Solo The Grass is Always Greener...

I reckon this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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A city floating in the center of a lake, Ravok is a place of dark beauty, romance and culture. Behind it all though is the presence of Rhysol, God of Evil and Betrayal. The city is controlled by The Black Sun, a religious organization devoted to Rhysol. [Lore]

The Grass is Always Greener...

Postby Elias Caldera on November 18th, 2018, 2:18 am

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10th day of Fall, 518 AV

"You want to what?"

Alistair looked up from his wooden opponent and into the face of the Ravokian. The ruckus of the Vitrax training yards were as emphatic and rowdy as ever, with the sound of steel clashing against steel, fisting striking wood, bodies colliding, sweat dripping, and blood being spilt. It was the telltale din of combat and its beautiful execution in every practical form. The men and women of the Ebonstryfe were often tireless in their quest for excellence, and today was no different. They fought, they trained, they honed themselves for the time some hoped would come that they would one day put such skills to the use, while others were simply going through the motions, doing what they were expected to do because they were expected to do it. Yet, for all the variety of reasons that may have lured these chaos blessed souls to the combat grounds, there was one thing that seemed to bind them all in single unity that day;

Curiosity.

It felt as if every eye in the building was on the man Elias had now approached, and now that he was speaking to him, neary an eye was not on him as well. Most had the decency or the lack of spine to pretend they weren’t gawking, but many more stared openly, either with inquisitive glances or outright hostile glares.

Still, it didn't matter much the young stryfer, Elias liked to think he was far too infamous at this point for his reputation to fear suffering anymore scandal. Of the one he now addressed however, there seemed already an abundance of rumor and gossip abound, and from what Elias had heard amidst that rumor and gossip, the man had been here for only a few weeks now. It seemed rather unfair if he had to say so. Elias had spent the better half of his entire life getting to his current despicable and loathsome place within the ranks, and he’d worked hard at it too! For anyone to march in and threaten to dethrone him from his seat of shame was definitely worth taking an interest in, at the very least.

"A spar?"

"A spar, yes." The mage repeated, holding up the sword in his hand. "Do they not have those where you come from, Sylrian?"

Watching Alistair Valmont stir was like watching a mountain begin to quake, which was fairly apt, Elias thought. The man was nearly seven feet of broad, toughened sinew, the very definition of goliathan. The pale swordsman wasn’t accustomed to looking up at anyone anymore, not since he’d grown out of his swaddling clothes. It was uncomfortable even for him to be so instantaneously reduced in such a way by sheer size difference alone.

"Not interested." Alistair muttered in his queer southern drawl as he turned back to the helpless wooden dummy he’d been demolishing earlier. "I’ve entertained enough idiots today, and yesterday, and the day before. I’ve no care to do so anymore..."

Elias immediately thought of Caiden as the old man raised himself up to his full height, cracking stiff neck muscles and reaffirming his grip upon the massive warhammer he called a weapon. He watched as each muscle was stretched and popped in turn, from shoulders down to his feet, and he was not alone.

A half dozen or so initiates who made up the bulk of those practicing nearby watched with interest as well. Elias noted most of them were his. Tannen was among the recruits, as was Eris, the latter seeming more bored than ever despite the ruthless potential frothing around her from every direction. Honestly, sometimes he didn’t understand that girl at all. He’d figure this of all places would be her preferred haunt, for where else could she satiate her rampant battle and bloodlust more readily than beneath this roof?

Well, if the crazy little spaz was lacking in entertainment, then she was in for a lovely surprise. Elias rarely took ‘no’ for an answer, and they were due some sport.

"I meant no offence, ser knight. Merely thought that you had the look about you, is all.” Elias cooed in an altogether overly informal and uncomfortable tone. The kind that was either mocking, or suspiciously sincere.

“The look?” Alistair grumbled through the gray and white bristles of his beard, though still not bothering to turn and face his new friend again. The man was unkempt, surprisingly so. His salt and pepper beard was a tangled mess that hung low on his chest, and his hair was even worse. He seemed tired, or ill, or both. Ravok had a way of eliciting such reactions when the initial charm wore off and the reality of things beneath the veneer were revealed.

“Hmm, the look.” Elias affirmed nonchalantly. “The look of a man who is in dire need of… release. Nothing quite accomplishes such ventilation like a good fight, I find. I merely wished to offer my services, as a friendly gesture between two scions of Rhysol’s holy-”

“You know the sound of thunder, boy?”

Oh, don’t call me that... Elias mused darkly, his brow furrowing at the sudden question. “Of course.” He managed a courteous reply, despite his shifting demeanor.

“Can you imagine that sound in your mind now if I asked you to?”

Elias had been thrown off his game by this odd turn, and the look on his face clearly said he wasn’t all too happy about it, but he played along none the less. He’d put too much effort into this already to be turned away by some mere banter.

“Yes I can, ser.”

“You aint the first to swagger up here all full of piss and gusto thinkin’ it’d be a fun idea to ‘test themselves’ against the old Syliran knight, and I told them all quite plainly they’d best turn around and walk back the way they came before I sent them back crawling. Well each and every one of them left on their hands and knees by the time all was said and done, and that’s my fault, because I didn't say what I said in thunder.” The giant turned, locking his gray eyes with that of the stryfer’s and made quite plain his intent with merely a look. “Listen to me now, boy. Listen to the thunder.”

