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  #1  
Old 11-17-2016, 10:15 PM
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Chapter 1: The Festival of Sands

 


Dirk is a diverse and expanding airship port city within the Calim Desert. The population grows more and more every day. Many races live alongside each other here, however, the majority of it's inhabitants are Human.

Within Dirk housed the mercenary company known as "The Sand Spears." This well-known company included famous heroes known across the continent. Today, is a special day for the company. Today, is the "Festival of Sands." Thousands of Dirk's inhabitants come out to celebrate this day, where they witness newcomers go through strenuous and possibly embarrassing obstacles in order to join the company.



Several days ago, you placed in your application, along with hundreds of others, to go through the trials to become part of the Sand Spears. You wade through the crowds and into the Guild Hall. Here, the hall's attention is on a young, crass, Tiefling with an odd accent that you recognize as the woman you handed your application to. Behind her you see a Human Paladin, a Halfling Monk, and a Hooded Figure

"Thank y'all for joining us, today!" The Tiefling shouts. " Most people who calls this place home know who I am, but for all you new people, my name is Melindra. Now as everyone here can see, we have hundreds of applicants. Only about a dozen of you will pass. Only the toughest, fastest and smartest recruits will pass. A lot of y'all may think you're somethin' special, but that kind of arrogance is gonna bite you in the ass real quick!"

"Alright, as y'all know, you're gonna go through a series of trials. These are meant to weed out the weaklings here, cause we don't need any of that. These trials ain't goin' to be pleasant. You're gonna get punched, smashed, burnt and maybe even pecked a little. If you can't handle any of that, you'd be best to get on out of here, now!"

"There's one big rule that y'all need to follow for these trials. No matter how bad you want in, you cannot kill! Aside from that, it's free game."

"We're still settin' up out there so it'll be a bit 'til the trials start. In the meantime, why don't y'all get to know each other a bit. You might make an ally or two."

Last edited by Afrotastic; 11-21-2016 at 02:25 AM.
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Old 11-19-2016, 08:37 PM
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Aurora entered the guild hall moments before the tiefling woman began to speak, her cloak figure moving quickly and quietly to the side of the hall. It had been a month long journey making her way south to the city of Dirk, after first finding a seaport in Faerūn with ships willing to take her to Zakhara. It was a hot, arid place, a far cry from the northern forest atmosphere that she was accustomed to.

She surveyed the room, taking note the wide array of applicants that seemed overly eager to be under the employ of The Sand Spears. Had she been told two months prior that she would be among such company she would have laughed, brushed it off and went back to her studies. But here she was.

A shiver rushed down Aurora's spine as she recalled the terrible vision that overtook her a few months previous. It was the reason she was, in fact, among such company. In the desperate search for her missing mentor, Allanon, she had reached out telepathically to reform the mental link the two established years ago. What reached back, however, haunted her every waking moment.

The young high elf shook off the now all too familiar feeling of dread to focus on the task at hand. She leaned her small frame against the beautifully decorated walls of the hall and removed her hood, continuing her survey of the room.

Aurora glanced above her, smiling as she made eye contact with a small fey-like raven familiar perched in the rafters of the hall. I don't have a choice, she thought to herself, the vision led me to this guild. I must pass these trials.

 

Last edited by psychomachia; 11-20-2016 at 03:24 PM.
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Old 11-19-2016, 09:13 PM
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Torvi had carefully made her way into the hall. It was almost filled to capacity and she could not even see around the many bodies to locate the voice that was speaking, though she could hear everything clearly.

The trials ahead were a bit daunting, she had no fear of heat, living in the desert had provided her with many different opportunities to be burnt. However, being on the small side and not very heavy did put her at a distinct disadvantage in trials of combat. An ally or two would be very useful but she would have to pick the right ones. Someone who could assist her and not immediately discount her due to her stature.

Unable to get a feel for the crowd, she made her way closer to a wall hoping to find something to stand on, that would allow for a greater vantage point. As it was hard to see more than a few feet in any direction, she did eventually notice the small ledge running below the windows. Using the tricks of her trade, she quickly climb the decorative wood of the arches and swung herself up on to the ledge.

