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Fire Emblem: Curse of the Goddess [IC/PG-16/Not Accepting]

Cohost: Lord CowCow Fire Emblem Adventure Fantasy

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#781
Asriel Dreemurr

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As Binks began toppling over, his and Alois's combined final assault enough to finish him off, Edrick was almost dragged to the ground under the weight of the large man. It was at this point that the boy noticed precisely how tired he was, and a better look down showed him just how bad that wound in his side was. He could see the ends of his ribs and...was that a lung? Honestly it was hard to say, partly because he was not so good at identifying organs while they were still inside of someone and partly because the cut to the side of his head had since started bleeding down into his eye. Made it difficult to see. Even so, as he looked over and saw his companion sticking out a fist, he stuck his own out to meet it.
 
"We kicked his ass and showed those bandits what for, you crazy son of a bitch." Now that made the Pontic smile.

 

"Yeah. We did, didn't we?" Maybe his words were slurring just a little bit, but there were more important things to worry about right now. Like seeing what there was to discuss with the foxes and frogs, and he had a question he wanted to ask the surviving bandits once there was time.

 

Some minutes and a few Vulneraries later, Edrick was feeling much better and not having any trouble standing. He still hadn't quite gotten all of the blood out of his eye just yet, and he was pretty sure he was missing a chunk of his ear on the side Binks's axe had struck, but he felt much better. Even so, while the others were concerning themselves with planning for preventing the rebuilding of a Bandit force such as this he recalled something else that he could, and in fact should, do. He shifted away from the larger group of leaders, just for a moment, and inclined his head towards the battlefield. Quietly, with his hands clasped around the Symbol of Inera he wore, he began to pray.

 

"Blessed Inera, you who have promised to end the Tyranny of Death, watch over me. Holy Inera, Keeper of the Dead, gather the souls of the fallen to yourself. Let them grow strong under your care, that when they return to the world with you their kin will know them. Let the day come soon when death holds no power o'er this world, that it shall be turned into a paradise. Let all those who have fallen know the world again, and let them be known by the world. Holy Inera, who will destroy that greatest enemy of all who live, watch over us all." He was not a priest, but this simple funeral prayer seemed appropriate. Even for those who had been trying to kill him and his friends up until moments ago. In fact, especially for them. As he finished his words, he unclasped his hands and turned around to rejoin the group presently discussing the matter of the bandits. Not that he had much to say on the subject, at least not yet.



#782
God Emperor Cow

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Gunther's lance dropped from his hands. Which were trembling too hard to keep a steady grip on it. He had never fought so hard before, with so many people around, such high stakes...He felt a little bit sick. Clenching his hand tightly he nodded in acknowledgement towards Glenn and the other frogs.

 

He glanced over at Shiro. The one who had joined Catriona in the ill-fated scouting mission. Whom had been prepared to fight off all of the foxes to protect his comrade. "I was not the courageous one here. Sir Shiro. You showed me more courage today than many of the knights I have trained with have ever done. You have my respect."

 

Gunther shuddered then as thoughts of what he had just experienced went through his head. "I do not know if I could do the same today if I weren't acting in desperation. We humans have much to learn from you, it seems." To Leonardo, he said, "I know not of this...pizza, but perhaps I could try my hand at cooking some if I had the means to it."

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Well that did not go quite as well as she could have hoped. Falling down a hill hurt. This made sense due to phenomenons such as friction and gravity. Things that Penelope knew about but for some reason could not define at this very moment. She felt rather discombobulated, in fact, as she struggled to get to her feet. Was the ground always so far away?

 

Ah, there we go, that was the problem. Penelope realized she was staring off at the hill, which was why the ground seemed to be not right below her. She had evidently landed on her side.

 

Perhaps her head hit the ground as well. It could explain the haze she was experiencing.

 

She did manage to get to her feet and take note of everyone's positions. Most notably Link who was on top of the bandit. Perhaps she could help but, through intense effort, she rethought that as it seemed that she was only just now figuring out how to stand without swaying.

 

She reached a hand up to check her head for injuries. It didn't seem there was any, though the side of her head felt sore, so she didn't think there was any real damage.

 

As soon as there was only one of each of them then she'd feel much more comfortable about choosing a direction.

 

Note, Penelope is not seriously injured, just wanted to have some fun with this post


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#783
Wind Rider

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Sienna couldn't quite make heads or tails of the situation, but from the sounds of those around her (at least the ones she could make out) it was bad. Was this how it ended? With her being used as a living shield by a desperate bandit? Apparently not, as the sound of a neighing horse and hooves snapped her out of it slightly. What followed, she could describe as a rough tumble down a flight of stairs, as she laid on the ground, bruised and dazed.

She lifted her head up and tried to get a bearing on her situation. She looked up to see that she had tumbled down the hill, and that her assailant was currently in a brawl with Link, with Catriona not far behind. Ciela was still up on the hill with Remy, that explained the neighing and the sudden shift in location. But... Did she not care for Sienna's situation? She charged at the bandit with Remy, knowing full well that if she did, the bandit would've killed her. Did any of these people care for her at this point?

#784
Smug Sultan Saikazo

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It seemed in the end, the strange alliance of human, frogs, and foxes had overcame the sea of bandits, though there were plenty of people that had been injured, inculding himself. Still, he had managed to wrap up the leg wound in time for the others to gather. Aka hugged him... Which he wasn't too sure if that was strange or normal, so he decided to leave it alone. He soon heard the knight, Gunther, speaking to him.

"I was not the courageous one here. Sir Shiro. You showed me more courage today than many of the knights I have trained with have ever done. You have my respect." Shiro noticed that Gunther then shuddered. "I do not know if I could do the same today if I weren't acting in desperation. We humans have much to learn from you, it seems."

"You give me too much credit," Shiro commented. "I'm not brave... I haven't been in years. You fought well, like a knight that Glenn would go on about in his stories. You have my respect as well,"

Gunther then answered Leonardo's talk of pizza. "I know not of this...pizza, but perhaps I could try my hand at cooking some if I had the means to it."

"It is relatively simple to make," Shiro commented. "And, it is very good...," It was honestly one of the best things to come out of Leonardo's... Oddities. The Protein looked around the battlefield, sighing to himself. Yes, they had won a great fight today.... But they were still no closer to finding the murderer than they were a few days ago. Would they ever find closure for their dear friend?

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#785
Yui

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The battle had been won, and Azar and her fellow adventurers had gathered in the . Binks was dead. Most of his other bandits? Also dead. Azar, meanwhile, both from her use of the Rashido Method and the hulking figure and his weapon, had racked up a pretty impressive collection of injuries. She'd been with these other adventurers for... what now, three days? There were already two bandit ambushes, tribal warfare, and they were planning on taking down Inera herself. That was bound to bring plenty more trouble once they got to Pontus.

 

"We haven't seen this many losses in...a long while. We are not fighters, no matter recent events. Battle does not come as easily to us as it does to you humans, with your wars."

 

"Still, it is better than it could have been. At least now, we've dealt with most of our problems in one fell swoop."

 

"And we shall work to make sure they do not form such a large group in the future."

 

"Well, that's something." Eliminating all bandit presence period wasn't likely going to happen. Stopping them from getting to this level again though? Even if she likely wouldn't visit this gloomy forest ever again, it actually felt kind of nice to know she played a part in that in her own way. However, it wasn't worth risking her life this many times in such a short timeframe. She still had research to do, and people to find. How was she supposed to find Rashido if she was a corpse?

 

One thing was for sure. If she wanted to find Rashido, this group was not the one to stick to for it. Azar returned into the village. If she was going to leave, it would be best to tell the leaders that, right? Those princesses. Finding them wasn't all that tough. Even in the village, there were plenty of dead bandits to be found.

 

"They got in here too? Bandits don't know when to give up."

 

Once she'd found the princesses - the sword girl in particular - Azar stepped up and said "Good job getting the bandits in here dead too. You've got a fairly impressive group with you. I don't say that often. As for me... I'll be bowing out of your adventure. I've got my own quest to deal with, and I can't complete it if I'm dead. You lot are walking trouble magnets it seems, so I'll have to consider my own safety. Good luck killing goddesses if that's seriously what you're planning on doing." And with that, the shaman turned, and started walking out of the fox village a second time.

 

Never liked this forest anyway. The sooner I can get a change of scenery, the better.

OOC


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#786
Lewyn

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While Catriona's speed had been slowed due to careful regulation of her center-of-balance, she had also managed to stay upright. Had she also been balancing books atop her head, her father might have actually had a few rare words of praise for her. She knew her etiquette tutor would have been more than impressed, at least.

 

Link managed to overtake her, albeit with much less grace, charging into his fellow mercenary and smashing his elbow into the man's face.

 

The enemy swordsman cursed, and grabbed his short sword to slice a nice gash up his attacker's face, but was stopped by the prickle of a blade at his throat. "Yield," Catriona commanded from the side, her face a reflection of her father's at the moment--cold and pitiless, like a winter storm. He gulped, feeling the blade push down further at the movement. This was no mere milkmaid, but a born and bred warrior, and he'd been a fool to miss it earlier. No, that white hair--she had to be one of them.

