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((Due to work and SE wonderful Costomer Service I won't be back until after the 4th of July, so I'm going to use the time to fill in where and what Erik has been in the last few months.))



Erik sat in his study in his home on Onyx Avenue in Ul'dah. His blade unsheathed and laying on the desk, he waited. In his hand was a small glass, Ala Mhigan whiskey shallow and slowly rolling in the cup. He had called on U'Hadi earlier in the week to take Montblanc, Fury, and his precious Lenna to Forgotten Springs, no need to clutter things to come. Sitting alone he was ready to end this. The shipments of Void Shards and Crystals had been disrupted and his activity with the Exiles was more then enough to prompt what was to come.


Erik found himself missing his early days with the Flames, when it had been simple. Someone pointed to a target and he attacked. Now it was so much more. Some of the fun of it had been replaced with fear. The fear of knowing what was to come. His contacts had warned him of the assassins. They were coming for him tonight, and he had no doubt that they would be successful. Sure he would kill a few, but their numbers and skills were to great. His only advantage was they did not know how far ahead of them he was. Far enough to have trusted people placed to carry on his work, to see to his house, to remove anything that they would find advantage in. Far enough to be ready.


There was no sound, only a ripple in the aether, so soft, so gentle, nothing like his sword as he rose and swung at the masked elezen the dropped from above him, cleaving him in two with a brutal growl. As they poured in he felt his father would have been proud to see his skill as he struck down one after the other.... then that such a thought was odd to have. His first mistake came at this thought as one of the assassins slipped past his guard and struck his ribs on his left, the poison of the twin blade more numbing then painful. As he began to lose ground, more entered the study. He cursed in Ala Mhigan as he was subdued.


Pinned to the ground he looked up to see the study in shambles, and a tall elezen enter, dressed like an alchemist, "Well Captain, you certainly are not an easy man to pin down. I do not believe we have ever had to try so hard." the alchemist chuckled as he said this, showing Erik his aristocratic nature. Erik huffed, "I am sorry to have been so much trouble my lord." The alchemist turned on this, "Oh that cleaver mind of your's. You know I have heard such stories about you, eyes and ears like an elezen, strength of a hyur, and observant to a fault. Rumor has it you can even detect the finite accents in a person's voice and determine where they and or their parents were from. I wonder which side gifted you that. No matter, despite it all you are still just an ugly mixed creature, all be it a useful one."


The man paced back and forth then continued, "Imagine our surprise when we realized the Sultansworn investigating our operations in the void shards, the Flame helping the ex-patriots avoid us, and the child of House Fortemp's dirty little secret, and the new priest shining unwanted light on our activities in the Church, were all four the same man. You are such an active fellow." Erik laughed, "Yes, just imagine." The alchemist turned, "You my friend are in for quite a ride."

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~Day 3~

Erik always hated this part. The first few days of imprisonment were always his least favorite. The things one must learn always bored him. In his career he had been taken captive six times, two of those times had been longer then a week, all during his time as a Flame, never since becoming a Sultansworn. He sighed as he became bored in the small cage he found himself in. His uniform and Flame sword had been taken, and the small void shard atop his cage prevented him from summoning his Sultansworn armor or weapons from the aether. "Cleaver as I would hope." he said as he looked around.


He was not alone. To his left were two more cages, one empty, one containing an elezen/miqo'te male. To his right was a hyur/roegadyn woman in yet another cage. The male was named Jean, a young man, handsome, and intelligent, but afraid. Fearful of the guards returning with the occupant of the empty cage and taking him away again. The woman was not afraid, but noticeably ill, partly due to the experiments preformed on them all, and partly do to the man's cowardliness, "Will you calm yourself Jean! You are a claw in my skull." The cat-elf snapped at the sound of his name. "What?!? Oh, I'm sorry Shilana, its just.... don't you hear it?"


Erik, who had ignored their fussing had been watching the door in almost a trance. A few minutes earlier the screaming from beyond had stopped, and he could now hear the sounds of steps, and dragging. The door suddenly swung open and two guards dragged a woman to the empty cage and tossed her in with no sympathy. One of the guards punched Jean's bars, causing him to jump with such fright that anyone would have felt sorry for him, "Nothing for you today kitty, its your lucky day. Doctor Ombre is done for the day. I guess we will have to save you for tomorrow." They then turned to Erik, both elezens, they laughed as if it was the greatest joke they had ever known, "Or maybe we will get to bring the good doctor this high and mighty mutt." Erik looked up meeting their eyes and whispered ever so softly in the Isgardian tongue, "Foutez le camp."


The butt of the guards sword made a crack, but not so loud as the crack Erik's shoulder made as it was struck. His face made no hint of pain as he stared at them and smiled. As the two muttered between each other and left, the door shutting behind them, he slumped suddenly. He could feel the swelling already, and of course the pain. "Shit..." he whispered.

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This takes place a couple of days after this scene and explains Xydane's absence before coming to Limsa Lominsa.



Memory served, he didn't forget - there was still one last thing to do.


The leather straps of his boots were tighten hastily as was the sword's sheath on his back. Armored gauntlets were held down while fingers fitted into their sockets and Xydane grinded his teeth.


Marcus entered the room, shoving the iron doors open as he did so. His eyes narrowed at his brother's appearance as he gave him a questioning look.


"What do you think you're doing?"


"Erik Mynhier is still missing," replied the aggressive knight, his eyes still directed at his prepared equipment instead of his older brother's. "I'm going to find him."


"So you've heard the reports. If you think I'm going to let you go alone, you'd be o-"


"This is mine, Marcus! Mine alone. Alarvaux's main body has been dealt with but there are still remnants. You weren't there when Sigmund fell. I'm going to finish the rest of them off."


"Xydane, you're still recovering. The three of us are. Do remember that good intentions pave the road to hell. I understand that you want vengeance but do not let it cloud your judgement. Be careful where you plan to tread, brother."


Marcus stared silently, watching his brother sheath his last sword promptly. The older Vale felt pity for his blood. Xydane still wanted revenge and blood only paid with blood. That, unfortunately, was the only way the Vale brothers knew how to end such matters. That was their way of life.


