Jul 03, 2020 2:04 PM
Deskyl and DZ in Valdemar
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No. No. No no no no no no no. She's only barely recovered from last time they took her; she can't let them take her again.

If she draws her saber, she'll die. There's no doubt in her mind about that, outnumbered as she is and with her master right there. There's nothing she can do; he knows it, they know it, she knows it. They wouldn't do this any other way.

The flash of inspiration is more like a memory; the floating, disconnected kind that sometimes linger after... whatever it is that they do to her. It's never been quite like this before, but - she reaches into the Force, nudges it just so...

 

The burst of feedback - fear and rage and terror - overwhelms her; she reels, barely keeping her feet, distantly aware of the shouting, of her droid stepping forward to steady her. She ignores it as best she can, and continues nudging at the Force, carefully, carefully...

And then, suddenly, she's elsewhere.

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Crap crap crap crap crap. This was a very bad plan. 

Vanyel's whole body hurts from Yfandes' hard landing after leaping the stream, his head is ringing from the levinbolt he didn't see coming, there are six men standing in front of the wards, and all of their auras had the heavy, sticky wrongness of the freshly ‘fed’ bloodpath mage, gods, thanks to his stupid, stupid attempt to probe they've had time to kill some of the hostages, what if the kidnapped children he's here to rescue are already dead–

The node he was tapping on his journey here is nearly depleted, the ley-lines roiling in confusion; he drops the connection and reaches for another more distant nexus of mage-energies, and draws that power through himself to fling it into a shield. Just in time to catch the next coordinated attack, the men aren't as skilled as Savil but they've clearly practiced working together, and his hands are smarting from taking the brunt of the transferred heat.

And then–

:Kernos' balls!: Yfandes yelps in his mind. :Where did SHE come from?:

Vanyel is thinking the same thing. 

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The... mage? there's some kind of magic going on there, though it's not like anything they've seen before... staggers a bit as she appears, unprepared for the uneven footing. She's not shielding at all, and her mind is, frankly, a mess, wreathed in a half-unraveled mass of spell energy and badly damaged under that, like it was scoured clean not too very long ago and her healing since then has been focused on having any complex mental functions at all rather than the sturdiness of the structures that produce them. Her companion - shorter, and apparently made completely of silvery metal - is even stranger: that there's a mind there is the only thing they can tell about her; there's no way of knowing whether she's shielding or her mind is just that alien by itself.

They take half a second to take in the scene, and then the metal one ducks down, curling into a ball, while the apparently-human one produces a glowing red blade from a short copper rod on her belt and closes with the blood mages, pulling their shields down with a gesture from her other hand.

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...What in all hells, what is she, how did she get here, how did she...just do that, Vanyel's never seen anyone take shields down that way – she didn't pierce them with energy so much as peel them open like eggshells, what what what–

At least she's distracting the mages from attacking him. And he doesn't want to get in her way, right now, he'll...leave it to her and see what happens next? Vanyel takes the moment of reprieve to centre and ground properly and then build up some better shields, heat-sink in case they throw fire at him again, bowl-shaped physical barrier in front of him and Yfandes, he's practiced enough that it only takes him seconds and he watches her with the other half of his attention. 

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She's making pretty short work of them - from the way she's taking the time to counter their spells, she's not completely invulnerable, but she doesn't seem to be tiring, doing it, and that red blade is unstoppable when she brings it to bear. She has two of them down by the time Vanyel has his defenses up, and the other four - shortly three - seem entirely too distracted to be any sort of threat.

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Focus. Orient. 

Vanyel definitely doesn't want to get in her way by accident, he has no idea what that red blade is, clearly magical but the kind of magic is, again, completely unrecognizable. And it doesn't look like she's in difficulty, at least not yet. He...badly wants to talk to her, figure out why she's here and what her goal is and if they're somehow both showing up to rescue the children then maybe they can coordinate. But it seems ill-advised to distract her right this second. He'll...wait. And ask Yfandes to watch out while he does a quick dive back into the warded area with Farsight, neatly evading the spells that thoroughly block both mage-gift and Mindspeech. Interesting – it's not blocking his Fetching channel either. 

The wards have got to be powered by an artifact, the shield is too flawless and he highly doubts any of the mages here are skilled enough to cast it themselves.

...Focus. Return to his senses – what's the strange mage up to now? 

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She's down to the last one, apparently agile enough to give her any amount of trouble - until she reaches out and simply grabs him with magic to hold him still while she cuts him in half.

