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[center][font=georgia,serif][size=6]When You Wish...[/size][/font][/center]

[font=georgia,serif][size=4]24 May 2015[/size]
[size=4][i]Phénix, Outside of City Hall, 2100 Hours[/i][/size]

[size=4][b]â??So eat, drink, and remember always the miracle we have achieved here!â?[/b] President Cerbero finished, and the crowd erupted with applause. She grinned behind her mask, but made certain to maintain her rigid, professional pose as she slowly motioned for the band to begin playing once more. Once the music had begun and the crowd had returned to their former festivities, Cerbero stepped down from the podium. The oldest member of the Mentals, 76 year old Rafaleâ??â??the Gallant Gale,â? as he was deemed by the peopleâ??stepped up to Cerbero and gripped both of her shoulders.

[b]â??Quite lovely,â?[/b] he said with a heavy French accent, his warm, wrinkled smile stretching from ear to ear. Cerbero rolled her eyes behind her mask.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??Of course it was, Rafale. You wrote it,â?[/b] she replied teasingly. Rafale shrugged with nonchalant acceptance and offered her his arm. Cerbero gripped it tenderly and allowed her elder to escort her down the stairs leading away from the stage. She walked slowly and deliberately, both to maintain the elegant gait which was expected of a leader and to avoid fatiguing her friend. Rafale was no stranger to physical exertion, that was true; he was an Ascended just like the others, and as such he insisted upon fulfilling his duties in the gang, even volunteering for solo watch shifts at the gates of the city. Although his battle prowess was amazing to behold-- something akin to a dance, she often thoughtâ??she was always mindful of his age outside of battle, and preferred to stroll, rather than march, along whilst she was with him.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??Nice writing, Rafs. And good presentation, pup,â?[/b] came a rich, melodious voice from the bottom of the staircase. The owner of the voice was Mental's member Neptune â??the Earthshaker,â? a 30 year old, handsome 6'1'' African-American gentleman with light brown eyes and a mohawk. He was surrounded by the rest of the Mentalsâ??Sobek â??the Destroyer,â? Susanoo â??the Relentless Storm,â? and Jinn â??the Smoldering Flame.â? Only one, Erycina â??the Starchildâ? was missing, and Cerbero would be visiting her later. Cerbero ignored Neptune's comment until she and Rafale had successfully dismounted the stairs, at which point she turned back to face him.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??Insulting your leader is a treasonous offense,â?[/b] she stated emphatically in her affected President voice, before shifting back to her regular tone, [b]â??and I'm not impartial to the idea of banishing you. So keep that in mind.â?[/b] Neptune scoffed at her playful threat and gave her a mock salute.

[b]â??Aye aye, Presidente,â?[/b] he said with a laugh. Cerbero shook her head and pushed him aside, so that she could address the other Mentals.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??Reports?â?[/b] she questioned. Sobek stepped forward first. Standing at 5'7'' with long, wavy black hair, fox-like translucent blue eyes and a curvy, tanned figure, people around the city often called the Iranian Sobek the most stunning woman not only in the Mentals, but in the entire vicinity. She did not have an accent, having lived in America most of her 20 years, but her voice was still very attractive, possessing a bubbly, friendly quality.

[b]â??First allow me to say how amazing that speech was, Cerbero and Rafale. You really got the people going,â?[/b] she said with a broad smile. Cerbero and Rafale both offered her thanks, and then she continued. [b]â??Here is my report: Nightmare assaults occurred at 1030 hours, 1500 hours and directly before the festivities at 1945 hours. My unit was able to fend off each attack without any casualties. Within the city perimeters we identified 3 spiesâ??2 from General Whitley's military encampment, and the other from Nephilim. They are being monitored at all hours.â?[/b] Cerbero nodded her approval and placed her right hand on Sobek's shoulder.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??Phenomenal work, Sobek,â?[/b] Cerbero praised the younger girl. Sobek bowed her head and then walked over to Rafale and Neptune, allowing Susanoo to step forward. Susanoo was more of a generic kind of pretty than Sobek was, although she was more [i]popular[/i] with the gentleman around the city due to her less intimidating visage. The 24-year-old British girl stood at 5'4'', with a slender build, had auburn shoulder length hair parted to the side and similarly had blue eyes, like Sobek, but hers were a deep cobalt blue. She still spoke with a fairly strong British accent, as she was simply visiting when the Fall hit, but had been stranded here since.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??Constr'ction in Districs twen'y and twen'y one 'ave finally been comple'ed and t'morow new residents shall begin moving in. The Eng'neering division have salvaged a couple more trucks and installed new ba'tries in 'em, which I personally charged. All broadcas' towers are working, and in addition to the 4 'ospi'als we have running now, two new ones have just reopened,â?[/b] Susanoo listed rapidly. Cerbero thanked her for her report as well, while making a mental note that tomorrow she would need to cut the rope for the new districts and sometime soon she would need to contact the M.A.F. to see if they could afford to sacrifice some additional doctors to the city. Susanoo bowed her head and joined the Mentals, and now Jinn replaced her.[/size]

[size=4]Jinn was a Russian amazon. Standing at 6'2''--even taller than Neptune, which she often flauntedâ??with curly pulled back brunette, a toned build, striking grey eyes and darker golden skin, Jinn was the most physically daunting of any of the Mentals; beautiful, yes, but in a way that almost made her frightening to behold. She, like Sobek, lacked a discernible accent when speaking English, and quite in contrast to her appearance her normal speaking voice was musical, siren-esque.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??Although there was a hiccup with the operation of the sewage systems last week, it has since been sorted out, and the sewage treatment center is operating at 100% efficiency. Likewise, the recycling plant has rebuilt the areas destroyed by Nightmare attacks and running like clockwork again. The central 'generator' has been stable today, with only a few, minor fluctuations occurring in energy output.â?[/b] Although Jinn was relating positive news, her voice was surprisingly stern.

[b]â??Is something the matter, Jinn?â?[/b] Cerebero questioned. Jinn scowled with irritation.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??We just received word that General Whitley is at the front gate and is demanding a meeting with us. You don't suppose we could simply turn out all of the lights and pretend we're not here, hmm?â?[/b] Jinn responded with a smirk. Cerbero grimaced and placed her hands on her hips. The General was becoming increasingly more of a bother for her, and his timing couldn't possibly have been more inopportune. As much as it displeased her, however, she knew that ignoring the General would prove extremely detrimental to her city's health.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??Thank you Jinn. And good work everyone,â?[/b] she said to the Mentals. [b]â??Sobek, tell your guards to go on high alert, and then all of you escort General Whitley to the meeting chamber. Erycina and I will be along shortly.â?[/b] Her team nodded dutifully and departed from her. Cerbero turned on her heel, heading for her personal truck parked behind the city hall building. She hopped into the driver's seat and lifted her mask off of her face, desiring to enjoy the night air while she had the chance. Stepping on the gas she drove straight for Okeanos Way, the highway which led straight to the ocean. Although the festival had been tonight, Erycina had insisted upon taking a trip down to the docks so that she could check on the status of the ships and their shipments. That was only partially the truth, however. Cerbero knew that Erycina had a fondness for the area, and so had requested that Erycina head down to the docks so that she could spring a surprise dinner on herâ??but with the General's appearance, that would have to take a raincheck.

It took her only 10 minutes to arrive at the ocean. She didn't bother to wait for the guard on watch to closely survey her identification and drove directly to the beach adjacent to the harbour. She caught sight of Erycina, pulling her jacket tightly over the long elegant dress she was wearing to stay warm. Apparently Cerbero's ruse hadn't deceived her at all. The two locked eyes as Erycina noticed Cerbero drawing closer, and for a second Cerbero considered remaining on the shore with her girlfriend, enjoying the comforting lap of the waves against the sand, and forgetting entirely about whatever business General Whitley had wanted to discuss. 3 years ago, Addley could and would have done just thatâ??abandoned all responsibility to enjoy a night with the person she loved. But Cerbero enjoyed no such luxury. She pulled alongside Erycina and frowned.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??I owe you a dinner,â?[/b] she stated apologetically, leaning over to open the door for Erycina. The other woman laughed forlornly and hopped into the car.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??Responsibility sucks,â?[/b] retorted the 25 year old woman of mixed Irish and Japanese descent. She grabbed her long, curly dark brown locks and twisted them into a ponytail, and then reached into her purse to grab a napkin for wiping off her bright red lipstick. Once it was all gone, she turned her lovely heart shaped face to Cerbero and stared at her with chestnut brown eyes harboring both happiness and disappointment.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??I know. I missed you,â?[/b] Cerbero replied before leaning in and passionately pressing her lips against her partner's. Again the impulse to abandon her duties and bask in Erycina's presence washed over her, but she bitterly pushed back the feeling and drew away from Erycina.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??General Whitley decided to pop by and surprise us with a visit,â?[/b] Cerbero explained, revving up the engine and driving back toward the city square. Erycina slouched down into her seat.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??Well I'm a little overdressed, don't you think?â?[/b] she chided, spreading out her flowing blue dress over her legs. Cerbero chuckled.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??Oh would you look at that! I hadn't even noticed. Perhaps you shouldn't have dolled yourself up for a routine trip to the port?â?[/b] Cerbero teased with a wink. Erycina feigned indignation and pouted.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??Well perhaps you shouldn't let strange men interrupt our evenings. I'm starting to think that you're inviting General Whitley over here, the way he's always 'popping in',â?[/b] Erycina shot back. The two women laughed and then instinctively locked hands. As their laughter died down, Erycina leaned over to Cerbero and laid her head on Cerbero's shoulder. Cerbero mimicked the act and rested her head on Erycina's. They drove in silence the rest of the way, content to sit next to one another and share the atmosphere. It was only when the city hall building came into sight that Cerbero finally made a movement, and to her surprise discovered the Erycina was sleeping. She kissed her slumbering lover on the forehead, and then slowly reached for her mask on the floor and donned it once more. She parked her truck in its spot behind the building and then nudged Erycina awake. Erycina batted her eyelashes a few times, attempting to wake up.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??Show time?â?[/b] she half questioned, half yawned. Cerbero nodded.[/size]

[b][size=4]â??Show time.â?[/size][/b][/font]


[font=georgia,serif][i]Phénix, City Hall Meeting Chamber, 2135 hours[/i][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??We've been through this before, General. We cannot pose a threat to the United States because the United States no longer exists,â?[/b] Cerbero repeated dryly for the umpteenth time. She wanted to call this meeting adjourned and demand that the General quit wasting her time, but she suppressed the feeling. Instead she subconsciously began scrutinizing the General. If one word could be used to describe him, it would be rigid. Rigid jaw line, rigid eyes, rigid disgruntled expression, rigid everything. She'd never seen him smile, crack a joke, or look pleased in any way-- she'd never seen him relax so much as a single muscle in his body. Even now, as he angrily stood up from his chair to scold her, it looked as if he was in mid flex.

[b][size=4]â??That statement is treason! As an American citizen you have a duty to protect this country--â?[/size][/b]

[size=4][b]â??I have a duty to protect these people,â?[/b] Cerbero interjected, her anger finally winning her over. [/size]

[size=4][b]â??Perhaps you refuse to acknowledge the reality of this situation, General, but we have not. There is no president. There is no government. At least half of the country has been razed and the population wiped out. For these past three years we have been on our own. There was no government to ameliorate the damage. No government to assist with reconstruction, no government to help heal the people. Everything we have now, we earned alone. This new world owes nothing to the past government,â?[/b] Cerbero stated, attempting to keep her voice level. General Whitley clenched his teeth together.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??How dare you. If it weren't for the government you people would have had nothing to begin with. Everything this country had was due to the leadership and laws laid forth by our government. To turn your back on it now, to rise up in spiteful defiance of it is the worst, most despicable form of cowardice,â?[/b] the General spat. Cerbero simply stared at the General, waiting for him to calm himself down and retake his seat. When she refused to answer him, the General begrudgingly did just that. [/size]

[b]â??Thank you General,â?[/b] Cerbero finally responded. [b]â??I appreciate your devotion to your country, and I appreciate your unwavering determination to live by its laws. However, as I have stated countless times before, I will not, under any circumstances, give up control of this city to you and your soldiers, even if you believe the law entitles you to it. These people trust me and the Mentals to take care of them, and would view it as a betrayal of their trust if we were to abandon them. Now if the central government were to reform, as you seem to believe might still be a possibility, then yes, Phénix would become its ally. But at this very moment, if the U.S. Army continues to meddle in my city's affairs, then I will consider it my enemy,â?[/b] she stated firmly. A flash of blind rage shot across the General's eyes, and Cebero knew she had tried his last nerve. General Whitley rose slowly from his seat and stood in silence for a moment. Then, in a barely discernible moment he drew out a hidden pistol and aimed it right at Cerbero. In response the Mentals leapt up and prepared to strike him down.

[size=4][b]â??Enough!â?[/b] Cerbero yelled angrily at both sides. Her teammates stood poised with their elements at the ready, and the General stood unwavering in his spot. Cerbero stood up herself and placed her hands on her hips.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??General, I would appreciate it if from now on you would refrain from discharging firearms within the city. I know you're a law abiding man, and that just so happens to be a law in this city.â?[/b] Cerbero requested kindly, although the General did not budge.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??As for the rest of you,â?[/b] she continued, turning to face the Mentals, [b]â??you know better than to treat our guests like that. In addition, General Whitley does not plan to shoot me. He simply wants all parties involved to understand that his next statement will be of the utmost severity. So, General?â?[/b] Cerbero asked, maintaining her feigned kindness. The General spoke without pleasantries.[/size]

[b][size=4]â??You will relinquish control of this city to me immediately. You and your gang will be held in confinement until I can decide what to do with you. Now line up behind--â? [/size][/b]

[size=4][b]â??I don't think that will be necessary,â?[/b] came a cold voice from the door. General Whitley quickly shifted his aim form Cerbero to the new figure and fired. The shot rang throughout out the room, and everyone stared apprehensively at the man who had been shot. Everyone save for Cerbero, who simply frowned and crossed her arms.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??What an unwelcome, yet convenient surprise. What brings you here, War?â?[/b] she inquired as the figure stood motionless in the doorway, unfazed by the bullet which had bounced off of his helmet.[/size]

[size=4][b]â??Diplomacy,â?[/b] he answered, closing the door behind him.[/size][/font][/left]


[size=4]And that's it, everyone! Welcome to When You Wish...! These first initial posts will be important for establishing the status quo of your city, group or character, and then things we'll start seeing some intercity interactions. So post away and let's begin building this world together![/size][/font][/center] Edited by Orcus
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[font=georgia, serif]24 May 2015[/font]
[font=georgia,serif][i]The South: around 30 miles outside Jacken City, 1538 hours[/i][/font]

[font=georgia,serif]The desert sand shifted slowly in the gentle breeze, untouched and pristine. Nothing had spoiled the natural calm of the oasis in a long time, possibly even since before the Fall: mankind had grouped together into small communities since the event, and the deserts and tundras across the globe were not the ideal place for developing cities, so they quickly returned to their natural states.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Silence reigned in places like this.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Suddenly, one of the larger dunes exploded into life and noise, a leather-clad figure leaping over the top, closely followed by a roaring, dirty quad-bike, tearing through the air above the sand. The rider jabbed a long spear with a wicked point on the end towards the running man, missing by a hairâ??s breadth upon every thrust.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Without even a momentâ??s warning, the runner spun on his heel, narrowly avoiding another spear jab and slamming his hand down on the shaft of the spear. With another quarter-turn, he hauled the rider off the saddle of the vehicle and slammed the shaft into the base of his head, sending him sprawling into the sand. The bike swerved out of control with no-one to steer, finally tipping over, the wheels grinding to a halt. The man who had been running now stood looking in the opposite direction to the one he had been fleeing in, the riderâ??s spear still in his hand.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Hearing a grunt behind him, the man turned to see the rider, rolled over and supporting himself with one arm, the other pointing a battered pistol at him.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??The Riders rule these parts, stranger,â?[/b] he snarled, literally spitting out the final word as though it was distasteful.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Iâ??ve no desire to rule,â?[/b] replied the man calmly, [b]â??I just wanted to pass through. You tried to stop me, so anything else that happens is on your shoulders.â?[/b] The Rider clambered to his feet, never moving his aim from the man, and stepped a few paces towards him.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]The man took a few deep breaths, and as the Rider stepped within reach his arm snapped out and grabbed the top of the pistol, pushing the slide back far enough to pop the bullet out of the spout, and slammed the base of the spear into the Riderâ??s gut, making him double over. A swift kick to the head incapacitated the Rider, and the man took the pistol along with the spear.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??******* Riders,â?[/b] muttered the man, trudging up to the top of the dune and looking back the way he came. A few hundred yards off, he saw two huge dust clouds, with large greyish shapes in front of them. He groaned, realizing immediately what they were, and readied himself for what was about to come.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Closing his eyes and taking a number of deep breaths, he began to truly see just what was about to come.[/font]

[i][font=georgia,serif]Two jeeps, three occupants each: one driving, one armed with an assault rifle in the passenger seat and the third on the mounted turret on the back. Spear throw. Sprint forward, quick jump into the air. Four shots at waist-height, high-legged sweep-kick. Grab and squeeze, jump into rolling landing, single shot to the side. Two jeeps, six riders, sixty seconds.[/font][/i]

[font=georgia,serif]He opened his eyes and saw that the Riders were closing in. Hefting the spear onto his shoulder, he went to work.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]With a grunt of effort, he hurled the spear towards the furthest jeep, adding a touch of spin to the shaft as he let it go. Without looking to see if the spear hit its target, and knowing that it did, he set off towards the closest jeep, fast approaching, at a sprint. The second before it collided with him, he leapt into the air, feeling his front foot touching the hood of the jeep, and without a secondâ??s thought, he fired four shots through the windshield into the heads of the two occupants.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]As the gunner swung the turret to face him, he slammed his foot into the side of the barrel hard, sending the gun swinging back round, knocking the gunner off. As the gun completed a half-rotation, he grabbed the trigger and squeezed, sending a barrage of high-calibre rounds through the windshield of the second jeep, killing the two occupants instantly in a messy spray of blood.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Feeling the jeep beneath him begin to swerve, he leapt off the turret and landed in a roll, finally swinging the pistol out to his side and unloading a single shot into the gunnerâ??s head as he was struggling to his feet.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]As the dust and the noise settled, he stood up slowly, dropping the now-empty pistol on the body of his last opponent.[/font]

[i][font=georgia,serif]Two jeeps. Six occupants. Sixty seconds.[/font][/i]

