Maxim Archive

Darkest Day
Page 2 of 2

Author:  The Magister [ Tue Jun 22, 2004 9:33 pm ]
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The old man reviewed the scene that had been spread before him when he'd arrived. Townspeople fleeing, terror and fear obvious in their manner. The humanoid blob, moving toward one of the houses, the trail of puddles marking its "steps", still evident. Little wavering in that path, no walking about in circles to experiment, just a strait line to the nearest dwelling.

"No. I don't quite believe you. You're either a fool, or malicious in your intent. And you don't look the part of a fool.

Just because you don't wish for the end of the world, doesn't mean your actions cannot hasten it."

Even as he spoke, he was marshalling energies, preparing wards and barriers, and something with a bit more punch. The woman was still dangerous, that much was clear.

Author:  Kaali [ Wed Jun 23, 2004 12:47 pm ]
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You don't believe me?! What a shame....

She frowned and looked at him sideways. He obviously wasn't stupid like the majority of the villagers. He had figured out soon enough that she was behind the movement of the ooze. And he was smart enough not to underestimate her intelligence. That meant that she would actually have to fight him if she wanted to continue on her way. He didn't seem inclined to just let her go, and it was so undignified to just pick up her skirts and run- although if that were the only option, she'd do it.

She could see his hands moving. He was getting ready to do something else. After barely avoiding his attack earlier, she wouldn't be caught by surprise this time. Quickly, she muttered her commands under her breath. In seconds, half of her army had surrounded her to form a barrier against whatever was thrown her way. She would have to wait to see if the barrier actually worked, but it had held in the past. The other half of her army she sent at the old mage, their unearthly shrieks filling the village air and shaking the buildings that still stood.

Author:  Eskil [ Thu Jun 24, 2004 7:41 am ]
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Eskil grinned broadly, the expression feeling strange, as if he had not had much cause to smile and work those muscles before. But he hadn't really had he? All the priests of the temple were so dour, meeting the world with a scowl more often than a smile. There had been a reason why they hadn't smiled much...something about despair and pain. Yes that was it, the God, He was a God of despair and suffering, got to suffer in order to be redeemed. The scrolls all said that, said that the only way to look upon Darden's glory was to know the full measure of His lessons of pain.

It all seemed rather silly now that Eskil thought about it. Why had he wasted so much of his life denying himself the pleasures and the comforts of life?

Life was something to be enjoyed, he realised that as the fever had broken. The sickness had disappeared in a stroke and left him feeling so much...better. he felt happy for the first time, truly happy, it was as though his eyes had been opened suddenly and he experienced the beauty of a sunrise for the first time in his life. The priest had felt joy, true joy, a euphoria that he had never before experienced, something that before he would certainly have condemned as sinful. But now? Now it was a gift, a blessing, a delight. it pushed aside all thoughts of duty and work, nothing could destroy the feeling, not even the sight of the dark ooze devouring one of the low stone buildings that made up the static part of the central settlement of Culaearien.

The ooze was ooze. A small part of his mind screamed at him that he should be worried, that his place was to comfort the people of the red desert. But its screams were muffled by the pleasant sensations that the sickness had placed upon his mind. The ooze...let the Sidhe woman deal with it, she could waste her life if she wanted. But he was human, his life was set to be far shorter than hers, so let her worry, he would simply enjoy himself till death came for him.

It took him a couple of attempts to get to his feet, the grin as always plastered across his face. He tried to put on a serious face but burst into laughter even before he could speak a single word. You want the woman do you? I wouldn't bother, she's such a kill-joy, wanted to lock me up for my own good. I ask you, what kind of woman would do that to me? One who is deliberately trying to stop people from having fun, that's what kind of woman she is. No you don't want to talk to her, no, no, no. Come sit down with me friends, he fell into a sitting position, swaying just a little and smiling as if he saw a very different world to the one around him.

The novice ran forward from behind the sick priest and knelt before the wagon that was carrying the allies of the desert. He bowed down till his forehead touched the hot sand, Honoured Anub-Re, blessed of the one true God, I apologise on behalf of Father Eskil, he's not been well at all. He has caught the sickness and it has affected his mind, Novice Noral spoke the last words quickly, trusting that the Anub-Re would hear and that Eskil wouldn't. If you seek the Advisor-to-the-Blessed-Beast, the sorceress, I would be most honoured to act as your guide if you would aid me in returning Father Eskil to the safety of the temple.

