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All she knew, was that she had been summoned. Shaar walked slowly into the small town of Cedarwood, casting a curious glance upwards among the trees and buildings as she did so. She had passed through these city gates many times, but this instance held a particular brand of unexplainable heaviness. Lips thinned in thought, and she shifted her travel satchels lightly about her waist, heading up the small hill to the inn. Come here. I will wait. That’s all the delivered missive had said, but the handwriting was familiar and unmistakable. And as Shaar shouldered the door to the inn gently, her gaze immediately landed upon the sender as she was greeted warmly. Shaar had been friends with Yre’na for... well, as long as she could remember, really. The Miquo’te was a drifter at heart, and would often disappear for years at a time with no word, but when she reappeared to cross Shaar’s path again it was always like no time had passed. Shaar found herself holding her breath as she approached Yre’na’s table. That’s odd. Before she could open her mouth to speak the Miquo’te’s trademark cat-like eyes flicked up to her, and a warmth crinkled the edges. “Aha, there you are.” Teeth and fangs followed through with a smile, widening, a dichotomous mix of welcoming yet predatory at the same time. Shaar found herself returning the smile tentatively, one hand coming to rest on the back of the table’s empty chair. Yre’na had always been a little.... Odd. Intense. Different. Mysterious. And sometimes a little dangerous. She and Shaar were two very different people but they always seemed to have no trouble getting along flawlessly. Like puzzle pieces that snapped together without a second thought. But this time, there was something different. Shaar made a mental note of the tiny yet vague alarm ringing in the back of her mind at this encounter, and pulled out the chair to sit, widening her smile and gesturing joyfully to her friend as Yre'na laughed joyfully, seemingly happy to be reunited. “Yeah, here I am. I hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long! It’s been... what, five months now? Six? I hope everything’s been okay with you.” Yre’na leaned forward, her smile softening, intense golden eyes locking onto her friend’s face. “Yes, I am very well, thank you. I actually did not call you here for me. We have a mission for you.” The exotic lilt of her voice held a mix of playfulness and curiosity, each word enunciated clearly, and the Miquo’te tilted her head gently to one side as she spoke. “Oh?” Shaar quirked an eyebrow slowly and leaned forward in her chair, interested. We. Yre’na had a history of doing side jobs for the Kraken’s Arms, a local pirate gang that was a little less ‘gang’ and more like a rebellious Robin Hood group. Their band consisted of a wide variety of... well, ‘contractors’, and briefly she found it odd that they would need someone of her service. To her credit, she was versed in multiple disciplines, so.... “Yeah? Yeah, okay. What’s up?” “You’re familiar with the Dread Gods, yes?” Shaar paused, brows furrowed before she answered softly, “Yes”. The Dread Gods were fiction turned wive’s tale, old stories you used to get your children to come home before dark and spook your friends with during All Saint’s Wake. Members of an ancient looter’s group that turned traitor, brutalized by their comrades, now three vengeful spirits left to roam the continent of La Noscea, hungry for revenge and any wayward human that crossed their path. A superstition, misfortune relegated to the history books. Yet something about the way Yre’na was watching her made the hair on the back of Shaar’s neck stand up. Without thinking, she spoke: “Vylkis, Tranicos...” “And Myrtille.” Yre’na slid in and finished the sentence with a glint in her eye. “Yes, you remember. I knew you would.” She shifted in her seat, serpentine, curling slim fingers of both hands around the arms of her chair as she continued. “These are not just tales, Shaar. The Dread Gods are real. They have roamed this land since before our ancestors settled here, eternally confined to the world of their traitorous deeds. They have been here for too long. Overstayed their welcome. And now, it is time for them to go home.” Shaar leaned back in her seat gently, almost instinctively, as Yre’na leaned forward in hers - a perfect mirror of motion. “Kill them. Your mission is to kill them. Send them home.” The Miquo’te’s tone was lilted, intense, as she locked her piercing gaze onto her friend’s bewildered face. She was still smiling with those pointed teeth. “I... wait, what? You want me to kill some wraiths? Really?” Skeptical, Shaar frowned, working to wrap her mind around all of this. Kill ghosts? Can you even? And why me? Yre’na chuckled lowly, that softening warmth