[i][font=georgia,serif]Amateurs.[/font][/i] Edited by DeLarge
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[font=times new roman,times,serif]24 May 2015[/font]
[font=times new roman,times,serif][i]South Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, near Hlidskjalf, 0515 Hours[/i][/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]The sun had yet to rise as they stalked through the trees. All was dark, silent and still. The hunters had managed to acquire only two carcasses in the two hours theyâ??d been prowling. This, however, was not for a lack of ability, but rather those had been the only deer theyâ??d happened upon. [/font]
[font=times new roman,times,serif]The six Berserkers moved in formation, Varg took point with List and Orin on the right flank, Makt and Flytt to the left, and Oxt bringing up the rear. They entered a clearing and the leader raised his hand, the five stopped immediately. He set his spear against a tree, crouched down to place his palms against the ground. He closed his eyes and sniffed the night air, waiting in vain for some kind of sign. Makt stood over his left shoulder, his massive form barely visible in the absence of light.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]â??Itâ??s a veritable purgatory here; the forest seems nearly devoid of life.â? Maktâ??s voice low and cautious.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]â??The worst part is that I canâ??t sense anything nearby. It really seems abandoned here.â? Varg sighed. â??Wait, I just got something.â? His eyes widened and his jumped to his feet. â??Everyone, on your guard!â? His exclamation came out hoarse and strained as he tried to maintain their secrecy.[/font]
[font=times new roman,times,serif]The group moved closer and turned their attention outward. Then the silence was cut with a chorus of screeching. The source of which could be heard swiftly approaching, the cracking of branched echoing throughout. [/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]Then they were there, just beyond the edge of the circle, hunched over between the trees. They stood, breathing heavily; trembling in anticipation. All aspects of their humanity had all but been erased in the presence of the oversized, gaping maws. Their numerous fangs dripped with corrosive spittle. As penance for their sinful ways they were stripped of their sight, and in return granted an insatiable hunger; thereby forced to consume all they encountered. They were gluttony incarnate.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]â??Nightmares.â? Oxt sneered. There were three beasts; the one on the left lunged forward to engage the Berserker who spoke. Oxt, as colossal as Makt, his brother, obliged. He swung his axe laterally, the beast dodged to the right, but too late. The blade of Oxtâ??s weapon glided through the monsterâ??s cheek. It just howled, invigorated by the taste of its own blood. [/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]This prompted the other two to strike. One turned its gaze towards Orin, who, in one fluid motion, nocked an arrow and fired into the face of the approaching threat. The beast clawed at its face, falling backwards as List sailed through the air, plunging his spear through its chest, pinning it. Orin drew his sword cut through the Nightmareâ??s taught, sinewy neck.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]â??Neutralized!â? He called, turning to see how the others were faring. Flytt and Oxt had eviscerated the first Nightmare, and Makt was approaching Varg, who was grappling with the last. Makt caught his eye and nodded. Varg sucked the quickly sucked the air through his teeth and shoved the beast back and transitioned to his Wolf form as Makt did the same. Maktâ??s war hammer collided with the beastâ??s skull, disorienting it. Varg grabbed at its legs and Makt its torso. With one violent motion, the two ripped the Nightmare in twain.[/font][font=times new roman,times,serif] Returning to their human forms, they clasped the otherâ??s forearm.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]â??Never gets old.â? Makt laughed.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]â??It never does.â? Varg returned. He turned to the group. â??Is everyone alright?â?[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]â??Weâ??re good.â? List and Orin chimed.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]â??This little guy took a tree to the head, but I think weâ??re fine.â? Oxt teased Flytt, whose face twisted into a sarcastic smile. The group laughed to themselves, but their laughter quickly faded as their attention turned to the two deer theyâ??d caught, one of which had been mutilated in the brawl. Varg closed his eyes and sighed.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]â??This wonâ??t do. When we return to Hlidskjalf, weâ??ll call a town meeting.â? He spoke wearily to the gang. â??It would appear that the time has come to wake from this dream of ours.â?[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]The horizon was glowing with the coming light.[/font]
[center][font=times new roman,times,serif]******[/font][/center]
[font=times new roman,times,serif]An older villager was ambling through the town square dousing the torches from last night. The Berserkers strode solemnly through the archway and dispersed without a sound. Varg, accompanied by Makt and List, took to the platform in the square and struck the bell to call all the people forward. Meanwhile, the other three had gone to the armory. The townspeople were few; there were perhaps only 30 or 40, including children and the elderly. As they gathered, Varg spoke.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]â??My clan, I apologize for calling you from your beds so early this morning, and with such grim news. They impending threat of the Nightmares is upon us. Before we were safe in numbers; our ranks easily besting the small population of those wretched beasts. But theyâ??ve been coming, and theyâ??ve been devouring our food supply. It is no longer safe here.â? He lingered on that remark, choking on his words. â??The time has come we must find a new home. One more sustainable, but we neednâ??t all venture off just yet.â? Oxt, Orin and Flytt emerged from the armory with armfuls of supplies. â??We have decided that four of us will go scout the region for a new camp, at least a temporary one. Flytt and List will remain to train the able bodied and fortify the perimeter. I will see you all soon.â? Varg stepped down from the platform and took up one of the packs prepared by the others. [/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif][i]I hope to see you all soon.[/i] He thought. The crowd only whispered as the Varg, Makt, Oxt and Orin left through the same gate through which they had entered only moments before.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]The sun was just above the trees now.[/font]

[center][font=times new roman,times,serif]******[/font][/center]

[font=times new roman,times,serif][i]Near Old Bakersfield, 2000 Hours[/i][/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]Having utilized their Wolf Warrior forms, the group was able to cover much more land than they would have otherwise, and by nightfall they had reached the ruins of Bakersfield. They moved cautiously through the city, prepared for an ambush, but it seemed to be for naught. As they came upon what was left of the 5 freeway, headlights shot out over the horizon. Makt and Oxt lifted a large piece of rubble to block the thoroughfare, and the group ducked off to the side of the road. Sure enough, the driver stopped at the impedance. It was a US military jeep driven by two soldiers headed south. When the passenger got out to investigate, the driver received an arrow to the back of the head. As his body fell out of the vehicle the other soldier raised his weapon, but was blinded by the headlights and didnâ??t see the spear. [/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]The Berserkers collected their weapons and, after removing the obstacle, boarded the jeep. When searching for any other items of use, they came upon an old roadmap which seemed to indicate a city called Phénix only about 200 miles to the south.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]â??It would seem like our only real shot.â? Orin shrugged to the group.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif]â??Well, itâ??s only about two hours away. But I want everyone to be on their guard.â? And with that said, Varg started the engine.[/font]
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[font=georgia,serif][i]Phénix, City Hall Meeting Chamber, 2135 hours[/i][/font]

[size=3]War stood before door now as he surveyed the room, his helmet turning to look at all the people who were crowding into this room for some sort of negotiations. His vision was red as his optics scanned through the room, picking out faces and identifying them with any information they had, the ones it couldnâ??t identify became a priority and slid to far side in his vision. Their image still up, pending on any more information to be received by the bearer within the helm. The bullet had been the least of his problems; it wasnâ??t the first and most certainly wouldnâ??t be the last round ever fired in his direction. Walking his way further into the light, his greatsword hung at his waist and swayed lightly as he walked slowly the few steps it took to make it to the great table. When he came into the light, it became clear he towered over all that resided in the room, but War was something no one was greater than. The General kept his gun aimed on the figure in his dull armor, though Warâ??s eyes ventured elsewhere as he looked to the Leader of the city of Phenix.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??Things haveâ?¦. Escalated since I was last here, Cerbero.â?[/b] She kept her arms crossed as she regarded him coldly; neither his size, nor his intimidating armor put any sense of fear in her as it did others.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??They most certainly have, the General and I were just having a discussion before you interrupted. And it is President Cerbero, Horseman.â?[/b] He bowed his head ever so slightly, more for a curtsey he had observed rather than any real sign of acknowledgment of her rank. As a Horsemen of Nephilim, he accepted no one as above their laws, Cerbero understood their rules well enough that she could play the game easy enough. Most cities these days understood their codes and how they operated, the few that didnâ??t had either been destroyed or were doing everything they could to appease the Horsemen. War changed his gaze from the leader of the Mentals and turned his head slowly to look at the man holding a gun to his face. His optics scanning the man once more, quickly bringing up his file and presenting his image and his information scrolled by before vanishing once again.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??General Whitley, you may lower weapon whenever you are ready.â? [/b]War watched as the General held his weapon firmly for a few more moments before lowering the gun and holding a hard look on the Horsemen before him.[/size]

[b][size=3]â??This is none of your business Horseman, your city committing treason as well.â?[/size][/b]

[size=3][b]â??Nephilim is in no oneâ??s jurisdiction General; our laws supersede your old code. And this city is only 200 miles from my home, it is very much my business.â? [/b]He saw the snarl appear on Whitleyâ??s face as he gripped the pistol tightly in his hand.[/size]

[b][size=3]â??My army is far greater than your forces, traitor.â?[/size][/b]

[size=3][b]â??Tell that to the cities we razed, mortal.â? [/b]Cerbero let a grin slide across her face from under her mask, this particular phrase spoken by War was something that would strike hard and true at the General. His ending words of â??mortalâ?? were also a well known put down from War, of those he viewed as small and pathetic in the grand scheme of things. The General raised his gun once more, the anger on his face was palpable and his skin took on a deep hugh of red.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??You like this woman and her band of monsters will surrender to me! Everything will return to as it once was, and this great nation will return to its former glory.â?[/b] War reached out and grabbed the gun in his hand, squeezing the barrel in his hand the audible sound of metal grinding and snapping reverberated off the meeting roomâ??s walls. Removing his hand he continued to stare at him, the helm holding an inhuman gaze upon the hopeless general.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??Your actions insight war and you do not wish to bring War upon your people. I am not merciful; I will not grant quarter upon you or the men and women who follow you. I offer you one chance to depart from this room and this city.â?[/b] His voice had remained calm and cold, the words holding a deeper impact at impartial feeling he conveyed. His relaxed stance would fool regular folks, but the General could see that with only a swipe of the hand he could have his sword drawn and through Whitleyâ??s head, if it came down to that. The indignation was visible and he tossed away the destroyed gun before turning away from the procession of people and marching out with his group.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??General.â?[/b] War called out to him before he left out the doorway, turning his hateful gaze upon the man clad in metal armor and the bones of people and creatures he deemed worthy to adorn his armor.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??If I find you anywhere near Nephilim, Iâ??ll kill you. Dismissed.â?[/b] The General growled before rushing out the door, War having kept his gaze forward before looking to Cerbero once more. Regarding her carefully as he could see her slight movement of her body language that suggested he might have created a worse situation. The tension was relieved when he saw her visible relax, her shoulders lowering just a little bit to give War enough of a hint that he had done what was expected of him.[/size]

[b][size=3]â??You certainly have a way with words, Horsemen. I was confident he would have tried to put another bullet in you.â?[/size][/b]

[size=3][b]â??They all think they can, but War never halts for anyone.â?[/b] She rolled her eyes at his words; she knew they werenâ??t for dramatic effect as he didnâ??t exaggerate anything he said. But she also knew that he was as far from the human race as anyone could possibly be, disillusioning himself from the species with his siblings. She had distaste for them and their laws they tried to impose upon the world, an attempt at creating order in their world that couldnâ??t be brought to heel by simply claiming to be someone of a biblical creation. She had tried to argue with him on the facts, but he simply turned her down at every meeting of minds. He would simply disagree and return to his stoic manner, a man who no longer considered himself just a man, but an embodiment of a concept that was as old as time itself.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??Well, as much as I appreciate your ability to defuse this rather nasty situation, I would ask what your business is and that you conclude it as soon as possible.â?[/b] He stared at her in silence for several moments, his armor rustling softly as he adjusted his stance to face his body towards her.[/size]

[b][size=3]â??I have come to look at your generator, Iâ??ve heard quite a few things about it and I wish to know more.â?[/size][/b]

[size=3][b]â??That is out of the question War, it is a private matter.â?[/b] He regarded her momentarily before speaking again, his voiced coming out distorted from behind the helmet he wore.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??For avoiding an event that could have lead to war on your city, to the death of your community and the desolation of your way of life, I believe you owe me at least this small favor. War would be eternally grateful if you showed me your generator.â?[/b] He saw one of the Mentals step up to Cerbero then, talking to her softly as to try and avoid War from hearing the words spoken between leader and her group. He didnâ??t need to hear them to know they talked about the ramifications of him seeing their biggest advantage in this new world, but War needed to find another source of power for Nephilim and he wasnâ??t going to take no for an answer. He watched for a few more moments before he saw Cerbero flick her hand at the Mental, War hadnâ??t really bothered to remember the face as all Augs and Ascended seemed to look the same to him. Cerbero was different in the fact that she was interesting, her passion for her city and its people intrigued him to the point of respect for her, and though it was minimal it was still better then what he gave most people.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??Very well War, Iâ??ll be your guide within our city, so I can keep my eyes on you.â?[/b] He nodded his head to her, letting her lead them out of the conference room and gave her the necessary space to make her feel comfortable. At least, he thought he was as he wasnâ??t sure how to interact with mortals anymore, their actions and customs strange to him since the fall of the meteors had changed him so much. He let his eyes wander, his optics taking in everything it could and sending out the information, it wasnâ??t the first time he was in Phenix, but it this venture would be more of a treat then normally when he was turned away by Cerbero. She had taken him through a few back routes, limiting his view of the city and of anything she had deemed of value to her cities survival. She was an intelligent one, knowing he would record anything that would help him siege this city if it ever came down to that. It didnâ??t take long for them to arrive to a pair of double doors, pulling one open she walked in as War followed. The doors leading into a giant concrete building that had all the bells and whistles of the power plants of yesteryear. Gauges ticking and their needles moving to make sure that the pressure was right; the flow of electricity was released safely and disturbed as needed throughout her city and he could see the massive generator itself that was producing the energy. But, as his optics went over the object before him, scanning everything it could to try and determine what was different about it that wasnâ??t the same about their own in Nephilim, the words suddenly appeared across his eyes then vanishing quickly as he understood their meaning easy enough.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??Well, here is our generator horseman. Itâ??s nothing spectacular; it is just another piece of equipment that keeps our city alive in these dark times.â?[/b] War approached it and inspected it carefully, walking around it once, then once more before looking up and down the structure itself.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??This is not your actual generator; itâ??s simply the middle man for your operation.â?[/b] Cerbero flinched ever so slightly under her mask, her body maintaining her composure easy enough. Her life as a politician was making her harder and harder to read by all, War did not miss this fact and looked for reactions that should normally be there rather than the obvious reactions she would have. It was always a gamble, as he didnâ??t always guess correctly, but his instincts were sharp and he trusted them above all.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??I do not understand what you mean War, this is our generator. This is where we get our power, if you canâ??t see that then you are blind to more than just people.â? [/b]He kept his gaze on the electrical system, looking up and around to see if anything was amiss.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??My information says otherwise, your generator doesnâ??t give off the right amount of charge to be the primary source. I request to see the real thing, President.â?[/b] She crossed her arms at him, though he didnâ??t bother to look at her, she didnâ??t say anything to him as she walked a few feet and pulled back an iron gate that revealed an old freight elevator. Hearing the noise caused War to turn slowly at the sound; walking over without a single word spoken to him he stepped into the elevator as she manned the controls. Pulling the gate down once more, she pulled a lever that sent them downward slowly, War watched as the room vanished before him and plunged him into darkness. The only light was an old fixture within the elevator, dimly lit as it wasnâ??t used often and casting shadows upon the two that would have made people think they were the Nightmares that roamed the world freely. He waited patiently for the elevator to stop; no words were spoken between the two of them as they waited for the trip to end. It came soon enough with a clang as it the elevator hit the bottom, Cerberos pulled up the gate and started walking not bothering to guide War as he followed behind her wordlessly. She took him down several corridors before finally arriving to doors marked with biohazard signs and warnings in different languages. She typed in an access code on a pin pad War hadnâ??t bothered to look at, and then pressed her hand against one beside it. The doors opened with a hiss before she pushed it the rest of the way, War following as they came upon a containment unit in the center of the room. It hung midair from cables and wires that snaked their way to the ceiling and vanished into the concrete. The energy within the unit crashed against the walls, as if it were alive and trying to find its way out of its prison. War tried his best to use his optics to scan the object, but it caused too much interference to take anything more than recordings and levels of energy output.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??This is impressive Cerbero, what is this energy source that creates such a high output.â?[/b] She hesitated as she seemed to be looking for the right words, it took her longer then War expected, but she eventually spoke and it was enough to get Warâ??s mind working.[/size]

[b][size=3]â??It is a person in there, or at least, it use to be a person. Something happened to them that molded them into what they are now, they became their power.â?[/size][/b]

[size=3][b]â??Now that is intriguing, how is this possible?â?[/b] Cerbero could only shake her head at him, unsure herself on how this had happened.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??It is still a mystery to this day on how or why this happened, but it has proven to be blessing in disguise.â?[/b] War looked at the containment unit through the large Plexiglas sides that made the experience more fascinating as he watched the waves come off the person, the energy pulsating and moving into the circuits that translated that into useable energy. A few questions arose in Warâ??s mind, but one seemed the most troubling for the human way Cerbero acted.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??If this is a person, why havenâ??t you contact the doctors of Ravenloft? Couldnâ??t they do something about their condition?â?[/b] The tension in Cerbero became obvious, but War continued to stare at the person within, the ideas of using someone as an energy course had always eluded the Horsemen before. They had attempted this idea, but the mortal form wasnâ??t enough to produce that much energy and keep the subject alive. But if this was possible, then his search would have to be harder pressed, his thoughts were pushed away as he realized Cerberos was speaking.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??---their life is nothing compared to the rest of ours, it is an opportunity to good to pass up.â?[/b] War looked over at her, trying to recall the beginning of her words, but they failed to come to him as he had been too entranced by the energy being. [/size]

[size=3][b]â??My apologize President Cerbero, could you repeat what you just said. Your generator distracted me.â?[/b] Her body tensed at the request, but complied otherwise.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??I havenâ??t talked to the doctors about his condition, because his ability provides more power to our city then 20 of the old generators could. Itâ??s a near limitless energy source that has given us back our lives, the needs of one cannot outweigh the needs of the many. As long as he keeps our city alive, I cannot return him to normal.â?[/b] War understood that sentiment, this was something he strived for constantly and fought for every day of his existence. [/size]

[size=3][b]â??Very well, I will do you one favor Cerbero, as this was a far greater secret then I imagined.â?[/b] He stood completely still as his body relaxed, and his eyes shifted from its normal red to a complete white as he let his mind travel. The Path of War ability kicking on as he suddenly saw a massive battle, people dying as screams echoed throughout the battlefield. It lasted only moments but, as all his visions went; it never told him when or where the battle would take place, only that it would come to pass. He returned from his visions and rolled his shoulders, turning his head to head the distinct sound of his neck cracking.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??War is on the horizon Cerbero, I see harsh times coming to us all.â?[/b] They left the complex, reaching the top level only to be stopped by one of Cerberos runners.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??Ms. President! A group of Berserkers have arrived; they say they have an urgent message to deliver to you!â?[/b] Cerbero looked back to War, he gestured for her to go ahead, following in her footsteps as he prepared to hear the words of the shape-shifters, though he had an idea of what they would say.[/size] Edited by Darth Malgus
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May 24th, 2015 15:45
Ravenloft City Hospital

River yawned loudly, her attention on the window of her office. Her shift wasn't over for another few hours, and she hadn't been called to any severe injuries within the last thirty minutes or so.

People were erring on the side of better judgement today, it seemed.

River stood and walked from her office to the cafeteria. She didn't know what to get for herself, but at least looking would pass the time for now.

Ravenloft City Hospital -now the metropolitan giant- was bustling with many, many people. Officers of the law, doctors, nurses, patients, and firemen all walked along the hall, getting from place to place into the hospital. The almost twenty floors of the main building of the hospital were accented by thirty floor buildings adjacent to it, and the many smaller buildings around them. All in total, the hospital grounds covered four square blocks of the city.

Not that the city wasn't large enough, not by any means. This city had, after all, once been a prime location, being located in the central United States along the Mississippi River. Now the river helped the city sustain itself, just as it had back in the days of its founding. Three bridges spanned the river into the Industrial sector, helping lessen traffic from one side to the other. The residential areas of the city had been leveled, so it was most of the downtown structures that were the homes of the people. As the buildings had been skyscrapers, the trend had continued in its reconstruction. A tighter Urban area allowed for better usage of the terrain in battles to protect the city from invaders. By narrowing the passages that could be taken, it allowed for surround and conquer strategies, as well as snipers on the rooftops. Many of the parks, museums, and churches had been restored, as well as nearly seventeen schools in the area. The shopping mall, however, remained closed, as the companies that once resided in that building no longer existed, and so the Mall remained closed and mostly destroyed.

River approached the cafeteria, and spotted one of her colleges, an elderly man who ran the hospital, and by that he also ran the M.A.F.

"Director Reshing, how are you?" The old man had been ancient even before the Fall, though no one exactly knew how old he was. He was a pleasant fellow, though often enough more like everyone's grandfather. Indeed he was River's Grandfather. His powers seemed to be an extremely sharp mind and an intelligence that seemed mind-boggling.

"Oh, Hello there, Doctor Cassidy. And how are you this evening?"

"Bored, Doctor. No one is getting injured today, so I'm not being called on to help as much today."

The older man smiled. "I think I might know of something you can do."

"And what's that?" River asked, not quite sure if she liked where this was going. Her grandfather had been known to get mischevious.

"I just so happen to be on my way to my office to cancel a performance for the Children's Ward. The violinist we hired can't make it. Perhaps you'd like to be our performer? Many children will be quite thrilled to hear you play." His eyes twinkled knowing River couldn't say no. "Do I get paid for this?"

"Handsomely, my child. Do you really think I wouldn't reward my granddaughter for such a good deed? Come, come, child. Many are awaiting your loveliest of performances."

Ushered along quickly by the spy old man, River soon realized the old codger had more in mind than just a violin performance.

"My dear, how would you like to see the world helping people with your talents?"

"Plenty." River eyed him. "Now, why do you ask?"

"I think your talents are better suited on one our Medical Services Vehicles. You can recharge the batteries for them and are an excellent doctor to boot. Would you like to leave out on one of them tomorrow morning?"

River started smiling, and then bouncing around like a child. "Really? Can I?"

"Naturally, I wouldn't extend the offer if I didn't mean it."

"Yes! Thank you, Grandpa!" River hugged the man tightly in her excitement. He smiled, and then continued moving with a quick pace. The children's ward served also as an orphanage; many children had been lost in the Fall and in the years since. Naturally, she helped out there on occasion, her own parents had been lost then as well and it helped the children to know she too was an orphan. They all called the Doctor 'Grandfather' and thought nothing of it when she did as well.

On arriving at the children's ward, River smiled on seeing her violin had already been brought to the atrium. "Did you plan this out, old man?"

"I knew you would agree, my child. Why wouldn't I have your violin brought here?"

Shaking her head, she picked up the instrument and placed the bow upon it, playing a few notes to bring the children in. Three hundred children weren't easy to please, but they did like her and her music. In small groups, the children began to filter into the seats, laughing and giggling and trying not to think of where they all were. River sighed, thinking of them. They could have a relatively normal childhood here within the Children's ward, but that meant nothing to someone who lost their parents. Loneliness was always a part of that equasion, no matter how minimal.

