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Mercenary on the Winds

Faith in the Spirits Arc 1: To Align the Stars

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"Don't catch a cold now," Tasha joked, letting herself relax while Alvira went to check on the front of the wagon. She'd heard the thud just fine, but with both Tio and Elisa driving, she didn't think it likely they'd need help... but that Alvira was the one to actually go offer her help spoke volumes for how much she'd progressed over the past month. "Look at her go. Would any of you have thought she'd be genuinely worried about a human before we left Glacies? She's really trying her best... and that's part of why I'm giving her what she wants~" A happy chuckle as she picked up the ice cube Alvira had left behind, cooling her forehead a bit first. "She says she hopes she can give me something I need too, but all I really want is, well, someone I could see myself being with for a hell of a long time. Doing good with progress on that front," Natalya explained, not really caring too much whether Alvira was trying to listen in or not. She didn't need to hide praise! ...Unless she withheld it purely for teasing purposes, of course.

Seeing that the ice was melting into what at least seemed like perfectly average water, the tiger decided to pop it in her mouth, and sure enough it tasted just as plainly wet as water ought. Really, she's putting in so much effort in such a short time that I almost feel like I don't deserve her. But I can just tell myself it's thanks to my support she's trying so hard... I saw how she was by herself. Her voluntary muffling gave a small moment to think; she knew from experience that she had a tendency to downplay herself in relationships, and it sure was trying to get in her head again.


Elisa picked up the ice Alvira left for them to take a look at it. She'd seen the dragon flatten that pirate before with a slab of ice, but it only just now occurred to her that this was an actual, physical block of ice, capable of being separated from Alvira as the magic source with seemingly no issue, lasting about as well as you'd expect ice to in the current weather. "Liste is the name of the town. It's mostly notable for being one of the few places closer to Islexia where Clouded aren't considered even a strange sight, and so Glacies has decent connections here."

She could let Tio explain the rest of that side of the discussion, because the following question was more in her wheelhouse. "Magic storage is a difficult problem, because you'd have to figure out some way to suspend spell-formed mana separated from its source, in such a way that it doesn't appreciably decay in a short amount of time. I've experimented with something like that, but only Lufiria can manufacture something with the tolerances required to minimize leakage to a point where it becomes practically usable. But their magic reservoirs -- I don't remember if they'd decided on an official name for them -- they're not something that was ever open for trade. I'm pretty sure we only know the technology exists because of our cooperation otherwise, and us being prominent magic researchers..." By this point, the cube she'd inspected had melted enough to start slipping, and to make that a non-issue, Elisa stretched the neck of her suit and just dropped what was left into her valley, shivering briefly from its coldness.

"M-mmh... That's better." Though she wasn't wearing her mantle either, Elisa's skin-hugging outfit was making her sweat quite a bit. She was used to it from her frequent exercise, but no amount of getting used to it would make the annoyance completely disappear, even if the suit was somehow exceptionally easy to clean. Lufirian materials were so far ahead of things they could make in Glacies... "You can turn your ice spells into the expected physical objects, which is a rare skill to have. Normally, magic does affect things through reaction and interaction, but being able to directly convert mana into physical mass is a good few steps above just being able to cast." The quick solution, then, would be simple enough. "You could try to just make enough of it in smaller blocks, put them into a heat-retaining container, keep it away from sunlight and let people grab some cubes when they want. Refill every stop, and that should work out decently... I think."

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Alvira couldn't help catching Tasha's words, flushing profusely. Elisa's display with the ice didn't help matters, her eyes going wide and staring for a hot second before catching herself and looking away. The Evokers were attractive, for sure, but she had Tasha. The embarrassment was more that she'd been so brazen in front of someone that wasn't her wife. "I... uh... You know I'm still here, right...?" She probably didn't care. "Mmm... Yeah, I suppose that would work. Maybe find some pretty decent water containers and they can use them as icepacks, until the ice melts and then they can drink it. Double cool off~" She smiled, pleased with her idea... But something Elisa had said wanted to make her show off. "Heh. You think that's rare? Watch this~"

Alvira leaned into the front of the wagon further, aiming her hand towards the sky and towards the left of the cart. She fired off a brick of ice. Then another. Another. Several, going past ten, not even breaking a single drop of sweat, not seeming bothered in the slightest. "It doesn't strain me in the slightest. I can basically do this forever... Or at least, I've yet to find a limit. Whatever that storm did to me fucked me up good, but at least this is useful. Especially for here." She smiled, hoping it was at least impressive. "The only draw back is I can..." She formed another chunk in her hand, a square about as big as her head. "I can only do this sort of shape. Squares, rectangles, all with rounded edges. Can't even do something super stabby. Been trying to get a better handle on the shaping, but... It's been no good ever since I gained this power." She set the cube down between the Evokers, leaning back some. "Well! Good to know everything is fine, at least..."

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Sixteen really was tense around some of the members, Renais noticed she listed non-human Tigers that she fancied so far. Then when she brought up 'especially not the humans' she knew what was going on. 'She doesn't like humans...hmm.' Tio said she was interested in who Aly really was, now her sister entered the scene and she also had something strange about her. It was curious. But at the same time Renais couldn't help but worry about what this meant. Worst case scenario was that Sixteen might go on a rampage, for all she knew this could be a trap. '...mm, am I being paranoid? I can't help shake this feeling I have.' With a quick shake of her head she turned back to her book, and hoped to take her mind off her active imagination. "...uh small request." She spoke out loud to the group in the wagon. "If anyone finds a piano in the hamlet let me know, please." It probably may come off as a strange request, but she really needed to see something for herself.

