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Maybe It's A Party?

The mysterious mass kidnappings in the Crownlands have left commoners shaken as they're unsure why their loved ones have been taken and whether they'll see them again. Maybe it's a party!

((It's not a party. This is a GM scene open to combat characters (as well as any healers who wish to turn up). None combat characters *could* show up but there will be little for them to do and the event will start at high risk and steadily rise to extreme as there will be a herokiller threat at the end. There will be opportunities to withdraw but permanent injuries and death are a possibility.))


Aug. 6, 2022, 5 p.m.

Hosted By


GM'd By

Sebastian Lou


Sebastian Lou Felicia(RIP) Caspian Raven Ezra Vitalis Eirene Gaspard Alantir Thea Tesha Ailys Preston Katarina Ian Giorgio Calyana



Smile's Shadow

Largesse Level


Comments and Log

Raven wields Blackheart Halfmoon Blade.

Caspian wields Charm and Grace, alaricite chain knives.

Giorgio gets a custom pair of pale, textured leather gloves from a cloth parcel.

Felicia wields Wheelspinner - the Blade of Souls.

Katarina wields tempest sapphire seas gleaming silvery blade.

Eirene wields Dawnstrike, an elegant diamondplate longsword.

Preston wields Crusader, Blade of the Templars.

Thea wields Skystrike, the finely crafted diamondplate kopis.

Alantir wields Wyrmsong, an ashen diamondplate longsword.

Gaspard gets helm of the Shepherd's Raiments from a simple canvas bag in black.

Gaspard gets breastplate of the Shepherd's Raiments from a simple canvas bag in black.

Tesha wields wings from the ashes diamondplate longblade with elegant flames handle.

Gaspard wields Shepherd, a diamondplate blade.

Vitalis wields Defiance, an Oakhide whip in glinting white.

The poor villagers of the Crownlands are at a loss of what to do with this conundrum. The majority of the peerage do not seem to care much for the random disappearance of unnamed commoners and seem convinced that this must just be a thing commoners do from time to time. Maybe it is a party. Why would it be their concern?

Yet there are those who find the abruptness suspicious to say the least. As well as the improbable nature of a simultaneous attack across different towns. It's a strange coincidence. And it if was planned, how were the attackers able to coordinate the abductions over distance?

At a loss, the loved ones of those taken have set up camp not far from the bandits' holding, attempting to find someway to rescue them from an unknown fate. Perhaps, there is an easier way, however. If there are a collection of warriors who are a much for the well armed bandits barring their way.

Smile checked dexterity + occult at difficulty 59, rolling 17 lower.

Felicia has been taking her poor, long suffering Iron Guardsmen and any volunteers for a patrol. Not their regular, in Arx patrol, but a long-ranging jaunt. Through the snow. On horse back. Much to the complaint of at least one of them. The sign of many people on foot at one crucial moment saw them following the passage of the villagers. Churning up the already trampled ground with lovely fresh hoofprints on the whim of investigation and chance.

Caspian tightens the pack on his back as they trudge onward. Despite the weather and the cold, he still wore his smile, doing his best to add some levity to the trip. The directions given were fairly clear, as clear as distraught family members can be at times. Still, Caspian was betting the bandits were not prepared for troupe heafing toward them. at least.. he really wanted to beleiove that was the case. he glanced to any nearby and grinned, "

Raven hates riding. Almost as much as she hates the cold. And Riding in the cold? The absolute WORST. She did complain at first but it didn't take long for her to become so miserable that her complaints fell into a sullen silence, bundled up as much as she could and still have mobility enough to mount a horse, just her green eyes peering out. For once she doesn't insist on being at the front but she is careful not to fall to the rear. Moonsilver seems somewhat less bothered by the cold, flying from tree to tree and when there are no trees-circling above.

Ezra rode out here with his Favorite Aunt... the indomitable Eirene of course! The Riven scout is armed with an alaricite axe at his belt and a round shield covered with hide, glancing at Eirene as they draw close to their destination. "Too close to home, too close for comfort," he comments to her, "Quite the group of bandits, to pull off something like this."

Nestor, a destructive orange-pitted parrot arrives, delivering a message to Giorgio before departing.

Any such venture needs good eyes and ears and Vitalis volunteers to scout, sitting Rocker like they were cast as a piece, the two ride near the fore, eyes and ears sharp.

Far be it from Eirene to turn down a distress call... Wearing her black and teal Riven colors and riding alongside Ezra, she makes sure she has both blade and healer's pouch on either hip. The dichotomy that is the battle-medic. "Should have brought my firecloak," the Southern woman grumbles to herself as they travel through the snow towards the bandit encampment. She glances at Ezra and replies, "Too organized to be just bandits. Someone has to be coordinating them, and finding out who would be good. Unless it's our bestest friend in the world behind this one." Her eyes roll a little, fluttering.

Jotun the massive war horse carries Gaspard upon its back, who sits comfortably in the saddle. He's coming up upon the rear of the group, having been behind them for a time as he lifts a hand in a friendly wave to greet any curious individuals glancing back at the sound of new, heavy hoof-steps. His armor seems specifically designed for horseback riding, blowing out hot breathes of air. He doesn't seem to mind the cold in any stretch.

Alantir Valardin marches alongside the contingent headed for the encampment. Unsurprisingly, the knight has been silent for the duration of the trek, visor down and gaze fixed upon the footprint-riddled path before them. He wears familiar platemail and a wolfpelt cloak for added protection against the elements. The prince has come to lend aid to both the villagers and his family's allies -- no more, no less.

Thea is comfortable riding. Dressed in leathers, her blades and healing supplies at her side, she simply looks around for the moment. Taking everything in, quiet for the time being.

Ezra grimaces at Eirene's mention of their Bestest Friend in the World. "I'm just going to hope for Suspiciously Well Organized Bandits and ignore all of the reasons it might not be that, yeah?"

Tesha's been busy this week and with good reason. Reports were getting worrisome and sitting at home in the warmth was not as comforting as it should have been. She'd not really said much along the trip, but she'd definitely volunteered for this. Her darkened gaze goes to the familiar war horse that carries Gaspard, "Jotun." she reaches out to pat the mane of the horse. "Lord Blackram." she greets with a dip of her head. Then she gives a look at the others and greets those that she knows now that they've stopped for a moment.

The Grayson Princess Mercy is not a common sight on expeditions such as these, but Ailys has chosen to join this one. She's remained quiet and uncomplaining, despite not looking particularly at ease on her placid horse or in a set of alaricite armor that, to a trained eye, has been fitted well but was made for someone taller and broader.

With people going missing from different parishes, word has filtered through the Templars and Preston has ridden out with some of the Faith to investigate what is going on. Hanging on the side of his warhorse is a Templar heater shield and tucked at his side are his blades. Given the weather, Preston rides with his hood up - the large deboned wolf's head settling over his helmet so its canines, one broken, rest over his forehead.

Princess Katarina Valardin had only just requested to be made House Valardin's Minister of War. For her, this is a mission of education. Ships? She knows them inside and out. Battles in the snow and ice? On land? With horses? Well. That's why Katarina, wrapped up in blue and white furs, is riding alongside Alantir. She isn't conversing with her cousin much, so much as just chattering her teeth and occasionally cursing the snow in Eurusi.

Caspian looks to eirene and Exra and beams, "Thats the spirit! lets hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and then be surprised when its nothing at all like we thought and in truth it was a sudden haze addiction that drove everyone into running naked through the snow"

Whether Ian cares about the disappearances of a few commoners in the Crownlands is debatable, and certainly isn't easy to read in his flat, serene countenance. What is less in question, however, is that he cares about the lives of his two favorite healers (Eirene and Thea), and he cares very much about Aindre not having to mourn his little sister's passing. And so here Ian is, possibly in place of Aindre, lingering near where the healers are posted up, and surveying the makeshift camp and the woods beyond with a thoughtful expression. Only the intensity and fast motion of his bright blue eyes betrays how engaged with the situation he is. He takes in details of their surroundings all in a steady stream. With the collar of his coat turned up against the weather, he doesn't seem to be feeling the cold very much. He's not much of a rider, but someone has found him a very, very patient horse.

Vitalis draws rein and moves in alongside Katarina, his gray mount nickering at Sweet Baby, ears pinning back a bit at Alantir, but only snorting. "You'll have to teach me Eurusi one day, Highness," he smiles at Katarina sidelong, "It seems a strikingly eloquent language." His eyes haven't left their surroundings, senses spread wide, trees, brush, sky.

Situated in the group somewhere nearish Caspian, Giorgio is still questioning why he has ventured into the Crownlands to look into this mess. Sure, the disappearance of commoners is troubling to him, but still... not his fight, not his commoners. Nonetheless, here he is. "You know," he mentions in aside to Caspian. "I may have cut the figure of a master warrior on the ships at Redreef Shores, but don't tell Savio I had no idea what I was doing there... Or here..."

Gaspard wears a faint smile towards Tesha, slowing Jotun slightly to allow the horse-petting. "Lady Telmar. I caught wind of this from Raven and figured I would be better served out doing something than nothing. Being lazy just doesn't suit me." One hand on the reins, Gaspard mostly navigates Jotun with his knees if not always, relaxed posture unchanging as they ride onwards.

Ailys glimmers a faint wry sidelong smile at Ian when he fetches up close to her and the other healers, then shakes some snow out of her tightly braided hair and squints into the middle distance, catching Caspian's comment. "I hope no one is running about naked. That is a frostbite situation I would sooner not deal with."

Katarina looks over at Vitalis and forces a tight smile to avoid clicking her teeth more. "The things I just said would have me banned from the Assembly of Peers for life, Lord Vitalis," she says. "Pfah! Snow."

A modest holding comes into view as the travellers make their way northwards. There's nothing extravagant or distinctive about the building or the walls surrounding it. Nor has there been any effort placed in concealing the location. The sentries stand guard atop the outer walls and outside the gates.

On approach, their demeanor doesn't change and their posture shift in response to the group approaching them. If anyone had any hopes of a parley, they'll find themselves mistaken as there comes a point that the guards at the front retrieve their weapons in unison, staring at the rescuers with dead eyes. "Who dares disturb this most holiest of occasions? Our master will not stand for this, lest you wish to offer yourselves." One of them calls out.

Eirene is occasionally snickering when she catches whatever random comment Katarina says; she must know the language. Caspian's comment is met with a faint smirk. But all smiles fade when they draw into view about the holding. No trace of laughter or mirth, especially when 'offer yourselves' is said. Eyes narrow but she doesn't speak.

Holiest? This word causes Felicia to look towards Preston, lofting a brow as she reigns in Whiskey Dream,"Carnifex?" she asks in puzzlement,"I don't recall it being a particularly holy day... please correct me if I'm wrong?"

Caspian looked to Giorgio and grinned, "Well dont worry. you are in good company. most of the time i just make shit up as i go!" he gave a laugh and looked to Ailys, "well better frostbite than..." the guards came into view.. and their voices cut through the air. "ah.. better than that." he sighed and rubbed his brow a moment, "so much for the haze addiction.."

Lead by a fair-skinned, red-headed shav -- a barrel-chested bear of a man -- is a small group of bandits lounging behind the guards. Their armor and weaponry are by no means the finest. Indeed, they have the look of pieces scavenged from the fallen: from scuffed metal to worn leather, ill fitting to the point of discomfort -- their numbers are rarely still, fidgeting and shifting through the long boring wait of a pre-battle. No unified army, are these: still, the red-headed shav seems to know what he's doing, and he calls out an order for the men and women in his rag-tag bunch to spread out and prepare as word of the approaching group brings them to attention. They aren't alarmed: some kind of resistance was expected. Maybe not /this/ much, but there's a set in the red-headed shav's expression to suggest he's not likely to call a retreat. A couple of sidelong glances at the guards might suggest they're not completely aligned on this holy occasion thing, but to a person they look ready to fight if it comes to that.

Ezra glances at Eirene to gauge his aunt's reaction upon hearing this particular greeting, and from his own grim expression, seems to read NOT GOOD into her silence. "Holiest of occasions?" he echoes, as though hoping someone is going to tell him he's wildly misheard that.

