(1317-11-08) Unbidden Visitors
Summary: Raphael is ambushed by a monster — and saved by another visitor that seems similarly misplaced.
RL Date: Sun Nov 08 2020
Related: None
raphael althea 

Deep Woods — L'Agnace

Raphael isn't much for travel. Isn't much for any kind of physical activity, really: though he puts out heroic efforts in that regard, when he's able. The delicate young lord is currently heading away from the capital by carriage, headed to an outlying town in the southwest, with the goal of looking into a collection of antiquities.

Unfortunately, his uncommonly angelic, magically empowered blood make him uniquely delicious to certain unnatural things. And there are more of those about lately than usual. When the rift that brought Althea to this plane opened, others opened with it, and hungering things from between dimensions, some few of them at least, have been marooned on this earth. One of them is not far from the carriage now, stirred by mindless hunger. Larger than a man is tall, it looks like a misshapen thing halfway between ogre and wolf, loping on all fours like some kind of gorilla. It moves sheltered by the trees that lean tall and dark above the road.

The supernatural creature lurking for the carriage to enter its ill-boding radius of reach lifts its muzzle to relish in the scent of the unsuspecting angelic one. And maybe it is that all overpowering notion that saves Althea from being smelled as well by the monster. She has spotted the thing and is sneaking closer, approaching it from the side, ducking away behind bushes and undergrowth and the occasional trunk of a tree every time the monster might look in her direction. The bow is in her hand, an arrow in the other.

<FS3> Althea rolls Stealth: Success. (8 6 6 4)

Raphael is hopelessly oblivious inside the carriage. It's normally a safe road, so he's traveling without any guards—but there is still the matter of the coachman and horses, of course. The monster's eyes narrow as they approach, too focused on more tantalizing prey to spare Althea any notice. As the carriage comes round the bend, it leaps into action — shoving a tree hard enough with one clawed hand to send it creaking off to one side, partially uprooted. It lumbres with a certain inevitability out onto the road — and the mere sight of it causes the horses (and the coachman) to panic, bolting erratically for the treeline. That's not going to end well for anyone.

A low curse escapes the woman, an amazone stranded here from another reality, for similar reasons that brought the monster here, and also enhanced the powers of Raphael. Rifts in dimensions can be like that, creating odd phenomenons. And yet, the monster pushing that tree onto the road is not supposed to happen. That monster shouldn't be there in the first place, and yet it is. There is no time to lose. Althea notches the arrow against the bow string, takes aim, and lets it fly. Aiming for the creature's head. If they are lucky, she might be able to take it out on her first shot.

<FS3> Althea rolls Ranged: Good Success. (5 6 5 5 1 8 3 8)

While the arrow flies, the monster strikes. Its clawed fist crunches into the side of the carriage, splintering wood and shearing the horse tack and rigging. The beasts gallop off into the night, and the coachman is sent rollingpainfullyinto the underbrush. The carriage's momentum carries it further down the road, listing off to one side, before one of its wheels snaps under the awkward angle. The thing spins once before coming to a stop.

The monster, meanwhile, has an arrow embedded in one read, beady eye. Purplish blood leaks from the wound, as it turns what is left of its hateful gaze upon Althea. A low, challenging growl escapes it.

Althea perceives the ill fate of the carriage with a grim expression, but there is nothing she can do here — except to draw the attention of the monster to herself. Calling out something in Hellene to the thing - a grave insult, by the sound of her voice - she drops the bow and instead draws her sword and slides the other arm into the leather straps of her round shield of steel with strange and foreign ornaments. She doesn't wait for the thing to come at her, on the contrary she leaps forward in an atrocious attack, slashing deadly steel at the monster's throat.

<FS3> Althea rolls Blades: Great Success. (7 8 1 5 2 5 2 1 8 2 7 1 8 1)

The battle — if you can call it that — is over quickly. The monster, a powerful and towering beast, is long on strength, but has little of the Amazon's skill. It lunges towards her, springing away from the carriage in a lunging pounce. Its screeching cry rends through the night, and it opens its mouth wide, revealing teeth as sharp as its claws.

It does not get the chance to bite. The woman's blade cleaves clear through its neck, severing head from spine in a single stroke. The beast's broken body collapses bloodily to the ground, and the head follows after, with a heavy, wet splat.

It doesn't stay there dead on the ground for long. A thing not of this world, its body rapidly disperses into vaporous smoke, hissing as it decomposes and disintegrates far faster than it has any right to. All that is left is a stone where its heart should be: a fist-sized ruby, the focus that let it take corporeal flesh here, on this plane.

There is no sign of the coachman or the horses. Both seem to have run away.

Black blood erupts and sprays onto Althea's front as the monster falls. Seeing its head fall and roll in the dirt manages to bring about a faint smile on the amazon's face. She wears a rather unusual sort of armor, breastplate that accentuates her feminine shape along with a short skirt of pteruges, guards of steel protect her shins and ornamented bracers cover her lower arms. She wears sandals, reminiscent of Tiberian or Hellene style. When the monster dissipates in a cloud of smoke, she doesn't look surprised - this may not have been her first monster to slay in this realm after all. SHe reaches out to pick up the ruby and stows it away in her bundle, then turns to walk towards the carriage. Calling out something in Hellene, the amazon reaches to open its door, shield slung onto her back, and the sword still held in her hand.

