Loti nods in silent agreement. It seems like she's thinking about something.
"Who goes there!?" A voice shouts from the trees.
"Warchief Half-Horn and her army." Loti calls back in response.
"Why does the banner fly in the wind?"
"Because the butterfly took wing."
A section of trees disappears, revealing a seperate path. There's a troop of armed Fox warriors standing there in all their glory, sunlight dancing across their orange pelts. One motions with a slight jerk of his spear to direct them down the new path.
"Alright, if you say so." Addia smiles. "You seem to be in a much better mood, milady."
Ironically, every now and then the same thought crossed Miranda´s mind, but every time it was struck down by plans, all varying plans to wipe out Akata from the map, plans to take back every town and fort they could... Thats when a memory crossed her mind, of her family, back home... The injustice that crossed them, oh Akata and the Ostoran empire forgot her family all right.
I´ll make those bastards remember, and maybe do some good for once in the process...
"Maybe we should find something fun to do." Loti muses as the Fox city comes into view.
A sprawling, glittering city sheltered by a massive tree in the center. Its branches spread over the entire area, giving everything an emerald glow. The buildings look to be made out of a mixture of wood and bricks of crystal.
“Unlike the savages, Addia. We do not rely on this land for agriculture. We have great swathes of land back in the mainland solely dedicated to the production of food. We have enough food for the winter. This is an advantage.”
There are.. buildings in the tree. Some firmly planted on the thick branches, others hanging down and secured only by a web of rope and a simple wooden rope bridge. Foxes are walking along the paths above as easily as solid ground, some even stopping to talk on branches or in the middle of bridges. Looking up eventually gets dizzying.
The forest floor is a bustle of market chatter in one area, a sleepy residential center in another, food and leisure in another direction, and various larger buildings marked with distinct symbols sprinkled throughout.
Tiral seems to hesitate, but only for a second. He nods.
"I don't see any more problems in the near future. What now?"
Tiral snaps back to reality as the cold brushes his cheek. He snaps his fingers, creating a turquoise flame that hovers in a small ball above his index finger. It grows steadily larger, before settling at about the size of a good-sized stone.
Addia touches a finger to the flame, smiling as the warm tongues coil around her claw.
"Never understood how you control these pretty little fires, Whiteblaze. I've seen entire villages burned down because some silly foal tried to make one."
"It's likely I can control it so well because I'm the one who made the spell." Tiral smiles proudly, tossing his fireball from one hand to the other. "Magefire is difficult to control, unless you're me."
Loti keeps ahold of Miranda's hand and leads her down the path, making her way to the market. She hums a little as she goes, walking to her own private rhythm.
" 'Unless you're me'," Akata laughed, moving her hands down to her hips. "You know, Tiral? For as long as I have known you, you always try to portray yourself as some sort of innocent soul, but... You always did have a little devil living inside of you."
Loti walks up to the counter and makes her order. The slim grey vixen writes it down, nodding. As Loti reaches into her bag, The vixen shakes her head.
"free of charge. for warchief and general." She says in broken, accented english.
Tiral shakes his head.
"graduated mages are sworn to take the Vow of Tranquility. They must remain impartial, no matter what. Horses who haven't taken the vow are either too young, unable to use magic, or failed the training and live out their lives as exiles and rogues."
Loti leans against the counter, humming a little. The vixen quickly comes back with two parcels wrapped in parchment and tied with some sort of handmade string. She hands them to Loti, then walks to a different section of the counter to take another order.
"This could decimate your ranks. They're not used to the Plauge. We aren't used to the Plauge. We thought it had been eradicated due to advancements in medicine, but it got stronger and spread to certain birds and plants. Every time we develop a new medicine, it develops too. It's very important that you don't let anyone who's come in contact with any lions leave." Tiral explains, his usually cheery face grave.
"What's a... "gang"? Some kinda trader?" Loti frowns.
Loti grabs Miranda's hand gently and keeps leading her around, eventually reaching the base of the Great Tree. There's a fox standing in a wooden lift of sorts, apparently waiting for passengers. Loti has a quick conversation with him, then steps into the lift.
Tiral nods slightly, then sighs. He rubs his head up a little. His star mark suddenly glows, and he pulls a book out of seemingly thin air. The cover has a detailed drawing of some sort of red flower that closely resembles bluebells or snowdrops. Surrounding the flower are yellow Old Lineyan runes. The backdrop of all of that looks like a starry night sky that appears to be moving and twinkling.
Tiral pulls a golden quill out of his cloak. His eyes glow pure white as he starts writing. The book floats on its own, hovering in place so Tiral can lean against it as he writes.
The town glitters from above, the stone slate rooftops and opaque gemstone walls getting smaller and smaller as they get higher up the trunk of the tree. It's much bigger than it looks from the ground. They're only a third of the way up.
The sprawling, hidden fox capital is much larger than it looks from the ground. From all the way up here, the spiderweb of streets leading to the trunk of the massive tree can be seen clearly among the glittering rooftops. The emerald light filtering from higher up in the tree gives everything a dreamy glow, even up here. The height is dizzying, especially when leaning against a rickety wooden railing.
