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* Plot Information for Glacia

Relentlessly persecuting the Light Jeweled of Glacia for their deficit, Elisif Brenden, the Queen, encourages adherence to all precepts of the Dark Religion. Dark Jewels who do not conform are forcefully brought into the fold and Light Jewels found in opposition are broken or executed for their mistakes. There can be no leniency in the frozen territory.
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Author Topic: Intrepid  (Read 837 times)

Description: tag: Trygg, Indy

Offline Svala Elkshaarn

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Intrepid
« on: Sep 22, 17, 05:04:30 PM »
The summons came as a little note left under Svala’s closed door that she almost stepped on when she returned. She picked it up so that her boots did not mar the paper, moving with feline grace towards her bed so that she could set her pack down. The day’s hunt had gone well, with a fine brace of birds delivered to the butcher and a third of that now turned over to one of the cooks downstairs to make a hearty dinner. Trygg told her she did not need to pay her way but Svala insisted and any time they -- no, they did not argue, nor did they clash about it, they...disagreed about it -- any time they disagreed about it, Svala quietly kept doing it because she knew of no other way to be useful to Trygg and his people right now.

There was no telling how long that note had sat there and its wording, instructions to find Trygg right away, set Svala into motion without changing out of her hunting gear. Blood would have used psychic threads to communicate swift need -- Landen did not have that option. Svala’s approach could be heard coming down the stairs but she paused as she entered the tavern, her sharp eyes scanning for Trygg but not finding him here.

The store then. She strode that way with purpose, ignoring any looks she may have gathered for moving so swiftly when she usually moved at a much more cautious pace. Had Trygg found word about her family? Hope fluttered faintly in her heart. Had they been located, alive and unharmed?

Or, the opposite, which Svala took a sharp breath to stop herself from thinking about.

“Is Trygg near?” she asked one of the shopgirls rather than barging into the back of the shop like some uncouth customer. “He requested that I meet him as soon as I received his message,” she explained in her low, soft voice. As opposed to her usual state of reserved calmness, there appeared mixed but restrained emotions in Svala’s eyes, the ascendent one being hope, with concern and fear trailing behind. She had no idea why Trygg would ask her to find him as soon as possible but it could not be for idle chatter, of that she was certain.

Something must have happened.

Offline Oswald Trygg

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #1 on: Sep 28, 17, 10:29:49 AM »
The fellow manning the counter in the shop greeted Svala with his usual cheer, and then nodded when she asked about Trygg. She was told that Trygg was in his office, but that he'd left word that Svala could join him there. She'd be pointed in the right direction, and down a flight of stairs she'd find the basement where both overstocked merchandise for the shop and one of Trygg's offices could be found.

The door to Trygg's office was open, and Svala could see the man in question inside, along with a Landen woman named Laila who sometimes worked the bar at the Bender. The woman was on her feet and seemed to be speaking rather angrily to Trygg, who was sitting down at his desk with his hands up as though trying to placate her while he replied. He seemed significantly more calm than his guest, who turned in an agitated circle while she listened, more like a caged animal than a civilized woman. Not a whisper of their conversation reached Svala's ears, though, suggesting that Craft was being used to keep their talk private. The two were fully engaged, though when Svala drew near enough, Laila's attention would snap over to her and pause the conversation for a beat. Trygg's glance followed Laila's, and relief washed plainly across his face, a stark contrast to the open annoyance on Laila's. Trygg stood and gestured for Svala to join them in the office. When he spoke again, Svala could hear him as normal.

"Svala, good! Thanks for coming. Look, I'm sorry for the alarm, but I need a favor, kid. I got a friend in trouble and I need someone to go help get them out of trouble and, well, I'm garbage at finding people in the woods. That seems like something that might be up your alley, though. Can you help? Will you help?" Laila was quiet for the moment, stewing in her foul mood while watching Svala reply.

Offline Svala Elkshaarn

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #2 on: Oct 03, 17, 12:01:28 PM »
As she approached, Svala noticed that she could not hear the agitated conversation within, which drew further concern from her because if it was anything close to what their body language was saying, it was a bad situation indeed and discretion was needed. Most likely Underground business then, hence the Craft silencing the conversation outside of the room’s borders. It was an unnerving sight, watching Trygg trying to placate Laila for whatever reason, like two actors miming a fight for an audience of one.

When Svala stepped into the room, sound resumed. "Svala, good! Thanks for coming. Look, I'm sorry for the alarm, but I need a favor, kid. I got a friend in trouble and I need someone to go help get them out of trouble and, well, I'm garbage at finding people in the woods. That seems like something that might be up your alley, though. Can you help? Will you help?" The last question from Trygg was plaintive. He was obviously out of his league.

But finding things in the forest was Svala’s specialty. Trygg had been right to call upon her.

Her gaze fell upon Laila for a moment, trying to gauge the other woman’s involvement and emotions by her body language and expression. Laila was a bartender -- a lovely one at that, though Svala would never, ever pursue a woman who did not show any interest back -- so why was she here? Was she connected to the someone that was in trouble? That must be so, or why else would she be so agitated? Could there be too great a risk involved?

It did not matter. Svala would aid Trygg. There was no question about it.

Her right hand went over her heart as she bowed her head slightly. “Of course,” she told him in her soft, husky voice. “You have only to ask it of me. What has happened?”

Offline Indaara Ericksson

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #3 on: Oct 03, 17, 12:34:27 PM »

Laila, normally a sweet and outgoing charmer at the bar, rolled her eyes and scoffed quietly at Svala's hand-over-heart gesture in response to Trygg. Trygg, on the other hand, stood to his feet and smiled broadly in relief at Svala's offer of help.

"Thanks. Thanks," he repeated, his hands lifting as though he meant to squeeze her arms out of sheer relief. He did intend to, in fact, but recalled at the last minute that she typically seemed averse to touch. He wound up just balling his hands up and then pulling them back in a fairly awkward reconsideration, but none of it seemed to bother his happiness at having successfully recruited help.

"We were taking a couple out of the Territory by the Eyrien way - it's a path that cuts through the mountains to the West. It's pretty dangerous territory, but we've got climbers who are experienced in skirting the mountains down to Nharkava instead of trying to get through the southern border in Virratt. We had one of those climbers there, waiting on the Askavi side to tag in and take over for the runner who escorted the couple from home to the border. The runner never showed up, though. The climber just sent word. I know the mountains are probably gonna be less familiar to you than the woods, but I'm gonna send Bully with you. She knows the mountains, and you know tracking, and between the two of you I'm hoping you can find our guy and bring him home before anyone else runs across him."

"It's suicide," Laila chimed in quietly, arms folded across her chest. "What Trygg here's not telling you is that if Squirrel ran into problems between here and the border, there's a good chance it was in the form of court hounds who've killed both him and the couple he was running. Following his footsteps is just gonna get someone else killed," she said, shifting her gaze from Svala back to Trygg at the last, as though reiterating a point she'd made before. Trygg's mouth pressed into an uncharacteristic line, and for a beat he was quiet in response. When he spoke, it was more unhappily than either of them had heard him sound before then.

"Listen I don't like to call in chips. You know that. But I feel like I've earned this--," he said, cutting himself off, it seemed, at the end. "I'd do the same for any of you," he added, instead of whatever he'd originally meant to say. "Laila's not wrong. It is very possible Squirrel got waylaid because of that kind of trouble. But his nickname isn't an accident. He's quick and smart and great at hiding. He could be off-course and laying low. He could be hurt and hiding. He could be dead already, yes..." he admitted, sighing at the last as though it bothered him deeply to admit that possibility. He frowned as he continued. "But I'm not gonna just assume the worst and leave that question unanswered. If he's gone I wanna know he's gone. If he was found out we need to start tracking down how it happened. So. Yeah. It's dangerous. If you don't wanna go, knowing that, then no one's going to make you," he said, looking back to Svala with that lingering frown. "But if there's a chance Squirrel can be brought home, I have to take it."

He paused, looked to Laila, and after a moment of further silence, the Landen woman sighed out a huff of frustrated breath, and threw her hands into the air. "Fine. Fine. I'll--tell Bully to help. But the first hint of hunter, Trygg, and she's bailing."

"Yeah, of course," Trygg affirmed, with a nod. "The goal here isn't to get anyone else hurt. We just need to know what happened, and help if Squirrel needs help. Alright, get your gear together," he said, turning back to his desk. "The shop upstairs is open to you," he said, for Svala's benefit. "Take anything that would help. Laila, have Bully wait for Svala at the Akaa safehouse, alright? I'll give her directions once she's ready to go."