Raphael is inside the carriage, and he has certainly seen better days. He appears to have struck his head on something on the way down, because his forehead is bleeding plentifully from a wound across his brow. It doesn't look life-threatening, but he's definitely been battered, probably bounced around a lot when the carriage was sent broken and spinning. His bright, nearly luminescent eyes blink owlishly up at Althea when she opens the door. "Well," he says, very quietly, in a voice that might be deeper than expected from one who looks so delicate. "…You don't look like that monster."

The delicate youth in the carriage earns a curious glance, and Althea slides her sword back into its scabbard, sensing no danger here. "Monster is dead," she replies in a bit gruff sounding d'Angeline and she offers Raphael a hand to help him up. "Horses are gone. Your coachman too." Her attire is revealing enough to give away a physique that is relatively muscular for a woman, shaped by regular sword practice. She reaches into her bundle to wipe off the traces of monster blood from her cheeks, neck and breastplate. "I am Althea," she introduces herself.

Raphael is quite tremendously powerful — but only of spirit. If Althea is attuned to such things, she can sense, when Raphael takes her hand, that he feels like more than half an angel, himself. His body, however, is considerably less noteworthy. In fact, he admits: "…I don't quite seem to be able to stand up." So there he is, on his kneels, sprawled against the wall of the broken carriage cabin, holding her hand. "This is…" he squeezes her hand. "A little embarrassing." He blinks slowly. He looks like he's on the verge of passing out and struggling mightily not to. "Th-thank you, Althea. It would seem I am significantly in your debt."

Weakness may not be an appealing thing for an amazon to observe. But then again, not everyone can be as strong and tenacious as her species, so here it is. "Bone fracture?", Althea wonders. But as Raphael seems to be able to squeeze her hand and doesn't cry out in agony, she lifts her shoulders in a light shrug, leaning in now to slide both her arms in beneath the nobleman. "I carry you," she informs him in her broken d'Angeline. She has strong arms, and Raphael can watch the play of her muscles as she lifts him, even if it doesn't seem to take her much effort at all. "Where is your home?"

Raphael is light to begin with, and lighter than air to one of Althea's strength. A slight 'oof!' escapes him as she hoists him up into the air, and he looks momentarily alarmed, but perhaps relieved. After all, being in the woods, unable to walk, while bleeding…probably not a good combination. He breathes in very slowly, like even this is troubling him at the moment. "Very far away," he says, after a moment, blinking heavily. "Perhaps sixty miles away, at this point. If not more. I might've dozed along the way. I…we probably can't walk that far. Probably."

Althea's brows furrow, as she shifts her weight a little on her legs, centering herself more. "Too far." She seems to agree with him, as she glances towards the trees from where she came. "I know a place. A cabin. I live there," the strange woman admits after a moment. "It's not far. Can take you there." Whether she has sensed Raphael's spiritual power remains to be seen, so far there is not the slightest sign that she has noticed it at all. "Weak man." She snorts softly. "I can treat your wound."

Raphael finds his expression souring when Althea accuses him of being weak. "I hadn't noticed, thank you for pointing it out," he tells her, clinging a little more tightly than he strictly needs to. His lips press into a momentarily discontented line. "I'm very ill, you see. I have to spend most of my time trying not to die. It put a damper on my ability to be quite so fearsome as you." He then offers, as compliment: "And you -are- very fearsome, by the way. A great luck you showed up here when you did."

"You'd be dead," Althea agrees with a wry twist of a smile. "Glad I could help. That monster would have killed you." Raphael's reaction to her pointing out his diminished physical ability doesn't seem to sour her. "You look alive to me. Which is good." Offering this to make up for her bluntness, perhaps, she steps out of the carriage, with Raphael held on her arms. "We go to the cabin." And with that said, she starts to run. Perhaps there are other bad creatures nearby, or maybe she just yearns for the exercise. They dive into the woods, following no particular path, but Althea makes sure Raphael isn't hit by any branches nor scratched by treacherous twigs. When they finally arrive before a small cabin on a clearing in the woods, she pushes the door open with her shoulder to get into the place. It is a plain cabin, belonging to some forester, but it looks abandoned for now. In the corner of the room, there is a wooden bed, with straw and a grey blanket throw over it. Althea lays Raphael down onto that bed and then leaves him for a moment, to get some fresh water from the brook close by.

Raphael seems a bit stunned by the depths of Althea's stamina, as she charges through the woods, for quite some time, at that. You'd think -he- was the one who had been doing the running, though, because once deposited on the bed, he is breathing heavily, like all this was profound effort for him. He just stares at the ceiling, panting, until he achieves some semblance of calm and stability.

