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Author Topic: A Storm of Flame and Fury  (Read 794 times)

Description: Open Thread!

Offline Gabriel Silvarin

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A Storm of Flame and Fury
« on: Dec 14, 18, 04:31:58 PM »

CONTENT WARNING
Violence and Death likely

Gabriel sat atop the walls to the Sabbah Compound and felt his heart begin to race. Below the streets were silent -too silent- and it unnerved him. All his senses were telling him to be on edge and yet below the party was still going strong. He could see his Queen sitting with Shadya and Michael, could hear the music waft up and feel the patter of millions of tiny grains of sand on his shields. The storm was well and truly rolling in now and Gabe couldn’t help but keep looking towards the open desert at it. It darkened the night sky, covering the moon and stars in a swirling blanket of darkness.

Gabe sighed and glanced back down towards the city, then froze.

There were lights, fire coming their way. Over the howl of the storm the raised shouts of hundreds, maybe thousands were muted and muffled but he could pick them out. Oh shit.

**Michael…**

His uncle didn’t answer. Gabe looked back over his shoulder and couldn't seem to find him, or Elenor, or Shadya for that matter. **Kia… something is happening out here. I’m not sure how much of a threat it is but it looks a whole lot like a mob heading this way. Can you come up here and take a look?**

There had been small, localized riots for weeks now, but as he watched a larger flame burst to life in the hazy distance something in his gut whispered, this doesn’t feel like a normal day.

More fired lit the night sky and Gabriel’s remaining calm evaporated. He turned towards the party, stepping up to the ledge and shouting down. “Everyone-” That was as far as he got.

Three things happened all at once.

The first, was that Gabriel’s shields, the ones keeping the Compound safe and the storm out, shattered. Between one second and the next they were just gone and the wind came howling in, blowing out candles and scattering tablecloths and napkins and drowning out the rest of what he might have said.

The second thing, was that a bolt of power much stronger than his own Gray came crashing into his personal shield, sending Gabriel into free-fall over the short lip of the wall.

The third and most frightening of all was the jerk on the Bond that connected him to Elenor and the sure, gut-wrenching and horrible knowledge that wherever she was, she was terrified and fighting for her life.

Offline Kiarian Vasiliev

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #1 on: Dec 14, 18, 04:53:55 PM »
Something... was off.  Kia had taken to the rooftop nearly thirty minutes ago, watching the storm through Gabriel's shields.  She'd been through bad weather before - even bad Pruulian weather.  This storm wasn't what was prickling her nerves.

But something was.  Some wisp of a dream within a dream that would not let her mind be at ease. 

Kia... something is happening out here.

She jerked her head away from the storm, swiveling her eyes until she could spot Gabriel atop one of the walls.  Like her, he'd gone high.  The fact that the man who hated Eyriens went high amused her, though she wouldn't needle him about it.  Not even a little.

She snapped open her wings, leaping from the rooftop to soar towards Gabriel's location.  She heard his voice on the wind half a breath before his shields shattered.  A surprised yelp left her, hands going up in reflex to cover her eyes while her senses ranged outwards..

And caught him falling.  She tucked her wings in tight to her body, diving for him without thought.  It might be stupid.  She would surely think it stupid later, but she would not let him fall disoriented towards the ground.

Gabriel was not Eyrien.  He was likely not trained to handle falls of this height.  With Craft stretching out, she caught at him, slowing his fall until she could snatch him up in her hands and land carefully near the entrance to the party. 

"WE ARE UNDER ATTACK!  TO THE QUEEN!"  She let her voice rip from her throat, slinging it into the air as she checked Gabriel's pulse and let her glowing eyes lift to look towards the oncoming danger.  Someone was out there.. someone darker than Gabriel.

With a hiss, she let her thoughts range out towards the traps she and Shadya had begun weaving into the Compound.  It was time to put an end to these bastards.  If enough of them died, perhaps the rest would bend the knee.

If enough of them died, perhaps she would be able to spare her Cousin the pain of delivering death sentences. 

"I need you on your feet, Gabriel... I have work to do."

Become the Hunter, not the Hunted.

Offline Shira al-Sabbah

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #2 on: Dec 14, 18, 05:15:14 PM »
Shira had no way of contacting Bastin once the attack began with the power bolt into that Gray Warlord Prince’s back and he left her side. The man had many talents but Psychic communication was not one of them, nor was working in a group. He had his orders, though, and she would just have to believe that he would follow them. She didn’t march at the head of the wave of rioters but she did walk with them towards the Residence. Behind them and across the Quarter, rooftop farms were starting to blaze. They were an easy target, the guards there ready to defend them but not capable of holding out against a mob this size. By morning, all of the False Queen’s work would be for naught.

As they approached the compound, Shira felt the compulsions she had woven around Adel spring into action. Pity that the girl had not managed to kill the Wormcaller before now but not unexpected. Elenor Lirion had proven remarkably resilient and Adileh, while talented and dedicated, was young yet. Tonight, she would earn her glory and Shira was kind enough that she would not tell the others in their organization that it had been a compulsion to push the girl to do what was right. If she survived, the honor would be hers.

And the Price too, if the Territory demanded it of anyone for killing a Queen, but Shira would fight to protect Adel from that fate if it was found out.

With a motion of her hand she probed ahead towards that annoying Gray shield and felt it vanish. Good man!

“THE PATH IS CLEAR, MY BRETHREN. TEAR DOWN THIS DEN OF THE IMPURE AND TAKE BACK OUR CLAN!”

Her yell had the desired effect. People who up until now had been content to walk began to run, and with the Shields down and no backups up yet in the confusion she was able to blast the gates open to where that farce of a wedding was taking place. The sand from the Storm was everywhere now, howling through the streets but they were creatures of the desert and knew how to take on storms. Shira lifted the cloth covering her face higher and shielded her eyes from the sand, then motioned to Parsa and Hava.

“Go, as we had planned. Parsa, I believe you have a score to settle with that little Summer Sky Warlord. Hava, go find Sarina and Salma. They are your one and only priority tonight.” Her followers left swiftly, and Shira turned to her other side. “Sister mine, Samir, you take the business side of the Court, secure the offices and treasury and make sure to not let anyone leave in that direction. Bast will be coming in from the back and sending people scurrying into the central courtyard. We must make sure out net tightens without any slip-ups.”

Shira watched as they, too, left. All around the residence now the streets were filling. There would be no walking out of this building and no flying in this storm. The central Courtyard of the Residence would be bathed in blood tonight and they would be victorious.



Offline Aahad al-Situla

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #3 on: Dec 15, 18, 04:01:11 AM »
The party was winding down. The Warlord Priest was terrible at parties. Ever proving his professional skill as a wallflower he did not associate much with anyone of any depth at the festivities. For one, Aahad did not know anyone, literally, apart from Vera. Torin ran a distant second, only through association with Vera but apart from any connection via her? Aahad had no one really to socialize with.

Two? The emotional fervor that undergirded parties wore him out. Not that they were intense but so myriad in presence. Vera and Torin practically washed any room they were in with a brilliance of heat and passion as if one came face to face with a star. Yet a small group discussing not far from them were voids. No interest in being there one way or another. A few in the crowd bristled with an acrid taste of hatred. When the habub of large gatherings began to get to him, those sensations seeped into him like a baiting predator.

He needed a break.

He slipped away from the Courtyard and simply went into the first doorway he was near, idly walking down the corridors to acquaint himself to the Sabbah compound. The only Clan holding he had ever been in was the Jinan, and even that was a rare treat. He could be one of the few to be able to boast that he had been to not just his parental Clan holding but that of another? Why not take in the view? The difference in styles and tastes. The Situla were nowhere near the level of the Jinan, and especially not even the Sabbah and all three had slightly different tastes reflected in the structure of their home.

Prestige.

Wealth.

Power.

It was as if those very concepts were ingrained into the very stones of the compound as he traversed the halls, a few creaked-open doors suggested he was walking in the more official areas of the compound where the Court, if stationary, worked. Shahab described the Sabbah as the more materialist of the Clans.

They turn salt into gold with a devotion that would make Mother Night envious. They are the Clan Temporal, obsessed with the firmament and no Clan or Tribe can compare to what has made the Sabbah integral to the desert for thousands of years - ambition.

Ambition....

Aahad was never ambitious. He had no dream of ruling or leading or being anything other than whatever the hell he wanted to be. The allure was there of course. To cast off the shackles of Mother Nights' Champion and show everyone just what Aahad al-Situla was capable of. That he was more than just a nerd. He may not be a warrior, but he wouldn't be denied his due.

No.

The thought evaporated as quick as it emerged. There was no reason to do so! He was who he wanted to be, the master of his own soul and the shepherd of his own destiny. No. The Sabbah was foreign to him. The gilded halls offered fruits that he didn't want nor need. As he walked, it became clear just how different he was from the Clan Temporal. As a matter of fact...he wasn't temporal at all.

Aahad had no chains binding him to the firmament. He had cut himself from the Situla for their trespasses, seeking neutrality for the pursuit of his own salvation. He cut himself from Courtly life, dedicating himself to self-reflection and mastery at the temple. Everyone respected it too. Peaceful days at the Temple with no one banging down his door and only when he appeared in public did everything he hated about himself show up. The deification, the near-worship like stance people took to him. The demands of destiny echoing in every word and look people gave him. Destiny...he would leave no footprint in the sand, merely a statue at Arnadeth Temple where his thoughts and musings would be listened to by people generations hence. But no footprint. No oral story of Aahad al-Situla. He would disappear one day.

Is that truly living...or simply existing?

Fire.

Aahad perked up.

AIR

A wave of heat simmered on his skin that threatened to melt him with how precise the wave was. A sensation washed over his senses, a radiance so true that it would burn everything in it's path regardless of whether one should be blessed or scorched by it. Rightousness. Pride, the pinnacle of Air, tainted the corridor with a heavy weight that fanned the flames of passion.

"....That's no wedding bell." Aware and outside of his inner thoughts he turned around and found himself in a long, very empty corridor.

"Where are the guards?" The guards knew that Aahad was aimlessly wandering the compound and he knew, for a fact that any guard regiment worth their water would at least have one or two guards to keep an eye on him, even at a distance to not be disrespectful to a guest, since he was away from the Courtyard.

*CRASH*

Broken glass echoed in the corridor and footfalls resonated like thunder.

"No survivors!"

"Down with the false Queen!"

"Shit."


Offline Theodor Lirion

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #4 on: Dec 17, 18, 10:10:26 AM »
Theo had enjoyed the festivities immensely even in spite of the storm that had started rolling in and was roaring around the city.   Wasn’t there an old Hayllian adage about rain on your wedding day… a wet bride was a lucky bride?   I had hoped it still applied here in Pruul where the storms roared but never shed its water onto the land.  Well, not usually and not without some very large craft involved as he was want to understand.   After all, wasn’t that part of the reason those Mineborn kids were so important?  They actually made water come out of the sky?   

 It was certainly different than any wedding he had ever attended, but still held all the wonder and romance that every married couple could ask for on their special day.  It gave him only a little sadness though, watching Vera and Torin sharing in their dance, and he shifted just a little to the shadows with his wine to reminisce in his once held dreams of his own wedding.  He had wanted the ceremony, wanted the symbolism of binding himself for the rest of his life with the one whom he loved beyond his own life.  Mya had laughed and told him he should give up his life of trade and take up a musical instrument, because he had the heart of a poet.   He had asked her several times, but her answer had always been rationally well timed. There was always some reason, something that got in the way. 

And then she was gone.

Theo swore that if the chance ever came again, he would never make stupid excuses.  He would grab a hold and live that life. 

A few more glasses in he had rejoined the rest of the revelers,  stealing Elenor away for a dance, probably ignoring some rule about Protocol and who got the honor to dance with a Queen.  To Hell with that, he was going to dance with his sister whenever he wanted.  Then he stole a few more dances with some other women of the court, ladies he didn’t know and who had eyed him warily when approached but quickly fell victim to his laughter and charm as he twirled them around the dancing area.   A few of the men scowled at him but he didn’t care.  It was a party, a celebration of life and damned if there hadn’t been enough death and tragedy around this place for a hundred lifetimes.  He was going to enjoy every drop that he could get, and some more of the wine.  Damn, it was good.

 
He wasn’t sure exactly how much he had consumed, but he figured that there were a few many bottles lying empty somewhere when he stumbled over to a bench, feeling flush as the alcohol flowed through his veins.   Yep, he was good and toasted.   Funny thing wine was. He had drunk his fill of much stronger things and been fine, but wine was a sneaky thing, stealthily creeping up on you until you suddenly found the room spinning.

*El,* he sent to his sister, who was being spun around the dancefloor by… Theo squinted a little…he wasn’t sure who the man was.  He had seen him around though, and none of her males was throwing a small fit about it so he must have been alright.  *I think I’ve had enough party for the night.   I’m heading up to my room.*   He saw her glance in his direction and he lifted his hand in a little wave as he rose up and felt the ground tilt just slightly beneath him.   Okay, maybe he shouldn’t have had that last glass.  Turning slowly to keep himself upright, he walked towards the entrance of the residence, nodding to the guards who watched him stumble past them with their own little amusement clearly showing on their face.

Probably thinking between them about the bulking foreigner who can’t drink worth a damn, he thought to himself as he let his hand trace along the wall while he walked, a guiding assistance to keep him oriented straight.  Good thing Salma had already gone to sleep by now, he would hate for her to see him in this state.  He just hoped she didn’t bounce into his rooms too early in the morning.  He suspected he might have a small headache when the sun rose.

Turning down the hall towards his rooms he stopped for a moment, staring down the empty corridor.  Empty.   Why was it empty?   He knew Matin had ordered a pair of guards posted at both ends of the hallway at all times since Salma and now Naya had taken up residence.   He sniffed, a hand rubbing at his eyes to clear them and try and jog his memory.  Maybe he had lightened the roster, so that they could also enjoy some of the party? 

Don’t be stupid Theo, that man doesn’t loosen the strings on his shoes to bring his own feet comfort.  He’d never pull back the guards that protected his daughter.

Darkness damn the man, he was fastidious to the point of annoyance, so where were the guards.    Something buzzed at the back of his mind, chasing off some of the fog of the drink as he reached his own door and triggered the Purple Dusk locks to open.  Maybe he was just overthinking things and everything was fine. After all, there was a LOT of strength in that courtyard for the wedding.   No one would be stupid enough to try anything with Gabe’s Grey wrapped around the compound protecting it.

Something drew his eyes to the window at the end of the hall that looked out over the wall of the compound and to the streets below.  A light where there shouldn’t have been a light, a light that was growing and moving towards the compound.  Witchlight and torchlight, growing in a spectacular field of reds and blues.   Theo felt more of the fog clear as a cold feeling of dread slid down his back.   Gabe might wear a Grey but even a Grey could break beneath the weight of many other jewels combined as a ….

He felt the strike, the blow of something hard against the protective barrier around the Residence with enough Power and force to send a ripple through the air, and then the air felt….open and exposed.   The wind drove sand hard against the panes of the glass, obscuring the view outside as the storm fell on the building but through the current of sand he saw the field of colors outside spread and rush towards the compound

Shit shit shit, he thought to himself as he heard shouting above the roar of the storm, cries of warning and cries of attack.  Footsteps came rushing down the hall and Theo turned to see a young servant turn the corner, face set in a hard look as he took in Theo and narrowed his eyes to sharp daggers.

“Death to the Wormcaller and her followers!”  He shouted and rushed at Theo, his khanjar unsheathed and in his hand.  Theo looked around but there was nothing around him to use as a weapon.  No matter, he’d done more with less and this lad wore the Tiger Eye so power to power he had the advantage.  Still, there was the matter about the sharp pointy object he carried.

I’m gonna be bleeding again, he thought almost mournfully as he clenched his fists and rushed at the oncoming man.  Maybe Naya would hear the fighting and spirit Salma out of harms way, though between the storm outside and the incoming attackers he wasn’t sure where that might be.   The other man was trained, that much was certain by his stance and the way he held his weapon, but he didn’t have nearly as much time as Theo did when it came to dealing with an attack when you were out weaponed or out manned.  He might not be holding a sword, but Theo had learned long ago how to use himself as his best weapon, and as the servant shifted the weight on his feet to make his first lunge, Theo swerved, feeling the kiss of blade pass through his tunic and tickling against his ribs as he spun and brought both of his hands fisted down on the other man’s collarbone.   He felt the crack of bone give way and watched his opponent’s face pale.   He had used this similar blow many times.  Between the pain of the broken bone and the placement of the fracture, his arms would become impossible to move without excruciating pain, essentially disarming the opponent.

The khanjar dropped from his hands, and Theo wrapped his hands around the other man’s jaw in a gesture that almost looked tender if you overlooked the way his large hands gripped into his hair tight enough to pull back the skin of his face.   Theo leaned in close, his voice a dark whisper as he held the struggling attacker who weakly tried to breath through the pain and yet still tried to kick at Theo and free himself.

“Stupid stupid stupid,” he hissed in a voice that might have almost been arousing if you couldn’t make out the venom beneath the dark tones, “Now, I can make the rest of your incredibly short life full of so much pain that you will beg for the ending that you’ll never get or you can tell me what you know about what the hell is going on out there and I will show you mercy.”

To his credit, the servant didn’t wet himself.  He rolled his eyes hatefully at Theo and managed to spit out angrily, “You and your whore sister are the poison that destroys our land.  Even the Sandworms wouldn’t touch your disgusting flesh.  Soon, the True Sabbah will rise as the rightful leaders of our Clan and return us to our glory!”  He smiled devilish at Theo.  “Death to the tainted blood!”

Theo brought his lips down to the other man’s ear and whispered, “I’d tell you to enjoy Hell, but I’m not going to let you be so lucky to make the transition to demon dead.  Instead I’ll leave you with the knowledge that every one of the True Sabbah will become less than a whisper in the Darkness at my hand because your water will NOT be returned to your people.  Everything about you, I will erase just as you tried to erase my sister.  Just as you tried,” he purred throatily, “ to take my Queen from me.  Your poisoned water will never touch her sweet lips.”

Theo’s arms flexed and he felt and saw with sick satisfaction the man’s head turn unnaturally around on his shoulders, the horrified look in his eyes his last thought.  With disgust, Theo let the body fall to the ground, shielding it in a Purple Dusk shield before igniting it with witchfire.   He watched with satisfaction as the body shrivelled in the heat of the craft.    Reaching down to pick up the fallen sword, he tucked it against his belt and rose just in time to see Matin coming towards him.  Only then did he vaguely remember hearing the man’s voice in his mind in the middle of the roaring bloodthirst, warning him of an attack and to get to Salma.

“That one won’t be bothering us,” he said icily as he gestured to the smoldering pile within the shielding.   He turned to follow Matin towards his rooms where Salma and Naya would certainly be sleeping but when Matin didn't stop there, Theo looked momentarily confused. Theo cast out his senses for Salma, pulling on that slender bonded thread between the two of them.   He had sensed her inside, but he hadn’t followed that line specifically.  Salma was one of the most well guarded children in probably all the realms, and usually with Matin or Naya so there wasn’t ever really the need to keep that close a focus on her.    He felt his awareness shift to the side, further down the corridor towards the area for other Wards of the Court..and a smaller kitchen area.   He hadn’t even known it existed but Naya had pointed it out to him just the other day.

“The kitchens,” he said and took off in a run with Matin at his heels.

