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18+ The Corrupted Guardian: Death in the Family

Discussion in 'Active Stories' started by The Honorable Gidian the Diva, Feb 6, 2014.

  1. The Honorable Gidian the Diva

    The Honorable Gidian the Diva Sahrot Vahlok Spaan. Bahnahgaar. Minion #88!

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    Skadi had survived a great deal in her relatively short life. Happy moments were sparse, and hard times plentiful. This entire experience, from the moment she had been... attacked in the palace, had been the most dramatic change of pace in her entire life. To say she had been a recluse would be a massive understatement. She rarely ever left the palace and, even when she did, it was a small affair in which she tried to draw as little attention as possible. Her sister had always told her it was for her own protection, and Skadi believed her. Assassination had been a constant threat, via direct means or indirect. The thought of poisoned food sent chills down her spine now, snapping her back to reality as she struggled to keep pace with Gidian.

    She almost wished she could go back to her distracted musings, but now that she’d been drawn out she was forced to confront a new horror, one which she thought she’d be better prepared for after the packed confines of the arena and its denizens. But she wasn't. The roar of the crowd only got louder. And louder. And louder. Then it was practically shaking the ground under her feet and the walls around her, the flames of the torches dancing in tune as the crowd stomped their feet in unison. Her mind went back to when she'd first arrived, the hordes closing in on her and grabbing at her, and she gulped despite herself.

    How many people would she see on the other side of that gate? She had never been a people person. She'd barely been around people. She'd never been among large groups and she'd never been the center of attention. A shiver went down her spine, her face paled, and she couldn't keep her hands still. Even worse, she didn't think she'd be able to keep her meal down…

    The big gates, built to allow for creatures much bigger than what was passing now, began to rumble as it was raised steadily. She closed her eyes and tried to compose herself, but when she opened them she found everyone else had stepped forward already, and she had to rush to keep up. She almost tripped on her own feet. Shaking her head, she made a point to focus on the arena ahead and not the crowd. Anything but the crowd. She didn't even hear the announcer as he declared their fate.

    But she did hear the other big gate rumbling, and her heart dropped as she saw the warriors approaching them. We're dead. She stared with a grim fascination at the Dwarven machinery and crude furs working in tandem, creating a feel that was both advanced and powerful, yet at the same time appealing to something more… primal. Especially the spider. She'd never seen anything like this in her life, and the only reason her jaw didn't drop in her wide eyed horror was because she was too busy clenching it, her expression almost frozen while faced with the terrors of these new mechanical monsters and that of the crowd.

    She saw the Boar reaching for a spear, and her mind dimly registered that she should move. But she couldn't. She tried to will her muscles to move, tried to get out of the way, but her body remained locked in place, rational thought far gone.

    But she didn't have to. Gidian grabbed her and pulled her out of the way to safety. She had seen him fight. Many times. He'd had to deal with countless would be assassins, betrayers, and all of that like during his stay in the Palace. She had never seen him lose, never as much as come close to it. She had been terrified of him. But surely now, he would get her out of this alive? And he'd have help from…

    Everyone else. Everyone else who had just ran in different directions. But not Maere, Maere had stayed. And Dolun… who was running away now. But Gidian could do this… he had to…

    But he wasn't. Her hopes had lifted at first, when he'd seemed to have the upper hand, but the Boar wouldn't die, and the Spider was fast. It started looking pretty clear that he was going to lose… but she couldn’t bring herself to move. Until, finally, he came crashing back to the sand, unable to stand up again. Maere looked at Skadi, and she looked back. Skadi’s expression was one of numb shock and absolute disbelief. And then Maere ran to Gidian, and Skadi found the strength to follow. Somehow.

    Maere assessed the damage and futilely tried to cut the webbing but gave up after a glance in the Boar’s direction. She then looked at Skadi, trying to get her attention. "Spero!" Skadi didn’t register that she meant her at first. She had forgotten that she was supposed to be Spero, and not Skadi. She pulled out a potion of some sort and passed it to Skadi, after saying words that Skadi didn’t really absorb, but nodded anyways. She could guess from the gestures that she meant Skadi to give it to Gidian. But if I’m giving him the potion…

    She connected the dots as Maere began to get to her feet, and seemed to be gathering herself for something. Skadi’s eyes opened wide in alarm, and she reached out to grab Maere’s wrist. “Don’t.” was all she could muster, barely audible over the roaring of the crowd. But she pulled away to face her death.

    She looked at Gidian then, who was still mumbling. She looked at the vial. Then back at Gidian. She tried to get him to drink it several times, trying to pour a little into his mouth (which he resisted), and even tried to force some down his throat with little success. It didn't help that the more he revived, the more he struggled. She looked up to see how Maere was fairing, risking her life to buy time. And the girl was definitely brave. But one look told Skadi that it wouldn’t last long. She glared back at Gidia, and yelled, “WAKE UP!” as loud as she could muster, starting to hit him in frustration, trying desperately to get him to drink. The. Damn. Potion!

    And it was slow going, but he did drink it. Most of it. He recovered, grabbed her by the throat, and threw her to the side like she didn’t weigh anything as he came roaring to life from whatever nightmare he has been trapped in.

    Not a moment too soon, either. He was just in time, thankfully, to save Maere. Although it certainly sounded like it had hurt, as she ran as fast as she could to help Maere. Although she didn’t know what exactly she could do to help. As she approached, she could see Maere smiling softly. It was a new look for her, for it wasn’t necessarily a smile because she was happy, nor did the smile reach her eyes. No, it was the sort a monster would wear in one of her books as it smelled fear in its opponent. The best word she could think of to describe it was predatory. “Spero, we need to take advantage of this.” Maere called out, standing up straight as she looked back to Skadi, who was looking at Maere confused. She pointed to the tangled boar before them, and spoke again. “We might not get another chance like this. Let’s see if we can find a soft spot in that armor. If we can exploit it, maybe we can make this a somewhat even fight.” Skadi at first didn’t register what she was saying, and then didn’t really believe it after she’d processed it. The Boar was still dangerous, even knocked down. It would only take one swipe from him, or one unlucky kick, and it would shatter their bones.

    But, as Maere stalked closer to it, Skadi fell in with her, following the girl’s lead. She sensed that their best chance of survival would be to stick together, even if she didn’t entirely feel confident in the idea. In fact, it seemed like a rather stupid idea to her.

    ‘Remember the next time you ridicule us that stupidity is only a few steps from courage.’ she shivered at the memory as her harsh evaluations came back to haunt her. The irony left a bitter taste in her mouth, and a slight feeling of shame as perspective tends to do.

    Maere and Skadi watched the Boar struggle for a few moments, before they spotted an opportunity and exploited it. They wrapped the webs even more thoroughly around his arms, and then his head, until they were sure there he wasn’t going anywhere fast. Most of the threat neutralized, Maere began examining the Boar for a weakness, but Skadi saw what was happening to Gidian. Inwardly, as her attitude was shifting and she was finally acclimating, she cursed. Gidian had managed to end up on the losing end against the Spider. Maere looked at her, then Skadi pointed, and Maere was off again to, once again, save Gidian while Skadi stayed behind to try and tried to find a weak spot in the Boar’s armor.

    It didn’t actually take long. She identified the eyes, small portions of the neck, the joints, and especially the armpits as soft spots. The armor was thick however, and so reaching the eyes would be difficult (though the Boar payed for this with extremely limited vision). Gidian had already tried to kill him via the neck and that hadn’t worked, so she didn’t imagine most of the joints would go any better. The armpits however were possible, though trying to reach them would most likely result in death. When Maere returned, she could offer nothing.

    And then things got worse. Skadi watched at first in morbid fascination, and then shock and horror as the armor began to open itself like a shell, forcing the webbing apart and freeing the man inside. Maere tried desperately to stop it, but was merely shoved away as the man jumped to his feet and hurled one of his monstrous spears, which Maere was thankfully able to dodge… but Skadi quickly realized he hadn’t been aiming for Maere. “LOOK OUT!” she shouted as loud as she could, hoping Gidian could hear her over the crowd.

    The feeling of relief when he did was almost indescribable, as she found she had been holding her breath, seeing the spear fly in almost slow motion. But she quickly realized they were out of the house fire, only to run into a forest fire. Gidian could only do so much against the Boar as they ran to help, but Maere had forgotten about the Spider, who knocked Skadi away with minimal effort as she closed in. Then things went from a forest fire to an inferno as Skadi saw the Spider uncork and drink a potion, her already frail hopes starting to completely diminish.

    Gidian somehow managed to turn the tables on the Boar, giving her a small degree of hope to latch onto, but neither Maere nor Skadi could prevent the Spider from interfering now. Skadi would have screamed if she could as she saw the web ignite in a sudden shower of electricity, the Spider herself sending wild tendrils in all directions, her entire body suddenly glowing with power. The sight was mostly menacing, but maybe it was a sign that Skadi had finally and truly lost it as she felt the urge to laugh at the woman's hair.

    The feeling died as soon as the Boar took the web from the Spider and tossed Gidian clear across the ring, only to slam right into one of the others. As she and Maere ran back to the others to regroup, she began to go over what she had observed, trying to accomplish something. She'd noticed the Spider's mechanical limbs seemed to be somehow linked to her mind, as during her fight with Gidian she had started to fall into predictable patterns as fatigue and injury set in, and after she had received the concussions their operation seemed to stop altogether. She wasn't sure about the electricity now though… and the Boar had shed his shell, but apparently that didn't make much of a difference. He either had an enormously thick skull, or some other form of natural defense. Earlier his neck had received a rather thorough crushing and had no real effect. She'd assumed it was because of his armor, but now she wasn't so sure something else entirely was at work. And it didn't take a genius to guess it had something to do with the Dwarven Cores he had plugged into himself at several points on the weird remnants of his armor. The Spider's electricity and control over the extra limbs were probably also linked to a similar device.

    But dismantling the cores wasn't exactly a great option, as getting close to either of the two would most likely end in death. Especially the Spider. But maybe there was a way… the webbing had held down the Boar before, and she'd turned off the electricity running through her web when the Boar had grabbed it to throw Gidian. So obviously she would have to be careful of friendly fire…

    She was snapped out of her musing abruptly as she took in Gidian lying on the ground, Belzebub and Dolun (who had apparently been fighting together against the Ferrets and Wolf) finally driven back to the line, and their last compatriot standing with nothing but a molten shield. The good news was that he had at least disabled his opponents, for the time being if nothing else. As everyone prepared for round three, Skadi decided it was time to at least try and help. She'd finally managed to swallow her shock and now a fiery, albeit still somewhat timid determination remained. Survival was a good motivator.

    She drew her two knives, tapping Baroth with one to get his attention. She gestured to the webbing still attached to Gidian, and then to the metallic Boar shell which still laid on the ground entangled, hoping Baroth would get the message. By now, verbal communication would be impossible for Skadi as her voice was far too quiet.

    She just hoped Maere could get Gidian back on his feet. Although the circumstances had changed, he was still the only one who had experienced the duo's fighting styles, and had managed to at least begin to turn things around. Baroth's learning curve would be far, far steeper now. And so will mine, she realized, as for better or worse, they would need all the help they could get.

    The Spider approached from one side, mechanical limbs all bared and crackling with electricity, as if trying to make herself look bigger and more intimidating. It worked, especially with the electric tendrils. By contact, the Spider's natural body was in a relaxed and sassy pose, one hand on her hip as she slowly approached.

    The Boar matched her calm demeanor, and slowly they advanced together. Skadi looked behind her at the others, and realized they were standing in a rough circle around Maere and Gidian, with the Wolf approaching from the other side and the Ferrets tending to the Bat and Raven. She didn't know why they were still so confident, being reduced to a fighting team of three against Skadi and the others. But then she looked at the condition Belzebub and Dolun had been left in against the Wolf. Dolun especially looked like one's hand looks after it's been dragged through a knife drawer, only everywhere. Blood and sweat leaked down from his forehead and constantly obscured his left eye, which he was desperately trying to clear with a rag. Belzebub seemed to be in good shape though, so there was that.

    It was then that Skadi realized turning her head away for so long had been a huge mistake.
     
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  2. Keidivh

    Keidivh Noble exile of High Rock

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    Rolard woke with a start, screaming in rage and terror, refusing to be dragged to the Arena to die an animals death. He was confused to wake up not surrounded by Imperial Guards, but rather in his room in Akaire, laying in soft silk sheets of blue and white, pictures of Breton history hanging on the walls. And by his side laid Alissa, still asleep, her golden hair covering her face and tumbling across the bed. Rolard falls back onto the bed, beyond relieved to have awoken from the nightmare. After relishing in the quiet for a moment, he reached over to look upon his Nordic love, pushing away her hair from her face, but was caught off guard by a horrific site. Alissa lay dead, her throat slit, and beautiful icy eyes gouged out. Rolard fell out of the bed and reeled away, gasping in terror, choking down a scream of anguish. He stared at the lifeless corpse of Alissa, shock reeling through him as he began to realize that he was simply caught in another nightmare. Desperate to escape this reality he charged out of the room, only to find a sight far worse than he could have ever imagined. His home in flames, the screams of the townspeople filling the air as he looked upon the carnage, he walked through the winding passages, littered with the corpses of his house guard and servants until he finally came upon the main courtyard, and was brought to his knees by what he beheld. His mother, sprawled out in the center of the square, mutilated and violated, and the head of his father atop the wall, stuck on a spike, a look of horror and sorrow permanently etched on his face. What truly terrified him, was the sight of his siblings. Held by barbaric Breton mercenaries of Lord Blardyn, knives to each of their throats. He tried to rush to their aid, kill their captors, but was held back by chains that had erupted from the earth and dragged him to the ground. He could only watch, helpless as his sibling were executed before his eyes. Vaynar glared at him, contempt and disappointment evident in his face.

    You were supposed to protect us. Protect her.” It was all Vaynar could say before his throat was slit, and the life drained out of his eyes. Hot tears streamed down his face as he watched his brother collapse, and trembled as he caught his sisters eyes, disbelief in her young, terrified eyes.

    Rol… Don’t let the bad men hurt me. You said you wouldn’t let them.” Tears falling from her azure eye, the knife slipped across her throat, bringing forth a flow of crimson.

    Ellia! Please Divines no! Not like this.” Rolard wailed to the heavens, his body wracked in grief, before finally a hammer was brought crashing into his face.


    However it seemed death was yet to grace Rolard, instead he was met with a mouth full of dirt and sand, mixed with a taste of blood and sweat. He gagged and spat out foul taste from his mouth and groggily pushed himself up from his trauma induced slumber, his head still throbbing. Slowly he began to recall what had occurred, and a sinking feeling ate away inside him as he realized where he was.

    Stendarr watch over me.” He muttered as he pushed himself up from the sand and stood up to look at his new surroundings. It was a dark, dank arena, far smaller then the true things. A testing ground of some kind most likely, to weed out the weak and unamusing. Or perhaps for enjoyment of the guard and VIP guests? Not that it mattered. It spelled his death either way. He looked down to his feet to find an unconscious Bosmer laying at them. He was curious if this was to be his partner or opponent, and did his best to assess her if it was the latter. She was obviously quite short, and her body lithe, looking as if he could break her arms with ease. But his time with Grove had shown him how powerful an unassuming Bosmer could be. She likely held great strength in her wiry figure, and great speed as well. He’d have to find a way to throw her off balance if she got in close, but her light armor told him she was most likely a skirmisher.

    As he observed her though, he slowly began to realize there was another near him, and this one wasn’t incapacitated. He turned with a start. Falling back into a defensive stance, he reflexively went for his sword, only to find it no longer in his sheath. They took it. The weapon of his ancestors was in the hands of another, and it was his fault. Not only that but they left him in bloody rags, stripping him of his invaluable armor. I’ll burn this entire complex to the ground for such a slight. This dark thought continued to run through his head as he looked over the other prisoner in the arena. He was an Argonian obviously, his burnt red scales almost glistening in the torch light, his bestial eye looking over him carefully. He was fairly tall, only a few inches shorter than himself, and had a lean musculature like himself as well. The scar over his eye suggested he had clearly seen combat before, and was likely an experienced fighter. Which could be good or bad for him.


    Hail Argonian? Are you a friend here? Or am I to skewer you?” Likely not the best of introductions, but he wasn’t in the best of moods.
     
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    #122 Keidivh, Jun 6, 2016
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  3. Melee

    Melee Codename: Maverick

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    Solenne had just barely regained consciousness after encountering the guards, only to find now that she was in pain. A lot of pain. The fact that she somehow seemed to be moving and rolling and bumping around didn't help. It hurt to open her eyes, thanks to the giant bruise forming on the back of her head from the sword hilt she had been hit with, but from the sounds outside and the course wood scratching her face it seemed that she was in a wagon slowly making its way to the Arena.

    It would probably be best to just keep her eyes closed. Since the sack covering her head had been removed, opening them only brought pain, and what she could make out through her swimming vision was just darkened blobs that were more likely than not other prisoners. Well, Solenne thought with bitterness and a touch of amusement, if I end up dying here, at least I won't have to deal with the Arena. She didn't think she would get that lucky.

    By now she could tell they were getting close to the Arena; the roars and chants of attendees and other fighters had grown deafening. Sure enough, the wagon lurched to a halt a moment later, and the reality of what Solenne was about to experience hit her like a ton of bricks. She would be forced to fight other people imprisoned here, pitted against fighters who were bigger, faster, stronger than her. Ruthless prisoners and those experienced in combat, determined to either live or attempt, however foolishly, to make a name for themselves here.

    This didn't make any sense. She was just a hunter, one people shouldn't even be aware of, considering the fact that she rarely visited towns and cities. How could she have attracted any attention to herself? Why did they want her, of all people? Solenne was still trying to wrap her head around the whole situation when she heard the wagon door open and a guard started berating one of the other occupants, an Argonian, to get out. She winced and groaned slightly as she felt herself being pulled across the floor of the wagon and unceremoniously thrown over the shoulder of a guard. Taunts and jeers were being screamed at them one right after the other, particularly aimed at the Argonian.

    Solenne tried to block out the roar of onlookers and the sounds of a brief fight that seemed to have broken out nearby in an attempt to open her eyes and take in her surroundings. Everything was still a bit hazy, but from what she could make out, they were making their way down a series of winding, bleak hallways. The path they were taking seemed to go on forever, but given the size of the Arena, she imagined someone could walk through the hallways for a whole day and not even get through a quarter of the building. She hadn't made much of an attempt to map the course they were taking; after they had walked for 5 minutes and she realized all the hallways looked the same, there didn't seem to be much of a point.

    They eventually reached their destination, where Solenne was jarred back to complete consciousness after she was tossed into what looked to be a fighting ring on a sandy dirt floor. She looked around her, grumbling under her breath and massaging the shoulder that had brunt the majority of her fall. They seemed to be in a miniature version of the Arena; they were surround by rows of seats, but this room was tiny compared to the enormity that was the main fighting area.

    She turned around to see two other occupants in the ring with her, both standing in fairly defensive stances. One looked to be a Breton; tall and clearly of great strength as well. While he was angry and certainly looked intimidating, he looked too.. Clean and well kept to be a common criminal that would normally be thrown into the Arena. The most interesting thing she noticed from her brief inspection was the dark blue streaked along the right side of his face. A beautiful color, she thought, but it probably wasn't chosen for its pleasing hue alone. The other occupant was the Argonian, a sash tied around his face so that it covered one of his eyes. Is he blind? Solenne frowned as she thought. If he was, it didn't look like it hindered him very much. He was lean and fit, and didn't look like he was any stranger to fighting. His dark red scales stood out against the dark plain clothes he was wearing, and his tail flicked calmly as he looked between her and the Breton with his exposed eye.

    The Breton soon threw a challenge to the Argonian, asking if he was friend or foe. Solenne shrank back slightly at the tone. It was a given that anyone in here would be less than friendly to others, especially if they're strangers. But the fact that he was asking rather than flat out attacking was a good sign. Right? Maybe they could join together. That would increase their likelihood of surviving, surely.

    She took a deep breath and slowly stood up, patting the dust off her shaky legs. "I don't know if this counts for anything. But I'm putting myself in the 'friend' category." Solenne looked between them, exuding calmness but ready to run at the first sign of danger.
     
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  4. Archer Drake

    Archer Drake Parkour Enthusiast

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    Kiyoshi slowly got to his feet as sounds of movement echoed from behind him. It appears the others are waking up. Kiyoshi sighed to himself, it was time to finally get to know the others, regardless of whether or not he cared for them. While Kiyoshi’s skill was razor-sharp in combat, he seriously doubted he could survive on his own. It had been years since he had seen battle, save for the skirmishes with foolish bandits from time to time. He’d need help. The Breton was the first to get to his feet, and slowly took in his surroundings, his attention fixed on the still form of the Bosmer. This man didn’t seem the most perceptive, but he could have sustained injuries prior that hindered his abilities at the moment. Kiyoshi grunted in frustration, a cleric would be invaluable considering who, or what, he would have to face inside this bloody prison. He wasn’t sure if he could call upon the Hist to heal himself anymore. Kiyoshi shuddered at the thought, the notion that he may not be a true Argonian.

    A half-ling.

    A betrayer.


    The Breton turned to Kiyoshi, slightly startled, and almost immediately reached for a phantom sword, clearly angered at it’s absence. Hm, if I can access a forge, I may be able to gain this man’s favor. Kiyoshi remained still as this man asked him of his intentions in a rather strange manner, his lone eye shining in the dull light. Before Kiyoshi could respond, the Bosmer rose to her feet and answered the Breton’s question, seeming to display both confidence and caution simultaneously. Kiyoshi couldn’t help but like her. It was a strange reaction, but something about her demeanor seemed familiar, and her attitude was respectable. She wasn’t reserved, nor was she overly aggressive, like the Breton. Ah, she was even curious. He caught her eyes lingering on his sash, the very slight mark of confusion on her face, if only for a heartbeat.

    Kiyoshi did not wish to start a fight with either of these two, so he did his best to sound friendly and diplomatic. He bowed deeply and rested his hands in front of him, showing he had nothing to hide.

    “You may consider me as friend. Both of you. Unless you intend to become my enemy, that is.”
    He paused a moment. “I suppose I shall start the introductions. My name is Kiyoshi Ryudo, swordsman and traveling merchant.” Kiyoshi’s voice wavered slightly as he spoke. He was telling two blatant lies, at least. A lie, yes; but a partial truth as well. Since when did speaking to others become so much of a chore? He briefly considered correcting himself, but the thought sounded ridiculous, even to him.

