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Gulmont's Character stories. Comments welcome.

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In search of Suriane. Part one.

This had been a bad idea.

It was only a few hours before that Argyle had been in Timberline, watching the other Sylvari of the Hand frolic in the freezing cold water. He was leaning against a tree, staying out of everyone’s way, they’d all split off into couples anyway, it was hardly as if he’d be noticed. He kept his eyes on the water, avoiding looking at those who were laughing happily, or in some cases, staring vacantly happily…Or as happy as they could get in any case.

He had done what he was best at, fading into the back ground. He was pretty sure most had forgotten his presence altogether, and maybe it was because no one seemed to register he was there, or maybe because with all this cheer around, his mood had become significantly darker than it was usually, but his absent gaze went south, Far over the rolling mountains of the shiverpeaks, and further still, than the humid jungle of Maelstrom, to the rotting carcass of Orr.

It’d been on his mind ever since Sylvana had mentioned going to see Suiriane, just a few days ago. The only thing Orr held for him was Suiriane, and although he knew that she was quite capable of taking care of herself, worry had started to settle in his mind. He was maybe a day or two away from Fort Trinity, if he picked up the pace.

Pepperae wouldn’t need him for a few days, or so he thought. It’d been quiet in Cathal of late, and she had more than enough support without an old tree like him breathing down her neck. He was confident that the support of the medicine man would be enough to see her through. Besides, he didn’t think he’d be gone for that long, she’d probably not even realise that he was missing.

The Isle had been quiet as well, which you would have thought was a normal thing, considering it was an Island full of soundless, but in recent days he seemed to be getting more visitors than he’d ever gotten, which he frankly found to be a little odd.

Aevelinn had gone off somewhere, he wasn’t sure where, but she was no longer at the Isle, so that was one less person keeping him there. And then there was Vervain. She hadn’t come home this previous morning, having said the previous night that she had gone off to meet a friend. He would admit however, that it’d been a little odd not finding her in the big bed across the room from his own that morning. He’d gotten used to her presence in a surprisingly short amount of time, and he found some comfort in her being there. It had been odd to see the bed cold and empty. Normally he might be worried, but this was Vervain he was talking about.

“Vervain can do anything!” The phrase had almost made him smile, and perhaps it would have, if not for his mantras. But as it was, they were firmly in place, and really needed to be with all this cheer in the air.

Scieri was in good hands as well, Sylvana would be there to take care of her, and it seemed like now she had found some sort of purpose. He’d made sure of that. There’d been new light in her eyes the last time he’d seen her, a determination that was hard to ignore. He knew that for now at least, he could stop worrying about her.

Yes, he would go to Orr.

With his mind made up, he pushed himself off of the tree, blinking over the water, to the nearby bank. Alwyn hurried to catch up to him, her paws scratching against the crisp, snowy ground. Once he’d crossed the bridge and climbed the slope to Kyesjard, fern hound in tow, he began to gather a few things from the lodge he might need for his trip, food, water, that sort of thing, shoving them in his pockets, then sitting down to make a mental list. Seeing if he had everything he needed.

Anavra and Laeja walked up to him during his mental check, and broke his concentration, but in the end, they provided the push he needed. Getting to his feet, he turned on his heel, not saying another word, making his way out of the clearing and down the slope, down the mountains, onward.

He didn’t stop walking that night, even when it had become so black it was hard to see a few steps in front of him. He knew the general direction, and by the time the sun had peeked over the horizon he had become sure of his whereabouts. The trees had started to thin out and die, the corruption of Orr spreading even this far inland. The smell was the most noticeable however. There was a thick scent of rot in the air that almost made him gag, but thankfully he managed to keep his composure.

Alwyn was doing worse off than Argyle was however. She had brought up her lunch on the way towards Orr and had been retching ever since. Argyle was feeling quite sorry for the poor pup.

It wasn’t long before Fort Trinity began to loom over them, its metal structure making odd, eerie noises as the wind battered against her sides. The cannons were poised and ready for attack, which gave Argyle some comfort in these barren lands. He’d yet to come across a single risen, which unsettled him a little, as he knew the longer he went without seeing one, the more he’d lower his defences, and that was dangerous.

He got into the fort with little trouble; saying that he was a valiant on his hunt was enough to convince the Vigil troops to let him through. He imagined they must see a lot of Sylvari in similar circumstances.

He spent a few hours, just watching the pact go about their day, securing the gates and barricades, making sure the defences were fully functional, and had enough ammunition. He watched as troops went off on patrol, and the grim reality started to set in as more often or not, the patrols would come back with fewer soldiers than it had left with.

Argyle remained, leaning against a wall, scratching Alwyn behind the ears, relieved that the fern hound had long since stopped looking like she were about to throw up. He had sort of hoped he’d randomly see Suiriane, just walking around the fort, but alas, he was not so lucky. Instead he decided that he’d have to actually go and look for her.

He looked around the outskirts of the fort, finding little other than the wild animals who either completely ignored him, or attacked him, hoping to find that he was something more appetising than the mouldy corpses around him. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t find what they were looking for.
He eventually did however, or at least he thought he had. A wild boar was what lead him to the site. The creature had just walked up to him, sniffed him, and moved on. Argyle and Alwyn had found this to be a little odd, so out of curiosity, they had followed the animal to a small clearing that looked as though it’d been used as a camp quite recently.

There was one thing that stood out to him however. In the underbrush, nearly hidden from view, was a spark of magical residue that was so familiar to him it could have been his own. Upon closer inspection, he found that the magical object was a lump of gold coloured armour, seeped in the magic of his friend.

He didn’t like this, not at all. Turning on his heel, Argyle headed right back to Fort Trinity, moving swiftly. He started to question the first troop he came across, which may not have been the best idea considering they were a whisper’s agent. The agent gave Argyle very little to go on, so instead he asked some others, people who were not quite so cautious with the information they gave out.

He eventually got what he needed from a talkative Priory Asura who went on for quite a while about rumours of feral Sylvari sightings that fit Suiriane’s description. With a sigh, Argyle realised he had little choice other than to venture into the putrid landscape, something that he had wanted to avoid.

He slipped out of the Fort without drawing any attention to himself, it was unlikely that anyone cared about the comings and goings of a lone Sylvari. He took the road, or at least what he assumed was a road, west, noting how the smell of rot was slowly getting stronger. He was well and truly on his way into the heart of Orr.
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In search of Suriane. Part Two.

This had been such a bad idea.

Argyle and Alwyn didn’t tale long before they’d away from the pact camps, into the dare desolation of Orr. The stench had progressively gotten worse, and civilisation was drifting further behind them. Every now and then, he’d hear the sounds of battle, off in the distance, but he didn’t go towards it. Instead he stayed away, sticking to the shadows, quietly creeping his way past the creatures that lurked in the darkness.

At one point he looked up, seeing a colossal tower that loomed over his, heading high into the stratosphere, past the clouds, and into the sky above. He couldn’t see its peak, but he could feel a terrible power emanating from above. He didn’t dare look at it for much longer, lest his eyes catch sight of something that would only lead to his demise.

Instead he pressed onwards, over a metal bridge and through an oval arch, where the bodies of pact soldiers littered the ground. They’d clearly tried to get through the gate that stood before him, and maybe they’d even succeeded, as the gate’s bars now lie open, but it had cost them. Whether there were more pact soldiers further in he didn’t know, but he could hazard a guess that he wouldn’t be meeting them.

He thought he remembered this gate from the first time he’d been here, but his memory of the time was a little hazy. He made his way through either way, following the broken path onward, past strange looking structures that looked like they may have been fountains or statures at one point, but centuries of decay had reduced them to indistinguishable lumps of stone.

He started to spot risen a lot more now, their decaying forms shuffling along some meters in front of him, their gaunt features sunken into their faces, hidden in shadow. Some of them were missing parts, arms and legs, but what was most disturbing was when they were missing half of their faces, or some feature that connected them to their former lives, now corrupted and rotting away, marking them as something less human.

With a veil of invisibility over him and Alwyn however, they were easy to avoid. He expected if he was anything other than a Sylvari, the veil wouldn’t have mattered. They’d have picked up his scent and would be on him before he knew what was happening. But as it was, he was a Sylvari, and that meant he was safer than most out here.

In fact, it wasn’t until he had made it past what must have been a former temple to the god Balthazar, that he encountered any real trouble. He had spared a glance at the circular steps that wound their way up to the colossal statue of the god, which towered before him, but had decided to keep on moving; completely missing the nearby pact camp, just because he didn’t know it was there.

