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 The Mansion in the Woods

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PostSubject: Re: The Mansion in the Woods   Tue Oct 02, 2018 1:55 pm

"The Mansion?" Lifär squeaked, visibly distraught over the Mayor struggling to hold back a tide of unbridled fury.
Livi nodded passionately and made a shushing movement towards Deftis. It didn't have any effect on the man himself, but it did slightly calm down the panicking Faerie.

"Right. I'm going to be as brief as possible, as we are short enough on time as it is. The lord of the Mansion is the one who founded this city... I don't know how many years ago. Long ago. Long enough for the origins to have long since faded in obscurity. For all that time, the Mayor serves to lead the city, the Praetors serve the Mayor. All the technology, skills, knowledge, everything that our city is famous is for stems from the Founder. Deftis serves the Founder. The city serves the Founder. And it just so happens that one of the very specific tasks of the Mayor is to hold the city, to let it flourish and rule it well. The city is more important than the inhabitants. There are... reasons why we cannot retreat. Reasons I can honestly make a few guesses at — stop giving me the evil eye Deftis, I'm not going to voice them — but as such, we stand our ground or we die. Of course, there is one more very simple reason why we will not retreat." The tiny Gnome gestured to Krabdan.
The Orc stood up, raising himself to his full, impressive height and looked around the table, making solid eye contact with everyone before focusing on the small Lifär. The man's eyes burned with determination.
"This is our city!" he thundered, slamming his fist down onto the table with enough force to leave an imprint. "We will not abandon it! We have tended it, nurtured it and seen it grow and prosper! This is our home! All around us are nations that would kill all of us who sit at this table without a second thought purely because for who we are! I will die a bloody death before I let some blasted king take this from me! Let them come! Let them outmatch us! We shall hold and they shall pay the price!"

Livi smiled as Krabdan's thunderous speech was met with wild approval and was pleased to see Deftis finally start to calm down. She gave Krabdan a wink and grinned when the much taller being winked back. Both of them had been friends for decades and could play to each other strength's perfectly. She was about to start speaking again when an icy cold flooded the room, paralysing her.

I am sorry I am late, Deftis. A voice devoid of life filled the room. Livi felt her hairs stand up on end while Lifär, who wasn't familiar with the newcomer and as a Faerie was hit much harder by its presence than the others, launched himself into the ceiling in a blind panic. She was relieved when Diniras, Praetor of the magical Slivir'i, stepped forward on his hoof-like legs and cast a spell on the poor creature, shielding him from its presence.

In the midst of the table flickers of pale-blue energy merged together until a ghost-like apparition formed. Despite having met it before, Livi felled uneasy. The creature was as loyal to the city as all those present, and no less sentient despite it's alien appearance, but aside Deftis nobody felt comfortable around it. Its very essence seemed to conflict with life.

"What—" Lifär began, before swallowing loudly, his small eyes wide with fear. "What is that?"
The strange creature, lacking eyes or a solid form, somehow visibly turned its attention towards the Faerie, who recoiled to the very edge of the shield of energy surrounding him.
I'm sorry that my presence disturbs you, Lifär. I cannot help being who I am. The ghastly voice rang through the room without sound, more a dark, cold presence on their minds than being a spoken sound. Yet, fear not. I am on your side. I am a guardian of Lannas. Just like Deftis, I exist to protect the city. So my Creator has commanded.
The creature turned back to Deftis, who seemed to be immune to the icy aura that shrouded the being. "It's good that you have come. I didn't know how far you'd be when I summoned you. There's an enemy approaching. My estimate is roughly four hundred thousand men. Their vanguard will be here in a handful of days. The city will be locked within a week, two at most. Do you think there is any chance that you could delay them?"
You cannot hope to prevail against that number, Deftis. What is your plan? the creature whispered back.
"I shall hold the city until my last breath. Both walls and citizens alike. That is my duty."
Answer my question Deftis. the being repeated, its voice growing colder.
"I have sent a runner to the Mansion to request reinforcements," Deftis replied, finally showing a small sign of unease in front of the ghostly existence.
The Mansion is far away. It is not easy to reach. I hope your runner makes it, and with good speed, the creature continued. It floated closer to Deftis, frost forming on the table as it hovered slightly above it. A number of red orbs began appearing throughout its form, quickly glowing brighter as the chill spread, the wood creaking as the water inside began to freeze.
He will send aid. The city cannot fall for reasons beyond your understanding. Protect it Deftis. No matter the cost. Your restrictions are lifted. Fear nothing but failure.
"I don't need reminders of duty! I know mine well!" Deftis roared in anger, slamming his fists down on the table. His brown eyes were filled with red-hot anger as he matched the creature's gaze.

The creature pulled back as its form started swirling, the red orbs floating inside it. They were ablaze with light now while the light in the room seemed to dim. Frost started forming all over and the creature seemed to grow more agitated with every moment until it let out a powerful and feral screams. A strong flash of cold flooded the room and the windows shattered. It turned back towards Deftis, its form covering most of the room now, most of the Praetors cowering behind their chairs.
I shall delay them Deftis! I shall give you two weeks before their vanguards makes it here. I shall tear apart as many as I can! They shall be exhausted when they arrive! Do your duty Mayor! What we were assigned to guard cannot fail!

Letting out a shriek that penetrated flesh and wall alike, the creature dispersed, its ghastly wail only slowly dissipating.
It took a long time before anyone dared to speak again.
"Blasted unstable thing," Deftis cursed, wiping the frost of himself with a sharp movement.
Livi, who was one of the few Praetors who had met the creature before, shook her head slowly. "I don't like it much either Deftis. Look at what it did! Poor Lifär's out cold! Passed out from fear no doubt."
"Hah," grunted Krabdan. "Please, as if there's one of us who wouldn't pass out if it actually came at us with the intent to kill."
Diniras stepped forward, his lithe form belying the strength of the magical shield crackling around him. "What was that thing?" he asked, curiosity visible in his large, white eyes.
Deftis shook his head. "Not what. Who. Like me it's assigned to protect this place. We merely guard different locations."
Diniras gave Deftis an annoyed look. "I am not a child, Deftis. I fully understood who it was. I meant it. What is that? I've never seen anything like it before."
Deftis grinned. "Neither have you ever seen anything like me, Din. It's not a... How to put it. It is not something born through natural means, it was brought into life through means I honestly know nothing of, but it is powerful. A creature of spirit. Even with your magic you'd be hard pressed to go against it. For all its strength, however, it is still mortal and can die. Its abilities do not lay in direct combat. Still, I would advice against picking a fight against it. It's quite insane by our standards. Now, wake up those who passed out and let's focus on the defence again. We have much to discuss, and at least now we have a fair amount of time to plan everything."

Livi threw a sideways glance at Deftis before turning back to Krabdan, who nodded at her. They had both seen the same thing. Deftis was seemingly calm again, but both of them knew him long enough to see through his act. If he summoned that thing, it meant the situation was beyond dire. The Mayor was nervous and was doing a good job of hiding his rage, but not a perfect job.

Then Krabdan threw her another look and it took her a moment before she realised what it meant. The creature had said something along the lines of lifting restrictions. She narrowed her eyes as she carefully observed the Mayor. 'Never seen anything like you either, huh?' she thought. 'Then what are you?'
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PostSubject: Re: The Mansion in the Woods   Wed Oct 03, 2018 3:34 pm

Melena slid across the tiles before crashing into the wall. The tough stone refused to yield, unlike her bones. She felt the pressure mount on them as they put up a brief resistance before the force from the impact overcame their feeble defence and they broke. She howled in pain, but she barely registered it. It was mere physical pain. Significant physical pain, perhaps, but still, it was only her body. She was far too occupied with the situation and the mental anguish that was tormenting every fibre of her being to care for something as minor as broken bones and cuts both large and small.

Footsteps rang through the long hallway as the source of her nightmare was approaching her. Through her dazed eyes she saw him coming. Feng, sole heir to the Dukedom of Avaran, a very wealthy and incredibly powerful nation that rivalled most kingdoms. Or so the man introduced himself at every occasion, even though rank and power counted for naught in these halls.

She felt how he picked her up by the neck. Not even the clothes, no, he just grabbed her by the neck. She was vaguely aware of the minor annoyance that this meant that she couldn't breathe in properly anymore. Instead, her mouth was wide open as her body desperately gasped for the much needed oxygen. Her hands clawed weakly at his, her body on autopilot as her mind kept panicking.

These halls were supposed to be sacred. One of the core tenets was that under no circumstances were students allowed to harm or threaten other students. What the punishment for breaking the rules was, nobody of the younger students knew. The older students merely shook their head warily when asked and suddenly had to be somewhere else. She had felt safe here, for the first time in her entire life. Steadily but surely, under the tender ministrations of the teacher, she had put her past behind, letting her mind bury the scars of abuse beneath the fresh flow of the knowledge she had so desperately craved her entire life. For the first time in her long, long eighteen years, she had felt at home. Safe.

And look where you are now. She wished that part of her head would shut up. It was strange. She had been beside herself with elation. She finally reached the stage where she could split her mind in three different, yet equally sentient and functioning parts, and then this had happened. She had been on her way to report her success to her teacher, full of pride, the three parts of her mind lulling her into a deep sense of peace with their discordance. Now one part was somehow registering everything and watching events unfold as if they were a story, another was busy making snarky remarks, and the last... Well... Panicked screeching and wailing in fear was one way to occupy yourself before history was going to repeat itself.

Were we always that stupid? came the snarky voice. She could feel the grin behind those words. She didn't dignify it with a response. It wouldn't help anyway. She knew what caused this.
"Bitch!" shouted Feng. "You dare deny me? Me!" he bellowed, his muscles tightening from the force he exerted on her throat. She felt it grow tighter, how her trachea was slowly being crushed. Her body fought against it, but she was no match for him. He growled at her and tossed her again. The two parts of her mind that weren't beyond themselves flinched as her body crashed into the ground, slid across the smooth tiles while leaving a trail of blood behind, before smashing into another wall.
Okay, time to panic now. He's going to kill us!
'Oh really?' she thought back. 'Now you're starting to get worried?'
The other part was right though. At first, she thought he'd do the usual. Hit her, beat her to a pulp, rape her, dump her abused body behind somewhere while he went to have a drink and brag about it to his mates.

