by Ma'alkeen

His eyes burned crimson as the human snarled at the bleeding corpse held in his hands by the collar of his robes. Blood dyed the black gloves he wore with red iron. It trickled down the charcoal black segmented short sword each section forming full a vertebrae column. The seven smaller blades, cured in a light S shape around the bone short sword with the last blade curving into a crescent tip holding it all in place. The hilt was bone white with a screaming banshee in engraved in black. Light fades and dies upon it.

Blood flowed freely from the serrated cut around the neck of the quickly bleaching face of a man with blond and scarlet hair; scarlet being a recent addition given by the assassin who held him. His eyes were wide, frozen in horror at the last moments of his life. The one who acquainted him with the underworld appeared as a man of long black hair and darkened face with a broad nose that jutted just slightly before his mouth. The black glove would pull off a necklace bearing an eye surrounded by seven points holding smaller eyes on each end. A drop of blood took the place of a last point with a tangle of gnashing teeth coming from beneath it. He could feel its sinister power feeding off life energy.

Black haze formed around his hand, flowing over it like wind would flow over a smooth rock and cover the emblem. The sinister power coming from the unholy object became sealed behind a pitch black veil.

"No, you will not escape me a third time." Though his voice held a neutral tone it was undeniably cold. Candle lights that illuminated this dungeon faded around him as he closed his crimson eyes and entered a state of meditation.

When he opened them once more he would be in a room with a high ceiling made of stone that glimmered with obsidian in the night. A dire feeling permeates the room. No candle or spell lit the dark chamber where only moonlight penetrated through the eight foot tall and four foot wide windows. The celestial body was in the process of opening her eye to gaze upon the world this month. With this holy day coming soon the news he would impart left a bitter taste in his mouth. Before the assassin was a second set of crimson eyes belonging to a grizzled old man. His hair was short, the moon light made the grayed hairs shine silver. Before him was a letter, the shadow knew what it meant even as the words on it faded. The master's jaws tensed with the neatly trimmed beard tracing around the scowl that hung on him.

"What do you have to report Ma'alkeen?" The shadow of the assassin makes a slow respectful bow.

"Illkira has escaped." Ma'alkeen notices the grave look on his master's face. Before his master can chastise him, he continues. "However, I know where she goes now." The momentary pause tells him to continue. "She heads to the area between the Giantdowns and Midlands for the final page and where the seal lies."

"Then it seems like fate that your final assignment will lead you there." The muscles on the man's face remained stoic as he would gaze into the darkness and the shadow would gaze back. Finally he'll receive his orders. "Make for the realm of Metamor following my specific instructions. After completion of this mission, you will remain in that area and act as our liaison to the region. There are many powers at work above and below the surface. Keep your eyes open for anyone seeking to disturb or unleash these forces." The shadow bowed once more to him but wouldn't leave immediately. The master knew why this shadow delayed this departure; he also knew his former pupil sometimes had a difficult time expressing himself. So he would speak for him.

"Of all the students I've trained and all the Marked who served me, you have been the sharpest and most devout to the cause. Upon your release I ask only that you ensure Her will, honor your training, honor the oath, honor our mission." He would give a final bow. "You will no longer be required to call me master after this assignment." The shadow would respond with one final bow, his words spoke highly of the honor and pride he held despite their cold neutral tone of his voice.

"To me, you will always be my master." It would close its eyelids slightly; he cared not about expressing this much of his feelings, exposing the weakness of loyalty. His training however kept him from displaying more. Then the crimson eyes would close. Upon opening them again he was in the dungeon once more. He'll turn to the metal door and made his way back up the long dark corridors back to the surface. The light began to filter in through barred windows as he reached the surface, causing him to close his eyes against the blinding sunlight. Once opened Ma'alkeen would gaze upon the decrepit passage with dark green eyes speckled with red. He would pass the threshold back into the open world, the chill of winter bit him as he started to move gradually from walk to jog and dash. As he passed through the trees slowly his visage became a distortion before vanishing into the shadows of the dendrites.

