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  1. - Top - End - #1201
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Dorizzit's Avatar

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    Default Re: Flight From Ironheart IC

    Quote Originally Posted by Inspectre View Post
    For example, I can't pair Mar up with Korram, because Korram will just punch Istomilo in the face until he leaves!
    You say that like it would be a bad thing. ()
    Truly awesome Ark Tamaeus avatar by Bryn. Full size version here.

  2. - Top - End - #1202
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Flight From Ironheart IC

    What did I just say? THE_SNARK MUST SUFFER!!! How is Korram punching Istomilo in the face on Mar's behalf going to help my accomplish that crucial goal? Unless, of course . . . you're suggesting that Korram is actually going to come in and punch Mar as well, in some sort of kinky matchmaking where Korram forces Istomilo and Mar to . . . get along.
    I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.

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  3. - Top - End - #1203
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Flight From Ironheart IC

    That's a really hilarious mental image.
    Truly awesome Ark Tamaeus avatar by Bryn. Full size version here.

  4. - Top - End - #1204
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    Default Re: Flight From Ironheart IC

    Quote Originally Posted by Inspectre View Post
    What did I just say? THE_SNARK MUST SUFFER!!! How is Korram punching Istomilo in the face on Mar's behalf going to help my accomplish that crucial goal? Unless, of course . . . you're suggesting that Korram is actually going to come in and punch Mar as well, in some sort of kinky matchmaking where Korram forces Istomilo and Mar to . . . get along.
    Death is not an end, but a transformation... into an orgy.
    Like dragons and/or allegory? A little writing project I'm working on. Check back for updates, and feedback is always appreciated!

  5. - Top - End - #1205
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    Default Re: Flight From Ironheart IC

    Can someone who is dead... commit suicide? [/philosoraptor]
    Deo Soli Sit Semper Gloria

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    Quote Originally Posted by Innis Cabal View Post
    Its offical. Overwilliam is Duke Devlin.

  6. - Top - End - #1206
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Inspectre's Avatar

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    Default Re: Flight From Ironheart IC

    (As a note, my intent is to have Ander sitting in his office one night back in the cathedral city of Luxien at the start of the game. Presumably, looking over maps of the Hells and figuring out what to do, but that detail can probably be decided by you. I'll also let you decide the initial course of the RP, and just do some quick scene setting for you).

    Miriam turns and walks away from you. The body of the young girl She had taken as Her avatar was nearly in disparate pieces at this point, and it's a wonder that the girl can even move. It would not be long before Miriam returned to the Heavens now, regardless of what She did next. Behind you, the city finishes collapsing in on itself, and all around you the field is littered with the charred bodies of Gazrul's men - another . . . well, not quite man, but person who gave his life in defense of the Valkyrie.

    "The paladins and the rest of my sisters are gathering on a hillside on the far side of the city."

    Melissan says.

    "I can take you there if you wish."
    I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.

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  7. - Top - End - #1207
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    Baerdog7's Avatar

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    Ander Windrivver

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    (As a note, my intent is to have Ander sitting in his office one night back in the cathedral city of Luxien at the start of the game. Presumably, looking over maps of the Hells and figuring out what to do, but that detail can probably be decided by you. I'll also let you decide the initial course of the RP, and just do some quick scene setting for you).
    Sounds great.


    The king is dead...long live the king... Ander mutters as he watches the last few blocks of Narle collapse into the Hells.

    That should have been you.

    "The paladins and the rest of my sisters are gathering on a hillside on the far side of the city."

    Melissan says.

    "I can take you there if you wish."

    Ander nods weakly at Melissan and follows her to the survivors with Hephestia taking up the rear. It was hard to call what happened here today a victory. Sure, they had put an end to the Baron's plan but Crane had been right in the end: the victory had come on a mountain of ash and corpses.

    That should have been you.

    Countless lives had been lost on every side but Ander yet lived. Ander, veteran paladin of a thousand campaigns. Ander who survived the demon attack on his village, Ander who survived the Crusades, Ander who survived death to be sent back to Creation, Ander who had surived Ironheart, Ander who had survived the Battle of Narle. Was it his fate to survive, alone, while everybody around him was crushed into nothingness by a cold, uncaring world?

    That should have been you.

    Theme music. (I've had this in mind for the ending of Flight for about two years now.)

    His torpor is broken as Melissan leads him over the final hill and he casts his eyes on the ragged survivors of the battle. Paladins, refugees, Exarch Tyra and...

    ...YSORA!

    His exhaustion is forgotten as Ander rushes over to the archangel, entangling her in a vice-like embrace.

    I was going to come for you but there was... He chokes on the words. Thank the gods.

    After a small eternity, Ander releases Ysora and turns back to Tyra.

    Tyra...thank you. Without your help in Luxien and here today I'm not sure if any of us would have survived. I would be deeply honored if you would continue to aid us in rebuilding the Church.

    Finally, he turns back to the assembled survivors. If ever there was a time for a rousing speech, something to bolster their faith and make them feel good about their sacrifices, now would be the time for it.

    Let's go home.

    With a heavy heart, Ander Windrivver, Lord General of the Crusade, Grandmaster of Dawn's Hope, Last Hero of Ironheart, led his people on the long march back to Cathedral City and an uncertain future.

    The sun shall shine,
    Through darkest cloud,
    Following blackest night,
    Again and again,
    To fill the world with the light.

    So don’t frown,
    And don’t cry,
    The Lightbringer smiles
    Upon thee, Fear not,
    The Sun shall shine.
    Last edited by Baerdog7; 2012-07-15 at 02:34 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Baerdog: super genius.

  8. - Top - End - #1208
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Inspectre's Avatar

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    Default Re: Flight From Ironheart IC

    At the ferocity of your hug, Ysora sputters in surprise, but after a moment’s hesitation she returns the friendly embrace, albeit uncertainly. Which is probably just as well, because if she had hugged you back with the same intensity you probably wouldn’t have a spine or ribcage left.

    “I know you would have. It’s alright.”

    Ysora says tiredly.

    “I had other people to help me.”

    She continues, looking back over her shoulder at the disjointed mess of raised and lowered earth that was now all that was left of Narle. Katashiko had been here, clearly – you had seen her with Hondshioh but there had not been any time to talk – preparations for this battle had to be made. Now she was gone, and so was Hondshioh, and there was barely anyone left to talk to.
    Of her mystery helper, Ysora said nothing else, although given her mournful expression upon gazing at the chaotic monument Katashiko had left, it was easy to figure out what had happened there. One more good man’s soul wasted in the Hells. At least he would have plenty of company.

    Looking over your shoulder, Ysora’s brow suddenly wrinkles in confusion as she notices your small group’s rearguard. Noticing Ysora’s attention, the woman looks away quickly, but her face had already been seen.

    “Hephestia?”

    Ysora asked, prompting a sigh from your newest pupil.

    “Hello Ysora.”

    “What happened to you!? Did . . . did Demetrius . . .?”

    “No. *This* is to be my punishment, as decreed by our Lady. May Her will be done.”

    Hephestia muttered without enthusiasm, angrily gesturing at herself. Immediately a smile flickered on Ysora’s face, cutting through the exhaustion and grief. The archangel had to fight to hold back her laughter, although a few giggles still leaked into her voice.