    The thought brought a very slight grin to his face, slightly bolstering his friendly appearance. I’m digging my own grave. Someone will find out eventually. Lies and misdirection will not help.

    While he doubted either of the two would buy his impression, it did dissipate any signs of violence from the strange-looking Argonian.

    He hoped.
     
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    #124 Archer Drake, Jun 16, 2016
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  5. fellowknight

    fellowknight "I am the danger! I am the one who knocks!"

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    Baroth, however, wouldn't get the chance to secure a length of the webbing. Not now anyways, with the both the Boar and Spider stalking towards him and Spero. On closer inspection, he found that board HAD been damaged in his tussle with Gidian, but the injuries themselves were hardly noticeable, and they did little to nothing impeding him. The Spider looked well thrashed, but all her limbs, mechanical or not, were fully functional, as well as her previously electrified webs. And she still had the gall to saunter and smirk like she'd won the day.

    Baroth did note that one of those webs was in the Boar's hand, and therefore left her to disable the electricity she put in her webs. If he could get enough distance between the two, maybe he could tangle the Boar up and anchor the Spider long enough to get is some critical hits. His gaze again went to the pile of entangled armor, and another idea poked his brain. He nudged Spero, hoping to get her attention.

    "I'll keep them busy," he kept eyes on the duo, anticipating a first strike. "But I need you to weaken the webbing on that armor over there.."

    One glance and he realized Spero wasn't even looking at him, and had probably missed his message. By the time she'd looked, movement tickled Baroth's vision and a web strand latched onto the lip of his shield.

    "Enough of this!" The Spider cried impatiently, yanking on the line. Baroth clung to the handle and reeled backwards, locking himself in place as another web latched to his shield.

    "The armor! Go!" He yelled as loud as he could over the noise of the Arena.

    Another strand and Baroth started to slide through the sand, quietly surprised of the Spider's strength in her mechanical limbs. He spotted the Boar taking advantage of the situation by stalking up to his right, but before he could near him, a tidal wave of paralyzing pain poured into Baroth and forced him to release his shield. -

    Teeth gritted, Baroth absorbed the strikes at his ribs and lead the Boar in for more, using his momentum to floor him if only momentarily. He found an elasticity in the webs and used his shieldas a sort of frisbee, yanking backwards to release in a slingshot manner back at the Spider. She easily countered the notion, whipping the shield away from herself as the Boar regained his feet and slammed into Baroth.

    The two colossals tumbled to the ground in a death struggle and coiled over one another, their strengths almost matched if not for the Boar's enhancements and Baroth's injuries. Baroth was able to draw his sword, but the Boar made quick work of disarming him by exploiting his wounds and damaged armor. Some what outraged, Baroth smeared a handful of sand in the Boar's eyes only to be stricken across his face, the Boar getting the literal upper hand.

    The Spider had managed to reposition during their scuffle, risking a few strands on Baroth's arms so as to constrict him and hopefully ensure his gruesome demise. Out of her peripheral however, she noticed the small figure of Spero working on the entangled armor with her pocket knife. Another victorious smirk graced her lips as she moved to silence the little brat once and for all. However, a rather forceful tug jarred her to the side and brought her attention back to Baroth.

    He had managed to kick the Boar's feet out and coil the webs around his neck, feet planted on his back to tighten the hold. The Spider reacted almost immediately and rather violently, snapping several of the webs as she sped towards them. Baroth released the Boar, whom rolled to the side swiftly, and regained his feet, charging to meet the Spider head on.

    He realized wrapping the Boar in those webs wouldn't buy him much time, but he could at least stall the Spider long enough for Spero and the others to regroup. But from the anguish of the Spider's face, Baroth could've most certainly anticipated her relentless onslaught.

    It was instantaneous from the first blow to the fifth, and Baroth found himself soon lost in the maze and flurries the Spider was so easily able to dish out. She made every opening a weakness and ensured each opportunity Baroth had to retaliate was a trap. He stuck a hand out to catch one of her limbs, only to feel the surge of electricity force his release and further deplete his energy. Exhaustion once again set in, and their tussle soon came to a predictable conclusion, Baroth fumbling to land on his back in the sand.

    He coughed up what he could only assume was blood and not the contents of his stomach, but the Spider left him no reprieve as she clamored over him, razor-sharp legs stabbing blindly. She made an easy end of his struggle by entrapping his legs and pinning his arms back above his head. He was completely vulnerable for the moment.

    The Spider wasn't satisfied enough with his vulnerability, however, and decided to dig into his sides with her free limbs.

    "Poor..Poor Baroth.." She taunted, arcing down to lock eyes with him. "All alone.. Always on the run. They said you were dangerous, a real monster.. But seeing you now.." One of her limbs pressed to his neck, digging into the skin. Baroth's fists clenched in response, as he found a slit in between the limbs. Audible snapping could be heard, as the Boar finally got loose of his ties and rose to his feet, albeit slowly. "You're just wasting my ti-"

    Baroth cut her off with a feral headbutt, sending her backwards. He didn't stop there, rolling a foot up to connect with her temple, further disorienting her. He felt the lip of his shield and whirled it over himself to block the Spider's newfound vigor. The Boar set his gaze on them, eyes ablaze with fury as he launched himself forward to intervene. For just a moment, they locked in place.

    "Bad news lady.." Baroth growled through his teeth. "They didn't tell you enough.."

    The Boar bisected them, shoulder-checking Baroth's shield which sent him tumbling through the sand and into a kneel. While he was quick to regain his focus and maintain his posture, he certainly couldn't keep this up for much longer. On that note, he risked dipping into the cesspool of his adrenaline for a short amount of time.

    A new fire was about him in seconds, his eyes steady and brow set, though smeared with blood, he was ready for another bout. "Let's try this again!" He bellowed, internally hoping the others had come together and overpowered the stragglers. And it wasn't more than a second for the Boar and Spider to commune, before they converged on Baroth. Rolling his jaw, Baroth leaped up from his kneel to meet their next onslaught.
     
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    #125 fellowknight, Jun 27, 2016
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  6. Keidivh

    Keidivh Noble exile of High Rock

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    When Rolard heard the Bosmer stir he took a few steps back, ensuring his back was towards the grim, lifeless walls of the arena, waiting for deceit or an attack. To his relief and surprise none came, and found that both of his fellow prisoners seemed amiable enough, or at least hadn’t assaulted him right away which was a welcome change from the past day. Seeing that he had a few moments where he wasn’t in fatal danger, Rolard relaxed his stance and an easy smile replaced the challenging grimace that was etched onto his face.

    The Argonian was the first to properly introduce himself, although it was a shaky introduction at best. Rolard had spent countless hours picking up on the smallest of vocal and body cues, and the wavering in this ‘Kiyoshi’s’ voice was easy to detect on for him. It was as if the man struggled to have a simple conversation. He speaks two sentences, and already there’s a mystery. What secrets are you hiding beast man? He shot an inquisitive smirk towards him. It had been a long time since he had the pleasure of manipulating others to discover their secrets. If he lived long enough, maybe he could pry some of his out… Although getting out of this room alive would have to be his priority for now. Still, he liked the Argonian well enough, his poor attempt at deceit was endearing almost. Reminded him of how Ellia would try and lie about stealing sweet rolls from the kitchen. Adorable.

    Friends of mine call me Rol, and seeing as we’re all friends you can call me the same!” He exclaimed, slowly approaching his new companions. “I’m a sell-sword myself, might buy us a few extra days of life down here. That is if I get my hands on a bloody sword.” He tried to appear as friendly as possible, something he used to not have to force. He walked up to the one eyed Argonian and extended his arm in greeting. “A pleasure to meet you, merchant.” He accentuated the word only slightly, if only to mess with him a bit.

    “And what of you she-elf? What do we call you?” And in what ways can you help me survive?

    She seemed like a kind enough girl. Confident, cautious. She could be useful, if she knew how to fight. Or at the very least she'd be good company until the arena tore her to pieces. What a shame that would be.

    But better them than him.
     
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  7. Melee

    Melee Codename: Maverick

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    The Breton's demeanor changed immensely once Solenne and the Argonian had announced their peaceful intentions, and a tentative, cooperative foundation was laid between the trio. She gave a small sigh, mostly of relief, before answering Rol's question. "You can call me Solenne. It's nice meeting you, Rol and Kiyoshi." Solenne paused for a moment, remembering the circumstances they found themselves in. "Or it would be. If we weren't here and about to fight for our lives." She grinned wryly; the laughable events that led her to this point seemed like such a long time ago, though it had happened just hours before.

    Solenne's mind flickered back to their introductions, surprised that they hadn't commented on her being there. At first glance, it probably looked like she could be nothing to them but a pawn they could use to stay alive just a bit longer. A small, living shield they could use to block a killing blow. Surely they were thinking it, even if they wouldn't say so out loud. She had to prove that she was useful, that her skills with a bow justified keeping her alive.

    That had to be why she was here, right? Solenne had obviously been set up when she went to sell her furs, and the little bits of what the guard had said that she remembered seemed to imply it. But it just didn't make sense. The world outside of Riften, aside from the occasional, small-time merchant, shouldn't even know she exists.

    "So," Solenne said, breaking herself out of her tiring mental block, "What are both of you in for? You don't look like the types that one would expect to find at the Arena." Even if Rol and Kiyoshi were in here for legitimate reasons, and people were thrown into the Arena for the smallest of crimes, it still didn't match up to her. From the waver she had heard in his voice, it didn't seem that Kiyoshi was the type for unnecessary violence, even with that line about "intending to become enemies". She'd been surprised before though, and he had mentioned he was a swordsman. She would be sure to keep an eye out for anything unusual.

    Rol, on the other hand, had been defensive from the beginning, not that she could blame him. He was certainly cautious and not afraid to fight. Once they had each said their piece about being "friends" however, it was almost as if a switch had flipped in him. But his geniality seemed genuine, if a bit rough around the edges. They both seemed like good people to have on her side.

    Now she just had to prove that she was worth having on theirs.
     
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  8. Archer Drake

    Archer Drake Parkour Enthusiast

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    Kiyoshi stood silently as his company spoke, half absorbed in his own thoughts. A terrible habit, he mused. While he didn’t care much for introductions - even more so with a Breton and Bosmer in the bowels of what was essentially a mass grave – Kiyoshi had a particular distaste for “Rol’s” introduction. It was blatantly obvious Rol picked up on the wavering in Kiyoshi’s voice, and it wasn’t surprising. No, what put Kiyoshi on the defensive was his dramatic personality change.

    One moment he was threatening and defensive, and the next he was overly friendly and emphasized specific words as if to get under Kiyoshi’s skin. Hm, it seems my relations with Bretons are doomed, Kiyoshi thought with an exasperated sigh.

    Regardless of what Solenne and Rol thought, they lacked any other information about the red-scaled Argonian. Well enough. I’ll wait to reveal my true hand until they reveal theirs. Kiyoshi paused, reveal my true hand? Since when have you done that, Nerian?

    Kiyoshi shook the thought from his mind and returned his attention to the others. Now wasn’t the time for those thoughts. The Breton, Solenne, was asking what brought her company to the Arena, pointing out that they didn’t appear as common criminals. Kiyoshi shook his head,

    “May I offer some advice? Telling one they do not appear as a criminal, and thus, less dangerous is foolish. It tells me…others, that you do not expect us to stab you in the back. Assume everyone is dangerous.” Kiyoshi paused, hoping that neither of the two would catch his mistakes. He closed his eye for a moment and drew a long breath, letting it out slowly as he walked away from the others. It had been too long since his last battle, and he needed to focus.

    Kiyoshi strode back to his spot in the center of the Arena and sat back on his haunches, facing away from the others. He grabbed a fistful of the tainted sand and let it run through his fingers, carrying the scent of blood with it. The sand reminded Kiyoshi of the rough sparring rings in the Akaviri outposts. Five fifteen-foot circles of sand set around a large brazier. The air always smelled of herbs, and the dark, soil-mixed sand reeked of blood. A single memory rushed into Kiyoshi’s mind.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------

    He stood in a defensive stance, a pockmarked bamboo training sword in hand. A much older man suddenly swept into view, his own bamboo sword rising in an arc towards young Kiyoshi. Before the young Argonian could react, the sword caught him in the face, sending him crashing to the ground. The older man stepped and brought the tip of his sword within inches of Kiyoshi’s neck.

    “Again,” he ordered. Kiyoshi picked himself up and resumed his stance, only to be struck across the face again, this time harder.

    “Again,” the man ordered, a disappointed scowl creasing his face. Kiyoshi stood, and was struck down again, crying in anguish as the man struck him as hard as he would a mortal enemy.

    “Again,” the man ordered. Again, Kiyoshi stood, only to be crushed by a different attack. This patterned repeated for over an hour, with each strike knocking the battered Argonian to the Earth.

    “Again,” the man ordered after pounding Kiyoshi into the ground, walking back to his position in the ring. Kiyoshi, bruised and bleeding, struggled to his feet, seething.

    “Pick up your sword,” the man ordered. Kiyoshi refused, his hands clenched into fists. The man’s face creased in anger,

    “Pick up. Your. Sword.” Again, Kiyoshi refused. The two stood, glaring at the other, refusing to move.

    “Come on!” Kiyoshi screamed. A sinister grin swept across the man’s face as he burst into motion, his sword coming up in an arc. To the man’s surprise, his sword caught only air, and the red Argonian had slipped out of his sight. Before the man could right himself, Kiyoshi tackled him from behind, landing hard on his back. With a savage howl, Kiyoshi attacked the man; clawing, biting, and punching. Yelling louder with each hit. The man twisted, his elbow knocking the enraged lizard off his back.

    Kiyoshi quickly rose to his feet and tackled the man again, this time striking his face and neck like a wild animal. A soldier rushed in to aid his friend, but as soon as he set foot in the ring, Kiyoshi tore off after him, his mouth and hands dripping blood. An evil bloodlust had swept across Kiyoshi’s mind. He plowed into the soldier, taking hold of the dagger at the man’s belt. Kiyoshi swept it across the man’s chest, a river of blood erupting from the wound. He brought the knife down again, aiming for the soldier’s face, driven by pure rage. The soldier deflected the blade, kicking Kiyoshi off.

    Before Kiyoshi could regain his feet, a mountainous man wrapped his massive arms around his flailing form. Kiyoshi threw his head back, his head connecting with a loud thud. The man roared and slammed Kiyoshi to the ground, knocking the wind out of him. Lungs burning, he struggled to his feet, but the three men descended upon him, beating him as savagely as he had. One man’s hands clamped down around Kiyoshi’s throat like a vice. Terror replaced rage as Kiyoshi’s throat began to close, his vision already blurring. He squirmed in the sand, hopelessly trying to free himself from the man’s grip. His thrashes soon weakened, and the world faded entirely.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------

    The memory ended and Kiyoshi was violently thrust back into reality, finding himself on his hands and knees, gasping for air, the ends of his sash dragging in the sand. How long have I been like this?

    With a start, Kiyoshi realized he’d drawn out the last scene of the memory in the sands. The enraged face of the man, the blood on his neck, his hands around Kiyoshi’s throat. He sat back, burying his face in his hands. That cursed memory. Again. Everything still felt so real. The anger. The pain. The terror. It was the first time he’d lost control. Why am I plagued by these memories? Why here? Why now!?

    Kiyoshi remained still, on the verge of tears. Why? Why must I relive these awful memories? Am I doomed? Have I lost my mind? How can I be so weak when I was once so powerful? My anger has driven me before. Why does it haunt me now?

    I can hardly handle these memories normally. How am I supposed to fight like this? How can anyone see me for my skill when I can’t even hold myself together!

    “Hist preserve me,” Kiyoshi said to himself.
     
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    #128 Archer Drake, Sep 22, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2016
  9. CapObvious

    CapObvious Gramos Goat-Shaker

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    Maere shifted uncomfortably as their enemies began to circle them, her eyes moving back and forth between all of them that she could see, while still hearing the steps and taunts of those she couldn't. She swallowed, looking back down to the unconscious Gidian again, taking stock of his new injuries, as well as others that had become worse since her last inspection. He was in serious pain, and odds are the cure for him would hurt even worse, as she more than likely would have bones to reset or mend, and she knew from experience…


    That process was extremely painful.


    She tried to think of what she would have to do, before taking her hand over his body, and running it over him slowly, attempting to detect where the worst injuries would be, and take stock of the damage. As she did so, the steps and chants got louder, and her focus began to wane. Her brow furrowed, and she bit her lip as she tried to focus harder. She couldn’t afford to get overwhelmed. It would spell both their dooms for sure. But she couldn’t help it. The calling and chanting grew and grew, and the memories of the terror from before began to return, bringing sweat to her brow again. Her breathing quickened, and she bit her lip even harder, this time drawing blood.



    sh**. sh**. sh**. Not now.



    She growled under her breath, finally finishing her inspection, and realizing her suspicions were correct. She would have to use a lot of magicka to bring him back to snuff, and it would likely take a lot out of her. Or, more likely. It would take everything she had left. She would have to focus on the major injuries specifically, and that would take time and willpower. Both of which were in short supply for the moment.



    He was unconscious, which would hopefully provide enough time to get the worst injuries out of the way before he came to, flailing and fighting. She had thought of using a calming or paralyzing spell, but quickly decided against it. Both could bring him into shock when he returned, as too many different things hitting his mind’s receptors at once could overwhelm him.


    No. She would have to do what she could quickly.


    She shook her head, exhaling before she took her hands over Gidian’s broken arm, hovering inches above it. Her hands began glowing that familiar glow, but this time, her they began to grasp and tighten, as if she were taking the bone itself in her hands. Her hands gripped tighter around the invisible object, and she began to chant softly as her hands came together slowly.



    The effect was almost immediate. As the arm began to reform itself, Gidian’s eyes shot wide open, and he began to struggle. Maere pressed down on his other arm with her knee, pinning it to the ground, barely, trying her best to keep control of the situation, but it was for naught. The arm swung out from under her and she stumbled, causing Gidian to begin to writhe again.



    She couldn’t get him worked on if he kept fighting, and she couldn’t afford putting him in shock at the moment. Their lives were on the line, and he was making the process even more harrowing than she believed possible. She scrambled for a plan, before she tried the last thing she could think of.



    She had to find a different way to calm him. Some sort of memory, thought; anything that would subdue him just long enough for her to get done. She had to get in his head.



    One hand left his arm and laid on his head and pinned it down, using any strength she could muster to hold him still. She growled out her next words as her mind began to enter his. “Damn it Gidian, stop!”


    Her mind began to flash white from the pain receptors in his head going off from the arm, and she gasped, her grip on his him tightening, bringing another wave of pain to both of them. She ground her teeth so hard she worried that they would crack, and pushed through, using all she had to try and dig for something to calm him. Something to remind him that they couldn’t afford to lose now. Remind him he had something to live for. Anything to get him to shut up and sit still.



    As the white hot pain slammed into her conciousness over and over, other things came to the forefront, possibly memories Gidian was flashing through at that very moment. They were hazy, and poorly pieced together, as if his mind was speed reading through them. But that made sense, given the situation they were in now.


    As she tried her best to dig through the pain, voices began to manifest, giving sounds to the sights she was experiencing.


    “Next!” She heard someone shout. The man who shouted it was covered in blood, and was standing in a room far too similar to one they had stood in before. The bloodied man saw his next opponent enter the room, and he drew his hand to his face, wiping the blood away, to show that it was a form of Gidian, albeit a bit younger. The look in his eyes were ravenous, showing a need for more that she could only describe using her darkest night terrors.


    And now was certainly not the time to be remembering those.


    More images began to push through, garnering her attention, keeping her mind off of the pain for long enough to keep pushing herself. More faces, this time, another familiar one came through, but this one she wasn’t sure she wanted to see. It was a younger looking Spider, speaking to Gidian in a cafeteria of sorts. She called herself something else, however. Something more normal. She reached a bit for the name, hearing it reverberate in her head. “My name’s Lucille!” The spider had said, in a voice that particularly sounded like she was trying to be…


    Friendly?


    She brushed the thought away and pushed on, the pain continuing to escalate before another memory, one that seemed to bring the two prior memories together came forward, and nearly brought her to a standstill. She saw Gidian dueling an older warrior, one who from his style, easily had the upper hand on Gidian. That was, until she saw that he had realized this too, and he resorted to an absurdly underhanded tactic to bring the man to the floor. The exact tactic was blurred to her, but the feeling of dissatisfaction that came with the memory, which she could feel, emanated from it. It flashes forward again, with the man dying, while this “Lucille” was looking over the man frantically, trying her best to save him. Another body had joined the count, this one someone who had come in defense of the older fighter. The words Father and brother flashed in her mind over and over, and the connections started to piece themselves together. It would explain the history she felt the two opponents had shared. But she knew there was more to it, but her mind was only getting bits and pieces. The full story wasn’t coming to her.


    However, the memory wasn’t done.


    Gidian had seemed to have gone berserk, swinging his weapons around frantically, either fighting off enemies she couldn’t see, or...No. He was overwhelmed with frustration, in a blood crazed state. He wanted to kill her, this Lucille person, but she wouldn’t take up a weapon against him. The many bodies on the floor around him showed that he had been doing this for quite awhile, and it got to him, broke him down mentally as the adrenaline of combat became the only creed to follow. The only thing that mattered.


    This memory seemed to violent to be used for a calming effect. The bloodlust this younger Gidian was experiencing would send him into shock as well should she have chosen to use it. She hardened her resolve and began to push through again, with doubled effort, her mind ignoring the flashes of white hot pain and trying her best to get past his surface mind, which was most likely going to be the most difficult step of the whole process.


    The mind began to relent slowly, the walls becoming too weak to hold her sustained assault. The shared pain began to weaken, encouraging her to continue fighting. She pushed and pushed, the flying surface memories and pain dissipating behind her, until she felt nothing.


    It was silent, calm, and very, very dark. Her mind took a moment to soak this feeling in, as it was well earned, in her eyes. As she took a breather, she reaffirmed herself, citing a small prayer before she began her search. To aid her in doing this, she began to sing.


    The sense of sight was all but useless here. It was far too dark to see what she was doing in the traditional sense, so she would have to call upon a different tactic, one that she had used a few times before, but had proven to be quite effective. Her voice and song would be used as a sort of anchor, to keep her grounded in his mind as she moved about in her search, as well as guide her through, using the notes of said song to feel and experience the darkness around her, and what it was hiding.


