[spoiler]He is a typical Human of small build, though he manages to mitigate this somewhat with a stern posture, his chest puffed slightly, and perhaps self-conciously. His aggressive stance can't hide the fact that his body is more lithe than muscular, his long limbs more graceful than strong. Even so, his arms and legs are beginning to show signs of musculature, chiseled from hours and days in the training yard. An unruly mop of black hair almost completely obscures his eyes, but every now and then they peek through, revealing slate grey irises, and a gaze that is at once defiant and genuinely amused. His lips almost constantly curl up into an amused-yet-petulant grin, revealing slate-white, slightly crooked teeth, as if he is considering a private joke at the world's expense. His complexion is fair, unmarked by much time in the sun, off-setting his raven hair remarkably.
(worn on the legs) : black leather soldier's pants
(covering the body) : black Carnifex plate with menacing spikes
(covering the torso) : a Carnifex recruit's black leather shirt
(covering the body) : a Carnifex's side-buttoning black wool longcoat
[spoiler]She is a powerful Imp and is a slender, shadowy woman. Her skin is drawn and dark, with auburn curls tumbling around her shoulders. Crimson horns networked in black lines sprout from her forehead, a lithe tail twists behind her and a pair of wings extends out from her shoulder blades, cloaked in a murky miasma. The bronze skin around her throat and face appears to be chipped and shattered away in fractalized chunks, like jigsaw pieces removed from a puzzle, while the rest of her body is a thick coagulation of solid shadows, tangible and real, but with a fluid quality, like roiling, inky darkness. From all of this, her bright, luminous amber eyes peer forth, stubbornly smouldering amidst the hold the shadows have on her body, although a hair-fine thread of darkness snakes through one eye, creeping across the glowing iris. She walks with the blessing of Severn.
(clinging to the darkness at her throat) : an entwined charm of a serpent and centipede
(inked into the broken skin below her ear) : a black-inked tattoo of a pair of crossed fists
(sturdy and practical) : black leather pants
(worn tight on the torso) : a fighter's black leather shirt
(worn with pride) : a tabard of the Shadow Keep
(hanging from a chain around her neck) : a starstone engagement ring wreathed in roses
(hanging from a chain around her neck) : a ring of the arts
(set at a rakish cant) : a pair of Impish horns
(hanging from a chain around her neck) : a ring engraved with the Seirath crest
(sturdy and utilitarian) : a pair of boots
(molded to her shadowy arm) : a steel arm webbed in living soulstone
Cannan tells you, "I do believe I'm ready for my postulant interview, Commander."
You tell Cannan, "Excellent. Give me a few minutes."
You tell Cannan, "Right, Cohort. Report to the Keep. I am ready."
Cannan tells you, "I am here, Commander."
A shadowy training yard. (Shadow Keep.)
A four-legged beast from hell stands here. There are 5 tall, gaunt Nazetu knights here. A sigil in the shape of a small, rectangular monolith is on the ground. Suspended midair, an immense, multi-faceted soulstone is here, pulsating blue motes skittering beneath its surface. Protected from head to toe by tattered armor, Wraithlord Gruxmal looms here. There are 5 swarthy Goblin knights here. An iron cauldron is here upon three clawed feet. Cannan is here. He wields a bloodied humanoid leg in his left hand and a bloodied humanoid leg in his right. A murky darkness has settled in here.
Cannan gives you a respectful salute.
Fixing himself in a disciplined position, Cannan stands sharply at attention.
You have emoted: Moirean's stare drifts to your weapons of choice, eyebrows raising, but she makes no comment. Instead she jerks her head in clear indication for you to follow, before turning on her heel and striding out to the south.
Cannan clears his throat and stuffs the stray limbs in his pack, wielding his bardiche instead, hastily. He falls in line, trying to keep his breathing under control.
Cannan follows you to the up.
Parapets above the gate. (Shadow Keep.)
