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RP:Point of No Return

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Part of the What You Leave Behind Arc

Part of the What Dreams May Come Arc

Summary: An expedition is launched deep into the frigid northern wastes, far beyond Frostmaw and into the unknown. The allies against Kahran seek to conduct covert reconnaissance upon these strange Ouroboros to determine if diplomacy is an option or if battle is their only recourse. The team splits in two, with Khitti, Brand, Kreekitaka, Rorin, Niix and Zahrani following Lionel and Eirik, Krice, Blut, Hudson, Eleanor, Pilar, Esche and Uma following Leone. Ancient ruins scatter a serene forest, untouched by time. The Ouroboros ambush Lionel's team, surrounding them and forcing Leone's team to lend a hand. Although Aram, one of the tribal elders, speaks of peace and reconciliation, he is murdered by the second elder, Ysiri.

The few Ouroboros loyal to Aram aid in the conflict that ensues, but the bloody encounter lasts only moments until the third elder, Mulgrew, reveals herself as something altogether separate of the Ouroboros -- a trickster to them -- by appearing without notice and sending them all to their graves. Some in the expedition express frustration that the tribe's great forge is gone, too. Others still had hoped for a battle fought on their own terms, not this interloper's. Mulgrew couldn't care less. The woman tells tale of long-forgotten dungeons spread across Lithrydel which may hold the key to besting Kahran. She vanishes, her true intentions unknown, leaving behind a crystal skull which Lionel, entranced by Mulgrew's presence and uncertain as to why, immediately acquires.



Lionel | The sun rises on the distant eastern horizon, but this far north, the snow will never melt to its presence. Those first few golden rays draw attention to ancient towers, broken and battered as if the gods came through in righteous fury. The towers, too, are covered in snow, but pockets of old stone reveal their fallen might. Who lived here? Which empire dwelt and dominated and then fell to time, as empires irrevocably do? Lionel, dressed in loose-fitting scarlet red silks, Hellfire strapped to his back, cannot say. He grips the reins of his wyvern, surveying these forgotten ruins from on-high. Soon, the towers are well behind him, and behind the rest of this alliance against Kahran. Whether they travel on wyverns like his, or upon horseback, or rely on heightened speed of their own making, they’ve come with him to scout the edge-of-the-world frontier on which the Ouroboros tribe are rumored to dwell.

Lionel | The sun is a little higher, the biting cold a little less so, and the snow just as blanketing when Lionel waves his left arm to signal they’ve reached the end of the line. A frosty ravine is carved out of cracked, wounded earth not far from a forest that seems to stretch into infinity. Primeval oaks grow to dizzying heights within that vast forest. Lionel’s wyvern sets down within the ravine alongside the resting mounts of numerous soldiers and mercenaries here to aid the cause. As his allies gather, he’ll clear his throat and speak loudly enough for all to hear. “Alright, folks. Listen up. We’re well outside the reach of most maps. Somewhere within that forest, the Ouroboros tribe awaits. Our intel has them roughly ten klicks in. Supposedly, they light magical fires around their huts, but keep your eyes peeled just in case the legends are all outdated. We’ll go in, get a good look at their armor-crafting facilities, and try to get a feel for whether or not diplomacy’s an option. We will not engage them. Stealth is of paramount importance today, so I’m splitting us into two teams. One will head through the eastern forest; the other will head through the -western- forest. We’ll reconvene here before nightfall to report our findings. Now, uh,” he adds awkwardly, rubbing his cold cheek with his hand, “I figure these teams will need names, and they need to be short, sweet, and easily distinguishable. So, we’ll go with Heck Team and Frak Team. I’ll lead Heck Team, so tag along with me to head west. Leone will lead Frak Team, so if you’re with her, you’ll be going east. We’ve got 10 Frostmawian troops with us today, and 10 mercenaries courtesy of Beldur. Both teams will split ‘em evenly. Now it’s on you: you need to decide whether you’re a Hecker or a Frakker. Whether you’re with me or with she, your help today is invaluable. As soon as you’ve chosen, we’ll begin.”

Leone || A raven with shiny, iridescent black feathers lands beside Lionel and folds her wings to her sides. The bird seems far more keen than others of her species, and more hardy. She is, after all, braving the frozen wastelands with a troupe of warriors. Several of the raven's feathers have begun fade, moving through shades of shimmering charcoal and refractive grey into a wonderfully metallic sterling silver. The corvin takes a stride forward, thrust one spindly leg outward - and literally unfolds. Flipping feet over head in a seemingly unvoluntary sommersault, the bird unfurls. In a whirlwind of limbs and motion, the black tailfeathers stretch toward the ground and billow outward into a remarkable and familiar grey and black cloak. By the time the bird's limbs come to bear toward the ground once more, boots clatter to the ground, and the aging priestess stands upright. She nods to Lionel, and moves off to one side slightly, preparing for her team to gather. "Of course," the smith's dichotomic tones of sand on silk wend through the trees, "We value each and every one of you for your skills and talents, and know that you will be absolutely indispensible to the mission and your team."

Bastion sat in the snow, looking between them all. He was only here to save lives, to keep people safe as best he could who would be vulnerable in battle, casters, perhaps, and to stabilize those who fell into emergency conditions and the like. His offensive contributions for battle were... limited. He was a pacifist, after all. He looked around, trying to gauge where he'd be most helpful. Perhaps he should simply stay back, and heal those who retreated…

Krice arrived atop the saddled back of Gylworliath, his wyern dark-green of scale, and triangular of head. She had been with him since the flight far north of Rynvale to rid the island there of oversized and far-too-active bugs. They were a team now. Dressed in his usual black attire along with a sharply crafted crossbow looped over his back, and his trusted katana strapped against one hip, the man seem prepared for the possibility that, for whatever reason, their stealth could be lost. Keen eyes scanned the frozen horizon before he guided Gylworliath low alongside Lionel's own wyvern, landing a few metres away. She chittered quietly, aware that muted sound was a necessity, and folded her wings against her muscled body once the silver-haired man had dismounted. Gold-streaked eyes passed over the transforming bird-to-priestess and his expression softened with guarded fondness, but he remained a metre or so out of reach, diverting his focus between Leone and Lionel through a handful of monochrome strands (the rest loosely gathered in a cord-tie against his nape). Their respective words drew his attention and devotion, though he lingered on Leone. His instinct was to go with her, but astute observation and unspoken questions would lead him to choose whomever needed him most. Leone had the gift of divine powers, whereas Lionel was gifted with a fire sword - but it wouldn't help him with things like surveillance. Whoever needed his acute sense of sight and hearing most, he would trust that Leone or Lionel would tell him as much - and with that person he would go, extending a nod and quiet well-wishes to the other team.

Blut approached the pair in a different attire. Instead of his regular black gear he wore white. Custom gear made specifically to camouflage better in the snow with a brown inside incase they have to traverse dirt terrain. Blut wondered who to support but figured it would be better to help the priestess. Lionel at the least was a quick warrior he had no idea of the capabilities of Leone as he walked up to her. "Guess we are teaming up here." Blut claimed as he looked over at Lionel.

Eleanor arrived on horseback, her mare’s pace untiring, a blue crow perched on her left shoulder. Swathed in a black cloak that seemed to shift with shadows around her, gloved hands held onto the runes reins of her steed as at last she slowed, impenetrable celadon eyes peering out from the low cowl of her cloak and lingering on the gathering crowd before sweeping toward Blut in particular. She said nothing to the other but guided the mare after him, crossing toward Leone’s side, her chin angling in a deep nod of quiet respect for the priestess. El slid down from the saddle, boots crunching the snow as a flash of metal gave hint to weapons underneath the drapes of her cloak, and the crow swooped low off her shoulder, circling the group before descending to its former place. The spell-rogue remained reticent as she awaited the next part of their journey, but behind a veil of blonde bangs, the turquoise in her diadem occasionally flared before seeming inert again.

Zahrani had flown in on a wyvern similar to Lionel, the feline enshrouded in an insulated cloak of grey. She wears a dark veil over her face to keep her eyes from reflecting light and giving away her position, fashioned from a special cloth that she could see out of, but others could not see into. The androgynous panther dismounts, her footsteps making hardly any sound in the snow. She is outfitted for speed and maneuverability; heavy, noisy plates would not serve her well here. A mace is slung to her belt, hidden in her cloak, and over her shoulder is slung a satchel of supplies and a crossbow, the traditional ranged weapon of paladins. The paladin places a warm paw on the wyvern, gesturing for it to remain here, before padding her way to Lionel. It made more sense to have both teams with at least one person who had an affinity for divine power. She turns to the others who had joined with the male human, offering a polite nod as her black tail swishes beneath her cloak.

Khitti :: Also a part of the recon mission were two humans on an eight-foot shadowcat down on the ground. Khitti and Brand were much more content to -not- go flying around on wyverns thankyouverymuch. Is needing flight clearance for a Hollow pregnancy actually a thing? No clue, but Khitti wasn’t taking any chances. Brand would not have a fun time if she suddenly went into labor early during this mission, up in the air, would he? No. No, he would not. The charcoal grey, purple-eyed Tikifhlee would become engulfed in shadows, both from its own abilities and Khitti’s shadow magic, melding seamlessly into the darkness as it sprinted about Frostmaw’s wilds, passing the warrior’s guild headquarters and heading over that icy bridge along the way. They’d soon come to an abrupt halt to the designated spot that they’d previously discussed with Lionel about.

