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A Tale of 4 Heroes!

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1 A Tale of 4 Heroes! on 8/8/2014, 6:30 am

Book I

How it started.....

Our story begins in Thanalan, just outside of Vesper Bay, in a little place called Crescent Cove. There, a man and a woman, Miqo'te, she a Seeker of the Sun, and he a Keeper of the Moon...lived together and owned a small magic shop. They, two reknowned users of magic, fell in love some years ago, choosing to focus less on their prospective fields and settled down together. In that time, they had two children....both girls, Aeonia the elder of the two, and Seraphina her junior by a year. The girls each of course, as they became old enough, tried their own hands at magic. Seraphina herself held little talent for the ways of magic, while Aeonia seemed to hold much in the way of natural talent. However, Crescent Cove can be a harsh place, with bandits a plenty, and corruption throughout the ranks of the Brass Blades abound. There was little time for learning magic and peaceful living in Crescent Cove, and even for Aeonia, magic took a back seat, as the two seemed to frequent fights. Many in Crescent Cove are unkind as it is, with all the corruption that goes on around them, and it has become a place where the weak must become strong...or become trampled underfoot.

It was in this time that the girls were introduced to another, Melissa whose parents frequented visits to the shop. Melissa was a quiet girl at first, often buried in a book of some kind...but the youg girls hit it off, and it became a regular sight to see them out and about together. Melissa herself received less trouble from local bullies now that she traveled with Aeo and Sera, as the two were now well known for fighting. This left Melissa to her studies, while also allowing her to make friends. She could not know then that those friends would one day be akin to family, and that her studying...would prove invaluable. A few years had passed and things had fallen into a regular pace around Crescent Cove. Sera was now 12, and Aeo 13, with their friend Melissa only a few months Aeo's senior. This year in their lives held no particular importance aside from the events that took place. In one day, the actions of these girls would pave the way of their lives. Aeo, Sera, and their mother walked through the market buying things needed from the traders, for their shop. That day with the trader's wagons came a particularly nasty merchant, with armed guards in tow. His lead guard, a larger than most Roegadyn, stood confidently near the merchant's side, a sword on his on his hip fit for a man of his size, and a shield on his back. The people watched on as the merchant screamed and ranted at a local, in argument over the exchange of goods. His rage boiled over, and as their mother passed by in the crowd, he pushed her violently, sending her off her feet and onto the ground. Seraphina without hesitation slipped her small hands into her tightly bound and trusty cestis, raised her hands and prepared to fight as Aeo checked on their mother. The merchant stared at the girl with a smirk of amusement. "Teach this whelp a lesson Burdo." he said and on that note, the large Roegadyn stepped forward hefting his sword lightly, and pulling his shield off of his back, a bit small for him, but still well larger than a normal shield. He stood confident before the child, ready to easily strike her down, and without a thought he stepped forward with a casual blow, his shield not raised to properly defend, as he saw no threat from a child. She side stepped to the right, quickly dodging the blow, and having danced out of the casual defense of his half raised shield, delivered a shattering blow to the side of his knee cap. The man dropped his arms, falling to the ground he howled in pain, and his comrades the other two of the merchant's guards leaped into the fray.

Aeonia, having helped her mother to get out of the way, watched as two more guards pulled out their weapons and were ready to set upon her sister. She took off at a sprint, hefting the large shield of the wounded man with all her might and wrapped it over her back, using both hands to heft the heavy sword. She stepped in with a fury, swinging the sword wide with both hands as she stepped between the two guards. Using the flat of the large blade, her first swing slammed hard into the chest of the first one, while the shield's weight on her back added to the momentum of the swing as she swung in a full circle, and protected her back from the other. Sera now fully aware leaped in as the second guard's curved sword found purchase on the shield around Aeo's back, driving her fist hard into the side of his helmet and sending him reeling back in a daze. Aeo took the opportunity, hefting the sword back in the other direction in a full swing, once again slamming the flat of blade into her opponent. This time the blade found purchase near the man's calf, and with a loud ping against his leg armor, almost causing him to do a flip as his legs are swept from beneath him. The merchant had long since taken off, and in the distance the Brass Blades could be seen making their way towards the commotion. Aeo dropped the sword, hefting the shield in both hands off of her back she used it to help push through the cheering crowd, as Sera helped their mother through. As word spread of the two girls who had fought three grown men, the story was stretched and changed time and again becoming more grand with each telling, and soon Sera had earned a new nickname...Knee Capper. The story reached Ul'dah faster than one might think, traveling on the caravans, about how two teen girls had stepped out and heroically dealt with ten large armored guards who were harassing the locals. Surely such a grand tale could not be true...but it was not long before someone was sent to investigate.