As Xydane turned to leave the room, Marcus beckoned.


"Here, take this."


Unstrapping his own sword and heaving it towards Xydane, Marcus nodded in faith of his success.


"Send the bastards my regards."


"Will do."


A silent acknowledgement between both brothers gave life to the keep as the weather swarmed with unforgiving snow. Coerthas was certaintly cold that evening and as Xydane lowered his hood, he stared into the sky and silently cursed. With long strides, he began to run.

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This takes place a few suns (read: days) after this scene.




Flame Corporal Haruko Kokojo dropped her quill onto the inkwell, rubbed at her face with one hand, and yawned.


That display of weariness well and truly belied just how dire the straits had become for Ul'dah. The Blades were looking to stir up another political turf war in the name of their murdered brethren, the Flames' security had been compromised, the reputation and prestige of the Sultansworn teetered on the edge of a knife as did their numbers, and - if the reports were to be believed - the Garlean threat was soon to be on their doorstep. Again.


The little Lalafell woman frowned. What they really needed right now... what could really make the difference... was a symbol. A person. Someone who embodied the very values of the Jewel, who brought together the pragmatism of the Blades, the vigor of the Flames, and the dedication of the 'sworn.


She leaned back in her chair and kicked her legs back and forth as she thought it over. A symbol... a person... a leader.


Ser Coatleque Crofte had been the nearest thing the Sultansworn had to such a person since Natalie Mcbeef had been demoted and transferred to the Brass Blades along with her protégés... but Crofte was new and inexperienced, and had looked to the sergeant to lead.


And Sergeant Melkire was compromised.


Rumors had it that Mcbeef had been demoted even further for insubordination... and that Kiryuu had been promoted up the ranks in her place. Kiryuu was a possibility... but he had never led, to her admittedly limited knowledge of her fellow Lalafell. He had only ever followed.


If there was a leader in Ul'dah, it was Flame General Raubahn... but the Bull had his hands tied with matters of state and the larger war effort. What was coming at them, from what could be made of Melkire's case files, was small, insidious... and difficult to spot. Difficult to prove. Difficult to quash with a display of sheer military might and force.


No, the General was not available... and they needed someone smaller, someone used to the sort of back alley skullduggery that was bound to be the arena for this particular battlefield....


...Red Wings? No. Private Od'hilkas had not yet reorganized and repopulated the unit... and the Miqo'te simply walked and breathed Flame. There was no Blade, no 'sworn there....


She blinked, turned back to the desk, and rifled through the papers there. There was someone. She hadn't checked in with Gregson for at least six suns, now. She'd dispatched him to Coerthas last moon, along with a few trusted men, back when the sergeant had struck out Little Ala Mhigo as a possibility. She found the report she'd been looking for, held it up to peruse it, eyes scanning back and forth.


If Erik Mynhier wasn't in his fatherland, perhaps he was in his motherland.


The captain had gone missing moons ago, and search parties had been sent out... but over the sevendays, those parties had been culled one by one, until only this last remained under Melkire... and Melkire had delegated the responsibility to her when matters with Mergrey had come to a head, had become too distracting for him to give the search his full attention.


Mynhier was a Flame Captain... was a Sultansworn... reports indicated that he was a pragmatic man... had been trusted and revered by many.


A symbol. A person. A leader.


Kokojo hopped down to her feet, picked up and slammed her helm into place, buckled on sword and shield, snatched up and folded Gregson's report, and made her way out of Melkire's office. She needed to speak with Lieutenant Peak and Commander Swift, in that order.


She had a man to find. And that man was hope incarnate.

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~Day 7~

Jean and the girl that never spoke had been taken the day before, and not returned. The two days would have over taken him without Shilana. The two talked softly to pass the time, she spoke of her life, growing up in the Silver Bazaar, and he told her of his life overall, and the noises he heard coming from beyond the door. She told him of the experiments, confirming the intelligence he had seen as well as his personal assumptions. This group was not part of the church or the assassins, but rather something along the lines of an independent operation, using the various branches of the Ishgardian government to further its own agenda. Using the eyes of the inquisitors and the strength of the assassins hunting for the ex-patriots, all in exchange for this new weapon, the Void Crystal, an element that would rip the aether from anything, or anyone. She told him what it was like to be strapped to the tables in the lab. The horrors she spoke of were far worse then he thought they would be.


Through it all he tried to comfort her when Erik noticed her courage wavering. He asked, "How often have you been worked on?" She looked stunned as she counted in her head the times, surprised by the answer, "Less the twenty I think. I may have lost count." Erik followed, "What of the other two?" Shilana thought, "Jean never until yesterday, he arrived the day before you did. The girl... I don't know. She has been mostly unconscious since I arrived last week." Erik considered this, less then twenty in one week and yet Shilana, though sickly and weak, was quite a ways better then the girl. And by the sounds of Jean's screams and sudden silence, he assumed the boy either died or lost consciousness quickly from just his first taste. Considering the effect of the void shards in their cages, Erik worked out a theory. The shards for him merely suppressed his aetheric skills and silenced his sense of the aether around him. Whether this was from his bodies unique adaptations to aether, or it was the simple fact that aether was not as vital to his system as it is for say a mage. A simple way to check, "Shilana, what is your profession?" She turned toward him more directly , "I fish for a living." Erik continued to question her, "So you do not use aetheric skills in your daily life?" She shook her head, "No, not at all, unless you count breathing and whatnot."


Erik was stopped from asking more as steps echoed down the hallway and the door opened. Guards entered carrying both the girl and Jean. As usual the girl was comatose Jean was nearly as well. He looked as though he had lost fifty ponze. He was frail and babbling, "Give it back... give it back..." Erik fought the rage welling inside as he wore his calm face. Looking at the guards as they left, he waited until they had left and spoke, "Jean, JEAN! Look at me!" he called sternly but quiet. Jean rolled to face the Sultansworn, catching a gimps at all his fellow prisoners and their concerned faces. Shilana whispered, "By the Twelve... what did they do to him?" Erik's attention focused, "The same as they did to you I would wager." The mixed Roe looked back to Erik in shock, "The pain in that machine was the greatest I had ever felt, but it didn't damage so." Erik was sure now, only one question to leave no doubt, "Jean... Jean, this is important. What is your profession?" The young man struggled to speak, "What?... I'mmm... uh... I am... an apprentice... a priest... in the service of Nald'thal." Erik nodded, "A Thaumaturge, it is harming him more because he depends on aether more."


