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RP:What Remains Ahead

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Part of the What You Leave Behind Arc


Summary: One year after the dramatic events of “The Stars Are Fire,” Lionel summons several key allies in preparation for the resuming war that awaits them. Kahran is on the move again -- now armed with the Catalian Royal Fleet -- and Esche has long been missing in action. The magics nestled inside Mulgrew’s emerald crystal skull have informed Lionel of a gleaming castle deep within the sands of the Nameless Desert. And new enemies are rising… enemies that some of Lionel’s friends may know well. What the world needs now is a group with a name. A group that people will know means hope is on the horizon. A group called… Illumina.

The Founding

Lionel could have asked his friends to meet in the breathtaking halls of an ancient fortress called Frostmaw Fort. He could have asked them to assemble at the time-honored Warrior’s Guild Headquarters, or aboard the Tranquility, naval symbol of the rebellion against Kahran. He could have rented a villa in Chartsend and served them fine wines and a banquet fit for queens. He chose Cenril’s seedy Whalers’ Bar. There was a certain logic to it; after all, he did want to keep this meeting low-profile. Though it had recently turned hot again, this cold war between Lionel’s forces and Kahran’s had come to define the past several moments, and clandestine gatherings often defined cold wars. But there was more to it than that. After leading the charge in several battles during Kahran’s assaults, Lionel had grown reclusive. There were many reasons for this, ranging from domestic matters like losing his romance with Valrae when she was resurrected as a new woman, to far more severe issues like the number of assassination attempts on Lionel’s life whilst Kahran licked his wounds in the shadows. Any number of these complications would not have brought Lionel down, but the combination -- in tandem with this cold war -- meant sneaking around like a rogue was the best thing for him.


Lionel || Regardless, there was something oddly fitting about hosting a meeting in a place like this. When Lionel first suspected a remnant faction of the Dark Immortals’ legions was plotting against the realm he could only summon enough believers to gather around a tavern table. Lionel’s name held clout from wars past, but no one wanted to accept a world in which the terrors of the Second Immortal War could resurface. Whispers of evil stirring in the darkness over mugs of ale in taverns such as this one -- that was how it all began, years ago, shortly after Lionel’s return to Lithrydel. And then the saurians were pushed eastward, and the insectoids launched Heaven’s Pillar, and bit by bit too many people began to believe him to fit comfortably at a tavern table. Or even within a single tavern. Many of those allies gained had lost their lives when Kahran invaded. Some returned to their peaceful former lives when Kahran’s threat temporarily faded. Lionel couldn’t blame them. They’d faced true horrors together. Now, they were fewer again. More than enough to fill this room, perhaps, but they were scattered, scouting, waiting for the call to arms. Today was a new beginning. The table seemed full circle.


Lionel || And so he waited. He waited to see who would come. He waited with a round of drinks freshly-poured for whomever showed up, dressed in his casual black silks, his arms crossed and his blue eyes staring at the door. He had information for each and every one of them. Kahran’s forces had never stopped stirring, and in recent weeks they seemed poised to resume hostilities in earnest. Now was the time to converge. The shadows were almost upon them once again.


Kreekitaka had been spending a lot of time in Cenril's library of late. The storehouse of knowledge was absolutely, ridiculously vast, and even with as much reading as he could pull away to do he felt he had only barely scratched the surface. And even if Lionel was feeling reclusive and roguelike, the king was never anything of the sort, and today he'd actually been feeling particularly fancy. A long shimmering-silver cape flowed behind him, adorned with embroidery in every color of the rainbow, depicting--as he felt it fit the situation--the time Kahran had come to bargain and Kree had sunk a throwing-drill into his gut. Below it--and the scene continued on his kilt--a battle raged between his uyeer and a horde of assorted foes--some naga, some slaad, some distinctly undead even though they had to be depicted at such a small size. Looking closely, one could actually see the figures moving and fighting silently, as though his outfit's threadwork lived and moved on its own. It was his finest yet, and he felt its confident message of defiance might help to ease any spirits here. Around his neck were fine pieces of coral-and-gold jewelery, and at his waist hung his jawblade. "Yionoh!" he called, jovially. "Is iTAH! once more TAH!ime TAH!oo seize HHHTHaTAH! cowarDAH! Karen in our cyaws an' rip him inTAH!oo pieces, seize his yanDAH! for our own an' see his aDAH!visors become our fooTAH!servanTAH!s?" Loudly proclaiming this in the middle of a bar might attract a bit of attention, Kree. Not that anyone who looks like a cross between Freddy Mercury and a brutalisk cares one whit about subtlety.


Niix didn't make much of an entrance when she arrived. For one, there wasn't an oversized white tiger tagging along. For another, Nix likely slipped in behind someone. It wasn't hard to spot Lionel. She had seen him from afar at a few places she would much rather put out of mind. And still the young woman was here. Mostly because Pen had become restless of late, his voice stirring anxiously in the back of her mind. It was like a bug buzzing in her brain that just got worse after the letter came. Finding an out of the way spot, Niix settled in and waited, and watched, mostly in fascination at the large cape wearing, kilt sporting crustacean.


