V S [Crawl #0004] Insanely Rich

Sigmund Vrell

The First High Priest of Neo New Babylon
Level 2
Essence
€3,144
Coin
₡11,500
Tokens
0
Sigmund’s pulse raced as he rushed through the chaos, the crystal set into his to,e glowing vibrantly with each bolt of eldritch energy that he cast towards a rock raider. Unfortunately, the rift blasts weren't quite powerful enough to breach their mining armour. Thankfully, however, before any miners could turn their attention to the cultist, Ahana’s mad dash through their ranks left them scattered and distracted long enough for Sigmund to slip away.

The cultist weaved his way through the streets, lifting his collar to his face in an attempt to filter out a little of the noxious gas filling the air. There was a surprising absence of villagers as Sigmund drew away from the centre of the conflict. The priest had expected more tribespeople to be scattered around in confusion. As he darted between the partially wrecked huts, however, a large, crystal-bound fist shot from a nearby alleyway and yanked him aside.

“Get some sense into you, off-worlder.” Sapphira said gruffly. The chief had many of the less combat-capable villagers with her, with a handful of soldiers standing sentinel around the group. “Running around like that will just get you killed.”

“Er, yes, you are correct.” Sigmund said, turning red a little. “I was looking to save any villagers who were in danger, but it looks like you had it under control.”

“This is my tribe. I did not get this position through weakness.” Sapphira said derisively. “Now, priest, you will come with us to safety. We will come collect you when it's safe.”

“Huh? No! I’m going to fight too!” Sigmund said indignantly. “How can you defeat that… Beast alone?” The cultist shuddered at the thought of the colossal thing that tore its way through the earth with the colossal spiral at its front.

“We will find a way.” The chief said, crossing her arms impatiently. She pushed the cultist towards the group, and the soldiers began to shepard them out of the village. Sapphira and a handful of other soldiers didn't follow, instead heading towards the conflict. Sigmund grumbled impotently as he was herded out of the village with the rest of the non-warriors. It was his divine duty to fight in this battle, and no chieftain’s order would tell him otherwise. The priest did his best to fall into line at first, before gradually slowing his pace until he was at the back of the party.

“Hurry it up!” A soldier ordered. The cultist began to protest before he realised that the soldier was speaking to a tribesman who seemed to have the same thought as Sigmund.

“No! My family is out there, I'm going back for them!” He shouted hysterically, trying to shove his way past the guard. In the confusion, Sigmund simply slipped away. The cultist rushed through the burning village back to the centre of the fighting, desperate to rejoin his comrades. He couldn't help but despair at how little he did to the miners, but as he got closer, an idea sprang up in his mind. Glancing around, Sigmund ducked into the ruins of a nearby building that he was sure he wouldn't be interrupted in. The priest took the pouch off of his belt and poured his small collection of breath crystals onto the ground, telekinetically arranging the eight gems evenly into a circle.

“Great God Gal’skap, lend me your strength.” Sigmund began to chant, his tome flipping open on its own and flicking to the page of summing. “Grant me a mote of your power so I may rend apart reality, and call forth a blessed creature from beyond so I may crush our foes.” The crystals began to glow in response to the ritual, their humming beginning to rise in pitch.

“Sacred harvester from beyond, hear my call! Descend upon the material plane so we may visit devastation upon the faithless. Come forth and strip their souls from their mortal forms, blessed thresher!” The cultist cried, slamming his book closed. The crystals began shine radiantly as their ringing reached a fever pitch, and the space above the crystal circle began to bend.

The air before Sigmund distorted, then twisted and broke. Reality was forced aside as a blue-green rift opened in mid-air, bulging open in defiance of common sense. The rift grew taller and wider in bursts before it a ragged, eight feet tall circle. The rift then bulged towards Sigmund as something pushed through. It came teeth first, of course, piercing reality with its cruel, grinding jaws. Then followed the thresher’s bulbous, grey-green body, forging onwards on countless mismatched limbs. Once it had fully emerged, the beast released a gurgling cry as the portal closed behind it, confused and maddened by its sudden possession of a physical form. The abomination began to grind its teeth as Sigmund raised a hand and uttered a single harsh syllable.

“Calm!” He approximately ordered in the raspy, gurgling tongue of elderspeak. The thresher recoiled at the language of its masters, but complied to its summoners demand. The cultist linked kinds with the creature, sending images of the tribespeople, Victor and Ahana, along with the order to spare them. The beast seemed reluctant and slightly confused, but a dull affirmative traveled across the psychic link. The priest then sent an image of the rock raiders across, and then spoke one more vile word. “Foe.”

Sigmund could have sworn the thresher grinned at the order, but simply pushed the thought aside. The cultist turned to continue towards the action, his summon clumsily loping after him.

The demolitions leader sighed to himself as he watched his comrade get overpowered by the blonde and the bunnygirl, all from the safety of a ruined building.

“I always knew that bloody idiot would get himself killed.” He muttered, motioning for his underlings to follow him. He briefly considered just tossing a demolition charge at the group and being done with it, but decided to at least try to save his ally. The squad rushed from the building towards their ally’s rescue, bringing their weapons to bare.

“Let him g-!” The leader exclaimed, aiming his weapon at Victor’s head for a split second before something wrapped itself around his waist and yanked him off his feet. The expressions of all nearby turned to one of horror as they turned to see what was happening. The demolitions leader was inexorably dragged towards the waiting maw of some horrific nightmare creature, a madly grinning cultist standing next to it, waving.

“Hi Victor! Hi Ahana!” Sigmund said cheerfully over the leader’s terrified screams. With a growling noise, the thresher’s teeth began to grind as the leader was yanked closer and forced inside, sending his screams into a crescendo. The air was filled with the sickening sounds of crunching armour, tearing flesh and grinding teeth. The thresher growled eagerly as the leader’s lower half was reduced to minced meat and he began to fall out of its maw. Acting quickly, Sigmund shit forward and grabbed the weakly protesting man’s upper torso, forcing him into the abomination’s waiting mouth. He gave one last desperate cry before the thresher swallowed him up and it's teeth began to slow, the beast already scanning for its next victim.

“I got us a new friend to help out!”

1211 words
1211/2200 Crawl words
1604/5000 WC words (unchanged)
 

Ahana Varma

The First General of Neo New Babylon
Staff member
Level 4
Essence
€7,057
Coin
₡8,000
Tokens
75
“Woah. That is one hell of a friend.” Ahana commented, staring wide-eyed at the abomination before her and completely forgetting all about the man Victor had been torturing.

“It certainly is.” the assassin agreed, though he remained more composed.

The three miners who had been accompanying the demolitions raider simply screamed and fled, being in no mood to fight after having seen first hand that their armour was no match for the whirling, gnashing teeth of the high priest’s eldritch monstrosity, and that its rope-like tongue had at least as great a range as their plasma lathes. It was clear that they wanted to put as much distance between it and themselves as humanly possible.

“Where did it come from, Siggy?” the blond man asked, ignoring their fleeing foes.

Sigmund's smile grew wider, “Breach crystals.”

Victor whistled, and Ahana once again said, “Woah.”

“I guess that explains why you wanted those so bad then, huh.” she continued, “This thing is awesome.”

“Glad you think so.” the blue-eyed man replied cheerily, as he practically skipped over to them, his monster contentedly lumbering after him like a huge and grossly, horrifically mutated puppy. Judging its height compared to Sigmund, it must have been around six feet tall, and even longer from end to end. Even without its nightmarish maw, it looked like it could surely crush a person to death simply by falling over on top of them.

“Oh, by the way,” the young priest added as an afterthought, “your captive is escaping.”

The bunnygirl and the assassin turned as one. Near fully healed already, Victor’s victim was indeed fleeing. He hadn’t even taken the time to get to his feet; the man was just crawling away as fast as all four limbs could carry him, sobbing and whimpering all the while. The healer found it rather entertaining, actually, but she saw an opportunity to show off her own increase in power to the blue-eyed man, “Vic, catch him!”

Before the red-eyed killer could do any such thing, though, that demon-tongue lashed out between them and coiled about the Raider's ribs. He let out a loud, piteous wail as he was yanked off the ground. He flew backwards, passing between the beast’s master’s allies like a rocket. They both hastily side-stepped to avoid being struck, though Victor managed it with considerably more grace than Ahana, who tripped over and landed on her butt.

This miner, in theory, ought to have been more fortunate than his companion, as the creature jammed him into its mouth head-first, rather than starting with his feet, so he should have been dead far, far faster.

Unfortunately for him, Ahana had given him permission to live, so that the assassin could have his fun playing with the poor fool, and Sigmund’s summon was now close enough to them that it and its meal were within range of her aura. The immense damage which the beast’s plethora of fangs were dealing to the demolitions trooper with each passing second was being healed almost as soon as it was inflicted. Even when the great teeth succeeded in shattering bone, breaking through the miner’s skull and mincing his brain, he still did not die, his entire upper body enveloped in a shroud of golden flame.

“Ah. You may need to back up a bit, Ahana, just until the thresher can finish eating this guy.” Sigmund said upon noticing this.

“So it’s called a ‘thresher’ then? Neat name, very apt.” she replied, grinning as she strode closer instead, “You haven’t yet seen how Gal’skap has blessed me, though. He may not have given me a new pet, but I haven’t been neglected. Just watch this.”

The bunnygirl threw an arm across the beastmaster’s shoulders and turned to face his pet and its meal, thinking about cursing the miner, depriving him of his access to her glorious, divine aura, and said softly, “You have my permission to die.”

Instantly, the flames cut out, and a fraction of a second later, the group leader’s writhing body stilled as he was at last allowed to shuffle off this mortal coil. It briefly occurred to Ahana that though she thought of it as a curse, in this instance her ‘victim’ might actually have been pleased to be allowed to die. Healing constantly while being trapped in that monster’s maw might actually have been awful enough that it’d make him grateful to be allowed to pass on.

“Well, what do you think?” the healer asked, removing her arm and turning to face the young priest, “That’s gonna come in handy, huh?”

His expression didn’t change—he still smiled brightly—but rather than responding immediately, the young man pointedly looked down at her chest for a moment, before returning his gaze to her eyes. Ahana cringed. As surprised as she’d been to see the thresher, the bunnygirl had completely forgotten about her own state of dress. Sigmund might not have noticed when he’d been standing at a distance, but this close to her there was no way the priest could fail to pick up on how badly torn up her vest was, and how little it now covered.

As much as he might disapprove of her, Ahana doubted Sigmund would actually set her on fire again; she was pretty sure that that had been mostly for show; to prove to the villagers that the high priest wasn’t above punishing one of his own comrades, should they commit a sin… though she didn’t doubt that he’d enjoyed it either; torturing sinners was probably his hobby. Still, at the very least, she was sure that she was about to get a long and tedious lecture on the importance of modesty and decency.

To her very great surprise, however, the blue-eyed man instead turned away from her, to watch his abomination messily finishing up its meal; the miner’s legs had slipped from its mouth, so it was now leaning down to the ground in an attempt at gobbling them up, in the process spraying blood and little gobbets of flesh everywhere, “Yes, I’m sure it’ll be very useful.”

Stifling a sigh of relief, Ahana relaxed. It seemed that, since her exposure was for the most part due to their enemies’ attempts at shooting her in the heart, rather than to her own choices, Sigmund might actually be willing to overlook it this once. That, or he was just putting off the lecture until a more appropriate point in time... such as after the battle was over. Either of those was fine with the healer, though; a future-lecture was a problem for future-Ahana, after all, and therefore not something that present-Ahana need concern herself with.

Coming to stand beside them, Victor was the next to speak, “So, what happened with the tribe, then? None of them came here with you, so does that mean they were all content to just hide while we saved the day?”

It was clear that the assassin was hoping this was the case, and even the bunnygirl could guess why; the Rock Raiders, despite their small numbers, were very clearly a force powerful enough to wipe out the entire tribe of natives with ease, and if the savages themselves had realised this, then it would only make the Mad God’s trio look even more impressive when they wiped them out.

“Ah, not exactly.” Sigmund explained, a little sheepishly, “Their warriors headed back to the village, but they insisted that as I was ‘just’ a priest, I had to stay with the non-combatants. I needed to slip away from the group to make my way over here.”

“Ah. Damn, that's bad.” Victor said, scowling.

“Is it?” the healer asked, “Why? Surely it’ll be easier for us to take over if the chief and all her strongest supporters get themselves killed?”

The red-eyed man shook his head at that, “No. We’re not trying to rule through force, Ahana, we want to win them over, not subdue them. The more lives we can save, the better we look. If we allow all their best and bravest to get slaughtered, though, we’ll seem incompetent, even if we do manage to drive off the Rock Raiders afterwards. We have to go and find that group, now.”

The other two nodded at that, and the trio set off at a trot, with the thresher stomping along clumsily behind them.

***

They’d had to skirt around a tremendously large bluish-greyish-green cloud of smoke as they made their way around what was left of the village, in search of the warriors. They hadn’t done so because of the poisonous fumes, of course, for the bunnygirl's aura negated the threat those posed, but rather for a few other reasons: the first being that there would be reduced visibility within it; the second being that they could hear the mecha stomping around smashing things somewhere over that way; and the third being that unlike the miners and their machine, the savages had no protection from the toxic smoke which so many of these mushrooms seemed to exude, so any that they found inside the cloud would surely already be dead.

They also had to stop for a minute or so at one point, to let Sigmund meditate, after the thresher suddenly vanished back to whatever eldritch realm it had originated from. The high priest explained to them that he could only summon a thresher for ten minutes at a time, and that afterwards he would need to perform this meditation ritual of his in order to be ready to summon it again when the need arose. They all imagined that having that thing fighting by their side would be most helpful, so Victor and Ahana were both willing to give him the time he needed.

And eventually, as they were entering into an abandoned street lined with broken buildings, they caught sight of a glimmer of reflected light from between two such ruins, as someone moved. Someone wearing a copious amount of jewellery. Approaching the less-than-stealthy figure, they saw that it was a man, and at the very least he had been smart enough not to wear any jewellery that featured crystals which actually glowed, whilst attempting to sneak around, so perhaps he wasn't utterly incompetent.

The man froze when he saw them, and Ahana stared at him for a moment, brow furrowing. She had a strange feeling that she’d seen him before, and recently, but couldn’t remember where.

“You.” said Sigmund, “You were one of those who apprehended that woman in the church, weren’t you?”

Now that he said it, the bunnygirl remembered the guy. He hadn’t been the one who’d spoken, he’d just been holding the young lady in place as the other one searched what little clothing she wore for the evidence which Victor had planted there.

“Yes, uh… sir. My name is Rubius, I’m a member of the village guard.” Ahana raised an eyebrow slightly when he introduced himself, though no one seemed to notice. She had been thinking that only the women of the tribe must get given gemstone-related names, since Nisse—who, up to this point, had been the only male tribe member whose name she had gotten—clearly wasn’t named for a crystal. Now, however, she wondered if perhaps such names were equally common for savages of either gender, and if there might not be some other reason why her boy-toy was different. She’d need to ask him more about that after this was all over. Assuming he hadn’t gotten himself killed already.

“You’re a guard, huh?” their assassin asked, a menacing edge to his voice, “Then you should surely be with your chieftain’s group, right? And yet instead we find you skulking about in the shadows… you wouldn’t have deserted, would you? Run off and left them to die?”

To his credit, the primitive warrior glared back at Victor without fear. The only weapon he held was a crude short sword made from some sort of translucent, pale blue crystal, but he didn’t seem at all intimidated by the three outsiders. He certainly didn’t come across as being cowardly.

“Of course not.” Rubius snarled, “I’m one of a few sentries stationed around this part of the village, keeping watch for those invaders while that dumb bitch tries to come up with another colossal fuckup of a plan.”

All three of them blinked in mild astonishment at that statement. Ahana was the first to voice the question which she was sure they were all thinking, “‘That bitch’?”

The bejewelled warrior glanced over at her, not seeming to even notice—or perhaps just not to care—about the state of her outfit, “The chief… though I doubt she’ll be such for much longer. I assume you three must’ve noticed the huge, fucking cloud of fumes on your way over? That was her doing. The moment she figured we couldn’t beat them, she tossed that damned flask at the invaders, and poisoned the entire village as a result.”

“What flask?” demanded Victor, “What are you going on about?”

The warrior sighed, and shook his head, “Come stand over here. They’ll spot you before long if you just hang around in the street like that, and this is gonna take some explaining.”

They did as he instructed, and it turned out that he was correct; it did indeed take a while to explain.

As it transpired, several generations ago there had been those in the tribe who practised what Rubius called ‘black alchemy’, until the practice had been outlawed on pain of death, for being so barbaric that the tribe had agreed almost unanimously that it would be better to be killed themselves than to ever use such an evil substance on another living thing. This law had been named the ‘Gem-Evil Protocol’, though mushroom-evil might’ve made more sense, as usually the only gems involved were the crystalline flasks in which the alchemical concoctions were stored. The tribe just really liked naming things after precious stones, it seemed.

Despite this, however, it now appeared that the chief at the time had not only kept their own records of the horrific poisons, but had passed that knowledge down through their family, and the current chief had actually gone so far as to manufacture some and store it in secret. Not only that, but the particular mixture she had made was the most feared potion of all; it was known as the ‘Weaponised Mushroom Disaster’, or ‘WMD’ for short. For all that Sapphira had done, though—and she must surely have know that, win or lose, her people would be unlikely to be pleased with her afterwards—she was not at all prepared for what happened to their attackers when she lobbed the flask into their midst.

They had found a group of four miners, back when their own group numbered over twenty times that amount, and had charged down the street towards them, figuring that a few of them might fall on the approach, but then they would tear their foes apart. By the time they’d made it halfway towards the quartet, and had lost almost a third of their number, it had become blatantly apparent to them all that there was no way they could win against the invaders. Even if they could defeat this small group, their losses by that point would be tremendous; they would have no chance at all of overcoming the rest. And it was then that Sapphira had thrown the WMD. It landed right in front of the four Raiders, clouds of smokey gas billowing out the moment the thin, crystal container shattered. And then… nothing happened.

The three nodded at that point in the story, all of them having guessed that this would be the big reveal. Ahana had worked with miners before, and even Victor and Sigmund had learned some things about their trade whilst they'd been staying in that settlement above ground. They were all aware that rebreather technology existed, and was widely used by the more successful companies, to keep their workers from dying off in the event that they ran into pockets of gas deep underground. As the Rock Raiders were the very biggest of the mining operations on Inverxe, it was no surprise to the trio that even their most disposable grunts would be outfitted with such equipment.

The tribe, of course, had had very little involvement with the outside world in gods-only-knew how long, so were not at all prepared for that revelation. And now, having lost many of their best warriors and poisoned much of their own village for absolutely no gain—unless providing a smokescreen to allow the remainder of their group to flee before the miners could gun them down could be considered a gain—they were utterly disheartened.

“Alright, we understand now.” Victor said when at last the tragic tale had come to a close, after the man was done telling them about how their brave and mighty warriors had all fled to this already-demolished part of the village to hide while the chieftain desperately tried to come up with some sort of solution to what was seemingly an impossible task. It was readily apparent to the three of them that, as they had suspected all along, their aid would prove to be essential in overcoming the Rock Raiders' attacking force, “Take us to the others. We'll speak to the chief, and then we'll save what's left of your tribe.”

***

Rubius had given them directions, but hadn’t wanted to leave his post, so they’d gone on without him, and they now approached the mob with Sigmund in the lead, and the other two flanking him, walking about a pace behind.

A few people spotted them as soon as they entered the narrow street, but more began to notice as they closed in… especially when the Divine Conflagration made itself known. Many of the survivors had been left injured by the powerful mining lathes, and it was hard for them to miss when golden flames sprung forth from their injuries and began rebuilding their damaged flesh.

“What are you doing here, priest?” Sapphira demanded, shouldering her way through the crowd, “I thought I told you to stay with the non-fighters.”

“You did.” Sigmund agreed, smiling sadly, “Then you ran off to get yourself killed. I don’t mean to offend, chieftain, but you and your people are no match for these miners. You need us. If you insist on helping out, we can allow you to tag along; with Ahana’s blessed aura, we can keep you all alive so long as you remain near her. However, it would probably be easier for her to fight if she didn’t have to worry about keeping you all safe. It would likely be for the best if you would just take your remaining warriors and go, leaving us to handle this alone.”

We should leave?” the chief snorted, her tone a mix of incredulity and anger, “This is our home, priest. It is for us to defend, not you. We don’t need the help of outsiders.”

There was a soft muttering from the crowd behind her at these words. After what Rubius had told the trio they had endured, it was no surprise that some of them weren’t in the mood for their leader’s stubbornness. It didn't look like any of them were about to openly object, though, and their leader simply ignored the whispers at her back. If the Mad God's followers wanted to help, they would need to convince her by themselves, it-

“No!” someone yelled, and another woman burst from the crowd. Ahana was surprised to see that it was none other than Amethyst. The muscular woman had only been a farmer, before Sigmund had promoted her to ‘priest’, but judging by the sword she now wore, hanging from a string of jewels looped about her waist, the chief had considered her strong enough to be allowed to join this band of warriors and fight in the tribe’s time of need.

The farmer-priestess-warrior stumbled forwards, then fell to her knees a little way away from the blue-eyed man, her face downturned as she stared at the ground, “High priest, I know I don’t have the right to ask anything of you after what I said before… the way I acted was unforgivable. I was shocked, but I should have known you would never intentionally lead monsters such as these people to us. My lack of faith proves that… that Opal was right before. I don’t deserve the mark you gave me. If you want to remove it from me after this is all over, I won’t object, even if doing so means having to peel the skin from my back... but please, I beg you, save our tribe.”

Several from the crowd called out in agreement, but Sapphira growled in annoyance and stepped forwards, a hand reaching out as if to pull Amethyst back, or shove her aside.

“Don't!” Victor barked, and the chief froze.

She turned and glared at him, and while those two had a little staring contest, Sigmund moved to stand before the kneeling lady, and laid a comforting hand on her shoulder, “Sister Amy, you needn’t beg. I don’t blame you, and that woman was not correct about you. You may have erred in your judgement this once, but you are only human, after all, and initiated into our cult just earlier today. I can't expect you to always make the correct decisions; all I ask is that you continue to do your best. And I’m confident that you’ll make a fine priest. Now please, stand.”

She did as he bid her, and Ahana was surprised to see that Amethyst actually had tears running down her cheeks. At that moment, the bunnygirl suddenly found herself more than a little jealous of Sigmund’s way with people. She’d be willing to bet that the high priest could easily get that woman to sleep with him if he tried—vows of no-sex-outside-of-marriage be damned—while all she’d managed was to get her throat slit when she’d suggested it.

“Now, we’re going off to slay those invaders. Would you like to come along with us?” the high priest spoke softly, as if his words were meant for Amethyst alone, and he met her gaze as he did, but the entire crowd heard what he'd said, for they were all deathly silent, every single savage’s attention locked on the young, blue-eyed man before them.

“Yes.” the priestess agreed, her voice scarcely any louder than Sigmund’s. Immediately thereafter, almost the entire crowd roared in the affirmative, apparently no longer caring whether their foes heard them or not. Sapphira and a few others scowled, but no one objected further.

Victor smiled, and Ahana smirked. Their priest had done it after all, and they now had an entire mob in place to witness the crushing defeat of the Rock Raiders at the trio’s hands. After this battle, there would be no one in the tribe who could deny the power of Gal’skap, and so their fledgling cult would inevitably grow.


Post Word Count: 3,856
Crawl #0004 Quest #3 Post Count: 2/3
Crawl #0004 Quest #3 Word Count: 6,449/2,200 (2,593 + 3,856)

Note 1: Aaron said that we had on our side “about a hundred malnourished cave pygmies with sharp sticks and slings”, which I’m choosing to interpret as there being around 100 fighters amongst them, rather than 100 people in total. Because 100 is a rather small number, even for just a village.
I’ve also chosen to completely ignore the parts about them being malnourished, pygmies and armed with sticks, since Victor, Sigmund & I have previously said things which directly contradict these parts of the statement, so I assume Aaron wasn’t actually being serious when he wrote them. As for the slings, I haven’t mentioned them having any, but if Victor or Sigmund would like to add those, that's up to them.

