- Posts: 2606
- Joined: Thu Sep 24, 2009 1:27 am
- Location: The Vinyards of Fernabergia
We are going to slowly introduce the wraithlike beings that will precede the return of the dark lady. This roleplay is open to all comers. At this point we only have the one being from the void come through to Tonan.
Feel free to roleplay the hunting behaviour of the being, but don't kill it, or introduce a new one just yet. It kills by draining you of your life-force. It can also take the form of any life it has fed on.
I'll start us an OOC thread to discuss where to take the story.
'Old' Beginnings (OOC plot thread for this RP)
The Dark Lady (OOC discussion about the evil mother of the gods, Adrastia)
Note: This current roleplay takes place in the Mortal Kings era. Angelique, Barnabas and Leto are mortals fighting for power, Olandar's throne on the celestial plane is empty.
The being stalked through the void, like smoke in the summer breeze. But there was no wind and no summer, just an impenetrable inky blackness that consumed everything. Something had attracted it, something that did not belong, a faint light that pulsed periodically in the darkness.
It was not the only being in the void, but one of many races and beings of influence, banished eons past to survive or die, abandoned to the nothingness. An eternal struggle for power waged throughout the place that was not a place. Only the strong were able to withstand the constant struggle to exist, the weak giving their life to make the mighty mightier.
As it approached the light, the being started to move more cautiously. Illusion was a gift of many of the beings of the void, and many had not survived to tell of the dangers of blind curiosity. But it did not seem to be a trap; in fact, the being could sense nothing else nearby.
It stretched out towards the flickering circle of energy, drawn like a moth to the flame. Red, gold, blue, green. Colours never seen flashed brilliantly, casting light onto the ghostlike being. A slight hum rose and fell in pitch and tone, in time with the increasing rotation of the circle of light.
Panic. The being struggled to regain its senses, as it was attracted closer and closer to the energy, it could not control itself as it flowed faster and faster towards what it now understood to be certain obliteration.
Brightness filled the world.
Numi, the smaller of Tonan's two moons rose above the horizon. Soma his purple twinned sister having not yet risen. The sky was clear and cloud free, thousands of sparkles scattered throughout the black of night. But, when compared to the void, even the black of night was full of light and colour.
The being had no idea where it had arrived, but it was clearly 'somewhere'. Life surrounded it in all directions spoiling it for choice. A huge ancient tree stood nearby, towering over the top of the being, roots sunk deep within the soil.
The shadow from the void was confused. The huge trunk did not seem to be moving, but it could sense the patient strength of life filling the ancient oak. Darkness snaked around the tree, coiling tendrils covering the bark and stretching along the branches.
The tree's life-force was succulent, nothing in the void had tasted quite like it, it felt smarter, stronger, and faster. It wanted more, it was a hunter, and it wanted moving prey.
Kaz awoke, his mind buzzing with the dream. Something felt strange about it, caused him to feel a twinge of fear. Shaking it off he tried to return to sleep.
His crime had been a simple one, he had taken that which was not his from one who frowned upon such activities. The local slum lord beat and robbed his tennants daily ruling then with poverty and fear, it seemed only right that he should suffer the same type of humiliation that he was so keen on dispensing. Obviously the corrupt landlord hadn't shared his sense of justice.
He couldn't help but smile to himself, it was when he had decided the coast was clear and paid a visit to the local brothel that they had found him. Figures, the whores would be in league with that obscenly large piece of filth, afterall trash will attract trash, it was the way things were, he was foolish not to take that into consideration, the smooth flesh and the heavy scent of the perfumes that saturated the air lulled him into a trance like state. So now here he hung, for all to see, the consequences of "unlawfulness".
His eyelids fluttered over dry bloodshot eyes as his glance turned towards the sky. The night sky always seemed to sooth him, somthing about the collection of stars and the pairing of the moons set his mind at ease as though he was looking through the window of a home he'd never known. He had always felt that there was a special place in his heart for each point of light that stared down on him. He had named nearly every star, memorizing the patterns they formed and at which seasons they appeared.
With a sigh he closed his eyes and let his head hang, his chin resting on his bare chest, this coould very well be the last night he spent under this sky and the thought was cloe to breaking him.
From the collapsing ruins of the library, Kaz and Crystiame had escaped their potential demise through a hastily created time displacement bubble. They had salvaged what they could from the library in their hasty retreat, and while they could see time slipping by outside the bubbles barrier within the confines of the bubble it seemed as if no time had passed at all. The dustly old tombs held such secrets, and as they huddled around their crumbing pages of forgotten wisdom and lore, the bubble silently slipped out of step with time.