    The song was soft and slow; hauntingly beautiful in it’s way, reverberating around her as she listened in to the notes that left her, as they spread out and went their separate ways. Her eyes remained closed as she listened, feeling the music that swelled within her around moved around her, and began to move forward slowly. This tactic was a way of feeling things out, gave the world around her form so that she could perceive it, even if she couldn’t see it clearly. (OOC: As loathe as I am to say it, think of it similar to Daredevil’s echolocation ability. A specific example would be the one with Ben Affleck, ((Dear God…)) where the rain lets him see the woman in front of him as it hits her, the sound itself creating a visage instead of his eyes.)


    That’s how the notes were meant to work anyway. This time, it wasn’t going as planned. As Maere continued her song, nothing came to her. No reflection of sound, nothing. The surrounding area of his mind was empty here; hollow. Maere began to worry, as this wasn’t typical. There was usually something there, some sort of memories, even idle thoughts here. But there was nothing. Dead space, aside from her voice as it reached out, finding nothing but the path she was walking, which seemed endless. Pure, unending loneliness, and emptiness that she couldn’t describe with words.


    How on earth those Dark Brotherhood people could WANT an endless void like this was beyond her.

    Her voice began to waver a bit in fear as the hollow sound of her song continued, uncertainty staining the otherwise lovely tone, causing her to feel anxious. Had she done it wrong? Had she gone too deep? Was he already dead, and trapped in his mind? The possibilities all frightened her terribly, and it took everything in her not to try to escape. She had to hold on to hope, that she was where she was meant to be, that she would be able to save him, somehow-

    But then she noticed something else. Something potentially worse.

    The notes she was sending out were not hitting anything as they traveled outward, but were rather being devoured. Stopped short. Swallowed whole by a darkness that was beginning to slowly close in on her.

    Something was coming, and she could feel that it wasn’t happy with her intrusion.


    She recognized practices like this as some sort of mind protection, often used by royalty and those who work for them to keep them from giving out special information. The implications of this were interesting, but she knew now wasn’t the time for pondering connections. However, this knowledge still brought some comfort. At least she knew he was still alive, if he was still able to attempt to push her out. She felt revitalized by this knowledge, knowing now her fight was not in vain. Her voice and composure returned, and she began to sing louder again, and the protection responded how she expected. It was caught off-guard by her quick recovery and was pushed back, if only slightly. Further encouraged by this, she began to move forward again, her voice feeling out this protective force, hoping to discover its weakness so she could get out quickly and move on.


    However, as she probed for weaknesses, she noticed something else.


    The protective ward did not remain disturbed by her actions. It began to move around her instead of simply moving in for her, circling around her on both sides until it seemed to amass behind her, all while still retaining presence on her sides, above, and before her. In other words, this ward had somehow fought past her song, and had managed to surround her in some sort of bubble, isolating her and her song to keep her from going any further. The song itself took form of the bubble and pressed against the ward, keeping the ward from advancing any further while she assessed the situation. However, as she did so, Maere felt something else accompany the ward’s behavior. Something that made her blood chill.


    The ward itself was...angry.

    It was furious that she had managed to push it back, and that she wasn’t just a simple mind delver or illusionist that it could just snuff out and go back to it’s business.


    This thing was not a product of training done by Gidian himself. It had a mind of it’s own, and it wasn’t pleased. Maere however, wasn’t afraid. This thing, no matter how unnatural it was, was nothing more than a simple spell placed on his mind to keep his knowledge safe. A simple ward, no matter how...human it felt.


    The ward seemed to feel this realization, and Maere could sense it was about to attempt to remove her, and soon. Possibly realizing that it knew she would be able to break free if it didn’t act now. She had to think quickly, had to do something that would protect her from whatever the ward had planned, so she could escape it.


    Her mind begins to form a shield, emblazoned with a golden sun, on her arm to ward off it’s next attack, and protect her as she would attempt to escape and continue onward. She raised the shield up, bracing it with both hands as her feet plant into the ground, bracing herself for the coming attack on her mind. Ready to dispatch this ward as she had done before in other excursions. However, this encounter was about to prove nothing like the ones she had encountered before. The ward began to do something unexpected.


    It began to...laugh. It laughed at her as she prepared to resist it, almost as if it mocked her.


    After it seemed to be done mocking her, the dark ward began to move around the bubble she built, almost scraping against it in an attempt to unsettle her. The scraping done to the bubble did far more than that, however. She could feel the darkness scraping against the wards on her mind, dragging long, slender claws over it as it toyed with her. Maere winced as the scraping became more intense, until it had come full circle around the bubble. After a moment of pure silence, the darkness made it’s move. A long, dark, awkwardly shaped limb slowly pushed it’s way through the bubble her song had built around her, which to her felt as if someone was slowly stepping on her throat. She felt unnerved, and with the song’s slow decline, started to become afraid. This thing was no longer just some simple ward to dispel, it was a monster, and it was about to have her in it’s grasp. The arm pushed further in, the shape and size of it were unfathomable, and the attempt to understand caused a crack in her defenses. Literally.


    The bubble and the shield she held both began to show signs of wear, slowly showing signs of breaking. The darkness was going to tear down her only protections then swallow her whole, unless she acted fast. But what to do?


    The darkness was toying with her, going slow to savor the moment. Breaking her walls, destroying her will, and she couldn’t stop it conventionally. The originial ideas didn’t work, almost as if the dark force knew what she had planned, and took a different route. One that was definitely working. As the darkness continued to push, and her mind continued being assaulted by yet another white hot pain, she raised her voice again, singing loudly, taking her shield in both hands again. In an act of desperation, and anger, she ran toward the arm, ready to strike it down.


    The darkness was caught off guard again. It didn’t expect her to keep her resolve, let alone attempt to destroy it. The oppressive darkness waned just enough in it’s surprise for a note of her song to escape the bubble, before the dark redoubles its efforts and sends the “hand” flying toward her, ready to meet her in battle.


    Maere, undeterred by this act, let’s her song turn to a battle-cry as she leaps forward, raising the shield above her head before bringing it down with a crushing down-stroke. The strength she felt in doing so was almost otherworldly, and she felt that the blow would be just enough to get herself free.


    But she was wrong. As the swing came down, the shield did not come into contact with the hand. Instead, it phased through it, sending her and the shield both to the ground. The darkness prepared to take advantage of the situation, ready to bring that hand down upon her. But she responded quickly by returning to her song, though this time in self-protection instead of confidence. The hand attempted to grab her, but the song pushed it back again, causing it to roar out in frustration. The upper hand they both had gained in their respective responses both fell flat, and they both returned to their original stances, waiting for the other to make a move to exploit.


    The darkness’ ire began to rise again, it’s rage at Maere’s resistance becoming more and more apparent. As Maere squared against it again, moving to side slowly, her mind became assaulted with the different feelings of this dark opponent. It wanted to crush her, rend her; ravage her mind until she was nothing more than a living corpse. The images that flooded her mind of how it intended to accomplish this were far more grisly than any nightmares that she had suffered through before. This went beyond the rending and devouring of flesh. This was true suffering, and Maere was horrified by the sight. However, these images and feelings were more than simply it’s darkest desires…


    They were also a distraction, as she soon discovered the hard way.


    The arm lashed across the empty space to her, grasping at her neck and clutching it tightly. Maere clawed and dug at the hand, trying to free herself as it lifted Maere off her feet into the air. Or at least, she attempted to. The hand was somehow able to make contact with her, but not the other way around. Like it existed on a plane that she couldn’t fathom or comprehend; or a set of rules she didn’t quite understand. This force operated differently than anything else she had encountered, and she felt pangs of hopelessness fill her body and exit it through the rasps of the song she was able to get out.


    But there was still more to come for the little healer. The grip on her neck tightened, then began to cause a burning sensation. Maere began to scream, as the skin around her neck where the hand touched began to almost melt, bringing forth a smell that burned Maere’s nose. Her eyes closed instinctively, afraid that the scent that was emanating would literally rot them out of her skull. She grasped at her neck, doing her best to hold it together as she tried her best to think of a solution. However, there was more to come from the creature. In its crusade against her senses, the creature let loose a terrible, shrill screech that filled the empty void almost fifty times over, raising to levels she wasn’t sure how she could still comprehend. Any sort of protection the song had garnered her was slipping away, and soon the creature would have her right where it wanted her with no hope of escape.


    That was, until, she felt a thought enter her mind.


    The note.


    The note that had escaped the bubble earlier finally came into contact with something. A stray thought, a memory. Something. It took Maere’s focus off of the pain and on to it instead, giving her a moment of slight reprieve as her senses clamored over the new information, begging desperately that it would hold something she could work with. Instead, it was an idle thought about her earlier exploit with her shield during the training bout. Where she had tossed it to save Gidian from the arrow. Maere nearly cursed the note as it brought her this useless thought, until it went further to see Gidian’s thoughts on the act.


    Maere’s adoption of a shield for a throwing weapon reminded him of something. A weapon she had seen few times in her travels, and had nearly been murdered with once or twice. A round weapon, bladed along the edges that could be thrown and used as a weapon in a similar form. As she pondered on this thought, she felt something change. Her shield grew lighter, and almost fell from her grasp. She caught it, barely, and felt that the shield had been changed. The once rounded edges had become flattened out, sharpened into a blade like form. Hollowed out in the center, aside from the emblem that had adorned it before.


    The memory had turned Maere’s shield into the weapon Gidian had remembered. A chakram. But this wasn’t just an ordinary one. This one was hot to the touch, as if the Lady herself had imbued it with the fire of the sun. Maere felt this was just the opportunity she needed to come free, but was worried it wouldn’t work. Physical contact was obviously not the answer, every attempt to that point had been met with failure. Unless…


    She kept thinking through Gidian’s perceptions. This thing was created to keep anything outside of his mind on the outside, and destroy anything that got too close. But if the idea came from him, even indirectly...


    She took the chance, her screams of pain turning into one of rage; adrenaline. She raised the chakram above her head, gripping it tightly before she brought blade down upon the dark hand.


    The creature’s piercing screech raised to an unimaginable volume, shaking the world around her as she fell to the ‘floor’, and attempted to regain her footing. It wailed in absolute anger and revulsion, the shock and pain raising the sound beyond ear splitting levels. She needed to think fast. Had to get away, but how?


    Her mind shifted to the note again, and remembered that there was an exit still in the bubble somewhere, thanks to the note. She just had to…


    She called out, watching as her voice filled up the void and showed her the bubble like cell she occupied. Her echoing voice caught the tear and, without a moment to lose, she rushed for it. The creature recovered just in time to begin to attempt to stop her. But Maere thought ahead. She began to sing again, then leapt toward the gap. Her body broke down from the physical form she had foolishly taken and took the form of the notes of her song, causing her to be just the right size to pass through. She passed right through the bubble to the other side right before the creature crushed the prison behind her, probably hoping to destroy her in the process.


    Maere then goes full force toward where the note had gone, sure that the direction it took would lead her to his mind, so she could complete her original mission. She could hear the creature coming in behind her, the screech following behind her and attempting to dissuade her from her path. Undeterred, she flew through the darkness, echoing out with her song, until she saw her voice hitting something in the distance. At first, she felt elated; ecstatic. She had found it, she was close. Until her voice began to echo further. It showed that the object she sensed was not the mind, or even a door to it. Instead, it was a solid wall. Composed entirely of the darkness that surrounded her, yet physical and sturdy enough that she couldn’t move through it with her voice, nor the note form her body had taken. She moved about the wall, trying to find an opening, before she heard another sound from behind her.


    Another laugh. Another dark, mocking laugh, this one far more terrifying than the last.


    She was trapped, and the monster was coming right for her. It started to send more horrifying images of her fate to her, showing more horrible ways the creature was going to take delight of Maere’s intrusion, all at her expense. Maere could taste and smell the scent of singed flesh again overwhelm her eyes and nose, causing the former to water and the latter to burn. Her hands began to tighten into a scratching position, as she grasped her head with them, cursing softly from the horrid images that flooded her consciousness.



    Her clenched hands moved to cover her eyes, pressing hard against them as they continued to burn. The sensation was becoming overwhelming. She felt the insane compulsion to claw the eyes from her sockets, to keep the increasingly painful sensation from continuing. Images of Maere doing this to herself in a futile attempt to be rid of the pain flashed through her mind in between the visions she was getting from the darkness, and it nearly caused her to begin weeping in fear. She bit her lip hard, holding back the urge to let the monster see her fall in despair. As she fought back in her head, the darkness sent forth more arms to restrain her, pinning her arms and legs down to the wall behind her forcefully, but Maere didn’t retaliate. Her mind was fogged with the pain she was experiencing, and also trying to keep herself from losing her sanity from the grotesqueness of the ideas the monster had.


    This could truly be the end.


    As the thoughts continued to beat against her mind, Maere began to hear something inbetween the thoughts. A voice. Something responding to each and every thought she recieved. Each time the voice would mock her, claim it would destroy her a thousand times over. But with each threat, something came with it that caused Maere to realize something that should have been obvious.


    It was making defensive statements about Gidian. Each time a new idea sprung forth, a threat would accompany it. A female voice would scream out, hurling threats at her. “These are but the least of what I will do to you for trying to hurt him! I will make sure you feel ALL OF IT!”


    Wait, hurt him?


    It all began to piece together in her mind. It was a defense mechanism of sorts, as she had deduced before. Whether some curse or self-imposed, that was attempting to protect his mind. She began to think of ways to prove that she wasn’t trying to hurt him, that she was trying to save him, just like the creature was. She thought hard, as she felt the creature closing in toward her face, feeling the resentment from it as if it were hot, hate-filled breath on her face.


    Unable to think of any sort of plan, she just gives in to her instincts. Screaming at the top of her lungs, she calls out to the darkness. “Damn it, if you want to save him then let me the hell in!” She pauses, worried for a split second that she was coming on too strong. The darkness’s advance ceases, as if it was actually listening to her. This compelled her to continue, hoping she was turning things around. “I’m the one thing standing between him and death out there. Outside of his mind. If he dies out there, then we all do. Me, the allies we’ve made, and even you. We’re on the same side here!” Unsure if it were even listening, she pulled a trick that the creature had been doing to her since it began to attack.


    She opened her mind and sent her thoughts out toward the darkness. She showed it the moments in the holding cell, and the training area where she had saved him from the arrow. And then to the scene they stood in now, surrounded by enemies and Maere being the only thing that would be able to get Gidian back on his feet.


    She begged that these thoughts would be enough. She didn’t have any other sort of proof.


    The darkness is silent. It does not send any more thoughts to her, as she assumed it was too busy trying to understand the scattered information that Maere was sending to it. She could still feel it close. Really close. INCHES from her face. But it was silent.


    But then, before Maere can ask anything, a loud, horrifying shriek erupts from the darkness, shaking her and the plane around her, reverberating throughout her incorporeal form, and causing a deep, rumbling pain. The pain that was erupting within her made her glad that she hadn’t kept her physical form. As this wailing would easily have ruptured every vital organ in her body, rendering her dead immediately. The creature then drops her from the hands it sprung out to restrain her as they instead began to thrash about wildly, hitting the wall and floor around her, and from the sound of it, even itself. The smell of death and burning flesh intensified to an unbearable level, causing Maere to panic for breath as she avoided the swings that were falling around her, despite the fact that she couldn’t see them. As it continues to flog itself and the world around it, the creature’s cries intensify even further, to the point that she felt her mind would soon shatter. All of her senses began to be drowned out, unable to process any sort of information except for the excruciating pain that befell her.


    This was it. This was the end. She had failed. She began to weep, from the pain, from her failure, from her deepest wishes that she could escape, and knowing she could not. She fell to her knees in grief, and prepared to meet her end.


    “I’m sorry Gidian, I failed you. We’re all going to die, and it’s all my fault.”


    The darkness stops. The thrashing, the screaming; everything stops. Maere kept her eyes closed, but felt her breath hitch in her throat. She prepared herself for the end, as she was sure it was about to destroy or devour her.


    “I'm sorry.” She hears the creature say, sadness staining the tone of it’s voice. Maere couldn’t comprehend this, as it seemed all too willing to destroy her before, but now it was feeling remorse? Another thought enters her mind, this time seeing through the creature's eyes as it moved toward her, a hand taking the side of Maere’s head within it, and holding it firmly, yet somewhat gently, while the other drew a blade, ready to strike her down. Quickly and painlessly. As if it knew that Maere was true, but was unable to stop what it needed to do. As Maere sighed heavily, she braced herself for her end, waiting for the blade to end it all.


    But before the blade would land, another hand reached out from behind her, grabbing her and pulling her away from the darkness. It brings her to contact with the wall behind her, but instead of a hard impact like she expected, the wall gave way, and she passed through the other side. Maere kept her eyes closed, unsure if this was only another trick to lull her into false security. But soon, she realizes she’s safe, as the stray note from before follows her in, and after moving a small way before her, pops like a bubble, lighting up the new area she inhabited. Maere’s senses grasped at the location she was in, and she allowed herself a moment to break down into tears of joy.


    She had made it, She was in his mind.


    After collecting herself again, redetermined to find the information he needed and to get the hell out, she started to move toward the mind again, continuing her song. It came out a little more hoarse after all the screaming and crying, but the song still worked as the mind lit up for her, and the memories gravitated toward her, each one sending whispers of it’s contents to her. The mind was serene, a peaceful place. Moreso after the hell she had recently inhabited. As she scanned over the memories slowly, she heard the whisper of a dream that sounded promising. She reached to it with her hand, and the memory opened itself around her, and caused the space around her to take the form of the memory. She was no longer in the silent void, but instead she found herself in a beautiful house. Woodbuilt, sturdy, warm from both the fire it housed and the colors that covered the room. The furniture and utilities were lovingly crafted from what seemed to be very, very fine lumber, and practically bled character. Large hunting trophies displayed proudly on the walls, and, as she looked to what seemed to be the focal point of the memory, was a lovely stone fireplace, with the lovely sound of wood popping and crackling from the flames. The scene brought her great comfort, and she felt the urge to sit down and enjoy the moment, before her eyes caught the true focal point.


    There in the center, surrounded by a few other people, was a younger looking Gidian. He was barely distinguishable from the man she had met prior. His features were much softer, boyish in their way. Not the hardened, broken down and rebuilt man she was currently trying to save. Behind him, with his head in her lap, was a dark elf woman, who was sitting in a rocking chair, softly rocking back and forth as she looked on, almost toward where Maere stood almost as if…


    She pushed the thought away, and continued to inspect the many others who were with him.


    There were two more boys with him, both of which who looked similar to him. One was noticably larger than the other two, while the other looked so much like Gidian it hurt, a possible twin, or maybe she got so messed up in the nightmare plane that she was seeing double.


    There were two others sitting closer to the middle of them all, a man and a woman who both looked to be excellent, capable warriors. Fierce and deadly. They both had features that showed up on the children, meaning they were most likely his parents. A stray thought enters her mind from Gidian’s as she looked upon his parents. He held them in great regard as warriors, enough that they could have easily dispatched the team they all were currently facing. And as she looked again to the dark elf woman, who despite wearing the humble clothes of a servant, was held in even higher regard as a fighter, as if she could take the team on alone. Whether these thoughts were the child or the current Gidian talking, she wasn’t sure, but she still cracked a soft, knowing smile.


    If only Maere could have brought people out of memories, she replied to the stray thought.


    The scene begins to change, and Maere watches intently, waiting to see if this would be the thought she needed.


    After more sounds of crackling wood and the squeak of the rocking chair, the parents take each other’s hand and the Dark Elf woman begins a soft hum, which the others begin to pick up themselves. They all seemed content, at peace with the world around them, just enjoying each other’s company as they hummed this song together.


    But soon, the song begins to grow softer. At first, Maere thought it was just a trick on her ear, but after some time, soon discovered she wasn’t wrong. The song was getting quieter, but she couldn't discern why. Before she could try to, the parents stood to their feet, their arms linked, and they walked out of the house. She looked to the others, who had stopped singing, and tried to understand what was happening. From the look on Gidian’s face, she began to understand what was happening here.


    Soon the song continued, but the remaining people began to change. The features on Gidian’s childish face began to resemble the current Gidian she knew now, more tired, worn down; his hands calloused and hard. His brothers undergo a similar change themselves, and the Dark elf woman’s appearance also changes. She is no longer in the robes of a servant, but now in much, much nicer clothes, carrying a human child in her arms as she continues to rock back and forth.


    Then, the scene changes again, to where anyone else but them who were in the house had vanished, leaving only the three brothers, looking older and harder than before, the Dark elf woman, and the young girl in her arms.


    As the scene morphed and changed, she could sense Gidian reacting to it, his heart and mind’s activity increasing, as if the dream was a wrench or bone stuck in dwemer gears, holding him back from truly letting this dream go and moving on. She felt more and more sure that this dream was the thing she needed to help Gidian out. But how?


    She exits the dream and starts it over, thinking of how she could alter this dream long enough to bring him some peace; something to make him too occupied to notice the work she was doing.


    The song they hummed started again, and everything started to click. What if she changed what that song meant, or even the song itself?


    Deciding this was the best course of action, she began to act. Her form changed again, this time taking form of the notes from the song they had begun to hum. She entered the home they had made for themselves, and began to wisp around them slowly, as she began to sing along with them. As she did so, small changes were made to the layout of the family that sat in the center. The hands of the couple held slightly tighter, their interwoven fingers locked, unable to break unless they let it. Smiles came to their faces; small at first, then slowly they began to smile wider, as if someone was coming to the punchline of a joke.


    Then, before they knew it, they started to laugh. The song dimmed out as they focused on these random bursts of small joy, and a new song replaced it. Her own.


    Maere’s song softly floated around the home, bouncing off the walls around them as they began to enjoy each other’s company, no longer focused on the tune they had been carrying before. The young Gidian’s eyes were lit up in a way she wasn’t sure were real, comparing them to the eyes of the man she had met. This was joy, this was peace. The song bound them together, keeping them from going off in their own directions, keeping them from growing and changing through time, keeping themselves in this one spot, this one beautiful moment. Bring peace and happiness to a scene of sorrow, and loss. She let the song continue echoing around the home, but stepped out of the dream, letting it govern itself. She had done what she could.


    She decided this would be enough for now, and made her way out of the dream. She made her way toward the wall, knowing she would most likely have to make a mad dash to get back to the surface layer of his mind, before the nightmare could get her again. After a deep breath, she sprinted out and headed toward the surface, singing as she made her way back to the surface thoughts.