Ringing the Shadow Keep in a wide circle of stone, the outer curtain wall meets the gate here in a widening of the parapets, giving defenders a central area to gather during battle. The thick stone ramparts surrounding the fortress slope steeply up to meet this walkway, jutting abruptly outwards in an easily-defensible overhang. Embrasures piece the crenallated fortifications to give both archers and seige weaponry advantageous aim at any approaching the mountain top, while ensuring near-total protection from assault from below. A covered gatehouse sits over the Keep's massive entry, well-sealed against the elements, lit by torches and warmed by large braziers, promising a brief respite to guards patrolling the walls, although slots in the stone floor hint at a more lethal purpose for the structure: murder-holes, should the outer gate ever be breached, provide an additional, brutal layer of defence. Piles of rubble have been neatly stacked beside the slits, while iron supports over the braziers are clearly designed to hold kettles of oil are they are heated to deadly temperatures. A staircase winds upwards from here, hugging the gatehouse roof for cover as it leads upwards to the Keep's watchtower. A weapons rack of metal hounds is here, blades held firmly in iron snarls. A sigil in the shape of a small, rectangular monolith is on the ground. Cannan is here. He wields a brutal, jagged bardiche of the Carnifex in his hands. A murky darkness has settled in here.
You see exits leading up and down.
You have emoted: Still silent, Moirean leads you up above the main gates, ascending a narrow stone staircase above the walls of the Keep. The creak of leather, the tramp of her boots over snow, soft exhalations, a distant cry of a hawk - there's little noise as the two of you climb, leaving you alone with your thoughts.
Cannan follows you to the up.
Widowmaker's walk. (Shadow Keep.)
A narrow, sheltered stair opens up onto this exposed ledge, wrapping around the watchtower of the Keep in a precarious, windswept walkway. The view here is unparalleled, letting sentries see for miles: the chilly tundra is visible to the north, bordered by the dark, icy sea, with even Asper visible on a clear day, while the Spires of Spinesreach rise from the eastern horizon. To the south, the leafy boughs of the forests dominate the view, pierced in the distance by the burgeoning bulk of the Great Rock, and the west is filled with the sight of what remains of Ashtan. From this height, the destruction is painfully visible, the Bay of Balaton choked with ashes and rubble, while ominous clouds, shot through with sporadic crackles of lightning, overhang the ruins. The walkway itself has been carved from stone to form a guardrail around the entire tower; designed in macabre mockery of a manor's widow's walk, the balustrade features scenes of Carnifex engaged in gory, violent slaughter, features twisted in savage bloodthirst. Bordered by this balcony, the watchtower itself is a lonely, cold room, barely large enough to house a handful of trolls - a large fire fills its center, but the flames are a cold comfort. Burning with an eerie blue light, they seem to be fed by shards of a strange, faceted, dark stone, and a soft, almost-unheard wail interweaves with the pyre's crackles and hisses. Leaded glass windows enclose the small chamber, but the wind finds its way in through every chink and crack possible; the flames waver and twist with each gust, creating strange glimpses of half-formed faces and half-seen struggles in the depths of their azure glow. Its pearly exterior bathing in the icy light, an immense warhorn is fixed to the floor of the watchtower, allowing sentries to sound an alarm to alert the Keep if approaching enemies are spotted. Its pearly surface awash in icy blue light, a massive warhorn is fixed to the ground here. A sigil in the shape of a small, rectangular monolith is on the ground. A rack stands here, savage lines presenting armor in a brutal display. Cannan is here. He wields a brutal, jagged bardiche of the Carnifex in his hands. A murky darkness has settled in here.
You see a single exit leading down.
You have emoted: Finally, the two of you reach the top of the tall tower, and the land falls away before you, spreading out in a stunning, sweeping view of wide plains and distant forests, far off hints of the Spirean spires and slices of highway cutting through overgrown wilderness. Moirean is breathing a bit more quickly from the effort, her cheeks flushed from the cold, and she lifts her stone-and-steel hand in an attempt to tame her curls as the wind wildly tosses them about. "Get warm," she finally says, nodding towards the small shelter in the center of the overlook.
Cannan wrinkles his nose and sniffs, clenching his jaw to brace against the cold, his fingers already turning red from the wind. He nods, once, and quickly walks over to the fire, standing as close as he dares. The wind tosses his hair away from his eyes, revealing their gaze as he looks out over the walkway. "Keep may be colder than a witch's tit, Commander, but you don't lack for good views up here, do you?"
You have emoted: Moirean crowds into the small watch house after you, stamping her boots to shake off the snow. Patiently - although there is a crisp, cold note to her voice - she asks, "Why do you think we have such "pretty" views, recruit?" She lingers on the word 'pretty' and draws it out into an almost disdainful sneer.
Cannan blinks in surprise, but purses his lips and runs his tongue over his teeth in thought. Gazing out over the parapet once more, he motions with his bardiche. "I assume it's to be able to see any attackers coming for miles, Commander. One can't hide when your enemies can see all the way to the Bay, innit?"