 

Which meant that other girl was--oh spirits, this had been a bad idea. Not to mention, that guard hound of theirs, while a bit beaten up, undoubtedly meant to destroy him, if the look in his colorless eyes were any indication. No, he had to get out of here while he still could. He knew what would await him at the end of the road were he to let himself be caught now; even death would be preferable.

 

"All right," he lifted his hands up in surrender. "I yield."

 

Catriona breathed a small sigh of relief and stepped back, only to be caught off guard by the sudden swing of the mercenary's sword. Her eyes widened, and then narrowed into slits as she savagely brought her blade down in a butcher's swing. Oddly enough, the man looked faintly satisfied, as if he had gotten the upper hand in the end. The thought was strangely upsetting, but she said nothing, instead wiping her sword off in the grass with a bit more force than necessary.

 

She glanced at the others, eyes alighting on Penelope first, and then Sienna. "I trust you are well?" she asked the two of them. As if catching her own lapse into emotion, she cleared her throat a bit awkwardly. "We should return to the others," she suggested. "It seems they must have met with some trouble, else we would not have had to face such rabble." A frown knitted her brow at the thought.

 

Right on cue, as if her words had summoned her, Azar approached. "Good job getting the bandits in here dead too. You've got a fairly impressive group with you. I don't say that often. As for me... I'll be bowing out of your adventure. I've got my own quest to deal with, and I can't complete it if I'm dead. You lot are walking trouble magnets it seems, so I'll have to consider my own safety. Good luck killing goddesses if that's seriously what you're planning on doing." And with that, the shaman turned and walked away.

 

Catriona stared after her in thought, before turning to the others. "It appears that the situation is not as urgent as I had thought, but I would still like to follow after." She said nothing to Azar leaving. They had barely known her, and she hadn't really, officially, been with them long. She was thankful for the shaman's help, but was neutral outside of that.

 

--

 

"I know not of this...pizza, but perhaps I could try my hand at cooking some if I had the means to it."

 

"It is relatively simple to make," Shiro commented. "And, it is very good...,"

 

Leonardo's eyes lit up at that, and he proceeded to explain, step-by-step, exactly how pizza was made, with the added disclaimer that he was far better at eating it--or rather, chowing down--than making it. "Well, the actual term is focaccia, but that's a mouthful-and-a-half. Some people call it pizza, and since that's half-a-mouthful, that's what I use," he explained.

 

His impassioned explanation was cut off as a frog Protean approached. "The Frog Sage is asking for you," he said, looking at Glenn and Shiro, "But the rest of you can come as well, if you want." As it wouldn't be a problem either way, Aka and Leonardo joined in curiously.

 

That was when the leaders started to discuss the battle and its aftermath.

 

Alois spoke up, "yeah, it'd probably be best if you guys don't have a whole army walking around waiting to ambush travelers. I don't mind a fight here and there, and I'll take on a bozo like Binks any day. But I can do without the whole entourage trying to kill me too."

 

"Don't worry!" Tsetseg, having managed to escape Hange--who, regardless, trailed behind like a mother hen--had arrived at the scene, proudly saying, "with the Patrol and Croakies and Fluffies and maybe even the Poofies if we tell them to all patroling this forest, there's no threat that we can't defeat!"

 

Urvan stared at Tsetseg with a mixed expression after her words, as if he wanted to say something, but chose not to in the end.

 

"Right," Alois gave the girl a skeptical look.

 

Tsetseg paid no mind to him, however, as her eyes instead moved towards Licorice. "And you. You were like, soooooooo coooool! Like, I didn't see you the whole time, but you were like, wooosh, snarl, bite bite, wooosh and it was so awesome and your fur looked so cool and can I pet you?" The girl seemed to be inching closer to the fox the more she talked to Licorice, seeming to very poorly hold her hand back from the fox protean.

 

Erwin rolled his eyes while Hange, who had settled in beside him, cackled, their eyes gleaming with curiosity as they settled on the black fox's fur. "Black foxes, alongside white foxes, are the rarest, and a sign of good fortune. It is said that after Inari, the second fox chieftain was as black as pitch." Unlike Tsetseg, who at least attempted to hold herself back, the squad leader's hands crept forward, fingers wiggling as if eager to grasp onto the twitching ears in front.

 

The black fox shied away, coughing in embarrassment, to the amusement of the others, before saying, "I do not think this is the time for that."
 
"Aww, spoilsport," Hange grumbled.
 
"But that is an idea," the Frog Sage mused. "The hedgehogs have always been brave and honorable, able warriors in the field of battle. Were we to ask them for assistance, I am sure they would comply."
 
The talks continued for some time, until the arrival of Catriona and the others. The leaders looked shocked to see the state of the group, and vice versa, but the newcomers were gladly ushered in to join in on the discussion. It was decided that the bandits would be taken in by the Pelinna Patrol. They would be given a choice between joining the patrol, where they would work off the debt they owed the people of Histia, or brought in to face the Council's justice. Their dead would be buried in a mass grave, while the Patrol and the tribesmen would bury their own in their respective grounds. The bandit fortress would be cleaned out and repurposed for the patrol to use as one of their camps. Eventually, the conversation seemed to point in the direction of an eventual alliance between the Pelinna Patrol and all three Protean villages.
 
"Of course, Chief Rufus must be here to make the final decision," Licorice said. "But, Inari willing, he will see the sense of it."
 
--
 
 
It was evening by the time Rufus woke up. He blinked confused chartreuse eyes at the gathering of human beings, foxes, and frogs surrounding him in his bedroom. "Oh..." he muttered, "This is quite the welcoming party," a chagrined smile spread across his face, ears flattening in shame.
 
"It is good to see you up," Licorice said.
 
"Yes, good to be up and in my right mind," he gazed at his second-in-command with an unreadable expression, before turning to the others. He bowed his head uncharacteristically at the group. "I am sorry for what transpired," he rasped. "Would I could turn back the hourglass, but for now, please accept my heartfelt apologies." He seemed solemn and gentle, a far cry from the maddened and unreasonable person from before. This was probably his true face.
 
"Pish, 'tis nothing," Glenn replied, waving a hand. "I cannot fault thee f'r deeds madeth 'neath another's thrall."
 
"Indeed," Catriona spoke, tone brusque. She was reluctant to say more, fighting the urge to call the fox chieftain out for single combat. Regardless of whether he had been bewitched, he had still been the instrument that had caused her sister's injury, and for that, she found herself struggling to forgive his actions.
 
While taking the mercenary's life had done much to calm her from her battle rage, she still was not fully in control of herself. This had been far too close. After the talks, she had explained to the others about Azar's departure, while gazing at Penelope thoughtfully. It would be better for the girl to return home. If any others desired to leave the group, she might ask them to escort her sister back to Galtea first.
 
"That is quite kind of you," the fox smiled fondly at the frog, his smile turning sad as he looked at Catriona, before he turned to Sienna, his face growing even more solemn as he looked at her. "You have grown up," he said simply. "Mature enough to face against your father, when you know him to be in the wrong." He smiled his most heart-breaking smile at that, a smile overflowing with joy and wistfulness at the same time. "I am sorry that you had to realize that."
 
"Oh, do not fret over such things," Sandara exclaimed. She had given up her vigil at Inari's altar at the news of her husband's condition. "I'm just happy to see us all back together again." She swept up both husband and daughter in a hug.
 
The chieftain's eyes softened, and the air seemed to grow warm and rosy with familial bliss. Catriona felt as if she was intruding on the moment, and she was not the only one, as the others averted their eyes politely. Still, they looked relieved that such a scene was still possible after the bloody battle.
 
All except one.
 
OOC: Some downtime after that big battle. Catriona, Penelope, Link, Ciela, and Sienna have finally finished up with the mercenary in the village, and they can optionally join Catriona back outside the village where the leaders, Gunther, Alois, Edrick, Tsetseg, and Shiro are. The bandits are in the care of the Pelinna Patrol, Azar has left, and everybody--including a select few patrolmen, foxes and frogs are gathered at Chief Rufus's house at the moment. Feel free to wrap up whatever you were doing outside before moving on to the house. Everybody is inside his bedroom at the moment, after having heard that Chief Rufus was waking up.
 
Also no Rufus does not have multiple tails, it's just really hard finding a one-tailed kitsune picture.


#787
God Emperor Cow

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Penelope was about to call out a warning, the bandit had a strange look in his eyes, but Catriona was fast enough to cut the man down without her shout.

For such a tense situation the end came...abruptly. She wasn't sure what she had expected but the...calmness that followed seemed unusual.

 

"I am perfectly fine, of course." Penelope responded, a bit curtly. She hadn't forgiven Catriona for the argument earlier quite yet. Though... "Thank you." She muttered, looking away. She did save her after all. Looking to Link, she smiled. "And you as well."

