Solo Heretic

The fate of the apostate is always the same.

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While Sylira is by far the most civilized region of Mizahar, countless surprises and encounters await the traveler in its rural wilderness. Called the Wildlands, Syliran's wilderness is comprised of gradual rolling hills in the south that become deep wilderness in the north. Ruins abound throughout the wildlands, and only the well-marked roads are safe.

Heretic

Postby Elias Caldera on October 9th, 2017, 2:12 am

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41st Day of Fall, 517 AV

The barracks were abuzz with whispers and rumors that night.

Something was brewing within the Vitrax… finally.

More than three dozen apprentices paced and gossiped amidst the untouched bunks of the Ebonstryfe quarters, spreading the word amongst their ranks like a wildfire. Despite the best efforts of some to hide it, all the pent-up aggression and frustration that those inciting flames gave rise to showed within each and every one of them in that darkening twilight hour. They sharpened their weapons and argued, sparred and joked, gambled or even tried to feign indifference towards it all, anything to keep from going mad with the anticipation.

Nothing. For. Months." growled one of them between sword strokes. She was sparring with a shorter, younger boy who seemed completely unprepared for the barrage she was unleashing upon him. "The streets are quiet. The bandits are quiet. The knights are quiet. Even the petching monsters in the forests can’t be bothered to make a peep!"

She struck out again, punctuating her outrage with a deft overhead strike. Her disheveled opponent swung up his mace to deflect the blow, but Eris -as her name turned out to be- was not so easily dissuaded, and slid forward to slam a sharp elbow into his stomach that sent him staggering back with an audible ‘oof.’ The circle of spectators around her growled their approval.

The boy bared his teeth and hissed.

"There's always someone to fight. Just gotta wait for it."

Eris grinned and swung again, but it was a clear feint, drawing his arm up to block her ruse only for her to slam a foot into his stomach instead. Before the poor lad could even blink, his weapon had been sent flying across the floor and he suddenly found a wooden sparring sword hovering at his throat.

"Why wait?"

Elias observed the match with a cold, clinical eye from across the room. Eris was a fine warrior, but her arrogance needed to be tempered. Tanen, the other one, clearly needed to work on his footwork, that much was plain to see. The entire fight she had danced around him, forcing him on the defensive. He'd lost the initiative right out the gate, and once you lost that, it was almost impossible to wrest it back again.

The elder apprentice went back to sharpening his own weapons as he watched the sparring session come to a close and its participants slowly scatter to their own little corners of the cramped building. The daggers he was so proud of had been honed to a fine edge by the battles end, and it was time to move on to his pride and joy. The sound of his whetstone moving against the longsword’s blade was steady and constant amid the din of voices, and one that most of them were all too familiar with at that point. Elias had been amidst the apprentices for nearly three seasons now, making him something of a veteran among the company. A fact he continued to despise with every fiber of his being during every waking moment of the day.

The mage was an oddity among the young hopefuls to say the least. Almost a decade or so older than most of the whelps around him, the Caldera wielded more skill and cunning in a single pinky than most of the these recruits would ever achieve in their entire lives, short as most of them would no doubt be. Some were only a few weeks out of their savage training regimes as petitioners, green and wet behind the ears like newborn cubs, and yet to the amusement of those who had placed him here among them, the swordsman was meant to call these children his ‘peers.’

Hatred was not a strong enough word for what he felt for such endless humiliation, yet… he had learned patience in his maturity, and he had found that more often than not, it was a virtue that was worth its reward.

What about you?" The Ravokian looked up, realizing he was being addressed by another. Tanen stood above his bunk, wounded pride visible in his scowling. "You must know what’s going on, right? We’re being assembled for a real fight this time, I bet. No more drills, right? Right?"

The whetstone continued its journey uninterrupted, up and down, up and down.

Wouldn’t know."

That was not the answer the young man was looking for as it turned out. "Ugh! Aren't you angry?"

"Angry at whom?"

Eris had put it as plainly as it could be. The world, so often giddy and eager to throw hardships and challenges their way, was awfully quiet these days. Odd, but it wasn’t a sign of the apocalypse as far as the mage was concerned, but the younger warrior shook his head angrily, as if trying to bite his own ear, hands gripping and re-gripping the weapon at his belt.

I'm just saying, we’re warriors. We need a war."

"War always finds a way." Elias said quietly, inspecting his blade and finding a slight tarnish on one edge. "It is eternal, like Rhysol himself. We need only prepare for it."

"You mean train?"

"Mhm."

"I'm tired of training."

Then Elias's gaze became stern, critical, even severe. Tanen looked as if something cold had crawled up his spine, but kept his eyes on the older man none the less. After a moment however, his features softened and the soldier relaxed, though the voice that answered the boy was still tinged with steel. “I suppose it’s true that Ravok has become more… pensive as of late. The knights of Syliras are ever expanding their dominion over the south while we grow comfortable here in the north. Its just the way of things, boy, you’ll get used to it.

