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Fire Emblem: Soul of Heaven [IC/PG-16]

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Though the second battle against the Phantom that the group had faced had been met with both hardship and near death for some, they had managed to pull through and fell the beasts on the island. With the defeat of the phantom, the monsters around the island either immediately collapsed or seemingly wandered off elsewhere aimlessly. The ground that had been blighted by the phantom's presence also seemed to revert to normal. Though it was a strange occurrence altogether, the group was granted with small gem fragments that had washed ashore on the island as their reward. With the mission having been completed they made their way back to the town from which they had taken the job in the first place. Upon reaching there, the group had made their way to their employer, recieving the reward and thanks for completing the task in the first place. With having finished the job he was contracted to do as well, the group had parted ways with Susanoo.

With their reward collected, the Iron Falcons made way back to their home base. The walk back home was uneventful, likely a nice reprieve for the group that had just been out at sea, and with it the group had found some peace for the next day upon their arrival. Of course, this did not last the longest as the group was faced with their most dire of situations they had been faced with yet. Were one to look through their pantry they would find their stores remarkably low. And to make matters worse, even were they to get a new job soon, a good deal of the group's weapons were starting to show their wear and tear from overuse, with one in particular no longer having an item. As such, the group was presented with their next task. A shopping trip. 

Chapter 4 - Interlude 
Date: 22nd of Aeis, Year  967, Fall 
Time: 1:47 pm
Location: Efreaux, Aeora

The place the Iron Falcons had chosen to do their shopping trip to was the nearby town of Efreaux, a small community not too far a walk from their base of operations. Though the town of Efreaux had been one in Eastern Aeora, it was one that the people of the Iron Falcon had aided and visited enough that the people of the village no longer seemed to have the general apprehension towards the more Jouran of the group, be they the person, the mount or the magic from said land. Of course, this was only for both Rona and Ada, as the sight of the newest Jouran to the group was still met with nervous glances as they made their way into town, though no one seemed to actually say anything or indicate that their presence would be little more than a passing problem. 

Looking to his group, Leon simply said, "well, you all know what we need to get but we don't have work today so feel free to take your time." With that, he allowed the Falcons to split off and take care of whatever it was they needed to do. They would find all manner of different food stalls and shops around the town of Efreaux, whether it be a local butcher or a simple fruit stand. There were various tailors and jewelers scattered about town for those whose clothing had been damaged beyond repair. For those seeking to arm themselves for combat there was even a local blacksmith hard at work, and an apothecary that always seemed stocked up. With very few local mages and clergy, and being located within Aeora, there was nothing in way of shops for tomes and staves for those looking locally. Though there was talk of a strange new merchant who had simply wandered into town and was selling more unique wares. Even without shopping, the Falcons would still be able to simply wander around the village and were they to look at all they would not find it hard to find any sort of odd job around. 



So here we are at the new start of the RP. Just decided to give you guys a bit of down time and freedom to do what you wanted in this little town. If you have any questions about specifics feel free to ask and I'd be happy to provide any information necessary. For the cost of items such as food and purely cosmetic items, don't worry about the cost (within reason of course) and just assume you have the money to get it. For the prices of items that have mechanical benefits, such as weapons and the like, I'll get the prices to you as soon as I can, as well the gold and levels that you all earned from the last map so look forward to that in the ooc. 

Though this is down time, I would still ask that you all post within a week's timeframe so that we don't have large periods of stalling like last down time. Outside of that, have fun and welcome back. 


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The fight had gone...well? Rona couldn't say for sure if it had or not. They won but they had several close calls and when her axe had snapped in half before even reaching the Phantom she had been certain she was going to die. Thankfully Leon, once again, had come to her rescue.

Every day she finds herself even more indebted to the man than the next. It was discouraging, really, that it seemed she'd never be able to pay him back for all he's done for her.

Which brought her here. To the Blacksmith. To get a new axe. She didn't like spending the money that could be used for the group on something for herself but she wasn't so dense to think she could fight without at least one weapon.

At least that was the intention. But after a stern lecture, or rather a calmly made suggestion, from Leon she had set aside her concerns and agreed to get a second weapon as a backup to the first.

She smiled as she opened the door and found the shop keep at his desk. The man always seemed to be happy to see her, though he did sometimes scold her about his treatment of the weapons he provides. It was almost similar to what Rona had heard about what fathers were like. She herself couldn't think of him as such due to her own father but it was somewhat nice to have the older man looking out for her in his own way.

"Rona! Broke another did ye? I should have a talk with that boss o' yours about making you fight so much."

Rona waved him off. "Oh it's not like that at all. You know how much I enjoy taking the lead in combat! Haven't had an encounter I couldn't break through yet! But, yes, I do need a new axe...actually, two of them."

The blacksmith's eyebrow raised. "Two you say? How rare for you. Well, might I suggest a fine Steel Axe then? Made some more just the other day. I'm sure you've outgrown those Iron Axes by now."

Rona hesitated. A Steel Axe would be more expensive but, perhaps... "In that case, one Steel, one Bronze, that way I can choose which I want to defeat my foes with!"

"Ah, smart choice, coming right up lass."

Rona felt calmer than she had all day. There was something soothing about such a simple and normal routine. It didn't hurt that there wasn't anyone around she felt she had to impress.

The girl decided to hang around the shop for a while, examining the wares, as she let her mind drift...

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"2 Mend staves, 2 vulneraries, and a Shade tome... I think that's everything, right, Layne?"

Ada counted the objects she was holding again, making sure that it was all in tact as they walked out of the shop. She had hoped that this mission would have given her more funds towards her robes, but... here she was helping Layne, payment for how she performed in the last battle. The myrmidon-looking shaman walked down the street with her staff-wielding companion, making sure to stick to the shade as much as possible. Even after the time she had spent without her robes, that Aeoran sun was still too much for her.

"At least I didn't have to sell this stone, though," the shaman mused as she produced the blue seastone, "I feel like there's something special about it... At least more than 300 golds' worth!"

Ada grumbled and ground her teeth as she thought of the shopkeeper trying to get the stone for pennies. She could scarcely buy a vulnerary with what he offered, much less more. Of course, if she had sold it, the duo wouldn't have empty pockets.

Anyway, is there anywhere else you wanna go before we head back? We have plenty of daylight left... and maybe we can score some free grub at the inn?"

Ada smiled, trying not to let her nervousness show. She had felt awkward around Layne since the trip, what with the trouble she had caused him during it. She could only hope he didn't feel the same.


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Layne rubbed at the back of his head as he mumbled under his breath, a little sigh escaping him as he glanced up at the sky. "I hope this is gonna be good enough for us. I still have a Heal Staff that I haven't really used yet, but I wanted to get these because I think I could pack a little bit more of a punch with it. I felt like there were a couple situations that would've been better off if I could actually help a bit more... With this I'll be able to clean up those kills that were a bit iffy a little more often. It might put me in a bit of trouble sometimes, but... Better than being helpless."

He sighed as he shrugged his shoulders lightly, taking a little glance at Ada as she held looked over that stone, a little chuckle escaping him as he did, "I didn't want to sell mine since I didn't need the cash too much right now, but... I don't know if we'll get a better price. If we do, we still have your's. I'll keep this in case someone else needs the gold back at the guild." He grinned as he tilted his head to the side a little bit, poking his tongue out at Ada. He reached over to pluck his part of the goods from Ada, a small smile on his face as he did, "I do appreciate you covering the cost of these though. Hopefully it'll keep us safe in the next task we get."