He had been making steady progress when his foot caught on something. At first he had thought nothing of it, not even bothering to look down. He just gave his leg a yank, thinking he’d go on with no problems, but his foot was stuck fact. With a sigh, he looked down, only to find that five fingers were firmly grasped around his ankle. The fingers were connected to a hand, and the hand to an arm, buried deep in the earth.

A long, guttural groan is what snapped him to his senses, and he looked up, only to find a dozen shuffling corpses, slowly moving towards him and Alwyn, some carrying weapons, some simple farming tools, others not having the coordination to carry anything. There was no malice in their milky eyes, it might have been better if there was, but there was nothing. It was almost akin to his own vacant expression, but theirs somehow ignited a different kind of terror within him.

There was little time to come up with a plan before they were upon him, instead he had to act. The first risen that reached him earned itself his rapier, going through its eye, the blade easily piercing the brittle bone that kept the sludge in its head all together. Withdrawing his blade resulted in a spirt of brown fluid escaping the hole in the creature’s head, probably what was left of the Risen’s brain.

Pulling back on the Wheelock of his pistol, he aimed at the next risen, pulling the trigger. There was a crack as the gunpowder was lit and the bullet ripped through the creature’s head, Argyle’s arm coming back as the recoil kicked in. That was two down, but now he would need to reload, and that would take more time than he had, and that gunshot may draw more closer.

Conjuring an illusion, he blinked out of the grip of the Risen that still held his ankle, using the illusion to replace him. He then spotted Alwyn, tearing away at a third Risen’s rotten flesh with tooth and claw, her snarls and barks sounding almost feral, which he found surprising, considering how the pup usually sounded.

He knew however, that prolonged combat would be the death of him, especially with so many enemies so close, so he put his finders to his lips, whistling for Alwyn, who turned her head to him, then ran over, her tail wagging. He whispered his praise to her, then made a dash for a hole in a crumbled wall, only to find even more risen. The gunshot had indeed brought more of them to him.

There was nothing for it now, he’d have to fight, running had just become an impossibility, not without thinning some of the horde. His rapier wouldn’t do for this, so he sheathed it, drawing his great sword from his back. The long blade was very light weight, but sharps enough to cut through the flesh of the Risen with ease.

And so he began his deadly dance, similar to the one that Naewydd had shown him all those years ago. The Risen fell before his blade like moths before a flame, Alwyn beside him, taking on her fair share of the rotting corpses as well. It was all going surprisingly well, until he heard the Dragon’s roar overhead.

Everything went dark, his knees buckled, his hands shook, and he was no longer in Orr. He was on the plains of Ascalon, a mass of branded running towards him, their crystalline structures grating against one another as they moved. Naewydd was saying something he couldn’t quite make out, and Sylvana was firing arrows with deadly precision.

Another roar rang out, and he was alone, cradling Naewydd’s charred form in his arms, as her blood drenched his hands, his own clouding his vision. Then he heard barking, Alwyn’s barking. That’s right, he was not in Ascalon. That had been long ago. He was in Orr, he was in danger.

He began to mutter to himself, reinforcing his mantras. It would not be like last time however, he knew what he was doing now, he had prepared. The mantras blocked out nearly everything, they made him move past the point where he cared what was going on overhead. They made him more machine than Slyvari.

Upon opening his eyes again, he was back in Orr, Alwyn at his side. The two began to run, and run and run, They until they couldn’t run anymore. At this point they’d lost the Risen, and had come across a building Argyle assumed was once a manner of some kind, or at least that’s what he assumed by the giant archway leading up to the doors.

The place was deserted, so they took refuge there for a few hours. Argyle even managed to get a fire going. It didn’t take long before they were found by a lone Whisper’s Agent, one Argyle was surprised to find he was familiar with. The two talked briefly, before she offered to take him to a pact camp some distance away.

The Whisper’s Agent seemed to know exactly how the Risen moved in these parts. She waited in some parts for Risen Drakes to thump past, and moved in others, avoiding the undead patrols expertly.

More cries from the Dragons ripped through the air, but Alwyn was a quick learner. She’d seen how her friend had reacted beforehand, and barked to him in warning whenever she heard the distant flap of wings. Argyle covered himself in a veil of silence, giving himself the illusion of going deaf for the moments when the beasts flew over, then lowering it again when Alwyn gave him the go ahead, a simple nudge of her nose.

The Agent led him to the pact camp on the ruins of Wren, where she left him to reacquaint himself with civilisation. There Argyle stayed for a while, gathering information, and planning his next move.
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Interrogating Courtiers.

Owyn didn’t know how it had happened. One moment he had been in the den, talking to Gwynne, the next there had been an explosion, a mass of chaos magic ripping through the hide out, lightning and purple fire setting everything ablaze. The next thing he remembered was waking up, kneeling before a finely dressed, blue Sylvari whose expression was devoid of any emotion. He couldn’t move his arms or legs, but he didn’t know why. He hadn’t been bound, he should have been free to move, but something was keeping him from doing so.
Looking to his right, he could see Gwynne and Drwst, one of the new initiates, were in a similar position, kneeling before the unfamiliar Sylvary with their hands behind their backs.
The Sylvari had an eerie air about him. He seemed soulless, absent of anything that could have made him seem more alive. The vicious scar that lined he face and looked like his head had almost been cut in half at one point, did not help to take away from the intimidating presence.
He was loading a pistol with a round, lead bullet, sprinkling some powder into the mechanism as he looked vacantly at the three of them, as if they weren’t even there. It was as though he was looking through them rather than at them, like they were transparent.
He began speaking, his voice cold and monotone, as though he was an automaton rather than a Sylvari. “I will only ask once. Of each of you. If you answer me. You shall live.” The Sylvari took a step towards Drwst , the first in the line, lowering the barrel of his pistol to the initiate’s forehead. “Lylesh. Who does she work for. Where can I find them.”
“I…I don’t know!” Drwst stuttered, and this much was true. The younger Sylvari was new to the den and the Nightmare, he didn’t know anything that the duke and duchess didn’t want him to know. “Please, I swear, I don’t know anything, I beg you, let me…” But Drwst’s plea was cut off as the emotionless Sylvari pulled back on the hammer of his pistol and pressed down on the trigger, the ball of lead piecing Drwst’s skull. His body crumpled limply to the ground, and Owyn cursed at the executioner. But no sound came out. He ranted and raved, but no matter how hard he tried, all sound he could have made had been muted. Looking across at Gwynne, Owyn found she was in the same position as he was, shouting soundlessly at their scarred assailant.
While they threw their impotent rage at the Sylvari, he was busy, casually reloading his pistol, sprinkling in powder, and pulling back on the hammer.
He stepped over Drwst’s lifeless form, pressing the barrel to Gwynne’s forehead. “Lylesh. Who does she work for. Where can I find them.”
“I can’t speak you…” Gwynne blinked, surprised to find she was able to talk again, but looking over at Owyn, she found the same could not be said for him. Her eyes widened in horror as she looked up at the blue Sylvari, saying in disbelief. “You’re keeping us from talking.
The Sylvari just repeated, “Lylesh. Who does she work for. Where can I find them.”
Gwynne spat in reply, the saliva hitting the blue Sylvari on the cheek. “Go boil your head.”
Those were Gwynne’s last words, for as soon as the words left her mouth, the bullet of the pistol left the barrel and cleaved a hole in her head.
The blue Sylvari turned to Owyn, reloading the pistol. “No, wait, please! I’ll tell you everything I know!” Owyn bleated, then proceeded to pour his heart out, telling the Sylvari everything he knew about Lylesh and everything he had heard about the Courtier, which wasn’t much. Mostly rumours and speculation, about the Duchess she worked for, and the places they had been known to meet.
The blue Sylvari listened expressionlessly as Owyn told all he could, then once he was done, nodded his head stiffly. “My thanks.”
Owyn let out a sigh of relief, that quickly turned into a gasp and the Sylvari pulled back on the hammer of his pistol. “But…But you said you’d let me go?!”
“I lied.” There was a bang, the sound of a gun being fired, and everything went black. Owyn knew no more.
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Vigilante Justice

