Age of Trials: Act 1 (Closed, Started)

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Calden watched in amazement as the tormented vapourized as Dackord whispered some mystical words. He should've warned us that these creatures were here."Could you have come any sooner, or were you waiting for more of us to die?" He shouted coldly "Would that have spoiled your fun." He trusted this man even less then the snake oil merchants who had cheated his money from him. He grabbed his sword of the floor where the tormented had been and went to inspect the Scout body to see if she was carrying anything of worth.

The scouts jaw had been ripped off clean,but it was the blow to the head that had killed her. If she had survived, she would have matched the Mad Woman. All she had on here was her daggers and some strange looking needles. On closer inspection the needles looked like they had been poisoned. While he was looting her body her hair moved off her back and he saw a strange skull shaped tattoo, he had thought that she was hiding something, but he had never heard of a caste that used a skull as their mark. "What's this?" He asked Dackord pointing to the tattoo.

Before he got an answer something that looked like a bear stumbled out of one of the locked rooms. Reflexively he pulled out his sword and pointed it at it. He saw under all his armour and furs that this one was part of the warrior caste, he had hoped he would never of had to deal with their kind ever again."Anyway I am Eldred Black and I would very much like permission to lower my arms"

"No you may not lower your arms, step out of there so I can get a better look at you."

"No you may not lower your arms, step out of there so I can get a better look at you." The man with the burned armor said. Eldred saw that he looked like an warrior. Why are you listening to this small weak man?! WE should rip his arm off and teach him a lesson! It has been fun talking to you one eye but it is about time for you to go back into your cage and remain quite. This was followed by an silence. Eldred was happy that one eye had listened. "I will, just watch out were you are pointing that sword at fellow warrior." Eldred said with an half fake smile.

He did a few steps forward and now he could be completely seen as he stood next to an torch. His strange armor his strange jaw, his weapons and up close he looked even bigger and even more muscled. He stood there looking at the warrior with his arms in the air. "Can I lower my arms now?" Bringing me closer to you was one of the dumbest moves you can make if he intends to kill me. Eldred was usually passive and friendly but after being locked in here for an week he was quite agitated.

"Fellow Warrior"He sneered, Calden's laughter was booming throughout the room."You must be mistaken."

In the torchlight Calden could see how big Eldred actually was, it was a mistake bringing him so close, he would easily be able to grab his sword and take him down. He backed away slowly, making sure he wasn't backing himself into a corner. He sheathed his sword but took out two of his pistols, holding one in each hand, the distance between them made him feel more confident but he know that the bullets wouldn't be able to pierce his armour, If I have to shoot, I'll have to make it count.

"We're well out of warrior or scout patrol routes, what's a fine fellow like yourself doing here" He said sarcastically

Thankfully, it wasn't another Tormented, but Lenora couldn't help but notice that this Eldred Black , from the look of him, was another Bear-possessed warrior. He obviously had found kinship with his Bear Spirit, as from head to toe, he was covered in a large bear pelt. But that didn't stop the sweat pouring down her forehead. This was a bad place, deserted by those who realised that aeons before the group had stepped into the old library. The sooner they were out of there, the better. Lenora, mad as she was, still had a strand of sense and she didn't like being in a dark place such as this with no free arms. Both were occupied with carrying the remnants of her shattered arm. The newcomer stood above her with his imposing stature, the dance of the torchlight made him seem bigger still.

A bear in body, a Bear in the mind, and with his cheerful greeting of repeating that he was human over and over again, he clearly had a bear's brain as well. She decided to amuse herself or distract herself from the growing fear inside of her by giving her so-called comrades amusing nicknames. A shame that Calden already came with one, every Casteless knew him as 'Big Red' due to his burns. A twisted sense of humour had got into that one, then again the Casteless were known for their dark humour. One for the Steam Knight popped into her mind - 'Huff 'n' Fuss' for the sound her mouth and steam rifle often made. Though, with the rest of them, their personalities were not yet fully known to her, so those would have to wait. But this one, she knew what to call him:


For now, she would let Dackord lead with diplomacy, as Calden was making marvellous progress with threatening and coercing the man. She muttered a prayer silently under her breath, in hope that this Arcane Warrior wasn't one of those ones she heard stories about - those whose Bear Spirit went insane and were put out to pasture in damned places such as these.

Edwyn was helpless but to watch in frozen terror as the Tormented reconstructed itself before his very eyes and tore apart the Scout as if she were nothing but a ragdoll. The creature was relentless in its assault, ripping Farah's jaw from her head and horribly disfiguring her. Edwyn was surprised to see Dackord rush past and grab hold of the creature, raising it above the ground and silencing it with a blinding light emanating from his fingers. The man spoke some encantations and the Tormented went limp, any semblance of life swiftly left the creature's body. Edwyn was completely astonished by the sight before him, he had never heard of nor read anything closely resembling what he just witnessed. The Scholar saw that this Dackord knew much more than he seemed to be letting on, and that worried him greatly. He would be sure to ask just what he knew about such magic and why he hadn't used it sooner if he knew that Tormented was otherwise unstoppable.