He glanced from side to side as they walked down the street, a little chuckle escaping the tanner of the two as he reached into his pocket, pulling out a little baggy that he jangled in front of Ada, "Well... I guess since you were so nice as to cover those, I can cover lunch for us. I earned a little bit of extra coin back in the port town while you all were recruiting Susanoo, it's my 'Experience Life' fund. Not used for combat, not used for covering expenses, just good ol' fashioned fun. Don't rat me out to Leon, I dunno if he would want a cut of it or not, and I'll get you a good meal. Hopefully that inn actually serves customers who aren't staying the night... Sound fair?"

He waved for her to follow, hardly even waiting for a reply as he made his way towards the inn they had seen near the entrance of the town. The two of them settled in for a rather decent lunch, complete with a mystery meat that Ada swore up and down was bear. Layne didn't quite want to question her on this one... Or ask exactly how she knew something like that, instead opting to just enjoy the meal with a little sigh.

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Leon had been merely, wandering around the town when he had dismissed everyone, getting a few groceries here and there to help keep their pantry stocked.  Once that brief excrusion was over, he then tried to think of if he had needed to purchase anything else. It was at this point he was reminded of what had happened in the last fight, and decided to check on his own blades. Looking at his own weapons to see that one of his swords seemed to be cracked and chipped here and there. Though he still had one unused sword, he had just chastised Rona to be sure to have two to make sure that she wouldn't find herself without in the heat of combat. Not wanting to needlessly buy a sword, but also not wanting to be a hypocrite to the girl, he had decided to go and check out the blacksmith himself. Once in there, he looked around and saw that there was a  familiar face that had already gone ahead. "Oh, hello Rona." 

As he gave a small wave towards her, the Blacksmith smiled saying, "well, speak of the dragon himself." Leon raised an eyebrow before the man continued, "let me guess, you've snapped all your blades too?" 

Diverting his eyes from the man, Leon said, "not...all of them."

Letting out a hearty laugh he then said, "well, why don't I offer you the same thing I did the young lady here." He pointed to Rona. "Got a whole load of steel so, why don't I go fetch a blade to match her axe for you?" 

Putting his hand to his chin, trying to figure out if he had the funds to spare for this. It wasn't as though they had all that much money to spend and beyond that, the base back home always seemed to be empty as soon as it was filled. Though, the steel was stronger and thus, he'd probably have to buy less of them if it took him less swings to bring down an enemy with it. Eventually rationalizing this purchase, Leon looked to the man and said, "alright." 

"Great choice! Hold on a moment while I get you two your weapons." Moving to his weapons rack, it seemed that he had a large collection of steel weapons, relatively recent off the forge lying around and grabbing them both, gave it to the duo of Falcons. Getting Rona her other axe, the two paid for their weapons and said, "now you two be sure to treat these with the respect they deserve, and don't feel scared to come back for more." 

Nodding, Leon began to head out of the shop, looking to the girl asking, "so, was there anything else you wanted to do today?



"Just my luck to come to a town with no healers or mages. Well, at least they didn't call me a 'heathen' like the last place did."  A woman with long scarlet hair that stretched well across her back seemed to be mumbling to herself as she walked alongside her horse drawn carriage of goods. Seeming upset, she said, "and two customers is not what I'd call worth the trip. I wonder if I should just pack up already and -" her mumbling was  cut off as she saw something completely out of the ordinary. A small Yonan woman. A Jouran man with a large reptilian mount, and a woman? - man? - person who had a dignified look to them. The woman had a sly grin form on her face if only for a moment as she said, "foreigners." 

Walking with purpose towards them, with bright smile on her face she said, "hello there travelers from distant lands!" Were they to look at her, it would be impossible to tell what ethnicity she actually was and the manner of her dress did not help answer questions either. "I too am a traveler, so I know that you must long to see exotic goods but also pine for those that remind you of home. Well fear not weary travelers, for Anne's Shop of Assorted Goods, Books and Trinkets, all sales final and non-refundable, is just the place for you? Well, well?" She rubbed her hands together as she looked eagerly at the group. 



Meanwhile, as Ada and Layne were enjoying their food at the inn they would notice a few words thrown about in the murmurs and conversations of other  patrons. The most key one being "Jouran" and "Falcons" with a few glances being thrown the way of the duo here and there. 

Edited by Skaia

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"Oh, hello Rona." 

Rona, who had been leaning against the counter, suddenly straightened as she heard the commander's voice. Smoothing out what little clothing she wore she turned to him. The girl thought she caught the blacksmith's wry smile but it was gone quickly after as the man spoke with the commander.

It seemed Leon as well would be getting a new weapon. The two stood awkwardly as they waited for the man to fetch their purchases and Rona glanced sideways at Leon, wondering if he noticed that she had gotten two weapons like he had asked, and wondering why it mattered, before thanking the blacksmith and paying for her purchases.

Leon looked to be heading out without saying anything more. Which caused Rona to wonder if she had done something wrong. Should she have gotten a different weapon? Perhaps it was too expensive. She could've gotten two bronze, or iron, axes for less cost after all.

"so, was there anything else you wanted to do today?

Rona had to keep herself from jumping as the young man casually addressed her. "N-" Rona winced as she bit her tongue in her haste to speak. "Not...particularly." She said, slowly, regaining her composure. "We don't need any more supplies do we? Er, did you need me to pitch in? You didn't buy it all yourself did you?" She left the store with him, instinctively standing by his side and scanning the area for any trouble. "Did you want to check on the others?"

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"A Feather Charm, please."

Aleithe had thankfully recovered from being deathly sick to the point of being unable to participate on the group's previous mission. Still, right now he felt like there had been a growing distance between him and the rest of the group, and it truly frustrated him. He spent most of his time since he recovered to get back to shape, and now that they were shopping, Aleithe had chosen to take a protective charm from the traveling merchant to better help himself and Reina.

Ah, in such a time, Aleithe wished that he was able to see Layne's theatrics to cheer him up, but no way he'd ask him directly for that. He did notice him and Ada leaving the magic shop earlier, though he didn't move in to greet them. It seemed that even a noble like him could experience social awkwardness too.

As he traveled to the blacksmith to get himself a new sword however, he stumbled upon Leon and Rona, who were on the counter. Neither seemed to notice him for now. His heart was beating more rapidly.Seeing them able to talk so casually like that...somehow, it made him a little jealous. He kept his composure however, and trying his best to be formal, he walked towards the two to greet them.

"Hello there, Leader, Rona." Aleithe said in an almost mechanical voice. Not realizing that it was the same question Rona just asked, Aleithe continued. "Are there any supplies that we need to get before we pack up here?"


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"I'm telling you, Layne, it's bear! There's no mistaking that texture, that sweet and meaty flavor! Your body just has to be ready! They could have done with picking a better time of year, but other than that... Yum!"

Ada dug into the stew she had with joy, chewing happily. Her excitement over the meal had gotten her mind off of the money and the situation, but it had also drawn unwanted attention in the room. Before she knew it, she realized eyes were on the two of them, taking another bite of the food and chewing it slowly. As she swallowed, she nudged Layne with her foot, glancing at the door.