Once the children were all seated, River approached the microphone. "Hello to my favorite audience!"

"Hello, Doctor River." came the children's voices.

"Are you all ready for a little song?"


Smiling, River placed her violin on her shoulder, and a song born of the heavens drifted forth, its haunting melody captivating her audience. She played on, her notes weaving through the children as they listened to her play, the smiles on their faces reward enough. On and on she played, and once finished with her song, the children clapped, calling "Encore! Encore!"

"More? How about we all get some instruments and play together!" She called. Many of the Children's ward orderlies came in then, carrying various instruments of all kinds. Many of the children were adept with various instruments, and so it was no surprise that they converged on the orderlies, laughing and picking their instruments. A few minutes later, with the children seated again, River spoke into the mic again. "Are we ready?"


"So what song should we play?"

Hundreds of different answers rang out, but one in particular stuck out. "Okay, how about 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star'?"

Pulling up her violin, she readied herself for the barage of noise. "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, How I wonder where you are..."

The noise was deafening, though enjoyable. Once the song was finished, the children all went about their ways, leaving because the performance was over.

"River, head down to the Bus Depot when you're ready." Her Grandfather said as he approached her. "I need you to go down there to meet the crew you'll be working with, as well as get familiar with the equipment."

"Sure thing, Grandpa. I'll head down there in a few..." River made her way back to the emergency room to make sure there wasn't anything she was needed for. On finding she wasn't, she then about faced made for the Former MetroLink Building, now the garage for the special buses the Hospital was partially famous for. On arrival, she spotted three people dressed in hospital staff uniforms, which stood out from the usual mechanic's overalls.

"So, you're Dr. Cassidy? Are you the doctor that will be joining us?"

"Yes, but please call me River. It's nice to make your aquaintence." Edited by ExcelExcel
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May 17th, 2015 00:00
The ruins of New York City

Testament looked on around the city from almost seventy stories up, one of the highest places he could be in the ruined metropolis. Behind him, he could hear the ocean, the waves breaking onto the chunks of concrete and steel from the fallen skyscrapers that once upon a time had soared majestically to the heavens above. When the Fall had struck, the city as a whole had dropped in elevation nearly thirty feet, allowing the ocean to fill in the streets and causing the coastline to be much further inland. Before him, random buildings haphazardly jutted from the rubble of downtown. The city's iconic Times Square was nothing now, buried beneath tons of rubble. Testament's crimson eyes shifted to the Sanctuary, a hole in all the fallen remains of the world around it. His pupils were dialated, allowing him to pick out even the most minute details.

Here within this sprawling urban expanse, it had not been the Fall that killed the people, but the aftermath. The comets had damaged many, many buildings' superstructures to the point where they could no longer remain standing, and hence collapsed, killing all inside them and those on the streets below. One by one, they had toppled over like a macabre game of dominoes. Out of the billions of people that once populated this place, only hundreds survived. And with no one left to rise from the ashes, the city was abandoned and left to the tides and nature to reclaim.

The building on which Testament stood now was not an exception to the collapsing, though it was not alone in standing above the ruins. Indeed, it leaned precariously to the side. Deep below him within the building he could hear the groans of the shifting building. It was probably only a matter of time before this building too collapsed into the rubble all around him.

Leaning forward, Testament fell willingly head first from his vantage point and rocketed past floor after floor of the building. Within the glass panes that remained even after all this time, the reflection showed a young boy seemingly plummeting to his death. Looking down to the ground rushing to meet him, he closed his eyes and felt a twinge on his back. Massive black wings sprouted from his back and he spread them wide to catch the wind. He shot away from the building, soaring across the night sky to the Sanctuary. Above him, the sky was dark with ominous clouds. It seemed the Fall had brought about a change in the weather patterns for the city, leaving it perpetually rainy and overcast.

Slowly, he descended to the ground below, and then finally landed on what remained exposed of the asphalt of 108th Street. Behind him, a wall of mangled steel and concrete rose up to nearly five stories, hiding and shielding the Sanctuary from the outside. To his right was the entrance into the subway station, and in front of him was the Sanctuary itself. It welcomed him, its greeting silent but nonetheless welcome. Peace was something he knew little of, and it was here he had some semblance of it.

Testament walked up through the walkways, heading to the outdoor pool area. Reaching it, he began to strip off his clothing and left it lying on the ground. Once naked, he examined looked over his sleekly chiseled muscles. How deceptive they were, when he could pick up vehicles and toss them like they were nothing. His flawless flesh also hid another of his powers, his seeming invulnerability. Just what exactly his invulnerability extended to though he did not know.

He stepped into the water, cool to him but probably considered freezing by most people. He didn't seem to be able to be phased by extreme temperatures these days, and didn't seem to feel a wide variety of them, either. Testament began to bathe himself, allowing the filth of this world to wash from his flawless body.

Testament soon finished his bath, and stood again on the cracked pavement. He gathered up his clothes, and walked naked to the Orphanage. The residents here had all died a week before the Fall in a terrible accident on the highway. When the Fall had struck, the Orphanage and Church had been scheduled to shut down indefinitely. Now it was his shield against the world.

He opened the doors into the building, its dark halls showing signs of age and neglect. He could see clearly in the dark, it wasn't a problem for him. He made his way to the Library, and threw his clothes onto one of the reading tables before approaching the shelves of books on geography. Many Atlas maps were lined up, and he opened several to marked pages.

The central United States was his next destination. He'd heard Ravenloft City Hospital was in need of some extra help, and it would serve his purposes of getting nearer to his next target under a disguise of some sort.

His next target was a middle-aged man who had risen with the Ascended to take control of organized crime the world over. While formally known as a ruthless business man, he was even more brutal when doing business. It seemed he had an eye in Ravenloft, and was planning some sort of attack nearby.

Testament wouldn't be able to stop the attack, but he would be able to do something about the aftermath, and continue tracking the man. Looking at the maps, he planned the quickest route to Ravenloft, and he would be able to get there in about a day or two, thanks to his powers.

After looking through what he needed, he turned and walked to a cot lying in the middle of the room. Pulling up the blanket lying across it, he slipped into quiet slumber. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day.
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River looked on as the former mass transit bus was loaded up with supplies. A trading outpost to the north had been hit by unknown attackers, and almost, if not all of their supplies had been taken.

The bus was one of the most unusual contraptions she had ever seen. The bus sat on a suspension rig with hydrolic lifters that extended off the sides of the bus and it sat on monstrous wheels far too large for the wheel wells. The tires alone stood as tall as she was. The middle of the bus was wrapped in a rubber seal that appeared to be rather like an accordian, indicating the very back of the bus was more like an attached trailer. Back in the days before the Fall, the buses had been painted white and maroon, now they were painted white and blue with a large medical cross emblazoned upon them. The very rear of the bus housed what was more or less a large battery that powered the monster, and it needed recharged every so often. Based on visual appearance, if someone were to attack the bus, it would be easy enough to render it immobile by severing the two sections. However, the Doctors of Ravenloft were a shrewd bunch, and caution and preparedness were the way to go. There was a second, far smaller battery located in the forward section of the bus which would handle moving it should the worst happen.

River looked at the man who would be her driver, as well as the doctor and nurse accompanying her. They were not Ascended, they were Augs who possessed keen minds.

"So, where's our outside help?" River asked of them. "I was told earlier we'd be getting some."

"No one's volunteered for it." One of them sighed on answering. "I suppose that it's not to be unexpected. This kind of vehicle is one hot commodity in these turbulent times, not to mention how valuable its cargo." The doctor shrugged. "It's almost a suicide mission, it really is..."

River sighed. "Then perhaps we better be finding some? Offer more of a premium than currently on the table. Maybe someone will be crazy enough to accept."

At that moment, a young man dressed in what appeared to be a tuxedo minus the overcoat walked in, and approached them. "I am here for the job you are offering." he said bluntly.

River eyeballed the man, he looked younger than she. "That's a fancy getup."

"Excuse me if we dispense with the pleasantries, Doctor. I am here for the job, nothing more." He reached behind him and cocked his head. "I think I can speed up the interview as well." He pulled a gun from the back of his pants, and pointed it directly at his temple. "I'm going to shoot myself in the head."

"Wait, what?" River's eyes went wide, and she reached out to stop him from killing himself, but was too slow.


River, along with everyone else in the room, stared in shock as his head bent over from the impact, and then turned it to look at her. The bullet fell harmlessly to the floor, the tip flattened. "Do I have the job?" he asked.

River sighed in relief. "That's one hell of an interview tactic. Yes, you have the job."
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Testament nodded. "I thank you for it. Now, when is this bus leaving?"

"Tomorrow morning." The doctor responded, still staring at him in disbelief. " I'm Doctor River. Do you need to be put up for the night, Mister... um..."

"Angel DeVagos. And yes, please. That would very much so be appreciated." Placing the gun back into the back of his pants, he stepped to the side, motioning for her to step forward and get moving. "Shall we? I would like to rest before tomorrow, Doctor."

"Yes, yes, of course. If you'll come with me, we'll get the necessary paperwork and put you up for the night." The doctor began a brisk walk, heading quickly to the hospital at large. They walked in silence, heading up to the ninth floor of the main building and into an office and sleeping quarters.

"So, where are you from, Angel?" the doctor asked. Testament contemplated an answer, before speaking. "That is not important, nor am I inclined to answer. Just know I am one of the few who survived as my home collapsed around me."

"Ah, I see. How unfortunate." The Doctor sat in a chair and clicked the mouse of her computer terminal. Instantly, a screen was brought up. She typed furiously for about a minute or so, and then printed off a piece of paper. "Here, read and sign." She said, watching him closely as she handed him a pen.

Looking over the document, Testament's eyebrow raised when he saw how much compensation he would be receiving. It was more than plenty for his needs, but every little bit would help. He signed his alias, and handed the pen and paper back to the woman. "Will there be anything else, Doctor?"

"Please, call me River. If we're going to be working together, we might as well be friendly, right?" She asked him, smiling.

There was no reaction physically on Testament's face. "There is a certain logic to that, I suppose. Thank you. Now, my room and board, please? I am rather hungry."

"Oh, my, yes of course. I'll pay for dinner, okay? I can promise some of the best food in Ravenloft City. It's going to be the least I can do if you're going to be helping us."

Angel nodded. "Lobster. I would like lobster, if you are willing to go that far. And if it can be helped, some Maine Lobster. Those are my favorite."

River smiled at him. "Naturally, we can manage to find some of that. We do have a good portion of the shipping industry coming here. Are you familiar with Ravenloft?"

"No, I am not. Are you offering some history on the city?"

"If you'd like to know."

"Then by all means, I am willing to listen. Shall we get going?"

River nodded, and Testament once again followed her. "Wanna ride in something awesome on the way there?"

Testament cocked his head. "Something.... awesome?" he repeated, his tone confused. The Doctor nodded excitedly. "Yes, of course something awesome. We're catching the bus to Jordaine's." Testament only followed her silently, curious as just what she was planning.

They walked down several flights of stairs, and then out across a sprawling playground. Many children played there, laughing and enjoying themselves. Many even greeted the Doctor and she waved to them. Testament's eyes narrowed, and flashed the hue of human blood. She was an Ascended, just like he. Her scent was different than most Augs as well. Her perfume... her perfume had mostly worn off, though she smelled still of lavender and vanilla. Or was that just shampoo? Testament wasn't sure, in his travels he'd smelled many things that were similar at first.

The doctor lead him back to thee garage, and approached the mechanic. "Has it been test droven? We need to check things out to make sure of it's safety."

"Are you kidding me? Again?" The mechanic shook his head. "You seriously enjoy driving these, don't you?"

"Of course, old man. It's easy enough when you never have to follow a road the entire trip. Now give me the keys and let's get this puppy rolling."
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[font=georgia,serif][i]Jacken City Gates, 2106 hours[/i][/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Maine stepped through the gates of the small settlement, his boots kicking up clouds of dust as he moved. There were few buildings in Jacken City, to the point that the moniker of â??cityâ?? was far too grandiose for this place: town or even village would have been far more fitting. People milled around, trying to complete their business before the sun set completely, gas-lamps lining the streets rather than the electric ones of larger, more populous settlements.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Taking a few steps forward, Maine could feel the eyes of the townsfolk on him, whether it was his combat-ready appearance or simply the presence of a stranger that was making them nervous, he couldnâ??t tell. It wasnâ??t as though he cared how they felt around him, but he wanted to draw as little attention to himself as possible until his business in Jacken was done.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Weâ??re not used to having visitors around here, son,â? [/b]said a gruff voice from the entrance to a ramshackle wooden building to Maineâ??s left. He turned to see an old man, replete with shaggy silver hair and a beard, sitting on a rocking chair on the porch of a run-down house.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Even if people can get across the desert, the Riders surround this place, and they arenâ??t too keen on letting people past,â? [/b]he said, slowly rocking back and forth.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Iâ??ve been walking a long time. The desert doesnâ??t bother me,â? [/b]replied Maine with the smallest of smiles.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??And the Riders?â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Could say the same for them,â? [/b]said Maine, taking a few steps towards the old man.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Well, youâ??re clearly a...talented young man,â? [/b]replied the old man, his words laden with subtext, [b]â??Canâ??t see why someone would go to all that trouble to get here, though.â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Iâ??m looking for someone,â? [/b]said Maine, reaching into his jacket, [b]â??Maybe you can help me.â? [/b]He pulled a tattered, repeatedly-folded photograph out of his inside pocket and proffered it to the old man. The old, black and white photograph depicted a dozen young, athletic-looking men and women standing in a group, all wearing black combat fatigues and standing in front of an old red-brick building. There were notes scrawled across the surface of the picture, with some faces circled and others entirely crossed out.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Well thereâ??s a whole lot of people in this photo, son,â? [/b]said the old man, taking the photo and looking closely at it,[b] â??Anyone in particular you might be looking for?â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Maine leaned over, and pointed to one of the twelve figures in the photograph, a young man with short black hair and a goatee beard, stood in the middle of the group, a broad grin across his face.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Him,â? [/b]said Maine, [b]â??I heard he was living here, or at least he used to.â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Aye, I know him. Thatâ??s Darryl, he owns the bar just a few streets down from here,â? [/b]said the old man, handing the photograph back, [b]â??If you hurry, youâ??ll make it there before he closes up for the day.â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Maine nodded in gratitude, and folded the photo back into his pocket. He turned to where the old man had gestured, and broke into a swift walk towards the bar, keeping his head down and ignoring the passing civilians: the fewer of them who saw his face before his work was done, the better.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]A few minutes later, he stood at the entrance to Darrylâ??s Bar, a building which looked just as run-down as the rest of the town, a faded wooden sign alerting passers-by to its existence, and several significant holes were visible in the roof. Nonetheless, a comforting orange glow emanated from the windows, signifying an abundance of gas or oil-lamps on the inside of the bar.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Taking a deep breath, Maine pushed the swinging doors of the bar open and walked inside, his boots clicking on the hard wooden floor. There were very few patrons inside, a single scruffy-looking man slumped over at the bar, and a couple more engaged in a hushed conversation in the far corner of the room.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Youâ??re a little late, friend,â? [/b]said the man behind the bar, [b]â??Iâ??m just about to close up.â? [/b]The man was a little softer around the edges than the one in the photograph, and there were significantly more lines in his face, but it was unmistakably the same man.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Canâ??t stay open a little longer?â? [/b]replied Maine, now sure that Darryl had not recognised him, [b]â??Iâ??ve got some hard-earned coin burning a hole in my pocket, and I could use a drink!â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??You maybe got time for one, but Iâ??m running late as it is,â? [/b]replied Darryl, grabbing a glass from underneath the bar and filling it with clear liquid from a large, unmarked jar. Maine walked over to the bar, grabbing the drink and finishing it in one, the burn of the alcohol almost making him wince. He nodded and pulled a handful of coins from his pocket, placing them on the bar. Darryl smiled and took the money, turning his back on Maine to place it in the register.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Interesting place to settle down,â? [/b]Maine said, [b]â??Not really where I saw you ending up, back in the day.â? [/b]He looked for Darrylâ??s reaction, which consisted of a slight hesitation between closing the register and turning back round, with a broad smile on his face.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??I donâ??t know what you mean, friend,â? [/b]he said, [b]â??I donâ??t believe weâ??ve ever met.â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Ah,â? [/b]replied Maine, [b]â??My mistake. I guess you just look like someone I used to know. Well, thanks for the drink.â? [/b]He got to his feet, and turned to leave the bar when he saw exactly what was about to happen, and stopped in his tracks.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??I wouldnâ??t go for the gun if I was you,â? [/b]Maine said coldly and calmly, turning around slowly to face Darryl, [b]â??You know how itâ??ll end.â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??How did you find me?â? [/b]asked Darryl, raising both his hands and placing them on the bar, [b]â??I thought this was the last place anybody would look for one of us.â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Savannah told me,â? [/b]replied Maine, [b]â??Or more specifically, I made her find you.â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??So youâ??re the one,â? [/b]said Darryl, recognition creeping into his voice, [b]â??I heard something about what was happening, last transmission I had with Sydney.â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??I know,â? [/b]replied Maine, [b]â??I was there.â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??You son of a *****.â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Itâ??s all for a purpose,â? [/b]said Maine, moving towards Darryl.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??What possible purpose could there be, Maine? The Freelancers are done, thereâ??s nothing left. Are you honestly trying to continue what Chapel was doing?â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Not exactly,â? [/b]replied Maine, reaching into his jacket and pulling out a small, silver device, about the same size as a cigarette lighter, [b]â??But I will need you to state your codename for me.â? [/b]Maine held the device close to Darrylâ??s face, and a look of realization slowly crept across the other manâ??s face.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??So thatâ??s it,â? [/b]he said, [b]â??Youâ??re trying to get into the Crucible...â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Please state your codename,â? [/b]replied Maine coldly, looking towards the device in his hand.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??You know itâ??s suicide to try and get in there, Maine. Even if you can get to Valhalla, the Crucible is the most heavily-guarded facility the Freelancers ever set up. And once you get inside, whatâ??s your endgame? Even if you get in, thereâ??s no way theyâ??re going to let you get back out again.â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??State. Your. Codename,â? [/b]Maine repeated, with the air of someone who wouldnâ??t ask again. Darryl stared into Maineâ??s eyes, wavered, and moved closer to the device.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Codename Jefferson,â? [/b]he said, and Maine immediately slipped the device back into his pocket.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Much obliged,â? [/b]said Maine, turning around to leave the building. He closed his eyes, pleased with what heâ??d accomplished, and a split-second too late he was what was about to happen.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]In the blink of an eye, Jefferson blinked into existence in front of Maine and slammed his fist into Maineâ??s chest. The surprise as much as the force of the blow knocked Maine backwards off his feet, and he saw his opponent blink back out of existence.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??It could have been easy,â? [/b]groaned Maine, jumping to his feet and preparing himself for the next attack.[/font]
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After being handed the keys to the bus, she climbed aboard, followed by Angel.

"So, you might as well get used to this thing, you'll be on it quite a bit over the next couple of days." River stated, and turned the engine over. A loud humming noise filled the air, and River smiled. "Now that's a sound you know will never let you down." She raised her hand and snapped her fingers, forming a spark which turned into a crackling ball of electricity. "Especially when you have the means to recharge the battery."

"I see." angel replied, taking a seat. He remained silent as the building's garage doors opened and allowed them to rumble forward and to their destination.

The bus ride was relatively smooth, allowing Angel to take in the sights. River was ever the gracious tour guide, pointing out buildings and their significance to Ravenloft. Many of the buildings were simply those that had historical significance, even before the Fall. "We've managed to restore almost seventy-five percent of the city and the local area to complete working order."

"Impressive. With what means?" Angel asked, looking on at the passing buildings and people. Many of the people turned to look at the bus making headway down the street amidst the other converted vehicles of the city.

"Many of those who were still here after the Fall and those who have settled here since." River replied. "There are many, many Ascended here, and some display the strangest abilities. I believe we have a construction crew comprised of Ascended who rebuilt much of the minimal damage to our industrial sector, as well as a few of the barges and ships on the riverfront so Ravenloft could start doing business as readily as before the Fall."

"Interesting facts, though I'm curious as to why Ravenloft has remained indifferent to the advances of the military. Would it not be in the best interest of Ravenloft to side with them?" Angel peered at her, expecting an answer.

"We've established ties, yes. However, we remain separate from the military due to reasons of our own, mainly because we will not hand our entire operation over to them." River smiled sadistically. "They've tried taking us by force. They learned quite well what this city is capable of."

"So you are enemies?"

"Not quite. We taught them a lesson of the value of a treaty with us. We of Ravenloft really don't wish to have to resort to violence in order to make peace for our citizens, but we will not hesitate to protect ourselves."

"I see. So, the military licks its wounds and Ravenloft continues on."