Khitti :: Brand helped Khitti down from the cat, the pregnant redhead wibble-wobbling just a tad. Will she ever not have balance problems? Probably not. Despite the weakness it caused her magic, that katana known as Tenbatsu Kaji was strapped to her back, the aura from the holy sprite within glowing a low, deep gold--the frakking thing practically begged her to come with, even though Khitti still can’t understand it. Even if she wasn’t going to use it whatsoever, Khitti thought that perhaps Cyris’ blade might inspire that drive for freedom and independence that the party hoped to have from Kahran and his forces. Brand continued to think it was a bunch of hokey religion nonsense. He still wasn’t convinced the sword was there to help. There was nothing better than a good blast of fire to someone’s face, you know. Regardless, here they were with the sword and the two joined Lionel. “If you don’t know what team were on by now, then you’re frakkin’ hopeless,” Khitti snarked with smirk. That meant her and Brand were on Heck Team, of course. She’d give a nod to the rest of those present before falling silent and awaiting further orders from the Hero of Hellfire. The Tikifhlee had other ideas, of course. Instead of heading somewhere else that was out of the way for now, it padded over to Zahrani, let out a soft ‘mowrowr’, and gave the paladin a nuzzle. Damn it, cat. Do what you’re told!

Eirik :: The ashen faced warrior stands beyond the threshold of Frostmaw for his own reasons. Choices which may yet be scrutinized at a later date. The warrior stands to his near six foot height donned in armor gathered from a plethora of places; mainly Frostmaw, Larket and Venturil - which is much lighter than usual and padded with wool. Despite what the others, who have gathered here, might think, silver hues watch them as they fly overhead. The spear within his right hand is spiked into the ground without relent. That freehand moves to adjust a single leather strap on his armor. Once satisfied, he smirks to himself, twisting that scar over his features. His spangenhelm his donned and then he slings his leather plied roundshiled over his back. Why is Eirik out here? Truthfully, he preferred the empty fields when transforming - the beast can be set off easily and without target, he fears an innocent might be harmed. Without further warning, his travels bring him to where the group has landed and he scrutinizes those who have gathered. Once Lionels words have been issued he makes his choice and steps towards Leone. This is who he would follow, mostly because things are still weird between himself, Khitti and Lionel. A nod is given to the group Frak and he further waits his orders.

Pilar was so tired after the battle that had taken place just days before. But, if Lionel could make it today, so could she. Besides, she not only owed him for his help, but had already agreed to this in the first place. She shivered as a gust of wind cut throug her coat. She had never been so far north, and even in death, she was starting to feel the chill. Her couatl followed suit with the wyverns, and landed in the snow. Pilar dismounted, adjusting her belt. The leather pouches carried a number of vials, mostly magic restoratives. She'd need them. She scanned the crowds for familiar faces, finding some that lifted her spirits, others that didn't. As she watched people split into teams, she felt herself torn in two. How could she choose who to protect? With an ache in her heart, she went to Leone. Maybe she wouldn't be so distracted on Frak Team.

Kreekitaka decided suddenly that he was not wholly comfortable with having a team leader who was also a bird. Especially if they were supposed to be doing this all stealthy-sneaky-like. She might become a bird again and then he'd have no idea what to do because birds don't give orders! That would be absurd! Imagine a bird trying to give someone orders. So silly. He’d traveled here aboard Vindicator, but had been advised to leave the huge scorpion someplace where its size wouldn’t be an issue, and was dressed in white furs enchanted to keep him and his water tanks warm while also being a good color for snow camouflage. He shifted sideways over to Team Heck, because he knew Lionel and he also knew that if things went sideways, the two could combo together for a very nice explosion. All they needed were sunglasses to look away from it with and the two were basically the back-to-back heroes of an 80's buddy cop/action movie.

Hudson is here with Uma, Mayor of Cenril. They'd ridden at breakneck speed on horseback on Huds' ride, Cleopatra, a beautiful thoroughbred with metal wings who also displays a certain amount of disdain for the proceedings with her stomping and snorting. She'd rather be racing, thanks. Uma, who is clad in warm robes, dismounts immediately, not wanting to carpool longer than is necessary. She, without consulting Hudson, moves to take her position on Leone's team, offering the other woman a warm smile that's all business but does suggest respect. Ah, Eleanor is here too. Hudson leads Cleo in her direction, lifting his eyebrows in quick succession in a nonverbal 'Whassup, Whassup.' Cleo sniffs Eleanor's hair aggressively, and Hudson only notices belatedly; he'd been distracted by his noticing the continued existence of Krice. This right here and now isn't about their aging beef, so he for the time being is content to pretend that he doesn't even see the guy. Civil-ish.


Lionel | There’s something about this forest that demands mere mortals stare up in wonder. Is it the thin rays of light cast down from the invisible above, gleaming and brilliant but sparing? Is it the songbirds, strange meter-long creatures of bright blue with curved beaks whose trill is unlike anything to the south? Is it the heat permeating down from the canopy, defiant against the deathly cold beyond the treeline? “This place is… beautiful,” one of the mercenaries gasps, reaching out to touch the stalk of a flower blooming outlandish chromatic shades. The flower immediately twists and turns as if to stare, spiked barbs plucking out from its maw, prompting the man’s eyes to bulge in shock. A Frost Giant soldier under the Queen’s banner steps in quickly to intervene, halberd raised at the ready, but the flower simply rotates back into its stalk. Numerous forced chuckles can be heard from shaken troops. Lionel wills himself forward past the glamor, forcing his azure eyes to keep steady. People’s lives are depending on him, not just here but elsewhere. So many elsewheres. Just thinking about it is enough to cast this whole gleaming, brilliant, sparing place to all its shadows. “Let’s mosey.” The forest haunts, but beckons, deeper and deeper in the beckoning...

Lionel | There’s something about this forest that’s old, impossibly old. Is it the chipped cedar vases strewn across a small clearing, shapen into the faces and sculpts of giantesses with their great arms over their eyes, refusing to see? Is it the wild horses, big-bodied and shimmering silver and majestic in their foraging? Is it the half-vanished yet nevertheless-imposing ivory arches soaring between trees, archaic reminders that something once lived here of deific renown? “Aramoth once blessed this place with war,” a Frost Giant says in wonder, “but perhaps even war should know its limits.” She leans down to examine what seems at first to be a misshapen stone, but upon closer inspection is revealed to be a tomb. She blinks slowly, realizing they’re standing near a long-running row of tombs. “Whoever they were, they’re long dead,” a mercenary shrugs coolly. “Perhaps not all,” Esche, Lionel’s shaven-headed elven comrade, answers from meters behind the team. When did he arrive…? The forest haunts, but beckons, deeper and deeper in the beckoning…

Niix hadn’t just been sitting and whittling and feeding the wyrm in the tavern. She had been keeping her ear to the ground and listening for anything unusual by way of rumor. Honestly, everything these days was unusual but when word of a large gathering to the far north rumbled over the murmurs of giants and men alike, Niix decided to take a chance. Borrowing (or stealing – the woman wouldn’t miss the furs and cloak given what she had in that over flowing chest already) something warmer, the teen struck out in the directions rumor had said this shindig was happening. Sure, she could have gotten lost and died of the cold, but Pen kept her going with his weird words of encouragement. The pendant actually warmed the closer she got to the rather….large….group. It had warmed so much she didn’t even feel the ribbon if ice that seemed to bisect the heat. Niix had to pull it out from beneath her shirt and hide beneath the cloak and even then it was almost too warm. “Can you cool down a bit, Pen?” she hissed in its direction. Whatever was said back she merely shook her head and threaded her way among mercenaries and soldiers; pausing occasionally if they had heard of or seen an elf – Yes, an elf. About yay tall? Pointy ears? Stoik and doesn’t look like he smiles much? Goes by the name Esche? No? Thanks-- until she hear first one then another rather rousing speech. Reaching for Pen, Niix held him in her hand and watched as those picking sides moved to one or the other. Now, whichever side Lionel would be on is where she was going. Almost at the last minute she saw Eleanor going the opposite direction but the flow of bodies didn’t exactly allow for a sudden change of direction. Niix made mental note to find El later. She wondered if Tuna had missed her at all. And then, they were off, to wherever it was they were going. All she knew for sure was it had giants that might be working for the bad guy or not.

Leone nods to each member of her team as they join. Before long, the assembled party is moved off toward their corresponding branch of the forest. The smith turns to look at those she's with (but totally hangs back long enough to give Uma a gracious smile, and insist that the more than capable Mayor of Cenril hang towards the back; she's too valuable to the people of the seaside city to place up front). "I want someone to run scout," the farrier's gravel-on-velvet timbre mulls out in hushed tones. Her brilliantly green gaze falls on Krice, and she jerks her head in the forward direction. A finger is pointed toward Blut, and then thrust toward one far side of the lane, "You take that side, even into the trees if it'll hide our numbers better." Her head again wobbles, and the teeming pools of viridian fall upon Eleanor. "Fall back slightly, but keep pace with Blut. Make sure nothing snatches him up out there." To the other side, she motions Eirik, "Same, in the trees. I'm sure you can handle it." And then the smith turns to Pilar. She gives the vampire a wide smile, and again gestures to the "other" side, where Eirik has been positions, "Keep pace, hang back a little, make sure he stays in existence, yeah?" Hudson is left to be Husdon - and hopefully guard Uma.