"Hey, uh... I don't think we're exactly welcome here. Maybe we should finish up and head out quickly..." Ada whispered, before she lifted the bowl and seemed to inhale the remaining stew. She licked at her lips as she adjusted, preparing to get up and leave. "Whenever you're ready."

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Raynor sighed to himself as he rode on Gojira's back, wiping sweat from his brow. He was tired, not that it was particularly anyone's fault, he just spent most of the morning trying to make an extension to the stables. Up at sunrise, he got to work, chopping down trees and generally doing the best he could with his limited handiwork. He was determined to make this happen though. He was so determined, that... well, he broke the wood chopping axe. It was embarrassing enough, but he wasn't going to burden anyone with it.

The group split up when they got into town, leaving only Raynor and Yue together. Raynor knew that the small woman didn't seem to like to talk to him, so he stayed quiet, letting her fawn over Gojira. It made the lizard happy anyways, and a happy lizard was a hard working one. Soon, however, a voice called out to them.

"Hello there travelers from distant lands!" Raynor was pretty confused. He couldn't tell where this red head was from at all.  "I too am a traveler, so I know that you must long to see exotic goods but also pine for those that remind you of home. Well fear not weary travelers, for Anne's Shop of Assorted Goods, Books and Trinkets, all sales final and non-refundable, is just the place for you! Well, well?"

Raynor looked over this Anne, and decided there wouldn't be any harm in looking. Maybe she would have something useful. "Alright, what do you have?"

Rubbing her hands together she smiled saying, "well, take a look!" Knocking on the cart beside her, it opened suddenly to reveal its contents. "I sell a lot of different assorted goods, mainly for those of the magical variety. You don't seem like a staff kind of guy, but I do have," she pulled out a series of Dark Magic tomes. "Very rare to get around these parts, but I'm sure these exotic tomes are just the thing for you were feeling homesick." Raynor looked at her dark tomes, interest etched on his face. He had heard stories of a few of his ancestors being able to wield Dark Magic, but it wasn't like everyone in his family could do it... but... what was the harm in trying.

"How much do you want for those?" A glimmer shone in the woman's eyes as she presented three different tomes in front of him.

"Well, it depends on what you're looking for. Beginner material here, goes by Shade, usually goes for 500 Gold with the more advance Endusk being 790.  The dusk one, a good middle ground for people who have the basics down, is 580." Raynor folded his arms as he looked down at the books. He probably should get Shade, seeing as he had no clue how to actually do magic... but maybe Ada could help him out and he could skip to Dusk? Maybe if he bargained with her, he could get both. He looked up at the woman and realized... it probably was a bad idea to try to bargain with her. He still needed a lance anyways.

"I'll take a Shade," He finally said.

Tossing the two other tomes back into her cart she said, "wonderful! Of course tomes aren't all my wares. What with your scarred appearance I'm sure you find yourself on the front lines, evading danger at every turn. Well fret not valiant warrior, for I have the thing to defend you." Pulling out both a feathered earring and a leather shield she said, "this shield here will cushion you from blade and bows letting you zip through the feel with more reckless abandon. And this charm, well, it says it bestows a nimble grace unto its bearer. And," she leaned in whispering, gesturing towards the white haired girl saying, "it makes an excellent gift for the ladies."

Raynor rubbed the back of his head as Anne tried to get him to buy the charm. "Nah, nah, we're not like that. She's just here for my lizard," Said lizard let out a sassy snort in response to that. "Anyways, let me see here...," He could feel his brain snapping itself in half as he tried to resist the urge to buy the charm. Sure, he needed a weapon, but he could use those to well... hopefully smooth things over with Yue... then again, he needed a weapon... but he could also get a charm as a thank you gift for Ada. She put up with Gojira a lot, and he never really properly thanked her for finding Gojira.

"Look, I only have 600 on me," He said, deciding to take a risk. "Would you... be willing to sell two charms for 600?" It could work, right?

Anne seemed to be deep in thought as he made his proposition, furrowing her brow a bit more before finally saying, "well, I'm not fond of cutting deals. But, I suppose I can make an exception." With a mischievous smile on her face she said, "and who knows, maybe we'll meet on the road again and you can pay me the difference." Presenting the charms to him she said, "it's been a pleasure doing business with you."

Raynor handed over the rest of the contents of his wallet over to Anne as he took the charms. "Likewise! If we meet again on the road, I'll be sure to buy from ya again," He turned to Yue, before gesturing to Anne's direction. "So, do you wanna buy something here?"

Edited by Saiku
The name I thought was right was right so was I really wrong?

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Leon  tilted his head to the side as the girl seemed to wince in the middle of her speaking but didn't make much more of it. Looking at the groceries in hand he looked to Rona saying, "well, this should keep us good for the next few days." Were Rona to look she would see that, quite like most times Leon was left to doing the grocery shopping the food in hand was more on the minimalist side. "I suppose we also need some wood to patch up the base a bit." There was also the issue of Gojira beginning to crowd the run down stable that was not at all designed for any of the animals currently occupying it. Before he could answer her next set of questions, the duo was interrupted as Aleithe had made their way over. "Oh, hello Aleithe. We were just about to go get some boards and lumber." 

Looking back to Rona he said, "don't worry about the expenses for it though." While Leon didn't necessarily enjoy spending money, he felt even worse about having to force the others to buy things that were just for the general use of the company. As the trio walked through town, quite like Ada and Layne had, they would notice a person or two every so often looking towards them, or whispering to another. They seemed more curious then malicious, a look much different then the usual townsfolk across Aeora, but didn't actually make the effort to approach them. Leon had noticed, but wasn't exactly willing to engage in the conversation either. Passing by other shops, such as a book store and clothing store, Leon simply said, "oh, feel free to get anything else you want while we're here."

Anne shelved away the gold she had just obtained, perking up more as Raynor directed the small Yonan girl's attention towards her. With a smile on her face, the girl began rubbing her hands together as she turned to face the young lady. "Yes, please, feel free  to browse my wares all you want. I'm sure a beautiful young lady like yourself has shopping needs as well. After all, I'm sure a girl like you loves a good book or two," the girl gestured towards the set of anima tomes that were lined up in her cart. "Of course, if you're into the more mysterious and esoteric kind of things, well, I might have just the item for you." With a coy smile on her face, she looked towards Yue expectantly. 

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Rona felt a strange hint of disappointment as Aleithe came in, and immediately asked the same thing about the supplies. She wasn't sure why but she felt as though she was set aside suddenly.

Leon then showed that he already had gathered supplies and Rona felt foolish for having brought it up. Of course, he wouldn't have forgotten to do that first of all. They were here for supplies so it was stupid of her to suggest he didn't get them already. She did cheer up when he mentioned the lumber. "Ah, I can help with that." Rona said. "A bit of wood is nothing to me! Plus it would help with the stables and I should do what I can to make Cormag more comfortable." She then gave Leon a smile. "And I'll help paying for it. It's not like I have anything else to spend it on!"

Her laughter covered her embarrassment at the fact that, now that there wasn't much to do, she didn't much know what to do. What did people do with free time? She could train but...glancing at Aleithe, whom would be her most fitting training partner, she realized that she'd only feel clumsy training near someone so graceful.

So then what? She hadn't really had any hobbies before. What...did she even want to do?

For now all she could think of was staying near Leon and trying to give the people staring at them the friendliest, most confident, smirks she could muster up.

