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» A Dance of White and Red, The First Quest
darkeh
 Posted: Sep 26 2017, 05:52 PM
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PLAYERS INVOLVED: Dark, JPG

SETTING: Vystriana; skirting Coia, deep in the Song Forest

WEATHER: Overcast; a light drizzle has been falling for hours, which has been collected in the canopy enough that brushes with undergrowth may yield showers of water.

TIME: Current; early evening. Sunset is a few hours away.

CHARACTERS INVOLVED: Zelda; Rafaloth

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darkeh
 Posted: Sep 26 2017, 07:31 PM
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The forest was a riot of sound, if one knew how to listen.

Water, thickening in the bowls of leaves, spilled over in a multitudinous harmony of droplets; the sky sang in bass notes of far-off thunder. Fronds and grass quivered together as if plucked by invisible lutists. Beneath it ran the chuckle of a nearby stream, hidden in the gloom, and all of it was set to the indifferent rhythm of a unicorn's hooves.

The creature was a gleaming white wonder surrounded by half tones of grey and verdant green. It moved with the indecisive grace of a deer and seemed at once far too cautious and impossibly fast as it followed an empty path. Astride its narrow back was a white-clad woman who, with all the flat pragmatism of a peasant girl carrying her basket, held her gloved hand palm-up to sustain a shimmering barrier slick with rain. It sluiced off around them in thin ribbons, but despite the shelter, Zelda could not feel dry; the humidity was beading cold drops in her hair and whatever exposed skin it could find. Her steed fared no better, exhaling little clouds as it loped along, its flanks soaked to the bone.

Anyone else travelling in those conditions might have cursed the rain, or sought to shake off its insidious depression with a desperate song; but Zelda did neither of these things. That alone, perhaps, was the reason she did not immediately die.

The unicorn raised its head, nickering as its ears swiveled back. Zelda patted the side of its neck automatically. "Hush, Fanto, hush," she murmured, blinking through the forest haze. Water dripped off the tip of her nose. She had been deep in her own thoughts, but now her blue-green eyes narrowed, and she realized a silence had fallen over the wood.

Something moved in the shadows.

"Fanto, back." The unicorn snorted and wheeled around, nearly unseating the woman as she clung to its mane, lacking a saddle or bridle of any kind. The brilliant animal stopped instantly, however, as a shape stepped out onto the road formerly behind them.

It was tall - seven, no, eight feet in height - and wore rough black armor belted with leather over its massive torso. A snakelike face with no hair and yellow eyes smiled cruelly at Zelda and raised a wicked, curved blade. Crashing in the woods signified that more of the shriekan, an entire troop in fact, must have been lying in wait along the thoroughfare.

Zelda straightened up cautiously and laid her hand on the trembling unicorn's shoulders. "Hail," she called. "We - I - don't have food, weapons, or money. Will you let us pass?"

The captain's grin widened at her words and approached with a casual air, his swordtip rotating in tiny circles of excitement. "Why don't you get off that creature and let us see for ourselves, eh?"

"... As you wish." In a fluid, graceful movement, Zelda dismounted, though she kept her hand on Fanto's neck. The shriekan appeared much larger from here, she thought, tilting her head upward. She snapped her fingers and the barrier dissolved, sending a patter of water into the ground around her.

"A mage." The captain stopped, staring at the path where the water had fallen, and looked up at her suspiciously. "Where do you come from?"

The woman shook her head. "I won't answer that."

"I wasn't asking," he snarled, and closed the distance in a single stride. Seizing her jaw, he wrenched her head from side to side, then snorted contemptuously. "You're barely worth it, but one slave is better than nothing. Here, boys, take her and the horse." By now the captain's eyes had lit on the unicorn's spiraling opalescent horn, and an appreciative gleam took root in his yellow eye. "Someone get me a saw."

Zelda pressed her lips together as the others approached and pulled the glove off of one hand, seizing the wrist of the captain who still held her. His eyes immediately widened and he groaned, sinking to his knees before the comparatively short, frail-looking girl. "What... what are you doing..."

