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  1. Despite the nature of his precarious position, it still irked Alain to be spoken to in such a subordinate manner. Even more vexing was the clear disregard Lobos had for the lives of his companions. The singular fact that they were his companions should have superseded all other necessary reasoning. That it did not seemed to identify that Lobos' primary reason for even considering their case was simply the mistaken impression that he would be the one calling the shots in the arrangement. Another annoyance, but as things were, he wasn't exactly in a hurry to be correcting that assumption. "We would not have come in pursuit of Malaphar's disciple if the extent of my power was merely... parlour trickery," he scoffed. "That we even knew he was here to begin with is a detail I would deeply reflect upon," he added, leaving the way for Cassandra to make her statements. She made a few salient points, but whether or not Lobos would be satisfied was another matter altogether. "The unfortunate truth of the matter is that for all the might and power of your clan, Chief Lobos, the legacy of the Medeina starts and ends right here," he said, outlining the perimeter of the tent. "Those beyond the borders of this land know not of the Medeina, and care not for the Medeina. So consider the value in those who might sing praises of your people when all is said and done."
  2. So this was Chief Lobos. Upon first glance, he seemed more bear than man. How on earth Astaroth had managed to confuse this sort of man with some run-of-the-mill grunt would perplex him to the end of his days. But perhaps having taken Astaroth's words at face value was the more egregious error to begin with. He stole a sideways glance at the man as Cassandra spoke. There wasn't even so much as a quiver of his lip. Lobos on the other-hand was all smiles. It was a bit unnerving to see a man such as him with such a jubilant look. It was clear he cared little for Cassandra's plea, and he wasn't sure how she was going to assuage him. It came as a bit of a surprise then, that Lobos decided to turn attention towards him. He had been trying not too stand out too much and let Cassandra do as she needed. Granted, an entourage of skeletons could hardly be considered clandestine, but with the sheer disinterest Lobos' clansmen had showed, he'd fallen into the impression that someone else had already come along with the same trick. It took him a moment to compose himself--doubly so after Mr. Bones' intelligent commentary. "...I am surprised Chief Lobos would exert such curiosity in one such as myself," he began, curious himself as to the intent behind the man's question. Unholy powers tended to stem from unholy sources, and if Lobos already had that figured out then it seemed likely he had at least some passing knowledge on arcane matters. "To make mockery of death, I act with the authority granted by Belial himself. If the wise Chief Lobos recognizes the name, then perhaps he might begin to question the extent of Malaphar's abilities," he said. "There is after all, no plague upon man greater than death. Not even Malaphar would be able to convince you to the contrary. And I am he who holds the cure. If the Medeina are so eager to be led by an all powerful wizard, then I see no reason why we cannot come to terms," he said, calculated hubris dotting his every word. It was a sure gamble to speak with such arrogance, but there was little else he could think to do. Gracious humility would just concede the truth of their dire position, and Cassandra's honest appeal had already fallen upon deaf ears.
  3. It was a bit surprising given how nonchalant Ulfure was being about the presence of the living dead, but with Emmet confirmed to already be in their encampment he supposed they'd had some time to acclimate. Their next task was figuring out how to quickly dispose of him before he could pull off any tricks and slip himself away. And that was assuming the Medeian chief was going to give them custody of Emmet in the first place.