Gobrwy’s patrol had set out early that morning, their reports of a lack of Courtier activity had disturbed his superiors and they needed to get them off of their backs as soon as possible. Having the higher ups breathing down his neck had started to become unsettling, and the sooner he found out what the Court were doing, the sooner the pressure he was under would let off.
Sometimes he missed the days where he was a lowly Scout, not having to worry about anything other than following orders and keeping himself and his fellow Wardens alive. But such times had long since passed. Now he was in command of his own regiment, and things had become a lot more complicated.
With a light sigh, Gobrwy ordered his scouts to go on ahead to warn them of any possible trouble up ahead, while his shield’s stayed with the main bulk of the patrol, in a close knit formation to protect form possible attack.
The day was a bright one, as it nearly always was in the forest. Tropical birds cried out from the trees above, as the sound of water flowing could be heard in the distance, perhaps from a creek or river. The heat of the Maguuma had never bothered him, but then, he hadn’t known anything other than the humid, moist air that the forest never deviated from.
He couldn’t allow himself time to relax and enjoy his native home however, there were more pressing matters he had to concern himself with. Over the past week, the Courtier activity had decreased at an alarming rate. That either meant that they were planning something big in secret, or that they’d given up. The latter of the two options was very unlikely.
Gobrwy’s eyes darted around cautiously, the slits in his leafy helm allowing him just enough room to see by, but it obstructed his vision more than he would like. It’d be worth it if he found an arrow sailing towards his head however, he wasn’t eager to meet the same scenario without the helmet on.
He expected to see shadowy figures in amongst the trees, waiting to pounce. He was mistaken however; the forest remained as still and peaceful as it ever had, perhaps too peaceful. Some when during the time that they had been walking, the sound of bird song had stopped. The forest had become eerily quiet, their own breathing the only sound that came up to meet them.
Gobrwy ordered his patrol to slow to a crawl and draw their weapons. They did so with hardly a sound, their crystalized Warden blades glinting in the light of the dawning sun. Slowly they advanced, the creak of their bark like armour echoing into the stillness. Twigs snapping underfoot, accompanied by the rustle of fallen leaves, set the Wardens on edge. It felt as though their every movement was bringing them closer to a trap.
All at once, Gobrwy’s scouts burst through the trees ahead, sprinting towards Gobrwy and the rest of the patrol. Gobrwy visibly relaxed as he saw that they were all unharmed, but a frown still furrowed his brow as his lead Scout approached and gave him a formal salute, a haunted look in his eye.
“You’ll want to see this captain,” The scout informed him before beginning to lead Gobrwy and his patrol through the trees.
They emerged from the lush canopy of the trees to find themselves in a small grove where the stillness had reached its pinnacle. In the centre of the clearing, a dark hole sat, its gaping maw opening out to the blue sky above, casting a shadow over the ground. A large mound of dirt stood next to the pit, clearly it was the refuse set aside by digging the hole. Before it, in the dirt on an elegant, girlish hand, three letters had been written.
RIP.
The I had been dotted with a heart.
Taking a deep breath, Gobrwy stepped forward, peering down into the pit. He almost gagged when his eyes fixed on what was within.
Bodies littered the bottom of the pit, their foliage all of a dark colour, tainted by nightmare. All had similar injuries, be it a golf ball sized hole in their heads where a bullet had cleanly ripped, or the flameless burns that’s accomplished through the use of bolts of chaos energy. Perhaps what was most disturbing however, were the ones who looked as though they had just fallen asleep, no wounds on them to speak of, It was as if their bodies had just shut down.
Shuddering, Gobrwy took a step back from the pit, ordering his patrol to fill it back in. The signs were clear, the wounds far too similar to be ignored. The so called vigilante that had appeared in recent days had an accomplice.
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The Arminio Estate

Lyra sat with her back to the fire, looking over a picture book that was laid out before her. She kept almost falling over, having not quite mastered the art of balancing on her own just yet. She wacked the pictures with her little hand every time Gulmont turned a page, trying to reach out and stroke the cutesy images drawn on the page.
Gulmont had taken out the book Verlai had given him to pass the time with the week he had spent in the Ebonhawk cells, “Quaggan meets a Lich Lord,” and was currently reading it to the baby Lyra, though not as well as someone that had learnt to read at a young age. Gulmont still stumbled over a few words, not being all that sure how they read, but getting by none the less.
Lyra didn’t seem to mind all that much, she couldn’t understand half the things Gulmont was saying anyway. She simply sat there and smiled, enjoying the sound of Gulmont’s voice and giving him a little giggle every now and again when he did the voice of each character. She seem to especially enjoy when he did the Quaggan’s voice, as she let out a high pitched squeal every time he did it.
Things had been relatively peaceful on the Arminio estate over the last few months. Gulmont, Moira and Albert didn’t need to take turns watching over Lyra anymore, as she was now sleeping through most of the night without wakening, though she still got up early in the morning, demanding attention. Moira and Albert usually looked after her in the mornings, and Gulmont would take over in the afternoons. It had become quite the routine, and between the servants, who doted on Lyra like she were their own, and the Arminios, Lyra was never starved for affection.
Things had not all been as happy as they could have been however. After the passing of Lucio’s father, the now head of house Arminio spent a great deal of time with the general running of the estate’s finances and holdings, making sure the business runs as it should do.
Gulmont saw how his friend grieved for the loss of his father, and felt quite useless in helping him get through the difficult time. Through it all however, Lucio retained his sense of humour and good nature. He was often seen pampering Lyra every chance he got, until he was called away by Mirembe, to bury himself under yet another pile of paperwork.
Gulmont on the other hand spent most of his time with Ehbrel in the Priory, or here in house Arminios, entertaining Lyra.
The baby and her guardian where about half way through the picture book, when Albert came walking into the lounge where they currently were. He gave Gulmont a friendly nod of his head, and strolled over to the bar next to the fire place, that was stacked with expensive looking bottles of alcohol.
Gulmont returned the nod with one of his own, giving the noble a friendly smile. “Moira gone out for the day?” He asked, just in time for Lyra to reach up and grab a tiny fist full of Gulmont’s hair, giving it a light tug, causing him to gasp in pain.
Albert chuckled lightly as he reached for a glass tumbler and a fancy bottle of port, pouring out a glass before turning to lean back against the bar and watch the two, twirling his moustache with a free hand. “Yes,” he replied. “Gone to have tea with the Angelonis I wager, and discus whatever scandal the Citarella girl has gotten herself in.”
Gulmont frowned lightly as he tried to pry his hair from Lyra’s grasp, letting out a painful grimace before saying to Albert, “What do you noble folk count as scandalous?”
Albert gave Gulmont a shrug of his shoulders, “Mists if I know, but whatever it is, it’s bound to be something overly trivial that my dear wife just has to give her opinion on.” He chuckled again before raising his glass to his lips.
Suddenly there was an explosion of purple butterflies right beside Albert and a loud, shattering noise, that cause the full figured man to jump in surprise.
Lucio appeared in front of his uncle, dressed in his usual attire with his red mask firmly in place over his eyes. He gave Albert a handsome smile before reaching out to pluck the glass from his uncle’s hand and wordlessly set it back down on the bar top, waving a chastising finger at Albert soon after.
“My word my boy!” Albert says with a gasp, pouting a little as the drink is taken away from him. “You really must warn me when you’re about to do that. You nearly scared the life out of me.
“When I do what?” Lucio asks, completely oblivious to the effect his Mesmer magic has on people. Dismissing his uncle with a wave of his hand, Lucio turns towards Gulmont, an excited smile plastered on his face. “Gulmont! I need to ask you something! I’ve just had a brilliant idea!”
Gulmont perked a curious eyebrow, giving Lucio an amused look. “Oh yes? And what’s that then? And shouldn’t you be with Mirembe? She’s been going on about you signing those comformation documents for about a week now.”
“No time for that now!” Lucio cried out. “I’ve a very important mission to undertake! And this question is absolutely vital if it’s going to work.” He then rushed forward, getting very close to Gulmont and putting his hands on his shoulders. “Now,” he stated, his tone becoming deadly serious. “Do you think Clockk would be able to build me a gun?”
“Well, um…” Gulmont started to reply, only to be interrupted by Lucio.
“No no no no! This isn’t just any gun. This is a special gun.” It was then that he paused for dramatic effect, his eyes never wavering. “This is a gun, that shoots cake.”
Gulmont deadpanned.
Lucio just continued, throwing his arms in the air in excitement. “And not just any cake either! This cake won’t go splat once you fire it! It’ll just hover in mid-air, ready to be eaten! It’s a thing of genius!”
Gulmont raised a finger, about to reply, saying, “I don’t know if…” But he was quickly interrupted by Lucio again.
“I don’t need this kind of pessimism from you Gulmont! You can’t hamper my dreams with you logic and laws of physics! My vision will be realised!” He then leaned into Gulmont once more, putting a hand to his mouth in a conspiratorial fashion. “I’m going to Rata Sum to see Clockk. If you see Mirembe, tell her where I’ve gone.” And with that, he kissed Lyra on the top of her head, said to her, “I’ll be back soon Cookie,” and disappeared once more in an explosion of purple butterflies, leaving Gulmont completely flabbergasted.
“What just happened?” Gulmont asked, turning to Albert, who was reaching out to pick up his glass of port again.
“I think you’ll find my boy, that Lucio happened,” Albert replied, giving Gulmont a light chuckle, his moustache wobbling on his top lip as he did so.
“Oh, is that all?” Gulmont sighed, looking at Lyra, who was giggling and trying to catch the remaining butterflies as the fluttered around the room, getting smaller and smaller, until finally, they disappeared altogether.
Albert chuckled again, watching his adopted daughter with a glitter of pride, and endless affection that only a father can show. Taking a deep breath, the man went to raise the glass to his lips, intending to take a long, luxurious sip of the drink, only to be interrupted again as the sound of an Elonian woman’s voice rang out through the house, the accent think and reach, despite the land of the golden sun being cut off from Tyria for about fifty years.
“LUCIO!”
Both Gulmont and Albert cringed, but quickly hid their expressions as Lucio’s secretary rushed into the room, her clipboard in hand, looking over the two men with an air of profound annoyance, that was so palpable that it made the men flinch, backing away ever so slightly.
“Well?” She snapped in hesitation. “Where is he?”
Gulmont slowly got to his feet, gathering Lyra up in his arm, the one that was still attached, and slowly backing away. “Yeah, about that. He may have said something about a cake gun and going to see Clockk? I didn’t really catch it all.” By the time he’d finished talking, Gulmont had reached to door and had pried it open with his foot, while Lyra cuddled Gulmont’s neck. “Anyway, um…I’ve got to go. Me and Lyra have got to go and see Ehbrel, about a thing…Okay bye!” And that was the last Mirembe and Albert saw of Gulmont that day, as he was out of the door like a shot.
Mirembe stomped her foot, positively fuming. “That idiotic man!” I will not let him leave me to fill out all the paperwork again! No I will not!” With a huff, the Elonian stormed out of the room, leaving Albert alone with his port.
Alone at last. Albert visibly relaxed once everyone was gone. He slowly walked over to his favourite chair, sinking down into it with a sigh of contentment. Very slowly, he lifted his glass to his lips, taking a sip, this time going uninterrupted, enjoying the sensation of the burn that rolled down his throat.
He let out a happy, “Ahhh,” and settled into his chair, closing his eyes and cradling the glass in his hands.
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A Day In The Sun