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Slumping in her seat, Lani sighed. She'd stretched enough, and it was too hot outside to get out of the cart just to stretch her legs. Not until they they had somewhere half-decently cool to go back to, at least. The ice was definitely helping, though.

Alvira's flabbergastedness at being teased was certainly something to watch unfold, and she couldn't help but smirk slightly. It was something of a surprise that she'd willingly detached herself from the chief to go see what was going on; not only because of her obvious enjoyment at being close, but also how considerate she was being. Without a doubt, this seemed to be a positive influence for her, and for the chief too, though significantly less... developmental.

"Mmhm. Like a whole new person." And especially with that kid... too bad I promised not to tell. She smiled, remembering Alvira's request.

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Syndra caught Sixteen's last comment about Flux spells. "So, you're an elder magician? I thought I sensed something similar coming from you. I know a fair bit about, 'dark magic' as they call it myself." Syndra had noticed Sixteen wasn't really carrying much on her besides her clothes. "Pardon me for asking you Sixteen but, did you bring a tome with you on your way here? We're in a dangerous line of work, and as certain as I believe she wants to, Alriana can't constantly protect you out on the battlefield."

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"Mmm?" Sixteen tilted her head to see Syndra, looking at her upside down from her laid down position on the wagon's floor. "I don't have any belongings. I can cast magic if you let me have a tome, but all I own now are the clothes I'm wearing, courtesy of my loving sister. They're nice clothes! But nice clothes won't cast life saving spells." It was a lot easier to talk to the human that she'd expected. Maybe it was because they were both sitting still and Syndra was occupied with her casting...

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"Haha, no I suppose they won't. Either that or we haven't found clothes that do that yet. Hold on just a second." Syndra reached into her bag to pull out the Flux tome that she bought before they left and offered it to the snake-like creature. "I had bought this for my own use, but if you're going to be travelling with us you should at least be able to protect yourself, just in case." 

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Tio almost couldn't believe what she was hearing. There was always an upper limit to the magic that one could cast. No matter how strong, or capable a mage was, they were still at the mercy of their magical capacity. They simply couldn't cast magic infinitely, without consequence. But Alvira seemed to be casting her magic completely without consideration to these usual rules, and more importantly, her magic was actually separated from her. Creating the tangible element using magic was a lot harder, and a lot more taxing than people realized. Magic was using ones innate mana not to create a phenomena, but to simulate it. It was why things designed to ward against magic worked they way they did. A magical shield would be able to ward against magical flames by forcing the mana to dissipate, but that same shield would melt or burn if it came into contact with actual flames for long enough. Similarly, an ice or wind mage would be able to simulate cool breezes, and freeze water that already existed in the world. But if that same ice mage tried to create ice blocks to use as water, they would 'melt' into mana, and not water. 

Some mages had the skill and raw magic to be able to create the tangible form of their element, and manipulate it, but those were very few and far in between. The problem was that Alvira was a Fire Dragon. She might have expected it to be possible if she was using Fire Magic, but Alvira had been using ice magic because of what happened to her. Tio was seeing it, and feeling it, but everything she knew about magic told her that what Alvira was doing was implausible, if not outright impossible for her. For her to be doing such a feat with seemingly no drawback, and against her affinity... She looked down at the block of ice between them, and a thought crossed Tio's mind at that moment. Is... Is that possible? 

There was perhaps a way that Alvira could cast magic in that manner. If she were somehow linked to someone else's magical reserves. But that sort of link would of had to have been done with someone close by, and there was no way a link could be maintained indefinitely. More over, as far as Tio knew, that kind of magic was only employed by two people and she knew both of them. Even if I were to assume all of that... What on Amaranthe could she have possibly linked with? 

Tio blinked, realizing that she had just been blankly staring at the block of ice. "Oh, uh. Sorry. Lost in my thoughts again. Alvira, if you could get your commander, we'll have to explain what's going on here. And, don't worry about us and Sarasin, we'll be just fine. Just have to keep him on task, away from his stories, and his eyes up." She couldn't help the playful jab. Sarasin was actually a lot better about that than many of the other nobles. Just when he did get caught, he got caught. "Elisa, if you would pull the wagon up to that bell. That's where we'll wait." She returned her attention to Alvira, "Liste is... well, not Eibar. There is a local bar, a small inn, and some smithies, but Liste is quite small and out of the way. So there isn't much in the ways of entertainment. The inn does have decent baths, so there's that, and... if I recall actually, there's a nifty little place with all kinds of books. We'll have to make the best of it for the day." 

Around them, the sleepy little town seemed to stir. A couple of people had started to poke their head out of their houses, and others from their various activities. Including a guard or two exchanging a couple of confused looks as the guard from earlier seemed to be speaking with them. 

Edited by Mercenary on the Winds

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Alvira couldn't help noticing Tio's staring into the ice, like she was trying to formulate how this functioned. "I wish I could tell you more about my magic, Tio, but it's been like this ever since the storm... Fire was pretty easy to control too, but not like this.. Do let me know if you come up with something, though. It's definitely curious." She smirked and slipped back into the wagon to tell Tasha what was going on, wishing she wasn't so confusing. Even the Evokers don't know what's up with this ice... How frustrating.