Ian pinches the bridge of his nose at the 'holiest of days' remark. "I guess it was too much to hope that it would be easy."

Vitalis's eyes widen then narrow, muttering a dry, "That was a well-drilled unison draw they just executed," at the dead-eyed sentinels taking up arms. He studies the ruddy-haired bandit, watching the man and his compatriots closely.

"Yes. I take it back. Better than this." Ailys' fingers tighten her horse's reins until even that extremely tolerant beast starts to sidle, at which point she lets out a breath and forces herself to loosen her grip.

Katarina slows Sweet Baby (her horse)'s trot so that Alantir and Vitalis are juuust a bit closer to the enemy than she is. Because one leads from the rear, of course. "Ah... hm."

As the sentries challenge them, Preston wheels his horse to the side "Oh?" He calls out "A holy occasion? That is most fortuitous. Given that I happen to be a Godsworn." Preston slides from the saddle, taking the shield from his horse. He shakes his head to Felicia "No, it is not - no more than any day is holy of course, in our service of them. But, the Gods' kind gifts tell me that these are not worshippers of the thirteen, but what lies beyond." Preston turns, his voice picking up to address the men "My name is Sir Preston Godsworn, a Holy Knight of the Temple. Perhaps you would tell us what this holy day is?"

Thea glances at Ian and smirks a bit. "It's never easy,"her eyes glancing to Eirene and Ezra. She takes a breath, basically bracing herself.

Eirene checks intellect and occult at hard. Eirene is marginally successful.

Tesha leaves the talk to those that are leading this little band of volunteers. She didn't want to speak over people and cause a stir of any kind. The auburn haired woman keeps a look between a few people. Holiest of Days? She wasn't the Carnifex but she knew that there wasn't a holy day to celebrate today. This causes her nose to wrinkle in a bit of dismay as she keeps her spot.

Leveling a stare ahead, Gaspards lips purse and his jaw sets as he urges Jotun to a halt. He remains silent, listening to the others speak as he watches intently.

Raven's gaze turns to Ailys, no doubt watching her to see how she wishes this situation to be addressed. She hrrrrms, "Maybe if you're a blood mage with a bunch of sacrifices to make?" she hazards a guess. She purses her lips and her gaze swivels towards the large man and then the bandits with him, "Are you kidding me? Ah, More'n a few things not adding up here." she frowns, "Does this sorry lot look like they'd be able to do do what we've been seeing?"

Not too far away is another group of bandits that are also idling to the side. Unlike those by the guards, they've been spending their time gambling and holding light conversation, but have an air of anticipation about them. It's hard to say if it's because they're excited for the most 'holiest of days' or if it is anticipation of a potential battle to come. Like the other group, their armor is also haphazard. It's sturdy seeming, but it's various mixed pieces. Most of this group appear to be looking toward a woman with black hair neatly braided and pinned up at the nape of her neck, who stands when she notices the people approaching their holding. Her armor seems better than the rest. Her piercing blue eyes take everything in about the approaching group. She quietly whispers a few words to those with her group and they seem to gather themselves. They also seem to move at their own pace and speed.

Eirene mutters, "Good. Stay behind Preston. ... him ... point ... this."

Eirene knows what was bugging her about this. More than just the fact they're very well put together bandits. "Did you see those trees," she says aloud, jerking her head back in the direction of the woods. "It looks like thirteen of them still have leaves... some dark shit is going down and I think this is the center."

No stranger to being accosted by bandits an Abandoned along sparsely-traveled roads, Alantir slowly dismounts, draws his longsword from the leather scabbard secured to his stallion's saddle, and then positions himself within an arm's reach of Katarina. Better safe than sorry.

"Right." For Felicia at least, Preston's word seems to be good enough. Especially with the bandits gathering,"Guardsmen." the single word seeming instruction to spread out from the motion of her head. With her eyes on the gathering ahead she recommends in a voice not intended to carry to the enemy,"If there are archers among us, some cover would be preferable." shifting her grip on Whiskey Dreams reins to shorten it by hand and offering a wry smirk to Raven,"Not really. Which makes me very curious what they're here to stop us from interrupting. On your command, Carnifex. We'll aim for the middle group."

Ian scans the space when Eirene points out the trees, and then goes back to his study of the two groups of people who accompany the guards. The woman seems to be of particular interest to him.

"Godsworn." The man next to the gate with his blade out says with absolute disgust. "We know of you and your Godsworn. Begone. We will not allow your heresy to spoil the occasion." The woman beside him looks to the back suddenly. "You know your orders. Any who pass will be slaughtered or savored for sacrifice. For our master." The latter is said with reverence.

Thea's gaze looks over to where Eirene pointed. She nudges her horse forward, having him trot toward her aunt and Ezra. "Shite is going to get bloody. I can feel lit,"Thea's eyes drifting toward the man.

Caspian looks to Eirene, then back to the trees she is pointing at. He sighs, looking to Eirene. "Well.. i have no idea what that actually means but im surer its not good." he looks back to the groups of bandits, eyes darting among them, and then the dead eyed guards. He seems content to let the higher ups do the talking.

Ailys cuts a look at the trees in question when Eirene points them out, lips pressing together. "We should stay well clear of those." She seems content to let the Carnifex take the lead with sentries.

Ezra grimly agrees with Thea, "I wish I could disagree."

Vitalis urges Rocker a bit ahead of Sweet Baby, glancing at Alantir and giving the man a nod. He'll keep abreast of the line they've drawn up, looking to the Carnifex as a field leader. At Eirene's mention of the trees, he squints where she points. He drops reins to ready his bow, "You'll have your cover, Dame Felicia." His attention slews back to the man by the gate.

Alertly, Gaspard keeps an eye on their surroundings. With the growing inevitable cluster of bandits, he slowly unsheathes Shepherd, a gleaming diamonplate blade. "Well then. It went south quick." Comes a dry comment. Grip tightening upon his hilt, his smoky-grey gaze narrows as a cold look washes over his expression. Cold and focused.

Raven's chin lifts, "Oh, good." keeps her gaze on the bandits, "Soooooo, are we slaughtering them all or are we expected to take some prisoners?" Her poutiness at the cold evaporates and she perks up, invigorated by the promise of bloodshed-like a whole new Blackheart!

"Hey, Preston tried," Eirene replies to Gaspard as she draws her own blade. "Watch the sides, they're moving to surround us," the battle-medic continues.

Ian looks over at Ailys as the situation marches its way down the road to violence. "You sure you want to do this? There's going to be some messed up stuff in there. More than just the kind of messed up that you get when a bunch of people decide to start killing each other."

"Well. As it must be." Preston says, a resigned sigh slipping from his lips "You have all been granted choice by the First Choice. And I honour that choice. I also honour my oaths, and that in turn informs my choices." Preston takes Crusader from its scabbard as the man and woman at the gate speak "As Carnifex of the Faith, voice of the Gods' representative Church here on Arvum, I must command your heresy to cease." Taking a few steps forward, Preston clutches his shield "Your choices bring you to this point, and you are granted two more. To stand or to flee, to fight or to surrender. For my part, Gloria commands we protect the innocent. The people you hold are, you, I fear, are guilty."

The red-headed shav's expression betrays only the slightest of grimaces, there and gone, in response to the orders given by the man at the gate. He nods sharply, and then barks an order: "Stand ready! Hold your ground or I'll cut you down myself!" He draws forth a greatsword, holding it with ease as he plants his feet. Around him, his rag-tag group echo his posture in front of the entrance, only the briefest of glances thrown across the way towards the braided woman as if to check whether she's ready, too. It's clear there's no love lost there, but war is war.

Raven does wonder to Ian, "Lord Ian, what's the alternative, my lord?"

"I do not think they were ever in the mood to negotiate." Ailys turns to look at Ian, gray eyes wide and determined. "I think I will be all right."

"I don't think it was ever really in the Northern reaches of diplomacy, really, Lord Blackram. They weren't going to listen to anything we had to say and they were not going to stop whatever they are doing in there." Tesha gives a look to Gaspard with a bit of dry amusement. Then she's drawing her sword that Ida made for her in place of her broken one. She then gives a dip of her head to Felicia, "We'll try to keep an eye out for more enemies as well." she states.

Even as Vitalis and Alantir move ahead of her, Katarina still draws a dagger from her furs. Daggers aren't the best weapon for mounted combat, but a dagger is what she has. "Dame Ida Ferron, may your handiwork bring me luck," she murmurs to herself.

Ian nods to Ailys; it's pretty clear his question was for her, specifically, and he accepts her answer with the same serene expression that he's been wearing all this time.

Mention of the First Choice REALLY seems to piss those guards off. "CHOICE IS A CURSE." They shout with a voice that doesn't seem to be their own.

The red-headed shav and his group, notably, aren't amongst those who echo that shout.

"You interrupted their--shite,"Thea says. "I doubt they had any intention of wanting to talk,"her hand already reaching toward her blade. Daggers will have to wait a bit.

The woman with the braid grunts at the newcomers, as though she expected as much for them. "Every time. Every time there are those who resist." She clucks her tongue against her teeth as though chiding the group. She glances to her men and women. "A bonus to those who capture and kill as many as they can," she tells them, knowing what gets her people motivated the most. And, it seems to do the trick. Many within her group grin toward those who seemingly have come to rescue those captured. A few of them shout their appreciation for the bounty they might receive.

Vitalis's lips move in a silent prayer as he finishes stringing his bow. Gray eyes usually alight with an ember of restlessness or mischief settle, lips smoothing into a flat line. Focus.

Caspian looks to Raven, "well.. never hurts to ask i suppose. least the way forward is.." As the guards at the gate shout that he sighs, "Ah well.. that about clears things up nicely?" he loosens the daggers and shakes his head. "Gods there is dumb and then there is siding with the Traitor dumb." he waves a dagger to the bandits, "you lot are taking stupidity to a whole new level. not to late to cast down your weapons and safe your life. dont need to die with these mindless ones."

"WELP!" Eirene dismounts at the shout and eyes the woman who looks as if she might be a distant Malvici cousin, black hair and blue eyed as Eirene also is. "That answers THAT question. Our best friend it is," she says for Ezra. "And a few freethinkers it seems who made their choice, even if it means losing all choices all together eventually."

Felicia draws Wheelspinner and puts heels to Whiskey Dreams flanks at Preston's words,"Blood and IRON!" she elects to bellow. Foregoing caution to launch for those near the gates. Confident, or perhaps content, to make a big ol' target of herself.

Raven dismounts and moves forward, "Yield or die." she declares, freeing her sword with a steely hiss as she stiffle bow-legs it over there. Man she hates riding, "DON'T get cocky, Champ. There's something foul around here somewhere just ain't seen it yet."

Ezra dismounts as Eirene does, bringing his shield up and taking a better grip on his axe as he shakes his head at her. "What does it even say that I was kind of hoping for the naked haze thing? Wherever you go, I'm with you, but look sharp -- a lot of people are going to find it unacceptable, to put it mildly, if anything happens to you. And the rest of us are going to need stitches."

Ailys has a small dagger sheathed at her belt, but she doesn't reach for it yet. Instead she dismounts with the others, tugs an alarictie helm down over her thick braids and checks to make sure her supplies are in easy reach.

"Oh." Preston says as they yell about the first choice "/You/ again...before you die, be good and tell the Prince-Pretender that I am coming. And no obedient welp Calyana to whisper in my ear this time, mm?" The Carnifex turns Crusader in his hand and then calls out to the others "They fight for Legion, and his errant pup of a Herald. Guard yourself, and listen for those who speak with their own voice." But then, it is simply time to charge. Can't let Death-aligned folk out-charge Gloria-aligned folk. It simply won't do.

Katarina checks dexterity and small wpn at normal. Katarina is successful.

Preston checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Preston is successful.

Katarina checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Katarina marginally fails.

Preston checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Preston fails.

Ezra checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Ezra is successful.

Ezra checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Ezra marginally fails.

Raven checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Raven is successful.