Ma'alkeen however didn't teleport. Instead he would be traversing the world of shadows, the colors drained from his environment. The sky was black except for the white dot of what made the sun. The trees and their shadows were a pale white and gray. However inside of them he would see traces of red, yellow blue and green flowing through them. He began to suppress the magic sight of Mage's eyes for a now, instead keeping his focus on the Shadowed Sight. He occasionally saw creatures not seen by the naked eye. Spirits of varying strength, making up colors he couldn't suppress. Some would look on in amusement or curiosity. Others barely paid heed to him. Most spirits wouldn't take interest in normal mortals, however he wasn't like most. He knew what he appeared to be. A mortal half covered by what would have appeared to him as white flames and tendrils; two inhabited one body.

After only 20 years of service and training, he virtually lets you loose. The dark spirit spoke, his voice sounding like a sinister whisper of his own. How does it feel?

The weight of responsibility weighs heavily on my shoulder, even if Master isn't overseeing me.

Your climb through the ranks may leave some jealous.

As long as they don't interfere, I can care less.

A smile crept on the face of the burning shadow. You're an interesting one. Many mortals can't handle the uncertainty that surrounds the unknown. Especially with your resolve.

He knew what it spoke of. He heard of the stories of the curse, but not once did his mind or heart show any signs of hesitance. After a life surrounded by pain, death and betrayal, he attained an unshakable will, this was a minor problem as far as he was concerned. The form of beast, woman or child held nothing to the horrors he faced in his twenty years of training, hunting and killing people and creatures the world would never know about.

As always, I will adapt. It is also not an unknown; I know I will succumb to one of three changes.

Ah, but there are some things even you won't be able to adjust to. Hehehe

Ma'alkeen would remain silent. Though the curse in itself seemed like a minor concern there were a few things he did worry about it. What if he was given a form he couldn't fight with? There was the indignity of having to rely on another to accomplish a mission he couldn't fulfill himself. But his pride will be second to only completing the objective. They had to stop Illkira.

This was his last assignment from the Kri Nah, the Master Shadow. After this, his only obligations would be to serve Alanes, his patron and serve the balance. Despite the dismissal from his master's service after this assignment, he would always be Nahfalt. And no matter what form they were, Nahfalt are always a family. They are all brothers and sisters in the same cause, sharing the same burden.

He would begin to slow down, his endurance was beginning to wane after that earlier battle. Had the situation not required haste he would have tried to volunteer his services as an escort for any trade caravans going up the valley to any of the provinces of the keep. Instead he was sneaking pass their lines to kill someone who was also sneaking pass their borders. Though he has run a fowl several guard patrols elsewhere he certainly didn't enjoy the experience.

After what seemed like several hours of a steady yet fast pace dash, he left the shadows of the world. Light again illuminated the sky, color came back to the physical world the way he would normally perceive it. Skipping from shadow to shadow a mere ghost floating through the woods helped him span vast distances, however he couldn't keep up this form of travel. The sun has set casting more shadows and giving him more visibility on where he was going yet slowed his rate of travel. He was now breathing heavily, his muscles were irate and his eyes were tired. He needed to renew his energy.

Aww! Nod's voice spoke in his head. I was really to enjoying our little hike in the shadows. Heh heh heh.

Ma'alkeen would look up at what seemed to be a shade looming over him. The contour held that same lashing tendrils of Nod. "Too bad the body can't survive on spirit alone. I'd have you do the walking." He speaks in a low whisper then give a curt smile to the shadow. "But since you're feel awake enough, be a good sentry and keep watch over me."

Bah, without me how would you sleep at night?

"I don't, usually."