Before Shilana could answer with questions the door opened, two guards entered with Doctor Ombre behind. "Captain. I have come to look at that shoulder. The body won't heal here you know. These void crystals see to that, weakening the body's aether to a point where the immune system simply stops working." Ombre place his hand on the broken shoulder and squeezed. Erik raged within but would not give the sick Doctor the satisfaction of showing pain. "Well... its broken. I have just the thing for the pain though, so don't worry. I promise on my oath as a doctor, you will completely forget that pain in just a few minutes." The man in the lab coat turned and spoke, "Take him to the Pandora Chamber."

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Snow whirled around the Miqo'te woman as she glanced around to the wilderness before her, Coerthas, she'd come here to curb the urges. Ul'dah was much too crowded, and much too thrumming with life, life that she couldn't help but want to take. No matter how hard she tried she couldn't curb the hunger each time someone came near her, and try as she might nor could she keep herself from being brought into the city by sheer boredom. Her savior had her own important matters to attend to, matters she hadn't brought Pandora into for whatever reason and the young woman hadn't bothered to question her. Pandora never questioned her mistress, not out of fear but out of respect for the woman, and that was why she now stood in Coerthas and contemplated doing what she'd been planning.


She'd heard whispers as she always did, there were others artificially doing just what Pandora herself could do, they had even had the gall to name it after her it seemed. It displeased the occupants of her body to no end, to know their own ideas were being used and they were getting none of the nourishment from it. They prodded her, poked and cackled at her endlessly, until she couldn't sleep or stand it any more. They wanted her to kill these insolent mortals, they were not vessels as she was and they were not worthy of the secrets they possessed, their anger seeped into her very core which in turn caused her own rage to spike. How dare they usurp what was hers and make her suffering seem pointless, they did not suffer as she had, they had not paid their dues as she had and would. So she would make them pay what was owed.


Snow whipped her pigtailed hair into a frenzy as she made her way ever deeper into the blizzard, oil black eyes not bothering to watch her surroundings, even the wildlife avoided her like the plague that she could so easily be. Her boots crunched the snow under her heel and when she was close she pulled the furred collar of her jacket ever close to her neck with a small smile that stretched her face unnaturally. It was time for them to pay, and their guards would be the first, whether she spared any inside would remain to be seen. Her fingers fished an ashen mask from her inner pocket and fixed it securely over her face, her eyes only black holes behind the mask and her mouth a cruel Cheshire grin she'd painted there herself.


The mouth behind mirrored the smile painted, and her face ached with her own joy, so long she'd been held back and she was hungry. They thought they were creators of nightmares, but they only created shadows of the real nightmare and knew nothing of the true horror, she would show them exactly how feeble their machine was by comparison. She would rip their life away in shreds, let them wallow in their agony so she could relish it.

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Cold. She hated the cold.


In Thanalan, it was always warm. Dry heat, humid, broiling, unbearable... it didn't matter, she loved them all. There was nothing more comforting than baking in the desert heat, than the delectable sticky feeling that came with sweat adhering to cloth and armor. Azeyma held her beating heart for the blessing that was heat.


The cold, on the other hand, was an abomination. An absence. Not life but death.


She marched up and down along the parapet as she inspected the Flames, the soldiers. Her Flames. Her soldiers. Half a dozen of the best scraps that the sergeant had been able to scrounge together at the time. She came to a stop before the last man in line. He saluted, and she saluted back, as was good and proper.


At least he wasn't Lancaster. Elevated as she was, she'd have still had to look up at the big highlander; the midlander, at least, was more manageable. 


"Private First Class Gregson. Report."


"Ser. Not much has changed, ser. Been stationed here at Dragonhead for near a moon, worked out of here and Whitebrim both, gone looking just about every which way. Nothing out here, ser, not unless it's the wildlife that lives here. We, ah, we did spot two 'sworn arrive a few suns ago... they, ah, they seem to be looking for someone else entirely-"




"Caught a 'Castille,' ser, and a... Raft? Roft? Joft. A Ser Joft."


Corporal Kokojo shook her head. Not names she knew, though the latter sounded familiar.


"No sign of Mynhier, then?"


"No, ser."


She frowned as she turned on a merlon to stare west, off into the horizon. The sun would be setting soon. Azeyma's blessings on whoever found themselves out after dark. Her blessings, and the Fury's mercy.


"...ser, if I may ask... why are you here?"


She glanced back at Gregson.


"He's either out here or he isn't. It's about time you stopped dallying about and started actually looking, because we need the man in question now more than ever... if there's still a man to be had. I'm here as oversight 'til the job's done or I say it's done. Understood?"


There came the sudden stamping of six simultaneous salutes.

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He forced his way through the snow as he made westbound towards 'Dragonhead.'


The weather bit and it made Xydane's mood not close to being cheerful...




Inquisitor Maulcrioux sat inside his quarters, rubbing his eyes tiredly after writing letters for countless hours. Time has made the Elezen feel rather old but he knew it was just the state of his body slowly breaking down. A former knight turned Inquisitor, Maulcrioux's dignified service to Ishgard including his fierce reputation commanded respect from his allies and authority from his knights.


Removing himself from his seat, he slowly walked towards the window and stared outside as he contemplated things to come. Loudly, a knock on his door forced him to turn his gaze towards the entrance of his room as one of his knights walked in.


"Sire? "The Unrelenting" wishes to have a word with you."


"Hm? Let him in."


Xydane hurried inside, removing his hood and bowed while giving his friend a concerned look.


"We know where he is and time is against us. He's in Ishgard and I need your help to get me inside."


Narrowing his brow with a inquiring look, the middle-aged Elezen sat back onto his chair and crossed his arms.


"You do realize, Xydane, that if anything was to happen inside that city, it would be impossible for you to walk out alive?"