  4. Alain didn't have much of a response to Cassandra. He simply grit his teeth and turned his attention towards the tribal men who had so graciously made their presence known. Honestly, it was a little amusing how similar he found them to the Codgerites and Horsemen he knew. The same kind of burlesque appearance, the inane hollering--they matched point for point except one group was a bunch of drunkards and the other was the real deal. Upon Sebastian's quiet request, he allowed Cassandra the opportunity to speak. But with the way that things were progressing, he couldn't afford to humor the steward much longer. Sorry Sebastian, but your Princess is making us look pathetic. Perhaps she was choosing to emulate him in some regard. His words of peace had certainly left their mark on Hera, but unfortunately, Lobos and his crew did not possess the same softness that she did. Appealing to peace was pointless when Lobos made it very clear what they were after. Turning back with their tails between their legs afforded them nothing, and just made them look weak. Astaroth was closer to the right line of thinking, but so much farther at the same time. His lack of tact was evident. Alain may have even afforded himself a bit of a laugh if they weren't in such a precarious situation all of a sudden. "Chief Lobos, is it? I think you can tell we're a bit confused on which direction we'd like to steer this conversation. We're a motley crew, and we don't always see eye to eye on things. But between the two of us, I find talk to be a boring pastime taken up only by fools in fancy clothes who know not the warrior's way. I'm sure you would agree that words can get tiresome when steel does the job just as well." It was perhaps a long shot, but from Alain's perspective, Lobos wasn't going to just give them some information and call it a day. And Emmet was dangerously close. If they turned back now, there was a chance he would catch wind of their arrival and make a timely departure. Lobos had made it clear what he wanted, all he had to do was to appeal to that and hopefully come to some mutual agreement. "If you can suffer our presence for a night or two, perhaps we can offer some entertainment for you and your men. A grand duel of sorts. The best of ours against the best of yours? If we can manage to impress, then perhaps afterwards you can afford us some talking whilst we all clean our wounds. If we're not so impressive, then at least you and your men managed to have some fun. What say you, Chief Lobos? You have the numbers to kill us here and now, but perhaps your men and women would appreciate a bit of entertainment?"
  5. "Point noted, but thank you," Alain said, at once impressed by Spooks' tracking prowess, and unnerved by her excessive enthusiasm. For a creature manifest of darkness, she and her ilk were surprisingly quick to fall into admiration. He had to wonder if it came from a place of genuine belief, or if it was a symptom of something else. Though, real or not, it was at least better than the alternative. "If Astaroth has no qualms, then I have little else to say." He shrugged. "For all intents and purposes, we can consider Emmet to be one of Malaphar's generals. Putting a stop to him will give us some much needed validation in the eyes of the other tribes. Plus, this is our best chance of catching him. And knowing him, he'll likely clue us in on some valuable information one way or the other." "I see no reason to further delay."
  6. "I see your logic, but to say that we can easily put off regrouping with the Asarai's is a bit of a mistaken sentiment," Alain proclaimed, running his fingers along the road signs. "Judging from our encounter with Hera, it's clear to me that Malaphar already has a good idea of our whereabouts, and our plans. It's going to leave quite a poor impression if we bring the Litschi, or whoever, back with us and show them the results of Malaphar's handiwork. If we're lucky, Emmet is in this area on his own--but even then, I would still be wary of him paying the Asarai a visit before us," he said, beckoning Spook's towards him. "At the very least, I am in agreement that Emmet should be made our priority if possible. Finishing him off will likely buy us some much needed time to move through this part of the country. And we wont have to worry about them converting neutral parties into enemies like they did with Hera," he added. "So, might you have any idea where our friend Emmet has gone? He's a dead man, if that helps," Alain said, projecting an image in his mind for Spooks to see. It was a bit of a stretch, but if the fountain's elixir really was connected with Belial like Claire had said, then perhaps Spooks would be able to hone in on that connection.
  7. "Now that you mention it, hadn't Emmet been on some forlorn quest to locate the Fountain of Ages? At least, that's what I think he called it," Alain muttered, rubbing his chin. "It wouldn't surprise me if this entire escapade on behalf of Malaphar is simply a pretense to sweep the country in search of it. Despite not using it on himself, he does seem quite keen on collecting and distributing the elixir," he noted. "Just speculation, of course. I suppose it doesn't change our objective as things currently stand anyway, but it might be something to keep in mind."
  8. "You all seem to have a good idea of what it is our goals are, so I would remind you that anything less than perfection will spell certain death. I would urge you, Cassandra, to hasten in making peace with your demons because time is a luxury you, or rather we, cannot afford. Use Adele's memory as a reminder, not as guidance. I may not be so inclined to save you from yourself next time," Alain said, holding back the urge to further chastise her. Instead he opted to simply acknowledge her apology and move on. As it stood, anything more was a wasted effort. "As for Malaphar, what Astaroth has said is true. He slaughtered Naimanzuunnadintsetseg's entire clan by himself. And he spared no man, woman, or child. To say he is ruthless is to do the man a gross disservice. To make matters worse, his sorcery allows him to return the dead to life. I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but I suppose now is as good a time as any--Emmet yet lives. It would not surprise me if he happened to be this messenger," he said.
