Monsters And Misfits Chapter 1: Tides and Turbulence

coolpool2

Savage AF
The Original Gangster
#41
The albino girl pauses to look at the scene, before tugging on her companions sleeve. “Looks like things are getting more interesting, still we should retire now. Besides, I don’t want you to get caught in any crossfire.” The two of the head out of the mess deck, the young man pausing for a moment, as if contemplating whether or not to intervene before following his friend.

However, Lily walks towards the two in conflict, her footsteps thumping on the floorboard. “Even if you are upset I hardly think this is the time or place.” There’s a hint of something in her voice. Whether it’s annoyance or contempt it’s hard to say. Something about her presence is different from before. Her eyes are serious, intimidating even. “If you want to throw around spells or duel to the death feel free to do it after you’re off the ship. But if you take things too far I will stop you both.”
 

Easy

Right Honorable Justice
Member
#42
"There, there, not to worry, dear. I have no intention of killing him, or even banishing him to the Lower Planes for a while. I am an archmage, after all."

Azureoth didn't take his eyes off the other man for an instant, and therefore failed to register Lily's newly-imposing presence in the slightest. He spoke gently and soothingly, as if reassuring a child, with his newly-applied enhancement spell lending a rich, full sort of weight and body to his ordinarily shrill, wheedling tone. "No, I'm just going to teach him a thing or two about drawing false equivalencies. Arcane oblivion will not be required."

In fact a few raps with the flat of his blade, such as he intended to give Adellon, could easily kill an ordinary man, although a trained warrior should be fine; unless that sword of his was enchanted, as Azureoth was somewhat concerned it could be. If that turned out to be the case, he might have to start fighting seriously after all...
 
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Tirin

God-Emperor of Tealkind
Moderator
#43
The delightful speech that Gilgaloth had prepared for the terribly smug mage was never to reach Azureoth's mind - or so it seemed as he stood, his eyes narrowing slightly. He listened to Azureoth's challenge, Lily's concerns, and the lich's terribly overconfident rebuttal in silence, then reached over his shoulder with one hand to draw Phoenix. The massive sword's waved blade did little to reassure any in the room that it was nonmagical; the elegant and flowing celestial runes engraved on it left Azureoth absolutely certain that it was, to his great consternation.

"No, Lily. It's quite alright." Isonzo said gently, his voice almost entirely calm and even, though enriched with another emotion - determination, by the sounds of it. "If Azureoth has decided that he should prove himself a superior warrior to me, he is welcome to test his... conspicuously new sword... against mine. I think that he'll find I'm not so easy a mark, even if he is enhanced by magic. His age shows a great deal more, but I've been practicing my swordplay since before he was born."

That boast, true though it was, was less wholly accurate than Gilgaloth thought, being he suspected that the mage before him was at most in his early sixties - though, on the other hand, far moreso than Azureoth would assume. The aasimar set a second hand on Phoenix's hilt and held it lifted at an angle, a grin on his face as it revealed just how severe a differential there was between the two fighters' reach. Though it would certainly be painful, the devil was entirely confident that he could win this clash of swords, perhaps even without using his own's magical fire: the lich was banking on fighting a cocky but ultimately inexperienced (and mortal) mercenary, not a nigh-invincible infernal killing machine that had been warring for over a century.

Azureoth was also, no doubt, leaning heavily on the the suddenly-apparent skill, fortitude, and perhaps strength that whatever spell he had cast granted him, but it was unlikely that it would provide any real tactical acumen, nor make a reasonable substitute for experience. Gilgaloth already knew his first move: cleanly shattering the shield in the mage's hands, to push home just how outclassed he was in strength - perhaps followed by using Phoenix's weight to strike the cutlass from Azureoth's hands, or even to destroy the blade entirely. Oh, that would do nicely for teaching a lesson... but the devil's eyes slid over slightly to look at the "girl" across the table from him. He wouldn't put attacking from behind past that one, especially not in defense of her master or... whatever she might address Azureoth as. Playing nice it was, then, at least relatively speaking.

Isonzo's face spread into an overwide smile and he spoke, still holding his weapon high. "From beating the minion to facing the monarch, it seems! Since you're so sure of yourself, Azureoth, I'd like to make another little wager on this match's outcome. No gold, or I suppose silver in your case. Instead, if I win you acknowledge me as your equal, and if you win I'll become your minion - abandon my quest and listen to your orders, for as long as you're around. The caveat is nobody else," He gestured his head towards Saya, "gets involved or the person they're helping forfeits, and we can only fight using what's in our hands right now. Lily can even referee to make sure we play fair! You know, unless you're afraid you'll lose because you can't throw balls of light at me. Really, it'd be sad to have to rely on something like that after going to so much trouble to get yourself ready to fight... though if you admit you need it to hold a candle to, ahem, your better, I suppose I can permit it. If we're agreed, show me what you have - sorry, what your magic has."

The words were sincere, on the whole, though now Gilgaloth's taunting was totally unconcealed - "Isonzo" seemed quite irritated by Azureoth's actions and demeanor, though was channeling it quite productively into hitting his opponent psychologically (or so he thought). Gilgaloth knew that the mage would resent the implication that he needed the spinning orbs about his head to have a chance at victory, and hoped that he would make the mistake of agreeing not to use them for the sake of his petty pride. That much would be a victory in itself.
 

