Chrono Compendium

Bend of Time - Inactive Projects => Darkness Beyond Time - Dead Project Discussion => Project ZEAL => Topic started by: Symmetry on October 05, 2004, 06:32:38 pm

Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Symmetry on October 05, 2004, 06:32:38 pm
[OOC: Okay. First of all, while I assume most are familiar with the concept already, all posts in this thread should be "in character". Plot discussion belongs elsewhere; this thread is solely for story posts. If you absolutely need to say something out of character, denote it by "OOC" at the start of your post.

This thread is the very beginning of the ZEAL project. Here, you introduce your character(s) and are expected to get them somehow to the End of Time to meet with Gaspar. (If they are Keystonian or will be fighting on its side.)

We're still formulating the Toma subplot. This exists so everyone can go ahead and get to the point where they're ready to go in the meantime. Don't feel as if you have to rush and post something here, but don't take an eternity, either.]
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: ZeaLitY on October 05, 2004, 08:33:49 pm
Scene 1 - A Dream Of Itself

The infinite, white clouds stretched in a far-spanning sea of crested puffs, sailing in an azure sky – the most majestic of days, arriving once a year in grand, sunlit entrance. The gold and white edifices shone brightly in the luminary’s reflection, casting a reflective shimmer that illuminated the verdant, vibrant grass beyond, stirred by a summer breeze loosed from its place in the east to caress and enwrap the shining sights and the hearts of the enlightened peoples within. Truly, the beauty of nature was of such an overwhelming degree that those invigorated by the essence of summer now only sought to lie in repose beneath arboreal shades, and ponder the rare blessing poured from above. Every inhabitant had been permeated and uplifted by the brilliant light, which left no eye without sparkle and recognition of the beauty of the world; and too, beneath the airy reaches, the sea was bathed in luminosity unparalleled, yielding white crests as it stretched to unify with a lighter hue on the far horizon.

With refreshed, groggy eyes, a dreamer adorned with fine purple and blue robes wandered out from an entryway whose inscription read ‘ENHASA,’ and walked to a bench overlooking a grassy cliff; he too had recognized the special qualities of this day, and removed a notepad from within his regal dress. At once, he began composing a poem to venerate the scene of luster; “For I was free to gaze upon and sight / Endless waves below – ripples and creases / Which caressed as dreams the world to blue rest – / For all passions and colors, brighter seem / From vantage of majestic isle in sky.” And upon this note, the few leaves drifting in the wind, and the light breeze itself struck him in the heart of his intellect. His sublime surroundings set forward thinking; he began to wonder if other realms, specifically those of the Earthbound, experienced such fine days – even by their relatively low standard of living – and dreamt of unceasing splendor. Ascending higher in thought, he considered if other, gloried civilizations such as Zeal on faraway celestial bodies were experiencing beauty too; whether they also delighted in the visitations of the sun, relaxed in the sonata of the rain, and quietly dreamt in the cradling rays of starlight. At this length, he stretched, and left his poem unfinished – for its subject matter had at last transcended his skill.

He was correct, but this lay beyond his knowledge, for he could not fathom the unlimited gatherings of peoples across the universe, or the joys they had – and even yet, he could not know of the other shades of Zeal that danced in the universal spectrum; the parallel worlds that ran above and beneath him, never touching, both equal and varied in their qualities and beauty. Some stemmed from a common root occurrence found in some, and absent in others – the finding of a magic gem to prolong life – a civil war to end all strife – the deaths of kings, and other royal things, events ranged across the worlds, each deciding their history and divergence. The poet’s king, and probably himself, had impact in these other dimensions of Zeal; the rise of a mad queen, and the fall of the civilization might have all been avoided if that man had lived – and in regions beyond one's senses and wildest fathoms, the royalty of Zeal did survive a tumultuous time, and the king of the land, twelve-thousand years before the next great reign of lords over humanity, lived – ensuring the sustenance of his own realm, and its journey through time – its subjugation of the crimson beast of the asthenosphere – its developments in the power of magic – and its survival into the modern age, yielding a kingdom which, in the dreamer’s world, had existed in ever-expanding enlightenment thirteen thousand years beyond his own epoch. He caught a glimpse of this everlasting Zeal, and passed to a shallow sleep.

~ ~ ~
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Symmetry on October 05, 2004, 10:24:24 pm
Scene 2 - Najran Classroom.

Naomi sat in a classroom desk with her eyes fixated on the clock that hung on the wall to her right, her intense gaze burning a hole through the glass that separated the timepiece’s slow-moving arms from the outside world. Although she had no great desire to study in the school of temporal magic, the struggling student wished she could simply fast forward herself through time every afternoon from two o’clock to four, the period occupied by the dreaded class that was Introduction to Enchantment, 1101.

Ten more minutes… Only ten more minutes! Hurry up, minutes! Pass like you’ve never passed before! Nine! Only nine more minutes… Unfortunately for Naomi, she was a poor cheerleader; the more she exhorted the clock onward, the slower it seemed to move. Come on! Six minutes, still? There were ten minutes left half an hour ago! Clearly, time was indeed relative. While temporal theorists continued to debate the name of space-time, Naomi had confirmed a truth that proved to be source of great agony. For every class period, as one approaches the end of the two-hour duration, the last five minutes always extend to effectively double the length of the period. Always, as in, one hundred percent of the time, without failure.

“Miss Maruyama?”

Five minutes!

“Miss Maruyama?”

Thirty two… thirty one… Four and a half minutes!

“Naomi Maruyama! Are you daydreaming in my class again?!”

The student quickly sat up in her chair, losing track of the countdown as she struggled to remember precisely what the topic of discussion had been before she had become lost in her own thoughts. Standing immediately in front of her desk with arms crossed tight enough to cut off blood circulation was the class instructor, Provostia Sessimine, her aunt and caretaker. “No moth – ma’am! I was just momentarily distracted… What was the question again?”

The instructor sighed as she turned away and walked gracefully back to the front of the classroom. “For those of you who were ‘momentarily distracted’, I had inquired if anyone in the audience could explain Kobayashi’s Principle of Semblant Enchantment. Seeing as how no one volunteered to answer my question, I chose you, Miss Maruyama, to explain the concept to the rest of the class. You are familiar with Kobayashi’s Principle, correct?

Naomi stuttered as she tried to bring to memory the contents of what she had studied the night before, but to no avail. While she would immediately realize the theory in question when it was explained, the student could do nothing at the moment but hesitate as the clock counted down the minutes until she was free once more. Naomi merely acted as if the answer was on the tip of her tongue as her classmates all turned to revel in her humiliation. Finally, another girl in the class broke the silence.

“Professoressa, if I may…”


With a smirk on her face, the student continued on. “Kobayashi’s Principle basically claims that by manipulating illusions in conjunction with casting a simple spell, we can stimulate a greater degree of fear within a subject than either component could by itself.” The young woman paused slightly before continuing onward. “Perhaps next time you should reserve questions like that for a competent enchantress who has kept up on her readings.” The rest of the classroom - save Naomi - followed up the comment with snide laughter; even Sessimine joined in on the fun, although she was the first to return to her composed state. The instructor seated herself on one of the desks in the front of the classroom, which unlike the ones toward the back, were large enough for several students to sit at.

Competent, hmm? Well, let’s see…” Turning to her right, Sessimine noticed a young man at the end of the desk she was seated upon. After looking the student over momentarily, the instructor turned back to the young lady who had just answered her question.

“Is this one yours?”

“He sure is.” The girl swelled with pride. “One of two, to be precise.”

“Ah! Excellent! Then you won’t be too lonely when I tell you that I’m taking your boyfriend here for the evening.”

The young woman’s eyes nearly shot out of their sockets. “What?!”

Sessimine replied in a matter-of-factly tone. “You heard me. We’re going to have a romantic dinner, maybe a pleasant walk in the square. Perhaps we’ll go to the theater – I’m sure there will be something suitable there.” The instructor spun around, throwing her legs up on the desk in front of the young man, making sure that they were quite visible through a slit in the side of her gown. The student simply stared, absolutely smitten by Sessimine’s advances; his former girlfriend, however, was less than charmed.

“But, but… You can’t do that! He’s mine, for the love all things good and holy!”

“Correction. He was yours, and if I find him boring, you can have him back tomorrow. If you were a… How did you put it? Oh yes! If you were a competent enchantress, you wouldn’t be having this problem now, would you?”

The rest of the class began to snicker – save Naomi, who had burst into full-on laughter – as the young woman turned to the charmed man and slapped him several times in an effort to jar him from his trance. “Come on, Professoressa! You’re at least…” The girl stopped in her tracks as a sinister stare from Sessimine convinced her that guessing the instructor’s age was probably not a smart idea. “He’s only twenty-two! Isn’t there some kind of policy against this sort of thing?!”

“Of course not! And besides, if an instructor was interested in you, it would be an insult to turn them down, would it not?” Sessimine turned to address a young man seated several rows back. “Am I correct?”

“If it aids you in passing a course, by all means…”

“See! This way, everyone’s happy, except those who make smart-aleck comments to their instructors and lose their boyfriends – but most people are smart enough to know when to hold their tongues, right?”

The humiliated girl simply pouted and stared off into the distance. Not one to be ignored, Sessimine sketched out on the desk and poked her in the side until she responded with a stare. With a tone somewhere between consolation and mockery, the instructor continued to prod at the young woman, hoping she would put up a better fight. “Come now, don’t be so cross! I promise we won’t do anything too intimate. Will it make you feel any better if-” Sessimine was abruptly cut off by the noisy clamour of the bell sounding the end of the class period and the shuffling of paper and books as her students gathered their materials. Quickly sliding off the table and back onto her feet, Sessimine crossed her arms and shut her eyes while she addressed the fleeing students.

“Ahem! I don’t believe I ever finished explaining Kobayashi’s Principle. I assure you, it will appear on the next exam. I will require you to demonstrate it, so you’d better start practicing! If those students who are now leaving my class would be so kind to seat themselves once more, I’ll make a point of it to forget I ever noticed them commit such a grave offense as running out on a lecturing instructor!”

There was a moment of silence followed by the mad rush of footsteps making their way towards the hall. When Sessimine opened her eyes moments later, there were only two students sitting in her classroom, one of them being the hopelessly charmed boy. Perking up one of her eyebrows, the instructor stared at the lone right-minded scholar inquisitively.

“Well, what are you doing here?”

“You said you were going to explain Kobayashi’s Principle… I don’t want to fail my next exam.”

“You’re not a very bright one, are you? You should have ran out with all of your peers. Do you think I’d fail an entire class?”

The student replied hesitantly. “Well…”

“Ha! At least you have a sense of humour. Now hurry up at get out of here so I can have fun toying around with my new butler.” With a snap of her fingers, both students stood up; the young man quickly making his way to her side and collecting her books, while the young woman quickly scurried out of the classroom. Content with her day’s work, Sessimine motioned for the boy to carry her books back to her office while she locked up the room.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Leebot on October 07, 2004, 06:41:55 pm
[OOC: A little warning. Some of the subject matter here is a bit intense (I don't think it's too much, though). Using the new TV rating system, it would probably get a TV-14 V. If this is a problem, let me know.]

Scene 3 - Babtism by Fire

Royal Prison of Zeal
Time Unknown

The first thing she noticed was the cold, metal bed. For the first few moments, she didn’t suspect anything—it was normal for the mind to take a few seconds to come back to reality after a deep sleep. When her mind failed to register anything, she started to grow concerned. Her eyes shot open, and she looked around.

At first, all she noticed was a pale, red glow. As her eyes adjusted, she realized that the glow seemed to be coming from the entirety of the wall in front of her. It appeared to be the only light source in the room, not that there was much to see. The entirety of the room seemed to consist of the bed and a hole in the corner—presumably for relieving herself.

Where am I? she asked herself. No answer was forthcoming, so she decided to go back a step further. What was I doing before I fell asleep? Still nothing. She tried to remember anything, but her mind refused to cooperate. Who am I? What’s my name? No use.

I must have amnesia, she realized. Wait! I knew the term! This means I still have some knowledge. I can speak this language, at least. What’s it called? English. Okay, I have no memory, but I still have my knowledge. Is this common for amnesia? This was a pointless question, as she couldn’t remember any other case of amnesia.

I don’t know. Let’s go over what I do know. I have no long-term memory, but I remember waking up and looking around, so my short-term memory is working. I have a knowledge of English, so maybe my knowledge is intact. What else can the brain do? Acquired skills and reflexes! But, what skills should I have? Damnit, this is pointless if I can’t remember what I’m supposed to know how to do!

By this point, her vision had cleared to the point that she could see that the glowing wall was, in fact, slightly transparent. On the other side, she saw what appeared to be a hallway. She got out of her bed and approached the wall. She tentatively reached a hand forward to touch it. Before her hand reached the wall, she started to feel some force resisting her. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t get through.

After her third try to push through, she noticed some writing on her arm. The first two parts were in English alphanumericals. A number, “33,” hyphen, the letter “T,” and another hyphen. The last symbol took her a few seconds to place. It was a letter from an ancient language—Sigma. Is this their way of labeling me? She wondered idly. How dehumanizing! Still, it’s not as if I have anything else to call myself… “33-T-Sigma.” Too unwieldy. “Sigma.” It’ll do.

Sigma sat back on the bed and waited for someone to come.

Later, she would wish she’d been left alone. A guard had come eventually. He’d done something which caused the red wall to disappear, and then he’d grabbed Sigma and dragged her to another room, where a foreboding man was waiting. She’d been strapped down to a chair, and asked a barrage of questions. Why was she in Giant’s Claw? Who was she working for? What did she know about the Council? She protested that she didn’t know anything, but every time she responded this way, the man would find a way to cause her pain. At first, he would simply slap her. As the interrogation wore on, he started punching at her solar plexus, forcing her to gasp for breath. Eventually, the interrogator gave up, and she was sent back to her room, crying uncontrollably.

The next day, Sigma was brought back to the torture chamber, as she’d come to think of it. This time, her torturer was joined by a handsome man in a pink subfusc. This man talked to her in a surprisingly gentle manner, while still trying to get answers from her. She felt herself compelled to answer, but she had no answers to give. He kept asking her questions, occasionally muttering a chant of some sort. Sigma started to get the impression that he was casting some sort of spell, but she was never given enough time to ponder this prospect before she was distracted by his questions. This process continued throughout the whole day, until the man eventually gave up. After he’d left, her torturer took the opportunity to slug her a couple of times before she was brought back to her room.

The third day was similar to the second, except instead of a man in a pink subfusc, Sigma was questioned by a beautiful woman wearing a red subfusc. After another failed interrogation, she was sent back to her room. The fourth day found her with the same woman. It was at this point that the woman started to utilize her own brand of torture. Whenever Sigma couldn’t answer a question, which was, unfortunately, every time, the woman would launch a minor magical attack against her. Sigma would be alternately burned, frozen, and shocked from the barrage of spells. When she couldn’t take any more, the woman would cast a spell to heal Sigma’s wounds, only to start all over again.

This process continued for countless days, until Sigma was sure she couldn’t take anymore. She was questioned once more, and once more protested that she couldn’t remember anything. The woman stepped back, muttered a few words, and shot off a ball of fire at Sigma. Sigma reflexively closed her eyes, praying to any gods that may be listening to have mercy on her. When the blast of fire never came, it seemed that her wish had been granted. She cautiously opened her eyes, only to see the fireball streak in front of her. As she watched, it circled out of her vision, and past it again and again. Eventually, it burned itself out, sparing her its impact. Her reprieve was only temporary, however. The woman cursed and launched another fireball at her. This one found its target, and her torture began again.

Events like this started occurring more frequently during her torture sessions. It was not uncommon for one of the woman’s spells to miss its mark or simply fail. Ice spells would cause icicles to form in the air beside Sigma and fall harmlessly to the ground. Lightning spells would cause electricity to arc harmless around Sigma and into the wall behind her. At one point, a fireball launched at Sigma circled around behind her and came back to hit the woman. After this event, Sigma’s questioner was replaced by another woman; Sigma believed the first woman had had enough and refused to participate any more.

This second woman gave up after one day of unanswered questions and deflected spells. The third woman to come wore a dark blue subfusc and barely bothered with questions. Her spells had more success, and included some spells which felt to Sigma as if they were eating away at her very life, plunging her into eternal darkness. Eventually, as the mage prepared to cast one of her most fearsome spells, something in Sigma snapped. She shouted out a furious “NO!!!” The spell misfired in its caster’s hands. As Sigma watched, it appeared as if a hole were torn in space. The mage and the torturer were sucked into the void; Sigma was saved only by virtue of her restraints. Then, the hole closed up as if it had never existed, erasing Sigma’s two torturers from existence.

Sigma was sent back to her room after this incident. Stunned, she could do nothing but fall to sleep as the prison guards ran a tight vigil over her. The next day, she was once again removed from her cell, but was taken in a different direction this time. She asked the guard what was going to happen to her, but all he would say was that she was more trouble than she was worth. She was thrown onto a strange platform, the guard threw a switch, and her world went black.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Aitrus on October 09, 2004, 02:36:49 am
Scene 4 - Darkness and Light

Aias paced up and down the alley.  Where is he? he thought.  His contact should have already come and gone by now.  He looked down at the pocket watch he carried.  The meeting had been scheduled for nearly an hour previous.  He’s been compromised.  There goes three years of manipulation, blackmail, and bribery for nothing…

He was just turning to leave and work his way back to the palace when someone entered the other end of the alley.  “The darkness sure falls fast and hard nowadays, doesn’t it?” the man called, giving the sign that Aias had given his contact for this meeting.  Aias recognized the voice immediately.

“But there’s still room for the light,” Aias replied, countersigning.  “What kept you, Rolan?”  Aias remained in the shadows, maintaining the secrecy about his identity.  He hadn’t let any of his contacts know who he was yet, and he had no intentions of doing so anytime soon.

“Security patrols,” Rolan said.  “Ever since they caught that one guy snooping around the Council complex, the security patrols have kept curfew much tighter than they used to.  Anyway, here’s the information you wanted.”  He held up a scroll, and then tossed it into the pool of light near Aias’ feet.  In return, Aias tossed a small bag of coins towards the man.  Bending over and opening it, Rolan counted his money.  “Thanks,” he said once satisfied with the count, and then turned away, heading back the way he came.

Once Rolan had gone round the corner, Aias stepped forward and picked up the scroll.  He checked the seal and identification number, made sure both were correct, and then picked his way back across the city towards the lifts to the palace.  He looked forward to reading the scroll, especially since it contained, among other things, the results of an “experiment” they ran not a week earlier.  “Universe 27-Alpha-3,” he said, remembering the id on the scroll.  Judging from other reports he’d had smuggled out, he knew what this one would contain.  He just hoped this one would have something to help him win over people to his cause.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: ZeaLitY on October 10, 2004, 06:33:29 pm
Scene 5 - The End of Time

And beyond, where deep swirls of mists that have observed the rise and fall of time, and spectators may sit atop the hourglass and peer into the shifting sands below, a man sat upon a platform of ornate stone, and rested his head on his hand. Upon his desk lay a miniature pillar of light, from which he could view any period, and spot any ripples cast upon the surface of history. In this setting, the sage was granted a special repose from life; in his situational immortality, he was content to lie and gaze into the airy boundaries of the End of Time, feeling that he had transcended the flow of rush. Unfortunately, even rest had lately been interrupted; perturbations far and wide had been seen disturbing the fog that encircled his dwelling’s architecture, and he too had begun to identify their cause. The feeling – that he must do something, and take an active role in the affairs of man – had not moved him in nearly a year of passage; the old portals above the stairway had long grown dim, though they could be forced open if the situation required, and the golden chariot that once docked behind him had also been absent for relative ages. With the completion of the great quest, he could once again quiet his passions and return to his eternal watchmanship of time.

Foreign as it was, feeling alive and responsible for the fortunes of his home timeline was nonetheless stirring to his heart and awakening to his mind, which craved for new knowledge. The Guru Gaspar could thus not resist actively searching for the cause of these disturbances in time; since their beginning nearly one month ago, he had relentlessly searched for their origin, at times catching glimpses of shadowy figures who would disappear into the night. Though somewhat alerted by the danger of their coming, the guru’s fear was overtaken by an intense curiosity, and as he now stared within his personal viewing port – forged by arcane Shadow magic, whose applications included Time Eggs – he caught view once more of the strange time travelers, who once again had chosen to arrive during the cover of night, dressed in dark regalia. Gaspar had been particularly lucky to pinpoint their place of arrival.

“Gaspar?” a startling voice came.
“Ah! Spekkio, you scared me. What is it?” he asked.
“Hey, are they here again?!”
“Yes, they’ve just come in. My tests have run correctly; it seems no matter the epoch, they always arrive in the Sun Keep.”
“Heh, I wonder why?”
“The reasoning for that makes me desire to kick myself. Why, its at the same geographical coordinates in all of history! They must never fear landing in an ocean.”
“Interesting. So what time did they pick now?”
“Well, it appears to be 600 A.D. Somewhat alarming, I know; that’s a touchy year to be interfering with things, especially since—“
“Oh! Is it during Crono’s quest—“
“Bah, don’t interrupt me, and maybe you’ll learn. Yes, this particular trip is during the quest, but they aren’t in the area at the moment. We have nothing to fear, especially concerning Time Traveler’s Immunity.”
“Eh, all right. Mind if you give me the coordinates? I want to see if these guys know how to fight. Maybe they’ll run into some trouble, hey?”
“What is this? Don’t you know that a scuffle could have disastrous effects on—“
“Just playing with you, old man. Although I would like to see how these guys handle themselves…”
“Well, save it. That may be found out soon enough.”
“Are you implying that you will—“
“Perish the thought; I would never confront such an enigma myself. I may recruit some type of envoy, or simply use a Bekkler clone. Somehow, I will meet these fellows.”
“Shouldn’t be too hard, right?”

Gaspar paused in his speech, the most troubling fact about these wandering temporal travelers having resurfaced – being that in between their trips, they totally disappeared from the scope of the timeline. For days at a time, these men would seemingly be erased from existence, only to reappear, and they were nowhere to be found in these intervals. From the End of Time, the only place in which one could hide from the Guru’s watch was within a Pocket Dimension – this particularly troubled Gaspar, as he could count on one hand those who wielded magic capable of forging and existing within such bubbles connected to the real world.

“I…don’t know, yet. Therein lies the problem. These men disappear in between time traveling, and I cannot find them anywhere.”
“Sounds like a Pocket Dimension, eh?”
“Yes! And what perversion of power would it take to create such a thing—“
“Don’t worry just yet. A bunch of people could visit ol’ Lavos’s Pocket Dimension if they so desired. Maybe these guys are just scientists from the future, operating out of it.”

Gaspar glared at the Nu.

“Okay, maybe I wouldn’t hold my breath for some theory like that, but whatever.”
Gaspar chuckled. “Well then, it seems I have some arrangements to make.”
“Heh, have fun. I’m going to get back to Juan.”
“What? Still tracking that young man?”
“A select few down there take my interest, and this guy – well, heh, he’s got the power, if you know what I mean.”
“Hah. Enjoy yourself. Maybe he can teach you something new.”

Smiling at Spekkio’s unceasing antics, the old man stood from his chair, and sauntered to a fence on the edge of his platform. His mind was full of wonderment and deep interest; the visitors surely were not from the future, as Spekkio had suggested, for Chronopolean scientists would not undertake such direct research. It would intrigue him hugely if the agents were of Zealian origin, but this was unfortunately ruled out – for no action had occurred in 12,000 B.C. or earlier that would have provoked such a temporal research program, and even traveling technology itself at the apex of Zealian civilization was limited to he and Belthasar. As each possibility was reasonably eliminated, his amazement and desire to know grew – and at the very end of his intellect, he touted the idea of dimensional crossers, immediately reducing it to an impossible status with principles which had long been proven and demonstrated to rule out such an action…
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Symmetry on October 11, 2004, 12:29:34 am
Scene 6 - Naomi's Dorm.

Frustrated with her studies, Naomi slammed her book shut and violently swept it off the table she was sitting at. Tired of reading for the moment, the student walked over to her window and looked out to see the one person she did not want to see at the moment – her aunt. Almost immediately below her, two stories down in the student quad, stood Sessimine with a crowd of students and admirers surrounding her. With lips clinched together tightly, Naomi banged the side of her fist again the dorm wall.

Why must I be constantly barraged with my inferiority to this woman? Its as if everywhere I turn, something or someone has to remind me that I simply can’t stack up to the rest of my family! Everywhere! I can’t even find peace in my own room! Naomi turned toward a mirror that hung on the wall across from her. If she never had to leave her room - if she never had to see everyone else around her, she would have been happy. In isolation, Naomi was pleased with herself. She liked her peach-coloured skin and the few freckles that dotted her face; together they made her look warm and full of life. She was content with her deep red-coloured hair and the way she was able to tie it into a ponytail - pleased even, with how perky it made her look. Naomi felt cute every morning when she looked into the mirror before setting out for class; it was only when cute came face-to-face with beautiful that she felt so sickeningly inadequate.

Naomi breathed in and sighed deeply as she turned back to the window, only to be momentarily blinded by a quick flash of light as the sun reflected off of her aunt’s hair. Sessimine had wonderful space-black coloured hair that crept midway down her neck; it was very straight, but not dull and bodiless. What proved to amaze so many, however, was the way she had selectively dyed strands of it silver – not grey – but dazzling silver, which would give off the appearance that her hair was sparkling, only further enhancing the sophisticated aura the instructor gave off. It also served to drive Naomi mad, for it seemed as if she was only one who ever got blinded by it.

After gently rubbing her eyes, Naomi looked back down at Sessimine - who she had grown to call her mother as she was unable to remember anything about her biological one - quickly sinking into one of the self-depreciating states of mind that prolonged introspection, combined with the sight of the woman standing outside her window, often brought about. Ugh! It makes me sick just looking at her! Its as if she stole all the genes for being pretty off the family tree and left me with nothing! Sure, that makes your job easier, but what about me? How am I supposed to carry out the family tradition of being a successful enchantress? I’d have trouble charming the family cat if we could have kept it here. I’m doomed to sully the Maruyama family’s name for generations! I grew up wanting to be just like mommy, but there’s no way my daughter would ever want to be like me – if by some miracle a man happened to takes his eyes off my own mother long enough to notice me! Grr...!

Frustrated once more, Naomi stomped one of her feet and began to pace around, letting out steam in the process. As fast as she had villanized Sessimine, she quickly began to feel badly for holding such a terrible grudge against the woman who had put a hold on her own personal life to raise the orphaned daughter of her sister. Perhaps that was what bothered Naomi the most; upon honest introspection, there was really very little she could hold against her mother outside the typical spats every mother and daughter – or father and son for that matter – got into. No matter how hard she tried to justify her feelings otherwise, her frustration was born out of jealousy and the compulsive desire to please. Jealousy could be overcome; unfortunately, the yearning for acceptance could not – especially since the only way Naomi felt she could learn her mother’s approval was to succeed in the art which she loathed with every fibre of her being.

Stepping back towards the window so that she might beg for forgiveness behind her mother’s back, Naomi looked down into the quad only to see that Sessimine was nowhere to be found and that her crowd of admirers had dispersed. Despondent, the young lady picked up the book she had thrown away moments earlier and sat down to begin her studies once more. Before Naomi could actually focus her thoughts and make sense of what she was reading, a knock came from outside her door. Somewhat miffed about the poor timing of the disturbance and still disappointed in her own display of angst, she stood up and answered the door with her head hung low, only to be gently surprised at what she saw. Draped against the floor was the familiar puddle of black and maroon silk which blossomed from the form-fitting gown that Sessimine always wore underneath her subfusc.

“Mother! What are you doing here?”

“Did I come at a bad time? You sound as if you don’t want me around.”

“No! Not at all… Er, in reference to the time part. Of course I want you here. Please, come in!”

The instructor gave Naomi the bewildered look she was all too familiar with dispensing and made her way into the student’s dorm. Just as the young lady was about to shut the door, a young man – the same student Sessimine had “claimed” during class earlier in the day – calmly made his way in and stood nearby his mistress. Stunned, Naomi stuttered in disbelief and shook her hands about in an effort to convey her thoughts. Unable to pull anything to mind, the flustered student peered out into the dorm hallway, making sure that no one was outside to witness the two guests enter her room, then swiftly shut the door and leaned upon it, slowly sliding to the floor. Unable to figure out what was wrong with her daughter, Sessimine gave the young woman a quizzical look and inquired as to what was troubling her.