She had really hoped that this place was different. She couldn't help having been born with this body. So many people regarded her as beautiful beyond compare. 'A true gift of the Lord!' the old baron had called her. 'Sent down from Heaven to reward us for our loyalty!' She had felt so happy at first when she was told that. Yet when the baron had come to court her, she had denied him. She was only thirteen after all. A child. The baron hadn't been so courteous. The last she saw of her parents was them nodding obediently, receiving a few pennies and a 'thank ye m'lord, you're ever so generous!'

"Well? Nothing to say, wench? First you seduce me over and over and over! Flaunting yourself all over me! Winking at me! Playing games with me! And I'm nothing but polite! Courteous! Friendly! And when I finally tire of your games and ask for more you have the gal to act offended! To be disgusted by me! Me! I'm the heir to the Dukedom of Avaran!" He picked her up by the neck again. "You're a peasant! A nobody! You should be honoured by the fact that I paid attention to you at all! You—" he dropped her.

We're not dead? the snarky part mused in bewilderment.
Both sane parts of her mind watched from her dazed eyes as Feng recoiled, as if bitten by a snake. Then he froze in place, ceasing to move all-together. He didn't blink, didn't breathe. As if he was a statue.

She vaguely became aware of footsteps behind her. Then she felt a large hand softly landing on her shoulder, where one of the larger cuts was. She gasped as she felt something stir from the wound, extending itself through her entire body as all three fragments were engulfed in something that cut her off entirely from the outside world. It only lasted for a brief moment, but when she regained her consciousness her mind was one again, the panic gone, and her body healed. That could only mean...
She turned around and was greeted by a warm smile as the hand pulled her to her feet with ease.
"Ma—" she began, before he cut her off with a gesture.

He walked past her, towards the still frozen Feng. Without knowing how he did it, the teacher let go of the... not spell. Trick? Illusion? She honestly had no idea how he did what he did. It did result in Feng crashing to the ground though.
"Student Feng. Recite to me the four rules you sworn to obey when you entered here." The voice wasn't cold, nor unpleasant. If anything, it carried a sort of bored acceptance.
"S-s-sir, I—"
"The rules, Feng," the teacher repeated.
"Sir, you do—" was about as far as he got before he started screaming in pain. The teacher hadn't moved. He stood still, several steps away from the man that was thrashing about on the ground as if he was under torture.
"The rules."
It took a while before Feng could respond, and even then it came in short screams as the pain continued. "Obey you! Don't damage the house! Don't go where we aren't allowed to go! Don't harm other students!" As soon as he finished reciting the rules the torment seemed to stop and his limbs flopped down on the floor.
"Do you think you broke one in this situation?"
"Sir, I—" He didn't get very far. The pain resumed instantly.
The teacher turned towards Melena. "Do you think he broke one?"
"Yes sir," she replied, her eyes downcast. She felt his fingers press against her chin, forcing her to look up.
"Don't be so down. You've done nothing wrong. As a matter of fact, you've done very well. Split your mind in three? That's a damn rapid pace you're following."
She brightened a little. "Thank you, sir."
"Now then," he started, turning towards a still screaming Feng. "To deal with this mess. Nobody's been stupid enough to break the rules in a long time," he said, dragging on the-ong quite a bit. He cut off the flow of pain towards the student, who steadily climbed to his feet.
"Well then Feng? Anything to say for yourself?"
"Sir, I—"
"Good!" the teacher interrupted. "Better think well on it. Melena, be a good girl and gather the other students to the debate room, will you? And get your story straight, select your witnesses who can support your claims. Feng, I'll expect you to do the same. Oh don't worry, it was just a bit of pain, you're physically still perfectly healthy. Now off you two go. Don't make any troubles. I'm expecting to see all of you in the debate hall in about an hour from now."

Melena turned to obey, before pausing. Something bothered her. "Sir..."
"Yes girl?" came the instant reply. The teacher's face was kept carefully neutral, except for a twinkling in his eyes.
"How long were you standing behind me before you interfered?" she asked, unable to keep an accusing glare from leaking out.
The teacher smiled. "Ah, see, this is why I think you're such a promising student. You actually think rather than blindly absorb and act!" He leaned against one of the pillars and his eyes turned cold and dispassionate. He made a gesture towards Feng to scurry along, which the young man promptly did. "I was there the entire time. I knew this would happen as well. It's the very reason I let Feng study here in the first place. Stupid twat's worse than useless. Too arrogant and incompetent to realise that he doesn't belong here as well."
"Then wh—"
A sharp glare shut her up and she took a step back. She narrowed her eyes. If he had wanted her to keep quiet, he could've very easily given her enough pain to do so. He hadn't, however. If there was one thing she knew from how he taught then it was that he wanted people to think for themselves. So that's what she did. She slowly split her mind into three fragments again, letting each of them run along a different track of thought as they worked together towards the most probable solution. She felt encouraged by how the teacher was simply standing there, arms folded, patiently waiting.

"You wanted this to happen," she began. He didn't respond. That bit of info he had told her so himself. So she continued. "The other students never talk about what happens when someone breaks the rules. They disappear when we ask them. So it is a very heavy punishment."
"Does that concept bother you?" he asked, taking her off-guard.
She thought about it for a moment before shaking her head. "No, it doesn't."
"Why not?" Another weird question that she couldn't place.
"Because..." she hesitated. He waited. "Because of what I've been through. I don't feel pity for someone who has hurt me, and was planning to do so much more."
"Not entirely what I meant. After all, the two of you will still have to debate over who is the guilty party here."
She opened her mouth to protest against that, but fell silent when she spotted his feral grin. He was baiting her! When he noticed that she closed her mouth again, his grin turned into a broad smiled and he nodded encouragingly.
"Would be stupid of me to punish the useful student and let the idiot get off without a hitch, wouldn't it? Mind you, if he defends himself better than you..." he left the rest unsaid. "Now, continue."

She was starting to figure it out. The entire purpose of this charade. "You want to set an example. To make sure the rules are enforced. Because..." she ran through her minds, going over countless lectures and books that she read. "Because one example of a person getting punished will hold the rest better in check than countless warnings!"
He clapped his hands. "Spot on! Now why would I let you go through so much pain just for an example?"
That question shook her. She had started figuring it out, though. He gave part of the answers away through his facial expressions. All of them were nothing but an act, she realised that now. He taught. That was all he did.
"Because you don't care. I'm alive, you undid the damage, and you got what you wanted. All of us will have learned something."
"Exactly!" he clapped again, then crossed the distance between them in the blink of an eye. He towered over her, suddenly cold and uncaring. "I teach you. In return you respect my rules. Plenty of lessons are harsh, painful and downright distasteful. But at the end of the day, I do not care for you lot. You are temporary. Gone in a moment. A momentary distraction. I am not here to shelter you from life. Nor do I particularly care if you are happy or not," he whispered. She felt shivers of fear run across her spine.

"But that doesn't make any sense! You teach us and raise us and then you say you don't care for us! That doesn't make any sense at all!" she shouted, anger bubbling to the surface. The next thing she knew she was being tossed into the air while the teacher had a happy grin on his face.
"See, I knew you were a smart one!" he caught her again, ruffled her hair while laughing, and put her on the ground again. "Never believe things blindly. Always think for yourself. If you let others decide how your world is defined, you are lost." He winked at her. "Now go fetch the others. I expect to see a beautiful debate. And if you do well, I'll give you a chance for revenge on those who wronged you in the past, if you want it." He walked off, waving at her as he went.

She didn't move until he rounded a corner and disappeared from sight. She left to do what she was instructed, but couldn't shake off the tremendous confusion the teacher had left her with.
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PostSubject: Re: The Mansion in the Woods   Thu Oct 04, 2018 4:44 pm

Melena and her handful of friends were waiting in the far corner of the debate room. They were clustered together in a tight formation, as far away from Feng and his larger group as they could. There was a mixture of fear hanging around her group that seemed to affect everyone but Melena. It was true that the teacher had left her thoroughly confused, but she had been thinking about it constantly since then. She doubted that he truly did not care, as that made no sense, but at the same time he really was not the type to tell a lie. All things considered she had drawn the conclusion that it was his intention to confuse her with the target of making her think about things. Honestly, given that he droned on how critical thought was the mainstay to advance during every single lesson should have made that clear from the get-go. Then again, as he had also pointed out, there was a major difference between understanding a line of wisdom and actually comprehending it.

Or so she thought. At the very least it assured her that Feng wouldn't escape judgement or punishment. Not that the arrogant twat had any chance in her against a debate. He only focused on training martial skills. She had focused more on psychological traits, to strengthen her mind, and to enlarge her knowledge. According to the student that had accompanied her here, she had displayed quite a bit of skill when it came to diplomacy. Well, he had called it manipulation, but the teacher had said that the two were just opposing sides of the same coin.

Feng stood on the other side of the room, in the defendant's booth. A group of about a dozen students stood behind him, all of them human. They were milling about him, confidence oozing from them. Most of them came from wealthier families or were born in the household of minor nobles. There was a variety of topics that they studied, Melena knew. Most were focused on martial arts, like Feng, but plenty of them also studied mathematics and other subjects that may help them in later life. All of them, without exception, had a family to return to and a business or title waiting for them later in life.