Loti seems fine, in fact, she's leaning almost all the way over and looking straight down with a big grin.
"This is great! I've never been this high up before! What about you, Miranda?"
Loti chuckles a bit and starts heading down the boardwalk, towards the more well-built shops hanging from the branches. The foxes walking around up here are better dressed and more groomed than those who live below.
A silver fox vixen walking past gives Miranda an unabashed look of distain as she walks past.
Loti notices the look and moves in her path.
"Excuse me." Loti says, smiling.
"You're excused." The vixen huffs, trying to continue on her way. Loti moves to block her. "Are you lost? Do you need directions to a lift?"
"No. I want you to apologize for sneering at my companion that way."
"Your.. companion? That humie?"
"No. My favorite shop closed down because its kind moved into the west coast and the supplier was captured."
Akata cracked a small smile, approaching the line of soldiers, she turned over her shoulder to look at Addia. "Very impressive, but we must move beyond defensive manouvering. It is time we went on the offensive. Do you have a display of aggression to show me?"
“You’re still wearing your humie clothes. Maybe if you looked more, well.. rebellious..”
“Several. SWORDS!” Addis roars at the soldiers. They switch from shields to swords. The soldiers break into a different formation, standing at the ready.
Addis raises her head and lets out a monstrous roar, sounding something like a dragon. The soldiers follow suit, screaming at the top of their lungs. The effect makes a heart-pounding, fear-inducing battle cry.
The shopkeeper takes Miranda’s measurements, writing them down on a parchment tacked to a stiff piece of bark. He and Loti talk the entire time, words flying faster than a griffon. They don’t seem to be arguing, just... having a conversation.
Eventually, he nods to Loti and disappears into the back room with his measurements.
Adria stops, wide eyed as she spots Tiral. He still has his book open, but there are ripped-out pages hovering in front of him now. There are detailed drawings of a crocodile on them, messy lineyan scribbles, and splatters of blue ink. Tiral himself has ink smudges on his hands and face as he writes furiously.
Adria walks over quietly and turns he paper with the drawing on it with an outstretched claw. It looks like an autopsy report.. the depicted crocodile has black smeared around his eyes and down his cheeks. Addia frowns deeply, a few of her teeth peeking out from the corner of her mouth as she reads the report.
"I've never seen anything like this... Nothing this bad, at least... Look at this bit here."
Addia points to a few words written beside the diagram of the crocodile's head.
"Not quite mold. More like a bloodink." She translates. "Have you ever seen anything like this, Tiral?"
"Once. It was a summoning spell gone wrong. Bloodink sprayed from their eyes, mold sprouted from symbols they had painted on their wrists..." Tiral turns another paper. It's a strange symbol, resembling a black leaf that's sprouting black spines on one side. "The Xanderian Leaf."
Miranda had kept an eye at some of the clothes nearby. "Its some nice silk and cotton, I'll say that..." she'd sigh, feeling an opened stich in her own clothes- she admitted, she needed this change as much as she tried refusing it.
The shopkeeper grunts a little, seeming to understand Miranda's tone. He motions for her to look through a rack of outfits. There's armored gear built for long journeys, cozy-looking clothes designed to withstand intense cold, dresses, armor sets, cloaks, hoods, jackets...
The shopkeeper stands by a desk against the wall, shuffling through stacks of paper as he waits for Miranda.
"I hope you forgive me for doing this, but I think I have an idea."
She puts on a coat first- showing decals matching that of Loti Halfhorn's banner, as well as a single decal around her heart- embroidered gold signifying her golden gauntlet, which she would decide to let show. She put a set of lamellar over this coat, letting it trail off to a sort of skirt or tasset. She found a pair of black, comfortable boots and put them on, and put a black, gold embroidered long glove over it.
Lastly, she put a cloaked hood over it all, but keep the hood down- she needed to show her face around these parts, she had the lamellar buckled and fastened for now, but she made sure it was easy enough to remove by herself so she wasn't going into a formal event with metal armor on- effective defense over a perfect, scarlet vest- she loved it. "How does this look?"
"The stars in your eyes tell me: I look a lot more professional than I did before. But the question still remains... How do I look to the foxfolk?" she shook her head- that matter would come, soon. "Thank you though, really... I mean it. Anyways, next order of business is to continue our advance on the local leadership, right? I'm afraid in all that thought I was in I forgot... Silly me."
Something Loti has noticed is how much more calm she's been ever since they arrived at this city, beforehand she was cold, calculating, constantly in a silent rage. Now she's had time to wind down, and it shows on the pretty beaming smile she has on.
"As if I wouldnt be going on ahead in this?! For shame!" Miranda would head on out into the street, her clothes were only just a bit stiff. eh, she thought she would grow into them a bit better later on.
Loti walks beside Miranda, smiling. More and more pople seem to recognize them now, as word spreads that the gazelle war party has arrived. Loti seems.. happier, to be in such a sheltered location. To be around trees. To not be ordered around by her elders.
"I've been here before, you know. Once, when I was younger."
"I've briefly talked to the head priestess." Loti frowns a little, looking up in thought. "Maybe we coupld pay her a visit. She's been known to hold parties to worship Mani. Apparently, she was a bit of a drinker."