Before the Scholar had a chance to begin his inquisitions, there was loud banging on the other side of a large door and soon an equally large man stepped out from the formerly barricaded room. The man was grinning broadly, though Edwyn hardly found any reason to be smiling, given the current circumstances. They had just finished watching one of their own get slaughtered before them and, having heard it all no doubt, this Arcane Warrior, Eldred Black as he introduced himself, was smiling like child being given a sweet. Edwyn sighed shakily as he raised his lantern, bringing more light onto the large figure as he waited for his response to Calden's question.

"We're well out of warrior or scout patrol routes, what's a fine fellow like yourself doing here."
Eldred looked at the party and then back to the burned warrior and said."I am only allowed to share the details of what I was doing here if the higher ups allow it. They weren't in the room with me, they are hiding somewhere here in the library even though I don't know where. So I will tell you what I was doing here as soon as they allow it." Eldred then looked at the injured people.

"And since some of you are pretty badly hurt and your healer appears to be dead. It might be smart if you were to let me search for my companions, because if they are still alive there are is bound to be at least 1 scout which could heal your companions. And don't forget we are on the same side here I have no reason to hurt you. If you really don't trust me you can send someone with me to keep an eye on me. But without proper medical care you will lose more then 1 person today." Eldred had stopped smiling and was looking around for any hint of where his companions went.

"No. They're all dead. The tormented was about to kill you, too," Dackord replied with certainty. Artus was perturbed.

"How do you know? Shouldn't we at least look?" Artus asked. This seemed to give Dackord pause, but he responded with a simple, "No. Time is short, Lenora is injured, and we must be on our way."

The Nevvar turned his attention back to Eldred.

"I offer you the chance to join us, Black. We are on a mission to slay the Lord. If you wish to make the return trip to Meridas, I should warn you that you will not be taking any of our supplies, and by the time you reach the wilds, the beasts will have retaken their home. As I see it, you may either join or die. Make your final decision later tonight."

The party set up camp behind a stone pillar, recently ripped from the earth. The sun still shone and reflected off the rocks with a golden glow. Dackord once again sat silently, marveling at the flickering flames.

Artus didn't know a thing about medicine, so she left caring for Lenora up to the Arcane caste members, hoping that their undoubtedly meager skills in herbs would be enough to save her. Though, in the back of her mind, she also worried that the casteless would become problematic. Perhaps it would be best for her to succumb to her injuries.

Then she thought of the scout. Dackord had insisted that they leave her to rot in the open, as she "would be buried in rubble in due time." Artus did not know the scout very well, but she still felt compelled to keep her dagger. She shouldn't be condemned to be lost forever without a trace, as Dackord seemed to want. "Cold bastard."

Her armor pieces laying in a pile inside her tent, Artus sat against the pillar and flipped through the tattered pages of the book they had found.

"No. They're all dead. The tormented was about to kill you, too,"
"How do you know? Shouldn't we at least look?"
"No. Time is short, Lenora is injured, and we must be on our way."

This news came as an shock to Eldred. He had anticipated a few wounded but all dead? Well considering how hard it was to kill one of those damned things it made some sense. They hadn't talked much during the mission. He didn't even knew the names of most of the now dead group. When he looked at the injured of this group he saw no deadly injuries or broken limbs. His best friend also known as hunter had thought him some healing skills. And he had patched up quite a few of his comrades, and he had also had to patch himself up a few times. At least he knew more then most other people here. He walked over to the wounded lady. She looked to have some 'mechanical parts'. Eldred had no idea what to do with those but he might be able to treat those wounds.

"I offer you the chance to join us, Black....Make your final decision later tonight. Eldred nodded he had already decided that he wanted to join this group. While the warrior seemed to dislike him the rest seemed neutral towards him. And if this was the best way to defend his home he would gladly help them. This was now his group so it was his duty to protect them. He looked at the mechanical lady and said. "Excuse me mis you seem to be the most wounded out of the party. While I am no professional healer or scout I still know a few things about treating wounds. I can try to heal your wounds, that is of course if you allow me too." Some people never wanted outside help. He had noticed this happened the most the casteless they just didn't trust any of the castes.

He had been eating normally the last week so his food supplies was almost gone. But he had been carrying the healing supplies with him, as the scout that had been traveling with them had been whining all the time about how heavy it was. Until Eldred offered to carry is for him. Seemed those supplies would come in handy now.

The Mad Woman was squirming on the floor the infected cuts were obviously causing her pain and he knew nothing about fixing the mechanical arm she had. Calden was getting annoyed, the most useless member of their group had gotten herself injured and everyone was swarming to help her.

"Tell me woman, why are you hear, what possible use do you have to this group? We all have our skills I can fight so can the Monk, the Knight and the other Warrior, the Scholar has his smarts and the machine 'Percy'. What can you do except hide in the corner craven?" He said in a hard uncaring tone "If you can't think of an answer soon take some of the Scouts poison and be done with it"

"And why does the 'Scout' have poison and that mark on her back Dackord?"

