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The fight in Lennox' mind was going exactly as he remembered it. He could almost feel the vibrations whenever contact occurred, be it against Corin's armor or against Dyrnwyn. He was in the closing moments of the fight. One last clash before Corin offered up Dyrnwyn in the hope that the sword would kill Lennox. But that wasn't how Lennox wanted to end that fight. He wanted to overcome Dyrnwyn more than he wanted to strike down Corin. He swung differently this time. Before, they both performed overhead swings and locked up, but Lennox went for a horizontal strike, and with the smaller sword, he cut the mental image of Corin in half, securing the kill and proving he didn't have to become a monster to kill Corin. As his mind began to wander from his training, he began to wonder. Why didn't I do that? Why did I meet his swing when I could have gone for the kill?

He shook the thoughts from his mind and realized how sweaty he had gotten. His hair was matted and his burns were stinging from the sweat. Now that he wasn't focused on his training, he realized that Tiras and Renata were missing. Not only that, Raye was watching him. It kinda unsettled him. It wasn't that it was Raye watching him, but rather the fact he had gotten so engrossed in his training, he tuned everyone else out. "Uh...hi? Where is everyone else? How much time has passed?"
"I... I don't know," Tiras shook his head to clear it as he followed Renata back to the place they had left.

"I... I was dreaming. I guess I put my things on again? And sleepwalked? I... that's new. I've never walked in my sleep before." The young man looked at the book he was carrying. It was slightly glowing, a faint purple light from the symbol stitched onto the front cover. Persephone. The name for the tome came to him, and he thought of the woman from his dream. He shivered. The cool night air was finally getting to him as he cooled. It felt wonderful after all that heat from fighting.
"Sleepwalked," Renata echoed as she waved to the others in the distance. She'd thought they'd been lucky that the moon was so bright tonight, but now she was thinking it was just as much the eery atmosphere of the Dread Isle illuminating the environs. She halted and crossed her arms. "You left the ruins, found a path completely free of danger, found another ruin, and found a particular book in that ruin. All in your sleep."

Then she paled.

"This— this is it," she said, all her irritation suddenly replaced by awe. "This magic— it's got to be. This is why the Church sent us here. Not those mindless creatures." It had been impossible to obstruct Tiras from doing exactly what he had just done in his sleep. If this was the work of magic— it has to be— if someone could use that magic to compel the citizenry to rebel against the church... "That's what they fear. Anything they can't control."
"I... uh... I don't... maybe?" Tiras shrugged. He decided to confess a little more of what had happened. "Earlier, when I fainted before... during that time, I was contacted by something. I don't know what it was, but... it offered me power. But then, it told me that I wasn't powerful enough to wield the power it offered. It told me that there was another power here. One that would call to me. One that it would guide me to. It called that place... the Dragon's Library, I think."

The squire shook his head, tempted to toss the book on the ground and leave it, but... no. It was his now. He wasn't about to let the Church have it. "Kind of frightening to realize there's magic that strong, huh? I heard Tania was nearly leveled by a single spell. If this power here is of the same caliber, it is something to be feared." And striven for. He looked at the book again, opening her up. The pages were still supple, the ink legible in the clear light of the moon.

"At any rate, I think this is magic, and if I'm going to be persecuted by Lycia, then I might as well become a heretic in truth," Tiras stated, shutting Persephone and stowing her away. He needed sleep.
Tiras walked out of the ruins and Renata followed after him. Raye, despite not being the most trained in this kind of situation, decided that she was going to not just up and leave Lennox here by himself. They were safer together than they were apart. Left in silence, save for the sounds of Lennox's training, Raye wandered around the ruins and studied them. Not in any serious technical sense, but more just looking around them to pass the time and sort of get a good grasp on where they were. It was a place few had tread, even ones as old as she, in a long time so this was an experience she needed to take the time to remember.