    As she did, she noticed that the nightmare no longer seemed interested in her, or at least, not enough to deter her progress of getting back out. To be frank, the damned thing was gone, as if it vanished now that she had gotten through. Maybe it had seen what she had done…


    Whatever the case was, she was not in danger from it for now, and she needed to take that advantage.


    She broke through that layer, and tore her way through the pain his surface thoughts were blasting until she finally returned to her own consciousness.


    She blinked for a moment, the brightness of the light around her nearly blinding her. She looked around, the sounds of the chanting crowd and mocking enemies returned to her ears, and she looked back to Gidian. It had felt like hours that she had spent in his head, fighting nightmares and living his dreams, but to the ones around him, it was only a few minutes. The scene was still playing out the same around her, but she was running out of time. It was time to end this.


    With the song she sang inside his mind now a way of calming him, as it was now tied to a pleasant memory, she could work on him while she sang, having him focus on the song instead of the pain.


    She began to grip the bones again and bond them together, this time with little to no resistance from Gidian himself. A brief moan or gasp would escape him, but when it did, she sang a little louder, and he fell silent again. When the bone was repaired, she took out a bottle of magicka potion, and chugged it, ready to begin working again.


    There was a lot wrong with him. Internal bleeding, bones that she had mended incorrectly the first time she had attempted this, having to REBREAK those bones and put them back right. It was a messy operation, even though she never had to break the skin to get to the parts she needed. She was thankful the song was helping. His injuries had somehow been even worse than she expected. She knew she wouldn’t have enough time to get everything, but she hoped what she could get would be enough.


    She took one more potion out of her bag, and pressed it to Gidian’s lips. “Drink this, Gidian. It will make sure those fixes I made won’t kill you when you wake up.” She said softly, despite the fact she knew he was most likely still unconscious. She poured it down his throat slowly, hearing his breathing pick up as he did. She smiled tiredly, holding him a bit tighter to her, looking down at him as he slowly began to regain conciousness. “Wake up, Gidian. Let’s finish this.”
     
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    #129 CapObvious, Oct 22, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2016
  10. fellowknight

    fellowknight "I am the danger! I am the one who knocks!"

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    In the span of a few seconds, Baroth realized he was outflanked, outnumbered, and in over his head. The duo proved not only irritating but inseparable in their forms of offense. Both seemed to have lost patience and opted for up-close flurries so as to suffocate his movements and overwhelm him. Nonetheless, too little, too late. The Boar impatiently rushed Baroth and shoulder-checked his abdomen, chucking him several feet on his back. Merely the impact was enough to rob Baroth’s lungs of air, let alone ignite any previously dormant injuries and further disorient him. It seemed the duo had no real hole in their defenses, and the only two accustomed with facing them were Maere and Gidian, both indisposed.

    The Bat and Raven were still out of commission, he hoped they wouldn’t join in anytime soon, looked after by the Ferrets. Belzebub and Dolun were probably still fending off the Wolf, Maere was tending to Gidian’s trauma, and Spero had to be somewhere in the thick. Not that any of it would help him.

    Gidian had better at least be on his ass by now. He pursued the line of thought with a glance in Gidian’s direction, but couldn’t see much before the Boar slugged his cheek. Pain flashed across his face, and before he knew it the Boar ran a knee into his gut, scarring his armor with a painful dent. Leaving no room for relief, the Boar cupped the defeated nord’s face and smashed his thick skull to it only to let him stagger and fall on his back.

    That’s when he felt it. The urge.

    That uncomfortably familiar presence rooted itself at the back of his mind and, thoroughly, weeded it’s tentacles of maddening lust through his psyche. Everything around him, sand and all, lost the gravity of existence, and his brain felt as if it were aflame. The sun was, in his eyes, darkening as if a red moon was upon him, and he couldn't bear his tightening skin. His mind soon clouded and his bones begged enlargement, any form of logic slipping into a haze. It was sheer willpower keeping the nord from shedding his skin like wet parchment and butchering everything in sight.

    A voice, sharp and calculating, whispered from the depths of his mind. Your tactics have proven ineffective, Baroth. Give me control.

    “..I won't.” He bit back under his breath.

    His brain seized with double the pain. The voice grew dark with impatience.

    Resistance is not only futile, but irrelevant. You must surrender control to me now, or perish.

    He would’ve forgotten where he was, had the Boar not wrenched his head back and put him in a headlock, leaving him open for the Spider’s ruthless volley of leg strikes. There wasn't much at this point that kept the Boar from snapping his neck like a twig, or the Spider from cutting his throat. They wanted to make a show of his suffering. An infuriating thought, but the parched praise from the crowd only fed their vigor. He instinctively shoved against the Boar’s grip and swung hopeless fists at the Spider. Even as more cuts and bruises marked his flesh, as things cracked in his chest, the pain died away little by little. He was losing his grip on reality, and fast.

    Once again, you are alone, and void of outside interference. This pair have met your abilities tenfold, and so long as the crowd envies them, they will not stop. Your death is imminent.

    Baroth realized he didn’t even have the strength to retort, let alone maintain his own efforts. Dull noise and blurred shapes took dominion over his senses. The more he fought, it seemed, the weaker he got. So he stopped struggling, relaxed into a trance, and let his mind accept the fading reality. He knew what losing control meant, but as the moments stretched on into near eternity, he’d had to consider his own life.

    Then something happened. A lady, draped in a pink silk dress, strode between the deformed shadows that were the Boar and Spider and placed a soft hand on his shoulder. She stood silently at his side, jaw firm, face flushed with a contagious calm, marble-grey eyes searching in earnest. Aware it was only an illusion, a long lost memory of his old life, Baroth forced himself to surrender and accept death. He hadn’t the strength to speak, but he didn’t need to; the recognition was clear in his eyes.

    “Baroth..” She whispered. His eyes fluttered to her, unable to focus properly. “Move..”

    He tilted his head, lost in mesmaration. He didn’t know what she was saying, and he didn’t care. He’d made his choice.

    “Move, Baroth!..” She suddenly screamed, shocking him back to his senses. The shadows started to take shape, and pain once again pulsated through his chest.

    “MOVE, IDIOT!”

    And he was back, shoved into the sand and left to wallow in awakened pain. Anticipating the next barrage, he was keen getting to his feet and just in time too. A vicious looking spear ripped through the air in front of him and rooted itself in the ground where he’d fallen. A quick glance confirmed it was Gidian, likely aiming for the spider though obviously thwarted. This day just gets better and better.. With a spiteful tug, Baroth collected the wicked-looking spear.

    “Gidian.” He said, dryly. “You up for finishing this?” His mind was clearing now, like defrosting by a fire, and though he was in enough pain already, he was alive. That’s all he needed.

    But the Boar had seen enough of them, a reassuring nod to the Spider was the only warning they got before he stormed violently in their direction.

    “AGGHHH! I’LL KILL YOU BOTH THIS TIME!”

    -----​
     
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  11. The Honorable Gidian the Diva

    The Honorable Gidian the Diva Sahrot Vahlok Spaan. Bahnahgaar. Minion #88!

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    (In collaboration with @CapObvious and @fellowknight)

    One moment Gidian had been able to peacefully, mercifully slip into unconsciousness. The next he was jolted awake by sudden bursts of raw pain. He didn't think he'd be able to endure it for much longer, and hoped he wouldn't have to. And then all of his sensations began to disappear around him, one by one, as if he were steadily slipping away until he was in a new place altogether. At first, he rejected this new reality and strained his ears and his eyes for the familiar sights and sounds of the pit of sand and cries for blood his life had once again come to revolve around. He immediately recognized his new surroundings. He'd had this dream many times before. Or rather, nightmare wherein everyone he'd ever known disappeared one at a time. However, this time… it happened differently. He found himself singing a new song, in a house that felt warm, and people who didn't disappear. Baffled at first, he was slowly lulled into it, longing to accept it, eventually letting the dream take him where it will. It was a good dream.


    But it was only a dream. He awoke dazed and confused, his senses of sight, sound, and smell steadily returning to him. He had to rub his eyes and do a double take, hoping that this reality was the dream and that he could return to the one he'd escaped to, his eyes wide in desperation. But all too quickly his brow grew heavy, and his eyes narrowed. It was acceptance that came over him, acceptance that it was only a dream, and there would never be any going back.


    But how did it happen? Why am I still ali- The girl.


    He whirled around and saw that, yes, Maere was on the ground next to him, unconscious, and his brow grew heavier and heavier as a million thoughts raced around in his mind.


    What?! How?! How much does she know?!


    But he didn't have time to dwell on it. He knew that Baroth would need his help, and he'd already wasted too much time in his idiotic stupor. He surveyed the field, identifying where two of the Boar’s wicked throwing spears had fallen and quickly sprinted to retrieve them, one for himself and one for Baroth, and then ran with newfound vigor and replenished stamina. But not just from the healing, his face was etched in hard lines, a permanent scowl and bared teeth only disturbed by the unconscious twitching of his left eye and upper lip, both trying to contort into a barely restrained snarled.


    The Spider had his back to him as she wailed on Baroth mercilessly, but the Boar saw him charging and moved to knock Baroth unconscious more quickly with a powerful hydraulic assisted fist reinforced with dwarven metal and an absurd amount of muscle, propelled along by a jet of searing steam. He probably could have broken Baroth’s neck had the he not wanted to wait for the Overseers.


    But Gidian had other ideas. He threw the momentum of his charge forward on his right foot, twisting his body and arm to make maximum use of it to propel one of the spears in a deadly arc straight for the Spider. He then immediately resumed charging, eating up the distance rapidly as he shouted, “MOVE, IDIOT!”, unable to remember his ally’s (for now) name.


    The Spider turned around swiftly, and even from this distance Gidian could recognize the realization of imminent and unavoidable death upon her face, the battle between fear and acceptance as memories rushed back to her in the final moments, the wide eyed disbelief and horror, the abject open mouthed shock of disbelief. The Boar realized it too, and would have to choose between finishing Baroth or saving the Spider, his eyes wide as he shouted her name, “Lucille!”


    The Boar didn't even hesitate. He threw away the still valiantly struggling Baroth and lunged forward to tackle the Spider out of the way and roll to safety, while Baroth was left in the path of the spear. Baroth was just barely able to respond in time to avoid death.


    Gidian ran up alongside him to stand shoulder to shoulder, spear brandished. He responded to Baroth with a brief nod as the Boar bellowed, “AGGHHH! I’LL KILL YOU BOTH THIS TIME!”


    “Together! Tangle them up! They'll get in each other's way if they have to fight at the same time! That's our advantage!” He had to shout for Baroth to hear him over the roaring crowd, but it was loud enough only to reach Baroth’s ears. A relative whisper.


    And Baroth was more than willing to try it, seeing as their options were slim to none and time was running out. The enemy worked in sync and seemed cautious enough to not fumble over each other. But with good timing, they might be able to use the Boar’s newfound rage against him.


    The Boar was baring down on them now, and there wasn't time for long conversations. “Ever hunted a boar?” Gidian shouted to Baroth as he fell into a ready stance, poised to meet the Boar’s charge and let him skewer himself if he was stupid enough. Baroth moved in time to mirror Gidian’s stance, a brief amused smirk crossing his lips.


    However, just as Gidian and Baroth were about to rush forward to run the Boar through, the Spider suddenly launched herself into the air and over her companion, swords and limbs crackling with electricity.


    Gidian and Baroth instinctively shuffled back out of her reach, avoiding making contact with the electric barbs as she pressed her advantage. The exchange took less than a second, disturbing Gidian and Baroth’s rhythm, and then she threw herself to the side and out of reach before they could regain their composure, making room for the Boar.


    Instead of closing into reach of their spears, however, the Boar stopped short and released three jets of superheated steam, one from each arm and one from some mechanism on his face, both as an attack and a way to stop himself mid charge. Gidian and Baroth were, again, swift in responding as they parted just enough to avoid a scorching death and converged on the Boar in unison.


    Anticipating confrontation, the Boar simply broadened the spouts of steam only to be flanked once again, Baroth attacking the rear, Gidian rushing the front. The Boar was quick on his heels, however, rapidly enacting a steam-assisted whirl attack using both jets on his arms to knock the duo off balance. Ironically, the motion was disorienting, forcing him to stop shortly after to maintain his own equilibrium. Gidian ducked off to one side, disappearing on one side of the Boar, forcing Baroth to take the remaining side.


    Baroth had just barely avoided a current of broiling steam and advanced to strike the Boar’s exposed torso when something latched onto his left gauntlet, stalling the attack. He looked in despair at the web strand clinging to his arm, tracing back to the impatient Spider. When a dreadful pain pumped through the web into his arm, Baroth was helpless in succumbing to the waves of intricate agony that now invaded his body and threatened to paralyze him indefinitely. But he was more desperate, and with a wild slash, he freed himself from the ebony vambrace and dove to Gidian’s side.


    His timing was off, and momentum threw him directly into Gidian who was fending off the Boar if only by a hair, knocking them both off balance. Gidian would've shot daggers his way were they not placed perfectly in the Boar’s sights. In an instant he seized the opportunity, lifting his right arm to drive a plume of unbearable steam their way. A few precious seconds were life or death and, though clumsy, neither hesitated to regain their feet.


    Gidian threw himself far to the side right as the Boar impelled a second plume of steam, chasing Baroth’s tail with the other. But both were sharper than he’d hoped, Gidian deliberately overshooting but managing to evade the steam and Baroth doing the same. Now caught dead center to the Boar, they rushed forward ardently in a hasty two-man charge.


    After only seconds, they both realized it was a helpless mistake. While Gidian made good use of his own agility and prior knowledge of the Boar, he attacked in random patterns and was unfamiliar with Baroth’s fighting style. That left Baroth, acutely unfamiliar with Gidian though not the Boar, to fill in where he saw fit, often times leaving too much for Gidian to fend off on his own. Trying to maneuver around the Boar’s colossal frame and under the bursts of steam left them both vulnerable to the Spider’s webs, and they often bumped into one another when shuffling about. The longer they escaped her reach and forced her to readjust, the more weight on her patience. Gidian’s bare head and Baroth’s exposed arm made them that much easier of targets, and only added more pressure to their defense. Fires burned in their evident injuries and improper healing forced their evasions and flurries to be awkward and concise, giving the Boar more time than he needed to dismantle them. That sheer edge of survival instincts wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t long until they were both overwhelmed.


    They nicked shoulders again but disguised the mistake with a simultaneous assault, Baroth driving all his weight in a sideways jab while Gidian stooped low and pierced upwards, targeting the Boar’s neck. The Boar hadn’t predicted both attacks but his reflexes didn’t fail him and in one swift motion veered back to avoid the spears. At the same time he set Baroth off balance with a shove, and redirected Gidian’s spear only to bury it in Baroth’s arm. Sharp pain froze him in place and he instinctively jerked away, howling something foul as Gidian locked in a struggle to keep his weapon. Instead of trying to outmatch the Boar’s strength, he lunged forward and used it against him as an attack.


    It wasn’t graceful but Gidian managed to shave the Boar’s helmet, offsetting him if only slightly. But it wasn't nearly enough and the Boar recovered too quickly and without warning, blinding Gidian in a storm of jabs. Each strike came before the next and Gidian would've been forced to fully retreat had Baroth not intervened. He roared with renewed vigor, clipping the Boar with a mighty swing. He was utterly unprepared for the Boar to turn on him with such energy, only able to raise his spear in a hopeless defense. Drowned in a punch after punch rhythm, Baroth lost himself in the swarm. Acting on instinct, Baroth glimpsed an opening and jabbed outwards, leaving his wounded arm exposed. Misery simply wasn’t enough to describe the pain as the Boar struck the blood-trickling wound, further damaging his arm.


    A sudden force budged against the Boar’s lower back and a biting irritation raged over him. Gidian appeared behind the behemoth, crashing into his back in an effort to set him off balance while simultaneously collecting his spear. It was a partial success, but the Boar left little to chance on his second charge, shoving Baroth back as he rushed Gidian with a vicious growl. The Spider wasn’t far behind him in a messy pounce, her careless patience brought to a deadly boil in waiting. Baroth hadn’t been completely disabled and with a drop to his back, he lanced her on his legs and tossed her over him. That leftover momentum sent her tumbling less graciously, but she was on her feet to smother the stubborn nord with her electrified limbs and swords.


    An intense death struggle ensued. Both fighters knew by now taking them on alone was suicide, and more importantly, an agonizing death. In the madness, Gidian managed to steer himself back towards Baroth, who was receptive enough to do the same. If they could fight back to back, they might have a chance even with Baroth’s gashed arm and Gidian’s assumed concussion. Ironically this made them even easier prey, The spider intensifying Baroth’s suffering with taps of electricity while the Boar continued to thunder over Gidian. He knew his armor was pushed to its limits but relied on his pauldrons to distort some of the blows, in a receding effort. Baroth could do little to shelter his thoroughly shocked wound, the Spider had angle and speed against him, but he found turning himself and targeting her center mass bought him time. But not enough.


    They were ripe for a fall. Hilariously outgunned. Surrounded. Baroth’s mind raced as the Boar’s mammoth frame loomed over his backside. He couldn’t see a way out, even if they fared well enough to fight back to back, what good would it lend them? The Spider was pressing more than hard enough to sever Baroth’s arm, and the Boar’s unforgiving strikes left Gidian’s arms and head seizing. Not hits to wound, but to kill. Analysing the Spider’s pattern to fish out a weakness took him seconds, feigning a right haymaker only to jab, decades of honed expertise kicking in. Behind him, The Boar seemed to recognize his vulnerability and hammered at Gidian’s head all the harder, Gidian barely hanging on with his arms in desperate blocks, knocking Gidian aside and moving to finish Baroth with a crippling steam-assisted punch.


    The Spider swiftly dismissed the flustering strike and in a fevered rush, blindly hurled herself at Baroth, instantly realizing her mistake. But it was too late and, with a firm tug on her neck guard, Baroth dragged her straight into the Boar’s blinding blow. White flashed across her vision, rendering her blind as she was momentarily thrown off balance, and tumbled to a stop. It only took the Boar seconds to regret his mistake, but that was enough time for Baroth to get Gidian back on his feet though he wasn't in any shape to keep fighting. Craters and tears painted his armor something painful, and a few nasty-looking bruises stained his cheek and jaw, leaving misery etched on his features. Baroth could relate, bludgeoned arm nearly torn to shreds and fried to a crisp, but they didn't have that kind of time. Rage was too small a word to label the Boar’s deposition as he craned over to squeeze the Spider's limp arm. A pulse. Faint, but it was there. The Boar breathed a little easier.


    It wouldn't last long. Baroth shook Gidian a bit, his eyes stirring with a mix of pain and determination, wobbling where he stood. The Boar shifted behind them, neglecting his nursement of the Spider to focus on the combatants. He'd crush them and be done with it, forget making show. Baroth's words were drowning in and out, a faint murmur here, a whisper there. “Stay down.”, Baroth growled as the Boar shifted to engage them again. On his feet in seconds, Baroth readily charged the behemoth, looking for weak points in his armor, or exoskeleton, and analysing his combat pattern. The armor left areas exposed, and if Baroth could exploit them in tempo with his successive hits, he might be able to edge the Boar's rage and use it for his downfall. The feat was impossible on his own, baked arm and absent Gidian considered, but he knew how to bide time. When the Boar stopped dead and sent an angry cloud Baroth's way, he was barely able to respond in time to avoid death.


    Baroth threw himself to the side to divert attention from the wounded Gidian, flanking wide so the Boar would have to take time to adjust. Those seconds of delay were just enough for Baroth to devour the distance and carve into the Boar’s exposed flesh. He hardly minded the hit, swinging around to knock Baroth over the head, but he felt it and that gave the knight some comfort. Weighted prowess and undeniable irritation bound them together, Baroth’s successive hit-hit cadence feeling more and more like beating on a boulder. One that swung back with severe zeal. In the cyclone of blows Baroth realized how quickly he was losing ground, and tried to move more. He knew the gash would put him at a disadvantage. Had the Spider still been in commission, he’d have already been dead. But her concussion gave him more room for frequent repositioning.


    A spear rocketed through the air behind the hunched Boar, tearing into a naked spot on his upper back. He grunted and staggered forward, the force of impact setting him off balance considerably, an opening for Baroth. This was just enough time for Baroth to slip out from under him, whipping a hard spear jab across his visor and yanking Gidian’s spear free, tossing it back to it’s handler. Together they swooped in on the Boar, leaving him no room to adjust nor any time to fight back. Eons of exploration and habit-made training made Gidian’s deliveries that much easier to read and weave around, striking precisely with impressive rapidity and almost wild finesse. They formed an unspoken language through their blades, an understanding to be used at a deadly extent; Baroth was a heavy-handed fighter, Gidian came to realize, but what he lacked in rigor, he certainly made up in strength and speed. His flurries targeting the Boar’s middle were the perfect cover for Gidian to pierce the bald spots in the brute’s armor. The pain is what made him even more furious, though Gidian was sure he wasn’t experiencing much of it. At least not enough to make a difference or give them any lead. It was either push harder or find another way.


    The choice was snatched from them as a series of hindering disappointments sent the Boar over the edge, a surprise steam attack enveloping them. Baroth was lucky enough to sway aside, his leg only grazed by the torrid burst of air. Gidian carried less fortune, blasted directly on his side as he attempted to scramble out of the way. Though his armor had absorbed most of the shock, it did little to nothing protecting him from the impossible temperature of the blast, an involuntary bout of unbearable pain washing over him. Baroth, though less affected, abruptly threw himself to the Boar in another frantic onslaught. The exchange wouldn’t last long, but with Gidian in the mix the pressure was at least evenly focused and that gave them a fighting chance. Off behind the Boar something shifted and Gidian could faintly register the discharge of a loaded crossbow, noting the metal ding as a sharpened bolt ricocheted off the Boar’s helmet. It caused little to no damage but it was distracting enough that he whirled around to eyeball the shooter, finding the little girl he’d missed earlier. Gidian eyed her peculiarly, finding she was hanging something precariously off her crossbow. Before he could get a good look, she sent it sailing in a weak arc towards him, forcing him to hop out of bounds to catch it, half-mindedly tossing his spear to Baroth. He instantly put it to work, sweating the Boar with a Sabre-cat fighting style, creating a frantic dance of his own. When he caught it, Gidian knew it was a section of the Spider's web, but a coat of sand made it safe to handle while still retaining it’s underlying adhesive qualities once the sand rubbed off. It gave him an idea, and while Baroth fought the Boar, he'd have time to coil it around his bracers. Crowded with crippling barrages and hordes of steam bursts, Baroth barely eluded the Boar’s advances and provided just enough cover to hide Gidian’s approach. A stray fist caught his eye, and in a swift motion, he snared it in the web and looped around the Boar, the Boar abruptly swung to cut him off but Gidian saw him coming and ducked under his arm, the web tightening around his back. Baroth was quick in response, diving back in a low pounce to launch himself forwards, ripping across the Boar’s chest. At this the Boar strained vainly against his bonds, a half-minded distraction as Gidian lassoed him down for what he hoped was the count.



