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[F08; PP] Sprites and Bushes | <<Elvish Conflict>>


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Not for the first time, Nari realised just how much of Aincrad she hadn't explored in depth. Her eyes flitted over the wonders to be found within the large city - if it could be called that - of Ellesmera. The settlement had been crafted around waterfall and valley, and appeared to be the spitting imagery of what Nari had come to learn of the Elfen culture within Sword Art Online. She could see lines in buildings that bespoke of excellent craftsmanship; areas that were refined beyond imagination or expectation. The entire view was, in a word, breathtaking.

"It does seem a little pompous though, doesn't it Mio?" The small kitsune at her feet squeaked in response - sounding neither agreeable nor disagreeable to the words that had been directed at it. Nari didn't glance down at the kitsune, knowing that there was little to see on it's facial expressions as it followed along beside her like a dutiful dog, it's nine-tails flipping in what might appear almost as pretentious as the very settlement around them. She couldn't help but smile at the thought - the unfettered realisation that they may have so much in common, and yet be entirely different in essence. "Well, I promised you something good to eat, right? I'm sure they have something...more than just leaves around here. That's an old joke about Elves, although you may not know that...or maybe you do? I'm honestly not sure."

She put aside the musings for the moment, glancing for anything that looked edible for the fox-creature at her feet. Her eyes passed over carts selling a variety of pieces, everything from weaponry and armour to small trinkets and baubles that may have caught the eyes of passerby within the small market area. She lingered over a pile of fish piled near a cart, moving towards it only after she'd confirmed nothing else appeared interesting to her eyes. "What about some salm-"

Her sentence was caught as she spotted movement coming her way; a form that was dressed in what appeared to regal fittings that were somehow both eye-catching, and unappealing to Nari's senses. She stepped to the side in order to move out of the way of the form, and was surprised when it stopped before her, bowing slightly before speaking aloud to her. "Most beneficial and welcoming of greetings, I come bearing a request for audience with Queen Haela, in the most urgent of necessities."

Nari's eyes shifted downwards as a prompt appeared before her, marking the beginning of what was clearly a quest that she could choose to engage in. She gave a soft sigh, her hand raising to hit the acceptance button even as she gave a soft shrug and a nonchalant reply. "Well, I guess we didn't really have anything else planned today, now did we Mio? Besides, meeting a queen might be...interesting."


 

 

  

Statblock

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Spoiler

notes


Nari-Lanreth | Lv. 33 | P. 54 | HP [940/940] | EN [106/106] | ACC [4] | DMG [9] | MIT [179] | F.AURA [32 MIT; 16 DMG] B.Healing [+51] | STEALTH [-5] |  FRSTBT [40 DMG; -1 ACC] | THORNS [72] | PARA [8+] | HM [+4 B.DMG]
Tier 4 | Tier 11 [Laurel Wreath]


equipped

  • Póg Deiridh
    [One-Handed Assault Spear; Tier 4 Daemonic]
    Enhancement: Frostbite [2 Slots]
    Enhancement: Accuracy [2 Slots] 
  • Glacadh Morríghan 
    [Heavy Armour; Tier 4 Perfect]
    Enhancement: Frost Aura [2 Slots]
    Enhancement: Heavy Momentum [1 Slot]
  • Póg an Gheimhridh
    [
    Tier 4 Daemonic Heater Shield]

    Enhancement: Paralyse [1 Slot]
    Enhancement: Taunt [1 Slot]
    Enhancement: Thorns [2 Slots]

     

battle-ready inventory

  • Teleport Crystal {3}
  • Starter Healing Potions {4} | Heals 50 HP
  • Siúil a Rún {5} | Tier 3; Perfect Support Song | HP Recovery III
  • Sí do Mhaimeo Í {1} | Tier 4; Rare; Support Song | Monsters’ Fortune II
  • Níl Sé'n Lá {1} | Tier 4; Perfect; Masterpiece Support Song | Monsters’ Favor III [Instant]

skills

Spoiler

Utility Skills
N/A

Combat Skills
Battle Healing [Rank: 5. Active: Passive. Effect: While in combat, recover 1% per rank of your maximum HP (rounded down) at the beginning of your turn.]
Fighting Spirit [Active: Passive. Effect: Attacking and using Howl or Focused Howl generates +1 additional Hate. (Ex. Generate 1/2/3 Hate on a Miss/Hit/Critical attack. Generate 5 Hate when using Focused Howl.)]
Howl [Active: Post Action. Energy: 2 EN. Cooldown: 2 turns. Effect: Adds +2 Hate each against up to 4 targets.]

[Howl Add-on] Focused Howl [Active: Post Action. Energy: 4 EN. Cooldown: 4 turns. Effect: Adds +4 Hate against a single target.]

Weapon Skills
Polearm [Rank: 5. Active: Passive. Effect: +7 DMG]
[Rank 5 Weapon Addon] Stamina [Active: Passive. Effect: Reduces EN of all attacks by 2.]
[Rank 5 Weapon Addon] Precision [Active: Passive. Effect: Gain +1 ACC.]
[Rank 5 Weapon Addon] <<Weapon Type>> Focus [Active: Passive. Effect: Decreases minor critical threshold by 1. Also reduces DoT thresholds by 1. Players cannot use Focus and Ferocity at the same time for the same Weapon Type.]
[Rank 5 Shift] TECH Specialist [Active: Passive. Effect: For TECH Sword Arts, +4 to multipliers, +3 to EN cost. No other Shifts may be taken.]

Armour Skills
Heavy Armour [Rank: 5. Active: Passive. Effect: 35 MIT. Evasion is capped at 1 slot; -5 Stealth Rating.]
[Heavy Armour Mod] Impetus [Active: Passive. Effect: Gain +1 base Damage.]
[Heavy Armour Add-on] Iron Skin [Active: Passive. Effect: Gain +15 Mitigation and +15 x Tier HP.]

Active Extra Skills
Assault Mode [Active: Free Action. Energy Cost: 5 EN. Cooldown: 4 Turns. Effect: As a free action, switch your accuracy and evasion values until the start of your next turn.]
Block [Active: Passive. Effect: Requires an equipped shield. User’s evasion cannot be greater than 0 (can still be negative). Grants additional mitigation: 25 MIT.]
[Rank 3 Block Mod] Shield Bash [Active: Post Action. Energy: 6 EN. Cooldown: 2 Turns. Effect: Make an attack with an equipped shield. On a hit, deals (Base * 10) damage, stuns the enemy for one turn, and applies status and thorns (and variants)  enhancements present on the shield. Note: When calculating Base Damage for Shield Bash, Weapon Skills do not apply.]
[Rank 5 Block Addon] Rampart [Active: Free Action. Energy: 10 EN. Cooldown: 5 Turns. Effect: Reduce final damage that would be dealt to you by 25% (rounded down). Effect lasts until the beginning of your next turn.]
Brawler [Active: Free Action. Energy Cost: 5 EN. Cooldown: 5 Turns. Effect: Increase mitigation by 10*tier until the start of your next turn.]
Concentration [Active: Free Action. Cooldown: 5 turns. Effect: As a free action, gain Absolute Accuracy on your next attack. In the case Absolute Accuracy is already present, increase your Accuracy by 1 instead. Effect lasts until the start of next turn.]
Meditation [Active: Post Action. Cooldown: 3 turns. Effect: Recover an additional (4 * Tier) energy.]
Survival [Active: Passive. Effect: Increases Healing effects received from all sources by 10%. Grants immunity to all damage dealing environmental attacks/effects.]

Inactive Extra Skills 
Frozen Hide [Active: Free Action. Energy Cost: 5 EN. Cooldown: 4 Turns. Effect: As a free action, apply one slot of Frost Aura and one slot of Frost Thorns equal to your tier to yourself until the start of your next turn.]
Lady Luck [Active: Free Action. Energy Cost: 5 EN. Cooldown: 5 Turns. Effect: Replace a single enhancement slot on your weapon with a random enhancement using the Appraiser’s Identification roll until the start of your next turn.]

Combat Mastery
Mitigation [Rank: 3. Active: Passive. Effect: Gain +6*tier Mitigation per rank. Ranks of this Skill obey Mitigation enhancement caps.]

Familiar Skills
Protector Familiar [Active: Free Action. Cooldown: 3 Posts; Effect: The next time you would take damage, your familiar rushes to your aid, reducing the final damage by 10%.]

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sword arts

Spoiler

[x12] ST-I (12 10 EN) | A single-target sword art.
[x15] ST-II (15 13 EN) | A powerful single-target sword art. Only available for use when ST-I was used and successfully struck an enemy the previous turn or if ST-II had been used and had missed the previous turn.
[x20] ST-B (20 18 EN) | A devastating single-target sword art. Can only be used if the sword art used the previous turn is not ST-B and had rolled a natural CD9+. When performing an AoE attack, use only the first roll.
[x11] AOE-I (11 9 + 2 * targets EN) | AOE | A sword art that strikes multiple targets at once.
[x14] AOE-II (14 12 + 2 * targets EN) | AOE | A powerful sword art that strikes multiple targets at once. Only available for use when AOE-I was used and successfully struck an enemy the previous turn or if AOE-II had been used and had missed the previous turn.
[x16] TECH-A (16 14 EN) | STUN | A single-target sword art that stuns an enemy.
[x16] TECH-B (15 13 EN) | DELAY | A single-target sword art that, on a successful strike, applies [Delay] on the enemy. [Delay] is a status condition that reduces the enemy’s ACC by 1 for one turn.
[x16] TECH-C (15 13 EN) | COUNTER | A single-target sword art that, on a successful strike, places [Counter] around the player. [Counter] reduces the final damage taken by its user by 25% (rounded down) for one turn.
[x16] TECH-D (15 13 EN) | SHATTER | A single-target sword art that applies [Shatter] to an enemy for 3 turns. [Shatter] is a debuff that can stack up to a cap of 3. Each stack of [Shatter] removes -20 MIT from an enemy, down to 0, if it has MIT.
[x12] TECH-F (11 9 + 2 * targets EN) | AOE STUN | A sword art that strikes multiple targets at once. All struck targets are stunned for one turn.
[x16] TECH-G (15 13 EN) | BURN | A single-target sword art that, on a successful strike, applies [Burn] on the enemy. [Burn] is a DoT ailment that deals [14 * Player Tier] unmitigated Burn damage for 2 turns.