Zahrani kneels and reaches out to pet the Tikifhlee after it had come up to greet her, the panther smiling behind her veil. She then brings herself to her feet once more. A lot is going on, and she stays focused on the task at hand. Her ears take in the strange sounds of the forest, and her nares flare with curiosity at the new smells permeating this mythical place. Upon hearing Lionel's order to start walking, the feline follows not too far from him and Khitti. Her cyan gaze scans the forest, taking note of various movements and keeping alert for anything that looks remotely hostile or giant-like (not counting those giants who might be in their party). She reaches up to her satchel, wrapping her hands around a spyglass that has its front lens covered with that same fabric as her veil. To those with a keen sense of smell, the feline smells like...nothing, really. Aside from covering anything that might reflect light, she also had taken the precaution of using hunter's soap to mask her own scent. She isn't sure how good an Ouroburos giant's sense of smell was, but better to err on the side of caution. They could very well have creatures of their own with keen noses.

Krice 's head turned as Blut approached Leone, scrutinizing the man's arrival to the priestess' team. His gaze lingered briefly, notably lacking emotion to tell his impression of the other male one way or another, before shifting across the faces of the other gathered warriors. Lingering just in front of Leone's team and off to the side so as not to impede her vision of anyone, or vice versa, the man noted Eleanor's arrival with something resembling a nod, though his reactions toward her were muted - as muted as an already-stoic warrior could be, anyway. One by one, other warriors and attendees chose their teams, and one by one they were scrutinized in the warrior's steely stare. His gaze lingered on Khitti, heavily pregnant and hopefully not a danger to herself by being here - or a weak link in the chain of teams should her unborn try to arrive tonight. It was an interesting group, for various reasons. The berserker's arrival to Leone's team drew Krice's gaze away from Team HECK to scrutinize the scarred face of Eirik. Hopefully no rage would be triggered within that one. If he felt skepticism for the safety of the two teams and the reliability of stealth in each, he didn't show as much. The warrior offered a nod of acceptance to Eirik before Pilar's arrival garnered his attention. He greeted her similarly, focus scanning past the vampire's face to the only-vaguely familiar features of Zahrani, on to Team HECK, alongside Lionel. It seemed as though the numbers were balanced with relative evenness between the two heads. Whether or not Hudson's arrival had been expected, Krice regarded the lycan with cool indifference, though his metal-winged mount with a little more intrigue. A beautiful thoroughbred indeed, and amusing in her ill mood. Resting a hand lazily over the hilt of his hip-mounted katana, the warrior offered to Uma a simple nod, his focus drifting back to Leone thereafter. Upon receiving her direction to scout ahead, the man communicated his agreement before further movement in that direction solidified his role. Silent and swift was the warrior's progress through the old forest. Whatever wonderment he shared as a result of the accompanying Giants and their knowledge of this place was put aside in favour of executing the mission with as much stealth and efficiency as possible.

Khitti and Brand mosey right on with Lionel, leaving the Tikifhlee behind with the mounts of everyone else. Sure, the scenery was beautiful, but it reminded her far too much of the Shadow Plane--specifically the White Woods where the flora spew spores that cling to your form and soon find themselves embedded into your lungs. The horrid spores grow into the same plants, eating away at your insides, growing their offspring within, and hiding themselves in the corpses of the poor fools that didn’t think to bring breathing masks with them. It was all too much of a reminder that Khitti wasn’t immune to that anymore. Time after time lately she’d been reminded just how mortal she is, and now, how her unborn child is just the same. Sensing her agitation, Brand was about set it aflame, but the redhead stayed the Catalians hand. “We don’t know how connected everything is to -him-,” Khitti whispered. Just as walls usually have eyes and ears, so too might the foliage they were walking through. Brand looked disappointed, but he nodded in agreement. She was just as tempted as he was to scorch the entire forest with her own shadowflames or hack it to pieces with her katana. It very well could ruin the mission, unfortunately, so she too refrained.

Blut after blut turned his cloak inside out to better hide him from the surrounding he made a odd move. He took a small bag from his pocket opening it over himself. The bag itself was covered in dirt. It stained his white leather armour and what more it hid his sent. Blut nooded at the priestess as he began to climb the trees being sure to stand in such a manner that the leafs would hide his shadow. As much as Blut would have liked to remove his wraps up here trees don't have mana and he needs to see them. With that last gripe he materialised crimson claws on his hands and feet as he leaped from tree to tree. The mana claws giveing him more stability as he moved.

Eleanor left her rune-reined mare with the other beasts of transport, her inscrutable stare shifting from one familiar face to another as they moved through the forest at Leone’s side. El’s lips moved to activate a spell but no sounds came out. Beneath her cloak, a tattoo came to life, glowing a vivid azure as her movements became muffled, her boots sinking into the snow and ice without a single crunch to betray her. The priestess had most of her attention next as she gave out orders - the rest of her attention was on their surroundings, keen and perceptive as the gem in her diadem throbbed with a slowly-advancing pace. With herself assigned to trail after Blut, the woman’s chin moved for the second time that morning, nodding to Leone before she lifted both hands, pulling her cowl lower over her head. The shadows of her cloak shifted and moved, distorting her figure further as she gave the assassin a head start. Where he ascended into the canopy, the guild leader stuck to the ground, crouched low and darting fluidly from tree trunk to tree trunk. She could sense Blut’s mana claws, and it bothered her because that meant others might also detect him; but she relied on his experience to keep him out of sight and would do her best to aide him from below. The blue crow on her left shoulder took flight again, deftly dodging around tree limbs as it gained altitude. It flew back and forth, the blue shifting to an inky black as it settled into a glide halfway between both parts of their group.

Kreekitaka gazed around, frankly rather impressed at the beauty of it all. The flower which turned its spiked gaze on the mercenary along with them was catalogued, its features filed away for later. If they needed to beat a hasty retreat from this place, perhaps disturbing it on their way past would offer their pursuers some difficulty—and perhaps if grown in his garden he could have its properties studied more fully. Was it poisonous? Mobile? Could he have it bred together with a more beneficial plant and have an active dispersal system of Daisy’s delightful tea? The possibilities were endless, but for now this was about stealth, and risking attack for such a prize wouldn’t be prudent on their way up there. He kept his attention focused mostly on their flanks, letting his stalk eyes relax and drop sideways so as to give him better all-around vision. He would make sure that nobody would get the drop on them out here. While he had much to say to his teammates—Khitti, for example, had been looking rounder of late, and he was starting to worry that whatever cyst was building in her lower abdomen was growing dangerously large. He had unfinished business with Rorin, as well, and Niix was an acquaintance who he might have opportunities for in the future. So much to say—but he knew his voice was not exactly quiet, and that stealth was their ally here. Perhaps it would be best simply to remain silent.

Rorin seemed to step out of the needles of light glaring from up above while down below his steps barely pressed into the snow. There was both natural talent and pride in the skill he brought to his work as he accompanied the recon team partly for his own purposes. Those on the edge of the group gave him odd looks if they could spot him for it was with a mix of apprehension and mysticism that Rorin was now behold. The tension and unease didn’t seem to spread to him while carrying a cool calm serenity in his aura that showed in the grace of his body language. A flat, featureless, enclosed helm barely glinted off the light, and the fur pelts that made up his surcoat blended in perfectly to the winter woodland areas. Behind him was something even less noticeable, a bear-sized direwolf native to the region, Isangrim was the mans faithful companion. As the immense canine laid it’s nose to the ground it came up with a sniff and a low growl, big bushy tail wiping away the pairs footprints behind them. Through the trees they weaved and went further on into the beckoning forest.

Hudson is, like Krice, more than a little alarmed by the presence of a seemingly rather pregnant Khitti but not saying anything about it. He feels a bit of second hand dadxiety about it, in no version of reality would he be cool with Alvina making the same decision. In any event, the groups separate and they begin to move forward and become assigned to roles. Hudson senses quickly that there's another wolf in Eirik, and he watches the other man with a wary curiosity. Hudson finds himself falling back behind Eleanor and Blut to guard Uma, who is getting her caster on. Which is to say ignoring him and weaving her fingers in the air, murmuring words underneath her breath. One by one, their party members are surrounded by self-contained barriers that are visible to the eye just briefly before dissipating in their entirety. These barriers can protect their hosts and reflect a small amount of damage, both physical and magical, before they are 'used up' and would need to be recast. Cleo, for her part, only ever wants to go fast and as a result of her desires being denied is now behaving in a high strung manner. Which is to say she is bristling dramatically in response to various noises, such as the sounds of twigs snapping, and requires alertness and constant soothing from Hudson lest she suddenly bolt into a derby-levels gallop.

Eirik only proffers a final nod to the warrior Krice, whom he’s had a few dealings with. Berserking would only be used in an absolute dire situation. The wolf in Hudson is also sensed, but ignored entirely. Frankly, Eiriks not always friendly, but he does recognize the man as one in attendance at his fight with Shishi, yelling at the Ref. Without further words Eirik finds himself examining the surroundings as they press onwards, with a spear still clutched in his hand. When they reach those rows of gravestones, the words of the giant and Esche do not linger within his mind. Instead, the man who looks more raider than innocent, continues to survey the area looking for anything out of the ordinary. As probably, the least stealthy member of his team, he’s set to use his senses instead. His broad shouldered frame would come in handy should they find themselves under attack, but until then he dons the mask of silence. That is until he himself, finds the need to look upon the writing here. A foot idly swipes the snow away in an effort to obtain further information for himself. Were they runes? The Rosfjorian tribe he hails from uses them as basic text. When Leone ushers her commands his attention moves to her and then to the targeted area. “Understood,” his voice is low and grainy likes rocks being crushed beneath a weighted boot. A nod is further confirmed to Pilar who has been asked to scout the same area behind him. At this point Eirik is off, stepping through the terrain with ease. This is no different than his own homelands, and he finds himself amidst the trees, alone, using them to the best of his ability. He might be a warrior, but he has stalked prey before and he uses that set of skills to stay low; out of sight as much as possible. His ears listening to what may lay hidden within them. His eyes darting from one tree to another. To be honest, he’s on guard and ready for whatever they may find.