Behind the novice, Eskil began to sing once again.

Author:  The Magister [ Mon Jun 28, 2004 8:42 pm ]
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The host of spirits swarmed at him, deflecting off his wards, though he could see it couldn't hold against such onslaught indefinitely. Preparing his own energies, he called forth a hail of rocks and jagged gems in an arc before him, battering and shredding the coporial forms of several of the attacking spirits, leaving them without physical form to assault him.

Applying a little more energy to bolster his defenses, he set to drawing energy for another strike. It would take a bit to pull the teeth from this foe, but it was do-able. Waving his hand before him, he shot out a spray of ice shards. The shards froze the coporial spirit forms they struck, encasing them in ice, which then fell from the air. The blocks of ice (along with their contents) shattered on striking the ground, and disolved.

Author:  Alcestis [ Tue Jun 29, 2004 4:14 am ]
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A man's voice broke her trance as she stood at the table."Escuse me, I am Lord Quarrel I am here to speak with Hesketh about this ooze problem. I recieved a letter." The shadows all about the room deepened almost immediately with the first few words spoken. Slowly she turned around to face him and when Hesketh's name was spoken, the shadows seemed to lighten up slightly again.

She looked down at her hands, the tips of her otherwise translucent-skinned fingers were rouged and a bit warm with having traced the scorched table top so long. Alcestis was certain now that while in Tiavain she had indeed seen the one called Astavia and delivered Brett's letter to her lady's hands. She raised her eyes to meet Quarrel's own and allowed a faint smile to come to her face.

"Lord Quarrel, the pleasure is mine, although I wish we may have met under better circumstances than these." She crossed the room towards him, small shadowy tendrils skittered about her feet and ankles like a trick of the mind. Again, as it did when she'd started walking down Tempest Road, her own shadow gave a soft push against her back as her Guardian settled himself in. It was just easier that way when meeting new people, the sight of the Shade's omnimous figure unfolding itself from the darkness sometimes had an ill effect on those personally unknown to them.

"I'm afraid we've both missed Hesketh and the small party he's left here with. I'd just returned myself to find them gone." When she reached Quarrel, she held her right hand out to him, the long dark sleeves of her dress fell gently over the back of her hand. "I am Hesketh's...friend, Alcestis, and if you like I will take you along to meet him," with an faraway look in her eyes she added, "If you would not mind a little walk in the dark that is."

Author:  Dahnalyse [ Wed Jun 30, 2004 4:18 pm ]
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She stared at the deserted city in shock. She had known the ooze would likely be in all parts of the lands, but she hadn't quite expected an entire city to abandon their homes because of it. Biting her lip she carefully made her way to the city gates, careful not to go anywhere that looked too "dark" and avoiding what few stragglers remained behind. Even deserted, she remembered that it had been a ruler of the city who had sought her capture for the way she had used her magics. Seeing an old man walking toward the gate, he appeared to be a scribe or something of the sort. Deciding to chance it, she stopped the man and querried.

Excuse me, but could you tell me where Master Taff can be found?

"The alchemist? He be gone. Ooze et up the building he was in- surprised he didn't burn it up himself. I heerd rumors he escaped and is searching a way to fight the the vileness that is engulfing the world."

Where did the rumors originate? Can you tell me?

She held her breath and hoped the man knew that much. If she had a general direction to go, she could continue her search. If there wasn't a general direction, her hopes of locating him were considerably reduced- and they were small as it was.

"Aye. The Foretian lands- the holdings of those known as Silence. He may still be there."

Thank you.

Turning away from him, she quickly exited the town, the feeling of impending doom hanging over her head. She was much more comfortable away from the buildings. As she slowly walked away from the city, she tried to decide how to reach her next destination. It wasn't a trip she looked forward to. Finding her mentor in a heathen city that he belonged to, was one thing- he could have protected her if need be. Finding him in a heathen land that was also hostile to him under normal conditions... well she just couldn't rely on anyone to help her in this situation. They might not be able to.

Tightening the bandage that held her broken arm to her body, she turned her face toward the lands of Silence and began to run.