“Naomi dear, what’s wrong? You’ve acting rather strange."

“Nothing, mother. Nothing at all. I’m just… tired. Actually, stressed. I’m very stressed out right now. I’ve got a lot of things to do and not enough time to do them.”

Sessimine nodded. “I know the feeling all too well. If you think attending school is rough, you should try teaching it – and then conducting research on top of that! But… You know what I do when I get stressed out?”

Deep inside, Naomi cringed. She had a gut feeling it involved something she didn’t want to know about, but didn’t want to risk offending her mother by not following up on her question. “What?”

The instructor snapped her fingers once and the young man reached into a shiny red handbag, removing a long, narrow cigarette holder and a tiny, ornate box with cloves inside. Smiling as she fitted a cigarette onto the end of it, Sessimine held the elegant utensil to her lips and released a gentle puff of air. Out of nowhere, an intense burst of flame sprung out of the end of the cigarette, nearly giving Naomi a heart attack – and curiously enough, just barely singeing the end of the clove. Realizing that her daughter was shocked more than impressed, Sessimine frowned as she addressed the recovering student.

“You didn’t seem to appreciate my trick. That took me months to get down right! You have no idea how many cigarettes I must have accidentally incinerated in the process! I’ll tell you what, though – it seems to impress everyone else. You’ve just got to make sure you’re not standing too close to someone else or you might end up with a gown or two on fire… Not that I would know from personal experience, mind you! Now, care to try one?”

“Er… No thanks.”

Sessimine rolled her eyes. “Suit yourself. I try and give you something to ease your mind, but you turn me down! Whatever will I do with you, child?” Looking around herself for a moment, the instructor turned back to Naomi and handed her the cigarette piece. “Here, hold this for a second.”

Naomi looked down and stuttered again before opening up a window. She didn’t find the smoke to be bothersome – quite the contrary, actually – she merely didn’t want her room smelling of the aroma for weeks to come. “But I said I didn’t want…”

“I didn’t ask you to have a smoke, I just asked you to hold it.” After untying the sash that held her subfusc together and draping the garment over her butler’s arm, Sessimine coughed politely in an effort to grab her daughter’s attention. Naomi, who had gotten distracted by the shouting of several students in the quad below, turned back to her mother only to wish that she had continued watching her peers below. A double-standard that she never quite understood, enchantresses and enchanters alike were known for their fashionably risqué manner of dress – and Sessimine was no exception. Despite knowing what to expect, Naomi still found it unnerving to see her mother in a low-cut dress; whether it was the fact that a woman pushing three-hundred looked like one approaching thirty or rather that it simply reminded Naomi of her own relative imperfections, she wasn’t quite sure. All she knew was that she was very thankful for subfuscs, for no one ever attempted to reveal their bosoms even the slightest while wearing one – that was simply tasteless, not fashionably risqué.

After plucking her cigarette from her daughter’s hand, Sessimine quickly scanned the room for a comfortable place to sit, only to realize that Naomi had no cushions or pillows to lay upon; other than her bed in the next room, there were only a couple of wooden chairs to sit down on. With a muted sigh of discontent, the enchantress seated herself at the desk and motioned for her daughter to join her.

“I simply loathe these torture devices… After the first few years of your studies, you won’t have to sit in wooden chairs anymore. Why, I can’t remember now how I managed to actually pay attention while being so uncomfortable! You should have told me that your room lacked proper furnishings! I’ll have to bring you cushions first thing in the morning… To think that my daughter has to suffer through this! I’m going to have a talk with the dormitory steward tomorrow. Are all of the rooms in this building like this?”

Naomi sat down and looked around the room nonchalantly. “Its… really… not that… bad. I mean, I just sleep here. The communal rooms downstairs are wonderful. Honestly.”

“Hmph! I’m still going to hunt down that steward. At the very least, you will have a more suitable environment to live.” Sessimine took a long drag on her cigarette and leaned back her head, exhaling the smoke in the shape of tiny, five-sided stars. Amused with herself, the instructor returned her head to conversation level only to find the same neutral look on Naomi’s face still staring back at her. “Well, I can do more complicated smoke figures if you like, but something tells me that pink hearts won’t impress you, will they?”

The student finally chuckled. “No, I guess not. So why are you here, exactly?”

Sessimine glared at Naomi with an exasperated look on her face. “Pardon me! I wasn’t aware I needed a reason to stop by my very own daughter’s residence!” Just before the young lady could frown and begin to express her apologies for being rude, the instructor smiled and took in another breath of smoke, exhaling more tiny stars in her daughter's direction. “Oh calm down, you should know by now when I’m merely giving you a hard time. You’re so easy to manipulate, I don’t even have to charm you to get the desired results!”

Naomi rolled her eyes. Although she appreciated the fact that she was the one person who Sessimine never tried to bully with her enchantments, she didn’t appreciate the constant harassment her mother gave her over her emotional frailty; it certainly did little for her already low sense of self-esteem. “So like I was saying…”

“Yes, yes. I’m afraid I do have something important to talk about. I’m concerned about your academic performance. I gave you an easy a question as I possibly could have in class today and you were totally unable to answer it. Did you even read the assigned passages beforehand?”

Naomi scratched the back of her head. “Well… kinda sorta. Briefly, yes.”

“Briefly, huh?” Sessimine cocked her head to the side. “Do you really think I’m going to buy that? You’re a terrible liar.”

The student merely looked away and blushed. “I’m sorry. I just got a little behind. I’ll try harder, I promise.”

“You don’t sound very enthusiastic. You’re finally done with all of your core education; this is the subject you really wanted to study! You’re no longer a boring wizard, you’re an enchantress! This is your passion!” Sessimine made a few grandiose gestures to accompany her advice.

Naomi looked away. My passion? You mean your passion. This is the subject you wanted me to study. Generally Sessimine was a fantastic judge of character, but when it came to the family trade, she seemed entirely incapable of even fathoming for a second that her child would desire to do something other than to follow in her footsteps. Forcing a smile, Naomi looked back at her mother and responded more cheerfully. “I’ll keep at it. This has just been a rough week, that’s all.”

Sessimine smiled back. “Excellent! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a steward to hunt down.” As the enchantress stood to her feet, without any verbal prompting, her butler suddenly sprung to life once more and dressed the elder woman in her scarlet subfusc.

“I thought you were going to do that tomorrow.”

“I was, but I have a little time to kill before I attend a meeting this evening.”

“A meeting? What sort of meeting?”

“Oh, nothing particularly interesting. One of the routine get-togethers of the administrators in the five colleges. You just worry about catching up on your readings for class tomorrow.” After giving her daughter a quick kiss on the forehead, Sessimine dismissed herself from the room, her charmed hand in tow. Feeling a little better than she did earlier, Naomi returned to her studies, her attitude towards them no different than before.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: 1stoftheLast on October 14, 2004, 08:20:15 pm
Scene 7 In the Fields, In the Heavens

In the fields, it was about 30 degrees and snowing--a warm day for spring.  A young man walked briskly out of his igloo with his hunting panoply.  He approached a group of a dozen or so like-dressed men.

“Jack,” they all chorused in disunion.  Jack acknowledged them all with a slight bow of the head before looking around him and asking who was left.

“Only Jayhawk,” said the man with red scars across his face.

They all continued to wait for the man they called Jayhawk, and when he arrived the group set out south of the village.  They didn’t know it was south; in fact, they had no word for any directions because north, south, east, and west all led to the same place: away from the village.

Hunting was light, but no one seemed too concerned.  The real work in the spring, or as the villagers knew it, the first through fourth cycles, was in fortifying the village after the winter storms and to prepare for the next.  In general, the making and gathering of the less perishable items was done first while the major hunting was tackled during the fall.  After the fall, there came a two-cycle period where the village entered a sort of hibernation, and nothing could be done in the way of gathering tools or working outdoors.

While trekking, the hunters placed a brushy limb at approximately every quarter mile so that they would be able to find their way back.  After they returned to the village, they broke into smaller groups and began to clean their kills, trade, make tools, repair their homes, and go about their daily routines, which had remained unbroken since before there were cycles to count.

Life in the village was more a circle than it was a flow; there was no progress, only a monotony that went unrecognized by the people because of its singular familiarity.  In this village, it seemed there was always a village and always people to live in it.  Just as there was always the man with the red scars across his face, who was unlucky to be disfigured but luckier then the man who fell to that beast.

No one questioned this way of life.  The villagers all played their parts as if they had rehearsed.  And they had, for every villager had lived and died a thousand times, replaced by themselves to pick up their life at some random part of the circle.

The only thing different in this village, at this place and during this year, was the man that Jack Nova was going to become.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Claado Shou on October 14, 2004, 10:55:15 pm
Scene 8 - A Hole In The Head

Year: 600 A.D.
Place: Guardia Prison Cell #5

He was in the plains again.  He didn't know by what road he had arrived there, what pathway in time or space he had chosen, because in his mind, it was just another illusion.  But God, it felt so real.

He could remember, from some imagined past, the feel of his wife's skin.  His son's hair, red and tangled.  They never ceased to be loving, caring people, even when he had to leave, to trade.  The caravan, stacked neatly with goods for sale on the neighboring peninsula.  Where the war was no more.

He could sense the wind on his face, the grass poking up against his thin shirt and poking his flattened back, the stream's soft crooked sounds floating up like poppy seeds, dapples of dew tickling his ears.  His wife's cheerful sigh from his side, and his son's frantic chase in the field towards the butterfly.  Just one more unattainable goal.

But once he began to think about it, what was his wife's name?  His son's?  Were they even related?  The woman and the boy, his family?  What history did that come from?

And then he was back in his prisoner outfit, a sludge-covered jumpsuit with two thin holes for his arms, constricting the blood flow to his extremities, and a larger hole for his head.  Leaning against the wall, he heard the crackle of dust under his stretching feet and the rattle of the guard's keys as he paced the hallway, whistling repetitively.

Gryph stood up weakly, staring out into the hallway that stretched in front of seven other cells, all of which were just as dingy as his.  In the room next to him, a man guilty of seventeen murders sat quietly, making grooves in his skin with his fingernails.  On the other side, a man with an actual family, guilty only of saying one harsh word about a public official, now condemned to live without the proper rights of a human being.

And what was this man's crime, this radical dreamer's offense?  He had tried to make a living doing something that promoted peace, the unification of two separate bands of thought and society.  But it was a time of war, and the laws of the King forbade such acts.  Thus, he was not only an outcast, but a criminal.

As if that wasn't enough, his three year term was almost up when the wardens interviewed him and discovered his dreams about the family he couldn't possibly have.  So they deemed him mentally unfit to reenter society, and placed the key in holding for another time.  He tried to convince them every time he could that the dreams were gone, but the guards knew was just Gryph's bad luck that he talked in his sleep.

So, placed in a stinking cage like an unfeeling animal, he had resigned himself to never again seeing daylight, sitting once again against the wall.  His pupils, he guessed, had doubled in size from the absence of illumination for such a long period of time.  But since there was no mirror in which to view his face, he couldn't even be sure of that.  No glass...only stone.  He didn't even remember what his face looked like anymore.

The guard beat on the metal bars, and startled Gryph.  The guard smiled as the man jumped from surprise.

"Hey, you should relax!  All that thinking of your wife and kid is making you uptight!  Ahahahaha!"

The guard walked away, still laughing, but Gryph didn't get angry.  How could he?  He knew it was the truth.  He was soft, no longer the warrior he had once been.  His allegiance to Guardia had betrayed him; Guardia had betrayed him.  And without that as his foundation, he could no longer keep his footing in the shifting sands of reality.

"I just wish..." he began, his finger tracing over the outline of a pendulum etched into the ground.  "I just wish that I could find my path."

What happened next was the greatest gift that Gryph would ever receive, though at the time he didn't know it.  In fact, for a long time, he would consider it as a curse.  Only when the time came to understand what was happening to him would he see that there truly was a glorious path made for him in that moment.

From the stone wall opposite of the cell door, a bright light materialized from nowhere.  Gryph quickly turned to face the penetrating source, and the pain from the intense illumination immediately sank in, forcing him to hide his eyes.  It got even stronger, filling the entire cell, shining as if a greater force itself was fueling it.  And Gryph kept his eyes diverted as best as he could, though the light seeped in no matter how hard he tried.

However, after only a moment, it had dimmed down incredibly, becoming nothing more than a pinpoint of energy on the wall, bright but not intrusive.  Gryph sensed safety and uncovered his sight, looking at the wondrous thing there in front of him.

" it?..." Gryph asked himself, standing and walking, drawn towards the vision.  His hand stretched forward and eagerly reached for the light, his senses all dissolved, the pain no longer evident, his thoughts all forgotten remnants.

And as he touched the spackle of luminescence, it grew from a pinpoint into a band of whites that stretched out before him, the brightest things he had ever seen, his eyes absorbing, painlessly, every sight about him.  And then, his body also became one with the atmosphere, disappearing in rivulets of cloud and smoke, like a piece of paper held within the stream.  And then he was gone.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Leebot on October 18, 2004, 01:00:36 pm
[OOC: I took a few liberties in describing the world of Keystone outside El Nido, but it shouldn't be a problem. I still have one more installment I can make before Backer finds out about the Rainbow Shell.]

Scene 9 – War Pigs

Medina, Capital of the Mystic League
1021 AD.

The man glided into the room, each step carefully measured, and stood before the Warchief’s desk. “What do you need me to do?” he asked.

“We’ve received a communiqué from a soldier of Porre,” the Warchief explained. “He says that Porre has embarked on some ‘unethical’ projects in the Dorino area. He’s made it clear that he’s only telling us this because he’s morally outraged by what’s being done there, although he hasn’t made it clear exactly what, and that he’s still loyal to Porre.”

“How can you trust him?”

“We did some research on this man. Our informants tell us that his name is Norris and that he’s the captain of the Black Wind division. Apparently, he’s known for speaking out against some of Porre’s practices, so it seems likely he’s telling the truth.”

“Hmph,” the man grunted. “Well, you’ve piqued my curiosity. But, tell me this: Why do you need me?”

“For one reason, we believe the mission has the best chance of success if we send in as small a force as possible—one person if we can manage it. This isn’t meant to be an all-out attack, we just want this person to go in, determine what exactly they’re doing, and stop them. A single person has a much greater chance of getting behind enemy lines than a platoon. So, we got the most capable individual we could find who’d work for us. That’s you.”

“You said ‘For one reason.’ Is there another?”

“Well, it’s…” the Warchief started.

“It’s because you’re a demihuman,” the Warchief’s lieutenant, Marton, a Guardian refugee—a human—cut in. “The Mystics believe it’ll make you more loyal to us. You also have the peculiarity among demihumans of being able to pass as a human—as long as no one looks too closely at your eyes.”

“Or turns off the lights,” the man expanded.

“Yes, well, we’ve prepared a couple items to cover both aspects,” Marton replied. “For your eyes, we’ve obtained a pair of ‘sunglasses’ from El Nido. These glasses are tinted to block out the sun, but they’ll also work to prevent people from noticing that your eyes are, well…”

“Prismatic,” the man filled in, having explained his multi-colored eyes numerous times.

“Right. For your other… peculiarity, we’ve had the magicsmith craft this talisman for you,” he said, handing both the pair of sunglasses and a glowing talisman to the man. “This talisman gives off a constant glow, and when worn, causes the wearer to glow as well. This means that if anyone asks you why you’re visible in the dark, you can explain it with this talisman. You’ll also have to use your own discretion when comes to your abilities; there aren’t many humans who can use magic without elements.”

“It looks like you were really counting on me accepting this job,” the man commented. “Luckily for you, I’ll do it. For my fee, I only request that I get to keep anything useful I find. Anything else, you can have. Agreeable?”

“Quite,” the Warchief replied. “Talk to the armsmaster for any supplies you’ll need. I’ll make sure he gets the message to give you whatever you need. Good luck.”

After the man nodded and left, Marton turned to the Warchief and said, “I told you he’d do it. The mission’s as good as a success; Backer never fails.”

[OOC: EDIT: Put date in title]
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: V_Translanka on October 19, 2004, 06:44:19 am
Scene 10: Zeal Prison: Brain Wind & Black Bubbles

   Blackness and flashes of some places and some faces...Mute sound and snippets of some voices and some very difficult choices...There was a slight sizzling hum in the air and the lingering smell of food; perhaps it was chicken.

   It went on. It got better. It got worse again, much worse; there were terrible screams. Spilled blood coated everything from the walls and floor to the tips of fingers and the curves of the moon. It seemed as though everyone was dying again, so unstoppable, a rampage, a pure juggernaut force. The mind reeled in terror, but thankfully time and memory began to overcome...

What? Brain bubbles...?

   There is trouble, right here and now...It was some voice from the recent past; some haunting, gruff, recognizable voice. That voice was a sliver from a farther past burrowing its way to his brain in through his ear.

   What do you mean, ‘trouble’? There is always trouble, so what makes you think I should care this time? This one was his voice, although just then, in his memory, it sounded like everything else, drowned in water and a galaxy away. But even as he had said it, he knew something was wrong. There was some queer ring to the old man’s voice that he found unsettling.

   This time, everyone is involved. I believe—

   You can’t possibly mean everyone.

   Everyone you’ve ever known and...

   Must we stay here, Gil? The green-haired one had asked him. He remembered a man, no older than a boy really at the time, much like him, but that boy had been a coward without his sword. The man who knew him as Gil had an undying courage that lay just beneath the surface, waiting to break out at any moment, for just the right cause. He had said he defeated a version of Gil (Magus...maou) atop Denadoro years ago and Gil had no doubt that that man very well could have defeated him. Surely I could help against these mysterious fiends.

   Yes, you must stay. Gil had replied. This was not intended for us all. It may be that it is not intended for me, but I must take this chance. I do not plan on confronting them, not if I can help it...

   Are you worried about...about us?  It was the voice of the girl he had met first upon his new journey—really just the continuing of the journey, the next chapter, the final chapter?—through space & time; the younger of the two special girls who he shared company in those strange days of Magic & madness and darkness & hope after he had left Zeal again-although it was no longer Zeal really. Just thirteen and so hardened from her search, her own desperate quest, and yet she still held on to that last shred of her purity like a life-preserver. Gil would have expected tears from a younger girl—even one her age—at such a departure, but there was nothing but the stone-faced quality of one used to taking the harder, longer road in those eyes of Marcy’s, and he expected no less. Was he proud of her? If asked, he could not have said either way. He was not ashamed of her he probably would have said.

   I worry of many things Marcy, but I have no doubt that if you went with me, you would die the last. This was true in his mind and it would have been true if she had accompanied him. That was who she was; he had seen it before in Fiona’s Cathedral against the Wolfs and again in the lost forest with that horrid creature, NioFio. There was no denying the pure, uninhibited rage he had seen there in those big, blue innocent’s eyes; he was far too personally familiar with it to mistake it for anything else. It was a kind of self-determined survival instinct that they shared. And it was so strange—heartbreaking—to see that sharp, concentrated look change into utter despair. He saw it in his mind’s eye. If she went with him, he would see that look, that change of looks, at the very last.

   I’d give my sword and my life to find the answers I seek, to unlock the hidden door in my dreams. That was the other girl, the one who looked so like Lucca and yet was so unlike her. In many ways she was exactly the Lucca he had first met, alongside her friend Crono. She was human, Fire Magic surged within her, and she was sharp as a stick. In many other ways though, she was nothing like the Lucca Ashtear he knew. She was a lonesome pessimist, was hateful of science, her hair was mostly dyed black and she was an artist and a dreamer. She was as haunted by her dreams—fiery red things where various objects glowed under the light of a thousand dying suns and one man loomed over it, universe of suns and all, and he was known as maou—as Gil was haunted by the Wind. We will come with you, Gil.

   I would have you find the key to your hidden door, Elle. He had spoken to her. But you know, well as I, that this is not a part of that. Have you dreamed of any of this?

   No, but...She stopped. She could not think of an excuse. No part of her dreams told her any of this would happen, not a hint, nothing. It was an uncontrolled deviation that was unforeseen, unplanned for, and unexpected.

   If I am right, this may lead me to my own door. I cannot give up this chance any more than you can by giving up the ability to find yours by coming with me. He saw her fall as well, she was as stubborn as Marcy, and she would die as she had lived: angry and forlorn. It had been hard to push those thought images away because they strengthened his resolve to go it without them. Part of him knew it was wrong, he was supposed to be with these girls, he knew that from the start, but the prize proved too tempting. I will see...

   I’m going with you. The would-be magician’s voice rang, although only the one he used to know was would-be really; the woman he found recently was a sorceress true, a real female conjurer, temptress and seductress, the mage equivalent of a succubus.

   Flea, you cannot. Gil had told her. He knew what it would possibly mean to himself if he decided to go, but to bring one of the others? It would be your end.

   You cannot know that. Flea had said, she studied his face, and Gil had thought he very well could know it. These people were dangerous, in a realm of classification far beyond dangerous. Their blatant disregard for the life which they were interrupting and manipulating was just one of the glaring red lights that lit up in Gil’s mind. The main light, the light which all the others dwindled around enveloped like little yellow suns circling the axis of a great red giant, was the worried, concerned note he heard in the old man’s voice, that slight falter that indicated fear. If he took one of the others, it would surely mean their death. It was as clear as the sharpness in the Wind. And the Wind does not matter to me. I stand with my back to the Wind. I will not allow you to...

   Conversations were cut off mid-sentence and emotions rebounded as they danced atop the layer of froth in his mind. The scatterbrain recollection of leaving his troupe went away in the pop of the last brain bubble. Memory resurfaced and thought kicked into overdrive. Gil awakened, but—as he had trained himself for many years—did not open his eyes. The rest of the sensory information flooded him in an instant. He was sprawled on a cold smooth surface of floor, his face planted directly into a wall that seemed to crackle with energy, and his right leg was completely numb. In some vast background, he could hear the faint murmurings of people.

   He opened his eyes unto a familiar, and yet ultimately discouraging, sight. The wall of energy was just that, a wall of energy (he had seen such things before, in the future of Vita, for instance), and there were thankfully no shackles. There was also no way for him to get out.

   He got up, dusted himself of unseen dirt and got the lay of the land. He was in a single dull, cobalt-colored cell box and the only light came from a square panel in the ceiling that glowed more than it shined, giving an eerie, iridescent characteristic to everything inside. There was a toilet—or at least something that resembled a toilet—in one corner and a bunk bolted to the side of the wall opposite. No window to show the outside world—whatever it may be. He noted that he had everything he had come in with: sickles, potions, talismans, etc. Even his clothes were the same: tanned leather armor, the blue wrap of cloth around his midsection, his plum-colored pants, and his worn-in boots and gloves.

   Underestimating me? He thought, but it didn’t seem quite right. Surely he had had enemies underestimate him in the past: Ozzie, Cyrus & the stupid frog, the robots of Vita, the android Grobyc & his sister the good Doctor Luccia. But this was different on a very fundamental level; they had beaten him utterly and completely. It had been only one spell—that horrible Brain Bubble—that knocked them both unconscious. His Amulet could not protect against it. They are overestimating themselves. He thought, but put it aside almost immediately. They were not overestimating anything, they simply knew. Gil posed no real threat to them, weapons or no. These people have power I could not begin to fathom. And he hated them for it.

   There was a cell directly across from his, but it was empty. To the left of this he could see his companion, slumped out similarly to how he was, in another dingy cell. He sprang forward and pounded the field of light, “Flea...Flea...!” He tried calling her name for a while to try and get her attention, but it seemed as though the spell was working its wonders on her as well. He saw her arm twitch minutely and he could just faintly see the quick movement going on under her eyelids. The pins & needles receded from his leg and he looked down and found the source of the chicken-smell mashed under one of his boots.

   He felt over the wall of energy and found a singular point about two feet wide and maybe two inches thick that offered no resistance. It was where the guards or sentries or officials or whoever the hell was in charge of the prisoners well being, handed (or in this case, dropped) them food on worn metal or plastic trays.

   Gil studied the empty cell across from him, knowing that it was a mirror of his own squalid surroundings. There were no buttons, no switches or locks, and no control panel or numeric pad either. Was there some central control area or were the walls magically created? He knew none of the answers.

   Strange thoughts entered Flea’s head as well: the dark man she had fallen in love with, the long years of torturous study, that terrible war, her man’s unfortunate death, and his pseudo-return in the form of Gil. But aside from these thoughts, encircling them, covering them, suffocating them, was something her man gave her, something she learned from him, that followed her from him and Gil—flowed from both of the men. The Black Wind blotted out her thoughts and memories.

   Then some other sound began to work its way through as the last brain bubble in her head popped. It was an odd sound, perhaps a word, that seemed like it should be familiar, but all she could think of was bees and trees and knees. The Wind subsided, though did not fade completely.

   “Flea...!” She heard a voice shout to her. That was her name, she realized. That voice was familiar too, but it wasn’t her voice. It wasn’t even the voice of the person she thought it was, although it was an easy mistake to make. A few seconds seemed to stretch out into the infinity as a conscience awareness of time came back to her. Flea’s memory and thought patterns reset themselves in a dismal, sluggish manner. Had she taken the brunt of the Magical assault? It had felt like it to her, but the actual sequence of events was mostly a gray haze that dashed in and out of focus quick and unsteadily like a home movie or bad steady-cam photography.

   She awoke in a cobalt little cubical identical to Gil’s. Her arms lay up above her head and her legs were spread behind her. She propped herself on one hand, testing her coordination and balance at the same time. Everything seemed in proper working order. She also noted that none of her possessions were taken; she had all of her potions, charms, powders, etc. What kind of prison is this? She thought.

   Then her eyes looked up to the wall which served to separate her from any true hope of escape. A wall of eerie light that could not be penetrated, save for a small slot just big enough to pass a tray of food through. She put a gloved hand to the wall and found no give whatsoever. She did note, however, that she too had mashed her ration of chicken scrap underneath her boot.

   Gil finally gave in and sat cross-legged before the energy wall, eyes closed in a state of meditation and hands hooked together. His brow constricted as he thought deeply about their current situation and the events leading up to the capture. It was ridiculous and dangerous and reckless. It was, in essence, exactly what the old man and the others—excepting the girls of course, they seemed to understand his reasoning most—had told him it would be when they had left the End of Time: stupid.

   They had shadowed the stealthy men
   who had been carrying a girl from Giant’s Claw. They carried sheathed knives and were dressed in jet black—more accurately, they were consumed in it. Before they had time to consider the possibilities, the dark men, plus one, came to a dead end and they entered the portal that opened there. Gil and Flea had scrambled after them and had made it into the portal themselves mere seconds before it winked out of existence.

   Upon entrance into the new world, they were seized on both sides and spell-struck by Brain Bubble. They had been ready for them. Perhaps their shadowing of the men hadn’t gone unseen or maybe their manipulation of temporal transports was so advanced that they had ample time to set up a defense before they had arrived. Or maybe...Gil thought. Maybe they were just considerably well-prepared.

   Then he opened his eyes and saw that Flea was awake, with a questioning, somber look on her face. He nodded in agreement with the tone of her expression.

   Opportunity for escape was not given. Escape had not been planned. The two of them would not escape their imprisonment in that strange and threatening—and yet to Gil, somehow familiar—dungeon. So they were forced to sit and wait and reflect on what brought them there and what would eventually happen to them. Part of Flea saw escape; it was some deep part, her mind’s eye. But she did not know what the cost would be. She could not, for the Wind obstructed such precise observations. The Black Wind was fundamental to all matters of freedom and control, fate and and death.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Claado Shou on October 19, 2004, 11:25:59 am
Scene 11: No Longer Just a Dream

Year: 990 A.D.
Place: Guardia Plains

The first thing Gryph heard was the sound of water.  He didn't even know which side it was coming from, the left or the right.  All he knew was that there was water nearby, and he was thirsty; thus, a quest was born.

He attempted to move his legs, but they suddenly felt as if his muscle had been replaced with stone and metal.  He tried to move his arms, but he felt the weight of heavy dirt on his hands, keeping them in place.  He even tried to open his eyes, but he felt as if his eyelids were fastened shut.  

Finally, he managed to get his mouth open, and he breathed in the sweet, unpolluted air, ripe with vapor and the scent of flowers.  That was all the wake-up-call he needed.