Feng caught her looking at him and gave her a lecherous grin. His mouth moved as he silently spoke to her, well aware that lip-reading was one of the skills she had acquired during her stay here. If you beg for forgiveness and play nice from now on, I'll let you off.
The old her would have cowered from such a threat. The new her had been complimented by the teacher. A man who was as mysterious as he was wise and weird. She felt confidence in her well up. She wouldn't lose this debate, and it would be Feng who would be begging for mercy at the end of this. Feng's grin faded when he saw Melena react to him with a wolfish smile. From the way he shivered, she assumed she must had taken on quite the evil look. If she had bothered to look at the several dozens of students that were in the seats of the audience, she might have seen a number of them recoil. Evil look wasn't doing her justice. Wearing the blood-red dress of the accuser, her long, straw-blonde hair falling behind her in a graceful plait, her pale skin, without wounds or scars thanks to the teacher's healing, and her violet eyes she seemed more like an agent of death than a human girl. The way her pearly white teeth were bared in a feral smile further enhanced that image. As it was, she remained blissfully unaware of it.
Feng, on the other hand, wearing the deep-blue of the defendant, didn't strike half as much of an imposing figure.

The chattering was cut short when the teacher appeared. He usually didn't stand on decorum, but even he had changed out of his eternal not-quite-leather outfit and had shown up wearing long, white robes that slid gracefully across the wooden boards with every step that he took. He didn't bother calling for silence as the stern look on his face made everyone quiet down on their own. He took to the central booth in a few short strides. The slight elevation added to his already imposing length as he looked around the courtroom. He nodded once when he noticed that no one was absent and started.
"Feng has been accused by Melena of breaking the rules. Melena claims that Feng harmed another student when he assaulted her with the intent of either violence, rape or murder. Feng, how do you claim?"
"Not guilty!"
"Melena, you may commence your accusation."

Melena took a deep breath and took to the front. "As you all now, Feng has long since flaunted his status. Even though all students here are judged by their ability and their ability alone, Feng has often disregarded this. Most of us do not know where the rest of us came from, nor what position we hold, but there is not a single one of us who does not know exactly what position he holds. As such, he is used to having his way, despite lacking ability.
Giving in to his baser desires earlier today, he approached me with the roughly phrased invitation to go to his room for sexual intercourse while I was on my way to report news of having reached the third fragmentation level to you, sir."
"Lies!" Feng interjected as the audience muttered appreciatively. Most students hadn't even managed to split their mind in two fragments, let alone in three.
"Keep in mind that while in the courtroom, lies will not be tolerated," the teacher interjected, talking to both. "What was the exact phrase he used?"
Melena felt herself turn slightly red but continued on. "The exact phrase was: 'Why don't you bring that sweet ass to my room and I'll show you a good time.' Given that this was accompanied by a slap on said sweet ass, I do not believe there is any room for debate on the point of that invitation."
"No room for debate on the sweetness of aforementioned ass, or on the meaning of his invitation?" asked the teacher with a complete dead-pan expression.
Melena blushed furiously while the rest of the room burst into laughter, with some of Feng's friend hooting at her.
She glared at the teacher and decided to not be outdone. "Both!" she shouted back. When no response aside more laughter came forth, she continued. "I denied Feng, telling him I was not interested. I tried to leave and he took offense to that. He grabbed me by the hair and pulled me to the ground. When he tried to force himself on me, I kicked him in the stomach, forcing him to back off."
"How hard did you kick him?"
Melena blinked, taken off guard by the sudden interjection. "As hard as I could."
"Do you think it would have left a bruise?"
"I... think so, yes."
"Noted. Please, continue."
"Using this momentary distraction I got up and made a run for it. He caught up with me and..." she gulped, audibly. She closed her eyes for a moment as she found a shiver of fear running through her, her hands going up to her throat instinctively as she recalled the dreadful moment. "He grabbed me by the neck. Threw me into the ground hard enough that I crashed into the wall and broke several bones. He then grabbed me again, insulting me all the way. I... must admit I do not quite recollect what he said to me specifically. I had retreated into my mind at that point. He threw me again, picked me up again by the neck, started to crush my throat..." She felt a single tear run down her face and hated herself for it. She forced down the others and made herself stare at the audience, daring them to defy her.
"Then the teacher arrived and Feng backed down. That ended the confrontation between us."

The teacher nodded solemnly and turned towards Feng. "Defend yourself," he merely said.
Feng made a graceful bow, polite noble from his toes to his fingertips, and took to the front of his booth.
"Ladies and gentlemen, fellow students, I stand before you falsely accused."
Melena could barely suppress a hiss. How dared he!
"As a matter of fact, the entire tirade of the accuser is nothing but a memory. A fancy a pretty girl dreamed up when I didn't give her everything she wished. As the truth stands, ladies and gentlemen, there is a long history of courtship between Melena and I. She has often expressed an interest in me, through either physical gesture or spoken word. If you deem it necessary, sir, I will repeat what she said, but to save both her and me embarrassment, I would hope you are kind enough to forego that." He nodded deferentially towards the teacher, who nodded in turn, allowing him to continue unhindered. "It was a long and subtle dance of courtship, teasing and playfully challenging the other. As good things go, however, I called it to an end, telling her I tired of the games between us. That I wanted things to either continue further, or cease all-together. When my requests for clarity were met with more playful teasing, which was encouraging in nature, I may have resorted to using more crude language." He pronounced the word crude as if it left a bad taste in his mouth. "She then surprised me by asking me what she would receive in turn, hinting at monetary rewards."
Melena's eyes flashed with anger and her mouth fell wide open in shock as she couldn't believe what she heard.

"I... politely told her that I wasn't interested in her in that capacity. If she was up for some harmless fun I would have had no qualms with it, but a man of my status can't afford to have such scandals haunting him. I told her that if she wanted to whore herself out, that she should seek others."
Melena's beautiful face was now contorted in barely suppressed anger.
"Sir, please, I kindly ask you to keep in mind that my father and I are men of honour. I never wished for things to spiral out of control to this extent over something as minor as a dispute over bedding rights, and you would have my eternal gratitude if this case could be concluded quietly, without both parties having to hang their head in shame." He looked towards the teacher with pleading eyes, the perfect image of innocence, as if he hated having to trouble the girl as well, despite that she was at fault.

Melena was flabbergasted. Feng had never shown himself to be more than a crude knuckle-head, but here he was being diplomatic, influencing the entire room. She could feel the audience shifting away from her. She had never interacted much with them, unlike the much more sociable Feng. The earlier comment she had proudly made about her rear had further reinforced Feng's statements. But the teacher had forced her to say that. Why had he—
"Noted. Continue." Melena looked at the teacher, a mixture of desperation and disbelief in her eyes.
"When I denied her, she started threatening me. That she would slander my name and would see me expelled, among other things. There were several insults added as well, that I do not believe should be repeated. When I ignored those threats and wanted to walk away, she started hurting herself. She threw herself against the walls, started choking herself... It shocked me and I am ashamed to say I was late in responding. I tried to stop her, keep her from hurting herself, but she kicked me. I must admit that the kick angered me and I used force to restrain her, attempting to block the blood-flow towards her head to knock her out to keep her from doing more harm to herself. That is when you appeared, teacher. I understood immediately what it must have looked like to you, and feared the misunderstanding that would and did flow forth from it. I cannot hold any ill will against you for that though," he said with a deep bow. "Your actions were commendable and I would have done the same, had I seen what you had seen."

The teacher leaned down onto the booth on his elbows, his head resting on his hands. A small smile played around his lips. "Anything else to add, Feng?"
"None, sir. Although, if I may be so bold as to ask, would you be lenient towards Melena? I know of her background, and understand that she has many hardships behind her. I would not want a momentary mistake to harm her future."

Melena's friends were chattering worriedly behind her, while Feng's group patted him on the back and congratulated him on his speech, saying they felt sorry for what he had gone through and other words of support. Feng himself remained the perfect example of graceful innocence. Willing to be generous despite being wronged. Melena, on the other hand, was caught in a middle of two raging emotions; fear and anger. Had the teacher been bribed? Had he lured her into this trap? She paled when another possibility presented himself. Had this been their ploy from the start? To exile her so they could let her disappear and leave her at their mercy?

Then she caught a small glance he threw her way and her rationality kicked in. No. If he wanted to toy with her that way, he would have only had to ask. It would have been a small price to pay to let her stay here. Aside that, he was strong. He wouldn't need to have asked. He could have taken her at any time he wanted. Then what was going on?

"Audience, you may now vote on the verdict. Do you believe Feng is guilty of harming another student?"
Plates went up. There were a handful of green ones, indicating a 'yes', but the red representing 'no' was by far in the majority.
"Do you believe Melena is guilty of harming another student?"
The same as before, except that the green and red was switched.
"Good. The court has judged. Feng is found innocent of harming another student, while Melena is found guilty."

Melena opened her mouth to protest but was shushed by a raised hand. The teacher looked up, a truly vicious glare coming from his blood red eyes. "I hope you all enjoyed the debate. It was fun, entertaining even. A good lesson. Melena was a good accuser, we even added in a bit of raunchy comedy. Feng defended himself in a truly exemplary manner. His noble upbringing really showed through."

The audience remained quiet. The glare coming their way shut everyone up. Though the teacher's voice was calm, pleasant even, the stare he gave them was anything but.

"Now, I all taught you how important thinking for yourself is. A global rule that we all should abide if we want to get ahead in the world. Now I'll teach you another rule. One that is undeniably true and supersedes all the others."
He breathed in and leaned forward, his voice a loud thunder.
"Might! Makes! Right!"
He slammed the palm of his hand down onto the booth.
"Feng defended himself damn well. Managed to fool all of you. Your verdict declared him innocent. Now hear mine. He is guilty. He harmed another student, lied despite having been ordered to speak the truth, and disobeyed me. Three times he broke my rules, three times he will pay. You may call him innocent, but all of you are worthless maggots compared to me! Do you understand that? This important lesson? You are weak! I am strong! My word is law! There are many types of strength. Feng used his strength in manipulation, his social standing, being popular and spinning a good tale to delude all of you! You became his strength! You gave him the ability to let him get away with harming others! Melena, on the other hand, lacked that strength! Yet she stands here now, victorious! Because in this case she can use my strength!"