Author:  Masanomi [ Thu Jul 01, 2004 11:33 am ]
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Masanomi cocks his head on one side as he regards the young novice.


The sickness has reached the red sands of Culaearien, in no uncertain terms, for the sickness afflicted the priest's mind as much as his body. More, from the looks of things, for Father Eskil looked to be as healthy as any inhabitant of the great rocky Temple that dominated Culaearien's central settlement.

Not that Masanomi has met Father Eskil before, the priests of the desert above tend to keep themselves within the Temple. Wrapped up in their devotion to the Demon God, for unlike the children of the Dark Below, the tribes of Culaearien venerate Him almost exclusively as the Demon of Tismad.

Certainly, young novice. Masanomi, why don't you give our brother priest a hand up into the wagon, and we'll all go back to the settlement to find some more fun to have.

Nariaki's emphasis on those final words makes it very clear that "having fun" is the last thing on his mind. Masanomi hands the war-priest the reins and slips down from the wagon's seat.

Come on, Father, there's no fun to be had out in the desert sun. I'm sure there's far more interesting things to do back in the settlement.

His voice is as friendly as he can manage as he offers a hand to the bemused priest.

Author:  DKII [ Fri Jul 02, 2004 11:25 am ]
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DKII paused on the road for a few minutes, leaning heavily on his walking stick. He was old, far older than he had a right to be, even for a centaur. Yet even so he was enjoying these past few months, just wandering the roads aimlessly. It was relaxing, in a way.

He reflected back to the events that had changed his life. Well, most recently changed his life, anyway--a long life gets changed in many ways at many times along the way. His time during the coma, spent walking through some kind of spiritual world, had taught him at least one thing--the gods that the people of Maxim worshipped were no true gods, merely powerful, greedy, selfish beings who became and remained so by consuming the souls of the mortal realm. The religious wars fought almost constantly were fought to fuel the "god"'s appetite for power, and no other. It was all so pointless, the thought that he'd helped to perpetuate such nonsense made him sick.

Of course there was little point to telling anyone all of this. It seemed that 99% of all of Maxim were so devoted to some supposed god or another that anyone who spoke against them met with a quick death. He'd seen followers of one god get along with followers of another, at times, yet few indeed who pronounced that none of the gods were worth following lived long enough to make a difference.

And so, he largely kept silent about his new beliefs, not even telling his closest friends. He'd given up his keep, left it to Ran to run for himself, and taken to the road, a wandering pilgrimage of sorts. He offered no one any resistance, and carried no valuables, and so the wars that plagued the isle rarely touched them. And even when they did, he'd awoken with some strange new spiritual powers that usually kept him safe....

His thoughts turned then to the necromancer who'd inadvertently brought him back from the spirit world to the living, the strange Kaali. She'd sought to enslave him, though by that point it seemed that he'd spent so long in the spirit realm that he knew it as well as or even better than herself. The backlash caused her to lose control of her army of souls, reducing her to a groveling shadow of her former self. He'd followed the trail then back into his own body, and awoken in time to drive the newly-freed souls away just before they could take their revenge on their former master.

He'd tried to teach Kaali, to get her to behave better, but he didn't think he'd really succeeded. Few with power could restrain themselves from using it for long. He'd tried to get her to seek out the few strong souls who might willingly serve her in order to better the world, but the lure of the power of thousands of slaves was usually more tempting than a mere handful of willing allies. He didn't dare even hint at the fact that if Kaali herself could gather enough souls together, and consume their power, she might ascent to "godhood" as well.

His spiritual tie to Kaali was not an overly strong one, but Kaali's spiritual presence shone like a bright beacon--especially when she had her army of souls about her. He was headed towards her now, figuring a sort of check-up was in order, while he was in the area.

He continued walking and soon approached the outskirts of a small village, and immediately was on the lookout. Recently some strange ooze had taken over most if not all of the large settlements of Maxim, eating away at its foundations. A physical sign of the actual decay of the isle, he supposed. Usually he avoided even small towns, knowing well enough about living in the forests to be able to survive unaided for as long as he wished.

There was some kind of conflict up ahead, he sensed. DKII sighed--Kaali really couldn't keep herself out of trouble, despite all of his best efforts. He quickened his pace, hoping he could arrive in time to help.