Some of these other milksops may have joined the order to be ‘comfortable’ but not me! I came to fight, like my pa and brothers did.

Scarred and pale as his face was, Elias still had a warm smile for the rambunctious lad, even if a few of the teeth in said smile were as false as his charm. “That’s what I like about you Tanen, you’ve got a fire in you, like a real Ravokian. Like a real soldier. You’ll do your family proud when you pass your Crucible, that I’m certain of.” That was enough to leave the lad smirking, and if his eyes did not deceive him, blushing even. God help me, the mage mused, was I ever this hopeless?

After a moment however, Elias’s warmth faded, and he let out a sigh, shrugging dejectedly as he returned back to his sword’s care. “You may have the will do what’s right for Ravok, Tanen, but what can we do when not all our brothers and sister share that same conviction? Some people have just lost their fangs over the years, growing fat and complacent upon the paradise our god has given us. They take it all for granted, forgotten we were made for glory, not idleness, but how are we supposed to do anything against people like them when they're in charge?

Tanen's face flushed and he looked about the barracks warily, almost as if seeing the others for the first time. When his eyes whirled back unto Elias’s, his look of dejection mirrored the swordsman’s.

I don’t know.” He admitted after a moment’s hesitation.

With a grunt, the older of the two righted himself, reaching his feet and placing a consoling hand upon the boy’s shoulder. “Ask yourself this, lad. You want a war, right? To drive your blade deep into your enemy’s heart as your god intended?” The two nodded in tandem, though clearly the younger of the duo couldn’t see what the scarred soldier was leading towards. Elias bent down so that the pair were on eye level once more. “Our enemies may be legion outside these hallowed halls, but how can we be expected to fight our foes abroad, when there’s a fight right here on our doorsteps that we’ve been losing for decades? You say you can’t find your enemies, but I think there are plenty all around you Tanen, you just…” Slowly, cautiously, Elias began to turn the young initiate around by his shoulders, making sure everyone in the barracks fell within his line of sight as he spun, “need to know…” until finally, he faced him towards the barracks door “…where to look.

The door burst open a moment later and a commander stood tall and proud in its frame. Hulking, tanned and with sinews like vines, Azula was a long time veteran of the Ebonstryfe, a fighter and marked warrior since before Elias had even slain his first enemy. She was a leader of men, and when she entered, everything stopped as all eyes swung to her. Her own harsh gaze narrowed when they fell upon the mage.

Training yards. Now."

Within an instant the apprentices leapt to follow her command. Elias had a fleeting smile on his face as he followed at his own pace. He had heard that tone before, that urgency tinged with excitement. Not another training session. Not another drill or exercise ordeal. No, this was something... more.

He placed a hand on Tanen’s shoulder before the boy could escape, and to his credit, the acolyte slowed at his touch, curious instead of anxious and impatient. “That move Eris beat you with,” the swordsman began, but Tanen stopped him before he could finish.

I know, I know. ‘Deception is key.’ I remember what you said.

You don’t know,” He rebutted sternly, sounding too much like his uncle in that moment than he would have liked to admit, “not yet anyway, but when we get the time, I’ll teach you how to counter it, and even hit her with a little surprise of your own.

Oh yah?” Tannen grinned wickedly as the two made their way outside.

Oh yah. Who do you think taught her that move in the first place?
Last edited by Elias Caldera on December 30th, 2017, 12:18 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Heretic

Postby Elias Caldera on October 9th, 2017, 2:26 am

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Heresy.

With that single word, a murmur of shock and anger was sent rippling throughout the crowd. There were a half a dozen units worth of apprentices amassed that night, not to mention what seemed like two full complements of blooded soldiers as well. Rigid and still with their weapons at ease, it was easy enough to pick them out amidst the untested. Elias's eyes wandered briefly across the faces both new and old. Many among the apprentices he knew; some he had spoken with and had even begun influencing, but when Paladin Kresh spoke, the man commanded everyone's attention.

The general nodded sharply and two aides rolled out a map against the wall. The familiar shape of the Sylira region was emblazoned upon the treated parchment as it lay splayed. Ravok was roughly in the middle, the metaphorical and literal heart of their nation represented by a simple dot. The great, empty blue mass of the lake surrounded her on all sides, and the black splotches of Nyka to the South and Mura to the East could be made out as well.

Kresh drew their eyes with his finger to a single point, a place between the holy city and Nyka where only the wilderness ruled. His attention, and everyone else’s, now rested upon a new mark, freshly made with red ink to distinguish it. It lay maybe thirty or so miles into the wildlands if Elias had to guess, which might have been just a few days ride from the city.