Oh yeah. Hehehe

Ma'alkeen would sigh but would let out a small huff of a laugh. All Nahfalt have a shadow spirit who shares their body. They are deemed the Shadowmarked because of a certain mark on all of their souls when they're born. If left alone the mark often results in madness, psychotic episodes and overwhelming bloodlust. So it was routine for them to kidnap the children born with the Shadowmark and to raise them, teach them how to control the powers of their mark, then train them on how to effectively use it against their enemies. Each person with a Shadowmark draws in dark spirits. While many can be malevolent, others harbor no ill intentions. The spirits who are compatible with them however are often of the opposite personality trait. Those who reject the merger for too long, often a marked, will die a quick death which isn't often painless. Ma'alkeen was paired with the spirit Nod, a playful trickster who balances Ma'alkeen's grudged cruelty. He also gave the assassin access to more power from his mark, however only after he trained enough and began to find balance with his own bloodlust. Nod acts as his guardian and partial mentor.

Now, he's one step under their master and soon to be left to mostly serve on his own. Behind him through it all was Nod. Though the pact was made where the spirit got to share the same body, he often wouldn't take control unless necessary, or if he's feeling particularly mischievous. However he learned that Nod's mischief doesn't leave any permanent harm for the host. He even learned to let himself indulge in some acts of trickery. They were two halves making up a whole that could function. Plotting trickery often kept him from indulging in blood sport unless it was against certain enemies. Nod often kept him in line when things were on the verge of falling apart and he was in danger of massacring all those around him.

Ma'alkeen began to quickly scale a tree, the branches helped to launch him into cover. He'll then lay with his back against the trunk three levels high.

If you turn into a squirrel it's only fitting I help drive you nutty.

Ma'alkeen groaned at the horrible joke. But couldn't help but smile at the spirit.

Night was falling, that gave him more shadows and with their element being more predominant now Ma'alkeen was ready to move once more. They were two days from the outlying providence making up the realm of Metamor then he'll have to work quickly to overcome his foe before he'll be left having to learn to use a new body which may hinder his efforts. He would close his eyes and effortlessly focus on crossing over into the shadows. This time the colors didn't fade to the same extent as they did in the day. There was a dull faded brown making up tree bark with a faded green making up the needles of conifers. The sky was pale with the bright silver of a waxing moon just over the horizon.

Again they would begin to walk with Nod trying to pass the time with casual conversation.

You remember the last time we were this far north?

Ten years ago, I was training under Lauren.

Violent thing she was.

Very rash, though she never went into a killing frenzy.

I think it was a good thing one of you kept your heads. Nod crossed his arm over their chest. Ahhh kids, stumbling through the world ignorant of its dangers and with so little self control.

My inexperience led to my failure in controlling my anger then. Though it was a bitter memory he wouldn't repress it. Realizing mistakes and keeping himself from making them again were key to keeping him alive during his training period. So was avoiding making foolish mistakes that would have jeopardized them.

Now instead of going blood crazy in a village of defenseless sheep, you do it in the middle of a nest of hornets and come out of it alive. Not only that you keep enough of your sanity to be a precise slayer.

All because of Lauren. She always volunteered for the missions where she can let loose. Master called her the Black Tempest. The level of carnage in her wake was only balanced by the precision of that final kill.

You loved going on missions with her.

I had adapted a lifestyle after her.

One of pushing yourself to see how far you can bend before you can break. Ma'alkeen would nod lightly.

Yes, to find that limit to my abilities. He'll sigh. Found it, thankfully without costing my life.

Just your eyes. The casual tone Nod referred to Ma'alkeen's ‘operation' would have bothered him long ago, but he has learned seven years ago that his behavior is that of one who learned centuries ago if not longer to never dwell on things. One who takes all of life's obstacles and scars but goes on with his life simply because he has it. Though if Ma'alkeen died Nod won't, it's something the spirits that follow the Marked didn't have to worry about. However if it was ever discovered that one of these assassins were seeing aid from a dark spirit then their enemy might seek out the powers of a cleric or shaman to seal the spirit away or drag it into the physical world in a body they can kill.

