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May 29, 2022 4:21 AM
The Graveyard Rose meets a town that's off to a good start.
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The sword swings for her head, She gets her scythe up just in time. She is NOT a fighter. Not even a battlemage. The Maggot Lord swings again, a crushing oberhau. Her scythe meets it again, corroded thrice-cursed steel on the not-wood of the weapon’s haft. Cannons roar in the distance. Rockets burst overhead. The siege of Nuln goes poorly. As evidenced by the fact that the archmage of the amethyst order is engaged in a FIGHT. In melee. Like some musclebound idiot. 


Tamurkahn, Maggot Lord, aspirant to the throne of chaos, leader of the greatest warband of ruinous powers the empire has ever seen. Her opponent. He stands tall and grotesquely disfigured, skin marred by a terrible wasting pox, weeping sores, festering wounds. Par for the course, she supposes, when one serves the god of decay. Incidentally a very large part of the reason why she doesn’t. 


Her dragon roars behind her, a pained trumpeting sound, and she knows it’s brawl with Tamurkahn’s… mount… goes poorly. The moment of distraction costs her; the maggot lord’s blade lances out in a lightning-fast jab from Ohs, catches the gap in her armor just so beneath the arm, and ends in Fuchs. Blood wells but it’s slow to come and viscous. Inhuman and dead. The contagions in his blade try to set in her wounded flesh but the magic of her creation seems to stave it off. He pulls back to finish her and inhuman reflexes preserve her unlife. Barely. 


About her, the vast foundries of Nuln burn. Landships and steamtanks lie ruined all about like a giant’s toys cast down in a fit of pique. Daemons caper on the rooftops. This could all have been avoided. So easily. But no, humans are stupid. Humans refuse to listen to warnings when ignoring them is the easier path. 


The dragon bellows again, agony thick in her reptilian voice. And then she’s dead. 


Her beautiful incarmine dragon. Her friend and companion for centuries. More than a mere mount. The dragon’s death throws are titanic, the burst of wild magic tears asunder the winds of Sysh, and then the archmage of the amethyst order is… elsewhere…

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Elsewhere is apparently a riverbank. A noisy one, crowded with boats, soldiers in leather armor splashing to shore. Men are shouting, something brushes past her and then jumps back. There's more shouting, and stomping of feet nearby.

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Not Nuln? Well, there’s a relief  

Elspeth reaches out and feels for the winds of magic. As long as Shyish is strong here, so is she. As long as there are no powerful artifacts nearby, these people shouldn’t be a threat. 

She continues to bleed slowly, and misses her dragon.  

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The winds twist forcefully about her, and an echoing fog cast by her sudden arrival dissipates into the distance. She can feel Shyish settling into the ground, and the beings around her, but only in the immediate vicinity. The broader world is silent and still, and if she peers a bit further she notices only a few lines of power, blindingly sharp and perfectly straight. Most are far away, drifting slowly, but one terminates somewhere in the nearby crowd.

A man is shouting at her.

"Ma'am! Do you require medical attention!? Please identify yourself and your affiliation!"

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Elspeth looks- with her eyes as well this time. 

Do the winds gather about this one? Is there the sheen of a magical artifact anywhere about him? 

…her lover is dead too… that hurts as bad as the open wound in her side. Aches like the absence of her dragon… 

 

Elspeth carefully composes her features. Wherever this is, whoever these people are, she is the archmage of the Amethyst Order. They will not see her weep. 

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The man is a soldier, dressed for battle, with a large, circular shield and a bronze helmet, but otherwise equipped with layers of leather and thick cloth. The winds hardly react to him at all, and he bears no magic with him. His mind is quiet too, muted, but he fainty expresses concern and confusion and wariness in equal measures.

He waves at her as she opens her eyes, repeating his questions.

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Then he is very little threat and she can afford to look around a little more before she approaches the wearisome task of talking to someone… 

 

He is dressed for battle- unless whatever passes for a town watch here goes preposterously heavily armed. Is there a battle nearby? There is a crowd- of soldiers? Are they heading anywhere in particular? Forming a shield wall against a horde of slavering madmen pledged body and soul to the ruinous powers? 