*Naya, take Salma into the pantry and put as many Rose shields up around the two of you as you can.  We’re coming for you!*


Offline Matin al-Sabbah

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #5 on: Dec 21, 18, 04:08:35 PM »
Matin felt his Bond to Elenor blossom with terror and he ran. Without hesitation. Not towards her, but towards the other Queen who he kept marked. Elenor had other people who would protect her, people stronger and more powerful than him. Salma was vulnerable, and she would always be his first priority.

As he ran,  Matin opened a narrow spear-to-distaff thread.

*Naya, do you have Salma? Where are you?*

The hearth witch replied immediately.

*I have her. Kitchens.*

*I'm on my way. Put her in the water storeroom and shield the kitchen until I get there.* The room was spelled so that anyone who entered wouldn’t be able to leave unless they were accompanied by a member of the court.

Naya acknowledged the instructions and Matin opened another thread.

*Little Sweet, do what Naya says and stay quiet, just like we practiced. I love you.*

The most urgent messages conveyed, he opened a Purple Dusk spear thread. Barin was under Shira’s control, but Salma still had one Bonded.

*Theo. We’re under attack. Salma is in the kitchen near her room. Meet me there.* The Warlord had left the gathering earlier, and if he had retired to his own quarters he would get to Salma and Naya first.

There was no immediate response, but Matin couldn’t wait for confirmation.

As he dashed towards the kitchen, darting around those he passed regardless of the side they seemed to be on, he sent a spear thread to Prince Dyslin, troubled by the fact that the Master of the Guard had not reached out to him first.

Again, nothing.

Matin reached out to Danyal, to Bashir, to Malika, to Michael's new second-in-command. There were standing orders for any kind of attack but those plans didn't cover the details that couldn't be planned for, and teasing order out of the chaos came almost naturally to him.

As he entered a hallway near his quarters he saw Theodor but he said nothing, too focused on his psychic conversations to acknowledge the Warlord’s words.

Matin sent a quick message to Naya as they neared the kitchen. *Door.* A moment later he opened the now-unlocked door, glancing up and down the hall as the two males entered and a Purple Dusk shield went up around them and Matin continued back to the storeroom without stopping. Salma threw herself into Matin’s arms and he carried her back into the kitchen. He set her down, on one knee in front of her, met Naya’s eyes and nodded.

Then he put his hands on Salma’s shoulders and touched his forehead to hers.

Jāné del-am, life of my heart, you need to go with Theo now. I love you more than anything in existence, and I’ll be with you again as soon as I can.”

He pressed his lips to his daughter’s hair, trying to stretch this too-short moment into eternity, and, for the first time since he first held her in his arms, Matin severed the thread of his Mark that connected them.

He stood, his vision blurring with barely-restrain tears, and turned to Theo.

“In the event of an attack, the Court is to assemble at Prince Izîl Jofari’s residence.” His voice was brisk and official but his hands shook at his sides. “Depending on the nature of extent of the threat, we either secure the compound and return or leave the Territory. Shira still has Barin and Yari. Naya and I can’t leave. I need you to take Salma.

“I need you to keep her safe.”



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Offline Nayarreh al-Sabbah

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #6 on: Dec 23, 18, 03:06:04 PM »
Naya was already holding Salma up on her hip when the building shook and the still air filled with howling wind and shouts. Kitchen staff scattered all around her but Naya just backed up into a corner and let them go, her arms tight around the little Queen on her hip.

“What’s happening mom?” Salma asked, alarm in her voice. Naya didn’t blame her but as she opened her mouth to answer a thread from Matin. Those words confirmed her fears and she felt her heart begin to race. It was happening again: the people who she had trusted and worked with, who had been family to her, were once more coming to take one of her children away. Well, this time they wouldn’t succeed. Barin and Yari were out of her arms but Salma wasn’t yet and she would be damned to Hell itself if anyone hurt this little girl.

“Come on, my sweet. We’re going to hide just like you grandma wants and where your papa said to, alright. I just need you to be quiet, alright Salma.”

The Queen nodded and Naya crossed the kitchen, stopping only long enough to vanish a long, sharp knife before heading to the water storage room. It was a large space with only a simple door but she had been told ten times this week already not to go in there unless a member of the Court was present to let her out again, since it was spelled to avoid unwanted theft or intrusion. Matin was coming, though, so Nayarreh did not hesitate before pushing through into the room and closing the door behind them. She set Salma down behind one of the barrels and put her back and Jewels into pushing another heavy one in front of the door, just in case someone other than Matin tried to get in here.

That done and triple Rose shields wrapped around both of them, Naya went to sit by Salma and pulled the now shaking child into her lap.

“Shh, little one. Everything will be fine. Your papa is on his way and Theo probably is too. Everything will be fine.” But in her heart, Naya knew it was a lie. Nothing was going to be fine because she and Matin had discussed this over the last few days, ever since she had come here after the boys had been taken. There was a protocol in place in case of an attack, one they had practiced with Salma and that had been conveyed to Naya: if Shira or her cronies came for the little Queen or the Court, she would be given to someone trusted who would protect her -Theo, Elenor, Michael, or Adavera- and that person would take her and run to where the Court would reconvene. If that did not work, they would keep running until they were out of Onn, out of this region of Pruul, or out of the Territory entirely if that was what it took to keep Salma out of Shira’s hands. Matin though? He wouldn’t be the one running with her, not with Barin and Yari still missing. Had the boys been here then they might have all left days ago. Adavera had suggested it, had she not? Take fast horses, run until they were out of Shira’s reach… but Naya had waited too long.

Now it was all going to crumble again.

She jumped as the door budged open, then heard Matin’s voice and helped him move the barrel. Salma ran to him and he swept her up into his arms and Naya felt tears rolling down her cheeks as she heard him whisper words of love and promises of a reunion he must know might be a lie. Naya too moved in close, taking a single moment to hold on to both of them and whisper, “I love you, Salma. You go with Theo and be good. Here.”

Naya called in a small bag and handed it to Theo to vanish. “Her things. We’ve been ready for days for something like this. Please… run fast and keep her safe my friend.”

As Theo was handed Salma, Naya wrapped her arm through Matin for if she didn’t the Hearth Witch was sure one or both of them would chicken out and go with the daughter they both loved. She was glad Matin had known not to ask that of her, that it would be an impossible decision to choose between the Queenling who might as well be of her own womb and the two boys who were the sons she had chosen and who had been given to her by the Darkness to raise and protect.

Salma would have Theo. Barin and Yari had only her and Matin.

She stayed there, holding on to the Warlord Prince through any goodbyes and felt his hand over hers tighten painfully as their heart left with Theo into the storm. Naya got one last look at Salma’s scared little face and then they were alone in the empty kitchen. She turned to Matin and looked up at him, eyes wide.

“What do we do now?”

His stillness only lasted one breath longer, then like a mask the stoic Steward of the Court took back the body of the grieving father and Matin led her back to the storage room. She felt Purple Dusk shields wrap around the Rose ones and her blood was pounding in her ears as he instructed her to push as much weight against the door as she could then find somewhere to hide.

Then he too was gone.

Alone and in the dark, Naya huddled down behind some barrels and let herself cry. Shouts, bangs, the smell of smoke and death all echoed and swirled through the residence but she didn’t move from her place. Would Matin ever come back for her? Was Elham out there, fighting for the side that had taken their boys? Naya couldn’t imagine that she would be but nothing made any sense anymore.

It’s all over.

Those words kept circling over and over in her mind.

Shira is going to win.

If Matin hadn’t believe that he never would have sent Salma away, and if even a member of Lady Elenor’s Triangle had come to the conclusion that she was about to lose, what hope could Nayarreh hold to?




Offline Theodor Lirion

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #7 on: Dec 23, 18, 10:13:56 PM »
Theo felt Matin’s Purple Dusk shielding go up and added his own behind it, followed by another layer.  It might not hold against the bastard that went against Gabe’s Gray (and Darkness help them if that bastard came after them) but it would give them a few moments time to react to an outright attack if they came to the kitchens.   Salma launched herself at her father and Theo looked on to the touching family moment before turning his eyes back to the door, guarding and allowing Matin this moment with his daughter.  Naya followed behind Salma and the three of them crouched in a tight embrace.

When he looked back, Matin was rising to his feet and held the most vulnerable look in his eyes.  A man torn, a heart breaking. Theo knew that feeling all too well.   Theo held his eyes, gave him the courtesy of not looking away, recognizing that pain and standing with him at this crucial moment.   Matin, who held nothing and almost no one in higher regard than his daughter was handing him over to the man who represented the very reason why they were being forced to part.   

“Prince Jofari, I know this place,” he said gruffly, his chin tilting slightly as the weight of emotion began to make his throat tighten.  He looked down at Salma, who was clinging tightly to Naya, her own dark eyes shining with unshed tears as much as the little Queen was trying to put on a brave face.   She was still just a child.   Theo looked back at Matin, reaching up to grab his shoulder tightly.

Words didn’t seem right in this moment, there was suddenly too much between them.  Too much that should have been said and needed to be said and might never be said.   Theo looked into the eyes of a man who had been enemy, annoyance, unwilling collaborator, uneasy friend and then….

That night had shifted the foundation of the last couple of centuries beneath his feet, and there just wasn’t enough time now to shift through it.   He still wasn’t sure what it had meant, if it had meant something but there was a difference there now that hadn’t been there before.  Before he could think too much about why he was pulled to act in this moment, he stepped forward and threaded his hand up into Matin’s dark hair.

Naya and Salma slipped away from the world for a moment as his fingers intertwined in that glossy black silk and he pulled so that Matin’s head tilted back and his mouth was offered up.  Before the other man could react, Theo captured his mouth hotly.   The man’s lips were satin and full, warm and parting to his and his other arm pulled Matin against his chest as he lost himself in the taste of his mouth, the feel of hard muscle against his own as he poured himself into the moment.   Then it was over, and he pulled back panting in surprise, shock and something akin to regret, feeling the air cool the heat between their bodies as he stepped away.

Not looking at Naya or Salma, a little worried about the reaction from either, he bowed his head respectfully to Matin.  “On my honor, my blood and my life,  I will protect your daughter until my last breath.  When the way is cleared, I will bring her back safely to you.  I swear this on my Jewels.”  His gold-blue eyes held Matin’s hotly for a moment before he turned to Naya, taking the bag she offered and vanishing it before pulling her in for a tight hug and a soft kiss into her hair.

“Your daughter will be as my own, I will keep her safe Naya.  Get your boys home safe!”   He placed a hand on her shoulder.  “Girl is in my Quarters, she will guard and protect you where I cannot. I can’t bring her with us on this journey.”

Turning to Salma,he crouched.  “My Lady, it will be scary and dangerous.  I will need my arms free so you will have to hold tightly to my shoulders, alright?”    At her small nod, he turned so she could pull herself up onto his back, her arms wrapping tightly around his neck.

Wrapping her in a tight Purple Dusk shield to secure her against him as he moved, he turned to her parents.  “When we are safe, I will send you word.”   He nodded in anticipation of their worry, “This isn’t the first time I’ve had to send secret messages.  No one will know they are from me, where they are coming from and how to follow them back to us.”   Giving them one more lingering look, he wrapped himself and Salma in a tight Purple Dusk shield, adding a sight shield around her.  If anyone saw him, they would not see the precious cargo he carried.  Taking down the shields around the door, he scanned the hallway to make sure there was no one coming, and took off running.

Salma’s arms tightened as he was certain she caught the last view of her father before he spirited her down the hallway.   There was a back entrance that led towards a small stable before reaching the outer wall of the Residence.   It was just taller than he was, guards posted along the wall were usually enough of a deterrent for anyone trying to come in but with the attack focused at the front, he had hoped there was no one still in their stations.

Peering carefully around a corner, he saw no movement from the shadows and slipped out as quickly as he could, using aural shielding around his feet as he had done in the temple to mask the sound of his footsteps.   Passing through outer wall might be too risky with Salma, shielded as she was.  He didn’t worry about scaling the wall though.  She weighed nothing, and he had climbed higher rock faces than this.   

He almost missed the shift of shadow when something blasted and caught his leg, causing him to fall to one knee.   He looked up to see a woman he didn’t know, a Black Widow who wore a Purple Dusk on her hand but a Sapphire below the Hourglass around her neck.  She outranked him in power. 

“Where is the Queenling, impure one,” she said calmly, almost matter of factly.
Theo shrugged, keeping himself as nonchalant as possible, “How should I know where my sister is?   Last I saw her she was at the party you and your friends so rudely interrupted.   Not my fault you can’t keep track of her.”

“Don’t toy with me, where is the little Rose Queen, my cousin’s daughter?”

Theo felt Salma’s heart thudding against his back wondered for a moment if this woman would hear it, if she pushed at his shielding with her Sapphire, his would break and she would see Salma. He wouldn’t, couldn’t lose Salma.  Holding up his hands, he shifted his expression to one of surrender.

“Alright, you made your point clear.  You burned down my home, killed my dogs and destroyed my business.  I was only staying around for the wedding and then I was going to leave the Territory.  Isn’t that what you and your kind wanted?  Well you win, I’m done with this hellish sandhole with its monstrous worms who look like overgrown leeches.  I’m going heading over the border and putting this place far behind me.  Now if you’ll excuse me,” he said taking a step to the side which she quickly countered, her shrewd eyes narrowing on him.   

He had played it too well, too eager.   He felt the pull of Power as she readied another bolt to break his shields when an explosion sounded from behind her and fire danced into the sky.   Not wasting a blessing in disguise, Theo rushed her much as he had the man in the hallway.  Unlike him, he only had a narrow moment to disable the Black Widow before she could overpower him.   Thankfully, he only needed the moment.  His hand wrapped around her throat and with just the force of his momentum and muscle, he slammed her head into the side of the building.   She fell wordlessly to the floor.   

“Theo,” he heard Salma whisper in his ear and he shook his head, reaching up to gently pat her arm.   “She’s not dead my Lady, just asleep and if the Darkness is merciful, she’ll be asleep long enough to get some distance.”   Not wasting another second, he launched himself at the outer wall, using a small retaining wall as a foot up and threw himself upwards to grab a hold of the top of the wall.   With a small grunt of effort, Theo pulled himself up and over the wall, landing on the street below and crouching in the shadow to scan their surroundings.   Nothing, the street was blessedly empty.   

“Alright Salma, I’m going to take a page from your cousins, but we will be up high so hold on as tightly as you can.  Don’t worry, you won’t choke me,” he said as he scaled up the nearest building to reach the rooftop.   He took off in a hard run, leaping from roof to roof, keeping the aural shields on his feet to quiet the sound of his landing as he rushed further and further away from the Sabbah quarter.   Only once did he pause in his journey, to catch his breath and turn to look back.   What had once been filled with light and music and joy glowed ominously red in the night sky with the torches, and where there had been shouts and cheers of celebration, he heard only the cries of victory and the echoing words “True Sabbah”.   

Theo made quick work of the rest of his run, dropping from the rooftops to the kitchen entrance of Izil’s large residence.   The main entrance, so close to the main streets, was too much of a risk to be seen and he knocked against the door.   There were still lights inside, the cook and staff must have been enjoying a late meal, and a White jeweled serving boy peered out at him worriedly.   Theo pushed past him without ceremony and closed the door behind him, locking it.

The staff had been on their feet, staring at him in surprise and alarm.   He raised his hands.  “I’m not here for trouble, I am Theodor Lirion, brother to Elenor Lirion al-Sabbah.  Your master should be expecting me.”  At least, he had assumed Izil would have been told of the troubles and been expecting El and her court.   The man he assumed was the butler nodded and motioned Theo to follow, taking him up to a second floor room and bidding him to wait there.   

Only after the man left, did Theo drop his shields and release Salma from his back, helping her down to the floor gently.   She frowned at the wrinkles in her clothing, her hands brushing them to try and tidy them before she slid into a nearby seat. 

“Theo,” she said softly, “are my papa and mom going to be alright?”   Theo knelt before her, his hands engulfing hers.

“Yes little one.  Your grandmother will never let anyone hurt him, and he will never let anyone hurt your mom.   They will be safe, and they will make sure Barin and Yari stay safe.  I promise, I’ll bring you back to them as soon as I can.”

Salma looked thoughtful for a moment before looking back at him, “Where are we going?”    He shook his head.  “I don’t know.  We need to wait for Lady Elenor and her men to arrive and then we will decide.  Are you hungry or thirsty?  I can see about getting you a snack.”   

“No, I’m alright,” she said quietly, and he could see the sadness in her face.  He cupped her chin.  “I promise Lady, you will see them again.”


Offline Bashir al-Sabbah

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #8 on: Dec 23, 18, 10:48:09 PM »
Really? They couldn’t even have a fucking wedding without something going wrong?

Bashir couldn’t feel the Gray Shields encompassing the compound from that guy from Dena Nehele but he could guess that they were there based on how the sand from the storm brushed against it in weird patterns. Damn storms. They were always getting sand in places where sand shouldn’t be and a lifetime of living in Pruul hadn’t changed Bashir’s grumbling attitude towards them.

But the storm this time was accompanied by droves of people -- angry ones -- and Bashir had no idea what sort of shit was being stirred up, and by whom, this time. “Really? Really?!” he snapped as he heard the initial calls for action. And even though he was First Escort, there were much better, stronger guys that could defend Elenor. **Don’t do anything stupid,** he sent to her because, hey, let’s be honest, one of them was going to do something stupid probably.

With that being established, he hoped that Elenor stayed the fuck away from whatever this was, and Bashir went to go investigate.

“The fuck is going on here?” he barked at one of the guards.

“Uh..looks like a mob, sir,” the man answered. “They um...they keep yelling about the Wormcaller. Think they’re coming for Lady Elenor, sir.”

“Like Hell they are,” Bashir growled. The captain of the guard barked some orders out but Bashir didn’t hear it. They didn’t apply to him anyway. And maybe he wasn’t the greatest fighter, or even a trained one, but he was sure as fuck not going to let a mob of stupid people get near his Queen because that bitch Shira decided to start trouble again.

Seriously, why hadn’t someone just slit the bitch’s throat? How hard could that be?

Apparently pretty hard because someone hadn’t done it already.

Bashir cut around to one of the other hallways, letting the guards handle whatever was coming from that other way. “How many?” he shouted at a man who was passing him from the other direction.

“Too many,” came the scared reply.

Well, fuck that.

“Don’t let the bastards get through,” Bashir snapped with far more military experience than he actually had and probably a bit more authority than he should have used. He started jogging to get to that entrance. As he neared, angry cries grew louder. He muttered, “This fucking shit. Really? Can’t even let us have a Darkness-damned wedding, these fucks.”

He was almost to the entrance when he saw someone dart into a room. Definitely someone who shouldn’t have been there sort of darting. “Hey!” he shouted. “Who’s there?” He readied a bolt of Tiger Eye power just in case.

Oh, and at least he remembered to Summer Sky Shield. Eskandar would have his hide if he forgot.


Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #9 on: Dec 23, 18, 11:52:38 PM »
Elenor lay on the ground, coughing and wheezing as she pulled the cord away from her bruised throat. The edges of her vision still danced as she curled up tighter, the pain in her chest from struggling to draw air into starved lungs nothing to the agony in her abdomen as her body shouted at her, in no uncertain terms, that the Craft she had tried to use was out of the question and not possible right now. The whimper that passed her lips was hoarse and agonized. Around her Michael and Shadya were moving, Adel was saying something, and in the further distance, beyond the walls that had been shielded but were now just stone voices shouted.