"Do you think there's...something wrong?" She muttered towards the other two of the group.

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Yue had not been doing much with herself in the time that the others had been going to the island. Besides looking after Aleithe and Reina, she had been practicing her archery and taking care of the animals. Chang'e had become more and more distant lately, refusing to come along with her for things. He was probably in his "rebellious stage." Whatever the case may be, the others had finally returned, which was good. What was bad was that she had been sent shopping, and was now alone with the scary eyepatched man. Aleithe had wandered off somewhere else, which just left her, the scary man--Raynor right?--Gojira, and...who was this? Anne?

And it looked like the scary man was taking lessons on how to be even scarier by buying dark magic tomes. Glancing around wildly, Yue eeped whenever a villager met her eye and hid behind Gojira. Didn't her companion realize how weird it was, buying dark magic in the middle of the street from a strange girl? Didn't his parents ever tell him not to talk to strangers? Could he even use that book anyway?

Yue sighed. Not like anybody would listen to her anyway though. If they'd even hear her to begin with.

And then Raynor decided to buy more items--actually those looked kind of cute--well, anyway, it still wasn't good to buy strange things from strangers! Except that was the whole point of this, but still, Yue had been here long enough to know the names and faces of quite a few shopkeepers, and this woman wasn't one of them! Ergo, she was a stranger and to be avoided.

Then her companion turned to her, before gesturing to Anne's direction. "So, do you wanna buy something here?"

"Eh? N-n-no I c-couldn't--"

"Yes, please, feel free to browse my wares all you want. I'm sure a beautiful young lady like yourself has shopping needs as well. After all, I'm sure a girl like you loves a good book or two," the girl gestured towards the set of anima tomes that were lined up in her cart. "Of course, if you're into the more mysterious and esoteric kind of things, well, I might have just the item for you." With a coy smile on her face, she looked towards Yue expectantly.

Oh, no. She was getting curious. She was falling for it, she--"W-what kinds of things?" she stuttered, peeking her head out from behind Gojira.

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"Hey, uh... I don't think we're exactly welcome here. Maybe we should finish up and head out quickly..."

The atmosphere in the establishment was definitely a bit tense, and honestly, Layne... Wasn't even sure why? The murmuring wasn't quite loud enough for him to catch all of it, but the occasional hiss of "Jouran" caught his attention a bit more. People were definitely a bit uncomfortable, and from the way Ada was reacting, she was ready to slip out quickly to avoid any of it. He mumbled a tiny bit as he rubbed at his forehead gently. He leaned in to Ada a bit as he started to whisper, more to himself than to her, either way... "For heavens sake, it's not like we're doing anything wrong... Just enjoying a little bit of lunch isn't too bad, right? It sounds like they've heard of the Falcons... That could either be really good for us or really bad... And if it was good, I don't think they would be whispering about us..."

His voice turned into a little groan as he looked down at his food, the plate only half eaten as he started to stand up. He motioned for Ada to follow after him as he mumbled, "We can't make a scene. Anything we do reflects on the group, yeah? Even if I want to tell people off, I can't always do what I want."

He shrugged his shoulders as he started to make his way out of the little tavern they had stopped in, a small sigh escaping him as he closed his eyes, "I just wish I had been able to finish my lunch... Let's see if we can find the others and find out if we're heading back I guess. I want to let Leon know that people have noticed we're around, I dunno if we should be concerned about that or not, and he might have a better idea on if we should be or not."

He turned to take a glance along the path, "...I guess we should just wander around until we find them. Any ideas where they might've gone Ada?"

Edited by Kayden North

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Were Yue to pay attention to the merchant girl, she'd notice a sly grin cross her face if only for a moment. "Well, if you're so curious of my wares, I just have to show you now." Turning back around, the girl began to dive into her wares, shuffling through what could only be noted as assorted junk. "See, when you're as prolific a merchant as I, it is no wonder that you might stumble across a few odd or rare objects, foreign to the common  wares from a street vendor, in your travels. And there is nothing more exotic that I've found than this!" For as much excitement as had been built up, one would probably be disappointed at the sight of what she had to offer. In her hands was an incredibly old looking wooden bow - or at least what used to be a bow. The string on it seemed to be snapped and the wood rotted, with the grip of the bow looking cracked and like it was about to be snapped in two. 

"Now, I know what you're thinking. 'Isn't that just a broken bow?' Well, maybe it is.But, I wouldn't just present a decrepit bow to my precious customers for no reason. See, on this bow is a text unreadable to all, and yet, hold it." Anne presented the bow for Yue to hold. Were she to look on the inner part of the bow, she would see writing in a language that she had never seen before. But, upon wielding the bow, the meaning seemed to become crystal clear to her. 

Without strain, one cannot hope to strike the sun.

"Curious isn't it?" Anne seemed to nudge the bow more towards Yue now. "But what could it possibly mean? Well, I haven't the faintest of ideas, but this bow is likely a charm of sorts. Carry it on you and who knows what fortune might be bestowed upon you. And who knows what strange secrets it might hold?" Anne had seemed to be getting really into describing the broken weapon, making a few dramatic hand gestures here and there before saying, "well, how about it? Only 100 gold and this bow of ancient mystery and wonder could be yours. Quite a steal don't you think?" The merchant switched back to friendly, yet eagerly, smiling towards the girl. 

While Layne and Ada were trying to figure out where their company leader was, they would notice the same looks and mentions every so often from others in town as they moved about. As before, the people did not seem necessarily malicious, their expressions conveying some sense of curiosity and anxiety in them. Furthermore it, wasn't as if everyone in the town was whispering at them, but the small amount that were were enough to become apparent to the duo. As they continued walking around, the duo would eventually hear a "wh-whoa!" This belonged to a familiar looking boy, looking roughly around the same age as the duo, short and with sandy brown hair wearing a cloth outfit that denoted him as a member of the town's local clergy. They would also see him trip and fall on his face, landing with an "o-ow," though it seemed that he tripped more on himself than anything else. 

Raising his face back up, while he attempted to stand back up, the duo would know this boy as Austin, a local priest of the town. Of course, as Efreaux had no actual proficient staff users, he was more someone who tended and maintained the local church then he was an actual healer. Looking around, he saw the duo saying, "oh, Layne and - " his face went flush as he saw the girl next to him saying, "a-and Ada. Wonderful to - uh - nice seeing both of you...here. You didn't uh...you didn't see me - did you? Uhhh." The incredibly awkward boy seemed more embarrassed than anything else, but then looked back as if he had suddenly remembered something very important. "Right. Layne! You're here. Perfect. I need your help. Well, I don't, but someone else does and I should ask for them. Um, yeah. So uh."

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Yue didn't know much about talking to people, or people in general, actually, but she could safely say that the grin on the other woman's face was not innocent, and in fact rather creepy and maybe she should start running now--

"Well, if you're so curious of my wares, I just have to show you now." Turning back around, the girl began to dive into her wares, shuffling through a pile of what Yue could at best call "novelty items." "See, when you're as prolific a merchant as I, it is no wonder that you might stumble across a few odd or rare objects, foreign to the common  wares from a street vendor, in your travels. And there is nothing more exotic that I've found than this!"

