Maxim Archive

The Final Ascension (The End?)
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Author:  Eltharion the Justicar [ Sat Sep 17, 2005 2:53 pm ]
Post subject:  The Final Ascension (The End?)

(OOC: contact me before posting, and be sure you've got the time to commit to this. The world is ending on a schedule, so we can't fall behind. :P)

With the chronicles of the Final Ascension complete, Eltharion rose. His body creaked, but his supernatural mind was neither weary nor restless. The tome was quite lengthy, and had taken him quite some time to complete. Unaware of precisely how long he had remained in the solitude of his Crystal Palace, Eltharion wandered outside and gazed to the heavens.

Black clouds, as thick as death, criss-crossed the moon. Stars winked out of existence as they were consumed by shadowy monsters floating across the sky. The wind was cold, and seemed to blow down, not across the earth, but against it.

Eltharion's wings ruffled as a faint hum buzzed through the air. It felt as though electricity was dancing along his body, crackling against the magical shields Eltharion has positioned between himself and the rest of Maxim. Turning back towards the Crystal Palace, Eltharion suddenly felt very out of place.

Too many symbols at once, nothing but coincidence...

Eltharion dismissed the premonitions, and prepared himself for an evening of meditation.

It's too bad that nothing could prepare him for what was coming.

Author:  Jaelith Ripple-Rift [ Sat Sep 17, 2005 3:37 pm ]
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The time since she had fought against Smargrin was like a distant dream to Jaelith. Systematically denied participation in Eltharion's endeavours, Jaelith slowly cultivated her own interests and aspirations.

It was amidst this life of training and recreation that Jaelith slowly dulled to the taste of adventure. While she was constantly honing her magical abilities, she was not tuning them towards exploratory uses. Instead she worked in one-sided concert with Leto, her patron. Slowly she learned fragments of his history. The wars he fought, the cities he saved, what it meant to live and die for him.

Though she had never been devoted to another, Jaelith felt something stronger than servitude that bound her to Leto. She feared to know what it could be.

One day, a sunny one, like any other, brought all of Jaelith's adolescence crashing down around her, and thrust her into the realm of adults. A world of fear and sacrifice -- ultimately, a world of death.

The morning progressed slowly, like syrup being poured from a decanter. Jaelith walked across the cold stone floor of her room naked, her long golden hair trailing down her back. She enjoyed the physical sensations offered to her by her body. The cold seeping into her feet, the soft embrace of wind across her back and the gentle burn of fresh sun on her face. These small pleasures are what made her feel alive.

Turning to her bathing bowl, perched atop a pedestal of carefully worked oak, Jaelith lifted the jug of water and tried to pour it. At first, only the sound of rocks rolling over one another could be heard, then slowly, crystals began to pour out of the jug. As they fell, the morphed into fat droplets of water, spattering and splashing against her naked legs.

The image caused her to stagger. Dropping the clay vessel, Jaelith turned away from the stand. The image of the falling crystals reminded her of an event from her past. Loose ends being left to whip about in the blustering wind. She had to tie them, before they lashed her.

Digging through the artefacts and trinkets she had accumulated on that epic adventure, Jaelith finally unearthed the paper scraps that she had salvaged from the glittering hound. At the time, they had to be concealed. Now, they were so worn with neglect that she could barely manipulate them without fear of tearing the thin parchment.

The papers unravelled like a song. Folded over themselves a thousand times, it was like a puzzle -- small, and only ever getting larger as she got closer to completing it.

Finally, it was complete. Spread out, it was almost as large as a quilt, and the patterns on it were as intricate as that of any maid's comforters. Most of the work was in symbols. Here, an angel, all wreathed in black. Over on the far side, green winds wrought death upon black smudges of humanity. Under her hands were two figures -- a naked woman, and a man clothed in dark essence.

Running like a river through the pictures were letters and glyphs. After searching hard, Jaelith recognized words in elven.

Nothing can stop it, there's nowhere to hide,
the bodies left living, can't count those who've died.
There's only 2 days, before the symbols are clear,
and in less than a month only death will live here.

You only have time, to find one friend in flight,
to die is to live, in the dark one's black light.

Jaelith's skin prickled at the words, which read more like prophecy than riddle. Taking time to carefully fold up the sheet, she lingered only long enough to cloth herself before departing.

She only knew one wise man who would not laugh at her when she revealed what she found, and that was who she fled to.

She sought out Taelriath.

Author:  Eltharion the Justicar [ Mon Sep 19, 2005 9:59 pm ]
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The morning had not brought the return to normalcy that Eltharion had expected. A strange silence flitted between the sounds of his shuffling feet and loosely flapping wings. It darted into every opening, voicing it's quiet opinions. The shield that protected him from the rest of the world wavered, visibly now. It's rainbow sheen of colours disconcerted him. It wasn't behaving as it should.

The electricity had stopped, though, and for that Eltharion was thankful. Even his deific nature was put on edge by such unbound energy.

The day passed inconsistently. Often it would race through time, the sun visibly streaking across the sky, and at other times it seemed to grind to a halt, every movement of plant and earth exaggerated to the eye.

It was, then, with relatively little surprise that Eltharion watched the sun slowly being consumed by a shadow in the sky.

Perhaps this is the event prophesied by the rain of Olandar, he thought, watching as darkness swallowed the Crystal Palace, subduing it's glitter and gleam. As the unsettling shadow hibernated over the island, Eltharion recalled each and every time the darkness had saved him, and reaffirmed itself as his ally. This time would be no different, he hoped.

