[ - Author's Note - ]

Before we get to the poll result I need to mention; I had meant to put a map of the Feoh states on the post-Foeh Interlude Chapter on AO3 and had it skip my mind. I went back and fixed that for those who wants to see the set up of that region as it currently sits.

Oh, and a fucked list for Nikita which I forgot. -_-;;

On a brighter note this chapter will push the story past 600k words and 1500 Favs on FFDotNet! This story is growing larger and larger as it goes on. From what I can tell it is the largest Kuroinu story on FFDotNet. Not sure about AO3 though.

Anyway, onto the Poll Results!

With thirty-five total votes it's not the best showing I've had for a poll so far but I have to call it somewhere...

At the bottom, tied for sixth & seventh with two votes (5.71%) we have House Flotte of Ironside and House Abhainn of Cauldona. Both have similar colors and nautical themes as I wanted to impress how much their naval traditions mattered to them. Ironside's is one of the few with something behind the shield and Cauldona was one I liked making. I used a clipart for a police badge for a basis on that one. Side Note; when I named House Abhaninn I forgot it was the House Name for the main character in The Gamer With No Damage. Yes, I've read it; it's a partial inspiration of this fic, in fact.

At fifth place with three votes (8.57%) is Pulca's House Elect. I think the inspiration is obvious but it's the American Gadsden Flag with the iconic phrase in Latin (Via Google Translate) and the club featured on it that I refer to as the 'Militia Club' is called the Goedendag. I saw it featured on a Youtibe Channel called Shadiversity.

Tied for third & fourth at four votes (11.43%) is House Daken of Ironheart and House Caelum of Sanka. Daken's emblem was made to stand out among all the other flags by it's rather white and gray colors; most banners were some bright, primary color so I knew just white would stick out. The Dragonborne background and Habsberg style history came later. Sanka is a case of one: I wanted to have a few religious based territories and two: I wanted to have that lightning bolt design. There's a reason it's on a few emblems, and not just ties to the Imperium.

At second place is the House Brissania with six votes (17.14%). The emblem was one of the first I made and... not my best, I'll admit. I did enjoy making it, though. In terms of color and imagery it was meant to invoke Great Britain; hence the House Name of Brissania being so close to Britannia. Although I doubt the royals of Britain get involved in orgies... Even if it would spice up Buckingham Palace a bit.

And at number one is House Arcturus of the Kingdom of Feoh, crushing all foes before them with fourteen votes (40.0%). I covered this emblem all the way back on the vote on the Seven Shields Emblems, so I won't cover it once more here. I do admit, I really like it.

Questlines next chapter is still in production; as always the main fic has priority but I plan on pushing it out before the Geofu section is done. Don't be afraid to offer suggestions for possible Questline Chapters as well!

And with that all done, let us begin...

[ - Act II - Chapter XVIII: The Legacy of Dagon - ]

Keep Inside Lumiere Sacree City's Military District
Headquarters of the Dawn Templars - Helm Division
Guest Quarters of Grave Levantine

"I think the question is this..." Lorcan let off as he swirled his glass of whiskey; one Grave had sent up to them. The two men sat across a table from one another in the room given to the General. The room was spartan with little more then the two, major Larentian Holy Books for reading material. There was a bed, a small attached bathroom with a four foot by four foot shower and some fresh flowers in a vase and little else within the pale, yellow walls.

"Hrmm?" Grave let off taking a long sip of his drink but not swallowing it, rather letting it swish and settle onto his tongue before finally drinking it down. A good drink was to be savored, after all.

"If your new buddy is the boss of this Aberrant gang, why are we palling along as the Dawn Templar's hunt them down?" Lorcan let off as Grave sighed, reaching for the bottle of the whiskey they were drinking (A brand made from across the southern lake; uncommon in Eostia but well worth the price) and refilled his glass as the General took a moment to think of how to explain it.

"It's a test. Of both their capacity and of the brat's." Grave grumbled out as he nursed his drink for a moment. "Varro, as he wants to be called for now, knew the leader of this band, Blood something-or-other. From what I heard he's gearing up to help with Varro's big plan; getting ready to set the back-lines alight and send the army every which way to handle smaller problems while he marches on the Fortresses. That said, as good as he may or may not be, Helm Division is good; it was a matter of time they sniffed him out."

"Yeah, and I guess folks this far north are more wary of this kind of thing." Lorcan sighed as he looked at his whiskey; it just wasn't Scotch. Sure there wasn't that much of a difference between the two drinks but it was there, Dammit! What the Celts brought from Celtus was a lot of art, culture and recipes of odd and interesting foods and scotch was one of them, a drink with a name that likely originated from somewhere interesting he'd likely never visit.

"Yes. I wager he wanted to base himself somewhere in the middle of Eostia, but far enough north to recruit from Garan." Grave said as he took another sip of his drink. "Hmm... That they stayed unseen until now is impressive. Likely no matter the outcome of the coming battles they will likely need to re-base after this. Regardless their leader cannot retreat under the current conditions; Helm will notice if they try and the reality is to move all their personal and what supplies they need will take too long. So, when we started to write the letter to warn them Varro suggested it a test for his Aberrant warrior. To see how well he and his would fair against the might of the Dawn Templars. I'm sure he'll put up a fight."

"You don't think he'll win?"

"Bah." Grave let off, as if insulted by Lorcan's question. He sipped his drink once more before sighing softly. "I've trained and conditioned many of those women myself and those I haven't Claudia has. The only chance to survive for them will be to flee and he's not an idiot so he will, or at least try. The fact is, alerted or not, he'll lose. He'll still be of use to Varro down the line, but we can't do anything to stop the march on their base without issues. Which brings us to the other test."

"Why the interest in the young brat's combat abilities?" Lorcan said, sipping his drink for a moment, humming softly. "I mean... He's good at making shit and he's been in a couple of scraps to be sure, but he's still no more then a snot-nosed lordling."

"That's true; he is a snot-nosed lordling." Grave said with a sigh. "But a lot of the great, reputable heroes of the land started as snot-nosed lordlings. Aston Arcturus, Samuel Fiorire and the late, great Dominic Silversail were all nothing but punks at first... And all three of them became warriors I wouldn't pick a fight with unless I had to." Lorcan nodded and leaned back in his seat. The tone used by the General was a rare instance of compete and utter respect; while Grand Duke Samuel Fiorire was the only one of the three mentioned who wasn't currently bedridden or dead they were all Heroes of Eostia by their deeds, heralded by bards across the land in song and poem while being respected by friend and foe alike. "But Varro has gotten word that the Seven Shield Princesses seem to want the boy's favor. And while he thinks the voxlux is part of it he's betting it goes deeper."

"Deeper? What, they can't all want to fuck him. At the very least, your step-daughter is married." Lorcan let off as he lifted his drink to his lips as Grave snorted.

"Idiot. Don't forget, Celestine has premonitions of the future." Grave said as Lorcan's hand paused as the scout's eyes widened. He moved to set the glass down, not taking a sip as his glass didn't reach his lips.

"Wait... You mean...?"

"Maybe." Grave said with a huff. "We've no proof, of course. The High Queen might be weak willed, but she isn't stupid. She'll not tell many of a vision like that. Not outside of the Seven, of course." Lorcan set a finger to his drink's rim, running it along the edge for a moment as the Retired General spoke once more. "On the off chance she did see him in a vision, however, then he's important. And I've seen men grow stronger quickly. A man can be a greenhorn fool at the start of a year and bring down trolls by himself at the end of that same year. He's a snot-nosed lordling for now. But Claudia has already told me how much stronger he's become since they've first met and I spoke with both the Grand Duke and Baron Leosol recently and his deeds were brought up; given how they both spoke I think he was stronger facing Garan in Arafe then Princess Prim's kidnapper in Ur. Varro wants to know if he's a potential problem in the future."

"... And if he is?" Lorcan said as he finally took another sip of his drink.

"We can't get our hands dirty." Grave said softly, leaning over the table. "In fact, it would be best to force the Aberrant leader and the brat into single combat and let things... sort itself out." He said as he swirled his drink. "In the end we need to know what we're dealing with... Although I would rather see him dead and leave it at that. It would be simpler, all in all."

[-]

The origins of the Aberrant depends on who you speak to. Some think they emerged before the Age of Giants or during it and simply never encountered mankind in this chaotic era. Others say they were brewed into life by the Dark Elves as a means to harass the humans they hated so. Others say that a survivor of the Age of Gods created them to cause chaos and strife. Others say they were bred by a survivor of the same age to unite humankind by giving them a single foe to face. The most popular and supported theory, however, is that they were made by Dagon, King of the Demons. As most of what we know of this age of the world is passed from mouth to mouth by story and song details may have been warped since then in the retelling of the tale, but what most sources and tales agree on is the following information.

As the Age of Giants was coming to a close while the Dragons and the Demons clashed in worse and worse battles Dagon suspected that he and his kind would die before the era was done. To spite the Dragons in general and his opposite, the King of the Dragon Bahamut, in specific he created a series of races with one, single goal; to slay and destroy the humans that the Dragons so loved. The trolls, the ogres, the orcs, the gargoyles and more. Each was given a pair of common traits; they were all male and all of them were able to impregnate any female with their own kind. But of all the Aberrant made it is said that the goblins were his favorite.

They were quicker to reproduce in numbers, clever enough to use tools and traps to overcome foes and willing to throw their numbers to take down stronger opponents. Vicious, savage and unrelenting they proved to be excellent foot soldiers for his new races and at times commanders. One goblin in particular, Hob, was exceptional and presented Dagon with the skull of a Dragon he led the slaying of and filled it's eye sockets with the skulls of humans. Impressed and sensing he needed to give his creations something more before his end came he granted Hob a small sliver of his power into the goblin's blood.

The result was Hob grew over two feet in height, four times in mass and smarter by half. He was told that every child he bore would have a chance to become like him or sire one such as him Hob raped all he could; human, animals and even elves, it is said. Hob the Great Goblin instilled fear in all who faced him; at least until he faced Axle the Red who slew him to save his wife and daughters.

However as Dagon had said, Hob's descendants have kept in their blood a chance to unlock the sliver of power within. These goblins would be named for their sire and be called Hobgoblins and they would often rally Aberrant around them causing greater problems to those around them. Worse, some rare Hobgoblins were known as the Blighted and known to be stronger then normal, although how or why is unknown as the reasons are barley documented.

~Dominic James Pencraft, Sererus: A Collection of History and Powers

[-]

Come the morning we would leave the carriages behind as we traversed towards the location of the Aberrant's base (At least we assumed they were based there) as we rode on a combination of horseback and wagons. The Dawn Templars were all trained to fight from horseback, of course, so the bulk of our cavalry was made up of them. Claudia took point with Klaus riding pillion with her. Behind them a total of twenty four Sword Division Templars in the saddle. Backing them up an additional twenty one from Helm Division. On top of that House DeSagesse (Via Nikita) had devoted an additional sixty odd Regulars from the Alterun forces. That was about one hundred twenty five people. Then you had myself and my group adding another six, the Mungale escort giving another twelve, Grave's escort adding another three (General Grave already stated he was here to observe and not fight, although I'm sure he'd defend himself if it came to it) and we had a small army.

There wasn't enough horses to go around so many of us, myself included, rode in the wagons. There was a fairly large amount of spell casters here, but Alterun was a center of magic so it wasn't that surprising. The archers and magic users were split between the wagons; the thought being the wagons themselves could be used for cover if need be by the long range combatants and they could support the infantry as they disembarked for the fight. I had Makoto and Riri (Riri having been loaned a bow and quiver) in my wagon, Miria and Cress shared one with Ur'Akara and Nikita was in another wagon with Aeris.

I was surprised the pair got along; I figured they might have been too alike for the other's taste, but oh well.

I took the time to double check my equipment; we had left early in the morning and while we carried enough supplies for the battle to come I was still worried for what would come. I decided that I needed to learn from my new spell scrolls and with little else to do I read them on route, even if I couldn't really practice them, sadly. Still, they would come in handy down the line I was sure.