They were shouting in her head too. Gabe, yelling,

**ELENOR! Where are you? Fuck. Answer me!**


Bashir,

**Don’t do anything stupid,** would he consider letting herself get trapped and almost killed stupid? Probably.

Vera wasn’t even communicating words, just fury racing along the Bond, just about matching the intensity of the stream of profanity coming from her cousin. 

Their voices bounced around her throbbing head and she struggled to make sense of them. Yet really, all she could do was think the same two things, over and over, like a dog chasing its tail the thoughts tumbled end to end.

Adel tried to kill me.

I’m pregnant.

Adel tried to kill me.


Neither made any sense. They were incongruous to things she knew to be true and yet as she tried to draw from her Rose to answer the clambering voices another wave of pain made her vanish her Jewels just to get them away from her and clutch at her abdomen.

I’m pregnant.

Adel tried to kill me.

There was more movement. She could see it out of the corner of her eye but couldn’t uncurl herself enough to follow it. Shadya and Michael were here and no longer restrained. Would they kill Adel? Elenor couldn’t intervene either way right now, not shaking on the floor, her starved lungs starting to calm and with the fresh air cough. There was the smell of her blood in the air and her eyes fell to the cord. It must have rubbed away some of her skin because the sting hadn’t faded with the pressure.

She’d almost died.

Adel had almost killed her.

The door burst open and a flickering orange light blinded her momentarily. She looked up and saw the dark, icy face of a Warlord Prince ready to kill. Gabe nearly launched himself at her, skidding to his knees and pulling her up into his arms even as his eyes scanned the room.

“Where is he? Where the fuck is whoever did this? Why isn’t there a body already?!”

The movement had only made her coughing worse but Elenor pressed her hand against Gabriel’s chest, trying to make her lungs calm down enough to produce words.

“I’m alive.”

“Which is why this building is still standing, now WHERE THE FUCK IS-”

She reached up and snapped her fingers right in front of his eyes. He growled, his anger shifting to her and then, as she had hoped, he took a breath. “Gabe, what’s happening? Why is everyone yelling out there?” Every word was labored and hoarse but she managed to get them out.

“We’re under attack.”

Of course they were.

It’s over.

It didn’t take looking up at Shadya’s ashen face to confirm that this was the end the Widow had seen coming, but she did it anyway.

We didn’t forstall it. We didn’t do enough.

“Prince Silvarin, retribution has to come later. We need to get out of here first. Help me up.” He growled again and lifted her, but Elenor struggled. “No. You’re the Darkest Jewel we’ve got. You need your hands free. I can walk.”

She proved herself wrong as Gabe set her down and her legs gave out. He caught her under the arms as the world went blurry again. Then strong arms lifted her and Michael’s familiar, comforting scent enveloped the Queen. She closed her eyes as her stomach turned at the motion and pressed her face into his shoulder.

Elenor had always been able to trust her own feet. She’d survived for centuries alone, had gotten herself out of trouble time and again but not today. Today she would just have to hold on and trust that her Bonded had her. Terror and fury warred in her chest but resisting this would only slow them down.

“The meeting point for the Court is Prince Jofari’s house, yes?” Gabe asked and someone confirmed. “Alright. Kiarian, you cover from the air and get the Court moving. Adavera-” had Vera shown up? Oh hell, her wedding… “you and I keep everyone off Michael and Elenor. This isn’t going to be pretty. There’s a Jewel Darker than mine out there and they’re not pulling punches. Shield with everything you’ve got and layer with others.”

Elenor felt touches of Craft against her skin, Tiger Eye, Summer Sky, Purple Durk, Red, Gray. She squeezed her eyes shut tighter.

There’s no way we all come out of this alive.

The thought resonated around her mind, and then another,

Maybe it would have been better if Adel had succeeded. Maybe Shira would let them live if she had my blood.

Offline Adavera ibna Sadagh

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #10 on: Dec 29, 18, 04:41:31 PM »
Panic.  Fear.  Anger.  Hate.

A well of emotion surged out against her, and Vera in her more open state with her emotions untethered... snapped.  As the first of the invaders came into the party, screaming about ending the Worm Caller...

His scream cut off.  Surprised, his hands came up to his throat... and then he realized that his hands were empty.  The blade he'd had, the Khanjar he'd wielded, had been stolen by the Tiger Eye witch who planted a foot in his chest and shoved.

His body toppled over.  His head fell to the floor.  Her eyes lifted, a hiss and growl escaping her as she moved left, then back to the right.  She ducked, weaved, and worked her way in a steady procession against those that were coming in behind him.  Each face that looked at her with anger and hate?  They were enemies.

She was going to end them.

This was her wedding, Torin's wedding.  This was the one day when no one should be callous enough to piss her off, to try to ruin what little joy she had left - and these idiots had broken that sacred rule.  She heard a whisper of sound to her right, and her blade slashed out to cut off the hand holding a blade towards Torin. 

"Get back!"  She turned that shout towards the oncoming mob, growling in victory as many of them clutched at their heads and fell to their knees.  IT wasn't angled well enough to kill - she wasn't sure if any of 'her' side was amongst the mob, after all.

But it probably hurt like hell nonetheless.  She forced herself to Torin's side, taking a deep breath.  "Where's Taisha!?"

Her child.  Her lover.  Her Queen... Elenor would be safe, she knew that much.  Probably.  Ok, she didn't know but Elenor would have the most powerful guards.  Taisha was somewhere in this mess.  Her eyes sought back and forth, trying to find her.

Daddy... what happens when we fall..

No.  No!  Now was not the time for the past to echo along fragile chalice walls.  She clamped down on that, frowning and batting away another strike.  "Torin!  Where's Taisha!?"  She wasn't sure how long she could keep herself from drifting.  She wasn't sure how long she could focus on defense, rather than wading into the mob and taking as many down with her as she could.

She had to get Taisha and Torin out.  She had ot make sure they survived. 

Three things, Vee... only have three things at most in mind when directing a horse.  Keep it simple.

"Save Taisha. Save Torin.  Save Elenor..."  She began whispering those words, her lips forming them, mind focusing in on them.  Familiar rhythms.  There.  Elenor was that way.  Taisha would know to go towards Elenor.  But there were four enemies between her and the direction of the halls... She reached back with her free hand, grasping Torin's wrist and then facing all four of them before piercing her lips and letting out a shrill whistle.

Echo.  Pierce.  Kill.






Offline Malika al-Sabbah

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #11 on: Dec 29, 18, 05:13:45 PM »
The chaos felt like it came out of thin air, and Malika found herself swept up in it. There was shouting, screaming, something about a false Queen. Malika had seen Bashir earlier but he was suddenly out of her sight. She remembered to guard herself with several layers of skin-tight shields; her Opal put her ahead of many, but from what she could sense around her, the swirl of different Jewel strengths, it was not going to be enough.

Where was Elenor? Where was Bashir? They needed to get out of here. Where--

"Oof!" Malika found herself sprawled on the ground with the wind knocked out of her, and for a moment she was disoriented. All she could see were the feet around her. Someone stepped on her hand, and she was glad for the shield that protected her from that.

Panic tightened in her chest as she struggled to regain her breath. Fear mixed with the psychic scents around her, along with anger and deeper rage.

Right, they needed to get out. With a gasp, Malika was finally able to take in a breath, and she gulped in more air while pushing herself to her feet. Everything around her still felt fuzzy, detached, as she made her way through the crowd. She paused when Matin reached for her and after responding, she changed direction. They needed to get to the meeting spot.

But she couldn't leave without Bashir. Malika was jostled and shoved when she stopped again, and she found herself on the ground again.

*Where are you?* She called to Bashir. If she could get to him, they could find Elenor and get out. Hopefully. Malika caught the smell of smoke and realized that the place was on fire. What if they couldn't get out?

Offline Shira al-Sabbah

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #12 on: Dec 29, 18, 06:35:18 PM »
Shira

Shira entered the courtyard after the first wave of the mob and saw with great pleasure that the festivities were well and truly over and the defenders disjointed and chaotic. All those who had known this attack was coming had Red Shields around their ears and the Blood were communicating Psychically to avoid that Tiger Eye bitch’s little trick. Shira learned from her mistakes and yet her enemies never learned from their, just another piece of evidence that the Long-Lived were too stubborn and set in their ways to survive. This wave would crush those whose blood was impure and dawn would rise on a clean Sabbah, a True Sabbah, sworn to the old ways of the desert.

Shira stood in the entryway, under the blown-open gates behind her follower’s shields and watched as wedding guests, guards, and court members were taken to their knees. Not killed. That had been her orders. Only those who were impure would fall this evening. Those who were merely misled would be hobbled and taken prisoner until they saw the errors of their way. They would be confined, of course, for it would not do to let those loyal to the False Queen move around uncontested but Shira was not the monster they tried to make her out to be. She wanted to heal Clan Sabbah, not demolish it.

In the crowd she saw the ex-Jinan fighting. Her finger rose to point towards her and one of the warriors by her side nodded in understanding.

**Ranged attacks only.** She ordered, calling in arrows that had been spelled with webs that would break down shields up to the Green. **Don’t assume one will take her down. Take your time and aim true, my brother.**

His arm pulled back and as the witch seemed to look around, perhaps for her family or her Queen, he loosed.


Parsa

Parsa al-Sabbah called in his blade as he walked into the fray, his eyes searching for one face among the many who were fighting. He had watched this boy from the shadows for months, growing more and more furious that he had managed to best him when he had tried to take down the threat of Elenor al-Sabbah before she could cause so much damage. At the time he had wondered if it had been a Dark Jewel who had bested him and his men but the fact that it had been a SUmmer Sky child playing tricks had eaten away at his patience and control. It had been a pleasure taking the life of Bashir al-Sabbah’s Bond Brother, the old Steward, but that had only wetted Parsa’s appetite.

Today, the boy would die.

His blood was not tainted by the long-lived but tainted it was, those blue eyes a testament to the impurity of his birth. He might have been salvigible like Matin for just bonding to the yellow-haired whore but paired with his wretched mother and the slight against Parsa there would be no mercy for him.

He stalked through the halls of the Residence, a force of destruction as he launched balls of witchfire into rooms as he passed them, cackling at the destruction. Yes, Shira had told them to not destroy what could be saved but who would ever know it was him? He wanted these people to fear him and didn’t care how much furniture or papers burned to do it. What did the Sabbah need any of this for? A true Sabbah Queen would not spend most of the year in Onn, she would be on the Sands like tradition dictated. Burning this place to the ground would be a liberation of their Clan.

The halls echoed with screams. Parsa laughed as they reached him and then stopped as he passed a doorway thich with the False Queen’s scent. He sniffed then smiled and followed his nose to the gateway of a courtyard. It was thick with vegetation, green and floral with an olive tree at its center. There was medium sized dog sitting under it, black and white fur shadowed and glowing eyes fixed on Parsa.

“Here, doggie,” he crooned. He’d seen this beast before on reconoscence missions, trailing obediently along at the heels of the False Queen. The dog growled, low in it’s throat and stood up, taking a few steps forward.

“Your master isn’t coming back for you.” Again, the same growl. Parsa grinned and showed his teeth right back, then wrapped a shield around the outside of the courtyard and an aural one and conjured witchfire within it, great billows of it to burn away all the unholy greenery of this place. “And you won’t be around to bite at our heels.”

With another laugh Parsa turned around and strolled away.

He whistled an upbeat tune as he walked along the halls, striking running servants and guests down with non-lethal blows (though he was none too careful) and then, as he finally emerged into the chaos of the main courtyard again he saw him.

Bashir al-Sabbah was facing away from him, waving his arms about as if he had any business directing anyone, or being First Escort of Clan Sabbah. That waving hand had the ring on it and Parsa giggled to himself as he took careful aim at that hand and launched a powerful power bolt straight at it. If he was lucky it would go flying just like the sand Bashir had launched into his eyes a year before, just… with a lot more blood and screaming.


Hava

Hava came to with a throbbing headache. Fortunately she had fallen in such a way that no one had noticed her sprawling form in the shadows but the Black Widow’s heart sank as she heard the sounds of fighting and shouting in the distance and smelled smoke, which indicated beyond doubt that time had passed and Salma… Salma was probably gone.

Her heart ached as she stood and rolled her neck. How was she going to face her mother without that little girl? She was in the hands of one of them and that big brute had said he would leave the Territory. Had there been a grain of truth in that? Would he leave with their hopes and dreams?

Part of her wanted to follow but it was probably too late to pick up a trail in all this mess. She had told her mother that they had to secure the two young Queens before the attack but when had Shira ever listened to Hava? If she did, her sisters would still be alive.

That thought had her moving again.  This would all be for nothing if they ended up with no Queen at all. Wasn’t that why this whole mess started? Because the Sabbah had been desperate enough to take a chance on a woman who had no business anywhere near their leadership? Her steps sped up and up further as she pulled the web out of her pocket. It was a simple tracker, one fed by one hair that had been taken from a brush one of their operatives had taken from Sarina’s rooms. With grim determination, she cloaked herself in Sapphire sight shields and marched on towards where her web pointed.


Bastin al-Sabbah
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Bastin Alquatil passed through the wall of the Sabbah complex at a random point, tearing through any spellwork within before he did. He emerged in an empty corner and strode forward then turned and raised his hands. A section of the wall simply dissolved under a blast of his Ebon Gray and people swarmed in around him. Bastin didn’t hurry, though. No, the hunter wasn’t here for the thrill of battle, he was here with specific targets.

Elenor Lirion.
Gabriel Silvarin.
The Long-Lived.

The first two were older contracts, the last his newest one. He walked through the halls like a bloodhound with a scent for he could, indeed, sense where his targets were by their standing in the Abyss. There was only one Gray on the battlefield today and while there were several Opals and there was no way to know if the Queen was already dead, the Warlord Prince was his first target. Taking him down would make everything else tonight all the easier.

His steps were soft and quiet but he did not pass without notice. Each time he saw a face that seemed too pale, a pair of eyes too light, they died. He struck clean and true, Death Spells aimed to destroy life all at once and a blast of Ebon Gray power to finish the kills. He could not communicate with the rest of the attack force but did not need to. Bastin had always done the best of his work alone.

At last, with many a corpse in his wake, Bast reached the halls in which he could feel the Gray moving. Hidden, he watched as Gabriel Silvarin emerged out of a room flanked by the Red Eyrien Black Widow. He looked around then motioned others out of the room. The Sabbah Voice followed closely by the Hayllian Steward holding…

A smile spread over his face.

The Queen’s head was nestled against his neck and being hed with care but she was not moving. Still, if she were dead would they not have just vanished the body. That meant Bastin still had a chance of taking her or ending her. This was where he needed to decide what this gamble was worth. Taking the time to secure her alive as Aurav wanted would take time and open him up to attack. Would the extra marks make that worth it?

No.

Dead it would be.

Bastin stepped from the shadows and lowered his sight shields. It would be easier with them in place but he had never liked killing from the shadows when on a job. He didn’t have a personal grudge against this girl. Business was business.

“Elenor al-Sabbah. Gabriel Silvarin. Your lives are forfeit and have been paid for. Make your peace with the Darkness.” And with that an no further hesitation, Bastin held out both hands and shot a power bolt towards the hearts of both his targets.



Offline Lucky al-Izar

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #13 on: Dec 31, 18, 12:14:05 AM »
Lucky al-Izar was having a fucking great time.

One of his closest friends was getting married and he had given his Queen a gift he had been working on for months. He only hoped it calmed her racing heart, because he had felt it beating fast when he had pressed against her to lay a kiss on her lips. While he had been consumed with trying to keep Onn from destroying itself these past few months, he hadn’t focused on Elenor like he would like. Fin had been right, in a way. Ruling meant he had to sacrifice time with those he wanted to be with, perhaps even serve. Tonight was different though. Tonight he was just here to support his family, Vera, Elenor, and perhaps Torin. Maybe. Like an older brother would support his kid sibling. Lucky snorted to himself and was about to ask a very enticing witch to dance when his Sapphire shields picked up movement in the distance. Faint. Muted. But emotions touched his shield. Anger. Rage. Hate.

Lucky took a deep breath of the hot air and cocked his head. Interesting. It seemed they were going to have some wedding crashers. How delightful.

The Warlord Prince drew his weapon and glanced over to the only people that mattered. Vera and...fucking Elenor. Where had she gone too? Queens and there fucking elusiveness.

The Mineborn shielded Vera with his Sapphire from across the room. And silently, like a whisper across the skin that raises goosebumps, Lucky al-Izar went to the killing edge. Where others saw chaos, the Prince smiled. He inhaled the blood and let the Dark Place consume him. Mmm.

What a great fucking wedding.

With a deep snarl, one that reverberated through against the stone, Lucky screamed and let his rage fuel the air. It sizzled across the courtyard and into the heads of the Warlords and Princes and Witches that held weapons. They screamed and clawed at their heads, the anger so intense, so powerful, that they couldn’t think. They couldn’t breathe. They couldn’t act, so unused to the Killing Edge. Lucky ran them through while they screamed with his khanjar and cut their prisoners bonds. Arrows bounced feebly off his shield while he worked to cut through the incapacitated mob. Annoyance sizzled through him and the Mineborn looked towards the archers. They sat behind a dark shield. Darker than him. Nice trick, he thought.

Now he should show them his.

With a deep breath, Lucky activated the enhancement he had laid into his khanjar. It had taken him months to learn how to work Craft into the metal and he wasn’t perfect at it yet. He had failed over and over until this khanjar, Sapphire power pulsing from the weapon.

With a satisfied smile, Lucky slammed the khanjar into the ground and watched as the courtyard cement split, the dark power racing forward, a chasm causing those close enough to fall into. The blow struck underneath the shield, splitting the pavement where the archers stood. His sword broke in half at the release of power and the Warlord Prince felt others try and break through his shield.

Damn. He needed to figure out how to craft a weapon that didn’t break after an attack.

There was many in this mob, too many for him to kill, so he put another shield around Torin. A thick Sapphire wall rose up across the courtyard, separating most of the mob from the bride and groom. There was still a good number of the attackers too near them for Lucky to keep them totally safe, but hopefully Torin knew how to handle his khanjar better than the Prince imagined he wielded his dick.

*Get Vera our of here. I’m going to find El. I’ll come back for you.*

The shield wouldn’t hold long. But perhaps it would buy them a little time.

With that, Lucky activated the pendent around his neck, the one that led him to El, and looked towards the hallways. Inside. The Warlord Prince cut through a swath of people, their blood washing against his face, as he followed the trail.

He turned the corner just as Bastin let his power bolt loose.

Rage filled him at the sight of the man attacking his Queen. Lucky’s hand went to the wall and he shot Sapphire power through it, cracking the rock above Bastin, all the way to the roof. Large stones fell on top of him as the Sapphire destroyed the supports—beams, salt, dust, and furniture falling through onto the male.

It wouldn’t be enough to stop him, not for long. But it would be a distraction.

“Quick. Give her to me. I’ll take her away.”

Offline Michael Dyslin

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #14 on: Dec 31, 18, 04:44:30 AM »
In the future, when he thought back to that night, Michael would not be able to recall how he had gotten from being held back behind Sapphire shields to running down a hallway, Elenor clutched against his chest. All he'd be able to remember was that series of moments, but he would remember them with crystalline precision.