There was a pause. An air of apprehension and uncertainty as palpable as the stink of sweat and the weapon’s oil about them…

God… you’re perfect. The Caldera resolved.

Elias shook his head as the lumbering knight -no, that was the wrong word. Even as big as he was, this one moved smoothly and gracefully, economically, bending down to retrieve an upsettingly large waraxe from the floor. Evidently crafted for one of his size, the blade was as thick and hefty as the mage’s own longsword yet the knight held it aloft in one hand as easily as a dagger. The sight of the of sharpened steel left Elias feeling an unfamiliar thrill of trepidation.

Spar or not, if a full-bodied blow from that monster struck him, it would cleave him in two like a pig carcass. And even knowing that, he felt adrenaline and anticipation rush through his veins.

Too long. He thought. Too long since I’ve known this sensation.

There was a hiss of steel pulled free from a leather sheath, and the knight inspected his weapon. He was clad only in common, light attire, the fresh Fall breeze bereft of the chill that had assailed them all for months now outside the city. Only in Ravok could one find so many comfortably unclothed this close to winter’s icy reach, and that was even when Morwen wasn’t on sabbatical. More than a few were happy for the weather’s reprieve their god granted them, embracing it with bare chests and arms. Elias was outfitted in his usually armored regalia however, breastplate of blackened metal and all. It made him stand out like a sore, black thumb amidst the rabble.

The towering giant looked him up and down with a shrewd, appraising intelligence when he noticed the much younger soldier was still standing behind him, yet to respond to his oh so eloquent request to petch off. Elias's chilling blue eyes glinted, and his lips twitched into a momentary smile. A brain too, this one, to match his brawn. Such a challenge... Such a prize. He knew his vision had not led him astray.

This man was the one.

"Are all you Ebonstryfe as hardened and daft as the next," Alistair said slowly as he turned to face the pale mage, the ground between them suddenly shifting into an arena as the tension built to a boiling point, "Has it not occurred to you that, if I were so inclined, I might accidentally kill you in such a contest, and thus spare those of mine I once served your intolerable idiocy in the future?"

Elias considered this silently, and then answered with a shrug.

"I had considered."

"And?"

Elias smiled, showing the Syliran his collection of false gold teeth and tightening scars as he drew forth Cinder from the holster upon his back. He spoke just one word that made even the taciturn knight grimace.

"’Might.’"

Thus it was decided, and the fight begun.


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The Grass is Always Greener...

Postby Elias Caldera on November 18th, 2018, 2:20 am

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This season thus far had been one of bitter anticipation and the endless frustrations that followed. His ‘work’ for Malachai had been expanded what felt like ten fold since Fall’s arrival, their momentum seemingly now reaching something akin to a steady jog in the face of growing support amongst the ranks, and yet even still for all his exhaustion in the effort to further their aims, it was as if each step forward was just another step backward in wicked disguise. This week alone he’d entertained three duels already. One with a common soldier whom believed Elias’s secretive meetings with his commander were illicit and scandalous in nature instead of simply treasonous, to which he took offence as apparently, he too had been courting the woman, though in much a different sense that Elias. Of course, try as he might to explain that to the love smitten fool, the man had refused to listen. The other had been at the behest of a Commander with the Battleborn company who accused Elias of having killed his sworn brothers just the week before in another entanglement of duels. He’d slain both men as he’d done with countless others now, for there was little recourse in the matter when so public a conflict was made poignantly tangible for all to behold. Needless to say, it had made things difficult for him from then on, especially with the commander whose suitor he’d cut down. The third duel however, had surprised him, for it had one of his one who’d thrown the ceremonial dagger at his feet.

The mage, since this had all begun, had always made it clear how he endorsed and even encouraged ambition within his own troops. He made a solemn vow to all of them that if ever they should feel he was leading them astray from the cause they had all sworn their lives to, then it was their obligation -nay, their duty- to cut him down and right the course, for too much lay on the line and blind obedience served no one but their enemies. For some, this had been the display they needed to convince them that not only was their cause just, but so were the ones leading the charge. Selflessness in the face of purpose and victory. It was a beautiful thing for those disillusioned by their current masters and desperate in their search for a better way. For others however, such a doctrine was like an open buffet. They saw this as an opportunity to quickly and easily gain a momentous amount of influence and supporters in one fell swoop. If they could kill Elias, they could take his movement and make it their own, gaining with one kill what would have normally taken dozens. The added benefit came with the fact that unlike other dynamic shifts of power with the ranks, this one would come with little recourse or retaliation given that the very doctrine that invited the murder in the first place also encouraged those that followed it to seek not retribution, but instead furtherment of their cause.

The boy in question had been young, bold, and a bit too sloppy with his footwork. In the end, Elias had left him with a scar over his eye and little more, content to leave the matter resolved in the eyes of god and their pride. It had felt strange, being moved to take a life he’d been so studiously shaping up until that point, and it had been a stinging reminder that not all was as idyllic and smooth within his house as he had once deceived himself into believing. These people were still people -still Ravokians, still Stryfers- just because they followed him didn’t mean they wouldn’t put a dagger in his back if they thought the benefits outweighed the risks.