Aeo, Meli and Cappy, as Sera's friends had taken to calling her...were hanging out at their normal spot they often went to away from the chaos. Located in a back street near their parent's shop, they had set up a few crates for seats, and often came here to discuss their dreams. Meli as usual was lost in a book, reading along as she listened to Cappy about what she would do when she got away from Crescent Cove one day. Aeo sat to the side day dreaming about one thing or another...but her daydream ended as Cappy grew quiet. Aeo turned to see what had drawn her sister's attention to see two strangers near the end of the ally way. Both were Elezen, clearly by their height, the taller of them a woman outfitted in the style of a Brass Blade, and the shorter, looked to be younger, and was equipped with only a sword and shield. Cappy and Aeo both had a feeling this was about the incident in the market, and looked at each other judging what their chances of escaping the situation was. Melissa for once, was fully aware of the outside situation, and her hand had dropped to a small charm she had begun to carry around on her waist. "Please....I promise it would be better if you didn't fight...for everyone." the woman said in a clear but calm voice. Meli waited behind as they were taken, uncuffed, and their parents informed that the girls were to be taken to Ul'dah.

As they traveled from Crescent Cove, they spoke very little, and the girls were sure they were being taken for questioning, and possibly jail time. Still Cappy found herself glancing in the boy's direction. She had never been very interested in boys but he was quite cute and what little was said between the four as they traveled had lead her to believe that he was kind. The Elezen pair introduced themselves, the woman's name was Yanshi and she seemed kind herself as well despite the girl's bad experience with Brass Blades. The younger boy's name was Alberta Gui, but Yanshi just called him Albie. As they neared the gates, the two escorting the girls shared a look, before taking them through. They never went for questioning, and before long they were outside the Pugilist guild and Yanshi was speaking to a man named Hamon Holyfist, about young Cappy. As they discussed things, Albie explained a little, saying that his sister had been put in charge of investigating the incident, and much to the dismay of her superiors had come up with this alternative to jail time. "What about my sister?" Cappy asked, worried for Aeo. Albie put her fears to rest assuring her that both Aeo and himself would begin training with the Gladiators soon, as the stories recounted her easily wielding a sword and shield as her weapon of choice during the scrap. "I know we only just met but...I would really like it...if we could be friends, Sera." he said, choosing to call her by the name Aeo called her instead of the nickname Cappy. She, was taken off guard at first but answered quickly with an eager smile and a nod of her head. So she was accepted to train with the Pugilists, and Aeo began her training alongside Albie in the Gladiator's guild.  These would be the first steps on the path of their new life.

Affirming life...with my fists!

Cappy's training under Hamon Holyfist began. The style of fighting expected of a pugilist, was very different than Cappy's style of street brawling, and she basically had to re-learn everything she knew about fighting. Still, after she worked through the basics she began to pick up the art fast. She was allowed to go home and visit her family every so often, and when they weren't busy her Aeo and, much to Aeo's dismay, Albie...were able to hang out and kill time. Yanshi, often took the three out on "training excursions" that usually turned into relaxed get-togethers, picnics and just chatting. Yanshi turned out to be an extremely calm person who hated the corruption found in the Brass Blades. She often talked about how she wanted to do her best to get rid of that, and bring them back to the ideals they were supposed to be founded upon.

Cappy had become closer friends Albie, and they spent a lot of time talking about their hopes and dreams together.Things were steady right now and Cappy...she was much happier now. Life in Crescent Cove had been hard, and though the training was rough, things were better now. Still there was something missing. She still in her heart truly wanted to get out more, and experience things. Her wish would soon be granted.

A sword...a shield...and new found determination!

Aeo was now training alongside Albie with the Gladiators of Ul'dah. She was equipped with a sword and shield, this time fit more for a person of her size. Like most things Aeonia had done she took to sword combat naturally, quickly rising above many of the other fighters she trained along with. Albie himself having already done some training was well skilled, and did quite well himself, and his attitude set a fine example for those around him. However in that regard Aeonia became very detached from many of the people around her, and grew very cold towards even Albie. She didn't make many friends among the other gladiators, her detached attitude causing her to appear cold and confident that she could not be beaten. She honed her skills against the many dueling requests brought before her do to her unpopular appearance. Albie made his best efforts to become friends with Aeonia, however, she refused to allow herself to open up.

It was not long before it came to a duel between Aeo and Albie, the two best of their "class". In the ring the differences in the way each had learned to fight came out. Where Albie had the slight experience advantage at first, Aeo had spent her life fighting with a fury to defend her sister Sera. When they entered the ring Albie came against an opponent who fought with a fierce determination, and a cause beyond her training, and so the duel ended with Aeo the victor. Their first duel hit Albie hard, having not lost in the guild except to instructors before. He began training in even more earnest and yet, as they advanced, each duel they had, Aeonia beat Albie back, her natural skill, determination, and now her training, leading to her having the edge in each of their battles.

Albie pushed his training harder and harder, while Aeo dutifully continued her own. Albie and Cappy had become friends quickly, while Aeo's dislike for him seemed to grow, and he could taste it each time they dueled. The disappointment she felt. He continued to steel himself and prepared for his next duel with her, but before it could take lace....they were gone

Power in knowledge...and possibly destructive magics?