---

Penelope was satisfied with the conclusion that the groups had reached. Working together was the much better alternative. She only hoped she had helped that in some way. Though, as frustrating as it was to admit, she wasn't sure she actually did much.

 

"You're quite the capable leader yourself, Licorice." Penelope said to the girl. Her voice was full of the new fondness that she felt for the Fox Protean. Perhaps she should try and start some talks between the leaders of the human nations and the proteans. Clearly there was reason to hope it could work out.

---

"And that's where the myth about not putting chicken eggs underneath frogs came from." Penelope finished right before Rufus came to.

 

She wanted to talk to the man...though it felt strange doing it now. That he was with his family. It was clear they were having a moment. It made Penelope think of her own father. His own kindness. And it made her smile.

 

But still, this was important. So she waited a bit longer before approaching the man. The man who had injured her so greatly before. Right now, seeing him like this, that beast was the farthest thing from her mind. Which is why she had to speak. "Chief Rufus." she began, speaking in a soft but authoritative tone. Drawing on her diplomatic tutoring. "I would like you to know I bear you no ill will. But I must know...what happened to you?"

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"Well, the actual term is focaccia, but that's a mouthful-and-a-half. Some people call it pizza, and since that's half-a-mouthful, that's what I use,"

 

And then they were interrupted by what seemed like a meeting of the leaders. Gunther thought, perhaps, he should check on the Princess's. However...they were with Link...and he had another mission to take care of.

 

The chieftain's kitchen, which he had been graciously allowed to use, was very different from what he was used to. And these ingredients just the same. But he would do this. The groups all would need something to pick them up a bit and, while he couldn't fight as well as most, he at least knew how to cook.

 

So it was that, with the assistance of a couple Proteans who agreed to help, Gunther came to the group with trays filled with the food Leonardo had referred to as pizza.

 

He cleared his throat awkwardly. "I, uh...I made some food, everyone. Eat up."


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#788
Smug Sultan Saikazo

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"Well, the actual term is focaccia, but that's a mouthful-and-a-half. Some people call it pizza, and since that's half-a-mouthful, that's what I use," Leo explained. Shiro just tuned out Leo, nodding to keep him happy. The impassioned explanation was cut off as a frog Protean approached, causing Shiro to stand up.  

 

"The Frog Sage is asking for you," he said, looking at Glenn and Shiro, "But the rest of you can come as well, if you want." As it wouldn't be a problem either way, Aka and Leonardo joined in curiously. It seemed that they wanted an alliance between all the people, which would be beneficial to everyone in the forest. That was good... but... there was something that didn't sit well with Shiro... the very thing that caused all these problems in the first place... 

 

 
 
It had seemed the chief was under some sort of mind control. That was a surprisingly unrealistic and convenient way to absolve him of all his sins. Still, it didn't matter. It wasn't Rufus Shiro wanted to know about. There was only one... the white fox. Who was it, really? What could they find it? How could they defeat it. That was all he cared about, the reason he went with these humans in the first place. 

He was nowhere closer to answers.

Gunther had came out with pizzas, which smelled good, especially for the first time he cooked it. He took a slice and walked outside of the room, and to the outside, with the sky above him. He leaned against the wall, brooding and biting into the pizza. It was pretty good...

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#789
Maeriberii Haan

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Ciela decided to wait outside when Rufus woke up. The fact that she had to crawl to be inside aside, she was still feeling sour about the earlier events, but she felt that at least Rufus realized that he was being unreasonable earlier. Still, Ciela took moments to peek into what was happening inside on occasions. Azar was not with the group. Ciela wondered what happened with that. She hadn't seen her after the battle either, and she was sure that Azar was not among one of the dead. That probably meant that she was away for whatever reason now...or she left. That'd be a shame. Ciela was so looking forward to teach her all about healing magic.

 

In the meantime, Gunter came in to the group with a foreign-looking food...Ciela felt like she had read about it somewhere but it was the first time that she saw it with her own eyes. Flat bread topped with sauce, cheese, and...meat? Many ingredients were not too apparent, but the smell was really inviting. All while grumbling, Ciela swallowed her pride and entered the house, going right towards where the food were.


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#790
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Link braced himself for a blow that never came. Hesitantly, he opened his eyes to discover that the cause of his opponent’s sudden paralysis was a familiar sword—wielded by a similarly familiar princess—pressing against his throat hard enough that it caused the skin to sink in around it. "Yield," she commanded him, in a voice so cold it chilled Link’s bones the same way a Winter morning did.

 

The bandit must have felt it too, because his eyes widened and his mouth rounded to form a soundless ‘oh’. He looked from Catriona to Link, who was still straddling his chest, and the soldier could all but see the wheels turning in his head.

 

Regret and fear, then desperation, which was quickly replaced by resignation. "All right," he lifted his hands up in surrender. "I yield."

 

Link realized what was going on seconds too late. His eyes darted to the shortsword but the bandit was quicker, snatching it up and swinging wildly. “No!” Link shouted, raising his arm to catch the other man’s wrist before he could hit anyone. Catriona beat him to it.

 

The bandit sagged against the ground, his throat split open, and his lips twisted in a dying smirk. Link rolled off the corpse and collapsed onto the ground beside him. Blood trickled from scrapes and bumps all over his face, arms, and legs. His hat had been lost during the fighting and his hair spilled out over his face, clumped up and matted with blood, sweat, and dirt.

 

He wasn’t sure how long he stayed like that. Catriona gathered her composure and checked in on the others. Azar showed up and announced her departure and then was gone. Link hadn’t really known her long enough to miss her. It was one less person for him to worry about keeping alive, at the very least.

 

Something cold and wet poked his side and Link gasped, jerking up to reach for the sword that wasn’t there, but relaxed when he saw it was Rohns nosing at his stomach. He reached forward to scratch behind the wolf cub’s ear, pulling a piece of dried jerky out of his pocket and offering it to him.

 

Rohns’ glanced back and forth, cautiously surveying the area, then snatched up the meat and devoured it with gusto. Link turned his attention back to the dead bandit. “He wasn’t scared of us,” he muttered. Whoever sent him had been powerful enough that he chose to die rather than risk revealing information. Hesitantly, his gaze flickered to Catriona.

 

Even Galtean nobility was out to kill them. They were going to need every advantage they could get to survive. Link patted Rohns on the head then pushed himself to his feet, ignoring how the world swayed around him the first few steps.“Your Highness,” he said, and dropped to one knee in front of Catriona, his head bowed and his first pressed against his heart. “How badly do you want answers?”

 

Catriona looked at Penelope, still disoriented from the fall, then her eyes narrowed and she glared at the corpse of the bandit"Very," she said.

 

That was all Link needed to hear.

 

 

Link kept to himself after reuniting with the Pelinna Patrol. Mentally, he was preparing himself for the task ahead. The leader of the bandits had been slain by Alois and Edrick, working in tandem, and the few dozens that survived appeared to be mostly farmers and slide-hands who had joined up out of desperation. He would be lucky if any of them knew who had hired them.

 

The negotiations were starting to wind down when Link decided on his target, a tall and wiry man standing at the edge of the gathering. He had chosen him because of the way the rest of the bandits treated him. The death of a leader created a power vacuum that left the sheep searching for a shepherd, and in his experience, whoever they flocked to was a good person to start asking questions.

 

Link slipped into the shadows quietly. Catriona and the rest had started to disperse, leaving the bandits with a few patrolmen to watch them. He waited until they were completely out of sight before he set to work, creeping behind his target and just observing for a moment.

 

His name was Poppy. He had been injured during the fighting by an arrow to the knee, which was why he was now slumping against the tree that—unbeknownst to him—Link was hidden behind. He hadn’t cared much for the leader of the group but the black-furred fox had apparently killed two of his best mates during the fighting.

 

He was tossing a rock up into the air and catching it, grumbling under his breath about what was going to happen when he caught up to her.

 

Link lunged from behind the tree and clapped one hand over his mouth, wrapped an arm his neck and tightened it enough to stop him from breathing, then dragged him back into the forest.

 

The rock he had been toying with clattered to the ground, uncaught.

 

 

Link stirred the boiling water silently, enjoying the sensation of the steam bathing his face. He had set up a small fire about thirty minutes away from the village of the foxes, and fetched the water that was in the pot he was stirring from a nearby stream.

 

The bandit Poppy was unconscious a few feet in front of him. His arms had been stretched around a thick tree trunk and bound together with rope, as had his legs. He would groan and stretch every so often but hadn’t begun to really stir yet.

 

Link lifted the pot from the fire by the handles, and very carefully, carried it over to Poppy. He laid it down at his side and then he retrieved the last length of rope he had, running it through the two handles on the side of the pot and tying a sturdy knot. He tugged on it a few times to test it before he was satisfied.

 

With that done, he grabbed the other end of the rope and threw it over a low-hanging tree branch above. It took him a few attempts but he managed to get it to hang over far enough that he could grab it, making a makeshift pulley system to raise and lower the boiling water.