He slammed his hand down again, allowing silence to return to the stunned court.
"Do you all understand, children?" he asked, his voice quiet and pleasant again. "At the end of everything, might makes right. The strongest can dictate how life will go. Feng, dear, you truly put up an exemplary defence. Honestly, it was quite a feat. You lulled all of them into eating up your story like it was coated in honey. I didn't think you had it in you. That's a lie you see, but you'd like to believe it because you're scared shitless given that you're caught. Oh, don't worry my boy. You don't have to be scared."

The teacher turned towards the room again, the perfect image of a caring professor. "You see children, being scared in front of a future you cannot avoid is truly just a waste of thoughts. You could try to steel yourself for it instead, prepare, try to think of a way to get around it, minimise your losses and the damage you'll take."

He turned towards Feng, who had gone as white as snow. "Well Feng, since you broke my rules three times I'm really not going to be lenient towards you. I'll tell you what I'm going to do to you. I'm going to put you in front of the Sitimi wing, you know, where all the non-knuckle head classes are? Then I'm going to lock your mind into a state of permanent torment. Your own nightmares will come alive and devour you whole. You'll be perfectly conscious throughout the whole process. Little by little, your mind will be devoured and you'll stay in a state of suffering the worst pains imaginable. I'll even make sure your feeble spirit will be properly reinforced, so you can withstand an even greater amount of pain. You always wanted to know why the older students don't talk about what happened to people who break the rules, don't you? It's because the screams of those stupid enough to defy me still haunt their dreams. You aren't even aware yet of how much pain you'll be going through. And the best part?"

The teacher casually hopped over the booth and started approaching Feng. His friends fell over themselves trying to get away, abandoning their friend. "It will take you over a month to die. Slowly. Painfully. Agonisingly." With every word the teacher got closer, his grin becoming more monstrous.
"M-my father—"
"Will have his dukedom raised to the ground, his farmlands salted and will receive your head on a pike as a reminder who he has to thank for his fate. Mind you, he'll die in the end. Screaming like a pig and cursing your name."
"You monster!" Feng shouted, stumbling backwards, falling over his own robes. The teacher hovered over him in an instant, his hand covering his mouth as his fingers steadily started exerting more and more pressure on Feng, who let out a muted scream in rabid fear. Blood-red eyes gazed into his.
"Oh yes. I'm quite the monster. And you poked it. Have fun in the afterlife."

With those words Feng's fate was sealed and the screaming began. True to his word, they would haunt the dreams of everyone present, even Melena, who had wished a horrible fate on him. As the students tried to run out of the courtroom, vomiting and crying as they went, the teacher called Feng's friends back.
"Put him up in front of the Sitimi wing. Then come back here and clean up everything the rest dirtied. You were his friends in life. Don't abandon him in death." The glare he gave them made it clear that he was not to be refused on this, and his voice was strangely solemn. From monster to instructor in a heartbeat.
"Don't worry, you'll run out of stuff to vomit soon and then you can carry him without having to clear up the entire path there. Best wait a bit until it's all poured out," he advised them, before he walked out of the room at a brisk pace.

He caught up with a crying Melena, who had sunk down in the hallway, her beautiful body covered in bodily fluids and her face marred with grief and tears.
"There you are!" he said, giving her a friendly wave. "You and I ought to have a chat." The grin he gave her was friendly and calming. It would be hard to imagine such a pleasant looking person to be capable of such monstrous acts.
He pulled her up by the shoulder, gently, his eyes soft and radiating worry for her. He wrinkled his nose as he smelled her. "Oh dear, best take a detour to the baths first. Get you cleaned up. Must be unpleasant to smell like that, although I do fear you have different things on your mind now. Come along."

He picked her up like she weighed nothing more than a feather and strolled off. Melena felt a mental presence stroke against her mind, distracting her from the nightmarish screams that echoed through the building. She looked up and was greeted by a warm and comforting smile. Both mentally and physically exhausted, the girl nestled herself against her teacher's broad chest and let sleep take her. Despite everything that happened, she still felt safe.
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PostSubject: Re: The Mansion in the Woods   Fri Oct 05, 2018 7:32 pm

A stream of water hitting her face woke her up. She jumped upright, instantly alert. Eyes wide, she took in her environment, heart beating loudly in her chest. It took her a moment to orient herself. She was in one of the many rooms in the baths, the teacher sitting down on one knee in front of her, smiling warmly at her. She shook her head, clearing the remnants of the fog of sleep from her mind. Her brain kicked itself into gear and recent events flooded back to her. She looked warily at him as he got back up and walk towards a cupboard.

"No need to look so suspicious at me. I won't bite."
She blinked. He hadn't turned his head at all. She looked around to see if there were any mirrors around, but couldn't find any. Her eyebrows came down as she stared at him in confusion.
"Yeah, that's one of the things we'll have a talk about." In a smooth movement he stepped out of his robes. With the exception of a small bit of cloth around his waste he was utterly naked. Melena felt herself blush and covered her face with her hands. She didn't quite know why she did it, it was an instinctive reaction. Then she slowly created a gap between her fingers to look through. She was greeted by a warm laugh as she sneaked a peek at him. What she saw made her redden further.

If she was considered the female embodiment of beauty, then her teacher could compete for the same title on the male side. It wasn't really the way he looked, although that didn't make much sense. His facial features were strong, well defined. His red eyes, no longer resembling boiling blood now that his anger had subsided, had the colour of burning embers. They caught her gaze for far longer than was appropriate, but he seemed content with leaning back against the cupboard and smiling lazily at her, as if he could read her mind and knew perfectly well what she was thinking. Then her eyes wandered further, across his body. Despite between being very familiar with what happened between a man and a woman, she had never received any joy from it the way normal humans had. Her history in that regard had been filled with violence and slavery. Yet when she looked at him she felt her cheeks heat in a way that was strangely pleasant. He radiated strength in a natural way. The way in which his muscles flexed underneath his skin as he crossed his arms, his smile turning into a grin while he slowly shook his head, reminded her of how the lightning-quick separs behaved. The cat-like creatures were lazy, seemingly at ease, before suddenly striking on an prey several times their sizes. Those animals had strength that belied their size.

"If you're done with that, we need to have a chat. A proper one."
She couldn't respond. She tried to turn her head to look away from him or at least close the gap between her fingers, and failed in both attempts. No matter how much she tried to urge herself to stop gazing at him, she couldn't. Then he laughed. A mesmerising sound. A source of vocal ambrosia that intoxicated her and made her slowly drop her hands and look at him with a broad smile. He shook his head, then looked at her. Not the way he normally looked. He caught her gaze and held it. He looked at her. In her. She felt as if he was dissecting her, and was surprised when she found it a pleasant experience. Her mind was being pulled on from all directions, all somehow related to him and despite being lost in the storm, she couldn't help but smile. He didn't smile however.

"Split your mind. Three parts. Let one part do the drooling if you have to, keep the other two sane. We need to talk about starting your studies properly."
She gave him a slow, confused look. At least she thought she did. Was she giving him such a look? She still was captive by those deep red eyes, wasn't she? At least they weren't dull embers anymore. They were glowing. It was nice to look at. Almost magically.
Then she felt him growl and suddenly she fell into those eyes as the fire in them swallowed her whole.

She blinked. He was leaning against the cupboard, still in that attractive state of undress. He was also giving her a slightly annoyed look, but she somehow knew it wasn't aimed at her. Two more parts of her mind started piping up, making her aware that her mind had somehow split again.

"Sir... What..."
He sighed loudly before shaking his head. "It's..." he made a waving gesture with his hands, somehow seeming exasperated. "It's common. Can't blame you really. It's... Part of the reason why I don't properly teach anyone until they can show proper promise in critical thought and split their mind three-ways. Notice how one part of you is purely focused on me? Keep it that way. Keep one part focused on the rest of your body and guarding the first part and leave the last for talking to me. Think you can do that?"
She closed her eyes. Following direct instructions, yes, she could do that. She opened her eyes again after a brief moment, shrugging off the unease in how that one part of her mind was utterly smitten with him. She nodded.

"Good!" he exclaimed. "You have honestly no idea how annoying it is for me to constantly keep my barriers up to keep you all from getting influenced that way. Really hinders me from properly teaching. Now, new rules coming up, you're officially a student now. Hold on, interrupt me later, listen now."
She nodded again, closing her mouth and swallowing her questions.
"Right, first rule is that you will speak your mind, always. If you're confused, if you don't get something, if you doubt my sanity, voice it. Speaking your mind will not get you punished. Two, never stop using your mind, but don't let societal limits hinder you. This will get more clear as you learn more. Third rule is that you still obey me while you study here, but you're free to leave if you want so, after talking to me about it. You'll be handling a lot more expensive equipment and dangerous knowledge from now on and I'd rather not set loose a plague on the world. The first few times were bad enough. Fourth rule is that I decide on what you get to know. There are things I will teach you, parts of the Mansion I'll make accessible for you, and there are parts I will keep hidden. You will respect that. That's about it really. Never been too fond of too many rules. Your turn now. Go nuts with questions," he said, giving her a wide grin.

She opened her mouth, then closed it again. She eyed him warily, wondered what question to ask first of the several hundred that were fighting within her, each demanding to be voiced first. "What do you mean with that I'm officially a student now? I thought I was studying here for two years now?"
He let out a snicker. "No you weren't. You and the rest were just a handful of... prospects really. Not even that. Honestly, I let most of you in for my own entertainment and because you're useful as examples for the worthwhile students. Although, I must confess I'm not using 'you' correctly here. You remember that you were brought here by Evon, right?"
She nodded. That was an event she would never forget. Evon had saved her from slavery after a long party at the estate she had belonged to. He was one of the guests, a wealthy merchant. Then, after having talked extensively to her for the entire night, he had declared that he'd buy her. When her owner had refused, he had simply killed him, proceeded to slaughter every single guard trying to stop him, and took her out for a stroll. He had been nothing but kind to her, but distant and more than slightly mad. He had driven her straight to here, dropped her off in front of the teacher, told her to have fun and went off again. Which had proven pretty par for the course given how her lectures in the next two years had been, if the teacher bothered to show up.
"Right, that's precisely the difference between you and most other students. I'm a bit known as a teacher. That this place can serve as a very strict but absolutely excellent university. Which is a load of rat-droppings honestly. The only students that are worthwhile to me are the ones that my own students find and bring back."

