[AW+] [m] this is how legends are made
Conclusion/Trial - [Tear in the Tapestry] - January 9th - when the Battle is won!

WARNING: This thread contains material exceeding the general board rating of PG-13. It may contain very strong language, drug usage, graphic violence, or graphic sexual content. Reader discretion is advised.

Specifically, this thread is marked mature because of: potential cursing, gore, allusions/reflections on violence.

They returned from the battlefield battered, injured, and broken – but they were victorious.

Iomair was covered in bloodstains and dirt, his tarnished crown reset between his sagging ears. When he looked at the members of his realm he saw them as champions of their land. Though the tapestry of their lives had been torn asunder, together they would see it mended, piece by gentle piece - thread by gentle thread.

He had seen his life flash before his eyes, he had seen all the moments of his life fracture apart and come together. He had seen into the far-off past as he battled Cynatria in the field, and for a moment he had seen the end – the black face of death hidden in the massive she-wolf as she had threatened to cut him down and into the ground.

When he came to the forefront of the Bastion he paused, his injured hand cradled against the front of his armour. It would be a mark that would serve to remind him of this time for seasons to come – the rise and fall of the Tears of Nín and the zealots who had followed in their wake. The Bastion would be forever changed, the memories within its walls tarnished like age-old brass as a new generation grew.

In the wake of this, there would be some who would never know the great violence that had come to their door. They would tell stories and sing songs, they would rebuild and paint a picture for them that was anything but this.

He dragged his blood-stained sword before sheathing it, and Indis offered a sad smile as she handed him the war horn.

She was wounded too – there were marked across the bridge of her silver muzzle, new lines that traced the socket of her eye. The long coiled braid of her hair was bloodied and frayed, but she was alive… it was all he could have hoped for. Vodeva had crept from the Bastion on a limping leg, the sleeves of her dress rolled up to her elbows. When she saw her daughter she sobbed, clasping both dirty hands over the edge of her narrow face.

With a stuttering breath, High King Iomair inhaled before sounding the horn – a final summons to the Caledonians and Salsolans who lay spread throughout the City Square. It blasted a low baritone note, a sharp sound that forced birds from their nests to scatter over what was left of the battlefield. When it was done he raised his own voice, a deep bay that called to any near enough to hear.

We are safe.

With the call sounded he coughed, smiling at those who gathered slowly around him. There were gaps in the crowd, missing members who had sacrificed their lives so that they could go on to valiantly strike down the enemy. Smoke continued to darken the area, the remnants of the Ghosts handiwork a scar against their capital.

As they came, summoned to the call - a great bear appeared, his thick coat dusty and full of ash. He lumbered the way all heavy creatures did, his head low, his dark eyes focused on the crowd that slowly began to gather. Blood stippled his fur, and when he sat back it was with a loud groan - a sharp sound escaping his massive jaws as the Erilaz came to stand alongside him.

Iomair grimaced, releasing a final sound before calling out to those who had survived.

”Caledonians! Salsolans!”

He would address them all.

”For many days and nights, we were lost to despair. Our enemy came and sought to starve us out and leave us for dead. In their negotiations, they asked us to leave, to turn over our livelihoods so that they could offer us their salvation.”

He said the word with a hiss, gesturing with his hand before pulling it back to cradle safely against his chest. Each time he moved it an ache ran through him, and it was obvious that it was difficult for him to move his fingers.

”But, when we thought all was lost, Salsola came from the West to aide us. They gave us an opportunity to rise up and strike back.” He looked to the Salsolan soldiers and raised his good hand to them in a salute, before looking back to his own people. Later, he would thank the Erilaz privately - they would discuss as soldiers did, Commanders of army’s that had risen victoriously from the ashes of their siege. "We mourn the deaths of the fallen. We will carry them with us for the rest of our lives."

He sighed, allowing the silence to carry with it memories of Jasper, Rabbit, and Ramsey. The Salsolans who had died were nameless to him - but they had left their lands in order to save their own.

He would be forever thankful.

”From here we rejoice. From here we rebuild.”

Indis appeared to hand the King his crown, and in silence, she resettled it between his tattered ears. She had reclaimed it upon the battlefield, in the moments after she had sworn Solas had crept by on the battlefield. It had all happened too quickly for her to make sense of it, but deep down she knew that her brother had been here.

Iomair had seen him too. He had been like a figure cast in mist, hidden in a valiant shroud. He had struck some of them down, fighting with a blade that had been given to him long, long ago.

But there was no time for that now.

Iomair accepted the crown and then gestured to Amon with a snarl.

”Bring out the traitor.” He spat, ”Bring out Ark Coara.”

(955) | NPCs: Indis/Vodeva

Please allow veldt to reply first! After that it is open season to all present Caledonians and Salsolans! Set for the late morning/early afternoon the fay after the battle ends - we had a brief respite before launching into the trial. :) As an OOC warning, Ark will be being decapitated. We will be posting a second round to this thread on January 28th, regardless of who has joined to tie everything up in a bow, but you are welcome to join at any time!

a promise carved in stone, deeper than the sea

The air around them was dense and heavy, tinged with copper and the stench of death, decay, and smoke. She had grown used to it, being stuck in the Bastion, but even out in the open, it lingered.

Once, it had been a sign of their imminent demise. Like many others, Fennore had lost hope that they would survive, or that she would ever see her son alive again.

In the end, they had been spared, whether by some twist of fate or at the mercy of the gods — or at Salsola’s behest, chief of all. Their intervention would weigh down on them heavily, she knew, even more so because they had suffered their own losses. Whatever hopes she had held onto in the past that they could claw their way out of their Salsolan debt was laughable, now.

But they were alive. Was that not enough?

She took her place by the King, having found a moment in the reprieve to clean herself up. Iomair, meanwhile, wore his injuries about him as a grim reminder of what victory had cost. It would not have escaped anyone; devastation was all around them, homes destroyed, the Bastion walls sagging and in disarray; and many sacrifices had ensured the survival of the Realm.