Easy

Right Honorable Justice
Member
#44
If Azureoth was any further provoked by the taunting than he had been already, it only slightly seemed to show - and even then, the frown was more in response to the sight of Phoenix's blade than anything else. In fact, the more Isonzo talked the more relaxed and reassured he seemed, until, ultimately, he laughed aloud at the end of the cornugon's offer.

An aasimar that 'was and was not' an aasimar. The casual duplicity and smug satisfaction of half-truths well delivered. The brute strength and manipulative nature. He'd ruled out shapechangers and lycanthropes when the silver had apparently been well tolerated - physically, at least - but now it was clear that it had, in fact, grated on him quite substantially. Still, it was the offer that really gave it away. Obvious in retrospect, really.

"What specific terms you've crafted, 'Isonzo Adellon' the somewhat-aasimar," he scoffed, "but amateurish. I've been turning down more tempting offers since before you came into this world."

He smiled broadly, enjoying the view from his newfound position of supremacy. Much as it seemed to completely contradict what 'Isonzo' had just told him, he didn't doubt his adversary would know just what he meant.

"You were wrong to take me for a fool, Adellon," he went on, quite inaccurately. An impartial analysis would readily find that it was his intellect and experience that Gilgaloth had underestimated, not his wisdom. "The arms I bear are simple wood and steel, though magically conjured. The blade you hold is enchanted. Hah! You had as well ask me to fight with one eye closed and one hand tied behind my back, instead!" He laughed again, briefly and humorlessly, and then just as suddenly turned serious again.

"If you wish to battle without magic, then let us both agree to fight with mundane steel alone; no enchanted weapons, and no spells - or even cantrips. Alternatively, feel free to fight me with any means at your disposal. I'll do the same, and even refrain from casting any new spells for the next... approximately eight minutes, now. Either way the victory condition for each of us will be for the other one to yield, and we both agree to keep the battle between the two of us. Those are the terms upon which I'll accept your wager." His eyes narrowed, hard now.

"After all, if you require any further handicaps to challenge me... then how could I possibly ever consider you my equal?"
 

Tirin

God-Emperor of Tealkind
Moderator
#45
"So be it. Any means at my disposal it is; I hope you take better to this loss than you did to Saya's. Prepare yourself!" Gilgaloth said with a self-assured smile, as a chilly, scathing voice wormed its way into Azureoth's mind, sounding all too pleased by the offer that the lich had made. Of course... cantrips are still considered spells per both mortal and extraplanar law, as exemplified by the historical case of Kikaisha v. Essum. I wouldn't want you to get the wrong impression and get yourself into a real bind, now, would I? After all, you should know well the dangers of a breach of contract.

The devil didn't wait for a response, nor did he care if one were given. Instead he took a step forward, hefting Phoenix high - in fact, deliberately so. Azureoth's magically-enhanced body sprang forward to strike him twice in the face with the flat of the cutlass, and though the actual strikes seemed a far cry from difficult for the warrior to deal with, the apparent pain in which he recoiled made it clear that the force imparted was far greater than the smaller of the men could have hoped to generate solely through his frail body.

The lich's attempt to circle past Gilgaloth, however, was stopped by the motions of the magic sword. Better still, and as expected, he lifted the wooden shield in the hopes of protecting himself from Phoenix's meteoric descent. It was an unparalleled success - or would have been, were Gilgaloth actually aiming to harm his opponent. Instead, the enchanted steel shattered wood like glass, delivering a shock to the lich's arm that would be solid enough to break most, and sprayed splinters about the room while the straps fell to the ground. A second weighty strike sent the cutlass clattering to the floor several feet away before the wizard could get his bearings, and "Isonzo" grinned in triumph. Even empowered, Azureoth was not a real swordsman - whatever else he may have lain rightful claim to.

"Ialpon, Phoenix!" The devil boomed the celestial command word in a resonant voice that called to mind Azureoth's earlier spell, as magical fire sprang up the base and to the tip of the sword. With speed that seemed impossible for so large a man he lashed out at Azureoth, even as he pivoted so that he stood atop the fallen cutlass. The weight of the first two strikes were lost to a magical barrier - but a careful observer could see cracks webbing out from the planes of impact. The third, however, left Azureoth's robes sliced and smoking, along with some of the dead flesh beneath - which, conspicuously, didn't gush blood as one may have expected. The fourth slashed cleanly through the faded cloth and burned it as well, but to Gilgaloth's surprise seemed to scrape along Azureoth's skin instead of piercing it it outright.

"That magical defense of yours is finished, Azureoth - and at this rate you'll be soon to follow. Give it up, you took on a fight without knowing what your opponent is capable of. There are far worse things to live with than acknowleging me as your equal." He said gently - though his eyes, narrowed and burning, told a very different story of how he felt. Gilgaloth didn't give a damn whether or not Azureoth yielded; he was happy just for the chance to hurt and humiliate him.
 

Easy

Right Honorable Justice
Member
#46
Indeed. Azureoth had not at all been prepared for this.

Well, not entirely prepared for this.

