The list of Ezra's enemies has grown exponentially.....ideas ideas ;)
From a stone balcony, the Mad Strix watched. The full moon casting a haunting and lurid glow over him, his dead and hollow eyes trailing Damien's trekking body until the sight of him was buried by trees and snow. The corners of his mouth teased a knowing smirk, but his features remained calm and unmoved, wearing only his colorless and graying skin, his bones pushing out against them as his face grew horribly gaunt and for a moment... he seemed a horned figure. Running his palm along the balcony's stone railing, Ezra's voice echoed, his words and manner supernaturally calm as always. "Follow him. And bring her to me", he said to no one in particular. And yet, as he stood alone on the balcony, he was answered.
Not in word, but in action. A figure dashed off into the snow, his bald head mottled with runic tattoos, his body draped in the hide of wolves over fine leather armor, and his beard wearing the night's frost.
In the dead of night, she stood in front of the Pomest'ye's large oak doors. She was short, unnaturally so. She was bent with old age and her knuckles and fingers were reddened from their stripped flesh. Sunken into folds of aged and wrinkled skin were a pair of eyes. They were disturbingly large and wore the grim yellow shared by the moon's lurid glow. A tattered and hooded cloak, as black as night, covered her ghostly skin. She stood still, her wispy white hair blowing in the air of a cold Siberian night, her abnormally large face of broken veins and liver spots wearing an expression that was blank, dead. Oտարական, Ezra's servant, his crone. A stranger whose history was as blank as her expression.
Blank as she felt the air grow colder and a foreign power seep into the atmosphere. And from a distance, he emerged; the One-Eyed Prince. Draped in a black and hooded cloak over his armored apparel, Valon cast a commanding presence, a gravitas that thickened the air with authority and a subtle intensity befitting his cold, harshly authoritarian exterior. Back straight, and an almost regal but domineering posture, Valon strode forward, the power seeping from his pores bending the light from the fires that lined the walkway to the Pomest'ye's doors. He walked, his body language guarded and intensely private, his stride slowing as he drew closer to the Mad Strix's crone, and stopping once two feet from her. The Faceless Owls, unseen and unheard, drifted in the air about the Pomest'ye, indifferent but dangerous.
Lifting the helmet from his head and brushing the strands of his long hair from his face, the One-Eyed Prince gazed upon Oտարական, his brow subtly furrowed, his eyes half-closed and relaxed but never squinting, but his gaze was cold and his features calmly smug. He held the crone's blank gaze, his dark and piercing eyes scrutinizing her, his face subtly perturbed until she spoke, with neither her words nor thoughts.. but somehow. Her lips unmoving, she asked him, Have you gone to the Sanctum and did as the Horned God commanded? For a second or two, a silence hung between them until he too spoke, his cold voice echoing with a monotone and hypnotic depth, "I have", Valon answered, his Norwegian accent subtle, his tone silky and striking, "But I require more time. After all, Ali is no easy target. Is he?", the One-Eyed Prince paused, emphasizing the end of his rhetorical question, as though quietly annoyed and sarcastic.
He is. His people are dead. His mind can be broken by the mind tricks of the Dark side, Oտարական asserted, his lips still unmoving, her features as blank as ever. "Per-haps", the One-Eyed Prince answered, his voice deepening, his tone growing more deliberate, "It is the Horned God's opinion that those who wear their hearts on their sleeves are fools. That those who obsess over sentimental memories are weak men who can be provoked and duped with absurd ease", Valon told. If you understand this, kill Ali.. and the Aensland girl, Oտարական instructed, turning round to hover past the creaking doors of the Pomest'ye.
Vincent stood alone on his vessel's main deck under the blanket of darkness. For a moment, his eyes flashed crimson as he activated The Mark of Cain. With omniscient sight, Vincent studied the frightening landscape that he and his small party would soon have to traverse. Vincent's gaze shifted from the local terrain to the dismally lit grounds of Ezra Strix. And then he saw them. A multitude of cloaked figures that littered the grounds, and blanketed the pitch black sky above The Horned God's unnatural home.