The archer leaned forward despite herself, only to slump in disappointment at what she actually saw. In the merchant's hands was an incredibly old-looking wooden bow - or at least what used to be a bow. The string on it seemed to be snapped and the wood rotted, with the grip of the bow looking cracked and like it was about to be snapped in two. Oh. That's no good.

"Now, I know what you're thinking. 'Isn't that just a broken bow?' Well, maybe it is. But, I wouldn't just present a decrepit bow to my precious customers for no reason. See, on this bow is a text unreadable to all, and yet, hold it." Anne presented the bow for Yue to hold.

At first glance, she couldn't see what the other was talking about. But upon looking closer, at the inner part, there was what appeared to be writing, but in a language she had never seen before. "U-um, if you're sure..." The girl reached forward to hold the bow gingerly, her fingers gliding across the wood to grip the handle. Looking again, a thought came to her like a bolt from the blue.

Without strain, one cannot hope to strike the sun.

"Curious isn't it?" Anne started to nudge the bow more towards Yue now. "But what could it possibly mean? Well, I haven't the faintest of ideas, but this bow is likely a charm of sorts. Carry it on you and who knows what fortune might be bestowed upon you. And who knows what strange secrets it might hold?" Anne had seemed to be getting really into describing the broken weapon, making a few dramatic hand gestures here and there before saying, "well, how about it? Only 100 gold and this bow of ancient mystery and wonder could be yours. Quite a steal don't you think?" The merchant switched back to friendly, yet eagerly, smiling towards the girl.

"Um..." Yue couldn't really see herself as a person of mystic and wonder. That was more her father. No, she was a girl of the woods and wilds, where anybody with knowledge and experience could read the direction in the trees, and follow the animals to find shelter and edible plants. There was no mysticism, no higher being, nothing but herself and the cute critters of the wilderness. However, she was an archer through and through, and there was a strange draw in this bow, in the idea of a weapon that might not be very much to look at now--in fact it looked one fumble away from shattering--but with some work, could be...well, better anyway.

It was silly, but she felt like she could relate with this bow. Her skill with the bow was one of the few things she could take pride in, and that had only been achieved after years of hard work. At the start, nobody had thought she could do it. After all, she had never really stood out, had never shown any great talent in the things that mattered to the tribe. Chen Fa was the only person who had ever given her a chance.

Maybe this bow, too, was waiting for somebody to give it a chance.

Could she be that person then?

"Uh a-all right," she stammered, "I-I'll..." She paused and nodded, eyes growing firmer and more determined. "I'll take it. Buy it." Oh no, was that too much? I hope she doesn't think I'm demanding. "I mean, i-if that's okay with you."

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"I shall grab a weapon first then, in that case."

Aleithe bought a Steel Sword as he talked with Rona and Leon regarding supplies, and once their purchases on the blacksmith had been confirmed and processed, the three of them left the place. Everyone was looking like they were enjoying the day, but somehow, all that Aleithe felt was a certain tension on the air between the three of them. Of course, this was quite likely because Rona was here too, but nevertheless, it was an awkward situation. Well, the supplies had been handled with, and now they were just leisurely walking around the area. But of course, leisure was never in the vocabulary of the three of them. As the first three members of the Iron Falcons, free time meant time that could've been spent improving themselves. At least, that was what Aleithe believed. His musings was disturbed however, when Rona talked once more.

"Do you think there's...something wrong?"

"Hm?" Was it the presence of hostiles? Aleithe grabbed his new sword. No, he couldn't really feel anyone that seemed like they're intending to attack nearby. "What's wrong, Rona?"

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It had appeared that the townsfolk's gaze had not gone unnoticed by the others. As Rona asked him if there was something wrong, Leon thought for a moment about what might actually be the case. Looking to Aleithe, he simply put up his hand, as if to dissuade his companion from using their new sword. "I can't think they mean us any harm." Leon stated. After all, they were familiar enough with the people of this town that if they had a problem with the Jourans it would have come up much earlier then now. Looking back to Rona he said, "but you're right. Something does seem wrong." Trying to think more on it he said, "well, I guess we should ask someone to find out." 

With a bit of unease flowing through the three, they continued to make their way to the local lumber shop. The man who ran the shop there was similar in appearance to the one who ran the blacksmith, though the two swore they were unrelated, and he greeted the group saying, "Falcons! Not often I see you swing by my shop. Roof spring a leak? Part of the old building come falling down?" 

 "No, nothing like that." Though, he wasn't quite sure how long that would be true for. "We've just had a recent addition to our stable so, we need to expand on it a bit." 

Nodding to himself, as if understanding, "well, I'll get that right to you." He then looked to Aleithe and Rona, before back to the leader saying, "another big one?"  Leon nodded. "You and your exotic mounts, I swear." The man left for a bit, before coming back with the wood, setting it down in front of them. "Well, can I get anything else for you?" 

Looking to Rona he said, "actually. If I could ask you something." The man raised an eyebrow. "The people around town. They've been looking on edge. At us. Do you...?"

"Oh, that. I wouldn't pay them any mind." The man waved the comment off. "Apparently a notice from Rastarn has finally circulated its way around here. Something about a 'call to arms' against the 'Jouran menace' that's in our border. Set up a whole bounty for their capture and everything. But well," as he noticed the growing concerns on Leon's face he waved them off saying, "I wouldn't really worry about it anyway. Doubt it could be talking about you, since you've been nothing but helpful. And No one 'round these parts would rat you all out anyway, they're probably just riled up a bit is all. So, anything else I can help you out with?" 

"Oh it's more than okay with me, sweetie. Sold!" The tall red head patted Yue on the head as she took her money and gave her the broken bow. Turning away from the duo, Anne began to close up her shop again and got ready to cart it along again, as a large look of excitement seemed to be plastered across her face. Looking back to the two, she gave a friendly wave to them saying, "thank you both, for both of your business. I hope the road favors you and we can do business again, and I hope you take excellent care of that bow Snow Flower. Bye!" With that, Anne began to make her way out of town, humming contentedly to herself,  as she simply said, "I love foreigners." 

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"What's wrong, Rona?" 

Oh, oh no. She made Aleithe worried. So worried he was ready to draw his sword. Her eyes flicked over to see the responses of those around only to notice they didn't seem to be looking at him. So was it her they were watching?

Rona's blood started to pound as an itch to grab her own weapon almost overtook her. This felt like walking into an ambush and Aleithe's automatic reaction didn't help that much. What would she do if they attacked? She had to fight right? Even civilians had to be put down if they started an uprising...
No, this wasn't back home. And it wasn't her job to stop an uprising. Unless Leon told her to.

"I can't think they mean us any harm."

The commander's words calmed her, only for his reaffirming that something was wrong to put her back on edge. She simply agreed to let him ask someone about it and decided to walk a bit closer to the man's side just in case.

She didn't like the lumber salesman as much as the blacksmith, despite their similar appearance, for some reason. Maybe she just liked weapons more than wood.
The girl was about to go and grab up the lumber when Leon asked his question. The answer, and the specific words 'Jouran menace' caused her to feel cold. Were the Jourans attacking? Could it possibly be...No that was crazy. There hasn't been a big move that would require...

"This, er, menace." Rona asked. "Is it bandits? Or...something else?"

The man shrugs. "Can't really say. Notice isn't too specific on what they might be, just that they're a 'menace' and 'threat to Aeora' or something. Most people probably wouldn't need anything beyond that."

