Shady Impressions

A place for writers to offer creative feedback and post works in progress.

Re: Shady Impressions

Postby kool kitty89 » Tue Sep 15, 2015 12:10 pm

HAH!

Finally catching up on a year of Shady and got to Kusa's Dax n' dragon interlude. That was pure hilarity! On top of the awesome conclusion to Radda's Dragon arc, that solid comedy relief segment was just so perfectly fitting, that and it only pushed the 'giants trump dragons' dynamic further ... even with the context of Dax and that dragon. (obviously Dax's experience with dragons played at least as much of a role there as Jem's had too ... comedic or not, it just makes sense and totally fits the setting)

Shame Dax isn't a bit more diplomatic or he might have cheate-- I mean traded a loose scale for his trouble ... and maybe minimized a bit more of that mess, but where's the fun in that >.> ... unless it included several more paragraphs of hilarious dialog. :P

You nailed Radda's internal-dialog-heavy narrative too, Kusa. :3
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Re: Shady Impressions

Postby kool kitty89 » Wed Sep 16, 2015 12:03 pm

With that chat with Vaughn after the dragon mess, I'm getting the feeling that Russo and Jem being too charitable has a lot to do with Russo being on thin ice. With the crap they've had to deal with, what they've accomplished ... what they've done out of it being the sensible thing, but refusing to extort---- I mean failing capitalize on their successes (and indeed often downplaying them where others might exaggerate them even further) probably keeps profits pretty modest.

OTOH if they did behave like typical asshole--- I mean heroes, or hell, if they were even just honest about their successes and accomplishments (and only focused on downplaying the collateral damage ... or shifting the blame), they'd probably have a hell of a lot more enemies and attention pushed towards them than they already do. (you know, other than the occasional attempted curse to screw Russo over with giants >.> ... literally, or crazed demon chasing you down ... they've managed pretty well to avoid making names for themselves)

That dragon slaying was pretty public though ... and even with it being just the word of some nowhere dinky down ... full of cowardly lying moles, it might end up pretty high on the 'things that put Russo and Jem on the map' list. (well ... aside from subverting the big bad dirt-knight's efforts a few times and possibly giving away that Jem's a size-shifting giant ... and that giants can shift sizes ... but those enemies have been pretty subtle and mysterious so far, and not ones to really spread any reputations around)


... and Dax ... vs Flan slimes >.> just ... wow

Though his reaction to the ... uh ... flavor makes me wonder if that's at least in part due to his gigantism-related peculiar affinity to magic. (especially makes me wonder if something even more dramatic happen if he wasn't wearing his dispel crystal)
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Re: Shady Impressions

Postby RaddaRaem » Tue Oct 06, 2015 2:13 am

Glad you managed to catch up Koolkitty! I am pleased that the shenanigans, from myself and Kusa, have gone over well. I personally enjoyed the Flan bit in particular. Was quite the goofy if not ridiculous palate cleanser. |3

Who knows, we might see Russo and crew make a name for themselves yet. I mean, as you mentioned. They've already gotten some unwanted attention as it is whether they know it or not. They're certainly off to a strong start.

Then of course... you could potentially find out for yourself if you say wanted to take a peek at my latest Twine story! Just finished this up a bit ago and finally getting around to posting it here. Shady Socialization, as per its name, involves Russo bumming about the Yash guild and hitting up folks before heading off on the latest mission. There may or may not be a secret ending hinting at things to come. Also, background music. Just a heads up.

Shady Socialization
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Re: Shady Impressions

Postby kool kitty89 » Tue Oct 13, 2015 7:17 am

RaddaRaem wrote: “Let’s say we came across a crystal. One utterly colossal in size that had the potential to be a veritable vault of magic.”

“Okay…” the room responded in half-assed unison.

Undaunted the panther continued on. “Imagine that Russo were to donate a generous portion of his own magical energies to the crystal. Per his explanation earlier we would expect him to be able to teleport back to it at his leisure, no?” She received a couple of slow nods in response. “Now what if say, Morgan, were to also invest a great deal of her own magic into that same crystal? Would she too be able to return to it without issue? And would Russo continue to be able to visit it even though the magic contained inside is no longer just his own?”

Heh, I can't help but imagine giants being used in place of those hypothetical 'giant crystals' X3
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Re: Shady Impressions

Postby TendoTwo » Mon Nov 09, 2015 3:09 am

I have no idea which ending I got, but I do have one comment to say about the ending I did get:

...... Umbra wears a TRENCHCOAT?
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Re: Shady Impressions

Postby RaddaRaem » Sat Nov 14, 2015 3:58 am

TendoTwo wrote:I have no idea which ending I got, but I do have one comment to say about the ending I did get:

...... Umbra wears a TRENCHCOAT?