Enemies emboldened, secrets spilled, allies tittering on the edge of uncertainty or even flirting with the concept of outright abandonment. It had been one misstep, one blunder, one near disaster after another, and at the forefront of each was Elias, desperate and determined to fix the problems as they arose. It was akin to trying to patch an unfinished ship not yet even left drydock, yet somehow still half sunken in shyke all the same. Yet, despite all this, the Caldera could not be called wanting for incentive or enthusiasm. All these setbacks were hardly unexpected. Ever since the day he and Malachai had made their pact, even since Rhysol had cursed him, all this and more was planned for. Obstacles were predicted, challenges envisioned, and all of it more than welcomed. This had been the burden the two men had accepted when they decided without reservation to steer themselves headfirst into the storm instead of trying to outrun it anymore. The smart thing to do in such a situation was to tie yourself to the mast and hope by the end there was still enough of you left to be worth calling a man. The right thing to do however, was to gird your heart, steel your courage, and take hold of the ship’s wheel with your own two hands lest someone else get there first.

One’s destiny could not be left up to fate or the whims of others. They had both learned that the hard way.

That was why he was here really, facing off against this stranger from their most reviled enemy’s land. He was taking the reigns as it were, seizing what control he could, and doing so with a knowing smile. For you see Elias, despite what some might have you believe, was in fact an officer within the army. That meant he was entitled to a few things, a command and troops to lead being chief among them. Ten apprentices, five soldiers. That was his unit. That was what his rank promised. He’d formed his backbone of initiates as soon as possible, picking out the most devout, ambitious, and talented youths he could find amidst the ranks of the untested. Some he had sought out, others had come to him. In the end, he’d assembled a fine cohort of younglings to support his soldiers… soldiers who’d yet to be assigned to him.

Somewhere, someone high up, well connected, and very petching vindictive, was standing in the way of his rightful rule. He’d been denied time and time again the ability to choose his own men. Naturally he’d gone to the Vitax demanding an audience with the council of Marshals for an explanation, but every time he’d done so, he’d been turned away without even the hint of subtly or ceremony to the transgression. ‘Get the petch out of here, traitor.’ He’d been told to his face in not so many words.

Of course, he’d considered killing his way into an audience with those men in charge who had the ability to withhold his god given rights to leadership, but there were more than just mere paladins standing between him and his goals these days. A marshal was not a fight he intended to pick, at least not yet anyway. Which meant he’d have to do things differently.

‘Tact’ was the word Malach had tried to impart upon him once. So ‘tact’ was what he endeavored to achieve.

But when Alistair came at him a huge diagonal sweep of his warhammer, the Ravokian knew that wishful thinking too often swung both ways.


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The Grass is Always Greener...

Postby Elias Caldera on November 18th, 2018, 2:21 am

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He sidestepped out of the swinging metal, not as gracefully as he would have liked, but still managing a backhanded slash with his sword at the Sylrian’s ribcage as it lurched by him… only for the knight to follow through with his blow, feet moving, charging forwards and to his left so that he spun around, out of range and facing Elias once again, warhammer held in front of himself with both hands.

Fast. Practiced. Worst of all, patient.

Alistair came on again, this time with a simple, sharp thrust at Elias's breastbone. For a broken second the stryfer swayed to the side and batted the blow away with his blade cautiously, wondering why the man would make such an obvious play. His questions were answered almost immediately when the Alistair followed through again, stepping forward, raising one massive foot into a kick and forcing Elias to backpedal furiously, lest it cave in his chest. When the knight’s foot stamped down on the hard floors beneath the mage could have sworn he felt the ground shake.

Was that the faintest suggestion of a smile on the Knight's face, he saw? No, just a trick of the light. He wasn’t sure this old man coul smile. What he wa sure of however was that Alistair was testing him. Seeing how he'd react, giving him easy blows and working his way to the hard ones. Elias circled again, rattled but relishing the sensation. The uncertainty, the knotty, mortal problem to be solved...

It is the only way a warrior can advance.

He darted forward, unwilling to let the Knight keep the initiative. Alistair swayed to his side as Elias's diagonal blow from his long sword sailed past him, its purpose to hide the fist hidden in its shadow. His true strike. Horizontal and devastating, it would have made a satisfying connection if it had been given half the chance.

‘If.’

The big man managed to knock aside the unarmed attack with his own, and incredibly, still held unto his gigantic hammer with one hand as easily and deftly as if it were two. The stryfer didn’t have time to marvel at Alistair’s sheer strength though. With his sword swung dodged and his punch avoided, Elias’s chest was precariously exposed. His opponent wasted no time in trying to ram the head of his hammer into the much younger fighter’s chest. Even if not a full swing or even remotely close to full strength, such a blow from such a weapon had a means of making a man question his life choices that had led him to that moment. Elias decided he wanted none of it.

He pulled back hard, twisting and straining his muscles while reeling against both his own momentum and his sword’s. With elbows bent and strategy renewed, he straightened it explosively, thrusting for the knight's chest.

Alistair rolled away to his right with all the ease and grace of a petching bird in flight, hammer held away and in front as came up onto his feet a good ways from the Ebonstryfe officer, facing him instantly.