Rona nodded. "I see. Yes, I'm sure it's nothing. Come on Commander we should get a move on. This lumber won't....lumber itself." She cringed and hid it by picking up as much of the lumber as she could carry. "Let us make haste, if that's all you needed of course." She looked to Leon.

Please let it be all. She knew it couldn't be but something inside her couldn't help but think that it the worst possible outcome would happen if they stayed for long. Though of course she couldn't let him know she was worried and so she laughed and grinned at the commander. "I bet the others have spent all their gold by this point."

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Raynor stood by Gojira's side, hand on the reins as Yue started to look over the store. The girl was really nervous, but she seemed to finally come to a decision.

"Uh a-all right," she stammered, "I-I'll..." She paused and nodded, eyes growing firmer and more determined. "I'll take it. Buy it. I mean, i-if that's okay with you."

"Well, I hope it is," Raynor commented before looking over to see what Yue bought. It was... well, it was a bow at some time at its poor sorry life... "Um... looks like a fixer upper," Raynor commented. Should he scold her for buying something so... pitiful? Well, he was in no place to talk, he spent all his money without getting a weapon he could currently use... that was okay though! What he bought would be worth it!

"Thank you both, for both of your business. I hope the road favors you and we can do business again, and I hope you take excellent care of that bow Snow Flower. Bye!"

"See ya! Hopefully we meet again!" Raynor waved as the shopkeeper left. He chuckled and rolled his free shoulder. "Well, that was productive, wasn't it?" He asked, not expecting an answer. He looked down at the two charms in his hand as he began to think. He wanted to give one to Yue, so maybe she wouldn't be as scared of him... but he was sure just approaching her and shoving it in her hands wouldn't help at all. What could he---?

He was distracted by Gojira getting restless, tugging at the reins. Wait, maybe that was his answer. He nudged his mount, who looked at him, tilting his head. The rider held out his hand, one charm presented to Gojira. "Give," was the simple command given, one that Gojira knew too well. The lizard carefully took the charm in its teeth and made its way over to Yue, nudging her side and trying to proudly present the charm.

Edited by Saiku

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Layne was definitely a bit concerned with the fact that throughout the town, they couldn't quite escape the stares from the townspeople. He wasn't even sure why they were so intent on catching looks at them as they walked through the town, occasionally he just really had the urge to stare right back at someone who thought he didn't notice... But he kept himself from doing it, just to be safe and avoid any trouble. At least, that was the plan until there was a loud sound behind the two of them, along with a loud thud as Layne flinched, quickly turning around as he held the staff out in front of him, prepared to bonk anyone who might attack...

He could only blink when, instead of someone who was attacking the duo, it was just a kid on the ground. He sighed as he started to stand up straight again, rubbing at the back of his neck with a hand as he mumbled, "Thought it was..." He just shook his head for a moment, before walking over to the fallen boy to grab his hand, yanking him up to his feet as he did. "Alright, up you go. Let's get you standing..."

"oh, Layne and - a-and Ada. Wonderful to - uh - nice seeing both of you...here. You didn't uh...you didn't see me - did you? Uhhh." 

Layne crossed his arms as he waited for the boy to finish stammering out his sentence, before letting out a small snicker at the end, "We both heard and saw you, but are you okay? That's the more important thing. If you need a bit of patching up, I can help." He smiled as he held up the staff he was holding a bit more, but before he got the chance to, Austin started to talk again. Layne just stopped and let him speak up, rubbing at his neck for a moment as he did.

"Right. Layne! You're here. Perfect. I need your help. Well, I don't, but someone else does and I should ask for them. Um, yeah. So uh."

Layne scratched at his cheek as he turned to face Ada, giving her a tiny smile as he did, "...Geez, well. Ada, I should probably go see what's up here. If you wanna wait or go find the others, I understand. You're welcome to come along though!" He turned back to Austin and nodded his head, taking a few steps forward as he did, "Alright, let's go! I'll see what I can do to help out. Where are we headin'?"

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Ada felt uncomfortable as they walked through town. Layne was one thing. Aside from his behavior, he looked more Aeoran than she did. Only those who knew of them would know he was foreign, and, even then, he wasn't from Jouran. Neither was she, but she knew better than to try explaining that to anyone outside of Vjorsovol.

When the duo encountered Austin, Ada watched over Layne's shoulder as he helped the boy up, making sure to keep herself in the shade.

"Hey, let us see if you're okay before you start talking."

But the boy continued anyway. when Layne offered for Ada to come with or to head back, she glanced around, biting her lip a bit.

"I... think I'll tag along. Doesn't seem bright to head off on our own right now, honestly. Lead the way, Austin."

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As the stuttery church hand was brought up on his feet, he was glad to hear that the young cleric agreed to help him and similarly glad that Ada decided to join him. "Alright, swell - awesome. Follow me." He started to make his way towards the local church of the town, talking on the way saying, "alright, see the problem, it's a bit - a bit sensitive. So, one of the hunters left town one day, you know hunting things and well, he found someone." He paused for a bit, looking around before saying, "well, they were pretty injured and we don't really have a healer here to take care of them. Normally, if this happened we'd well, we'd send for help from a place that does but uh...well, that's not possible this time." 

As the group emptied the, empty, church it would be similar to most of its kind in Aeora, if not on the smaller scale. A wood and stone building with glass panes to let in light, and furthest from the door was a stand where the head priest was likely to give his sermons. Behind that was a stone statue in the likeness of the Archsage, Roa, smiling while holding an open tome in one hand and a staff in the other. Aside from that, the rest of the church only had wooden pews facing this section, though one seemed to have someone laying on it. Upon getting closer to them, the group would see the form a of black haired female lying down, wearing a tattered cloak that was not dissimilar to what Ada had come to Aeora with. Beyond that, her long black hair seemed to be in disarray and her skin seemed bruised and dirty, with some dirt and grass stains across her clothing. The most distinctive feature about her though, was her face being recognizably Jouran. 

"As uh, as you can see it's not really possible to get another healer for her. And with the new warrant in place I'd - well, it'd only bring trouble to the town. But, I can't just leave someone like that alone so, well," he looked to Layne clasping his hands together, "could you?" 

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It looked like Anne was fine with the purchase. Which was good...but also made Yue have some second thoughts. Especially after hearing Raynor's comment. Maybe this was a bad idea after all? Still, it was too late, and now she was down 100 gold, but with a new--well, old, bow in hand.

They bid goodbye to the woman, who called her a weird name, but that was fine, right? Weird names, she was used to that. Well, maybe not that much, but people gave each other nicknames all the time right? So this was fine, just fine, even though she had no clue why Snow Flower, but--

"See ya! Hopefully we meet again!" Raynor waved as the shopkeeper left. He chuckled and rolled his free shoulder. "Well, that was productive, wasn't it?" he asked.

Productive? Maybe, but the more Yue thought about it, the more it seemed like they just got scammed. "U-um...maybe?" she replied in a small voice. "Or maybe she ch-cheated us," she continued in an even smaller voice. Soon after, she noticed Raynor looking at the charms he had bought. They were really cute, but she wasn't sure why he had bought them. Maybe as a present for his girlfriend? Gasping, she looked down, a little embarrassed at the thought. Who could it be? she wondered. Ada? Maybe. Or Rona? She shook her head frantically. She wasn't sure why that bothered her, but it did. Rona was so amazing, and there was probably something going on with her and Leon, and...she stared down at the ground. Yeah, they're perfect for each other.