***
Michael couldn't hear anything but his own heartbeat over the din of the battle, and only barely, at that. Air rushed in and out of his chest in massive, sweeping gusts as feet **kicked off the ground** powered by the last drops of his own Summer Sky Jewel. He knew he was shielded, could feel something so far below him in the Abyss clinging to him like a swirl of myst as he moved. He didn't spare the time or energy on a nod of thanks to his nephew. Gabriel would know it was appreciated by the fact that it helped protect their Queen, so how could it not be? As such, he didn't bother to shield himself. He had wasted too much energy fighting against Adel to bother with his own safety now, not with the precious cargo he protected with his life as he ran.

Even as he moved as fast as his body would carry him, he wove layer after layer after layer of his Tiger Eye into Shields around the too limp body clutched against his chest. He didn't stop until he felt the strain of his jewel, suddenly hot and fragile feeling where it hung as a pendant on his chest, beneath his tunic.

Footsteps pounded towards them down a hallway, so he ducked down another, and then another. He'd spent the last two months tracing every path and corridor of the Compound. Every exit, even windows that wouldn't kill an unshielded jumper, that existed, he knew about. They wouldn't escape on the ground floor. He knew that as he angled for the stairs. But the third level of the building had a balcony in this one. A balcony that he could jump from to the roof of a shed, and from there, to the compound wall and over it. He'd caught Elenor sneaking out that way once, when she thought she wasn't being followed.

Mike reached the stairs he had been aiming towards, and if he had the breath for it, he would have snarled. Smoke wafted down from above. The rooftop gardens must be on fire. Fucking True Sabbah. They would literally have rather killed a Queen and starved their people to death than to let Elenor rule them. He dismissed those thoughts for later, when he could savor his hatred and plot how to skin alive each and every person who had ever so much as looked at Elenor wrong.

With those who he still trusted to protect his Queen at his sides, Michael turned a tight corner back towards the only other viable exit, a gardener's door that had been long overgrown with a desert-crawling vine when he found it. He seemingly had left it that way, but only after spending a few nights in a row when the moon was behind clouds and courtyard in question was darkened working loose dust from its hinges and grime from its path. A tiny puff of Craft from a recognized source would trigger the spell to open it, now.

He was fifty three paces away when he felt something far *beneath* him in the Darkness of the Abyss vibrate, like distant ripples from a single drop of water.

That was his warning, and why he was already turning to take in the new player on the field.

He was fifty paces away from the door when he spotted the man.

Forty five, and the assassin began to speak.

Elenor al-Sabbah. Forty two paces. How dare the man speak his Queen's name. Gabriel Silvarin. Or his nephew's for that matter. Thirty eight. Your lives are forfeit and have been paid for. Make your peace with the Darkness. Twenty six.

His hand raised, and Michael did the only thing he could. He *kicked off  the ground* one last time, leaping forward. The angle was wrong, but there was only so much that could be done about the physics of momentum. But it was... enough.

The bolt struck him in the shoulder, an inch above where Elenor's head was resting as he turned into the blow. It seared into him, dropping El to the ground as his arms ceased working in that moment. The sheer power of it was unlike anything Mike could ever have imagined, slicing through the layers of Gabe's Gray shields like an arrow through a plate of armor.

***

Later, Mike did not remember the sound of Elenor hitting the floor. He did not remember the sensation of flying through the air, for a moment gloriously free of the constraint of gravity. He did not remember that some distant, clinical, shocked part of his mind wondered if this is what an Eyrien felt when they flew, and made a note to ask Kia later. He didn’t remember the rocks falling in, nor the screams from all around them as it happened. He didn’t even remember Lucky’s arrival at all, nor his coming to take Elenor up in his arms.

No, later, Mike did not remember that. Later, after his head smacked into the wall with a sickening crunch, it would be a long time before Mike remembered anything... Anything at all.








Offline Bashir al-Sabbah

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #15 on: Dec 31, 18, 03:43:06 PM »
Parsa was not that lucky. Unfortunately.

The bolt he had fired at Bashir’s waving hand missed by a few inches, instead exploding a piece of the wall in front of Bashir. Showered by debris and fragments, the Warlord turned, muttering, “The fuck?!” under his breath, as he searched for who the fuck had launched that thing at him.

It took a moment to clear his eyes from the swirling dust. When it did, he could see someone who definitely didn’t belong there, a grinning menace that looked at him with a familiar malice that confused Bashir. Who the fuck was this guy and why was he so maniacally happy to see Bashir? Did it really fucking matter? The dipshit was probably True Sabbah scum, here to cause shit, and was grinning because he was actually causing shit. Simple minded troublesome fucks.

“Who the fuck are you?” Bashir snapped. Behind Bashir, he heard someone screaming that the gardens were on fire. Elenor loved those gardens. She had spent months tending to them with her gardener buddy, Mehdi. And now they were on fire. Really? Why did these guys hate Elenor so Darkness-damned much? Their xenophobic, hate-filled ways just reminded Bashir more and more of his father, Husain, who was the same sort of prick. Except he wasn’t setting shit on fire and killing people. Today, anyway.

**Where are you?** came the panicked call from his sister, Malika. Shit, he had forgotten to find her before this crap went down. Shit, shit, shit. He'd get to that in a minute. After he dealt with this fucker.

Man, Elenor really needed to get out of this place. Malika too. Shit, they all might need to rethink trying to hold the fort and just run.

Eh, fuck that. He wasn't going to let these True Sabbah fucks win.

Anger rising, Bashir called a Summer Sky power bolt into his hand, readying it for launch. He wasn’t half the fighter any of the rest of the Court was but he wasn’t going to let some grinning fuck wreak havoc just because he had a hard-on for it. “You better leave, fucker,” Bashir warned. If he had been smarter, he would have combined power bolt and khanjar strike, but Bashir had never been smart when it came to a fight.

And then, he did the stupidest thing he would ever do in his life.

He attacked.


Offline Cassius Decius

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #16 on: Jan 01, 19, 02:19:01 PM »
Cassius would have woken up screaming, if he had been asleep.

He was not that stupid though. He had tried to avoid sleeping every night, drawing in bed until the pencil rolled from his fingers. Sometimes he got up altogether and explored the Sabbah compound more. He had mapped out more of the tunnels, not yet finding a way out, but realizing they spread far underneath Onn, past the walls of the compound. Sometimes it made the Prince feel safe. Few would be able to find him in the twisting tunnels without a map and he could build a life there, where no one could touch him or talk to him.

The Prince had been increasingly isolating himself. After his Chalice had been healed, the reality of his situation had slowly started to crush him. An escaped slave. His daughter gone. His Queen better off. His nightmares were filled with every soul-crushing moment that made his Queen or his daughter cry. So he chose exhaustion instead and with that exhaustion came depression and with that depression came the desire to do nothing.

And yet, here he was at this wedding.

Judiah had all but begged him to come. She had been getting him away from his bed and his sketch pads some days, nearly strangling him. Today was one such day, even though the Prince detested parties.

Not the sparkle and the happiness bubbling from the crowd, no, but the fact that he had so often been the entertainment at them. No Hayllian party was complete without the absolute humiliation, torture, or rape of a slave. Even the music grated on his nerves, as if his Master was going to appear from the crowd and order him to his knees.

“Hayllian weddings are so different from Pruulian ones.” He commented to Judiah, his arm entwined in hers like a proper escort.

He might have said more, but a blast of power shook the compound, almost causing Cassius to fall. “What the…?” The Prince’s grip on Judiah tightened as he saw a mob pour inside the compound, his face going ashen. “We need to get out of here! Hurry.” If Judiah resisted, Cassius would drag her along as a Green shield settled over them. He did not stay to fight like the rest of the trained males here. No. He was not an idiot. Instead, he tried to get ahead of the mess.

He sent a thread to anyone he had even remotely met. *Anyone who needs a way out of here, meet Judiah and I in the catacombs. I know how to get through them. I’ll wait fifteen minutes.* And not a second more. He guided Judiah down the steps of the catacombs and pulled her into the shadows with him, his heart beating so loud that he swore she could hear it.

What if he died here and he never saw Precious again? What if she thought he had simply decided to leave her forever? Blood pounded through her ears and Cassius looked at Judiah. “You stay here. I am going to go up to the entrance and make sure no one we don’t want in here gets in.”

Cassius took a deep breath, his body shaking, as he slowly walked back up the steps, placing a Green shield over the large open entrance. What kind of place didn’t have a door? He peered out into the hallway, wishing that he had had more time to learn how to fight.

Offline Aahad al-Situla

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #17 on: Jan 03, 19, 02:47:43 AM »
Meanwhile, in the Business wing...

The echoes of footsteps became a thunderstorm. Few places to hide and truly nowhere to run. A scant thought came to him, pondering if Vera and Torin would be alright. Of course they will be. Vera was twice the warrior Aahad was and Torin undoubtedly was too. Aahad had earned his Khanjar and was a warrior but he never amounted to a good one. He wouldn't be able to do any good to anyone running off and finding others and being the hero. He wasn't a hero. What mattered was his own survival.

He pressed his back against the wall and then looked down the corridor to the few doorways that were closed and reached out with his senses. As expected, the rooms were shielded to prevent unwanted entry. There was one room however that was only shielded with a strength Aahad could best. A Yellow, toward the back of the hall near the hall that led back to the Courtyard. He quickly darted down the hallway and as shadows began to dance on the wall in front of him of the intruders he pressed his hands to the wall and quickly unwove the spell, phasing through the wall before returning the shield to it's proper state.

The room he stood in looked to be an office with how many parchments and papers dotted everything. A large wicker basket in the corner was but one of a few decorative pieces in the room. There was not, however, anywhere really to hide. No closet or bolthole and the desk wouldn't hide him if he cut half his legs to be shorter. "Shit."

His senses warned him of danger as the yellow shield began to suffer extreme stress. They're comig in. He had nowhere to hide until his eyes fixated on the basket. He let out a groan.



The security shield dissipated and the door suddenly burst open as three men rushed into the room. They looked around and focused on the desk, rummaging through drawers and opening varying parchments. Another stood with the stance of scanning the room. "Doesn't look like the Steward's office." Said one.

"Then let's go! Samir wants the Steward's office secure. There isn't anyone here. Leave it for them to figure out later." The three men then rushed out of the room to raid another of the rooms in the corridor.

Aahad's head popped up from under the lid of the wicker basket and looked toward the door. They're going to be sniffing for everyone they can find. I won't be able to Craft myself invisible or the right people will sense me. He stood up and approached the door, opening it enough to peek out into the corridor. The three men were gone, the door opposite his room was open and they were muttering about having found the Steward's office. People were running toward the Courtyard. He closed the door silently.

"Master Situla."

Aahad practically jumped out of his skin. The whisper came from the corner, the actual corner of the room which was now opened slightly ajar inward and a boy's head was poking out of it. "This way."

Aahad couldn't risk sensing the boy. He decided to go on faith alone and didn't bat an eyelash twice. He turned from the door and followed the boy into the corner which revealed a not-at-all spacious access corridor. He squeezed around the boy and the boy closed it. The boy went down the access tunnel blind. It was black. No light at all illuminated the tunnel, so much so Aahad had to scramble to keep up so he could put a hand on the boy's shoulder. They turned a corner, then another. The sounds of cascading footsteps echoed through the walls, as did screams. Aahad's stomach dropped. They went up a flight of steps and the boy opened a door.

They were in a room. It appeared like the room he had just left. Some sort of office. This one however looked more unused than the one prior. "Where are we?"

The boy closed the corner of the room. "Our Tribe's representative chamber. Second floor."

Now I'm not even on the ground anymore. He went to the window and peered out. The view was the same as it was in the corridor where the intruders had barged in so he was on the same side of the compound. "Is anyone else with you?"

The boy shook his head. "No. I heard all the screaming and ran into the access corridor. Everyone is probably going to the escape tunnel and meet at Prince Jofari's compound."

"The slaver?" He looked at the boy with a light grimace. He walked toward the door and slowly opened it, peering out into the hall.

Nothing but echoes of shouting for now.

"He's not a slaver! I hear Lady Elenor say he doesn't do that stuff."

"Okay okay!" He said with a hand up to keep the boy from going on further. "We're stuck on the second floor unless you know a secret tunnel that will get around all the crazy people and to the other secret tunnel."

The boy made a grin, then a wince, then a frown. "No."

"Figured." He closed the door and locked it. "Then we're going to leave with a bang." He approached the window and revealed his ritual staff, put a sight shield around himself and opened the window and peered below. There were five men wandering, talking about how the Worm Caller was finally going to get hers and that they were mad they couldn't see her die because they had to stand guard.

"Okay. We're going to jump. Climb on my back."

"Jump??" The boy looked dumbfounded. "That's dumb! We'll-"

"I can clear us of most of the compound. When we land you need to shield us. I can take care of the guards and get us away once we're on the ground. We'll make for the sla-....Jofari's compound so you can meet up with the rest of your Court. Get on my back."



"Why can't we take turns??" One of the remnant liberators said kicking sand in protest. "I hate this! I want to kill the Worm Caller as much as Lady Shira does. Why do I have to watch a bunch of broken glass."

"I heard one of the informants tell Samin that the High Priest of Arnadeth is in the compound somewhere."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Word on the dunes is he did something to make Lady Shira seriously pissed, so when Samin heard that he was around the business wing somewhere Samin got seriously fuckin' excited."

Their conversation was broken when Aahad and a boy landed with a graceful landing, the wind carrying them clear over their watch and landed ten feet from them. When they landed they became surrounded by a White shield and the boy hopped off Aahad's back.

"What the? It's HIM!" One of them turned to the string of broken out windows, calling on both thread and voice that they had found the High Priest.

"Get behind me." He told the boy, who stepped back. Aahad focused his emotions, feeling the tangible string of pride in his power as it swelled up in him providing the power of the spell he wove in his thoughts. Overwhelmed with the emotion of air he pointed his ritual staff at the guards and released his power.

A gale of wind so strong it blew half a dune's worth of sand into the corridor knocked the guards through the open windows and crumpled down onto the floor inside the compound.

"That was cool!" The boy cheered.

"Come on. We don't have a lot of-"

"THERE HE IS!" A voice shouted as someone became visible in the corridor. "GET HIM!"

Aahad dropped a Summer Sky visible shield around them as he focused his resolve and his convinction, channeling it into his ritual staff and slammed the butt of his staff onto the ground. Sand erupted front the ground lifting itself fifteen feet into the air coating everything in a sandy haze. He then pulled the boy with him away while the shield remained stationary.

"HE'S THERE! HIT HIM WITH EVERYTHING!" And a rainbow of psychic bolts ripped his visual shield to shreds sending more dirt and sand up into the air. The boy screamed in fear. Seconds turned into more seconds, then more seconds.

"I'm not sensing anything anymore!" Someone shouted as the sand continued to deluge back onto the ground. "Did we get him?"

The several intruders who stood at the corridor's broken windows watched the last vestiges of dirt and sand hit the ground. When the last specs fell there was nothing and no one.

Someone howled out of extreme frustration.



The dirt fell into itself, about a mile away from the Sabbah compound. Aahad and the boy emerged from the growing hole and the ground solidified itself behind them. Aahad leaned over and breathed with heavy breaths.

"That...was...so...COOL!" The boy tugged on Aahad's leg. "How'd you do that? Can you teach me that?"

Aahad brushed off the last traces of sand from his shirt. "Unfortunately there isn't time for a lesson and we're not out of the dunes yet. They saw us, and so they're going to be telling people to look for us." He looked around. "Where are we?"

"I've been here before." The boy said and pointed southeast. "Prince Jofari's compound is that way."

Aahad walked between two buildings and peered down the main street at the rioters and general mayhem. Here too? The hell is going on??

"This...is not going to be easy."




Offline Mehdi al-Sabbah

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #18 on: Jan 05, 19, 06:13:05 PM »
Mehdi ran through the crowd and fighting with his hands over his head. What was happening? All around him in the courtyard that only minutes before had been a party there were people fighting. He could see Vera with a sword and spattered in blood, and the ground had a crack in it after that powerful blast. Mehdi’s ears were still ringing from that. Blood dripped down his cheek from a cut given to him by a stray power bolt but that didn’t matter because the compound was burning.

He could smell the scent of burning live plants, that smoky, almost sweet aroma usually only present in the kitchens. Now it was everywhere, filling the sand-strewn air with billows of black smoke that made his heart scream. The gardens were on fire, which meant that his plants were dying and no one but Mehdi was likely to think about them!

He wove and ducked through the raging battle, with no shields because he couldn’t make them but with all the speed his lanky legs could give him. Mehdi’s eyes never left the plume of smoke coming from the personal wing of the compound, a place where the most important piece of Sabbah Heritage stood with sturdy roots and shimmering silvery leaves. At the nearest wall Mehdi jumped up and caught hold of a balcony rail. He pulled himself up and over the edge then scrambled onto the edge to climb up to the flat roofs.

Mehdi wasn’t the only person who had thought to go this way. Guests, staff, attackers, many had taken to the rooftops but with the storm raging it was hard to make out identities. Mehdi pulled a scarf up over his mouth and nose and covered his eyes with his arm then ran forward, keeping low. It only took a few minutes to get to the roofs near the Queen’s Courtyard and the closer he got the more his heart broke. That was where the smoke was coming from, as well as the many rooftop gardens of the complex. Red, angry flames licked at the roofline but Mehdi still ran up to the edge, staring down in horror at the blazing olive tree below. He could hardly make it out. The head against his face was searing and burned away his tears even as she shed them. A howl of pain, of heart-deep anguish, tore from his chest, arms wrapping around it as his heart broke to pieces.

For hundreds, perhaps thousands of years that tree had stood as a symbol of the Sabbah Queens, brought long ago from the northern range as a cutting and tended to by their Clan. It had been Mehdi’s greatest honor to tend to it and now…

Now he hadn’t been able to save it.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, falling to his knees. Around him, on roofs just like this in the Sabbah Quarter, more fires blazed, burning down his work, his love, his heart. All of it was turning to ash and the gardener who loved each plant like it’s own person knelt in witness to their passing.


Offline Gabriel Silvarin

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #19 on: Jan 05, 19, 06:58:03 PM »
Successful killers didn’t announce their kills, or at least that was what Gabriel’s mentor had always told him. Honor and Victory were not always able to coexist and he had learned to put his honor aside to win the day. This Ebon-Gray bastard had not, it seemed, had not made that sacrifice and so in those few precious seconds Gabriel had between the moment the Prince stepped from the shadows and when he launched the two Power Bolts to the din of crumbling rubble, Gabe made a few very fast decisions.

He wrapped as many layers of Gray shielding around himself, Elenor, and Michael as he could it the limited time instead of trying to dodge. A moment later, as the roof crumbled and Gabe was brushed by the skewed power-bolt and thrown to the ground, his shield in tatters and the wind knocked out of him as Elenor and Michael went sprawling too, Gabe was immensely glad of it.

His shields around the two had shattered, draining a scary amount of his Gray in the process and had not been enough to keep them from being thrown against the nearest wall but none of the Dark energy had gotten through. Their bodies were not blown to pieces and from what he could tell their Jewels were intact.

Gabriel scrambled to his knees and then his feet as the rubble began to settle and Lucky al-Izar, his Bond Brother though the male didn’t know it, stepped out of the shadows. Gabe didn’t so much as glance his way once he ascertained the male was on their side. Instead, the Gray Warlord Prince launched himself at the two most important people in this fucking Territory. Blood was in the air, Queen’s blood and that of another. Terrified, enough so to even cut through the haze of violence, Gabriel pulled Elenor out from under Michael’s limp form.

