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 LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT

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Ark Von Doom

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PostSubject: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Fri 21 Oct - 22:38

-Layered World Concept-

Begin.

* * *

Though it was a crowded and busy day in the Mardonian marketplace, the streets were quiet enough that the crunch of pebbles with every step Talir took almost echoed down the long roads, each and every soul frozen at the sight of his entourage making its way down Main Street. All across the continent of Paston, it had slowly become that way in every town they visited. Ever since they first appeared two weeks ago in Brir, the sight of seven men, one human and six… others, clad in dull golden platemail had become linked to their purpose to the point that delivering his message was practically unnecessary. But it still came, the same speech each and every time. And this time would be no different.

The group’s orator, and in fact the only one of them to ever speak at all, was Talir. He was the only human in the group, and the only member who wore no helmet. His face, that of a man going on forty, with a single long scar over his right eye and a patch covering the slashed and blind remnants of the eye there, was expressionless but not cold. Its single brown eye ran over the marketplace, always alert and never, visibly, worried, taking in each and every person without ever really considering any of them, and then resting forward again, always centered on the path ahead. It was the face of a man who was almost a machine, and from every definition of him he could almost be considered one. Only that eye ever showed any real deviance, the one touch of humanity that made it clear he was still a being of flesh and blood.

Comparatively, the rest of his group lacked even that saving grace. Over eight feet tall, the other soldiers, each clad the same way as Talir but dwarfing the five foot six man when beside him, each had their faces covered in an expressionless golden helmet with two boar-like horns, the eyeslits of which were so small that the sun could not evoke so much as a glimmer from them. On a continent of many races, there were not even enough details to be had for them to be defined by their species, and it was even whispered that they were a new class of creature altogether.

Whatever the case, no one had any illusions about what was happening when Talir took a large flag from a quiver on the back of one of his comrades, and held it aloft before him. The flag was a dull grey and ragged, but not torn, and if one were to hack it they would find the material remarkably unfazed. Past this however, the flag itself was unremarkable, its only defining feature being a poorly fitting red scorpion upon its surface, clearly added in later instead of being part of the original standard, and badly attached at best.

The pole holding the flag was a different story. Carved and exotic, the gleaming silver of the pole was lined with intricate ridges and bumps, resembling those of a very large key. The majority of these were at the flags southern tip and, as Talir buried this in the center of town, lost to the public eye. Talir’s words were not lost however, and when his plain, stony voice reached the air, it found itself with a captive audience.

“One of these standards,” he began, “will be placed in each of the sixty-two cities of the realm.”

“Make way,” a gruff and accented voice grumbled out from the crowd, and a few standing onlookers parted as the speaker, a short man with long nails and harsh, animal-like eyes in the chainmail of a city guard pushed his way forward, followed closely by a slightly taller woman, garbed very much the same but adorned with a small green cape. Though the man’s face had an angry snarl upon it, and looked as if he might rush forward, the woman’s hand settled on his shoulder, and he stayed his place, glaring at Talir angrily.

“In one month’s time, when I and my entourage reach the Southern Coast, these keys will open for one, and one person only, the great Bridge itself.” Unflinchingly, Talir had not even paused at the small disturbance in the crowd, and he didn’t stop either when an excited hubbub kicked up over his words, causing no end of shushing as everyone clambered to hear his next words. “Send your strongest. Send your smartest. The one who reaches the other end and brings back the proof of his feat will be rewarded with wealth unimaginable.”

An excited hoot from the audience caused a small chuckling amongst the onlookers ranks, but the shorter man only snarled further, actually making a noise that neared a growl and patting the arm of the woman next to him as he pointed angrily at Talir. “Listen close. This is the part you’ll be int’rested in Sheriff.”

The woman nodded, but had to wait, as Talir took an actual pause (contributable only as for effect, and not in her interest however).

“If a standard remains unused, by any village, for any reason, after that month has passed, than I and my company will be back at that time.” Talir’s eye rested on the Sheriff, but there was no aggression in it. Only a vague sense of knowing. “And we will raze that village to the ground.”

“Ya hear that?” The short guard shouted triumphantly. “It’s a threat. Plain and simple. I know you wanted to let this come n’ go, but we have to arrest this damn mercenary before he causes any more trouble!” Pausing, the guard waved his finger, and added, for dramatic effect. “Sheriff Molly, this is your *job*.”

The Sheriff shot the guard a look that was enough to make him whimper back, before looking at Talir, who had yet to move from his place, with an appraising eye of her own.

Sheriff Molly Dankouw, was only a half or foot of so taller than her smaller companion. Her hair was plain and brown, cheeks pattered with a small amount of freckles, and her eyes own brown was no more out of place enough to give her any remarkable edge of appearance, or any way of cowing her subordinate. But while her eyes were plain, there was a strength in them that told of many long decades of service; of an inner reserve of grit that needed more than just the ability to shoot straight or swing a sword could grant. Molly was a fighter. And, though she knew that Talir’s band had made the same promises at every stop it went by, she knew that she could no more overlook holding him accountable for his words than he could speaking them.

“I know th’t Nettics have ah tendency ta overreact,” Molly began, her accent even stronger than her small, referred to guard companion. “But it’s a fair point that we don’t take kindly to threats in this town mister Talir.”

“It was not intended as a threat.” Talir caught Molly’s eye evenly, and she knew that he meant it. “But it is what will happen if someone doesn’t take up this standard. I have very specific orders.”

Orders. And they weren’t from any of the other city-states government; that much was for sure. It wasn’t from the two so-called ‘empires’ either. Fhirdain’s President and Osherlot’s Baron-in-Chief were too busy fighting their silly war to go around making those threats. Not that she would have suspected either of them anyway. Everyone (or at least all the more civilized folk) knew exactly what group Talir’s entourage fell into, even without the silly scorpion on their flags, and no matter how unbelievable it sounded.

The Rhoda Scorpions had been famous in their day. Respectable, unlike many of the mercenary groups that roamed the roads, serving as little more than cheap thugs. The Scorpions had a code of honor, a certain sense of savage class to them that the others lacked. But that hadn’t kept them from fighting for the highest bidder. And when the highest bidder had tried to pit them up against Fhirdain itself, that policy had cost almost all of them their lives. After a short and bloody failure of a mission, the renowned mercenary band disbanded, its faded golden colors disappearing from the landscape almost overnight, with its members popping up in towns looking for work like any other folk. That was at least, before Talir had appeared, a next-to-nobody in the original group now claiming to be its new leader, and his only followers the strange six that were with him now.

“Even if that’s true, I don’t reckon I should let you go with those kinda threats. But…” Molly began, but then drifted off. The fact was, it wasn’t going to matter. She had made up her mind over a week ago about what would happen when Talir reached her town. And, though it would disappoint the Nettic that was crying for blood at her side, Molly already knew that her town wouldn’t meet the conditions for razing he’d set forth.

“It can be anyone?” Molly asked with a straight face. “Anyone at all? No sorta preference involved?”

“It can be anyone,” Talir answered, his tone equally level. And then, a flicker of emotion crossed his face; so briefly that was it was impossible to tell quite what that was. “But, in fact, my employer did suggest your name to me as a preference. If you are, indeed, Sheriff Molly Dankouw as I assume.”

Her? Molly wasn’t aware that any knowledge of her existence went past the stone walls of the Mardon city-state, sans perhaps the neighboring Pander where she had grown up. It was a surprise that anyone would think to mention her, unless Talir was only teasing her on his own. Somehow, she didn’t sense that sort of dishonesty in him however.

“Very funny asshole.” The short Nettic beside Molly snickered, his fingernails seeming to extend a little more, and his teeth, the canines just a little too sharp, bared. “Like she’d go to some crap scam like that.”

“Actually, I intend’ ta.” Molly said plainly, and the short guard, as well as most of the crowd, stared at her with disbelief.

“You cain’t be serious.” Molly’s companion seemed on the edge of a full breakdown. “This thing is a loon!”

“Thing?” Molly inquired plainly, and the Nettic winced. Most Nettics, a savage little race near-human but for their tendency to eat meat raw and their renowned nails, as integrated as they were now in cities, had lived off preying on tiny settlements for centuries before. The social faux-pas’ of considering other species objects or animals still slipped through; a little more often than Molly would like, considering her absence would leave so much more authority on this particular one’s shoulders.

They weren’t all short, of course. That was just Fedir.

“This err… Human.” Fedir corrected.

“It don’t matter.” Molly shook her head. “Every small town is takin’ heed, and I’m not gonna let this big one burn outta stubbornness, no matter how unlikely the story sounds.” Frowning, Molly directed her attention to Talir. “And somethin’ tells me somethin’ this big is gonna be dangerous. Whether it’s a wasted time or a lost life, I wouldn’t be willin’ to risk either that waren’t my own.”

Fedir growled, exasperated. “And whose supposed to look after the town?”

“Our dozens ah’ guardsmen?” Molly raised an eyebrow. “And our actin’ Sheriff.”

“Actin’ Sheriff…?” Fedir blinked as a small golden badge was flicked into his hands.

“Y’heard me right.” As the Nettic stared in awe at the object of power in his hands, Molly looked at Talir once again and nodded.

“One month, y’said?” Molly caught the man’s eye. “You can expect ta see me there.”

“Very good.” Talir offered only a simple nod back, but Molly felt like she saw something else… (satisfaction) flicker onto his face, a fleeting emotion like the one before.

“Just one more thing,” Molly shouted, as Talir turned back the way he had come. The mercenary stopped, obediently, at her voice.

“What’s the reason behind this all of a sudden?” Molly waved at the flag. “And supposin’ I believe ya, where’d y’all get something that can open up the Bridge?”

“You’d would have to ask my employer.” Talir answered simply. When Molly continued to look at him, Talir’s eyes narrowed, and he finished his time in Mardon with two simple words that, while meaning nothing to Molly at the moment, still felt like some pivotal revelation to the world.

“Mr. Pembleton.”

* * *

Once, a long time ago, there was a great age of exploration. The Tear put an end to that.

Not all at once. It took decades for the realization that the tear was the end of the road outwards to truly sink in. And it became a fact of life. The great and solitary continent of Paston was surrounded, on all sides, by a layer of raging oceans and horrendous winds, just over thirty miles off the coast in any direction and this layer, known universally as the Tear, served the very simple purpose of keeping the many and diverse societies of Paston right where they were. And, denying them the oceans, it led to a flurry of exploring in the opposite direction, with those foolhardy or sponsored enough making their way across the continent, mapping and revealing what had never been seen before. They went West, and they went East, and they went South, and they went North. The rush went on for over a century. And then, eventually, it ended.

The age is now 1600 D.C, and Paston is a land in which the world is a very known and finite thing. Man has pushed to the edge of the land, cultivating what was once a great and unknown wilderness and turning it into something carefully mapped and charted, its secrets laid bare with papyrus and ink that could be viewed as easily by a small child as a great explorer. Society has reached its peak of expansion, and of the great mysteries of Paston, very few remain unsolved.

But, of course… There was one.

The Bridge, also called the Eternity Bridge by the Gnomes, the Tower Grand by some of the Northern tribes, and the Solcus Barshuma by the scholars who had studied its composition and given it a name that suited their science, had existed for as long as there was recorded history, and beyond. It was as wide as a town, and so tall that the top had never been seen, even with the strongest telescopes. From its coast near Eban it slanted off into the great and impossible distance beyond the Tear, and even past the clouds, to the point that some suggested it was a path to heaven (Paradise, the River, the Void, the Beyond, the Flux, the Infinite) itself. The gate inside was clear, and unhidden. And yet in the many thousands of years of Paston’s history, not a single man or woman had ever entered it.

It wasn’t from a lack of trying. Scientists and philosophers had tried for decades to unlock the secrets of the gate. Magicians had cast their strongest spells, warriors struck their hardest blows; alchemist had fired their greatest weapons, and armies had pushed upon it with all the strength they could muster. It had been prodded and poked, exploded and choked, imploded, eroded, corroded, burned, churned, twisted and turned, and even licked angrily and insistently by a very determined lemur. But it was all to no avail. The gate had never opened, and, eventually, it was decided that it never would, and abandoned.

In the year 1300, Imperialism became the newest flair. At least, for some. From it’s very beginning, Paston had always been a land of many small towns, dispersed, simple, and happy. As these towns grew, eleven eventually grew to become Paston’s City-States, the first of which was Pander, and the last of which was Mardon. But two of these city-states were not content, even with all they had gained. It has been argued which came first; the Democratic juggernaut of Fhirdain in the Southern deserts, seven villages and a city-state in size, or the aggressive Monarchy of Osherlot , now five villages and a city-state in size, and resting across the Western marshes. Whatever the case was, the 'empires' rose, neither of the two great forces housing an emperor, but each content on the name as a sign of their ascendance past the realm of the single spot civilization and into the scale of nations.

Inevitably, when the two 'empires' finally came to meet, tensions rose. But it was not until the late 1500’s that Osherlot officially declared war on its neighboring superpower, and the one true conflict of the modern age began. Militias became armies. And Paston knew real war for the first time in its history.

The war however, was something distant, and Paston is an entity that can be defined without it. In an age of trains and blades, sorcerers and science, and the ever present Tear, there would be one great defining factor in the century to come:

The Bridge.

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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Sat 22 Oct - 20:56

Orin Skarim’s large, luminescent grey eyes were narrowed to slits as he squinted into the westerly sun, contemplating the words of the man who was fast disappearing. Soon he and his entourage would be little more than a black speck against the warm, muted glow of that great golden orb sinking slowly into the earth. But his ultimatum would linger. A whole month, in fact. A moon would come and go, but the standard of the scorpion and the memory of the man and his unfathomable words would hang over Alder’s Crossing with heavy uncertainty.

Alder’s Crossing sat twenty miles due south of the Bridge and the village of Eban. Nestled comfortably between the Great Ocean on the east and the wide Roaring River to the west (easily two miles wide at its narrowest point in that region), Alder’s Crossing was known as one of the largest suppliers of fish and other sea-born delicacies, luxuries, and goods in the entire continent of Paston. And, of course, to the largest population of Pceriform.

At Orin’s side, Meegul turned away and began to make his ungainly way down the street, his long webbed feet slapping and squelching noisily on the cobblestones as he went. Easily twice the size of the average human foot, long, webbed, and faintly translucent, the structure of the Pceriform’s feet made travel over land taxing and time-consuming. Everything from their webbed feet and hands to their lithe bodies, extraordinary eye-sight in the near darkness, and sharply pointed teeth lent an adroitness and ease of living in their natural, watery abode. But they were not limited to the lakes and rivers, as were their cousins, the mermen.

“Peltier will send you,” Meegul spat, his voice full of watery venom.

“Do you think so?” Orin’s brow arched upward as he looked sideways to Meegul. “Peltier will have no say in who is sent.”

“He will buy the standard if someone else claims it first. And if not, he will steal it.”

Orin shook his head. “Peltier could spend a fortune chasing the far side of the Bridge. It will bring him nothing.”

“Scum of the sea, Mylin Peltier is a fool. If he thinks this is his chance to know what no man knows… and the fame and wealth that would come with it… he would burn all that he owns for just a chance.”

There was silence but for the faint slapping sounds of their fin-like feet on paved road as they made their way with very little grace through the streets. Orin contemplated Meegul’s words silently. His friend’s dark demeanor hinted at the fact that he should feel a certain amount of uneasiness at the thought of taking up the standard and facing the challenge of the Bridge. But if Peltier ordered him on…

“What would you tell Orellia?”

Orin exhaled sharply, reaching up reflexively to brush his long, dredded hair back. “I don’t know that I’d need to tell her anything. She’d find out. Sure as the tide will turn, she’ll find out.” He paused, then stopped and reached out to place a hand on Meegul’s arm. Firm scales rippled beneath his webbed fingers. “Look after her, would you?”

Meegul’s pointed teeth gleamed in the fading light of the evening. “Count on it.”

--

Sparkling pin-points of light danced and glinted on the surface of the Great Ocean to the right as Mylin Peltier and a company of ten men road northward. Just under the surface of the water, if one looked closely, they would see a slight rippling, which moved along through the water with the speed of cantering horses on land.

Every once in a while, Mylin Peltier would glance to the side to make sure his Pceriform was keeping pace with the horses. But of course he was, for he had chosen his swiftest, his strongest, and his most agile Pceriform. Of course the man, Talir or whatever his name had been, had said to send the smartest as well. But brains were not something the Pceriform possessed in large quantity. Where smarts were in short supply, hard determination would have to do. And he had given the Pceriform plenty of incentive to preform.

A mile out from the bridge, Mylin signaled a halt. As his men dismounted, the rippling in the water calmed. Moments later, a humanoid form rose, dripping, from the ocean, and the Pceriform stepped up onto land.

“Why send the sea-beast? It would sooner slit your throat, drag you to the ocean and drown you than hand over what it finds on the other side. If it does indeed return.”

Remaining in his saddle, Mylin looked down at the man who’d spoken, scratching thoughtfully at his full grey beard. “If it is able, it will. I’ve taken precautions.”

“It is unstable. By no means a leviathan on land. You couldn’ta chosen a human?”

“The weakest Pceriform is stronger than any man I know. I stand by my choice.”

The man sneered as Orin stepped up to the company, though he couldn’t help but eye the muscles, clearly visible and well defined even through the crusty gray-green scales layered up and down the length of the Pceriform’s arm. Resting a hand on horn of his saddle, Mylin leaned over and found himself at eye level with the Pcerifrom. “Well, slave. You know your duty. Bring me back proof that you have seen the other side of the Bridge, and you shall have your freedom.”