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buffs

Spoiler

Estate Buffs
Bedroom [-1 energy cost for the first two expenditures of each combat.]
Living Room [Increases out of combat HP regen by (5 * Tier HP) and decreases full energy regen to 2 Out of Combat Posts.]
Storage Closet [+1 Battle Ready Inventory Slot]
Basement [
Gain +1 to LD, Stealth Rating, Stealth Detection, or Prosperity to one post in a thread. Can be applied after a roll.]
Extended Workshop [
+2 Crafting EXP per crafting attempt & +1 crafting attempt per day
.]
Greenhouse [
+2 Gathering EXP per Attempt and additional +1 LD & CD to gathering attempts.
]

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galaxy_cat_by_threeleaves_daf3n7b-fullview.thumb.jpg.053dcea9d875e06f4729d5e2b53c5491.jpgA minor explosion of col at a nearby vendor's stall barely forestalled the system triggering a theft, and all of the unfortunate consequences that would have followed.  Instead, Freyd came racing around the corner into the open street with his pockets turned out, chasing a small zigzagging shadow of pure darkness bearing two mischievous and very self-satisfied azure eyes.  Precariously perched in its tiny maw, and leading the bizarre procession, was a small and very startled looking rainbow trout.

"PERSI!  Get back here with that fish before you set us both in a giant heaping load of trouble!"

Donning her celestial guise to better blend in with the more noble bearings of Ellesmora's fauna, the little shadow mongoose looked deceptively catlike as she wove her way through nooks and crannies too tight for her master to follow.  This was not, truth be told, an unfamiliar game.  Persistence was overly fond of certain strong odors as her primary source of sustenance and had cause similar stirs at more than a few public occasions.  Feasting on the entrées during the last pre-raid meeting was one such recent example.

Taking a flying leap over several carts, somehow still taking care not to cause any property damage along the way, Freyd was scrambling after his familiar before she could reach some safe harbour beyond his reach.  She'd already chosen her spot and was rapidly making her way towards that refuge when he realized that he'd have only one last chance to possibly preventing her getaway.  Using a park bench as a spring board, Freyd leapt high over one of the nearby canals, tumbling to his feet on the far side and lunging to catch the prize with the tips of his outstretched fingers.  One giant clamoring mess of twists and contusions later, the Whisper was sprawled out at the feet of two others with a fish in one hand and a frustrated and flattened familiar in the other.

The elf sighed.

"Hrm.  Sadly, sir," the elven herald added with hoity-toity airs, "I regret to inform you that your presence has also been requested."

Trademark cowl somehow still in place and covering most of his vision, Freyd had absolutely no idea who it was that was even speaking to him.

***

Freyd consumes:

Gugnir’s Shard (Untradeable/Unique/Reusable Consumable): Crème Brûlée Tray | ACC 2 | Feast (6/6) - takes 1 portion (filled) and shares rest with party

Freyd | HP: 1140/1140 | EN: 152/152 | DMG: 21 | MIT: 45 | EVA: 2 | ACC: 7 (inc.AA) | BH: 62 | LD: 6 | BLGT: 32 | PARA IMMUNE | P.V.O | REC: 8 | STK: 40

Spoiler

Freyd, The Whisper in Shadows
Level: 33
Paragon Level: 124
HP: 1140/1140
EN: 152/152

Stats:
Damage: 21
Mitigation: 45
Evasion: 2
Accuracy: 4+2+1
Battle Healing: 62
Loot Dice: 6
AA
BLGT: 32
PARA IMMUNE
P.V.O
REC: 8
STK: 40

Equipped Gear:
Weapon: The Thing Behind All Lies (T4 Demonic MA, AA, Blight, Static, Para.Ven (Off))   
Armor: Black Cowled Traveling Garb | T4 CA | VD 2 | REC 2
Misc: Shadowed Rose (ACC 3 | Para.Imm.)

Combat Mastery: Damage R3
Combat Shift: AOE
Familiar Skill: Grappling Familiar
Custom Skill:


Skills:
Martial Arts R5
Battle Healing R5
Cloth Armor R5
Searching R4
Charge
Energist
Quick Change
Extended Mod Limit
Extended Weight Limit
Fighting Spirit
Howl

Active Mods:
Night Vision
Tracking
Athletics
Emergency Recovery
Untraceable
Detect

Inactive Mods:

Addons:
Focus
Precision
Nimble
Reveal
Stamina
Focused Howl

Active Extra Skills:
Disguise
Survival
Meditation
Forgotten King’s Authority

Inactive Extra Skills:
Frozen Hide
Brawler
Photosynthesize
Hiding R2

Battle Ready Inventory:
Teleport Crystals x7
Mass HP Rec [Inst] (+10% HP) x7
T4 Vitality (+16 EN) x7
Crystal of Divine Light (Reusable) x1
Rhino's Horn (Reusable) x1
Hmr.Pk:  Hope's Covenant - Resolve +4 (T4 Demonic Weapon (MA) - AA, Phase, Frostbite, VO)  x1
EWL: Samael's Pride | T4 MA | FLN 2 | HLY 2   x1
EWL:  Fight O'er Flight (ACC 2 | EVA 2) x1

Housing Buffs:
Rested: -1 energy cost for the first two expenditures of each combat
Clean: The first time you would suffer DoT damage in a thread, reduce damage taken from DoT each turn by 20% (rounded down)
Hard Working: +2 EXP per crafting attempt and +1 crafting attempt per day
Filling: Increase the effectiveness of a single food item consumed in a thread by +1 T1 slot.
Item Stash: +1 Battle Ready Inventory Slot
Delicious: Turn 3 identical food items (same quality, tier, & enhancements) into a Feast. A Feast contains 6 portions of the food items sacrificed.
Relaxed: Increases out of combat HP regen by (5 * Tier HP) and decreases full energy regen to 2 Out of Combat Posts.
Skylight (Searching): +1 Rank to the Searching skill.
Angler: +2 Fishing EXP per attempt
Practiced Angler: +2 Fishing EXP per attempt, addition +1 LD/CD to fishing attempts
Advanced Training: +10% Exp to a thread. Limit one use per month [1/1]
Multipurpose: Gain +1 to LD, Stealth Rating, Stealth Detection, or Prosperity to one post in a thread. Can be applied after a roll
Decor [Potted Tanabata Bamboo Tree]: This buff affects the player and their choice of up to two party members.

Guild Hall Buffs:
Lucrative: Reduce LD needed for Salvage by 5 (10+ for Alchemist crystals, 6+ for everything else). +2 EXP per craft. Rank 9 crafters receive +1 crafting attempt per day. Rank 10 crafters receive +2 crafting attempts per day.
Col Deposit: +5% bonus col from last-hit monster kills and +10% bonus col from treasure chests.

Scents of the Wild:
Tanos Statue: +25 Mitigation for a thread

Wedding Ring:

Fishing: Level 4 | 461XP"                                                

 

Edited by Freyd
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Nari blinked a few times as a figure collapsed at her feet after what she could only describe as a wondrous leapt, tumble and tackle into what appeared to be a shimmering form of a cat, which had somehow become entwined with the very essence of a galaxy. Uncertain of what to make of the entire scene - for it was a scene, no less, having pulled the attention of a large number of nearby NPCs and players - she was caught entirely off guard as the Elfen messenger sighed and invited the figure at her feet to attend the meeting with the queen as well. 

"Really? Does the queen just invite anyone to these meetings?" She'd spoken before she realised it, and although her words had been tinged with a tone of humour, she glanced down and offered the man on the ground her hand, following up here original comment in an almost hasty manner. "Maybe I should've done an impressive leap into the conversation as well. Had I have known it was going to occur, that is...I'm Nari. Nari-Lanreth, but I go by Nari. It's a pleasure to meet your acquaintance. I think."

At her feet the small kitsune seemed to sniff at the cat-like form, a curious yip coming from it before it fell silent and seemed content with their situation. Turning her attention back to the Elfen figure, she gave a nod and a wave of her hand, before deciding there wasn't much more to do other than follow the messenger. "I've no idea what the queen could want, but I would assume that it's something of importance to ask - what is clearly - one of the best athletes in the entirety of Ellesmera to assist."

She barely managed to keep herself from laughing, even as she continued to poke fun at the entrance of the other player. She'd seen numerous interesting entries during her time in Aincrad, but she had to admit that the current one would line among the greatest of them, if not lead the lists entirely. Calmly, she pulled open her menu and retrieved a few items from it, sharing the snacks with the kitsune and consuming a number of potions that she felt would benefit her in the coming moments. She had no doubts that they'd be placed into some dangerous locale, eventually, and wanted to be wholly prepared for it.