You have emoted: Moirean gives a curt nod of approval. "Good," she allows, crossing her arms over her chest. She steps in a bit closer to the brazier in the center of the room, pulling her coat in tighter around her, and nods towards the windows. "And what is it you see?" she prompts.
"I see..." Cannan pauses, staring. His gaze softens a bit, even as he begins to tear up from the cold. "I see what used to be Asthan. The absolute destruction of an entire city. Stones that took years to lay and centuries to form laid low. A reminder that entropy tends to win in the end?"
You have emoted: Moirean nods towards another window and repeats, "What do you see?" The fire flickers as a gust of wind blows across the tower, flames dancing in an eerie blue glow to leave the woman's form only partially-lit and obscured by shifting shadows, while the view outside becomes brighter and clearer, highlighted by the room's dim light.
Cannan turns to the window and sets the shaft of his bardiche to the ground. He takes a deep breath and straightens his posture slightly. "Out there," he points, "I see the City of Spires, rising above the tundras of the north. Cold, unmoving." He smirks, but the expression is free of mockery. "Silently, effortlessly dominant."
You have emoted: Moirean indicates another window with a sharp nod. "What do you see?" she repeats, her voice cutting through the wail of the wind howling around the tower.
"Miles and miles of miles and miles," Cannan says simply. "The Ithmia, the Great Rock, and all the leagues that lay beyond it. My eyes aren't sharp, perhaps, but it looks quite empty. Defenseless."
You have emoted: Moirean nods again and sweeps her hand out to encompass the Keep laid out beneath you. From this vantage, the square layout of the fortress is clear, each tower rising to stab at the cold, grey sky. "And what do you see?" she asks, an eyebrow raising.
Cannan leans forward, using his bardiche to balance. Again the wind whips at his hair and tugs at his coat. "Well this one's a bit more complex, innit? A bastion against the entropy that stole Asthan? A fortress laid out for the protection of the maidenhood of the Reach? Or..." he grins, showing his crooked teeth. "A staging point for southern conquest."
You have emoted: Now, Moirean turns to face you directly. Her heatlit eyes smoulder with a dull glow as she stares at you and she gestures to the brazier in the center of the chamber, its blue flames burning over glassy stones. Your own reflection wavers in that flickering fire, glinting back at you from the shards of stone. She's quiet for a moment as a rising wind howls past the tower, before voice low, she finally asks, "What do you see?"
Cannan stares into the flames silently for a long time, his eyes tracing over the distorted image of his own face. He looks at the ridges of muscle that have formed on his neck, the new thickness of his shoulders, and the jaw that sits a bit more squarely than it used to. He snorts and lowers his eyes. "A boy trying to be a man for once in his life." He rolls his tongue in his mouth thoughtfully. "And one who can at least swing a hammer with some dignity after far too many hours of training."
You have emoted: "Do you see a Carnifex?" Moirean asks, tone cold and quiet.
Cannan looks up again, and this time straightens his shoulders, hefting his bardiche to battle-ready stance. "Aye, Commander. Through and through." His voice rings out stronger, and he turns to you once more, standing at attention.
You have emoted: Moirean regards your stance, her stare lingering on your frame: the callouses growing on your hands, the newly developed muscle, the craggier, weathered lines on your face, the ease with which you hold the polearm. Her chin lifts. "Why?" she challenges.
Cannan grins widely, and somewhat feraly. "Because of the endless hours I've spent heaving in the dirt on the training floor. Because of my absolute dedication, even to death, for the Carnifex's cause. And an absolute, unbridled joy in swinging this thing-" At this, he hefts his bardiche in indication. "-until it's completely covered in the gore of my enemies. There is nothing more pleasing than the feeling of souls to fill that pit in my chest, except for perhaps the taste of hard liquor afterwards."
You have emoted: Moirean folds her arms over her chest and presses, "And what is our cause?" She pauses, and gives a cold smile, asking, "What do you see that to be?"
"Pure domination!" Cannan responds almost immediately. "We excise weakness and crush complacency. Last month, I drank myself to the point of near-death for a bet, recovered, tapped a lesser and then slaughtered a whole village of dwarves in celebration of my victory!"
Cannan says, "We trample the weak, hurdle the dead."
You have emoted: "Why?" Moirean curtly demands, her voice cutting through your enthusiastic reply.