He spotted Kaali in the middle of a street, squared off against a bearded old man, holding a staff before him. Kaali appeared to have a shield of spirits in place, but they were falling quickly to a barrage of ice shards from the old mage. He hurried forward, intent on putting a stop to this--especially since a powerful mage typically beats a powerful necromancer. He had to time this right, or he'd just distract Kaali at a crucial moment.

"Kaali! Just what do you think you're doing?" He hurried forward to cover the remaining distance, just as he added his own spiritual power to Kaali's flagging wards, asking the army of souls to aid him for just a few moments.

The storm of ice shards halted for a moment, as the old mage appeared to be considering DKII's sudden appearance. "I apologize, sir, for her misbehavior." He shot Kaali a sharp look for effect. "I assure you, it won't happen again."

Reaching through the ward, he grabbed Kaali by the wrist and led her away. First extending the ward to cover himself, he threw her up on his back, and muttered a quick warning to her under his breath. "Hold on!" Then he took off as fast as his old legs would carry him, hooves beating upon the cobblestones as he went. Hopefully that mage wasn't angry enough to go after them.

Author:  Anibus [ Sun Jul 04, 2004 5:49 pm ]
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It had been weeks, I guess, since I could last remember anything clearly. Most of it was blurry at best, a dream-like state in which I was fumbling around muttering things about ooze and coughing like the plague itself had made a home in my lungs. I had awoken, curled tight in the fetal position covered by a few shoddy blankets and the skin of some sort of wildebeast, in a loft of some farmers barn. My specific location, I was not quite sure of, but if I could recollect the last few weeks, I might be able to at least figure something out.

I made a vain attempt to gather myself and rise from this sickness induced slumber, but to no avail, I simply fell back into the hay, tired and disgusted at my self resolve.

What God brought this wretched sickness....
Must...pick...myself...up....must continue to live.....

And the darkness settled in again...

Author:  Kaali [ Thu Jul 08, 2004 9:10 am ]
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She'd been struggling, trying to hold her army in place to protect her. The mage was powerful though. More powerful than herself, and she wasn't ashamed to admit it. The biggest problem was, there was only one option left to her and she wasn't entirely certain he would allow her to use it. While it was true, her intentions hadn't been the best, he had attributed more malice to her than she'd originally meant. As such, she was positive he was intent on destroying her. Running away wouldn't change that. If she let her concentration down just a little so that she could retreat, one of his spells would break through and finish her. The best she could hope for was a distraction of some sort that would allow her the few seconds needed to bolster her forces and escape.

The distraction fate gave her, wasn't entirely one she would have asked to have.

"Kaali! Just what do you think you're doing?"

Inside she cringed. Just her luck. Most people, even those who might be more adept in magics than herself, tended to avoid confrontations with her for the sole fact that they did not like facing her army. Most had a healthy respect for the spirits of the dead. And she made it a rule to not run afoul of those who might not be intimidated by those spirits. She wasn't foolish after all. But she'd managed to botch that fairly well this day. Not only had she had the misfortune to run into a mage who wasn't intimidated by her army and was stronger than herself in the magics , she'd managed to draw the attention of the one other man in the isle who had any power over her. And if the tone of his voice was any indication, he was going to make her regret her little journey.

She wasn't sure exactly what she expected him to do. But she could tell she'd stepped over a line somewhere along the way. It surprised her to some degree when she realized he'd actually thrown up his own protections over the both of them. Relief caused her not to struggle when he took her wrist and pulled her away. She didn't even protest when he tossed her up onto his back- she just grabbed onto him and kept looking over her shoulder toward the old mage, uncertain if he would follow or not.

Once they were out of sight of the old man, she turned to look at DK, wondering what he was going to do next. Straightening her shoulders somewhat defiantly, she rubbed her wrist, frowning in what some would have called a petulent way, though she wouldn't have thought it such.

Why'd you grab me so hard? I would have come to you if you'd said to....

With chagrine, she realized that much was true. This man knew too well how to destroy her. She was afraid not to obey him.

Author:  DKII [ Thu Jul 15, 2004 7:43 am ]
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Why'd you grab me so hard? I would have come to you if you'd said to....

DKII looked back before he slowed to a stop, making sure the mage wasn't following them, and tried to catch his breath. Either the mage had more important things to do, or he simply hadn't caught up to them yet.

