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    Alistair had wandered his way over to the spar between Cirrus and the young lady with cat ears and watched curiously as they fought. The small wyvern managed to frost Cirrus' unarmored feet, but in the process it left its master, who showed how green she was by not keeping outside of his spear's reach, completely unprotected. The victory was decisive, Cirrus gave a solid thump into the middle of her chest with the blunt end of his spear, a fatal blow had he used the bladed end.

    He had no idea why they were sparring, but he clapped nonetheless when it was over. "Bravo! You lack experience, miss. But it isn't every day you come across someone with the magical ability to cast a summoning spell. Most impressive, regardless." He offered her a hand to help her off the ground. "I am Alistair, it's a pleasure to meet you."

    Over by the carriage, quite a crowd was beginning to amass. Ju-Long welcomed Kriss to the group and listened to Cirrus' explanation of his and Telah's duel. "The more power we have, the more likely our chances of success." It was about as close to approval as Cirrus would get for the time being. Ju-Long gave a curt nod and walked away. "I still have something to do, we'll meet by the inn in an hour. Someone please wake the Captain." He would make a mental note to keep a close eye on the two newcomers, help is good but trust would have to be earned.
    Last edited by Cid; August 25th, 2018, 10:23 PM.


      "Allie d'you 'ave a death wish? Wake 'ellfish? You wanna get eaten?" Blackrose mumbled.


        Originally posted by Cid View Post

        Song of the Moment
        Succession of Witches
        Nobuo Uematsu - FFVIII Piano Collection

        [Plot Progression]
        [Outside The Inn]

        A cloaked figure stood silently outside Pirn's small inn, listening intently to the conversation just a short distance away from them. He made careful note of the names spoken so carelessly, Cirrus, Hellfish, Alistair, and Blackrose... They would come in useful later. "...and we're passing through Pirn to try and collect the other two crystals before the crazy black mage that wiped my town out can get to them first." As Cirrus finished, the figure slowly crept off, his form vanishing into the forests beyond Pirn. He had much to relay to his master.

        "Ehhh!?!?!?" The Captain awakes with a start, instinctively grabs his cleaver, and holds it at-the-ready--casting wild-eyed looks about the room.

        This dread feeling. Somebody is watching me! Somebody wants me dead!

        For a moment, he imagines he sees a shadowy figure lurking just on the periphery of his vision. But it disappears when he tries to focus in on it. The Captain dismisses the brief visage as the familiar, floaty eyed side-effects of waking up piss-drunk.

        Out of the window of the inn, he observes Cirrus practicing with his lance. His opponent is nothing special. And he moves with the drilled and scripted motions of a practiced soldier--too by-the-books. Too restrained. Too predictable.

        But its plain enough to the old berserker's trained eye that the boy has skill at his craft. He'll make a damn-fine warrior if he lives long enough to hone it.

        ...I'm gettin' too old for this shit... The Captain cracks his neck, rises something proper, and moves to join his companions.
        Last edited by Post-Crisis Shob; August 27th, 2018, 09:02 AM.


          "Oh! There he is! Hi Cap'n!" Blackrose called out in her most girlish voice, waving to Hellfish.


            Song of the Moment
            Danger in the Forest
            Nobuo Uematsu

            [Plot Progression]

            An hour passed quickly for the weary travelers as they waited for Ju-Long's return and signal to gather by the tiny village's inn. As the group all gathered nearby, Ju-Long emerged from one of the homes just a short distance away and quickly made his way towards the rest of them. "All are here?" He asked as he looked at the group, giving a quick nod of acknowledgment to the summoner he had yet to formally meet. "I have learned that a person in a black cloak that matches Astaroth's description has been seen in the village recently and has made frequent visits to the Mist Forest. He was last seen an hour ago going into it again. We will be following him immediately. He turned towards the northern edge of town, the great forest could be seen encroaching upon the edges of the village. "The forest is large and will take a week or more to cross. The ranger has bought food for everyone." Alistair nodded and quickly interjected "Dry foods. Rice and beans, to be exact. Enough to last each of us two weeks if need be. We will need to pick it up from Gram's Goods as we leave. We'll also hunt and gather in the forest. I don't wish to brag, but I sometimes amaze myself with the meals I can prepare from nothing but the land. So fear not, we shan't starve tonight." Ju only nodded again. "Let us be on our way."