    “I see, hee, that our Lady still, heh, has a sense of irony at least.”

    “So glad you find this amusing. Now my shame can be complete.”

    Hephestia growled, whirling about with the clear intention of stomping off. However, she was still not quite used to her new body, and so her feet got tangled up in each other. The archangel-turned-human went down hard, throwing one arm out to catch herself and managing to scrape the heel of her palm open. Wincing, Hephestia pushed herself back up, looking down at the blood welling up from her palm while her face flushed a charming shade of pink. Ysora was no longer laughing now, and gently broke your grip before walking towards her.

    “Let me talk a look at that, sister. I’m sure I can –“

    “No. Forget it. And forget me – I’m no longer your sister. Remember?”

    Hephestia said, sucking on her palm a moment before turning and running back down the hill, this time managing not to trip over her own feet. Ysora moved to follow, but then simply sighed and stood her ground, shaking her head. Meanwhile, the sight of Tyra lying nearby on a stretcher caught your eye, and you moved over to stand over her and express your gratitude. The last Exarch of the Church merely looked away at your praise.

    “I’m not sure you want the assistance of a traitor, Ander. Lord General Hondshioh may have absolved me of my sins, but if you would rather have someone to answer for the Council’s crimes, I am your last chance. I know that all my help here cannot wash away what I was a part of – nothing I do ever will.”

    Tyra sighs and nods down at her heavily bandaged and splinted leg.
    “But if you would rather have me face a lifetime of atonement rather than a heretic’s stake, I will do whatever needs to be done for the good of the Church. After I am back up on my feet, that is.”

    If there was ever a time for one of your motivations speeches, you had to admit that this was it as you looked around at the bedraggled survivors of the Church, and at the assembled crowd of frightened civilians. Unfortunately, you had nothing for any of them – the words just wouldn’t come. And so instead you simply set the wheels in motion for you all to start walking away from this disaster.

    Along the way, you were sure to stop by a number of villages to get supplies and drop off the assembled civilians, but Luxien was the intended destination of the remaining paladins. All told, it would take you a week or more for your battered column to walk all the way back there. You could potentially try to use Zariel’s teleportation circle again, but without the former Lord of Blood available to work the magic, that seemed like a dangerous path to take.
    As you turn to start walking down with the others, you hear someone approaching and a soft feminine voice call out your name.
    “Ander.”

    Turning, you take a moment to recognize the woman now standing before you. It is Rose, Seraph’s wife, looking almost as dirt and blood stained as she had been beneath Ironheart, and now with a scrap of cloth roughly tied around one side of her face, over the eye (a new wound from the Battle, or something inflicted between Ironheart and now?)

    “I wanted to know if you have seen my husband. Seraph went back into the city with the other paladins, but the ones who returned on Akor all melted away into the crowd before I was able to approach any of them. I had hoped perhaps you had heard . . . something.”

    A glimmer of hope flickered in Rose’s remaining eye, but the downturn of her lips suggested she already knew what the answer was going to be. Still, despite the hard lines that had been etched into her face by what she had experienced over the past several months, including what happened below Ironheart, her back was straight. This was someone who could take the truth, even if it only confirmed their worst fears.

    (I don’t know if you want to hold a detailed conversation with Rose right now, so I’m just going to sweep ahead to the night time).
    **********
    Later that evening, which really was only a few hours later, your ragged column was setting up camp. Those paladins who were still able to stand had been starting to draw lots over who would stand guard during the night, but the angels had insisted on that duty instead, allowing everyone to get a full night’s rest. You are just starting to make a final round of the camp before drifting off to an uneasy sleep yourself when the flap of your tent flies open. A moment later, and Hephestia comes barging in, looking rather agitated.

    “Ander. I-I think something’s gone wrong with my transformation.”
    Hephestia holds up her one, now scabbed-over, hand to show that it is shaking as she continued.

    “I’m starting to feel light-headed, and a terrible gnawing pain has started to form in my abdomen. You are a human – what’s wrong with me!?”
    I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.

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  9. - Top - End - #1209
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    Baerdog7's Avatar

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    Ander Windrivver

    “I’m not sure you want the assistance of a traitor, Ander. Lord General Hondshioh may have absolved me of my sins, but if you would rather have someone to answer for the Council’s crimes, I am your last chance. I know that all my help here cannot wash away what I was a part of – nothing I do ever will.”

    Tyra sighs and nods down at her heavily bandaged and splinted leg.
    “But if you would rather have me face a lifetime of atonement rather than a heretic’s stake, I will do whatever needs to be done for the good of the Church. After I am back up on my feet, that is.”

    A week ago, I would have slain you without a second thought just as Miriam would have wanted but...I can't be that man any more. You were complicit in some horrible things but unlike your compatriots, you eventually chose to abandon that path. I have to believe that Miriam and Hephestia were wrong and that humans can be better...if given the chance. You can do much more good during a lifetime of atonement than you can on a stake.

    Ander lays his hands on Tyra's injured leg, suffusing it with a golden glow as the tissues knit themselves back together.

    Please don't prove me wrong.

    *********

    Ander can only shake his head. Another brave man claimed by the Hells.

    I'm sorry, Rose. Ander puts his hands on the widow's shoulders turns her toward him. He would have wanted you to know that he loves you, I'm sure of it. He wraps Rose in a gentle hug before moving one hand up to the bandage covering her right eye. If he can't heal the emotional scars, maybe he can at least heal the physical ones. I can help you with your eye if you'd like. Tonight, when we make camp.

    The paladin is silent for a moment while he leads Rose back to the caravan.

    I'd like you to come back to Luxien with me...for a little while anyway, unless you have somewhere else to be. It may be cruel of me to ask this of you so soon but I...I could really use some insight into the Baron's side of this catastrophe. Maybe it will help me begin to make sense of things.

    **********

    “Ander. I-I think something’s gone wrong with my transformation.”
    Hephestia holds up her one, now scabbed-over, hand to show that it is shaking as she continued.

    “I’m starting to feel light-headed, and a terrible gnawing pain has started to form in my abdomen. You are a human – what’s wrong with me!?”

    Ander's blinks blankly at Hephestia until his battered mind puts the pieces together.

    Oh! Ooohhh, that's serious. Ander says as he rushes over to her, the very picture of concern. He takes her hand in his, inspecting the scab. Placing a palm on her head to check her temperature he shakes his head. There's only one thing we can do for this. Quick, follow me!

    Ander drags Hephestia out of his tent by her good hand and rushes through the camp, zigging and zagging through tents and fire puts until they reach their destination: the mess tent. Leaving a bewildered Hephestia outside, Ander dashes inside the tent and returns a few minutes later with his medicine: two trenchers of stew and a wine skin.

    Good news! You're just hungry, a side effect of being human is having to eat.

    Ander chuckles, handing Hephestia one of the trenchers and a spoon while leading her to a rocky outcropping at the edge of camp where they can eat without being disturbed. He gingerly takes a seat on the rocks, wincing at the day's pains and glad for once that he was out of his armor. He eats quietly, content to look at the stars until Hephestia breaks the silence (or not).
    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Baerdog: super genius.