"You could have just gone," she murmured. A look of profound regret spread across her face. "All you had to do was walk away..."

"What're you doing?!"
"Witch!"
"Let him go!"

Zelda flung out her other hand - still gloved - and the shriekan's men recoiled despite themselves. Her gaze was fixed on the captain's, watching the light in his eyes flicker and recede under a wave of terrible, crippling sadness. He opened his mouth to speak. Zelda leaned in close to listen.

The shriekan screamed, and the white-clad woman was thrown back by the force of his cry. Fanto whinnied and kicked, eliciting another yelp of pain, as Zelda pushed herself back up to her feet. "How dare you!" shrieked the captain, snatching his abandoned sword from the muck. He advanced on her with a snarl of uncontrollable rage, flecks of foam flying from his curled lips. "How dare you! How dare you!"

Zelda readied herself to dodge the gleaming blade, vaguely aware of the other soldiers as they fought to bring Fanto under control. The captain paid them no mind. She threw herself back as he lashed out at her. "I will kill you!" he promised, striking again and again as she retreated. "I will tear you apart and leave your bone to rot in a tar pit!"

You'll have to catch me first, she wanted to say, but she dared not goad him further. The scimitar had passed within an inch of her cheek when she found her back pressed up against a tree, its ancient bulk too wide to foster an easy escape. The captain drew back his arm even as his mouth twisted in a grimace of victorious fury.

Zelda pushed.

Not at the captain, as might be expected, but at the ground. The sudden rebounding force drove her upward and out of the way of the blade. She flipped over the shriekan's head and hit the ground running, searching for Fanto, seeing him surrounded by shriekan soldiers. Another blast of reiatsu broke their ranks enough for her to sprint through, leaping onto the unicorn's back and wheeling him around to escape, but it was too late. The captain stood in the gap she had wrought. For a moment, there was utter silence.

"Kill them!"

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 Posted: Sep 27 2017, 01:07 PM
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Cutting in immediately at the tail end of the captain's command, a voice echoed throughout the local neck of the woods, seeming to float through the branches of the trees of the Song Forest.

"A murderous intent will beg like."

Walls of crystalline blue ice erupted all around the shar woman and her mount. And, having seemingly appeared when no one was looking, a heavily robed figure in a dusty brown cloak waited atop the wall. It was hard to make out any other features, as even the head was heavily wrapped in the same drab brown cloth, revealing only a single, glowing, red eye.

"Preying upon someone you perceived as helpless, and then being thus humiliated. How pitiful. You should thank whatever gods or goddesses the lady serves for your life."

The robed man slowly, calmly raised his hand, his lazy gaze leveled at the captain. His wrapped, long-nailed hand suddenly immolated itself in black flame. With the walking stick in his other hand, he pointed at the captain.

A maddening chorus of snakes seemed to start hissing all around, surrounding the captain's raiding party - black whispy shapes seemed to zip from tree to tree.

"For the sake of the young lady's mercy and conscience, I will offer you one. Last. Chance. Choose: Retreat, with your fluid-soaked trousers dribbling a trail of piss..."

Suddenly, his red eye flared up - and the man's clothes suddenly flared with black fire, before several dozen hissing black hydra heads tore through the robes, spitting torrents of black hellfire dangerously close to the captain and his little bandit crew, a pillar of hellfire extending to the sky behind the constructed icy walls.

"Or you won't even have the chansssssss to regret the choyssssss...!"

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Elffri3nd
 Posted: Sep 27 2017, 02:22 PM
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Iagan had traveled most of the night. He had been traveling through the forest for a fee days now, he didn't really know where he was going but that's what enjoyed about his lifestyle. He didn't have to be anywhere. All he had to do was find food to feed himself and that wasn't to hard considering what he was capable of eating how big he was most of the times.