Backwards through time they flowed as they remained suspended within the bubble. Worlds and races became unmade in a torrid display of things being undone. Onwards and backwards through worlds that defied explaination, defied understanding, of places and things so alien that they tormented the mind. They sheer beauty and awe of it left them both in speechless awe. Backwards and onwards and backwards near to the point of uncreation.
The constant ebb and flow of time pulsed around them as the time bubble disolved. The strands of their realities unraveled as they drifted in this near unemptiness. Crystiame felt everything and nothing at the same time, and as exhilerating as it was a part of his mind grew a little nervous. What if they stayed out here too long? What if they could not get back? This was no place for those of the living. This was a place before all living things.
And as his mind stirred, it caused ripples along the strands of reality like someone throwing a rock in a still pond. Time ebbed and they flowed out of themselves, thoughts became strained. Then an overpowering emotion flooded over him all at once. Fear. Fear unlike anything he had ever known.
Born of the temporal plane of time and space an ancient wyrm stirred from its slumber. It uncoiled around the strands of time, and as it did do time flowed once again and the creations of the worlds started to germinate. It swam towards the curious unraveled strands that were Crystiame Volodimire and Kaz, and gazed upon them with growing disdain. It knew we did not belong, and it bellowed out in untempered rage.
Crystiame sensed the ancient temporal wyrm approaching. Its movement caused shimmers along the strands of time, and something within Crystiame finally stirred. Through sheer will alone, he reforged the essence of Kaz, reweaving the nature of his being, pushing him back toward his own world, his own place, his own time.
The temporal wyrm snapped to bite Crystiame, but Crystiames hand reformed to cast a deflecting shield. The wyrms gnashing teeth slashed desperately, following them through the strands. Worlds formed, lived, and passed as the wyrm grew angrier with each passing moment. Sparks of light flew between Crystiame and the wyrm, but still Crystiame held his ground. But Crystiame could feel his strength waning, slipping out from him, and with his last bit of strength he pushed Kaz back into reality. Kaz was safe. Kaz had returned to his own time and place, away from the collapsed library.
Blackness. Eternity and blackness, with ever growing blackness. Was this death? He tired to form thoughts, but they would not come. The only thing that greeted him was more coldness and emptiness. For an eternity and a day it seemed he had drifted in this surrounding dark, till then, a light. Light beyond light, form beyond form, and in his desperation he clawed for it.
End of Prologue
Falling from the sky, he fell squarely in the mud. Rain quickly soaked his naked form. So weak he was he could barely tremble against the cold rain. He tried to sputter, but could not. Rain and mud spattered on his face and into his mouth and nose. His body was wracked in pain. Blurry eyed, he tried to lift his head but found that he was too weak to even move. Surely he would drown here in the mud and rain, and then death would finally let him rest.
Crystiame drifted in and out of consciousness, his body growing more rigid as hypothermia started to creep in. And just when he was certain death would take him, he felt the warm strong hands of a Droben scoop his frail body out of the mud and carry him to safety.
Days, then weeks, followed by months passed as he was nursed back to health. Over time, the Stoneburrow Clan became like family to him. He would play with their children, watch as the children grew older, and then would stand in remorse as he watched them fade and died. They lived and died while he did not. And so, he stayed with the Droben. Their slow gentle nature was reassuring to him, it calmed his mind, made him feel more at peace.
Ages passed and wars ensued, though modern times seemed to pass them by. Crystiame spoke to his newfound apprentice “Now, you will make the seven hundredth and forty-ninth apprentice I have had to the Stoneburrow Clan. I have taught even the greatest of those within your clan, and one day you may also guide your people in wisdom.” Crystiame found that teaching came naturally to him, and found it appealing to give back to the clan all the charity and help they had shown him all those ages ago. His new apprentice, Javari, had jumped at the opportunity to study under Crystiame. And though his lessons were hard, his knowledge was held in high regard.
“Today, we walk to the forest. Grab your staff.”
Crystiame sighed, “I am not the Master, it is you who teaches me” he says as he shook his head.
Heading to the forest, he planned to give his first lesson. His older students had named the introductory lesson as “the drowning stones” lesson, one of which Crystiame found amusement in. Heading along the path, Cyrstiame spoke “You are in luck today. One of my previous students will be there to watch over the lesson.” “Who is it, Master” “Again, I am not the master. He is named Kroven, Javari. You may know him as Goldenrod.” With that, the student gasped.
Goldenrod had become a legend within the clan. He had singlehandedly held back an ogre, sundered over 23 battleships in a single battle, and had claimed the treasures from no less than three dragon hordes. Crystiame smiled.
They walked up to the pond with Kroven the Goldenrod already there. Kroven picked up the rock and handed it to the apprentice and said “magic affects all things, but the greatest of magics are those that affect no things. Cast this stone into the water.” And as the apprentice took the stone and casted it into the water, ripples formed. Kroven thumped Javari in the back of the head, and said “no ripples. Continue throwing rocks into the waters of the pond till you create no ripples.”