Elias smiled, and unsurprisingly, it was not returned. Both of them liked their skills tested though, he could tell from the man’s aura he now studied as carefully as his surroundings, and so much sharpened steel flashing before their skin was a thrill they had clearly both missed. Oh yes, Elias saw that familiar yearning in Alistair's eye as they commenced their circular stalking of each other. He may try to hide it behind his grim scowls and ragged appearance, but the heart of a fighter beat beneath that broad chest of his. All the Caldera had to do now was draw it out.

A shifting of a foot, a tensing in the shoulders, those were the signs Elias had been waiting for. As the Knight swung one-handed, he was already moving forwards to meet it, darting into and under the length of that steel, jerking his long sword up vertically, eager to secure a swift and defining victory. Instead he found himself bracing himself as his whole arm was shocked and trembled with the ferocious impact of Alistair’s hammer -or more appropriately, its long handle used as an improvised shield.

The blow was stalled, and Elias swung once more with fist for the Knight's undefended side next, hoping to find purchase there instead. All he found was ruin, for as he struck out a second time, a huge, meaty hand reached out and slammed around his wrist, stopping his blow in mid-air as if seized in jaws of a hungry wolf.

Elias looked up in that frozen, awful second, and saw the slightest hint of a grin looking down at him for the first time.

"Nice try."

"Petch."

The headbutt sent him reeling back like he'd kissed a charging bull.


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The Grass is Always Greener...

Postby Elias Caldera on November 18th, 2018, 2:21 am

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Oh, this was not how he had expected things to go when he’d awoke this morning.

There was voice inside his head screaming at him over and over not to give in and fall asleep like every part of his body was so eager to do. That voice was almost deafened by the awesome ringing that was rocking his skull alongside it, like a thousand temple bells rung at once. It felt like a volcano had erupted just beyond his nose and his vision went to swirling blackness. Even as he staggered back, he was only dimly aware that it was his body doing the moving.

Then he hit the wall and heard something that snapped him back to reality.

A deep, rumbling sigh.

He blinked rapidly and when his vision cleared, he saw the knight it had originated from. His massive hammer was over both shoulders behind his head, elbows crooked in it, hands dangling. Utterly open to attack... thus utterly contemptuous of Elias's ability to mount one.

Elias may have been imagining it, but he could have sworn he saw Alistair shake his head in disinterest.

The swordsman felt his lips curl into a snarl.

"That..." He slurred something that was not even close to common, but improved when he hawked a load of blood unto the floor. "That was impressive, but we are not done."

"You are, Ravokian. Your nose is bust, your legs creek and your eyes are swimming." The Knight swung down his weapon casually, studying the slight scars the hammering of steel had given it. "Like I said, nice try, but I’m done entertaining you lot. You all ain’t worth my time, let alone my effort"

That snarl came again and Elias felt anger rise through him, a red mist coming closer... and he forced cold water over his rage. Anger would not grant him victory in this, nor in his true purpose for this fight either. Cunning and adaptation, now those… those just might get the job done.

With a grunt he got back to his feet and they did indeed shake, but not as much as he feared. Alistair cocked and eyebrow and Elias gave a bloody half-smile.

He placed one hand behind his back, hefting with the other his great blade.

"Well if you’re tired Sylirian, then here, I’ll make it easier on you."

Alistair's frown deepened just a little, and Elias saw it. "I don't need your help to beat you, Ravokian."

"So you claim... old man."

The last word wiped the rest of the imposed neutrality from the knight's face. Elias calculated it carefully; just enough scorn and exaggeration to raise the proud man’s hackles, but not enough to sound comical and devoid of real insult. Even the initiates whom surrounded them in spectating seemed to muter among themselves, casting glances around.

Alistair was holding the hammer much more seriously now. Elias suppressed his joy, keeping his face grim, matching the man's own expression.

"That ’might’ is looking a lot more solid right now..."

Elias snorted softly, tossed his sword from hand to hand, and settled on his dominant right. “Elias.” He responded to the unspoken question. He fell into combat stance and hawked a final lob of blood onto training grounds between them. “Elias Caldera.”

Alistair cracked his shoulders and held the hammer two-handed. Elias noted the stance, the grip, the eyes… He's aiming for a killing blow. Something sweeping, huge, something he can say he could not control. Good. I can use that.

"You’re a long way from home, ser Knight. Show me what they teach you down south, and I’ll show you how they teach us to beat it up here in the north."

With a growl Alistair came on again, with all his fury and incensed pride.


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The Grass is Always Greener...

Postby Elias Caldera on November 18th, 2018, 2:23 am

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Eris and Tannen watched from the crowd of as Knight and Stryfer clashed one more time. The swordsman came in low, meeting his opponent’s charge, but sidestepped at the last moment to the right, swinging his long blade for Alistair's leg!

The giant, half-spun to his right, pulling himself out of range and heaving his hammer around in a massive horizontal sweep, only for Elias to step back and sway at the same time, leaning so hard that he was certain the studious Knight could hear the bones in his spine creak. It worked though, and the heavy head of the hammer missed him by a mile.

Alistair actually began to show some signs of enjoying himself, invigorated despite his anger, and moved with the momentum of his swing, twisting his arms around and bringing the hammer up and down in a powerful vertical slam. This game of theirs would continue just a little longer, as Elias side stepped to the left, barely avoiding the brutal tool of war as it splintered the stone floors where he’d just been standing.

