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 Post subject: Worlds of Words
PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2021 6:21 pm 

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Worlds of Words


Hello there! Thanks for taking the time to read my humble request page. I'm a veteran roleplayer of 10+ years looking for a small handful of talented and invested female partners to build worlds of awesome with.

(Don't end sentences with a preposition... with whom to build worlds of awesome!)

Okay, with my self-conscious writing correction out of the way...

I'm probably not compatible with many or most of the players in this forum... that said, I'm certainly not implying that I'm difficult to play with (ugh). On the contrary, I believe myself as very open and collaborative... however, my tastes and approach have been instilled upon my being by years of stubbornness and habit. When I do find the right partner, however, magic often happens, which is easily worth the pursuit. See below for a list of considerations:

    I savor the opportunity to write my own prompts. They usually involve an embellished sci-fi or fantasy-oriented backdrop, but rest assured that my ultimate goal is developing a chemistry between our characters. I'd describe my personal style as detailed and introspective without being tedious. My aim is efficiency while at the same time allowing some indulgence towards world-building. (I get an absolute kick when a partner dives into one of my prompts and runs with it... there's no quicker way to my heart. I'll also happily do the same with a partner's idea if it speaks to me.)

    The hanky panks. To be honest, I can take it or leave it, but I love a slow-burn romance and moments of intimacy.

    My taste in genre is kind of wide. I generally shy away from established properties in movies or video games... I find more satisfaction through building from the ground up without any pre-determined characters or story arcs. (There is one notable exception: I've been playing the hell out of Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon lately, so if any interested parties wanted to pursue a roleplay in that arena, I'd be hella interested.) See below for a list of genres that I really enjoy.

    I really don't have a general amount of text I adhere to for my posts. Sometimes it's a few paragraphs, sometimes it's two thousand words (or more)! I occasionally explore my character's past with time jumps, which supplies an added bit of lore and world-building that is difficult for me to achieve otherwise. I adore the feeling of writing a novel-esque work with my partner, so I try not to self-impose any limitations to how much I should write.

    I generally do not supply a face claim for my characters, as I have too much fun trying to portray my character's physical traits through the written word (hopefully fueling your imagination to do the rest). If asked nicely, however, I will see what I can do.
_______

Genres that float my yacht:
    Noir
    Supernatural
    Science Fiction
    Post-Apocalyptic
    Fantasy
    Any mixture of above
...

Hoo boy, I try to be somewhat succinct and just look at this mess now! There's a slew of prompts for you to explore beyond this introduction if you so choose. I'm also working on a few new entries behind the scenes, which could be helped to the finish line with the right collaborator:

The Groundsman: An unassuming, mute gardener in a world of magic and dragons discovers the scientific formula to neutralize the essence of manna and upend the nature of existence... your character is a royal family's servant quietly developing her own spell-casting abilities... who is either fascinated or horrified by the discovery, setting in motion an ethical dilemma of sorts: To change or not change the world?

The Hellbringer: Sorta inspired by Bloodstained... Two adventurers bound by oath set out to conquer their world's demon lords. Love naturally begins to stir between them, complicated by the promise of a curse's damnation... and the revelations of parallel lives. A literal castle of horrors awaits with its labyrinth towards the Demon King... but will their affections ultimately undermine the world's bid for freedom from the ultimate evil? Your character could be a huntress, sorceress, a demoness betrayer... whatever you like!
_______

Our theoretical roleplay can progress towards a variety of goals, including but not limited to survival, triumph, and romance. We can discuss goals beforehand or develop our story spontaneously and organically. I tend to shy away from existing properties and character images, but I'm not completely against them.

I think I'm a decent writer, but certainly not a natural one. It takes me time to write, within the confines of a full-time schedule (luckily I now work from home!). My responses usually go through a number of drafts and revisions before I feel comfortable enough to share them. I’m drawn to sculpted wordsmithing which has obviously infused with copious amounts of TLC (thought, liveliness, and craft). I’m not a grammar Nudnik (lord knows I occasionally make mistakes) but the fundamentals should be honored and applied.