Javari threw rock after rock with growing frustration till he stomped his feet. “But that is impossible!” the apprentice whined.
“All things are possible. Try again.”
“But I cannot!”
“Then there is nothing you can be taught.” And with that both Crystiame and Kroven picked up a stone and threw them into the pond. The stones passed through the water, leaving the still waters undisturbed. The apprentice’s mouth dropped open awe, picked up several more stones, and continued to throw them into the pond. “I thought you had given up?” “uh, I, uh… I’m…”
“I have waited so long to do that, Crystiame, it was even better than I had thought it would be” Crystiame chortled. “You were a stubborn one. You had stayed there for several days till you got it. But when you finally did…”
“Shhhh.” He said, “did you hear that?”
And from the heart of the tree leapt death. Darkness overcame Kroven so quickly that he barely had a chance to raise his rod. Shadows took form, devouring their way into his being, consuming his nature. Crystiame shouted back to his apprentice “Run! To the Stronghold! Javari!”
The form that was no longer Kroven turned toward Crystiame. He could see the insatiable hungry in his empty eyes. Crystiame raised his arms, drawing the attention of this shadowy form away from Javari. And as the shadow form lurched forward, Crystiame raised his hands. His body erupted in light, and through his hands burst brilliant rays of light. The shadowed form howled and shrieked.
- Posts: 2606
- Joined: Thu Sep 24, 2009 1:27 am
- Location: The Vinyards of Fernabergia
Prey. The being moved slowly through the shadows, ahead, two creatures stood throwing rocks into the water. They were somehwere between 6 and 7 foot tall, and looked to have been made from red rock. The ingin had not yet caught sight of the wraith as it moved closer to them, trying to understand what it was seeing.
With them stood a man, he was tall and thin with sparkling greyish green eyes and shoulder length brown hair, his face was that of a young teen, and the creature ignored him for the two larger droben.
Like lightening the creature struck sending one of the droben flying. It crashed into a copse of trees, uprooting them as it's weight crushed and splintered several younger saplings. The other droben was not so lucky, paralised to the spot as the wraith started to feed.
“Run! To the Stronghold! Javari!”
The tall man yelled something to the droben he had knocked aside, but the wraith turned back to its meal. The Ingin was strong willed, managng to put up a strong fight to try and remain, but the being was too powerful, as the life force flowed from the droben into the wraith, it started to take on the shape of the soul it was devouring. It felt strange to have such a solid form, having existed for so long as energy. It liked it.
The droben-wraith watched as the Ingin turned to a fine red dust, and then turned it's attention to the fleeing droben getting away, and then to the young man, who, was no longer young, but aging quickly.
Pain and brightness.
Caught unaware by the magic attack, the wraith reeled away from what was now an old man. He raised his arm and light started to grow within the palm of his hand, before blazing towards the creature at high speed.
The wraith fled.
Kaz woke with a start, confused by what - or more importantly who - he had seen, the dream was real. It had the same edge he associated with the visions of emotion that came on him occassionally. Volodimire was dead, wasn't he?
The first change was the wind, it had become stronger and cooler, he could no longer hear the children or the birds. Next was the sun, the stronger winds had pushed the billowy clouds to the east and replaced them with thick sheets of gray that blocked the suns rays.
He cringed at the cold, squeezing his eyes tighter as the wind bit at his face. Rolling over, he found he couldn't breathe as the wind hit him in the face, its fierce howl pushing his breath back into his lungs. Coughing and choking, he felt his body shake. The force of the movement jarred his neck and catapulted him off the ground several inches, his trapped breath escaped mercifully as his body collided with the ground. Then it happened again.
His tired eyes bolted open; a slight moan escaped his lips as they found his arms pulled out to the side still attached to the crude crucifix. It was dawn now or at least close to it. The overcast weather made the sky impossible to read. Then he was jarred again, this time his head slammed back and struck his makeshift prison.
It was all a dream, a wonderful dream that had ended quite abruptly; he was ready to curse his luck as he was jarred yet again, this time more severe. He gasped as the wooden structure began to lean, threatening to send him crashing to the ground some 8 feet below.
Blinking, he forced his tired gaze towards the base of the cross. He blinked some more. Surly the lack of water and food had caused his mind to slip, for before him it appeared as though a boulder was tearing at the wooded structure he was attached to. Its face, if you could call it a face , turned upward towards him.
Those interested in interacting with this storyline, feel free! If someone wants to take the lead of the apprentice Javari, that would be perfectly fine. Or, if it is another player, there is plenty of “ins” into the storyline.