Zahrani quietly enters the Whalers’ Bar, the feline paladin armored and in the company of a pair of older felines and an older human male. The older female feline, her colony’s Matriarch, has black fur with flecks of silver; she wears simple city garb and a headscarf/shawl over her ears. Shrewd amber eyes survey the bar, before glancing back to her male companion. Bruiser, as he’s locally called by the humans of Cenril who know him. He’s old and built like a bouncer, his fur light gray. His darker-gray beard and hair are carefully braided and beaded. The male human is armored much like Zahrani, and those in the Devout’s Guild will recognize him as Falion, an older paladin of Cyris, Rani’s foster father and mentor. Rani herself sports her more pantherlike appearance, covered in a coarse black fur that makes her cyan gaze seem all the brighter. Her tail swishes as she takes in the smell of stale beer and fish. Bruiser greets the barkeep and gets a table for the 4 of them​​, glancing with interest at the elaborate cap worn by Kreekitaka before ushering Matriarch Roahin into a chair. The elder woman politely orders sushi and an ale, lowering her headscarf to reveal pointed and ever-swiveling ears, taking in the sounds of the establishment around her. Falion and his adopted daughter greet Lionel upon finding him. It had been some time since they had seen the man, and they’re looking forward to catching up. Rani speaks first, “We got your message. I brought two from the Isran Collective to sit in, so they can stay in the loop.” Roahin and Bruiser raise a hand in greeting to the Catalian male. “It’s been busy for our enclave, especially with keeping the plague at bay, and busy at the Devout’s Guild for me and my father.” She pauses, while Falion removes his helm. He has brown eyes, a skin-tone similar to his child, short tightly-curled black hair and a salt-and-pepper beard. He speaks in a wizened baritone, “But we stand ready to help you as we did before, my friend.”


Kasyr could perhaps show Lionel a thing or two about skulking, if only because the he'd so thoroughly gone to ground over the last number of months, that there were now a few rumours passing that he'd finally died, or departed from the lands. That said, the almost complete manner in which he'd withdrawn from the public eye had been less calculated then he'd intended. His semi-recent return to mortality had taxed him, and occasional lapses into self-destructive patterns meant that he required time to recuperate, and unlearn those habits. That's how he'd ended up mostly loitering in Chartsend, watching the conflict which engulfed the land at a distance . Suffice to say, he was more than surprised when a messenger had wound it's way to that segment of land following a months old trail.


Kasyr hadn't bothered to contemplate the contents of the letter long before he'd headed off. In and of itself, the sender would have likely been enough to spur him to action, but the situation really did seem to be dire. Though it certainly wasn't just altruism, or even a sense of boredom that saw him stepping into the bar- his scarf wrapped around his face, and his hands stuffed deep into the pockets of his fur trimmed trenchcoat. Honestly, he somehow managed to look a little bit more bundled than normal, and almost paler then when he'd been a vampire proper- but he still tried to look a bit livelier when he noticed Kree and Lionel, offering a brief salute to the pair he recognized.


Krice wasn't a 'bar person', but if given a good enough reason, he could enter said bar - whichever bar was stated in said reason - and... mingle. Initially, he crouched atop the roof of the building opposite to the Whaler's, watching Cenrilians meander and skulk along their narrow side-streets and into questionable establishments. Dressed in his usual black attire with the customary katana strapped to his back, he was ready to go to war - should war break out. Of course, given the letter he - and others - had received, he didn't expect a war, despite Lythridel's poor track record of 'meetings and parties that went off without a hitch'. First to arrive might as well have been the last to arrive--so visible was Kreekitaka in his elaborate attire that everyone else paled out of view; Krice squinted, noting movement below the belt, and saw hordes of creatures at war across the crab-man's clothing. There was no limit to the crustacean's oddness. Niix he was less familiar with, Kasyr he had seen mostly in passing - and even then, years ago and maybe only once or twice. Deciding it best to enter, Krice descended through shadow from the opposite building's roof and crossed the cobbles to enter the Whaler's Bar. Within, he'd lurk on the fringes of those gathered, lifting his left hand to greet Lionel with a single above-the-head wave - mostly to reassure the Steward that he had arrived as summoned.


Chisel wonders how much did it cost Lionel. That brave little messenger, went into the dryad's forest and was able to return alive. It was a feat on its own, let alone accepting such request knowing the horrors of what's to come. Still, She knew how the man was able to send his message, the defenses of the forest are terribly lacking at this point. Great lumbering flora colossi roam the forest to protect the nature, however due to the plague many seek refuge to the forest, setting camps here and there, Chisel ofcourse thought of sending them all away, back to their homes where they would die of disease but there are far more important matters she has to attend to. The colossi would guard her lands from the usual bandits or suspicious beings while assuring order is maintained. Refugees are allowed to hunt and gather food in the forest as long as they remain outside the ancient grove and do not hunt with no purpose. Most of her attention are centered on collecting various things in the forest, lumber, medicinal plants, even animal carcasses for leather or padded pelts. Things that can be repurposed for the upcoming war. When she received the message from Lionel, that earlier thought was nagging her, to a point that it would probably be the first thing he would ask him once she got herself to this meeting. Rumors alone about the dryad and her forest were enough to deter many. But this messenger... At the date of meeting, she put on a hooded cloak over her form. From the outside, it appears to be a normal cloak but within its pockets are flora that grows within its interior. She does appear human to most, her dryad form would easily allow her through the gates of this city, however the lack of flora upon this stone covered land does make her feel threatened, requiring her to carry along a bit of the forest with her. Eventually finding the Whaler's Bar, pushing its door open and try to find a seat, she isn't hard to find, especially when she is carrying around a hooded lantern on a shepherd's crook