(-)

Flare Spread [Lvl I] (0/1000)
Magic Type: Fire
Cool Down: None
Mana Cost: Moderate
The user fires off a series of small fireballs in a cone towards a target at high speed; although for only a short range

Physical Burst [Lvl I] [Toggle] (0/1000)
Magic Type: Arcane
Cool Down: Moderate
Mana Cost: Moderate
You direct your mana inwards and bolster your body's physical abilities (Con, Str, End, Dex and Agi) by 20% but you cannot cast other spells until the spell is ended

Tailwind [Lvl I] [Toggle] (0/1000)
Magic Type: Wind
Cool Down: Low
Mana Cost: Moderate
You generate wind magic behind you, increasing your running speed and jumping height and distance. With practice you can increase your maneuverability as well

Holy Arrow [Lvl I] (0/1000)
Magic Type: Holy
Cool Down: Very Low
Mana Cost: Low
Fire a burst of holy mana at a target in a straight line; the spell moves very fast and is equal in power to Magic Missile

Seismic Serpent [Lvl I] (0/1000)
Magic Type: Earth
Cool Down: Low
Mana Cost: Moderate
You send earth mana through the ground to a location. Once there any loose dirt, sand, pebbles and rocks will shoot in a direction in a long, sudden spike. It cannot use hardened stone such as a marble floor

Mana Lash [Lvl I] (0/1000)
Magic Type: Arcane
Cool Down: Moderate
Mana Cost: Low to Very High
Create a whip of arcane mana to lash at a target. This spell can be used to entangle and ensnare targets or swing from objects or be made into a sharp whip. The length and thickness of the whip, as well as how much force or weight it can withstand or it's cutting power, depends on how much mana is used

Havoc Rend [Lvl I] (0/1000)
Magic Type: Darkness
Cool Down: Low
Mana Cost: High
Direct a dark blast of magic towards a target; it can be difficult to control without practice but is incredibly powerful

(-)

Havoc Rend was the more interesting one on account of it being a Darkness type spell. Darkness spells weren't evil of course but trended towards two things in general; highly deliberating effects and curses that could be put on people (Given enough time and preparation; ones you could quick cast were temporary lasting seconds at most) or highly destructive attack spells. No, really, these spells were often very powerful when used offensively.

However between the Larentian religions promoting Holy based spells and that Darkness spells were often seen as the tools of Dark Elves and Garan and, supposedly, Queen Olga Discordia was a master of Darkness magic. This tended to mean Darkness magic was often frowned upon in the Seven Kingdoms Alliance. That said learning at least one Darkness spell was a requirement of becoming a Magus and having a solid grasp of the type was needed to be an Archmage as you needed to understand the type to fully combat it. Additionally you could use it to teach others how to combat it.

And of course it was just, plain powerful as an offensive magic type and sometimes you just needed plain, old fashioned, unmitigated firepower.

I just wish I had time to practice it but being on the road was not conductive to spell practice.

"Mah, mah, I wish we could get there faster..." One of the wagon's other occupants let off giving a long, drawn out sigh. She was another member of the Dawn Templars named Myna Moonguard and did... not look like the usual Dawn Templar at first glance. For starters was the body type; at five three she was on the shorter end of things, but was built more like a bean pole; petite and lithe with a flat chest. She had tone to her body but she looked a lot younger then she was and if it wasn't for the lack of a tail I'd have thought she was a somewhat tall halfling.

Her hair was a nice, rich black and fell just above her hips while yellow eyes fit well with her dark, dusky skin. Her incisors seemed slightly long and was visible when she gave enough of a smile. She wore the usual Dawn Templar armor while her equipment was a six foot tall pike with a small axe head at the end, a curved spike behind it and another sticking straight upwards. Set inside the the weapon within the axe was a curved, crescent shaped spell stone which I'd never seen before. It was yellow and about the size of a golf ball, so it must have been either a hell of a find or cost a pretty penny. She also bore a circlet made of braided pieces of gold with a thumbnail sized, yellow spell stone in the center; the circlet gave her about a seven percent boost to her physical abilities.

(-)

Name: Myna Moonguard
Title: Cocky Blade of the Dawn Templars
Class: Templar
Level: 29
Alignment: Friendly
Reputation: 45
Status: Healthy, Bored, Eager

Romance Rating: 100
Corruption Rating: 23

Known Traits
[A Trait For Traits] You have two more Traits then you otherwise would, not counting this one

[Manaclad] You wear any Mana Armor like they were made for you. +10% bonus to all Resistances to any Mana Armor or Mana Weave you wear
[Spearpoint] Your spear thrusts have a better chance to punch through armor. -3 Piercing Resistance to all targets when thrusting a polearm at them
[Blast & Blade] 5% of your Str is added to magical damage. Add 5% of your Mag to physical damage
[Healing Hands] If you are not under attack you're better able to focus on healing the body. +25% to all healing spells when not a target of attack.
[?]

Orphaned when her parents were lost to bandits and raised by an uncle who knew nothing or raising children she was considered a scamp in her early days. This nearly got her raped before a member of the town guard intervened. Wanting to now be more then some drifter through life she started to learn how to fight with weapons and magic, becoming an adventurer before being discovered by members of the Dawn Templar, eventually joining Sword Division becoming a Jack-Of-All-Trades as a warrior, healer and mage.

(-)

"Don't become too relaxed." Makoto said, looking to her with a scolding glare as she knelt on the wagon's bench, looking oddly comfortable as she looked about. "We get closer to the enemy's realm each yard we go. We have to be alert."

"I am alert... I'm keeping a proximity spell up." I raised an eyebrow at that; that was a spell that would trip if something came within a certain radius of you. You could make it ignore certain things, of course. You don't want to have it go off every time a fly comes in range, after all.

"Just keep your eyes up anyway." I said as I looked to her. "There are ways to bypass those spells and I don't want to underestimate these guys."

"Can Aberrant even use magic?" Makoto asked; obviously the best way to counter a spell like this would be with a counter-spell; but there are other ways; holding perfectly still, hiding under something like a pile of leaves or mud or even being up high enough or in a trench or hole in the ground. I looked to her and nodded.

"Yes, they can but it is rare." I told her as her eyes widened. "No one is sure how many can learn magic but it's estimated the percentage is the same for humans. The difference is they have few ways to test for it and few of them know any magic to start with. They tend to rely on elemental magics when they do; I've never heard of any of them using Arcane, Holy or Darkness magics and most of it tends to be primitive and basic. That said, even if it's not a proper Fireball spell you still need to be wary of someone able to throw a ball of fire." I pointed out.

"I'm more worried about what we'll find when we get there." Another Dawn Templar let off nearby as I turned my head to look at her. Riding on horseback at our wagon's side was Yuna Kagami, an Eastern descendant who was a part of Helm Division. She was about five foot seven with some D-Cup breasts that pressed into her own Dawn Templar Mana Armor. Her hair fell to mid-back in two, braided pigtails as charcoal colored eyes looked over to me. At her left hip was a katana in a black sheathe and matching handle. Strapped high up on her left thigh was a black pouch on a matching belt with a sheathe for throwing knives behind them. Her right thigh, by contrast, bore twin pouches. On top of all of that hanging off the back of her armor's bottoms (Well, what was called bottoms anyway) was another pair of larger pouches. What was in all of it, I didn't know.

(-)

Name: Yuna Kagami
Title: Quiet Step of the Dawn Templars
Class: Ninja
Level: 19
Alignment: Friendly
Reputation: 39
Status: Health, Cautious, Alert

Romance Rating: 81
Corruption Rating: 7

Known Traits
[?]
[Steeped in Shadow] You have a talent for Darkness class magic. -5% Mana Cost when using Darkness spells. +5% Mag & Str when using Darkness spells or combat arts
[Lightning Reflexes] You deflect missile attacks with great ease. +50% Dex when parrying or deflecting ranged attacks.[Bushido] You've been trained in the arts of the samurai. You can equip the equipment of the Samurai class and may use that class' skills
[?]

Trained in the arts of the samurai since a young age she would stumble across a trained shinobi in the woods who thought her footsteps were oddly light. He would teach her the secrets of his art and overtime she would dedicate herself to the Way of the Ninja although she would ensure her swordplay was up to par with her family's Way of the Samurai. This combination of talents has made her both an excellent scout, assassin and combatant in the Dawn Templar's Helm Division.

(-)

"I don't understand." Makoto let off as I turned to look at her.

"Makoto, you know how Aberrant breed, right?" I ask her as she nodded.

"Yes, by impregnating female crea... Ohhhh..." The swordswoman let off in understanding.

"Exactly." Yuna let off, sighing softly. "And they prefer women over anything else." She let off, shivering a bit. "We've pulled girls as young as twelve and women as old as sixty from an Aberrant lair before; all of them forced to push out their brood." She let off, sighing as she looked about for a moment, but now with a disturbed look on her face. "But the worst are the women who break... And sadly, all of them break down the line after enough time. The human mind can only take so much pain, abuse, humiliation and defilement before something gives way. Many of these women become willing broodmares. At worst they can join them in combat or attack anyone trying to save them."

"I... wouldn't have guessed it gets that bad..." I let off shuddering. Sure, you hear the stories, the rumors but...

"I can attest to that..." Riri said softly as she grit her teeth, quivering a bit; I wrapped an arm around her shoulders the moment I noticed.

"We will save who we can." Yuna said sighing once more. "And if need be... Grant a swift mercy to some we can't. If we can kill as many of the Aberrant as we can and end their leader... That's one less threat to good people in our realm."

Hard to say it better then that.

[-]

Hill in Central Alterun
Near the Red Fang Tribe's Base

"Move it, move it, move it! We need to be ready!" Blood Caller called out, grinning as he double checked his weapons; a set of heavy, six inch wide broadswords at his hips as he grinned even wider. Between where one forest ended and the other began was a hill; not a large one but a hill none the less. It wasn't where he planned to keep the fight, but it was a great place to start it from; even if only twelve feet up from the flatter ground bellow it was the high ground. Battlements were being hastily made; wooden barricades by stacking log on log in three walls facing the directing he predicted the enemy would come from. Goblin archers were set up and hastily built towers made of logs a in triangular fashion with a platform at the top and boards nailed into it to act as cover.

It wouldn't be a fort, but it would be enough to hobble any charges. Of course any mages their foes had would shatter them quickly but they had their own plays and a second place to retreat to. The question on his mind was two fold; how well could he stand up to the Whores of the Dawn really and even if they won; what then? If they never returned then a larger army would come to wipe them out; they'd need a new place to call home and he only had a few ideas and all of them a good march away.

Still, that was for future Blood Caller to deal with.

Trolls brought up barrels of black powder that they had stolen; it was luck they captured them and at the time he didn't know what they'd do with it but now it was clear what they could do with them, at least to him. The trolls were also his best asset; he'd hidden them as best as he could and if he was lucky the Whores of the Dawn were still unaware of them. The huge trolls would provide excellent muscle for his forces; their strength was unrivaled amongst Aberrant and they would be the ideal hammer for them. After all many of their foes wore that accursed Mana Armor which gave exceptional protection; unenhanced arrows were an annoyance, light strikes could be ignored and anything short of a heavy blow could be shrugged off. A troll, however, could hit hard enough to do damage to the damned armor and even stagger the wearer; in some cases even knock them out with the right strike.

Not counting the dozen goblins left at the base to run things his forces were considerable; eighty odd goblins, forty odd ogres, thirty odd orcs, ten trolls, four gargoyles, a dozen wolfmen, three centaur males and one female (Sadly as centaurs gave birth only to centaurs or humans she wasn't breed-able by him and his, not that her male counterparts minded) and a lone, exiled harpie who was off scouting for them. With about one hundred and eighty Aberrant under his command, give or take, he was as ready as he could be to face his foe. That said he was well aware of their lack of magic; he had one goblin shaman under his command and an ogre who could generate enough magic to light a campfire. He didn't know mow many magic users the Whores of the Dawn would deploy but some was a fair estimate.

