The Divine Game: An odyssey of adventure! (Closed/Started)

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"I'm here, Prince Cadric. I can see you've been injured though. You shouldn't be moving around in your condition."

'Oh thank the gods!'

"What? No, what? You're alright though? You're alright?!" Cadric was caught up somewhere between relaxed relief and heart racing excitement. "We need to- we need to ready the troops. Don't we?" Cadric stammered on, patting down Darion's armour as if making sure he was real. Was he drunk? He felt as if he was drunk. His head was still pounding. Couldn't everyone just be quiet?

"What are you smiling about!?"

While he should of expected a reaction, Thassa's slap took Jaris completely off guard. While it hurt nowhere near as much as the other pains of his body, it was a solid slap, and bought up some not-to-fond-of memories of his. By the time he looked back, the two sisters were gone, leaving Jaris once again alone.

Sisters, that was an odd thought. The two at a glance seemed polar opposites of eachother, though if the warrioress's reaction was any indication, they must be close. More memories, this time of Jaris's own siblings dredged themselves up and he shook his head to clear his mind just in time to catch Thassa returning with Zoe on her back.

"Ah, the priestess returns on her fierce battle-mount!" He called out.

"Onward!"

Oh, you have got to be---

"YAH!"

I won't break her neck, Father. I swear...

Thassa trudged across the beach with her little goblin of a sister in tow. Several minutes later and they had returned to Jaris' side.

"Ah, the priestess returns on her fierce battle-mount!"

Thassa took a quick gander around before dropping Zoe onto the sand. Her rear made a satisfying thud against the ground. Crouching down in front of her prisoner, Thassa looked him in the eye, "I can't imagine the Red King will keep you around very long once you've spoken to him. Is there anything I can give you? A last request?"

"We need to- we need to ready the troops. Don't we?"

"The battle's done for today," Darion said, quietly so his voice wouldn't carry. It wouldn't do for the Crown Prince to be heard needing to hear something obvious. "We'll guard against night attack, but for now, what men of ours don't need graves or medical attention need rest. I guarantee you, the enemy will be doing the same."

He clapped his hands on the Prince's shoulders. "I'm absolutely fine, Cadric." His shoulder flared up, as if to remind him he wasn't one hundred percent. He grinned. "A damn sight better than you, at least."

Putting a hand on Cadric's back, he steered him through the crowd, towards the palace. "Yes, the enemy has every reason to lick their wounds tonight, my Prince." He grinned again, this time more slyly. "I hear tell that some clumsy young fool got lucky and managed to hamstring King Iokanan."

Zoe happily rode on her sister's back upon returning to the prisoner, proudly being carried by the fierce warrior who Zoe just knew was probably frothing at the mouth that she was doing this again.

"Ah, the priestess returns on her fierce battle-mount!"

"Yeah a battle-mount that kicked your arse!" Zoe laughed before sighing. "Aww that was mean you might die soon I'm sorry." She frowned before Thassa gracelessly dropped her on her bottom. "Ow. You're mean." She glared before relenting almost immediately. "But I deserve that."

"Is there anything I can give you? A last request?"

Still sitting on the ground, Zoe spoke up, her tone much less playful than earlier. "He said he wanted to pray before, although that was after I told him my name so uh, they may not have been with the purest of intentions."

"Is there anything I can give you? A last request?"

Jaris returned Thassa's gaze as he though on her question. He was about to replie when Zoe interupted,

"He said he wanted to pray before, although that was after I told him my name so uh, they may not have been with the purest of intentions."

Jaris looked over at the girl and cocked an eyebrow. "I'm hurt you would think that my intentions were impure. I simply thought praying with the sister of the woman who injured me would give the gods a good laugh, they do like their irony."

Jaris turned back to Thassa and dropped his voice. "At this point, a mug of beer would most likely do as much for me as a prayer would."

"I'm hurt you would think that my intentions were impure. I simply thought praying with the sister of the woman who injured me would give the gods a good laugh, they do like their irony."

Thassa crossed her arms over her chest and chuckled, "That they do." She muttered.

"At this point, a mug of beer would most likely do as much for me as a prayer would."

Thassa shrugged, "We only have wine in Ascadia, I hope that works for you." Getting to her feet, she went and retrieved a goblet of wine from another soldier sitting around the nearby fire. Returning to Jaris' side, he held it to his lips so he could drink it. "I don't suppose there is anything wrong with dying under the influence."

The sudden sound of feet shuffling through the sand behind her had Thassa look over her shoulder. A man garbed in the cloth of the Red King had appeared. For Jaris, no doubt, "The King will see you now."

"About time," Thassa mused as she helped Jaris onto his feet. "Let's have that audience. Shall we?"

"Let's have that audience. Shall we?"

The wine was...different. It was by no means the strongest thing Jaris had ever stuck but it did its job well enough, soothing his aches and his mind.

"Yes, let's." He replied curtly as he waited for the rope binding him to the pole against his back was loosened. Upon feeling a slight amount of pressure lift itself from his wrists, he precariously rose to his feet and rolled his stiff shoulders as best he could.

Wordlessly he followed Thassa and the man towards the Red King's camp.