Crystiame collapsed as the droben-wraith fled into the forest. His weathered hands shakily held on to his gnarled bloodwood staff as he steadied his labored breathing. Slowly, his wrinkles smoothed and the liver spots faded. Youthful once again, he stands. The odd droben-wraith lost in the woods, leaving no trace or tracks upon the ground.
He picked up his pace and headed back to the Stoneburrow Stronghold with haste. There was something about that creature that disturbed him, something that nagged at the corner of his mind. But, he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. This creature was dangerous, and should be found. With any luck, he will be able to convince the conclave to send a hunting party to track this creature down.
As he approached the gate, however, Crystiame grew mildly concerned. Two guards started walking within him on either side, and in a few strides were boxed in by a whole squad of droben warriors. “Did Javari make it back safely?” Crystiame asked. The guard merely grunted and replied “The conclave requested that we escort you to the Grand Hall. It is then that his mild concern sank.
And as he entered he could hear Javari try to tell the story between his jumbled stutters, “Gods! Crystiame… and Kroven… there was Kroven… at… at… at… the pond. The pond I was trying to skip stones… They were fighting… Kroven became devoured in shadows… empty eyes!” It seems that the death of Kroven the Goldenrod would come to a shock to the community, and would not be taken kindly. There was murmuring amongst the elders, while the oldest and most venerated of them stood and shouted “Bring the accused forward!”
Accused? That cannot be right. Javari stammered, “No! no, no. that’s not what I… I didn’t mean…” A guard clasped his shoulder and escorted him out, “Come along, kid.”
“For the death of…”
“Death? You are confused. I was intruc…”
“Crystiame Volodimire! The soldiers have already scouted the area and are looking for the body. Being the nature of your magic, it is unlikely that we may ever find a body. Nor is it likely that you…”
“I did not kill Kroven! There was this shad…”
“Nor is it likely that our prisons would hold you. Kroven the Goldenrod was a beloved member of this community. His disappearance will not be tolerated.”
“This is madness! This shadowy form devoured him from the inside! You must track this creature down and find him!” But the more Crystiame protested, the more the elders murmured in protest. This was foul news indeed. Frustrated, he pounded his fist on the table. His age shifting slightly as the table shattered in to trillions of pieces. He turned quickly and headed towards the door.
“Guards! Seize him!” He looked back over and spoke coldly, “do you really think that is a good idea?” With a wave of a have the doors flew open. His age shifted only slightly as his eyes flared in anger.
Then it happened
The wooden structure gave one last moan of defiance before the base snapped sending him crashing to the ground. He sputtered and gasped as he found himself in a cloud of dust, blood and splinters. To his relief and horror he found his arms were free, but at a price, each wrist contained a crude hole that bleed freely now.
If it were possible the pain had doubled, holding each wrist to his chest and cringing in pain he heard the sound of snapping wood, his attention was once more brought back to the manner of his release, the looming tower of rock that now stood before him.
His breath caught in his throat as the creature leaned over and appear to smell him. He could actually feel the rush of air as the creature filled his massive lungs. He was frozen, to weak from dehydration and lack of food to try and defend himself. Lowering his head he awaited his fate.
“Strange…Surly he would have acted by now. Perhaps he has…Perhaps he was merciful to show me a quick death….so quick I didn’t feel it...” He chanced opening an eye. Peering around nervously he opened the other eye and looked around. He wasn’t dead, the pain in his arms told him that much, however the creature was gone.
Not one to give death a second chance he scrambled to his feet and began stumbling away.
Those founders were not spoken of frequently,nor to strangers,ever. Obensea had been born out of a desire for neutrality, and said neutrality was the only creed ever sworn by that City and it's denizens. The founding fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers of that fair City had stumbled out of the crooked corridor leading through the broken mountains and deemed the sandy beaches beneath the rocky clefts the perfect place to begin anew.
Fearing floods almost as much as they feared being caught up in yet another god's play for power, the founders made their main fortress up on the plateau that crested the nearby hill. With a bit of preparation and cunning, the City could be rendered nigh unto impenetrable.
The seashore at the base of the hill wouldn't be left without defenses, either, should the need arise, though no walls were built. No physical walls, that is.
As the years tumbled ever forward, Obensea grew in size, in the number of it's citizens, and in it's understated wealth.A thriving trade was built by it's proximity to the sea, the wooden docks numbering seven and never empty for long, nor too full with idle ships plying their wares.
Between the docks and the City on the hill. specialized vendors filled the spaces, building permanent shops with plate-glass windows that showcased their fine goods, and small, modest dwellings were built in the upper stories of the shops.
Up on the hill, the City hummed with it's own rythym, safely established after all of these years. They were a peaceful folk, the Obenese, content to keep to themselves, and tend their farms and dairies and mills. The people loved and laughed, and lived without feeling the need to answer to any gods, much less pray to those who were considered gods. Too many years of feeling the yoke of some gods' burden bending their ancestors' necks had made the City's founders declare that organized religions had no place within their City's walls, and thus, no temples nor churches were built in Obensea. Marrying, burying, birthing and the dispensing of Justice were handled deftly by the Magistrates who had been chosen by the Councilum of the Five, Obensea's ruling body.