Niix he girl moved at the edges of the larger mass. Large groups really weren’t her thing most of the time, but she kept an eye out for movement in the foliage. She looked for shadows that were darker than the rest; things that moved and shouldn’t. Her steps were eerily silent. In her hand Pen warmed and cooled; the pendant’s voice had become a constant whisper in the back of her mind but she managed to ignore it for the moment. Unless someone gave the teen a specific job, she’d play sneaky look-out.

Pilar wasn't in the mood to be friendly, but offered her teammates polite nods. Even Eirik, who it appeared she'd just been assigned to watch out for. Okay then. Like Uma, she's also casting some spells. Muffled movement and invisibility, to be exact. They'll be visible to each other, just slightly transparent. To anyone outside their group, they'd be completely invisible. She followed several feet behind Eirik, splitting her concentration between maintaining the spell over increasing distances, and watching his back. Hopefully this wouldn't come back to bite them.

Niix She isn't a fighter. Once all those odd flowers turned into huts and the biggest freakin' giants she had ever seen in her life, Niixes hands went up, in turn releasing the pendant to tap against her chest. It felt colder and it was quieter than before, only a buzz behind her ears now. "You aren't going to grind my bones for bread are you?" she mumbles under her breath, idly staring at a pointy thing way too close to her neck. And if others choose to fight, changes are she'd take advantage of the chaos to slip between legs and into the forest beyond the huts. She'd surely take that chance if it was offered.

Leone reaches up and touches the pendant that hides beneath her shirt. The hammer-shaped bauble upon a lengthy chain is yanked from its hidden cover, and frowned at in grave disapproval. "Lionel's in trouble," the priestess says bluntly, "We're going back." A hard, unblinking stare is offered in the direction which the silver-haired warrior has disappeared. The smith holds her breath and falls into stoic motionlessness, maintaining the nearly phosphorescent stare up the path. After several moments, she sucks in a large breath, and turns around to face the opposite direction from which they were traveling. The flanking members of her party are surveyed before her gaze falls upon the nearby mountain. "Looks like we have a choice," she offers the party, "Either we go by road, and potentially get ambushed along the way, or we go by mountain - which will be sneakier, but no doubt delay us. They could be dead by the time we get there. Me? I'm all for going by road," the smith's salt and honey timbre breaks through the trees.

Zahrani has a job to do. They stand in unknown territory with an unknown adversary surrounding them with weapons drawn. Her link to Cyris felt diminished, but not gone. Trying to fight with so many unaccounted-for variables would likely end poorly. She wasn't about to Leroy Jenkins her way out of this. They still need to learn about the arms manufacturing operation the Ouroburos had set up. Her unarmed hands emerge slowly from her cloak, revealing black-furred, heavily muscled arms. She looks up at the giants with a calm gaze behind her veil; this is far from over. She just hopes the other team isn't in the same predicament.

Krice was feeling an increasing sense of unease as he wound his way through the aged forest. No longer were those brilliant equines a source of beauty and wonder, their changed behaviour now cause for concern and uncertainty. The warrior slowed in his progress northward, quietly venturing along unwritten pathways of least obstacle and noise - before a wave of awareness crashed over him and he abruptly halted. Something unseen hit the warrior and he shifted a booted foot out to stabilize his balance, muffling a grunt behind pressed lips. Looking around, he searched for the culprit but found himself staring south before long. After a moment's breath and unmoving concentration, he pressed forward, retracing his steps to return to the Leone-led team. Between trees, across large, gnarled surface limbs, and under low-hanging foliage he ran, speed favoured over absolute silence - though his progress was still quieter than one might expect. He could see Leone up ahead, spied the others who had branched off per her direction, and ran past them to arrive at the priestess herself. His expression was one of subtle undetermined tension but also calm alertness, mind aware of the necessity for haste - as well as a bit of caution. Wasting nary a breath despite his pace to return to Leone, Krice acknowledged the two options and agreed on one; taking the road, rushing in. His natural quietness would help him draw as near as possible before being detected. Communicating this in a single glance to the priestess who knew him well enough to decipher it, the warrior stepped away and began a hasty sprint for the other forest, katana held in a reverse grip behind him, the glint of steel muffled by the wind-swept folds of his black shirt.

Khitti :: Khitti would assure all of these poor people worrying about her condition that she’s perfectly fine if she knew what they were thinking! Brand is here. Brand is bae. Brand is the ever-wonderful husband-to-be that’s going to kill the frakkin’ heck out of any enemy that dares to go near Khitti and their child. Things lately have made the mage-captain a mite twitchy and he’s quite alert at the moment and always keeping an eye out for the worst. His dad-senses will surely tingle if something happens. Also, Kree, it’s more of a parasite than a cyst, really. Khitti will give you charts and graphs pertaining to human anatomy and biology later. Wait--there’s trouble--annnd... yep. Brand’s dad-senses are tingling now, albeit a little too late--he’s still getting used to this new superpower, you know. “Frak,” he muttered to himself. His magic was dampened moreso than it typically was in the Shadow Plane! And that’s not a good thing. Khitti’s own dark magic was likewise, and she frowned over her shoulder at Tenbatsu Kaji, who’s golden light had almost entirely been snuffed out, “This isn’t good.” Were this Khitti still a vampire, she’d almost assuredly vote to wreak havoc and continue on to their destination. But, this Khitti was mortal… and pregnancy aside, she really wasn’t looking to die again anytime soon. The redhead reached forward, grabbing the back of one of Lionel’s sleeves to get his attention. It wasn’t often that he saw her like this, worried and without that usual fiery spirit of hers, “I don’t think this is the time to fight. Not when there’s so much more ahead of us.” She had plans for the future, damn it. She couldn’t just throw it all away now. Live to fight another day and all that jazz. When she finished speaking, Brand pulled her close, in an attempt to protect her however he could in the off chance that things that things went pear-shaped anyway.

Blut heard the voice of Leone and the light that erupted from the canopy of the forest. Blut took off his wraps for a moment as he looked over to see the barrier. Blut jumped useding the tree as a pole to slow his decent. His boot slide down the tree once Blut made it down he ran wavekng his hand so Eleanor would follow. He caught up to the group as they talked about storming the place. "Yeah I'm not" Blut protested to the idea of the road. "They have a barrier and considering that we can't see it I'd say it's anti magic. Plus look around us we are not equipped or trained for a head on fight." Blut emphasis in a hushed tone waveing his arm around to the troups. "If it were humans I'd consider it but these are giants and they have a army. Sides if Lionels team surrenders they might survive long enough for us to sneak around for a rescue." Blut crossed his arms as he put his wraps back on. "I get you care for them but you can't do anything for them if your dead" Blut explained coldly. Either way he was not rushing in regardless of what he was told.

Kreekitaka absolutely WAS a fighter, and being surrounded by enemies with their weapons already drawn and leveled at him was not something he was unfamiliar with. Already he was scheming—if magic wouldn’t work here, he’d have to resort to good-old-fashioned physical violence. Juke sideways, use his carapace to tank the first series of blows, and use his claws to hamstring a giant or two and get his friends some cover with their corpses as the Ouroboros lay bleeding out on the ground. Then, he’d just need a moment to get his jawblade out… this was going to be a glorious battle and he’d prove once again that he was the best giant-slayer in the realm. One problem, though—if his allies refused to fight, he’d be in a tight spot, and so he held off on making the first move. If they decided to be diplomatic, he could always try for that action. But to make sure they were aware of his intentions, his paddles flared up and rippled them to make a noise like that of a rattlesnake. He could get them out of this. It was why he was here, he was sure of it. And besides—if you kill enough people, diplomacy becomes easy! They start doing whatever you ask just to avoid getting killed.

Rorin finger tightened around the trigger of his strange looking crossbow as the smooth surface of his visor gave no hint to what lay beneath. A religious marking taking up most of the back of his surcoat seemed to glimmer in the lowered light as he lilted softly behind the main force of the group. Isangrim seemed to know the best paths through and around the flower patches though he growled low at the sight of them banking the path. A second before the voice boomed through the air he raised his hackles, snarling, while Rorin stilled behind him with weapon raised. “What is it grim?” He tried to ask before being interrupted. The flash of light had his defences up, the magic absolutely dazzling to his inhuman eyes, while Isangrim winced. As the beings came into view Rorin tested the truth of the mans tellings. His magic flowed differently than others, coming from an alternate source, yet he could feel that even it’s unnatural flow was somewhat stemmed here. Rorin stood straighter, his finger standing idle by the trigger as Isangrim licked his chops. Beneath the untelling cover of his face plate Rorin kept one of eye on the commander, ready to follow whatever lead he was presenting. Tactics demanded they surrendered. Unnumbered, outmatched, basically crippled, they might as well see why the villagers here didn’t decide to kill them outright. He wondered if the commander felt the same, knowing that if enough of his team mates attacked, Lionel’s hand would be forced to defend them accordingly. What would that mean for their mission? For Frostmaw?