Author:  Taelriath [ Tue Sep 20, 2005 12:36 am ]
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As the sun approached its zenith, boots sounded on the rickety old stairs of the old Inn, the sound lost amid the commotion of the crowd below. They had been nervous lately - fortune tellers, witches, and villiage elders, had all been speaking of a dark forboding or of visions signalling evils to come. Even the local religous figures had taken time away from preaching about the god of the people that these poor villiagers had come to love that they might join the other mystics in their warnings of dark times.

As Taelriath decended the final steps of the stairs the rumours started filtering in.

Cardinals and priests from all three faiths are agreeing! The end is nigh!

In a vision the soothsayer down near the lagoon saw a royal falcon being eaten by a mouse. Rumour has it the king will be assassinated before dawn.

It was a snake!

It makes no difference! What it was, the falcon got eaten!

I heard that war is brewing in the west.

Taelriath quickly made his way towards the bar, sidestepping the gossips and drunks who tried to tell him of the rumours they had heard. Nearing his destination he was confronted by a man who smelt heavily of the local ale... and what Taelriath suspected was the man's breakfast.

Apparentlee -hic- theresh a meeting of scholaaaaaarsssh in the LIBRARY of -hic- Toe... NAN, right... NOW, for the lordsh to discussssss what'sh bun happenin' to tha realmsh.

One of Taelriath's index fingers slowly exerted pressure on the man's forehead, tipping the man backward in the process until Taelriath could easily pass him by.

Approaching the bar, Taelriath heard a thud behind him as the drunkard hit the floor, other patrons stepping around the drooling obstacle while they mingled with the other scared locals.

What can I do for ye today, sire?

I'll have a glass of your best wine.

A few coins, slid across the wooden surface of the bar to the barkeep's satisfaction.

Though he was ever loath to drink and dull his senses, and wine returned more tainted memories than he cared to revisit more often than nor, but this crowd had been gossiping in the tavern below his room and in the streets all day long, keeping him awake.

As the drink came, Taelriath noticed that the street had gone silent, and had grown dark, as though a stormcloud had passed before the sun.

People began exiting the Inn, looking up toward the sky and pointing.

Swallowing a quick gulp of the watery liquid, Taelriath made his way to the door to determine what had all of the townsfolk so intruiged, but an old man, muttering to himself and twitching visibly, passed in front of him, keeping him indoors a moment longer.

Not for another decade at least!

With the old man out of the way, Taelriath finally entered the street and looked upward to see a sight rarely seen on the island. A solar eclipse was occurring, the moon nearly blocking the entire sun.

Perhaps there is some truth to the warnings they are all talking about.

While the villiagers continued to stare and point, speaking in hushed voices for the first time that day Taelriath slowly removed his hood, smiling beneath the darkened sun. He was now glad that he couldn't sleep. This was an oppourtunity he would have sorely regretted missing.

Just then, out of the corner of his eye, Taelriath caught sight of a magnificent hound, its hide speckled with gold, trotting out of an alleyway across from him.

As he turned to better see the magnificent creature, he lost sight of it in the crowd. Confused, Taelriath began to look back toward the eclipse when he noticed a second emergence from the alley. Recognising the young elf, Taelriath waited where he stood for the girl to rush over to him, already babling incoherently about dogs and Leto and crystals.

Taelriath quickly cupped a hand over her mouth, silencing her momentarily as he whispered Not here, these people are already paranoid as it is.

Nodding emphatically, Jaelith agreed and followed him inside the inn and up the stairs to his room where the bed still lay in dissaray from Taelriath's earlier attempts at rest.

Jaelith immediately burst into her story about seeing a hound and how she found a piece of paper materialized from the crystals it dropped, and launched into a story about another incident invovling crystals transforming to water when she tried to take a bath.


Jaelith had been rearranging furnature around the outside of the room as she spoke, and had been having trouble with the bed. With Taelriath's assistance the heavy object was slid into the room's far corner as Jaelith finished her tale.

But, that is not why I am here... Jaelith quickly produced a folded sheet of paper.

This! This is why I came to find you...

Because it said I needed to.

With that Jaelith began unfolding the paper on the floor, spreading it outward like a growing pool of water, ready to swallow them both in the torrent of what was to come.

Author:  Jaelith Ripple-Rift [ Tue Sep 20, 2005 11:06 pm ]
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The only thing that traveled faster than Jaelith on that portentous day were the rumours of other, similarly dramatic, events. Though she initially set out with only a vague direction to search in, she was quickly aided by a not entirely unexpected ally.

As she turned a sweeping corner, her pace was suddenly matched by that of a gleaming, gilded hound who seemed to materialize out of an especially bright patch of sunlight. Strangely, as the hound took form, the rest of the scene darkened until the creature was the only reliable source of light. The celestial beast dodged through crowds of people, throwing them off balance and creating a woven path that Jaelith could thread herself through. Panting heavily, Jaelith cried out in frustration as the hound pulled ahead, and ran through a wall, disappearing from sight.

To her slight discomfort, Jaelith realized she was sweating rather hard, and her breath was ragged, as she approached Taelriath. Silently, they walked through the almost empty bar, dodging the debris that had been cast aside as people rushed out to view the blackness that was swallowing the world.

Up in Taelriath's room, Jaelith took a moment to giggle to herself at the disarray that destroyed her girlish fantasies. Then, returning to the business at hand, she quickly explained the events that brought her to Taelriath's side. Pausing occasionally to go back and contribute additional details, she did not halt until she had satisfied herself with her explanation.

Then, not waiting for Taelriath's approval, she kicked aside some of his scattered belongings, and spread the voluminous sheet of paper out over the floor. To her surprise, several distinct elements of the scene had altered, as though the paper itself had been reconstructed by knowing hands.