Alvira put that thought aside for now and slid back up to Tasha, squeezing her arm. "They need you up front, hun. Gotta fill you in on what's going on... And they told me that Liste doesn't have much to do, but the inn has a nice bath... Shall we go for a round two?"


"... For free?" Sixteen was hesitant, an arm outstretched, but it flinched back for a moment. This was still a human, one that was being nice at the moment, but... "Mmm..." The thought of being able to help or protect Alriana with her full capabilities crossed her mind and she snatched the tome, hugging it against her chest. "Th, Thank you... Syndra."

Edited by Mel the DM

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"...Huh." Elisa was used to being able to cast magic inexhaustibly; she herself was capable of that, but getting there had taken inventing some pretty serious technique, as well as putting herself in harm's way to accomplish it. Alvira was no cutting-edge researcher, or if she was, she definitely hadn't told anyone, and she was throwing out ice just like that, with none of what made Elisa able to keep going as long as she wanted to. Tio seemed just as puzzled, at least until she shook herself out of it. "Gotcha~" Without missing a beat, Elisa steered the wagon over to where her wife had pointed, and the dragon went back to the others after the brief explanation.

"So, hey. She didn't use recombination, and I'm not using the circuit. We should talk about that later." The strawberry blonde was more serious than usual. Anima magic was her specialty, and her research focused on something like what Alvira had just done, but nothing she could immediately think of lined up with how she could do that.


Tasha chuckled at Lani's admission a little, not least because of what Alvira had told her a few days ago.

Future Interests

Spoiler

Natalya had been given a good amount of time to think over what she’d been shown while she went over all the equipment she could, filling her time between then and departure with taking care of her duties as commander and armorer. Thankfully, it seemed like the Tigers were pretty good at looking after their own stocks, having seen some brand new weapons in their supplies to cover for what they’d likely burn through over the course of the mission.

She hadn’t missed Alvira -- and a fair number of them, actually -- having a new set of clothes on them, either. The dragon’s usual dress was good-looking enough on her, but this ensemble was extremely cute, and definitely emphasized her assets, too. And, as expected, they were next to each other in their wagon on the trip, so no better time to ask, as well as talk about that vision of hers in return. “Are you trying to impress me, or something? ‘Cause it’s working, but I wonder if it’s working the way you intended~” A small grin toward Alvira, as her tail sought out the larger one to mingle with.

Alvira had been hoping to hear those words all day. She’d spotted Natalya glancing at her as they got the wagons ready for travel, but they hadn’t had a moment to sit down and speak, until they were finally on the move. Her tail felt the tiger’s, twitching slightly, the tip spinning around to try and find Natalya’s waist to hold onto her. Her mouth squirmed into a smile, trying to hide just how excited she was. “Uhm. W-Well… Yeeeaaahhh…” A tiny giggle left her, glancing at the tiger, swallowing hard.

“I, mm… Haven’t had the chance to buy myself new clothes for quite some time. Always just… Washed the dress. Over and over, s-so, I got a bunch today. Sorry about the… The look of the tights.” Everything else was rather immaculate on her, except for the tights, which parts of her scales and jagged bits on her clawed feet had torn into. It was definitely a look… “But… What’s, what’s it doing to you then? I figured I’d look, cute… But…”

It was a bit difficult to tell whether the jitteriness was nerves or excitement, but either way, being next to Tasha would make either of those better, right? “Hehe~ And you do look really cute. I didn’t take you for a white and pink kinda girl, but it works out,” the tiger answered in part, drawing herself a bit closer. “So cute, that if it wasn’t for your figure and the ripped tights, I might think you were younger than you are~ Gives it just enough… Emphasis.” The tip of her tail gently stroked the ridge of Alvira’s, trying to give her just that extra bit of touch that she seemed to like.

“Mmhnf.” Alvira shuddered slightly, biting her lip, trying her best to ignore the sensation. “N-Not in front of everyone else, T-Tasha…” Alvira knew, at this point, that Tasha loved to tease everyone in the Tigers, publically. What that meant for her now partner, Alvira had no idea. This was likely just going to be the start… “Mm… I’m already young enough compared to you. Don’t just make me younger because I put on something cute… I just wanted to put on something girly. I haven’t ever, so… That’s all. The rest is pretty practical. I’m… I’m glad that it makes you happy, though. Excited. Or whatever it’s doing to you… I think, I have an idea.”

“Only one way to find out if you’re right~” Tasha knew that was pushing it already, relenting after just the slightest continued encroachment on Alvira’s personal space. Sure, she may have been right about that, but going more in that direction in front of people would probably just make everyone uncomfortable really fast. “I’m not someone for fashion, but the style just reminds me a lot of what I’ve often seen young noblewomen wear, even if they’d usually have more frills and decorations. But with practical considerations in mind, you’re no brawler or anything, so… a normal fight should be just as easy for you in that as the dress, yeah?” Though she might not have been close enough for panic any longer, the tiger would capitalize on how Alvira had wrapped her tail around and pet the end a bit.

Alvira felt herself shivering somewhat, not expecting the petting, not entirely against it, but still feeling it more than a normal gesture from someone else would hit her. “Hh…” She slightly grasped Tasha’s free hand in her claw, leaning against her. “Geez, Tasha…” She mumbled, just quiet enough for the tiger to pick up, “I can’t wait until we’re alone tonight…” A gentle squirm and a stretch later, Alvira was doing her best to put on her facade in front of the rest of the wagon, a light blush resting on her face. 