  9. Alain could only sigh as he listened to Cassandra's rebuttal. He had hoped she would have at least been able to show a shred of humility or remorse, but instead he was being treated to an embarrassing spectacle of petty ingratitude. That she would assume, after all that he'd done, that he was merely having a quiet laugh was disappointing beyond all word. "If you think you are above being questioned, you ought to dispel that notion immediately. Feel free to expect that kind of blind loyalty from your vassals, but I have made no such oath to you," he replied, keeping his voice level. She was severely mistaken if she thought her title made her exempt from any form of criticism. If anything, she was expected to be held to a higher standard because of it. "If you're so keen on planning things instead of dwelling on your emotional grievances--you should have taken the opportunity to do some planning on the battlefield as well. That is my entire point. Astaroth is correct. You did not defeat Hera. Your intentions were to either kill her, or die by her hand. You should consider what you're going to do if she dies in battle instead. Are you going to jeopardize your life, and ours, just so you can indulge in your emotions? Because not every adversary will have Hera's humanity." He shook his head and shrugged. "That was my original concern anyway, but I'm finding myself feeling even more alarmed now. Your first reaction to having criticism levied against you is to plug your ears and show your allies the door. Take a look around you, and just think about that for a moment. If you really and truly believe you can afford that sort of luxury, then I don't have much left to say to you." "It is true that my initial impressions of the Asarai chief have not been favorable, but he at least recognized the errors he made today, and sought to reconcile them. That is something I can respect, at the very least."
  10. Alain let out a quiet snort. "A bit of candid truth too much to stomach for you, Princess? Very well then," Alain replied, dismissing Mr. Bones with a curt wave of his hand. "Make yourself useful and guard the front gate--quietly. Take the archer with you as well," he commanded, solving both Wykian concerns at once. It was true that Mr. Bones altogether lacked any respect for social etiquette, but Alain could help but grant him some leniency. "Satisfied? Then a word, if I may," he said, narrowing his gaze onto Cassandra. He'd stayed his tongue earlier as a courtesy, but with Naiman's survival all but guaranteed he had little remaining care for any of the Princess' fragile sensibilities. If she was going to masquerade as some diligent leader--it needed to happen where and when it mattered. Not when safety and comfort made it convenient for her. "The real cause for frustration is your inability to keep your emotions in check and your abject disregard of the bigger picture. That you can stand here and pretend to assert authority with such a straight face is at once both incredible, and appalling. This battle could very well have ended in catastrophe because of your irresponsibility. I don't know when you decided to put a crown on Naimanzuunnadintsetseg's head, but it is quite clear to me that your judgement has failed you for it," he said, shaking his head.
  11. "I thought there was something strange about that blade of yours," Alain muttered, eyeing the scabbard curiously. It was a decent enough blade on its own but if it was something Engel had sent to cut him down with, he had to wonder why it wasn't something more... exciting? But the weapon itself wasn't what raised the most questions. What really intrigued him was that Engel had bothered communing with Astaroth at all. Alain let out an exasperated sigh, waving away the weapon. "I care not what manner of blade you wield in battle, but I would ask why I should bother myself with all of this? We may be comrades in arms, but do not make the mistake in thinking that I do not value my time," he said, a clear frown on his face. "Your intentions are noble, yes, but whatever inner turmoils you may face in light of your relation with Engel are not of my concern. What do I hope to gain by employing you in my tutelage, Chief of the Asarai?"