His body finally freed, he thrust himself upwards, sitting up from a lying-down position.  It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the sunlit morning, as if he had just been born again, but when he finally saw what was around him, breathing was the last thing on his mind.

It was exactly how he had remembered it from the dreams, the delusions...a grassy plain filled with various greenery, sunflowers and dandelions, orchids and all sorts of other beautiful plants.  The clouds were floating silently above him, carried by a soft and unobtrusive wind.  The breeze made him realize that his clothes were flapping, and he looked down to see himself dressed in clean commoner's attire.  He felt the material, a stark contrast to the damp and soiled clothes he was forced into while in prison, and he smiled the greatest smile he had ever given.  

He focused on the mountains and the forests in the distance, grand expanses of earthy browns and natural greens, the most gorgeous thing he could remember.  Several villages were laid out at the bases of the mountains, and he recognized a familiar sight from his delusions...a townhouse by the sea, the home of his imaginary son and child.

"Is this...real?" he wondered aloud, trying to sort out the whats and the ifs from the whos and the whens.  But he only had a moment to do so, as his delusion just became more of a reality.  

Directly in front of him, a small, perhaps 8-year-old red-haired boy ran by, wielding a small wooden net, and chasing after a butterfly.  The insect was just out of his reach, but the boy continued on, oblivious to the impossibility of his quest.

Behind the boy followed a plain-looking woman, a woman that Gryph remembered calling his wife.  But he knew that it wasn't real...this wasn't real.  This place didn't exist, did it?  Was this just another imaginary world?

As the two came back towards Gryph, facing him, he looked into their eyes.  And any dissenting opinion of his instantly faded away, as he felt an eerie connection to them both.  Even from this distance, he knew in his heart of hearts that they were his, and he could feel their bonds strengthening with each moment.

An impenetrable smile on his face, Gryph stood to greet his family, his arms outstretched as the boy and woman came running towards him.  

But as the butterfly that the boy was after came nearby, it flew directly at Gryph.  The merchant looked down to watch the insect either swerve away or hit his chest, but neither happened.  Instead, the butterfly passed straight through his chest, leaving a thin band of light as it did.  

The boy and the woman followed suit, not even slowing down as they tore through Gryph's body, streaming light in their wakes.  Gryph looked down at his body, and saw that the rips in his form were instantly healing, his skin and tissue all reconnected and perfect again.

Spinning around to see the people running by, he saw that they hasn't even noticed him.  In this place, this time, he was nothing more than a spectator, an uninvolved and seemingly nonexistent man, watching the family he could have called his own run away from him.

Gryph suddenly realized that he wasn't thirsty anymore.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Radical_Dreamer on October 19, 2004, 07:21:26 pm
Chapter 12: Patience and Reward


   I must have patience.

   Argus Dorian slowly clenched and unclenched his fists. As long as he kept them moving, it was harder for him to focus on their new features. Etched into the back of each of his hands was a golden Mammon insignia, much like the one he knew sealed the door to his cell.


   Argus did not have to wonder what the purpose of the seals on his hands was. He had seen them on all the most dangerous criminals in Zeal. They restricted the magical power of the person bearing them.

   But how much?

   His hands stopped their fluctuation for a moment, before clenching tightly. Lightning arced between the two seals, and leapt to the bars of the cell before dispersing. A ball of flame apeared at Argus' left hand, a ball of ice at his right. The two then slammed into each other, exploding in steam and water. For a brief moment, the room grew darker.

   Basic spells don't seem to be a problem. How about something more challenging?

   The room again grew dark. Argus held out his hands in front of him, and the darkness drew in to the space between his hands. As it did so, twelve blue lights began to glow on the backs of his hands. As the darkness began to form a sphere, the blue lights intensified. It was becoming painful for Argus to continue manipulating this much magical energy, but he had to know how much he could handle.

   The moment that all of the darkness was condensed in a sphere, it flew from Argus to the door of his cell, where the Mammon seal on the other side caused it to disperse harmlessly. Blood was trickling from where the blue lights in Argus' hands had been moments before.

   Enough for now. There will be plenty of time to experiment more later.

   As he was preparing to sit down, Argus heard the sounds of panic from outside his cell. Much to his surprise, the door slid open, and two guards entered.

   "What the hell was that noise?" one of the guards demanded. He was attempting to be as authoritative as possible, but Argus could detect his fear. Argus was perhaps the most powerful traitor to the School of Temporal Magic in Zealian history.

   "I dropped my cup." Argus indicated to the small water cup in his cell. As he did so, his hands emitted a faint blue glow. The guards did not notice, however, as they were trying to figure out what Argus was playing at by pointing at the cup; it was upright, still full of water. The distraction was all the Argus needed. Lightning leapt from his fingers to the guards, knocking them unconscious. A quick check of the bodies indicated what Argus feared; the guards did not posses any of the Red Rock. They had used another sort of charm to open the  door.

   Knowing he had to act quickly, Argus attempted a spell. He suspected it was too powerful to escape the seal's grip, but he had to try. He closed his eyes and clenched his fists. Almost instantly, they began to emit blue light. In his mind, Argus could see the events from the jail hallway walking backward through time. There seemed to be few events
of interest, and the further back he stretched, the harder it became to maintain the spell.


   Argus could see new prisoners being led to their cells. One seemed very familiar,  as though Argus had seen a picture of him in a book somewhere. Argus was about to look past the man, but he saw a glimmer of light coming from him. Could it be? Blood trickled from Argus'
hands as he followed the vision of the man to his cell. Two over. Perfect. This mysterious man had what Argus needed. The Red Rock.

   Snapping back to the present, Argus rushed for the door and nearly collapsed. He looked down and could see that he had lost more blood than he had expected searching through time.

   I will soon silence the hatred of the seals.

   Argus quickly walked two cells down. He could see the man from the past look up quickly.

   "We do not have much time, but if you lend me your necklace, I can help us both escape."
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Aitrus on October 20, 2004, 02:58:22 am
Scene 13 - The Palace in Flames

A cacophony resounded up and down the length of the hallway.  Aias searched all around him, up and down the hallway, trying to figure out where the sound was coming from, but to no avail: he could see no one anywhere in the hall.


The cry made itself heard over the general din, and Aias’ head snapped to his right.  It was coming from deeper inside the palace.  He still couldn’t see anyone, but he started running that way.  What’s going on? he wondered.  Wild theories popped up in his mind, but were just as quickly rejected for lack of proof.  He rounded the corner and headed up towards the Old Quarter, as the original palace structure was called.  And then it hit him.

Literally.  A piece of the stonework in the ceiling fell lose and glanced off the back of his head.  Aias ducked reflexively and looked at where the stone had come from, but kept going forward.  When he finally looked forward, he was nearly blinded by smoke and flame.  What?  Where did that come from?   He looked back the way he had come, and saw more fire, and people fleeing with whatever they could find and carry.  He didn’t understand what was going on.  That hallway was clear a moment ago…   He shook his head and pressed on, leaping through the flames and into the maze of stairs and walkways beyond.  

“Help!” the cry came again, and Aias tried to figure out where it was.   The throne room!   He ran, avoiding the fire as much as he could, but still singeing his tunic.  He finally bounded up the steps to the throne hall, when he saw that the entire door was on fire and inaccessible.  But he had to get in there, had to save his parents, the King and Queen.  He chanted a few words and began to cast a Water spell to put out the fire on the doors so he could bust through.   What am I doing?  he thought.  He didn’t have magic powers, so why was he chanting?  The spell would have fizzled when he thought that, but it had never even formed.  Aias stopped and stared down at his hands, the slender fingers pulling the brown gloves tight as he made a fist.  Anger coursed through him.  He refused to believe that he couldn’t get to his family.  He had to.  If he didn’t, they’d die, and that was unacceptable.

Exhaling slowly, he mentally centered itself, hoping that this final effort would work.  Then he burst forward, hitting top speed on the third step forward, and slammed into the door with his left shoulder, hitting just between the twin handles on the split between the doors.  Fortunately, they gave, and he fell into the antechamber instead of the flames.  He still hurt, but he’d rather ache than burn.  Pulling himself up, he went towards the doors, which luckily weren’t burning this time.  He grabbed the handles, and then threw the doors wide open.

He wished he hadn’t.  The entire room was in flames, from about two meters in front of the door to the back of the room.  The twin thrones in the center of the room were still above the flames, but it was too late.  There was no way he could get to them, and as the flames closed in from the antechamber, there was no way he could leave, either.  All he could do was sit here and watch as not only he died, but as his parents died with him.  Anger coursed through his veins, through his blood, and finally tore out of his throat, a primal scream which would have turned spines to jelly had anyone been present who wasn’t about to die in flames.

He sat up and realized that the whole thing had been a dream.  Well, except for the sweat, the terror, and the very real scream that had just escaped his throat.  He threw off the sheets and walked – well, stumbled was more like it – over towards a table in the center of the room.  He opened up a drawer and removed a pair of pills, and them took them with the water he had from the table.  Before the sleeping pill took effect, Aias wrote a note to himself to contact one of Zeal’s myriad of dream experts about this before the day was out.  He’d had the dream before, but he hadn’t woken up this violently before.   I’d better get it checked out before it gives me an ulcer or something.   With that thought he crossed back to his bed and fell asleep again, this time falling into a dreamless sleep.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Leebot on October 20, 2004, 10:36:16 pm
[OOC: This one's a biggie. It should give you guys a pretty good picture of how Backer thinks.]

Scene 14 – Slip Kid

Dorino, Porre Military Base
1021 AD.

The man known as “Backer” approached the gate to Dorino, exuding complete confidence as he walked. He briefly mused that he must have been quite a sight: a six-foot-tall man, solidly built, with golden-brown hair. He was wearing light armor which, although made of steel, seemed to shine with the colors of the rainbow. On his right hip he wore his customized sheathe which allowed his even-more-customized sword to be drawn either straight out or perpendicular to the length of the sheathe (courtesy of a simple mechanical switch), allowing him to get off a slash as soon as he drew his blade. On his left hip was a satchel containing various supplies. On top of all this, he was wearing sunglasses. Quite a sight indeed.

As he approached the guards, he reviewed his cover story, the same one he had used at Zenan Bridge to gain access to Porre territory: He was a mercenary with unique talents (true) who was offering his services to the Kingdom of Porre (false). Given Porre’s willingness to exploit any possible resource, it wasn’t at all surprising that they let him in.

“Halt,” the guard said. “Who are you, and what is your business here?” /Better start scanning the place./

“My name is Arren,” Backer lied. “I’m a mercenary looking to offer my services to Porre.” He showed his pass, received at Zenan, to the guard. “This should verify my story.” /Fire… *********/

The guard looked over his pass and said, “Very well, you appear to be as you say. In fact, with that get-up I’d be suspicious if you claimed to be anything else.” /Ice… ********/

“You’ll find the command center at the end of the main road,” the other guard said. “Proceed there immediately.” /Lightning… ***********-----&--/

“Alright, thank you,” Backer replied. “There’s just one other thing…” /Wind… ********/

“What?” the first guard asked. /Light… *********/

“I’ll need that pass back.” /Shadow… ************/

“Oh! Sorry,” the guard said, handing the pass back to Backer.

“Thank you,” Backer said as he entered the base.

Noticing his scan was complete, he reviewed the results:

Code: [Select]
Fire: *********
Ice: ********
Lightning: ***********-----&--
Wind: ********
Light: *********
Shadow: ************

There appeared to be some anomalous Lightning signatures, so he released some more  Lightning energy into the Mana Layer to locate the source via a directional scan. /Lightning released… Anomaly found at +0.35 mark -0.13, ±0.02/ Glancing to his left as he walked, he noticed a large building that looked like a fortress, with some markings indicating that it was a prison. It seemed most likely that his objective would be located in that building’s basement.

Deciding on the course of action with the greatest chance of getting him in without raising suspicion, he proceeded to the command center. The guards gave him little trouble and directed him to the commander. “What’s your business?” the commander asked him.

“My name is Arren,” Backer responded. “I’m a mercenary here to offer my services to Porre. The guards at the gate directed me to you.”

“Hmph,” grunted the commander. “Well, before I can do anything with you, I’ll have to get some measure of your skill.”

“I believe I have a solution to that that will also get me to work immediately,” Backer said. “As I was making my way here, I passed a general and his escort. After I explained my situation to him, he suggested that I help test the security of your ‘prison facility.’ I can help expose any flaws in your security system, and prove my worth in the process.”

“Huh,” the commanded intoned. “It sounds like a good plan. There’s just one problem: My men are ordered to kill any intruders. Unless you can overpower the entirety of the facility, you’ll get yourself killed and then be useless to us.”

“Then just inform your men ahead of time that it’s a drill,” Backer said. “I’ll make sure not to kill any of them as well. Oh, and we can discuss my payment after the completion of this mission.”

The commander sighed and said, “Alright, you’ve got me convinced. I’ll inform my men, and we can stage this drill tonight.”

His first obstacle was the most obvious: the front door. It swung inward, so its hinges were on the inside and out of reach. The door was locked by a simple deadbolt, easily visible in the generous gap between the door and the wall. Backer had never learned how to pick a lock, but he had another tool at his disposal. He gathered up light energy and channeled it through his left hand. He focused it down to a point as he released it, the energy great enough to cause a spark to form in the air. He stretched out the beam so it focused on the bolt, which quickly melted through, allowing him to shove open the door.

Apparently, one guard had taken advantage of the foreknowledge of the “break-in” and had staked out the front door. He promptly rushed Backer, who was able to dodge to the side and swiftly kick the guard from behind, pushing him further out. Backer jumped through the door and slammed it shut behind him. It didn’t buy him much time, but it was enough to prepare a blast of lightning energy to shock the guard into unconsciousness.

Some might call his talent a “Sixth Sense,” but it was merely an extension of his ability to channel energy. By “pulsing” a small amount of mana into the Mana Layer—a layer of space that rested underneath the fabric of reality and which contained the potential for magic—he could sense the presence of creatures through the waves of mana that reflected off of them. It was this way that he knew there were two more guards hiding to each side of the T-shaped intersection ahead of him.

The lighting inside was very dim, so the guards eyes were most likely adjusted to it. Deciding to exploit this, Backer channeled up a sphere of light energy in his left hand. Once he had prepared this, he drew his sword with his right hand and charged it up with lightning energy. As soon as he was finished, he tossed the sphere of light into the intersection ahead of him. It exploded in a flash of light that would have blinded him were he not still wearing his sunglasses, and most likely did blind the guards. Not waiting for them to recover, Backer jumped forward and quickly slammed the flat of his blade into each guard in turn, incapacitating them as the lightning energy coursed through their bodies.

Backer released a flash of light to get a picture of the hallway. His mind recorded the layout so he wouldn’t need to keep it lit. It ran about 20 meters further to both sides, ending in a door on the right side. A quick pulse told him that while there was no one in the hall, there were two people just off of it on the right side, and one behind the door at the end. Given that it was more heavily guarded, the right path seemed the logical choice.

Deciding on his course of action, he stored light energy in his blade and started generating wind energy. He kept up the channeling until there was a significant whirlwind surrounding him, and then he ran off down the hallway. As he approached the positions of the guards, he released the energy from his blade, causing another blinding flash. He didn’t stop to see what happened to the guards to the sides, but he was confident that even if they’d tried to attack blindly, they’d have been blown off by the whirlwind he’d created. As he approached the door, he leapt and slammed into it with his shoulder, knocking it off its hinges and onto the guard behind it. Feeling the guard still moving beneath him, he rolled off the door, jumped up, and slugged the guard as he tried to do the same, knocking him out of commission.

A quick inspection confirmed that the door was wooden, so Backer kicked it out into the hallway and threw a ball of fire at, igniting it to discourage the other two guards from following. Glancing around the room, he confirmed his suspicions; there was a ladder leading downwards. A pulse revealed nothing below him, so he quickly dropped down. Another pulse revealed only one faint reading in the lower level. Recalling that the anomaly he had previously detected was lightning-elemental, he released a lightning pulse. The same, odd reading came back to him, from a room off to his right. The room was locked, of course, but Backer made short work of cutting through it.

Inside the room, he saw the source of his readings: a cyborg. Apparently, Porre had decided to continue the project after the success of “Grobyc.” In the process of turning a human into a cyborg, the human’s mind was completely erased and reprogrammed. Porre was turning unwilling captives into weapons of war. They had to be stopped. First, though, was the problem of handling the cyborg, who had noticed Backer’s entry. /Initiate advanced combat protocols/

“You-are-an-intruder-you-must-be-eliminated,” the cyborg droned as it charged Backer. Backer dodged the first punch, but was caught by a kick and thrown against the wall. /Enemy’s parameters measured. Strength: 320%; Speed: 174%; Dexterity: 42%. Current parameters: Strength: 231%; Speed: 155%; Dexterity: 378%/

Before the cyborg reached him again, Backer channeled a small amount of life energy to heal his wounds. The cyborg was too powerful to defeat in a simple contest of strength, so he would have to beat him through skill. Prepared this time, Backer was able to parry the cyborg’s blows with deft swordplay and disengage to consider his next move. /Enemy weaknesses analyzed. Known weaknesses: Low accuracy and skill. Composed of electrical components which may be possible to disable./

Backer attempted to strike back, but the cyborg seemed to shrug off the blows, and used this opportunity to strike Backer with a vicious one-two. /Current strength insufficient. Safety protocols disengaged. Rage released. Automatic healing protocols initiated. Cue battle music./

Backer’s focus sharpened. As his body was energized, he jumped back up and rushed the cyborg. /Current parameters: Strength: 349%; Speed: 204%; Dexterity: 198%./

The cyborg attempted to parry his blows, but Backer was able to overpower him and follow through. The cyborg started taking damage, but it seemed to possess greatly augmented stamina. Once it realized it couldn’t ward off Backer’s blows, it started pummeling him in turn. Even with his augmented strength, Backer wasn’t going to be able to take out the cyborg before it killed him. /Procedure to exploit weakness determined. Channeling lightning energy to Swift. Transferring necessary actions to primary thought stream./

Knowing what he had to do, Backer jumped back and waited for the cyborg to pursue him. Anticipating its attack, Backer raised his sword to meet the cyborg’s punch, impaling its arm on his blade. The electric energy stored in it discharged, and overloaded the cyborg’s electronic implants. In the space of a second, the cyborg crumpled to the ground, dead. /Safety protocols reinitiated. Cue celebratory music./

After taking a moment to heal himself, Backer proceeded to search the room. A folder titled “Project CYBORG” caught his attention. Perusing it, he found information on Porre’s plans to design new cyborgs to augment its army. He placed the file in his satchel, hopeful that this information could assist the Mystics. Further searching of the records contained in the room found him a few inconsequential folders on discontinued projects, but one caught his eye: “Project RAINBOW.”


Purpose: To augment a human’s fighting capabilities with energy drawn from the Rainbow Shell, recovered by Toma I in 600 AD.

Expected abilities include, but are not limited to:

-Ability to utilize elemental energy, possibly as “magic.”
-Natural healing abilities.
-Improved combat proficiency.

Possible side-effects include:

-Eye tainting (discoloration of the eyes due to abundance of magical energy).
-Psychological alterations.

Status: Discontinued.

Reason for discontinuation: During trial run, the magical energies proved too intense to control. All researchers involved and test subject were killed. The Rainbow Shell was damaged, causing a shard to break off^1.

― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ― ―
^1 This shard and accompanying detritus has been stored in the Dorino base, room B3. Level 4 clearance is required for access.

Backer recalled his first memories. He had found himself alone, in a strange, ruined building, surrounded by corpses. He had run off into the wilderness where he had learned enough survival skills to get by. Was it possible he was the “test subject” of this Project RAINBOW? /Data analyzed. Probability of match: 99.48%

So Porre was to blame for his life. He’d have to make them pay some day. The successful completion of this mission would help, but, first, he decided to appropriate the shard of the Rainbow Shell located in this base. It just might come in handy.

[OOC: No, he's not an android. Yes, I am omitting his primary thoughts; they're not completely translatable. Yes, I am serious with the music. No, terms like "insane" don't apply to him; his psyche is so different from the human norm that standard descriptions don't apply.

EDITS: Minor fixes. Changed my titling system on my posts.]
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Symmetry on October 21, 2004, 10:22:49 am
Scene 15 - A Routine Checkup.

Having shown the last student of the day the door, Sessimine sighed a sigh of relief as she stared blankly at her office. Unlike most of the rooms within the college, hers was quite spacious. Scattered strategically through the office were several exquisite pieces of furniture, including her desk, several couches, and a small army of bookshelves. The most eyecatching feature of the room – excluding herself – however, was a elevated platform that extended into a small, windowed nook that overlooked the school’s quad. Not finding her couches comfortable enough, Sessimine had amassed hordes of pillows and placed them in the nook so that the sea of cushions swelled nearly waist-high at their watermark. Deciding that she had earned a well-deserved swim, the instructor removed her subfusc and tossed it aside before gracefully diving into the prismatic ocean of pink and scarlet. After coming up for air and deciding that there was still more comfort to be found, Sessimine motioned for her recently acquired aid – who was currently standing on the other side of the room, as lifeless as a decorative suit of armour – to massage her back. Fussing briefly at the young man for pushing too hard, then not hard enough, and lastly for doing “that tickling thing”, the enchantress finally began to relax and peered through the curtains upon the courtyard below.

Sessimine’s office, or rather, the office that had been held by the school’s Provostia since its foundation, resided on the second floor of the complex and lay directly across from its entrance, an ornate set of translucent crystal doors that complimented the ivory stones that composed the building. Directly above her office was her bedroom, a palatial room that still managed to impress her, a member of the aristocracy and well-accustomed to lavish surroundings. After living at the school for the nearly fifty years she had served as its headmistress, Sessimine had begun to loathe returning to her home in Enhasa as it now seemed terribly unrefined in comparison. Zeal had a habit of treating its educators well – too well, perhaps.  

Exhausted from work, the instructor had nearly drifted off to sleep when a solid knock on her door grabbed her attention. Pretending to ignore it, Sessimine grabbed a pillow and covered her head; her refusal to acknowledge the sound did not make it go away, however. After the third round of knocking, the enchantress called the mystery guest into the room and motioned toward the couches without looking at her visitor.

“Just seat yourself over there. I’ll be with you in a minute. You really should thank me for this, as office hours ended at least thirty minutes ago.” Sessimine couldn’t have spoken more nonchalantly had she tried. The guest merely coughed in response.

Great. Its not that I mind tutoring students on top of the rest of my responsibilities – quite the opposite, in fact! It gives me a chance to interact with them on a more personal, one-on-one level. But really – there’s a time and a place for everything. With a couple of slow waves of her hand, Sessimine dismissed her attendant, rolling onto her side as she spoke, returning to her usual sultry, expressive tone. “Well, how may I assist you this lovely evening, my dear-“ Upon realizing precisely who stood before her, the instructor cut her inquiry short and jumped to her feet before falling back down upon her knees and crossing her arms behind her back as the appropriate customs of respect dictated, for she was in the presence of none other than Prince Aias, heir to the throne of Zeal. Mortified, she began praying to her patron deity. Dearest love, I beg of you! If I have offended one of divine decent, please intercede on my behalf!

“Prince Aias!  I had no idea! I’m terribly sorry… I beg you to forgive me for being so horribly disrespectful!”

“Make no more mention of it.” Aias dismissed the offense with a wave of his hand. “I have come here for a personal matter and would prefer to foster a more… natural environment. Let us do away with unnecessary formalities for the time being.” Although he had not an ounce of arcane potential in his body, Aias spoke with a deep, commanding voice that would be expected from a man confident in his power. Attempting to shift the subject to a less formal topic, the prince looked around the room, noticing several paintings and sculptures of an undeniably handsome man. “I take it you’re particularly fascinated by Montlasalle, or does that come with the territory?”

Sessimine stood to her feet and regained her elegant composure as she made her way towards her desk. “I suppose it does tend to come with the territory, although I take my devotion to his eminence quite seriously… and I would like to think Montlasalle is particularly fascinated by me, as well.”

The prince cocked an eyebrow. “Oh? And why would you think that?” Aias was legitimately curious.

Having reached her desk, the enchantress pushed aside a few trinkets and books and seated herself on its corner. “Why? Because he told me so! Dearest Montlasalle isn’t like all the other gods and goddesses who sit upon their thrones lifelessly, only interjecting on our behalf when humanity has fallen into some morass from which we cannot free ourselves. No, he isn’t like that  at all! Montlasalle comes to me frequently in my dreams!”

The mentioning of dreams piqued Aias’ curiosity even further. “Dreams, you say? Go on.”

Sessimine giggled. “Prince Aias! You can’t expect me to share something so personal with you on our first meeting, can you… Although I assume that’s why you’re here. You’ve got a dream you want to share with me, correct? Perhaps several?”

“What gives you that idea?”

“Intuition, mostly.” The enchantress smirked. Aias merely stared back with a confused look on his face. “I just know. Why else would you be here?” Sessimine hopped off her desk and made her away toward the nook, motioning for the prince to follow. “That’s a rhetorical question, by the way - I don’t really expect you to answer honestly.”

Aias watched the instructor seat herself on the cushions, somewhat hesitant to join her. “Is this really necessary? You have several couches here that should suffice.”

“No, its not; but I’d much rather be comfortable as possible. Don’t be so shy!”

Still having reservations, the prince laid out on the cushions, trying to make himself as comfortable as possible per the enchantress’ request. After a moment of silence, Sessimine coughed in an obvious attempt to grab his attention. Looking to his side, he noticed that the instructor was sitting Indian-style with a pillow in her lap.

“Do you want me to read your dreams or not?”

Aias sighed and repositioned himself. “So how does this work, exactly?”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve never done this before. Should I just start telling you everything I can remember about my dreams?”

Sessimine laughed. “Of course not! If that was all an enchantress could do, there would be no reason to see me, would there? Well, at least no reason to see me for dream-related problems. No, no… You’re going to lay here and try to remember what you can about your dream, but you'll remain silent. Talking about it would only serve to ruin my concentration. I’m actually going to enter your mind. Together we’ll experience your dream at our own pace as if we were exploring a museum or perusing an art gallery. Now close your eyes and clear your mind of everything save your dream.”

The prince closed his eyes and began to relax as the enchantress placed one hand over his heart and two fingers on his eyelids. Before he realized what was happening, Aias drifted into unconsciousness. Quickly following suit, Sessimine took in one last breath as she began clearing her own mind. This should be interesting… I’ve never had the chance to delve into the mind of royalty before. I’m sure his dreams will have all sorts of amusing decadence to wade through! He’s probably just here to clear his conscience…Oh well. Dearest Montlasalle, bless me with your divine insight!
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: ZeaLitY on October 24, 2004, 12:26:02 am
Scene 16 - The Other Side

Deep within an isle shrouded in wary mists, a few of Zeal's most daring spires rose, lacking the adornments of the other, sunlit towers that sat below the palace, and lending an imposing feeling of cold uneasiness. None could tell that deep within, clockwork to challenge the universe was being undertaken, intricate in its countless designs, daring in its scientific vision, and dangerous to all beyond its walls. Indeed, the illuminated royalty hardly stepped upon these grounds, and the respected aristocracy of Zeal was totally exempt from everything but mere visitations – for this looming complex did not employ any from that glorious class of citizens, instead drawing from the Gentry. It had long been a social fact that aristocrats were simply not recruited into the shadowy School of Temporal Magic; the Gentry who were chosen often basked in this subtle form of superiority, though one's choosing to attend the school was mandatory if passed and unable to be debated. Beyond these 'Chosen' souls, others had rarely been offered a glance into this place, instead merely gazing afar from a dreamer's bed and wondering of its enigmas and secrets contained within the gray walls.

The Centre for Dimensional Research had long been, to certain immortals, abnormally busy; silver-robed scientists populated the halls with a calculating ferocity that would shake the frame of Enhasian sleepers and unsettle any common citizen – for each carried the burden of vaporously huge weight, and obtained little rest from constantly evaluating theories and reporting findings, only to wipe their high-tech tablets clean and begin anew. While this certainly drove more than a few somewhat crazy, this did not constitute their darkest aura; it was no wonder that those born with particularly acute senses felt dread and despondency from the Centre, even in its relative aloofness from the other islands of Zeal. These detecting citizens knew to remain reserved, out of a certain fear for the power of the Council; that considered, it was unlikely that any would harbor ill feelings – as evil deeds were never reported, nor even suggested by the little knowledge of the Centre’s on goings, said to be merely simulations of timelines and dimensional distortions, with occasional tests on minor phenomena. The agents of research were thus free to engage in their experimentation, liberated from the scrutiny of artists and certain, bothersome ethics – free to roam the metallic halls and exchange data, or merely enter the observation deck and intrude upon the affairs of other men – men in worlds far spanning and closely related to their own.