"I already understand that but I have a plan. It'll be risky but I need you to get some of the guards in that city off my back. I need you to trust me on this one and the faster we remove Erik Mynheir from the north, the sooner we can no longer worry."


For a moment, Maulcrioux stared and finally, he exhaled deeply. Taking a feather quill, he began to write on a single piece of parchment; a bitter expression forming on his face. After an hour of discussion and warnings to be heard, Xydane walked outside and grinned with relief while his greaves sank into the snow. His hand held a scroll and he neatly tied it onto his belt. For a second, he shivered.


Oh, he hated the cold. Months on end did he remember freezing his ass off and the beaches of La Noscea seemed welcoming as ever. The thought made him smirk but it only pissed him off a few seconds later.


'La Noscea does sound nice...'


Making his way towards the western gate, Xydane blinked and squinted. To his surprise, a body of Flame soldiers were huddling by the fires. The Hyur wasn't slow - he knew the reason for their presence and it may just spare himself the pain that was at the end of his thought out plan.


Walking quickly towards the group, the knight shouted at the soldiers with a voice of command as he removed his hood.


"Hey! Who sent you!?"

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Heads whipped around as their little fire snapped and crackled. Most looked astonished to be addressed rather than ignored, as had become custom for them here. There was one, however, who didn't, and from behind that kneeling midlander rose a small armored figure.


She was small yet tall for a Lalafell and, while it was not quite the color of snow, the bone-white of her armor served to blend her against her backdrop nearly as well here in Coerthas as it did on the sands of Thanalan, her outline against the frigid wastes broken up only by the brown of her armor's padding and the brass of its ornate decoration. Her sword was drawn; she had been using it to etch out search patterns into the snow. She slammed it home into its sheath as she stood slowly and turned her head slowly to gaze at the newcomer. One tiny hand found its way up over her shoulder to reseat the strap that secured her shield to her back. She glanced down at the midlander and spoke.


"At ease."


Tension that had suddenly ratched at the stranger's call now drained away, those two words of command releasing the men from their heightened alertness. The little woman made her way around the small group and slowly approached the stranger. Calm, collected, confident, she made no moves towards blade or buckler as she walked well into arm's reach, coming to a stop a mere three fulms away from the much larger and much stronger Hyur. She saluted.


"Corporal Haruko Kokojo of the Immortal Flames, under Chief Flame Sergeant Melkire, under First Flame Lieutenant Peak, under Commander Swift of Ul'dah. The men you see huddled before you are under my charge, ser, and our purposes are our own, though we've applied to House Fortemps for aid and been denied often enough that we've come to withhold no secrets, no hidden agendas."


She canted her head to one side, looked up at him, crossed her arms, and pinned him in place with her cool blue eyes.


"Now, who are you?"

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((Just so everyone knows, Erik is in a hidden facility in the city of Ishgard itself. The government of Ishgard has no knowledge of the facility. Also for the sake of the story Erik is held for 90 days. My part of the story is happening chronology before the other writers.))

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"You speak to a knight of this land, Flame. You say you are with Melkire? That answers enough. I know why you're here and if you want Mynheir back and alive, you will do everything as I say."


Xydane's tone was meant to intimidate and display jurisdiction. He held no love for the military of the city-states but here in Coerthas - in the frozen , his reputation earned him power. Marcus's reputation; however, exceeded that. It was Marcus many years ago that saved Ser Joellaut from a wyrm thus earning the Inquisitor's trust. It was Marcus who swore allegiance to Maulcrioux and pledge loyalty which in return, granted him and his brother knighthood. It was all because of his brother and because of the countless tasks and deeds the Vale brothers have done for the House of Fortempts. Down south, Xydane was nothing.


Up north, he was everything.


Taking quick glances behind him, the knight began to lower his voice. There were still spies and network of many small organizations within Ishgard and to trust any other House was to face heresy. Xydane spoke in whispers as he brought his hood over his head.


"I know where Erik Mynheir is being held. There's just one problem - He's in Ishgard and the great city holds no love for outsiders. I'll keep this simple - the moment I get him out and we cross the bridge, he shall be yours to escort back to Ul'dah. From that point on, none of you can ever return."

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The corporal stared up at him... but only for the briefest of moments.


"As if we care for the cold here... Done."


In hindsight, it made sense. Ishgard had always been the most isolationist of city-states, with naught but a cold shoulder to show its neighbors. Official inquiries had been sent, of course, through emissaries and the like... but the responses had always boiled down to, "No. We don't have Erik Mynhier. We don't know where Erik Mynhier is. Even if we did, we wouldn't tell you, as affairs within our city are our affairs. Go meddle elsewhere."


She didn't care who this stranger was. She didn't care if he was telling the truth. All she cared about was following a lead. Any lead. She glanced over to her squad long enough to call out, "Gregson! With me!"


She turned back to the stranger as the private made his way over to them, trudging his way through the snow. 


"So we're to wait at the Gates of Judgment for you, then." She shook her head. "This isn't a plan. We need a plan. Details, timing, contingencies... that's on you to provide, ser."

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~Day 28~

He wasn't sure how long he had been here. The girl and Jean had been dead the better part of a week. Shilana had died sometime during the night, leaving him to the last. His assumptions were proven right, mana use in one's life quickened death in the machine. Granted he used more then the mixed Roe, but she was sent to the machine many more times then he had. He tried to sleep, his deformed left shoulder causing him no end of pain. His anger was the worst he thought. The anger awoken something deep within him. A guard entered the room and stared. Erik looked up, "What?" The guard leaned in close and spoke a curse in Ala Mhgian and laughed. "I learned that one from another patient." Erik moved without thinking about it, grabbing the guard by the throat, his rage overwhelming the pain as his left hand clutched the guard's throat and slammed his face into the bars. The guard regained his footing and got loose, cursing as he ran for the door. Erik looked at his left and and felt the familiar feeling of aether tingle up his arm. He was sure the pain in his shoulder was vanishing. He thought of his father, "Interesting."

