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Kingdom Hearts Eclipse - Chapter 2



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OmniChaos

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=Viceroy of Rego=


--Chapter 2: The Chains that Connect Us--

"Hey, Ogen! Over here!" a young man cried out, waving his hand toward Ogen. "Look at this!" The young man stood proudly next to the remains of a Reaver, his foot placed atop its head victoriously. A large grin covered the young man's face, a slight sparkle in his eyes. He was happy. He was proud. He was foolish.

"What have you done?" Ogen asked, a small spark of anger welling up within the boy. He stepped just outside the dark alleyway of Corona Major, the sounds of the city quickly intensifying from murmurs into the loud 'bangs' and 'crashes' of a city. "This Reaver, did it see you?"

"Yeah," the young man responded, scratching the back of his neck, "but I took care of it before it could do anything."

"You idiot!" Ogen shouted in a fit of rage, breaking the boy's normal demeanor. "Do you realize what you have done!? That Reaver saw you, and now the Eclipse Army knows that there are keyblade wielders in Corona Major! Do you have any idea what that means!? It means that now you'll--"

"There he is!"

Ogen quickly pulled back into the darkness of the alleyway, hoping the owner of the voice did not see him. The boy watched as a small group of Reavers set upon the young man, quickly surrounding him on all sides. With no escape, the young man clashed blades with the Guardians and side-stepped the spinning blades of the Scuttlers. The young man fought well, dodging theirs blows smoothly while still able to deliver blows to the Reavers' hard armor. It was all going well, until...

"Uggh!" the young man shouted, looking down at his leg to see a massive claw wrapped around it. The young man followed the arm back to its owner, a Cage Reaver. With the young man distracted, a Guardian Reaver quickly moved in and knocked the keyblade from the young man's hands. "No!" he shouted, reaching out toward the keyblade. The young man was quickly knocked from his feet at the Cage Reaver jerked it's claw upward, lifting the young man over it's body. "Help me!"

Ogen could only watch in terror as the young man was dropped into the Reaver's cage. He felt useless, hopeless. He couldn't even save his ally. Part of him want to help. It urged, screamed, him to stand up and rescue the young man. But, he couldn't. After all, what good was he for? He wasn't strong or smart. If anything, he'd only wind up getting caught alongside the young man.

"Let me go!" the young man shouted, calling his keyblade to his hand. A surge of electricity bolted from the Reaver's cage, washing over the young man's entire body in a painful wave. The young man collapsed to his knees before doubling over in a motionless heap.

Ogen watched, motionless, as the Reaver began to walk away, the young man trapped inside, unconscious. He could do something. He should do something. There weren't that many Reavers. Even he should be able to take them on, right? So why didn't he? Was he simply scared? Terrified into petrification? Or was it he didn't want to help? Could that be why he didn't help? Was he hoping the Reavers would take the young man? But if so, then why...?


---------​

Ogen woke with a start, sweat pouring down the side of his pale face. His heart was pounding a quick rhythm, his breath wheezing like a clarinet. His hands were in tight fists, his nails drawing blood from his palms. The boy looked around panicky, trying to get his bearings.

"It was a dream," he reassured himself, his breath gradually slowing. "It was only a dream."

Now calmer, Ogen looked around to find himself in a dark alleyway of Corona Major, surrounded by trash and filth. That's right, he thought to himself. I'm still here. Here in this god-forsaken nightmare. He noticed Animus and the man he had since learned to be named Quel'loyen nearby and took some comfort in the fact that he was, at least, not alone, that there was at least someone he felt he could rely on, that he could trust.

Ogen winced in pain as the realization of what he had done to himself set in. He lifted his bloodied hands and slowly uncurled them, sucking in air through closed teeth as he slowly dislodged his nails from his hands. He ripped off two strips of cloth from his tattered trench coat, which, at this point, he had been using as little more as a sack, and wrapped them around the palm of each hand, tucking the end in under the bandage.

"Today makes day seven," Ogen mumbled to himself, huddling up under his greatcoat. "An entire week trapped on this planet, trying and failing to find King Louie." He looked up toward the sky. "We don't even know what he looks like, let alone where to start looking for him. And since that incident, Reaver patrol has tripled, making finding him even harder." Ogen curled up into a ball, setting his chin on his arms. "When will I wake up from this nightmare?"
 

Professor Ven

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Day Seven.

A week since their unfortunate arrival on Corona Major, and as Ogen spoke across the space of the alleyway from him, Quel'loyen merely smiled, sorrowful wrinkles appearing bleakly, remembering when he had been so young, asking always of the future. Always asking, until the future rushes up and we greet it, still unprepared for the final frontier, when Death comes. His clothes were relatively well-kept, save for a few fringed threads and tatters, if the stench of this civilization's waste were of any sort of comparison. The dia'seri, the strange white circular shapes that allowed his dark coat to glow about him, were dull - there could be no risk taken, lest the Reavers find them, or something worse. If not for that boy Gelert's foolishness, we would still be four. A pity he was too headstrong, too arrogant.

"You will wake up, Child Ogen," the Tal'shendar replied to the boy's sorrowful statement with a calm demeanor, "when you come to your own realization that suffering exists. Suffering is the ultimate evil in this universe. You must find your own inner peace within the suffering of life, and upon doing so, shall embrace the power to serve others, and be enlightened. You must understand yourself - your strengths, your weaknesses; the goodwill you bring towards others, and the heinous heretical crimes you may commit in your time. There were five commands one always had to follow, in the order I served." And I broke every one of them, once. Once was all it took, and I swept the World a clean slate to build from. His voice relegated itself to a warm, deep tone as he spoke, as if for a time, Quel'loyen had been a teacher, or taught by a skilled one.

"One - Perform to the best of your abilities to combat suffering;
Two - There is no victory, there is peace;
Three - Prepare for the Void, in all its forms;
Four - Save those who would otherwise not be saved;
and Five - Embrace Death, for all men must die."


"There is one other who could teach you better of what I speak, but he is far and away. However, the seventh day is always a new day to traverse these filth-ridden avenues of alleyways and sewers. I wonder if we'll run into that pack of refugees again from two nights ago." He rose from his squatting position, feeling his muscles beginning to ache, stomach growl for want of decent food as he stretched.

"Perhaps we will find Louie today, and if not, then perhaps tomorrow. Timing is of less concern than leaving here alive." Prepared for the day's journey, Quel'loyen checked his pockets, ensuring everything was in its proper place, attempting to keep his mind off of the desire to alleviate the infrequent itch he felt as a result of being unable to use magic. Nothing can risk our mission here, for it will cost more lives than ours, perhaps. If there are any Marshals here, I could not stop more than two at once, if at all. And I cannot risk Animus taking Ogen, either. That scholar has more than theories on his mind for studying the boy.

"Perhaps we could stay a night in an inn, if possible? My philosophical compassion for those who dwell in these trash-heaps overflows greatly, but a bed and a wash would be exquisite since our scouring of this scum-ridden underbelly." He fingered the metallic coins in his pocket acquired from cracks in the alley paving stones. "Maybe a game of cards or dice, if they have it here." Marquis always excelled at those sorts of games among the nobility, but then again, he could always read their minds if he couldn't read their faces.
 

Endless Strategy

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It had been seven days since the fall of Radiant Garden. Galom’s hasty retreat aboard a Gummi Ship had saved him from death’s embrace, but he wasn’t out of the woods yet. Quite literally. The ship hadn’t experienced as smooth a ride as expected, and was forced to land in a world en-route to their actual destination due to turbulence in the lanes between. As soon as they had disembarked the pilot had told them that they would be leaving in the near future, but for the next couple days they would simply have to wait. The pilot further warned against wandering outside the forest they had landed in, saying the Eclipse Army was doggedly searching for Merlin’s magic books, items that may hold the key to revealing the remaining rebellion worlds to them. This news sent a shiver down Galom’s spine, and he was sure he wasn’t the only one. Galom had boarded one of the last available Gummi ships and, consequently, the passengers mainly consisted of a few stragglers who didn’t amount to much, almost all being elderly or in-firmed. The half dozen or so able-bodied persons available volunteered to help find the books, but their search had so far been a wasted effort.

Twilight was reasserting its powers over the forest, ushering the diurnal animals of the forest to sleep, and welcoming the owls and toads and the rest of the nocturnal in. Galom remained unaware of this, however. The sky of the world had been blotted out, just like all worlds under the Eclipse King’s rule, covered by a veil of darkness. In addition to standing as a monument to the resistance’s continued failure in the war, the overcast sky also made it difficult to tell the time of day. If Galom were paying attention to the gradual change in the forest around him, he might have realized that the sun had set, but Galom was not paying attention to these things. Instead, Galom had found a small grove away from the others, and was staring down at his shoes, His firm, black shoes.

They were not his shoes. They were foreign to him, like a hunter given an old bow to replace his own, they just didn’t…fit. Galom had arrived in this world wearing his usual shoes, rare red slippers he had obtained from Agrabah. However, the forest’s abundance of knurled branches, thorn bushes and muddy soil made it clear that a change was in order. He had switched them out for his only other usable shoes, the ones he had been wearing when he purchased the slippers just over three years ago. But oh, how reluctant he was to do so! He normally resolved not to wear any of the fine clothing he obtained, intending to keep them for posterity. But for those slippers, an exception had to be made.