Melissa had found herself now alone, her friends taken to Ul'dah. She had talked with their parents, and they assured her that they were alright but....would be very busy with their new training. For some time she wondered what she herself would do. Her friends were taking their learning to the next step, and had gotten out of Crescent Cove as they promised. So she decided...she should as well. She approached her parents and for the first time, took a stand. "I want to go to Ul'dah to further my studies." she said to them very directly. The look of concern they held was, they knew that the only magic housed within Ul'dah was Thaumaturgy. However, Meli was firm on her stance and so, they allowed it., and together they traveled with her to Ul'dah and turned her over to the Thaumaturge Guild.

Meli's studies soared to new heights, having access to knowledge her parents never had. So naturally talented with magic she was that she quickly rose above most at the school and even a few of her teachers. However, some of their teaching just did not sit with her well. The way they taught to destroy one's enemies was not what she was learning magic for. She trained for four years, and in that time her power, and her self esteem grew. She had become more confident in herself, and spent less time reading about magic...and more time doing it. She also spent more time in disagreement with her teachers, and found herself growing to dislike her place there. She felt unsettled, and knew there was more to magic than what they taught. She knew she had made the right choice in leaving, when the next day she found her old friends in the market...and a situation that would bring them together again.

A foe from the past...a heart for adventure!

Yanshi lead the girl's through the market place in Ul'dah, showing them around to the different vendors and picking up things for her plans for an evening of training, mostly food for them to picnic around...and possibly not get any training done. It was smiles all around as they enjoyed this time of relaxation from training hard with their guilds. As she lead them around, Yanshi remembed to mention to the girlsthat Albie said he'd be busy that day and that he'd see them all later at thier picnic. At this time, Meli was wandering the markets herself, picking up a few things for the road as she headed home. Meli often overstocked her supplies when, going places, having more than enough food with her for at least a few people. During her time gathering things, she spyed the familar faces of her friends she had not seen for three long years having spent much of her time holed up and studying, and she rushed over greeting her friends excitedly. Cappy quickly introduced Yanshi properly, and the girls set off through the market place, eagerly swapping tales of what had happened since they last spoke. As they spoke among each other, a familiar sound of shouting could be heard further down past a few stalls, and the four went to investigate.

As they came around into view of the commotion, a familiar merchant stand screaming at a man over outrageous prices or some such nonsense. It was the merchant from Crescent Cove who has sicked his guard on Cappy. As the merchant gripped the shirt of the man he was screaming at, Cappy stepped from the crowed and pulled him off. The merchant turned to face Cappy, at some point in the last 4 years having earned a fresh scar on his face. As Aeo stepped up behind, to support her sister, armed with her sword and shield, the merchant finally bore signs of recognition for the two girls. The two who had foiled his scheme to rip off a fellow merchant in Crescent Cove the years before. He quickly summoned his new guards to the attack, several armed thugs stepping from the crowd. Yanshi joined their side as the girls prepared themselves for a fight.

As Yanshi was not in her armor, the thugs had no idea they fought against a Brass Blade, and she worked her training, easily incapacitating one, while parrying the blows of another. Aeo and Cappy worked in tandem, Aeo bringing her shield up to the guard position and defending against attacks as Cappy leaned in and sent one after another reeling with her now well trained punches. Still things seemed bleak, as they numbered ten against three. As the girl's began to struggle against the attacking thugs, Meli stepped forward raising her scepter and issues forth a complicated spell, sending out a blast of frost to incapacitate the thugs. Aeo and Cappy looked a bit suprised but are grateful for the help. "When did you learn to do THAT?!" Cappy asked with a smile. But the look on Yanshi's face was grave. "This is the merchant prince Marik...he has a lot of pull around here....it was hard enough to keep you girls out of trouble last time, if they hear you've made trouble again for such an influential person, I don't know if I could be any help.." she explained. They got away from the area and discussed the next course of action. It was decided they needed to get out of Ul'dah as soon as possible. Yanshi gave them the supplies she bought, and with that they set out.

As the girls put distance between themselves and Ul'dah...Cappy was clearly upset she had not the chance to say goodbye to Albie, whom had become a good friend of her's in the three years they spent training. Though she had always wanted to set out for adventure, it came at the cost of a friend. Aeo did her best to cheer Cappy up, and as they walked they began to talk about the amazing spell Meli had cast. In the end it looked like Yanshi has been able to knock any pursuit off their tails. They were in the clear, and yet no set path lay before them. Only one thing was sure at this point.....

...adventure awaits!

....2 years have passed

The three women, and they were women now...Cappy 17..her sister Aeo older by a year and Melissa only Aeo's senior by a few months, neared the entrance to New Gridania, eager for rest from their long journey. Having not rested in a bed since Camp Dry bone the trio was eager for a bath, a meal...and soft pillows. Upon arriving in New Gridania the ladies immediately checked into the inn, and got all they sought after, the hot food, the warm bath and a good night's rest. So happy they were for these minor luxuries, that the three decided to stay a few days in Gridania before picking up a job or two. The girls each set out about the town, exploring both New and Old Gridania, each visiting the market, or finding themselves around the guilds there watching as their members went about their routines. Cappy and Meli each found something that fascinated them.  Aeo...was not having near as much fun.

Pulling a string is...pulling my strings..?