She was still for a long, horrible moment then her eyes flew open and she started coughing in the dust from the collapsed ceiling. Gabe looked up at the winged Warlord Prince. “Take her to the house of Prince Izil Jofari. We’ll meet you and her there if we can make it out. If we can’t you keep her safe, do you understand?”

Her blood was coating his hands from a long scrape along her upper arm and on her legs from falling. There was something in that scent that was making his anger boil over, blaze higher and higher with every breath. Like moonsblood only a thousand times worse. In the moment he didn’t have to composure to figure out why it was bothering him so much but he knew he needed her out of here before he’d be able to do anything but hold her.

Getting to his feet, Gabe lifted Elenor with ease and pressed her into Lucky’s arms, fixing the other man with a hard stare. “Swear to me now, her life before yours until you return her to me.”

Elenor tried to interrupt, “No, I can't leave-”

A flick of Gabe’s fingers put a Green aural shield over her mouth, his eyes never leaving Lucky’s.

As soon as he got a satisfactory answer, Gabe stepped back and watched as the woman he had searched and yearned for for two hundred years disappeared into the sky. The rubble was starting to move. They didn’t have long until that Ebon Gray bastard was on them again and Michael still hadn't moved. Gabe knelt by his uncle and pulled him into his lap. There was blood there too, this time from a nasty wound on his head.

“Michael, I need you to wake up,” Gabriel said, but got no response. HIs bloody fingers pressed against Mike’s neck, feeling for a pulse and when he finally found it -thready and slow but there- a relieved sob shook his whole body. He looked up to Kia. “He’s alive. I need you to follow Elenor out with him. I’ll cover your retreat.”

Rubble went flying. Gabe grit his teeth and stood, turning his back on Kiarian and Michael as he called in the blade he had vanished earlier in the fight from a fallen guard. He pulled from his Gray to create several layers of shields and like a great river held back by an exploding dam, his anger flowed through his body, pulling Gabriel Silvarin into the beautiful, vicious clarity which was the Killing Edge.

His lips curled up into a smile.

“Go, Kiarian. I have business to attend to.”

Offline Sarina al-Sabbah

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #20 on: Jan 05, 19, 09:31:10 PM »
Sarina had sat in the back of the wedding, half tucked into an alcove so as to be out of the way and mostly out of sight but not actually hidden. The young Queen respected Lady Adavera, though she also feared the witch more than a little, and so she was here to show that respect and an appreciation for the witch’s happiness, but Sarina was not naive enough to not be realistic. Too many people still saw her as True Sabbah, even as a puppet, and if people knew why the Tiger Eye witch had been cast from her position as Voice of the Jinan and exiled from her Clan...well then likely they knew it was because Adavera had gone on a murderous rampage against the True Sabbah. The young Red Queen did not want to be blamed for what had happened to the bride so she tried to stay out of sight.

She had watched the ceremony, feeling more than a little wistful and even envious - though she tried hard to suppress that jealousy. Lady Adavera had paid a high price, higher than Sarina thought she herself would ever be able to pay - and now the woman deserved happiness. Still, it was difficult to see the utter devotion on the faces of the bride and groom, and hear the love in their voices, and not want the same for herself.

After the ceremony, the celebratory party had started and Sarina had sent Rasheed back to her room to wait for her. Her tall Warlord Prince was uncomfortable in this gathering as he didn’t really know anyone other than her even after all these weeks, and as he was not Sabbah nor Jinan, he made Sarina stand out even more. It wasn’t long before the young Queen wished that she had gone with him, but she hadn’t wanted to be rude and she had hoped someone she knew would see her and spend time with her. But since she stayed in the shadows, in her little alcove, no one did pay her any attention.

She was just about to go find Lady Elenor and plead exhaustion to head to her room when she heard Lady Elenor’s Gray Warlord Prince start to shout something and felt the change in the air as his shields shattered and sand and wind was suddenly everywhere.

**Danyal! What’s going on? Where are you?** she called mentally. **Rasheed, something’s wrong, I’m going to try to get to you.**

When neither of her Bonded males answered her immediately, Sarina’s first instinct was panic. What was going on? She had heard Lady Kiarian’s cry of attack, and dread filled her. There was only one thing this could be, one person who was responsible, and that thing and that person were what the Red Queen had been dreading for weeks now, ever since Lady Elenor had told her this was likely to happen. People, strangers, were spilling into the courtyard with weapons drawn and cries of anger and pain, rage and fear were filling the air.

Her thoughts whirled, before settling on three things: she had to get out of this mess, had to find Rasheed and Danyal, had to find her way to Lady Elenor and little Salma and keep them all safe if she could.

The young Queen started pushing her way through the melee, doing her best to calm those who were paralyzed with fear, to soothe the rage from the attackers, and otherwise get people moving away from all this when she could reach them to work her Touch; she was more successful with some than others. She had made it out of the courtyard where the wedding and party had been held, and almost wished she hadn’t. The hallway was full of panicked people, angry people, and those who were too stunned to get out of the way. Sarina saw a small group of children she vaguely recognized as being some of the Geiba orphans who had collected the food she had been growing, though she didn’t remember any of their names. She had started to work her way towards them when she saw that one of the smaller girls was knocked over, falling into the rest of the group, and the whole lot of them were about to be trampled by the crowd. She summoned some of the power she could now use, throwing a hasty shield around the children. It wasn’t a very good shield, wobbly and thin in places, but it served its purpose and kept the adults away from the children.

As she finally reached them, one spoke “Thanks Lady. Follow us, we’ll get out of here.” She nodded and firmed up the shield that she expanded to include herself as they began moving with the tidal wave of people.  They had gotten to a less crowded area of the Residence when Sarina smelled the smoke from the fires and heard the explosions and breaking glass.

They were moving along well now when suddenly Sarina felt as if she had been frozen in place and something snapped back into her and her shield vanished as she lost control of it. There was an emptiness now where always before, for as long as Sarina could remember, there had been warmth and affection. She fell to her knees in shock, whimpering “Rasheed, no!” The children turned back to her, confusion on their faces. One started to speak, “Lady, what -?” But Sarina cut the boy off, “GO!” she screamed. As the children turned and ran, Sarina felt her control slipping. Rasheed was dead. That was the only thing that emptiness could mean. She still felt strength from her Bond with Danyal, but right now in this moment, it was overshadowed by loss. Tears were streaming down her face as rage built up within her. She surged back to her feet, turning, seeking a target to burn and movement caught her attention. Power started to slip away from her, towards the movement - someone had to pay, someone had to burn - but at the last moment, Sarina realized it was just the children, that there were no enemies right here and she desperately pulled her power back into herself to keep from harming those children even more than she already had, and then she felt blackness, blessed in a way, because now she couldn’t feel the pain of her Bonded’s death as she hit the ground, stunned into unconsciousness.

As she woke sometime later, Sarina groaned and looked up into the dark, satisfied eyes of Hava al-Sabbah. The Queen couldn’t muster the strength to try to flee; she felt as if a building had fallen on her. All she could do now was send a wordless plea to her males - no, just to Danyal because Rasheed was gone - a plea for help, to come to her.


Offline Kiarian Vasiliev

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #21 on: Jan 06, 19, 08:13:06 PM »
There were many visions in her past of battles and slaughters.  There were events she had witnessed from before her birth, and the nightmare of Askavi's end plagued her.  Kiarian Vasiliev was used to those fears, those pains, and that sort of vision.

She was not used to being caught in the midst of a full on battle.  Not like this.

Kiarian had seen the blow that struck her cousin from the sky, and her heart had nearly stopped.  She'd plummetted, as if struck, because it would keep others from being able to hit her as she raced for the ground.  Even so - after seeing Lucky take Elenor, and seeing her try to argue, Kiarian's heart began to regularly beat again.  Sweet Darkness... that had been too close.  Her eyes turned back towards where that Ebon Gray had been, and she swallowed nervously.

"His name... is Bastin al-Sabbah.  I heard one of the arrogant pricks shout about how the bastard was going to kill her."  She shuddered, turning her attention back towards Gabriel.  They didn't have much time before that bastard came after them.  Again.

I need you to follow Elenor out with him..

"Gabriel... you.."  She knew that look.  She'd seen that sort of look on Eyrien men before.  Her jaw firmed up, and she glanced towards the flying rubble as she plucked Michael up, bracing herself.

"Come back to us."  Come back to me.

Go, Kiarian.

Fuck.  He needed help.  But... But he was going to fight.  And if he fought, the chances of everyone survivign the experience would drop quite low.  So she took to the air instead, with Michael Dyslin's blood in her nose and the scent of a Warlord Prince on the Edge coating her skin.

Maybe she would never admit to loving the bastard... but she did.  And if this was the only time she might be able to tell him, then damnit... she would.  IN her own way. 
Come back to me, Gabriel.

Become the Hunter, not the Hunted.

Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #22 on: Jan 06, 19, 08:20:57 PM »
Elenor was still groggy and drifting between consciousness and darkness when she was suddenly flying through the air. For a disorienting moment she was weightless and then there was pain. Her knee, leg, and all along her left arm bits of rubble and debris on the floor scraped her skin raw as she and Michael slid along it with the source of the blow her Bonded had taken for her. The fall knocked what little breath she had from her lungs again and as she drew in air the smoke and dust in the air made her cough. Gabe was saying something above her again, pulling her into his lap but Elenor’s eyes left him, looking wildly around for-

MICHAEL!

As the dust settled her desperate eyes found him. When they did she wished she hadn’t and only the fact that she hadn’t felt the snap of a Bond breaking kept full-blown panic from taking over her brain. Even so she tried to get to him and only Gabriel’s arms kept her still.

She was crying, babbling something -maybe curses, maybe pleas- but none of it made sense even to her own ears and the Warlord Prince pulling her to her feet wasn’t holding her tight and not letting go. Suddenly there were other arms around her, ones she knew but that seemed incongruous. Her dazed eyes looked up into Lucky’s face as the words passing between the two Warlord Princes began to make sense.

“No! No. You can’t take me. I can walk. We’ll get out together!”

And still they were ignoring her. She tried to struggle but Lucky held firm as his wings stretched out to either side of them through the settling dust.

“Lucky al-Izar put me dow-”

With a powerful flap they lifted off the ground. Elenor’s struggles redoubled for a moment, squirming and flailing and not caring how much the fall would hurt until they broke over the rooftops and the sight of the city aflame stilled her body in a rigor of complete shock.

The gardens were burning. All the gardens were burning and the flames were spreading from building to building in the dry air of Onn. Billowing clouds of black smoke mixed with the sand in the air. The latter battered into their skin until Lucky threw a shield around them, giving Elenor a blurry but unimpeded view of the city below.

Shock mixed with fear and wrapped itself around horror as they flew, leaving behind her home, her Bonded, her family, and everything she had grown to know and love among her adopted people.

Lucky’s arms around her chest were the only solid thing she had left and so she clung to him, squeezing her eyes shut as they picked up speed and height, away from the battle and lost in the storm that was buffeting the city. Then, just as they hit the ground outside of Izil’s compound, something in Elenor’s heart, something deep and cherished, precious and perfect cried out.

Her hands flew to her chest above her heart as a pain she had felt twice before now sent her stumbling. A howl of grief and pain tore from her throat, more animal than human and her knees gave way as one of her Bonds, one of the ones back at the Compound and not landing limp in Kia’s arms beside them, one that belonged to Luc, Bashir, Matin, Shadya, Gabriel, Vera, or Adel…

Snapped.

Offline Shira al-Sabbah

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #23 on: Jan 15, 19, 08:29:34 PM »
Trigger Warning: Murder, semi-explicit talk of planned rape, poisoning.


Shira

Shira stumbled as the courtyard trembled from the blow of the Mineborn filth. She sent a blast of pure Red power at him but the slippery bastard was already in the air, then lost to sight in the storm. She dismissed him after that. The Mineborn would get their due but not yet. She had to clean the Sabbah first. Once her Clan was purified others would follow as they always did. The Sabbah sometimes fell but the rise was always the greater for it. This would be no different.

Her eyes focused once more on the fighting Tiger Eye witch. The arrows did not hit their mark but she had ways around that. Adavera the outcast would die today and tomorrow her water would be spread upon the sand nevermore to pollute any Clan or Tribe. Shira would see to that herself with Lady Azar’s help.

She was just about to order her secret weapon drawn when another flash of movement caught her eye, just as the voice of her daughter came to her over a Sapphire thread.

**I have Sarina. I think Salma got away. She was with the False Queen’s brother, you might want to send people after them.**

Shira’s teeth ground together, her eyes following the running form of Rasheed al-Kaid. Sarina had turned on Shira, she had betrayed the trust she had placed in the girl by bringing her into the Sabbah and had she not have been here, Hava might have had the attention to get little Salma to safety. It wasn’t even a conscious thought that had the Black Widow’s hand rise and a strong compulsion thrum towards the boy. He stopped in his track, mid pace, by her simple command.

“Come here.”

Through the battle he walked, struggling but unable to fight something so simple, so direct, and so strong. Shira waved her guards away as he got to them and when the young man was within arm’s reach, teeth bared and hand hovering over his Khanjar, Shira simply stepped up to him, bound him in bands of Red shields so he could not move, and sunk her snake tooth into his neck.

He screamed and a moment later, he was dead. The body crumpled at her feet, Sarina al-Sabbah’s punishment for disobedience. The kill thrummed through Shira, making her nerves sing pleasantly and heart thump all the louder. She’d tell her followers that she discovered impurities in his heritage, that he was being corrupted by the False Queen and her Court. They would believe it and besides, some sacrifices had to be made for the greater good of the Clan, and getting Sarina in hand had to be Shira’s first priority once she crushed the impurities out this night.

Her eyes once more found Adavera.

“Bring the boy.”


Barin al-Sabbah
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Barin walked through the blown open gates of the Sabbah compound with his hands in his pockets to hide the fact that they were balled into fists. His eyes were rimmed with dark circles and there was a short blade at his hip. Not a Khanjar, he’d not yet earned the honor to carry that, but sharp and deadly nonetheless. Around him smoke and sand clogged the air and screams made his bones reverberate with the need to run. The first time he’d heard screams like this his Tribe was being slaughtered. The next time, Sabbah had fallen and then their blood had been washed away by the Rains. Both those times Barin had been on the sidelines, too young or smart to get involved.

This time he was walking towards the death and destruction and the young Warlord Prince wanted nothing to do with it. He’d killed before many times but this wouldn’t be justice: it would be evil.

Evil like so many had predicted he’d grow up to be. That thought made him want to cry but he’d cried himself out days ago while holding the unfeeling body of the little Landen girl Shira had used as her demonstration of what would happen to Yari if Barin didn’t do exactly what she asked.

His thumb ran over his forefinger and the little, scabbed over cut there.

The contract lay before him, pages and pages of fine print all laid atop a Widow’s Web.

“You understand, do you not. This isn’t just about your actions, Barin, but your intentions too. If you disobey me deliberately, if you hold back, if you tell anyone of what happened to you and to Yari including this contract, or do anything to help my opponents even if I am not there to see it, this Contract will activate. It will break your Jewel, break your brother’s mind, and then I will take your mothers as well. You will lose everything if you step so much as a toe out of line. It’s all here in the contract.”

One glance up towards Yari’s terrified face as Shira’s hand tightened around the back of his brother’s neck and Barin sliced his finger open without so much as a wince scrawling his name in blood at the bottom of the page the Ebon Gray Prince had crafted.


His footsteps fell on sand and ash as he walked forward, into the sphere of power where Shira stood. Barin’s face was impassive, cold and betraying none of the boiling emotions in his chest. He glanced around at the chaos, dust gathering on his pitch black shirt and pants. So much blood, so many dead already including one poor bastard at Shira’s feet. Barin swallowed but looked away, searching the chaos for one person he knew would be there.

**Taisha, where are you? If you haven’t already, get out.** He knew she wouldn’t obey but she was one of the ones he might still be able to save. **Get out and get your father out.**

Shira had not mentioned Torin al-Jinan in her briefing except in passing. Barin’s mission was focused on only one death today.

I’m going to die for this. Either Adavera is going to kill me or someone else will because I’ll have become everything they feared the Geiba orphans would grow up to be. I’ll be a monster and then my cousins will have no one to take care of them. None of us might survive this storm.

There she was, fighting as he’d seen Adavera fight only once before, on the day of Barin’s Queen’s Birthright. Shira smiled at him and Barin realized that now that he was standing instead of tied down to a chair he was actually just a hair taller than her now. How strange, the things one notices before death.

“Kill her now.”

The order came with no preamble or loopholes and the finger pointed at Adavera paired with the Contract he had signed left no doubt. Barin took a deep breath but he didn’t hesitate, not daring to risk Yari that way. He drew his blade and felt a Red Shield fall around him. That angered the Warlord Prince; it would make Adavera killing him harder. That anger helped in a way, helped fuel his steps as he sank into it, going lower and lower with every step towards the fighting witch.

Just before he reached her he saw a blade get through her defenses and slice a thin gash on Vera’s shoulder. The scent and sight of blood spurred fury and while the fury was at the one who had heart one of the people he considered his, it was still enough to break through that last barrier between rationality and brutality and let Barin al-Sabbah slide onto the Killing Edge for the first conscious time in the almost sixteen years of his life.

Everything seemed to slow down. Barin ducked under a swinging blade, sidestepped a dueling pair of males, and vaulted over a downed table and then he was there. She was right before him, splattered in blood, her wedding dress torn and stained and Barin pulled out his sword.

His mother was Elham al-Sabbah, a powerful warrior in her own right and an instructor among the Sabbah. Barin had studied under her and under Matin almost daily for the last six years. His Purple Dusk flared and he attacked.

She had her back to him but swiveled around just in time to block his first blow and had he not been riding the Edge Barin might have grimaced at the flash of emotions that crossed the witch’s face. Her guard up to block him, Barin pivoted and kicked, the blow catching Adavera squarely in the stomach. He brought his sword down, stepping to the side and using a burst of Purple Dusk power to enhance and speed up his movements just like Adavera had begun teaching him, Barin planted his foot against the back of her knee and stomped down. She stumbled but did not fall, lashing out with her own blade and forcing the boy back several steps, the metal impacting the Red Shield around him at the ribs but not making it through.

There was a flash of yellow and someone small someone darted into the space between them.

“BARIN, MOM, STOP!” Taisha yelled. Barin bared his teeth.

“Out of my way, Tai.”

He used his Jewel to knock her aside out of the reach of his blade before he attacked again. This time Adavera met it perfectly, the element of surprise gone and something extra deadly glinting in her eyes now that her daughter was in the fray.

“Taisha, MOVE.” Barin bellowed as he ducked under Adavera’s blade. He had the advantage of having learned to fight on the streets, where everyone wanted him dead, was bigger than him, or both. He was used to being outmatched and Adavera did outmatch him… a little. Oh, if surprised she was deadly but Barin had been watching with witch for some time now and while the stop-start way she moved with her Jewel was difficult to follow and her tactics were excellent, they were about matched as far as years of actual training.

And Barin had too much to lose not to give it his all.

It was Vera or Yari, and as much as he respected the witch that wasn’t a difficult choice.