"Everyone get back!" With speed partially motivated by terror at just how swiftly he'd been disarmed and had his barrier stripped of him, Azureoth took nearly no time at all to spare a thought which sent one of the orbs of light about his head flying at Gilgaloth, exploding in his face with searing radiance. At the same time, the cold grasp of death clutched around his adversary's heart as a burst of negative energy erupted into him from the lich. A lesser being would have taken it rather harder, but even a greater devil couldn't just ignore such an occurrence...

As the 'aasimar' roared in pain and stepped back, he bent over and snatched the cutlass from the floor as quickly as gravity would allow, and then, instead of attacking the fiend with it, simply turned tail and ran. Be careful, Adellon, ran his frightened thoughts as he sprinted full-tilt towards the narrow corridor with the stairs leading up to the main deck, gripping the cutlass with both shaking hands as he went. If that fire- ah!

A moment of searing pain, as the heat of several bonfires scraped across his exposed back mid-step, cutting away another section of burning cloth. If that fire harms anyone else here, you'll lose by default! He didn't even turn around to look at his assailant, instead opting to reach the stairs with maximum expediency. Cutlasses were favored among seafarers for a reason, after all. The greatsword's longer reach and higher weight would only serve to put that devil at a disadvantage there. Particularly since a single wrong move could have the entire mess hall up in flames within moments, to the so-called Isonzo Adellon's loss and detriment.
 

Tirin

God-Emperor of Tealkind
Moderator
#47
Gilgaloth let out no more than a grunt of pain after being struck in the face by the tiny, hot-burning star, though it left a painful burn mark on his cheek and seemed to have badly singed part of his beard. He recovered remarkably quickly, though, leaving another deep cut running across Azureoth's back and scorching his robes further. He was hardly surprised that the lich had chosen to turn tail and run instead of surrendering; no doubt attempting to work out a plan. It was foolish of him, then, to point out that the burning scraps of his clothing which were falling to the ground could have given "Isonzo" a loss.

Every step that the aasimar took was carefully measured, his heavy leather boots snuffing out the now-mundane flames that threatened to set the mess hall ablaze. He was far from impressed by Azureoth's showing so far, that much was obvious - and he moved to stand at the base of the stairs facing the revealed lich, Phoenix held close as though to parry blows instead of threaten them, which required far less space with which to maneuver the massive blade. "Come, now. There's no need to draw this out; you're going to lose this fight, even with all of those fancy tricks." And you're not cut out to face me anyway. Even with those overblown spells of yours, it would be a hard fight. If you keep up throwing around the negative energy, you'll lose by default yourself.

His eyes narrowed and locked on the motes of light that shone on the other man's thinning hairline and overstated crown. It was pitiful, really, to see somebody who styled himself as royalty but couldn't quite live up to such a lofty title - whether that was for his appearance, various weaknesses of character, or poor sense of style. The part of Gilgaloth that was still Vishkeos Teshrad decided that it was time to give Azureoth a very harsh lesson on the importance of the last, and his muscles relaxed slightly. The orbs weren't evenly spaced, for whatever reason, and he took but a moment to pick out what he thought would be the next to come his way. He would have one shot at returning it, and it wouldn't be easy given that he was using the full length of his sword - but it would be damn impressive if he managed.

Azureoth twitched and the second sphere tore itself loose from his brow towards Gilgaloth. It was hard to tell whether it was the lich's unfortunate tell or the warrior's skill (or both) which was the deciding factor, but the results were spectacular: Isonzo lashed out with perfect timing to volley the star back at Azureoth, his sword loudly slicing the air while the projectile impacted the lich squarely on the shoulder, searing him with the radiative energy that only magic (and the sun itself) could bring into the world. Phoenix was held high to parry anything else that may come but a moment later, not that he expected much. "Color me surprised... perhaps because of those fancy tricks, at this rate! You've made this one eventful evening, Azureoth." He said with a chuckle that the lich found all too casual.

We don't have to be enemies, you know. My appearance aside, I think we have more in common than you might realize - and a forfeit spares you more fear and embarrassment. Show that minion of yours that you know when to give in, and it will trust your judgment all the more. You've already tested me more than it could have. Why not gain something from this?
 

coolpool2

Savage AF
The Original Gangster
#48
The floorboards shake and creak with their battle, the lantern swinging back and forth on the ceiling. Some splinters spray across the room as cinders float through the air. The horned woman who had been watching them silently up to now steps forward. “I think that is quite enough, we wouldn’t want to wake anyone or cause more damage than you already have.” Her voice sounds tired, but her face does not say why, hiding her emotions.
 

Easy

Right Honorable Justice
Member
#49
Azureoth glowered and trembled with impotent fury at the remarks, but didn't answer. Partly because an objective analysis suggested it was more likely to help his enemy than himself, and partly because of how much it had hurt last time he'd done so. Instead, he turned tail swiftly and kept on running, reaching the mainmast and pausing. He hadn't conjured a scabbard along with his cutlass, which, come to think of it, was something he absolutely could and should have done while he was at it.

Reaching a decision, he quickly hiked his robes with one hand and stabbed the cutlass into them with the other, opting to sheathe the sword in his own guts and pin the cloth to it at the same time. To his relief, this process was painless as he'd theorized it should be, confirming that what preserved flesh remained on his bones was simply dead weight now, from a functional standpoint as well as a literal one. The fiend had chosen correctly in taking magical combat over mundane weaponry, no matter how bad it might have made him look to the observers at the time. Had he known all along, that he was challenging a lich? Just what sort of devil was he, anyway?