"I'm absolutely fine, Cadric. A damn sight better than you, at least."

"No, I'm alright, I followed my training and everything!" Cadric blustered as he was guided through the throng of people. His guard had quickly caught up to them and he snatched his helmet back from the man he'd so eagerly passed it off on so soon earlier just so he could look proper.

"I'll have you know I - oh shit." Cadric trailed off as he felt out the dent in his helmet that might have so easily ended up in his skull. "I might not be all... alright." Cadric blinked through the words. Blinking seemed to help.

"I hear tell that some clumsy young fool got lucky and managed to hamstring King Iokanan."

"I almost had him." Cadric's mood suddenly slumped entirely as he relived the moment. "I should have ended all of this..." The crowds were fading away as they made their way closer to the city palace and further away from the centre of the confusion.

Why couldn't he do it, why had he hesitated?
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"Funny, isn't it, Scribe? Days on end hoping to get off of this damn ship and hours after getting my wish here I am again." Iokanan laughed bitterly through his gritted teeth as the healers finished up the mending of his leg. Luckily the cut hadn't been as deep as he first thought. Though if that meant the wretched wound hurt less than it might have Io wasn't noticing it.

"I wonder ,Alim, do you think all this will fill a few books for your library?" He raised another cup of wine to the scribe.

'Did I finally get his name right? I feel like I got it right.'

Soon enough the prisoner was pushed in before being shoved down onto his knees with a dull thud of the boat deck. Iokanan brushed the healers aside and they backed away to the side of the tent. As for his captors apparently they'd seen fit to send an all female escort with him. A child playing at priestess and a young woman dressed up like a man of the line. Io couldn't decide which looked more ridiculous.

"well this is an unexpected gathering."
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Thick in the depths of the coalition camp, those who had the chance to let their hair down were taking full advantage of the chance. Sharing a drink and a song with their comrades that were still among the living and just enjoying being alive. In the middle of it all was a man who'd stripped himself to the waist and had helped himself to a harp who's owner had fallen into a drunken sleep.

He'd been handing out wine and honey'd drink all night. No one seemed to know where he'd gotten it from and they didn't care, it was some of the best stuff they'd ever tasted. So on he played with his harp and egged another man on to bring one of the ship drums ashore to join in. The air seemed to crackle with energy as people lost themselves in revelry. No one saw how in the firelight the drunken master's eyes were getting more and more bloodshot or how his veins were bulging around his temples.
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People thanked Lanius profusely as went about handing out food. "Well here's a fun little sight." Chirped a young man as he practically danced past Lanius, reaching into his basket and plucking out a piece of bread. "It isn't often one of your ilk tends to the living."

He gave a self satisfied smirk and bit into the food greedily.

"Oooh I'm coming too." Zoe hopped up and walked with the pair as they were escorted by the King's man. Zoe nudged her sister on the elbow and grinned, knowing the King would be impressed by her.

"Well this is an unexpected gathering."

Thassa stood tall and firm in the King's presence. She towered over the crumpled form of Jaris, her prisoner, like that of a monument. Unblinking, she met the Red King's gaze, "My name is Thassa Curio, son of Mercius Curio. There are some who know me as 'Iron Eye'." She waved her hand down towards the man before her. "This is Jaris of Sitar. Royalty of some sort, or so I am told. That is not why I brought him before you, however. He's a skilled fighter. Clearly, one of the best Prince Cadric had in his army. We fought. He lost. And at the tip of my blade, he asked for an audience with you." She offered a subtle smirk. "So, I obliged him."

"Well this is an unexpected gathering."

Dispite the wine the impact the the deck sent another flare of pain through his body, and it took all of Jaris's will not to cry out in pain. Rather than give the Red King the satisfaction, he held his tongue and listened to Thassa spoke with Iokanan.

"So, I obliged him."

Ignoring the pain in his thigh, Jaris shakily yet defiantly stood up and locked eyes with the Red King. "I am Jaris Wavrestrake, as my captor so helpful stated and I am the son of the Lord of Sitar, Sidney Wavrestrake." A smile played itself across his features. "And for someone with such an intimidating nickname, I imagined you'd have the stature to match."

"Funny, isn't it, Scribe? Days on end hoping to get off of this damn ship and hours after getting my wish here I am again."

"The Gods give and the Gods take away, sir." Alim dryly said, the sentence punctuated by the scribble of the quill. However, the scribe stopped as the Red King went to say something else.

"I wonder, Alim, do you think all this will fill a few books for your library?"

Alim's face burst out in a smile. How long had Iokanan been struggling with the scribe's name? Years, probably. Well, for one thing, the warmonger's own name was definitely less easy to wrap around the tongue than the simple two-syllables of Alim. Though, there probably wasn't much in wisdom in pointing that out to the monarch. Instead, he replied with, "An endless fleet, a blessed wind, and an epic and decisive battle. Indeed it will. If not my own books, then those of others."

And now visitors...

The prince was certainly not behaving in the typical princely matter. "Iron Eye" looked like she was presenting some hunted prey to the Red King - which was probably exactly what was going on. Alim stroked his beard as he tried to remember more details about either of the two... Ah! That was right.

"A descendent of the Peasant King, third child and clearly thinks himself a comedian." He muttered.