As several analysts rounded a corner within the somewhat-labyrinthine complex, brushing sparsely decorative plants whose leaves even retained a shadowy, ominous outline, they soon found themselves within the primary construct, a rough oval in shape. A few gray-tinted windows lay along the stonewalls, whose architecture resembled classic Zeal more so than the scientist’s laboratories and corners. As one proceeded toward the wall farthest from the entrance, magically powered machinery grew in proliferation and technological advance; at the center, almost interconnected with the wall, lay a small platform, on which a burnt brick lay. On its left existed a square, complicated frame whose square build supported a large sheet of cyanic blue within. Lastly, to the right of this centerpiece, a circular frame, large enough to accommodate a person, rested upright; it too was deactivated currently, though it demanded the attention of several well-adorned workers. A few in this magnificent accomplishment of Zealian science called themselves worthy of leading; each directed orders, and scribbled in personal journals, making decisions and sketching possibilities, although the last critical choice in the effort’s history had been made days prior.

The analysts sought out one of these men, and conversed briefly; they soon departed, missing a flashy spectacle as several blue orbs condensed from the air around the cyan square; the light blue suddenly disappeared in violent swirls, giving way to a topographical tableau of green and sandy ground. No manmade structures appeared, save for two primitive huts, which were as miniscule dots on the screen.

“Zoom, ten times,” a voice called.

The view increased significantly, revealing a handful of cavemen darting about the area, some stacking firewood and others preparing hides. The man standing in front of the viewing port squinted his eyes, and raised a hand. A grin forming at the corner of his mouth from tingling sensations emanating from his fingertips, he called forth an aura, which enabled a few lights on the Zealian mechanical architecture, whose workings resembled a masterpiece of craftsmanship. A voice came again, somewhat charged in energy.

“Establish contact with FF-A17. Release lock level to D.”

A hum could be heard emitted from another part of the complex, while an interface appeared before the man. It was arrayed in several dimmed colors, with current options and tables highlighted. The man paused, stared at the screen, and then spoke to the controls.

“Transmit directive A. Break contact.”

Immediately, the world as seen through the port grew dark; clouds amassed in the atmosphere as the result of serious geological disturbances, and the wildlife appeared to be insane as they whelped wildly and ran errantly. The frame decreased the size of the view, allowing a wide span of topography to be seen once more; a particular spot of ground near the center of the continent became heated. The observer uttered a low word, and was once greeted with a zoom on the area, revealing an unparalleled explosion of lava and shattered crust. Only one aspect of the eruption was constant; a mass of obsidian spikes rose from the breakpoint, and unleashed countless spires that soared through the sky, breaking the dark cloud formations, and rained down flaring in unquenchable hellfire. The land was instantaneously metamorphosed into a nightmarish, searing glow, as all combustible materials seemed to light in white fire at the mere sight of the descending needles. The few spots of villages had been cleanly wiped from the planet, scraped in mile-wide swaths as annihilated ash. As soon as it had began, however, the screaming fire ceased in its fall; the immortal god of death had fully surfaced, and sat dormant upon his new realm. The ash and smoke would, for centuries, encase the world in a morose veil, to shield the stars from the heresy of Lavos.

This brilliant spectacle of destruction did not amuse the Zealian watcher, as it might please a sadistic man, but neither did it evoke within him question of his actions and morals; it merely was part of a grand process, of which he and his work were cogs – jewels in the magnificent crown of the glory of Zeal. Perhaps it was that Roget did not desire to consider the ramifications of his actions at this time, but merely enjoyed being along for the thrilling the ride. A voice came from behind him, mildly startling him – though he attempted to play it off.

“Eh? Tidying up already, I see. I guess you missed the Nanashi that was on a mission and left before you got here this morning, hah,” it spoke.
“What! Are you serious? This can’t—“ Roget began.
“Oh, just joking with you; you really can get serious sometimes. What are we looking at here?”
”Dimension A17. The last experiments were done two weeks ago, critically wounding the natural history. It was high time for it to disappear.”
“Interesting. It is a shame you have to be here all the time. Dimensional disposal is a wonder to behold in the observation deck’s dome. Was a new project decided on?”
“What?” Roget asked. “You should know; you’re only one floor below us.”
“Yes, but it is like a dungeon down there.”
“Hah. Well, yes. That brick from a wall of ancient Enhasa—“ Roget pointed to the stone resting on the centerpiece machine, “—gave us a nice world to work with. A full report hasn’t come in yet, as you know, but we’ve already begun a test.”
“Interesting! So you found another Enhasa, I bet?”
“Yeah. We burned it severely with several flares. I believe its equivalent structure perished two million, nine hundred and nine—“
“Eh, don’t get too detailed on me. I’ve got to get going. Have fun with this new land! Give me something fun to analyze down there.”
“Good day, Jacob.”

His friend hastily departed the primary construct, after which Roget returned to his post at the viewing screen. Uttering further commands, he altered it to reflect upon a man of light build, rough around the edges, and somewhat ruggedly handsome. He sat gazing at a prismatic bulk, whose crystal structures reflected all colors in the visible spectrum of light. His wide smile nearly cracked his face, for he stroked the luminescent, glassy mass unrelentingly, and ate a few provisions he had carried. Roget too grinned, happy that the first mission in the study of this new dimension had been a success, and feeling superior as usual – for the sorcerers on the islands he could see from one of the narrow windows could probably synthesize a beautiful object such as that ten times as large, and a thousand times over. Nonetheless, he did share a tinge of happiness for the adventurer onscreen, whose life had seemingly been completed somewhat by his finding the artifact.

Another distracting person approached him, hastily entering the construct and speaking with an assistant before approaching Roget. He too wore a gray subfusc, but with a special marking that denoted him a representative of the Council, who orchestrated the Centre of Dimensional Research from afar – seemingly never dirtying their hands themselves by undertaking visitations with the analysts and scientists themselves. Their representatives did seem to maintain a superior attitude towards the workers, garnering dislike as they gave orders haphazardly. This fine example of such a disposition strolled toward Roget, passing several vines and plants, which had been added so that the room did not seem entirely bare and practical. Overall, the construct lent itself to the feeling of sitting in a garden during a cooled, rainy day.

“Roget Parrion, I presume?” he asked in an irritated tone.
“Yes, what is it?”
“The Council wishes to know why an official report regarding the newest dimension has not been filed.”
“We only began experimentation two weeks ago; tell them we’re getting one ready.”
“Why have you begun conducting tests without an official report?”
“What? We have a working knowledge of the dimension; that’s enough to start—“
“You should not deviate from procedure!”

Peered at the snappy man’s eyes, teetering on the verge of giving a long, dangerous speech on the low social position of messenger boys such as this representative, why they should behave with more respect, and the reasoning behind allowing experts to do their work uninterrupted. However, he was saved from this risky move by the bursting in of another attendant, carrying a detailed report in his hands. Roget procured the delivery, and vocally gave an “hmph” in his general direction. The representative of the Council turned to leave, but gave a final, annoying warning.

“The Council demands results of this experiment in two days. Do not be late!” he demanded.
“Yes, we won’t be. Now leave us in peace! How do you expect us to get something d—“

The man had already departed, and Roget ceased his lecture. He had an absolute distaste for those who did not recognize their position in life, and did not give him proper respect; as one of the old Gentry, he had long lavished in attention given to him – and in the Centre for Dimensional Research, far removed from those undeserving aristocrats, Roget was free to cavort with other members of his class in relatively unchallenged superiority. Only the Council imposed authority greater than theirs, but as they remained aloof and unseen, Roget freely thought of himself as one of the project’s directors – even though he was merely one of several researchers assigned to the primary construct, though it was the Centre’s most intensive room. Roget currently had the pleasure of listening to an underling’s presentation.

“This report – care to run over it with me?” Roget inquired.
“Yes sir,” came the reply.
“Very well then. Let’s start with the basics. Major dynasties, kingdoms, whatnot.”
“Well, twelve-thousand years after Zeal was destroyed, that familiar kingdom showed up, this time called ‘Guardia.’ Interestingly enough, the kingdom is overtaken in 1005 A.D. on its timescale, rather than a century before in its last few appearances.”
“Cause of the fall?”
“Well, all goes hand-in-hand. The next great kingdom, Porre overtook it due to several factors, and reigned as one until around 1500 A.D. on the scale, when the old states vied for power and successfully split.”
“And then Lavos arose, and humanity died. What’s next?”
“Oh, excuse me sir, but Lavos did not erupt here, not even in the evaluated date of 1999 A.D. Cause is currently unknown, other than reports of a band of warriors seen at the epicenter of an earthquake on that date which briefly spewed lava and exhibited Lavoid energy signatures.”
“Most interesting, but continue with governments.”
“Well, around that time, civilization and human advancement was of such a level that the principalities agreed to unite for a common good, uniting somewhat behind science and humanism. This is known as the ‘Central Regime.’”
“Very well. Hmm, what beings have ‘god’ status?”
“A full scan is not yet complete, but thus far, we have Lavos—“
“Of course, go on.”
“Lavos, a being known as the Criosphinx, and possibly a supercomputer in the foremost institute of the Central Regime. Unconfirmed accounts of a ‘Dragon God’ with heavy affiliation to the islands known as El Nido have been received, while the forces that stopped Lavos may also be considered such.”
“Very interesting! We must investigate these in the future.”
 “Uh, sir! You have already begun experimentation?”
“Yes, you heard correctly. We’ve merely displaced a rich artifact. It shouldn’t cause too many problems.”
“Very well, I will continue to amass reports as they come in.”
“You are dismissed.”

The attendant crisply departed the Centre, as Roget strolled to his desk, and set the report down amidst other evaluations; his desk was certainly not cluttered, though it bore a larger weight than most in terms of work. He sat down to study it further, his mind’s interest piqued by the list of god-class entities – those who contain abnormal power within a particular world or are worshipped by countless as a leader or religious figure. However, he was somewhat distracted by a recent negative turn of events that had transpired days before; one of Roget’s closest friends in the project, and a valuable asset to the Council, had strangely rebelled and attempted to wrest control of the primary construct. Detained by a deadly number of Nanashi, the special agents of the Council, he had last been seen by Roget cursing as he was dragged in magical bonds. Roget did not question his morals, or why he had suddenly become angry at the effort, though it did cause him to worry – as his scientific and analytical mind knew that a man such as Argus Dorian would not rise up against a foe such as the Council without good reason.

These thoughts could naught bother the man, as he stretched in his chair and gazed at the ornate tile work of the ceiling. The dimensional machines hummed, as they should; all that was to be done now was collect data on the displacement of the Rainbow Shell, and perhaps think of new theories to test and methods for altering the time of the new dimension. Such was the life for Roget – a life of riding the cutting edge of science, intervening in the affairs of others with a godlike power, and being part of the greatest, most glorious effort of Zeal, the center of the universe – a special privilege to him, tainted by a subconscious emptiness.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Symmetry on October 24, 2004, 01:56:23 am
Scene #17 – Corridors of the Council[/size]

[OOC: The names of the Council members used here are not their real names, but rather pseudonyms.]

Ironically, the most important decisions concerning the kingdom of eternal light were made in room of nearly impenetrable darkness. In a tiny room in which only five people in all of space-time had access to, the members of the Council convened. The only light that was ever allowed to shine – for certainly none shone from the hearts of the Zealians who met  there – came from a small, translucent crystal orb that rested on a golden tripod in the centre of the room. Curled around the tripod was a circular table at which the members of the Council sat – except one member, who always stood.

“We seem to have a problem on our hands…”  The standing member paused, looking over each of the other members of the council. Although the room was too dark to actually see his eyes gazing upon them, each member knew precisely what their leader was doing. “…and I am sure I do not need to bore you all with the details.”

“Argus.” A man sitting across from the leader chimed in.

“Correct, Thanatos. I speak of Argus.”

Another member with a deep voice piped up in an obviously mocking tone. “Argus? You mean the same one Chrona nominated to be her successor?”

Chrona shot back, equally as snide. “Ha! His powers, while crude and unfocused, displayed the greatest potential of all our temporal scholars. He was the obvious choice to train should the need arise. Besides, it was you who verified that Argus was a trustworthy and reliable subject. If anyone here has reason to be embarrassed, it is you, Eros!”

“Silence, both of you. We have not the time to argue. You are both at fault for letting someone such as Argus become so deeply involved in the project and tamper with our experiments as he did; however, determining who is at fault is not why I have called you here. What happened cannot be undone; we must learn from this mistake and see to it that such incidents do not happen in the future.”

Another female member of the Council spoke up. “Agreed. We cannot let our power be defied like this. Argus must be executed immediately.”

“No. Argus must not be killed until we have had the chance to discern his motives; his mind must be scoured, his thoughts must be laid bare. To make sure the same mistake is not made again, we must see to it that people of… questionable moral character are not granted access to the Centre’s research.

Chrona snickered. “Looks like Eros here has a chance to redeem himself.”

“I will attend to the matter personally.”

“No. We must focus on our latest experiment. Find someone dependable to question the traitor as soon as possible.”

Eros grumbled. “So be it. I will make the necessary arrangements at once, if I may.”

“Please. We have nothing more to discuss.” The standing figure looked over the other members of the Council once more, each of them knowing precisely when his gaze fell upon them. “You are all dismissed.”
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Leebot on October 25, 2004, 06:30:08 pm
Scene 18 – The Center of the Mind

Royal Prison of Zeal
Time Unknown

What’s happened to me…?

I can’t see…

I can’t feel…

I can’t hear…

I can only think…

I’m trapped in my own mind; not that there’s much here…

Is this a new form of torture? Are they leaving me like this until I go crazy?

Why can’t they understand that I don’t know anything? What do they expect me to know anyway?

What did I do to deserve this?

Could this be hell?

Why!? Why do I have to go through this?

Let me out…

Please… Anyone…


I can’t even cry…

Why!? Why!? Why-y…?

Please! Let me out!

I can’t take this anymore…

I have to get out…

must get out!

I can’t let them get away with this!

I. Will. Not. Let. Them. Win.

Her eyes shot open, and sight came back to her. It was soon followed by sound and pain as she crashed to the floor. The girl who called herself Sigma stood up a looked around the room. She appeared to be on an odd pedestal of some sort, which was accompanied by a similar device overhead. Not questioning her good fortune, she jumped down and headed for the door.

Touching a panel beside the door caused it to slide open. Obviously, no one had expected her to get out of that device. The hallway beyond led to similar doors to her right, and a door at the end to her left. Deciding that it was the more likely path out, she ran left. Another intersection, right this time. She kept alternating directions, so she’d be able to retrace her steps if she came to a dead end.

It turned out to be a moot point as someone grabbed her arm from behind a few minutes later. “Well, what do we have here?”

Sigma turned her head to see that a guard had caught her. She struggled to break free, but it was no use; she wasn’t strong enough.

“I think she’s that spy who killed Marco and some sorceress during interrogation,” another voice said. It appeared another guard had joined the first.

“More like torture,” Sigma spat out before she could stop herself.

The guard slapped her. “She’s due for execution, isn’t she?”

“Tomorrow at 9.”

“I don’t think they’ll mind if we take care of it for ‘em. We can always say she fought back. Besides, this way we can avenge Marco ourselves.”
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Claado Shou on October 28, 2004, 04:38:46 pm
((OOC - This one may seem a bit strange, but I'll explain it in a later post, and probably in some of the other off-shoot threads.))

Scene 19: The Only Key to an Unlockable Door

Year: 990 A.D.
Place: Crono's house

Gryph didn't understand.  It wasn't a matter of not having all the information...he witnessed this boy's life, this woman's marriage, and still had no clue as to how he fit into either.  And it wasn't a matter of being out-of-tune with those things around him...he could see and smell and feel and touch, and he could almost taste the wondrous food that was being cooked for a table with only two chairs, a table he obviously had never sat down at.

They didn't even see me...they passed right through me...I don't even exist in this place...  It was a nightmare that had suddenly turned into a reality.  Nowhere to go.  Nobody to speak to.  Was he even really thinking these thoughts, or was he simply a figment of his own imagination, a perpetually-fulfilling mania?

He walked inside the house, his muddy shoes leaving nothing on the wooden floor.  He tried to wipe them on the rug there, and though the dirt and crud came off, the rug was not any dirtier for it.  The mud...disappeared.  Gone.  Like his sanity.

Walking inside the main living area, the red-haired boy ran upstairs, and his mother yelled out something about being downstairs in three minutes for supper.  Gryph couldn't understand why he could hear them, but they couldn't hear him.  Why did his ears work, but his vocal chords - his body itself - did not?  What mass of tissue remained in the place he found himself?  Was he simply a jumble of thoughts able to interpret those things coming towards him, but unable to answer?  And what grand scheme had put him there?

Gryph walked forward towards the woman, who was standing over a frying pan filled with some sort of chopped onion, though it was much cleaner and better-smelling than anything Gryph had ever seen before.  She didn't notice him, even as he placed his hand on her shoulder and it passed straight through her body.

He moved his arm back and forth through her form, through her head, attempting to brush back her hair or rub her arm.  Still, she turned onions for optimum frying and added a bit of cabbage to the mix, an interesting smell when combined.  Gryph took in a deep breath of it, savoring the smell of home-cooked food, something that prison had not afforded him.  

As he let out the air, he looked at the woman and saw his breath blow her hair over her shoulder.  He looked again, trying to reconcile what he had seen, and upon second glance he was sure.

I'm real.  I exhaled, and her hair moved.  I touched her!

Gryph passed his hand through her again, trying to see if he could do something new now.  However, as before, his hand went unnoticed.  He then blew her hair again, and it twirled around in the air, as she brushed it aside to get it out of her way.

He blew even harder now, and her hair whipped outward, flowing in the surprisingly strong breeze.  She held it down and turned to the window nearby.

"Where did that breeze come from?" she asked aloud, walking to the window and closing it.  She returned to the stove, and Gryph blew at her again.  This time, however, it did nothing.  He spoke, but still nothing.  He was imagined once again.

Gryph looked to the window for a moment, and a strange thought passed through his head.  It was an idea he knew he would have never had normally, but now it came to him suddenly and strongly.  So he walked to the window, put his hands on the frame, and pushed upwards...the window responding to his movements and coming open.

The woman turned to see the window open itself, and started to go towards it.  However, Gryph turned back towards the approaching woman and blew strongly in her an intense burst of wind blew her hair back over her shoulders.

It was at that moment that Gryph realized that the wind was not coming from his mouth...but from the window.  In fact, no wind at all could be felt, except when Gryph blew.  He seemed to have taken control of the breeze.  

As the woman closed the window and called her son to the table, she set the food out and the boy came rushing down, ready to eat.  The adolescent couldn't quite seem to get his chair pulled out, but neither Gryph nor the woman had the chance to help him before the chair seemed to slide itself away from the table and then push itself back in once the child was seated.

Gryph was stunned.  He had only had the opportunity to think about pulling out the chair when it suddenly happened.  And he had only been given enough time to think about pushing it in before some strange miracle did just that.  

What was going on here?

Gryph walked to the window again and looked outside.  The window opened without him even having to touch just worked, mysteriously, on its own.  He examined the frame for some sort of device, but nothing was there...some act of God had done it instead.  

Well, this is certainly interesting... Gryph thought, leaning on the windowsill.  Whatever I think about seems to happen...whatever I do seems to be amplified by some act of nature...and still, nobody can see me.  What could all of this mean?

As he wondered, Gryph suddenly had a great idea.  He turned and walked towards the boy.

Concentrating on the boy's mind, trying to pinpoint his thoughts, Gryph said, "This is really great, Mom."

"This is really great, Mom," the boy said, smiling.  The woman smiled back.

"I spent a lot of time making it, honey," Gryph said, trying to control the woman.

"I spent a lot of time making it, honey," the woman repeated, with the same inflection and tone in her voice.  And then she added an unscripted, "So it should taste pretty good."

Alright, so this makes things a bit more interesting, Gryph thought, aimed at nobody.  But what does it all mean?  How far does this power extend?  And is this world even real?

Gryph didn't have time to ponder the possibilities any further.  He felt a magnificent calling outside, a pull that wouldn't let him go until he put one foot in front of the other, all the way to the front of the house, noticeably out of the view of those inside, or anybody nearby.  

" this?" he asked aloud.  But his question was soon answered with an even greater one.

As he looked before him, Gryph saw a deep blue chasm of light, a circular pool in mid-air, rotating with a kaleidoscopic array of shimmering rays that dazzled across his face.  He could feel an unnatural warmth radiating from it as he was drawn inexorably towards it.

And as he let go of the things that he still wanted to do, instead settling on those things that had yet to be determined, his body turned horizontal and floated softly into the void, a gate into a world he would surely have no home in.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Aitrus on October 31, 2004, 01:38:57 am
Chapter 20 - Burning Minds

The first thing that Aias noticed was that the walls were different.  The palace didn't used to be this grey, he thought.  Then he remembered.  He was in the dream again.  Each time he had been here came flooding back, in a way that he had never gotten within the dream itself.  He stepped back and bumped into the wall.  That's when he saw the puzzled expression on Sessimine's face.  "Not quite what you expected?" he asked, covering up his own disorientation with a smirk.

"Not quite," she said.  She shook her head, and then smiled back at him.  She was about to say something when sh stopped and frowned slightly, listening.  "What was that?" she asked.  "It sounded like a --"

"Scream," Aias broke in.  "It was.  Happens every time, and it gets me to walk down this hallway."  He stepped from the wall and looked down the corridor off to his right.  "Don't worry, it's just a dream, remember?"  He smiled at her and offered his hand.  "Shall we?"  She took it, admiring the charm even if it didn't work on her.  Strong woman, he thought.  I like that.

They stepped around the corner and the scene suddenly changed.  They were no longer in the tranquil palace they had left behind.  This was a palace in chaos, fire leaping from tapestry to tapestry, wall to wall.  People ran through the flames, either trying to save precious heirlooms or documents, or just trying to save their own skins.  "Is this closer?"

Sessimine just stood there.  "No," she said distantly.  "What's going on here?"

"Just what it seems like," he replied.  "The Royal Palace is going up in flames."  He pressed on, pushing his way through the fleeing mob of historians and royal attendants, courtiers and servants.

She rushed, trying to keep up with him.  "You're heading towards the throne room, aren't you?" Sessimine asked.  He nodded.  "Your parents' lives are threatened, aren't they."  Again, he nodded, pushing people out of his way.  She kept peppering him with questions, but he ignored them.  

Finally, he pushed his way into the old quarter, and set off at a run for the throne room, jumping over fallen stonework, burning rugs, and toppled bookcases.  He stopped on the landing outside the throne room itself, gathering himself to throw the burning doors open, when he remembered Sessimine.  "Come on!" he shouted, watching as she ran around the obstacles he had leaped.  When she finally arrived, breathing heavily, she sent him a glare that would have cowered many men.  "We have to hurry inside," he said.  "You'll see why."

"You know," she said as he pulled his gloves tighter, "most people don't make me work so hard in their dreams.  If you were any other person, I'd --"

She was cut short by Aias throwing the flaming doors open.  He immediately ran through, and she followed.  "This confirm anything for you," he asked as he looked on the scene before him, sorrow in his eyes.  The room, just like the rest of the palace, was fully engulfed in flames.  However, no one was fleeing this room.  The twin thrones in the center were still occupied, but were cut off from the door by the flames.  Tears building in his eyes, he looked at Sessimine, wondering how she was reacting.

She wasn't looking at the thrones.  She was looking off to one side, where there were five gaps in the blanket of flames.  "Who are they?" she asked, pointing towards the five black figures who occupied those spots.

The tears dried, and not just from the flames.  "I don't know," he said in a bit of shock.  "I've never noticed them before now."

They can't be, he thought.  Could this all just be about the Council?  I would have thought there was more to it than that.  However, he couldn't mention any of this to her.  After all, even he wasn't supposed to know anything about the Council itself, much less her.  Of course everyone has heard of it, but only the Council was supposed to know what the Council was.  Her aving that knowledge would be a risk he wouldn't take.

"This is where my dream usually ends, with me trapped in here and watching my parents die.  I normally don't even notice those people over there."  He looked back at her and sighed.  "Fairly confusing dream, huh?"

She shrugged.  "Not as difficult as some I've seen, although this one is the most intense.  Obviously, the source of the dream has something to do with those people over there.  Are you sure you have no idea who they could be?"  He shook his head.  She didn't looked convinced, but nodded anyway.  "Anyway, you consider them a threat not only to you, but to the royal family.  Deal with them, and your problem will be solved."  She chanted a quick spell, and he woke up.

He looked up at her, still laying on her lap.  "Thank you, Provostia.  You've been a wonderful help, and this was a most... interesting experience."  He sat up and waded over to the edge of the pillows.  "Shall I send that assistant back in here for you?"  He smiled at her as he stood.

"No," she declined, "that won't be neccessary.  I was about to leave for the evening, my prince.  If you have that dream again and wish to speak of it, please, drop by again."  She gave him one of her famous smiles.  "Or any other time, for that matter."

"Another time, Sessimine," he said with a smile.  He spun on his heels and strode through the door.  "Another time."
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Leebot on October 31, 2004, 06:17:25 pm
[OOC, aside: You may have noticed I'm using song titles as titles for Backer's chapters. The relevance may be simply in the title (War Pigs), it may be in the lyrics (Slip Kid), it may be in both (as below), or it may just be the music.

I know you guys said you'd prefer to wait until the jailbreak scene is over, but it's taking so long, and you can always rearrange the chapters later.

Oh, and I can't use MS Word at the moment, so this may have more mistakes than usual.]

Don't Come Around Here No More

Larin, Choras Territory
1021 AD.

Backer walked into the town's bar and took his usual seat at a small table in the corner. His work today was more strenuous than usual; Porre had accompanied this division with a prototype golem. He'd been able to fight them off and destroy the golem, but it had exhausted him, and he was looking forward to relaxing with a cold drink.

A waitress named Rose came by within a few minutes. Normally, she'd see him and nod, then return with a soda--never a beer, he couldn't stomach alcohol--a few minutes later. If he was still around when her shift ended, she'd sit down and talk with him for a while. She was one of the few people who'd ever shown any interest in his life. This time, however, as she approached, her eyes locked on him for a moment before she quickly looked away and walked past him, around the corner. Backer waited, but she never came with his drink. He sat out the remainder of her shift, waiting. She passed by a couple more times, but she never again looked at him. At the end of her shift, she left without a glance at him.

Attempting to find an explanation for this behavior, his mind recalled in vivid detail the end to their conversation the last time he'd been in:

/Rose smiled at him. As far as he could remember, she was the only person to ever smile at him. He made his decision; he was going to take another shot at finding happiness. The only thing that ever scared him was reaching out to others, but he'd have to face that fear.

"Rose," he said. "I was wondering... if you might like to join me for dinner?"

"What do you mean?"

"Dinner, together. As in, you know, a date?" She stared at him blankly. "I was hoping we might... expand our relationship."

The look she gave him was possibly the worst that she could have. He'd hoped she'd be flattered, even if she turned him down. He could have handled her pitying him. Even had she appeared disgusted or insulted, it wouldn't have hurt him as much.

She appeared confused.

"I-I can't. I'm sorry."

"Of course," Backer muttered; rejection was all he knew. No one had ever given him a chance. He casted his gaze downward and rested his forehead on his hand so she wouldn't him weeping. She'd left without a further word./

In his search for a reason behind her behavior, he'd asked everyone he knew who knew her. She wasn't involved with anyone. In fact, a few people had commented that she was actually looking for a boyfriend. This made her behavior even more confusing.

He'd tried to reach out and improve his relationship with her, and now it felt as if he'd been punished by her taking away what little he had. It was as if fate were mocking him for daring to believe he could be treated as a human. It seemed he'd never get certain basic rights that others took for granted. No one ever seemed to notice him, or be thankful when he helped them. He'd single-handedly saved Larin from 14 separate attempts by Porre to annex it, without ever having been asked. The residents certainly knew about it, but only Rose had ever thanked him. He was getting tired of helping people who never appreciated him, but he couldn't abandon them.