Laila nodded and left, clearly still unhappy about the situation. While she walked away, Trygg was writing down an address on a piece of paper on the desk. He tore it off, and handed it to Svala. "Memorize this, and then burn that paper before you leave the room. Please. Bully will get there before you do, so take off as soon as you're set. Do you need anything else from me besides supplies from upstairs?" he asked, clearly anxious to have the deed begun.

Offline Svala Elkshaarn

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #4 on: Oct 23, 17, 02:01:42 PM »
Svala did not fear death but she did fear capture. She listened to Laila explain the situation from another standpoint, hearing the dire tone in the woman’s words. Yes, it was quite probable that something fatal had happened. That was the risk they took. Yet Svala sided with Trygg on this one. At best, if they did not investigate the matter, then the question would remain unanswered. But at worst, there were lives hanging in the balance that desperately needed assistance, and that decided it for Svala.

She could not give in to inaction. That was not her way.

She had not yet worked with Bully and had only met Squirrel once. Most of the Smugglers went by codenames to hide their true names. Svala was slowly acquiring the codename of Fletch but she still did not feel right about it. She often wondered what the others’ true names were, what their families knew them by. Did Kiss ever hear her real name whispered by a lover? Did Squirrel’s kids, if he had any, call him something else?

Laila continued to protest while Svala listened and ruminated. Svala did not share the same concern about a hunter catching them. She was a hunter. She knew how to hide. It was something she was very, very good at. Bully could bail at the first hint of being hunted but Svala had been the hunter before. She knew how to make a fake trail, to throw off her scent, to become nearly invisible in the forest. She would use those skills to her advantage.

With the matter tenuously settled, Laila left. Trygg handed Svala a piece of paper with an address, instructing her to memorize and then burn it, which she did moments later. "Do you need anything else from me besides supplies from upstairs?" he asked her.

Svala paused for a moment, cataloging her hunting gear and its state. “I will need more arrows,” she said, knowing there were plenty in the supplies upstairs. Since she carried most of her hunting equipment in her psychic stash, she only needed to gather a cloak, some rations, and a canteen of water to be on her light way. “I will gather the rest of the supplies from the foodstores for the journey, since I do not think we will be hunting for sustenance on the trail.” But they would be hunting.

She made her farewells to Trygg with, “We will find him,” before striding off to prepare herself. Ten minutes later, she was fastening the thick hooded cloak around her shoulders and heading off to meet Bully at the safehouse in Akaa.

Svala came in through the back, winding through the dark alleyways with her Sight Shield firmly in place. As with most of the Smuggler safehouses, there were Webs guarding the doors and perimeters, and Svala made certain to speak the correct code phrases that allowed her to pass unharmed. Night had nearly fallen by the time she arrived and the safehouse was lit dimly as though its inhabitants were already considering retiring for the night. Svala stepped inside and looked around.

“Bully?”
she called softly as she set her pack down on the table. Trygg said that Bully would have arrived before her but the place was very quiet. Perhaps she was asleep in one of the other rooms. If Bully did not respond presently, Svala would sweep the rooms for another Jeweled presence, and then go investigate.

Offline Indaara Ericksson

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #5 on: Oct 24, 17, 11:56:41 AM »

Bully was unhappy.

Admittedly, that was less than rare these days, but her annoyance was not diluted any for its frequency of late. While part of her was very much looking forward to getting away from the villages and into the mountains again, there was nothing about this particular jaunt that was going to be ideal. She hated the Eyrien mountains enough that she'd sent Astrid with Thyra instead of going herself when the other Black Widow had decided that's the route she needed to take. She hated getting involved in matters where there were likely Dark Jeweled hunters involved, as one wrong move could (and had, in the past) land her with a collar around her neck.  She hated rescue missions in general, because there were always complications and they were almost always the result of someone else doing something stupid. The cherry on this shit sundae was that she would be making the trip with a near stranger, something that rankled her even on her most charitable days. The stakes were too high in the Underground to suffer stupid peoples' mistakes, and Bully had nigh-invisible faith in the ability of strangers to not be absolute fools.

Fletch, at least, had the benefit of never having done anything stupid in front of Bully or any of her other aliases. It didn't mean that Bully trusted her. It just meant that Bully was able to restrain herself from driving the other woman off the trip from raw verbal abuse. If the witch turned out to be as useful as Trygg thought she'd be, maybe she'd even save some valuable time by getting Bully to Squirrel faster than Bully could manage on her own. That'd be worth it, Bully thought.. worth putting up with the presence of someone she scarcely knew when she was going into a situation that could so easily wind up getting them both killed.

Didn't mean she had to be happy about things.

"Here."

She was leaning against a wall inside the house, arms folded over her chest. As she spoke she dropped the shields that'd hidden her presence. With nothing to disguise her scrutiny now, the hesitance with which she eyed the witch before her was plain. She would've been every bit the Glacian norm even without the blonde hair and blue eyes. There was a distance to her presence, an aloofness that was very Glacian in its coolness. Bully was a fit woman, her shape bearing subtle testament to how routinely she tested her strength and endurance against the mountain. She was also a harsh woman, a fact made just as clear by the closed-off bearing that didn't so much greet Svala as it merely tolerated her presence.

"Tell me you've climbed before," she prompted, rather than sparing time for introductions. Trygg had indicated that Bully would be the more experienced mountaineer between the two of them, but that wasn't saying much. Bully felt like she'd lived as much of her life on the side of a mountain as she had on level ground, and felt like she was a better climber than most people.

Regardless of the newcomer's answer, though, the Black Widow had little choice but to take her with, anyway. "You ready to head out?"

Offline Svala Elkshaarn

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #6 on: Nov 09, 17, 03:24:10 PM »
The huntress did not startle when Bully revealed herself by dropping the Shields that had hidden her from sight. She turned towards the sound of the woman’s voice, watching her with that reserved calm that she usually displayed with most people. The dark resistance was clear on Bully’s face -- she did not like this pairing, most likely would not trust Svala. It would not make the situation any easier but Svala understood, to some degree, why Bully regarded her with such aloofness. Svala was still relatively new to this community, still carried a measure of distrust because she was unfamiliar and unproven.

It did not bother the huntress in the least. Though she was loved deeply by her family, she had always been an outlier of the community, perpetually unfamiliar to most. Tolerated, just like Bully was doing now. "Tell me you've climbed before," Bully asked in a hard tone.

Svala nodded once. “I have,” she confirmed, “though not usually to find people trapped in the snow.” She would choose honesty. Svala knew the forests, the mountains, the streams very well, but it had been to track game, not people. Still, tracking one type of animal was no different than tracking a lost person. Sometimes, it was easier, since people tended to leave many inadvertent markings about their travels. And this, she revealed to Bully by adding, “But tracking a lost party is no different than tracking a deer. And I am skilled at what I do.”

It did not seem to impress Bully. “Are you ready to head out?” the other woman asked. Again, Svala nodded, just once. She went to retrieve the pack she had laid on the table.

After securing the straps, she turned to Bully and asked, “I do understand that you do not have to like me to complete this assignment but I do ask that you listen to my advice when it comes to tracking, as I will listen to yours in other areas of this operation.” It was the best way that Svala could think of on how to say “let’s get along professionally, shall we?” The huntress would follow Bully’s lead in a lot of things but she did not want Bully to go charging off into something stupid simply because of pride or a general unwillingness to listen to expertise.

Regardless of Bully's response, Svala nodded her head and said, "Then let us find our lost Squirrel." She motioned for Bully to lead the way to the trail.

Offline Indaara Ericksson

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #7 on: Nov 16, 17, 12:22:18 PM »
It was a significant relief when Svala confirmed that she was not entirely new to climbing. Bully would still check behind her, most likely, because Bully was the paranoid sort... but it was good to hear that she wouldn't have to worry about trying to teach someone to climb at the same time that she was trying to rescue a lost runner. Svala's concern about tracking people in the snow didn't bother her, something evidenced by the way she shrugged slightly at the comment. The other witch made her own observation about it being no different than tracking animals, though, so Bully didn't offer her similar thoughts aloud.

"The snow will help us before it hurts us. We haven't had a 'fall in a few days, so we ought to be able to find a trail, at least to start with. If it snows again while we're out - which is likely - then things are gonna get problematic. We need to get as close to Squirrel as we can before we lose whatever tracks might be out there." Easier said than done, of course, because if Squirrel hadn't been in panic mode the whole way, he would've been taking pains to cover his tracks as he went. Really, their best hope was that his packages had been more careless than he. Or that whoever had gone after them and cause their disappearance had been careless, which was an even more disturbing thought, but probably a more likely scenario.