“It’ll be easier to move in this than the dress, and a lot of the other clothes are pants and other tights and skirts… So I should be plenty fine, no tripping over my own clothes… Mmmm, what about you, Tasha? Tiger in a dress? You’re saying you’ve seen a lot of noblewomen wear similar clothes, too… Going to lots of balls without us~?” She poked, not thinking much of it. The thought of a ball did spark something, suddenly, but it was gone as soon as it had appeared. Alvira’s smile lessened, ever so slightly, not trying to think further on it. That’s been happening a lot lately… I don’t know how to solve it, though. I hope it doesn’t… Ugh. I can’t afford to worry about what my memory’s doing right now.

Well, now she couldn’t possibly let her dragon down, could she? At least they both knew what would be happening later… “Haha, nothing like that. Just something I picked up in the life I led before striking out on my own with the mercenary stuff. My family are commoners, but we’ve had good relations with Iseria for a couple generations, so I was taken to visit with my parents a lot.” Knowing a bit of Alvira’s family history, Natalya wasn’t quite sure whether she’d be curious or reluctant to hear her talk about her own, considering the apparent disparity in their childhoods. Would just have to look for her reaction. “I’m not the dress-wearing type, which is probably obvious. But give me a proper chance for it and I’ll make everyone here swoon.” A toothy grin came from her to that; she knew that many weren’t interested in her like that, but also that the few dresses she’d worn before would make those who did make up for those who didn’t with their reactions.

“Really?” Alvira was rather surprised that Tasha was so close with Iseria, personally, enough to visit her with her family. She knew they’d been chosen for several reasons, but this seemed to be one of them. “That’s pretty impressive… I mean… What’s it like, visiting royalty? I guess there’s gotta be differences, but what are they? I mean, in like… The, the environment, I guess. Her, ‘palace’, or wherever she stays. Don’t tell me you aren’t a dress wearing type, by the way. I already stuffed Laniva into a dress, I can get you into one too.” Alvira cocked an eyebrow, but the mentioning of Laniva reminded her that she had to bring that up, at least to let Tasha know that no one was upset or anything.

“Well, yeah. Even if Iseria’s a pretty no-nonsense queen, there’s still a lot more protocol to follow than just dropping by a friend’s place. Have to get the whole thing scheduled properly, get yourself checked before you actually go in, guards making sure you’re not going places you shouldn’t… Sometimes I wondered if they were just as strict with the nobles too, though they always did look to be around more freely. And the people working at the castle couldn’t be nobles, at least, not all of them.” Although it’d been a fairly long time since her last visit, some things repeated often enough to be remembered years later. The Iron Tigers weren’t a notable enough group for Natalya to have work-related audiences, though if they survived this job, that would almost definitely change. “And don’t worry, you won’t have to convince me. If you can find something that fits my body nicely, I’ll model without hesitation.~”

“Good… And, for the Iseria situation, if I ever need to be there, just, tell me what to wear and say. I don’t have the memory for this kind of stuff. Especially with humans.” Alvira sighed, gently, not lingering on it longer. “I’ll find you a dress that fits perfectly and stuff you into it well… And then take it off of you~” She smiled up at her lovely tiger, thinking about Laniva for a moment.

“I spoke to her about– Laniva, I mean, I spoke to her about… The whole situation between you two. Offered to keep things going and even to be there if she needed it, but she seemed pretty embarrassed about the situation, turned me down. Which is fine by me; more Tasha to myself just makes for a happier dragon, but, I felt I should let you know. She didn’t seem upset, at least. We spent most of the rest of the day together buying stuff, so… So, yeah. All sorted, I think.”

Tasha was about to shoot back with something, but what Alvira said after got a raised eyebrow for a moment. “Wait, you went and asked her? I’m less surprised that she turned you down and more that you just went ahead like that.” The dragon was going at this full steam ahead, for sure, if she even took it upon herself to clear things out there practically as soon as was reasonable. The slight surprise gave way to her usual smile, and she felt Alvira should get something for her initiative. “Not that that’s a bad thing, if anything, I like people who can take matters in their own hands~” Her lips curved up a little more, running a finger down the spine of Alvira’s tail.

The slow draw of Tasha's finger along her tail made the dragon flail a moment, a foot kicking against the floor of the wagon before glancing around, blushing, and shrinking. "T-Tasha…" They were definitely going to be busy tonight. "I, I just wanted to make sure we didn't run into any misunderstandings… No one likes an unclear relationship, right? And you were honest enough to tell me right away, so Lani deserved the same. And…" Alvira slowly looked up at Tasha again, still red. "You're very, special to me… So… So I really want to do my best to be as responsible as I can. Consider the old Alvira dead… I have a lot of problems, none that you deserve. Even if it's hard to kick them all, I will… As much as I can. So you can get the best dragon possible… Even talking to… To humans."

Far from how Alvira had been just a couple short weeks ago, the honesty was almost overwhelming now, the way it felt like she was pledging everything in her power to change to be the person she deserved to be. Tasha didn’t want to tease her for that; it would’ve felt belittling of her resolve. “Aww, come here,” she said, pulling the dragon into a very soft hug. “I’m really, really happy for you. You deserve more than just bitterness, and as long as we’re together, I’ll give you all the love I find time for. But I want you to promise me one thing. It’s also a promise to yourself… That you shouldn’t want to improve just because you want to impress me or something. I want you to improve for your own sake, and you should want the same. …Though I don’t mind if there’s a little of the former~” She gave some more pets to the dragon’s hair, wanting to just make her feel as comfortable as possible for the moment.