He looked upwards, seeing the wings of the red feathered harpie as she dove down towards them. She pulled up just before landing on the ground before him. The harpie was small, five feet tall, flat chest and slender wearing only a tan fur loincloth and strap over her chest. Her long hair was pulled back into a ponytail as purple eyes looked over to him. "Well?" He grumbled out as she grinned.

"Like you said, they're coming from the direction you expected they would. I'm guessing they'll be here in the morning!" She chirped out as he chuckled.

"Excellent Verra, excellent. That's what I wanted to hear!" Blood Caller let off with a chuckle.

"Buuuuuuut something's odd." She added as it cut off his light laughter.

"Odd?" He asked, tilting his head.

"Errr, well, I saw some of their scouts moving." She said, looking up to him. "They're moving to the main force."

"Hmmm..."

"The rest are moving around. I couldn't see them all through the trees, so I don't know where they're going."

"Odd... How do they know of the approach of their allies? Did a runner reach them?" Blood Caller mused for a moment.

"I dunno..." Verra said with a shrug. "I didn't see anyone if they did... I can't say..."

"Must have been. They won't use spell paper to send messages; it's far too expensive to waste." Blood Caller mused. In addition until the magic was activated those sheets were more fragile then most sheets of paper; not ideal for advanced scouts. "What's their composition?"

"Hmm, one hundred to one forty, I think." She said, looking up in recollection. "Mix of normal soldiers and Templars. Also a few mercenary looking types in there. Oh, and the leader is wearing a set of unique armor; silver and gold."

"That must be... Yes, the Commander of the Whores of the Dawn... To have her personal attention..." Blood Caller let off softly. There were rumors of the strength of Claudia Levantine of course, but he was sure they were far overblown. Still, she was not to be underestimated or trifled with... "Rest for now. I want you to do another flight before the night falls but don't be too long; I need you rested for the battle tomorrow."

"You got it boss!" She let off, walking off towards the camp on the top of the hill on the other side... Only to feel a meaty hand slap her ass on the way. "Eep!" She let off, covering her ass and glaring back at him before playfully sticking her tongue out at him before walking off as he chuckled.

Even if he couldn't impregnate the centaur or Verra with a goblin they were still fun in the sack. He took the time to consider things; if he had the numbers advantage as he thought he did then he really did stand a chance... "Tomorrow will be a day to be remembered for the Red Fang Tribe!" He declared, chuckling to himself for a long, long moment.

[-]

Once the dusk started to come we set up camp. There was a small creek to give the horses something to drink and more then enough grass to graze on with some oats and hay mixed in. Once my own tent was set up I moved to find Myna; I was interested in her perimeter alarm spell and once I found her, putting up a tent she and other Templars would share, I asked her if she would teach me the spell. Nikita and Aeris had noticed me tracking her down and was nearby when I asked and decided to approach and ask to be taught as well. With dinner a little while away and nothing for her to do at that moment she agreed and after some twenty minutes all three of us had the basics down; enough that it popped up in my spell list.

(-)

Ring of Alarm [Lvl I] (0/1000)
Magic Type: Arcane
Cool Down: None
Mana Cost: Very Low to High
Creates a light ring of mana around an area; anything over a certain size based on the user's choice will alert the user of an approach The mana cost depends on the size and shape of the spell

(-)

While not currently that useful (Well, without practice anyway) I could think of more then a few ways this could come in handy; doubly so with my ability to Enchant. I could think of a couple of offensive and defensive uses for it down the line. But that was down the line.

While dinner was being cooked I decided to use Levitate to get into the air and up to a large, nearby tree. Landing on the thickest branch near the top I grabbed another one nearby to help steady myself as I used Telescopic Vision to see out into the distance. I was curious if I could spot any signs of the enemy from up here and if so what they were doing. I did see something alright... Just not on the ground.

At first I just thought it was a red bird but a brief curiosity of what the bird looked like had me zoom in on it and see not a bird but a harpie. That was unusual as the harpies lived in the Halcyon Mountain Range set north of Feoh and northwest of Geofu. Not solely mind, there were other mountains with harpies in them across Sererus but no others near Eostia. I narrowed my eyes and pulled out my voxlux, quickly calling up Claudia. It was only a few seconds before she answered as I commanded the voxlux to not show her face as I knew it could tip off the harpie if she saw the light.

"Yes James?" Claudia said as I looked to the device; I couldn't see her but she could see me.

"Claudia, I flew up to a tree to have a quick look around." I reported. "I've spotted something odd; a harpie."

"A harpie?" Klaus' voice pipped in with surprise. "That's... We are quite far to the southwest of their grounds. It's rare for them to fly anywhere past Feoh!"

"That does sound odd..." Claudia said with a soft hum. "What is she doing?"

"Looking down to the ground... And approaching the camp..." I said, keeping an eye on her. Indeed, she was heading in our direction; maybe some few degree's off. "She doesn't look like she's loitering or the like, but she's in no hurry either."

"Could she be a scout for the Aberrant?" Klaus asked over the voxlux as a brief moment of silence filled the air. "I've not heard of harpies working with Aberrant before. They are enemies almost as a rule."

"I have." I winced. It was a bit distanced but Grave's voice punched through the voxlux clearly. What he said was more clear, suggesting he approached the couple. "An exile of her tribe. Only once however."

"So, we've found the exception to the rule." Klaus mused as I frowned. Putting aside my distrust of the source of the information I had to admit, Grave is likely right; she's probably a scout.

"Hmm... Can you bring her down?" Claudia let off as I looked over. "Alive if possible?"

"I can give it a try. Alert Aeris about this; if worse comes to worse I'll need her help." I told her. After all, Aeris was better in the air then I was.

"Understood." Claudia barked out as the call ended as I pocketed the device and cast an Illusion over myself to try and mask my approach by looking invisible before flying upwards towards the harpie, floating above and towards her side to avoid her spotting me I made my approach. Once we were close enough together I turned to follow her; once more staying above and to her side to avoid casting a shadow on her. I had no illusions that this could get ugly; I knew harpies were much stronger then they looked and Obserrve told me this one (Verra) was level sixteen; high enough to take very seriously. Whatever I did I'd have to be quick, sudden and hit hard.

Thankfully she didn't notice me as I slowly hovered into position as she slowed down slightly. From what could see from my position she was looking towards the camp but also glancing down before slowing down to circle and loiter. I slowed down to match and used Telescopic Vision to see what she was looking at; a pair of Templars minding the horses as they drank water (Likely more about there, hidden by the trees). I took some time, both for Aeris to be alerted and to formulate a plan; I wasn't normally fighting in mid-air, just once against the Dark Elf mage in Arafe. This was a different kettle of fish though; the harpie would be much more agile and maneuverable then me. If she decided to fight I'd likely struggle until Aeris arrived. If she decided to flee I'd be unable unable to catch up. I had to be careful.

Eventually I came up with a plan and moved closer as I drew in my mana. The side effect was the Illusion making me invisible went from 'Predator Blur' to 'Decloaking Romulan Warbird' as I took aim. She stiffened and looked over her shoulder right at me, eyes widening as I projected a near, point black Frost Stream right into her back between the shoulders and getting a loud, shrill scream of pain as I poured it onto her as much as I could. She dove to get away, shivering as she started to try and level out... Only to to be unable to fly and was forced into a controlled fall; her feathers had iced up with the rest of her body and she was having trouble keeping herself up. I could see wisps of chilled air coming off from each wing, wind magic manipulation I think, as she tried to regain her control.

I had already been drawing mana for my next spell as I dove after her as I cast Arcane Weapon, making a weapon of solid mana. My selection of weapon (Well, tool would be closer to what I made, really) was unconventional but it would work; assuming I could use it right. Soon I had a lasso in my hands made of silver mana. Back in my old world in middle school as a fun exercise my gym teacher decided to do was a lesson in how to use a lasso. We practiced outside on logs set up on a fence and it was good fun. I did fairly well, with some practice. Of course that was years and years ago, so I wasn't fully sure I could do it. And I also wasn't trying to lasso a bird woman covered in frost, awkwardly trying to fly away and control a slow free-fall while flying after her myself.

Why did I think this was a good idea again?

I spun the lasso over my head and stuck my tongue out (Always helps!), as I built up momentum, took careful aim and threw it, hanging on to the other end as I watched it sail to the target. If I was an arcanist like Tiffany I was sure I could have adjusted the flight path but I didn't know how. Maybe with more practice? Either way my aim would be good enough; it landed over her head and shoulders and I pulled firmly, hearing her squawk as her arms was pinned to her sides with the rope over her elbows. She was still flapping her forearms and having frost fling off her wings as I pulled to lead her back down and towards camp as she tried to get away still; the sight must have looked oddly funny; like a naughty child trying to escape her parent... Although most children I knew didn't fly...

At least that's what it looked like until she turned in the air and flew towards me, squawking in anger as she flapped her forearms. "Whoa!" I let off as I moved to the side, dodging the claws on her feet; I was caught off guard and only reflexes kept me away from injury. As it turned out, she wasn't as harmless in this position as I thought; the frost was mostly off her feathers now and she could still manipulate the wind under her wings to fly even if hindered and in an awkward position. She dove at me a second time, glaring as I just canceled my Levitation spell, dropping like a stone and catching her off guard as my full weight hit her suddenly. She squirmed as she tried to support us both in her highly awkward situation as we dropped down lower and lower. I waited, sure of what her next move would be as I readied a second Levitation spell. I would be proven right as she then dove down to let me fall... Only for me to fly up, charging her as I drew my fist back to her brief shock before I used Power Punch to slam into her chest, knocking her away and to the full length of the rope, giving a hard grunt as she jerked to a halt. She coughed twice as I pulled once more, dragging her downwards as she flailed and tried to go back up. We were going down, but it was a struggle; like I said, she was stronger then she looked.

"Need a hand?" I heard as Verra looked up, seeing Aeris standing on her staff, hovering over the beast-woman, a lightning spell in one hand before slinging it at her. It wasn't very strong but given the long, drawn out squawk it must have hurt as she convulsed and fell, swinging under me as I kept hold of the mana formed into rope. I lowered back down, Aeris moving to flank me as we dropped down into camp. On the ground I could see Claudia and Klaus waiting for us along with a half dozen Dawn Templars, Myna included as they kept weapons at the ready save two and Grave standing a little bit away looking on with his arms crossed. As soon as the harpie was on the ground those two without weapons drawn pounced, pinning her down as Myna moved her polearm to the harpie's neck. Upon the press of cold steel the harpie stiffened and stopped struggling as my spell ended and the Templars bound her; her wings to her forearms, her forearms together behind her back and then her ankles and knees together. Once fully bound the weapons were pulled back as I landed with Aeris hovering behind me, dropping to a seated position on her staff.

The battle had yet to start and we already had a prisoner of war.

[-]

We hastily set a tent aside for the prisoner. Not having a cage to contain her we simply got some spare rope, tied it around her neck like a collar and tied the other end to a thick post driven into the middle of the place. I, along with Axelia, was directed to set up spells to ensure no sounds leaked in or out of the tent. Claudia, for some reason, dragged me into the interrogation along with Klaus who had tended to her wounds.

Grave wanted to partake in the interrogation (With a grin that I would called full on RAPE FACE) but both Claudia and Klaus shot him down and both for the same reason; Grave's methods of interrogation was rough and the Dawn Templar's Commander wanted her to survive it. Dead men tell no tales and dead harpies can't spin a better one. Instead he was told to arrange patrols around the camp and contact the Helm Division scouts we had yet to met up with; there could have been trouble afoot.