Note 2: In case the name “Gem-Evil Protocol” wasn’t an obvious enough reference, here’s a link to click on: [LINK]
 

Victor Wolfe

Staff member
Level 2
Essence
€4,076
Coin
₡13,500
Tokens
20
The bemused assassin grinned. The zealot had indeed done it, the people fed on his every word, willing to fight, and even risk death for his cause. Yet the diplomat knew that this was only the beginning of the little project he called project prophet. Siggy, much like his father was a more competent speaker than they realised, they just didn't have a pure confidence, or aggressive nature required to actively proselytise and expand to new platforms. He chuckled at the idea that had Erik been made a lord he likely would have simply created a worship room in the basement of whatever base he ended up with and worship his elder gods in private.

Victor had no such qualms, he was done serving masters, constantly dedicating his life to building the legacy of lesser men. Now, his ambitions were achievable. Certainly, there would be cooperation, for his goals could not be achieved alone. But no longer would he serve, by pushing his allies to be their fullest his dreams of grandeur seemed in reach, Victor would find and give Sigmund the platforms he truly needed to shine, and if a few people had to die for it? That was more than acceptable, they would be added to the extensive list of names that the Neo-Nippurian Empire would be built upon the ashes off.

Ahana had also shown some interesting qualities, the enigma of where the dark-skinned rabbit-eared girl would fit into Victor's perfect society had puzzled him for longer than he would have liked, after all, he did have a fondness for her. But she was also violent, aggressive, and more than a little stupid to the finer rules of social elitism. But she could fight, now who did that remind him off?

"SASUKE!" The assassin yelled, snapping out of his plotting, drawing the attention of his comrades. He chuckled a little before waving them off, pacing backwards and forwards he began to mumble to himself. " Yes... She would make a fine head of the military, too lazy to spend all day on the battlefield, so we can discuss tactics, ruthless, she heals our allies keeping them alive and morale high, and combined with potential war crimes and making it hard to kill our guys breaks the enemy faster. She might... Nah, she doesn't want total control because too much responsibility so no "I am the best of all these people who do more to keep our society running" superiority to worry about. And I feel like she has been doing stuff for the collective for more than three consecutive events in a row without disappearing. Well, that settles it, better Sasuke it is." He clapped his hands together with a grin, the feeling of solving one of life's great mysteries off his chest.

It was only then that he noticed another mumbling, this time from the ground at his feet, next to the mess of human leather and cadavers he had left behind, one of the demo crews communicators seemed to still be functioning. An idea sprung to mind, and he turned to the tribesmen and his allies with a wicked toothy grin "Get ready to ambush some invaders comrades!" he said with glee as he leaned down next to the corpse, pressing the activation button, all he needed was one fish to bite, and they would all be lead into the net.

"Come in Bang 5! Are you still alive! Come in!" the static-filled voice yelled out, eager to check on his comrade. Pressing the button on the device the assassin tweaked his accent to sound more, common.

"Sup boys, I'm havin a good time here," he said in a mischievous tone.

"Oh, Really dude? Because the explosions seemed to have stopped, killing some natives the slow way?" the smug bro-douche voice questioned back, causing Victor to double down on his act, his voice going deeper than usual as he looked straight at Ahana who didn't seem to get the memo on what an ambush should be, instead standing in the middle of the square with very little to hide her modesty. Nisse doing his best to hide, only given away by his red face and head peeping to the centre of the square every once in a while.

"Nah boy, I got sumthin even better, you know that colony lookin number those cult fu...tards had with them?" Ahana seemed to finally notice that she was indeed the subject of conversation.

"The crazy one with the glowy shit?" The voice on the other end seemed intrigued.

"The very same, ya see, her rags got shredded by our boys and she has massive badonkers, real dobonhonkeros if you know what I'm sayin, I bet if you came to the square you could get a real good view of them!" He giggled as he watched Nisses face turn from lust to rage as the assassin so confidently stared at his lover whilst describing her body to strangers.

"Really? A nice set of dohoonkabhankoloos? I gotta see this!" All of a sudden another voice joined the conversation, clearly the leader of the raiders that they had met before.

"You idiot! This is so clearly a trap!" He chastised his comrade.

"But boss! What if we get to see or touch a really good set of tonhongerekoogers! I am going!"A beep sounded out implying that someone had left the call, followed by the sound of someone's hand slamming off a metal dashboard.

"Damn it! After them boys, before they pick us off one group at a time! To the square!" Victor stood up and gave a bow "And like that, we have a final act!" He said with his usual cocky grin.

Crawl #0004 Quest #3 Post #2 Word Count: 2114/2,200
 

Sigmund Vrell

The First High Priest of Neo New Babylon
Level 2
Essence
€3,144
Coin
₡11,500
Tokens
0
Sigmund watched idly as Victor spoke into the communicator, impersonating the devoured miner. The cultist stroked his chin as thoughts rushed through his head. Sapphira was quickly proving to be a weak and unpopular leader. Sigmund doubted her reign would be healthy in the long term. Perhaps getting her out of the picture could be beneficial. The cultist glanced over to Ahana, suddenly remembering her lack of modesty. While it was true that her clothes getting ripped was an accident this time, she could still expect a lecture after all this was over. Turning back to the present, Sigmund noticed Victor giving the pair a toothy grin.

“Time for the final act.” The assassin said.

“Excellent.” Sigmund replied, cheerily opening his book and beginning to flick through it before pausing. “Ah, one problem.”

“What's wrong?” Ahana asked with vague curiosity.

“Well, I know it's hard to believe, but not everyone finds the sight of a divine beast very reassuring. Rather, I've been told that many find them unsettling, or even horrifying.” The cultist said, obviously rather upset about the prospect of someone disliking his summons.

“I wonder why.” Victor said dryly.

“So, while I'd like to summon another thresher, I'm afraid we’ll have to go without.” Sigmund said, trying his best to give his allies a reassuring look. Victor, however, paused a moment to think.

“Maybe we won't.” He said, a grin spreading across his face. “Can you summon it stealthily?”

“I can certainly try.” The cultist grinned back. Ahana was grinning too, although Sigmund wasn't sure if she understood the plan or if she was simply going along with it.

“They're going to be grouping up at the square, so I want you to summon it in a nearby building. If anyone asks, we’ll write it off as a creature from the tunnels, or some sort of hallucination from the gas, at least until we adjust these people to this sort of thing.” The mastermind assassin instructed.

“Excellent thinking, Vic.” Sigmund beamed, eagerly turning to get summoning. “I'll be back soon!”

Sneaking through the alleyways, the priest made his way to the biggest building he could see. The cultist paused a moment, hiding in the shadow of a building as a small squad of miners strode past, talking amongst themselves. Sigmund felt a tickling at his throat, which quickly grew to a stinging and then a burning. The cultist raised a sleeve to his mouth, holding back the violent coughing that was demanding to escape. In his haste, Sigmund had forgotten about the gas filling the air and was struggling not to accidentally give himself away to the enemy. He had to get this job done fast and rush back to Ahana.

Once the miners were out of earshot, Sigmund sprinted to the big building, covering his mouth and nose in a desperate attempt to filter the gas out somewhat. Once he reached it, the priest rushed in through the back entrance. The gas was a little thinner in the building, allowing the priest to breath with only some difficulty. The building was mostly empty, with a few upturned chairs and a handful of small crystal splinters. Sigmund had no idea what the building was used for. As a meeting hall perhaps?

Brushing the idle thoughts aside, Sigmund opened his tome and dumped his breach crystals on the floor. The cultist began to repeat the incantation for summoning, doing his best to be quick and quiet. The rapid chattering of the miners could be heard outside, and the priest was horribly nervous that one of them might open the front entrance of the building and catch him in the act. Fortunately, the doors remained closed as the crystals began to glow and space began to bend above them.

Once more, the thresher emerged into the material realm. Low gurgles rumbled through the air as the spirit was forced into a physical form. The abomination didn't screech or rage this time, pacified by the thought of more food.

“Soon.” Sigmund said to it in elder-tongue as he scooped up his crystals and climbed back through the window, eager to rejoin Victor and Ahana. While he knew he couldn't order it to wait, he had to hope it wouldn't realise that the miners were outside until the time was right. The surviving miners seemed to have all reached the square and we're getting ready for the upcoming offensive.

“Did you hear?” One asked as Sigmund darted past the hut he was leaning against. “Two demos got wiped by the ringleaders alone, plus their squads.”

“Shit.” His buddy muttered. “At least we got the mech though. Let's see them get through that.”

Brushing aside the terror the beast known as a ‘mech’ instilled in him, Sigmund picked up the pace as his lungs began to burn. After a moment, though, the pain subsided, letting the priest know that Ahana was nearby. The assassin and the bunnygirl were with the village’s fighters, preparing the assault on the miners.

“Ready?” Victor asked. The cultist nodded eagerly.

“It's all set.”

“Alright.” Victor said, obviously beginning to get excited. “Let's do this. Attack!”

At his signal, the villagers stormed towards the miners, who had moved into a basic formation and quickly turned towards the incoming villagers. And away from the meeting hall. Sigmund’s tome flared menacingly as energy coalesced in his hand. With a flick of his wrist, chaotic energies flashed through the air, over the heads of the miners, and into the door of the building, blowing it open.

A monstrous screeching, followed by a terrified scream pierced through the air, causing fighters on both sides of the fighting to pause and turn just in time to see one of the minest vanish into the darkness of the hall. After a beat, the blood-soaked maw of a thresher emerged from within. The beast bellowed out its rage and hunger as its tongue launched out and grasped another miner, sending the rock raiders into disarray. Sigmund could barely suppress his excited giggles as the horrified but determined villagers fell upon their enemies. This was going to be so much fun!

1024 words
2200/2200 Crawl words
1635/5000 WC words
 

Ahana Varma

The First General of Neo New Babylon
Staff member
Level 4
Essence
€7,057
Coin
₡8,000
Tokens
75
Ahana laughed when she saw the thresher, and immediately dropped b’Akphiyr so that she might more easily applaud the spectacle before her. Of the first miner the eldritch beast had snatched, there was no sign. The individual must have been either consumed entirely, or else they had slipped free of the creature’s gaping jaws only to be left behind in that hall-like structure it had emerged from, to bleed to death from the horrific wounds its countless fangs had undoubtedly left upon them.

It was the monster’s second victim whose fate the bunnygirl found so amusing; the woman was doing an admirable job of keeping the thresher’s tongue from dragging her fully within its maw, though her back, backside, and the backs of her thighs were all torn to shreds by its plethora of whirling, gnashing teeth. After a couple seconds of this, the tongue loosened and the miner slipped free, landing face-first with a thump which was barely audible over the clamour of the now-resumed battle. Her screams ceased, then, and she began dragging herself away as best she could manage in her state.

Alas for her, though, the creature wasn’t so quick to lose interest in its prey. It sat still for a moment, facing her, then that lengthy, prehensile tongue lashed out once more, fastening around an ankle this time. She shrieked in abject terror as she was rapidly hauled back, and entered its mouth feet-first this time. The armoured biohazard suit she wore proving to be woefully inadequate when faced with the might of a divine beast of the Mad God.

Ahana kept up her maniacal laughter, and casually shoved aside a warrior she didn’t recognise, who’d happened to stand beside her, blocking her view of the scene. Sadly, no sooner had the man stumbled away than her vision was once again impaired, as a beam of superheated plasma smacked into the left side of her head. And then it was the healer’s turn to shriek, as her hair in that area burst into flame, along with one of her bunny ears—whilst her human ear was simply charred to a crisp—and her left eye melted in its socket.

Even as she collapsed to the cavern floor, though, golden flames quickly replaced orange ones, and in the handful of seconds it took her to awkwardly grope around through the sea of legs she found herself in, to locate her cursed sword, her injuries were healed entirely. The scent of burning human flesh didn't fade at all, though, for she was far from being the only one taking any of the miners' fire.

Someone nearby stumbled back, tripped over her and fell, but she paid them no mind; so long as they weren’t enough of a little bitch that they’d pass out from the pain alone, whoever it was would likely be back on their feet soon enough. It wasn’t like it was remotely plausible for any of her allies to die here, after all.

She reached out for b’Akphiyr’s hilt, before reluctantly settling for lifting him by his blade after the possessed greatsword darted back by half a foot or so—just as she was about to touch it—slicing open her palm. She winced, but couldn’t exactly blame the demon; it wasn’t much of a surprise that he was pissed at her after she’d unceremoniously dumped him to applaud Sigmund’s summon. Sighing, the bunnygirl got to her feet, realising that she was almost certainly going to end up maiming herself a few times over the course of this fight.

Nevertheless, she grinned, shifting her grip so that she held her weapon by its shaft. Diving into the fray, she tried for an overhead swing at one miner, and was pleasantly surprised for a moment when it seemed that the demonblade wasn’t about to spin around in her grip and gut her. Then, just as it was on the point of touching her terrified target, the metal of the blade collapsed into a smokey, insubstantial, ethereal form, and passed harmlessly through the man, before re-solidifying in time to jar her arm when it struck the stone floor.

The healer and her would-be victim both blinked in shock. She had known that b’Akphiyr could do that, of course, but this was the first time he had ever intentionally avoided harming someone. He must’ve been even more upset by her disrespect than she’d realised, to go to such lengths to mess with her.

Alas, the miner recovered first, and sent a burst of searing energy into Ahana’s face, liquefying both of her eyes this time. Screaming shrilly, the bunnygirl reeled back, clutching at her eyes with her free hand and lashing out blindly with the other. She felt the blade sink into flesh, and heard the pained cries of b’Akphiyr’s victims… though given the lack of resistance upon impact, she guessed that the people she was cutting were more likely her near-naked allies, rather than any of the well-armoured Rock Raiders. She wasn’t too bothered if that was the case, though. They had her aura. They’d be fine.

When her vision cleared this time, she saw that the front line had moved forwards by a metre or so. The miners were falling back, albeit slowly. There could be do doubt that this was a controlled retreat, rather than a panicked rout. Glancing around, she saw that the thresher was now happily chowing down on a third miner. Another Raider lay on his back not far from where the healer stood, his arms raised to defend himself as several savages hacked away at him with their crystal weapons, overwhelming the man with numbers alone.

She watched for a few seconds, and it quickly became painfully apparent how heavily reliant the tribe were on her aura for this endeavour. Their crystal weapons seemed to be capable of doing no more than scratching and chipping away at the Raider’s armour plating, while the plasma lathes which the miners carried could nigh-instantaneously bore holes through their bodies. If not for the aura and the fact that they had managed to disarm him at some stage, even that guy on the ground would likely be taking a severe toll on their forces.

She did spot another couple corpses, however, lying a little way off; one with her head almost completely obliterated and the other with a gaping hole in her torso. Given how ineffective the savages were proving to be, and how messy the thresher was, she could only imagine that their side’s assassin was the one responsible for these twos’ fates. Especially when she noticed the hi-tech-looking sledgehammers lying next to each of the women’s bodies. They had both been demolition squad leaders. Yes, it’d be just like Victor to take it upon himself to stealthily hunt down the remainder of the enemy’s leadership corps during the confusion of the battle.

As Ahana was assessing the situation and deciding that they could clear these guys up quickly enough, though, she heard some tremendously loud thumping noises, swiftly followed by the sound of breaking wood. Turning back to the group beating that unarmed miner, she looked across just in time to watch as the nearest hut to them all but exploded, wood and crystal flying everywhere as the mecha’s chest-mounted drill tore through the flimsy structure with ease, before its body smashed aside the remnants of the wall as it stomped through.

It looked a lot bigger up close, Ahana noted to herself. The group nearest it were taken aback by its arrival, but to their credit, none of them fled.

“Oh, what’s this?” the pilot’s voice thundered, out of whatever loudspeaker system was built into the thing, as he took notice of the snarling, tribal warriors brandishing their puny, crystalline weapons his way, “A few dumb squatters thinkin’ they can stand up to a mech with nothin’ more than swords and spears? Hahahahah! Let’s see how ya do then.”

“You don’t scare us, bastard!” one well-built warrior with a shock of black hair roared at the top of his lungs, pointing the faintly luminescent, purple, gemstone spear he held at the lumbering behemoth, “We are blessed by the presence of Gal’skap’s chosen ones! So long as we hold to our faith in the Mad God, your weapons cannot slay us!”

Those around him yelled their agreement, standing a little taller at their comrade’s words, their beliefs and his unfailing courage allowing them to stay strong despite the immensity of the obstacle they now faced. Ahana wasn’t sure if he was just unaware that the aura was her gift alone, or if he knew but expected to intimidate the miner more by implying that all three of the Mad God’s trio could heal.

“Oh, really!? Huhuhahah!” the pilot guffawed, as his titanic walker took a clumsy, lumbering step forwards, its foot coming down on top of a muscular woman carrying a longsword, whose reaction speed was sadly all but non-existent, it seemed; the mecha wasn’t exactly swift, so she really ought to have been able to dive aside in time.

There was a sickening crack of bones as the huge contraption crushed her body under its immense weight, and she cried out in agony. Her head and shoulders weren’t under the thing’s foot, but the rest of her was, and the expression she wore made it clear that she wasn’t exactly on top of the world right then. Still, golden light emanated from out under the foot, as Ahana’s Divine Conflagration burned, healing her as fast as the walker's weight could crush her, keeping her alive in spite of the shattered ribs which must surely have been impaling many of her vital organs.

“... Seriously?” the pilot growled angrily after a few moments had passed, when it became clear that the woman wasn’t about to give up and die. The walker took another step, its other foot being lifted this time, so that the entirety of its weight rested upon his victim whilst it moved. She screamed again, at an even greater volume, before stopping to cough up a gout of blood. Still she did not perish, though.

“You gotta be fuckin’ kiddin’ me.” the foreman spat venomously. He was obviously infuriated… yet the bunnygirl was sure she picked up a hint of fear in his tone as well. He had likely lost much of the sense of security provided by his massive machine, now that he had realised he couldn’t kill the tribesfolk, even with all its great might.

“You see! No matter how immense this magic armour of yours is, you’re still unable to overcome the power of our god, invader!” the black-haired man proclaimed, and struck the nearest of the mecha’s legs to him. His spearpoint did no more than scratch its paintwork. He didn’t seem surprised, though, and Ahana figured that he’d done it more to make the point that he wouldn’t be cowed by the massive machine, rather than out of any actual expectation that it would prove to be effective.

The healer grinned, thinking that Victor and Sigmund would surely appreciate this guy, whoever he was. People with this level of blind faith were not only easily manipulated, but also inspirations to those around them; perfect junior priests, in other words. Those around him seemed buoyed up by his confidence, to the point that they actually began jeering at the Rock Raider. Even the woman pinned beneath it managed to twist her agonised expression into some approximation of contempt, and spit a glob of bloody saliva onto its foot.

“Bastard!” the Rock Raider roared, and the walker’s ‘torso’ spun, sending the end of its drill swinging towards the little group’s ringleader, who ducked beneath the clumsy strike and lashed out with his spear the moment he straightened up, effortlessly scoring another hit on its body. Once again, he achieved no more than scratching its paint, but from the way the others cheered him, it was as if he’d struck the thing down in a single blow.

Twice more the mecha tried awkwardly to hit him, but as his comrades hastily backed off a couple paces to give him room, the black-haired man dodged its crude lunges with even greater ease. Initially, the healer wasn’t too sure what the point of this was—beyond making the Raider look like a fool for not thinking to bring a giant robot with guns installed—but then figured it out when she happened to look off to one side; the remaining miners had all been forced back against the wall of another hut, a few paces away from her position. Three of them were on the ground, being beaten mercilessly (if somewhat ineffectively) by the tribe’s warriors, and the thresher had started on its fourth victim already.

It seemed that the tribe had realised that the divine beast wasn’t attacking them—though they may not have known the reason why—and so had decided to simply keep the invaders from fleeing long enough for the monster to work its way through them. The ones facing off against the mecha were clearly just buying time until the other miners were all dead. Screaming in frustration, the foreman lumbered towards the irritating pest who taunted him and easily evaded his every attack.

As he moved, he seemed to forget that in so doing he was releasing the woman he’d trampled. Just seconds after the mecha’s foot lifted off her, she was getting back to her feet, albeit somewhat shakily. The several savages who’d been jeering roared triumphantly, and Ahana—having moved up to stand right behind them now—joined in, deciding that mocking this guy looked like fun.

The black-haired man smirked, and pointed with his spear. The mecha’s torso turned, and the foreman gave a cry of impotent rage as he realised his mistake. The last vestiges of the magical fire on her body extinguishing themselves, the freed woman sneered at the mecha, spat in its direction again, then danced back out of the way when the pilot tried to swing that ludicrously large drill at her.

The ringleader stepped forwards and stabbed ineffectually at the walker’s armour-plated bodywork another couple times, causing the beleaguered Raider to face him once more.

This time, however, when the black-haired man stepped back to put some distance between himself and the mecha, a lance of plasma pierced through his ankle just before his foot touched down, and the moment it did, he crumpled, giving a brief scream of pain and surprise. The entire group’s attention was drawn to the nearby wannabe sniper. It took the bunnygirl a moment before it clicked in her head; this was the man that these people had been beating before the walker showed up. While they’d entertained themselves at his boss’ expense, the Raider had surreptitiously scuttled off and retrieved his mining lathe, then prepared himself to fire off a shot as soon as the opportunity arose.

The Divine Conflagration would heal his injury in seconds, but the savage didn’t have seconds. Even as she was turning back from glancing over at the miner—and four of her fellow onlookers had begun dashing towards him, to once again disarm the man—the mecha leaned forwards, its drill beginning to spin. Slowly at first, but rapidly picking up speed, until it was nothing more than a blur.

“Come on, then! Do your worst, invader, you can’t kill me!” the faithful warrior shouted brazenly, glaring up at the foreman, still fearless despite being (temporarily) crippled, and utterly helpless before the titanic construct that loomed over him.

“Oh can’t I?” the miner replied, sounding almost gleeful now. Leaning forwards further, the mecha’s drill touched his target, then passed through the man's chest without even slowing. Blood and gems and sparks and fragments of rock and bone shot out in every direction like shrapnel as the drill tore through not only its intended victim, but the solid stone floor of the cavern as well. Slow and ungainly—and badly in need of ranged weapons—though it might have been, there could be no denying that when it did manage to land a blow with its main weapon, the walker was devastatingly powerful.

When the drill finally slowed to a stop and the monstrous machine leaned back, scarcely anything was left of the man. His right hand and both feet were still intact, and his right foot even still had the majority of its shin attached. Everything else that made him up had been reduced to paste. For a moment or two, as the gigantic drill had shredded his torso, the Divine Conflagration had made a spirited attempt at mending the harm being inflicted upon him. That had ended quickly, though. There was a limit to how much even Ahana's awe-inspiring power could accomplish. It was one thing for a person to lose a few vital organs, but quite another to have over ninety percent of their body mass blended into soup.

There would be no coming back for anyone unlucky enough to find themselves skewered by that drill whilst it spun. And the savages around her clearly realised that. There were three others by the healer’s side, two of whom had now sunk to their knees in despair, and the third of which held her hands up to her mouth, ashen-faced and horrified at the gruesome spectacle she had just witnessed. On the opposite side of the walker, the woman who had been trapped under its foot stood rigid, hands clenched into fists at her sides, though she was no less pale than the others.

“Ahahahahah!” cackled the mecha-miner, maniacally, “Now you all see what happens to any fucktards thick enough to challenge the Rock Raiders!”

The walker turned slightly, lowering itself closer to the ground and aiming its drill directly at the healer, like some stupendously large lance, “And don’t think I don’t see you there, off-worlder. I dunno if dressing like a whore was supposed to help you blend in with a crowd down here, but if so, you may ‘ave forgotten about the fuckin’ animal ears on yer head. They’re a bit of a giveaway, ya dumb bitch.”

Standing with her left hand on her hip and her right on her weapon’s hilt, b’Akphiyr leaning on her shoulder, the bunnygirl gave the mammoth mecha an ear-to-ear grin. She was overjoyed at coming across an opponent who actually had the potential to slay her. After the events of her last trip below ground, during which when she’d met that group of long-lost miners and her aura’s power had increased exponentially, she had begun to believe that she’d never again face a foe who could realistically pose a threat to her. And although that had seemed super at the time, she had since come to the conclusion that lacking the possibility of dying kinda took the fun out of life-or-death struggles.