They would not be in vain.

He sent up the call, and the Isiltári watched as the tired bodies filed in, one by one, fatigue on each and every one of their faces. Many, like her, were in disbelief, having resigned to their fate long ago in the trapped walls of the Fort.

Salvation had indeed come. It would be the undoing of the Tears of Nín and all of their conspirators.

At Iomair’s command, the Rabenuhr man brought out their prisoner, the lone survivor as far as anyone knew.  He was stripped of his armor, leaving his scarred body for all to behold and spit at; his one arm jutted out at an unnatural angle in Amon’s unyielding grip.

With a grunt, he was cast forward, unable to catch himself from falling face-first with his hands bound behind him. In the dirt, buckled to his knees, he did not move.

Fennore stepped forward with a scoff, eyes sharp and narrowed at his pitiful form.

Their great war lord reduced to this. Some Sword of Nín he was.

”Ark Coara,” she hated the way his name tasted in her mouth; his brother would have done well to steer clear of this trial if he knew what was good for him. But his questioning would wait until another time.

”You have betrayed your people and all that it means to be Caledonian. You have slaughtered and maimed all of those that had the courage to oppose you. You led your kinsfolk into battle, into death.”

She sneered at him.

”You besmirch the good name of your Goddess,” she added cynically, ignoring the chill that ran up her spine when he finally looked up with his amber eye.

”And you have been sentenced to a swift execution for your despicable actions.”

Amon, having been handed his weapon, held the battle axe firmly in his hands, the sharpened blade looming just over Ark’s shoulder.

”What have you to say?”

Nothing he said now would sway anyone, she knew. But, standing by their morals even after the atrocities the war had wrought on them, the Realm would present him one last chance to save himself.


sig by Despi
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It had all been so perfect.

Everything they had done was so meticulously planned and weighed out, every potential snare figured out long in advance — or so they had thought.

Even in the wake of the Salsolan interference, Ark had believed they would emerge triumphant. He was blinded by his own ambition and refused to see how they were bursting at the seams, ripped apart by one failure after another.

She had abandoned him. Not now, but long ago, long before the first war, and Nín had never deemed him worthy of Her grace since.

All his friends lay dead in the field, meeting shameful ends. Had they, at least, met the Goddess in Her Twilight Sanctum? Had their service and devotion to Her been enough to warrant at least glory in death?

Of course it hadn’t.

She had abandoned them.

She had never been there at all.

Willing her into existence through senseless fights, attempting to bring a dead goddess honor in destruction: this had been his biggest failure of all, ever once thinking that they had Her on their side.

The Isiltári’s voice came and went in waves, like the low hum of a mosquito in his ears. He blinked at the ground, his eye struggling to focus, before he attempted to hoist himself up, spitting out the dirt and mud he had unwillingly ate on his way down.

What have you to say?

For a moment, he was quiet. Truthfully he wanted to say nothing. He owed these people nothing.

Then a smile broke out on his face, his wide row of teeth stained a rusty brown from dried blood.

”... You think you are so honorable and noble,” he said slowly, his voice rattling against his chest. ”You think that this is over. That you have won.”

His body shook with a laugh, quiet at first, but growing loud and piercing as Amon reached down to grasp his arm and keep him on his knees.

”Look around you! Your people lay dead, your Kingdom in shambles — you toil for nothing and you still lose.”

He was making no sense. His mind, clouded, disoriented, would make up any excuses it could to find meaning in his shortcomings.

”This does not end here,” he warned, looking to the King with his broken crown.

”I am not the first. Nor will I be the last. Your people will fall, just as they have before.”

Laughter fell from him again. He looked and sounded delirious, his lucidity having left him long ago.

”Rebuild your Realm. Replace the children you have lost. Return to your hedonism and abandon the traditions of our ancestors. But know this.”

His gaze shifted to Fennore, fangs baring.

”You. Will. Fall.”

[Image: qttBzd.png]
You will fall! the traitor would proclaim in his final moments. Defiant. Arrogant. So sure of his justifications for attacking a peaceful realm. Bae wasn't even sure what provoked it aside from idiots in armor, holding weapons almost as big as their egos. "Not before you." A lashing venom from the usually emotionally withdrawn man. How pathetic, this ringleader was. Defiant until death. He hoped it came for him soon. He hoped... it would bring finality and peace to the others of the realm.

Bae's quiet tone was not heard by many, only those close to him. Lives lost to the war, on both sides, were pointless. All in the name of a goddess that didn't answer her supporters in their time of need. The zealots lost; did they see their precious deity in their final moments or... did they see nothing, as Bae assumed? Gods were fickle beasts, some would say. Bae would say that they did not exist. Bloodshed in the name of religion was no religion of his.

He had to be here anyway. He had to see the head honcho that had put the realm through this. He had to make sure he was punished for his crimes. Alma was dead by Bae's hand, but would the man named Ark Coara die? Or would he be sent to the Underthing, suffering and alone? Every punishment seemed too good for Ark - even death was clean and without lasting injury. He closed his good eye briefly, a biting sigh escaping his lips.

Ark didn't say anything worthwhile. Nothing that would ever save him from the chopping block. Bae surprised himself in wishing it over soon. So the injured and dead could have closure. He also, a small part of him, wanted to see the man wiggle and squirm in his final moments. He hated he felt like that, but he embraced it all the same. He wanted the man to burn for what he had done to the people he had come to care about.
(334) | tagging this group thread
OOC: Reference to Gwaun made with Eike's permission! Also Arran's yNPCs have OOCly been moved offboard but were present ICly during these events. WC: 618

After working with Eulalie and Baelfire to destroy one of the catapults, Arran felt a bit useless. The day of the battles, beyond basic bandaging, he was not good at helping the wounded that turned up. He could not fight well enough to run out and join the battles. Instead he had joined Rhavan to stand guard in case any of their enemies sought to take advantage of their fighters being away. He was also worried about the second catapult. Should they have gone after that one, too? He also felt the pull to go check on the livestock, but there was no way to tell if it would be safe over there for him.