            The group set about collecting their things and headed into Gram's Goods. There, the elderly shopkeeper handed each of them a burlap sack. Inside, it was sectioned off into three parts with generous portions of rice and beans filling two of them. The third had a waterskin filled with enough water for a day's journey and easily refillable after that. As luck would have it, Alistair ordered two extra bags, which were given to Tellah and Kriss.

            After thanking Gram for her services, the group set out towards the Mist Forest. The sun was high in the sky now, bathing the entire area in a brilliant light. But just ahead of them, the forest was dark and uninviting, so thick that light only barely reaches the ground and walking into it feels almost as if night has suddenly fallen. "Two hunters from Pirn entered the forest two days ago and have yet to return. We will keep watch for them as we travel." He now motioned to Alistair. The ranger knew this forest well. He had spent most of his life in and around it, so he knew almost everything there was to know about it. There were dangers that needed to be clearly explained.

            "I assume most of us are familiar with the Mist Forest, but in case you aren't, please listen carefully. This forest is named such because of a toxic mist that flows out of the many caves and caverns throughout it. When I say toxic, I certainly mean it. The mist has a petrifying effect if it is breathed in for extended periods of time. The first symptom is paralysis in the extremities, then ashen skin, and finally full paralysis as your body begins to stiffen and harden and you become almost as a statue. A truly terrifying way to go, so do try to avoid it." "We do not know what causes the mist. Curing you may be impossible." Ju-Long interrupted. "Right. Fortunately, a strong wind blows down the western mountains and pushes most of the mist out into the badlands to the east. Most parts of the forest tend to be relatively safe. However, lower elevations can still be covered in the mist and the caverns and caves are full of it. Watch your step as well, there can be sinkholes that are filled to the brim as well. If you see anything foggy, steer clear of it, simply put."

            With Alistair's warning clearly in mind, the group sets out into the forest, traveling deeper and deeper into it with every step.
            Last edited by Cid; August 28th, 2018, 10:17 AM.


              "Well, that's cheery," Cirrus said quietly after Alistair explained the death mist. That said, he tossed his bag of food onto his armored shoulder with a clang and followed the group in. If the mists were a problem (and it seemed easy enough to avoid), then they'd deal with it later.

              The party had only taken a few steps into the forest before they were totally enveloped in the dense greenery. There was very little light coming through the canopy, and the temperature felt like it dropped fifteen degrees; it felt like a late autumn night in here. There were a lot of people walking in the same space, and not a wide pathway; Cirrus started getting a sense of claustrophobia that wasn't helped by the almost total lack of noise on the forest's part. The only noises seemed to be footsteps and the muted clanking of armor.

              "So how much of a lead does this potential Astaroth have on us?" Cirrus asked, partly just to break the silence. These woods didn't sit right with him.
              Last edited by OrganizationXV; August 28th, 2018, 11:07 AM.
              Originally posted by Wade
              Everything is hidden in plain sight, like in Men in Black. We've all just been neuralized to think it is "normal".



                [On the Edge of Oblivion, into the Mists of Fate]

                Grigor, having collected the small allotment of items of his arrangement, now sits in a rocking chair of dubious sturdiness. From this seat at the corner of the goods store he could see the center of town, where Alistair some time ago said that they would meet when Ju-Long was ready. Slowly rocking he was whittling on a small branch he had picked up at random. His attention was split between the well in the town’s center and the sharp edge of his blade as it took portions of wood away from the shrinking mass of the branch. From clenched teeth hangs his worn pipe, empty with bowl facing down as he chewed on the stem, and as he absentmindedly worked Fenrir lay at his side chewing on a large portion of leg bone that Grigor pulled from the hog they had slain earlier that day.

                Sadly, for the Beast Master, it wasn’t ten or so minutes before Ju-Long’s form appeared from the doorway of one of the small homes. The man made his way toward the town’s center signaling to all that it was time for them to strategize, or what ever these fancy city folk called it. With a sigh Grigor drops the branch to his side while he stood.

                ’ Wouldn’t make a good pipe stem anyway.’