Svala went to grab her pack and Bully turned towards the door. She paused there in the doorway and looked back to the witch as Svala spoke. "I don't know you enough to like you or dislike you, Fletch. I don't like this situation, but you're here for more than just decorative purposes." It was as much acquiescence as Svala was likely to get, aloud. Bully wasn't known for being easy to work with, after all. She was known for stubborn-ing her way through situations until they were resolved, and seemed intent on living up to that reputation. Without much of a pause, she turned and continued towards the outside.

Normally, Bully would set out on foot from the safehouse. Because time was such an issue here, she'd brought transportation with her in the form of one of Trygg's horses. Or at least, one of the horses Trygg provided when asked. She wasn't really sure who it belonged to, only that whoever it was, they were part of the Underground. Named Velvet for the rich smoothness of his pitch-black hide, he watched in silence as the two women approached the place where he was tied. He had webs woven into his tack that Bully had activated earlier, so there was no sight nor sound from him until Bully stepped close, extended a sight shield around herself, Svala, and the horse all at once, and then put a hand on the beast's flank and deactivated the tack's stealth webs so that Svala could see him.

Bully untied Velvet and did not hesitate before pulling herself up into the saddle. She looked down at Svala, and would offer a hand to help the other woman pull herself up into the second position. No, she didn't ask if Svala minded horses. No, she didn't ask if the other woman even know how to ride. As far as Bully was concerned, all Svala needed to be able to do was hold on long enough for them to reach the point in the trail where it wasn't safe for Velvet to go.

Assuming Svala managed to seat herself on the horse, Bully would reactivate the stealth webs (which would now include the two women on the horse's back), and cluck gently at the horse to get him to back up and start off.

"He'll get us onto the mountain proper faster; we'll send him home once we get there. I'm gonna head to the last place we know Squirrel made it to, where his package was handed off to him. If you see anything between here and there that you think is important, say so."

If Svala offered no objections, Bully would kick the horse into a full and hidden gallop towards the border.

Offline Svala Elkshaarn

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #8 on: Dec 04, 17, 03:29:03 PM »
Svala took Bully’s helping hand in mounting and they were on their way at a full gallop. The horse made no sound, which Svala guessed was because of Bully’s doing, and he moved through the dark like a shadow. The wind was the only sound that Svala heard until they reached the border and slowed, Velvet snorting and heaving at their speed.

Svala slid off first to take the reins and steady him while Bully dismounted. She looked around for a suitable tree to tether him to, as well to get her bearings. Bully was right -- snow had not yet fallen here but it was not fresh. All around, she could see signs that animals had been through here -- tufted squirrels, elk and deer, and the like. If she looked closer, she would find a lynx’s tracks under one of the trees from where it had stalked a small bird a few days ago.

The huntress in her began to take over. Tracks a few days old would yield few clues. She let Bully handle the horse as she began looking around with more intent. Her gaze naturally went towards the pass and the snow between there and them.

“Let us begin,” she said to Bully as she hefted her pack over her shoulders and began trekking forward, taking the lead so that she would have the first shot at finding clues.

The two women Shielded their path with Sight and Aural Shields. They left no tracks as they hiked. Svala expected that Squirrel would have done the same with his path so she looked for other signs.

It did not come as a snapped branch or the imprint of boot on crusty snow. It came as disheveled snow some yards away near an outcropping of rock about an hour into their trek. Something large had disturbed it -- it lacked the smooth sweeping of wind and the gentle laying of blanket. Svala stepped closer to it, motioning for Bully to wait there. After all, it could have been the work of two animals wrestling but the lack of tracks around it made Svala doubt that.

As she circled it, with both eyes and psychic senses extended, Svala became more certain of that. Something had indeed fought here but not animals. There was Craft at work here, she could sense it, a Craft that had tried to hastily cover up something. Svala extended her hand towards the ruffled snow and felt it meet unnatural resistance. Testing, she swept at the Craft with her Tiger Eye.

The snow rippled, blurred, but did not reveal its secrets.

Svala looked towards the rocky outcropping, thinking. Had someone been waiting behind those rocks for Squirrel to approach? Then, she tried to wipe away the Craft again, this time with her Summer Sky. The snow shuffled and peeled away, revealing a bright crimson that was turning brown with age.

Blood.

“Bully,” Svala said softly, calling her unwilling partner over. She motioned for the other woman to step carefully and then pointed at what she had found. “You know him better than I do. Is it his?” The best Svala would be able to do was whether not it was Blood, since Blood sang to Blood, but she would not be able to identify the psychic scent attached.

Offline Indaara Ericksson

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #9 on: Dec 20, 17, 05:30:21 PM »
Bully petted the horse's muzzle and tossed its bridle back over its saddle before quietly murmuring the command for it to return home. Velvet had saved them time in getting to the mountain, but leaving him to linger and wait for them was too dangerous. They'd have to hike back to a landing pad once they returned from their task.

Assuming they returned, she thought with a silent grumble.

She let the witch take point and concentrated on pacing herself. It was a tricky thing to balance the expenditure of power when heading into a climb, not knowing what lay on the path ahead. Bully was conservative, and allowed Svala to do the lion's share of the actual tracking. The Black Widow focused instead on keeping tuned to their surroundings in a broader sense, watching and sensing for any sign of other souls that might be about. It bothered her to be out on the trail in the dark, but there was nothing to be done for it. Waiting until first light could mean the difference between life and death if Squirrel was still hanging on. A sliver of Craft allowed her to see well enough in the dark to be marginally more comfortable than otherwise, but she still didn't like it.

Bully.

Fletch's soft call drew the Widow's attention sharply to her, and she approached to look at what the witch had found: blood. Bully frowned as she carefully crouched to inspect the find, and her lips pursed unhappily as she recognized the psychic impression. Not only Squirrel, but Squirrel's terror and pain. Bully nodded grimly to Svala, then let her senses extend to trace the path of the hidden blood trail. That he'd apparently attempted to cover his tracks was a good sign, as it meant he was still not in captivity even after the initial... whatever-it-was that'd drawn blood from him. But that blood wasn't fresh, and the mountain was cold and unkind to the injured. Also, there was no indication of whether he'd managed to remain free after his initial flight.

The trail led away from the pass and into the bush, where evergreen trees broke up the blanket of old snow that covered the rocky ground. With Svala's help, it wouldn't take long to follow the traces of blood towards a quickly-made warren, a gathering of tree boughs and unearthed pine straw that'd been piled into a mound. Snow had been moved atop it, and before the Craft hiding it was broken, it looked like just another smooth swell of snowfall. Bully felt the urge to dart forward towards it, because it was clearly where Squirrel had taken shelter at least temporarily even if he wasn't there now. A pulse of fear stifled that urge, and though Svala would sense the emotional Craft as well, Bully would hold out a hand to charge her to stop and wait, just in case. She crouched quietly beside the berth of a wide pine, and surveyed the little nest from a couple dozen yards away.

There, Bully gestured, after catching Svala's eyes. She indicated the trunk of a tree nearby the nest, with a sigil burnt into it via Craft. If Svala hadn't yet learned the meaning of the inverted triangle stabbing into an empty circle, Bully would hide their voices from the outside world and whisper to her.

"Trap."

Below the warning sigil was another one, the cross-hatched lines inside a diamond that indicated a nearby cache. Smugglers stashed supplies in the wild sometimes for emergency use, and the second symbol meant there was one such cache somewhere nearby.

Or it meant the cache was trapped. One of the two.

Bully's eyes fell back to the warren. Without breaking the Craft disguising it, she couldn't tell whether there was anyone alive inside. If there was a trap set by whatever hunter had felled Squirrel, then breaking the obfuscation would likely mean dire consequences. Gripped by a moment of indecision, Bully froze.

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #10 on: Dec 31, 17, 01:51:23 AM »
The look that crossed Bully’s face told Svala more than she needed to know. They had found Squirrel, bloodied and afraid. There was not enough blood to indicate mortal injury but injuries could be deceptive.

She extended her tracking senses, following the covered trail of blood down the slope, away from the pass, towards a normal-looking mound of snow. Nearby, etched into the tree with Craft, was a symbol that Svala had only recently become familiar with -- the Smuggler sign for a trap. Crouched and still, she swept her Craft outwards, spiralling slowly to seek out signs of any nearby spells or psychic scents.