I will admit that is the secret ending but try not to give away too much! That and... well technically it is a peacoat but in sprite form it all looks the same! Figure I'd give her something fashionable that carried over from her days of ill repute. It slowly tearing up and degrading as she hounds after Russo.

I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing based on your reaction. XD
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Re: Shady Impressions

Postby TendoTwo » Sat Nov 14, 2015 7:49 am

RaddaRaem wrote:I will admit that is the secret ending but try not to give away too much!


Heh, sorry. I assumed I didn't actually get the secret ending because err....... how can I describe why I thought I screwed up without revealing anything? Is there some kind of spoiler tag or something on this forum?
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Re: Shady Impressions

Postby RaddaRaem » Sat Nov 14, 2015 7:10 pm

Not sure! XD Could always message me here or on FA or wherever if you'd prefer. Don't think this forum supports a [hide] tag or anything of the sort.
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Re: Shady Impressions

Postby RaddaRaem » Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:45 am

With TendoTwo's permission I'll go ahead and post some feedback/discussion the two of us had regarding the latest Twine chapter. Note that there are some spoilers so do be warned! That and feel free to chime in with thoughts of your own should you have any!

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

RaddaRaem wrote:
Not sure! XD Could always message me here or on FA or wherever if you'd prefer. Don't think this forum supports a [hide] tag or anything of the sort.


TendoTwo wrote:
Shame though that by using a PM others who wish to see it can't.

Anyway, since I don't have to hide anything now: I assumed I didn't get the secret ending because that spy/thief called me out on basically playing the game like a game "dropping conversations" and all that (which made me assume I either had to do things in a specific order... or do it perfectly) and then Russo himself commenting something along the lines of "Did I forget anything? Any choices or story arcs?" when I chose to go to sleep, all of which made me believe that there was something I missed.


RaddaRaem wrote:
Ah, my bad! As far as Kovania (Thief/Spy) is concerned her lines are just a muddled mixture between breaking the fourth wall and her being both very observant and attentive. Didn't mean for her to be a discouragement! She's more of a character who is self-aware, in a sense, of the game and didn't feel like playing along.

With regards to the Russo comment that was intended to be a sort of ham-handed warning to the reader the very first time they try to descend. Convey to them that once they've tread downstairs there is no going back. It'll change the second time you try to go downstairs and on! Though given the confusion that arose I figure it might not have hurt to change the dialogue slightly to acknowledge when you've done everything that can be done.

Hopefully that cleared up any questions you had and I am curious as to what you thought of it!


TendoTwo wrote:
Heh, as to what I thought of it. I found the 4th wall breaking utterly hilarious.... as well as the way Russo kept messing with Xis :D

A few things took me by surprise at first, but I was pretty pleased the story was not as simple as it seemed when I ran into them. Such as characters having different things to say when you pick the same dialog option (until it eventually repeats) as well as when I first teased Tyr about Morgan then went back and was confused that he wasn't there.... but at that point I realized the story was a little more complicated than just picking every dialog choice and you could actually make the characters interact with others. (Oh the smile on my face when I realized I could make Dax mess with Xis).

Interesting to also see Nadie in a slightly different light here... namely, not being smug or intimidating :P

I also loved the SNES/Genesis-style sprites. Interesting to see how some of the characters look... or at least a rough pixelated version of how they look. I had forgotten Dax was wearing Russo's old cloak, wasn't expecting someone as naive and happy-go-lucky as him to look so covered... or for the cloak to be so worn out and mended.

Not much criticism really, I liked the writing, the way Russo seems to dance around and anticipate or twist common tropes (especially with the conversations with Dax) is some amusing writing. Some of the stuff I didn't catch at first, like Russo constantly knocking down Tyr's books (It wasn't until the repeating option where Russo keeps making sure to knock all of them down before he leaves that I realized it was happening on purpose) or why he would do that. I mean... I know he messes with people, but that felt more just being mean or a jerk than just plain messing with Tyr. Or when he tried to convince Morgan her magic can just carry the rest of the team... I forgot, was it implied before that she does all the work on missions?

Funny thing is though, I am not sure how I feel about the whole interactive thing in general. On one hand, I was kinda put off when I heard another update to Shady Impressions was a Twine story.... mainly because I was worried about not finding some story arcs or secrets that might come up in a later chapter or getting confused with the branching paths (the first one with Dark confused me with how many paths loop back to another one)... but on the other hand, they are typically also very fun and in many cases like this one HILARIOUS, so I am sorta torn between that.

... shame this is in a PM so others can't provide their feedback to it. :P


RaddaRaem:
Dangit I didn't see you had replied. Sorry for the slow response!

Glad you noticed those little bits about dialogue options changing when you repeatedly pester and pursue the same options. Tried writing it with the mindset of how would someone respond if you kept asking them the exact same question over and over again. They'd probably get a little snippy and tired of it all! XD

I thought I was being clever making it so Tyr and Dax actually left when you put in motion the means to make them bother other folks! Given that it completely flaunts game logic and just uses regular logic I suppose that's unusual. Did approach and write this in a fairly literal manner and was pleasantly surprised I could make Twine behave as such.