The Pceriform’s eyes narrowed. “You promised Orellia’s freedom as well.”

“Yes, yes,” Mylin waved a hand dismissively. “Your woman will go free as well. As long as you do not disappoint me.” He chuckled as the Pceriform bared its small, pointed yellow teeth.

“I won’t.”


Last edited by Pirates on Sat 29 Oct - 8:28; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Sat 22 Oct - 22:00

It was said by many that Fhirdain was the first nation to truly create war. The first real rifles had started out of a Fhirdin engineer’s design. The design was called the “Better Bow N’ Arrow”, or BBNA machine, and it spread across Paston like wildfire. It could never be called a replacement to the sword; some better swordsmen could even slice the bullets of a BBNA in half at a quicker rate than they could be reloaded, and it couldn’t be enchanted with near as much ease or efficiency.

But it had been a start of something. Something organized. The BBNA could be mass produced and distributed to each and every soldier; it was an assembly of parts rather than a single refined blade, and that meant it could be repaired, used, and replaced by anyone of any species, without the essential periods of time in which the average man has to adjust himself to his new sword or spear. It meant that a fighting force could be raised in days. And when Fhirdain used this weapon to create the largest single fighting force in history, it was decided that the era of the modern war had begun.

Yes, Fhirdain given the world war. But it was Osherlot, that had given war its horrors.

“You can’t be serious.” The high voice of Commander Tenrich whined, distinguishable over the clinking of spoons and bowls as the members of Platoon K ate their daily rations. The flap over the tent opened, the thin nobleman walking alongside a taller, bearded Nettic whose clothes were practically covered in medals. Tenrich himself was a young thin human, his well-kept hair a clear sign that unlike the rest of the soldiers, he didn’t spend every night in a grubby fabric tent, while the Nettic was an older man, heavily bearded, his signature nails curled slightly with age but no less sharp than they had been in his youth.

Jance Redoak looked up from his cereal when they entered, wondering whether he should be saluting, and his spoon dangled a moment in the air, a healthy scoop of raspberries and oats that he didn’t want to be stuck chewing were he to be called upon. Rarely did Tenrich come away from his own camp with Platoon S, but even more rarely did one of the three Generals of Osherlot, Abderlaine Godfrey come to the front lines. If the two were there together, it was for something serious. And that meant that they were looking for…
“Soldier!” Godfrey’s voice barked, and Jance shot to attention, dropping his spoon into his bowl with a clink and holding his right arm vertically, bent at the elbow so that its fist was beside his head in an Osherlot salute.

Several eyes drifted his way, and after a moment Jance realized that he was not the soldier being called upon at all; the General had, in fact, been addressing an Argoyle (a more hunched, vermin -like race that called the marshes home) by the entrance. His mistake discovered, Jance began to slowly lower himself back into his seat, cheeks turning red, before the General spoke again.

“Please, stay up. It’s good to see that there’s still some haste in the ranks.” The General beckoned with his hand, and Jance hesitated for a second, looking at his unfinished oatmeal on the table with a nagging feeling that leaving it out for someone else to clean up would be considered rude. Eating it was a distant second. Jance never found he had much of an appetite, no matter how much Baden told him he needed to eat more…

“You must be the company medic.” Godfrey continued, when Jance made the strained decision to leave his food and came over, repeating his salute from before. “What’s your name, soldier?”

“Err…” Jance hesitated, aware of proper protocols but tentative to correct the general. “Private First Class Jance Redoak, sir.”

“Private?” Tenrich frowned, and Jance felt another blush coming to his cheeks.

“Err, yes sir.” Jance nodded, trying to keep a stutter out of his words.

“You’ve served with Commander Baden then.” Tenrich pounced on the opportunity, and Jance felt distinctly uncomfortable under the nobleman’s satisfied gaze. “You’ve seen what he’s like. Please, tell the General he’s not suited to combat duty.” As Jance opened his mouth to reply, Tenrich swung his finger back towards the General, already pushing his case again. “He’s insane. Not suited for the public at all, let alone for something like this. Tell them boy.”

A slow, weak smile formed on Jance’s face. “I apologize sir, but I’d rather not.”

“What!?,” came Tenrich’s startled reply, and Godfrey raised an eyebrow, seeming amused.

“I have nothing but good things to say about Commander Baden, sir,” Jance concluded.

“The Sikrests have been bravely serving Osherlot since its foundation, Commander.” Godfrey fixed Tenrich with cold eyes as the nobleman shot a look of rage Jance’s way. When the General cleared his throat, the look turned to one of fear, and the Commander hastily returned his attention back to his superior as Godfrey finished his words, the Nettic’s face a mask of dark severity. “I served with Baden’s father myself. I won’t have them talked down upon, and you are to keep your opinions on this subject to yourself while you are in my company. Do I make myself clear?”

Tenrich’s eyes narrowed, and Jance swallowed, choking a little when those narrowed eyes met his own.
“Crystal.”

“Well then,” The General beamed, a smile breaking out over his face. “Private, could you please direct us to the Commander’s location?”

“I believe he’s…” Jance hesitated, and looked at the General carefully. “Still in the field, sir.”

The General nodded slowly back, a knowing look on his face. “I see. Nevertheless, this cannot be put off.”
“Allow me to lead you to him, sir.” Jance offered, and the General nodded back. Feeling Tenrich’s gaze still bearing into his back, Jance held the tent flap open as the two other men filed out, before taking his first steps towards the marshes of Osherlot.

* * *

The standard Osherlot firearm had one fundamental difference from those in the rest of Paston. It wasn’t the sharp, angular design, or the dull black colors, that only served to set it aside from the gleaming grey of Fhirdain’s. It wasn’t the bayonet, either, though that was an incredibly handy feature, nor was it the squarish clips of ammunition, interchangeable between at least four different types of ammunition. No, the difference had stemmed, in fact, out of a dual purpose: it kept soldiers sharp, and it kept the gun out of enemy hands.
Others argued that the only purpose it served was to lose more and more soldiers their fingers.

A stubby blade, just above the trigger, meant that the firing of an Osherlotian firearm had to be done with perfect precision, the finger of the wielder position to bring the trigger not to the first, locking point, but to a second one a step behind it. Those that didn’t, would instead hear a nice, dull thwunking sound, feel a sharp bout of pain… And in all likelihood never be able to find the other end of the finger that had just been severed from their hand.

Which was why Jance was particularly careful as he leveled his small submachine-gun at the surrounding trees and mist, ever on the alert for enemies. Not enemy soldiers; the Fhirdins had been pushed back just that morning, and they would be licking their wounds for weeks before they came back again. No, the dark and mysterious marshes of Osherlot were home to all manner of terrible abominations, many of which would do little more than laugh at his tiny weapon if they were to see him. The sound of squelching slugs, squirming fungus (yes, even the fungus was alive in Osherlot), and slithering lizards was enough to fill the air with all sort of varied and interesting sounds, each promising death for an unprepared traveler. Or, considering the presence of some leeches that grew to be over twenty feet tall and breathed fire, even a full platoon of soldiers.

But Jance knew the area well, and his short hike was an uneventful one, even if the pouting Commander Tenrich had nearly fallen into quicksand several times as they went along. Soon, the trees began to thin, the sounds of the wilderness slowly fading out as they were replaced with a new set of sounds.

Thwunk. Slisch. Kcchk.

CRUNCH.

As the trees ceased all together, and the forest slowly faded into a clearing, the first thing that was visible were the bodies. Bright tan suits, the color of sand, pressed and cleaned and then muddied by both the trek and the inevitable collapse into a motionless husk on the ground. Fhirdain’s troopers were dressed to fight in their desert home, where the light, breathing attire they wore could nearly blend in to the shifting sands around them, and a stark white dress shirt would only be sullied by a long day of good hard work.

Jance had been a tailors assistant for five years before he enlisted, but it didn’t take even that insight for him to know that, in the marshes of Osherlot, amongst the dull green trees and the murky brown water, these flashy uniforms just meant they were easy targets. And as long as Osherlot was the nation on the defensive, it meant that sights like this field of bodies were an almost common sight amongst the marshes; even if the small, heaving motions that Commander Tenrich was trying so badly to hide showed that this wasn’t the case for everyone. But for Jance and Godfrey, it wasn’t the tan outfits that stuck out. It was the red.

Slisch. Thwunk.

The General, with his Nettic eyes trained to the low light of the marshes, saw him first. Jance knew it immediately, and he also knew the sound of Tenrich vomiting behind them said that he had seen Baden too.

The figure ahead of them was garbed in the murky green fatigues of any Osherlotian soldier, padding on both shoulders, knees, and elbows, and a belt upon which the same weapon Jance carried hung unused. Standing at 5’10, his hair a dark maroon that shared more with caked blood than fire, Commander Baden Sikrest, his bitter blue eyes showing him to be lost to the world, stood on top of a corpse that had been bludgeoned violently, its head caved inwards like a melon, and was holding it aloft by one arm as it sagged in his grip. The battlefield had been abandoned for hours now, as had all the corpses upon it. The kill was not a fresh one. But that didn’t keep Baden from thrusting his strange blade into the shoulder of the body with a sickening crunch, the body dropping back down with a thud as its limb ceased to be attached to the rest of it. Staring at the limb a moment, Baden tossed it away, and instead pulled back his blade again.

It was a dark black weapon, almost three feet long; a bulky, nearly mace-like sword, but spread across the middle into two parts, like a beetles carapace, so the blade rested at two separate ends. The center held a small, spear like point as well, that ran in the center, like a small stake that could only add damage if a body had been thrust entirely through by the main part of the sword already. But though this was distinctive, what was perhaps the most gruesome were the small holes in the sides of the blades bulky edges. They slanted down, to open upon the hand in a way that held no benefit… But to ensure that the blood and entrails that found themselves upon the weapon didn’t fall off of it to either side but ran straight down the arm of the person that was wielding it, a grim and vicious reminder to the user of the death that it had caused.

The blade snapped forward again with another sickening squelch, as Baden set in to the next corpse beside him in the pile; a tattered thing that was already broken nearly in half by the blow of some large weapon earlier when it had died.

“Commander,” The General called out, unfazed, and Baden’s sword froze before it could strike once more. As Jance watched, Baden slowly lowered the weapon into his other hand, straightening himself from where he had stood hunched over the bodies like some mad animal, and offered a simple, strict salute. When the hand saluted, covered in blood, it sprayed some of the crimson liquid onto the Commander’s face, and trickled down his neck unhindered, Baden not pausing to do so much as wipe it away.

Helpfully, and without a moment’s hesitation, Jance walked up and offered the Commander a towel, which he accepted, wiping the ichor onto the clean white surface as he approached the General.

“General Godfrey.” Baden offered his left hand, which, while clean was the wrong word, was more savory than his gore covered right. His voice was authoritative and simple, and from looking at his attentive expression one would never think that just moments before he had been brutally savaging the corpses of his enemies.

“You know him personally, Private?” Godfrey raised an eyebrow at Jance’s sudden offering.

“Yes sir.” Jance nodded, a small smile forming on his lips. “I’m his aide-de-camp, sir.”

“I see.” Godfrey smiled, amused, and Jance heard Tenrich growl as the obvious trick of Jance’s closeness to the person the other Commander had been deriding was revealed. Godfrey seemed only amused however. “Whatever the case, it’s good to see you… Well, Baden.” Godfrey said simply. “I wonder if you suspect why I’m here.”

Baden frowned, a legitimate lack of knowledge on his face. “No.”

The General seemed to wonder if the other man would elaborate, but when Baden did not he continued unhindered. “You’ve heard of the recent actions of the Rhoda Scorpions Mercenary Group, I assume?”

“Yes sir.” Baden replied simply. Then, his eyes narrowed, a twitch of something like understanding on his face.

“The Council of Barons has decided that we want you to represent our nation in this matter. Or rather, to represent Ollux.” The General waved with his hand. “That’s our most southern village. Our scouts missed Talir and his lot coming in, so we’ve already lost the chance to use one of ours in most of the Northern provinces.” The General growled, his pointed teeth bared for a moment. “I don’t suspect the Fhirdins will have the same problem.”

“I’m not sure I…” Baden trailed off almost immediately. His eyes were drifting back to the pile of corpses, a look of something akin to hunger in his eyes, and the fingers on his left hand had started squeezing upon his blade, clutching it as if for dear life. Or, perhaps, like a throat.

“Yes, well, you don’t have to take up on it, *Commander*.” Tenrich, apparently finished retching, joined the conversation at last, a contempt-filled sneer on his face. “There are certainly officers more qualified.”
Jance chose that moment to take out a small tissue and polish the two large Distinguished Service medals upon Baden’s uniform, one of which even the General didn’t share. The motion did not go unnoticed by the nobleman, whose hatred for Jance seemed to be growing by the moment.

“The Baron-in-Chief himself recommended you, Baden.” The General continued. “Whatever… Some, may say of you, you are still held in very high regard within this military, Commander. We appreciate what the Sikrest’s have done for this country.”

Baden breathed heavily, in and out. Carefully, this time with a real subtlety, Jance took the Commanders hand and slowly squeezed it, Baden’s expression seeming to drift back into reality as the prompting motion did its work.

“It’s my honor to do Osherlot proud,” Baden eventually replied. But before the General could speak approvingly, or Tenrich protest equally as disapprovingly, Baden spoke again. “But I have a condition.”
“Oh?” The General raised an eyebrow. “Go ahead.”

“I’m taking Private Redoak with me.” Baden announced simply, and Jance’s eyes widened, his heart skipping several beats. Baden had done a lot for him… But this… The Bridge was an opportunity, if real, that could never come again in a thousand years. Baden couldn’t possibly know how much this meant to him.

But the General, clearly, had his doubts, and Jance didn’t let his hopes soar too high as the Nettic ran his eyes over the private appraisingly. It was true; Jance didn’t look much like a soldier. He was thin, to the point of gauntness, with not-so faded bags under his eyes and a weak frame of 5’4 that, while wiry, was nothing close to remarkable or even frightening. His clothes, though made to fit, still managed to hang off him slightly, and though Jance’s blue eyes gleamed with hopefulness from under his cleanly combed black hair, he was as pale as a ghost too.

“The town of Sezdin was found in time, wasn’t it?” Baden countered without any spoken argument being made against him. So he knew a bit about the situation after all. “And it’s almost as south as Ollux. Has it been assigned yet?”

“No,” The General admitted. “But are *you* sure you’re up to this, Private?”

“Yes sir!” Jance answered with enough force that even the General did a second take with surprise.

“Well, I’ve never been one to let a willing soldier stay at home…” Godfrey frowned, and fixed Baden with a stern look, the mirth fading from his face. “But you’d better be serious about this. The Bridge could hold the edge we’ve been looking for over Fhirdain; I expect the both of you to take this mission seriously. And, even if it turns out to be worthless, to get more out of it than those damned Fhirdins.”

“Sir yes sir!” Jance answered with another salute. Baden simply nodded.

The General offered his own nod in return. “Very good then. You have three weeks to make it to the coast. There’s a carriage waiting for you back at base camp.”

Tenrich, seething with rage throughout the conversation, finally built up the courage to interject again. “But that was *our* carriage General. How are *we* supposed to get back.”

With a no nonsense tone, the General fixed the other Commander with a look that made even Jance’s boots quake. “We’ll be walking. I hope that you’ve been keeping your rifle in practice, *Commander*.”
As the two offers marched their way back towards camp, Jance and Baden looked at eachother a moment, before exchanging a single, decisive nod.

The Bridge wouldn’t know what hit it.
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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Fri 28 Oct - 22:13

Lingering just within the confines of the desert’s southern boarder, the ‘gem of the sands’ was a testament to the hard headed resilience of its people who, like the ever-shifting but ultimately unchanging sea of sand that surrounded them, were a permanent fixture on the land. Rather unlike its inhabitants, however, the village was better viewed from a distance where the smell of grease and industry were well out of range allowing the bleak scenery to frame it in an enticing air while the sun set it alight with a reflective glow. To some the makeshift metallic patchwork was an architectural achievement- a testament to the resourcefulness and adaptability of the Caellian people- but to others it was an eyesore; a self-perpetuating heap of scrap metal, and a scar on the land. To those that lived there, however, bearing the searing desert heat and rugged factory work on a daily basis with a grin on their faces, it was home.

“Not again, Ike.” Minna groaned, her little fingers wrapped tightly around the handle of a wrench the size of her forearm. “Why is it always when we’re in a hurry? I just oiled you yesterday...”

Putting her full (albeit unsubstantial) weight behind one last heave, the small girl forced the bolt in the wrench’s teeth to give, gaining no more than a quarter turn for her efforts. A frustrated but satisfied huff was enough to label that a success however, and it was no more than a couple seconds later that the six-legged metal contraption before her began to sputter and clamber to its feet.

Rising to her feet, Minna opened up a compartment on the domed brass carapace and tossed her wrench into the pile of tools inside, garnering a huff of steam from the metallic creature in response. “Finally. Jeez, Ike. Now is no time for an afternoon nap.” She complained, clambering up onto it with a bit of a struggle. Sighing, she adjusted the band of cloth wrapped around her head to keep the hair out of her eyes and in doing so, got a glance of the early afternoon sky.

The sun was going to be cresting over the arc soon. They needed to get moving.