"Exactly." The bus came to a grinding halt, parking alongside a rather posh building. Bright gold lettering spelled out it's name, and many people were coming and going, stopping to marvel at the bus. Getting off, the two made their way inside, and stood at the doors waiting to be seated. It was indeed a nice restaurant, and soon enough they were sat in front of the largest lobster tank Angel had ever seen. River watched as he seemed captivated by the lobsters crawling along the tank. "They look lively." he finally commented.

"These are some of the best the city has to offer. Order whatever you like, it's all on me."

"Thank you, Doctor River."

A few minutes later, River found herself slightly frustrated by Angel's lack of social skills. He didn't seem particularly moved by anything she said, always remaining distant and often lacked an understanding of anything she said. The waiter finally arrived, and Angel looked down at the menu. "The lobster special, please."

"And I'll have the shrimp alfredo."

"Of course. And what can I get for you two to drink? We have an excellent selection of cola beverages, thanks to the bottling plant."

"Do you have Pepsi?" Angel asked, and the waiter nodded. "Yes, is that what you'd like?"


"And I'll have the blueberry tea." River said.

"Any appetizers?"

"Some of your delicious mozzarella sticks." River finished, and the waiter nodded and left to put the order in. Angel went back to watching the lobsters. River eyed him, he really was different than most of the people she had encountered. So little emotion, and so little expression. He seemed like he couldn't be more disinterested in the people around him.

"So, you're from a big city?"

"Once upon a time."

"And now?"

"Nothing but rubble and rotted corpses."

"Really?" River looked on, watching him. He showed no expressions, though there was something of a hint of sorrow in his voice. He turned to look at her, his eyes strangely different. "I doubt you would understand, Doctor. Your line of work is saving people. Mass casualties of that sort would be beyond you."

River pressed on. "Mass casualties? Where exactly are you from? If I'm right, you'd have to be from a large city, one with skyscrapers out the wazoo. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say New York or Chicago."

An eyebrow twitch was his only response. "Yes. New York. Now are you aware of what I mean?"

River nodded. "Yes, Yes I am." The waiter returned then with their food.[i] Maybe this will make him more talkative...[/i]
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[i]24 May 2015[/i]
[i]16 miles East of Jacken City, 1315 hours[/i]

The raiderâ??s milled around their impromptu roadblock. What looked like it was once a serene nature resort had been turned into an outpost. Two tall buildings that were made to look like art deco log cabins flanked the roadway with a glass walkway bridging both their top floors. What must have used to be a beautiful site for prospective vacationers was now a rundown encampment for the Riders. A barrier about three cars deep spanned the highway, with the men using a tractor trailer as a gate.

[b]â??Thereâ??s no way around it.â?[/b] Magnus muttered to himself as he looked through the binoculars. He lay prone on a hilltop a few hundred meters out.

[b]â??Whatâ??s the plan?â?[/b] Hydra asked walking up and kneeling next to Magnus. [b]â??Do you think we could negotiate passage with them?â?[/b]

Magnus looked through the binoculars again, spying two men exit the side of the resort to the pool area. The pool sat empty with a black pillar of smoke rising from it. Between the two men hung the limp body of a naked woman, her hair matted with blood. They sauntered to the edge of the pool and chucked her body in. Magnus looked up at Hydra and shook his head gravely.

[b]â??The plan?â?[/b] He pushing himself to his feet. [b]â??We take the outpost, make sure we can get the convoy through unscathed.â?[/b]

[b]â??Just the two of us?â?[/b] Hydra asked skeptically.

[b]â??There canâ??t be more than a dozen of them. They are just ruthless thugs, no organization at all. If we do it quick and stay smart about it, we could get it done no problem.â?[/b] Magnus clasped her shoulder and stalked over to the jeep, reaching in and pulling his shotgun from between the seats. [b]â??Letâ??s do this.â?[/b]

The duo kept low on their approach. The grounds had long since been kept up so the dry grass was plenty high enough for them to hide in. They paused at the edge of the perimeter as a guard lazily strolled by, cradling a worn machete. After giving him a wide enough birth, Magnus signaled to move forward.

They moved along the side of the impromptu fort and made their way to the pool area. Magnus went to step forward from the grass but was grabbed by the back of his shirt and pulled back by Hydra. She shot him a tense look and pointed to the door way. The two men from earlier came out carrying another body, this time and man. Magnus turned and sat looking at Hydra.

[b]â??Weâ??re going to need a distraction.â?[/b]

She watched the two men cautiously. [b]â??I have an ideaâ?[/b] she whispered. With a blink of energy and a shimmer of motion another Hydra sat in front of him, this one wearing tattered clothing that didnâ??t leave much to the imagination. The phantom shot Magnus a wink and set off at a lope toward the men.

She made no noise, but made an obvious b-line for both men and then took off in a full sprint away from them. Both men yelled in surprise and started to whistle and shout for their comrades as they set after her.

Hydra gave Magnus a wolfish grin and made a sweeping gesture for him to move forward. They both hustled into the resort and set up the stairs at a cautious pace. Magnus kept his shotgun leveled as he swept each floor, Hydra at his back brandishing an automatic pistol. The first floor had emptied out of men as they chased after Hydraâ??s phantom, in the middle of the lobby was a pile of bodies, maybe six or so, naked and stacked like fire wood.

[b]â??Travelers. They must be ambushing them and stripping them of their belongings,â?[/b] Magnus walked over to the pile, pushing one of the corpseâ??s heads to the side with the barrel of his shotgun. It had a bullet wound in the back of its head. [b]â??Then executing them.â?[/b] He added solemnly.

Hydra backed towards Magnus, not taking her eyes off of the front door. [b]â??Letâ??s hope that was all they did, and count them lucky. We need to-â?[/b] Hydra was cut off as one of the Riders meandered into the lobby.

[b]â??Riders! Thereâ??s someone here!â?[/b] He yelled. Magnus turned and racked a shell, firing his shotgun at the man. He shot high and missed the Rider. [b]â??Holy ****! Their armed!â?[/b] He shouted sprawling behind the reception counter.

Three raiders entered the front, one carrying a small pistol, but were instantly cut down as Hydra sprayed the entrance with bullets. Magnus fired two more rounds into the counter when a Rider burst from the back entrance, swinging a metal pipe at Magnusâ?? head. He parried the pipe with his shotgun, and with a twist ripped the pipe from the Riderâ??s hands. They both grappled over the gun, struggling to rend it from the other. With a kick to the guts, he pried the shotgun out of Magnusâ??s hands and leveled it on him.

Magnusâ?? hair stood on end as his arm became swathed in crimson energy and pulsed forward with incredible force. The raider caught the blast in the chest and was lifted off him feet, thrown across the lobby, and crashing into the wall with a meaty thud. His broken form slouched to the floor.

[b]â??Heâ??s a ******* Ascended! Get out of here!â?[/b] Shouted the Rider cowering behind the counter. He vaulted over the counter and dashed for the door, and freedom, but was cut down by another volley of bullets wrought by Hydra.

The shouting began to grow distant as the Riders retreated, abandoning the , roadblock. Magnus stood in the center of the lobby, planting and sweating profusely, a single line of blood trailing out of his nostril.

[b]â??That,â?[/b] he gasped between breaths. [b]â??Really got out of hand.â?[/b]

Hydra popped up from behind the remains of a concrete fountain. [b]â??I think we should have brought some of the men with us. We could have stopped them from retreating.â?[/b] She stalked over to the front door, cautiously glancing out. [b]â??Theyâ??ll be back you know.â?[/b]

[b]â??I know.â?[/b] Magnus said smoothing his hair back. [b]â??Get on the radio, we need to get the convoy clear of this roadblock and to Jacken City before they regroup.â?[/b]
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[size=4][font=georgia,serif][i]24 May 2015[/i][/font][/size]
[size=4][font=georgia,serif][i]Phénix, City Hall, 2200 Hours[/i][/font][/size]

[size=4][font=georgia,serif] At the very least, Vargâ??s demeanor could be described as apprehensive. The four large men had been situated in the reception of the Phénix City Hall and stripped of their weapons as a result of a safety precaution. Oxt shifted uncomfortably in his seat.[/font][/size]

[size=4][font=georgia,serif] â??Iâ??m getting a bad vibe from this place. It seems so impersonal, mechanical, it-â?? [/font][/size]

[size=4][font=georgia,serif] â??Be wary of appearances, Brother. Though these people followed a different path than we did, perhaps they are just as sensible.â? Makt chided. â??However, I too have a bad feeling from this place.â? He added quietly. The two looked over to their leader; his eyes fixed forward, jaw tense, spine rigid. [/font][/size]

[size=4][font=georgia,serif] â??Perhaps it is more than just a gut feeling. Iâ??m picking up a wicked scent, almost like a funeral pyre.â? Varg added slowly. Orin furrowed his brow.[/font][/size]

[size=4][font=georgia,serif] â??Me too. A Nightmare?â? He questioned.[/font][/size]

[size=4][font=georgia,serif] â??No, weâ??re too far within the city, an abomination like that wouldnâ??t have been able to infiltrate so far.â? Makt assured him. However, Orinâ??s heart sank.[/font][/size]

[size=4][font=georgia,serif] â??That seems to be more concerning.â? He sighed.[/font][/size]

[size=4][font=georgia,serif] A small group entered the room, led by a masked figure clad in white. Oxt frowned and shot a glance over to Varg, who shook his head and stood uncomfortably for a moment as the figure drew near. He then noticed the odd juxtaposition of their dirty and torn clothes with the pristine chamber and its blanched envoy. [/font][/size]

[size=4][font=georgia,serif] â??The Berserkers, I presume.â? The voice was that of a strong, authoritative woman.[/font][/size]

[size=4][font=georgia,serif] â??Yes,â? Varg began cautiously, â??and you are?â? He attempted a friendly smile, but the tenseness shone through. The woman extended her hand.[/font][/size]

[size=4][font=georgia,serif] â??Presidente Cerbero. I am the leader of the city of Phénix. Now, I understand you have some urgent news for me and my city.â? Behind her mask, Cerbero raised her eyebrows, Warâ??s prophecy still fresh in her mind. [/font][/size]

[size=4][font=georgia,serif] â??Indeed. The jeep we commandeered to reach your city was a military recon unit headed this way. It would appear the US has some sort of ill plans for your city.â? He paused for a moment and looked back toward his comrades. â??We were, ourselves, out scouting the region for a new encampment. You see, we come from a small village in the South Sierras called Hlidskjalf. Weâ??ve lived in seclusion since the Fall, but as of late, the Nightmare population in the forest has been climbing. Because of this our food sources have been all but depleted, and out safety just the same. I am Varg, the chief,â? He motioned to the Berserkers, â??and this Makt, his brother Oxt and Orin.â? The three nodded in a serious manner. â??Now, we come to your city in the hopes that you might help us in our time of struggle. I donâ??t wish to impose, but is there any way you can support us until weâ??ve successfully relocated? Be it through rations or building supplies?â? He took a deep breath and waited. The President couldnâ??t help but smile to herself at this manâ??s humility, especially in comparison to Warâ??s excessive sense of superiority.[/font][/size]

[size=4][font=georgia,serif] â??Sir, your people are welcome to reside in our city for as long as you need. We have recently finished construction on two new districts; and, really, in these troubled times we need to take care of one another.â? Her hidden expression changed at the thought of the General. â??Especially when all things seem to be working against us.â? A wave of relief washed over the Berserkers. This time Vargâ??s smile was genuine.[/font][/size]

[size=4][font=georgia,serif] â??Madam President, we would be ever in your debt. The only other request I have is that we require something of an escort. There are only about 40 villagers, and while some are trained in basic combat, none have quite enough strength to take on the Nightmares.â? As he spoke his gaze shifted to the doorway. The four men grew tense at the scent of War as he strode confidently into the room.[/font][/size] Edited by Alaska
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[font=georgia,serif][i]24 May 2015[/i]
[i]Phénix, City Hall, 2206[/i]

Cerbero could feel War's presence all around her-- in the apprehension he caused in the Berserkers, and from the air of superiority War naturally emitted wherever he journeyed. The thick negativity which had so quickly replaced the feeling of camaraderie almost made Cerbero nauseous. She turned to face War and narrowed her eyes at him, hoping that something within War's manufactured helm endowed him with the ability to read facial expressions.

"Thank you for pretending to respect my authority for so long. I imagine you've heard everything from the hall, then?" she asked in a monotone voice. War, true to form, responded without humor.

"Yes President Cerbero. And I am here to offer my services. I will join your convoy to the Berserkers' home," he stated with another small, meaningless head bow. Cerbero frowned at the idea, and when she turned back to discuss it with the Berserkers she could see their disapproval. But their leader, Varg, was a clever diplomat, and recognized the danger inherent in denying War a place in their convoy.

"It would be our honor, soldier. I am Varg, and these are Makt, his brother Oxt, and Orin. And you, stranger?" he questioned as he extended a hand to War. War solemnly stepped forward and gripped Varg's hand.

"I am immortal War," his deep voice emitted mechanically from his helmet. Varg nodded dutifully and then directed his attention back to Cerbero. She stood facing the two men with her hands idiosyncratically resting on her hips, and though Varg and War could not see it, she was still leering at War.

"Well rest assured that I will send some soldiers along with Immortal War to ensure your tribe's safety," she stated, shifting her gaze finally back to Varg. "Allow me to gather them together now, as well as some weapons from the armory and some vehicles for your journey. Pardon me." Varg and War nodded at her, and Cerbero swiftly departed from the meeting room. She made a right and walked up a flight of stairs to the Mentals specific meeting room, where the rest of her gang were waiting. As she opened the door and took a step into the room, the Mentals anxiously rushed her.

"So?" Erycina inquired. Cerbero took off her mask and tossed it to her girlfriend.

"The Berserkers need residence and assistance. They have been under attack from the Nightmare Cardinals and their home is no longer safe," she informed them as she began stripping off her outfit. "I have agreed to let them stay in the newly constructed districts for the time being, and have offered to send a team to help them with the migration. I'm going personally-- or rather Addley is," she said as she took off the last article of her uniform, her boots, and placed them in front of Erycina. She strode past the Mentals to her personal locker and input the code.

"Erycina, you will be Cerbero in my absence. Remember these names: Chieftain Varg, Makt, Oxt, Orin. In that order. Neptune, Sobek and Jinn, you will join War and as I the Berserkers' convoy," she continued, pulling on her "Addley" outfit. Behind her, the Mentals exchanged nervous looks.

"War?" Sobek asked cautiously, unsure if she had misheard her leader. Addley buckled her pants and turned back to others, a disgruntled look on her face.

"Yah, War. He volunteered himself," her pretty voice confirmed, no longer distorted by her Cerbero mask.

"Damn," Neptune sighed, slouching against a nearby wall. [i]Damn indeed, [/i]Addley agreed in her head. Fully dressed again, she reached into her locker for the finishing touches of her outfit-- an ornate longbow and quiver of arrows, and her scimitar. She slung both arrow and quiver over her shoulder and then sheathed the blade at her side.

"Haven't been Addley in a while," she said with a laugh. For the first time in what seemed like years she could look down at her lovely light mocha skin and remember that once upon a time, when it had mattered, she was of French and Jamaican descent. Cerbero-Erycina, fully dressed as the president, giggled as she watched her girlfriend, a sound which rang violently in Addley's ears. It wasn't often that a person had the experience of looking at what she considered to be her own clothes and hearing what she thought was her own voice outside of herself. The smile faded from Addley's face as "Cerbero's"-- her own-- giggling filled the entirety of her body.

[color=#808080][i]Then, suddenly and without warning, time stood still, save for the girl and the Cerbero mask. A dark black line stretched horizontally across the bottom half of the mask and then split apart to form a jagged mouth. The nightmarish visage glared at her, melancholy lining its face.[/i][/color]

[i][color=#808080]"Why did you create me?" the mask questioned mournfully with the [/color][/i][i][color=#808080]voice of the president before shattering violently. Pieces of the mask showered the girl, now naked and hovering in an endless abyss. As she attempted to remove the shards of mask from her pierced flesh, her "Addley" clothing grabbed her from behind and ensnared her within its arms.[/color][/i]

[color=#808080][i]"Why did you abandon me?" a voice that sounded vaguely of her own screeched inside of her head, and then she was drowning, drowning; she was losing herself.[/i][/color]

Addley gasped for air and doubled over, and just like that time progressed once more. Many of the Mentals, busy gathering together their personal weapons-- a trident for Neptune, bladed knuckled dusters and bladed boots for Sobek, and a whip for Jinn-- or hurriedly filling duffel bags with additional arms and ammunition, and did not notice Addley's "attack"; only Cerbero-Erycina rushed forward to her aid.

"Are you alright?" Addley's own voice asked her. Yes her voice, always her voice. No matter who used it, she had created that voice, created the person "Cerbero." Even if she was not "Cerbero," "Cerbero" could only be her. Addley took a second to reconstruct herself and then turned her face up to Erycina-Cerbero.

"Yes, I'm fine. Too much fresh air at once. Breathe slowly when you take my mask off later," she said with a slight chuckle. Erycina-Cerbero nodded, and although Addley could not see her face--[i]so this is how I appear to others, [/i]she thought humorously--she could hear her partner's concern in her breathing. The other Mentals had gathered around and were waiting for commands. Addley inhaled slowly and prepared to speak, but the words caught in her throat. She wasn't in a position to be handing out commands; that was the job of the president. She turned to Erycina-Cerbero.

"Take it away, Madame President," she said and bowed her head with respect. Erycina-Cerbero nodded back, and immediately her persona hardened, assuming the regal, professional aura of the President.

"Sobek, Jinn and Neptune, grab a bag and load them into the trucks around back. Each of you will drive your own truck to and from the camp, and you will be responsible for transporting any of the elderly, the young or the weakened. Rafale, you will take over responsibilities for inner city control, and Susanoo, outer city control. Addley and I will go meet with the Berserkers, and after that is finished, I will perform the rest of the Mentals' duties in their absence. Dismissed," she ordered, and the parties went their separate ways. As Addley and Erycina-Cerbero departed for the City Hall meeting chamber, Erycina-Cerbero quickly slid her hand into Addley's.

"Be careful. Don't die. You're amazing. I love you. Come back," she mumbled under her breath, giving Addley's hand a light squeeze after every statement in lieu of a kiss. Addley smiled and leaned closer to Erycina-Cerbero.

"I'll come back. You'll do great. I'll miss you. Stay safe. I love you," she responded, likewise squeezing Erycina-Cerbero's hand. The two drew apart as they reached the meeting chamber door, but did not enter immediately. Instead they turned to one another.

"Here goes--" Before Erycina could finish her sentence, Addley threw caution to the wind, tore the mask off Erycina and kissed her deeply. Their lips pressed firmly against one another for only one sweet moment before pulling apart. The moment passed like a grain of sand through the hourglass, and the two lovers abruptly became Addley and Erycina-Cerbero once more. Without another word they entered the room. Varg and the Berserkers, who had been warily watching War, stood up respectfully when they saw who they believed to be the same Cerbero enter the room. War made no indication that he had noticed the president, or the "new girl's" arrival. Erycina-Cerbero addressed Varg.

"My apologies for the wait, Chief Varg, but everything is in order now. Out back are four trucks, three of which will be driven by my fellow Mentals who you have already met, and the last by my top security personnel in the city-- Adelaide Ibarra," she said, her voice letting slip some pride as she gestured to Addley. Addley smiled charmingly at Varg and offered her hand.

"It's a pleasure, Chief Varg. I'll do everything in my power to ensure that all of the people in your tribe make it back to the city safe and sound," she said with a broad smile. Varg smiled warmly back and shook her hand. However, as soon as their hands touched, Addley noticed one of Varg's eyebrows rise ever so slightly, and then watched his nose flare as he smelled the air. A different realization dawned on both of them simultaneously. He knew her secret. She knew he had figured it out. But neither of them allowed their demeanor to fall. She took a step away and pointed toward the door at the back of the meeting chamber.

"The staircase behind this door leads to the rear parking lot. We should leave right away," Addley said, trying to maintain "her" characteristically cheery attitude. She turned around to Erycina-Cerbero and bowed and then headed for the back door. Despite being privy to the truth of the situation, Varg turned to Erycina-Cerbero and thanked her with the same respect he paid to Addley, and then followed after Addley. The rest of the Bersekers followed suit. War and Erycina-Cerbero merely exchanged names before War followed the others. Emerging into the parking lot, Addley ordered everyone into their vehicle-- Makt with Neptune, Oxt with Sobek, Orin with Jinn, Varg with Addley, and War... Well, Addley didn't bother to watch the whole incident, but the otherworldly neighing and smell of brimstone which had filled the air informed her that War had his own method of transportation. As everyone piled into their cars, Addley held back Varg and hissed under her breath.

"Iknowthatyou'verealizedmysecretbutWardoesnotknowsandiwouldliketokeepitthatway," she muttered as one nearly indistinguishable, inaudible word. Varg simply smiled and nodded his head.

