A dry warm heat clung to the air lands of the landlocked Astus. Anyim always hated traveling away from the coast and further west into the heartland of Undar, here the lands were yellow and golden and arid, leaving his olive skin kissed with the grace of Soltrius, which more often than not was a crisp burning sensation. To make things worse for the young Knight, the people of the heartlands were far more conservative in their viewpoints, frowning on gods and goddesses that were seen more for pleasure.
The Astus states here carried the motif of law and order. Statues of Herman, Austina, and Theolusus were common sightings. Drab gods for a piss poor people, was what the Knight felt. But, thoughts of gods and goddesses would have to wait, for now he was looking for any good deed to fill his arrogance and pride. For you see, Anyim desired to be a hero of legend, to have his name filled within the songs and legends that would be passed along to children for generations on end, and the Heartlands presented itself with the perfect opportunity to possibly find a cyclops or other monsters of similar stature. An elegant start for the most illustrious of heroes..that's how this shall start. And so the young naive walked alone on the cobbled paths that lead away from the city of Verstrua, unknowing of the adventure that he was about to find himself on.
Yani loathed the hot dryness of this place. Aesir and she had briefly parted ways, but she could feel him running in the outskirts, content to keep his distance from most of the beings of the busy Astus. As before, her appearance drew looks, but like water, these looks would slide off and drop to something else. A newcomer, perhaps, without the Ranger armor. She was content to keep her cowl pulled high over her nose, and with the heat, her hood pulled over. Her long, thick hair was tightly braided off to keep off her neck, but with little avail. Most did not look at her face; they would be met with sharp gold eyes, assessing and almost brutal in their unflinching scrutiny.
She glanced at these austere statues of this city, and felt no stirring for any of them. A hot wind gusted past, and a voice beside her made her glance back. She was not alone this shift; an Undarian Ranger, male, with a wide smile and kind brown eyes. "Yani, have you seen such bright skies before?" He was a head taller than her, with long dark hair tightly braided, and capped in gold. "Even with all these troubles, it eases my heart to be home..."
She smiled beneath her veil, her voice low, soft. "Be careful Tak, losing your guard is not wise, even here." He laughed at her response, then nudged her with an elbow, a hand on his seax nonetheless. "That feeling tell you that?" He teased her, dark brows waggling, and her chuckle was thin, almost completely gone in the breeze.
"Mayhaps…" her voice floating in the breeze.
She was certain of it, however. Trouble always managed to find them.
It was uncommon to see many people traveling along the valley roads as Soltrius slowly began to descend in its endless battle with the sisters of the moon, the one blue sky had been painted with a mixture of yellow and orange and night would slowly be upon those who ventured through the valley, and that is when danger would begin to raise.
A small outpost sat nestled along a ridge, a lone guard sat on watch, "Hail citizen.." His words came out thick and heavy with the rugged mountain accent that the people in this region were known for. "It's getting late, best turn around now before you find yourself lost within the valley."
Anyim simply smiled, and gave a nod--no ideas of Centaurs or even a Cyclops would scare the would be hero from in action. His eyes were set on the ruins of the Astus that sat nestled some ways away, the large pillars and remnants of the statues could be seen along the mountain side, the possibility of riches were too much to pass up and so he continued on towards the direction of the ruins.
As the day slowly purpled to twilight, Yani drew her cloak closer, and she felt something come her way. Fast-footed, fleet, she turned on her heels the moment it came sprinting at her, springing into the air. All 70 pounds of happy wolf, and she laughed, allowing herself to be bowled over by the dusty timber wolf, running hands through his fur as he let out a happy whine. Yana, Yana, found water, good clean water. Tasty. She grinned, rubbing between his ears. Good Ae, best tracker. Stay with. It's cool now. ThoughtSpeak, a rare trait between companions, was a shock when she first found the injured Aesir three years ago; their bond was deep, and true, one of the few creatures of this earth she trusted and loved.
Tak laughed, hauling her to her feet, and Aesir sat back on his haunches as Yani straightened her cloak. Soon, Tak continued on his rounds; they would meet again in a week's time after their rounds of these borders of the Astus; no words needed to be said. He held his palm up to her, and she laced her fingers with his, elbows and forearms touching in the formal goodbye of the Rangers. "The wind at your back," she spoke, her voice soft.