Melena felt lost. "But I don't have any special talent! I was used for my..." she trailed off, embarrassed.
He laughed again. That musical sound again. It was so different to how he usually laughed. This was genuine. It filled her with joy, but this time her fragmented mind managed to redirect the overwhelming sensations to the part of her that was already smitten. He gave her a lecherous grin with a teasing twinkle in his eyes. "For your 'sweet ass'?" he asked. She turned as red as a tomato and looked down, realising she was still in her red robes, finally realising they were soaked, the vomit washed out. Before she could focus on that, the teacher continued. "Yeah, no. My dear, you've got a fair bit of ability to you. Just not the one people usually look for. You learned how to split your mind three-ways awfully quickly. You can think things through and, personally I value this quite highly, you learn rapidly from your mistakes and your mind is quick to take another direction when one is blocked. You don't stubbornly smash yourself into a wall when it's proven that a train of thought leads to a dead end. Don't worry if you don't fully get that yet, as you grow you will start figuring out what I mean."

She decided to accept that for a truth and choose to ask another question. "When you said that you didn't care, was that the truth?"
"Depends on your definition of care, really."
She jumped out of the chair, growled at him and was taken aback by her own action. "Don't play semantics with me!" As soon as the words left her mouth she slapped her hand over it, visibly shocked by what she said.
He smiled reassuringly at her. "Reckon your other fragment is struggling with keeping the first in control. Anyway, you're right. Don't forget you're actually allowed to talk back to me now. To answer your question: no, I don't care. I'm... honestly a bit beyond that. Yet, at the same time I do care, in a different way. Lives come, lives go, you can fight against that, delay it, sometimes even manage to subvert the damnable flow of time, but what happens, happens. Caring in that aspect? It leads to pain."

For a singular moment she saw grief flash through his eyes. More grief than she thought humanly possible. She felt her arms turn to lead and her legs turn to pudding. They didn't hold up and she started falling to the ground. Then he caught her. His arm slipped around her waist as he had somehow crossed the distance between her without a sound, in the blink of an eye. He was so close to her, intoxicatingly close as she suddenly became aware of all the things he radiated! His warmth, his scent, a comfortable feeling. Combined with the grief she just wanted to throw her arms around him and never let go. Then he stepped back, giving her a slight push so she fell back onto the chair.
"On the other hand," he whispered sadly, "I do care. Because that makes life worth living."
Where grief had passed behind his eyes a moment ago, now it was a well of boundless hope. It invigorated her, pumped her body full of almost reckless energy. She had the sudden urge to dance and couldn't stop grinning.

She blinked and was surprised to see him standing several feet away from her again, pacing through the room as if he was giving a lecture.
"Another thing you really need to keep in mind when dealing with me is that I have a flair and love for the dramatic, and that I cannot help being a damnably influential creature. And I'm not talking about the same influence Feng claimed to have. Mine's a lot more dangerous and I need to be constantly mindful of it. Although I may let part of it slip from time to time to highlight a point. Or for my own amusement. Or maybe I'm just careless." He gave her a playful wink. "Honestly, who can tell?"

"You're mad!" she accused him, but couldn't stop laughing as she said it.
"What is chaos to the fly is order to the spider," he countered, suddenly the very image of a stern professor.
She kept laughing. She was beyond being confused now. The way his very being influenced her, how he jumped between characters, how she was nearly raped and murdered, had her last sanctuary nearly torn to pieces, had gained hope for revenge, had that hope dashed, only to have it rekindled while receiving the fright of her life, then seeing her revenge become something truly vile and nightmarish, then this!

He disappeared as she kept laughing. On and on it went, from deep down in her belly the bursts came. Tears formed in her eyes and she started gasping for breath as it went on and on and on, utterly unable to call it to a halt. She was vaguely aware of water rushing through pipes around her, but it was a distant sound compared to the roars of laughter rolling from the walls. She must have crashed to the floor at one point, because she found herself laying on the smooth tiles, clutching her stomach as she was doubled over in pain. Sobs and tears started accompanying her laughs as they kept going. At one point the teacher returned and gently picked her up, rocking her back and forth as if she were but a babe rather than fully grown woman, softly whispering calming words in her ears as his fingers tenderly stroked her hair.

It took a while, but eventually she stopped laughing and crying. She looked up and found his face comfortably close, but the earlier feeling of undeniable attraction was gone. Had he locked it again behind barriers, or had she gotten a more thorough hold of herself now that she had expelled a lifetime's worth of emotions? She consulted the other parts of her mind and found that they had merged again. Rather than feeling whole, she felt strangely empty and was quick to divide it again. Hearing the soft murmuring of her other selves' thoughts running parallel along this version of her was strangely soothing. Made even stranger because all three parts of her shared that opinion, and all were equally her.
She focused her attention back to the here and now, the physical aspect of it all, and saw nothing but patience on his face.
"Will you really kill Feng's father?" she asked with a weak voice.
A soft smile appeared. "What do you think?"
"I don't know you well enough to guess. You might, but you might not..."
"I'm not asking you to guess, dear," he encouraged her.
"I... Can I get a hint?" She was using a childlike voice. She knew it was likely a useless machination to try on him, but she figured there was no harm in trying. If it amused him, he may actually give her one.
He smiled. Success! she thought. "Fine then. Think of the law of the lazy."
She blinked in surprise. "Make sure something needs doing before doing it?"
He nodded.
Her eyes widened. "You won't!" she exclaimed.
"Won't I?" he asked, a twinkle shining brightly in his eyes.
"Oh really?"
"Yeah! Because there's nothing to be gained!"
"Are you sure about that? Maybe I don't want to be bothered for a while and setting fire to a dukedom would go a long way towards that."
"I..." she faltered. That was an idea she hadn't thought of. "But he did nothing to you!" she protested.
"He sent his son to me. That son hurt one of my students. It was his son that caused those troubles. He raised that boy."
As she struggled to ponder that, one of her other fragments came to the front with a reply. "You already punished him! And you're the one that let him stay!"
"Ooh, and she counters! What if I tell you though, that this man treats others the same way you were treated?"
Unbidden dark thoughts jumped to the front and she felt her face contort with anger. Then the anger recoiled from her with surprising force as her mental training kicked in. "Then he deserves to die, but not those around him."
"Oh really? I think he's quite free have such hobbies though. Might makes right after all."
She felt a sudden hunger well up inside of her. A dark feeling. The call of revenge. "But you are mightier."
"I might be." She knew that he was studying her. That it was a set up. Another test. The desire for revenge was overwhelming though.
"Then you—"
He laid his finger on her lips, shushing her. She suddenly realised that she was still in his arms and that she had halfway climbed up towards his face. A sudden reminder struck her that he was still mostly naked and that her own robes were soaked and clinging rather tightly to her. Blood flooded towards her cheek as she let herself fall back into his arms, making herself as tiny as she could.

He put her down, very slowly. Stately even. Moving carefully and with grace he went to stand in front of her. Every step was measured. It was a steady approach, official. Every time he planted his foot down he did so fully.

When he finally stopped he was standing a mere two steps away from her. Seeing him tower over her like that really made her become aware of just how tall he was.
"Melena. It it time for you to learn how to wield your spirit. It is time for you to decide on your future. From here on out, you and I shall discuss your destiny. Discard all. Leave your mind bare."

She had never heard him speak like that before. He sounded less than a teacher or a professor and more like an oracle, a king, emperor even! His voice had filled the room without being raised and she had been held captive in those deep pools that were his eyes.

She was barely aware of him walking through an open door in a different room of the baths. She came to her senses just in time to see him drop the last piece of cloth before disappearing into the dense steam. Realising she was supposed to follow, she hurriedly got rid of her own clothes and ran after him.
It was perhaps inappropriate given the official tone he had used only a moment before, but the last thoughts she had before entering the dense fog were focused on a, to phrase it roughly, sweet, sweet ass.
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PostSubject: Re: The Mansion in the Woods   Sat Oct 06, 2018 5:28 pm

The fog of steam was much denser than she had anticipated. The moment she had stepped into it, it had swallowed her whole. She couldn't see anything in it. She held up her hand in front of her face and frowned when even that was hidden from her despite the meagre distance. The smell hit her a moment later. It was an unfamiliar scent. Strangely pleasant, yet at the same time utterly foreign. She hesitated to call it magical, given that it was quite common knowledge that the teacher was a freak of nature since he didn't generate magic like virtually every other living creature did, but the scent had a certain inhuman flair to it.

It wasn't natural steam, that much she was sure of. With every step she took she grew more hesitant as the fog became thicker, as if the steam itself was trying to keep her from advancing. She was vaguely aware of her teacher was waiting for her somewhere ahead. She could somehow feel his presence. She didn't doubt that it was his doing. He had been showing off similar tricks all day long. Probably with the intent of giving her some insight into what it meant to wield 'spirit'.

As she took another step she let out a loud gasp. The steam had suddenly become a physical barrier. A cloud that clung to her naked body and hindered her movement. It felt frightening. No longer was she just stepping through an inanimate mist of water vapour. It acted as if it was a living entity. It swirled around her, grabbed hold of her and tried pulling her deeper into itself. She struggled and managed to pull back a few steps, to where she knew it was safe. Except it was safe no longer. It lurched after her, grabbed hold of her once more and pulled her forward again. She resisted as best as she could. The touch was no longer pleasant. It felt offensive, dirty, touching her in all the right places to make her recall all the wrong memories.