    The Spider was too slow in closing the distance to stop the hog tying, but she tried to shoot several webs in Gidian’s direction to ensnare him and pull him off of the Boar. Gidian merely shifted his weight and put the Boar between himself and the web, further entangling the downed giant. He noted with disappointment that the Spider had deactivated the electricity in order to avoid hurting her mate, and in the next moment, she had closed the distance and came face to spear with Baroth. He attempted to skewer her at a distance with one spear and close in to trip her with the other, doing his best to stay out of reach of her electrically charged limbs and take advantage of her tunnel vision on her mate. She grabbed the skewering spear out of the air with a hand, but failed to see the low sweep and her feet were hooked then pulled out from under her, sending her tumbling down. Baroth was moving to execute her before she’d even made contact with the sand, letting go of the spear she’d grabbed and desperately tried to use as leverage to hold herself up. However, her mechanical limbs caught her fall and pushed herself up and around to parry the lethal strike. She responded with a barrage of electrically charged jabs that forced Baroth to backpedal for his life, and then turned suddenly to lunge with the spear at the approaching Gidian, foiling a surprise strike. Gidian skidded to a halt, and he and Baroth circled the Spider as she squared off. There were a few tense moments of silence, then the Spider abruptly tossed the spear up and into the air in Gidian’s direction, momentarily distracting him as she immediately capitalized. He instinctively took a step back as the electrically charged limbs lashed out at him, dodging what few he could and preparing to endure another barrage of jabs. He was disappointed, however, as the spider instead grabbed him by an arm and twisted around him, jumping onto him and using her legs and every other muscle in her body as well as the mechanical limbs to grapple and flip over him. She contorted his arm and neck in a painful direction as he just managed to keep her from breaking his neck with a turn of his full body and the use of his free arm, desperately trying to keep her from gouging out his eyes. Whatever relief came from saving himself from a quick death was replaced with the agonizing pain of an immense amount of magical lightning arcing through his body as the Spider grinned with maniacal satisfaction.


    Gidian restrained his cry of pain into a vicious and guttural roar through clenched teeth as his limbs stiffened in pain against his will. Baroth responded by ramming his shoulder into Gidian’s chest as hard as he could, shaking off the brief charges that coursed through him and sending Gidian and the Spider flipping backwards off their feet. The Spider instinctively moved her arms to catch herself, but broke concentration and her mechanical limbs all followed suite. Gidian rolled to the side and roughly to his feet as he tried to create as much distance as possible between himself and the spider, retching to get some air back into his lungs. Baroth once again tried to execute the grounded spider, but was once again parried as she jumped to her feet, forcing Baroth back as she aggressively pressed him. Eventually, she forced Baroth to release the spear with a sharp arc of electricity channeled through it. Before she could press her advantage, a ragged Gidian tackled her from behind, too shocked from the previous bout to manage anything fancier. Baroth attempted to follow up with a swift metal plated boot stomp to her head, but the mechanical limbs simply inverted and threw Gidian off with a parting shock, then her real arms caught Baroth’s foot and threw it back with a surprising amount of force, sending him off balance as he shuffled backwards. As she threw herself forward in pursuit, almost crawling, Baroth glimpsed Gidian recovering and closing in from behind. Rather than continuing to shuffle back, he instead dug in his feet and held his ground. Gidian managed to grab one of the Spider’s feet as she was jerking to her own feet, further hindering her balance as she fell directly into a solid kick from Baroth. She instinctively threw up her arms to shield her head, and lashed out at Gidian with a savage kick, forcing him to let go as she forced Baroth back once again with a wild flurry of electrical charged limbs. She rolled away from Baroth and onto her feet as she dropped into a low and wary stance, trying to keep them both in her range of vision. Gidian was slower getting to his feet this time, but neither he nor Baroth took their eyes off of the Spider as Baroth squared off, prepared to buy time for Gidian to get his feet back if the Spider charged.


    As Gidian got to his feet and composed himself with few ragged deep breaths, the Spider relaxed herself and took a more casual pose for the crowd. They ate it up as she raised both her hands and beckoned the two opposing warriors with deadly conviction in her eyes. Gidian responded by contemptuously spitting blood into the sand, then defiantly walked forward to close the distance. Baroth fell in step as he passed. The walk became a trot, and then the trot became a charge as the spider opened her hands and shot two more webs from her extended arms, only for them to be easily dodged as Gidian and Baroth bore down on her. Rather than dropping the webs, she tightened her grip on them and began to twirl in a dance of death, throwing around sand and bringing the two webs around in two sweeping arcs as loose voltage trickled from them. What began as a charge was now became a deadly trial of flexibility and dexterity to close the distance before someone got unlucky. Gidian, all things considered, wouldn’t bet money on Baroth getting tagged before himself, but he hoped with all the humor he could muster that he wouldn’t be the only one to leave the arena with no less than three sound thrashings in a row.


    The brief dance pushed Gidian to his limits as he struggled against the fatigue of recent electrocution and multiple concussions, but luckily didn’t have to maintain the deadly dance for long. Skadi, who had been trying to further entangle the Boar and generally mess up his suit however she could, shot a crossbow bolt in the Spider’s direction. It flew true, and would have nailed the spider in the head if she hadn’t caught the movement in her peripherals and raised her arms to block instinctually. This caused her to drop the webs and provided a perfect opportunity for Gidian and Baroth to close in.


    When the Spider lowered her arms, it revealed a wicked grin as Baroth and Gidian both weaved around the electrified web one last time and closed within punching distance. Baroth went high and Gidian went low, but neither of their attacks connected as the Spider whirled and parried every strike with blinding speed, able to block and attack from every direction at once and almost immediately shift the two warriors back to the defensive. With every strike, electricity raced through their bodies and slowed their movements, becoming more and more sluggish in their own blocking and counterattacking. Gidian finally let out a defiant roar and rushed the Spider, trying to muscle his way past her rain of strikes and bring her down for Baroth to finish. It was very similar to their earlier struggle where he’d managed to grapple her and knock her nearly out cold with his helmet. As such, she was expecting it, and every one of her strikes stunned and slowed his progress. His pace was brought to a virtual craw as he fought to keep his feet. He careened his entire body to the side and clumsily pirouetted into one final, desperate roundhouse kick. She caught it under one arm and brought her electrified elbow down hard on it as she let the full weight of her body and mechanical suit collapse onto his thigh with a blinding explosion of electric energy. Baroth had been attempting to exploit the distraction caused by Gidian, trying to take advantage of the opening as she crushed Gidian’s leg, but was blinded by the sudden burst of light and caught in the electric charges that spread through the air and tossed him back. Gidian let out a hoarse cry of pain and rage as the Spider attempted to go for the finishing strike, but Gidian let out a defiant amalgamation of a shriek and a growl as he gritted his teeth and threw a wide left hook, which manifested as more using his body to sling his arm around than a true punch. She caught it easily, but he used his caught arm to grab her and pull her into a hate-filled headbutt, packed with all the strength he could muster. The headbutt connected, and sent her reeling back in pain, eyes watering and nose likely broken. Gidian doubled over in pain from both his head and his leg, curling up and letting out a string of extremely violent curses as he hobbled onto one foot, gingerly rubbing the hurt leg. Baroth’s vision had recovered, and he went in after the Spider only for her to completely ignore him as her mechanical limbs blocked every single one of his attacks. She slowly fixed her nose and wiped off the blood with her hands, then gave Gidian a death glare as he wobbled over to join the fray again. She promptly caught Baroth with a wicked backhanded fist and a full on electric treatment as she simply held each of her mechanical limbs to his body and cut loose. Gidian went in for a not-so-dignified looking punch, only for her to kick him in his thigh and bring him down again. He fell to a knee, seething in pain as she released Baroth from the shock treatment and he too fell, only just able to catch himself as he struggled to maintain consciousness.


    There was a pause as the Spider caught her breath, stooping down slightly to rest her arms on her knees, blood flowing from her nose, and oddly enough even her eyes. There was a distinctly foul smell of burnt flesh, most of which was emanating from Gidian and Baroth, but was also very strong in tendrils of smoke that curled off of the Spider’s armor. She composed herself, still breathing deeply as she took several steps backwards, her fatigue apparent. Gidian and Baroth used the opportunity to regain their feet as best they could, but they were both wobbly and off balance. Words began to form on Gidian’s mouth, as if he was about to try and negotiate, but he was immediately cut short as Skadi nailed the Spider in the back of the head with a mace, knocking her out cold instantly.


    Gidian stared at Skadi in shocked disbelief, and Skadi returned a look of very malicious satisfaction, her lips curled up into a wicked looking smile, showing off her teeth. Teeth which Gidian remembered covered in the blood of the man who’d tried to grab her back inside the main building. Gidian wanted to collapse in relief, but instead gathered himself up, mentally preparing himself for one last battle with wolf before throwing Baroth a glance. He still couldn’t remember the man’s name, but he was certainly a fearsome warrior. He’d make for a very deadly opponent if it came to that, and Gidian honestly wasn’t so sure he could handle him anymore. With a slight and rare chuckle, Gidian gave the man a thumbs up, and blearily asked, “Wha’ wa’... you… name again..?” between breaths.


    Baroth was slow in responding, thanks to his injuries, but ployed a weak grin while he recovered. He thought about the cafeteria and how fast Gidian was, the primal aggression in his face, like he was enjoying himself. Fighting him head-on wasn't something Baroth relished.


    “Hodlin..Hodlin Graves.” he answered flippantly, rolling his neck to achieve a spike of pain. He winced, glanced around for the Wolf, then glanced at his brutalized arm. Mashed shreds of skin and muscle gave way to a mangled slit of ripped flesh and sinew. He raised a hand to cover the mess, eyes peeled for an attack from the Wolf as the wound sewed itself back together. It wouldn't heal properly if he didn't patch it now. He caught Skadi approaching and waved her over. Even he could tell she was off after her shot on the Spider, leaving her with a toothy grin and adrenaline-hungry eyes. She raised her mace in some kind of awkward gesture, a salute he guessed, but Baroth ignored it. “Any clue where Maere might have gone?” he quipped. And suddenly her eyes lit up and the grin vanished, a spell of panic etched on her features. She shot glances every which way, realizing she'd forgotten the woman in this chaos. Finally her eyes fell on a figure to their left and she pointed at it, crumpled in the sand where Gidian had awoken. Baroth stumbled over to the fallen Maere and knelt at her side, Gidian reluctantly in tow while Skadi awkwardly lingered. He wasn't sure if she'd broken anything but moving her could cause more damage than good. He took a deep breath and leaned over her, his heightened sense of hearing able to distinguish her breathing over the satisfied roars of the crowd. He checked her pulse and waited, both relieved and pleased that she was still alive. The palpitations were slower than usual, telling him she had fallen due to fatigue, likely after fixing Gidian in fighting condition. With the state he was in, Baroth was impressed she was able to do any good at all. He shot a thumbs up, leaving her be as he rose. “She's only fatigued, and until we deal with the Wolf, she'll have to stay here.” he shot Skadi a firm glance, unable to remember her name at the moment.


    “Keep that thing close, we got one more on the loose.” then a whimsical glance at Gidian.


    “Ever hunt a rabid wolf?” he grinned.


    Gidian returned a half grin and a tired chuckle, then winced in both physical and mental pain, but mostly physical as the laugh took its toll. “More than I care to remember.” He paused a moment to survey Belzebub and Dolun’s progress. The Wolf was a bit winded, but didn’t seem to be having much trouble with the duo. In fact, he seemed to be having fun. “I don’t think we’d be much help if we jumped in like this.” he commented, giving Baroth’s arm a pointed glance as he rubbed his leg self consciously, favoring it.


    Baroth nodded in assent, ignoring his glance. “We could have her head in ahead of us,” he jerked a thumb at Skadi, blind to her reaction. “Break a few eggs to give us the upper hand.” he looked at the Wolf, twirling his blades as it was another morning. He wasn't gonna slow down any time soon. “The longer we give him, the more damage he could cause.”


    Gidian was shaking his head before Baroth even finished the sentence regarding Skadi, though he briefly considered shaking Maere awake and sending her in to die. It would take care of multiple problems in one go. Efficient, which he tried to be. “After all the crazy sh** these guys have pulled, I wonder if he doesn’t have a secret of his own up his sleeves.” He noticed Skadi in his peripherals throwing around sand and looking for something with zeal. He ignored it. “But you’re right.” Gidian looked back at the Boar and the Spider, and furrowed his eyebrows. “The Spider and the Boar seemed to be a couple. I wonder if we’re dealing with a big happy family here…” he gave Baroth a dark look, suggesting with his eyes that there might be another way out of this.


    It took Baroth a second to catch his drift, his face lighting up when came to realize. He noted the Bat and Raven’s fighting pattern, relating it to the Boar and Spider. Gidian was right. “Maybe he's not romantically involved.. But he just might be loyal.” he shared a dark glance of his own, setting it on the Boar. He winced as his flesh wound throbbed. Time taught him to show mercy and let the defeated walk away, a show of honor. He wanted to barter for peace, and avoid a fight altogether. He wanted to step in and aid Dolun and Belzebub, like he would any day. Today was different, they had the upper hand in deadly situation, and Baroth wouldn't let his emotions change that. “He's mine.” he said, his features sharp and unforgiving.


    Gidian nodded, the chuckling and the grinning replaced with deadly seriousness. “I’ll handle Lucille.” he said with an edge of familiarity to his tone. “We can get Spero to handle some of the others…” he looked around for Skadi, and found her sitting by Maere with a satchel of some sort, rifling through it and tossing out a random assortment of healing tools. Gidian was confused for a moment, caught by complete surprise as he wondered where it had even come from. Then he remembered that Maere had brought it in, and a slow grin returned to his features as he shook his head in amusement. Skadi found one potion, one green in color, and without hesitation forced the unconscious Maere to down some. After a few moments where only the woman’s breathing steadied a bit, she tried the next one she could find, a blue one, and waited…


    Maere’s eyes began to flutter as the contents of the vials entered her system. Any energy that had been left over after her diving into Gidian’s mind had resurfaced, slowly, expanding as the potions began to take effect. She began to rise up slowly, her eyes adjusting once again to the scene before her, though she couldn’t be sure if what she was seeing could be labeled as better or worse. Gidian had gotten back to his feet, much to her satisfaction. Wading through that nightmare had been worth it. Or had it? As her sight came back to her, she found herself grunting under her breath in slight annoyance. After mending Gidian’s bones mostly back to normal, he had managed to get himself banged up again. However, this was not the only thing she had noticed. While he was limping about, the man who stood with him... His name escaped her for the moment, but that wasn’t what she was currently focusing on. Her eyes looked over the man as he seemed to also be favoring a limb of his own, in his case being his arm. A healer’s job was never done, she mused to herself. She looked to Spero, thanking her before she began her attempt to get to her feet. The young woman did not reply to her thanks, instead rising up and taking Maere’s hands, helping her back to a standing position in a rather brusque fashion. The force of the pull caused Maere to stumble as she rose back up, barely able to catch her footing as she gripped Spero’s arms tighter, bracing herself from being sent back downward. When she felt confident in her stance again, she looked to Spero, who did not take the time to check on her further, instead finding something new to focus her attention on. The young woman bent down, grabbing at something that had laid by their feet. She gripped the item with both hands as she raised it upward, brandishing it as she cracked a smile, far more menacingly then Maere had expected. As the item came into view, her brow furrowed. Why was Spero excited about a simple mace? Her focus shifted to Gidian, who seemed to be amused by the sight. Chuckling to himself, he pointed toward something in the distance, likely helping Maere understand the importance of the weapon. As her gaze followed the direction of Gidian’s gesture, she caught a most welcome sight. The spider lay unconscious, the back of her head carrying a rather nasty wound. Even in her exhaustion, Maere managed to connect the dots as she looked back to Spero, giving a smirk of her own. That was one problem down. Maere was feeling better about their odds already. However, she knew the fight was far from over. They had managed to survive this long, but they needed to end this. Fast. Her attention shifted to their last foe, who quickly made it apparent he certainly was not the least. The wolf’s skill in battle was on show as he weaved between the combined force of both Dolun and Belzebub with relative ease, making the pair look like they were standing still.


    Baroth had followed her gaze for a moment but he didn’t linger. He knew the danger they’d landed in. He ran the thought around again, taking the Wolf’s allies hostage, how it’d work out. The Wolf was a volatile character, he seemed compulsive and random, so even the tiniest detail could set their plans off if they upset him. He studied the man’s feral figure as it spun between Dolun and Belzebub, a tornado of mayhem and pain. He was hiding more than blades in his tuft armor, that much Baroth knew; thanks to his overconfidence, but every fighter, big or small, had a secret. But the crowd and their deafening cries of bloodlust concerned him more. He recognized another possibility, small but considerable.


    He raised his voice a little, finding it hard to focus in the noise. “We really need to play this by heart. If he’s as loyal as i think, he’ll have a hard time letting these six die. And even then he’ll be a handful if he decides to fight.. ” he trailed off, thinking back to the smug grin the Wolf exchanged with him earlier. He had to be hiding something else, Baroth could practically smell it.


    Gidian’s face returned to business, his grin once again falling as he listened to Baroth. “I think we should encourage him to fight, only a bit less vigorously. But first we need an idea of just how attached he is, and to who specifically.” Gidian sighed, “What say we get down to business? Spero, Maere, you should be able to drag the ferrets in. Graves and I will pile in the others.” Skadi gave him a confused look and Gidian, used to dealing with her curiosities, automatically assumed she was going to ask about dragging around the opponents before the fight was over. “It’s customary for the victors to line up the losers for execution should the Overseer point the thumb down.” With that, Skadi and Maere went after the Ferrets, Gidian limped after the Spider, and Baroth merrily skipped off after the Boar, humming merry tunes all the way (that’s code for deadly serious walk and muttered curses).


    Gidian attempted to lift the Spider and her mechanical suit once, but the dead weight of her and the metal was too much and his leg almost immediately collapsed out from under him, sending tendrils of pain all throughout his body. After a lot of cursing and punching the Spider’s unconscious body for a bit of therapy, he instead grabbed her by the collar of her armor and dragged her over to the others, unceremoniously throwing the Spider down next to the Ferrets as he collected the Raven in a similar fashion.


    Maere crept toward the ferrets warily, studying them as she and Spero got closer. They were much smaller than the others they had dealt with prior, much to Maere’s relief. She could not imagine having to drag someone as large as the Boar back to where they had decided to line up their opponents. She glanced to Skadi briefly, deciding to make the first move. She stepped behind one of the twins and reached down, lifting him up slightly, just high enough for her to reach under his arms and hook her own underneath. She bent back up slightly, looking back to Skadi who had done something similar with the other twin. Maere nodded to her silently, before she began to drag her half of the ferrets back down to where the Gidian had begun to stick the others. As they both managed to drag their former opponents to their respective spots, Maere let hers fall unceremoniously on his back, standing back up straight, dusting herself off with a small curse under breath as she heard the ferret groan wordlessly below. Skadi, noticing the ferret beginning to stir, quickly moved to where he was, mace in hand. Before Maere could say anything to stop her, Skadi gripped the mace with both hands, sending it down upon the head of the waking ferret, once again rendering him unconscious. Maere glanced to her briefly, before she looked almost instinctively to the Wolf, who no doubt took note of her transgression. The man glared to the both of them menacingly, letting a harrowing growl escape his lips.


    The Boar was a lot heavier than he looked. From afar he looked like giant frame of muscle and metal, with plenty of tufts to spare. Up close, in a stagnant position, Baroth noted how intricate the design was. As predicted, many of the components were missing while others were left damaged and ruined. The steam valves and pipes that fed his damnable spouts had ruptured and snapped off, leaving them useless. The heart of his machinery, centurion cores and soul gems, were either missing or shattered in place. And on his head, the pockmarks and fleshwounds of a mace, likely Skadi’s doing after she tightened his bonds. Where his exo-skeleton failed to shield his flesh, Baroth could see the exposed scar tissue, coming to expect the deep craters their spears had left but frowned. If the Boar’s skull was as thick as his skin, he’d be hard to finish off. Baroth shrugged off the thought and hooked weary hands under the giant’s ankles, dragging him like a fell game towards the others. Along the way, he piled the Bat on the Boar’s chest, pushing on with an amused chuckle.


    Everyone had already gathered by the time he arrived, a collective heap of their defeated adversaries. A trash heap, Baroth thought darkly. He didn’t get much further before Gidian knicked his side with an elbow, nodding curtly to the unconscious ferrets. “The Ferrets.” He said in a terse voice, a dark message gleaming in his eyes. Baroth instantly understood and shifted to study the Wolf more intensely. Now that they were closer, Baroth clicked to something he hadn’t noticed earlier. Lower part of his jaw, the splotched scar of fire in a faint arc. After that, it all fell into place and recognition lifted his features. If he could swing this the right way, there wouldn’t need to be a fight at all. Maybe.


    “Spero,” he called, turning on her without thinking, gesturing for her mace. “I need that.”


    She froze, hesitant to relinquish it after Baroth had done so much with just his hands. Instead, she elected a defiant brow and clutched the mace to her chest, as if in a temporary brace. Baroth retracted for a moment forgetting how attached she’d become with the weapon. He couldn’t blame her, all things considered, it was her best chance out here. But then an idea dawned her and her face lit up with relief, and without a word she tossed him the humble mace and scurried past him to the Boar. She came away with one of his Dwarven maces, a smile of content as Baroth reluctantly turned to find the Wolf, knowing he’d been given the short end of the stick.


    ‘Doesn’t matter’ he thought. ‘Just gotta let him know I mean business.’


    “Karren!” he bellowed, mustering every intimidating fiber he could.
     