So he had paced a lot. For a little while, he'd kept Rhavan and Meril together since having them close helped the herding instincts. Tuilinn had returned soon after he did, so she stuck with them as well, and Tavor eventually joined them as well. Between them and anyone else who was around, he had hoped that they would be able to scare off anyone who would show up. And he had hoped to feel useful again soon.

Iomair's call in the morning had him getting quickly to his feet. He had not slept much, nor had the others of his family who were with him. His eyes scanned over their tired faces and they made their way out to join the others who were gathering. The fact that there were many returning at all meant good news, but he could not quite bring himself to believe it until it was said in Iomair's voice. His Gramma sagged against him and he slid an arm around her to steady her. Meril pressed against her other side while Tuilinn moved to Arran's opposite side. Tuilinn took his hand and squeezed while Tavor stood nearby, too. Arran knew they were lucky to all be here as he looked around, spotting Gwaun nearby. Gwaun joined them for a few moments before moving away to speak with someone else. His family, at least the members who were here, were safe.

What Arran was not expecting was an immediate trial. It was good, though, he realized. Get some closure for pack members and mark the beginning of their recovery. Arran would have preferred a beginning that did not involve death, but they were not the ones who picked this fight, so he did not think they really had any other choice.

The fact that the prisoner was a Coara was... well, it was sort of surprising and yet having one behind this whole war was something that was easy for him to believe. He wished that he did not think that way, but, well, he did. Was Rand here? It seemed like a bad idea for him to be since there would likely be suspicions of his involvement. Arran did like seeing Fennore so fierce in her questioning of Ark.

Ark's responses felt... unhinged to Arran, and while the idea that there may be more to come sent a chill down Arran's spine, he was not sure if Ark was even to be believed. Could there be more of his followers that did not come to New Caledonia to attack them? There probably would not be much information to be gained from Ark now, and Arran just wanted this trial to be done, and he wanted justice for the injuries and losses their pack had suffered. He just was not sure if Ark's death would really bring about that closure or justice, or if anything else really would since their dead were gone and killing Ark did not bring them back.
7/7 Grand Quest Threads Complete
player wiki ♦ sig by despi ♦ av by san ♦ character wiki
pp permission of Tora
Once upon a time, there was a battlefield similar to the one their fighters had trampled over. In that distant time, in that faraway place, people died and others were badly hurt. That battlefield had been far smaller and somehow less horrifying than the one she had faced when she left the Bastion with the others standing back to defend it. It had been a bloody reminder of a dark time in her life that had been properly catalogued away.

Everything had come crashing right back when the sounds of screaming and dying reached her at the Bastion. For a change, she wasn't in the melee with everyone else. She stayed back. She figured that one of her children's parents was hurt enough for the both of them and risking herself while both the King and Isiltari fought seemed like tempting fate.

Without much more than healing bruises, Kalypso had stayed whole and hale enough to deal with the consequences of their war. With smoke and ash covering the once beautiful scenery of the Fort, there was much to do. Several offspring needed attention and her spouse had lost his eye. God, there was so much to do.

But when Iomair called for them, she was reminded of a very different event in her past; Mistral's trial. She had stood at the front of the pack with the bound woman at her feet. She had railed and raved in much the same way that Ark did, but there was no feeling of grim satisfaction to see him in his last moments. Mistral's execution had been a thing that culminated in the pinnacle of her efforts in the Court.

This? This seemed like the long overdue conclusion to an overly long story. She was just tired and sick of the foolishness that the Old Caledonians were hellbent on following. She just wanted to see him dead so they could get it over with and move on to fixing everything he broke.

She silently reached for her husband's hand and linked fingers with him in an uncharacteristic sign of unity. She could remember how it felt to remove Mistrals head and if she let herself she could even see the way it fell from her shoulders after the sickening whistle of steel.

It wasn't squeamishness but regret that had her reaching for comfort; how many more executions would she have to see in her lifetime? How many more people would seek to hurt others?

Her hand tightened.
Location: the King's Bastion || NPCs: Merlin Knight (cNPC, Optime) & Reblin (Percy's cNPC, Lupus) || Form: Optime

Although the Realm had been returned to its people and the relief of their victory was sweet, Sólveig still felt the magnitude of all that was left to be done weigh upon her young shoulders. Even long after the final battle had been won, rest did not come so readily for the healers. The wounded had kept trickling in and there was nothing differently they could do except to care for them as they came. The lucky ones needed only sutures or bandages. Those whose gods were less merciful were treated as well as could be and prayed for silently from the shadows of the infirmary.

But as far as Sólveig was concerned, Salsola's assistance had made all the difference, both on the battlefield and off of it. Without them — without their healers and their resources and their supplies and their energy — the young Healer wondered if they would have been able to keep up with all of the wounded. Many more would have died, she thought. At the very least, their suffering would almost assuredly have been prolonged.

A chill that had nothing to do with the cold trickled down her spine and made her shiver. Merlin gave her a fleeting glance before wrapping his arm around her shoulders. She tucked herself under his arm and hugged her body against his, comforted by his smell and his warmth and his courage. He was alive. Inga was alive. All three of them were alive. Alive and healthy and safe. Sólveig reminded herself of this as she brushed aside her thoughts and looked up.

Up at the Valar. Up at the Salsolan leader next to their King.

And, when he was brought out, up at him.

Even broken and bound and surrounded by legions of Luperci who wished him harm, the hateful man still scared her. There was something in his eyes, on his face, perhaps deep within his soul, even, that chilled her. Or maybe it was simply the seeing of the man whose heart was so full of hate and malevolence that he had wished an entire people dead; who had destroyed their homes and hurt their friends and crushed their spirits and had wished them all dead.

Another shiver raced through her when their Isiltári spoke of execution.

