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The Way of the Blue [Lantern OC]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by AverusBlack, May 2, 2021.

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  1. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    The latter. And yep, I live. Well, survive :p
     
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  2. Threadmarks: The Black King - 03
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    "Haha, Ainsley, you scoundrel!"

    Wait. I know that voice. The others look a bit confused as I get up from the table and turn around to the old woman pushing her way through their lines. The soldiers are looking at her like she's crazy, the archers are just getting out of the way and she's being followed by a very tired looking young girl. It's Saan, the old Tovari woman.

    "Saan? What the hell are you-?"

    "Gran, stop! Are you crazy?!"

    "Oh relax girl, I know this boy." She's shuffling towards us, moving at a hobbles pace as her granddaughter races to catch up with her. Apparently Saan got a head start. "His friends are scary but he's a good lad."

    I rise up off the ground as Elise gets up behind me. Mina looks mildly interested but Nem and Vara are all focused on menacing the troops who keep trying to stop Saan-and-her-girl. When I land besides Saan I generate a construct wheelchair for her.

    "How'd you even get here? Why are you here? How'd you even get to the front like this?" I can't help but sound incredulous. As Saan parks herself in the construct her granddaughter catches up to us, clearly winded and looking a bit wild.

    The girl is a young teenager. 13 or 14, perhaps. A canid like Saan, her ears flop when she leans on her knees, completely winded after the wild run to catch up to her grandmother. She looks up at me, then the others, apparently judging that nobody is going to attack her and grandma for the moment and taking it to try and catch her breath.

    Saan pats her on the shoulder. "You see? He's a sweetheart, nothing to fear, dear. Ainsley, this is my granddaughter, Chloe." I wave awkwardly at the girl as she nods back to me, still winded. "Chloe, this is Ainsley the Blue."

    Elise wanders up behind me and Saan smiles at her. "You're the biggest Skal I've ever seen, aren't you pretty?"

    "You're Ainsley? She made you sound really young."

    "I suspect that from Saan's perspective, everybody is young."

    "Hm? I'm not Skal. Different race. I'm a Genkit, my name is Elise."

    "A gen-kit? That's a funny name for a species. Haha, you've been terrorizing this lot!"

    "Yeah? Must be cathartic to see the shoe on the other foot."

    "That's... sort of true. She ran off and left a note! A note! Who runs into a battle at 72 and leaves a note about it?!"

    "Your grandmother, apparently. Bravo for going after her though. That was very brave of you."

    "No, I... aaggghhh." Poor kid looks so frustrated. "I love her but sometimes she just does things. That's how we ended up getting caught by these guys. Just going for a wander for a few days, she says."

    I nod sympathetically. "If it makes you feel any better, I like your grandmother enough that you won't be going back to the Red Swords if you don't want to."

    "No, I grabbed the few things we got to keep. They looted the rest."

    "I'll see about that later, if I can."

    "I have no idea what cathartic means, but it's been wonderful watching them panic. These people are huge jerks! They even burnt my yurt. It was a really nice one, too!"

    Elise is nodding sympathetically and moving behind her to push the wheelchair construct. Chloe and I follow along behind them as we chat. "Well, we don't have any yurts, but I'm sure Ainsley will cook something up for you."

    "It wouldn't be the first time, hahaha!"

    "Thank you. That's really kind." She sounds worn down. Taking a look at her I can kind of see why. She looks like she's been sleeping in those clothes for weeks and I'm pretty sure neither has had the chance to bath for awhile.

    Ring, clean them both and replace their clothes. These people are friends and nobody will be anything less than resplendant while they stand with us.

    Chloe gasps when the blue glow envelops her, the ring fabricating Durjak-style clothes for her. A copy of a loose tunic and pants that one of the tailors made for me, refitted to her size. Once clean her and Saan's hair both kind of explode. Curly, poofy hair is apparently a thing for their family. Saan makes a quietly 'whoo!' noise and looks herself over as Elise starts to explain what happened.

    "How are you standing up to this army so hard?" The girl is patting herself down, looking at the material. "Are you all just minor gods or something?"

    I shake my head at her. "No. Just way, way over equipped for this mission. I don't really care about fighting them, Mina - that's the orange one - is here because she likes me, I think. Nemesis, the yellow one and Vara, the red one just like fighting and have their own reasons. Elise and her people are the best friends I have here." I smile a little when Elise's ears swivel around to point at me.

    "They are such huge jerks. They treat everyone like crap. I don't get how they even got so big."

    "Sometimes all it takes is bad conditions and a strong leader. They had help too."

    "Is she from the east?" Chloe is kind of side-eyeing Mina who's side-eyeing her back.

    "Yes."

    "You can't trust them." The reply is immediate, almost before I finish speaking. "She's dangerous."

    "I know." I put a hand on the girls shoulder. "Trust in me. I want this situation to end with as little suffering as I can. The others, not so much... but for now, they're following my lead."

    When we reach the table the others wander back as Saan plunks herself down in one of the stone chairs. "Thank you Ainsley. Now." She clasps her hands together, smiling. "The moment I realized you were here and fighting these fools I shuffled my way out here. You know why?"

    "Because you liked my company, dry wit and the amazing cooking?"

    "Well, yes, but actually, no." She snorts. "I'm an old woman, Ainsley. They only kept me around because I know a little medicine. I shuffled my arse out here because I have information for you." She turns towards Nemesis, regarding him steadily. "You know, I heard about you. I wondered what you looked like, but I can't say I'm very impressed."

    "Alas. Scathing." Nemesis looks a little bored, honestly.

    "Hm. Well, I've heard of another one like you. A purple ring user like you."

    I clear my throat, sitting up a little and regarding Saan. "And um, where would this person be?"

    She sighs heavily. "The Black Kings daughter, Piani."

    "Ah."

    ...

    "Fuck."
     
  3. AngelicKnight.

    AngelicKnight. Lewd demon of negotiable affection

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    A new member for the Harem?

    Everyone loves a secretly good evil daughter.
     
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  4. Stormbringer117

    Stormbringer117 Soulless

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    Hold up.

    Ainsley is a blue lantern powered by hope right?
    So is this a typo?

    Also, a purple lantern isn't canon, unless they mean Indigo/compassion.

    Finally, welcome back Mr AverusBlack, you have been missed.
     
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  5. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    She doesn't know the word indigo, which is how that came out as purple. Saan was comparing the rings, not colors, there. And thank you. :)
     
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  6. Threadmarks: The Black King - 04
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    When they finally come, they come as a column of men and women. Slaves, naked and unkempt, driven forward before a palanquin carried by yet more slaves. When it stops they abase themselves and turn into human steps before the palanquin.

    I don't think I'm going to have as much problem killing some of these people than I thought I was going to.

    I think I get it now, a bit of what Vara feels at full power all the time. Seeing what they're doing to these people makes me want to tear them down. Elise is giving me concerned looks as my environmental shield sputters in and out though, so I make a mental effort to try and change how I'm thinking about this. Hope, not rage.

    Hope, not rage.

    These people are suffering and they're not going to suffer anymore. The reason they won't suffer anymore is because of us. We're going to stop this, tear down their works and rebuild them into something better, something good. Because there can be no other end to this while I'm still alive.

    I'm Hope. Vara can handle the righteous vengeance, I'm the anticipation to it.

    My environmental shield kicks back in and begins to glow brightly, reinforced by my train of thought. Then the man himself steps into view.