Lionel didn’t suppress a smile at Kreekitaka’s garb. His friend’s words were as boisterous as ever, but Lionel had long come to expect it, and almost cherished it in a way. It was certainly a boost to morale. Lionel and Kreekitaka had truly come a long way from their tense negotiations over business disputes in Frostmaw a few years ago. The Catalian pondered that for a moment until Falion and Zahrani spoke their words to him. “I’m glad you could make it,” he told them, “and I’ve heard more than a bit about the plague. It’s affected a dear friend of mine, in fact, and I can’t help wondering if it’s all connected to Kahran.” He grimaced even as he nodded back to the pair from the Isran Collective. “That’s unfortunately the sort of world we live in now. Anything can be tied to that man. Not everything is, of course, but nothing’s exempt from the possibility.” He turned and noted Kasyr’s arrival with a relieved sigh. If Lionel could be described as reclusive, Kasyr was simply invisible. It was good to see him. Niix had managed to slip past Lionel’s gaze entirely at first, slipping past folks as she did, but he smiled to her with a curt nod; it was a relief of sorts to see her here, too, even if he would never not feel guilty for having to involve people as young as she. Indeed, slipping in quietly might have been the order of the hour if it weren’t for Zahrani’s entourage and Kreekitaka’s vibrancy -- Krice kept quiet counsel at the group’s edges, and Lionel waved in recognition. Perhaps the subtlety of some and the booming of others could be viewed as a blessing. It took all kinds to combat Kahran. Including a cloaked dryad with a lantern far more powerful than met the eye. Lionel thought back to his skirmishes with Chisel when she came into view, mulling over the complexities of that particular situation. But one and all, he was glad to have them here tonight.


Lionel cleared his throat and lifted his mug of ale. “A toast to our return,” he said slowly. “Drinks are on the house tonight because who bloody well knows how often we’ll get to meet anywhere with alcohol on the menu. I’m glad you could come. I sent letters out to Rorin and Leone as well, but they had pressing matters to attend to. Khitti and Brand are busy with the Tranquility. But the rest of you, my friends, have gathered for a damn good reason.” Lionel looked around again, taking in each of their faces. “Each of us knows a simple truth: the war is far from over. Kahran’s forces went underground following their unexpected defeat in the Shadow Plane, but their presence, their pressure, has still been felt in many ways. Of late, this cold war has shown many signs of re-escalating. That’s what we’re here to discuss.” It felt strange, almost alien, not having either Khitti or Esche beside him to clear up any errors and get to the root of things when he rambled. But sometimes Lionel needed to do it for himself and this was just one of those times. “To begin with, my long-time aid, Esche, went missing several months ago. I’ve searched and searched and searched to no avail. I fear the worst.” He sighed. “We’ve lost a lot of good people in this war and I dread that we may lose more. That’s why I want you all to understand that there’s still hope. There’s always hope, just so long as Kree’s around to splatter his proudest moments all over himself and call it art.” He said it in good jest and winked with a sip of his ale. “But I won’t lie to you. Things look dire in ways we hadn’t seen when the war began. Kahran has a fleet of ships now, for one thing. The Catalian Royal Fleet, sans three ships which escaped this fate, has had all its crews essentially zombified to follow his generals’ will. They’re out there now, nearly forty ships in all, plus whatever naval presence Kahran already had. The oceanside troubles continue from there -- my scouts intercepted an enemy letter.” Lionel approached Kreekitaka and handed it to him. “Go ahead and read it, and give me your thoughts, please.” No sooner had he said that than he swiveled around. “And Krice, you’re gonna have as tough a time with this one as I did, but I’ve also received intercepted messages about a new breed of soldier designed to match you -- specifically you -- speed for speed.”


Kreekitaka riled a little--even though it was a friendly jab at his art, it was still friggin' art, and it took time and effort to make, not just splattering... He dumped his ale into one of his water tanks to start absorbing it and then took the letter and scanned it. There was a pause. He scanned it a second time. And paused. Turned it over in his claw to see if maybe there was something written on the other side. Turned it back. "Yooks yike I'm going TAH!oo have TAH!oo conquer HHHTHe enTAH!ire ocean fasTAH!er HHHTHan anTAH!icipaTAH!eDAH!," he quipped. "AoHHHTHough I cannoTAH! imagine who Karen musTAH! have founDAH! who is cowarDAH!yee enough TAH!oo accepTAH! hepp from him. Cyearyee someone who is unfiTAH! for a position of power, in any case. My vicTAH!ory is a byessing for his subjecTAH!s." Friggin' uyeer under Kahran's control? Not if he could help it. "I have no neeDAH! of your assisTAH!ance, as I suspecTAH! none of you can fighTAH! in HHHTHe ocean yike I can, however my sTAH!uDAH!ies in HHHTHe yibrary may be abo TAH!oo hepp me craft armor which can ayow you TAH!oo join me in my conquesTAH! if you DAH!esire."


Zahrani and her companions take in the revelation that Kahran had gained an entire fleet by enslaving the Catalian Navy’s personnel and ships. Roahin’s gaze narrows, and the elder woman speaks softly to the male feline, “Let’s make sure our own contigencies are still good. We’re tucked away pretty well, but we’re not a fortress.” If Kahran tries to invade Cenril and soften the city up with the fleet, the cats would need to make sure their evacuation routes and shelters could withstand any bombardment from the sea. As for his undead minions, Rani and others skilled in Sunfire magic could have magical barriers in key places to keep out those who intended to harm them. The paladins also ponder on the news that their enemy is also breeding soldiers to match Krice for speed. “A good defence against a fast numerous enemy would be...no, we can talk tactics in a more secure location,” Falion says to both Krice and Lionel. Rani listens to Kreekitaka’s description of an armored suit that would help a landlocked person fight underwater. That sounds….like a heck of a learning curve, but an incredibly useful ability nonetheless. Her eyes wander to Chisel, Niix, and the other visitors who had been quiet up until now, just to gauge the disposition of those who did not draw attention to themselves. Bruiser chimes in after the uyeer proposes a diving suit for combat, “That would be useful for more than just combat; armor such as that would make our fisher cats safer while they gather their catches out at sea. Or to even go into plagued areas without catching it.” Roahin nods in agreement, though she does not hold her breath – no pun intended.