In terms of personal volumetric preference, I tend to spout novel-esque paragraphs and indulge myself with world-building, though I try to regulate myself before things get tedious or verbose. From past experience, I also have the ability to thrive with more compact exchanges with the right type of partner.


***I try to post at LEAST once a week per roleplay. Life does occasionally get in the way, but my habit is to keep my life's responsibilities lean in order to have plenty of time for my creative pursuits. My goal is now to be more responsive and open with my partners when things do come up. With the winter season now shifting towards the coldest and darkest days of the year, I'd like to find that warm magic once more...

A little about me: I'm a web designer living near the east coast waters of the US of A. I went to school for drawing and painting, and still do when I have time. My favorite musician is Devin Townsend, and my favorite author is Stephen King. Three movies I never get tired of watching are Jacob's Ladder, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Full Metal Jacket. I work out with my awesome trainer three times a week, and I don't drink or smoke. That's it for now!

If any of this resonates with you, don't hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments you might have. I try to be prompt with responses to inquiries. Again, thanks so much for reading. Let's build worlds of words!


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2021 6:39 pm 

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The Vagabond and the Princess

—Story Prompt—


It happened so quickly...

In one moment, the king ordered the execution of the defiant vagabond standing in his presence as nearby guards rushed to seize him.

The next moment found the king on all fours, bowing before the condemned as his royal robes sprawled comically around his body. The guards had also backed themselves some distance away before kneeling their own grudging reverence.

In fact, everyone within earshot of the kingdom's grand hall seemed entranced by the shocking powers of the cloaked vilifier... everyone except the Princess, who sat beside the imperial throne in abject horror. Her father had entertained an audience with a self-proclaimed soothsayer, who had quite the captious appraisal to share about the king's steady reign over the land of Bresau. Insulting would have been putting it mildly.

Now, the guest with an apparent death wish had turned the tables with simple, irresistible, irrefutable orders. The golden voice of a wandering Midas, it seemed.

The vagabond took a few moments to shift his eyes about, studying his work with a satisfied smile before picking up where he left off.

"Very good, very good. Now kiss the floor upon which I stand, my king."

His wish was the monarch's command, and a furious gaze followed soon after. The hushed silence that accompanied it felt heavy in the air, and the soothsayer savored every moment.

"Well then. I suppose there are trained assassins and opportunistic soldiers to consider," the vagabond declared through a musing sigh. "So hear me well: should I be harmed or killed, the king's fate shall accompany mine. My pain is his pain. My death is his death. Doubt me not, as you have witnessed my powers firsthand. Try me not, or suffer the lasting consequences of your folly."

The covenant was undeniable. The soothsayer's words were magic... they spoke truths into existence. His destiny was now inexorably tied with the king.

"One final word..." His arms folded in a gesture of impatience. "If you must know, my name is Charles. Curse the name with all your seething hatred, should that befit your tendencies." With an exaggerated, almost ridiculous bow, the soothsayer excused himself from the humbled heap of the king, leaving those he touched with his voice beyond words, beyond comprehension.
___

After his royal rebuke, the vagabond made himself quite at home within the grand castle. He moved from wing to wing with a carefree smile, one that also carried with it a frightful air of invincibility. Business carried on as best it could despite the persistence of his presence. Normalcy had returned with a large asterisk, or so it appeared.

The curious thing was the vagabond seemed uninterested with making himself a nuisance beyond his own whims and fancies. He also seemed to have a personal code of honor, never having used his godly voice beyond the initial point made in the king's throne room. Despite this, however, there were heavy, hateful stares, sneers, and spiteful whispers from the castle's inhabitants.

"How do we kill you?" came one brazen question from a frustrated soldier.

"With kindness," Charles returned with his usual cool, collected air.

From afar, the Princess occasionally caught the corner of Charles' eye as he made his daily rounds, hiding in distant shadows or peering from distant windows. Perhaps she hoped her glares would somehow erase him from existence, or perhaps she was building the courage to confront him. In the end, despite her captivating beauty, he gave her stalkings little thought.