She was able to see much better up here and was scanning the crowd, intensely studying faces, weeding out the ones who looked to nervous, hungry, or unable to stand the heat. She doubted they would last long. The area was unforgiving and it didn't seem the Sand Spears would have much sympathy.

Several candidates jumped out at her, some for their size, some for their fierce looks of concentration, and some because of their stance and demeanor. Yes, she had several good candidates to speak to... now if she could only convince them of her worthiness as an ally.
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Old 11-19-2016, 09:30 PM
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Standing in the midst of the large crowd of fellow adventurers, was a stout figure who was at least a foot or two shorter than most of the people there. "Bloody 'ell I kinna see! Would ye no beards be kind enough to bend down a little?" exclaimed the short figure, his tone thick with annoyance. It had been a long couple of days for Belanor, with the journey here, then the arduous application, and now here he was unable to see the people he would be working for! Exasperated, Belanor began to push his way to the front, which was not hard for a grown Dwarf in full splint. Breathing a sigh of relief as he finally was released from the throng of excited adventurers, and just as he began to get his bearings a voice began to speak.

The owner of said voice was a Tiefling woman, though while he saw most of the male humans and some others of various races ogling her, truthfully he didn't really find her all that attractive Now a Dwarven Woman! he thought, bringing a small smile to his face Thats a real kind of Woman! Long beard and all!. Shifting his focus back to the Tiefling woman he noticed that he had missed a majority of her speech. She now spoke of certain trials they had to complete to actually join the Sand Spears. Crossing his arms Belanor studied those around him, and despite all their skills he still had something over them. He had his faith in Clangeddin, and in return he had the wargods blessing. A determined look set itself on his face, he had to pass these trials. The glory it would bring him was too great a temptation, and perhaps it would be enough to see him home?



 
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Last edited by StoneSung; 11-20-2016 at 12:32 PM.
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Old 11-19-2016, 11:14 PM
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Kaizen was among the last wave of aspiring Sand Spears to arrive. Where some had arrived in Dirk solely for the opportunity at joining the renowned mercenary company, the town was simply the next stop on his journey to find Nyshma. Unfortunately, what little trail of hers there was had dried up weeks ago which left him largely wandering from village to village hoping to curry fortune's favor. While it wasn't a clue into Nyshma's whereabouts, how fortuitous it was that Kaizen had arrived in Dirk during the Festival of Sands. For the first time in a long time, he had an opportunity to do some good in the world. After the recent tragedies he'd suffered, a positive venture like the Sand Spears was possibly more beneficial to him than finding his estranged sister at this juncture. So, he'd thrown his name into the list of applicants. Sure, Melindra had dismissed him as just some punk kid initially, but she came to her senses after he dropped the muscle she'd called to remove him when he refused to leave. That wasn't to say that Melindra held any respect for his skill whatsoever, rather that she recognized he was more than just some brat.

Now, the day of judgment was here. Kaizen flitted into and out of the various clusters of applicants sizing each of his competitors while blurting out portents to random applicants. To any who overheard, his warnings likely sounded fabricated given their frequency and the apparent ease with which they came to him, but as slowly became clear when some of the more minor ones were realized, they were anything but fake. Elsewhere, Bandit, his calico mouse familiar, made similar information gathering rounds around the gathering hall, only Bandit focused more on the smells wafting off of each person gathered. He didn't know the details of the trial, or was it trials, but Melindra had implied that direct combat against the other applicants was a possibility. Thus, he intended to be ready. Between his rounds and Bandits, six applicants were particularly noteworthy: Aurora, Belanor, Torvi, and the three individuals singled out by the DM. For a number of reasons, he deemed there to be just one brain among the lot though: Aurora. As such, he approached her first.

"Greetings milady. I am Kaizen Kost, and I couldn't help but notice your fascinating aura. Might I perchance read your fortune?" Despite Kaizen's plain appearance, it was clear he was well-educated and thus more than initial impressions suggested, even if Aurora hadn't noticed his earlier stunts or the ironbound spellbook hanging at his waist.