Cappy found herself watching as the Archers set about, stringing their bows and practicing firing on still targets. Her interest was peaked as she watched arrow after arrow wiz across the space between landing with a satisfying thud...or in some cases with the newer members, the dissapointing sound of the arrow landing in the ground somewhere past the target. She watched on for a while longer before her attention turned to a man as he approached and sat next to her, pointing to the archers and asking in slick voice "This kinda thing interest you? It's tough stuff." Cappy stared a moment before answering with a smirk "I'm tougher stuff....this doesn't look so hard. Anyone can pull on a string." The man laughed heartily as he reached behind his back, grabbing the bow he had slung there and handed it to her unstrung "Give it a...shot...then."

She spent some time learning to string the bow, which was much harder than it looked but nothing for Cappy, who was already determined to do this. As she nocked her arrow she aimed down at the target which suddenly seemed much farther away than it had before. She let fly her first arrow and watched as it skipped just passed the target, but she did not give up. She loosed a few more, finding her mark on the fourth shot after having gotten used to how it worked a bit more. She let fly arrow after arrow slowly getting closer to the center, until she reached up for another out of the quiver she had borrowed, and her eager smile died into confusion as she realized she had no arrows left. She stared at the target, pinned with arrows all over, and then to the satisfied smirk of the man whom the bow belonged to, and she offered a smirk of her own...."I could get used to this..."

Nurturing my Nature.....?

As she made her way through Gridania, asking directions as she went, Meli already knew where she was going. She had heard of the the Conjurer's guild here in Gridania and was eager after two years to delve into some new magic. She passed the busy but somehow peaceful people of the town, taking in this new environment. Gridania was very different from Ul'dah and certainly different from Crescent Cove. She knew she didn't have long before they would be meeting back up at the inn, so she needed to hurry and find the Conjurer's guild, so she quickly put thoughts of seeing the sights behind her and made her way there.

She entered the guild, glancing this way and that. This place was a far cry from the Thaumaturge's guild in Ul'dah, with natural growth abound. She spent some quickly found the guildmaster, and requested of him some time to talk about the basics of Conjury. As they spoke, Meli began to realize just how different this magic was from what she was accustom to. However, it was precisely this that fed her desire to learn more. Still it would wait for another time...her hour of exploration was up and it was time to meet the others at the inn.

An old friend?....Psh...

"Oh...it's you. What do you want...?" Aeo said as she walked slowly through the market, picking up things that should be interesting to her. Albie's excited smile faded into a look of dismay as he spoke "It's been two years.....that's all you have to say? Wait where's Cappy? Is she with you?" Aeo stopped moving, turning to face Albie, him now able to fully observe her. She had grown very little in the last 2 years in any area, and not so much as a fresh scar. A big difference was in her outfitting as she now walked around in a light but durable armor. Where most armor would clank as she walked, her's was designed for her by Cappy, as was the sword on her hip, which was lightweight, durable, and the blade transformed into a sharper point for piercing and breaking armor as she drew it. Aeo had become quite the warrior and it was clear to see by her stance.

As Albie looked her over briefly, Aeo glanced back to the merchant stalls indicating something had bothered her. "Keep asking questions that fast and your head might burst.." she said. Albie still couldn't believe that after all this time she hadn't softened up a bit, yet he could definetly see something different. Not that it had not been there before...only he was just noticing something in the way Aeo carried herself. "...Anyway i'm heading back soon, and the other's would give me a lashing if I didn't invite you along so..." she said as she continued on in the market showing little interest in anything. Albie followed along, and soon...they made for the Inn.

Reunion...and a new home...

"Albie!" Cappy shouts as she sees Aeo walk in, one tall Elezen in tow. Albie offers a smile, and gives Cappy a hug. Meli properly introduces herself having not seen Albie but once....that being five years before when he and his sister came to take the girls from Crescent Cove. Albie could easily recognize her as the talented young spellcaster that assisted them in Yanshi's story of the day in the market. The four grabbed a table and Albie regaled them of the last two years, Yanshi's falling out with the Brass Blades, coming to Gridania, and the work Yanshi sometimes assists the Twin Adders with.

After that Cappy went off talking about their adventures over the last few years, all that had happened and the places they had visited around Eorzea. They talked about how they had been making and saving money, the battles they've had. Much to Aeo's dismay Cappy went to lengths to show off the armor and sword the younger had made for her sister. Cappy had always been good at making things but over the last few years those skills had only improved as she spent much of her time tinkering while on the road. The group shared a meal on Albie's gil, and all had more than a few laughs. "Oh! We should go see Yanshi, she'd love to know you guys are alright." Albie spoke up with a few hours later. The group remained a short while before setting out with Albie to see his sister.

The reunion with Yanshi was exciting, and with the events of the day, the energy was high. However, none of the girls felt to eager to jump out and pick up another job. Gridania was a very amazing, and peaceful place, and Cappy and Meli had each found things worth staying for. Aeo was less excited but did her best to hide it, not wanting to spoil her sister's fun. After a lengthy talk with Albie and Yanshi, and an even longer talk between the three of them, it was decided. It couldn't hurt, to stay a little longer.

