Ato watches the conflict between Vasha and Ellengil play out, choosing not to involve himself in it. When Vesra speaks to him and offers the flower, he takes it from her. "My thanks, lady, though no offering of peace is required, as I have not had any cause for strife with either you or the other. A sibling, I assume? She is perhaps a bit overzealous in her protection of you, but only has your best interests at heart, I'm sure."
As it becomes clear that the other group is eying them with dubious intent, a shiver runs through his body, and the fins at his forearms glare out slightly, a subconscious reaction to the sense of danger. He grips a dagger hilt with one hand and shrugs his shoulders to settle the quiver of javelin slung across his back. "Aye, it seems they might wish to test us, even if our host does not."
Once Ellangil had finished talking with the Mer, Vasha had made her way back towards him. A part of him wanted to tense right up in preparation for some retaliatory punch while the other part of him wanted to turn his back and walk away. The debate went on inside of him too long because she was there, barely two inches shorter than he, and staring him in the eyes. But something was different, her eyes did not have the same fire in them that was there a second before. They weren't sad and there was no less gleam of confidence to them, they simply did not have the hatred that seemed to be there before. His guard was immediately lowered.
"You... are right."
Ouch! That had to hurt. Never did those words feel good coming from the mouth of a person that had such confidence and stubbornness. He knew because he was one of them. Now his guard was completely dropped. There was not a doubt in his mind that the two would ever act like that again. Oh they would argue, it was in their blood, but it wouldn't be with this aura of hatred that they seemed to exhume upon each other. He wanted to go and speak to her, but Vesra had a few words to say. She made it clear that it needed to stop, and she would have been right in her assessment. The barbarian said nothing and allowed a voice of reason to interject.
When Vesra's attention shifted to the other two and her flower gift, Ellangil took the opportunity and walked over to Vasha. He looked down as she sat upon the ground allowing her to look into his eyes and see that the flame of anger had diminished from his as well. He extended a hand in greeting. "Vasha, I am Ellangil of the Adalbern Tribe of the Kargan Lands in Northern Akoum. Rise with me, your sister fears we might have trouble. My stubborn words did not aid the situation in the least. Let us move forward. Fight by my side, warrior to warrior, that we might earn each other's respect." If his hand was accepted, he'd pull to help get her to her feet.
Ellangil's eyes, though, never lost track of the fellow barbarian. He could not recall the individual, but Ellangil was always aware of the path that got him to this arena. Alaric would stop at nothing to ensure the Angel's prophesy would never come true.
Before Veythe could get a word in Ellangil spoke up, and Veythe watched the results with understanding eyes. She'd been there once, made stupid mistakes full of brashness and wariness at the world. She understood. With a sigh she shook her head and uttered calmly, hopefully enough that Vasha could hear her, "You have done no wrong as far as I can tell." She turns toward Vesra.
"I am Veythe," she said. Do you prefer to speak, or not to speak? She knows some Kor dislike using their words and would rather sign what they want to say. Veythe didn't want to force anyone to do something they didn't want. She gives Vesra a smile and accepts the offered flower with a thanks.
"I have taken no offense to your sister," she said. "It is obvious she cares. No peace offering needed, although these are lovely flowers, thank you." For a moment the heat gets to Veythe and with a sigh she decides to sit down. Of course just when she makes that choice does it appear that trouble may be brewing. Veythe sighed. "Ah, this is why I didn't act right away myself. Always someone who responds poorly..." She fiddles with her pan flute, lips pressed together. "I don't suppose we could try and calm their tempers?"
As Vasha sat quietly, eyes closed, she could hear someone walking toward her. It was someone small, and she guess it might be one of the goblins. His offer to teach her to write actually made her smile. It was something she'd never expected. She took the dart and placed it back in her pouch then opened her eyes. Indeed, a goblin stood before her, but before she could say anything, she saw Ellangil making his way toward her. Suddenly she felt as popular as Vesra. She tensed up, smile dropping from her lips, prepared for a fight.
But instead of a fight, Vasha saw sincerity. Confused, she actually gave him her hand and allowed him to help pull her up. "If my sister has anything to do with it, there will be trouble." She didn't release Ellangil's hand. Instead, she pulled him closer, a grin beginning to spread across her lips. "Because we'll cause it."
Releasing Ellangil's hand, Vasha catches her sister's attention, horrible grin still on her lips. She said nothing, made no signs, just that horrible grin. Then she began walking toward the group who called her sister "poisoner," hands on her hooks.