 

He positioned the pot so that it was hovering a few inches above Poppy’s chest, steam billowing up into his face, and waited patiently. Poppy unconsciously started to squirm away from the heat after a few moments, but couldn’t. A few more and he started to smack his lips to try and get moisture to his rapidly drying mouth, again to no avail. Finally, groggily, he opened his eyes.

 

“Wha… Where… You!” he said, throwing himself forward. The rope tied around the tree held and pulled him back into the trunk, cutting his snarling short.

 

Link let the pot drop a few inches. Poppy scrambled to back away from it. “Who are you? What do you want?” he demanded. “I already gave myself up to the patrol”

 

“My name is Lincoln Harkinian. I just want to ask you some questions,”Link said. Poppy could barely hear him he spoke so softly, but there was no mistaking his accent. Another Galtean. He was really starting to think that all of them were trouble.

 

Poppy clammed up and narrowed his eyes. “What? What do yeh want to know? We’re bandits. We kill for coin. It’s not like it’s some big mystery.”

 

“What’s your name?”Link asked without acknowledging his snark. He already knew it but names held a power that couldn’t really be explained. Getting someone to tell you their name willingly made getting them to talk to you much easier.

 

Poppy rolled his eyes. “If you just wanted to have a polite conversation, how about askin’ a bloke before gettin’ out the ropes next time, yeah?” He tried to spit but his mouth was too dry. “I’m not tellin’ you anythi--ARUGH!” The bandit suddenly howled in pain as the scalding hot pot was dropped onto his chest. Link raised it back up a second later but the damage was done.

 

Link crouched down so that he was eye level with Poppy. “I don’t think you knew what they were paying you to do this time. I’m trying to figure out if I’m right. You should really hope that I am.” Poppy stared him down and fought down the urge to shudder. His eyes were colorless, the eyes of a ghost. For the second time in his life of crime, he was reminded that for all his bluster he was just a scavenger. He preyed upon the young and sick, the feeble and the elderly, and anyone else who couldn’t defend themselves.

 

The man staring him down was a predator, same as that little snot-nosed brat Ross’s old man had been. They were who society would remember, while he was stuck picking over their scraps. “We only attacked the foxes because the patrol killed Bone. Binks thought we’d teach them all a lesson in one go, the idiot.” Link stared at him without saying anything. “Are you dense? Great, I got snatched by a moron. What I’m tellin’ you is that nobody paid us to do this job.”

 

Link pulled on the rope and raised the pot further away from him. He had been trying to figure out if he was lying. The man was telling—what he thought to be, at the very least—the truth. “Before that. The patrol killed Bone but Bone was there to ambush a different group. Who gave you all that job?”

 

Realization dawned on Poppy’s face. “You’re one of them!” he accused. “You’re one of them that did old Bazba in!” He drew his lips back to show his yellow teeth and tried to spit again. “I’m not telling you anythi--ARGH!”

 

Link tipped the pot over slightly, dripping a bit of water onto his chest. It slid down, scorching the skin that it came into contact with. “I had nothing to do with your leader dying,”he said. “I was there when Bone was killed. Now, who gave you the job to ambush us?”

 

“I said I’m not tellin’ you anythi--WAIT!” Link caught the rope again, and the pot stopped an inch above Poppy, but it rocked precariously from the rapid descent. “Bone was pissed when Bazba turned up dead. We all were. It wasn’t any poor merchant that gave us coin and food when we had none, it was Bazba. We wanted to find whoever it was that killed him and string ‘em up by their innards.”

 

Noticing that Link had raised the pot when he started talking, Poppy sighed. He always was the weakest willed of his mates, that’s why he had backed off when the fighting got too intense and they had died. “That was when he showed up. Some awful bloke, cloaked head to toe in dark robes. He was the one that gave us the job that got ol’ Bazba killed so we weren’t too happy to see him, but he had good information. He told us where and how to get a jump on you all, and gave us some men to help us get the job done.”

 

Link wasn’t sure what he was expecting to find out but it wasn’t that. He urged Poppy to continue. “Did any of the mercenaries stand out? Anyone you could identify?”

 

Poppy shook his head. “They’re all dead now. You all saw to that personally. Except…” he trailed off. Link dropped the pot down a few more inches and Poppy rushed to continue. “There was one! The only reason she stood out is because of how quick she left though, I swear on my life. All I remember is hearin’ a bit of her voice and seein’ an awful lot of white as she ran away.”

 

Link was angry about it but he had learned not to press to hard. They were no use broken. “Alright. What about the man? Anything you saw about him that caught your eye?”

 

“He was Galtean, and right creeped me out. That’s all.”

 

Damn. Double damn. “You said he gave you the first job. What was it?”

 

Poppy struggled against the ropes. His mates had died for him and here he was, singing like a canary. What kind of friend was he? “Why does it matter? It was the same as any other job. He wanted us to kill a merchant. Said that it was different because this one had a wife who was good at fighting, but he told us she wouldn’t be with him. It was supposed to be an easy coin purse.”

 

Link narrowed his eyes. Poppy had glanced away from him and started working a muscle in his jaw. “You’re holding something out. What?”

 

“Agh, damn! Fine. It was Jake. He’s a merchant in Histia, real popular, pro-Galtean. A lotta the boys were against it because ‘he was a nice guy’. They were young and stupid and now they’re dead. Happy?”

 

“Almost. When did you get the first job?”

 

Poppy snorted. “I don’t know! Do you think I keep track of--Okay! Okay! It was… Around mid-August, I think. Don’t see why it matters.”

 

Link knew that was about all he was going to get from him. He should have killed him so that he couldn’t cause him any trouble down the line. Instead, Link untied him and told him to wait thirty minutes and then return to the camp, and never tell anyone what happened. If he did… the promise hung unspoken in the air.

 

 

Link slowly trudged up the stairs to Rufus’s house. Rohns dogged his steps, not eager to let the human away from his watchful gaze. He had changed into his clean tunic and washed his face and hair off in the stream, but he still seemed completely exhausted.

 

He dipped his head to the people outside the cabin and then headed in, making his way over to Catriona and standing silently behind her. He had her answers, whenever she wanted them.


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#791
Alaina

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"Wait but why did the egg-" Alois's confusion at the younger princess's story was cut short as the fox chieftain had finally woken up. As the family seemed to have some kind of a happy reunion with each other, Alois was still a bit confused as to what even happened in the first place. Sure, he got the general gist of what had happened while he and the big guy were back in the frog village, but he still didn't understand why it happened in the first place. As they were only trying to plead their not guilt in the frog being killed by a fox, he wasn't sure why the foxes themselves were so gung-ho for battle. All the same, he didn't have much to ask the male fox as the princess instead seemed to already be on it. 

 

Instead, seeing that the flower faced knight had made some kind of strange food, the boy took a slice and after biting into it, said, "nice work there big man." Casually eating the flatbread, the boy walked over to the older sister of the white haired duo, saying, "so like, I know got distracted with all the bandit slaying and civil war stopping but you don't think that the frogs and foxes know anything about...you know, what we were doing before here?" 


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#792
Wind Rider

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It was finally over, the combined event of her father's rage and the bandit attack had finally ceased. It pleased Sienna to know that her father was fine now and not under the influence of some outer force, that had to have been the cause. What other explanation was there? The group had gathered together in the chieftains hut and when her father woke up, he gave a sad, solemn look towards her.

"You have grown up," he said simply. "Mature enough to face against your father, when you know him to be in the wrong." He smiled his most heart-breaking smile at that, a smile overflowing with joy and wistfulness at the same time. "I am sorry that you had to realize that."

Sienna felt like crying, this was truly her father, not some ravenous, bloodthirsty beast. "Oh, do not fret over such things," Sandara exclaimed. She had given up her vigil at Inari's altar at the news of her husband's condition. "I'm just happy to see us all back together again." She swept up both husband and daughter in a hug.

And that did it, tears streamed down Sienna's eyes. It seemed like forever since she felt her parents embrace. She cried silently as she hugged her mother and father tightly, she didn't want to let go.

#793
Lewyn

Lewyn

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As Catriona watched the fox chieftain, his wife, and their daughter sharing a family moment, the anger, anger that had caused her heart to beat against her breast like the pounding of drums, had stilled. Instead, she felt a tumble of emotions that had no name, at least none that she could grasp. She could only know them by their effects--her chest ached, and her head ached, and indeed everything about her ached, the scene overlaid with a vision of her own father, stern and unyielding, a god among men, a king.

 

I wonder how it would feel like...to be hugged by him--no. She cut that thought off at the quick. Such foolish flights of fancy were what led to scoldings by the very father she was thinking of. He had no tolerance for useless sentiments from her, and rightly so. No, it would behoove her better to put her mind to the mystery that was unfolding around her. They still hadn't received any answers from Rufus, and now that he was better, it was an opportune time for it. Look, even Penelope has a better grasp on the situation than you, she scolded herself as her sister asked the fox what exactly had happened to him.