Eleanor | As soon as she caught the cawing of her crow, Eleanor was doubling back to Leone, the bird swooping low to settle on her left shoulder. “We coods rush, sure, but yoo'd be askin' us tae commit suicide.” Her husky voice pierced the air at last as she arrived before the priestess. “Ah ken we'd dae better comin' up oan their backs, tak' them by surprise.” She sent a sidelong gaze in the general direction of Team Heck, before shaking her head and lifting her celadon twins to Leone again. Piping up in regards to the magic-diminishing ability surrounding their friends, she added, “Ah main hae a solution fur 'at.” Her full lips twisted into a wicked grin, and the woman began by lowering the cowl of her cloak, revealing the iron diadem as she tucked some of her wheat-and-flax bangs aside. And what she meant by her words was that the gem in her diadem would make short work of the anti-magic field, provided she could get close enough without getting caught. The spell-rogue did love a good challenge, and she folded her arms, adopting a confident pose. “Jist lit me gie close enaw, priestess, 'en yoo'll aw be able tae cest aw th' savin' spells ye can.”

Hudson realizes, in the fashion of a candle suddenly illuminated, that Eirik was the guy who lost the fight. O. Man, Lithrydel is a small world. Hudson immediately decides, based on no evidence except the anecdotal evidence that constitutes his gigantic ego, that HE would not have lost that fight. In any event, their slow patrol is interrupted by the need to decide, quickly. Hudson isn't feeling the sneaky suggestions, nor is Uma. "Road," they say in inadvertent unison. They look at one another, and Uma lifts her eyebrows as if to say, 'What. Puppet Mayor I may be, but I can make my own decisions, thx.' "I can fly and take someone, preferably a magic user or--," he begins to say, as Uma simply hoists herself onto his horse. "--well, K," he finishes, the invitation now conclusively mooted. He glances behind himself at Uma, who coolly straps herself into the harness that exists for this purpose. Thus secured, she reaches into his saddlebag and palms a few small metal objects, which happen to be primitive smoke bombs and grenades. When you're an alchemist who marries an engineer, you can make some things. When the kids are sleeping. "Careful with those, don't hit anybody we like," says Hudson, hearing the tell-tale clink of metal behind him. "Oh, I'll try to avoid the women," says Uma, in what passes for grim humor.

Eirik :: When Leones words ring out he turns to act and hurries to her side; Krice runs past him in these moments. He’s a Berserker, not an assassin. Stealth and shadows belong to those who trained with them. The more direct route sounded far better to him. That other choice sounded like one based on bullspit and grand schemes of catching them all off guard. Bluts reaction only reminds him of his previous dealings. His difficulty in following an order had screwed up a contract with Hildegarde and subsequently had him kicked out from the collective. Sure Eirik will no longer pass judgement on him, as he himself is out, but that reminder of past deeds is still there. Words of magic are tossed in and Eirik only wants to hiss in response. “You have weapons don’t you?” His words only proclaim that there is always the ability to fight, with or without magic. His silver hues linger on the assassin for only moments longer. But even the cloaked ones words speak of stealth. He just shakes his head, what group did he join? “I’m all for the road,” and Eirik begins heading in that chosen direction.

Pilar was in favor of [RUSH]ing to their friends' sides. Perhaps strange given her usual mousy, cautious demeanor, but the lives of people she cared about were in danger and by the gods, she wasn't going to waste a minute! She pulled a vial from a pouch and downed its contents. Magic flowed through her body, reinvigorating her. “We need to get there NOW. I can keep us invisible, muffle our movements. Please, we HAVE to hurry!”

Lionel | Aram watches the stragglers put up what little fight they can, but nods slowly to the greater wisdom of the crowd. With enough weapons down, he unfolds his arms and waves a beefy palm for the whole of the Ouroboros tribe to lower their own pikes and spears. “Good. Now we can talk. Ouroboros deals with Kahran out of necessity, not by choice.” Aram, caught up in his attempted explanation, doesn’t notice that only some of his tribe have heeded his orders. He takes a few steps toward Khitti, shaking his great big head and sighing. “He came to us, many moons past, before you even knew he stalked the realm. A millennia ago, we made this harsh place our own, to get away from the burdens of so-called ‘civilization’. Our magics had been twisted too many times for too many dark purposes. We said, ‘no more.’ For a thousand years have we dwelt away from your woes, and over a thousand years have we learned to smith fine armor.” The few among the Ouroboros who had lowered their weapons now seem tense; they’ve realized how many of their peers still seem poised for war. “Kahran came to us with powers beyond even our own,” Aram says, his sad eyes upon Zahrani. “He threatened to kill us one by one if we did not work for him. He killed a few to demonstrate his… resolve. Now I believe we share a common…”

Lionel | The female Ouroboros tribe member, with the two sharp swords, steps behind Aram and slices his head clean off. His body falls to the snow. She licks his blood off her blades. “Kahran came to us with powers beyond even our own,” she mockingly repeats. “He killed the weak. Well, not all of them.” She glances down at Aram’s corpse. “His power will restore the Ouroboros to relevance. His power will make me, Ysiri the Wild, unstoppable.” Ysiri whistles, tapping her swords together repeatedly. Metal-on-metal clangs like death. “Kill them all.” Titans of their own domain, the hostile Ouroboros clash with those few who stand beside Lionel and his alliance, breaking through them one by one to cut down the intruders. Their muscles bulge, their armor is mighty, the intensity of their swings is barbaric. Balls of fire burst from a few of their palms, into the fray, and balls of ice come roaring in as well. A thin defense has been forged by Aram’s loyalists, but even so, Frostmawians and mercenaries are already falling in red splats upon the white ground. Lionel raises his sword in charge. “With me now!” Battle erupts.

Lionel | Through the woods they go, running on adrenaline as much as legs, to save their allies from certain death. Twigs crunch noisily underfoot, distant songbirds trill in alarm, and bewilderingly silver horses flock wayward in their path. Team Frak’s loud heroism rings true. Fearful moments pass, but then, over a slight incline, the Ouroboros are revealed. They’re locked in battle, surrounding Team Heck in a terrible pincer. Their weapons glisten against the bits of sun as they strike. Their huts, ornate and made of the finest wood, their forge broiling the flames to forge their fine armor. The Ouroboros tilt their heads in recognition, and a din of shouts emerges; Team Frak has been spotted. Many of their pikes and spears and swords swing wildly in a redirect, sparing several in Lionel’s party at the last possible second. Leone and her compatriots have sacrificed stealth to save lives, and the looks of startled relief on many faces down below are enough to show that gratitude is felt deeply. But the Ouroboros, blasting fire and blasting ice, spells as ancient as they are, slashing and jabbing, are just as quick to dispatch a few of the troops and mercenaries in Leone’s employ. Now, the battle is split, and salvation may be in the cards for those formerly captured, but both teams must fight for their lives…

Niix was just starting to relax as Aram starts talking. Well, this might not - Nope. Wrong. As usual. Pen flares some reserve of energy in warning as that sharp and pointy is thrust towards her neck. It doesn't entirely miss, drawing blood at her collarbone just as she leaps to her left. The chain around her neck oddly doesn't break when the edge of the sharp-and-pointy slides over it. "Come on, Pen! Blast them like you did that Captain!," Niix yells about the hiss of fire balls hitting snow and the thud of ice-balls (a lot less fun than snow-balls) hit the ground. The sound of men, and women, screaming either in pain or a war cry deafen the teen as she belly-crawls to a hut and hopefully past it.

Leone is singularly focused while rushing through the forest to aid her friends. The smith begins to disentangle herself from her wrappings. The cloak is unleashed from her shoulders, soon followed by the leather jacket, hallmark of her smithing profession. The farrier is sweating as she peels the layers off and tosses them to the road, her back and shoulders already alight, burning, with the holy power that emanates from the ceremonial and ritualistic markings emblazoned on her skin. She notes those around her, and her gaze levels on Pilar. "Do it," the smith yells to the vampiric woman before a quirked brow and a grin are offered to Eleanor. "Do. It," the smith reiterates in precisely and curtly enunciated syllables. Once the team has brought the party to the Oubourous heathens, the smith comes to a skidding halt. She shoves a hand into a pocket, and produces a vial of holy oil. Eirik is the first to receive the farrier's dousing of annoinment. She flings droplets of the stuff in his general direction, enough that at least one drop should land on the lycan. Two fingers then begin to hastily scribe in the air, mapping out shapes that leave faint tracers of white light. Blessings of strength, speed and accuracy are heaped upon the male, followed by wards against pain. An attempt is made to deliver the same upon the airborne Hudson. The smith's right arm then shoot outward, her hand balled into a fist, and a gentle flick of her wrist issued. The runes along the inside of the milky white flesh bubble and glow brightly. All at once, the petite plover's anvil appears, suspended over the heads of the myraid warriors rushing in their direction. It keeps pace with those who are incoming before, seemingly of its own accord, careening downward toward the heads of the opposing forces. A fireball engulfs the careless cleric's raised arm, flames following the path all the way down to where arm and neck converge.

