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Toshioka Kiri: Kiri landed in the stables, patting Dagger on the side as she began to sneak her way towards the King’s quarters.  

I don’t want attention… but this is important… it’s better that he knows…

Her abilities as a Viking Ninja had only grown better since making the contract, and she made it safely through the fortress unseen.  Only when she approached the King’s quarters did she allow herself to have a presence.

She stood still for a moment, one hand poised to knock.

But I…

This is your last chance.  You have to.

Right.  Right.

She knocked and waited with bated breath.

Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock grumbled to himself, wishing that he had had more time to himself and his family before another disruption knocked into his life. Who could it even be? he wondered, marching up to the door.People should not just pop at my place uninvited. Maybe I should not even answer the door.

"Garthy, the door," Mera informed him from the back room.

Alright. I guess I am answering the door.

Haddock did not expect to see Kiri, especially given her latest message to him. 

"Kiri," he said, ushering her in. "It has been a long time since we have seen one another. Is all well?"

Toshioka Kiri: Kiri bowed deeply.  “My king.  It has been some while - ooh dear.”

The king did not seem pleased, and from the looks of things, Kiri might have been interrupting something private.  

"Um… apologies for whatever I’m interrupting," she bowed again, feeling extremely abashed.  "I’ll just… make this really quick.  I’m just here to make a report and an announcement.  The powerful witch approaching is… approaching quite soon.  I am sending half of the witch hunter troops - Blue, Titan, and Eikon regiments - here as extra security and precaution.  They’re bringing a large shipment of tea with them.  Also, I’m needed to report back to my home village, and I am leaving this evening.  I will be gone for a few days.  I am praying to Odin that the witch does not appear while I am away.  You can ask the leaders of the three regiments for more information.  Um, anyway, I guess that’s it, I’ll just leave you to whatever I interrupted…"

Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "Hold on, Kiri," Haddock said, trying to process the extreme barrage of information she had given him. "We can sit down to talk a little bit more about it before you run off again. It would do us both good for preparing for upcoming events." 

At once he seemed to realize his hair was a little tousled, and belatedly tried to brush it into neatness as he talked to Kiri.

Toshioka Kiri: Kiri winced.  “I - okay then.”

It suddenly struck her how strange it felt to be within the base of the Rebellion once more.  She stepped in past the threshold, bowing once in respect before seating herself at the nearby sitting area.

She looked up at the king, folding her hands in her lap.  She had hoped to make a simple report.  Hopefully no awkward questions.

"Would you… like me to explain everything as a report, or do you need me to answer questions first?" she began after a moment.  "I’m aware my actions have been abrupt as of late."

Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "More than a little abrupt," the king agreed wryly. "A detailed report would be very beneficial, though I do have questions for you as well regarding effective witch fighting tactics. Knowing exactly what we fight, and how best to defeat it, would be incredibly beneficial, and with your experience, I am sure I could learn much from you."

Toshioka Kiri: Kiri sighed, running a hand through her hair.  At least she wouldn’t be lying when she spoke of what this enemy was.

"This witch," she spoke, "has amassed the power of many, many other witches.  Therefore, this witch is… it’s what we like to call a Walpurgisnacht.  The Witches’ Night.  It’s far more powerful than regular witches, doesn’t hide itself in a barrier - it’s like a force of nature, able to destroy all buildings and land and structures in its wake.

"I’ve been preparing the witch hunters as best they can.  Dragons and their fire with mages as the main destructive force against it.  Aerial units, any explosive mechanisms you have, any and all combatants we have must fight.  Noncombatants should evacuate the area.  Go deep underground if they must.  

"I don’t know how much destruction there will be.  I know there will be much.  There will be casualties.  This is inevitable.  I don’t really know how better to prepare against it at this point, aside from what I’ve already done.  I only hope that the regiments I’m sending will be of use should the witch appear in this general area.  Reinforcements from the other fortress will definitely come if it does.  I wish I had better news, truly."

Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: The king exhaled heavily, daunted at Kiri’s description of Walpurgisnacht. “And there is no way to evade it, to hide without fighting and lose these lives?” he asked, though he felt he already knew the answer.