Calden towered over her like a tall, red, ruined pillar. This so-called Arcane Warrior was questioning her position in the group, this Arcane Warrior who was stripped of his Bear Spirit as she was with her twin. She had saved the scholar from the Tormented where his machine had faltered, she had unleashed her fury on it only to have the Tormented repay her in kind, panic reversed into rage, she was going to be a part of this. Damn him and the infected wounds. Drawing power from her anger, Lenora stopped shaking and stood tall. So much for thinking that 'Big Red', the failed Arcane Warrior who sullied his hands with the tasks that only the Casteless did: intimidation and blackmail, would be her ally. This would not be day she died, as out of the corner of her eye, she spotted the gilt of medicine in Eldred's pack. Calden had underestimated her; while he was built like a barrel and had strength to match, she was thin and wirely, but with more muscle than fat - the build of the common Castless enforcer. With the strength of them and the desperate dirty fighting they used.

She stared Calden right in the eye, her mechanical jaw struggling to keep up with the speed of her speech, but not lessening the intensity of those words,

"CcRavEnn? HerE iS tHE grEAt 'Big Red', tHE ARCane WARRior TURned CASTLeSS," She spat, "AnD aLLLL hE diD wAS stAND bAcK wHiLE I hELD bAcK tHE TORmentED fROM tHE schOLAR."

She couldn't wait to regain her strength and teach him the meaning of teamwork, her style...

Even though she had been weakened by her wounds the Mad Woman stood up straight looking him in the eye and mocked him. She had gall, Calden had to give her that, but he was not going to let himself be shown up by a mad casteless woman. He had been something and all she had been was someone who he would step on.

"Would you have preferred that I impaled the useful members of this group instead of waiting for the apt time to charge? In hindsight I should've just done it when you were distracting it." Reaching out, he encircled the womans throat with a scarred, red hand and whispered "I may be casteless but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy what I do. And all I have to do is squeeze."

Eldred had been listening to the fight between Calden and Lenora and he had been itching to break it up but he hadn't because he was preparing the medicine. But then he saw that Calden grabbed her throat and whispered. "...All I have to do is squeeze." While Eldred hadn't heard the rest he could guess what he had said. The anger inside him exploded and one eye was telling him to snap the warrior's neck. He decided against this but he did decide to take him down and show him some manners. Eldred stood up and walked to Calden's blind spot.

He then gave him an full power surprise punch in the liver. A punch he had learned was so devastating it would knock out most foes with one hit. But it wouldn't work on Calden it did force him to release his grip if only for a second. Eldred used this time window to grab Calden with 2 hand, around his throat and slammed him into a nearby book stand knocking the air out of the ex warrior. He lifted him up to his height picking him up of the floor and making him powerless. He showed the warrior his deadly row of teeth that looked like the teeth of an bear. He then said. "You are a fallen warrior that only dares to threaten smaller and weaker people then yourself. But not anymore now that I am here I won't allow such things so if you ever try that again, I will snap your neck in an instant." Eldred closed his jaw and gave the warrior an look of disgust before he released him.

He looked at the fallen warrior that was now laying on the ground with one last look of disgust as he said. "No wonder your bear spirit left you who would want to share an body with you." He then turned around and walked toward Lenora. "Are you unhurt miss?" He asked with an worried expression on his face. his anger had vanished into thin air as he grabbed his medicine from a nearby table.

She was shaken, however the fire within still roared and the walls offered her solace as she lent on them. Even as Calden's hand wrapped around her throat, she had held her head high, looking at him right in the eye. In one of her rare rational moments, she had expected this, a fight for survival, a struggle for acceptance. Ever since her ex-master's manor roared with flames, she had fought, and fought and fought. Then she saw the Bear Spirit's rage in Eldred's eyes. It was said that the Arcane caste struggled daily for dominance over their Spirit, the look in Eldred's eyes at that moment confirmed that rumour. That was enough cause to distrust him. Mr. Black was a bear personified, a cuddily animal one moment, a bloody predator the next. Gathering her thoughts as best as she could, Lenora turned to Eldred.

"MoRE huRT tHaN yOu knOW..." She replied, adding a little joke to smooth things over. "BeAR-For-BraINS."

Bruised and bloodied Calden knew he had no chance of beating Eldred in a fair fight. He would easily be able to outmanoeuvre him at close range, even at medium range Eldred had longer reach. He would have to take him at a distance, if he had the Knights rifle he could've easily shot Edlred through the eye and put the raging beast down, but rifles where heavy, cumbersome and easy to spot when walking the streets of Meridas. All he had were the eight single shot pistols strapped to his back hidden under his cloak, accuracy not guaranteed. He had to fight though, he may not have honour, but he had his pride.

If he aimed wide enough the bullet would pass by Eldred's head harmlessly or graze him either way it would send a message. He quickly pulled out his best and favourite pistol, he had acquired it when he first started out as a mobster, there was an intricately designed device on the butt of the pistol shaped like a bear growling and a longer barrel then most to insure better accuracy. Turning the cock from half-cock to full-cock he aimed and fired. The bullet pierced Eldred's ear ripping of the top half.

"If you want to bring the Mad woman along fine, just make sure she stays out of my way"

As Eldred was preparing to heal the injured woman she said to him. "MoRE huRT tHaN yOu knOW...BeAR-For-BraINS." He looked to her confused. His lack of social skills made him unsure of what she meant he just smiled at her hiding his confusion. He then heard an shot followed by pain from his left ear. he felt it being ripped apart. Anger and shock mixed into a dangerous cocktail as he felt the blood beginning to gush from his wound. He turned his head around and Eldred's face looked unnatural his eyes were cold.