"Then you can both consider it an offering of allyship," Vesra's ever-present grin seemed to widen. "They are flowers of victory, if you believe such things. If you don't, they're pretty and bright and will remind me who not to throw balls of fire at later on."
"I don't mind talking," she winked at the human woman. She was quite pleased that the human had come over to talk to her on her own; she had been planning to talk to Veythe next. Vesra decided to ignore both of their comments about Vasha. Her twin was capable of fighting her own battles, and she didn't need the words of strangers to tell her that Vasha always did what was best.
"Ah, but where would be the fun in that?" Vesra giggled at the notion of trying to diffuse the situation. It was clear that everyone was ready for a little blood shed, and she did not want to make the second move. She looked over and saw Vasha rise to her feet, the sisters sharing a knowing smile. The twins always seemed to be on the same page, and as the monk began to approach the other group of would-be adventurers, Vesra knew what she had to do.
"I do believe that's my cue!" Vesra said aloud, her hands saying the same thing in Kor. "Who's ready to have some fun?" The druid spun around and cast faerie fire at the clump of adversaries. Golden sparkles seemed to rain down upon them, clinging to their clothing.
Vasha had accepted his hand, and he helped her to her feet. That was about where the scenario played out in his head when he came up with the idea. Once she pulled him in close, Ellangil could not help but think he was in for trouble. Their hands released and she only took one step before Ellangil could see the momentary glance between the twins and know that things were going to start on their terms. He had to admire the desire. The other group did have a look like trouble was going to come anyway ... and ... the Vampire Hostess did say that she liked those of action. Ellangil did not know 'what' was going to take place, but he let his stride place him next to Vasha. When the moment came, he would draw his bastard sword and hand axe. That group was about to feel the barbarian's rage ...
Veythe takes a moment as Vesra speaks, and then with a groan pushes her hand flat into the earth. She'd just sat down too. Oh well.
"Normally," Veythe said. "I'd exercise caution but..." Veythe swayed as she got to her feet and stumbled forward once. She gripped her pan flute tight and a bright, vicious grin crossed her face. "...I'm honestly tired of waiting." She tugged her flute up towards her lips and waited for the signal. A little bloodshed would go a long way toward galvanizing their usefulness to that Vampire, and if not? Well the women should have damn well said so.
Kayn stood there watching the two walk off. They barely noticed him... They looked mad. Fights will happen soon. Very soon. Kayn's eyes wondered over to the huge water pipes along the walls. If Lady Vampire wanted to, this could be interesting. His gaze moved from the pipes to the walls, looking for high ground.
Almost to himself he notes, "The arena sometimes fills with water during fights in the arena. The lookers like to watch the blood in water. Vampire wine, they calls it." His head tilts as he watches the two, waiting to see what happens.
"And so it begins. Good luck to us all." With that Ato drifts away from his newfound companions as they moved directly towards the other group. His hope was that their pointed advance would allow him to circle around behind and give himself some advantage by catching them unawares. He knew where his strengths lie.
Vesra's spell caused golden, glowing glitter to scatter across the air, coating one of the goblins and the Joraga elf. The two goblins screamed, "Booyahg!", as the only goblin began to freak out, trying to brush off the lights on it. The elf seemed to recognize the spell, and instead moved for his quiver to pull out an arrow.
And then a fierce rumbling began across the Pits. The ground shook horrendously for a few seconds before Vielara's voice, though her personage not seen, emanated from the air once again. "Test three has now begun." The ground continued to rumble, and large chunks of the ground began to break away from the seamless sand, suddenly drop a few inches and causing sand to begin to trickle down through the cracks. "Return to the Tekentlar Expedition House." The entire crowd begins to look frantically at the ground around them as it sinks. Several applicants disappear with a scream as the ground gives way beneath them. "It doesn't matter to me how many make it back." She finishes with a chuckle, "Have fun."
And with her final word of advice, the entirety of the Pits plummets down below, the applicants following suite, falling for a brief second, maybe two, before they collide into the surface of the water now beneath them. Gathering your bearing and figuring out which way is up in the water takes a moment, but you follow the light and soon find yourselves on the surface of the water. Looking about, you notice that there are a total of seventeen applicants who have likewise made their way to the surface of the water, and only the elf's faerie fire is visible. It would seem that everyone has fallen roughly thirty feet into a large pool of saltwater, perhaps eighty or so feet across in diameter. Vielara's voice echoes across the cavern's walls, "Oh. And do mind the guests here. They tend to bite."