The two figures that had hidden under her hands had traded places. The woman's carnality was obscured by shadows, and the man stood proud and naked before all the elements of the world. Blushing heavily at the image, Jaelith looked up at the blackened angel. Beside it, barely visible, were smudges that almost took humanoid form. It was as though someone had begun to sketch something, and then decided against it.

Swimming through the sea of symbols, Jaelith realized that the elven words had transformed into a dark, sweeping script. Archaic, but clearly common. She pointed them out to Taelriath, and continued to search for other clues that she may have missed the first time. Her diligence was rewarded by another sestet of poetry, ominous and bold.

Why do you linger, in man-made shadows, still?
While the sun is consumed, he can travel at will.
Run in the darkness, while his flesh will not burn,
for if you delay, the sun will return.

You've found your accomplice, but you're far from secure,
you need the dark lord of shadow, before anything's sure.

She looked at Taelriath, who had found the passage she read, and who's eyes not met hers. Together they whispered -- Eltharion.

Taelriath hesitated for a moment, seemingly trying to decide what possessions he could afford to leave behind. Jaelith boldly grabbed his hand, and spoke commandingly to him: You read the words. Whatever is going to happen when the sun emerges, we don't want to be caught in it. Forget your belongings, they'll only slow our search for salvation.

Jaelith was surprised by the philosophy that hid, thinly veiled behind her words. Not lingering on it, though, she followed Taelriath out of the room, the bar, the masses. People still milled outside, as though they expected a banner to be unfurled by the Gods themselves, proclaiming the meaning of the omen.

Barely free of the crowd, Jaelith was swept up by the motions of the now-familiar hound, who tore past her, without pausing to ensure she followed. Fleet of foot, both she and Taelriath scrambled to keep up, and they soon found themselves on a winding path that cut through hill and forest.

Almost as if in response to the realization that she was nearing exhaustion, Jaelith saw the hound's shimmering coat flicker, as though it was dazzling in the sun. Like the soft down of a bird, the golden flecks floated through the air. As they soared over Jaelith's head, they seemed to duck in the wind, swirling around her limbs and invigorating her with borrowed strength. Equally strange, was that no such assistance was offered to Taelriath, yet he kept pace with the hound easily, even as they entered their second and third hour of intense travel.

Slowly, the changes in the wind told Jaelith that they were nearing a large body of water. The local geography was foreign to her, and so she trusted in the hound's intuition to lead them safely. That, and her faith in Taelriath, were all that bound her to the confidence she felt.

Author:  Ilatáriël [ Wed Sep 21, 2005 8:55 am ]
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Ilatáriël's pace was quite slow, almost suspiciously leisurely, compared to that of the civilians who hurried to and fro around her. Like most mortals, it was when they knew the least that they felt the need to act the most. Some scurried to prophets, who were making profits simply by offering lies of salvation. Other people, more sensibly, were looking to the leaders of the town for safety. That option was only more sensible in that it was inevitable that the leaders would save their own skins, and if you were standing nearby, you might escape too.

Ilatáriël was quite aware of what was happening, though she didn't look it. She had already bought several water-skins, while the price was still low, and she filled them from rain-barrels -- an act which would be punishable by death in a few days. Instead, the barrel owners ignored her, or smiled indulgently.

At the same slow pace that she used to navigate the town, Ilatáriël began to work her way along the shore. Galassberg was a small coastal village, and it was no accident that she was there when the final adventure started. She was silently thankful for the eclipse. The journey would have, otherwise, ravaged her fair skin, and she wanted to be perfect for their meeting. Even though she was normally above such superficial concerns, this was not to be any sort of normal encounter.

Ilatáriël's eyes glittered like dimly lit gems in spite of the pseudo-night that blanketed the landscape. Here eyes always startled people who weren't ready for them. Some had claimed that her eyes were a mark of divine parentage. Once, a man had claimed that her eyes were unnatural, and that she had tried to steal his soul with them. Nothing came of it, of course, the man soon lost the ability to speak, and the complains dried up.

Not that she would ever execute such a violent act, she was genuinely too innocent for that. However, she was liked by most people, and some did not have the purity of spirit that she possessed.

She slowly descended a rocky escarpment, towards the ocean. Centuries of erosion had formed stairs that let her step down to sea level. Though overgrown with plants and detritus, the stairs were a reasonably safe means of progression.

One thing that stood out, above all else, about this girl, was that she was exceedingly careful. She was never late, never unprepared and never surprised. Not through sorcerous means, but by simple mundane preparation. She did not allow her mind to be clouded by mortal notions, and that allowed her to escape many of the traps that inhibited mortal movements.

Finally, at the bottom of the slope, Ilatáriël turned towards a little cove that had been carved out of the rock face, seemingly for her. In it resided a single boat, little more than a canoe, which was both sturdy and light. By her calculations, she still had days before she needed to be back on shore, so she stopped and looked out over the water.

Somewhere, over the horizon, lay the end of the great story. Meditating on that notion, she carefully climbed into the boat, and put herself out to sea. With a slow, steady paddle, she inched across the water, towards a destination she only knew in her mind.

Author:  Taelriath [ Sat Sep 24, 2005 3:57 pm ]
Post subject: 

A naked man...
A woman veiled in shadows...
Green winds blowing upon a scene of death...
And finally an angel seeming to burn within a shell of black flames to look down upon the scenes, ghosts of more figures hovering nearby...

The images upon the paper had been cryptic in places, and plain in others, but the one thing that remained consistent in Taelriath's mind as he viewed the images, patterns, and words was the question What does it mean?

