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ZONE - Dragon's Lair ((A Dying Breed))


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#1 Maverick-Werewolf

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Posted 01 June 2018 - 04:08 PM

The journey to Dragon's Lair was a quiet one, as they passed through some decently civilized portions of the Empire. They took the road through Stonebridge - though that resulted in a slight delay, as the troll under the bridge was overjoyed to see Caiden when he collected their tolls. The troll invited them for drinks in his home under that bridge, and Caiden said it would be unwise to refuse.

 

So the lot of them ended up sharing some surprisingly delicious ale with the enormous stone troll. He was an unintelligent fellow, but gentle and kind enough. It turned out his name was Krug.

 

Eventually, Krug did let them go, though not without giving Caiden a jug of the ale to go, which Caiden seemed to appreciate.

 

Upon reaching the city of Dragon's Lair itself, they were met with quite a sight: a city covered in dragons. Dragon statues flanked the main gate, guarded by soldiers and knights clad in armor decorated in red dragon heraldry and bearing wings on their helmets, with shields like wings as well.

 

The city itself was hardly different: dragon grotesques decorated the buildings, along with dragon gargoyles and other dragon motifs - and if not proper dragons, things generally at had least wings, fangs, horns, scales, claws or some other draconic feature worked into their designs.

 

Great banners of red, white, and gold flew everywhere, displaying the city's pride - and all of these displayed dragons as well. On their way to the castle, the Venatori passed by a massive statue of a knight, tall and incredibly handsome, with a helm shaped like a dragon head tucked under one arm. Behind him reared a massive statue of a dragon, wings on full display.

 

The plaque, for those who could read, said, "Sir Chrisanthos Fireblood Draconius, A Dragon of the Red and Founder of Dragon's Lair."
 

Onward they pressed through that breathtaking city, until at last they reached a castle equally as decorated in dragons as everything else around them. The knights there let them inside, where they were to hold an audience with Cristina Drake, one of the daughters of Warren Drake, who was apparently busy in Illikon.

 

She met them in the great hall, though she wasn't busying herself being seated in one of the chairs by the throne and holding a proper audience. She was properly beautiful, with chiseled features and long, brown hair worn in a bun at the back of her head.

 

Cristina simply gave the lot of them a nod after surveying them with her steely blue eyes - her gaze briefly lingering on Caiden, who offered a brief bow of his head.

 

"I assume you're all the follow-up to those first two Venatori," Cristina said, seeming to struggle not to sound rude. She succeeded, but her trouble doing so was apparent, and she almost seemed to wonder why she bothered.

 

"I don't have much information to offer you, so I'll tell you what I told them: locals in the western districts of the city claim they're hearing strange noises, always in the night. But no one's been hurt or gone missing, so - frankly - I'm not sure what business Venatori have muscling their way around Dragon's Lair trying to find more damage to cause..."

 

Her voice drifted slightly, and she folded her arms over the red dress she wore. She turned her face away from them briefly as if she hadn't wanted all that to come tumbling out.

 

Caiden took a step forward then, resting a hand on Cristina's shoulder for just a moment before letting it return to his side. She glanced at him for half a second and then back at the other monster hunters.

 

"You know we didn't mean for things to go that way," Caiden said gently.

 

Cristina folded her arms a little tighter. "I... can't know that, actually, Caiden. You were his friend... But I suppose it's not your fault what happened," she muttered under her breath, as if she didn't want to acknowledge that part.

 

She looked to all the assembled Venatori and finished, "That's all I know. I didn't put out any contract for Venatori - the locals in the western districts asked my father to, and he did. If you want more information, you'd best go speak with some of the citizens near the western gates, leading out to the coast and the swamps."


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#2 Nightstalker

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Posted 01 June 2018 - 04:50 PM

Auric wasn't exact certain what, "damage," might have occurred in the past. Needless to say, that wasn't his foremost concern. "Very well then," he began as he stroked his chin, "it's a start at least. I'll make my way to the western gate and ask around. With any luck, someone should be able to shed some light on these strange occurrences." 

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#3 Sephsekla

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Posted 02 June 2018 - 11:17 AM

Krystia tried her best to look professional, but she was failing miserably. She loved to travel like nothing else (except maybe a certain dreamy one-eyed Venator), and this dragon-themed city was far more interesting in her eyes than the gutters of Illikon that she had grown up with.

"I'll make my way to the western gate and ask around." Auric was saying. "With any luck, someone should be able to shed some light on these strange occurrences."

"I think we should follow Caiden's lead," she interjected suddenly, moving to stand just slightly too close to his left side. "You know this area well, right?"
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#4 Nightstalker

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Posted 02 June 2018 - 01:05 PM

"I think we should follow Caiden's lead," she interjected suddenly, moving to stand just slightly too close to his left side. "You know this area well, right?" 