 

The fox chieftain frowned, and there, the lord saw a ghost of the man she'd seen before, the one overtaken by rage. "I have no more of an idea of this than you do," he replied, voice clipped.


Meanwhile, Alois had approached Catriona for a question, "so like, I know got distracted with all the bandit slaying and civil war stopping but you don't think that the frogs and foxes know anything about...you know, what we were doing before here?"

 

The princess shook her head. "Perhaps..." and then turned to the others to speak. "Forgive me for interrupting, but," she paused here, her suspicion warring with her desire for answers, before the latter eventually won. "Do any of you know of the possible whereabouts of the Great Dragon?"

 

Urvan blinked. "I only know what I have heard, that the Great Dragon lies north of the Pelinna region."

 

Rufus shifted on his bed. "I only know of the tales. That the Great Dragon helped to found Histia, and fought against the goddess. Powerful beyond imagining, dwarfed only by the goddess Herself."

 

Catriona felt her heart sink. North of the Pelinna region...that description still left great tracts of land to explore.

 

The Frog Sage hummed, tapping his cane against the floor. "Ahh, yes, the Great Dragon. I was but a wee tadpole at the time, but I still remember bits and pieces." He smiled. "I visited Ithome once when they were in attendance. A great being they were, with wings so long that they could stop the sun from shining on a full city block." He sobered then. "However, I know no more of their location than you all do. Only that they are said to have retreated into the wilderness when the ways of men became too much for them."

 

"Thank you," Catriona said, wondering if the Frog Sage were really that old. If so, then he must have seen the Twelve Crusaders as well. She itched to ask about Augustus, but held her tongue. This was not the time nor the place for this. It was at that moment that she noticed Link's presence. She couldn't say how long he'd been there, but the man was more ghost than flesh sometimes, so she could be reasonably pardoned for her inattention.

 

Only then did she notice the pup at his feet. By the way Gamboge, Persimmon, and Licorice twitched, it was obvious that they had noted the creature's presence as well. It looked remarkably like the wolf pup that had led them to the fox village--ah. "Is that yours?" she asked.

 

Meanwhile, the leaders once more discussed the possibility of an alliance between all three groups, which Rufus approved. He also approved of the idea of having the hedgehogs take part as well. "They are brave," he said, "Not to mention, they also dislike the bandits and I have no doubt that they would fight alongside us. However, they are stubborn, so I am not entirely sure how willing they would be to compromise."

 

"I am sure they would see the sense of it," the Frog Sage assured, before frowning. "One last thing. Answer me this, and we shall leave you be. Can you swear that you have no knowledge of who may have murdered Cyrus? Glenn and Shiro both claim that it was a white fox."

 

Anger caused the fox's eyes to flash gold. "I swear by the spirits," he snapped, and then calmed. "That by my knowledge, it was not one of ours." Though Catriona could see no significance in his words, the Frog Sage did, if his reaction was anything to go by.

 

His face became grave, and his wrinkled brow furrowed further. "I see..." he muttered, before waving a hand, "Then we shall leave you." He left with the other frogs, pausing as he reached the blue frog eating...pizza. Leonardo must have spread his insanity some more. "Shiro," he said. "When you are able, join me outside with Glenn."

 

Urvan took that opportunity to leave as well. "It was good seeing you again, Chief Rufus," he said, before departing with the patrol, nodding at Tsetseg to follow them outside.

 

--

 

The only ones remaining in the room were Catriona, Penelope, Alois, Link, Sienna, and possibly Edrick, Ciela, and Gunther, as well as Rufus and his wife. The other foxes had left to resume their duties, Gamboge and Persimmon as guards and Licorice as Rufus's second-in-command, though Gamboge stopped once to beg a slice of pizza off of Gunther.

 

Catriona tensed, remembering her days back on the border, when, right before a battle, she would do naught but polish her sword, staring at her reflection on the surface. Back then, it had been a plain iron sword, its handle banded in leather and the blade chipped from chopping into plate armor. The air felt now as it did then, and as the weight of it grew heavier, her face grew colder.

 

And then Rufus spoke. His eyes had lost much of their softness, in fact, they looked urgent, helpless, and somewhat wild. "I must..." he took a deep breath. "I must warn you. I was not entirely honest earlier, but for good reason. This is a fox matter, but I have done you a great wrong, and you deserve to know if you are to head north." He took a deep breath. "I was there, the night that Inari's Beads were stolen."

 

It was the dead of night, and Rufus was awake.

 

He couldn't quite explain what woke him, only that he had an urge to visit the shrine. He had heard tell of headaches that plagued the other two tribes of the forest. Bandit attacks had increased, and he just felt...restless. Yes, that was the word. Restless.

 

Bypassing the trial, he entered the shrine through a hidden door that took him directly to the altar room. There, he prayed before the beads. "Inari, grant us your protection," he whispered.

 

"How foolish," a voice crooned, and he stiffened, turning to look behind him.

 

"I remember no more," he explained. "But what I do remember leads me to suspect..." he turned to Sienna, face grave. "There may be another fox out there," he continued. "One more powerful than any other I have met before. I do not know why they would have stolen the beads, but in the wrong hands, those beads can cause great damage. They are never to be used for the sake of a single fox, but for the entire tribe. That is what Inari taught us."

 

He looked at the others. "There will be danger, and I ask you to protect Sienna if it comes. She is young yet for a Protean, and still has much to see of the world. Yet, see it she must, if she is to grow." He turned back to his daughter. "Much as I want you to stay here, I would ask that you continue with these people. They are strong enough that I can trust you with them. However," he smiled wistfully. "Obviously, as a father, I would rather you remain here. So, if you truly wish to stay, then I will not say no."

 

--

 

The Frog Sage walked into the forest far enough until he was sure they would not be listened in on. However, he had not gotten where he was by being careless. "Aka, secure the perimeter," he ordered, before looking at the blue Protean in front of him, Glenn at his side. "Shiro," he said gravely. "I have a task for you that I cannot lay on any other. Glenn cannot go. There are people after his life, and I would protect him closer to home. However, you..." he stared at the blue-haired man. "You have already befriended some of the group, have battled alongside them. And you have more knowledge of the outside world than most."

 

He tapped his cane on the ground. "I will be blunt--I do not trust these foxes. Trickery has ever been their tool, and while Rufus is honest by a fox's standard, he is still a fox, and he is surrounded by ones more wily than he. The quest that the Galtean princesses are undertaking is a prudent one. I have sensed the stirrings of darkness in the forest, and had wondered if it came from fox magic, but if Catriona is to be believed, then there is another reason for it, and if so, we have need of the Great Dragon now more than ever."

 

The Frog Sage stroked his beard. "While I am too old to help them much, you are not." He nodded at Shiro. "Go with the princesses, help them, and above all, watch the fox. If I am right, Rufus will send his daughter or another fox with them. He will say that it is to see the world, but I do not trust his reasons. For this reason, I ask you to go with them."

 

He paused, eyes softening. "However, this is not an order. Shiro, you are one of my most trusted frogs, and you have been away for a long time. If you choose to stay, then I will not stop you."

 

--

 

Urvan returned to outside the village, where the bandits were being watched by a mixture of patrol members, foxes, and frogs. "Tsetseg," he said, finally, when they had reached a private area. "You have been with the patrol for...how long now? Long enough, anyway." He sighed. "While I have no younger siblings of my own, I always thought," he coughed in embarrassment. "Well, needless to say, we have all grown quite fond of you."

 

"Cop out," Hange muttered.

 

"Shush," Erwin elbowed them in the side.

 

"However, you have always been a wanderer, and I have noticed you growing restless as of late. While the Patrol is always on the move, we cover the same territory, and I know your feet must have started to itch by now." He chuckled. "Not literally, of course." The smile slipped from his face as he continued. "The princesses are on a noble journey, and I cannot in good conscience let them go any further without aid. So," he took a breath and crouched down so he stood at eye level with the bow thief. "If it's fine with you, then I'd like for you to go with them. You have already traveled alongside them when you got kidnapped before." His eyes glazed over with guilt. "You are not the only one I am thinking of sending, however. I have a feeling that this journey might just be the breath of fresh air that Adel needs. So if you wish to stay, then the Patrol would not turn you away."

 

OOC: Okay, the moment of truth! For three RPers, it's decision time!

Wind Rider, Saiku, and Skaia, it's time to decide if you want to keep going forward with your characters in the RP. If you are finding yourselves dissatisfied with your characters or the RP in any way, now is your chance to drop or change your character. Post with your decision, and skype me for any additional details.

For all others, post with your reactions and stuff.



#794
God Emperor Cow

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Penelope didn't quite believe Rufus. It just didn't quite add up that he wouldn't know anything about it. There was something unusual about this whole situation and she hated not knowing the full story. However...he still seemed rather quick to anger so she decided it would be in everyone's best interest that she back down. "If I happen upon some information regarding a similar issue I'll try and let you know. It seems like something that could be dangerous if left unknown."