There was a ping of scents leading into the pass. For the moment, Svala ignored it, in favor of the scents she could feel from the mound in front of them.

**Remain here,** Svala told Bully, moving forward with lithe grace. She nocked an arrow into her bow with one smooth movement of calling it to hand. No traps that she could sense, just Shields and spells to dissuade others from investigating too closely. But they were weak, not fully charged, either at the end of their strength or never reached it in the first place.

Svala got close enough to them and made a slow cutting motion with her hand, as though removing spider webs from the path in front of her.

Softly, directed right at the pile of snow and branches in front of them, she called, “Squirrel? It is Fletch.” When there came no response (Svala did not expect one), she applied another motion of her hand, clearing away the mound like a wave lazily washing away a sandcastle.

The sight that greeted her was gruesome. It reminded Svala of the start of a butcher grounds, except that everything was still mostly intact. Squirrel was not alone but he was the only one alive, judging by the absolutely still form that rested near him. “Do not fear,” Svala whispered as she came close enough to smell the blood in the air. In the shadows, it was nearly black and more of it pooled around the person with Squirrel.

Something had gone terribly wrong.

Mindful that there still might be a trap active, Svala pivoted, letting her comrade see what she had found. **Bully, it is him. Tend to him while I search for threats,** Svala said. She padded slowly away, seeking cautiously. The psychic scents that led towards the pass -- they would have to be investigated further. For now, she had to make certain that they were safe.

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #11 on: Jan 01, 18, 01:31:17 PM »
Bully gritted her teeth and tensed when Fletch took it upon herself to move forward. She held her place, though, and watched both the advancing witch and the broader area around the warren, looking with all of her senses for any sign of another's Craft. She didn't move from her spot until Fletch turned so that the Widow could see into the space she'd cleared before the hiding place. Only then did Bully move out from cover towards the mound. She took Fletch's place at the mouth of the little structure, and began assessing the situation while Fletch moved away. To Bully, the other scents leading into the pass seemed too old and faint to be relevant, but she was the last person in the Realm who'd try to stop someone else from being cautious.

While Fletch was investigating, Bully talked in quiet tones with the barely-conscious smuggler. Whatever words were exchanged, the Widow looked exceedingly grim by the time she stood up and approached Fletch. She was scratching her brow as she came to a stop, and sighed as her hand fell away.

"Package is dead," she confirmed, quietly. "The mother is, anyway. Some hunter apparently found one of the caches nearby and set a trap on it. Squirrel and the woman and her kid got caught in it. The only reason they got out at all was because the mother had a darker rock than the hunter. It's a chick, apparently, Squirrel says a Widow. She caught the three of them on their way out of the snare, knocked out the kid and cast something nasty on the mother. Didn't put her all the way down right away, but pretty close. Squirrel cut losses and ran with her. Before she went down, the mother apparently got a good enough knock or two in on the Widow to make her take the kid and run instead of trying to follow Squirrel. He got hidden as best he could, but the mother didn't last long." She paused, turned her head to look over the pass, eyes narrowed. "Squirrel's not gonna, either."

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #12 on: Jan 12, 18, 11:58:46 AM »
Svala did not look at Bully during her report. Her sea-green eyes were scanning the area constantly, listening, scenting. There was a quiet, waiting tension to her stance, the kind that came with every hunt she initiated. She was patient, Svala, and she knew they would not remain here for long.

“The mother didn't last long,” Bully reported. Svala considered what sort of opposition they were against in that moment. A hunter that was a Widow. A nasty spell that--

"Squirrel's not gonna, either."

Bully’s addition interrupted Svala’s train of thought. She turned her gaze towards her comrade. “We can give him mercy,” she said softly, respectfully. There should not be need for him to suffer, if she could help it. If Bully could not be the hand of Death, Svala could and would. It would not take a knife, like it did with animals, but it would be just as silent and swift.

While she let Bully mull it over, her gaze returned to the pass. After a moment, she said, “The child should be recovered.” It was dangerous, yes, tracking and engaging prey like this hunter-Widow, but Svala could not allow a young child to fall into the hands of the Dark Religion, not like this. Something like this was the terrible darkness that the adherents and preachers did not want you to see. It seemed as though the Light Jeweled were slowly and methodically being culled from the great herd, until only the Dark were left.

Svala’s father had not seen her Summer Sky as a stigma. And neither would she. In that moment, Svala thought of her siblings, still unaccounted for, imagining if the situation had been swapped or altered, if she had arrived in time to prevent them from being kidnapped or worse. The cold wind of the pass tickled at her nose, a far cry from the warm air that had greeted her when she had returned home that fateful day, but Svala knew that here and now was another chance to prevent the Dark Religion from winning and she could not turn away from it.

Her observant gaze returned to Bully. “Remain here, if you wish, or come with me. But we must be gone from this place soon, before the track grows cold, if we are to rescue the child.” That objective now became paramount in Svala’s mind. If she could not save the mother or Squirrel, she would risk herself to save something. Bully could stay here, supposedly safer, or come with Svala and shift the fight into their favor.

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #13 on: Jan 16, 18, 10:06:57 AM »
Svala suggested that Squirrel was due some mercy, and it surprised Bully. That much was clear in the way her eyes snapped to the other woman and held there for a beat, sharp and assessing. Bully usually had a fight on her hands after making such a suggestion, and though Fletch had surprised her with her practicality in the matter, it was a welcome thing. Bully's expression softened as she turned her  head to look back towards the warlord's hiding spot. She considered him once more, confirmed for her own peace of mind how unlikely it seemed that he'd survive the trip back down the mountain, and nodded.

"Yeah," she agreed, softly. It was a goddamned shame, and the more she considered it the angrier she got about it, but it was the right call. He was so weak already, and the fear and guilt and shame that he felt still echoed within Bully. Even if by some miracle they could keep him alive, Bully knew he'd never forgive himself for this. And they were short on miracles, anyway.

He was hurting, so Bully didn't put it off. She left Fletch alone for just a couple of moments, and when she returned, they were the only souls remaining in the clearing. She'd re-covered the breach Fletch had made in the warren, so that both Squirrel and his package were now covered by the den he'd made for them. The whole thing saddened Bully, who didn't much enjoy emotions these days, and so she was sullen and irritable by the time she returned to Fletch's side.

...just in time to hear the witch suggest they oughta go after the kid. Bully shook her head.

"That's suicide," she said, flatly. "Look, I know it sucks. It's a shitty situation any way you cut it, but throwing our lives away to go after a kid who may already be dead doesn't accomplish anything good. And even if the kid's alive still, you're talking about tracking down a pissed off, injured Black Widow who's darker than both of us put together. Even if we found them, and even if we got the drop on her, we'd both just wind up like the kid's mother.  Heroic, maybe, but dead."

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #14 on: Jan 19, 18, 02:01:20 PM »
Svala was not surprised when Bully shook her head and offered reasons as to why they should not go after the child. Good reasons, valid ones, but still, they did not dissuade Svala. She continued to stare towards the pass, her eyes lingering on the little markers she had left to keep the trail for when she decided to give chase.

It was dangerous. A Black Widow was a wild, mercurial creature, and the darker Jewel meant that the task was, yes, harder. But Svala did not believe it was a suicide mission. She was aware of her rank in the Abyss, aware that others might see her Jewels as unable to overcome another’s, but Svala was a huntress. She knew how to track and dispatch prey larger and more dangerous than herself, with and without Craft, and she approached this situation as just another hunt: methodically, critically, calmly.

Her mind was made up. Her companion’s, however, was made in the opposite direction, and that, like the situation before her, did not sit well with Svala, who had been raised by a man who instilled a sense of honor and doing what was right, despite difficulties.

Without taking her gaze from the pass, Svala quietly said, “Can your conscience sleep while a child is violently separated from the only love she has known and then forced into a life she does not want, all because a religion says that she is somehow inferior in Mother Night’s eyes? Is there an excuse you can make to yourself that says it is alright to abandon the helpless to a fate they do not deserve simply because it is dangerous?”

The huntress turned her gaze slowly to meet Bully’s and her expression clearly said that even if Bully could do such a thing, Svala could not.

Her attention went back to the pass after a long moment. “Squirrel risked his life for that child. Do not allow his sacrifice to be in vain,” she said, stepping forward. “Remain, if you must,” she told Bully again. “If I do not return in two days…”

She paused, letting her words gather their weight. “Tell Trygg ‘thank you’. And that if he finds my family, let them know that I did not surrender.”