The look Eldred gave Calden send a shiver down his spine. "If you want to bring the Mad woman along fine, just make sure she stays out of my way" He kept looking at him with the same cold eyes."You will regret that." He looked back to the wounded girl. "I am afraid you will have to wait for a few seconds." He stood and placed some salves on the wound as he placed one of his claws over the fire. His face remained an expressionless mask as he kept looking the warrior in his eyes, he then placed it on his open wound. The pain was intense but one eye gave him the power to not even flinch. Smoke appeared from the wound as the smell of burnt flesh filled the room. When he removed the claw the wound was burned shut he looked even more dangerous now, he was still staring Calden with the same cold eyes. He grabbed an rag and wiped the blood of his face and armor still nor breaking eye contact. He then turned around and walked back to the girl."So are you ready to be healed?"He asked with an smile. His normal eyes had returned. That was close if I hadn't resisted one eye would have surely ripped him apart. And damn it this wound hurt likes hell what was One eye thinking burning it shut like this?!

Arala watched the spat between Calden and Eldred with passive interest. Seems that those two are going to be at each other's throats for the duration of this venture. She mused, wondering if she should interfere now or wait until their next fight. Ehh... probably too early to tell yet if this will continue. With tempers as they are now, one of them may decide to try and take ME, and I don't want that...

Since it appeared that the fight wouldn't continue, she wandered over to where Dackord sat at the fire. "What you did back there, to the tormented..." Arala started, not entirely sure how to properly phrase her inquiry. "Is that something that you could teach me? I don't think that will be the last of those we see out here, and it couldn't hurt to have another person with that particular skill." She couldn't quite keep all the desire out of her voice, and it'd be easy to tell she'd do nearly anything to be taught how to do that.

"What you did back there, to the tormented... Is that something you could teach me? I don't think that will be the last of those we see out here, and it couldn't hurt to have another person with that particular skill."

Dackord chuckled warmly, an unusual image of the normally cold and furtive knight.

"That is no skill to be learned, it is a birthright of a people long forgotten. I don't suppose I've ever told you of my people."

The knight's eyes reflected the flicker of the flame, and he reached eagerly for its warmth.

"I come from a small nation to the north. We were a nomadic people, and the sole reason for our continued independence was that our homeland was too cruel for invaders. When this age began, we were destroyed. The creation there was unlike anything you have ever seen. The earth shook ceaselessly, and nightmarish beasts fell from the twisting treetops. Tiny monsters polluted the very water. My tribe attempted to flee, but only I survived."

The crackling fire punctuated the end of his tale. He reached into a pouch and produced a glass cylinder, contained within a pyramid-shaped cage. Dackord grabbed the ends and flexed, closing his eyes, as the glass began to glow bright white, the same from before. When his eyes opened, he let loose a sigh, and passed the object to the monk.

"Perhaps, if the time comes, this will reveal its secrets to you."

He lifted himself off the ground with considerable effort, then spoke once more, this time with a stern tone.

"Tomorrow, at dawn, we set off for Grainheart and set off straight for the Tangle. No delays, no side-trips."

He shot a piercing glance at the warriors and the madwoman. "And no infighting. If anyone compromises our mission, I swear I will kill them myself."

He pushed aside the flaps of his tent and disappeared. Artus was shocked at his threat to murder his own team. "What have I gotten myself into?"

Artus took Dackord's place by the fire, and began to play a song of Grainheart on her lute. She sang of communities in harmony with nature, of farmers, and of a blood feud with the neighboring mining nation. Her voice was not sweet, for she was not a sweet woman, but it was technically quite sound. When she was finished, she devoted her time to maintaining her equipment, until night fell.

Arala listened intently to Dackord's tale of his homeland. It could be the only time she gained any insight into his past... She was disappointed that he couldn't teach her, but hopefully she'd unlock the secret of the glass cylinder through meditation.

She walked away from the fire a bit, facing away from the camp to begin her nightly meditation, this time using the glass as her focus. Artus' song added an interesting backdrop to the usual sounds of the night, and it proved to be surprisingly calming, especially considering what happened just a few hours ago. Shortly after nightfall, Arala moved in closer to the fire and prepared to take first watch.

"And no infighting. If anyone compromises our mission, I swear I will kill them myself." He looked at Eldred when he said this. Eldred found this quite annoying as he hadn't started it, and he had stopped it. He grabbed the medicine and tried to remember the lessons of his friend. None of the cuts needed stitches though the glass needed to be removed. And he didn't feel like doing it in the open or anywhere where he could be surprised by that coward Calden. So he took her to an private room in the library.

When they arrived in the room he began healing here to the best of his ability. He carefully removed all the glass and managed to get it all out without an problem. He then cleaned the wounds which he did as carefully as possible because it would hurt her quite a bit. And after cleaning the wounds he used salves to make sure the wounds wouldn't get infected. He then bandaged her up with some bandages this work took about 20 minutes. Eldred stood up his hands soaked in blood, he began cleaning his hands with some of his own water.