Private to DM

Last edited by Paper Tiger; 11-20-2016 at 10:34 AM. Reason: Corrected spells prepared for the day.
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Old 11-19-2016, 11:51 PM
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"Greetings milady. I am Kaizen Kost, and I couldn't help but notice your fascinating aura. Might I perchance read your fortune?" Despite Kaizen's plain appearance, it was clear he was well-educated and thus more than initial impressions suggested, even if Aurora hadn't noticed his earlier stunts or the ironbound spellbook hanging at his waist.
Aurora was caught off guard by the approaching young wizard, not expecting anyone to attemp to speak with her within the guild hall. She instantly regretted lowering her hood and forced herself to smile.

"I.. I appreciate the offer but I have to decline," she said pleasantly, hoping that she didn't sound too dismissive. The last thing she needed was to single herself out as an enemy before the trials even began, even though he appeared but a child."My name is Aurora though. A pleasure to meet you."

With the abundance of soldiers and rogues within the crowd, she had failed to notice Kaizen. His ability to see auras was troubling. She clenched at her own spell book hidden beneath her robe, the familiar feeling of her mind being exposed returning instantly. How much could he know?

 

Last edited by psychomachia; 11-20-2016 at 03:23 PM.
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Old 11-20-2016, 05:42 AM
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Approaching the great hall, Hazel Kyvanna gave her head a good shake to rid her hair of the many grains of sand it had collected throughout the day. For her, Dirk was a frustrating place. It was an active, noisy city, brimming with merchants and travelers from every background. Though she’d only been within its sandstone walls for a handful of days, she was already frustrated by its growing populous. The streets were crammed with people shuffling shoulder to shoulder across the cobblestone, and every corner was filled with refuse, beggars, or both. While she wandered within the municipality, she watched as these city folk would fill their pockets by stealing someone else’s fortune, and then use it to build their lives directly on top of each other.

Worst of all, Dirk was located in the Calim Desert. Far from the forest, with its leafy canopies, babbling brooks, and furry inhabitants, Hazel had traveled to this city on the instruction of her deity, Ehlenestra. She never once questioned the Goddess, not even when the whirling winds blew so much sand into her face that it made her eyelids itch for days. So when Ehlenestra directed Hazel’s attention to the post on the inn door, advertising auditions for a group called The Sand Spears, she accepted her Goddess’s call despite her personal confusion. Hazel never fancied herself a mercenary. Though she didn’t mind helping someone downtrodden and in need, she would accept favors as a form of payment rather than gold. In the wilds, she had everything she needed to survive, money was no use to her there.

The time had come for her to demonstrate her worth. She passed under brightly colored banners and through the massive wooden doors. Any hope she held of finding relief from the endless heat of the desert was dashed away as soon as she entered the hall. The room was packed with other adventures, decked out in their shiniest armor and brandishing their sharpest weapons. As they boasted about their various accomplishments, their stale breath filled the room with a moist, sickly aroma that masked the smell of the lumber beams, a modest comfort that Hazel deeply desired right now.

Her competition looked her up and down and she moved further into the room. She could feel their eyes judging her as they compared their plate mail to her worn leather apparel. She watched them sneer at her as they noticed the tips of her elven ears peeking out from her tangled auburn hair. She heard them smirk at her short and slender feminine stature. However, their judgment didn’t phase her. She was used to being shunned, and it was always to her advantage when they underestimated her.

Swallowing her discomfort, Hazel wrapped her fingers around the oak wood of her quarterstaff, adjusted the elk antlers atop her head, and strode confidently through the hall, scanning the crowd for anyone of interest. Over the last few days, she had only kept conversation with the rats that scurried within the walls of the inn. It would be a nice change of pace to talk about something other than what trash was best for eating. Maybe she could find an outsider among these braggadocious warriors and scholarly mages, so she looked around for a weirdo like herself.

When she spied a cat-like humanoid perched atop one of the ledges, she felt a tinge of excitement at the sight of someone so furry! Though she had the urge to growl at the feline and chase her around the hall, instead, Hazel smiled brightly and waved.

Last edited by Onyx; 11-22-2016 at 03:44 AM. Reason: corrected hyperlink
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Old 11-20-2016, 11:43 AM
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"Aurora...a beautiful name for a beautiful woman." Kaizen attempted to take Aurora's right hand into his as he spoke. It was a common gesture that, when taken in conjunction with his words, indicated he wished to kiss the back of her hand. He'd learned a great deal from Brelnen on how to treat and speak to ladies, and it was now that he chose to apply that knowledge. That wasn't to say he made moves on Aurora. Rather, he approached her with politeness and respect in the interest of currying favor in the event a fracas involving everyone gathered was on the horizon. He didn't really expect her to accommodate him however. After all, she'd been rather guarded thus far, but he had to try.