  10. - Top - End - #1210
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Flight From Ironheart IC

    After you channel healing energy into Tyra’s wound, she removes the bandages and gingerly pokes at the reformed flesh for a moment. Seemingly satisfied, she flexes the muscles and then dares to put weight on it, pushing herself back up to a standing position.

    “Thank you. I was going to let whatever healing we had left go to the gravely wounded and the civilians – my leg would have healed well enough on its own in time.”

    Tyra manages a slight smile and stomps her healed leg, and then smiles a bit more.

    “I’m not going to say no to being back up on my feet early, though! Whenever you want to talk about your plans for what happens next, come looking for me. I’ll be doing my best to tend the remaining wounded.”

    Then she walks off, joining a group of filthy civilians. Without hesitation she shrugs a wounded child onto her shoulders, allowing the two adults to focus more on helping the elderly woman with them. What you had said to her was true – humans could be petty, selfish, and corrupt – but if given the chance they could be so much more. You had to cling to that belief, because without even that you were hopelessly lost.

    ********

    For a moment, the brave woman’s face crumbles into sorrow as she nods.

    “I-I know.”

    She gasps, struggling to keep her emotions in check. She looks up at the sun, beginning its descent towards the horizon for a moment, and then back at you. Her mask was back in place, and although she accepted your comforting hug she did not respond in kind. At your offer she blinks in surprise a moment, and then self-consciously reaches a hand up to adjust the makeshift bandage covering up the missing eye.

    “Thank you. I . . . I am not sure yet if I will take you up on that offer. I’ve gotten used to it now, and I’m not sure if I want to cover up what I’ve been through anymore. And I . . . have been through a lot. Why shouldn’t everyone see that right up front? Maybe it’ll even make them think twice about underestimating me!”

    Rose steps away from you, but then pauses and looks back.

    “I will consider it, however. And . . . yes. Yes, I will accompany you to Luxien. I don’t know how much help I will be - I wasn’t exactly privy to the innermost plans of the Baron. However, I would like to send a message on ahead to my father. I haven’t heard anything from him since the wedding, and I’m worried about him . . . and a friend of mine who he was traveling with.”

    Rose forces a smile on her face, briefly struggling with emotion again.
    “I just want to know that they’re both alright! That’s all. Now I need to get back – I have another dear friend who has been badly injured . . . actually, would you be able to help her instead?”

    (Just to nip this in the bud, it’s not really possible for Ander to heal Countess Amelia’s broken spine. Too much delicate fleshy bits to put back together just right – Ander and angels could get better from such a thing, but that’s because they have regeneration, which puts everything back together exactly as it was. External healing generally isn’t so specific to fix things like that – and it’s usually the same with missing limbs and such. Even regenerating Rose’s eye would be a stretch, but I’m seriously considering that one because it would be cool. )

    ***************

    You hear Hephestia making protesting noises and half-formed questions at you as you hurriedly lead her through the camp. When you get to your destination and explain the source of her ills to her, Hephestia is, suffice it to say, not amused.

    “Wonderful. I suppose after swallowing this disgusting foreign matter, I will need to defecate it back out as well? What other wonders do I have to look forward to as a human, Ander – becoming periodically comatose for hours every day!?”

    Oh, if only she knew. Fortunately, she was willing to shut up for a bit and follow you to a quiet part of the camp and sit down to handle her human problems one at a time. She looks at the trencher for a moment, stirring her spoon through it with a look of disgust. After a moment, she sighs and looks at you, watching as you bring the first few spoonfuls up to your mouth. Then she copies the motion, and slurps the stew into her mouth, only managing to get about half of it in her mouth, the rest spilling out onto the ground. The half of the spoonful that does go into her mouth is almost immediately spat back out, and Hephestia winces.

    “It’s hot! How am I supposed to eat this!? Are all humans so sadistic that they cause such an ingrained part of their existence as eating to inflict pain?”

    But, despite her irritation, Hephestia tries again, a bit more carefully this time. She still makes a face and shudders in revulsion as she swallows the stew. But then the hunger takes over, and she almost mechanically shovels the rest of the trencher’s contents into her mouth. Finally, she sets the empty trencher aside and hunches her shoulders. The two of you sit in silence for a few minutes, and then Hephestia clears her throat.

    “I don’t think I can do this. I’ve only been one of you for a few hours, and I can’t imagine how I will be able to endure sixty years of this . . . this torture! You suffer from so many compulsions, and are punished if you don’t satisfy them! Have to breathe, have to eat, have to sleep . . . and then there’s all the other even less savory actions that you humans “have” to do!”

    Hephestia hunches her shoulders further and shakes her head violently.

    “Is that what’s really wrong with you – us, humans!? There’s some sort of self-destructive compulsion within you, that drives you to turn away from the Valkyrie’s commands!? If so, how can you possibly not satisfy it like all the other compulsions that guide your every action!? How can anyone?”
    I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.

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  11. - Top - End - #1211
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    Baerdog7's Avatar

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    Ander Windrivver
    Battle Philosopher

    Ander sets aside his own empty trencher and uncorks the wine skin, taking a deep swig before passing it to Hephestia.

    Many years ago, after I left the Church, I was wandering through some desert far to the southeast of here. I'd been lost for weeks in this desert just walking in circles in the scorching heat. My horse had died, I was out of food, and eventually ran out of water too. I knew I was going to die out there, stranded in a sea of sand dunes chasing mirage after mirage.

    He chuckles softly, lost in the memory.

    The third day after my last water skin ran out I collapsed in the shade of what must have, literally, been the only tree in the goddamned desert. It was a tiny, scrawny thing. Barely gave any shade but that didn't really matter to me anyway at that point. I don't know how long I was passed out but eventually I woke up hear strange voices above me and someone was dribbling water down my throat.

    Apparently in that desert, as harsh as it is, was home to a number of nomadic tribes and I had been found by one of them. These people, total strangers, pulled my ass out of the sand and led me back to their home. They gave me water, fed me, and let me stay for a few days until I was recuperated. When I was well enough to leave, they gave me some supplies and a map to the nearest outpost where I caught a caravan back to civilization. I'm sure they didn't really have the supplies to spare on an outsider like me but that didn't matter to them. They saw a traveler in need and they saved my life without even asking for anything in return.


    He slides down on the rocks to get a better view of the stars.

    There's a lot of good in the world, if you bother to look for it. In all my travels I've learned that most people want to put a roof over their head, food on the table, and make sure their family is cared for without having to worry too much about dying from some horrible disease or senseless war.

    The marked man turns back to Hephestia, gauging her reaction.

    But then some people are different, like the Baron. A man who craved power for its own sake.

    I don't really have an answer to your question, Hephestia, but it's been on my mind. Remember that humans were not just born of Miriam's blood but Azguloth's as well. Maybe our capacity for great evil and great good is a consequence of that dual heritage. Maybe it is a side effect of our natural curiosity as a species. We aren't as long-lived as elves or dwarves…or angels. The spectre of the Reaper's scythe is always hanging over our heads and as a species I think it inspires our need to explore, to create, to learn. To wonder how far we can go and what will happen when we get there.