"My apologies, I should have mentioned this earlier," he stated as if in reply to something Addley said. "My city is roughly a day north of here." Addley couldn't help but smile at Varg's agreeability and mentally thanked the forces of the universe for providing her with such a capable, trustworthy ally. Perhaps he would be able to help weather the coming storm... With hope in her heart she jumped into her truck. The trucks awoke at the same time and added their mechanical howls to the cries of War's infernal beast. Without wasting another moment, their pack stampeded off into the darkness.[/font] Edited by Orcus
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Stuffing her mouth full of the heavenly pasta, River observed Angel eating. He showed nothing but a dull expression on his face as he ate. Picking up the peice of bread that came with his meal, he began pulling it apart and putting it into his mouth.

"You know, Angel, that's our daily bread. In other words, heaven's blessing. You could at least look like you're enjoying it."

"But... I am enjoying it." he said, puzzled.

"You don't look like it."

"Really?" he asked, a little surprised by her remark.

"Really." River continued eating, leaving Angel alone for the moment. His mannerisms were quite delicate, though looking at his body type he looked to be surprisingly muscular. And he was cute, too, so at least sheâ??d have something pleasant to look at on the trip to the trading post in the morning.

â??Angel, can I ask you something?â?

â??Yes, but that doesnâ??t mean Iâ??ll answer.â? He replied shortly. He looked up from his food, to heed her. â??What is it you want to ask?â? River smiled warmly, her curiousity shining through it. â??What exactly are your powers? I saw quite plainly youâ??re immune to gunfire, but what else can you do?â?

Angel took another bite of his lobster, considering her words. He seemed almost hesitant to answer. â??I have an indetermined amount of strength; I assure you I could pick up an abrahms tank and throw it like it was nothing to me.â?

â??Thatâ??s impressive.â? River responded, smiling. â??Thatâ??ll be handy if we get a flat tire.â? Angel only nodded and went back to eating. Once the two were finished, they asked for some to-go boxes and then made their way back out to the bus.

â??Show me you can lift this thing, if you donâ??t mind.â? River asked, and Angel nodded. â??As you wish, Doctor.â? In front of a large crowd that stood around looking over the bus, Angel placed his hands under the front bumper. As easily as if he were picking up a cereal box, he lifted the front of the bus almost three feet and it groaned as it was lifted, it not being used to the strain. Angel turned to look at River, letting go with one of his hands. â??Are you satisfied?â? he asked. The people around them stared, their jaws hanging open.

River gawked at him. The bus she knew weighed several tons. â??Yes, thatâ??s more than adequate. Letâ??s get going.â? She said, and shook herself from her surprise. They boarded the bus and River started it up. The onlookers moved out of her way, and the bus rumbled down the road back to the garage. Angel looked out the window, seemingly lost in his own thoughts while leaving River to her own. She pondered over this kid's identity, and just who he might be. Something about him was off, and not just how he acted. It was like his heart too had died in the Fall.

And maybe it had. "So, Angel, is there anyone special in your life?"
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[size=3][i]24 May 2015,
Outside Phénix 2212[/i]

The Horseman sat atop his mount as it swayed lightly, tapping its hooves against the hard ground in anticipation and irritation. The loud neigh of the steed was unearthly and a truly terrifying sound as it rang out with a hollow echo. The hazy red light glowed softly of the horse, giving it a beautiful yet foreboding look as it pawed at the earth, anxious to run freely into the night. War sat confidently on the saddle, barely holding the reigns with one hand as the other hung casually to his side ready to pull one of his double edged knives for any situation. The vehicles thundered to life then, the sound a solid thump in Wars chest that sent a momentary surge of life through him that made him pull on the reigns, causing his hell mount to read back and let out a powerful neigh. Sobeks head turned then, looking over the horseman with a mischievous look on her face.

[b]"You think you could keep up with that pony of yours, horse boy?"[/b] She yelled at him over the roar of the engine, revving it for good measure to get her point across. He felt a twinge then, and itch that was faint but annoying enough that he felt the need to scratch it. The feelings he was suddenly struck with we're felt by Ruin as well who pass and snorted with the need to run.

The vehicles surged forward then, the all terrain tires tearing through the hard ground as War raced forward on Ruin to keep up with the pack of motorized monsters. War leaned over Ruins neck as the horse pushed its head further forward to make itself more stream line. Wars crest atop his helm acting as a blade as it cut through the air to lessen his own drag upon the beast. Hanging on with still only one hand, War kept the other hand held back as he pressed his knees to Ruins side for just a moment, the war horse knowing the signal as he started to push harder forward. His hooves smashing into the ground each step pushed the powerful horse forward, a light trail of fire following behind the racing beast as it maintained a steady pace in the rear of the pack. He saw, just for a quick moment, the movement of Sorbeks head to gauge his placement then went back to the shifter and hitting the gas. Just seeing her gauge him like that, flared to life something he hadn't felt when it came to the mortals of the world. He felt the burning of competition, the need to push forward harder to prove something that overall didn't really matter.

Ruin could feel it as well and with no commander from his rider he suddenly surged forward once more. The supernatural horse pushing harder and faster than it had ever needed too. It quickly became obvious that Ruin was much more than just looks, built for power and had ample speed that started to outpace the rear vehicle and kept going. Ruin and War were one as they kept running, faster and faster into the darkness of the night, a flame in the night as each vehicle showed their flood lights to brighten up the dark world. Sorbek glanced back quickly, reaffirming her steady lead only to do a double take as she saw War speeding toward her vehicle and catching up as he rode beside her. Ruin breathed normally, snorting at her as steam pushed its way out of its nostrils and zoomed forward once more as they rode past her to catch up to the vehicle the held Addley and Varg. Riding hard to their side War turned his head and looked into a red world to see Addley signaling for them to pull to a nearby area. Addley pulling off to the side, War and the others followed behind them until they came to a stop. The vehicles powering down as Ruin trotted forward, War bouncing lightly with the slower pace before stopping and dismounting. He walked forward casually, Sorbek walking forward as well as War kept his gaze on Addley and Varg, noticing a slight tension but disregarding it as he started to speak.

[b]"Ruin enjoyed the stretch, don't think you can challenge a Horseman human."[/b] His voice was still cold and impartial, but he felt a deep sense of pride in Ruins speed and power. He almost had the mortal need to strut, but he quickly lost the feeling as he let the proud feeling settle down and let everything run its course. Addley and Varg were talking when War moved in, speaking up quickly.

[b]"Why did we stop, we could make the journey by sunrise."[/b] Keeping his tone relaxed as he awaited an answer patiently.

[b]"We need rest Horseman; we will take turns on watch."[/b] Addley laid out the orders then, Neptune and Oxt gathering bundles of wood for a fire while Jinn went to retrieve a started for the fire.

[b]"I shall take first watch; this is our task we should go first."[/b] Varg said, his honor bound ways seem to resonate with War as he held a slightly higher respect for the Berserker and his ways.

[b]"No need shifter, I do not require sleep. I will watch through the night, all of you rest after the fire gets going."[/b] War turned away then, not bothering to listen to any objections as he took a seat upon a rock settled only a few feet from the camp. He looked out on the half-moon lit night, Ruin trotting to him as he snorted lightly and paws the earth softly. War watched the darkness, his words, as everything else he did, was no boasts but facts he had discovered about himself. Multiple scans after the fall he had seen that his biology had changed to make him the perfect embodiment of War. His ribs had become solid plates, rather than spaced ridges to protect against hardier weapons and his bones had become denser to prevent breakage. His adrenal system had changed as well, his entire body was in a constant adrenal state, cycling his body every day gave him not stop energy. He could go a very long time without sleep, his last memory of his longest time was 347 days. It also changed his metabolism, working harder but it burned his energy slower, allowing War to go months without food and water.

It was a change that was subtle, something others wouldn't see unless they were to cut him open and examine his body. His mind became lost for several moments in how things had changed so much and so quickly in three short years. The time he let his mind wander off the task, was time he could have seen the attack coming sooner, he came back to the cold world in time to see a barrel chest creature charging him. Dodging out of the way as the creature lunged forward, a dagger appearing in his hand as he cut into the under belly of the gorilla like creature. Not doing enough damage but enough to create more noise, rousing the others as War stood on two feet now. His dagger away as he drew his blade, the metal making a distinct ring as it was drawn from its scabbard. He looked at the monster in his red vision, the puffed out chest and gorilla stance with its distorted face of snarls and twisted features made it clear it was a Pride Nightmare. And where there was one, there was always more, and sure enough the others arrived as well. Varying sizes and stances dictates different stages of the nightmares, but they were all of the same cardinal sin. [/size]

[size=3]War felt a twinge of something, was it guilt or something else? War disregarded the idea of guilt instantly, knowing they were here because of him, but it was simply a matter of time before they showed up. Guilt was a mortal emotion, and emotions were things that kept mortals in their own worlds, trapped in their constantly fluctuating sense of feeling. War would not succumb to that, never would he be part of that mortal world again as they were all simply over sized piles of dust waiting to blow away in the wind. The Pride nightmare rushed him once more, using its massive arms to propel it forward as it stood on equal sized legs to try and smash down on the Horseman. War didnâ??t bother with anything fancy, simply lashing out with the blade in one hand, the great sword gliding through the body of the nightmare. The creature just close enough to get its gut torn open, but far enough to not be completely disemboweled. It crashed to one side of War as it thrashed on the ground, seemingly trying to pull its guts back into its destroyed body.[/size]

[size=3]He moved away from the dying creature and waded into the thickest part of the battle not ensuing, the nightmares lashing out trying to assert their dominance in this situation. The one who had the most pride would be the one they would seek out, the one they needed to crush under their fists and tear into them. This band, however, wasnâ??t going to fall to a handful of pride nightmare, they would be dispatched quickly enough and then camp would resume. But, that all quickly changed as several forms arrived out of the darkness once more, but these forms mimicked the shapes and bodies of all of the members of the party. Addley, Neptune, Sorbek, Jin, Varg, Makt, Oxin, Orin and finally War appeared in the fray of the battle. They werenâ??t exact copies, but they were enough to be a true threat in the darkness of the night and the fighting quickly escalated as War was swinging his blade to try and destroy the Pride and the newly added Envies of the battle. The party quickly started to split up, the Mentals and the Berserkers were pushed away from Addley and Varg as they stood beside War.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??Go! Continue with the mission, we will catch up!â?[/b] War heard Addley yell over the snarls and growls from the nightmares, the Berserkers seemed hesitant until they saw the distinct head nod from their leader. Running from a fight wasnâ??t what they did, but in this case the mission was more important than a fight with these pathetic creatures. Powering up the vehicles, they quickly took off into the darkness, leaving behind one vehicle for Addley and Varg. Moving back slowly, War could see that both Addley and Varg hadnâ??t even exhausted any of their energy fighting these creatures. Varg hadnâ??t even shifted and Addley seemed calm and collective through the whole thing, using her mind to find the best way to eliminate the nightmares.[/size]

[size=3][b]â??Cover your ears.â?[/b] He saw them both just glanced out of the peripherals before complying quickly. A grate opened across the mouth of his helm, fresh air rushing in as War let out an earth shattering roar. Both of the combatants in front of him felt deep rumble vibrate within their chest cavities, the nightmares all seemed to roar and recoil with the sound. They looked dazed and confused for several moments before it seemed to leave them all un a frenzied state, some turned on other nightmares. Prides assaulting the Envies, while some envies did the same to the Prides, but some seemed to keep their attention on the three before them. The grate closed over his mouth once more, an audible hiss following as it pressurized once more.[/size]

[b][size=3]â??What the hell was that War?â?[/size][/b]

[size=3][b]â??Berserk.â?[/b] He kept it short, he didn't need nor desire to explain anything more. War kept his tone calm, his voice feeling strained now after using his Berserk cry a power he hardly used as it was only really useful during great battles. Holding his sword loosely in his left hand, he let his optics scan through the creatures, his eyes focusing on the War lookalike. Pointing his sword at the Envy nightmare, he spoke only loud enough for the two before him to hear.[/size]

[b][size=3]â??That one, is mine.â?[/size][/b] Edited by Darth Malgus
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[font=georgia,serif]Maine held his defensive stance in the centre of the room, the furniture now more like debris littering a battlefield. Those few occupants of the bar had long since left, their near-empty glasses smashed as tables had been flipped and anything close to hand had been used as a weapon.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Jefferson was nowhere to be seen, having teleported himself away from the immediate fight, but Maine knew the next flurry of attacks was close at hand: heâ??d put off fighting Jefferson for this long because he was one of the few former members of the Freelancers whose abilities interfered with his own. As long as Jefferson could still teleport, Maine couldnâ??t predict where his attacks would be coming from.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]As if on cue, Jefferson appeared behind Maine, slamming a fist into his side: had Maine been a lesser man, or Jefferson been a stronger one, it would have floored him, but the latterâ??s strength had always been in evasion as opposed to full-on attacks, even before the Fall.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??I was just trying to escape it,â? [/b]snarled Jefferson as Maine spun to counter-attack, [b]â??I tried to hide from everything. But you fucked everything up, Maine.â? [/b]Almost before the last words had made it off his lips, Jefferson vanished to dodge a haymaker delivered by Maine, whose tightly-clenched fist simply swung through the air where his opponentâ??s head had been just a fraction of a second before.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Without hesitation, Maine reversed his arm, and felt his elbow connect sharply with Jeffersonâ??s sternum as he reappeared behind Maine, the strength of the latterâ??s blow knocking the former to the floor. Then, again without a single secondâ??s hesitation, Maine lifted his foot and slammed it into the floor, and again missed Jefferson by the tiniest of margins as he teleported away.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Using the delay in his opponentâ??s attacks, Maine grabbed one of his knives from his backpack, now laying discarded against the bar, and flipped it in his hand so the blade ran down the length of his forearm. He lifted his other fist and bent his knees slightly, as though he was about to start a boxing match, and slowly turned in a circle in the centre of the room.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??You were always an evasive man, Jefferson,â? [/b]Maine said loudly to the entire building, knowing that his opponent was lying in wait somewhere, [b]â??Even before we got these abilities. But you always forgot one thing about yourself, even in training...â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Maine spun on his heel, crouching and swinging the razor-sharp blade of the knife through the air at roughly knee-height. With perfect timing, Jefferson appeared, only to have the knife-blade slice through the tendons in his right knee, a spurt of blood and a grunt of pain indicating that Maine had hit his target. With barely a secondâ??s pause, Jefferson vanished again, leaving nothing but a spray of blood on the floor behind him, and reappeared behind Maine, just as the knife sliced across his torso, leaving a long but thankfully shallow cut diagonally across his upper body.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]For what Maine knew would be the final time, Jefferson vanished and reappeared, immediately feeling the cold steel of the knife being driven right into his chest, right up to the hilt.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Jefferson collapsed to his knees, a thick rivulet of dark blood running from the wound all the way down to the floor. He choked down ragged breaths, even as he felt his mouth and throat filling with blood, and flailed at the knife-handle protruding from his chest, to no avail.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??...you were always too predictable,â? [/b]murmured Maine, wrapping his fingers around the hilt of his weapon and yanking it out of his opponentâ??s chest cavity with a crunch. Jefferson fell to one side as his eyes rolled back into his head, and Maine heard his final, rasping breath escape as he turned away to clean his weapon.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Maine wiped the blade of the knife on a rag he found on the surface of the bar, then stuffed it back into its strap underneath his backpack. Opening the bag, he pulled out a small box which he placed on top of the bar, flipped the catches on the front and lifted the lid. Inside were two small devices like the one he had recorded Jeffersonâ??s voice onto, along with a number of small glass phials, seven of which were filled with dark red liquid, five of which were empty. He grabbed one of the empty phials and turned to crouch over Jeffersonâ??s body, carefully twisting the cap off with his teeth and holding it between them as he pressed the phial next to Jeffersonâ??s knife-wound. It steadily filled with his blood, and once it was full enough for Maineâ??s needs he replaced the cap and tossed the phial back into the box.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Probably wouldnâ??t have given [i]that [/i]up willingly anyway,â? [/b]Maine murmured as he placed the box back into his backpack and closed it up. With a lithe springing motion, he leapt over the bar and began to rummage around underneath, liberally knocking glasses off the shelves as he searched.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]He grabbed everything he could find that could potentially be useful, including a heavy, but powerful sawn-off shotgun that Jefferson had almost reached for earlier, and some bottles of fresh water he found in a small cooler behind the bar. He leapt back over the bar and tucked the items into his backpack, then headed for the back door of the bar.[/font]


[font=georgia,serif]The town centre was abuzz with activity, which worked well for Maine: there was enough commotion that people wouldnâ??t be overly interested in a bar brawl, and that meant that they wouldnâ??t find Jeffersonâ??s body until Maine was a few miles out of Jacken City.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Weaving his way through the crowd, Maine realised that the cause of the commotion in the centre of the town was the arrival of a large group of people: some of them clearly traders, making the first moves towards setting up stalls first thing in the morning; and others more heavily-armed, definitely soldiers as opposed to traders.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]After a momentâ??s inspection, Maine recognised the two groups as the Migrant Trade Union and the Mercantile Defence Force respectively, and immediately saw an opportunity. He pushed his way through the bustling crowd towards a heavyset man taking a seat on the flatbed of a nearby truck, reloading a modified twelve-gauge with shells and looking visibly unsettled even as he seated himself. A quick scan over his form told Maine a number of things which would potentially be of use, and with this new information he approached the man and took a seat next to him.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Those Riders causing you trouble, huh?â? [/b]Maine asked, adding a touch of warmth to his voice that would not normally be present. The man turned and eyed Maine carefully, before nodding and taking a swig from a canteen at his side.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??The Trade Unionâ??s always been a target for raiding parties,â? [/b]the man said, placing the canteen back by his side, [b]â??We get by best we can, but the Riders are pretty tenacious.â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Iâ??ve had my share of problems with them,â? [/b]replied Maine, [b]â??Got ambushed by a bunch of them around thirty miles outside Jacken.â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??One man ambushed by a group of Riders? Youâ??re lucky to be alive, frie...â? [/b]he tailed off, a look of curiosity crossing his face, [b]â??...hold on, thirty miles outside the city?â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Yeah, I think they were pretty close to their hideout, it didnâ??t seem like theyâ??d been on the raid too long,â? [/b]replied Maine, forcing himself not to react to the realisation that he had his hooks in this man.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??We passed a group of Riders around thirty miles out,â? [/b]the man said, [b]â??They were all dead, we thought theyâ??d chanced across a rival gang, but...was that you?â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??I...well, I have my talents,â? [/b]replied Maine hesitantly, [b]â??They tend to help me out of situations like that.â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Holy ****,â? [/b]murmured the man, [b]â??Well, we could sure use someone of your talents in the Mercantile Defence Force, if youâ??re ever interested in a change of career!â?[/b][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Iâ??d love to help you out, if you need me?â? [/b]replied Maine, surprising the man with his quick answer. The man held his large hand out to Maine, smiling as he did.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Iâ??m Magnus,â? [/b]he said, and Maine returned both the smile and the handshake.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif][b]â??Nice to meet you, Magnus,â? [/b]he said, [b]â??Iâ??m Creed. Now, you want to see where those Riders are coming from?â?[/b][/font]
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Testament's eyes flitted to the woman. "No." He answered shortly.

The doctor smiled. "Oh, so you're available, then. That's nice to know."

Testament shook his head. "I am sorry, Doctor, but I am not interested in the opposite sex."

River groaned. "That's a damn shame. Why are all the cuties on the sly?" she wondered out loud with a hint of a smile.

The bus pulled up to the garage and drove inside. After handing the keys back to the mechanic, the pair walked through the hospital and over to an elevator, where upon it took them up to the twentieth floor. "You don't mind heights, do you? I thought we could get you a room with a beautiful view of the city."

"That's fine. Do the windows open?"

"No, they don't. But we do have functioning air conditioning, so why would you need to open them?"

"I like the open air." he responded. He'd decided to keep his other form and his ability to teleport and the ability to fly to himself. He didn't know for sure if he could trust this woman, let alone those who would be accompanying them in the morning.While his abilities except for flying traversed the boundries of either form, they were something he kept hidden from the world at large. The doctor showed him to a rather plush room, and then bade him good night, and to report to the bus garage at nine in the morning.

Testament walked about the room, getting to know it. He was soon finished, and placed his leftovers into a mini fridge before heading up a flight of stairs to the roof. He stretched out and cracked his neck. Looking around, he saw no security cameras up here.

"A flight above the city sounds like a good idea." he told himself. Manifesting his wings, he spread them wide and began to flap them to gain some height. Once he was about thirty feet up from the roof, he began to soar away from the hospital. Looking down onto the city, he watched the nightlife. The river glistened in the moonlight, and the downtown area shown bright with its many lights. He spread his wings and leaned to the left slightly. He wanted to get a better view of what might perk his interest.