"So, aside from amazing feats of athleticism in response to what appears to be a self-indulgent familiar, what brings you to Ellesmera? Or were you aware of our summoning that was placed upon us, in advance?" Her tone was calm, and as friendly as it could be considering everything. Something about the man felt familiar to Nari, and yet she found she wasn't quite able to place it in her mind, yet.



Consumables
Nari consumes: 

 

  • Divinity's Wait {1} | Tier 2; Perfect Potion | Mitigation III
  • Divinity's Protection {1} | Tier 3; Perfect Potion | Overhealth III
  • Percephonius Pyratius {1} | Tier 4; Perfect Potion | Damage III

Adjusted Statblock
Nari-Lanreth | Lv. 33 | P. 54 | HP [1,081/1,081] | EN [106/106] | ACC [6] | DMG [12] | MIT [209] | F.AURA [32 MIT; 16 DMG] B.Healing [+59] | STEALTH [-5] |  FRSTBT [40 DMG; -1 ACC] | THORNS [72] | PARA [8+] | HM [+4 B.DMG]

Belated adjustment because I misread the above post - consuming the proffered Crème Brûlée for ACC +2, adjustment to statblock completed.

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"Really? Does the queen just invite anyone to these meetings?"

"Erm... I mean... probably?"  Groaning a dull ache throbbed across his entire front, which had born the brunt of his impact, Freyd managed to roll over onto his back to glance at the two figures looming over him.  His cowl fell back as he did so, revealing a plain-faced boy with pale skin and few notable features; only a pair of bright blue eyes reminiscent of his familiar's.

"The quest probably triggers just by wandering into this part of the City," he guessed, wincing at imagined pain in his ribs.  The system's pain suppressors were functioning. It was more that he felt like it should have hurt, than it actually did.  "I'm not entirely sure, since it seems different than the last time I did a quest for the elves."  Realizing the awkwardness of their current speaking arrangement, Freyd gladly accepted her offered hand and assistance in regaining his footing.  The introduction that followed was even more surprising, especially given that they'd each led a team in the recent floor raid.  Catching himself just before a comment could leave the tip of his tongue - he might have bitten it had he been any more forceful - the man just looked dumbly confused, blinking silently several times while his brain stumbled.

"Uh... right.  Nari, not-Lanreth.  Got it.  But I feel compelled to ask: why tell me the 'Lanreth' part when you don't want me to use it?  Is it a me thing, or is everyone in the no-Lanreth club?"  Without seeming to realize it, Freyd had summoned a honey bun from his inventory and was nervous-eating his way through it.  In actuality, it was the best cover he could conjure on the fly to seem awkwardly absurd and hopefully gloss over the odd moment.  Their escort interrupted with a timely throat clearing, overshadowing the rest of Nari's questions and indicating that they had arrived at The Great Tree and palace of Queen Haela.  Pages opened majestically carved wooden doors that made Freyd wonder whether elven magics might have grown them in place.  The throne room beyond was similarly impressive in grandeur and resplendent in its display and mastery of woodwork and craftsmanship.  The opulence was sedate and sublime, yet overwhelming all the same.

"Niiiice digs," Freyd muttered under his breath, as they entered.  His father would have scoffed and muttered something about Baroque extravagance, but he'd always been an arrogant ass.

"Apologies for disturbing such a beautiful day," Queen Haela began, in a regal tone delivered with the grace of a voice akin to that of songbirds. "I would never have planned to ask for assistance from humans, but we are short on capable fighters.  Too many of my soldiers have fallen or been gravely injured. This centuries-old war has taken its own toll on the elves of Ellesmera." She stands and gestures to the armored elf beside her. "Scouts report a pending attack from the treants, with a main force at least twenty strong. Commander Arun plans to take the rest of our forces to face them before they reach the city as to not bring harm to any of its citizens, but doing so would leave our walls and gates unprotected from attack." 

"Wait.  What?"  Freyd's words blurted out without him even realizing, his face contorting and eyes narrowing with doubt.  "You're leaving your entire capital exposed to attack and your solution is to ask two random strangers to protect it?!  We could be thieves, traitors or... vegetarians, hell bent on exfoliating your palace to the ground!  Doesn't this seem like really bad strategy?  I mean, if you want mercs, I'm all for it.  We can go beat up those twenty treants for you, if you'd prefer, but..."

"SILENCE!"  The elven commander had grown red-faced with anger, though Freyd sensed his fury was less at the breach of protocol and more about having his poor leadership qualities so openly called out.  "Queen Haela has spoken, and we shall march as she commands.  YOU," he added, pointing at the two of them, "will remain here and do as instructed.  Is that understood?"

Pinching the bridge of his nose, eyes squinted shut, Freyd looked over towards Nari-not-Lanreth with a total non-plussed expression.  Sometimes, quests just didn't make sense.

"I hate dumb mobs," he uttered through clenched teeth and under his breath, quietly enough that only she could hear.

Edited by Freyd
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Nari's eyes widened at the voice, suddenly recognising the form and having the memory of the other individual snap into place. She found herself flushing deeply in response, and a few mumbled words slipped out - lost in the continued voice of the other's questioning. She felt her embarrassment slip away, however, as Freyd asked about the Lanreth portion of her name. Without meaning to, she found herself bursting into laughter, caught off guard by the question itself, and the importance he seemed to place upon it.

"A you thing? Pfft, no I can assure you it's not a you thing...I made the whole name, thinking it was...well, it's a name I made. But it's a mouthful to constantly say Nari-Lanreth, right? So it's just easier to shorten it to Nari. Kinda like a nickname for Ashley, becoming Ash...or maybe Bradley becoming Brad would be more common?" She'd been following the Elf messenger/guide absentmindedly, listening as Freyd had continued talking in what almost seemed a semi-nervous manner, and it was with a slight startling that she came to the realisation that they'd arrived at what was likely the palace. 

Even as they entered, she caught the whispered words of Freyd's commentary on the area, and found herself fighting back another laugh in response. She had to agree, however, that the locale was certainly appealing to the eyes. As they approached, and the queen introduced herself, Nari found herself falling into a natural curtsey - an action that she had near perfected since her arrival in Aincrad. An action which was completely ruined by Freyd's follow-up commentary and outbursts regarding the plans of the entire war council that had been gathered before them. Shaking her head, she turned to look at her new party member, smiling slightly and giving a soft shrug. "Maybe they know they're going to screw it up, and need to rely on us instead? This is their way of...saving face, I guess? Make it look like they have no choice but to request our help, and play it off like a brilliant military decision. At least they're smart enough to come to professionals, when it comes to dealing with...vegetation...right?"

She spoke just loud enough to ensure that the commander who'd snapped out earlier could hear her, all while still making it clear that she was speaking directly and in confidence to Freyd - her eyes catching in the distance the anger that spread across the Elf's face. Leaning in closer to Freyd and dropping her voice a bit, she added to her original comment. "I don't think the Lord Commander Utter-Failure over there is very happy about us being here, but teach him to screw up in the first place. I'd still keep an eye out on him...I don't trust him for some reason. And after my last quest...well, let's just say Cardinal isn't so against betrayal and backstabbing."

"If your Royal Highness and Associated...assistants...will excuse us, we have a siege to prepare for." She turned without waiting for a response from the gathered individuals, making her way towards the doors that would lead back out into the city. She'd already pulled up her menu, sending Freyd a quick party invitation just to seal their cooperation on the event. Once he was alongside her, she'd add a final comment as they made their way outside, smiling brightly with a soft twinkle in her eye. "You know, if I hadn't recognised your voice I'd have never guessed it was you laying on the ground wrestling a cat of all things...far cry in appearance from the capable, strategic frontliner who led the assault against the Many Headed Dragon of Doom and Death."

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"Saving face?"  One corner of the man's thin slivered lips curled at the unexpected insight.  The question was directed at why her thoughts had drifted to that answer, not what was meant by it.   "Yes.  Very samurai, wouldn't you say?  Strange how these elves seem to follow western conventions, and yet... not so much?"  Mirth remained, but the fool was gone from his tone and a different glint shone behind his eyes.  Could his ramblings have been some sort of a ruse?  

"I don't think the Lord Commander Utter-Failure over there is very happy about us being here, but teach him to screw up in the first place. I'd still keep an eye out on him...I don't trust him for some reason. And after my last quest...well, let's just say Cardinal isn't so against betrayal and backstabbing."

Walking away from the palace to permit greater candor, Freyd navigated the streets expertly without any reference to a map.  He practically took them to the gate by brail, his eyes everywhere and anywhere save the direction of their travels.

"You know, if I hadn't recognised your voice I'd have never guessed it was you laying on the ground wrestling a cat of all things...far cry in appearance from the capable, strategic frontliner who led the assault against the Many Headed Dragon of Doom and Death."

"Mongoose," he politely corrected.  "She hates it when someone calls her otherwise, and I bear the brunt of her displeasure.  Nice fox, by the way.  I'm genuinely surprised that its not a more common familiar, given the game's distribution and demographics."  Freyd stuffed his hands in a pair of invisible pockets, straightening his posture and gait the moment they exited the palace.  It was like watching him become another person within the span of three footfalls, fitting in more closely with her comments and expectations.

"Elves are exceptionally long-lived, even in this world.  Have you perchance noticed how young the guardsmen and warriors about this city are?  By their standards, these men and women are barely out of diapers.  That includes the Lord Commander.  They just don't think we can see it or understand."  There was that dour, serious tone he'd demonstrated at the raid meeting and in the field against Wushen himself; Many-headed Dragon of Doom and Death, indeed. 