He remembered the day well. He had set off into Agrabah’s market, determined to find anything rare and well crafted enough to merit a spot in his collection. The merchants were more than happy to oblige him, practically shoving necklaces and rings into his face, so eager to find a buyer. But alas, Agrabah bore little for him that day. As he had suspected, he had lingered long enough in Agrabah to have seen what it had to offer him. He was prepared to leave that very night when a camel walked into town. The camel was haggard and beaten from carrying its occupant across the dessert, a small merchant with a pack several times his own size. The merchant pulled the camel to a stop and let it collapse on the packed Arabian soil. The owner nimbly slipped off and unpacked, revealing what amounted to a portable market stand. Galom had his keyblade in hand; all ready to access the lanes between and leave the world, but this man had piqued his interest.

“Ah, salaam and good evening to you, worthy friend,” the turbaned merchant said, noticing Galom’s approach. He beckoned, and Galom assented, moving closer still. It was then that the merchant showed him a myriad of things, ranging from dead-sea Tupperware to what was apparently a hookah and coffee maker. None managed to pique his interest, and Galom was on the verge of leaving when…

“Wait, don’t go!” the merchant shouted at his fleeting customer. “I can see you’re only interested in the exceptionally rare,” he said appraisingly. He quickly pulled a pair of red slippers from beneath the counter and presented them to Galom. Obligingly Galom slipped them on, and was instantly pleased with their workmanship. They were of unrivaled softness, but also possessed superior durability. They were sprinkled in the dust of a fine gemstone, made to twinkle, even on a dark night. Galom knew how uncommon such quality was, especially in the markets of Agrabah, so despite the merchant’s high price he took the shoes. He did not once regret that purchase.

But now he had been forced to remove them. He had already lost a good half of his pixie dust from when he used it to save Hunter, he wasn’t going to lose those slippers too. As soon as he thought this he shook his head: just remembering Radiant Garden was painful now. And also, something wasn’t quite fitting into place. How did the Eclipse army manage to find them there? He wasn’t very knowledgeable on the subject, but he had at least heard that some enchantment was supposed to be preventing that. How was the spell compromised? Galom shook his head again: he was no good at puzzles like this, and perhaps he’d be able to ask one of the spell casters himself. The pilot had said that Merlin was in this world as well, searching just as Galom was.

“Right, I should be looking harder,” Galom resolved, standing up and heading in a direction he hadn’t tried yet. He moved nimbly on his feet, criss-crossing the thick tree roots covering the ground, moving aside the branches in his way, casting his head left and right for clues to the books whereabouts. He moved through the trees, over a small dip in the landscape, and leapt over a slow moving-brook. It occurred to him that he was moving much closer to the forest’s edge than usual, and it was at the same time that he overlooked a root, tripping over it.

Galom’s hands reflexively moved forward to absorb the fall. He hit the ground, his hands stinging. He shook them vigorously to dull the pain and began clambering to his feet when a rustling betrayed a presence beside his own. Galom pivoted hurriedly to see a brown-haired wolf, malnourished and scrappy, stalking towards him. Its intentions revealed, the wolf leapt towards Galom, clamping his teeth down hard on his left arm.

“Agh!” Galom wretched as the beast tore skin from his exposed appendage, ravenously yearning for meat. As it clamped down for another bite Galom fought past the pain, and held out his right hand to summon his keyblade. Dozens of light particles gathered around Galom’s hand, but not before the wolf had torn yet more meat from his limb, causing him to cry out once more. The Keyblade finally formed, and Galom brought it down hard on the wolf’s back. The wolf yelped and leapt back, cautious of his now-armed opponent. Galom took the chance to take a few steps back and assume a defensive position, taking care to not strain his left arm, which was now bleeding profusely.

The wolf looked at Galom in fear, like it wished to shy away from him. Instead it raised its brown snout to the sky, and let out a long howl. It howled yet again, and it dawned on Galom that the wolf was calling for help. He took off away from the wolf, running diagonal from his original path, desperate to shake him. But already he could hear the sound of running feet, the sound of a pack of wolves, quickly gaining on him. He ran harder still, using his long legs, ignoring the pain. He kept running, and the sounds kept getting closer. He thought he heard a growl from a bush to the right of him when deliverance came in a most unexpected way. A house stood in the forest; modest, made of stone and straw, but that wasn’t important. Galom ran for the wooden door and opened it abruptly before shutting it closed behind him. He leaned hard against the door, ensuring that no wolf could get in. He heard a chorus of howls in protest from outside, but he paid them no heed, and eventually they were gone.

Finally safe, Galom turned to see the owner of the house he had barged into. There, sitting in a chair by a table, surrounded by books and cabinets and many other odds and ends was a man. The man was dressed in a blue robe; his face was bearded and spectacled. His outfit was topped by a pointed, blue hat. The man exuded a feeling of infinite knowledge, as if he had anticipated Galom’s sudden arrival. Could it be?

“Excuse me, sir,” Galom asked quietly. “Are you, by any chance, the wizard Merlin?”
 
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OmniChaos

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"Hmm? Why, ye-yes, that I am, lad. I am Merlin, the all-knowing, all-powerful wizard! And you, i-if I'm not mistaken, are... Galom, was it?"

The old wizard pulled a small, brown pipe from beneath his robe, holding it up to his lips. He drug a match across the side of the chair, the end bursting into a small flame, and held the ignited end up to the pipe. Merlin inhaled twice, quickly, igniting the herbs and leaves inside the pipe. "Quite a stra-ah-ah... um, interesting name, if I-I do say so myself," the old wizard prattled, waving the match to put it out. "Though I must say, yo-you are here a bit sooner than I had believed you to be."

"Ha!" a voice echoed, "that's because you don't know as much as you like to claim!"

"Yes, yes..." Merlin said, nodding his head slightly. The moment the words finally sunk in was as clear as day, as Merlin crumpled his mustache and lowered his brow. The old wizard jerked his head toward the direction of the voice and began pointing with the end of his pipe as he spoke. "N-Now see here! I-I-I won't take that fr-from a-a... from an overstuffed pigeon!"

"Pigeon!?" A small owl poked its head out from within a small, wooden birdhouse. "Huh? Who? What what?" The owl climbed out of the birdhouse, rear-first, and turned back around to face Merlin, ruffling its feathers slightly as it did. "Do I look like a pigeon to you?"

"Ah, well, I suppose that depends on how well you behave, Archimedes," Merlin chuckled slightly, taking a small puff of his pipe. The old wizard lifted up his cap and pushed his hair back, incoherently mumbling on about something. He motioned toward a chair in the corner, which obediently hobbled over and placed itself next to the table, across from Merlin. Merlin repeated the motion, this time to a chair on the other side of the room, which, like the first, hobbled across the wooden floor of the small cottage and sat itself next to the table. "N-Now, lad, please have a seat. Our other guest shou-should-- Good heavens, lad!"

Merlin jumped from his seat and quickly ran over to the young man, grabbing his arm, carefully, for a better look. He held Galom's left arm by the wrist and his elbow, and pulled it slightly closer to his face for a better view. No doubt it was those blasted wolves again. They had been a nuisance in the past, but it had seemed that, ever since the Eclipse Army arrived in search for his spellbooks, those fiendish wolves had grown more and more vicious and blood-thirsty, even worse, more desperate. They had been smart enough to know better than to mess with the old wizard, though it was only a matter of time before they tried.

"N-Now, these wounds are more than superficial, my lad," Merlin said, releasing Galom's arm. The wizard readjusted his glasses and scrunched his nose. "Those ol' wolves took a bit off of you. Now, a Cure spell will do the job, b-but I-I-I'm afraid it'll take a little bit of time." Merlin began waving his hands across Galom's wounds, reciting a list of magical phrases. "N-Now, this may sting a little..."

However, at that moment, a loud chorus of howls let loose outside. The wolves had returned, and they sounded close. The sound of rustling leaves and snapping twigs grew louder and more frequent, sounding like a giant trying to sneak up on someone, before, finally, they stopped completely. Everything fell silent. Merlin moved closer to the door for a better listen. Then, all at once, sounds exploded from outside the cottage, taking the old wizard a bit by surprise. Growls and snarls filled the air. The rustling from before intensified, becoming louder and more frequent. Through the cries and growls of the wolves, another sound reached Merlin's ears: a yelp. Then another, and another. Soon, one by one, the growls of the wolves were drowned out by their cries of pain. The old wizard wasn't sure what was going on outside, but it would seem someone was really giving those fiendish wolves their just desserts. Then silence. All the noise from outside the cottage, even the birds, fell completely silent.

The cottage door slowly opened and a beautiful, black-haired woman slowly walked in, walking past the old wizard and the young man. She looked left, then right, and spun on the heel of her right foot to face Merlin and Galom. She pulled the glasses from her eyes, flicking the hair from her eyes as she did, and folded her arms across her chest, holding onto the glasses by the tip of one of its arms. "So you're Merlin?" she asked, looking the old wizard up and down. She smiled slightly, letting loose a small "hmph" as she shut her eyes. "I'm not impressed."

"Ub-ub-ub-ub-ub--!" Archimedes sputtered, fluttering his feathers in defiance. "And who, might you be?"

"Me? Why, I'm Vanessa."
 