Sunlight filtered through the drapes that covered her four-poster bed, settling on Ainoa’s eyes and making her eyelids flicker open. She was warm and comfortable, cloaked in her little nest of darkness, the blankets that were wrapped around her forming a protective cocoon from the light of the noon day sun.
She yawned softly, letting her sense slowly wake up, first sight, then sound, then followed by the rest. The lapping of the waves against the sandy beach first came to her attention, the water caressing the shore like an owner stroking a pet. The smell of the salty sea air reached her nose, the familiarity settling her into a state of contentedness.
Tropical bird song reached her ears now, and images of brightly coloured feathers entered her mind, the birds taking flight and soring across the forest canopy on the distant shore.
But above all, was the intoxicating scent of freshly cooked bacon and eggs just a few steps away.
Wrapping the blankets tightly around her so none of her form could be seen, she scooted across the bed to cautiously pull back the drapes and peer out from the safety of her nest, her face hidden in shadow.
The room outside looked as though it had been divided, one side baring grand furniture that would be more suited to a minister’s manor, the other looking as though it was where a monk might dwell, the furniture, if you could even call it that, being very simple and modest. In the centre of the room lie a table, upon which a breakfast banquet had been laid out, full of stacks of bacon, crisp and ready to be eaten, pancakes golden and fluffy, looking as though they were made from clouds, toast, brown and crunchy, butter expertly spread over them, eggs, white and glistening, the yolks like little suns in the middle, fried potatoes, still sizzling and fresh. There was everything you could want in a breakfast, including berries and fruit, cereal and sweet pastries.
It was clearly too much for her to eat.
She felt a pang of guilt and pinched hr arm for what must be the umpteenth time, just to check she wasn’t still dreaming. Every time she did, she felt the prick of pain and realised that yes, this was real and not just a figment of her fragmented mind trying to hold onto to some small thread of sanity she might still have.
There was no way she deserved this, not after all who she had failed, all who were counting on her to help them, only to have squandered their faith and left them to their demise. Her overconfidence had been their undoing, she should be praying the price for it.
And yet her she was, in what she could only describe as the lap of luxury, relying on another’s kindness. The thought made her want to weep with self-loathing, yet how could she? After being treated with such kindness, she would have to enjoy what had been given to her, despite not deserving it, and feeling guilty all the while.
Tentatively, she slivered over to the mouth of the hut, the duvet trailing along after her, keeping her hidden from sight. Peeking outside, she saw the form of her saviour, and she felt herself flush, her breath stopping in her chest.
Argyle was dressed in little other than a few simple leaves that waved themselves together to form trousers. He was not some sculpted marble Adonis that woman fawned over. He was skinny and twig like, looking as though he might break if you put too much pressure on his arms. But for whatever reason, he paid attention to her and not just the mask she put up to hide from the world. He was hers.
She felt yet more heat run to her cheeks at the thought of that, and pulled the duvet closer around herself, even though only her eyes could be seen anyway. She had to remind herself to breath as she watched him, or else she would faint. It wouldn’t have been the first time.
Argyle was standing in the middle of the bay, balancing atop a stick of bamboo, standing on only one leg, his palms pressed together so that he may find his centre. His eyes were closed, and he seemed to be dead to the world, with only the light, sea breeze to bother him as it rustled through the leaves that made up his hair.
Ever so slowly, he started to move, going through a series of complex movements that must have taken years of training to be able to pull off and still be able to maintain his balance. The movements were precise and elegant, reminding Ainoa of several of the animals she saw around the forest, and some she had seen only in the Dream.
After a few minutes of watching her Dearheart, a word that still made her tingle with glee, she slinked back inside, her duvet leaving a trail in the sand behind her. She made her way back over to the breakfast table, glancing around at the food. There was so much to choose from she didn’t quite know where to start. It was like this every morning, the selecting of food a delicate process that must be adhered too. Eventually she just went with toast, a slender arm, covered in thorns, reaching out from the comfort of her blanket to tentatively pick up the bread and slowly, guiltily bring it to her mouth.
Biting down on the toast, she cringed as the crunching sound echoed through the empty hut. It sounded like a thunder clap to her, and made her feel all the more guilt-ridden for even daring to let the bread touch her lips. She continued to eat regardless, as she didn’t want to see the look of disappointment on Argyle’s face when he came back in to see that yet again, very little had been eaten.
Argyle had such an odd way of showing affection, yet it warmed her heart with the effort he went into trying to make her feel as though she were the most important thing in the world. Or at least it would if she had a heart.
Her eyes wandered to the outside of the hut ever now and then as she ate, trying to see if she could catch another peek at Argyle, but from this angle she was unable to. So instead she just ate her fill of the breakfast that had been laid out for her, which didn’t even cut into a fraction of the meal, but still, she did her best.
Once done, she shuffled back over to the door of the hut, looking out again. This time she found Argyle sitting a short distance away, his legs folded under him in the lotus position, his face to the sun, which at this time of day was at its height, its warm rays spreading out to touch everything in sight.
Taking a deep breath to gather her courage, she shuffled forward, the duvet still wrapped tightly around her. To onlookers, not that there were any, it looked as though she were a little grub, sliding along the ground towards Argyle.
Once she reached him, she hesitated, the same lingering doubts pulling at her every time she got this close. Did he really want her there? Was she not just a nuisance to him? Should she not go and hide instead of bothering him?
She really was not sure, so she took another deep breath to ready herself, then nudged his shoulder lightly with her head. Hesitantly she looked up, into his eyes, and she forgot to breathe again. He was looking down at her, smiling that sad smile that belonged only to him, that was full of such pain and heartache, yet still managed to show a devotion that she found hard to fathom.
Effortlessly, he moved his arms around to take hold of her, pulling her into his lap where she found herself fitting in like a puzzle piece, her head resting on his shoulder. She let out a little meep of joy as he wrapped his arms around her, duvet and all, holding her tightly too him.
They didn’t move that day, spending the hours where the sun touched the sky, cradled in each other’s arms.
She was home.
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Argyle's Mind