She doesn't pause, with her work done, but moves to plant herself between Van and her still-crouching companion and stare him down.

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Yfandes can keep an eye on the barrier, just in case they held any of their good fighters in reserve. For now, though, none of the men inside look at all inclined to move. They look gobsmacked. 

And the woman looks like she's...not afraid of him, exactly, but at least on guard. Vanyel quickly holds out his hands, palms open, hoping she'll recognize the gesture as non-aggression. 

He clears his throat. Swallows. His mouth is very dry. "Er, hello," he manages. "Do you understand me?" She doesn't look Valdemaran, but he's not sure where else she could have come from. 

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She stares at him for another second, and then shuts her eyes - there's no impression that she thinks this makes her any less dangerous - and slides gently through his shields, barely disturbing them.

What, she sends. There's a distinct sense that she's quite out of practice at arranging her thoughts communicatively.

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...Um. That's not something he was expecting. He tries very hard to stay calm. 

:Hello?: he tries to send. :I mean no harm – I wanted to ask, er, where you came from and what your aim is. I'm trying to rescue some kids who are inside those wards. Are you here for the same reason?: 

(He wants to ask what happened to her, her mind is...well, it's obvious that something wrong-and-bad happened and not too long ago. He's not a Mindhealer, to have any idea what he's seeing – the scoured-clean effect, would tapping a node too strong for her do that? But she doesn't read like a normal mage at all, her aura is completely alien, really he can't make any guesses and right now when there are maybe-still-alive but maybe-not-for-much-longer children inside the wards, isn't the time to be guessing anyway. It doesn't seem like the damage impedes her ability to fight.) 

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I'm a Sith, she sends, and there's a sense of the power and hostility that this represents, which certainly accords with her fighting style, if not with the rest of her behavior. Not here for that but let's go do it.

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:I don't know what a Sith is: Vanyel admits, :but explanation can wait. Um, I can use Farsight to scope in there and find the children but it'll take time. Can't tell if they have more mages, doubt they held their strongest fighters back but it's possible. If there are blood-mages they can kill more hostages and get power that way so we shouldn't give them time to do that. I think the wards are powered by a talisman but I don't know where it is. What powers do you have – er, can you take down the wards from out here?: 

He knows his mindvoice is frantic and it's probably very obvious that he's inexperienced and hasn't ever done this before, if that wasn't already obvious from his apparent age. It's pretty nerve-wracking to have a clearly practiced fighter like her show up from nowhere, especially with that flash of hostility with the word 'Sith', but...if she'll help him get the children then it doesn't matter, he's clearly outnumbered and unprepared here. 

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Yeah. Kids are -  she gives up on communicating per se and just shows him her sense of the area inside the ward.

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Oh. Wow. That's...both really helpful and alarming. Apparently, however her mind-Gift works, it's not blocked by the shields like his Thoughtsensing is. 

:All right: he sends. :Looks like...four more mages, but weak Gifts and they haven't 'fed' on bloodpower: Yet, they'd better move fast before that part changes. :Eight children: thank the gods, that's all the missing kids accounted for, they're all alive, :think they're not hurt, but not in great shape either, they may not be able to run. If you can take the shield down, we can both rush them at once and secure the area where the children are?: He grits his teeth. :I'd prefer nonlethal force, er, it'd be good if we could question them after: that's definitely why, it's not because killing people still makes him want to throw up, :once we're in I can probably trap them in a barrier until reinforcements get here, there's another Herald and some Guards a couple miles away but I told them to hang back at first:  

–Oh gods and he's completely forgotten to ask about or think about her companion, the...whatever it is, silver thing. Which all of her initial body language indicated she was trying to protect, first from the blood-mages and then from him. He's unsure whether this is an enormous faux pas, and whether or not it is his mind decides to generate some embarrassment. 

:Your, er, friend: he sends. :Can they fight as well– do you need to hang back and cover them? If so I can rush them alone, I ought to be able to take all of them. I'm pretty strong: Experienced, no. Smart, apparently not at all. Power he's got plenty of, though. 

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That's too much for her to keep straight, and she hisses softly in annoyance as she tries to sort it out, but after a few seconds - Reinforcement has your magic? I'll call them, shield the children; you trap whoever. 'Saber's no good for nonlethal.

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Whoops, he sure did say too much too fast, he's still terrible at coordinating with other people in a fight and he's never actually had to take the lead before. Also the part where he's halfway to panicking doesn't help. He forces a breath in and out, calm calm calm, stay calm, he's a goddamned Herald he's supposed to be able to do this. 