As Jaelith uncovered more of the mysterious text hidden within the picture, and steadily becoming more obvious Taelriath felt fear clutching at his heart, not for fear of the doom that the multitude of omens spoke of, but a fear of how he would be seen by Jaelith. He had been careful not to have his secret revealed, and he had genuinely felt that by carrying Jaelith's childish admiration he had finally made some sort of recompense for his past. While the monster within would never go away he had hoped he could keep it out of her life.

His fears, spurred by the obviousness of the message were temporarily interrupted by the knowledge that they would need Eltharion.

It had been a long time since he had seen the man whome he had proclaimed as his leader and friend. Another who knew his dark secrets.

As his mind inevitably turned back towards Jaelith and the obvious message before them, his mind reeling with the sudden unravelling and the implications it had. He couldn't bear to look at Jaelith, instead turning his head to look at the meagre possessions he had accumulated, now kicked into a few rough piles on the outskirts of the room.

Suddenly Taelriath felt the child's hand grasping his, forcing him to finally look into her eyes.

He was amazed by what he saw. Her wonderful innocence, the reason he felt drawn to protect her from the demons of the outside world, had seemingly protected her from the demon from deep within his flesh. All of this was evident in her pleading eyes as she urged him frantically to leave with her immediately.

Barely a minute later the two were in the street and running, joined by and surpassed by the hound Jaelith had followed before, quickly being led into the wilderness.

Quickly it seemed that Jaelith grew exhausted and started to fall behind. In response the hound had lent her strength enough for her to keep pace with both of them. Taelriath did not receive such benefits, not needing nor wanting. This entire mess of events reeked of the meddling of gods.

Soon it became apparent that they were approaching a sea. The hound stopped a moment on a rise overlooking the water, and as Taelriath fell into place beside the gilden beast, unconsciously placing a hand on the creature's head the ocean breeze washed over him. This breeze was strange though.. devoid of the heavy moisture he had remembered from long ago, the only sensations brought by the wind being that of sandpaper as the salt licked across his uncovered skin and the crystals hissing softly as they passed by on the wind.

Looking down at the canine head his hand now rested upon, Taelriath met the eyes of the animal, seeing something unfamiliar in their rich gold gaze: Understanding.

It was hard to imagine how such a beast could find such empathy for him, but under that knowing gaze Taelriath felt warmth.

As Jaelith crested the hilltop Taelriath's gaze was broken, returning to the sea. Their journey was not yet over.

Author:  Jaelith Ripple-Rift [ Sat Sep 24, 2005 8:32 pm ]
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Jaelith hacked violently at the abrasive embrace of the wind. It was as though she was being dragged across a pit of dirt, the grains tearing at her skin. As she crested her hill, she was bewildered to see that the breeze was coming from over the ocean.

She stood beside Taelriath, he didn't seem wearied at all by the run. From the corners of her eyes, the sea looked strange, as though it were shuddering. Staring into the waves, she and Taelriath both seemed to notice the phenomena at the same time. Taelriath gasped an infernal curse as Jaelith simply watched in silent awe. The sea was blowing away. The wind cut waves into the water, but instead of creating currents, it seemed to carve out gouges like a knife in butter. Carrying the salt and debris into the gust, but sending the water off to an unknown location.

Watching the water melt away, Jaelith realized that the demi-night of the eclipse seemed to be faltering, and a horizon of sunlight formed on the ground in the distance, slowly creeping towards the sea, and the plateau that she and Taelriath stood on.

Turning back to the sea, Jaelith realized that the water was being carved away in a haphazard path that lead out into the horizon. Taelriath, motivated by some great force, seemed to race against the golden hound to get down to the sea bed.

How do you know it's safe? Jaelith called to him, though if he heard he didn't pay it any heed. You ludicrous madman!, she screamed. However, realizing that her only guide was charging away with her only friend, Jaelith was quickly persuaded to see the effectiveness of their argument. With lithe steps aided by her elven heritage and perfected by her youthful grace, she succeeded in catching up to Taelriath as they reached the bed of the sea.

As she ran through the wide maze-path carved into the ocean, Jaelith marvelled at the sight. Inside the walls, fish swam as though nothing unnatural had happened. Turning one tight corner, Jaelith's elbow caught the wall, and when she pulled away her shirt was wet, and the hole she had formed started leaking, pouring water into the path. The dry artery through the water sloped upwards gently, just enough to cause Jaelith to lose sight of Taelriath. The slope grew to a hill, which was absurdly spotted with seaweeds and shellfish. As she burst over the crest of the hill, she had a brief moment of introspection in which she decided that she rather wished she hadn't burst over the crest of the hill.

Soaring into the air over the large fissure that cracked through the sea bed, Jaelith felt the sudden kiss of sunlight on her back. Looking down into the shadowy abyss below, she couldn't make out Taelriath, or the hound. As she fell below the stream of light, an iron forged hand snatched Jaelith's shirt and held her.

Unfortunately, the iron forged hand was not attached to an iron forged foundation. Taelriath, shielding Jaelith in his embrace, tumbled down the face of the jagged fissure and deeper into the shadows. After an indeterminable amount of time, they landed roughly on a small ledge that jutted out of the wall like a rotten tooth protruding from the maw of a great beast.

As they fell apart, Jaelith brushed the cakes of dust out of her eyes, and blinked. There, staring her in the face, was the golden hound, who was glowing faintly, allowing her to make out the edges of the ledge. Looking up, Jaelith could see the sun-lit surface, almost 30 yards above.

Looking at Taelriath's face, faintly illuminated by the glow of the dog, Jaelith frowned. Taelriath, to her surprise, offered a laugh that sounded strangely relieved. Perhaps we should rest here for a while? At least a few hours... Taelriath trailed off, looking up at the sky.