The ambush hadn’t been completely unexpected, but it had caught Argyle by surprise. They had come for him shortly after leaving the Grove, clad in black leaves with eyes full of hate, outnumbering him five to one. A fair fight wasn’t something he had been anticipating, he knew they’d not afford him anything as respectful as that.
Instead he was surrounded in a null field that severed his magic from him, leaving him with just his pistol and his rapier. He was proud to say he took one of them out before he was taken down. A swift jab to the neck had proved enough to kill the overconfident courtier before the rest managed to restrain him, binding him with thorn filled vines that dug into his flesh. He’d still struggled of course, there was no way he was going to give them an easy time, but his attempts at escape were soon cut short by a blow to the back of his head that rendered him unconscious.
They’d no intention of turning him to nightmare, if they did or not would only be a bonus. They wanted to humiliate and torture him, break him so completely that the thought of opposing them wouldn’t even occur to him. Then they’d kill him, not before making him suffer, but they’d get around to it eventually.
Vines held him aloft as he dangled from the cage roof, the positioning of his arms making it hard to breath as they took out serrated knives and run them along his flesh, trailing sap down his exposed chest. They made games of who could draw the most blood from him with the shallowest of cuts, and who could make him scream the loudest.
He never screamed however. He remained looking out into the distance, eyes vacant an unafraid as they inflicted the most terrible of pains upon him. Even without the use of his magic, it looked as though he had retreated into his mind, far away from the atrocities that were being done to him.
Argyle was stalwart and uncaring, even as they took the tip of his little finger form him, severed at the joint, after they were done pulling his nails.
Rheged however, did scream. He screamed in frustration at not being able to draw from Argyle’s lips the cries of agony that he longed for. The Courtier took his frustration out on Argyle, devising new methods to inflict pain with each failed attempt, growing more brutal with every failure.
“Useless cur!” Rheged raged, taking up an insidious looking long blade and driving it into Argyle’s leg. “Beg for mercy, damn you! I want to hear your pitiful tears as you ask to be spared!”
But still Argyle didn’t make a sound, his mind and body separate from one another, almost as if they were two different entities.
Rheged let out another bellow of rage before Ionhar put a hand on his shoulder, giving his brother in madness a simpering smile.
“Calm yourself, dearest,” Ionhar whispered as he leant in to place a delicate kiss on Rheged’s cheek. “It appears that we might be going about this all wrong. Perhaps you would allow me a try?”
Rheged tossed the blade aside, the cruel steel clattering to the ground as he turned on Ionhar, about to yell at the Sylvari before Wenda cut him off, saying in a cool, even tone, “What is it you plan to do, Ionhar? He’s clearly not going to listen to your honeyed words.”
Ionhar turned to smirk at the sister as Rheged quietly fumed, his fists balled up and his face twisted in anger. “Oh, sweet Wenda, words are not my only strength. I am more resourceful then you give me credit for.”
Wenda shrugged a little, waving her hand dismissively. “Have your way with him then. It’ll only speed my turn up.”
With a snarl, Rheged went to sit beside Maitiu, who kept quiet, watching the proceedings with a look of disinterest upon his face. It seemed as though the quiet Courtier would rather be somewhere else than here.
Ionhar stepped forward confidently, lowering the enchantment on the cage that kept Argyle from using his magic, just enough so that Ionhar could use a little of his own, his fingers dancing with sparks of chaos energy.
The Courtier placed his fingertips to Argyle’s temples, closing his eyes as he focused, pressing his consciousness into Argyle’s, trying to break down that barriers that the Sylvari captive had erected around his mind.
To Ionhar’s surprise, he found no resistance, no walls pressing him back. It almost seemed as though Argyle was welcoming him in. So Ionhar continued onwards, with only a little trepidation, walking into the space that was Argyle’s mind.

Ionhar blinked. He found himself in a white room, miles of nothingness stretching out before him. If this was Argyle’s mind, it certainly said something. He was about to turn around and leave, only to find that the exit, the part of Argyle’s consciousness that he had breached, had closed, trapping him inside. There was no way out now, only forward.
“Welcome to my parlour, said the spider to the fly.” Argyle’s voice ran out through the blank space, echoing off of walls that weren’t there.
Ionhar gasped, his eyes widening as a great wind picked up, ruffling at his foliage and trying to push him back. With a grunt of determination, Ionhar pushed onwards, taking one step at a time as he battled against the wind. Then, all at once, there was no resistance at all, yet the wing still billowed around him, the white room parting before him as a terrible realisation came to him. That was no room, it was clouds.
The clouds parted and Ionhar found himself hurtling towards a point of green far below him, the ground. He flailed around, trying to grab hold of something, but his hands grasped only air, and the ground continued to get closer.
And then it hit him, or rather, he hit it. Everything seemed to go in slow mothing, so that he felt every part of himself being torn apart, the impact breaking bones and splitting organs. Blood welled up around him, trying to escape his body in any way it could, spraying out of holes that the broken bones had ripped into his flesh. Tendons snapped like strings and he became nothing more than a bloody mark on the ground.
And then he was standing up right, as if nothing had happened, even if the pain from a moment ago had been as real as anything he had ever experienced. Ionhar took a gasp of air, screaming at the top of his lungs as he once more tried to escape the trap that he had walked in. Argyle’s mind remained a fortress however, keeping him from the safety he now desperately longed for.
“You’re in my world now, Courtier,” Argyle’s voice said from nowhere. “There’s no escaping it.”
Ionhar ran anyway, there was little else he could do. He ran across the grassy plain for all he was worth, fear now gripping his heart, or whatever the Sylvari equivalent of a heart was.
It wasn’t long before two shapes appeared before him, two people sitting down in the grass, their legs folded under them. As he grew closer, he could see that one of the forms was Argyle himself, sitting with a cup of tea in his hand, a serene expression on his face as he sipped from the drink. The other was a female, a Sylvari that reminded him of cherry blossoms. She was in the middle of pouring herself a cup of tea, the calming aroma wafting over Ionhar, reminding him of home. She looked just a little hesitant, turning her eyes to Argyle, an unspoken question being communicated between them.
Argyle nodded in reply, turning to Ionhar, his expression hardening. “You shouldn’t be here,” He said, slowly getting to his feet, the cherry blossom Sylvari fading into nothingness.
“I’m sorry!” Ionhar pleaded as Argyle grew larger, now towering above Ionhar. “I’m sorry!” He yelled again, turning on his heel and running as fast as he could. He ran until his legs ached, but even then he didn’t stop, as a growing rumbling was fast approaching from behind him.
A cave proved to be his only sanctuary, and he made a mad dash for it, tripping and falling on his front in exhaustion as he scrambled into the darkness. There he scrambled behind a large rock that hid him from view, just in time for a colossal eye to appear in the cave’s mouth, looking this way and that for any sign of the terrified Courtier.
Ionhar let out a ragged breath as the eye disappeared, and he distant rumbling, that shoot the very earth under him, faded. He looked around the dank little hiding place, watching his frantic breathing cloud in front of him. He began to focus on a point of pink light that slowly came towards him, becoming ridged as two silhouettes appeared in the in the darkness, one holding a staff, from where the light came from.
One of the forms looked hunched over and frightened, sticking very close to the other. A Cyan glow emanated from her, and she looked to be keeping one half of her face covered. Tiny thorns became apparent as she continued to take tentative steps forward, looking to be very unsure of herself.
The other form stood upright, head held high, exuding confidence and poise. She walked with determination and a self-assurance that almost came across as arrogance. There was not a part of her that didn’t look to be perfect, and Ionhar fund himself gawking despite his situation. An impish smile became apparent as the Sylvari came closer, coupled by a devious glint in her eye.
“Um…” The hunched Sylvari began, not sounding all too sure of herself. “Shouldn’t we um…Wait for Arly?”
“Oh pish posh!” The other said. “Can’t you do anything for yourself!? Show some initiative you annoying thorn!” Turning to Ionhar, she put a hand to her lips, blowing him a kiss, before sending a bolt of chaos energy towards him. “Mwah! Tell my snuggle bear that I said hello!” He heard her call before the bolt his him and the cave, including the two Sylvari, faded around him.
Ionhar let out a gasp of pain as the magic rammed into him, sending his sprawling. Everything went dark, as if the sun had set, and it took him a moment to realize that it was not that everything was dark, it was that a great shadow had fallen over him.
Looking up, he saw Argyle towering over him, a giant even larger than the pale tree herself. So bit in fact, that he blocked out the sun. Argyle raised his foot, dirt falling in huge clumps from his boot, then lowered it, going to crush Ionhar like an insignificant ant.
Ionhar let out a cry as he rolled to the side to avoid being stepped on, the earth quaking as Argyle’s boot found the ground. Ionhar struggled to his feet, breaking into a run, but finding that it was impossible to outrun someone so large.
Argyle reached down to pick Ionhar up, the Courtier looking like a child’s toy in the giant’s hand. Slowly, Argyle opened his mouth, and to him it looked as though the gates of the underworld themselves were opening. Row upon row of ragged, shark like teeth filled he giant Argyle’s mouth, all spinning together like a twisted chain saw.
Ionhar screamed in panic as Argyle brought him towards his mouth, then bit down, ripping him in two. Ionhar felt his legs being torn away from him, felt the blinding pain that racked through him. He saw the fleshy insides of the Sylvari’s mouth, his tongue rolling around like a serpent, saliva coating his flesh. And then he was swallowed.
He found himself in darkness gain, whole and intact, but the memory of the pain as clear as day. He scrambled to his feet, looking around in desperation for an exit, but finding nothing. Instead he heard the sound of steel on steel, two swords clashing together. With nowhere else to go, he ran towards the sound, tears streaming from his face, mumbling like a mad man. “I have to get away. Oh Mother, I have to get away.”
Out of the darkness, Argyle appeared. Ionhar screamed, falling on his rump and scurrying back, only to realise that Argyle hadn’t noticed him. Another was with him, looking a lot like Argyle, but with distinct differences. His skin was as black as night, his foliage replaced with branches that resembled antlers. His eyes were red, and full of cruelty, like nightmare had completely taken hold. The two Argyle’s were locked in deadly combat, both exhausted, but neither giving up.
Ionhar smiled. This was his chance. This was the reason he’d come here, to break the Sylvari who had killed so many of his kin. To turn him to nightmare.
Ionhar ran forward, intent on going to end the last vestiges of the dream that Argyle held onto, but he found himself stopped, each of his arms taken by a different person. One was a short hunter with red foliage and a smirk on her face, the other was a tall, blue Sylvari that almost looked like an amazon. The two shook their heads, clucking their tongues as they held Ionhar, keeping him firmly in place.
It wasn’t fair, his goal was so close now, it was right before him. He could be free of this insanity. But he couldn’t move, he couldn’t do anything but watch as the two Argyle’s battled it out, with no way to tell who the victor would be.
It was then that a third Argyle appeared, vacant and expressionless, a sword in his hand. He walked towards Ionhar, showing nothing but dull, lifeless eyes. Still held by the two, Ionhar could do nothing as the third Argyle swung his sword and cut Ionhar’s head from his shoulders. His body went limp, and his head rolled to the floor.
Again he awoke, though this time not in darkness. Ionhar found himself in a room that looked to be of a design that Humans favoured. The was a roaring fire and two sets of chairs, both red and expensive looking.
His breath caught in his throat as his eyes came to rest on Argyle, standing with the huntress and the pact member standing beside him, looking thoughtful. “What do you think?” He asked the other two. “Is it at a bit of an angle compared to the rest?”
Fear gripped Ionhar once more. There was something wrong here, He couldn’t move, try as he might. He could only move his eyes, so he did, stealing a glance next to him.
The wall to his left was full of heads of courtiers, mounted on plaques above a mantel piece, like trophies of a hunt. Ionhar looked to his right, and found the same to be true of that wall. Panic gripped him, and finally, he looked down, finding his body to be missing. Instead he found his own plaques, with his name written on it in gold lettering.
He screamed.