Son? Did she say son? That was a woman standing in front of him wasn't it? Iokanan had seen how young men these days made such a fuss of grooming themselves to the extreme, making them look younger and more feminine but there was no way they could of gone this far. Her armour may have left a lot to the imagination but Io could flatter himself enough to say he'd been around long enough to know a woman when he saw one.

He shot a skeptical glance to Alim off to the side as this "Iron-Eye" Introduced herself and her capture. Yet another surprise. It wasn't unheard of for women to take to the battlefield but Io was hard pressed to remember hearing of any accompanying the army.

This quandary would have to wait though, apparently he'd been requested by this young Waverstrake. Even bound the young man held his pride tightly, a true mark of one with station in the world.

"And for someone with such an intimidating nickname, I imagined you'd have the stature to match."

'The courage of the young. A quip and a smirk, how well these things can serve a man as a shield at the right time... but they seldom hold up to a true assault.'

"A descendant of the Peasant King, third child and clearly thinks himself a comedian."

How Alim could remember all these facts and figures was beyond Io but damn if it wasn't useful having him around for moments like this. Though Io was not totally unknowing in this matter. Sitar and Astrium were long standing allies and the possibility of the small-dirt island throwing their lot in with Caradoc and his cursed line was not unexpected. There was honour in that at least, however doomed it was.

"And apparently is intimidated by the mere mention of the colour red." Iokanan added. "Today must have been hell for you and now this!" Io waved his hand over the scene before him. "How very kind of you to show such kindness, Master Curio." Iokanan rose from his chair with a grunt and stepped towards those gathered before him. "Most would not treat a prize catch like this one so kindly."

Curio, where had he heard that name before?

"So, boy. What was it you so desperately wanted to tell me?"

"Most would not treat a prize catch like this one so kindly."

Thassa shrugged, "A prisoner is a prisoner, my Lord. I don't see any purpose in paying heed to his bloodline when he's going to be bound and bled, anyway."

"So, boy. What was it you so desperately wanted to tell me?"

She smirked, "I can't help but think that was all he had intended to say in the first place. He's got brass balls, at least."

Fei finished spitting out the last of his drink, which was mixed with the vitriol from his pitifully weak stomach. He cast around the alleyway he had ducked into for a rag, and found a suitably dirty piece of rough cloth to wipe his mouth with. Fei couldn't hold his alcohol well at all, so why he kept drinking it remained a mystery to him. Nothing like a drunken vomiting to ruin his dramatic meditative musing.

Wiped dry, he dropped the cloth back into the dark, unspeakable pile of filth it had originated from, and slowly felt his way out of the darkened alleyway towards the almost-faded light in the main street. Fei stuck his head out and glanced around, mystified.

The hell's the tavern? I didn't walk that far... He ran his eyes over the storefronts and houses on either side of the street, looking for a familiar landmark. Oh, that way. Fucker switched directions when I wasn't looking.

The inconstant moon had risen, lord of the inconstant tides, though whether of battle or of sea, nobody seemed to know. Fei watched it as he strode along the street, idly wondering exactly which of the gods claimed the moon. The soldiers had beaten their hasty retreat, and sought refuge in their beds and barracks. The citizens had panicked their panic and were now huddling fearfully in their homes, or huddling fearfully in a chariot fifty miles out of the city. There was nobody left to fill the streets, nobody to drive from the deathly silence from it, so who, Fei thought to himself as he turned the corner, running into a young woman dressed in ragged clothes, is this girl, striding around with such fearlessness?

"So, boy. What was it you so desperately wanted to tell me?"

What did he want to tell him. Thassa said something that Jaris didn't hear as his mind simultaneously raced and drew a blank to what he was going to say. After what seemed like an eternity his mind eventually settled on a suitable reply to Iokanan. Jaris stood a little higher, never letting his gaze stray from that of the Red King's.

"While there is no disputing you won this battle, you will not win this war Iokanan." Jaris started, "And though I may not live to see it, even in death I will await the day you are defeated and for the fleets of Fendarin run with fear at the sight of you your head placed atop your own spear."

"While there is no disputing you won this battle, you will not win this war Iokanan. And though I may not live to see it, even in death I will await the day you are defeated and for the fleets of Fendarin run with fear at the sight of you your head placed atop your own spear."

Alim leant back and lazily write something down. His expression was one of utter boredom - the guy seriously didn't have anything different to say other than Generic Threat #56? At least it would be down in the record that Prince Jaris Wavrestrake of Sitar had absolutely no imagination when it came to intimidation. What? Keeping minutes was part of his job, right? Well, that and Alim was feeling little vindictive towards the warrior.

The scribe simply sniffed and flatly stated, "That contribution of yours has been noted. Is that all, Prince Jaris?"

***

Ligeia couldn't help eye potential marks as she ate her fill of what the tavern called food. All very rowdy, very drunk and extra coin would calm Caius's temper. The ex-slave felt somewhat bad stealing from the panicking civilians, with every sly flick of the wrist and every sneaky delve into a vulnerable purse, she'd said a silent apology, "This may be the work of the Wolf Child. But there is no other method of earning a decent amount of coin there."