As he flew across the sky, he looked down below, listening to the many sounds of people at night. The Sanctuary didnâ??t boast these sounds. There, unless he played a musical instrument, it was deathly silent. Looking down, he saw a bar with people filtering in. He felt a nudge, a twinge, a feeling of nostalgia. He didnâ??t know why, but something ever so distant and yet within a stoneâ??s throw of his mind made him feel likeâ?¦ He missed the bar. The drinking, the dancing, the laughterâ?¦ and the sense of someone very near and dear to the heart along for a fun ride.
A memory drifted to the surface of his mind, of a lively establishment, and he being with someone. â??Derrikâ?¦â? He said aloud, the name coming to him with the face.
It was someone heâ??d loved very much before the Fall. But, now, he didnâ??t have a clue about where Derrik was. The Fall had come one night while Derrik had been at work.

Testament presumed him dead. After all, it wasnâ??t like there were many survivors in the first place. Heâ??d been on the West Coast, helping with a recent earthquake as a part of the U.S. Army. Derrikâ??s name was on the registry of the dead in the Fall. But, for some reason that Testament couldnâ??t fathom, he felt like Derrik was still alive, and unable to make his way back to his love.

Death was a part of this world, no matter what anyone said. Death was death. All who are born one day die. Testament sighed, and blinked down to a rooftop. He observed the people milling around, and heard the sounds of someone, while very drunk, belting out a song. â??Kareoke?â? he asked to himself. He moved to the side of the building, and then dropped down into the shadows of the alley. Emerging as his human form, he looked up and down the street, searching for the source of the noise. There was a bar not far down the street advertising the event. His interest perked, he made for the bar. On entering the doors, he saw a man drunkenly singing some song Testament couldnâ??t understand, let alone recognize. He cocked his head, pondering something over. He wasnâ??t sure exactly why, but he kind of wanted to sing. He waited until after the man was done to walk up to the DJ to request a song. 'Awake and Alive' by Skillet sounded like a good choice to him. Larger cities usually had better musical selections, anyway. And it was a song that truly described him.
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[i]24 May 2015,[/i]
[i]Seacrown R.S.L Lab 4 2300[/i]

Miniature pork sandwich dripping with barbeque sauce, lentil soup with thick pieces of brisket, a spinach salad with bean sprouts, crushed walnuts, and raspberries doused in dressing along with a bottle of the fine red wine. Sabin lamented leaving his dinner plate four hours ago and now he felt the ache of hunger pains. He sat in silence, half brooding half excited about the prospects of his scientistâ??s test.

The Royal Science League was a group of scientist, doctors, engineers, and inventors on the High Councilâ??s payroll who brought whatever Sabin dreamed into reality. In essence they were the ones Sabin was relying on to achieve his goals and desires. They were the ones who solved the cities power crisis, the transportation crisis, the drinkable water crisis, the sewage and garbage crisis, and the ones who restored key facilities throughout the Rosewood to working order. They were currently working on many projects including this one that pulled Sabin away from his dinner table to the other end of the city where the R.S.L compound was.

â??[b]Your Grace[/b]â? a wizened old woman entered the room through the automatic door [b]â??Iâ??m sorryâ?¦â?[/b] the door slide shut [b]â??the experiment failed. Iâ??m sorry to have wasted your time.â?[/b] This woman, Agnus, was the chief of the team that was charged with finding a way to return Cardinals back into the people they once were.

[b]â??Chief, there is no reason to look so solemnâ?[/b] Sabin heaved himself to his feet and put a hand on the scientists shoulder. Grinning he said [b]â??If this was an easy task Iâ??d have given to someone else. You are the best and the instant you puzzle this out Iâ??ll have you whisked away to do some other impossible task! Lord knows I have plenty of them. â?[/b] Agnus began to smile.

[b]â??If this is the case your Grace then perhaps you should go about this whisking- I am thoroughly stumped.â? [/b]She gave the king a pat on the stomach as she moved the claim the chair he had just abandoned.[b] â??I am already 94, I donâ??t know how much longer Iâ??ll be able to do the kings work. Iâ??ve been praying every night for senility to take me so you can stop running me ragged with all your crazy demands.â?[/b]

Sabin laughed, some of his personal guards smiled. [b]â??Perhaps Iâ??ll set you to finding a fountain of youth then. I have much need for your sharp mind. â?[/b]

The king motioned to the door signaling it was time to leave. His personal guard began to walk towards the door. As it slides open Angus replied[b] â??A fountain of youth would be a lovely thing, but I wouldnâ??t drink from one if one where ever to be foundâ?¦ even in fairy tales the cost of immortality is always steep.â?[/b]

[b]â??You can find a way to create one then. Unlocking the secret to endless youth would be a remarkable discoveryâ?[/b] the king paused and turned back to woman in the chair, a big smile on his face[b] â??Iâ??ll gladly make a gift of my mother to further your research. God knows I could use a brake form her.â?[/b]

As he stepped through the door Agnus got up from the chair and bowed deeply as she spoke [b]â??Your father is already under my care, perhaps they would like to share a cage?â?[/b] Sabinâ??s smile grew bigger and he let out a small laugh. [b]â??Have a good night your Grace.â?[/b]

[b]â??And you as well Chief Agnus.â?[/b] The door shut. Sabin walked the long hallway with a big grin on his face, six guards on either side of him matching his pace. Of his personal guard only two were Ascended, the head of his guard, Oliver, was telekinetic and the other, Marissa, could create blades of energy( she called them hot knives) in various shapes and sizes that were hot enough to slice everything theyâ??d ever come in contact with. They only saw a one other person in the building while they made for the exit, she had shrank back against the wall gave a stiff bow followed by â??Your Graceâ?.

Outside Sabin got into his private transport, a limo that had been restored, with Oliver and two other guards. Three more loaded into a car that drove in front of the limo, two into one that drove behind, and the rest mounted their motor cycles, two on each side. As soon as the car began to move Oliver removed his helmet and began to talk.[b]â??Your Grace, you never inquired about the test. I thought after such a long wait youâ??d at least want to know what happened.â?[/b]

Sabin stared out the window as he spoke [b]â??There wasnâ??t a need to stay and hear some lengthy explanation. If Agnus can be considered good at something itâ??s making excuses and spending money. Iâ??m sure she will have a report sent over in the morning.â?[/b]

Oliver seemed satisfied with the answer and gave a nod.

[b]â??Besides, Iâ??d like to get back to the palace and get something to eat before I turn in for the night. I have court in the morning.â?[/b] Edited by Lawliet
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24, May 2015
City of Lilly Pad, Maryland, 2345

The evening hours grew late as the calm skies of the eastern shore roamed about; the crecent moon looking down onto the water below only to see its reflection shimmer and shine withlight intensisty, the water remaining at a calm as all the finhing and transport ships rested at the docks. The booming city of Lilly Pad now silent as the watchmen patrolled the streets with their lanterns and weapons, ever on the lookout for possible signs of trouble or mischief. Their community tight knit and secured with the boarders heavily guarded on the outskits of the city, close to the wilderness region where the hunting parties venture for daily food and where the field workers go to collect their crops and plant new seeds for the seasons to come. This time of year, lots of flowers bloomed in the wild, also a valuable item for trade and medicinal purposes to those who sought the rare items outside of the city. In a small cot located on the western docks of the city resided the residential areas for the hunter, Francis tossed slightly in his sleep to find a comfortable position. Sleep was a luxery for him to attain, especially on nights before his big journey outside of the boarder. With most of the eastern cose flooded with water and little communication between the once "United States", the City of Lilly Pad send some of their hunters out to venture to other cities for an agreement of exchanged goods. Francis, however, was more than a hunter, he was an explorer. Two weeks ago he managed to route and map a safer route through the desimated city of old Kentucky, leaving his map clues and findings to his Lion's Den members who might come across the area. Still, the assignment for tomorrow was specifically asked by the City's leader, Lady Heather, and it somewhat unusual and very cryptic. There was a slight noise of movement that woke the hunter from his sleep, Francis rolled from his bed and tackled the mass that entered his doorway, knife drawn at the intruders throat. Finally focusing his eyes, the man could see his friend Mikhail underneat his blade.

"[b]Mikhail? How many times have I told you not to just randomly bardge in here...especially at night?"[/b] Francis smiled as he stood, hovering over his friend before extending a hand to assist the other man up.

"[b]You know me, I like to keep you on your toes constantly[/b]" They both laghed while Mikhail took the assistance and brushed his clothing off. "[b]Hey listen, did you hear the rumors going around the city lately? I know its a rumor because everyone has been talking about it non stop[/b]". Francis nodded his head as he took a seat on the side of his bed, finding a comfortable spot within seconds.

"[b]I have, I think its one reason for Lady Heather to be sending me to Ravenloft. They might be able to come up with some kind of solution for the recent drought of sea creatures in the area. Don't get me wrong, I'm a meat lover but I do like some fried fish...or grilled from time to time[/b]" Francis smirked, Mikhail did the same.

"[b]True, but with that little girl suddenly getting sick, it could be coming from the water[/b]" Francis raised his eyebrow at the statement.

"[b]What little girl? I didn't know about this[/b]" Mikhail nodded.

"[b]Yeah, the 7 year old from the northern part of the city. She's in quarentine right now as a precaution, but our medics don't have all the supplies they need to fully treat whatever is wrong with her. It's sad, she's stable at the moment, but others have come into the local medic's office complaining about the same symptoms this girl has now[/b]".

"[b]Ah, I see[/b]" Francis pinched the bridge of his nose and rubbed around his eyes, he needed all the sleep he could get before his long journey, Mikhail took the hint and started to leave.

"[b]Get some rest my friend, you're going to need it[/b]" He smiled and waved goodbye, Francis returning the wave as he crawled back into his bed and dozed off. The morning hours came quickly as the city lit up with life; fishers, hunters, and the common people went about their daily lives as the sun reached high past 8 o'clock. Francis packed his bow aroundhis torso and made sure his carrier held enough arrows to last him a long time, the extra weight would be only a slight bother since he's traveled with much heavier supplied before. The man made his way to the center of the city where Lady Heather worked, in the center of the city where the people would be able to know she's taking care of everything on a daily matter. Her office was at the top of a fifteen story building, Francis entered and took the staircase all the way up until he reached her floor, greeted by the front office clerk.

"[b]She's waiting for you inside Mr. Lattimore[/b]" The sweet woman smiled as she continued to overlook important documents from before. Francis smiled and entered the office, clutteres with shelves and desks, all filled with books lined neatly or piled high, the bay windows overlooking the streets below as Lady Heather turned to see Francis ready for his assignment. Herblack dress was fitting for the weather, sleeveless with spaghetti string on her shoulders, and form fitting from her chest to her waist.

"[b]Good Morning Lady Heather. I'm ready for the assignment[/b]" She smiled.

"[b]I'm sure you've heard the rumors of a young girl getting ill Mr. Lattimore?"[/b] Lady Heather paused for a moment as she took a sip from her coffee mug, Francis only stood and waited. "[b]She died two hours ago[/b]" The news shocked the hunter greatly. "[b]The reason why I ask you to travel all the way to Ravenloft for assistance is because you're one of our best hunters from your region, and I know you have dealings with the Lion's Den members. Also, you're one slippery fellow, its hard to get a hold of you, say some sources.[/b]"

"[b]Well, you're right on pretty much all of those accounds my Lady. So why all the way to Ravenloft?"[/b]

"[b]You're well aware they are more medically equiped with medical supplies to deal with a possible epidemic, more resources at their disposal. I don't mean to alarm you at all, but her family members have now been stricken down with the same illness the child had. I can't take any more precautions to just sit and let this happen to anyone else. You've been there before, there's no doubt in that fact and you can probably make it there quicker than sending a whole group. Do you understand?[/b]" Francis nodded, this was far more detailed that his friend Mikhail knew, or could ever know about. Lady Heather reached for an envelope from her desk and walked towards Francis, holding the item in the air until he took it and placed it in his pocket. "I[b] ask you make quick haste, this matter is for the safety and concern for our city[/b]" She smiled, Francis knew it was the strongest smile she could give under these circumstances, but it was a smile none the less.

"[b]Have no fear my lady, I will return as quickly as I can with whatever news they can give me[/b]" With that, Francis leaped from the office window, shocking Lady Heather she she rushed and peered down to the streets below, seeing the man hop from rooftop to rooftop with skill and precision towards the boarder entrance.

"[b]He is an agile one, that is for sure[/b]" She smiled, happily this time. Francis ran towards the boarder where the guards looked down and waved, seeing their venturing friend make his way into the wilderness, weapons packed and mission set, before disappearing into the distance.
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[font=georgia,serif][size=4]24 May 2015[/size][/font]
[font=georgia,serif][size=4][i]Somewhat near Phénix 2230[/i][/size][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][size=4] The engines screamed, pushed to the limit. Amongst the Berserkers there was an air of dutiful malaise; but they had to push on. As the headlights swung around a corner they illuminated a tall, lithe figure. Itâ??s skin scarred, pitted and grey. Its face contorted into a sinister smile and its eyes wide. Instantly, it began to hyperventilate in its anticipation of the coming confrontation. [/size][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][size=4] â??**** this.â? Oxt growled as he swung around the windshield and catapulted himself from the jeepâ??s hood. The transformation was instant. He jumped as a man, and under the light of the moon, he descended as a wolf. Oxt roared, his left claws outstretched while, with his other hand, reeling back his axe for a lethal blow. This would have all been just so, had the Nightmare not revealed long, razor-sharp knives where he used to have fingers. Fingers that dug cleanly into the warriorâ??s chest. Oxt was stunned for a moment, then gasped and twisted, pulling the Nightmareâ??s arm across its body. [/size][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][size=4] Then came the jeep. As the two struggled, Oxt turned the beast around and they crashed through the windshield. They rolled off the vehicle and, finally, Oxt came free. He collapsed to the ground and clasped his chest; the adrenaline surging through his system exacerbating the blood loss. The jeep skidded to a halt and Makt lunged for his brother. Meanwhile, Jinn had used her whip to strangle the life from the monster; and it now lay on the ground a smoldering carcass. [/size][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][size=4] â??Oxt! Dammit!â? Makt cursed as he surveyed the severity of his brotherâ??s wounds. The others came up and a weightless stream of water cascaded over the injured Berserker. Makt looked up confused, then saw Sobek drawing from her jar.[/size][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][size=4] â??Itâ??s not perfect. But I can create a makeshift bandage to slow the bleeding.â? Her words were heavy with concern. Makt nodded, and then he and Orin hoisted their comrade onto the back of a jeep. Neptune attempted to start the damaged one; and with a strenuous whine, and a great stroke of luck, it kicked on.[/size][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][size=4] â??Now, letâ??s get the hell out of here.â? He shouted. And the crew roared on into the night. [/size][/font]


[font=georgia,serif][size=4] Varg, now in wolf-form, had his claws locked through the fingers of one of the Pride Nightmares. With a surge of strength, he broke its hands and forced it to the ground. As it writhed in pain and fury, Varg heaved his spear through its throat. He had but a moment before his duplicate was upon him. The imperfect wolf-warrior imitation tackled him from his blind spot and they began to grapple on the ground. Varg couldnâ??t help but muse. How existential. His wry smile was reflected in the impostorâ??s large, black and empty eyes. He clamped his jaws around the Nightmareâ??s throat and jerked his head with all his might. It worked, and he felt the flesh give way. His foe whimpered, that was his window. Varg pushed the beast over and, standing above it, pummeled its face into a bloody pulp. [/size][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][size=4] â??You canâ??t beat the real thing, asshole.â? Varg grunted, he raised his foot and stomped on its neck. It now lay motionless. He straightened up and got his bearings. Near War lay a few mutilated corpses and a twisted body clad in crumpled and burnt armor that he took to be his Envy. Addley had used the kinetic energy she reaped from a Pride and was slashing it with her scimitar at a superhuman speed. Varg smirked, impressed. As the beast, clearly on the defensive, backed blindly towards him, the Wolf-Warrior delivered a spine-breaking punch. The Nightmare shuddered and fell limp. Vargâ??s sigh of relief was undetectable as War approached.[/size][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][size=4] â??Well, it appears we got through it alright.â? Varg offered. War looked at him for a moment, but the Berserker couldnâ??t read his expression from behind the helm. Addley stepped forward.[/size][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][size=4] â??We should move if we want the make it there in good time.â? She swept her head to the side, motioning to the jeep. The trio piled in.[/size][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][size=4] â??We should make it back to the foot of the mountain in about two hoursâ?? time.â? Varg began. â??But weâ??ll have to proceed on foot from there. The trails have long since become ill adapted for vehicles.â? With that he started the engine and they took off up the old highway.[/size][/font]


[font=georgia,serif][size=4] Makt was in wolf-form and rushing through the trees with his brother strapped to his back; Orin to his side. The three Mentals were close behind. Makt was increasingly frantic as Oxtâ??s breathing became fatigued and shallow. Crashing through the overgrowth he caught a familiar scent.[/size][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][size=4] â??Weâ??re close!â? He called to Orin, who leapt up into a tree.[/size][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][size=4] â??I can see the smoke from the chimneys.â? Orin called down to him as he descended. As they broke branch after branched, carving a train up the mountainside, the outer wall of Hlidskjalf came into view. They burst through the gateway but came to a sudden stop. There was nothing, no one around. Orinâ??s face grew pale as he realized the smoke heâ??d seen came not from the chimneys, but from the smoking remains of much of the architecture. The Mentals arrived only a moment later to see Makt had fallen to his knees.[/size][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][size=4] â??We were only gone for a few hours.â? He spoke softly.[/size][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][size=4] â??They mustâ??ve become overrun shortly after we left.â? Orin tried to piece together what had happened. They moved further into the village. The armory had been emptied and their hearts sank further as they found two bodies for their people. Makt couldnâ??t speak.[/size][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][size=4] â??It looks as if they defended while the others evacuated. First things first, we must bandage Oxt, then we can give them a proper burial.â? Orinâ??s voice was even and decisive.[/size][/font]

[font=georgia,serif][size=4] The moon had set and they began their search for the remaining fallen in the darkness.[/size][/font]

OOC: I will post a follw-up post to this. This is like part one, of a two-part thing.
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OOC: This night seems like its getting stretched to the maximum. I was waiting for all these night time adventures to finish up so I could post this for the next morning but I guess thatâ??s what the time stamp at the beginning of each post is for. I hope this doesnâ??t jumble things up to bad I can remove this and repost it later if it does.

25 May 2015
Seacrown Palace Throne Room 0915

[b]â??A wise and just decision your Excellencyâ?[/b] High Father Carlos bellowed, standing up to applaud the kingâ??s ruling. Carlos has been the High Father, the highest office within the new church, since it had been established three years back. He had also served on the kingâ??s High Council since the people decided they wanted Sabin to be their king. He was a short, think, Hispanic man with a balding head and a salt and pepper beard. To Carlosâ?? left was one of the churchâ??s scribes. The young man was busy writing down all that had transpired in the past fifteen minutes. The church said that it was important that all of Sabinâ??s life be recorded so that it could be, at a currently undetermined date in the future (Sabin guessed they were waiting for his death), rewritten and edited into the next book of the bible. It was a common belief that the Fall was the described Armageddon and now that time had caught up to and passed the old holy texts, there was a demand for new holy texts.

[b]â??Thank you High Father, usher in the next petitioner please.â?[/b] Sabin sitting on the throne was one of the few times he looked regal, according to his mother. The throne was shaped to be a mixture of a sunburst and a rose. The back of the great chair was crafted in a newly bloomed roseâ??s fashion, made completely of white gold, and around the edges were thorny protrusions that looked like sun rays, made of yellow gold. When the two hearths on either side where lit the heat from the fire made the whole thing shimmer and gave the illusion that it was slowly swaying. The whole structure was massive and even a large man like Sabin look small.

Erin Sutherlan , mother of the king, might joke about Sabinâ??s lack of finesse and grace but when in the eye of the public Sabin always dressed to impress. Today he was decorated in brown boots made from the hide of a fallen Nightmare, green silk pants so dark they appeared almost black held up by a chain of silver each link made to a rose's likeness, a white shirt that wasnâ??t fully laced up the front revealing the tan skin of his chest, and a fine red cape that, seemed to be thousands of rose petals sewn together, trimmed with white fox fur. He wore a diamond stud in both ears, a simple silver chain around his neck with a matching chain around his wrist, and a jet black ring around his middle finger that was allegedly carved from rocks that struck earth during the Fall, set with a ruby surrounded by a dozen tiny emeralds. Atop his head, half hidden by his dark brown hair sat his crown. The band was made of silver in the shape of thorny vines with 12 evenly spaced roses also made of silver.

[b]â??And how may I help you sir?â?[/b] the king asked, shifting his is seat as he looked at the plain looking man that approached him and noticed his bulging stomach.

[b]â??You are oneâ?¦ Mr. â?¦ Stone, correct?â?[/b] His mother was seated across the throne room from High Father Carlos, whom she had been glaring at until she glanced down to read the manâ??s name from the list in front of her.