“You’re getting worried about the wrong thing, Tasha.” Alvira smiled, resting into the hug. “I’m not improving just for you… You’re giving me a safe and comfortable space where I am free to finally better myself. I love my siblings, but life with them was harsh and inconsistent… I want to meet them again, as soon as I can, to bring them out of that. Then we can all keep moving forward, together. I really don’t think you get how much you’re doing for me. Not even romantically, just… This place, with all these people I can trust to be around. If you hadn’t stumbled across me, I’d still be skinning bears, or whatever else I could come across… Would have caught a boat back to Lufiria, been denied entry at the border, given the current status of the country… And once again stuck. Meeting the Tigers, and this lovely tiger,” she punctuated with a squeeze, “changed my life… So I need to change, too. Thank you… Mmm, I’m… Gonna get some more rest against these now, okay? I just wanted to make sure you knew about the Laniva situation. Didn’t mean to sappily talk your ear off..” 

Alvira nestled herself against Natalya’s chest and yawned a little, getting more comfortable than she had in some of the inns they’d stayed at. “You really are the best, Tasha… mmm, love you…” With another yawn, Alvira was drifting off to sleep. Things were working out and her future was looking as bright as the fire still burning in her core.

She had to admit, it wouldn’t have been the first time she was getting worried about that. Whenever it had come to a relationship like this before, rare as the occasion had been, Tasha had gotten stuck in unnecessary modesty, or trying to put herself off as not really being great enough for someone to feel like Alvira now did toward her. That problem of her personality was, ultimately and contradictingly, what had led to her growing desire for a steady relationship. “Hehe, don’t worry about it. I like listening to you, sappy or not, so don’t hold back if you feel like talking,” she replied, holding the dragon a bit gentler as she relaxed for her rest. The tiger might not have known whether she felt or would feel as strongly yet, but this time, it felt like maybe, she could finally get rid of her silly self-doubt. Eventually.

Mmm… And I forgot to bring up my own vision from the fortune teller. It wasn’t that important, so I could just talk about it later. Wouldn’t want to disturb this cutie’s sleep… With a silent giggle, Tasha got a bit more comfortable, leaning back against the wagon.

She had indeed changed so much already... but Natalya wouldn't think about it for long, with the dragon herself dipping back in soon enough to inform she was needed. "Maybe with a bit more time spent relaxing in the bath, eh?" Gean might have put on a pout for that, but she knew the tiger had no hard feelings about that, it had been very important to get out there between the two of them. As she got up to go past Alvira, she gave one of her girlfriend's horns just the lightest caress, flashing a smirk down at her. She'd know what that was about.

Again having sufficiently teased the dragon, Tasha popped in between the Evokers, tail swaying happily. "Alright, what's the deal? If my log's not wrong, we're a bit ahead of time, so is that going to affect our plans?"

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"Yes... Yes, we do. If she'd been able to do that since her mana storm incident, then we at least have a place to start. Not only is she casting magic near inexhaustibly, her magic is taking the proper physical form. Both of those are far higher magical skills than she should have access to--at least far as ice magic is concerned--and infinitely casting magic is a skill that one she can't have on her own..." Tio sighed, and then Commander Natalya popped in between them. Tio hadn't gotten to speak with her much, often only for questions, and this was also the first time that she'd really gotten her outside of her armor. Well damn. I guess her height, and size correlate. It had been a little while since Tio found herself impressed, but that was a topic for another time. 

"Yes, as it seems. Our early arrival has put us ahead of our supplies. It's a little out of the ordinary for our contact, but what can you do? So it seems like we'll be spending a little bit of time here in Liste. Elisa and I at some point will likely head off to the manse, up there," Tio pointed towards the large building in the distance, "To speak with Sarasin about our supplies, and accommodations for the group. Knowing him, he'll insist that Elisa and I remain in the manse, and have rooms setup for the rest of you at the inn. Liste isn't too large, so there isn't much to do, but our haste has afforded us some relaxation."

As Elisa brought the wagon to a stop, Tio hopped off of the seat, landing with a surprising amount of grace. She quickly stretched, and rubbed her shoulder, "Oof... Good to not be cooped on that seat anymore, and probably shouldn't have done that without stretching... given, me." She looked back up at the feline commander, "We're just waiting on one of the guards to escort Elisa and I, to Sarasin, so from this moment on, you are free to do as necessary. I would pop by the inn, and at least make yourselves known. Even if Sarasin hasn't prepared for us to spend an evening, mentioning that you're with us should give the innkeeper a hint. He'll probably send a guard to update things once its all sorted out." 

It was at that moment that the same guard from the gate hurried over to Tio, before giving the woman a bow. "Lady Evoker. Sorry fer th' wait. Just needed te tell th' boys what te do. I'll be taking th' both of ye te Sarasin. Fer now we're just gonna let the wagons here. Will make it nice like to load them when th' supplies arrive." He then turned to Elisa, and Natalya, pausing for a moment on the commander before shaking his head, and bowing again. "We'll do our best te make ye stay as right as rain. Liste don't have much, but we make do. Th' boys will take ye group te th' inn, unless ye know where it is. Just ask em if ye need something." 

He bowed again, "Shall we lady Evokers?" 


Same Day. Several hours away... 