    Ander sits all the way up and jabs a finger at Hephestia, his voice now carrying a hard edge.

    And what gives the Valkyrie the right to put us all to the sword? What is the point of exterminating the entire species for the actions of an evil few? She would have had me burn the Church to the ground and slaughter every small-town priest and nun if the Council could not be brought to justice to satisfy her spite. She said that if I couldn't do it, she'd come down herself and wipe the slate clean and do you know what I did?

    He waits for a reaction before answering.

    I shouted her down! I told her to screw herself in the middle of her throne room in front of four grandmasters and Athelion! Oh, I would purge the Church but I would not kill innocents to do it.

    He shudders and lays back down, his anger spent for now.

    I don't know what draws men to evil but I also can't reconcile the Miriam I met with the Miriam I was brought up to worship and lay down my life for. I was taught that because I was strong it was my duty to defend the weak. Because I was good it was my duty to punish the wicked. As a paladin, it was my duty to be a beacon of righteousness who could exercise justice tempered with mercy. How can I hold up my vows when Miriam doesn't follow them herself? You answer me that.
    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Baerdog: super genius.

  12. - Top - End - #1212
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Flight From Ironheart IC

    Hephestia cautiously accepts the wine skin, sniffing it and making faces again. Nonetheless, she takes a swig, and apparently immediately regrets it as she sputters and spits the majority of her sip back out. She gasps for air a moment, blinking her eyes rapidly.

    “Oh, ugh . . . I repeat what I said about humans are their sadism regarding what they consume!”

    Even so, the former archangel pauses a moment, and then takes another swig. She manages to keep most of this one down, although she still shivers in disgust and wipes at her mouth, trying to spit the taste back out. She hands you the wine skin back, and then patiently listens to your story. At your conclusion, she thinks for a moment, and then nods.

    “Perhaps that is why I cannot understand humans. But why then did Melcara and Morganna likewise turn their backs?”

    When you continue with angry accusations against Miriam, the old habits of the archangel flare back up. Hephestia straightens as well, and her nostrils flare briefly in anger. When she answers, her voice is even, but hard and just as accusatory.

    “How like a human to consider only the short term! What do you think would happen if you left one tiny sprout of that corruption? After you patted yourself on the back for a job well-done and left the Church in the hands of your capable successors and returned to the Heavens? Years would pass – decades, centuries maybe, but in the end your “loyal” followers would forget. Humanity *always* forgets, and then they embrace blasphemy AGAIN! Do you really think Miriam only cares about the souls of this generation, or the next!? No, She cares about *all* of humanity - *every* generation, from now until the end of time. And do you know what the truly sad thing is? She refuses to give up, even after humanity betrays Her trust again, and again, and again!”

    Hephestia gestures angrily at you.

    “You are right when you say that humans are childrens of both Miriam and Azguloth – and I say that in the end, they will choose to side with their bastard father every time! There are no innocent humans, Ander, not even you. And if I was not trapped in this, this *ridiculous* cage of weak flesh, I would tell you exactly what *you* have done to disappoint the Valkyrie! No, not your defiance of Her commands, but the petty crimes you have committed, the little cruelties you have inflicted over a long life, and never thought about nor remember! And yet She made you Her chosen champion, Her representative to return to the land of the living – an honor that is unheard of being bestowed upon a human! What do you think that says for the rest of humanity if you’re the best She had to work with!?”

    Out of breath now, Hephestia stops to suck in great gasps of breath, silent for the moment as she collects herself. She rubs her eyes in frustration, and then sighs, seemingly to slowly calm herself. When she continues, her voice still has an edge, but it is once again calm.

    “Can you even imagine Her disappointment? She is omnipotent and all-knowing. She can see not only the path that a person will take, but every other path that they could take instead. She knows exactly how beautiful the world could be, and yet this – this is the best that it gets. You say that the Valkyrie is not merciful? Then why are you still here, having spat directly in Her face? Why is Humanity still here, gleefully wasting Her precious gift of life on the trinkets that Azguloth’s minions offer?”

    With a sigh Hephestia pushes herself up to her feet.

    “If you wish to debate this further, we shall have to do it at another time. I am starting to develop what I believe you humans call a “headache”, and my body is weary. I suppose that means it is time to fall comatose until morning.”

    A shadow passes over Hephestia face, and she turns away as if to go, and but then stops and turns back. She works her heel into the dirt nervously, and clears her throat several times before speaking again.

    “Ander . . . I have no desire to flirt with impropriety, but I was wondering if I could spend the night in your tent – merely as a guest!”
    Hephestia says, the flush returning to her cheeks as she hurriedly stumbles along.

    “I don’t feel safe in the camp. As I understand it, I will be unconscious, unaware of my surroundings while I am . . . comatose. I will therefore be helpless. How do I know that one of these other humans won’t be overcome by these . . . base compulsions that plague your – our kind? Or decide that they know better than the Valkyrie, as their leader has, and avenge those humans I slayed?”

    Hephestia shrugs and smiles weakly.

    “You had your opportunity to kill me – or, leave me to a far worse fate, and yet you risked your own soul to preserve mine. And your wife is waiting for you in the Heavens – and I am sure she would not be happy to learn that you had used your return to the mortal realm . . . improperly. I . . . I trust you.”

    Hephestia sighs and hunches her shoulders again.

    “Please?”
    I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.

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  13. - Top - End - #1213
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    Ander Windrivver

    Ander stands frozen mid-stride for a moment, taken aback by Hephestia's brief moment of weakness.

    Yeah, that'd be fine. I should have made sure you had a bed sooner, probably. You can use the cot, I'll sleep in the chair.

    Ander walks Hephestia through his nightly routine and makes sure she is comfortable in the cot before gratefully sinking into his chair.

    Hephestia... he says to the darkness. My family isn't in Heaven anymore. Adamus Crane abducted them to blackmail me into dropping my charges against the Council. I didn't...and he sent their souls to Hell.

    Ander's voice is flat. After the trauma of the past several days he is so drained that not even this can bring tears to his eyes.

    I just thought you should know. I haven't had the chance to tell anyone else about it yet. Good night, Hephestia.
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  14. - Top - End - #1214
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    At this admission, Hephestia sits bolt upright in the cot.

    "Not possible."

    She says simply, and then sighs and continues to explain.

    "Human souls can't be summoned, and I doubt someone like him would be foolish enough to go into the Heavens himself to drag them back. How did he get them then? He was lying to you!"

    As if that was enough to solve the matter, Hephestia lies back down. She tosses and turns a moment, but then is unable to let the matter rest and continues, her back to you this time.

    "Why didn't you ask Miriam about it? She would have told you as much. Well, anyway . . . you should verify Crane's story before believing it. Good night, Ander."

    Whether it was a lie or not, your sleep is uneasy and troubled, filled with visions of the fiends doing everything they might have done had Morganna not intervened. But this time, Morganna is a victim as well, suffering alongside your family. And presiding over these horrific events is Miriam, wearing Crane's face and laughing manically. You really had to tell those cooks to cut back on the seasonings they put in that stew.

    (Unless you have any further ideas to detail the journey back to Luxien, I suggest we fast forward to that part.)
    I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.