Of course, her more playful side wanted to taunt them for being stupid enough to not notice her.

A certain man in the tavern, however, was another matter. He definitely was from out of town, with a strange look to him. Regardless, his attire spoke of his success... as a mercenary? However, what caught Ligeia's eye was a glitter of green. While her people didn't have time for such trinkets, it spoke to her. Valuable, exotic, pretty. The girl hadn't had anything like that in her life. Maybe it was time to fix that... Besides, the merc could just buy another with his bloody money, right?

She gave chase and bumped into him, however the merc was the way around. Cursing her mistake, Ligeia improvised.

"Lech!" The ex-slave shouted as she kicked the man in... his most vulnerable area, snatched the pendant off his neck, snapping the necklace, and running off.

Afterwards, Ligeia just bolted into the empty streets.

Now where the fuck was Caius?!

"While there is no disputing you won this battle, you will not win this war Iokanan."

Thassa grunted in amusement.

Not so long as I am here.

"And though I may not live to see it, even in death I will await the day you are defeated and for the fleets of Fendarin run with fear at the sight of you your head placed atop your own spear."

Thassa simply raised her eyebrows at this. Strong words coming from someone who hadn't a leg to stand on.

"That contribution of yours has been noted. Is that all, Prince Jaris?"

Thassa looked to the Red King, "My Lord, if we're done here I would like to return to my people. It is unbecoming of an Ascadian hoplite to forego a victory drink." She looked down at Jaris. "If it is of any concern to you, he was a worthy foe. I ask that you do not prolong his suffering."

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The moon was already out. Despite the darkness, the city was still wide awake. Sitting on a rooftop that overlooked the city's busiest boulevard, Caius let his feet dangle over the heads of hundreds as they scurried about the street below. He threw back the bottle of wine he'd stolen earlier that morning and sighed heavily. From this vantage point he had a clear view of the harbor.

How long until the populace panicked? Until they overran the soldiers there and fled the city on stolen ships? If they lost that badly again?

Caius took another drink.

Fools, all of you.

He was going to get good and drunk tonight. Hopefully his companion would join him.

Where is that scoundral?


"Is that all, Prince Jaris?"

"Knight Jaris." He corrected as he looked over at the hook-nosed man beside Iokanan. Looking at him, Jaris was reminded of the stories his mother used to tell him about goblins that would snatch him away in the night if he misbehaved. So taken up by his thoughts he missed most of Thassa's speech.

"I ask that you do not prolong his suffering."

"Ah yes." Jaris cast a brief glance over his shoulder and cracked a quick grin at the warrioress before turning back to Iokanan. "Putting aside my previous remarks, it has been an honour meeting The Red King of Fendarin." Jaris bowed, well, did what could generously called a bow and continued. "And as I am not long for this world, I would be more than happy to deliver a message to Prince Dasmos for you."

For anyone else such a comment would be suicide, but in Jaris's mind he was dead the moment he had been pushed to his knees infront of the Iokanan, so why not have a little...well 'fun' probably wasn't the right word for pissing off the king of an invading army, but it didn't really matter at the moment anyway.

Lail breathed long and slow as she took comfort in the warmth of the fire, kneeling before the campfire, her hands rested on her lap as she took time to reflect and pray on the events of the day.

And it had been a long day.

The Sister had been one of the last to leave the field of battle, continuing to offer respite to those who needed it, while healers and other soldiers transported the fallen who were not quite close enough to warrant Morgal's embrace.

It had been a tiring day, the woman's hands and clothes were caked with gore, the viscera and blood drying and cracking on her skin. Some of it had made it to her face, although it was less liberally applied. Not that the Tranquil Sister minded, she had grown accustomed to such things a long time ago.

Lail had aided many souls today, she was't even sure how many, enough to almost exhaust the supply she had concocted before the battle. It appeared Theo was correct in his assumptions, she would need to pay him a visit a lot sooner than anticipated. Having donated all the coin she had obtained earlier that day, however, she would need to request the assistance of the temple in funding the transaction, not that she expected they'd deny such a request, as far as she could determine, she was the only one of her kind to have attended today's battle.

Either word had not spread far, or her sisters were a lot further afield than she was last informed. It was not uncommon for one or two Tranquil Sisters to be the only members of the order near a large battle, it all depended on timing and location really, since they numbered so few, it was ideal for them to be scattered throughout the world.

Some Sisters have gone years without even seeing another member of the order.

Lail opened an eye as she overheard the descenting mumbles of a couple of passing healers, aimed in her direction, no doubt. She was rarely a welcome sight in medical camps.

"Vultures, the lot of them." Lail managed to overhear.

It mattered not, they clung to life, kicking and screaming. Lail merely offered an accelerated assistance to the same outcome, she had never aided a individual who wasn't already beyond all recovery, why she was judged so harshly for offering respite to such troubled souls was often a topic the woman pondered.

Continuing to think on the matter, Lail's eyes opened slowly as she heard a whisper in her ear. "Hmmmm?" The woman hummed quietly, a rare expression of intrigue creasing her brow. This was new a whisper, different from the others.

Rising to her feet, she drifted through the camp, following the whisper until she found herself standing between two warriors. One was a weathered man, many in years, the other was much younger, a dazed look on his face.