A small contingent of men and women riding horses were riding down the road, flanking a group of wagons. Each of the riders had a myriad of weapons, and even their armor appeared to be distinct--some polished, well kept and of decent quality, and others wore simple leather. The man in the lead was one such with shining armor, but he wished that he hadn't bothered to dress. It was so damn hot. It was only May, the sun didn't need to be this oppressive. The thing that brought the mishmash of riders together was the cape worn to the side with a single star on it. The symbol of the Altair Knights, the protectors of the Altair Province and those who served under the Altair Family, the 2nd highest ranking family in the whole of Hecatia, bested only by the Vega family and Lady Veras herself. 

The gruff mustached man yawned, before signaling with his hand. One of the other knights rode up beside him, "Sir?" 

"How much longer until we arrive at this... Liste? Is that what it was called?" 

"Yes, sir, Liste. And we're still several hours out at our pace." 

"Bah... Just our luck that we found a damned half breed led caravan loaded with supplies." The man pulled a canteen from his waist, and took a long couple swigs. "Have they said anything yet?" 

The other knight shook his head, "Not anything they hadn't already said. That they're not involved." 

"What a load of crock." Another knight said, "The damn beasts would say anything to protect themselves. They should be thankful that we don't just gut the lot of them on suspicion for being party to what happened at Axios." 

"Hush with that. Got a lot of aspirants in this group. I'm sure they wouldn't hesitate to inform Captain Celine about your words, and mine. So keep it down."

"Meh... The Captain's swamped with everything. She wouldn't have the time to deal with something as minor as the truth. Don't know why she'd even bother protecting the clouded and monster scum. They attacked first, anyway." 

The lead knight shook his head, "Your guess is as good as anyone else's. But that's not for us to question anyway. We're Knights of Altair, and Celine is our captain. More importantly, we need to find clues regarding what happened at Axios, and find that thief. Lets increase our pace, and make sure someone keeps an eye on that damned pooch. If there's anyone that's involved in this, it's him." 

Edited by Mercenary on the Winds

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Tasha left to speak with the Evokers and the cart quickly stopped, giving Alvira a moment to stretch and squirm her way out of the cart. She continued stretching her tired arms as she wandered towards the conversation with the town guards and Tio, glancing between them and her, then Elisa, then Tasha still poking her head out of the front of the wagon. She was fine with whatever the boss wanted to do, whether that was looking around for whatever Liste had to offer, or resting and bathing as soon as possible. She shrugged, arms folded, tail wagging slowly.


Sixteen felt the cart stop and immediately rolled over, a sheet of sweat dropping onto the floor of the wagon and making a small puddle. "We've arrived?" Sixteen crawled over to Alriana, slowly prodding her sister in the arm. "I think we're finally here, Alriana. Should we find a cold place to wash off? Something to get away from the heat."


Ingverd guided their wagon of supplies up next to the main one, hopping off to also listen in to the conversation with these guards. "Tio, Elisa, shall I accompany you? I don't have any relations to this, Sarasin, but if there's anything I should be hearing; any information I should be privy too, it might save us an extra talk if I'm simply present from the outset... If not, I'll keep to the Tigers and make sure they don't get into any trouble~"

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Gean stuck her tounge out at Tasha's small jab. "Why would you kick a lady while she's down?" Gean gave a harmless jab back at the tiger right before Alvira came back calling for Tasha's presence up front. "Oh right, Tasha find me later tonight, I have something for you." Gean still wanted to give Tasha the gift she thought for her birthday, it was quite impromptu but she felt the Boss would at least find it  cute.

It seem they made it to their destination right as the last of Gean's ice had melted away. "Oh good we're done it seems." Gean slowly rose from her spot. The heat was still annoying, but thanks to Alvira's ice she had regained enough strength to function. A proper rest in some water would be needed later, but that could happen later. "You have anything in mind you want to do now that we're apparently free Lani?"

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Nyx was, at least initially, still having no desire to get up and out of the wagon, because that meant going out into some more muggy heat that she really didn’t want to deal with. It wasn’t as bad as earlier, sure, but Nyx really didn’t feel like getting up. She could only vaguely make out conversation between the guard and the Evoker ladies in the background, realizing she should probably not be laying face down in the wagon through the whole unloading of supplies.

”Fuck me, this heat is terrible. Ye’d think we pissed off th’ sun, wit how bad it’s been today.” Just because Nyx exited the caravan, though, didn’t mean she’d have to like it. Turning towards one of the Evokers - ah, shit, what was her name… Tio, maybe? Yeah, that sounded right - Nyx posed a question she had on her mind. “So, who’s dis Sarasin lad? Is ‘e a recently crowned lord o’ th’ land or somet’in’?” Again, Nyx would have figured she’d remember this sort of thing, but it had been a long time since she was in Hecatia. Maybe she just forgot through the years.


Tanya stretched her legs out as she reached back over for her jacket. The ride hadn’t been the most pleasant, but she also had worse to deal with - some of the more gruelling marches during training came to mind there. She was at least relieved that they made it in one piece, and the town definitely had a certain charm to it.

”Hopefully there’s a place to wash my clothes here… the heat really did a number on them.” Tanya mused idly, before gently poking Renais in the side. “Sorry, though, I doubt there’ll be a piano in a place like this. But I was thinking, maybe we could go around town and see if we can find one anyways? Might be good to get an idea of how the town is if we’re going to be here a while, besides.”