Obensea was situated in a plum location in the web of the trade-routes, and as such, the harbor of Obensea never slept, for there were always people coming in off of an unloading vessel or hastening to leave on a soon-departing ship, headed for parts unknown. No questions were ever asked, there in Obensea, other than "Will you be needing a room for the night, then? We are lucky to have two fine Inns to call our own here, I'm sure one of them will suit someone with your ....tastes."
The Droben stronghold was a magnificent structure, hewn from solid stone deep into the heart of a mighty mountain. The streets are like a twisting labyrinth of interconnecting households, corridors and walkways, all stacked and staggered on top of each other. For any other person not born of this place, it would be easy to get lost. But Crystiame knew exactly where he was going. He had lived here for ages, ages longer than any living Droben, and intended to use this to his advantage.
But just as he passed under a stone archway, Javari came up to him from out of a corner of an alleyway. “Master, I am so sorry! I didn’t mean...”
“I am not your master!” Crystiame shouted, his voice echoed, age shifting, and the stone along the walls cracked ever slightly. Calming himself, he continued “Look, things have changed. This was not your fault, I do not blame you. But being around me is no longer safe for you. “
He then smirked a little and said, “Practice drowning those stones in the pool. Once you learn that, I will give you your next lesson.” And with that he handed the apprentice the Goldenrod of Kroven. “Take this, make his memory proud.” And with that Crystiame slipped into the shadows of the numerous corridors in his attempt to lose the following guards.
His mouth felt like thick cotton in his mouth and he found it difficult to breath. He had sacrificed everything to even get the chance to be Crystiame Volodimires apprentice, and then just like a wind breaking a branch of a tree in a storm, it was gone. Gone! It was nearly enough to make him spit, if he could muster the spittle to do so! Dry, like molten steel coming out of a hot furnace, his heart burned.
He couldn't help but to feel responsible, and though his family would understand, his personal disappoint and pride only made him feel that much more ashamed. Watching Master Volodimire slip through the shadows made him feel even worse. How could they treat him like a common criminal?
And so he followed as carefully as he could. He watched from several streets over as the guards watched him go down numerous streets and corridors. They turned around so many times that even Javari felt lost and disoriented, and it was just at that moment that the guards lost sight of Master Volodimire.
Turn the Goldenrod in his hand, the weight of the magical device shifted uneasily in his hands. These things seemed mighty curious to him. Why would they accuse him so readily? What were they trying to achieve? As his grandpappy would say, “the man in charge rarely speaks, and the man who shouts the order is not the one who breaks his sweat”. And it wasn’t until just that moment he understood what his grandpappy was talking about.
Javari, Reluctant Keeper of the Goldenrod
The chair squeaked quietly as he rocked back and forth, his right hand fidgeting with the cap of one of his calligraphy pens. Click open, click closed, open, closed. His mind raced at what had transpired, and it just didn’t make any sense. Without even looking up, he gestured with is left hand and a tomb flew off the shelf through the air into his hand. The tomb was one of many that he had painstakingly copied from another source. Some of the books he had copied with permission by the others, some were purchased and copied in an order to save what was written, while others were copied without the owners knowing. It had taken him ages to build this collection, and though it is true he could have duplicated them through magic, there just wasn’t the same feel and intimacy involved. He loved this library, and the books within.
It was a tomb he had only had the opportunity to glance at, but not as of yet make his copy. Opening the cover, he flipped through the pages to 86, 87, 88, then 99, and 100. His eyes furrowed. Turned the pages over again, and then to the front of the book. The tombs title “Quantum Dynamics of the Abstract” promised great insight into a good many things. It was a read that he could sink his mind into, or at least that was the hope anyways. Turning to the index, pages 89 to 98 were clearly marked as “Spatial Anomalies of the …” Of what? That part was blanked out, more than likely from an erase spell. But why erase just that one word and not the whole book? The placement of the chapter would denote perhaps a dimension, or a god, or something other than what should be read. It was all very puzzling.
Placing the tomb down, he looked around his library. Stoneburrow had become his home, and he really didn’t want to have to leave. With a grin on his face, he bolted out of his chair and out the door. The Droben were a people steeped in tradition, and that tradition often extended into the precepts of law as well. With any luck, he may find a way out of this mess.
Strolling back up to the Great Hall, he pushed the doors wide open. The Council gawked at him as he entered. He spoke plainly “In Droben law, one may speak on behalf of his character to the Heartstone of Truth to verify if what they say is true or false. I formally request to tell my story in front of the Heartstone, to deny me this right would be to admit your own guilt. Such is the law.”