Vesra hit the water hard, knocking the air out of her lungs. She got a big mouthful of water as she tried her best to claw her way to the surface. The druid had little experience swimming, and her uncoordinated ways seemed to translate in the water. She surfaced with a cough, gasping for air.
"Vasha!" She screamed, trying in vain to find her sister. Her head bobbed underwater again, but this time for not as long. As soon as she made it back to the surface, she cried out for her sister again. Vesra was in full panic mode, and she needed her twin.
Veythe let out a surprised shriek as the ground plummeted out from beneath her. She tried to twist herself so that she didn't hit the water too hard, but failed in her attempt and landed at an angle. Veythe swallowed at least one mouthful of water before she burst back up to the surface, hand still clenched tight around her pan flute. Veythe didn't want to think of the state of her other instruments. This water would be hell on the poor things and she'd have to treat them nicely somewhere down the road.
Sorry babies, but momma's got to work, Veythe thought grimly and quickly started swimming towards Versa.
"Grab on to me!" Veythe shouted. The least she could do was to prevent the girl from drowning for the moment.
It's almost as if Kayn knew something like this were going to happen. The ground peels beneath him and he arches his scaly body at just the right time to dive into the pool of saltwater below. The chitin on his head absorbs most of the impact and he finds himself lost in the water as sand obscures his sight. The feeling of the warm ocean water is nice. But... ew. Water all over his body. How long will it take to wipe this liquid off? He's afraid he'll be feeling the water between his toes for a week.
Eventually he reaches the surface of the water and sees the elf's glowing lights. He's heard of that spell before. It's a nice spell, but its annoying when in the dark. He prefers his own vision, thank you. The nice Kor couple, he thinks, they can't see in the dark.
Focusing his energy, he summons forth dancing lights to bathe the deeper sections of water in light. Now they can see. He was proud to help.
Once she found the surface, Vasha found herself bobbing in the water, next to Ellangil. She glanced around briefly, then heard her sister's panicked voice. "Vesra," she whispered. She swam closer to Ellangil, whispering in his ear, "She can't swim well." As she was about to swim for her sister, she heard the human woman yell for Vesra to grab onto her. Knowing her sister needed her, but wasn't in immediate danger, Vasha calmed herself and looked around. Once she spotted it, she put a hand on Ellangil's chest to get his attention, then casually pointed up.
The walls of the cavern were rough, making climbing easy. The real problem was that the cavern walls don't line up with the hole everyone had just fallen through. A few feet above the waterline along the southwest cavern wall, were four passages cut into the rough walls. Those were going to be the ticket out of here. She watched as the water around them lit up, and spotted the goblin that had generously given back her dart. She swam to him, and quietly said, "Follow." She motioned to Ellangil to follow as well, and she swam over to her sister.
"I'm here, hush now," she said, hugging Vesra from behind. Resting her head on her sister's shoulder, she whispered so both she and the human woman could hear. "There are openings above. We need to climb."
"Grab on to me!" The human female wasn't her sister, but she supposed Veythe would have to do. Vesra followed her instructions, holding on for dear life. The druid was about to call out for her sister again when a familiar arm wrapped around her.
"Alright," Vesra nodded, instantly calmed by the presence of her sister. "Where's the merman? And the goblin I gave the flower crown to? We can't leave without them."
The words of their father echoed in Vesra's head. "You have rocks for brains," the memory of him admonished her. Kor had no concept of yelling, yet somehow every hand motion of the elder Kor could be plainly seen as a shout. "You will end up being the death of yourself, your sister, and everyone in this tribe if you can't learn how to climb. What kind of Kor falls from the rock face?"
The kind of Kor who would now have to climb out of this pit. She knew her sister would barely bat an eye at the challenge of climbing 30 feet, but to Vesra, it seemed a daunting task.
Veythe looked up, and then glanced to Vasha. She kept to treading water for now and tried to ignore the way her limbs ached a bit from the effort. The kor woman wanted them to climb? How far did she want them to climb? Where? Goodness normally Veythe would be all for the work out but here she was, working on little water--and salt water did not help thank you--and damn it all she was hungry to boot. Now, after everything, Veythe started to get a bit cranky.