So that had us standing over the harpie girl, sitting in that way some women do with their legs tucked in under her as she glared at us (Mostly me) while shivering in fear. She was at our mercy and everyone knew it. "I'M NOT TALKING!" She finally shouted out as Klaus sighed and shook his head. Claudia gave her a stern look as I stayed back and kept silent as I tapped my foot.

"I think you'll find you'll no choice." She replied crossing her arms under her impressive bust as she glared back. "Your allies won't be coming for you, doubly so after we've dealt with them."

"Not talking!" She repeated as she turned her head away, Klaus sighing.

"Now, now, don't make this harder on yourself." Klaus said, shaking a finger at her. "Like she said, once we've dealt with them we will decide what to do with you. We can be lenient on your crimes if-"

"Shut up!" She let off, snorting loudly. "You're all gonna die! You hear me, you're all gonna die! Blood Caller is too strong for you to fight!"

"So, that's the leader's name, hmm?" Klaus let off as the harpie gave a soft squawk, realizing she dropped a piece of information if only a slight one. "Tell us about him."

"No!" She barked out, turning her head away... Shivering harder.

"You're afraid of him.." Claudia said as she rubbed her chin. "I suppose you're worried about him killing you or worse if you talk, is that it?" She mused before looking down to her. "Rest assured, we've no intentions of letting him live."

"Did you miss the part where I said you'll die?" The bound girl let off, baring her teeth. "You'll be fat with goblin babies! Fat, fat, fat! So will all your whores in armor! And the men will be made to watch! And then we'll kill them all! You can't win!"

"What makes you so sure of that?" Claudia prodded as she snorted. "We're no pushovers, and fighting Aberrant is nothing new to us."

"Because you're gonna die! I told you! You'll be sorry for coming here!" The harpie girl let off as I sighed. This would be the way of things for a bit more, Claudia trying to be stern but fair, Klaus trying to be gentle and honest but the girl wasn't talking. She was shaking from fear, of course, but was convinced we'd lose. Working off that assumption anything she said would be judged against her. At best she would released back into their number. At worst her head would removed from her shoulders. Well, I suppose she could be used to breed harpies for this group as well, that could be even worse. The fact was she was confident we'd lose and her best chance to survive was to say nothing and hope her boss, this Blood Caller, would be merciful.

Okay then... It was time for someone to play Bad Cop. And since Klaus was playing Good Cop and Claudia was playing Stern Cop I guess I had to play Bad Cop. I stepped up and made a show of sighing. The married couple looked to me and I turned my head to one then the other, hiding a wink to both from the harpie. "Look, how about I just kill her and we call it a day?" I said coolly and casually as Klaus balked at me as the harpie stiffened in shock. I tried to sound as cold and callous as I could (Not something I was used to... I just tried to imagine that I had old man Mandeville in her place, though, and I could pull it off) as I turned to give her a annoyed glare.

"Y-y-you can't do that!" Klaus let off, but giving me a look that told me he understood, at least in part, my intentions. Claudia, for her part crossed her arms and said nothing, only giving a hum. "There are protocols for this kind of thing."

"Y-y-yeah, you're not just going to kill me!" Verra let off as I moved closer and took her by the chin, pinching her cheeks with a thumb and forefinger as I leaned into look her in the eyes. I could see her internally waver in those windows to the soul so I pushed on.

"It's like this. We have three options." I told her coldly. "We can release you. We can imprison you. Or we can kill you. Release isn't an option; you'd just run back to your master like a dog, barking all the way. We can't imprison you; we're not going to have the manpower to keep watch on you." A lie, we did, although she didn't need to know that. "So, we'll just kill you, leave the corpse for the flies and behead your master." I said as she shivered as I let go and stood up. "So, if you're not going to talk..." I made a show of reaching for my rapier and slowly, slowly drawing it. "We've no reason to leave you alive." Once my blade was free I lowered it to my side and turned my wrist to have the flat of the blade face her. A thin rapier wasn't intimating enough on it's own, in my humble opinion, so I used Blazing Weapon to set it aflame. "So... Death it is..."

"N-now hold on!" She let off, squirming as she looked to Klaus who moved to step between us (But only half in between us to ensure I could still glare at her) as Claudia did her best to look impassive. Klaus gave platitudes and attempts to 'calm' me in his role as the 'Good Cop' but when I reached with my left hand to push him back there was no resistance as he moved aside. "W-wait! Please! No!" I lifted my rapier up, tucking my arm back as I aimed the burning tip to her face, my other hand grabbing her by the front of the hair, lifting her head up a little more and making her look right at the tip of my weapon. "N-no, wait!" I pulled the weapon arm back, ready to thrust and wondering if she would call my bluff... And then she cracked. "THE LETTER TOLD HIM YOU WERE COMING!"

"Letter!?" The couple let off as I held still. They gave each other a look; they knew something I didn't, clearly. I looked her in the eye, ending my spell to bring the tip of my blade under her chin, very close to her throat.

"Keep talking. What do you know about this... letter..." I told her. "Because if I think what you have is useless..." I said, leaving the thought to hang.

"I-I-I-I-I dunno much... It showed up... Yesterday..." She said gulping, shivering as she looked up at me. "I-i-i-it's black... I dunno what it said, but it t-t-told us you were all c-c-coming..." She gulped deeper. "I-it said to keep the men alive, f-for s-some reason."

"You don't what reason?" She shook her head, at least as much as she could in my grip.

"I dunno..." She gulped as Claudia stepped in closer.

"Then let's move on to talking about this 'Blood Caller's' forces..." She said as the harpie shivered...

[-]

In the end she spilled the beans. The forces gathered against us were larger then we expected; we were outnumbered roughly three to two. Additionally we would be facing trolls; something that we hadn't been able to account for before now. Even if only in the low double digits that was a serious problem to content with; Trolls were no joke and not to be trifled with.

Standing between ten and fourteen feet tall on average, trolls were huge, seriously strong with a long reach and tough. Unarmed they were trouble; with a weapon they could be devastating; even elite knights like the Dawn Templars would be challenged by that alone... Worse yet; they could regenerate from wounds. We weren't dealing with giant Wolverines, thank god, but any light hits would be good as new in minutes and a wound that would hobble a man could be healed before the battle was done. Wounds that would be mortal could be healed from with ease. That's not to say it was perfect; they healed faster but it cost them caloric intake. You could, in theory, make a troll starve to death by doing enough small cuts to them. Additionally a strike to the brain, heart or other internal organ would still be lethal. I've heard that dead trolls would regenerate their wounds still, but never rise. Sadly this meant smart trolls could take a severe wound, play dead and survive the encounter. Eostian combat doctrine demanded all trolls be beheaded as soon as conditions allowed.

They can't regrow those, after all.

We moved to the command tent once we were done done with her, making sure that someone would watch the monster girl in the tent and ensure she was well taken care of. I let off a huff and moved to an emptied box by the table and collapsed into it with a groan. Klaus moved up to me a hand pressed to my back and rubbing softly. "I think I overplayed my part." I let off.

"Perhaps... But it was needed..." Klaus said with a sigh, disappointed in something. Himself? The situation? I dunno. He would soon move and I noted he was checking the anti-scry spells in the tent.

"In truth I was thinking of doing something similar." Claudia said, shrugging. "I don't like it much either, but it was needed. However while we need to talk battle plans there's something more important to talk about..."

"My love, that is meant to be kept as secret as possible." Klaus said as I looked between the two.

"Indeed, yes. But I think he should know." She said looking back at him. "He was involved with the incident that exposed this to us and if fate has seen to put him in the center of it a second time I would think he should know more of it before a third happens."

"Is this about the... letter she mentioned?" I asked as Claudia nodded and moved to the back, pressing her thumb to a kettle that she brought to the table, setting down before moving to get metal mugs. The spell stone on the kettle was the point her thumb pressed on; it was called a Commander's Kettle; it bore a spell that heated the water inside it without a fire, just by magic alone. She opened it and inserted a series of tea leaves as she sighed.

"You remember the incident with Halbert?" She said as I nodded once. After all, how could I forget? She sat down across from me on another box as Klaus moved to sit next to her. She then started to explain things.

Somewhere before my attempted assassination and Prim's attempted kidnapping a letter was dropped off to the bastard butler; a recruitment letter to someone inviting him to join a 'Black Storm' that would wash over Eostia, the one Halbert must have been referring to in his final moments. The letter was mostly burned but a large piece survived and came into the possession of the Seven Shield Princesses... And they were sure Halbert didn't burn it himself, something I was sure of as well meaning someone in the castle did. I stroked my chin as she told me a bit of what they learned as I leaned over the table for a moment to think.

"You know... I'm not sure if it was reported to you, but while in Pulca one of the election candidates, Caldwell Coeurnoir, made moves to rig the election to become Count Elect." They blinked at me as I took the time to explain the situation more in full before Claudia's eyes widened.

"Ah, I remember now. Alicia was talking about what a mistake she made, charging in." She said with a nod. "At least she learned form it... But why bring it up now?"

"I imagine he thinks Caldwell was a part of the storm, in some fashion." Klaus said as I nodded and Claudia frowned, crossing her arms just as the kettle started to whistle. Soon she moved to pour tea, clearly thinking as her husband added honey to his mug.

"I'll ask for his interrogation reports for review. Alicia said Pulca is still digging into his affairs so if something comes of it we'll know." She said before sipping her drink.

"We must also consider he's only a lesser part of it; with only minor knowledge of things as a whole." Klaus added as he frowned in thought as well. "Conspiracies like this are like opening an old, rusted chest. Cracking them open is the hardest part; once light starts to shine through it gets easier and easier, bit by bit and you can begin sorting through the junk inside."

"So, if we can find that black letter then maybe it'll point us in a direction..." I mused, tapping my chin. That was a positive; assuming that A) they kept the letter and didn't throw it in a fire somewhere and B) we could find it. However there was something else bugging me...

"But why would this letter request the males be sparred? That seems... The direct opposite of what Aberrant do." I mused as the two shared confused looks and mused as well. Between sips of tea we thought of it for a moment, Claudia finally breaking the silence.

"I agree, it makes no sense..." She said as I took a moment to think. Okay, what now...?

"Let's assume for a moment..." I began as they looked to me. "That I am the Dawn Templar Commander marching on the Aberrant stronghold." I pointed to Claudia next with the hand not holding my mug. "You are this Blood Caller, now alerted to our march..." Then I turned to Kluas and pointed to him in turn. "And you are a traitor in the ranks, sending the letter that alerts them. Why would you send a letter to spare then men-" I said turning to point to Claudia once more. "-and why would you listen?"

We thought about for a moment before something clicked in my mind, Grave. I was convinced he was a traitor by those question marks in the Observe title... And if we were to lose and he be the sole surviving male something would look off... Meaning while all the men being spared would look odd it would be hard to pin the culprit...

"I think I have it..." Klaus said, leaning in and pointing to me. "There's two parts to it... The first is when the men are let go they'll be given directions to spread what they've seen... This group wants their power known, they want to be feared by Eostians. And so they'll leave the men alive to spread the tale and claim the women."

"And the second part?" Claudia asked as Klaus leaned in further.

"There is a traitor amongst the men here." He said as Claudia shivered.

"Makes sense." I replied with a nod.

"And someone of enough import that the letter writer wanted him spared." He added; and that gave me pause.

I was so fixated on Grave alone that I didn't consider the possibility that there might be other traitors in the herd! I felt so stupid! And given the situation I couldn't check everyone as much as I wanted! Uggghhhh, talk about frustrating!

"Okay then..." I said, taking in a deep breath to calm down. "Let's take a moment and sum things up. Who knew about this operation before hand and who is here that they might be protecting? Grave is where that list starts, on both ends of that." I managed to plant the idea... Could it take root?

Claudia response was to look as if I slapped her while Klaus looked doubtful but was considering it. "I... Admit, he would have known far enough ahead of time to send a warning. In addition the High General would have known, as did likely the High Governor."

"Do you really think she, the Governor, would betray us?" Claudia let off looking to him as he shook his head.