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Something like that! A few dozen troops in similar gear, carying short swords and spears, seem to be disembarking from boats. They all appear to be human. They're lining up a hundred meters further inland, but there aren't any sounds of fighting and she can't see an enemy from here.

The one line of magic seems to be terminating in a man standing by the boats. He isn't wearing armor and only has a sword, not a spear, and is supervising the unloading of a wooden bowl large enough to fit a man inside.

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Well, that’s a relief. No rampaging Northmen in sight. And at least the place is less on fire than Nuln was. 

The man with access to the winds is the only obvious threat here… on a scale of one to four, how magically attuned does he seem? It would be wise to assess that before she attempts to peer into his mind…

Elspeth supposes that it’s probably time to respond to the soldier, but she doesn’t know what sort of explanation will make sense to- she tries not to assume, a muscle bound oaf. Instead she continues to assess the situation, because that at least does make sense to her. 

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Hardly on fire at all! But still a little bit on fire. There's a cloudy but thin plume emerging from past the line of soldiers, as though someone is trying to burn something damp.

Strangely, despite the searing line of magic intersecting the man, the winds seem to refuse to get near him. Or perhaps are blocked? On closer examination there is a gap in the winds where he stands, and they will not approach within about a meter of him. Within that space sits a cluster of pointalist fragments of power, arranged in tiny structures. They are all extremely weak, with even the strongest, the terminus of the distant line, barely what she might consider a 1 on a scale of wizards.

The soldier addressing Elspeth asks if she can understand him.

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“Yes,” she replies, and tries to read the wizard’s mind. “Where am I?” 

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The magical prism surrounding the wizard seems to be some sort of defense. It isn't hard for her to breach, requiring only a little finesse to do so without shattering it outright. Even within it, his thoughts are muted, but she can tell that he is preparing his spells, charting out plans to use flying magic (involving the bowl?) to watch the enemy (small monsters, goblins?) from above. He has shields, but he doesn't expect to be able to keep them active for long, he hopes they don't have anything bigger than arrows. He'll wait to enchant the communicators until the last minute, also to save power. His commanding officer is confirming the plan, but he remembers it fine. He seems to manipulate his spells as tiny clusters of magic in points and lines, and Elspeth can tell the arrangement is meaningful, but he isn't dwelling on the details.

The soldier in front of her speaks.

"This is Oikon, by spoke 6-Boar, just upstream of the Brackish Sea? There's going to be fighting soon, there are goblins here. May I ask your destination, Lady Mage?"

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“Not here. There was an accident” don’t dwell on the dying shriek of her dragon… “Fighting against whom? Have you ever heard of the Empire? Of Nuln? Or Sigmar Heldenhammer?” The name burns her a little but she’s said it enough she barely notices. 

The wound in her side still hasn’t closed. She hasn’t fed in far too long. Her lover always found it so distasteful. She can feel the soldier’s heartbeat, this near. Can feel the blood rushing in his veins. But she has centuries of practice ignoring those urges. 

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"I've heard of an Empire, but I don't know a Nuln or Sigmar. We're fighting the goblins. They come from Imperial territory but we don't know who sends them."

He smells human, too. Healthy.

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Well that’s distracting. 

“The Empire I hail from is composed *almost* entirely of humans with a few halflings and other assorted species thrown in. We war almost constantly with orcs and goblins. If goblins come from imperial territory, then it is not my empire, and if you have not heard of Nuln then I am no longer in the known world. How imminent is this battle?” 

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"Not long. We burned their boat, they'll have to make a charge for ours if they want off this block. They aren't good swimmers. I know there's plenty of humans under the Empire, here, but I'm not sure there's many in it, if you catch my meaning. I hear it's titans and giants who rule, there."