Eleanor knew what she had to do, nodding to Leone with resolve. The cowl already lowered, the spell-rogue would live up to the rare class name, taking the iron diadem off her head with a tense breath caught in her chest. It was one thing to take off the crown in the heat of the moment - on board a sinking yacht for example - but it was another thing entirely to -deliberately- remove it, tucking it now against her belt, secured with a runed, leather strap. Already the headache had begun - the moment the runic iron was no longer around her skull, the turquoise gem thrummed with life. It vibrated in her head even as it scintillated with light, and having been held back since that fateful election night, it was Hungry with a capital H. Eleanor grit her teeth, steeling herself as, with the rest of the group, she took off at a breakneck sprint. Arcana-based power surged through her muscles, enhancing them toward her target - whatever was causing the diminishing of their powers, weakening those she called friend this day. She could feel its presence as acutely as she could feel the strange gem embedded in her forehead, and she raced toward its point of origin: the barrier surrounding the Ouroborus. The closer the spell-rogue became, the stronger the buzzing in her head until she was sure she could hear it -outside- of her head too. It took all of her focus to narrow the gem’s attention, channeling its power through her, and at last she stumbled near its edge. El didn’t feel the pain of her knee hitting the cold, hard earth. She didn’t feel the sudden exhaustion as the barrier attempted to drain her, weaken her. With unwavering determination, she drew up all of her strength and reached with both hands for the barrier. At first, only tendrils of arcana responded to her touch; swirling beneath her palms, the anti-magic barrier suddenly reacted to her gem with disdain, fighting against Eleanor’s draw. The gem was stronger though, and within the span of a heartbeat, it lit up with a brilliant light. El’s eyes gave off a faint glow of celadon before she squeezed them tightly closed. Distant were the sounds of their battle as the spell-rogue struggled to absorb the barrier’s magic, it being her only purpose in this fight until it was drained enough to be fruitless against the arcane casters of their group.

Zahrani had kept her hands raised when she was watching Aram's monologue. Upon seeing the female Ouroburos giant lop his head off, one paw moves to the crossbow over her shoulder, while the other travels to grasp her mace. She knew there was at least one spear pointed at her. She turns to the giant that had been pointing its weapon at her, and sure enough, it was heading right for her face. Her body is swift and moves in a flowing motion. The heavy head of her mace meets the shaft of the enemy's polearm, parrying it aside, but not before it tears the veil from her face and leaving a surface cut on her cheek. In the same motion, her crossbow is aimed directly at the giant's head. Divine light dances around the bolt as it gets launched forward, the paladin taking advantage of her foe's forward momentum to amplify the force of the impact. The bolt pierces through the giant's eye, the behemoth's form going limp. Zahrani moves out of the way, hissing at the pain on her cheek as she readies another bolt. Cyan eyes survey the chaotic scene, a silent prayer to Cyris for whatever intervention he might see fit to provide is sent by the feline. She raises a divine ward as a fireball heads towards her. She couldn't absorb the full brunt of the magic, but she could angle the diminished shield and sent it flying at another Ouroburos. The panther's senses are heightened, keeping an eye out for friends, foes, and any information they could take with them.

Kreekitaka was, honestly, slightly disappointed. He’d expected to have a fight just now. Now how was he going to work through this fight-blood he had pumping through his—oh, perfect. Well, not completely perfect. Aram had been a nice enough guy, it was a shame to see him so ruthlessly cut down like that, but now it was Fight Time. With a loud wooping ululation, he hauled his jawblade from its holster and pulled the ripcord that started feeding potions into his water supply. Just a moment… wait for an opening… now. Potions beginning to surge through his bloodstream, he freaking launched himself into combat, using the reinforced blunt side of his weapon to smash cracks into the joints of their armor before turning it around and wrenching the cracks open with the jawblade’s teeth. These gaps were then ruthlessly exploited, his jawblade tearing entire chunks of flesh away from their bodies everywhere he could land a blow. A sword came down on his arm, but his potions had reinforced his carapace and the damage was being undone even as he was attacked—he countered by wrenching the oversized blade from his assailant’s grasp and jamming it into another giant with a single fluid motion, then lunging at the now-disarmed female and battering at her with his weapon over and over. Eirik had a battle-rage problem, perhaps, but he certainly was not the only one with the condition. Kree was feeling exceptionally violent today. Maybe it was the aftereffects of Muzo’s fearlessness potion still lingering in his system.

Khitti frowned as Aram spoke Ouroboros’ plight--at least, the plight of those that were not so inclined to join with Kahran, but did so anyway to save their lives. The mood of the situation shifted again without hesitation as Ysiri attacked Aram, leaving poor Khitti--who was standing so near to the male--covered in his blood as it sprayed from the spot where his head used to be. Khitti had only moments to register the thick, red life force that clung to her warm clothing as well as her skin and hair. It was almost as if she thought that bloodthirst would surface again, despite no longer being a vampire. Brand, also covered in a bit of blood, shook Khitti to try to bring her back to the present, “Khitti. Khitti! We have to frakking move. -Now-.” He’d busy himself shoving people aside left and right, dodging blows and magic alike. That is, until the barrier broke. Both Khitti and Brand’s magic returned, the Catalian quick to start lobbing fireballs at faces and shove daggers made of ice between ribs. Khitti would soon return to herself and summoned up great arcs of black lightning and balls of shadowflame, aiming to take down whomever sought to hurt those on her team.

Rorin tenses slightly beneath his armor as he scrutinizes the crowd. The warning bells in his head are rising as Isangrim slowly lowers his belly to the ground and Rorin returns his finger slightly to the trigger of his loaded bowgun. While the cloaked soldier listens his armament is angled slightly towards one of the giants clan who had not lowered their weapons. A deep breath fills his lungs as his aura shivers almost imperceptibly. As soon as the new chief beheads her prior he levels his weapon to aim while Isangrim bears fangs in preparence to his pounce. Another pound of pressure is put against the trigger of his tri bolt crossbow with every clang of her swords and every evil word that slithers from the mouth of the vial betrayer. “Go for the heels Grim!” He commends as the dire white wolf pounces and roars, agile for his size, darting between the legs of giants and distracting them to open them up for Rorin’s shots. After burying his custom auger shaped bolts into the joints of three separate giants Isangrim leaps to Rorin’s flank to watch his back as he reloads. With grim’s barks behind him Rorin pivots in time to erect a holy shield, deflecting the worst of the enemies magical onslaught. Three new bolts slammed home as the loader clicked into place and Rorin scanned the field for new targets and defence points.

Krice rushed headlong into the fray as Giants announced the arrival of his team, a frontward step initiating his flicker-move - where speed briefly took him from the sight of regular humans and seemed to transport him several metres away in a single moment. Through the head of an unsuspecting enemy his katana sliced, evenly severing tendon from muscle and cutting cleanly through bone. Magics warped around the blade, spasming before they dissipated as if dismissed altogether. Pivoting, the silver-haired warrior took care to ensure that he didn't run into the path of his own allies' magical spells, fighting peripherally to dispatch foes around the fringes of the battle, and working his way every inward as allies closer to the epicenter of battle drew the attention of other enemies. Working in tandem with the magics thrown about the area, moving efficiently and only as much as necessary for his blows to be concise, Krice engaged headlong in the fight.

Pilar didn't need to be told twice. Running and casting spells at the same time were not her forte, but she managed. The invisible, muffled party made it to the battle in time to save the important, named characters... Only for the anti-magic field to dissipate her spells. Well, as Lionel liked to say, frak. But Pilar wasn't a one-trick pony. She preferred to buff her allies and otherwise support, but she could still fight. She dodged a giant's sword swing, throwing a punch that connected with his junk and turned him into a curled up ball of pain. She picked the sword up, its weight a little much even for her, but she could still swing it, and swing it she did, lopping off another warrior's leg at the knee. As she fell screaming, Pilar briefly though about how war was really not her thing. Then yet another Ouroboros came at her and she cut his hand off. It was at that point that Eleanor's gem began to absorb the barrier's magic, and Pilar felt her power return. She dropped the sword immediately and began casting. She wasn't limited to just illusions, no. Lightning shot from her fingers and into giant after giant, stunning them and causing them to drop to the ground.

Eirik is in a full blown charge to climb that incline, but comes to a careening halt near its highest section to survey the scene. Leone’s blessings are received, but he has no clue what they are until he moves to act. His shield is yanked from his back and Eirik bellows with a ferocity before fully stepping into the calamity that is battle. Upon reaching his first target he ducks low, dipping his shield into the snow and flings it in their direction. His target thrusts a sharped weapon into the formed shroud of mid air snow, but only claims the ground as a hit. For instead, Eirik is no longer there, aided further by Leone. Instead, the northman has rolled around the flank of this giant. It’s shocked state is further panicked by his spear piercing into its Achilles tendon. That leather plied round shield is brought full force in a wide arc - smashing into his own impaled weapon! The effect of his side swiping tactic tears his spear free with a violent disregard for its well being and a shower of blood. He jumps back suddenly, expecting the creature to come slamming down to the ground, lifting his own shield once again and is instead catching a blast of ice. The magical attack forces him to redirect his attention, whilst parts of his armor are riddled with magical frost from behind this protective device. Thank the gods that be for his shield, but Eirik does not wish to stay in this for long and again jumps to the side and out of its cone of attack. Landing with a roll and a grunt, his shield is once again pulled before his frame - eyes set on a new target while his previous one does indeed slam into the ground. It’s sudden wailes of agony are only a musical footnote within his minds eye.

Niix heard Pen loud and clear now; as soon as the barrier goes down he's yelling in her head "Roll over!" Without hesitation, the half-elf rolls to see a huge axe swinging down. Her coat and cloak part to expose the pulsing pendant and a blast of dark magic spews from the engraved metal. That utter blackness engulfs the giant and explodes. But, there are no flying giant meat chunks falling. The Ouroboros giant simply isn't there. With a breath of releaf, Niix uses her elbows and heels to find a hiding place behind a barrel set against a hut. It's from here she'll watch the rest of the fight; and what a fight it is.