"Can you see them, Fraga?"Vincent spoke quietly. Fraga had melded into the large shadow casted by the Shaytan's vessel as they left the Kwazulu Alcazar. The Beast of Blackpool had followed this group of ragtag through the shadows. The Dublin Devil wondered if the Son of Strix was watching how this small group interacted with one another. Vincent knew he would've been listening if he was in Fraga's position. Still, Fraga was not around. Vincent just assumed that The Beast of Blackpool would make himself known when he was ready. Vincent's gaze remained focused on the wraiths.
Vincent's mind was soon flooded with a mix of thoughts. A frontal assault is only favorable if we had a larger force. Even then, it would still be to risky. Strix has home field advantage. Not like it matters, I don't have the men for that kind of ploy. We could drop anchor, and climb over the mountains. But I'm sure Ezra has some unspeakable horror stationed beneath the stone. Then, there's the forest. This is all just frakked.
Vincent crossed his arms as the cursed energy that coursed through The Cainite's eyes began to fade. His unnatural vision replaced by darkness. Vincent wondered where Musa and Cassandra were. Not like it mattered, he was certain that they would pop up at the opportune moment.
Melded into the cold shadow of Vincent's vessel, the Warden of Saamas scowled in meditation. His eye shut and his focus razor sharp, Fraga mediated the occult energies coursing through his arcane nodes. Silent, his legs crossed underneath him and his fists pressed against each other, he breathed in then out, a glowing red mist climbing out his pores with each breath. But as his pointed ears perked at the echo of Vincent's question, Fraga's meditation ceased and his eyes opened wide. Looking skyward, the Warden of Saamas squinted as confusion and curiosity struck him from the sight of the Faceless Owls gliding about the Pomest'ye's skies. Subtly tilting his head to the side in intrigue, Fraga's stare held.
"Those creatures", he murmured, keeping his smooth voice low, "They strongly resemble the Ghouls from the Grim Pasture". And as they drew deeper into Ezra's territory, Fraga glanced about him, catching a glimpse of the black oil oozing from the bark of trees before returning his eyes skyward. He felt it. The atmosphere had grown colder and drearier, as though he'd struggle to feel cheer and joy there. Diving into the vessel's shadow and emerging by Vincent's right, the Beast of Blackpool strode about, one arm regally folded behind his back while his other hand kept a firm grip on the Staff of Sarsu'um. "I fear this will be slightly more challenging than I'd initially anticipated", Fraga confessed, his thin smile nowhere to be found on his suave features. Meeting Vincent's eyes with his own, Fraga warned, "It seems my father has been hard at work".
"Those specters in the sky", he paused, his vacant white eyes glancing from Vincent to Cassandra and back, "They very strongly resemble creatures from the Grim Pasture, a region in the Black Hallows. If my suspicions are true, then my father has been conducting experiments trying to recreate them here", Fraga explained. "And it seems as though he's succeeded. They cast a presence of dread and hopelessness similar to the one cast by the Ghouls of Grim themselves", he paused, rubbing his chin and lowering his gaze, "I wonder if they can eat souls like the Ghouls". Meeting the Shaytan's gaze, Fraga stepped back and spun his staff as though ready for combat, "This is where we part ways. You have been here before and have a greater understanding of my father's estate than I", Fraga admitted.
"While you two and the other one", he said, referring to Bashir Heir, "Enter the castle from the back, I will distract my father and his forces outside. What you need to find in there is simple. Books with featureless dark green covers. They are always the ones my father stores sought after and arcane truths in. One of those books will help us deal with the tear in the sky. I will deal with my father". The Beast of Blackpool waited for no answer or nod of agreement, he simply left, sinking into a nearby shadow and emerging on the torch-lit bridge that led to the Pomest'ye's doors. And Fraga's arrival hadn't gone unnoticed. Levitating as he called upon a forbidden power - the Six Eyes of Saamas, Fraga grew four new eyes above his usual two as the power of a nightmare creature coursed through him.