Three days of tracking their target by distortions in magical and spiritual energy and the assassin would find himself thankful for the heavier robe, breeches and tunic. His hood was raised with a facemask covering his mouth. The biting cold of winter was starting to take its toll in this pursuit. At least four times a day he needed to stop for a few minutes to meditate and focus on channeling his will to overcome some of the harsher elements. The black cloak wasn't idea for camouflage while running through woods in the middle of the day either so he felt relatively exposed. Day and night he was trying to pursue his objective, to shorten the gap between them before he reached…

Ma'alkeen would stop, something in the air seemed to have changed with the next step he took. A small prickling sensation travels though his back around certain magic.

Smell that energy, hehehe. We just entered the valley's curse.

Ma'alkeen would look at the shade to his left. You seem to be enjoying yourself.

It's been a while since I was last here, four hundred years I think. I was quite the overzealous trickster. Made a few of the local lords turn to their priest to drive away the spirit who removed a leg or two from cabinets and chairs, made some rather marvelous alchemical fires and made a few people change themselves in the middle of the day by shaping shadows and projecting my voice into their heads.

I guess we're fortunate that no one's alive now to recall your antics in the past. The assassin shook his head as he began to walk on once more. He was nearly ready to pass into the umbra and continue on.

Well, there is the keep guardian…

Guardian? The frown made the spirit act quickly to quell the growing discontent.

Yes, she's quite powerful. In fact she's been guarding things that have passed into legend or myth. This caused the black cloaked assassin to scratch at his chin under the face mask covering his mouth and nose.

I see this region isn't just important for maintaining balance.

Someone would have been posted here when the forces to the north managed to infiltrate their perimeter a year ago but…

Ma'alkeen seemed to snarl as he recalled the Fall. The Nahfalt were nearly destroyed by themselves when a fourth of their numbers were being controlled by a demon who consumed and duplicated their spirits. It had them act as sleeper units for when he finally attacked their sanctuaries. It turned their numbers from little over two hundred to just twenty. Most of the slain were agents with five years of experience or less but they also lost a majority of their leaders and strongest agents. This left a void in their intelligence circle with the fall of all but two sanctuaries, one being reduced to simply four people. They had to reestablish their network first, to be aware of any other threats to their remaining sanctuaries as well as the movement of forces that could be a danger to them all. Though their numbers were short, they consisted of their most skilled assassins and a few of the students who were away and in hiding.

Let's keep moving before another slaughter is upon us. The spirit fell silent as they passed over the snow covered ground. Though he was adept in keeping his steps silent the small crunching of snow underfoot caused him to flinch. But such was the price of giving up stealth for haste. He would try to keep his head on matters of importance while he was in this valley.

By the way we may see the change take effect earlier than expected. This made the assassin stop, then hold his gloved hand under his mask to contemplate his options.

How early? He'd ask.

You have three days. Ma'alkeen swore and immediately tried to figure out a way to keep the change from burdening him on this mission any farther than it had already. Before he could ask what happened to cause the change to come about earlier Nod would answer. Seems some of the energy used in forming the curse has taken a liking to your mark and so it's flowing through your body at an accelerated rate.

Are you able to… manipulate the curse in any way?

Well, manipulating its effects may end with a result you will not like. However I can try to give it a small push in a direction that may be favorable to us. He would look up at the branches, the snow mostly fell off to the ground at this point, leaving many of the deciduous trees bare but there were still plenty of cover from some of the pines.

Can you give me a form that can take advantage of these trees? The spirit would seem to smile a little at the task.

Since you asked so nicely I'll see what I can do.

The trek through the woods was a bitter one to say the least. The chill that came from the mountains was very different from the supernatural chill that comes over him when dancing with death and spirits. He actually preferred to fight the cold that came with walking the shadows over this. His reasons for not returning to them were practical ones. Learning the terrain of the valley will prove invaluable later. The night came with the chill of the mountain air sweeping down from the north following it. Reluctantly he was forced to temporarily hold his pursuit while he focused on channeling his energy into endurance then eating his rations before continuing into the night. Surveying his current situation he had enough rations left for two more days of this pursuit and though his robes were thicker to provide warmth, it was meant for climates in the northern Midlands which didn't extend to the mountain and valley.