She opened her mouth to scream and the mist rolled in. It acted like a ball of cloth propped in her mouth, keeping her quiet. She pulled her arms back only to find the mist, previously only holding her wrist, to encroach down on the entire length of her forearm and pulling her in deeper. She felt herself panic. First one part of her mind. Then another as the mist kept dragging her deeper into the unknown and she felt water hit her feet as the floor tilted downwards. With every step that she was dragged forward, the mist encased her further. It grew more solid as it went, but never lost it's disgusting feeling of being an unstable substance. It was wrapped tightly around her limbs, but tendrils of it started embracing the rest of her. Deeper into the water she was pulled and she tried biting into the steam blocking her mouth when the tendrils reached her breasts, encasing those as well. Next to be covered was her nose. She could still breath, but that was the extent of it. Her eyes widened as she realised that it was slowly depriving her of all her senses. She felt a modicum of pride that it wasn't until she was down to her neck in the water and the steam started covering her ears that the third part of her started panicking.

She was about to accept her fate, immobilised and deprived of all her senses safe touch, when it all stopped. The mist didn't withdraw, but it ceased being solid. Melena went from being completely encased to being fully free without any warning. She lost her footing and fell into the water. If it is water she thought to herself, rapidly resurfacing. The liquid was as impossible to see through as the steam was. A pang of worry struck her when she remembered the lesson involving lungs and the effect gasses could have on them. She wished she had paid more attention to the class, because then she might have been able to put her worries as to whether the steam would slowly fill her lungs with water to rest.

When her teacher spoke, she jumped up and screamed.
"Didn't I tell you to leave your mind bare?"
She stammered a reply, unable to calm down her frightened mind.
"If you had discarded your worry and stopped focusing on everything else, you wouldn't have felt it when I used the steam to pull you in. Let alone have to drag you in while you put up a fight."
That broke through her fear and her eyes widened in rage as pure anger set het blood aflame. "You!" she accused, pointing a finger out of habit even though she couldn't see where he was and was guessing for his location at best. "You did all that!"
"I did."
Life itself be damned, she could feel the smugness radiating from him. "Do you have any idea how that felt to me? What it reminded me of!" she shouted, taking a step back and trying to use the way the water splashed to get an idea of where he was. Given how close his voice had sounded, he couldn't be that far off.
"I might have a suspicion what it reminded you of, yes."
She half stepped, half swam through the water, getting closer to his voice. "You utter bastard! You don't know what it feels like! Being used as a toy! Not even being seen as a human being! Only existing to serve for someone's fucking pleasure!"

She jumped when she felt large arms embrace her from behind. They gently slid down from her shoulders, just aside her chest, over her belly, before the hands rested tenderly on her hips. She felt her teacher's chest — who else could it be — press against her back.
"Oh, I think I might know how that feels," he whispered into her ear. She felt her mind spin. His sudden appearance from behind her had taken her completely off guard and had sent the three parts of her mind spinning. Emotions warred for supremacy while her body felt the need to point out that his touch felt incredibly pleasant. Were his barriers down again and was he subtly influencing her? The lack of certainty further fuelled her anger and she moved her leg back, searching for his feet. When she found it, she raised her own foot and brought her heel down onto his toes, as hard as she could manage. Pulling herself loose, she struggled slightly to bring her hand up above the water. She turned around, somehow knew exactly where he was and brought her hand down with all the force she could muster, squarely in his face.

The next moment she launched herself at him the best she could. Without hesitation she threw her arms and legs around him, clinging as tightly to him as her meagre strength allowed. She had tried to get high enough to properly kiss him on the lips, but the water had kept her from jumping that high and she had to settle for planting her lips in his neck. When she felt the hands that she had shaken free a moment earlier land on her backside, she tightened her hold on him, using every ounce of strength she had to pull herself up. She made use of his arms as they slid upwards across her back, his fingers setting her body aflame as they slowly progressed, to push herself further up. She felt a desperate heat building up inside her body as she neared his lips. A desire that was stronger than anything she had ever felt before ran from her head to her toes. It excited her, intoxicated her. She didn't care whether this was his doing or not anymore, all that mattered to her was that it wouldn't end! She'd beg him if she had to, just to let it continue! To let it spiral further down, to let it escalate until she'd explode from passion! Never before had she had the chance to actually enjoy it, always having to obey, always having to provide! As his arms tightened around her back, pinning her in place she almost howled with pure want, her nails digging into his skin. One hand remained in place as the other slid further upwards until it reached the back of her head and pushed her closer to his, forcing her to take her lips off his neck. She felt his near her ear —actually felt it!— and arched her back in ecstasy, pressing her breasts hard into his chest, further enhancing the pleasure she felt.

She became aware how his mouth opened, could make out the details on his lips, the line of his teeth and his tongue laying behind them without being able to see it, and she ached for them to touch her, it didn't matter how! Then he finally whispered to her.
"What do you think you're doing?"

The effect of those words was instant. Had she spend her entire life living in a desert only to be suddenly teleported to an icy wasteland, the shock could not have been greater. She lost strength in her limbs and fell off him. He caught her gently, but even that did not diminish the sudden loss and shock that she felt. His touch no longer pleasant, she tried to pull herself away from him. It turned out he didn't approve of that.

Before she knew what was happening the mist started swirling around her. It wasn't like earlier when it remained in place but the solidity of it changed. Now it was actually swirling, like a great hurricane that raged all around her. It pulled on her hair and nearly tore her out of her teacher's arms. She could see again and what she saw terrified her. She was staring into his blood-red eyes from up close, his massive frame mere inches away from her. She saw anger and annoyance behind those eyes and his presence thundered around her like an apocalyptic storm. He assaulted her with it. His presence crashed against her fragments and the meagre defence they put up was overwhelmed in an instant. It was a sensation unlike anything she had ever witnessed. She couldn't even describe it except that it overpowered her every sense. She felt how her mind shut off every connection it had to her physical body in an attempt to not drown in the flood of sensations that he conjured deep within her. It was a fruitless effort. He smashed through her barriers and filled every corner of her mind. She felt her fragments pull together in a far corner and put up a desperate, final resistance. Then that too was snuffed out.

"To start things off, I'd like you to know that nothing that just happened now was because of my influence. Everything you felt, did, saw and believed was all of your own doing. The steam is made up with a lot of herbs that strongly enhance any emotion. There's a fair number of hallucinogens in there. I didn't expect you to off on that tangent."
The voice was inside of her. Hang on. Inside of her? Where was she anyway? For that matter, where was anything?
"Aye, pretty confusing isn't it? Welcome to the inside of your own mind. Don't worry if it doesn't make sense, you'll get used to it as you spend more time here."
She tried to talk, then realised she lacked a mouth. Or a face. Or a body! Then she felt a stab of panic when she became aware that all of her senses weren't there! She still had an awareness, but she couldn't tie it down to anything. And where was his voice coming from!"
"Calm down!"
It soothed her. It shouldn't have as she was still quite angry from the avalanche of emotions he had unleashed on her, but it did.
"Don't try to talk. Think. I can hear you just fine. This is your mind, I merely invaded it to make you calm down a bit and talk about spirit in a more efficient way."
She felt torrents of thoughts pour through her as she felt how he carefully neutralised her emotions, reducing them to mere shadows of themselves, leaving her pure intellect bare.
"Is this what you meant earlier? About abandoning all and leaving my mind free?"
"Yes, that's precisely it."
"Then why don't you use this from the start?" It was strange. With her emotions mostly out of the picture, it was so easy to think. She couldn't fragment her mind though, which did feel weird.
"Your mind is fragmented. It just doesn't feel that way in here because this is the sum of all your fragments."

She saw him. Not with her eyes, but she saw him. Inaccurate description. She felt him? No, that was no good either. She felt? Heard? Smelled? him laugh.
"Stop that. People have gone mad trying to describe how senses work in here. It's easier to accept that, or if you really insist on using a word that can actually be applied, then use lactiobe."
"And what does that mean?"
He grinned. "Well trying to translate it really defeats the purpose of giving it a word in the first place."
"Oh." It made sense. She felt strangely stupid. Wait, he grinned. How did he grin?
"Basically our minds work a lot faster than our thoughts do. In the same way we often do things that we would struggle to describe. Try describing every step your body goes through when opening a door. Your mind makes your body do it, but try to make it a conscious action and you'll be writing for a long while. So when we're in here your conscious mind tries to make sense of it by creating images and feelings you can relate to. If we dealt in pure information the way our mind did, pretty much nobody would survive entering this state."

She pondered on that for a while. It made sense, but only in the way that everything else he had said made sense so far. By accepting that it was utterly beyond her, trusting her teacher to speak the truth, and moving on.
"To answer your earlier question," he interrupted her, "this is about the biggest invasion of privacy that you can imagine. For a mind as strong as my own? I see everything that's in here the moment I enter it."
She felt a strong blush. Apparently her emotions hadn't been numbed down that much.
"Everything?" It wasn't a spoken word, but she felt how she struggled to utter it. Think it. Whatever! The part of her mind that she had assigned to be busy being smitten with him had been very active.
He brushed her concerns aside by simply moving on to a different subject and it brought her great relief. Now that she was fully sane again, she was taken aback just how strongly her urges and desire had been. Not unjustified, mind you. He was strong, smart, handsome, maybe a bit of a jerk —alright, a lot of a jerk— but he was kind in the end. Wealthy too. There were worse people to feel attracted to and fantasize about. And that a— no, no, no! She was doing it again! Dammit, didn't he say he had disabled her emotions?
"You came to the conclusion on your own. I never said that. Besides, they're not disabled, merely numbed down. Emotions are pivotal. They provide us with a drive after all."
Damn. So he heard that too.