"Yes, yes, now I understand." She cooed to herself, her expression softening to its usual serenity. "I beg your pardon gentlemen." Lail nodded tucking her hands into her sleeves as she began to walk away from the pair.

Lail had read of such things. The younger man owed Morgal a life, whether it was his own or that of another, she could not say.

Very curious indeed.

Even in the face of Alim's scorn the boy held strong. Even now he had so much to prove, so many things he demanded of himself, so many self set challenges to live up to. The fire of youth. It was enough to bring a tinge of regret to the old king's heart. The look of in his eyes, of pride held tightly, as if it were a shield. He'd seen it so often now.

Let Alim and this 'Iron-eye' concern themselves with throwing quips. Just looking at the boy was filling Iokanan with melancholy.

"And as I am not long for this world, I would be more than happy to deliver a message to Prince Dasmos for you."

And now it was gone! Without a second thought Iokanan struck Jaris across the face with a loud smack, drawing blood from the prince's lip.

"You do not get to talk about him." Io snarled through gritted teeth. "You do not DARE!" Another hit. "To speak his NAME!" And another and another and another. Each time the rings on Io's hand cut into Jaris' flesh. It was only as a twinge of pain in his leg gave him pause that Io's gaze drifted elsewhere and he saw the look on the young priestesses face. Was everyone around him just getting younger?

Either way it gave him enough time to compose his thoughts.

"I'm not done with you yet boy... I am far from, fucking, done with you." Iokanan hissed. "Leave us, see them back to their part of the camp, he may enjoy Ascadian mercy for now." He commanded to the nearby guards. "Alim, see that he suffers no 'accidents along the way." He issued to the scribe.

Iokanan eased himself back into his chair, his leg throbbing, as the others turned to leave. "Not you, Master Iron-eye, I would still have words with you." He motioned to the slaves present who quickly set to fetching Thassa a chair and pouring the two a cup of wine each.

He waited until the others had left and Thassa had seated herself, the conversation was as private as it was going to be.

"I did not think Dexios had become so liberal since I had last seen him as to include women in his army, much less one that claims the mantle of a man. Has good King Umbranox developed some new tastes in recent years, or is he simply incapable of seeing through what seems a very weak disguise?"

Thassa watched wordlessly as the Red King beat her prisoner into submission. It seemed her request to give the young prince a swift death had fallen on deaf ears. Not that the beating wasn't warranted. Jaris' tongue certainly wasn't doing him any favors.

"I'm not done with you yet boy... I am far from, fucking, done with you."

After his eyes had come and gone from Zoe's, Thassa looked to Zoe and frowned.

Thassa was making ready to leave with her sister and Jaris when the King suddenly called out to her.

"Not you, Master Iron-eye, I would still have words with you."

"Go on." Thassa whispered to Zoe as she turned to face Iokanan. Once she'd been fetched a chair and a drink, Thassa took her seat across from the King. Drinking from her cup only after the King had.

What was this all about, now?

"I did not think Dexios had become so liberal since I had last seen him as to include women in his army, much less one that claims the mantle of a man. Has good King Umbranox developed some new tastes in recent years, or is he simply incapable of seeing through what seems a very weak disguise?"

The corners of Thassa's lips curled into a self-satisfied grin. Of course he'd be curious. They always were, "There was a time when I did disguise my true nature. My father, Mercius Curio, he was a famous Ascadian warrior. In fact, it wouldn't be inaccurate to say he was the most famed of his generation." She took another sip and relaxed in the overly-comfortable chair. "My mother died before she could give him a son and he loved her too much to ever remarry. Understanding this, I offered to be the son he never had. As his eldest, I could carry on his legacy. And so here I am today: twenty-three battles under my belt. Fifty-three sons of Astrium cut down by my hand this day alone."

Her grin widened, "It took me everything I had to get to where I am today. To smuggle myself into the ranks of the Ascadian forces under the guise of a young man. I had to earn my keep and then some before I was able to reveal my secret to my people. My King, well, he saw the results. I can't say I've swayed his view of women on the whole, but he knows a strong swordarm when he sees one. As for, well, claiming to be a man..." Her piercing, fearless gaze bore into the King's. "I made a promsie to my father on his deathbed: I would be the daughter that he needed as well as the son he never had. In this chair before you and while I am out on the field of battle, fighting in your name? That is Thassa the man. When I am home in Ascadia, searching for a suitor and caring for my dear sister? That is Thassa the woman. I have found it important to make this distinction, lest I confuse my brothers. You see, they treat me as they would treat each other. War can be a lonely, tiring affair, and the warmth of a woman's bosom is nothing if not inviting. That is something, however, I am afraid I cannot offer them. In order to safeguard by chastity, I must deny them such relief."

She finished her cup and started laughing, "That isn't to say I don't do with them what they would do with each other. What their wives would do to me if only they knew!" She waved her cup lazily as if to get it refilled by a nearby slave.

Darion and Cadric were threading through the crowds when a woman stopped in front of them. Darion recognized the garb of a Tranquil sister. So there had been one tending the aftermath of the battle. That was good.

"I beg your pardon gentlemen."