A painful secret...revealed...

Albie's smile melted away into a look of concern upon approaching Cappy, her expression one of worry. "Hey...are you ok?" he asked, her attention finally turning to him, having not noticed his approach before hand. "Oh...erm...yes I am just...I'm just thinking about Aeo." Albie had a feeling he knew what this was about but allowed her to continue. "She thinks I haven't noticed but...I can tell something is bothering her, and she hasn't found something that feels worth while to her since coming here, I can tell." As Albie listen to her speak he looked to the bow on Cappy's back, noting how accomplished of an archer she had become in the short time she had handled the weapon. He turned his attention back to her words as she asked "I know you have been training with the lancers here, and I thought maybe...you could show her around? Let her train with you guys and see if she likes it?" The prospect of earning another chance to get on Aeo's bad side did not appeal to Albie but, he knew Cappy was worried, and so ....he agreed.

"Welcome to the Lancer's guild Aeo!" Albie exclaimed arms wide to indicate the people training around the sparring room. Aeo stepped past him without a word, watching the fighters with disinterest as they ran through their routines. Albie followed along stopping to introduce her to the guildmaster who showed a worried look at her disinterest. He knew something was amiss with her. As Albie showed her around, that disinterest served to get her in trouble, much as it had with the Gladiators of Ul'dah. Albie held a brief sparring round with another member, showing his talent for the form, easily dancing around his opponent and taking t he upper hand with both superior form, and his reach advantage. Still Aeo did not seem to be enjoying herself, and it finally had drawn the ire of more than one of the members. Only one stepped forward.

The Lancer adept stood before Aeonia, raising his arms "Sorry...are we not entertaining you mi'lady? Is this all boring you?" he asked sarcastically. Albie made a move to intervene but the Guildmaster stopped him, and rarely did the Guildmaster do something without cause. Aeo answered plainly, without sarcasm, but speaking only in a half truth "This kind of fighting doesn't interest me." The adept took another step advancing on Aeo, which she did not appreciate, her hand falling to the pommel of the Mailbreaker. "Oh is that so? I had not realized our hard work was boring. I had not realized training hard to defend one's home was...boring.." the man said, his anger with Aeo welling. Aeo shifted her weight casually before giving an answer. "Your form is poor, your strikes are weak, and such a weapon only takes away from the swiftness of your strike...a poor weapon choice for you....you look like a farm hand defending his pigs from a half dead wolf." she said, her interest still lacking.

Albie watched as the situation escalated. He wanted to step in but still the guildmaster was firm in letting things be hashed out. The adept took another step forward, more aggressive this time, and Aeo's hand tightened around the hilt of her sword, ready to draw and cut him down. The man spoke plain, but it was clear he was angered "Perhaps you'd like to show us all how it's done then. You make it sound easy so maybe you can do it then hmm?" It was Aeo's turn to take a step forward, and it was then that the Guildmaster finally spoke "Hey! Settle it on the sparring floor." Aeo took back her step, and released the pommel of her sword. As the guildmaster had thought, never since arriving had she attempted to purposely be disrespectful. Something was wrong....but it was not his job to say what it was. However, now....Albie noticed it too.

Aeo was offered the chance to remove some of her armor, at the clear disadvantage with these practice spears, as many believed her armor to weigh her down too much. Aeo however trusted in her lightweight armor, of her sister's craft, and chose to decline. Aeo hefted the lance she was given, getting use to the weight with a few quick spins and thrusts before stepping in to the sparring ring. The fight began with the man confidently stepping in on the attack. Albie knew it was his first and greatest mistake. Aeo had never been a brutish fighter, but one which dances around the opponent in a whirl of skill. Her steps were graceful and her stance was powerful. She displayed such, lightly side stepping the man and swinging the lance hard in a clothesline type motion, planting the shaft in the man's chest and sending him sprawling. He quickly and angrily got back to his feet going on the attack. She danced and moved around him, a blur of fast movements and, but few times did she actually take the oppurtunity of a strike, instead sticking to what she was used to, and it was clear now that she was not holding her shield that she spent more time blocking attacks...then actually attacking.

She was defending herself. Albie could see now, and each time they fought...the memories of everytime the two had ever talked. It was clear to him as the water of a fresh spring. Aeonia, did not enjoy striking opponents. His thoughts were cut short as he saw the pained expression in her face. At first he thought she had been hit but this was not the case. Her pained expression flashed for only a moment before she quickly struck her sparring partner six times, a barrage of blows before sweeping his legs and sending him to the floor, conciousness fading. She walked over to the weapon rack, placing the spear there, and then she left. Albie looked to the Guildmaster, and he motioned for him that it was ok to step in now, and Albie followed her out. Still when he left she was already well in the distance, and he followed along quietly to see where she was going.