Niix watched as each person entered and made their greetings to Lionel and settled in. Niix pulled restlessly on the silver chain than held Pen beneath her shirt, worrying the metal between her fingers. When Lionel proposed a toast, she simply nodded not being one to drink alcohol herself. Perhaps if there was tea available she would have a cup before her but it didn't seem appropriate to raise it in toast. Pen flared to heated life at mention of Kahran but Niix suckered in a sharp breath upon hearing of Esche’s disappearance. She had been waiting to ask him questions though she didn't think he would have the answers she wanted. Still, Niix owed the elf for helping her that one time in Frostmaw. Niix’s attention is brought back to the present when Kree starts speaking. At first understanding the uyeer was difficult but soon she found it easier to pick up on what he was saying. This seemed alarming but, as mentioned, it was unlikely that she would be able to help there. Niix couldn't even swim. Taking a sip of her tea she glanced towards the on called Krice and wondered just how fast he could possibly be. Not a chatty type, Niix would continue to watch and listen until called upon or spoken to.


Kasyr's attention perked up a bit, but that's just because he's lowkey competitive around other swordsmen- and this weird penchant for embracing disaster as a form of opportunity. I mean, the sort of opportunity that arrives from alchemically (or worse) bred super soldiers and plagues is probably one of those things that'd take serious squinting- and what's contained in the letter is probably worse. "... I remember you being boisterous, but quand meme, King Crab, I imagine not all of us are unused to Naval battles." The kensai is sideglancing the other people present in search of anyone who might be looking awkwardly, just in case he is overestimating the people present. Which is about the point that he also takes not of Chisel and gives them a sort of weirdly scrutinizing look, before turning back to Lionel, "Is there a plan thing, or is this the- figuring out what assets you have stage?"


Krice listened attentively to Lionel - as he always did when matters of universal security were at hand, his expression faltering into one of distant contemplation at mention of Leone's inability to attend. When the Steward jested over Kreekitaka's attire, the warrior was drawn from his more internal thoughts and glanced at his crab-man acquaintance. Any amusement he might have felt for the exchange was mitigated by the way in which Kree read the letter given him - and, let's be honest, thoroughly squashed by mention of Kahran having developed a new soldier who could keep up with the warrior, himself. " S'at right," Krice mumbled, nonchalantly. He didn't seem too bothered by the news, but anyone with half an observer's mind would note that his following silence was a more pensive one, perhaps attributed to the revelation of an equally-matched (at least in speed) rival; speed wasn't everything in battle, but he would need to utilize a different method if he was to defeat those particular soldiers. Thus, he maintained thoughtful quiet even as others began to speak. His introversion did not shut him off to other inputs, however, and he glanced at Zahrani when she addressed both he and Lionel. Super-fast new soldiers, plagues, an enslaved navy... Krice and the others had fought off worse. If their minds were in the game, they could fight off the next. Crimson eyes shifted in the din of the bar to find Kasyr, a man with whom his own experience was woefully minimal; still, if Kasyr had been summoned, as was such with everyone else here, Lionel must have thought him still useful. Upon the conclusion of the Kensai's query, Krice directed his gaze to the man asked - back to the Steward.


Chisel does not really enjoy liquor mostly because it does not affect her. She however brought some with her. Mostly to get rid of them. Many found their demise in the forest and since the start she has been cleaning them up, not everything is suitable for fertilizer however so numerous piles of junk could be found within her hidden glade. 'junk' she calls them, segregated properly, piles of weapons and armor, jewels, gold, books, furniture, even silverware find themselves in the forest. Bandits do love stealing entire kitchens apparently. She pulls out a couple of things from her cloak and placed it on a table before her. "You promised me a ship Lionel..." she said so with a as-a-matter-of-fact tone while a bottle audibly plants itself on the table. Closing her eyes and said, "I do not know how to make ships but I have the lumber and labor force to do it. But it would require me to cross massive amounts of resources through the gates of Cenril and leave my forest exposed. Yet such would not ensure the fleet would be built in time, My people can work non-stop without rest but without anyone guiding them, they would not know what to do" she exhaled a bit before opening her eyes to look at him. Just looking, as if expecting an answer. Others have been quiet, well most of them, especially as she could barely understand what the crab is saying. Turning to Zahrani, wondering if she could use her resources protectively instead but realized "A hastly built fort won't hold long against a naval assault."


Lionel occasionally wondered if Kreekitaka spiked his water tanks with more than just ale. At the same time, the Catalian wondered if maybe he should invest in his own water tanks and do the same. “Yes,” he answered, far more slowly than when he began his toast. “Well I’m quite pleased to have been the one to inform you that time is of the essence and you must invade the ocean posthaste.” If Esche were here, he would have grimaced thoughtfully. If Khitti were here, she would have snapped. Perhaps in this one very specific case it was best that Lionel gave the speeches alone. “In all honesty, though, whoever these uyeer are I’ll gladly join you in uncovering their identity. And since they’re in league with Kahran, frankly I am -all over- the prospect of helping you in your… conquest.” For the second time in five minutes Lionel reflected on how much their relationship had evolved since those negotiations in Frostmaw. He winced. When Falion spoke, Lionel listened, but he agreed with the man’s decision not to talk tactics in-depth at this juncture and canted his head at Falion’s abrupt cut-off. Good timing, then, for Kasyr to ask the Hero of Hellfire what exactly he had planned to handle all this. He laughed. “I guess you can consider it a bit of column A, a bit of column b. I needed to know I could still find you.” He swayed his left arm around the room. “All of you.” But he gave Kasyr a knowing glance -- Kasyr was often the toughest to find. “In the coming days, we’ll determine what to do and when. For now, I needed everyone to know what’s on the board. The very busy, ever-stuffed, dark and demonic, invariably world-ending board.”


