Why do you run
Why do you not trust the world
What of the fire inside you, the heart.
Is there anything left
B O O M
The sniper aimed high, and for that she’s thankful. What she wasn’t thankful for was the sound that followed, causing Obon to cry out and drop a good fifty feet to avoid this bullet that already was gone in the sky, but left its voice behind.
Her stomach flew up into her throat as he dropped, having to extend his wings out to catch the air and get back to his hovering point, over their partners on this trip. He scrambles for a moment as the head pivots about to confirm it was fine, that Gal was still on. Soon the bird lets out another cry, an almost apologetic cry as he continues on with the skyscales without a beat missed.
Her knuckles were white. Bile stained her tongue, and she just glared. Not of anger at her griffon, no.
Those damn snipers.
“Those snipers are….Rude.”
Niklas had made it up to her, maybe to check on her, but his scowl could tell her enough that the bullet came closer to him than she.
“Yeah…Yeah they are. I’m kind of agreeing with Tove about the term ‘Fuck Snipers’,” Gal growls under her breath as those knuckles finally loosen and she can sit deeper into the saddle again without the fear of dropping.
Night had taken over now.
They had gone deeper, just like Gal had promised before. Deeper into unknown land and deeper into the enemy lines. Dominion held on, they hissed and groaned with their machines and weapons. Their screams of victory rang true.
They were no friends here.
Gal was still shaking off the shot as they took a turn back towards the walls of ice, rubbing at her lip with a bit of hesitation as she tried to return to scanning the area. But it’s more difficult than she wants to bring up, even say out to the charr and human with her. It only makes her growl insults under her breath and break from the formation to just find a place to hide and gather herself. Themselves. Her.
The world was complicated here.
She stays low from the group for a while before she can see a small cliff come to view. Without hesitation, Gal brings a hand up and motions for them to land. Obon’s wings collapse against his body and he dives hard towards it, his rider gripping the reins but letting him do his own thing. And just as they are ready to slam into the ice, the wings extend and he catches a breeze that slows the descent to a gentle step.
The skyscales were not as gentle, sending plumes of new snow upward, but they landed. And soon, all three are safely down.
As soon as they’re down, Reverus is dismounting and starting to scan the small area, withdrawing the weapon and muttering to himself, something about snipers and area. She knows what he’s doing, so her discomfort is not shown to him. The same for Niklas: He dismounts and begins to wander, his journal out and pen appearing soon after.
Gal on the other hand…
Those thoughts had consumed her for a couple hours. She was surprised they didn’t notice her drifting, her blind flying.
Blind flying. Just like before.
They consumed her long enough to let the voices come over and make her think, make her try and figure things out.
She hadn’t been honest with anyone. After the mouth was destroyed, so many said the voices stilled, nothing was heard.
In her head they were crisp as that first day.
Maybe her own head had taken over since now nothing stood between her and her own judgement, but she felt it wasn’t just one. It talked to her in those silent, lonely nights. It reminded her of the failures that stained her floor, her hands. It reminded her of her desire to run. It reminded her.
It asked why. It never stops asking why.
Why do you run.
Why do you let the vines still control you.
Why can’t you just open your mouth. Speak.
Reverus is loud in the muffled silence. It jolts the guardian who spins in her saddle and sighs, dismounting to see what was up.
As she comes closer, she spots what made the exclamation and she can smirk slightly. Before the Charr was a now busted open supply chest that held a good amount of war supplies, all wrapped and tucked inside to keep safe. It must have been taken from one of the large drives here, the thief stashing it for another time for the Dominion to use.
“Someone will be glad to get these back,” Niklas speaks up as he climbs from behind the chest with a smile across his face and a dagger in hand. Instantly he starts to list details and coordinates so he could write them down once back to his creature. And he was right, they would. It was needed, desperately.
“Wasn’t even trapped, just here for takin’.”
“Oh, don’t tempt fate like that,” Gal has to remark, taking her place to Reverus’s side. A quick glance to confirm how short she was, but soon back to the chest. She manages to kick the lid close, then nods with a pleased look.
“But this is good. Looks good for us….”
Just then, more shots rang out. One hits the ice above them, the rest off over the ridges, towards a few bounding shadows through the sky.
It became rather obvious that their sniper wasn’t the only one still out and about. There were many, and each eye locked to a piece of the sky and land.
“Alright, that’s…” She sighs. “ Snipers are everywhere, good to know.”
“I’ll note their locations when I can.”
Reverus, on the other hand, was chuckling and already heading back to saddle up and move out again, the two humans following. “They’re Charr. They know how to set up a defense.”
“Doesn’t mean I like them any less…Alright, well stick west. Seems they don’t fire that far.”
She won’t meet either look when she states them moving again, not falling back even after being aimed at. But they weren’t bad looks, simply wondering where she wanted to go. It was curiosity, along with uncertainty.
They needed something better, bigger. She was determined to prove that she was good.