Blut didn't come with the rest of them. Takeing a few extra minutes to circle round the back whilst team Frak soaked up spells. He wasn't trained or armed to deal with the armoured frontline no he went for the mages. The man stole a saber from the smaller warriors that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. With one swift motion Blut took out a small bottle of nightbloom venom and coated his blade with the black liquid. Made to put these giants into a near death like state. Blut charged the mages his wraps off allowing him to see the spells in their makeing and dodge accordingly. If they saw him coming which with all their attention on the frontline would be hard. Even fleshwounds would put the giants into a sleep so deep they would appear dead.

Hudson FINALLY Cleo is allowed to live her best life. She beats her metal winds and takes off like a jet with Hudson and Uma in tow. They fly above their charging allies. Uma, it turns out, has a decent arm, and she pitches a explosive grenade in the fray of bad guys. There's shouting and metal clanging against metal and then... the ground shakes with an explosion. Some dead bad guys are pitched into the air. "Strike," calls Hudson, turning Cleo to loop around again and get a better angle since the Ouroboros are regrouping. He spies Khitti, pregnant woman, in the fray of battle, and nearly dives in some probably futile effort to evacuate her. Nearly because she apparently starts going buckwild and throwing black lightning at people. Maybe not so much defenseless pregnant woman. "Hm," says Uma, thinking the same thing. Sensing an opening thanks to Eleanor, she begins an incantation behind him. "Give me one. Uma," Hudson is saying to her, freeing up a hand and reaching behind him. "I'm casting!" she snaps at him, and resumes doing just that. Hudson has to wait. A translucent bubble expands tidily around Khitti and her entourage, protecting them from ranged attacks. "There," says Uma, now handing Hudson an explosive grenade. He only gets the one, because she resumes casting and ignoring him immediately after, summoning up an ice wall from the ground to spike one of the Ouroboros and cut off a pursuit heading in the general direction of Leone. Cardinal rule of PVP is you take out the casters first. And if you're caster yourself, you protect your fellow casters who are likely being targeted by the other side. Hudson is reduced to being a chauffeur in all of this.


Lionel | Blood and guts spill and hang from shrubbery. The dead scream before passing. Blades collide, then one slides past the next, and the blood and guts spill and hang anew. Reconnaissance has become open war. A snap echoes through the landscape, and a brilliant light spirals through the Ouroboros’ lair, crackling into the weaves of their anti-magic barrier, deafening it, puncturing it, courtesy of Eleanor’s uncommon ability. Incredibly, at the exact instant the legendary tribe suffers this humiliation, an anvil quite literally chases a frighteningly high number of Ouroboros, piercing even -their- armor, cracking even -their- ribs, rendering even -them- as the dead. Lionel, temporarily stunned by the maneuver, regains composure and jettisons forward in a wide swinging arc, Hellfire roaring into flames. It melts the thighs and hips of the giants he reaches, shoving them down into the snow, where he might come around for another pass, a deadly pass, slaying them before they can rise. And, frankly, it’s enough to say that Kreekitaka is killing a lot of people today. The giants’ pikes take two more mercenaries in the sides, leaving them where they lie, and another Frostmawian troop under Lionel meets her end. Pilar’s lightning zaps its way between trees, as fast or faster than the slicing, dicing Krice. Eirik, Blut, and Zahrani claim their kills, Niix’s pendant -- itself a distant, as-yet-unchecked tie to this saga -- is tugged along for the ride as she hides behind a rather well-placed barrel. There’s honestly a lot of flying and some expert grenade work going on from the witches Cleo and Uma, and after a millennia out to pasture, it’s really just not a thing the Ouroboros know how to handle. This humble author isn’t certain anyone would.

Lionel | Then, the earth shakes, and a loud rumble echoes through the trees, shoving the canopy helter skelter. A blinding white light covers the zone, not dissimilar to the one which helped catch Team Heck off-guard, and all the screams are silent, all the clashing blades make no noise, all is hushed. A woman of middling years, her long hair silver, her attire tribal like the Ouroboros but without their armor, the feathers of those trilling blue songbirds in her hair, makes the only noise in the battlefield. She steps between corpses, lofts a brow indecently at Ysiri, and chuckles with genuine mirth at the gathered heroes. “That’s enough.” The Ouroboros slow their assault in uncertainty, even hesitating if on the point of loss against their foes. “Tired souls of a tribe long forgotten,” Mulgrew says -- the woman’s name is seared into the minds of all those gathered, as if they have always known it so -- and she arches her shoulders and looks mournful. “I cast you to the great beyond. Go in peace, your battles ended. Let pass the few who stand for hope.” She smirks at Lionel, then Rorin, then Blut; all three of them she has met with, all three of them she has behaved strangely toward in past encounters. Her eyes pass Esche, but only discreetly. “Wait!” Ysiri shouts, covered in gashes from a dozen cuts. “You can’t do this to us! What gives you the right?” Mulgrew snaps her gaze upon the Ouroboros woman, and then she snaps her fingers. The chromatic flowers return; the Ouroboros survivors cry out in anguish and die. The huts, the forge, the armor, all of it is lost, but for a river of riches, gold and silver and odd jewels and artifacts of yore, all for the taking.

Lionel watches Mulgrew, Hellfire still raised. “Put that ridiculous thing away before you hurt yourself, champion,” she scolds him playfully. “Who are you?” Lionel’s question is carefully-measured ice. “I am a vagrant making mine way through the world. To some, I am a shepherd. To others, a destroyer.” Mulgrew looks between Kreekitaka and Eleanor and Blut and all the rest of them as she speaks, walking through the gaps between their lineup. Efforts to catch her, or harm her, will likely result in failure. “Today, I have assisted you. Tomorrow, I may betray you. But against Kahran, I salute you. And now I tell you my words and leave you. Across the world, forgotten like the tortured souls I just released, ancient dungeons await. Within, you shall find the means to survive the rising darkness. Without, you will be slaughtered, as surely as Kahran’s cruel promise. When next you gather, one among you will know the path to the first of these halcyon places. But be careful that those you trust dearest do not betray you along the way.” Mulgrew wraps her face in a cowl, grinning. “Your war has only just begun. We will meet again.” She vanishes. In the wake of her abrupt disappearance, the snow has melted and steam wafts lazily into the red earth. Lionel frowns, kneeling. A skull, crystalline but glowing emerald, pulsating magics he cannot decipher, lay within the steam. It’s perfectly intact, and it feels right that he should hold it against his scarlet shirt. He doesn’t know what this is, but he’ll keep it for now.

Pilar had no interest in riches or strange ramblings. She just wanted the people she cared about to be okay. Upon confirming that they were, she would begin the task of tending to the wounded, before returning home and never leaving her bed again.

Blut scratches his head as the giants just up and disappeared. He had no idea how he was gonna explain this to his boss. So Blut just grabbed his gold and left. No need to stick around. He never was a people's person.

Niix watched, out in the open now and did, of course, take some of that gold for herself. Now damp and the white of her borrowed warmth brown-spotted with mud, Niix would have started back to the Tavern but pale green eyes searched the faces for that damn elf, so sure Esche would be here. Single minded, once the threat of impending death was gone, the theif made her way among the dead. Not to take anything but to check faces. She hoped Eleanor wasn't among them. Niix wouldn't be leaving anytime soon; probably one of the last. Absently, she tucks the pendant back under her shirt and out of sight.

Khitti watched the exchange as it unfolded before them, as her and Brand caught their breath. Wait… was she in a bubble right now? It didn’t feel like the aura from the sword. Then, she remembered the barrier over Cenril, and that it was Uma herself that helped put that up. Perhaps she’d try to seek the woman out to thank her, or maybe it could just be left to assume that Khitti was eternally grateful. Khitti would eye that skull Lionel now held, a frown forming. She’d keep her thoughts on the matter to herself however, saying quietly to Brand that she’d like to go home--though home would probably be a room in the Frostmaw Tavern or maybe the fort for tonight. It was definitely time to leave before the stress of the situation caught up to her and you’re all privy to a possible childbirth.

Zahrani chuffs at the blinding light, then turns towards the aged woman. ~Mulgrew.~ Her feline ears are directed at the interloper, taking in the chaotic being's words. Upon seeing her vanish, the paladin puts her weapons away, surveying the changes in the landscape. Her interest is not in material goods, but of strange artifacts and scrolls of knowledge. Anything that could provide information or history. She acquires a scrolls that bears strange sigils and an account of lost history. She turns to Lionel and Khitti, a small stream of blood on her face from the cut she had received. "If you two are alright, I'm going back to check on Bastion." And she makes her way out of the woods to do exactly that. She stops by Rorin and his companion, a polite nod to her fellow paladin, "Nice shooting."

Leone hitches a breath as the world falls silent. Her vivid viridian sights move toward the woman that is cause of it: Mulgrew. She listens, though not raptly. The farrier quickly extinguishes herself before rushing over to Eleanor. A foot is placed on either side of the felled spellblade, where she stands guard over the blonde, particular vigilance paid when Mulgrew's gaze passes over Ele. Afterward, the smith attempts to help the roguish woman to her feet. Fingers of her burned arm flexing in the air, the farrier scribes a thin blue line through the atmosphere. With a resounding crack and a rush of wind, the colorful, bountiful world is rent asunder. Beyond, a grey plane stretches out. A short distance away, another splotch of color can be seen. Features begin to pull into focus, almost as if a fog lifts, and the haze of recognition is cleared: The Western Gates of Frostmaw appear on the other side. "Krice," the farrier calls out, "Help me with her. Get her through. Anyone else taking the shortcut? Come on. Now!"