Finally, inevitably, the Princess made her approach.

"Charles," she called aloud, walking uneasily towards the man she named.

"Hmm... yes?" A genuine look of surprise appeared on the vagabond's face as he washed alone in the public bathing square, his arrival having caused a grumbling exodus moments before.

The Princess would see a man with a rugged build... a peasant's build, with broad shoulders and calloused hands. Vigilant brown eyes complemented dark wavy hair that framed a surprisingly handsome face, save for a faded scar that traveled from his left ear to the middle of his forehead. His skin held a soft ochre glow from years of the sun's tenacious touch, and stubble gave his chin and cheeks a faint shadow.

"Charles," she calmly said again, collecting herself and her thoughts. "Let us speak to one another."

The vagabond turned to the Princess with brief, narrow slits of eyes before comically furrowing his brow, as if entertaining a heavy thought. "Very well," he relented with a smile. "What have ye to say?"

"It's about my father," she mustered out, her gaze almost pleading. "You had him kiss the floor of the royal hall. You've since forbade him to sit upon his own throne."

"Yes, I did," Charles reflected solemnly. "A punishment, I admit, for rushing to violence against me." A pause coincided with another consideration. "He should consider himself lucky for enduring such a... light penalty."

The Princess visibly prepared herself again. "Word travels... somehow, someway. The neighboring kingdoms have made it into a joke, but our enemies..." A stifled sob seemed to catch in her throat before she continued.

"Our enemies are emboldened by the prospect of a king being controlled by some outside influence. They've initiated a number of attacks in recent days, bold and fierce, claiming victory in several."

The desperation was evident in her voice now, and the Princess's eyes flared with anger.

"Your powers have made our kingdom weaker... have insulted and degraded us... degraded me..."

"My powers have no effect upon you, specifically," Charles explained with a tinge of impatience. "Perhaps you didn't recognize your own exemption in the throne room, but even my abilities carry their own handicaps."

A look of wide-eyed realization lifted to the surface of the Princess' face, and the obvious question followed. "Why only me?" she asked with a hint of exasperation.

"A lengthy story for another day," Charles said dismissively. "Should it ever fancy me to tell you, I suppose."

The Princess kept still near the bathhouse steps, dumbfounded. The vagabond's watchful eyes studied her, then pulled away with slight embarrassment.

"Funny how something so simple can have such a resounding impact," Charles stated meditatively. "I suppose my impulses has the occasional... unintended consequence." The silence that settled after his admission felt strangely uncomfortable.

"I'm late for something," Charles declared with a bit of awkwardness as he started his climb up the slippery bathhouse steps. What the lazy vagabond could be possibly late for seemed to escape her understanding, but the Princess nonetheless nodded her acknowledgment.

"Join me tonight in the courtyard," Charles finally proposed. "And we can negotiate."

A heavy swallow accompanied another hesitant nod. The Princess then rushed a curtsy before excusing herself from the vagabond.

___

A crisp, starry night fell over the kingdom of Bresau. Charles, tending to one of his curious whims, had set a tent and campfire in the grassy yard of the castle square. A vagabond's habits died hard, it seemed.

The Princess would meet at the rendezvous and find Charles laying on the cool grass with his elbows bent and hands tucked behind his head, looking up to the stars. Upon noticing the arrival of the Princess, he patted the ground beside him as an invitation. "Before we begin, join me for a minute."

The Princess sighed impatiently. "I'm wearing a dress..." she began, but would nevertheless comply, despite her own misgivings.

The both of them lay for a moment looking up to the pitch black sky speckled with glowing white dots. The vagabond then broke the night's chorus of chirps and croaks with a question. "Are you arranged to be wed?"

The Princess turned her head to Charles with a searing glare. "Why would ye care to..." The derision in her voice soon abandoned her, however.

"Not as of yet. There are nobles who push to court me, but--"

"Very well then," Charles interrupted, his voice full of cheer. "I'll make you an offer. Allow me to henceforth sleep beside you in your bed, and I will tell you everything... and perhaps reinstate your father to his throned glory." His gaze locked upon the eyes of the Princess. "For the price of a night's snore, knowledge shall be yours."