"These people are the products of their lineage and legacies, of untold history preserved in flesh and song.  Yet, the very age and maturity that defines them has been lost, it's blood literally spilled to the woods themselves, and for what?  Ellesmora is dying.  They know it.  They fear it.  What becomes of elvenkind when no old elves remain?  What is the value of immortal lifespans if they are cut short in their infancy."

Freyd signaled to twin youths up on the battlements to open the gates as they approached.  Even their walls were manned by children.

"Arun is a boy pretending to be a man.  He has no examples left to follow and so clings to the impetuous temptations of emotions.  His Queen, in her fury and desperation, encourages his foolishness because she feels that she has nothing else left to grasp for.  They both need jarring to displace them from their grief and ignorance.  Nothing else can save this place, but change."  The gates thundered shut behind them, leaving the two players  alone in the forest.  Birds chirped and scattered beams of sunlight danced across the forest floor to whatever magical tunes lay hidden in the winds.  Freyd sat akimbo on a nearby fallen elm, looking down upon the bough and tracing the lines of it failing bark.

"What a fitting symbol for this state of affairs." 

"Still," he added more joyfully, "I'm glad you finally recognized me."

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"Mongoose...?" Nari's eyes held the question more so than her word, but she figured that there was nothing to answer beyond the obvious. Shaking aside the questioning doubt - for the thing had looked like a cat - she chose instead to trust the one who was closest to the creature. "Well, then, consider this an apology to her. She's a majestic and fine being, regardless of any...discrepancies with her appearance, or mistakes made by those of lesser awareness. She should be proud to know that she has such a caring, capable and well-meaning partner."

Freyd led the two of them through the streets of the city like a well-versed tour guide, his eyes darting around and taking in surroundings in a manner that bespoke familiarity and comfort. Nari, in contrast, followed along behind and felt out of place. She'd rarely attended Ellesmera, and in honest truth she was uncomfortable with the unfamiliar setting that seemed to try and swallow her as she passed through it. Even as her eyes darting all around, watching for shadows within the very shadows that seemed to encapsulate the majority of alleys and roadways they passed, she focused her ears and thoughts upon what Freyd was lecturing her on. She found her attention drawn to the faces they moved by, noticing - for the first time - how young they appeared; a fact she had failed to notice before he'd brought it to her attention.

"Children...I would not have recognised it had you not have brought it to my attention, but they do all seem...young. And not just in the features, but in their very movements and actions. The look in their eyes...it has a worriedness to it." Her voice was soft as she considered the information Freyd had pointed out, information that she had clearly missed until this moment. She wondered if she'd been willingly blind to it, or simply unfamiliar. "The things we do in our final hours define who we are..."

She had fallen silent as they passed beneath the gate, her eyes passing up towards the guards atop the wall that opened their exit. She noticed, now aware of the situation of the city itself, the youngest that covered their entirety. An essence that went beyond their simple young appearance, and showed their very core to those who knew how to see it. "It brings a measure of pity towards them, doesn't it? And yet, I can't help but wonder if they deserve such pity, or if it's simply a...humanistic reaction. What does that say about me?"

A rumbling caught her attention as something began moving in the distance, the shaking ground beneath her feet - slight in truth, but noticeable nonetheless - drew her attention outwards into the forests that spread along the horizon. She could see, even from this distance, the form of something in the treeline moving; large and lumbering in a manner that confirmed her suspicions immediately. "The trees send their regards."


Combat
Freyd | HP: 1140/1140 | EN: 152/152 | DMG: 21 | MIT: 45 | EVA: 2 | ACC: 7 (inc.AA) | BH: 62 | LD: 6 | BLGT: 32 | PARA IMMUNE | P.V.O | REC: 8 | STK: 40
Nari-Lanreth | Lv. 33 | P. 54 | HP [1,081/1,081] | EN [93/106] | ACC [6] | DMG [12] | MIT [209] | F.AURA [32 MIT; 16 DMG] B.Healing [+59] | STEALTH [-5] |  FRSTBT [40 DMG; -1 ACC] | THORNS [72] | PARA [8+] | HM [+4 B.DMG] | -13 EN
[0,2]Treant HP: 433/450 | MIT: 175 | DMG: (See Shockwave Punch) | Delay [-1 ACC]
Abilities:
Shockwave Punch | Every turn, the Treant shall use this attack spreading its damage between every single target in the vicinity. Deals 300 mitigatable damage spread between all players and the gate. This attack will not miss. For example: If there are two players taking this quest then both players and the gate shall take 100 damage per turn. 
Burning Timber | Should the Treant be affected with a Burn ailment, its Mitigation shall become 0, its damage output will double, all Burn damage to it shall be doubled and the Mercy effect will no longer be an option. 
Wooden Body | Treant is not affected by any DoT effects other than Burn and Blight. Treant is also immune to Stun attacks. 
Mercy | Upon reaching 50 or less HP, the Treant will surrender and no longer attack unless the player attacks them again. If this option is chosen, begin the Mercy Ending.
 

ID219002 | BD: 5+6=11 | <<Tech-B vs. Treant>> | Hit: 12x16-175 = 17 damage | Delay [-1 ACC]

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Freyd's left eye twitched and winced uncontrollably at Nari's description of Persi's owner as 'caring, capable and well-meaning.'  These were definitely not traits commonly associated with him or any of the various demeanors he so often donned while about his business.  And yet, it had been used by others as well.  Were time more permissive, he might have dwelled upon it a while longer.  Circumstance dictated otherwise, hurtling them towards yet more conflict.

"The things we do in our final hours define who we are..."

"Well put." Monologuing had never been his goal, only sharing a sliver of awareness and enlightenment gleaned through patient observation.  "And, I suspect you also mean it in the sense of our very existence in Aincrad?"

"It brings a measure of pity towards them, doesn't it? And yet, I can't help but wonder if they deserve such pity, or if it's simply a...humanistic reaction. What does that say about me?"

Piercing eyes drifted over to gaze at his companion, accustomed to judgement yet rendering none by their present gaze.  Pensive consideration flashed behind deep and cold blue irises.  "That you would even question your own assumption speaks volumes.  It's refreshing, and also heartwarming, I suppose."  The natural tensions in his stance and features seemed to ease as they passed beneath the arched gate and barbican.  Whether intentionally stated or not, Freyd admired those who were willing to question themselves and their beliefs - especially those they never realized they held.

"I'm no better equipped to answer to that bias than you," came his response, his smile growing along with a certain weariness in his eyes.  "What do you think it says?  What do you want it to say?  Those may be better questions."  Life did its thing, just then, interrupting their worthy conversation.  Nari rushed the massive treant as it emerged from the forest, darkness gathered around two hollows in its trunk and passing for eyes - angry, bitter eyes.  It, too, was an elm.  Freyd wondered, for an instant, whether he'd just been sitting on its friend.

***

Post Action | TECH-D (x12, 12 EN): 12 EN - (Rested 2/2; Stamina) = 9 EN.  
Free Action | None

ID #219014 | BD:2+7=9 (hit).  DMG (12*21=252-155=97) to Treant.  (CD 3 | ST-B locked)

Treant uses shockwave dealing...
100-209=1 damage to Nari.
100-45=55 damage to Freyd
100 damage to the Ellesmora Gate.

Freyd | HP: 1085/1085 (1140-55) | EN: 141/152 (-9) | DMG: 21 | MIT: 45 | EVA: 2 | ACC: 7 (inc.AA) | BH: 62 | LD: 6 | BLGT: 32 | PARA IMMUNE | P.V.O | REC: 8 | STK: 40
Nari-Lanreth | Lv. 33 | P. 54 | HP [1,080/1,081] (-1) | EN [106/106] | ACC [6] | DMG [12] | MIT [209] | F.AURA [32 MIT; 16 DMG] B.Healing [+59] | STEALTH [-5] |  FRSTBT [40 DMG; -1 ACC] | THORNS [72] | PARA [8+] | HM [+4 B.DMG]
Ellesmora Gate | HP 400/500.

[2,2]Treant HP: 336/450 | MIT: 175 (-20, 1/3) | DMG: (See Shockwave Punch) | Delay [-1 ACC] (450-17-97)  ...Nari forgot to apply her damage on previous post.
Abilities:
Shockwave Punch | Every turn, the Treant shall use this attack spreading its damage between every single target in the vicinity. Deals 300 mitigatable damage spread between all players and the gate. This attack will not miss. For example: If there are two players taking this quest then both players and the gate shall take 100 damage per turn. 
Burning Timber | Should the Treant be affected with a Burn ailment, its Mitigation shall become 0, its damage output will double, all Burn damage to it shall be doubled and the Mercy effect will no longer be an option. 
Wooden Body | Treant is not affected by any DoT effects other than Burn and Blight. Treant is also immune to Stun attacks. 
Mercy | Upon reaching 50 or less HP, the Treant will surrender and no longer attack unless the player attacks them again. If this option is chosen, begin the Mercy Ending.
 

Edited by Freyd
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Nari considered everything that Freyd was saying, even as she dodged the whiplash of a nearby branch. She could feel the very wind on her skin as it lashed outwards and around, trying to hamper her movement and catch her unawares. Her entire form flashed and flowed with an agility that should've appeared near impossible with the weighted gear she wore, and yet she moved without any signs of hindrance or restriction - as much at home in the heavy plate as she was in her own skin. For long breaths she was silent, focusing on dodging the attacks of the living tree and the conversation that had been at hand moments ago.