All of this has lasted merely seconds in the real world, for time works differently in our own minds. Ionhar’s hands fell away from Argyle’s face, his own eyes now devoid of anything resembling life, froth forming at his mouth. He fell back and hit the ground, Rheged just missing catching him, tears welling in his eyes as he realises that Rheged is no longer with him.
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Laughter in the Darkness

The old run down building didn’t allow for much light, and what light it did offer didn’t illuminate a particularly nice sight. The air was stale and smelt of sweat, heavy and oppressive, like a weight pressing down on your chest. The building is devoid of furniture, leaving dark stains and patches of mould clear to see. Water leaks in from holes in the roof, dripping down to a wooden floor infested with termites, looking like it’s about to fall apart.

Thirteen women sit huddled closely together, dressed in rags with more than one bruise on their faces, they looked as if they’d seen better days. They had dark rings under their eyes and their hair was a tangled mess, their limbs frail and thin, they held themselves close together for comfort.
Six men circled the women protectively, though not the kind of protection that showed a care for their wellbeing, more how someone protects property. The men were all dressed in dark clothing, heavily armed and intimidating, each one with a scar over their brow, a sign of initiation.

One stood in front, clearly the leader, another man in front of him, on his knees and begging for forgiveness. The leader paced in front of the man, a deadly casualness that showed no sign of any inner turmoil. A flintlock dangled loosely in his palm, catching the light that cast itself through broken windows. He gestured to the goon knelt before him with the gun as he spoke, the deadly glint of the barrel aimed at the man’s head.

“Now,” the leader said in a drawl, his eyes cold and merciless, “I’m going to ask you again Jerry, what did I say about touching the merchandise?” He points to the women with the gun as he says merchandise, the women cowing in fear as he does so, their eyes filled with unshed tears.

Jerry’s voice trembles as he answers, not looking his boss in the face, “You said we shouldn’t Mr Malone.” He tried to continue, but Malone cut him off with a shake of his finger.

“That’s right Jerry, I said you weren’t to touch them. Now, can you tell me Jerry, what is it that you did?”

“It weren’t my fault Mr Malone!” Jerry protested, trying to think of any excuse that may ease the temper of his angry employer. “They was asking for it sir, they were looking at me all the time, you could see it in their eyes.” He points to the terrified women, as if his claim was obvious. “They’re nothing but whores Mr Malone, you know that as well as anyone!”

Malone stops pacing for a moment, nodding his head in thought. He seems to relax, perhaps seeing sense in the man’s claim, lowering the gun to close the small space between Jerry and himself, patting him on the shoulder. “I guess you’re right Jerry, “Malone says in a reassuring tone that makes Jerry sigh in relief. “I really do know what it’s like to disregard my boss’s orders and show a complete and utter lack of respect for him and his business.”

Jerry’s face falls as Malone puts the barrel of the gun to his forehead and pulls the trigger. The crack of gunpowder being ignited followed by the crunch of lead hitting bone is the last thing Jerry hears as his body slumps to the ground lifelessly, a pool of blood arching out from the place the bullet hit.
The other four men look away from their fallen colleague, the smell of gunpowder and gore filling their nostrils, a deathly silence filling the room.

Malone turns to the other four men, waving the flintlock around carelessly. “Now,” he declares loudly so that everyone may hear him, “does anyone else feel the need to touch the merchandise?” The room remains silent. Not even a pin dropping would dare to make any noise. “Good, now,” Malone gestures at two men, then at Jerry’s body. “Harry, Taylor, clean up this garbage would you?”
Harry and Taylor nod, stepping forward quickly to take an arm each, lifting the dead weight over their shoulders and heading out of the worn, rotting wooden door that bangs behind them, leaving a trail of blood as they go.

Malone then turns to the other two, indicating that the show was now over and that they should go back to their patrol of the area. They nod in acknowledge men, upholstering their pistols and walking off, trying to act normal and pretend that their boss hadn’t just killed a friend.

The silence is soon broken be weeping, one of the women losing her restraint and breaking down. Those close to her try to comfort her, but their eyes are dead, showing no indication that their whispered words of courage held any truth to them. They’d given up, their situation without hope.
Malone walks up to the crying woman, her comrades backing away quickly, just in time for the man to hit her across the face with the barrel of the flintlock, causing her to bite her cheek and yelp in pain.

“Shut up!” He bellows, his already bad mood deteriorating by the second. The woman crawls into a ball protectively, anticipation Malone’s next move. He delivers a swift kick to her chest, the impact of his steel toe capped boot making her cry out in pain. She becomes very quiet, still alive as it is clear from the way she is moving, but making no sound.

Malone nods in satisfaction, straightening his coat to make himself look smart as he draws himself up to spit on the woman, the saliva mixing with her hair.

He strides away, looking proud of himself for taking care of the situation. He did not allow insubordination of his employees or his merchandise.

He looks around, realizing that Harry and Taylor and yet to return. “By the gods,” he complains, “How long does it take to dump a body?”

Walking over to the door, he flings it open in exasperation, yelling out into the night, “Oi! You two! Hurry it up would you? We don’t have all night, there’ll be paying customers here soon and I want each and every one of us looking over them to make sure they only do what they paid for.”

Or at least that’s what he would have yelled if he were not stopped short by the sight that met him beyond the door. Harry and Taylor lay dead next to Jerry, large, grizzly wounds all over their chests, looking like they’d been stabbed multiple times.