The pixels were a fun touch I had commissioned and eagerly looked forward to on the side as I was writing this. Got a few and then realized they'd be perfect for the story so up and splurged and got enough for everyone in the story, save Russo. Felt it was a nice addition that broke up the walls of text and added some visual characterizations!

As for Russo poking at Tyr I wasn't aiming for him to be out and out mean, more heavy handed than anything. Hopefully Russo didn't come off as just out and out jerky! Tyr piling up a barricade of books around himself so as to not be social even when he is supposed to be. The human then knocking down those written walls and getting the fox to come out of his shell a bit and talk.

Ahaha and as for Morgan, Russo pretty much pegged her as the one to singlehandedly bring down Umbra the last time he visited Yash. At least until Nadie flattened her with some furniture but that aside he's under the impression Morgan has her shit together and can easily take care of things on her own/for him. Tyr and Xis do their fair share too when they work with her but all Russo has known is her pulling their asses out of the fire and just about bringing a demon down by herself.

The feedback and misgivings about Twine stories are fair! They require more effort than regular reading normally would as I tend to make mine kind of game-y. The Dark Twine... yeah I can definitely see why people might not be too thrilled with that one. Definitely learned a whole hell of a lot of what NOT to do in Twines for that one. Hopefully the content of that one was interesting at the very least. Xd

Heh well I suppose there's no reason we can't post this in the main forum if need be! I mean the Twine update has been out for nearly two months now. Could just snip some references here and there about characters interacting with each other or the secret ending and whatnot and see if anyone else has something to add!

...That and I still can't get over how guffawed you were at Umbra wearing a trenchcoat! I mean peacoat.


TendoTwo:
Well, I didn't know what a peacoat was, so to me it just seemed sort of out-of-place for a high fantasy setting to have trenchcoats like some kind of Film Noir setting or something... and for a locked up crazed female demon of all things to be wearing one. :P
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Re: Shady Impressions

Postby RaddaRaem » Sun Nov 22, 2015 3:37 am

Annnnnnnnnnd it's time for a new chapter! No more Twine for a while. I promise.

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Chapter 51

By: RaddaRaem

Evergreens looming high overhead, the cadre of mages stuck to the beaten path. Pine needles shuffled quietly underfoot. With hardly a sound they were kicked aside onto the sparsely vegetated and rocky slopes that flanked them. Tiny islands of white, packets of ice that had constantly melted and frozen under the sun’s steady rise and fall, dotted the mountainous landscape.

Russo exhaled softly through his nose as he felt Dax quietly clutch some pudgy fingers around the cape of his cloak. The extra weight upon his neck and shoulders was… tolerable. At the very least it was a sure sign the wolf had yet to stray and had taken Nadie’s advice to heart.

“What expertise, what value, can you bring to this mission young wolf?” Russo recalled the panther asking the morning prior. “I don’t mean to dismiss or discourage you. Had I known you were coming I would have factored your presence into my preliminary plans!”

Scuffing his paws against the polished hardwood, Dax arooed softly. Chin tucked against his chest, he took a marked and sudden interest in the notches and impurities lining the floor at his feet. His tail wagged nervously when Nadie leaned forward and twiddled his crystal necklace between her thick furred digits.

She hmmed when she noticed purple wisps of magical energies pulsing away from her fingertips; repelled by the crystal’s presence. “A magic suppression crystal?” The panther rumbled curiously as the wolf tensed.

“You got it,” Russo chimed in at Dax’s defense. Hand shoved into his pockets, fists clenched and knuckles gone white, the human doled out a steady stream of half-truths and lies of omission. “It’s all part of his training. He sucks something fierce at channeling his own magic so we’ve just gone and suffocated it entirely.”

The wolf’s posture relaxed when Nadie turned her attention elsewhere. He hurriedly fumbled with his accessory and tucked it within his cerulean cloak.

“Ahh, I see! So as to allow him to better familiarize himself with drawing and wielding magic from sources wholly outside himself. Blunt, crude even, but effective.” Nodding to herself in satisfaction, the Yash guildmaster guided the conversation back to its original intent. “Now Dax. What can you bring that no one else cannot?”

Teeth biting down into his lips the canine hmmed aloud. Eyes wide and tongue poking out from between his maw he pondered and wondered. Surely there was something! He was big! He was strong! …Which would be great if he could actually prove to anyone other than Russo why that was the case. That cheery and ever adventurous smile of his slowly faded, along with the wagging of his tail, as he drew blank after blank.

Dax’s lips pulled down tight into a dejected frown. The wolf knew all too well why it was proving so difficult to provide an answer. “Nothing,” he said with a sigh. It was because he didn’t have one. His thoughts drifted towards darker days that seemed to be repeating themselves. “I don’t have to come if you don’t want me to,” Dax mumbled ashamedly.