"No, of course not. But given the situation we must consider all possibilities." How Klaus stressed the word 'all' was noted by me.

"In such a case then, Commander Jagen is another to consider." She said before looking to me. "He's the Commander of the Eostia regulars in the Dominion."

"I doubt he'd be a traitor but Archmage Candor knew as well, we had a small discussion over tea of what we would be doing." Klaus said as I frowned. "I doubt he would betray us as well, but we have to consider the possibility, as low as it is. Additionally we must considered who here the writer wants to protect. I think we can rule out the Alterun Regulars; at most we must consider their commander."

"Agreed. As much as I hate to say my father could be the one being protected, or even the writer of the letter, we must at least consider the possibility." Claudia said as she sipped her mug of tea deeply. "Mmm... More likely the one being protected is attached to his guard."

"Why even risk one of theirs on this mission, though?" I mused as I frowned in thought.

"Knowing my father, and assuming for the sake of argument he's the writer or the one the writer is protecting..." Klaus began. "Then he's confident in Claudia and the Templar's abilities to handle the situation. He could be using the chance to assess his ally's abilities or arrange a moment for him to escape. The other major possibility is the one being protected is one of the men under his command, all of whom have a... shady past."

"Define 'shady'." I asked as Klaus paused to sip his drink as Claudia spoke up.

"Well, Lorcan Pugio was a former criminal, Harry Flare was thrown out of House Magister for attempting to get his sister raped as a means to get over her in the line of succession and Mace Versa is rumored to be a rapist himself." She summarized with a sigh. "Although it's also worth noting that Lorcan has been a good, loyal and brave soldier since Grave found him, Harry is a much different man now then when he had such ambitions and Mace is rumored to be rapist but two investigations turned nothing up."

"Hmmm..." I let off, frowning. "In short they all either have either committed crimes before or was rumored to have done so, but have either been good soldiers for years now or had no proof found of a crime by their hand." I summed up as both of them nodded. "Great. Just great. One of them could have slipped into old, bad habits and drew shade on his buddies..." I let off. I was still sure Grave was the one in question... But who said he was the only one?

"There's another consideration..." Klaus said as he rubbed his chin. "They could be trying to protect you." I blinked at that before it fully sank in and felt a chill up my spine.

"What?" I let off as did Claudia as we both looked at him.

"Klaus!?" Claudia let off, clearly surprised.

"I'm not claiming he is a part of the Storm rather they've taken note of his voxlux." He said, leaning over the table, setting the mug aside as he spoke in a very serious tone. "We must assume the people behind this wants to control the voxlux and it's attached support devices and networks and given the defenses James has said he set into it then cracking it should be very difficult. If they can't then there's only one way to gain control over the network."

"Me." I summed up as he nodded, his wife frowning in thought.

"Exactly." He said curtly. "Well defended enchantments can take years to crack, and if the Storm wants to stay on it's expected schedule they'll need control of it sooner rather then later. If I had to guess they'd rather have you alive for the option of... alternative means of bypassing the security."

No more needed to be said on that.

"We'll need to speak with Celestine... And we'll have more then a few people to look into when this is all said and done..." Claudia said with a sigh. "But before we can deal with the enemy in the shadows we have to fight the enemy before us. We've captured their scout and learned of their current battle plans."

"But any idiot with half a brain will realize she's been captured or killed when she doesn't come home to roost." I added as she nodded. "Assuming this guy isn't an idiot, and all evidence we have points that way, then he'll assume captured and that she's spilled everything there is to know, down to his favorite color."

"Which means we not only have to plan to counter his current plan but we have to counter any adaptations of it he comes up with." She finished. "As such, let's keep things simple..." She said before starting to speak and outline what she wanted everyone to do.

[-]

Hill in Central Alterun
Near the Red Fang Tribe's Base
Later That Evening

"Mmmm..." Blood Caller let off, arms crossed as he waited for word. Finally the two gargoyles he had sent could be seen returning and approaching quickly. After a bit of a wait the stone skinned beasts moved to land before him. "Well?" He let off under the light of the full moon. The winged Aberrant stood some six feet tall and bore large, bat-like wings, thick and powerful looking tails and faces that looked not unlike a bat's stretched out longer and wider. Claws capped each digit as pure, red eyes looked back at them, the elder of the two shaking his head as his long, long tongue licked his lips.

"No sign of the bird." He answered as Blood Caller huffed.

"Damn..." He let off, cupping his chin. "Is she dead or captured? Gah! I have to assumed she's been snared and made to speak; the damned stool pigeon. Bah!" He let off before looking down to Flint Edge beside him. "We need to change the plan; quickly!" He let off, turning to face his war camp before reaching behind him and pulling out a red, fist sized spell orb from behind him. A brass ring was set around it with a series of nine, red spell stones set to it. He sneered a bit and set it back to the pouch he pulled it from.

He had a feeling bringing this item out of storage was a good idea...

[-]

Dawn Templar/Alterun Regular Field Camp
Outside of the Command Tent
Past Midnight

Slipping around the guards was no issue. After all, he was a part of the outing so he was mostly ignored save for a flirt or two here and there and once he was done his duty he might have even seen who would want to... Share a drink... or three... Pre-battle ritual and all. A quick check and he was behind the tent. With no one looking or in sight it was no trouble for him to slip under a slightly loose section between two pegs and sneak in towards one of the boxes near the table. He pulled it over, reaching under it and lifting something out of a slot in the box's inside; a voxlux. He pulled it to his lips with a grin. "End Recording." He let off, one of the stones flashing twice as he grinned, pocketing it before sneaking out the way he came.

Lorcan would return to the tent of the Retired General to drop off the voxlux. From there, well, it was up to him to decide...

[-]

The morning came, breakfast was had and the camp was broken before marching off towards the site of the coming battle. The harpie girl was bound in the back of a wagon and would be left with the reserve unit as the rest of us moved forwards. We met up with the rest of Helm Division save a scout, reporting in on the enemy's movements; they had built a forward facing, wooden stockade and some towers and had them all manned with goblins but had moved ogres to the sides to flank with wolfmen in short, tight patrols. I wondered how they weren't caught by the wolfmen, but as it turns out one of them left two voxluxs on audio only up in the trees that transmitted video and audio to two others as make shift security or game cameras. Sure, their scent was there but all they knew was they were there and no longer were. I had to admit, it was clever and I fully planned to steal the idea down the line. It could be useful.

In addition to that we saw some of the trolls moving to position as well; on the backside of the hill. We didn't know their exact plan but we had an idea of things at least. More over they spotted the oddity in their ranks that the harpie mentioned; a Hobgoblin.

Hobgoblins were rare. Some people liked to consider them the goblin version of Dragonborne given how they supposedly were given a blessing by the Demon King Dagon. If it was true or not was hard to say, but Hobgobins were far more common (And they were still rare) and supposedly built much stronger and larger then most goblins and were more human sized. Additionally there were rumors that some, exceptionally rare ones were 'Blighted', but what that meant wasn't known; according to what was written down almost anyone who'd seen it was killed. What little was written down was that they had an unusual power suggesting they were more in line with what the Dragonborne were... And I still didn't know what it was. And with my luck I'd find out first hand. Because I'm the main character more or less and if something like that is gonna happen it's gonna happen to me.

Joy.

Claudia divided her forces up and took point. Ryder Blackedge and Axelia Blodsjungfru (A name I did not envy having to remember to spell to everyone near her) took the flanks. Klaus would act as magical support for Claudia, myself for Ryder and Nikita for Axelia. Aeris would have Myna Moonguard as support as she took to the air for general mage support and to counter the gargoyles along with Cress and a pair of mages from Alterun. Yuna Kagami would take some members of Helm Division to act as flankers with Miria, Ur'Akara and another Catalan of the Dawn Templars supporting her and acting as a counter to the opposing wolfmen and general reinforcements as needed. Another member of the Templars would act as commander of the main reserves. Grave was also with the main reserve, observing the overall battle with Lorcan ordered to watch over Claudia, Mace Versa with Axelia and Harry Flare with myself and Ryder, all three men also told to observe and only intervene if needed.

Harry was a handsome looking man with a trimmed red beard and hair that was short and curly with green eyes set into tanned skin. He wore a set of plate mail armor with a red tabard with yellow trim on it, a fireball image on the front in orange. At six foot one he wasn't a small guy and bore a one handed warhammer in one hand and a spell book in the other.

(-)

Name: Harry Flare
Title: The Burning Knight
Class: Mage Knight
Level: 32
Alignment: Neutral
Reputation: 36
Status: Healthy, Relaxed, Dutiful

Known Traits
[?]
[Blast & Blade] 5% of your Str is added to magical damage. Add 5% of your Mag to physical damage
[When All You Have Is A Hammer] You're a master of blunt weapons. +2 Damage to all blunt weapons you wield
[Heart of Fire] You have an affinity with the fire element. +15% damage and effect to all fire spells, Combat Arts and abilities
[?]

The nephew of the ruling Lord of the Duchy of Halous he was fourth in line for the throne. In his youth he arranged for an unwanted suitor of his older sister to have the chance to claim her body with the help of a sleeping potion only for the plot to be discovered. Cast out of House Magister he was humbled in the life of a common adventurer before being finding rebirth and redemption as a Knight of Geofu under the command of Grave Levantine.

(-)

That all three men with him has a shady past is something I find worrying about Grave... yet at the same time I can't argue about giving people a second chance if they're willing to change; even if Harry's transgressions is very hard to forgive.

Soon we were coming out of the forest and into a clearing with a small hill before us. The hill was just out of arrow range and spells wouldn't be much better from this distance. We could see goblins behind the short stockade with slapdash towers raised up. Goblins with bows were seen on the towers and before the stockade as I frowned at the situation. Mounted Dawn Templars dismounted to not force the horses to charge uphill and transferred them to use for the main reserve to increase their speed.

I then noted one goblin with a telescope looking over at us. He looked over at my direction and seemed to do a double take and something told me he was looking straight at me. I used Telescopic Vision to look back. Yup, he was looking at me before lowering the scope and... He had a look of recognition on his face, like he'd seen me before... But where? I used Observe but he registered as an 'Unknown Goblin Scout' and bore the title of 'Seasoned Goblin Scout' at level nine so I didn't know where I'd have seen him let alone the other way around. Either way he barked something out and dashed away. I narrowed my eyes but put it out of my mind; after all I was about to have my hands full with other goblins.

"All right everyone! You know what to do!" Claudia bellowed out as she drew her heavy broadsword from her hand and lifted it over her head. "We've a job to see done and people to protect! These Aberrant have leeched off good, hard working people and ruined lives of all they've come across. Today that ends!" A loud cheer followed as all weapons from the combined force assembled drew their weapons. "For a Better Dawn We Fight!" She let off to a louder cheer.

And then we charged as goblins drew their bows and mages near the front cast shield spells before the charging force...

[-]

"Boss! Boss!" Flint Edge let off as he ran back towards the flank that Blood Caller was waiting at. He'd been giving final orders for his forces just as the sounds of a charging force let off and the howls of Aberrant in combat followed.

"What!? We're about to march out!" Blood Caller let off, glaring as his ogres shifted or bounced lightly; eager to join the melee. He himself was eager to spill blood and claim a few new whores...

"He's here!" Flint Edge let off, panting a bit as he stopped before him. "The one who killed Blood Maker, he's here!"

"WHAAAAAAT!?" The Boss of the Red Fang Tribe let off, making the ogres turn to him and gawk at his indignant bellow "He's here! The murderer of my brothers is here!? That bastard!?"

"Y-yeah!" Flint Edge let off, nodding as he shrunk back slightly. "H-he's in different armor; leather... With a shield here-" He said, tapping a spot on his chest. "-with a horned horse on it."