"Dad, I can't—"

It had been the sudden, maniacal smile on the villain's face that stopped her and his words that kept her tongue, but it was his wild, piercing laughter that made her tremble. When Ark turned his face and his fangs to Fennore, Sólveig broke sharply away from her father's side.

"I can't-I can't watch this. I can't I can't I can't," she said in a quick, low voice, shifting her weight from foot to foot and feeling a little bit unhinged herself.

Merlin pulled her back into him again quickly and she shook against his body, still repeating her words as though they were a mantra.

"That's okay, Sulu. That's okay. You don't have to," he assured her in a whisper, hugging her.

In the end, after her father had helped her to regain enough of her courage, she departed from the gathering place before the execution and found solace among those who were too wounded or unwell yet to leave. There, the man with the arrow wound to his face listened as she wailed and wept and wore herself out so thoroughly that she had nothing left inside of her.

And then, curled up alongside Reblin's big, Lupus-shaped body, his chin on her flank, Sólveig at last slept.

[WC -- 613]
OOC: Only post I'll be making here with Sóli! <3
The war was over then. Four dead, a bunch wounded. A bunch including two of Tora's children and Tora himself. It was fitting perhaps that in New Caledonia's first true conflict their Councilor of Othas, the man in charge of defending the Realm, suffered a serious blow. Learning to live without his eye would be a challenge but when had his life not been? All he dealt with were challenges to his pride and his safety and those of his family. The war had attacked all of them on all of those fronts and it was a miracle that each of the Sanakas had come out alive.

That didn't mean he wasn't bitter. His son rendered insensate, his daughter's face partially carved out with a sword, his wife watching yet more of her children hurt in order to fuel an old blood feud, all of it just made him lose hope. What was the point? Were they all just going to fall into the cycle he lived through, violence followed by tragedy followed by violence and then tragedy once more? 

Fine. Fuck it, they were all doomed. There was nothing he could do about that so for the time being he would enjoy their victory over the captured horseman. The Valar allowed him some final words for reasons unbeknownst to Tora, giving the vandal room to share his poisonous thoughts. Good Lord, being a blowhard just ran in the Coara family didn't it? Rand was of course not around, the pig too cowardly to share the stage with his brother. 

Tora silenced a snicker, electing instead to take Kalypso's hand to hold tight. She was far less suited to this sort of show than he but leaving wasn't an option. They were Caledonia's power couple, the mated Councilors who ran guilds and made things happen. They each had an image to uphold.

Baelfire said his piece, a fairly vindictive counter uttered only loud enough the people nearby. It was statement Tora agreed with, one he would echo if only so that the loser didn't go unanswered.

"You claimed some of us, yet your little army was utterly destroyed. You speak of loss because that is all you know. Your threats mean nothing when we took everything from you. Your allies are dead or scattered, your crusade crushed. Even your horse belongs to us now. All you've done is show yourself to be the weaker Coara and demonstrated that New Caledonia will prevail without you and your treacherous lot of failures there to sabotage it." 

Tora had made note of their shared traits, the both of them brutal killers from ruined homelands who had lost an eye. The samurai drove the point home, pointing to the empty socket where his left orb once resided.

He used his right hand to point, the gesture made with his little finger. 

OOC: Wordcount 488
The air still lingered with the smell of sweat and burnt rubble, of hard work and sacrifice. And fear - fear above all, a sharp pheromone that was hard to miss. This must be what battle smells like, he thought to himself, willing his brain to remember it. Hopefully it was a scent that he would only have to describe in story. 

He breathed it in as he looked at the gathered Realm, a ragtag group no longer, and didn’t know how to feel. Both his head and his heart seemed to be drawing a blank - or maybe it was just the sheer adrenaline that he’d been running on for the past few days that had exhausted him of all feeling. So much had happened in this week alone that his head didn’t have room to process them all. They would all no doubt need a few weeks to let the dust settle for them to get fully past the nightmares they’d experienced.

Having a little bit more food in their bellies would also help. They’d broken fast earlier that day with the knowledge that they could now hunt and replenish their stores, which meant everyone’s rations had grown. It had been a brief respite between the battle and this meeting, not enough to really call a celebration, but enough to restore those who had spent the night battling for their lives.

Calan’s blood was practically singing at the surge of sudden nutrients and blood sugar. After multiple days of scraps, it was almost too much to fill his belly without getting sick.

So many things had happened, and so many things were now left to do. But in that moment, as Calan heard the call to gather, he just wanted to see his fellow Caledonians all in one place. Most importantly, he wanted to see who was still alive after the final battle.

He was not as fast as many of the others, still being reliant on the cane that he carried in his right hand. But he made it in time to hear Iomair’s glorious first cry, and the crown returning to his head once more. A couple of Caledonians around him cheered at the sight.

Dirty from the battlefield, his hair weighed down by sweat and blood, Iomair looked like the champion at the end of a wrestling match. But those golden eyes - they shone with a fire and a joy that made him seem ten times bigger than his form.

It may have not been a regal coronation, but it was still a sight that inspired hope. 

The mood turned with the entrance of the traitor. He looked so small in Amon’s grip; a non-threat, as if he couldn’t be the one responsible for this horrible war. They all knew otherwise.

But one look at those scars marring his blue-grey fur and that one hateful eye, and Calan’s heart stopped beating in his chest.

He remembered now. He was the one. It was because of this monster that he’d almost died that night, when his mace went straight for his head. It was because of him that he still had to use this godforsaken cane, lest the vertigo overtake him while he was walking. And it was because of him that others in their Realm had suffered worse fates - namely the loss of their lives.

A Coara had been the one responsible for his almost-death. And yet he still had the guts to fight his punishment.

Bile rose to his throat as that familiar voice shouted out over the din of the crowd, those shouting boos and hissing. It seemed like his body was still capable of producing hate, even if it couldn’t produce much else. His blue eyes hardened as Ark laughed, enjoying every moment of his impending punishment. If he hadn’t been the kind of luperci that he was, Calan would have spit at the earth of such an abominable creature.

