Group to rescue child from kidnappers & investigate some strange happenings.
|This is a draft of a story I am working on. Part 1 of 3.
Two figures travel by the king's roads across the blasted surface of the world, cataloging the remains of the Great Elemental War. Yet, something draws them to this most center of all cities, to the heart of an order far different than their own: The Tower of Gaia. A wizened man, eyes wide and sharp, and what by some amongst his kind, would be but a boy, though already he is very well traveled, having seen a great percentage of the known world with his companion.
The brisk autumn winds pick up across the Pentesionese Peninsula, hinting of the rains that are sure to be coming soon. These travelers, in part, are glad for their call to such a place, and yet it is uncertain what lies ahead. Their task of the last several years was to gather information about the Great Elemental War and catalog as much information as possible now that the horrors of Vane McKeowen have past. They did this work despite the ruined carcasses of both buildings and dragons that litter the landscape of the monolithic Elven Empire of Maralon.
While waiting in line at Xaxyia's Northgate, the younger reviews one of his journals containing notes, drawings, and writings that he carries as a loving burden for the older man, his mentor and master, Cya'than ayan Ka'tan ip Faerilandria. He is a guiding light for his young protégé, as the young man’s parents accomplished Varrot
in their own right, have no time for instructing their son in the ways of this powerful class within their society. It is the Elven way, as senior son, to be sent to apprentice with one of the best Diasamere, in all of House Faerilandria, to learn and grow in this, his destined role in society.
I am Sa'tnev ayan Fa'lain ip Faerilandria, this is the tale of how my life changed from a simple scribe and historian's apprentice to travel amongst the most noble of all orders of Inestra, the Knights of Gaia. The order, in quiet solitude, is called to save the very face of the known world on a daily basis. The enormities of their task go unanswered by a majority of scribes, as it is their task and their way. In the past, only the most outstanding events, events that already touch upon the every-day person. This story is one of the less talked about tragedies of Inestra. Where a small band is asked to do the impossible and without the recognition they deserve.
ACT I - Air & Fire
Chapter 1 - Transition
Despite the long road, we pass through the gates as members of the Writer's Guild without too much undo hassle by the city's constabulary. Xaxyia is every-man's city, a place for wanders, and professionals alike who seek a new life or the next stage of the one they are living presently. Despite the rigid society within Maralon, it is the wise traveler who at least pays passing homage and duty to the powerful guild princes that run Xaxyia. In the end, it comes out of the purse one way or another.
We travel through the broad streets of High-town to our initial destination: the Cathedral of the Sisterhood of the White Veil. There is still some time before nightfall, and work to be done before finding a place to bed for the evening. We have a longer day following as we requested an audience with the Knights of Gaia whose meeting will prove to be the apex of the trip. To conclude the final chapter of my master's book, he has a request for information and histories of the Great Elemental War from the source, those who finally stopped the Dracalic onslaught fought on Elfish soil, the Knights of Gaea. But first, to speak with a veteran Sister who fought through the War.
Through the investigation of the war, there were reports that even holy magic fluctuated as the War's progress crept across the lands, through Valron, Quavaria (Quenarre), and finally into Maralon, the focus of the Dracalics rage during the Great Elemental War. Newly indoctrinated before the war, Sister Ty a member of the Sisterhood of the White Veil and a young veteran of the conflict presented one of the few gifted priests to survive. She confirmed these reports while supplementing them with tales of her own; accounting that her answers to her prayers were delayed in being answered. However, she hadn't thought about it until we called upon her experience. Unfortunately the conversation was interrupted by more pressing matters at the Tower of Gaia. We part post-haste to answer the call.
We enter the most hallowed halls of the Knights of Gaia, to the heart of the order, where few outsiders are allowed to journey. Our guide, a curious Elfish hydromancer, named Louie, who happened to be from Quenarre, lead us through that first hallway; a lone lantern provided the only source of light. Twice during that eerie walk, a shadowy gust of wind tried to blow out the light. Finally, we emerged from the hallway into a small courtyard to be greeted by Hagh, a large friendly human of dark complexion, a geomancer trained at the Tower of Earth, far to the east past the lands of Khiral.