"You might've come, but that mage wouldn't simply let you go, I think." He kept watch on the road behind him as he spoke, wary of the mage reappearing. "Should I even ask what you did that upset him so? Running around fighting powerful mages isn't exactly going to get you a long and healthy life you know."

He set Kaali down, then walked over to the side of the road. He found a clearing without any sign of the ooze, then lay down. He really was too old for this adventuring stuff. "And let's not even get started on how you acquired that new army of yours, hmm?"

Author:  Kaali [ Fri Jul 16, 2004 10:24 am ]
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She bit her lip and didn't look at him for several seconds, although with his eyes on her, it felt like hours. She knew he would not be happy with whatever answer she gave him, if it was even close to the truth. The problem was, he would be less happy if she told a lie, and although she was fairly certain she could lie and convince him she spoke truth- he had ways of finding out the truth without her saying anything and lying would be far more dangerous to her.

Finally, she straightened her shoulders and turned to face him defiantly.

I just decided to make some use of that black stuff that's been popping up all over the place. He didn't like what I was doing and decided to stick his nose in the middle of it!

Swallowing, she tried to keep the defiant pose, but wilted somewhat under his stare. It really wasn't fair that he knew her weakness and could hold it over her head like he did. Frowning, she crossed her arms over her chest and looked at the ground, loathe to tell him the rest of it.

It wasn't like I could actually do much with it. I I figured out a way to get my army to move the stuff from one spot to another? So what if it frightened all the village. It isn't MY fault they're so afraid of the stuff that seeing it walk toward them like a man makes them evacuate the town.

She looked up again petulantly.

And I didn't kill anyone if that's what you were implying. I got my army from all the spirits left behind by people whose hearts failed them when they realized the ooze had trapped them. And a few tavern brawls that went bad. I kept my knives in their sheaths thank you very much!

She shifted from one foot to the other, the petulance and defiance slowly dying under his gaze, until all that was left was a worried young woman who was certain she was about to be severely disciplined. If she had thought it would have helped, she would have grovelled at his feet.

Author:  DKII [ Mon Jul 26, 2004 12:03 pm ]
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DKII paused in thought, considering Kaali's words. He was pretty sure he couldn't trust her one bit, but that didn't necessarily mean she was lying to him here. She was still afraid of him, at least.

As long as she wasn't hastening anyone's death, wouldn't the spirits be better off serving in her army than simply being consumed to fuel the false gods' war? He'd only recently learned that only a bare trickle of souls made it through into any kind of afterlife, for the current gods absorbed everything they could into their own being, increasing their own power. Could such an existence possibly be preferable? Probably not--perhaps this was simply a case of choosing the lesser of two evils, once again. DKII sighed. He wished he could do some good for once.

Perhaps he could make use of Kaali to do just that. If he could find a way to get rid of the false gods, even to bring the true gods back, then surely that would be a better situation than the war of souls currently being fought. As far as he knew, the old gods, at least, were true gods, and did not consume the souls of their enemies for their power. The one exception, DKII thought bitterly, was Oleana, the one who had supposedly "risen" to godhood and duped a number of naive followers, including himself, into following her. That act had disrupted the fabric of Mo'pri's existence so severely that the world had not been able to survive, and the inhabitants had been forced to flee to Maxim. Now these false gods reigned over them, and there had been no sight of the old ones. He found it difficult to believe that these false gods could possibly have the power to actually destroy the old gods, yet it was certainly possible that the denizens of Maxim were being hidden from them--or vice-versa. He considered as very probably that these false gods were all just different aspects of the same Oleana, presenting different images of herself in order to incite the massive killings all over the island and feed her own power. If that were true, then Oleana had somehow defeated the other gods on Mo'pri, and DKII had been complicit in that act. He had to right it, somehow.

Whatever had happened, the current situation was even worse than the faith wars of the past. Now, devout followers of one false god killed those of another, knowing that the souls of those killed in battle would feed their own god's power. Everyone was killing each other needlessly and heedlessly, threatening to extinguish entire races that couldn't replenish their populations. The centaur and the Sidhe had all but vanished from Maxim entirely, with elves in danger as well, while those that reproduced more often--humans, droben, and elementals--thrived and enhanced the cycle of death. The massive rise of the undead vampires was a clear example of the current situation on Maxim, a race of creatures that fed on death.