 

With that she moved over towards her sister. "There is much here that we yet do not know. It isn't safe to stay for much longer." she whispered to the woman before grabbing a slice of pizza from Gunther. "Did you know that Turtles of Unusual Size have been known to fight ferociously for a slice of pizza?"

 

Gunther nodded along with what she was saying. Even though this was something that even he couldn't quite believe. Turtles of Unusual Size? He didn't think they existed.

 

That's when Gunther noticed Ciela on her way inside and, upon finding somewhere to set the tray, took a slice and brought it to her directly. "You can call for assistance if you need it you know." Gunther said softly. "I wouldn't want anyone to miss out." After a hesitation, letting Ciela respond, Gunther finally realized that Link, too, was in the room. Though he seemed rather busy...the animal with him did not. So Gunther would take it upon himself to offer it, too, a slice of pizza.

-----

Penelope and Gunther stood side by side near Catriona as Rufus told them information he had been withholding. Penelope frowned at this knowledge. He had been so adamant about it not being a fox, willing to fight over it, and yet was holding onto this fact? Penelope was right to not prod this man. He seemed still somewhat unstable. Possibly due to..whoever was that attacked him. She desperately wanted to ask for more information but...she would leave that to another if they wished. To one that he hadn't already attacked prior. She did not wish for another confrontation with this man.

 

"I will do what I can to guard your daughter." Gunther stated solemnly. "It is my duty to protect the Princesses and their allies." Though he was nervous. Another person to look after, when so many of them were already often in danger. Could he really keep up?

Maybe he should have focused more on riding training...

 

"We would of course welcome you, Sienna, if you wish to stay. There is still much I would love to learn of your people." Penelope added in, her excitement visible in the way her eyes gleamed and her body shook.


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#795
Alaina

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Once Rufus had finally given his final statement as to what he actually knew, Alois a bit more concerned about what was going on. The fox chieftain told them about how he was apparently met with a stranger then night something important was stolen from his tribe. He hadn't the faintest idea of what "Inari's Beads" were or did, but understood that it was very bad they weren't here. Thinking about it a bit more, the boy felt like this wasn't the first time something like this had happened near them. Though, as he tried to remember it more, the boy eventually stopped his train of thought as it seemed the time had come for them to start getting a move on. As the chieftain seemed to want his daughter to go along with them. As both the princess and big man seemed to be in agreement of her joining, he simply said, "well, I've only had pleasant experiences with white foxes so far, so yeah, feel free to come along." 

 

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Tsetseg walked alongside the rest of the patrol once all was said and done, and hanging around with them, the girl then looked to Urvan as he began to speak to her about the current situation. She had a smile on her face as he started talking to her, though seemed a bit more curious and confused as he continued on with it. Eventually, though, as he finished what he was saying the girl was strangely quiet and seemed to be deep in thought. Eventually, though, she nodded saying, "ok. I'll go with them." After a bit, she said, "I bet it'll be sooo cool to see all the other things that are out there, not that there wasn't cool stuff here too. Thanks to you and all the patrol I got to see all kinds of cool stuff and meet all kinds of cool people, and pet all kinds of fluffy tails! But, don't worry, I'll protect those princesses as best I can. Promise."

 

The girl seemed to be a bit more pumped up as she said this, before she seemed to remember something else. "And oh oh oh, it'll be even more awesome when we see each other again. Because one of the princesses, the really smart one, she's my friend now and really nice. And she told me that she'll help me learn how to read and stuff. So when we see each other again I'll be able to help Hange out with all new kinds of things, so make sure to look forward to that!" While she seemed excited about what she was saying, her expression seemed to drop further, before saying, "but um...um..." Before she finished her thought she went to hug Urvan saying, "I'll miss you guys." After a brief sniffle she said, "you guys were like a real tribe to me, and thanks sooo much for everything." After a few more moments, the girl let go of Urvan, merely wiping her face with her hand, before saying, "but I have a mission now! So, I'll do my best!" With that, the girl went to prepare herself to join up with the princesses group


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#796
Maeriberii Haan

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"You can call for assistance if you need it you know." Gunther said softly as Ciela hesitated to join with the rest. "I wouldn't want anyone to miss out."

 

"I suppose... but right now I'm already here." Taking the slice of pizza that Gunther offered, Ciela gave him a smile before digging in. "I'll be sure to rely on you next time, maybe."

 

The pizza...thing was surely enjoyable, but Ciela for the most part tuned out of the rest of the talk that continued afterwards. The matter between foxes, frogs, and the Patrol had given her too many headaches, and as much as she wanted to yell at Rufus, again, she felt that she was just too tired to deal with any of this now and ended up just busying herself with what was left of the food. As Rufus said his last words though, Ciela's gaze went towards Sienna.

 

Looking at her, Ciela was at least aware that Sienna wouldn't feel that good about her after the things that she had done so far. The foxes still were scary to her, but...well, after Rufus almost killed her earlier, Ciela felt that it probably wouldn't get worse from there on. She still felt justified with what she had done so far, but Ciela ultimately made the decision that it was best for her now to create a new start between her and Sienna, should she still decided to stay with the group.

 

"Sienna, uh..." This was harder than what Ciela thought at first. "This might come as a bit half-hearted but... Sorry for kicking your father in the back and for charging at you when that bandit held you earlier. And I guess, sorry for pushing you to burn the forest a few days ago, and for acting dismissive at you before and for...

 

uh... did I miss anything?"

 

Pause.

 

"But yeah. I'm really sorry for all that. Might not be enough, but I'd like to start anew and uh...maybe get along better with you now? Of course, should you stay with us."

 


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#797
Smug Sultan Saikazo

Smug Sultan Saikazo

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Apparently, these humans wanted something with the Great Dragon. That was a name spoken of only in myth, right? However, it seemed that the Great Frog Sage had actually seen the dragon itself. He kept forgetting what a long life their master had... he really should ask for stories of the past again... However, that was not what was important. The foxes once more pleaded ignorance to the death of Cyrus. Either they were lying, or they were complete idiots, and Shiro couldn't tell which answer was more likely. 

 

The Frog Sage requested Glenn and Shiro to follow him into the forest, which of course, they obeyed. They walked far into the forest, away from prying ears. "Aka, secure the perimeter," he ordered, before looking at Shiro, Glenn at his side. "Shiro," he said gravely. "I have a task for you that I cannot lay on any other. Glenn cannot go. There are people after his life, and I would protect him closer to home. However, you..." he stared at the blue-haired man. "You have already befriended some of the group, have battled alongside them. And you have more knowledge of the outside world than most."

 

Shiro already didn't like where this was going. Not one bit.

 

"I will be blunt--I do not trust these foxes," The obviously wise thing to do. "Trickery has ever been their tool, and while Rufus is honest by a fox's standard," Like how a skunk smelled cleaned by skunk standards? "he is still a fox, and he is surrounded by ones more wily than he. The quest that the Galtean princesses are undertaking is a prudent one. I have sensed the stirrings of darkness in the forest, and had wondered if it came from fox magic, but if Catriona is to be believed, then there is another reason for it, and if so, we have need of the Great Dragon now more than ever."

 

There was that name again. The Great Dragon... the Goddess... Shiro cared not for any of them. What mattered was the people he could see, who he could interact with... not faraway, mystical things that never helped the people that needed it. Always helping the kings and the heroes... not the common folk... what good were they, really?

 

"While I am too old to help them much, you are not." He nodded at Shiro. "Go with the princesses, help them, and above all, watch the fox. If I am right, Rufus will send his daughter or another fox with them. He will say that it is to see the world, but I do not trust his reasons. For this reason, I ask you to go with them." He paused, eyes softening. "However, this is not an order. Shiro, you are one of my most trusted frogs, and you have been away for a long time. If you choose to stay, then I will not stop you."

 

Shiro paused, thinking to himself. He had been back at the village for less than two years, and he loved the peace here... and if he let these people go without supervision, they could tell others... they could send people here... ruin this entire forest. Not only that, but it was obvious he was not going to find Cyrus's killer here. He had to go out, since Glenn could not. He really didn't want to leave though... the very thought made his skin crawl... but if he had to choose between his personal comfort and the safety of his village.

"As you wish," He said, getting on a knee. "Today, I vow to fight with the humans, and watch the fox, to the very best of my ability. I will succeed in this mission, or die trying. I vow this on my very honor as a Frog,"


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#798
Asriel Dreemurr

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In the aftermath of his prayer for the dead, Edrick largely remained quiet. His plan, indeed the entire reason he had wanted to speak with the foxes at all, was irrelevant now. With the bandits having thrown in their lot with this attack on the village, and being soundly slaughtered for it, there was very little reason for them to push on their headquarters except to see what they could learn from poking around what was left. That was an idea of course, but for the time being it seemed the others had slightly more pressing business with the Sage and Licorice. The idea of dealing with even more of these strange, transforming creatures did not excite him, but he was going to at least try to keep his mind open.
 