It is within the confines of this small courtyard that true weight of the situation becomes clear; two emergencies that have presented themselves to the order. First, word has come via a brave Aeromancer, that villages in the Northern Wastes of Khavicoreo are being ravaged by a strange plague. To find the cause of this plague will require a perilous journey and those experienced with the terrain and healing. Second, a child born of magic has wandered from one of the Elemental Towers and presumed kidnapped by dark forces. These dark forces may use the child for their own purposes if not recovered. We, as guests of the Knighthood, are escorted to sleeping quarters within the Tower of Gaia for the evening. We will discuss the future, and decide the best course in the morning.
Chapter 2 - Return to Myth
During the night, as I work over my scrolls and notes of the most recent leg of our journey through Maralon, others find their evening more exciting. By morning some have already left on their journey North to find an answer to the plague. This is a recount of that excitement.
A band of thieves lay in wait not far from the Tower of Gaia, and as Louie leaves for the evening, they pounce, intent on his purse, or so it seems that the attackers' courage being stronger than their reason as they are attacking a skilled and known Ecomancer. For some time, Louie's skill with his whip keeps them at bay, unfortunately, once his stinger is entangled by one of the rogues, they gain the upper hand. Luckily the Khovacorean Aeromancer, Icyveins Snowreaver, who brought news of the plague, was escorting Sister Ty back to the Cathedral; and the pair comes to the Hydromancer’s aide. His warrior prowess combined with her holy gifts, immediately change the tide back to the side of light. Once recovered, Icyveins and Ty depart for their quest of conquering the plague.
Next morning, finding Ty gone, I met with Louie, and a new arrival, Siva S'khmet. The Khazaric Cree-tah Pyromancer was something that, never in my life I expected to see firsthand, golden yellow with interesting spots across her lithe furry figure, a spectacular creature with an exotic build and wild beauty. After a recount of Louie's adventure, the three of us proceed to one known as the Blind Prophet to gain guidance on what to do next to find this kidnapped child and ensure its safe return. “We need the Light to be successful", all he spoke on the matter. The riddle I continue to ponder through much of our journey. However, our next step is laid before us, Hagh believes we must speak with Lady Thymera, the Grandmaster teacher of Magic for all the Knights of Gaia. Seeking the expert of ecomancy and magic is just short of going to the Blessed Sister, Kilithyr herself.
Before our departure, Siva and I spend the day gathering the necessary travel supplies for our extensive journey, which we knew from additional details provided by Hagh, would take us deep into Khiral. Facing the Gharric hordes on the wastelands during the harsh winter is something that the desert Cree-tah and I feel will require specific supplies. A child in a candy store was our naïve Pyromancer, having never experienced the wonders of Xaxyia before. It was a joy to watch her revel in the vast marketplace.
A light mist blankets us as we set sail. The rainy season, surely is not the best time to travel the Sea of Prosperity, however, our mission has been set before us. Luckily, the trip is not far, and surely would be much farther and more perilous should we try the venture over land. Our journey only lasted but a few days, slowly over that time, Siva gains some semblance of sea legs, but you could see her trepidation at the rolling seas as her claws clung to the deck and rails. As we arrived on the shores of the Forest Realm, the first true leg of our journey begins. We must trek through the Forest Realm to its center to find the hidden lake that is rumored to be Lady Thymera's keep.
Our cargo was off-loaded and after purchasing horses for the each of us, we set off into the dense woods. Unfortunately we were barely out of sight of the Centaur town when the tension rose and we, along with our steeds found the Forest more foreboding then I remember in my youth. The stories of my childhood started flooding back to me and yet this seemed darker. Shadowy tendrils from the "watchers" of the forest silently tracked our every movement. We dared not leave the path as we press forward.
Chapter 3 - Myth Awaken
Watchers of the forest turn out to be forest Cree-tah. The source of the myths told to young Faerilandria turns out to be true, just not as expected. In their way, they are blocking our passage. They are not happy with our presence as foreigners, despite my heritage as a member of the elfish House Faerilandria. After some tense moments, Siva presents a gift, leaving a toll of a jeweled earring in the middle of the path. From then on, their elegant weapons take on a less threatening tone. The languages of the Cree-tah are the voices of the woods, the Forest Realm itself, a mystical experience to behold. Once on our way, the felines disappear back into the thick forest.