"Don't get so caught up in your duties that you forget to wash the gore off," Darion said as she began to leave. "It can do terrible things to the skin if left unchecked, and it would be most terrible to see such a lovely face marred."

Turning to Cadric, Darion grinned. "You know why she stopped, don't you? Clearly you're so dead on your feet she thought you might be in need of her services."

Zoe winced a few times as The Red King beat his prisoner. She didn't believe in violence, but if someone where to insult her deceased child she couldn't deny she'd probably do the same, Naien forbid she may have even gone further. She stopped wincing after the first couple hits, she'd seen violence before. She'd seen people cut each other to bits before. Violence and blood didn't sway her or shock her anymore, it must have just been jump of the sudden striking that got her.

Zoe was about to leave when the Red King addressed Thassa. "Go on." she whispered to her. Zoe nodded and left the tent, worrying about Jaris and yet excited that her sister would no doubt get the recognition she deserved. She was an excellent soldier and it always put a grin on her face when she thought of how she earned her position in Ascadia. If she could go even further, Zoe's pride would be impossible to contain. She then accompanied Alim and Jaris back to the camp, wondering if there was any way she could give him some peace before the inevitable.

The scribe didn't stir as the so-called 'knight' got beaten, he simply... watched.

"Alim, see that he suffers no 'accidents' along the way."

"As you command, sire." Was the reply. Alim was slightly disappointed that he couldn't get another quip in but that was life. With only a bow, Alim joined the group consisting of the mouthy prisoner, the little priestess and the guards. It would be fun to see how the man presented himself in front of the other big names in this war. Of course, there was the little priestess there as well. As for her, he chose to simply ignore whatever Jaris said or was going to say and held out his hand.

"I apologise, The Red King has little patience for those with the eloquence of a braying ass." He smiled.

***

Ligeia frowned, he had to be somewhere...

And then, there was a dribble of claret-coloured liquid from above. Was it nectar from the Gods themselves? Was Daephul showing his deranged blessing? Maybe the theft of that pendant would be the start of something truly epic?

Ligeia looked up, of course it wasn't. Just an old man with too much wine on his hands.

The ex-slave caught some of the stream in her mouth. She gargled, spat it and shouted upwards,"It still tastes like piss!"

Before Caius could waste anymore of that crap, Ligeia clambered up and joined him on his little perch. It was good spot with a good view. If you liked looking down on people like you would with ants.

Ligeia dangled the pendant in front of Caius's wine-soaked wiskers, "Nice little catch, huh?"

~ Lanius ~

As Lanius continued to hand out bread to those in need, a young man seemed to dance past him before plucking out a loaf for himself. When the man turned, he chewed smugly on the loaf even as he smirked.

"Well here's a fun little sight. It isn't often one of your ilk tends to the living."

His face didn't betray any of his insult or irritation. Instead, he smiled softly, though he made sure to show teeth.

"Ah, but everyone is under Morgal's domain, for all die in their own time, and go to join her kingdom. It simply depends on when that time is." he said, before smiling a little more widely and adding, "Who knows, you may be here because your time is drawing near, and what better place than a Temple of Morgal for those about to die?"

Turning away, he chuckled softly under his breath as he continued to hand out bread to the refugees. He couldn't stand that kind of smugness. It always made him feel the urge to wipe the smiles off their faces. Glancing back, he started to frown thoughtfully.

He was still hungry. While chances were, that young man wouldn't be a good candidate, he should find someone to suit his purposes soon. If nothing else, however, Morgal's kingdom wasn't lacking new subjects thanks to the day's battle. So he had time.

Each punch bought with it a fresh wave of pain as Iokanan's rings dug gouges into Jaris's cheek, again and again the the Red King's blows struck with more force than the last. The final punch sent him sprawling on the ground, and Iokanan said something that Jaris barely heard through the ringing in his ears. A pair of hands grabbed him his shoulders and roughly pulled him back to his feet, then roughly pushed him towards the exit.

While the pain in his leg was bearable, now ever breath sent pain coursing though him like cold fire. Still, in an odd way seeing the Red King loose his temper like that bought with it an odd sense of perverse joy the beaten Knight.

"The Red King has little patience for those with the eloquence of a braying ass."
Jaris looked up to see the hooknosed man was conversing with Zoe. Dispite the taste of copper in his mouth, Jaris grinned. "And yet dispite that I'm still here braying, perhaps Iokanan has a greater fondness for asses than you think."

"I apologise, The Red King has little patience for those with the eloquence of a braying ass."

"And yet despite that I'm still here braying, perhaps Iokanan has a greater fondness for asses than you think."

Zoe chuckled and shook the man's hand. "No need. People who wear crowns like to hit people alot, especially when they insult the dead." Zoe ever so slightly scowled at Jaris with her last words, it was subtle, but the judgement was there.

"No need. People who wear crowns like to hit people alot, especially when they insult the dead."

Alim's smile widened, only to shrink a little as Jaris decided to butt into the conversation. Were all people from Sitar rude? Were glib remarks a national pastime? Alas, probably not. Just another member of a ruling family with no manners.

The scribe quickly turned to the rude prince, "Was I talking to you? No."