The arc, built nearly before the town itself, was a creation born of necessity, ingenuity, and like everything else in Caellek, scrap metal. In the never-ending struggle against the sun’s tyrannous heat and the brutal sandstorms common in the later seasons it was their first and greatest defense: a quarter-sphere high and wide enough to provide shade for the city until mid afternoon when the sun shifted to the other half of the sky. During sandstorms the last three quarters could be extended out turning the city into an impenetrable dome, but the effort required was much more than could be maintained on a daily basis. Still, Minna couldn’t help but to wonder what it would be like to have shade all day. Then again, she wouldn’t be able to be the stars; she loved the stars.

“Alright. Let’s go east- to the square.”

Guided by the enchantments embedded within it, ‘Ike’ moved obediently on Minna’s orders, shifting to the right before striding on down the narrow streets. Used to the haphazard means of travel already, the young girl hardly so much as shifted where she sat. After all, Ike was her creation, and a marvel at that. Even at her age- barely into the double digits- she was a genius mechanic, able and willing to build anything she put her mind to, though Ike had required a special touch: that of a Magister; that was where Exiik came in.

Nearly finding herself tossed to the ground as her mount came to a halt, Minna pushed her train of thought to the back of her mind, instead focusing on the standard-toting pole before her. Having stood in place for a month on the day, the black and red hues had since begun their degradation into a sun-faded grey and pink, though the effect of the symbol it bore hadn’t lessened any since its placement. People in Caellek were conservative; not so fond of adventure, and certainly wary of any stranger that decided to stride in and place an smoothly spoken threat over their heads. Thus, the well guarded man’s warning had gone greatly ignored as people went on about their daily lives. Minna, though, she loved a good adventure.

Tearing the standard from the ground with a white-knuckled heave, she pulled it from the ground with enough force to send her staggering back, ignoring the stares of the passers-by all the while.

“We’ll be heroes!” She grinned, speaking to Ike.

“But... do you think Exiik will be mad?”

A short huff of steam was all the answer she needed.

---

“Okay, so...”

Carefully, ever so carefully, Exiik tipped the contents of the glass cylinder in his hand allowing the cool blue liquid to fall, drop by drop, into its clear counterpart. Slowly, as the two ingredients began to mingle, the concoction grew opaque, jelly-like, and then finally (with less warning signs than one would think possible) exploded.

Eyes shut tightly and lips curled in distaste, Exiik raised one hand to his face to wipe away the sticky residue, opening his right eye first and then his left to find his creation splattered not only on the walls and ceiling, but his pet parrot, Drell.

“Great. This stuff smells horrible, too.” He groaned, followed by a squawk from his clearly displeased bird. “You smell bad, regardless.”

Taking the nearest cloth from his alchemy table, he wiped the blue goop from Drell’s head before proceeding to do the same for himself. His fifth try, and still not quite the results he had wanted; not enough explosion.

Catching a glimpse of an unmistakable sight outside the window, Exiik felt his heart skip a beat. In Minna’s hand: was that...?

“No, I told her not to...”

But sure enough, the moment the door opened and little blond-haired, blue-eyed girl stepped inside, his fears were concerned. For such a bright kid, her naivety never ceased to amaze him.

“... hey.” She ventured, shutting the door gently behind her. Carefully she studied his face (still bearing stain from what was undoubtedly yet another one of his failed self-taught alchemist endeavours) but found little of the excitement or acceptance she had been hoping for. Instead there was disappointment, but still a small flame of understanding that she would cling to. After all, she was just as stubborn as he was. Demyr’s were like that.

“Minna, is that..?”

“The standard, yup.”

“I told you-”

“-I know, I know, but just think about how exciting it will be! Who knows what we’ll find on the other side of that bridge!”

“Danger; danger not fit for someone your age.”

“But Exiik! You’re always telling me about your adventures, I want to have one too!”

Dammit, she was right. He had planted the seed of adventure in her head, hadn’t he? All the stories from his not-so-distant past that he may or may not have blown a little out of proportion had implanted themselves on her imaginative mind. He was a Demyr, though, he could take the stress and strain; bear wounds and deal blows that were beyond a human child’s abilities. Perhaps he looked human in the dark of the night or dim lighting of the house when his markings looked merely like whitish tattooing over his tanned skin, but the moment the sun was above him, the true obsidian hue of his body quickly rose to the surface- and with it the benefits of his race. Thick, durable skin with intricately pattered magical embuements dared those who were stupid enough to test their luck, while a genetically lean figure suited to physical work and desert living allowed him a hereditary dose of agility. His people were the true natives of the desert, and though they never failed to stake that claim, Exiik quite preferred the human life.

“You know I can’t let you do this-” He started with a sigh, having to raise his hand to silence Minna before she could interject. “-alone, I mean.”

Puzzled, Minna watched as Exiik ran his fingers through his spiky silvery-white hair, his face showing concern well beyond the twenty-four or so years behind him. It was in that instant that she knew what was coming, and a momentary wave of guilt passed over her. He had a way of doing that, Exiik, and though she was certain he did it intentionally, she couldn't help but to give in to it. Still...

“Well, maybe we can make it to Greyden by sundown. I haven’t heard any news of someone claiming the standard yet.”

“So then...?” Minna ventured, having to hear Exiik lay out his thoughts before allowing her excitement level to get out of control.

“So then, I guess that means I’ll have to go with you. I guess.”

“Really!?”

Exiik pulled up a smile, wondering just what he was agreeing to but unable to help himself.

“Really.”

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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Fri 28 Oct - 23:03

"Prise was perfect.

Absolutely, positively perfect. Born Prise Rozeda Marriot-Vaulhaulfman, Prise was built that way, from the smallest gene up. Attractive, brilliant, quick-thinking; he had the full package by the time most children would barely be out of kindergarden. Scratch that. He had it from the moment he was born. By age two, he could quote Shakespeare from memory (but not, his mother loved to point out, willingly eat cereal without marshmallows). His first corporate merger had come at age four, when his lemonade stand usurped control of the Alresian City-States Hydroponics industry in a hostile corporate takeover. By age seven, his parents had retired and left to him their banking conglomerate, and by age ten he had been officially elected as Mayor.

The fact that he didn't win reelection next term was IRRELEVANT. The city had needed another damn playground like it needed a hole in its wall (which HE had resupported with the latest alchemic technology, by the way)- it was only logical that they replace the silly children's playscapes with proper Alchemical Industrial Factories! And that damn Gnome Telpunny had only won because of all the stupid whining mothers he brought out to rail about how little Timmy Stupidpants couldn't go down a slide, when he should have been in a bloody academy learning anyway!

But Prise was far too smart to be bitter. He was the smartest single individual in Paston in fact. Prise had administered the test himself, so he knew it was true. His brain could take in information that took others years to master, perform advanced calculations in milliseconds, and had once singlehandedly saved a child from drowning. Then beat the snot out of the little whelp for being dumb enough to jump down a well in the first place! Which of course Telpunny and his wailing mothers had used as an example of Prise's 'growing history of violence'. That furry midget...

But what you're really interested in is the circumstances of Prise's perfect origins, I'm sure. The question: How can I, an average citizen, be as incredible as Prise Rozeda Marriot-Vaulhaulfman, CEO of Marriot-Vaulhaulfman Incorporated? And the answer is: you can't. You see, I was simply made better. Genetic-Mapping, ladies and gentlefolk, is the name of the game. My parents? Two brunettes. Myself? A stunning blond. I was custom-made. Tailored before I was born to be a genetically perfect human. My parents were not just my dearest Father and darling Mother, but a scientific team of the finest humanity had to offer. Before me, of course.

Perhaps the most difficult thing going forward will be finding a mate suitable for my perfect genetic profile, and yet still diverse enough to avoid the effects of... Eugh. Inbreeding. I've been looking over some ideas, but my mind keeps drifting to Raigo's, and even on a few occasions, a Pyrrha..."

Prise shuddered, a look of terrible horror running over his face. Removing his feet from atop the three foot tall custom-crafted polished wooden desk that he bought with the generous bonus he had given himself last quarter, Prise swiveled in his rolling chair, the wheels of which were made of an ultra-slick alchemic compound that let them glide without a sound across the huggably soft carpet and wood furnishings of his office. Well, the wood wasn't huggably soft. But the lack of sound was still the same.

Behind him- a window that showed the Arlesan City-State in all it's glory, and made more glorious by his family's aesthetically appealing corporate headquarters within the city. To his side: a painting of himself and his parents, Mr. Marriot and Mrs. Vaulhaulfman, sitting in this very room only three years ago. He had changed from the picture; though only in terms of age. And... If his mother were to believed, losing a bit of weight. Which was bullocks. That had just been an off year for him... Too many marshmallows.

At fourteen and eleven months he was still as attractive as ever, and in fact more so as he went along. Prise's eyes were a brilliant purple- a major rarity even among all of the diverse races running around Paston, and his hair was an unmatched blond that he had dubbed 'solar flare', but was honestly closest to moister bits of a fine cheesecake. He was fair skinned, to the point that if the sun caught him right he had an almost dreamy glow, but not pale enough to be a recluse nor tan enough to seem like an outdoorsman, and without a single blemish or otherwise perfect-flesh changing mark on his body. He was thin, fit, and an even 4'5, though of course growing every day.

He was dressed in his finest- a red vest, pressed pistachio green sleeves, and proper comfortable tan pants. And, a nice pair of shoes with alchemically forged bottoms that felt cushiony on his soles. Prise knew how to pick his shoes. And, right now, he was considering throwing them at his writer, a Saemo sitting across the desk from him with a pen and paper, in pure literary frustration.

"SCRATCH THAT.” Prise warned, glaring angrily at the poor fellow before collapsing back with a sigh. “Not all, of it, just the last three paragraphs. I switched to the first person somewhere in there, and I can't use any racist slurs against Telpunny this close to election season."

Nor could he say anything to the general public about how he, a poster-boy for humanity, had been admiring, Raigo, the humanoid species most commonly known as ‘Bone-Munchers’. Or, worse, the scaly philosophers of the Pyrrha. Yes, they were both incredible in their own ways; and the Pyrrha, while many species disliked racial stereotypes, tended to be brilliant in terms of biological brainpower capabilities. But it was the publicity that voicing these thoughts would cause that really horrified him; especially with Telpunny always poised to find dirt in his relatively spotless record. Just the idea of posters with him cuddling up to a lizard with a book in the next election sent chills down his spine.

“Yes sir,” The Saemo mumbled with a sigh, marking out a decent chunk of the paper on which he scribbled Prise’s thoughts. He had been hired four months ago to listen as Prise dictated an autobiography; but of course given what he was getting paid had no right to complain. Prise would have hired a human for the task but for PR reasons, resumes, and simple availability, the Saemo had been a much more available choice. The long eared, sleepy looking species were the most common in all of Paston, making up more of the population than Gnomes and Humans combined (the second and fourth most common, respectively). They were four feet high, on average, with light fur over a nearly saurian face, stubby tails (that, curiously enough, had grown that way evolutionarily only over the last thousand years- the original Saemo’s supposedly had very long tails), and hands arranged with three fingers on the top and two on the bottom, to form a strangely grasping (but efficient) hand.

“Sir, if I may ask…” The Saemo… Truncan, was his name, posed, as Prise examined his own hand thoughtfully. “Isn’t it about time you departed for the Bridge?”

Prise raised an eyebrow. Was Truncan really that eager to get rid of him? Or just being a good employee? It *was* about time after all, and Prise’s internal clock was more accurate than even the one in town square in terms of knowing so.

His gaze shifted to the standard in the corner. Prise had claimed it outright when the mercenary Talir arrived, and Marriot-Vaulhaulfman Inc’s security forces had been patrolling the building on a stricter schedule ever since. Actually getting it hadn’t been a problem; Telpunny had almost gone out of his way to praise the idea of the cities ‘best and brightest’ being sent out to the Bridge- enough that Prise knew many thought the Bridge would actually be some sort of deathtrap that would keep said ‘best and brightest’ from ever coming back.

But while politics was a nonissue, it had become apparent over the last few days that there were plenty of random joes willing to risk imprisonment or even death to grab onto the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of going inside the grand structure. Some villages had almost razed themselves down in eagerness to have a standard, while others had gone out of the way to get rid of the things. Considering the body count (6 in a week) of thieves and lunatics desperate enough to fight over the standards, Prise was taking the issue seriously, and had decided to leave for the Bridge at the end of the week. Which, of course, was today.
“Yes,” Prise finally mused. “I do suppose I should be going.” Shuffling the papers onto his desk into a pile and then locking them inside his drawer (one could never be too careful), Prise strode for the door. “The Lantonal is ready, I assume?”

Truncan nodded, running a hand through a silvery blue mane with a sigh of what sounded rudely like relief. “Yes sir.”

“Good.” Prise paused at the double-doors to his office (reinforced with a metal-wood hybrid, and fireproofed), and smiled at his Saemo scribe. “You’ll of course be accompanying me as far as the coast. I can’t let any genius thoughts go unwritten before it’s absolutely necessary.”

The Saemo’s wince brought no small amount of joy to Prise’s heart. “Yes sir…”

“Then what are you standing around for?” Prise clapped and the doors slowly began to open. “Hop to it. I’ve a date with destiny to keep.”

** *

“This is it?” Prise raised an eyebrow at the motley assortment of guards in front of him. It wasn’t as if he was expected to go alone after all. A person with his level of prestige needed a proper escort. And a little less than dozen men, mostly Saemos, though there was a Kreg among them, with rifles wasn’t cutting it for him.
He had already bid his mummy and daddy farewell, and left a detailed business plan outlining the next three months of plans for the company on his father’s desk that morning. Busy with that, he had left the job of recruiting his entourage to some of his subordinates… Whom he was going to have a serious talk about wages with later.

“The Usque Bull Mercenary company, at your service sir.” One of the Saemos stepped forward; a bulkily armored one with a metal plate over his tail. “We thought it would be best if we left the city quietly, so we didn’t bother ever integrating with the main guard outside the building. That way they won’t be able to single us out as your escort when you leave, and we’ll be gone by the time they realize it.”

Never integrated? What Prise was hearing was that these soldiers-for-hire had lived for seven days under his payroll without working. Forget wages, the one who hired these men would see himself on the street. Though, at this point, their lack of a public image would come in handy, no matter how much it conjured the idea of ‘sneaking’ out of his own city into Prise’s head.

At least they hadn’t touched his Lantonal. There were several chariots waiting for the mercenary company to board, but the sleek golden carriage, shaped like a long needle but with space for three, and pulled by a crew of three large carrier cats, was still open for himself. He would be making the trek shoreward in comfort, and style, no matter how it hurt their stealth.

“Very well,” Prise sighed, feigning even more disapproval. He might be able to argue for a pay-cut on the mercs if he made them think they were being inefficient. “You’ll suffice. Are you ready to depart immediately?”

The Saemo nodded, and Prise boarded the Lantonal without another word. His own bag, packed with two months of fine food, was already onboard. Settling himself comfortably, and, pulling out a light novel (a History of Agricultural Physics as Applying to the Alchemical Procedure) Prise caught sight of a second figure struggling to board his craft. After a long and painful moment, Truncan finally plopped himself inside the carriage, only to be greeted by a feigned look of surprise.

“Truncan? Whatever are you doing in here?” Prise kicked out his legs, lying down on the seat. “There’s no room at all I’m afraid. You’ll have to take one of the chariots.”

The scribe stared at Prise for a moment. When he realized that the boy was serious, the Saemo shot through every expression from shock to disgust, before grudgingly turning back around. As he left the Lantonal, Prise closed the door behind him with a cheery smack. His last words as the Lantonal’s Auto-Giddyupper kicked in, were called out the window, and accompanied with a wry smile.

“Look on the bright side, Truncan. By the time we get back I’ll have no END of new things for you to write into my book!”
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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Mon 31 Oct - 21:53

“I KNOW WHO YOU ARE!”

“-And we will raze that village to the ground.” Talir concluded to the City-State of Pander, as a Nettic with deep lines of age on his face and a wide brimmed hat watched on; the Sherriff and keeper of the peace of the first City-State, and one of the first Nettics who had made the full transition into more modern society. He wasn't the one who yelled and the voice that echoed loudly over the otherwise mixed but only mildly curious crowd (it had been decided a full week prior that it would their Sheriff who claimed the standard of their town, and they were there only as a formality to see the spectacle of Talir and his mysterious mercenaries), who shuffled and strained to see who had roared so angrily over the city square’s otherwise gentle murmur.

“I KNOW WHO YOU ARE YOU BASTARD!” The second shout was accompanied by a loud cracking and a thud, and if the sound alone was not enough to pinpoint the location of the man screaming his lungs out, then cracks appearing in the wall of the prison ringing the southern end of the town square surely would. Those in the crowd who were closest to the rickety old building stepped away as the wall cracked again, and then another time. Slowly but surely every eye turned to the wall. The last (or had it been the first) eye was Talir's own, and when it had settled itself on the wall, the building's side shattered to pieces as if on cue.

A head emerged from the destruction, blue eyes wild as they stared out from under black hair that had fallen wild and untrimmed from one too many days kept in a dinky cell. The man that followed it was hunched over, head nearly at his toes, though he was easily six feet at full height, and he bent back as he stepped out- but continued past straightness, his spine bending backwards at an impossible angle before abruptly stopping and leaving him poised there as if he were resting on an invisible block just behind himself.