“Nonsense,” Nadie chastised him near instantaneously. “You’re an apprentice. A hungry one at that.” The panther’s eyes went half lidded. “And no I’m not talking about… that.” She poked a clawed finger at Dax’s impressive tummy prompting a giggle from the wolf. “You crave knowledge. Slaking down every word, both written and spoken, that you can get your hands on. Everything is new and exciting in your eyes.” Nadie continued to prod curiously at that pudge. She was both amazed and distressed at just how far her digits sank into that hefty gut. “I believe, no, I know that attentiveness will prove invaluable! Nothing is rote or routine to you. Not yet, anyway.”

A gentle smile curling up along his muzzle, Dax turned back to Russo for reassurance.

The mage shrugged his shoulders with eyebrows raised high along his forehead. Hell if he knew where she was going with this.

Nadie dragged a padded finger along the wolf’s hood and tossed it back. The crumpled fabric, stitched together with blue, brown, and green patches, flopped against the canine’s soft back. “Experience has yet to inoculate you to the sights and sounds that await.”

Russo’s flashback sputtered as his memories grew fuzzy. He recalled the gist of the panther’s spiel but the particulars escaped him. Head nodding side to side, he took to plugging up the gaps with copious amounts of bullshit and imagination.

Tyridia bounced up and down on the heels of his paws while his sandals shuffled beneath his padded soles. Fluffy cheeks puffed out, he slowly exhaled. “So… because he doesn’t know what is and isn’t normal that makes him all the better a sentry?”

A knowing bob of her head was all Nadie offered in response.

“I… think I understand?” Morgan hmmmed. She gently tapped the rounded edge of her shoes at the knapsack Russo imagined at her feet. Wrinkles formed along the black mask of fur that streaked across the raccoon’s eyeline.

“Try not to overthink it,” the Yash guildmaster rumbled. “Think of his curiosity and ravenous attentiveness as an asset, not an annoyance. Although…” Nadie turned her attention back to the wolf who took in her looming presence with a gleeful excitement. Her black lips faltered and broke into a goofy smile as she failed to resist his dopey charms. She honestly couldn’t tell if Russo left him that starved for attention or if Dax truly was that passionate. “Dax. Eager as you are, I need you to do something important for me.”

His tail wagging furiously, whapping loudly and painfully against the human’s side, Dax was all eyes and ears for the hulking panther.

“Dammit, that’s not how this went!” Russo acked as his own flashback turned on him.

“You are to be diligent. Not a distraction.” Nadie’s tone grew stern as she narrowed her gaze. “Indulge your curiosity and question everything around you. However, do so knowing that your companions should be just as focused on their surroundings as you are. Understood?”

Teeth poking into his lips, the wolf violently nodded in affirmation.

Russo’s neck ached just from imagining the duress Dax was bound to heap upon his shoulders. Wait. No. That wasn’t why his neck was killing him. The mage’s mental worldview faded to white. Blinking rapidly, so as to stave off the beginnings of snow blindness, he was reluctantly brought back to the world around him.

Dax softly barked into the human’s ear as he pushed and pulled at the mage’s cloak. “Russo Russo Russo!”

“What is it this time?” Head lurching backwards and forwards, Russo’s response ricocheted between the lower octaves of his voice. He grumbled as he reached back and slapped away the wolf’s grabbyhands.

The human tossed his head side to side, neck cracking loudly when he did so, to distract himself from the aches and throbbing sensations that pulsed through his calves with every footstep along the steepening and rocky slope. The very concept of ‘flat’ apparently wasn’t all that popular up here in the mountainous north. His chapped lips parted and hung apart as his foggy breath tumbled out from between them.

Whatever words had begun to slip and slide off the wolf’s panting tongue tapered off when his attempts at a conversation were drowned out by Morgan and Tyridia’s own.

“…I don’t mean to impose, Tyr. Just that another set of eyes couldn’t hurt!” The raccoon’s tone, gentle and supportive, lapped at her vulpine companion’s ears.

Teeth clenched, the fox rubbed a clawed hand up and down one of his arms. “You say that like he won’t spend the whole time with his muzzle turned up towards the sky.”

Morgan whistled through her teeth. “That’s fair.”

Patiently waiting his turn, Dax let the silence settle before stirring it back up. “Should we be worried about all this water? Where’s it coming from?” The wolf tapped his boots against pine needle laden pass. Soft splashes could be heard as errant needles slowly started drifting down along the sides of the craggy path that sparkled softly in the sunlight.

Russo casually dragged his own boots along the ground. The piney carpet at the human’s feet parted to reveal a lumpy layer of ice. Countless pebbles and fallen plants could be seen amongst the frozen bubbles. Forcefully, he stamped down upon it. His balance wavered slightly when Russo felt his footing give way beneath his heel and the ice fractured. “That answer your question?”