Rhysol is a forgiving god,” The old soldier began, his voice carrying across the square like rolling thunder “as merciful as he is mighty. He is a lord without equal. Yet for the heretic, the apostate who would turn against his-Oh god help me. Elias groaned, realizing all too plainly that this was immediately turning into one of Kresh’s infamous sermons where the point of things had an unfortunate habit of vanishing into the holy rhetoric. He’d suffered through too many of these already to stick around for yet another. He drowned the man out without a second thought and swiftly set to work scanning the crowds again, his eyes darting from face to face until he recognized one friendly enough to spare him the time of day, and chatty enough to spill his secrets if pressed. Shuffling through the throngs of apprentices and soldiers alike, he eventually managed to saddle up beside the lanky solider in black whom he’d chosen as the perfect blend of both. “Oi, Jorah.” He whispered, remembering to put on the airs the young man would most relate to. With his daft looking bowl haircut bobbing in surprise, Jorah turned around and gave Elias a coy nod of acknowledgement. “Before the old man puts us to sleep with his preaching, be a pal, tell us what’s really going on, would you.

Ohoho, you’re gonna love this, Caldera!” Well, it seemed the lucratively tight lipped Jorah was so excited he’d actually forgotten to ask for a little something to wet his beak before he started waggling his tongue. That was a first considering the Zeltivan born soldier was a man who’d practically made a little business for himself out of trading secrets around here, but Elias wasn’t going to look a gift bloodbane in the mouth, and simply resigned himself to keeping as quiet as he could while Jorah excitedly prepared for a tale.

So, a few nights ago, some rich bitch up in the noble district is having a little get together with all her rich bitch friends right, eating honey cakes and sipping brandy and all that good shyke.

Sounds lovely. Go on.

Well, right in a middle of a toast she’s giving,” Jorah leaned in closer, the gleam in his eyes practically blinding, “her bloody gnosis turns into a petching curse mark, right then and there in front of everybody, just like that!

Just like that?

They say she was drunk, badmouthing the big boss upstairs, or maybe talking up one of the other gods a bit too much for his liking. Or, maybe the Defiler just felt like having a bit of fun, eh. Anyway, instead waiting around to have her head lopped off by ol’ Ematho down in the dungeons like a good and proper citizen, she decides she’s going to flee Ravok in the dead of night.

So they need this many blades to deal with some runaway?” Elias inquired quizzically, and Jorah grinned.

If only, my dear Caldera. No, were here because said noblewoman also took it upon herself to bring her entire estate along with her on the run. She’s got servants and personal guards tending to her every whim as she makes her daring escape through the wilds to daddy dearest down in Nyka.

Oh.

Oh, it gets better, because along the way, she’s been hiring every mercenary band and cut-throat brigand she can find to add to her little retinue of rejects. Plus, her family’s been doing the same down in Nyka. Apparently both groups have already met each other halfway to help escort our little princess to safety.

Oh…

This was quickly becoming… something. The mage didn’t know if ‘absurd’ or ‘amazing’ quite fit the mold, but it was certainly closer to both than he was comfortable with. Naturally he’d hunted runaways before, chased them deep and far into the wilds just to bring them back in chains, but this was definitely new and… well, something.

Oh yeah, Caldera, you and your little chumps are in for this time. There’s a bonafide petching army out there waiting for us, and the higher ups have decided it’s the perfect opportunity to test out the apprentices. Truth though?

I’ve been known to partake from time to time.” He admitted eagerly.

They can’t wait any longer for the regiments to return and get organized. Too many up in at the northern outpost, or out hunting Vantha in Taldera. You and your brats are the best we got with the time we have left before she gets away.” Jorah had started chuckling almost uncontrollably even before he’d finished, and the swordsman wondered how long he could hold out before he joined the bastard in his merriment. If this was true, and Jorah wasn’t just full of shyke as usual, then this was sheer insanity.

As he struggled to suppress his own mirth at the madness, the sorcerer found a familiar pair of harsh eyes glaring at him from across the courtyard that left his joviality tasting like ash in his mouth. Azula, the grizzled stryfer, had never been a fan of his, and today by the way her face was more crinkled and seething than usual, it seemed as if she was particularly displeased by his existence today. He couldn’t exactly blame her. Ever since he’d snapped her finger during their ‘friendly’ sparring match nearly a season ago now, she’d held quite the grudge. Like many of the instructors at the Vitrax, Azula had intended to put an overly arrogant Elias in his place by knocking a few teeth loose in front of the other recruits. Like many of the instructors who’d tried before her however, they realized too late he wasn’t just another uppity apprentice like the other children they were so accustomed to dealing with. Now like Azula, half of them bore the bruises and scars upon their flesh to prove as much. The teachers, the smarter ones at least, had learned that it was better to let the fulfillment of their vendettas shift into less physical confrontations lest they continue to lose face every time they were either beaten, or were pushed too far for their victory for it to feel like a victory at all.