And then, nocking an arrow into her bow, she called in a Sight and Aural Shield around her, disappearing from most senses, as she began to hunt.

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #15 on: Jan 19, 18, 03:00:44 PM »
"Fuck yes, there is," Bully shot back, her tone suggesting she took issue with Fletch's questions about excuses. "Plenty of them, in fact. Like the one that says even if that kid is still alive - and there's no guarantee it is - there's a good chance its memories will be wiped before it ever makes it back to civilization. These people don't fuck around, and I've seen them go all-in on a kid's brain before just to make their own lives easier. Do they deserve it? Hell no. But you gettin' us killed to prove some noble point isn't gonna change the fact that it happens every day. Listen, you need to look at the bigger picture here. It's shitty math, yeah, but at the end of the day, do you do more good by maybe saving one kid and maybe dying yourself? Or by going the fuck home and helping to save dozens more kids who aren't already captured?"

Fletch challenged the weight of Squirrel's sacrifice, and though Bully had been coarse and abrasive before, she hadn't really be mad until then. Her features darkened and her jaw tightened, and a finger whipped up between the two women, aimed at Svala.

"Hey, fuck you. Squirrel saved alotta goddamned lives, whether this kid lives or not. He knew what the risks were when he signed up and he accepted them, just like we all do. What happened to him is sometimes just the price that's paid for sticking your neck out, and I don't fucking care if every fucking human from here to Akavi gets blown to hell because of something he did, nothing is gonna change the fact that his life and his death did something. Meant something."

Her jaw was trembling, so angry was she about the words between them. But she took a moment to still herself, and though the fury didn't abate, the trembling did.

"If you don't return in two days you'll be just another casualty, and if Trygg finds your family he'll fucking tell them you threw your life away for a maybe."


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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #16 on: Feb 15, 18, 01:32:03 PM »
If Svala heard Bully’s parting shout, she did not reply. She had practically vanished from sight but she had indeed heard the Black Widow’s words. A small part of her agreed with the other woman -- this was foolishness. Svala knew self-preservation when she saw it. It was only natural to avoid risks like this.

Yet, she could not allow this happen, not if there was even a remote chance of rescuing the child. Svala did not make her primary objective to kill the Black Widow. She was pissed off and injured, yes, but her power still overshadowed Svala’s own. No, as she followed the trail, Svala set her primary objective as distracting her quarry long enough for the child to get away. After that, what happened, happened.

With this in mind, every few hundred feet or so, Svala left a very tiny Craft marker, a magical breadcrumb trailing her way back through the pass. Easy enough to be spotted, if one was looking.

She paused at one of these intervals because she spotted something more than disturbed dirt. Blood. A pass of her hand with Craft over it and the sharp tang of Black Widow could be scented. Disappointingly, Svala did not sense anything more than the blood -- no poison from Squirrel’s blade, no bacteria from the gut. The injury was hampering the woman though, judging by the way her gait had shifted now. A leg wound perhaps?

Svala paused at this point for a few moments longer, reading the tracks. The child dragged its feet when it could, further slowing down the Widow with its struggles. It also meant that the Widow had to work more to obscure their trail, something that she was growing lax about more and more as the tracks went on. Perhaps she thought no one would find her now that Squirrel was gone?

The huntress’s gaze lifted towards the high rocks, noting the quiet. No birds to alert her of someone’s passage. The lack of echoes also told her that the Widow had at least remembered to deafen their pace, much like Svala was doing with her own.

But the blood on the ground was cool and not frozen, which told Svala much about the time that had passed in between.

She continued to follow the tracks past a gnarled bunch of trees, where she saw bark that was scraped away. And another blood splatter. She did not investigate this one for as long, however, because she sensed that she was gaining on her quarry and focused intensely on the trail ahead, looking for pitfalls or ambush points. Ahead, she could see more signs of damage to passed trees, more scuffed dirt, another splatter. Recent. Less than half an hour ago.

One of the little markers at her back, one of the breadcrumbs following her, tingled lightly as someone inspected it. Svala slowly looked over her shoulder, her bow still readied but not drawn, and paused, listening. The wind did not bring her the scent and no sound reached her ears but she knew, without a doubt, that it had been no accident.

Someone was coming.

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #17 on: Feb 23, 18, 11:30:58 AM »
No one emerged from the foliage behind Svala. No sounds betrayed the presence of someone there. Neither were there any helpful noises from the bank of trees before her, as the Widow she pursued was indeed shielding the sounds of both herself and her unwilling charge. Nothing at all seemed to move for some time, though if Svala eventually pressed onward she'd find herself rewarded for her patience. Just past the bank of trees was a small clearing where a creek cut through the snow-covered terrain. The water was iced over now, but the creek bed turned sharply and ran off to the north. At first there appeared to be nothing occupying the cleared space just east of the bend, but between Svala's position and that clearing was a woman, limping along and half-dragging a flailing child along behind herself. The boy couldn't have been more than eight or nine, not yet strong enough to compete with the determined grip of the older woman. If it hadn't been for the woman's aural shields, it looked as though the boy's screams of frustration and fear would've echoed off of every peak in this mountain range.

When she reached the clearing, the woman paused. A blink later, there was suddenly a small cottage visible before her. It was plain and un-embellished, the sort of thing that felt like it was put up more out of necessity than luxury.

If Svala did not interfere, the woman would drag the child into the cottage and close the door.

"She'll have supplies in there," Bully said, suddenly crouching at Svala's side. "If you're actually going to do something, then we have to hurry up. If she has something in there that'll heal her, we're fucked." No comment on the fact that she'd sworn she was leaving. No comment or response to the fact that she might've startled the other witch. Bully still wasn't happy, but she seemed intent on studying the cottage. "Can you phase through shit?" she asked, looking over to Svala, briefly. "Not everyone webs their walls, mostly just doors. Might be our best shot. But then, you know, we're in the room with a cornered and injured Black Widow. So I hope you've got a plan for that."

Unless Svala raised an objection, Indy would shield the pair of them from sight and start into the clearing.

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #18 on: Apr 04, 18, 04:50:45 PM »
When no other presence or spell tripped her little magical breadcrumb again, Svala continued on, though she often looked over her shoulder to see if she could catch who was following her. Bully? Svala could hope but she would not count on it. It could be one of the Midnight Keepers or some other ally of the Widow ahead of her.

The huntress stalked on, tracking her prey into a clearing. The woman had dropped the Sight Shields around herself and her stolen cargo, revealing a boy old enough to pass his Birthright but hardly a match for a determined Black Widow. The woman kept the Aural Shields in place, probably swapping her focus from one spell to another, because she extended her hand forward briefly and another Shield dropped, now revealing a rudimentary dwelling. Hardly quaint enough to be called a cottage, it reminded Svala of hovels that hunters often used when canvassing a small area for prey over a few weeks. A camp, if anything. Svala watched as the two disappeared into the structure.

The hair on the back of Svala’s neck tingled just before Bully appeared beside her. The huntress did not share a smile at her comrade, though she felt glad to see the Black Widow here. Two on one were better odds. “I can phase,” Svala answered in a low, unruffled voice. “Perhaps it would be wiser to draw her out into the open instead.” She nodded her head once towards one of the windows. “An arrow can pierce that glass. And if it is lit with witchfire to guarantee that it will burn…”

Svala nodded her head somewhere closer to the door. “Place two entrapment spells at the entrance. When they are triggered, if one is the boy, release it. Let him escape. I can find him later.” Their first priority had to be dealing with the Black Widow. Svala doubted she would be outfoxed by a child when it came to disappearing into the forest. “Or we can execute your idea. I am loathe to trap the child in the same room with us and her, however. I do not wish for him to be used as a hostage against us or inadvertently become collateral damage from the fight. Regardless, we must attack her from two separate points. If you can seek to drain her Shielding with power bolts or webs,  I can maneuver her with my weapons and strikes to incapacitate her.”

She chose a nebulous sort of word for a reason. Svala did not enjoy the idea of her arrow finding its lethal mark in another Blood’s flesh but, if she had no choice, she would do so.

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #19 on: Apr 07, 18, 12:25:58 PM »
Fletch brushed right over how Bully had sworn she wasn't coming. That appealed very much to the practical side of the Widow; it was nice to be able to skip that conversation altogether and focus on what was ultimately more important by far. A brief nod towards a plan, and Bully was ready to start in, but the witch's carefully considered suggestion made her pause. She crouched again, thought about it, and nodded.