Elsewhere, Bandit continued darting into and out of circles of aspirants taking note of their various scents. Remaining among crowds was both a condition of his task and his survival instincts. After all, he remained acutely aware of the raven monitoring things from above and didn't wish to become its lunch.

OOCMy apologies for the short post, but too many of my options for continuing things are contingent on Aurora's reaction to Kaizen. Due to the shortness, I'll try to make a second post today if I receive Aurora's reply early enough.

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Old 11-20-2016, 02:25 PM
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"Aurora...a beautiful name for a beautiful woman." Kaizen attempted to take Aurora's right hand into his as he spoke. It was a common gesture that, when taken in conjunction with his words, indicated he wished to kiss the back of her hand. He'd learned a great deal from Brelnen on how to treat and speak to ladies, and it was now that he chose to apply that knowledge. That wasn't to say he made moves on Aurora. Rather, he approached her with politeness and respect in the interest of currying favor in the event a fracas involving everyone gathered was on the horizon. He didn't really expect her to accommodate him however. After all, she'd been rather guarded thus far, but he had to try.

Elsewhere, Bandit continued darting into and out of circles of aspirants taking note of their various scents. Remaining among crowds was both a condition of his task and his survival instincts. After all, he remained acutely aware of the raven monitoring things from above and didn't wish to become its lunch.
Given that Kaizen's demeanor remained pleasant towards her, Aurora relaxed. It's possible her secrets weren't as exposed as she expected. Either that, or the youth simply didn't care. She awkwardly allowed him to take her hand, the social etiquette of the gesture not lost upon her.

"You are very kind Kaizen," she stated, her smile gradually becoming more genuine as she thanked the youth. Perhaps making the acquaintance of another mage would not be such a bad idea after all, if either of them hoped to make it through whatever trials were ahead.

Aurora called her raven down from the rafters above and turned her full attention to Kaizen. "I have to admit," she began to say as the raven landed on her shoulder, "I am surprised to see someone as young as yourself among the present company of the room."

 

Last edited by psychomachia; 11-20-2016 at 03:23 PM.
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Old 11-20-2016, 05:48 PM
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Torvi had been watching the many applicants gathered but had been distracted by something moving in the rafters, a large black bird, that appeared to be watching something on the ground. Torvi looked for something shiny or perhaps moving but was unable to locate it at first.

She noticed a small mouse moving around in the crowd... odd behavior for an animal that is usually considered timid. She felt herself leaning forward into a pounce when another figure entered her line of vision. A female elf with an antlered skull upon her head. This one didn't smell of the desert but of somewhere fresh and green. Torvi always enjoyed the smell of the wild. The elf noticed her.... even offering a friendly wave.

Torvi's ears twitched and she blinked slowly. This was the most kindness she had received since entering this dusty dirt bowl. While the new comer was slight and slender, something about her still seemed formidable, a hidden strength. This might be her best chance of allying with someone who would treat her fairly.

Giving into the impulse to show off her agility a little, she somersaulted of the ledge and then darted between other hopefuls until she was standing looking up at the elf. Giving the elf a small wave of her own, she thrust her paw forward as she had seen many of the humans do and introduced herself, all the while trying not to be distracted by the feathers dangling so temptingly from the elk horns.

"I'm Torvi!"

Last edited by Kelda; 11-20-2016 at 05:49 PM.
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Old 11-21-2016, 01:26 AM
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A bead of sweat trickled down Nalla’s arm in a gentle dance towards her fingertips, pirouetting on the second knuckle of her fist clenching tightly around her large wooden hammer and leaping to its death on the gritty sand-strewn floor. Sand. God she hated this god forsaken blanket of sand and heat. She had a sudden violent yearning for the cool crisp winds whipping through the Pines and the way it would sometimes sound like a whisper or a song humming through the Mountains thousands of feet above the rest of the world.