It was at this point that he realized that in his pondering, he'd stopped paying attention to his vision, as happened to him from time to time. The bar was abandoned; he'd been left in there alone. He replayed the past few hours in his mind. The rest of the customers had left and the bartender had cleaned up, turned off the lights, and left without even looking at him. The town had abandoned him. Perhaps it was time, after all, that he tried to make his way elsewhere. There were other people in the world who could use his help; maybe they'd be more deserving.

It didn't take him long to decide where to go. The El Nido Archipelago had the highest concentration of demihumans of any area of the world. It was also the home of one of the world's best blacksmiths, and man named Zappa. If anyone was capable of forging the shard of the Rainbow Shell he'd appropriated into a weapon, it was him.

Backer left Larin without a word to anyone; no one would care--at least until Porre decided to attack again.


Backer exited Zappa's shop with his newly-forged sword in hand. Zappa had been so eager to work with Rainbow Shell that he'd agreed to work for free, with a couple of catches. First, Backer had to help him with the smithing. Given that Backer had learned the trade in his attempts to create an improved sword design, this was less of a problem than Zappa had anticipated. The second catch was that the remainder be used to craft an axe for Zappa himself.

Backer's new sword was of the same design as his old one: It had a diamond-shaped cross-section, typical of longswords. It was as long as a longsword, but tapered steadily to a point from the hilt like a dagger. The hilt featured a pistol grip, which, in allowing his fist to remain perpendicular to the blade, gave him an optimal range of motion and improved precision. The far side of the blade continued past the hilt and curved back in a hook, which made it useful in catching an enemy's blade and then overpowering them by pushing from a better angle. He'd named this type of blade a "Swift" for its speed and grace in combat. The notable difference between his new sword and his old one was that while his old sword was made of steel and seemed to shine with a rainbow of colors (courtesy of the magic Backer had used in crafting it), his new sword was made with crystalized Rainbow Shell covering a Denodorite body, affording the blade both strength and a sharp edge. Its appearance even more prismatic than his old sword; even in darkness, it emitted a rainbow of color.

Backer channeled a short burst of ice energy through his sword, gauging its receptiveness to his energy. It held the energy even better than his old sword. He shot of the energy into the mana layer. /Ice... *************--/

It provided a sharper mental image than before, and seemed to have a wider range. He continued with the other elements. /Fire... ***************--
Lightning... ***********--
Wind... ***************--
Light... ***********--
Shadow... *********--/

The response was just as good. But something in it concerned him. At the end of each response was an odd signature, consistent for each element. Relaxing his mind, and pulsing again returned the same feeling. It was an energy unlike any he'd felt before. It was far away, but powerful. Deciding it warranted investigation, he set out.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Aitrus on November 03, 2004, 08:45:52 pm
Chapter 22 - Encounter

Aias was lounging in his suite in the palace when a knock came at the door.  "Who's there?" he called out.

"Just me, brother," the reply came.

Aias stood up and started towards the door.  "Do come in, Cassandra."  The door creaked open, moving little upon its massive hinges but opening more than enough to let her in.

"Hello, Aias," she said.  "Do you have a minute to speak with me?"

She was only a year or so older than Aias, although that didn't make much difference now with lifespans being as long as they were.  She still seemed to glow with youth, even though there was little of youth left.  What she lacked in that she more than compensated for in charm and allure.  Being a member of the royal family didn't hurt, but she was an attractive woman in her own right, and could generally get what she wanted from men - and often did.  However, she rarely spoke without need, and when she spoke, people listened.  Aias guided her over to his lounge area.  As they sat down upon the couch there, he said, "Of course, Cassandra.  What's on your mind?"

She sighed and looked at her feet.  "Aias, there have been... rumors flying around.  About the Council."  Panic rose in the back of Aias' mind, but he fought it down to a dull throb and kept listening, calmly.  "People here around the palace have 'unofficially' known for a long time, of course, that the real power now lies with the Council.  However, there's a new rumor saying that someone has been stealing their secrets, many of them very sensitive documents.  Some even say that whoever is doing this may even start fighting against them openly."  She looked at him, but turned away from him just as quickly.  "Oh, Aias, please, tell me you're not involved.  Please."  He could hear her sniff, and saw her wipe tears from her eyes.

"Of course not," he lied.  "You know as well as I do that there's no possible way I could stand against the Council."  He moved closer to her and set his hands on her shoulders.  "I give you my word, Cassandra, I am not and will never be involved in this."  He moved around her and kneeled down in front of her, wiping a tear off her cheek as he did so.  "You know that I am a man of my word, and I could never break this oath to you."  She nodded, and the crying slowed.

"I... I'd better go," she said, and got to her feet.  "Thank you, brother.  That eased my mind."  She smiled and went back to the door, closing it behind her.

He sighed, and then lay down on the couch.  Lying to his sister always came hard, but it was something he had to do.  He couldn't afford to get her involved, as she was just too vulnerable.  At least she won't be worried about me anymore, he thought.  His mind wandered back towards the latest information he'd gotten out of the Council, and slowly drifted off to sleep.

He tossed and turned, sleeping fitfully.  That is, he was until he fell off of the couch and hit the floor.  "Mother!  Father!" he cried out.  Then he realized it had just been a dream.  The same dream.  Again.  He was starting to get tired of it, but didn't know what he could do other than what he was already doing.  There was no way he could hasten his plans against the Council, and that would be the only way he could see of stopping the dreams.  Why are dreams so complicated? he thought.  At least in real life, he knew that his enemies could be defeated, even if it was going to be a long, drawn-out process.  In a dream?  Even that certainty was gone.  But what could he do about it?  After all, it was a dream.  No one could get rid of a dream.

Or could they?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

As she closed the door behind her, Cassandra wiped the last of the tears from her eyes and smiled.  He'd never suspected a thing.  He may be smart, but he's as blind as a bat when it comes to subtlety, she thought.  But, she had to admit that he was a gentleman, and a man of his word.  She had no reason to believe that he had been lying, and nothing she'd been able to read off of him had said otherwise.  She sighed, and walked back towards her suites, mind eased somewhat from knowing her brother wasn't taking the dangerous path, the path against the Council.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Claado Shou on November 03, 2004, 09:44:50 pm
((OOC - This is the first post of my second character, Serian Rendath.))

Scene 23: What Comes Before Dawn

Year: 2313 A.D.
Place: (what remains of) The Zenan Mainland

He had come bearing nothing.  The voyage across the dark, magic-infected waters of the sea had led him to believe that even if he had brought an arsenal of weapons with him - which he feasibly could have - that in this new place, this land which none of his people had ever seen, they would do little good.  So he was pleased that his load was light, and he hoped that in a few days, when he returned to the small sailing vessel to go home, his load would be heavy and powerful.

His name was Serian.  He was a skilled hunter, 6'2", with a mostly human appearance.  From a distance, even, it was hard to tell the difference between him and everybody else.  But when you started to see the details, the separations - physical and otherwise - were very apparent.  

Serian's ears were laid back against his skull, as if they had been permanently pressed against his head.  His temples curved inwards, and his nose was narrower than any human's, though about the same length.  His arms and legs were covered with thin, ridged spines that extended no more than a centimeter or two from his body, allowing for better gripping on rough terrain, and his neck was very thick, though not disproportionately so.  The biggest difference, however, was the density of his muscle mass, which was, inch for inch, three times the weight and strength of normal human muscle.  Whereas a human of his size and stature would weigh a mere 150 pounds or so, Serian clocked in at 375.  

All of the extra weight was carried easily, however, by his toned and well-developed upper body strength, which allowed him to pull the fairly-large ship ashore, effectively beaching it.  He placed six knives in the six holders strapped to his waist, made sure that his armor - tough leather greaves and chestmail - was tightened around his body, and set off, step after step in the dark world, the shifting sand.


"We can't hold them off for long!  Our supplies are too thinly spread!"  Serian could hear the cry from far off down the stone hall, along with the sounds of gunfire, swords clashing, and Spawn screeching.

The battle had begun three days before, when the Lavos Spawns had somehow managed to form an offensive front on the slopes of Death Peak, numbering in the range of 50-60.  Serian and his Tyran family had effectively defeated the Spawn for many years, but never had to face such a seemingly-insurmountable number of the beasts.  It was simply too much to handle.

The Tyran weapons - artillery that utilized shells of dead Lavos Spawn to magically energize various rounds of heavy ammunition - worked well against the beasts, but with such a large number of the creatures, and such a short supply of ammunition, the weapons were lacking in the damage they could do.  The Tyrans had started to pull back when the Elder, the leader of all forces outside the mountain base, entered Serian's chambers.

"Serian, we need your help."

Serian turned from his bed, where he had been chained for disobeying a direct order.  The steel was stronger than even he, and the mountain's magical properties prevented him from snapping them out.  So he simply twisted his head and stared, both angry and eager.

"How may I serve you, Elder?"

"Our ammunition supply is running low, and there is simply not enough time or manpower to send out a search team in order to obtain more."  The Elder's nostrils, unusually large, flared.  "And since you are our absolute best field agent...I think it's safe to say that you're the person best suited for the job."

"Is that right?"

"We may have our differences, but you are our only option."

Serian turned as far around as he could, reliving the memory of his trial.  "I thought you deemed me unfit to proceed with service."

"That was before you became necessary."

"Then you know what this means, don't you Elder?"

"A pardon...and for good measure, immunity."

Serian smiled at this prospect.  

"You had a fair trial, Serian.  Don't hold it against me that seventeen other people found you guilty."

"I refused to kill one of our own under an order I deemed unnecessary."  Serian grimaced.  "Guilty or not, it was the right thing to do."

The Elder didn't answer.  He knocked on the wall, and two guards came in, both larger than Serian, but much slower.  They unlocked his chains and handed him a bag filled with accessories.

"Use them wisely," the Elder said, his head tilting upwards in summation.  "Because you're going into uncharted territory."


Which is where Serian found himself now, looking at an unfamiliar sky, a strange new horizon, and a freedom that could only be described as temporary.

Serian's direct orders: Secure by whatever means necessary no less than 5000 pounds of ammunitions-grade material within 72 hours, lest your immunity be revoked and your family's life be considered forfeit.  

That was his timeline.  He couldn't let his parents go through that, so he trekked forward, watching the sun, however slim its input on the atmosphere was, and hoping for a miracle.

It turned out that he didn't have to hope for very long.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Symmetry on November 04, 2004, 01:02:56 am
[OOC: Long scene. To those with short attention spans, I apologize]

Scene 24 - They Only Come Out at Night[/b]

They were crying out to her and she could not resist their call; Naomi tried to stop looking at the cushions her mother had delivered to her room, for she knew that if she tried to study while lying upon them, she would be just as ignorant seven hours later as she was now. The uncomfortable “torture device” – as Sessimine had called it – would have to suffice for the time being. Unfortunately, at the rate her studies were preceding, Naomi wasn’t going to be much better off come crunch time if she remained semi-awake. Frustrated with school – and life in general – the young woman did what she always did when she was frustrated; with lips clinched tightly, Naomi slammed the book she was currently reading (if staring mindlessly can be called reading) and swept it off the table.

Great. This is getting me nowhere, and failing tomorrow’s exam isn’t an option. Its not going to be pretty, but I’m going to have to ask mother for some help. The student glanced over at a clock on the wall. Six past midnight. Perhaps “not pretty” is an understatement. Waking mother up now is going to be downright ugly. Still, it beats the alternative; if I don’t pass this test, and for that matter the remaining tests this term, I’m going to have to repeat the course.

Slipping on her pink subfusc as she stepped out into the hall, Naomi made her way out to the quad and wandered through the paths that wove through the school’s garden, eventually arriving at the double doors that led to the Provostia’s chamber. Upon entering, the young woman turned around and walked up one of the two flights of stairs that curved around the entrance before rejoining at the second floor. Slightly winded, Naomi quietly made her way up another flight of stairs before arriving at the portal that led to her mother’s quarters. After taking a moment to catch her breath, Naomi closed her eyes and tapped gently on the bedroom door. Upon hearing no activity inside the room beyond, the student knocked once again, this time arousing her mother from sleep. With her ear upon the door, Naomi heard Sessimine grumble as she approached. Grr… Whoever this is better have a good reason for waking me up at this hour. Otherwise they’re going find themselves on butler or maid duty for an indefinite period of time!

As the door opened, Naomi took two steps back, only to find the elder Maruyama standing with her arms already crossed tightly and an icy look on her face that could have frozen a raging inferno. Fortunately for the young woman, the enchantress’ gaze warmed up a degree just above freezing as she realized just who had disturbed her slumber.

“Naomi…” Sessimine gently rubbed her eyes and glanced back at a clock. “… It’s a quarter past midnight. What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be resting up for your exam tomorrow?”

The student replied hesitantly. “Well, yes. I should be sleeping, but I’m trying to study for tomorrow’s test.”

“And I should be asleep as well, but I’m trying to figure out why you’ve woken me up. I assume you’ve got a few questions you want to ask me.”

Naomi nodded her head. Sighing to herself, Sessimine stepped aside and motioned for her daughter to enter, closing the door once the young woman was inside. Quickly making her way to a couch, the student sat down and seized the opportunity to stare in awe at her surroundings. The Provostia’s quarters – the only room in the School of Enchantment on the third floor – was a masterpiece of interior decoration outdone only by the rooms found in the Palace of Zeal, which possessed majesty that was simply impossible to duplicate elsewhere. Aside from the flowers that were strewn about the bedroom, other points of wonder included elegant portraits of the women (and one man!) who had overseen the college that hung on the walls, statues of Montlasalle and his angelic handmaidens, translucent veils that hung from the ceiling and were scattered about the room, and countless pieces of furniture that once had rested in the Palace but had been deemed ‘outdated’ by the royal family – but were still quite fashionable by aristocratic standards. In the middle of the room, four pillars resting on an elevated platform surrounded a bed – which resembled an ornately decorated papasan more than it did a frame and mattress – that had actually served as a throne in ages past. What Naomi found to be the most impressive aspect of the room, however, was not its furnishings, but rather a stained glass window on the ceiling directly above the bed. At the inhabitant’s desire, this window could either reflect or absorb light, the latter focusing it upon the bed in a gentle pink beam; furthermore, the floor of the bedroom was composed of the same crystal material, meaning that it too glowed faintly in unison. As impressive as all of this was, it blew Naomi’s mind to think that her mother’s quarters paled in comparison to the wonders of Zeal Palace. While the young woman was lost in thought, she failed to realize that Sessimine had laid back down on her bed.

“Well, do you plan on telling me what’s on your mind, or am I going to have to prod you until you do? I’m going to become less and less pleasant every minute you keep me awake, so do try and make this quick.” Sessimine curled up in bed, clutching a pillow tightly, not even bothering to face her daughter while talking – much less keep her eyes open.

Naomi set aside her awe and snapped back into reality. The elder Maruyama had a reputation for being particularly grouchy when she was tired – the one scenario in which her peerless grace and charm seemed nowhere to be found. “Er, yes. I have a question about shading.”

Shading? Don’t tell me you’re having problems with a simple concept as that. Have you even bothered to read your texts yet?”

“Mother, please. Just…”

“Don’t tell me what to do! You’re in my room, begging for my assistance, interrupting my sleep, and completely at my mercy!” The enchantress waved one of her hands frantically about in the air.

“Mother!” Naomi stressed the final syllable with an unusual harshness and continued with the intensity into her next sentence. “You’re not helping!”

A moment of silence ensued, interrupted after several minutes by a sigh and the rustling of covers and cushions as Sessimine rolled about in her bed. “Fine. Come here.”

“Er, wh-“ The young lady began to speak, but was quickly routed.

“Just come here. Don’t argue with me any further or else you’ll find yourself failing tomorrow’s exam in spectacular form!” As Naomi approached her mother, the elder Maruyama issued another command. “Since I’m taking the time to help you, you’re going to massage my back until I fall asleep – and so there’s no misunderstanding; the second your hands stop moving, my lips stop moving. Am I clear?”

“Lucidly clear.”

“Excellent. Now make sure you take your shoes off before climbing into bed. I don’t want you dirtying up my cushions, as they’re frustratingly hard to clean.”

Naomi slipped off her shoes, noticing Sessimine’s wooden clogs on the floor beside the bed as she climbed onto the crescent-shaped seat. Before crawling next to her mother, the student grabbed one of the sandals and inspected it confusingly. “How could you possibly find these comfortable?”

“Find what comfortable?”

Naomi failed to realize that her mother was already laying on her stomach.

“Your sandals. First of all, they’re made of wood; secondly, they’re quite tall; and finally, they’re arched at the heel. These must be painful to wear!”

Sessimine sighed. “You just don’t get it, do you?”

“Get what?”

“Of course they’re not comfortable – they’re not meant to be! They’re fashionable as fashionable gets. Now quit fooling around and start massaging, unless a failing mark has just suddenly become appealing to you.”

Rolling her eyes, Naomi laid down the piece of footwear and began to make her mother as comfortable as possible. As expected, it took several minutes for her to actually find the right spot, pressure, and rhythm, but Sessimine’s complaints quickly made it obvious what her mother did and didn’t like. Now it suddenly becomes clear to me why mother has never been married… I can’t imagine having to wake up in the middle of the night to someone like this! No amount of money, talent, personality, or beauty could ever make this kind of abuse tolerable!

“So – shading.”

“Yes, yes. Just keep massaging, I’m getting there. I don’t see why its so hard for you to understand.”

“Mother, please – don’t harass me any further. Just explain the basic principles already.”

“Very well. Let me start by asking you a question. When you want to alter a subject’s emotion – let’s say their fear of you, for example – what do you do?”

“Cast the appropriate charm spell?” Naomi’s response was hesitant, for the answer seemed too obvious to be the correct one.

“Correct. Now, when was the last time you noticed me actually cast a charm spell?”

The student pondered, careful not to get so lost in thought that she stopped massaging. “Now that I think about it, outside of a demonstration in class, never. I can’t recall you ever casting a charm.”

“Precisely – and this is an example of shading. You see, when you become as talented as I have, you’re so familiar with those spells that they become acts of will, rendering the incantation useless.” Sessimine propped up her head against one of her hands and pointed to her neck with the other. “Here, please. I’ve got a terrible kink in my neck.”

Naomi resisted the urge to strangle her mother. “I think I understand that much. I just don’t see why its necessary, or rather, what benefits there are to be gained by cutting out the incantation.”

“Which poses a greater threat – the thief you can see, or the thief lurking in the shadows?”

“I don’t follow.”

The elder Maruyama sighed again. “When you can see and hear someone casting a charm upon you, the source of your malady is clear. It is much easier to resist the charm when you know who is casting it and when it’s coming; however, if you can’t identify the source of your fear, your chances of resisting it plummet. By learning to shade her charms, the enchantress makes it infinitely more difficult for a subject to remain unaffected by them. Even if you knew that someone else wielded such power, the very fact that fear or affection suddenly swells up inside you is enough to throw your thoughts into disarray. Is that clear enough for you now?”

“Yes, I think so, but there’s something else I…“ The young lady was interrupted by a knock at the door.

“Who else would have the nerve to visit me at this hour? See to the door, Naomi.”

“But you said if I stopped…”

“I said see to the door!” Sessimine rolled over and sat up in bed as Naomi quickly scurried her way to the door, reached for the doorknob, and stopped to look back at her mother. I feel terrible for whoever is standing on the opposite side of this door… If mother is this grouchy towards me at this hour, I can’t image how she’d act to someone else!


“Mother! You’re hardly decent enough to be seeing someone else. Don’t you plan on putting on another nightgown or something?”

Sessimine rolled her eyes. “Why would I do that? I answered the door dressed like this when you knocked earlier.”

Naomi waved her hands about frantically. “But you’re my mother! Although slightly disturbing, its okay for me to see you like that… a guest is an entirely different situation!”

“Do you think I knew who it was disturbing me earlier? Invite whoever it is you’ve kept waiting in, already!”

With a sigh of frustration, the young woman opened the door, allowing a handsome man wearing a black subfusc with a golden insignia of the Mammon Machine on it to enter. Strangely enough, even in the soft pink light that filled the room, the man seemed to radiate colour of his own, the shiny grey of his hair and his pale skin just as visible as they would have been in normal daylight.

“Miss Maruyama?”

Both Naomi and Sessimine responded at the same time. “Yes?”

Quickly realizing that she was not the Maruyama being addressed, Naomi blushed and pointed to her mother. “Er, she’s the one you want.” Embarrassed, the young woman deftly made her way to a couch across the room and assumed her usual role as a wallflower. Nodding to Naomi ever so slightly, the man made his way towards Sessimine and bowed deeply upon reaching her bedside.

“You must pardon my interruption. I would have not aroused you from sleep at this hour had the matter I have ordered to discuss been a trivial one.”

“You mustn’t worry about waking me up, as another unexpected guest seems to have beaten you to the punch.” Any trace of frustration or grumpiness had vanished from Sessimine’s voice; where a grim face had been moments before, batting eyelashes and a smile now stood. “Anyhow, a representative of the Council is a welcome sight at any hour; you must pardon my for not being appropriately dressed! If you’ll excuse me…” The elder Maruyama climbed out of bed and strutted across the room to a dressing screen which depicted the gods and goddesses giving birth to the world, grabbing a black nightgown that lay on a chair beside it as she stepped behind the screen.

Naomi rolled her eyes and fumed. Oh wow. There’s a novel idea – get dressed! I wonder who graced her mind with that one; although I’m sure our definitions of “appropriate” vary. I swear, if she walks back out here wearing anything less, I’m going to scream. No, I take that back – I’ll bang my head against a wall, and then I’ll scream. Fortunately for everyone in the surrounding dormitory, the two Maruyamas’ definitions of appropriate were in harmony – if only for the moment. Sessimine appeared once more, smiling brightly as she tossed aside the lavender gown she wore moments earlier.

“Sorry for the wait. May I get you something to drink? A glass of wine? Perhaps something to smoke?” Without waiting for an answer, Sessimine walked poured two glasses of wine and removed her trusty cigarette holder from a drawer before making her way to where her guest was standing.

“Er… no thanks.”

“Are you sure… Mr.…?”

“Just call me Caro.”

“Very well, Caro it is.” The enchantress carried on, but not before tossing out a sugar-coated laugh. “I suppose this just leaves more wine for me, doesn’t it? Can’t let it go to waste. Now please, sit down.” Sessimine pointed to a divan situated right along a wall right next to a large mirror that appeared to be built into the side of the room. Before seating herself, the enchantress glanced amusedly at the two glasses of wine, downing one in a single sip and setting the empty chalice on an end table next to where the handsome guest was sitting. Naomi could hardly believe her eyes.

And she has the nerve to lecture me about social grace! What’s with mother acting all cheery all of sudden, anyway? Was it too much to ask for her to be pleasant to me, too? Gah! The young lady continued to fume, her angst running wild in her mind until she could take no more – she couldn’t take being in her mother’s presence a second longer. “Um, you two will have to excuse me, I need to step outside for a moment.”

Sessimine turned to her daughter with a concerned look on her face that only served to frustrate Naomi further. “Are you alright? Are you feeling ill?”

“No, no. I’m fine. I’ll be right back.” The young lady stood up and walked over to the centre of the mirror that composed a vast portion of the wall on which it was built into. As she waved her hand in front of it, the mirror began to shimmer as a pond does when a tiny pebble is tossed into it. The mirror continued to undulate, gradually distorting further and further until it convulsed in a final wave and vanished, revealing a balcony and the open air beyond. After crossing onto the other side and hearing a high-pitched whine, Naomi turned to see that the mirror had reformed, except that on her side, a similar-sized stained glass window now appeared to bar passage between her mother’s room and the patio. Thankful to be relieved of Sessimine’s presence once more, the student took a deep breath and leaned against one of the columns supporting the balcony’s roof, slowly sliding closer and closer to the ground until she was sitting against the marble floor comfortably. Without realizing it, Naomi’s thoughts and questions began to fade into the background of her mind and the young lady dozed off to sleep with tasks still waiting to be accomplished.


The next morning, Naomi was startled to find herself outside, lying on the ground with her hands pressed against her head in a very uncomfortable makeshift pillow. Tossing aside a blanket, the presence of which she did not take the time to consider, the young lady jumped to her feet in a panic, trying to remember just what she needed to finish before class began later in the afternoon. Naomi quickly walked over to the stain-glass window and pressed upon it with her hand, only to watch it penetrate the wall in the same manner a stone passes through the surface of a pond when tossed by a bored child. Hoping Sessimine had not yet left the comforts of her bedroom, the student rushed in uninvited.

“Mother? Mother, are you…?”

Naomi’s question was answered in the most unlikely way it could have been – although given the nature of her mother, she should have seen it coming. Failing to realize the student’s presence, Sessimine came dancing in from her bathroom, dressed only in a towel and belting out a chorus from a well-known Zealian opera. Quickly placing her hands over her mouth to suppress her laughter, Naomi hid behind one of the veils that hung from the ceiling as best she could, quietly observing Sessimine’s performance. Though it was quite an amusing scene, she had to admit – her mother was quiet talented; had Sessimine put serious effort into her singing, she could have easily soared to the top of the artistic world. After a few minutes of spying however, Naomi could remain silent no longer; just as her mother finished the melody, she burst forth into unrestrained laughter. Surprised to find a fan in her bedroom, Sessimine turned to her daughter with hands planted firmly on her hips and responded with a playful stare.

“Hmph! You’re not playing fair!”

In a rare instance of imitating her mother’s behaviour, Naomi responded in like kind, her own hands resting about her waist. “What?! You would have done the same to me! Its perfectly fair!”

“Is not! I would have given a much better performance had I known someone was watching! Still, you must admit – I’m quite the chanteuse, aren’t I?”

“Quite so.” Naomi quickly changed the subject while her mother was in a good mood. “What happened to your visitor that was here last night?”

The enchantress made her way behind her dressing screen and hung her towel over the top, muffling her voice ever so slightly. “What do you mean what happened? He went home, of course. You didn’t think I’d bed Mister Caro after meeting him once, did you?”


“Rhetorical question, dear.”

“My apologies. So what did you talk about, anyway?”

The only response the student received was the ruffling of Sessimine’s garments as she was dressing herself.


“Oh nothing. Just business. You know, things like interrogating criminals and other boring, trivial tasks that we enchantresses are so wonderful at. Now if you please – if you would be so kind – let’s keep this to ourselves, alright?”

“Er… okay. Why would I go telling anyone else about your work?”

“Why wouldn’t you? I’m so fascinating, I’m sure you must constantly be barraged by fans wanting to know what life as my daughter is like!”

Naomi rolled her eyes. “Sure, mother. All the time. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be returning to my dorm now. I still have some studying I need to do before this afternoon’s exam.”

“Study hard! I couldn’t bear to see my precious little girl fail her first class of higher arcane education!”

The young lady continued rolling her eyes as she stepped outside and closed her mother’s door. If you wouldn’t make your class so incredibly difficult, that wouldn’t be a problem now, would it? Sighing to herself, Naomi made her way back to her room without any further disturbance.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Radical_Dreamer on November 04, 2004, 04:04:47 pm
Chapter 25: Jailbreak!

The blue haired stranger regarded Argus carefully.

"You may use it, but if you can free me, you must free her as well" The man pointed to a woman in an opposing cell.

"Consider it done. But we must hurry."

The stranger took his pendant, and passed it through the food opening of his cell. Argus took it, and a moment later, the stranger's cage was opened. The stranger narrowed his gaze.

"Time is of the essence."

The stranger walked out of his imprisonment, and walked quickly to the opposing cell. Argus and the stranger stood before a young woman. She looked up sadly, and when her eyes focused on the stranger, they lit up.

"Gil!" she exclaimed as she came toward him. "How did you get out?"

"This man..." the man now identified as Gil said, as he gestured at Argus.

"The guards will be coming soon," Argus said as he freed not just the woman, but all the prisoners in the hall. "The other prisoners will provide us some cover, but if they are out of their cells for too long, the Nanashi will be called in."

"The who?" the woman asked, but Argus had already started walking down the hall quite quickly. Gil and the woman hurried to catch up with Argus. "Who are you, anyway?" she asked.