                Pulling the pipe from his teeth Grigor clenches them and pulls air through partially parted lips making a clicking sound while he walked. Fenrir’s ears perked up, acknowledging the call Grigor gave, not one to give up her bone she bites down in the middle of the femur and brings it along.

                When everyone was gathered, including a new face, Ju-Long told of what he learned, it seemed that a cloaked man that seemingly fit Astaroth’s description had been seen going in and out of the Forest of Mists frequently as of late. Apparently, this person had made their way into the forest not too long before the group had arrived. They were going to follow immediately. Grigor largely ignored the ranger as he explained his expertise about survival and his deed of buying supplies for everyone. It was a nice gesture and all, Grigor though had his gaze fixed on the misty forest that threatened to encroach upon the town. He frequented the forest for herbs and the like, but he never ventured to far into its depths, this was going to be fun, and the thrill of taming new beast always exhilarated him. He now found himself questioning why he never went into the furthest reaches of the forest. That didn’t matter, that problem was about to be remedied.

                [Some time later, entering the Forest]

                After some more words of warning from both Alistair and Ju-Long the group was entering the Mist Forest. It was almost day to night in terms of lighting. The thick canopy choked the light of day as it passed through its leaves making the forest itself two or three steps from twilight. Grigor noticed something, almost immediately, the forest was silent. The ambient noises weren’t there. No birds, no insects, no buzz of nature. Just silence, as if some great predator was on the prowl. He had only experienced this once in his life, and that involved Tonberries. He was exceptionally young, and he had gone out on his on after a dare from his older sister. Luckily for him, his father found out and saved him at the last moment from the creature. Needless to say, both he and his sister were disciplined after such stupidity.

                "So how much of a lead does this potential Astaroth have on us?"

                Grigor steps up next to the Dragoon in training with pipe again hanging from his mouth, this time though he was packing a sweet-smelling tobacco into the chamber of the bowl.

                ‘Depends on how well they know the layout of the forest, a single traveler is also quicker than a group.’


                  "It shouldn't be too much of a lead," Alistair replied to both the dragoon and beastmaster. "If he was spotted in Pirn while we were there, he couldn't have entered the forest more than an hour before we did." His tone was noticeably less cheerful and energetic. Just as Cirrus and Grigor had noticed, he too was taking note. The air was stagnant, carrying a stale odor decomposing vegetation that you'd normally not be able to smell and the forest was quiet. There were almost no animal calls, neither insect, beast, or otherwise. They had been walking for a solid 20 minutes now and he hadn't seen anything either. Not one to just keep these observations to himself, he thought it best to bring it up to the group.

                  "Is it just me, or is there a suspicious lack of life? I've not seen or heard a single animal since we entered the forest."

                  It was incredibly unsettling for the ranger, who'd been in the forest hundreds of times before. Something definitely was not right.


                    Originally posted by Cid View Post
                    "Dry foods. Rice and beans, to be exact. Enough to last each of us two weeks if need be.
                    At this, Captain Hellfish audibly guffaws. At least they'll be wild game to fill his belly.


                    Originally posted by Cid View Post
                    "Is it just me, or is there a suspicious lack of life? I've not seen or heard a single animal since we entered the forest."[/COLOR]

                    It was incredibly unsettling for the ranger, who'd been in the forest hundreds of times before. Something definitely was not right.
                    The Captain is not unsettled. The Captain is PISSED.

                    "No ship. No mutton. No RUM." Hellfish takes an unsatisfying bite of rations, and blows a massive bean fart. "Seven bloody hells lad--you call this food??? TURN ME TO FEKKIN STONE AND BE DONE WITH IT!!!" He shouts at the petrifying mist, as though expecting an answer.

                    Probably more loudly than he should, for a group trying to keep a low profile.
                    Last edited by Post-Crisis Shob; August 30th, 2018, 04:42 PM.