"Well you should be fine now. Though I will have to check tomorrow if all the wounds are still clean and if none of them got infected." He looked at Lenora with an smile. "If you need any help because of your injury or for whatever other reason don't be afraid to come to me." He grabbed his medicine bag as he looked inside. There were quite allot of supplies inside because this bag had been meant to heal quite allot of people and more then 1 or 2 times. There were even some tools inside it though he had no idea how to use half of them. He looked back at Lenora. "So do you want me to help you set up your tent?" he asked her with an happy look on his face. With the cuts on her back stretching wasn't an good idea right now. So crouching to set up the tent wasn't something that he would recommend.

The salve was slowly sinking into in her wounded skin, and with it some of the pain was washed away. Lenora had reluctantly accepted Eldred's help, hoping that the Bear inside him would not take over and savage her. To her relief, it hadn't. However, one part of her was still untended, the remains of the metal forearm dangling from the greased knob that made up her elbow. Lenora sighed. She was tired and needed rest, not to mention that night had already crept in. The glow of the fire echoed the eerie glow of the moon, gibbous and aloof. The towering hulk of furs kept that same stupid grin on his face from when he first met the party. Lenora had tried talking to him before he dressed her wounds, however, it was in one ear and out the other as Eldred cocked his head in confusion, still grinning. So when he asked about setting up her tent up for her, Lenora simply nodded, gave a little bow in gratitude and moved up to the campfire next to the Monk, spare parts in hand.

Thanks to her ex-master, the steam engine which took where her shoulder was, was bolted to the lump of flesh that remained of her arm. The rest of the mechanical arm was detachable, so Lenora could modify or repair the rest of the arm with ease. The engine, though, was forbidden to her; Lenora's ex-master saw in his 'wisdom' not to let her fiddle about with his precious mechanism. With an expert's eye, you can see why - it was a prototype version of a more portable, miniaturized steam engine. Evidence of his genius, even though it was still a bulky contraption.that stuttered and hissed. She undid the Marman-type clamp that attached the forearm to the 'humerus' of the prosthetic and began her work by the fireside. Memories flashed through her mind. The young noble would always unleash his rage upon her, whether it resulted in a broken arm, a broken jaw or a break her prosthetic arm, forcing Lenora to fix it herself. Fighting through the onslaught of memories, she worked on and on. It was a bit of a botch job, hell, she could only afford to replace the flexible fingers with crude claws.

Nevertheless, it was done.

Edwyn was still rattled by what happened earlier, though he tried not to let it show as he began working on sanitizing the ball bearings he retrieved. His attention was momentarily averted as the Arcane Warriors found themselves in a rapidly escalating quarrel.

Blasted, bumbling brutes, thought Edwyn. We're all on the same damned side, so why can't we just bloody well act like it. Not sure if we'd be able to survive another Tormented attack when they're already at each other's throats.

Percy was watching from afar as he saw Lenora making what repairs she could with her mechanical limb. He could see that it would require more than what had been accomplished to bring it back to its original condition, and perhaps it could even be improved beyond that. The automaton's shutter blinked twice as it processed the possibility. He turned towards his creator and tugged as his robe, grasping his attention to speak up as he pointed to the girl. "Help. Help arm."

Edwyn looked from the automaton to Lenora, feeling for her plight. He couldn't help but feel partially responsible for what happened. He froze after the Tormented attacked when he should've been quick to come to her aid. Rather than justify his fears, he felt he should try and make it up to her somehow and seeing if she needed help. He dropped the last of the sterilized bearings into the jar and walked over to Lenora, clearing his throat before speaking up. "Erm, excuse me? Miss Lenora? Do you require...assistance? Of any sort?"

The bandages were wound tightly around her back, covering the wound received with thanks from the Tormented and the ancient glass. Both were old and frail, but sharp. The bandages were necessary to heal these wounds and yet the restriction of movement that they brought was frustrating. No wonder she saw many wounded struggling with their casts after the invasion. It was torture, unrelentingly necessary torture. She stared into the fire, finding its dance similar to the rage inside her, rising and twisting. Light bounced off the brass arm. It was a poor repair, albeit the best she could do in her condition. Lenora tried to ignore the fact that this mission was looking more and more of a failure. If this was a suicide squad, so be it. Redemption often came posthumously anyway. For now she settle on watching the fire, letting its flickering flamelets and their dance lull her to sleep.

"Erm, excuse me? Miss Lenora? Do you require...assistance? Of any sort?"

A cough preluded the timid Scholar's voice and woke Lenora up from her light sleep. She looked up at Edwyn and his mechanical pet whurring and clicking behind him. She looked at the metal man, the flickers of the flame giving his metal body a glowing sheen. Lenora recalled that these Scholar often left maintenance of their automatons to themselves, often gaining mastery of the ways of gears and cogs over the years. This offer of help could be very useful indeed. Giving up on verbal communication, she eyed Edwyn, nodded, pointed to her arm and handed him one of the tools from the bag containing spare parts and the like. Inside, Lenora cursed herself for having to rely so much on others during this venture. In Meridas, she survived the harsh undercity of the Casteless alone. But, remembering Leon, she noted that that loneliness was forced upon her and she was an opportunist at heart.

"You may help me but I'm not one of your machines." She thought, bitterly.