Throughout the trip, we spend the nights without the heat of campfires. As a small group, watch taxes us with the endeavor and additional attention should not be drawn upon our location. After a few days of this, Siva requests a fire because the dampness and cold temperature does not suit her desert fancy. The night of that first fire, a shadowy hand appears within the fire and points out or perhaps summons a giant spider that quickly attacks. The magic of the Ecoweilders, Siva and Louie, is no match for the spiders resistance, and its poisoned fangs threaten as I attempt to wrestle with it. Finally, I brandish my steel baldric worn chain, and proceed to pummel in the spider's skull, each hit cracking the creature's exoskeleton. My power is quite surprising to Louie especially as an elf of more learned pursuits.
While born into the Varrot, the Speaker's Caste, I was gifted with the power and skill of a warrior. Combined with the presence of the Gift, I could have been accepted into some of Maralon's greatest schools for the Shel'ydria Daernythias. Alas, this was not to be my lot in life; the elite Elfish warrior-magi only pull from those of warrior or the mage families. Then as the eldest son of Fa'lain ip Faerilandria, I was not eligible and was forced into the tradition of my Father. Instead, I spent a great number of years as an apprentice, with the Dwaerves of Orus, learning how to wrestle and write the other great ancient languages of Inestra, runes.
Chapter 4 - Fantasy Reality
We have traveled a great distance from the sea to come upon the Great Lake in the center of the Forest Realm. The power of this place didn't strike us upon our arrival. It was late when we arrived, after dusk and we set a late camp.
Shadow hand in the campfire info.
The following morning proved most interesting. A centaur woman guides us across the water on a bridge of fish, to Lady Thymera's keep, a place of wonder and beauty beyond the wildest imagination, more grandeur than the halls of Orus or the tall towers of the Faera Mythna.
Chapter 5 - Geas and Goals
We walk the halls of the center of all magic. While taking in the wonders, we discuss the nature of the shadow experienced on our journey, and of Siva's relationship to light as a Pyromancer. We wonder what it means that Shadows can be enchanted to exist within the core of the light of our campfire and we delve into the theories of light and darkness. We are lead through the halls by not our host but a being that could resemble her manservant. His age is indeterminable, and he alone seems to know the way through the constantly shifting view; shifting to what may be needed or desired at the time. For example, we could find ourselves turning around only to find what was once a wall is now a hallway leading off to somewhere new. He leads us to individual suites to rest, bathe and prepare for an audience with the mythic Lady Thymera.
He calls for dinner once we concluded freshening up. I dressed to the best of what I brought in my own packs. However, Louie and Siva found new clothes in their rooms. Louie clad in the finest of elfish silks, appearing noble, raised not from the wine-fields of Quavaria (Quenarre), but a hinting at his true elfish blood that rests beneath that odd Quench accent. Finally, Siva glides in as beauty and grace personified, clad in robes that grace her lithe feline form, and jewels that glitter in her hair and fur to accent her desert hues.
The table is furnished with an array of exotic foods and salads, some familiar, but many more beyond the recollection of any of us assembled to take our place at Lady Thymera's request. She then looks to me to continue my elfish tradition and rituals by giving grace to the Queen Mother and Father Sky. Throughout dinner, we continue our earlier conversation, including and questioning the Lady Thymera of the nature of Shadow and Siva's role in the play that now surrounds us. Siva doubts her place in the greater play. Thymera's wisdom includes insight mentions that someone is keeping a "hand" on us through the incarnation in the shadows. "How do you spell?” she asks. The dialog shifts to the nature of magic, both for the ecomancers and the more “traditional” sorceries. That we travel on a quest without an apparent goal. The enemy travels without a name. We realize that there is a chessboard with thousands of pieces that all have their role in the greater game.
To quest for the Child, an incarnation of all and none of the elements, presents a challenge as both in its very existence and by those who also seek control of the child. This child represents the power and possibility of the Sword of Tears embodied. Darkness versus Light. Chaos versus Order. What are the options once the child is acquired? To the Earthen/Eastern Tower or returned to Thymera within the Forest Realms. But do not bring the child to Xaxyia. To succeed, the party must be complete with all 4 of the orders and a priest or priestess along with additional tools will be needed.