Satisfied with the explanation offered Dax needily clung tight to the human’s cloak once more.

Tyridia hummed thoughtfully. “Speaking of… if not in those pines then where would someone try to hide around here? Not to, you know, assume someone is out there waiting for us.” Arms wrapped about his chest, tugging his thick and flowing coat tight, the fox’s focus darted from tree to tree.

“Can’t say. I feel Master was trying to steer us away from that thinking like that though,” Morgan gently rebuffed him. Her red rimmed hood pulled down tight, ears poking up against it, the raccoon’s eyes settled on the steady stream of mist puffing up from between her lips. “Still… something doesn’t seem right. Master practically made a show out of this. Trumping up how dangerous our trek to Kovous could be.”

Leading the pack, Russo turned back to face the fuzzies following close behind. “I take it Nadie doesn’t usually send you off with an ass beating?”

“Thankfully,” Tyridia wryly laughed. His green eyes swiveled down along the bottom of their sockets. “I mean. Master loves boasting about how we keep the roads in and out of Yash safe. Why would Kovous be any different?”

“It shouldn’t be,” Morgan mumbled. “Tedrah’s roads are safe and sound. …Right?”

Russo and Dax both let out uncertain ‘ehhhhhhs’ in response. “We make a passing effort at it,” the human followed up.

With a roll of her eyes the white mage carried on. “It shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to think that Kovous would be the same.”

“So what? You think this is a setup?” Russo inquired. He grunted when Dax barked and arooed at him to keep his eyes on the road ahead.

“It is kinda suspicious when you frame it like that…” Tyridia trailed off. The fox cupped his hands together and conjured a purple flame just above his palms. Its crackling warmth brought a much needed respite to his frigid and fluffy fingers. “Though. Ummm. Does it really matter at this point? N-not the fact we might be in danger, I mean. Just that… maybe Master or Norn or even the both of them arranged for whatever it is that might come our way.”

The quartet of mages continued to trudge along quietly as Tyridia’s question hung overhead. Thunks, tunks, splishes, and the shuffling of pine needle against pine needle punctuated the awkward silence.

“It… I wasn’t shooting to be that profound,” the vulpine meekly mumbled.

Russo moaned and let his shoulders slump. At least until Dax tugged back on that cloak and forcibly straightened his posture. “I mean, you’re not wrong,” he answered while his neck snapped back. “Dax, would you stop that!”

The human mulled over the amount of banter shooting back and forth. If anyone was obsessively out there stalking them now would be a hell of a time to strike. Hmmm. Know what, fuck it. Why not it get done and over with?

Clearing his throat, Russo raised his voice a handful of decibels. “Nadie does strike me as the...” There had to be a better word for this. “Catty.” Oh for fuck sakes. “Type. I’m sure she’s plenty more reliable and forthcoming than old man Varun ever would be. But, you know, I wouldn’t be surprised if she set this up either. Disappointed, sure. But not surprised.”

Head tilting side to side, Dax barked softly while peering at the islands of ice dotting the mountainous landscape.

“That’s not like her…” Morgan mumbled. “She went out of her way to warn us. Prepare us, even. It’s not much of a trap if you’re told about it ahead of time. Implied or not.”

Tyridia’s furred fingers twiddled close to his conjured flame. He splayed those digits apart once the heat grew too great. The bitter winds trailing down the slope caught him in a vicious loop of clutching at and reeling from the fire in his palm.

Russo acked as he was tug tug tugged further and further back by the wolf shadowing his every step. “Yes, Dax?”

“Does snow usually huff and puff like that?” Chubby index finger outstretched, the canine pointed at a fairly nondescript and blinding slab of snow. Every now and then a fine mist, clouds of moisture sparkling in the sunlight, wafted up from its angular and uneven form.

Morgan softly, and repeatedly, papped at Russo’s shoulder. The human quietly enveloped the lot of them in a barrier in response. A green semisphere, comprised of interlocking hexagons, curved from the uneven ground up and over past their heads.

“Knew I forgot something,” their unseen stalker silently chided. Pitiful. Reaching out, they curled their fingers along the snow. Compacting the frozen moisture against their palm they brought it up to their mouth and stuffed it between a flattened teeth. Silently inhaling and exhaling through their nostrils, no puffs and huffs of their breath remained to be seen.

Dax’s tail wapped back and forth proudly. “Yayyyyy!” he barked in response to the now acknowledged threat to their continued wellbeing. His ear flicked against the top of his patchwork hood as he took in the abrupt and unannounced whistling that carried along the air.

“…Maybe it’s just enthusiastically melting?” Tyr offered with a nervous chuckle.

TINK

Some combination of yells and acks reverberated amongst the inside of the barrier as an arrow bounced off against its curvature. Heart thumping against the back of his ribcage, Russo had to admit he got exactly what he wanted.