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  15. - Top - End - #1215
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    Ander Windrivver

    A great sense of relief washes over Ander as the walls of Luxien come into view. The ragged column had made it safely back to the Holy City and now they could finally begin to rebuild.

    I'm calling a conclave of the remaining church leaders as soon as our people are settled in. We will need to discuss the direction the Church will take in light of recent events. Ander says to his companions as they pass through the city gates. Ysora, I would like you to represent the angels that stayed behind after the battle. Melissan, you will represent the branded angels. Tyra, I would like you to be there as well. I'll pass word to the remnants of each Order to choose a representative they would like to have attend as well. Hephestia, you may observe the meeting wish. I would like to begin at sundown in the Council chambers.

    Oh, and Tyra, Ander says as the group is breaking up. Could you please see that the Lady Gast and the Countess Ashargrin are provided with appropriate accommodations? I would like to make sure they are comfortable, close, and safe until such time as they choose to depart.

    Unless something more pressing comes up, Ander will alert the various orders to choose their representative and make sure that the remaining refugees are directed to appropriate lodgings.

    Once that is taken care of, Ander will see to his own lodgings in Morganna's former chambers. After a bath, shave, and change of clothes, he makes his way over to the scrying basin in the former Speaker's office and activates it.

    Hello Winril, he begins as the spell goes through. I have grave matters to discuss with you.
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  16. - Top - End - #1216
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    During the remainder of the trip to Luxien, the paladin column shedded most of its refugees at various small towns along the way. Each day, a few of the paladins were healed of their injuries, until only the most gravely wounded remainned. Those would have to recover on their own, and some of them likely would not. You didn't have a chance to speak with Rose Gast, nor Amelia Ashargrin during the journey, being bombarded by requests and logistical problems throughout.

    Hephestia was her own problem, sticking close to you and constantly asking questions and providing her own commentary regarding being a member of humanity. For the more gender-specific questions, you directed her to Tyra - the Exarch wanted to be punished for her sins? Well, having the former archangel rant at her at any possible hour of the day seemed appropriate punishment to you.

    Finally, you arrive back at Luxien. At your orders, the others nod in agreement.

    "I will try to see what has happened during our journey. There is undoubtedly going to be significant fallout from the Battle of Narle. Perhaps I will have collect enough information to make a report during our council."

    Tyra muses, and then sets out to make it happen while you explored Morganna's chambers. The former Speaker certainly did not mind the opportunity to indulge in luxury, given the pool-sized bath and large, soft bed. The bed was the only thing that made you wonder, given Morganna's true nature she didn't need to sleep, but you suppose she would still need to keep up appearances.

    After cleaning yourself up, you activate the scrying pool in the adjoinning room. It takes a minute, but finally the pool's image stabilizes on Winril's cluttered office - his personal office, as he had stepped down from position of Grandmaster. A moment after the image stabilizes, the old paladin stands up from his writing desk and moves over to his own pool so you could speak face to face.

    "Yes, Ander? What new grave matters do you have to lie at my feet?"

    Winril asks, his tone bitter. He still clearly had not yet resolved his issues with meeting the Valkyrie in person (admitedly, not a best first impression for the goddess, either).
    I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.

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  17. - Top - End - #1217
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    Ander Windrivver

    It’s good to see you Winril. I have to say, you probably made the right decision when you stepped down as grandmaster. Ander remarks darkly.

    Have you heard about what happened at the Capital?

    He nods patiently as Winril responds.

    It was a bloodbath. The Baron of Gast was defeated in the end, but the cost was too high. We managed to limp back to Luxien with about 300 surviving paladins but several of the combatant armies were slain to the last man. Miriam survived with only eighteen angels to follow her back to heaven.

    He lets the information sink in before continuing.

    If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Ysora the Teacher chose to stay behind with a half-dozen of her sisters. There were also a number of branded angels who chose to aid us in battle, eighteen of them survived. Tyra also defected to our side when we captured Luxien before marching on the Capital and she has been very helpful. Still, the Church is very short on experienced leaders now.

    He holds up his hands before Winril can respond.

    Before you ask, I’m not asking you to resume leadership of the Guardians. What I really wanted to talk to you about was coming to Luxien for research. We need to learn how to remove or disable the runes which were branded on the angels…and myself…as part of Project Angelus. We also need to find out if there is a way to free a soul once it has entered a soul crystal.

    Ander pauses and fixes Winril with a steely-eyed stare.

    You're the best person for the job Winril and frankly, I don't have any other options. I need you. They need you. Without you, I don't see us figuring out a way for these angels to be returned to normal and able to go back to Heaven.

    There's one last thing. I have called a conclave of the remaining Church leaders to begin at sundown to discuss the future. If you're willing, I could arrange for you to join us via magical communiqué. Your input would be greatly appreciated.
    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
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  18. - Top - End - #1218
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    "I have not heard any news since stepping down. Hrm . . . those markings on your face, Ander . . . are they?"

    Winril listens in clear horror as you detail the horrific cost of the Battle of Narle. He shakes his head sadly.

    "So many more of our best and brightest, lost to the Hells. The Crusade was bad enough, but now it seems the Church itself is in danger. And Miriam . . . do you think She will spare us now? Or . . . given your displayed reluctance, do you think She sent Ysora to walk among us until the time was right to strike? One archangel would be more than enough to kill us all in our current circumstances."

    As you conclude your report with a request, Winril pauses a moment, and then slowly nods.

    "Alright. I need to pack up, which will take a couple days - I just finished unpacking, actually. I'll see if I can get access to a teleportation ritual so I can get there immediately - otherwise expect me in about a week or so. I will make myself available for this council as well - simply contact me here when you are ready to start. Was there anything else, Ander?"

    (I'm going to assume no).

    Winril nods.

    "Goodbye for now, Ander."

    You break off the spell, and wonder what else you need to do before the council meeting tonight. It's at that point that you hear a loud knock on the door, and Tyra's voice from the other side.

    "Ander? The guards have announced finding something of interest - I have reason to believe they found the entrance to a secret office within the building!"

    Not knowing quite what you would find, you accompany Tyra to the secret office, which is actually just down the hallway from Morganna's old quarters. It therefore seems likely who made use of the secret room, but given her other secrets who knew what was inside. Nodding at the two paladins standing guard, you cautiously pull the half-open concealed door the rest of the way open and step inside.

    Beyond is a small, cluttered office, three walls lined with packed shelves containning numerous leather-bound tomes. The bindings on each of the tomes, however, seems of questionable quality - the sort that one person working alone would be able to manage. Seeming to confirm this is a compact book-binding mechanism in the far left corner of the room. Next to it in the far right corner is a small writing desk, which takes up virtually the rest of the room. Sitting on the desk is a folded letter, with your name inked onto the visible portion in elegant script.

    Noticing the letter, Tyra looks around the small office uncertainly.

    "Well, I don't think there's any room for a trap inside. Although that doesn't rule out some sort of magic. I suppose you are going to go look at that letter, even if it was some sort of delayed revenge from Morganna?"

    Tyra turns to the other two paladins.

    "Thank you, you can both go now. Ander and I can handle this from here."