What he was much less open minded about was this foodstuff that Gunther brought out to them after they had been sitting in the Chieftan's house for some time yet. This heavy bread covered in cheese and other, stranger, things had him staring for quite some time while he figured out what, if anything, he wanted to do with it. Well, the others seemed to be enjoying it. Those that were eating it anyways. Well, if the same group of people that had enjoyed his Izichya liked this then it could not be that bad. Right? All the same he took an experimental bite, chewed, swallowed, paused, and then proceeded to finish his piece. It was filling if nothing else.
 
When Rufus awoke, there was a tearful moment between Sienna and her parents. He held his piece on the subject, but seeing it made his heart ache. He had been away from home for a year now, and he sorely wanted to go home. Not that he could. Between his fruitless efforts to find Elba and the duty which it seemed Inera herself had set before him, he had no real chance to leave. Didn't change the fact that it was suddenly that much harder to eat when his thoughts were on his home. The second slice of "pizza" ended up sitting half-eaten on his lap while the most pressing concerns were brought up and considered. Eventually those gathered split, and he stayed in Rufus's room with the others who did so.
 
The sense of homesickness only grew in the young Pontic as he listened to Rufus tell the tale, and then to the choice set before Sienna. It was a situation very much like one he had experienced, or rather it was like how he wished he had left.
 
"There's a bit more to discuss," he began as he finally spoke up, "than just your daughter's plans for stayin' or leavin', but for my part I don't mind you comin' along, Sienna." He looked at the Protean girl and managed a bit of a smile. "And maybe it's not my place to say, but I'll understand if you decide to stay too." With that he went quiet again, deciding to wait until this had been resolved to bring up the other issues that had occurred to him.



#799
Hakima

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Link and Rohns went largely unnoticed amidst the discussion. A few foxes smelled the wolf, but thankfully did nothing more than twitch their noses at him before returning to their conversations. It was relieving. Link still hadn’t figured out what he was going to do about the animal and thinking about how the princesses were going to react made his stomach twist into knots. The irony that he could torture a man unflinchingly, but was anxious about telling his bosses he had a pet, wasn’t lost on him. 
 
He puckered his lips and crossed his arms over his chest, retreating further into the corner. His head was a mess; a knapsack so overloaded that the buckle threatened to burst from trying to contain it all. He had gone looking for answers and just found more questions. He was really supposed to believe that it was a coincidence that Catriona had stumbled upon the bandits attacking Jake?
 
No, someone had known they were going to be there.  But how was that possible? The average window given for an ambush was a day. You arrived a day early to account for brisk pace and stayed a day late to account for delays. The margin of error here was roughly an hour; any later and Jake would have been dead. You would have to be able to predict the future to time something that well. It must have been a coincidence… which didn’t make any sense either.
 
Link huffed and balled his eyes shut, hoping to relieve the pounding sensation behind them. Rohns’ ears perked up at the noise and he regarded his human with big, dark eyes. His head tilted curiously, watching him clench his jaw and stare at nothing. Then he lunged forward and bit into the toe of one very surprised Galtean’s boot. 
 
Link made a little yelping noise and shook the cub away. Rohns growled playfully, prowling around the shoe like his mother would a plump rabbit. “...” Link crouched down and sternly pointed his finger at the wolf cub. “No.”
 
Rohns flattened his ears against his head and bared his teeth. Link narrowed his eyes and refused to give in. The showdown between the two would have gone even further, if not for the timely interruption of Catriona. "Is that yours?" she asked.
 
Link panicked. His eyes flickered between the eldest princess and Rohns rapidly. “…Yes.” He pushed himself to his feet and quietly cleared his throat, his cheeks stained by what could be mistaken as a blush on anyone else. He leaned forward and whispered into her ear before she had time to say anything. “... I have those answers you wanted, when you have the time, your Majesty.”
 
At the same time Gunther arrived to offer Rohns a slice of the strange, cheese-covered flatbread. The wolf cub cautiously sniffed it then tore it out of the knight’s hand, shaking it back and forth wildly in his jaws the way he would a piece of game, slinging cheese everywhere before he finally deigned to eat it. 
 
 
Link took up his spot in the corner again once the excitement died down. Rohns curled up into a ball at his feet, sleeping and happily covered in cheese. 
 
If anyone looked close enough they would find out that the cub wasn’t the only one napping. Link had managed to fall asleep on his feet, sagging back against the wall, his head lolled forward just enough that his hat had also tilted forward to cover his face. 

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#800
Lewyn

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Catriona ignored Penelope's words from earlier. After all, if there was much they did not know, then why would they leave? It would make much more sense to stay and learn more about the situation. She also ignored that "fact" about Turtles of Unusual Size. There were no such turtles, at least that she had heard of. It was more likely her sister getting carried away yet again.

 

The lord turned to Link as he responded. “…Yes.” He pushed himself to his feet and quietly cleared his throat, his cheeks flushed. She frowned. The usual reason for a reddened visage would be embarrassment, but the man before her had done nothing to be embarrassed of. It was then that he leaned forward and whispered into her ear, “... I have those answers you wanted, when you have the time, your Majesty.”

 

The princess stood there, expression stern and blank, but her insides writhed with confusion. What answers? When had she asked for them? And what would they even be answering? Still, it would look bad for her as a leader if she didn't appear to know what was going on, so she nodded, a short, sharp, jerk. "Good."

 

She let her mind dwell on Link's odd words, turned them over in her head while Rufus started up a speech about Sienna joining their group. "It would not be an issue," she replied, standing in an awkward place between aggression and bewilderment in her feelings on the chieftain. However, Sienna's presence had been a boon thus far, so there would be no arguments forthcoming from her end.

 

"I am relieved," Rufus said, reassured by their responses, even Ciela's. He turned to Sienna to gauge her reaction, but in the end, regardless of what she would say, he would then dismiss the group soon afterward to finish recovering. "If you have more you wish to speak of, then say it after the feast we shall be having," he told the group, though he had his head turned toward Edrick.

 

"Let us go then," Catriona said, her voice loud enough to wake Link up, however unintentionally.

 

--

 

"As you wish," Shiro said, getting on a knee. "Today, I vow to fight with the humans, and watch the fox, to the very best of my ability. I will succeed in this mission, or die trying. I vow this on my very honor as a Frog."

 

The Frog Sage looked relieved, but also sad. "Thank you," he said, laying a wrinkled hand gently on Shiro's head for a second before pulling it back and tapping his stick against the ground, though the sound came out muffled against the cushioned forest loam. He gave one last piece of advice before leaving to organize his frogs. "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

 

Aka turned to leave as well, and then paused. "Shiro," she said suddenly. "I-I'll miss you," she hugged him briefly before stepping back, blushing heavily as she fled the area, leaving Glenn behind with the blue-haired Protean.

 

BGM

 

The green-haired man watched the departing forms of the other two Proteans before turning to Shiro. "Shiro," he said, his expression serious and a little sad. "My dear friend. I would have thou rememb'r this before thou leavest. While 'tis noble to serve anoth'r to the utmost, rememb'r to take care of thyself. The sage does not sayeth it, but methinks he believes this to be for thine own good. Just as I believe."

 

Glenn smiled wistfully. "The world is wide and beautiful. One day thou shalt seest it too, if it not be true already. There is m're to it than the wilds of Pelinna or the des'rts of Isauria. P'rhaps, some day we can visit Galtea togeth'r, and I will show thee the farmlands and the castle and the people, of the lands Sir Cyrus so loved." His eyes grew distant as he spoke, walking the rolling fields of Galtea yet again, trailing behind his mentor and role model. It seemed an age had passed before he returned to the present with a jerk. "Beg pardon," he apologized. "Mine own mind ranneth away f'r a second there. Shiro," he refocused on the blue-haired Protean in front of him. "Do hon'r to the name of frog, and livest free." He bowed then, hand over heart, before rising, and clapping Shiro on the back. "But, let us return to the oth'rs anon. There is much to do still."

 

--

 

BGM

 

Tsetseg nodded saying, "ok. I'll go with them." After a bit, she said, "I bet it'll be sooo cool to see all the other things that are out there, not that there wasn't cool stuff here too. Thanks to you and all the patrol I got to see all kinds of cool stuff and meet all kinds of cool people, and pet all kinds of fluffy tails! But, don't worry, I'll protect those princesses as best I can. Promise."

 

Hange looked a little jealous for a second. "Hey, I wanna go too--" they were cut off by Erwin once more elbowing them in the side. "Okay, fine," they wheezed.

 

"And oh oh oh, it'll be even more awesome when we see each other again. Because one of the princesses, the really smart one, she's my friend now and really nice. And she told me that she'll help me learn how to read and stuff. So when we see each other again I'll be able to help Hange out with all new kinds of things, so make sure to look forward to that!"

 

"That is good," Urvan smiled indulgently as she spoke, but his eyes were sad, something Tsetseg seemed to pick up on, "but um...um..." Before she finished her thought she went to hug Urvan saying, "I'll miss you guys."