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  12. Keidivh

    Keidivh Noble exile of High Rock

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    The Argonian remained silent for some time after Solenne had asked about how they arrived here. Instead of receiving any type of straight forward answer the man instead took to thrashing upon the ground in a rather violent fashion. For a moment he wondered if he was having a seizure but his movements seemed to… Deliberate. As if he was struggling against some invisible foe. And what a vicious fight it seemed to be. At least in the poor beasts mind as he fought with a desperate viciousness one would see only if they were mere seconds away from death.

    As Kiyoshi muttered some plea to his god or whatever it was he called out to Rolard dragged his hands across his face, letting out an exasperated sigh as he did so. While he didn’t know the man in any sense, Rolard was a good enough judge of character to know that he wouldn’t need to fear any form of betrayal, unless forced in some way. Which meant he could have been an ally, or a strong swordsmen to rely on until his use was no longer needed. But evidently he wouldn’t even be good for that. This Kiyoshi could barely have a conversation with the two it seemed before breaking down. A liability he could not trouble himself with. Perhaps in an earlier point in his life he would have looked to defend someone such as him from the merciless and blood lusting arena, but that Breton had died in Akaire.

    His eyes looked upon him with little more than disinterest. Sorry friend, but it’s my life over yours.

    The metallic clang of a rising gate struck his ears as he turned away from his two fellow prisoners, his icy, glowing eyes falling upon the newcomers to the arena. There were four other prisoners in this new group, a motley bunch yet each looking vicious in their own right, all bearing some kind of armament ranging from rusty daggers to longswords and bows, all of them blunted. But what had caught Rolards attention were the men accompanying the group. Twelve in total, each clad head to toe in Imperial mail and plate, which while quite clearly ill-maintained would be more than enough to guard them from the complete sh** any of the prisoners could ever get their hands on. And at their head seemed to be the commander of the bunch, a grizzled ugly looking Imperial. Half of the man’s nose seemed to be removed, leaving it as more of a snout, one of his ears a grizzled mass of flesh that he wondered was even still functional. Perhaps most distinctive was his armor, clearly of Orsimer make which made Rolards face twist into a scowl naturally. The jagged points and seemingly crude work gave away the origin, but his hatred for the creatures didn’t blind him to their mastery at crafting tools of war.

    When the man finally spoke, his voice had a deep and gravely sound to it, “My sincerest and warmest greetings filth of Tamriel, and welcome to the Arena. Although more accurately it is your tomb, but no need to dwell on that now is there?” He shot the prisoners a wicked smile, causing many to avert their eyes from his visage.

    “Now lets go over the ground rules. Attempt to escape, and we’ll remove your legs. Raise your hand against a guard, we’ll remove your arms. Look at us the wrong way, we’ll remove your eyes.”

    “Tch, wonder what happens if you piss in the wrong direction.” To say the small arena had suddenly grown quiet would been an understatement, it seemed as if the world itself had stopped breathing. All eyes turned to look at the Dunmer who had made the quip, yet even his skin seemed white as he realized that he could well have just signed his death sentence. In silence the Imperial evaluator strode up to the Dunmer, and without breaking stride drove his armored knee into the Dunmers groin, causing an inhumane wail to ring out the arena, the spiked armor clearly causing irreparable damage to his manhood. And considering the treatment in this place, it could more than likely prove fatal.

    “In case you are as foolish as your now castrated friend here, I’ll be a bit more clear. Each of you are already dead. You are nothing more than beasts. We’ll make you kill each other, and we’ll kill any of you if we like. There are no Divines down here, no Daedric Princes. Down here, we’re your gods, and you live and die at our command, understood?” Rolard took a moment to look around to see who was cowed by this blatant intimidation act, a good way of sorting out the weak willed from the strong. He would need every advantage, every piece of information he could obtain on his enemy to survive, and down here, everyone was his enemy. This Evaluator was quickly proving to be his most dangerous one. While not all cowered at his words, Rolard was one of the few to hold his gaze. He knew it was foolish, it would only paint a bigger target on his back, but he refused to be cowed by a brutish cretin like this.

    The Evaluator didn’t let this go unnoticed, sneering at the Breton before he went on with his rant, if only to satisfy his evident god complex.

    “Today we’re going to be putting you through initiation, which means you all get to fight for your lives for the first time, and it won’t be the last. You’ll be using blunted weaponry, so don’t get any ideas about trying to break out or rise up against us or any other sh**. No one has escaped the arena before, and those who try. Heh, well, I’ll leave that all to your imagination.” The other guards laughed grimly amongst each other, seeming to have fond memories of whatever tortuous ends those escapes met. Impressive, finding this many sadists and sociopaths to act as guards. Imperial taxes at work once again.

    “Ah, almost forgot, the fighting begins now.” The Evaluator gave a final sneer towards Rolard as he and the guards moved away to the edges of the arena to enjoy the show, and right on cue ten warriors burst into the arena, clad in all manner of armor and wielding a wide range of weaponry, noticeably giving no time for Rolard or his acquaintances to even properly arm themselves. It wasn’t exactly the best odds, but he had survived worst. He had to, although death at times did hold a certain appeal to it. But it was a luxury he couldn’t quite afford yet.

    The entire arena broke out into chaos as the stunned prisoners struggled to defend themselves from the warriors, two of whom had put their focus on Rolard. One appeared to be a classic large Nord with a claymore, the other a Khajit wielding two short swords. “I’d hardly call this a fair fight gentleman. I mean really, there are only two of you? Maybe grab a few other warriors and we might be able to have a proper fight.” In truth he was at a clear disadvantage, but that wasn’t something they needed to know. Causing them to second guess a move, to doubt themselves would give him the opening he needed to take them down, or better yet get to a weapons rack.

    The Khajiti reached him first, his light armor allowing him to close the distance with ease, jumping into a twirl at Rolard, looking to overwhelm him in an initial flurry of strikes. It was quite a fancy move, but nothing other than that. Instinctively Rolard rolled out of range from the strike and actually towards the oncoming Nord who was more than happy to try and take the easy target who was now splayed on the ground practically begging to be struck. Clutching a handful of dirt, he waited until right before he was ready to bring the sword down before tossing it into his eyes, causing the man to stumble backwards and howl in rage as he tried to blink and rub out the dirt and blood blinding him. It wasn’t that long ago that he looked down on such tactics with disgust and contempt. It went against everything he had been taught as a knight, as a ruler. But life had taught him a valuable lesson, that honor was an illusion. Honor didn’t save his family or protect his people. No, he couldn’t afford to be honorable any longer. He had to be what his family needed him to be.

    As the blind Nord still stumbled about Rolard swung his legs beneath him, sending him down in a nice tumble, bringing up his fist in a hard uppercut into his face, a sick cracking noise letting him know he had broken the bastards nose. Before he could take advantage of this he felt a deep raking sensation go down his back, quickly swinging around with his elbow, cracking the Khajit square in the face, who appeared to have chosen to use his claws to draw blood. Having knocked away both his opponents, Rolard rushed over to the weapons rack, ignoring the burning sensation running along the entirety of his back. He’d have to make sure to repay the scar in kind.

    His eyes frantically scanned for a suitable weapon. They were all complete sh**e unsurprisingly, but he wasn’t a brawler, he was a swordsman. Eventually he settled on a blunted bastard sword of about the same length as his own, of course such a creation could never compare to Saphfire. Knowing that it was in the hands of these brutes somewhere caused bile to raise in his throat, and his hands to almost ignite in flames. Easy now, best keep that for a rainy day.

    Rolard turned just in time with his new ‘weapon’ (scrap iron would be a more appropriate term) to meet his sparring partners, each looking a bit worse for wear, of course the lacerations in his back would take their toll. “Ah my friends, this has just become a much more unpleasant experience for you.” An easy grim came over his face as he fell into a defensive fighting stance, setting his right foot back to propel him forward.

    “I’m going to gouge out your eyes half-breed!” The Nord bellowed before charging in alongside his Khajiti companion. Right before they could get in reach Rolard launched himself forward, twisting in a tight spin and deflecting the raging Nord’s swing, using his momentum to knock him into the Khajit before slicing at his calf. While dulled, the hit still left a nice gash to at the very least hobble one of his opponents, nearly sending him to the ground again. Refusing to be humiliated in such a way, the Nord warrior caught himself and spun back around with a renewed fury, raining blow after blow upon Rolard, each one carefully deflected or avoided by the Breton, knowing that even attempting to block strikes like this could send him flying on his ass. When the Khajit joined with the Nord things really began to become interesting, Rolards blade practically becoming a blur as he continued to parry and step out of this vicious assault. But while his opponents threw everything they had at each him, he had been careful to save his stamina while they grew sluggish.

    It didn’t take long for one of them to make a mistake, the Khajit overreaching with a thrust, allowing Rolard to crack his bastard sword over his arm, and judging by the Khajits scream breaking his arm. Kicking the cat onto the ground, he then pressed the Nord who at this point simply couldn’t stand against him one on one. Eyes inflamed from sand and leg hobbled, a final crack to the head sent the Nordic warrior into a blissful coma.

    Rolard took a moment to try and catch his breath and see if any of his fellow prisoners had been able to handle themselves.

    Of course taking this moment of reprieve was met with a blunt arrow straight to the back, Rolard gasping in pain as it hit deep into one of his lacerations. Whipping around he saw a rather vicious looking warrior who had dispatched two of the other prisoners that had come in and survived the initial assault. Dressed in a unique armor that was unfamiliar to him, it was evident this warrior was of a different stock.

    Rolards grip tightened around his blade, knuckles turning white as he prepared to face his newest opponent. Perhaps he would get a proper fight after all.
     
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  13. CapObvious

    CapObvious Gramos Goat-Shaker

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    Maere glanced over their foes as they continued to be thrown together, still unsure of what they were trying to accomplish. No doubt there was some planning that she had missed in her unconsciousness, context to their actions that she had not gathered herself. Her attention honed in upon Gidian, who seemed to let off some sort of a clue as to what they were attempting. However, the cryptic statement followed with the meaningful glare only compounded on her uncertainty. “The ferrets.” He stated simply, leaving Maere to piece together the situation on her own while the actual recipient of the information seemed to understand almost immediately. The healer began to feel frustrated as she tried to comprehend it all, but decided to wait and see. Surely they would not have wasted her time with this unless it led to something that would get them out of this alive.


    Alive. A notion that which at the beginning of the fight seemed farfetched. Impossible. Yet somehow, they stood nearly triumphant, all that kept them from making this travesty a hard fought victory was the man who weaved between Belzebub and Dolun effortlessly, making both of them who were formidable warriors in their own right seem like bumbling children in comparison. Even while outmatched in number, the wolf still seemed to have the upper hand, biding his time with the comparative brutes with little exertion on his end. She only hoped that whatever plan they were working on would end this quickly. Time was not on their side.


    As she observed the battle, her attention was stolen once more, eyes darting to Baroth as he spoke to Skadi, hand outstretched, attempting to coerce her into handing over the mace she had so recently clubbed the ferret with. Maere recalled how attached she seemed to the weapon, so when Skadi clutched it to her chest defiantly, she found it unsurprising. She was no doubt unwilling to part with it, having swayed the battle with it once before. The man retracted his hand, but did not have to wait long. The woman tossed the mace to him before rushing over to the boar, gathering one of his own maces and bringing it back with her, carrying the new weapon proudly. Maere winced as she let loose a chuckle, the odd behavior amusing her as it flew in the face of the tension of the current situation.. Were they not in such dire straights, she would also comment upon Gidian’s hair, which was stuck out on end, charged electrically from his bout with the spider. She stifled another light laugh, reminding herself that now was not the time to mock or poke fun. Their lives were on the line. She returned her gaze to Baroth, who had moved toward the wolf, mace gripped firmly in hand. Skadi began to follow after him with her own, but was stopped short. An outstretched arm barred her from continuing, Gidan looking to her with a shake of his head, his expression cold, somber. The exact intent behind the look was lost upon her, but she did catch wind of a sickening curiosity behind it as he watched Baroth move forward, a dark interest of where this would lead. Before she had time to wonder what that entailed, Baroth called out above the roar of the crowd, a challenge to the wolf who still was locked in the heat of battle.


    “Karren!” He roared, his grip tightening on the weapon he carried, his stance imposing. No doubt he was putting on his most intimidating show for the wolf, despite him being battered from his previous stints with the boar and spider. If he intended to call out the man, he needed to keep from showing any weakness. They could not afford to convey any weakness now. Every action was going to be analyzed. It needed to go off without a hitch.


    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Baroth grimaced as the roar climbed it’s way from his lips, the bruises and dents in his armor screaming as the sound ripped through his aching insides and dry vocal cords. It didn’t stop his smug grin, noticing the Wolf’s initial surprise before descent into irritable rage, causing him to momentarily lose focus. He didn’t expect to see Baroth alive and (relatively) well, especially after the grueling death struggle. Baroth could say the same, but he knew the Wolf would survive the longest (bless Dolun and Belzebub), and he knew just how to play him into killing himself. Karren needed to die for more than one reason. Scowling, likely in embarrassment, the Wolf howled back over his shoulder, “BAROTH!”. Baroth grimaced again. That was going to cause problems later. All things considered, at least he recognized him. Not bothering to address the remark, Baroth turned and scooped up one of the ferrets, a once ferocious ball of fur and teeth now barely conscious. He held it up like a proud hunter, death-gripping it’s scalp to achieve weak moans of agony. The Wolf caught sight of this and froze in place, just long enough to register what he was seeing, maw agape in a mix of horror and confusion, trying to figure if the Ferret was alive or dead. Baroth knew that pain well, and while it put him in a position negative to his moral compass, he had to steel himself for the next part. To capitalize on the message, holding eye contact, Baroth dropped the boy and swiftly kicked him midair, hard enough to send him tumbling several feet ahead and probably break some things along the way. In a heartbeat, the crowd gasped with horror before eating up the sudden brutality with a signature roar of approval. Hopefully that’s what hit him hardest. Whatever guilt or resentment the Wolf felt was replaced quickly with malice, teeth bared as he imagined tear Baroth to literal pieces. That’s all Dolun and Belzebub needed. Without warning, they dove on the Wolf’s flank, hitting him with everything they had yet. Baroth advanced, calling back, “If they wake, keep them down!”


    More ferocity than before. The Wolf, exposed as Karren, was holding nothing back as he expressed the mixed cauldron of emotions he was fighting. Blurs of steel on steel. He caught Dolun’s jaw with his hilt, swiftly dealing Belzebub a nasty backhanded slash, a metal-plated boot sending him reeling. Eyes ablaze, darting between the pair, anticipating their next move, but movement tickled his peripheral. He spun and lashed out wildly, expecting the knight to parry but he instead shifted aside, letting the Wolf tire himself and fumble forwards. Before he could straighten out or dance out of his reach, Baroth barred his mace under Karren’s neck, securing it with his forearm in a tight headlock. Now was the time.


    He wrenched the Wolf’s head to watch Gidian casually plant a foot on one of the Ferrets heads. Perfect timing. “I know what you’re hiding, Karren,” he hissed. The wolf barely struggled. Giving in. “So here’s the deal: You’re going to lose this one. You’ll put on a hell of a show, we’ll fight man-to-man, that much I’ll grant you, but this fight is over! Try to weasel out of it, and those nice people over there will make damn sure your little children never walk again.” And before he could bark anything obscene, Baroth shoved him free and stood firm, calmly clocking the tell-tale shimmer of a hidden power-suit beneath his pelts.


    The Wolf stumbled forward a few paces, thoroughly off balance as the threat sent him reeling. He looked like he was going to be sick as he looked between Baroth and Gidian, eyes wide and teeth bared, the gears in his mind desperately turning for a solution. However, the roars of the crowd quickly drowned out any of his thoughts, deafening in their cries for violence. Karren wheeled on Baroth, snarling and practically spitting out the words, “Let’s go, bitch! Those two were beginning to bore me anyways.” He dropped into a ready stance and took a shuffling step forward, feinting a lunge with his right hand blade at Baroth’s head. Then he followed up with a low sweep with the flat of his left hand blade that slipped through his fatigued guard with supernatural speed, nearly knocking him off his feet as if to say, ‘I can kill you whenever I want.’ However, Baroth lifted his leg up with the blow rather than allowing it to be entangled, balancing on his free foot and preventing the trip.


    Baroth casually rolled his shoulders, leaning all his weight into a charge, mace brandished. Before coming within reach of the Wolf’s swords, he stopped and used the momentum to curl himself up for a low swing at the his feet. Karren was only seconds faster, hopping back to just narrowly avoid the pronged mace. Expecting this, Baroth jumped up and followed with a succession of blinding flurries, favoring his good arm as the Wolf held him at bay, if only so. Baroth wasn’t holding back, but he made good use of the energy he had stored up, deliberately leaving himself open to stray strikes and jab, adding to the theatrics he so despised. The Wolf poked at his left side viciously, hoping to set Baroth off balance long enough to get some distance between them. However, Baroth sidestepped once again letting the Wolf fumble into his reach, swiping his left sword parry out of the way. He ensnared the sword-arm and spun himself under it, throttling an elbow to the Wolf’s side, followed by the solid clunk of the metal power-suit beneath. Baroth grunted as the Wolf stumbled back again, forced to release his sword, but proudly bearing the one. Baroth stretched his arm, letting the sword fall from his grasp while locking eyes with Karren. “Now we’re even, bitch.”


    Karren’s face twitched into a brief snarl, and then with a snort he went from a squared stance into a more casual pose, as if Baroth were no threat. The Wolf let a smile grace his features, but it was not a pleasant expression. It was unsettling, like the neutral expression of a dog that only appears to be a smile, and yet contains no true tangible emotion. “Oh Baroth,” his voice rumbled in a low growl, “You will fall. You’ve wandered into the wrong neck of the woods, and you don’t even know the true predators that stalk you.” he was chuckling as he finished. With an almost casual grace, the wolf flicked a throwing knife out from under his pelts with his free hand, charging in behind it with blinding speed. The words seemed to have their intended effect as Baroth was suddenly caught on the backfoot, barely able to deflect the throwing knife with his mace as he valiantly tried to sidestep the charge. He counterattacked as swiftly as he could, but Karren saw the swing coming ten seconds ago as Baroth swung with more intent to create distance than to attack. The Wolf smiled wickedly, showing off a row of ferocious looking teeth as he brought himself to an instantaneous and casual stop, never even attempting to make contact with his opponent, rolling his shoulders and walking sideways as Baroth regained his balance. “Eyes playing tricks on you, old man? The fake charge was nice, but you’re too slow.” He used his foot to kick the sword he’d lost into the air and snatched it with his free hand. After that, the Wolf took slow and deliberate steps backwards, beckoning Baroth with a finger.


    Baroth led himself into the Wolf’s reach, idly spinning his mace as he watched the man’s movements more closely. At least, that how he masked his real intentions: searching for weak spots in the power armor, noting the joints and barely visible chinks, comparing it to the Boar’s. Nothing distinct, but at least he could forget about surprise steam bursts. Baroth set his eyes on the Wolf’s, pausing in place to build more suspense for the crowd to devour, then moved in. It was a slow, menacing saunter, his flexibility with the mace, and a low growl getting more and more intense as he closed in. Then at the last moment, he fell in for a left side swing, spun before he could strike, and chunked the mace at the Wolf, accompanied by the guttural battle cry and a mocking pose, hyping the crowd’s praise. He hated looking like a showoff but it was their best chance to an easy victory. He immediately followed up by collecting his mace and squaring off with the Wolf, looking weary but firm. “The boy was..so fragile, almost like every bone in his back broke when I kicked him. You could’ve spared him that pain, had you not been so bloodthirsty.” Without another word, he charged.


    The Wolf’s scowl grew deeper and deeper, first when Baroth had the audacity to give him his back with a spin and a flourish, and again when Baroth taunted him with words. Karren circled Baroth as he taunted, every lap becoming closer and closer to the center, until Baroth finally charged, the Wolf properly pissed now. The Wolf snorted, his dark eyes glassy and black in the shadow of his wolf headdress, like a shark’s. Karren lashed out quickly and violently with a flurry of blows, forcing Baroth to grunt in the effort of parrying or blocking any attacks that he couldn’t dodge. But the Wolf was far too reckless, and Baroth caught a lunge under his arm and twisted until the Wolf was forced to once again drop a sword. The Wolf responded by forcing himself into Baroth’s space, moving his arm further in as he caught Baroth in a bear hug, trying to squeeze the life out of him with a few satisfying cracks, the subtle give of the banged up armor pushed to its limits, the metallic thunk of Baroth desperately wailing on the Wolf with his knees and his mace. Karren ignored it, his rage numbing the pain as he lifted Baroth up, and then fell backwards, slamming Baroth head first into the sand and then rolling to his feet. Baroth was a bit slow getting up as he popped his neck and back into proper order, his bones crying out in protest as he once again eyed the Wolf. Baroth’s mental fortitude was far too strong to give Karren the satisfaction of anything other than a chuckle in response. “Can’t even beat me with the suit? Disappointing.”


    The Wolf curled his nose into a snarl and closed the distance almost immediately, his speed uncanny as brought his sword down in the arc of a devastating hammer-blow. Baroth moved to dodge, the attack telegraphed, but telegraphed a bit too much. He wasn’t disappointed when Karren dropped the sword mid strike to go in for a jab, but he was surprised when the jab turned into an open palm that closed around his mace, followed quickly by the second hand. Baroth brought in a solid knee to the Wolf’s unprotected abdomen and was rewarding with a satisfying give as the Wolf stumbled back a step, then didn’t hesitate to pile on punch after punch into the Wolf’s lungs, driving the air from his opponent’s lungs as he wrestled for the mace. Baroth, noticing the Wolf focusing too much power into the mace, simply let go of it to throw off the Wolf’s balance, shoulder checking him for good measure. Karren came away spinning, the mace firmly in his grip as Baroth capitalized with a brutal barrage of punches, kicks, and jabs. The Wolf eventually dropped the mace in the wake of the assault, forced to give ground as Baroth mercilessly advanced. Smelling blood in the water like a shark, Baroth grabbed Karren by the back of the head and brought his face down into a brutal knee, then brought him back up for a headlock, threatening to break arms and even his neck if the Wolf continued to struggle. “When I said man to man, I didn’t mean man to tool. Your price keeps falling cheaper and cheaper..”