"Nice try."

Alistair growled at his own words turned against him and wrenched the hammer free, wielding it one-handed with his right as he swung once, forcing the swordsman back. It was a feint, one that masked his true blow, the one that followed it a second later while Elias was still trying to dodge the first.

The mage still held the longsword one-handed as he swiftly moved it in the way, steel clanging against steel, and before the vibrations had even hit his arms lashed out with his foot, sending Alistair staggering back with a surprised yelp as boot met knee.

He staggered… but he did not fall.

Shyke.

The Knight struggled to keep his balance, nearly losing it twice over as Elias rushed him. He regained some semblance of stability before long however, and the stryfer suddenly found himself on the defensive again as hard gray eyes fixed themselves on the pale killer and Alistair leapt forwards, hammer swinging.

For a hammer like this, if ever he was forced to block it with his own weapon, he would need to be fast enough to intercept it before its arch could reach full swing, otherwise nothing in this world was going to stop that thing crunching through his defenses and into his skull. His opponent was simply too strong. Thus, the Ravokian acted fast and smart, bringing his sword up horizontal, stopping the strike with the length of his blade caught in the crook under the hammer head. He’d never fought an opponent who’d ever wielded a weapon like this as skillfully as this one did, but many weapons shared many weaknesses and strengths, despite their unique or strange shapes. One just needed to know how to exploit them.

Elias grinned and pulled backwards with all his might, ripping the hammer away, and more importantly, throwing off Alistair's careful balance once more. Without hesitation his left fist snaked out and punched the Knight just under the throat, almost exactly like the hulking brawler Braga had taught him in that stinking cellar back at the Arena.

Not at the throat, though. Elias had no desire to crush a windpipe or end a life... not this one, anyway.

Alistair coughed and spluttered, feeling his adam's apple burst into flames, choking, air not coming in, swinging madly and seeing the blademan move out the way with frustrating ease. Time and time again the stryfer could have called upon his Flux to aid him in this fight. It would have been easy, and more tempting yet, he knew he would have gotten away with it too, for such was the secrecy of the magic that like hypnotism, it was hidden to all but the most trained scrutiny. This fight however, was important. Too important to be spoiled by the likes of cheating through arcane chicanery. Elias needed to do this with his own two hands. To truly test the mettle of the man whom they called Alistair Valmont, the fallen son of Syliras.

The giant roared and lashed out with his foot again, bursting forwards and aiming to plant his size eighteens straight through the sorcerer’s chest. But he was weakened and angered, and short of his bloodied nose, his opponent was not, and Elias bent his knees, moved low and forward, leg flying over his shoulder just as his fist hammered into his other knee -the very one he’d kicked earlier. It was a move as unorthodox as it was unexpected, and this time it worked. The giant was felled.

Alistair shouted in surprise more than he did pain, panic and fury bubbling over into a nauseating concoction as the world went horizontal and he followed suite. The hulking monster of a man went down to one knee at last, barely catching himself with an outstretched hand, and Elias felt the time had come to end this.

The knight’s heavy breathing stilled the instant Cinder’s edge was lowered before him, the blades simmering, heating steel mere inches from his face. Alistair’s wary eyes followed the length of the weapon until at last his gaze locked with that of a triumphant Elias staring down at him.

“I expected more from-”

His petty taunting was cut short as a roar the likes of which only the deepest and darkest parts of the wildlands ever held host too reverberated across the entire training hall. Alistair, face contorted by a rage and willingness that stunned even Elias, grabbed hold of the longsword with one hand. The stryfer’s eyes went wide, instinct telling him to jerk back and away, but the knight had clasped on, the searing blade stuck in a death grip that rendered both sword and swordsman helpless. The stink of smoldering flesh was hot in his nostrils as Alistair rose, ripping the magical blade from his grasp with one mighty yank while at the same time he charged forward, wrapping his monstrous free hand around Elias’s throat.

The commander realized with some dismay that his feet had left the ground at some point, and his back had been slammed into the nearby wall.

The life was not so slowly being choked out of him as Alistair fastened his grip, both hands now working in tandem as they strangled their victim into and ever-changing myriad of colors and desperation.

His reaction was to find his training and use it. How did you escape a choke like this? Elbows. He brought his down hard and often upon the outstretched and trunk like limbs of his attacker, but each strike felt like he was hitting a boulder and seemed just as useful. He could see the unbridled malice in the knight’s old and haggard face now, and all of it directed entirely at him, yet somehow, through him, as if there was another face behind Elias’s that the old warrior was seeing. Probably a good thing to, for the stryfer had little doubt the face he was currently making was all manner of purple and comically mangled. The kind of face strangled men made when all decorum and decency were thrown out the door. The kind of face you died wearing.

Alarm began to settle into place very quickly as Elias’s next attempt to reach Alistair’s face and gouge at his eyes failed miserably. He looked like a toddler trying to reach the sweets on a high shelf. The man was too petching big, his arms too petching long, and Elias too petching out of time to wasting what little he had left on toying around. The look in the giant spoke of murder, and perhaps, if it was not his life currently on the line, he might have also noticed the sorrow hidden beneath it all.

Elias reached within himself and sought the one thing that would put an end to this struggle with clear and concise ease;

Djed.