Naturally, Elias was more than happy to jump when they said jump, and bark when they said bark, he was a soldier after all, that was his place. But the moment they raised their fists and expected him to stay leashed was the moment he reminded them this dog had teeth. Of course, that hadn’t stopped Azula. She was just too old and stubborn in her ways to know any better. She was relentless in her persecution, but she wasn’t the first he’d had to deal with since his return to the ranks, and she wouldn’t be the last.

By then Kresh had turned to the assembled troops, eyes aflame as they swept across them all like a scourging fire. The man’s passion was almost tangible even in the back row, no doubt whipped up into a fever pitch by his own sanctified speech. By the way Elias noted the others practically prancing in place, it appeared Kresh had been doing a fine job in getting them riled up aswell.

"Since our founding five hundred years ago, the Ebonstryfe has upheld its most holy and singular purpose without fail. We are the ruination of those who would defy our lord. Unwavering, unyielding, there has been but one path for those who stand defiant to our god’s grand design!"

The murmuring amidst those gathered became a growl, teeth bared and weapons grasped just a bit tighter.

"For our enemies, there has been only one price!"

From the throngs, came a familiar and throaty ‘Ahoo.’ Deep and scattered, it resonated across the crowd.

For the insurgent, there is but one punishment!

‘Ahoo’ came the cry again, louder and more unified than before.

For the heretic, only one truth!

His fist struck out like a blur and slammed against the red spot upon the map.

For those who spurn the lord of chaos, for those who would see his will unfulfilled, there is only one penance. Only one conclusion!

There is only death!


Now a roar rose from fifty throats and more. It rose along with swords and axes and maces, weapons pledged and fury sworn. Elias was among them, blade and fist held aloft as he himself could do little but be swept along by the tide of fervor. He was certain all of Ravok had heard their cries that night, for this was what they had all been waiting for.

Tonight, you march! For Ravok! For Rhysol!

War had come, as he prayed it would.
Last edited by Elias Caldera on December 30th, 2017, 12:33 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Heretic

Postby Elias Caldera on October 9th, 2017, 2:26 am

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Lorna Crowley was unlike any woman he’d ever met.

It was a fact Ruvik couldn’t help reminding himself of over and over again as he watched her dress. She’d come to him so suddenly, drenched in sweat and fear, desperate for his help yet somehow still retaining the regality of a queen even as she bartered for her life. He hadn’t inquired too deeply into why she and her people had to go, life as a mercenary had taught him that it was often best to take the coin and leave things like that unanswered. As the days had dragged on however, and the two of them grew closer, she had slowly begun to reveal the mystery that was Lady Crowley.

"I thought you were tired?"

"What can I say?" He replied with a slow smile, shrugging as he lay upon his bunk. "I find myself reinvigorated all of a sudden." He winked coyly as he watched her slip on another silk stocking with practiced grace.

She cocked an eyebrow. "Invigorated enough to come help me slap some sense into those animals outside?

"Oh goodness no, my dear lady, you and I only just walked into this tent together. If my men see me leaving after so short a time spent, what will they think of me? I’m quite famed for many things in these parts you know, my stallion like stamina included."

"Sneak out the back and they’ll be none the wiser, Ser Ass, and you have my word I shan’t reveal your terrible secret. A lady never kiss and tells."

"I thought that was a gentleman's burden?"

"If you happen to come across one, we can ask him."

Ruvik chuckled and lay back, resting his head on the pillow. It was cheap duck feathers inside an old stained sack, but with the way he felt now, it may as well have been goose down wrapped in Kenashan silks. Lorna soon slid into bed next to him, tucked under his shoulder as the two embraced. There were several minutes of polite, quiet silence as both of them studied the roof of his tent, but predictably, it was the Ravokian who broke the spell.

"You're still worried."

He smiled. A statement, not a question. She was too smart and busy a woman to dance around the matter.

"This many mercs and sellswords, this many different bosses in one place, and all of them more concerned with making sure everyone else knows their cock is the biggest of the bunch... Too many cocks spoil the brought as my dear old nana was fond of saying." The senile old bat. “Makes us easy prey for your people back in Ravok if they manage to catch up.

Not my people.” She said, tone shifting to something so sullen and tired that it seemed entirely alien coming from a woman like her. “Not anymore.” He wished then he’d kept his fool mouth shut. Her story had been a tragic one that had rent his heart to hear for he knew all too well its familiar sting. Filled with betrayal and treachery by both her city and her god, she’d been cursed and forced to flee the only place she’d ever known as home. It had reminded him too much of Syliria and his own reasons for leaving. Now here they both were, two long lost suckers astray in strange lands.

But, that’s why I have you.” Her grasp around his chest tightened, and a for moment Ruvik thought he felt something akin to bliss. “If anyone can convince those brutes he's big and swinging enough to lead them, at least long enough for us to make it to Nyka, it’s you.

A moment of euphoric silence.

You know, I think I’m feeling invigorated again.

Oh, is that what that pin prick I’m feeling is?