She was practically ecstatic at the challenge she now faced, and though she knew full well that Victor and Sigmund would surely tell her to play it safe and use the bionic behemoth’s ponderousness to her advantage, the healer instead chose to face it head-on. Caution was for pussies, she reasoned, and after a couple moments in which the foreman said nothing else, the bunnygirl changed her stance, holding her greatsword out before her with both hands. It might’ve been a good choice if she were facing an opponent with a similarly sized weapon, but against the walker’s colossal implement of annihilation, her sword might as well have been a pocket-knife for all the use it’d be in fending off a blow from that.

Rather than stepping forwards, though, the machine simply sat still. Then the woman behind it spoke, “Hey, something back here is glowi-”

And then the walker’s plasma jets fired, and it burst forwards like a bolt of lightning, its speed now far eclipsing anything the healer would’ve ever predicted from such an ungainly construct. Before she’d had time to do anything more than dart a few inches to the side, it struck her. Thankfully, those precious inches meant that she rebounded roughly off the drill, rather than being impaled upon it. She then almost instantly struck the thing’s main body, and was sent flying by the impact. Even before she struck the ground and tumbled a few metres further, the healer knew that she’d broken at least a couple bones.

Thankfully, though, the section of the cavern floor she came down on was out beyond the cleared section where the huts had been built; out here, there was still a thick carpet of bioluminescent moss covering everything, which provided some cushioning to absorb the force of her fall. It wasn’t much, and rolling across it with multiple bones broken still hurt like hell, but it was at least preferable to solid stone.

She came to rest on her back, and had only a fraction of a second to stare up at the gaping hole in the cavern ceiling, as well as the twinkling gems that surrounded it like a star-strewn sky, before the mecha passed by overhead and as it did—in an extraordinary display of skill, reaction speed and timing that she’d never have expected from him—the pilot brought one of its great feet down atop her. The last thing she saw before her rib cage, upper arms, shoulders & head were crushed was the dark underside of its foot, blotting out everything above her.

And then her skull caved in like a raw egg with a brick dropped on it. A wave of heat from its thrusters passed over her as the mecha continued on its merry way, though she barely noticed it amidst the abject agony coursing through the crushed parts of her body. She couldn’t see or hear or smell or taste anything at first, but gradually her vision went from ‘impenetrable darkness’ to ‘fuzzy, golden light’. When her hearing returned at first, ears were ringing, but she could soon smell and taste the metallic scent and flavour of her own blood.

Once the healing flames of her aura had at last died down, she found herself looking up at the four savages who’d stayed with her after their ringleader’s demise. Glancing past them she saw the village’s outskirts, and cringed. She’d been knocked way back when the walker had barreled into her, and she was now well beyond the area in which the fight had been taking place. Victor, Sigmund, the thresher and the tribal warriors that fought alongside them would now all be vulnerable to the plasma fire of of those mining lathes the Raiders wielded, as well as the toxic fumes in the air. Hopefully, their battle was almost over, and they’d all be able to get across here soon. If dozens of their allies ended up dying needlessly as a result of her stupid desire to 1v1 a mecha, she was sure the other two would never shut up about it.

Those four nearby babbled at her, asking stupid stuff like if she was alright. She waved them away, facing the mecha again, which had continued going for quite some distance after trampling her and was still in the process of slowly turning back to face them. Once again, she held b’Akphiyr at the ready. First the tremendous power of the drill, then the tremendous speed of the thrusters. This machine had surprised her twice now, and it’d really gotten her blood pumping by this point. Smirking, she readied herself for its next charge.

“You lot should probably clear out,” she said as an afterthought to those around her, “unless you wanna get stomped to death by this thing.”

The woman beside her—who’d been the one to already get stood on once before—snorted at that, and smiled at the bunnygirl, clapping her on the shoulder, “Like hell we’re going to let ourselves get shown up by an outsider, even if you are favoured by Gal’skap.”

As she said it, the savages also made themselves as ready as they could be to receive a charge from the walker, their crystalline armaments looking even more puny and frail by comparison to its mighty drill than did her greatsword. Ahana grinned nonetheless, “Well, glad to have you, then. Let’s teach this bitch not to mess with us.”

She was actually starting to like this lot.


Post Word Count: 4,064
Crawl #0004 Quest #3 Post Count: 3/3
Crawl #0004 Quest #3 Word Count: 10,513/2,200 (6,449 + 4,064)
 

Victor Wolfe

Staff member
Level 2
Essence
€4,076
Coin
₡13,500
Tokens
20
The assassin felt the ground shake as the giant drill carved one of their potential followers into a fine paste of organs and fluid. The assassin raised an eyebrow when the zealot did not spring back from the mush that he had so quickly turned too. At least now he knew, much like his healing factor in the last world, to much damage would kill him. He did have to wonder, if "death" in this world would turn out to be more of a passive nap, than the agonising terrors of an afterlife every zealot he had ever set alight had promised him. But now was not the time to test out his theory, if any of his former status as a prime was to be confirmed it would hopefully be accidental, after all, dying still hurt like all hell. How would Siggy feel about that? "You are going to ruin your afterlife with all this sinning Victor!" "I can't have an afterlife, Sigmund! Too many idiots for me to end."

Whilst the assassin chuckled at the idea he turned the opposite direction from the death machine on legs, whilst he was pretty sure that by going all out he could open up the tin can, it wasn't really his style to go all out with brute force, he had to make a show of it, and that is why he had decided to start another of his little projects.

It all started when he had noticed a rocky outcrop on the cavern, one of the squadies managing to take shelter in the ruins of what Victor assumed had been used as an outlook tower. None of the tribalists seemed brave enough to leave Ahanas healing aura, especially after watching their friend die to the drill. A clear problem to the current situation, one bad loss and all morale would collapse. Common with mob troops but luckily for the future General Ahana, there was also at least one elite on this field of battle. And a smarter than average grunt in a defendable location was not too much of a problem for someone who could at the drop of a pin fade from visual existence.

However, before the assassin could saunter up the hill, he noticed a burly figure scaling up its side with all the grace of a jaguar on the hunt. It was Sapphira, clearly not keen to sit and watch whilst the foreigners did all the hard work she had broken away from the herd, not having the benefit of invisibility. And having the brainpower to understand charging uphill to a ranged enemy would likely be suicide she had taken the harder route to get the jump on her target.

Wanting to see the show the assassin skipped up the hill to the sound of the battle below, the assassin took a seat on a rock behind the grunt, the sounds of his footsteps being drowned out amongst the sounds of lasers and screams of battle. His legs dangling in the air the lord settled his elbows on his knees and leaned forward, his chin resting on his crossed fingers. With a loud scream the leader of the village charged through what was likely once a window, before the squadie could aim his mining lathe had fired, hitting Sapphiras left arm, but the spear in her right soon had found its way through his brain, pinning his lifeless body to the floor.

Pressing the button on his belt Victor popped into existence in front of her eyes, causing her to jump backwards, reaching for her spear before the assassin smiled gleefully "Relax Cheif, it is I, Biggus Dickus" The chieftess shot him a glare that may have shaken him to the core, if his core wasn't already built upon a foundation of ambition and hatred. "Begone from this place sneak! If you truly mean to show that you and your little cult are not just another group of invaders then get to work!" She chastised the overly casual Victor.

"Oh Sapphira, do not worry my sweet, your people will be fine, besides I have a plan to finish this battle in style, all I need for you to do is go out onto that edge, and find any large solid slab of building below, if you can do that for me victory is ours." The assassin said in his laid-back tone as he turned on the rock to face the edge of the outcrop. The chieftess continued to glare. "And why would I do that, as much as you present yourself as one. You don't seem to be a tactician, you are nowhere near disciplined to even make it into a barbarian raider military boy!" Victors mask almost cracked as he had to bite his own lip, turning to her with a smile "Well you see Miss, I have had many careers, for a while I was a lord, in command of all diplomacy in my kingdom, at times I was an administrator, but you are right. Most of my time on the battlefield was spent as an assassin. However, I think that makes me the most qualified person around here on the field of expertise labelled "how to make powerful people die real quick and good! So you had better go find me that platform I need before I decide that this battle is worth more than we could gain and decide to ask my friends to leave with me. Or change sides!" Sapphira gave a look, the expression on her face reading something along the lines of "you wouldn't" Victor staring her down from his seated position, showing he was deadly serious.

With a Tut the chieftess took looked out over the edge, scanning the ruins of what was once her pristine crystal village, a tear rolling down her face as for the first time she observed the true extent of the suffering of her people. Eventually, she spotted exactly what the assassin had asked for, an almost flat but still very thick piece of crystal, likely a support wall had been left relatively intact, although now laying on the ground. "Biggus, I spotted what you are looking for, now can you hurry up and get back to the battle!" Victor reached down to the area at his feet, noticing an object with a smile, taking it into his hand he stood back up and walked up behind the chieftess.

Noticing the chunk of Crystal he gave a smile. "Very good. Now I am going to explain to you something I invented!" Before the chieftess could protest that he was wasting time Victor started his lecture.

"You see my lovely, back in my world assassins tended to avoid battles, too many enemy soldiers, and as we tend to travel with light armour it was to much risk that a random mook would leave you dead in some ditch, to become fertiliser for a forgotten farm one day. I changed that, because if you are truly a great assassin then hiding in plain sight should be easy enough in the chaos of battle, and unlike with sneaking into an enemy city where I may need to spend days tracking down, figuring out, and formulating a tactic to kill a target and get away, a battle is chaotic, and the important people are all over the place. I can take down anywhere from three in a small battle to over twenty high ranking officials in a day in a battle!" Sapphira gave a clap full of fake enthusiasm.


"Well that is certainly impressive, so can you hurry up and go kill their one important person!" She demanded as Victor gave a low menacing laugh.

"Oh? But you didn't even hear the best part! Because of the chaos, it was also the perfect place to get rid of internal threats, promote them to commander, give them a big shiny hat with a feather making them stand out with all that finary, then take them out, stray arrows become ever so common when you get in the way of states I serve."

With a sudden flash of fear Sapphira realised exactly what was happening, but before she could properly turn Victor had pressed the object in his hand close to her exposed stomach, and pressed down. The laser of a mining lathe burning through her back. Shock filled her face as blood dripped down her chin from her mouth, her eyes begging for answers, and filling with Anger. Victor knew that the wound would take a while to kill, thus he still had time to monologue. Holding her up he whispered into her ear.

"All you had to do was bow down, but I get it, you are old, stubborn, stuck in your conservative distrustful, isolationist ways. Well let me affirm this, there is a new ideology on the horizon, and there are two choices for the old and stubborn, bow down to it, or be devoured by it!" The assassin smiled as with a giggle he added: "You know, My daughter taught me this new world, it means to throw something violently to show that you deem it to be worthless and inferior." As Victor lifted the weakened chieftess he put all of his muscle into his throw, launching her further than his skinny frame should have allowed, proclaiming "Yeet!" as he did so.

Luckily with a giant drill on legs trying to destroy their existence none of the villagers had paid attention to spot the loss of their leader, and thus with a satisfied grin the assassin proceeded to the next stage of his plan, plotting a route through the village to pass all the demo corpses, collecting their explosives and triggers as he went, eventually arriving at the chunk of Crystal he had spotted.

Looking at the mech on the horizon Victor took into account the distance and did some quick mental math based on what he had seen of the explosive power of the demo charges. Managing to get under the chunk, due to a slight curvature the assassin attached the charges in what the had calculated to be just the right spot. Once finished he sighed, It was such an Ahana move he was planning. But if Sigmund's monstrosities where going to outshine his torture in cruelty, then he had to step it up in other areas. Taking his place on the chunk, both feet planted carefully he shook his head, before pressing all the demo charge buttons!

With a sudden and loud boom, the chunk of Crystal was propelled through the air, thick enough to withstand falling apart from the impact Victor road it towards its destination. All heads turned towards him, as the large slab of Crystal started to descend, the smartest of the villagers managing to drag the others back from its evident destination, The mining bot, to slow to even properly respond as from the sky came a loud "WOOOOOO!"

The exhilaration of flying through the air like a bird drove him forward, as he leapt from the slab, a dagger in hand, with one powerful slash he cracked open the pod of the bot, exposing the leader to the air, the slab sliding across the ground as it crashed and took out one of the robot's legs. Rolling from the impact Victor couldn't keep his balance to finish the job, But looking back at the now exposed captain, and one-legged hopping bot, he was sure he had done enough.

Crawl #0004 Quest #3 Post #2 Word Count: 2200/2,200
 

Sigmund Vrell

The First High Priest of Neo New Babylon
Level 2
Essence
€3,144
Coin
₡11,500
Tokens
0
“Brothers! Sisters! Stand strong!” Sigmund called, raising his eldritch tome high. “Gal’skap wills it, we shall be victorious!” His rallies were met with a triumphant road, followed by the small army ramping up their vigour and ferocity. They fought like zealots, which wasn't an inaccurate statement.

Sigmund stood among the throngs of desperate tribespeople, chanting fervently as his tome shone brightly. Bolts of chaotic energy arced through the air towards the miners, pelting them one after another. Each bolt impacted against their mining suits, doing little unless they slipped through a crack in the armour. His thresher, however, was doing more than its fair share of work. The voracious beast ground down its umpteenth victim as the miner’s numbers grew thinner and thinner. It was no easy task, but it seemed that all of but a few of the miners had been eliminated. All that was left was a few stragglers and the giant mecha tearing temporary swathes through their ranks.

Clapping his book shut, Sigmund only had a moment to think before the world seemed to fall apart. First, the giant mecha surged past him, annihilating his ears with the roar of its engines. In the same moment, his lungs began to burn as the toxic gas filled his lungs. Panicking, the cultist lifted his cloak to his face, shielding himself from the chemical-weapon as best he could. Had something happened to Ahana? He rushed over to where he had last seen her, and found a mass of red paste on the ground.

‘Could Ahana have… No, surely not.’ Sigmund thought to himself. ‘Ahana couldn't die. No one I rely on this much could just die… Oh gods, I rely on her…” Despite his reassurances, he fidgeted nervously as he glanced around for her, his lungs starting to fail. Thankfully, fresh air suddenly filled his lungs, bringing a wave of relief to the psychic. Ahana pulled herself off the ground with the help of a couple of nearby villagers, bringing her admittedly useful aura back into existence.

“Oh, Ahana! Thank goodness you're okay!” Sigmund said, running up to her and restraining himself from hugging her out of relief.

“Pfft, as if anything could actually hurt me.” Ahana said, grinning at the priest.

“So, That… Stain on the ground.” The cultist asked nervously.

“One of our villager followers, he got pulped by the drill.” The bunnygirl said matter-of-factly.

“Ah… I see.” Sigmund said, dejectedly. “Anyways, how shall we deal with that monstrosity?”

Ahana stroked her chin for a moment. “Honestly, I think I'm just gonna hit it until it breaks.”

Sigmund looked at her for a moment, as if he hadn't heard her properly. “Um, excuse me? Could you repeat that.”

“I'm just gonna smack it.” She said, swinging her demon-sword as if she were bringing it down on the head of an enemy. “What else can I do?”

“I… Ahana, ple-.” Sigmund began, but before he could plead with the bunnygirl, the air was pierced by a resounding ‘WOOOOOO’. Their heads turned towards the source in unison as Victor descended from the heavens, cleaving straight through the leg of the mecha. The massive machine wobbled for a moment before careening over, landing heavily on its side. The miner audibly cried out in shock as the impact fractured his cockpit window shattered.

“How's it going?” Victor asked with a grin, brandishing his daggers proudly.

“Impressive.” Sigmund said as he skipped towards the downed mecha. The mining robot struggled fruitlessly as the cultist climbed up onto its prone frame, his tome at the ready. “I must commend both of you. You have done extraordinarily well. But now, I must avenge our fallen.”

“Hey, how come you get to do it?” Ahana asked.

“Well, for one, they died in the name of Gal’skap, so it is my responsibility.” Sigmund said, blowing a hole in the window with a rift bolt. “And for another, I'm on the… Thing and you aren't.”

The cultist peaked in the window, his tome glowing violently, illuminating his normally innocent grin menacingly.

“Hello friend. You've made quite the mess of this town.” He said, his grin widening.

“Fuck you, cult bastard.” The mecha pilot said, shivering. Was it his gaze, or was the cockpit getting colder? “I bet that abomination was yours, wasn't it?”

“How rude.” Sigmund said, his grin not dropping. “I'm sure you’ll change your tune soon enough. You’re about to see reality for what it truly is. Then it'll all make sense.”

“Make sense?” The miner said, shivering violently now. “The fuck are you on about, you're the one who isn't making sense.”

“I assure you.” Sigmund said, his grin widening to borderline unnatural levels. “You’ll understand soon enough.” With that, eldritch flames erupted from the priest’s hand, cleansing the heretic in a wave of the heat god’s fire. He barely had time to scream before he passed.

“May the old ones guide you.” Sigmund said quietly as he hopped from the mecha. The cultist rejoined his allies, smile still on his face. “That felt good. So, what do we do now?”

“Give me a moment.” Victor said, raising his hand and giving a reassuring smile. “I've got plans, I just need to sort them.”

“Of course.” Sigmund said with a nod. “In the meantime, I shall tend to the dead. A proper send-off is in order, no?”

893 words
2200/2200 Crawl words
2528/5000 WC words
 

Ahana Varma

The First General of Neo New Babylon
Staff member
Level 4
Essence
€7,057
Coin
₡8,000
Tokens
75
Ahana sat cross-legged, b’Akphiyr lying by her side, on the edge of the roof of one of the few huts which remained intact, watching disinterestedly as the savages went about clearing the rubble and corpses from the remnants of their village. Occasionally, a passerby would grin or wave at her, and she would return the gesture. They were all grateful to the trio for the part that they had played in the battle, and—knowing that Victor wouldn’t be happy if she upset they people they had just fought so hard to befriend—she kept herself from ignoring them all.

Still, her willingness to play along had its limits, and she wasn’t about to actually join the tribe in their tedious, manual labour. If the assassin or the priest should happen to find out, her plan was to claim that she was providing moral support. It wasn’t the best excuse ever, but it was all she could come up with.

A scrabbling noise behind her drew the bunnygirl’s attention immediately. A trained soldier likely would’ve snapped to attention, not wanting to be seen lazing about, or perhaps spun round, fearing an enemy attack. The healer did neither of these things. Instead, she ignored it entirely. If it was an enemy, she’d welcome the entertainment. If it was one of her companions, she’d only make herself look more guilty by reacting strongly to their presence.

As it turned out, it was neither of those. A few moments after she’d heard the noise, Nisse sat down beside her, and attempted to start up a conversation by saying most eloquently, “Uh, hi there, so, eh, how’s it going?”

She stared at him dully, disinterestedly, silently, for a few seconds. He cringed, almost immediately breaking eye contact. Suppressing a sigh, the bunnygirl realised that she should probably keep on being nice to him for the time being, as she wasn’t sure how far ahead Victor had been planning when he asked her to seduce someone. Knowing their genius strategist, he could easily still have some use in mind for this guy.

“Much better now that you’re here.” Ahana said softly, smiling at last, and leaning over, getting close enough that they were almost touching, “I’m sure you have more of a reason for being here than just enquiring after my wellbeing, though. How can I help you, Nisse?”

“Uh, it’s not, that is, I mean-”

“Hm?” she asked, laying a hand on his bare thigh. The young man froze, his cheeks flushing as he glanced sidelong at the people working below. Ahana’s smile became a smirk. For a bunch of half-naked primitives, this lot seemed surprisingly fond of the concept of public decency… and they’d surely be headed even further in that direction as time went on, courtesy of Sigmund’s ridiculously rigid religion’s rules.

“Here!” plucking up his courage, the gem-covered man thrust something out towards her with enough force that he actually managed to shove her back, putting a little distance between them.

The healer cocked her head curiously as she regarded the wide strip of leather which he held out, with its little ties at each end. Then something clicked in her brain and she realised what it was; one of those garments that the women around here wore, which could perhaps be described as looking like tube tops, if one were feeling extremely generous.

She laughed, remembering that she was still wearing her vest, which was riddled with holes from the many bursts of plasma which had struck her. It didn’t bother her, clearly, but she supposed that Sigmund’s inevitable and impending lecture would surely be even longer and more tedious if he should find her lounging about hours after the battle, still not having changed into something less scandalous.

Slipping out of the tattered remnants of her vest and tossing it down into the street without a care, she took the proffered garment and put it on. Tying the little, leather strings when they were behind her back proved to be something of a bother, but she managed it before long.

“There! How do I look?” she asked, raising an eyebrow at the guy.

“Uh, good, yeah.” Nisse replied, swallowing, “It looks really good on you.”

“Great! Thanks for the gift, it’s much appreciated.” leaning forward again, she gave him a peck on the cheek, “That surely shouldn’t be too lewd for public, right? I’m not gonna get ratted out to Siggy again, am I?”

“Uh, no, no, you should be fine… though… I don’t think anyone would do that again. You being around saved a lot of lives in that battle, and I don’t think that’s the sort of thing that will just be forgotten. Even if they might not appreciate your… uh… lack of inhibitions, I think they’d overlook it.”

“Oh? Is that a challenge?” the bunnygirl asked, reaching out for him again.

“What? No! Do you want to get your head set on fire again? Just because they might not turn you in, doesn’t mean you should push your luck.”

“Heh. Chicken.” she said, then lay down, letting her feet and shins dangle off the edge of the roof as she looked up at the glittering ceiling and the dark, gem-less hole from which the Rock Raiders had descended. Nisse glowered at her, and she grinned back.

Their conversation lapsed for a while, as he turned to look out at his people working. Eventually, he sighed, “I should go help out. See you later.”

“Wait.” she responded, suddenly remembering something, and mildly curious about it, “During the battle, my friends and I met a guy called Rubies, who was one of the tribe’s warriors, and-”

“Are you sure?” Nisse asked, giving her a doubtful look.

“Huh? What? Sure about what?”

“His name.” the savage responded, “‘Rubies’ isn’t a name, much less a guy’s name. At least, not in our tribe. Are you sure that’s what it was? Not Rubias, Rubius or Rubious, or maybe Rubisé or Rubijose?”

The healer opened her mouth, then closed it again, frowning as she thought for a moment, before finally speaking, “Why the hell do you lot need so many names that sound like ‘Ruby’?”

Nisse only shrugged. Ahana sighed. She supposed that without surnames, maybe they just had so many other variations in order to reduce confusion. That didn’t explain the obsession with gem-centric naming conventions, of course.

“Well, whatever. It doesn’t really matter what his name was. I was just gonna ask why you don’t have a crystal-y name, when everyone else seems to?”

“Ah. That.” the savage looked away, his expression turning grim.

A more sensitive person might have dropped the issue.

“Well? What is it?” the bunnygirl pressed.

He sighed, “It’s my father’s name. He was an outsider. Although we don’t often get visitors down here, we tend to accept outsiders when they find their way here. Even when they’re useless layabouts, like Dave, our town drunk... that man was no exception, the tribe took him in like they would anyone else. Though he was a much better worker than Dave is, and accepted their ways without complaint, getting on with his new life, rather than pining for his old one. He was a popular guy, he met my mum, and soon they got together…”

And?” the healer urged, when he fell silent.

“And the day she told him she was pregnant, he vanished, never to be seen again. She somehow managed to convince herself that he must have gone out into the tunnels to hunt something, so that they could have a special meal to celebrate the good news. The rest of us don’t lie to ourselves, though. The guy was a bastard, who left her the moment he realised he’d actually have to take responsibility for raising a kid.”

“Ah, that makes sense now.” the bunnygirl replied, referring to his name. She then realised that he might expect condolences or some shit like that, so belatedly added, in the most sincere tone she could fake, “That’s horrible. What a terrible guy. It must’ve been hard for you.”

“Yeah.” for a moment Nisse seemed about to say more, but instead simply slipped off the roof, and began walking away. Sitting up, Ahana watched him leave.

He hadn’t gone ten paces when a woman charged into the street. Judging by her muscle mass, the healer guessed that she was a guard, but as had been the case with Sigmund’s initiate, Amethyst, this lady might just have been an unusually well-built civilian. Immediately, the probably-a-guard began yelling that everyone was required to gather in the village centre.