"My name is Argus. If you come with me, you can make it out of this prison." Before either Gil or the woman could question him, Argus had disappeared down a flight of stairs. They dashed to catch up with him.

Argus looked down the hall of the next floor. Another row of cells, but at the end, there were some guards. They seemed to be surrounding someone, but Argus couldn't tell who. He was jostled out of his thoughts by a ball of dark energy flying at the guards. He turned around quickly to see Gil standing behind him, eyes focused.

He knows Shadow magic?

The guards scattered as the ball of magic exploded out at their feet. Argus had seen that spell used before, but he had never seen what happened next. The spell started to expand in a half-sphere from where it landed, but as it approached the figure the guards were surrounding, it left a bubble of unaffected space around her. Argus didn't have much time to ponder this turn of events, as the guards soon got back up.

"A shadow mage? Call for the Nanashi!" one of the guards shouted. Another guard ran off through the stairs on the end of the hall opposite where Argus, Gil, and Gil's friend stood.

"Your magic is impressive, but it won't stop the Nanashi assassins." Gil looked at Argus, snorted, and cocked a brow upward. He then turned and fired another blast of dark magic at the guards, who fell, and this time, did not get back up. In their midst was a young girl, battered and weak, sitting on her hands and knees. Argus rushed up to her.

"Don't worry, miss: we're not here to hurt you, we're going to get you out of here."

"Why are you stopping??" Gil asked from over Argus' shoulder.

"There is something special about this girl. I've never seen Shadow magic leave anyone alone like that. I doubt that was your doing."

The girl looked up at Argus. "Help me."

Argus pulled her arm around his shoulder, and helped her to her feet. "Let's go, before the assassins arrive."

"Too late!" Gil's companion shouted. Argus looked at the far staircase, where three fearsome Nanashi were standing. Gil's brow lowered in tense concentration as he saw the familiar form of the stealthy, nameless characters before him, and then dark energy lashed at the assassins. When the smoke had cleared, the warriors had not moved. Gil's eyes went wide.

Argus gripped the Dreamstone, and his hands started to glow. He pulled his free arm up, and slashed it down. A wave of energy flared across the center of the room, partitioning it. Blood dripped from his hands. "That will only slow them down." Before he had even turned around, the Nanashi were casting spells on the partition, making it fade.

"I'll hold them off." Gil and Argus snapped their attention to Gil's companion.

"Flea...?" Gil started.

"No Gil, you have to follow this man. I forsaw this even before we came here...perhaps before that..." Flea, the woman, said to him. He looked at her momentarilly, seeing that all-too-familiar expression of unrelenting passion and devotion; destiny and a kind of sad fate; death. The Wind was forever with them both.  "GO!"

Gil nodded and turned to Argus and the girl.  Argus started for the staircase, stumbling slightly. The wall spell had been cast too hastily, even with the Dreamstone weakening his bonds. Gil rushed up to him, and briskly threw the girl's other arm across his shoulder.

"Come on," he barked at Argus, and the three of them started off down the hall, as quickly as they could. Gil only looked back over his shoulder once and saw an eerie pink light begin to pulse from Flea, lighting the corridor faintly then he returned his concentration to helping Argus carry the girl.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: V_Translanka on November 09, 2004, 08:33:54 am
[OOC: Okay, I know, it's fuggin long (over six pages...). I probably should have split it into two seperate parts, but couldn't find a proper place that I liked that seemed to work for me...If it really needs to be chopped down, I guess I could see what I can do...But whatever...Also, there's some of them 'naughty' words in it, un-edited...So cover your eyes kiddies, if you value your purest of souls!

Oh, also, Leebot, for your section with Backer regarding the Frozen Flame, you might want to pay attention to some of the details trailing around in the end regarding the monster, the location and the surroundings as well so our sections match up a bit. Also, damn me to hell if I got names wrong again.]

Chapter 26: The Stink of the Particulars

“Get yer ass in gear, Deschain!” The large, bloated man bellowed. The man wore a pair of ripped, brown coveralls-pale, blubbery gut exposed-and a matching cap with a strange logo on it: a gorilla carrying a wooden box. A mist of sweat glistened on the thick, hairy arms protruding from his rolled-up sleeves even though that fat man had yet to lift more than his voice, “Those damn crates aren’t gunna move themselfs!”

   The crates in question are four-foot squares, standing just above the fat man’s chest. No luck in the world could help him carry any of the damn crates on his own. Hunter Deschain was working on hauling the crates from the side of a wagon to the inside of the large storeroom, where they would be opened, counted and stocked either later in the day or some time during the following day. That part of it wasn’t his concern. He didn’t even care what was in the damn crates. A couple solidly built humans were working alongside him at half the pace; it took both of them to move a single box, where he could move one box easily. But, perhaps as to not cause friction between the humans and himself, he decided to slow his pace down a bit.

This resulted in the yelling by the boss-man, Gastro Hagen, a small, fat man and all-around hard ass. Hunter quickened his step again, sickened with himself for taking a job under Gastro “The Gasser” Hagen. The nickname was, unfortunately, not one of those ironic ones that means the exact opposite (as Hunter once knew this guy with a repulsive, hairy mole and a mountain range of puss-caked volcano zits everyone called “Ladies’ Man”); Gastro was simply a disgusting, fat bastard who would let one off, loud and proud, and with putrid fragrance, even in a church.

Hunter feels along the lines of wishing he were dead. As if the work weren’t degrading enough, he’s got to put up with Mister-Bullshit-Stank-Ass-Hagen. His last four jobs had to do with lifting, hauling, proletariat manual-labor. He can take it, sure, no problem there, but it’s not what he’s meant for. He’s a trained ass-kicking, monster-killing, treasure-hunting, alcohol-drinking, woman-fucking machine for Guardia’s sake! He should be out there assassinating something, or tracking something down, or finding someone’s lost something-or-other. Those things he was really good at and he had fun doing those things.

But he had hope! Yes! He remembered that he had taken down a flyer and stuffed it into his back pocket. It said:

$$ Need Help For Hyre $$$
Some One to Fynd a Theef!
Cum to Winston Street at the Straubs’
For Particulars

Yes, he had found it quite hilarious at first seeing the scrawled letters of the message. How did they manage ‘particulars’? He thought and stuffed it into his back pocket. If it had been later in the day, and his drink was on, he probably would have laughed, quite a bit more sophomorically, at their spelling ‘cum’.

Hunter Deschain was a demi-human by birth (there were few other kinds really); luckily for him, he had been born in an age of gathering acceptance for Mystics & those crazy in-between demi-humans. No one went out of their way to welcome him into their homes or anything, but it really wasn’t that kind of world even for humans. So, he understood that going into a mainly human town or neighborhood, he’d likely get some stares (probably not much name-calling, but he’s heard a fare-share in his time, especially being the proficient barfly that he is). He’s a tall, furry man with claws and fangs, he gets that, he can be intimidating pretty easily (hell, even without trying sometimes), and he gets that too. Part of him is still just a kid sometimes, trying to have as much fun as possible and letting go of (if not breaking through) as many barriers (racial or otherwise) in his way as he can.

Even with his mostly positive outlook on life, hard times have hit. More than others...? Possibly, but it’s not like he’s been counting, nor did he really wish to think back on any of those times in his life when living wasn’t so easy. Things got better and that’s what matters to him. It wasn’t an easy ride, and it certainly ain’t over, but he was definitely flying high right then and there, even under that gaseous ball of slime’s yelling orders.

The one good thing about the hauling job for Gorilla Grunt-Work (The Gasser’s absurd delivery & hauling company) was that it provided its workers with a shower afterwards if they wanted. Having a light coating of fur (brown stripes on yellow) covering most of his body, Hunter leapt at the opportunity to wash off the filth of the morning’s work. It had been a cool, overcast morning, but if you combine that with the exertion-and monotony-of dragging boxes back and forth under the rays of the sun, Hunter became a mess of disarrayed hair and stinky, grimy crooks and crannies.

He soon found out the bad thing; not only was the shower room a hodgepodge combination plastic drape and what looked to be a garden hose, there was no hot water either. In fact, all the water there was seemed to be sub-zero, as if the rest of the hose (it circled off unseen somewhere into the warehouse) was submerged in a bucket of ice. The hair and fur all pricked up on end and his tail spiked out quick as greased lightning.

After working past the ordeal of his bone-chilling clean-up, he began to get dressed and ready to leave that hell-hole which he dubbed Gorilla Hagen’s Fart-Work Factory. He put on his heavy-duty worker’s pants, his open-chest padded vest (both inlaid with mesh), and his open-fingered black gloves. He picked up his hatchet and stuck the handle’s wooden grip through the belt-loop on the left-hand side of his pants. The knife-which resembled a hand-made (and well crafted) buck knife-was waiting sheathed and tied around the opposing belt-loop. Then he squeezed out a few remaining drops of wetness from his long, wild blonde hair, combed his claws through it straight back a few times, and tied his tightly folded black bandanna around his forehead to keep the hair out of his eyes. Finally he stomped his ankle-high boots on and brushed off a little of the caked-on grit from their well-worn sides.

After collecting his pay (a mediocre handful of Gold), Hunter was off to find the Straubs’, on Winston Street.

Truffles...!” The man shouted, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

“Uh…Truffles...?” Hunter asked.

“Yeah, y’know, they’re, like, mushrooms.” The man settled back onto his wooden cane and eyed Hunter suspiciously. The old man didn’t care that he was a demi-human very much, but what bugged him was how gorshdarn young the whippersnapper looked. In truth, Hunter was just shy over twenty-four, but he could easily pass for eighteen or nineteen. Either way was possibly young enough for the man to think him green on many subjects, and now especially that of truffles.

“Yeah, I know what truffles are...”

“Shore yuh do. Then get to it demi-human!” The man said, “A thousand gold to ya if you find the rotten thief who stold my truffles!”

Whoa, a thousand gold? Hunter thought, but said only, “No problem Mr. Straub, I’ll get your thief.”

“Goodaya to do so...” The man-Mister Straub-said with a brow cranked down, “The remaining truffles are in the thicket of the forest to the east.”

On that note, Hunter Deschain left the smelly little-but well furnished-shack of a house that Mr. Straub, himself an old man at the ripe age of sixty-seven, shared with his decaying elderly mother, whose wandering glass eye gave Hunter the ever-loving-goddamn-fucking creeps.

Still shaking off the remaining vestige of old Madam Straub and her one, dull, milky, fixed eye and her other, wandering, reflective, glass eye, Hunter entered the drab forest he found that stretched east from one side of Straub’s field. It was a very peculiar forest; the air about it was nearer that of a swamp. It smelled of wet decay. Best place for mushrooms, I guess. Hunter thought. It seemed as though it was his day for bad smells. First ‘The Gasser’ and now this place, which smells about as bad as I imagine Gastro’s mattress does.

“Naw, I’m giving him way too much credit. This place is much more pleasant smelling than anything Gastro’s touched with his ass.” Hunter said to himself. But damn if I wish I could shower after this job too! He thought.

“Are you talking to yourself again, Hunter?” A woman’s voice suddenly came from out of the-literal-woodwork followed by a brisk, forcibly feminine laugh.

Before he could see the voice’s owner he responds, “Oh no, no way in hell…You’ve gotta be kiddin’ me.”

Out stepped a vision of lustliness with an arm wrapped languidly around a spear. She stood atop the mossy trunk of a fallen tree.

“Long time no see lover-boy.” The woman said to him.

“What are you talking about Millster?” Hunter asked, knowing that that nickname was one of the only things he had that could irritate her, “I just saw you yesterday.”

The woman’s pleasant face turned to the littlest of scowls at the nickname (she was actually getting used to it, like it was his pet-name for her) before returning to that sly smile she had, “Oh, but every moment we spend apart is an eternity of agony!”

If it were anyone else, Hunter probably would have told them to quit playing around, but since it wasn’t just someone joking (as he so desperately wished) and he knew that it was only part of her kidding, rather than just part of her being dead-on serious to the core, he said, “You’re nuts.”

   The woman stuck her wet, cherry-colored tongue out at him in an oddly charming, childish way.

   “And how did you even find me, Amy?” He asked as he crossed his arms over his chest.

   “Easy, I saw you nab that want ad earlier this morn.” She said, “So I came out ahead of you, I personally can’t stand that nasty Gasser-Man, don’t know how you do it, and waited for a while.”

   “You’ve been waiting here this whole time? And you weren’t just out to get the thousand gold yourself?” Hunter asked with his bushy eyebrow raised.

   “A thousand gold...?” Amy almost dropped her spear and toppled over the side of the tree, which was over half her height. She saved herself at the last moment by jabbing the spike blade of the spear into the sodden earth for balance and then she stepped down completely from the trunk of the tree, “That cully old...he told me it was six-fifty.”

   Hunter suppressed a hankering outburst of laughter; irritating her by calling her Millster (or sometimes even Millster the Molester behind her back on really vicious drunkard days), rather than Millian, her last name, was a far separate matter from outright laughing in her face. The girl was deadly accurate with most throwing weapons, from chakras & boomerangs to various ninja stars and darts. Hunter really feared that one day he would push her over the edge and she would excel from just throwing the random stick or one of her ball-bearings (she had a cannon for an arm and those little spheres of metal hurt like hell) to one of her knives.

   “Oh, when will the sexist elite finally fall?” She said aloud to no one.

   “Okay, you’ve been here longer than I have, so where are the damn things?”

   “The truffles...? I dunno...I’ve just been waiting for your sweetie-pie.” She said; a set of modest dimples that had never faded through her teens shown on her face.

   “Oh, what the hell...?” He asked and then began to tromp through the muggy forest.

   The two of them had been going though the humid forest for twenty minutes, trying to find Straub’s priceless truffles to no avail. They came across two plants and had a quick argument about whether they were truffles or just some random plant. After one of the things opened its bulbous mouth and tried to take a bite out of them, they decided that it wasn’t a truffle at all. Amy hacked away at its stem by throwing a few stars at it, but afterward decided she didn’t want to risk retrieving them. The plant-thing was somehow more hideous when it was dead; it seemed to wheeze and some lime-green, sticky-looking fluid spewed from its mouth. Its companion made soft, mewing noises and lowered its bulb-like lips to the end of the stem in an oddly human-like expression of affection. They both left the scene quietly, wishing they hadn’t killed the thing after all.

   Amy Millian was the type of person who was always loaded for bore. She normally wore low-cut V neck crimson shirts, with dark red matching pants that tucked into her knee-high black leather boots. On top of all that was a near inexhaustible amount of weaponry. Two rings of throwing knives circled both of her upper legs with more were tucked into the top of her boots. One boomerang was set at the side of each of her hips. An assortment of ninja stars adorned the forearm of her left elbow-length glove and her right held darts and smaller throwing blades. Her three special chakras were stacked behind her left shoulder, just under where her pack of goodies normally rested. Said pack typically held more of the same (extra knives, stars, darts and one or two boomerangs & chakras), smelting tools (used on various metals to help create her vast horde of disposable weaponry), various trinkets and prizes she had won via trade, as pay, accuracy contests (she won nearly every title there was for it), and, of course, through theft.

   It was a sad fact that Amy was forced into thievery. It was sadder that she normally did so in the dark of night, right under the noses of casual, one-night lovers. This, of course, ended up tainting an already dotty reputation; tales of her promiscuity with not only men, but various women, and her apparent demi-human fetish traveled the countryside with her (in some cases ahead of her!). She was a thief because she was a harlot and she was a harlot because she was a thief.

It was that odd catch-22 that prevented her from acquiring any steady kind of work, and that’s how she liked it for the most part. She was free from such locative restrictions in her profession. She was part of a select, dying group of individuals who fancied themselves “Adventurers”. Hunter, had he a bigger head-or perhaps simply a few swigs of whatever hometown moonshine was handy-would even go so far as to call himself an “Adventurer” without hesitation. In essence it was what they were on a regular basis, but Hunter was no fool-even when he wasn’t sober. He knew the rules of society, the etiquette, and the sheer propensity of all the norms; he just didn’t like them very much.

They were both very free spirited; other words might be undisciplined, unruly and just plain wild. Even Amy had been called much worse things in her life, irregardless of the fact that she was a full-blood human, not a demi-human, like Hunter. But none of these things bothered either of them. When the going got rough, the freaks got going. Such was their crazy carnival life. Take the ticket, ride the ride. That was a common credo among the passing “Adventurers”, the scallywags & swashbucklers, the gonzo freaks of nature doing the best they could to stay alive and to enjoy it at the same time; people who tested the waters by diving in headfirst and who crossed the line until it was no more than another invisible mark on the horizon. Another important doctrine: There are worse things in the world than dying.

That wasn’t to say that an “Adventurer” went haphazardly into the throngs of death, but that one proceeded, prepared for death, knowing that the world held oddities of heart & mind and body & soul that would pierce one so much more than the simplicity of that ever perplexing, complexity of death. For what was death but an end, whether to a new beginning or not? Life was a prolonged wait to that end and with it, suffering and pain, unless one was to actually live. That was the main philosophy of the “Adventurer”.

How the hell did I ever wind up here, of all places, doing this, of all things? Hunter thought as they continued. There he was, on some kind of mercenary mission, which very well may turn out to be no more than a fetch quest-he had experienced his own fair share of those-in a murky little forest on a dull little island in the middle of nowhere. The sun was more or less blotted out by the sweeping canopy of trees and billowing clouds in the west looked like future rain. And they continued, on and on as it were, “I don’t think we’ll ever find the damn things...”

“Hold it.” Amy replied, “I’ve been noticing some strange tracks.”

“Tracks...? I haven’t seen any...” And then Hunter saw them, sparse and in long, irregular intervals. He would have noticed them sooner had they been as pronounced as they were as he saw them then, but they weren’t, they were very faint to begin with, the closer to the edge of the damp forest, “What the...what do you think they are?”

“Looks big...demi-human big...” She said, bending down to more carefully examine one of the prints in the mucky ground, “You see this space here at the front?” She pointed to a little V gap, “Looks like hooves. I figure there’s two of the bastards, some kind of pig demi-humans.”

“Two? Why two?” Hunter asked.

“Well, for one, there’s two distinct sets of tracks, one slightly ahead of the other. They’re big mothers too, bigger than you even.”

“Doesn’t that just beat all?” Hunter said his familiar line. He had long forgotten where he had heard it, only that it was another demi-human and he decided the saying applied to much of his own life as a demi-human.

“Live like pigs, die like pigs.” Amy said. Such little quips were about as poetic as she got, “We’ll make short work of ‘em.”

They began to work their way into the dankness of the trees and shrub. They never found out, until much later, when their attention would be focused elsewhere, that the truffles were far behind them; somewhere near the place Hunter had entered the forest.

Then they heard the first roar; it was like a cross between a dying man’s death-moan and a tyrannosaurus’ scream. It was close and as more of them came, they realized it was getting closer. It was coming from the direction the tracks led. They continued on awkward, cautious, scared, at either edge of the path, with weapons drawn; Hunter had his hatchet in his left and his big knife in his right & Amy struck her spear into the earth and drew a fan of small throwing knives between her left fingers and another of stars betwixt her left. Hunter reversed his grip on his knife as another bellowing cry emerged from the forest, so close they could hear it coming more from the center of their heads than from their ears. Amy readied herself by crossing her arms in preparation for a throw.

“What...” Hunter started. He saw a single emerald leaf of one of the trees ahead of him drift down to the ground below. Trees trembled and shook and a great pounding vibration filled the forest. Shimmering blue and green birds squawked and flew outward, away from the approaching force. Mice swarmed around Hunter and Amy’s feet along with a few other small mammals: squirrels, rats, and even one startled fox. The pounding became a thunderous roar that was only outmatched by the frequent bursts of that dinosaur shriek. Hunter tightened and loosened his grip on his weapons, which were looking and feeling more and more obsolete by the minute. Amy’s fan of weapons shuddered, the blades making an uneasy twanging sound that made Hunter’s stomach tense and sickly.

A crash came from directly in front of them and a tree smashed down three feet to Hunter’s left. Then the monster finally entered their field of vision. It wasn’t, of course, two demi-humans, wasn’t any kind of demi-human. It rolled up like a locomotive, just as big and puffing some kind of gray smoke from the nostrils of its pig-snout. A deep, guttural sound could be heard coming from deep within and the giant boar’s breath came out in a great blow that threatened to blow Hunter off his feet. But that was far from the worst of it; that aspect was saved for the stench of it. The exhale, the odor of it, was as if it were decaying from the inside out. Its elephant-size tusks stuck out of the front of its face like spears. The boar’s bulging bloodshot eyes were each as big as Hunter’s head and they swirled and caught sight of him and the hulking thing turned towards Hunter.

“Ames?” Hunter said, his voice wavering slightly, “Little backup here maybe?” He looked over and saw Amy’s spear, still struck in the earth and now slightly wobbling as if she had bumped against it, but she was nowhere to be seen, “Well doesn’t that beat-”

Sparks of light came from out of the thicket of trees and hit the mutant boar. Amy’s small throwing knives did very little against the thick hide of the pig-thing. Three of the knives actually rebounded off of it and the two that managed to punch through its skin only managed an inch or two in and eventually popped out, leaving little, mocking beads of deep crimson blood at the puncture points. The boar barely noticed, didn’t even turn to the direction the knives came from. Instead, the boar bore down a steady, hateful gaze upon the thunderstruck Hunter, still standing there with his little toothpick blade held up and reverse-gripped. Then it stamped its front feet and scratched one of its rear legs back a few times in preparation for the charge.

More sparkling flashes of metal sprang forth from the forest. The ninja stars had better luck; they buzzing into the skin of the pig-thing’s rear leg and it let out a wince of pain. More followed; digging and disappearing into the side, the softer underbelly, and one or two scraped and bounced off its skull. One of the head-shots sawed off most of the boar’s eyebrow, leaving a big flap hanging down into its bloodied red eye. It roared in outrage more than pain and turned to the side of the forest where the tiny pieces of metal were being thrown from. Hunter could just make Amy out on the larger branches of a nearby tree. She was getting more stars from her arm, regretting leaving behind not only her spear, Hunter saw, but also her reserve pack.

“Alright kiddo, it’s time to send you off to the meat-packing factory.” Hunter said, just under his breath, “This is my axe, Ex, and my blade, Calibur. Welcome to the killing zone.” Of course, such absurd outward banter was far more dramatic when he practiced in a drunken fog, but he still managed a few of these even at times when completely sober, to his own regret. He just couldn’t help himself; being an “Adventurer” means also to be part kid in a way, “Here we go!”

Red light flared into his hatchet and the light trailed around the side of his body as well, making his outer edge seem to glow. The giant, mutie, boar, piggy-thingy was busy trying-and coming very close-to knocking down the tree Amy was in. The entire tree shook; Amy grabbed hold of the trunk and screamed in pain as the stars cut up her hand in several places. She threw those still in her hand down to the boar and quickly hopped to another tree.

“Get ready for...” Hunter paused for a second with the glowing hatchet cocked back in his left hand. Why am I telling it to get ready? It’s not like I actually want it to be ready for my attack...Then he shook his thoughts away and concentrated on his special technique, “Eat this you pig fuck!” Amazingly, the boar turned its head in his direction. Hunter stood there, legs planted, right hand, still clutching his knife, thrust in the thing’s direction, the fore and pinky fingers of the hand pointed at the monstrosity in the form of the evil eye, “Turbo Red Death Ex!”

The light coming from not only the axe’s blade, not even just the entirety of the axe itself, but actually appearing to surge from Hunter’s hand, emblazoned the small section of forest in a brilliant, red fury. No flames were visible, but waves of heat, undulating like the sea, enveloped the area of Hunter’s arm and his hatchet, making it difficult to look at without an overpowering flood of queasiness taking over your stomach. Then he threw the axe and it spun through the air like an electric saw, cutting through the stuffiness of the jungle-like forest; burning through it, singing it and creating a mixed taste to the entire area like stomach acid and melting plastic. It pierced the eye of the massive semi-truck of a freak pig and bucketfuls of milky white fluid ran down its face. The hilt stuck out of the wound like a mock kabob.

The boar reared up on its hind legs and its hooves came down on the earth in a shattering crash, accented by the hurt & angry screech of the mammoth animal. It shook the ground and the trees, making Hunter stumble. Amy rained down the few remaining stars along with numerous curses about her cut hand. One of them-the stars, not the curses-ricocheted off of another that was lodged into the boar’s skull, causing it to sink deeper, piercing the bone and sending an alarming shock through the monster via its brain. It squealed out a vicious noise unlike either of them had ever heard from any sort of animal, turned and dashed off the way it had come, occasionally bashing into a tree blocking its way, but always maintaining its path.

After a brief moment, Amy slid down the trunk of a tree, holding her injured hand close and cursing a bit more.

“How is it?” Hunter asked in a rare show of concern, indicating her hand.

“It’s okay, I guess.” Amy said, obviously suppressing some stored-up rage as she sifted through her pack and procured a lengthy swathe of black cloth that she wrapped tightly around her hand like a layer of boxer’s tape. She bit off the end and jammed the remaining piece back into her bag. It had been her right, dormant, hand and she cursed the pig again for the trouble it caused her as she plucked the spear from the ground and hunted for any stray blades or stars she could find.

“What are you doing? We’ve gotta go after that thing.” Hunter said.

“Oh, c’mon Hunter...” She said in a lecturing voice, “With the way that thing was stumbling and bleeding out of here? It’d be a miracle if we couldn’t find its trail five hours from now. Plus, these things don’t just grow on trees, ya know?” Amy said as she picked up on of her small throwing knives and shook it in Hunter’s direction.

After five minutes of waiting on her, Hunter made to go on without her. In truth he wouldn’t have for several reasons: he didn’t think he could handle the beast alone, especially now down to just his knife, her weapons seemed to do pretty well against it, and because he just didn’t want to leave here out there alone. Finally Amy decided she’d never get them all and rushed to catch up with him.

“Oh yeah, before I forget...” She started after they had walked through the path of the boar for a couple minutes. Hunter turned his head to her, giving his best ‘what now?’ expression, “What was with that technique? Turbo Death Ex, was it? Is that the newest incarnation?”

“Turbo Red Death Ex...” Hunter corrected, sullen with the pretentious quality his voice took on, “And yes, it is...I just haven’t figured out the right name for the damn thing.”

“How many names have you gone through now? Easily a dozen, right?”

“Oh please, don’t be so dramatic Amy.” He quickly tacked them all off on his fingers as they went on, “There was the first, Raging Fury Strike, which I later found was the name of someone else’s technique. Then I changed it to Fiery Death Launch. After that I named it The Flaming Axe, which actually turned out to be some obscure pub over somewhere in Zenan. Then it was Flame Toss, Hell’s Fury, & Fire Zone which turned out to be techniques of a girl, a miniature little monster-thing, and some little known triple technique respectively. Then it went through Red Death, Turbo Red Ex, and Fire Axe Destruct-O. Yeah, there, you see, including the new one, Turbo Red Death Ex, that’s only ten.”

“Oh yes, how completely insulting my suggestion of a dozen was...I apologize.” Amy said, nodding her head in teasing agreement of her statement. Hunter gave her a disdainful look.

They came into a thicker section of forest and the ground became rockier, the air somewhat more pleasant, crisper, “What’s that over there?” Hunter asked, pointing to a large piling of rocky terrain. As they got closer, they noticed it was a large hole leading downward into the earth.

“Looks big enough to fit our little piggy,” Amy said and they slid down the curved slope that led down into the depths. Hunter raised his knife and focused until it glowed red and provided a little light on the walls of the cavern. It was an odd place, like an ancient, buried hall. A blood-streak trailed off into the darkness. The damp, dankness of the place was very different from the topside; it was like a grimy old basement. ...Or a coffin. Amy thought with a shudder.

“My god, it smells like piss-shit-ass-fart in here.” Hunter said, holding onto his nose, “I mean, holy-hell, does it just come here to take tremendous craps or something?”

“That’s probably one way to put it.” Amy pointed to a rather large lump of dark matter off to a corner, “But now it’s come here to die...and that probably will make it smell even worse.”

“Yeah, really...” Hunter started, looking around: left & right and up & down, “Whoa...Wh-what’s this?”

Hunter was looking at an odd arrangement of symbols on a large slab of wall off to their right. The strangeness of them was startling. You couldn’t see the whole thing in one glance and when your eyes went back to a place you had just been looking at, it seemed somehow different. It had a scatterbrain effect.