With a growl, Ruvik swung himself over and unleashed a merciless assault of tickles upon her for that. Her laugh rang out like a bell as she squirmed beneath him, sobbing and choking and laughing all at once. He'd probably catch hell for this later if the men outside heard, but he didn’t give a damn. He was lost in the moment, and he could tell she was too, despite the dour and dry demeanor she would always put on when in public. When she was with him, she was different. If he had to guess, he'd say she was growing fond of her pet sellsword captain, almost as fond as he was of her. In fact, if Ruvik didn’t know any better, he’d say he was falling in love.

The screams shattered what that moment could have been forever.

The two of them froze. It was that terrible, icy tick when danger had revealed itself and the mind struggles for a response. Ruvik heard at least two separate cries of pain in the distance before he was up and moving. His head jerked to the tent’s entrance and for the first time he’d noticed the mist hanging thick outside. Where the petch did that come from? That hadn’t been there a chime ago, and now suddenly it had come rolling in thick as soup?

Not so thick though, that he couldn’t make out the shape of one of his sentries falling to the ground outside, an arrow freshly buried in his neck.

"To arms!" He roared, already rolling Lorna off of him and twisting into his pants. There was no time for anything else but his weapons. He shouted again until his throat was horse and soar. "Up you bastard, up! To arms!"

His cry was taken up by a half-dozen others, for not all the guards had been felled by the first volley of arrow fire. The survivors screamed and bellowed and shouted and drew their weapons, even as half the men on the perimeter died around them. Dozens more mercenaries were soon jerked out of their sleep by the noise, grabbing for the tools of their trade that never fell far from their grasp.

By the time Ruvik got to his blade, he was already hearing it. The sound of a charge forming, deep and guttural in their chanting, maybe two ranks deep and coming right for them. Dozens, maybe more? He had no way of telling with this damned fog.

He whirled on the noblewoman from the frame of the tent’s entryway. She was already on her feet and racing for her bags. "Hide! Now, woman!" he shouted, sword in hand, but she merely glared at him, lips working to spit some nonsense about not being ‘a damsel in distress’ but he rushed from the tent before she had a chance to argue. He knew she was too damn proud and stubborn to listen, but he hoped to any god who was still answering his prayers she’d at least have the good sense to listen to him this time. He couldn’t afford to let his mind be distracted by the thought of her falling into their hands. He needed his head on strait if he was going to stop this first attack and give his crossbows enough time to form rank and turn their numbers into petching pin cushions before they even had a chance to get in close.

Because if the Ebonstryfe got inside their lines, and with enough numbers…

Fear and desperation sent him hurtling towards the sound of the approaching attackers, just as the first black iron figures came screaming out of the mist.
Last edited by Elias Caldera on December 30th, 2017, 12:40 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Heretic

Postby Elias Caldera on October 9th, 2017, 2:28 am

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The sons of Ravok had ringed the unsuspecting camp quite thoroughly, their approach shrouded by the mist that had heralded their timely arrival. A mist to which Elias -master reimancer extraordinaire- could gladly take credit for. He had conjured the plan and the res required before Azula had enough time to even voice her disapproval. The woman was not a fool or inept in her planning, but she had failed to account for magic’s influence in this conflict, an oversight many of his ‘peers’ often made, he’d noticed. She'd argued after the fact of course, but had been soundly outvoted by the three other commanders who'd been placed in charge of the small force alongside her. Now, with the cover of his chicanery obscuring their assault, they struck from all sides, swift and merciless, just like they’d been trained.

The other commanders had adapted and organized themselves remarkably to the new situation, preparing the attack with lethal effectiveness. A unit assaulting each wall, with another unit of archers supporting them before the main charge. The surprise of their incursion on every side had provided the Stryfe a great deal of opportunity to inflict casualties early, and they were not about to squander the chance for more now that they'd seized the initiative.

Nor would Elias.

He sprang to his feet when it came time to charge, sword in hand, racing headlong through the magic made mist and towards the camp torches that lit his way. Already he could see shadowy figures amidst the soup, but it was his auristics that alerted him to the swords they wielded and the malicious intent they had in store for him and his. One in particular was coming straight towards him, right out the gate.

Screaming a war cry that would have shaken a lesser man to his core, a half-naked man came hurtling into the fray, sword swing flat and arced towards the mage’s throat. Elias dropped like a stone to one knee, blade sailing over his head as slid underneath. The mercenary had hoped vigor and surprise would carry the day, but for his troubles he instead earned himself a deep slash across his side.

The sellsword doubled over in an instant, his eyes popping out of his head in shock. To the Ravokian, it seemed like a look of horrified recognition. The man knew this wound, he'd probably inflicted it as much as he had bared witness to its affects in the past given his career. It was slow, painful and more importantly, mortal. He was not quite dead yet however, and so Elias raised his blade once more to finish the job, only to feel the bastard's fist smash across his jaw in sudden, furious defiance.