His willed his power to life, focusing its flow through his arms and down his spine, forcing the flux to take hold… then something changed. Suddenly the pressure around Elias’s stiffened throat abated, eased off, and the young man found himself slipping slightly against the wall that he was no longer being pushed against so forcefully. Confusiontook him for a moment, after he’d swallowed down a grateful gulp of air of course. The first, it felt, in nearly a lifetime.

When his red and bloodshot eyes fell upon Alistair in search of some reason for this unexpected reprieve, what he found looking back at him was the not the same man who moments ago wanted nothing more than to take his life, but instead a confused and scared old man, aghast at his own actions. He looked at the hands still wrapped around Elias’s throat with a mixture of perplexity and terror, as if they were not his own. He looked up at Elias next, remorse and anguish in his gaze.

“I’m sorr-”

Alistair cried out suddenly as the force of both Elias’s elbows, empowered by the flux, smashed into his arms from above. The limbs buckled instantly under the strike, and in the tick that followed, the commander was on his feet again, one of which found itself squarely placed at the center of the giant’s stomach.

He kicked out with all his might, and for a brief moment, Alistair was gone.

The giant flew -literally- across the hall, hurtling with speeds mere mortal men on the ground had no right achieving, let alone in the air, and against one’s own will at that. His flight finally ended with a resounding ‘boom’ as the knight crashed into an array of stands and weapons racks on the other side of the room. He disappeared beneath a mountain of training equipment as the sounds of weighted wooden swords and rolling practice shields echoed throughout the grounds.

Silence followed.


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Elias Caldera
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The Grass is Always Greener...

Postby Elias Caldera on November 18th, 2018, 2:24 am

Image
Hacking and coughing the entire way, Elias angrily stomped over to the wreckage, pushing aside startled apprentices and soldiers alike. To his immense surprise however, he saw the mound of arms and armor begin to stir and shake until at last Alistair, appropriately dazed and disorientated, came crawling out of the pile. He was even up to his knee when the mage finally made it up to him.

Elias seized him by the collar, hefting him up the rest of the way.

“Why did you stop?!” His hissed furiously.

Instinct seemed to take hold in that moment, and though confused and hurt, the old knight still had the wherewithal to grab hold of the hand holding him so roughly. He may have even gone to wrench himself free, but through the haze, clarity finally returned to Alistair and he realized where he was once more. He looked at Elias, and in an instant, the fight faded from him his haggard face just as it had when they were on that wall.

“I asked you a question. Why did you stop?”

The entire training room was staring at them now, and aside from Elias’s haggard and horse voice, not a peep could be heard from the younglings who gawked on as if they were watching the climax of a play. Alistair noticed them when Elias did, the old man’s gray eyes sweeping nervously from side to side. The swordsman grumbled, irritated, and bellowed with whatever volume he could muster after his choking “Clear the hall!”

There was a moment of hesitation that followed, uncertainty and surprise both mingled into one. A tick passed, then two, but by the third the shuffling of dozens of feet replaced the void. “You heard the man, move it. Training is done for the day.” Elias heard John yelling as he and the rest of the apprentices under his command began shepherding the rest out. Tannen shot his leader one last look, as if to say, is this alright? He knew what he meant, and he gave the boy a reaffirming nod. No one was going to die today, least of all Elias.

“You’re not just another mewling recruit or bored soldier, are you.” Alistair muttered apprehensively as his accuser slowly released him.

“Like I said before, Elias Caldera. Commander Elias Caldera. Head of Havok squad, second to Paladin Quinn of the Exalted company and loyal servant in our lord’s holy army.”

The old knight closed his eyes and made a face the stryfer knew all too well. It was kind of exhausted mug a man made when he knew without a shadow of a doubt he’d petched up big time.

Elias watched impassively as the giant fell to one knee and bowed his head. “Apologies, commander. If I had known you were an officer I would have never-”

“Enough.” He snapped impatiently. “You had me. On that wall, you had me dead to rights. Yet you hesitated. I saw a fear in your eyes, and heartache. Not for me though, but for someone else. Why did you stop, soldier?”

It was clear the Syliras wasn’t accustomed to such a title. It was clear he wasn’t accustomed to a lot going on here, but being called a soldier instead of a knight seemed as if it had been a slap in the face that jolted him awake. He shook his head, sighing as he returned to his full height much to Elias’s chagrin.

“I… I didn’t want to hurt you.” The big man replied with about as much conviction as a whore in Priskil’s church.

“Bullshyke.” Elias shot back angrily. “You’ve no skill for lying, knight. Don’t attempt it again with me. I saw the look in your eyes. You wanted to kill me. You wanted to rip me to pieces and dance in the little bloody chunks… but you weren’t fighting me. Not really.”

“With all due respect, commander, I don’t know what you mean, nor do I see how that is of any concern. Now I’m willing to take my punishment like a man, whatever that may be.”

“Its of concern because I say it is.” The pale mage warned, “and because I need to know that every man under my command can do what it takes when the time comes.”