"You're right," she conceded, plainly. "That's smarter. Good call." Because as antagonistic as Bully could be about some things, she didn't have a problem calling a spade a spade. She had been thinking less about the kid and more about defeating the Widow without dying, but Svala's suggestion reminded her that their goal here was supposed to be twofold. Defeat the Widow and save the kid. Details, details.

She nodded at the notion of putting trap webs by the door. She'd circle around the house once first, she thought to herself, to make sure there wasn't a back door. The place seemed small enough that it was unlikely, but better safe than sorry.

"I'll be able to slow her down, but I won't tangle her up for long if she's competent at all," she pointed out. "Not with her wearing a Green. I dunno how much juice she's expended already, but if she's still got a good chunk of power, this is gonna get hairy." Hopefully, the altercation with Squirrel and his charges had already drained the other Widow considerably. If she was down to her Birthright - even if it was an Opal - she felt like their chances of pulling this off increased dramatically.

"Though, if her place is burning, maybe she'll be discombobulated enough that I can bluff her into bleeding herself," she thought aloud, though softly. Raw power built into the trap webs in order to make the Green Widow defend herself would require Bully to spend herself down significantly. And in the end, unless the other woman was already tapped, Bully would probably lose that contest in short order. As she sat there, though, she considered combining a couple of different webs, one of which would just make the other woman think she was being attacked. Maybe she'd spend the power to defend herself just the same.

"Alright," she said, a loose plan now strung together in her mind. "You gonna stay here and cover me? If this place is webbed I may not know it until it's too late."

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #20 on: May 16, 18, 02:44:16 PM »
Bully proposed that maybe they could disorient the Black Widow enough to cause her to bleed and Svala nodded, agreeing to that assessment as well. “I will fire an arrow through the window in the fore, and then lodge one in the roof towards the back. There is also a spell I can use that will mimic my voice being cast from other directions.” It was a spell useful in flushing prey like small birds a certain way. A slight alteration to the spell could change some of the voices to sound masculine or unlike her. “That will give the impression that we are more than two and that she is outnumbered.” And with the witchfire burning down her only haven, the Black Widow would see fleeing as her best option.

Hopefully.

Bully asked if Svala was going to remain here and cover her. The huntress nodded once and replied, “Yes.” And then, before the two of them moved off to begin their dangerous mission, Svala put her hand on Bully’s shoulder briefly to say, “Good hunting.” She then moved away, slinking silently towards the side of the house so that she could plant her first two arrows.

She did not detect any wards and hoped that none had been placed around the perimeter that she was triggering. There must be wards closer to the house then. That could pose a problem.

At some mental tap from Bully that she was in position, Svala whispered a Summer Sky spell for witchfire around the arrowhead and fired her first shot at the window.

An Opal web absorbed the spell but fizzled out. Tapped. The arrow fell harmlessly to the hard ground.

Undaunted, Svala quickly nocked her next arrow and shot it at the roof. No webbing extended there. The arrow, burning blue and bright, found its mark. Witchfire began racing along the roof. Svala took a second chance at the fore window. This time, the arrow penetrated the glass. Cries of anger and panic filtered out as Svala eyed where the arrow had hit -- back wall. And burning, just like the one eating away at the roof. With speed, Svala shot a fourth arrow at the base of the cabin on the opposite side, creating a fiery cage on three sides.

The Widow’s only way out was through the door that Bully had trapped.

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #21 on: May 21, 18, 02:41:20 PM »
Bully crept towards the structure from what she guessed to be the most blind angle she could find, every step cautious. It was delicate work to sweep her Craft out before her in an attempt to spot any webs laying in wait while not overextending so far that the witch inside the house would sense her coming. Even as careful as Bully was, she was well aware that her searching could possibly in itself trigger a trap, if the Widow on whose turf she was encroaching was ruthless and smart enough to set such a thing up. Her only consolation was that this place seemed to have been unused for quite some time before the woman had fled to it today. She hoped that meant that any existing security webs hadn't yet been recharged, considering how harried the woman had surely been upon arriving. Maybe she'd been focused primarily on getting inside out of the cold, and tending to her wounds, and perhaps shutting up the child who had probably been wailing nonstop since its mother had perished. Maybe she hadn't had the time to activate whatever defense webs were here, if there were any. Maybe she hadn't wanted to spare the power to do it. Maybe there weren't any pre-laid defenses.

Or maybe this stretch of snow between the edge of the woods and the neglected shack was going to be the last thing Bully saw before stumbling her fool ass back into the Darkness.

The fuck am I doing here, she grumbled to herself, suddenly sincerely annoyed with herself for not leaving Fletch to her fate like she'd sworn she would. I have got to quit hanging around Trygg. Fucker is making me soft.

But eventually she did reach the cabin. The door was already warded - heavily, Bully noted - so she spent a little extra time fashioning a pair of small sticks to act as a frame to hang a web on. She packed one into the ground on each side of the front door, then strung Craft between them, light and thin as she could manage. This part didn't have to be particularly strong; it would serve better if it was just easily overlook-able. It was only the trigger, one of two that she set up this way. She pulled a bit of a lead from each of the triggers and then summoned her book of prepared webs, and flipped quickly through it. She - not for the first time - cursed the presence of the child in this venture. The webs she would've preferred to rely on to be strong enough here were too likely to damage or kill the kid if it snared him. She'd have to use something meant to merely entangle whoever came through the door, and if the Green Widow's mind wasn't addled at that point it'd take her two seconds to cut through them.

But maybe two seconds would be enough.

It's gonna have to be, she told herself, frowning as she finished setting the traps. Shielded still to prevent the sounds she made from traveling, Bully then took a moment to scale the side of the cabin. She knew the plan was to set the place on fire so she wouldn't be able to stay there long, but she also knew people seemed less likely to think to look up when they were looking for trouble. She crouched silently on the corner of the roof nearest the door, where she hoped to be able to drop additional spells on the Widow when she emerged and (hopefully) stumbled into the trap spells.

Only once she'd prepared a readied web and sat there a second to steel her nerves did she send out a thread to Svala, a terse update on where she was, and confirmation that she was ready.

Bully didn't see the arrow coming. It startled her when it thunked hard against the window below, enough so she didn't understand right away what'd happened. When she realized the arrow hadn't worked, she started to panic a little. That instant of fear was punctuated by the heavy whooshTHUNK! of a second arrow hitting the opposite corner of the roof from where Bully sat. She swore under her breath, unnerved by the hail of arrows from some origin she couldn't see, despite the fact that she knew about where Svala had been hiding. The sound of glass shattering told her a third arrow had seen more success below, as did the shouts that rose up from inside the cabin. Bully's heart hammered in her chest and she readied herself in a crouch, knowing she might need to move fast. Another arrow thunked somewhere nearby, but Bully's vision had narrowed to the front of the cabin, to that space in front of the door where she knew the Widow and her cargo were going to emerge any second. She could hardly breathe, and her hands trembled, and it was hard to hear anything outside the drumming of her own pulse in her head. The door didn't just open, it exploded off of its hinges in a burst of power, causing Bully to turn away and shield her face with an arm. The Widow and the child emerged side by side, and Bully froze. She dared not even breathe, until she saw the traps trigger. First one, on the child, then the second, on the Widow. The boy screamed in terror as unseen Craft lashed around him, binding him, but Bully gestured with her hand and pulled her Craft back from that web. It dropped harmlessly around him, freeing him.

The Green Widow, on the other hand, snarled at the feel of the trap web against her shields. Bully threw out the second web praying to anyone who'd listen that it'd land true. Though it was both invisible and silent, the sensation of the Craft working always felt to Indy like a sizzle when that particular spell hit a shield. It concentrated an invasive spell on one small area of a shield, forcing the shield-wearer's Craft to concentrate in that area as well to defend, or risk having the shield eventually breached, given enough time. Bully felt the Widow's focus shift, felt her Craft attack the invading web, and then felt her do just what Bully would have done in that situation: she dropped her shield, dismissing the attacking web altogether.

*Now, now, now!!* she shouted psychically at Fletch, hoping against hope to hear another arrow thunk itself right into this bitch's chest before she could conjure a replacement shield.

On the up-side, there was a pause before the second shield went up, as the Widow was distracted.

On the down-side, there was a pause because the Widow was distracted by noticing Bully.