Curious about what might be going on, Ahana dropped down to the ground and moved along with the rest of the crowd.


***


Upon reaching the wide, open area in the centre of the village, the healer quickly sought out her allies. The high priest was easy to spot, for he was stood atop a huge boulder which had fallen from the ceiling and flattened two huts. Sigmund was giving an impassioned speech, telling the tribesfolk to stay strong in this trying time.

She wasn’t sure what that was about, so figured she’d see if she could get the cliff notes version from Victor. It took her a few minutes of trying to peer through the crowd of people who were almost all taller than she was before she spotted him, over by the far edge of the crowd, a fair distance away from her position. There was a young woman in his arms, sobbing as he consoled her.

Figuring that he’d likely not be doing that if he didn’t stand to gain something from it, the bunnygirl imagined that the crying lady must be important somehow, and therefore that if she went over and interrupted him, Victor’s plan might be upset by that. So she’d need to find another source of information. Nisse seemed to have managed to vanish in the crowd, and she doubted he’d have any more idea than she did about what was going on, so she figured she might as well just ask some random person nearby.

The majority of the audience were listening raptly to whatever the priest was going on about, so she doubted they'd appreciate being bothered, but there were pockets of people, here and there, who spoke amongst themselves in whispers. Pushing her way through the mob, she made her way over to the nearest such cluster, and tapped a tall, swole guy on the shoulder.

He turned, his eyes widening slightly as he took in her bunny ears and realised who she was, then he gave her a nod.

“What’s this all about?” she asked quietly, figuring that if everyone else was trying to keep their voices low enough not to disturb the rest of the crowd, she ought to go along with it. To her surprise, the guy put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her into the group, who were huddled close together.

“It’s Chieftain Sapphira. Just a little while ago, someone found her body. She must have gotten separated from the rest of us during the battle, and it seems one of the invaders managed to shoot her… with those powerful weapons of theirs, one shot was enough.” the guy told her in a whisper.

“I see… I guess she must have been respected a lot... loved, even, given how upset everyone seems after finding out that she’s gone.” Ahana guessed.

“Not exactly.” said the muscle man.

A middle-aged woman with greying hair, who was also part of the little group, snorted softly. She was undeniably athletic by normal standards, but compared to many in this tribe, she seemed almost skinny, “Nah. It ain’t that, girlie. That bitch fucked us all over when she used that black alchemy crap… a lotta ‘shrooms killed and buildin’ material that’s gonna have to be thrown out… can’t live in houses with poison residue all over everythin’, after all. She mighta been liked well enough before, but that little stunt destroyed her reputation, along with a big part of the village.”

“Yeah.” agreed a man not quite as broad as the guy Ahana had approached originally, though otherwise very similar in appearance. Probably brothers, “The problem we got is that usually the previous chief’s eldest child tends to be the one to take over when their parent dies… but traditionally, the chief is also supposed to be the strongest warrior in the tribe… you must’ve noticed how big Sapphira was, right?”

“Of course.” the bunnygirl nodded, “Why’s that a problem, though?”

“You see that girl over there?” asked a second woman, this one younger and a little curvier than the first, “The one leaning on your blond friend?”

“... Yeah?” Ahana answered, quizzically.

“That’s Gemma. Sapphira’s daughter.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, ‘oh’ indeed. She always spent as much of her time as she could shirking her duty and trying to piss off her mother… she’s a pretty skilled thief, but certainly not cut out to be a warrior, which means she isn’t fit to lead us. On top of that, after what Sapphira did, a lot of folks here feel that trusting her family to lead us for so long was a mistake. Your friend up there on the rock is trying to convince everyone to stick together and to let that kid rule us… he’s right that there could be infighting if we have to use some other means of determining a chief, we do understand that… but even so, it’s the right thing to do.”

The first man spoke again now, patting the bunnygirl gently on the shoulder, “It’s not that we don’t appreciate what you’ve done for us, miss, we’re all well aware that our tribe would’ve been doomed if you cultists hadn’t stuck around to help us, and we can see how it might look to you like we’re just spitting in your faces by taking the risk of displacing our leadership… but taking orders from a thieving, bratty teenager that even the weakest of our warriors could snap over their knee… it wouldn’t just be ridiculous, it’d be an insult to our ancestors if we allowed their tribe to fall into such a state.”

“Oh, I see. Yeah, I can see where you’re coming from, you may have a point there.” Ahana whispered, somewhat noncommittally, while thinking fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck.

Victor was wanting to put that girl on the tribe’s metaphorical throne, most likely because he thought he’d be able to manipulate her... and the bunnygirl had just started up a conversation with a bunch of people who were willing to risk something to avoid letting Gemma become chief. They weren’t exactly being clear on what the risks were. Duels to the death? Assassinations? Outright civil war? Not wanting to risk saying anything that might egg them on or give them ideas, the healer decided not to ask. In any case, it seemed as if a big chunk of the tribe would consider rebelling if the trio tried to force a succession which suited them.

Ahana wasn’t cut out for this thinking stuff, though, so she knew she had to let the assassin know what was going on, in case he hadn’t already realised it himself… with the young woman present, though, now was most likely not the right time.

As she was musing on this subject, though, silence fell.

She looked up in surprise, and noticed that everyone—Sigmund, Victor and even Gemma included—was facing in the same direction. Turning that way, all the bunnygirl could see was the crowd in front of her. Grabbing the shoulders of the big guy, she hauled herself up to look over his head.

The mob was parting for a strange-looking individual dressed entirely in black. The person wore heavily stylised robes with a very high collar, which concealed every inch of their skin up to just below eye level—so unlike the primitive tribespeople—as well as a wide, conical hat which looked to have been fashioned from black iron, and kept the small amount of their skin not covered by clothing obscured in shadow. Eventually, the stranger came to a halt, looked up at the high priest, and spoke in a voice which toed the line between masculine and feminine, “You. You are the one who opens the gates. I feel your power from where I stand.”

There was a moment of silence, as everyone took that in.

“Oh, really? You can feel his power, can you? And what does Siggy's power have to do with you? The way I see it, what he does with whatever power the Mad God grants him is hardly any of your business.” the assassin said, his tone openly hostile. Ahana noticed that Victor had placed himself protectively between Gemma and the mystery man (or woman). As the individual had shown absolutely no interest whatsoever in Sapphira’s daughter, however, the healer imagined that the reason for this must have more to do with an attempt at proving to the young woman that he cared for her, rather than an actual belief that she’d require his protection.

The figure in black didn’t so much as turn their head away from Sigmund.

“Kindly call off your dog, gate-master, and come down from your pedestal, so that we two may retire to a more private location to discuss your… situation.” they gestured around at the crowd with one arm, their overly long sleeve completely hiding their hand, “Your neophytes may prepare and serve us refreshments, but should then leave us in peace. Involving such lesser minds in a discourse such as ours would serve to accomplish naught but the wasting of precious time.”


Post Word Count: 2,963
Crawl #0004 Quest #4 Post Count: 1/3
Crawl #0004 Quest #4 Word Count: 2,963/2,133 (0 + 2,963)
 

Victor Wolfe

Staff member
Level 2
Essence
€4,076
Coin
₡13,500
Tokens
20
If ever anyone could kill someone with a glare it would be Victor. His eyes locked onto the mysterious stranger, the sanguine glow boiling with venom. "Dog is it? Is that really the best you could do? Gilgamesh be damned, I found someone with less bite than that robot I stole the demon harlot from!" Sigmund seemed to raise an annoyed eyebrow only for Vic to turn to him with a look implying it was a long story.

"Now, I am sure Sigmund here will listen to your request, and grant you an audience because he is such a benevolent cultist. But I do not think that we will be serving you refreshments, after all, I feel that until things are back up and running, the resources we have would be best put to use, by our noble workmen and women, to keep them strong whilst they rebuild this fine town!" Victor gave a politicians smile and wave to the crowd who had gathered, a small eruption of cheers and clapping filling the air.

"As for calling me off, there is only one being in all of history who has successfully achieved such a feat. One so golden and brilliant that the sun itself had to spend as many hours as possible observing his magnificence, and the kingdom he so graciously built for all of us civilised folk, to protect us from the Savagery that we shared our lands with. Now I do love our Siggy, but he is not on the same plane of existence authority wise as my former master, nor is he at a level that he could by force tell me what to do. So I think that before you start acting all high and mighty about your... magic power. That you should really pay attention to relationship dynamics to see what real power is."

Victor turned to Sigmund in the ultimate sign of disrespect for the stranger, showing that he was not even enough of a threat to the assassin to take up even a portion of his attention. "See what our guest wants from us would you my comrade? I have some more important things I want to take care off!" Sigmund gave a polite nod as he stepped down from his podium and headed towards the stranger, only to be stopped by the assassin, who used a small handshake as an opportunity to whisper into the cultist's ear. Breaking apart with a smile the assassin noticed that Gemma had slipped away from the judging eyes of her future people.

Victor himself decided to perform the same trick, pressing the button on his belt, the comforting cloak of invisibility covering his body once more. To the surprise of many of those around him. His eyes scanned the crowd, two long black ears standing between some of the heads, Victor chuckled to himself as he sneaked over to behind the bunny girl. He had always wanted to do this since they had first "met" in the Abyss. He reached out and gave her rabbit ears a light squeeze. Before the psychotic bunny girl could swing her blade the assassin retreated. They were so incredibly fluffy to the touch. He almost wanted to go back and do the same again, however. If he spent too long messing around he knew that his overall goal for this stage in the cultural conquest of the gem village may just fall to pieces. And thus he headed off to an area he was becoming more and more familiar with. The mushroom forest on the edge of town, where he knew the local princess would be waiting.

He didn't have long, but he did promise that he would help make her a warrior capable of winning the village trial by combat and that she would most certainly be the next leader of the village, After all she seemed to have all the other skill that would make her a perfect fit for the job, she wasn't as dumb as the average villager, showing more cunning than the rest, She was a little less morally obsessive too. Pragmatic, and most of all, young and easily lead by the assassin. She was likely to buy into his grand ideas and ambitions for a much larger future than her stubborn mother would have probably thought possible. This was going to be an interesting little project for him, and whilst he was finishing that training he could work on the grand unveiling of a rather important piece of art he had in his mind, one that would be crucial for the cultural growth of his dream nation.

Post Word Count: 773
Crawl #0004 Quest #4 Post Count: 1/3
Crawl #0004 Quest #4 Word Count: 733/2,133
 

Sigmund Vrell

The First High Priest of Neo New Babylon
Level 2
Essence
€3,144
Coin
₡11,500
Tokens
0
Sigmund peered curiously through the crowd to see the stranger, his heart racing as they addressed him. Another who could actually understand what he was speaking about? How glorious! Before he could respond, however, Victor cut in. The cultist’s elation dropped considerably as the assassin snapped at the stranger. They had apparently struck a nerve, and didn't particularly seem to care. Victor finished his rant and turned to leave, but not before whispering into Sigmund’s ear.

“Careful, Siggy.” Victor said, venom is his eyes. “They look a lot like a mage from my world.”

The cultist bristled briefly at the mention of his ancestral enemy, but reason quickly washed over him. Having met Sigmund’s father, Victor would have known his hatred for mages, and after the exchange before it was likely that the assassin wished to turn Sigmund and the stranger against each other. The priest gave a long, shuddering sigh. Victor was quickly proving to be an unstable ally. Regardless, Sigmund forced a smile as he turned to the stranger.

“Please, follow me.” He said, gesturing for them to come with him. “I apologise that we have no food for you. Much of it was spoiled in the use of a chemical weapon, so it must be rationed carefully for now.”

“Ah, certainly.” The stranger said, inclining their head slightly in acknowledgement.

“Allow me to apologise for Victor’s rudeness. It would seem that your comments wounded his pride.”

“It is no matter. He is unenlightened, correct?”

“He is.” Sigmund nodded.

“Then these things are to be expected.” The stranger said, unperturbed. The cultist could already tell that he liked this person. The pair came to an abandoned building, it's owners having evacuated in the fighting. Most of the mushroom gas had filtered out since the battle in the village took place, although a noxious scent still hung in the air.

“Please, take a seat.” Sigmund said, motioning for the stranger to sit as he grabbed himself a chair. The stranger obliged, taking a chair and placing it opposite of the cultist. They slid into the chair with inhuman grace, keeping Sigmund in their unblinking gaze. Shifting a little, he cleared his throat.

“So, what did you need to speak to me about?” The cultist asked, his voice tinged with a mix of apprehension and curiosity.

“There is,” The stranger paused, peering over their shoulder to ensure that no one was listening, “There is a wicked presence on this moon. It is drawn to the opening gate like a monstrous moth to a flame. It seeks to pull its wretched bulk entirely into our world, and will use you to do it.”

“Eh?” Sigmund said, suddenly alarmed. “What kind of presence are we talking about here? Surely it's not...”

“No, it is not one of the great enemies.” The stranger said, shaking their head robotically. “They could not descend into this realm, regardless. It is simply a hungering entity from between the planes.”

Sigmund breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn't ideal, but it was manageable. “How did it get to Inverxe?”

“I am unsure. I assume it was drawn to the concentrated madness at the heart of the moon.”

Sigmund nodded slowly. “Well, this won't be easy to deal with, but it should be manageable.”

The stranger stared at him for a long moment. “Which aspect do you follow?”

“Hmm?” Sigmund asked, a little surprised by the broken silence. “Gal’skap.”

The stranger stared at him blankly once more.

“Oh, sorry.” The cultist said. “That's a regional name. I follow the god of madness.”

“Ah. Interesting. You manipulate the gate well for one of the Queen’s affinity. You are in luck.” The stranger said, a hint of emotion in their voice. “Hold out your hand.”

Sigmund did as he was told, and the stranger extended a concealed arm. Their overly sized sleeve hovered over his hand for a moment before a piece of parchment dropped from it. The cultist opened the parchment, only for a sudden burst of vertigo to wash over him as he saw the profane, scrawling text of elderspeech. Quickly closing it, Sigmund turned to the stranger.

“I… Thank you, but what is this?”

“You are of the Queen’s faithful, not the Gate Guardian’s, as I had hoped. It is no matter, however, as this should help you expel the cursed entity.”

Sigmund nodded. He assumed the stranger was talking about the God of the Breach, whose priests were well-versed in banishing creatures from beyond. “Thank you. May I ask, who are you?”

“No, you may not.” The stranger said flatly. Before Sigmund could protest, they raised a hand. “In time, you may learn who I am, but for now, you must trust me. Please believe that I am a friend.”

The cultist nodded reluctantly. Apparently satisfied, the stranger stood up. “This is where I take my leave, Mr…?”

“Sigmund Vrell.”

“Sigmund Vrell...” The stranger repeated, seemingly testing the words out. “May we meet again.” The remarked before bowing and uttering a few twisted syllables of elderspeech.

“May the Gods watch over you.”

The priest returned the gesture and farewell, his mind racing. If there truly was a creature from outside on Inverxe, then he needed to get to work quickly. What to do, though. Sigmund emerged from his thoughts to realise that the stranger was gone. They had slipped out silently and left the cultist alone. Sigmund emerged from the building to find Ahana loitering about.

“Oh, hey Siggy.” She said. If she was surprised, she didn't show it. “What'd they have to say?”

“Unknowable horrors, sacred duties. You know, cult stuff.” Sigmund said with a grin. “What are you up to?”

946 words
946/2133 Crawl words
 

Ahana Varma

The First General of Neo New Babylon
Staff member
Level 4
Essence
€7,057
Coin
₡8,000
Tokens
75
“Actually, I was looking for you. I thought it was somewhere round here you and that person went.” Ahana frowned, then, and glanced around, “And where are they anyway? Still inside?”

She peered past the priest, into the building he'd just left. Sigmund shook his head, “They left before I did.”

The bunnygirl scowled, “That's impossible, I've been wandering around this this street for, like, ten minutes, and no one left that house while I was looking around, I'm certain of it.”

She twitched her ears pointedly, indicating without saying it directly that she'd been listening for them. Sigmund said nothing, but gave her a smile and a raised eyebrow. It took her a moment to work out why, then she sighed. If Gal'skap's high priest could summon interdimensional horrors to do his bidding, she supposed it wasn't all that unlikely that this stranger—who was presumably also a priest of some kind—could manage something as simple as moving around undetected.

“Where d'you think they went, then?” she asked, looking around casually. While someone who might potentially be as powerful as Sigmund—or even more so—could certainly pose a threat to the tribe, and perhaps even to the healer herself, it wasn't in her nature to worry. Plus, their priest didn't seem concerned, so she figured their mystery visitor was likely a friend.

“I couldn't say… though I doubt they've lingered here. They left without even introducing themselves as soon as they'd passed on their message, so I imagine they must have some other matter to attend to.” Sigmund didn't elaborate any further on what that message had been, and Ahana didn't ask; if he wasn't sharing then it wasn't anything she needed to know, she was sure, “So, why were you looking for me anyway?”

“Oh, right, that. Well, it seems like that new pal of yours wasn't the only one to show up here all of a sudden. It seems that ‘cause of all the drilling and tossing explosives they were doing, the Rock Raiders managed to collapse some tunnels… and open some others up. And now a bunch of them beardy elves have turned up here. The good-” she cut herself off, noticing that Sigmund had held up a hand for silence.

“‘Beardy elves’?” he asked.

“Huh? You forgot? I figured you were smarter than that, Mr High Priest.” the bunnygirl said, giving him a smirk and crossing her arms under her breasts, “Weren't you listening when I gave you and Vic that lesson on Inverxian culture?”

“You? Giving a lesson? I can't say that rings any bells,” Sigmund said, smiling back at her, “though I do recall Victor asking the miners from that settlement on the surface to explain some things to us at one point, to give us a decent knowledge of the rivals we might face when trying to build up the Mad God's cult… and you talking almost the entire way through their explanation. I may have just tuned out what you were saying so I could hear the information which was actually useful.”

After giving him a look of feigned anger, Ahana turned away and began strolling off, “Well, I guess you can just wait until you meet them to find out any more, then.”

“Oh really?” the young man asked lightly, keeping pace with her.

“Yes, really.”

“Yeah... I don't think so. Tell me.” the high priest instructed, though his pleasant tone didn't change.

Ahana gave a much-aggrieved sigh, as if he'd been pestering her for hours, then did as she was told, “Okay, okay, I guess you may have heard them called ‘dwemer’ before.”

“Ah, yes, those people. And what do they want here?” Sigmund asked.

“Well, like I was saying, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that they're merchants, with a dozen or so carts of wares, from what I saw, so they've got plenty to sell if we wanna buy anything. The not-so-good news is that a few of their guards turned and ran off as soon as they saw this place. I spoke to the boss merchant guy for a little bit before coming to find you and he said that the runners are definitely going to try and head back to their city to tell their leaders about this place… they've never seen a cavern with this many crystals, so he thinks their council will want to claim it for themselves. Since you and Vic were busy, I figured I'd try and sort this thing out myself, but then the boss guy started talking about territories and borders and I figured I'd best find one of you two to think about that stuff so I didn't have to.”

“Oh joy, politics.” Sigmund said glumly. Ahana grinned.

“Well, if you're really against it, I could always take another shot at it. There's a chance I might not accidentally start a war.”

The high priest sighed, “Ugh, point taken. Where's Victor? He'd be the best one to tackle this sort of dispute, so why were you looking for me rather than him?”

“Ah.” the healer said, somewhat awkwardly. She then proceeded to not elaborate further.

“Ahana, what is it?” suspicion tinged the young man's voice.

“Oh, well, it's just… Vic might be a little preoccupied right now. I asked a few of the tribesfolk to have a look around for him, but even if they find him, I'm not totally confident he'll want to come and help right now.” the bunnygirl stopped speaking, as if that explanation alone was an adequate answer to Sigmund's question.

“What is he ‘preoccupied’ with?” the high priest pressed.

“Well… when you left, he headed off with that girl he’d been comforting. Gemma, I think her name was.”

“I see.” Sigmund’s tone had a slight edge to it now.

“Hey, they might not be having sex. I'm sure there's plenty of other stuff a young man and woman could get up to… secretly… after heading off somewhere they don't have to worry about getting interrupted.” the healer had to admit that she wasn't sounding very convincing, even to herself.

“Mhm.” the cult leader grunted, “And are there many things that you could imagine Victor Wolfe doing… while alone with a young, attractive young woman?”

“Oh yeah, loads of stuff.” Ahana said without hesitation.

“Things that don't involve illicit sexual relations.”

“Oh.”

***

“Ah, you must be High Priest Vrell, I've heard so much about you!” boomed a slender, bearded elf in ornate, golden robes, approaching the pair, arms outstretched, “Thank you, Miss Varma, for fetching your leader with such haste and alacrity, I truly appreciate your assistance, and Master Vrell, I assure you that I am naught but your, ordinary, everyday, humble and extraordinarily wealthy merchant; I play no part in the schemes of our fine city's ruling council. I most dearly hope that I am able to assist you in maintaining your people's independence, and that we can come to a mutually beneficial and profitable agreement.”

“Thank you, I'm glad to hear it, and might I ask your name?” the high priest enquired, giving the merchant a friendly smile.

“Oh, of course, of course, how rude of me, here I am feeling as if I've already known you for years after listening to all these tales of your greatness, when in fact we've not even been introduced. I am Caravan Master Renifgrenac Ezzemenugrum von Mornorbalherdal, of the merchant city of Kah Derngrolenf.” the dwemer bowed deeply from the waist, “though as I'm sure we shall become fast friends and form a fine business relationship, I insist that we dispense with formalities, Master Vrell. Please, call me Reni.”

“I will do so then, Reni, and I insist that you call me Sigmund.” the priest paused for a moment, but then continued speaking before the caravan master could pick up the reins of the conversation, “You mentioned tales just now… if you don't mind me asking, who exactly have you been speaking to?”

The caped man cast a sidelong glance at Ahana, who figured he might be thinking she'd taken the time to give away all their secrets before coming to find him. She simply shrugged in response, though, not having any idea herself what Renifgrenac was going on about.

“Ohohoho,” the elf laughed jovially, “well, many of your tribe’s warriors have been hanging around this area, as you must surely have noticed.”

With a wide, sweeping gesture, he indicated the area all around them. He wasn't wrong, the majority of the warriors had gathered here, and were watching the newcomers—and their remaining caravan guards, in particular—closely, many of them sharing dark looks with one another.

“It's not a surprise that they would want to keep their eyes on us, of course; with all these precious gems you have just lying around, it is perfectly reasonable to be suspicious of strangers who could easily be tempted by greed. They don't seem very talkative, on the whole, but luckily I did encounter someone more willing to engage in civil discourse... if you would care to retire to my carriage, you can meet my source there, and we can discuss the opportunities that a close relationship could bring us both?” so saying, the smiling merchant beckoned them (well, Sigmund, really) forwards and turned to head between the two closest wagons, moving deeper into the site where the caravan had come to a halt.

The pair shared a glance, then shrugged and followed along. It could be a trap, the bunnygirl supposed, but between her Divine Conflagration, b'Akphiyr, and Sigmund's tome of eldritch horrors, she wasn't overly concerned about the dangers posed by a bunch of elves.

***

“Ah, I see, it was you.” the high priest said, as he stepped through the narrow doorway after their host.

“Hm?” Ahana asked, not being able to see past him. He paid her no attention, though. He didn't need to, in any case, as the identity of the merchant’s ‘source’ was revealed a moment later, when she spoke.

“High Priest Sigmund! I'm so glad you're here! Master Renifgum… rac… ur… uh-” said a familiar voice, at the same time as Ahana heard the noise of someone falling to their knees on the caravan’s floor. Though Sigmund still hadn't moved out of the doorway to let her in, going by the sound, she knew that the floor must be carpeted quite thickly.

The dwemer laughed at the woman's inability to remember his name, sounding genuine, “Please, Amy, I've already asked you to call me Reni, haven't I? I thought we were past the need for such formalities?”

“Uh, I, that is-”

“It's fine, Amy.” the high priest reassured her, “Being a priestess doesn't disqualify you from having casual conversations with people, you know.”

“O-oh, right, of-of course.” Ahana could hear the embarrassment in Amethyst’s voice, and snickered, then stepped closer to Sigmund and poked him in the back.

“Oi, Siggy, can you budge over a bit so I can come in?”

“Oh, yes, of course.”