“Ah, but Volodimire, this is for Droben citizens…”
“Seventeen years after the Battle of Obensea a non-Droben, one who had made a Droben stronghold his home, was granted this right. One that knew of his character was called in his place.”
The elder monolith grumbled and scowled. “Very well!” he said. By the tone of the elders’ voice, he knew he was more than a little annoyed. “And what name do you call?”
He smiled wildly as he said “Ruark”.
The dining hall was full of boxes... several hundred on his left, only a hundred or so on his right. That meant he was nearing the end of his cataloging. It had been such a thrill when he had finally managed to get reliable information as to where Azrael's servants had secreted all the books after their master had disappeared. Considered the oldest Sidhe, Azrael had had books in his library that stretched back to the great libraries that lay in the capitols of the Sidhe nations of Mo'Pri. When he had disappeared, all that knowledge had gone with him. Until now.
Forgotten Lore of the Droben. An interesting title. The Droben were a facinating race, appearing as if from nowhere and quickly becoming a dominant player in the politics of the world. But... Toph laid the book aside. He remembered the first reports of the Droben emerging from their caves, and he was not interested in any book that was written after he was born. He wanted the truly ancient books... the ones that held the knowledge he had never read before. Into the 'perhaps read/perhaps donate' pile.
Next book... Scary Droben Children's Stories Okay... what was Azrael doing with a book like that? Children's stories did not exactly seem like something a Sidhe mage would find worthy of keeping in his personal library. Then again, Azrael had had a daughter, so it was always possible that this was her book. Again... same box.
Next book... Droben memories of Mo'Pri....
"Alec? ALEC...what in the world happened to you? I heard you were taken away! Oh no look at your hands!" The small black haired teen had met him as he found his way back into Obensea. "Sarah?" His strength had almost left him completely as he halfway collapsed onto her tiny frame. He had known the girl for 14 years, ever since her parents left her along the road when she was 2. He had stumbled upon her as he was doing recon on a new wealthy family that had just moved into the city.
At first he was tempted to ignore her cries for mama, but something inside his chest wouldn't let him. "Sarah I’m fine really, I just need a cleric and a bath, I think my clothes are ruined" "You big dumb idiot, I told you to leave Marcus and his goons alone, you never listen to good advice!" "Ah so that’s what that was, it sounded a lot like nagging to me."
The small girl had helped him find a cheap healer and a place to clean up. She was more help then he deserved and he knew it, luckily she didn't seem to see things that way.
As the wounds in his wrists were dressed, he told her of all that had happened. She punched him hard in the ribs when he told her how and where he had been caught by Marcus’s goons. She gasped as he gave vague details of his attachment to the wooden spire, and eyed him suspiciously when he spoke of how he was released. Leaning over he heard her try to hide a sniff. “I haven’t been indulging in the usual pleasures Sarah.” “Have you heard yourself Alec? What am I supposed to think when you talk of moving boulders with glowing eyes?” “Perhaps he hit his head.” He had forgotten the healer was still tending to his wrists. “Of course I hit my damn head; I dropped nearly ten feet while attached to that damn thing.” His irritation was starting to get the best of him; he tried to control his temper in front of Sarah whenever possible. “That will be all.” He started when he heard the tone of her voice, she was protective a fact he didn’t overlook.
The rest of the day went the same way. She would ask him a question and question his sanity as he answered. He wasn’t crazy, he knew what saw. The feeling it gave him wasn’t something he could make up. After several hours of directionless interrogation he excused himself and headed towards Silky’s where he now found himself in his usual seat by the fire with is favorite dancer, trying to forget the past 6 hours if he could.
Nearly a week had passed without occurrence. The elder monolith did not try to contact anyone, didn’t make any peculiar changes in his routine, nor did anyone strange or unusual try to leave him messages or contact him. Javari was at a loss. He was certain that the elder had been bought. He had enough and he realized he was wrong.
And just then, late into the evening while he watched the elder sleep through an open window, he saw a flicker of movement. He watched as this shadowy flicker formed out of the shadows and crept silently across the bedroom. Like water, it poured into the elder monoliths mouth. The elder gasped and then was still. Javari brought his hands over his mouth to keep himself from screaming. What manner of sorcery was this?
The body of the elder then thrashed, the shadowy substance expelled out of the elder and poured back into the shadows and disappeared, the elder then sighed and fell back to sleep. Unable to contain himself anymore, he ran. He wasn’t even sure where he was running to, he ran until he couldn’t run anymore and he found himself at a door he had only been to a couple times before.
A stern knock, this late at night he would have to be home.