When Althea is outside, however, he does something quite risky: he invokes the power he's been cultivating in secret. It does not seem to go as well as he expects. His wound is, very, very slowly, healing — fast enough to be seen with the naked eye, but not so fast that it's over before Althea gets back to the cabin. It's mostly scabbed over when she returns, though the blood remains. But with the job unfinished, there is an evidence of the unnatural that is impossible to ignore: Raphael's eyes are visibly glowing, like starlight is shimmering up from their depths.

When Althea returns, she senses instantly that something is not as it is supposed to be. She sets down the jug of water and her bundle beside the bed, as she looks at Raphael's wound with surprise, and then to his eyes. Instantly, she takes a step backwards, and her hand goes to the pommel of her sword. "What is this?", she snarls. "You are one of THEM?"

Raphael isn't long on energy, even when he's being supplemented with magic. "…I don't know who -they- are," he tells Althea sullenly, looking up at her, his eyes already beginning to dim, as the spell has finished its work. "It's perfectly natural. It's just a unique way of making use of my unique blood. I don't know where you're from, but you know full well that we of this nation have angels' blood. I simply have more than most." A silent interval follows. "And an intimate knowledge of the power of the stars. It's perfectly safe."

Althea may not be used to any sort of magic, and its most recent manifestations have done little to enhance her trust in any sort of it, that much is clear. "They," she repeats. "They are evil. They have more power than that monster we saw. They… are demons." And with this observation, her hand falls away from the pommel of her sword, and the sudden tension seems to leave her. "You are not demon. You are of the angels. Forgive me." At which she lowers her head. "Maybe they sent the monster to make an end of you." Curiosity prevails, and Althea steps closer to the bed, her hand reaching to inspect Raphael's wound. "You are already healing."

Raphael's healing magic seems to be a little contagious. Touching him lets the lingering traces of it ebb out of him and into her. A cool, refreshing vitality whispers up Althea's arm, shimmering through her body, banishing any tiredness she might feel from her recent jog through the woods. "We are of the angels," he confirms, looking up at Althea with still subtly-flickering eyes. "And if I have my way about it, I will grow, and someday /be/ an angel. That is why I hone the power fate gave me." He tells Althea, "And as thanks for what you've done, my extraordinarily beautiful savior, if there is anything I can do for you with it, it will be done."

The warrior woman looks a little startled as she feels Raphael's magic pour into her finger and crawl up her arm. His offer appears to confuse her. "I don't know what you mean," Althea tells him. "I don't need magic. But… if you are so powerful, why don't you make yourself stronger?" Her hand reaches out to nudge lightly against his upper arm. "You told me you are dying?"

Raphael lets out a sullen sigh, flopping back onto the bed, and rubbing at his temples. "Yes, it would be nice if I could do that, wouldn't it," he mutters. "It's not that I'm -dying-, exactly. It's just that I'm getting sick constantly, and no one, not even me, can ever quite figure out the cause. And the magic — it's not without its cost. I can use it to help keep myself going, but there's a price at the other end in fatigue. It once made me sleep for two full straight days."

Althea nods. "Then… don't help me. If it will make you sleep." She seems to be content with that, and the feel of his lean upper arm seems to fascinate her. In an odd way. "Will your people come looking for you?", she wonders. "What of the coachman?" Her fingers touch his long red hair. "If you are so powerful…", she suddenly muses, "maybe you can help me get back to my people?"

Raphael isn't completely skinny — just nowhere near as gifted as Althea. He sits up straighter, blinking rapidly, waves of scarlet hair shifting about him as he does so. Part of him seems unconsciously to respond to having his hair stroked. "…I don't really have a full handle on everything I can do yet. Maybe? I don't know who your people are, or where they are, but I'm sure I afford to charter a boat. The coachman…he probably will. He'll go fetch knights or the local bailiff or something and they'll put together a hunting team. Probably assuming I'm dead."

Althea snorts. "A boat? That won't do. This is not my world. There is something in the woods. A shimmering gate of light. It is how I came here. But I can't get back." His subtle reaction she may be oblivious to, as she leaves his hair alone for the moment. "It will take them some time to get here," her voice is thoughtful. "I will need to get you something to eat. I have water." She points to the jug. "But we need food."

Raphael just sort of stares at Althea for a while. It's not all admiration of her beauty, either. "This is a civilized country," he says at last. He rummages around in his pocket and produces a single gold coin. "…I have money. There's a road. We walk down the road until we find the next village, and we pay them. Simple, really. It can't be that far. Presuming you know how to get back to the road. I might be able to walk after a night's rest." He's taking the news about a 'shimmering gate' completely in stride. Maybe he's just not ready to deal with it yet.

Althea ponders his words for a moment. "Perhaps stay here over night, and then, in the morning, we go to the village?" Her eyes go to the gold coin and she nods. "Money. Good." And she produces a purse from her bundle, and presents another coin to Raphael, this one of archaic design, with Hellene letters inscribed upon it.

Raphael takes that coin. "We may need to get these exchanged," he decides, though he looks somewhat dubious as to whether or not that's possible. "I…" He squints heavily. "Oh dear. I think I feel one of my fainting spells coming on." …It's not long before he's fast asleep.

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