returning to her eyes. “This task is for you, Shaar, because you can do this. Do you trust me?” Without hesitation, “Yes”. “Good. I then, will trust in you, and that you will know what to do when the time comes.” The Miquo’te rose slowly from her chair, declining her chin to keep her gaze settled on her friend. “Each of the Dread Gods is rumored to carry a different totem. Return them to me, and we will know the deed has been done. You will be compensated thusly, and handsomely. Remember, you are strong, and you are wise, and very, very capable.” The two regarded each other silently for a few moments, respectfully, before Yre’na nodded once, turned, and left the inn in one sleek motion. --- Shaar remained nestled in the inn for some hours later, silently observing the patrons, nursing a mug of strong ale, and rolling the days events over in her head. Kill some Gods, yeah, ok. No big. I’m your gal. Her memory wandered back to sepia-toned youth, where she recalled tales of the corsair Vylkis often being sighted in Western La Noscea, around Skull Valley and the Tidegates. So, destination set. But... Shaar let out a slow sigh, and reached for the well-worn pouch kept closely at her side. Barely bigger than her hand, she released the complex maze of securing strings and delved her fingers inside, jostling around a multitude of talismans. Different colors, shapes, no two the same. It would be important to get the right one. Just the right one for a really important job. She gave herself a few moments before her fingers closed around one. Do I even have to look? Retrieving her hand from the pouch, she glanced down, uncurling her fingers to reveal the crystal she had palmed; Soul of the Dragoon. A knowing, almost rueful smile, and she tucked this soul safely away in her belt, away from the others. Yet still that odd feeling remained, and it was likely the ale that nudged her to tuck that away for the time being - one final draught to drain her mug, and it was time to go. --- Nerds, friends, rebels, and ancient pirate wraiths! Welcome to part 1 of my new mini-narrative for the next few NF challenges!! I've got a small story I'd like to spin alongside my goals for a bit, along with some ~*~custom-made gifs and screencaps~*~ because I'm a giant nerd. (SHOCKER RIGHT?!) Anyways. [soul of the dragon: 50/50] I will start out with a full 50 point health bar. This bar will stay full as long as I complete the weekly goals I’ve set for myself here. If I slip up and fail a week, my health will go down by a certain number of points determined by the quest in question. My goal to pass this challenge and advance the story is to come out of the 4 weeks with a 50/50 health bar. In the event of me missing a weekly goal, I’ve included some bonus quests at the end of my main duties that will help me regain points and stay in the game! Main Quests 01 activity, lift x 3 days [blood of the dragon] Get back into a consistent 3-day lifting schedule. Easy peasy, right? Missing a day will drop me -5HP. 02 mobility, gmb unbreakable wrists & ankles x 3 days [sharper fang & claw] I’m very interested in mobility but all I’ve done so far is mostly collect underpants. Around the end of last year I doodled around with some basic primal work, but it never really stuck. At this point I want to develop a consistent mobility practice to keep me moving good and feeling good, especially sitting in a desk chair 8 hours a day! I’ll be starting with these two GMB flow tutorials for wrists and ankles. I really dig GMB, their mobility work is really dynamic and full-body and looks FUN to do, and having fun is really important for me to make my goals stick. Missing a day will drop me -3HP. 03 meal prep, all lunches + addition of meal prepped breakfasts [battle litany] I’ve been wanting to expand my meal prep to breakfasts and snacks for a while now, so I’ll take this step by step and just focus on adding weekday breakfasts to my current weekday lunch schedule. Most importantly I’m looking to focus on a post-workout recovery meal for days I hit the gym, something pre-made (by me!) that I can grab and bring with me to keep in the car until afterwards. Missing a week of breakfast prep will cost me -5HP. Recovery Quests These are some extra options for me to regain health if I donk up my main goals! Extra GMB session - +2HP 30 minute outdoor walk - +3HP Dynamic yoga session (not recovery/restorative) - +3HP P90X cardio workout - +5HP 30 minute outdoor jog - +5HP I'm also going to be heading up a mental health/wellness accountability group here if anyone is interested in helping keep their brains a little less stressed and jangly as we go. <3 <3 I'm looking forward to it as the holidays settle in and the days get colder and shorter... Anyways, off to hunt some pirate wraiths! ^_- I hope you'll come along for the ride!