The Need For Heros
Villa De Karkaldwin, Pryldahn, 1439 ATC
"I really fucking hate save the world situations..." Venser sighed gripping the scroll canister tightly and swearing to himself as he turned to go back to the dining room. Since he came to Pryldahn and into God Queen Y'vonne's service Venser, like Cicero, had been a mysterious and intriguing figure in the Royal Court and the public at large and many stories about him circulated, true and false alike. Tales of heroics, tales of erotic debauchery, and ridiculous negative rumors around the continent, across the Slender Sea, and all over the world of Laguna.
However, he was not from the world of Laguna to begin with, and the tale that traveled all throughout the continent was that of the mysterious and intriguing Venser awakening a flying cube shaped temple, bringing it down, and littering the land with exotic artifacts that captured the attention of the entire world.
After The Cataclysm the world had fallen into a dark age and the vast parts of the Kundalandian culture and advanced technology were forgotten. Their artifacts were highly coveted and were scarce, until the Falling Temple Incident, which brought about questions of the past and a long gone culture, and what other ancient slumbered underground, thus bringing Laguna into a new age.
From the Dark Age to the Age of Rebirth.
While some understood that circumstances were beyond his control, others placed the blame on him for throwing the world into disarray. Regardless, it was his responsibility to eliminate the threat of the Luektorem he had helped unleash upon the world. Sadly, that landed him in hostile territory.
He needed a team. There was a need for heros.
"So..." Venser sat at the head of the table surrounded by a few members of his family, sipping his green tea with honey. There was Madalina, Kari, Megumi, and Polina, despite the fact that Polina was the youngest and newest to his harem and had zero combat experience. She sat there rubbing the bracelet that used to belong to Nadine, strange green cracks were showing in the blue gem as Venser noticed. Megumi sat there with her tongue sticking out the side of her mouth. And Thorn was also sat at the table and had been there since everyone cleared out from breakfast. He blinked his acccursed serpent eyes. How did he not notice Thorn sitting at the end the entire time?
"So... What'd ya wanna say to us Massah?" Asked Megumi, looking at him with glazed o er eyes like a dumb dog would.
Thorn had been there for a good while, picking up on what was being discussed. Often she was overlooked, but she did often take in any information she could get. "So?" She blinked out of sync while glancing at those around the table. It did not feel right however, like she should not have been there. She only came to eat breakfast and then leave to go back to her work at the cheese stall in the market. "Oh! This is one of those private things isn't it?" She stood up fast, the chair beneath her scooting back and falling. "Hah! It's okay Venven, Thorn understands." She simply gave a sheepish grin, twitching some. "She will go! Maybe to work or make more cheese." With that, she made a swift exit, her tail grabbing the edge of the door and slamming it behind her.
A few moments later a topless, half elven slave girl with an oblong, ordinary face, dark eyes and dark curly hair entered with a tray with teacups and a pitcher of green tea. Silently she began to serve.
"Thank you, Rola." Madalina commented reaching a muscled arm out to grasp the cup by its side and taking her tea without honey immediately as the door opened again and another topless servant girl entered the room with a tray of small pastries.
"Oh, are those lemon cakes?"
Polina's light brown eyes admired Madalina's muscles and despite her slenderness and that she was taller and broader at the shoulder still retained feminine beauty. She watched Megumi the big pink anthro dog lap at her tea and was intrigued by her prescence, they had spoken before and the young painter inquired about her origin, but Megumi changed the story every time. Kari was silent, humming to herself and sliding her mug back and forth to herself, occasinally munching on a time lemon cake. Polina compared the two white haired women at the table. Kari looked more delicate and ladylike and Madalina was stronger and more manish.
"Everyone is so fascinating." Polina thought. Her green tea and honey was remarkably soothing, flowing down her throat quicker than a pouring waterfall and tingling the itchy feeling that began to pester her, sensing uneasiness with the awkward silence.