                      "...I'm happy to have you on board." Those were the words Ju-Long said, but his countenance was the opposite. He actually seemed fairly unhappy in general, his words were stern and his expression was pretty unwelcoming, almost grim. He turned sharply and walked away from Kriss with a deliberate stride. The Viking made his way into the small town and sat down on the edge of a well in the center. The villagers were easy to identify, but there were several others who seemed out of place. There was a drunken prostitute in a large hat, two armored individuals, another Northman (one of the Forest men), a Ranger and others he caught glimpses of in the buildings or otherwise around the town. Time passed and he began watching the other Northman whittle away as his pet wolf sat beside him. Kriss wished he could have a pet. The mercenary band he had been with for the last several years wouldn't allow it as it offered too much liability. They weren't even allowed personal Chocobos and had to rent them often as a result. He thought fondly of his last pet, Hjertenese. She was a young boar that he had from her birth who was fantastic at finding mushrooms. When she grew large, his family roasted and ate Hjertnese in the Winter Festival. She was delicious.

                      The Eastman returned to the village and signaled for the group to gather over by the inn. Explaining the circumstance and the plan to move into the forest, Kriss wondered who Astaroth was and why they were following him. He was a mercenary first, though, and had no need to question the orders, plan or circumstances so long as they were reasonable and so long as he was being paid. Being handed a sack of provisions by the Ranger in the General Store, he lamented the contents. Grain and legumes. He had certainly gotten by on less, but it always made his crave the foods he loved. Pickled herring, honey mead, wild elk, fresh sweetrolls. The Ranger's claims about his hunting and cooking skills made Kriss feel only marginally better. You can't hunt mead.

                      Acknowledging the explanation about the toxic mist, Kriss and the others moved into the forest. As the group spoke among themselves, a horrific odor entered into Kriss' nostrils. Initially, fear gripped him as he worried that he had already inhaled some of the toxic mist. Then he heard it, a noise like a large angry moose being drowned in a shallow muddy puddle. The burly seafarer near him was shoving handfuls of the food from the provisions sack directly in his mouth and had produced the rancid smell.
                      "Seven bloody hells lad--you call this food??? TURN ME TO FEKKIN' STONE AND BE DONE WITH IT!!!"

                      Kriss, unable to contain himself, burst into a boisterous guffaw at the absurdity of it all.

                      "By the gods of Halvalla, that smell might kill us before we make it through this underbrush! You, rum-soaked man of immense girth, what is your name?! I will tell my grandchildren the tale of the time I survived the man with a Malboro for a backside!"
                      Last edited by Tyler_D; August 30th, 2018, 11:23 PM.


                        The ranger could only chuckle to himself at the Captain's outburst and the newcomer's reaction to his... unique odor. They had certainly gathered quite an interesting group now. Viking, summoner, mages, a paladin and dragoon, a pirate, rogue, and even an assassin. They made for quite the motley crew. A very loud motley crew at that. Alistair thought it might be better to travel in silence, considering they were pursuing a target, and would have said as much if it were up to him.

                        Their sudden outbursts did bring some good news for the group, beyond the much needed levity. As the two carried on, the ranger caught a glimpse of movement in the brush on the edges of his vision, a movement he recognized well. Instinctively, he pulled his bow up and in a motion so swift that the group barely saw it happen, he loosed an arrow into the brush. With a squeal, a sizable boar fell out from the bushes and onto the path. Alistair darted to it, pulled his knife, and quickly jammed it the beast's throat and pulled it forward, cutting out it's jugular.

                        "You're in luck, captain. We'll have a nice cut of meat after all," he said as he patted the boar's belly. He stood up and grabbed it's front hoove and began pulling it towards the group with a rather goofy smile on his face. The smile faded quickly, however. As he dropped the leg and took a step back to admire his kill he spotted a distressing sight, its hind legs were void of color and were stiff.

                        "It's becoming petrified?"


                          To say the least, Blackrose was becoming less and less of a happy camper as the gang forged deeper into the forest. All of this farting and talking was giving her headaches and she was more quiet than usual as she sobered up and had a bit of a hangover. The worst part was that she mostly remembered being a drunken weirdo and it embarrassed the hell out of her to relive her antics in her mind. She barely reacted to the fart thing even though it was pretty funny, and the smell barely fazed her besides just giving her more of a headache.

                          She was a bit startled as Alistair suddenly shot off an arrow, then realized he was just killing a boar. Nice, some food. Or not. "I hate it when they petrify after dying. Come on pig, that shit is so last year." She mumbled.