Hissing and snarling, Faceless Owls gathered around him, gliding closer and daring to latch onto him and consume every bit of his emotional self. But as he hovered, his powers cracking the bridge beneath him and weakening the castle's defenses for his allies to gain entry, the Pomest'ye's large doors swung open and out walked Ezra Strix with a tame smile and unsettling calm.
@musa_bashir: I wouldn't be the ultimate procrastinator otherwise.
@fraga: It's such a good thing you specified that about the book. I was totally about to go in there all hot and heavy. (I don't think Cass was around for most of the before conversation.)
'Magik,' it was never the same; even when it was. Be it alchemetic in design or spiritualistically grounded, the nuanced fundamentals were as individualistically divergent as mirroring snow flakes. The surviving confederacy of Kwazulu Coda understood and accepted this fact with staunch and realistic expectations. For while the warriors of the False Bay may have skirted the esoteric lines with tribal wards, incantations and ancestral magiks, they had never; would, never, allow themselves to be lolled into a false sense of supernatural security. Real magik was a power beyond defense. A power beyond strategic preparation or premeditated plots cleverly concocted in surgical secrecy.
'Magik' beget more and even stronger, more indomitable magik. Musa's intricately tattooed body sigils were a form of magic, yet they fell dramatically short of the sea-fairing Shaytan's esoteric mark. But even the Mark of Cain was seemingly the lesser of magical matchmaking when measured against the supreme sorcery of the supernatural Strixs.
And for all the Beast of No Nation knew father and son had co-authored the esoteric anomaly. Prompting not an infiltration, but rather a sacrificial offering as some form of magical pact or duplicitous scheme. So Musa cordially listened as the Strixian heir verbally communicated his strategic design, a true and battle tested plot that would see the Mad Strix distracted while the suicide squad skillfully infiltrated the castle's exposed rear.
However the Kwazulu exiles, to a man, silently knew better. Ezra, if as capable as previously projected, would have not only been forewarned of the group's arrival, but he would have taken every premeditated precaution necessary to ensure his own son's defiant nature would not be the catalyst of his damming demise.Waiting until the suspicious sorcerer had departed,
"Magik has eyes everywhere, ears, everywhere. How we enter.....where we enter, makes no difference. They will already know we'ah heah." glancing at the sibling assassins. "Perhaps dee success of dis mission means dee sacrificing of others,...of ourselves... no?" prepping what was sure to be a disturbing truth. "Order your men to openly storm dee rear, I shall do dee same. Dee three of us well follow closely behind, hidden by our men's numbers. When dee chaos erupts we splinting off and impregnate dee castle." pausing, Musa uncomfortably let his idea digest. There had been several interjections and subtle interruptions as with most conversations but the unknown Bashir had simply push through with his explanation. "We only need one book he said. Dat means only one of us needs to make it out alive...."
She bore the guise of Vincent's sister but everyone around regarded her with spite. Only he and she knew the truth: that she was worthless, as disposable as the rest if not more so, in the end. Throughout the journey she sat in a room surrounded by people who, by their leader's admission, would see her killed in her sleep if they could have their druthers. All for a wad of saliva and some harsh words. With any luck most of them would die in The Mad Strix's castle.
All around them was silent, save for the song of steel. In agitation Cassandra disassembled and reassembled her gun, repeatedly, leg bouncing the entire time. But Raysh al-Shaytan's disciples traded no idle chatter while preparing for battle; nor did they show any signs of true life as she saw it. Each man or woman was locked in his or her own preparatory ritual. No apprehension...No excitement. What, they castrate the men and douse the women in acid when they join? In for the fight of their lives...no ninguna onza de excitación. Metal files scraped against blades which whistled in the air as they moved about in examination. Others engaged in meditation, calming themselves for the coming battle. Most did, paying the outsider no mind.
All but one. She couldn't make out his face but by his eyes he appeared young, slightly older than she was, maybe. Those eyes, gazing through to her soul. He didn't trust her or her volatile manner, and he made sure she knew it. That was all she needed. A slow smirk curled upon her lips and Cassandra inclined her head just slightly.