Sedna followed one of the many topless Elven servants through the halls of the great farmhouse, her light footsteps barely making a whisper on the luxurious rugs and carpets scattered throughout the home. The servant led her to the door of the dining room and gestured for her to go inside, barely waiting for Sedna's nod of thanks to turn on her heel and return to her duties. Sedna opened the door and stepped inside, feeling multiple gazes settle upon her, feeling ashamed at her appearance. She had been unwell lately, the stress from her daughter Elanaea's sudden phase of clinginess had only prolonged her illness and she appeared quite gaunt, her milk-white skin almost transparent from illness. Her waist length hair, normally styled beautifully, now hung behind her in a low ponytail to deter Elanaea from grabbing it, the individual strands of hair seeming brittle and damaged. Her gleaming cobalt eyes had lost their shine and the delicate skin beneath them was a dark purple, her exhaustion clearly evident. Her slim frame, now even more slim, the belt on the heavy dark green robe she wore cinched tighter than the tightest corset. She cleared her throat softly and turned to Venser, clasping her hands in front of her. "Venser, love. Forgive my appearance, I was not told that we would have an audience, just that you wanted to speak with me. How may I help?" Her voice, usually so melodic and sweet, now a rustle of dry reeds. Looking at her, one could almost hear the horns of the Underworld, bidding her to join them in eternity.
The Man of The House adjusted his chair slightly to the side and looked to Sedna, blinking a few times, noting how rough she looked. Had Elanaea kept her up? Well it was a good thing Sanna and a few other of the servants were currently looking after the children, if only for a few minutes of peace. Kari, Polina, and Madalina all wore expensive furs, greatly accepted as not only did the furs spell luxury but also comfort in the middle of winter. "Hey Sedna, yes, sit. Did you get breakfast?" He asked. The pale, doll like blonde girl with icy blue ices sipped her tea gently and waved at Sedna.
"Hey Sweetie, did you get enough sleep last night?" Kari asked, concerned for her husband.
"Oh uh, I can get you some tea if you like if it will help!" Venser's newest lover, Polina, was a niave newcomer and was an attractive girl, slim and short of stature, with fair complextion, brown eyes, dark hair, pretty white teeth, and wore comfortable, expensive furs just like all the other women currently sitting there. Sans Megumi who only wore a loose sweater, having fur of her own and all. The short girl was quick to pour her a cup. "Do you want honey or anything in it?"
At Venser's direction, Sedna bobbed lightly and took the closest seat at the table, next to one of the new wives, Polina, she thought her name was. She dodged Venser's mention of breakfast by addressing Kari's question. "My daughter Elanaea, she has become quite attatched to me. She won't let anyone hold her or feed her and she screams the house down if I leave her unattended. I'd hoped to rest when she did, but I was told this meeting is important." Polina had poured her a cup of the green tea before she'd had a chance to accept it, the fragrant steam carrying exotic scents up to her nose. She wrapped her hands around the cup, warming them and turned to Polina to offer a smile. "Thank you, Polina. I'll admit, I rarely drink green tea, the flavour has an odd after-taste. But if you reccomend adding honey, I'll try it."
So... What are we going to discuss?" Asked Polina finally, sitting up straight in her chair.
"That seal on the scroll looks official." Kari commented, frowning knowing exactly what the document was. A summon.
"So..." Venser sucked in his breath and tapped the scroll case in his hand, looking at the blackwood cylinder with iron fittings, the hydra of House De Seraphim displayed prominently on the front.
"We need to put together a team." He splayed out the map of the known continent, and the southern swamp land of Jalerno. "The Queen's Hand, Cicero came to me and told me I have to deal with this before all the other armies mobilize. What we are facing here..."
Venser paused again and looked at his animated, porcelain hand, wiggling his fingers and recalling the hoards of bone like beings rushing at him, bone and metal flying through the air. "Well this isn't exactly going to be a one person job. We need fighters, healers, we need help. And for the good of the continent..."
Everyone looked concern as Venser trailed off again.
... And for the good of the continent, assemble a team to take revenge on those metal bone creatures we heard about...?" Polina asked, blinking. She had zero combat experience but nevertheless it sounded exciting.
"The Luektorem. Monsters of metal and porcelain." Madalina said bluntly as a silence fell over the dining room for several long moments, even Megumi shut her maw, blinking a few times and looking around at everyone.