 

Auric let out a deep sigh as he crossed his arms and looked at the ground. Having watched several of his fellow Venator's interactions at the Castle, he figured he'd get no where debating with the swooning girl. Instead, he chose to remain silent and wait for the others to voice their suggestions.


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#5 Dalton Westmoore

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Posted 02 June 2018 - 05:41 PM

"I think we should follow Caiden's lead," she interjected suddenly, moving to stand just slightly too close to his left side. "You know this area well, right?"

 

"I'm sure he does," Agethar said dryly "but th' good lady just gave us suggestions. I'll help ye, Auric o' Axa."



#6 Sephsekla

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Posted 03 June 2018 - 09:43 AM

"I'm sure he does," Agethar said dryly "but th' good lady just gave us suggestions. I'll help ye, Auric o' Axa."

Krystia reddened slightly, a scowl forming on her face. She said nothing in reponse, but resolved to cut his purse later.

"Well we should all stick together, make sure nobody else goes missing." She grabbed Caiden by the arm again and turned to begin following the others.
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#7 Maverick-Werewolf

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Posted 03 June 2018 - 01:29 PM

Cristina gave Auric an encouraging nod - though Caiden didn't move, at least not until Krystia spoke up.

 

"I think we should follow Caiden's lead," she interjected suddenly, moving to stand just slightly too close to his left side. "You know this area well, right?"

 

Caiden's shoulders and arms visibly tensed when Krystia moved to stand on his left side. Cristina arched a brow, but said nothing, while Caiden turned to face Krystia and get her out of his blind side

Before he could answer, Agethar said, "I'm sure he does, "but th' good lady just gave us suggestions. I'll help ye, Auric o' Axa."

 

Caiden opened his mouth to say something-- and again was interrupted. "Well we should all stick together, make sure nobody else goes missing." Krystia said as she grabbed Caiden by the arm again and turned to begin following the others.

 

He didn't budge.

 

Silently, he removed Krystia's fingers from his arm and turned to Cristina long enough to say, "We need to talk. Later."

 

Cristina shrugged and replied wryly, "We don't have to. You look like you've got your hands full."

 

He huffed. But turned and left with the others as they made their way toward the western districts of the city - Caiden kept Krystia on his right side the entire time.

 

---

 

The western district of the city was just as breathtaking as the rest, though it was in a few of the shadier looking buildings close to the walls that they figured they would find the people who heard these supposed sounds... unless they also wanted to check with the soldiers patrolling the city walls, or asked one of the nobles passing down the streets instead of the common folk. Who they asked was their choice.


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#8 Nightstalker

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Posted 05 June 2018 - 01:19 PM

"I wonder if the guard has heard any of these strange noises," Auric began as he glanced at the nearby guards, "even if they haven't heard anything, I've got a feeling they could point us towards someone who has heard something."


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#9 Sephsekla

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Posted 05 June 2018 - 02:07 PM

Krystia nodded, finally turning away from Caiden for the first time since they left.

"Good idea. Guards tend to spill pretty quickly if you make them feel important. I got a whole week's food once when I conned the.." she cleared her throat suddenly.

"Which one's a good prospect then?" She began scrutinising the different guards present.
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#10 Sareth

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Posted 05 June 2018 - 08:12 PM

It was like watching a cart crash: horrifying, but impossible to look away from. Hollí wasn't sure who she pitied more---Krystia or Caiden.

 

The young half-elf's attempts at seducing the one-eyed Venator were both utterly transparent, and thoroughly abysmal. Even as she shook her head in pity at the pathetic sight of the little pup trying to pull around a man who probably weighed more than twice what she did, Hollí's eyes narrowed in anger---as if she could actually see the black-haired, blue-eyed cause of this catastrophe in the making. Lyneth's hand-prints were all over this, and Hollí resolved to have serious words with the other woman when they got back.

 

Hollí had hoped the display back at Castle Greywatch had been an anomaly, but that obviously wasn't the case. This couldn't continue. At best, Krystia's heart would get utterly shattered when she finally proved enough of a nuisance for Caiden to get angry and tell her off. At worst, the young half-elf's over-the-top flirting might prove a fatal distraction---whether to her or someone else. All Hollí needed was a chance to talk to the girl alone.

 

"I wonder if the guard has heard any of these strange noises. Even if they haven't heard anything, I've got a feeling they could point us towards someone who has heard something."

 

"Good idea. Guards tend to spill pretty quickly if you make them feel important. I got a whole week's food once when I conned the... Which one's a good prospect then?"