"Anyway, how about we get back to the topic at hand? You've given it a fair amount of though. Your mind still works in its usual three-ways even if it feels like one, and with me being pretty much all over your mind, you've gleamed a fair bit from my own thoughts as well. Tell me what you've concluded so far."
She sat up straighter. Or didn't. Mindscape, confusing place. Right, question. Answering it. "The spirit works as a way to use your mind as a weapon or tool. It lets you project your own thoughts towards the outside. Even influence physical things. It's how you punished Feng. You used his own mind against him. How... I don't quite fathom that, but I reckon you'll point out that it's a 'you'll learn it as you go' thing. And the reason you wait with this until people can split their mind in three parts is because that's the very minimum needed to wield your mind that way. One part to function normally. One part to think. One part to project. And the reason you are so utterly confusing about all of this is to keep people from overthinking it, because overthinking it will make you realise that you can't ground this into the reality we... Into the reality I know. It doesn't make sense, but it's no less true for that. So you distract and annoy and dance around the subject and confuse us, but at the same time you're prodding us towards the starting line all the same. Because that's where I'm at now, isn't it? The very beginning of it all?"

"See, if I could just invade the mind of all my prospective students like that and have a proper heart to heart, it'd make my life so much easier! And putting up with me knowing your every secret is a pretty small price to pay in exchange I reckon."
She wasn't sure if she agreed with that.
He turned towards her, suddenly looking and feeling incredibly thoughtful, as if he was pondering a difficult question. "Do you really think I have a sweet ass?" he asked.

She felt oh so glad when she managed to smack him both mentally and physically at the same time.
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PostSubject: Re: The Mansion in the Woods   Sun Oct 07, 2018 1:00 pm

She massaged her hand while glaring at him. He was grinning broadly at her. Damn it, what the hell was he made of? He hadn't even turned his head when she had hit him. The worst of it all was that she now knew damn well why he was being such an utter and total bastard. Because it worked. She understood that now. Wielding your mind and your spirit as a tool required your consciousness to let your subconsciousness do the work, similar to how you opened a door. You merely went to open a door and your body did it. Same with this. Don't think, instruct, do. Didn't make his smug grin any more tolerable really.

"You're getting the hang of it, aren't you?"
She stuck her tongue out at him. For some reason the more time she spent with him, the less she began to care about decorum and the more common sense seemed to be thrown out of the window in favour of just being able to deal with him. Which honestly did explain why Evon had seemed so utterly mad without being insane. Perhaps it wasn't a consequence of learning how to wield your spirit, but more a result of having spent too much time around the teacher.

The steam was slowly returning to it's normal, impenetrable state after that he had stirred it up, but at the moment it was enough to vaguely see him standing there. Not all of him, thank the Lord, because seeing that would've tossed her mind into turmoil again. She saw enough, however, to see him sit down on an elevated platform in the water and both saw and felt him gesture for her to do the same. She obliged, wary of any tricks he might be up to now. It took her a few moments before she'd find another platform. The moment she sat down he started.
"Right then. Time for us to discuss the next part of it all. Your destiny as I called it earlier, which honestly is a lot of grandstanding. It means that we're going to see what direction you want to take your life from here on out, what subjects you want to study and which skills you'd like to master. So really, speak your mind. I'll try and keep inappropriate jokes and madness induced rants to a minimum."

She sighed deeply. For some reason the earlier staggering amounts of respect she had for him had waned suspiciously quickly and now she was stuck between seeing him as a teacher, a very attractive person, an even more annoying person, and probably the most dangerous and capable being she'd ever get close to. And she had to obey him too, on top of everything else.
"What choices do I have? I don't know a lot about the world. I was a peasant girl and the only knowledge I ever gained was while I studied here or what the people that owned me gossiped about while in bed."
"How about we start with what you want to do?"
"Honestly... I wouldn't mind staying here. I like it here. It's safe and comfortable and—"
"Blood and vomit!" he cursed. She nearly fell off the elevation in shock. "You listen up now, you're one of the very few people out in the world that has the talent to actually learn how to bloody wield your mind! Do you know how rare that red-damned talent is? And you'd waste it while sitting here and not doing anything? You're not going to get any-bleeding-thing done that way! By the Flows! You're never going to be more than an unblooded welp if that's your take on life!"

He slid off the platform and started walking around her, hidden by the fog. His sudden outburst had taken her off-guard. He seemed sincere for a change and there was a determination to his tred that wasn't there before. His sudden change in language was strange as well. She'd have thought more about it hadn't he suddenly grabbed her by the shoulders and roughly pulled her up. Her feet were dangling beneath her, her toes barely touching the platform.
"Since you have absolutely no idea and are far too much of a damnable anaemic to stand up for yourself, I'll give you a few ideas. You like the idea of taking revenge on those who wronged you, right?"
She nearly responded. Something in the back of her mind told her to wait. She thought about it. It was an old dream of her, that was true, but to take vengeance on nobles? She wasn't like her teacher, she lacked the ability. Physically, mentally, financially... It had been a dream the same way slaves sometimes dreamed of freedom. Unless he meant he was going to help her with it.
"Will you—"
He shushed her by placing a finger on her lips. She felt a sudden desire to lick it and cursed inwardly at the thought. Damn this steam! She quickly retreated most of her consciousness back into her fragments, severing the majority of her connections to her body, leaving just enough to remain aware but not much more than that.
"Don't think of the how. Think of the if. Does the idea seem interesting to you?"
She nodded. Slowly at first, but more vigorously as memories started flooding her. She'd sacrifice everything to get back at them and make them pay.
"Good. Let's take that as a base. Now let's move on to the how. You're not physically strong, and the time it will take you to wield your spirit well enough to actually strike them and surviving would mean they'd have all died from old age before you'd have a shot at them. So, we'll use other means instead. Intrigue. Cunning. Politics. Playing them out against one another."
She mulled it over. It was, without a doubt, an attractive prospect. She could not fathom how she would take on such a task though. "How then? You might as well be speaking in tongues to me. I'm a farm girl. I know nothing of their world."
"Oh yes you do." He smiled at her in a way that made her distinctly uncomfortable.
"What do you — No! No no no no no!" she screamed, trying to back away from him, which was fairly useless given that he was still holding her by the shoulders.
"Stop. Sit. Think," he ordered her, letting go of her after she ceased her struggle. She was surprised to feel herself obey. "Do you honestly think I'm asking you to go back there, lift your skirt and let them have their way with you? Please, that'd solve nothing except that they'd have fun. No, I'm talking about seduction. Dress up as a noblewoman. Flirt a bit with them. Use that body of yours as a weapon against them. Lure them into your web like a spider, make them hunger for you, dream of you, long for you until they start thinking solely with the wrong head. Make them buy you pretty things that are so hideously expensive they'll ruin themselves just to win your favour. Establish alliances with others so that when you publicly disgrace one of them, they'll all come running to protect your honour and maybe have you graciously take the arm they'll generously offer."

He was pacing again as he lectured. She sat there and thought about what he said, but he was far form done.
"If I were you, I'd start by learning a merchant trade. I can easily outfit you with the materials required to start a trade caravan. I'll give you a letter for the guilds in Lannas when the time comes. They'll procure the basic products and an armed escort for you, as well as letters of introduction from other nobles. I'd suggest trading in small, but valuable products. Jewelry or something of the sort. Magical items as well, those things always sell for a fortune and there are very few people that can produce them. That will be your cover to get in. Add in a few herbal products that are rumoured to heal various ailments and stimulate certain functions and you'll practically have a paved route to get near your targets. Then, wearing the right clothes and using a few choice words, you'll have them wrapped around your finger in no time. Psychological warfare is a dangerous thing, and by that time you'll have figured out the basics of how to wield your mind."

He paused and turned to face her. She knew she must have looked childish with her mouth wide open, but she couldn't help herself. The way he summarised it all made her question once again just who she was dealing with and how long he had been planning this. If it hadn't been for her three fragments running parallel to one another, she'd have just sit there dumbfounded and utterly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information and possibilities being thrown her way.

"Of course, there are other ways. You could try the merchant trade and use your looks to gain an advantage and slowly climb the ranks, eventually growing large enough until you can institute a trade embargo, but that's significantly slower, much less effective and will cause a lot more collateral damage. You could try becoming an informant of others. Believe it or not, there are nobles who would see your looks as an asset to be used outside of the bedchamber as well, and they'd pay a pretty penny to have you work for them. They would work as your shield as well, even more so if you know a few secrets of them as well. Lastly, you could go the bandit queen role, but that might require a bit more of a hands on approach and I don't think you'd be to keen on that. Of course, if you want a completely different route then you could—"
"Stop! No more! Please!" she begged. Her head felt as if it would burst and she couldn't take in any more. This was her life he was talking about and she could see all the possible roads into the future flashing by at a far too quick pace as it was. "Please. Let me think. Please?" The words were barely audible, her voice little more than a whine.

She was met with silence, but was glad for it. She let her thoughts roam freely, thinking it all through. This was the first time in her young life that she had been given the chance to decide what she'd do from here on out and she wanted to make the right decision for a change.
"If I don't want to do that, what then?" she asked, her voice soft and unsure.
"Then you can do something else. Honestly, as long as you don't waste it doing nothing, I'm fine with any direction you want to take. It's better if you pick something you are interested in though. Ability matters less in these things. Determination and perspective beat it by far."
He moved till he was behind her and gently pulled her back, until her back was laying against his chest. He ran his fingers through her hair in an innocent, tender manner. "Even if you decide you just want to learn a simple trade while training your mind. You're free to do that, you know? There's no pressure."

She nodded and let herself lean against him. Her mind and body safely separated from one another through her mental barriers, his touch hardly reached her and the few parts of it that did were pleasant without being overbearing or distracting. Letting her mind wander she thought about it all. There were many paths she could take, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Peace and safety spoke volumes to her. She wasn't really familiar with it, but knew that if she took that path then she would be safe from nobles and from twats like Feng. Part of her found that a waste, however. She had abilities. It would be a shame if she didn't make use of them, as her teacher had pointed out. There were risks involved with chasing after vengeance, but the rewards would be so much greater. What had he said again? Becoming a merchant? It would, after she finished the task of taking care of her captors, give her great freedom. Freedom and wealth, power even.