 

He hugged her back tightly, and was soon joined by Hange hugging both of them, tugging Erwin over as well. "We will miss you too," he murmured, eyes suspiciously bright. "Never forget that."

 

After a brief sniffle Tsetseg said, "you guys were like a real tribe to me, and thanks sooo much for everything." After a few more moments, the girl let go of Urvan, merely wiping her face with her hand, before saying, "but I have a mission now! So, I'll do my best!" With that, the girl left to make preparations.

 

The three watched her leave. "It is...for the best," Urvan sighed. "Much as I want her to stay, and much as I feel like she's not ready yet."

 

"She will have the best companions she could ask for," Erwin reassured.

 

"Except for us!" Hange cheered, "Cuz we're naturally the best of the best."

 

"Yes, of course," Urvan smiled, blinking rapidly a couple times before turning to the others. "Come, we have our own preparations to make."

 

--

 

As the evening wore on the fox tribe hosted a feast in celebration of the defeat of the bandits that had plagued their forest for so long. While the food was decent, Catriona couldn't help but miss the fare from back home. Rice and vegetables were a refreshing change of pace, but it wasn't the same as good old-fashioned pasties or trenches soaked in pottage, washed down with wine, and not the rice wine the foxes were so fond of drinking, but actual grape wine. Still, it was something to fill up the stomach, so she couldn't complain.

 

Nearby, Licorice turned to Penelope. "Chief Rufus has decided that I shall be joining your group as additional protection, if you will have me," she said, seeming interested in the girl's possible reaction to that bit of news.

 

Catriona had mixed feelings on that. On the one hand, the black fox was more civil than most of her brethren. On the other hand, she had still been the one to kidnap Penelope. The white-haired woman glanced at her sister, deciding to wait and see what she would say before making any decisions herself.

 

Much to her surprise, Penelope clapped her hands together and smiled brightly. "Oh, that would be wonderful. I would love to be able to talk with you more. And perhaps you can show me more of how Proteans fight."

 

Catriona stared at her sister in shock. She forgives...quite easily, she decided, before nodding her agreement. "Yes, it is fine with me as well."

 

"Very good," Licorice replied, her eyes glinting with an emotion the lord could not name. As the fox turned back to Penelope, however, they softened to their usual warm amber.

 

It was too late in the day for anybody to set out for their respective destinations, so Rufus invited them all to stay the night. Unlike before, he seemed warmer, more open to discussion, replying to the best of his knowledge to any questions the group had. The patrol and frogs, including Tsetseg and Shiro, stayed outside in makeshift tents and hammocks, but Catriona and company slept in the chieftain's house. Settling down to sleep, the princess tossed and turned in her bed, the pain in her chest and the tickle in her throat causing her to tense, before she eventually relaxed and drifted off to sleep.

 

Meanwhile, in the chieftain's room, moonlight shone through an open window onto an empty bed.

 

--

 

BGM

 

In the black of night, two figures stood in front of the great shrine of Inari.

 

"So you have come," one said, turning his head slightly, revealing himself as Rufus. Gone was the soft visage of a doting father. Here and now was a chieftain, his shoulders raised up confrontationally, teeth bared in a snarl.

 

The other nodded, the darkness shrouding their form so well only their amber eyes could be clearly seen.

 

"I knew you would," Rufus laughed, his eyes shining a hellish green. "You are, after all, Her servant, are you not?"

 

The other did not answer, but they didn't need to. Rufus had already drawn his own conclusions.

 

"It was you, wasn't it?" the chieftain's voice turned sharp. "You were the one...who cast that spell on me."

 

"Really?" the other moved slightly, revealing herself as Licorice. "But only white foxes can use magic. It's impossible for me."

 

"It might not have been you, but you were keeping the spell active on Her behalf. Plus, it's not known for sure whether black foxes can or cannot."

 

"You caught me," the raven-haired girl admitted easily. "What next?"

 

"I should exile you, no I should imprison you, so you cannot cause any more trouble."

 

"Wise, but too late. I am going with the princesses. Their destination aligns with mine."

 

"You mean, Hers."

 

"I am Her faithful servant," Licorice bowed with a bland smile. "Her wish is my command."

 

"But I will not allow it!" Rufus roared, face purpling with outrage. "Spirits, I command you as chieftain of the fox tribe...bind this vixen up. She cannot be allowed to leave this place." As he spoke, his body glowed and shifted to his bestial form.

 

The wind howled, the trees shook, and the earth groaned from underneath their feet. It was obvious that whatever the chieftain had said had had some sort of effect. But rather than panic, Licorice instead smiled, as if she was privy to a secret that he knew not. "The ancient covenant between fox tribe and the forest spirits. I'm flattered. However," she shifted herself. "You will have to do more than that." The air seemed to positively vibrate with magic, converging around the black fox. Just when it seemed she would be subdued, she started to speak in a tongue he had only heard mentions of, her eyes flashing with an eerie blue light. "Ekan bi-haissiz iuwiz haltaz."

 

Rufus gaped. "The ancient speech?" he asked. "I had thought it forgotten by time."

 

"Much that is forgotten still exists. Now as for you..." Licorice gave him a considering look. "I cannot trust you to hold your tongue. You are blunt and quick to anger, more a dog than a fox," she said with a trace of contempt. "You will have to forget once more. "Wīpanan Rufus γa-menthijan."

 

The magic that he had called up so readily left his grasp, surrounding the black fox. At that moment, standing in the eye of the storm, she looked every inch her birthright. While Inari had had no heirs, her successor did, and there, right before him, was that man's very descendant. While blood did not affect who was chosen to be chieftain, it did carry with it a certain prestige. Licorice was as famed throughout the tribe as Sienna was, though her vicious fighting style and ruthless kills had caused her fame to swing into infamy. Friends and enemies alike knew her by a different name than the one given to her at birth.

 

The Black Fang.

 

I underestimated her, was Rufus's last thought before he fell into darkness.

 

--

 

The morning dawned bright and clear--a beautiful autumn day. After eating a quiet breakfast at the chieftain's house, where Rufus seemed strangely taciturn compared to the day before, the group departed for the village exit. There, they made preparations to leave, but at the gate, were greeted by Rufus, Sandara, Licorice, Gamboge, Persimmon, the Frog Sage, Glenn, Shiro, Aka, Leonardo, Urvan, Hange, Erwin, and Tsetseg, as well as Levi and Shaoran who had arrived sometime in the night.

 

"Before you leave, I would have Shiro go with you," the Frog Sage said, gesturing to the blue-haired Protean with a fond smile. "The frogs stand with you."

 

"And the Patrol," Urvan said, patting Tsetseg on the head one last time. "We cannot let you go on your own. Tsetseg here is a fine bowwoman. And..." he paused, as if hearing something of significance, though Catriona could hear nothing but the flapping of wings and a soft neigh in the distance, probably from one of their horses. "There is somebody else we would send as well. She should be here soon."

 

"We thank you, and we would be glad to have you all," the lord replied.

 

Meanwhile, Levi turned to Tsetseg. "I heard. Don't be stupid out there," he said. Though his expression was cold and his tone flat, his words carried a hint of worry, and his face twitched as if he was fighting back a frown of concern.

 

"Hah! Admit it, you're as sad to see her go as the rest of us," Hange crowed.

 

"I'm not you, shitty four-eyes," he grumbled, crossing his arms with a huff. "Take care," he mumbled, soft enough only Tsetseg could hear, and barely at that.

 

"You better stay alive. You still haven't proved me wrong yet," Persimmon addressed the bow thief. He ignored his brother's chuckles from beside him.

 

"Shiro, rememb'r what I said. I hope thou finds thy happiness." Glenn said, turning to Gunther as well. "Hold thy head high, f'r thou art a true knight, old friend."

 

"Sienna," Rufus said, embracing her. "You have made me proud," he murmured. "I could have nobody better for a daughter."

 

"I love you, my child," Sandara agreed.

 

With all that was being said, Catriona found herself with nothing to do in the meantime. She looked at Edrick, remembering what he had spoken about earlier. "Did you wish to check out the bandit stronghold still?" she then turned to Link. "Oh, yes, what was that you said about answers?" Now that she thought about it, she vaguely recalled him saying something along those lines back in the village, after she had killed the mercenary.

 

In the end, however, the conversation was cut short by several new arrivals.

 

OOC: All right guys. A lot happened, but it's finally the next day. React to events of the previous day as well as the new one. To Nai, it's also that time. And, I know a few of you had additional questions for Rufus, so if you want, go ahead and ask them before you post, and I'll have him respond, along with anybody else you were thinking of.

 

Also Wind Rider, I have noticed a tendency on your end to post quite infrequently compared to the pace of the RP, usually once every two or three weeks. While I have overlooked it for the most part so far, it doesn't reassure me that you have skipped posting during what could possibly be one of Sienna's most important choices, not to mention previous instances where the direction of the RP has depended on her decisions. Because of this, I am sorry to say that this is your first warning. Another two, and I will have to make a decision on whether or not you will be staying in the RP.






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