                            Just before leaving the small town for the Mist Forest, the young man met up with a contact on the outskirts of town to keep the sack of gil for safe keeping. After that, he was satisfied and met up with the group of adventurers.
                            Entering the forest Luciano trailed behind them as he sought high ground, silently hopping tree to tree making minimal noise, staying above the group in case an ambush was needed. He kept his hand on his poison laced dagger and kept his Haste spell on standby if needed. He made an effort to position himself so that he was high enough in the trees have a clear vantage point and low enough so that he could take action when needed. He hid among the shadows as he trailed the group, being careful as to not fall into the mist.


                              [Mist Forest]
                              [The Curse of the Mist]

                              Alistair voiced the same concern over how silent the forest was as both Grigor and Cirrus had. The Beast Master simply nodded in agreement while he produced a small rectangular box that had seen much better days. With pipe now firmly clenched between his teeth, a ragged match is pulled from the box before its tucked away again. Striking the match with his thumbnail Grigor starts to speak.

                              ‘It is ….’

                              Before he could finish that train of thought, however, the rowdy Captain has an outburst over the rations that Alistair had procured for them from Gram. The joyous heckling from the newcomer, a Viking named Kriss, and the afore mentioned outburst by the pirate certainly assured any stealth they may have had before was now completely shattered. This, though did have one positive it stirred the sleepy forest awake, at least a little. The Ranger loose an arrow in a fraction of a moment pulling a bore, much like the one that Grigor stalked earlier that day, to its death. It was a fine kill; the archer was an expert at his craft and someone the magic loathing Grigor could respect.

                              The small celebration was cut unceremoniously short however when it was noticed, by Alistair first, that the beast’s lower quarters were petrified. Not something that was seen every day. Taking quick action, the Beast Master is beside Alistair squatting next to the fresh kill prodding into the hardened hide with his knife while smoke ringed his head like a halo.

                              ‘Do you think this beast was infected before death, or could this place be claiming it’s own?’

                              Grigor’s eyes cut from the hog to Alistair after voicing his question.
                              Last edited by Chaos Theory; September 3rd, 2018, 02:17 PM. Reason: cleaning up tags


                                Telah and Chocho were set to begin their adventure, happily traveling with the others. A thin veil of fabric covered Chocho's beak, making sure any dirt gets filtered out of her nostrils. The silence, lack of animals, and now the petrifying boar were enough to make Telah's fur stand on end, she was nervous, and on high alert now, Chocho watching as well, both knowing to get nowhere near the fog.

                                “This isn't right...what could it be?” her ears were pulled tight to her head, one hand tight on the reins, the other on Chocho's neck to help calm the large bird, both creatures waiting for something to happen.


                                  Alistair stroked his chin lightly as he listened to his fellow traveler's concerns and glanced towards Grigor as the beastmaster posed his question. "No, I do not believe it possible that this is a recent occurrence for the beast. In all my years of living off the bounties of the forest, I have never seen a creature become petrified after death. It became infected within the day." He crouched beside the kill and prodded at its hindquarters intently with the butt of his knife. "The size of this boar implies it is very old. It would have known to stay away from the areas where the mist permeated the air. The only beasts you ever see petrified are the young creatures that do not yet know the dangers that the mist presents. What could have happened to this fellow, I wonder?" He flipped his blade around and quickly pushed the point deep into the boar's flesh just where its legs joined the body, the knife slid in without resistance as a deep crimson blood trickled from the wound. "Some good news, at least." He flatly said as he pulled his blade out and wiped it clean on the boar's hide. "The petrification stopped at its legs, and it should not spread further after death. He is still edible."

                                  The ranger rose to his feet and dusted himself off. The boar was large, easily weighing several hundred pounds, and they would still need to walk a few more hours before setting up camp for the night. They needed a way to carry it with them if they were to eat it. Luckily, Alistair was pretty handy. He walked to the edge of the path, inspecting two small trees. "Kriss, was it?" He asked while glancing back towards the newcomer with the large axe. "Do you think you could cut these down for me?" The northman was happy to help and was able to bring both of the small trees down with a single swing. Alistair quickly set to work, within a few minutes he cleaned the branches from the young saplings and turned their slender trunks into two poles. He pulled some cuts of rope from his bag and went about tying the boar to the poles to make it easier to carry.

