Author Topic: Story Thread I. Introduction  (Read 6315 times)


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #15 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!


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #16 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.


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #17 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.”


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #18 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.”

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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #19 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.


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #20 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."


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #21 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.


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #22 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.

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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #23 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.


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #24 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.


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #25 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.


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #26 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.

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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #27 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.


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #28 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.


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #29 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.