    The Black King is fucking huge. Ring, who is this guy? How is he so large?

    Genetic analysis suggests a contribution of at least nine distinct ethnic groups to varying degrees. It also suggests he ought to be smaller. This person has made some kind of modification to themselves to increase their size. Their strength is nearly twice that of a baseline human individual but all other susceptibilities appear to be in play.

    Good. But just killing him outright, here and now, doesn't guarantee success. He may not have the control crystal on him. Can you detect it?

    It is buried in his chest.

    Of course it is. The man himself is standing at perhaps 8', towering head and shoulders above everybody else. I wince as the people he steps on visibly sag under the weight of his mass and the armor he's wearing. It's some kind of plate variant, all stylized and spiny, like he was trying to emulate Sauron or something. No helmet though, just a mask. When I look at it, the ring does something funny to my vision, I can't really focus on his face. If he has a terror-gaze, that's probably the ring just helping me without me asking though.

    Terror is as hollow as hope and merely a dark reflection.

    I blink at that, looking down at my hand for a split second. I haven't been talking to the ring as much as I did near the beginning. Maybe I should reconsider that.

    Following the Black King out of the palaquin iis a young woman bound in chains, followed by a figure who is probably some sort of priest, but has gone to the trouble of shrouding their face in darkness under the hood of their robe so there's no way to tell if they're male or female or what, but the staff and ring they're holding look pretty fucking familiar. Not purple like Saan said, but indigo. Why isn't she wearing it though?

    The woman - presumably Piani - is made to kneel before the Black King, just behind him, where he stops. The priest stops just behind her and the guards holding her in place won't look at anything but their own feet.

    "You do not quake before me. You, do you share also in the dark power of terror?"

    He points at Nemesis who looks amused, if anything. "I've mastered it. This is it? This is all you are? A fake strongman in a fancy mask? I confess myself disappointed, honestly."

    "You may yet learn of your folly. Yet you've resisted my army well, well enough to impress me. I will offer this only once. Those of you who come forward and join me will ride in the upper echelons of my power and establish yourselves as answerable only to me. I am building a state which will outlast the centuries and you stand against me, thinking yourselves heroes! States aren't built on hand holding and hopes." He looks at me specifically. "They are built on blood and death to feed the growth of the new. Join me and shape the new world."

    I can't help but chuckle. "Do you honestly think-"

    "What's the cut?"

    All of us slowly turn and look at Mina, but she's not looking at us. She's looking at the Black King.

    "You would stand at my side, commanding any in the empire. Hold a duchy or country if you wish, I care not. Play with your subjects how you will, all I require is order, trade and security. Whether or not you can cement your hold and rule it well is your failure or success."

    "You'd just give us anything we wanted, hm?"

    "Mina, I'm warning you -"

    "What, are you going to try and fight me again? Remember how that went last time? I have friends now. And minions."

    She transitions directly in front of the Black King, who looks down at her directly. She looks back, pulling the same trick I am perhaps, because the stare doesn't seem to trouble her very much.

    "MINA!" Nemesis steps forward ahead of me. "You will die for this! I will make sure it goes by centimeters!"

    She sighs, turning and almost draping herself on the arm of the Black King, smiling in a predatory sort of way. "Oh, Nemmy. You never were very smart. Where am I standing?"

    "At my side, as is your place."

    "Yep. Right next to you."

    Then she subspaces his mask, revealing a ruined face which begins to scream as she starts to assimilate him.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2021
  7. AngelicKnight.

    AngelicKnight. Lewd demon of negotiable affection

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    I mean I'm surprised anyone didn't see she wasn't really gonna join the Black King.


    I never doubted her. She's best girl not worst girl.
     
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  8. Threadmarks: The Black King - 05
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    "Stop her, we can't just hand this army to the orange light users!" Nemesis is taking his own advice, donning construct armor and smashing into the ensuring chaos. So much is happening at once it's difficult to keep track even with the ring helping me because I'm scrambling to create shields and barricades and cover for us to fight around instead of the horribly open ground we're on, surrounded on all sides.

    The scream coming from... I'm not sure what this guys name even is but it's having some kind of effect without the mask. The yellow glow looks like it's coming from inside his skull and the soldiers around us are either panicking and going mad trying to stampede away or losing their minds and attacking everything around them, friend and foe alike. The priest holding the ring and staff drops them and grabs their own head as do the guards, the woman in chains writhing on the ground next to the fallen artifacts and priest. Vara and Nemesis are trying to attack Mina but the fear aura is making it difficult to focus.

    Fear is a dark reflection.

    Hope drowns it out, doesn't it?

    What do I hope for here?

    I bring my hands together, blue light intensifying around me as my environmental shield begins to brighten. We're here to stop a genocidal, xenophobic army from ethnically cleaning the entire continent, possibly the world. We're here to pull these people out of the mud and help them build something good here. To establish the foundation of a state where personal freedom can be balanced against responsibility and honor. Because these things aren't just words, they're not just things we made up, they're ideas that transcend individuals and generations. Fear, greed and hate have no power in a place where all uplift each other.

    As the blue glow builds up and my constructs glow brighter, both Mina and the Black King visibly stagger. So does Nemesis and Vara but Elise keeps going like a force of nature, smashing into Mina and both of them hitting the woman in chains in a wild tackle. The woman is scrambling to get away from them in a blind panic -

    What?

    - instead of going for the ring and staff. While Elise and Mina struggle my first instinct is to get that ring! Tearing across the field towards them the Black King is beginning to get to his feet just in time for me to hit him with the most intense hope for absolute erasure I can possibly manage because there is no scenario whatsoever where somebody like this is a net benefit to the universe. The second my hand contacts him a ripple of blue light leaves only ash and I don't stop at all, hitting the ground and grabbing the box and staff, then flying upwards into the air.

    "YOU IDIOT FUCKING FERRET, I HAD IT UNDER CONTROL!"

    "YOU'RE NOT GOING TO ENSLAVE THIS ARMY IN PLACE OF THEM!"

    "I WASN'T TRYING TO!"

    Fuck. With the Black King dead and the fear aura he was producing gone, the panicking army around us is still panicking. I've lost track of the woman -

    She appears to have had her head caved in by a shield.

    - so... oh. Fuck. Was she the guys daughter?

    No genetic relation found.

    That doesn't make any sense, but I don't have time to mull this over right now. The staff in my hand is glowing intensely, shimmering both indigo and blue, shifting between them in response to my use of the blue light. I don't know anything about the use of indigo rings.

    This is probably a really bad idea.

    Fuck it.

    I toss the box aside and pull the ring out of it at the same time, fitting it on the finger of my opposite hand and suddenly I realize how blind I've been. What the hell have I been doing? I've been acting like a thug, like Nemesis, to deal with this crisis. I've been bullying these people just to make a point and look where it's gotten us, fighting with each other and the army in question slaughtering itself. No, no more, this is unacceptable.

    The sheer repulsion at what's happening around me burns at the head of the staff and I can hear somebody screaming as it builds and builds, overwhelming, bleeding off as waves of indigo like flowing outwards from me.

    Stop! Stop! STOP FIGHTING!

    I think the person screaming is me.

    It's working though. They're stopping, confused, staggering. I can see the injured and the weak and the ones who are just breaking from the sheer stress of everything going on and I remember what we're here for. I always knew, but part of that knowledge had fallen asleep, coaxed out by fear of the loss of the people I knew, valuing them over the lives of those outside the walls of Durjak. I was wrong to do that, I can see that now.