Gaspard checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Gaspard is successful.

Eirene checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Eirene is successful.

Alantir checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Alantir is successful.

Eirene checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Eirene is successful.

Gaspard checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Gaspard is successful.

Alantir checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Alantir is successful.

Tesha checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Tesha is successful.

Raven checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Raven is successful.

Tesha checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Botch! Tesha fails completely.

Thea checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Thea is successful.

Vitalis checks dexterity and archery at normal. Vitalis is successful.

Vitalis checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Vitalis is successful.

Thea checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Botch! Thea fails badly.

Felicia checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Felicia is successful.

Felicia checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Felicia marginally fails.

Giorgio checks dexterity and brawl at normal. Giorgio marginally fails.

Giorgio checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Giorgio is successful.

Ian checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Ian is successful.

Ailys checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Ailys is successful.

Caspian checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Botch! Caspian fails completely.

Caspian checks charm and diplomacy at hard. Caspian is successful.

With negotiations now at an end, Alantir approaches and engages one of the guards nearest the gate in martial combat. Steel clashes. A blow sent his way is effortlessly redirected. Mid-skirmish, he shifts his grip to half-sword, likely an attempt to compensate for his adversary's close proximity.

As the inevitable battle commences and the group seems to split between the bandits outside the guards at the gate, the red-headed shav and and his people surge forward, largely unimpeded, directly into the midst of battle, aiming: deliberately, perhaps -- at Ian, Ailys, and whoever else might be looking to hang back out of combat.

It's not all bad, though. Caspian's intervention for some of the red-head's group to stop appears to throw most of the group into doubt, looking nervously over their shoulder. One in particular, white-faced and pale-haired woman hisses at Caspian, "Take it as a kindness and run the other way. Your kin will be dead soon, nothing you can do about it now." That's about when the red-head and his remaining people surge past Caspian, cutting across his chest as they race past, slashing at Tesha as they head into the fray of battle.

Katarina keeps close to Alantir and Vitalis. Her goal is to protect Vitalis while he lets fly his arrows. She does her best! As enemies close in, she slashes at one with her dagger, sending them off their horse and to the ground. Unfortunately, as they fall, their longsword nicks the Princess's leg, opening up a bleeding but not serious cut. "Tchh--! Ah--!"

Caspian hops down from the horse and walks straight toward the Red-head and his company. "I dont know what shite has led you to this, what choices you have made. but gods you have made CHOICES. the one you are working for now. he will take that from you! from you and from everyone you have eve r held dear. there is nothing, NOTHING, that he can offer or threaten you with that is worse than the fate that waits you should he win. im not asking you to fight him. im asking you to leave. make the choice to live another day. make the choice to prove that you are master's of your own life. make the choice to be better than HE thinks we are. go home, go help those you have hurt. let us handle this." he offers a smile to the group, his eyes darting between the faces.. and that is likely why he didn't see the axe swinging toward his stomach. it was far to late to dodge, the most he could do was get this arms up as he cursed out. the bracers took the worst of it, the metal bending and cracking as he tolled into the dirt. quickly, he was back on his feet and daggers flashed out. "Well.. you made shite choices top now.. i suppose its only fitting your last one be keeping with that." a wicked grin flashed over his face as he prepared to attack.

With the commencement of hostilities, Preston's charge is met with a warm and stabby welcome. As he comes to the gate guards, he is smashed in the side by a blunt weapon - the force of the blow transfering even through armour and padding to cause him some pain. Turning the weapon away with his armoured body, he slashes across with his own blade from the shav's hip to clavicle. "May your little master feel some measure of the pain of this blade."

Despite the medic's bag at her side, Eirene is not against violence as a Mercy may be. She moves into the mercenary group and opens up with a fierce attack in Southport style. The mercenaries may not be familiar with the fighting style, which leaves one open to a particularly nasty slash across the gut. She parries when another moves in to take the first's place. "You know he's going to make mindless bug-fucking slaves out of you. You won't be able to spend that silver he's throwing at you when you're in the hive-mind," she shouts to the leader with the black hair.

Ian's dismount isn't the most graceful; only a hand on the saddle keeps his legs from folding under his weight as he drops onto the ground. He slips his cane out of the place where it's lashed to the saddle, but doesn't draw the sword from within it. He seems to be willing to watch the battle be joined without actually joining it, himself. As long as the healers are left be. Which they're not, and the casual ease with which he parries a slash that comes his way using his cane, combined with the fire and ice in his electric blue eyes, drives home pretty well that staying out the fighting, for him, was a choice. "I didn't come here to spill blood today," he says in a low voice to the person who swung at him, while he shifts his grip on his cane, holding it, now, more like a sword in its scabbard (because that's what it is). "But I won't pretend I wouldn't enjoy it if you were to give me the chance. I suggest you run."

Dismounting Jotun, Gaspard tells the war horse. "Sorry, big guy. Not today." Before joining the group. With each heavy step he brings himself closer, bracing himself for the incoming bandits. With a flick of his wrist his parries an incoming blow forcefully, shoving it forwards and knocking them off-balance before responding by shifting his grip and slicing Shepherd in a downwards arc aimed at whomevers torso that chose the wrong opponent today, expression grim and narrowed.

The black haired woman sounds the signal and her group charges toward the newcomers, again some of them screaming their enthusiasm. These are clearly mercs of some sort who just live for the thrill of battle. That's because they tend to do their job well. A brother and sister duo engage with Gaspard and Eirene first. They exchange quips with each other while simultaneously taunting both Gaspard and Eirene, insulting their clothing, their breath, what have you. The pair make a game of it, happily exchanging blows between the two until they become fatally wounded themselves and fall in battle.

Two women engage with Ezra and Raven. Unlike the brother and sister duo, they are the quiet and serious sort. They're watching out for all of the right signs, keeping their footwork steady, and one of them even manages to score a hit against Ezra. In the end, their skill is not quite enough to keep them alive.

A trio of best friends, all male charge after Katarina, Thea, and Giorgio. It's a bit more clear from the get go that this group is a well oiled team. They've worked together for years. One stays completely out of range of Thea's attack, although she's able to dodge him with relative ease. While the other two seem to tag team against Girogio and Katarina. Each of them takes a hit. Katerina is able to kill her attacker while Giorgio remains engaged. The one attacking Thea originally looks enraged one of his team has fallen and he glares daggers at Katarina. "You. You are the one I'll be taking for the bonus," he tells her darkly. He switches his attack to her.

Tesha gives a look to the possible targets and there is a bit of a frown, "Do we think that the redhead over there might be persuaded by one of us?" she looks a bit hopeful, but not THAT hopeful. The auburn haired woman decides to head that way and try to help with some diplomacy. But for all that Tesha is good at calculations and decent with sword swinging she is bad at dodging attacks and when the redheads forces surge forward the diamondplate wearing woman is slashed open and she grunts out through clenched before she shouts something in a very foreign language.

Felicia's small contingent of Guardsmen churn up the muddy snow as they thunder towards the guards at the gate. By hoof or sword intent on scattering those blocking the way forward. Unfortunately, /dismounting/ in battle is not quite so elegant as charging in blazing. Especially when one doesn't manage to cleanly get their foot clear of the stirrup. She at least makes it to the ground (mostly) intact and (kinda) upright, but not without taking a jarring blow to the shoulder in the process,"I'mma stab them." anyone close enough might hear her utter, only to correct,"No, /we're/ going to stab them." seemingly at her sword,"Yes? Yes. Plenty of stabbing. May the Mother have mercy on their souls."

Thea sees the attack and hurries to dismount, but her foot catches in the stirrup. Causing her to stumble over. "Fucking shite,"she starts off, a slew of curse words. Thankfully she managed to get out of the way. She growls from the ground, not impressed with herself or when Katarina is threatened.

"You know, not once since I joined the Mercies has anyone just let me work," Ailys notes breathlessly as she somehow dodges a couple of blows, no doubt grateful that her brother /insisted/ she wear his armor into the woods instead of her uniform. In Ian's proverbial shadow, she looks around as the first wave of attacks fall, looking for anyone who needs her aid.

For the moment, the black haired woman has lingered behind, watching and directing others to move forward to replace the fallen.

Katarina looks mortally offended. "How DARE you," she gasps, golden eyes alight with the unparalleled fury of a disrespected royal.

Ezra lifts his shield to block them ALMOST completely in time; one strike from one of the two women who engaged himself and Raven does sneak through. "Just a scratch," he promises Eirene, Raven, and/or himself, and adding credibility to the words, he doesn't seem disabled or badly harmed by the little trickle of blood. The mercenary woman who harmed him finds the error of her ways a moment later, bashed hard with the edge of the shield and cut down with the axe while she recovers! There is no relish in the fight for him, no joy for battle, but neither is there hesitation.

"It better be," Eirene retorts, glancing over Ezra with a frown. Her eyes flicker to his wound and then back to the mercenaries streaming towards them.

Raven dismounts and moves forward, "Yield or die!" she demands a second time, sword in hand and steam billowing from her like smoke. She hops to the side and sends the edge of her blade whipping in withn a whining protest of air the only warning before it finds finds the gut of one of the woman who approached her.

Hands up! Don't let your guard down! Giorgio's hands are up and his fists clenched in front of him. He even remembers to not clench his fingers around his thumbs. His hands are clad in beautiful gem studded alaricite gauntlets which dart out at his attacker, his knees bent and the Pontelaeus ducking and weaving around the sword slashing at him.

"You will rue this day, pathetic mortals." Those guards near the gate have their blades ready but are no match for the attacks thrown their way. One is torn across the chest, just as she speaks, "It's too late you can---" An arrow plunged through another's throat before they can get out the words, 'Reinforcement'. Unfortunate for whoever may be nearby who might get blood spurted out their way. It's a blood bath there. And any confidence the guards may have held before has slowly waned. Yet they do not seem to have the capacity to surrender or flee.

Vitalis lets fly towards the gate, feathering defenders to cover Dame Felicia's advance, his own firing covered by Katarina. And then the battle is joined, and covering fire is not needed any longer - or at least risks feathering friends. And so the Clement scout's attention turns nearer, where Her Highness has taken a wound. Vitalis hisses and turns attention to the band engaging those near. He keeps the advantage of height to fire at the black-haired woman.

With a good portion of the red-headed shav's group heeding Caspian's words and making a break for it -- away from the battle -- it's a much smaller number that rally around their shav leader. Still, the red-head has a commander's ease to adapt with the situation, and he grins brightly at Ian as he hefts his greatsword. "Doing you a favor, me. Death is preferable to being taken," his eyes dart past Ian towards Ailys. "Believe me. I suggest YOU run." He doesn't really expect them to, and he points at Ailys. "Her."

Ailys wields Rosewood, a rubicund dagger.

"Mm. It talks to you?" Preston queries of Felicia as they stalk around the enemies by the gate "Crusader sings, the sweetest hum you can hear, but only when it fights things of at least some power. Worthy enemies. Not the lackies of a tired elf trying to prove himself to a dead father he betrayed."

"How DARE I?" the man who turned on Katarina quips. "I dare quite easily, thank you for asking!" he grins rather toothily at her and winks.

Ailys is generally quiet and reserved but also a Grayson princess through and through, and when the man facing off with Ian points at her, her jaw tightens notably beneath the guards on her helmet and she reaches for her dagger.

Eirene checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Eirene marginally fails.

Alantir checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Alantir marginally fails.

Eirene checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Eirene is successful.

Ian checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Critical Success! Ian is spectacularly successful.

Katarina checks dexterity and small wpn at normal. Katarina is successful.

Alantir checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Alantir is successful.

Katarina checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Katarina is successful.

Tesha checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Tesha marginally fails.

Ian checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Critical Success! Ian is spectacularly successful.

Gaspard checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Critical Success! Gaspard is spectacularly successful.

Thea checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Thea is successful.

Giorgio checks dexterity and brawl at normal. Giorgio is successful.

Felicia checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Felicia is successful.

Ezra checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Ezra is successful.