The world slowed down to a crawl for the Summer Sky Widow as the woman below turned and snarled up at her. A hand lifted, and though Bully summoned her own shields, they were nowhere near quick enough to beat the shards of Green-laced Craft that fired off towards her. It happened so quickly, even the quick-witted smuggler managed not a word, not even a breath, before the world went dark.

Bully fell from the roof in a heavy, graceless heap.

Offline Svala Elkshaarn

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #22 on: May 23, 18, 02:43:03 PM »
Svala had been waiting for the Widow to escape but she had not expected her to escape quite so dramatically. The door burst free of its hinges just before two forms stumbled free of the burning darkness within the hut. Svala had a moment of approval when the binding traps sprang, immobilizing the boy and the Widow, and then breathed a tiny sigh as the trap holding the boy was released. Bully, perched on the roof, must have been waiting for that to happen. He ran off into the forest, unknowingly leaving a clear trail for Svala to follow later.

It was barely a moment later when she felt Bully’s frantic **Now, now, now!** against her mind. The arrow was already nocked and now it was in flight, arcing swiftly towards the distracted Widow, who had turned herself to look up at Bully. She raised her hand, exposing her guard in order to cast a spell. Motion slowed. In hindsight, Svala would remember every event from that moment on as punctuated by the opening and closing valves of her heart: tha-thump, tha-thump.

The opening beat matched the moment where the Widow threw a Green spell of something at Bully.

The closing beat matched the moment where Bully tumbled from the roof.

The next opening was the moment the arrow pierced the space between the sixth and seventh rib.

The next closing beat was drowned out by the echoing scream of the Widow.

Svala cursed softly. For multiple reasons.

First and foremost, the arrow had not hit the heart, but it had hit the lower lobe of lung, possibly also the liver, which promised agonizing pain and difficulty breathing. While this would hinder the Widow immensely, this meant that she was still, for the moment, alive. And very much pissed off.

The second concern was Bully, unconscious just a few feet from the injured woman.

Training kicked in. When dealing with an enraged creature near a defenseless target, one had to keep its focus. Svala treated the next few moments as she had wounded a boar that had knocked over a hunting partner.

Running forward, she loosed another arrow, hoping that the Widow had not yet called in a protective Shield. She watched, even as the arrow was in flight, as she did, the snapping of it so quick that it sheared the shaft of the embedded arrow. Svala dropped her own Sight Shield, standing tall and threatening in the clearing with another arrow ready to fire. “Surrender,” she shouted at the Widow.

She was answered by a blast of Green shards that shredded the lower part of her own Shield where she had been too slow to move.

But, the shriek that her opponent let out was interrupted by a bubbling cough and a gasp.

That was all Svala had to do now -- survive. The injured Widow could expend herself trying to fight and would exacerbate her injury. Intending to keep the kidnapper on this course, Svala fired another arrow, and dodged a power bolt that didn’t seem so fierce. Over and over, they went. Svala would attack, then evade, maneuvering the enemy away from Bully. The Widow, losing strength, wasted her remaining moments on trying to keep Svala on the defensive while also trying to Heal her own body somehow. Svala knew it was only a matter of time before the woman made her final decision: die, surrender, or flee.

“Surrender!” Svala shouted again as she loosed another arrow. She was down to three. If she had to resort to her hunting knives, it could get ugly. Even a dying Widow still had virulent poison in that snaketooth finger and fighting in close quarters gave her opponent the advantage.

Hiding behind a currently sturdy wall while she thought her next move over, it was then that Svala realized there was silence in the clearing. The shrieks, the raspy breathing...

Fearful that the Widow had lost interest in her and had decided to extract her fading fury on her partner, Svala darted around the building. This time, weak Opal shards pelted at her Shield, but they were barely piercing. In the center of the clearing, blood bubbling from her mouth, was the Widow, struggling to breathe.

“You have lost,” Svala informed her, approaching with her bow drawn, careful to keep herself between the Widow and bully. “Surrender and I will fetch a Healer to save you.” There was still time, Svala believed, but she left that for her opponent to decide.

The Widow laughed. And coughed. And gasped.

“I may...lose...today,” she rasped out, crimson froth speckling her lips, “but you...and your...filth...will lose...in the end.” Before Svala could come up with a retort, the Widow produced a flashing knife. Thinking the woman meant to throw it in attack, Svala tensed and prepared to dodge, but the knife reversed itself and sank deep into the Widow’s bared neck.

Svala watched the life drain out of the woman’s eyes and on to the ground. She lowered her bow, vanished it, and then ran to Bully’s side. Healing spells were Svala’s weakness. She could not tell if there was internal bleeding or anything broken as she ran her dexterous hands along Bully’s frame but Bully was yet alive. “Wake up, please,” she whispered fervently, audibly and along a Summer Sky thread. If Bully had been shattered...

Offline Indaara Ericksson

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #23 on: May 23, 18, 10:16:46 PM »
Bully had not been shattered.

Unfortunately, neither did she stir at Svala's prompting. Physically, the only problems the Black Widow seemed to have were some bruises and scrapes from her tumble off of the roof. Whatever Craft the Green Widow had thrown at her, it hadn't torn into her flesh the way her later blasts had eaten into Svala's shields. Seconds ticked by, then minutes. A quarter hour passed, and Bully didn't stir. Even when Svala had finished setting up a crude shelter of tree and shield for her and left her hidden just beyond the treeline, Bully remained motionless. If one didn't know better, they might believe the Summer Sky Widow to merely be sleeping peacefully.

Perhaps in a fashion, her state could indeed be called sleep. There was no peace, however. Bully's paranoia (foresight, she would call it, rather than paranoia) had prompted her to fortify her mind against attack in ways more extensive and complicated than her peers. The attacking witch's spell was strong, but its hasty casting had cost it some flaws. While it succeeded in stealing control of Bully's body, she fought tooth and nail to stop it from delving into her deeper mind.

Bully was nearing exhaustion by the time the last strands of the invading web were carefully burnt away. She came awake with a start, sitting up almost in the same instant, though she regretted it at once. She winced and lowered back to rest on an elbow, the hand on the other arm raising to cup her pained brow. She took a moment to orient herself and allow the spinning in her head to abate, then lowered her hand and looked around. Twilight was upon the empty woods, but for a moment that was the only certain thing the disoriented Widow could discern.

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #24 on: Jun 18, 18, 03:36:17 PM »
Svala had not liked the idea of leaving Bully alone and somewhat unprotected but there was the issue of the child, now lost somewhere in the forest, and time was of the essence. That quarter of an hour she spent searching for signs of Bully regaining consciousness was all she could uncomfortably spare.

But even though her physical presence would not be there to protect the Black Widow, Svala knew of plenty of ways to keep Bully protected while she searched for the boy. She dragged Bully to the base of a tree ringed with thick brush. Some of the dead branches from other trees helped begin the illusion that there was nothing to be seen here as Svala piled those in front of her comrade so that the brush and trunk blocked her back and the branches concealed her from the front. Over Bully’s form was laid a Sight Shield, thus ensuring that the deadfall looked more natural. Svala brushed away the tracks created by her work and left a single breadcrumb of Craft attached to the branch that she hoped Bully would find once -- if -- she woke up: I will return for you.

Praying that the Black Widow would be safe during her absence, Svala swiftly departed, picking up the trail the young boy left.

While it was not hard to track the child, it was a different matter to keep up with him, since he was filled with panic and was rushing through the forest, whereas Svala had to take a moment longer to make certain that she did not lose his trail. For almost an hour she tracked him through the brush, until she came to a spot where the evidence of his passing abruptly ended -- a few feet from a small stream.

Svala checked the other side of the water just in case he had crossed and then also swept the   ground in case Craft had been used to cover his track. No luck. She went back to the last footprint, near the roots of a tree, and studied it for a long moment. The imprint made suggested that the boy had placed all of his weight heavily on it for a jump. Svala had assumed that jump was for the stream but there were no tracks where a boy of his age should have landed.

The huntress crouched, patient. The forest was silent, a clear indicator that the creatures within it knew that humans were nearby. And in that silence, she heard the heavy breathing of a child. “I will not harm you,” Svala said softly. When there was no reply, she waited a moment before continuing. “My name is Svala Elkshaarn. My friends call me...Fletch. I am with the man who was helping your mother escape. Squirrel.”

One of those rapid breaths hitched into a stifled sob. Became a mewling sound muffled behind a hand most likely. But close. Svala swiveled her head about, peering at the brush nearby.

“The Widow, the witch that attacked you,” she said, “is dead. She will not hurt you any further. My companion and I, we will take you across the border to whatever family you have waiting.”