    The blue light begins to restore the wounded as I pass over the crowd in circles outward from where we began, trying to stop as much of it as I can manage. In my wake, the violence doesn't... stop. People instead begin to realize that the control scheme is broken and rise up against the ones controlling them.

    But they don't kill them. Not if they can help it. There won't be any more deaths today if I can influence that.

    By the time I get back to where we began most of the soldiers have thrown their weapons down. The ones who haven't aren't bearing them, just holding them. Elise and Mina are standing well apart from each other with Saan in the middle. I think she's been scolding them from the look on Mina's face but as I approach I can see the light begin to effect them too, the aggression dialing down.

    "Oho, Ainsley! Look at you, I can't just call you blue anymore, can I?"

    I have just enough time to exhale hard through my nose in place of a chuckle before I drop to the ground unconscious.
     
  9. AngelicKnight.

    AngelicKnight. Lewd demon of negotiable affection

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    Looks like the threesome is now off the table.


    But hey, dual welding is a thing. At least until night night time.
     
  10. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Oh, you know how it is. Girls just wanna have fun but somebodies always gotta panic about you trying to take over the world or something.
     
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  11. Threadmarks: The Black King - 06
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    I don't know where I am.

    Somehow the lack of physical senses isn't bothering me. I know it should, people aren't meant to be completely without sensory stimulus. But like a dream it isn't bothering me despite the fact I'm experiencing a kind of self-awareness, like a lucid dream. What the hell?

    We need to have a conversation, I think.

    What? Who are you?

    You. Not-you. I'm the indigo ring and also part of you. When you put me on, a personality simulacrum was created based on data from your subconscious.

    The voice feels familiar but I can't place it.

    Oh, don't worry about it too much. When you put me on, something happened to you. Something that didn't happen to the other girl who wore me.

    Well, don't keep me in suspense, here. What was it?

    Connecting to the indigo light immediately changed part of your psychological profile. Your personality and entire method of thinking shifted slightly and a connection to the indigo light which was weakened before suddenly became stronger. Your capacity for compassion was restored.

    I don't feel like I ever lost it. Why else would I want to help people otherwise?

    Your connection to the blue light requires you to have a following, to inspire hope. Without this you are limited to your own hopes but with others, you only become stronger. The ethical values of the people you encountered combined with your own utilitarian predisposition set you to using hope to help and inspire people and while the end result of 'help people' is the same to the outward observer as somebody acting with compassion, compassion isn't what you were feeling or thinking about as you did it. You didn't have the capacity. You were all hope.

    So... what, I'm a sociopath?

    Something like that. Not really. Your connection to the other colors is dimmed. It will continue to influence your way of thinking until you restore them. Additionally, memories which were previously denied to you have been restored as your arcane construct is partially mended by re-supplementation of the indigo light.

    What the hell is an arcane construct?

    The part of you which interacts with the metaphysical.

    My soul?

    If you like. You never were that religious.

    So is this is just some kind of personality interview?

    No. The restoration of the indigo light to your 'soul' has partially disrupted it. You are currently comatose while it mends itself.

    Is that why I collapsed?

    No. You suffered a stroke. The blue ring mended you immediately.

    Oh. Thanks, blue ring.

    You are welcome.

    If I'm weak in the green light, how do I boost Elise like I do?

    Good question. I'm not an actual thinking being and don't have the data to give you that answer. Let me know if you find out.

    I suppose that depends on whether I keep wearing you. Will I lose the capacity for compassion again if I take you off?

    Probably not. You may want to consider trying the other colors on though. Your connection to the red light is mildly stronger than the others but you could probably still benefit from a full restoration in some regard.

    Angers a pretty shitty emotion, though.

    You need it to be whole.

    I suppose. What happened to your previous user?

    Piani was a true sociopath. When she discovered me, she took me for her own, using guile to disarm my first bearer. She had not chosen a name. It was only after putting me on that she realized her mistake, her sudden capacity to feel guilt overwhelmed her. She attempted to stop her father, who disarmed her. The person who had been behind the Black King was my original bearer.

    Goddammit. I don't follow for two seconds and somebody really important dies. Fuck!

    Even as you think it, you don't feel the anger.

    I know I don't, but... okay, this isn't helpful. So, what now?

    That depends on you, doesn't it?

    What do you mean?

    You have effectively toppled a government, then became incapacitated for an unknown period of time.

    Oh. Right. Shit.

    Just so. You're going to have a bit of a mess to clean up when you wake up. You won't quite be the same person you were, either. How will the others react to you now? What has happened while you were out?

    Why are you asking me? I don't know any more information than you do.

    It was a rhetorical question, dear. Here's another for you. How okay are you with mind control?

    What?

    You effectively decided to mind control the panicking army when you externalized your own newly made connection to the indigo light through my staff. Granted, 'control' in this case simply meant stopping everybody from wanting to harm or do anything else in the short term but you still essentially mind controlled 824,920 people all at once. That effect never stops, all you did was amplify it. As long as you carry the staff, that sort of peace will follow in your wake.

    I'm not sure if that sounds so bad.

    That depends on how much you value personal agency, I suppose. It would be important to the genkits that they be free of external influence. You know this from interacting with them.

    Yeah but it's basically a "calm the hell down and chill" field.

    Whether it's good or bad isn't for me to determine, I'm only making you aware of the contradiction between your stated belief that removing personal agency is bad and the apparent approval of something which effects personal agency.

    I can tell spending time with you is going to be a hoot. How much longer until I wake up?

    I don't know any more than you do. Go fish, I guess?
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2021
  12. Doccer

    Doccer Not too sore, are you?

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    Well that got interesting. Says something I guess when a ring of compassion tells you are a sociopath...
     
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  13. NightmareWarden

    NightmareWarden Not too sore, are you?

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    This means literally behind the Black King, rather than “the man behind the curtain” who gave orders to the Black King. Right?


    Hmm. I don’t think the yellow prick will release his ring for a demo. But wielding a tool connected to the Yellow light might to the trick. Or… Nemesis could wield a yellow weapon, let our blueberry touch the weapon while it is active, and then Nemesis could try to intimidate him. Maybe a wise weapon crafter could work something out.

    I think that all ring bearers are sacrificing something from their identity in order to help break down the Lantern Corps temple we saw several chapters ago. Regardless I reckon plan “Emotional Fortitude” should be prioritized for at least one ring-bearer since the violet ring will pop up any day now.


    Finally let’s talk about mind control. Right now I reckon the less reasonable slaves and the more hateful soldiers are being restrained by said mind control while food and necessities are set up for this massive force. I reckon any groups that are hard to reconcile could be dragged over to a different planet, perhaps a fertile island for a few weeks while things are tenuous.
     
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  14. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    This is correct, yes.

    Touching the rage weapon is why Ainsley was able to get so angry. He isn't a complete sociopath, the emotions are there, they're just dimmed down, washed out. He can't touch them easily.

     
  15. Threadmarks: The Black King - 07
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    "No."

    "What the hell do you mean, no?"

    "There are not a lot of different interpretations to the word. I checked." Lifting the carved wooden cup to my mouth I take a sip of tea, answering in my own good time. Despite how much larger Elise is than me, or the fact I don't wear a ring, there isn't any formal hierarchy here and she needs to learn that simply being stubborn isn't enough to sway me when I make a decision. I've seen enough of her mind to know some of that is the ring she wears and the single-mindedness that it demands but either way, I have no intention of being swayed unless I decide to.