Professor Ven

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Overhead, no stars danced in the heavens, for the sky was eclipsed by an everlasting darkness. No shining, celestial moon lit the way with its pale light, as he strode. He was calm, even as the churning, grinding factories processed and manufactured their products. Those constructs, the Reavers, patrolled, keeping order with their presence, and paid no heed to him. He had a purpose to be here. They are only metal shields with no real purpose, save to shield one person.

He must have seemed an ancient, ragged, wretched, weak thing to the few soot and grime-covered citizens he passed by. He gripped his old wooden staff with a wrinkled right hand; a band of unmarred gold wound its way around the right forefinger. Soft leather boots limited the noise of his steps - the only sounds seemed to exist from the staff he leaned on whilst walking. It's peals rang in a steady rhythm, whispering an angelic hymn to his ears. The Chords guide us all.

Peering about as he walked, never shifting his form from its age-old-back-bent-over-the-load. His pure white eyes flickered about, often frightening younger men of their wits with his glowing gaze. You poor, pathetic people, fearing only fear itself.

Passing by numerous warehouses loading and unloading; shipyards preparing what appeared to be flying warships; and Reavers of all different types being loaded onto those same, strange vessels, he thought little of it. Time will prevail forever the victor against any victorious general, just as Light follows Dark.

The soft melody of the staff ceased as he stopped, a great gate of metal barring his way. A moment later, the gate opened via one of those Reaver constructs, and he continued his planned ambling.

He did not stop as he entered the well-designed structure beyond the gate, despite the guards' attempts to slow him, as he ignored their fruitless task, the soft ring of the notes guiding him without fail.

As the final sound dispersed, he stopped, lifting his head and peering towards His Majesty, and spoke for the first time since arriving, his voice cracked, dry, and deadly. "I understand you are lacking in effective leadership amongst your Marshals, Your Eminence. I, the Sarz'tien, have come to serve King and Empire, and deliver an honorable end of this civil war."
 
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Ordeith

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The streets of Corona Major were even filthier than Animus remembered them being—and it had nothing to do with the excess of garbage. Ugly red eyes glared through the smog, and crude metal limbs scraped across the pavement. A week of wandering had severed the assassin from his work.

Severed from my work, he thought, and anchored to them, in this cesspool.
Animus looked about the alleyway, and their miserable party of three. Stuck, without recourse.

Quel'loyen was, admittedly, proving to be more interesting as time progressed. Beneath all of his platitudes and philosophical ramblings, the old man spoke of a time and a place beyond their current day. A few offhand comments, a few fragments of speech . . . Animus had first caught glimpses of that world in Radiant Garden; with each passing day, it came further into focus.

Any information about his mark-to-be would prove useful—because Animus had already made the decision that Quel'loyen needed to die. He was not only a liability, but a Keyblade wielder, as well. Twice marked for death—but it's really your own fault. When the assassin next found himself alone with Quel'loyen, he would be sure to silence him.

The problem, aside from the Reavers, was Ogen.
Or rather, the problem came with Ogen and Quel'loyen, together.

So long as they were close, Animus could touch neither of them: Ogen prevented him from erasing Quel'loyen—and Quel'loyen kept Ogen's guardian, Umbra, out of reach. Stuck at an impasse, only one option remained. The Reavers must go . . . which is to say that Louie needs to be found. Back to the simplest answer, where we started. Animus smirked. Silly ape!

He stood up from his perch (a fruit crate), and stretched his limbs.

"I concur," he said. "We certainly won't come any closer to Louie by mucking about here. And a room wouldn't just be comfortable; it might uncover some fresh leads." Animus carefully sidestepped a pile of . . . questionable organic matter, and leaned out of the alleyway, scanning the street. "Of course, we'll need to be careful about who we ask—and how we ask.

"Still, no reward without risk!" He grinned, motioning for the others to rise with him. "The city might have undergone a change in management," he said, "but the people of a city—the people who call it 'home'—rarely change. I may know where we can still find some munny . . ."

. . .

Not half an hour later, the group of three was comfortably lodged in a not-too-shabby motel, with some munny to spare. The only one left worse for wear was the previous owner of the coinpurse—but seeing as he had obviously stolen it himself, the guilt of the crime was somewhat lessened. Besides, theft and persuasion are quite different.

The search for Louie could begin afresh.
 

Endless Strategy

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Galom struggled to get a hold of the situation. He had been at Merlin’s house for all of 10 minutes, and already he had another visitor. How did she find him anyway? With the rate he’d been getting visitors today you would think it was common knowledge that he lived here. But even If it wasn’t, how did this guy hide so close to the forest’s edge? Ah, forget it, a normal guy like himself couldn’t understand a wizard like Merlin, which meant he should focus on the other new presence instead.

She had walked into the room after Merlin and he had heard the wolves. While they seemed to be chasing her at first, the yelps of pain insured that they had been trounced in the end. Wow, so many strong people in this world, Galom couldn’t compare. But just because she was strong didn’t mean she could act like she did. The moment she walked in she identified Merlin, simultaneously calling him unimpressive.

“Hey!” Galom said, raising his voice. “Merlin was about to heal me just now. You can’t call him pathetic for no reason. How did you even get here in the first place: You aren’t with my group.” Galom’s eyes widened. “No, you couldn’t be one the King’s agents, could you? That would explain your strength,” Galom said as he raised himself off the chair with his better arm. “Well, you won’t have your way that easily!”

Galom gathered light in his right hand, hurriedly forming his Keyblade. But he didn’t attack yet. Right now the odds of her being an enemy were high, but not 100%. He should question her first, get her to leave, if possible. After all, if she was a Marshal there was no way Galom could stop her.

“Now, I want you to explain to me: who are you? If friend, explain yourself; If foe, then I’ll let you leave unharmed. It’s the best deal you’re getting. If you think Merlin is unimpressive, you should wait until you see him in combat. You wouldn’t win that fight.” Pure bluff, but hopefully it had the desired effect. He assumed a stance; feet apart, hands together. Then he waited for “Vanessa’s response.”
 

Orion

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Daedalus sat poring over the open documents, photos attached to biographical documents of notable individuals present on the expedition. In all their psychological profiles, he could not help but notice unusual traits and eccentricities in each of them, and imagined they'd make a rather boisterous team once they were all together. A team, Daedalus hoped, he and his comrades would soon be able to join.

Daedalus' craft, Icarus - recently fitted with a more expansive cockpit that meant sacrificing a pair of weapon bays - had upon automation taken a scan of the world they found themselves in, highlighting points of technological interest. Pieces of data that were a good gauge of a world's state of advancement. This particular scan had pinpointed the massive sub Ulysses, which Daedalus and his crew of Danyal, Anton, and the twins Aiyana and Leilani had managed to explore briefly and without detection, and discovered the craft led back to the eccentric Professor Whitmore, with whom Daedalus shared the room, along with his party who remained silent as they politely observed a massive aquarium spanning the entire wall, leaving Daedalus to do the negotiating.

He had already made it very clear to the professor that they knew of the Ulysses and the expedition to the ancient lost city, Atlantis. That was the precise reason they had come to the world, to discover the city and - if it was still active in some form - protect or destroy the mythical power source that lay in it. No doubt an artefact capable of protecting an entire city as it sunk under magma and crushing depths was a powerful one, one to be prevented from being utilised by the Eclipse King and his Reavers as an alternative power source.

Now, Daedalus moved onto the more serious negotiation that would hopefully get them all on the expedition as well. Adjusting the black glove on his left hand behind his back as he did so, he began speaking: "Mr Whitmore, while I don't doubt the expedition is well funded, it needs to be said it is not appropriately crewed."
The Professor's bushy moustache bristled for a moment before his head turned around what appeared to be one hundred and eighty degrees. "What are you talkin' about son? We got a doctor, mechanic, demolitions and diggin' experts, and a dozen more roles filled with the best people that can be found."
Daedalus resumed, the glove now removed, his mechanical hand glinting blue from the light of aquarium. "You may be of that opinion, sir, but keep in mind these people are only the best that could be bought and who were willing to go on an expedition to find a lost city long thought to be a complete myth. There's little to say these people have much interest in Atlantis itself, just the pay that comes along with trying to find it."

Whitmore appeared to collapse into a heap of tangled limbs, before just as quickly reassembling himself into a completely different configuration of limbs bent around joints. "A point already noted," he said unabashed, "But you're getting at something more. Come on, stop dancing around the point and get right to it."
Daedalus smiled, rolling up the left sleeve of his long cloak as he resumed speaking, the limb still behind his back and out of sight of the professor. "Gladly. These profiles here, it's fair to guess that these are a highlighted sample of the crew, the cream of the crop?"
The professor nodded, facing away from Daedalus and his crew, some of which had turned to observe the exchange now in silence. "If that's the case, then how come the best person you've got to deal with in terms of things mechanical and technical in nature is only a mechanic, at home fixing things rather than designing them and divining their nature and function? We're going to explore a lost nation that according to myths should have technology in excess of our own, regardless of how long ago it fell, and it stands to reason their technology is going to be a little beyond cars and their combustion engines."