The heady smell of human flesh burning made Calden feel light-headed. He tried to walk over to the camp fire to get some rest and to make some distance between him and the other Warrior. However during the few strides it would've taken him to get there he fainted. His body crumpling, first his legs, then his torso and the rest of him followed.

The memories washed over him like a wave, The largest beast he had ever seen was perching on top of the small stronghold they had been sent to retake. This was all wrong, someone had messed up the intel, but how? Then it clicked in his mind, someone had set him up. He was rising quickly within the ranks of the Arcane Warriors, no-one his age had been sent to lead a raiding party.

The Beast flew over their heads and suddenly his world was on fire.

He woke up screaming, writhing on the ground.

Lenora nodded when he asked her if he could help her set up the tent. He grabbed her tent supplies and after some short fiddling with the unfamiliar stick he had set up her tent. Eldred smiled as he stepped back it looked perfect. Lenora was meanwhile talking to what seemed to be an scholar. Smart he could probably help her repair her arm which she needed. Eldred smiled as he grabbed his bag he began to count his supplies. I have no small weapons that could be a problem. Hhmm I believe the scout had a few knives.. Though I don't know if I want to see his body. I mean the scout who I had Been traveling with has been rotting for a few days. Still I have no choice. Eldred shook the mental image of the body of him. He would see his body soon enough.

Eldred walked back inside as he walked toward the body of the ranger. After about 10 minutes of searching he found what was left of him.. it wasn't much. Eldred was a bit disgusted but he grabbed one of the daggers anyway it seemed to be in a good state. Eldred smiled as he began to make his way back. Today had been a good and bad day.. Good because he was saved bad because well. He touched his wounded ear and then took his hand back after touching it, it hurt allot. "That asshole if I find him I am going to....woowh." Eldred tripped and just managed to caught himself before landing on the floor. He stepped back up looking at what tripped him. His eyes widened in shock as he saw Claden laying on the floor appearing to be asleep. An evil grin spread across Eldred's face as he heard one eye say. An eye for an eye.

Eldred lifted the knife up ready to strike when he though about what he was doing. He was better then this, he was better then him. He looked at the sleeping warrior with disgust he grabbed the knife span it around and then quickly attacked. He planted the knife deep into the ground right next to his ear. He looked at him with the same disgust in his eyes as in the look he gave him before. "I am a better man then you. I won't stoop to your level." He stood up feeling quite good about himself. He walked back to camp and started doing his heavy training routine before finally going inside his tent and going to bed.

"Hmm. My, my, my. Oh, this is...this simply won't do," Edwyn thought aloud as he inspected Lenora's arm one section at a time. "Excuse me, and I mean absolutely no offense by this, but when was the last time this arm had received a good thorough cleaning? No matter, that's exactly what we're doing tonight. Percy, my tools, if you will. We're going to have a busy night, that's for sure."

Percy hurried to grab Edwyn's pack, whirring and clicking in excitement. The automaton had never worked on a functioning mechanical limb for a human, and he couldn't wait to try his hand in aiding his creator in this procedure. There was much to learn from this, just like any other first experience. One by one, Percy began to inspect the spare parts Lenora had, making silent assessments on their quality and functionality as Edwyn began laying out necessary tools.

By the time daylight broke and the men and women poured from their tents, Dackord was already armored, solemnly staring northwards, toward Grainheart.

"We will be entering Grainheart's wilds this day. Any armor and weapons you have should be prepared for battle, as the arboreals and other beasts will show no mercy."

When the group was dressed and battle-ready, he gathered them around the ashes that remained of last night's campfire, then spoke to them of the mission to come.

"Somewhere within the Tangle lies an individual with incredible power. His body cannot be burned, frozen, crushed, or cut by the forces of creation - he does not wither at the behest of time, nor do the spirits have sway over him. Within my order, he is known as Nevume, Godbane. Without this man, we stand no chance against the Lord. This is a force that has carved mountains, tamed oceans, and bent dragons to its will. But the Lord cannot best the Godbane."

Artus was dismayed at this news. She had hoped that once they found the Lord, she might convince Him to return to his post as humanity's benevolent ruler, but if what Dackord said was true, then she feared He might be struck down before she had the chance.

The silver knight rode on horseback, with the six in tow, northward to the forests and fields of Grainheart. The horses trotted along, weighed heavily by the armed individuals and the large packs full of metals and rations. The harsh sun beat down upon the party, magnified by the golden rock, but gradually, dark, rich grass began to overtake the earth, and trees began to appear, thickening as they pressed onward, providing much needed refuge from the heat. But they would soon long for the sun.

It wasn't long before the sky was completely overtaken by dense woods. The bark was twisted and contorted, as was the ground beneath the pounding hooves, which had torn itself into fissures at irregular intervals. The air had grown unbearably cold and stiflingly dark. Dackord paused to light a torch, as the path ahead was too deformed to travel safely in the dark.

However, not once did a beast appear.

They traveled for some time in this manner, making good time, but Dackord was suspicious of the speed with which they had progressed. Their blades were clean, and their rifles had not fired once - where were the monsters?