He realized suddenly that he hadn't yet answered Kaali. "Oh, I'm sure you didn't." He could feel Kaali's soul army, and most, if not all, were miserable prisoners of her power. And yet, at least, they still existed. They were safe, after a fashion, and perhaps that was all that mattered, for now.

He began to develop a plan. He would have to be careful; these gods, though false, were still all-powerful, and if they knew he was plotting against them, they would stop him. Their arrogance was all-consuming as well, however, and they might simply dismiss him, at least at first. But could he afford to tell Kaali about it? More importantly, could he trust her to follow through with it? While she did not seem to hold any particular loyalty to the false gods, she was far too young to know anything of the old ones. DKII would simply have to trust in her desire for power for herself, and hope that he could keep her under control when it mattered.

They would need an immense amount of power themselves, and that meant more souls for Kaali--and less for the gods. That part, at least, he was fairly sure he could convince Kaali to do.

"You know, I can't always be around to snatch you out of danger whenever you get yourself into trouble. You need to get yourself stronger, so you can at least defend yourself. And taking a soul here or there in collapsed buildings or tavern fights is, quite frankly, far too slow and inefficient. There are massive battles occurring all over Maxim, thousands of soldiers and peasants dying every day on battefields far and wide, their spirits going to no use but to feed the gods and fuel the wars further. If we could tap into that resource, then no mere mage would be able to threaten you again."

Author:  Kaali [ Tue Jul 27, 2004 10:37 am ]
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She blinked owlishly at him, her mouth dropping open in confusion. Was she hearing right? Was the old centaur actually suggesting she gather a larger army of souls to herself? Was he actually promoting the idea of her becoming stronger?

she snapped her mouth shut so quickly her teeth cracked against each other loudly, and swallowed while eyeing DKII speculatively. Was he trying to trap her into saying or doing something so he could come down on her? That hadn't been his style before, but then- telling her to gather a larger army together hadn't been his style before either. She wasn't sure what to make of this new development.

And what was this talk about the gods using the souls to fuel their wars? He sounded as if...

If I dared to, I'd think you were suggesting I fight the gods for what they view as theirs.... But of course you can't be suggesting such a thing.

She looked up and around herself, nervously, as if expecting one of the three to send a bolt of lightning down on her. She wasn't terribly devout- it was difficult to be devout when your will tended to bend whichever way was most advantageous- but she believed well enough in the gods' power.

After she was secure in the knowledge that they didn't seem to be paying attention to her or her master, she relaxed a little and thought about it. Dk's suggestion of taking more of an army was almost like an offer of freedom. Of sorts anyway. Before this moment, he'd been adamant that she not glean souls from fallen soldiers- he didn't trust her not to use the army for ill purpose- and she'd obeyed him because she wasn't entirely sure he wouldn't be able to cut her off from her army completely. Now he was going directly against what he'd been ordering her to do for the last several months. She didn't doubt he would still hold the strings, that she would still be expected to obey, but when her army was large enough- when she was strong enough- there was a chance of breaking free of the rules he imposed on her. A chance for complete autonomy and enough power that she could tell him what to do.

Of course she had to take that chance. Who wouldn't?

Author:  DKII [ Fri Aug 06, 2004 10:58 am ]
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DKII smiled slightly at Kaali's statement, neglecting to either confirm or deny it. The girl would grow more used to the idea over time, and even more emboldened as her power grew. He just hoped that he could manage to keep her from turning on him once she grew strong enough.

"Come, let's get moving. We won't gain anything by standing in one place for too long; I have a feeling time is not exactly on our side, here. I have a few safeholes where we can stay in a pinch, and plenty of friends who will take us in for a night, but for now our best bet is to simply wander the isle, wherever it may take us." He leaned on his staff and looked down the road--in the land of Maxim, battlefields were not very difficult to find. The plan would unfold, one small step at a time. DKII just hoped that they could see its completion before something got in the way.

Author:  Nariaki [ Tue Aug 17, 2004 5:39 pm ]
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The wagon rolls slowly across the red sands of Culaearien. Behind the passengers - Nariaki, Masanomi and the young Dardenite novice of the tribes - the sounds of the settlement, Al-Gatar, fade into the distance.