Ezra checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Ezra is successful.

Giorgio checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Giorgio marginally fails.

Preston checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Preston is successful.

Felicia checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Felicia is successful.

Gaspard checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Gaspard is successful.

Caspian checks dexterity and small wpn at normal. Caspian is successful.

Preston checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Preston is successful.

Tesha checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Tesha is successful.

Caspian checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Caspian is successful.

Ailys checks dexterity and small wpn at normal. Ailys is successful.

Vitalis checks dexterity and archery at normal. Vitalis is successful.

Vitalis checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Vitalis is successful.

Ailys checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Ailys is successful.

Giorgio gets an ebon silk shirt, golden banns brooches with binding silk laces, an armband of ravens, an ebon hood, a pair of ebon leather trousers, a pair of ebon silk poisoner's gloves, a pair of silk-laced sandals accented with bone, a right forearm-covering set of meditation bangles and a star iron cigarillo holder with an opaline mouthpiece from a bundle of leathers.

Raven checks dexterity and medium wpn at normal. Raven is successful.

Raven checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Raven is successful.

Raven checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Raven is successful.

Felicia gives a breathless laugh for Preston,"Not in the slightest. Unfortunately... I'll... ah. Later." she opts for as a 'hold that thought' mostly because of the guard deciding that distracted means stabbable. Unfortunate that apparently it means they're stabbable instead. Clear gate first. Check on the other groups,"We'll use the horses to pull down the gates. Let's hope that whatever they're working on in there we can stop it before something even nastier shows up."

It's not like Ian didn't tell the red haired shav's people exactly what was about to happen if they didn't back off. Choice is REALLY a curse when you're the sort of person who makes really stupid choices. His slack, peaceful expression never changes as he parries another strike with his cane and, while the blade and the cane are locked together, uses his left hand to draw the shav's knife from his belt, stab him in the throat with it, and then throw the bloody knife a short distance to where someone looked like they were about to get the drop on Giorgio, all in one swift, fluid motion. The throat stab gives him the space to draw the sword from within his cane; he cuts on the draw, in a shower of red mixed with lambent silver.

Another swing, but this time the prince's blade misses its mark. Fortunately, Alantir is quick on his feet and successfully side-steps a retaliatory lunge.

Raven shoves the body of her fallen foe out of the way and looks around, "Everyone alright? Is the plan to stay in group or split up once we're in?" She flicks blood from her blade before it freezes there, "This fucking cold!"

As Felicia breaks from explaining, Preston nods - and finds a new Shav coming for him. He steps back from the first swipe and then parries the next before slamming the pommel of Crusader into the guard's face. As Felicia suggests the horses, Preston gives a grunt of agreement as he kicks at the gates "Gloria, we pray to you for your patience and understanding, that the barriers between us and the innocents slow us but they do not cease our resolve to do what we must to stand between them and the flame, between innocence and the blade."

More of the mercenaries stream forward, and Eirene engages one in a short one-on-one duel. She parries a hit away but her own strike slices at empty air. The bandit jerks backward to escape the her longsword, leaning back from the waist. And although she missed, Eirene does manage to keep the merc engaged and distracted.

Caspian had tried.. he really did. Some people are just set on being stupid and dyeing. and these people seemed to be those. He hurled himself into the shavs, blades flashing and daggers slicing as they whistled in the air. Crimson lines streaked across the snow as he landed blow after blow, finally shoving aside the corpse of a hapless shav to survey the battle unfolding.

Gaspard glances around quickly, analyzing their surroundings before shifting his attention towards the others replacing the fallen. He looks entirely at ease in this setting, "Is everybody alright?" He calls out, staring down his next opponent. Moving in to clash head on, Gaspard disarms his opponent, headbutting them so hard they pass out on the spot. Taking Shepherd, he sinks it into their heart without further notice, a quick kill. Glancing up and around, Gaspard spies Eirene and emits a grunt from the force he uses to propel himself forwards, building momentum to near the distracted bandit and decapicate them in a clean swing of Shepherd.

Ailys was all set to drive her little rubicund dagger into the next person who tried to lay hands on her. Ian, however, VERY thoroughly dispatches the nearest threat and then some so she whirls to track the sound of an enemy approach behind her and sinks the blade into their torso with the precise organ-targeting of a medical professional.

Vitalis fires close and far. Target, draw, fire. Target, draw, fire. Target, draw, fire. He's not gotten a clear shot on the black-haired woman yet. But he is patient. Oh, is he patient.

Katarina really, really does not want to be taken as a trophy. This, as much as anything, motivates her to strike out with her dagger and attempt to dissuade any attempts to put claiming hands upon her royal person. "You-- INSOLENT--!" she spits, and after her dagger strikes true, she jerks the reins of her horse, to get her /away/ from the attempts to claim her... which puts her on track to join those moving past the guards! Out of the skillet...

"Gloria be with us." Tesha states in a quiet tone. She brings a shakey hand back from her wound, showing bright crimson. She gives a annoyed sound before wiping the blood on the cloth that covers her brigandine. She slams the visor on the sallet shut and then charges one of those that pushed past them. They'd be given no quarter until they asked for it now. She does well with not getting hit this time, but her attack goes wide as her anger gets the best of her.

Ezra continues the fight alongside his aunt and allies, using the shield to advantage to block blows, and swiftly returning attacks against the mercenaries who continue to press their luck on that front. Thus far mostly unharmed except for the first scratch, but a slight hesitation before pressing forward suggests he knows that good luck may not last forever. "You good after the warmup?" he asks of Eirene, shouldering the shield back up to position and making ready to press forward.

Thea is climbing back to her feet. But in the meantime, she is quick to reach toward her kopis. Officially. Now that is, you know---off the horse!

Giorgio bobs and weaves, and finally one bejeweled alaricite gauntlet crunches into the temple of the swordsman he'd been facing off against. That audible crunch and spray of blood precedes the man crumpling to the ground at the same time as the body behind him with Ian's thrown knife in his back. He offers a nod across the way toward the Kennex before he aims a kick in the fallen man's face for good measure. Curb stomp.

When is a choice, truly choice? In a battle between a rock and a hard place, the red-headed shav chooses rock. He'a a talented commander, and a competent warrior, but he's a little too slow to see Ian reach for his belt knife, and the weapon slides in unimpeded. He gargles once, and drops wordlessly to the ground.

One of the red-head's men blows past his battle with Ian and makes to grab for Ailys. It's clear he was expecting a defenseless healer, but Ailys' dagger strikes true, her healer's knowledge standing her in excellent stead as she stabs upwards between the mismatched armor and strikes a vital organ. The shav looks surprised, and then confused as he collapses.

Tesha manages to hold her own but can't get past the quick reflexes of her opponent. Fortunately, Caspian is there, efficiently dispatching the last of the shavs in the red-headed rag-tag army. Those that his words turned are long gone.

Eirene salutes Gaspard with her sword as he cleaves the neck of her opponent. She then wipes the blood off into the snow. "Nice," she says appraisingly, flashing him a faint smile. She steps back to appraise the situation and nods to Ezra. "A nice stretch after that ride... but there's bound to be more. Probably the more fanatical and-or enslaved ones."

Raven says, "Please stay BEHIND me, Lady Eirene. You ain't patching up anyone if you're missing bits. If you stay behind me I'll be model patience henceforth-for ever and ever."

Fresh replacements wash in from the black-haired woman's group. They take up the spaces that were vacated by the bodies that have littered the ground from their demise, making the ground only slightly harder to work through. A pair teams up against Gaspard and Eirene again. There are no quips or taunts this time. There's just the grunting of two men who are doing their best to keep up the pace and keep their two opponents from working together. It seems to be working at first, as one manages to keep Eirene at bay. However, somewhere in there they are both surprised by Gaspard's superior skill, as he manages to kill them both.

While Thea was abandoned by her original attacker to go after Katerina instead, a woman steps in to fill that spot and herd her toward Ezra and Raven, while they find themselves with another pair of opponents as well, two young men who seem to be just out of their teens. While they are not green, they're greener than the more experienced group they're fighting against, and Thea, Raven, and Ezra are able to dispatch their opponents after a few rounds.

A woman steps in to help the two men fighting Giorgio and Katarina, thinking they'd be easy marks since they are distracted. What she did not count on was Vitalis switching targets from the group of guards to those attacking the woman one of the men claimed to take in for his bonus. An arrow hits her true. "I DARE quite easily," the man repeats to Katarina as he gets in far too close than he anticipated, making him a ready target for the Valardin Eurusi Princess to work against. He doesn't see it coming. Meanwhile, the other man concentrates on Giorgio and manages to light hit against him, but is mind is on his friend's death, so Giorgio is able to find an easy opening to take him out of the picture.

The black haired woman on the sidelines does not look at all thrilled at all of her men going down. "Stop toying with them and show them what we're really made of!" she barks after them.

Those at the gate and the center fall to their blades which means the path forward is clear. They haven't dispatched of -every- enemy, but enough to press on. Perhaps most disturbing of all is the lack of snow once they pass through the initial hurdle. While it's not unusual for their to be patches of ground with melted snow... this seems abrupt. As though a line had been drawn on the ground. The floor isn't even damp past a certain point, as though there'd never been any snow to begin with.

The air is almost suffocatingly warm as they pass a pair of towers and enter a wide square. It's as large as a market town but not quite as pleasant. There are tables set up throughout the sqaure with figures strapped to the surface, their defeated, sallow expressions indicating that they're done with fighting. Robed men and women, with sheathed weapons, are gathered around the tables holding large tomes and crystals in their hands while they stare at the sky. They're in wait. They don't spare a single look toward the few victims who have the strength to murmur their way. "P-please. I-- I'll do anything..."

If Ian is prone to the kind of bloodlust that often plagues people from the Isles, he proves himself to be its master. Even as the way opens up, he doesn't race to press the advantage. "You alright?" He asks Ailys, without really looking back at her. The question sounds casual, almost offhand. His eyes are constantly moving, watching the shift and change of the rhythm of the fight.

Felicia checks mana and occult at hard. Felicia is successful.

Between the incoming group and the robed ritualists with their victims is a pair of twins. Or... no. They aren't actually twins: the tall man with the scar on his forehead has the bearing and appearance of an Oathlander, while his obviously much-older companion with the fierce face and bear-cloak seems to be of the Northlands, but both men move with an uncanny synchronicity in their every gesture in a way that is surely reminiscent of close twins. Only vastly more unsettling. Born warriors, both of them, and yet they move as one, the Oathlander's hand on his sword, the Northlander's on his axe, alert, as they stride across the square, planting their feet in readiness. There's is a steady, unwavering nature to the not-twin's gazes. No fear. No mental preparation. Just a distant gaze and infinite patience.

Ailys' expression is mostly hidden beneath the visor of her borrowed helm, but it's with clinical ease that she tugs her blade free of the man she stabbed, pulling a cloth from her belt to wipe the blood off the dagger and her fingers. "Yes, thank you," she replies quietly to Ian as she readjusts her grip on the blade's handle.

Caspian lets a curse slip past his lips at the sight of the scene in the courtyard. he pauses for a moment, trying to take it all in as his hands grip tighter on the daggers. he wet his lip and stared at the two central figures. "So.. who wants to help me keep these two busy while the others gut the robed ones and free the sacrifices?"

Vitalis checks dexterity and archery at hard. Vitalis fails.

Preston moves into the compound as soon as he is able, the heater shield held ready to ward off any archers as he stomps his way towards the strange square. He does watch the 'twins' advance in the corner of his eye but he seems focused on those strapped to the tables. "The duty is clear" Preston calls over to Felicia "We must save the innocent. Then we can worry about survival. And hurting my dear idiot prince and his mewling mage."

Eirene checks perception and occult at hard. Critical Success! Eirene is spectacularly successful.