"That it does," Whitmore said, doubt creeping a little into his voice, which was quickly hidden for his rebuttal, "Ah, but who better to send? A designer of technologies grows used to the conventions of the time and settles into his own kinds of design. Why wouldn't the best person be one who is forced to deal with machines of many designs and functions?"
Whitmore organised himself into another painful-looking pose, still looking away, while Daedalus began moving forward slowly, speaking; "And what chance is there the Atlanteans have any engineering akin to ours? Given what this power source sounds like, would you still think they're powering their cars with petrol? Do you think they might even bother having powered transport with wheels? I mean to say that you're top crew member most related to engineering will probably have no idea how to deal with the technology they find."

Whitmore now turned around, a tiny flush of anger disappearing from his face as he did so. "Then what expert would you so highly recommend, one who would at least go on this voyage? What credentials could they possibly have that I wouldn't have already heard of them?"
A smile crossed Daedalus' face as he replied, "This engineer works in secret, hence you have not heard of him. This engineer, unlike miss Ramirez, can definitely be said to have sufficient grasp of powers outside of fuel, and technologies outside of vehicles. His credentials would be this." With what felt like a flourish - for Daedalus felt he was putting Whitmore into an inescapable state of check - Daedalus brandished his left arm forward.

Whitmore quickly replaced a wide-eyed awe with a sly smile, now voicing his thoughts cautiously, "So, this is what you were getting at. Closer, come closer," The whiskery man said, beckoning with a gesture of his hand as he unfolded himself and resumed a normal sitting position. Daedalus obliged, moving in and letting Daedalus freely explore the mechanical limb, speaking as Whitmore appeared like a child admiring a newfound toy that he suddenly found to be the one possession he most wanted.
"Polio left me with a crippled arm as a child. My mother worked with disabled folk and helped fit prosthetics, while my father was a mechanical and electrical engineer. Growing up, I sought to combine the two, to remedy physical disability with replacement limbs that could perform to the same standard as the original."

Daedalus continued the spinning of the elaborate tale, "I began with my own ailment, starting with a simple mechanical sleeve to augment the strength and dexterity of a crippled limb. I soon realised this would be useless, however, for those who entirely lacked limbs or control over them. I developed this arm to the extent where, underneath the silvery skin, you'll find only more machinery. A couple of years ago I had the arm amputated, and replaced with a full prosthesis, accurate in both relaying sensation from the limb, and registering signals from the brain."

"I would hope you find this a sufficient demonstration of my own abilities. While the very particular fields I deal in do not relate to your expedition, the general ones do: Advanced engineering in things mechanical and electrical in nature, certainly to an extent greater than your mechanics. I wish to accompany you on your expedition to Atlantis aboard the Ulysses, with my assistants. We're all willing to travel free of charge, a gesture of our goodwill and a show of our genuine interest in the city."

Daedalus wasn't sure if Whitmore was speechless because of the man's mechanical arm, or the fact he was getting a clear expert on his expedition absolutely for free. He wasn't sure he wanted all the assistants along for the ride, but if that was the cost to pay for the engineer's presence, he was glad to pay it.
Whitmore grasped the arm strongly now, using it to pull himself to a standing position and holding the grip, shaking Daedalus' hand as he beamed at the man, more than a head taller than himself. You've a deal, mister engineer sir!"
Daedalus nodded politely, giving Whitmore a name to call him by, although a false one, "Rickard Holtz, sir." Whitmore continued the vigorous shaking. "Very happy to have you along for the ride, Mr Holtz. And your assistants!"
 

Solar

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Despite the fact they were a good three years older than he, Danyal clung to the twins' sides protectively. It was almost humorous, the proverbial little brother figure unwilling to let Aiyana and Leilani out of his sight but he almost lost his friends once and he wasn't going to lose them again. Besides, he was already homesick. He missed Arabia. He missed the Garden. He missed Father, Mother, and his sweetheart. He missed the old tiger, Rajah. He missed Carpet, he missed Genie. He missed Hunter, Malik, Mickey, and all the rest. But the boy was sand, fire, wind, lightning and steel; he would hold, his resolve was adamant. Danyal held himself as an adult almost since birth, something his kindly parents tried to repress but his need to act like the puffed up prince could not be helped. True, Aladdin's humility rubbed off him but only deep down. Otherwise, he found his pompous confidence and borderline passive aggressive (and heavy on the aggressive) air useful. Let those closest to him be privy to his "true self".

As it was, Danyal casually eaves-dropped on the conversation between Daedalus and the old man keenly with a sharp concentration whilst appreciating the scenery. Nature was, after all, beautiful. He lightly contemplated the insignificance and arrogance of man in comparison to the other species of the various worlds and the stars above while his mind whirred on the contents of the discussion taking place between Daedalus and Professor Whitmore. Despite himself, the young wielder genuinely liked the mysterious mechanic who earned his respect. He felt certain affection for the older professor, as well, though he also found him slightly insufferable. He seemed like a man who could be easily bent under a strong enough threat but there seemed to be need for that, or a potent bribe the Arabian prince could easily muster up for future projects. It occurred to him, as he was lost on his many thoughts, that it was shocking how he ignored the moral ramifications of his hypothetical solutions. Danyal made a mental note to hold himself to a higher standard and besides, it would be a shame to dishonor the countless hours his father spent teaching him in the ways of human diplomacy.

Besides, demystifying the man behind Daedalus was fascinating in its own right and he filed away the facts about his alleged history away in his mind for later use and contemplation. Standing on his tip-toes, he gestured to Aiyana to lean close to him, pretending to point out something in the aquarium while whispering, “We’re going to use fake names, spread the word. Discretely.” Acting as if he just noticed the loud noises of apparent happiness between the two and their enthusiastic handshakes, Danyal combed a hand through his somewhat messy hair before approaching the two men politely. Beaming his most winning smile upon Whitmore and hoping he wouldn’t recognize him, Danyal bowed before addressing him. “I take it, sir, the arrangements have been made? Truly an honour. I can’t speak for my fellow assistants but we’ll be most excited to be on board and help however he can.”
 

OmniChaos

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The Eclipse King, from within the shadows, just out of view, slowly pulled his hood up and over his face, shrouding it from view. He spun on the heel of his right foot and walked toward the intruder, walking out of the shadows and into the light. The ebony armor sparkled beneath the pale light, illuminating the frame of the tyrant. He walked forward until he reached the edge of the balcony, placing his hands softly on the railing along the edge of the floor.

"A presumptuous and arrogant remark," the Eclipe King stated, tapping his fingers lightly against the railing. The Eclipse King turned and walked along the railing, sliding his right hand along the railing. With each step the Eclipse King took, the room was filled with the sound of his echoing footsteps, each one sounding out and bouncing off the metallic walls, growing in intensity. The tyrant reached the other side of the balcony, reaching a spiral staircase that descended to the ground floor. The King descended the staircase with a refined haste, stepping down quickly, but not running. The Eclipse King reached the bottom of the staircase and walked toward the man. "However, if you are indeed interested in joining my army, I will surely not turn you away."

The Eclipse King held his right hand out to the man, a green energy flowing from his hand. "This energy," the Eclipse King said, flexing the muscles in his hand, "is called 'Drain.' It siphons the power from a person and takes it into myself. It is a writ of passage for those who serve me to submit their power, their life, to me as proof of their loyalty. If you do intend to join my forces, then state your name to me, then take my hand and offer to me your power and your life."

---​

Ogen sat curled up on the bed, his mouth pressed up against his arms. The bed was nice, soft, a vast improvement over the filthy alleyway they had been in but only a few hours back. However, Ogen couldn't help but feel that now that they were in a hotel, the three keyblade wielders would bring unwanted attention toward themselves. It was the risk that came with the desire for comfort.

"So," the young boy spoke up, pulling his head up from his arms. "We're supposed to find Louie in this place? It's so crowded!"

"Did I hear you say that you're looking for Louie?"

Ogen jerked his head up and saw a small, brown monkey peeking in through the cracked door. It looked around a bit, seemingly nervous of Animus and Quel'loyen's presence, but not of Ogen's, then, seeing no threat, slowly walked into the room. The monkey had a small, unintimidating frame and white, crazed hair atop his head.

"Now if it's ol' King Louie you lookin' for," the small monkey said, pointing up at Ogen. "Well, then, you'd best be headin' over to the Swingin' Vine, cause Louie has set himself up the swinginest jazz club in all of Corona Major and that's the only place you'll find him, nowadays."
 

Professor Ven

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"Even the noblest and most chivalrous of men fear a dagger in their hearts, and I can see Your Majesty is no different, if I may speak plainly." The wasted, wrinkled face of the ancient mage warped into a deathly smile, malice lingering in his pure white eyes, as he gazed upon the darkened figure of the Eclipse, and the luminescent green thumb and fingers before him. Drain? A simple tool for simple men, not unlike a sword, and easily countered with another. I have not forgotten the slave masters of Erul, and the lessons I learned as a slave to men.

"Before I agree to your terms, I have my own. In return for this rite of passage of yours, I want only these few allowances:

One - To be given full selection of your armies, for a determined number of men I may have command over, train, drill, and use; no other in the Empire may command them, save you; Two - I will come if summoned by you, but otherwise you will allow me full permission to do what I deem necessary in achieving my objectives; you, my Lord, may give me commands, but I shall use my own methods; And Three - and forgive my arrogance - the City must be rid of its poverty and festering molds of filth, the people enjoying their daily lives in both order and decency upon my returning here at a later time - or a noble, chivalrous king you are not.