Eventually he needed to halt and wait in the southern side of a small cliff, despite his resolve to catch up and kill his target, his body could only continue for so long with low reserves of physical and spiritual energy. He needed to make a kill of some kind, for energy and for food. Had it been summer he could regenerate more since plants, insects and cold blooded animals were active. The season with the most life also possessed the most deaths and so more energy escaped them. It often required time to rest and focus to gain enough energy to use his abilities this season so he needed to be wary on how much is used at a time. Nod was particularly quiet this time. He must have still been busy working on adjusting the curse. Apparently it was a bit trickier to get the trickster guardian's desired result. Something about the way that sounded unsettled him.

The second day in the valley was quiet as well, his legs weren't particularly happy with climbing up hill for the second day in a row but were glad for the periods where the terrain leveled off and made the trek a little easier. His mind was on Illkira, the damn Roulj or in common tongue Black Heart necromancer. When he encounters her he'll be at a disadvantage. The amulet she carries, that he also carries but sealed, is constantly giving her energy from her environment by killing everything little by little. She will certainly have more power than him when they meet, he'll need something she won't expect to throw her off guard, if only for a moment but for now no tricks were coming to him.

Before he knew it dusk had fallen once more, his body was burning with exhaustion from moving so much which thankfully kept the cold at bay. He decided to spend some more time to gather energy again so he could perform a few tricks. The second day on the trail of his target and he felt his ability to sense it waver. He stopped more today trying to find the trail again than he did yesterday warming himself so he will spend his time tonight touching the energy he needed to keep track of the path before them. That was when he felt a familiar presence come to him, the calculating and devious mind of his guardian.

Ah, here we are. Miss me young one. This caused the assassin to open one of his green eyes with blood red speckles of the Shadowed Sight.

Finished? Was all he asked. Though it was rather cold the spirit simply knew it was because he was exhausted from following the trail. Probably also bitter that he seemed have temporarily lost that same trail.

Why yes, I think you'll be in for a pleasant surprise tomorrow. I suggest you get some sleep tonight though.

Judging from the twitch and grimace on his face, Ma'alkeen wasn't too fond of the suggestion. But he obeyed his guardian's advice by pulling his hood up and to drift slowly to sleep in the semi-meditative position.

The next morning started early with his eyes opening with the sun over the horizon bathing the white brown and occasional green with its light. It made him close his eyes slightly in annoyance. Too much time killing people in dungeons he thought. It wasn't helped by the Mark. After another year at most he may be partially blind in the daylight hours.

Never was a morning person. He'll rub his head before beginning to stand slowly in the snow. The hood of his robe came down so his ears could listen to the call of the blue jays, sparrows and other birds with the wind brushing the branches and…

He'll stop and his ears would listen closely to the snow covered forest. The supernatural chill associated with another deathly performance came upon him. He sensed someone there. He couldn't hear them quite yet, but he had one advantage his stalker didn't think of. The creeping red speckles in the Nahfalt's eyes covered them killing the light and showing him the world without the light of snow and cover some of the trees provided. Though he didn't need the Shadowed Sight itself he needed another sense that came with it. Ma'alkeen quickly delved deeper into the world around him, going through the flow of energy, through the outlines of spirits. He sought to feel heart and soul of whatever was hidden. Four of them, one is farther back than the others, three were moving spread out to try to box him in. There was a sense of malicious intent behind those hearts, causing a smile to cross his face. As he began to pull out of this soul sensing he detected something that would emphasize caution, a mixture of elemental energies were coming from one of them. A mage.