A strange experience, in Nariaki's mind. The settlement of the tribes is normally so quiet, the tribesmen who walk its dusty streets as quiet, as dignified as the Anub-Re who walk the night-shrouded streets of the Isle below. Yet today, things are ... different. Today, the strange madness that seems to have gripped the world stalks the streets of the settlement of Culaearien, twisting the minds of the tribesmen, filling their hearts with joy, purging them of the despair that is the Demon God's dark blessing.

They had driven into Al-Gatar, Nariaki and Masanomi, their comatose charge and the two tribesmen, in search of someone to take care of the stricken Father Eskil. They had not found any, for the settlement was over-run by the afflicted, singing and dancing and laughing in the streets. They had, eventually, resorted to simply turning Eskil loose, trusting in the general good mood of the populace to ensure that the joyous priest came to no harm.

Oh, the Anub-Re were no strangers to joy. They understood despair, of course - how could they not? Cast out of paradise into the cold darkness, how could they not have learnt of the dark despair that filled His cup? Forced to wander the unforgiving caves for time beyond counting, bearing with them the knowledge of the home that had been torn from them, how could any rational being not have known grief, pain, loss?

Yet they did not shun the other teachings of the Lord. For His despair was but one side of a coin, and the other side was delight, for He delighted in the ever-changing beauty of the world.

Without despair, by what would joy be measured?

The wagon rolled on across the sand in search of the Voralphian, and the sorceress Lyssia.

Author:  Lyssia [ Thu Aug 19, 2004 9:57 am ]
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[OOC: Coming from this thread.]

The sorceress paused outside the tumbled gathering of rocks. The stone looked as though it had been dropped here and there with no particular order to it, just a natural formation. Maybe the stones had once stood upright and there had been some kind of order to them, maybe not. But time, or the wind, or an earthquake or some other similar natural phenomena had knocked the stones down and upon one another. No one would think that it could possibly be more than it appeared to be, unless of course they already knew what secret the stones hid. There were places similar to it across the desert, hidden places of knowledge that were guarded, not by vast numbers of guards that would attract the attention of invaders, but rather by their own aura of the mundane and ordinary. Why would an invading army look to a group of useless stones when there were tribes to be fought and Al-Gatar itself to find?

In each territory of the tribes there was one such place, a place where the names of the dead were remembered and where each birth was carefully recorded. The events and histories of the tribe of that territory were held there, information from generations of people who had lived and died in Culaearien, knowledge that the tribes valued dearly and that could not be replaced. Perhaps others would have considered it wiser to protect such deposits of information in another way, by surrounding them with high walls and fierce. well-armed soldiers. But to the desert people it seemed that to do that would be to invite the invaders to the places of their history. Better simply to make them seem ordinary places of little worth, to hide them in plain sight and simply never speak of their existence to outsiders. It had worked for generations and showed no signs of failing.

Lyssia leaned against one of the stones, resting her head against it as she thought over the information that the keepers of the Voralphian tribe history had given her. The Sidhe woman had been seeking an answer to the riddle of a sickness that had been plaguing the desert lands of Culaearien. She knew that the disease had first been brought to the desert by the shadowy Voralphian and had hoped to find some clue to curing its effects by questioning the keepers of the tribe's history. They had been able to give the sorceress the tale of how the sickness had come to the desert by little more than she had already known. It seemed as if the disease would remain an elusive and perplexing foe.

She walked back to her horse, calming the nervous beast with a few soft words and a touch of the Art. Animals tended to dislike the presence of the sorceress, sensing what humans and the other races tended to be blind to. The Sidhe woman disliked having to force the horse to her will, but it was the only way, especially if she stood any chance of undoing the damage that had been done to the people of Culaearien.

Just as the sorceress was about to set her heels to the flanks of her horse she made out a movement in the distance. Frowning she shaded her eyes with her hand and watched as it approached, slowly resolving itself into a wagon. She squinted as she tried to make out the faces of the figures that travelled within, but her eyes failed her, forcing Lyssia to wait and be patient. Patience was something that Lyssia had little of for the time being, especially when she knew that the sickness and the darkness were spreading. Some might have pointed to her race and thought that patience was a thing that she would have in endless supply, after all she was a Sidhe. But that wasn't the case, just because she was of the older races did not mean that she could bear waiting while those who depended on her were suffering.