I will not suffer those who waste my time, Your Majesty. The Ordering of the Chords must be performed." Those eyes gleamed once more with their inner, chilling malice, the wrinkled smile fading, as in his mind, the Sarz'tien prepared spells, should he have need of them.

"Under these conditions, I hereby do swear service to Your Majesty. A, Mirkhan Sei'dar, fény alatt, esküszöm a hűséget, Ky'ang Eclipse." His left hand, glowing as vibrantly green as the King's, reached for the Monarch's, clasping it with a firm grip as he shook His Majesty's hand.

A moment after, he drew back softly, his footsteps barely audible, leaning on his staff as it hummed to him, unblinking eyes never leaving the King's shadowed figure.

"You will have my loyalty, my power to command, and the knowledge of my name, but to enslave any life is to forfeit their freedom. To forfeit their freedom, you have taken a single long stride from majestic, and made your Lordship only the lowliest of beggars. Nothing more than a pathetic excuse for an existence, left to grovel - no matter your garb, be it rags or riches - for what you desire. 'There is no desire for power, there is only service.'"


__________________________________________________________



"Perhaps." Quel'loyen seemed a bit off-guard by the primate, though he showed only a calm smile. "Shall we go to this Swinging Vine? Though, it has been some years since I attended any sort of 'club.'" He folded his arms behind his back, pondering as he momentarily awaited Ogen and Animus' responses.
 
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Orion

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Daedalus, under the assumed alias of Rickard Holtz, left Whitmore's office with the man in a mood both more amicable and eccentric as usual. Though he appreciated the man's zeal, Daedalus was pleased that he would not have to spend more time with the man than necessary - he got the impression that, after exceeding the bare minimum possible contact with the man, he would begin to grate on those in his presence.

Their last few minutes in the room were spent with Whitmore being introduced to Daedalus' "assistants", all of which he made sure were accounted for by himself, also ensuring he dropped lots of names - places, people, events - so that the four others could fake a basic understanding of the world. Daedalus himself had emptied all his assorted lists of names and people as well, but these he all recalled from the history of his own world, set far before his own.
How curious it was that so many worlds appeared to neatly line up their histories, yet still existed seperate. Daedalus convinced himself trivially that if one could plot the journey with enough precision, they could accurately follow every moment of human history, hopping from world to world.

As the five of them moved down a cramped corridor, a scrawny man in his mid twenties with dirty blonde hair was making his way quietly towards Whitmore's office, appearing very uncertain of himself, but adamant in his light-footed journey to the meeting that would change the course of his life.
Speaking quietly as they made their way through the manor to its front entrance, Daedalus relayed to them what he had gleaned of the man: "Milo Thatch, a linguist and cartographer, who's been studying myths and gathered scraps of knowledge on Atlantis, our destination. He's convinced there's one last piece that's needed to complete his puzzle, a journal of some kind. I assume that's what his meeting with Whitmore will be about, among other things. Anyway, we'll get to know him in due time, for now there's other people we have to convince of our usefulness, being such late additions to the crew."

============

The five of them stepped off the Icarus on the dock, and the crafted dived back under the waves, having silently sealed itself up. When asked by one of his 'apprentices' why they couldn't just use the craft itself as opposed to the massive and conspicuous Ulysses, Daedalus replied; "Because we need whatever guidance Milo and his work will hopefully bring. We've no real way of locating Atlantis that doesn't involve him, and all the better to be near him than following at a distance, only able to guess what's going on based on, say, how a sub shifts in the water. That, and once we get to Atlantis and have the opportunity to split from them, we're still going to be dealing with them in some capacity or another. Best to make use of this opportunity and gather notes: what the dynamics of the crew are, what equipment they've got. That sort of thing."

They strode through bright daylight along the massive wharf, docked alongside which was the fake exterior of the Ulysses, fashioned into a ship, of similar size to the Ulysses, but far less impressive by simple virtue of what it imitated. Within it, Daedalus knew, was a tumult of activity, marching soldiers, the rolling of trucks and vehicles, and the cacophony of voices, horns, rattling chains and crates being hastily moved - all centred around the Ulysses. Daedalus was sure, when it came time to launch, the interior of the shell would be left entirely bare, perhaps in future retrofitted into an actual ship if the Ulysses didn't survive its Atlantean endeavour.

Striding through a metal portal and the long, semicircular tunnel that sat beyond, the noise became filtered, no longer the drone of overlapping sounds, but with individual elements starting to emerge. Most prominantly was the voice of a woman with an Argentinean accent showing through in her colourful exclamations of how the massive machine she was tinkering with refused to work. The vehicle was divided roughly in two - the front half a massive drill, the rear containing the engine, cockpit, wheels, and overall weight to balance against the no-doubt-massive front tool. The vehicle was, to the knowledge of all people present, unlike anything built before it, but many of them also knew this had been so far, and would continue to be, an expedition of many firsts.

The woman who was bent over at the digger's rear - more like a girl, barely into her twenties - was half-obscured in the bowels of the machine, only her overalls and heavy boots showing. Daedalus walked closer, observing a potential opportunity to gain some favour within at least part of the crew. As she withdrew Daedalus noted slender figure, dark hair and full lips emerge, not at all unattractive. He recognised her as Audrey Ramirez, the mechanic he had to (not unreasonably) criticise for her lack of engineering skills, and felt a momentary pang of guilt, now seeing her in person. She was calling out, describing what she thought the problem was, using terms for vehicle parts so ancient on Daedalus' homeworld they had lost all meaning.

Now able to see around herself, Audrey immediately noticed Daedalus approaching, a twinkle of recognition briefly appearing in her eyes. "You - Holtz, was it? - you're an engineer or something, right? Designed machines? Come over here and let's see if the other machinist is worth the sudden addition," she said, obviously a little irritated by Daedalus' presence, but not unwilling to make use of it. She must have seen herself as taking pride of place as the heart and soul of the expedition's mechanical bits and pieces, and now felt at least somewhat usurped. Daedalus wouldn't kick her off her throne, just force her to share it.

Daedalus made a little bow as he continued forward until standing beside her, "I could only dream of proving useful" he said. He wasn't sure how she might take his sarcasm, but felt some effort at lightening the somewhat fowl mood she might currently be in - a mechanical problem she couldn't resolve, and now staring up at the man who she now had to play friendly with when it come to anything vaguely mechanical. She shone an electric lamp into the open compartment, packed densely with gears and components that Daedalus guessed kept the drill functioning with a constant spin, enabling it to react to sudden changes of material without damaging itself. Pointing around inside, Audrey used somewhat more complicated terms than when she had spoken out generally before, and Daedalus paid little real attention, instead using the time to make his own guesses about what was it in there.

"Got that?" Audrey said as Daedalus leaned forward and stuffed his arms and upper torso into the compartment so as to reach the supposed area of trouble. He pulled the glove of his metallic hand and probed around with an open palm, faint and slow-moving tendrils of electricity gliding over all the surfaces and components present, relaying information back to Daedalus until he had a fuller picture. Ultimately, it looked like a piece was missing or had fallen out, rather than a certain switch not being flicked or knob twisted. Daedalus withdrew and relayed his thoughts to Ramirez as he clenched the fingers of his mechanical arm to draw them into his sleeve, but was unable to hide a momentary glimpse of silver that caught Audrey's eye. She let out a single, mild curse at the revelation of the missing part, but was frankly far more interested in what she had seen go up into Daedalus' sleeve.

Daedalus smiled as Audrey went about searching a lower compartment for where the particular part might have fallen. Daedalus, at the very least, had found his way into the crew, not just functionally, but also in all aspects in future. He would use his arm as a means to fascinate and befriend Audrey, and through her better infiltrate into the rest of the crew, at least the important members thereof. He could probably get the others in by simple fact of their relation to him, but at the same time that many of them might mean they each had to find their own way into the crew, deeper than just sitting around and being lectured by Holtz, as some expected was all apprentices could really do on the expedition.
 

Ordeith

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Animus looked first at the white-haired monkey, then at Quel'loyen—then back to the monkey. "Well, this is unexpected . . . but welcome! We'll gladly accept the invitation," he said. "Just give us a moment or two to gather our things, then we'll meet you downstairs."

The little primate gave him a cheeky wink, and bounded out the door.

Inside, Animus remained silent until he heard the soft patter of monkey feet on the stairs. He turned back to Ogen and Quel'loyen with a look of warning. "We've either been poor at hiding, or Louie has been looking for us. Or it could very well be both. Either way," he said, "we should try to make as small an impression as possible."

He plucked his coat from the back of a chair, and smoothed the front of his vest. After tucking his scarf into a pocket, out of sight, he gave a sudden laugh. "The two of you should put on happy faces, hm? Doom and gloom are just as memorable as singing and dancing." A playful smirk further eased the tension—and with that, they were gone.
_______________________________________​

The white-haired monkey was like a ball of dandelion fluff in the dark, constantly flitting from one spot to the next. Swinging from pipes, scampering across fire escapes, he seemed perfectly at home in Corona Major's urban jungle. Every now and then, he would shout something back to Animus, Ogen, and Quel'loyen—most likely urging them to move faster—but his actual words were carried away by the wind. They could only try to keep pace with the little primate, knowing that Louie was just within arm's reach.