All this having transpired in an instant, being the work of a single motion and a fleeting thought, Azureoth was scrambling up the mast before anyone else had the chance to do or say anything to stop him, with his patchwork robes held up and out of the way by the blade of the cutlass now conspicuously protruding from his back. The last thing he needed was for them to get tangled in or tripped upon the rungs, after all.

In a matter of seconds he was already high enough that trying to stop him was far more dangerous than not, even if any of the crewmen or passengers were feeling compelled to do anything of the kind. (Most were undoubtedly just glad that he had pants on underneath the robes.) The lookout stationed on duty jumped to his feet as Azureoth climbed up through the Crow's Nest, but froze in place and made no motion to interfere as the lich turned glowing yellow eyes on him and ordered him back. Still higher he climbed, until he reached the next boom and then, carefully, grabbed ahold of it and clambered on.

Gripping tightly to the wooden post with his legs, as it swung to the wind, and steadying himself against the mast with one hand, Azureoth carefully now drew the cutlass from his belly with the other, and then reached down and struck the topmost handhold from the mast below him. Another blow took out the one beneath it as well, with him leaning down as far as could be reached, and then another orb of light flashed out and struck the one below that, crumbling it to ash.

The view below him would have ordinarily made his head spin, even in this undead form, but the reflection of a warrior's soul burning inside of him pushed aside such trivial concerns. The main thing was that Isonzo Adellon was still well behind him, climbing rather more slowly than Azureoth had climbed himself. Fortunately, it seemed all that heavy armor of his slowed the fiend down a great deal. The last ten feet of climbing would be no easy feat with the rungs taken out, either, but even so...

Taking his time now, Azureoth gripped his now-soiled cutlass in his teeth, like something out of a childish stage act, and began to inch his way backwards along the boom, bending low and gripping tightly with both hands and knees. Even as he approached the end of it and stopped, he didn't let up, holding fast as the sturdy oak shook and swung in the breeze. Not that he could reliably sit up with the sail flapping right atop of him like this, anyway.

A minute later, the fiend was finally catching up. He kept that damn sword of his in one hand and was moving carefully as he approached, opting for slow, safe progress over a swift resolution. Smart. But it meant that he relied on his off hand to grip the mast with; hardly a challenge for someone of his strength and stature, but then... not without its own drawbacks, either.

"That's far enough, Isonzo Adellon!" Azureoth shouted, as the devil approached the last remaining rung of the mast, and the nature of his dilemma became evident. As uncannily capable as he'd proven to be at evading the lich's blasts himself, the handholds he clung to were another matter entirely. And working his way up the last ten feet of turning, shaking, stripped wooden post would be difficult even for him, especially under fire.

"Hold where you are!" The wind picked up again, shaking both men's supports and drowning out any further attempts at speech as the sails snapped above and below them, so he switched to telepathic communication instead.

Why don't we have a little talk? There is no limit to how long I can draw this out, you know.
 

Tirin

God-Emperor of Tealkind
Moderator
#50
Gilgaloth remained still and vigilant for a deliberate moment as the hero spoke her objection, letting Azureoth escape without pursuit for just long enough to answer her. It was difficult to answer her calmly - not due to fear, but because of the excitement and sadistic pride he felt at overpowering the lich. Such bloodlust was fuelled by his murderous legacy as Saint-King and the brutal "piety" it would showcase for Rakoth; it was quenched by infernal discipline and an overriding sense of purpose. "Lily," he said gently, "I've met men like him before. They can do awful things when their pride is challenged - worse when it's overcome." He glanced back at her, eyes burning but expression sombre. "Trust me, it will be settled safely. Suárela." The last word recalled the intense flames from his sword, though the aasimar didn't release it as he stormed up the stairs to the deck.

By then the sun had dropped below the horizon, leaving only the brightest stars in the sky visible as the ship and seas were cast into twilight. Thankfully, the darkness impaired Gilgaloth's sight even less than it would the average aasimar's, and he followed the fleeing Azureoth towards the mast at a slower pace that made him seem all the more in control of whatever was happening. A reasonable decision though it was, given the circumstances, the devil nearly laughed aloud at the image of the lich impaling himself with a cutlass. It was a wonder, and an ironic one at that, to watch the man debase himself for the sake of pride and appearances that he had already discarded. Undead or no, he would find himself in the Hells one day were he to remain on that path - especially with such little success.

Unsure of when and where the wizard would cease climbing the mast, he proceeded with due caution by carrying Phoenix one-handed and held slightly beneath him. It was fortunate that Azureoth had disturbed the lookout so loudly, for it allowed the devil to call out a warning to the man to make way (and so, with ease, to avoid drawing the man into the conflict accidentally through an unlucky scrape with Phoenix). Thus, instead, he was surprised by Azureoth's strategy as he looked up the length of the mast to see him destroying the last of the rungs. It was a reasonable plan, though one with a few potential drawbacks - which he, having far more information about his physical capabilities than Azureoth, could see cleanly through. Even so, it would be a narrow thing in either direction, and Gilgaloth could hardly afford to turn to his true form in front of the crew, useful though it would have been to do so.