Aeo often went off by herself while the other girls were at their guilds seeing to their training. Having left the walls of the town, she walked and walked until she came to her usual spot. She knelt by the cool fresh water spring, cupping water into her hands and raising it to her face, sweeping her long white hair back over her shoulder. As she heard the twigs snap behind her, her feet spun underneath her pulling her back up to full height, and her weapons was drawn, the blades sliding together to form one sharp pointed blade...the Mailbreaker. As her gaze fell on Albie, she relaxed and put her sword away, turning away from him. "You followed me here? I knew you were an oaf but you should learn to leave a girl be when she wants to be alone..." she said, her disinterest returning. Albie had continued to carry around the sword and shield he had acquired upon leaving Ul'dah, but at this time having just come from the Lancer's guild he now trained at, he still gripped his lance in hand, which he set upon the ground.

"You know...i've kept up my training in the hopes of challenging you again." Albie stated. Aeo's expression didn't budge as he continued "I never understood before how you continued to beat me, but...I think i've got it now. I can win this time." Aeo stared at Albie, for a long time. She could think of nothing to say and instead, drew the Mailbreaker, and pulled her shield off of her back. Albie watched on, and his hypothesis was becoming clearer and clearer. He drew his own sword and shield, and stood ready to fight... one of the few people he had yet to beat.

The quiet of the wood was broken each time the deafening ring of their blades slammed together reverberated through the trees. The two expert combatants spun around each other, a blur of strikes, parries and blocks. Each move fed into the next, and from the outside looking in, and untrained person might think the two fought for their very lives. However, up close, any swordsmen could see the hesitation, as mutliple times Albie let slip his form, and each time Aeo avoided the strike. It was clear for Albie, that she was still better than he was. After all this time, she still outshone him by a hair's breath and now he knew why. She had to be good for Cappy. Aeo, was defending, not attacking, and she fought with a fury to be the best..to protect her sister. His thoughts were interrupted as she ducked under his next attack and planted her shield flat under his arm, sending him back, rolling across the ground a few feet before coming to a rest, on his back, in the dirt.

Aeo turned without a word choosing not to look at Albie. He had always though she had been disappointed in his lack of skill, and so turned away from their duels without showing respect. In truth he now, as a better fighter than he was, could see that she was dissapointed in herself. Not only did she not want to strike her opponent....she hated it...she hated fighting. Albie lept to his feet, dropping his sword and shield and grabbing his lance, he jumped on the attack, ducking this way and that thrust after thrust of the lance. Aeo pulled up her shield, the suprise attack having almost overtaken her, she quickly regained composure, and began to defend against his attacks. This pace continued on for a good minute before she finally spun Mailbreaker in an arc, slicing the metal head of the lance clean from the wood. Albie snatched the lance head as it flew free, using the broken shaft to slam into Aeo's knuckles sending the blade flying from her grasp, and bringing the lance head with the other hand down in an arc aimed for her. She raised her shield to defend against the blow, his attack slamming into her block as they locked their emtpy hands in a struggle to push the other one back. Aeo shield bashed the lance head from his grasp, bringing her shield down hard on his foot, causing him to step back, which urged her to bring another shield bash into his chest sending him sprawling to the ground. In a fury she raised the shield high above her head to bring it down on Albie in a punch, but Albie swung a kick for her legs, sweeping them out from under her and sending her sprawling on her back as well.

The two laid there for a while, breathing hard, grasping at each breath as though it would be their last. This duel had been their most intense so far, and had ended in an utter draw. After some time, Albie turned to look at the woman who had so utterly defeated him, throughout the years he had known her. All this time, he had thought she hated him, but he had a strong feeling it was something else. Five years had passed and he knew next to nothing about this person. He saw her now, her armor scuffed and dirty, her knuckles bruised and bleeding, a person he had come to respect to no limit as a warrior. She was crying. She brought herself to her feet, dusting herself off, and limping over to find the Mailbreaker where it lay in the grass some yalms away. Albie turned away to look up at the sky, breathing in deep of fresh air, like it had never graced his lungs. He continued staring up as he said it..."You never wanted to fight....you loathe fighting." Aeo paused as she had been turning to leave. She spoke without looking back at him. "Don't talk about things you don't understand." With that....she returned home.

A secret shared....a burden lifted...

Several days had passed since the last duel between Ablie and Aeo, and he could see that it had been weighing on her mind. Out of the blue, as he spoke with a friend at the Lancer's guild, Aeo approached him. "Meet me at that place again, in a few hours...I'd like to talk." she said, her usual disinterest drained from her voice. He nodded and through his shock at how sudden this was managed to say "Y-yes yes...of course." He could only speculate at what had been going through her mind over the last few days. What was Aeo thinking....?

He had not been sure as he was equipping his heavy armor earlier if he would need it. Still sore from the last duel, he was unsure he could keep up if she wanted a rematch. He had us shield slung over his back and his sword on his hip. He had decided to bring his lance as well, seeing as it served well last time. He made his way to the spring he had last followed Aeo to, and the sight he saw there shocked him greater than any had before. Aeo sat on her knees running her fingers the the spring water...her hand ungloved. Her armor...gone, her shield nowhere to be seen. She wore a simple spring dress, white to match her hair, and her hair itself, instead of loosely hanging around her shoulders was neatly pinned up with a singly braid in the back, and her bangs hanging freely. For once she was clearly seen as woman, no arms of any kind near her person, and Albie was taken aback.