Lennox finished up his training and finally noticed that he was left alone with the Dragon Girl. "Oh! Tiras wandered out and Renata followed him. I don't think you were training for too long, but I thought that if we were going to split up we should at least stay as together as we could. I don't know why he left though... He just started walking out of here."
Lennox gazed upon Raye with a concerned look. Tiras just started walking out? With all the weird shit going on this island, no one stopped him? Renata followed after him. Perhaps her curiosity won out over concern. Lennox gathered his belongings and got ready to give chase. He stepped outside and began looking around. He started bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet, anticipating anything. But it was quiet. He was quite worked up, but he was ready for anything. It was almost anti-climatic that there wasn't anything waiting for him.

Actually, there was. He squinted a bit and saw someone waving at them. He was kinda questioning who it was, but wasn't treating it as a threat. The morphs wouldn't be waving at them, after all. "Raye, I think that them in the distance. It looks like they're safe, so that's good. Let's meet up with them and save them the trouble." He began to lead them on an intercept course.
The pair of them met up with Lennox and Raye. Likely a better strategy than running off or waiting for them to meet them. And besides, it gave them time to talk as they walked back to what was currently base. Still, it was probably best if they all slept. He would let Renata explain what she'd figured out. He wasn't much help in that regard, anyway.

Once he was back in his corner, he fell asleep.
"Sir Tiras found something." Renata finally managed a few words, clearly still spooked. "Some kind of tome. He had some sort of vision, someone leading him to some more ruins. I don't know what manner of magic it is, but..." Whoever it is, could they be on our side? Do they even know what's going on in the world? "If the spirits dwelling in this place knew of the Church's intentions for the Dragon's Gate... They'd need mortal hands to carry their artifacts to safety... but those creatures..." It was impossible for Renata to even pretend at knowing anything about whatever haunted the Dread Isle, even leaving aside its motives. "But we didn't run into any of them on our way. Whatever possessed Sir Tiras knew how to avoid them."

It was a strange narrative being formed in Renata's mind, with the decaying morphs and restless spirits put at odds with one another. She wondered what really awaited them at the Dragon's Gate as much out of curiosity as hope for answers from whatever awaited them there. Perhaps things would be clearer in the morning.
Raye moved over to the entrance as Lennox looked out of it. "Ah, yes. There they are," She said, following off after him towards the other two.

Once they met up, which didn't seem to take long, they went back towards the place they had roughly decided to make camp at. Tiras quickly went to sleep as Renata explained what happened. "It certainly seems like we need to head to Dragon's Gate. I'm not sure but this doesn't seem too normal to me," Raye said, being the dragon in the group so she should have a better sense of that. "It certainly seems of more importance than getting off the island for now."
Lennox and Raye took in Renata's account of the last hour. Tiras was exhausted and fell straight to sleep and Renata looked a bit drained herself. This whole thing was weird. "That's...concerning. Why wouldn't this tome reach out to my uncle Wolfram or his aid? Why someone who clearly lacks the training to use it? It could target people susceptible to magic. If that's the case, would it have summoned me had I been sleeping? It could target people with untapped potential in magic. But...ugh. No. No. These theories aren't going to help us. Raye is right. We need to keep pressing on. It can't be too far."

Lennox looked over to Tiras, asleep as he was. How could he possibly sleep after that? The idea of sleep did sound inviting though. As much as he didn't feel safe just going to sleep, if this tome directed him safely to to it and back without encountering morphs, it probably would wake him if morphs did approach. Where did that line of thinking come from exactly, he didn't know. But that's how he rationalized his reason to sleep. He went back to his training ground and slept there.
Tiras awoke the next morning tired and sore, but somewhat refreshed. He groaned as he got up, stretching out and working his muscles to relieve some soreness. The fog had rolled back in during the night. He took up the halberd in his hand and donned his helm, raising the visor so he could see and breathe. He began to look for his comrades, finding Lennox asleep in the corner he'd trained in the night previous. The white-hilted blade was still leaned against the wall where he'd left it. Tiras looked at it, and he could feel the sword's strength, but he also felt a foreboding feeling. If he touched the sword for longer than a moment, he was sure he would die.

He shook off the feeling and went to find Renata and Raye.