He sheathed the magical blade before reaching the last few rungs, not even bothering to pretend that he was unsteady despite the wind; Azureoth knew far better by then that he was only narrowly less sturdy than the ship he clung to. And, as "ordered" just before a gale struck he stopped, hand on the last of the wooden rungs that lay between him and his foe. Very well, Azureoth. We will talk, but I advise that you listen to me, and think on this fact before doing anything foolish: I am far from worried by how long you draw this out because of everything I can do to make you regret it. The last two words were laced with nearly nauseating hatred, and his golden eyes locked onto the lich, threatening to burn a hole in him from sheer, unconcealed fury and determination.

The diplomacy, if it could be called such, was entirely earnest - and, yet, a mask to disarm Azureoth and subvert his expectations. After a moment of seeming to hear the lich out, the devil launched himself upward in a single smooth, powerful motion, away from rather than towards Azureoth, arms outstretched. He ignored the lights orbiting the lich's reflective scalp, and even whether or not one was cast towards him (though, in doing so, he hoped the man wouldn't risk striking the mast or boom). Between his momentum and monstrous strength, Gilgaloth was able to hook his forearms about the top of the boom and haul himself up to cradle it with both arms and legs. Ah, ah! He cautioned, more than cognizant of the desire to cast another brilliant sphere at him. If you miss and bring this down, you're surely going to harm one of the crew... or more. And I don't mind, really, but that would be a terrible mistake on your part. Now - forgive the rudeness, but I refuse to negotiate on uneven and thoroughly threatened ground. Speak.
 

Easy

Right Honorable Justice
Member
#51
Azureoth had been ready for any sudden movements, and - whether it was because of his current arcane enhancements or because numerous prior encounters had greatly dulled, for him, the innate sense of fear most people (rightly) held for demons, devils, and other outsiders - was rather less intimidated by the devil's threats than he would have been earlier, back when he still thought the fiend had just been an especially pompous and irritating mortal. Nevertheless, his next shot flew wide when Adellon suddenly jumped the next ten feet in one go, and an unfortunate gust of wind hit the sails just in time to shake the caster about and throw off his aim.

Though he had been prepared to simply jump from his perch and into the seas below when his opponent inevitably tried to keep on pursuing him, Azureoth stopped himself just in time as the devil jumped away from him instead. He stayed vigilant, waiting, ready to follow through with the plan at the slightest provocation in any case, but still..

Stay where you are! And provoke me no further, went his thoughts, somehow both as a demand and a plea.

You cannot kill me, Isonzo Adellon. Fire and magic can destroy my body, and even bring me pain... but I'll recover. I'll return. I would not have made a bargain with one of YOUR kind if there was any way I stood to lose. My magic could vanquish the mightiest pit fiend in all your Hells, if I so wished it! No, I draw this out because of what I have to GAIN.

A bit of a stretch about the pit fiends, granted, but not entirely untrue either. Any post-doctorate worth half the paper his spellbook and credentials were written upon could do that, given just a solid day's worth of preparation for it, and Azureoth was no exception...

At least, not anymore.

Accept a draw, Isonzo Adellon. I'll acknowledge you as an equal, and you'll join me as an ally, not a minion. One sworn to never betray me or to sabotage my cause. In turn you'll have my assistance as well, when it does not run counter to my own ambitions. I don't know what you're doing here, fiend, but I'm quite sure of this: Sooner or later, there WILL come a time when you will find yourself in need of an archmage.

Left unsaid, of course, was that it wasn't in an archmage's nature to suffer the worldly existence of any fiend that wasn't directly useful to them. Though unsure of whether the devil was truly aware of this fact or not, he left it out deliberately: Adellon had been firm about not negotiating under threat, and while everything Azureoth had claimed about his power was more or less quite true, winning the battle outright wasn't necessarily the best-case scenario for him anymore. What good would a rebellious and resentful minion even be to him, after all? Impressing a single boat full of raving simpletons would hardly make the whole thing worthwhile...
 

Tirin

God-Emperor of Tealkind
Moderator
#52
Gilgaloth took the time to listen to listen to his opponent, as promised, though now his golden eyes - disturbingly visible despite the fading light - became more cold and predatory, the devil now lacking a reason to hide the more minute aspects of his diabolical nature. Indeed, a wide grin grew on the handsome and bearded mask that was Isonzo Adellon as the lich made his case; he had failed to take into account several things, of that Gilgaloth was certain, and now was the best time for a counter-offer (alongside, perhaps, a bit of exposition). He put one hand on the mast and slowly moved to his feet, making clear that, despite Phoenix being contained, he would present no less of a threat if their negotiations fell through.

You're more shrewd than your behavior suggests, Azureoth, but I am hardly impressed. If I cannot kill you, your soul jar is not here - but both your spellbook and staff are. One would hope that an 'archmage' such as yourself has several preparations made for losing them, but all the same - if I strike you down, you will lose them, and if we fight I will strike you down. You lack your spells, and if you decide to jump into the sea you make things easier for me; there will be no sailors to see my true form, and no-one will believe the words of a petty old wizard - especially one who started a fight only to return from the dead.

His tone gradually grew more smug and self-satisfied, though Gilgaloth didn't take a step forward. He allowed Azureoth a moment to digest the words, confident that this battle had come to an end - and in his own favor.