    The two paladins nods and walk off, returning to their normal duties. Shaking her head, Tyra takes several large steps down the hallway.

    "If you're touching the thing, I'm staying back here."
    I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.

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  19. - Top - End - #1219
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    Ander Windrivver

    Ander peers into the room, his eyes eventually fixating on the mysterious letter.

    I think this may have been Morganna's secret office. It's close to her quarters and since she spent her time here under cover, it would make sense for her to have a place to conduct...secret work.

    It would be unlike Morganna to enact some kind of secret revenge against me, I think. She played a large role in my life, though I didn't know about it until the end, and came to view me as a son. She deeply regretted the fact that we were forced to become enemies.


    He steps into the room and opens the letter.

    And I regret it too...
    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
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  20. - Top - End - #1220
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    You open the letter and begin to read.

    Dear Ander,

    You are dead.


    KA-BOOM!!!

    With an earth-shattering explosion, the entire Council Chamber building explodes, taking you with it into oblivion.

    You have died.

    **********

    (Or at least, that's what would happen if we were playing Trapped. Fortunately, we're playing Ironheart, and I'm not letting you take the easy way out! )

    You open the letter and begin to read.

    Dear Ander,

    If you are reading this, then it means that I am dead, most likely by your hand. I suppose we could both be reading this and having a laugh about it, but I find it unlikely. I taught you to be a dutiful servant to my Lady. Our paths have been set from the beginning, and there is nothing we could do to ultimately change them.

    Do not mourn my passing, for if there is one thing that I have learned about the mortal realm, it is that all things must pass away - the old to be replaced with the new. In a way, I have groomed you for this moment, and I fervently hope that you will come to take my place as the Church's Heart if not its Head. Don't give up on it, for the Church is capable of far greater good than evil.

    I will not deny, however, that I have made countless mistakes during my long work. In the journals within this room you will find my efforts to chronicle those, along with my moments of greatest success. The journals closest to the desk that you found this letter on are the most recent. They contain all information that I have on Project Angelus, as well as the soul crystals. Unfortunately, I know very little about how the soul crystals work, just that they work with a horrifying efficiency in imprisoning souls.

    It is an ancient magic from the days of Phaedra, a human kingdom lost an eternity ago when Mankind first raised its hand against the gods. All discrete efforts undertaken by me to reverse the process have failed, and even Zariel is baffled at how the crystals function. But at least you will be able to continue that field of study from where I left off.

    Speaking of Zariel, he is very dear to me. Although his presence can be disconcerting, I assure you that he is an invaluable resource. Long ago, I entrusted him with the vital task of infiltrating the Lords of Blood, and although he succumbed to temptation, he eventually returned to me. He was a great comfort to me over the long years, but although we were close I have demanded that he swear fealty to you after my demise. I cannot promise you that he will not hold a grudge, but I hope that the two of you will be able to work together.

    In some ways, you remind me of him. Unlike him, however, you have never disappointed me. Not even once. I love you, my adopted son. I am as proud of you as any mother could be. I don't know what you will do now, but I implore you to remain on the path you have chosen. The Church needs you. Humanity needs you. Don't turn your back on them for the misdeeds of a few. I have already seen the ruin caused when humanity is abandoned by those who are supposed to protect it. It nearly broke my heart - and, in Her own way, I think it broke Miriam's heart as well.

    Continue to fight the good fight, my son. Sometimes to stand on the high ground, you have to stand alone. I pray that you continue to have the strength to do what needs to be done. Good-bye.

    With Love and Respect,
    Morganna
    I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.

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  21. - Top - End - #1221
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    Ander Windrivver

    Theme music.

    The color drains from his face as Ander reads the letter and his knees nearly give out from under him. He manages to catch himself just in time and slumps into the nearby chair.

    Leave me. Ander murmurs quietly.

    "Are you sure? Are you ok?" Tyra probes.

    GET OUT!

    As Tyra scrambles to get out of Ander's sight, he turns his attention back to the letter. The words cut deeply. They were the words of a woman he had been told to despise and ordered to kill and yet...she had viewed him as a son. Morganna had been resigned to her fate when she wrote this letter, yes, and there was a heavy sadness to the words, but there was something else as well: an admission of love and a message of hope for the future.

    A single tear rolled down Ander's face, tracing the contour of his cheek and dripping onto the parchment below, causing the ink to run in rivulets like a spider's web. A torrent of emotion well's up within the paladin as all the repressed feelings of the past fifteen years come to the fore. The pain endured in Ironheart, the despair from moments of weak faith, the from the thought of his seemingly impossible task, the anger he felt for being put in this position, the horrible guilt of surviving when thousands of others were damned, everything he had gritted his teeth and soldiered through, everything he had pushed away to feel "later" broke through the dam that Ander had erected within himself. Great sobs surge forth, wracking Ander's body but, for the first time in decades, the paladin allows himself to weep freely.

    Finally, after ten minutes or an hour, the sobs slow down and eventually cease. With his emotions spent, Ander finds within himself a new sense of not-quite-serenity. Maybe things were not so hopeless after all. He carefully folds the letter and sets it back on the desk, wipes the tears from his face, and rises to leave.

    Thank you, Morganna...I will do my best.

    With a final stabilizing breath, Ander leaves the office behind and prepares for the conclave.
    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
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  22. - Top - End - #1222
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    Soon enough, it is time for the conclave. You have regained your sense of calm, although the wounds are still there and raw. The actual Council Chambers had been abandoned since you had slain Morganna within them. Although the only Exarch present would be Tyra, it was the natural meeting place for this new, unofficial council. At the doors, Tyra meets you, a familiar sword and scabbard held in her hands.

    "This was Morganna's blade. Like her . . . armor, it remained behind."

    Tyra explained, avoiding saying "body" at the last moment. She extends the sheathed weapon out to you.

    "You are in need of a weapon, and I am sure she would want you to have it."

    Although an angel's weapon was not the special weapons Miriam had equipped you with, they were still especially sharp and durable weapons. It would indeed serve you well, although you still feel a little odd at the thought of using the weapon of your slaughtered mentor. Nonetheless, in this case Morganna's letter was a balm - Tyra is right that Morganna would want you to have it. She held you no ill will - never had, unlike the rest of the corrupt Council she had put together. And despite being the last living member of that Council, Tyra thus far had proven to be very helpful and trustworthy. Perhaps the Church was not beyond saving after all.

    (I'm not entirely sure who you wanted to be present at the meeting beyond Winril via communication spell, Tyra, Ysora, and Melissan. If I'm missing anyone else, feel free to introduce them.)

    After you accept (or refuse) Morganna's sword, together you and Tyra stride into the Council Chambers. The mess that had been made during the battle cleaned up, and everything shined as if it was new. You find everyone waiting for you, and after pleasantries are exchanged it is immediately to business.

    "So, since you were the one who called this meeting Ander, I believe the initiative is yours. What did you wish to discuss?"

    Tyra asked, reflexively stepping into the role of mediator as the remainning Exarch present.
    I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.

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  23. - Top - End - #1223
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    Ander Windrivver

    ((The conclave consists of Ander, Tyra, Ysora, Melissan, Winril, and the six representatives of the paladin orders. I sent you a PM with some info on them.))