Cannan leaves his mouth open for a moment, shocked into silence. He recovers quickly, however. "Because to be weak means to end up buried under a pile of pretty rubble." He motions with a nod towards the ruins of Ashtan. "Survival is only yours if you have the will to crush the thing that seeks to destroy you, wot?" He falls silent, thinking for a moment. "If you don't survive, if you don't dominate, it's because you were too weak to begin with. Strength is survival."
You have emoted: Moirean's head inclines a slight fraction, a hint of approval in her expression. "But why slaughter villages?" she asks quietly. "Why crush the weak?"
Cannan reaches down to brush his fingers along the shard of stone embedded into his body. "Their pain is our power, innit?" he tilts his head and looks into your eyes, as if just realizing the truth of the statement as he says it. "We didn't make the world the way it is, but it IS this way." He grips his bardiche once more. "When we cull the weak, the land grows stronger as a whole. We don't need no dead fuckin weight. We're making the world BETTER. This keep wasn't built on frail backs."
You have emoted: Moirean gives a chilly smile and another, firmer, nod. "It was not," she agrees. She gives you a heartbeat to savor the approval, before her eyebrow raises, and she insists, "So what will you do, now?" She takes a step closer to you - backlit by the fire, her shadow looms before her, stretching towards you, taller than a Troll, and her eyes glint out from the darkness. Her voice is very soft, almost gentle, as she suggests, "Make jokes and loudly brag about the few, paltry victories you've managed? Crow that you can lift a warhammer like it's an achievement? Drink yourself into a stupor, night after night? Let that idiot Luminary continue to best you in battle?" She's nearly upon you now, the light from the flames somehow - somehow - lending her slight form a heavy weight and odd, distorted proportions. Voice almost a whisper, she demands, "What will you do, now?"
Cannan's face drops and in spite of himself, he takes a single step back, his steel-plated boots clicking on the stone floor. He takes a deep breath and regains a small amount of composure, his grip tightening on the handle of his weapon. "Continue to heave in the dirt." He says with no affectation. "My first goal is to fight that smartass bloodsucker Canasius to a stand still. I've got a dog to train to be a little more than worthless. And then Plato's head is mine. I'll drink to his death with one foot on his caved-in chest."
You have emoted: Moirean stares up at you, eyes narrowing. Steel-strong, she sharply commands, "Tell me one reason why I should believe this. Tell me one thing, just one, to convince me you are worth my time and this Keep's training. You wanted power, you told me, but all I've seen is a flippant attitude and a boy dripping in weakness, shielded in speeches. So, tell me just one reason why these aren't simply more pretty words. Tell me my why it's action. Tell me why it's strength." She leans in close and jerks her chin up to derisively snarl, "And make it good. Convince me that I shouldn't just throw you off this tower right now and save myself future trouble."
Cannan raises his eyebrows. "Because if you threw me off the tower," he says steadily, "I would crawl back through the port with my broken spine and keep training." He snorts. "As many times as Ser Argolis has beaten me about the head it's a wonder I'm still able to talk, innit? But I'm still here." He reaches into his pack now, and withdraws the bloody stump he had tucked away. "Here!" He says, shaking the thing. "You know whose leg this is? It's mine. I cut it off in an effort to practice my healing. If you were to hit me right now, I'm confident I could cure anything you threw at me. I'm a drunkard, aye, but I'm the hardest working drunkard I know of. Proof."
You have emoted: Moirean suddenly smiles fiercely, grunting, "Good." She steps in even closer, a glittering gleam flashing between her fingers - somehow, in the darkness, she's palmed a dagger - and drives the knife towards you. "Now show me." A murky substance clings to the weapon's blade, a venom of some sort, barely discernable in the low light, almost too quick to glimpse before she slashes at you.
Cannan hisses and takes a single step back, raising the hilt of his bardiche to deflect the attack. In a single motion he steps forward again and raises the bardiche over his head, the heft of it making the attack slow and unwieldy, but brings it crashing towards you with terrifying weight.
You have emoted: There's a sharp clank as Moirean's dagger slides off the polearm's shaft and then she spins away to swiftly sidestep the cumbersome return attack. She lets out a soft grunt as she darts out of the way to stab at your side, now exposed and vulnerable from your overhand strike.
Cannan snarls and tries to pull away, but too late, and the dagger drives home. Just a scratch, but enough to teach him to keep his flank guarded. He steps back, a little unsteady on his feet with the weight of the bardiche, keeping it held up defensively. "Aya, you ruddy b!tch." he says, forgetting himself in the sudden exertion. "What did you put on that thing?"