By the time the sun would have started to show itself, Iagan had settled down on a branch. He thought it looked like it would be a nice place to rest but he would soon find out that was wrong. As his eyes began to close, the first signs of rain showed themselves. Everytime a drop of rain hit the small creature, it was met with a hissing sound as it evaporated away.

Eventually the Phoenix was able to tune the sound out and fall into an uncontrollable rest but soon enough it would be interrupted be a strange commotion. In his dreams and in the distance Iagan could hear the pitter patter of hooves hitting the ground. He didn't wake at first but then they stopped and the bird could hear talking.

Slowly and reluntantly Iagan opened an eye and looked towards the commotion. It seemed that a group of bandits were harassing a figure cloaked in white and it's mount. Personally Iagan didn't much care for the affairs of others unless they looked like they were in danger. Both of his were now open and he hopped in the branch, slowly getting closer. He was surprised when the figure in white almost effortlessly brought the bigger bandit to his knees. She then managed to make it back to her mount. Iagan almost thought she would escape.

Iagan had hopped to a new tree as the girl was stopped by the big bandit and he was now closer to the group. They wouldn't have noticed a bird moving through the tree normally and they were diffiantly to distracted to notice anything.

The Phoenix wasn't quite ready to go to the girls rescue. She seemed as though she was capable of taking care of herself and he didn't really want to get involved if he didn't have to. The only doubt he had about not stepping in was the expression on the girls face. He couldn't tell but he thought that she looked scared.

Iagan didn't have to worry for to long as another figure made themselves known. They were obviously confident in their abilities and they seemed intent on protecting the girl. Iagan did have to be cautious of the man's powers and the shapes in the trees. He was afraid he might be caught in the cross fire.

When the man gave the giant bandit the option of fleeing or death, Iagan wondered to himself why everyone seemed so intent on killing each other. He almost wanted to step in to protect the bandit. The only thing that stopped him was the fact that the man had started the conflict. Instead Iagan just watched and waited.
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darkeh
 Posted: Sep 28 2017, 06:19 PM
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Fanto shrilled, startled by the ice; it was with great effort that Zelda calmed him down, cooing gently in his ear as she peered through the translucent wall to the scene beyond. She looked remarkably composed for a woman who had been thrust into a battle of otherworldly magic. The shar woman wasn't even disturbed by the eruption of black flame and snakes that left shadowy afterimages on the eye. I twas the shriekan captain she was watching, and with all the zeal of a charmer who has seen a cobra flare its hood against him.

The shriekan captain was beyond rage. A fury akin to madness blazed in his eyes, and he was about to spit the order to attack the demon-mage anyway when his men yelled and broke. He turned in shock, watching them flee, their weapons cast aside in a desperate attempt to appease the apparition that stood before them. With great reluctance, he, too, shambled after his crew.

The battle was averted.

"Ho," Zelda called, when it was clear the danger had passed. She had dismounted again, putting her cloak over Fanto's trembling flanks, and stared with an upturned face on the figure atop the ice. "Please, come down. It seems I owe you thanks!"

It was normally bad manners to interfere with another's magic, and so Zelda did not make any attempt to break the protective barrier. Instead, she patted Fanto's nose. He looked at her with liquid blue eyes. "Hush, hush," she murmured. The unicorn's horn glowed - was still glowing, in fact, for it had been ablaze with pale light throughout the battle. She touched it curiously. A stranger still lurked? Cutting her eyes to the side, Zelda saw a bird of unusually bright colors perched in the trees. She might have missed it altogether if it weren't for the way it shone against the steam that clouded around it - for the water, she realized, was evaporating as soon as it touched the little creature's feathers.

"Ho," she called again, softly. "Who sits in Coia's trees, but doesn't sing?"

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 Posted: Sep 28 2017, 08:47 PM
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The robed mage maintained the illusion, allowing the shadowy hydra to snap angrily at the fleeing shreikan and crew...before the hydra's many eyes closed, and all the black heads and long necks were absorbed back into the robe, which had nary a scratch on it despite the showy display of shadowy pyrotechnics.