A sudden chorus of howls accompanied half a dozen beasts with glistening white fur as they lunged at Dackord. The torch fell immediately, rolling off an incline where its light could not reach their foes. The horse let loose a deafening cry as its entrails spilled out from its hide, and Dackord was knocked flat on the ground. He swung his sword with precision, striking one of the beasts in the head, but it was over in a flash. Pounding and growling echoed through the woods, the fighting obscured by darkness. And then, before any of the six could even dismount, the sound stopped. Artus dropped to the ground and scrambled around in the dark, searching for the torch, but when it was lit, all that remained was the bleeding horse. Their attackers were nowhere to be seen, and neither was Dackord.

And so the six stood, marooned in the midst of a foreign wild, their guide having vanished into the dark.

They had been traveling on horseback for hours now, but no beats had attacked the group. Something was wrong here. They were a prime target, large group of wanderers, making noise, not concealing their tracks and a torch lighting their way. There was nothing, not even one rustle of leaves.

They were making good time, they had reached the forest of the aborals in less than a day. The sun was soon blocked out by the trees that had been there many millennia before the age of men. Every so often you could see stumps of burnt out trees, remnants of the wars between Meridas and Grainheart, small green shoots were growing up through the remains. There tress always survived here, all they needed was time.

A deafening howl erupted from the forest, shimmering White Beasts leapt forth and killed Dackord's horse. The torch Dackord had been holding fell and sputtered out. In the darkness Calden couldn't see what was going on, but he heard with sound off steel being unsheathed and one of the beast yelping in pain. Then nothing, the beasts had vanished and they were down one party member.

Calden picked up the torch and lit it, he needed to be strong now, he had woke up screaming that morning thanks to that bastard Eldred. when he woke he saw a knife had been struck down next to his ear, the someone that he had robbed from Eldred. He would not show any sign of weakness.

"I say with Dackord gone, we return to Meridas. Without him going further would be suicide, if we are attacked by tormented again, what else can we do but die?" He left the question hanging in the air, waiting for it to be answered.

That morning, Edwyn was groggy when he was woken up by Percy. Lenora's arm repair the night before was taking its toll on the Scholar, the task having been no small one. Nonetheless, he rose from his tent and prepared for the day's journey which he'd hoped would be less eventful than their encounter at the library. Edwyn was struggling to keep from dozing off as he so he could listen to Dackord's words as they were gathered around the campfire. Though when he mentioned the full potential of the Godbane, Edwyn was at full attention. It deeply concerned him that it was already starting to seem that diplomacy was out of the question when it came to the ultimate encounter with The Lord. Edwyn was conflicted with the idea of having to kill the powerful being, the provider of all knowledge, knowledge that Edwyn longed for since he lost himself in his first book. However, the thought of it all was quickly removed as they began riding on horseback from their encampment, and the Scholar was more than happy to set that particular cerebration aside for the time being.

Thankfully, Percy had enough of exploring the wooded surroundings for the time being and now sat behind Edwyn on the horse, leaving the Scholar with less clean-up to be done when night fell. Though, as far as one could see, there was no telling when that would be, for the forest canopy was growing so dense not a single inkling of daylight could shine through. Dackord led the group, torch in hand, deeper into the thickening forest. The calm and quiet was unexpected, eerie even with the lack of presence of any creatures. It was as if they were walking through a bone yard, the only comparison that matched the strange stillness and one that worried the Scholar almost more than he could bear.

Suddenly, there was howling that sent chills down Edwyn's spine, accompanied by white-furred beasts that charged Dackord. Darkness swept over the lot when their guide's torch fell from his grasp, and the sounds of a clashing between man and beast rang throughout the group. Just as suddenly as the commotion started, it stopped with the sounds of fleeing beasts followed by silence. There were sounds of scrounging before the torch was lit once more in the hand of Artus, bringing to light the mutilated mare on the ground.

"I say with Dackord gone, we return to Meridas. Without him going further would be suicide, if we are attacked by tormented again, what else can we do but die?"

"W-w-well," Edwyn began, stammering as he tried to recover from the initial shock. He removed his gaze from the opened carcass of Dackord's steed and looked at Calden to reply. "Perhaps we should keep moving on. I-I mean what if he's still alive a-a-and he expects us to press on? O-o-or what if he needs our help? Should we go and f-find him?"

Even though Lenora had stayed up part of the night, she had rested well. Trusting the Scholar with the repair of her arm, she soon left the damaged detachable part with Edwyn, politely bowing in thanks, went off to her tent - kindly set up by Eldred - and fell asleep. The last few days had taken a toll on the group, out of those who remained alive the toll was most visible on Lenora, with bandages covering her back and upper body, not to mention the arm. She cursed the Lord for this, but Lenora would have her revenge on him soon enough. Exhausted, sleep came smoothly for once, no nightmares this time, just sweet, dreamless sleep. If the cold dreamless darkness was to your taste. Nevertheless, her body needed the rest and she slept like a log.

The sun shone through the opening of the tent, the world announced that morning had arrived and the old man was there at the extinguished campfire doing as he always did, make speeches and looking solemn. She retrieved the bits of her arm she had entrusted with Edwyn for repair from Percy, who retrieved it from a compartment and presented to her like a noble presented a sword of fine make to another in a bid to impress. True the arm shone with a polished steel and it had been fully repaired but it evoked a dismal memory of her time as a slave watching nobles bestow grants, honours and like to each other while she had to stand there holding an amphora for ages. Part of the ceremony, apparently. She attached the rest of the arm back on and joined the others, mentally running through her nicknames for them.