Ma'alkeen would slowly move around the tree leaning against it and keeping the bark between him and the archer, then look in the directions of each one of the circling bandits. No need to give them warning if they were already setting up for an ambush. The energies began to build, the mage was getting ready to move first. Or so it thought. There was one weakness all fighters had that he always enjoyed taking advantage of, they try to keep the sun away from their eyes. This left the shadows on the assassin's side.

Just as the mage was ready to cast his spell to bind their would be victim for the others to finish off he would suddenly feel a sudden chill run down his spine through the furs he wore. It was a fell chill, like he just crossed the threshold to a place the living don't go. The world slowed, he felt the color was draining from it. He wanted to shout a warning to the others, but instead of words leaving his throat he got blood. Blood from the slit made in his trachea. As he fell. His eyes start to go dark. Too late did he realize they made a mistake. A fatal mistake.

The other bandits stepped forward ready to swing at where the assassin once was but instead found only the bark of the tree. The moment of confused silence that followed was broken by the thump of a body in snow. The mage, a rather attractive female lay there, her eyes stricken with the last moments of horror. The two bandits, a mace wielding ox and long sword wielding terrier exchanged baffled looks only for it to be interrupted with another thud in the snow thirty paces away. They needed to only look at each other and the same thought crossed their minds, move together. So the two carefully made to the sound finding it came from the tree to an age regressed male who shared the same horrified gaze, his skull had a thin diamond shaped hole which leaked the scarlet fluid into the snow.

That was when they felt the unnatural chill. Their hearts sunk and their eyes would slowly widen. All seemed to slow, all light seemed to fade. Their heads both turned up with weapons clenched hoping to stave off the shadow coming from above. But they were far too late when two blades, black as the void and warmed by the trickling blood of their compatriots would pierce the top of the terrier's skull while the other would slide down the center of the ox's chest cavity. The blade would move through the armor and thick hide as if it were nothing more than air, leaving no mark on the leather, but underneath the ox's torso was split evenly, as if he just cut paper. Their last moment alive, they thought they saw a shadow. Its red eyes held a cold piercing gaze that stared eternally into the souls and judge them. Then darkness.

Ma'alkeen stood over the bodies of the last two bandits falling to their knees before crumpling on the ground. The assassin's eyes were closed as he felt that last spark of life in their bodies fade. He drew in that energy before it escaped and a bit more from the bodies before the scavengers could take it. The bodies moved slightly as the energy left them, but otherwise remained unchanged. Had he decided to take all of the energy they would fall into dust. There was still some honor and respect he had for the dead and their place in the life cycle.

He traveled the rest of the way in silence as he passed into the shadows. His body phasing through the light into the shadow of denser reaches of the woods. Always his bloody eyes were gazing forward, following a path marked by the black sinister air left by his target. His own aura has grown more pronounced since the execution of the bandits. He silently hoped to stumble upon some eventually, taking both the last breaths to regenerate what was lost before getting to the valley and then their rations so he didn't have to hunt for anything or visit a town during his pursuit.

Pulsing black energy coursed through the bracers along his forearms. Two black blades came from out each black leather bracer marked with a figure in prayer under a bone white moon. The figure was engulfed by black fire that left no burns or any sign of torment on its visage. If the bracers were put together they were facing each other in prayer under bone eyes. One blade extended above his wrist proceeding to go nine inches beyond his knuckles and another that ran the length of his bracer, extending three inches from the arm. The blades retract into the bracers before they melt away leaving his forearm covered by two wrapped cloth bracers with his Mark on them. The black energy flowed down to the sheath where it formed the bone hilt of the short sword.

The trail is a few hours old. I think we're catching up. Nod's near whisper of a voice conveyed to him.

She wants us to follow her. The assassin deduced. He could find no sign of distress in the trail, it wasn't like Illkira had to use her magic to stave off an attack or she was wounded. With his power back to usual levels the path became clear. She was prepared for him. This left him with two choices, continue the pursuit and into her trap, or he could wait and try to set up countermeasures against her.