During the silence the anthro dog reached out with a large, salmon colored paw and grabbed a lemon cake from the tray near the center of the table. Somehow. Bringing it up to her mouth and eating it noisily.
A loud slamming of the door which Thorn had exited through earlier opened once again, with the demoness entering the room once again. Her nostrils flared at the scent of the lemon cakes, of course. "Hey! Sorry to be a bother, but Thorn just wants to pinch one." Approaching the table, she squeezed in between where Sedna and Polina were sitting. Her hands touched both of their shoulders as she shimmed in the small gap between their two chairs. "Oh! Look, soft furs!" Thorn knew Venser did give each of his wives an expensive fur coat. Mismatched hues blinked out of sync, before her attention went on to those lemon cakes on the table, along with the tea and water. "Let Thorn just..-" She reached over and grabbed one, bringing it to her mouth and barely chewed, swallowing it down with her tongue poking out the side of her mouth. "Fra-.. Frick-frack!" One of those random ticks, but clearly of excitement. Even if it meant just staying for some of the snacks, it was worth the interruption. Meanwhile, she remained stood between the two women, absentmindedly using either hand to stroke their fur coats.
The hair on the back of Sedna's neck bristled at Kari's words. "Of course I want her to be more independent, Kari. Regardless of age, toddlers can be clingy and that's what she's demonstrating. She's just going through a phase." She took the pot of honey Polina offered her with a soft smile and stirred the honey covered spoon into her tea, listening as Venser spoke about the team. She, like the others, felt the chilling silence as the reality of the situation became evident. "Do we know if the Luektorem have any vulnerabilities or weaknesses?" Her train of thought was interrupted by Thorn's sudden appearance in the dining room, barely having time to blink before Thorn had shimmied between Sedna and Polina and grabbed a lemon cake.
Everyone now turned their attention to Thorn. "Oowee!" Exclaimed Megumi again. "Does anyone else want any lemon cakes before Thorn takes them all?" Venser asked dryly. "I'd love another one." Polina said with a smile reaching out to take one. "I'll have one more as well." Kari said reaching out for one more before letting the kooky pink haired demoness have the rest.
The tired looking Man of The House sighed and squinted his eyes a bit, not going on until Thorn left. "I mean I think there was more in the kitchen..."
Thorn waved to those around the table once they noticed her. She smiles and cackled only slightly beneath her breath. Somewhere between a chuckle, and a manic snigger. She had caught a bit of the conversation but not enough for her to put together to have a valued input. Weather she could or not would be the real task. Her eyes watched each one who took a lemon cake, but had noted how tired Venser appeared. "Venven looks exhausted!" She would have said more, but before even she could notice what she was doing, her hands were grabbing both ends of the tray on the table which had the rest of the lemon cakes on them, along with a few cups of ready made green tea. Thorn had been eating a lot recently, but it never seemed to go anywhere. She was like a pig with hollow legs. "Has he been up late again?" Meanwhile, while she spoke she had shimmed out between the chairs of Sedna and Polina, she took the tray with her, passing an annoyed looking Venser while he mentioned there would be more cake in the kitchen. "Thorn already had those! Why does he think she is in here?" It was true, while she was gone for those few minutes, she had already eaten the rest of the cakes which were for the meeting, fresh bread that had just come out of the oven, and the list continued. "Should have seen their faces!" It was amusing to her at least, perhaps so much for the servants and slaves. With that, she practically stolen the tray, backing out of the room with a fixed, wide eyed expression on those at the table, grasping the tray tightly.
Sedna shuffled her chair slightly further away to give Thorn enough space to carry the tray of cakes and tea out. Thorn's forthrightness and daring personality was a breath of fresh air. Sedna resolved to make fast friends with her, she believed they would enjoy each other's company immensely. Thorn's comment about having already raided the kitchens for lemon cakes and other treats made her smile with genuine amusement and she waited until Thorn had exited the room before speaking. "She's certainly a card. Never a dull moment around her, that's for sure."