Hava

Hava stood over Sarina’s prone form, smirking at her blinking eyes. That had been too easy. The Queen had been so distraught she had not been shielding for a moment there, just as Hava had approached behind a sight shield. It only took one dart from the blow gun she carried in her psychic cabinet, the small projectile dipped in a powerful but non-lethal drug that would slow both mind and body, and the Queen was down.

As the girl lost consciousness completely a weight lifted form Hava’s chest. One captured. Had she returned to her mother with neither of the Queens that had been her mission then the consequences might have been severe, but Hava didn’t need to worry about that now. In a way, she was happy it was this one and not Salma. She worried about Salma in the hands of that impure brute but she also worried about the six year old Queen in Shira’s hands right now. Her little cousin should rule the Sabbah one day but Hava had never been comfortable with the idea of a child Queen. Wasn’t that where Pruul had gone wrong with Saiph al-Kaid?

Look how that had turned out.

With the toe of her sandal, Have pushed some of Sarina’s dark hair out of the way and whistled at the sight of the Red Jewel around the young woman’s throat. So Sarina had made her Offering early. Good. That would mean that she could be useful right away instead of down the line, but it also meant Hava’s capture wasn’t as secure as she’d thought. The drug only lasted so long and the Black Widow did not plan on taking chances with her second prize.

Her fingers wrapped around the Jewel and with only a moment of internal struggle she vanished it. Taking another’s Jewels away against their will was not something Mother Night looked favorably upon but this was for the greater good of their Clan. Sometimes bad things had to be done for the right reasons. After this she would just have to find a Priestess to talk with and confess what she had done so she might serve the Price for it and get back on in the Darkness’s good graces.

Her decision was made just in time. No sooner than Hava had straightened up, Sarina’s eyes began to open. Have placed a foot on the young woman’s chest. “Now don’t go moving. You’ll find standing very difficult what with the brew in your system. Don’t worry, Sarina. Nothing bad will happen to you. You might not believe it now but this is a rescue. We came for you, to liberate you from the  impurities of this regime. Today is a happy day of victory for us and you shall soon rise as our new Queen, just as my mother predicted when we brought you into our family.”

Footsteps were coming closer. Hava turned, still standing on Sarina with one foot just as the Warlord Danyal al-Hague barreled around the corner with his khanjar out and three small metal balls hovering over his right hand.

“Stand down, Lord Danyal. Stop right there or I’ll crush her throat before you can kill me.” To prove her point, Hava’s foot moved to Sarina’s exposed neck, pressing down hard enough to make the girl squirm.

The Warlord didn’t move but his glare could have turned sand to glass.

“Vanish the weapons and hand me your Jewels.”

“You need her alive, you won’t kill her.” The old sack of bones said and Hava grimaced internally. If that leverage would not work, how about another.

Swift as only a Black Widow could be, Hava called in a vial and with a pulse of Craft cracked it open, dark blue liquid falling over Sarina’s face and against her lips and mouth.

“That is a poison that can only be cured by myself and my mother. It is of our own design. A single drop, absorbed through the skin or ingested will bring about horrible hallucinations and pain. I think you witnessed the effects of a single drop on the last Queen you served during her Trials. Your Lady has just been exposed to a hundred times that dosage. Hand over your Jewels and I’ll save her now, right here. She will experience no pain and perhaps only one or two small visions and an a few hours of confusion. Don’t, or kill me, and she will suffer horribly. Even if you found someone else to save her in time her mind would be broken and twisted for the rest of her life. We need her body, not her sanity. What about you?”

She didn’t glance down at the Queen. Hava’s eyes remained fixed on the face of the horrified Warlord. “I don’t play around, Lord Hague. She will suffer at your hands, for your inaction, or she will be spared by your loyalty. If I do not see your Jewels in my hand by the count of three every second thereafter will be another hour of hallucinations she will have to endure. One,” he took a step forward then stopped, “Two,”

“Th-”

“Take them.”

Hava grinned wide and reached out her hand for the second set of Opal to Red Jewels. Oh yes, her mother would be very proud. “Stand there and don’t move, Lord Hague. I keep my promises and will tend to your Queen.”



Bastin al-Sabbah
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Bastin was focused on the two people he was trying to kill. Oh, his senses were extended in all directions and he felt a Sapphire approach but he did not predict the ceiling suddenly caving in on him. His shields didn’t buckle but that didn’t keep him from being knocked over or burried in stone and dust. The crashing and shifting of the ground beneath his feet disoriented the Prince for a few seconds, and it took a few more to the rubble to settle so that he didn’t risk getting buried again if he tried to blast his way out.

By the time he did, stone and debris flying through the air as he expanded his shields and rose to his feet, Bastin was about ready to kill the winged bastard who had done this.

It only took one second of scanning around to realize that the Queen was gone. There was no body, though it could easily have been vanished if she were dead, and given how the Gray Warlord Prince was standing, facing him with fury burning in his eyes and a blade in his hand that might be the case.

Bastin preferred to confirm his kills. He liked bringing heads, Jewel settings, or both to his clients but those preferences were not worth dying for. If she still lived he’d find her but he’d felt that power bolt connect. If he had to bet he’d put good money on Shira never being troubled by Elenor Lirion al-Sabbah again.

As it should be.

Bast didn’t call in a blade of his own. He’d never liked them, too limiting, too frail. Instead, power crackled above his hands and along his skin and he reached forward with his senses. There was a Gray Shield around this Warlord Prince but it was weak. Bast had already decimated that shield three times now and gotten at least one hit in when he’d seen his target tumble over the wall. His Jewels could not be more than halfway filled which meant that Bastin had the upper hand and all he had to do to bring Gabriel Silvarin down was incite him to use his power.

That wouldn’t be difficult, not with the rage burning in the man’s eyes. Bastin had attacked his Queen and his research told him that stability and restraint weren’t exactly Prince Silvarin’s strongsuits.

“If she isn’t already dead I’m going to find her,” He crooned. “I’m going to find her and I’m going to take her somewhere she will suffer true agony before she dies. For her sake I hope she’s already in Mother Night’s sweet embrace or that you die soon, before you have to feel her pain as her body and mind are broken open and torn apart.”

The man who had paid him had been very specific about why he preferred the Queen alive. Bast didn’t share those particular predilections but he had deep respect for those who had turned torture into an artform. Anything done well and with great skill was something he would applaud.

The threat and taunt seemed to do the trick. Gabriel didn’t shout or cry out like someone whose mind was gone to the heat of battle but he did attack without restraint.

Bast used a burst of Ebon Gray strength to move out of the way, then shoved power towards Gabriel’s legs. To his surprise the Warlord Prince jumped up just in time, avoiding the bolt that would have once again shredded his shields but landing unsteadily in the rubble. Bast lifted a piece of that and flung it with Craft at Gabriel’s head, backing up. As long as he kept the doomed man far enough away fro that sword not to come into play, his chance of a fast kill were greater.

This was going to be a fun dance, Bast just knew it. The Warlord Prince found his footing and took a step back himself, circling to the right as Bast circled left. He was ready when Gabriel’s power flared but had not expected the way it did. Something underneath Bast cracked and he lept for more solid ground a moment too late. The floor beneath him crumbled away and he fell, into something that looked like a tunnel. Before he could reorient himself Gabriel fell on top of him, his knee pressing into Bast’s chest. The Ebon Gray shield kept the sword that came down with him from imdaling his heart but it still winded him. He raised his arms to blast the other man with Craft but Gabriel was already rolling off him, dodging with the speed only a fighter trained on a battlefield not in a training yard could master.

The smile on Bast’s face grew wider.

“Alright then, Prince. I see you’re not going to go down easy. Let’s dance.”



Parsa

Parsa grinned like a madman as the little Warlord rushed him. Such ferocity, such idiocy. This would be something truly delicious that he’d remember for years to come. He even knew exactly how he wanted to end this one. He stepped to the side at just the last minute, hands in his pockets as the momentum of Bashir’s attack sent him stumbling past Parsa when the blade connected to only air, not flesh. Quick and sure with decades of fighting under his belt, Parsa stepped forward, pivoted, and kicked Bashir in the small of the back sending the young man to the ground.

He smelled the blood the moment it came. Just a bloody nose and a facefull of sand and ash but that was good.

“Do you remember, boy, when you made my eyes water and fill with sand?” Parsa sneered, holding out his hand. Right to the side of Bashir’s head a loud explosion sounded, throwing up more dust and making even Parsa’s ears ring.

“Clever, that. Disorient us, make it seem like there were more of you. I practiced, you see? Now tell me, how does it feel?” He didn’t stop to let the boy answer. Instead, as Bashir scrambled to his feet, Parsa sent another little blast his way, right were he’d put his hand so that the shockwave would break skin but do little more. He could finish this one off quickly but what fun would that be? “Do you remember that night? Because I do. I remember how milky wight her skin was, how soft. Has she ever let you fuck her? I hear she’s become quite the little whore.”

He returned his hands to his pockets as Bashir righted himself and once more tried to swing, only to run straight into the shield Parsa had placed several feet further around him than necessary and pushed out at the moment of impact, sending the boy to the ground again. “I was looking forward to raping her, you know? It’s not every day someone gets to break in a Queen. I would have made sure she got the whole experience from every angle and with every one of my friends.”

It was so fun to see the rage mounting inside the young Warlord -like a stay little mutt on the street going rabid- and he’d just have to be put down the same way. After all, though he wasn’t long-lived he was also not pure. Not with those shining pale eyes and lighter hair. Pity Hussain had polluted his family line so. Well, today Parsa would help clean it up.

“It takes a special talent to break the mind, not just the Jewels, on a Virgin witch. I’m told I have a singular gift at it. It’s harder when she’s been used already but not impossible. If she doesn’t die tonight maybe Shira will let me kill her that way. I’d take you captive and make you watch but… I’m not that nice.”

And with that, he dropped his shields. The boy noticed and took the opportunity, flinging himself forward at what seemed like an open target, Parsa’s hands casually by his side, smirk on his lips, completely unguarded.

At the last possible second, he dropped the sight shield on the long, jagged, wickedly sharp sword he always kept in his psychic cabinet and tightened his hold on it, the hand that had appeared loosly curled now a vice around the handle. The boy could not stop in time. The blade pierced his chest, sliding through cloth and flesh like butter with a sound that made Parsa hard. He grabbed Bashir’s shoulder and pulled him closer as the young man screamed, the sword piercing through his back and glinting bloody in the moonlight. His lips brushed the Warlord’s ear and he whispered,

“I’m coming for your sister and brother too, until every trace of your impurity is wiped from this desert. Everything you loved, everyone you cherished, I will destroy and it won’t even be to torture you because you’ll be dead. It’s just because I like it.” He twisted the blade and blood splattered his shirt.

Parsa laughed.

With a kick he pulled the blade back and pushed the dying man to the sandy ground, then looked up, into the horrified eyes of a young woman with similar facial features and gave her a little wave. “You’re next little girl, but not tonight. I want you scared first, scared of every shadow and breath of wind.”

And then he vanished, the Sight Shield masking his location even as peels of his laughter filled the air above even the howl of the storm.



Offline Bashir al-Sabbah

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #24 on: Jan 15, 19, 08:53:21 PM »
This fucking fuck.

He was playing with Bashir. He could fucking tell. And it infuriated him more. “Fight like a man!” Bashir shouted, “You ball-less prick!” The asshole’s response was to put a foot in Bashir’s back as he passed, pushing him into the dirt. Playing with him. Taunting him.

“Do you remember, boy, when you made my eyes water and fill with sand?”

The fuck was this guy talking about? Bashir had never seen this guy before so why the fuck would he remember anything about him?

An explosion of sand right near his ear was deafening and disorienting. Bashir rolled away from it. He came up tasting blood on his lip.

“Clever, that. Disorient us, make it seem like there were more of you. I practiced, you see? Now tell me, how does it feel?” As Bashir tried to get up, another blast rocked his balance, sending him careening to the side. The True Sabbah asshole continued to taunt him. “Do you remember that night? Because I do. I remember how milky white her skin was, how soft. Has she ever let you fuck her? I hear she’s become quite the little whore.”

Wait.

What did he say?

Realization, cold and clear, dawned on Bashir. “You…” he whispered. “It was you.  It was you and your fucking friends! You were the fucks that kidnapped her! YOU WERE THE FUCKS THAT TRIED TO RAPE HER!”

Bashir charged at him and found himself slicing through thin air again. There were no words for how infuriated he was now. He was seeing red. He had been outnumbered that night but tonight, it was just him and this asshole, and he was sure as fuck going to put this guy in the fucking dirt for what he had done.

And yet, the guy just continued to taunt Bashir, talking like he fucking had the RIGHT to talk about Elenor like that!

Realization didn’t hit him in time when the asshole said he wasn’t nice enough to take Bashir captive. Had it...maybe he could have stopped what was coming. But Bashir had never been that smart and the rage had him charging forward before he could think.

He didn’t feel the blade slide in.

He didn’t feel the pain.

He didn’t feel anything.

Until the blade twisted.

“I’m coming for your sister and brother too, until every trace of your impurity is wiped from this desert. Everything you loved, everyone you cherished, I will destroy and it won’t even be to torture you because you’ll be dead. It’s just because I like it.”

In his final moments, Bashir thought of Malika, who he had ignored earlier. Of Eskandar who had he fought with over something stupid yet again. Of his mother, long dead but still haunting him somehow.

Of Elenor. His Queen.

And then, he thought of nothing at all ever again.


Offline Adavera ibna Sadagh

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #25 on: Jan 15, 19, 09:39:09 PM »
She wasn’t sure - and never really would be - just what had her turning.  It was the battle sense, the prick of instinct, that damned paranoia she had developed that had her twisting about and blocking the blow.  It took only a moment to realize that the one who had struck at her was Barin.  Barin.  Her Barin.  The Warlord Prince who had helped keep her in one piece after her Exile.

The Warlord Prince who had kept her from ending her own life after she’d lost her Horses.

Barin was one of hers.  HER student.  Her friend.  Her betrayer.  She hadn’t seen it coming.  Not from him.  As he kicked her, as he tried to bring her down, she found the world shaking.  Not the world, no… not the world.  Her Chalice. Her Chalice trembled.  Hard.

She clung to sanity anyways.  She couldn’t kill Barin.. Could she?  Surely he had a reason - he had to be Compulsed.  Her eyes flicked to his.  No.  They were too clear.  Too real for a Compulsion.  He was aware.  He was furious, but he was aware.  This was Barin.  Barin was choosing to try to kill her.  And he was, in fact, trying to do so.  He was using what she had taught him, and he was using it against her.

You must promise, Barin.. That you will use what I teach you only with honor.

Ice crawled through her heart.  He had promised.  He was breaking that promise.  Taisha darted between them, and she felt only fury.  Her grip changed, and her sword moved to meet with Barin’s as he tried to strike at her again.  He had just shoved Taisha away.

He had just struck at her daughter, no matter how gentle the strike may be.  The Storm was no longer a threat.  The sand no longer bothered her.  The battle was noise.  It didn’t matter.  There was just Barin, and herself.  Barin was the target of the storm.. And Vera?  Adavera was that storm.

Her blade began dancing out, playing against his and keeping him busy.  He swiped. He kicked.  He punched. He was giving it everything he had.  She was proud of him, distantly.  But it didn’t matter.  I seE yOu…

Adavera snarled, going low and swiping out with her foot to send Barin toppling to the ground.  Her blade danced for his throat, and he rolled out of the way.  Rather than chase him, she instead took two steps back.  And she began to hum.  Let Barin think she was trying to find a place in his shield.

She was not.  She already knew the Shield was likely too Dark for her to Break on her own.  No.. if she was going to deal with Barin, she would have to use something different.

I sEeE yOou… That cold voice whispered through her ears, but she paid it no mind.  Insanity held appeal - but insanity would not do tonight, not now. She wouldn’t recognize friends.  She would kill those she did not want to kill if she fell to her Urge.

She had to hang tight. 

That hum swept forward, sliding across the sands beneath Barin’s feet.  They rolled, they vibrated.. They moved.  The sound danced beneath him, and so the ground danced beneath the sound.  Barin ibn Geiba al-Sabbah was a child of the Desert Sands, but he had not been out amongst them in too long.

Vera?  She was used to walking on unsteady feet and shifting dunes. 

It was time to drive Barin back.  Back across shifting sands towards the fire.  If she was going to beat him?  She needed to make sure that Shield earned its keep.  If she was going to beat him… she needed to move him.  Because the Horses weren’t close enough yet.  The smell of smoke was thick in the air, the Horses were free.. But they weren’t close enough yet.

TRaitOr.  BeTRayEr.  GEIBA.
Friend.

That last one wasn’t important.  He had betrayed her.  He needed to die. He needed to live.  One of his fellow bastards got too close, and that poor male’s feet slipped in the shifting sand.  He went down with a snarl… and then a choked gurgle as Adavera’s blade swept across his throat, her eyes still narrowed on Barin.

That fucking traitor.  That little fucking bastard had broken his word.  Even so… she thought she could maintain her grip.  She thought she could resist the call to the Killing Edge, at least enough.  From the corner of her eye, she saw a familiar figure.  From the corner of her eye, she saw that figure rush another.  Stupid.  Stupid...

From the corner of her eye, she saw Bashir fall.

And then the Bond flared with pain.  Elenor was alive, but she was in pain.  And that… that was too much.  A scream, like the wail of a terrible spirit, left Vera’s throat.  And she disappeared, sight and sound and scent.

There was no Adavera anymore.  There was Vengeance. There was Fury.  There was Rage.  And that Rage was using Elenor’s tricks to come up behind Barin, and shove him towards the Fire that even now swept across the compound.

Let him burn.  Let them all burn.






Offline Malika al-Sabbah

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #26 on: Jan 15, 19, 09:39:10 PM »
After getting no answer from Bashir, Malika felt panic begin to rise. What if something had happened to him? She dove into the chaos surrounding her, avoiding people when she could, shoving them out of her way with a push of her Opal when she had to. Her head began to hurt as she tried to sort through all the Jewels around her, searching for the Summer-Sky that was almost as familiar to her as her own.

There! Finally, she found it and turned in that direction. Malika could only wonder what he was doing as she rushed towards him. She could feel his anger when she neared, but when she finally got to him, she couldn't immediately make sense of what she was seeing. One second he was running forward, towards a male who was Darker than herself. Then the next second...

No!

Malika slapped her hands over her mouth to keep the horrified gasp from escaping. Her limbs felt numb, stifling her initial reaction to try to rush forward and help him. She barely registered the what the male said to her, only that it was a threat. Her eyes were on Bashir instead, but she felt like she was watching everything from somewhere else, detached from her body.

When Malika's gaze finally swung to the Bashir's killer, she had just enough time to get a look at his features before he disappeared, surely hidden behind a sight shield. His laugh echoed in her mind, settling in to give her nightmares for years. Malika wanted to shout at him, curse him, kill him, but the words lodged in her throat and her limbs wouldn't obey her desire. She couldn't see him anyway.

Finally, Malika was able to move her feet and uneven steps brought her to Bashir's side. Her hands shook as she ran one across his forehead and the other hovered over the wound. A choked sob echoed around her as she leaned forward, resting her forehead on his chest as she found his hand, squeezing it hard. He was gone. He couldn't be gone! But he was, and there was nothing she could do to change that.

Tears filled her eyes, spilled down her cheeks. Her legs barely held her up as she stood. She only made it a couple of steps before she fell to her knees, emptying her stomach. Her body heaved when there was nothing left except painful gasps for air. Malika couldn't concentrate enough to reach out on a psychic thread to Eskandar, and she moved woodenly when she stood again.