Malone falls back in surprise, cursing loudly. The other two men come running up, looking over the bodies like they couldn’t comprehend what they were looking at. Malone quickly regains his composure, slamming the door in front of him and hitting the two men around the head to snap them out of it.

A strange, twisted laughter echo’s around the building, seeming to come out of everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. It varies in pitch from one moment to the next, like an unturned instrument that has half of its strings braking at any given time, producing an ear splitting twang that causes you to cringe.

At other times it sounds like a cat clawing its way down a black board, the screeching of its nails tearing through your mind relentlessly.

Malone and his men whirl around, trying to find the source of the insane laughter, but all they see is the darkness of the building and its shadows that seem to be closing in around them.

The women begin to whimper in fear, their silent sobbing only exasperation the situation, making the laughter sound all the more threatening.

Malone calls out, his voice trembling in fear for the first time in a very long time. “Who are you!? Show yourself!”

The laughter only rises in tempo, becoming more manic and unnerving. A voice follows, just as unsettling as the laughter, sounding as if the owner has left all reason behind. “Now why would I do that? It’d spoil all the fun.” The laughter breaks out again, a shrill giggling that shakes the three men to the very core.

Malone turns to the remaining two men, waving his gun around as he gestures to different parts of the building. “Spread out,” he barks, a hint of panic in his voice, “I want this guy found now!”

The two men look between one another, one speaking up quite hesitantly, “You sure splitting up is a good idea boss?”

Malone hits the man across the face viciously, his voice raising an octave, “I told you what to do, now do it!”

Rubbing his face, the man nods to the other and they dubiously part ways, heading for opposite sides of the building.

The voice rings out again, gleefully jeering at the men with a giddy tone. “That’s right boys, you must always do what daddy tells you to.” The laughter breaks out again, like a record that’s been played so many times that it is now warped and unrecognisable, a distorted mockery of laughter.

The first man takes the stairs, each one creaking under his boots, the sound ringing through the rest of the building. He breaths heavily, his chest rising and falling with every breath, beads of sweat running down his brow as his finger fumbles on the trigger of his pistol.

A noise behind him makes him turn, firing into the blackness in his panic. But there’s nothing there, only the staircase he’d just walked up. He lets out a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding, trying to relax himself so he may focus more on the task at hand.

A voice in his ear chuckles darkly and he feels a stabbing pain in his back as warm liquid runs down from between his shoulder blades. “An itchy trigger finger doesn’t do you any good. It only ends up with your blade in my back. You should really learn to relax more. I think this will help.”

The voice withdraws his blade from the man’s back, giving him a little pat on the shoulder, “Why don’t you have a lie down?”

The man falls forward, tumbling down the stairs, making a grizzly thumping sound with every step he hits, landing in a bloody heap at the bottom.

Malone curses as he watches the man fall, running to his side just as he hits the bottom step. He kneels over him to shake him slightly, but the man is clearly dead. Malone whip his head up to the top of the stairs, but whoever pushed the man down was no longer there.

The laughter starts again, this time accompanied by a song, a children’s nursery rhyme sounding twisted and wrong, a perversion of the innocence that the song conveys.

The second man shudders at the sound, his eyes darting around with caution. He seems to be quite level headed given the situation, not letting the fear get the better of him. He guessed that the hysterical laughter was a tactic used to unnerve people and without it, whoever it was that was hunting them would be powerless.

“I’m not going to play your game,” he whispers confidently to himself, taking careful steps forward, ready for anything that might come around the next corner.

“That’s such a pity,” coos a voice in his ear as something cold and metal runs over his throat, cutting into it and sending a shower of blood out in front of him. “I do so enjoy a game.”

The man collapses limply to the floor, blood pooling around him.

As complete silence falls over the building, Malone starts to panic. He calls out for his men, but receives no reply.

The voice echoes around the building, deep and scornful, “Poor daddy is all alone. The children have run off and abandoned him. Oh dear, how sad daddy must be.” The voice breaks off into another fit of laughter.

In desperation, Malone starts firing wildly, not aiming for anything, just hoping that he hits something.

The voice clicks its tongue in disapproval, “tsk tsk tsk, that’s such a waste of ammunition. I expect bullets are very expensive to buy.”

Malone shrieks, his voice filled with unadulterated fear, “Shut up Shut up Shut up! Come out here and face me you freak!”

“Now now,” the voice replies, “You didn’t say please.” But never the less, the owner of the voice reveals himself, coming out of the shadows as if he was one with them, the darkness sliding off of him like silk.

The man is dressed in a fine tailored red suit with a black top hat upon his head. He’s has a slim build that looks lithe and graceful. His eyes are large and bulging, his pupils pin pricks in the whites, encompassing insanity. His smile is wide and twisted, stretching from ear to ear. There is nothing outwardly threatening about the man, but something about his doesn’t seem natural. Almost as if his very existence upsets the natural order of things.

Malone fires at the man, but for some reason the bullets don’t seem to hit. One minute they’re hurtling towards him, the next they’re not, as if he hadn’t even fired the gun in the first place. The man advances on Malone who simply fires and fires until the gun’s chamber is empty, but he keeps pulling the trigger, the click click of the empty pistol the only sound.

The man stands mere inches away from Malone’s face, lowering his gun so that nothing is between them. The man continues to smile as he slowly slides his knife into Malone’s stomach, Malone too frightened to do anything.

The man pulls the knife out in one swift motion and Malone falls lifelessly to the floor, not another sound leaving his lips.

The woman stare dumfounded at the body of their former oppressor, unsure of how to react. The man turns his gaze to them, his expression not one of mindless insanity it had been before, rather one of soothing gentleness.

In a quiet tone he whispers to the women in a kind voice, “Who amongst you would like to leave this place and live as a free woman?”

There was a pause before nearly every woman’s face lit up with new found hope, tears of joy springing to their eyes at the prospect of their nightmare finally being at an end. All but one who kept quiet, her ordeal so great that she had given up all will to live, mumbling quietly to herself, “please kill me.”

All but one of the women rushed forward to meet their saviour, singing his praises and looking forward to their new lives away from the horror they have had to endure.

The man smiles once again, his mask of sanity dropping once more so that his twisted, mockery of a smile could take its place. The faces of the women fell as the man started to laugh.

It was the mixture of the woman’s screams and the laughter that drew the Seraph to the building. There they found all but one of the women dead. The woman who was begging to be killed lay in a pile of bodies, drenched in blood, laughing quietly to herself.
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Posted Feb 24, 15 · OP
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Three Weeks Captive