Toshioka Kiri: Kiri shook her head sadly.  “Not unless you do not mind all of the Wilder West being reduced to burning ruins.  And the witch will not stop.  It’ll destroy literally everything if left unchecked.  You can take the members of the Rebellion elsewhere to temporarily escape its wrath, but I would - I would rather end it and spare Midgard from the atrocity.”

She took a deep breath.

"I know it’s a lot to ask of you, my king.  I’m sorry."

She wrung her hands.  Inwardly, she was terrified.  She knew the true identity of this realm’s Walpurgisnacht.

Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "It is asking nothing," the king said. "It is not your fault. You are the messenger, and you are right. We must stand. I will hold our ground as best I can, and hope that that shall be enough."

Toshioka Kiri: Kiri nodded.  “Good.  I’m glad.   I wish I could be of better use.  Hopefully my errand will not take too long so I can aid against it.”

Her vision blurred again.  Tea leaves and nadder spikes this time dancing before her as a deafening ring echoed in her ears.

Not now.  Not now.

"Do you have any other questions?" she said pleasantly.

Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "A more detailed report, if you can spare the time." 

Toshioka Kiri: She took a deep breath, shoving down that maddening sense of destruction that bubbled up constantly these days.  She was getting better at it.

"Do you have a piece of parchment?  It might be easier for me to write things down or draw…"

She began to explain what she could without revealing the true nature of the witch, in the same way that she had told her witch hunters.  She didn’t know its exact size or power.  She could guess what some of its abilities might entail (“Barriers and slicing things, I’m guessing - there are mages in Eikon who specialize in magical shields to protect from this”), and give her suggestions on how best to combat it (“The most powerful weapons and magic you have.  There are hunters in Blue with these new cannons, they shoot these explosive charges and they’ve proven very good against regular witches.  Highly recommended, you’re welcome to keep several after the battle, they can make more.”).  She ended up writing out several notes that she asked the king to give to whoever was his lead tactician and battlemaster these days (“The three regiments coming have these too.  Oh yes, leaders of Blue, Titan, and Eikon - they’re Sayaka, Varric, and Gaius.  They’ll introduce themselves when you meet them.”)

"If you’re able to build underground bunkers, on this short notice, I’d recommend that as well," she added as she set the stack of notes down.  "Or evacuate any noncombatants to somewhere very far away.  The Wildest South, even.  It’s rather nice down there, or at least it was in the summer."

Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: The discussion over how to handle the witch took time, yet it was completely necessary and benefited Haddock enormously. Some of Kiri’s suggestions unfortunately Haddock knew he could not implement - the bunkers in the Wild South, for instance - but he considered everything she said with a critical eye.

At last he spoke up, telling her, “You know, Kiri, there is a way to find protection through more than just human means. The gods… well. You were not around here when this occurred, but I and everyone else witihin camp have received the protection of the goddess Hel. That should certainly, I hope, count for something regarding the troubling news you bring me, and I cannot help but wonder…” Haddock paused, thinking through his next words and whether or not he really wanted to say it.

He chose to. “I wonder if you should seek out Hel’s protection too.”

Toshioka Kiri: Kiri sat and stared for one moment.

"The goddess Hel.  You’re under the protection of Hel."

Several things ran through her mind at once.  All of them passed her lips.

"How?  How did this happen?!" she shouted, jumping to her feet.  "When?  Was this a gift with no strings attached?  Does she want something from you?  No, she’s Hel, of course she does.  What did she want?  What did you agree to?  What were the terms?  Were you aware of everything, the small print, the details?  Did you ask her to define everything in her terms and do you know what you’ve signed up for?  Did the rest of the camp consent to this unanimously?!  Were you pressured at all?  Was there manipulation involved, was someone’s life or wellbeing held hostage, was this a mutual beneficial agreement or was someone hurt in the process? What does she get out of it?  What do you get out of it?!  Do you have any idea what you’re in for, are you prepared, are your souls safe, do you know exactly what happens when a soul is the bargaining chip - "

Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "Whoa there, Kiri," Haddock said firmly but hopefully consolingly, holding his hands out to halt her barrage of shocked questions. "I may explain, though it would be simpler if we went one question at a time. 