"..." For a long moment the hobgoblin was silent and looked indignant before grinning and giving a soft, long chuckle that slowly turn into a draw out, deep rumble of laughter. "My, my, this is quite the pleasant surprise..." He let off, chuckling deeply before turning back to his ogres. "Okay you Beasts! We're moving out to capture the Whores of the Dawn and make their men witness their fall! However here's a new order; that bastard is mine! I will fight him alone and I expect you to ensure the fight is private! Now, move out!"

[-]

Klaus moved ahead slowly, conserving his stamina as he moved up the hill, his wife and her Templars charging up it; most of them had a combat art to make the charge quicker and easier as the Alterun Regulars followed them. That said, he still had his tricks to contribute, having used his mana to summon a series winged, silver colored fairy like creatures with dragonfly wings deployed ahead of them; each of his faeries projecting a shield to cover the troops and his wife while he kept two near him as a reserve. He would keep creating more and more of them as he moved forwards; directing a dozen smaller summons was tricky and could strain a user's attention and focus but those who could do it...

Well, none of the Dawn Templars took a single hit as they reached the crest of the hill. Those who knew spellcraft to one degree or another used a spell to smash the stockade or towers as they charged or got closer to them only to meet giggling goblins who fell back; something that wasn't unexpected. His wife and her women kept charging forwards as the Regulars followed in their wake as he just used a Levitation spell to make it easier to follow, flying up the hill and raising upwards a bit for a better view as he followed. He kept his spell book tucked under one arm and held a wand in the hand of the other; silver with a green, oval spell stone at the tip.

They watched the goblins rush back further to what looked like a base camp with short tents and crates about as the they stopped and turned to face them drawing arrows into their bows or discarding them for a melee weapon of some sort; usually a club but wood axes were also in their hands. Surprisingly, now that he had a good look at them, they were wearing armor; chain mail or gambeson; most Aberrant forces didn't bother armoring their goblin foot soldiers especially the Legion. The goblins kept giggling as his wife kept leading the charge just before the next play of their foe was revealed.

The short tents were torn from the ground as something inside of them rose upwards and caused Claudia, the Templars and the Regulars to stop in their tracks; trolls. Green colored and off-gray colored trolls; a total of five of them with large, heavy clubs in one hand each standing from between ten and fourteen feet in height. That alone was enough to give any force pause but it was followed by a baker's dozen of ogres stepping out from behind crates of tearing out of other small tents as they rose up; clubs and axes in their hands. Many bore armor as well; chain mail, gambeson or in some cases a breastplate. Planks of wood were strapped to their shins and forearms and held in place with belts or ropes as additional armor and a few even wore metal helms. Even if they had expected them the trolls were still a fearsome sight.

Claudia stepped forwards, eyes moving side to side and head turning softly as she assessed the new situation. As if seeing a challenge one of the trolls lumbered forwards to meet her; his wife moving a little faster to meet the troll further from her troops. The Aberrant chuckled at her as she and the troll stopped some ten feet from each other; an eleven foot wall of strength and power staring down a curvy woman standing slightly under five foot nine; four inches shorter then the club in the troll's right hand. At a simple glance it seemed like a mismatch between a normal human and an Aberrant twice as tall and ten times as heavy.

Klaus knew how well it was a mismatch... Just not in the way many would think.

The grinning troll roared out with dominance as it lifted it's weapon up; the Dawn Templars bringing up their weapons as the Alterun Regulars staggered back; most of which had never seen a troll until now and only heard the rumors. The massive weapon was swung down at Claudia's head with amazing speed and force. Indeed, the attack was one that could shatter a hut that withstood storms into kindling with a single blow.

Claudia brought up her sword above her to block and calmly called upon her magic to reinforce herself and drew upon one of her favorite Combat Arts; The Rising Heaven. When the club came down onto her blade a wicked sound echoed out around them. Claudia's feet pressed down a full inch into the grass and earth under her from the force of the blow alone... But she fully blocked the attack to the shock of the Aterun Regulars, opposing Aberrant and the greener Dawn Templars; all surprised at the power the woman before them possessed.

She would follow up with a war cry, shoving the club back as she dashed in one step her weapon lashing out and hacking the troll's hand at the wrist and removing it, dashed in another and pulled her weapon back as she planted her feet and swung hard as she used another combat art; Arc of Steel which made a blade of mana that extended from her own sword for six feet as she swung once with the ability before standing up tall, holding her weapon to her side in a relaxed, at ease pose... And watching the troll fall backwards, it's head detaching mid-way down as it crashed into the ground as the Aberrant gawked at their fallen brethren; the trolls in particular taking a step back in shock as the humans gave a loud cheer and Klaus resisted the urge to squeal like a young child; he loved watching his wife at work!

The largest, and likely eldest, of the trolls let out an enraged scream as the Aberrant charged; all of the trolls going straight at his wife as the ogres moved to flank them and fend off the rest of the Eostian Combatants. What no one would have expected was two of the centaurs of the foes charging from the side during the brief fight with the first troll; where they came from Klaus wasn't aware of but both bore spears and were now charging him, coming in and from behind them and to the side as he caught them from the corner of his eye. Klaus pushed up his glasses as he huffed before a summoned fairy flew out to meet them. The descendants of patchwork transmutation spells sneered as one swung his spear to bat the fairy away only for it to twist, dodge and turn red as it moved between the two...

And exploded in a large ball of fire.

Kluas paid them no more mind as the bodies hit the ground. The sound of the blast attracted attention from all sides of the conflict but he swiftly summoned another fairy to replace the one he lost. The lines of Dawn Templars met the ogres first as the Alterun Regulars followed behind them; the bulk of them holding spears as they thrust over their shoulders to the Aberrant's faces; using the long reach of their weapons to support their allies. It was a difference that helped Eostia win against the Legion time and time again; a disciplined force against an uncoordinated mob. And while it was clear the leader of these Aberrant was intelligent those under him were not disciplined.

[-]

Sharp Claw was the eldest of the four gargoyles under Blood Caller's command. In reality he was the uncle of the other three; the triplets born from their mother just as human men charged their lair; his brother dying to hold them off for his lot to be born. He made off with them, killing their mother to deny her rescue and fled to the Thunderblaze Mountain Range. While the barbarians of the region were a threat to them he was able to keep their new lair high enough to be out of reach of them. They became fine gargoyles and between eating and flying lessons he would retell the tales told to him from his father, mouth to mouth. He told them of their father and his brave last stand. He told them of the use of women and how they were tools used to breed and please. He even caught a girl for them to learn on from an Eostian village; attempting to grab a barbarian girl would be much more... difficult. Also, less tasty; waste not want not, after all.

Once they were old enough they left the lair and moved into Eostia to hunt and rape. Memories of close calls and used whores followed in their wake and they would speak over meals of what they preferred in their women. Clash Claw and Rip Claw would argue if larger breasts or smaller breasts were better once cooked while Hard Claw would groan at the constant arguments before consuming the ass flesh of a woman. And of course his brothers would rib Hard Claw hard over the one time he raped a man; not a boy that looked like a girl but a fully bearded man.

And they well remembered nearly dying to a batch of adventurer's who caught them in a storm too powerful for them to take flight that nearly ended them. It was only the interjection of Blood Caller and his brothers, Blood Drinker and Blood Maker, that saved them. He brought them into their Red Fang Tribe, put them to work and through their combined efforts brought in all the food and women to sate them all (Although they weren't allowed to eat the women anymore, sadly) and being the only four fliers until Verra arrived meant they had an important part in their forces. They mourned when Blood Drinker and then Blood Maker was slain by the same man. Even so they taught women their place over and over and over again...

"Oh ho ho ho ho ho ho! You really aren't as threatening as I thought you'd be!"

Only to be completely vexxed by an elven whore, standing on staff casting a vortex of wind that caught all four of them at once and drove them towards the ground. Being the oldest he adjusted the fastest and righted himself, grabbing Hard Claw and and Rip Claw by their ankles to arrest their fall as he reached for Clash Claw with his tail but missed; thankfully he managed to right himself and spread his wings to slow his fall. His brothers righted themselves as the whore witch above them started to cast a new spell. Sharp Claw readied to fly up and attack; knowing they needed to pincer her and stay out of formation like they had as they moved to flank the Whores of the Dawn. He was ready to power into the air as a scream came from under them, making him look down.

Crash Claw hit the ground as he saw a tiny, petite dark skinned girl standing on his back with a pike with a glowing end driven into his back. She pulled it out as Clash tried to rise up only for the girl to bring her weapon up and slam the axe edge into his nephew's head, splitting it in half. Rip Claw was the first to react, howling in anger as he dove.

"Rip, wait!" Sharp Claw called out only to hear... someone whistling a tune? This was followed by an arrow sailing through the air and punching into Rip's eye with enough force to snap his head back as he cried out. He lost control of his dive and drove headfirst into the ground; his neck generating a sickening crack as he looked to see a girlish male human loading a bow with a second arrow and aiming at Hard Claw. He had heard of these strange ones; men and women able to use music of all things to empower allies and their own arrows! His second arrow sailed across the air at Hard Claw who flapped up to dodge only for the elven bitch over them to slam her new wind spell down into him, slamming him roughly into the side of a tree. Before he could recover another arrow sailed and slammed into the back of his neck. Normally the hard, thick skin of a gargoyle would ward off such an arrow but empowered as it was it penetrated the skin and into the body. He would fall back to the ground with a thud; his eyes alive and looking about but otherwise unmoving; something in his neck had been severed and his mind's commands did not reach into his limbs.

Sharp Claw had not been idle of course; even as his brother's children died one by one. He howled out, adjusting to sail down and around the trunk of a thick tree, using it as brief cover before diving low and aiming for the tiny girl first; deal with the weakest one first after all and claim vengeance one by one. The girl readied her weapon and grinned back at him before a stone on her weapon glowed bright. He let off a confused grunt before she slammed the axe head of her pike to the ground only for the land below him, for lack of a better term, exploded upwards as leaves, loose dirt, pebbles and sticks shot straight up in a wide patch of earth as it all slammed into him. None of it damaged him; his armor like skin protecting him from the debris and the soft shock but he would find the small bits of rising earth and plant stuck him in his mouth, nose and eyes. Disoriented, blinded and spitting soil from his mouth he made a critical mistake; he slowed down.

The girl made a war cry and after a brief moment his vision cleared to see she had gotten close, spinning her weapon behind her as it glowed a bright silver before swinging it hard in a vertical arc as she sidestepped as he felt his weight change hard as he turned to face her... And felt the pain hit him as he saw with horror his body from the hips down on the ground and leaking blood onto the soil. His pain doubled as he felt something slip from him as an organ of some kind fell from his body as strength rapidly sapped from him as he tried to remain in the air but found himself unable to, his wings unable to flap and his ability to call upon wind mana slipping as blood drained from his body.

He hit the ground as he saw two of the centaurs charging with a two pairs of wolfmen riding them in pillion, silently hoping to be avenged; he and his nephews...

[-]

As the lead mage of the group I was standing behind most of the front line combatants and just rained Scatter Bolts down over the heads of my allies and down onto the Aberrant. Ogres and goblins slammed into the wall lined with Dawn Templars and backed by Regulars as other mages mimicked me with various spells. I was ahead of the other mages but to the side so I could intercept any flankers as I was as much of a melee fighter as a magical one. I wasn't disappointed on that front as a group of orcs stormed over to us from the side. I quickly moved to join the regulars as I readied to intercept this batch, using Observe on one of them wearing chain mail and holding a battle axe in hand.

(-)

Name: Unknown Orc Grunt
Title: Piggish Warrior
Class: Wildman
Level: 16
Alignment: Hostile
Reputation: 21
Status: Healthy, Battle Hungry, Angry

Known Traits
[?]

[Orcish Armor of Fat] You have layers of fat that act as an armor. +3 Resistance to Blunt Weapons

Lustful for food, women and battle the orcs are heavy foot soldiers amongst the Aberrant. Pig like and bestial they are known for going into a rage; fighting or fucking until they tire out. While not overly smart experienced orcs have shown a capacity for cleverness.