I think I know why she's trying to bait us. Nod would smile as he looked at his host. It wasn't a creature who just feasted on the lives and souls of anyone it came across. Exsal was a demon who sought the souls of certain individuals possessing marks of power. Getting power from strong souls wasn't enough for his overall ambition. He needed powers the other gods and demons had no hold over. Nod would point at the Mark engraved on his bracer. He wanted each Mark. Not just the ones of Shadow but the other seven. This caused Ma'alkeen's eyes to narrow as he looked at the spiraling black air before him.

And my mark will make his search easier.

He was stripped of many of his powers. Including the ability to see what lies within one's heart and soul. You would give that ability back to him. The assassin's hand would clench and he would step out of the shadows to back into the world basking in the light of the afternoon sun. He thought about his options of all the possible variables that she may not expect. One came to him as ironic. However the irony of it all would cause a small smile to form on his face and made Nod chuckle in delight.

You learn well my friend.

The cold wind bit at their backs, heralding the coming of a storm from the north. They were unlucky enough to be assigned patrol to the woods to the south east of the keep after reports of strange activity that could be lutins or bandits. They were the only team that hadn't mobilized this week and a few of their party needed to serve in the common duty of assisting in the patrol for hostile activity.

Taking the rear and one of those who had to serve on a patrol was the crow morph Talen, a name he dubbed himself after becoming a crow simply for the irony. The crow was quite simply a show off before and after his change. He was part of a troupe of acrobats who ended up caught in a lutin ambush thus found him stranded here with his sister Aria. Though he still liked to show off he often does it while safely back at the keep, not while he was sent on patrol like this. He was her only family left, most of the other troupe died in the initial assault or the injuries sustained. They were one of the performers who routinely came to the Keep during the Summer Festival and loved the variety of the crowd, a motley bunch of kind folk who left the most welcome feeling they've had in all their travels. Now he was one of them, though from bitter sweet means. He wore leather armor that has been specially made to weigh as much as his feathers, while affording him the protection he needed from attack. His weapon of choice was his talons, which he learned to easily manipulate to perform various lethal kicks, feeling that performing such maneuvers were no different from the various aerial feats he had performed with the troupe. Granted he won't take to the air easily while weighed down by the furs adorning him like the rest of the party over their armor.

Before him was the scruffy bearded Elwood, the gender morph who wields a claymore with a kind of grace many don't expect such heavy weapons capable of. He often came off as a sleepy man, often found watching a gate with his feet up in a chair and eyes closed. Yet he was perceptive enough to know when someone was approaching him or his post. Often those posted with Elwood wondered if he was always this carefree or if it's something the one time woman perfected since she changed.

Just behind the captain was Allison, a gender morph who seemed to enjoy the weather as much as Talen. She was bundled up with a rather disdainful look in her eyes as she tried to keep the cold at bay. The gender morph was very lovely and like him she had to serve on a patrol since she had experience with a light crossbow, though she was primarily a tailor in the keep. Before a year ago she always loathed going on the patrols, feeling a bit distasteful that there were others who were more skilled than her who can help watch the roads and forest for any dangers to the keep. Since the assault, she has since shut her mouth about that, though the bitter bite of winter annoyed her, she sees these patrols and practice sessions as imperative for their safety more than before ever before.

The shoulder length brown hair of the gender morph occasionally interfered with her ability to see captain Tulae, a border collie in leather armor armed with a bow and a scimitar. Her father was a smith before the curse took him, despite his best efforts now his weapons and armor lack the quality that he was able to maintain when his body was that of an adult. Tulae tried to assist her father in the business but found that she lacked his aptitude for the trade but it was enough to keep food on the plate and a roof over their heads, at least for a while. She found combat more fitting for her after the first patrol and decided to enlist fulltime. Her father gave her a sword that was a gift to him long ago from a man he claimed to have aided in defeating an evil spirit.

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