Impatiently she shrugged off the unhelpful thoughts as she cleared the doorway to the hall, eyeing a low hanging chandelier so she didn’t brain herself on it as she walked or rather shuffled through the masses. She let gravity have its way with the edge of her hammer a bit in a casual swing at her side and that seemed to have the desired effect of getting the other hot sweaty bodies away from HER hot and sweaty body as they scrambled away from her like roaches when the lights come on. She stood a good foot or so above most of the other applicants and amusement tugged at the corner of her full lips. Her only being 6’7 had gotten her endless grief and dismissal in her tribe and yet here she stood a virtual giant in the crowd. “Look at me now mom.” She thought to herself softly. This thought quickly wiped the small smile off her face as thoughts of home always could and she watched the sea of eyes and armor shift and shuffle with nerves and excitement.

She had never imagined her quests for battles and glory and the jade cloaked Sorceress bringing her so far. But eventually her search for both had intertwined and inquiries began pointing her in the same direction - Dirk and the Sand Spears. She felt the others appraisals buzzing over her like ants rushing up her skin. Saw the scar- mottled and muscled men try and nod at her in that universal “one of my kind” way. But she wasn’t like them. Maybe to them with her massive hammer and towering height she must have seemed to always be in their ranks, with the grey skin of her biceps bulging with hard earned muscle mirroring their own. But she knew what it was to be small, to be made to feel small and to fight for every scrap of dignity or respect in a callus world where others dismissed you quickly. Her damp fingers tightened on the sun kissed warmth of wood in her hand. Kuori. I’ll have you out soon my little one she crooned to the wood in her mind, with a soft discreet caress of her forefinger on the handle.
A Tielfing female began to speak and her words seemed to ping from the rafters in the suddenly silent hall. “You cannot kill…” caused Nalla to wrinkly her nose in annoyance. Why was everyone insisting she be less murdery? She didn’t kill indiscriminately of course but in certain situations… she thought as the Sorceress’ face gurgled up from her thoughts, it was justified. Sighing in a long suffering way she hefted the solid weight of her weapon in her hand. What was she supposed to do? Politely bash them in the face with her Hammer? Close her eyes and hope for the best while she played whack a mole with their skulls? There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room in her experience with battle. You bad guy = me hit you. End of equation. Lost in thought she nearly stumbled as she shifted her weight quicker than you would expect of a person her size to not squash a small calico mouse darting between the crowds. A bright awareness and intelligence hummed around the little thing and it seemed to have an air of purpose and maybe pride as it weaved in and out bravely.

Nalla loved animals, she loved them a great deal more than people with their stale scents and greedy hands and devious lack of honor unless it suited their own purposes. She gave the mouse a wink and a smile as she redirected her step to walk around it watching it stare for a moment and scurry onward. When she brought her eyes up to the front edge of the room her eyes caught once again upon a quick movement of fur. The cat creature leapt down gracefully in an arc not many things with a human spine could accomplish. Impressed and amused by the tiny bit of fluff she ambled towards her. Antlers briefly obstructed her view of the tiny kitten gymnast and she studied the peculiar woman with her wild tangled tresses and calm demeanor. She tried her best not to tower over them. Quite an unsuccessful feat as she may as well have been a giant awkward boulder shuffling up to the dainty duo.
"Nice jump Torvi," she said to the gymnast having overheard her introduction. "Always land on your feet eh?" She joked dimples popping up at the edge of her wide grin.
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Old 11-21-2016, 02:01 AM
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As the Tiefling finished speaking an even greater grin found itself on Belanors face, he was in his element. Trials by combat? A simple task for a Dwarf like him, though the no killing part would be hard. He exclaimed his disappointment to anyone that would listen "No killing? Did ye 'ear that woman? More likely she'll end up with more maimings and injuries! Now In me home fortress ye knew it was killed or be killed in a trial by combat, but I expect ye knife ears and no beards dinna know that!" his anger slowly turned to mocking humor during his exclamation, then without a moments hesitation he drew his battle axe and lifted it in the air "Come on ye no bearded knife ears and shale lovers! Who will fight one of Clangeddins chosen when combat begins? Who is brave enough to match against a century of training and bloodshed? Come on don't be shy!" he projected his voice as well as he could around the crowded hall, hoping to draw some competent adventurers attention. The Tiefling talked of allies, but Belanor was hearing almost none of it. Unless they were a Dwarf or a competent warrior he couldn't fight by their side, unless of course they proved themselves competent in another form of combat. Until then Belanor would continue to shout his challenge to whoever would listen, though it was more than likely that those around him would grow tired of him rather than listen.