Their route took sharp turns, into alleyways and sidestreets. More than once, they risked meeting a Reaver patrol, but the monkey always ensured their safe getaway. Animus was duly impressed with their guide. He kept pace with him easily enough, but kept a close eye on the street, taking care not to step in garbage—or a person.

Eventually the shadows were peeled back by the glow of a lit sign: The Swingin' Vine, decorated with a bamboo motif, called to them like a siren. As he approached, Animus chuckled at the thought. Apparently, this siren listens to jazz swing in her spare time. The bass, while old-fashioned, was amplified to the point that Animus could hear it even as he stepped through the door, held open by a pair of thick-set monkeys.

"Much obliged, friend," he said to their guide. "I'll be sure to give Louie your greetings."
The monkey's white mane flopped over his eyes as he bowed, grinning. Nodding to Ogen and Quel'loyen, Animus stepped through the lobby and into the club.
_______________________________________​

The bass was like a heartbeat, providing a constant pulse for the night life of the Swingin' Vine. Not only the music moved to it, but everything and everyone in the club, whether they realized it or not. Animus adjusted his pace accordingly, and lowered his glasses onto his nose. Time to survey the surroundings . . .

The night club was crowded with monkeys and primates of all kinds—some swinging about like animals, others dressed like humans. They all spoke very well, though; their chatter mixed perfectly with the other patrons'. Those others consisted of regular humans, some with a very "jazz crowd" look to them . . . others, with a more monkey-like appearance. One young man, dancing with his black-haired date, sported a blond simian tail, waggling to the ever-present music.

The band consisted entirely of monkeys; gibbons, howlers, lemurs, and others manned human instruments, some of which were adapted for simian use. At the table closest to the band sat a plump orangutan—clad in a vest, jacket, and sunglasses. He hooted and laughed, shaking the table with the sound of his good time.

Leading the group slowly around the perimeter of the club, Animus watched this orangutan hop onstage and grab a microphone of his own, adding his own scat improv to the band's harmony. The band seemed to acknowledge him their leader. Taking an informed guess, Animus commented to a patron, "Louie seems to be having a good time, no?"

"Hah, you know it," he replied. "That ape can't resist gettin' up and adding his own beats. He might say he's retired, but he can't resist, haha!" The scholar chuckled alongside him, then sidled away with a pleasant nod.

"We've found Louie," he muttered to Ogen. "Don't lose Quel'loyen. We need to track down one of the club employees, or one of Louie's men . . . or, well, his monkeys." But at that moment, the white-haired monkey returned to their side, saying that Louie would meet them in the back room soon. Animus nodded, and followed his finger to the so-called "back room".

Time to read the ape himself . . . along with his inner operation.
It may very well be useful to His Majesty—and therefore, to me.
 

OmniChaos

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Ogen followed Animus silently, staying on the man's heels like an obedient dog following its master through a new, unfamiliar place, his non-existent tail tucked firmly between his legs. His head was kept low, hung; his eyes watching as his feet eventually conformed to the hypnotic beat of the bass, occasionally glimpsing the tips of Animus' heels in his peripheral vision. Whenever he went without seeing those tips, Ogen quickened his pace until those heels returned to the edge of his vision. Ogen held his hands in his pockets, keeping them near himself, as if doing so would keep him protected in this foreign place.

Ogen peered over his shoulder to see if Quel'loyen was behind him, as Animus had suggested, making sure their companion had not become separated from their group due to the swinging dancers. Unsurprisingly, the man was right behind him; as if Ogen really needed to worry about him not being there. He felt the man's eyes on him since they had set out for the Swingin' Vine. He couldn't help but wonder why Quel'loyen held such an interest in him.

"Would you like a banana smoothie?" Ogen turned toward the direction of the voice, coming face-to-face with a young, blonde man with a too-warm, uncomfortable smile that put Ogen off. The man was dressed in a fine, black vest over a white, long-sleeve shirt, accompanied with a scarlet bow-tie. He balanced a silver tray on his right hand, a glass filled with a yellow, thick smoothie sitting at its center. "It's on the house, sir."

"N-No," Ogen managed, turning his head to divert his eyes from the too-warm man's smile. "No, th-thank you." Ogen recoiled from the man's presence, that overflowing sense of warmth feeling far too unnatural. Just thinking about it made Ogen blush slightly, which, in turn, made Ogen recoil further, this time in embarrassment. Ogen tried to say something, to finish their talk in some sort of fashion, but the words would simply not come, either unformed by his brain or blocked by his lips. Now simply desperate to place as much distance between himself and this unnatural man, Ogen gave him a quick nod and quickly walked away, catching back up with Animus.

Aww, what's the matter? Umbra tittered, his voice playing through Ogen's head like a clear radio station. Are we embarrassed about our new friend?

"Shut up!" Ogen snapped out loud, his voice fortunately covered by the heavy swing of the band. It had taken some time since Radiant Garden, but Ogen had since come to grips about Umbra residing within him and has, in fact, taken it very well, the two hitting it off fairly well, despite their polar-opposite personalities. But the concept of him speaking to himself whenever Umbra spoke was still a bit strange to him. "I know you know as well as I do that there was something off with that guy. He didn't feel right."

Ogen could feel Umbra shrug. If you say so.

The boy shook his head and sat the thought aside for now, focusing rather on the events at hand. They were to meet Louie soon, who would then get them to safety. Ogen should have felt overjoyed at the promise of safety to a world still out of the Eclipse King's reach, but still, that thought of that man remained, gnawing at the back of Ogen's mind.

---​

"And what makes you think you can stop me?" Vanessa mused, slowly looking the man up and down. "Honestly, you're nothing but wolf table scraps as is, and are certainly in no position to be fighting a far superior opponent like myself." Vanessa took a stance that would suggest her intent of combat. After a moment, she let off a soft 'hmph' and crossed her arms. "Relax, I'm no enemy.

"As I said, I'm Vanessa and I'm a wandering spirit, a remnant looking for a new place to begin a new story. I came here nought but two days ago, arriving from the pathway that intersects with a pathway to Wonderland and Deep Jungle, walking from the path to Olympus. When I arrived, I found myself 'greeted' by a less-than-warm group of people calling themselves Marshals. Not sure who they're supposed to be, but I can confirm my alliance does not stand with them. I escaped from them with relative, disappointing ease.

"My reasons here is for Merlin, as I have heard he is a wizard of great power. But, after seeing him, I fear I may have wasted my time. All I see here is a dried up old fool and his fat pigeon."

Merlin scrunched his moustache, sending it one way then the other. "Dr-Dried up, am I?" the old wizard questioned, his tone showing his disapproval and feeling of being insulted. "Old fool, am I!? Now see here, m-miss! I-I-I have more power in my tiny finger than you do in your entire being! Why, if I wanted, I could turn you into, uh, into a cock-a-roach!"

Vanessa chuckled at the old wizard's outburst, amused with how easily the old wizard was set off. "Well," she said, placing her right hand against her hip, "perhaps you could prove useful yet. Perhaps." Vanessa then turned her attention to the man who had confronted her when she arrived. "And you are--" Vanessa smiled "--wolf scraps?"

---​

The Eclipse King smiled a toothy grin, his grip on the man's hand tightening for but a moment. The green energy that engulfed his hand consumed the man's as well, drawing from it the man's strength, his life. Drain absorbed a small fraction of the man's life-force and drew it into the Eclipse King, where it, like all those before it, dissolved and joined the tyrant's life-force. He released the man's hand, the green energy dispersing into small flames before dissolving completely. The man pulled back from the king and swore to him his loyalty.

"Excelent!" the Eclipse King exclaimed, raising his arms slightly. "Now, we shall eat, for I hunger. You will be joining me, yes?" The tone in his voice made it sound less like a question or a request, and more as a demand. The Eclipse King dropped his arms and slowly made his way to a large pair of black doors hidden against of shadows of the eastern wall. "Come, let us eat."

______________________________​

The dining hall was a glorious shade of grey and black, as if the color from a beautiful painting had all been drained out, leaving but a shadow of something once beautiful. The walls rose around them for what felt like a mile, lined with giant, grand stain-glass windows that depicted the Eclipse King and his army's greatness. Hanging from the ceiling were multiple, crimson and black banners, words and pictures too far away to make out properly engraved upon them.

Set at the center of the large room was a large, long table, lined with seats along all sides. Set on top of the table was an assortment of rich, beautiful food, the scent of which would pull seliva from even the firmest of lips. Candles sat at even intervals along the table, their faint light adding to the room's macabre atmosphere.

At the end of the table sat the Eclipse King, his hood still hiding his face, and to his right sat Abel, who was just bearly able to reach the top of the table. Lining the table were the King's marshals, each one unique from the others in some sort or other. At the other end of the table sat the man whome he had since learned to be named Mirkhan Sei'dar.

The Eclipse King ripped a large leg from a golden turkey and took a large bite from it. As if it were a cue, all the marshals at once began to take from the feast sat before them, tearing at meats and breads like a pack of ravenous wolves tearing at the fresh carcus of their latest kill. The King, however, retained a sense of regalty about him and ate slowly and calmly. Abel stood on his chair, reaching across the table to a bowl of rolls, his fingers clinching at the nothingness just short of them. The King took a roll and sat it in the young boy's hands, who plopped back down in his seat and munched on his roll like a chipmunk.