Today was the day. The Dragon's Gate, and the end of their struggle on this island.
After all the insanity of the evening before, the night had been strangely restful for Renata. Perhaps it was because she could count on these particular ruins being free of abominations before mankind, or maybe it was just that she knew there was nothing better she could do than rest to prepare herself for whatever awaited the group today. After waking, she sat in prayer and then meditation, but it was all in vain. She felt no divinity (as usual) and no presence of restless spirits despite her certainty that they were lurking. If she could only make contact with them, perhaps she could negotiate a way off the island. Somehow.

Renata rose from the ground and nodded to Tiras in greeting. "Do you suppose Persephone will lead us to the Dragon's Gate as well?" she asked before glancing at Lennox in the distance. She doubted he was still asleep by now; he struck her as the sort of person who slept with one eye open. Whatever the case, she felt the whole group deserved to hear what she was thinking. "I've a plan for when we reach the gate. Whatever presence awaits us there, I want to try speaking with it." The idea was a long shot, and it sounded even more so spoken aloud. But anything could happen on the Dread Isle.
"Talk to it?" Tiras asked, finding the possibility of doing so to be something of a stretch. "If what I understand is correct, the first spirit I spoke to wasn't Persephone. It was some... thing of greater power. Couldn't say what, but Persephone and that voice are not the same. Secondly, I doubt the thing that spoke to me could get us off this island. Communication over long distance doesn't mean the distance can be traveled, I think." Of course, as I am no mage or scholar of any magical discipline, perhaps my words should be taken with salt, he thought.

When Raye and Lennox had joined them, the group set off, heading north-by-northwest. Unsurprisingly, there was thick fog, as it was morning by the sea. Tiras doubted that it was always foggy on the island, but it sure seemed like it. The island was eerily empty, comparative to how often the morphs had attacked them the day previous.

With my luck, they'll have all gathered into one place to ambush us. I wish we had a healer with us, Tiras groused in his head, keeping his eyes peeled and his weapons ready.
As Lennox slept, his dreams, normally just reliving old memories or some alternate version of his normal life, something rather surreal showed itself. Lennox was at the Dragon's Gate, or so he figured. It didn't look familiar, but behind him was the Hyperion manor in Etruria. He saw Tiras, Renata, and Raye fighting morphs. The faces of the morphs looked liked some of the morphs they had already slain. Lennox was aware enough of his dream to acknowledge that. But there was a morph staring him down. With one gold eye and one red eye, wearing a familiar shade of purple, wielding a peculiar long sword. The hilt looked to have a red eye, and there was runes engraved in the dull parts of the blade. Instead of a solid piece of metal, it was split in half, and the sides crossed over and went straight to two points. It was an evil looking sword, and the name came to Lennox immediately. Dainsleif.

"Yes, wielder of Dyrnwyn. Meet the black stain on our name. Dain Hyperion." Lennox looked behind him, back at the Hyperion manor, which was suddenly a bit smaller and more beat up, like it was under reconstruction. Out from the door came a woman, carrying her own Dyrnwyn with her. Lennox' history lessons thankfully hadn't gone to waste. The second recorded woman to wield Dyrnwyn was approaching him. The Alpha Bitch, the Usurper of Wolves, the Kinslayer, "Sweet" Saraya Hyperion. Dain's mother and killer. "I don't what it is with this place. The one known as Nergal had brought Dain back as one of those things. And I can't rest while the monster still walks amongst the living. He will make his way for you. But he is decrepit. He's been here for decades. My only advice. Never use his sword. It's a cursed sword. You'd become a monster like him."

Lennox scoffed at that and turned away from her, staring down his ancestor. "I wield Dyrnwyn. I'm already a monster." Before he could charge, he was woke up hearing Tiras and Renata speak. He looked around and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. He doesn't know what that dream was about. Lennox restrained himself from speaking out about it. Tiras was already dealing with a voice talking with him. He began disregarding the dream as utter nonsense, imagined by his own thoughts. It was nothing.

But he's never seen anyone who looked like Dain or Saraya before.
Renata steeled herself for the thousandth time as the band trudged its way through the fog. Perhaps if Wratt were still with them, the man's crass whimsy would have lightened the mood... but probably not. Her sword hand white-knuckled on her weapon's pommel, she wondered if the morphs were intelligent enough to aim for the obvious weak spot that now existed in her armour.