She did not know how long she lay there, supported by him, surrounded by pleasantly warm water and intoxicating steam. At one point she probably fell asleep, but if she had then he had shown no sign of it. He had been silent, patient, stroking her hair throughout it all. Slowly but surely she started making a decision, but before she'd choose she wanted a few questions of her own answered. She didn't open her eyes. It wasn't necessary and she could feel where he was anyway.
"Why do you do this?"
His fingers changed direction. They slowly slid through her hair until they found that sensitive spot behind her ears. When he started to rub it softly, she practically melted in his hands.
"It's a hobby. A pleasant distraction."
"Must... be more to it... than that..." she moaned. Lord, it wasn't fair to do that to her while she was trying to think. It wasn't fair. How could anyone be so damnably good with their hands? She shuddered when she realised that her mental barriers were still up and for one fearful moment she struggled with the urge to drop them, to feel his touch properly. Luckily enough for her she never had the chance as he moved his fingers back to her hair.
When no answer came to her remark, she slowly began to realise he didn't want to elaborate on it. Which was fair, given that the entire trade was already heavily weighed in her favour. A bit too much, really. It made her suspicious.

"Will it be with a loan contract or something, that you'll give me what I need to start as a merchant?"
"No, it's a gift. The only thing you might have to do from time to time is buy some items I might need. I'll pay for those though."
"You know that doesn't make any sense, right?"
"Not for you perhaps. You've decided then, I take it?"
"Are you still in my head?" she asked, wondering how he knew.
"Not since you smacked me."
"I'm not sorry about that."
"Yes you are. You hurt your hand."
Okay, this was creepy. "Are you sure you're not in my head anymore?"
"You're fairly easy to read."
"If I choose to become a merchant and go after them, I'll need a lot, you know? Wares, clothes, a caravan, money..."
"You'll have that, don't you worry."
"Do you actually have that type of clothes laying around?" she asked. She wasn't talking about merchants clothes either.
"You mean seductive clothes that show of your body? Outline your curves, bring attention to your breasts and highlight your assets?"
She blushed. Blunt bastard. "Yes," she muttered. "Those."
"No, but I can make them. I make a lot of things. I'll just need to take your measurements really."
Her blush got significantly worse at that but he talked straight over it. "You'll even get to decide what material, what colour. Honestly depending on what type of events you'll attend you'll need different outfits. The dances you'll partake in will dictate how the cloth will need to sway around you, and depending on how you want to seduce others, the material will matter greatly."
Her voice was barely more than a peep now, unbidden thoughts slowly eroding the barriers between her mind and body, even though two parts of her mind were fully focused on keeping them up. "But I don't know anything about dances or seduction. I'm just a peasant girl," she protested.

"Don't worry," came his confidence voice.
"I'll personally teach you so you'll master it."
And just like that, her barriers shattered.
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PostSubject: Re: The Mansion in the Woods   Fri Oct 12, 2018 4:07 pm

The wagon train had managed to enter Tinas without problem. The guards posted at the gates were the ones that always manned them and had easily recognised Marcus. The tiny merchant was quite memorable, tiny as he was and always accompanied by the huge, heavily armoured Daenan. They had rushed them aside as soon as they spotted them, giving them warnings about the armed zealots that now ruled the city and patrolled it. Their looks turned from worry to outright fear when Marcus told them that they had already met them. It wasn't unknown that Marcus travelled with an Orc and a Faerie, but while the humans from the borderlands traded openly with all, the zealots would gleefully tear them apart. Under the pretense of the usual inspection of goods the guards had exchanged information with the small, humble merchant and given them directions to a part of the town where they would be able to stay without attracting the attention of the fanatics. Marcus had thanked them and given them some coins in return, but the sad look on his face told him he was less than happy about their forced relocation. Marcus knew every inn for miles around, and as calm and docile as he usually was, he could get incredibly passionate when food was involved.

Daenan had decided to err on the side of caution for the night and was laying on the bed in his room rather than remaining downstairs with the others. He regretted it. He much preferred to be around others. He wasn't alone though, but Faen's constant and literal buzzing around didn't do much to pacify his annoyance. The large mug of beer had helped, but had been emptied all too soon. So had the other two.
"Faen, by my honour, stop flying about like that or I will smack you like a big bug."
"How can you be so calm!" the Faerie squeaked back. "We're in the middle of a town full of zealots! They'll tear us apart if they find out about us! What will you do if you can't lie your way through a group of them?"
Daenan patted the warhammer leaning against the bed he was sitting on.
"Violence doesn't solve everything!"
"Solved everything up to now though."
"I— You— Aaah!" the Faerie threw his arms up in exasperation, before flying over towards his friend and starting to hammer him on the head with his fists. "You absolute idiot! There's hundreds of them here! Do you hear me? Hundreds! You can't take them on! What are you going to do when they show up with crossbows?"
"Probably turn myself into a pincushion and take a few more with me, I guess," came the response. Daenan shrugged, as if the image didn't perturb him.
"You idiot!" the Faerie shouted again. Realising that hitting his friend on the head did absolute nothing except draw a broad, toothy grin from him, the Faerie ceased his assault and slowly sank to the ground. "At least distract them for long enough so I can escape." He threw a weak smile at his tall friend.
Daenan nodded. "Reckon I can manage that. Think if I throw a cart at them they'll be suitably distracted?"
"Like that time in Lurgassi?"
"Oh yeah. That was fun."
"That wasn't fun you jackass! We actually had to restrain Marcus or he'd try to skin you alive!"
"He what now? How come I never knew that bit?"
"Because you were too busy beating up the entire city militia you moron!"
Daenan's face turned thoughtful for a brief moment as he mulled over the memory.
"Well then their captain shouldn't have spit in my drink."
"He did that because you called him a cheating whore's son!"
"Well he was! The cheating at least. Using weighed dice, the bastard."

Faen had started fluttering again and realised that his friend was taking the piss with him. He sighed and slowly descended, landing next to his pal. "You're an impossible bastard, you know that?"
"Thank you. I try."
"So how do you think things will pan out in the city?"
"Hm. I reckon Marcus will want to sell everything as fast as possible and stock up on whatever he can get his hands on. Bugger's usually greedy, but I think even he prefers his head over gold. Like you said, it's a matter of time before we're found."
Faen paled, which was rather hard to notice given a Faerie's usual complexion. "What do you mean?"
Daenan's dark eyebrows formed into a frown, giving him a distinct demonic appearance. "You didn't see?"
Faen shook his head. Sometimes he forgot that his friend, despite being a rude bastard and an utter oaf, his skills were very real and that underneath his slow and clumsy demeanor a mind as sharp as a razor lurked.
"The Flame's giving out rewards for finding spies." He spat the last word.
Faen gulped. He could connect the dots. "And an even bigger one for creatures of the Dark," he finished.
"There's a reason the guards sent us here. This quarter has no love lost for the Flame, and their patrols are unlikely to frequent here as well. They may be fanatics, but they're not stupid. They have a few competent bastards leading them. By my honour, I wish it weren't so because the rest of them are just vermin. But you know what they say about pigeons being led by a phoenix." Daenan shrugged.
"So do you think we'll be safe here?" Faen looked up at his friend, a slimmer of hope lurking in the question. That slimmer was immediately extinguished when his friend looked down at him in disgust.
"Of course not. By the strength of my arm, Faen, could you please stop flying long enough so you can have some blood flow to your brain instead? I told you not a moment ago that we'll be found sooner or later. Safety is an illusion. There's always danger. The only way to be safe is to be prepared for it."

Faen realised his wings were buzzing again and slowly brought them to a stop, embarrassed. He looked down in shame. Silence reigned in the room for a good long while before the Faerie dared disrupt it again.
"Is where you are from that dangerous?"
"I travelled a lot. Some places were dangerous, others weren't. I'm still alive though."
"That's not what I asked, you oaf," Faen replied while smacking his friend on the side.
"No. I suppose it wasn't."
"So?" insisted the Faerie
"So what?" sighed Daenan
"So how was where you are from then?"
"Rusted blades and blunt daggers, you just won't leave me be until you hear it, will you?" Daenan growled
Faen fought down an urge to retreat and bravely held his ground. "You've not told me or anyone. And I'm sure you're an Orc. But you're not like how Orcs are supposed to be. You're not..." he trailed off, realising he was venturing on very dangerous territory. He looked to the floor in front of him. He could feel Daenan's eyes towards him and felt the fury behind them.
"You mean I'm not stupid. Reigned by bestial instincts that I have no control over. That I am, in fact, more than an animal. Something which you are directly inferring they are not."
"I didn't—" squeaked Faen, only to be stopped short when a pillow crashed into him. For most creatures, having a pillow tossed at them was a pleasant way to pass the time. For a Faerie it was more akin to someone throwing a frying pan at you. Faen, being caught off guard, was sent flying along with the pillow, without the use of his wings for once, and crashed into the blankets of the other bed. He struggled to claw free of them, intending to give his friend a proper cuff on the ears, with his limited magic if he had to, but was brought short by the sad look on Daenan's face.

"Those are not proper Orcs," he whispered. "They're abominations, Faen. They have forgotten their past. By my honour, I hate that I share ancestry with them. I hate that they are all people think of when they think of me and mine. Hammer and shield, how I hate it. We are so much more than..." he trailed off, as if suddenly realising where he was again. For a brief moment he looked terribly fragile, a sight that didn't fit the metal-clad giant. Then he growled and the image was gone. Replaced by the usual fearsome, fierce intensity that he possessed. He got up in a sharp, fluid movement despite the significant weight that his armour held. He stretched and tilted his head in both directions, his bones cracking as he moved.
"Bah. I need a drink. Drinks." He managed to stress the s to indicate he needed several. Before Faen could voice an objection, his friend narrowly managed to avoid pulling the door out of its frame as he left the room, leaving the Faerie alone with his thoughts.
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