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~Day 49~

The table was cold, even when he laid on it for hours, it was always cold. They brought him in daily now, he had learned much from it. He and the others who had been in his block were the facility's only mixed breeds, hence the assistance to the assassins seeking ex-patriots of Ishgard. They were apparently important to the development of the Pandora weapons. It was important that they be sure the weapons would work on people with unique physiology, or so he was told.


The machine had been on for an hour, the pain was as bad as it had been since he had started. He never cried out, even though he wanted to. Determined not to give Ombre the satisfaction. The Doctor had taken to having lunch every day while Erik was on the table. He seemed to take pleasure in watching the Sultansworn's essence being ripped from him. It was very personal Erik realized early on, though he could not tell why. "How is it today Captain? You have filled five shards today. Most fill less as the days go on, but with you, its more and more and more. I wonder why that is?" Erik snarled as he looked the Doctor in the eye, the waves of aether being pulled from the twelve needles inserted all over his body, each needle both burning and freezing, made the location sharp with pain. "Maybe it is my love of the decor." Ombre laughed, "It is nice here, I will grant you." He took another bite and then continued, "That aetheric episode last year must have something to do with your endurance. Or maybe its that little secret of your's." Erik was shaken by that, "What are you talking about?" Ombre looked him in the eye, "Oh come now, your shoulder is healed, and we can't send a guard in to you unless we have bandages ready for them. I know about your father, what he did to you. It fascinates to no end that you have started tapping into this power, in secret, adorable by the way, and it seems to be granting you some measure of immunity." Erik growled, both from pain, and from frustration that he had been so obvious, "Shut up."


When they unlocked him from the table he collapsed to the floor. He was very conscious, but felt as though he had been mining in Thanalan for days without rest. Ombre stood to leave, his entertainment over, "I must be going Captain. I will see you tomorrow." Erik looked to him as the guards picked him up off the floor, "You seem to enjoy your work." The doctor smile, "Only with you." As Erik left he wondered on these words. He must have angered this man before, but he could not remember where. Nothing was worse for Erik, then not knowing.

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~Day 82~

The bells in the great cathedrals rang out in the city of Ishgard, but none could be heard in the facility. All was quiet as the guard scheduled to check in on the Flame Captain entered the holding area, only to find two guards dead and Erik asleep on the floor of his cell, his back to the door. The guard was young, he panicked, running the rest of the way into the room, allowing the door to shut. The worst mistake was laying his hand on Erik, one he had no time to regret. There was a roar of rage and the Highlander grabbed hold of the unknowing elezen's skull and pulled with such force, his head squeezed through the bars unnaturally, killing him instantly. As his body released his life, all the aether present in the boy, his health, potential, and strength flowed into Erik. He stood and drew the spear from the dead guard and with the added strength of the three guards, placed the spear at an angle to the bars and bent them. It was done in moments, but so was the strength, the enchantment limited in its duration.. Once out of the cage he left the area and began to move through the halls. As he went he came upon a small room, a maintenance room. It was night he realized, he would stay the night in this room. The guards would not be found until morning. He would bar the door, rest, and make ready for the fight to come.

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Staring at Corporal Kokojo, a smirk formed into his once serious expression with ease. A plan had hit him and it came like a charging Chocobo while at the same time, it made him want to burst out laughing and drop to the floor.


'Mind your composure, dammit...'


"You want details? Wait right here and I shall return shortly."


Indeed, the knight did return but this time, he carried what seemed to be a rather large traveling pack. It's size alone was perfect to carry supplies for weeks but in this case, the pack wasn't for foodstuffs and necessities.


"Like I said, your men will wait outside the Gates but as for you..." grinned a guilty Xydane as he slowly patted the bag. "... you're coming with me."

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Kokojo raised one eyebrow and, just to accentuate her incredulity, canted her head to one side.


"That, ser, is insensitive, insulting, grossly offensive..." She gave him an appreciative smirk. "... and practical. Refreshingly so."


The little corporal turned as the private joined them and playfully slugged her second in the thigh.


"Private Gregson. I will be accompanying this bold gentleman to Ishgard. You and the others are to await us just outside the Gates. Excuse your presence with PT; military exercises never end. When they inevitably take offense, be as humble and apologetic as need be, then make camp nearby. Keep eyes on the Gates: best case scenario, we will have Mynhier with us and an Ishgardian sortie on our asses; worst case scenario, if we aren't back within a sevenday, report home to the Lieutenant. Tell him, 'the nix has swallowed the napalm'. Do I make myself clear?"


Gregson gave the stranger a once-over with his gaze, as if committing the man's appearance and visage to memory, before turning and saluting his CO.


"Ser, yes ser!"


The corporal grinned as she returned the salute, then turned back to Xydane.


"I hope the weight, armor and all, won't inconvenience you, Ser Knight."

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Xydane inhaled deeply as he rucked his way east, towards 'Ishgard.' The wind had picked up and the snow provided poor visibility. Step by step, his greaves crunched loudly into the cold snow.


"You know... you're quite damn heavy."


Xydane stopped, catching his breath while lowering his hood to wipe his brow. The temperature was frigid and the Lalafell's weight was giving him one hell of a workout.


In freezing climate. Damn.


"I... didn't think Lalafells were this heavy... but between you and I..." inhaled the knight as he resumed the small trek through the snow. "... I never liked the Brass Blades but you Immortal Flames though... you'll do."


Of course Xydane was honest on that statement. He along with his brother had served within the military many years ago but those times; however, felt like they never existed.


"Look at the bright side, at least you don't get to walk nor feel the bite of the wind. Even if you walked, I think you'll just sink into the snow."


His imagination finally besting him, Xydane bursted into laughter. Kokojo was probably going to whoop his ass but nonetheless, he continued to laugh. His personality always did change and Xydane knew himself to be a different character whenever he was in front of someone new. Perhaps it was because this Lalafell's company reminded him of Jajara Jara.


'Yep. You lost your composure.'


As the winds began to die down and the snow coming to a pass, the iron gates stood valiantly as the bridge to Ishgard displayed a sense of strength and magnificence.


They had finally arrived at the 'Gates of Judgement.'