He was a human, his age only slightly less than Talir’s, though its wildness made him seem much younger somehow, more reckless. But what really set him up for comparison with Talir was not their age, nor their mutual humanity, but the armor the other man wore: it was the same gold as Talir’s, and yet brighter somehow, its surface polished and kept in a way that the one-eyed mercenary’s was not. The signature mark of the Rhoda Scorpions gleamed in the light on the prisoners armored shoulder, like a big insult to its tarnished relative on Talir's own plate.

But no one in the crowd, save a select few, was bothering to notice these facts. Instead, they were noticing two things. The first were the shackles around his legs, arms, and even waist and neck, each held by a separate large and lizard-like Pyrrha, the seven foot tall guards straining and grunting with the effort. And the second, which somehow seemed even more remarkable than his feat of strength overpowering the guards, was that the prisoners hands were still pulled back behind him, unuseable. The rubble in his hair finished the story, a clear display that he had HEADBUTTED HIS WAY THROUGH THE WALL.

The Sheriff stepped up, blocking the prisoners path forward and holding up a halting hand, with sharp nails that were just beginning to curl a bit with age. “Hold it right there Wydel.”

“TALIR,” the man, Wydel, shrieked, a look of ravenous fury in his eyes that made what curious throng were left scurry away. Seeming only then to realize the Sheriff’s presence, the other gold-armored individual stared his way. “Let me go Fulton. He’s MINE.”

Sheriff Fulton simply shook his head. “Now you know I ain’t gonna do that Wydel.”

“MINE,” Wydel shrieked again, and even the Sheriff took a cautious step backwards as the armored man strained against his bonds, pulling every guard behind him a full foot forward before they regained control. “You have no right to wear that armor Talir.” A snarl passed over Wydel’s features. “They’re mine… They were MEANT TO BE MINE. The old man wanted ME in charge Talir; he chose ME!"

The one-eyed mercenary's expression was stony and unreadable, seeming to pay no heed to Wydel's accusations. In one swift motion, Talir turned back down the road he had entered, spurring another shrieking pull from Wydel, this one bringing one of his guards down to the floor with a sickening thud. The guard didn’t rise.

“They’re all dead..." wydel's voice was quaking. "And now you show up here with these THINGS,” Wydel glared at the silent company that followed in Talir’s wake. “…And try to pass them off as SCORPIONS!?”

Fulton raised his hand. “You’d better calm yerself son, and do it mighty quick.”

Wydel’s expression seemed to calm, as if obeying, and he stared at the Sheriff, his voice dropping into something less rabid, but lacking despite a clear effort the feeling of true civility. “Sheriff, just let me go. I’ll take the standard and leave and never come back again.”

“Wydel, you’re in jail on seven murders.” Fulton’s voice was soft and kind, but had a steel edge behind it. “You know I cain’t let you loose.”

“YOU CAN’T KEEP ME FROM HIM!” Wydel’s voice raised and then dropped back to its strained civility in an instant. “You’ll never here from me again, Fulton; you don’t even have to give me my weapons back, I’ll drop off the face of Paston, but you have GOT TO LET ME KILL THAT BASTARD NOW.”

A single, short laugh emerged from Talir, the first nonscripted out of his mouth in nearly half a month. The noise was like a switch, and when it flipped what little sanity Wydel had left seemed to disappear. Breaking forward, his feet scraped the stone pavement as the guards pulling him lost all control and he leapt at Talir, gauntleted hands reaching for the mercenary’s throat.

Wydel collapsed only a foot away, brought down as Fulton expertly took hold of the chains himself and yanked Wydel back by the manacle around his foot. So close to his target Wydel snapped at the air with his teeth, and it seemed, from Fulton’s viewpoint, that if he were left alone Wydel would make a legitimate effort to gnaw Talir’s legs off.

This in mind, Fulton slowly dragged Wydel back, the prisoner clawing at the ground, desperate for a hold as he continued to yell. “I WAS THERE! You were NOTHING! NOTHING!”

“I’ll see you at the coast next week then, Sheriff?” Talir calmly ignored the raving man, and Fulton, eyes narrowing at the mercenary, gave a short nod. Seeming satisfied, Talir turned and walked down the road, the path clearing instantly for him and his party.

“THE RHODA SCORPIONS ARE MINE!” Wydel, panting on the pavement, had never stopped struggling forward, and didn’t even as Talir faded off into the distance. “I’ll KILL YOU. I’LL KILL YOU TALIR!”
At the very edge of the street, Talir turned, slowly, and for a second the two men’s eyes caught. As he turned back, one of the citizens passing by stepped back in alarm, as the mercenary’s mouth slowly curled into a smile.

* * *

The day before Talir’s pronounced date, the small port town of Eban was thriving. It’s population had, in fact, nearly doubled over the past few weeks, a little settlement of scarcely a hundred and fifty people being joined not only by the flocks of people carrying standards, but their family, friends, tourists, gawkers, and even those looking for a last second opportunity to either seize or bargain their way into gaining one of the Standards for themselves. Hotels had filled up within days, even the extra rooms saved for the holidays, when Northerners tended to go there for a beach-filled vacation that didn't involve ice or large hungry bears. Tents lined the beaches, and some of the more determined visitors had even bought land and erected houses during their short time present.

One month. A week. Two days. By the time Talir reached Eban, he gave the town only a single day to prepare itself, though it's standard bearer, a Demyr woman, had stepped up within minutes anyway (and nearly fried a pack of Gnomes that tried to seize it from her right after). Talir himself had since walked up to the Bridge, and slept with his head resting up against the bottom of its large Gate; the surface of which was covered entirely in a lengthy and lost language, from top to bottom, seeming to tell a story but without a single living creature who could read it. The language flowed, and interwove with itself, like a bunch of rivers and streams all joining together, but made of words; so it was pretty to look at, at least. And, sitting next to it, even Talir's guards appeared tiny and insignificant: for even lowest part of the birdge, the Gate itself, was only just below the height of the tallest building in Alresia (which just happened to be Marriot-Vaulfhaulfman Incorporated's Headquarters).

Talir made cute little noises when he slept.

...Errr, tangential. Molly pushed the thoughts out of her head, even if she was single and just past the mercenary's age, and rubbed her eyes again, trying to wake up quickly in the early hour. The sun hadn't risen yet, and it was early enough that most of the town was still asleep- but a long history of patrolling the city streets had left Molly with the abilty to wake up at a moments notice, and, sometimes even when she was on vacation, at absurdly early times, in preparation for her shift.

She hadn't felt right, waking up the woman who'd offered her lodging the past few days, but the eccentric Demyr had popped right up anyway the moment Molly tried to exit the house in peace. Considering how scarce places to stay were in the small town, Molly knew it had been mighty nice of the woman to put her up, and what's more to keep her in a secure home after the standard 'wannabes' had shown up in droves. Had it been her own town, Molly would have policed it more, but the Demyr woman, also the standard bearer for Eban, had claimed that the restless nature of the town was simply how things went there, and out of respect for her apparently community-respected host, Molly simply laid low.

"There you are." A singsong voice greeted Molly from behind, and she found a cup, little more than a coconut that had been carved out inside, pushed into her hand. The liquid inside of it was bubbling strangely, and a weird shade of light blue that looked unnatural inside the hairy brown container. Molly eyed it suspiciously as the coconut bearer sat next to her.

Dr.Oktapuri was a young Demyr woman, barely thirty, her skin dark even by their standards considering the lack of sunlight. Her light blue hair was cut short, and she was unconservatively dressed enough that Molly would have felt uncomfortable next to her anywhere but on a beach: a swimsuit top covered little and allowed the full spread of her tattoos bare to the air, while her baggy shorts, shoved full of random herbs to the point of overflowing, had been made for a human, and hung only barely around her slim waist. Another one of the blueish coconuty beverages was clasped in her hand and the doctor sipped it, her chocolatey eyes following Molly's own gaze to Talir's still form.

"He sleeps, but the others don't," Dr.Oktapuri observed, mumbling to herself. "And he's having a dream."

"What's this?" Molly inquired, nodding at her drink suspiciously.

"Pick-Me-Up. Little of this, little of that. Safe for human consumption, though it's home brewed, so I can't give you a label." Plopping down next to molly, the Demyr rested her head on the Sheriff's shoulder and sighed, running her hand through her hair. "It's also a hangover cure. I feel awful."

"How do you know he's having a dream?" Molly inquired, just realizing the strangeness of the observation.

"His eyelids are flickering. And he's grasped the sand a few times. Maybe it's something kinky." The doctor sipped calmly, not reacting to her own statement even as the idea made Molly blush. "Did I try anything on you last night?"

What? Molly raised an eyebrow.

Noting her confusion, the doctor grinned. "I mean like get you to try a potion."

"Oh."

"Or hump your leg or something," Dr.Oktapuri continued, and Molly shook her head stubbornly, fighting back the next blush.

"No. Neither."

"Ah. Good." The Demyr collapsed back on the beach, just as the sounds of marching grew prevalent in the air. A troop of four humans, dressed all in a light tan uniform, marched by in formation, led by a tall man with slicked back hair, who stood off to the side and shouted orders. A small Gnome, his cute furry face fully absorbed in his work, beat on a drum in the front of the group, marking the pace as they went. Four feet tall, with bright green eyes and furry ears half the size of a rabbits, but pointed at the end like a cats, and covered in light brownish fur, the Gnome was dressed the same as the rest of the men, down to the little soldiers cap on his head, and was getting no preferential treatment, taking two steps for each of the humans' one. The second most common race in Paston, Gnomes were as common to Molly as to anyone, and though the cute furry creatures were known for being just that, there were several reknowned knights around Paston from their race- and she knew there must have been plenty of soldiers too, though given the war in Fhirdain few of those made it as far as her city for her to see.

The squad had been among the first to arrive in Eban, even before Molly and before Dr.Oktapuri had claimed its standard, and they had followed the same strict schedule each day, marched on by their leader. He was supposedly a Lieutenet of high regard, though she had never taken the time to know him further. Regardless, though the man eyed Talir as his men passed, pass they did, and Molly turned to her Demyr companion with a frown.

"Shouldn't people be arriving out here soon? S'almost daybreak."

The Demyr shrugged. "True. But Talir's not even awake yet. I doubt we'll be doing anything of real importance til this afternoon." Draining the last of her cocounut beverage, she smiled. "Besides, what are you so worried about? If anyone comes, they're going to wind up right on this beach, and you've got a front row seat. See anyone you like, and I'll be your wing girl."

Molly rolled her eyes. Though, as if on cue, a man walked onto the beach... And began hawking his wares immeditely.

"Turkey legs, ale and biscuits! No better way to start the day than turkey legs ale and biscuits!" The man pointed entusiastically somewhere Molly couldn't see. "You sir, the Pceriform! You could buy one for your daughter sir- yes, you the Demyr! And such a sweet girl she be. Or ye, the prissy little lad! Turkey leg? Might be a bit young for ale, but you'll get the taste for it soon enough."

"Oh shut up!" A voice that sounded prissy indeed preceded its owner, as a blond boy grumpily strode into view, preceded shortly by the Pceriform. "And if your going to lumber about fishman, let those of us with normal feet go first, hmm?"

A Saemo beside the boy facepalmed, and, his only clear escort, took a few careful steps back the way they had come.Dr.Oktapuri groaned beside Molly.

"Some people," Molly offered with a frown. Oktapuri returned the expression with one that required even more pity.

"Not just some person. That's Prise Marriot-Vaulhaulfman." Oktapuri groaned. "My employer."
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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Tue 1 Nov - 12:06

Orin stood at the edge of a precipice overlooking the haphazardly constructed tent city that sat in and around Eban, already a patchwork sea of roiling activity. Canvases of all kinds of earthy hues from deep brown to moss green snapped in the wind rising off the ocean, and Orin’s dull grey eyes followed as one tent pulled free of the stakes binding it to the ground, sending it flapping away and stirring up a general commotion in its wake. A group of Gnomes ran after it, squealing in squeaky little voices and snatching at it with greedy little fingers not quite strong enough to secure the canvas against the wind. Or… so he imagined. He was not near enough to hear the squealing.

He had traveled to Eban numerous times before, but never had he seen the small Bridge-side village attract so much attention. Staring down into the turbulent mass of movement and energy moving about below, Orin knew exactly why Mylin Peltier had wanted to send the escort of dull-witted grunts with him—at least as far as the Bridge. He was willing to bet that in all the confusion of the haphazardly strewn-together community that had just sprung up that there had been no shortage of crime—and especially thieving of the 62 silver standards. But, confident of his abilities and unwilling to spend more time in Peltier’s presence than absolutely necessary, Orin had given two of the dim-witted grunts headaches that would not soon leave them (and likely rising lumps as well) and made his way out alone while the others quickly scattered out of range of the standard he’d used to bludgeon them. Pathetic fools.

A grim smile forced the edges of his lipless mouth upward. They were less than fools. For all practical purposes… they’d been nothing more than his pack mules. As he’d traveled with ease and swiftness through the water, they’d struggled over dry land carrying his supplies. And so here he stood, standard in hand, equipped with the tools he’d requested—the best Mylin Peltier’s money could buy. Wickedly curved daggers and knives, both long and serrated or thin and finely honed, were strapped into place all along the length of his body and at his belt, blending in well with the grey-black form-fitting, water resistant suit he wore. A range of other tools were secreted within compartments at his belt or tucked away into the rucksack slung about his shoulders. Everything from lock picks to lengths of rope, clasps, hooks and, for some reason, flint. Beneath those supplies, packed neatly away at the bottom of his rucksack, a two-week supply of raw fish. Frozen, of course, for the most part. Everything he could possibly imagine he would need, heading into the unknown, he had taken.

Even more important than any of his gear, though, more important than anything Peltier had equipped him with, was what Orellia had sent with him. At his belt, Orin found the dreaded lock of hair she’d given him and cradled it in his hand a moment. It would serve as a reminder for the steep cost of failure. But also of the long-dreamed of reward that success would bring. He did not come with simple or vain curiosity in his heart, he did not care what the Bridge held. Whatever it was… Peltier could have it. And Orin was determined that the bastard would have it.

Not realizing that his webbed hand had curled into a hard fist over the lock of hair, Orin let it go and turned away from the edge of the precipice to make his way down the footpath leading to Eban. Left hand still gripping the silver standard, Orin let his right drop down to the hilt of a finely carved dagger with a fine, serrated edge. There would be a few who would think him easy prey, walking with such large feet over uneven land. And think to take his standard. But they would be sorely disappointed if they cared to test him.

As he threaded his way through the crowd, with little grace but making up for it with determination, Orin found himself pressed in upon at all sides with the sounds of opportunists hawking their wares.

"Turkey legs, ale and biscuits! No better way to start the day than turkey legs, ale and biscuits!"

Orin did not so much as eye vendor as he passed, none too impressed with the man’s lack of knowledge of a Pceriform’s diet. But the boy behind him seemed to think the vendor deserved a response.

“Oh, shut up! And if your going to lumber about fishman, let those of us with normal feet go first, hmm?"

Fortunately for Prise, Orin had heard the youth in the boy’s voice before he’d turned around to confront him. His sharply angled face drawing down into a look of forced calm, Orin turned and slapped the boy across the face with his free right hand. Even before the boy’s cheek could turn red, though, Orin bent down until they were at eye level and drilled the boy with a hard glare. In the same motion, he reached out and grabbed the boy’s face, webbed fingers squeezing until his lips puckered like a fish’s. “Guard. Your. Tongue. Little Minnow. Or I will remove it from your mouth.”
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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Tue 1 Nov - 14:51

Growling at the large dent in the side of his Lantonal, Prise jabbed Truncan with his finger, spurring the Saemo to throw another steak to the whining carrier cats, restless and angsty snce stopping in the port city. Something about the sea air disagreed with them; they were, for the most part, only cats after all. And after the stupidity of the Usque Bulls, the cats had every right to be grumpy. In the name of 'stealth' they had dragged his precious vehicle through jungles and forests, dragged it into ports, and once even tried to bet it in a card game. When Prise fired that particular mercenary on the spot, they learned not to do something that stupid again at least.

Truncan's whining hadn't helped either, and between it and handling his incompetent employees, Prise hadn't thought of a single word for his book. He suspected that this might have been Truncan's intention all along, though, if only because of how damn good a writer he was, had been giving the Saemo the benefit of the doubt so far. Especially because the doddling writer was the only one he had with him at all since arriving in Eban. The Bulls had excused themselves to 'secure the perimeter'; which Prise had already discovered meant go drinking and abandon him. But he was only just arriving, and the day of his glorious entry into the Bridge had come- so frankly he didn't care what they did at this point.

Though it did make him nervous; stuck in a city with so many degenerates and theives swarming its streets. In Alresia he had, at the very least, his own city guard to keep him safe. But Eban had turned into a mess; too overwhelmed by its recent populational influx to continue successfully managing itself, he suspected. And Standards were the hot item of the day. One which Prise wasn't about to let leave his side. Though it was uncomfortable, he kept it strapped to his back with enough loops to make sure that anyone who wanted to pry it off of him and make a break for it would be dragging his entire body with them.

Not that he was eager to see them try. In fact, the slow pace of things was driving him mad; and putting him at risk. Crowds were a pickpockets breeding ground. And merchants, at least of the street variety, were just as bad. They were just trying to steal your money another way after all.

"Or ye, the prissy little lad!"

Prise growled as an overeager merchant approached him. "Turkey leg? Might be a bit young for ale, but you'll get the taste for it soon enough."

"Oh shut up!" Shoving past the obnoxious vender, Prise nearly ran into the back of a Pceriform, plodding along, and felt it was at last his final straw. "And if your going to lumber about fishman, let those of us with normal feet go first, hmm?"