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Of course things weren't going to turn out well. Üllr, a blue haired (and furred) wolf clouded had taken his chance at traveling with a group like him --cloudeds headed for a stop at an accepting town, so they said. After that, Üllr kind of invited himself into the wagon, figuring that their destination would be a good point to gather some more info about Glacies. This would be a fine plan, if the wagons hadn't been intercepted by this group of knights, flinging nonsensical accusations and suspicions. Üllr sighed, having confined his small build to a corner, between crates. He'd barked defiant words at the knights, having neither the knowledge of the situation nor the will to cooperate with them. Best to not associate the other clouded in the wagons with his presence. "Hah..."

It was frustrating, even here he couldn't escape the harm some humans posed, even among clouded. Still, having sized them up, Üllr couldn't help but wonder if he could stand up against a couple of them --enough for the others to run, at least. He neither knew these parts not trusted the other clouded to fend for themselves so far, that could get messy...

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As the wagons stopped at their destination, Syndra put her suit jacket back on and exited the carriage she was in. “Ah it feels nice to get out and stretch a little.” Walking past Tanya and Renais, she had heard them asking about something odd. “A piano? What kind of use could you have for something like that? Do you play at all?” If either of them had mentioned why to her, she probably hadn’t paid attention as she was more focused on the spell she was channeling inside the wagon.

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Tio looked at the elfish man. Bringing him along would almost definitely keep Sarasin from veering off onto one of his tangents, but Tio couldn't shake some worry. Alriana and 16 were both pretty fantastical looking monsters, which might cause problems if left to their own devices. "No, no, I doubt that we're going to learn much that can't be explained later. I would prefer that you remained with the Tigers, and your friend~" Tio winked at him, hoping that he would get the point. Then Nyx--at least Tio thought that was what her name was, she was one of the other Tigers that seemed to run parallel to her and Elisa--approached with a question about Sarasin. "Yes, in a manner of speaking. Liste, itself, is a fairly new location in Hecatia. But Sarasin became a 'lord'... I don't know about five years ago? Not exactly a well known sort outside of his merchantry. He is a pretty well to do merchant, and has been pretty influential with helping Liste and other smaller towns in the area begin to grow. He's a lord in name only, really. The people around here view him as such but Regent Altair hasn't recognized him as an actual lord."

Tio had heard all about Regent Altair whenever she had been in Hecatia. Depending on what status a person occupied, opinions swayed from a reasonable leader to a useless philander. The first opinion always came from the nobles and wealthy, and always came off as kissing his ass. The overwhelming proper opinion was that Regent Altair was not a leader and instead a useless, uncaring old man more interested in finding an attractive woman to woo than helping his province to flourish. That had been left to his children, and more specifically, Knight Captain Altair. 

"Any more questions before Elisa and I head off? I imagine it will be a while before we return--knowing Sarasin--so ask now." 

Edited by Mercenary on the Winds

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Very uncharacteristically, Ingverd opened his mouth to talk, blushed just a little, bit his lip in a mixture of frustration and embarrassment, then finally shook his head. "I'll make sure they don't get into trouble, Tio." He hadn't been expecting her to be so blunt-- between them, anyway. It was new, having someone know about his more private feelings. It was something he was far from accustomed to. Clearing his throat and offering her a bow, he did his best to fix his posture as he turned back towards the second wagon, heading to the back and peaking a head inside.

"Aly~ ... And Sixteen? We've arrived in quaint little Liste... There isn't much to do here, but if you'd like me to show you around, feel free to ask." There were several others in the wagon with them, but this much was well in his comfort zone. He didn't miss a beat.

Sixteen perked up at hearing her name, staring at the man... "Aly. Aly Aly... It's your friend."

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Cin pulled the wagon in next to the others, taking a moment to relax, enjoying the sun on his skin for a brief second before straightening up and considering the scene before him. He'd been considering spending more time with Sixteen, but from the discussion behind him, it seemed that Ingverd was going to be with her and Aly which meant he wasn't welcome, no matter how much Tio's words ate at him. Looking around, it seemed as if most of the group was pairing up, set to explore the town. These left one thing really. Finding a quiet place and finishing his project for Alvira. He only had a small bit left, so he would hopefully be able to give that to her tonight. Hmm, might be best if someone stays with the wagons actually... Can't be too careful in a strange town. 

"Commander Natalya, I'll stay with the wagons until we have all the details for our stay sorted out, unless you need me elsewhere. I've got no need of any shops or that sort of thing." He didn't wait for an answer before pulling out his project. Even if she said it wasn't needed, he would still need to find somewhere to work on it, so he may as well get everything he needed for the finishing touches out now. 

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When the wagon stopped at Liste she quickly got up and stepped out to view the town. Thankfully her lighter clothing helped her against the heat a little, but she still didn't like it. 'Well, not much to be done about that.' She was about to walk off on her own to look around, but Tanya poked her and brought up doing just that. "Ah...yeah, I don't think so either. But sure." She could imagine trying to find a piano of all things may be frustrating, she even cursed her terrible luck that her headaches had to be connected to something so strange. But at least Tanya was nice enough to help with the search. 'I'll have to gather Cin and the Evokers a little later too, they'll need to know...' She turned to Miria. "Would you like to join us?"

When Syn walked ahead of the group a little and answered Renais, she turned to the ice mage. "Ah well...I might?" An odd answer to be certain, but even Renais wasn't sure if she could. "I think I can, but I also may have forgotten so...uh it's complicated." She laughed nervously, unsure how to explain. "But I guess if I come across one I'll find out..."