[b]â??Yes my ladyâ?[/b] The man with the bulging gut bowed before her and then again towards Sabin before continuing. [b]â??My king, a year and some odd months ago you gave permission to start exploring the Caribbean, seeing what was left to see, and claiming any island- few as there are- in your name.â?[/b]

[b]â??Yes Mr. Stone. I recall decreeing all that remains of Caribbean would fall under my jurisdiction and protection. Last March was it?â? [/b]The king looked down towards the table where the High Council sat during court. There were usually 6 members but today the table only sat 3 of them, his mother, the High Father, and the â??Prince of the Seaâ? Lord Ferris.

Lord Ferris tap some buttons on his hand help computer (an invention by a less important branch of the R.S.L). After a moment he looked up at the king [b]â??February your Grace not March. Not that it matters much when the decree was given.â?[/b]

[b]â??I guess it really doesnâ??t. Continue Mr. Stoneâ?[/b] Sabin returned his gaze to the man, who he was sure was going to ask something from him. [i] Thatâ??s how court works, the world does some terrible injustice and Iâ??m here to right it.[/i]

[b]â??Well you see. I was one of the people who went down to Cuba and started the colony there. My trading with the main land is how I make my living but you seeâ?¦ lately my trading ships are getting attacked by piratesâ?[/b] The man paused for a while before continuing [b]â??Now I donâ??t need any compensation for my stolen sugar cane, tobacco, and fruits even though I lose one out of every three ships. I just need some protection. Well not just me truly, but all of us that settled that island in your name. We need some protection from these sea dogsâ?¦ if your Grace would be so kind, you said it yourself- them islands are under your jurisdiction and protection.â?[/b]

[b]â??You are one hundred percent correct. Can you forgive me for being so neglectfulâ?[/b] Sabin was making a sad face as he stared back at the man.

[b]â??Well- I- yesâ?¦ your Grace, I suppose I canâ?[/b] Sabinâ??s face only got sadder [b]â??But, your Excellency Iâ??m sure thereâ??s many things on your mind running this paradise here on the main land, you got rid of the Cardinals, you provide plenty of food and shelter, you rule us wisely and keep the Lord-â?[/b]

[b]â??Amen!â?[/b] High Father Carlos interrupted. He was prone to outbursts whenever God was mentioned.

Mr. Stone continued [b]â??Itâ??s really only a few thieves thatâ??s plaguing us, because we live so far from the Gulf. You are doing a wonder-â?[/b]

This time is was Sabin who interrupted [b]â??Lord Ferris! Have the Sweet Sara and her crew moved from the harbor here at Seacrown. I want her patrolling the southern waters to protect the trading galleys and passenger barges that travel to and from the Caribbean islands. In addition, we will send ten wooden ships to help the Sweet Sara patrol the waters.â?[/b]

[b]â??Very good my king, but I doubt eleven ships will make much a difference. Too many islands are settled under your banner now.â?[/b] Lord Ferris began writing down the kings commands. The scribe was also making notes.

[b]â??Then you will order construction of ten additional ships and hire enough men to crew them. The royal treasury can spare a few thousand dollars to ensure the safety of our colonies.â?[/b] Sabin wasnâ??t worried about the lack of money in the treasury. He had learned only a few nights ago that gold was discovered in the mountains at the northern edge of the Rosewood. Orders for mining operations had already been drawn up and sent out. The dollar piece was usually made from silver, but soon a new golden dollar piece would be coming out of the mint. [b]â??Will 21 ships patrolling your waters be enough to keep the pirates at bay Mr. Stone?â?[/b]

[b]â??Yes you Grace. Thank youâ?[/b] Mr. Stone bowed once more to Sabin and turned and joined the crowd of spectators. The Kingâ??s Court was open for all to witness. People from all over the kingdom came to receive help from the king. Often times Sabin had to turn people down or give them less than they wanted but sometimes, like the case with Mr. Stone he did some grand, over the top gesture to show that he cared, even if it meant sending out Sweet Sara, one of the three metal ships the Royal Science League were able to restore, weakening the defense of Seacrown from sea attacks substantially.

[b]â??Very well, what is the next order of business for the morning?â?[/b] Sabin shifted in his seat again. He had overlooked the list of petitioners for today while he was enjoying his hotcakes drowned in butter and syrup early this morning and he knew he had at least 40 more. [i]This is likely to go on for two days. [/i]

Glancing at the list again before speaking Erin called out the next issue that required her sonâ??s attention [b]â??You are being asked to weigh in on the trial of one Mr. Bulldog and if an appropriate sentence should dawn on you, the court asks that you would be so kind as to pass down the sentencing to lessen their load.â?[/b]

[b]â??Very well, what is it you are being accused ofâ?¦ Mr. Bulldog?â?[/b] Sabin asked as a man dressed more handsomely than he was escorted to the base of the dais his throne was atop by two Wardens of the Rose.
Mr. Bulldog had on a fine silk suit that was a shade of light blue with periwinkle trim, decorated with dozens of peacock feathers encrusted with gold. He wore a purple sash of silk about his large middle so fine it was translucent and a scarf that matched it perfectly around his thick neck. He hands were bound in handcuffs but every finger carried a ring, each set with a diffrent
precious stone. Erin read the charges and described the evidence briefly to the king and then Mr. Bulldog was allowed to present his defense. Mr. Bulldog was arrested for leading a drug dealing ring in one of the richer parts of Seacrown. The evidence against him was staggering and along with him four members of the R.S.L had been arrested for helping him create this new drug he was selling called E2.

[b]â??I find you guilty, Mr. Bulldogâ?[/b] Sabin said after Bulldog had finished his case.

[b]â??Your Majesty, this is hardly fairâ?[/b] the drug dealer spoke with a voice surprisingly smooth [b]â??You allow the use of marijuana. It has even become a cash crop we trade to other areas, I donâ??t-â?[/b]

[b]â??Tobacco is also a cash crop, along with lobster, oranges, chicken, lumber, silk, and sugar. Your point?â?[/b] Sabin had put on his lordly face and there was no sign of the grin that always threatened to overtake his mouth.

[b]â??Marijuana was once illegal but you have chosen to remove-â?[/b]

[b]â??I have not chosen to remove any limitation from the plant. I never banned itâ? [/b]

[b]â??Very true you Highness but before it-â?[/b]

[b]â??Things are not like before. Even if I do not use it I decided that it is no more dangerous than few glasses of wine. Some use it gain a few moments of happiness in a world that has given us little to be happy for, and only a cruel ruler would deny those moments to those who seek themâ?[/b] Sabin maintained his hard face, his jaw clenched and his eyes piercing.

The drug dealer wasnâ??t happy, it was obvious by his expression, but for his sake he tried to maintain a level voice [b]â??Your Graceâ?[/b] he practically spat the words out [b]â??My E2 is no different tha-â?[/b]

Again Sabin interrupted the well dressed man. He could tell that the constant interruptions were making this man angry. [b]â??You have created an unnatural poison. Perhaps it does make the user happy for a time, perhaps not, but it is not of the earth and I will not allow it. For the same reasons tobacco is allowed but the creation or consumption of cigarettes is forbidden. E2, much like cigarettes, is a pointless poison that destroy the body, shorten lives, and is a powerful, will stealing addictive besides. If your E2 is no different than Marijuana then why bother creating it? All you have done is landed yourself and those of the R.S.L who helped you on the deck of a soon to be built battleship where, provided you are well behaved, you will remain for a decade. Every time the drug E2 is documented into a Wardenâ??s report anywhere in the Rosewood, another year will be added to all your sentences. If any of you cannot behave as a deck hand you will return to Seacrown where you can spend the rest of your days rotting in a cell.â? [/b]Sabin waved them away the ruby in his ring flashing. Bulldog was swearing and the Wardens had to drag him from the throne room inch by inch. Everyone in the crowd was silent.
Sabin looked to his mother and in a stern voice said [b]â??Whatâ??s the next order of business?â?[/b]
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[center][font=georgia,serif]â??It is finally done. I am now... perfect. Call them back.â?
â??You have your orders. Begin the Renewal.â?

[center][font=georgia,serif][size=5][b]PART 1: THE DARKNESS AND WHAT COMES AFTER[/b][/size][/font][/center]

[i][font=georgia,serif]28 May 2015[/font][/i]
[i][font=georgia,serif]Phénix[/font][/i][i][font=georgia,serif], Addley's Bedroom, 0647[/font][/i]

[font=georgia,serif]The steady buzz of Addley's snoring reverberated, alone, throughout the apartment. Sprawled across the bed as she was, she had obviously succumbed to exhaustion. Over the past three days she had devoted herself entirely to assimilating the remaining inhabitants of what was formerly Hlidskjalf into her city. What else could she do for her new ally Varg, after he had lost both his home and his people to the unknown? The melancholy which had blackened his heart since their return had stained hers as well. This blackness had finally joined together with her physical fatigue and dragged Addley down into the realm of sleep, where she seemed soundly straddled. The assassin took comfort in this as he stalked toward her bed. He had seen her work, seen her toil. He knew the extent to which she had spread herself. Killing her would be too easy. His hands slid from within his robes and reached toward the girl slowly, deliberately. Just before his hands reached her neck he faltered slightly, and suddenly the room was filled with a dazzling flash and the sharp hiss of electricity.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Addley watched as the assailant's body careened across the room and struck the opposite wall. Without waiting for him to recover, she sprung from her bed and readied another strike. Brilliant lightning surged from her heart to her fingertips and poured out in a steady stream. The arc of liquid fire struck just beside the assailant's head, who had managed to skew Addley's aim by manipulating another element, the previously stagnant air within the room. Addley grimaced and leapt at her opponent, who deftly rolled to the side and blasted her with a gust of wind. Addley's body twirled weightlessly in the air before striking another wall and collapsing into the ground. The taste of blood filled her mouth and her vision doubled. Without thinking she swung her arm in the direction of her attacker and a wall of flame bathed the apartment. Although the assassin was agile enough to dispel the flame, a vine of electric tendrils grasped him unsuspecting and sent searing agony coursing through his veins. Despite the assault he remained tenacious and, using his ability to propel himself, pounced upon Addley.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]Addley thrashed against the weight atop of her, desperately ducking her head away from relentless blasts of air. Her patience wearing thin, and her nerve escaping her, Addley simultaneously released a current of fire from her mouth and sent an electric charge surging through her body and into the other's. The warmth of the fire singed the tips of her hair and the lightning strained her muscles as it channeled from her body into his and back into hers, but the effect was well worth the pain. Her assailant reeled away from her, his face enveloped in flames and his body convulsing wildly. Before he could recover, Addley was on her feet, and she refused to grant him a reprieve. A flurry of fists struck him in the chest and broke his ribs, a single kick shattered his left kneecap, and then a pillar of burning rage sent him crashing through the window and colliding into the ground two stories below. Addley panted heavily and wiped her brow, but wasted no time in springing from the window herself to follow the attacker. She used her flames to cushion the fall, as well as to roast her opponent, and then rushed over to the body. Once more, despite the severity of the damage, the assailant's chest still heaved with life. Addley snarled and knelt next to the figure.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]â??Who are you?â? She questioned angrily, sounding much more like Cerbero than Addley. She drew back the figure's hood and scrutinized his face, although she found it nearly unrecognizable under the extraordinarily dark mask of night. Even when she summoned a flame into the palm of her hand and placed it close to his face she did not recognize the man through his heavily charred visage. Only a meekly whimpered sentence revealed the assailant like a stab through the heart.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]â??D...desole, ma petite...cho...chouchoute...â? was all the figure could muster with his deep french accent before his chest heaved violently one last time. Addley watchedâ??eyes scorched with tears, body thrashing with sobsâ??as Rafale, her beloved Rafale, died by her own hand. With the Earth too unjust to gaze upon, she cast her eyes into the heavens and stared deeply into an endless sea of absolute blackness. No stars twinkled down at her. No moon fled the morning light, and no sun rose to signal for the moon's departure. All of nature's lights were goneâ??only the city's streetlights and apartment lights of those who had awoken in the wake of Addley's cries prevented the world from falling into immutable darkness. Even gripped with abject sorrow, Addley knew that her loathsomeness could not have poisoned the sky; for whatever reason she could not understand, the sky had truly become a veil of complete and utter blackness through which no light pierced. After this jarring revelation, it took only the first scream of many which resounded around the city to bring Addley back to her senses. She stood up and turned away from the body to survey the streets. The man-made light only barely illuminated the surrounding streets under in this new, onyx morning-time, but the dim glow was enough for Addley to discern the chaos that was spreading as citizen after citizen awoke to a black sky.[/font]

[font=georgia,serif]She turned, begrudgingly, back to the body of her murdered ex-comrade and decided to dispose of it lest another citizen stumble across it. As she hauled the corpse blindly back up to her room she felt something fall loose from its robes, but ignored the object for the time being. Once in her apartment she laid the body down gently, but spun on her heel as soon as the deed was done, refusing to gaze upon the deceased. A heavy weight against her chest and the sudden slam of the floor against her back forced her to expel any guilt within her in a sharp groan. For the second time that morning, Addley's apartment had been violated. And both times, Addley had encountered "nightmares." This nightmare was a bloated, pus-filled, boil-blanketed, snorting, salivating, bleeding, chewing, clawing, screaming nightmare, intent on tearing off Addley's face. But this nightmare could not contain her. A flash of red light and the nightmare was receding away from her; another flash of blue and it was dead. She wiped the blood and saliva from her face and then stood up. Without thinking another moment on the nightmare she had escaped from she walked back down the stairs and grabbed the object which had fallen from Rafale's clothesâ??a rolled up letter with a peculiar scent. She pocketed it and resolved to read it later, as soon as her city had been restored to order.[/font]

[font=times new roman,times,serif][i][b]OOC:[/b] At exactly 0000 of May 28th 2015 the entire world became [b]pitch black[/b], having been submerged in a sinister darkness--a darkness not only of a physical variety, but a darkness full of fearful uncertainty, one which obscures the path to the future, hardens the blackness covering every heart and threatens to suffocate everything within its thrall eternally. Surviving this overwhelming, thick, absolute darkness will be a test of resolution, one of will, not only of strength. For in the darkness the Nightmares become emboldened, the Revelations become enraged, humans become frightened, and a slumbering force becomes complete.[/i][/font] Edited by Orcus
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The Defense Force had set up outside of the cramped quarters of Jacken City. A variety of tents, trucks, and canopies were thrown together into a rather large forward base. Dozens of men and women walked through, setting up the camp and unpacking supplies. Most were dressed in fatigues, but there was no form of uniform distinguishing them as a unified force, besides a band of bright green fabric wrapped around their left arms.

As Magnus approached the camp, Creed in tow, he pulled a green band out of his back pocket and wrapped it around his arm. His band bore a black shield and three stars. They approached the forward guards, both snapping to attention as he passed.

[b]â??So you run this outfit?â?[/b] Creed asked, a bored look plastered on his face.

[b]â??Yeah, Iâ??m Marshal over this division of the MDF.â?[/b] Magnus replied as he weaved through the harried regulars darting to and fro. [b]â??My tent is just up here.â?[/b]

Magnus ducked into a large olive drab tent, in it was a makeshift command center. A large radio sat in the corner with two operators manning it. A number of cots lined the walls of the room all unoccupied at the moment. In the center of the room hung a light over a large table with various papers strewn across it as well as a large map, and standing over it was a young blond man and a furious Hydra. She stood tense, her hands balled into white knuckled fists. She wore a green band around her arm baring a winged foot on it.

[b]â??-And Iâ??m telling you, Thumper, that I wonâ??t lose another scout going into that f*ucking wasteland!â?[/b] She boomed, thrusting a finger across the table at the fresh-faced young man, sporting a green armband with a single bar on it.

His face went red and he puffed out his chest. [b]â??Sergeant! You will not talk to a lieutenant-â?[/b]

[b]â??Oh shut the hell up! If you think you can pull rank on me you have another thing coming.â?[/b] She growled, giving the young man a cold stare.[b] â??Iâ??ve killed more men than you have met.â? [/b]

Creed looked up at Magnus who was just standing silent with a small content smile on his face, watching Hydra tear into the kid. The lieutenant caught sight of Magnus out of the corner of his eye and snapped to attention so quickly he almost smacked himself in the face. Hydra looked up from the table, eyes still furious.

[b]â??Do I even want to know?â?[/b] Magnus drawled, eyeing both Hydra and the lieutenant.

[b]â??Thumper here wants me to send another scouting party ahead. But we have already lost two patrols in the area.â?[/b] Hydra blurted out thrusting an angry finger at the lieutenant.

[b]â??Thumper?â?[/b] Creed called out from the entrance.[b] â??Like the cartoon rabbit?â?[/b]

[b]â??Yeah, like the cartoon rabbit.â?[/b] Thumper sneered back. [b]â??Magnus, we have to scout the area, the time and supplies it would waste to go around are-â?[/b]

[b]â??And what about the human lives weâ??re wasting!â?[/b] Hydra shot back at him, cutting him off.

[b]â??Enough.â?[/b] Magnus commanded in an even tone, cutting his hand through the air and silencing the two of them. He stalked over to the map, eyeing the marked location. [b]â??No signal flares?â?[/b]

Hydra shook her head, drawing her arms around herself, making the fiery woman almost look frail. [b]â??No, whatever hit them did it quick and hard. If it was Riders, they were in force.â?[/b]

Creed stepped forward , glancing at the map. [b]â??I can tell you what happened to them.â?[/b] He said calmly, not taking his eyes from the table.

Hydra surged with anger again. [b]â??Excuse me! But who the hell are you?â?[/b]

[b]â??His name is Creed. Creed, this is my right hand, Hydra.â?[/b] Magnus answered. [b]â??He is apparently the one responsible for those Rider bodies we found coming into town.â?[/b]

Hydra eyed Creed up and down, biting her lip. [b]â??I call bullshit Magnus. I mean look at this guy, do you expect me to believe a guy who doesnâ??t even carry a gun could do that kind of damage?â?[/b]

Creed blinked.[b] â??How did you know I am-â?[/b]

[b]â??Youâ??re body language. These days people are only tense when they donâ??t have a gun. Armed men have a more relaxed, confident stance.â?[/b] Hydra said cutting Creed off with a wave of her hand.

Creed gave a brief smile and nodded. [b]â??As I was saying earlier; the reason youâ??re losing people, is because you are sending them right into the Raiderâ??s main camp."[/b] Creed grabbed a red marker off of the table and drew a large circle just off the highway.[b] â??Thatâ??s where they are operating out of.â?[/b] He paused staring at the map pensively.[b] â??Approximately.â?[/b]

[b]â??Approximately?â?[/b] Magnus snorted crossing his arms.

Creed nodded, taking the marker and making further marks on the map, drawing the ridge lines and choke points. [b]â??They have an excellent rage of sight, with multiple sharpshooters posted in the outlying areas. If we are going to hit this place, we will need to soften it up first. A small group could infiltrate the compound and sabotage it from within, and then you can have your regulars storm the gate and finish the job. Otherwise itâ??ll be a slaughter, their shooting field is too good.â?[/b]

[b]â??What if I told you we had artillery?â?[/b] Magnus interjected, pacing around the table.

Creed raised an eyebrow. [b]â??You have artillery?â?[/b]

[b]â??Nothing substantial. We raided an old National Guard armory some time ago and we have a good supply of mortar shells.â?[/b] Magnus spread his hands across the table. [b]â??Theyâ??re noisy, but they should soften â??em up plenty.â?[/b]

Creed referenced the map and nodded, capping the marker. [b]â??Sounds like it should work.â?[/b]

[b]â??Glad you agree.â?[/b] Magnus shot a look at Hydra who gave a small nod. [b]â??Creed, go talk to a Sergeant Pryor at the armory, and see if we canâ??t get you a gun. I donâ??t like having a gun watching my back thatâ??s unarmed. Thumper, can you show him where to go?â?[/b]

Thumper nodded, and led Creed from the tent. Magnus watched him go, leaning against the table. A few moments passed of silence between him and Hydra, before she spoke up.

[b]â??I donâ??t trust him, Duncan. Heâ??s too calculating.â?[/b] She said curtly.