                                  "That should do quite nicely, now... should we be on our way?" He glanced towards Kriss and Hellfish, easily the two largest and physically the two strongest in the group. "Captain, might we trust you not to eat the beast before we have a chance to cook it?" He gave his typical grin as he motioned for the two behemoths to carry their dinner. Though they had secured food for the night, they would need to be careful as they journeyed deeper into the forest. Something was off, for sure. The ranger just couldn't figure out why, though he hoped the answers would become clear soon.


                                    "Perhaps it wasn't something that did it to the piggy, but someone..." Blackrose mused. After Alistair inspected the boar, she watched while the viking displayed his great strength and skill. How could such a man exist? One with power akin to hellfish accompanied by charming looks? She couldn't keep her eyes off him as they continued into the forest.


                                      Originally posted by Cid View Post
                                      "Captain, might we trust you not to eat the beast before we have a chance to cook it?" He gave his typical grin as he motioned for the two behemoths to carry their dinner. Though they had secured food for the night, they would need to be careful as they journeyed deeper into the forest. Something was off, for sure. The ranger just couldn't figure out why, though he hoped the answers would become clear soon.
                                      "Aye." Captain Hellfish hefts his burden. He's dreadfully out of his element in the deep woods. But if nothing else he's still good for hauling weight.

                                      Something is amiss though. The Captain senses it too, and he again recalls the shady character he thought he saw out of the corner of his eye from the in.

                                      "S'ppose yer right lad--ol' hogger knownin' better than to catch his death out here. Nary a day ago he catches his death. Thar be somethin' in these woods he's never seen before. Somethin' fierce. Would have had to give ol' hogger the fright of its life--spooked him so bad it sent him runnin' into the mists."

                                      Hellfish has to shift his stance and buckle his stride to keep the carcass moving. It was a truly tremendous beast brought low by Alistair's arrow. Tremendous beasts stand their ground against their lessers and don't spook easily, the tremendous beast of a man knows well enough.

                                      "What puts the fear of death into a beastie this size? Ya reckon its one of Ebraham's goons?" Captain Hellfish wonders aloud to his ranger companion.
                                      Last edited by Post-Crisis Shob; September 4th, 2018, 09:12 AM.


                                        "The wind."

                                        This time it was Ju-Long that spoke up after having been silent this entire time. It gave Alistair pause as he stopped dead in tracks. His gaze turned upwards towards the tops of the trees and then to the brushes all around. "If all could be quiet for a moment," the ranger said as he closed his eyes and listened. Ju-Long was right. "There's no wind. As I mentioned before, a strong current blows through the forest and pushes the mist out into the badlands. There's usually a constant rustling in the trees but now there is only silence."

                                        Ju-Long nodded in agreement. "The old legends say that the crystals keep the world in balance. Astaroth has both the Fire and the Wind Crystals. Nature itself could be impacted."

                                        "But even still, the Captain is right. The beasts of the forest would know to avoid the mists, even if they weren't being swept away. Perhaps something did scare it so badly that it would rather risk petrification, be it of Astaroth's creation or otherwise."
                                        The ranger began moving again, picking up his pace slightly. "I'd rather not stay in one spot for too long, this all has me feeling rather uneasy."


                                          Originally posted by Cid View Post
                                          "The wind."

                                          "The old legends say that the crystals keep the world in balance. Astaroth has both the Fire and the Wind Crystals. Nature itself could be impacted."
                                          ...he's right of course...

                                          Captain Hellfish silently scolds himself for not recognizing it sooner; a seafaring man should have been the first to notice.

                                          Is it like this all the world over? Have the trade wins on the grand ferry line gone silent? Could he even sail a ship if he had one???

                                          "Heh. If I had me a crystal that made the winds blow, I'd raid the entire grey funnel line. Salty dogs would never see me comin." He brushes off his own worries and tries to keep spirits high with some levity, but he's as tense as the rest of the pack.

                                          When was the last time he had heard the wind blow, come to think of it? He hadn't noticed the wind or its absence back in the village. Then again--he'd been half asleep and outrageously drunk back at the village.

                                          "Nature itself could be effected." Captain Hellfish mutters. "Nature itself's gonna get me size-14 boot up its arse if there's not a fine wind a-blowin' when I get me new ship!"
                                          Last edited by Post-Crisis Shob; September 4th, 2018, 10:56 AM.