“Off with him!”

It took him a heartbeat to realise that was his own voice that was shouting out over the din, spurred on by that horrible, sickening feeling in his gut. His teeth gritted as he gripped his cane. He didn’t want to hear another word from his horrible mouth.

This monster had caused so much hate and so much pain for them all - so much so that he didn’t deserve to speak and cause even more. It was time for him to die.
(760) | NPCs: Reginald
Calan gets MAD
Assumptions on Saga made with vida's permission [+851]
An execution. Before heading out there, he and Ierian spoke at length about it. Both were tired, worn out. Both understood why it was happening, but they came from a place where there was punishment, but never execution. Yes, invaders were driven off. Yes, at times there was fighting, clashes of tooth and claw that saw some wounded or killed. It was fighting. It was like a hunt. The hunted died, or occasionally the hunter. But to bring a captured enemy in and do more than exile them, forever equaling their scent to that of prey, telling them never to return? The punishment of a loner’s isolation had seemed to them horrific enough.

New Caledonia was home, but not like their former one. There was the Underthing. And there was death by execution. Mention of the Underthing made Bellad’s face contort. These people that the accused commanded killed Jasper and several more. Their blood had spilled on the healers’ hands.  Their final breaths rang in their ears if they listened closely enough. A pain shared to varying extent by every one of the Circle and of those who lent them a helping hand.

Perhaps the brothers had been wrong. Just like they had been wrong in thinking that no such malice could exist in any Soul as that which it took for Ark’s campaign against the Songthorns’ beloved home.

Bellad’s children didn’t quite coordinate with him, outside of the permissions they’d asked prior to this sordid ordeal. Neither he nor Fennore took it from them, not putting the extent of their desires to scrutiny. He knew Atica saw death. He had no idea what Rohan must have seen, but perhaps seeing the origin of his pain terminated, excised from existence, would provide at least some semblance of comfort. Even uncoordinated, they still ended up there together.

Rohan and Bellad stood by one another quietly, as though neither one knew how exactly to carry on from the horrors they’d each endured. His son’s hand reached for his and he held to it firmly, as though to teach his Sunspot’s recently obtained fingers how to hold on to something important. That had to be a good step to take.

Atica, his daughter, stood by her father’s side. Though she didn’t reach for him, he saw from her nervous posture, the slight jitters as she eyed the people around her, that she was not at all comfortable with what was going on. But ever since her first patrol she’d sensed a need to be present, even for things so far beyond her purview. Far, perhaps, from what he’d have wanted for her as well. Their eyes met. Bellad couldn’t muster a smile, but nodded at his Little Light. She seemed to calm down, if only slightly, side-stepping just a little closer to him. Then she stared ahead of her at the subdued leader of the invaders with newfound pained resolve.

Having spent most of his time within the Bastion, tending to the wounded, Bellad never saw the man prior to this grim perpetration of justice. It was a strange sight. Suddenly seeing one Soul and realizing that everything, every death, every pained cry he’d heard for days, every wound that had forever scarred so many of his pack – all of it converged on this one raving man. That it was he who starved them, bled them, broke their walls and gnawed at their spirits. A beast with many mouths and arms who worked for him and committed atrocities in the name of him and his Goddess.

Bellad never hated someone with truly great intensity. Though fittingly one closest to evoking his ire had been another Coara. This man, this Ark? He brought a new feeling to him. It felt terrifying, but filled him with a fuming, roiling force. Enough, perhaps, to warrant wishing the previously unheard of death sentence upon him.

Never mind all that he cost Bellad.

For the fate of his son alone, he would gouge out the man’s eyes, sear his tongue with red hot iron, then send him bleeding and blinded into the wilds to be devoured by beasts, his remains left for carrion until even his bones were picked clean and withered to nothing.

From the corner of his eye he saw others. Some faces seemed eager to see the Ark’s head roll. Others still appeared intimidated by him. His friend Calan Brecours, from somewhere in the crowd, called out for Ark’s demise and he wasn’t the only one raising his voice. Ierian’s face held heavy thoughts, regrets, a struggle to reconcile his teachings and the losses that he’s had to endure. Saga D’Angelo, who stood securely in the embrace of his huge arm, was one of the quieter onlookers. He heard her son was one of those who died. He heard, also, that Ierian had grown close enough to mourn him as one of his own.

Truly, an execution was a terrible thing. Truly, he could think of no other way for them to be set free from the pain. Life over limb. Then let the blade fall.
Iomair watched with a grimace as Ark was brought out into the Square. His claws scrabbled for purchase against the cobblestones, his teeth flashing as he struggled to be heard against the murmurs of the crowd. Amon dragged him forward, the only surviving member of the Tears of Nín.

He was torn and bloodied, the scars he had marred by new markings that stained him red. Iomair felt his fur bristle, his expression darkening as the man was lead out into the centre of the crowd.

He had never thought that he would be the one to lead an execution – but his people needed to see that the traitor was dead. No longer would they cower in fear, no longer would they see the markings left behind by the zealots and fear danger. He tightened his hand and winced.

”Enough!” Iomair made his way down the stairs and began to step towards the enemy. ”You have done enough.”

He bared his teeth, ”Nín will not help you here. She left you forsaken the moment you set foot upon my territory.”

He thought of the message that had been written upon the Bastion.

The crown is heavy on the head and heavy in the river.

He had carried the weight of this for far too long. The families around him made up the heart of his people, and he had acted as the head – his emotions roiling beneath the surface as he faced them all alone. He had lead meetings and debates, made love and war… but here he was about to take a mans life before a crowd.

He was not certain of its message, beyond that they wished to move on from this time of violence and death.

The Tears of Nín had thought to break him. To tear the powerful tapestry that they had created for their people. He reached for his sword and shook his head at himself. The injury was too much – he would not be able to raise the sword high enough to bring it down and end the mans life.