Felicia leaves the nameless guardsmen to watch the gate. To keep their retreat... well, as open as they can at least. And her horse. The sight of all those tables and all those robed people makes her squint warily. Despite the obvious presence, the patient 'twins' in the middle taken in last,"Carnifex. This is, absolutely, an Abyssal sacrifice. We need to break this up, now." she advises in a low voice. The motion of her head indicates she heard Caspians words,"I'll take left." she opts for, pointing Wheelspinner's tip that way,"Mother have mercy on your souls." evidently choosing to keep the 'twins' busy.

Raven blinks and mutters, "Gods it's like Setarco right before a storm in here! What the..." she pauses briefly to look around and take note of what's what. She then fixes her gaze on the woman shouting orders and there's a debate, "Lord Vitalis, reckon you could do something about the bossy lady?" she indicates the woman with black hair and then her gaze locks on the...creepy northerner not-twins. Her lips press and she makes her way that way.

Alantir checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Alantir is successful.

Eirene lets the mercenary leader slip through as she presses for the gates. "Fuck," she says simply as she spies the sacrificial scene. She lets out a heavy sigh as if she had expected this kind of a thing but had hopes it wouldn't come to pass. "We should be able to take them out safely without any kind of magical backlash - whatever the fuck it is hasn't happened - yet," she says as they rush the gates. She points to one of the cultists and says, "Keep 'em distracted, so they can't do whatever the flaming fuck it is they want to do."

Alantir checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Alantir is successful.

Thea checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Critical Success! Thea is spectacularly successful.

Katarina checks dexterity and small wpn at hard. Katarina fails.

Katarina checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Katarina is successful.

Ezra checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Ezra marginally fails.

Thea checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Thea is successful.

Ezra checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Ezra fails.

Ailys checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Ailys marginally fails.

Eirene checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Eirene fails.

Ailys checks dexterity and small wpn at hard. Ailys fails.

Eirene checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Botch! Eirene fails completely.

Ian checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Ian is successful.

Ian checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Ian is successful.

Preston checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Preston is successful.

Giorgio checks dexterity and brawl at hard. Giorgio is successful.

Giorgio checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Giorgio fails.

Preston checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Preston is successful.

Raven checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Raven is successful.

Caspian checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Caspian is successful.

Raven checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Raven fails.

Caspian checks dexterity and small wpn at hard. Caspian is successful.

Tesha checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Tesha is successful.

Felicia checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Critical Success! Felicia is spectacularly successful.

Tesha checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Tesha fails.

Felicia checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Felicia marginally fails.

Vitalis looks down, briefly, to find Raven addressing him. He grins, "You'll have to be more specific," he flares his hands and puts heels to his mount, giving chase. Whatever the black-haired woman has in mind to do, Vitalis means to harry her and thwart it.

Gaspard spies the black-haired woman making a run for the gates, growling momentarily as he shoots off in her direction.

Vitalis checks dexterity and archery at daunting. Vitalis fails.

Vitalis checks dexterity and ride at hard. Vitalis is successful.

Gaspard checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Gaspard fails.

Gaspard checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Gaspard fails.

Once the black haired woman sees the writing on the wall, she calls for a retreat. There was a plan for this, retreating. However, the best laid plans never go according to plan. Too many of her group have been dispatched and those few that remain do retreat, but not to the planned space within. She curses under her breath and starts running to go inside, just past the gate guards before everyone else falls in. She's harried by arrows by Vitalis, but they fall short of the mark. She rounds the corner, thinking she's safe, only to be met by Gaspard, who engages briefly with her. She grasps for her sword and gets it up just in time to parry his attack, and then slices low toward his side, hitting a chink in his armor just right. That's when she hears a horse charging her down and she takes off running again to dodge more of Vitalis's arrows. This causes another volley of curses to escape her, some of them which would make sailors blush. This day is not going quite as she planned!!

Gaspard checks 'permanent wound save' at hard. Gaspard fails.

Gaspard has suffered a serious wound!

Ailys checks 'recovery treatment' at normal. Ailys is successful.

Eirene drops tightly strapped scaled arm-guards.

By the way they shift when he reaches, Vitalis is half through his quiver. He's about to nock another arrow when Gaspard clashes with their enemy, blows falling, and Gaspard left with a bleeding gash. He pauses a moment, teeth gritted, l strapped

Sebastian takes tightly strapped scaled arm-guards.

That chink in his armor immediately coats crimson red as Gaspard lets out a shout of pain. Stumbling back on the defensive, he raises Shepherd warily as his expression is wracked with pain. Gritting his teeth, he holds a hand to his wounded side, glaring icy-daggers at the Black-haired woman.

(re) (complete) By the way they shift when he reaches, Vitalis is half through his quiver. He's about to nock another arrow when Gaspard clashes with their enemy, blows falling, and Gaspard left with a bleeding gash. He pauses a moment, teeth gritted, he grates at Gaspard, "I'll get her," and off he goes, crouched low over Rocker's neck.

Caspian is prepared to charge into fray when the rest of the group seems to have the same idea. he laughs, leaving the twins to the others and turning to dash after the cultists and their strange implements. he has no idea what they are or what they do, but was sure that he decidedly did not like them and that they looked prime for smashing. any chance he can to cut free a prisoner is taken as well.

Upon entering the square and spotting the synchronous movements of the strangely similar pair near its center, Alantir continues forward, blade still gripped half-sword, and prepares to engage the nearest in close combat.

Tesha checks mana and theology at daunting. Tesha is successful.

Katarina hops down from Sweet Baby and swats the sweetest, babiest horse to send him running away from trouble. She's on her own now! She weaves through the blades and baleful stares of cultists, seeking to reach one of the objects they're using to conduct the ritual -- only to be foiled by it being literally out of reach. The object's resting place is JUST too high up for Katarina, even on tippy-toes.

Katarina says in Eurusi, "Gods. If this is how I die..."

Those heading for battle with the twins will quickly find out that picking a target between them is... difficult. It'a almost as if they are one person, with four arms and two weapons between them. When Raven goes to strike at the Notherner, cutting a gash down his arm that he seems not to react to, it is the Oathlander who slides his sword towards her, stabbing effortlessly at the Blackheart. That's when Felicia attacks, striking a nasty blow to the Oathlander with Wheelspinner that leaves him trailing blood: but it is the Northlander who cuts her in turn. There's no satisfaction there, only the shifting of attention as if they were one entity, Alantir's attack solidly striking the Oathlander while he manages to dodge the Northlander's counter-strike. In some ways, to watch it might be to watch an amazingly choreographed dance: it is unsettlingly beautiful and deadly all at once.

Eirene was so distracted by the sight of the cultists and trying to figure out their nefarious plot (and how to not let it backlash onto everyone) that she didn't notice one of them come sneaking up behind her until the last moment when the cultist lets out a yell. She brings up her arm to block as the wicked dagger is on her unguarded side, cutting through the leather of her vambraces and drawing a steady trickle of blood. She weakly tries to riposte but she's wincing in sharp pain and backing away.

Ian sheathes his sword back into his cane and lets Ailys lead the way into the compound, keeping pace with her with a quick, if slightly off-kilter walking step. "When whatever is going to happen happens, we leave, alright?" He makes the suggestion to Ailys with a grim note to his speech, but no real concern. "I'd rather not pick a fight with a demon today." The honed edge of the now bloody alaricite sword, which he draws from within his cane once they get close to where the ritual is taking place, is ideal for the cutting loose of people, and this is what he does. "Come on, on your feet," he shields the person he freed (and himself) from a strike with the cane part of his cane sword while he urges them off the table.

Caspian history

Thea has been growing more and more annoyed. Which is never a good thing. She darts toward the cultists, blade raised. "Going somewhere,"she growls lowly, her voice sounding every bit as pissed as she is.

As soon as it becomes clear what the situation is here, Ezra sucks in a horrified breath, not stoic enough to take this kind of thing in stride it would seem. Immediately he looks to Eirene for guidance, and nods once when she says 'it' hasn't happened yet, and to keep them distracted. Into the fray he rushes, but these cultists are made of sterner stuff than were the mercenaries previous, and he suffers a number of blows cutting against him while he fails to make much progress against the cultists himself. Still maybe a bit better off than poor Eirene, though. "Aunt E!" distress! "Get out of here if you need to fall back!"

Vitalis puts heels to Rocker's flanks. The normally placid horse needs the encouragement - he's not a fan of all this. Nope. Ears pinned back and eyes wide, he plunges forward. At least it's warmer in here. The stolid gray is glad of that. The two surge ahead, Vitalis cataloguing those curses. Why does this woman seem so familiar...?

To save people, stabbing other people is often required. And these people that need a good stabbing are doing magic. And that works A-OK for Preston and for Crusader. The blade is swung into the belly of one of the robed figures and drawn across as he steps on. Of course, robes probide a lot of cloth to tangle a blade, but helpfully Crusader seems almost impossibly sharp and balanced. And quite happy. Preston even begins quietly singing the Canticle of the Dawn, with strained moments and pauses as he exerts himself in battle.

As the group spills into the room where the cultists are, Giorgio follows the surge that heads into battle against the robed figures. His fists find the body of once cultists beneath his robe, but a blade arcs in to stab through his armor and into his hip bone, sending a lightning bolt of pain through his body and causing him to yell out in pain as he stumbles.

Raven is undaunted by the whirling twin-dervish. She circles once and then darts in with a powerful swing of her blade-but that costs her and she's driven back with a pained cry, staggering back and giving a feral sneer-which is wiped off her face when she hears Thea calling to Eirene. She backpedals swiftly and her gaze seeks through the chaos for Eirene and she tries to sprint but it's more a rolling lope, "Lady Eirene!" trying to make her way to Eirene to provide cover and urge her back to safety.

While it may seem unclear to many in the field what exactly Tesha is doing as she scrawls on the ground. It seems that whatever symbols she's drawn coincide with a faint flash of light and some of the crystals in the hands of the cultists exploding. One shard of glass pierces a woman's eye. A sight that is horrifying to those who are unlucky to witness it. Yet she's unable to truly react. She just slumps onto the ground with a vacant expression as she bleeds profusely.

Ailys pauses briefly as they enter the compound, struggling to decide on her next action. "We leave," she agrres, then murmurs, "This must be what they did to my brother." Her gaze rests on the 'twins', then transfers to the bound prisoners. But it's one of the empowered objects that finally draws her focus. "These are a source of power, yes?" Without waiting for an answer, she slashes at it, only to be slashed at in turn by someone who would rather her not do what she's trying to do. She hisses in pain as blood wells through a joint in her bracers.

Most of the cultists appear to have the same heedlessness of the incoming fighters as they do the victims on the table. However, when people start to attack them, and untie their cultists, that quickly changes. "You will not interrupt us! The holy rite will continue!" the words come from multiple throats all at once, and they turn on their attackers, seeking to stop any sabotage of the ritual with sharp black daggers.

Oh that stings. Felicia's armor might absorb a good portion of the blow from the Northlander as she pulls Wheelspinner free of the Oathlander, circling off and wiping some of the blood from her face with a slightly less bloody gauntlet with a small nod,"Okay. Okay." she mutters, shifting her shoulders as if she could shake it off. Nope. It hurts. It definitely hurts,"Sometimes we need to cut off a problem at its root, yes?" cast towards Alantir with a pointed look towards the Northerners arm. Evidently hoping that a point other than her words might be taken. It's totally meant as a smile, that baring of teeth. An 'hey that didn't hurt AT ALL', granted, only the dead are liable to believe it, but still. Even knowing that the others probably going to move to strike her she doesn't seem inclined to back off from the eerie pair.

Tesha looks around at things and there is something that pains her, "This is..." she shakes her head. She'd seen far, far worse with the birthing of bug humanoids and other things. She was set on continuing on their quest to save these people. She goes after one of the cultists, holding her blade in a guard before arcing it up and then back down as she strikes them. She then gives a look around, then to the ground, "Please..." she whispers to herself as she takes a knee and starts to carve into the earth with the tip of her blade as she starts to chant in some...resonating language under her breath. That flash of light, was it a coincidence? She doesn't know! But that woman was definitely dead that got crystal in her eye.

Preston checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Preston is successful.