'Someone, write a play about a foolish Knight of Sitar already so he can be the lead.'

"And yet dispite that I'm still here braying, perhaps Iokanan has a greater fondness for asses than you think."

Alim replied with, "Prince Cadric beats him there. He even wants the stupid animals fighting at his side."

"No need. People who wear crowns like to hit people alot, especially when they insult the dead."

Jaris caught the priestess's scowling tone, and wisely held his tongue. After all he had made enough enemies today, and if Iokanan was keeping him alive, it might be easier with her around.

"Prince Cadric beats him there. He even wants the stupid animals fighting at his side."

Luckily, with the Red King's lapdog here Jaris had more than ample opportunity to keep his mouth working.

"Tell me scribe, have you ever been kicked by an ass?" Jaris let his question sit for a moment as his jaw throbbed with pain, "It will kill a man as surely as any sword."

"Lech!"

The girl cried out abruptly. Fei was taken aback for a moment, before he felt the most terrifying pain known to man strike him. As he doubled over in pain, he saw the girl run off with a familiar green pendant between her fingers. Damn her!

Fei tried to stand up straight again, but the sensation of attempted castration proved too great. Clenching his teeth, he started limping after the thief. He managed two painfully slow steps before he finally collapsed against the wall, while the footsteps of the thief faded around a corner and into the distance.

'No. That's not going to happen.'

Fei eased himself up off the ground, and made his slow way to the tavern ahead. If there had been any passerby at that time, they would've steered clear of the dark grimace seizing his face, which spelled a painful punishment inflicted on anybody who got in his way. That is, if faces could spell words.

'I'll find you, you wench, and I'll take back what's mine.'

His crewmates would be sure to laugh behind his back, but Fei would be too busy burning that girl's face into his memory. He struck the wall with his fist. Yes, he would find her, and take his pendant back.

'Ouch, damnit, ow-'

That is, if Fei's virility didn't bleed out before he got to the tavern.

The woman could portray herself better than most fighters Iokanan had come across, though most front line solider's he'd met either lacked education or had taken too many hits to the head. Apparently Thassa wouldn't settle for only one way to set herself apart. It made sense though, the Curio reputation had spread its way to Fendarian shores once upon a time. With as much pull as the man may have earned himself it was only natural that he see his children educated. As for Thassa herself, she had quite the shadow to find her way out of.

At least her philosophy made sense. He half expected her to stumble around the issue in some half baked attempt at claiming honour. Or perhaps it was all just a cover for her being one of those grotesques with both sets between their legs.

'Fifty-three sons of Astrium, hmm' Keeping count was always tricky in the heat of battle. She'd brought him a good prize, that would serve for now.

"That isn't to say I don't do with them what they would do with each other. What their wives would do to me if only they knew!"

Well that probably disproved her being a grotesque. A slave quickly moved to refill her cup as Io took a conservative sip of his own wine. He hadn't had nearly enough to help numb the nagging pain in his leg, though the sounds of music and revelry outside the tent were calling out their primal tunes of temptation to him. 'Another day. When Cadric is a corpse.'

"I imagine that could make you quite popular around your camp. So tell me, Master Curio, which am I speaking to now? Thassa the man or Thassa the woman?"
================================================================================================

"Yes, yes, now I understand. I beg your pardon gentlemen." Muttered some raggedly dressed street beggar.

"No, sorry, we don't have anything." Cadric waved her off, still half in a world of his own. It was only once Darion started trying to flirt with her that he took notice.

"Don't get so caught up in your duties that you forget to wash the gore off, it can do terrible things to the skin if left unchecked, and it would be most terrible to see such a lovely face marred."

'Oh for goodness sake.' Cadric sighed internally. He couldn't take Darion anywhere these days.

"You know why she stopped, don't you? Clearly you're so dead on your feet she thought you might be in need of her services."

What? Was the woman a healer or something? Looking more closely at her, behind all the blood and gore her robes were finely crafted and bright red already. She even carried some proper looking cases and purses, the kind often used by apothecaries. It was the bone charms that really made her sand out though, the sharp beaks of the bird skulls standing out bright and plain against her flowing form. Was she a priestess? She wasn't like any kind of holy sort that Cadric had seen, but Dorium was a frantic port city. Foreign wonders had been coming and going each day since Cadric had arrived. And now this one was trapped behind gates and chains.

"My apologies, madam." Cadric bowed his head slightly to her. "My companion has a habit of being overly familiar." He shot a sideways glance at Darion. "Please be careful around the other soldiers, most are not in the mood to entertain foreigners I'm afraid." He grimaced slightly, regretting the words the moment they left his mouth.
================================================================================================

Celebrations were in full swing as Alim and his charges made their way through the camp. A surge of half undressed revelers surrounded them as his guards did their best not to get separated from the group or to lose track of their prisoner, Jaris, firmly moving men out of the way. The smell of wine, sweat and scattered campfire ash swept over them. They did their best to shout orders to move over the din of drunken singing. A few taps from a shield or a prod of a spear shaft was enough to move most of them along at least.

They didn't seem to notice through the confusion that they'd lost track of the little priestess in white. Zoe had apparently been swept up in the crowd, though she was quickly pulled clear of the heaving throng by a strong arm.