Rage flew through him and he gestured to Amon. The mountain would finish the work, and as Ark screamed the King held up his hand – ”Today you meet your maker.”

He nodded, and members of the Court came forward to hold the man down.

Rand watched on, a Coara faced with the words of a staunch believer. Later Iomair would wonder what it all meant – what half-truths could have been hidden on the tongue of a dying man.

He dropped his hand with a grimace. The blade fell swiftly and suddenly the strangled cries were done.

When the head rolled, Iomair did not flinch. His face remained immovable – for a feat such as this was not a thing to cheer over or celebrate. The enemy had been struck down, and a reign of terror was ended. Blood seeped between the cobble stones, and he heard Vodeva retch – her head buried in Rand Coaras shoulder.

(500) | NPCs: Indis/Vodeva
s̶̰͔͑̒͛̚o̵͓̘̼̩̿̈́̿̾m̷̰̰͙̠͒̚é̷͕̝͇̌̊o̴͔̱̍̔͌͂ņ̸̢̘̈̄͜e̸̯̩̺͑̈́͆͜ ̷̺͖͝m̶̘͓̟̙̈́̅̃u̴̝̘̼̙̽s̴͖̥̙͑̏t̵̻̟̱̓ͅ ̴̳̓̈́b̷̦̬͖͖̂o̷̮̬̿̈́̂ͅͅw̷̪̻̲͆̄̍͘

There were hateful words hurtled his way, ones full of emotion and pain; each and every one of them had been touched by his terrible misdeeds, guided by a Goddess he loathed, his hand forced by zealots that gladly died in Her name.

He did not acknowledge any of them. He let them speak their piece between his splitting peels of laughter, the sound of a man, unhinged, realizing that all of his past actions had caught up with him.

When he glanced around, there were several not amongst them, Caledonians that suffered too much damage to even stand; and several of them paying with their lives. Others still, like the bastard he had faced the first night of the attack, bore their battle scars like medals of honor; if he had known just how many of them escaped this war with one less eye, he would have choked himself to death with a twisted, ironic giddiness. So many of them were twisted and made in his image, half-blinded, just as he was.

Iomair demanded his silence. He granted this wish, if only for a moment, as his eye settled on a figure that lingered far behind the others, a stroke of dull blue against a morose crowd.

His guffawing halted immediately, the world growing deathly quiet.

”Rand,” he rasped, twisting around in Amon’s hold to look at him from over his shoulder, his neck craning so painfully far that he thought it might snap.

It was funny, really. The man that lay at the center of it all, the one that tainted every good thing he ever laid his hands on — only now, after the fighting was long behind them, had Ark finally seen his brother, watching from a careful distance. But not far enough.

Brother, he roared, his eye bright like simmering coals, ”Don’t be a stranger, Rand Coara! Come see your flesh pay for his patronage to the Goddess WITH HIS LIFE!

Luperci parted, some with disgust, others with confusion, to allow the Priest forward; yet Rand did not move.

There was a tightness in his face as he held his ground, canting his head as he cast a pitiable scowl upon his kin. So many times in his youth he had seen that look, the disappointment that no amount of sickening touches in the dark could have cured.

”You brought this fate upon yourself, Ark,” he said coldly, acutely aware of the eyes watching him. It was to his benefit that this all be swept under the rug before any more damage could be done. Rand would sooner his living relatives die than suffer the same fate as them.

”You cannot be allowed to live. You are a monster.”

A monster. Ark could have screamed. It was so predictably on-brand; anything less would have proven that Rand was capable of reform, capable of following the strict rules he set for everyone but himself.

In the end, Rand had not changed at all.

”I do not know what that makes you, then,” he grinned wickedly, wrung back around by Amon’s sturdy grip as he was shoved to the ground. ”Perhaps a beast. A demon.”

No label he could ever bestow on Rand seemed fitting. He outgrew them like ill-fitting clothes. He was, somehow, always worse than Ark was willing to forgive him for.

”This damage I’ve wrought, your losses — they are nothing compared to what he can do.”

The ones binding him did not listen. Amon held the axe aloft, eyes trained on the High King for the signal.

”Do you trust your children with this man? Do you know what he is capable of? What he has done in the name of the Goddess? Even his own brother was not safe!” he screeched, for anyone that still cared to hear him out. His audience grew thin, his time short.

”His own brother was not safe from Nín’s love and guidance, given by his own hand,” he implored them. ”Just a boy. Who knew no better. His own brother. Imagine what he would do to your sons and daughters.”

His voice broke then, an emotion that betrayed him brimming to the surface — but he snarled suddenly, and snapped his teeth at the air, chasing away the memories that threatened to unravel him.

He knew the ones that sought the Old Kingdom’s destruction! He brought the Tears of Nín together in the wake of the war! He — ”

He did not finish. When the axe fell, so too, had the Sword of Nín, faithless servant: Ark Coara, leader of none.

There was screaming from all sides now, from both accusers and accused. Their voices blended in a huge cacophony that echoed through the burning City Square. Amazing how much power a mob could have once it had something common to hate. 

His voice was only adding to it, Calan knew - but he couldn’t help himself from hissing and booing along with those gathered, the rush of the masses getting to his head. It felt like his heart was pounding in time with those around him, his words not his own. All at once he understood the fever of battle - how so many of them could risk their lives for a common cause, spurred on nothing more than the energy of those battling alongside them. It was intoxicating. 

They were calling for blood. For salvation. For a solution to all of their miserable pain. And even if a head rolling in the sand wouldn’t solve all of their problems, it surely felt cathartic in this incredible moment.

Iomair’s declaration to ‘meet his maker’ was enough to make him shiver - but whether in anticipation or in awe, he wasn’t quite sure. The crowd grew to a hush at his fatalistic words. Most watched the traitor that lay before them, waiting to see the punishment as it was doled out. Some buried their heads, their eyes covered, but didn’t dare to leave the scene entirely. They all knew what needed to happen that afternoon, even if they didn’t want to witness it directly.