Kreekitaka had done a pretty fair job of mutilating the face of the giant he'd been punching, having started making odd splattering noises with his claws rather than the sounds of solid impact--but then suddenly there's a stop, and then he knows this person's name--despite having never... seen her before? The heck? Was she doing something inside his head? He -hated- when people did things inside his head. He also hated when people just up and murdered an entire town all at once with magic like that. It wasn't -right-. You're supposed to earn feats like that with your claws and your strength, not a flick of the finger. He made a decision--Mulgrew would be brought down. Not today--his allies wouldn't like that--but later. In the meantime, hey look, loot! Awesome. He liked loot. He'd try to grab artifacts first if he could, moving to the gold and jewels when he was finished examining the other items.

Rorin buries three of his auger bolts into the chest of a giant with enough force to tabletop him over Isangrim behind the deadened legs. As the blood shed soaks into the hungry bitter snow Rorin speaks a solemn prayer, "Arkhen have mercy, may the Valkyrie of Aramoth guide these souls from war." A pulse of blue light ushers forth from the surface of his coat to flow upon the battlefield. Those who cannot be safe will pass resting and those who can will find themselves healed by the pale blue light. Mercenaries healed of their wounds gather closer to the soldiers light and his mountainous wolf to form a loose circle with the enemies closing in. As Rorin readies his next shot the battlefield practically explodes in a much more dazzling way than his. The breath leaves Rorins body. There she is. The one with answers. "Mulgrew," he growls, sounding much more like the creature inside. It remembers her. Their right arm itches, suddenly the metallic covering on that arm looks a lot more like scales on flesh than any kind of gauntlet the mundane would ever see. The finger slides off his trigger nonetheless as a piercing gaze of inhuman eyes glows slightly behind the visor of his helm. As the battle vanishes from sight his weapon folds and stows away. With a measured breath calm returns and Isangrim whines up at his companion. "We must turn back commander. There are no more answers here. Not yet." Rorin would prefer to hear the words 'take a moment for the wounded', as he certainly knew he could, but the reality of them slowing the group down in this terrain was clear.

Eleanor felt everything at once, like a crushing weight atop her, and it was through a muddied mind that she felt herself being pulled up to her feet. Her gaze retained its ethereal glow, and she gripped the priestess firmly, latching onto this solid being as everything around her slowly came into focus. Things had changed, everything was different - and in the center of it, a woman unfamiliar to the spell-rogue, her words sounding a million miles away. Her head still ached, buzzing with a million bees as she managed to withdraw the diadem, but was having problems getting it on in just the right way that it sat snugly around the turquoise gem. Fingers usually dexterous were fumbling, frustration welling up in her; the barrier had been too much for her to handle all at once, and she would pay the price for its theft in the days to come. There was no fight offered up from the spell-rogue anymore, and she would move through the portal without resistance despite the nausea that now twisted her gut.

Rorin nods at Zahrani in passing, acknowledging her, though offering little in regards to a reply. The dire white wolf Isangrim licks his chops up at her, looking much more happy with the compliment than his partner, wide blue eyes set in the grey mask like pattern of his face.

Eirik is mildly irritated that such events come to an abrupt stop. Who cares who this Mulgrew is? Truthfully his shoulders shrug in response. He doesn’t want to give in yet, nor does he drop his stance. But when the giants are gone he scoffs - his fun has been taken away. Finally he releases his defensive stance, takes his spear and twists it sideways to slam it against the outside of his shield. This causes the clinging particles of ice to shift free. His attention moves to the gold, after her lengthy words. When Leone calls to Krice for help, Eirik slings his shield over his shoulder and provides the assistance, if Krice does not. He too would take the shortcut.

Krice's strikes were true and concise, his movements limited, and thus he expelled minimum energy to maintain swiftness in battle. He was in the midst of cleaving a Giant's head from its shoulders when that blinding light stopped him mid-slice and he shut his eyes tightly, protecting his sensitive sight to the sudden illumination. Squinting into the brightness that followed, he found himself gazing upon a woman most assuredly out of place, almost prophetic in her peacefulness and overtly powerful. The warrior, leaning slightly to the right and sagging at the shoulders as if injured somewhere below his sternum, watched the female as she moved through the stilling battle, her words punctuated by the crack, grind, and screech of steel departing bone. His last kill fell to the ground, oozing brain matter and shards of skull, whilst his katana hung low beside him, dripping innards to the defrosting earth. Weirdness abounded and he found himself a little less than aware of all that had just occured. Lionel was nearby, staring down at an emerald skull of some description--probably the aforedescribed. He called to the other male a terse, " Time to go. Ogle it later." After a brief scanning of crimson eyes across the various allies, Krice spotted the aflamed and singed Leone and his features dissolved into an expression of barely-contained concern. Her awareness, and attempts to assist Eleanor, did ease some of his worry and he stepped toward her, his pace slightly hindered by unseen injury. After giving his sword one quick flick and then wiping against the left leg of his slacks, the warrior sheathed the weapon to free up both arms in case the wounded rogue required it, escorting her toward the portal. Whilst he carried himself with evident strength and seemed conscious enough to make the trip, his evolved musculature struggled in the face of whatever wounds he had acquired during the course of the impromptu battle. It definitely was time to go. Whatever impact Mulgrew's arrival had on him, he kept it to himself. With Eleanor at his front, he cast a speculative glance across Leone's face, muttering sharply, " I'll go in once you do." The rogue needed assistance, yes, but Leone would need it more if she failed to cross through the cut in space and pass into Frostmaw. He looked to the other combatants, some far more experienced than others, and called out a confirming word that they step through the portal -right now- if they didn't want a long, trecherous journey back. No more time-wasting; the Priestess' powers were waning. His wyvern, Gylworliath, would find her way back through conventional means of flight. On the other side, Krice would suffer a moment taken to sharpen his attention on the new surroundings before dividing his attention between Leone and Eleanor, assisting whomever seemed less capable of walking on her own two feet.

Niix might have picked up an odd trinket here and there, perhaps some sort of artifact. Tucking them away in pockets, she began the long walk back to the tavern. At least neither Esche or El were among the dead. Poor Tuna; who was taking care of the cub? Niix would then disappear into the woods wandering in the general direction of the Frostmaw Tavern. There was a wyrm there waiting to be fed in any event.

Hudson | Cleo doesn't mind that there's fighting and explosions, which objectively are more alarming than the Very Scary twig snapping of earlier. Cleo wants to dive. Cleo wants to zoom. Cleo wants to show everyone that she is the goodest, fastest girl, and she does not appreciate when Hudson makes her stop due to the sudden deus ex machina by old lady. She flaps her wings in a violent whoosh to make her displeasure known. For her part, Uma is shaken. "Go in the portal," she tells Hudson, who does.

Lionel snaps out of his stupor, sheathing Hellfire and gasping for air. There’s something about this crystal skull, something about Mulgrew’s presence beforehand, that has drawn him in utterly. Halycanos, the Ishaarite spirit of fire within his sword, glows wearily like a guard dog about the whole encounter -- and it didn’t even glow in lieu of the Ouroboros ambush. He takes another breath, and then another. He catches Khitti’s frown, then looks down and sees the corpses. Something very strange just passed over Lionel like a pall, and his face seems a little whiter for it now. Krice’s and Rorin’s words stir him; a plea for departure. “Just like that, a whole culture, gone,” he says weakly. Lionel shakes his head and grants what was once the Ouroboros a last, thoughtful stare. “I’m taking the long way home,” he tells Rorin. “Go with Leone if you like; it’ll be faster that way.” Silently, gloomily, the Catalian falls in line with Khitti and Brand -- his family.

Rorin hums, wondering if the lives of the mercenaries splattered here are worth saving. If it's worth the effort to drag their corpses back through Leon's portal or to leave them lying here in the cold and hungry snow. He's sure the bodies would be gone in an hour. The screams of dying men as their bodies were gored by the local wildlife would not haunt his ears. Still though, he could spend his time to heal them, and bury them with honor. His eyes went back to the commander, an inscrutable but nonetheless felt gaze weighing upon Lionel's shoulders beneath the smooth reflective visor of his helm. Isangrim sat happily in the snow, thumping a leg to resist impolite scratching as he surveyed the scene. The wolf was comfortable, if not a bit bored, at home in the blood covered forests snow. "I'll follow you." Rorin replies steadily, feeling a stir in the wind. Something told him the hidden clan was still out there, waiting, perhaps to return as many of the cultures that vanished before they did.

Leone will fangirl more over the elegant and captivating Uma later. For now, she's relieved to see Hudson, Cleo and the Mayor of Cenril make it through relatively unscathed. Eirik is handed Eleanor, as he's the first one there. The priestess bends to scoop up another one of the nearby wounded. Her hands latch onto the nearest still-breathing, bleeding being, and thrusts the body at Krice. The another one, perhaps a little further out, is dragged along with her good arm. At least these two will be spared the embrace of a cold, harrowing death. The smith pauses long enough to watch Lionel, Brand, Khitti, and Rorin walk away. She nods, the gesture soon transferred to Krice, and then steps over the threshold of the colorless slice through the world toward Home.

Lionel | Esche appears beside the artifacts, last vestiges of Ouroboros, after everyone else has made their leave. He seats himself upon the blood-red snow, cross-legged like a monk, and he prays. He prays for the fallen, and he prays for all the fallen to come. Tears roll down his face, stinging his narrow elven cheeks like frost, but still he prays. He prays until the sun hangs lower and fades, and then he leaves, a bitter look of eminent self-loathing marring his features. So much suffering; so much he could have changed. It hurts to see it, but see it he must.