The Goldenrod felt even heavier in his hands, more than usual. He slid the magical rod between his belt and pants, readjusted his clothing, and knocked again. From within he could hear the shuffling of feet and the door unlocking. Even before the door was cracked halfway open, he panted apprehensively “Master Topheh! Master Volodimire is in serious trouble. I was certain, but I couldn’t be sure, and the elder monolith, so I followed him, and there was this liquid like shadow, and it poured into his mouth… could this be it?”
“Javari?” Topheh said.
Javari, Reluctant Keeper of the Goldenrod
Lyra leaned back in her chair, tilting her head from side to side as she craned her neck in an effort to ease the cramp that had settled into her bones and muscles. The flickering lamp-light danced across the polished expanse of her desk, the shapes of the pens and pencils in their carved holder casting shadows across the ledger she had been studying.
Sighing quietly, she closed the ledger and slid the dark green book into it's cubbyhole, making a mental promise to go back over her figures in the morning light.
From the darkened hallway behind her, a soft scuffle could be heard, followed by the muffled closing of a door.
Shaking her head ruefully, Lyra stood up and stretched, arching her back in an effort to get the last of the cramped muscles to unknot. Trying to stifle a yawn, she quietly made her way down the hallway, glad for her private entrance into the back of the Inn.
The cavernous kitchen was almost quiet, the only noise readily heard the crackling and popping of the small fire kindled in the massive stone hearth. In both carved wooden rocking chairs that flanked the hearth slept heaps of fur as the Inn's cats and dogs piled on top of one another for warmth and companionship.
"Someone's got the right idea!" Lyra muttered, striding over to the immense black-iron stove.
She snagged a handy thick kitchen towel that had been left hanging over a cupboard door, and deftly lifted the lid off the always-simmering tea kettle. Peeking inside, she was gratified to see that the level of the steaming water was high enough to yield a mug of tea before she made her way to bed.
From the dark hallway came the sound of a door opening, and the soft tread of furtive footsteps.
'Better make that hot cocoa for two, instead.' Lyra amended silently, automatically adjusting her routine to better suit the one who was lurking in the hallway. She settled the teakettle back into it's circle on top of the stove with one hand while she reached for a low sauce-pan from the racks that hung overhead.
Once again, she could hear the sounds of a door closing from the hallway, and she deftly poured steaming-hot milk into two heavy stoneware mugs that had already been graced with the special powdered dark cocoa that a certain trader gifted the Inn with on a regular basis. Humming quietly to herself, Lyra fished out a small spoon from the tangled chaos of a utensil drawer and stirred both mugs of hot cocoa. Grabbing a mug in each hand, she strode towards the dark hallway, the volume of her humming growing louder as she made it a point to -not- startle the hallway lurker.
"Meggie??" she cajoled softly, stopping before the heavy oaken door that had been opened and closed many times this night while Lyra worked the front of the Inn, and closed out the account books for the night. "Meggie, do ya want some cocoa before I go to bed??"
At the magic word "cocoa", the door slowly opened and a thin, waif-like girl-child peered out into the hallway, blinking grey eyes in sleepy wonder at Lyra. Her smile coming from her heart, Lyra held out one of the mugs, being careful to not cross the door's threshold. Two bony hands reached across the threshold and grasped the rough surface of the mug, a shy smile answering Lyra without words. As their fingers brushed, Lyra gave a silent sigh of relief, feeling the warmth in the thin fingers. At least for tonight she wouldn't have to storm Meg's sanctuary.
"G'night, Meglynne." Lyra said formally, inclining her head slightly towards her sister. "I'll see you when the sun is up."
"Sleep well, Lyra." she responded softly before stepping away from the door and swinging it shut.
As Meglynne idly listened to the sounds of her sister making her way towards her own room in the Inn, she felt the warm tingle of the wards sliding into an intricate pattern that would protect that which resided in her room.
A mug of hot cocoa in her thin hand, the only acknowledged sister to Lyra of the Haven made her way to the chair adjacent to the small fireplace. A cheerful fire burned in the grate, the flames serving to not only warm the room that Meglynne claimed as her sanctuary but driving out the cold and damp of the sea air from the pages of the hundreds of books that were her only constant companions in the magically-warded room.
The Droben were old. Far older than a race than he, or he imagined most of the scholars in the world had ever imagined, dating back to times before the First Betrayal.
"Either that or this is a huge fabrication and the water damage is intentional." he muttered to himself as he walked over to the door.
He opened it and was greeted with a flurry of words, coming nearly too fast for him to understand.
"Javari?" Toph said, somewhat confused. He hadn't seen his apprentice in some time, and certainly never this late at night.
"Come in... its cold out there" Toph said, opening the door and pulling his apprentice inside, devoting a moment to increasing the magical warmth that permeated this room of the house.
"Now... again, and more slowly."