The priest moved aside and Ahana stepped in… though not before leaving b’Akphiyr leaning against the outside of the vehicle; even she was smart enough to realise that it’d likely sour their relationship with the merchants if she accidentally maimed one of them.

The carriage had a single window on either side, though curtains were closed over them both. Once the door was shut behind her, the only illumination came from three glowing, crystal balls which sat about the interior. Their light had a pale orange hue, and the orbs seemed to produce heat as well, making the vehicle feel warm and cosy, despite its opulence. Kneeling on the floor was Sigmund’s first priestess, who turned to glare at the healer as she entered. Ahana smirked back.

“So, Amy, you were saying?” the caped man asked.

“Oh, yes! Reni was curious to learn more about us, and I thought it would be alright to spread the word of our religion, so I told him all about the Mad God, what you and your friends have done for us, and how indebted to you we all are!” Amethyst enthused, her eyes positively glowing with admiration as she gazed up at the high priest.

Ahana covered her mouth and leaned in close to Sigmund’s ear, then ‘whispered’ loudly enough for everyone in the carriage to clearly hear every word, “I think she likes you.

Renifgrenac laughed, Amethyst blushed and glared at the floor, and Sigmund sighed.

“Ah, Sigmund, if you were anyone else I’d say you’re a lucky man, my friend, but given what Amy has told me of the precepts of your religion, perhaps constantly being in the company of beautiful, scantily-clad women who're attracted to you is less ideal for you in particular than it would be for the average male.” the dwemer said, taking a seat on one of the carriage’s cushioned benches, and indicating for the other three to do the same. Each side of the vehicle was more than wide enough to fit three people, so the elf’s guests all sat together, with Sigmund in the middle.

Ahana wasn’t particularly attracted to uptight, overzealous types, but she figured it’d be entertaining to go along with the caravan master’s initial impression of the high priest as being something like an unwilling protagonist in a harem story. As such, she leaned against his side, and gave him a cheery, innocent smile in response to the suspicious look he sent her way. She pointedly ignored Amethyst, who was glaring daggers at her.

Truth be told, the bunnygirl didn’t actually know if the other woman was interested in Sigmund in that way or not; she certainly wasn’t being forward about it if that was the case, so it could well be that she just really admired him, and shared in his zealotry. Ahana found it funnier to think of Amethyst being into him, though, so decided to just assume that that was the case.

“I don't know that anyone here is actually attracted to me," Sigmund said, really living up to that harem-story-protagonist stereotype, "but their clothes aren't really a problem... so long as people behave themselves, what they wear isn’t all that important.”

So saying, the caped man gently but firmly pushed the healer away, giving her a look that promised further cranial immolation if she didn’t get her act together.

“Oh? You can say that, but surely you see that it would be much easier for some of your less strong-willed followers to resist temptation if your flock were dressed less provocatively? After all, I notice that while Miss Varma may have elected to dress in the local fashion, you have not done so, High Priest. Perhaps that was wise, given your apparent popularity with the ladies; we wouldn’t want your priestesses being driven to distraction, now would we?” Renifgrenac asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Ugh, it’s not like that!” insisted Amethyst loudly, her face flushed with what could've been either anger or embarrasment. She turned to the caped man, “I swear, High Priest Sigmund, I’m not like that... harlot!

She jabbed an accusing finger at Ahana, who laughed, and lifted her legs off the floor, to drape them across the priest's lap. He met Amethyst’s gaze for a moment, before wordlessly looking down to his tome, which he opened. He flicked through a few pages, then placed his left forefinger on a certain line and held up his right hand in the bunnygirl’s face, without even glancing her way.

A moment later, when he’d finished silently reading the passage to himself, a blast of many-hued energy spat from his palm and smacked the healer in the face, its colours merging with the golden flames that formed to shield her. Though the rift blast didn’t actually harm Ahana, it packed enough of a punch to knock her from her seat and leave her sprawled on the floor. She laughed, and smirked smugly up at him when the flames had cleared. She’d not expected Sigmund to be able to kill her, but she also hadn’t thought she’d be completely unhurt by his holy powers… it came as a pleasant surprise.

“Behave, Ahana. I’d rather not have to publicly punish you for sinning again, so if you can’t manage to keep your hands to yourself, just stay on the floor, out of reach.” the priest said, finally turning to look at her.

“Haha, alright, alright, if you insist, oh mighty prophet of Gal’skap.” the healer responded, moving to sit cross-legged, with her back leant against the carriage door.

“You see what I mean?” the caravan master asked smoothly, “With someone as lascivious as Miss Varma, acting the way she does even though you are fully clothed, imagine the sorts of shameful, lewd things she might try if you were to go around half-naked like the rest of the tribe?”

“Heh. You sound interested.” the bunnygirl noted, turning her smirk upon the merchant.

“Ahana.” the caped man said in a warning tone.

“Sorry, sorry.” the healer said, almost-seriously, realising that she might be pushing him a bit far. She’d been quite enjoying building Sigmund up as some big, important person, and seeing his cult of madness blossom, so she knew that if he actually got pissed off enough to demand that she let him torture her in public again, she wouldn’t want to spoil all their hard work up to this point by refusing, and thereby letting everyone know that he didn’t actually have the power to coerce her into doing anything she didn’t feel like... which meant she'd probably end up having to endure a whole lot of pain. Needless to say, that wouldn't exactly be ideal.

Sigmund sighed, then turned back to the merchant, “Apologies for that, Reni.”

“No, no, it’s no problem at all.” Renifgrenac waved a hand dismissively. Ahana was pretty sure he’d be more than happy to sleep with her if she made the offer, but in the interests of not upsetting a potential customer, he was acting like he couldn’t care less. Though she supposed he probably wouldn’t be overly concerned if he didn’t get to sleep with her, either. As rich as he seemed to be, this guy probably got laid pretty often.

“Well, I do see your point. Perhaps it would be better to encourage the tribesfolk to dress a little more conservatively. What do you think, Amy, would your people accept a request like that?”

Though the high priest asked his neophyte, it was the merchant who replied, confusion in his voice, “Accept? Request? Sigmund, from what Amy told me, I was under the impression that you were the leader of this tribe… is that not the case?”

The caped man, who had faced the caravan master when he spoke, slowly turned back to look at Amethyst.

“Amy,” he said, “just what have you been saying, exactly?”

“It’s true!” she cried, her tone an odd mixture of pleading and indignant, as she grabbed Sigmund’s upper arm roughly and stared into his eyes, “You may not realise it, High Priest, but practically everyone here now adores you and your god. You incinerated the invader who brought death and destruction to our home, your friend Victor destroyed that metal monster he rode… and I guess the harlot healed some people too. The point is, we owe you our lives! Though the people may argue and fight over who becomes chief next, no matter who wins in the end, the Cult of the Mad God is sure to become our one and only religion, so you will always be heard here. I know I-”

Stopping suddenly, she blushed again, let go of his arm, and shuffled across on the seat, putting a little distance between them, “Uh, that is, I know many of us in the tribe would side with you over the new chief, if it came to it… you mean a lot to us.”

There was a moment of silence, which was broken when Ahana snorted with laughter. Amethyst gave her a murderous look, and her fingers twitched, as if the bigger woman was having difficulty keeping herself from leaping the short distance between them and making a spirited attempt at pummelling the healer into the floor.

Renifgrenac cleared his throat, “This does seem to be quite an interesting situation you’ve found yourself in, Sigmund, and I’m sure we can be of assistance in the matter of clothing. We have a fairly large number of outfits with us at the moment, in many different styles, and a few of our merchants have knowledge of tailoring themselves. We likely haven’t the supplies to clothe the entire tribe, but if you have a particular style you like, we can of course send for more of those, or even arrange for clothing to be custom-made, if you have your own ideas as to what would be suitable attire for your… cultists.”

He paused, but then spoke up again before the high priest could reply, his voice colder this time, his tone deadly serious, “Given what Amy has just revealed, however, sorting out the details of our trade relationship and looking at clothes may be a rather low priority at the moment. I must advise that you sort out whatever power struggle might be going on within your tribe with the utmost urgency. As you know, some of our guards headed back to Kah Derngrolenf to report on our discovery of this place almost as soon as we arrived here. Our city's ruling council will soon be informed of the enormous mineral wealth which you have here, and should they vote in favour of taking this cavern by force, then even with the blessings of your god, your people will be hard-pressed to fight them off. Any in-fighting in your ranks at all at that time will surely doom the entire tribe.”


Post Word Count: 3,674
Crawl #0004 Quest #4 Post Count: 2/3
Crawl #0004 Quest #4 Word Count: 6,637/2,133 (2,963 + 3,674)
 

Victor Wolfe

Staff member
Level 2
Essence
€4,076
Coin
₡13,500
Tokens
20
*Meanwhile, in the mushroom forest*

Gemma panted, sweat glistening on her forehead, her teeth gritted as to not let out a scream. Knees scraped from being pushed onto the rough cavern floor as the powerful assassin demanded that she beg, lest he continues an assault on her already exhausted body. "God I can't take anymore!" She begged towards the pleasure filled eyes of Victor.

"Gilgamesh damn it you are weak" The assassin sighed as he used the girls back as a seat, forcing her to the ground, struggling to escape to no avail, as the assassin supported his head with his hand, deep in thought. The girl was certainly fast, but that was about it, her sloppy footwork had gotten her caught like an amateur. and even when she was on the attack her hardest blows healed almost faster than she could make them.

Unfortunately, Victor was not the best teacher, usually training at least intermediate level warriors and assassins where the basics had either been refined or instilled. Teaching what had come so naturally to the young assassin was turning out to be quite the puzzle. And unfortunately, for once in his life, his failings where being observed by someone that he didn't want to kill yet. Ahanas boy-toy had apparently taken his usual roosting spot atop one of the mushrooms when he noticed one of the fungi trees fall in the distance. Victor had attempted to plant his blades in the trunk to keep them safe whilst he used their sheaths to simulate combat. They now rested inside the cave wall, the trunk could at least be used to practice balance.

Nisse seemed to be enjoying the show as he stifled a chuckle everytime the assassin had to scold the future leader of the village for not taking in his lessons. After one too many laughing sessions, the assassin glared up towards the boy, a look of dread spreading across he noticed the blonde's eyes drift towards his blades, still embedded in the cave wall, and the memory of just what they could do to the tree he was sitting on, and what they would do to his scrawny ass if they even so much as grazed him.

"So, Mr Giggles, you seem to be having quite the time up there, clearly seeing something that I, the greatest assassin in my nation's history am missing, so would you be so kind as to inform me darling, before I come up there and penetrate you so hard that not even Ahana can save you!"

For a moment the boys' look of terror changed to one of confusion as he asked "Was that a rape reference? Or a Stabbing one?" Victor only gave a very sly grin.

"Well, why not both? Not decided the order yet, but once you are down from that tree we can work something out!" The assassin began to walk towards his daggers causing the raven-haired goth kid to shout out. "You are too good!" Time seemed to stand still as both Gemma and the assassin looked towards the kid, Victor utterly stunned and frozen, nothing to say for the first time in over a decade. His eyes curious as they stared up to the top of the mushroom, for once with curiosity, over the usual disdain.

"Did any of our warriors move like you have been doing all day? Its true we have some strong warriors here, some even more physically imposing than you, But we do not really have any who can move with that level of speed and precision, you have been trying to teach her as if she was someone with ten years combat experience, who has to go up against a veteran of eight wars and champion of one hundred tournaments." As much as the assassin hated being wrong the boy certainly had a point. Their Queen had supposedly been their best warrior, but other than an imposing physical figure and a solid throwing arm, in a duel she likely would not have even made it into an intermediate class at the good old knights' academy.

The simple fact of the matter was that Gemma did not need to match someone with over fifteen years of combat experience like Victor, she only had to be able to beat one of the muscle-bound idiots that made up the sheep of a populace. And unlike in his homeworld where the large muscleheads at least had the advantage of heavy plate mail to protect them from their own stupid mistakes, that was not a problem here.

Victor smirked, walking over to Gemma as he helped her to her feet and dusted her off. "So what kind of duelling is it? Weapon of choice? Fixed?"

Gemma pointed over to the weapon rack that she had already prepared for the training, fitting for the rather swole people of the gem town, the rack was filled with nothing but two-handed greatswords, a terrible choice for someone like Gemma who would rely on mobility.

"Three people from the village usually picked by different interest groups or just strong warriors can challenge for leadership upon the death of the former leader. So I need to win three fights in a row just to get this stupid throne!" Gemma puffed her cheeks, clearly frustrated at the situation. Victor, however, had a very satisfied grin on his face, he had noticed something about the design of these blades and had already come up with a new training regime, with a small clap he turned. "Well, let us get to it then, you have a throne to claim princess! And if you do well I may even have something even more fun for you to sit on!"

Post Word Count: 955
Crawl #0004 Quest #4 Post Count: 2/3
Crawl #0004 Quest #4 Word Count:1,688
 

Sigmund Vrell

The First High Priest of Neo New Babylon
Level 2
Essence
€3,144
Coin
₡11,500
Tokens
0
Sigmund’s heart was thumping in his chest as thoughts rushed through his head. Not only did he have to deal with the unseen threat from within Inverxe, but the Dwemer were now looming over the village, poised to sweep in and take it. Reni had left the tent, leaving Sigmund to his thoughts. Amy sat next to him, fidgeting nervously.

“High priest?” She asked cautiously. “Are you upset with me?”

“No.” The cultist sighed. “He would have found out eventually. I do wish that we could have cushioned the blow, but oh well. Fate has decided that this is how it will be.”

Ahana opened her mouth to say something, but Sigmund rose to his feet before she could talk. “I have to be alone for a while.” He said as he turned to leave.

“High priest, wait...” Amy said weakly, but did not try to stop him from leaving.

Sigmund rubbed his temples as he strode through the village, ignoring the tribespeople chattering in the streets. His chest felt tight, and his head was throbbing. What had he done to deserve this? Before long, he found himself outside of the village, in the forest-like masses of mushrooms that lined the cave. Hopping up onto one of the shorter fungi, the cultist closed his eyes and groaned.

“How long has this gone on?” Sigmund wondered to himself, rubbing his eyes and yawning. His eyes began to droop, and his thoughts turned to home. He needed help, he needed his fellow cultists. But he would not get them, and there was work to be done. “Gal’skap, give me strength.” He said as he rose to his feet.

The first thing he needed to handle was the outsider on Inverxe. The last thing anyone needed was an eldritch evil smashing its way through the village, Dwemer be damned. Sigmund didn't know what creature it was exactly, but he could guess that no one in the village could fight it yet. Opening his tome, Sigmund flicked through the eldritch book, searching desperately for a particular page. The page in question contained glyphs of warding which would, hopefully, keep the beast at bay.

After a quick look around, the cultist found a sharp crystal and a small mushroom, then picked both up. Glancing from his book to the mushroom, Sigmund slowly and carefully gouged the profane symbols into the fungus. After a long moment, the symbol was finished. Despite being abnormally unsettling for a simple pictograph, the symbol didn't seem to have any other effect. For a moment, Sigmund wondered if it would help, but held faith. He placed the mushroom in a pouch in his belt, then repeated the process with a small number of other mushroom.

“Now I just have to place these at the edges of the village.” Sigmund thought to himself as he felt the weight of the pouch, a hint of a smile on his face. As he placed the pouch back on his belt, he heard something in the near distance. Curious, he went to investigate. In a nearby clearing, the cultist found Victor and Gemma sparring. Thanking the gods that that was all they were doing, Sigmund approached them.

“Victor, Gemma, hello!” He called.

“Oh, hey Siggy.” Victor said. “You spying on us to make sure we’re behaving?”

“No. I trust y- actually, I don't trust you, but I don't have the time. There is trouble in the village.”

“Oh, what's wrong?”

“Elven traders, and apparently their army might come to try and claim our terri-”

“Hold on there, Siggy.” Victor said. His face was calm but his eyes betrayed a burning anger beneath the surface. “I might have misheard you. Did you say elves?”

“Yes, ‘beardy elves’, as Ahana called them.”

“I see… I have to go meet these people.” Victor growled, turning to head straight to the village, leaving Gemma confused.

“Victor, wait!” Sigmund called as he raced after the assassin. He had heard the stories of elves himself, and he was no fan either, but it wouldn't do for Victor to slaughter their traders in cold blood.

683 words
1629/2133 Crawl words
 

Ahana Varma

The First General of Neo New Babylon
Staff member
Level 4
Essence
€7,057
Coin
₡8,000
Tokens
75
Ahana struck a pose, gazing adoringly at her reflection in the full-length mirror which the merchant woman had hung up on the outside of her wagon. She wore an orange, gold-lined sari, all but identical to the one she’d had before it got all torn up when she fought a bunch of illithids that one time. Grinning broadly, the bunnygirl tried out a few more fabulous stances. And then some more. And more after that.

“Uh… are you done yet?” the dwemer behind her asked eventually. The woman was, like many elves, rather androgynous. She was slim, with narrow hips and not much of a bust, but not unpleasant to look upon. Unlike with other races of elves, though, it was readily apparent with the dwemer which were the men and which the women, simply because the females lacked beards.

“Hmm…” flicking her hair over her shoulder, the healer sighed, “yes, I suppose that'll do… I'll take it. And you'll be wanting paid now, will you?”

The elf gave her a tight smile, and spoke in the sort of tone that one might use when addressing a simple child, “That is generally what happens when customers purchase goods from me, yes.”

“I see, I see… well, it can't be helped, I guess.” turning away from the captivating and radiant beauty of her own reflection, Ahana faced the merchant, “I don't actually have any money, though.”

Oh… really…” the woman said, her voice finally losing the last dregs of the polite tone she'd started out with half an hour or so ago, when Ahana had shown up at her wagon. She turned her gaze upon the sack, about two feet wide, which sat on the moss-coated ground nearby, where the healer had dropped it a short time before. Right beside it, leaning against the wagon, was b'Akphiyr. Ahana was not at all afraid that anyone might try to steal from her, in fact, she expected that it'd prove to be an interesting diversion if any of the dwemer should be foolish enough to try.

“Yeah,” the bunnygirl gestured over at the sack with a thumb, “I'm just gonna have to trade you something for it.”

“Hmph. That's ridiculous, do I look like a pawn shop to you?” the merchant sneered contemptuously, “I sell clothes, and that's it… and don't even think of trying to trade-in that underwear you had on when you showed up. I'm warning you now, you may think you're important because you're a big shot in this primitive, little tribe here, but you're nothing compared to the might of our great city of Kah Derngrolenf. If you so much as think about insulting me by offering anything less than what that sari is worth, I'll have you-”

“Will this do?” Ahana drawled, reaching into the sack then pulling out and immediately tossing down onto the ground at the dwemer's feet a large handful of jewels and jewellery, sparkling and glowing in every colour of the rainbow. The woman froze, and made a small choking noise. The bunnygirl smirked at the elf's wide eyes and the blatant greed in her expression; she was practically drooling.

“A-ah, y-y-yes.” the merchant sank to her knees and scrambled to pick up the precious stones, holding them up to her eyes and staring hungrily.

“I see… that's great to hear. If you like these trinkets so much then how about you get, let's say, a dozen other outfits just like this one made for me the next time you're in that big, fancy city of yours, then? As you've surely noticed, 'primitive, little' tribes like this one aren't exactly the best when it comes to tailoring.”

“Huh? Exactly like that one?” the woman parroted, blinking cluelessly, “Are you sure? I have plenty of other, similar clothes here with me now if you'd-”

Did I fucking stutter, bitch?” Ahana growled, striding forwards and leaning down, hands on hips, far enough that her face was barely a centimetre from the merchant's, her expression set in an ugly snarl.

“Uh, n-no.” the dwemer cowered back fearfully for a moment, before remembering that they were currently in the middle of her people's caravan, with several guards no doubt nearby, and that Ahana was unarmed, “Hey, you can't speak to me like that! Just because I'm being so generous by letting you barter with gems rather than paying in coin like you really ought to, that doesn't mean you get to treat me like dirt! Apologise now, or you can take your business elsewhere!”

“Hah. You may say that, merchant lady, but your words and your expression don't match at all.” as Ahana had said, the dwemer's face was still twisted in an a hungry, almost lustful, expression of greed, as she clutched the jewellery she'd been given tightly in sweaty fingers, “No matter what you might protest, we both know that you're the type to desire wealth more than anything… hell, I bet you'd even whore yourself out to me if I offered to pay enough, wouldn't you?”

“N-” the dwemer began to protest, her face flushing red with either rage or embarrassment, or perhaps a bit of both. Before she could even speak a word, though, the bunnygirl had pressed a finger to her lips, then leaned in close to whisper softly into her ear.

“Be careful what you say now, because depending on what it is, you may not later receive a... proposition that you'd profit from.” the healer let her finger drop. The elf glared impotently at the ground, but didn't finish saying ‘no’. Ahana smirked, then laughed loudly, “There's a good girl. Now remember, I want a dozen more just like this one.”

Straightening up, she turned and left. Waving goodbye without looking back, the bunnygirl strode off with the sack of precious stones she'd pilfered from a broken down hut when no one was nearby. As she passed by him, she snatched b'Akphiyr up by his hilt.

***

Wandering through the various wagons, carts and carriages, the demonblade leant casually on her shoulder and her bag of loot in the other hand, Ahana was glancing around at what the other elves were selling, wandering if there was anything else that might be worth trading her not-so-hard-earned plunder for. She was distracted from her search by the sound of raised voices. Only a couple at first, then more and more, as others joined in. Grinning, she changed direction and sauntered off towards the commotion.

Upon arriving, she saw Victor, being held back by Sigmund and a warrior she didn’t recognise. Gemma and Nisse standing a short distance away looking perplexed, and a mob of other, less composed warriors than the man who’d decided to help the high priest hold back the assassin. Opposite them, the dwemer guards had lined up, but were far from standing neatly at attention. Both sides screamed curses, insults and accusations at one another. Behind the line of guards, the merchants looked on with fear, contempt or, occasionally, amusement.

“Well, well, what’s happened here then?” Ahana asked merrily, stepping out from the crowd of elves and shouldering her way through the line of guards, who gave her dirty looks but made no attempt at stopping her, presumably figuring that it’d make more sense to have her where they could see her than behind them, in amongst the civilians they were being paid to protect.

“Ahana, good timing, come over here and-” Sigmund started, before cutting himself off as he took in the sight of her, “Wow, you’re actually wearing clothes.”

She laughed, “Yup, I do that sometimes. So, what’s all the fuss about?”

“Oh, yes, help us hold back Victor, will you? He’s acting like a lunatic.”

“I am not! That guy over there was looking at me funny, I saw him! That proves it, they’re planning on killing us in our sleep! You can’t trust elves! Get off me!” the assassin screamed, apparently overcome by rage. The bunnygirl resisted the impulse to laugh. She’d never seen him so worked up, and found it pretty entertaining, especially when he was also doing such a fine job of riling up all these tribesfolk; she was sure it’d be quite the bloodbath if the two sides were allowed to lay into one another.

Still, that’d undoubtedly sour relations with the dwemer, and after she’d just gone to all the trouble of convincing that merchant lady to bring her more clothes, too. It was a real stroke of luck running into these merchants, and it’d be damned inconvenient to have to find another supplier on this desolate ball of ice and snow. And given that her aura couldn’t fix up clothes, she’d probably end up running around butt naked eventually, if she couldn’t get more for any length of time.

She walked up to the assassin and flicked him on the forehead with one finger. He stopped shouting to glare at her.

“Bad Vic, bad.” she said, as if talking to a dog. His expression did not grow any warmer, “There’s no need to get all worked up just ‘cause they’re elves and I guess you’re kinda racist or something? I dunno. But they’re also merchants, and don’t seem to care that we might soon be at war with their city, so why not take advantage of that to buy up all the useful stuff they can give us while we can?”

It felt weird to be the one counselling reason. This role really didn’t suit her, she thought. Off to the side, she heard one merchant quietly ask another if he thought it was really morally correct to sell to people who were their enemies. The other one laughed at the speaker. The healer smirked. These dwemer merchants seemed pretty willing to do whatever it took to turn a profit.

“Wait, we’ll be at war?” Victor asked. Ahana’s gaze slid across to Sigmund, who sighed.