Even Ark seemed to notice the change in the mood around them. His words at once grew hurried and screeching, the rasp of his vocal cords enough to make the hair raise on the back of Calan’s neck. Every word that ripped out of his mouth was filled with bitter, vile hate. A pitiful man, really. One at the end of his life, not ready to go down without bringing others down with him.

Even as he descended into hell he had to grab at the ankles of another - and his own brother, at that.

He couldn’t see Rand’s reaction. His back was to them all, focused solely on his forsaken sibling.  It was probably for the best. Calan didn’t want to know in that moment if Ark’s words held any truth.

There would be time for further questioning later. No doubt others had worried when they realised it was a Coara who was responsible for this all, nor was Rand a particularly inviting presence here in the Realm. But as of yet, it was not his head that lay resting on the chopping block.

Iomair didn’t let the man finish. As soon as his voiced reached near-deafening levels of screaming, his blade came down to cut swiftly through flesh and sinew. Though he had been one of the main voices in the crowd, Calan flinched away at the last moment of metal meeting grey fur, too squeamish to watch the final result.

When he looked back, the cobblestones were already running red. So much blood had been spilled this past week, and today would be no different. Ark’s body seemed small and weak beside it, limp and headless.

He bit the inside of his cheek, noting the silence of the crowd around him. Instead of that feeling of finality that they had all craved, Calan only felt filled with even more questions. Catharsis escaped him. He only felt tired, confused, and ever more unsure about what they had learned about themselves this past week. 

Would they ever feel that this was over? 
(607) | NPCs:
image by moinzon
The conflict of what guiding principles Atica has been absorbing was a nascent thing, a tree only recently sprouted from the soil. Her father and uncle had lived years prior in a land that was far from here, and brought their stars, their Myriad and their peculiar names to the forms of their shifting kind. Her mother was of a clan her daughter knew precious little of and of the Kingdom that taught literacy, clothing, tools and civilized use of structures of the Gone. She knew these things to be very different, even if she hadn’t that much intimate knowledge about either. Ark Coara, from that perspective, must have been from something resembling hell, or perhaps heading off there just now, never to bring back news about it. What that hell that spawned him had to teach Atica? Well, she didn’t want to delve on that. Even if it too would leak its dark venom into the melting pot of ideas out of which Atica had not yet finalized those of her own.

Her context was brief. A crash course on Soul killing Soul for unexplained reasons. Then again, even had they been explained, she would probably not have been satisfied. She’s seen her parents’ faces growing all the more weary and sorrowful with every day in the Bastion. She’s seen the mark left on her brother and saw his tears.

But if there was nothing to justify what happened before, why was this justified instead? Probably because the worse man had to die. Probably because anything less would let him come back and do all of this again. He certainly sounded like someone who would, with all the spite and hatred that he spat at them in the face of inevitability.

The way he spoke to his brother, his family, was in a very different voice. The change was not lost on her, but rather than make the full turn of her head to watch Rand Coara, she made the lesser version of said turn and read, instead, the reactions of her family. She saw Rohan’s eyes fixed on Ark, doubtful, but hungry for closure. She saw her father’s lip quiver over grit teeth, a low growl caught in his throat. He and Rand had bad blood for whatever reason. Insinuations against him made by the accused probably didn’t help much either.

She busied herself reading into those expressions, even having the time to transfer her glance to her mother. She must have had to do something terrible outside the Bastion. Something that she must have desperately wanted her daughter not to do if she’d been so adamant about keeping her inside. Not that her fantasy was lacking where it came to imagining all the reasons she had to do as she was told.

She had all these things to read into from her family, but she still didn’t miss the way Amon of Rabenuhr lifted the axe with a firm grip and in a motion that almost seemed graceful for a weapon so heavy and a task so grim, severed Ark’s warning together with his head. Atica couldn’t help but gasp, but her eyes widened, eyelids refusing to blink or otherwise shield her vivid eyes from the scene. Ark Coara now lay divided into a mute head and a limp body spurting blood. There was even more crimson spewing out than out the throat of the man whom Fleur had killed in front of her eyes, though not before he could injure Yuki.

She breathed rapidly and her fur bristled. Nearby Rohan’s hold on Bellad’s hand tightened to a painful vice-like grip. Her father had flinched very slightly, but never turned away. Outwardly, she was left the last member of her family yet unmarked by her life. Maybe that was why she owed them to witness this death and pooling blood.
OOC here
WC: 716

It was with wide eyes that Arran watched Ark yell. The canine was clearly unhinged, and Arran wondered briefly how he got to this point. What had gone wrong in his life to lead him down this path? What could have been done differently, either by their pack in Old Caledonia or in the time between its destruction and the present. Arran wanted to believe that no one was born like that, and that Ark was somehow shaped into what he had become. But then by that thinking, Ark had also had a hand in ending up like this. Why would anyone choose this? Choose to carry this much hate and anger? It must have been exhausting.

The longer he shouted, the more Arran knew that his time was limited. He glanced at Rand, interested in seeing how he was reacting to Ark's words. Was it difficult for him to see his brother like this? Arran thought it would be if he was in Rand's place, despite everything Ark had done to them. Arran imagined that if it was him instead of Rand, he would be feeling a strange swirl of many emotions all at once. Grief, anger, frustration, shame. Resignation. There was no coming back from this. Arran doubted that there was anything Rand could say that would save his brother.

And yet, Arran wondered if this would truly solve anything. If anything Ark said was true, it meant more destruction in their future, and this was only delaying it. He supposed that they could use that delay to prepare themselves for next time. First they would have to rebuild, and he knew that was going to take a long time. If there was more to come, they would need all the delay they could get so they could be ready. Arran did not want to have to be ready for anything, but the whole lead up and the war itself had shown that regardless of what he wanted, preparation was necessary, especially because this was not the first time his home had been attacked like this.