Well, Fletch hadn’t talked to Bully about that just yet but she was sure it was going to come up.

There came no response. Svala could still hear the child somewhere nearby, trying to hold his breath or hold back his sobs and failing. She waited. One minute. Two. Three. And then repeated, “I will not harm you,” with as much sorrow as she could muster, for she could only imagine was sort of nightmarish sort of day the child had experienced so far.

“P-Promise?” came a tiny voice.

From above.

Svala did not move, gave no indication that she knew where the child was now, lest it startle and snap the tenuous trust being extended then, but she was very surprised that the child had thought to climb up and not hide on the ground. The tree was not too tall, but it had many branches perfect for climbing. She should have thought of such a thing. “I promise,” she answered softly, heartfelt, “on the life of my own mother, who was lost like yours.” Svala didn’t know if her mother was dead or alive, just that she had been taken against her will. But death or missing, loss was loss, just one was a bit more final than the other.

Again that stifled sob but now Svala heard the scratching of tree bark. She turned slowly as the boy scrambled down the trunk, rubbed his running nose, and looked at her warily. “What is your name?” Svala asked gently.

Sniffle. “Emil.”

The huntress nodded once to indicate that she had heard and then approached slowly, easily, keeping her hands in plain sight. “Svala,” she repeated. “My friend, she calls me Fletch.”

“Why?”

Svala paused a moment before explaining. “It is my codename. If our enemies learned of my real name, they would be able to find me and do me harm. This way, they cannot find me.”

Another sniffle. A long thought along a childish train. And then, “Can I have a codename so they can’t find me?”

Svala’s heart ached softly with pity. What an awful thing to do to a child, to kill his mother, strip him away from his family, and drag him back into Hell. “Yes,” she answered. “I think...we should call you Fleet.”

“Fleet?”

“It means swift. Fast,” she explained. She was now close enough to hold his hand and she offered her own to him. She could see no wounds on him other than the normal abrasions and scratches that came with running headlong into the forest. No, she gauged that the worst wounding on the boy rested in the emotional realm and would take far along to heal. “You were very quick, running through the forest,” she told him with a gentle smile. “How does that sound?” He nodded and then slipped his tiny hand into hers. “We must return to my friend, to see...how she is,” Svala explained, giving Emil’s hand a soft squeeze and tug to begin walking. The sun would be setting soon, probably right as they got back to the hiding place.

Hopefully Bully had countered whatever spells the Widow had thrown at her. Else, the situation would get far more difficult for Svala, with both a young child and vulnerable partner to protect.

The trek back took longer than an hour but Svala’s judgement of the timing was correct -- twilight deepened the shadows in the forest. “Remain here, behind this tree,” she told Emil, placing a finger over her mouth to indicate that he should be quiet. “I will see that no one is out there to hurt us and then I will come get you,” she explained. Emil, all eight years old of him, nodded and shrunk into a little ball at the base of the tree.

Svala picked her way towards the hideaway she had made for her companion, whispering, “Bully?” as she approached.

Offline Indaara Ericksson

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #25 on: Jun 19, 18, 01:17:35 PM »
Her head felt like it was splitting in half. Night was falling. So the fact that she was inexplicably covered in bramble and dead tree limbs was the third thing that registered with the Widow once she woke. She pushed some of it away with an unhappy groan, though the whisper of Craft she sensed made her pause, grow still, and pay attention. Fletch, she recognized. Bully's current situation made a little more sense, then, and she resumed pulling herself out of the hasty warren that'd been built around her.

More than a couple of quiet, unladylike curses warmed the crisp evening air as the Widow climbed to her feet, stiff and sore from the earlier fall and her time on the frozen ground. She rubbed her arms and looked about, considering options for shelter for the coming night. She was ravenously hungry and her Jewels were depleted; hiking back down the mountain immediately was out of the question. Keen to take advantage of anything sparing her manual labor, she walked down the slope to check out the remains of the Green Widow's cottage. The offender herself remained sprawled a few yards away, her carcass studded with the remains of arrows. Bully didn't move close enough to investigate, didn't see the knife wound the mad woman had used to take her own life. Instead, she silently praised Svala for getting the job done, and turned her attention to the cottage.

A significant portion of it was now open to the weather, thanks to the fire that'd been unleashed. Three-quarters of the roof had been eaten away, but the burned section seemed to have collapsed before the flames had reached the whole thing. Pieces of the house were still smoldering, and the odor of smoke still stained the air even in the unburnt section. Still, because of the partitioning of the rooms it made three walls and cover (two and a half and cover, really), which seemed better than being out in the open. Bully was still trying to decide whether it was folly to try and sleep so close to the lingering smoke when she noticed movement in her peripheral vision. Back atop the slope, Fletch was creeping towards the place where Bully had been laying.

Bully whistled, waited for Fletch to look, and then waved her down. She probably should have been glad to see the kid trotting along beside the witch, but... well. Kids weren't really her specialty even when she was feeling well, at the moment she definitely wasn't feeling well.

"Hey," she said, when Fletch drew near. "Nice work."

Offline Svala Elkshaarn

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #26 on: Jun 22, 18, 03:26:40 PM »
As Svala neared the hideaway, she could tell that it had been disturbed -- and vacated. Before she could truly start searching for Bully, she heard a whistle. Her gaze sharply went that way, half-expecting a stranger, but when she saw Bully waving, her posture relaxed. Relief swept through her. Svala motioned for Emil to follow her. The kid looked scared to be away from her and quickly closed the distance between them so that he could become her shadow.

“You are well,” Svala said, half questioning. Equal parts relief and concern were etched across her face. “The Widow’s spells, what did they do?”

Once Bully had told her, Svala mirrored her partner’s investigation of the charred ruins. She looked up at the sky, judging the time, then back at the husk of a house. Gingerly, she stepped into the remains, scanning for useful items. “We must make camp soon. And unfortunately, near, since the day is at its end,” But not within these ruins, just in case someone came to find them. Svala managed to find a blanket that was unburnt and some food sealed in preservation spells that were easily broken. “Provisions tonight may be scarce,” she explained to Bully as she exited. “I can set traps for nocturnal animals.”

She realized that her experience with the forest placed the burden of responsibilities upon her, especially since Bully looked as though she had drained her Jewels in her mental fight. Finding and establishing a safe camp was paramount. After that, Svala could set both traps for hunting and traps for warning. And take watch through the night.

**And we must speak about what to do with the child once we are somewhere safe,** Svala said quietly to Bully. Aloud, she said, “Emil, this is my partner, Bully. That is her codename.”

Emil looked at Bully warily but didn’t ignore her. “Why?” he asked, meaning why was her codename that.  It was a question that Svala also wondered.

While the two of them awkwardly conversed, Svala picked her way over to the corpse of the Black Widow. She dug out her arrow but left the blade and everything else untouched. She would discuss with Bully what to do with the body later, once Emil wasn’t watching. She also noted that they would have to go back to where they had left Squirrel and the mother to retrieve those...remains. She hated thinking of it that way, given that they had been so recently alive, but...death left little room for illusions.

Offline Indaara Ericksson

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Re: Intrepid
« Reply #27 on: Jun 27, 18, 12:56:22 PM »
"Just knocked me out," Bully supplied, a bit dismissively, at the question about the Widow webs. "Took a while to eat through them, was all."

Rummaging through the remains of the house yielded a couple of useful finds, but nothing terribly exciting. Fletch commented on the need to find shelter, and Bully nodded, her bearing still grim.

"Yeah I'm not goin' far without recharging. I'm pretty tapped. But yeah... it's probably safer to not hang around."  Bully rolled her head to one side and then the other, a series of satisfying cracks sounding from each gesture while she popped her neck. She turned and started to pick her way out of the house when Svala's thread reached her, and she cut her eyes back at the witch, her egress paused for a beat. "We'll just take him back to Trigger," she said, frowning slightly as though she didn't understand why that was in question. "He's got connections that'll help get him somewhere safe."

The question about her codename won another pause, and Bully glanced from the boy to Fletch and back before answering. She shrugged.

"Probably 'cause most of the time, it's my way or take a hike," she said, with a little bit of a smirk. "Maybe. I dunno. Just the name I was given. Why are you named Emil?" She turned the question around on him with an arched brow, but regretted it immediately after. Last thing she wanted to do was turn his mind back towards his demolished family, and then have to deal with a squalling child while they tried to find a place to rest.

"What would your code name be?" she asked him, hoping to divert the topic before he thought too much on it. "What's something you're really good at?"