"So tell me, Mirkhan," The Eclipse King started, laying the cleanly-picked bone of the turkey onto the beautifully-white plate. His voice carried very well in the giant hall and the other marshals quieted down upon hearing it, save for Abel, who was again standing on his chair, reaching this time for a piece of meat just out of his reach. The tyrant raised his napkin to his face and cleaned the grease of the turkey from it. "Why are you really here?"

The King once again leaned forward and relieved the turkey of its other leg, nudging the plate of meat closer to Abel, so that the boy was able to pick up a piece. The Eclipse King took a great bite from the turkey leg, and, after a few chews, accompanied it with a sip of wine from a golden cup. The King sat the turkey down and cleaned his lips once again.

"Surely," the Eclipse King continued, clearing his throat slightly after the words had left his lips. "A man such as you would be after something other than a place among my ranks. Is it something to do? Are you bored?" The King lifted the turkey again and ripped more meat from its bones. "Purhaps you seek power? Control? Maybe you are after something more tangible? Some of my Reavers? My sword?" The Eclipse King sat the turkey back onto the plate, wiping his hands and lips for a third time. "My head?"

The King smiled a sly smile, as if he had come across the man's plans scribbled upon a crumpled piece of paper. He rose from his seat and slowly began to walk away. "A loyal dog knows the price of disobedience, Mirkhan. Remember that." with that, the Eclipse King left the dining hall and the marshals were left to tear through the remainder of the feast.
 

Professor Ven

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"I expect my requests to be fulfilled, Ky'ang Eclipse." he replied to the King in his soft, reaching voice, as the Monarch began to leave, where after His Majesty's presence left the hall, Mirkhan's mind lingered in thought.

I came to serve, your Royal Ignorance. I have what power I desire, and control is something learned, not attained. Inselberg would not serve any purpose to me, nor would your Reavers; they are simply a grown child's toys, to play his own little game of ki'rhal with. And if I had wanted your head, I would have already presented it to your pathetic, manged Marshals upon a plate.

And I am no child's mutt, to be ordered about, you aged simpleton. Is my word not enough for you, aged child, or that fragment of my life force you thought to have stolen? Little wonder you have lived so long, King of the Eclipse.
The Sarz'tien never released the staff from his grip as he ate an assortment of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and breads that came his way - not bothering with the haunches of meats - and drank a deep purple-colored wine, the scents of the vintage giving him a small joy in this corrupted shell of a World.

The child of the Eclipse King kept peering at him, from over the tabletop and the Marshals. Sei'dar let out a hale, soft expulsion of air, wasted fingers of his free hand closing around an apple, the juices flowing as he bit from it and chewed. They will look, as all have. They will laugh, or ignore my presence, until it is too late for each of them.

I came to serve His Majesty, not dine with his pathetic lapdogs.



He rose from his seat at the end of the table, the soft ringings of the staff guiding him without error, as he devoured the green apple in his hand, and upon finishing it, placed it upon the table. Sei'dar walked towards where the King of the Eclipse had made his exit, prepared to eliminate any of those foolish Marshals that would have dared to stop him.

I will have my demands met, even if I must undergo the tasks myself.

He noted a Reaver standing guard, and asked of where the main barracks was located.

___________________________________________________________________________________________



Ogen seemed bashful and off-edge, and Animus far too happy here in the Swingin' Vine. I must simply pluck Ogen from Animus' sight once we are free from this World. Do do otherwise would possibly give Ogen a reason to stay with DeCavis, and I cannot have that happen. The boy must be taught, yes, but the scholar knows nothing of service.

The Tal'shendar could still feel the unbearable itch of having not wielded magic in a prolonged time. The club's music was a step down from what he was normally used to - the symphonies and orchestras, with their grace and poise - though he could have learned to like it, given time. Time which I do not have, until Animus is far and away. Ogen must be given the correct tools, ones that will not turn upon him. He must come to terms with his inner self, that much is certain, now.

Quel'loyen looked at the waiter, the man who had upset Ogen so. To push him into the structure of this building would be a mere godsend, were we not so close to escaping. Though, the boy must learn to keep his composure. He is young, and full of holes for his emotions to snake out of him. He followed Animus and Ogen into the back room, placing his right hand on Ogen's shoulder, the gauntlet on it creaking softly as his fingers gently kept a hold on Ogen.

I am not going to lose this boy to the Scholar of the Void.
 

Eva

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Separate and gain the trust of the crew--better said than done. Nonetheless the group seemed to drift apart as each member wandered off (or rather, were called to attention) and Aiyana ended up with Leilani. This wasn't too bad, except she had no idea what she could really do. There had to be something around here; it was then she started feeling useless. Her specialty was magic, but by the looks of it, no one here used it. They were all using machines and mechanics and the like, something completely out of her category.

Turning to her twin, Aiyana tilted her head slightly to the side, her eyes wandering the scene. "What should we do?" She asked Leilani.

Leilani shrugged the question off and beckoned her sister to follow. As they walked, she nudged her sister. "Try not to attract too much attention, we're trying to go incognito." She murmured. "And we should do whatever it takes to fit in."

"I hate to point out the obvious, but..." She looked around, only to be met with many gazes looking back. "Alright, good luck."

"Back at ya." Leilani replied, and both girls branched off, their paths going in different directions.

Aiyana ended up snaking between men lifting things and others quickly on their way. It was like a beehive, only with people and with loud noises and no queen bee. At least, that was her impression. It was a bit unsettling, how there were so many people here, and how in an instant they can suddenly be gone.

How could things have turned out like this? Was it really alright to flee? And to top it off, it isn't even like we're all together... She let out a sigh, head in her hands. All that training, and for what? For it all to prove useless. And everyone's homes, everyone's dreams...all built up for so long, and then...

Gone, in one second. A cold chill ran up her spine, and before she knew it, she had somehow bumped into someone. She staggered backwards, though retained her balance, and looked up to hear a hearty laugh.

"Mighty easy to get lost, isn't it, little lady?" The man laughed again, patting her on the shoulder. "Best watch where you're going, someone could get hurt."

"Oh, um, I apologize." Aiyana felt so tiny compared to him; she hated being so damn short. "My name is Aiyana. You are...?"

"Sweet. Joshua Sweet. It's a pleasure." He grinned, and she ended up following him to wherever it was he was going.

"What do you do, Mr. Sweet?"

"Actually, it's Dr. I'm a medical officer." He explained to her, pulling on a strange contraption around his neck.

A doctor--this was what she had to do. If she remembered correctly the thing around his neck was a stethoscope, something they used to read heartbeats (or something along those lines...). All she needed to do was remember all the terms and such; what with Cure spells and potions, the olden idea of medicine was somewhat... medieval. Of course, that was entirely her opinion and something she'd just have to put up with for now. No Cures, no potions. Just medicine and whatever other things they used in this world.

"I'm currently studying medicine myself." Aiyana replied cheerfully, clasping her hands together. "I believe I can be of good use that way."

"You don't say? Then you already know what the best thing to do would be, right?"

"Um...the best thing...?"

"Of course! Stick with a professional and you can't go wrong!" He laughed again, patting her head. "Come on, I'll show you some of my notes."

Well, that was easy. Aiyana smiled to herself, though it dissipated in an instant. "Shouldn't you be upset at me? I mean, I just got here and all..."

"And why would that be? The more experience we have, the better." He pointed out, a somewhat serious look on his face. "I know not everyone is thrilled, but still, one more helping hand isn't going to kill us."

"You are sweet, Doctor." Aiyana laughed, happy to hear his words.


Meanwhile, Leilani had stopped and had an interesting conversation. At least, she thought it was a conversation. Immediately after separating, she had come across an interesting man with interesting cargo who had been interested in her. While she was certainly concerned with what was in the cargo, she was a bit concerned about his priorities.

"And exactly what is it that you have?" Leilani eyed the truck warily.

"Oh, you know: gunpowder, nitroglycerin, notepads, fuses, wicks, glue, paper clips..." The man widened his arms. "The big ones. You know, just office supplies."

"Office supplies." Leilani repeated his last words, and almost let out a laugh. "You aren't serious, are you?"

"Of course, why wouldn't I be?" He shrugged at her, playing around with a red stick. "You'd be surprised how many of those things we go through in one day."

"Really."

"Yes. Geez, you would think someone would understand after being asked a dozen times..." He threw his arms up in frustration, but he quickly wagged a finger at her. "Your looks will only get you so far."

"Gee, thanks." Leilani rolled her eyes. "I just don't understand why in the world you would need those things." And what a compliment.

"Sometimes things get in your way. When they do, you blow it up and make it get out of the way, you know?"

No, I don't. "So you make things go boom?"

"In more ways then one, yes."

"I see." Leilani had no comeback for that one, nor did she want to think of one. The conversation--as interesting as it was--was going nowhere, nor was it gaining her any favor. Just as she was about ready to give up, the guy finally tossed her the stick he was carrying. "This is dangerous." She pointed out, wagging the stick at him.

"So long as you know how to use it, nothing's really dangerous, is it?" He asked, raising an eyebrow.

She looked down at the dynamite, rolling it between her hands. He was right about that last part--power was dealt with whoever wielded it. If you wanted, you could either save a world or destroy it. And what about the rest of us? Leilani thought. What're we supposed to do? What can we do?

"Hey, you still here?"