The blow that followed moved too quickly for Prise to register (even with his perfect reaction time), and before he could mount an objection he felt the disgusting feel of the Pceriforms scaly hand on his face. A growl forming on his lips, Prise felt the urge to lash out at the fishman, trying to squirm away, but was stopped when another human stopped moving next to the struggling pair, clearly visible against the bustling marketplace. The man's hair was the color of dried blood, and when he looked at the two of them his eyes had a morbid fascination that made Prise almost forget his own predicament; the sting of his face however, prevented this from happening fully.

The man's fingers were twitching, and Prise could see them beginning to clench around the blade at his side... But another human was at his side immediately, and the hand stopped twitching immediately, the maroon haired man turning away without a word as his smaller companion stepped up instead and carefully pushed his way between Prise and the Pceriform.

"Come on now..." Jance raised his hands calmingly to both sides. "You've both got standards; this should be a big day for you. Don't let something like this spoil it, eh?"

Prise found his wind and shoved the hand from his face, backing up and wiping at his skin as if he could still feel the grip even after it had left. "Do you know who I am, fishman?" As if looking for some confirmation, Prise looked around for his companion. "Truncan!"

The Saemo was browsing a market stall, having removed himself and begun acting entirely oblivious to the scene. Prise rubbed at his face again, irked. "Don't you ignore me Truncan!"

"Mr.Marriot-Vaulhaulfman." A cheery voice answered Prise's call instead, and he found himself face to face with a Demyr... A rather inappropriately clothed Demyr at that, who stepped in beside him with a smile. "Glad you could make it."

"Do I...?" Prise tried to ignore the arm the Demyr woman slung over his shoulder. "Know you?"

"Oh you silly man. I'm Dr.Oktapuri." Oktapuri gave a small bow, which left her, much to Prise's dismay, at still slightly over his own level of height.

"Of course," Prise answered, smoothly covering over his surprise as he probed through his photographic memory and realized who he was seeing. The last time he had seen the woman, she had been in his office pitching experiments... In a full lab coat and suit, and with her hair properly done up. Compared to that, the doctor now looked... Well, Prise was somewhat glad his cheek was already turning red from the slap. He quickly cleared his throat, thinking of a proper comment to say and settling, eventually, with: "I see you've... Gone native?"

"Oh, I always look like this." Dr.Oktapuri giggled. "The weather's so nice down here. And all those stuffy suits we had to wear in Alresia just bothered the heck out of me. They're so... stifling, you know?"

The doctor stretched as if to illustrate her point... But her arm came down, the tattoo on it was glowing faintly, the tinges of magic surrounding it. The arm sparking like a silent warning, Dr.Oktapuri faced Orin with a somehow mocking smile. "But I'm interrupting...? We weren't having any problems here, were we Pceriform?"

Jance sighed, exchanging a look with his own companion while remaining pointedly between the Pceriform and the now two people facing him. "Really," He mumbled hopefully, as if trying to reinforce his earlier idea that everyone should just walk away.
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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Tue 1 Nov - 15:54

The sound of the smack, made louder by the open palm that had delivered it, was extremely satisfying. As was the slight look of shock and indignation that crossed the little Human’s face. Orin doubted anyone had dared answer the little whiner’s insults in such a way… ever. And it was high time someone had. The spoiled brat had had it coming for far too long in all likelihood. His threat still hanging in the air, the Human boy’s attention was diverted suddenly as the normal flow of motion around them stopped in one individual. Catching sight of the man, Orin noticed his twitching hand, and almost let go of the boy in order to free a hand for his own blade. But before the menacing man could make a move in their direction, his companion forced himself between Orin and the boy.

"Come on now..." The soldier—or so Orin assumed him to be from his dress—said. "You've both got standards; this should be a big day for you. Don't let something like this spoil it, eh?"

Taking advantage of the distraction of the soldier, which had weakened Orin’s grip, the boy pulled free, openly disgusted it seemed with the feel of scales on his tender flesh. “Do you know who I am, fishman?”

Orin bared his sharp-pointed teeth at the manner of address the boy had used, but before he could offer a barbed retort, a woman joined their immobile cluster. A… Orin’s eyes widened in disgust. A Demyr woman. Dressed provocatively enough to bring a blush to the boy’s cheeks, her open show of bare skin did nothing more than elicit a derisive sneer from him. The desert dweller’s skin, tough enough to endure the scorching heat and dry sands of the empty wilderness, was layered with faintly glowing tattoos that he was sure were meant to look threatening.

“We weren’t having any problems here, were we Pceriform?”

“None that concern you, Demyr,” Orin snarled. His gaze flitted over to the soldier still between himself and the boy. “Next time the boy will be held accountable for his insolence.”
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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Tue 1 Nov - 20:42

It was getting hard for him... Jance could tell. Baden had been growing worse from the moment he left Osherlot, and the bodies stopped piling up around him. He hid it well. He had to hide it well, considering they had been sleeping in the same tent nigh after night. Though Jance knew his Commander would never hurt him. Baden was stronger than he thought he was. Even if he wasn't strong enough not to ruin some of the deer they had hunted for food on the way over... Jance had to admit he was hungry, and if it weren't for the incident he was experiencing with the Pceriform, he would have very quickly taken up on the vendors offerings. They had brought plenty of food with them from Osherlot, but those were nonperishables, mostly, and what wasn't they couldn't afford to be eating before they even entered the Bridge. So they had been picking up more food along the way; while they were still guranteed to find it at all.

As things were, Jance was just hoping he could get the bitter Prise and his assailant (however provoked, as Jance was sure the Pceriform was) to back down without violence. Which, Jance was beginning to realize, sadly, was bound to run rampart on the other side of the Gate. Sixty-two standards... There had already been nearly as many reported deaths over those objects, and that was just for the opportunity to see what was beyond the Bridge. Jance hoped with all his heart that, once they were united on the other side by their common cause, the many groups and individuals that had gathered at Eban would be able to work together.

But... Jance risked a glance to his own hip, frowning. That wasn't the reason he kept a gun at his side.

“Next time the boy will be held accountable for his insolence," the Pceriform scowled.

"This isn't..." Jance began, but found that Baden stepped forward again before he had the chance to speak again, his voice instantly taking command and hushing a reply before it could even emerge from Prise's lips in the process.

"There is a high possibility that once we pass that gate, we'll all be stuck with eachother for quite some time." He caught the Pceriforms eye; and unlike the taller creature he required no hand to keep it, the expression on his face somehow intimidating without forming so much as a frown. "Some of us are killers. Some of us are worse. Now, before we're even inside, isn't the best time to be making enemies."

"That's right!" Prise said, a smug look forming on his face. The look died in the next instant when Baden's looked over his shoulder and stared vacantly at the young human the some way it had the Pceriform, not a speck of differentiation registering between the two. The boy shuffled uncomfortably, letting out a small indignant noise.

"Now where are my manners," Dr.Oktapuri suddenly announced, wrapping her arm back around Prise's shoulders, running her finger down the side of his face where Orin had slapped him. "Let me tend to that ickyness for you. You never know where people's hands have been. My house is just down the beach." Shrugging in a noncommital way towards the Pceriform, her expression turned into a provocative smile when her gaze shifted to Jance, and she gently poked his nose with her finger as she was leading Prise off with her. "Arrivederci."

As the Demyr padded her way off, Jance, clearing a faint (a bit too faint) of a blush from his own cheeks, cleared his throat, turning to the beleaguered merchant that had been caught in the middle of the confrontation. "I'll take two of each, thanks."

"You old enough to drink?" The merchant questioned, half-jokingly, and, Jance noticed, was already getting the cups together anyway, filling them from a tap that lead to a barrel on his back.

"Going on my twenty-second sir," Jance offered, paying out of his own pocket for the food (though technically he had been given the money by Baden, so it was out of the Commander's pocket really). He accepted the food gratefully. "Thank you."

"Twenty-two... They sure don't make em like they used to," The merchant offered with a chuckle. "You be careful boy."

Jance only smiled. "Yes sir."

The transaction made, Baden quietly took both of the turkey legs, while Jance kept the biscuits himself, and they took an ale apiece. Instead of eating his food however, Jance approached the Pceriform, skipping a couple steps to stand beside him.

"It looks like the mercenary commander is still asleep," Jance offered, nodding towards the coast. "I don't think we'll be moving anywhere for a while yet."

"I didn't mean to get... involved, back there. Sorry." Jance offered the Pceriform one of the biscuits, as if for a simple apology, and introduction along with it. "Private Jance Redoak, Osherlot. Are you here from one of the port towns? San Rosir, Alder's Crossing?"
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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Tue 1 Nov - 22:18

Downing the last vial of strong-smelling tonic that the pretty, young, alchemist four tents down had concocted for him, Exiik tried to fight back the urge to gag and convulse in disgust, winning only by settling for a twisted expression that looked almost painful. Still, it was better than the alternative, he supposed. After all, there were few poisons more potent than those extracted from the scorpions in the northern desert, and even less were those that kept you alive as long as possible if only to prolong the agony. It was a cruel tactic to be sure, but that’s what he got for underestimating creepy, old, desert hags.

“She was tougher than you thought, hey? My grandmother was like that.” The young healer, Riya, had said. Of course, Exiik had only nodded, embarrassed enough that his twelve year old traveling companion had been forced to search the camp for aid after he’d collapsed into a babbling stupor on the outskirts of town. In the end he’d won out, though. He had the hag’s standard, and Riya was an acquaintance he was more than thankful to have made (to an extent that Minna often rolled her eyes at his weak attempts to be charming) even if it was under less than satisfactory circumstances. Oh well, he’d have a nice scar from that dagger wound.

“Feeling better?” Minna asked, sitting cross-legged on Ike as she munched happily on the last of their dried meat.

“Much better.” Except for the fact that the horrible taste refused to leave his mouth. That, combined with the smell of sea-salt, was enough to incur a gag, but he kept it down with a small smile as he rose up to his feet.

“It’s about time to go, kiddo. You almost done?” Shoving the last of her food in her mouth, Minna muttered something that sounded like ‘don’t call me kiddo’, but Exiik just chuckled and waved it off, adjusting his sleeveless jacket about his shoulders. The sticky coastal heat, though cooler than the dry heat of the desert, was quickly driving him crazy, but he wasn’t about to part with his favorite article of clothing for anything. Besides, with the buttons undone at least his chest was bare to whatever breeze the gods were kind enough to give him while the long band of cloth that wrapped around his forehead and draped around his shoulders kept the beads of sweat in check.

Packing up the rest of their supplies into Ike’s shell, Exiik lead on through the rows and rows of tents hoping to find Riya for one last thanks but finding himself disappointed. She was probably in town already, hoping to wish her brother (whom had obtained a standard, if he remembered correctly) a safe trip. Once inside the town itself, however, he lost hope of finding her in the crowd, instead focusing on parting the bodies so he and Minna could make their way up to the bridge gate where.

Whispers all around them, Exiik wondered if Minna was the youngest standard-bearer among those who had yet arrived, putting himself completely on guard against those whose eyes lingered just a little too long on the pole in her grip. Minna herself didn’t seem all that concerned, though, her eyes scanning the others with excitement before falling on the gate itself in wide-eyed awe. At this, Exiik’s own smile grew, admittedly excited himself despite his protective instincts. At least, before he got a good look at the group of his soon-to-be travelling companions.

“Pceriform, great.” He sighed, knowing that he should have expected there to be at least one of them. At least there were enough others he could befriend instead, though many of them looked to be criminals, fighters, or from a class all their own. It was a good thing he was armed, he thought, mentally confirming that the pistols holstered beneath his jacket were still securely in place. The throwing knives Minna had made him were there too, tucked away in almost any place he could hide them discreetly- not that he intended to use them. Not without reason, anyway.

“Ohh, Exiik, it’s so cool!” Minna spoke up as they finally broke the crowd line. Her eyes were still glued to the gate, and so Exiik allowed himself a moment to take in the sight as well, admittedly impressed. “Sure is. I bet whatever’s beyond it is even cooler, though.” At this Minna lit up even more, her eyes glazing over as her imagination kicked in.

Whatever they were in for, one thing was certain: it was going to be one hell of an adventure.

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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Wed 2 Nov - 16:11

Orin’s eyes remained fixed on the retreating back of the Demyr and young boy who went with him, the nasty, unshakable feeling that he had not seen the last of either of them gripping him. In short answer to the boy’s question—no. He did not know who he was. But the fact that the boy obviously thought Orin should know who Mr. Marriot-Vaulhallman was nettled him like hot needles under the scale. What was more than his not knowing, Orin did not care who ‘Mr. Marriot-Vall-halfman’ was. Once they were beyond the Gate, it would not matter who he’d been before. He would just be a lone boy stuck, likely for the first time in his life, on his own. And if he continued to ridicule others and spread enmity, he would likely have a hard time of things. Unless, of course, his contempt was reserved only for Pceriform. In which case, looking around, Orin was dismayed to see there were only a few of.

“I didn’t mean to get involved back there. Sorry.”

Looking back around, Orin saw that the soldier was addressing him. For a moment, he did not respond in any manner. He merely looked at the man as if searching for the depth of sincerity in his words. And, surprisingly, it was there. He shrugged his shoulders as if to say it didn’t matter. “It happens.”

He accepted the offered biscuit with a nod of thanks. It crumbled in his mouth as he bit into it, agreeably bland.

“Orin Skarim,” he answered. Looking up to the standard he carried, it was a few seconds before he confirmed the Private’s guess. “And yes… Alder’s Crossing.” His mouth pressed down into a thin line contemplatively, but he said no more on the subject, instead nodding over to the sleeping mercenary commander who’d called them all together. “Whatever game he’s playing, I believe your companion is right. We face the Bridge and the unknown, and we need more friends than enemies. I’d be pleased to call myself your ally.”
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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Wed 2 Nov - 21:22

"Damn fish..." Prise grumbled to himself, feeling a slippery leaf being pressed against his cheek. Her house aside, Dr.Oktapuri hadn't waited a moment to whip out a quick cure, and, while he admired her efficiency, felt foolish walking down the beach with the woman pressing garden herbs onto his face. She turned enough heads as she was (and he was proud to say he did too; and for all the *right* reasons), but while he bore it with an air of indifference, and knew most of what was pouring in was more akin to envy than anything else, it still stung his pride a little sharper than the blow itself had stung his face. To reason the situation out to himself more than anything, and give himself another shot at belittling the fishhead (it wasn't hard), Prise ran it down aloud, keeping his mind working to distract himself from his surroundings.

"He was barely even a thug," Prise observed first. "Not even a mercenary."

"Hmm?" Peering around the leaf, Dr.Oktapuri raised an eyebrow. Always pleased to have an audience, Prise continued.

"The weapons he wore were common-made. Not bad material; which means he had a funded backer. But not specialized to him, like most of the real fighters here. He likely just chose the best products he knew about without taking the time to get them tailored." Pleased with himself, Prise caught the doctors eye. "His lack of identifying insignia leads me to beleive he isn't a mercenary- everyone else here is flaunting their colors after all. Which means that he's being financed by a private interest, likely from a small town, and that interest for some reason or another beleives he's loyal to them. So perhaps a small-time lord, or a mob-boss with whom he could be intimately aquainted."

"All that from such a brief look." Dr.Oktapuri purred, impressed, and giving Prise the boost to his ego he had needed to get back to rational thought. Then, "Does yours ever trouble you as much as mine?"

The phrase made Prise frown before he realized she was no longer addressing him, but another Demyr like herself (though this one looked much less comfortable... From the South perhaps, or the far North). Sure enough, beside him was a little human girl; a few years below Prise's own age at a guess. Whoever they were, they had been staring at the Bridge with a rabid intensity... They, or the girl at least, looked like thrill seekers. And they had standards. Which meant they were competing thrill seekers as well. Not for the moment, though. And no matter how much the Osherlotian (the uniform was a giveaway) man's words had irked him, he had been right. Now wasn't the time to make an excess of enemies.

Though he wasn't about to let her implied claim go unanswered.

"I'm not yours," Prise said, rolling his eyes and, when she willingly released it, taking the leaf for himself.

"He's not," Oktapuri admitted with a smile and a resigned sigh. "But I can indulge in my fantasies." Without losing her happy expression, she seamlessly turned back to the younger human girl and leaned towards her, hands behind her back. "And what's your name cutie?"

* * *

"Making friends with someone you just met can get you killed." Blunt, and to the point, Baden spoke almost immediately after Orin had finished his reply, cutting off Jance's reply with a speed that was sheer instinct. They knew eachother a bit too well sometimes. And sometimes that fact didn't go in Jance's favor.

"Baden," he scolded back, not needing to say anything else at all for his point to get across. Baden had said it himself a moment before: the area on the other side of the Gate could quickly devolve into a free for all. The two of them had departed Osherlot before all of the standards within the nation were even distributed, so there was no telling how many allies, if any, they would be recieving (the only fighter chosen before them had been someone out of the special forces, though Jance didn't know the Argoyle by name or, given the special forces reputation, how inclined he would be to work together). The possibility of even one ally this early in was something they should have jumped upon, and Jance's puting expression told Baden as much.

Baden's own face however, only smiled... in the least possible sense, to the point that it migt have come off as a sneer or even a frown to someone who didn't know him so well. The Commander answered back easily, looking to Orin again without the frosty forcefulness he had a minute ago... Though more of the frosty had left than the force behind his words.