Upon his approach, Aeo stood, a bit surprised and not used to being seen in regular clothes. Albie looked to her knuckles or for any sign that she had been in a fight a few days before but her skin was healed and unblemished by even a scar, where as he still had bruised ribs from where her shield had embedded itself in his chest. "We should talk about a few things...." Aeo said. Albie knew that she had quite the tale for him, and it was just not he looked at his full armings and almost felt bad for showing up ready to fight her again. He laid his weapons on the ground and went over, sitting next to her by the spring.

Aeo spent the next several hours talking about all that had happened, and how she had spent her life doing what she believed she needed to, to protect Cappy. She demonstrated her talent and love for conjury, specifically healing magic, as she healed the wounds she herself inflicted upon him. "Fighting and conflict...has always been a problem for me...but I cared about helping Cappy more.....now we aren't as pressed to defend ourselves and...I just...don't want to fight anymore.." she said as she went about her work mending his ribs. Albie thought about that, knowing now she had good reason for acting the way she did. "...But why the coldness?" She thought long and hard before answering. "I don't know I just....as a fighter you never know who you will come against...I could not bare the idea of becoming close friends with someone I might have to fight one day...." It was all coming together. She explained that she didn't want to fight anymore, but she wanted Albie to help her talk to Cappy.

As Aeo explained things to Cappy, the look of worry changed into one of guilt, as she realized Aeo had avoided the things she loved for the sake of Cappy herself. Aeo quickly put down the idea that her sister was to blame and explained she was happy to protect Cappy. Now though, she was tired of fighting and she wanted to follow her own passion. Cappy saw no reason she shouldn't, and was glad Aeo was finally able to talk about this. Albie, not trying to interrupt but feeling the need to, step forward with a declaration. "Aeo...it is good to have friends...and I am your friend. So leave it to me! I will stand here shield raised ready to defend...and when that doesn't work, I'll look to you to help put me back together again." The group shared a laugh at that notion, and it was clear that things would improve for not only Aeo...but the group as a whole.

A few months down the road....

The group's time spent in Gridania had done wonders for them all. Cappy had become quite the archer, Aeo had taken to conjury, learning tips from Meli, she quickly outpaced many others, though it was no longer a competition for her. Melissa herself picked up the art well as it was with most all magic, however, conjury was not quite her style and instead she used it as a learning experience to improve her other magic. Albie had become a true part of the group and they frequented odd jobs together, usually returning to a hot meal cooked by Aeo if she did not go along to watch. Aeonia had fully sworn off martial combat, and since, her mood towards others had improved, and the sweet girl she truly was began to come out.

A task had risen, and the Twin Adders had requested aid in dealing with several uprisings from the Ixal in the region, Yanshi, and the group at her request, had agreed to help...Aeo herself agreed to come along to assist in the healing efforts. Before leaving Aeo called Albie aside to speak, and it was at this time that she bequeathed to him, her Mailbreaker, that Cappy had built for her, slightly modified now to fit his size. "If you are intent on protecting us, then you need a sword that can strike when your shield cannot defend us proper." She surrendered the blade with a smile and he accepted it in honor. They had finally become good friends. Still a difficult task lay ahead...the Ixal were becoming an increasingly difficult problem to deal with....and there was a bad cut to the wind...
.
What lay ahead....?

....to be continued

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2 Re: A Tale of 4 Heroes! on 9/9/2014, 6:48 pm

Excerpt from final report and letter of resignation from active duty to the Twin Adders by Alberta Gui

This... This was no mission. This was a fools errand. We were ordered to follow the Ixal scouts up the mountain... but the pass was blocked off, a rockslide right in front of us. So we, and the meager detachement of 10 Adders that were with us, had to start climbing, without climbing gear, in tearing winds.

We were told we would get reinforcements via airship.

The opposite happened, as the pilots were novices and were not prepared for the storm. Rather than land ahead of us they crashed into us... Took 5 of our team with them as they tumbled down into the night with a horrible sound of metal and wood crushing against rock.

We should have turned back at this point, but there was no way. The airship had caused another slide below us, there were no handholds left. The only way we could go was up.

Thankfully the slope lessened before long, and we were able to take a breather. Aeonia and the other two healers we had with us were fine, so they did what they could to refresh us all before we started moving again. Yanshi took a quick patrol to make sure we weren't spotted climbing, and that there wasn't some other way down. Of course there wasn't, or we would have taken it then and there.

Luckily for us, at the crest of the mountain from our climbing section was a large boulder. Easy enough for us all to hide behind and observe the events that transpired before us. She was there... Sitting on a throne of air currents and directing the Ixali zealots about the camp. Garuda. Lady of the Vortex, summoned again. No wonder the winds were so rampant this night... She likely knew we were there, as well. I could have sworn I saw a smirk in our direction more than once.

We waited. Hoped more reinforcements would be sent.. But after a while it became apparent that the storm had cut off the airship's linkshell contact with the others as it had with us. No one knew our situation. We were either left for dead or expected to be winning.