Malika forced herself to look back to Bashir's body. There was nothing she could do for him now. It wasn't safe to stay, to bring his body with her. There was only one thing she could do: she ran.

Offline Lucky al-Izar

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #27 on: Jan 15, 19, 11:39:05 PM »
 The peace of the cool Prullian night was shattered by the rage of the territory's Warlord Prince.

How dare they attack his Queen. How dare they make her cry. How dare they make her suffer. They would pay for that. He would kill them all, every last one of them. His body might wither and he might transfer to demon dead right there and then, but he would fight until they blasted away every last vestige of his being.

Mainly because they had attacked his females, but also because it sent a thrill of excitement down his spine.

Lucky took a deep breath of the Killing Edge, the cool focused power that the space gave him. Blood, it cried. Blood. He needed it. He craved it. As he landed, his eyes scanned over the battlefield, the Sabbah clearly overrun by these traitors now. They picked out the small form of his witch and another Warlord Prince attacking her. He saw the look in her eyes. He had seen it before. Within the Mines, before prisoners tried to fight their way out of the mines. Before they fought themselves into suicide.

That was not going to happen today, he thought tightly.

With practiced ease, Lucky trapped Vera in a Purple Dusk shield, slowly filtering out the oxygen until she passed out. It would incapacitate her and protect her at the same time. Especially while he had other things to worry about.

“You three. With me.”

Lucky pointed to the male that was within the fire. They nodded and readied themselves. The Purple Dusk, Yellow, and Opal males combined their power with Lucky, each of them sending a blast at the Purple Dusk Warlord Prince as he stumbled out of the flames, unhurt thanks to his shield. Their power struck the male in the chest, sending his Red shield into shards within the air.

Before the younger Purple Dusk male could take a breath, Lucky was there, on top of him, holding the child within the flames and punching him square in the face. Burn, he thought. Die, he thought. No one hurt his females. No one.

Except he caught the young man’s eye and he…he…wasn’t on the Edge. Lucky could sense it. He was not shielding from the fire. He was fighting, but not with the joy of a Warlord Prince. The Mineborn struck him again, watching his hands sear in the fire. His skin was smooth, unblemished by time, and it was only then that the Mineborn realized how young he was. Fucking Sabbah. Recruiting kids to do their dirty work. It took the satisfaction out of even killing them.

A loud snarl snapped through the air.

Lucky threw the male away from the inferno, hard, and rose the rumble around him, using the last of his Sapphire to fuse the stones until they trapped the youth in a cage. “Remember this mercy, child.” His green-gold eyes bore into the boy before he turned, picked up the unconscious form of Vera and vaulting back into the air.

Vera better fucking thank him later, because she was keeping him from killing a whole lot of Sabbah right now.

Offline Elham al-Sabbah

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #28 on: Jan 19, 19, 01:40:23 PM »
The past several months had been a haze of pain, fever, nausea, and loss. Somewhere in the fog, Elham had lost Naya. Lost the one person she'd always depended on. Lost her heart.

Memories were almost impossible to string together, flashes of disjointed clarity that blurred and warped around the edges. Barin had been there, cursing like a sandrider as he changed bandages soaked in alarmingly-colored and alarmingly foul fluid. Yari had spooned broth into her mouth, sternly demanding that she keep it down this time. During her delirium, Elham had cried out for Naya and for Salma, but after the infection subsided she found herself grateful that Salma had been spared the experience of seeing her so weak.

Day by day, she'd clawed her way back from the brink. The place where Adavera had caught her slowly transformed from a red-hot seeping wound into a thick and  painful welt of scar tissue. Elham was able to walk across the room, then to the kitchen, then around the block.

It was on her longest walk to date that Elham heard screams of "Fire! Fire!" She tensed reflexively, ready to spring into action, but the twinging of her scar brought her back to her senses. She wasn't a warrior anymore– worse, she wasn't even a fully able civilian. If her fight with Adavera had happened anywhere but in Onn, Elham likely would have been given to the desert. Sometimes she cursed Onn's tolerance of weakness. Sometimes she thanked Mother Night for her mercy. For the first time in her life, Elham turned her back on the cries for help and walked slowly home.

She'd just sat down to her lunch when Naya's psychic thread burst alive in her head, and Elham was so shocked she dropped her yogurt.

*She took the boys. She burned down Theo's shop and took Barin's Jewel and took the boys. I'm at the Residence now with Theo, you need–*

Elham cut her wife off. *Is Salma safe?*

*Yes, yes, she was here with Matin.*

Elham's relief was palpable, reverberating back along the thread. *Thank the Darkness. I'm going to–*

This time it was Naya's turn to interject. *No, listen. I know we have… things to work out, but the Master of the Guard wants you to join us. She's desperate for leverage against Salma, it's only a matter of time before she comes after you too.*

Elham stiffened. She was acutely aware of no longer being a warrior, deeply familiar with the limitations of her new weak and scarred body. More than anything, her long convalescence had given her time to think, to replay the events of the weeks and months leading up to Salma's birthright. Shira had manipulated her, compelled Naya, and put Salma's life at risk. In the weeks since, she'd held rallies calling for a purge of the long-lived, a genocide of anyone she deemed impure. The True Sabbah had long since dropped any pretense of being a group who simply opposed Elenor's rule.

Elenor had let Adavera live, and Elham would never forgive the Queen for that. But opposing Shira wasn't siding with Elenor: it was just what was right. The Spider needed to be squished. Maybe in her prime Elham could have slain the Widow in combat, but now she would have to be subtle. Underhanded. Social games had never been her strong suit but unlike Naya, Elham had never fallen out of favor with the True Sabbah. It was an advantage she couldn't afford to give up.

*No.* She couldn't tell Naya much of her plan, it would only put her in more danger. *I'm going to get our sons back.* She cut the connection before Naya could protest, and sent a message to Samir al-Sabbah.



Elham played the loyal lieutenant. She stood behind Shira at her rallies, hatred burning in her heart not for the long-lived, but for Shira. For what Elham was doing. It didn't matter that she could no longer fight, there was blood on her hands all the same. Maybe killing Shira would redeem her, balance out the cosmic scales of good and evil. Maybe it wouldn't. Elham couldn't afford to care about honor or morality anymore.

She was part of the second wave into the Sabbah compound after the gates were breached. There was little she could do to protect Barin now, and so Elham's focus shifted to Salma and Naya. Instinct lead her to the kitchens, and there Elham picked up the familiar psychic scents of Salma, Matin, Theo, and Naya. She easily burst the Purple Dusk and Rose shields over the cupboard door, but it was spelled only to open from the inside. Naya's psychic scent was stronger now, and Elham weakly slammed her fist against the wood.

"Naya? Naya, it's me."

Suddenly overcome by relief and terror and exhaustion, Elham's knees buckled and she found herself on the dusty kitchen floor, shaking a little.

"Do you have Salma? Did she escape?" She couldn't keep the hope from her voice. If Salma wasn't here, maybe she wasn't in the compound at all. Maybe Shira didn't win today.

Offline Zhaleh al-Sabbah

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #29 on: Jan 28, 19, 10:16:44 PM »
The sky had been lit by fire, sparking high into the night like a beacon to all of Pruul.  Here.  Here was what became of those who sought to corrupt that which was pure like salt and as the keepers of the salt mines.  It was up to the Sabbah; the TRUE SABBAH, to cleanse the infection that had been spreading throughout their people.   It was like a horrible weed, and it seemed that for every root that was cut away more grew out and was strangling her Clan.  So if you could not cut away the infectious weed, then it needed to be burned out.

The night was chosen, a perfect setting to launch their attack.  Oh, there had been smaller aggressive measures; the attack on the False Queen’s brother and Zhaleh had listened to the furious rant of that baker who had come to her to complain about the woman who had stood up for the Mineborn on the day they murdered Adramalech.   She hadn’t outright told him to attack the woman, after all, she was a fantastic baker and a misguided daughter of the Sabbah.  Even Samir, her precious Samir who had become a devoted follower and almost son, still harbored the hope that his sister would return to the fold though in his anger he would not admit to it.   She turned her head and saw him unleashing a bolt of Sapphire power, knocking down one of the faithless guards who continued to serve the False Queen.  She would have rathered not kill so many pure Pruulians, after all when the corruption was removed; they could be restored to the correct path.

Speaking of Queens, she cast her eyes around for any sight of Sarina.  Hava had been sent to fetch Selma from Matin’s rooms where her son had undoubtedly had her kept under guard while he attended the Tiger Eye murderer’s wedding.   The thought of him wishing that bitch well made her stomach churn with disgust.  She was half-blooded filth, and mad to boot.   Zhaleh still didn’t understand how that woman, her mind ready to shatter under Shira’s compulsions had managed to fight her way through the faithful who had come to guard her as she and Shira had brought Salma for her Birthright.   It should have been flawless.  Salma would receive her Jewels, ready for her training to be the next Queen of the Sabbah under the proper tutelage of herself and Shira.   Naya would have denied Matin his paternity, and he and his False Queen would no longer be able to ruin the future that belonged to Zhaleh’s granddaughter. 

She paused, watching as Shira drew a male towards her.  He looked familiar, and she thought perhaps she had seen him in the company of Sarina.   Her thoughts were confirmed when she watched Shira grasp his neck, her face twisted in furious anger and bury her snake tooth into his throat.   He gasped, his face flushing as his body fell to the ground, writhing in agony before drawing still and silent.    Zhaleh stepped over his prone form, giving him a passive glance.

“Sister, was that quite necessary?  He could have served a greater purpose, using him as a motivational tool for Sarina’s best behavior.  Now she is going to be bereft and sullen and even more determined to fight against us.   We need her willing and converted, not working against us at every step.  No one will serve a broken Queen, and it will only make her look less than worthy of her seat and give more fuel to our enemies.”

Offline Nayarreh al-Sabbah

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #30 on: Jan 28, 19, 11:35:18 PM »
Naya jumped and muffled a scream with her hand as she heard her name on the other side of the door in a voice that wasn't Matin's. It took a few heartstopping moments and a deep breath for her grief and fear-fogged mind to recognize it as the other person who she knew would never hurt her.

Elham.

Elham who she had walked out on and who had not come to her when she had reached out to when Barin and Yari had been taken. She had said she'd get Barin and Yari back but her presence here, today, meant she had probably come with the forces attacking the compound. Had Shira got to Elham the way she had gotten to Naya?

When she asked about Salma, Naya's heart constricted. It was probably a trap but fortunately, there was nothing to lie about. She stood from her hiding place and pressed her face to the door, keeping it between herself and her estranged wife.

"She's gone." Naya whispered, loud enough to be heard through the thick wood. "She's alive but being taken somewhere safe. I don't know where, or in what direction, or even who she is with by now. W-we let her go so they wouldn't find her."

Of course, she might have said more but chose not to. There was too high a risk. "I'm not going to open the door, Elham. I want to but I can't-"

Naya's words were cut short by a cry in her mind over the Tiger Eye.

**Naya! It's Taisha. Barin is hurt, he's out here in the courtyard but my dad is taking me away. Please help him. Please! Something is wrong with him. He attacked my mom.**

Naya's heart stopped beating. It started again as she wrenched the door open and bolted past her wife towards the courtyard where the wedding had been. The little Hearth Witch wasn't sure what she could do but, damn it, if her son was out there and hurt she was going for him.

She thought she heard Elham calling after her but didn't look back. By now the halls of this compound were familiar enough to be able to find her way through. There was smoke everywhere and people yelling. She didn't stop as she barreled past what looked to be a confrontation between Hava, Sarina, and Danyal, didn't slow as she vaulted over rubble and around wounded.

In fact, she didn't stop until she burst out into the large open courtyard and into a pitched battle.

Then she froze.

Like any Pruulian woman, she had learned self-defense at a young age. Unlike most, she had been horrible at it. Naya had never imagined being in any situation where she would need those skills, not married to a fierce warrior she had been sure would always protect her. Now Elham was forever changed by a wound that could have killed her and somewhere in all this mess one of her sons was in trouble.

Fuck it.

She waded in, doing her best to pull a Rose shield around herself but unsure of how effective it would be. Instead of relying on that she just crouched low and ran, using the strong muscles of a woman who worked hard for a living to keep her moving, jumping, dodging, and running. It was horrible. Blood was everywhere, the air was full of screams, and some of the bodies on the ground were people she recognized. She saw Bashir's lifeless corpse and might have stopped had she not spotted someone even younger and infinitely more dear to her than just a clanmate.

He was on the ground, not moving. Naya lunged towards her son but could not get to him through rock and a Shield Darker than her Jewel. With one hand up to control the flame creeping towards them with all the might and fury of a cook she pulled an upturned table to shield them from the other side. They were stuck but at least he was breathing.

If there was a Hell on earth, this had to be it. She squeezed her eyes shut as power bolts whizzed above their heads and the clash of steel on steel rang loud around them.

**Matin, wherever you are, we're losing. Barin is here and down, we're in the middle of the courtyard and he's trapped. Get to us if you can but if not... run.**

She sent her message then paused. There was a very real chance they were both about to die. Could she really face that with things left the way they were?

**Elham, Barin is hurt but I have him. We're in the courtyard. Yari is still out there somewhere. If something happens to us, find him and keep him safe. I love you.**

The table she was hiding behind was ripped away by Craft and she curled up over Barin and squeezed her eyes shut.

But death didn't come.

Hesitantly, Naya cracked her eyes open and suddenly wished it had. Death had to be preferable to staring up into the face of Shira al-Sabbah and seeing her smile.




Offline Aahad al-Situla

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #31 on: Jan 30, 19, 01:46:22 PM »
Meanwhile, somewhere in Onn....

"Whose are those?"

Aahad had collected some clothes from an adjacent alleyway and was unravelling them from being on the clothesline. "Disguises." He offered the boy some clothes. "On temporary loan. We'll bring them back when we can."

"But that's stealing."

"You don't have to wear it. And, when they see you, capture you, and take you back to the Sabbah compound to do who knows what to you you can feel good knowing you didn't take anyone's clothes. Of course that's given how sadistic the rioters are. You wanna bank on them not being so?"

"Um...no?"

"Then put it on."



Aahad had on women's clothes, and he could only devise they were womens because the chest was wayyy too wide for him in the front. He wrapped the shawl around his head to have a face-mask while he checked the boy over who was doing the same. Some mother and son would have to go without a pair of clothes for a bit. Once they were all set, and the boy had a giggle fit at Aahad's outfit they went out into the world of Onn which was both rioting and spontaneously bursting into flames.

"Lead the way and keep your head down. We'll go between buildings to keep off the main roads. Where is the Jofari estate?"

The boy pointed southwest from where they were and off they went. Rioters were everywhere whenever they hit the main roads. Some were simply shouting and trying to rally others while others were breaking into buildings homes to plunder them before setting them ablaze. Aahad had to stop three different times to get his bearings, the inferno of Fire, unbridled rage, making it hard to both concentrate and be comfortable.

"Master Situla?" They were in another alley when his focus waned and it hit him again. He leaned against a wall and steadied his breathing, focusing his thoughts on the task at hand and drowning out the periphery. "Are you okay?"

"The rioters." He pointed haphazardly around them. "They're angry. Angry beyond reason, to the point of psychotic. It's...it's making it hard to concentrate."

"...but why?"

"Dunno. This level of rage...it isn't normal. Someone fed it. Fed the anger." He rubbed his face a few times, slapped himself a few times for good measure then stood back up. "I bet half of the people in Onn don't realize they're burning it to the ground." He collected himself, focusing on the task at hand once more to clear his head. "....Okay. I'm good. Let's keep moving."

Twenty minutes of ducking in alleys and evading rioting groups. Twenty minutes of slipping through buildings, the child erecting sight shields around them and then moving on. Finally they reached the view of the Jofari estate and the boy tugged on Aahad's robe and pointed. "There it is!"

Aahad leaned forward to get a good view of outside the estate. He saw a woman, an Eyrien woman, and another Eyrien fly away. He couldn't get a sense of their castes or scents from the distance, not to mention the fact that the city had all been consumed by fire that sensing anything was out of the question.

"I only know of two male Eyriens...and that isn't Jasper. That must be Prince Lucky. Which means that is probably Queen Elenor." He narrowed his eyes to look harder. She looked foreign. Yup. Definately her. "Yup. Definately Elenor. Come on. Let's get you in the compound."

They left the alley to make for the compound when someone approached the two of them. "Hasthul'thani!" A woman, wearing a Rose on her left hand ducked down and approached them. "Thank the Mother you're here! Everyone thought you died in the business corridor." She looked at him oddly. "Why are you dressed like a woman?"

"Shut up." He said, turning to the boy. "Alright. There is the compound. Don't look back and run. Meet up with your fellows."

"You can come with! We should stick together!"

"My friend here? She will look out for me. What is important is you catch up with your tribesman. Now go."

Aahad's thoughts get brushed with a childish *thump* against his barriers, opening them to hear the boy all but screaming **I don't trust her! You shouldn't either**

"Come on. The boy will be fine. We need to get you to safety. The temple is being avoided by the rioters, we can wait them out there."

Aahad's brows furrowed as he stood upright. I don't trust her! You shouldn't either! "Once we get him to Jofari's we'll leave through the access path leading into the mountains. What we need to do is escape the rioters, not just wait them out!"

"The temple is the best place to hide! No one will dare assault the temple!"

"I will leave through the mountains to return to Arnadeth, where I need to be in times of crisis  and that is that."

"Then I'll just take you to Samin dead then."

"Aahad!"

But it was too late. The Khanjar flashed in the light of the sun and fires of Onn and struck at Aahad's temple.



Aahad had closed his eyes. All he heard was the sheen from the Khanjar to know that he had failed. He should have trusted the kid's instincts rather than trying to be coy. Now he would die, impaled by a Khanjar in the head by a K'miar who had either bought into the True Sabbah's rhetoric or, for some reason, bought into their death rage. The boy would die too no doubt an accomplice to the person that for some reason the True Sabbah were itching to kill for some reason. Why couldn't Aahad be, for once, the warrior that he was supposed to be, rather than relying on everyone else to fight and defend on his behalf. He wasn't a warrior though. He was a coward. Always running, hiding in the wings for the stronger to take the lead. So he would die a coward's death. But the boy didn't deserve it. The boy didn't deserve it at all. 

No impalement came. Instead he heard a scream. He looked and saw nothing but sand. Sand had erupted around him and swallowed the assassin wholesale. The only thing he saw was her outstretched arm holding her Khanjar that clattered to the ground. Did I do that?

"Aahad!"

He looked to the boy who was now pointing in the direction of the Jofari estate. A large swath of people had come out of the woodwork and were rioting straight in their general direction. So much for the way out.

"We gotta move!" He grabbed the boys hand and ran back into the chaos of Onn, the rioters beginning to sprint after them.

"Where are we going?" The boy broke free to run in stride with him. Aahad revealed his ritual staff and slung it in a strap over his shoulders that revealed itself when he did.

"That's a good question. The temple is probably not safe, the mountain pass probably not either." As they were running a strange sense caught his attention. An elegant but stern power, bound in compassion and honed to a razor's edge. He knew that power anywhere. And, he knew just where it was coming from.

"The oasis." He looked to the boy. "There is someone there that can help us. She's good people and fuck off powerful. She'll be able to keep them away from us."