"And the water bountiful. Path's blessings," he nodded, then turned away, taking his route. She would scout the ruins first; many an adventurer would be lost amongst such paths, and it was her duty to look after this city. At the sight of the guard, she saluted with her palm out in a small wave, showing the tattoo brand of her title and status. "Austina's Blessings, soldier," she greeted, and he returned the gesture. "Any trouble this eve?"
"There were some, venturing into the ruins," he returned, the thick mountain accent a familiar burr in her ears. "Tread light and careful in this valley, the wind stirs with foul taint tonight Ranger."
She nodded. "Aye," came her reply, and she kept a hand on her seax. "Fair night to you and your watch, soldier," she continued, then stepped on, Aesir as silent and withdrawn as she felt.
She had the temptation, once out of the soldier's eye, to withdraw her bow and nock an arrow. There was a sense of something stirring there, in the dark... and though her senses for Nightsight were keener than the average, nothing slunk to light.
Winds swept along the golden grass and light brown dirt which lead towards the ruins of the old Astus of Yakiir, one of the many city states that were destroyed during the Century of Ruins, which saw the destruction of the old Empire of Kal-Sadid, by the pantheons of the Undarians and their armies after thousands of years of cult and animal worship at the hands of the Kal-Sadir.
The ruins of Yakiir were large and massive, with the fabled towering gates still standing partially, though the stories of Copper and bronze etchings were merely rumored at this point, for it all had but been weathered away by the winds of time. Faded red clay walls awaited, and a statue of bare woman, with snakes for hair, and wings for arms say sprawled across the entrance of the city, leaving the errant knight speechless on how magnificent the place must have been during the time of its actual glory.
But, now there was only the sound of the winds and a ghostly feeling that greeted him at the entrance. He paused looking at it all, his olive hands pressing against the clay of the wall. He was about to enter, when he heard the sounds of a wolf...here? He turned to see two others approaching in tow with the four legged beast. Anyim hung his hand close to his side as he smiled.
"Winds guide you traveler.." His hair was well prepped and a toothy smirk formed across his face, "Strange to see others coming to visit relics of an ancient past.."
"Hail, adventurer," she greeted, her voice low in the recurrent breeze. Aesir hovered slightly behind her, her hand still on her seax but the other flashing out her tattooed palm, showing her sigil and rank should he see in this growing dark. "Not many wander this path... I suggest travelling to an inn before the full night is upon you." It was a fair warning, but she had the feeling the.. knight...? had other plans, and would probably insist on continuing down his own path, as most stubborn types did.
Her golden eyes glanced past him, towards the entrance of the ruined Astus before him. Kal-Sadir… some of their ruins still lingered, like a scar upon the many Inas of their world. She caught the rest of his sentence, and her head tilted slightly, a hum passing her lips. "Stranger still to see someone not dressed for a pilgrimage," she replied, but a dry note of amusement undertoned her voice. If he saw her appearance, her heritage, would he be so friendly? Part of her itched to do that on occasion; bare her face to a stranger, dare them to comment.
But as always, sensibility prevailed. Even so, Tak was not with her, but on his own path to maintain, but Aesir seemed to be as on edge as she suddenly felt.
Something ill stirred within the ruined keep beyond. Question was, would they be caught up in it, or would the stranger heed her well-intended warning?
The Undarian smirked as he ran a hand through his curly black locks, "Not many can claim to be a legendary adventurer." His feet would plant into the ground as he ran his hand across the sandstone walls. He peered towards her cowl and hood, her clothing hinted that she wasn't from this region of the world, and her raised palm only helped to confirm his suspicions--which caused the arrogant knight to laugh.
"You think that means you have authority in these lands?" His tanned hands would raise as he peered towards the ruins, "Ye' far away from such authority..I'm here to take a look and to explore," he'd huff, "And no pilgrims would ever visit these ruins..anyone from such a time have long been washed away in the great storm."
He'd turn from her as he began to walk into the ruined city, the twin moons had already begun to rise and darkness was falling upon them. He didn't pay any attention to to if the mysterious ranger kept following, instead he kept his hand on his blade as he walked along the dirt streets that were once made of brown and red cobble. He spotted what appeared to be an old camp and would make his way towards it.
She chuckled, tilting her head slightly. "Have I heard of you, then?" came the bland, still-amused reply, golden eyes twinkling. She could feel him peering at her, but she wasn't going to give him the benefit of the doubt, her other hand not on her seax resting on Ae's fur between his ears, and absently rubbing it. The wolf glanced at her slightly, but that was all. "Nay," she grinned, one dark brow quirking. "Merely a friendly suggestion, adventurer. Glory does not lurk here."