Javari repeated what he had said, explaining about Volodimire's troubles and what he had seen after following the elder. At the description of the blackness pouring into his mouth, Toph's eyes opened wider.
"Come with me. I have a question for you and then we can decide how to best help Crystiame."
He led Javari back into his private study, where the old Droben book rested on a table. Picking it up, he flipped back several pages and laid it down again, stabbing a finger at the picture on the page.
Though blurred, the image clearly showed a droben, face contorted as stylized waves of blackness rushed towards him from all sides and poured down his throat.
"Did it look something like this?"
Looking at the page he could feel his heart race a little faster, and though he knew the image wasn’t real, in his mind the page almost seemed to come alive. His mother always blamed it on an overactive imagination, and she would always punish him for such nonsense, till his grandpappy would come and stand between him and her. It was his grandpappy that got him the apprenticeship with Master Topheh.
He turned past several pages and said “Yes, it looked almost exactly like that, just a little more fluid. Like the shadow was made of water.” He continued turning the pages and stopped cold on a peculiar illustration of what appeared to be a scaly lizard-like humanoid. Its scales were nearly as black as opal lined with a rusty brown along the ridges. But what caught his attention was the shimmering aura around it and intense fiery eyes. “There was substance to it, so hard to describe.”
Topheh had handed him a cup of warm tea. Javari took a heart sip. Its warmth filled him, the taste of almond and jasmine mixed with a touch of honey soothed his dry throat. He sat onto one of the comfy chairs and pulled his legs up towards his chest, cradling his cup of tea and the Goldenrod. Odd, he didn’t remember picking it up. “Thank you for the tea, Master Topheh.”, he said.
Javari, Reluctant Keeper of the Goldenrod
“You don’t need to trouble with the guards. It isn’t like they could stop me anyhow ever if they wanted. I will be staying at my northern tower.” And with that he walked out the door of the great hall. His patience was wearing awfully thin.
Reflexively, he clutched his chest. A sharp pain on his left side made it slightly difficult to breathe, though he hoped his movements were slight enough that the elders didn’t see this as a moment of weakness. For a moment his ears flooded with a ringing, and he felt nauseous. Things blurred slightly then came back in to focus. He collapsed to the stone floor, his body slapping the ground as it hit. He could see feet shuffling around him, could feel his arms binding around him.
The elder monolith crouched over him and whispered quietly into his ear “You are such a nuisance. Luckily, for us we found this nifty little artifact made by a Meridian Shaman.” Crystiames body aged beyond his venerable years till he was a petrified prune, his arms and legs felt stiff from rigor mortise. He had no voice to speak, no way to respond. The elder folded Crystiames arms around a box. The box was etched with gears and moving parts, and as the gears moved it made ticking noises.
“Since you asked for Ruark to talk on your behalf to the Heartstone, we will honor those wishes. But, of for some reason he does not show, we will have a formal trial.” The elder monolith grinned broadly. “I do not think you will be causing us much problems now.”
Toph broke off mid-sentence, his eyes finally falling on and recognizing the Goldenrod.
"Why do you have Kroven's Goldenrod? He'd never part with that... Did you steal it or something? Or..."
Toph could feel the color draining from his face. Kroven had been a good friend, if rather busy these past few years. "The Energy of Youth" Toph had called it, the mixed tones of scorn and regret in his voice seeming out of place coming from a body that appeared to be in its mid-thirties and still very much in its 'youth'... But Toph had outgrown the need to be busy a few hundred years ago. It was part of why he liked Kroven so much... all that energy, for all Toph disparaged it, was a refreshing reminder of how Toph himself had been in his younger years. But now...
Toph waited, dread rising in his soul, for Javari's response.
By the end of his recanting of the tale, Javari was sweating and stuttering over his words. He was not so used to people paying attention to what he had to say. He had always been the quiet one, reserved, watching and listening. From there, he then told how Crystiame Volodimire was accused of the disappearance of Kraven, and how his own words had been used against him. He then said, “I apologize! I never meant to get Master Volodimire in to trouble!”
Tears then streamed from his eyes, tears that he had been bottling up until now. He couldn’t help himself, couldn’t stop the flood of tears. “I never meant this to happen!” he said angrily as he then threw the Goldenrod across the room. The binding knotworks seemed to unravel into what looked like razor sharp ribbons, sinking deeply into the far wall, then reweaving together to form the magical rod once again and flying back into his hand.
“No! No! No, no, no!” he screamed. “I don’t want this shame!” The knotwork of the Goldenrod seemed to wreath in his hand, knuckles clenched white in frustration. Slamming it back onto the table, the magical rod reshaped its head into that of a wicked hammer, leaving a huge hole in the table as it easily passed through the table striking the floor.
“I’m, I’m so sorry Master Topheh!
Javari, Reluctant Keeper of the Goldenrod
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