I suppose there's no alternative, Jaelith agreed looking into the eyes of the hound, who seemed unconcerned by the whole situation.

How did he get down here, anyway?

Author:  Taelriath [ Sun Sep 25, 2005 4:46 pm ]
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It had been a hard fall, but they had both made it down in relatively decent condition, and in their current position (if the ocean held) they would be well sheltered from everything Taelriath could think of.

Tealriath glanced at the ravine wall now bathed in sunlight. The mud that had held the water borne life to the rocky surfaces, now dried by the winds, cracked and crumbled as the light burned across its surface.

Well, just about everything.

Taelriath looked around for anywhere they could retreat within to hide from the sun's gaze. Finding no suitable place to either side where the the water was still mysteriously held at bay, and the sun's light steadily crawling down the far side of the ravine Taelriath felt a sudden sense of claustrophobia. Then, as his eyes fell upon the dark depths of the chasm below them, Taelriath realized where he could hide.

Jaelith, you will be safe here with... the dog. Don't move, I will be back in a short while.

Despite Jaelith's confusion Taelriath did not offer more information, making his way to the edge of the projection near the ravine wall. Slowly lowering himself over the edge, Taelriath dissappeared from sight, supporting himself with the scant handholds and footholds he could find.

When the light to either side of Taelriath's hiding spot receded he slowly made his way up from the darkness to Jaelith's delight. Taelriath felt another emotion entirely however, as he discovered a trickle of water cascading down the side of the ravine and over a number of his handholds.

Letting out a silent curse, Taelriath struggled to scramble up the last few arm lengths, grabbing the ledge with both arms as the water fully enveloped the wall.

Pulling himself to safety, Taelriath rolled over to look at Jaelith.

Miss me?

Author:  Eltharion the Justicar [ Sun Sep 25, 2005 5:07 pm ]
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The darkness lingered like a wasting sickness. Hardly noticeable, yet always on the periphery, looming overhead. Eltharion had not heard the expected cries rise up from the small village that bustled near the Crystal Palace, however he decided against investigating -- his presence would only unsettle them further.

Returning inside, Eltharion picked up his Crystal Reflections. The book throbbed, as though it were a living organ, pumping vitae to it's body. Eltharion opened the book, and slowly flipped through it's pages. The letters shone in rainbows, as though the letters had been cut out, and the page held over colourful fabrics. As Eltharion reached the end of his story, he was surprised to see that more words had been written, seemingly by his hand.

It seems as though my story is not done yet. I fear that the end is coming. My magical barriers, safety assured by impenetrable magic, are weakening. The sun, no longer gifts this wretched island with light. Mist and shadows fill the cracks of existence, and threaten to snuff the flame of life entirely.

Next, though unheralded, came the cataclysm of wind. I did not discover it until much later, but it appears that Maxim has suffered so much that even the chaos of her destruction can not remember it's proper order.

Before that gruesome discovery, I noticed the cataclysm of water. Drawn by fear, I looked out over the sea and noticed that some malevolent being had reached down and cut away great swathes of ocean, leaving gouged wounds in the flesh of the water. In addition to threatening my solitude, the paths have revealed several massive fissures in the sea-bed. Such scars can not be left open without infection spreading.

Eltharion dropped the tome, and took flight. His powerful wings drew him up into the air and he overlooked the sea. Sure enough, the carnage was as graphic as that which was described in his book. With his powerful vision, Eltharion could see fish still flopping helplessly, rebounding off the gelatinous walls of the maze.

Farther still, well to the right of the braids of land in the water, Eltharion could make out a shape, moving inexorably towards his island. Not waiting to identify the creature, Eltharion fell to the ground and turned to hurry inside. Perhaps the book would reveal who this traveler was, and what trouble they brought.

Author:  Jaelith Ripple-Rift [ Mon Sep 26, 2005 5:57 pm ]
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Jaelith gave Taelriath a blank look as his smirking face disappeared below the edge of the ledge. Turning towards the gleaming dog, Jaelith smiled. No point in hurting his feelings, she thought. Leaning against the hound and unfolding the map, Jaelith squinted in search of some illumination.

This time, many things had changed. The river of words all appeared in gold, gothic common, and the stream of letters had poured to the bottom of the page, nearly submerging the two figures. Along the borders of the paper, tiny interlocking blocks shifted and faded, creating a complex tapestry of stairs.

The scruffs beside the black celestial had also formed up, somewhat, they made a humanoid shape that looked similar to the girl at the bottom of the page.

Jaelith started in surprise as a few words rose to the top of the sea of letters, they commanded her to wait with Taelriath, and not to try to escape. Jaelith's confused contemplation was quickly broken as the hound lunged, it's jaws closing around the middle of the sheet.

A terrible tearing sound broke the silence as the beast quickly swallowed the paper, and then resumed it's indifferent vigil.

Examining the damaged paper, Jaelith was both relieved and worried to discover that the black angel was torn entirely from the page, no trace remaining.

Just as she prepared to berate the hound, Taelriath emerged, and Jaelith took the chance to calm down, slowly explaining the event to Taelriath, and trying to decide what to do with the dog, who was quickly becoming a mixed blessing.

Author:  Eltharion the Justicar [ Fri Sep 30, 2005 11:15 am ]
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The tremor started at the same instant Eltharion set foot inside the building. It's timing was so perfect that at first, he thought he had landed poorly, and was about to tumble to the ground. Initially, the shaking was gentle, like a mother rocking her child. Suddenly, Maxim exploded with rage, daring her babies to constrain her. The Crystal Palace wavered like a hut built on a foundation of sand. Eltharion watched helplessly as several narrow cracks tore open the floor, swallowing the smooth stones that generated the shield he used to conceal himself. His little island was thrown open to the world as the mystical shield shattered, scattering shards of mana in a dangerous arc.