She catalogued his posture and body type and resolved to remember him for later, for those who actually knew about Strix had begun relaying their plans, calling the others to attention. She knew nothing herself, but by her nature the Sanguine was partial to the Prince of Orphans, nodding her agreement. "It makes sense. If we split right away then they'll obviously know we're the important ones, and they'll concentrate more force where there are fewer of us. Besides I'm not really sure I trust the son of the man we're trying to kill without knowing for certain his motives are true," she admitted, sure enough in his absence.
"Of course, my brother is the most important person here. I think he's our priority. And like I said, where he goes, I go. Until such a time as this sacrifice becomes necessary. So then, if we're all in agreement...
As the unknown Bashir heir and Cassandra spoke, Vincent reactivated The Mark and watched as Ezra's ghoulish swarm enveloped The Beast of Blackpool. The currents of power that now radiated and flowed through Fraga was chilling. But the Strixian heir accomplished what he had set out to do. The Horned God was now on the board. So that's the devil that feasted on Emile Aensland. Vincent stood in silence. There was more cruelty in that smile of Ezra's than the horrors that Vincent had faced in The Brick. The sense of dread momentarily consumed Vincent before he steeled himself and focused on what Musa and Cassandra were saying. The Cursed Celtic couldn't disagree with either Musa's, or Cassandra's suggestions. They were pragmatic. And more than likely Ezra knew that his son wasn't alone. Still, sending soldiers to die was one thing. Commanding them to die in a place like this was another. Especially with an enemy like Ezra.
"I don't necessarily disagree with either of you. But, I want you to be aware of what will happen to those that die here. More than likely, their souls will find no peace. They will not rest in whatever imagined afterlife they may believe in. More than likely their souls will be feasted on by those ghoulish abominations surrounding Ezra's son. Those that don't die, will end up being meals that Ezra will dine on. He'll devour them, piece by piece. He'll eat their severed appendages in front of them, and converse with them as they scream. But he won't kill them. Not for a while at least."Vincent cast his cursed gaze in Cassandra's direction. "He's the reason Abigail Aensland is where she is. He feasted on her mother, Emilie. Then gave her back to Abby alive, to witness the damage that he did. That's the devil we're dealing with."Vincent tilted his head, his burning eyes now locked with Musa's."You know your sending your men into certain death. That's good. I just want you to be aware that your giving up more than their lives in this assault. I want you to truly appreciate the sacrifices our men and women are about to make."
The moment Vincent uttered his last word, he let go of his cane and let it gently fall do the ground. He removed the run down cloak that shielded his body and cast it aside as well. Clad in the refitted armor of the late Charlemagne LeBeau, and with the Devil's Fang sheathed at his side. The Dublin Devil turned away from his allies and made his way into the heart of his ship. His Shadows appeared from the dark corridors. Their blades sharp. Some were armed with more conventional forms of weaponry. Hopefully, conventional fire arms had a place in this fight. As he reached the center of his forces. Vincent quickly threw down their orders. That they would fight along side the native warriors that Musa brought with him. Their goal was to get their Shaytan, his sister, and their ally, Musa to the manner.
Once the orders were given, a lone assassin appeared before his Shaytan. In his arms rested a crimson horned helm. The mantle. With nonchalance, Vincent reached out and took The Devil's helm. With that, The Dublin Shade and The League stepped onto the dreary outskirts of Ezra's Island. His men had their orders. The moment that Musa, and his warriors stepped onto the field, they would advance as one unit. There was no point in deactivating the Mark. Vincent glanced at Cassandara. "Don't do anything stupid to get yourself killed. Like Musa said, one of us has to get out with the book. And I can't have you dieing here." Cassandra being here troubled Vincent. If Ezra got a hold of her....Vincent knew that she would never willingly disclose Abigail's location. But the horrors she would face while suffering Ezra's torments. He turned towards the landscape they now found themselves traversing. With the Mark, Vincent would be scanning the field for any surprises that The Horned God would have in store for'em. He slid his helmet on and began their advance.