"I think...what I want is to not have pity for them, but to help them rebuild. To become something...something they can be proud of again. But I also don't want them to destroy everything in order to get there. I...I want to find a peaceful resolution to...this." She'd continued moving, her shield deflecting a number of lesser strikes as she spoke out to her companion, trying to bring her thoughts into words and finding it more difficult than she had ever imagined. She knew what she wanted, without doubt. Placing it into coherent words that could be understood by another, however, was much more difficult. "Death and violence, war and destruction...I understand those are sometimes necessary...but there is always a way towards peace, if both sides are willing to consider it. Perhaps...perhaps once this area is safe, we can approach the Treants and see if there's anything the Elves could do - realistically do...in order to stop this...this war."

Perhaps it was foolhardy and naïve, but Nari found that the more she spoke on the topic, the more she desired to at least attempt it. She knew, without doubt, that she needed to at least make the attempt. If for no one other than herself. She turned to face Freyd, curious to see what he would say to her comments thus far, and what his input on the situation would be. "Call me naive, but...what are your thoughts on i-"

The shock of the strike was minimal, causing her to stumble and curse slightly - but it was a reminder to her that they were still involved in a dangerous fight. One which she couldn't take her eyes off of, not even for a single second. Gritting her teeth, her health bar still nearly full, she glanced around to notice Freyd's health dip slightly, and the wall crumble where the Treant had managed to impact it with it's furious strike. Grinding her teeth, she turned back to the creature and began stabbing, meticulously, with her spear.


Freyd | HP: 1085/1140 | EN: 152/152 | DMG: 21 | MIT: 45 | EVA: 2 | ACC: 7 (inc.AA) | BH: 62 | LD: 6 | BLGT: 32 | PARA IMMUNE | P.V.O | REC: 8 | STK: 40
Nari-Lanreth | Lv. 33 | P. 54 | HP [1,081/1,081] | EN [84/106] | ACC [6] | DMG [12] | MIT [209] | F.AURA [32 MIT; 16 DMG] B.Healing [+59] | STEALTH [-5] |  FRSTBT [40 DMG; -1 ACC] | THORNS [72] | PARA [8+] | HM [+4 B.DMG] | +4 EN +59 HP | -13 EN
Ellesmora Gate | HP 400/500.

[2,4]Treant HP: 279/450 | MIT: 175 (-40, 1/3) | DMG: (See Shockwave Punch) | Shatter [-40 MIT; 1/3]
Abilities:
Shockwave Punch | Every turn, the Treant shall use this attack spreading its damage between every single target in the vicinity. Deals 300 mitigatable damage spread between all players and the gate. This attack will not miss. For example: If there are two players taking this quest then both players and the gate shall take 100 damage per turn. 
Burning Timber | Should the Treant be affected with a Burn ailment, its Mitigation shall become 0, its damage output will double, all Burn damage to it shall be doubled and the Mercy effect will no longer be an option. 
Wooden Body | Treant is not affected by any DoT effects other than Burn and Blight. Treant is also immune to Stun attacks. 
Mercy | Upon reaching 50 or less HP, the Treant will surrender and no longer attack unless the player attacks them again. If this option is chosen, begin the Mercy Ending.
 

ID219016 | BD: 5+6 = 11 | <<Tech-D vs. Treant>> | Hit: 12x16-135 = 57 damage | Shatter (-20 MIT; 1/3)

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Watching Nari move was a marvel.  He'd never actually fought in heavy armor himself, but every other carapaced veteran of the game he'd ever fought beside couldn't hope to match her speed or flexibility.  In a strange way, it was a rare treat of refreshing novelty.  But the equally unexpected turn in their continued conversation was what pierced his casual nonchalance about such things.  Nari had struck a nerve that he rarely, if ever, allowed to be exposed; multiple, in fact.

"Call me naive, but...what are your thoughts on i-"

Right.  Combat.  Eyes on the ball.

The treant's size and sheer physical brutality impacted the gate, it's heavy leaves visibly shattered at several points by the force of the blow.  Neither player looked much worse for wear, signaling the relative scale of effects in play.  Freyd's machine mind was already triangulating optimal attack vectors, ready to call his 'Pride' to hand and smash this would-be assailant to ashes, backed by a selectively fiery sword art that struck him as ideal for these circumstances.  Something gave him pause.  That other self, stirred by the image of green hair, scent of special tea and elongated ears - the same worn by the elven children surely watching in terror from above.  They knew terror.  Though trivial a battle, for them their home hung in the balance. 

Wrath.

That all-consuming void - partially imbued by Shadow's touch and legacy - called from within for their enemy's utter destruction.  End the threat.  Slay the monster.  Be the monster!  Instincts or programming?  Which was calling to him with these thoughts?  Some days, he wasn't really sure anymore.  It would be so easy...

The memory of warmth pressed against his shoulders under shades of moonlight.  A hand pressing against his own as his body shattered into a thousand scintillating shards hanging on the brink of oblivion, called back with a plea and a cry.  Someone cared, and reminded him to do the same.  Perhaps she taught him what had always eluded his ability to rationalize - adding kindling to a fledgling flame that nurtured it into beginnings of alien passion, and eventual compassion.  The Shadowed Rose pinned to his chest and concealed beneath a fabric fold, yet dearest to the thing he called his heart. 

What doth believe the Thing Behind All Lies?

Intent was instantly repurposed as boundless conviction flared behind Freyd's scowling azure eyes, the tenets of a sneer forcing themselves upon his lips, yet not for malice or destruction.  This was fulfillment of an oath given to a robe made and paid for in the blood of guilt and innocence alike.  It was a promise and covenant of hope.  Dodging the treant's wild, slashing swings the Whisper weaved and wobbled as the wind dancing through its branches.  Time slowed for him in its pacing as the power grew.  Shaping fate did such a thing when wielded by those under contract.  Miasmic haze of black and purple wreathed his hands as he neared his goal, parrying its last, desperate defenses and pulling back to strike.

Thunderous force, like a gale wind focused precisely to a point, struck a knot and weakness in the treant's bark and shell, already fractured by their prior yet biting assaults.  The trunk folded inward against his fist as a snap cracked the air and bent the tree near in half, shedding half the leaves from its canopy by whiplash alone.  Sap sprayed sideways all around, the very fibers within the creature having compressed beyond their bearing, shooting out of every break and cut including its eyes and mouth, then dropping harshly to the ground like a bathtub full of water conjured in mid air.  It's face contorted with pain that couldn't be, repealing anger to reveal despair.  The treant felt the end of its existence as that same miasmic haze spread along infectious veins through every part of it.  Bark flaked off.  Its few remaining leaves withered and fell like ashes from above.  Desiccated from within, it shuddered in its entirety as it creaked and slowed, while Freyd's awareness of time resumed its proper pace.

Precision.  Threshold achieved, and on the mark.  His voice neutral, yet verging on the realm of sympathy, Freyd spoke softly.

"There is still time.  Will you wield?"

The monster twitched, wrenched by the fury he'd unleashed within it and quickly drawing its existence toward a painful, terrifying close. Here was the futility of war summed into a single moment, and the very rarest of opportunities for change.  Easing the clenching of his fist into an open palm, Freyd slid it upwards to caress what might pass as the mob's cheek with surprising tenderness.  

"For all of us, ...please."  Looking up, the dark concealment of his cowl fell back revealing the least and last of expectations: tears of inky shadow dribbling down a face locked in fiercest determination, jaw locked and set.

"There isn't much time."

The tiniest hint of motion returned to their foe, enabling it to turn its awkward glance down, even as its body crumbled all around.

"I... willl.... yiellldddd."

Leaning forward to press his head against its withered form, Freyd delivered it the antidote held ready in his other hand.

"Thank you," he offered, eyes closing even as Persi's inky form slithered up from within his clothes to coil herself about his head and hide his features.  Even her lummox deserved some dignity, and she would ever be his cowl.  Turning and stuffing his extinguished hands back into his pockets, head dipped low to focus on the ground, Freyd strode slowly and pensively back in the direction of the palace.  He paused, but for an instant, and turned only slightly towards Nari.

"You have my answer.  I hope it means something."  And then he carried on.

♪ ♫ ♪ ♫

***

Vanity Tag: @Elora @Raidou

Freyd regains +4 EN
Freyd regains 62 HP from BH
CD 9 (+8 REC proc) ID #219022

Post Action | TECH-D (x12, 12 EN): 12 EN - (Rested 1/2; Stamina) = 9 EN.  
Free Action [Item] | Rhino's Horn

ID #219023 | BD: 10 (Crit +3).  DMG (12*27=324-95=229) to Treant.  Blight applied.  PVO applied.  Wooden body blocks Static.

Treant is paralyzed and suffers 32 blight damage.  Mercy triggers.  Combat ends.

Freyd | HP: 1140/1140 (1085+62[cap]) | EN: 144/152 (141+4+8-9) | DMG: 21 | MIT: 45 | EVA: 2 | ACC: 7 (inc.AA) | BH: 62 | LD: 6 | BLGT: 32 | PARA IMMUNE | P.V.O | REC: 8 | STK: 40
Nari-Lanreth | Lv. 33 | P. 54 | HP [1,081/1,081] | EN [84/106] | ACC [6] | DMG [12] | MIT [209] | F.AURA [32 MIT; 16 DMG] B.Healing [+59] | STEALTH [-5] |  FRSTBT [40 DMG; -1 ACC] | THORNS [72] | PARA [8+] | HM [+4 B.DMG] | +4 EN +59 HP | -13 EN
Ellesmora Gate | HP 400/500.