“That’s what I was trying to tell you before you rushed off to make baseless accusations and try to pick a fight with these people. The merchants here don’t mean us harm, but the leaders of their city are likely to try and take the cavern by force.” Sigmund said, with a hint of exasperation.

“Oh, I see.” Victor responded, calming down. He smiled slightly, and Ahana guessed that he might be looking forward to getting to fight an elvish army; there’d certainly be no problem with him killing as many elves as he pleased if they were to go to war with that city she’d already forgotten the name of.

The caped man tentatively let go of the blond, and when Victor didn’t immediately begin trying to kill any dwemer, he nodded to the burly warrior, who also backed off.

“Alright, good, well if you’re calm now then I’ll leave this to you-” the high priest said, holding up a mushroom with some sort of sigil carved into is cap. Looking at the rune made the bunnygirl’s eyes sting and water, and she felt her mouth go dry. It actually made her uneasy, and though she tried to make it appear casual, she very quickly looked away.

Suddenly, as if looking at the icon had awakened her to something she hadn’t before been able to perceive, she had the feeling that she was being watched… which was totally accurate, of course, as there were people all around her. Still, it felt wrong for some reason, and she was almost positive that she could hear a noise that didn’t belong here, though no matter how she strained her ears to listen, she had no idea what or where it might be.

She just put it down to her overactive imagination. She must’ve gotten so used to hearing Sigmund going on about interdimensional, eldritch entities that she was now imagining them crawling out of the woodwork like cockroaches.

“-as I‘ve got more important things to take care of right now than some stupid territorial dispute.” so saying, Sigmund turned and left them, striding purposefully off towards the village, with that creepy mushroom in hand. The healer and assassin shared a glance and both shrugged. Ahana was somewhat curious about what their friend had been discussing with that stranger, and why he was now carving profane symbols into fungi, but she supposed that’d have to wait for now.

Whilst whatever weird, religious ritual he was now performing must surely have seemed extremely vital to the priest, the bunnygirl doubted that it was anything that actually mattered. Keeping a bunch of greedy elves from taking all these precious crystals away from them before they’d even properly taken over the tribe was surely much more important than whatever their priest was up to.

She opened her mouth to say something to Victor, but before she could even get a word out, she heard an odd, ringing, humming noise behind her, and spun round to see a dome of blue light appearing before her.

It quickly faded, revealing three robed figures. Two wore metal armour over their upper bodies, as did the caravan guards, but the one in the middle was a grey-bearded man in civilian clothes.

“Who would be the leader of the tribe living here?” the man in the centre asked. There was an awkward pause, and the warriors looked at each other in confusion. With no chief at the moment, they’d likely have been willing to let Sigmund serve as a sort of interim head of state, as he was the high priest of their new religion. With him now having wandered off, though, after making it clear he didn’t want to deal with this, the answer was a bit more up in the air.

“I am.” said Gemma, after a moment of hesitation, and strode forwards with her head held high. Victor gave a smile at that, which quickly vanished when he turned to glare at the assembled warriors, as more than a few immediately began muttering unpleasant things under their breath after the girl’s announcement.

The assassin then moved forwards as well, to stand behind and slightly to the right of Gemma, and Ahana followed after him, taking a similar position on the girl’s left, much as the old dwemer’s guards had done for him. The six of them faced one another.

“Well, here you are, then.” the elf said, looking down his nose disdainfully at the scantily clad young woman as he handed over a tightly bound sheaf of papers, “It’s a notice detailing our terms. In case you’re too poorly educated to know how to read, though, or just too stupid to understand complex legal documents, I shall summarise it for you; you and your fellow squatters have been graciously provided two days to withdraw from this cavern, which is the rightful property of the city-state of Kah Derngrolenf. You are permitted to take with you as much food and clothing as you can carry, but will not be allowed to abscond with any of the crystals you have had the audacity to steal from us. Every citizen shall be subject to a search upon leaving the cavern and any found to be attempting to leave with gems on their person shall be summarily executed. After the two day withdrawal period has passed, a division of our armed forces shall arrive on site to escort those who have left peacefully out beyond our territory. Any who try to remain shall be executed for trespassing. Do I make myself clear?”

Ahana glanced across at the other two. Gemma’s mouth was set in a hard line, and she was holding the papers tightly enough that her knuckles had gone white, but she was holding back her anger, keeping from refusing outright. Even as the dissenting mutters from the warriors grew more pronounced in the background, she refrained from acting rashly.

For all that the proud people of her tribe may dislike it, the fact of the matter was that the dwemer were very clearly the more advanced civilisation here, and could no doubt crush the tribe with ease (at least, without taking the strength of the Mad God’s trio into account). It seemed to the bunnygirl that though her fellows may despise her for it, she could well be on the cusp of agreeing to to the elves’ proposal. Like her mother before her, Gemma seemed to be thinking of her people’s safety first and foremost, rather than just about making herself look good. She might actually not be an altogether awful leader after all.

Victor, on the other hand, was trembling with rage and practically foaming at the mouth. He looked as if he might leap forward and tear out the old man’s throat with his teeth. The healer didn’t know what association the assassin had had with elves in the past, but she was sure that this geezer’s behaviour could only be encouraging Victor to hold on to his prejudiced views.

“Well? Say something, already. I haven’t all day, you know.” the dwemer demanded haughtily, “As a powerful archmage, I do have more important things to attend to than simply delivering messages to dirty savages, so if you have anything to say for yourself then go ahead, so that I might be on my way. If there is nothing then I will take your silence as acceptance of these terms.”

Behind them, the warriors began yelling and screaming with fury, many of them demanding that Gemma kill the fucker herself, to prove she deserved to lead them. By some small miracle, however, the mob hadn’t yet given in to their rage entirely and fallen upon the envoy and his guards… this situation might yet be salvageable.

They were making such a racket that even with her inhuman hearing, Ahana almost missed the noise of Victor’s twin daggers sliding free of their sheathes. She sighed, then chuckled, resigning herself to the reality of the situation, and just hoping that the merchants would survive, and would still be willing to deal with her afterwards.


Post Word Count: 3,019
Crawl #0004 Quest #4 Post Count: 3/3
Crawl #0004 Quest #4 Word Count: 9,656/2,133 (6,637 + 3,019)
 

Victor Wolfe

Staff member
Level 2
Essence
€4,076
Coin
₡13,500
Tokens
20
With one swift motion, the assassins blades shot upwards, before the elder elf's guards could react they found themselves staring at the ceiling of the cavern. The assassin had used the heavy gem embedded hilts of his daggers, charging them with the same energy that normally coated the edge, using it to knock the guards unconscious. With smug confidence, he reached out and grabbed the documents from the stunned statesman's hands. The glow of his eyes highlighting the words as he quickly took in the documents. Once finished the assassin rolled up the parchment and started t

"Now this is all well and good, just the sort of savage barbarism we would expect from knife ears. Trying to force these good people off of land that has been there's for generations, well I have news for you, these are fungi, not plants, and those are gems, not body glitter you damn degenerates, so I don't even know what a bunch of bow worshipping knife ears would even want with such a place." Victor paced around in front of the elder elf, who had now recovered from the shock of seeing his guards go down so fast, the metal of their helmets contorted from the impact of the blow. Now hearing the stereotypes from this caped charlatan a fire began to grow in his belly as he broke his silence.

"Now you listen here cur!" He bellowed only for the assassin to step forward, despite the lack of a high difference the assassin felt like a giant towering over the elf.

"Now now leaf brain, it would seem that in this world elves are far more adaptable than we had given them credit for, good for you, you learned a new niche, something humanity has been doing since day one. Now as much as I would love to paint a mural with your blood and then proceed to kill every elf on this moon down to the last women and child, maybe keep some as pets, show the future generations what an abject failure looks like. But in case you cannot tell we have a bit of a leadership situation here, this is disputed ground. But if you want to be a good little messenger then perhaps you can stay and watch the show, once this little leadership crisis has been solved I am...Certain that you will have quite an interesting report to send back to your owners!" Victor leaned in, a look of predatory excitement almost begging the elf to ignore the offer and attempt to flee.

"And why would I do that. Boy?" The elder elf almost spat the last world, Victors grip tightening as he for a moment considered making an example of why he should not be antagonised.

"Well, Dog! You should stay here because if things go the way I think that they will, then your masters will definitely want to know about the big announcement. And if you call these people savages then surely watching them in a trial of combat would be most entertaining, no?" The assassin raised an eyebrow as the venom left his voice for the first time since the conversation started. His curiosity piqued at the prospect of an announcement that would be important to the lords of his city. Taking a moment to consider the offer he decided that despite the insults, it was probably somewhat important to hear what the wild folk had to say, after all, it would likely help with the eventual takeover and colonisation of this wondrous cave.

"I don't like your tone child. But I will accept your offer of hospitality whilst I wait to deliver my documents to the real leader of this village. Hopefully someone with enough sense to keep... freaks like you on a leash." He replied, his eyes drifting down to the damage that his bodyguards had suffered at a speed that even the high reflexes of the elves could not see coming.

" Keep saying things like that and the announcement might just finish you off before I can old man," Victor said with a playful chuckle as he took pole position, leading the group that had gathered towards the towns makeshift arena.

-

The arena itself was on the outskirts of the village, a natural bowl in the stone eroded over time and expanded by the careful hands of proud stonemasons over generations. Larger than any structure they had seen so far, the trio knew that this place was clearly a cultural landmark, probably having decided the next leader of the village for longer than any could remember.

Victor, Sigmund and Ahana sat in a central position, the rocks carved to create a raised platform that they had assumed where seats for important figures, the extra height made Victor chuckle to himself as it would make the perfect position for the next part of his plan. Whilst villagers filtered into their seating areas Victor noticed two young men attempting to draw his attention from the edge of the raised platform.

"Good news sir! The Knife ears where quicker with your order than expected, they said to remind you that even if you don't like them, they did work overtime for this!" The more confident of the pair proclaimed as they lifted up a rolled up piece of canvas.

"Good work boys and it is a fair point they raise, I do truly loath knife ears but I can hardly go around killing people who so willingly take part in my little schemes, can I? Take a seat and enjoy the show, then one of you let them know that this will be remembered favourably" Victor said with a grin as he leaned down and ruffled one of the youngster's hair.

As he sauntered back to his seat Sigmund seemed suspicious of the roll that Victor carefully laid next to him, an eyebrow raised he started to question just what the assassin had asked the elves to do, perhaps paying them to paint that pretty assistant like one of his Babylonian girls. Victor simply waved away his curiosity.

"Tis merely some fine art, just give it about fifteen minutes and I will show you." He smirked as one of the older villagers began to read out what sounded like some traditional script about the honour of ruling the village and the traditions of trial by combat. The assassin's eyes turned to his companions. Ahana had zoned out almost as soon as the elder had begun his speech, and was currently using the height of their position to stare down the clothing of the villagers just bellow to their left.

Sigmund either didn't notice or could not find the energy to burn the bunny as his eyes almost seemed to be taking notes of how the speaker delivered his sermon to the people, likely trying to work out what made the best public speakers. Gemma stood in the middle of the ring, claymore held to her side as she used the ground to support the weight of a blade almost as large as she was. Many of the less zealous villagers could be heard whispering through the rights, the occasional venomous giggle from the crowd as they sized up the girl's chances. Three doors made out of what looked like sticks of mushroom. The old man looked down with a sad look as he asked Gemma if she was absolutely certain that she would be willing to risk injury and possibly death, pity filling his voice.

"Nothing will be able to stop me!" She said with a confident nod, a look of fire in her eyes as the crowd began to jeer. Nodding in agreement the old man pulled a lever causing the first of the three doors to slide to the left. From out of the shadows stepped an imposing figure. Much like the former village chief she stood head and shoulders above Gemma, likely seven feet tall and almost three feet wide. Carrying the Claymore like it was a broadsword. A wall of muscle with the aim of crushing the upstart daughter bringing dishonour to a great leaders legacy with her tiny frame and smart ass attitude.

The absolute giant of a woman strolled forward, waving to the crowd she was certain that in a few minutes she would likely be ruling over. Certain that since the girl seemed to struggle to even support the blade, that she was absolutely no threat.

The crowd gasped as their apparent new champion fell backwards with a loud thunk! Gemma quickly rushed forward, mounting the stunned mountain, grasping what she could of her hair, repeatedly smashing her skull into the ground until the official called for an end.

The crowd could not believe what had just happened, Sigmund seemed shocked, Ahana due to her hearing had picked up on something, and her eyes were scanning the arena to try and put two and two together, whilst Victor held an ever satisfied grin. Before the bunny girl could reach four, Gemma happily walked towards the area just behind where her opponent had just fallen and picked up a round object.

Everyone who hadn't figured it all out yet drifted their eyes towards her blade, noticing that something rather important to its overall design was apparently missing, the pommel. Gemma had used the time that the rights were being read to loosen the pommel and then used it as a ranged weapon to get the jump on an unsuspecting opponent.

Many of the older traditionalists started to boo what they felt was a blatant mockery of the traditions demanding that the match and Gemma be thrown out. Whilst many of the youngsters either stayed quiet or cheered, finding the cunning and new tactics to be genius. The Official waved to get attention, the audience quickly turning quiet out of respect.

"Whilst it is not how the tournament has ever been done, we have to come to the conclusion that, although not, expected. This was a legal move as the rules have never stated that you can only use the blade of the Claymore, only that foreign objects may not be brought into the ring. This was established five tournaments ago with the first use of the guard as a blunt weapon, and further expanded upon four tournaments ago with the first use of abandoning the blade for brawling close combat. The officials rule this legal!" Some members of the crowd did start up their booing again, but this did seem to calm some of the more respectful old guard in the arena. After all, they seemed to be of the idea that with Gemma's plan revealed, the next opponent would not fall for the same trick twice.

With the first of the opponents being dragged out of the arena through the door, the queen to be scanned the crowd, her eyes locking with her assassin-mentors as she put her hands behind her back and gave a small bow, her mischievous smile giving away exactly what she was actually showing off.

With a slight blush, the assassin simply raised his hand in a thumbs up. Causing his student to giggle as she once again walked, this time skipping the centre of the arena and heading almost to the back wall, as far away from the second door as possible. The official once again pulled a leaver and just as before the door slid away to reveal another monster of women, there was clearly something in the water and a reason why the men didn't drink it, this women had fire red hair cut to almost a buzzcut. Judging by the rough job likely in response to the previous fight as a last ditch attempt to crush any advantage the young girl might have.

If the last fighter was a solid seven-foot then this one must have been nearly eight, and unlike the former, she was not willing to take any risk, she kept on guard, her eyes locked onto the detached pommel of the claymore. Gemma feigned a throw, keeping it in her hand but testing the reflexes of the warrior in front of her. She did not like her chances. Realising that the girl knew her throw would be dodged, and knowing she had the upper hand, the warrior raised her blade high and charged towards her target, saliva frothing from her mouth as she roared, but her trained eyes staying locked on Gemma's hand ready to dodge a throw. Gemma smirked as she used the wall behind her to launch off. Also running towards the charging bull aiming to impale her and at the last moment, she dropped. The stone was smooth enough for her to comfortably slide, as her feet ended up almost horizontal with the rest of her body. and finding their target as with a crunch they smashed into the ankle that at that moment was supporting all of the giantesses weight.

The arena shook as she tumbled forward, her sword sent flying into the wall as she screamed in pain, The light frame of her opponent taking far less damage, Gemma once again was merciless, like a Hyena looking for the kill she leapt to her feet and pounced on the back of her target, who managed to struggle back to her feet, the nimble fighter able to stay balanced on her back. With one quick strike of the pommel to the back of the neck, David finally slew Goliath as the monster of women collapsed, unable to move. Sigmund seemed surprised once again, thus Victor leaned into his ear.

"Oh, I just taught her how to stop someone's spine from working. Its fine, Ahana can fix it later. Its a trick I learned early, after all, it doesn't matter if you have one hundred pounds on me, doesn't matter if you can't move anything from the neck down!"He chortled evilly as he returned to his view of the action. The audience one a mix of boos and cheers were now in stunned silence, whispers spread talking of how there was no more formidable warrior in the village.

The atmosphere was tense, with the help of four other villagers they managed to get the second combatant out of the area and the official raised the third leaver. A wave of gasps filled the air as the least expected warrior of all stepped confidently forward, a smile crossing their face as if to say they knew something no one else did.

Nisse had entered the fray! Purposefully he walked forward, but rather than charge blindly he decided to answer the question on everyone else's mind, what the hell was a scrawny runt doing trying to become the most powerful person in a village of giant muscle bound women.

"Hi, people, uh, my name is Nisse, and I am sick of being pushed around, and turned into a joke by an utterly reprehensible, scummy, violent, self-indulgent manwhore of a diplomat. So I decided to spy on him and his little student heres training, and I now know how to beat them! Gemma here trained to beat bigger stronger opponents, not fast ones. So once I win this, I am kicking Mr Victor Wolfe out of this village, I will become the true chief of this village, and make miss Ahana Varma my queen! Or my name isn't Nisse!"

With the surprise of his drop mic moment, Nisse charged forward ready to take Gemma on in hand to hand combat, clearly quicker than any opponant Gemma had faced so far a look of intrigue crossed the face of the audience. Could Nisse have been speaking the truth? Would he end up their first King in over five generations?

Their questions where answered when Nisse felt himself spinning as all of a sudden hands had grasped his writs and his shoulder was being gripped by a pair of legs.

"Give up or I rip it!" the princess barked at the emo kid, as his shoulder was hyperextended.

With a whimper Nisse's eyes began to tear up, he looked up to the VIP area, attempting to meet Ahanas gaze but only meeting the icey calculated stare of Victor. At that moment he realised that the assassin had caught onto his plan far earlier than he had thought. And that once again he had become a pawn in his bid for power. With a sigh he tapped.


The crowd seemed ready to protest but with a roar more befitting a lion than an elderly man the official gained everyone's attention "Now now, we have had many different tactics in the past to this competition. Not all of them fair, but through the years it has usually produced us strong leaders, and perhaps a cunning youngster who can plan but also think on her feet is what we need for the future, or are you all so quick to dismiss the traditions we hold sacred?" The blast of logic started the gears turning in peoples heads as even the people who had dared to boo the first victory gave a golf clap for their new leader. Out of sight, Victor gave a wink towards the official who gave a small nod of acknowledgement.

Gemma made her way towards the edge of the arena and after a few seconds of signalling the two young men who had fetched Victor his artwork reached down to help her up.

With a grin, she rushed over to her teacher in the Vip booth and after some hushed whispering between the pair, she turned to her people.

"So Sir Wolfe here has some very important announcements about the future of our tribe, and our place on Inverexe moving forward. We discussed this at length during our training and I have come to agree with his ideas, some stuff will change but knowing Victor our future will be exciting and fun" She said with a smile as she took her place next to the assassin.


Victor signalled for Ahana and Sigmund to join him and nodded to his two lackeys who climbed up to the position above the VIP area, an outcrop that formed a makeshift roof over the back seats allowing the royals some privacy if they wanted it. It also allowed for Victors two lackeys to lay down and spread the entire painting in view of the rest of the audience. many of them either jumping into the pit to get a better view or moving to the seats opposite the podium. It was less a painting and more an embroidered sheet. A picture of a Moon crawling with black tentacles, a silver wolfs head laying over it. All set onto a golden background.

Looking up at the artwork Victor couldn't help but smile, elves could do something right after all.

"Ladies, Gentleman, I have watched the wonderful culture, and people that make up this village for but a few days now. And I must say that it is a true honour to be amongst such a hardy, resourceful, courageous people as you all are. Through battles and political turmoil, I have watched you not only survive but thrive. However, I fear that there are dark days ahead. You are a powerful people, and it would be at a great cost. But I fear that with the technological arms race on the surface, and the militant elves bellow ground. It is only a matter of time before some cowardly foe finds a trick or sends wave after wave of their reached spawn at this place to claim its riches for themselves."

Resigned nods and murmurs of agreement spread through the audience as Victor quickly had them eating from the palm of his hand.

"Sapphira was an amazing woman, but I fear that her mistrust of new ideas could have only made this problem far worse. I, therefore, ask you my friends, comrades in arms who I have shed and spilt blood alongside to not view this change in leadership with scorn but to view it as a new opportunity. Gemma may not be the most physically imposing warrior. But neither am I, and I doubt that anyone here would doubt my ability. Martial brilliance can be learned, she is still young. But that level of natural cunning, cannot!

Now, you may be wondering, the Elves want us off this land, how can we deal with this problem? You may be thinking that we travellers have to leave eventually. And unfortunately, you are right." The crowd seemed disappointed but before they could become too dejected at the prospect of the saviours of the villages leaving Victor chimed in.

"However, I, Victor Wolfe the great visionary and architect of many a political alliance, union and arrangement have come up with a plan that will lead this village, not into simply some good times. You had good times under the former regime. I promise you, a true golden age, This shall no longer just be a village that any hostile force can risk setting its eyes on. For I have a plan that your new leader has given her full support behind."

Victor took one step forward as he proudly proclaimed.

"I Victor Wolfe Shall unite all the peoples of this moon, through not only a united faith in our glorious mad god Gal'skap, but through a political union lead by the best and brightest of our lords chosen, I will not force a new culture upon you, you will forever remain, proud residents of this villiage, But I do promise to do everything in my power to bring advancements, opportunity, prosperity and safety to those under our banner. We start here, then move onto the surface miners, and then any other like-minded free people who wish to work towards bringing glory to this world. No Elven warlords shall ever even look at our territory without it being seen as a declaration of total war, And the Miracles that protected us from the attack of those miners will bring holy fury upon their homes and people! My beloved people. I am Emperor Victor Wolfe. This is General Ahana Varma and High Preist Sigmund Vrell. And we are all now part of the Neo-New Babylonian Empire!"


Post Word Count: 3711
Crawl #0004 Quest #4 Post Count: 3/3
Crawl #0004 Quest #4 Word Count:5399
 

Sigmund Vrell

The First High Priest of Neo New Babylon
Level 2
Essence
€3,144
Coin
₡11,500
Tokens
0
Sigmund shifted in his arena seat, fidgeting with his book a little. He wasn't sure how he felt about the village waiting around to watch an arena fight while the threat of an elven invasion mounted, but he tried to purge the thoughts from his mind. Sigmund had seen plenty of combat in his time, including arena fights. If this was half as entertaining as any of the shows he had seen before, it should take his mind off of it for the time being.

A wave of excitement fell over the crowd as their champion stepped forth, and the cultist’s eyes widened. What were they feeding these people? Opposite the giant was Gemma, struggling to lift her blade. Sigmund watched her disinterestedly for a moment, before he realised that she was fiddling with the pommel of her sword. The priest glanced at Victor for a moment, wondering if the fumes had gotten to him.

‘Surely she's not…’ He thought, right before a pommel smashed into the giant’s face. He almost buried his face in his hands. Not only had she tried it, but it had worked. If one of his warriors had fallen victim to that, Sigmund would have had them running laps from sunrise to sunset. The cultist massaged his temples for a moment, realising that this fight would be one-sided, just not on the side that he had expected. Victor had made sure that she wouldn't lose.

As the next challenger strode out, Sigmund’s eyes narrowed. Surely this was an illusion, someone’s idea of a joke. The woman was the size of an ogre, and about as muscular. The cultist was beginning to get uncomfortable, feeling even smaller and skinnier than normal. Having a slight build was commonplace among cultists, but here it just felt strange.

As Gemma squared off with the giant, Sigmund watched discerningly. Throwing the pommel wouldn't work this time, but Victor had undoubtedly given her more than one route to victory. As the two brawled, and Gemma emerged victorious, Sigmund raised an eyebrow. The women were huge, but fought like drunks and went down like flies when struck.

“Oh, I just taught her to stop someone’s spine from working.” Victor whispered in his ear.

“I can see.” Sigmund replied. “This hardly seems fair. This village seems to be full of brutes.”

Victor didn't seem to care about fairness, only winning, which Sigmund could hardly condemn. The cultist waited patiently for Gemma to be crowned chief, the sense of anxiety over the Dwemer still present, now joined by a brooding disappointment at the fights. Both were swept away, however, as Nisse stepped forward. A grin spread across Sigmund’s face as the villager confessed his love for Ahana and his intention to become king of the village.