    Yeah uh...thanks. Ander says as he hesitantly accepts the sword. Tyra was right, Ander did need a weapon, but something about using Morganna's sword didn't really feel right. He'd have to decide what to do with it after the conclave.

    Ander walks purposefully to the front of the room and takes a seat at the immediate right of the Speaker's chair, deliberately leaving the Speaker's chair empty.

    I'd like to thank everybody for coming this evening, we have many things to discuss. He scans the assembled faces, trying to gauge their thoughts.

    The past few months have been difficult ones for the Church between the removal of the corrupt former Council and the heavy losses our paladin orders endured at the Battle of Narle, not to mention the damaged caused by the Reliquary's destruction. I think our first priorities should be the establishment of new Church leadership and ensuring that our paladin orders have the time and resources they need to recover. Without either of these things, I fear that the Church will fracture. Do any of you have any thoughts on how we should proceed with this?
    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
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  24. - Top - End - #1224
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    At your offer, Tyra speaks up.

    "I agree that we need to re-establish our leadership. That is the first step to stabilizing the Church. It will also be proof that everything will return to normal now, rather than the idea that Ander is here to tear the Church down to its foundations. As such, we will need to appoint a Speaker and a number of Exarches. Traditionally, the Speaker has been an Exarch first, although at this point that leaves only . . . me."

    "How convenient for you."

    Svenja growls, clearly not like the idea of trusting the former member of the corrupt Council. Winril holds up a hand, silencing her and Tyra before an argument breaks out.

    "The Speaker is intended as a mantle that an Exarch takes on so that they can claim to serve as the mouthpiece for the gods. Does it not make sense then that we elect Ander to that position? He did come down here as a literal enforcer of Miriam's will, after all. Should not an actual representative of the gods speak for them as well?"

    There is a slight edge to Winril's words, but he does have a point. You would seem to be the natural choice, although Tyra was also a good candidate, allowing for continuity between the old Council and the one that you are building now.
    I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.

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  25. - Top - End - #1225
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    Ander Windrivver

    Ander nods in acknowledgement of both Tyra and Winril.

    I propose a vote. Who is in favor of Exarch Tyra taking over as Speaker? He counts the hands. And who is in favor of me taking over as Speaker? He counts the hands again.

    ((I'm going to presume that they vote for Ander as Speaker just to speed things along. If you wanted it to go the other way or for someone else to throw their hat in the ring we can go back.))

    Thank you all for your votes of confidence, I pledge to do the best I can. For my first act as Speaker, I would like to confirm Tyra's position as Exarch to both preserve some continuity of leadership and also to lend her experience with the day-to-day affairs of running the Church. I would also like to offer Ysora and Melissan seats on the Council as well. Their wisdom will be invaluable in these troubled days. I would finally like to nominate Winril Milner for Exarch. Ander stares Winril down in his magical holographic eyes. I know you resigned as Grandmaster after the Heaven's Horizon Summit but there is a lot of good you can do here. Your scholarly knowledge is expansive and you have the mind of a skeptic; this Council will need your grounding influence lest we become blinded by dogmatism and politics. Will you do it?

    He pauses for Winril's response and any other objections that may arise before continuing.

    While we are on the subject of Winril, I should mention that he has agreed to travel here and begin research into reversing the effects of the previous Council's Project Angelus. It is this project which was responsible for the mass kidnapping, branding, and brainwashing of hundreds of angels. He turns to Melissan. If we are successful, you and your sisters may eventually be able to return to Heaven. Winril, before this meeting Tyra and I came across journals and materials that may be very valuable for your research. We can discuss it further once you make it here.

    This still leaves us with the issue of our vastly depleted Paladin Orders and the possibility of schism if rumors begin to circulate about Miriam's return to Creation.

    There will surely be those that will prey on the fear and uncertainty of these times. The Church has gone through a lot of turmoil lately and opportunists will try to poach those with weak faith for their own ends.


    He gazes solemnly around the room.

    We cannot fight these jackals by force with our forces so depleted but we can lead by example and prove to the people that the Church is still here for them. The clergy of each diocese must continue to preach the faith and provide aid for refugees. Ysora, would the angels that stayed behind with you be willing to travel throughout the kingdom and help preach the faith in the most troubled areas?

    Regarding the paladins, I believe our highest priority should be the rebuilding of our orders. Return to your territories and focus on recruitment and training. Lead by example, remind the people who we are and what we represent and I believe this will go a long way to keeping the faith in your territories. Melissan, do you know if any of the branded angels would be willing to go with the orders and help them train new recruits? Even one angel per order would go a long way toward making up for the knowledge and skill that was lost in the battle.

    I believe at this point all of my main issues have been addressed. I would like to open the floor at this time to anyone with other issues or concerns to discuss.
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  26. - Top - End - #1226
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    After you are elected Speaker, you confirm that Tyra would be staying on as an Exarch. You see mostly nods around the table at that decision, although a few of the Grandmasters still seem uncomfortable with the idea of a member from the old corrupt Council remaining. At your offer of making Mellisan and Ysora permanent members of the Council, there is shocked silence for a moment.

    “I’m not sure that’s a good idea. We’ve never had angels on the Council before – “

    Svenja began, apparently the only Grandmaster brave enough and strongly opinionated enough to openly oppose the idea. She is interrupted by Ysora correcting her.

    “Morganna.”

    Svenja rolls her eyes and continues.

    “We’ve never had angels openly on the Council before. While doing so might put any fears of corruption to rest, it may send the message that we cannot manage our own mortal affairs. No offense.”

    “None taken. Perhaps we should merely be given guest seats on the Council, rather than being made Exarches. That would imply that we are in a more consulting than commanding role, would it not?”

    Ysora offered, and after a moment, Svenja shrugged in agreement. The matter was quickly settled after that – both angels would be able to sit in on all Council meetings and express their opinions, including being able to vote as necessary. At your offer of becoming an Exarch, Winril blinks in surprise and forces a weak smile onto his face.

    “You really aren’t going to let me just quietly fade into obscurity, are you?
    *sigh* Very well. For the good of the Church, I will serve on the new Council. Perhaps I can be the voice of reason and experience.”
    Winril weakly chuckled.

    At your suggestions to both Ysora and Melissan, they nodded, Ysora more enthusiastically than Melissan.

    “Yes, I believe my sisters would be willing to do that.”

    Ysora said.

    “Many of my sisters no longer trust humanity. I’m not sure all of them will agree to have anything to do with humanity now that Miriam is safe, but I will try to convince them. Unfortunately, I would like to point out that at a number of my sisters should remain here, where they can care for the several hundred of my sisters whose minds have been broken.”

    “And still imprisoned.”

    Ysora chided, glancing at Melissan as the branded angel grimaced.

    “Yes, for their own safety as well as yours. Most are harmless, having retreated into their own minds to escape the pain, but a handful teeter on the verge of psychosis. It will take a lot of careful guidance to lead them all back into the light, and as I said – most of them understandably don’t trust humans. My sisters and I, due to our shared suffering, seem to be the only ones they’re willing to listen to.”

    On that sour note, you turn the floor open to issues raised by the other members. Ysora indicates that she wishes to speak, and take a deep breath before pressing forward.

