[Episode 3] Disturbing the Dust

The story unfolds around Osaka, Japan, with the unlocking of one girl's hidden potential, and a gathering of Young mages whom are destined to change the fate of the Earth.
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Straken
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Re: [Episode 3] Disturbing the Dust

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Willow was grinning a wolfish grin. Johann had been a hero, and Drysi had unveiled a super cool move; even if it hadn't workedout the way she'dintended. It had flair and a degree of panache, combining the triclops' paper magic with Mr. Flynn's casting. Everyone had come a long way already since the the game of tag with Mr. Flynn, and this was still just the first round of combat. The Brit couldn't wait to see what else everyone brought to bear, but now it was her turn. The initial punch had earned her time to actually formulate her next move. Following her counseling session, Willow had finally taken up some extracurriculars. In particular, she had enrolled in martial arts, and while she was just a white belt she had picked up the basics; and Pewter's heightened perceptions allowed her to cheat a little on applying the basics here.

This was a hound. Some bizarre Welsh demon hound, but a hound none-the-less. It would utilize mobility, but if Willow could close the distance and hinder its legs then perhaps the others could magic up either a better incapacitation for it, or just kill the thing. She would need to stay on her toes though. Pewter would help her keep going if she got bit, but a hellhound bite is still a hellhound bite. Focusing, the hound seemed like it was moving to attack her; which made sense, given the whole eye punching thing. Squaring her shoulders, Willow lowered herself to where it looked like she was going to sprint, but held the pose gracefully. Her eyes watched the hound without blinking, waiting for the instant it was locked into its course. From there, she'd push forward avoiding the gnashing jaws as best she could, get around to its side, reach her arm closest to the hound underneath it to grad its far hind leg, while her other arm grabbed the hound's flank. After that, she'd pull and throw the hound's waist to knock it off balance. This thing was likely going to be strong, but if it was off balance that strength was wasted.

Willow avoided musing that the last bit also applied to her.

~~~

Back up in the trees, Laoise crooned triumphantly as she swung back around towards the boorish bullfrog. Landing high above and behind it she gave a taunting tweet. For what it was worth, the accent was probably exactly what she would have expected to hear from it.

"Oof, if I'm stupid then what does that make you?" Laoise started. "Can't even fly ten feet without your hodgepodge body getting in your own way. Stick to the water, chap."
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Kokuten
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Re: [Episode 3] Disturbing the Dust

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"Fookin crow, fookin' cockerel. Yoar nought but a wick from er candle, of which yer mansort feeds ye," The Water Leaper lapped and flopped its croaking mouth. A dangerous tongue whipped up, but was not long enough to reach, which only seemed to enrage the bat frog creature even more. "Fake! Toy! Tool! Nought but a playthin' fer the droods ye'are! My master will whip the skin from yier mansort, make them bleed, fill the inkwells, write tha' eternal end fer ye! We will see who's laughin when Heddwyn finds ye!"

"No more words, please."

The water leaper went limp, looking up at the origin of the voice. Laoise heard it as well, speaking softly from the other tree across from her. Perched upon a sweaty, jungle branch was a featherless, wingless bird with deep, black eyes.

It cocked its head to one side, looking down at the water leaper. After a tense silence, the leaper opened its mouth to speak, but instead let out a wailing croak as its leathery body began to burn, gurgle and slough down the tree. The last thing Laoise could hear after the rasping stopped was a wet flop down on the jungle floor. The featherless bird watched clinically, ratcheting its neck to observe the leaper's remains descend, before returning to look up at Laoise.

It blinked its pink eyelids a couple times, before speaking in a voice that was too calming and gentle from such a creature.

"I'm sorry you had to see that and I'm sorry you heard what you did."
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Mr. Blackbird Lore
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Re: [Episode 3] Disturbing the Dust

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After regaining his footing and reassuring himself that his turban was most definitely, undeniably, assuredly snug-- and very certainly not at all even slightly askew-- he became intensely focused on the hound, waiting for it to choose. His magic was too slow, he realized, and not at all whip-crack fast like--

"TURRAING!"

Like that. The beast preferred other meat-- thicker, meatier meat. With it distracted, Johann skirted the fight toward the injured teacher. He came around to the other side so he could keep an eye on the fight, and then laid a hand on the man from Kilokilokula. I'll be damned if I ever attempt THAT word, he silently remarked to himself. Then out loud, he chanted, "Einmal dann zweimal gebunden, soll man den Preis zahlen."