Lionel || Taking Krice’s soft response for what he knew it to be -- contemplation in the face of unsettling information and a desire to observe the remainder of the conversation -- Lionel moved on down the line. “Niix,” he abruptly called out. “I’d like you to reach out to a contact of mine named Meri. I’ll put you in touch if needbe. I have a mission lined up for you if you’re willing to accept. A mission which requires your particular talents. We’ll speak more of it later. And… I’m sorry Esche isn’t here,” he added more quietly. “You can count on me to help you in his stead.” Evidently, Chisel still felt she could count on him to help her in -her- stead, too. And in Chisel’s case, ‘help’ meant ‘a ship.’ Then again, in light of Kahran’s conquest of an entire fleet now was the perfect time to make good on that. “I’ll get you a ship,” Lionel said matter-of-factly. “It’ll be yours within a fortnight. You’ve got my word on that. As for your lumber, we’ll put it to good use immediately after that. Get your people to study the ship I’m gonna score you and we’ll have them work together alongside some people of my own. War with Kahran now means naval theater. We need you.”


Lionel stammered, his relative resolve suddenly threatening to burst at the seams. He’d maintained his composure thus far; he didn’t want to lose it now. But this next part was difficult. “There’s something else. A… vision.” He wiped his forehead, thinking a bead of sweat had formed. It hadn’t. “Some of you will remember my forays with Mulgrew’s crystal skull. The emerald one. If this doesn’t ring a bell, don’t worry about it for now. The important part is that it had an effect on me. Mulgrew is a trickster and I may never know whose side she’s really on. She’s hindered me before, yet she helped us during our mission against Ouroboros and then left behind the skull. The witchcraft in that artifact goes far beyond anything I’ve ever seen. For months now I’ve had a recurring dream that feels far more than just a dream. It’s…” Lionel lifted his ale and took a heavy swig. “As you can see, it’s hard to discuss. But I believe in it. I believe in its power. And I believe it intends for me to venture deep into the Nameless Desert in search of… a castle. A gleaming castle.” He shook his head and sighed. “Maybe it sounds crazy, but think of the world we already live in. These days, I’m not sure it’s any crazier than half the rest of what we’ve been through, and the valuable distinction here is that I genuinely believe that gleaming castle is ours for the taking. It’s out there for us. Waiting for our arrival. Not an enemy… but an ally.” Cliche words popped up in Lionel’s mind: ‘Just like you. All of you. Allies. And that’s why I’m giving you these.’ No, he thought. Entirely too cliche. “I’ve got something for you,” he said instead. He put down his ale and began to move from person to person, including Zahrani’s guests. A small silver pin was handed to each of them in turn. The pin was slashed with gold and shaped and sculpted into the form of a dragon. “We’ve been a ragtag bunch for too long,” Lionel explained. “Warrior’s Guild, Devout’s Guild, Frostmaw, uyeer, Cenril, they’re all just aspects. No one has known what to call us. No one has known who to call. That changes today. I want people to know who to turn to now that the sky’s going grey again. I want them to know we’re here. We’ve always been here.” On each of the pins a single word was written, each letter written in descent upon the sculpted dragon’s spine. ‘Illumina.’ “We are the light in Kahran’s darkness. We are Illumina.”


Kreekitaka snorted. Or at least, made an odd sort of chuffing sound that resembled a snort. He took the pin and looked over it. Fancy enough design. Needed a more powerful creature as an emblem. Dragons were basically just big fairies. Maybe a kraken. Kraken would be good. In an oddly diplomatic move, he decided to forgo mentioning that a palace in the middle of the friggin' desert wasn't exactly useful to him, and that a gleaming palace--in his mind, he pictured a castle made of crystals--where everyone could see you while you're bathing was just embarrassing. This 'Illumina' business grated for other reasons too--if his entire kingdom was to fight Kahran's war, were they all merely Illumina now? Was he to assume a subordinate position in a larger collective? Making a note to speak to Lionel about this later, when he wasn't busy handing out pins, he slipped his into a pouch on his utility belt instead of affixing it to his sash. Maybe he'd wear it later. For now, he preferred to be known as his own crab.


Niix was listening intently. Even so, she startled and blushed when spoken to. Given her mission, Niix nodded, “Meri, yes sir.” Glad to be given the opportunity to do something, the young woman was up and gone almost as soon as Lionel was done speaking. The pin found a place of prominence on the lapel of her shirt, right over her heart. It gave Niix a sense of purpose and belonging. She might have smiled even just before leaving.


Zahrani nods to Chisel in response to the impracticality of trying to build a fortress so quickly. They had other plans in the event of an attack. The panther's cyan gaze returns to Lionel, listening to his retelling of the vision he had. The castle in the Nameless Desert. The hair on the back of her neck stands on end; memories of wandering through that wasteland playing in the back of her mind and flashing forward to the present day. Falion seems to notice the glazed look in his daughter's face, gently patting her on the shoulder to bring her back to reality. That was a rough trial for her, and he knew it. She offers a slight smile and nod to the older paladin. She and her entourage accept the pins given to them by Lionel, taking in the details of their design and pondering the word before storing them away. Zahrani joins the other felines as they discuss how best to proceed and who to reach out to. Roahin looks to the younger panther woman and says, “We’re going to need your help here in the coming days. If you must train others in your Guilds, bring them here if possible. We can all learn, and you can be close by to help us prepare.” Falion meanwhile catches up with Lionel and says, “If I’m not in Larket, I’m usually at the Sanctum in Kelay. My naval knowledge is limited, but I hope I can be of help providing support for ground fighting.”