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~Day 83~

Away from the constant hum of the shards over his cage, and their effects, Erik slept deeply. His dreams were of his home, his child, his sister. All the people whom he knew and loved. His dreams ended when the sirens began to scream. They had found the guards, they would be coming. Erik stood and shook his body out, taking note of sore areas, taking note of his weaknesses. There were surprisingly few, his father's techniques being more useful then he thought they would be.


Gripping the spear, he placed his ear to the door and listened. First came a clicking, "click, click, click"... shoes. Then came the thumping, "doum, doum, doum"... the butt of a spear tapping the floor as someone walked. Then his eyes widened, "ping, clang, ping, clang"... sword and shield, Erik never cared for spears. Stepping through the door swiftly, he impaled the soldier from his jaw through to the top of his head. Stripping what armor removed fast, along with the sword and shield, Erik tossed the body into the room he had stayed in.


Quiet as a miqo'te tracker, Erik moved through the corridors. Some who saw him took no notice as he lowered the visor of the helm, the smell of blood within overwhelming. Others who saw him and did take notice... Nald'thal took them. The first lost his head with a single swing. The second lost his eyes before death took him. Another, a shield to the face, then throat. The last three were young, and ended with such savage brutality, that the last to die wished he had been first, to spear himself what he saw in his final moments. A man with flowing, blood-soaked hair, green eyes that pierced the soul, and a strength that sent severed body parts flying with every swing.


Finally through the side halls, the Flame Captain found what he was looking for. The main lab was massive. More then a lab, it was the primary depository of the crystals and shards. Slipping in the door and locking it behind him, Erik made swift work of the two who attended the room. Their protective suits muffling his steps. Their obstructive hoods and masks blinding them to his approach. Once done Erik moved to the central vault. As he moved closer he felt the aura of the void crystals draw in his strength. Ignoring the weakness and fatigue, he moved to the vault door and placed his blade to his forearm, slicing deep. Digging his fingers in the wound he grunted and hissed until he pulled free a small red ring. Shaking his arm, he embedded the ring in the handle of the vault door. He felt the full force of the crystals now. All but his most vital aether flowing out of him toward the vault.... but he needed no aether, not for this. He lined up his slice and then raised his blade. He thought for a moment, of his rage, his fears, his hate of this place. Then he thought of his father, how as a boy he had seen him draw his very lifeforce through his hand into his blade. He remembered how the act was so twisted, so unnatural, so... dark. He gathered his life, tainted by hate into the tip of his blade, his father's son...., "RAGE!... OF....HALONE!!!" As he shouted, swinging his sword toward the door and the ring attached, he saw the black aura overtake his sword. He felt a surge of life leave him, not unlike the machine. His father had only once told him of Darkness, the Dark Knight's last resort, the skill so dangerous, it was saved for the most dire of situations. This was why he was sent here by Ul'dah. A man that could act in the presence of the crystals, if only shortly.


The door laid on the floor, cleaved in two, the cut edges melted, as if cut by flames. Also sliced was the ring. From its ruby core came a Bomb. The creature was so overwhelmed by the void crystals, that it died moments after leaving the safety of the ring, but that was the plan. Moments were enough for the creature to obey its instincts, and self-destruct. As the detonation began, Erik dived behind a wall, barely missing the blast as it engulf the crystals and shards. The explosion was itself unnatural, it was as if the force and energy released by the explosion was sucked into the vault as the positive and negative force countered one another.


As Erik raised from his hiding place, he felt the aether in the room stabilize, his senses and aether returning. He knew the sound would swiftly bring an army to him, so he moved quickly toward the storage area, looking for an exit, a loading dock, anything. As he moved he spied a room near the lab, a large book on the desk within. Grabbing the book, he noticed a door to the outside in the room. Kicking the door he splintered the door, and took his first deep breath of fresh air in three months, the cold air burning his lungs. Looking back into the room, he heard the far off sound on soldiers running toward him. He moved through the door. He would find the room on a high level. He would climb the ledges, moving from roof to roof. Resting where he could, stealing food, he made his way to the city gates in two days. From there he hid himself on a cart for the dead, "heretics" of the church, unworthy of a burial within the Holy city, riding out across the grand bridge, to and then through the Gates of Judgment. Escaping the cart he ran, wearing only loose pants, without shirt and shoes. He eventually made his way to Dragonhead. Seeking a friend, he acquired clothing and food. Nervous to stand out until he was safely in Alliance territory. On foot he traveled through the harsh snow toward the north of the Shroud. From there he walked toward Gridania. Once there he contacted the Immortal Flames and sent for the Falcon. He returned to Ul'dah exactly ninety days since he had been taken.

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~Day 90~

~The Debriefing~


Erik sat at the long table, the heat of Ul'dah bothering him more then he thought it would. The dark room cluttered with furniture, books, and old smells. Erik noticed right away when the door shut that he could hear nothing outside the room, it had been soundproofed. The room was for clerks to organize classified materials, many of which came from the Red Wings. The room was situated on the upper floors, not far from the Hall of Records, the original headquarters of the Wings. The room had been hastily emptied of its staff, several of who Erik knew personally, their families, their habits. Many had even been to his Starlight office parties in the Hall of Flames. Several were shocked as they were ushered out of the room and pasted the Flame Captain, Erik though never returned their looks, this was a debriefing. There was an order and flow to such things. Any who would have seen him leave his airship, his hair wild and long, met and surrounded by ten armed Flames, would have thought him some dangerous criminal. He was no criminal, this was how things were done in the military. His mind held information, the escort was to protect that information, not to detain him, he had done this long enough to know that.


He never liked heat, an odd thing he always thought, considering his place in the world. This room was especially hot, the fans on the ceiling spinning in vain. He was glad to not be in uniform, like the two men across from him at the table, Flame Coronal Ryder and Captain of the Sultansworn Jenlyns. The Coronal began as the door locked, "Captain, as always it is good to see you again, though this may prove to be a longer the normal debriefing. Can I send for something for you, food, drink?" Erik straightened, taking a look most would not recognize in the Paladin who walked the sand covered streets of Ul'dah, a stern and disciplined look, "Thank you Sir, yes please. Some water, and mustard bread... and send for my Mammet as well if you would." The Coronal nodded to the sentry at the door, who swiftly and quietly slipped out the door.