“Weird...” Amy said after turning away and shaking off a dizzy-spell, “What do you think it means?”

“I-I don’t know.” Hunter said truthfully, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

It was a warning.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Claado Shou on November 15, 2004, 10:19:14 am
Scene 27 - Swinging at a Tempest

Year: 2313 A.D.
Place: The Zenan Mainland

A deep rumbling from in the distance set Serian's body on alert.  He had been looking, trudging about in search of life, some sort of human or semi-human intelligence...and judging from the sound of the screeching nearby, he had found it.

"They are here as well," Serian muttered.  "The Spawn have come here as well."

He knew what this meant, of course...avoid the enemy at all costs.  He had learned well enough from years of battling the creatures that the only effective way of shattering their advantage was to use heavy weapons, which he didn't have with him at the moment.  Nobody had ever survived a direct encounter with one...human or otherwise.

He didn't feel like trying to challenge that conclusion.

So turning in a new direction, he continued walking...hoping, upon all other hopes, that he would somehow complete his mission before it was too late.


"Serian!  Serian, a message from the High Commander!"

Serian was ducked against a block of stone, trying to outlast a long-distance magical assault from the Spawn atop Death Peak.  They had slowly eaten away at the defensive perimeter surrounding the mountain, but the main structures still held strong...which was the way that Serian wanted to keep it.


The warrior and captain grabbed the message, watching with his peripheral vision as several hundred of his troops stood ready to kill or be killed.  He opened the scroll, and read it silently, as if a tome from God himself.

To Serian, Captain of the Mobile Division of Defense,
From the High Commander of Tyran Warfare,

it is with great pride and humility that I congratulate you on a job well-done thus far, keeping our defensive outpost intact much longer than anyone had ever thought possible.  You are a shining example of what every Tyran soldier should be.

But there is a mission now at hand that only your skills may accurately accomplish.  

One of our best soldiers has found it in his own best interest to abandon the front lines and join with the enemy, in hopes of prolonging his own miserable life.  The Spawn are intelligent beings...should this warrior be able to give them the secrets of our base and our weaponry, then there will be no chance of us ever holding the base of the mountain, let alone defeating this wretched enemy.

Your orders are to intercept the traitor on his way up the mountain, and dispose of him with extreme prejudice.  Failure to do this will result in trial and/or death.  You have 72 hours.

Serian was not disturbed by this at all.  He had been ordered to kill people fact, over 50% of his missions prior to becoming Captain had been assassinations.  He relished the opportunity to do it once again.

But then, looking at the bottom of the scroll, Serian saw one final scribble...

The traitor's name is Darius Rendath.  He is your brother.

...and Serian dropped the order to the ground.


Peering at the mountain ahead, he knew what he had to do...just as he had many times before.  But this time, it was different.  He had the chance to save his family from pain and suffering.  He had the chance to do some good, instead of execute somebody he deemed undeserving.  

So he walked forward, with a constant gaze behind him, keeping one on his eyes set firmly on the path he had come by...both physically and metaphorically.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: ZeaLitY on November 15, 2004, 05:55:10 pm
[OOC: Written while listening to the Radical Dreamers song 'Epilogue.']

Scene 28 - Far Promise ~ Dream Shore

Far away from the bustle of the main continents, on an isle solely devoted to relaxation – naught seen by the busy sorcerers who relished in the social glory of Zeal, or the countless scientists who sped at an unnerving pace toward some unknown end – a beautiful girl sat, content and wishful on an evening cloudy and cool. The shifting breezes brought hints of rain, never relinquishing their secret mists openly, while the moon illuminated the clouds from high a deep crimson, which vaguely reflected on the verdant grasses that covered each enchanted inch of the Zealian landscapes. These silver winds dispersed around her, cradling her every strand of hair, and uplifting her spirit by caressing her skin, awash in the soft, sleek, sparkling dewy drops yielded from the nightly drizzle. A magical night of repose, she felt distanced from the busy world that sought to imprison her – free to rub her cheek against the eternal sky, whose infinity she understood so closely, yet was powerless to grasp and become.

The stars recognized her wistful feelings, deepened by sorrowful tones, and the rain began to make a marked presence on the land, immersing the darkened greenery in sweet bathing, accentuated by the silvery lunar auras which filtered above. At once, she recognized the eterne in this scene, and, even as the rain began to wet her hair and sculpt her to an imperfect form – though more beautiful than the perfection the beauticians on the continent dreamt of – she withdrew a writing utensil from within her robe, and a small tablet. Her blue eyes reflecting the descent of the airy showers, she began to write, and did not cease until her composition was complete. She then read what had been excruciatingly teemed from her passionate, yet muted mind, for writing poetry was especially difficult when grasped from true inspiration –

Drops of cold rain etch and fall on my face,
The glowing moon long shrouded by crimson
Clouds of darkling mist, descending nightly;
The cool breeze pushes me in weary grace,
As I, with eyes closed, continue to run –
Dash, not controlling my own destiny,
As the crying blue drizzle falls knightly –
Arrayed in black glory; in twilight glace,
Surrounding, in chilling sheets arisen,
My cry for him – his bright visage sightly –
For the coal of my heart cannot be drenched;
Nor as the azure torrents sadly storm,
I cannot bow to rain, and be entrenched –
For I am there, deep within his bosom.

As one releases a dove into the wild blue to soar evermore, her eyes closed, releasing her tired psyche into a world of dreams by her own creation, the physical world, with its rainy touches, assisting her journey into the magnificent, dashing, unknown beyond, on viewless wings. In fact, the man she was pining for, and had no more thought but to be with until the end of time – he was not upon the Zealian continents, nor in the heavens, as some enchantresses desired to yield themselves to Montlasalle – no, he did not exist; he was merely the future – what was to be, if her dream was to be realized. He was the shining man who with she would achieve perfect union; though imperfect, their striving, understanding, and unquenchable love would elevate them to a celestial plane of happiness and dreaming. But she had not met him yet, and was now, more than ever, engaged in the tossing and tumbling of the hurried, heartless world around her, which sought to employ her as a cog in its gargantuan machinery. She could only passively resist, and, being dragged from her vagaries and hopes, turn upwards to the sky, and with a dear glance, let it know that she had not given up yet.

She turned, and departed the cliff, holding her hand to her heart, wishing that the coming sleep would carry her to peaceful and loving demesnes.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Leebot on November 16, 2004, 08:56:05 pm
Scene 29 – The Seeker

The Isle of Eden, El Nido Archipelago
1021 A.D.

The cave reeked of an unnatural smell. Smells of blood, excrements, and other natural, organic functions were tinged with something Backer couldn’t readily identify, but which felt similar to the energy source he had been tracking. He wouldn’t let the smell bother him, however; for him, it was a trivial matter to mentally block an unpleasant sensation.

Ahead, the cave narrowed somewhat. On the wall to his right was what appeared to be runic writing inscribed on the wall. He identified it as a Draconian message, imbued with their standard, frustrating charm. This charm prevented the reader from seeing any more than a couple of letters at a time. The letters were the same wherever one looked, but changed with time as the message went through its cycle. It forced the reader to take their time and wait—patience was a great virtue among the Draconians.

Backer wasn’t fully versed in Draconian, but he knew enough to translate a few of the words that appeared: “…Careful…Flame…Back…Transformation…Burn.”

/El Nido lore recalled: “Be very careful when you stare into the flame...For the flame will also stare back at you... It will either transform you into a different being... Or burn you into ashes.”

Probability of match: 97.6%/

What lay beyond definitely bore investigation, but demanded caution. Noticing that the cave darkened ahead as it stretched away from the opening, Backer removed and pocketed his sunglasses while opening up a conduit of light energy to provide constant illumination.

A pulse revealed no creatures further in, but the presence of a large, fire-aligned creature outside along with the strange signal emanating from deeper inside the cave. He proceeded into the cave, being sure to keep track of the creature outside.


Anomaly: 27m ±0.5m, +0.10 mark -0.02 ±0.02, estimated size: <.5m
Fire Creature: 12m ±1.5m, -3.03 mark +0.05 ±0.05, estimated size: 1m X 1m X 3m

Anomaly 26m ±0.5m, +0.09 mark -0.02 ±0.02, relative velocity: 1m/s
Fire Creature: 9m ±1.5m, -3.10 mark +0.04 ±0.04, relative velocity: 3m/s

Anomaly 25m ±0.5m, +0.07 mark -0.01 ±0.02, relative velocity: 1m/s
Fire Creature: 6m ±1.5m, +3.04 mark +0.02 ±0.03, relative velocity: 3m/s

Anomaly 23m ±0.5m, +0.01 mark -0.01 ±0.02, relative velocity: 2m/s
Fire Creature: 4m ±1.5m, +2.99 mark +0.01 ±0.02, relative velocity: 2m/s

Critical proximity; danger imminent!/

Backer spun around to see what appeared to be a giant boar barrel into the cavern.

/Assessing creature’s status:

Visible wounds: Axe imbedded in left eye. Three shurikens imbedded in hide; one of which appears to pierce the skull.

Demeanor: Enraged.

Conclusion: Creature appears to have just engaged in combat with others. It likely fled when wounded. Given its enraged state, conflict is inevitable.

With its good eye, the boar caught sight of Backer. It let out a ferocious roar and reared to charge. /Initiating advanced combat protocols./

Backer jumped and rolled off to his left to avoid the boar’s charge. As he jumped back up, he quickly drew and slashed his Swift at the boar’s rear leg. The slash met with resistance and failed to deal significant damage. Meanwhile, the boar’s momentum sent it crashing into the wall, blasting chunks of rock outwards. /Enemy’s parameters measured. Strength: 734%; Speed: 72%; Dexterity: 23%. Current parameters: Strength: 231%; Speed: 175%; Dexterity: 411%/

As the boar was recovering, Backer turned to face it and channeled ice energy into his blade. As the energy reached its capacity, he shot out an icicle at the boar’s flank. It penetrated to a short depth before melting away, but it didn’t seem to faze the boar. /Enemy weaknesses analyzed. Known weaknesses: Low accuracy and skill. One eye already damaged; damage to other eye will blind it. Possible weakness to ice energy./

As the boar turned towards him, Backer recharged his blade. His second icicle drove into the boar’s right eye, effectively blinding it. Nevertheless, the boar launched into a second charge in his general direction. Backer easily dodged it, and started channeling ice energy in a beam focused on the boar.

/Constant channeling protocols initiated. Mode: Ice./

/Conduits opening throughout body. Output focused through left hand./
A beam of ice shot out from his hand, nailing the boar to the wall. The irises of Backer’s eyes changed from their usual rainbow of colors to a bright blue.

/Conduits aligning with ice energy./ As the beam intensified, Backer’s skin tone turned a pale blue. The boar fell to the ground, too weak to remain standing.

/Maximum output attained. Harnessing ambient energy./ A pale, blue aura surrounded Backer, and his beam widened to match its width. Within moments, he cut off the flow to avoid overwhelming himself with the energy. The boar wasn’t nearly as lucky; it had frozen solid, covered in a large ice crystal. Exhausted, he sat on a nearby ledge to rest and recover his energy. /Advanced combat protocols disengaged./

A few minutes later, he sensed a pair of humanoids entering the cave, one fire-aligned, one shadow-aligned. As they turned the corner into his cavern, a male voice exclaimed, “Whoa! Doesn’t that just beat all! What do you s’pose happened to it?”

“It attacked,” Backer said, stepping into their line of sight. “I defended myself. It was rather simple to defeat.”

The two others, startled, jumped into defensive stances, but Backer held out his hands to show that he meant no harm. “Who are you?” the male demanded. He was a demi-human who looked like a cross between a human and a tiger.

“You can call me Backer,” he replied. “I take it you’re the ones who engaged this boar outside?”

“That’s us,” the woman replied. She was lithe and attractive, with flame-red hair and matching clothing. Her right hand was wrapped in bandages—likely the result of their encounter with the boar. “We came to finish the job, but it looks like you not only beat us to it, but prepared it for cold storage.”

“Perhaps I was a bit overzealous,” Backer replied. “but there’s no point in taking unwarranted risks. I suppose you’ll be wanting your weapons back.” Backer approached the frozen boar and started channeling fire energy. “Why don’t you tell me who you are?”

“Amy Millian,” the woman said, finally relaxing her guard. She looked Backer up and down, seeming to undress him with her eyes. Her gaze caught temporarily on his eyes, noticing their array of colors, and she quirked a smile. “The stiff here’s Hunter Deschain. We’re adventurers. What about you?”

“I’m sometimes called ‘The Seeker,’” Backer replied. A quick burst of flames defrosted the boar. “Where adventurers journey aimlessly for the sake of the journey, I journey aimlessly for the sake of the destination. I just don’t know what I’ll find.”

“What are you seeking?” Amy asked him.

“What else? Purpose, meaning.” He yanked the axe out of the boar’s eye, and grabbed the shurikens he could see. “Acceptance wouldn’t hurt, either.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Hunter finally spoke up.

“A place to call home,” Backer said, handing the axe back to Hunter, who grumbled his thanks. “Right now, I’m tracing down an odd energy source I detected from this island.”

“Detected?” Hunter queried.

“I may not look like it, but I’m a demi-human, too,” Backer replied, handing the shurikens to Amy. “You may have noticed you can see me perfectly despite the absence of light in this cavern. Additionally, you’ll notice that my eyes are multi-colored. Both are side-effects of my affinity for elemental energy. I can channel it…” At this, he manifested a ball of fire in his hand, then rotated it to spheres of light, shadow, ice, lightning, and finally released it in a blast of wind. “I can also sense it. I sensed an odd type of energy, corresponding to none of the elements, coming from this cave.”

“You think this has anything to do with that freaky writing out front?” Hunter asked him, finally relaxing slightly.

“That’s Draconian script. It mentions ‘Danger’ and an ‘Artifact,’ so I’m betting it does,” Backer explained. “I’m heading onward, you can come if you want; it’s not far away, now.”

“What do you say, Millster?” Hunter asked his partner. “Intrigued?”

“You bet.”

“Just one thing,” Backer said, motioning to Amy. “Let me see that hand.” When she cautiously held out her hand to him, Backer channeled a burst of life energy into it, healing its wound.

Backer led the way deeper into the cave, providing illumination for the trio. Before long, they reached an opening into a large cavern. At the center of the cavern was an altar, holding the source of the energy signature. It looked like a statue of a flame, frozen in place. Backer realized what it had to be: the legendary Frozen Flame.

He felt it calling to him, and took a step forward. His companions left his mind as it told him of all the power it could grant him. /This doesn’t seem right; primary thought stream is becoming erratic./

It could give him the power to bring order to the world… /No./

He could exact justice on those who had shunned him… /No. Initiating logical override.

Incoming data: The Frozen Flame will grant you whatever you desire most.

Request: What is the purpose of the Frozen Flame?

Response: The Frozen Flame grants people the power to fulfill their wishes.

Request: Why does the Frozen Flame do this?

Response: The Frozen Flame will grant you whatever you desire most.

Request: I desire information. Tell me the truth of the Frozen Flame’s purpose.

Response: The Frozen Flame grants people power in order to add chaos to the world.

Request: Why does it do this?

Response: Increased chaos provides increase variation. Increased variation allows Lavos to harvest more varied data.

Overtone wave detected. Signal is being hacked by outside entity. Entity identified: LEGACY. Incoming data…/

Backer’s mind was assaulted with overwhelming amounts of information. A normal human would have been rendered brain-dead, but Backer’s superhuman mind was able to survive by immediately shunting the data to the deeper recesses of his memory. Nevertheless, he was subjected to a fierce migraine.

/Supplementary data received: Purpose awaits at the End of Time.

Request: How do I reach the End of Time?

Instructions received./

Backer felt a new power coursing through his body. The energy emitted by the Frozen Flame was absorbed into his body as his senses opened up to this new element.

/Element null successfully harnessed. Executing element cycle./

Elemental energy cycled through his Swift in turn, ending with the new, “null,” element. His perception expanded beyond the three spatial dimensions, and he plunged his Swift into the fabric of space-time. He slashed through it, rending a hole in space. A void opened up, sucking him, Hunter, and Amy to the space-time coordinates of least resistance: The End of Time.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Symmetry on November 16, 2004, 11:45:19 pm
Scene 30 - Another Unexpected Meeting.[/b]

Sessimine enjoyed making life difficult for her students. The way she saw it, an enchantress had to be mentally resilient to stress as possible; to successfully control the minds of others, one first had to be in control of her own mind. Of course, there was a nasty paradox to be found in this philosophy, one the instructor was quite aware of. As an enchantress became increasingly proficient with her charms, she would eventually reach a point where began to lose control over them. It was a well-kept secret within the higher echelons of the field that incredibly talented students of the art actually had to work harder at charm suppression than they did at manipulation; only a select few – a group of enchantresses with greater power than Sessimine’s – ever regained full control over themselves.

At the moment, the instructor was amusing herself by closely observing a student who still had a considerable amount of an exam to complete with only but a few minutes left on the clock. Without making physical contact with the student, there was little Sessimine could have done to be more obnoxious; at the moment, she was lying on the table where the student was working, one hand pressed firmly against her cheek, the other rapidly tapping the desk. Her gaze was fixated not on the student’s exam, but rather on the learner’s eyes; ever so often, their eyes would meet, but Sessimine won the stare-down every time. Needless to say, the student was somewhat relieved when the bell marking the end of the period finally rang.

“What a shame! Looks as if you didn’t manage to complete the exam on time.” Reaching for the paper on which the young woman was still writing, Sessimine plucked it from the student and began grading it on the spot. “Oh no! This is not good at all! Why, you barely managed to complete half the test!”

The student turned around to see how many others shared her fate; two other young men sitting toward the back remained in the classroom, both still staring mindlessly at the Provostia - completely enamoured - and neither realizing that the bell had rung moments earlier.

“Let’s see… Well, you got the question about shading right; unfortunately you missed virtually all of the questions relating to Kobayashi’s Principle. Of course, given that you barely answered half of the material, there’s no way you can earn a passing mark, is there?”

“Apparently not.” The student looked back at the two men once more. “Are you planning on letting those two go?”

Sessimine continued to look over the test. “Not really. Unless they’re particularly handsome – no, unless they’re beautiful, I don’t care for men attending my school. They’re almost always subpar students, so I have little regret in speeding along their acquisition of failing marks; besides, the school of summoning has long practiced similar discriminatory methods of weeding out women from their ranks. I might keep them around for demonstration purposes, but don’t expect to see either of them make anything of themselves – except fools.”

The student snickered, attracting the instructor’s scrutiny once more.

“Well, any last requests for mercy? Rumour has it that I’m more than willing to let students perform chores and maid service for awhile in exchange for a passing grade. You never know… You just might end up passing this exam after all – in exchange for a day’s worth of servitude, of course!”

“I’ll fail and save my dignity, thank you very much.”

Sessimine grinned from ear to ear. “Excellent! Excellent, excellent, excellent! I was hoping you’d hold out! Never let anyone rob you of your pride! No respectable enchantress would never demean herself by groveling for the mercy of another – save royalty, of course.”

The student was somewhat taken back by the Provostia’s outburst. “I was being tested this whole time, wasn’t I?”

“I was clouding your thoughts from the very moment you walked in the room two hours ago! You seemed unwaveringly confident; I couldn’t let such heart go unchecked. I must admit however, for awhile I thought you weren’t going to pull through! Now hurry along and enjoy your weekend. I must attend to my daily routine of holding office hours.” Giving her star student a quick hug as she exited, Sessimine collected her things and was about to turn off the classroom lights when she realized the two young men were still staring fixatedly at her. With a smirk on her face, the instructor tossed the pile of books she was holding into the air and clapped her hands twice, dimming the lights and employing the students’ aid in a single motion.

I knew there was a reason I chose this field all those years ago! Tickled with herself, the enchantress walked out of the room and closed the door behind her, leaving the two students to collect her belongings in the dark.


My oh my, am I tired! I hope no one’s waiting outside my door for tutoring. Hopefully they’ll be busy enjoying their weekend already. Surely no one from my introductory class will be there due to the test, but that obnoxious child from Theory of Illusion always shows up when I least want to see her… I swear, if she does, I’m find something for her to clean! Today is not the day to stress Sessimine any further! The enchantress held her breath as she turned the final corner leading to her office; thankfully, the usual cluster of students waiting outside was pleasantly absent.

Fabulous! If I’m lucky, I just might be able to catch up on my sleep… This is going to be such a busy weekend; the ball tomorrow evening complicated my rather uneventful schedule quite nicely. They really should announce these sort of things further in advance! Why, I was looking forward to sleeping this weekend away in my bed at Enhasa… Sessimine continued to play the role of a drama queen as she entered her office and shut the door behind her, failing to realize the presence of the visitor waiting behind her desk even as she sat in his lap.

…And honestly! I didn’t even have the time to purchase a new dress! How terrible! I’m sure I could find something I haven’t worn before in my wardrobe, but still… Had I known ahead of time about this little social event, I could have had something new woven for me! Why, I could have been the talk of the town given ample time to prepare myself! Of course, that’s why they never tell me until the last minute… It’s that no-good Chihari’s doing! She always wants to be the star of the show and she’s the one who arranges… Her train of thought suddenly coming to a halt, Sessimine picked up one of the books lying on her desk. Strange… I don’t remember leaving my diary out like this for all to see; in fact, I specifically remember placing in back in my desk when I finished writing in it just before class… And dear me, this chair is incredibly uncomfortable! I don’t ever remember it being so… well, unaccommodating! Before the enchantress had the chance to turn around and discover the source of her confusion, the visitor finally made his presence known by means of a reserved cough. Startled, Sessimine jumped out of her seat and onto her desk.

“Prince Aias! Oh my! I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t even realize you were here!”

The prince rubbed his temples. “No, no. I was so busy reading through some of your books here that I didn’t notice you enter. The clicking of your heels caught my attention just as you approached the desk, but before I could say something I suddenly felt a strange aura come over me. My thoughts scattered and my mind went completely blank… I’m assuming you had something to do with this, but what exactly happened, I’m not quite sure.”

Sessimine took a few more deep breaths, her hand resting over her heart. “Okay. I think I can pull myself together now. Forgive me, Prince Aias, I seem to have let my mind wander. I’m becoming a regular Madame Idane!”

Aias arched a brow. “What do you mean?”

“Well, we enchantresses manipulate the minds of others with our own, right?”

“That’s my understanding.”

“Yes, well, this becomes so second-nature to us that we often fail to realize that we’re doing anything out of the ordinary. Occasionally, an enchantress will start daydreaming or get lost in her own thoughts and start imposing her feelings upon those around her. There was a famous enchantress ages ago by the name of Masumi Idane who was notoriously bad for her absent-mindedness. She was a brilliant woman and made a number of notable contributions to the field, but she her daydreaming became so frequent that she had to resign her position as Provostia of the school of enchantment. Anyway, I must have transposed my own state of mind onto you without realizing it.” Sessimine giggled to herself and stood up momentarily to adjust her dress before sitting back down upon her desk. “You’ll have to forgive me for saying this, but you make for a terrible cushion! Now what exactly where you doing in my office, anyway?”

Aias grinned. “Waiting for you to come back?”

“A charming response.” The enchantress glanced down at the diary on her desk. “I see you were also making good use of your time by reading through my personal thoughts. Even though I suppose they’re yours to read through as you please, being the prince and all, I’d appreciate it if you’d refrain from such invasions of my privacy.”

“My apologies. If it provides any consolation, rest assured that I would never violate your privacy without good reason.”

“Oh really? And might I ask what your good reason is?”

The prince stood to his feet and began pacing about the room; for the first time, Sessimine realized exactly why Aias had been talked badly about behind his back. The heir to the throne, besides lacking arcane talent, was not a physically imposing man, either; in fact, with her clogs on, the enchantress was nearly as tall as he was. At face value, there was nothing particularly noteworthy about the man, save his royal birth. Still, there was something about Aias – something she couldn’t put her finger on – that just wasn’t right; being the woman of curiosity she was, Sessimine had to find out just what this was.

“Well? Have you nothing to say?”

Aias stopped in front of a life-sized statue of Montlasalle. “Do you really think you’ll be reborn a goddess when you die?”

“Of course I will! My dearest told me so. Its not that hard to believe, is it? I won’t be the only one, either – I just happen to be Montlasalle’s favourite. Now are you going to answer my question or not?”

“Very well. If I’m going to be sharing my dreams with someone, I want to make sure she’s trustworthy. My visions are very personal and I do not desire them to be public knowledge.”

Sessimine extended her hand and examined her nails, her back still facing the prince. “Fair enough. So have I earned your confidence?”
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Aitrus on November 17, 2004, 12:20:06 am
Chapter 31 - Revelations in the night

Aias gazed at the woman, regarding her for a moment before making a reply.  “Not yet, Provostia,” came Aias’ reply.  “Not just yet.”  He stood and leaned against the desk where Sessimine was sitting, sighing as he did so.  “Tell me, what do you know of the Council?”

“The Council?” she replied.  “What does that have to do with you and I?”

He smiled at her condescendingly.  “Just humor me for a moment, if you please.”

“Well,” she started, “not much.  After all, they keep everything about themselves a secret.  All that anyone knows about them is that they exist, and are continually buying up resources and hiring everyone they can lay their hands on, or impressing them into servitude depending on the rumor you hear.”  She sighed, and looked at Aias.  “I normally don’t spread gossip,” she lied, “but there’s a rumor going around the higher circles of the major universities that the Council is mostly interested in Temporal magic.  However, everyone over at the School of Temporal Magic claims to know nothing about that.  But you know how far you can trust those wackos over at Temporal.”  She snorted at the very idea.

Aias smiled.  “Not very far, exactly,” he replied.  He looked at her, noted the impatience in her eyes, and grinned.  “As for you, however, I also know exactly how far to trust you.”

She smiled back.  “And how far would that be, your highness?”

He sighed and stood up, walking around the desk, heading for the couches in the raised mezzanine just past the doorway.  The window, with its mountain of pillows, was not much farther away, but this wasn’t that kind of a visit.  “You remember the dream I came in to talk with you about a few days ago?” he called over his shoulder to her.

“Of course,” she said, sliding off of the desk and following him.  “It was one of those dreams that’s hard to forget.”

“Tell me about it,” he muttered under his breath.  Sitting down on a couch facing Sessimine as she approached from the desk, he continued “Anyway, those shadows we saw at the end of it, did anything seem familiar about them?”

She frowned in concentration for a moment as she lay upon the couch he was facing.  “No,” she said distantly, still trying to think about them.  “Nothing at all.  I could tell that it obviously meant something to you, or at least your unconscious mind, but I wasn’t inclined to press the matter, as you obviously weren’t willing to talk about it.”

He sighed and looked at her.  “The reason I didn’t tell you anything wasn’t so much that I wasn’t willing to talk about it.  On the contrary, sometimes I wish I could tell someone everything that’s going on.”  He hung his head slightly, staring down at the floor instead of at her.  “But I can’t divulge all that is going on, because much of it I don’t even know.”  He stopped, trying to gather the piecemeal thoughts rattling through his brain.

She walked over and sat down beside him, putting a hand on his shoulder.  “It’s alright, highness,” she said soothingly.  “Just say what you wish to say.”

He almost laughed.  “No, it’s not what you think,” he said.  “I’m alright, I’m simply trying to figure out how much of what I know I can tell you.”

She balked.  Obviously, she wasn’t used to people keeping secrets from her.  “If you were any other man…” she started.

“Yes, I know.  You’d get all the information out of me just with a thought.”  He smiled at her.  “However, I doubt you would get much from me if you did try.  I may not be able to use magic, but I do know how to keep anyone out of my mind if I want.  There are still places in the world where non-magical techniques are remembered, though few now care to remember where.”

She scowled at him.  “However,” he said, trying to head off the storm that he saw brewing in her face, “that’s not what I came here to say.  I do want to share some of this with you, as I can tell you are trustworthy.”  Her face softened somewhat, but not by much.  “The Council, as you could probably guess, is a very secretive organization.  They don’t let anyone find out anything about them, not even their immediate lieutenants.  The only people that know anything about the Council’s activity are the Council members themselves.  All five of them.”

Recognition flashed across her face as she caught the connection.  “Five.  The same number of shadows as in your dream.”  She looked at him in disbelief.  “You can’t be…”  She trailed off, not wanting to say it.