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 Post subject: Re: Worlds of Words
PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2021 12:40 pm 

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The Groundsman


The sun held high at its apex as noon tucked away the blue shadows of morning. Slivers of daylight traced the contours of Aria's outstretched arms as they reached with bequeathing palms, the ancient Goddess Aria, bringer of Spring and Life. Her warm visage exuded a feeling of welcome beyond words as her fluttering robe flowed like rapids around her bent knees. Her stillness had endured for centuries or more, an ethereal statue much too elegant for a sculptor's chisel.

Without prejudice, the appearance of the goddess reflected the broad spectrum of races that her worshipers represented. The orcosas, a benign faction of the orcs, insisted upon her leathered skin, broad shoulders and toothy smile. The various elven tribes marveled at the splendor of her teardrop ears. The tall, snake-skinned albinos known as the pontocks witnessed their own red-eyed miracle. Her physical appearance was truly in the eye of the beholder, but the essence of what she represented remained the same across all the beings of the great Gaia.

The timeless magic of the Western Temple floated the large statue of Aria above a wide, round dais encircled by a flight of three shallow steps. Her stone-quiet gaze peered across the grassy hills as they stretched outward towards the distant woodland, with beaten roads occasionally weaving between and around patches of trees. Stone medians flanked the temple's manicured fields and rounded towards a series of ribbed columns serving as the only barricade within a temple otherwise free of walls, accessible to all who found themselves moved to pay their respects.

***
Pilgrims from distant lands prayed, danced and left offerings as the goddess cast airy shadows like blots of watercolor upon her worshipers. The noble families of all races brought attendants with them, often with roaming, curious eyes. What appeared to be a young servant woman happened to pass a glance towards the silent figure near the rear of the temple, standing as still as the rising columns around him. Their eyes tangled, and the caretaker was quick to rip his gaze away before the exchange escalated further.
___

Charles' auburn gaze glowed with satisfaction upon the marble goddess, now scrubbed clean of moss and stains, with one hand on his hip and the other leaning against his upright rake. He had been up before dawn in anticipation of the approaching holy holiday, tending to his day's tasks before the visitors arrived en masse. Absent from the stone skin of the Goddess were the colorful, wispy weeds that grew like vines and resembled small peacock feathers. Vibrant little treasures, they were, with a pulse of magic's essence, perhaps bestowed upon them by Aria herself. Charles tucked one of the feathers away into his pant pocket, a trivial gesture to unwitting eyes...

He had lived upon the temple's premises for years, tasked and trusted with maintaining the holy site but mostly invisible to those who would visit it. Powerful sorcerers came to offer their tributes and subsequently departed without so much a word to the quiet observer with short jet black hair and beige-colored overalls. He was, after all, a mute without the blessing of magic in any of its countless forms. Arrogant eyes might have viewed his life as a waste, but menial labor was plentiful and often reserved for mutes in search of their life's purpose. All in all, he was dismissed by most pairs of eyes that settled upon him, and he liked it that way.

The children from various races frequently played together as their parents payed their devout respects. They practiced basic elemental spells with sporadic shrieks of delight, and occasionally interacted with Charles as they scuttled throughout the holy ground. Some stared silently, others asked silly questions. He mostly entertained their interactions with polite solemnity at the cost of distracting him from the inevitable troublemakers.

Indeed, with his attention diverted, he yelped in pain as his rake's handle scorched his palm while distant pranksters pointed, laughed and fled. Charles allowed himself a moment to narrow his eyes and shake his head... it wasn't the first incident, and it wouldn't be the last. With a sigh, the groundsman shook the sharp sting of heat from his hand and claimed his rake once more from the grass where it was dropped.
___

Charles retired to his modest cabin shortly after dusk, which resided about a half-mile from the temple he maintained, near the woodland's edge. He had access to a short list of luxuries, including a bed, stove and washtub, and a few dips into his well prepared his bath and supplied water for cooking. A traveling ice mage has blessed his freezer for a substantial price, but now he could keep stores of meat through the long summer months. After a meal of baked venison strips and rice, he lit the evening candles before donning his robe, and from afar his cabin windows would glow like a firedrake's eyes.