Johann's life force rode a wave of mana into the teacher's body. He was careful now, and more knowledgeable and made sure to only spend half his mana and a portion of life force, so that he could continue the fight.
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Straken
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Re: [Episode 3] Disturbing the Dust

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"Oh no, it's fine," Laoise responded, her tone prim and unbothered. "Mouthy dullards are something I'm accustomed to dealing with. Wanton murder and callous disregard for life on the other hand are things I'm still getting used to. So thank you for that."

Laoise kept her posture nondescript, appearing as on edge as any small avian would with a large unknown entity above it; looking ready to drop from her perch at a moments notice. For the time being however, her job hadn't that much. She had taken flight to try and gather information, and so far the bullfrog had let slip a name. Not much, but it was a damn good start.


"The frog may have been uncouth, but his torrent of curses did pan up at least one gold nugget," Laoise said back after a tangible pause, her tone shifting further towards a rakishly snide intonation. "I don't suppose you're Heddwyn, are you? Or do I need to pinch your tail to get you chatting too?"

Laoise's prickling could go a few different ways, as she figured. The thing could take the bait and start talking, but that seemed unlikely. It could stay silent and do nothing, which seemed possible but would put the first move onto her. Or it could attack her, which was the option she was preparing for. The whatever it was had no wings, but obviously had some way of getting up into the trees. So unless it was like that one Chinese bird that flew with its neck, it had other means of mobility than wings. Now, the downside to this was that she had zero clue how fast this thing could move, or whether it was more maneuverable than the Leaper. If she wasn't careful, it could be on her in moments.

Within moments, she'd determined her best course of action. She'd drop, swoop around the tree and descend to the undergrowth. Down in the thickets and shrubs and broad leafed jungle plants. Where only a small creature could move without trouble.

"If I have nothing to go off of, I'll just call you Six Piece Fried Chicken Bucket. Six Piece, for short."
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Kokuten
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Re: [Episode 3] Disturbing the Dust

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The featherless, wingless bird cocked its head the other way. Laoise could hear it laugh, having found some humor in the dove's ribbing.

"You can call me whatever you like, but I don't hate that."

At that, the voice continued from her left, "You have nothing to fear from me."

The pink creature now straightened itself next to her, a black eye tracking her movements. It had been on the tree across from her, even as it spoke, but it seemed to move as she blinked. In line with its calm voice, it placidly groomed a spot where one of its wings should've been. "Nor I you. We can only talk, but I don't think you want to."

The sounds of conflict rose in the distance. "You and I; What I see, my master sees, what you hear, your master hears. We can only assume that if you reveal anything, my master will know. If I reveal anything, your master will know."

Spells were being cast, mages were moving in the dark of the trees. The bird next to Laoise didn't seem distracted, "If you're not in a hurry. We could just talk about something else. Anything else."
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Kokuten
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Re: [Episode 3] Disturbing the Dust

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While shadows moved through the trees and the first skirmishes in the battle began, class continued in the glade. Percival carried on his instruction, much to the chagrin of some of the older students in attendance. One of the second years raised her hand, Hildegard Thalberg, a specialist in enchantment and thoroughly out of her element in the jungle setting.

"Yes, Ms. Thalberg?"

"Is the seminar actually going to happen?"

"Once the instructors arrive, yes."

Hildegard bunched her fists into her dress.

"Could we reschedule it, at least?"

This seemed to upset Eryk, who was sitting near-by.

"My medallion..." he muttered, which seemed to trigger something in Manon.

"Ms. Thalberg, I understand that you are impatient to learn-..."

"Mr. Caxton," Eryk threw his hand up, urgency lacing through his words.

"Eryk, wait your turn," snapped Hildegard, before rounding back around, "Mr. Caxton we've been in this jungle for hours, can't we just go back to our ho- ho--"

Quiet and swift as death, a gwyllgi leapt from the brush behind the Alchemist and sank its maw into his shoulder. The beast used its tremendous weight to sack the bundle of twiggy limbs to the jungle floor. Hildegard's retort became a shrill scream, joined by a chorus of others at the sight of the beast and the murdered teacher. The gwyllgi turned its head to rend its prey in two before its maw exploded in a ball of flame. Immediately, it backed off, kicking and swinging to remove the fire from its mouth. The gwyllgi clambered a couple meters away before the fire burned it out from the inside, leaving a pile of wisping, dark magic.