 
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Last edited by StoneSung; 11-21-2016 at 09:27 PM.
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Old 11-21-2016, 02:24 AM
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As the rabble-rousing of the hall continues, you notice that the three mercenaries behind the Tiefling have disappeared. They've most likely have left to finish setting up the trials. The noise of the halls seem to be increasing. Large, burly men are seen showing their machismo while there are others keeping more to themselves. Some yelling is heard in the background following the sounds of fists meeting faces. It seems as although there are allies being made, there are also new enemies being formed.

You see a myriad of late arrivals come in the hall. Including a Half-Elf Bard, a Gnome Fighter, a Human Sorcerer, and a Hooded Archer.
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Old 11-21-2016, 03:03 PM
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The arid winds rushed against blue skin of a Genasi as she sat on a window. Some Tiefling was speaking about the trails to come, but Zephyr was really just there by coincidence. She had been traveling aimlessly for a few years, and just happened to find herself at this event. It had seemed vaguely interesting at the time, but the buildings large walls were cutting off her vital connection to the wind, even though she was always accompanied by at least a slight breeze. As the woman spoke, Zephyr stared out across the vast desert. What secrets do you hold? she daydreamed as the speech wrapped up.

Zephyr dropped out of the window backwards, landing lightly on her feet. She almost seemed to fall slower than a normal person her size, but only slightly. She peered across the hall, trying to look over the massive amount of people crammed into the the building. Already the stagnant air was suffocating, and the Air Genasi pushed her way over to a small area where there were less people.

Once she sat down and settled herself, Zephyr looked around and noticed most of the Humans, and other common races were actively avoiding the area she sat. When she looked around to see why, all she saw was a curious feline creature, a giant woman, and what appeared to be an elf. Feeling a kinship with the group of misfits, Zephyr skipped over closer to them.

"Helloooo! I think we should be friends, and does anyone know what this is all about? I wasn't listening." she said quickly as she smiled ear to ear. "My name is Zephyr by the way." the Genasi mentioned almost as an after thought, her accompanied breeze picking up speed as she got excited.

 
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Last edited by vortechs; 11-21-2016 at 03:05 PM.
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Old 11-21-2016, 06:56 PM
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Several visions of Aurora filled Kaizen's mind as he held her hand. Physical contact was the easiest way to trigger his gift. Knowledge of this fact was his lone ulterior motive in kissing the back of Aurora's hand. While his visions were usually of minor things, there was always the chance he'd receive something with more substance. As it happened though, the visions he received seemed of little consequence overall. Although, one vision in particular stuck out. It involved Aurora divulging to Kaizen and several of the other aspirants gathered in the hall that she was looking for someone named Allanon. Whoever this person was, he seemed rather important to Aurora. Perhaps this was just what he needed to seal the deal with her.

"You flatter me Lady Aurora, but I am undeserving of such sweet words." Kaizen's mind wandered back to his failure to protect the wizards enclave and Bredon, or how he'd murdered his own brother, self-defense or not. Although there wasn't any overt change in his demeanor, acute observation would reveal a glimmer or turmoil and sudden detachment from present events while his mind replayed those terrible events. It was only as Aurora voice her surprise at his participation in the Sand Spears' recruitment drive that his mind snapped back to the present. "Let us hope that the nobler aspirants feel as you then, and the remaining aspirants spy easier prey." Kaizen chuckled momentarily then continued. "Speaking of the others, what are your impressions of them thus far?" He didn't insult Aurora's obvious intelligence by feigning weakness, but he also wasn't going to reveal his secrets just yet either. After all, what would be the fun in that? "I know it's early yet, but initial impressions are not without their value."

OOC Arcana check requested by DM:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paper Tiger View Post
Dice * Arcana check per Afrotastic's request:
1d20+5 (13)+5 Total = 18
 

Last edited by Paper Tiger; 11-21-2016 at 06:59 PM. Reason: Fixed a subject-verb agreement issue.
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