He knelt upon his haunches and began to lift the thatched rug in the small living area of his cabin, leaning it against a wall once it had been rolled tight. A basement door could now be seen, no longer hidden away from prying eyes. Once opened, a short staircase was discernible through a blanket of shadow, and Charles descended into what might have originally been intended to serve as a small wine cellar... though its purpose now certainly did not involve anything recreational.

A wall torch was lit, revealing a dummy mannequin in a nearby corner not unlike a scarecrow's torso. Shelves of jars and other containers were also seen jutting from each wall, offering a selection of translucent liquids, dried herbs and granulated powders. Situated in the middle of the cellar was a wooden table with vials and beakers, a small burner plate, and instruments for grinding and mixing. A copy of the forbidden text The Obsolescence of Magic was opened to an anatomical illustration of a robed sorceress and her various magical chakras.

On the far end of the table could have been the most damning article. A pamphlet with the insignia of the eastern mute resistance was peeking from its rectangular envelope, handed to him by a blind mute on a street corner begging for money. His rare business excursion to the city of Balthas had supplied him with sobering insight, and new heights of determination.

After a sweeping glance of his handiwork, Charles seemed to immediately pick up where he left off in his laboratory. He pulled the feathery weed plucked earlier in the day from his pocket and placed it upon his table. A powdery concoction from his prior night's experimentations had proved itself a promising lead.

Placing the weed upon a thin bed of the powder, its vibrant hues immediately dulled alongside withering tendrils, before pulsing back to its original state. Charles could sense as well as see the magic being neutralized, if only temporarily, but its essence remained resolute and overcame its aggressor.

There's something here... Charles thought with conviction. Something potent.

Several hours passed with mixing and stirring, testing and observing. It seemed his progress had plateaued, frustrating him to the point of a punch upon his watchful mannequin, until he was reminded of a rare find he purchased from an herbal shop in Balthas, the secreted oil of the eschew plant. He added a few drops to his original formula, spread it thin with a knife and settled the weed upon it once more.

This time the weed's reaction was alarmingly conclusive. It actually shriveled to a crisp, graying to the point of visual finality. Charles locked his eyes upon it, expecting an eventual rebound, but none would come.

Gods... Charles swallowed hard upon the sight after several minutes has passed, his thoughts heavy and swirling.

A large batch was made with his remaining ingredients and hidden away in a glass container. He would set aside a small amount to place within a leather pouch, which he pocketed for later use.

"Tomorrow," Charles said aloud to himself before climbing the wooden planks back to his cabin to retire for the evening.
___

The sun eventually rose, as it always did. Charles was already awake and finishing his rounds across the temple as visitors assembled themselves once more. Eventually and discreetly, he lost himself from the pack of eyes behind the trunk of a large yarka tree, seemingly forgotten by Aria's flock.

The children from the prior day eventually began to roam and play, eyed carefully by Charles with brief glimpses from his hiding place. He waited until a nearby elven child experimented with a flame spell between the cup of her hands, looking upon her success with awe and satisfaction. The small leather bag was fetched from his pocket, and a small mound of his concoction was placed onto the palm of his hand. A measured breath then preceded a deep exhale of the spore-like powder towards the unsuspecting girl. The substance seemed to dissolve into a barely discernible cloud, carried by faint winds towards its target.

The child's flame began to flicker and wane with an obvious struggle until it finally extinguished, with only a thin trail of smoke honoring its prior existence. A look of horror lifted to the child's face before her spell was once again attempted, chanting the sacred words carefully, but only earned a small puff of combustion upon her palms. A panicked roam of the child's eyes yanked the caretaker back into hiding, and he would only hear the child screaming and running to find her parents.

Charles witnessed his experiment with fascination that bordered on outright horror. After the elven girl fled, there was a heavy moment of realization before his breaths began to quicken, and his sense of balance began to tilt...