Slowly and meekly the Alchemist pushed himself off the ground, part of his shirt burnt away, revealing a charred bandolier of mixtures. One of the slots was spent. Jakku held tight to Percival's burnt, cauterized side, looking as shaken as the students. He spoke through the pain, with an evenness that did not suit the situation.

"A Gwyllgi, a corpse dog, it seeks the weakest in the herd to put the group in disarray..." Percival turned, wincing out of pain or pride, to the sound of howls ringing through the treeline, "... so the pack can strike with much greater effect."

Eight more gwyllgi padded from the bushes, their feet racing towards the group of students. Howls and snarls could be heard tracing around the glade, encircling the once safe space. The majority of the students suddenly rose to their feet, frenzied and threatening to bolt in all directions.
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Gwathdraug
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Re: [Episode 3] Disturbing the Dust

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Is it alone? Is it part of a pack? The two questions where just the start of the information the spirit in Vrey's gauntlets, Caradoc, rammed through the screaming static of magic surrounding the teen. As soon as the old knight knew he had the girl's attention everything else cascaded in in a series of concepts and emotions laced together.

The gwyllgi. The twilight hound. The Cwn Annwn. A single, low howl and then hundreds of men stopped dead. A pack, a hunt, horses, a houndmaster.

Clutching her gloved hand against her face - against the constant drumming pain - Vrey shifted her finger so that her glowing green eyes could lock onto the figure of the beast. The quick motions of combat around the creature only added to her nausea, but the girl snarled past the onslaught as she focused on the blood coating the wolf's snout.

Blood consumed. Blood taken in violence. The substance vibrated to the same song that Vrey was cut from. Reaching out to it - resonating with it - the teen smirked behind her hand as the stain on the beast's maw became shot with tendrils of green and suddenly it was as if she was there, touching the gwyllgi herself.

The sudden inrush of death pushed back against the racing static that surrounded the bald teen. The pain was less - enough so that Vrey couldn't help but laugh. As her mouth twitched almost into a smile Vrey brought her will to bare and sent it as a spike down the connection she had created between her and the hound.

SILENCE

The command was simple. The beast was still allowed to fight, still allowed to follow its will, but the power gripping at it closed its fingers around its death-laden howl.

PACK? TARGET? MASTER?

The questions existed as their concepts: the idea of the multitude, the hunt, and that the hunt could be called and not just found.
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Kokuten
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Re: [Episode 3] Disturbing the Dust

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On the Path
Willow, Johann, Drysi, Vrey, the Gwyllgi and the Man

The hound leapt right as Willow made her move, her enhanced senses granting her a better idea of the beast's movement. It was large, large enough to take down a grown man and creatures broad and strong, magical ones at that. Yet, the girl's gambit paid off as she snapped up one of the Gwyllgi's haunches, spinning it and bringing it crashing to the ground. Snarling, it rose to curl itself around to repay Willow with its teeth.

"Cosaint an eolais!"

Another set of pages extracted from Drysi's book, sheafing into a rune of binding. The druid-in-training aimed her book at the ground below the beast, and suddenly a host of jungle vines erupted from the earth. The green ropes tied around the beast and entangled it, gripping it to the ground, along with one of Willow's arms.

The Triclops was again baffled by one of her new spells, "That's... They're supposed to be thorns..."

Then, her confusion became elation, "We did it, we got him!"

Meanwhile, Johann loomed over a large man. He was broad, not overly tall, but he reminded him of Mr. Flynn. Druids seemed to be hardy folk, and those of the Hawaiian variety were of no exception. On the man's chest were tattoos of many forces of nature, stories of a life lived to the fullest among nature. Whoever he was, he was brutally mauled, his neck cut by teeth, his shirt in tatters from terrible spells cast upon him. When the boy put his hands on the dying druid, the man exhaled his last, a vain hope dying in his eyes at seeing someone else in this confusing place.

Then, he inhaled his first in new life.