"Don't get me wrong. I'm not refusing your offer." Baden drank lightly from his ale, eyeing Orin across it with a gaze that was vacant but compelling. "But look at the playing field before you go making calls like that."

Seamlessly, his posture shifted to Jance again, with something closer to a sad frown now. "We are at war, Jance." Baden shook his head. "And while the two of us may be bloodhounds lusting for it, it's not as easy for people without a cause to find their way in. And harder still to find the way back out."

Though it pained him to admit it, Baden was right once again. Jance sagged back a little, but kept a sadly hopeful look on his face to keep Orin from worrying. It was true... Fhirdain was a large force, bigger even than Osherlot, and there was no telling what they or even their own allies might do inside the Bridge proper. Or, even before they got inside. While he liked to think (and was hopefully correct in the idea) that any Fhirdins they met would prove honorable, it was a big risk to take, and including anyone with themselves would only put that person at risk too.

Jance gave Orin a reassuring smile, his voice gentle. "He is right, I'm afraid. I don't know if it would be safe for either of us to call you an ally... But we certainly won't think of eachother as enemies, at the least." Wanting to end on a happier note, Jance put his finger into the air as if to make a point. "'We can never be certain about the future, but to hope for the best and prepare for the worst is the strategy most proven true.'"

A meek smile on his face, Jance shrugged. "I like to keep the hoping part as strong as I can, personally. And it hasn't proven me wrong so far."
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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Thu 3 Nov - 12:27

Orin offered Private Jance a thin, lipless smile to indicate understanding. The other officer’s blunt demeanor was enough to dissuade any hard feelings that may have arisen. An alliance with Private Jance meant just as strong of an alliance with his twitchy, disagreeable companion. But to stride forward into the unknown with sixty-one complete strangers, any one of whom may be willing to put a knife in his back (he would be keeping his eyes on the Demyr especially) was not smart. His offer had not been completely refused, though. And so Orin simply raised a hand in a friendly parting gesture.

“Very well, then…. I understand. If our currents should cross beyond the Gate, though… the offer still stands. I would be honored to work with you if it serves to further our interests.”

That said, Orin turned on his heel and began again to make his way towards the Gate, where a number of standard-bearers were already gathering despite the continued slumber of Talir. It seemed that this close to the Gate, the risk of being mobbed lessened slightly, though whether that was because of a wariness of the sleeping mercenary or because of some perception that one standard-bearer would move in to protect another, Orin did not know.

His mouth curled downward once more in distaste as he passed by another Demyr, this one staring up at the Gate with a young Human girl at his side. He passed by quickly, not wishing for another confrontation with one of them . Instead, he began to scan the crowd for other Pceriform, though not with great hopes of finding many. The vast majority of standard-bearers present at the moment were Saemo, which he supposed was to be expected. By far the greatest race of Paston, at least in terms of population, the Saemo would undoubtedly represent themselves in full force here.

At that moment, a company of Fhirdain soldiers marched past, six of them bearing silver standards, and Orin remembered Baden’s words. “We are at war, Jance.” So they merely did not wish to pull him into their conflict… honorable, Orin thought. Though he wondered at the soldier’s refusal of one more pair of eyes to watch out for the Fhirdain. Once the Gate closed behind them….

“We’ll just have to wait to see what storms stir the waters.”
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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Sun 6 Nov - 16:16

Taking a moment to get a look at their soon-to-be travelling companions while Minna was still thoroughly engrossed in the gate and what lay beyond its bars, Exiik shoved his hands in his pockets and glanced around, only briefly lingering on each person so as not to raise their attention- and for good reason: half of them looked not only capable, but willing, to take him out the moment his back was turned. Of course, they would find one hell of a fight on their hands should they make the attempt, but now wasn’t the time to be making enemies. No, he and Minna were going to keep a low profile and play it safe; even if such a cautious plan was a bit outside of his style.

"He was barely even a thug. Not even a mercenary."

Spoken with an intelligent suave and a hint of self-assurance, Exiik tuned in to the voice coming from somewhere behind him; not because of the content of the conversation, or because the person was speaking to him, but because the pitch of the voice was obviously that of a young man with an intelligence beyond his years. Sure enough, the more Exiik listened, the more such seemed to be the case, and so he made sure to take note of the boy’s face as he glanced ever so quickly over it. After all, it wasn’t always the ones with the muscles and blades who made good allies and terrifying enemies, but the ones with a sharp mind and a will to use it.

“Does yours ever trouble you as much as mine?”

Caught off guard by the sudden intrusion into his thoughts, Exiik let out a reflexive “Hmm?” as he turned his gaze on the one who had spoken. It was a woman- a Demyr like him- and presumably the one with whom the young intellect had been speaking. Her appearance was enough to garner a stumble in his reply, too, but a quick second was all he needed to regain himself as it all fell into place.

“Oh, no, she’s just my...” He started, searching for the right word when Minna chimed in instead.

“He’s my brother.” She said casually, pulling a chuckle out of Exiik. “Or something like that.” They didn’t look anything alike- they weren’t even of the same race- but it was as good an explanation as any, he supposed.

Keeping quiet in the background while the woman asked Minna her name, Exiik repressed a smirk, knowing full well what she thought of being called ‘cute’ even though, by all means, she was. She preferred the rough-and-tumble, oil-slicked, hardworking image of a worker to the dress wearing, manner-bound, image of most young girls her age, but it was all part of her charm. Of course, he would never tell her that; not when he would only get a lecture on how no one every took her seriously because of her age. He knew the truth, though: she was one of the best damn tinkerers and inventors he’d ever met; cute or not.

“I’m not a ‘cutie’, I’m a mechanic!” Minna declared, a proud ridge in her brow. The defiant frown didn’t last long however, quickly giving way to her charismatic smile as she stuck out her hand to be shook.

“I’m Minnaya, but you can call me Minna, because Minnaya is too long.”


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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Sun 6 Nov - 21:22

"I'd hope for clear skies, son."

A standard slung over one shoulder like a piece of lumber, Sherrif Fulton chuckled at the Pceriform, standing out and mumbling to himself in the crowd. He wasn't the only one mumbling to himself; in fact, one of the few Gnomes to actually be bearing a standard seemed to have been in a full internal monologue with himself when Fulton passed by. He'd given that little fella a miss... There was something about the glint in his little eyes that spoke of a wrong deeper than a few nice words could solve. The Pceriform however, struck Fulton as more of a mercenary sort. There were all sorts of hired sword types around, and while Fulton had nothing in particular against the profession, he wanted to know which of them were the honorable sort before they all hit the other side together.

Wydel hadn't fallen into that category. Even though he was locked uptight in the jail back in Pander, the insane threats by the mercenary had given Fulton a bad feeling about this entire affair. Sure, Wydel had always been snide and violent, but there had always been a line of control that went along with his attitude. The men he killed hadn't been any decent folk- another merc company that had insulted the Scorpions, actually, and had paid a price fitting the deed in Wydel's eyes, but that impulsiveness had gone to crazyness when Talir appeared. And afterwards... The look in his eyes had been pure murder. That was the kind of crazyness people were sinking to already over these standards. The sooner this thing was underway the better- and the fewer folk caught up in it the better.

"Ain't healthy to go around talkin' to yourself." Hacing also availed himself of the food merchant's wares, Fulton took a careful sip of ale. He had developed a bit of a problem in his early years with the stuff, but it wasn't normal for a man his age to be worrying about those things now. "I'm an open ear."

The friendly smalltalk immediately aside, Fulton gave the Pceriform a square look. "Y'aren't with one of the merc companies or I recokon I'd recognize you. I ain't gonna ask you any questions to make you uncomfortable here, but lemme hit you with something square, 'fore you get any more wrapped in this business than you already are." The Sherrif tilted his hat at the people around them. "It ain't worth it son. Lotta dangerous folks around here lookin to do some harm. The less people get dragged in there the better, and I think we wll know it. Yer better off selling that thing'" he nodded toward the standard. "And takin your winnings from there than risking what's inside."

"I dunno about storms." Fulton's eyes narrowed. "But there's a bad wind blowing. And nobody who don't have to be ought to be running around in that place."

* * *

"Ah, so he's single too?" Dr.Oktapuri chuckled at Minna's 'sister' claim, and Prise resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Hopefully she wouldn't keep up her open mating signals the entire expedition; at least not with everyone they came across. Not that he was trying to keep her to himself. That is, he did hire her, so he could expect to be the only one receiving her services...

Prise frowned, bluntly seizing control of his mind back. Whatever wiles she possessed, they were at the very least an excellent distractive technique. She was already dropping the guard of everyone around her, so for now he'd file this away as useful instead of annoying and let her have her fun.

As Minna asserted she wasn't in fact cute, Dr.Oktapuri smiled coyly, taking Minna's hand and shaking it. "Dr.Oktapuri, PhD. Does that mean you can't be both?"

"It's only one more syllable," Prise himself responded, puzzling over Minnaya's abbreviation. He would never shorten his own name. It was a sign of who he was. Speaking of which... Prise offered his own hand next.

"Prise Rozeda Marriot-Vaulhaulfman." Prise nodded at the device before her. "I notice that's not one my models."

The Marriot-Vaulhaulfman had a great variety of new-aged technical machines on the market for everything from transport to construction, and, though not very publicized, a few in the arms variety as well. The clanky thing before him however, lacking the sleek style of his Lantonal, was clearly not one of these. Prise frowned at the contraption on which Minnaya (he refused to shorten her name) was sitting, giving it his own professional once-over. With six legs, it lumbered around like one of the odder specimens of the Insect Races, and while there were a few similar mass-produced constructs he'd seen in the far south, he didn't recognize this as any of those main brands. It was interesting in its own way however, and Prise did voice his assessment aloud for their benefit.

"Rounder joint ends to increase the lubrication and prevent the effects of grit... So, you're from a desert town." It wasn't even a question really. Prise raised an eyebrow, though he seemed to be interrogating the machine more than the rider. "It... actually seems quite decent. Did you make that all by yourself?"

"Awww. They're getting along already," Dr.Oktapuri commented, Prise ignoring the fact that he was being treated as if he wasn't there. The doctor slipped her way easily around the machine, peering at the other Demyr with a smile. "But I can tell he's right. I'm an expert in Biology;" She poked the side of his arm, and ran her finger down it a little, before wiping whatever she seemed to get off said arm off between her fingers. "And you are clearly not from a coastal enviroment. Too sweaty."

She fanned herself with her hand, mocking being hot herself- in the literal sense, that is. "It's the humidity, I know. Takes some getting used to." Resting her hands in her own pockets to match the others posture, Dr.Oktapuri made a quick half-circle around him, ending with a little twirl that left her in front of him again and leaning in to see him up close once more. "But enough about me. You have a name too, sweety?"

Or, Prise thought she said sweety. It actually sounded more like sweaty, and he wondered if she had left it intetionally vague that way for a reason. Or, if that was true, whether he even wanted to know why.
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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Tue 8 Nov - 15:35

“I’d hope for clear skies, son.”

Orin looked around to see a Nettic step up alongside him. The man stood around half a foot shorter than Orin, but his stance exuded a confidence that made him appear taller than he actually was. His sharp eyes were larger and darker than Orin’s dull gray, and sideburns stretched down each side of his face where Orin had none. He had a fierce albeit kindly look about him, and his words only confirmed this suspicion in Orin. Baden’s warning rang in his ears as Fulton offered his ear to guard against the unhealthy nature of speaking to himself. Pushing those thoughts out of his head, Orin smiled in a gesture of thanks, but before he could speak, the man turned toward him more fully and Orin caught sight of a badge on his chest. A sheriff.

His dark, bestial eyes raked over Orin’s face for a moment before he spoke, contempt for the bands of mercenaries resting on his lips. The man’s hands seemed to clench slightly upon mentioning them, and Orin couldn’t help but notice the elongated nails.

“It ain't worth it son. Lotta dangerous folks around here lookin to do some harm. The less people get dragged in there the better, and I think we’ll know it.”

Orin brought his eyes back to rest on the Nettic’s, his own eyes darkening markedly at these words. A frown drew down the corners of his lips as the man went on, offering up his suggestion to sell the standard. “No. I can’t do that.” Bringing his other hand up to clutch the silver staff more tightly, Orin drew it closer to himself in an almost protective manner. “If you want to sell yours, go ahead. But I need this.”

--

“Disgusting filth.”

The loud clicks of the Insect’s long, thin tongue turned heads and caused people of all races to cringe and step back as three of the ugly things passed. Two of them walked upright on long, thin legs covered in short hairs that stood on end, testing the air and feeling outward. Natural plates of hard, crusty armor covered their backs and fronts, a dull brown in color, the color of the desert. They bore the look of a grasshopper, but magnified a hundred times and walking with such purposeful strides that it was hard to see much resemblance between the walking beings and their miniature counterparts. So different from any of the other sentient races did they appear that it was hard to believe that they were beings capable of rational thought until one noticed the natural, flowing rhythm and cadence in the clicking that made up their speech.

“Look at that fat Gnome. He would be easy to take down.”

The third was shorter and squatter than his companions. His manifold eyes glossed over the crowd, sweeping for the easiest target available. Antennae stretched out, feeling along the ground as he walked, and the wings folded under his thick black shell fluttered slightly, as if itching to take off into the air. Huge, threatening black horns adorned his head, one of them growing in a curve out from where his nose might have been, marking him some kind of beetle akin to the smaller rhinoceros beetles.

The large, grasshopper-like insect at his side blinked in sudden appreciation.

“Look.” Hack’s long arm unfolded from his side and extended, pointing through the crowd to a small Human boy standing next to a scantily clad Demyr woman. Tied to the back of the pack he wore, a long silver standard rose, glinting tantalizingly in the sunlight.

“We can’t take both,” Frae clicked, glancing back at the Gnome. “Once they know we’re after two more flags, they won’t allow it.”

“They will. The staff-bearers won’t flock to aid anyone under attack. Why run to danger before it’s necessary. We’re just cutting away unnecessary competition. Separating the chaff,” Forr responded, his clicks growing agitated with the excitement of the prospect. One flag down, two to go.

“Take them both at once,” Hack clicked, his huge brown eyes roaming between the unsuspecting Gnome and the Human, both of whom had backed turned to the trio of insects. “They won’t know what hit them. Frae, you and I will take the Human. Forr—the Gnome.”

Hack’s wings snapped out at the same time Frae’s did, and a low buzzing filled the air as the two Insects took flight, Hack grasping his silver standard in one pincer-like hand. Forr, on four seemingly spindly legs, took off in the same moment as the other two, moving surprisingly fast for the bulk of his hard shell. Lowering his head like a charging bull, his rhino horn bore down, hard and fast, Forr collided with the unsuspecting Gnome, and the comparatively smaller creature was bowled completely off his feet. Dazed, bruised, and bleeding from the impact, the fat little Gnome (his companions having scattered with terrified shrieks) was unable to struggle to his feet when Forr came around for a second charge.

Frae, meanwhile, had honed in on her target. With a rush of wind, she came up from behind and dug her pincer-like hands and feet into the back of the Human’s pack and bore him high into the air. They ascended with frightening rapidity, and as the earth fell away below them, Hack raced to catch them. When he did, he immediately set to work, his pincers snapping at the straps holding the standard and the Human together.

“Over the ocean,” Hack clicked. “And he’ll drown once he drops.”

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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Fri 11 Nov - 0:17

Prise Rozeda Marriot-Vaulhaulfman had often dreamed about being the first human to successfuly achieve flight. Not the levitation achieved by some mages, or the forms of air and water walking he had seen performed by some talented spiritual warriors, but real flight: thousands of feet in the air, where only birds and the rarest of Pyrrha dwelled. That dream had been crushed at age twelve, when a Fhirdin scientist succeeded for the first time in achieving a height of over thirty standard stories in a dirigible said to be powered by burning some sort of fumes. The Fhirdin had nearly died in his victory, when the dirigible burst into flames just a few feet higher than its intended goal, but by then his fame had already been secured. Since that moment, Prise had made a few designs for functional airships, but, given the economy never bothered to waste the funding on building what could never be mass produced. But he had imagined them. He had imagined very clearly (a clarity in fact that no non-perfect human could achieve) what it would be like to soar above the clouds; to feel nothing but air beneath his feet and see nothing but an endless expanse before him.

He had never imagined that this experience would be brought to him at the hands of a filthy, chittering bug, and making an effort to hold on to his pack (and the Standard... they were trying to steal his Standard!) accompanying him. He had felt himself lifted up; nearly kicking Exiik in the process and just as Minna began to reply to his inquiries, and he had suddenly been up, up and away. The obvious and imminent danger aside, Prise realized, even, that his first thought was not 'I'm flying' or, 'I'm being abducted', or even some helpful first analysis that might help him escape his predicament while landing on the ground unharmed remained a possibility. No, his first thought, was much more simplistic, and was the thing that brought the memory of all his time spent fantasizing back to life:

"That Bridge is blocking my view," Prise said to no one in particular, the endless nature of the sea and sky cut short by the looming structure, ascending far beyond anywhere he could reach even via his buggy captors.

And, with that fact established, Prise began to kick at his kidnapper.

"You overgrown larval spawn- release me this instant!" The request went unheeded, and Prise felt his stomach drop as he reached a new height, the bug moving up in complete ignorance of him as it instead hacked at the straps holding him tight to his prize. That standard was his, rightfully claimed, and Prise, though he should have been overcome with fear, instead found in himself an irritation that was only doubled when the bugs partner, noting her own ineffectiveness, joined in the effort.