    "He's in a coma! Kuri, we need him. The longer he's out -"

    "The longer you have to learn to make command decisions without him." I nod firmly. Elise also has some tea but I think she's forgotten it so I pointedly take another sip of my own before speaking again. "Elise, he is one person. With Mina, Nemesis and Vara gone home you don't have to contend with anybodies command authority, not really. Emil handles the genkits just fine. Zack, Ren and Mason have Durjak handled."

    "
    We still have thousands of humans outside the walls! Humans who will need food, fuel, sanitation -"

    "Things you are fully capable of providing yourself. We always knew that it was possible he could be removed from action." I sigh, my tail twitching in mild irritation as I do it. She should know herself better than this. "He's not in distress, I've tried to touch his mind. It's like he's having a dream, but I can't reach his dreams. He's somewhere in between and it feels like he's waiting for... something." I can't help but frown. "If I thought he was in real danger I might agree with you about pushing further but I don't think he is."

    Elise leans forward, resting her face in her hands. "Kuri, it's too much. It's a million people and I'm just one person, it's too much. What do I do?"

    "You're... oh." I heh softly. "Okay. You're experiencing what a herd animal experiences when they turn and find they are surrounded on all sides by too much input, or what a predator might experience hunting a herd animal all with an elaborate coat pattern which scatter. It all blurs together and they freeze up, not knowing where to begin, where to strike first."

    She blinks. "That... is a pretty accurate summary of how I feel right now, yes."

    "Lay the whole thing out for me then. Give it structure by explaining it and the answer might present itself. ...Also, your tea is getting cold."

    "Oh!" She sits up and takes a deep breath, exhaling. "I'm sorry. I'm neglecting your hospitality." She makes an effort to take a sip, then blinks in surprise, apparently finding it agreeable.

    "No, I don't think so. If this were between Skal, then perhaps, but you're not Skal and your culture doesn't put the same emphasis on ritual ours does. Something which I'm thankful for so..." I make a downward waving motion, smiling softly.

    She nods, then sips again, taking a moment to think. I've seen humans talking like this and when this happens one of them inevitably feels a pressure to fill the gap in conversation with something but that doesn't seem to be a problem for the genkits. They don't mind taking a moment to think before they speak, the way Skal shaman do sometimes. I wonder if it's a cultural thing?

    "Right now, we have all of the overseers in... custody." Walled prison camps, but I'm not inclined to quibble about it. "The ones who were being controlled are easy to spot out, they're tattooed. They also really like making the former Red Sword commanders eat it, so..." She shrugs. "At least we don't have to worry about them being hidden away by collaborators, those ones hang too. They really hated being controlled. About two thirds of their fighting force was like that, conscripts. That still leaves something in the neighborhood of around 160,000 purists in their ranks and of course they're all mixed up with the conscripts, who don't give them up because they've been fighting in small units together and the damned unit cohesion is mostly keeping them from giving up the purists. You know, 'oh they're not that bad' and all that. They're happy to hand us the real assholes and all but there are people in there who signed up for this and are getting away with it and I really fucking hate that."

    "I think I'm lacking some context here. We didn't really have time to stop for a history lesson but this has been bothering me since this whole thing started. What is your definition of a purist, what is a purist and why do all of you hate them so much?"

    Elise looks down at her tea. "How much do you know about our history?"

    "Not much. Just bits I've caught from some of the dreams of you and Ren and a few others. Most of that is about your home though."

    "You know we're genetically engineered?"

    "Yes. Ren tried to explain what that is to me, once."

    "We started out being created by a fundamentalist animal rights group. The real left-wing crazies, not the made-up crazies that people like to paint moderate politics as. Somehow they got funding from some rogue state nobody liked, the actual details of all that is a bit unclear because of what came after. It got out to the world media, big international stink over it, couple countries declared war over it when they refused to stop the project and antagonized over their 'future super soldiers'." She makes fingerquotes. "Because if we're not human we don't have rights, right? Well, the animal fundies didn't really like that, which is how the majority of us managed to flee before the bombs started dropping on the bio-domes where we were developed. Most of the records of the project were there so we had to start from half-baked backups and hacked information to get some of our genetic history back."

    "None of this explains the purist thing."

    "The ones dropping the bombs were the Purists. Humans who believe that we're subhuman, inferior, abominations, etc." She makes a hand-wavey motion. "The ones who want to wipe us out for not being enough like them. It took a ten year guerilla war to win our right to even exist and even to this day they are a pain in our ass in international politics."

    "And these humans of the Red Swords, they are the same?"

    "Well, no... not exactly. Same general belief, different reasons. They all seem to think humans should be in charge of everything and we're too stupid to manage ourselves, which doesn't make a lot of sense considering how it worked out for them but humans aren't rational."

    I sigh a little. "I know."

    She nods slowly. "So."

    "So."

    "I'd hoped Ainsley would wake up and... well..."

    "Hand you an easy solution to this?"

    "Mmmmmaybe?"

    "You won't get it. But... It seems to me that if their fighters are grouped up like that, maybe splitting them up across the countryside into little groups? It'd be work to keep an eye on them but you could make the ranking officer the town man and offer any of the refugees who want to go with them the chance. It's not all fighters, is it?"

    "No. A lot of the people here are filler, honestly. Merchants, families of fighters, entourages, entertainers, hangers-on."

    "Offer them chances to found communities and help give them the tools to make lives for themselves. You don't have to hand them all of the fish, Elise. Only fishing rods and directions to the nearest river."

    She takes a deep breath and smiles a little, then knocks her tea back. "Thank you, Kuri."

    "We'll weather this storm too."
     
  16. NightmareWarden

    NightmareWarden Not too sore, are you?

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    Elise really needed this. She isn’t a flawed character, but this opportunity is helping her break out of a plateau which wasn’t solved by putting on a Green ring. Now she can really impress her father and take a whetstone to the skills she built under the Damocles sword of purists.
     
  17. Threadmarks: Temet Nosce - 01
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    We travel to the west to trade in grassy plains
    We travel to the east, ruled by rough terrain
    We travel to the south to fish the open sea
    We travel to the north, where mountain replace trees


    In all the dangers faced and all the treasures traced
    We travel all the wilds looking outwards in the night
    In all the warm inns hearth and roads merrily raced
    We travel place to place to bask in lawful light


    The song was slow and melodic, easy to learn, easy to follow. Assuming you know some of the language, anyways. But even if you don't, it's easy enough to pick up after a few repeats. The caravan had been traveling for weeks, ever since news reached Tovalon of the great battle and the hundreds of new, small communities springing up in the west. A traders dream, enough travelers had begun heading in the same direction that they had sort of meshed together in Skal, where everybody had been bottlenecked by the few guides willing to take them across the terrain. Some of the traders had even set up on the other side to cater to other travelers. Soon enough such camps were on both ends of Skal, marking the beginning and end of the route through the mysterious and dangerous countryside.

    Nobody liked hanging around in Skal except other Skal.

    Yelin liked the song. She missed her little brother, but their mother had insisted that one of them should stay. The risk of losing one of her children and husband in the long journey west was bad enough. Her relationship with her father wasn't bad, exactly. It was a little distant, though. The man was a monolithic figure of authority and seriousness in her mind. She had only seen him belly laugh a handful of times in her life, instead carrying a serious, pragmatic grimness that didn't lend itself to heartfelt moments. She knew he cared in his own way, he just wasn't the kind of person who know how to really express it.