Renata halted. Her sword traveled an inch from its scabbard.

"Just a tree," she murmured sheepishly, letting her hand rest. Her mind went back to the exchange she'd had with Tiras earlier. It was rather silly of her to presume that restless spirits could transport them across a sea. Even taking into account the magic of warping learnable by certain mortal clerics, such magic was often of limited range and therefore of limited practical use in the first place. That wizard of Lennox's seemed to have managed it... She thought back to the man they'd seen yesterday. If, by some fluke of luck, they found a staff on the island, would Renata be able to teach herself to use it? No. How many years would she have to spend trapped on the Dread Isle to do so? That's assuming we don't starve in the first place. There was plenty of material for shelter, but she hadn't seen any game roaming around.

"Suppose we're never getting off this island," Renata posited, no longer content to wallow in her thoughts in silence. "Then what do we hope to find at the Dragon's Gate?" She sighed. No one had an actual answer to that question, she knew, other than that Persephone was leading them there for some reason. But as long as they were walking along with nothing to do, she decided to try her best to forget about this bleak nightmare for just a moment. What if her speech attracted enemies? Well, Renata figured, they were already doomed one way or another.

"Personally, I wouldn't mind some hotcakes." There had never been less appropriate words spoken in such a place as the Dread Isle. "Just like the ones they make for the harvest festival in Laus. Got little bits of lingonberry in 'em— but you have to do a little dance before you get to eat, and gods help you if you've already started drinking..." She forced herself to chuckle. The mist swirled at her breath, as if to swallow up all the defiant mirth and leave behind only wistful nostalgia.
Tiras was walking in a haze of suppressed hunger and dull pain. He groaned in time with his rumbling stomach when Renata mentioned hotcakes.

"Made with bacon, and eggs... Drizzled in syrup from refined maple sap...," Elimine help him if he wasn't salivating at the thought. His right arm throbbed with sensitivity from the lightning burn, bruises from the halberdier, and the stab wound from Wratt's bolt. Everywhere else hurt less, but he had a lot of aches to suppress, and no food with which to replenish himself. The group pressed on, hungry and sore. The fog lifted as the day pressed on, and Tiras saw it in the distance. A large, ruined structure, larger than even Castle Ostia, probably even larger than the castles of the King's abode in Bern or the castle of Aqualeia, sat in the distance.

As soon as Tiras saw what it for what it was, he gaped.

"We were supposed to destroy that? With that amount of explosives?"

"Destroy the Dragon's Gate?" a voice out of nowhere sounded. A morph warped in, clad in mage's robes and holding a staff in hand. "Folly. And who are you? Judging by the amount of time that's passed, you can't be one of Eliwood's cadre."

Tiras was struck mute. A talking morph? One that wasn't attacking him?

"Hmph. No matter. You seek the Dragon's Gate. Lord Nergal wishes to use it to gain power. Come then. We will destroy you." The morph warped away, as did Tiras's hope of not fighting anymore. He looked across the distance, and noticed something.

"...Is that a house?"
The morph spoke. It wasn't that Renata was relieved to meet one that was more intelligent than the automata they'd fought so far: no one in their right mind would experience anything even approaching relief beholding such an abomination before heaven. But perhaps, if nothing else, they could bargain with it for a swift death. She glowered at the staff it held. It was no ordinary staff of healing, she could say that, but what exactly it did did not occur to her. Besides the fact that Renata had no education in staff use, the esthetic sensibilities of their craftsmanship had changed enough over time that it would probably take a scholar as well as a cleric to identify it.

Renata's hand had scarcely reached the hilt of her sword by the time the morph answered her burning question by disappearing in a flash of esoteric runes. As the group had gotten closer to the Dragon's Gate, the morphs had become less and less decayed, to the point that the one they'd just encountered seemed frozen in time. Renata's heart sunk. Their destiny, it seemed, was to enter the structure and be eviscerated by whatever warriors and sorcerers were impeccably preserved within.

Then she saw the house.