Why was that not enough to you
She doesn’t respond. Moments later, they’re back into the air and back on their mission.
The night air was weird.
It pulsed, it hummed. Fires below stained the white ground. Blood and rust ran as veins through the land, and fused with that beautiful glow of the magic below their feet.
It was so unsettling.
You shouldn’t be here. You shouldn’t exist here
The trio drop their altitude as soon as they crossed the line into the citadel, banking just enough either right or left to get that door in view. More clouds had rolled in, and they hugged the valley tightly enough that no one could see through. But they couldn’t get lower, because if they did then they’d become a damn skewer and it’d be over for all three.
At a point, even Gal has to let out a frustrated grunt and get Obon to bank back to the right and pull away from the structure. Niklas and Reverus stayed straight, trying to at least get a view, but soon even they had to pull back.
It wasn’t all for naught: Just as they gain their altitude again, escaping the clouds and mist, a new plateau came into view. Flat, vacant,in the middle of some spires and just to the side of the citadel.
Following a low cloud, they cut through the air and fly low over the citadel until they are close enough. Obon extends his claws and stretches the legs out so as he lands, the legs bend with ease and he catches the ice, careful not to slide too far in.
Niklas skids slightly, having to twist the skyscale around just to keep from hitting the other edge and fall through.
Reverus barely makes it over, but the mount was strong. It digs its paws into the wall, and just gets them over the ledge.
All three stare at one another for that brief moment, then take an exhale. No one had seen their folly. They were hidden.
“Well this is spacious,” Niklas remarks as he’s the first to dismount and begin to look around, hand on his dagger and cautious.
And he was right.
This was the Frost Citadel. This was an enemy fortress that was so stuffed into the mountains and ice that it felt like they belonged together. Iron twisted through it all, feeding the place with that harsh magic inside the earth and its Ley.
Harsh. Like it’s magic, this place was harsh. To their eyes, to their skin, to their spirit.
But it was also empty. It stretched for a few miles wide, and covered in new snow. It was almost perfect here. Not a soul, and not a trace of foul magic.
It made Gal let out a shaky sigh.
The guardian looks over to the sound and sees the necromancer working away again, writing what he can without concern for his area. She nods mostly to herself, then turns Obon away and begins to walk the area for a brief scan. Still being so close to the ledge, Gal pauses and looks over it, down to the twisted ice and iron below that hangs around that door.
It looked abnormal, even for here. Like Jormag themselves formed it. Pieces curving and twisting, but jutting into the air. All around it were Charr and Svanir, staying close but keeping distance as if they had fought just moments before. Weapons could be seen, massive axes and ballistas ready to fire.
They’ll have a fight, that’s for damn sure.
“What in all the dirty grease barrels are charr doing mixing with those frostheads.”
She didn’t even notice Reverus joining her. It takes her a second to think, thumb running over her lower lip scar.
“Well, Svanir are seeking power, that power helps control a dragon. Seeing as what the Legion wants, I say that their motivations are similar,” Niklas calls out from behind them both, but remains nose deep in his journal.
“And with Jormag and their whispering, it certainly doesn’t help.”
Reverus lets a low growl escape and shakes his head hard with ears twitching in various directions before he slips back, soon joining the other human with feet on the ground and looking around.
Gal is slow to join, but once she herself realizes they are the only ones above here, she dismounts. Immediately, Obon bounds across towards a grouping of bushes, chasing after a blur of white.
Damn bird loved his rabbits.
“Well they made their bunk.”
“And what a chilly one it is.”
“Look at all this…Can’t_ Hello.”
Reverus was making his way around, soon stopping by the massive cannons and giving them their once over. Nik joins him soon, sketching their mechanics and shapes, letting a low whistle take over the more he looks them over.
“They have this locked down, huh,” Gal mutters with a hand still rubbing that scar. Even she has to let a hum out at how impressive the cannons were here.
“And armed….Not in great shape but-,” Reverus says as he gives a small kick to the base as well. “Bet some engines could change that. Wonder if it’ll rotate to bear on the fort.”
“Let Imke at it and I’ll bet she’ll figure it out real quick.”
“Best to pass that to her then. May actually need it when it’s time.”
“Got more of ‘em scattered on the plateau. Definitely some good intel here.”
Reverus points more out, some at higher altitudes, some larger than theirs. All armed, ready to fire when needed.
“Strange how heavy their defenses are here…Days, why have so many here. And just in the open too.”
“Can’t be too covered.”
Gal has to grunt. They really didn’t have an answer, huh. To be this covered and fortified…Had to be a reason.
But they really couldn’t pin it down. Not now, not with this little time.
“One day, I’d love to get a look at all of this sans ice.”
Niklas was being wistful in his words. He had that look in his eyes as he looked over the area again, soon sighing.
“Bad news ‘about that. Pretty sure it was icy before Jorhead stopped napping. Since its the north.”