    “I think we need to consider the possibility of launching an immediate rescue operation into the Hells.”

    The reaction from virtually everyone present is the same.

    “WHAT!!?”

    The archangel presses on.

    “At the Battle of Narle, we all lost many friends and siblings important to us. They were all damned to suffer for eternity in the Hells. But for some, there is still hope – they were captured alive by the fiends. They live long, but the fiends will want to preserve them for as long as possible – they enjoy living victims. If we strike now, we may be able to save some of them.”

    “Absolutely not! The Crusades were fought with the full might of an undivided Church, and it still took millennia to force the fiends back! Now all the Fiend Lords are back down there, and the Hells are stronger than ever! We would all be throwing our lives away!”

    Svenja bellowed.

    “Perhaps not. You have never been able to fight with angels before.”
    Mellisan said quietly, clearly not relishing the idea of being used as cannon fodder on the frontlines the way Morganna had intended.

    “One handful of angels is not going to make a difference!”

    “We have to do *something*!”

    Ysora said, slamming her hand down onto the table with a thundercrack.
    “We owe them that much . . . please.”

    “We can’t. To do so would be the death knell of the Church . . . unless you have some sort of bold stratagem, Ander?”

    Winril said sadly. Unfortunately, you did not.
    I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.

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  27. - Top - End - #1227
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    Speaker Ander Windrivver

    Ander nods in satisfaction at Ysora, Melissan, and Winril's decisions to sit on the Council but his smile fades as Melissan speaks up about her sisters.

    Yes, sadly I can understand why many of your sisters are mistrustful of us. It will take a lot of work to regain their trust. Nevertheless, if there are any among them who would volunteer to help the Orders rebuild it would be greatly appreciated. As for the rest of your sisters, this Council will see to it that they are rehabilitated. I'll trust you to handle the details.

    The paladin's eyebrows twitch in surprise at Ysora's bold proclamation about a rescue operation to the Hells, but he remains patiently quiet until everybody has had a chance to speak.

    The possibility of survivors being trapped in the Hells has weighed heavily on my mind ever since the battle, Ander finally pronounces. In addition, I believe that something must be done regarding the escaped Fiend Lords.

    However, Svenja and Winril are right. I will not begin another Great Crusade with our numbers so depleted. Perhaps where an army would fail, though, a smaller task force could succeed. With fewer people, it would certainly be able to penetrate enemy lines. Whomever goes on this mission will need to be able to use their divine abilities despite the unholy environment, have a way to kill or capture the Fiend Lords permanently, and have an easy means of transportation between planes for rescuing survivors. Of course, extensive experience fighting fiends on their home turf would also be necessary.


    He lets out a low whistle. It won't be easy. I'll need to consult Morganna's records for any intelligence that could be of help. Until then, I don't think we can decide on a course of action. Are there any other issues to address before we adjourn?
    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Baerdog: super genius.

  28. - Top - End - #1228
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    At your words, Ysora nodded sadly. While it had been her idea, the archangel was wise enough to defer to your greater knowledge of the Hells. Frankly, you aren't sure how a smaller task force will work either - even if you can handle the Fiend Lords, you'll be on your own with no safe haven. And to get anywhere, you'll have to wade through an ocean of lesser fiends and damned souls. It was a nightmare situation with no good solution - but you were going to have to try and come up with something.

    With no other topics, you adjourn the meeting.

    The next day, you are approached by Rose. The normally calm young woman is clearly agitated.

    "Ander. I am afraid that I can no longer stay here. Apparently my father has died, and I am needed to assume control of the Duchy. I will be taking the Countess Amelia with me as well. Unfortunately, your healers were not able to help her. I am hopeful that some quiet place far away from any reminders of the battle and her wedding will help her find peace."

    Rose pauses a moment, and then makes a decision to tell you more.

    "There's also another young woman I would like to take with me. Her name is Elsa, and she is also a widow of the Gast family. I was wondering if you could give me some advice on her care, however. From what your healers have told me, she has lost her soul. Do you know of any way we could find it?"

    Rose frowns, as if at a bad memory.

    "I recall that you also wanted to talk about what I know of the Baron's motivations. What did you want to know?"
    I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.

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  29. - Top - End - #1229
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    Speaker Ander Windrivver

    Rose enters Ander's chambers to find the old paladin seated in front of the large picture windows, lost in thought as he gazes over the city, ceaselessly turning Crane's silver dagger over and over in his hands.

    Hmm? Oh, hello Rose, he says with a start.

    I'm very sorry to hear about your father. I met him briefly once, at some noble function long ago. The stories I'd heard made him seem like a very...interesting man.

    Ander sheathes the dagger and stands up to approach Rose.

    "There's also another young woman I would like to take with me. Her name is Elsa, and she is also a widow of the Gast family. I was wondering if you could give me some advice on her care, however. From what your healers have told me, she has lost her soul. Do you know of any way we could find it?"
    Rose's words stop Ander in his tracks.

    Another widow? Which son was she married to? He sighs. If she was under the Baron's thumb and is missing her soul, it's very likely it was captured in a soul crystal. The Baron seemed to have a penchant for them. I think I spied Ysora with such a crystal during the march to Luxien, although I'm sure she'd intended to keep that a secret. You should bring Elsa to her before you leave.

    He puts a reassuring arm around Rose's shoulders and begins to lead her out of his chambers.

    In any case, yes, I did want to speak with you about the Baron and what you experienced in and after Ironheart, if you're willing to talk about it. I'd like to speak with the Countess about the same thing, actually, so perhaps we can kill two birds with one stone. Walk with me.

    He guides the widow through the corridors and cloisters of the Great Cathedral until they reach its famous gardens. For centuries, the gardens had been a place of peace and sanctuary where the faithful could pray, reflect, or just spend some quiet time with a loved one. This morning the gardens are empty, all the better for the kind of conversation Ander intended to have, and he and Rose walk in silence. The morning sunlight casts mottled shadows on the ground as it filters through the trees and the scent of roses and orange blossoms are carried by a lazy breeze. They finally find the Countess in a secluded corner of the gardens, seated in her wheelchair next to a burbling fountain, lost in thought.

    Good morning Countess, are you feeling well today? Ander takes a seat on a nearby bench. Before you and Rose depart, we have some things to discuss. Since the Battle of Narle I have finally had some time to sit and reflect on the events of the past several months. I've been trying to piece together the extent of the Baron's plans and how everything fits together: Ironheart, his usurpation of the crown, and his attempt on Miriam's life. Unfortunately, I have been preoccupied with matters of the Church and really have no knowledge of the Baron's activities prior to the battle.

    I know it won't be easy to talk about this, but I need to know everything: from your time in Ironheart up through the Battle of Narle. Please, even with the Baron's death, his plans may yet have far-reaching consequences and anything you can tell me will help keep us from being caught unawares.


    ((I don't really know how much you want to actually write out their stories at this point. Unless something really juicy happened to them that we didn't get to see "on screen" maybe we can just assume that now Ander basically knows everything from the IC threads that they had perspective on. This might also be a good stopping point until the new IC thread begins.))
    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Baerdog: super genius.

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