Mind you, your assessments are worse than you realize. Bel would brush off your magic with ease - more pit fiends would than you realize, and even I would prove a much more persistent and resilient problem than you and most who claim mystical power suspect. They... we... do not live to great ages without accumulating power in similar measure, as I am sure you will come to find. By the nigh-eternal standards of that place, I am a whelp - but I know you were surprised by my strength, even knowing what I am. I saw your fear. I do not mean offense when I say that you would do well to remember it.

Having finished with his prodding at Azureoth, his infernal mind carefully dissected the terms of the deal that the lich had put forward to him. Parts were unacceptable; others were not, in particular the suggestion that he could never betray Azureoth nor sabotage his cause. The language used was far too vague for a contract - something that he suspected that the lich knew.

Any deal we make must be more explicit; your cause and your ambitions change according to your own will. I can accept us acting as equals, and an alliance: you will assist in my current mission until it is successfully completed or it is rendered impossible to complete. In exchange, I will help you with obtaining the power, prestige, and reputation that it is so self-evident you currently desire - to become a villain and ruler whose cruelty is known throughout Sairenoth. If our plans clash, then we will work with one another to see both through, and if that is not possible we will part ways on fair terms to be discussed later.

He took another step forward to lean on the mast, which still shook slightly while the sails whipped about in response to each gust of wind, and stretched an arm out to offer his hand to Azureoth - looking to those below like he was attempting to convince the man not to do something very foolish rather than seal a pact. Do we have a deal?
 

Easy

Right Honorable Justice
Member
#53
At the mention of a "true form," something seemed to occur to Azureoth for the first time. Suddenly his eyes began to glue with a pale blue light, eclipsing the irises and sclera as he fixed his gaze on Gilgaloth. He stared all the while as the devil crafted his counter-offer, as if trying to remember where he'd seen that face before.

A moment after the devil finished making his case, the lich's answer came through. We do not have a deal, it said, as he continued to look the other man over pensively.

Firstly, you would reserve the right to betray me at your whim, and you would demand I pledge my services for an indefinite period of time. Either one of these conditions, alone, would be enough to make you useless to me. Why settle for a draw, when not only would it deprive me of the chance to win, but the cost to me would be even greater than I would have suffered from an outright loss?

Secondly, there is nothing to stop me from casting spells right now beyond the contract we made. But our contract only covers the terms of our duel. Once the duel is over - one way or the other - the contract will cease to apply.

I aim to rule Sairenoth, Isonzo Adellon - or at least a hefty portion of it. Not to serve as a perpetual retainer for some bold new devil's campaign. If you would keep your own mission secret, then so be it, but in that case I will not agree to any contract that would extend over a year, barring renewal by both parties, or that would ever obligate me to provide more than equivalent assistance to that which I have received.

Really, the terms Isonzo had countered with had been so blatantly exploitative that he'd almost be inclined to put it down to a horned devil's famously excessive greed, if not for the fact that the mortal face behind it was so strangely familiar. He'd been somebody in life, though it was nagging at the lich's mind to place exactly who it was. Certainly not just some two-bit con, at any rate.

He remained ready to jump from his perch at the slightest wrong move on the devil's part, just in case.
 

Tirin

God-Emperor of Tealkind
Moderator
#54
Gilgaloth nearly had to cover his mouth to keep from laughing openly at Azureoth as his eyes began to glow with arcane power. He was well aware of what it represented; given the circumstances, it was all too evidently a magical extension of the lich's senses. Truesight, though utilized much later than one might have expected - with all the timing of a man who evidently took that treasured power for granted. He knew what it was that the lich would see (pit fiends, too, could pierce through any such veil, though did so without thinking), and had a delightfully flattering rebuttal with which to more readily coax Azureoth into a deal.

Whatever he may have expected, however, was not quite matched by what his augmented eyes saw before him. Truesight showed the real shape of all things to its users, and so even the identities of the most devious devils and cunning archwizards could not escape it. Despite many years of experience, Azureoth had never before seen - nor heard of even secondhand - a being displaying three forms through truesight. Indeed, such a thing seemed intrinsically at odds with the ability's very premise, and posed an interesting question regarding "Isonzo Adellon's" true identity. That question would only become more intriguing when he pushed past the shock and realized that the smirking aasimar at the center of the three, the one which exuded wickedness and cruelty such that it was palpable, was none other than the Dreadlord of Leag: Vishkeos Teshrad.

...Of course, the grinning, horrific devil was a touch disturbing to look upon, though well within his predictions, and after but a moment's hesitation he was met with a second, and more generous, counteroffer. My mission, too, is the conquest of Sairenoth - though as with all things infernal, it is to be thought of as a beginning for me, even if that goal is the end of our dealings. I am more than willing to allow you a part in that conquest, and ensure that you keep what you earn during our undertaking and are rewarded proportionately to your endeavor, in turn. You may think me a simple monster, but I know what you see: recognize that you are being treated with by a Saint-King, as beholden to his pride as to his contracts. He paused for but a moment to allow the term to sink in and confirm his identity.