The book! Eltharion realized, turning towards where he had dropped it. The shuddering of the building had rocked the text into a corner, and Eltharion gasped as a large rift began to open, creating a moat around the book.

Quickly leaping to action, Eltharion's deft feet crossed the perilous floor, and approached the book. In defiance, the maw of the earth opened wider, and huge jags of earth shot out, grinding against the crystal walls with a terrible sound. Eltharion, not daring to risk the loss of his words, took flight. Scraping along the ceiling, Eltharion gasped in pain as his chest was caught by the rising stalagmites. His wings twisted between his body and the roof, Eltharion struggled to slip through the breach he held open.

You will not destroy my memories, he snarled, anger welling up in his eyes. You've tried to erase me before, Eltharion spoke directly to Maxim, and you will not succeed now. With a terrible tearing sound, Eltharion pulled himself through the hole, both of his wings were torn and one was hanging limply from his back.

Tears of relief spotted Eltharion's face as he cradled his Crystal Reflections, holding it as though it were a newborn child. In mocking respect, Maxim seemed to withdraw her challenge, and the earth silently swallowed the huge pillars that had almost crushed Eltharion a moment before.

A strange tranquility took hold as everything returned to a state of peace. No movement, no noise, Eltharion was certain he could hear a bird, still calling a song of happiness, somewhere in the distance. Settling down, Eltharion sat on a pile of stony debris. Blood dripped down his back, pooling on the floor as he tentatively opened the book, unsure of what he would find.

More words, written by a spectral hand, awaited Eltharion's consideration.
The end is nearly upon us. The final throes of Maxim will be all consuming. Her hatred for us is absolute, and those who don't escape soon will never do so. My wings are crippled, as is my plan of flying away from the carnage. Instead, I will rely on the remanants of the spell that first brought me to Maxim.

Years ago, I remember emerging into this strange new world. The portal had brought myself, Renae and her willow tree to this place. The bindings that carried 3 to this island will allow 3 to escape this island. The recent appearance of Taelriath and Jaelith make the necessary number. As the original master of the portal, my blood is needed to succeed, but the other two positions are a free ride.

I am not certain what I will do, once I am free from this hell. Perhaps the portal shall return us to Mo'Pri. I may seek out the Crystal Forest. It would be pleasant to see my home again after all of these years. I have not rested since I was taken away from the sacred vales of homeland -- and I long for their embrace.

Eltharion was amused by the calm way that the words were written. Though they were his own thoughts, he did not know how they became inscribed upon the pages of the book. Regardless, they were true. The spell that brought him to the island would be enough to bring him and two others away. Though he had to travel, there was no other restrictions on the passengers.

Eltharion turned back towards the sea, and walked out into the dry, scratchy air. He was certain now that Taelriath and Jaelith were coming along one of the paths that had been cut into the sea. Unable to fly, and thus unable to help, Eltharion quietly watched and waited for their emergence. Taking peace in the thought that nothing else could happen until they arrived.

Author:  Taelriath [ Fri Sep 30, 2005 6:54 pm ]
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Taelriath hadn't laid there long before Jaelith started recounting the dog's breif rebellion and, upon further questioning, what had changed on the paper.

Taelriath had no idea what the apparent shifting the female figure was going through meant, or even who the male and female figures represented, but this was not the most important puzzle to solve at the moment. Taelriath was more concerned about Eltharion. He was almost certain that Eltharion was who the black angel was meant to represent and the mysterious dog's actions had called Eltharion's continued existence into question within Taelriath's mind.

His eyes quickly darting about, Taelriath looked for a way out of the ravine, a way to get to Eltharion before it was too late, but the walls unsure footing, or were slippery with water. Besides Taelriath thought dissapointedly, the paper wanted us to wait here.

Returning his thoughts to the issue the hound had presented Taelriath considered the actions carefully.

Well, there isn't much we can do about the dog. It would be unwise to scare off our only guide, and who knows... mabey he was supposed to do that.

Taelriath offered the dog a quick smirk, and hoped that taking the dog's side would take Jaelith's mind off the idea that the dry hole in the ravine which they found themselves in was slowly filling with water.

Author:  Taelriath [ Fri Sep 30, 2005 7:59 pm ]
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The trick failed.

After only a few minutes had passed, Jaelith noticed she could see water below and rising.

Jaelith's gaze now darted between the walls of water and the decreasing depth of the hole. These dartings, however, were outpaced by her ramblings. All Taelriath could make out were snippets of "I'm sorry!" and other such nonsensical fragments whenever she slowed down to take a breath.

Taelriath, uncertain of what to make of Jaelith's hurried attempt to talk her way through all the air her small lungs could handle, let his eyes wander.

The water level was now scant inches away from the platform the trio stood on, and still rising steadily, however something else caught Taelriath's interest.

In spite the cacophony of Jaelith's ramblings and the imminent submergence of the fragment of dry ground the three now stood upon, a bubble floated lazily up one of the walls of water beside them. It was in turn followed by another. These were then joined by a number of bubbles streaming up both walls and rising up around their rocky edifice in an almost friendly manner.

Taelriath was beginning to smile at the absurdity of the sight when Jaelith's scream shocked him back to their reality.


Author:  Ilatáriël [ Sat Oct 01, 2005 3:54 pm ]
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Ilatáriël's stoic pace was tiring, but not unrewarding. Her muscles tingled with a sense of accomplishment, and she felt duly rewarded for her efforts. Her trip had been uneventful, except for one bit of excitement, when a scoop of water seemed to vanish beneath her paddle.