And so saying, she would continue on her own trek, towards one of the many trails that went past the main gate. Hopefully, the rest of her shift would pass in peace and she wouldn't have to nock a single arrow and add to the damage already caused by time and old violence, here. Aesir trotted beside her, then huffed tail swishing.
Bad feeling, Yana.
"I know," she quietly replied once they were out of his earshot, melting into the shadows to keep an eye and ear out. Seeing the old camp, though, she stealthily followed, the hairs raising on the back of her neck. She should turn away, and let the traveler be. She began to turn away...
Perhaps he really could fend for himself. She was not his nanny, after all, and she was too old to be keeping an eye on errant Knights anyways.
The ranger at least had some sense about her, and opted to leave the man alone, which he was grateful for. The last thing he needed was some strange woman getting involved in his affairs or better yet, attempt to take the glory of whatever spoils here lurk. He had heard stories that the old cities of Kal-Sadir were haunted by spirits of the slaves that had been left to die, but he saw no ghosts here nor the spirits of gods or demons.
What he did see was a small camp that had been set up along the the city, the fire's embers still hot as the kettle was still boiling. The Undarian found this to be a red flag, and would quickly move towards it--his sandals crunching through the red dirt as he looked over the supplies. He could see a journal and a few items that pointed towards men of Hayatir had come milling about. His hands ran along the official document, the crest of a Manticore sat upon the paper, while the lettering was formal.
Our Company has arrived to the location of our ancestor's old homelands, milling about and looking for the lost artifacts that you required. The stories of a great creature lurking in this city seems to be nothing more than legends of the Maji's of the Old Council. We see nothing of the sort, and will begin to mill about the location of the old Ajad's Estate in search of the Ajabin as you requested.
The Knight would collect up the paper, putting into his bag as he peered out towards the city, feeling the ground rumble a bit, and something thick sliding off in the shadows. His hand rested on his handle of his blade as he took a few steps forward. "So much for the beasts being of legend..." He'd chuckle to himself, but what it was..the errant knight did not know.
She would continue down her own path, but what struck her most was the silence.
Now, even in the woods, or in the mountains, there would be some sort of noise. Distant voices, an errant breeze, even an animal or two stirring in the dark... but the entirety of the ruins of the Astus of the Kal-Sadir. It was odd to say the least... she found herself bringing her bow towards her, and drawing an arrow, but not nocking it yet.
But there was something... the faintest tremor of earth, a stirring, and golden eyes slanted through the dark, tracking the sound, the stirring. She was too far away yet to tell, but she found herself wanting to go back, to investigate. Duty, or protection.
She found herself turning, her feet towards the sound... but for the shadows, the deeper dark. Lend me your senses, Ae, she crouched, and both eyes flashed a brilliant blue before fading. Scent... a foul smell.
A smell of rot in the dark. She could sense Ae recoiling, muzzle drawn back and half-retching. Foul, he half-gagged, then rubbed his nose into the ground. Do not follow, danger.
I must, she replied, and began to continue on, alert for any prying eyes. Let the boy-man find his glory, but perhaps... not death, yet. Let him taste it, and perhaps he may yet listen to a Ranger.
Truth was, she didn't care. Her responsibility to the realms of their Order, however, were her business, and to her knowledge, he was one of them.
Whether she liked it or not. And truth be told, she didn't sometimes. Especially with such arrogance in that youth.
The errant-knight walked along the dried path, his hand hanging on his silver sword as he unsheathed his bag and cloak, placing them to the side and removing his large round shield--the bare body and angelic face of Anessia was painted in great detail, he took pride in such a grand and glorious design. His chest was covered in a bronze plating, that revealed his slender olive arms, which had the forearms covered in a bronze protectors. His tunic swayed, stopping short of his knees while his shins were protected by more bronze plating.
He opted for no helmet, as the heroes of legends were never seen with one, and thus the stories of his greatness would have his face painted across buildings and memorials like many a great legend. But, first he needed to find that glory. He made his way across battered and broken stone towards the large estate that was painted with dry red brick. Towering spires reached out the sides of the step styled temple looking structure. It had no windows, and instead murals of ancient beasts were designed and etched across the stone--though most were faded away with the wind.