Therefore, to call you my equal alone is an act of magnanimity; but if words alone are not enough, I will make it the truth. You will live to rule vast territories, be respected and feared by all beneath you and appreciated by your few peers. We will cooperate in this conquest, apply both of our strengths to make the most pragmatic and prudent decisions to that end, and neither harm one another nor obstruct each other in these long-term goals. It will not be complete until Sairenoth is ours and, if necessary, we have both been appropriately compensated. Of course - as you are well aware, though perverting such a deal is well within my nature, and indeed either of our rights... breaking it would be a terrible mistake for either of us. Unless you have a better offer, I think now is the time to end this duel; I do tire of the possibility that you stall for time. A handshake will suffice on both counts.
 

Easy

Right Honorable Justice
Member
#55
The terms presented this time were not unfair, but were too open to interpretation for one so learned as Azureoth to accept. Fortunately, telepathic communication made ironing out the details a relatively swift and efficient process.

The contract would expire after three years, pending renewal, or until Sairenoth had been conquered - whichever came sooner. Azureoth would claim sovereignty and rule over the bulk of the continent, with no fewer than three islands of greater than median population to be granted as sovereign territory of Hell. Neither party would deliberately hinder the other's goals, as presented. Both reserved the right to deny aid to the other, if providing it would conflict with their own ambitions...

When it was over, Azureoth took hold of his cutlass and began to approach carefully along the boom. The contract has been dictated and accepted on both sides; thus, it stands already in effect. No handshake is needed, he pointed out. Nevertheless, given who you are - or were, at any rate...

No such handshake actually took place in the end, however, as Azureoth slipped on the boom midway and ended up falling to the deck below, screeching indignation all the way. Moments later he struck ground with a resounding crash, the cutlass landing point-down and impaling him through the ribs immediately afterward.

Either of these injuries, alone, would have been readily enough to kill an ordinary man. But Azureoth was not an ordinary man, and they didn't even interrupt the flow of his angry cursing. A couple of pathetic attempts to extract the blade from himself yielded only failure, lacking the strength to pull it out of the wood behind him, and so he used the last of the glowing orbs about his skull to disintegrate the damn thing instead. "It's a draw," he snapped at the baffled onlookers around him, getting up and striding angrily back to the mess hall to collect his staff, before taking off for his cabin without another word to anyone.

And that was the end of that.
 

coolpool2

Savage AF
The Original Gangster
#56
The ship rocks back and forth as the commotion dies down and the moon rose into the night sky. The constellations shine bright watching from the expansive void, the lines connecting the stars in full visibility, unblocked by any clouds. Nothing but the sound of the waves crashing against the hull filling the salty air as the surprised onlookers filter out into their cabins one by one. The few are out on the deck were surprised, but the crew doesn’t ask questions. One doesn’t survive long on the high seas by asking questions too many questions.

As dawn breaks and the sun rises into the sky, a town comes into view over the horizon. Three towers standing tall stand out above the skyline surrounded by smaller buildings. The ship’s bell rings as a sailor shouts, “Land hooooo!” The ship pulls into the Ralith dock and sets down the anchor. The cacophony of sailors yelling, waves and sea gulls are typical for the dock. The crew hands prepare to move their cargo as the passengers prepare to return to dry land. After the formalities and logistics are taken care of, the crew and passengers are given permission to set foot on Ralith.

All things considered it’s a nice looking city. The roads are well paved, and crystal lamps line the streets. There’s a distinct lack of transient peoples and slaves around the city. Townsfolk walk along the streets, going about their daily lives as the city begins to wake up. The various passengers disembark the ship taking their luggage with them heading their own ways. There are many other ships at the dock with various workers moving to and fro. Not far from the town docks is the city plaza and commercial district.

Ralith.jpg
 

Dunsparce

Well-Known Member
Member
#57
Saya remained in the mess hall as the battle took place, unsure of what to do with herself. Some time passed, and Azureoth returned in a fit of rage and badly hurt. Did he lose the battle? Azureoth collects his staff and takes off again, barely registering Saya's presence. Saya decides to follow him, but before she's able to catch up, he slams his door furiously enough that the walls shake. Even a creature with minimal social awareness like Saya can tell that it's best to leave him alone for the night.

The next morning...

"Lord Azureoth! We're here!"

The door swings open, and Azureoth is greeted by an eager Saya. Her lack of social skills shows much more blatantly than before, as she doesn't even extend the courtesy of knocking before hand.
 

Easy

Right Honorable Justice
Member
#58
Without his robes, the monstrosity in front of Saya seemed hardly to resemble the 'man' she'd met the evening prior. The front half of his body, from the ribs upward, looked exactly as could have been expected, down to the ignoble crown of mousy hair encircling his otherwise-shining pate. The rest... did not.

After preparing a new set of spells and mending his tattered robes, Azureoth had focused on clearing the worthless assortment of digestive and reproductive organs from his body, now that his festering wounds had so contaminated them anyway. Doing so while keeping the room clear of smoke and scent had been rather tedious, but then, his new undead form didn't require any sleep after all.

Starting from the gaping wounds opened into his back last night by the devil's accursed greatsword, and spreading downward from there, the flesh had been seared away from his bones over an area that extended well down to his thighs, (which would have conveniently saved Saya some embarrassment at the sight of the old man disrobed, had she been the sort of creature to take note of such a detail). The mixture of surprise, guilt, and shame in his startled form, as Saya burst in on him all unexpected, seemed a familiar look for the self-proclaimed archwizard regardless, until he looked up at her directly. Cold, blue light burned bright where nervous eyes had darted to and fro before, lending yet another facet to the strange jumble of pathetic and sinister features of his appearance.