A panic attack... this must be a panic attack, he repeated in his mind, and tempered his breaths with deep exhales to curb the tide of spasms that shuddered across his limbs. He then found his way back to his cabin, taking care not to be noticed, though in the corner of his eye the noble family with the curious servant woman lingered...

Charles would not be seen outside for the remainder of the day. He sat silently for hours on his bed with the pamphlet in his hand, dwelling on the ramifications of his discovery, until a knock on his cabin door accompanied the arrival of dusk.

A frenzied look rose to Charles' face as he hurriedly tucked away the pamphlet into the pocket of his overalls. He then reached for a small dagger hidden underneath his mattress before tending to his late visitor.


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 Post subject: Re: Worlds of Words
PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2021 12:49 pm 

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The HellHunter & the Demoness​


"If you are to betray me," The HellHunter warned the demoness, "kill me quickly, or you shall suffer the same."
______

The Forsaken Temple was eventually found in a distant marsh far from the empire's borders, even after so many shamans insisted it resided beyond the mortal plane. Upon the wide, unwalled bed of bones were statues of kneeling gargoyles, spewing sulfuric wind from their maniacally grinning mouths, seated upon columns gouged with the claw marks of the damned. A series of archways jutting out of the putrid swampland stew resembled the ribbed remains from some ancient leviathan. A slit of setting sun peeked through clusters of rotting trees in the distance, hanging in perpetual dusk. The Demono Wrathos manifested itself when the HellHunter beckoned its name, and a fierce battle commenced.

A steel sword was driven upwards into the demon's throat by relentless hands, shredding through the larynx with the sound of a slow, snapping tree branch. It staggered back, yanking the hilt from the HellHunter's grasp as shock overwhelmed its ferocity, and oily fluid began to pool along the lids of its eyes and dribble from its nostrils. The monster's mouth opened wide in a gesture that seemed reflexive, gurgling a blood-choked roar before its wobbling knees collapsed. Heavy stone armor cracked against the skeletal floor beneath it, clattering with the spasms of quietus, until it became as lifeless as the beast it failed to protect. A large silver medallion with strange markings was the trophy he sought, and the battered warrior snatched it from the demon's bulging neck with an exhale of triumph.

The medallion was pocketed before the HellHunter gazed upon the slain Demono Wrathos with a wave of consummate relief, his breaths still heavy with exhaustion. Its massive frame had to be twenty lengths or taller, with an ox-like face and searing red eyes that glowed inexorably, even in death. The audience of taunting demon soldiers had disappeared, apparently swept away by the winds of defeat. Were they truly there? he thought as he unsheathed his sword and shouted his battle cry. The Forsaken Temple was fraught with lies for the eyes and ears of intruders, but its guardian was now slain, apparently taking its powers of deceit along with it.

His fatal strike was admittedly lucky, but expected all the same; seven other demon lords were felled in necessary triumphs to set the current stage of battle. Ultimate victory was proving itself a natural consequence of the HellHunter's momentum, it seemed. He had carved through hordes of hellions and rejected the temptations of euphoric delights offered from a plane of pleasure too incomprehensible for mortal minds, if he would only forfeit his quest. And now, the final Hellgate beckoned, promised by ancient prophesy to surrender its cursed seal before the gathering of the eight pendants, somewhere on the edge of the Great Earth.

Silence had settled like dust around the HellHunter until it was abruptly broken. "Mine kill was stolen," came the snarl of a voice through the thickening black of the temple's shadows. The warrior tensed and turned his head towards the growl, eyes widened with a peculiar blend of concern and relief. Despite the familiarity, the warrior was never truly comfortable with the demoness...

The black seemed to peel away from a woman as she stepped forward, glowing a fluorescent violet from her face and striking, amethyst eyes. Two small horns jutted from top of her brow, curtained by raven-feathered hair that blended like mist into the darkness around it. An elegant drape of skin just below her chin suggested a well-nourished regality, punctuated only by a crown of thorns above her head, floating like a halo. Her leather armor was the color of dried blood and hugged tightly against her skin, with prominent straps around her gloves, boots, neckline, and midsection. A metallic plate on her chest flaunted the symbol of the Cross'ed; both holy and unholy with its pair of crosspieces. Her left wrist revealed the tattooed insignia of a demon huntress to those few in the world who recognized it.