[2,4]Treant HP: 279/450 | MIT: 175 (-60 [2/3], -20 [1/2]) | DMG: (See Shockwave Punch) (279-229-32)
Abilities:
Shockwave Punch | Every turn, the Treant shall use this attack spreading its damage between every single target in the vicinity. Deals 300 mitigatable damage spread between all players and the gate. This attack will not miss. For example: If there are two players taking this quest then both players and the gate shall take 100 damage per turn. 
Burning Timber | Should the Treant be affected with a Burn ailment, its Mitigation shall become 0, its damage output will double, all Burn damage to it shall be doubled and the Mercy effect will no longer be an option. 
Wooden Body | Treant is not affected by any DoT effects other than Burn and Blight. Treant is also immune to Stun attacks. 
Mercy | Upon reaching 50 or less HP, the Treant will surrender and no longer attack unless the player attacks them again. If this option is chosen, begin the Mercy Ending.
 

e4905e9b89900c54d956ca1aab6cc2d6.png

Edited by Freyd
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Nari had slipped backwards, providing the opening she knew would be required by the more aggressive attacker of their duo, her eyes flitting about and looking for anything that could be used towards their advantage, even as she danced around the limbs and branches that seemed to grasp towards her. She could hear the shifting of movement from the Treant, the sound of her own breathing, and the sliding sound that she had associated with Freyd's own existence. She'd fallen into the lull of combat even as she'd continued speaking - her words only cut off when the shockwave had struck her, causing her to spin and dance outside of it's reach once more.

"I think there's an opening..." Her voice had died away even as she'd spoken, her dancing coming to a stop as she spotted Freyd off to the side. His form had paused, the moment of ignition upon his weapon, and yet a sign of hesitation in his movement. She could see the tension in his form, as if he were wrestling something within himself, trying to overcome some internal conflict that held him in place. She could see the way his fingers gripped the weapon, the ever so shifting of tightness that could be fear, rage, memory or loss; all causing the skin to tighten and the grip to crush that which lay beneath it. Small twitches caught her eye, entirely invisible if she hadn't already been staring at the man, and Nari felt a pang of pity as she realised what he must be struggling through.

Then, as if nothing had paused, he erupted. It had felt like an everlasting pause to reality as she'd stared at the man, her partner in this instance, and yet Nari realised that a mere breath of passing had occurred. The pause indiscernible from the otherwise flowing moment of time. Just as quickly gone in the roaring of fire and ember, as how quickly it had arrived. She found herself shaken, stepping backwards as everything seemed to rush back towards her, and she raised her spear - only to find the Treant admitting defeat, it's form falling inwards in defeat and seeming to become withdrawn. She watched, in further confusion and admiration, as Freyd gave it mercy, allowing it the possibility of continued survival and existence, before turning away from it and moving towards the city gates once more.

What turned to her, as if in bare remembrance of her existence, spoke with a voice that was unlike any she had heard previously. Nari felt a chill pass over her, and she was slow to respond - her own body frozen in place as she considered what had just occurred, and what it meant. By the time Freyd had passed through the gates themselves, Nari had only just begun to move, and she found herself rushing to catch up, her eyes clouded in thought and consideration, as if trying to piece together what she had witnessed. Blocks passed by as she followed Freyd's guidance, unaware of where they were and apparently uncaring. She wasn't sure how long they walked - whether their route was direct or meandering - but when she did speak, there was a softness to her tone, a hint of restraint and a tone of slight uncertainty. 

"This world has taken much from us...hasn't it? And what it gives back...what it gives back breaks us...leaves a shattering of what was, only to shatter that once more, doesn't it?" She made no mention of what she had seen. She was certain there was something underneath the robes that if she peered into too closely, she'd find a void so similar in kind that it would leave her doubting everything. Instead, she played alongside the edges of understanding, speaking about those things she preferred to ignore or leave untouched, all while realising that she could no longer avoid them. "Perhaps it's not the monsters we should be fearing..." 

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Freyd slowed his unrelenting march, mid-step, twisting and craning his head to look upon his companion. The gesture verged on the uncanny valley in its hyperextension.  

'She's a thinker,' he realized. 'How refreshing.'

"I suppose that really depends on who you consider to be the monsters."  It was a statement, not a counter.  Delivered without judgment or apparent prejudice, Freyd's unusual response clearly came from someone who went to great lengths to ensure he was normally difficult to gauge. The scene they'd just shared was rarer than most could ever realize. 

"You speak as if this world, and maybe the one before, have taken things from you.  If so, I'm sorry for whatever those might be."  His nature urged him to pry further.  It was his  manner to gather, investigate and discern, but was this the place or time?  What about permission?  How would one even obtain it, save to first ask the question - which she had invited through her own?  He'd likewise tipped his hand to a far greater degree than he would otherwise consider, especially for one he knew so little about.  Maybe... maybe by daring just a little more?  Appraisers loved to weigh the odds, and were gamblers at their core.

"Who were you before this world, Nari-not-Lanreth?  What rouses the awareness behind those doubts?"  As the questions parted his lips, Freyd wondered whether it was as simple as the role of tank and matching awareness of mortality's foils that went hand in hand.  'You never see PK tanks,' he realized as an odd aside, shuffling the thought aside for later consideration. Was this what insights were afforded to the daring and selfless, or was it the reverse?  Was it loss or fear of loss that pricked the senses to a wakened state?  If so, then why had he questioned himself for so long?  He was no tank, and certainly no hero, yet had found others turning to him to be both.  He was that very thing she warned about... wasn't he?  Or maybe he was the foil designed to keep them in check?

"I'm curious because this world, in its own alien strangeness, made me whole in a way the other never could.  I come here, like I did today, because its mobs remind me of people and why true monsters need to be kept at bay.  What were you looking for?  A quest?  Those are everywhere.  What brought you here?  Who are your monsters?"

Halting mere feet away from the palace door, they'd traversed most of the City already in their ponderous silence.  Now his curiosity was roused, and he dare not enter lest the quest distract from true importance.

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The sudden shift in momentum caught her off guard, as steps forward ceased motion and the body before her spun in an almost sinister, naturally defying manner to face her, Nari felt her heart rate rise. Adrenaline shot through her entire form as she felt her hands twitch; the motion reactive in nature in response to the sudden face she found herself before, it's eyes piercing through her in ways that she hadn't felt in quite some time. The question was simple, one which Nari herself had asked once or twice before. Who are the real monsters? She found herself, however, unable to answer it. She'd long ago forgotten who the real monsters were, what horrors lurked within shadow and light. 

She felt a sting as Freyd mentioned loss - providing condolences that were somehow both hurtful and more sincere than most others she'd heard. Faces flashed before her eyes, faces of those she'd known - and still knew, in some cases - but were lost to her forever. While some still lived on, Nari was aware enough to know when they were beyond her reach, as lost to her as those who had died. A bitterness filled her heart in response, a self-depreciating thought passing through and taking root even as Freyd continued speaking, his voice taking on a persistent route that Nari somehow knew they'd eventually reach. We walk together, blade at arm, and yet know so little about one another...

The laugh that escaped her was uncharacteristically sadistic, a tinge of horror and humour that seemed to echo like sounds from a scene designed to spook the very soul. When she spoke, her voice was soft, filled with an emotionless void that seemed to both repel and consume the words that escaped her lips, and her eyes had taken a hollow look that appeared far away from wherever she was currently. "No one who enters this world was anywhere pleasant before. We all had loss, whether we knew it or not...some reason for us to escape into a world that would seem so different from the one before. We knew we would find something here - heroics, stories, escape. But some of us...some of us brought the monsters in with us. Some of us were the monsters."

She'd been looking towards Freyd's hands as she spoke, her distant eyes clouded over in memory and thought. But as her voice paused, she suddenly looked up at the other player, her eyes sharpening and her voice clearing, taking on a much stronger tone. "Who was I before this game? I was a friend. A lover. A loner. I was a lifetaker and a horror to those who knew me. A plague upon memory and future. A monster who saw what she wanted, pulled it in close and lashed out when it was lost. Am I any better than those things we faced out there? How am I any better, when I can name atrocities I committed in the name of love, just as they do? I have no answer to that. All I know...all I care for, is protecting those I can. Call it redemption, clarity or some...quest. This world was my escape, and now I find myself trapped within it as I was without it, forced to fight against all that would harm me and mine once more. Perhaps I am the monster we speak of, or perhaps there is no such thing as monsters - simply those who act, and those who don't."

There was no anger in her voice. She'd long ago learnt to let go of the anger of what had happened. In it's place was a tired resolve, a note that suggested she'd do whatever she needed to do to survive, no matter the cost. And in doing so, she knew she'd ensure the survival of others -  a promise she had placed her life upon.

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Head twisting like a hound's trying to decipher a newfound scent, yet also a familiar one, Freyd listened carefully as the spoke her piece.  The echo of the hollowness within her resonated within his own heart.  He knew that void himself, all too well.  

"So, we're actually not that different after all."  Gone was the distended form and surreal demeanor.  He was but a man again, plain and utterly forgettable, as intended.  The plays and guises of an all-too-familiar skill receded into nothingness once more.  It came so easily when beckoned, now, than it even did before.  His face flashed a haunted look of familiarity with trauma, dealt with through anguish and suffering, yet also reflected that sameness like a mirror to Nari's own demons.  The same, yet not the same.  They were kin enough for his tastes.  There was always nuance to such things.