Already beginning to stammer out an apology while reaching for his robes, the lich shut up immediately as his glowing eyes went wide upon looking directly at Saya. "You..." he whispered, seeming uncertain. "Dionaea cuboida. Possessed? No... stranger. Intelligent." Suddenly wary, he took up his best approximation of a defensive posture.

"What is the meaning of this?"
 

Tirin

God-Emperor of Tealkind
Moderator
#59
Though he and the lich had come to a bargain, Gilgaloth had a great deal of trouble restraining himself from chuckling at the fall, embarrassing (and ultimately harmless) as it was for his new ally. He strongly considered leaping down after Azureoth and landing the fall with ease, barring pain in his ankles, but quickly reached the conclusion that they would only be drawing that much more attention. For that reason he slid down the mainmast until reaching the ladder and simply climbed, as much more sensible and mortal aasimar might have done, down to the deck before retiring to his cabin with a broad and beaming smile on his face.

Given the range of his telepathy and the importance that he saw in working towards a better understanding of how they were to interact, Gilgaloth spent most of his evening conversing with Azureoth and nursing the darkening bruises and minor burns that he had accrued during their duel. Probing the lich's mind revealed a not-unsurprising lack of understanding for the mortal mind; he sincerely believed that mere shows of power would bring people flocking to his side, an obvious reflection of his own timid temperament, and an assumption that would no doubt prove problematic were it not overcome.

It was with no small amount of patience that the devil elucidated the fact that such things were not enough; that no matter how strong, no man could rule over others without offering something (even if it was only implicitly) that they desired. That desire could be many things: freedom, or power, or wealth, or belonging, or love or safety or a hundred more - but it could never be replaced with fear, only augmented by it. He posited that this disconnect (alongside his easily-stoked temper and general lack of social grace) was why Azureoth had failed to get much respect in the first place, Saya aside, and that for that reason Azureoth would have to unlearn much of what he thought he knew about others.

They continued speaking for some time with occasional lulls, but Gilgaloth terminated their mental conversation as soon as Azureoth revealed that he would be dealing with the wounds sustained during their battle - in part from not wanting to disturb that work, but much moreso for the possibility of being disturbed himself by an unfortunately-communicated mental image. The Blood War may have dampened his distaste for bloodshed and savagery of all kinds, but seeing a nude old undead man was a possibility that the hedonistic devil found thoroughly unappealing. Instead, he found himself in prayer to the god of war that had so blessed him, both in his life as Saint-King and afterlife as abomination.

When morning broke he left his room, and while he had planned to notify Azureoth of as much before moving abovedecks and into the city he instead met with Saya throwing the man's door open without warning. Few things unnerved Gilgaloth, but his heart nearly stopped when he realized she had simply left it open while standing in the doorway. Azureoth had already caught a great deal of attention with his resilience - but being seen taking the flesh from his own bones would doubtless prove a far greater setback. He took a few quick strides down the hall, and narrowly caught the unnerved wizard's question before pushing the girl into the cabin and shutting the door behind them both.

He was a far cry from pleased to see the lich unclothed, but inwardly thankful for how thorough a job Azureoth had done in cleansing himself, and set a gentle hand on Saya's shoulder so he could focus on her. Though the devil was well past livid it was directed towards the two in equal measure, and for that reason the anger was narrowly kept from his tone when he spoke. "I must ask the same, Saya. It is, ahem, quite rude to barge in on somebody, especially so early in the morning. I mean, goodness, you've caught him quite offguard, the poor man's naked." He glanced over to Azureoth and gave a warm smile, keeping his eyes upward as though the only thing untowards about the situation was his lack of clothing. "My apologies for the intrusion, by the way."

The tone he took with Azureoth himself was much more severe, no doubt born of the 'trust' that Azureoth could not break their deal - and the certainty that he was very much in the right here. "What is the meaning of this?" indeed... Are you not aware that these cabins have LOCKS!? We're fortunate that it was Saya instead of LITERALLY ANYONE ELSE, unless you're comfortable with every man, woman, and child in Ralith knowing that you took off half your body last night, and even so we may have to kill her if she won't keep quiet about it!
 

Elliot

Confirmed Robot
Member
#60
The excitement that the 'duel' erupted into almost immediately saw Six retreating from the area where they might come to harm. Instead, they lingered near Lily, making themself unobtrusive in a way that was not hard, not when Azureoth and Isonzo Adellon were drawing so much attention to themselves. Six watched enough to understand that none of these three were at all what they claimed to be; that was all they needed to know, after all. In a way, it was a shame. When they practiced before the mirror that evening with Isonzo Adellon's form, there was a falseness, a plastic feeling to the body-- not nearly as enjoyable to inhabit as they'd predicted.

The following morning, Six slipped past the rest of the passengers, still in the form from the day before, until they came to find Lily. "Good morning," they said, with more cheer than they really felt. "Pardon me for disturbing you again. I'm not sure what you're famous for-- heroism, apparently, but I don't really know what that means. But, assuming it does mean something ... What about those two from the night before? What would a hero do when faced with a credible threat like that?" Six kept their eyes focused directly on Lily's, trying to read the emotion in them.
 
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