Shiva'ra eyes glared their blame towards the HellHunter, who carried the mortal name of Charles Morschew. He was tall, somewhere between six and seven lengths, his olive skin rugged and calloused from countless battles and wounds. The look in his charcoal eyes wavered between fierce determination and thoughtful observance, as if his enduring battle against evil had split his demeanor into two distinct halves. He was the chosen paladin of a warrior tribe long thought extinct, trained by the Golden Knight's Order and tutored in alchemy. His armor was the color of scuffed silver, with flaking green and red stripes boasting the empire's royal colors. His face was almost handsome, with a number of scars traveling along his squared jawline, and one across his right eye pulling into his dark, wavy hair.

"I beg your pardon, Shiva'ra the Betrayer," Charles lifted from his lips, his forehead dipping almost reverently. "My convictions gave way to impatience, and I've robbed you of what was rightfully yours."

Shiva'ra the Betrayer. The demoness didn't mind the title, and in fact insisted upon it. She made no secret of the contempt she held towards her brethren, declaring it to the HellHunter who felt the tip of her blade against his neck before their uneasy allegiance. Demons had relinquished their might amidst mortal indulgences, she observed wearily… making them weak, conquerable, and subject to the whims of fate. Looking upon it now, her concern might as well have been prophesy, as only the Christ of Demons remained of the demon lords that once reigned upon the Great Earth.

"Indeed you did," Shiva'ra stoutly accused, but her voice had softened. Charles presented the medallion as consolation, dangling it from his forefinger before clenching it into his palm. He tried a smile towards his companion, earning none in return, before noticing something strange upon his fingertips… the sight of charred flesh, crawling and consuming his skin. He violently shook his hand to no avail and the look of panic began to seep into his eyes.

Shiva'ra approached Charles to address the creeping plague, taking his hand into hers to study it. After a moment her voice became motherly, almost a coo. "Charles," she explained with concern. "You've been cursed. Let me see if I can—"

The sudden swipe of an enormous arm sent Charles careening towards a grinning gargoyle, gouging his arm with a stone claw before he tumbled into a heap. The Demono Wrathos had somehow risen from its resting place, wrenching the instrument of death from its neck before a thunderous roar shook the temple's foundation with horrifying resonance. Shiva'ra had already engaged the risen demon lord with her dagger, and the medallion was just out of reach from Charles' trembling hand before his mind was swallowed by blackness.
____

There were dreams, of course, full of wonder and meaning. Visions of what has been and could be, glimpses of lives lived and yet to come…

Charlemagne's pulse rifle was slung over his left shoulder as he stood resolutely on a slanted concrete slab. Sheila's head was buried into his chest, and he felt the wetness of tears through his black siphon suit. His right hand wore the glove that was generating the energy field around them, criss-crossing lines of bright cyan much like an electric net, ballooned into a protective sphere. Charlemagne's vivid green eyes observed the bursts of orange and black through the vivid blue mesh, and warm reflections flashed against his placid face.

"Easy, easy," he whispered in an effort to console the frightened young woman leaning against him. "We're protected here, we're fine."

He had found Shiela in a building long abandoned within Zone 27, and had little time to explain that the evols were coming,… coming fast, those damned souls that had been subjected to the Liquid Evolution. Floating naked through the air like flesh-colored silhouettes, no discernable features on their hellish blank faces, their digits fused together into large, useless nubs… Their attacks came from their minds, as frightening as the prospect was. Spontaneous explosions spurred on with a thought that leveled cities from above with horrifying efficiency… traveling like massive fiery centipedes across streets and corridors… burning fiercely for hours or even days.