  12. "Well if she's awake, I suppose it's as good a sign as any," Alain chimed in, quite impressed with what Sebastian had been able to manage. "If she's stable, we should see about moving her to Hera's fort soon. I doubt we'll be beset by any more band--er, tribes, but either way it would behoove us to remain cautious whilst we're still licking our wounds," he suggested, turning turning to address Astaroth who had just arrived carrying a... peculiar item to say the least. There was a certain urgency in his voice that both worried, and intrigued Alain. But with Sebastian seeming to have a good grip on the situation, and with Kelbara on stand-by, he saw no reason to refuse his request. "Very well, let us be off then," he said, allowing Astaroth to lead. "Someone send for me if the situation turns dire. I may not be versed in the curative arts, but perhaps I can pluck a few flowers from beyond the veil if need be," he said with a chuckle.
  13. "Our cause, you mean to say. I do believe you're quite complicit in all of this now," he replied, raising an eyebrow. The last battle seemed to have emboldened Kelbara a bit. It was nice to hear her opening up a little, even if he had to be on the receiving end of her thinly veiled jabs. "But I never imagined I would get criticized in my methods of diplomacy by a would-be hermit girl of all people. Quite the situation I seem to have found myself in," he snorted, following after the woman. She seemed to have an idea on where Sebastian had taken Naiman, and with no other business left for him to be attending to he took it upon himself to accompany her.
  14. Alain let out a deep breath, relaxing his posture as he did so. Somehow he'd managed to strike a chord with Hera, and as a result the battle had come to an abrupt conclusion. Admittedly her allegiance would do little to bolster their immediate numbers, but her testimony would prove invaluable in the future. "You have made a wise decision today Hera. You have my gratitude. I cannot sway your heart now, but perhaps in the trials to come you will see the truth of my words," he said, turning to allow Cassandra to have her word. The nature of which quickly connected to that which Naiman had told him earlier, but this was neither the time nor the place to discuss that. Hopefully Sebastian would return her alive, else it was all inconsequential. "Of course I can send them back," he scoffed, unsure of his words even as he spoke them. In all fairness, he hadn't been granted much time to practice one way or the other. That he'd been able to even do this much was a surprise even to himself. "...But I think I'll keep them around for now. The longer they're around, the quicker you'll begin to normalize them, wouldn't you agree? In fact, why don't you go and have a chat with them Graham? Underneath all that metal and flesh, you're a walking skeleton too," he said, giving his armored suit a few quick knocks. It was about as good an excuse as he was going to get.
  15. Somehow, Cass had managed to storm her way to the front-lines. It seemed miraculous that she had managed to calm herself in such a short amount of time, but it didn't take long for him to understand that he'd been severely mistaken. There was a powerful blood-lust covering her eyes, and it was bleeding into her swordplay. Hera was goading her, dancing around with measured grace whilst Cass flailed about like a drunken child. Each time they crossed swords, it was clear who had the advantage. Even with Kelbara supporting her, it was only a matter of time before Hera landed a mortal wound. "Stay your blade Hera, and heed my words!" he announced, stepping forward to reveal himself. "I know not who has warned you of our passing by, but perhaps you have been misled with the wrong impression of us. You see, we too are in need of allies. There is a war brewing to the East. A powerful sorcerer by the name of Malaphar has begun his conquest of Magonsaete. To that end, we ride with the banners of the Asarai and the Ulagan to oppose him. Should he find success, he will be a tyrant without peer--of this you can be certain," he said, unsure of just how much Hera was willing to listen to him. "You say you've lost your daughter? As a man with no children, I cannot begin to imagine your pain. But I would urge you to consider whether or not your life would be put to better use ensuring that no more mothers must bear your burden. Join us in our cause Hera. I know not what sorts of betrayals you've faced in the past, but upon my honor as the envoy to her Majesty, Queen Ethel of Raewald, know that my word is nothing but the truth." "This is the only thing I can offer you, Hera. Think wisely, and choose the path that will bring the most honor to your clan--and the memory of your daughter. She may be watching over her mother yet. You need not throw away your life here, but if you insist on your folly, I will allow you the opportunity to draw your second blade. It will serve you well against me, but know that in doing so, there will be no more talk," he said, brandishing his tome. Alain moves to (4,11); Alain allows Hera to surrender. Alain allows Hera to quick-swap! Alain attacks Hera with Adhan.