The old knight stumbled, an eyebrow racing up his forehead in utter bewilderment. He eyed the smaller, paler figure standing confidently before him despite the burning red fingerprints emblazoned upon his throat and the tendrils of sweat beading upon his scalp. While High Command could stymy his troops for as long as they want, they couldn’t stop him from taking a second in command. They had no business in such a manner, for every officer’s primus was chosen on their own authority. No man nor Druvin had any say in the matter. “I figured you to be just another punk trying to prove they were worth a damn by fighting a real-life knight of Syliras, maybe even get to touch the curse mark Yahal left me. Instead you’re standing there telling me you wanna recruit me? What in the hell for, ser? Every other man, woman and child in this damnable place has sneered and spat at me since I got here. Including you. So what is this, really?”

‘I beheld your splendor in a vision’ he heard himself wanting to say. ‘I saw your face looking down upon me from amidst the smoking ruins of some great catastrophe, and yours was the first and only hand that came to my aid. I saw you in a vision, and I knew this moment was fated, Ser Alistair Valmont.’

But the words never came.

Elias breathed, rubbing at his neck a little as he took a reserved step back to address the big man’s rightful distrust. Such an answer, though true, was not what the old knight needed to hear currently. “I said what I said to make you angry and stupid during the fight. It worked, I’d say. Didn’t expect I’d be fighting for my life because of it though.”

For a tick, Alistair actually looked abashed. Shamed by his apparent loss of control. It wasn’t a sensation Elias was unfamiliar with given all that had happened to him. Seeing red was one thing however, letting yourself be consumed by it was another. Part of him was as worried by what a man like Alistair could accomplish with his brutish strength if that fury could be harnessed and directed. Another part of him was excited to see it.

“I’ve heard a lot about you, Ser.”

“You and everyone else in this city.” Alistair retorted with a huff. The way he kept referring to Ravok with such barely hidden disdain made it apparent he cared little for Rhysol’s eternal city, but more so, made it clear he had a home he missed in its place.

“Ravok is a small city to those with connections. I make it my business to keep my eyes and ears open. You should pay heed, because I’m certainly not the only one.” He said coldly, making sure the old man got his meaning. By the anxious look he got back in return, it seemed as if the message had come across loud and clear.

“Regardless of what the rumors may say, Ser Alistair, what I needed to know, the most important things, I learned from you in our match. You can gleam a lot from a man when he reaches his breaking point, and in that fight the picture became clear to me.” He said with a level tone of voice. “For instance, you’re a stubborn old fool whose lost his way, but anyone could figure that much out. A knight of Syliras now standing in the heart of Ravok? You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last God willing, but while our lord may have accepted you, you can’t let go of what you left behind. Can’t let go of a lot of things, I’d wager.” Elias sneered, grabbing Alistair’s hand and turning it over to reveal the truly repulsive burn mark that had begun to turn a sickly purple at that point. The fallen knight snatched his hand back anxiously. The mage had to admit, even for him pain like that would have shown. For Alistair, his countenance was calm and collected as a summer’s day.

“You’re running from your demons, the same demons I imagine that led you down your ‘fall’ in the first place, but you’ve got nowhere left to go and I imagine that’s eating you up inside. I recognize that kind of listlessness in a man, and I know it well.”

Elias gestured to the empty hall around them as he sauntered backwards. “You think they hate you because you’re a knight? They don’t despise you because you were once their enemy. They’re more fascinated than abhorred by your presence, I assure you. No, ser. They hate because you’re weak. They hate you because in one single moment, you achieved what they spent years trying to. A lifetime of service, commitment, worship and dedication, all for that nasty scar our lord and savior blessed you with on a whim. You have what they everything they want, and yet you walk about in their home, moping and mournful as if you’ve been given a death sentence.”

The stryfer bent down and retrieved his blade from where it had fallen during their duel, sheathing it in one easy, practiced motion upon his back.

“I’m not sure what it was like back where you came from, but here, such weakness puts a target on your back. In this city, if there’s even the possibility of blood in the water, you can bet the sharks are already circling.”

“Charming.” Alistair snorted and shook his head. “So,” he said, eyes scanning the floor for his hammer as well, “You’re a soothsayer of some sort and this here city is a death trap, am I getting the gist of it?”

The Caldera frowned. He wasn’t getting through…

He noticed the nasty looking Warhammer nearby and scooped it up with some difficulty, making his way over to the knight in turn. He was handing it back to him when he spoke next. “You and I are a lot-”

“Oh don’t petching go there.” Alistair snapped. “If you start this whole ‘a lot alike’ sham, I’ll smack you across this hall, officer or no. You and me, young commander, are nothing alike. You have no idea what I’ve been through or what I am, and I don’t care what your little ‘eyes and ears’ tell you. If those milksops think I’m weak because of it, if they think I’m chum, let ‘em come and try and take a bite. They’ll get what’s comin’.” He snarled, jabbing a threatening finger in the mage’s face as he snatched the hammer back. Elias blinked in surprise, though managed to hide it well enough in the face of the outburst. He could that same sorrow returning to Valmont’s aged and exhausted features. The way his shoulders had gone taut, only to sink back down into a slump once the anger had burned through him. The way his eyes went wide and wild as he recounted what must have been his experience thus far in his mind, if not out loud. It was clear the man had suffered much. He had a kind of umbrage in him that Elias recognized. It was the kind of anger that consumed your every waking moment. The kind of anger that devoured you from the inside out unless you gave it something else to feast on.

“I… am a traitor.” Elias declared solemnly.