“Yes, well, there’s ice and then there’s…this stuff. Besides, bring enough fire-”
“Stuff. You’re being extra specific there.”
Niklas grins wryly and simply nods to Reverus. “Don’t get me started on the details. We could be here all day if we do.”
The charr chuffs and shakes his head with a short, “Ha.”
“Well some of this feels like ice the same way Aurene leaves behind mere crystal, you ken?”
“I don’t exactly hang out with her High Crystallineness.”
“Neither do I, but I’ve read the papers.”
“Jormag uses some of the same magic. Who knows how it all works, less you study dragons all day.”
Gal cuts them off with a tired snap, then looks back over
Just as Nik opened his mouth to go further into his talk, Reverus becomes extremely alert. He stiffens and begins to look into the sky, the hands reaching for the hammer that sat on his back.
“We got a Claw nearby.”
Dammit. A damn Claw. Why didn’t she think there wouldn’t be a Claw.
Foolish. Always foolish. Always running
“….Come on. We can follow the ledge and down towards the ridge…We can’t afford to deal with a Claw right now.”
Niklas can only nod, trying to finish his scribbling on the back of his skyscale that was being strangely patient for being used as a table. Nonetheless, he finished up and shoved away his writings before they grabbed the mounts and moved out, sprinting almost across that frozen top.
You should stop. Fight. Scream.
The ice quickly dropped away and was quick to expose less…frozen terrain. Mountainous, but not icy. Trees hung low, and there was a good, rocky barrier from all the elements.
It was a perfect spot. It would be a good spot for a camp if they tried.
But it was soon seen they weren’t the first.
As soon as they get over onto the second ridge, she notices it. The wooden towers, the tents that stretched over ironworks and fires. The soft bustling of evening meal work and patrols. The hum of motors from vehicles being checked over.
Her eyebrows lifted, and she paused the train.
“Well, well… Looks like we got ourselves a camp.”
“HA! Overlook, left.”
Gal nods and they scale across, bounding over the rocks to where a patch of dirt sat, free of life and out of sight. Now and again a rock would fall, they’d have to scramble up a few feet, but below- They didn’t care. They sounded as much as any other day, like any other creature.
It was late. It was better to be in camp than try to see if they had eyes overhead.
“My…Would be a good vantage point to rain some fire down on them.”
“Mm” Gal ties off Obon to a tree some yards back before she comes to the edge to where Niklas had stopped, kneeling to his side.
There’s a moment where she does look over to the Priory man, and her head drifts once more.
Don’t you think you’ve ran enough. Don’t you think you could speak
“Closer. Leave your mounts back.”
Without hearing the hesitation or question of if, she’s gone and scaling down the mountainside with strange ease. Niklas and Reverus are on her heels, but compared to her they struggle with the descent, even struggling as they pass over the gap from walls to the tower she had accommodated.
The tower creaked under their weight, like it wasn’t meant to be supporting so much but forced to. She has to be careful with her footing, wedging a heel into a break in the wood to just keep herself balanced while Reverus crouched against a wall high enough to hide him. Nik took the space between, careful to not hang onto the edge.
Quiet, still. Maybe Kessler had a good thing going.
“Scribbler, can you get a count of the internal forces?”
Niklas sighs and immediately draws out the journal to start his notes. “I can see seven, but there’s plenty of space for them to be out of sight, too…”
“Get their guards…” Reverus soon huffs, shifting and pointing out over on the other side of the walls. “Okay, first weak discipline. Rampart patrol.”
“No, no they don’t. But from the look of their guards, I think they’re good,” Gal hums as she follows his look and then points out a small group of guards close to the wall, hanging over a small fire with their weapons closeby.
“Getting this mi– Human?”
Niklas is nodding, shooting an amused look to him once he turns and looks down over the tents. “With only rough estimates of what may be in the tents, yes. I can firm up the guesses later too.”
“Mark down the tanks too.”
“He’s got it. He’s good.”
Gal finally stood once Niklas hums a response as he gets those machines too, getting every last bit of this grouping that hung this close to their citadel.
But this was…This was good. This was information. This could be a step closer to gaining something. To maybe finding any of the living members of the Obisidian Star.
If they could, they…They could do something. They could be useful.
Is it finally enough to you
A faint smile stretches across her face as she turns enough in her place. The wood creaks again as her foot shifts, but instead of caution, she kicks at it to loosen her heel.
“Well, this is good. We’ll have to be careful about this magic, but we can do this.”
“We’ll need to be careful.”
“We will! We will. We’ll just make sure of it. We’ll just_”
Fate was a cruel thing. It was spiteful.
The wood splintered under her foot. When she moved that foot, it removed some pressure from the nail holding the section together. The weight shifted, and soon it practically disintegrated under her.
She fell. Quick.
It was a blur then.
All she knew was when she could focus again, a good hundred feet from her spot, she was alone and in a great amount of pain.
And there was a Charr locking his eyes with hers with his gun coming up, loading and safety off.