She had expected to encounter difficulty as a result of the inundation of woes, however the method by which the water was afflicted startled her. She disliked being surprised, it gave her an uncomfortable feeling in the well of her stomach.

Stalwart, Ilatáriël continued on her way, the meeting was too important to be disrupted by her personal distaste for being vulnerable to random events. She had counted on this day for as long as she could remember. She felt like the great surprise that acted as a cliff-hanger at the conclusion of a book. Even though the tale would end, her impetus would keep the story going.

The dry scrape of beach under the hull of her craft informed her that she had reached the conclusion of her boating, for the day. This came as a relief to Ilatáriël, as the sun was returning to view, and it's harsh glare would soon encompass the beach she walked upon.

Slowly tracking her way up the slope, Ilatáriël reflected upon the idea of having the word impetus associated with her. It seemed strange that she, a person of slow, deliberate actions, would accumulate momentum enough to propel a story. It was a matter of perception, she decided. Though she was not a legendary spell-caster, or a warrior of renown, Ilatáriël's importance was derived from circumstance, a fact which trumped any mortal accomplishment.

Reaching the end of the beach's sand, Ilatáriël followed a path, dodging in and amongst the sparse trees. Finally, she emerged into a flat square, the center of the village which dominated the island. The scene that greeted her was eerie and grotesque. Untouched by natural disaster, the buildings stood expectant, waiting for their human masters to return. At the far end of the town, a half finished building stood, looking like a ruined church. As Ilatáriël paced slowly through the streets, she passed by the unanimated corpses of villagers, in the midst of their lives. Women slept eternal against looms and at laundries. Men slumped on tables, books open and transactions half finished.

Reaching the apex of the village, Ilatáriël entered the unfinished temple. Men lay on the ground, the first sacrifices to the God they worshiped. At the height of the altar, a woman bathed in blue smiled seductively. Flanking the image on either side was a chimaeric creature. Half angel, and half elf. The creature was bathed in darkness, and held a spear that was terrible to behold.

So that is what you've become, Ilatáriël thought, taking in the image. You're so majestic. If you could have seen what you have become, I expect you would have been proud. A powerful tremor shook the earth, just as Ilatáriël turned to leave. Massive chunks of masonry fell all around her, but she waited patiently, not stirring from where she stood. After a few minutes, she was able to slowly pace up the rubble, and escape out through the ceiling of the building, and descend a similar pile of debris back to the ground.

The quake was surprisingly weak; Ilatáriël was certain it must have been centered elsewhere. Regardless, it signalled that the end was near. Unless she planned on running, she would have to depart now. Turning her back on the village, Ilatáriël strode towards the tip of the island, where she was certain the Crystal Palace stood.

Each step deliberate, Ilatáriël walked as though an unseen person was watching her, documenting every facet of this epic day. She wondered if somewhere, after Maxim had consumed itself, people would reflect upon this day, this journey, this moment -- and be inspired.

Slipping out of her thoughts, Ilatáriël emerged into a clearing. Stone masonry dotted the ground, belying ancient construction. Ahead, the Crystal Palace rose up glistening in the fading sunlight. Inside the building, voices spoke in hurried tones.

Right on time, thought Ilatáriël, smiling to herself. Preparing for her dramatic entrance, she glanced into a reflective face of the castle. Her hair fell like the feathers of ravens, and her eyes glittered like night-emeralds, still burning with a century of darkness.

Perfect, she whispered, stepping into the central room of the palace without hesitation.

The three voices fell silent.

Author:  Jaelith Ripple-Rift [ Thu Oct 06, 2005 12:50 pm ]
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The reader must realize that Jaelith was a young elf, and while she was prodigiously intelligent, her cumulative life experiences were not as broad as that of most heroic characters. Thus, while Taelriath was simply intrigued by the developments that were occurring all around them, Jaelith was terrified.

Taelriath's insistence that they wait in place was quickly over-ruled by the evolution of the situation they were in. The bubbles that rose up through the water had increased in frequency, until the whole surface of water frothed like a boiling pot. Then, the water level began to drop. Quickly.

After the water had dropped back out of sight, A loud hissing sound filled the chasm. Suddenly, a brutal burst of steam exploded up through the schism, billowing through the cavern and scorching the air. Jaelith and Taelriath both dove to the ground, pressing against it as the steam roiled over their backs, scalding their exposed skin in it's passage.

In response to this, the golden hound jumped off the platform, and vanished into the abyss.

Jaelith turned to Taelriath, and fixed his eyes with a flat stare. Maybe he was supposed to do that, too, she chirped, imitating Taelriath's voice.

As Taelriath prepared to gather a response, Jaelith looked over the edge of the ledge. The steam had stopped, and in it's place a deep rumble filled the air. Suddenly, the monotonous groan of the earth was replaced with a sharp, piercing yelp from the golden hound, who rose into view on an island of rock, jutting up from a mass of liquid fire and grinding earth, that was being purged from Maxim's core.

As the mass of rock slowly edged away from the ledge Jaelith was on, she realized her small legs would only have once chance to make the leap. Not waiting for Taelriath's acknowledgement, she flung herself clear of the platform, and landed soundly on the hound's escape route.

Turning back, Jaelith was relieved to see Taelriath preparing to make a similar leap. Taking a moment to herself, she reached down and patted the dog's head, whispering an apology to it. The creature responded by looking deep into Jaelith's eyes, a calming gesture that prepared her for the upcoming challenge.

Author:  Taelriath [ Fri Oct 14, 2005 10:22 pm ]
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After Taelriath was certain Jaelith had made it across to the island of rock and wouldn't need his help Taelriath lept across the molten divide.