Struggling more pronouncedly, Prise stopped thrashing his legs, realizing that even if he could reach the larger insect's legs, it would likely be the same as if a real, tiny fly had kicked him. Her. It. Growling at how it was to tell them apart, even with his great intellect, Prise brought his foot up into his own hands- and began shaking back and forth, the straps above him now cut enough to grant him some degree of sway and the wind more than happy to give it to him, making his stomach churn and his head spin.

"Want to steal from me?" Prise snarled through his swinging, the snarl itself sounding to his ears almost like the same annoying language his captors spoke. "Try this!"

Prying off his shoe without even bothering to untie the laces, Prise tossed it over his shoulder, into the face of the bug holding him, and for a moment laughed in triumph as the sight of thick, lung-wrenching smoke filled the air above him. The laugh was then replaced with an openfaced (and embarrassing, even before retrospect), shriek, as the last of the tethers holding him to his standard was severed and he suddenly found himself hurtling back down to earth, his short experience with flight coming to an end.

Falling was, when compared, a much more pleasant experience than flying up. Or, it would have been, if Prise had been able to get out of his head the thousand and two scenarios of his crashing back to the planet as a bloody sticky smear, bones pulverized to powder as they cracked simultaneously under his own weight, and didn't feel, almost preemptively, the shocking impact that would come when he hit the ground.

Prise blinked, seeing vague black spots as he realized that it wasn't just his imagination sending waves of pain through his stomach. He HAD hit something, and it was enough to knock the wind from his lungs as it slammed into his stomach like a fist. It felt like he had hit a rope, and he could see the sky still around him as he slipped off of it, attempting to grasp whatever surface had hit him but, to his shock, not even able to see it...

Then, he hit it again, and a roaring pain shot through his arm, Prise's shrieking cut off into a whimper. Nearly five stories up, the black spots in his vision had grown, and Prise realized grimly that he was only barely halfway down from where he had dropped. What, could he not just die outright? Prise's body was sensitive- more than most, and it struck him as ironic, but he couldn't help but feel more outraged at the interference with his drop to death than relieved. If he was going to be a ground-splotch, becoming one peacefully wasn't too much to ask for, was it?

As he slid again, Prise heard a sound like velcro tearing, and his head touched something in the air before being whipped away by gravity (stupid gravity, ruining his analysis). And, as if to answer his prayers, Prise was suddenly bombarded, rolling and bouncing through the air in a series of jerky falls as the tiny near-invisible ropes broke in the air, their slippery, sticky surfaces catching on his hair and face. Spitting the substance out, Prise managed to claw a gob of translucent goo from his face just as he finally left the last of the invisible storm, and collapsed into the water with a splash.

* * *

"Awww, frig..." Dr.Oktapuri groaned as her swiping hand just missed Prise's foot as the two cricket-bugs took off into the air. Shrieking from the other direction distracted her, but before she could check what was the matter she caught sight of the Fhirdin lieutenant calmly falling into a firing position, pulling a gun like none she'd ever seen from a holster at his hip and already lining up a shot down on the beach. Moving past Exiik and Minna with a quick nod to them both, she slid next to the soldier and he reacted instantly to her presence, his eyes moving but his stance never shifting.

"Hold on there cowboy..." Oktapuri raised her hands calmingly, feeling as if her level of threat was being passively assessed as the taller, actually quite good looking man caught her eyes. She explained herself quickly. "That's my boss up there. Well, employer."

The Lieutenant frowned. "Mercenary?"

"Scientist," Dr.Oktapuri shook her head. "And if you fire now..."

"I can hit their wings." The Lieutenant’s voice was calm but capable, holding a level of command to it that was like Baden's... but softer, somehow. Untempered. "Knock them down before he gets too high."

"But he's over the sand." Dr.Oktapuri pointed out. The Lieutenant fell silent. "What I'm really worried about is the wounded animal effect however. If you shoot them down, and they're still holding him-"

"You think they'll strike out at him on instinct..." His eyes narrowed. "They're leaving him alone right now. They seem to want the standard."

"Right. We should focus on catching him when he drops."

"Good. If we get a ma-" The Lieutenant’s voice trailed, and then became alarmed. "He just fell."

"What!?" Dr.Oktapuri turned back, realizing with a groan that of course it wouldn't take those insects more than an instant to cut Prise's ropes. The boy fell with an awkward slowness... and then fell with an awkward slowness... and then...

Dr.Oktapuri blinked. "Well holy crap."

* * *

The first thing Prise discovered as the inky blue water (it was actually a bright and vibrant turquoise, but Prise felt he had swalloed enough of it in the past few moments to call it whatever color he wanted) closed around him, was that he was not dead. And that, even as he began to sink, the knowledge that in an inland city it had never been required of him to swim flying through his head and slamming his pride with the same ferocity that the fall had slammed his body... He was not sinking. In fact, Prise, intelligently, refrained from taking the gasping breaths that would fill his lungs with water, as he felt two hands beneath his body, slowly raising him up.

And then, air! Sweet, beautiful, wretchedly tall and obnoxious air! Prise drank it in deeply, blinking the water out of his eyes as he tried to gaze at his would-be savior. Blinking through his watery haze, he could see a girl's face, young... cute as a button, with short almost perfectly cut hair that was dripping and stuck to her face as she rose up and out of the water. Her shirt, little more than a thin black and lacy looking thing, clung tight to her body, and Prise's head was pressed up against it, comfortingly.

There was no sense of constant paddling, or the movement of feet, and Prise realized that she must have been a mermaid- one of those strange folk that had the ocean thrown upon them as their permanent home. They were, beautifully, descended from humans... a spectacular race, and one he had never paid any real attention to, now to his shame. He would build something for the merpeople when he returned to the shore. Some big monument. He certainly had the money for it. And he had a perfect and photographic memory. He would capture his savior on it- her doll-like face, her straight black hair... Her grey skin...? Her pale, but almost luminescent red eyes.

With a barely repressed shudder, Prise realized that even a fish's tail, for all of the balancing magic he had heard in tales of the mer, would cause a light up and down motion in the water. But eight long, furry legs, placed before a stout and oval-like abdomen, rowing simultaneously through the water, would not. And the pale grey skin of his savior's stomach, with the light muscles of a human, ended just below her waist, enveloping into a furry bottom half that was just that. The lace of the simple garment around her chest was not the result of laces... but rather of a spider web that had been dyed. And that sticky rope, clear but slick in the dew, had been her webs.

He had fallen from a pair of insects... to land with an arachnid. The prospect was horrifying. Prise's entire body felt rigid, and he wondered if he was poisioned before realizing that it was simply fear of the thing holding him that kept him from moving.

And yet... he hadn't been consumed. As the furry legs reached closer land, and began to sink themselves into the sand, Prise was in turn slowly lowered, and when they reached the dry part of the sand, he was deposited there. Not gently, actually, but like a pile of rubbish that the arachnid had only just realized she was holding in her hands.

"CRACKLEWARGLEWOORFSPOOL," a voice said.

* * *

And "What stupidity is this?" was what would be received by Hack and his compatriots, as a new figure strode its way onto the shore to join the spider. It was, at first glance, a bee of some kind... But it's voice was, while harsh and guttural, somehow still holding an air of superior upbringing and class to it.

It's frontal legs had two seperate joints for knees, the top joint in a different direction from the one on the bottom, which caused it to shamble up and down as it moved, walking solely on the pair. Two long, thin arms were folded with similar dual-joints around the front of its neck, as if displeased, while below this a second set of arms, ending in the long scythe-like blades of a mantis, curled wickeldy. But the most disturbing factor, to a human audience, and appealing to an insect group, was its head. The area between it's shoulders resembled a venus flytrap, facing upwards with teeth interlocked like a zipper, and with the bottoms of the mouth sinking into a nonexistent neck-space and the top of the chest. An eye was on either side, but swivveled forward, so that it could regard the pair of insects in the air with a great and cold distaste.

"We are wondering if the two of you are broken of mind," The speaker began, his mouth unfolding like a zipper on one side and making little murmurs as it spoke. "That you strike at the native fauna when so greatly overnumbered. We wonder if thee grasps the dangers of fracturing the already inadequetely understanding tolerance of us and our companions, and of your own, when you do something so stupid as to attack them in a crowd."

"MMMRMPH," echoed yet another insect next to the spindly bee... If this one, in fact, could be called even that. It appeared, rather than a solid being, to be instead a gellatanous husk of white that was collapsing around two central focal points. The blobby mass was covered in waves of small, probing feelers, and, past its own movement, that of entire swarms of smaller lifeforms, all scurrying about its surface in organized but freakish patterns. It was noticeable, at a second glance, that the beast did in fact have features- a pair of stubby, thick and clawed on all sides feet emerged from one of the sides smushed to the ground, while it's front, seemingly collapsed forward, in fact held a great maw of teeth, all interlocking with eachother and surrounded by longer probing feels of its own, with sharp tips for skewering and quickly shoving food into its maw.

"His Majesty is most correct," The bee said with a growl. Then, it tilted itself back, pondering the two.

"We are of Hive Ildyr, King Kreiferscatch of Delscatath and Prostokag." Kriefer, the bee, began, announcing itself in the formal pattern of its Hive, followed by its name and the name of its two parent insects (it was suprisingly hard to manage acceptable inbreeding otherwise). The title of King was, in insect terms, only a statement of one who lived in a hive that they themselves owned, rather than that of another insect. It carried weight, due to a relative rareness, but was, in reality, little more than a boast about being a property owner.

"The lady is of Hive Yrisckik, Queen Theza of Sodal and Dromorkaginok."

The spider girl Theza eyed the flying pair of bugs warily... and slightly hungrily as well, a set of teeth well sharper than any humans, like little spikes showing in her mouth..

"And his Kingship other is of Hive Lob, King Bolkad Loontechaki Obvoskornadan Beldrifis ! ." The exclamation, an actual sound in the insect tongue, was the equivalent of an honorific, and translated best to those less inclined to their language as 'the awesome' or 'the great', and the blobby creature, known most easily as BLOB!, shuddered with pride at its mention.. "...of Litschofornadrahal and Cha."

"What are your births?" Kreifer demanded, his voice heavy with anger, in effect asking their names. Clearly he was not fond of the insects sudden and abrupt attack hurting his own chances of entering the Bridge.
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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Fri 11 Nov - 1:18

"It ain't money that yer after then..." Sheriff Fulton broached warily. But a frown was still crossing his face, and it only grew bigger as Orin drew his standard more closely to his body. He didn't like being viewed as the kind of villain who'd snatch a man's property away from him, as long as it was earned rightfully.

"Now don't you go scarin' the man Fulton." A second voice joined in, as Molly made her own way over, a frown on her face turning into a smile as she caught up to the pair.

"Sherrif Molly." Fulton tipped his own hat, looking pleased. "Didn't reckon I'd see you here."

"Long time, Sherrif Fulton. Student followin after the menter I suppose." Molly shrugged.

"Thought you moved past that, takin' charge over in Mardon." Fulton began, but then broke into silence as he turned his look back to Orin. "But if I taught you anythin', whaddya reckon about this one here?"

Molly examined Orin, raising one eyebrow at the on the spot test of her skills. It had been many years since she left Pander, Fulton's toughest deputy, and made her way over to Mardon to enforce the peace for a whole new city-state. The shift hadn't always been easy... But while he was clearly gruff (Molly would never have approached the Pceriform in front of them and tried to dissuade him outright, as she had just watched Fulton do), the elder Sherrif too had a good heart. Which made her all the more surprised to see him present at an event that was, she suspected, prompted for many by greed. The idea that there might be something of good use to society on the other side of that Gate, and not some tool of battle or great vault of treasure hadn't seemed to fall on most people.

She didn't want to make judgements... But it seemed to her like most of the City-States had put out outstanding individuals. And the other towns had just fallen to the toughest person around. Having stayed for weeks in the great expanses between towns, even if she never really lived there, Molly knew how tough it could be without a solid force of law out there in Paston. The strong, or the rich took over a little too easily.

But with her and Fulton both here, the same was much less likely to happen. And when Molly eyed Orin squarely, she saw a fire in his eyes- and at the very least not one of greed. That was enough for her.

"Seems a decent kind of folk to me," Molly finally responded, with a smile and a nod to Orin, and extending a hand without hesitation. "Molly Dankouw. Sherrif. I take it you've met Sherrif Fulton, if only briefly."

* * *

The gore-funneling sword of his Commander was up with a snap before Jance could even blink, and Baden had launched himself at the beetle-like insect, which had come with an equal speed tearing through the crowd and sent a short gnome, surrounded by family, flying yards away to a thud. And in two thudding sounds, it was already over. Dropping the thin pieces of biscuit that remained from his slow, methodical munching (it was hard for Jance to get hungry, sometimes), he was at the Gnomes side in seconds, sliding across the street and ignoring the dust it kicked up on his already travel-worn uniform.

The beetle-bug had been saved, it seemed, from being skewered, only by Baden's own blind bloodlust causing him to kick the creature down before his sword got a chance to do his work. The Commander had slammed his boot into the bug from the side, dropping the beetle as it was midway through a charge with a force that, had it been a human, would not have pushed it aside but smashed right through its ribs to the guts inside. Jance... had seen Baden do as much. But his own voice spared the beetle for the second time as the Private First Class exclaimed to his ally.

"Baden, no!"

The Commander shuddered to a halt, his blade slowing to something more like a lazy drop... But it didn't move away from the beetle. Instead, it drifted to the spot near what existed of the insect's throat; dangling above the fragile area as Baden's eyes flashed between rage and peace in equal measure. But Jance had already looked away... and felt his words choke in his throat. The plump little Gnome had been mauled. The horn had cracked through his spine at the worst possible angle, the little man dead before he hit the ground from sheer shock rather than anything else, and a pool of blood forming on his clothes and seeping slowly across the ground.

The Gnomes around him were staring- not at Baden, or even the body, but at Jance. He wondered if the other Gnome had been a father to them, or a son... but no, his age made him out to be an uncle of some sort. That's why the mother was crying, but not the Gnome next to her, as horrified as he too looked. An uncle on the mother's side then. And his nephew, barely two feet tall, was now looking at Jance with watering eyes. It made him feel... a little more dead inside, that he could even consider sparing the killer after this. But...

"It's too late." Jance rested his hand on the dead Gnomes forehead, and slowly closed the man's eyes, standing to face Baden. "The damage has been done."

"The others are with him." Baden's voice was disturbingly calm, for all the blatant rage that his shaking hand seemed to indicate. And... Jance realized, sadly, that the Gnomes had not approached their fallen family member not out of reverence, or fear of the beetle. They had been staring at Jance because they were afraid of Baden... and what the companion he had pleaded with to stop might do if left alone.

"You want to wait..." Jance ventured. "For them to come back? Like a bargaining chip?"

"Take the Standard." Baden nodded to the dead Gnome's standard, and Jance looked at the family instead. Walking to the Standard, Jance offered it to the father of the group... but he simply shook his head. Grudgingly, Jance held the standard himself, as he had been ordered. It had stayed suprisingly clean, considering the death of its onwer.

But it still felt as if it had blood on it.
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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Sat 12 Nov - 14:10

A little baffled as to how she was supposed to reply to the woman’s question regarding Exiik’s marital status, Minna reflexively looked in his direction for a clue but found nothing beyond the failed remnants of a suppressed smirk on his face, almost giving her enough reason to roll her eyes. Exiik was... Exiik; and if she knew him at all, she was certain he wasn’t going to shy away from this woman’s passes at him, which was likely going to make for an awkward trip. At least she could bet on him making a fool of himself; he always did.

About to roll her eyes, Minna found herself caught without an answer again as the woman- Dr.Octapuri, apparently- tossed another question her way. Thankfully the handshake gave her just enough time to stumble before the young man, perhaps a little older than herself, spoke up instead, apparently mulling over the shortening of her name. If anyone needed a shorter name, though, it was him. Prise ‘Rose-Ya Marry-Something Something... Man’ was much too long for her to remember, but he did seem like one of those fancy types who really liked their important sounding names and fancy clothes; she didn’t much like those people. However, if anything was going to change her mind, what ‘Prise’ followed up with was a good start.

“Yup.” She nodded proudly. “We’re from Caellek.” Though she wanted to pry further into what he’d meant by Ike not being one of ‘his’ models, her excitement in having found someone who knew what they were talking about when it came to mechanics quickly took over, wagging her tongue for her.

“Ike’s made totally out of scraps from around the city- well, except for the condenser. I had to save up for that.” It had been worth it, though. Doing odd fix-ups for the neighborhood had taken a couple weeks, but in a humid climate like they were in now, the payoff was evident. She could run Ike almost constantly with the watter he could draw from the air and use as fuel. It was a genius setup, really, but hardly even in the top five when it came to the other various systems and capabilities built into him; especially from scrap parts. In reality, she could talk forever about her most prized creation- and as it was she had already tuned out the other two- but as a humming sound caught her ear and turned her gaze upwards, it seemed she wasn’t going to get the chance.

“Uhm.. Exiik?” Minna carefully interjected, cutting him off just as he introduced himself to the doctor-lady. To his credit, he didn’t seem overly uncomfortable with her standing so close and touching his arm, but Minna wasn’t about to let him be while Prise Rose-whatever was being carried away. Of course, he didn’t even seem to notice, and so she coughed as loudly as she could muster without hurting her throat, but nothing came of it. At least, not until the doctor snapped out of their conversation.