“I wasn't aware that we were having a joke fight!” Sigmund crowed happily, clapping his hands as Nisse was effortlessly disposed of. The cultist reclined in his chair, paying vague attention to the public speaker as they addressed the village. His attention was drawn back to Victor as the assassin gave a speech of his own, praising Gal’skap and announcing the glory that the village would experience. A smile spread across Sigmund’s face as Victor unveiled the flag, announcing the birth of a new empire. This was certainly an agreeable turn of events.

Plans rocketed through Sigmund’s head, great visions of a vast empire spreading its grasp across the maddening moon, then to the other worlds in the system. The old gods would have everything in, just as they should. The cultist found himself grinning madly as the villagers cheered beneath them, then joined in with them. Victor Wolfe was an ambitious one, but Sigmund appreciated that.

“Glory to Gal’skap! Neo New Babylon forever!” Sigmund shouted, and the crowd returned the cry.

“Can I suggest something.” Gemma asked apprehensively. “Perhaps our empire should start by rebuilding the village.”

The cheering died down a little as reality set in. The golden age wouldn't usher itself in, and hard work would have to be done to get there. The villagers murmured amongst themselves in agreement.

“Excellent idea, Gemma.” Victor said, grinning to the crowd. “We will build this village back, bigger and better than ever! In fact, this whole mountain will be the crowning jewel of our empire!”

At this remark, the crowd whipped themselves back into a frenzy, dispersing to begin reconstruction. Victor certainly had a way to rally the people. Sigmund joined in with the reconstruction efforts, making use of his telekinesis to lift what the villagers could not. Even as he worked, however, worries set into his mind. The Dwemer were a threat, but not an indomitable one. What he was truly concerned about was the entity within Inverxe. The cultist prayed that his wards would keep it at bay long enough for them to prepare themselves. Once they had, however, he doubted there was a force on the moon, or below it, that could oppose them.

830 words
2133/2133 crawl words
2854 WC words
 

Ahana Varma

The First General of Neo New Babylon
Staff member
Level 4
Essence
€7,057
Coin
₡8,000
Tokens
75
“Well?” Ahana asked, smirking viciously at the blushing man who stood before her, “Are you pleased with what you’ve accomplished?”

“I-I’m sorry.” Nisse stammered, failing to meet her gaze. Instead, he stared at his toes as if they were the most fascinating things he’d ever seen, “I failed you. I j-just wanted to make you happy.”

The two were out in the mushroom forest, alone. Partly to discuss his dismal performance in the arena, but mostly because staying in the village would mean being expected to actually help with the ongoing reconstruction efforts. This way, the bunnygirl hoped that everyone would simply assume she was off helping somewhere and not think too much about it.

Ahana sat—one leg crossed over the other—on top of a mushroom a few feet tall, and with a very thick, sturdy build; it easily held her weight. Like much of the fungi in this cavern, it was bioluminescent. There were many colours of mushrooms, and their levels of brightness also varied drastically. This one shone with a faint, green light. All around them, other mushrooms towered over the pair.

“Oh, you did, don’t worry about that. Watching you get your ass kicked by that girl was hilarious.”

Nisse looked like he wished the ground would just open up and swallow him.

“I wanted…” he paused awkwardly, fidgeting, his manner making it apparent that he was trying to work up the courage to say something embarrassing, “to impress you. Th-this wasn’t the first time I’ve tried. I snuck along with the warriors to help fight when those invaders attacked… but you didn’t even notice me. So I th-thought if I entered the arena, you'd be sure to notice... and if I defeated Gemma, you’d… think I was worthy of you.”

In the light of the bioluminescent mushrooms and moss, as well as the crystals high up above on the ceiling, Ahana saw tears twinkle as they rolled down the young man’s cheeks. She laughed scornfully, “And instead you let everyone in the tribe know what a wimpy, little bitch you are by being immediately overpowered by Victor’s sex toy.”

He fell to his knees, devastated by the abject contempt in her tone. Trembling, he slowly raised his head, only to find that all traces of joviality had left her expression, and the healer was now scowling, “In fact, how did a worm like you even earn the right to challenge her? Surely there must’ve been lots of warriors who wanted to beat the shit out of Sapphira’s thieving brat?”

“Th-there were, but with only three spots available, most of the challengers fought for the right to face her first, since no one expected her to get past that round anyway. And most of the remainder faced each other for the chance to go second. No one really expected her to beat two of the tribe’s best warriors, so the tryouts for the third slot weren’t very popular. I was able to bribe the others to let me take that spot… as they didn’t think she’d last that long, they thought they were basically being paid for nothing.”

“And as she clearly would have won no matter who she faced, they obviously were. And you managed to waste a whole lot of gems to achieve absolutely nothing.”

“Yes.” it hadn’t been a question, but Nisse agreed anyway, his voice despondent.

“In fact, how did you even have enough to buy off a whole bunch of warriors?”

He shrugged, “I carve jewels for a living, it’s only natural that I’d have a lot of them.”

“Hmm… and do you still have a lot of them?” Ahana asked, more to herself than to Nisse. Her mind going back to the dwemer merchants and their goods. The caravan had hung around for a little while after Gemma had faced her challengers, and after getting the blessing of the new chieftain and the emperor (albeit, somewhat reluctantly in his case), they had done some business with the villagers. But they were gone now, moving on to some other subterranean locale, to try and turn a profit on all the gemstones they had acquired.

“No. I… gave away almost everything I owned.” he sounded as if he were moments away from starting to sob.

The bunnygirl sighed, “Of course you did.”

“Do… do you hate me now?” the slim man asked timidly.

Ahana shrugged, “Haven’t decided yet. On one hand, you’d have fucked up Victor’s plan if you’d won, so it’s good that you didn’t… but on the other… I don’t like losing to him. Basically, you are to me what your new chief is to Vic, so you losing to her means he beat me. If I’d known you planned on picking a fight with the brat then I’d have trained you up myself, so that you could at least last a bit longer.”

“You would have?” Nisse asked, blinking in surprise, “I didn’t realise you knew how to fight… I mean, s-sorry, but it’s just that when I saw you in battle before, you didn’t really seem very… skillful.”

He winced when he said it, as if he knew before the word even left his mouth that what he was saying would piss her off. Her response took him by surprise, “Heh. Exactly. I’m not ‘skillful’, but I still win. Of course, you’re not on my level, so it’s to be expected that you might lose if you fought like I do. And I could handle that.”

She scowled again, her refined features twisting into an ugly sneer, “The problem isn’t that you were defeated, it’s that you looked like a whiny, weak-ass bitch when it happened. You should’ve broken your arm.

“Wh-what?” Nisse asked, ashen faced. He seemed to be hoping he'd misheard her.

“I said, ‘you should’ve broken your arm’. When she got you in that hold, you should’ve broken out of it and kept on fighting. No pun intended. It’s not like being injured is a major issue with me around, after all. Nisse, your problem isn’t that you’re too weak, it’s that your pain tolerance is non-existent.”

“Oh.” he said, looking very unsure of himself.

“Do you still care about impressing me?” she asked, not really caring how he answered. She had been nice to him previously because it had been required for Victor’s plan initially, and after that simply because their position had not yet been secure enough for her to justify abandoning the goody two-shoes act. Now, though, she had an excellent opportunity to toss him aside without a second thought.

The ascension of the new chieftain and Victor’s well received proclamation had both given the trio far more power in the village, and Nisse’s dismal performance had ensured that none of the warriors would bat an eyelid if she left him him now. The regular citizens might be less fond of a decision to discard a lover simply because they couldn’t fight… but as Neo New Babylon’s general, their military was the healer's primary concern. What the civilians thought was far less important to her. So if the slim man decided he didn’t appreciate this glimpse of her true personality, she now had the perfect opportunity to part ways with him. And if he decided to stick with her in spite of this, well, that should prove quite entertaining.

He fretted about it for a while, before finally making his decision, “Yes…”

The word was said softly, and his face flushed with embarrassment, but he continued nonetheless, “I do. I-I want to be able stand by your side, and not just be in your way… I l-love you.”

Ahana cringed. He’d actually used the ‘L’ word. Though at least it wasn’t a public declaration this time, she supposed. Still, she felt that even breathing the same air as this loser might be bad for her image.

“Uh-huh, whatever.” she responded, and the hurt look on his face improved her mood, causing the corners of her mouth to turn upwards slightly, “If that’s the case then we’re going to have to get started on your… endurance training.”

So saying, she hopped gracefully from the mushroom upon which she’d sat and snatched up b’Akphiyr, which had been leaning against it. The bunnygirl raised her magical sword high and twirled it overhead; accidentally carving a deep gash into the stalk of a nearby mushroom which loomed over her. Grinning broadly, she stepped closer to Nisse, who gazed up fearfully, but made no move to flee.


***


“Well, how goes it, O’ Mighty Emperor and Mr High Priest?” Ahana asked with a smirk as she strode into the large hut which had once been Sapphira’s, but now belonged to her daughter. Gemma, being the new chieftain, was also present for the little planning meeting which the bunnygirl had invited herself into, Ahana simply didn’t bother greeting her.

“We’re in a tight spot at the moment, as you would know if you’d been here for the first half of this meeting,” the assassin said in a disapproving tone, “which you would have been invited to join in on if you hadn’t wandered off somewhere instead of helping with the reconstruction efforts. That Dwemer army could show up at any time. We have sentries watching the nearby tunnels, of course, but even so, we aren’t likely to have a whole lot of warning when they arrive. On the bright side, Siggy has finished placing those little mushrooms with the warding sigils on them all around the village, so once he casts this magic ritual of his-”

“It isn’t magic.” Sigmund interrupted, his voice unusually harsh, “This is a divine ritual of the Mad God, and the only people who could ever confuse it with magic would be heretics.”

Ahana grinned, wondering if she’d get to see Victor having his face burned off with holy fire. She’d be willing to bet that that spectacle would be much more entertaining when she wasn’t the one being immolated.

The emperor apparently wasn’t overly concerned about the dangers of upsetting the priest, though, as he simply waved a hand dismissively, “Of course, that’s what I meant. Once the totally-not-magic ritual has been cast, no other extradimensional entities will be able to act within several miles of this area without the approval of Gal’skap… by which I mean Siggy, since he’ll be the one interpreting our benevolent deity’s wishes, of course.”

“So as soon as we’re done with this meeting we should move on to that,” said Gemma, looking across at the caped man with a grateful expression, “and as long as nothing goes wrong before High Priest Sigmund is able to complete his benedictions, we should be safe from the predations of our god’s rivals and enemies.”

If Gemma took offense at being ignored by the healer, she wasn’t showing it, and she was even putting in the effort to avoid offending Sigmund through her words or actions, which was more than could be said for Ahana and Victor. The general wondered if perhaps their emperor had taken some time to school the young woman in diplomacy since she’d attained this position, or if she had simply decided to act all sensible and mature of her own accord. Regardless of the reason, hopefully she would keep it up, rather than getting bored after a few days and reverting to robbing people to keep herself entertained.

“I suppose we could…” the red-eyed man replied, “it’s just that if the elves show up part-way through and Siggy needs to spend hours doing a lot of long, drawn out chanting, which can’t be interrupted for some mystical-”

“Eldritch.” corrected the priest.

“-eldritch reason, he might end up not being able to help with the battle at all. Obviously, that would be very bad for us. Besides, we haven’t had divine protection before now, and we’ve not been attacked by any horrific monsters, so I doubt it’ll suddenly start happening if we hold off on doing that until the Dwemer are taken care of. It’ll be-”

“Help! Help!” a little boy shrieked, charging into the hut, his face streaked with tears. To the healer's eyes, he looked like he was about eight, give or take a year, “A scary monster attacked mommy! Th-there was blood! Lots and l-lots! She-she-she… waaah!”

The child collapsed, sobbing. Outside the doors, the concerned faces of several villagers peered in. Slowly, the chieftain, the high priest, and the general all turned to face their emperor. In the bunnygirl’s case, she was trying hard to keep from laughing. The timing of that kid’s entrance really couldn’t have been more perfect.

The other two were much more solemn, though. Elves or no elves, it seemed like getting the blessing of Sigmund’s god was going to have to be their priority for the time being.


Post Word Count: 2,154
Crawl #0004 Quest #5 Post Count: 1/3
Crawl #0004 Quest #5 Word Count: 2,154/1,867 (0 + 2,154)
 

Victor Wolfe

Staff member
Level 2
Essence
€4,076
Coin
₡13,500
Tokens
20
Victor slowly massaged his temples. He really needed to stop saying that things would not happen, as fate had proven time and time again that it would bend over backwards in all chances it had to bite the New Babylonians in the ass. It would seem that the village was facing threats from multiple angles. And once again it was down to the Emperor to organise a response to the problems plaguing their fledgeling empire.

The only experience Victor had with extra-dimensional beings was the smiling one in the old world who had so graciously kidnapped him. And Neal, his mysterious and ambitious former employer and head of the institute, he possessed even less knowledge on their rituals and thus decided that it would be best to assign Sigmund to the task of erecting the barrier as quickly as was possible.

The assassin spread out a large sheet of paper as he began to jot down his ideas as they came to him, the ink was no blood of his enemies but it would do the job, the speed of the assassins pen as quick as his blades, his handwriting as precise as one would expect. A chill seemed to fill the room as the sides of the Emperors mouth began to twitch until it was clear he was holding back laughter. Things where slotting themselves into place as he formulated his master plan.

"Well first off Sigmund, I am leaving the rituals to you, you can take as many of your followers off rebuilding for the time being as is needed to help you complete this barrier, no point rebuilding if it is simply going to be destroyed again after all. Now I doubt I would be much use on this one, and I trust in your skills, so do us proud my comrade!"

Victor continued to add to his planning document, drawing a creature that looked like the high priest's creature slamming into a barrier, Its eyes covered with x shaped plasters, and some little birds spinning above its head, next to a small Sigmund with his thumbs in his ears and his tongue out.

"Now you Ahana... You were late so..." Victor chuckled menacingly as the bunny girl started to feel uncomfortable, the prospect of just what the famously vindictive lord would ask her to do to make up for being late, would Sigmund burn her face again? Or would she feel the wrath of his blades? Noticing the look on her face Victor chuckled.

"Oh do not worry my dear, I will not make you suffer through torture, whilst I appreciate his vigour launching a fireball at your face was a little...primitive for my tastes. No... Instead, I simply want you to recruit and train an army! Now the good news for you is we do not need it to be very large at the moment, just good and well equipped, mostly to fight off the creature should it come back... amongst other things. And do not slack Ahana, because I very much need this as quickly as possible."

Before Ahana could protest Victor once again returned to his drawings, drawing Ahana Sitting on Nisses back whilst he struggled under the strain. Meanwhile, Victor was seated on Gemma's back, who was having a much easier time if the artwork was to be believed. Victor then gave a look, one the rest of his comrades had not yet seen, a look of pure disgust as if he was holding back vomit.

"Meanwhile, I need to go and suck up to the elves. As much as I hate it, they are in a better position than us, and once the creature cannot enter this village it will likely head for there territory. I think if we work together then we might stand a good chance of killing it. It will be a temporary alliance, but one that I think will be... very profitable for us. I will even bring them a gift. One of our mushroom trees, and a chest full of some gems as a gift. Your merchant friends turned out pretty useful, we got a swanky flag out of it and I now know how to get to their city." Victor grinned as he finished his drawing of the plan with Victor towering over some crown wearing elves.

Victor nodded to Gemma signalling that the meeting was done, the young chieftess decided to show some leadership herself by seeing to the young child that had so rudely barged into their meeting, with the chieftess off to look for someone else to look after the kid, and the three comrades finally alone Victor slid two envelopes along the table to each. Both looked with suspicion but had become used to the Victor way of doing things.

"Read these once the barrier is completed, then burn them, you can probably guess that like most of my plans, things are not exactly what they seem, but it is of vital importance that you listen, we get one shot at this. So make it count." Victor moved his hand to the centre of their round table, signalling for a fist bump of the leaders.

Crawl #0004 Quest #5 Word Count: 864/1,867 (0 + 864)
 

Sigmund Vrell

The First High Priest of Neo New Babylon
Level 2
Essence
€3,144
Coin
₡11,500
Tokens
0
Sigmund flipped through his book, running his finger along the scrawling, misshapen eldritch text. He had withdrawn himself from the village, taking three dozen faithful along with him. The cultist did not want any distractions from his work. Distractions such as fearful villagers bothering him to raise a barrier that he was already intending to create.

“The crystals are in place, high priest.” Amy said, standing to attention. The priestess still gave Sigmund odd looks when he addressed her, and struggled to meet his gaze ever since their encounter with the Dwemer.

“Thank you, Amy.” The head cultist said, his eyes glued to his book. “And the effigies?” The priestess remained silent for a long moment. Sigmund tore his gaze from his book for a second, casting a sidewards glance at Amy.

“They will be complete soon, high priest.” She said, her complexion reddening a little. Her voice was solemn, as if she were delivering a tragic message.

“That's all you had to say.” The cultist said, raising an eyebrow before turning back to his book. The preparations were almost complete. Sigmund could almost taste success. However, a sense of curiosity gnawed at him. The cultist slammed his book shut, turning to address the group.

“I will be leaving for a spell, carry on with your work while I am gone.” He said. The high priest observed Amy for a moment. “Would you care to join me, Amethyst.”

The priestess’ mouth flapped open and closed like a stunned fish for a moment. “M-Me? I… I would love to.” She whispered nervously, her voice weak. She glanced desperately at the cultists for a moment, as if hoping that one would interrupt or offer to join them, but the group was absorbed in in their work.

“So… Where are we going?” Amy asked as the pair began to walk towards the tunnels.

“We’re going to see what's haunting these caves!” Sigmund responded cheerily, oblivious to the horrified expression on her face.


“Huh, would you look at that.” The high priest said with a whistle as the pair of cultists came to the bloody scene of the boy’s mother. What had once been a person was now a red smear on the cave walls and a pile of strewn-around viscera. Amy did not share in Sigmund’s morbid enthusiasm, but showed steadfast resolve, not even paling at the sight.

“I wonder what she was doing so far into the caves.” Amy mumbled as she watched Sigmund prod around in the mess before them.

“Huh, no evidence here.” Sigmund said, attempting to shake some fluids off of his hands. “But then I suppose that is evidence in and of itself.”

“How so?” Amy asked.

“Well, some beasts will leave very obvious corpses behind, so we can rule out a decent number of creature there. Besides that, it was a straight mauling, so it isn't likely to be some powerful creature.” Sigmund said, stroking his chin in thought, accidentally smearing a more of ichor onto his face.

“Erm, high priest. You have a little something…” Amy said, although her voice was hardly above a whisper.

“Eh?” Sigmund asked, before realising what he had done. “Oh… Oops.” He said, but made no move to clean himself.

“Agh, come here.” Amy said, producing a handkerchief from within her clothing. She approached the senior cultist and extended the cloth towards him, moving to clean his face. As her arm extended, the tribeswoman’s heart began to race. Was she really doing this right now? For a moment, she was reminded of a woman wiping her lover’s face affectionately, their eyes meeting in a moment of romance. These illusions were dispelled, however, as Sigmund struggled childishly in her grip, grunting defiantly

“Just because you're a head taller than me doesn't mean I'm actually a child.” The head cultist growled impudently. Realising herself, Amy released the high priest.

“I apologise, high priest.” She said, her eyes fixed on the ground and her face burning up.

“Don't worry about it.” Sigmund said his expressions dropping slightly, wiping his face on his sleeve. “You just reminded me of my older sisters when you tried to do that, and I got a little homesick, I guess.”

“Oh. I'm sorry, I didn't know you had sisters.” Amy said, her embarrassment abating slightly.

“Again, it's no mat-” Sigmund began, before a hoarse screeching cut through the tunnels, causing both cultists to jump. “By the gods, what was that?

“Sounds like a tunnel creeper.” Amy said. “A big bug thing. Real nasty, but bright lights scare them so they don't come near the village often.”

“Fascinating.” Sigmund said, his voice dropping to a whisper. “Keep quiet from here, okay?”

The junior cultist was confused, but obliged. The pair walked through the tunnels in silence, moving towards the source of the sound, much to Amy’s concern. The tense quiet seemed to stretch out forever, turning minutes into hours. Sigmund stopped suddenly, motioning for Amy to do the same as he pressed his ear to the tunnel wall. The priestess stopped a little too late, bumping lightly into the head cultist. Her heart raced as she felt his hand, his only bare skin other than his face, brush against her briefly.

“High priest…” She began, only to be cut off by another screech from the tunnel creeper. The beast’s rasping call was cut short, however, with a pained cry. The silence was palpable for a long moment, before the air itself seemed to vibrate. A long, mournful, rumbling wail cut through the tunnels, rattling the cultists to the bone. The bellow was layered with pain and hatred, yet Sigmund’s face was alight with joy. It stopped, started and intensified randomly, as if the cultists were listening to it on an unstable connection. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the sound abated, leaving the pair in silence once more.

“Wha-” Amy began, before Sigmund raised a finger to his lips, silencing her. Her face reddened a little as the cultist retracted his finger and motioned for her to follow him back to the village. Once they had left the area, Sigmund breathed a sigh of relief.

“Whew, I thought it was find us.” The high priest said, grinning madly.

“What was that?” Amy asked. She felt as if she should be on the verge of hysteria, but Sigmund’s enthusiasm gave her an odd sense of calm about the situation.

“A shudderer.” The cultist said matter-of-factly as he flipped his book open to an image of a twisted, malformed being, little more than a mess of limbs, mouths and eyes. “An outsider that managed to descend into our world, but isn't anchored inside. It's physical form is very unstable, causing it to fall apart and spasm randomly, or shudder, as it phases in and out of existence. Which it refuses to do quietly, mind you.”

“Right…” Amy said.

“Was there something you wanted to talk about before?” Sigmund asked as the pair returned to the site of the warding ritual, cultists proudly presenting their effigies to the high priest.

“I… No, high priest.” Amy sighed.

“Alright. Excellent work, everyone.” The head cultist grinned as his faithful planted the effigies around the ritual site, symbolising the gods watching over the cultists. At the head of the procession was an effigy to Gal’skap, a mushroom stem adorned with crystals and the scavenged skulls of some rock raiders. The skulls were cracked open, their grey matter spilled over the effigy.

“Thank you for joining me here today, sons and daughters of Gal’skap.” Sigmund said as he took his place at the head of the ritual, his cultists gathered around him. “Today we shall enact a blessed ritual to expel any heathen beasts from our sacred grounds, and baptise you all in the glory of Gal’skap!”

The assembled cultists gave a chorus of cheers as Sigmund opened his tome, flipping to the page on the warding ritual. As if sensing the anticipation of the cultists, the breach crystals placed around the area began to hum noisily.

“Oh, father Gal’skap!” The cultists chanted together, just as they had been taught. “Lord of the mind, essence of us all! Hear the prayers of your sons and daughters, banish the envious, hateful spawn of outside from our realm, and deliver unto us a peaceful existence!”

Shifting into elderspeak, Sigmund began to chant in the twisted tongue of the old gods. The assembled cultists could not join in with their limited knowledge, but they listened intently to their leader as he cried verse after verse of the profane litanies, each one hitting them like a mental wave. The breach crystals reached a crescendo as the cultists broke into a maddened raving, roaring out perverse words not meant for the human mouth, but inexplicably in their psyche. Violet mist began to swirl around the procession as the effigy to Gal’skap began to shake, amethystine flares burning in the eyes of the skulls. With the final syllable of his wicked verse, Sigmund slammed his tome shut. Energy projected from the breach crystals, mingling with the violet mist as it burst from the ritual site. The eldritch shockwave faded as it enveloped the village, leaving little more than purple wisps of psionic energy to show that it was there at all.

Although invisible to the mortal eye, an anti-abomination barrier was now around the village, protecting the young empire from any eldritch foes.

“Excellent work, my friends.” Sigmund said to his dazed audience. “You shall all make fine cultists. Now, onwards to our next holy duty.”

1594 words
1594/1867 Crawl words
 

Ahana Varma

The First General of Neo New Babylon
Staff member
Level 4
Essence
€7,057
Coin
₡8,000
Tokens
75
‘Good and well-equipped’.

Victor wasn’t asking for much, the bunnygirl thought sarcastically as she strode away from Gemma’s humble abode, and the others went off in their own directions, to do their own things.