You have emoted: "That's Commander B!tch," Moirean growls, sliding away. She still keeps the dagger at the ready, held in a loose, easy grip as her body crouches down low, weight balanced in a wide stance - but there's a triumphant set to her shoulders, and within a heartbeat you can feel why. Sudden and swift, a sharp, prickling sensation begins to overtake your body, limbs jerking and stiffening uncontrollably as an inexorable paralysis blossoms out from the cut.
Cannan's eyes widen, and his grip on his bardiche slackens. The hilt clinks to the ground as his fingers go numb. His legs tremble and fail him, but as his knees hit the ground, he manages to shove a wad of bloodroot into his mouth, chewing with a grimace. Taking a deep breath he rises to his feet once more, his grip tightening steadily. "That unicorns tastes like my nan's diapers innit?"
You have emoted: There's a sharp glint in Moirean's eyes and she nods at your quick curing, taking advantage of the griping to fling her dagger at you in an abrupt throw. Somehow in the scuffle she's coated the weapon in another layer of venom and the substance catches the light in a dark glimmer as the blade flies through the air, directly towards you.
Cannan grunts and raises his arm out of pure reflex. The thick wool of his coat deflects most of the thing, but he winds up with another scratch on his hand. "Damnit!" he screams, hefting his bardiche and stalking towards you. "How many teeth do you have?"
You have emoted: Moirean wasn't playing around this time - as the blade clatters to the floor, there's a span of ominously....nothing. No effects, save for the slight ache from the cut itself...and then you sense something deeply, horribly WRONG, somewhere inside you. A wracking pain wrenches through you as you advance, and a warm trickle slides down your lips. You taste blood. Your own blood. A crimson miasma begins to cloud your sight, combining with the dim light of the room to leave you nearly blinded, barely able to track the Imp as she retreats backwards, putting the brazier between the two of you. You can hear her, though, over the blood pounding in your ears, as she softly calls out, "Best not let that one linger, recruit."
Cannan stops in mid-step. His breathing quickens in fear, but he fights to keep himself under control. His eyes roll around, the darkness now nearly total. He swallows hard, his face contorting into a grimace as the poison burns its way through him with brutal efficiency. Finally a look of relief floods his face, and lightning-quick he snatches a vial from his belt and drinks a sip of immunity. His vision clears immediately, and he wipes the trickle of blood away from his mouth. "Nice try, but I actually lost to Denser with that one in the arena some months ago."
You have emoted: "Then you CAN learn," Moirean chuckles from the other side of the flames. A flash of blue light reflected back at you reveals another dagger in her hand, but she halts, blade poised for a third attack for only a moment, before she sheathes the knife in the bandolier slung across her chest. "Adequate," she then remarks, circling around past the brazier to approach you, steps measured and posture more relaxed.
Cannan's eyes flick to the dagger, then back to your face, and he stands at attention once more, this time being careful to keep his bardiche in a defensive stance, the blade guarding one flank and the hilt guarding the other.
You have emoted: Moirean notes the wariness and the defensive posture, a look of surprised, pleased approval crossing her face. "More than adequate," she corrects, lifting her other hand to secure a second knife - a tiny one, small enough to be concealed in her palm - beside the first. "Chivalry is dead," she reminds you as she tucks the blade away. "And you are not."
Cannan keeps his eyes forward, but the hint of a smile plays at one corner of his mouth, only for a moment. "A lesson to take to heart, Commander."
You have emoted: Moirean studies you for a long span, eyes narrowing, before she then states, "I see..." She lets the words draw out as a smile curves her lips. "I see a man. A man ready for his final trials before Knighthood." She squares her shoulders and lifts her hand, sketching out a crisp, stern salute to you - behind her, the glassy stones in the fire catch her reflection, echoing back the gesture from each dark facet, over and over until a hundred Commanders glint up from the flames, all saluting you in respect.
Simply, you say to Cannan, "Dismissed, Postulant."
Cannan lowers his bardiche and gives you a firm salute, nodding once. Finally he allows a grin to break out over his face, but his voice remains steady, free of the petulant tones he carries so often. "Farewell, Commander, and thank you. I'll see you next month."
You have emoted: Moirean merely nods, turning away from you to stare out over the land spread below, your presence already ignored.