Author Topic: Story Thread I. Introduction  (Read 6397 times)


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

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

We're still formulating the Toma subplot. This exists so everyone can go ahead and get to the point where they're ready to go in the meantime. Don't feel as if you have to rush and post something here, but don't take an eternity, either.]


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2004, 08:33:49 pm »
Scene 1 - A Dream Of Itself

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

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

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

~ ~ ~


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2004, 10:24:24 pm »
Scene 2 - Najran Classroom.

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

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

“Miss Maruyama?”

Five minutes!

“Miss Maruyama?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Professoressa, if I may…”


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

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

“Is this one yours?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, what are you doing here?”

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

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

The student replied hesitantly. “Well…”

“Ha! At least you have a sense of humour. Now hurry up at get out of here so I can have fun toying around with my new butler.” With a snap of her fingers, both students stood up; the young man quickly making his way to her side and collecting her books, while the young woman quickly scurried out of the classroom. Content with her day’s work, Sessimine motioned for the boy to carry her books back to her office while she locked up the room.


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2004, 06:41:55 pm »
[OOC: A little warning. Some of the subject matter here is a bit intense (I don't think it's too much, though). Using the new TV rating system, it would probably get a TV-14 V. If this is a problem, let me know.]

Scene 3 - Babtism by Fire

Royal Prison of Zeal
Time Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigma was sent back to her room after this incident. Stunned, she could do nothing but fall to sleep as the prison guards ran a tight vigil over her. The next day, she was once again removed from her cell, but was taken in a different direction this time. She asked the guard what was going to happen to her, but all he would say was that she was more trouble than she was worth. She was thrown onto a strange platform, the guard threw a switch, and her world went black.


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2004, 02:36:49 am »
Scene 4 - Darkness and Light

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

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

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

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

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


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2004, 06:33:29 pm »
Scene 5 - The End of Time

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

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

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

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

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

Gaspar glared at the Nu.

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

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


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2004, 12:29:34 am »
Scene 6 - Naomi's Dorm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mother! What are you doing here?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Er… No thanks.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A meeting? What sort of meeting?”

“Oh, nothing particularly interesting. One of the routine get-togethers of the administrators in the five colleges. You just worry about catching up on your readings for class tomorrow.” After giving her daughter a quick kiss on the forehead, Sessimine dismissed herself from the room, her charmed hand in tow. Feeling a little better than she did earlier, Naomi returned to her studies, her attitude towards them no different than before.


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2004, 08:20:15 pm »
Scene 7 In the Fields, In the Heavens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The only thing different in this village, at this place and during this year, was the man that Jack Nova was going to become.

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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2004, 10:55:15 pm »
Scene 8 - A Hole In The Head

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And as he touched the spackle of luminescence, it grew from a pinpoint into a band of whites that stretched out before him, the brightest things he had ever seen, his eyes absorbing, painlessly, every sight about him.  And then, his body also became one with the atmosphere, disappearing in rivulets of cloud and smoke, like a piece of paper held within the stream.  And then he was gone.


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2004, 01:00:36 pm »
[OOC: I took a few liberties in describing the world of Keystone outside El Nido, but it shouldn't be a problem. I still have one more installment I can make before Backer finds out about the Rainbow Shell.]

Scene 9 – War Pigs

Medina, Capital of the Mystic League
1021 AD.

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

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

“How can you trust him?”

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

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

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

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

“Well, it’s…” the Warchief started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[OOC: EDIT: Put date in title]


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2004, 06:44:19 am »
Scene 10: Zeal Prison: Brain Wind & Black Bubbles

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

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

What? Brain bubbles...?

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

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

   This time, everyone is involved. I believe—

   You can’t possibly mean everyone.

   Everyone you’ve ever known and...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Opportunity for escape was not given. Escape had not been planned. The two of them would not escape their imprisonment in that strange and threatening—and yet to Gil, somehow familiar—dungeon. So they were forced to sit and wait and reflect on what brought them there and what would eventually happen to them. Part of Flea saw escape; it was some deep part, her mind’s eye. But she did not know what the cost would be. She could not, for the Wind obstructed such precise observations. The Black Wind was fundamental to all matters of freedom and control, fate and and death.

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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2004, 11:25:59 am »
Scene 11: No Longer Just a Dream

Year: 990 A.D.
Place: Guardia Plains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gryph suddenly realized that he wasn't thirsty anymore.


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2004, 07:21:26 pm »
Chapter 12: Patience and Reward


   I must have patience.

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


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

   But how much?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

   I will soon silence the hatred of the seals.

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

   "We do not have much time, but if you lend me your necklace, I can help us both escape."


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2004, 02:58:22 am »
Scene 13 - The Palace in Flames

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


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

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

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

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

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

He sat up and realized that the whole thing had been a dream.  Well, except for the sweat, the terror, and the very real scream that had just escaped his throat.  He threw off the sheets and walked – well, stumbled was more like it – over towards a table in the center of the room.  He opened up a drawer and removed a pair of pills, and them took them with the water he had from the table.  Before the sleeping pill took effect, Aias wrote a note to himself to contact one of Zeal’s myriad of dream experts about this before the day was out.  He’d had the dream before, but he hadn’t woken up this violently before.   I’d better get it checked out before it gives me an ulcer or something.   With that thought he crossed back to his bed and fell asleep again, this time falling into a dreamless sleep.


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Story Thread I. Introduction
« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2004, 10:36:16 pm »
[OOC: This one's a biggie. It should give you guys a pretty good picture of how Backer thinks.]

Scene 14 – Slip Kid

Dorino, Porre Military Base
1021 AD.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Noticing his scan was complete, he reviewed the results:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Expected abilities include, but are not limited to:

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

Possible side-effects include:

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

Status: Discontinued.

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

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

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

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

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

EDITS: Minor fixes. Changed my titling system on my posts.]