"It would seem so," she said. "We've reached the Gate, but I'm in no mood to be destroyed. Not yet, at least." Not until they had left no stone unturned and ascertained the inevitability of their doom.
The others were certainly starting to feel the effects of everything that had happened to them on the island. Raye couldn't blame them. It had taken a while for her to start helping them so the three of them were even more exhausted from protecting her. Conversely that meant she was the most well rested of the group, which made the fact that everyone was still so obviously harrowed and on edge in the morning hit a bit harder for her. As they walked she kept to herself as they talked.

This journey out into the world had proven to be far more dangerous than Raye thought it would be, and her only real method of defending herself was something that made things more hazardous for her. Perhaps it would be a good idea for her to learn some sort of combat to protect herself without her Dragonstone, but that could come after they made their way off this island... if they ever did.

That train of thought was put on hold as the Dragon's Gate came into sight. The girl felt a connection to it almost instantly, but any thoughts of just strolling in to take a closer look were halted by another one of those weird men appearing, but this one spoke before disappearing. The others then spotted a house in the distance. ”As... much as I am interested in looking that the Gate further, I do think that checking out that house would be better course of action. It may be a bit more secure than resting in ruins at least and then we can see about finding something to eat, yes? I feel like we need to be prepared before going further in...”
Lennox only chuckled at the topic. "Hotcakes? Oh please. Crepes. You can fill those things with just about anything," he said, before noticing that Tiras seemed in pain. Lennox had actually forgotten that he kinda got some bad hits in too. Now that he thought of it, his back was hurting, probably from the cloak touching the chainmail burn. His leg was, for the most part, fine. His chest was fine. If he didn't touch it. But that scar probably wasn't going away easy. But compared to what he's inflicted on others, the burns he was inflicted with was like a kid hurting himself playing with fire.

They approached the gate and were greeted by a morph, thankfully, not one bearing Dain's face. That was definitely a dream. Right? One thing stuck out to Lennox about it. Not the regular speech. No, one phrase. "Eliwoods cadre?!" Lennox exclaimed to himself. He looked at the others who almost completely ignored that. When he left, Lennox repeated himself. "Eliwoods cadre! What Wolfram said was true. Marquess Eliwood must've fought against these things over a century ago." As Lennox wondered over this implication, the others focused on a cabin nearby. His face just went flat at the sandbagging of those words. "Sure, lets check out the cabin."
With the entire group in agreement, the four of them headed towards the cabin. There was a door, and a well-made quartered glass window. As they approached, Tiras made out a pole with a line of rope anchored to the cabin. As they got within fifty paces, Tiras had the suspicion that someone lived here. The area surrounding was well-maintained, and strewn about the place were tools and signs of life. This is very weird. Who would be living on the Dread Isle?

As if on cue, the door opened, and a seven-foot tall shirtless man carrying a laundry basket strolled out, whistling to himself as he set it down near the rope. The man pulled out bedsheets and hung them all along the rope. His green hair was well tended, and he maintained a clean-shaven appearance. Tiras dropped his jaw, dumbstruck at this odd, well-kept hermit living alone on a haunted island. He tilted his head, clinking some of the mail on the aventail.

The man whirled around, surprised at the sound. His dark eyes focused on them, and he brushed back some of his straight, sea green hair. Setting his hands upon his hips, the man looked the haggard group over, studying each of them. His eyes finally came to rest upon Raye, and his gaze softened somewhat.

"Who are you? And what are you doing here on Valor?" he asked, sternly, but without malice.

"I... uh... I'm Tiras. I was a squire to the late Adrian Verde," the youth answered. He gestured with his right arm, grimacing in pain as he did, "These are my companions, such as they are. Renata, formerly of the Church, Lennox Hyperion of Etruria, and Raye, who I know nothing of. We were sent here by... less than reputable people, with a less than reputable purpose. That purpose is moot, as our ship and its cargo are sunk. We seek the Dragon's Gate to try and find a way off the island."

The man continued looking at them, pondering, before replying, "And I am Bishop Renault, of Saint Elimine's church. I am here on hermitic pilgrimage. Come, lay down your arms and we can speak candidly over breakfast."
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