Sure, it was a silly thing to do, but it helped. Lenora mused on how many crutches supported her wrecked soul. Maybe Calden was right, maybe she was the weakest of the group, relying on others. But that was just talk from a mind branded with flame and fury, a burnt shell of a man with only his flamberge to prop up himself. Lost in thought, she didn't take in all of Dackord's speech. Something about going into Grainheart's wilds to find the Godbane, whoever that was. She was disappointed that with the Nevvar's plans involved just using this invulnerable person to beat the Lord into the submission, she had something special lined up for Him and with this plan and she had just been cast to the sidelines. Lenora gave a smirk regardless, this Godbane had better be the real deal, plus the look of dismay on the Steam Knight's face was too good to miss.

Dackord said his piece and dismissed the group who took up their mounts. Onwards they rode with the scenery quickly fading from dry rock to lush forest, reminding Lenora of the forest where the group had began their journey. Had they known about the encounter with the Tormented would they have agreed to this? Lenora couldn't say, besides for the Casteless, the king's summons were rare but strictly enforced. Lost in thoughts yet again, she almost got unsaddled with of lack of care. Lenora found travelling boring, it was just waiting under another name and with more effort involved. The silence of the group didn't help either, it just magnified the atmosphere of begrudged co-operation.

Howls broke the silence. Streaks of white fur and claws ran through the greenery - a whole pack of beasts was chasing the group. Lenora braced herself for the pain that was to follow if one of these beast pounced onto her. They would rake her injured back, tear through her and chew on her remains, Lenora was sure of it, especially with her ill luck. Then the pack choose Dackord as their target. Lenora suppressed her surprise and tried to get as close to Dackord as possible, but as soon as she whipped her horse into action it was too late. Dackord looked up only to see a white beast leap and disembowel his horse. While the dying horse collapsed, his grasped loosened on the torch, leaving the group blind. He drew his sword in a last stand, managing to kill one of the white, red-eyed demons only to disappear.

It was over before it began. Lenora watched the others for a while before deciding to dismount. The silver knight fumbling about as she always did, the red fool was spouting nonsense about returning to Meridas and the timid Edwyn objecting with stutters and stammers. She agreed with the Scholar, as if there was a warm welcome for failed would-be-heroes in Meridas, but then again wouldn't the failed Warrior know all about that? She simply shook her head slightly to his suggestion, staring him right in the eye the whole time.

Eldred had slept quite well and he was finally free from the tormented, which had kept him captive in the library. Still he was once again reminded that he only had about half an ear, as he gently applied some healing salves. Eldred started his heavy training routine as usual. He then left his tent to find Dackord in complete battle gear. He looked at Calden who seemed annoyed at him it was clear that Calden and he were enemies. One eye once again said that they should have killed him when they had the chance, Eldred once again disagreed.

"We will be entering Grainheart's wilds this day.... other beasts will show no mercy." Eldred grabbed his weapons and rejoined the others around the fire. "Somewhere within the Tangle lies an individual with incredible power.....But the Lord cannot best the Godbane." Eldred was intrigued such a powerful person. He would have to challenging him/her to a fight to see if he/she was just as strong, his warriors honor demanded it.

Eldred walked to his new horse who seemed pleased to have a new master. After petting it a few times he lifted himself up on the horse. The horse did have a bit of an problem with the much heavier new rider but it still was as fast as the other horses. Eldred mind wandered as he thought of his home which was threatened, No matter what happened they had to go on and kill the lord. The sun was quite heavy for most people but Eldred up bring had toughened him quite allot, up to the point that he didn't even feel it and his bear armor protected him from the sun. The grass was a nice change of scenery but Eldred kept looking around weapons ready to strike. The woods slowly got darker as Eldred became more and more worried that something was wrong. They hadn't even seen one beast yet, while this place was supposed to be swarmed by them Dackord lighted a torch as they continued traveling.

Suddenly loud howls came out of the forest, as a group of white furred beats attacked Dackord. The torch fell on the ground as the horse was ripped open. A few loud screams and growls could be heard before completely silence took over again. The fighting had ended and Dackord had lost. Eldred felt the anger boiling as he grabbed his one handed sword.

Then Calden rode forwards and grabbed the torch.

"I say with Dackord gone, we return to Meridas. Without him going further would be suicide, if we are attacked by tormented again, what else can we do but die?" Eldred face betrayed how angry he was Calden had forsaken tradition and had become a filthy coward. Eldred horse rode forward as he said "Going back now serves no purpose. We all knew the dangers we were getting in when we started this mission. And going back now means certain death. Because if we don't stop the Lord, he will send wave after wave of animals his animals to us. Killing every human they see!" Eldred rode quickly grabbing the torch out of Caldens hand by force, he looked at him with cold eyes. And he quickly whispered so that only Calden could hear it. "You are a dirty coward, not worthy of being named an warrior." He then rode 5 meters and turned around. "So we only have 2 choices. We can either go back and die, or go forwards and live! Now who is with me?!" Eldred looked at the rest of the party hoping they would join him. One eye screamed for him to go alone, but having a group was much better then going alone.

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