"Wisdom sometimes comes from being so thoroughly humbled. I hope you have learned your lesson, uncouth rube," he mumbled through the cloth. The glowing red-eye had stopped glowing, and the man's shoulders had untensed - the black flame started to wear away at the ice wall, allowing it to melt quickly into the ground around the unicorn and rider. As the ice wall lowered, he turned to the shar.

"Pardon the loud entrance. Time was of the essence." He approaches the spooked mount with the glowing horn, keeping both hands in view, moving slow. "I hope I did not startle your friend too much." If allowed, he will hold out his hand for the creature to become familiar with. It was definitely a demon's hand, that was for sure - the long nails being a marker of the Famine kingdom. However, no obvious threatening action was made...

It was then Zelda called out to the trees. He turned.

"...I am getting sloppy and lax. I almost missed our feathered friend. ...I do assume you are a friend." His eyes narrowed slightly, the fingers of his bandaged hand tensing around the head of his walking stick.

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Elffri3nd
 Posted: Sep 28 2017, 10:06 PM
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Everything seemed to end in a somewhat peaceful way, which meant that Iagan didn't have to get involved though that didn't seem to matter. He had gotten in position where had been seen and now the girl and the man called to him. He didn't know what either of them where though he didn't think it truly mattered in the grand theme of things.

After a moment of considering what he wanted to do, Iagan decided that the pair seemed friendly enough. Neither really seemed to want to have to fight anyone and they didn't seem to pose a threat. With those thoughts in mind, the Phoenix hopped towards the edge of the branch he was standing on. Then he hopped into the air. He spread his wings to glide for a moment before his entire body was transformed into fire. Then a few seconds later it reformed in and he stood before in his human form.

"I don't know that I would call myself a friend, I don't know the two of you but I am certainly not a foe." Seeing everyone from this angel was bit odd but interesting at the same time. Them seemed smaller and less threating. "I wasn't sure if I was going to have to hop in to stop someone from being killed. it would have put a damper on my day."

Iagan began to notice that the rain didn't evaporate away as it hit his skin and it was somewhat annoying to be pelted by the little droplets but to make maters worse he was getting wet. He waved his hand in the air and produced a small barrier of fire between him and the rain.
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darkeh
 Posted: Oct 1 2017, 06:17 PM
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Fanto nickered, thrusting his horn forward as the small, fiery bird transformed before their eyes. "Hush," Zelda said, smoothing back his mane. The unicorn stilled, but his muscles were taught beneath the skin, and his ears lay flat against his head in ill-disguised hostility. The shar took the momentary silence to step forward and copy Iagan's gesture: with a snap of her fingers, the translucent barrier blossomed over their heads, shielding Zelda, Fanto, and the demon-mage from the water.

"It is better, I think," said the woman slowly, "to be friends right now, don't you? ... I am Zelda. This is Fanto." She patted the unicorn's nose, and his eyes softened. "It's a shame to meet this way. If you two wouldn't mind, I would like something much better. A fire, perhaps, a hot meal, and your names."

She smiled shyly, moving past the pair to pluck her abandoned glove from the muck. With a sigh, she slipped it on and tugged it up to the elbow. "Does somewhere dry come to mind?" she asked, turning back to them. Fanto cantered up to her side, and she took her cloak from his back, fixing it about her throat and pulling up the hood. "I'm afraid I don't know the area very well."


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 Posted: Oct 1 2017, 06:41 PM
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At hearing Iagan's intentions, the demon-mage chuckled. "Seems you are fortunate in having no shortage of guardians. You are truly blessed, Zelda." He noted the tension exuding from the unicorn and withdrew his hand equally slowly, nodding to the unicorn with reverence.

He exhaled, relaxing slightly, his shoulders sagging as he looked to the phoenix, his eyes, too, relaxing in their gaze. "Indeed, too many foes in these trying times." As he said this, he trailed off, as if holding something back, considering. "... if fellowship prevents us becoming foes, then I too shall offer my hand." He noted the way the waters evaporated off his wingtip. "...proverbially speaking, of course." As if to clarify the light-heartedness of his comment, he chuckled before bowing lowly in respect to phoenix.