“What in the hell?” Exiik coughed, finally taking notice of the scene around him as Dr.Oktapuri’s attention moved elsewhere. Instinctively he reached for the throwing knives on his hip, but just as the doctor stayed the hand of a gun-toting soldier, so too did he stay his. Regardless, the situation was quickly getting worse, and it wasn’t more than a moment later that Prise fell from the bug’s grasp and into... into...

“Is that... a web?” Minna swallowed hard. Exiik just shook his head in disbelief before motioning for Minna to follow- which she did willingly- as they caught up with Dr.Oktapuri, looking ready to act.

“Plans?” Exiik asked, eyes on Prise and the bugs surrounding them. They were hardly comrades yet, but now was as good a time as any to start.

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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Sat 12 Nov - 21:47

Orin remained silent as the Sheriff eyed him, seemingly hesitant for the first time during their short conversation. And he neither spoke nor gave a nod to indicate that the Sheriff’s assessment was right. He wasn’t in it for the wealth that might possibly be gained. Nor the fame. And though he sensed that this knowledge was a sure way to gain a friend in the Nettic before him, he simply could not speak—not without the danger of more questions pertaining to his motives.

"Now don't you go scarin' the man Fulton."

A woman stepped up, one who seemed to be well acquainted with the Sheriff. Sheriff Fulton. Orin realized that neither of them had yet introduced themselves.

“Sheriff Molly.” The Nettic tipped his hat, his face brightening at the sight of his fellow Sheriff. Or, rather, his student. Orin looked between the Nettic and the Human as Sheriff Fulton handed the younger Sheriff a challenge. By the way they talked, it sounded like it had been quite some time—possibly years—since they’d seen each other. Work likely kept them apart, though, not a desire to avoid some past problem, disagreement, or misunderstanding.

He straightened up slightly as Molly’s eyes drifted over to him and loosened his hold on the standard ever so slightly. Beginning to feel more comfortable around the two, he wanted to give as good a first impression as he could, and that would simply not happen if he appeared paranoid that his standard might be snatched out of his webbed hand at any moment. If anyone wanted to go after a standard, though, he reasoned that other targets would be much more… lucrative. One of the Gnomes, for example. Some had come armed to the teeth, of course. But their generally short statures made them easier to overpower. Or that Human brat… Prise whatsit. He wouldn’t last a minute if someone set their eyes on his standard. Not without a contingent of goons at his side, at any rate.

A genuine smile came to his lips as the younger Sherif pronounced her judgment and then stuck out his hand. His own webbed one rose to meet hers and closed firmly over her own smaller hand to shake. “Orin Skarim, ma’am. Err, Sheriff,” he amended. “And yes. I appreciated his concern. But I doubt either of you can pass your standards on to anyone else either.”
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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Wed 16 Nov - 20:48

“I am Hackertoregarde of the Blefuscorin-Eegalphortimian horde,” Hack said, turning in mid air to face the approach of the other insects. “And this is her grace, the high queen of Peruscor and Lobbelfranchintaresqueorint,” he added, gesturing sweepingly with his standard to Frae, who bowed so deeply as to be considered mocking. Her mocking bow was unneeded, however, for the title Hack had bestowed upon her was commonly given among the insects when one intended only to ridicule visiting dignitaries. It was, in non-insect terms, Hack supposed, equivalent to claiming ownership of the Bridge or kingship of whatever lay beyond the Tear. “And we are most definitely broken of mind!”

“We fly as the wind blows,” Frae announced, lifting Prise’s stolen standard in the air victoriously.

“We strike fear into the its and take what we please,” Hack added. “No matter the odds.”

“Soldiers of fortune, that’s what we be.”

“And who needs tolerance when they shun us only for our superiority?”

“One less flag,” Frae said, finally dropping the pretense of grandness her voice had suggested and gesturing down to Prise. “In an its hands. That’s our goal, and if you and you and you care to join us in our Bridgely quest, then do so! We’ll show them how hard hell stings.”

Hack nodded, waving his standard around to encompass the whole encampment around the Gate in one gesture. “What these its—these Saemo and Gnomes and Humans and Nettics and every other stupid creature is is one lessening of a chance for the glorious future of insect rule. We have been chosen by our horde to combat the enemy and take what we can. If you are not with us, you are against us—choose us or them now.”
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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Thu 17 Nov - 2:19

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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Fri 18 Nov - 1:19

The spider girl simply stood in the water, seeming to forget Prise the moment he dropped from her arms. Which, he noted with some relief, she possessed only two of. For a moment, he had considered, realizing what she was, and what he had landed in, that she actually might intend to eat him. But the moment they reached the shore, it became obvious that this wasn't the case. Even if he didn't speak their language, Prise comprehended enough of the conversation between the newly arriving Insects and the ones that attacked him to realize the Insects were not on the same side, nor even together. He also noted with a certain degree of irritation that even the eight and no-legged varities of their species were still defined as 'Insect' in race, despite it defying the basic definition of the word.

"Worforschilvercherbah." The haughty, bee-looking bug was lamenting, and the invertebrate blob-like creature beside him made a quivering noise that made Prise's own spine shudder.

Slowly, Prise got to his feet, and the spider-girl's eyes were immediately upon him. Even if the pallette was all wrong... she could have passed for human, almost, if she had tried. He gave her an expression, and looked to the shore. It should have felt... lesser, to be forced into negotiations of any sort with such creatures. But somehow, the human element made it bearable.

The girl's response however, blasted any idea that she might have some link to humanity. She raised a single, furry leg, and make a noise that sounded like a hummingbird whooshing by- and then being gargled in some sort of fruit blender. Her expression never changed in the slightest; he could feel... Prise shuddered as he realized he actually could feel the emotions from the arachnid surging out, as soggy pheremones tingled on his senses. But where a normal human might have frowned, he simply felt a damp, influence, that told him she was unsure of what to do with him, with the distinct impression that he should simply leave her alone. It was both disturbingly honest, this way of conveying emotions- and horrifying. He felt, if he didn't obey it, like it wouldn't be beyond the pheremones power to actually compel his body into doing it of its own accord, and even now he felt some tinge of personal irk that he knew was not his own.

"Thank you," he managed, lamely. The spider simply stared at him, not comprehending the very human gesture at all. This did rise a personal irk in Prise, and he scowled when he turned away from her, any fear of being struck from behind thoroughly banished.

With the incident over, Prise finally allowed himself to realize that he was soaked to the bone. His fancy clothes had, fortunately, not been the kind that would shrink in the wash, but the plopping noises he made all the way up the beach were more than enough to tell him that they would have to be dried for days before he would be able to use them again. Days he didn't have, even if he did have the clothes to back this set up. He would almost certainly have to leave them behind.

"I see you made a friend," Dr.Oktapuri offered as he approached, and was instantly at his side. Something about the way she touched him made Prise dinstinctively irked- the feeling that he was being pitied in some way overwhelming any gratitude he should have felt for her instant service.

"I am not," Prise declared, angrily, swiping her hand away. "A damsel in distress."

Oktapuri frowned. "I never said you were."

Prise stood at his full height... Which, while not considerable, was a fancier feat than it would have been had he not been covered in enough water to almost double his clothes weight. Mustering all of the class he could, he gave a small and confident nod to Minnaya, eyeing her vehicle with somewhat new eyes after her explanation... and his incident.

"Scrap or not," Prise said, with as much gusto as he could. "I prefer your bug."

* * *

"I'm... not sure we can even make a plan for that..." Dr.Oktapuri blinked at the strange, buggy scene unveiling itself at the coast. Prise seemed safe. Despite all of the other action the bugs had caused, she did make that her first priority- she wasn't, after all, a slacker employee. Or someone who let people get bugged out of nowhere. Unless, of course, they wanted to be. She could think of a few positive uses of the word 'bugging' right off hand... and a few of them involved some very interesting joint flexing.

Anywho, Prise seemed safe. Bringing herself to the task at hand, she saw that he had at least sat up on the beach, where the bugs continued conversing with one another in their uninterpretible tongue (not entirely outside of a the everyman's grasp, but the level of study needed to learn even the basics of the language as a typical race would be staggering). The fact that no one was swooping to snatch him again struck her as a positive- but she felt at the same time like any swooping of her own would be considered an intrusion in the recognizably tense faceoff between the two Insect groups. So she, cautiously, waited, and could see beside her that the Lieutenet had secretively realigned his aim without bringing the gun in his hands fully to bear. Were something to go down, her own reaction would not be the first to move to Prise's aid.

Fortunately, this didn't seem to be neccessary. Prise rose, of his own accord, and as he began his soggy walk back, Dr.Oktapuri turned back to Exiik with a relieved smile... and a bit of a flirtatious edge as well. She couldn't help herself.

"That's that I guess." Dr.Oktapuri shrugged, and ran her hand over the back of Exiik's jacket, circling him once and then resting her head on the shoulder of the Fhirdin Lieutenet in turn. "But I have to thank you. I'm so lucky to have two men so ready to leap to my aid."

"You know..." Oktapuri began, but the Lieutenet cleared his throat and she stopped, looking to him.

"Could you... stop leaning on me please?" The Fhirdin's voice had a polite, requesting tone that seemed remarkably unaffected by the attention he was getting. "You're throwing off my aim."

The flatness of his tone was enough to surprise Dr.Oktapuri, and she raised an eyebrow to Exiik, much more pleased with the reactions she had been getting out of him. Compliantly, she released the soldier, who gave her a slight nod before seeming to lose interest in her entirely.

By this point however, Dr.Oktapuri's attempt to speak with Exiik again was interrupted by Prise's arrival. A certain protective urge coming into her, she put on her cheerist tone and slid up next to him, waving at the spider girl and already trying to move on from the incident.

"I see you made a friend," she offered, but was surprised when her hand was pushed off of him.

"I am not a damsel in distress." Prise insisted.

"I never said you were..." Dr.Oktapuri frowned, but was beginning to understand now why he felt so irked. Saved first from the Pceriform and then the Insect, he was bound to feel as if his pride were being injured, even if he had come out (relatively) unscathed from both incidents. Before she could offer any apology however, he had already turned his attention to Minna. And Dr.Oktapuri, accordingly, turned hers to Exiik.

"What I was trying to say..." Oktapuri frowned. "Is that I think I should be getting to my cabin now. Y'know. To get naked."

THAT brought Prise's attention back. Unable to restrain it, the doctor smiled. "Annnd then put on my travel gear. What, you thought I was gonna wear this skimpy thing for the entire trip?"

Oktapuri giggled when Prise only rolled his eyes in response. She would give him credit- he wasn't blushing this time. Yet.

"Nawww. I do own real clothes. As dissapointing as I'm sure that is." Dr.Oktapuri poked Prise's nose with her finger, though she was eyeing Exiik now too. "If you hurry, maybe you can help me change into them..." She eyed Exiik coyly... and then cut the dream short "Too late," Dr.Oktapuri sped out with a happy, singsong note, before either had a chance to respond.

"You were offering to help?" Prise took up, and Oktapuri grumbled at how quickly he had regained poise. Now, the young boy was addressing Exiik. "The insect took my flag. But up the hill, a man who already possesses one took one of theirs."

How... Oktapuri blinked, realizing that, while he may have been spouting hot air, Prise's actual senses were nothing to be scoffed at. She could barely see back into the merchant's alley from her spot- to have spotted it from the air, or even once he'd landed, would take the kind of better-than-perfect vision that only Prise's own senses could offer. And if he had noticed, that explained why the boy hadn't immediately burst into a rage at the loss of his own Standard. He had already been formulating a plan to get a new one.

"That means he should be open to negotiation." Prise continued evenly to Exiik. "If you could obtain it from him for me... I would consider it a big favor."

* * *

"Molly will do fine," Molly said, frowning at the Pceriform's comment. Mostly because it was true.

She knew why Fulton was there. It was the same reason she had come. It was because she wasn't willing to risk the lives of anyone else in her town... Well, worse, her city-state, by sending them off instead. It wasn't something she'd risk on any passerby. And it wasn't something she was willing to seel her standard over either. The Rhoda Scorpions had meant business in their day. She had never had the chance to see one... but Fulton had told her enough stories to make her know that if they set their minds to something, even after all their losses, the odds were they could still acheive it. Even if it was something as crazy sounding as the destruction of an entire City-State by a single armed squad.

Toughness. It came with the badge. Molly had a responsibility to hold up the peace- even when it meant doing something as crazy as this. And while every step of it reeked with suspicion, she knew she was tough enough to see it to the end. That was perhaps the biggest reason she and Fulton had come down to Eban. By taking the Standards themselves, they made certain that they were the only ones being put at risk. And, as the toughest sons-a-Argoyles around, those were risks they were willing to take.

"Yer right," Fulton said heavily, taking up the reply before Molly could, and meeting Orin's eye. "We cain't. But that don't mean we like it."

Well... Molly wouldn't go so far as to deny the adventure of what was ahead. But, though it brought a small frown to her face, she offered a nod. If only to back Fulton up.

"I reckon you're already seeing what the next who-knows-how-long is gonna be like." Fulton nodded to the unveilings on the beach, which he had only barely restrained himself from joining. And were, though he'd never admit it... A bit too fast moving for his bones to have really helped in anyway. "But if yer as mighty determined as I reckon we are..."

"What I think the Sherrif's askin' in his own roundabout way," Molly interjected, taking over. "Is for yer help in keepin' the peace when we reach the other side here. Not all of us are in this for some fancy prize. The more o' those folk, and erry-one else, that make it home in one piece, the better."

* * *

The three noble insects bore Hack and Frae's mockery with the creepy stillness that only insects can truly possess. When they finished their bizarre rant, Kreifer clicked his two scythe-like hands together with little clinking sounds, like a spoon on china, and glared... errr stared... Gave some sort of angry gaze in their direction, his eyes swivveling so that one followed each Hack and Frae with a vague disgust.

"It is worse than we processed..." Kriefer shuddered, as the list of mocking names ran through his head. "They are... They are..." The bee-like insect struggled for the right word, and, at last, grunted/hissed it out. "Peasants."

"MMMMMRRRRPPPHHH" BLOB! asserted, and Kreifer grumbled, making a small chittery noise.

"Yes, we do suppose that in a society founded upon selective but cooperative breeding and interchanging of superior genetic traits that every individual serves its unique and ultimately equal role within the interlocking networks that allow it to successfully function. And to demean or debase solely on the principle of property-ownership puts us at a vainest style of thought unbefitting our cooperative, organized, base natures." Kreifer repeated the other nobles words with a tone of awkwardly perfect recollection, as if needing to repeat the intricacies of it before he began making his own point. Which, as it turned out, was simple.

"But they're so uncouth. And their sensory appendages seem in proper shape for such lunacy of statements." Kriefer made a sawing sound, equivalent to a snort. "We dislike them."

"Mmmrph." BLOB! didn't argue with that.

"What do I do with it?" Theza asked, and Kriefer swivvled his body, examining the it gawking at them from the sands.

"We do not care. We have had our point made." Kriefer glared... stared... Whatever gesture it was, it made both eyes swivvel towards Hack at once. "We will not be drawn into the lunatic scheme of the unthinkers. Clearly your hatchery was one of great malnourishment for something with so little smartness and so weak a limbly arrangement to think it could usher in any age. If any are to do the ushering, it would be we and our companions."

"Mmmrph." BLOB! offered with a squelch.

"Yes. We also wonder how the capture of one of your horde-kin is accounted for in this plan of conquest. We think before you dismiss the its so outright, you should consider the stupidness your actions have already brought upon you." Kreifer made a high pitched twitter. "And think of any grouping under us and our companions to be an honor to you, not to our superior traited form."

"Go ahead, small thing." Theza was meanwhile offering to the it in front of her, confused and irritated as it did not leave immediately, but trying to keep a gentle tone of chittering.. "Go take solace in your birth-mother place. Chkchk..." The young queen stumbled. "Land-hive? Home?"
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PostSubject: Re: LWC: L@Y3r3:D wOrld c0ZcepT   Tue 22 Nov - 22:01

A contemplative look spread across Orin’s face as Sheriffs Fulton and Molly together made their request of him—that he aid them in keeping the peace as soon as they crossed the Gate. It was a fair request, and one that Orin would be happy to fill… but the fact was that they were up against the unknown. And… it would likely be only the three of them dedicated to keeping the peace up against everyone else who entered the Gates. Orin didn’t like those odds, though he had to admit that it was better than nothing.

But… but that was not what was truly giving Orin pause. Ordinarily, Orin knew that he wouldn’t have hesitated to agreeing the Sheriffs’ request. ~It ain’t the money that yer after, then…~ Sheriff Fulton had said that. And though it was true… Orin wasn’t sure that he wanted to tell either Sheriff Fulton or Molly that if he got the chance, he would indeed be taking a portion of whatever lay beyond the bridge. That was what Peltier wanted, after all. Proof. And if the opportunity to take it peacefully never came, Orin would not hesitate to resort to using force. He didn’t care if it was gold, silver, or the some hallowed scepter to rule the world. Peltier would have it. And if Orin had to make the choice somewhere down the line between siding with Sheriffs Fulton and Molly… and carrying out Peltier’s demands….

“I don’t know what good we’ll do, outnumbered twenty to one as we will be,” Orin said, squaring his shoulders as he looked towards the colossal Gates. “But by the Ocean, you can count on me. I’ll do my best to help you in any way I can.” With the promise spoken, Orin transferred his standard to his left hand and stuck out his right to shake with the sheriffs and formalize their pledge.
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