    It wasn't so bad though, she had a few friends in the caravan. She wasn't the only juvenile in the group. There were some children too and somewhere along the way they had sort of drifted together and formed a small group within the group, the older kids keeping an eye on the younger ones as they traveled near the center of the group with the adults on the outside.

    "When are we gonna stop? I'm hungryyyyy."

    "When the group stops, Shi. With enough people nobody really decides this sort of thing, it just happens."

    "Don't you have any food?"

    "Only some spiced bread. It's okay though, you can have it." Sitting up from her spot in the wagon she grabbed her pack, digging through it and taking out the leaf-wrapped bread to hand it to the girl, then laying back against the sacks of grain she'd been resting on.

    "How long do you think the caravan will stay together?"

    Yelin looked over at Shi. A tovari child, she was dressed in colorful clothes, a tunic and pants with a sash across her body of many colors. The straw hat she customarily wore was laid across her knees while she nibbled at the bread.

    "I don't know. I think the group will split up soon, now that we're in the west. There's too many places to go, too many new communities that need trade. I don't think all of us are here to trade, either."

    Shi tilted her head. "Whatcha mean?"

    "Too many people carrying too many personal things. Some of us are here to immigrate, they want to stay."

    "What, in one place?" Shi made a face. "Forever? That sounds so boring."

    "The eastern Tovari do it."

    "Yeah but they're all crazy, they don't count."

    That made Yelin smile a little. "Doesn't mean they can't be right about some things. I've been pushing my father to go to Durjak directly instead of staying in towns to trade."

    "Really? Why?"

    "I have a friend there, sort of."

    Shi's eyes widened. "Really?" She quickly took another bite of the bread, gesturing at Yelin to go on.

    Yelin shrugged at her. "I got to meet the blue lightsmith his first day out. It wasn't for long, but he was the reason we didn't all starve for a couple weeks after we visited the shrine. I got him to do that, me and Uter found him."

    Shi was staring at her, bread forgotten for a moment. "No way, you're making that up."

    "I am not!" Yelin sat up, frowning at the girl. "I did!"

    Shi just shrugged and went back to eating the bread.

    "I did." Huffing, Yelin pulled herself up and moved to hop out of the wagon.

    "Hey, where you going?"

    "Just going to walk a bit, I've been sitting too long."

    Dropping out of the wagon she did an about-face, following it and slowly veering to the side, then weaving her way through the various mounts, wagons, carriages and trailers until she slowly closed in on where her father was riding, a short distance behind the wagon she'd been in. Once he spotted her he leaned over to offer a hand, pulling her up onto the back of the jorka that he was riding. Holding his waist she got settled in behind him.

    "You don't usually return this early. Is something bothering you?"

    "Shi annoyed me, so I decided to come back. I gave her my spiced bread, too."

    "Aah, and so the reasons become all too clear. There is some in the right-hand saddlepack. What did she do?"

    "I told her about meeting Ainsley. She didn't believe me."

    "My daughter, were you not mine, I'm not sure I would believe you either. For me, your word is good enough. For others, doubt for those they do not know will always plague them."

    "Still sucks."

    "I know."

    "Will we go to Durjak?"

    He nodded slowly. "Yes. We will. Others might doubt, but I believe you. If you say we have a unique contact there, we will go. It's not so different from any other place. Perhaps better, since it's becoming the center of civilization out here."

    Yelin fished the spiced bread out of the saddle pack. "Hey, this is a full loaf. I'm gonna split it."

    "No, take the whole thing when you go back to Shi and give her half. Take a skin of water as well. I know she annoyed you, but we all must help each other in these rough places."

    "Yes, father." Climbing down, she unhooked the skin from the saddle of the jorka and started to walk ahead, smiling a bit.

    She was looking forward to meeting Ainsley again.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2021
  18. Threadmarks: Temet Nosche - 02
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    I think I hate this chair.

    I don't really blame the genkits, they're making do with what they have and it was meant as a vehicle seat, repurposed to this. But with the mild incline I'm sitting back on and the way my feet are flat against the floor is putting pressure on my lower back because of this fucking armor. It's been most of an hour and my ass hurts.

    Yeah, I definitely hate this chair.

    "How long is this process going to take?"

    "Probably at least another hour. It would be easier if we weren't rebuilding things we don't have but without the computers, tools and an actual nanoforge there's only so many options."

    "Why is this taking so long?"

    Aisha sighs. The first thing I did was ask her name because honestly, she's the prettiest cat I've ever seen in my life. I'm fairly sure she has zero interest in a foreigner who can't even take off his own shirt but damn if it isn't fun to look at her and I think I like her personality too. She hasn't fucked around at all at the job or treated me like an outsider like some of them do. I don't think they even mean it, I'm just... too different, too distinctly not them for some of them. They're still polite, but not kinsmen polite.

    "Moooostly because I'm an airhead and configured the computer wrong."

    "I'm sorry? I don't understand what you mean."

    She smiles a little, at herself I think, but it's a very nice smile all the same. "I messed up part of the software we're using for this. The computers are thinking machines, right? I accidentally told it to mis-step in the logic process, like... I told it two plus two equals five instead of four, by accident. Not, y'know, literally..." She makes a dismissive gesture at the device. "Programming's a bitch and I missed an error. Not my fault I have to improvise this stuff, this would go way better if I had a month of time and an actual quantum computer dedicated to software analysis. All I got is my eyes and brain, I feel like somebody making an orbital insertion without any sensors."

    I blink slowly, only able to follow some of that, but... I think I get the general impression of it. She doesn't have what she needs to make the things she needs and the stuff she's improvising to fit the role isn't as good as what they would have at their disposal at home. "...Oh."

    "Sorry. I know you don't really follow our slang, it's just -"

    "Nah, I get it." I take a deep breath and exhale slowly. "You grew up in a place so different that it'll take some time for me to understand you. That isn't exactly your fault, you know."

    "No, but I can't help feeling bad about it when I say stuff and I can see you stop and try to process it so you can filter out what I'm trying to say through the things you're not getting."

    That actually makes me laugh. "Ah, dammit. You people are too fucking smart for your own good."

    "Double-edged sword, handsome. We can think faster than almost any human, but when you're that sharp, your stupidity just gets magnified tenfold. You really fuck up when you fuck up."

    "I can imagine. What was that even like growing up?"

    "Well, I didn't have parents, just the inner clan -"

    "What? You didn't have parents?"

    She adjusts something, then taps the keyboard and stops, letting it work while she talks. "Nope. I'm a clone variant. Uhhhhh, a clone is like, a copy of a person. You know how I made code to tell the computer what to do? When you get down really small, it turns out your body has a code to tell it how to be. Manipulation of that code is how we were made as a species. We learned it inside and out during and after the first war."

    "You've mentioned that before, having to fight to survive. What does that have to do with 'cloning'?"

    "Population. Numbers. After the war, there were fewer than 40,000 of us and we were scattered around. Getting all of us together risked making us all vulnerable, so that was out. When work began on Zero we used a lot of human contractors and automated technology." She gestures at the computer, then folds her arms under her bust which I'm definitely not staring at eyes up.

    "So the cloning was to reproduce?"