Something nudged her in the side. Looking up, she came face to face with Gojira, who was proudly holding the charm in his mouth. "Oh...for me, thank you!" she smiled brightly, and then realized something. Turning to Raynor, she bowed slightly before stammering, attempting to get her tongue to work somehow. "Th-thank you!" she finally finished, face red. OhspiritsIjustmademyselflookreallystupidwhydidIsaythankyoumaybehedidn'tmeanitformemaybehemeanttogiveittohislizardinsteadwhyohwhyohnoI'msuchanidiotargh!

"U-um, sorry, I--" her eyes wild and confused, the girl began to run away. But as she was running, she realized she still had the charm. Wait, doesn't this look like a hit and run? she thought. Oh no, he's going to think I'm just terrible, but I don't know if I can face him right nowIt was then that she overheard a nearby villager muttering about what sounded like a "Jouran menace." Paling, the girl thought about that. Jouran menace...do they mean Raynor? He hasn't been with us long, so it could be him...oh no, I left him by himself all alone! He was scary, but Gojira was nice, and he...he might actually be nice too.

Nodding firmly to herself, the archer turned around, starting to run back to where she came from. She caught sight of a trio who looked like Leon, Rona, and Aleithe next to a lumber shop, but she didn't stop to check. No, she had a mission. To save Raynor from the townsfolk. Or...save the townsfolk from him? No, no, she thought. I'm saving Raynor. Even though he probably doesn't need it, now that I think about it, but! What if he does? If that what if comes true then I have to help!

Edited by Sethera

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Layne rubbed at his neck lightly as he followed behind Austin, whistling a little bit as he held his bag over his shoulder against his back. The cleric just listened to Austin's explanation as they went along the path towards the local church, a little whistle escaping him as he nodded his head, made sense. People were too busy to go and get help for her at the moment, that wasn't too bad. Since he was in town anyway, it was the least he could do to go and help out... With the church coming up ahead of them, it was time for him to get ready to work, depending on the injuries, a combination of magic and physical medicines seemed the best way to go, but he would need a moment to check...

The mostly empty church was very standard and very... Familiar to him, whether that was a good thing he wasn't sure. A little bit of 'home sickness' was starting to creep up on him, remembering the monastery that he had stayed in for a while before coming to the Falcons. He didn't have long to linger on that train of thought though, as he looked over the rows of pews, the sight of a woman laying down on one of them finally caught his attention, that was probably the one he was here for. He whistled to himself as he made his way over to the seat, giving Austin a small smile as he nodded his head, "I understand. I'll do what I can to help... I don't know if you would get in trouble, but if anyone asks, I won't tell them you told me. Just to be safe."

As he knelt down at the side of the pew and got a better look at her face, well... That explained why it was hard for Austin to find help. The distinctly Jouran facial features would make it hard for him to convince someone to help her out around here. He set his bag down as he began to pull out a waterskin and a rag, starting to clean off dirt from her boy to uncover the bruises and any major injuries that might be hidden away underneath it with one hand. The other held up his Heal Staff into the air, a small light building up along the tip of it, before showering down onto the injured woman, "Alright, this might take a bit to get her back to being conscious. I don't know how severe the injuries are. The staff alone might not be enough, but... Hopefully it is. If I could wake her up and get some information on what happened, it might make it easier to figure out how bad the wounds actually are... Outside of the obvious ones, of course."

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As Layne tended to the woman, Ada grit her teeth. She was pretty sure she knew what this woman went through... She hadn't gotten too much trouble if she wasn't wearing her robes, given how she inherited more of her father's genes than her mother's, but... Even then, she had a decent bit of trouble in Aeora. This woman looked like she had it even worse.

"I guess we should watch over her. She probably chose this church because it's a safe place, but..." 

Casting her gaze over to Austin for a moment, Ada sighed and looked back to Layne, placing a hand on his shoulder.

"Clearly, it's not safe for someone like her. I don't know why someone with her faith would put trust in another faith's temple. Or any temple, for that matter. Maybe we should haul her back with us, if she's not waking up? I can carry her."


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      Since then, Catriona and company faced many challenges in their journey. Their goal was to find the Great Dragon, who would hopefully be able to assist in defeating the goddess or sealing her away. The initial group composed of Catriona, Malu'kai, Anaïs, Meifing, a small town fighter named Alois, Catriona's sister Penelope, her knight Gunther, Feray, and a wandering swordsman named Asura came across a blacksmith named Jake being accosted by bandits. They defeated them with the help of a young man who looked fresh from the farm, a Pontic named Edrick. Unfortunately, Anaïs had to leave soon afterward, and Edrick was heavily injured.
      The group accompanied Jake to Ithome, Sector Three. Along the way, Feray left the group, but they met a girl named Tarizo, who joined temporarily. In Ithome, Meifing left the group, but they came across Link, a former Galtean soldier, now a library guard. He led them to the city hall, where they were turned away by Councilman Silas. Meanwhile, Edrick, who had just finished recovering from his wounds, was ambushed by street urchins, only being saved by the timely arrival of the rest of the group and a noble in disguise named Ciela. The group set out not long afterward and met Sienna, a girl wearing a hood to disguise the fox ears atop her head.
      Joined by Sienna, the group reached Sector One, where most of them decided to head for the library to research information on the Great Dragon's whereabouts. Ciela, on the other hand, decided to go shopping, but an altercation with a rogue left her paralyzed from the waist down. Meanwhile, in the library, Sienna discovered a secret passage, but at the bottom, a scene straight out of a murder mystery awaited them. Not long after, the group was arrested and taken to the City Hall where they were interrogated by the Three Councilmen. They spent another day in the city, but soon had to leave, laden with presents from a mysterious man named Santa. Asura left them at the gate.
      Headed to the Pelinna region, the group encountered yet more bandits, a shaman named Azar, a wolf cub named Rohns who began to follow Link around, and the Pelinna Patrol, a group of volunteers who patrolled the region to keep it free of bandits. Among them was a young bow thief named Tsetseg. The group was soon divided after being ambushed by fox Proteans who thought them to be kidnapping Sienna, who as it turned out, was the chieftain's daughter. While some were taken away by the foxes, the rest joined forces with the frog Proteans, including a frog of little words named Shiro, and the patrol. The two sides were on high alert ever since one of the frogs was murdered, and the fox tribe's treasure was stolen. The frogs marched on the fox village, where it looked as if a fight would break out, especially seeing as the fox chieftain looked to be under a spell of sorts, save for the timely arrival of a horde of bandits. Joining forces, with foxes, frogs, and humans all working together, the group managed to defeat them. The next day, Azar left, but the group was joined by a pegasus knight named Adelaide, who, unbeknownst to them, was actually a former cavalier named Adelheid, who had served on both sides of the Great War. Licorice, a black fox with hidden motives, joined as well.
      After leaving the forest, the group came across an abandoned shrine to the goddess, a church that was little more than a single tower and an altar, with broken-down walls surrounding it. It seemed harmless enough, but when night fell, a horde of what Licorice called "Awakened" attacked them. However, yet more Awakened arose to help them, their eyes a brilliant white rather than blood red. A woman astride a horse calling herself L'Arachel also came to their aid. The battle was long and arduous, but at long last, the group stood triumphant.