Alistair’s looked at him, the enmity flushed from his face as he considered the Ravokian.

“I’ve been branded as one for a long time now. I betrayed the Ebonstryfe some years ago. One night, I fled the city, abandoned my home and my duty and sought exile abroad… I was about thirteen summers old or so at the time. I can’t imagine that’s anywhere close to the time you must have spent as a knight, but I was a good damn apprentice. I had a future. I had a real shot, and I lost it all in a single day.” The stryfer muttered, eyes downcast and stance rigid like a board. “I lost faith in my purpose, lost hope in my cause, and worst of, belief in my god. Everything I knew had come crashing down around me one day, and I did not know how to deal with the repercussion, so I ran. Tried to put as much of it behind me as I could and… and I realize this is the first time I’ve ever said that out loud.” He chuckled, the mirth as absent from his laughter as the pretense of placidness was from the room.

For a while Elias didn’t look at the knight, his eyes transfixed suddenly by the floor and all its intricate and endlessly interesting marks and stains. He felt as if he could spend a life time studying such things and never have to look up again, but eventually Alistair’s voice drew him back to the bitter reality.

“…but you came back?”

Elias sighed. “I did, and for all the wrong reasons.” He said, addressing the man once more. “I came back looking for revenge. I was angry. I was very angry. And to that anger I gave a name and a face to focus it all on. I wanted to make those who I felt responsible for my loss pay, even if it was the last thing I did.”

“And did you?” Alistair asked prying, almost desperately. “What did it… How did it doing that make….” Elias could see the big man struggling, trying in vain to work out in his head what his heart was trying to say, until at last he took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and found the question he knew he was really trying to asking. “Did it help? Did it make things any easier?”

“I wish,” Elias began obligingly and slow, “That I could say all those people you hear talking about revenge as if it’s a curse and that its never worth it were just fools who didn’t do it right, but…” He didn’t need to be an aurist to tell the knight had been waiting for that word with dread in his heart. He was seeking an answer he knew he wasn’t going to get. “I realized that when I killed the man whom I’d made my entire reason for living, that I also killed the thing inside me that was giving me purpose. Sure, there was a freedom in ridding myself of that burden once and for all. A weight lifted from my shoulders that’s hard to describe, but in the end, when you reach that beacon at the top of the mountain, that light at the end of tunnel, that thing you center yourself on as the one and only reason for taking your next step forward… It only ends one way once you’ve finally reached it. Twice I had what mattered most from me taken, and twice I had been foolish enough to let it happen.”

Alistair sighed, rubbing a palm across his shaggy jawline. There was no emancipation from his woes in what Elias had said, no hope of easy redemption or recovery. There would never be if what weighed so heavily on the knight’s soul was truly worth the pain it seemed to cause him. The only answer was the cold hard truth that it would never really be stop hurting.

“I don’t know what the hell I’m doing here…” Alistair muttered exasperatedly. “I’ve been wandering for so damn long, just keeping my head down and feet moving trying not to look back. Eventually I just found myself here. Your people were expecting me, patting me on the shoulder like we were old friends. Gave me some my gold for a room, some clothes to replace my rags, and a rank in your army but…”

“No rulebook, right?” Elias asked knowingly. “There’s no clear cut path for us to follow anymore. The road is overgrown, and the way lost.”

“That’s about it.” Alistair sighed.

“Then we find our own way.” Elias said, placing a hand on the giant’s shoulder. “We carve a new path. We make our own destiny, because no one else is going to for us. No one else deserves the privilege or can handle the burden. Its up to us now.”

Alistair simply stared at Elias after that, studying the young man as if seeing him for the first time. He smiled, shook his head, and finally nodded. “Gods above, if my mother could see me now, an old man taking advice from a kid. A Ravokian no less. She’d be turning in her grave.”

The Caldera chuckled. “This is no easier for me, Syliran, I assure you.” The two shared a laugh at that, and though uncomfortable to say the least, it felt like a start.

“You drink, old man?” Elias chimed, slapping the knight on his shoulder one last time before aiming himself at the doors.

“Does a beer shyke in the woods?” Alistair grinned weakly.

“Then follow me and we can converse some more. This is city is my mistress and she can be yours as well. I know all the sights and scenes to be had. She will treat you right if you let her… and if she doesn’t, well I know where all the best bars are at too.”


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Elias Caldera
Playa
 
Posts: 902
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Joined roleplay: September 14th, 2013, 1:28 am
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The Grass is Always Greener...

Postby Zavya on February 12th, 2019, 5:06 am

Grades!

 
Elias
Skills Earned:
  • Endurance +3
  • Flux +1
  • Intimidation +1
  • Leadership +1
  • Rhetoric +1
  • Socialization +2
  • Subterfuge +1
  • Unarmed Combat +2
  • Weapon: Longsword +2
Lores:
  • Alistair Valmont: Cursed by Yahal
  • Alistair Valmont: Old Syliran knight
  • Combat: Sparring with a Syliran knight
  • Flux: Kicking a full-grown man across a room
  • Self: Endorses and encourages ambition in his troops
Comments: A fantastic read, as always! Though I about shit myself to see posts less than 1000 words... ;P


If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to PM me!
Zavya
Hear me roar
 
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Joined roleplay: October 15th, 2018, 9:58 pm
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