Preston checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Preston is successful.

Felicia checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Felicia is successful.

Alantir checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Alantir marginally fails.

Gaspard Wounded, Gaspard's forehead beads with sweat. He breathes a bit heavier than before, but remains standing. His teeth are knit, his gauntlet bloody at his side, his sword raised - still steady. "Blasted....I've still got some fight left."

Alantir checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Alantir marginally fails.

Felicia checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Felicia is successful.

Thea checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Thea fails.

Ian checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Ian marginally fails.

Thea checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Thea is successful.

Eirene checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Eirene is successful.

Eirene checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Eirene marginally fails.

Ian checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Ian marginally fails.

Raven checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Raven fails.

Raven checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Raven is successful.

Caspian checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Caspian marginally fails.

Caspian checks dexterity and small wpn at hard. Caspian marginally fails.

Vitalis checks dexterity and archery at hard. Vitalis fails.

Vitalis checks dexterity and ride at hard. Vitalis is successful.

Giorgio checks dexterity and brawl at hard. Botch! Giorgio fails completely.

Ailys checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Ailys is successful.

Giorgio checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Giorgio fails.

Ailys checks dexterity and small wpn at hard. Ailys fails.

Gaspard checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Gaspard is successful.

Gaspard checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Gaspard is successful.

Katarina checks dexterity and small wpn at hard. Katarina fails.

Katarina checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Katarina marginally fails.

Ezra checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Ezra is successful.

Ezra checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Ezra is successful.

Vitalis checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Vitalis fails.

Eirene checks 'unconsciousness save' at easy. Eirene is successful.

Eirene remains capable of fighting.

Giorgio checks 'unconsciousness save' at normal. Giorgio fails.

Giorgio is incapacitated and falls unconscious.

Looking back, Preston does catch Tesha's writing and he lifts a brow but there is little time to discuss things as the robed people have daggers. Evil looking daggers. Thankfully Preston has a shield, which defeats daggers. He presses against the nearest cultist, letting the dagger dent the shield as he stabs over it into the cultist. That creepy single voice seems to only anger Preston "Do tell Calyana, I am coming still for her beloved." He pushes the robed figure off the blade as he turns "Get the freed people away. Protect the innocents, first and foremost."

"I'm FINE," Eirene insists angrily of her wounds to those shouting at her in concern. "Free the others before they can be sacrificed." Which is what she goes to do. "If they succeed, we're all royally buggered. In all terms of the word." Bugs. Buggered. A traitorous prince/king. It's a multi-meaning warning. She's slashed at again as she tries to free one of the victims, with the lethal sacrificial blade shearing just atop her steelsilk bodice where some skin lies protected only by a silk shirt. Blood welts on her wounds but she seems to be succeeding in her task.

"Fuck, that's disturbing," Ian mutters to himself, as the cultists start speaking as one. He whips around when Ailys is struck, and puts himself between her and the cultist coming at her with a dagger. It's not a great angle, and his strike misses by a hair, opening him up for a stab from that black blade that he can't get out of the way of without opening the way to his charge. So he doesn't, relying on his armor to tank the hit. That armor isn't enough to avoid the slash to his leg from drawing enough blood that it would probably be concerning if he wasn't wearing enough black to disguise the bleeding.

There is some relief once the black-haired woman is within the compound of the cultists. She gets a moment to breathe as the newcomers take a moment to engage with their new situation. She wipes down her sword on the edge of her pants and then turns toward the group, eyes seeking out those who'd attacked her previously. She draws further back into the compound a bit, to draw them in further if they insist on coming after her. She sees that they are and this time grins, relishing the chance to battle it out with them. That grin even reaches her eyes. It's not that she terribly likes battle. She just likes a good challenge. It is a grin that might be a bit reminiscent of those within the Malvici family; if only those there recognized her. She wiggles fingers in Vitalis's direction in a 'bring it on' fashion. She then runs toward him and makes an attempt to swipe at him with her sword, only to miss - either by some maneuvering of Vitalis himself or by his warhorse moving to deflect her attack. She then spins to meet Gaspard head on, and they go toe to toe a few rounds before he gets in a good strike, but she's not quite able to match him. She takes serious damage from his hit, but she's still up for the count.

Wheelspinner bites once more, deeply, into the Oathlander. This time he staggers and goes to one knee with the force of Felicia's blow. Immediately, the Northerner is there to counter Alantir's attempted followup, though he only manages to deflect it and not wholly negate the blow. In turn, he presses both of two fighting the twins -- managing a strike on Alantir.

Meanwhile, some of the prisoners are freed and stumble away: maybe not in the right direction, but there's no thinking, only fear. The robed ritualist that struck Giorgio is implacable and stabs for him a second time, deeper into his gut. There is no satisfaction when done: he merely steps over the fallen figure and continues on.

Another swing, another miss. Felicia's inquiry regarding striking evil at the root is very nearly answered -- until one of the twins lands a blow, the acute pain sufficient enough to silence the prince and preclude him from responding. Alantir's focus, for now, remains fixated upon on the task at hand.

Katarina hops. "Almost," she hisses. She hops again, arms up. "Almost," she cries, trying to reach that arcane objet d'ritual. She prepares to make one more go of it -- and then a cultist slashes her across the back. It's another shallow cut, but it bleeds. Katarina falls to the ground, and scampers out of the way of further injury. She abandons trying to reach the ritual item for now, and draws her dagger, to properly fight. May the gods help her.

Ezra seems spurred to action by the damage these people DARED to enact upon his Favorite Aunt, and despite the blood of his own wounds seeping through a few places of his armor, he presses the attack against the cultists! This time he seems to better find the rhythm, ducking the strikes of the cultists and lashing out at them with a ferocity that finds better purchase this time. He does take a moment to call toward Eirene, "It doesn't help anybody if you get SKEWERED, Aunt E!!"

Caspian darts toward the next table and the next crystal. "Gods but you lot must have practiced that for hours huh." he gives a laugh and makes a jump toward the next crystal. his foot slips and he falls, hitting the edge of the table and bouncing off, rolling into the dirt. he scrambles to his feet as a cultist strikes at him. he dodged most of the blow, looking around in time to see Giorgio get stabbed. "Giorgio!" he begins to try and make it to the downed figure. "Dont you go dying on me now, we got lots more shit to get into!"

Gaspard chases after the black-haired woman once more, wincing on every other step. "!!" He charges her and dances back and forth with her, wounded but - this isn't the first time he's been wounded and fighting before. He emits a dull grunt of pain with a strong arc forward, managing to slice but not deal a fatal blow.

Giorgio stumbles back from the robed cultist, feeling the blood seeping down from that deep wound in his hip. His eyes are wide and he thrusts his fist out in a punch that overbalances him with his wound and brings him down to his knees. He sees the cultist approach, sees the flash of steel as it dives, goes straight through the leather that covers him and into his gut. Jeweled alaricite clad hands grasp at the robe, gripping it, staring up into the face before he keels over.

With the cultists now coming to life, as it were, Ailys scrambles out of the way of the next onslaught in the window of time Ian gives her. "Are you all right?" she asks the Kennex, eyes wide, but even as she notes the man's bleeding she staggers towards one of the bound prisoners. She comes up short though, the cut in her arm making her clumsy. She only manages to nick the side of a board.

Tesha continuing to do her carve things into the ground thing for the moment. It might help for just a moment, it was a test even. But she tries to keep herself aware of what's going on in case someone tries to bring a sword down on her head.

Vitalis darts, as much as one can dart on horseback, after the black-haired woman. He rides a wide arc around her, attempting to drive her back towards his compatriots. He shouts as she slashes out as he passes close, sawing reins away. That nearly got Rocker. That's it! Vitalis growls and dismounts, leaving his bow behind with his horse and frees Defiance from its stays. CRACK, CRACK! Two smart, sharp reports split the air. Gaspard trades blows and scores a grave hit. Vitalis grunts an encouragement and then closes with her himself, circling opposite Gaspard. "Give it up."

Raven growls and tries to slash at one of the knife-wielders trying to stop Eirene but misses-but she manages to avoid another wound so she will keep at least trying to stop anyone from approaching Eirene-or the victims she is busy freeing, "Your family, Lord Ian, Arvum as a whole ain't forgiving me if I let you make yourself a martyr, woman!"

The mention of the name 'Calyana' prompts a cultist to turn toward Preston with narrowed eyes. "Our master knows you are here. You can tell him yourself."

The air cools suddenly, reminding them all that it is in fact winter. There's a silence among the cultists, many of them taking steps back away from their attackers, a quirk of their lips in unison. 35% of the victims yet remain tied to the tables. While a majority have been saved, not all. "You fools." The cultist says with a laugh that doesn't end. It persists, as if he's caught by hysterics. The trees suddenly part and the air within the space seems to wobble, as if there's a rift. Suddenly a figure emerges from within, her knees bent as she lands.

It's a woman with golden hair and golden armor. Those who'd been in the Cathedral during the Bastion attack may recognsise her. Others may notice the pointed ears visible behind the golden headdress. Her flawless features are twisted by her contemptuous glare. "Disgusting mortals. You would dare interrupt on the most holist of days. When His Most Beloved of Princes drew us to the path of wisdom." Her echoey voice is monotonous and there's a sense that someone else is speaking through her. Him.

Wiping her blade on her pants, Thea starts to go after more. But Katarina and Eirene pull her attention away from what she was going to do. And the woman. Who Thea squints at for the briefest of moments.

It's not coincidence that Felicia elects to shift her spot towards Alantir. Off to his left. She's watching the Northerner warily with only flickers of her gaze to check the Oathlanders position now that he's down on one knee. Gloved fingers touch Wheelspinner's blade as she stands by the Prince's shoulder. Eyes on the 'twins' even as she says to her sword,"We're going to cut through these two. You hear me? Pets of the enemy. We need to stop them quickly now and send them on their way to Mother." as if trying to encourage the thing somehow,"Your highness. I'll try to go for this one. Finish his friend, please?" suggested to Alantir as she leaps forward. For now, not even allowing herself to notice that something nastier has just 'landed'.

"I'm alright." Ian's voice betrays no hint of pain, or even concern. The sudden change in temperature definitely gives him pause, though, and he snaps out with a more decisive air of command: "We need to get these people out of here. It's time to go."

The woman has a black axe strapped to her back.

"He always knows, he feels it in his little black heart. The gnawing knowledge of his own failing..." Preston snarls back at the cultist before he turns his head at the change in temperature. As Calyana appears, his eyes narrow - though widen as he spies the axe on her back. Crusader lifts, a loud almost singing hum coming from the blade as it glows "Well. Yes." Preston echoes Ian "It is time that we took the innocents and left." The Carnifex looks over to Felicia and nods "She has Vowbreaker. We are not prepared to take it now."

Calyana wields the axe formally known as Vowbreaker.

Something seems to shift in Ezra as the woman in the golden armor appears -- as she does what she does, says what she says. Who is he? Nobody! Some random River-lands lord! But there's an anger there, a fire, that speaks to something completely uncharacteristically lit from within. "You people keep thinking you can fuck with my --?" The sentence is unfinished, but he lifts his weapon and his shield (like that's gonna do any good) and steps up with Preston, a grim and simple statement offered, "I'll help buy time."

The black haired woman knew this time would come, she was expecting it. Counting on it maybe. She gives both Vitalis and Gaspard a quiet, serene look. "If you were looking to leave alive, now would be the time to do it," she advises them. "When speaking of choice, you could choose to continue to spend time coming after me or your could chose to save your friends. I will fight you, but the time you take with me will only harm them in the long run." She grips her sword, ready to fight both Vitalis and Gaspard if she must. "That choice is yours. Is my life worth the loss of your friends?"

Calyana drops Smile.

Tesha figures that's as good as she's getting with things. Her weird chanting stops and she raises her blade just in enough time to see the Golden Warrior that appears. "That seems like a cue to get going." she whispers to herself. She then moves to try to assist more of those that are captured, because they didn't want to die here, they really didn't.

Calyana drops Smile.