"My name...I am known as Rafaloth. " He pulled down the cloth around his mouth to speak more clearly. His face was ashen and somewhat gaunt, as if malnourished. He looked as he might keel over any moment as he scanned the environs. "I'm afraid I am but a wanderer myself. However, I did pass by a cave or two while wandering through these woods. What of you, feathered friend?" He looks to Iagan for his input on nearby dry-ish areas.

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Elffri3nd
 Posted: Oct 2 2017, 10:53 AM
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"I do suppose that it would be better to be a friend than a stranger." Rafaloth and Zelda seemed like nice enough people. He wouldn't mind at least getting to know them. However, a part of him wanted to be a lone, away from them. He hadn't want to get involved in the conflict if he didn't have but it seemed he had gotten to close. Iagan put on a smile and figured he would try his best to make the most out of this encounter.

Having come to terms with his current situation Iagan tried to think of an area that might be dry but he didn't know anywhere close. He had been sleeping in the rain. "I don't know of any where dry. When the commotion had started I had been sleeping on that branch over there." The Phoenix pointed to tree branch behind him using his thumb.

Rafaloth's suggestion seemed like their best option at the moment. It was fortunate for them that the demon had past by the cave. "If you lead us to the cave I can build us a fire." He did air quotes with his hands as he said build. Iagan did want to he bother with getting wood. Besides he was a Phoenix, the heat that came off him would keep them all warm.
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darkeh
 Posted: Oct 2 2017, 12:30 PM
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"Cave it is." Zelda gestured for Rafaloth to take the lead, and the trio fell into an uncomfortable silence; as they walked, the shar withdrew into her thoughts, leaving the unicorn at her side to guide her along the direction they took.

After a short time they left the road behind, moving into the wood itself. Near Coia, the forest wasn't nearly as wild, and the underbrush was young and easily broken. The sound of their passage grew louder - all except for Rafaloth's, Zelda noticed - but it was a small price to pay to get away from the sucking mud of the road, and soon the worst of the stuff was shed from the shar's clothing. She touched the back of her neck and felt water trickle down her spine.

Who were these strange companions, she wondered. Zelda looked from the back of Rafaloth's head sidelong to Iagan's youthful face. It wasn't hard to read the reluctance on the phoenix's features. He probably regretted speaking to them... a recluse, or a man on a mission? She smiled with the corner of her mouth. If it was the latter, why, they might have something in common.

The demon mage was another story. She had never seen a demon before, but there were few enough that bore the claws he did and could command the elements with such impunity. It surprised her to realize he had spoken the truth earlier: he was a wanderer. Behind them, the phoenix fretted, but the way the demon strode through the woods spoke of hours upon hours on the road. It took a special kind of patience, a personalized walk, to handle those long stretches of loneliness abroad. That, too, she would know.

"Ah." The trees suddenly cleared, and a rocky formation yawned in front of them. Boulders dropped from something long ago were scattered about the space, with several forming a haphazard wall. A great shelf of stone slanted down from it, half-covered in a layer of moss and low-growing brush. The shar looked up and could just barely see the road through the trees; it looked as if it had double-backed on itself, but from this angle, it would be difficult to see any evidence of their humble party camped out nearby. She walked forward and tapped the stone with an expression of relief.

Fanto nickered, choosing a spot with a particularly thick growth of grass. Zelda tugged on her sleeve and looked around. "We're lucky," she murmured. Well, lucky was a matter of opinion. There was plenty of dead wood lying about the clearing, but it was all slick with water. She gathered as much as she could and went into the shelter, pleasantly surprised at the room there was beneath the shelf. "You said you could make a fire? Will this be too wet for that? And... Rafaloth." Zelda looked at him as she set the wood down, dusting needles from her cloak. "Is it possible you could set any spells about the clearing for protection? I would, but..." She smiled faintly. "I'm a little tired."