“In discreet ways, only,” Aias reassured her.  “I oppose them, but can take no action against them.  After all, the Council is literally the most powerful organization in all of Zeal.  No one, literally no one, can oppose them.”

“Not even the royal family?” she asked.

“Not even us.  The Council effectively runs the show now.  They tell my parents what they need done and they do it.  I don’t know exactly what they do or how they got this power, but it’s there and it’s real.”  He fell silent, not wanting to say anything else.

She just looked at him for a moment.  “Dearest Montlasalle, help us.  To live in a day and age when the King’s power has been usurped by people who don’t even exist to the vast majority of us…”  She looked back up at him in pity.  “It’s simply unthinkable.”  Slowly she turned away, when a thought flashed across her face.  “Wait, how do you get your information out?  If they’re as secretive as you say, how can you know anything about them?”

“I have my sources inside the organization,” he said.  “I get the information out and piece it together from my end.”

“Someone may have been compromised,” she said, a faraway look in her eyes.  “Someone came by here a few nights ago, a representative from the Council.  He was asking me about different methods of interrogating prisoners using enchantments, about how effective each method would be.  They said that they had captured an enemy of the crown, but he was proving tough to crack, asked if I would come and help.”  She looked at him, sincerity in her eyes.  “If I had known, I wouldn’t have been so cooperative—”

“But that would have tipped them off immediately,” he interrupted, “and tipped them off to the wrong person.  Even knowing what you now know, the best thing you could have done was exactly what you did.  I have fail-safes in place to ensure that, even if one of my operatives goes down, it won’t take me or the rest of them down as well.  No one knows me by name, none of them have even seen me, so nothing can be traced to me.  And none of the operatives even know that there are others like them, so one operative being caught won’t even scratch the rest of the group.”  

He looked her dead in the eye, to make sure she got what he was trying to say.  “Now, I don’t want you doing anything out of the ordinary,” he said.  “I didn’t tell you all this so you could become my partner, or so you would start working for me.  Sea of Zurvan, I don’t even tell this much to my operatives.”  He scooted a little closer to her.  “I told you all this because, if I didn’t tell someone soon, I was going to fall to pieces, and you were the only person I thought I could trust with this.  Do you understand?”  She nodded, a little overwhelmed at all of it, something she obviously wasn’t used to expressing.  “I’m sorry I had to tell you this, but like I said, you’re the only one I could trust.  The palace is bugged, my sisters hardly ever leave, and my parents are too close to the Council for my taste.”  Sessimine balked in distaste at that, but he shook his head.  “They don’t like the Council, either, but they’ve been coerced into working for them.  If a Council representative should walk in as we were talking about this, it would mean death for both of us, even though we’re royal.  The same applies to my sisters.  But you, you've already been entrusted with many secrets by virtue of your position, and you’ve proven both your trustworthiness and your loyalty to the royal family.”  He smiled.  “Plus it’s not so bad coming back to see you, either.”

She smiled at that, and perked up somewhat.  “Of course,” she said as if he had just stated one of the fundamental laws of magic.  “What else would you expect from a master enchantress?”

“Nothing else but what you did,” he replied.  He smiled at her and stood.  “Thank you for listening, Sessimine.  If you ever need me, simply call upon me and I shall be there.”  

“Thank you, your highness,” she said as she bowed.  “I shall ever be here to serve you.”  

He nodded, motioned for her to rise.  He was about to turn and walk out when he stopped.  “Actually, Provostia, there may be something you can do for me.”

“Name it, highness,” she said.

“About a week from now, there will be a ball held in the Palace, in celebration of my younger sister’s birthday.”  He smiled at her.  “I currently have a gift for her, but I have no one to take to the ball.  And, of course, it would be unseemly for the Crown Prince and Heir to the Throne of Zeal to appear without a companion.”  She could hear the capital letters as he said his title, but was that a hint of sarcasm she heard in there, as well?  “Would you care to join me for the ball?”

“Certainly, your highness.”  She curtsied, playing the role of love interest instead of servant.  “It would be my honor to accompany you to the ball.”

“And it would be my pleasure to have you there.”  He smiled at her again.  “I shall send someone by with the details tomorrow,” he said after noticing the darkness now looming outside.  “Until then, I guess.  Good night.”  He turned and walked out the door, feeling better than he had in a long time.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Claado Shou on November 17, 2004, 11:17:10 am
((OOC - This is the introduction piece for my third character, whose name, location, and characteristics I'd rather not divulge for some time.  But at least you can hear what he's about to say.))

Scene 32 - Intercepted

Year: Unknown
Place: Unknown

It had been a long time - the longest time he could ever remember, even stretching back into the days before the Apocalypse - that he had stayed in one place, let alone a place of such cramped, and yet so spacious, design.  It was one thing to be placed in a was quite another to be trapped within a place you never had the urge to leave.

His name was of no significance now.  His place of birth, date of birth, and all other information pertaining to his distinct identity - erased.  He remembered them, of course...who wouldn't remember their own past?  But he was the only one.  All of his friends, all of his comrades, those of his blood and heritage...a side-effect of his doom was his total enclosure from the outside world.  That meant his life, forgotten.

There was no worse fate than being forgotten - and, he thought, I have suffered many fates.

Looking at the red walls of his home, he recalled a day when Zeal was still a center of prosperity and forgiveness.  He remembered a world of pleasure and commerce, where trade was as commonplace as fresh air and black magic had not yet been conceived.  It was all for the bettering of the society as a whole - an undrugged utopia, a conglomerate of peoples realizing that if they strayed from the path of goodness, they would fall to ruin.

One person failed to realize that, however...and it was pretty obvious, in hindsight, that she had never endeavored to be forgiving, only prosperous.  And she did become that way...ensuring her own death and the death of all her people.

But there was one thing that the Queen would never steal, never destroy - me, he thought, his fingers shuffling over a ream of papers, each sheet filled with the scribbles of his life, lest he forgot as well.  I am invincible in this place, he realized, a smile growing on his face.  I will be remembered.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Claado Shou on November 29, 2004, 05:20:39 pm
((OOC - I know I just posted something, but since we'd all like to get this thing truly started...well, here goes (again).))

Scene 33 - The First of Many Final Encounters

Year: 2313 A.D.
Place: The Zenan Mainland

Serian could sense the unnatural movement even as he was walking.  The thunder around him was deafening, the lightning blinding, and the rain painful, but he knew the sound of a Lavos Spawn when he heard it.

Ironically, Serian had just found a stockpile of metal only a few moments earlier.  In a dome-like structure a half-mile or so from the base of the tallest mountain in sight, there was nearly 10 tons of the precious substance, of the purest grade he had ever encountered.  He had attached 5000 pounds of it (the minimum necessary) to a thick harness that he then tied to his back, and began pulling the incredibly troublesome load across the storm-stricken sands towards his boat, and then onward towards home.  

But he was only a few minutes into his journey when he felt the trembling in his feet, then travelling to his arms, and his head, as his neck instinctively twisted towards the cause of the vibrations.  In the distance, several hundred feet away, sat a Lavos of incredible size, a well-nourished specimen, sitting atop a bed of jagged spikes, its flame-covered tentacles (grown in the third stage of development) preventing its fall.

And only a short distance from Serian, a ball of fire and light, massive and bright, pounded through the torrential wind in a path straight at him, burning the raindrops that crossed it.  

Serian quickly unharnessed himself from the load and dived out of the way as the blast hit the ground, throwing metal shards everywhere.  Serian backflipped away from the explosion (and the dangerous debris falling nearby) and took a defensive position, finding his bearings quickly, spotting the creature once again.

A second and a third blast had already been launched from afar, and Serian ran as fast as his densely-muscled legs could carry him, which was just fast enough to outrun the energy bullets.  A human might have clocked the warrior at speeds of 55 or 60 miles per hour, but to Serian, it was all part of the hunt.

Leaping high over the fourth attack, Serian reached into his leg-strap full of knives, grabbing one of the larger blades and tossing it at breakneck speed towards the creature.  The Spawn barely had time to recognize the danger and deflect the weapon with his fiery extremities before it would have hit him dead in the face.

Landing hard on the ground, Serian could tell by the black aura lifting from his foe, now only thirty feet away (but twenty feet above him), that the attack had enraged the creature.  He could almost feel the anger lifting from the Spawn, the energy building exponentially.

"This is gonna get ugly," Serian muttered, kneeling in preparation of running, and holding a thick metal knife in the hand behind his back.

From atop the spiky peak, the Lavos Spaw erupted in flame, his tentacles extending to the sides, lunging, each a rushing spine of fire, that pierced the ground around Serian.

As the tentacles plowed into the sand, Serian ran quickly along the base of the mountain, his feet barely outperforming the rapidly-oncoming arms, each of which came up again and continued to dive at him, hoping for a kill.

As Serian nimbly dodged each powerful thrust, he leaped from platform to platform, nearing the position of the Spawn.  As he came within range, he did a twist in the air to avoid seven different tentacles, and threw his knife at the unprotected beast.

The blade struck and stuck into the Spawn, forcing it to screech loudly, and its tentacles to writhe.  Fiery blood began to spurt from its face, and drenched the stone, eating at it like an acid.

Serian landed on his feet just in front of the Spawn, who looked at him for a fraction of a moment in what appeared to be pain.  This temporary image made Serian falter, and the Spawn, sensing opportunity, blasted him with an energy bolt that ripped at his armor and threw him into the air.

The many tentacles immediately began to dive at Serian again, and he tried his hardest to deflect them, but as one struck and injured his arm, another wrapped around his waist, and a third hit him in the chest, weakening him.  

It was in that moment, bleeding and wheezing, staring at his soon-to-be killer, that Serian realized that he would never see his parents, or his brother, ever again.  And as he looked to the Spawn, he saw a bolt of electricity and shadow gather in its mouth, tentacles aching for meat to tear apart, and closed his eyes for the final blow.

It was also in that moment that a miracle happened.

((OOC - My last pre-EoT post, coming (very) soon!))
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Leebot on December 06, 2004, 01:55:28 pm
[OOC: I haven't received any complaints in the WIP thread, so I'm going ahead and posting this.]

Scene 34 – Echoes

The End of Time

/Stabilization: 34.5%
Optical input restored.
Optical input connected to visual stream 1.
Testing vision…
Possible error: Optical input resolves no recognized pattern; chaos: 100%
Diagnosing optical input…
No errors found.
Analysis: Chaos is ambient.

As coherence returned to Backer, he replayed the events leading to his current state of affairs. His consciousness had been persuaded—or perhaps overridden, he couldn’t be sure—by an entity which identified itself as LEGACY. It had connected with his mind and transmitted vast amounts of information to it, so much that his subconscious was still sorting it out. It had then told him a purpose awaited him at the End of Time, then guided him on a set of actions which sent him there, apparently through tearing a hole in space-time.

Prior to that, he had been in contact with the artifact known as the Frozen Flame. It had tried to tempt him with power, but a logical override had saved him. Once he had the situation in control, LEGACY had connected with him.

Even earlier, he was searching through the cave, with two others, Hunter Deschain and Amy Millian. But, what had happened to them? Backer replayed his vision up through his arrival in the End of Time. As he fell into the rift, he noticed two figures falling towards him from nearer to the Frozen Flame. They had most likely fallen in after him.

He looked around, but saw nothing distinct from the chaos that seemed to characterize this place. He sent out a pulse to see if that avenue yielded any results. /Fire… ------^^`’*’`##---/

Interesting results. There was a lot of interference, but he could sense something coming from one, definite direction. He knew he hadn’t seen anything in any direction previously, but when he looked again, he could see quite clearly a structure floating in the distance. It was too distant to resolve many details, but it appeared to be oblong, tilted 20° off its axis.

/Applicable information found in LEGACY data.

Location type QC:
Certain dimensional locations lack normal physical parameters. Apparent physical parameters of such locations can be shaped by sufficiently powerful and ordered minds. Those without sufficient mental ability will perceive the environment created by another, if such is present. Otherwise, they will perceive only chaos./

That seemed to be consistent with what he was observing. He decided to test this hypothesis.

/Hallway, leading from here to the structure ahead, with door connecting to it./

A drab hallway formed around him, leading up to the structure.

/Gravity and atmosphere, standard./

Backer fell to the floor of the hallway as the environment returned to what he perceived as normal. He started walking towards the structure, but then decided to see if exactly how malleable the space there was.

/Shorten hallway to 2 meters, with same destinations./

The hallway obeyed, and two more steps took him to the plain, wooden door that had been created at the end. As he was about to open the door, he felt a surge of null energy from beyond. It passed in a few moments, and he proceeded to open the door.

The door led to a small staircase, which in turn led to a moderately-sized room with solemn décor. At the center was a brown-clad man standing at the foot of a streetlight, staring at him in surprise. He was surrounded by an assortment of odd individuals, who were either staring at Backer or at the hall across from him, where another group of people had arrived in confusion. Among the crowd he picked out Hunter and Amy, to whom he gave a quick nod. His mind briefly registered a slight discoloration of Hunter’s arms and Amy’s legs, but he deemed it inconsequential.

“I hear you’ve got a quest for me,” he stated.

[EDIT: One, measly slash.]
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: chronotriggerfreak on December 08, 2004, 10:48:21 pm
Scene 35 - Eyram Green

Gargeth Wardell found his accommodations most unpleasant. For one thing, the secretary chick who hung around in the entrance hall outside his door attended to every resident of the Choras town hall (that is, what they called the rooms where all of the elder’s friends who were too dirt-poor to live alone resided in luxury)—so she could only attend to his needs every hour or so. And for another, his wooden chair was stiffly uncomfortable and didn’t lean properly.

He was halfway through the process of discovering this by falling over backward when the secretary rudely intruded, bringing in a guest. From the looks of him—swanky suit, collection of fancy stationery-based documents in his hand, that stupid bowler that he so elegantly rolled off his head and hung on the hat rack—he was one of the elder’s higher-ups.

Garg quickly collected himself from the floor whereupon he fell and discovered that this interruption pissed him off. It wasn’t the embarrassment of being caught falling over backward, no, and it wasn’t that this guy was once probably just as lowly scum as Garg and still got better treatment, not that. It was that the secretary only said, “The elder will be in to see you shortly.” That was it; then she left. No, “Hello, Mr. Wardell,” or any, “Would you like anything, Mr. Wardell?” Not so much of, “I had some real fun before, Garg; when can we do it again?” as of nothing. Of course, it wouldn’t be appropriate with such a fine gentleman in the room, but still, could she have been any colder? It was like a bad omen, for a chick he’d had an experience with not to mention anything about it the next time she saw him... it was almost as if she was sure this would be the last time she saw him.

Well, if she didn’t have time to worry about him, then he couldn’t afford to spend any time worrying about her, either, not with the elder’s lackey standing in his doorway. So he set his chair upright, sat down, and then made the gesture of standing up again to invite him in. He didn’t bother to close the door behind him; he obviously didn’t think much of Garg’s privacy, which meant neither did the elder. How could the elder treat him that way, when Garg had promised him so much, and both of his treacherous families had expressed their support? Surely the elder knew he was not a powerful enough man to deal with his own nobility and the eldership of Porre.

“Good morning, Mr. Wardell,” said the gentleman.

What was he doing here, anyway?

“A fine one, thank you,” Garg replied, “but I’m not quite sure we’ve met.”

“Oh, excuse me, I forgot that we haven’t. My name is Eyram Green. I’ve been assigned as the legal counselor in your case against Mr. Levine—“


“I believe his first name is Toma. As I was saying, I will represent you in the case of the Rainbow Shell.”

“Will you? That’s nice, but—“

“Excuse me for being late, gentlemen,” said the Choras elder as he hobbled in, leaning heavily on his cane. “I see you’ve met Mr. Green, Gargeth.”

Garg shuddered. What was his mother thinking with that name? Gargeth. Honestly.

“Please, sir, call me Garg.”

“Nonsense. If I’ll call you anything, it’ll be Mr. Wardell. We are all, after all, men of stature, are we not?”

“Yes,” said Eyram, “and that is why I must insist that we hurry this along.”

“If you don’t mind my asking,” said Garg, “why did you call us, Elder?”

“I believe I can answer that.” Even as the elder opened his mouth to speak, Eyram circled around into Garg’s view and interrupted. Garg wouldn’t forget his disrespect for authority, and he would be sure no one else would, either. “Quite simply, your requests to study interregional law and represent your case in any pending legal proceedings have been denied. It has been concluded that your experience with scholarship is insufficient when considering the imminence of the matter at hand.”

Oh, Mr. Green spoke well-cultured enough, but despite whatever confusion he may have hoped to achieve, Garg understood every word he said—and probably could have spewed it back with more verbiage that the man could handle. Again, Garg would remember this subtle spite, but for the moment he found it more suitable to play dumb.

“So you’re telling me that the elder won’t sponsor my legal studies, is that it? With his infinite income spent on infinite corrupt things that I could reveal at any moment, he can’t—“

“Please, please, Mr. Wardell, settle down,” the elder said, himself finding a small, wobbly wooden chair to rest in. “It’s not that I can’t afford to let you study, but I just—“

“Well, if you’ll excuse me for saying it, Elder, then I don’t see why I can’t just study it no matter how useful it will or will not be. I mean, with the favor I’m doing you here, I think it’s the least you could do.”

“Why would you ever want to study something you won’t find use for?” said Eyram mockingly.

“You seem to be making yourself a fine living with your useless studies,” Garg mocked in return.

“That’s enough,” the Elder said as loudly as he could at his age. “If we can’t behave civilly here, then we won’t be here at all. Now, Mr. Wardell, I’ll be fine with it if you want to go ahead and study interregional law, but I’ll take no blame for your disappointment if I don’t think you’re ready to win whatever case we find ourselves up against in this whole debacle.”

“Thank you, Elder.”

“Let’s depart, Eyram. If there’s to be something for Mr. Wardell to take over, we have a case to prepare.”

With that, Eyram Green and the Choras elder walked out of Garg’s dormitory, shutting the door behind them. Even as the door clicked softly shut, Garg could hear Eyram’s furious explosion at the elder’s submission. Chuckling in the growing silence of his room, Garg leaned backwards in his stiff wooden chair and fell over.
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: Claado Shou on December 12, 2004, 04:24:05 pm
((OOC - Alright, this is my last pre-EoT post.  BTW, it's from Gryph's point of view.))

Scene 36 - Where The Time Egg Grows

Year: 2313 A.D.
Place: The Zenan Mainland

He could feel the darkness swelling within him.  A black pool of ash and oxygen that seemed to invade his every pore, a thick mask of smoke and liquid, gaseous and solid at the same time, a drenching rain before the thunder and a clap of lightning before the eye of the storm.  

As he exhaled, slivers of light seemed to escape from his body, his breath the only light within this place, illuminating the air it touched, pointing his direction for him.  And looking past this fleeting torch, he saw a point at the end of the tunnel that beckoned to him, flowed toward and from and through him, and he pushed with his will, with his body, trying to break his chains.

Please...let this be the end...

The next thing he knew, he opened his eyes and looked at the ground, his clothes in perfect form, undirtied, unruffled.  Torrential sheets of rain poured upon him, but he could sense them passing through his ghostly body, not allowing him to get wet.  Fiery metal was strewn everywhere, but the flames did not harm him, and he could not feel their intense heat.

Then, looking into the sky, towards the mountain just ahead of him, he saw something...a massive beetle-like creature whose flailing limbs, each set aflame, struck the ground repeatedly in search of a man, running nearby.

The man was not human - its body was mutated, and glowed with a slightly irridescent tint that made it impossible for the rain to truly touch him either, as it bounced off the glow around his form.  He leaped along the mountain base, towards the beast, tossed a bladed weapon at the creature, and then was immediately tossed aside and grabbed by the thing's many limbs.

Gryph did not know the man-like creature...he knew nothing of its name, or its origins, or any of the things that might have made them acquaintances, or perhaps friends.  Gryph knew only one thing...that this person was far more human than the thing that was now about to kill it, and that could not go unnoticed.

Stepping forward, just as the beast was about to shoot forward a powerful bolt of energy, Gryph put out his hand, and focused on the sound of the thunder, the lightning, and the storm, and then the creature...and let his powers work.

A bolt of energy from the sky came like a whip of electricity and struck the beast, using the knife protruding from its mouth as a conductor and electrocuting the monster.  The man-like captive dropped to the ground, regained his footing, and wasted no time in taking advantage of the situation.

Running with a furious scream, the humanoid leaped above the beast and proceeded to hammer it with blades, punches, kicks, and even a form of magical energy, though Gryph was unable to pinpoint exactly what it was.

Whatever the man was using, however, the beast began to waver in its power, its limbs flailing to no avail, vision corrupted, pain attacking it from within, and an assault so ruthless bombarding it that many human structures would have fallen from its force.

As if in a final strike, the man-beast jumped a good thirty feet into the air, his last remaining blade held downwards in both hands, magical energy soaring from his body.  Gryph summoned his own powers, and three bolts of lightning converged on the man's weapon, enhancing its power a hundred-fold.

As the sword entered the creature, incredible waves of electricity and magic flowed into the beast, its shell unable to withstand the shockwaves and exploding for hundreds of feet in all directions.  Fire erupted in plumes so large that Gryph's hair was blown back, and the sand, though wet, shifted beneath his feet.  

The man, in the midst of it all, contained his power tremendously well, pulling the weapon at just the right moment, leaping from the exploding beast as the point he had just been resting on went up in a flaming spire of debris.

With the carnage as a backdrop, the man landed safely on the wet sand, the slight glow from his body now used up, as he watched the creature's end come to fruition.  Looking into the sky, undoubtedly wondering at the storm's choice to lend him its power, he smiled, and the rain finally hit his stilled armor.

Quickly washing away the ash that remained of the beast, the rain then proceeded to stop, its purpose seemingly jaded and finished.  In reality, Gryph had decided that it should stop, and with a quick thought at such a notion, it did.  That was his gift, and, soon to be realized, his curse.

Because as soon as Gryph and the man were seeming to get back on-course, an unintentional darkness enveloped them.  Gryph knew that he had not done it, but he felt himself being drawn in anyway, the man-beast with him, as they floated into a chasm of light and shadow in the air and disappeared from that tattered universe.

((OOC - Just so nobody is wondering, Gryph and Serian are being pulled by Gaspar into the EoT, where they will meet up with the other characters...hopefully.))

((OOC2 - Additionally, it might be a good idea for everyone to know that I will be unavailable for the next two or three months (boot camp, sorry) so this will be my final post in quite awhile.  I hope you all can keep this going without my input for that long.))
Title: Story Thread I. Introduction
Post by: chronotriggerfreak on December 28, 2004, 01:07:21 pm
Scene 37 - Lenina Crown

The knocking at Garg’s door was faint, but he heard it clearly. He’d been waiting for it since the elder and Eyram Green had left his room an hour ago. His reply, an invitation to enter, was just as soft, but the caller at his door heard it just as well. The door inched forward and the elder’s secretary slipped in, slowly pushing the door shut until it clicked. Meticulous, it was. That’s what Garg liked about this one so much.

She turned to face him and they stared intently at each other for a while. The corners of Garg’s lips curled downward a bit, and she seemed to recognize this; her gaze grew more and more anxious. He was upsetting her, and with damn good reason, he thought. She’ll soon learn what it means to screw and screw with Garg Wardell.

It wasn’t long before she cracked, broke down into a fit of sobs and incoherent mutterings and rushed to him, arms outstretched, taking it for granted that he would catch her, hold her close and whisper assurances into her ear. But he didn’t stand up, and when she fell down on her knees and wrapped herself around his neck, he didn’t move. She could cry into his shoulder all she wanted, but he wasn’t moving, and every second she continued to blubber about, the risk of some passerby noticing the sound increased—just what she had been trying to avoid in her careful entry.

She seemed to realize this, as her bawling trailed off and she backed up, looking inquisitively at him. He tried to stay sober, but it was difficult. He turned his head to the side, glancing into her eyes, as puffy and watery as they were. He wouldn’t give any sign of emotion, no, but damn if he couldn’t help thinking that she was a pretty one all right, and if ever there was a one worth keeping it’d be her. Too bad he couldn’t.

“What’s wrong?” she sniffed.

“You come in here howling and leaking your face all over my shoulder and you’re asking me what’s wrong!” he said. “Bloody hell, Lenina, I thought you were more fashionable than this.”

Lenina broke out wailing again, choked out her words in between sobs. “What happened, Garg? What did they say?”

“It’s not what they said, girl. It’s what you didn’t say.”

She shook her head, not understanding. Garg snorted.

“You come in here as prim as can be and all you say is ‘Elder’ll be here soon.’ Nothing more, not a word.”

“B—but, Eyram, Mr. G—Green—“

“Don’t give me that. You know perfectly well as do I that you were deliberately aloof as possible. Tell me, did the elder say he was kicking me out? That he was going to let Eyram run the case without my testimony and take the spoils for his own eldership? What did you know!”

“Garg, I—I don’t un—understand, I just—“

“Or did he know he was too much of a plum fool, and that he’d screw up the case, and so he was going to kill me and drop the matter before it became public embarrassment? Tell me!”

Lenina couldn’t stand to face him anymore, buried her head in her hands. Garg stood up, kicked a thing or two around. He’d been saving up all this cruel rage since she walked off earlier, but he hadn’t thought to be this angry with her. He must have been channeling some of his anger at that smug Eyram Green, too. Either way, he was letting it all out now.

She finally composed herself enough to let out a whole sentence in one breath. “Garg, please don’t be so angry with me... I l—love you...”

He rounded on her, slammed his foot upon his chair and leaned forward on his knee, drawing as close as he could to her face without touching her. “Not one person has ever loved me, and I think I’ll be able to tell the difference when one does.” He stared into her eyes, already regretting how far he’d taken this whole ordeal, and searched for the hint of deceit in them, the sign that she knew what she had gotten herself into and would be able to get over it soon enough, that she knew he was right and she’d be fine with it. When he found that, he held onto it, because it was the only thing preventing him from breaking down.

She had touched a nerve, all right, and it was an acid touch. Even as he tried to concentrate on the purpose of things, he found his stance deteriorating. The thought of his parents never did anything but destroy him. They loved each other, sure, and they had treated him fine, but they never had any love left over for him. He knew that. If they had loved him, it was guaranteed that his families would love him now, but they obviously didn’t. They had disinherited him, and for what? To come crawling back twenty years later, when they realized that he had a shot at becoming more of a lasting legend than they could have collectively in their entire lives? And Garg had patronized them, had let them in on the fame and fortune, all because he was too compassionate, too human to deny them because of his dead parents’ negligence.

The dead parents who wanted him to study interregional law years ago...

“Get out,” Garg said.


“I said—“

“Shut up, Garg, and listen to me, for your own damn good.”

Garg dropped the deceit and saw the spite in her eyes. She held some malice, too, it seemed, and Garg noticed that she was still pretty even with her face all scrunched up.

“You want the truth? Honestly, you’re a bitter asshole and the only reason I argued with the elder not to throw you out was because you know how to please a girl.”

A game, that’s what it had all been. She’d only just begun to play her part. Well, Garg wasn’t going to let her take her crown.

“Doll-face knows how to hate, huh?”

She slapped him and stood up, storming away. She was serious, but that didn’t make it any less of a game, and the simple fact was that she didn’t realize it soon enough to win. She turned around at the door.

“I’m not surprised no one ever loved you. You’d probably have no idea of how to react and wind up slitting their throat, you miserable thief.”

It was a strong blow, all right. Garg commended her for playing valiantly, but still, it took more than that to make a last-minute comeback against Garg Wardell.

“Listen, Queen Leene, would you mind doing your job while you’re busy running away? Tell the elder that he couldn’t throw me out if he wanted to, because with or without his funding, I’ve already got a ticket for the next ferry to Porre and I sent my formal request for schooling to the dean there a week ago. I leave in an hour, toots.”

She slammed the door behind her.

* * *

The image of Garg's victorious grin burned in Lenina's mind. If she had something to throw at him, she’d have taken out one of his eyes, or maybe walked closer and took a shot somewhere lower on his body. She rushed past the main desk, grabbed her coat and, without stopping, made for the exit.

“Idine,” she called over her shoulder to the other secretary at the desk.

“Ms. Crown?”

“Tell Elder Openhal I’m out for the day, Idine, and that if that Gargeth Wardell hasn’t made good on his promise to get the hell out of here when I come back tomorrow, I’ll get rid of him myself.”