When Calyana enters the fray, Katarina's eyes widen. She moves up, to stand next to Preston and his glowing sword. Surely, she feels safe next to a glowing sword. It's not weird at all. "Carnifex," she says to Preston in a sidelong way, like they'd just bumped into one another at the annual Oathlands Pumpkin Fair. Katarina briefly looks over her shoulder, at whoever's within shouting distance of her. "Free the rest of them, get them clear!" Then she turns back toward Calyana, dagger drawn. She's not going to say aloud what /she/ plans to do.

"Aww, fuck," Eirene says as she stares at Calyana, the words just falling from her lips with a sigh. She's backing away as she listens to everyone and feels the pain of her injuries. Then she sees Giorgio and goes to help scoop him up, not wanting to leave a man behind even if she's still bleeding.

Raven looks up, "Oh. Fuck." She calls to Eirene, "Get out of here! I'll get this! Leave!" She bellows, "VITALIS AND GASPARD STOP FUCKING AROUND!!" in her rare Blackheart roar, normally reserved for belting insults and threats across shipdecks. She focuses on freeing the restrained sacrifices with a grim, single-minded focus.

Katarina checks dexterity and small wpn at daunting. Katarina is successful.

Felicia checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Felicia is successful.

Preston checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Preston fails.

Katarina checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Katarina is successful.

Felicia checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Felicia is successful.

Raven checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Raven fails.

Ailys checks charm and empathy at hard. Ailys fails.

Thea checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Thea is successful.

Raven checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Raven is successful.

Preston checks dexterity and medium wpn at daunting. Preston marginally fails.

Alantir checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Alantir is successful.

Tesha checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Critical Success! Tesha is spectacularly successful.

Ezra checks dexterity and medium wpn at daunting. Ezra fails.

Alantir checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Alantir is successful.

Thea checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Thea marginally fails.

Ezra checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Critical Success! Ezra is spectacularly successful.

Gaspard checks dexterity and medium wpn at hard. Botch! Gaspard fails completely.

Battle is a curious thing, the ebb and flow, charge and retreat. Heat in this winter is strange enough. And then it's cold again. Stillness -- a moment of it -- and SHE arrives. Calyana. Vitalis gapes a long moment, and grits his teeth at the twisting in his gut. His attention snaps back to the dark-haired woman and he doesn't hesitate. Choice made. Defiance springs to life in his hands.

Ian checks command and leadership at hard. Ian marginally fails.

Thea watches the reactions of those around her when Calyana enters the fray. She's already shouting at Eirene,"I've got this! Get the fuck out!" Though she mumbles under her breath a string of swears. Again.

Gaspard checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Gaspard fails.

Vitalis checks dexterity and huge wpn at hard. Vitalis is successful.

Vitalis checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Vitalis fails.

Tesha checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Tesha is successful.

Caspian checks dexterity and dodge at hard. Caspian is successful.

Caspian checks dexterity and small wpn at hard. Caspian marginally fails.

Preston checks 'permanent wound save' at hard. Preston is successful.

Despite the terrible damage, Preston does not take a permanent wound.

Preston checks 'unconsciousness save' at daunting. Preston marginally fails.

Preston is incapacitated and falls unconscious.

Preston wakes up.

Gaspard checks 'unconsciousness save' at easy. Gaspard is successful.

Gaspard remains capable of fighting.

Preston tosses his shield off to the side, and takes Crusader in a hand and a half hold as he watches Calyana. When others step forward, Preston shakes his head "Crusader will protect only one from the evil that comes from it. Those blades, they take the very life from you just as they feed the anger and emotions of the wielder. Though, with legion wielding it, what is one blade against the will of so many?" Gesturing towards the remaining prisoners tied down "Get them out of here" He looks along the very thin and small group "We distract, and then we retreat. Just a moment. Even if we won, we have no way to contain the blade." The briefing done, Preston smiles at Calyana, that usual warm smile "For what it is worth, I will free you one day. I just cannot today. The Prince too, as his father was freed." Still, it becomes about the battle and Preston steps in and almost finds an opening. Almost. But as Crusader is knocked to the side, it leaves him open to a strike that peels the rubicund of his armour as though it were paper, and the white stuffing of his gambeson can be seen as it is split. And then it turns slowly from fluffy white to a dark claret red. "Right" He coughs raggedly, and he stumbles backwards "That was...expensive time to buy. Withdraw and protect the prisoners."

Ian's voice, as he tries to bring people to their senses and point them towards the exit, crackles with command, a beautiful echo of his older brother Aethan. But his extremely thick isles accent isn't what anyone who just escaped slavery and sacrifice wants to hear; none of the people he's trying to help has any way of knowing that he's not one of THOSE Islesmen, the thrall-taking kind. And he really does sound like he means business as he attempts to herd them along. At least enough people run in the right direction in an attempt to escape him that he doesn't actively make the situation worse.

Without any sign of the pain of the grievous injury that wounds the Oathlander not-twin, he rises to his feet as if pulled upwards by a string, and as one, he and the Northerner bow towards gold-armored figure. Then the twins take a step back, and another: still fighting Felicia and Alantir and the now joined Thea -- but backing towards Calyana to bring them in the sphere of her range. The Oathlander is in a bad way, and one last hit will mean taking him out, but it brings them in deadly close range to the golden-armored woman bearing the black axe. The tide has definitely changed in the battle with the twins, with all three warriors striking true: opening up the wound on the Oathlander, blood gushing forth as he falls again to his knees and topples over without a word. Wordlessly, the Northerner steps over his 'twin's' body as if forgotten, and continues to retreat, cutting Thea with the sharp blade of his axe, leaving a trail of his own blood as he dances them into Calyana's reach.

Ailys gives Ian a stiff little nod and takes a moment to steady herself, stuffing her dagger-wiping cloth into the chink in her armor where blood's welling out. Her eyes go wide as Calyana shows up on the scene, and she starts trying to herd the nearest freed prisoners out of the compound with extra urgency. She speaks to them in a low soothing tone, assuring them she knows they are frightened but they need to focus and leave this place. Unfortunately, the tremor in her voice rather undercuts the message.

Katarina's nostrils flare as she breathes out, hard. The frigid air almost makes the breath seem like little plumes of steam from her nose. She says a silent prayer, and dives into the fray. Her dagger strikes true, but it's clearly not enough. She's just one Princess with just one dagger, and... Calyana's axe rends Preston. "LORD /EZRA/!" Katarina screams. "Get the Carnifex /OUT/ of here! I will--" She doesn't finish the sentence. She will cover them. She just prays that Preston is injured enough that Ezra can actually make him leave.

Caspian looks at those still tied down and grimaces, clearly wishing to join the charge against the greater threat. but its a matter of buying time. he darts to the next table, slipping nimbly past the flashing weapons of cultists to clash at the binding of the prisoners.

Those withdrawing don't seem to be pulling any focus: indeed, the ritualists are focused solely on preventing the disruption of the ritual, but otherwise seem not to care what people are doing. Any that are still trying to damage the relics or free the tied-down victims are attacked, but those freed victims milling about can be guided... with effort. It's like herding cats, driven as they are by fear and shock.

Gaspard blinks in open surprise as he swings way too hard, sending his weapon flying into the ground nearby. Leaping back, he doesn't leap back far enough, his armor being sliced and drawing red through it with a grimace from the large man. He staggers, looking weary as he makes his way around to gather Shepherd as best he can manage, some blood trailing his footsteps. "She might be right. The hostages take priority. It's not looking good for the others.." He comments to Vitalis. "Gah..." Comes a sound of pain from him, staggering a step.

Ezra is like a tiny little insect flailing at Calyana out here. FLAILY FLAILY! The axe is finding no purchase against the golden woman and the danger she presents. At Katarina's shout, however, he does dive in to shelter the Carnifex from another grievous strike... a move that no doubt renders his shield into little bitty pieces of kindling. There is a little terrified indrawn breath at that, but he's hanging in there, he's still alive, still here, and checking to see if Preston is awake. Ah he is, good. "You should go," Ezra advises, "I don't want to be in trouble with a princess." Like somehow that's the logic his brain found, Katarina is more scary than Calyana.

Is Thea and group being herded like cattle? Possibly! But Thea is busy at the moment. Being sliced. She winces as the northerner cuts her, causing her face to grow red. And a bit gimpish. It isn't until he's still moving that Thea begins paying more attention.

The twins retreat. Though one falls, the other remains. Determined to maximize the amount of time that the hostages have to escape, Alantir presses the advantage, blade raised in a high guard.

Raven frees sacrificial victims and gives the a slight shove when possible to keep them moving-stoping ONLY when she must to save one of their or her own life. She's not going anywhere as she works to free them, "Get them OUT OF HERE, DAMNIT!! If you all don't get them out of here I WILL go say hi to the witch of the hour! GET them out of here!!"

Eirene is hauling Giorgio off the scene towards the gates of the ringfort, wincing in pain with each step of the man braced against her. She doesn't see Ezra's heroic save with her focus on the wounded. She'd either be proud of angry. Both, likely both.

Giorgio still looks dignified, even as Eirene hauls him away from danger.

Vitalis is not moved by the dark-haired woman's wisdom and perpaps he should be. Around them retreat flickers through the ranks. Single-minded in pursuit, he doesn't waver. The danger in these enemies is their leadership. He has no hope of facing off against Calyana, even buying time, but this -- this he can do. He attacks, fighting and fending, taking a hard hit that rings his ears and blurs his vision. Gaspard staggers and Vitalis steps to him, interposing himself between the woman and Gaspard. A fighting retreat, then. "Can you make it out?" He flicks a look at Rocker and the horse, with better sense than either of them is already trotting away, towards the gate. Well. Shit. Vitalis gives the black-haired woman his own 'come at me' gesture and nudges Gaspard away, bodily if he needs to. "Let's go."

"There is no freedom that will offer me more than what His Magnanimous Excellence offers. I will happily bask in the Stellar Light of His Presence for Eternity." Calyana says immediately when Preston speaks of freeing her, before branches suddenly emerge from the ground, deep within the soil, attacking those who weren't fast enough to dodge out of her sight. She hadn't even moved her hand or swung her blade. "His Faultless Majesty will invite you worthless mortals to do the same. May you accept this Auspicious Invitation and extend your meager existence."

Vowbreaker. If there was one word to get Felicia's attention, Preston couldn't have picked a better one. Or perhaps, a worse one. There's the widening of her eyes, the look towards the black axe and a cloud crosses her face,"Take him!" is the shout for Thea and Alantir, when the surviving 'twin' starts drawing them towards the golden armored woman. The Harrow dropping back from the Northerner to give the others an opening and turning her attention towards Calyana,"RETREAT!" the bellow given in her best parade voice. Which might be more effective if she seemed set to do it herself. Bare skin isn't exactly at a premium right now, but still she makes a shallow cut with her blade on her own flesh, and attempts to cajole the sword with,"Pinwheel, spin wheel. Souls of the dead, lend me your strength, this I beg."

Tesha is trying to free more people, she has no problem raising the blade that is helping with it. The woman feels like leaving the people there is just not something she can do. She tries to focus on other things to. Like where is the huge Blackram Lord that had rode in here...well...that was going to be an issue. They couldn't leave Gaspard. Or his corpse if he died!

The black haired woman sighs and steels herself for the attacks to come. She dances with Gaspard first, keeping free from Vitalis's whip, dancing in small circles and trying to keep Gaspard between herself and Vitalis so he has no true opening. This tactic seems to work up until the point that Gaspard loses his sword, allowing her to get in and attack him. "Why do you insist when you've been warned. This will not end well," she hisses at Gaspard. She retreats from his side when Vitalis lashes out his whip again, and this time it stings her across the face, cleaving the wound open with skin hanging down in a slice along her cheek. "You are wasting your time. What time you have left," she continues at them, she also manages to strike in retaliation at Vitalis, hitting him true. She does her best not to maim him, but at least get her point across. Like the Twins, she draws back toward Calyana, as her wounds start to overwhelm her. "Tell my cousins... Tell them Evelina will see them later." And she draws back further, so that if Gaspard and Vitalis wish to follow after, they too are also in much greater harm's way.