Kasyr narrowed his eyes slightly, glancing between both Kreekitaka and Lionel, since they seemed to be the most savvy about this situations specifics. The promise of a ship is what the Kensai hangs on the longest however, causing the swordsmans head to cant off to one side, "-Are- the ships belonging to the enemy forces -safe- to...commandeer? I certainly think given this situation there's likely a fairly open license for would be privateers, non?" As long as the ships aren't cursed as hell, anyways. Kasyr paused, adjusted the scarf around his neck, and then found himself tugging down a bit harder then he intended, knotting the fabric, "Ouroboros? What?" Kas might look -more- than a touch concerned and paranoid right now, adopting a posture that seems quite akin to a cat raising it's hackles. He-doesn't- relax from it either, even as the speech continues. The badge, when it's eventually presented is accepted, but that sense of disquiet just lingers around the swordsman even as he pockets the pin. "We ought to talk." A pause, and he glances towards Krice, Lionels update as to the status of some incoming forces tickling at the Kensai's brain, "And if you have time, I'd appreciate a tete a tete, since you seem rather pertinent to the current situation."


Krice took note of Chisel's contribution to the table, and to the conversation, as well as Kreekitaka's tanks, Kasyr's replies, Niix's acknowledgment of Lionel's direction, and Lionel, himself. Where was Esche? How did Kahran fashion soldiers with Krice's level of speed so quickly? How'd their eyes and musculature match to their brains to allow them near-instantaneous responses to that which they preemptively saw? More importantly, what else was at their disposal that previously had been only his? He sighed through his nose, sweeping the small gathering with a calm stare that landed on Lionel once more. Talk of the man's 'vision/dream' was unsettling at the least, but perplexing just the same. Krice was in the middle of contemplating this 'castle in the sands' when Lionel approached to offer him a pin. He took it without hesitation, nodded his gratitude, but stared at the pin shortly after. Did he think anything specific of it? Who knew - Krice had bigger things to worry about than being assimilated into a more longterm group. Niix seemed naively sweet in her appreciation for the pin; he observed her subsequent departure until she stepped out of his vision, Naive, perhaps, but Lionel had invited her here so clearly that naivete was not obstructive of her usefulness. When Kasyr spoke, addressing not only the head of the meeting but him as well, Krice nodded at the Kensai in acceptance of the request for conversation. " Sure," he said, his tone even, without flourish, directed then-after to Lionel. " I wanna talk with you too, before we each go our own way."


Chisel was hopeful. Its not like she could replant all those lumber she has collected.. well technically she could. Still, the amount of effort she has performed for this cause was too much for her to back down now. She has literal tons of lumber, medicine and silk for this. Hopefully the Uyeer can help turn them into sails. She simply say, "Then tell the men of Cenril of it. I shall move the materials as soon as possible." She toys with the pin on her hand before pocketing it. "A fortnight." Slowly she stood up and nods to everyone present, she has alot of things to do. An entire forest to move.


Kasyr narrowed his eyes slightly, glancing between both Kreekitaka and Lionel, since they seemed to be the most savvy about this situations specifics. The promise of a ship is what the Kensai hangs on the longest however, causing the swordsmans head to cant off to one side, "-Are- the ships belonging to the enemy forces -safe- to...commandeer? I certainly think given this situation there's likely a fairly open license for would be privateers, non?" As long as the ships aren't cursed as hell, anyways. Kasyr paused, adjusted the scarf around his neck, and then found himself tugging down a bit harder then he intended, knotting the fabric, "Ouroboros? What?" Kas might look -more- than a touch concerned and paranoid right now, adopting a posture that seems quite akin to a cat raising it's hackles. He-doesn't- relax from it either, even as the speech continues. The badge, when it's eventually presented is accepted, but that sense of disquiet just lingers around the swordsman even as he pockets the pin. "We ought to talk." A pause, and he glances towards Krice, Lionels update as to the status of some incoming forces tickling at the Kensai's brain, "And if you have time, I'd appreciate a tete a tete, since you seem rather pertinent to the current situation."


Krice took note of Chisel's contribution to the table, and to the conversation, as well as Kreekitaka's tanks, Kasyr's replies, Niix's acknowledgment of Lionel's direction, and Lionel, himself. Where was Esche? How did Kahran fashion soldiers with Krice's level of speed so quickly? How'd their eyes and musculature match to their brains to allow them near-instantaneous responses to that which they preemptively saw? More importantly, what else was at their disposal that previously had been only his? He sighed through his nose, sweeping the small gathering with a calm stare that landed on Lionel once more. Talk of the man's 'vision/dream' was unsettling at the least, but perplexing just the same. Krice was in the middle of contemplating this 'castle in the sands' when Lionel approached to offer him a pin. He took it without hesitation, nodded his gratitude, but stared at the pin shortly after. Did he think anything specific of it? Who knew - Krice had bigger things to worry about than being assimilated into a more longterm group. Niix seemed naively sweet in her appreciation for the pin; he observed her subsequent departure until she stepped out of his vision, Naive, perhaps, but Lionel had invited her here so clearly that naivete was not obstructive of her usefulness. When Kasyr spoke, addressing not only the head of the meeting but him as well, Krice nodded at the Kensai in acceptance of the request for conversation. " Sure," he said, his tone even, without flourish, directed then-after to Lionel. " I wanna talk with you too, before we each go our own way."