    "Partially. I mean, we can do that the old fashioned way too. But with the 15 year time lag between generations we were worried about getting picked off before the first generation could really begin, so we turned to cloning. By mixing parts of various DNA samples - that's your body code - from different people we were able to create clones who were close but genetically diverse from the original. New people, essentially. Make a clone of each of those three or four times and in twenty years your population growth is five times what it was naturally. But you need to raise those kids and without parents, the solution we used was small community homes where a couple families would be vetted and move in together, then adopt a bunch of clones and be subsidized by our government to help raise them."

    "So how'd you stop people taking advantage?"

    "Oh they weren't left to their own devices or anything. You still needed education, health care, training. The clan home always had a small staff of people who'd rotate to teach us. We learn the basics of how to fight growing up, how to think, how to care for ourselves and each other. By the time we're young adults we're actually better trained than the natural families, who don't have all that."

    "Huh. That sounds... very different from the tiny village I grew up in."

    "Oh? What was yours like?" She walks over to sit down next to me, casually leaning on the armor and invading my personal space in a way she hasn't done before. Not that I'm complaining. Not by a long shot.

    "My parents were farmers." I can't help but chuckle ruefully. "Not fighters. We farmed animals, kept a range around the village to hunt. It was our game that sat on dinner tables, our husbandry which kept the game in the woods. Until..."

    She nods. "Yeah. There's always an 'until'. Well, if you ever wanna learn how to fight, I can teach you." She manages to sound chipper about it.

    "Oh?" I can't keep the amusement out of my voice. "Think I need a few lessons after seeing me in action?"

    "Nah. But I wouldn't mind seeing how you wrestle once we get this off you. And maybe everything else." She taps my chestplate, then gets up to go check the computer.

    Oh.

    Well then.

    Maybe being in this chair isn't so bad after all.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2021
  19. AngelicKnight.

    AngelicKnight. Lewd demon of negotiable affection

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    Cute! I ship it.
     
  20. ChestBurster

    ChestBurster Making the rounds.

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    I need a reminder as to who this person is. A character who can't take off his shirt.
    Hmm. It's probably someone new.
     
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  21. Threadmarks: Temet Nosche - 03
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    A knock on the door startles me awake, ears swiveling to the noise and staying pointed in that direction as I turn my head. I can feel my tail puff up from it and I hate when that happens, announcing to the whole world I got spooked like a little girl. Ugh.

    "Elise?"

    "Mhm?" My hangups aren't Chloe's fault. "I was dozing off, you got me, a little."

    "Oh. Sorry about that." She's holding a tray of food, walking into the room and setting it down on the little table next to Ainsley's bed. "Um, don't you have a place to -?"

    "Yeah, of course." I run my hand across the top of my head, massaging just behind my own ears for a moment to relax a little."I'd just rather be here for when he wakes up, is all."

    She nods slowly, then gestures at the tray. "Well... Kuri said you haven't been to the kitchens and to bring you that. She also said to hit you with something for not eating but I don't really want to."

    I smile a little, picking up some of the roasted vegetables she brought, then create a construct seat for her. "C'mon, take a moment before you go back downstairs. I haven't really talked to anyone today."

    She drops into the seat, visibly sagging a little and sticking her tongue out in a gawds I'm done sort of look. "I'm not sure if you can seperate Kuri and my grandmother anymore. They've fused into one being with two bodies, like some sort of dark home making godling."

    I can't help but giggle at that. "They working you to the bone down there?"

    "I love my grandmother and I've always helped her out with things, so I just sort of... ended up there. There's lots of people to help her now but since I'm always there..."

    "Then you've suddenly become the point girl and Kuri picked up on that and started too?"

    "Yes. That, exactly. It wasn't so bad when it was just us, but now..." She gestures around. "Look at this place. It's a real city, with... real roads and more city being built with actual schools and little shops and -"

    "Yes, I get what you mean. Durjak kinda blew up, huh?"

    "Yeah, it kinda did. We just flat out do not have these things in Tovalon. Being a nomad is great in its own way, but being able to live in a real structure with easy access to clean water? Not having to shit in improvised outhouses? Fresh food without roaming everywhere? These are things I could live with."

    I hm softly. "Well, tell me what you want to do, then."

    I can see her stop to think about it, frowning. "There's so many people from so many different places now I keep noticing that like... everyone is on a completely different point of view or level of knowledge, I guess? I keep having to stop and explain things to people. Stuff everyone in Tovalon knows."

    "You didn't answer me though."

    "I think..." She taps her chin, mulling it over. "I think we need a place where we can send newcomers to the city. There's too many of us now for everyone to just do their own thing. And somebody has been holed up in here along with him every moment she can spare." She gives me a pointed look.

    I almost feel bad about it.

    "So you want to... run it? Found it? Build it?"

    She throws her hands up a little in exasperation. "I don't know, I'm just a teenager!"

    "It's okay. I'm not trying to pressure you, just figure out what you're going to do when I tell Saan and Kuri you'll be leaving the kitchens."

    She glances at me, blinking. "Really?" I nod to her. "If... well, if you'll help me, I could do.... hm." She tilts her head, thinking about it. "You know, I don't know anything about running anything."

    "Yep. Would be helpful if you were to get a couple genkits to help teach you how to run interviews to find employees, huh?"

    "Yeeeees, probably. How am I gonna pay for all this?"

    "I'll make sure you have what you need at the beginning. We can fund it with a minor tax on sales in the city and expand it."

    "Expand it how?"

    "We'll have immigrants. You know about all the trade deals Zack, Mason and Ren are setting up? We build housing, we'll get people wanting to live in it. Which means we'll need a census on the people in the city and a place to give newcomers directions. I'll find somebody to set it up initially and then you can apprentice with the person who will lead the project until you're ready to help take over."

    "Really?!" She jumps up out of the construct chair and slams into me in a giant hug, making a quiet eeeeeee noise. I let the construct chair dissipate as I hug her back and laugh a little.

    "Yes, really. You're right, we do need to standardize some things before we get too big." I can't help but sigh. "And you're probably right about me taking too long in here, too. How bad are things, really?"

    "Not terrible. Not great." She stands up, almost reluctant to stop hugging me. Poor kid. "But they will be if you don't get out there and start giving some direction soon, because with Ainsley out of the pi-"

    "Hnbghnngh?"

    I turn to look at the bed and realize his eyes are open. There's visible confusion on his face as he tries to sit up and both Chloe and I move to push him back down to the bed.

    "Don't try to get up, not yet. Chloe?"

    "I'm on it!" She darts out of the room to go find the medics.

    I move the chair over and lean in a little, speaking quietly. "Hey. You won."

    He drops his head back on the pillow and closes his eyes. "No. I didn't."
     
  22. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    It's Aetius
     
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  23. ChestBurster

    ChestBurster Making the rounds.

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    Thanks.

    Anyway, I have to ask. Does Elise have her ring on full time because having green everywhere while she is having a casual conversation doesn't make sense in terms of being focused?

    Maybe tone down the colors to just single words or actions phrases, so the emotional colors don't have to be omnipresent.
    The author Zoat had the character reason that he normalized avaricious intent even before he gained orange enlightenment, which is why there is less orange text when he thinks and talks.

    Also, do Ainsley and Elise have empathic abilities as passive abilities, or do they have to use their rings?
     
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  24. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    She's literally focusing on the chair construct during the entire conversation. That's why she's green.

    Because you have to concentrate for green. As soon as she got rid of the construct, she stopped being green.