(-)

Yeah, not a pleasant thing; just over six feet tall, pig-like heads and snarling like wolves. Using Dual Cast I threw a fireball into the faces of a batch of orcs in the center and followed up with an Arctic Orb at the ground in front of them, making them slip and stumble forwards and tumble to the ground; orcs to their sides moving around but those behind them slipping on the ice after them or tripping on their downed bodies as I readied a more potent fireball and threw it onto the pile.

Flesh, bone and squeals came from the pile and into the air.

I was readying my next spell before several objects was thrown through the air; my eyes only catching them as they arced over our heads as my eyes started to track them; barrels. They slammed down between the space between the mages and the fighters and many broke open, spilling the contents; black powder. Just as that registered I saw a different object landing right into it; an arrow with a burning tip.

Someone shouted a warning as the arrow fell giving the mages enough time to bring up shields; including a few of the Templars. I managed to bring the shield in my glove up just as things exploded.

The shields nearest to the powder broke from the sudden blast and the front line stumbled forwards; to their credit the Dawn Templars weren't knocked down and kept fighting but more then one took a hard hit from their foes due to the surprise force behind them. The Alterun regulars also stumbled and some did fall to their knees or fronts. The mages were not better off as they were closer to the blast; they shielded themselves but their shields was broken as well and they were knocked back. Given they mostly lacked armor of any sort most weren't quick to rise and some were left on the ground unmoving. The regulars who were moving to handle the orcs were knocked forwards but recovered enough to meet their foes. I myself was knocked back and stumbled...

Only to feel something wrap about my shin before I was yanked upwards into the air. I yelped out, using Levitation to try and resist as I turned in mid-air to figure out what was happening only to see an ogre with a long whip, of all things, on the other end pulling with a grin. I managed to recover enough to use Blazing Weapon on my sword and slash the whip under my leg and severing it as I aimed my other hand to him as I canceled the spell on my weapon.

The grin on the ogre ended as a Scatter Bolt with a half dozen missiles shot out at him like a shot gun; hitting him in the belly and chest as I lowered myself to the ground, the Aberrant falling onto it's back as it's blood pooled under it. I was a bit confused about this tactic although I was on high guard; I'd been pulled away from my allies but the orcs moved to cut them off from me and in turn giving me their back. I was drawing mana while ready to counter whatever was coming when I heard someone bark out at me in a grumbling voice. "There you are, you bastard!"

"Huh?" I let off, turning to see a large, red goblin (The Hobgoblin, in fact) that was my size with small horns sticking from the side of his chin glaring at me as he rushed closer; one very wide, heavy broadsword in his right hand and another in a sheathe at his same hip. He was fully armored in steel plate and clutched something in his left hand; a spell orb with a series of spell stones set into it. I was worried about that that item was; something to note is that spell stones usually didn't like being clustered together on the same magical item in numbers over four and usually not that close together. If they were from the same batch when mined or were harmonized to operate on, for lack of a better term, the same wave length then it was a nice boost in power... but harmonizing them like that could take years or decades even. There were ways around it, of course, and still things you could do but something like that was rare likely powerful and most assuredly dangerous. "That the Devil himself would see you of all people here... I am blessed!"

"I beg your pardon?" I said, aiming my rapier at him, glancing about. The rest of the Aberrant were ignoring me; as if they had planned to isolate me with this guy in particular. "I'm sure I'd recall if we met." I said as Ryder called out to me but the orcs were in the way she could only watch as the Hobgoblin held up the magical item in his left hand and grinned wide.

"Ring of Combat, Activate!" He called out before throwing the thing upwards in the air as it started to glow as it rose further up some forty feet in the air. It took a moment to have things click in my head as the orb generated a wide, wide shield over us; some fifty feet around. In addition a second, smaller shield was generated around the orb itself; meaning it wouldn't be easy for me or anyone outside of the mana dome to shatter it. "There will be no escape from me!" He let off as I finally got over my initial confusion. A Ring of Combat was what it said on the tin; the shield acted as a ring for combat; duels namely. It was portable and lasted about half an hour; depending on how much abuse the shield took and was used when nobility decided they just needed to throw down there and now. That said the Ring of Combat was under the control of the caster (The Hobgoblin in this case) and either they had to utter the deactivation phrase or die. Mind, this was supposed to be used by a referee.

Who was this guy?

(-)

Name: Blood Caller
Title: Commander of the Red Fang Tribe
Class: Warlord
Level: 23
Alignment: Hostile
Reputation: 7
Status: Healthy, Eager, Vengeful

Known Traits
[?]
[Hobgoblin Avenger] Gain 1 End for every goblin corpse nearby. In addition if your opponent is a known goblin slayer increase your Con by 3

[?]
[Aberrant Leader] Any and all Aberrant feel a desire to follow your command. +2 End to all Aberrant under your command. Additionally all non-Aberrant under your command who is not a human, elf, dark elf, half elf (Any type) halfling, dwarf or catalan gains +1 End

A rare Hobgoblin who was raised not by goblins but bands of human mercenaries that had Aberrant in their number he rose up to a sergeant-level position before breaking off to form the Red Fang Tribe; slowly growing it over the course of seven years as they raided and stole from the people of Eostia with his two brothers as his most trusted lieutenants; both of whom were slain by the same man.

(-)

...

Still didn't ring a bell.

"Okay, no joke, who in the hell are you?" I asked, raising an eyebrow as the Hobgoblin, this 'Blood Caller' chuckled.

"I am the Scourge of this land! The Fang that will stain it Red." He let off as he sneered to me. "I am blade that was sever the heads of your weak and your strong! I am the hunter that will cull your herds. I am-"

"Boring."

"What!?" He let off as I interrupted his tirade as I sighed.

"Yak, yak, yak." I let off, keeping my weapon pointed to him but sounding bored as fuck at this guy. "I've fought some odd balls before, but none of them were this fucking chatty. And I still don't know who you are."

"Arrogant whelp!" He let off, slapping his free fist into his chest three times. "I am Blood Caller! And you will beg me for mercy for what you did to my brothers!"

"Who?" I let off, blinking.

"My brothers! Blood Drinker and Blood Maker!"

"..."

"...Y-you...?"

"..."

"You forgot about their murder!? By your own two hands!?" He let off in a very clearly enraged voice.

"Dude..." I let off sighing as I shrugged. "I've killed a lot of goblins. I took a job as an adventurer. Killing goblins is the bread and butter for that job." I said as he gave me a shocked, almost horrified, look as one of his eyes twitched. "Can you narrow it down just a bit? Because killing goblins that are troubling people isn't something unusual, it's just Tuesday."

"I... You... You fucking bastard!" He let off as if surprised I didn't remember some random goblin among the amount I had killed up until that point. "Blood Drinker! You slew him! You killed in when he was defenseless! You slew him from the shadows!" I was blinking at him before tilting my head to one side; clearly not recognizing the name. "He was claiming that Princess of Ur when you murdered him!"

"Ooooh... That asshole and his asshole brother." I said as I started to return the glare. Now I remembered. When I was in the character creator for this world and system I got dropped into one of the background choices I had access to was 'The Slayer of Goblins' where I saved Prim from a goblin about to rape her; that turned out to be this Blood Drinker. And about five minutes after I arrived into the world the wagon I was guarding as an adventurer was attacked by a band of goblins led by Blood Maker who gave me my first boss fight. "Guess being assholes is a family trait."

He let off a soft 'tsk' but grinned. "Well, now you know why you'll die! I will have my revenge on you for my brothers!"

"Oh please..." I let off, snorting. "You're not the first person to try and exact revenge on me this week on behalf of someone. Although I'll give you some credit; you came up with a far better plan then that other asshole." I narrowed my eyes at him as he snarled to me.

"I had planned to just kill you, but no longer..." He let off as my vision shifted as he drew his other blade; the 'camera' tailing it as he swung both downwards before lifting them under his chin, shaping the blades into an 'X' before him as his face lifted up and sneered. "But now I'll remove each of your limbs, one by one and let you hear the lamentations of your women!" The boss theme finally started up as the view shifted back to showcase him in full, golden text appearing before my vision.

_Commander of the Red Fang Tribe_
Blood Caller

As soon as my view returned I prepared myself for combat, waiting to see what he would do. He started to try and circle to my left as I started to move to my right, our eyes watching the other for a long moment. Sizing him up I noted he was the heaviest armored foe I'd faced yet; barring Wesland. His breastplate looked thick and if I didn't use Blazing Weapon or Blessed Weapon I'd have no chance punching past it. That said his gauntlets were a bit short and his arms were covered in chain mail; something my rapier could punch into without magic and his pants were leather so same story. On top of that his helm left his face open so I could stab him though the eye or something. I had options in melee, but I might need to lean on my magic. That said his weapons were very heavy and he was carrying them quite comfortably. With luck I'd have an edge in speed but it was clear he would hit hard.

Having sized one another up now I decided to move first; I'd been drawing mana up until now and it was time to use it with a Dual Cast as I stepped in closer. He grinned and charged just before I cast a Gale Burst and followed it with a Fireball. The effect? Like combining a shotgun with a flamethrower. I saw he was reacting before a cone of fire shot out from before me but it wasn't until it ended that I could see the full effect which was less then I had hoped for; he had dropped to the ground and tucked his head down and his arms in. While I likely heated his armor a good bit I didn't get a direct hit on him. He quickly got back to his feet and charged me, swinging with his left blade and followed it with his right.

I called on the shield in my glove and deflected both, wincing with the power of his strikes, before thrusting my weapon at his face as he turned his head, letting the side of his helm take the blow to no real effect. He swung for me once more I side stepped; five swings going right, left, left back swing, right, left. His swings weren't as slow as I hoped but they were no where as fast as I feared. Once I had an opening I used Blazing Weapon on the Unicorn's Horn to give me some extra punch as I thrust once more and catching him on the breastplate, pushing hard as he hissed and took another swing; forcing me to hop back once more. I hadn't pierced his armor but the effect left a small but notable dent that glowed a very soft red for a few moments before slowly fading. I had to give his armor credit; it was well made. I didn't expect it to just quit under a single strike but unenhanced armor was normally ineffective against magical attacks but this suit was holding up.

I was drawing mana as he charged once more, pulling his arms in then swinging his blades at the same time horizontally as an opening move as I backed up... Then lifted my glove's shield to block the shock-wave his Combat Art generated. I skidded back on my feet as he leapt up and pulled his blades back for a dual vertical strike before I leapt back and threw an Arctic Orb down to where he'd land. I had wanted to plant it before he landed to slip him up but it landed just after he did as ice and frost formed over his feet and calves as he hissed out. I knew he'd free himself so I followed up with a hastily drawn Fireball, throwing it at him before lifting my glove's shield up before me; It was a bit too close range for my liking so I needed the shield up. His eyes widened at the attack as he crossed his blades to block it, lowering his face behind them to protect it.

I was pushed back by my own spell's shock-wave, stumbling but staying on my feet as Blood Caller let off a pained cry as the ice broke with the sound of shattering glass. He hit the ground hard but rolled over his shoulder to his feet; shaking his head out. I snap fired a Magic Missile and followed it with two more as he charged in once more, slapping the bolts aside with a blade before both started to glow, signifying another combat art being used. I stepped back but he slammed both weapons down into the ground and sending two, visible, vertical shock-waves at me as I used my glove's shield to block once more; I had little time for much else. The impact was rough and knocked me off my feet and backwards by two and a half yards as I also rolled up over my shoulder to my feet; I was drawing mana as I was sure he was about to follow up his attack with another attack.