"Ahhh.  So that's why she was crying that night." His thoughts strayed to a near-forgotten memory even as he placed his emphasis, of NIGHT fleeing a tourney without explanation.  Another woman had been with her... familiar in so many ways.  He thought he'd seen the two of them together at the party - a tournament of some kind.  Such was his nature to watch where no one else did, after all, and the swordswoman who'd set him on his own path had always been especially coy and elusive.  Maybe it was a leap or guess at stray connections, but dropping the name in such a manner might shake loose other clues.  If nothing else, Nari's reactions could be telling, assuming she didn't just try to stab him.  Doing this in a safe zone had been more prudent than while they'd been outside the walls.

Freyd's slowly and casually crossed his arms before him, choosing to be deliberately disarming in his bearing.  This wasn't an interrogation.  In truth, he been concerned about the woman who might be called his doppelganger, or he hers.  Anything that could so deeply trouble her was worth investigating.  Nari was a curiosity herself, now that she had opened up.  Forming a threadbare connection between them hadn't been expected in the slightest.  Hadn't they fought in the tourney?

He should have been concerned and disturbed by the manner and substance of Nari's response; any sane person would have been, especially given her combination of fervor and detachment.  Except, he knew the headspace she described.  He'd lived there in solitude for countless years before ever entering this digital prison, and also afterwards.

"No one who enters this world was anywhere pleasant before."

'Truth, yet also not quite on the mark,' he thought to himself, his expression easing further in unexpected contrast to normalcy at such a declaration.  Such thoughts and experiences were far too familiar for him to recoil, which he realized was also telling about himself in this exchange.  A flash of memory at his younger hands wrapped around Kyle Breckenridge's throat and squeezing flashed before him, as did thoughts of his nemesis in a wheelchair afterwards.  Real world hands?  He wasn't so sure anymore.  And what did it matter once you were resolved to your fate?

"So," he replied with deliberate pause and surprising sympathy, his voice barely above the breeze, "you did know love."  Was it longing, admiration, or maybe simple envy in his tone?  She couldn't be sure, probably because he was uncertain himself.  "And you found purpose in your tragedy.  Good."  Pursing his lips and nodding as if settling an internal debate, he offered her a simple grudging smile, as if a chapter had suddenly been closed in an undisclosed volume of unspoken histories.

"Maybe the truth is that we are both monsters, and also both not, and that our choices will define how we are judged, judge ourselves, and judge each other.  What you describe does not frighten me.  I've seen that emptiness and lived it too.  Now, I wonder what the queen will have to say about her new prisoner..."  Fortunately for them both, he meant the treant.

And, with that, he pressed open the palace doors and entered.

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So, you did know love?Nari felt herself recoil at the words, her mind repeating them over and over again even as the flow of conversation reached a hiatus, and eventually end. She hadn't expected the revelation, the statement catching her entirely unaware and off guard. She wasn't sure what to make of it, and yet somehow she felt it was important. Perhaps not damning or judgemental in nature, but the way that the other player had stated it left her feeling as if she'd faced some test, some unknown review to determine her place. She wasn't sure whether she had passed, failed, or if it had been entirely irrelevant. More importantly, she wasn't sure what to make of the way in which Freyd seemed to come to a decision, and one that had left her entirely in the dark.

"Not frighten you...I wish I could hold your views on it..." She mumbled to herself, uncertain if the other player would even hear the words as he passed through the entryway and into the queen's domain once more. Nari was curious to see what the queen would have to say, although it took a moment for her to remember that she wasn't the prisoner in question, and that their capture lay from beyond the walls itself. Quietly she moved towards the inner keep, following Freyd in a more reserved manner than she had previously as she found her thoughts leading inwards. She wasn't sure what was to come of their decision to spare the Treant, but Nari knew one thing for sure. "I won't be the one who puts it down, if the queen decides to reject it."

As she approached the waiting queen and retinue - the young commander apparently having returned far faster than humanly - Elfenly? - possible from his task, Nari found herself casting a glance around the room. She would've been content with allowing Freyd to handle the negotiations, to allow him to discuss the decision they had made regarding the Treant and the overall end to their quest. Something in their faces, however, caused Nari to step forwards, a sudden burst of anger and frustration released as she spoke up. "We have chosen to spare the Treant's life, as prisoner of war it is under our protection and I will not suffer any who wish to bring it harm."

Defiantly she stared up towards the queen and her collection of Elfen brethren, realising again just how young they looked now that her eyes had been opened to the concept. She wondered if it was like this across Aincrad, things that she had missed that would now be so obvious. Shaking away the thoughts and feelings - a problem she would have to deal with later - she opened her ears and waited for the response she knew would be coming, her hand gripping the spear ever so slightly tighter in preparation as the shield rose millimetres at a time. She didn't look towards Freyd - she knew she wouldn't be able to stop him if he decided that her stance here was wrong and she needed to be removed, but she also knew that she wasn't going to remain quiet, not now.

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Watching an entire suite of emotions play out in the subtly shifting features of her face, Freyd's eyes held fast to neutral for reasons Nari would have no ability to know: he simply didn't know what expectations to play to in such situations, and so abandoned any and all pretense.  He was just trying to figure her out, and himself in turn.  Clearly, his words has struck some deeper chord.  Which?  How?  Strange how he so desperately yearned to know.  Maybe because he sensed that they were more alike than either of them could admit to the other.

"Not frighten you...I wish I could hold your views on it..."

Shadows like whispers and Whispers like shadows, feasting upon their utterings.  

"What prevents that?" The question was genuine.  Oddly, they all were, though it likely seemed to his questionees like they were being subjected to an inquisition of personal character.  Freyd knew his intensity could be offputting.  It spawned the goofier and more unorthodox aspects of his demeanor in order to generate and offset his own dichotomy.  His companion fell back a step, stranded amidst doubts.

"I won't be the one who puts it down, if the queen decides to reject it."

"Hrm.  Interesting that you would grant her the authority to decide."  It was merely an observation made as he slowed to stillness while Nari moved past to make her declaration.

"We have chosen to spare the Treant's life, as prisoner of war it is under our protection and I will not suffer any who wish to bring it harm."

Tiny traces of a smile crept across Freyd's face in admiration.  Whatever struggles burned within Nari, she was choosing to take the principled stance - drawing a moral line in the sand.  He approved, wholeheartedly, for whatever it was worth, offering the slightest nod to Haelia and Arun in the background to support Nari's declaration.  Should the NPCs wish to take offense or stand in opposition, they needed to know that both players stood united.  Nari's eyes bore forward, but she would recognize the sound of him slipping his hands into hidden pockets - a trademark tell Freyd often used to diffuse tension or signal his lack of opposition in a given situation. 

Though new as queen, and blessed with the immortal youth of elvenkind, Haelia was among the few remaining elders of her people.  A hint of tension flashed across her brow at Nari's statement, easing as her eyes momentarily darted behind the armored knight.  Freyd's eyes beamed back at her from beneath his cowl, daring her to do the right thing.

"Your actions were not those of an elf," Haelia began, "which was precisely why we needed you."  Arun suddenly seemed confused.

"Our people and passions have been too roused by years of blood and strife.  They could no longer make the choice you made.  We needed outsiders to take the stance and leap our hearts were too embroiled to permit.  Thank you both for proving our trust in you to be correct."  She offered the smallest of bows to them both, drawing gasps of awe and reverence from her retinue.  An elven queen deferred to no one in her own domain, and yet she just had.  A small elemental fire spirit hovering near Arun's shoulder flares, as if brooding and drawing in any ire to feed its ever-burning flames.  Freyd wondered how much influence such spirits had over their wielders, and whether or not their ambitions might have sparked this conflict in the first place.  The elves had always been a bit too proud of their magics.

"Thanks to the nobility of your deeds, we may finally have an opportunity to end this crippling conflict."

"But, your majesty," the commander interrupted impertinently, wilting just as quickly under the withering glare she gave him.  Even his flame familiar died down beneath her gaze.  Haelia had just demonstrated her worthiness as successor to the throne, at least in Freyd's mind.  "We just lost thirty men for this?!" he muttered incredulously.  

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She'd been prepared for a fight, her weapon and shield armed and ready at her sides. She'd glanced sideways once, noticing the affirming nod from Freyd. He'd remained quiet during her direct confrontation with the queen and retinue, but she had the overwhelming feeling that he somehow not only approved, but agreed with her decision - as if he'd planned on taking a similar ending to the quest. She doubted he would've taken her exact approach to it, but she'd seen from his nod that he clearly supported her actions - if only by necessity. 

It was, however, a surprise to Nari's ears when the queen spoke. She'd expected anger, frustration, perhaps a small amount of violence. What she received in return to her condemning - and likely treasonous had she been an Elf herself - words, was agreement. A determination that they were called upon because, the queen herself, had expected outsiders to do what the Elves would not, or could not do. A confirmation that the queen not only approved, but had somehow foreseen a merciful action from the players.

The outcome brought a single word of response from Nari's mind as she tried to process everything that had just occurred. Even as she spoke, the confusion clear upon her face, she had glanced towards Freyd, as if to seek affirmation that she wasn't imagining everything. "What?"

Whether her question went heard or not, an outburst from the young commander caught the queen's attention, pulling her eyes from the two players and onto the Elven man, until Nari was sure he would simply whittle away where he stood. She took the precious seconds to collect herself, before nodding slightly and pushing aside the doubt she'd felt - and still felt. "So, the Elves will seek treaty with the Treants then? If that...if that is the case, what further use can we be in developing a connection between the divide that has spread between the two of you?"