We didn't have any options left... We had to move from our hiding place. Waiting would only leave us weak and tired when we eventually had to, and could mean sacrificing the prisoners we watched them shuffle about for seemingly no reason. And the only exit to the camp was on the far side... It would be insane to attempt to sneak all the way there, on the spacious, open terrain, crawling with zealots.

My sister, being the strongest one there and the reigning Serpent Captain of the operation, stood and drew her blade to precede... Just as a massive blade of wind sliced the rock we were behind clear in half, whizzing out over our heads to dissipate in the distance. That chilling laugh... I'll never forget it. The bile still rises in my throat when I think about it... Garuda, with her unnaturally wide smile, staring down with us with pure malice in her eyes, laughing like the banshee she is...

The Ixal were laughing as well. Perhaps they knew we were there all along, too. Even the captives... Tempered. Every one of them. There was no friendly face in this crowd, only intent to kill. My sister steeled herself and her blade was coated in flames as she charged into them, barely giving Aeonia the time to cast a protective spell on her.

The Ixal swarmed her... But they ignored us entirely as we entered the fray. But before long we found out why... Garuda had claimed us. We found ourselves cut off from the warriors-and Yanshi-by a wall of wind too fierce to even see through.

-------------

One of the healers was trapped outside the wind, as well.  I had hoped that he would be able to keep my sister going, but they had been surrounding him as we lost sight.... I wasn't hopeful. We had to take down Garuda as fast as we could.  But... Our Warrior had fallen with the airship as well. It was all on me to keep Garuda's attention.  I had the Mailbreaker... Cappy had her bow at the ready. Aeo and Meli had their staves, as well.  The Adders at our backs were prepared as well.  A Paladin, a Bard, a Black Mage, a White Mage, a Scholar, and three Lancers. Raw recruits who never should have been on the mission in the first place.

I swear the mad woman was licking her lips as she spoke, if they could be called lips.  "Let us see which of you are worthy of my tempering!" She said, before launching a volley of feathers at us. Our Scholar was quick, though, putting up her barrier before they could get to us... But one of the lancers fell on his hind end in fear, anyway.  All I could do was hope that the Conjuror with Yanshi was as swift, and charge at the damned primal. My shield hit her square in the face, drawing her ire and a few drops of blood, as I charged to pick it up again and turn her away from the rest.

The other two lancers followed suit, with the third scrambling to his feet, steeling his expression. They were wise enough to stay behind her, though, which is good, as she seemed to have forgotten all but attacking me, numb to the attacks scraping her backside. The biting winds cut me deep, that is certain... But Aeonia and the Scholar, who I should mention I was never formally introduced to, made sure it would not be enough to send me into the darkness.

But then she shrieked.  Gods, the sheering pain of it... I lost my feet, my eyes struggling to stay open. I must have been bleeding out my ears, from the stains I found in my helm afterwards... I watched her dodge a spear by a hair's breadth and grab it, yanking the owner up in front of her... Her claws cut straight through the leather armor she wore. There was nothing that could be done for her as she crumpled to the ground... But I was given my second wind quickly enough to keep her from turning on the others. Then the feathers, earlier deflected came alive. Melissa sprayed fire over them as Garuda roared with fury at my continued fighting back, causing the feathers to chase after me rather than the others.

Whirlwinds started popping up around the field... Blocking my path of backpedaling to dodge her swings. Still... This all seemed too easy. She didn't seem to be wearing down, but apart from out casualty, neither were we.  Was she toying with us?

Of course she would. A mad god like this... What else would she do?  We found that out soon enough.  "SUPARNA!" She called. "CHIRADA!" She screeched...  They flew through the vortex... Relatives of Garuda no doubt, the resemblance was plain.  But with the renewed flurry of attacks from Garuda, I couldn't watch. I could do nothing to help the others but keep Garuda busy.  I know I saw Cappy kiting one of them, but the rest I cannot be sure of.  Every move of Garuda's now was seeking to end me, and I had to focus. I couldn't help them.

This carried on for a while... If only the Warrior had survived.  When Garuda let up... The Lancers were down, and Aeonia was struggling to keep everyone moving.  But the attacks had stopped... The Scholar was leaning up against a rock, winded, as we all eyed the three laughing primals, wondering why they didn't just finish us. Then a song broke the silence I hadn't noticed. The vortex had died down... But there was yet another here.  The Siren.  The Scholar... She went mad.  She smashed her own fairy and started to attack us, tossing Ruin and Shadow Flare around at us.  We could see outside now... The Conjuror was doing much the same thing, attacking Yanshi. She was gravely wounded, I could see it now... By Ixali steel, though none were still attacking her. They all stood back and screeched with laughter, much like Garuda and her ilk.... My sister refused to budge, until she saw us, and charged to knock down the Scholar.

She told us to run.

Nothing stood in our way.

Aeonia tried to heal her, but she knocked her away, saying there was no time.

No time.

The look on her face.. She was begging us to go.  I had to physically drag Aeo, with Cappy's help, to get her moving... But we ran. The four of us ran, with nothing but laughter at our backs. There was nothing else we could do.

---------

We quit.


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