Erik turned his attention then to Jenlyns. It was uncommon for the Sultansworn to send a representative, much less the commander of the order. "Ser Erik, I would also like to welcome your return. We in the order have of late been faced with many challenges." Erik nodded, "I will help where I can Ser." Erik had been a Sultansworn for six years now, but that was just a means to an end, something all present were aware of and had agreed upon. Erik was a Sultansworn, he loved his duty, to the Sultana, to Thanalan. He knew his family would have been proud, service to his nation, like his father, but with the light of his mother, a joining of his two halves, this is what it meant to him. But when he thought honestly to himself, he was a soldier, he had always been. The title of a Sultansworn had been given to him because he had earned it in his service. He and his men in the Crimson Watch had overtaken and out foxed the thieves that had tried to steal records from the Hall. He had killed the lead thief, as Ciel dealt with his two accomplishes. But though he had been a good candidate for a long time, multi-lingual, diplomatic, educated, strong, he had never sought it, the title sought him. He remembered the day he met Jenlyns, he had come to recruit, but Erik declined, feeling his secrets made him unworthy. It was only after his commander in the Flames approached him, ordering him to accept the title. The powers that be had conspired, they had agreed that a link between the two forces was needed. Erik and his unit were swiftly becoming the Eyes and Ears of the Flames, this agreement would offer the Sultana and her Sworn those same eyes and ears, in exchange for granting the Watch's leader the unlimited access to people, places, and things that only a Sultansworn could have, to sharpen the eyes and ears. From this, Erik became a Sultansworn.


The Coronal nodded to Erik as he began to piece at the bread, Montblanc showing delight as he tore pieces off and handed it to his master. "Now that we are ready I would like to say the Sultansworn Jenlyn is here as a courtesy to the Order. That said as per General Order, 0000.3341 of the Immortal Flames Code, I hereby authorize the sharing of Level 3 classified information to Ser Jenlyns of Her Majesty's Sultansworn.


Erik told the whole ordeal, starting with the intelligence that had tipped off the Flames, the orders to allow the capture to happen, the bomb ring that had been placed inside of him. He was like stone, emotionless as he delivered his report. Both men listened as the Captain spoke, Jenlyns noticeably the more shaken of the two as Erik described the functions of the Pandora Room, the way the technology killed its victims, and finally Erik's bloodbath of an escape, "By the Twelve man! You are a Sultansworn!" Ryder snapped and angry look toward the Sultansworn Captain. Erik turned, "I am also a soldier Ser. And soldiers go to war, I was ordered to infiltrate the enemy facility, learn every detail of it, seek information about Syndicate involvement, and if possible, destroy the crystals, notes and equipment... by any means necessary." Jenlyns nodded slowly, most disturbed by the techniques Erik had used. He had been briefed when the Ala Mhigan had joined their ranks. How his father had been a wielder of the Dark Blade technique, and how he had planted that same skill into his son. Such skills were the very antithesis of the Paladin, they sickened him, "My apologies Coronal, Captain." he said with a nod. Coronal Ryder nodded politely, while throwing a jab, "Our cousins in the Sworn serve in the lavish and clean world of Her Highness. I don't hold it against any of them for not possessing the stomach for the real world. Now please Captain Mynhier, continue." Jenlyns' eyes flash anger for a moment at the comment, then turned back to Erik and nodded, "Yes. Much has happened in your time away."


Both men offered large folders to Erik. Inside contained plots that had been stopped, a bomb, a surprise, "Askier defected?" Coronal Ryder nodded and allowed Erik to continue reading. As he read a page offered it to his Mammet, who would hold the page that was as big as he and stare without sound. Should his master ever have need, he would be able to copy it to the dot. Finishing the Flames folder he took a deep breath, the closest he had gotten to emotions in the entire meeting, "Quite a bit." Captain Jenlyns held a somber face, "Not everything ended in dramatic victories I am afraid." he said as he tapped his folder. Erik locked eyes with the man as he picked up the folder and began to read. As he read it over he came to the names, Kage, Natalie,..... Roen. He continued to read as he spoke, "This is true?" Jenlyns nodded, "Yes, every word. And I should add that per orders handed down from the Order, you are to not have contact until the situation is resolved, even with your former student. Is that clear? I will not allow you to ride off on your chocobo trying to save the day as you are prone to doing." Erik nodded, "Of course Ser." He continued to read, "Face of the Sultansworn? Who is Coatleque Crofte?" Jenlyns replied, "We had to rebuild our reputation, she is dedicated, but sadly she is also inexperienced. With you gone and the other lot dismissed, she was never even apprenticed or given a proper Trial. But despite my sternness with her, she is able enough for her duties." Erik handed the last page to Montblanc and spoke, "I will have to meet her. I am going to go for a jog later, maybe I can find her then." Jenlyns continued, "While on this topic, you have been ordered to pick up where you and Natalie left off and continue the recruitment and Trials immediately. Our numbers grow to small, we must bring in new blood and soon. I know your Red Wings take most of your time, but Ser Crofte has already taken on the aforementioned former Sultansworn's duties, as well as your own. You will take back your duties and take this one as well." Erik nodded, "Of course Ser, I will give it great attention."


After the requisite bow, salutes, and pleasantries, Erik left the room with Montblanc close behind. As he exited the building he took a slow deep breath and stretched, a low growl escaping his lips. Running his fingers through his long untied hair he sighed, "Montblanc, I need a haircut, a jog, and a chamomile tea." He looked up towards the clear sky overhead and thought, allowing his known pleasant attitude washing over him, "Maybe the heat is not so bad after all."

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Kokojo scowled incessantly, bouncing this way and that as they made their way towards 'Ishgard.' The false bottom above her kept threatening to flap open and pour food and water rations down into the already-cramped confines of the traveling pack. With each step the knight took, the pack shook, making matters that much worse.


She sat as best she could: legs tucked in, her body curled as best as she could manage into a ball. Her sword was held against her chest, one hand on the sheath and the other on the pommel when she could spare it; her shield was strapped across her back.


"You know... you're quite damn heavy."