Magnus continued to stare at the door, his back to Hydra.[b] â??Me either Rajiya. I barely know the guy, and he is offering to help us, no charge. He might be taking us right into a trap. Maybe he means to weaken us for the Riders so they can come and take the convoy.â?[/b] Magnus nodded to himself, distant. [b]â??Or maybe he is legit, and he just wants to see these punks pay for what they have been doing. Letâ??s keep an eye on him.â?[/b]

Hydra scoffed. [b]â??f*ck, Iâ??m going to keep both eyes on him.â?[/b]

[b]â??Heâ??s a liar. A good one, at that. He has some kind of ulterior motive.â?[/b] Magnus turned to look at Hydra, his eyes cold. [b]â??And Iâ??m going to find out what it is.â?[/b]
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[size=3][b]28 May 2015[/b][/size]
[size=3][b]10 miles outside of Caras, 0847[/b][/size]
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[size=3]The night sky was an ever present companion for War now, he had been riding for almost six straight hours and nothing had changed at all in the darkness of the world around him. His ride was at first paced and even as to keep his eyes on the dark world around him as he knew this was the prime time for nightmares to rove and overtake travelers in the darkness. War wouldnâ??t fall to these primal creatures, his blades were all sharp, his revolver was loaded and the 30 mm grenade was safely tucked into its chamber. His pace had steadily picked up as the world continued to remain pitch black, nothing visible for miles even though the time was reaching the early morning, when the sun should have been peaking from the eastern horizon creating gray skies that would become hues of white and blue as it took its proper place in the sky. With the lack of light, Ruin suddenly became a massive beacon to the rest of the world and all of the horrible creatures in it. And those creatures didnâ??t fall solely upon the shoulders of humans turned Nightmares, it also encompassed the rouge clans and nomadic gangs that saw all this land as theirs. [/size]
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[size=3]Thanks to Wars efforts, several major cities knew very clearly who the Horsemen were and several of those had watched them raze cities for not cooperating with the regulations and rules the Horsemen were pushing on them. Though they had laws they made universal there were even more sub laws that only applied to different place, different conditions and stipulations were applied. Phenix still resides under the group of cities the Horsemen called the Cities of the Lost, people and groups that they viewed as lost in their delusions of grandeur and â??freedomâ??. They would never be free as long as they held on to their broken ideas of fairness and control, they hypocrisy was obvious to one such as War; he could only hope he could make the rest of the world see the same. These gangs had become somewhat of a pet project of his, sometimes deviating completely from his journey to crash right into the nomads. The intelligent ones learned that he was to pass without any altercation, typically the smaller clans roaming about. There were still larger gangs that were proving to be harder to break then the others, but he would manage it in time, with each body he created and with each head mounted on a pike he created a little more fear in them. [/size]
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[size=3]The Riders were current the highest priority on his list during his cross country journeys, but with the world completely settled into darkness, they had fallen off his radar for the time being as Ruin raced through the ongoing abyss of the world War once called home. The great steedâ??s hooves pounded on the desolate earth, thumping as each hoof bore the full weight of the mount for only precious moments before thrusting it forward. Its flaming mane showing brightly in the blackness, the trail of fire more vibrant and exaggerated then it had ever been before. His helm served its purpose well, the optics allowing him to see far enough into the darkness to avoid ambushes or patrols and the audio system in the helm picked up all the sounds around him. He could clearly hear Ruin stomping, the sound of the steeds steady breathing and the miscellaneous clicks, squeaks, scraps, howls, yelps, screams and the other vocalizations that hid everyone within the eternal night. War thought back to the sounds of the night when he, Addley and Varg had trekked up the mountain.[/size]
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[b][size=3]25 May 2015[/size][/b]
[b][size=3]Mountain side, few miles outside of Hlidskjalf 0111[/size][/b]
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[size=3]The terrain had become rocky and unbalanced as the three pushed their way through the thick forest and shrubbery. Addley moved with a fluidity that showed training given during the time after the fall dodging through the trees, Varg flowed with the nature of things as he was one with the nature around him and seemed to know every curve of every tree. War, was far from the subtle type as he pushed his way through the bushes, using his sword to cut through trees that bared his path that he couldnâ??t move his way around. The crack of a trees branch or trunk echoed when War would smash through it with sheer force alone, the terrain didnâ??t lessen any as they continued to forward and his path of destruction grew as the trees became thicker. After several minutes of Wars antics, Varg was hard pressed to remain silent any further as his home was being ripped apart by this being with immense lack of caring for the world around him.[/size]
[b][size=3] [/size][/b]
[size=3][b]â??If you cannot proceed farther without destroying anything more Horsemen, then you should turn back now. I do not take kindly to such needless destruction.â?[/b] War looked to the Berserker then, calculating the distance between them, the amount of time it would take Varg to change, how quickly War could swing the blade held firmly in his hand. The odds seemed to favor neither of them, Varg was in his home territory, but War had the superior weapons for the job. He kept his stance firm as the Horsemen prepared for any ramification for his next rods.[/size]
[b][size=3] [/size][/b]
[size=3][b]â??Everything is senseless in this world, until everyone is under the protection of the Horsemen you all suffer needlessly.â?[/b] Varg tensed just enough to signal to War that anything could happen in the next few moments, Addley had taken notice of the two absences, especially when the sound of War crashing through the forest had completely faded and stood between the two warriors. Irritation was clear on her face as she took on a commanding stance, a stance that War viewed as familiar in the way she stood, as if he had seen those motions before. He dismissed it quickly enough as she began to speak.[/size]
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[size=3][b]â??This is all fine and dandy, but we have a more important task to deal with.â?[/b] Addley pointed out blatantly as it was unnecessary for her to elaborate any further as it brought Varg back to the immediate problem. He regained his regal air, the air of a leader of a tribe that depended on him for anything that he could provide though was still independent.[/size]
[b][size=3] [/size][/b]
[size=3][b]â??You are right, we must resume with haste.â?[/b] The two turned quickly and took off into the forest once more, War following behind them at a quick enough pace to keep them insight, through he did not have to go much farther before he caught the two of them staring at something. His own eyes were focused on them as he did not see what they did, but as he reached where they stood and looked at what had them so transfixed, he couldnâ??t help but feel awe at what he saw, and deep seeded need to crush the beings that had executed such a plan.[/size]
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[size=3] [/size]
[size=3] [/size]
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[size=3]War returned from his memories as he found himself approaching a place of floating lights, shining as bright as they could in an ever growing darkness that threatened to swallow the light up and plunge the world into further darkness. Ruin started to slow as War came closer to the city, eventually slowing to a trot as he found a crude gate blocking his way, looking over the construction he could see it was only meant as a deterrent rather than a legitimate gate. He looked around the edges, seeing the raised platforms that allowed for those inside to look out over and see who was at their gate, and put them down if necessary.[/size]
[b][size=3] [/size][/b]
[size=3][b]â??Who goes there?â?[/b] The voice echoed as War looked for the source, the darkness alone would have made it easier to find, but the extra light interfered with his visuals and he was unable to pinpoint it exactly.[/size]
[b][size=3] [/size][/b]
[size=3][b]â??It is War, open you gate before I am forced to open it.â?[/b] He heard shouts from the other side then, people moving and then the gate opened form one side. Opening far enough for the Horseman and his steed to walk through before it was pulled back into place. He saw the faces of the townâ??s folk with their older weapons, guns that had been used for hunting were now held at the ready for a completely different purpose. He knew this city well, it was one that had became a regular contract for the Horsemen, though they didnâ??t have much, they offered trade and supplies that they were able to acquire more easily then Nephilim could manage. It was a rather small town as well; the population was only about 2000 strong but they were an effective at getting things done. The gate they had erected was only part of the larger wall that had been created, using spare lumber and the cities round shape, they simply filled in the empty spaces of the town to build their defenses. War quickly took account of the defenses, his eyes finding the men that were here constantly to maintain the order and keep this town safe, as it was one of the trade towns for Nephilim. They were obvious to anyone who saw them, they bore the distinct armor of the city of metal and glass, the armor was a mixture of both medieval Europe ancient Greek designs. Crafted to provide maximum protection to the front and back of the torso by covered it all, yet it was segmented on the sides and the abdomen and lower back to give them the ability to bend and move more freely. Their upper arms were completely encased the in armor with pauldrons that had razor edges on the top of them, forearms had plating covering the top portion and a soft leather to cover the joints and leather gloves with plating on the back sides. The lower half of their body was armored all the way down, the plates on the front half were segmented as well, and the back half was leather.[/size]
[size=3] [/size]
[size=3]Their armor was dingy and caked with dirt from all the time spent in this town, the helms they wore bore his crest, the red sword, and left their faces open to the world. War dismounted and approached a solider he identified as the commander of the platoon by the design on his chest and the blade at his belt. All Nephilim soldiers were trained in both close quarters combat and long range, all carried both firearms and any melee weapon they so desired. The only exception was the Commander and Lieutenants of each platoon, each Lieutenant carried a dagger with them at all times. With their houseâ??s crest and Wars symbol etched into it with their initials and rank etched into it as well. Commanders all carried the same weapon at their belt, Bastard swords made of the most durable and resilient metal the scientist of Nephilim had been able to create. Both Lieutenant and Commanders weapons had built in computers in the handles of the weapons, scanning fingers prints and DNA sequences to confirm the wielder was the original owner. Others who tried to wield the weapons were given and electric shock that forced their hands to release the weapon. Approaching the commander, he instantly stood at attention, his fist placed to his chest in the salute to his only master in the field.[/size]
[b][size=3] [/size][/b]
[b][size=3]â??Report commander.â? [/size][/b]
[b][size=3] [/size][/b]
[size=3][b]â??Sir, the Nightmares of this region have become more of a problem of late, they have tried to raid this village multiple times. The darkness seems to have given them the need to fight; they press on the walls every 30 minutes to an hour tops sir.â? [/b]War looked at the other shoulders who stood at attention nearby, their faces revealed nothing of what they were thinking, but that was what they had been taught. Even in the direst of times, they would give the enemy nothing, not even the sound of their own screams as they died. The training for that kind of pain was always difficult to gauge, every man had a different threshold of pain, and the process left every man and woman scarred in multiple of ways. The armor did more than just protect them from the world; it covered the secrets of the Horsemen. War looked over the weapons they all carried, the ones that were close enough for him to see, most had their weapons in working order and others, as he heard from the commander, were lost in the recent battles and they resorted to their melee weapons. [/size]
[b][size=3] [/size][/b]
[size=3][b]â??Horsemen, fall in!â?[/b] War spoke aloud, those his tone was hardly louder than his normal voice it was nonetheless powerful enough to draw in the nearby. Few others bolted the opposite directions to collect the rest of the force, War waited patiently for his soldiers to arrive, the ranks filling up quickly to reveal that 60 men were stationed in Caras this time around. The commander had made it known that they had started with 70 men before the darkness struck, three of them had been killed by nightmares the previous day, four more had been ambushed a week pasted by one of the wild gangs, and the last three were being carried for by the town physician. War examined them all closely; most of them had all of their armor and gear in rather pristine condition, something the boot camps and 200 hours of training demanded they do to be the best military force in the known world. Though some of them, showed greater wear and tear then the others revealed, and these soldiers appeared to have lost their firearms in their struggles. As the last soldier filtered in, standing at attention War paced slowly before them, his imposing figure casting great shadows over them as the orange glow of both gas and electric lamps hung on posts dug into the earth to brighten the streets, more lamps added to each post since the darkness had arrived. The commander approached then, standing behind War as he paced for a few more moments then stopping before them with his hands held at his sides. [/size]
[b][size=3] [/size][/b]
[size=3][b]â??Are the troopâ??s ready commander?â?[/b] War said as he turned his head enough to see the man standing behind him, he gave a quick nod to the being that was deemed the Sword of Nephilim in the field. Giving him supreme command over all who wore the crest of Horsemen, no matter what they had trained as or were under in the limits of the city. War looked to the soldiers before him, his optics picking up the faces of both the men and women of this platoon.[/size]
[b][size=3] [/size][/b]
[size=3][b]â??Your commander has told me the nightmares are emboldened by the darkness. That they rally against this town every hour on the hour, and that we lost Bast, Talsk, and Grey to the darkness. Know that they will not be forgotten, they were soldiers of Nephilim and they fought and died for our glorious city, and we will avenge them!â?[/b] He had heard their murmurs when he spoke of the Nightmares, he could feel their grief build up within them, and he turned it quickly into a matter of revenge a means of creating an outlet for these veteran soldiers. He heard their agreement as he could hear guns clicking and weapons being drawn.[/size]
[b][size=3] [/size][/b]
[b][size=3]â??Who are we?â? [/size][/b]
[b][size=3] [/size][/b]
[size=3][b]â??Horsemen!â?[/b] The soldiers cried out, raising their weapons to their leader.[/size]
[size=3] [/size]
[b][size=3]â??Who can stop our rise in this world?â?[/size][/b]
[b][size=3] [/size][/b]
[size=3][b]â??No one!â?[/b] They roared back, their blood boiling now as they let the battle lusts build in them. They let the rage and hatred for the creatures of this world rise higher and higher within then, numbing themselves from the world and only focusing on the glory of murdering the creatures of the abyss. Suddenly, the walls began to rattle as shrill shrieks and roars came from the outside walls, the gates rattling back and forth as the nightmares attacked once more. The scrap of claws on wood rang clearly in the empty night, ripping and tearing at the soft planks as they tried with all their might to get in. The strongest of the townâ??s men were holding the gate now, using all their strength to hold back the encroaching rush of the Nightmares. War moved to the sound, his sword being drawn rang with a clear sound, the dull glint of light reflecting off its exterior as he stood before the gate now, his soldiers behind him as they all prepared for the night ahead.[/size]
[b][size=3] [/size][/b]
[size=3][b]â??Move away from the gate, this is Horsemen business.â? [/b]The men of the city quickly obeyed Wars order, rushing back into their homes and sealing them shut. War standing before the platoon, is back to them as he watched the gate rattle more furiously, creaking and cracking under the weight of the assault until finally it buckled and the gates exploded inward. The nightmares rushed in, their bodies a seething mass of inky blackness with teeth, claws and madness pushing it forward. War rushed forward then, his sword held high as he charged in to the fray, the Horsemen Corp racing after him with their own weapons raised, and guns blazing in the night with bright flashes and deafening noise. War roared for just a moment before clashing with the darkness, his sword the last thing the creatures of the night witnessed before the end came for them.[/size]
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[size=3][font=courier new,courier,monospace][color=#000000]1 May 2015

â??Kill him.â? The words slide from Master's contorted sneer, excitement flashing across his face. The crumpled man in front of him makes one last attempt to stand under the Master's oppressive presence but only makes it to his knees.

â??P- please. My son is sick with the others. We need medicine or food.â?

â??Not my problem.â?

â??Take pity. The people of Phénix-â? comes an incomplete broken stammer of words from the man, the remaining words caught in the mans throat beneath Master's iron grip as he lifts him off the ground.


â??A traveler came the other day and spoke of a city where the people feast and every family-â? The final words of the man are cut short as the master turns and, sinking his hips beneath his victim's, throws him over his body and onto the cold stone. The man's eyes begin to fade as blood slides across the stone. Master, refusing to let the man die of his own accord, pounces, placing his knee on the mans chest and grabbing his jaw with one hand as the other drives a thin knife through the mans throat and into his spinal cord. Rising off the corpse Master tosses the knife at the feet of a servant who quickly plucks it up and wipes it clean before nervously offering it back.

â??Remove this carcass from my hall and turn the others outside the gates away. I am no longer in the mood for entertainment.â? Master smooths his robes and, takes the knife from the servant, slipping it back into place in his sleeve as he strides towards a large door behind his throne. Reaching the doors he slides through and shuts them tight behind him, abandoning his aides. In the study he seethes with anger, pacing around the room before tearing into the closest object. His mind races across the past few days, landing on the news of the traveler and the group he had led from the city. Master had worked to make sure the people knew he was the only hope of salvation. He couldn't break them if they had an alternative. As his fists tore through the delicate exotic wood, his rage gave way to thought. He abandoned his tantrum and slid into the chair in front of his desk. Taking a leather case from the drawer he pauses, taking a deep breath. When his eyes open they flash with murderous intent as his fingers deftly lay out his stationery set. He flips through a pile of papers plucking a few from the stack. Quickly pouring over them his free hand grabs a gold blade from the case. Having finished the reports, he tosses the papers aside and readies himself. Plucking a feather from the case he carves out a quill and examines the tip. Setting it aside he cuts into his hand, a crimson river of influence spilling into an ink-well. Wrapping his hand quickly, he scoops up the quill and dips it in the well. Working quickly to make the most of the fresh blood he begins to furiously scrawl across the empty parchment, weaving his words into an idea and imbuing them with as much influence as he can. â??Dear Rafale,â?[/color][/font][/size]

[center][size=3][font=times new roman,times,serif]===[/font][/size][/center]

[left][size=3][font=courier new,courier,monospace]20 April 2015[/font][/size][/left]

[left][size=3][font=courier new,courier,monospace][color=#000000]Aristos hated his home town. As he passed the piles of trash his body tensed with a familiar rage. The sullen faces of children as they dig for something to eat, expending the last of their energy. A sense of guilt overcomes him as his full stomach takes on a new weight. He's only been home for a few minutes and already he wants to leave. He considers turning, scaling the wall and forgetting his mission but the desperation in the eyes of the children now noticing the new, healthy person in their midst dispels the new plan. He tries to slip away from the forming crowd but his tan skin and simple brown clothes clash vibrantly with the dirty grey reality of the outer city. He's already early but he begins to jog toward his destination knowing he has to get off the streets before his color too fades taking his resolve and hope with it. It's not long before he stands before the indistinct building marked on his map. A door slides open and two men step out. Confusion crosses their faces before they motion for the man to enter.

â??Way to make an impression, Aristos.â? A figure slips from behind a cluttered table and moves to greet the visitor.

â??Brother, it's been so long.â? The two men embrace for a long while before separating and sizing each other up.

â??I guess mom was right. You did have one growth cycle left. You're almost as tall as me.â?

â??I see you still have your sense of humor.â?

â??I'm still more handsome, of course, but that can't be helped. After all, you got mothers dainty good looks.â?

The two men pause and the traveler looks at the bewildered guards. â??These guards sure are sharp. What's the matter? Never seen twins before?â?

â??Brother, please. You know a single child is already practically a death sentence for a mother.â?

â??It's only a joke. Or perhaps those are only found in Phénix.â?

â??Yes, tell me of this city. I couldn't believe the things you said in your letter. After you escaped with father things only got worse here. Now, we constantly hear that beyond the exterior walls are great horrors waiting to tear the flesh from our limbs.â?
The two men sit at the table and begin to compare the two cities as Kallisto fills in Aristos on the changes since he escaped. The walls, the Master's rise to power, the hunger, the famine, the pestilence as each item comes up the air grows heavier and the joy escapes the reunion.

Finally, Aristos stands and paces away from the table. â??We need to get some of these people out of here. There are many cities outside the walls where they can find homes until we have enough strength to lay siege to the inner city.â?

â??I will form a group who are strong enough and show enough potential to make the journey and help you. However, first I must tend to my patients. Did you bring the things I listed?â?

â??Yes, of course.â? Aristos tosses a bag to Kallisto, who empties it onto the table. Skimming over the contents he begins to pluck other items out of the clutter on the table. Opening vials, he begins to mix a salve in a small copper canister. As he stirs the liquid glows and the color leaves Kallisto's face. After a few minutes a sweet aroma fills the room and Kallisto falls into his chair. Breathing heavily, he pauses only long enough to wipe the sweat from his brow.

â??Still hasn't gotten easier, eh?â? Aristos moves to help his brother stand and walk to the door separating the office from the main part of the warehouse.

â??The pain is small compared to the good it brings.â? Kallisto removes his arm from around his brothers shoulder and swings the door open exposing the main floor of the warehouse. Aristos stops in the doorway his eyes widening as they take in the hundreds of filled cots that form the infirmary.

â??I see it's worse than I thought. This must be the entire population of the outer city.â?

â??If only. This is only one of ten such buildings. We're fighting a new sickness that came in from some wild game. It moves quickly and kills slowly, painfully and indiscriminately. But now, we have hope.â? He raises the copper container briefly before heading for a curtained off section of the warehouse.

â??Yes, hope.â?[/color][/font][/size][/left]

[center][font=times new roman,times,serif][color=#000000]===[/color][/font][/center]
[left][size=3][font=courier new,courier,monospace][color=#000000]1 May 2015[/color][/font][/size][/left]

[left][size=3][font=courier new,courier,monospace][color=#000000]â??I hope you will find my words convincing.â?[/color][/font][/size][/left]
[size=3][font=courier new,courier,monospace][color=#000000]The final line of the letter is etched upon the paper and Master lays down his quill. Reading over it, he smiles at his work before folding the letter and slipping it into an envelope. The ink-well runs dry as he dips the quill to write the address on the envelope. Finishing the final letters of the address, he stands and enters back into the throne room. â??Thassos, take this and give it to your most trusted courier. Also, ready the other couriers. I'll be writing many more of these in the coming days and cannot wait for each courier to return.â?

â??It's done sir.â? The speaker steps forward and takes the envelope from the Master before hurrying out of the room.

â??Apokteino. Double your efforts in the outer city. I want to see twice as many hopeless faces pressed against the gates tomorrow.â?

â??Yes.â? A hooded aide at the back of the crowd turns and glides from the room.

â??The rest of you prepare the evening feast. After such an exciting day I'm quite famished. Spare nothing from the table.â?

Shutting the door again Master returns to the chair and his stationery, opening the cut on his hand again and watching the ink-well fill to the brim.[/color][/font][/size][/left] Edited by SusanooNoMiko
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