 "I do have another ask of you, should you be so willing as to assist." The queen's eyes had returned to Nari, and although the knightess had seen the Elves wither and kneel before it, she found it no more oppressing than a glance from any of the other people she had come across. She did, however, find herself listening intently as the queen's words continued, content to see how the situation would play out for herself - and possible for Freyd, as well. "The Treants do not trust us, Elves have rift apart any means of peace and connection over the time of this strife and war. Would we send an ambassador of Elven blood, it would likely be turned aside or killed on the spot, it's words falling on deaf ears. You who are uninvolved in the conflict may have a different opportunity. You are an outsider, one who has not been involved in the fighting and conflict that has claimed far too many. Were you to bring words of peace...perhaps they would listen to you, where they would ignore us."

Nari sensed a desperation in the words - as much a desire to find a peaceful resolution as a desire for the knightess to agree to the proposition. She shot a quick glance towards Freyd's form, trying to find some answer in the cowl that hid any sign of agreement or disagreement. Instead, she found herself wondering what he thought of all of this, and how he reacted to it. A problem for another time. She nodded her head slowly, speaking softly and slowly in answer to the unspoken question. "I do not promise success, but I will speak with these Treants, to see if they will at least halt the conflict enough to begin peace talks between your two kind."

She turned to look at Freyd, holding out a hand, the palm slightly upwards towards the sky. "While I have little to offer, I would enjoy if you would join me in such peace talks. It would be...well, it would be interesting to continue some of our earlier conversation. I feel as if there's much to talk about...and much that you could enlighten me to, given some-"

She stopped suddenly as she realised she wasn't entirely sure what to say. Something about Freyd had made her think that he had answers, perhaps not entire answers but something hinting towards answers, for some of the things she'd been trying to solve within herself. She saw as much wisdom in him as reservation and mask, and she knew that if nothing else he would offer her some knowledge that would assist in finding the answers she needed.

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Freyd stood behind Nari, looking relaxed with hands stuffed into his black hoodie-like top, legs spread wide for stabler stance.  He truthfully wouldn't know how to relax if he was required to do so, and was equally ready to spring into action, especially if Arun did something impulsively stupid.  Watching the plates of Nari's armor grind and shift against each other was like watching a coiled spring winding near the point where it would either be forced to release or break under its own stress.  Intensity was good, but this level and extent tended to carry some downsides.  Fortunately, the need never arose.

"What?"  

Freyd had to bite his lip to keep from snorting a little laugh, counting on the depths of his cowl to fulfill their duty and shelter his reaction.  Nari's boldness had played beautifully into the plan, and he was perfectly content to let the rest of things play out as they should.  His only remaining role was to eliminate the random elements that occasionally seek to ruin these moments.  Haelia seemed to have things better in hand, this time around - probably thanks to Nari making the Commander wet his slinky metal pants.  When his companion turned toward him, as if searching for guidance, he offered a simple affirmative nod.  Aside from things going as he'd already hoped, she'd proven principled and honorable - two rare traits in a chaotic work.  He had her back, and let her know it.

"I do not promise success, but I will speak with these Treants, to see if they will at least halt the conflict enough to begin peace talks between your two kind."  The queen seemed pleased, and Arun molified.  Despite his rash temperament, the lives lost earlier in the day were still fresh in his memories.  'Their families still hadn't been told,' Freyd surmised.  'That'll put a damper on the firebrand.'  Nari turned and extended a more formal offer than he'd expected.  The queen was turning to depart, but paused to witness the exchange.

"While I have little to offer, I would enjoy if you would join me in such peace talks. It would be...well, it would be interesting to continue some of our earlier conversation. I feel as if there's much to talk about...and much that you could enlighten me to, given some-"  Words faltered against something struggling within.  Haelia caught the queue and filled the void with the finer level of tact he'd come to expect from her.

"What say you, Daedhrog?  Will you assist a knight in need?"  She seemed pleased to present him with an opportunity he could ill afford to decline without losing face.  He saw the smirk barely concealed behind her practiced courtesan's mask.

"Of course, your majesty," Freyd replied, pulling back his cowl to reveal the same elongated ears as the rest of those gathered in the chamber, turning his focus solely upon Nari.  "It would be my pleasure."  Straightening his stance, legs suddenly tucked side by side, the Whisper dipped forward and offered her a formal bow, one worthy enough to have been given to the royal in the room, yet saved for her.  Haelia smiled and turned before her subjects could notice the unspoken exchange.  Having held his posture long enough for the Queen to depart, he rose again and made towards the exit.  "And I agree, that we have much of common interest left to talk about."

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As if to clear the confusion that had come across Nari's mind suddenly, the queen herself had stepped in and brought forth the words that Nari had stumbled over, directing them towards the cowl covered man with a familiarity that seemed uncommon to Nari's experience. She felt her gaze shift to the queen, an odd look on the woman's face. Nari would've sworn that a smile was being held back, if she didn't know better. She felt her eyes narrow in response, trying to figure out what made the queen so different from some of the other figures she'd come across in the past, before turning in response to Freyd's own words of acceptance.

Smiling slightly, she felt a measure of unease pass through her as she realised that his tone had changed. A formal manner had entered it that hadn't quite been there before, similar in general mannerisms, and yet somehow different. Her confusion was only accented as the cowl was pulled back and the face revealed, somehow far younger than Nari had been expecting. Her eyes ranged over it, passing by the dark hair that stood atop the head, moving over the ears and down to the small smile that played across his lips. He was far from what she had been picturing in her mind, and as she found herself facing the truth behind the cowl, she couldn't help but snicker slightly at the less than wise appearance-

"Hold up, you're an Elf?" The surprise had taken over her entire mind, and she found herself staring dumbfounded at the man before her, different in more ways than Nari had imagined. Her eyes had widened slightly in shock, and she found her head cocking to the left slightly, taking into consideration everything he had stated earlier. Things seemed to align, an awareness of the culture and people around her that had escaped previous notice. Slowly, shaking off the delirium as if waking from a deep sleep, she found her voice again. "That...explains a lot, actually. Surprising, still...but explains a lot. I feel like you and I are going to have some very, very interesting conversations going forwards..."

She turned suddenly, realising that they'd been dismissed from the presence of the court that made up the leadership of the Elves. Not wanting to stay due to the excitement of the questions bubbling at the edge of her tongue, Nari found herself stepping forwards to lead the way out of the courtroom and back into the city proper, turning to look back as she did so and speaking directly to the figure of Freyd. "I should warn you...those who have come to know me say that I talk a lot, especially once I've been...opened up, so to speak. I hope those ears of yours don't fall off from too many words. Nor your tongue lock itself in place, afeared to interrupt my own. You've revealed something of interest, and while I'm not entirely sure what I've seen...I know that it's likely not a secret handed out to every passing body. Consider my interest a repayment to that, however you care to look at it." 

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pixai-1715830112092037384-3.thumb.png.57531a6439de093b6a5d7ee226d96949.png"Hold up, you're an Elf?"

The resulting smile and laughter were more heartfelt than she would have expected.  Freyd found her reaction delightful.

"That...explains a lot, actually. Surprising, still...but explains a lot. I feel like you and I are going to have some very, very interesting conversations going forwards..."

Waiting until they were out of sight and earshot, he let his borrowed elfin traits recede to normal human length - as she had seen them at the gate earlier in the day.  The cowl returned to its customary resting place just as quickly to maintain the corresponding charade.

"I am an elf when I need to be an elf, and other things as circumstances dictate.  You've heard of the gemini, yes?  Many people spare theirs when it finds them, learning to hone their focus through its arts.  Mine and I did not get along so well.  Suffice it to say that I gleaned other lessons from it before it fell.  In some ways, I suppose, it wouldn't be far off to call myself some version of a changeling.  The elves call me Daedhrog - the Shadow Wolf.  It's a persona that let me get to know these people on a level most players don't even consider possible, or would never bother to invest enough effort into"

Strolling through the palace grounds and gardens, Freyd expressed his admiration for Nari's stand.  

"It was refreshing to see someone take such an impassioned view.  Too many of us just come here, take what we think this place and people have to offer, then move on.  It's a tale repeated nearly everywhere we've encountered in Aincrad thus far.  We're like locusts plaguing their world, and yet we need them - far more, in most ways, than they need us." Gesturing for her to take the lead, he followed politely a step behind.  He'd have to show Elora this look at some point in the future.  She'd probably get quite the kick out of it, what with her own default elfin appearance.

"You'd be surprised what mobs can know and remember.  Speaking of which, I believe we have a war we promised to end.  If you've decided that my mischief is worth tolerating, and worthy of further discussions, I look forward to hearing what you have to say along the way."

***

Vanity Tag: @Elora

Thread Closing:

Note: Treant was spared.

Nari receives:

7,699 EXP (Word Count [11,114/10*9*0.7] + Quest [700])
1,804 col (1 page [400] + Quest [250] + 15% P5 Reward [1154])

Unlocks <<Elvish Treaties>> Quest
1x Elven Fire (Consumable) Applies a T1 Burn Effect to a weapon for a single thread. This item has 3 charges and is destroyed on the third use. 

Freyd receives:

12,443 EXP (Word Count [11,114/10*16*0.7] + Quest [0])
1,866 col (1 page [0] + 15% P5 Reward [1866])
Unlocks <<Elvish Treaties>> Quest

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