The way to the oasis was not as simple as getting to the Jofari estate. The disguises, for some reason, no longer worked and so as they made their way through Onn they slowly became discarded. Assailants would leap from rooftops, out of windows and blow through walls to get to them, undoubtedly the work of the K'miar who tried to gut him. This time however he was prepared. The earth would raise at his command and shield them from people trying to get the drop on them and he would clear alleys with gale-force winds. When things got sticky enough he would draw upon the heat of the area built up by the flame and exhume it on their oppressors causing their clothes to burst into flames giving enough time for them to escape.

They turned into an alley off the main road and cut through another collection of buildings until they turned to see open fields and the glistening sparkle of water. "There it is! There is the Oasis!"

The boy ran ahead, his head snapping around to look for whomever it was Aahad had described and just as Aahad turned to make it into the opening an arm stuck out and speared him in the stomach with a Khanjar. He gasped in pain, clenching the handle and slumping against the wall.

"Aahad!" The boy ran back into the alley but the figure flicked him through a window pane and into the house.

"I can see now why Lady Shira despises you so. You are a slippery one aren't you?" The figure was male but he didn't recognize the face or the voice. "Just too stubborn to die. Well, Lady Shira will be bouncing out of her chair when I drag you back to her. You will no longer interfere with the purification Lady Shira will give us."

Aahad couldn't speak, instead falling to his knees while trying to pull the Khanjar out of his chest.
He had to push his back against the wall and push himself up. "W..What purification."

"Pruul! The long-lived have contaminated our land, the Sabbah Queen has led her people astray - away from the true path. We're not one with the desert any longer! Lady Shira has seen it in her visions, the Sabbah Queen will bring the worms upon us and the long-lived will continue to drive us to deviancy until everything collapses. And you...Hasthul'thani, they call you? Blind people to that truth."

Aahad gasped. He couldn't believe he was living, in real time, a master plan speech. He thought they only existed in books. "I...*Cough*...don't blind anyone."

"Then I will offer you this! Come with me. Freely. We will tend your wound and you may hear Lady Shira's prophecies for yourself. See what is happening to Pruul before your eyes that living in your temple can't let you see."

Prophecy? He hadn't heard any Widows talk about territory-ending prophecies. And he visited Little Citadel. The most Widow-y place in Terreille, and even they haven't said anything about it.

"No offense?...you just stabbed me in the gut. I think...i'll pass." He pulled the Khanjar out, finally and held a hand against his chest and half-slumped forward away from the wall.

"Then I have no choice. Mother Night has granted us Lady Shira! We don't need her champion any long-"

Aahad lunged. He thrusted the Khanjar into the man's ribs causing the man to howl in pain. A swift build of power came from him. Aahad had only seconds to construct a shield as his jewel exploded in force, rather than power and the force knocked Aahad out of his senses.

He felt stone. Then air. He felt like he was on a cloud. Nothing for miles around. He felt he hit something. It felt like something swallowed him. It was cold, prickling at his skin like thousands of ants crawling along his skin. His vision was swallowed by a shade of blue that distorted his vision. That vision became more and more distorted and blue until he could see nothing. Then gently rested against earth.

It felt like an eternity there in the cold blueness. He suddenly began to feel himself move. No. Not moved. Carried. His body moving without moving as it gently floated through the cold blue. Everything went dark. No light. No life.

Then he broke the surface of that darkness, flung onto earth, and his consciousness faded.


Offline Judiah Vidanic

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #32 on: Jan 31, 19, 12:38:41 AM »
It had been a wonderful night.  A gloriously happy evening.  Judiah’s heart overflowed and she had actually begun crying during the ceremony, watching Vera and Torin staring into each other’s eyes with the fullness of their feelings shining in their faces.   Judiah didn’t even care that a few of the guests who had been sitting near her had turned to stare at her as she sniffled and wiped at her eyes.  She felt a momentary urge to turn at them and say “Yes, whores have feelings too!”  but she didn’t want to cause any more of a disruption to the goings-on. 

A small bit of her was envious at the display, but she hushed that buzzing insect in her mind and pushed it back into a dark corner.  This was not a night to pout and feel sorry for herself.  Tonight was about Vera and Torin, about new beginnings and hope.   She had been very careful not to make a repeat of her behavior at El’s court pronouncements.  If that dress had been scandalous and inappropriate, no one could fault her for her chosen outfit for this occasion.  In fact, had she not been so tall and golden eyed, she probably could have passed for any other Prullian in attendance.  Gone was the sheer material and almost non-existent sparse material.   She had decided to go in the most completely opposite direction , choosing instead a sand-colored gown with minimum embroidery, ornated with a wide silver-styled belt.   Her dark hair was braided back down her back and she completed the outfit with a pale cream headscarf that left only her face exposed. 

She had done her research and found that it was just within the proper amount of elegance that would be acceptable at such an important occasion but still muted enough to keep any focus off her.  She would attend the ceremony, stay through the meal and the feasts and perhaps dance with a few of the Court members should any of them ask but she fully intended on fading off into the background and going back to her rooms well before anyone else.

Her plan had been mostly successful, after all, she knew she couldn’t go completely unnoticed, no matter how plainly she dressed or how quiet she stayed.  The tall woman with the Queen was well known for being the Hayllian whore who had elevated herself to Consort.  At any other time, she would have bathed in that sort of scandal and used it to amuse her companions.  Elenor might have enjoyed her antics and she thought perhaps Vera would as well but she knew Torin was a little bit more conservative and out of respect that this was his wedding feast as well, she restrained her sharp tongue.

Her plan to be undisruptive included bringing Cassius with her as her escort.   With a Green jeweled male at her side, there was less chance that some of the more alcohol brave young men would make an attempt to ask her for more than a simple dance.   Cassius needed the distraction as much as she did, so she kept at his side. 

“Mmm yes, but I think I prefer the Prullian wedding style.   There seems to be much more joy here than in any Hayllian wedding I’ve ever attended.  Of course, I wasn’t there as a friend but a paid escort, so perhaps my perspective here is much more different.”  She said, leaning her head against his shoulder.  She watched the festivities carry on into the night, and despite the storm that raged outside of Gabe’s Grey shielding, it was a perfect party.

Until the shield shattered and the explosions began.

She had felt that ripple of dark power that tore open the protections around the courtyard, and felt the slapping sting of wind-carried sand as it roared around her, the sound echoing in her ears.   Cries rose up as another sound carried through the wind, the sound of chants and yelling, shouts and jeers.  Judiah spun around as the sight of a mob poured through into the courtyard, the witchfire lanterns casting light against the Khanjars that were raised in attack.   She looked around for Elenor but didn’t see her in the midst of the sea of people.   To be expected, she had probably been whisked away by one of her males.   Judiah turned towards the Residence, certain that they might head in that direction to regroup but saw several of the attackers rush the gates and overtake the guards who had been placed on duty.  She wasn’t close enough to see if there had been much resistance against them when she felt Cass’ hand on her arm tightening as he began to pull her away.

“Cass, where are you….” she sputtered, pulling back a little but not offering much resistance, “we need to find the Court.  There are plans…” she hadn’t ever told him about the discussions she had been privy to in the Steward’s office after it became clear that the True Sabbah were possibly planning a more direct attack against Elenor.   She stared in surprise as he opened a door she hadn’t noticed previously and dragged her down into a dark staircase.   Her feet registered the difference between the stones of the courtyard and the ones that led down into the earth, felt the difference of the air and the scent of being underground. 

She turned as Cass let go of her arm and watched him begin to ascend towards the sound of the fighting.  She knew his background, and he was no fighter.  A Green was a strong jewel but as Vera had shown jewels were only a fraction of what made a great fighter.   She hiked up her skirts and ran back up the stairs after him.

“Cass, you don’t know how to fight.  Not at the caliber of these scum and I’m not going to stand back like some helpless nit and leave you alone.”  She gave him a hard look, her eyes narrowing in stubbornness as she looked around for something that she could use as a weapon.   Nothing, not even a torch fastening in the wall.   Damnit!

A blast shook the Green shielding which trembled but held.  Judiah looked up as two men approached, their faces grim and serious as they studied the Green shielding and the two behind it.   One held a Khanjar unsheathed and the other was holding a spear.  Judiah’s eyes flickered on the spear a moment, her mind drifting back to the thoughts of another spear and the man who carried it.   No, not now.  She couldn’t think of Fin right now.  Focus on the enemy.

“Watch your opponent, unless he’s very well trained his eyes will always give away his intentions.”   Was that something Judas had told her, or was it one of his trainers and she simply remembered the lesson.   She had been to watch his training enough times, and he had worked with her many many times.

“Watch out,” she said, throwing herself at Cass as the spearman launched his weapon at Cass’ shield as his companion unleashed a blast of Opal strength in unison.  The combined movement didn’t break Cass’s shield, but the spear pierced it and sailed through, flying down the stairs with a clatter.   Both men seemed surprised that their offensive measure didn’t yield the results they wanted and seemed to regroup.  Judiah scrambled down the stairs to retrieve the fallen spear and ran back.

Brace your feet.  Hold your hands apart.   Keep the spear as an extention of yourself.

Hundreds or thousands of practices flashed through her mind as she recalled the voice of the instructors through the years and her body moved through memory.   The men looked at her and laughed, even pointing at her in ridecule.

“Oh, the Hayllian bitch thinks she can handle a spear, does she?” the Opal mocked and his friend grinned.  “If I thought she wanted to hold a spear in her hand, she can always come over here and I’ll give her a thrusting she won’t forget.”  He made a crude gesture with his hand that mimicked exactly what he had in mind.   His companion reached out and hit him in the head.  “Lady Shira would not be pleased to hear that you sullied yourself and probably exposed yourself to untold horrible diseases,” he scolded.

Judiah’s spine stiffened and she glared at them, looking at Cas.  “Hold the shield as long as you can. If one of these limp cocks makes it through, I’ll handle them.”

They laughed at her, “What would you know about fighting?”

Judiah executed a complicated motion with the spear, spinning it in her hand before bringing it around her waist and thrusting the point in their direction with practiced speed, her eyes hard.  “I’m 1500 years old, and I’ve spent the better part of the last 1200 training under the best fighters in Hayll, including my son.   Perhaps you’ve heard stories about him?  He’s been called the Champion or Hayll’s Shield in some other circles?”   She saw the Opal man pale slightly as she grinned fiercely.  His companion looked back and forth between them, obviously he hadn’t ever heard of Judas.   

“Come on,” the Opal finally said, staring at the Green shielding, “they’re not going anywhere.   Everyone knows those tunnels have been sealed off for centuries.  Let’s go get a few more men and we can crack that shield.  Think what a lovely gift for the Lady Shira this will be.  Two Hayllian scum and one is the Wormcaller’s precious Consort.”  He spat in the sand, looking disgusted for a moment before giving them a smirk.  “See you soon.” 

The two men departed back towards the fray and Judiah looked at Cassius.  “If we are going to wait for anyone else, it can’t be too much longer.  They will be back and I don’t think I can hold off more than one at a time.  I might have exaggerated my skills a little bit too far,” she said sheepishly.   

Almost at the same time, sight shields dropped around a small group.  Judiah recognized some of them as guests at the wedding, a few serving lads and a couple of maids who worked in the residence.   Most of them wore jewels at her rank or lighter and a few of them were already wounded.   

As soon as Cass had dropped the shield enough for them to slip through she turned to look at him.  “That’s it, we need to go.   If we shut the doors and we both throw locks into the beam, it might hold against blasts long enough to give us a good start.”   She infused the door with her Rose, twisting craft into a knot that would wind through the locking mechanism of the entrance.  Trusting Cass to follow her request, she went down the stairs to where the rest of the group was huddling in the shadows.   

“Cass knows the way,” she said, trying to convey confidence and calm despite her own growing fear.   She hadn’t heard from Elenor or anyone else yet.  That couldn’t be a good thing.

*Cassius, we need to get to Prince Jofari’s residence.  I’ve been there before with Elenor, I can find it again once we get out and away from the Sabbah Estate.  We made plans in case of an attack, we are supposed to meet there.*







Offline Sarina al-Sabbah

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      Puppet Queen

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      Danika

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Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« Reply #33 on: Feb 07, 19, 09:34:25 AM »
Warning: Hallucination induced self-harm, nightmare fuel

The first thing Sarina was aware of was pain, a pain that washed away the blackness on a wave of red and white. There was no part of the young Queen that didn't hurt. She struggled to remember what could have caused such intense pain. It didn't take long for her to remember pulling that Red-fueled wall of Rage and burning back through her own body to protect the children...but why had she been so enraged?

Then she became aware of the emptiness filling her when there should warmth and strength and she let out a long keening wail of grief and emotional pain. It was at this point that Sarina felt the familiar strong arms holding her close, but before she could find any comfort in them, something….shifted with almost a sharp crack and instead of the comforting lined face of her Warlord, Sarina saw...Rasheed. This was not the Rasheed she had known and loved like a brother for as long as she could remember. This was a Rasheed pale in death, head twisted at an odd angle, bloody foam frothing from his mouth and empty eyes. “You killed me Sarina. Your weakness killed me because I couldn’t help but come to protect you like always Sarina. This is your fault, everything is your fault. It always has been. It always will be.”

The young Queen was trembling, shaking her head, “No! Nonononono...It’s not! I was coming to you, I never wanted this, I never - ” She broke off, weeping, trying to get away, to remember the Rasheed that she had always adored instead of this horror.

The arms around her tightened, and for a moment she thought she heard a familiar voice murmuring to her, but as her vision blurred with the tears, Rasheed was gone, again - Rasheed! and it wasn’t arms she felt around her, but thin strings instead. She looked and they were wrapped around her arms and her legs, around her torso and she could even see them on the edges of her vision where they were wrapped around her face; Sarina could feel them down her back and around her neck too. She froze momentarily as her eyes followed the strings across the floor to...Shira al-Sabbah. The older woman cackled at the young Queen.

“Did you really think you could get away from me, my little pawn? I’ve had my hooks in you longer than you know. You are mine, my little marionette...my puppet to do with as I please who will say what I want her to say, do as I choose, and all I have to do is pull these little strings - ”

Sarina cut the Black Widow off with a cry of denial as she began to struggle against the strings. With every scream and movement the downed Queen made, the Black Widow would smirk, gesture with her hands, and the strings would tighten. Sarina didn’t stop fighting, kept thrashing. She had to get away, she had to - but the strings around her neck were tightening too and she was choking and darkness washed over her again.

She didn’t know how long it was before she was aware, and could think again. Oh Darkness, Rasheed! Where was Danyal? Why did she feel so alone? Then, suddenly, Sarina was not alone. Rasheed was there...dying...she screamed, and screamed, and kept screaming as she struggled to get to him to make him look at her. But it wasn’t just Rasheed any more...no, he was covered with thousands of scorpions stinging him, hundreds of snakes biting him, and he wasn’t dying any more. He was dead and there had been nothing she could do. He was dead and she hadn’t protected him. He was dead.

She wasn’t sure how long she struggled against bonds she couldn’t see or feel as she screamed for the brother of her soul; it could have been hours, or days, or an eternity - but suddenly it wasn’t Rasheed that made her scream...it was the dozens of Geiba children who swarmed towards her, children with murder in their eyes as they piled on top of her, weighing her down, smothering her.

She tried, really she did, to use her Touch to calm them down, thrashing side to side and bucking, trying to get them off her so she could breathe again. If only she could calm them enough to explain - to say that she hadn’t chosen this, that she would gladly pay the Price every day of her life but they had to get off her. But she cracked her face against something hard...was that someone’s head? And she smelled the acrid, coppery scent of her own blood as blackness washed over her once more.

It was pain that brought her out of the darkness again, a pounding in her head that Sarina thought she recognized as a horse’s hooves drumming into her skull. She was tired now, but it hurt so much so she tried to get away. She’d promised Danyal he wouldn’t outlive her so she couldn’t just give up, as much as she wanted to. She tried, but Sarina could not get away from the pounding in her head. When she could focus, she knew she’d been right - it was a horse, a demon horse with blood dripping from its wicked fangs and her hair caught in the talons on its hooves. Every time she moved, trying to get away, the horse’s hooves struck her head again and again from a direction she couldn’t see coming.

She went limp as the demon horse vanished, her throat raw and her voice reduced to a nearly silent screaming that was a mere rasp of sound. Suddenly the young Queen was distracted from the pain and grief and horror by an unfamiliar yet welcome and somehow intimate presence. She looked up and saw a man she did not know. He was a fairly tall Pruulian man with dark hair and dark, intense eyes and something deep within Sarina started to recognize him and what was between them, but then her eyes landed on the group of men behind him and the body they carried - not Rasheed, but someone else she knew and now mourned - [i[Bashir?![/i] No!

But then something shifted again, and Sarina felt another sharp crack and it was Rasheed’s body - but he was no longer being carried by men she did not know. He was covered by hundreds of miniature sandworms that were eating through his flesh. She could see chunks of skin and bone being torn off, shredded by millions of tiny sharp teeth.

Her gaze was pulled back to the strange man as she tried to reach a hand to him, desperate for something normal, something not out of a nightmare, something that if it was what she thought it was would take away the grief and pain if only for a little while.

Before she could do more than lift her hand a little, caught as she still was by the bindings that she could not see...the man was gone and in his place was Lady Elenor. The look on the older Queen’s face made Sarina cower away.

“You disgust me little puppet Queen.” Sarina barely recognized her mentor’s voice through all the vitriol. “I despise you. How could I have ever thought that you would one day be a strong Queen? You’re weak. You offer yourself up to be used by anyone who gives you the slightest bit of attention. You’ve done nothing to protect my people, you never will - you’re too defective. You’ll just get everyone around you killed.”

Sarina shook with shock, with shame, with fear that the older Queen was right. “I - I - I just wanted to Serve - I wanted to protect - I wanted you to love me Lady Sabbah! That’s all I wanted! I didn’t choose this, I didn’t do anything I wasn’t supposed to, I - ” She cut off as the older Queen approached, cowering away, trying to hide her face.

Then...she wasn’t really aware of anything around her for a time. She supposed she must have slept, though it wasn’t a restful sleep. She could still feel herself tossing and turning, at least as much as she could with the weight that still held her.

Suddenly she bolted upright, screaming that there were giant weeds growing out of her face and arms. “Get them out, get them out!” she shrieked hysterically as she shredded her face and arms with her nails, desperately trying to dig the noxious plants out of her skin. Suddenly hands grabbed her again, held her back. Sarina wept as she recognized some of the hands as belonging to Danyal. Her Warlord was here. He had her. Surely he would be able to make all the horrors go away. She didn’t recognize the other hands, but that was okay - they made her feel safe, but in a different way than Danyal’s.

She didn’t know how long Danyal held her like that, his face pressed against her hair, the other man nearby, a soothing presence. All she she could hear was a jumble of all the voices she’d ever known - her parents, her uncle, her aunt. Shirin. Rasheed. Bashir. Lady Elenor. Adel. Matin, Salma. Others she recognized but could not put names to. They were all a jumble, all talking over each other. Each voice blamed her for something - for their death, or the destruction around her, or the attack on the Sabbah compound. They called her weak, they called her a failure. They called her other names she’d never heard applied to her before.

After what felt like an age, the voices vanished. Sarina could hear Danyal humming a lullaby, his voice sounding ragged and tired. She wanted to speak, but she wasn't in control of herself, drifting in and out of awareness as she was. Still, what little awareness she had took comfort in Danyal's presence and that of the other man she could still feel nearby.


 

 

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