And she was - but that wasn't the point. Zelda wanted to see what else this magician could do.

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 Posted: Oct 4 2017, 04:10 PM
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Zelda might notice that Rafaloth stole glances back at the two. A lazy glance, a lazy once-over, a lazy study - even the way he stepped along with his cane was not exactly hurried.

Perhaps lazy was not a good descriptor, but perhaps as if attempting to appear uninterested. The man would be an impeccable player of cards. Few hints were hidden in his facial expressions. Although one thing Zelda might notice is that he was studying mostly her face and hands, as if looking for clues as to her own character as well as that of Iagan. It also hinted at a melancholic meditation upon something.

Upon seeing her go for gathering wood, he followed suit in collecting wood, setting them down in the same pile, until she gave specific instruction.

At her request, his eyes narrowed slightly, as if sensing a slight ulterior motive. After a brief moment, he smirked.

"Of course, Zelda. However, once the fire is ablaze and we are protected, I do have quite a few questions." He paused, considering. "Perhaps I shall ask them in the form of sharing stories around a campfire. I hear that is a popular past time in these realms. I look forward to hearing what leads you down the paths you have chosen." He gives a teasing smile over his odd request. "I won't pry any more than you wish to share though."

The lanky demon stood, rolling his shoulders, and trudged over to the opening of the small cave. He readjusted his grip on his cane, and 'slashed' it upward, before slamming the cane down, stabbing the cave floor, and leaving it there, embedded in the ground, with the cane's head glowing with a low dark violet blacklight. The walls of the cave seemed to...waver, but otherwise, nothing seemed to have changed. However, if one viewed the cave from outside a boundary of a few feet, the cave would simply vanish from view. Stepping within range again would re-reveal the cave. If one was sensitive to reiatsu, they would notice even the reiatsu that would be emanating from such a place was hidden.

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Elffri3nd
 Posted: Oct 6 2017, 03:06 PM
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Iagan followed the group as they walked to the cave, he did his best to stay dry but the rain was annoying and found its way to him. The others seemed to be lost in thought but of what he didn't know. He didn't know that he cared to find out. At least they seemed like descent people and when they were in the cave Iagan would get to warm himself.

He helped on gathering wood. He had and armful and he set them down in a pile with what the Shar and the Demon had gathered. In response to Zelda's question he grabbed some of the small pieces of wood. "Yeah we'll have a fire before you know it." He began to put the wood in an effective fire making pile. He made a sort of box as he did. Iagan then grabbed whatever kindling he could find and stuck it in the middle. Finally he rubbed his hands together, with little effort he created a spark and made it into a ball of fire. He dropped it in the kindling and it exploded to life.

Iagan looked to where Rafaloth. The Phoenix barely got to see the man use his magic, only seeing the man finish whatever it was that he had done. "I'll be happy to answer whatever questions you may have but I haven't done anything notable. I've just traveled the world and return to the place I was born for extended periods of time." As Iagan spoke his body exploded into fire and reformed as a small bird.

Iagan could still speak as a phoenix but it was a little more difficult. The bird then hopped towards the fire. He seemed to let out a purr and spread his feathers as though he was warming himself. After a second if standing before the fire hopped into it and seemed to make a nest in the wood. Should the fire die down he would reach out with one talon and pull another log onto the fire. He would try his best not to leave the fire but he would hope out to grab further away logs.
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darkeh
 Posted: Oct 15 2017, 03:35 PM
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"I have a great deal of stories," Zelda replied, choosing a seat near the woodpile. Arranging herself in a crosslegged position, she began stripping off various damp outergarments, starting with her boots. Fanto settled behind her, his damp flanks rising and falling with the rhythm of his breathing as he set his elegant head upon the floor. "We can trade them, one for one. I, personally, would like to know how you came to be near Coi - oh, how beautiful."