"Now then. What first?"

Toshioka Kiri: Kiri crossed her arms, glaring.  Something in her mind was screaming, that concern and anger and how dare he how dare he how dare he - 

"What did she want?" she asked, forcing herself to remain calm.  She hoped that any moment of madness seemed like furious indignation over an agreement with Hel.  "You and the Rebellion received her protection and blessing, but what was the price?"

Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: The king’s face showed no expression. However, it took him some time to answer. “There is ration for paying the price Hel asked, given what is coming to us in future times - the witch of which you speak, and even Ragnarok.” He avoided Kiri’s eye as he finally told her, “The price was our souls.”

Toshioka Kiri: Kiri stared at the king.

Their souls.

She couldn’t chastise him, not when she had done something all too similar.  For protection, souls were forfeit.  But there was no way she could let him know about her own contract, her own soul, and how much she understood - because she did, she knew King Haddock, and she knew he could not have done this lightly…

"I imagine circumstances must have forced your hand," she spoke after a long moment.  She attempted to remain neutral, though her eyes whirred with more than she could hold back.  "It’s the only way I can think of why you might have done this.  Am I right?"

Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "I said Ragnarok. Isn’t that enough of a hand force?" Haddock snapped, though clearly hiding something.

Toshioka Kiri: Kiri narrowed her eyes.  There was something beyond this.  “So I was right then, a bad situation, manipulation of some degree… a deal with any force, a contract, that’s always what it comes down to if the person is unwilling,” she stated.  “I wonder who did it…”

Then she stopped as something registered.

"Wait… you said Ragnarok," she spoke softly.  "That… so… it’s coming… then why…"

She sat back down again, thinking to herself, hands folded neatly on her lap as she tried to process it.

Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock ignored Kiri’s induction that there had been some sort of manipulation, even though she was right. “It’s coming.” Haddock nodded. “Will you be safe?”

Toshioka Kiri: She nodded, even though there was a deep pit in her stomach.  “I’ll be fine,” she replied.  No, I’ll be gone.  “Perhaps it’s good that I know, I can warn my home village.  The witch hunters will be at your disposal to aid you after Walpurgisnacht comes.”

She paused for a moment.

"I can tell you don’t want to talk about it," she stated, though her gaze was on her wrung hands.  "So I won’t ask anymore.  Not now that I know.  But I will ask - is everything okay now?  Will things be okay?"

Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "I don’t know," Haddock answered honestly. "But I will do my best to ensure things will be okay. Just… you be careful. You say you will be fine, but watch yourself closely pleases. The witches and… well… If you come across an army, it may be a regiment of Valhallan soldiers. They are under the leadership of a man named Orskaf Donz. Do not for a second even consider coming near him."

Toshioka Kiri: Kiri nodded, taking the information in.  “I’ll remember that.  Thank you.”

Orskaf Donz.  Leader of a regiment of Valhallan soldiers.  Remember.  Remember.  Warned by the king.  Valhalla.  Hel.  Something happened.  Orskaf Donz.  Manipulated.  Someone.  Orskaf.  Him.  Rip tear cut destroy what did he do destroy burn destroy destroy - 

She quickly held her head, closing her eyes and focusing.  She would have to attempt cleansing her soul again soon, it seemed.

"I think I’ve given you all the information I have," she spoke, quickly returning to herself as though nothing had happened.  "And Sayaka, Varric, and Gaius all have the same information.  Probably more if they’ve come up with any during the trip over.  Do you have any more questions for me?  I may be gone for quite some time, though I honestly hope this trip only lasts a few days."

Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "I believe my questions have been answered. Thank you, Kiri, for coming by."

Toshioka Kiri: Kiri nodded and stood.  “Good.  The others will be here within the next couple days.  I have a few things to attend to and finish before my departure, so I’ll be on my way to get those done.”

She gazed up at the king, smiling softly, hoping not to betray any sadness in her eyes.  Then she gave a very deep, respectful bow.

"Farewell my king.  Take care, and best of luck to you."

And with that, she turned on her heel and strode out the door.

And to be safe, disappeared back into the shadows the moment she was out of his sight.

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