Anub-Re, she said to herself as the identity of the travellers became clear. And a young boy as well, the name of the boy evaded her memory though she was fairly certain she had seen him about the temple. A novice then. A novice and two of Anub-Re, Culaearien's closest allies. What would bring such a group out into the southern portion of the desert? Especially as things were.

She let the wagon draw closer, only seeing the body of the seemingly comatose Herald at the last moment. Lyssia frowned, she had seen him in such a state before, but that had been some time ago on the journey from Culaearien to the lands of the Torturer. He had seemed to withdraw into himself after the attempted assassination that had been waiting to greet them in the Inn of Briars at Ran'Kur. Had something similar happened again? Not an assassination or the like, but rather something that had called out that strange and almost frightening power that seemed to sleep within the grey-skinned form of the Herald of the Anub-Re. She had often wondered about that power of his, the power that had killed the assassin at the Inn and terrified the dark soul Lossandrea that was bound within the Sidhe's own mind. Where had that power come from? What was the full of extent of it? And why did it seem able to extract such a terrible cost upon Elador himself?

But there was no time for such questions for it seemed that the Anub-Re and the novice had been searching for her. They stopped the wagon nearby to her and explained the situation. It was as Lyssia suspected though the cause of the Herald's state had been different to before. she bit her lip, the questions beginning to rise once more. They would have to wait for another time, for now all that was needed was for her to draw out the Herald from whatever dark recess of his mind that his consciousness had fled to.

She jumped down from her horse and climbed into the wagon to kneel beside the still form of the Herald. What had he done to deserve the burden that he seemed to carry? The burden of the dark power within him? Was it a punishment or a blessing? When it came to matters concerning the Lord of Sorrows, Darden, the sorceress often found that the answers to such questions were rarely easy to discover. It was better to concentrate on the here and now rather than troubling herself over them.

The Sidhe reached out with her Art a she had done before, calling mentally to the Herald and attempting to act as the beacon to call him back to the real world. Herald, her Art seemed to whisper inside him as it sought him out, Herald, there is no time for this, you must come back, you must rise from you sleep.

Herald...there is much that waits to be done.

Author:  Shadowborn [ Thu Aug 19, 2004 4:06 pm ]
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The world is leeched of colour; black and shades of grey. There is no sky overhead, just the endless unrelenting nothingness of the darkness. The land beneath is rolling grassland, but the grass is ash-grey in colour. A small river flows, the water inky in the non-light of the place. There are trees. The trees are twisted, stunted, wrong.

In the distance, towering mountains loom, immense, brooding, grey.

There is no sound.

There is no heat.

There is only the endless shadowy darkness, and in the silent place, the Shadowborn walks. Inhuman eyes see clearly despite the light. They glitter coldy, harshly, emotionlessly. In this place, they too have had their colour, the dusty red of the iris, the blue surrouding, stolen away. There is no colour here. There is no emotion. There is no time. Such concepts are immaterial here. This place simply is.

There is only shadow.

Booted feet stride across the ashen grassland. The soil that the grass grows in is a deep, dark grey in colour. In the rolling grassland of the non-place, the Herald of Dawn stalks. The pace is slow, graceful, measured. The blades of grass crush beneath the booted feet, springing back as those feet lift, for the grass is coarse and wiry.

Bone-white hair hangs loose, limp, for there is no breeze in this place, which is not really a place at all, to stir it.

In the silence of the nothing, the Shadowborn walks, away from the world, away from ... everything.

And the silence is broken. A female voice, soft, ethereal, haunting.

Herald, Herald, there is no time for this, you must come back, you must rise from you sleep.

Herald...there is much that waits to be done.

Author:  Kyoji [ Fri Sep 03, 2004 12:02 am ]
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And just like that Kyoji sat up from his slumber. It had been too long since Kyoji had been awake. Surely the island was no longer in peril. But Kyoji crawled from his tent to see that it was still as he remembered.

Odd. Kyoji was at a meeting the last time he was awake. He would send a message to the Silent Valley.

No response. What had happened to the island since Kyoji slumbered. He started off to find out.

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