Venser, having to travel for work and usually gone for certain stretches of time had been completely absent the other day. There were bags beneath his eyes and his face was neutral, bordering on frowning. "You know those lemon cakes are not unlimited right? All of them?" When Thorn backed out of the dining room wide eyed with fresh last of the cakes Venser muttered to himself and waved his left hand. His mark flashed greenish white and he closed the doors with a light gust of magical wind. He noted to himself he would have to go out and collect more resources, the man of the house didn't even think to go check the storage to see if the house was low on supplies. It was winter, and it would be more difficult and expensive for more food.
Venser turned around in his chair, smile and nodded. "Yes Thorn is very kooky." He said as Kari nodded too and crossed her arms. "Reminds me of someone..." The two smirked at each other before going on with the conversation at hand.
The mention of weaknesses had gone forgotten right now as Polina pipped up again. What about the armies of Pryldahn, Vorland and the other surrounding countries?"
Kari cleared her throat and straightened up in her chair, clasping her hands together as she spoke.
"Vorland is on the defense, I'm sure Ayalia is too as you know they are always more interested in protecting than attacking more more anything. And Protectors like myself and mercenaries deal with threats that are much or too far for the guard and army to sort out. Things that could well spiral out of control if not nipped in the bud before they are allowed to grow."
"Which is exactly what we've been talked with by Cicero's right hand man." Venser said with a sigh unscrewing the scroll canister and removing the map of the southern part of the continent, mumbling to himself. He sighed again and pushed the map in the center of the table, pulling the tray of lemon cakes to himself. "Eh..." He would have preferred a butter roll right now.
Upon the map in the southeastern country of Jalerno, a small circle with an X through it was marked in bright red ink and read, "Luektorem Sphere." Everyone but Polina seemed to have an understanding of the geography they were looking at, as her bright brown eyes began to scan the rest of the map. She didn't only much about Jalerno other than its people were very strange. Then again, someone who had never been as far as fifty miles away from home anywhere else felt strange.
"We journey into a swamp and destroy a giant nest shaped like a big white marble and... Nip things in the bud before the Luektorem spreads." He said.
"Ooooweeee Jalerno!" Pipped Megumi. "Konnichiwa! Domo arigato sammich hancho! Mondai armigen nihongo o setsumei shite kudasai!""
Sedna rose from her chair and leaned onto the table to study the offered map. She, like Polina, was unfamiliar with the highlighted part of the map, though she was able to grasp the requirements for the journey. "Is there any information about how the Luektorem fight? Attack and defence strategies? Fighting in a swamp is distasteful enough, without worrying about creatures tunnelling under our feet." She paused and straightened, tapping her fingers on her bottom lip. There was much to consider. "What else is known about the Luektorem? Is it a coincidence they've nested in Jalerno?"
"They seemed to be like bugs, like a hive mind. Doulocel seemed to be their leader, and I'm sure I'd we kill him, her, it, whatever then their command structure will collapse. The rest will be easy to mop up. Especially since I'm sure they are few in number now. And when... Faced them they all just rushed at us at once."
"Like a wave!" Polina interjected.
"So you said they are made of metal and bone? Like entirely? What can you do against that? These guys are like undead right?"
"Pretty much. Just covered in metal and... A bone shell." He said quietly, wincing at the memory of the Luektorem Keep, it's inner foundry, the corpses of the fallen soldiers being stripped of their flesh and meat, their bones being crushed and ground down into fine dust to be remoulded into armor for the living soldiers waiting to be assimilated. Venser briefly spaced out at the memory of the Luektorem experimenting on those still alive while they were awake. Entombed in slots in the walls to be cut, prodded, and suffered in pain in horror. A dark fate that nearly befell him, his prosthetic hand forever a reminder.
And Nadine, they wanted the knowledge inside her brain. What happened to her? Did she die in the spellbomb explosion? His tense stare was only brief as he tried to give them all a soft, warm smile.
"Good thing you have me." Kari said again holding her palms up, magic front swirling withing her hands. "Metal becomes brittle when exposed to cold. Tightly closed vessels full of liquid can and will rupture or shatter when they freeze."
"Magic hands... And a magic mouth." Venser said to the blonde cryomancer, letting out a low seductive growl and was replied with a flirty wink and a wider smile.
"So, they can rush in and can dish it out but can't take it." Madalina said.