 

"That is a good idea" Hollí agreed, seeing her chance. "Still, I don't think we should limit ourselves to just one source. So, Krystia and I"---she pulled the young (and still annoyingly taller) half-elf close---"will go speak to the guards. And the rest of you can speak to the commoners who originally reported the sounds... or you could even try asking a noble if you can stomach it. Agreed? Good!" she said before anyone else could give their input, immediately setting out, dragging young Krystia after her.

 

"We'll meet you back here in a bit!" she called back to the others. As she did so, she caught Caiden's eye and gave the other Venator a reassuring wink where the smitten young half-elf couldn't see it.

 

Heading towards the nearest set of stairs up onto the wall, the moment they were out of earshot of the others Hollí turned to her kidnappee, speaking as they walked. "Look, I hate to break it to you kid, but if you're pursuing Caiden"---ha, if---"you're going about it entirely the wrong way."

 

It wasn't what Hollí would have preferred to say. What she would have preferred to tell the young pup was what was most likely the truth: when it came to loving Caiden, abandon hope all who enter here. Unfortunately, having once had some experience with such crushes herself, she knew that saying such a thing would only turn the girl against her, and possibly make her even more determined. So she had to take the gentler, if somewhat deceptive approach. Hopefully, in a couple of decades when Krystia had matured, the half-elf would look back on this moment and thank her.


"This means I will not have to regret sending back their envoy short a few limbs."

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#11 Nightstalker

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Posted 06 June 2018 - 03:48 AM

"That is a good idea" Hollí agreed, seeing her chance. "Still, I don't think we should limit ourselves to just one source. So, Krystia and I"---she pulled the young (and still annoyingly taller) half-elf close---"will go speak to the guards. And the rest of you can speak to the commoners who originally reported the sounds... or you could even try asking a noble if you can stomach it. Agreed? Good!" she said before anyone else could give their input, immediately setting out, dragging young Krystia after her.

 

 

It was either a blessing of some divine, or sheer luck that Hollí pulled Krystia away. Auric returned a quick nod to Hollí; he'd remember this in future. With the group officially split, he found the nearest guard and started his investigation.

 

"Excuse me sir," he started as he approached a guard, "have you heard any strange noises around these parts or seen anything out of the ordinary?"  


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#12 Dalton Westmoore

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Posted 06 June 2018 - 07:20 PM

As the others began to talk with the guards or split off entirely, Agethar moved towards the alleys imbetween the houses closer to the town's wall, Maugrimm moving after him.

 

He was looking for peasants to ask about the monster, specifically Beggars: they might know more than the bored guards or snooty noblemen.



#13 Sephsekla

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Posted 08 June 2018 - 11:33 AM

"Look, I hate to break it to you kid, but if you're pursuing Caiden"---ha, if---"you're going about it entirely the wrong way."

Krystia frowned for a second, before the expression transformed into a wide grin.

"Don't worry!" She said cheerily. "Lyneth was concerned too, and she gave me some really useful advice."

She blushed slightly, for reasons that were not entirely clear.
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#14 Sareth

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Posted 08 June 2018 - 12:44 PM

"Don't worry! Lyneth was concerned too, and she gave me some really useful advice."

 

For the briefest of moments, Hollí was dumbstruck at Krystia's blithe response. And the half-elf's odd blush when mentioning Lyneth didn't escape her notice either. She didn't... did she? Oh, who was she kidding---it was Lyneth, of course she did.

 

Hollí wasn't sure mere words would be enough for that woman---perhaps a week in the stocks or maybe a public flogging. However, that was a matter for later.

 

Putting on an easy grin, Hollí threw an arm around Krystia's shoulder---albeit with some difficulty---as she began to speak. "You see, the thing about that is... Lyneth is literally the worst role-model you could have---for anything, ever, but especially matters of the heart. She knows how to appeal to men in one way and one way only, and that's through their groins. And while you don't have the experience to know this, the sort of men you attract that way are almost invariably not the sort suitable for a relationship that takes place anywhere other than a bed and lasts much longer than a single night." She paused for an instant, and then struck her main blow: "I assume you actually have feelings for Caiden, and aren't just attracted to him physically?" she asked, for an instant casting a calculated glare of disapproval at the implication towards the young girl.

 

She waited a moment, and then continued. "Because I can guarantee you that Caiden isn't that sort, and he's not going to fall for such base manipulations. Following Lyneth's example and acting like a harlot is only going to drive him away."


"This means I will not have to regret sending back their envoy short a few limbs."

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#15 Maverick-Werewolf

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Posted 09 June 2018 - 08:05 PM

"Excuse me sir," Auric started as he approached a guard, "have you heard any strange noises around these parts or seen anything out of the ordinary?"

 

The watchman readjusted the helmet on his head and gave a shrug. "Certainly. Haven't seen anything, no, but heard? I've heard howls that'd probably chill even your blood. Howls like... beasts. Like a wolf, I suppose. Never heard a wolf before, honestly. Not until now, I guess."