Johann's magic, repurposed and reverse engineered, knit together wounds and withdrew blood that was spilt. Moreover, it wrenched the soul back into the man's chest, bringing the light into his eyes. He looked up at the boy, and as he sat up, Johann found the druid was a mountain of meat, even larger than before. Imposing, beastial, strangely reminiscent of Alexei.

Those notions were shifted as the man brought the boy into a big bear hug.

"I don't know who you are little guy, but you're my new best bud," said the man, with the weight and gravity of someone of many years who realized they now had many more.

Vrey's connection with the beast probed deeply, navigating cavernous depths that opened in the panic ensued by its restraint. The girl beheld a strangeness in the creature that she may have been familiar with, it was ancient, much like the spirit that counseled her. This kind of beast was brought to bear with magic, summoned by a spell, eternal by the spirit that bound it to service.

A Druid could speak to these sort of creatures, its familiar could bear it counsel, but only a being like Vrey could expose its meaning beyond words it could use to hide behind.

The connection flashed, and answers returned to her in the vision of a memory.

Surrounding twelve mages was a pack of gwyllgi, twenty in strength, one more being summoned by a woman with three eyes. Each of the mages had more eyes than the regular human. They were built much like Drysi, slender in shoulders, broad in hips, lithe in frame. One of these kind issued a command to the other eleven mages, and they went into the trees. He turned to the rest, looking at the Alpha Gwyllgi, and a feeling of being small washed over Vrey. This one reminded her of the banshee they had sealed, he was old, though his face was in the prime of youth.

"Kill whatever you find, bring me what you can't."

The Alpha's howl rang in Vrey's mind, and something else flooded the connection that they shared. Slaughter, storm, violence, war and the culminative death.

Swords stabbed into the fields of bloodied battle.

Houses awash in fire.

Riders ripped from their horses.

Lines broken under a wave of teeth and hide.

Pillboxes filled with snarls and the feared light of gunfire.

Streets dotted with lamps, bodies and the eyes of the Cwn Annwn.
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Re: [Episode 3] Disturbing the Dust

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Vrey had expected the beast to fight and bite and to war with her when she had touched her spirit to it. She had expected to feel the never forgotten touch of conflict that had defined where she had come from, but instead the ease at which it shared its unfiltered emotions and experiences had the girl pressing her lips down into a firm line. Taking a long look at where Willow and the gwyllgi lay pinned beneath Drysi's spell Vrey cocked her head to the side in thought before standing up and nodding to herself.

Hissing to herself as she realised she would need to raise her voice to be heard the bald teen grit her teeth as she found her voice. "Do not hurt them while we converse." Without any further explanation Vrey blurred and then reappeared crouching in front of the head of the hound with her gauntlets nowhere to be seen. Pulsing green eyes locked onto malevolent red as the teen girl splayed her bony fingers out in front of the beast's nose.

Without her gauntlets to close the loop around the complex matrix of wards that made up her body the gwyllgi was able to catch the scent of what Vrey had originally been.

But that was not full reciprocity.

HELLO

Her attention elsewhere, Vrey actually smiled with her teeth full on display as her word of greeting conveyed a thanks for the openness in which the other spirit had communicated with her.

I AM-

The ability for words to convey the meaning broke down and the hound was instead engulfed by the image of a horizon with no end and no death. In a place where monumental beings with no form or meaning could exist near endlessly as they ripped apart time - yet also these same beings could disappear in an instant as if they had never once struggled. Moments of conflict both coalesced into minds and eradicated the ability to have thoughts and both outcomes existed beyond reason. Every act of destruction - of consumption - was the only source of light, but the world was thrown into a shadowless brilliance by the constant, unceasing conflict.

YOUR HUNT IS NOT A HUNT.

The group of twelve mages disappearing into the forest was branded false next to a scene of hounds and riders a-horse leading each other further and faster between close packed trees and over glittering rivers. Attacks on unarmed children flashed into being next to struggles where hound fangs and human iron faced off against bloodied Fae Bears and Great Stags ambushed hunting parties as if it were the hunters who were but animals.

THIEVES OF BODY.

The beast saw itself as it was now: bloodied, bound, and its body shaking with fury beyond meaning. It was not the image of the Omen of Death, of the Killing Howl that was trained for The Hunt. Drysi as she was now, triumphant over the Otherworld's hound itself, appeared next to the pitiful wretch of a stranger that she had been under the banshee's control. The summoners appeared as shadowy figures behind both twisted corruptions of a member of a pack.