Leilani looked up, and grinned. "I misunderstood you. Sorry about that."

"Eh, everyone does."
 

Endless Strategy

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Galom held his Keyblade perpendicular to the ground, no longer showing hostility towards Vanessa. She seemed to be on the run from the Marshals as opposed to being one herself. If she was a marshal she probably would have attacked from the start or run to get reinforcements. If she were trying to gain Galom’s trust instead she wouldn’t be so antagonistic. Her tale of traveling from different worlds suggested that she might be a Keyblade wielder, which would explain why the Marshals attacked her. So for now he would treat her as a stranger, neither friend nor foe, neither maintaining his defensive stance nor withdrawing his Keyblade completely.

He could do without the name calling though. “Fine, call me Wolf Scraps or whatever I don’t care. Though if you’d prefer my given name is Galom. As long as you don’t attack me I won’t attack you, we’re here for the essentially same reason, right? I’m here because I want to help Merlin, and you’re here because you want Merlin to help you. So might I suggest you conduct your business and leave, so that I may do the same afterward. Does that sound satisfactory, Vanessa?”

Galom turned to face Merlin, brushing his arm against a chair by accident. He winced before going on. “She sounds like she wants a way off this world. I beg that you may do so for her, so that we may continue to more pressing matters.”
 

Just Dari

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Svether was indeed, the most adamant in his servitude. A pledge of allegiance was more than the shackles of an oppressive power acting as discord upon one's shoulders. To be any different than rejecting your convictions of much nobler causes, is to unsightly implement concealed dissent within yourself; You lie to yourself.

It had been seven days.

Within the clutches of the eclipse king's army, Radiant Garden, another to be gripped by his metaphorical hand raven-clad in iron. This tribute, said more than enough as the lives gurgled beneath his tenacious palm. The Phantom had always lurked the halls, always closest to his liege, acting as his shadow and eye; Seven was a manner of apparition after all.

Amongst the table, to the rim was filled with a bountiful bosm. Meats, squabbles, lush fruits and vegetables. The garnered wines, liquors, and ales are what the cups were polluted with. Contents of glasses, upon sipping would paint a tipsy, and rather delightful Aurore. Svether didn't require sustenance, he merely sat in silence as harken his mystical orb rotated like a sentient spy drone from left shoulder to right.

He's quite apathetic, a thought that entered him.

The reavers on guard, had made accommodations for Sei'dar as he'd risen from the table. Though Svether's eyes were closed, the faceless sphere, Harken watched as his third eye. Leaving the room - the impression left that he was disgusted by so much as even the presence of the other marshals. He'd lived long enough, spied long enough, to know the nature of how life-forms sacrificed their true nature for the sake of untruth.

If we don't take hold of him, he could stir problems
, the phantom thought.

Excusing himself from the table, as Sei'dar had left the hall. The phantom merely phased through his seat and into the cobblestone floor. His companion armament followed suit.
 

Ordeith

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The back room was sparsely furnished—with only a large desk, some framed prints, and a few cushioned chairs. Leaving Ogen and Quel'loyen to situate themselves, Animus took a moment to examine one of the pieces on the wall. It was an old oil-on-canvas that hadn't aged very well, leaving the greens muted and dim.

The subject of the painting was still recognizable, though: The scene was of a crumbling ruin, eaten by moss and undergrowth. The light, dusty stone remained as a clear focal point, a finger of beige in a sea of black and green. A mossy throne, long untouched by any man, sat at the dead palace's center.

'Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.' Animus smirked. A commentary on man's transience? Louie hardly seemed to type to reminisce.

"Zee-bop-dabba-doo-da! Man, it's swingin' hot out there!"

Exactly on cue, the orangutan swung inside the door, using his forearms to propel himself over the desk. "I see you like my decor," he chuckled. "I've gotta get that thing looked at by a professional soon, though. Can't hardly see it anymore!" Louie spun about in his large executive's chair—which had been raised up to the level of the desktop itself.

"It's a lovely piece, to be sure," Animus returned with a grin.
"I'd like to see it restored . . . but that's for another visit, I think."

He took the vacant seat, and addressed Louie with a bit more gravity: "The King—the King of Disney Castle—has mentioned you as a contact who can lend some aid. At the moment, our first priority is to regroup and reassess our numbers. I'm sure that word of Radiant Garden has reached you by now . . . " This seemed to weigh heavily on everyone in the room, even Louie.

"So," Animus continued, "with direct travel to Disney Castle impossible, we need to reach a world with less of an Eclipse presence. Can you do this for us?"

Louie idly rocked back and forth in his chair. "Well, Mick and I go back a ways—so I'm always ready to lend a hand! But listen . . . I'm not so sure it can be done anytime soon. Patrols have been up—and we can't do a thing until we know they won't come lookin'.

"Tell you what I'll do, though. I'll check with a couple o' pilot friends—see if they can fly you to Traverse Town, tonight or tomorrow." The orangutan gave them a cheeky smirk. "Those Marshals ain't too careful with checkin' freight shipments, you understand? We can slide you right under the radar, if all the cards are in our deck."

Animus nodded in assent. "Well, it sounds like a plan!" he chuckled. "In the meantime, we'll remain in our motel—though it might be safer to book into another. Your employees seemed to find us easily enough."

"Yeah, little fella' knows what he's doing . . . Hey, man-cub." Louie turned to face Ogen, who had remained silent since his entrance. "You oughta lighten up a little, man! Seems like you're a bird knocked outta his nest." Reaching into his desk drawer, he tossed a banana into Ogen's lap. "Have a bite—'cause you might on a one-way flight before you know it!"

Animus' laughter was genuine, but he suppressed it for Ogen's sake.
"And you've been pretty quiet yourself," Louie said to Quel'loyen. "Anythin' you wanna add?"
 

OmniChaos

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The banana took Ogen by surprise, who mistook the yellow-skinned fruit for some sort of projectile. The airborne fruit quickly filled the boy's vision, threatening to eclipse it completely with a sea of yellow. He lifted his hands to catch--or rather, swat away--the incoming banana, but it was all in vain. The yellow fruit slipped pass Ogen's grasping fingers--which had contorted and congealed into horrific claws--and landed a square blow to the bridge of the boy's nose, stealing away the boy's sight to its sea of yellow with it. The banana's momentum carried over to Ogen, who now found his body moving in a backward motion as a delayed and fruitless attempt to avoid the yellow projectile. His body tilted further and further back, lifting the front two legs of his chair. The back legs gave way, and Ogen, the chair, and the banana collapsed to the floor in a jumbled heap.

The room was filled with laughter, save for Ogen, whose expense the laughter was at (and perhaps Quel'loyen, but Ogen wasn't quite sure; Louie's laughter muffled any traces of the man's laughter, if any), who found himself quite sore. Louie howled with laughter, slamming his palm against the surface of his desk, which shook and rattled like a drum with each swing of his might arm. Ogen heard Animus' laughter between each of the orangutan's gleeful bellows, and heard as he quieted down, as if to save Ogen from more embarrassment. He even heard Umbra cackling throughout his mind. The boy grew red.

"Ain't no tiger, man-cub!" the orangutan howled, finally quieting to catch his breath. "Just a banana. Nothin' to be scared of."

Ogen scrambled to his feet, lifting the chair up to its legs with a slight twirl to place it back in its previous position. The boy took his seat, crushing the banana, which had made its way beneath the chair's front right leg, beneath his weight. "So, um..." Ogen sputtered, trying to draw the conversation away from his embarrassing tumble. "So, how do we know which, if any, of the motels are safe? For all we know, the motel we were at could have informed the marshals! They could be going through our room as we speak!"

"Not a problem, cuz," Louie said, rocking back in his chair, tapping his fingers together to the beat softly bleeding through the walls. "You leave everything to ol' Louie. You see, there's this swingin' bear I know; swings with the best of us, even me. Anyhow, this ol' bear set up a motel not too far from this here bar. Not as swingin' as this joint, but the place will sure to be safe. Ol' Baloo is a fine fellow and'll keep you safe."

---​

Wolf Scraps, or rather Galom, as he had called himself--though Vanessa still found the name "Wolf Scraps" far more fitting--approached the woman, the tone of his voice openly displaying his frustration with her. Vanessa couldn't help but smile.

"I'll leave when I'm good and ready, Wolf Scraps," the woman said, her voice trailing off into a soft chuckle. "Perhaps I'll just stick around for a little while longer, if only to toy with you longer. You've proven to be quite entertaining, Wolf Scraps. Perhaps I'll--"

Vanessa's words were cut short as the door to Merlin's small cottage was flung open, a large monstrous figure standing in the doorway, water pouring off of it. No, not a monster--the figure was of two men, one holding the other around his stomach, rain--which was now falling heavily, from the look of it--dripping off of their drenched bodies.

The men stumbled into the light of Merlin's cottage, their details becoming more apparent in its warm light. The larger of the two, who had been doing the carrying, was a tall, brawny red-head, somewhere in his thirties, from the look of him, with a large, prominent jaw. The smaller of the two, who hung limply in the larger's arm, was a young man, in his early twenties, with bright blonde hair and a short beard. Blood ran down from a large cut across his head, gathering at the man's chin and dropping to the wizard's floor bellow him.

"Merlin!" the large man shouted, gasping for breath. "Arthur! Help... him!"
 
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