 

He leaned on his spear and added, "Some of us have heard screams, too. I did, so did the rest of my patrol, one night... Screams were human, though I wasn't hearing howls at that time, either."

 

---

 

Agethar, meanwhile, looked for beggars - with Maugrimm in tow. He didn't have to search long before he saw a hunched old man. Approaching him, the old man looked up at him from under the shadows of a moth-eaten cowl and said, "Spare a coin for the poor, monster hunter?"


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#16 Nightstalker

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Posted 09 June 2018 - 08:46 PM

The watchman readjusted the helmet on his head and gave a shrug. "Certainly. Haven't seen anything, no, but heard? I've heard howls that'd probably chill even your blood. Howls like... beasts. Like a wolf, I suppose. Never heard a wolf before, honestly. Not until now, I guess."
 
He leaned on his spear and added, "Some of us have heard screams, too. I did, so did the rest of my patrol, one night... Screams were human, though I wasn't hearing howls at that time, either."
 
Howls, similar to that of a wolf... or at least, what the guard thought was a wolf. Screams as well, though not directly associated with the howls. It was entirely possible that these two were unrelated, but Auric did not have enough evidence.
 
"Is there any chance you could make out the direction of the howls or screams?" He asked as he stroked his chin.

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#17 Dalton Westmoore

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Posted 09 June 2018 - 08:49 PM

"Is there any chance you could make out the direction of the howls or screams?"

 

"Aye," Agethar said as he retrieved a gold coin from his pocket and held it where the Old Man could see "I'd be happy to give it to ye if ye might be able tae tell me everthin' we need about th' Monsters that be plaugin' this city."



#18 Sephsekla

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Posted 10 June 2018 - 09:55 AM

"I assume you actually have feelings for Caiden, and aren't just attracted to him physically?" Hollí asked, for an instant casting a calculated glare of disapproval at the implication towards the young girl.


She waited a moment, and then continued. "Because I can guarantee you that Caiden isn't that sort, and he's not going to fall for such base manipulations. Following Lyneth's example and acting like a harlot is only going to drive him away."

Krystia blushed a deep scarlet with emvarassment and anger. She pulled away, standing facing the other woman with get arms folded.

"Of course I care!" She hissed. "And Lyneth was helping me, which is a lot better than just insulting me."

She exhaled heavily, rubbing her eyes with one hand.

"I thought...." She looked away, her jaw set, and eyes looking slightly red. "Why does none of it make any sense?"
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#19 Sareth

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 10:55 AM

"Of course I care! And Lyneth was helping me, which is a lot better than just insulting me."

"I know it's hard to hear, but I am trying to help you" Hollí said softly. "I'm saying these things because I don't want to see you get hurt."

"I thought.... Why does none of it make any sense?"

 

Hollí wanted to groan in exasperation---she wasn't some philosopher to be pondering the great questions of life---but she managed to resist the impulse, and did her best to answer. "Because it's love. If it made sense, it wouldn't be special. And if it wasn't special, what would be the point?" she said. Then she stepped forwards, and lightly laid a hand on Krystia's arm. "I know you feel somewhat alone, but trust me, you're not. No one knows how these things work, we all just muddle through as best we can."

 

Just wait until you're my age, and your only choices are hooking up with someone so much younger than you that they might as well be a child---and who'll still almost certainly die before you do---or else trying desperately to find a member of your own species who is not only roughly the same age as you, but actually someone you like, Hollí thought to herself. There was a reason she generally avoided romance altogether, these days. (To her eternal shame, once, in a particularly low point of her life, she had started to find Jed and/or Forge attractive. That had been a wake-up call).

 

She paused for a moment before continuing. "Caiden is a good man---you chose well. It's just that if you want to have a chance with him, you're going to have to do things differently" she said. "So, a couple words of advice. First: take the pressure off, stop being so clingy and forward... and on a related note, try and stay out of his blind spot. Caiden's too polite to say it---or even really show it---but you've been making him feel rather awkward. Second: love can't be forced; it takes time, it takes building a rapport. Unfortunately, like so many things in life, there are no shortcuts in love. So let him get to know you---naturally, casually. And once you've built up that rapport, that closeness, then you can try and turn it into something more."


"This means I will not have to regret sending back their envoy short a few limbs."

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#20 Sephsekla

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Posted 23 July 2018 - 10:51 AM

Krystia sighed for what felt like the thousandth time today. She didn't raise her head from her hands.

"I don't know what to think any more." She paused for a moment. "Thank you."

She paused for a few moments more, then lifted her head, eyes slightly red.

"Shall we go and find our missing Venators?"
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