Private Thoughts

One by one, Lionel watched the others clear out of the bar. He'd lifted a finger to Kasyr and Krice politely when they addressed him, wanting to be alone with them before he replied. It wasn’t out of a lack of trust in the rest of his summoned allies; were that the case, he would not have handed him those pins. Rather, it was for his own mental well-being. He needed to be able to focus on answering Kasyr. A measure of assurance was going to be required -- his friend was undoubtedly associating ‘Ouroboros’ with something else. As for Krice, Lionel trusted that whatever he needed to ask was of equal importance. I should be seated for this, he thought. It equalizes my mind. But he remained standing. Lionel was prone to strolling when speaking, after all, and preferred the combat advantage of standing besides. There was never any telling when Kahran’s generals might strike. After the tavern door shut, Lionel stretched his arms and began. “Very soon I’ll have a pretty good answer to that,” he told Kasyr. “Whether or not the ships are safe to commandeer, that is. The woman responsible for doing… whatever it was she did to the bulk of the Catalian crews is due for a supply run -- alone -- in a few days. Brand’s taking his ship, the Tranquility, out to sea for it. We’re going to capture the woman and find out everything she knows. And everything she’s capable of.” Privateers. Of course we’ll need them. But they’re not exactly a copper a dozen. “If you know people with ships, Kas, let me know. I don’t. Not the kind we need, anyway. Right now, Illumina has four ships in all. Three from the fleet and Brand’s alongside it. My hope is that capturing the general responsible for this mess will give us the best possible answer as to how to handle it.” Lionel narrowed his eyes. “You seem more than a tad disturbed when I mentioned ‘Ouroboros.’ They were a clan of exiled frost giants living in the realm’s far northern reaches. Some of them seemed like decent folk, honestly. Others… not so much.” Mulgrew had decided their fates one and all. Krice had been there. Krice had seen it all. “Krice. My ears are always yours. Proverbially speaking, anyway.”


Lionel may have reservations about being seated- but the Kensai at least does himself the favor of leaning up against a table- though the action is made weirdly precarious by the weight of his coat. In the sense that the table isn’t sitting on all of it’s legs anymore, not that Kasyr Is paying it much mind. Still, despite the casualness of the action, an astute observer might notice the way the swordsman continues to fidget, a notable lack of humour on his features, “So…no tie to Ahkall, enfin, or what was…is behind him? “ Becoming aware that he’s holding his breath during moments of silence, he exhales and straightens up a bit, the table creaking - “The only person I could think of with ships -might- be Ranok, and I try to keep the amount of favours we owe each other relatively even, enfin. … Though- I might have another means of reclaiming ships without it being purely…naval. I’d just need a few foolhardy souls, tu sais?”


That said- Kasyr flicks his attention towards Krice, his expression shifting to one that’s more curiosity oriented than anything. “Honestly, I’m rather curious to know more about you- given that if you’re considered dangerous enough to…er..” Lionel’s given a sidelong glance here, “Model? Build? …breed? Soldiers, ou quoi-ce-soit in the relative image of, I feel it would prudent to find out how dangerous you would be to contend with. …Provided our fearless leader, “There’s the sardonic grin, “wouldn’t have anything contrary to say about that.”


Krice had no problem waiting for others to clear out--what he had to ask of Lionel was so specific to him that, even though others had easy witness to it during battle, he wasn't keen on announcing it to everybody. Once the rest of the 'Illumina' were gone, the warrior focused on the two who remained - his attention divided between Lionel and Kasyr. When the Kensai began to speak of his ability being such that evildoers wanted to replicate it, Krice narrowed an eye - not in disapproval of Kasyr's choice of adjectives, but in simple comprehension of them. Indeed, it was accurate to assume that Kahran's replication of his abilities was a sort of all of the above... Well, who knew how the Big Bad was doing it? Here, the warrior squinted thoughtfully at Lionel, who had revealed the speed-stealing tidbit. More questions would come.


Back to Kasyr, the enigmatic swordsman noted the request to guage his skills and ultimately nodded, effectively accepting it. It was logical, to determine the skill level of the soldiers they'd soon come to face by fighting the blueprint. "I'm not that dangerous if you're nice," Krice quipped to the Kensai, though it was hardly genuine humour given the seriousness of the situatuion. Back to Lionel, he asked first and foremost, " What else do you know about those soldiers? Is it -only- speed that was... 'upgraded'? Any idea -how-? "


Lionel shook his head at them both. They had important questions and insightful thoughts here but some of it didn’t sit well with him and the rest he barely had an answer for. “Foolhardy souls is practically my middle name, Kas, so whatever you’re thinking there’s a decent chance I’ll like it more than asking Ranok for a lease.” Seven hells, I’m not even sure Ranok’s ships would hold a candle to the Royal Fleet, anyway. The more Lionel thought about what he had witnessed in Rynvale two weeks ago the less he could believe it. He’d seen true horror, but he’d never before seen his fallen country’s massive fleet appear unexpectedly and then abruptly fall prey to that horror. But it happened. It, like so many other tragedies, was in the past now and could only be avenged.


Kasyr and Krice barely know each other at all. Somehow it stunned him. For all I know the three fastest sprinters on this entire continent are gathered in a room right now, surrounded by half-chugged mugs of ale. I sure do have connections, don’t I? If nothing else can be said for me, at least there’s that. “All things being equal, all three of us are freaks of nature,” he finally said. “Meaning no offense. But our abilities aren’t exactly natural. Kahran got a bloody nose last year.” A bloody nose is a nice way to put it. He still poisoned me very nearly to the death. He still outclassed me to the point of pure absurdity. He’s freakier than all of us combined.


“Even back then, he wanted to mimic Lithrydel’s strengths whenever he could. He sowed chaos where he knew chaos was the most dangerous. He conquered where he knew he’d gain a foothold. And he manufactured an army to combat his adversaries. It doesn’t surprise me that he’s taking it personally now — that he’s enlisting uyeer when Kreekitaka made a mockery of his forces in the Shadow Plane; that he’s breeding for speed when you blitzed last his most sterling defenses, Krice.” He slumped and sighed. “But as for how he’s doing it? No, I’m sorry. I don’t know. My scouts have become adept at intercepting as many communiques as possible, which is to say barely any at all, but we struck gold with this one. But I can’t even guarantee they’ve nailed your swiftness. We should pray they don’t. The only thing I can say for certain is that someone extraordinarily capable is handcrafting Kahran’s army to destroy us once and for all.”


