check up and care for her prized, customized weapon he would glance back toward her, watching her. "Came ter cleanse this place of its evil, once and for all... This region has been in the shadow's grip fer far too long." Laelia would be able to question the armored warrior as she liked, but he would lapse into silence if she had nothing more she wanted to say.

The hail continued for over an hour, the inclement weather persistent in its unpleasantness, and for a time it even grew more severe. Chunks of ice the size of bullets railed down around them, melting gradually into the dirt of the courtyard, but when it finally petered out it turned into pouring rain for a while before the prior drizzle returned. A few moments into the clearer weather, Aegen began gathering up his various weapons, placing them around his belt and armor, and rose. His greatsword and shield were the last, both strapped to his back as he stood up, and when they were affixed he turned to Laelia and said; "I am going into the inner castle. A great evil awaits there and I will see it destroyed. If it's secret magics yer lookin fer, the manor is yer best bet."
 

Astarte

Tentacle Monster
Dec 28, 2014
353
18
#60
Re: Close to the Heart (Astarte)

Laelia still wasn't certain if Aegen had elven or orcish heritage, a mix of both, or something else entirely, but he certainly seemed to follow the same beliefs as the orcs did regarding magic. They weren't alone in such beliefs, but they were certainly the most outspoken against it. She made a mental note to avoid mentioning where it was she studied, or the fact that she had several friends who were mages, but she didn't practise anything that would be offensive to them herself. She didn't necessarily agree with the sentiment, but it wasn't worth getting into an argument with the only civil person she was likely to meet out here over.

Magic like the sort practised here, though, she could agree with him about. She was interested on an intellectual level, and she needed the information to try to remove this dagger from her body, but it was the sort of thing she would prefer to see remain history. "I'd hoped to find a library of some kind, if any survived. Or a private study, anywhere written records might be stored." Laelia explained her own plans, "And you as well. Something tells me there will be plenty of trouble to go around here."

With that she turned her focus to her weapon, carefully cleaning and traces of blood or grime from it. Fortunately there didn't seem to be any damage, so it wouldn't need any further work for the moment. Once she was finished with the sword, she repeated the process with her spear. With no mechanical components other than the connection that held the two halves of the weapon together when linked there was even less to worry about, leaving only cleaning and checking for any signs of damage. She lapsed into silence after that, focusing on her weapon maintenance and only listening to the hail falling around them and the occasional sounds of Aegen's work.

"Yes, the manor seems the most likely place to find what I'm after." Laelia nodded to his suggestion as Aegen finished gathering up his weapons and preparing to go. Laelia herself had also finished with her own weapons, fewer as they were, when the weather had started to clear. She was feeling a little better after the short rest as well, and the strengthening effect of her potion were still working, so she would be best off moving on as well.

That only left the question of where to go. The manor was of course her ultimate goal, but she still wasn't certain how to get there. She knew where it was, but this place seemed to be designed intentionally in a way to prevent easy access to it in the event of an attack, so her path would likely be winding and lead her through more fortifications. On the other hand, Aegen seemed to know exactly where he was headed, and while not her immediate goal there was a good chance that passing through the inner castle would get her closer to her goal. It was likely there was a way to pass through the castle to the other side.

His goal was to kill whatever "evil" lurked here, and while she hadn't planned to get involved with anything she didn't need to, their goals certainly weren't opposed. She was going to have to fight on her way through this place, she knew that, so why not take the path already being taken by this man, who seemed to be a warrior of some skill? She was confident in her ability, as he seemed to be in his own, but it was always better to have someone watching your back. And if they did manage to cleanse the place entirely of this "evil", she could go about her own search in peace, with the time needed to properly study any records she might find.

"If you wouldn't mind the company, I would accompany you." She spoke after a few moments of thinking, returning her tools to her pack and rising as well. She wasn't certain she was making the best decision facing whatever lurked here head on, but at least she wouldn't be alone if he accepted, and it was better than being caught off guard later. "Whatever evil inhabits this place, I don't think I will find what I'm after without facing it one way or another. Better to do so together than alone, no?"
 
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