The shar had raised a hand to her mouth in surprised pleasure. She was watching Iagan; or, more specifically, she was watching how the flames leapt and coiled around his feathers, which had taken on such vibrant hues of red and orange that they cast glowing reflections upon the cave walls like water. Some of the hardness in Zelda's face fell away as she leaned back, resting against the unicorn's belly, and basked in the phoenix's vitality.

"How beautiful," she murmured again. The shar removed her gloves - the last item, besides her cloak, boots, and a broad-waisted sash - in an unhurried fashion, pulling each finger free before she set the suede garments aside to dry by the fire. Her hands were smooth, unmarked; it was unclear why she wore the concealing cloth, given the lack of true cold in the region. She smiled at Rafaloth, her eyes searching his face for any evidence of shrewd calculation. "Please," she said, gesturing over the phoenix-fire. "Go first, and I will answer any question of yours freely."

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 Posted: Oct 15 2017, 08:03 PM
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The demon mage clapped quietly at watching Iagan's little light show as a phoenix. He offered a small smile, his eyes glittering with interest.

"Stories of life's journeys are not interesting because they are grand, but because they offer us ways of connecting. I do not know what it is like to live as a phoenix or a shar, and I doubt either of you are intimate with the macabre beauty of Kurai. That does not even begin to touch on the intricacies each of our personal experiences bring to such a tale." He smiled good-naturedly. "Pardon the cliche, of course. All I ask is you do not sell your own legend so short. I would definitely like to hear your story just as much as her's or as much as she is interested in listening to my threadbare yarn of a tale."

As the shar studied his face, she might notice...yes, he was studying them both. But it was in the way a friend studies another friend to see what was ailing them. As if he was looking for what was on her mind. His eyes flickered over her gloves, but beyond that, little else was truly transparent.

"Mn. My story...well I'm obviously of demonic origin, as you've noticed." He removed his headwraps to reveal his three-inch curved horns protruding from his forefront of his temples. As he spoke, his face assumed that tired gaze he had when dealing with the shriekans from earlier. "I was of prestigous noble blood - of the proud Famine Kingdom. I was part of the Order of Hikari - a Master Sorcerer. I was in charge of no small part of Famine demon troop, as we constantly clashed with the other three kingdoms."

"Then came that day when I was almost killed." As he stated this, his brow furrowed. "In this particular skirmish, I had been struck with a poisoned dagger. The coward was not able to escape my magic, but I was left heavily weakened. And then a batallion of War kingdom elite troops came under the leader of a female N'Vaen. I was alone.

She could have easily killed me. Instead, she had me treated, and kept me as her prisoner, under a simple condition: I could challenge her once. If I won, I could go free and claim her head as a prize. If I lost, my blood would serve as sustenance for her army." He paused, closing his eyes. "I won. Narrowly, but I did. Yet, for whatever reason, something in me found the thought of killing her after being given that chance at freedom...repulsive. Instead, I simply took my leave. And on the way back to my own lands, I meditated on the reasons why I felt such disgust at the idea."

His garmented shoulders shrugged. "I believe it was honor as a form of pride. Our god, Zailen, does not only represent famine itself, but pride. This revelation changed how I fought battles...and...well, several of my own men took exception to that. About a century later, that exception led to me being mutinied and left for dead in Evylon."

His eyes opened, a forlorn gaze dancing in them. "Again, I was shown mercy by a good samaritan of an angel. At first, the thought disgusted me, but something from the previous encounter had shown me that sometimes it was better to wait and see. We just so happened to share a lot in common. A questioning of tradition. An unease with seeing things so black and white. A desire for something beyond what we were spoonfed."

A deep breath. "She eventually let me free as well. Perhaps I am blessed with bountiful luck, perhaps I am destined for some higher purpose - who knows? I gave her my gratitude. And since then, I have had a lot of time to think and meditate upon these sorts of thoughts. I wander the lands and afford others second chances as well." He then grinned coyly, looking straight at Zelda. "As far as why Coia? I just happened to be in the area. Perhaps something about your plight called out to me." He chuckled as he taunted, teased her.

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