They said the Empire of Kal-Sadir were a quaint people, that worshiped beasts and practiced sacrifice, their architecture was dominating and foreboding to most, and the ruins left behind only added to that. He'd step forward and into the darkness, taking a deep breath as he saw a few torches strung about a dirty marble type floor. He had entered a large opening that was no doubt once the commons for such a magnificent estate.
Bodies were strewn about their corpses fresh. The Men of the Company..no doubt. His hand would pull the blade from his side as he heard a rumbling and a slither come from above. A legendary Cerastes looked upon him with their sharp dagger eyes and horns ripping straight from the side of the serpent's head.
Fangs bore it would slither down to strike towards the Knight, who would quickly raise his shield feeling it crash against protection of Anessia. His teeth would clench and he could feel the intense heat from the beast, wasting no time he'd strike his dagger towards the beast, aiming to strike it against the eye. He felt his blade connect and pierce through the flesh of the round eye, causing the creature to hiss and restrict; The tail of the beast came lashing out and striking the knight across the abdomen, which sent him crashing into a wall, head spinning and his leg hurting. The Serpent began to slither around, lashing out towards everything as it was now partially blinded.
She leapt in when it lashed out in her direction; she heard its' hiss, and Ae smelled blood, so there was no real doubt to the others that had come this way. She could only utter a prayer in their favor afterwards; their bones, meanwhile, would have to wait, and their ghosts not permitted release until she could finish her task at hand. The errant Knight, however, was still alive. She was not going to waste her time assessing damage, not while the injured beast lashed out angrily towards all that moved from its' sighted eye.
She nocked her arrow, feeling the hum of magic question within her bones. But she would not use it, not yet. She had not yet drawn ire of the beast. Ae, downwind, attack from the tail while I take the head. Be mindful.
She let it loose towards its' throat, and it hissed again, as blood spattered to the ground. Not yet a fatal blow, but still an annoyance. She leapt to the side as it snapped jaws towards her, tucking into a sideways roll and grasping another arrow from her quiver. "Knight!" she called out, her voice crisp and hard through her cowl. "Finish your work, I cannot finish it for you." She knew the sigil, in the glinting dark... and was not surprised.
Such hedonists lived on love and glory, just her luck to find a green initiate wanting to whet his blade on the first legend he could shake a stick at.
And now, unfortunately, she was caught in this tiresome mettle, and it would become taxing for the both of them soon. Even as it would lose blood, the creature would fight all the fiercer. That is what an injured being would do, for a chance to escape.
Anyim heard a voice call out over the darkness of the great common room, as the large serpent was struck and blood splattered along the halls, painting strands of it red. It seemed that the ranger had not abandoned her post or the idea of getting the man to leave. She had gained him an opening and for that he'd take it.
Pulling himself up with a dazed look he would rush forward his sword drawn as he attempted to plunge the blade into the snake's head which lashed out in pain. He felt the snake's tail wrap around him as it came lashing towards him, gripping him by the side as he plunged the blade into the beast's other eye, which caused a mist of red to spray out. The creature hissed and tossed the Knight across the room, crashing him into a set of pillars, and dislocating his shoulder. Everything seemed to spin and slowly the creature withered off in crying pains that surely could be heard across the mountain, it would pull itself onto the roof and slithering out of a large gaping hole that was in the roof--leaving the two of them alone.
Anyim would pull himself into a sitting position as he felt his head racing. "Anessia be damned," he'd grunt as he felt his body aching in pain. He'd peer towards the Ranger, "I had the situation handled.."
She stared at him for a couple beats after the serpent left. Perhaps it wouldn't be gone for long... but this youth was starting to annoy her with his plucky arrogance. She sighed, and scowled, pacing away to check on the bodies lying on the floor instead for signs of life. As she'd dreaded... all dead. She knelt before one; she assumed their captain, and closed her eyes, uttering a quick prayer so that their souls may find peace.
There was no time for burial. Not yet.
When she rose, her voice was low, bemused. "Clearly," was the dry reply, stalking in his direction, bow still at the ready. But there was no nocked arrow yet; she supposed she could scold the youth, but honestly, she wasn't in the mood to babysit. When she noticed his limping, however, she sighed... then replaced her bow, showing her hands.
"That throw must've knocked the wind from you," she continued. "Mind if I ease some of that pain?"
Probably not; she wasn't going to linger and insist aid if he was going to play stubborn bull-head.