    The look of blind rage intensified on Karren’s face, his struggles only intensifying as Baroth’s grip tightened and oxygen became less and less plentiful. And then, suddenly like a roaring flow of lava hitting an ocean, Karren’s face contorted by anger fell into an expression of cold stone. The struggling and flailing grip on Baroth’s arms in order to free up more air, the shuffling feet desperately trying to keep their balance as Baroth continued to drag him backwards and keep him off balance, it all came to a sudden and collected stop. The Wolf bucked forward against Baroth’s backward pull, nearly jerking Baroth off his feet and into the air for a piggy-back ride as he closed his vice like grip around each of Baroth’s arms, preventing him from letting go and disengaging. “Your hand… was so fragile…” he gripped Baroth’s exposed hand from where he’d shed his gauntlet against the spider and began to squeeze with a grip enhanced by dwarven machinery and wolf like metal claws. “...almost like every bone…” he continued as he began to mercilessly squeeze his grip tighter and tighter, digging into the bones and tendons as they were forced to give way, “...in it broke when I crushed it.” He suddenly flexed his group, producing an immediate and audible crack. Broth, however, did not even scream, utter or groan, though he did clench his teeth as his features tightened, braced against the pain. “Hmph.” Karren responded, waiting a few moments for some audible expression of pain before giving up. “Fine.” The Wolf then jumped and fell backwards with all of his weight, slamming Baroth into the sand once again. The Wolf rolled over to his feet, turning his back to Baroth as he breathed deeply several times, trying to catch his breath. Then, without warning or tell, he whirled on Baroth and went wild with a savage onslaught of fury, metal, claw, and bone. Baroth’s armor groaned under the pressure, bones and armor cracking anywhere the Wolf’s blows connected, catching Baroth off guard with the blitz. It didn’t take long for Baroth to recover however, and he was able to tough through the pain and easily dodge the rest of the Wolf’s attacks. The blind fury of rage made the Wolf fall into a pattern of unconscious tells, a mistake that he would not normally make in his right mind. The split second displays of malice were far more of a warning than a warrior of Baroth’s caliber needed.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Breathing. The fighting. The mace. Breathe in. Breathe out. Pay attention to the fight. There aren’t thousands of people. There aren’t thousands of eyes. There’s just us, them, and the mace. And the breathing…


    This was Skadi’s inner mantra as she tried to keep her hands from shaking. The adrenaline and the brief spurt of bravery inspired by Maere were beginning to lose steam, and she needed to forget about everything except for what was in front of her. Or she’d probably pass out. Belzebub and Dolun gratefully bowed out and let Baroth take the reins, resting on their haunches and licking their wounds as they caught their breath. Once the fight started to heat up, Skadi had very little difficulty focusing on it, eyes wide and mouth hanging slightly open as the two exchanged bone-breaking attacks and hate-filled dialogues. The Wolf’s name was Karren, which seemed humorous, and Graves’ was apparently called Baroth. Maybe it was a middle name, or a nickname or something. She didn’t know, and she didn’t dwell on it for too long. As the titans raged back and forth, their war steadily drifted closer and closer to where Skadi and her guardians now stood. Gidian didn’t seem very concerned. His eyes were glued to the fight, his gaze as shrewd and sharp as a hawk as he took in every detail. He seemed to have a much easier time following the lightning fast and complicated movements of the warring duo, and a generally easier time of understanding what he was observing than Skadi. He followed some sort of rhythm that only he could hear as the fight raged, unconsciously tapping his foot on the Ferret’s head. Maere on the other hand...

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Maere looked on helplessly as Baroth battled the Wolf, unable to coax herself to move to his aid, or even move at all. She was frozen in place, watching as they just sat idly by, waiting for the tide to turn one way or the other. She felt bothered, this was not going to work, simply sending Baroth out on his own to bring the wolf down. Would they not have a better chance if they had worked their advantage? Simply tossing themselves one by one to their deaths was not an option. It was a death sentence. She felt her resolve return, her legs finally feeling the urge to move to Gidian, who was observing the fight as well, though seemed far less worried than she. However, she now understood there was far more happening behind his stone expression. Behind his indifference. The dark curiosity lay hidden, but not buried, as he gleaned what information he could from the meeting of two great warriors, no doubt attempting to find weaknesses to exploit, likely in both their opponent as well as the ally who battled him. He continued to observe from his resting position, arms crossed, finger tapping as he waited them out, no sign of him stepping in to aid their friend. Maere knew the man was injured, and no doubt his placement upon the head of a ferret was tactical, but she still felt like there had to have been something he could do to help that involved less posturing. Her annoyance with him began to work her up under the surface, her frustration bubbling beneath her skin as she made her way to him, managing to garner his attention, however briefly it may have been. “Don’t you think someone should be helping him?” Gidian ignored her query, leading to her letting loose a small growl between clenched teeth. She stepped around to the front of him, standing between him and the fight he was currently attempting to study. He glared upon her as one would look to a gnat or fly, a maddening buzz flooding his ears until he answered. “We have the advantage, and yet we sit and watch as he picks us apart one by one? Is that the only plan we can come up with?” She began to spout off angrily, her frustrations coming out in an unconscious stream, speaking her mind without truly listening to herself. She did not care however, she had finally snapped, and it was time to cut loose. She gestured to the ferret who laid below, his head still planted firmly beneath Gidian’s boot. “Are you just a glorified paperweight, or are you going to actually prove you’re worth a damn in a fight? He. Needs. Help.”

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Skadi’s eyes darted between the clash raged with strength of arms and the clash waged with words as Baroth was forced onto his backfoot and Gidian’s patience was tested. Maere continued to insist that he should dive into the ocean of blood, sweat, and sand to turn the tide in Baroth’s favor (he was down to just one good hand after all). Gidian inhaled deeply, his nostrils flaring in the stead of a growl or yell as he was forced to regard Maere, taking his eyes off of the fight. Skadi was also somewhat puzzled by Gidian’s actions, or lack thereof, as she continued to think on it. Jumping to Baroth’s aid certainly wasn’t her first instinct… but… her eyes subtly fell back on the unconscious Boar and Spider. Skadi closed her eyes and took several deep breaths, centering herself and telling herself, ‘Maere’s right, Baroth needs help. You can do this. Just like before. Come on Skadi.’ After one final, deep exhale, her eyes opened suddenly and narrowed. Her brow was heavy and her mouth was a thin line. It was a yet another look from her repertoire of mimicry, another gift from her father. And then, before doubt could creep back into her psyche, she took one firm step. And then another. And then she was running, silent as a ghost on the sand. Years of dancing around assassins or worse as she strived to notice and not be noticed had left her well attuned with sneaking up on the unwary. She gripped the dwarven mace so hard that her knuckles were white as she closed in on the Wolf, very similar to a cat about to antagonize a dog. But then, just as she was about to deliver a strike to the Wolf’s head, he knocked Baroth aside like a toy and whirled on Skadi, catching the mace mid strike with ease as he ripped it from her grasp and grabbed her by the throat. A combination of a growl and a chuckle escaped his lips as he adopted a wicked, toothy grin, holding Skadi aloft like a piece of paper as she struggled, punched, and kicked at him. She let out a screech and a growl of her own, trying to claw out his eyes.


    “Seems I’ve caught a stray mouse.” He mocked, head cocked to the side and eyebrow raised as he regarded Baroth and Gidian. “Two rodents for one seems hardly a fair trade, but you’ll have to understand that I insist.” He spit out of clenched teeth, his grip on Skadi’s neck tightening. When she continued to struggle, he struck her in the chest with the butt of the mace, driving whatever air was still in her lungs out as she began to wretch for air. Her eyes still glowed with defiant fury, however, and she continued to desperately struggle for survival.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Too fast. Too strong. Baroth adjusted enough to keep from being overwhelmed in the dagger storm, but only so. His mind as well as his body was tense, tunneled in on the threat as he let the world around him vanish. If he could squeeze in, through one of the gaps of Karren’s powersuit, he might be able to pinch a nerve and paralyze one of his arms. He just needed to be in the right spot.. Something disappeared past the death scuffle, tickling the edge of his vision as he shuffled past one of the Wolf’s lunges. It was brief enough to scramble his focus, a window for the Wolf’s next onslaught, catching the warrior off guard as he launched forward. Again, something scampered up behind the Wolf armed tightly with a dwarven mace, someone small and.. Spero! “Shi-” Baroth’s breath hitched as the Wolf whirled on him, his absurdly-reinforced weight driven into his chestplate, forcing him to fumble back with a stifled grunt. He was slow in recovering, but he didn’t miss the savagely arrogant chuckle of Karren, nor the yelp of desperation and anger that followed. When he managed to straighten on the Wolf again, a split second twitch rippled across his face as he saw Skadi locked in place. The Wolf flashed a toothy grin, hate glimmering in his eyes as they darted between Baroth and Gidian. “Seems I’ve caught a stray mouse.” He continued on, but Baroth had already tuned him out and stood quietly, watching him closely. Confronting him, even at this distance, was an impossibility and would guarantee Skadi’s death. He needed a distraction. Following one of the Wolf’s cocked glances at Gidian, scanning the others. Maere..her staff.. If she had a chance to fire off one of her alteration spells, a directed ball of blinding light, and strike the Wolf’s face, he’d have a few seconds to get closer. Karren was too on edge but if Baroth could soften his resolve.. “Karren.” They locked eyes, one wild the other steeled. Baroth broke the tension with a raspy chuckle. “I thought you were smarter than this. I mean, I really expected more of a fight from you but, after everything, i guess I figured you’d take the easy way out.” He unclasped his chestplate, letting the disfigured metal fall before his feet. His hands subtly dropped behind him as the thundering roars of the crowd had died down to hisses and gasps. “Listen to that. They’re eating this. Regular people with no deadly skills or aptitudes. You can endure it all: the pain, the death threats, the corruption. But the fact that those people enjoy your pain, watching you struggle, betting on your life as if you were a feeble animal.. You’re used to war, merc. But pain like this..” he gestured to the statue-like Gidian, glaring blanks at the riled Wolf. It was the first time Karren had a good look at him, and when he saw his cool expression (or lack thereof), he paused, confused. A brief window Baroth seized. He twiddled his fingers to get Maere’s attention, his mouth forming the soundless words of his plan, “blind him.”. The Wolf growled under his breath as his impatience simmered and, hoping the others had caught his message, Baroth continued to drone on in an insincere tone.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Maere watched as a range of emotions and gestures swept over Gidian’s visage, Taking note of every different emotion the man seemed to visit as he looked upon her. At first, it was annoyance. This did not phase the woman, she did not care if she had become a nuisance. Baroth needed help, and Gidian needed to get off his ass and help him. The ferrets were of no threat, and no longer should have been the focus of his attentions. However, as she observed his face switch gears, preparing to speak before an ear piercing shriek erupted from behind her, causing her spin on her heels to make sense of the horrific sound. She looked upon the abrupt turn of events in horror, a hot flash of guilt washing over her as she watched her friend’s head grasped roughly in the wolf’s arm, held tight against her will. Skadi had no doubt heard her call for action to Gidian, and took it upon herself to act when her guardian would not. The healer cursed under her breath, looking amongst the others as the wolf held his hostage firmly against him, once more making Baroth and Gidian his primary focus. Maere once again turned to the young woman, watching as the light in her eyes began to fade. This was her fault. Once again she had managed to put someone else in danger, and it weighed heavily on her heart and mind.She needed to do something. But what could she do? She could not go in swinging. She was no warrior like the men who stood silently, watching the last of their opponents attempt to leverage his way into victory underhandedly. She could not afford to get close to him either, both for Skadi’s safety and her own. She would have to do something that did not involve closing the distance between them. Something that she could accomplish from this spot. But what? Her hand gripped her staff tighter instinctively, her palms growing hotter as they clutched it. It wasn’t until a moment later that she felt her eyes open wide, a feeling of utter euphoria flooding her psyche as she put the two together. Her staff. Of course. She looked to it for a moment, thinking on what she would need to do while Baroth began his goading of their foe. She could momentarily blind him. Use a charged magelight shot directly into his eyes. Surely if she could manage to get it off unseen, it would be enough for the warriors to take advantage of their brief respite, and go in once more, their fervor and desire to end this recharged. However, she would likely need to communicate this plan to the others. But how? She couldn’t just spout off the idea, not now. Not while Skadi’s life was at stake. If she were to have this known, she would need for-


    And that was when it happened. Gidian, who looked upon the scene with a unsettling stillness, managed to get out another cry from the ferret, distracting him from both Baroth and herself. This was the moment. She needed to act quick. As she looked to Baroth however, he was already looking in her direction. He was twiddling his fingers, trying to garner her attention, though he had it already. As she waited to see what he was about to say, her mind raced as she mouthed her own plans back to her, catching her off guard as his mouth formed the words, “blind him.” She held back her surprise, nodding quickly, looking back to the wolf just in time for his focus to return to Baroth, his growing frustration apparent. She would need to act quickly. As Baroth began to continue his monologue, Maere started to sidestep, slowly reaching into her satchel, pulling a soul gem from among the contents. The staff had seen some action already with her previous warding of the team. She would need it at it’s peak to be certain that when she did this, there would be no doubt in its success. She only had one chance at this, and if she failed, her friend was likely a goner. Maere pressed the gem to her staff, allowing the soul within to power it as she continued to make her way to the side, slowly and calmly positioning herself behind Dolun and Belzebub, who continued to look on at the scene, unmoving. She was doing well, but Baroth needed to keep the wolf’s attention at all costs. If he were to notice her movement, it would likely foil any plans the healer had to rescue her friend. She looked to Baroth once more, still shuffling her feet, hoping he could manage to keep the bastard busy. She looked to Skadi again, her eyes closed, her body limp. The woman was unconscious, and luckily, in no danger of being affected by Maere’s light. She reached her destination just to the left of the warriors, her staff charging its blast silently, awaiting Baroth’s word to set it all into motion.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Gidian regarded Maere with a twinge of annoyance, considering how to reply if indeed he should at all. It probably would have been best just to ignore her. Despite her standing in front of him with her arms crossed and feet squared, trying to make as much use of what height she could muster, Gidian could still see clear over her head rather well. Just as words began to form on his lips, a familiar screech of terror and anger seemed to echo across the sand, reverberating into his ears and bouncing around his head as his features of mild annoyance and (if he was honest with himself) slight amusement went through a myriad of changes all at once. His eyes widened, his mouth in the middle of forming a word now frozen, and his eyebrows went up as his tapping foot and finger both paused. After the surprise wore off, and it did within a fraction of a second, his mouth remained partly open but his teeth clenched as his downturned eyebrows and nose formed a snarl, the left side of his face twitching a few times as muscles of expression that usually laid dormant were suddenly asked to move. His entire body went taut and rigid as his leg flexed and he unconsciously pressed the Ferret’s head, making him eat dirt. His eyes had been facing Maere, but they had been unfocused during the transformations, open but not really seeing as his pupils dilated. After another split second, the snarl suddenly relaxed and his eyes came back into focus, now truly seeing Maere before him. His brow was heavy over his eyes, casting a long shadow upon his features as he loomed over Maere. His hands dropped slowly and deliberately to his sides as the tension in his muscles relaxed, and he took one long, deep breath, bringing the world into sharper focus as a rapid fire barrage of imagery crossed his mind on just how many ways he could snuff out the woman who stood before him, small and insignificant as a child before the murderous instincts that now pulled at his mind. The twitching snarl was gone, but his eyes shook almost imperceptibly as they acted out each assassination with a fiery glint despite the shadows which turned his dark eyes to black.


    Finally, his features all fell into a heavy mask, stretching as they were pulled down, seeming to age years as the shadows deepened every line and crease. No longer a visage of rage, instead his eyes took on a darker focus, as cold and empty as two black portals to the void as they radiated a simple, direct, and focused death rather than any grandeurs of rage or torture. He looked up from the woman and locked eyes with the Wolf, his left hand slowly and deliberately reaching for a knife as his right hand casually rested on his knee. The Wolf’s eyes held apprehension as Gidian’s eyes reflected no tell, no thought, nothing beyond the intent to kill. The storm of emotion and the dark trance were all encapsulated in the span of a handful of seconds.


    Gidian’s instincts and senses were honed to a razor’s edge of focus and clarity, zeroed in completely and utterly on the Wolf. He noticed but was not distracted by Maere’s retreat, or Baroth’s idle conversation as he distracted Gidian’s target. As Baroth distracted, Gidian reached the edge of how far his arms could reach, so he began to also slowly and deliberately drop into a kneeling position, grasping the dwarven knife from the downed Ferret’s belt and drawing it as he once more moved slowly back to a standing position, knife concealed behind his forearm.


    His pupils dilated once more, but this time not from rage or anger. It was in anticipation for the perfect moment to strike, his killer’s instinct honed from more than a decade of experience with the profaned art. It allowed more of the moonlight in as the world, for a moment, stood still. And then, suddenly, there was a flash of light that caused Gidian’s eyes to immediately contract. But Gidian’s killing instincts took over as they identified this to be the moment to act. His target was lit up perfectly as he flicked the concealed knife out with precision that was crafted and moulded into a fine art, his mind accounting for distances and movement at a speed not possible with conscious thought or effort, as he breathed and released the throw. “BAROTH! MACE!” Was all he had time to shout as the knife found its way between Karren’s shielding arms, but such a gesture was meant to ward off radiant light and did no good as the weapon weaved between them and sunk into the soft tissue, forever making at least half of the Wolf’s world go black. Karren howled in pain and agony as he clutched at the knife that now protruded from his left eye socket, blood pouring from the bisected eyeball, but his pain was short lived. In the next instant, Baroth had appropriated the mace and brought it in to hammer in the knife in like nail, silencing the Wolf’s howl forever as he toppled over.

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    Maere continued charging her staff. Waiting. Waiting as the two warriors’ voices began to raise, their blustering reaching new volumes. She was waiting for a signal, a sign, but as Baroth seemed to get deeper and deeper into his vocal conflict, and as the unconscious Skadi dangled near lifelessly in the arms of the wolf, she knew she needed to act on her own. But she knew that this would be her one and only chance. It was now or never. She felt the overcharged staff begin to rumble in her hands, the force of the light starting to cause the catalyst to grow unstable.

    She begged wordlessly, still waiting for the opportune moment. But her wait was soon rewarded. “Give me a reason, old man!” The wolf bellowed, calling Baroth out once more. The man stepped forward, beginning to speak again. Though Maere had waited long enough. Now was the time. She thrust the staff forward, letting loose the bolt of light from the catalyst at it’s tip. The light traveled swiftly to it’s target, just as the wolf leaned forward, about to allow this stalemate to continue. But as the light came into contact with the now exposed wolf’s face, she knew that the time for posturing was over. It was now time to act. Maere felt herself grow weak, falling to her knees as he fell short of breath, disoriented, her head feeling light from the force exerted upon the cast. She pushed the staff’s end into the ground, clutching it with both hands as she used it for support, holding her steady as her burdened breath attempted to steady. She lifted her heavy head up just in time for a flash of golden light, barely discernable from the rest of the arena in her blurred vision. Her eyes drew closed after this, her head pointing toward the floor as new sounds filled her ears. More shouting rose above the crowd, more scuffling and shuffling that she could no longer comprehend as she began to withdraw into herself, clutching her chest as she attempted to rein in her breathing. She had nothing left. No cards left to play. She could only hope that when the dust settled, it would be her allies who stood above her curling form, and not the foe they had worked so hard to kill. Maere’s part in this fight was done.


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    Baroth kept his eyes locked on the Wolf, feet firmly planted in place as his arms had crossed themselves subconsciously. Several tense minutes had already passed, everyone too tense and focused to move, and risk Skadi’s head. The poor thing lay limp in the Wolf’s overpowering grip, deprived of the oxygen necessary to stay conscious. Baroth’s eyes lingered on her face, plotting his next move carefully as he spoke again. “Alright, this has gone far enough.” it rolled off his tongue in a newfound, blatant tone, hopefully a disturbing change of pace. He took a step towards the Wolf and in the blink of an eye he clenched up and backpedaled cautiously, barking like a wild hound. “Give me a reason, old man!” Baroth froze, holding up his hands as he raised his other foot in another calculated step. Any time now, Maere.. “I’m walking over there. And if you haven’t made the right choice before then, I’m go-” the Wolf began to roar some more useless filth, when a flash of light made contact with his face. Baroth paused, caught off guard, but it was only his natural instinct, a merciful mechanism he disabled as he pounced on the Wolf a millisecond after. His mind registered the knife lodged in the Wolf’s eye socket, and the voice that came after it, but he acted in a more subconscious manner, taking full advantage of his chance. Having secured the mace in hand, he drove a few pounds of directed weight into the killing blow, nailing the blade’s hilt and burying it in Karren’s brain. He jarred almost mechanically, then crumpled over in a lifeless heap, no longer a threat to anyone. No longer a loose end. Several components in Baroth’s expression relaxed at once, a mix of greedy relief and (rather) familiar pity sinking into his stomach. He stood there, his thoughts hopelessly drowned in shameless praise from the crowd, satisfied with the bloody finale. Baroth could only stare at the limp mass of pelts, half expecting the Wolf to spring back to life and tear at him tooth and nail. He cocked his head, catching a faint whining noise he could only assume was one of the Ferrets.


    ’One down.’ he kept mentally chanting. ‘One down’

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Gidian was already halfway to the Wolf by the time he fell, Gidian not one to take any chances should Baroth somehow fail to finish him. But the Wolf crumpled and was no more. He checked to make sure Skadi was breathing, then his expression relaxed into his typical unhappy seriousness, turning to look for Maere with a deep frown. His eyes found her crumpled and curled up on the ground, apparently exhausted. Gidian snorted in disgust, stalking his way over to her as his frown deepened. There was no longer any hint of murder in his expression or gait, at least, but he was still a stormcloud as he closed in on the hapless woman.


    “Can you stand?” He inquired sharply, nudging her with his foot to wake her up.


    “Not yet…” she responded, pausing for a few moments to wheeze and wince, “I need a moment.”


    Gidian was silent for a few seconds, glaring daggers, and then leaned down and pointed out, “When you’re done eating dirt, take care of Spero.” It was a command, not a request. It took an immense amount of restraint not to grab Maere by the arm and jerk her to her feet, dragging her to Skadi and dropping her like a sack of potatoes. But he took a deep breath and walked over to Skadi himself, retrieving the Saxe knife he’d entrusted to her before they’d entered. He stood back up slowly, twirling in his fingers a few times to catch the light of the moon a few times, seemingly entranced with the weapon for a few moments. There was a fondness for the weapon in his eyes. He then turned and advanced towards the unconscious Ferrets, his hold on the knife and his gait quite casual despite the slight limp. But there was murder in his eyes.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    The exchange had phased Baroth in his stupor, but when his eyes drifted to Gidian’s retreating backside, he recognized the notion of slaughter in his gait. (Will change it soon). Instincts freshly awoken, Baroth snapped in Gidian’s direction and caught him before he reached the unconscious Ferrets.