The idea that this stone-age society could produce decent equipment for their warriors was laughable, considering they currently barely even wore clothes, never mind armour, and all of their weapons were made from carved lumps of crystal. Hells, they had yet to even work out bows and arrows, or slings. No, there was no chance of them being 'well-equipped' at all.

And 'good'? Even training one person had taken the assassin a considerable amount of time and effort… and he was expecting her to train an army? She shook her head at the absurdity of such a request. Even if she were actually a skilled enough combatant to do such a thing—which was by no means the case—it sounded a whole lot like something she totally couldn't be bothered doing.

Nisse—who had been standing a short way from the hut, waiting on her departure upon conclusion of the meeting—fell in beside the healer, glancing curiously at her, surely wondering what she’d been shaking her head about. Instead of explaining herself, however, Ahana told him of their task, “We’re to recruit an army, and make them worthy of serving our glorious emperor.

“An army?” the young man enquired, raising an eyebrow, “But don’t we already have the warriors? What more do we need?”

He paused thoughtfully for a moment, then amended his question, “What more do we need that we can realistically expect to acquire before those dwemer show up to kill us all?”

“I can only think of one thing.” the bunnygirl said cheerfully, turning to give him a sadistic smile as they carried on walking.

Nisse sighed glumly, “Experience.

“Yeeeaah, you got it.”


***


“Attention, citizens of Neo New Babylon!” Ahana yelled to the people working on restoring the buildings in this relatively busy section of the village. This was the third such area that the pair had passed through with their message, and already they’d gathered quite the mob on their heels, eager to hear more.

The villagers respectfully stopped what they were doing to pay attention to what she was saying. As the fledgeling empire’s general, the healer now wielded a certain amount of authority and influence, even though just a short time ago she’d been nothing more than an outsider. These people sure were quick to trust; all it had taken to earn their adoration was for the Mad God's trio to save their entire civilisation from ruin…

Okay, now that she thought about it, she supposed that that wasn’t something which most people would consider small. She certainly hadn’t been able to save her own people from their deaths, back before she'd come to Inverxe, when they’d picked a fight with a greater foe, and paid the price. So not all that long ago, she might have been no different from these people, no less willing to mindlessly follow some mighty saviour, had one shown up to rescue her tribe.

It was funny how power could change one’s outlook on life; things which might once have appeared miraculous instead seemed commonplace and unexceptional. She’d always been proud of her Divine Conflagration, but by this point, the bunnygirl's aura had grown in strength to such an extent that the needlessness of Victor’s request was clearly apparent to her. It didn’t matter in the slightest how well-trained or well-equipped their troops were. With her ability being so overwhelmingly potent as to render their troops all but immortal, their elven adversaries stood no chance at all.

Honestly, she had her doubts as to whether even the eldritch entities which Sigmund, his god, and the deity's adversaries commanded could pose a threat to her and her allies, as she was now.

“Our emperor has decreed that Neo New Babylon must have an army, to defend its territory from threats both mystical and mundane! In light of new revelations—that is, the ascent of a chieftain who is more than just a living wall of muscle—I, as is my prerogative as our general, have decided that we will be accepting applicants not just from your warrior caste, but from the general populace as well!” she dramatically spread her arms wide.

“So if any of you are interested in hearing more, then come along as we spread the word... or if you know anyone who’s always wanted to fight for their land and their loved ones, but hasn’t before been considered strong enough to do so, go invite them to join us! Tryouts are starting soon, make sure not to miss ‘em!”


***


Nisse stood by her side, arms crossed over his bare chest as he regarded the assembled crowd, assessing their suitability.

Or, at least, trying to appear as if that was what he was doing. The healer doubted that he actually had the slightest clue what to look for in a candidate.

But then again, after his recent ‘endurance training’, perhaps that wasn’t being fair to him. After having been generously granted a glimpse of her true face—and inexplicably choosing to stick around, rather than running the fuck away from her—he surely had some more insight into how she liked to fight, so perhaps the young man could be more discerning than she gave him credit for.

The pair and their mob of would-be soldiers were gathered outside the village, on a wide field of bioluminescent, blue moss, relatively bare of mushrooms and minerals alike. From the assembled group, a pair strode forwards, one male, one female. In the curious way common to the denizens of the cave, the woman was noticeably taller and broader than her male counterpart. Although they both had much more muscular bodies than the likes of Nisse, and therefore were clearly warriors, the duo were lean and athletic, as opposed to enormous, bodybuilding brutes of the sort that Gemma had faced in the first couple rounds of her leadership trial.

The man had chin-length, sandy hair, ice blue eyes, and a pretty face. The woman’s features looked squashed, and her nose must have been broken at least once. Her hair—tied back in a ponytail—was thick, black and fell to just past her shoulders, and her eyes were a very dark brown.

“Can I help you?” Ahana asked cheerily, acting all friendly and stuff, for the time being, at least.

“We've all followed you out here, so it's time you started explaining yourself. We want to know what this is all about.” the man demanded, crossing his arms over his chest, taking much the same pose as Nisse—though in his case, the blond guy actually did a decent job of looking imposing, whereas the slimmer man just looked like he was sulking—and glaring down at her, “The warriors have defended this village from wild beasts and other threats for generations, and with the aid of your cult, we were even able to overcome that band of invaders, the greatest foes our people have faced since...”

He shook his head, and the woman by his side picked up where he’d left off. Her voice was noticeably deeper than his, “Ever. Even in the legends passed down from the dawn of our tribe, none of our heroes have defeated any enemies as powerful as those. Yet our current crop of warriors managed it.”

“Yes... alright?” the bunnygirl prodded, making the words a question, acting as if she didn’t know what they were getting at. She didn't point out that they'd only survived the battle with the Rock Raiders because of the three outsiders' help; they were surely already aware of that, and actively choosing to ignore it. Bringing it up would only derail their conversation with a pointless argument.

“We don’t need to make an ‘army’, and we certainly don’t need to add weaklings-” here, the male warrior turned his glare on Nisse, and sneered contemptuously, “-to our ranks. Just because the chieftain managed to take her opponents by surprise with a fighting style they hadn’t anticipated, that doesn’t mean we should try to add scrawny, incompetent fools to our ranks. Your ploy is obvious. You clearly don't care that you're weakening our forces, you just want to make your lover a warrior without arousing suspicion, so that you can grant him some important-sounding position. This whole thing is nothing more than a transparent attempt at convincing the people that Nisse is a decent fighter, despite his pitiful performance in the arena. You're embarrassed by him, and are trying to hide your shame.”

“Oh, really?” Ahana asked, still smiling, though the expression was now a little strained, and there was a slight edge to her tone. The blond wasn't really correct about her reasons for doing this, but she still wasn't happy about having her little plaything's incompetence brought up; he was right to say that she was embarrassed to be associated with such dismal failure, and being reminded of it wasn't fun.

“Yeah.” said the dark-eyed lady, “It's clearly apparent. You think you can make him look better by claiming that the rest of us are just a bunch of clueless brutes, and that only skinny, little weeds like him and the chief can actually think worth a damn...”

She took a couple steps closer, getting right up in the healer’s personal space, while continuing to speak, “But you’re a fool if you think you can get away with that. We’re not going to stand for it. We’ll show up your new recruits at every opportunity. We’ll prove to everyone that we warriors are the only defenders this tribe needs, and that our ways and traditions aren’t some sort of dumb joke that you and your allies can mock to your hearts' content.”

Ahana gave a scornful laugh, and for a moment the big bruiser before her seemed as if she might just strangle the bunnygirl. Her face went red and her eyes blazed with unbridled fury. Surprisingly, however, she didn’t lash out.

Instead, her male counterpart spoke softly, “We warriors train almost since birth. We're all men and women who've known what we wanted to do with our lives since an early age, and have fought our hardest to make our dreams a reality. Every one of us is willing to sacrifice their life for the good of our people, should it come to that, and we aren't soft enough to hesitate on the field of battle. All we desire is to be the shield that guards this village. Being a warrior isn’t just about physical strength; we must also have the resolve to do what needs to be done. Your lover, there, couldn’t even handle having Chieftain Gemma tugging on his arm a little. He's not just weak of body, but weak of will, as well.”

Once again, the woman took over seamlessly from her companion, “We may not always agree on everything, some of us might even hate one another, but there’s not a single warrior in the tribe that I wouldn’t rely on to watch my back in battle; not one person I’d hesitate to entrust my life to-”

She was forced to pause for a moment, there, as a massive roar of approval and assent arose from the assembled warriors. Glancing past the wall of muscle which loomed over her, Ahana saw that the mob had now separated into two distinct groups, and that those who were not warriors almost all seemed nervous and unsure of themselves. She was all but certain that Sigmund’s devoted disciples wouldn’t hesitate to throw their lives away if their high priest told them that that was what Gal’skap desired of them… but as for those less zealous—those who had gathered here, to join her army—who could say?

Not that it really mattered to the healer; the man's last words had given her all the excuse she needed to have her plaything show off a little, which meant she'd already gotten what she wanted from this conversation.

“-but these people you want to recruit are different." the female warrior continued, once the noise from the crowd had abated, "They don’t have what it takes to walk the same path we do. We’ve no enmity toward them, so long as they stick to their proper place, but we can’t possibly have any confidence in their ability to fight by our sides… especially not if Nisse is a representation of how we can expect them to act when things get tough.”

"Heh. That's what you think, is it? Well, I think Nisse might surprise you." as she spoke, the bunnygirl raised a hand and began absently tracing her fingers along the lines of the ripped woman's rock-hard abs, figuring she might as well if the lady was going to try and intimidate her by getting all up close and personal. She may have had a face that looked like she'd tried to headbutt a wall into submission, but the general couldn't deny that this chick's body was damn fine. The warrior gave an amused-sound snort, though whether that was in response to her actions or to her statement about Nisse, Ahana hadn't a clue, "Say, I have an idea; why don't we settle this discussion with a little competition? Either you or blondie, here, can fight Nisse, and we can all see for ourselves if the common folk have what it takes to be soldiers.”

“And then what?” the guy asked, “If our fighter wins the duel, you agree to only recruit warriors into your army?”

“Hah, not quite.” the bunnygirl gave him a smirk, “After the fight, we’ll have our audience vote on it. If your side manages to win decisively enough that the villagers see for themselves that warriors are clearly superior, they’ll surely not vote in favour of allowing just anyone into the army, right? They may be interested in getting some glory for themselves, but they also have their families' safety to think of, don't they?”

“Hmm,” the dark-eyed woman mused, glaring suspiciously at Ahana, who simply smiled back, “fine. Sapphiro, show that worm what it means to be a warrior.”

“With pleasure.” the man replied, his icy gaze locking on Nisse, who met his eyes defiantly. The healer smirked.

“Glad to hear you’re open to the idea, now, simply select your weapons and we can get started.” so saying, Ahana gestured behind her with her left hand, to where she and Nisse had piled a large number of weapons of every shape and form—one and all carved from crystal—for use in the tryouts which she had planned. Lying atop the pile, the bunnygirl had left b'Akphiyr; she figured that she might get a good laugh out of it if anyone decided they'd like to give that one a try.

Select our weapons?” the blond—’Sapphiro’—asked, “Having witnessed the trial of chieftains, you should know that in our tribe, our duels are traditionally always fought with greatswords alone. Even though we accept that warriors may use other armaments in real battles, it is our belief that the greatsword is the most honourable weapon.”

“Oh, I know that, yes… but your tribe isn’t the same thing as my army. And here, I’m more than happy to let my soldiers duel with whichever weapons they're most comfortable with… though if you’re scared of fighting Nisse unless he-”

“Don’t be stupid.” the blue-eyed man snapped, and the bunnygirl laughed, “It won’t make a difference, no matter what weapon he chooses. He can even have more than one if he'd like. I will stick to the ways of our ancestors, and show their superiority by crushing him utterly.”

The healer grinned and shrugged, “Suit yourself.”

The two men moved to the heap of crystalline armaments and selected those they desired. Sapphiro chose a greatsword with an ice-blue hue, and Nisse—taking the blond up on his generous offer—selected a pair of teal sickles, much to the amusement of the warriors in the crowd, who taunted him for fighting with farming tools, rather than real weapons.

“If I’m to represent the average people here, doesn’t it make sense for me to use something they’d be more familiar with?” the slim man asked, a cocky smile crossing his face. Despite his bravado, already a lot of the villagers were looking ashamed, embarrassed, or just plain miserable. It was clear to the healer that they expected this idiot to lose just as pathetically as he had when facing Gemma.

“Come on then,” the bunnygirl said, finally ceasing her caressing of the warrior woman's muscles, stepping away from her and waving the crowd forwards, “gather ‘round, everyone, this should be quite the show.”

Some more reluctantly than others—with the warriors generally seeming far more keen—the mob did as they were told, forming a wide circle around the two combattants, giving them plenty of room. Nisse and Sapphiro walked to opposite sides of the circle and turned to face each other, readying their weapons.

“Would you care to do the honours?” Ahana asked the dark-eyed lady, who still seemed to suspect that this was all some sort of trick. Smart woman.

“Sure.” she said, though, not being able to see a reason to halt the proceedings, “Three… two… one… begin!”

The men charged at one another, and it was immediately apparent to everyone there just how inferior Nisse was.

When he had fought Gemma, he had stated that he would be able to beat her because he was fast, while she had trained to fight larger opponents. The absurdity of this statement was now made plainly apparent; Nisse was not fast.

He had clearly fallen into the common trap of believing that being slender rather than bulky meant being quick, rather than slow. But that wasn’t really how fitness worked. Though they were tall and strong, few of the village’s warriors were grotesquely over-muscled to the point that their own mass inhibited their movement to any significant degree. By the time Nisse had covered a quarter of the distance between his starting point and Sapphiro’s, the blond man was already on top of him.

Sapphiro brought his massive blade down in an overhead blow, his eyes locked on the smaller man, anticipating an attempt at diving to the left or the right; he was clearly prepared to adjust the angle of his swing to compensate for whatever move his opponent made. He planned to end this duel with a single swing of his blade. That would certainly be most decisive.

What he did not expect was for Nisse—who had proven himself a coward and a wimp in his duel with Gemma—to ignore the sword entirely. Grinning slyly, the slender sickle-wielder lashed out with both weapons, embedding their ends in opposite sides of the muscular man’s gut.

And then the greatsword connected, cleaving through Nisse's left shoulder and ribs as though they were twigs. The slim man gave a high-pitched, agonised shriek, as the big blade buried itself halfway through his torso. His left arm fell limp, his hand slipping from the hilt of his weapon.

And then golden fire flared up. The blue-eyed man had already been staring at Nisse in shock, taken aback that the weedy man would be so stupid as to take such a grievous injury just for a chance at landing a hit. But when the flames manifested, his eyes bulged.

“Cheat!” the woman beside Ahana roared, grabbing her by the forearm and turning the bunnygirl to face her, as her ugly face twisted into a vicious snarl. The healer smirked back, not responding.

Before she could slug the bunnygirl, though, the dark-eyed lady’s gaze was drawn back to the fight, when Sapphiro cried out in pain. Nisse had hauled on his remaining weapon with all his might, tearing through muscle and organs. The other sickle was knocked free as the muscular man’s stomach was ripped open, blood and intestines spilling out.

“No!” the black-haired woman had time to scream, before golden flames flickered into existence around his injury as well, and it quickly began to heal. Nisse cackled hysterically, as his own flesh and bone knitted back together, and took another swipe with his sickle, succeeding in slashing open the throat of the blond man, who was still too shocked to really react much.

It was clear that the tribe hadn't even considered that the healer would use her power to interfere with what ought to have been an honourable duel. The fact she had refrained from messing around with Gemma’s fights, had likely only reinforced this belief. Not that that mattered to Ahana in the slightest; as a general now, none of them could reprimand her.

Beset by multiple shocking events, including his own disembowelment, Sapphiro was understandably a little dazed. It didn't take him long to regain his composure, but in those precious, few moments, Nisse landed several more blows, laughing all the while. The slim man wasn’t able to endure pain nearly as well as Ahana herself, but after hours of ‘endurance training’, he’d at least managed to reach the stage of laughing hysterically instead of bursting into tears when he was seriously injured. He still had a long way to go, but he did now have some sort of functionality when wounded, which was something.

Seeing if the others here—warrior and villager alike—had the determination to endure the same level of pain was the true purpose of the bunnygirl’s tryout plan. Strength and skill and speed barely mattered when one was immortal, after all. So long as one didn’t accept defeat, victory was merely a matter of time; every conflict became a battle of attrition in which one held infinite resources.

Once Sapphiro had recovered his wits, he quickly put some distance between himself and Nisse. The smaller man tried to charge after his adversary, but the greatsword with which he had been struck remained lodged in his body—the flesh and bone around it having healed, trapping it in place—which slowed him considerably. And all too soon, the blond's own injuries had vanished entirely, the last wisps of flame that had clung to his body dissipating. Before advancing on Nisse, he shot a venomous glare Ahana’s way, clearly not appreciating the hidden feature of his duel.

“Psst, I think your boyfriend likes me.” the healer said out of the corner of her mouth to the dark-eyed woman, as they watched Sapphiro catch Nisse’s wrist and snap his arm by kneeing the slim man’s elbow, causing the sickle to slip from unresponsive fingers.

The muscular woman grunted dismissively, “Sapphiro’s not my ‘boyfriend’, he’s my little cousin… and trust me, he definitely does not ‘like’ you.”

“Aw, really? What’s there not to like about me, though? Are you saying he doesn't appreciate powerful women?” the bunnygirl asked innocently, as if her rank was the only possible thing someone could possibly dislike about her.

The warrior snorted, which was a reasonable response to such a question, given that many women in the tribe were stronger than any of the men, and that they'd been ruled by women for generations; it wasn’t exactly the sort of thing that a male of the tribe would be expected to have a problem with, “I'm saying he doesn't appreciate women.”

“Hm…?” Ahana responded quizzically, as they watched Sapphiro knock back Nisse’s right leg, lift up the greatsword slightly, then bring it back down, stabbing straight through the smaller man’s shin and into the ground, pinning him in place, his body bent in an awkward position due to the blade piercing him in two spots. In spite of this, Nisse continued to giggle softly, though at a higher pitch than before. His eyes rolled around in their sockets.

If the healer had actually given a shit about his mental health, she might have been concerned. Instead, she simply thought on what the dark-eyed lady had said. After a couple moments, it finally clicked, “Oooh, right. Damn. That’s a pity.”

“Eh,” said the woman, shrugging, “it's not so bad. Makes for entertaining viewing.”

The bunnygirl contemplated that thoughtfully for a moment, “He lets people watch…? And… wait… didn’t you say he was your cousin?”

The warrior shrugged again, “It’s a small tribe.”

“Huh.” said the healer, while watching Sapphiro remorselessly pummel the face of the immobilised Nisse, “You might not want to mention that to Siggy… uh, the High Priest, I mean. I’m pretty sure that kinda stuff is against his religion.”

“What stuff? Fun?” the black-haired brute enquired casually.

Ahana laughed, turned to face her properly, and held out a hand. “Yeah, something like that. Y’know, I’m starting to think you might not be so bad after all, warrior lady. What’s your name, anyway?”

“Beryl.” the dark-eyed woman responded, and shook her hand. Her grip felt firm. Based on the golden fire that sprung up around her fingers, though, the bunnygirl knew that the warrior must be trying her hardest to exert as much force as possible. She smirked up at Beryl, the Divine Conflagration guarding her from even the minuscule ‘harm’ of having her hand squeezed too roughly.

The dark-eyed lady grunted and released her hand, in a huff at being unable to hurt her even a little. Ahana laughed again.

“Isn’t it about time you ended this? It’s pathetic.” Beryl said, changing the subject, and gesturing over at the ongoing fight… which still consisted of nothing more than Sapphiro punching Nisse in the face repeatedly, as the smaller man struggled to stay upright.

“Nah.” the healer said, “Nisse still has a few more hours of fight left in him.”

“A few… a few more hours?”

“Heh.”


***


Panting heavily, the blond man let his arms fall to his sides, and backed up a couple steps. His victim was still pinned by the greatsword, even after all this time, though by this point he had sunk to his knees. On a few occasions previously, the warrior had ceased his brutal assault, giving Nisse a chance to surrender.

On every occasion, the slim man had simply waited for his battered face to heal, and then had begun struggling to free himself from the weapon that kept him rooted in place. And this instance was no different. The blond shook his head and wiped sweat from his brow.

The audience had long ago grown bored, and were mostly talking amongst themselves. Several had even fetched some dice and started gambling at some point. They were still interested enough in the general’s proposal to stick around, rather than returning to work rebuilding their homes, it seemed, but not so interested that they actually wanted to watch a guy get punched in the face for hours on end.

“This is stupid!” he yelled, facing Ahana, “It's clear that I've won.”

“Oh, have you killed Nisse yet? Or knocked him unconscious? Or perhaps he’s simply surrendered?” she smirked smugly at him.

“Tch. Just because he won’t stop struggling, doesn’t mean he hasn’t lost.” everyone was paying attention now. Ahana began walking in their direction—followed by Beryl, after a moment—and Nisse forced himself up to his feet (well, to his foot, as one of them was still pinned in such a way that it was impossible for him to stand on it), his face already fully healed.

“Oh, really?” the healer enquired, raising an eyebrow, “‘Cause I’d say that’s exactly what it means. But I suppose the fight has gone on long enough. I didn’t actually expect your patience to hold out all this time, to be honest. I figured I'd have to put an end to this much sooner, so well done for that, blondie. Nisse, surrender, will you?”

“I surrender.” the slim man said immediately.

“There, it’s over. You won, warrior, congratulations. Still, you must realise by now what the point of this duel really was, right?”

“Yes, of course.” Sapphiro spat, moving to Nisse’s side and tugging free—none too gently—then tossing aside the greatsword that had been embedded in the smaller man's flesh, “You made a fool out of me.”

“Oh, don’t be like that. This wasn’t just a demonstration of my awe-inspiring power, it also allowed you to demonstrate your strength, skill, speed and stamina, and Nisse got to show off his resolve. We all got something out of this.” turning to face the crowd, she raised her voice and continued, “Now, I trust you all see how blessed you are to have a chance at fighting by my side… and how minor details physical fitness and fighting skill really are, when it’s impossible for my soldiers to die without my permission. So, it’s time to vote. Everyone who thinks that those who aren’t warriors deserve a chance at serving in our army—if they can make it through my tryouts—raise one fist.”

Sapphiro sighed despondently, shaking his head, his expression sour, as he beheld the results. There wasn’t even any need for the general to ask for a show of hands from those who opposed the proposition. It was blatantly obvious that she had convinced the people, villager and warrior alike.

Moving to stand by his side, Beryl gave him a pat on the shoulder, “You fought well, Sapph, even if this didn’t work out like we hoped, you can take pride in that.”

Grunting, the blue-eyed warrior shrugged off his cousin’s hand, not even looking at her. He wasn’t in the best of moods, it would seem. By comparison, the much abused loser of the fight, Nisse, was fully recovered and stood by the bunnygirl’s side, a small smile on his lips.

Ahana clapped her hands, “Alright, with that out of the way, we can finally move on to the main event. Nisse, Beryl, Sapphiro, split everyone into pairs for me, would you? The tryout is simple; anyone who wants to be a soldier of Neo New Babylon has to fight a duel, which lasts until I say it ends, or someone surrenders. Anyone who surrenders can’t join the army. And if I feel like someone isn’t being challenged enough, or if their opponent gives up, I’ll switch them to fight someone else. Basically, I want you all to prove that you can keep fighting no matter how much pain you’re in. Not giving up like a little bitch is the one and only requirement of joining this army, got it?”

The crowd called out their assent, some more readily than others. Before moving to help sort the participants, though, Nisse spoke up, “And if anyone fails, and can’t help but surrender, don’t worry… if you truly desire a career in the army, additional training is available, and the General is an excellent teacher. Just look what she’s done for me, after all, hahaha.”

The slightly crazed look in the slim man’s eyes likely didn’t do much to convince anyone, but the healer grinned anyway. All things considered, she thought her little pet was coming along quite well.


Post Word Count: 5,202
Crawl #0004 Quest #5 Post Count: 2/3
Crawl #0004 Quest #5 Word Count: 7,356/1,867 (2,154 + 5,202)
 
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