Clearly distressed by Ark's words, Meril pressed closer to Arran's side and he wrapped his arm around his son. Despite everything that happened and a general desire for justice, this was not easy to watch. Meril had not been through something like this before, for which Arran was glad. He only wished that he had not had to at all. No one should have to worry about their home being destroyed like this.

As the axe came up, Arran looked down, unwilling to watch more death happen. He felt Rhavan tense, but he did not look up. The sudden end to Ark's shouting and the accompanying sound of the axe were enough to know that the deed was done. Meril squeaked and Arran responded by tightening his arm. He glanced over to see Meril's gaze was focused on the snow at his feet, and Arran hoped that he had not watched the execution, either. Forcing himself to watch it would prove nothing and only make things worse.

Rhavan turned immediately and headed away form the gathering. Tuilinn followed her, and Arran guessed that they were going back to their house. Arran watched them go and then finally raised his gaze to the front of the gathering again. Between his pack mates, he could see some of Ark's body, though his head was out of view. Ark was clearly dead, and it was a little surreal. As expected, Arran felt nothing. For him, there was no sense of justice, no increased sense of victory. More death did not really solve problems. It did not bring back their dead.

If nothing else, Arran supposed that maybe this could mark the beginning of their healing. There was much to do to put what was left of their lives back together. He doubted that anything would really be the same as it was before. The fort would need repairs, they needed to restock their supplies. And then there was the issue of the eyes and tears all over their pack lands. Some were paint, more easily scrubbed away, but others... Those would be scars reflecting the physical and emotional ones that the pack carried forward.
7/7 Grand Quest Threads Complete
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He knew nothing would ever save the raving man from the fury of New Caledonia. There was nothing to say, nothing to do but watch. Even if he was a healer, he did not feel conflicted about the beheading. Not really anyway. The punishment was too soft for the crimes of what had been done to the realm. He almost wanted to shout for him to be thrown in and waste away, given no food but scarce items to feed off of. Like a rat. Like Ark's comrades had done to them during the siege. Bae did not close his eye when the ax fell. He kept it open, a remaining stalwart with his pack.

Death is a kindness you didn't deserve, he thinks.

Bae glanced at the head from his position, aware of Torabera close by who had voiced his deeper thoughts during the 'trial'. He agreed with the Councilor but chose to keep his disappointment regarding the execution a secret. Then again, there could be the potential that Ark would have escaped. That this could start over again. He finally sighed again, closing his eyes, and realized - this was how the realm would heal. A public display of punishment fit for retribution. He had time to glance at the man's brother, Rand, a name he had heard but never met.

He had no words for his brother as he drew his final breath. But Ark's words rang in Bae's mind. What would this snake in the grass do... When the time was right?
(255) | tagging this group thread
Woodsmoke watched, but not like she usually did. Today she stood on two legs to watch. No words came from her mouth as she listened to the king speak. She did her duty in the Bastion. She scoured the place for any and all weak points or points that could be entered. She patrolled it, making sure no one on the inside was against them. When the time came to fight, when Salsola lent their aid to her pack yet again. She stayed behind to comfort her daughter. Smokecloud stood nearby, watching, ready for the execution. The girl probably needed the catharsis. The raven tamer, on the other hand, wasn’t sure how to feel about Ark’s coming demise. Life had been taken, life had been lost. She didn’t see the need to cause even more. He could serve the realm, even if forever imprisoned.

No, Woodsmoke held no soft spot for Ark and his fallen comrades. Life was important to her though, and she believed the man could do more. While he couldn’t bring back the dead, or heal the mutilations, she believed there was information locked away in him. Held prisoner, made to work. A spoil of war. Anything. The execution was justified, it would pacify so many New Caledonians. The anger they held for the children lost, friends killed, parts of themselves made missing. Woodsmoke knew there wasn’t any other way, but there could be. There always could be. She held her tongue about it. No sense sharing a thought that could and very well would have branded her a traitor.

She watched the man be pinned, Iomair approaching, readying to swing a blade one last time in this gruesome, lengthy battle. She wondered if the thirst of blood ringing in the angry shouts of her pack would continue. Would Ark’s severed head sate them? Or would worshipers of Nin need to be hounded, hunted, prodded, jeered, annoyed, angered, forced to radicalism. Would there need to be excuses for more? Death only brought death among her kind, she knew it. Vengeance was very much a luperci thing. Pair it with pride, pair it with religion, pair it with any vanity and anything that could remotely be used to excuse another execution; the deeds would be done and another body be piled. She sighed, turning away as the dog called to his kin.

She was about to step away from the spectacle entirely, but the words spilling from the man made to die’s mouth made her pause. He was allowed to be angry. Just like her pack was allowed to kill him. Lies were likely laced in, bits to bite back, gain some ground that had been torn out from under him. Ark was about to fall into the darkest pit that no one ought to come back from. She believed not in life after, save for the life that carried on without you when you die. Ark lost the war, there was no battle here. He could not gain anything more. He could not stop the blade that was raised above him. Woodsmoke glanced to Rand. He held no love for his soon to be dead brother. The last few stabs of war were not pointed at the pack anymore. Blood was being spilled, truth, anger, hate. Things left behind, unable to be finished. It sounded like it hurt more than what was to come, and yet Rand seemed unphased.

How family hurt family, something she had experience with, though she did not know what the two had gone through. What they had done to each other. She didn’t know what caused the grey dog’s final outburst, his final warning. Rand to her was a man to laugh next to. He did not like her choice of worship, her religion. He insisted his was correct, and any idea she had was wrong. He’d never agree with her, but she could at least learn about New Caledonia’s ways from him. What was the nearly executed man going on about?

Respect ought to be given to the dead. They did their part. The cycle would continue. Though Ark’s warning sent an uneasiness through her. Some cycles should never start in the first place. The axe fell, and she tore her eyes away from the now only living Coara around. Woodsmoke walked away, knowing Sister had someone new to spy on.

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