I was proven right; he made a large, horizontal leap at me, grinning and snarling as he drew his weapons back as I sidestepped once more and used a Gale Burst; roughly knocking him aside. To his credit he landed on his feet and charged as I reached back behind me. His right blade swung down first and was followed by a back-swing as his left blade rose up and then came down... And I had drawn my parrying dagger and set Blazing Weapon on it as well as I stepped in and swung it upwards into his forearm; jamming the burning blade between his Radius and Ulna and punching it hard through his now heating chain mail, although not getting the weapon fully through his arm. As he howled out and dropped one of his blades I lifted and turned the dagger to get behind him and aim my rapier at him only for him to tear his arm away from my blade and leapt forwards, rolling over his shoulder and coming up to face me. He hissed in pain and reached to a pouch at his hip, wincing. Given he was using his left hand after that I had to admit he was tough. He drew a vial of a healing potion, pulling the cork with his teeth and drank it down; eyeing me the whole time.

As he did that I sheathed my parrying dagger before forming an Arcane Lance that I would slam down into his dropped weapon, shattering the blade just above the hilt. I wasn't going to give him a chance to recover his weapon in a situation like this as he gave me another snarl. He flexed his left hand, opening and closing it; gingerly at first but faster and with more vigor not long after as the potion took effect. He glared at me once more but otherwise looked more calm and controlled now. He was still sneering at me but it was clear he was reevaluating the situation.

"I'll give you credit, whelp..." He let off as he glared to me. "I thought it would be easy... A few minutes and you'd fall... You struggled with my brother and I am a lot stronger then him... Your strength must have grown many, many times since then." He let off, snarling softly. And then... something... odd happened.

The boss music faded...

It didn't vanish just faded. I had gotten accustomed to the boss themes that would play and could, mostly, put them out of my mind as they spun up. But the notable shift in tone and volume of it was strange...

I had a feeling something was up...

[-]

Claudia's swipe cleaved the troll's weapon over it's hand as her next swing cut deeply into it's shin just below the knee and even through bone as the cut club landed behind her. The lanky and large monster staggered back only for it to be unable to support it's weight on it's wounded limb and collapsing to the ground on it's side. It started to crawl away from the female knight only for a pair of silver fairies to drop down before it's face on either side. Before it knew what was happening both had turned red before moving to grab it's head on both sides before exploding.

The violent and explosive decapitation ensured it would never rise once more.

"Thank you dear!" Claudia called out as she swung her blade behind her, hearing the shocked cry of an orc that tried to flank her as it was disemboweled. They had wounded of their own of course and she was already worried about how many dead they had but she knew Klaus would be healing all of her troops and allies when he wasn't shielding them. She was rather pleased, however, with the progress they were making. "Push forward! Drive them back! Push them-"

"Incoming!" A Dawn Templar let off as her troops shifted behind her. It took a moment to see what was the cause of the cry; a twenty five foot long, three foot thick log was sailing across the air, spinning like a long wheel as it fell. She saw the shield Klaus put up to block it through a fairy but between it's weight and velocity it broke through; merely slowed before it slammed atop of half a dozen of her girls; each left groaning on the ground. Although their mana armor protected them from death the sudden, hard blow would take them out of the fight for a while, if not until long after the fight was over. Turning to see where the log came from she instantly knew the loss would be felt with what they now had to contend with.

"Oh, gods be good!"

"Oh shit!"

"Black Troll!"

Claudia brought her weapon up to a ready position as the monstrous beast stomped closer. Black trolls were notorious for a few things; ashen black skin among them. They were tougher then normal trolls, stronger with denser skin and quicker regeneration. Worse, this one stood twenty feet tall, making it the largest troll anyone present had ever seen; even she had never in her years of combat come across an Aberrant so massive. In one hand was a club carved out of an eight foot long log with multiple swords driven in to the hilt; four blades sticking out one end and four from the other. Dwarfing anything else on the field of combat and seeing that the other Aberrant moved to rally around the titan Claudia knew the fight just got tougher.

[-]

"Rally! Rally!" Axelia let off, smashing an orc with her hammer on the shoulder as the crunch of bone was felt through her weapon before it's club smacked her in the side of the head with enough force to stagger her back, quickly bringing her shield up to block another strike as she used a Hammer of Smite spell to spatter a pair of goblins trying to flank her only for her shield to be smacked to one side by the orc's club before being knocked to her back by a front kick; even through the field of her mana armor her breath was knocked from her. The wounded but still dangerous orc charged with it's weapon up high before a flash of steel was seen as the orc's head came off, it's body falling.

"L.C!" Axelia saw Yuna had arrived as an arrow flew into another orc's eye, making it howl in pain. Axelia could see the adopted Noxdecus sibling notching another arrow as the dwarf finally started to rise, using magic to heal herself as she got back to her feet. Although the orc took an arrow to the eye it wasn't dead and charged Yuna as two more orcs and an ogre charged in, shields raised. Axelia tried to move to stay with Yuna but one of the orcs charged to meet her. They met shield to shield, two warriors straining against one another; a massive, portly but strong orc versus a stout, thick but also strong dwarf. In the end the orc roared out and shoved her back before she was forced to block the club with her hammer.

Behind the orc she could see the one eyes orc tackle Yuna to the ground, forcing her weapon arm down with one hand before grabbing at the bottom half of her armor. "Yuna!" She bellowed out as Yuna tried to grapple with the orc under her before reaching for a knife at her side and trying to stab the orc only to take an elbow to the face; even with the mana armor's protection it dazed the woman before she was grabbed by the hair and had her head pulled up. The orc then moved to repeatedly slam her head back down into the ground; over and over and over again. As protective as the armor was it didn't protect one's brain from impacting their own skull. Yuna would likely suffer a concussion from this.

As her head was slammed down one last time and the orc's meaty hand reached for her bottoms to pull them off Axelia knew she would suffer worse if she wasn't helped soon as she charged her own opponent once more...

[-]

While the initial battle went well things were quickly going to shit in Ryder Blackedge's opinion. The man she was charged with escorting was locked in a shield with the damned hobgoblin, the opposing reinforcements arrived and it included a fourteen foot troll who was chucking barrels of black powder into their ranks as two goblins with arrows dipped in oil after having some rags around the tips and set alight fired after the barrels. It wasn't a barrage of Fireballs, but she had to admit it was effective as it kept their back-lines in chaos.

Behind them all, watching this was Harry Flare. His orders were clear and unknown to the people he was watching; size up the Noxdecus heir in his battle with the hobgoblin (Who seemed to have some beef with him; what he didn't know) and see what he was made of. If he died here a possible threat was removed to his General's plans as well as his General's ally's plans. If he survived they had an idea of his strength and combat style.

Thus far he was mildly impressed; the hobgoblin was fast and powerful, fully able to charge in heavy armor and with heavy weapons much faster then most ogres he'd seen. While the Noxdecus heir wasn't as strong he was quicker and bore magic that he employed in close and ranged combat. If he were to sum it up; a physical juggernaut verses a Jack-of-All-Trades with the latter winning.

That said the lull in their fight made him wonder what the hobgoblin had in store as he didn't seem ready to quit... As he understood it Grave expected him to retreat if or when the fight turned sour for him but he seemed in no mood to. Which begged the question...

Did he have an ace up his sleeve or was he just too set on killing James Noxdecus?

[-]

"He, he, he..." Blood Caller let off at me as he sneered more and more. "I admit... You're stronger then I expected... I gave my name to you earlier... Care to return the gesture?"

I raised an eyebrow for a moment as I sized him up. I was sure the polite question wasn't a lead in to a surrender on his part. Was he buying time? No; if anything time was on his side. I was the one who would want the clock on the shield to run out. No, he wasn't buying time. To be honest he had time to burn. Genuine respect? More likely. Whatever it was I had no reason not to respond.

"James Noxdecus; Heir of the Barony of Mungale." I replied simply as he chuckled.

"Ahhh... You likely killed my brother there..." He growled out as he chuckled, a grin on his face even if it was an angered one. You could sense and hear the rage under his voice but also... Something else? It was hard to say. "Tell me; what does your kind speak of the first appearance of Aberrant?"

I raised an eyebrow at this question but decided to keep playing along. "It depends on who you ask. Some say a god to do evil. Others say a god to give mankind an enemy to unite against. I've heard a couple think you came off of the feces of the giants of those creation myths. But most agree you were made by the demons of the Age of Giants in general and King Dagon in particular."

"Ah, yes... The last one is what we too believe." He said with a chuckle. "That we were made to plague your kind. Slaughter and defile to spite the dragons. Bah!" He let off, chuckled. "Let's be frank; ending humanity is beyond us. Even if we had the power to do so human females are too much fun and without human males to breed them... Well, I'm sure you know how sex works and where little humans and little goblins come from." He let off with a scoff and a roll of his eyes. "No, we don't want to destroy your kind but conquer. Maybe even alongside more... like-minded members of your kind. But while I reject Dagon's wish to destroy your kind... I will not refuse the blessing he gave us; us hobgoblins in particular. Maybe you heard of it..."

"The Blighted." I replied as he nodded.

"I am told you humans know little of it. Heh. In truth few of my kind know anything about it either." He said, shrugging as he chuckled and looked up as he closed his eyes. "We don't exactly write things down that often. You know how it is; always on the move, never knowing if you can keep old books together and out of the elements. Really, we're limited to oral traditions over here. And what the Blighted even is varies tribe to tribe, goblin to goblin, Aberrant to Aberrant." He looked back down as he kept his eyes closed, chuckling once more. "Few humans have barred witness to the Blighted. Fewer have survived..." I had a bad feeling about this... And then he snapped his eyes opened; glowing blood red. Every part of the eye was glowing red.

Oh... Shit...

His whole body started to generate a dark, red, miasma-like aura before my vision flashed as I zoomed in on his face as I saw the skin around his eyes turn ash black and then spread out like veins around the face before spreading until his face was fully black as I used Observe, even mid-cutscene.

(-)

Name: ?
Title: ?
Class: ?
Level: ?
Alignment: ?
Reputation: ?
Status: ?

Known Traits
[?]

[?]

[?]

[?]

?

(-)

...

That's... not a good sign...

He chuckled as a dark, red mist spilled out of his mouth downwards; like gaseous drool. He looked up at me as he glared harder as the boss music picked back up but in a darker remix with odd, deep, tribal like chants joining in a chorus I couldn't understand as he spoke with a deeper, distorted voice. "Bear witness to the power of the Blighted! Bear witness to the true power of the Aberrant! Bear witness to the face of your executioner!" Following his words a series of black letters that seemed to be scratched out with a thick, red outline appeared before me with a thorny, tribal-like weave formed a line between lines.

_tHe BLiGHteD SCouRGe oF eoStiA_
BLooD CaLLeR tHe DeMoNBoRNe

Oh fuck me sideways...

[ - Author'sNote - ]

Yes, it's a cliffhanger ending... Forgive me!

I had intended to make it all one chapter but this has gotten over 21.8k words as is and I didn't want to stretch it any further. I don't want chapters too short but not too long either...

So to touch on a few points; I wanted to give Claudia a moment to shine and she'll have more of one in the next chapter, all going according to plan. I also wanted to give Klaus some highlight; in the original he was just there to be cucked and to humiliate Claudia more knowing he was forced to watch everything she had to go through. Sadly in canon if your not in the... main villain group then you're not allowed to be competent or intellegent. Luckily this fic is different and while he'll never be considered a hero of legend he's not a pushover here either.

I hadn't planned to have any sus to land on Grave so early but it made sense with what I was going for. My big aim here was to try and make Claudia and Klaus seem intelligent as they considered the situation and what it meant with what they knew and Grave isn't being inactive during this moment either. One wonders what his move is doing... And an instance of the voxlux being used against it's creator. Yikes!

As for Blood Caller going into a second phase and the term 'Demonborne' I knew I wanted the power up for him but the Demonborne was something I came up with when coming up with the backstory of the power up. Yes, James gets Dragon's Breath and Blood Caller gets a power up...

Faaaaaaaaaair?

As for the rest... Well, stay tuned for the next chapter. Let me know what you thought of the chapter, give feedback, constructive criticism and the like! Tell me what you liked, what you didn't like and maybe suggest an idea for the next poll! Until then!

~Eostian Scribe