Eyes slowly bobbing back and forth between the sides of their sockets Russo hmmed. He cautiously advanced forward, his boots scuffing and splashing against the path worn down into the very mountainside. His barrier simply glided along the ground with him.

TINK…TINK…

Arrows continued to bounce harmlessly off the wall of magic. They tumbled down the slopes until a mixture of friction and the coarse grooves in the mountainside brought them to a halt. Oblivious to the continued plinks and tinks actively trying to kill them, every mage present leaned forward to try and sneak a better peek at the intended instruments of their demise.

“Are these… are these are blunted?” Eyes squinted in disbelief, Morgan pressed her damp black nose against the side of the barrier. Before them, an accumulating pile of flat headed arrows scraped along a mixture of pebbles and pine needles. Their shafts and feathery fletching shimmered in the sunlight. They were pale, colorless, almost transparent.

The raccoon mmpphhed as her muzzle was dragged along its curved surface.

Rolling his eyes, Russo kept advancing steadily forward. “Let’s just keep this moving. I know better than to actively antagonize whoever that is.” Though… he couldn’t help but snrrk when the arrows began to arc and plunk down atop the magical semisphere.

Head tilted back, Tyridia casually observed every errant arrow bouncing and rolling down along their shield’s sides. A couple of them plopped back onto the beaten path whereas a few came to land before them. “They’re not trying very hard are they?” A couple of furious tinks, all aimed squarely at the fox’s forehead, answered his putdown.

“Come on now, let’s not critique our attempted assassin,” Morgan replied with a heaving sigh of relief. “Who knows? This-” Steady and repeated plinks interrupted the white mage’s train of thought. “What if this is all a ruse? Just something to-”

TINK

Morgan waited for a gap between the slings raining down upon them. “Something to disarm us?” She pulled her lips together tight while she waited to get another thought in. “To play with our expectations and resolve and-”

TINK

TINK

TINK

“And how many freaking arrows do they have? Do they even make quivers that big?” Morgan inquired in irritation. Without end the blunted barbs continued to assault them. Groaning, the raccoon gave up on mentally keeping track of the tally.

As they tread upon them, Dax eagerly scooped the arrows up like they were prizes. Tail wagging, he held them tight against his broad and doughy chest. The wolf whined when it became all too apparent his stockpile had reached its limit. Dropping down to his knees, he leaned forward and splayed his fluffy fingers in a desperate attempt to cram so much as another arrow between his pudgy digits.

“Dax what are you even gonna do with those?” Russo’s pace slackened to a stroll.

Growling proudly, Dax squeezed his entirely useless arsenal tight against his bosom. “Make sure they can’t use ‘em!”

“Well neither can we,” the human shot back. With a shrug, the barrier bobbing as he did so, Russo’s eyebrows arched when he realized he had neglected something. “Oh uh… by the way. Good catch, Dax.” Mmhmms and tacit reassurances tumbled forth from between Morgan and Tyr’s lips as well.

Eeeeing softly, Dax nuzzled his soft chin against the myriad arrows caught in his embrace. “Arf!” The wolf yelped when the bundle of barbs pressing his arms apart crackled into ether. Hurriedly blinking away the tears he arooed at his loss as twinkles of magic wafted off his sleeves and chest.

“Those were conjured?” Morgan breathlessly asked. Turning her gaze behind them she observed the remainders of the ever aggressive volley evaporating into the frigid winter air.

“Is that bad?” Russo impassively asked. He furrowed his brows as the tinks and plinks grew ever more infrequent.

A subdued quiet settled over the group when the arrow assault tapered off to nothing. Tyridia shooed away the silence before it could grow too comfortable weighing down upon their shoulders. “Maybe we should pick up the pace before…”

Humming, low… angry even, accompanied the whistling of another arrow. Adorned with a jet black arrowhead, it carved through the air. Sparks and belches of magic crackled off the curvature of their conjured canopy upon contact.

Its shape deformed as the very magic comprising the barrier was pulled into the arrowhead. The green lattices beneath the arrowhead stretched thin, to the point of transparency, until they simply snapped apart. Gaps, accompanied by bitter drafts of wind, remained where the magical scales had fallen aside.

“Something like that happens,” the fox trailed off. He recoiled at the burst of pine needles intermixed with shards of ice that sprang up from where the arrow touched down. Tyridia peered curiously at the arrowhead as it rolled amongst the refuse. Crystals, both black and blue, lined the flattened arrowhead that glistened with resin. “Spent crystals?”

Gesturing his arms frantically, Russo’s gloved hands glowed. Taking measured breaths, he hastily patched the piercings. Streams of magic flowed out from his fingertips into their faltering defenses. Clenching his fingers, the summoned scales collapsed together into a misshapen mess.

“That’s what’s in them?” Morgan cursed under her breath. She ducked low at the antagonizingly familiar hum of another anti-magic arrow. Seconds later, crackles audibly announced another projectile had forced its way through the barrier.