The swordsman staggered backward as the blow caught him, stars and blackness filling his eyes as his balance went all to hell. By some miracle, he had managed to keep hold of his weapon, knuckles bone white in the effort as he stopped to collect himself and watched the chaos unfold around him.

Dark shapes flew from the mists into the camp by the droves, swords and daggers raised in murderous thrill. Others, wearing less uniform assortments of mail and leather, engaged them with a bravery that Elias, having played the part of a mercenary once before, could truly appreciate. Things seemed lost already, and no amount of coin would have kept him subservient to any master when death seemed certain. Yet more of them spilled from the tents, most half-naked like the one he’d almost felled, no time for armor or even shoes, just their weapons and whatever training would serve their haggard forms best in this storm of swords and death that had come crashing down upon their heads. Two dozen apprentices rose to meet them, slashing and hacking away at those that strayed too far from the pockets of resistance that were quickly taking form. It seemed the tide had not only turned in their favor, it had downright drowned their enemies.

That was, of course, until a hail of crossbow bolts swept over them.

Elias raged as he saw four of his own killed in an instant, wicked metal bolts punching through their black armor as if it were nothing but parchment. Apprentices all of them, and barely children at that, this has been their test, their trial by true combat, and it had been stolen from them by cowards at a two hundred paces.

Nearly a dozen of the crossbowmen had gathered together near one of the main tents and were already reloading for a second volley of armor piercing hell. It was clear what had to be done, and with no more than a roar, he launched himself into their ranks, blade and sorcery at the ready.
Last edited by Elias Caldera on December 30th, 2017, 12:49 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Heretic

Postby Elias Caldera on October 9th, 2017, 2:31 am

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Crossbows were an unwieldy weapon, with each reload being a lengthy commitment that left one vulnerable and easy pickings unless done properly and with the utmost haste. Elias had always favored the bow because of it. That, and there were no gallant tales of heroism song about men with crossbows. Not when they had to be held down with a foot, the string pulled tight to the top, then snapped into place, before pulling back the-

The black clad swordsman was upon them before they’d even reached halfway, smashing into the line like a charging bull with half the restraint. His strength was such that the man he careened into first was sent flying off his feet, colliding with another of his fellows behind him before both of them went smashing through a nearby tent into a crumpled heap.

By the time the third man had realized their line was breached, the Stryfer had already delivered the death blow, his sword cleaving fast and hard through the unsuspecting bastard's shoulder and out the other side. An impossibly clean stroke that left the mercenary sliced neatly in two. Elias was already moving on to his friends before either half had hit the floor.

Powered by the flux as he was, there was no way they could comprehend his terrifying might unless they understood the magic that fueled him. Like a river’s flow, his power shifted and changed all across his body, moving from joint to joint, limb to limb, enhancing and bolstering his natural strength with the unnatural. To them he must have seemed a monster, but to Elias, he was still just a novice with so much left to learn.

A spray of red splattered the soldier’s chest as another fell to his wrath, screaming as he died. It gave the bastard after him in line just enough time to raise his crossbow and deflect the strike meant to claim his life next. With a sweeping motion he’d practiced since he was a boy, the swordsman sent the crossbow clattering to the ground, ripped from its owner’s grasp with devilish ease. Elias spun along with the disarming movement, drawing his momentum into a hard kick to the chest that launched the archer backward thanks to the enhanced strength behind it. Much to his chagrin however, the mercenary found his footing again with surprising speed, and before Elias knew it, he and the rest of his pals had all turned their sights on him.

Suddenly, he was outnumbered and outgunned unless he could think of something fast to-

For Rhysol!

Tanen roared as hurled himself into the mix. One of the crossbowmen turned just in time to see the the mace cruising towards his head before the horrific impact left him a corpse on his feet. Even Dira would have been caught off guard by that one's sudden arrival in her domain, but with his incredibly abrupt passing, that left only the final crossbowman of the little knot that had tried to fight. Wisely, the man turned to run. He didn’t get far before a blur slipped past Elias in pursuit however, shrieking with heinous excitement as she ran the fleeing merc through from behind. Eris grinned savagely as her sword shot out a good half foot from the poor sod’s sternum, his disbelieving eyes fixed on the bloody point as it grew inch by crimson inch.

She leaned in and whispered something into his ear... and then twisted the blade.

As the last gasps of life abandoned her kill, the girl turned to Elias and Tanen with a knowing smirk and nod of her head. Standing there as they were, all three of them bloodied and grisly with the gore of their slain enemies, the mage couldn’t help but feel a strange sense of pride take hold in his chest. Eris had been one of his first, and Tanen but his latest. Seeing the two of them rally to his aid as they had...

Maybe this is why Caiden had put up with his shyke for so long. This strange feeling there seemed to be no words for.