      Chapter 5: Creeping Darkness (continued)

      Date: 8th of Ramesoth, Year 556
      Time: 3:00 AM (Lauds)
      Location: Abandoned Shrine, Histia
      Catriona breathed a sigh of relief, rubbing her head and wincing when her hand came away wet with blood. A horde of undead...just what she had wished to wake up to. Still, every one of them was alive, and that was an outcome she hadn't dared hope for, not with just how many undead there were. More than she could count even were she given minutes on end. She would call it a miracle that they were still alive and whole, but she knew the real reason, and it was not something as unreliable as that.
      Their Awakened allies, and the strange girl astride the horse...L'Arachel, she had called herself. Not to mention the undead villagers that had risen from the ground as soon as the enemy Awakened had gone south, and into the graveyard. The dead did not like being disturbed. Though unskilled in battle, and equipped with nothing but farming tools, they were brave. Yet now, as the last of the Awakened had finally fallen--one that had seemed a little smarter, a little stronger, but in the end just as susceptible to getting stabbed--they started to crawl back to the graveyard, the white light that had shone from their eyes flickering like a dying candle. Even the pegasus that Edrick had ridden faded away, its purpose served.
      One, an elderly-looking Awakened, stopped in front of her. "Many thanks," he rasped. "This place...has always been our home, and always will be. No matter what...outsiders do." His mouth turned down into a frown. "Once...we were a village. Built around this church." He waved a hand. "Now...this is all that's left. The rest...burned to ashes. Please..." he said, grasping hold of Catriona's hands. His own were cold. "Please...find the priest. It is because of the priest...Father..." he coughed. "We are ourselves. Not slaves, hearts warped by Her rage." He released her hands, but a small bullion remained. "The last...of my savings. Hid it...from the soldiers..." He hobbled to one of the graves, one that looked a little nicer than the others, and like the rest, closed his eyes and sank into the ground.
      Now all that remained were the original five.
      Save for Dua, who was currently preoccupied in healing the group alongside Ciela and L'Arachel, the allied Awakened were not doing much of anything, as if they were waiting. Waiting to die once more? What a morbid thought. And yet, such thoughts had kept her company for nights on end now. She turned her gaze to where Licorice stood nearby, nearly untouched. It seemed almost unreal that such a person could stand there so calmly, as if she hadn't just shown off a near inhuman speed in the battle prior. But then, perhaps that was the point. She wasn't human.
      A sudden soothing feeling shook Catriona from her musings. Turning, she gave her thanks to the white-eyed priest above her, who nodded at her and moved on. While she would feel dizzy for a while from blood loss, the feeling would eventually go away. The woman stood, marching to the northern exit of the shrine, where the bodies of the enemy Awakened were long since gone, dissolved into wisps of red smoke. Shivering, she turned back, and stopped, seeing a glowing figure above the altar.
      "What mad--?!" but before she could finish, the glowing died down, showing the figure to be transparent. The woman took a few steps back automatically, before gritting her teeth and stepping forward.
      The allied Awakening all let out gasps of shock, Unil most of all. He stepped forward, a look of pure, heartbreaking longing on his face. "Father?" he whispered.
      The figure, who on closer inspection looked to be an older man in the raiments of a priest, gave a sad smile. "Yes," he replied. "It is me, my son," he looked at the rest of the Awakened, shaking his head. "Stubborn as always. Even now, you refuse to leave."
      To Catriona's surprise, every single Awakened started to tear up, a couple even breaking down into sobs. Whoever this man was, he was important to them.
      "Thank you," the man said, turning his solemn gaze to the group. "The invaders likely arrived because of you, but even so, you defended this place, and soothed the restless spirits that lingered." He paused. "The path you walk is a hard one, but it is not impossible." His smile turned wry. "Though it seems odd coming from a man of the cloth, I give you my blessing. Perhaps you might be able to return things to how they once were."
      "Then," the lord leaned forward, unease temporarily buried. "Do you have anything to advise? Know you where the Great Dragon lies?"
      The man shook his head. "I have no such knowledge, yet I can offer you a different kind of aid." He paused. "It is only due to my strong attachment to this place, and the goddess's power, that I am here, but as the abbot, I have a responsibility to all who come seeking succor." He bowed his head and closed his eyes, muttering a prayer in what Edrick would recognize to be Pontic, though of an archaic variant. Soon after, the altar glowed with a brilliant white light. "A long, long time ago, this place was known as Alltrades Abbey. People would come from far and wide to embark on new beginnings, leaving their pasts behind." He lifted his head to stare straight at the group. "I am Abbot Jack, the last of a long line of abbots blessed with the power to change the path one walks, even their very fates." His eyes seemed to pierce through every single person there. "But be warned, not all change is for the better. Those who seek improvement in one area will inevitably lose strength in another. We were not made perfect beings, though we may strive for it." He started to speak again, though this time his voice changed from feathery whisper to a commanding boom. "Now. You who seek to change yourself, step forward."
      Catriona hesitated. This was her chance. The chance to change her cursed fate. Were she to step forward, perhaps she could even cast off the yoke of royalty, and live her life as a simple woman, free of the worries that plagued her. Yet, no. She shook her head. Were she to do so, then it would not relieve the pressure, only transfer it. To her sister. And that, she could not let happen. And what of their quest? The goddess was still out there, tonight was proof of that. She would not give up so easily, so neither would Catriona.
      No, she could not afford to cast aside her class. A lord she was, to her very bones, and that would never change.
    • By MetalSonic
      G'day, ya blokes. Name's Saxton Hale. Australian, CEO of Mann Co., and leader of the Saxtonettes Girl Scout troupe. You may remember that a while back Gray Mann took over my company with an army of robots. Well, fortunately I got my company back and the mercs got their jobs back. Unfortunately, Gray Mann's smartest robot, the Mecha Engineer, has came back and is out for revenge on us for putting Gray Gravel out of business. Now recharged, revamped, and even more blood hungry than ever, those bloody robots are back for another Mann versus Machine all out war. You may be asking where my mercs are. Well, they're dead. That's right. The robots finally managed to kill my prized mercenaries. Since I can't be at all my factories at once, I'm going to need a new crew to help me out. That's where you lot come in.
      I'm in need of a new crew of psychopaths to defend my hat factories from the new horde of killer robots until he can find Mecha Engineer and put it on the scrapheap for good. I would do it myself, but I have other obligations. Mainly teaching my girls how to set bears on fire. As for your payment, I ain't payin' ya, but fear not. Don't ask me how, but the robots are somehow powered by money. You make the kill, you get the spill. Now get out there and start protecting my company!
      This RP will take place in the wacky world of Team Fortress in the 80s. Just as the intro says, you're a new team of mercenaries contracted to replace the old team who've met their match. One day you'll be defending a hat factory, the next you could be taking the fight to the newly revamped robots. They're still robots of the original crew, but now they move faster, punch harder, and take more punches to destroy. In addition, the robot leaches are back and they are thirsty for that Australium in your blood.
      This RP will focus on the defense aspect to start with, but as time goes on, I'm hoping to start an offensive against Mecha Engineer, who will be taking up residence in the old robot carrier. Despite the sillier tone I would like this RP to have, this will still be an advanced RP.
      Deadline for apps: 04/24/2020 at 3 pm EST
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