Edited by TheRoon

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"Mrrh..." Alriana gave a low effort grumble at Miria, too put off by the heat. She'd never liked the rise and decrease in temperature associated with the passage of the seasons, but she most certainly disliked the host summers more than the cold winters. "Need, cool off more." Was all she was going to give Miria. Talking moved her body, and moving her body moved the sweat she'd managed to collect.

As the cart came to a stop the sweat Alriana had worked so hard to keep on her body rolled off her body and onto the floor of the wagon, creating her own small puddle; had the sisters been together, it might've been somewhat of a nuisance. She let out a disgruntled grunt as she sat up in response to Sixteen's poking, huffing a breath up towards her own hair only to feel minimal relief with her sweat gone. Ingverd popped his head in next, calling for her and her sister. "Friend, certainly word." Something needed to be done about this infernal heat, before anything else. Even the lizard was aware of how vastly her patience had been shortened because of it, though the knowledge this was just the beginning certainly didn't help matters.

"Ingverd." Her voice was unusually firm, demanding in nature. "Show us to baths. Consider see more, after." She rose all at once, moving towards the front of the wagon with her tail dragging on the floor. "Come on, Sixteen."

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Laniva stood groggily; she'd been managing to tolerate the heat, but the absence of the ice made it all the more obvious how much of an affect it was having. "Ah, yeah... it'd be good to do something now, if we go inside the inn we won't want to leave." She yawned. "What is there to do here... maybe we can shop around for something to deal with this heat? Going to melt in my armor if I don't figure something out."

Hopefully it wouldn't come to that - nobody would really be happy having to fight in these conditions, if it did. But this was still technically protection work, even if their charges were rather capable, so it paid to be... prudent.

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Alvira was keeping her ears open for orders from Tasha, but she couldn't help listening to Laniva's complaints, glancing over at the cat. With a few steps, she trekked back towards the wagon, leaning over towards her and Gean. "Heyyy... If you two are gonna go looking for ways to cool off, bring me along. I wanna find some heat proof containers in town and stuff them with my ice. It'll keep you all cool for a lot longer and when it melts, you can open it up and drink it! Sounds great, right?" Alvira was all smiles, swiftly producing several blocks of ice, floating them out in front of Lani and Gean.

"Aaaaaaaand if you bring me with you, free cooling while we shop. Infinite supply. Zero cost, no down payments. Going once~"


Ingverd was about to speak as he normally did, but Alriana's annoyance was plain to see. "Sure. Come on, this way." He kept his voice calm and his smile soft. He didn't want to bother her anymore than the heat was. "Natalya, I'm taking the girls into town to see if I can cool them off. They're feeling it a lot more than the rest of us." He called over to the Tiger in her wagon, hoping she'd hear, before heading towards what definitely looked like the inn...

... A sign, old and worn, labelled with The Lonely Stone, felt like the right place. Only a few buildings in Liste had been named at all, so if he was wrong, they wouldn't have to check around much. "Hello, hello...?" he asked, entering the building. He was a little surprised to see a rabbit working the counter, rather short for her species. "Pardon me, miss... Am I right in assuming this is Liste's main inn? My friends," he gestured to Aly and Sixteen, "are quite unused to the heat and would be pleased to find relief. If you've baths for use around town, here or elsewhere, pointing us in their direction would be wonderful~"

Sixteen wasn't quite sure what to make of this Ingverd guy. The way he spoke reminded her of Del. It was soft and there was care there, but his tune had changed almost completely when speaking with the bunny girl. He was suddenly all well spoken and... Smug? That was likely what it was, though she'd not come across much of that in her years of life. "Why'd he start talking all weird?" she asked Aly, trying her best to ignore the urge to lean onto her sister, given the heat. "He seemed so genuine a few moments ago and now it's like... There's some kinda facade being put on. Del told me all about lying. Is he just like this all the time?"

Ingverd could hear what Sixteen was saying; the girl wasn't being that quiet. It was a little frustrating, but she wasn't wrong... It felt a bit wrong to keep putting it on after being caught so easily, or rather, called out so quickly, so he cleared his throat. "Just, baths, to cool off. Gonna guess they're split for men and women, which is fine, obviously. Anywhere else around town you'd know that sells items to help stay cool, would be appreciated."

"There he goes again...!" Sixteen whispered it this time, surprised he'd switched. "Did he hear me...?"

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Gean threw the hood of her poncho on her head and moved most of her locks behind her face. "Yeah, if I step into that inn I'm done for the day. Finding something to cut down on this heat would be life saving." Gean briefly thought what heat and armor would do to a person, but stopped that idea fast. Whatever it felt like, it was probably just as bad as what Gean's biology meant for her in it.

The two girls were then joined by a third, with Alvira offering to tag along and be on ice support. "I'll take your entire stock." Gean replied immediately. "Plus ice storing sounds like heaven right now, so you can count my gold towards that." Gean had stocked up on most of what she needed before they departed Eibar. She figured there wouldn't be too much that would garner her spending here.

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"How could I possibly say no to that? Ahh, more ice..." Laniva perked up slightly at the offer, the promise of more ice sounding just about the best anything could right now, giving Alvira a small smile. Her previously-uncharacteristic niceness was quickly becoming familiar, and quite enjoyably so.

"Okay, where to start... Well, I guess none of us really know this place, so my guess is as good as any. Let's just wander around until we find something we're looking for. As long as we've got ice, we've got nothing to worry about." Maybe she was a bit overexcited about the ice, but given the situation Laniva felt as if she could hardly be blamed for taking advantage of it...

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