THERE IS NO HUNT. THERE IS WAR.

The banshee's burning and disintegrating ritual tree thrashing with a life of its own was imposed over the scene of the Circle of Twelve and their summoning of the pack. Vrey flexed her power through the connection she had created with the hound and the beast could feel as her power twisted and then bared its teeth down on the connection the gwyllgi had to its summoners. Both streams of mana to the hound pulsed and flickered as if ablaze as the bald teen stopped just short of using her own to tear the summoners' mana away from the beast.

Cocking her head to the side once more Vrey moved her thin, pallid arm until her skin touched against the captive beast's teeth.

WHICH ONE OF US BITES?
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Straken
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Re: [Episode 3] Disturbing the Dust

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Caoranach quirked an eyebrow with the slightest hint of amusement as Percival explained his mauling with as much enthusiasm as any other lecture. If nothing else, Caoranach gained an appreciation for the Welshman, but found herself wondering whether Percival would discorporate upon expiring, or if he’d just lie down for a while before reanimating. She would propose testing the matter to him at some point in the future.

Her amused consideration was postponed however when more gwyllgi made themselves known. Squinting, the fey’s expression shifted to one of annoyance. She was quite pleased with how she looked today, and dealing with these hounds would likely mess up her clothes; to say nothing about her hair. With a heavy sigh, Caoranach looked over the group of students and felt a tugging sensation in her chest.

“Mother was right,” Caoranach said in a low tone. Turning away from the students, she ran the fingers of her left hand through her hair until she reached a hair pin that held her long black hair up. With a smooth swipe of her arm she pulled the dark pin, and allowed her hair to billow free in a silken curtain. Once the strands had settled the students would see the dark pin was replaced with a long, thin plane of drifting shadows. With her other hand she brushed a stray strand of hair out of her face, and with it she wove illusory magic around herself. Should any student catch a glimpse of her face they would only see the obscuring curtain of black hair. The hounds however would see a visage of horror so deep and ancient that it was beyond naming.

These hounds had come to hunt prey, but had found predators. She almost felt bad for them.

“Pathetic rejects,” Caoranach’s voice was a layered hiss as she spoke in an ancient tongue. “Run back to your master, find a cave to hide in, or drop dead where you are; but if you even consider harming one of my wards then you shall see a fury older than the cultures that gave you a name.”

~~~

“Well, how about that,” Laoise chirped. “The bullfrog ranted, but you ramble. You went for option four. You started talking, but Mary have mercy you have so little to actually say. Prattle is reserved for afternoon tea. I am Laoise, familiar to Keeper Ruarc Flynn the Soulsplinter, Lightning Brought Forth, Tamer of Long Forgotten Beasts, Master of Ancient Riddles, Conqueror of Ancient Gods, and Courtier of the Fair Folk. You waste my time, and by extension you waste his. Bring forth your master so that we may cut to the punchline, Six Piece.”

Laoise’s form was smaller than the featherless freak, but she posed herself defiantly as she locked eyes and didn’t shy away.

~~~

“You’re doing great, Dryce!” Willow cheered her friend on even as the vines didn’t care about friend or foe. Remaining chipper despite being entirely too close to a hellhound the Brit began to work her arm out of the entanglement, and for what it was worth she was relieved this particular spell didn’t execute flawlessly. Initially working quickly, she slowed her pace to a more relaxed one as she saw Vrey approach. In Willow’s time at Safeholme she had witnessed Vrey perform a number of particularly odd spells, and felt pretty certain the bald girl was about to enclose the beast into a cocoon and turn it into a moth; or something along those lines.

However, Willow began to become more and more unsure as she observed Vrey, and once again began tugging her arm out of the brambles with Pewter backed strength. Her eyes finally went wide as she watched Vrey put her arm in the damned thing’s mouth. Gritting her teeth Willow pulled, and amid the sounds of tearing foliage and a pop that she hoped wasn’t her elbow she tore free.

“You nutter!” Willow shouted as she leapt from her crouched position. She wasn’t about to watch a reenactment of Fenrir biting off Tyr’s hand, even if it meant rugby tackling her friend.
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