A deafening silence crept into the air as the Black Stag emerged, his arms held motionlessly at his sides as he caught his son's vengeful gaze. "Hello Fraga", Ezra greeted, his voice echoing calm, even pleasant, as he met Fraga's fearsome power with a smile - a harrowing smile, a corpse's smile. "I've finally come for you, father", Fraga hissed, his six eyes staring fiercely into Ezra's dead and black gaze. "Ah", the Mad Strix paused, "Then what have your friends come for?", his smile widened, his grey skin cracking and peeling as Fraga felt his heart skip a beat. "I wouldn't concern yourself with them, father", the Beast of Blackpool smirked, his confidence at an all time high as crystalline roots of black burst out the cracks on the bridge.
With the Roots of Saamas whipping about and swatting away at Ezra's Faceless Owls at Fraga's command, the Black Stag stood motionless. "Perhaps", the Mad Strix conceded, his voice gentle but his eyes predatory. "However", Ezra paused, his smile fading, "I am famished", he confessed, a chef's knife appearing in his grip, his voice now clotted and echoing deep enough to be a man's yet soft enough to be a woman's. "Starve", Fraga grinned, propelling the Roots of Saamas forward, their razor edges shredding his father's flesh and spilling the black ichor flowing in his body. "Ah... hahaha", the Mad Strix laughed, clutching his leaking abdomen as his knees buckled, and with a step back - he collapsed. His skin began to blister and his joints grew brittle as the Beast of Blackpool hovered forward, the Roots of Saamas still swatting away at the Faceless Owls, stopping them from intervening.
This was his moment. Raising the Roots of Saamas, commanding them to climb into the air before pulling them back down to impale his father's chest, eyes, and throat, Fraga felt his heart clamor in his chest at the sight. The sight of black ichor spurting from his father's punctured throat, chest and gouged eyes. A sight that the Beast of Blackpool could not believe. Ezra jerked wildly on the ground, his body convulsing and his eyes rolling into the back of his head as his clotted, blood-curdling cries echoed into the night air. Cries that shrieked louder as Ezra's body shrunk and shed flesh, a wrinkled goblin of a woman lying dead in his place; Oտարական. "I see you've mastered the powers of Saamas", a gentle voice floated, Ezra's face poking out the darkness behind the doors of the Pomest'ye.
Scowling, frustrating creeping into every fiber of his being, Fraga met his father's empty stare but said nothing. "I hunger", the Mad Strix rasped, slithering back into the Pomest'ye's depths, intent on devouring his son's allies, something Fraga knew all too well. Darting forward, the Beast of Blackpool panicked, diving past the Pomest'ye's doors and into it's dreary heart. But his father, the Madweaver of the Black Hallows was nowhere to be found - yet. Instead, Fraga's pointed ears perked at the sound of clinking chains and heavy slithering several floors below. Floors below, where his son's allies would roam, Ezra's basilisks had been freed.
The moment was upon them and the dread, oh the dread...it was unlike anything the Beast of No Nation had felt before. His shoulders sank yet his resolve held, he jerked his shoulder with involuntary agitation but still, his stoicism remained. Instead of fleeing the unsung Prince of the Bay barked with harmonious reverberation and sat down on his stance. And his men? They harmonically mirrored their leader in every physical and vocal way.
The bow of the Shaytan's vessel slammed against the rocky reefs circling the impregnable keep and his men were quick to moor the battered but impressive ship. Coda and Assassins alike acrobatically disembarked over her sides followed closely by the unlikely trio.
Faceless Owls immediately assaulted the doomed congregation of valiant warriors and skilled martial elites. As planned the sibling assassins and the False Bay exile slipped deeper into the castle's depths as their followers attempted to ward off.....rather, survive, the Mad Strix's ghastly reapers.
Candles flickered and swayed bringing the shadows to life. Every cloaked shift a potential danger. "Shh, listen...."Softly spoken the apparent request held the audio tells of a warning rather then a social request. "Dis is not right....we should not have come..." but it was too late. Swiftly snatching the nearest torch Musa dashed backwards with inspired haste....
The Basilisk had come.....
With dexterous ease the Forgotten Prince unsheathed his blade and power planted his lead lead leg, before somersaulting forwards while simultaneously attempting to gut the creature with a skilled but unlikely isolated surgical strike.
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