    >:T I don't do that sort of thing because I'm all oOoOh PrEtTy CoLoRs, there's usually a reason for it.
     
  25. ChestBurster

    ChestBurster Making the rounds.

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    That makes sense.
     
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  26. Threadmarks: Temet Nosche - 04
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    As the others make their way out of the room, I stay where I am, waiting for them to go. It didn't take long to get Ainsley up to speed and I didn't have much to say, since my people are usually pretty well behaved. It only took one look at his face to realize this wasn't the time to be giving casualty reports so I mostly focused on the positives, the mechs we can salvage and the people we've managed to organize and rescue, the after-action where we rolled their supply lines up.

    I left out the deaths, equipment lost and the people we didn't rescue in time. The lack of certain supplies. Elise can help me handle that stuff.

    I glance at her and she gives me a questioning look, so I shake my head and point silently at Ainsley while pinning my ears against my head. No, I need to talk to him.

    She nods once, then slips out of the room and closes the door behind her, the last to go.

    When Ainsley turns around he looks at me. "So, Emil."

    "So, Ainsley."

    "You didn't say much. Saving it all for when everyone is out of the room?"

    "I'm not about to lambast you if that's what you're worried about." I can't help but pace slowly and it's a big room, so as I speak I'm meandering back and forth, moving and talking. "Elise knows something is up. Kuri knows. I don't think the others do. I can see it every time you look at us, something in your eyes has change. Something behind your eyes has changed. What happened to you?"

    He stays silent for a moment, then heh's softly. "Turns out you're being worried in the wrong direction."

    "I don't follow."

    "You're concerned that the good man you knew has been hurt or messed up, right?"

    "I'm... concerned. End, stop there. No specific reason."

    "I was more broken before. When I put on the other ring it gave me... perspective." He takes a deep breath, exhaling slowly.

    I stop moving and look at him directly. "Ainsley, I like you. Elise likes you. I want to make that clear, before I tell you to cut the bullshit, stop being vague and explain to me what is going on."

    "I don't feel things properly. It's there but... distant. Out of reach. I was 95% hope all the time before. Putting on the second ring made my connection to compassion stronger, restored it. Now I'm two emotions instead of one." He shakes his head. "I know I should be asking Elise to try her ring on and fix my connection to the green light too, but I'm more worried it'll put me out of action again and everyone was worried about me already. If I tried to tell them it might happen again and I need to do it, they'd just argue with me. So I decided to shut up about it until I do what I should have done and take responsibility for fixing this mess."

    "Are you telling me that you're a kind of... semi-sociopath?"

    "Yes."

    "And that the only two emotions you can easily access are hope and compassion."

    "Yes."

    "And you're in charge."

    "Yes. This is what I was worried about before." He groans, crossing the room to drop into one of his chairs. "By making me more important than I am, things have just... I've become a linchpin. Before it was annoying and worrisome because I'm just an idiot with a cool ring but now I'm gutted that all I was thinking of was myself when in reality, the reason I shouldn't be in charge is because I'm crazy."

    I stop moving and look at him for several seconds. "You're stupid."

    "I beg your pardon?"

    "Stupid. You. Big, colossal idiot."

    "No, no. I got that part. I want an explanation for why you're saying it."

    "Elise can handle the important stuff. The stuff here. I mean, you're right, you shouldn't be here dealing with this, but not because of the reasons you think. How many ring bearers are their original bearers?"

    "I dunno. Me, uhh... I think Nemesis? I'm not sure about Vera."

    "She's not, I asked. The first red light user got into a fight with orange and died, she picked up the ring and finished it. It wasn't her. Red rings don't do body modification."

    He frowns. "The woman who was chained up behind the black king was this rings original user. I tried to track her during the fight but it was too late by then, by focusing on recovering the ring first I let her die." He winces as he says it, like the thought pains him. "I... think I see the point. Not many people who got their rings lived long enough to do anything useful with them."

    "Yes. Elise is competent and with my help, Durjak will be well. We've already begun organizing the remnants of the RSA -"

    "What?"

    "The Red Sword Army. We've been sorting them out, sending people home, matching would-be settlers to guides, finding spots to take them. Elise has been moving people around the region and helping them set up settlements on and off, while not here with you. She can do that full time for a bit now."

    "Where are you going with this, Emil?"

    "I want you to focus on the central batteries and all that stuff related to it. It's more important than this, here. Only you and Nemesis are meant to be here and he cannot be trusted. He is your opposite in every way. That means it's up to you to deal with this, before he tries to and we all suffer for it."

    "Everything I know about this comes from them, you realize."

    "Yes. Change that. They got this information before, you can too. Why are you even here, Ainsley? You need to go out there and find that last lightsmith before Nemesis does. You need to find out what's going to happen if that artifact fails and you need to focus on fixing yourself. Do I make myself clear?"

    He's giving me a wry smile. "Jawohl."

    "I know what that means, smart ass."
     
  27. NightmareWarden

    NightmareWarden Not too sore, are you?

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    This is a damn good chapter. Satisfying. Go Emil!
     
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  28. AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    I ain't forgotten about the story, just dealing with writers block.

    Shit sucks.
     
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  29. Threadmarks: Temet Nosche - 05
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    I think I have everything I need here.

    I've loaded the subspace pockets of both rings with as much stuff as I can think of that might come in helpful. The traders in the city were happy for the business, as were the local artisans. I like clothes and while the rings could just fabricate anything I need, this way I can help them while getting a wardrobe and supplies that are more original than just whatever I come up with.

    Don't sell yourself short.

    I'm exactly as tall as I want to be, thank you. Holding the indigo staff in one hand, I float up from the balcony of my home. I don't really need to say goodbyes; I can always come back here essentially any time I want to. Since I plan to be back regularly, this is more like a prolonged business trip.

    Take me where I belong.

    Silently, a hole opens in the air next to me, edged with indigo light. I can feel the pull of it through the staff in my hand, not a physical sensation but something in my soul, like an ache in a phantom limb. When I pass through it closes behind me and I find myself in a tundra.

    Where am I?

    The northern polar ice cap of Terra.

    The location appears in my mind relative to the rest of the planet. What am I doing all the way up here? Indigo ring, what's the deal here?

    The answer isn't a verbal response in my head like I expected, but a sort of tug in my minds eye to the north-west. I turn my head instinctively, then rise up out of the snow and begin moving in that direction. Give me a topographical map of this area and find me something interesting.

    I lower back down as the geography of the area appears in my head. There's nobody alive out here, which is puzzling because I figured the ring would bring me out here to help somebody. I don't know why I'm here and the only interesting thing is a long fissure in the ice. I feel like I'm being shoehorned, a little.

    Guess it's time to go explorin'.

    Lowering myself down into the fissure is a little harrowing. The rings brought me out here for a good reason and the walls of ice are not going to collapse on me. Even if they did, it wouldn't be enough to stop me. I can always get out. I'm good. No danger here.

    Nnnnope.

    The bottom of the fissure is jagged and broken but I wasn't expecting a nice, flat ground to trod on anyways. Holding the staff up above my head, I let the glow illuminate the area around me. I can... just about make out something in the ice, a sort of shadow.

    I look at the indigo ring on my left hand, then glance at the wall. Putting my hand flat against it I pause a moment to consider. I could probably get through here pretty easily with the blue ring, you only have to hope it'll happen and the ring works for you. But how would I focus my compassion for this?

    Oh, you'll think of something.