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“In that case, I have no particular compunctions about doing large amounts of violence on your behalf. I would of course wish to verify that your side is the just one. Some things which look monstrous do not act it, and vice versa. Are they likely to attack on sight if I attempt to speak with them, and broker a ceasefire? Do they speak Riekspiel- or whatever you call what we are presently speaking?” 

Dangle a carrot before asking about parleying with his enemies… the countess had said humans react well to the former and poorly to the latter  perhaps this way she can confirm his words without upsetting him.

She will of course continue to monitor his thoughts for falsehood. 

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"Proboscidean, here. We're close enough to the Empire for that, and the goblins speak it too. If you go over alone they might set an ambush, or send one out to distract you before stabbing you in the back. They might try to convince you to kill us, but they'll say anything, so they aren't very convincing. Promise you your weight in gold, things like that. Or they might leave if you paid them to and moved them somewhere, but they'd raid wherever you put them in a day or two."

The man is honest. He's thinking of attempts at negotiating with them, and the wide variety of interesting failures.

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That seems fairly conclusive. 

“Very well,” Elspeth agrees and is largely satisfied. “In that case, is there anything you haven’t told me, which you believe would significantly affect my willingness to assist you?” 

Whether he answers truthfully or not is irrelevant. The fact that she asked should mean he will think of anything she would be interested in. 

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She's with the Empire and hopes they'll lose a few soldiers in the fight? No, that doesn't answer her question. If she's working with the goblins, should he prevent her from just walking over to them? Sets a bad precedent. He'll make sure to tell the mage to be ready to retreat.

"I don't know who you prefer to fight for, ma'am. I don't think the other cities would prefer us dead or our wheat trampled. The goblins seem to prefer it, but I think they mostly want to take things, and wouldn't send warriors if we gave them what they want."

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“In that case, I am happy to lend my services such as they are. If your tier one wizard over there is anything gauge of your overall combat abilities, I will be significant assistance. If there is time, I would appreciate the opportunity to coordinate with him. If not, tell me which way to go and I will help as I can.” 

Elspeth wonders briefly if they would object to her resurrecting their fallen as weights. That’s less likely to get dispelled than a purple sun of Xereus, especially if any enemy wizards are saving their dispels for a potential purple sun… 

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"There should be a moment, I'll call the captain and the mage."

He shouts and gestures for them to approach. The two jog up. Both look confused, and the captain asks the soldier to introduce the arrival.

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“I apologize, other points of conversation took priority.” To give them her surname, or not… if they haven’t heard of Nuln, then they’re unlikely to make the connection- not that most people IN Nuln made the connection either. “My name is Elspeth Von Drakken. I am the Archmage of the Amethyst Order of Nuln. I am a wizard of the fourth tier, and a loremaster, and I am willing to lend my assistance such as it is. I am injured and weakened, and the winds blow weakly here, but that should still be a significant amount of assistance.” To tip her hand, or not to… ah fuck it. “If worst should come to worst, I am stronger, faster, and more durable than a human.” 

How’s that for diplomacy? Countess Emmanuel would have been proud… that sends another pang of loss through her but Elspeth hastily suppresses it. Battlefields are not good places to be distracted by grief. 

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The captain bows. "We appreciate the offer of aid, Archmage Elspeth Von Drakken, though we have no context for these titles. These are not the most dangerous of combatants, but their blades are sharp, and every hand reduces the number that can escape to attack another farm." The mage steps forward to ask a question. "Is 'wizard' your species? Or are you rited? I can't see it, is it disguised?"

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“I do not know the term ‘rited,’ but I have significant power, if that is your question. No, wizard is not my species. What is your school of magic? Wind?” 

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"School? I was trained by the Lord Archivist. There aren't any schools of magecraft close enough for a student to attend. The archivists sometimes visit the elves to exchange techniques. By rited I mean this," he holds his hand out, and she can sense magic flow into a tiny grid of points. Examining them closely, they do seem to have a "color", not unlike the colors of the winds of magic, but the colors are hard to distinguish, and none clearly correspond to the eight winds. "-my signature. Magename? Or do you have natural magic? It feels like natural magic, I don't sense any nodes on you."

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