Venser nodded his head and sighed again. "Yes yes to all of that... They were once people... Converted and brainwashed into those things. Some of them still have fleshed exposed, so those would be the weak points."
"Destroy the flesh parts, the Luektorem dies." Madalina confirmed.
"Oh this is going to be epic!" Polina exclaimed again.
Venser felt uncomfortable letting the young painter turned amateur illusionist come with them. She had never been in a fight. It was dangerous. She had never even been outside the countries borders before. The strongest of them, Madalina took notice of Venser's discomfort at her excitement and cleared her throat.
"I don't mean to be rude... But why is Polina joining us?" The warrior woman asked.
"I'm Venser's chronicler!" The young painter girl chirped and held up her arms, showing them the silver bracelet with the sapphire in the center. It had the faintest green crack in it as it began to glow. "He gave me this and I'm learning how to cast illusions so I can record all of our history and epic tales!"
"No... It's just where they happened to crash. Apparently there are reports of a giant marble like structure similar to the cube... So I assume was just a small... Escape... Ship that was embedded somewhere in there..." Venser stumbled over his words and made strange hand gestures, reaching to pour himself a bigger cup of tea. He slapped the table a few times and pointed to Polina. "And illusions can help in any combat situation."
"When do you expect to leave? Surely within the next few days." Sedna's mind whirled as she considered the necessary items for the journey. Tents and camping equipment, pots and pans for cooking, medical supplies, twine and ropes of various materials, boot and shoe repair kits, tinderboxes and strikers for making fires, soap for washing themselves and their clothes, ammunition for weapons, dried and preserved rations. So lost in thought was she, that she missed the open flirting between Venser and Kari.
"The Lord Protector... The elusive Cicero gave us until the end of the month, New Years." Venser said with a sigh leaning back with his cup of tea, staring into the cup. "Yes, this is how normally big threats are dealt with. The armies usually dig in and wait to attack. Most of us are protectors, not attackers." Kari commented, and Madalina nodded knowing her position as bodyguard demanded just that.
"Why New Years?" Polina asked, and Venser gave a small shrug while he sat at the head of the table. "I've no idea. But this is a massive task he wants done, with not even a legion or a battalion..." He wondered if Cicero himself was even going. Rumor has it that ancient vampire neutralized countless threats in the past but what, was the Luektorem too big for him? This entire scenario required so much thought it was beginning to give the man a headache, causing him to take a long, heavy swig.
"A month... I'll go scout out the location, the swamps... Yeah."
Venser didn't even ask Cicero about resources. He had to go up to Castle De Seraphim and have an audience with his dear friend. And ask for any artifacts that would help them, empower them.
"Maybe it's because of all the festivals and celebrations everyone will be distracted? Yeah I'm pretty sure! And at the end of it we'll be heros and celebrated too!" Polina was actually getting excited at the prospect of painting all of their awesome moments, learning how to sculpt statues. Immortalized.
Sedna had resumed her seat shortly after Venser started speaking and she remained quiet after he had finished. Her exhaustion had caught up to her and she was no longer in the mood for socialising. "A month, then. I will be ready when you give the word, Venser. Have we covered all the pertinent topics?"
Everyone looked to Venser who just starts info his mug, awaiting an answer. "I think we have." He said simply, and uncharacteristically in a calm and somber fashion. The last few days had not been kind to the man of the house.
Sedna nodded and rose from her seat, clasping them in front of her. "If there is nothing else, I must take my leave. I need to rest if I am to be in good shape for the advance on Jalerno. Please let me know if I can be of any other assistance" She directed her words to Venser before looking between the women around her. "It was lovely to see you again ladies, I hope to see more of you once I'm well again."
A few of the women nodded and smiled at her. "Yes, I'm sure Elanaea is off playing with the twins and her siblings in the family room." Venser said with a sigh as he relaxed back in his seats. "We'll join you in a few minutes." Some of them got up to leave while Venser sat staring forward.
"Are you okay, sweetie?" Kari asked.
"Yeah just thinking... What should we all do today since I'm home?" Venser asked with a shrug looking around the table before the excited young artist spoke first.
"Hmmm... Think of names for our team? Ooh! How about the Knights of Ven? Or..."