    “Gidian, wait!” when he stopped, Baroth moved to block his path. “Not like this. They're just kids, out cold at that.”


    Gidian’s features sagged as he replied, “There are no kids in this place."

    .” He paused before continuing with an edge to his voice, “They’re going to come after us the moment they get the chance, and not everyone in this little ‘fellowship’ can defend themselves. And one of them has had enough of assassins for one lifetime.” He shifted his weight to his good leg as he finished, slightly uncomfortable having to stand still on it.


    Baroth set his brow and started to retort but he stopped himself. He'd dismissed the Ferrets as threats because they’d been defeated, but that didn't mean they weren't. He couldn't bode the risk of another official scooping them up and setting them loose again; they may have been kids, but they were dangerous by the same coin. A few moments of a stern gaze between the Ferrets and Gidian's knife. He finally resigned to step aside, rubbing his broken hand with a grimace. “Make it quick. ‘Bout time we got outta this hole.” with that he fumbled past Gidian in search of a weapon he could use. This wasn't over yet.

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    Maere did not catch much of what happened around her in that short time, her body still feeling like it was on fire as she knelt there recuperating. She did manage to catch Gidian’s command to help Skadi, which also fueled a fire within her to rise up from the ground, ignoring the small comment about her “eating dirt.” Her friend’s well being meant more than her pride, anyway. She gripped the staff tighter, hoisting herself up to her feet slowly, feeling her legs nearly buckle once as she rose. She winced as she attempted to steady herself, exhaling deeply before she looked to Skadi, beginning to move toward her slowly before she caught sight of Gidian stepping away from her, knife in hand. The implications did not dawn upon her, her mind still wavering as she attempted to focus on the task at hand. However as she moved toward her friend, she began to catch wind of some sort of exchange between the two battered men who stood above the pile of their foes. Maere could only catch bits and pieces, but the words of their ally Baroth were unmistakable.


    “Make it quick. ‘Bout time we got outta this hole.”


    It did not take long for the cleric to put two and two together, catching on to the purpose of the knife that Gidian had been flourishing moments before. She did not move at first, instead looking to her friend only to see that gaze returned, as if she were waiting to see what Maere would do. She did want this to end, as much if not more so than the two who prepared to end the ferrets. However, she could feel this was not right. There was no need for them to die. Their part in the fight was over. She felt herself begin to become revitalized as her adrenaline spiked again, giving her a small boost as she picked the staff off the ground and move toward them, keeping a small distance between them while raising her voice to the man with the knife. “Gidian! Stop. The fight is finished. There is no reason to for more blood to be shed. It’s over, Gidian” She planted her feet firmer into the sand beneath them, her stance commanding more authority that her body did not reciprocate. This did not deter her, however, as she continued to speak, letting her thoughts on the matter be known. “Leave them be.”


    Gidian stopped in place, his back to Maere for a few moments as he took a few more deep breaths. Then, he turned slowly, favoring the bad leg. “The ‘fight’ doesn’t end in the ring here. If they walk away from this, they’ll hound our steps. We either kill them here, or kill them later. And I’d rather not leave Spero at the mercy of even more assassins.” He then abruptly turned his back and pressed forward, disregarding Maere.


    Maere felt a surge of exasperation well up within her as Gidian refused to heed her words, instead continuing to make his way toward the ferrets, his intentions unwavering. She felt herself growl under her breath before she decided to take matters into her own hands. She called out above the group, her staff thrusting outward in his direction. “NO!” Her staff flashed with a copper glow as the magic within gripped the blade resting in the man’s hand before she pulled back forcefully. Likely not expecting the turn of events the knife was ripped from his grasp, and was sent propelling back in her direction. With a defiant grunt she batted the blade away with her staff, sending it into the sand with a muffled thud. She shouted again, looking him dead in the face, the adrenaline not allowing her to show any signs of weakness. “ENOUGH.” She roared, her exhaustion tucked away as she stood defiant. “They are at our mercy. We are able to kill them, and no doubt they would do the same to us were the roles reversed. But we are better than this! We do not need to fall to their level in some petty excuse for revenge. The fight. Is. Over. If it comes to bite us in the ass later, then they will die there. It will be their fault for wasting this opportunity to leave with their lives. If someone comes for Spero, then they will suffer a fate worse than any they had planned for her. Either by your hand or mine. I swear it. But now is not the time. The fight was over when the wolf fell. There is no reason to continue. Let it go, Gidian.”


    Gidian’s body responded to the knife being wrenched from his grip before his mind did, causing him to wheel around in an instant, hands up and eyes wide and alert for a threat as his eyes focused on things that weren’t really there. After realizing it was only Maere, he relaxed, looking almost amused. He closed his hand into a fist and opened it several times, as if testing his grip. A series of memories flashed by in his mind, of him gouging out eyes and snapping necks. Killing with his bare hands. Unknown to him, these were the remnants of Maere entering his mind earlier. He listened to Maere very impatiently, shifting his weight off of his bad leg a few times as she seemed to drone on for quite some time. “No, they will not suffer a fate worse than what they had planned for her. I will kill them quickly, because if I draw it out, they could get lucky. But you… If this comes back to bite Spero, I am going to cut you open and hang you from the ceiling with your own guts, of which you seem to have in abundance.” then he flashed a knowing smile, as he had read the crowd’s responses to the earlier abuse of the Ferrets well enough to get an idea of what the end result would be. Not only that, but he knew if the Ferrets by some miracle got the go to live, they would go after Maere long before they went after Skadi. Gidian would make sure to spread the word of just how valuable a part she’d played in the Wolf’s demise.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    After that, there was no more room for conversation. A horn rang out over the roars of the crowd, bringing everyone to a silence.


    The change in the air was staggering. After so much noise for so long, it was almost headache inducing to so quickly be completely and totally immersed in silence. Then, drums began to beat, the crowd began to clap and stomp, and the High Overseer rose to his feet from the great chair up high. His voice boomed with supernatural force, magically enhanced and further driven home by the echoey nature of the amphitheater-like architecture. “Citizens of the Empire. I believe no one expected such a resounding uproar from these fair prisoners below. Today, they have truly proved themselves above and beyond worthy of the opportunity to entertain you here for many years to come. Do you not agree?” The crowd let loose a deafening and unintelligible roar as countless souls yelled their answer in response. The High Overseer raised a hand for silence, and silence fell again. “Our favored champions seemed to be no match for these of humble origin, of no name and fresh repute…” the High Overseer looked in Gidian and Baroth’s directions, almost no name and no repute.” he amended. “What say you, men and women of the Empire, should these defeated champions be granted the privilege to entertain you yet another day, or should they be put down?” He extended a hand, his thumb extended to the side neutrally. He tilted it slightly upwards, and received quite an uproar. But it was nothing compared to the calls for blood when it was tilted down. The thumb fell, and heads were called to roll. And Gidian gave Maere a pointed look.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A raised but weakened voice made Baroth glance back, but upon seeing Maere and Gidian square off, he opted not to waste what energy he had left. Gidian was more than capable of handling the situation. But when the yelling refused to die out after he’d fetched a fallen spear, Baroth was tempted to knock Maere over the head. Her heart was in the right place but the risk in mercy, especially in here, was too great. If the Ferrets come to only to realize their idol is brutalized, and the ones responsible are vulnerable, death wouldn’t be a mercy they’d afford. In the middle of her speech, Baroth moved towards her with those intentions when a horn rang and silence finally became a reality. It was disturbing, almost disorienting, but Baroth listened intently as the Overseer teased the crowd with the finale. At the notion of repute, the Overseer cast a glance in Baroth and Gidian’s direction, emphasizing with an ominous tone. That had Baroth on edge, more on edge than he was, but he didn’t dwell on it as the time to vote finally came. His breath hitched when it lingered in the enemy’s favor, but he relaxed with a heavy guilt and sorrow at the inverted thumb. He almost immediately moved again, wincing as he struggled to nurse his broken hand, tunnel-vision set on the Boar as Baroth’s sight fell on him. Baroth couldn't discern the Boar’s expression, be it of exhaust or terror in realizing he and his loved one were done for. At this point, as he stalked across the sands with a dead-set determination, Baroth could give two sh*ts. This was over.


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Of course. Of course they would not be satisfied. She sighed exasperatedly, her frustration reaching even greater heights than she believed possible. Just when she had felt she had made headway, as soon as their lives were spared Gidian’s blade, it was found to all be for nothing. The bloodthirsty crowd would not be denied their kill, rallying the overseer to sway his decision in their favor. Maere looked to the others as they prepared to go through with the wishes of the jeering crowd, then to Skadi, who returned the gaze with a similar connotation. What were they going to do? The order had been given, surely the could not defy it. Could they? Almost as if answering the unspoken thought on her own, Skadi moved forward swiftly, finding herself standing between their allies and the retribution they had been called to dispense. Baroth had looked to her with annoyance, a glance that spoke loud enough to avoid the uttering of his warning. Move, or be moved. Skadi stood alone against them, but not for long. After a brief exhalation Maere mimicked Skadi’s sentiment, standing by her friend against their team once more. Their more bloodthirsty allies, ready to follow the roars of the crowds were none to pleased. Gidian, supposedly no longer having the patience to deal with her interference, leveled a spear to her neck, a silent warning speaking volumes behind the ever darkening glare. Maere did not waver, digging her feet firmer in the sand in response to his threat. She would not leave her friend out alone against the two of them, despite the lack of impact her presence likely had upon them all. However, their warning was not heeded, as Baroth snorted and moved forward regardless, shoving Skadi aside as he continued undeterred from his ultimate goal. Whether he was truly as thirsty for blood as those who chanted around them was unclear to Maere, but it did not matter. He was going to answer their call, and she had to stop it. She began to look about herself, her mind desperate for any sort of idea, any way to keep them from turning into the monsters that this ravenous crowd put upon their golden pedestals. She flipped through the mental images for any idea, a speech, a spell, something to-. There it was. Right before her mind’s eye rested her only option. She would have to quell them, bring them down from the high they were feeling. Take away their lust for more carnage. It would not work by her words alone. No. She was no diplomat. She could not flaunt or promise great things to satiate the crowds. It was not in her nature. She would have to do something far more reliable. Her mind flicked to the spell that the overseer had been using, her mind grasping at the concept of a spell that could amplify her voice a hundred fold. Were it possible, she could likely use this magic to her own ends. She had to try.


    She took her last magicka potion from her satchel, popping the cork and bringing it to her lips without a second thought. As her head chin lowered from drinking it, she ran her forearm across her lips, the residue of the elixir going with it. This was to be her last stand. The last opportunity for her to break the cycle that these damnable games continued to repeat. She had to make it count. Without lingering any longer, she waved the staff in the air, the slightest feedback began to ring throughout as she lowered the staff toward her face, the steel encompassed crystal at its crown glowing once more as her eyes drew closed. As the crowd continued to rage around her, and as the two closed in upon their former enemies, she began to sing the incantation. The very same that had guided her in Gidian’s mind. The one that had led her through many troubles in her life, and would now lead them all through this.


    The words flowed from her lips as her aria finally began, though the people could not hear them. The somber tune left her mouth in bare whispers, her fear of the millions of eyes centering upon her catching her off balance for a brief moment. Despite her fears she barrelled through, the song gradually growing louder in volume as her confidence built upon itself, knowing that she would need to give it her all for this. There was nothing left for her to put forward. This had to work.


    With renewed ardor she let the song drift throughout the stands, her fears falling to the side as she felt emboldened by the task at hand. The words she uttered carried with them a solemn essence, washing over the jeering crowd slowly at first. Lingering above them as they continued to call out their displeasure, their need for blood insatiable while those who intended to deliver it were standing about, whether from the uncertainty of what they had been called to do, or from the most recent turn of events. However as she continued to sing, she could sense a change in the energy that surrounded them. A wavering in the chorus of demands for blood. An opening she needed to exploit. She took a few steps forward as her voice raised even higher, the bittersweet chant a thick layer building upon those who partook in its mournful beauty. The words began to take effect leisurely, enveloping the hungry crowd with a peaceful, melancholic aura that seemed to pull away their desire for more violence, drawing their anger from them one by one, until their protests for their group’s inaction began to fall with it. Their focus moved to her as she continued to sing, entranced by the words as they poured outward, her desire to save these souls riding upon each note as they echoed throughout the arena. As the song sailed throughout she could imagine the physical notes again, moving outward amongst the people, dancing above them gingerly as her eyes drew closed, putting all of her magicka into the incantation as it continued to spread. The crowd fell silent as they acknowledged her call’s dominance, the peace she craved overwhelming their need for war until it broke down to a respectful silence, each of them hanging upon her words as her song drew to a close, the final lyrics of her song ringing out among them all as her mouth finally drew closed. She looked upon them all as they watched her in that same lingering silence, her eyes finally catching sight of the overseer whose expression she could not determine. She had seemed to turn his call upon it’s head, but would it truly change anything? It all would depend on the words of the overseer. She had played her part, it was time for him to play his own.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Overseer looked on in perplexed silence, very skeptical at first, but slowly allowing a mask of neutrality to overcome his features as he sensed the change in the crowd before it could be physically observed. He listened patiently to the song, and offered a light applause along with the uproar of the crowd when it was concluded. Then he raised a hand for silence, though it took several moments for the crowd to capitulate to his command this time around. He allowed a slow smile to cross his features, though it never reached his eyes. It was the look of genuine amusement, the look of a person whose prized lab rat had just revealed a heretofor unheard of intelligence.


    His voice once again boomed across the expectant many, causing several people to jump at the sudden break in silent tension as the crowd collectively held their breath, waiting for the Overseer’s decree. “A very impressive display. Dare I say a most impressive display. Do I even need to ask?” He raised the time honored sideways thumb in question with a jovial look on his face, though it had the stretched air of a practiced and rehearsed mask. Something someone practiced in the mirror and could hold up at a distance, but the illusion fell apart once you got close. He tilted the thumb down, an eyebrow raised in silent question. The crowd was dead silent. He tilted his thumb up. The noise from their approval was deafening as they began to chant Maere’s name.


    “Then so it shall be,” He concluded, “Maere the Merciful. A name to remember.” The crowd added the new title to their chant immediately.


    The Overseer slowly dropped his hand as the crowd continued to chant, and the guards funneled out of various entrances to herd the surviving fighters into their respective sides, escorting them out. The Overseer let his mask slip for a brief moment as the last of the fighters turned away, and the half cocked smile of sadistic pleasure was painted across his features like blood splashed across a blank canvas.
     
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    #133 CapObvious, Apr 29, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2017
  14. The Honorable Gidian the Diva

    The Honorable Gidian the Diva Sahrot Vahlok Spaan. Bahnahgaar. Minion #88!

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    A troop of guards flooded out from the entrances around the arena, herding the victorious combatants at spear length and behind the safety of large tower shields as they shouted for any weapons to be relinquished. After everyone threw their visible weapons down, the shield wall opened up to allow a group of close quarters specialists to rush in and perform a fast and violent search for any hidden weapons before herding them out of the arena and back into the inner confines.


    Gidian walked ahead of the others, content to hide his heavy brow of contemplation as he took swift, long strides through the dimly lit corridor. His mind was racing in circles as he bounced between thoughts of what he could have done differently during the fight, what he could have done to win without the aid of the others, and then to the looming threat that Maere was becoming. He wondered if there was some darker implications behind her seemingly oblivious and straightforward persona. And the more he thought about it, the more sense it made to kill her at the first given opportunity, away from prying eyes, before she could put into play whatever machinations she had for him and for Skadi.


    He cursed under his breath as he just barely avoided stepping into a body splayed across the corridor, some poor sod that had succumbed to hidden injuries after a victory. It was unusual for the clean up crews to be so lax. This brought him out of his brooding session and brought his surroundings into clearer focus, the dancing torch light and the thrums and vibrations from the innumerable people sitting above their heads giving the corridor an eerie quality, as if it were a living, writhing thing and not a mere hallway. The smell of death assaulted his nostrils, the air foul once again now that he had tasted fresh air. As he made his way further and further down, he could see more bodies strewn about, slumped along the walls and sometimes across the middle of the floor. The smell became more acute as an odd sense of nausea set in, a dizziness that permeated his senses. The dancing torches and the pulsating walls became more and more pronounced as his vision began to dance with them. The bodies, all of which had had their faces turned away from him before, were now instead facing him with wide open, dead, blank eyes. He didn’t recognize them at first, but soon enough the feeling of familiarity began to surface, drawn up from the depths of his marrow, from places he tried to forget. And then he saw two ghosts that didn’t appear so dead, but he knew couldn’t be alive. He blinked several times rapidly, his heart beginning to race and his breaths becoming shallow. He knew it wasn’t real, and yet he couldn’t convince his body as his steps faltered.


    He clenched his fists and bared his teeth, determined not to show weakness before the people walking behind him as he took labored step after labored step, his breathing becoming increasingly erratic as his heart felt it would beat out of his chest. Sinder and Rex Terat, the Spider’s murdered family, were in deep conversation before him. They didn’t seem to see Gidian, too far gone in whatever they were talking about. The words were too quiet, meant only for each other as the father rested his hand on his son’s shoulder, perhaps talking him up as they prepared to march into certain death, or perhaps consoling him after his first kill as they returned from a victorious fight. Gidian stopped in his tracks as he neared close enough that he could reach out and touch them, unable to force himself to walk through them despite knowing that they along with many of the dead bodies along the path were merely in his head. He struggled for control of his erratic breathing for several moments, closing his eyes and counting to ten. When he opened them, the apparitions were gone, and there was the massive, looming door before him in place of the ghosts. Bright lights streamed out from its cracks and boisterous voices could be heard from the other side, many of which carrying Maere’s name. It was no doubt their fellow gladiators waiting to congratulate them and to celebrate them.


    Except for me, Gidian thought. He was under no illusions as to what was waiting for him specifically on the other side of that door should he make his presence known. There’s no doubt that many of the people there were waiting for him just as anxiously as they waited for Maere, though for entirely different reasons. Funnily enough, he found the notion comforting.


    As he contemplated opening the door, the world did one last spin, and he was no longer able to keep his balance through the nausea as a sharp pain hit him straight in the gut, and he nearly toppled over as he used one arm to catch himself on the wall and the other to cradle the pain, centered around a battered crack in his armor. He focused on breathing as he wrestled with shock, realizing now that the Spider had stabbed him straight through a damaged spot of his armor. He looked back behind him and became aware that the others were mostly staring at him with curiosity, no doubt most of them not connecting the dots between his erratic hallucinations and the hidden wound beneath his armor. Skadi and Maere, he noticed, were looking at him with more than curiosity, but concern. Maere in particular was staring directly at his cradled abdomen, her training in healing allowing her to discern exactly what was happening. She might even have recognized his unstable mental facilities, She was in my head after all, he thought bitterly. “Go ahead without me, I just need a minute,” He said between deep breaths. “Just having a bit a trouble with me leg,” he gestured towards his limp with a pained expression.

    He made eye contact with Dolun, an understanding passing between them as Gidian made a concentrated effort to stay on his feet for as long as he could.
     
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  15. fellowknight

    fellowknight "I am the danger! I am the one who knocks!"

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    Baroth haphazardly noted the collective expressions of the crowd, and how they fluctuated under Maere's influence, and he seriously considered putting her out. Though morally aligned, it carried the risk of jeopardizing information Baroth needed, and likely, putting him in a stuffy box with some other poor sod. And though he was *too* competent for it to manipulate him, he didn't need insight to know attacking her was just as dangerous. He also didn't need insight to stand back and see what Maere was really capable of, which was turn out to be just more trouble. Or maybe an opportunity. Plus it gave him a chance to skim the songs effects and somewhat dissolve the shell of stress and pain he'd become muscled into. So even as the troop arrived, and Baroth was thankful he'd used his shivs on the Bat, Baroth’s focus seemed to be thinning, zeroing in on worn faces and tuning out as they moved away. At the very least, he had the chance to relax before he was thrown into another fight he wasn’t prepared for.

    But the screams came back as they walked the writhing corridor, forcibly lurching his internal wounds and shocking him back into his miserable state. Blood caked in his hair, sand in his mangled arm slit, Baroth was just about ready to join the poor sods on the floor. Though Maere's song had a lasting touch on him, it couldn't stop the small irritations from..well, irritating him. The smallest driblets of salty sweat stung in the *many* open (and potentially infected) cuts he was wrapped in, while all the bruises made each step that much more arduous. He couldn't even look at his arm, though the bastard was the most punishing of all, not to mention impossible to move. In the thick, Baroth vainly pieced who might be behind all this, what other horrific devices the arena had in store for them, and what true purpose it all- He caught himself as he bumped into a body pinned to the wall and that’s when he’d really paid the hallway much attention. And there was Gidian too. Even with his earplugs, Gidan’s heart rate and spiked breathing pattern were hard for Baroth not to pick up. Combined with the slow, graduating rhythm his steps fell into, he’d say it was a panic attack. But the stench of death and the fight prior couldn’t be enough for a fighter like Gidian, who was well-handy with both. If Baroth made an educated guess, he’d say it was either a hallucinatory attack, or some higher level mixture of both.

    After coming to a full 180 halt, Baroth knew Gidian was running on fumes, and he wasn’t the only one. Following his lead, Baroth instead leaned against the wall a few paces behind Gidian. The man might have wanted to heave in private, but Baroth wasn’t entirely sure he was ready to exhaust himself facing whatever was behind the doors ahead. Most definitely more prying-eyes for everyone, Maere especially. But Baroth knew they’d been watching him since he arrived. And he wondered just how much they knew about his ‘condition’. Or for that matter, any of his past, personal or professional.


    Too much, they know too much. He thought, sliding down to sit on the floor with a disgruntled sigh, nursing his gouged arm. “I’m not in any particular hurry to do more walking right now, but don’t wait up. Sounds like they’re expecting someone in there, anyway.” He kept his head down as he stripped leather from his gauntlet, fashioning a tourniquet for his pretty much useless arm.

    (OOC: Touch-up editing backwards from here, including this post, so consider it a catch-up. Sorry for the wait folks!)
     
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