"This is going to suck," she groaned. "I am...not good for climbing right now. How...far are we talking about?"
As the floor of the Pits suddenly gave way beneath his feet, Ato had the briefest instant of shock, then sighting the water below, twists and knifes gracefully through the plane of the surface. He inhaled the warm water and reveled in the blissful moisture, so wonderfully refreshing after the long hours in the sun and heat above.
Snapping back to the reality of where he was, the words of the vampire rang in his skull. "...do mind the guest here, they tend to bite." Guests? The test here wasn't against the other applicants, was it - it was something else that threatened them all. He peered through the cloudy water, swimming slowly to regain his bearings, and locate his companions, all the while alert for other dangers. There! As the water slowly cleared, he could make out the distant shapes of three reef sharks deep below.
Ato put on a burst of speed, swimming swiftly towards the others, clustering as they were trying to help each other in the unfamiliar waters. Surfacing nearby so as not to startle them, he closed the final distance. "Three sharks in the water below. We need to get out of here and let those others be their dinner." He glanced around at the gaping hole in the roof, then the walls, finally seeing the openings the others had already noticed and were moving towards. "Yes, quickly now, I'll do what I can guard your backs."
With that he ducked back below the surface to watch the sharks. Thinking quickly, he came up with a plan to buy them some time. Blood in the water. Now, where was a suitable source...
The group works their way towards the cavern wall and the tunnel openings, helping each other as needed, especially Veythe, already struggling against exhaustion. Suddenly a shriek burst forth from across the cavern, quick cut short. Turning to see what's happened, you catch a glimpse of a figure flailing, then falling still and slipping beneath the surface of the water. After a moment it pops back up and even from this distance you can see the discoloration of the water around the body as it's blood spreads in a widening circle.
There is a disturbance of the water and you next see the fast moving form of something slicing through the water towards you, but before it reaches the group, the blue-green form of Ato's head reappears. "That will attract the sharks for a time, I hope. Got moving!"
Ellangil was prepared for battle and from the looks of the enemy across the line, they were gathering up in preparation for the fight. This took no words. It was more of a song that came from the blades as they whistled through the air to strike their target. But that moment had never happened. The ground began to violently shake. More so than the feel of the chief’s dragon as it struck the ground in landing when you stood nearby.
"Test three has now begun."
The barbarian had no time to ponder the words or even snarl in anger when the ground disappeared below them. The arena floor gave way and gravity tugged at his very skull for all of two seconds before his shoulder stuck the water thirty feet below. The Northern shoreline ran along the hills of the Kargan Lands of Akoum. This was not his first time in salty water though it was not something the tribesmen tended to seek out. It reminded him of diving off the cliffside into the sea when he was a youth. Once his body slowed its descent through the salty sea, he arched and pushed his body in the opposite direction until he pierced the watery surface and took a deep breath of air.
He glanced around and gathered his wits for a moment to see what was transpiring around him. He heard the cry for Vasha followed by a return yell for Vesra. A split second later he felt Vasha’s hand on his shoulder as she drew towards his ear and whispered that Vesra couldn’t swim. It pleased him to know that Vasha was okay and surged upward leaning towards Vesra’s scream only to feel Vasha’s hand stop him by settling on his chest. Again, he gathered himself as Vasha pointed out the things she could see. Ellangil understood immediately.
Everyone save the Mer had gathered as Vasha explained the openings and the plan. He could not help but remember Vielara’s short phrases … ‘It doesn’t matter to me how many make it back’ … ‘do mind the guests here. They tend to bite’ … Was this really a test to join a house or an opportunity to feed her brothers and sisters. The barbarian was genuinely starting to hate this woman.
Just then Ato popped up a short way from them and closed the gap. Ellangil wanted to just shake his head and scream ‘La La La, I can’t hear you, La La La’ but there were no take backs in this game. Sharks … it had to be sharks … he promptly wished he was facing vampires instead. Ato had a plan, and Ellangil was not about to deviate from it.
The goblin’s presence caught him off guard pointing to the alcove and offering to help. “Aye, little one,” Ellangil replies as he heads in that direction along with the rest of the group. Everyone seemed to be helping everyone else climb up. Ato had caught them causing everyone to look in the direction the Mer had come from. Easy deduction that the Mer had killed someone so the sharks took a moment to feast. He continued helping everyone out of the water until it was his turn to climb out.