Rheged held tightly onto Ionhar’s lifeless hand as his dearheart slept on the bed of leaves. He hadn’t woken up since he had delved into Argyle’s mind, nor had he moved. Rheged was out of tears now, as none had been able to reach Ionhar. The Sylvari may as well have been dead.
Maitiu placed his hand on Rheged’s shoulder, saying solemn, “It’s been three weeks, brother. It’s time to let him go.”
Rheged’s eyes snapped to Maitiu, his face twisted in rage. “There has to be something more that you can do!?”
But Maitiu simply shook his head. “I have done everything that is within my power to do. Ionhar is nothing but a shell now. I’m sorry Rheged, but he’s gone.”
Rheged let out a strangled sobbing sound, lowering his head and squeezing Ionhar’s hand tighter.
Wenda just rolled her eyes. “Oh get over it would you?” She snapped, devoid of any sympathy she might have had three weeks ago. “All this crying is sickening.”
“Be quiet you wretched whore!” Rheged yelled, turning on Wenda. “Why you lose someone you love, you see if it’s so easy to get over!”
Wenda clicked her tongue. “While you sit here weeping like a pathetic worm, the prisoner is still holding out. Take out your grief on him.”
“What do you think I’ve been doing!?” Rheged bellowed, reaching for his belt and taking from it a tool kit which he throws at Wenda. The kit unfurls as it hits the ground, unveiling knives and other instruments of torture of varying lengths. “I’ve done all I can and still the whelp doesn’t make a noise!”
Wenda smirks, “Well maybe you’re not what is needed to break him”
Rheged gets to his feet, his hand clenching into a fist as he advances on Wenda, only tp be stopped by Maitiu.
The Court mender just holds out his hand and Rheged stops dead in his tracks, teeth clenched together in anger. “We’ll allow Wenda to have her fun. You must deal with Ionhar.”
Rheged lowers his eyes, remaining quiet for a moment, before kneeling down to retrieve his tool kit, picking out a long knife from the bundle. “This was always Ionhar’s favourite,” he whispers, turning around and taking a step towards his dearheart’s lifeless form. “He used to love the sounds I could draw from the Saplings with it.”
He remained staring at the knife for a long while before saying softly, “Leave us. I wish to say goodbye to my beloved.” He waves a hand dismissively at the two other Sylvari, and Maitiu gave him a respectful nod, leaving him alone with the soon to be late Ionhar.
Wenda just sneered, turning on her heels and sauntering out of the medical hut, her hips swaying with every step. Once outside, she turned to Maitiu, fluttering her eyelashes up at him. “If you need me, I’ll be making the prisoner scream.”
Maitiu made no comment as she blew him a kiss and made her way over to the cages, where she knew that Argyle had been placed.
The Soundless had been kept away from the other prisoners after the incident with Ionhar, so that he wouldn’t be able to influence the other captives in any way, and so Rheged might exact his revenge.
As Wenda walked up to Argyle’s cage, she could see that her brother courtier had not been merciful.
Argyle still hung from the roof of his cage, but he was now missing two fingers on each of his hands, bother his ears, and all of his foliage. Long cuts had been made all over Argyle’s body, and Wenda could see traces of Maitiu healing arts here and there. She assumed that Rheged had skinned Argyle alive more than a few times, and had the mender heal him up so that he could start all over again.
However, Argyle still remained unresponsive, his vacant eyes staring out into nothingness, as absent of any sing of life as he had been since he got her.
Wenda would see to it that his resilience wouldn’t last for long. She took her whip from her side, smoothly walking up to Argyle to run a hand over his jaw. “Such a handsome thing,” she mused, puckering her lips. “It’s such a shame that you made us have to take away all your nice hair.”
With a small sigh, she snapped her whip so that it cracked loudly, then brought her hand up, giving Argyle’s blank expression a little smile. “Oh well.”
With a flick of her wrist, she brought the whip down on Argyle’s already scared form, the thorns of the whip digging into his inflamed flesh, tearing at the open wounds.
Argyle didn’t move, nor cry out, which only encouraged Wenda to lash him more, the sound of the whip cutting through the air before it met flesh echoing around the den. Argyle had sustained fourty lashed before Wenda got tired, breathing heavily and looking at Argye’s ravaged form.
“My, you are the complicated one, aren’t you?” She leaned in close eyelashes fluttering again. “You will make the most entertaining pet.”
It was then Argyle moved. His legs swung up, wrapping themselves around Wenda’s neck. She let out a little cry of surprise, but was quickly silenced as the air was forced out of her. Even without his magic, and after having spent weeks in captivity, Argyle held some strength in him.
His legs coiled their way around Wenda in a vice like grip, holding on for dear life as he chocked the air from her.
Wenda struggled against him, her nails digging into his skin, but still he held on, despite her thrashing around. He didn’t even let go when she sank her teeth into his thigh as a last ditch attempt to get him off of her. But soon her strength waned, her eyes rolling into the back of her head, and her hand falling limply by her side.
It wasn’t long before Maitiu found them. He stared impassively down at Wenda, showing little remorse for her passing. Making sure not to get too close to Argyle, who was now too weak to do anything anyway, he picked up Wenda’s body and turned, looking over his shoulder at Argyle before he left.
“For that, you will not be healed for the next week.”
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Posted Mar 1, 15 · OP
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Bar Fight

The counter groaned as Iorek’s head slammed into it, his bottle of rum spilling from his hand, the liquid leaking out onto the counter top. He’d gone through about ten bottles by now and a lot more before that, and had finally collapsed into a semi-conscious drunken stupor.
The bartender didn’t dare to nudge him, he’d learned from the first time that it was unwise to do so. He just left the pirate be, busying himself with cleaning up the spilt rum.
Iorek mumbled quietly to himself, the words so slurred they were incomprehensible, even if they could be heard. If he were human, he would have died from alcohol poisoning years ago, but he was not human, so he just kept drinking.
He drank to take the memories away, he drank to sooth the guilt, he drank to get the image of Hrona, sitting in the grassy clearing, with the sun beating down on her tanned skin, making her golden locks look like a halo, out of his head. He drank so he didn’t feel so lonely.
The brief buzz he felt from intoxication was worth any side effects, not that he was ever sober enough to feel the side effects. The best way to cure a hangover, he always said, was to never stop drinking in the first place. So he didn’t, staying in a semi-permanent state of tipsiness, and that was when he needed to keep his focus. The rest of the time he was as drunk as a skunk.
He struggled to get his head off of the counter, failing miserably, instead listening to the bar patrons around him, ignoring the pounding in his head.
Two people came in, wading through the water at the entrance of the cave bar. One was a human, short and skinny, dressed in shabby workman’s clothes, clearly some kind of construction worker, fixing the Arch back to its former glory.
The other was a Norn, big and muscular, with a neat beard, which was so grey it looked like it was almost blue. He was a Norn from the Shiverpeaks, or so he seemed to be by the way he dressed, tribal clothing, and very little of it at that.
They sat down a short distance away from Iorek, laughing and joking to one another, completely ignoring the drunken pirate captain as he lay face down in a puddle of booze.
“The place it looking good,” the Norn said, waving a hand around at the Arch. “Better than it was after the attack in any case.”
The human nodded, raising a hand to catch the barman’s attention. “We’re getting things back to normal again, slowly but surely. We still have a bit of a ways to go yet, but at least a few merchants are coming back.”
“The Lionguard look as though they’re still stretched thin. I didn’t see as many of them as I did the last time I was here.”
“Yeah,” the human looked a little awkward as he replied. “They’re a little busy taking care of looters and guarding the havens, or so I heard. It makes it easier for people with more…” he trailed off, eyes glancing at Iorek, as if to make sure he was really passed out, which he wasn’t, but the human didn’t know that. “Dubious intentions to operate. The Lionguard had better get their act together, or they’ll be over run before long.”
The barman made his way over to the two, giving each one a nod of greeting. “Can I get you two a drink of rum?” He asked, apparently oblivious of any other drink available.
The Norn laughed, “Rum!? Why would I want that swill? No my good barkeep, I’ll be having some good bear’s brown. I expect you have some of that back there somewhere, aye?”
The bartended raises an eyebrow, and then shrugged, looking at the human. “And yee?”
“Whiskey,” the human said. “Anything is better than rum at this point, it’s a bit watered down here.”
Had they just insulted rum? Iorek thought to himself, picking up one of the numerous bottle of rum that were littered around him, getting to his feet, swaying a little as he did so. They had, hadn’t they? He staggered over to the two, peering at them with bleary eyes.
They didn’t notice him, laughing good naturedly with one another. The human didn’t even notice Iorek until he grabbed his head and slammed it against the counter, splintering the bar and knocking him out cold.
The Norn managed to blink in surprise before he was hit in the face with the empty bottle of rum, the glass shattering, the shards embedding themselves in his face. He roared in pain, recovering enough to swing wildly at Iorek, punching him in the face.
Iorek stumbled backwards, almost tripping over his own feet, before losing his balance completely as he took another punch to the face. The other Norn was pounding on him now, fists flying towards Iorek’s head, and hitting more often than not.
His hand reached out to grab a nearby chair, throwing it at the Norn to stop the barrage of punches. The wood shattered against the Norn’s form, causing him to fall back and trip over, hitting the floor.
Iorek growled, using the opportunity to pick up a table, the people sitting at it scattering as their drinks and food were sent sprawling to the floor, cups and plates smashing.
The Norn was trying to get up now, but too late, Iorek charged at him, swinging the table around and sending it slamming into him. The table exploded on impact, fragments of wood going everywhere as it was split in half.
The bartender sighed, crouching down behind the counter. He reached into a compartment under it, pulling out an order form from a stack of them he kept there. The furniture company that he ordered from got a fair bit of business from him, business that had increased since Iorek had started to frequent the tavern.
The two Norn growled as they locked in combat, wrestling each other to the ground, fists and feet connecting with grunts of pain as they fought. They struggled to their feet, Iorek tackling the Norn into the wall. He grabbed hold of the Norn’s head, smacking it against the rock over and over, ignoring as the Norn bite down against his hand, and pulled at his fingers. He eventually stopped fighting, losing consciousness and sliding down the wall.
Iorek took a step back, sending a kick into the Norn’s chest and breaking a few ribs. He strolled casually back to the counter after that, stopping only to spit as the unconscious form of the human. He sat himself down on a stool, raising his hand to the bartender, who peeked up from under the counter.
The bartender scrabbled around for another bottle of rum, setting it down before Iorek and giving him a hopeful smile. “Sixteen copper?”
Iorek glared at the bartender, his top lip curling in anger.
“How about we say that it’s on the house?” The bartender swallowed nervously.
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Posted Mar 16, 15 · OP
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