Sheila and Charlemagne were caught in one of those attacks, and Charlemagne had activated his pulse shield just in time… for what? The evols would most certainly conduct a grid search after their initial attack, and there were not many places to hide in the rubble that stretched for miles around them. He could maybe take one head on, if he was lucky and his aim was true… but there were at least five roaming around, as detected by his perimeter scanner. He wasn't sure what to do, and his platoon wasn't responding to his beacon… perhaps they were conducting their own defensive maneuvers, or perhaps they were simply wiped out.

The situation seemed bleak, but Charlemagne wouldn't tell Sheila that, oh no…

____

Charles awoke, but his eyes did not open, a warrior's habit trained into him as a young boy. Crickets and frogs sang a night's chorus around him with chattery chirps and swollen hiccups, and he felt the warmth of flame from a campfire nearby. As his senses collected further from the depths of sleep, he took notice of his left arm in a sling and the feeling of hay on his back, his armor absent while he lay upon the musty dampness of earth. His good hand fidgeted with the remnants of his dream, and for the briefest moment a trail of cyan energy pulsed from its fingertips.

Through the floating, glowing embers a pair of watchful eyes could be seen, the color of sparkling amethyst. Charles couldn't help but stir at the stare he somehow felt through his still-groggy mind.

"You're finally awake," Shiva'ra stated flatly.

"Yes indeed," Charles acknowledged with a dusty throat. "What a wonder that I'm still alive."

"I killed it, once and for all," Shiva'ra declared to quell the question yet to be asked. And don't you ever steal another kill from me again, came the unspoken words alongside her tone. The sound of a jangle settled Charles' mind about the medallion as well.

"Very good, very good. We have what we need for the final battle ahead. Thank you for your help, Shiva'ra, and for the lovely campfire."

A wordless welcome filled the embered air between them before Shiva'ra spoke again. "A cleric came and went while you were asleep to rid you of your curse. I managed to set your arm as well… hopefully the cleric's blessing speeds it along." Her mention of it seemed to activate Charles' mind to the pain and swelling, and his shoulder twitched with a deep, dull ache.

"A cleric and demoness with peace between them?" Charles mused aloud. "What a sight that would have been. A pity I missed it."

Shiva'ra snorted with a sort of shallow contempt. Her lips readied a retort before being interrupted by another thought from the wounded warrior.

"Our crusade is almost complete, dear huntress. We've earned together a lifetime's worth of rest, have we not?"

The remark evidently stirred something within Shiva'ra, prompting her to stand from her seat and move towards the HellHunter, his body exposed and vulnerable, wearing a peasant's plaincloth. She kneeled to straddle him with knees and palms in hay and dirt, rocking a bit on his loins in an effort to rouse him, but only earned a grimace.

"Easy, easy…" Charles winced alongside a jagged smile, winking one eye open upon the demoness pressing her claim upon his lap. "Your warmth is always appreciated, but my body still aches, so it does."

Shiva'ra curled her own soft, curious smile. Easy, easy. Charles seemed to always pull odd new expressions from his dreams, a phenomenon of which she had long grown accustomed.

"What say will happen after our task is done?" Shiva'ra posed with a sing-songiness to her voice, equally innocent and sultry. "How shall we live?"

Charles seemed to muse on the on the hopeful eventuality for a long moment. "I suppose our duties would shift towards rekindling the Great Earth with children," he offered with a slight shrug of his shoulders.

"Children!" Shiva'ra sounded genuinely excited and flattered at the proposition, almost squealing. Her rocking thighs were less provocative now and more mindful of Charles' ailing soreness.

The heart in Charles' chest thumped its own cautious longing at the prospect. Shiva'ra really was quite beautiful, horns and all, a fact he often blotted from his own eyes out of necessity. Perhaps his seed wouldn't or couldn't take within her womb; he was a mere mortal courting an otherworldly demoness, after all. But Shiva'ra's enthusiasm to try was enough to add another fiery incentive to the drive already branded onto his soul by oath and fate.

"First thing's first," Charles proclaimed, pulling another of those peculiar phrases from some forgotten time. "The Christ of Demons."

Shira'na's amethyst eyes flared at the name said aloud, her body stiffening. "The Christ of Demons," she whispered back.


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