"Well look what I've found." Grinned the manic harp player. "Aren't you a welcome sight in a place like this."

By all rights he should have been drunk or sprawled along out on the ground judging by how bloodshot his eyes were and the way his veins were pulsing near the surface of his temples. His grip around Zoe's wrist tightened as he drew closer to her. His pouring with sweat and even in a mad moment like this it was easy to see how rapidly his heart was beating. He should have been panting too heavily to talk, slurring too much to even talk. But his voice sounded perfectly collected, as if he were a cat stalking its prey.

Right now he seemed more beast than man. His reddening eyes starring right through her, blank and wild. His other hand quickly found itself on Zoe's waist as he pulled her close and swayed her weight, drawing her into a slow moving dance.
================================================================================================

"Who knows, you may be here because your time is drawing near, and what better place than a Temple of Morgal for those about to die?"

The young man's laugh was something between a cackle and a giggle, shrill and self satisfied.

"Oh you priests and your public image. Walking around all day crying out the wonder of a god." He sauntered along just behind Lanius. "Yet most seem to lack have the courage to go full measure and walk in their patron's image. As if they even knew it." He smirked knowingly. "But no one really wants folks like that running about the place. Who needs more Valcits going mad all over the place eh? No, easier to offer some platitudes and make a bit of coin, that's what most seem to think. Well... most."

He threw the remains of his bread roll to the ground for the rats and orphans to eat, whichever got it first. He seemed to effortlessly glide and weave through this image of human misery, like driftwood upon the river.

"Go along! Back to your work! More poor and wretched souls to comfort!" He called back to Lanius over the growing distance between them.

"More to delicious meals to prepare." He whispered the words so low that not even someone holding him in a lovers embrace may have heard them. Yet despite how far apart they were, despite the fact that the young man had just turned a corner and vanished into the night; Lanius heard them so clearly they could have been spoken straight into his ear.

~ Lanius ~

As he strode forward to hand out more bread, the smug youth simply cackled and followed behind him, and the sound of his laughter set the Priest's teeth on edge.

"Oh you priests and your public image. Walking around all day crying out the wonder of a god. Yet most seem to lack have the courage to go full measure and walk in their patron's image. As if they even knew it."

At that, Lanius' footsteps slowed, and his eyes widened somewhat as he listened. This man knew something he shouldn't. And yet, the suspicion that he could see right through Lanius gave him mixed feelings of both fear, and comfort. In fact, he imagined those same feelings revolved around one's death.

"But no one really wants folks like that running about the place. Who needs more Valcits going mad all over the place eh? No, easier to offer some platitudes and make a bit of coin, that's what most seem to think. Well... most."

Lanius turned to meet the youth's eye, and saw his knowing smirk even as he tossed the remains of his loaf of bread to the nearby homeless. The way he moved was uncanny, almost... Ethereal. Like a chill wind through dying trees.

"Go along! Back to your work! More poor and wretched souls to comfort!"

The man walked away, but what he said next, even with the distance between them, even as he turned the corner, carried far enough for Lanius to hear, and Lanius alone.

"More to delicious meals to prepare."

Staring down the street in the man's wake, Lanius realized something.

It was a primal kind of hunger, for human flesh. His earlier irritation was gone entirely, and instead he had a giddy feeling as his lips slowly spread into a wide, manic grin. He had a sneaking suspicion that he had gotten a message from Morgal herself. He couldn't explain it otherwise.

"Sir, do you have any more food for the ailing?" came a small voice next to him.

His face instantly changed into a look of mild concern as he looked into the basket it held. The fact that it was empty seemed to be a sign. He turned to face the slight man next to him. He was still relatively young, and he didn't look to suffer quite so much from malnutrition as some of the others that lived on those streets. But it was clear from his face that he had been without food for some time.

Smiling apologetically, Lanius bent down a little so his eyes were level with the mans.

"I'm sorry, I'm out of bread. But I'm sure I can find you some food for the night. Come, I'll take care of you." he said softly, putting an arm around the man and leading him down the same street the youth from earlier took.

Oh yes, he thought, he would take great care with one of his beloved Morgal's new servants.

"It still tastes like piss!"

"Freeloadin' my booze, ya' little weasel?" He mumbled to himself. He was pretty drunk.

"Nice little catch, huh?"

Caius started laughing out loud. Taking her cheeks in his hands, he shook her head side to side, "We're rich! Rich, I say! I am so p-p-p-proud of you Lucia, uh... Lisa, er-ummm, Lugia? Whatever!" Snatching the pendent out of her hand, he dangled it in front of him and cooed. "Beautiful! Imagine how much drink this will fetch us!"

****************************************************************************************************************************************************

"I imagine that could make you quite popular around your camp. So tell me, Master Curio, which am I speaking to now? Thassa the man or Thassa the woman?"

They respect me for my strength, not my extra hole.

Thassa wasn't altogether pleased, but she didn't allow it to show on her face. Crossing one leg over the other, she shifted her weight in her chair, "A man, my King. So long as I am here, fighting for your cause, I will remain as such. What does it matter, anyway? I imagine you value great warriors, regardless of sex."

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