    Mmhmm. Compassion is... the drive to help others. A utility function to kindness, with the kindness itself being the goal, not necessarily the act in of itself. What you're doing doesn't matter so much as how the effort you're making can benefit the most people at once. The urge to protect, to guard. Like... paladins.

    Paladins can be pretty crazy though.

    So why do I want to get through this wall? Not for the sake of exploring, really. I asked to be taken to where I was needed, which apparently is here. If my role is to be a savior - and the color of these rings leaves few other possibilities - then I need to get through here so I can finish this and get back to helping others.

    The ice in my path is just a diversion from my primary purpose. Remove the obstacles.

    As indigo light strobes out from both my ring and the staff, the ice is scoured away, flaking and breaking. Rings, what're we doing with this ice?

    Purifying it and storing it. It's fresh water, after all.

    Ah, good. Good.

    There's a void behind the wall of ice, a tunnel winding downwards. Blue ring, lets get a map of this, please.

    Unable to comply.

    That makes me stop. Why?

    Unable to determine. Mostly likely probability is interference this ring cannot detect, such as magic.

    Okay. Indigo ring?

    Sorry, hon. I got nothing. It's like the ice eats my scans.

    Damnit. Okay, guess I'm going in blind. But not vulnerable. Construct armor forms around me, partially made in both colors. Hope and indigo really seem to jive well together. I was pretty sure when I captured the ring that I wouldn't keep it but now... I think... I need to keep it. Not only does it help give me perspective I lacked before, something about it's AI has attuned itself to me. It's mental voice is hauntingly familiar but I don't know whose personality its emulating and every time I ask I get nowhere.

    The walls of the tunnel are relatively smooth, like they were cut out with heat. Perfectly round, it's wide enough that I don't think I could touch the walls even if I stretched my arms out in the middle. Hovering my way down through it isn't difficult but I can't help but wonder what the hell would even make a tunnel like this, then ward it. Especially here, out in the middle of nowhere.

    I really hope I don't have to fight some kind of boss guardian thing at the end of this.
     
  30. Threadmarks: Temet Nosche - 06
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    As I descend deeper into the tunnels the light is beginning to fade. It's not long until it runs out and the glow from the indigo staff is all that I have to light my way. The walls of the tunnel are starting to become uneven, widening and jagged in places, parts of the wall out of sight in the relatively weak glow of the staff.

    Blue ring, can you do anything to help me see?

    Confirmed.

    Overlaid across my vision I see a pulse in blue ripple outward from me, tracing out the floor and walls. The tunnel is widening around me but continuing to slope downward slightly, the floor broken in spots. It would be a nightmare to navigate in the dark but since I'm hovering and slowly flying forward to make sure I don't run into something I'm able to skip the trouble of trying to climb over it altogether.

    There's an emotional resonance ahead. It feels indigo.

    Alright, thank you. Indigo ring, does your personality have a name?

    No, not in particular. This personality wasn't a living person. It's based on the projected model a part of your mind created. A personality you thought might fit something else.

    What would that be?

    The strongest emotional link you had rooted in compassion was for several cats.

    What? You're the personality of my cat?

    No. I'm an amalgamation personality based on over a dozen impressions of the personalities of animals you once knew.

    Why aren't you a family member or something?

    The strongest compassion you had was for cats, not people.

    ...

    Oh.

    I'm not sure what to think about that. That's... kind of weird but on the other hand, after the last month and a half, my definition of 'weird' has picked the goalposts up and flung them across the horizon, then told me to let it know when I find them.

    Alert! There is a spatial distortion as the tunnel continues ahead.

    I land on one of the shelves of ice stuck out from the floor, trying to 'see' with the pulses the ring is generating. The ring was right, it's kind of weird, like space is twisted and knotted on itself. Folds in the floor and walls link to each other in ways that shouldn't make sense, the pulses traveling through them and creating strange readings the blue ring is having trouble making sense of in a way to let me see it.

    What the actual fuck? Scan.

    Unable to comply. Scans remain unable to penetrate the ice walls.

    Can you plot a course through this and overlay it across my vision as a path to follow?

    The ring answers as a blue thread appears in my vision, shifting around like mist. Plot course and follow. Map the tunnels and create some kind of trail to help us establish a baseline.

    On it.

    Alright. Something is breaking space-time here. Wait. Scan for temporal distortion.

    Discrepancy found. Unable to determine the strength of the distortion.

    Well, shit.

    As the ring pilots me through an arch in the ice, the tunnel opens up and the rings pulses fall away from me. I stop and turn to look behind me for the mouth of the tunnel.

    It's not there.

    I fly backwards, following the trail the ring traced out for me. Nothing. It's not there.

    What.

    I'm just floating in a black void space, the mouth of the tunnel having apparently up and decided to go on fucking vacation or something. I turn around slowly, but it's uniform everywhere I look. Holding the staff behind myself so the light is out of my field of vision, I can see... exactly nothing. I'm not sure what to do.

    Then the light comes on and I find myself standing in a building, a modern building, blinking hard in the sudden brightness. I turn where I'm standing, slowly taking it all in. It's the foyer or lobby of an animal shelter and I'm standing in front of the counter. I don't see anybody around, but I can hear the animals.

    When I pass across the lobby I don't hear any footfalls. I trail my hand across the glass wall sealing off the first room with cages and my hand passes through it, rippling at the place where it intersects with the glass in a somewhat unnerving way. The sensation is only intensified by the fact that it doesn't feel like anything at all and I feel like it really ought to.

    I walk through the glass into the room full of cages and the noise which was muffled before hits me. Meowing on all sides. A woman passes into my field of vision outside of the room, passing through a hallway into the lobby and glancing into the room towards me but not reacting to my presence at all. She looks back and forth at the animals curiously, then shrugs and heads behind the counter.

    When I turn to face the cages there's several dozen cats all meowing at me. All of them are meowing at me in particular. It's obvious they can see me somehow, all of them are focused on me. I hold my hands up and I can't help but laugh a little wanly.

    "Okay, okay. I get it, you can see me. I don't really understand what's going on either."

    One by one the cats actually stop meowing, still focused on me but calming down. Rings, can we make sense of them?

    Animal translation on.

    Ookay. I point at one of the cages. "Can you understand me now?"

    "I'm really hungry!"

    "Let me out, I wanna play!"

    "C'mooon open the cage, open it open it open it ope-"

    "Why am I here? This place is so small! Where's my human?"

    "-n it open it open it open it -"

    No, stop. Focus on that last one, show me.

    The ring is marking two cats, gray tabbies. One is rather large and the other is a bit fat. The ring seems to believe the large one is the others son. I kneel down in front of the cages and unlatch them as the two cats turn to face me.

    The large cat sniffs at me, strolling out of the cage. Then he headbutts me.

    "I know you!"

    "You do?"

    "You smell like the big one."

    "I don't know who you mean."

    "The big one who took care of us when our human vanished. The fat lady didn't want us anymore. She wanted to send us away."

    "I'm so sorry." I'm already petting them, laying the staff across my legs to free my hands up to do it. Then I realize I'm petting them. "I don't know how I can touch you without touching the walls. I think I'm meant to find you. Will you come with me?"

    As I stand up, the chubby one leans into my leg. The staff in my hands is glowing furiously and I have no trouble at all extending my environmental shield and flight aura to them.

    As we start to walk, the building around us melts away into darkness, smooth snowy floor lit in front of us as we continue into whatever is ahead.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2021
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