Kasyr provides Krice with a grin, “Shouldn’t let people know they can kill you with Kindness, enfin. I suppose we can pick up that little experiment after this, however. Unless you have more processing business.” That said Kas starts to lean backwards, but almost immediately corrects himself as the table he’s been using as a support starts to make some unfortunate cracking noises. Clearly, the Kensais coat is still an unwieldy mishmash of fabric and metal. “I want to retrieve Luffy, from Frostmaw. I’ve allowed her to roam and do as she pleases for a long while- but a dragon, especially one of her…uh, inclinations, et quoi-ce-soit? That would provide us more options, either for aggressively boarding those ships, ou, being dropped off on one.” In a hopefully less than literal manner, but the black ice dragon had always been a rather …feisty partner in crime.


“Honetement, given -your- ties to that city, asking for support from the Eyrie might be prudent. Though, I can certainly see the wisdom in a smaller team, if you’re simply meaning to find out if you can locate et..well, decapitate any puppeteers.” Kasyr looks genuinely thoughtful there for a moment, “Or are the reanimated crew members sentient? …I think it’s a sad testament to the current times, when I can say I miss Vuryals machinations. At least they were generally doomed to failure.”


Krice afforded Kasyr a smirk for his response; Kindness had never been a problem for the warrior, either receiving or giving, but he understood the Kensai's point. He listened pensively to Lionel's response thereafter, both detailing Kahran's history-in-a-nutshell and his most recent endeavours to match Lythridel freak for freak--let's be honest, a crabman wasn't exactly normal.


The sound of protesting wood drew his gaze back to Kasyr and then down to his cloak, draped across the table. Still standing, Krice couldn't see the exact angle at which the weighted garment had tilted the furniture, but something was clearly amiss. That was a mystery about which he'd have to enquire at a later time, however, for something said by Lionel drew his focus and required an immediate response.


" I can't speak for his Uyeer production," said the enigmatic swordsman. " As for the speed of these new soldiers... If they've gained it simply by -observing- me, then they're not as fast." Krice took a moment to consider his revelation before he spoke it, at least in part: " I do have another 'level'. I just... don't use it unless it's necessary." A beat. " Once they see it, though... I mean, I d'know the extent of their learning and reproduction."


The Eyrie. Wyverns. Kasyr had meant Frostmaw. Lionel withdrew into his thoughts again for a moment, more shaken than he’d anticipated by mere mention of the kingdom. He was still steward there. By all visible accounts he still maintained a positive relationship with the queen. But how true is that? Being honest with himself meant Lionel had to recognize the facts. Khitti had handled week-to-week efforts in that frigid city for near on a year now, and even she had little and less time to devote to it. He had entrusted a capable team of advisors to Frostmaw’s domestic matters but, with it lacking now in foreign threats — at least, relative to so many other locales — he hadn’t been there himself in months. Lionel had retreated into this tavern in Cenril, both physically and mentally. “Perhaps,” he said slowly. Deep down, however, he knew he would not call upon the Eyrie for support. Not for this one. Not until they were absolutely necessary.


Sudden relief removed the creases in Lionel’s forehead when Krice gave him hope that the super soldiers, for lack of a better term offhand, may have been slower than their masters expected. “That makes two of us. We need to learn more. And fast.” His pun made him cringe. “Krice, I don’t think I’ll have time to accompany you until my bit with that Catalian flagship is finished. Would you care to seek out my scouts alone? They can provide you with support if you desire it. Any member of our newfound organization has that sway, if not more so. Maybe you can work with them to get a fuller picture of this one. They’re stationed near the Larketian border in the Northern Sage right now.” Closer to Larket itself than Lionel would ever publicly admit, but he trusted Krice and Kasyr to understand the need.


Kasyr rolls his shoulders and peels away from the table, allowing it to return to a state of equilibrium with a notable creak. “…Is there anything else you need to bring us up to speed on?” There’s a complete lack of cringing on the Kensais part. “Otherwise, well- that leaves the choice up to the pair of you. I can go,.. “ attempt “ to retrieve Luffy, for a means of transportation for those ventures.” A pause, and Kas glances over towards Krice, “Though if your particular task is higher priority in the moment, I could tag along to find out how swift on the uptake your copycats are.” Yup. Still not cringing. "I just need to know what needs to be done immediately, c'est tout."


Krice glanced between Lionel and Kasyr with only the movement of his eyes; despite the seriousness of Kahran's upgrades, and thus the potential hardships the Illumina would come to face, the warrior was not deaf to the puns that filled the speech of his allies. Still, he focused specifically on progressing their conversation in important directions, rather than digressing for the sake of comic relief. Krice hadn't been to Larket since the event at the fort, which led to its collapse and his subsequent temporary-burial, but he'd have no problem venturing to the City of Stone (is that right? >>) to advance his knowledge of Kahran's strength. " That's what has to be done. I'll leave tonight." In relation to Kasyr's words, he nodded. " I don't mind the company. I can take you up to Frostmaw afterward, upon the saddle of my wyvern, Gylworliath."


"I'm sure there are half a hundred things I ought to be mentioning," Lionel said. "I know you know what I mean. Times like these, all it takes is the blink of an eye for another crisis to erupt." He patted Kasyr on the shoulder. "But I think we've covered the biggest crises... of the week, at least." Lionel felt some satisfaction in knowing that the two of them would pursue some answers on one of Kahran's latest schemes as a team. He couldn't think of many pairings which could possibly compete against the kensai and the silver enigma.