:Reinforcements don't have mage-gift or Mindspeech but Herald Jores' Companion does: he clarifies. It occurs to him that she's obviously foreign and maybe she doesn't actually know what a Companion is. :Er, Yfandes who I'm riding is my Companion. If you look for a mind that feels like hers...?: Deep breath. :I'm ready to go in: He doesn't feel that ready but they're on a countdown here. 

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Ten seconds. She slips back out of his shields and opens her eyes. The first thing that happens is a gentle pressure on his emotions, easy enough to throw off if he wants to but pushing him toward clearheaded calmness. As he's figuring out what to do with that, she crouches to sign to her companion, who stands, moving close to her; she closes her eyes again to send a message to the distant Companion - foreign magic-user assisting mission, going in now, come immediately - and then checks to see that Van is ready before pulling down the ward.

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Vanyel starts to shove away the push at his emotions on instinct, then forces himself to relax into it instead – she's clearly trying to help and he clearly needs it right now. There. That's...a lot better, actually. 

He leans forward in Yfandes saddle and fixes his eyes on the shield, waiting to move the instant it comes down. 

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And down it comes. The new mage is fast, more than a match for Yfandes, and carries her companion with her as she heads for where the children are being held, moving too quickly and erratically for anyone to target her.

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Vanyel will focus on the mages and un-Gifted guards instead.

It's obvious that they've been completely caught by surprise, and weren't at all expecting the barrier to come down with no warning, but three of them react in time to rush him anyway, throwing a concerted fireball attack. Without blood-magic behind it, though, it doesn't have a hope of making it through his shields. He shrugs it off easily and then, very carefully, strikes, not with his mage-gift at all but along the Mindspeech channel, with the power of a node behind it. (His mage-gift isn't that good for 'nonlethal' either; unheard-of power makes control harder rather than easier.) 

If not for the calming effect, he might not have managed, but as it is he's able to calibrate it – enough to knock them out, not enough to kill them. Ouch. His head throbs but it's bearable. 

Several of the un-Gifted bandits rush him with swords. They've got even less of a chance. He just knocks them down with unformed bolts of kinetic force – only one man makes it far enough to go under Yfandes' hooves, and he winces but manages to keep his breakfast where it belongs. It's convenient that they came at him like that and now they're nice and close together. He spares a moment to whack down the men who went after the strange mage instead – though she's moving very fast and he really doesn't think they'll catch her – and then, barrier. He does end up having to put a second barrier up around the men who went other way. He can consolidate later, if need be. Barriers are easy – it's a simple spell and it's not hard for him to overpower it to a ridiculous extent, when the node is right there.

He dismounts, only a bit shaky, and that's when he sees the dismembered bodies. Adult ones, two of them women, and...mutilated. A painful death can eke out more blood-energy, he's been told. 

Vanyel can't help it; he bends over and throws up. Gods, that's embarrassing. He stands, wiping his mouth on his sleeve, and only then thinks to look over and check at how the stranger's half of their plan is going. 

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There wasn't much in the way of obstacles between her and the row of wooden huts where the children are – some long grass, an open firepit, easy to dodge around, a row of tripwire-wards that go off but don't actually do anything to impede her, some guards near the doors who run at her but Vanyel whacks them well before they reach her and then encloses them in bubbles of magic while they're still half-stunned. 

The doors of the huts are barred shut, but on the outside. They're also protected by magical wards, but these ones aren't nearly as flawless or strong as the main one, they're the direct work of one of the mages rather than from an artifact. There are three inhabited huts, holding three and three and two kids, all tied up and gagged which seems a bit like overkill. Most of the children are some degree of malnourished; there are bruises and other minor injuries but nothing more serious. All of them are terrified. 

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She pulls down the wards as she's decelerating, and debars the first door, turning to guard it while the droid releases the children inside.

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The children's eyes widen at the sight of a short silvery metal thing moving toward them. They hold perfectly still; only one of them moves once the ropes and gag are off, a girl who's also the only one who's well-nourished. She puts herself in front of the other two. 

"What are you doing here?" she says. "Are you coming to rescue us– What are you?" 

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She answers in a polite tone but unfamiliar language and gestures at the doorway.

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Vanyel finally manages to unfreeze himself. 

:Can I help with anything?: he sends to the foreign mage. :I can, er, try to talk to them. They probably speak Valdemaran and they'll recognize my uniform: He never knows what to say to littles but he can muddle through. 

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She nods and gestures vaguely at the door behind her.

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