Crystals cracked and shattered at their feet as the arrows slammed into the coarse ground. Wisps of energy hissed up from the shattered shards before being drawn back into the blackened fragments lining the arrowhead. Blue spots stained the dark and polished surface of the spent crystals wherever trails of magical energy penetrated them.

Dax arooed as Morgan slapped at one of his outstretched grabby hands. “Don’t?” he whined aloud in an inquisitive manner as he rubbed at his hand.

“Don’t,” the remainder of the mages stated in unison.

The wolf grumped as the fox and raccoon dragged him down to the ground while arrows continued flitting overhead. Kneeling, his pants scuffed and tore against the rough, wet, and resin plastered rock. Dax’s brows furrowed worriedly as gusts of frigid wind blew back his hood. The barrier was faltering, unspooling. Interlocking hexagons that glistened in the sunlight slid apart as the gaps in coverage spread, allowing ever more air--and threats--into the increasingly malformed semisphere.

“We can’t stay here,” Morgan decisively declared.

Grunting, Russo bumbled side to side as the arrows took to arcing. Sailing high high high up into the sky, lost against the glare of the sun, before plummeting back down to earth and striking against the top of curved dome. The barrier itself unfurled as it was simply absorbed into the crystal laden arrowheads. Streams of energy whirled around them while they drilled on down through to the mages amassed inside it.

Acking, the human swatted one of the offending intruders aside when it papped down upon his shoulder. Tendrils of energy leeched out from his chest as it flopped awkwardly through the open air. “Well it wasn’t for lack of trying,” Russo replied with a heaving and tired sigh.

“Russo! Are you okay?” Tail tucked between his thick thunder thighs, Dax sniffled and snuffled at the sight. Whatever interest he had in those arrows all but evaporated as he shrank away from them.

“Of course not,” Russo replied with cheeks puffed out. “Those things will drain us dry with a direct hit,” he grumpily acknowledged in between breaths.

The barrier, or what was left of it anyway, convulsed. Visible cracks formed throughout its conjured surface, magic seething from its surface as it simply evaporated into nothing.

Tyridia uneasily regarded the choice of weaponry perfectly suited to take them out. “Someone knew we were coming,” he quietly mused. His suspicions quickly succumbed when he remembered that. Oh. Yeah. Mages are a dime a dozen. “…That or they’re just well prepared.” His wet black nostrils flared as he patted mentally patted himself on the back for having the good sense to not think aloud.

“Tyr, ready an illusion.” At the white mage’s command, two purple flames flit to life within her foxy summoner’s palms. “Dax…” The wolf shook his arms excitedly before his soft chest. “Umm. Stick with me!” Dax clung to her robe desperately. Wrinkles formed along its once pristine white surface. “Russo-”

The human brushed off his shoulders and snorted dismissively. “I’ll run interference like I always do.”

Ringed tail flitting angrily behind her, Morgan’s eyes drilled into the human. “That’s not-”

“Yes, I know splitting up is a terrible idea. Yes, I know I’m stupidly taking on whoever the hell this is on their own terms.” Rolling his eyes, Russo made jazz hands at the raccoon. “And what if they sling another anti-magic arrow our way and upend the entire illusion? We have to somehow manage dodging an entire goddammned volley. They only need to get lucky once.”

Morgan reluctantly retracted a raised finger.

“Who else here can regroup on a moment’s notice like I can? You need a distraction. I can provide one. That and… besides.” Lips pulled taut, Russo allowed his pride to show. “I get to show off this kickass new spell all of once before someone foo foos on it? Fuck that and fuck them.”

The raccoon relented with a shrug. “Fine.” Off in the distance, echoing softly across the rocky slopes, the sound of a string pulling taut registered ominously in Morgan’s ears. “You’re not wrong. That and we don’t have the luxury of arguing this.”

“Good luck!” Dax barked in reassurance. Waving goodbye, he barked as he was dragged forward by Morgan and nudged along by Tyridia while a hot and heavy haze settled upon them.

With a snap of his fingers, the sound muffled by his gloves, Russo disappeared in a distracting burst of light.

Their unseen foe clamped their jaw together. Trickles of water spilled down from between those cracked and practically frozen lips as the shadowy figure steadied their hand. Arrow quivered, they patiently waited for Russo to reveal himself once more.

“I probably should have been paying more attention to where those arrows were actually coming from,” Russo mumbled to himself in a fluid mixture of embarrassment and frustration. Embarrasstration? Frustrassment? Whatever the hell it was called, he felt like an idiot regardless. “Wait… Dax mentioned something about one of these snow piles.” The human disappeared once more. What light remained, the magical burst that signaled his departure, was devoured by another arrow.