Having landed on the shifting stone Taelriath kept close to Jaelith and the hound to avoid the blasting steam and crumbling rock to all sides as the boiling rock ate away at the membraneous surfaces of the water walls and the unstable rock faces of the chasm.

A rumbling sound emerged from the depths of the hissing and the cracks of rock on rock as the red tide swelled below them.

Hang on! was all Taelriath could manage to scream above the loud tremors as he firmly grasped Jaelith's hand.

Author:  Jaelith Ripple-Rift [ Fri Oct 14, 2005 10:31 pm ]
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Clutching Taelriath's hand, Jaelith tensed her leg muscles. The blast of heat from the liquid fire below scorched her skin, and blew the shred of rock they stood on like a cork in the sea.

Their improvised craft careened towards a jutting ledge that was still affixed to the side of the cavern. The platform that Jaelith and Taelriath stood on was making a horrible screech as it was being ground to nothing. Leaping just in the nick of time, Jaelith and her companions landed on the new ledge as it was torn from the wall by the force billowing from below.

The sky still seemed so far away.

Author:  Taelriath [ Fri Oct 14, 2005 10:41 pm ]
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Again they rose on the ever quickening wave of destruction, their craft rocking unsteadily beneath its unstable load.

A large shard of a cliff above them broke away from the wall, Taelriath and Jaelith stepping out of range of the splash of firey death it left in its wake just in time, brushing into the still liquid wall of water as they did so.

Steam blasted forth scorching their backs as they lept onto the now resurfacing rock from above, the other platform sinking out of sight as they leapt away...

Author:  Jaelith Ripple-Rift [ Fri Oct 14, 2005 10:47 pm ]
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Jaelith imagined that the whole scene looked quite humorous. Like trained performers, she and Taelriath leapt deftly out of the way of falling debris and exploding pockets of magma.

And we even have a dog! She thought, with a giggle that was perhaps caused by exposure to too much heat.

Another platform drifted, almost lazily, along. Just as she was about to leap, Taelriath grabbed her, and pointed. Jaelith watched as the pale stone that marbled through the slab of earth flared and melted, causing the platform to disintegrate into nothing.

Ooops, Jaelith offered, waiting for Taelriath to guide her next step.

Author:  Taelriath [ Fri Oct 14, 2005 10:57 pm ]
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As teh rock they stood on sunk deeper into the consuming fires that propelled them upward Taelriath looked for another solid platform to stand on, but none presented themselves. All were made of the marbled material that was consumed so easily.

As Taelriath looked to the heavens in desparation he sighted a solid ledge anchored to the cliff face.

Looking sideways a steady stream of bubbling water.

This is going to burn like...

Grabbing Jaelith close to himself and hoping the dog would do another of it's dissappearing acts, Taelriath leapt into the water, immediately being proppelled upward by the rising bubbles, the heat of the water quickly rising to intolerable levels as they ascended to their solid destination.

Struggling out of the water at the right instant the two landed on the ledge above them with a wet slap, trying to catch therin breaths as the magma and water pouring from the weakened walls hissed in desparation, trying to catch up.

Author:  Jaelith Ripple-Rift [ Fri Oct 14, 2005 11:05 pm ]
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Spluttering out the other side of the stream, Jaelith looked at Taelriath with a certain dint of dismay.

That's brisk... As the multiverse groaned, and the world collapsed, Jaelith looked up. Surely, the end was near.

Suddenly, in grand dramatic fashion, the earth shuddered, and offered the pair a final thrust towards freedom. The trio was ejaculated free of the burning mess, and were propelled into a powerful fountain of water.

As nature rewrote her own rules, Jaelith, Taelriath, and the nameless hound were transmuted, as though through all of the elements -- water, earth, air and fire.

And thing were only beginning to get weird.

Author:  Taelriath [ Fri Oct 14, 2005 11:25 pm ]
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With the gushing water of the now colapsed walls having sent them racing through the channels left by the water's cleaving, all the while being aided in the journey with the seeming dissarrangement of their beings in a chaotic scrambling of natural order until they wre spat out of the sea forcefully, riding the waves to the outer reaches of a small villiage.

Author:  Jaelith Ripple-Rift [ Mon Oct 17, 2005 9:13 pm ]
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(OOC: I've had a few questions, so I thought I'd explain. You'll note the last several posts were done over the span of an hour. The idea was a "form reflects content" sort of thing, since it was a big race to escape. :P)

Though they landed near a village, Jaelith felt a dark pall swirling around the place. Without consulting Taelriath, she walked on a right angle from the vector of approach to the buildings. After some distance was put between her and the dark place, Jaelith turned to Taelriath.

Do you think that we should look at the map again?

Author:  Taelriath [ Mon Oct 17, 2005 9:47 pm ]
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Though Jaelith's avoidance of the villiage rose questions in Taelriath's mind, he knew better than to question Jaelith's motives. Whatever was guiding them through this series of trials had been in closest contact with Jaelith and if she would not enter the villiage, Taelriath suspected there was a very good reason behind that.

Following her lead, Taelriath, Jaelith, and the hound made their way a fair distance from the town before Jaelith had spoken.

Do you think that we should look at the map again?

Taelriath did not spend much time on the answer. The map and hound did not seem to be conspiring against them, but rather aiding in their swift journey to Eltharion's current abode. Taelriath likewise had no real knowledge about where that was. He had not even seen the island itself before now. It seemed therefore that, despite Taelriath's displeasure of being pushed around by higher beings, he had to concede to their will.

Yes, we will still need the map to find Eltharion before it is too late.

Another rumble came from underneath.

If it isn't already.

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