Whatever it was, he could see himself getting used to it.
Last edited by Elias Caldera on February 11th, 2018, 1:17 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Elias Caldera
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Heretic

Postby Elias Caldera on October 9th, 2017, 2:31 am

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The man refused to die.

His wound pulsed and sputtered with every step he took. His pallor turned paler and paler with each passing chime. His strikes and parries grew ever more sluggish with each attack he stymied. Death was sure to claim him before the day was done... and yet he refused to go down. Refused to surrender.

What was he fighting for?

The battle had turned to sheer slaughter by then. The mercenaries had been hacked and shot down by the dozens, and the slaves who had tried to surrender after their guardians fell soon joined them, butchered like cattle at market. Kresh’s orders had been clear. No forgiveness. No survivors. The fires had already started. It was the end.

But this one they called Ruvik -the one Elias recognized he’d wounded during the initial charge- would not stop fighting.

A charging apprentice swung at his head with a sword and the man swayed away, slashing the young soldier’s stomach apart and dropping him to his knees. Before the wiry ravokian could react, the wounded sellsword swung down and cleaved his head in two, ending the fight in a brutal instant. For all his skill and ardor however, the effort alone still left him staggering on his feet, his vision clearly swimming.

Never the less, Ruvik still snapped to attention as a new challenger stepped up to the plate. Tall, merciless, and actually smiling for the first time Elias had ever seen, the woman with a sword in each hand approached with a confident, if not eager stride. "You are the last," Azula spoke, each word more gnarled and rasping than the one before it. "You wish to die on your feet? I wish for a challenge worth my time."

Elias watched the man curiously, Tanen and Eris doing the same at his side amidst the throngs of onlookers that began to form. Ruvik was panting, and his eyes darted back and forth from the tent that acted as the backdrop to his 'heroic' last stand. He’d been clearly protecting it, a point made evident by the number of bodies in black littered around its entrance. No doubt lives snuffed out by his very blade in the defense. The fires that threatened to now consume the entire camp had spared the pavilion for the moment, but not for long.

Come on then… you ugly cow.

A grin began to spread its way from ear to ear as the mage watched in contemplative silence. In this desperate, dying man, the Caldera saw an opportunity unlike any that had presented itself back in Ravok. He could use this, he knew it, he just needed to be smart, and more importantly, very, very careful.

Ruvik slid forwards and struck out with his bastard sword, but Azula was ready for him, blocking the attack without even batting an eyelash. Her own blade came spinning around and he jerked his weapon back to intercept the flashing steel, but in doing so exposed his side. Azula rewarded his opening with another deep slice across his red slick belly.

Ruvik staggered back with a howl, waves of pain rippling through him, sapping his strength -but Elias could tell- not his will. The Ravokian commander could have killed him easily if she had wanted to, but no, Azula wanted to have her fun. Gritting his teeth, Ruvik groaned and straightened back up, plucking a jagged dagger from his boot as he did so. Now both fighters wielded two blades each and the intensity of the situation seemed to double.

Rhysol is watching, Commander. Try not to play with your food.

Ruvik blinked, as if noticing the ring of blood and mud soaked killers that had formed around the fight for the first time. Stoic and silent as an audience before, they now chuckled and jeered, inspired by the pale swordsman’s jest. Azula’s head snapped over her shoulder, her glare homing in on Elias’s voice with startling precision. She was clearly not amused. Nor did it seem was Ruvik at all disheartened by the realization of his predicament. In fact, the merc seemed almost reinvigorated.

"That... all you... all you got?"

It was done. Elias had him. The hypnotic leash that bound the two was tightening its hold even as Azula’s harrowing attention slowly crept back around to face the soldier for hire. The magic had been loosed the moment the hypnotist's words had reached the man’s ears, and now that his fading mind was under the mage’s sway, Ruvik would be his puppet in the decisive moments that followed. First, he'd encourage him, then-

With a wordless snarl, Azula’s blades began to whirl, and she charged.

Right! The mental cry rang out in Ruvik’s mind, a lash of fear and necessity gouging his thoughts as the warning came. He parried the first strike from the right with the dagger, heeding the instructions broadcasted to his mind and smacking it aside to expose his attacker's flank, but her second blade was already coming in to make amends. Block it! Block it, damn you! Elias could feel Ruvik's focus slipping, but the flashes kept coming, intensified each time by the need to win and the fervent hope that he would somehow make it out of here alive if he just managed to kill this bitch!.

The commander’s blade was stopped just shy of Ruvik’s dome, his sword sluggishly razed to catch it just in the nick of time. Now! There's your chance! With her sword locked in place against his own, and her right side blown open, there was nothing to stop the mercenary as he raised his dagger, and plunged it deep into the unprotected throat of the Ebonstryfe officer.