Restraining the desire to snort, the antagonized antagonist went through the motions. Elbow ground into the snow, they carefully pivoted it against the frozen flakes. Their hand reached behind them, fingers tapping against the loaded quiver slung over their prone back. The wooden shafts quietly rattled against one another as a single arrow was plucked free.

Russo hmmed while he cautiously warped about. Alright, maybe this is something worth thinking through first. Last time he went flailing around sans magic he did end up left splayed out on a no-name road, somewhere between the point of dead and dying, because of it. “Bar’s been set pretty low. Let’s try not to trip over it,” he thought to himself while he ambled about the mountainside.

The mage ignored the arrows humming, thrumming, and whistling around him while he plotted and pondered. “If I don’t actually DO anything then-” Russo’s thoughts were interrupted by the steady stream of slings that hurtled towards him. “Then I guess that would be okay? I am pretty hard to ignore.” Well hold on now. He strived to be an interference not just a distraction. No no no this just would not do. Nowhere near enough salt had been sown.

“You’ll falter eventually,” the unseen archer mused. Beside them, nestled in the frictionless crooks scooped out of their icy camouflage that was their snowy stand, sat an uncorked pot and an unfolded bindle. Haphazardly spread about the cloth were blackened crystals, drained dry of their magic and ravenous for more. An arrow head was dipped into the mouth of the clay pot where it was swirled about in its unseen innards before being guided over towards the unfurled bindle. Resin, sticky and yellow, dripped down and trailed along the snow. “I’ll wait.”

Rolled about amongst the lightless shards the arrow found itself imbued with a magical hunger. It hummed angrily. The scratched and calloused fingers that notched it against the bowstring were mindful to keep their distance. Lest their owner be drained dry themselves.

Waltzing right up to wherever the hell this jackass was hiding was… probably ill advised, Russo had to admit. Given that this asshat only had to get lucky once and all. Hmmm. He had cycled through nowhere near enough insults for whoever this was. “Come on, think. Lots of people have unsuccessfully tried to kill me before. This should not be that hard.” He grumped in the general direction of the myriad mounds of snow he danced around. If only he could flush her out! It wasn’t like he could, via trial and error, take out one potential hiding spot after another until he finally… alright there we go. There’s that logic he knew he had. Only took a couple of minutes of attempted murder for it to come sputtering about was all.

Right hand clenched, an orange glow and embers flitting out from between his gloved fingertips, Russo threw his arm forward. Knowing better than to admire his handiwork, he readily relocated upon a successful fiery fling. A crackling orb of flame jettisoned from the human’s grasp and hissed upon contact with the pile of snow before him. Steam wafted up from the flattening and sloshing pile of slush. Pools of water puddled around it before dripping down along the mountainside. A swarm of arrows pierced the wall of steam moments later. Cold air blew through the spreading circular punctures as the potential cover melted into nothing.

“So you’re not entirely helpless,” Russo’s unseen target acknowledged. Twangs of annoyance crept into their grunts when shot after shot failed to connect. “That is such a cheap and shitty spell,” they mulled in exasperation. Though a newfound sense of… urgency did come to weigh down upon their limbs as their supply of antimagic arrows were shot off no sooner than they were created.

Russo wasn’t quite sure what he was expecting to see or hear upon successfully snuffing out that squatter. He could say with some confidence that it probably wasn’t going to be a sizzling sound though as yet another slab of snow and ice wilted into water. “Nope.” Russo adhered to no rhyme or reason when it came to clearing out cover. Sometimes it was on every teleport. Occasionally the flames came only every other teleport. Or every so often they adhered to some third kind of logic that Russo couldn’t even remember! Regardless, slowly but surely the dandruffy tufts of snow lining the rocky slopes of this land simply ceased to be.

“You can stop hiding now,” the human casually commented when all but one spot of snowy subterfuge remained. Russo received no response. Admittedly it was pretty obnoxious that it had come down to this. Honestly, what were the odds? Whatever. He was nothing if not thorough! And stubborn.

“Alright,” Russo shrugged. “Be that way.” Hand tucked against his opposite shoulder, the mage threw his arm out and across the length of his body. A wave of flame lapped against the air and encroached upon his unseen foe. It tried to, anyway.

Rapid fire plucks of a bowstring sounded over the roar of the fire. The spell pulsed and contracted into a pathetic whimper of smoke as a flurry of arrows pierced the flames. Each arrowhead glowed blue upon passing through, absorbing the very magic that powered the fire and thereby suffocating it, before coming crashing down at Russo’s feet sated.

A feminine figure, shaggy and caked in snow, rose to a standing position. Stringy white strands of wool contrasted sharply against the black fuzzed snoot that scrunched at the mage. Their hooves stamped down against the imprint they had left behind while laying prone. Bow held before them, the irritated archer exhaled loudly. “Well aren’t you a right and proper pain in the ass,” the svelte sheep grumpily bleated.
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RaddaRaem
Extinction Level Event
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