Any blade seems to be quickly parried, as though she has the foresight of many rather than one. She barely seems to react to the attacks around her beyond the contempt she'd shown at the start. It does serve to distract her from the ritual for a little while longer. Enough time for some more of the victims to be released. It's when she notices the dozen or less remaining that her expression changes. "YOU INSOLENT WRETCHES. His Spectacular Serenity..." She pauses suddenly, looking down. "Eminence. I meant Eminence." Her words are robotic. As if she's re-evaluating a script she's gotten. "He will not stand for this." Her anger returns suddenly and her voice rises. "YOU WILL REPENT OF YOUR FOLLY." And suddenly, she's rising into the eat. "We will make do with what we have." Her eyes blacken and the axe formerly known as Vowbreaker is risen into the air, a black shadow floating upwards.

Felicia flips a coin calling heads, and it lands on heads. They win!

Felicia checks mana and occult at daunting. Felicia fails.

Gaspard lets out a 'Graah' in frustration, slowly backing away after being nudged by Vitalis, back away from the black-haired woman, in visible pain. He begins to slowly retreat, picking up the pace as he goes along.

Raven flips a coin and it lands on tails.

Felicia checks 'death save' at hard. Felicia fails.

Felicia has died.

Vitalis stays next to Gaspard, growling as he does, eyes locked with Evelina - curiosity flaring. She... did she hold back? Why? He backs with Gaspard, regrouping with those now trying to flee. He takes in the whole of the camp he'd not seen... bodies, shattered crystals, blood, fleeing captives, Calyana a gold radiance devoured by blackness upthrust in her hands. A faceoff that... "Gods," Vitalis whispers, footsteps faltering such that Gaspard piles into him. Something deeply deeply wrong is happening. He gives himself a shake and takes a breath, lifting his voice to hearten and shepherd those fleeing out.

Though she's up in the sky and prepping for the ritual to take place with whoever may remain... something strange happens. The sky has darkened and Calayana looks upwards with dead eyes, unresponsive to what happens around her. Until suddenly, she isn't. There's a fog around her and her features falter for a moment. "Mother... Mother? Father?" Her voice is helpless for a moment. "NO!" She shouts, and it's no longer her own voice but the voice a of a man. Hateful and forceful. "YOUR FAMILY IS HERE."

Those below her look confused more than anything. The twins don't stay confused for long since her attempts to fight the smoky figures that surround her leads to blasts shooting from the axe, striking them where they stand. Killing them both.
he altar beneath her begins to crumble, exploding outwards. In her haste to escape from her brief captivity, she strikes at the source of her current predicament. The woman of House Harrow. In an attempt to stop what is happening to her. "NOOOOOO!" She shouts as she sends a burst of energy toward the knight, piercing right through her body, armor and all.

"NOOO!" Calyana continues to shout as she departs the scene of carnage, slashing around her, as though to dispel any figures, real or imagined. The ritual at the very least, does not appear to be resuming.

Evelina, the black-haired woman, doesn't know what's coming as she withdraws closer to Calyana, quickly backing away to put more space between herself and Vitalis and Gaspard. Of course, neither do Vitalis and Gaspard know what's coming. It's a scene that might stick in one's mind, replaying over and over again in slow motion. Those blasts that come from Calyana's axe just go anywhere, haphazardly moving about. Just as Evalina is about to turn and join the others in watching what's left of the ritual, one of those blasts strikes her in her chest, causing her to fall back. But not just fall back. She falls over, dead.

There is no way that Felicia doesn't know that what she is doing is suicide. It's absolutely suicide. And yet... and yet when axe and woman start to go into the sky. There's people still on the altars, allies attempting to flee. The choice, for her, is simple. It must be stopped. It must be. Fear and doubt are set aside and for that moment she pulls. Pulls with everything she has, everything she is and as things explode and crumble and energy strikes her it's not pain at the last. It's a smile. Perhaps even a laugh that is cut short, silent as the redheaded knight collapses where she stands. Content that at the last, she did what she felt was right, and for those that knew her... with one doozy of a story to tell Death when she gets there.

Calyana flees, and Katarina... collapses. Onto her hands and knees, dropping her dagger. She knows that if she looks over to her left, she'll see Felicia's body. But she can't bring herself to look. So she just lowers her head to the ground. And she cries. And she prays.

As blasts start to fly, Gaspards eyes widen and he hurries along as fast as a wounded man can manage, still bleeding and looking wearier by the minute. "Oh. Crap. Crap!" He shouts out. Hand at his side to press some bleeding, he growls in pain as he moves.

Felicia was just here with them, just here one minute ago, fighting Calyana along with himself, Preston, and Katarina. Ezra is stunned for a moment, utterly frozen. "She was here. She was just here," he says, numbly. "I didn't even get to talk to her... She was just here, fighting with us, she was just here." A ragged breath is drawn in and he remembers to move again -- Katarina is praying, Preston is badly hurt. Ezra abandons the fight to go pick up Felicia's body, and carry her out of this place. It's all he can do.

There is no objection from Preston to the idea of withdrawing - in fact he suggested it, a moment of delaying her and take people away. And now he is all bleeding, he very much loves the idea. He grips the hilt of Crusader as he wanders back, barking at some of the prisoners to move as he holds onto his side. He seems about ready to drop to his knee, Crusader stretched in front of him, when Felicia takes her actions, and there is a momentary yelp. A stifled warning, but, Preston shakes his head "To defend the innocent." he murmers, his head lifting to follow Calyana and the events. For a moment there is hope. And then....there is both hope and sorrow. And for Preston this is familiar. "Move those we have freed! Kill cultists who won't flee or surrender! Carry....carry those who can no longer walk themselves."

Ian's efforts to encourage, bully, or shove prisoners towards safety fade to stillness as the sky starts to darken, and his gaze lifts to take in what's happening there. As such, he's watching, just standing there and watching, when Felicia is cleaved by the blackened ax. And there's a moment, when, jaw tense and eyes almost luminous with some indescribable emotion, it looks like his discipline is finally going to break, and he's going to abandon duty and go in and try to get her away, or defend her, or maybe (probably) avenge her. But it's only a moment, before all of that gets locked away again. He touches the center of his chest for a moment, and then reels on the prisoners and gives up attempts to inspire them to leave in favor of just roaring: "MOVE!" He himself doesn't quit the field just yet, though. He can't make himself go that far.

Eirene hauls Giorgio away but as the air starts to darken and everything... changes, Eirene stops. Either they will all die where they stand or not, it's one of those moments where there's little you can do. But Felicia does something. Whatever it is, it's successful as it causes the minion of the Traitor to flee in a prison of her own mind. Or whatever it was the Harrow did. She takes a moment to weigh the situation and if they're still in danger. It doesn't seem they're in massive danger any longer. The build-up in the air has faded. She continues pulling the dirty-blonde man away from the scene all the same, present threat or no. Ezra is given a nod of approving thanks as he carries Felicia away from the broken altar.

Tesha's eyes widen as she is trying to get more of the sacrifices away from the alters and areas that they are strapped to, but there is the shape of Calyana in the sky and then everything happens. She sees Felicia get struck and fall dead. It doesn't process really. She can't right now. She then lets her gaze move to where Katarina is and she hurries over, "Your Highness, we have to go." she whispers to her as she reaches down to try to help her regain her feet and help her out with the others.

Ailys, still trying to herd prisoners, stands frozen in shock as the final combat goes down. She pushes back her visor, gray eyes huge as Felicia falls and the elven woman flees. Ian's roar shakes her out of her stupor and she resumes guiding people away, making her way towards Eirene, Giorgio and Gaspard as she does. "Here, let me." She joins in helping haul Giorgio. "Let us gather the wounded in a safe place."

In the aftermath, there is chaos. In the shattering of the altar, some victims died, and most of the ritualists. Those that remain seem as shellshocked as anyone else, all the fight gone out of them. Smoke and chaos abounds. The injured moan, but the threat seems to have passed. And above, the snow finally seems to fall inside the space once more, covering bodies of friends and foe alike.

Raven turns at the burst of power and her eyes widen, "Oh. No! Nonono! Dame Felicia!" she sprints that way and then stops to look down. She frowns, "Aw." her shoulders slump, "Shit." It's soft and full of sorrow, that softly uttered explitive. "Well we ain't leaving you here." she sheathes her sword and then nods to Ezra then moves to help Katarina, "C'mon, my lady, let's be off."

Katarina picks up her dagger, and accepts Tesha and Raven's hands up. She doesn't say anything as she walks away, leaning against Tesha. Her tears are frozen to her face.

Caspian hacks at the binding, the panic trying to take hold causing his heart to pound in his ears. he looks over to the fight and angry Mage, eyes going wide as she begins to drift into the air! "shit shit shit shit!" then utter chaos descends. Caspian watches in confused wonder as Calyana is assaulted by.. something! her past? ghosts? his eyes looks to the others, still desperately fighting or working to free others. Then bolts of energy are flashing, death piercing ally and enemy alike. He watch in horror as Felicia is struck, a scream bursting forth from his mouth as her body collapses. "No!!" he helps cut the prisoner free before darting toward the others to help the wounded get free.. and to see Felicia carried out.

Large gold-flecked green eyes look up at the sky. Thea watches, transfixed for a moment. "What the---,"she starts. Backing down, Thea clears her head for the briefest of moments before hurrying to gather those that are injured. She catches sight of Felicia and stops. There's a frown on her lips, but she hurries to gather those still moving.

Vitalis is rooted in place as if Calyana's snaring vines had caught him. He watches as the terrifying and confusing tableau unfolds, jostled as Gaspard staggers past, puzzled as Calyana loses focus and then starts laying about herself with wild swings and blasts. The strange men, blast, blast. Felicia, blast. Evelina, blast. Felicia! A soundless shout leaves his chest, a thousand thoughts tumbling. Silence seems to wreathe the moment. Was that a smile - was she smiling? Mouth agape, Vitalis bestirs himself to movement again, an ache in him. Calyana, raging, flees. 'Carry those who can no longer walk.' Vitalis walks, quiet, through the milling fleeing throng, throat tight, towards the two prone figures. "Highness..." His voice is rough, quiet. "Katarina." He offers a hand down to the Valardin princess.

Katarina is very short, so Vitalis is technically offering a hand down, yes. As she leans against Tesha, Katarina reaches out to squeeze Vitalis's hand.

Ezra is careful with his tending of Felicia, as he carries her to safety -- should any others who knew her better wish to take over, they will not be resisted, he looks shell-shocked and his role here is more one of proximity than connection to the deceased. Her beautiful weapon, Wheelspinner, remains with her, cleaned and sheathed. Its fate is not for him to decide, but Ezra can at least keep it with Felicia for now.

The final twin collapses, mortally wounded by some accursed instrument carried by the enemy. Shortly after, upon spotting and identifying the corpse of the woman who had fought alongside him, Alantir returns his longsword to its scabbard, unfastens his armet, and lifts the helm from his shoulders. The gesture is simple but no less sincere; a final, wordless display of respect toward an honorable combatant who perished defending those who could not defend themselves. As she is carted away, he tilts his chin toward the sky, taking this moment to appreciate the familiar sensation of freshly fallen snow upon skin.

Vitalis squeezes his patron's hand and lets her lean on Tesha. "Gods woman," Vitalis looks down at Felicia. She *is* smiling. He dashes a hand over his mouth and swallows, looking to Raven and Caspian. "Come on. Let's bring her out."

Tesha gives a look to Katarina and Raven and tries to smile, but it falters. "We've got to get people home." she murmurs. Then there is a look to Vitalis and there's a nod to him, but no words for the moment. She makes sure to give support to Katarina, letting her use her for a solid place to lean for the time being.

Eirene checks 'recovery treatment' at normal. Eirene is successful.

Eirene produces her bandages to stop the worse of Giorgio's bleeding as she and Ailys move him to safety. She's gone quiet but there's a seething anger in her eyes.

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