She hissed and gurgled in shock, wild eyes flaring, teeth bloodied and bared in furious confusion. Ruvik grinned weakly as the blood began to seep from her lips and frenzied hands grabbed hopelessly at the knife in her neck. Both the sellsword and the mage watched in equally smug satisfaction as the old war hound dropped to one knee, the life draining out of her by the bucketfuls. Azula wasn’t even dead before the first cry of revenge and indignation cut through the damning silence, followed swiftly by the telltale sound of bow strings being pulled taught and blades being unsheathed.

Before the first arrow could strike him dead however, Elias stepped forward from the crowd. “Wait!” he roared over the din of incensed apprentices. There were no more soldiers amidst the mob, all either dead or indulging themselves in the massacre elsewhere. It was what had made this all so perfect in the first place, and was why the Caldera couldn’t let Ruvik perish just yet. The poor fool had played his role beautifully in ridding the mage of one of his most avid agitators, but his part in this little play the ravokian was staging was not yet over.

Azula fell in fair combat. If her faith had been strong and true, Rhysol would not have abandoned her to such an end. This man has earned a warrior’s death, by a true warrior's hand!

There were murmurings in the crowd, whispers of dissent and murder, but none rose openly to defy Elias. It didn’t hurt that he had placed himself between them and Ruvik as well, circling the man as he spoke so that if there had been any truly enthusiastic objectors amidst the crowd, they would struggle to find a clear shot with the mage in their way.

Tanen.

The boy froze, stunned by the fact that his name had been called, but Elias patiently motioned him forward and Eris helped with a forceful shove. It wasn't long before bafflement faded into purpose and understanding as the apprentice made his way into the circle. This was a familiar feeling for any Ebonstryfe hopeful. The countless, scrutinizing eyes of your peers on you as you faced down a foe who fought for the very same thing you did? This was would be no different than the training yards of the Vitrax for young Tanen, just with a bit less blood and screaming was all.

Show us.” The mage began, making sure everyone from the back to the front could hear what he had to say next. “Show us what true devotion can accomplish. Show us the might of a Ravokian unencumbered by doubt and hesitation. Show them what I have taught you, apprentice, and bring this enemy of Rhysol. To. His. Knees!

There came a cheer from the crowd, a roar of approval and excitement. Tannen nodded, his expression hardening into that of a killer made proud of his work. He stalked forward without a word, mace in hand and mind honed to a sharpened edge by the quiet voice whispering advice and inspiration at the back of his thoughts.

What happened next should have been obvious. With both of their thoughts under his influence, Elias's plan played itself out to a T. Ruvik stood no chance against the apprentice. His already dimming mind wracked with indecision and fear fueled by the hypnotist, he died to the sound of applause from a bloodthirsty audience. A cheer that doubled in fervor when Lorna Crowley, the heretic they'd been sent to slay, was dragged from Ruvik's tent, kicking and screaming. She lived just long enough to recognize what was left of her pet sellsword before Elias himself sent her head rolling across the muddied ground to join his.

With their deaths, the Caldera had secured a victory for himself that meant more than just their mission's end. Now the apprentices would come to him in droves. Not because he'd tampered with their thoughts as he'd done with Eris, or sown the seeds of doubt as he had with Tanen. No, the other children, their minds so hollow and so easily bent to his will, would seek him out under their own volition. They'd come to him, because now they saw that he could provide them something neither the instructors nor the old men they answered to, ever could.

This was the price they'd pay, and he wasn't speaking of the heretical or the rebellious either, he meant those in charge who had thought to humiliate him. They had hoped that by throwing him in with the apprentices they could cow him into humility and shame, that if he was forced back in with the flock, he'd remember he was nothing more than a sheep himself. Perhaps before it would have worked. Before he'd realized that rolling over would only incite more and more oppression by his aggressors. Before he had learned the horrible consequences of his blind obedience and unquestioning ignorance. Before he'd lost everything and everyone he'd ever loved.

Before all that, then absolutely, yes he would have gladly accepted being counted among the other sheep. There was nothing safer and more familiar to him. Unfortunately, Elias Caldera was no sheep anymore, and by the time his enemies discovered the truth about their flock, it would already be too late.

The wolf would have his way.
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Elias Caldera
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Heretic

Postby Rook on April 11th, 2018, 7:07 pm

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Your grades are here!


Elias Caldera

Skills
*+3 Leadership
*+1 Persuasion
*+1 Reimancy
*+1 Tactics
*+2 Weapon: Longsword
*+1 Flux
*+1 Hypnotism


Lores
*Leadership: Subtlety is Key When Influencing
*Persuasion: Gathering Information is Easy When the Subject Wants to Talk
*Reimancy: Mist
*Tactics: Using Cover to Launch A Surprise Attack
*Hypnotism: Desperation Provides the Perfect Mindset
*The Ebonstryfe Apprentices: Loyal to Me


Rewards & Penalties
*No rewards or penalities




Awesome. Damn. Thread. Don't forget to edit/delete your grading request in the queue, and PM me if you have any questions or concerns!
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