She jabbed back at him with one elbow as they came to a stop. Could he feel that through the leather? She hoped he could feel that through the leather. Ass. Most of the weight came from her armor; she'd chosen to climb into this infernal contraption while in full iron. If anything, he should be thanking her and her heritage for keeping his load light. Now, a Roegadyn... ha!


"I... didn't think Lalafells were this heavy... but between you and I..."


She perked her ears up hard against her celata as they started moving again. That wistful tone in his voice....


"... I never liked the Brass Blades but you Immortal Flames though... you'll do."


Her expression softened, and she dropped her gaze to the falchion she carried. She hadn't been born to this life, hadn't expected it, hadn't served as long as many of her peers had, her fellow corporals. That fateful family expedition to the Sagolii... the escape that had been Nymeia's grace... the refuge that had been Gridania... the circumstances that had brought her home, at last, to Ul'Dah, in time for her to devote herself to....


Under her breath, Kokojo muttered, "that's because the people suffer before the Blades... the Flames, though... the Flames are meant to suffer for the people."


Would he hear her? Could he? Likely not... but that didn't matter. It was something she felt had to be spoken aloud, be there ears to listen or no. It was something she chose to remind herself of, sun past and sun arising. What she had volunteered for, what she had chosen... and why....


"Look at the bright side, at least you don't get to walk nor feel the bite of the wind. Even if you walked, I think you'll just sink into the snow."


Her contemplative frown - when had she started frowning? - fell away as the slightest of smiles dawned on her face. She chuckled along as his booming voice broke into laughter. 


The storm must have broken, as the traveling pack jostled less and less as they went on, as the knight paused less and less, as the harsh whine of the frigid wind died down to mere whispers... then, at last...


They arrived at the 'Gates of Judgement.'

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  • 2 weeks later...

Xydane ceased in his steps as two Ishgardian knights approached with their spears pointed forward; their faces painted with disgust. Without turning his gaze away from the knights, Xydane whispered silently back to Kokojo.


"Don't move until I say it's clear."


"Halt! What business does a Hyur have at the Gates?! Speak quickly!" commanded one of the guards.


There was a certain twitch in the guard’s eye from under his visor, as through he was waiting for any excuse to attack. Instead of cowering before the guard's intimidation, Xydane simply reached underneath his cloak and pulled out the missive.


"Business of an Inquisitor, knight."


"Inquisitor!? What is... let me see that!"


Quickly grabbing the scroll from Xydane's hand, the knight began to read silently, his eyes moving back and fourth as he struggled to believe each word that inked itself onto the parchment. From time, he would exchange glances with the other guard, make a comment or two, before finally returning the scroll to Xydane with a rather annoyed "Hmph."


"Very well, Hyur. Don't expect a welcoming presence especially with your filth sullying our holy city. Best make your business quick."


Xydane shrugged, ignoring the Knight's racist comment and walked away, waving him off. Behind him, the head guard shouted to the other as they too, made their way back to their stations.


"Open the gates!"



There wasn't another moment to waste and Xydane lowered his hood as he remembered the details of Maulcrioux's brief. Passing through streets, alleyways, and crowds of citizens, Xydane began to move as fast as he could without the reason to create suspicion.


After a long while of walking, Xydane and Kokojo had no need to look further, for the building that held Erik Mynheir revealed itself out of an unnatural explosion. Removing the pack from his back and opening it, Xydane began to unsheath his sword as he yelled to the Flame Corporal still inside his pack.


"This is it! We must hurry!"

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The corporal wasted no time: she rolled out of the traveling pack, rations spilling this way and that, her small boots finding purchase on the cobblestones despite the blanket of snow. Her little fists clenched tight around the hilt and the sheath of her sword as she gave their surroundings a cursory scan. Her eyes eventually fixated on the billowing smoke from further down the district, and she frowned as she belted her blade.


One quick glance at her companion...


"My kind are rare in these parts. Should prove a fine little distraction for your fellow 'knights'. Keep up."


And with that, she was off, sprinting down the alley, left hand holding her scabbard level as she ran, right hand poised over the hilt and ready to draw. She cut corners where she found them, darted under tables and through stalls where possible, hopped up and rolled over stonework where it wasn't. She hurried.


If the cycles spent serving with the Flames had taught her anything, it was this...


Explosions always mean trouble.

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The little corporal was fast for her size and though she ran ahead, Xydane used little effort to catch up. Once he was narrowly behind her, he quickened his pace, passing the Lalafell in an all out sprint.


Closer and closer, the smell of fire and ash began to fill his nostrils as he closed the distance between him and the nearing building.


Embracing himself for the impact, Xydane heaved himself into the wooden door that made one of many ways inside the building. Wooden splinters flew and spun into the air as the door flew open, revealing the madness inside the room that stirred with chaos.


An unwary Elezen realized too late that intruders had breached as the cold taste of steel met with his tongue in an unsavory taste of bitter blood. Half of his head began to peel back and the corpse dropped onto the ground. Xydane flicked his blade in a swift manner against the air, the blood of the fallen Elezen flying off his sword. As he stepped over the body, he turned his head and noticed three other Elezens making their way down the halls towards the room. They snarled and cursed as they realized more trouble had come. One of them took notice of the fallen body and froze. His face turned pale, filling with horror but as his shock quickly subsided into rage, he clenched the hilt of his sword and rushed towards Xydane, the other two following after.


Sword in one hand and hidden blade in the other, Xydane prepared himself for the oncoming foes.

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Kokojo didn't slow down.


Of course, that didn't mean she was right behind her knight as he barreled through the door - curse his stride! - but she was close enough. She saw him introduce steel to flesh, registered the falling body as she cleared the doorframe, pushed off to her right as the Elezen fell and then doubled back to her left as she ran, full speed, past Xydane. The others didn't see her coming.


They were too intent on the Hyur.


She bowled into them.


Shield raised, she slammed into the middle one from the side, sent him staggering into his fellow on the left. She used the rebound against her momentum to bounce off to the right, and her sword flicked out and drew back in, hamstringing the Elezen there; he went crashing to the floor with a cry, pushed himself up onto one knee as she circled back around for her wounded prey.


She wasn't worried about the other two.


She'd left them for the Unrelenting.

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