The Lady Thymera presents us with the descriptions of a few artifacts to quest for:
A focus stone has been used by countless orders over the generations to help aid communal magic.
The scimitar, Nemesis, a weapon of power: History remembers a sorcerer created the sword to absorb magic and the wielder to be unaffected by the targeted spells. He sent a page to dispatch the creator's enemy. This page, learning of its power, returned after his task was complete and dispatched his master too. Some say the curse will befall any who pick up the weapon in the future. Just as chaos and darkness turns upon itself, so will this weapon as it seeks to absorb all magic.
The Xaxian Wizards Guild holds a powerful Mana-Battery in the bowels of their archives. Acquisition of such a tool will not come without a significant price, most likely in gilder.
Finally, the three Wraithblades wielded by the heroes of the Great Elemental War. Now King, Sebastian of Valron carried Soul Slayer. Isa, a Randish wed to a Xaxyian of the Thieves Guild saw through the war with Shadow Sting. Spiritbane lengthened the bite of the Cree-tah, Pirouette.
At the close of dinner, a divine vision from Lady Thymera granted to the gathered companions. My leadership and worldliness has become an increasing source of strength for the others in the group. “A savannah at the edge of the Forest Realm there are those who look like Randish, both fighters and priests. In the background there is a green storm far away. There is discussion about moving on to another place to camp. The child is no longer at this place.”
Chapter 6 - Solstice Missed Winter
We awaken on the shore of the island to find Myria Crystaltear, our centaur guide from before waiting for us. Myria escorts us back to the shore through the chill waters. We must swim this time, as the bridge of fish has not been gifted to her. This is yet another trial in our journey. She joins us as our guide to the edge of the Forest Realm. The going is rough for the first day, but evens out as we proceed. Surely her experience in this region exceeds my own.
Siva's knowledge of the heavens reveals to us the change in seasons more exact than just the temperature suggests. We "lost" 6 weeks while in Lady Thymera's care. In remembrance, despite being a bit late, I walk the others through the Rite of the Winter Solstice, paying homage to Gaia and Adrisar for the change in the seasons and to look forward to the darkest and coldest part of the year when the land rests.
Through the Forest Realm we journey, trying to make up lost time, a way to catch up with fading hopes of catching this child. The vision of a Randish camp driving us further North and East. The depths of winter are just starting and the cold's effects touch Siva strongest. She is not used to these temperatures, and it will only get worse on the road ahead.
Chapter 7 - Randish Connection
The morning's the departure of Crystaltear signals the end of the Forest Realm and our entry into Khiral. The sounds of the forest die as we move to be replaced by the sound of the frozen winter bog cracking under the weight of our horses. Visible from the tree line, a lone figure emerges from the brackish haze. As the de facto leader of the odd group, my head cloaked from the cold, I watch with apprehension the man approach. With weapons and Gifts at the ready, Louie finally recognizes his savior and fellow knight, Icyveins Snow Reaver.
The tension lifts around me despite my own hesitation. Few ever survive Khiral. No one, who is not Gharr, survives it alone. Louie's assurances help ease my discomfort and the group, now four, proceeds on to the suspected site of the Randish camp we saw in the vision Lady Thymera provided for us.
Our journey together to this waypoint and the subsequent investigation of the site quickly reveals to me some of the reasons Icyveins was able to manage in the forbidding lands of Khiral. His remarkable skill and accuracy at finding clues and deciphering their meaning provides the guidance to a crossroads that presented further evidence on the whereabouts of the child. Originally in possession of the Randish, at this crossroads, he changes hands to the Gharric hordes. Other evidence found leads us to conclude that the Randish continued south to the port of <<insert port name here>>. While the horde, consisting of at least one wyvern, and six moogoth continue north. We expect that they will continue on to the Gharric Capital. Knowing what I know about the history of fighting the Gharr, this horde force is large enough to challenge any of the Eastern Elfish strongholds. Filled with this comforting knowledge we continue north following Icyveins' tracking of the six fast moving huge beasts.
Chapter 8 - Impotent Tracking Wyvern
We must work to keep up 'with the Wyvern and Moogoth. The caravan of the huge beasts and their mixed company of riders make exceptional progress through what are unfamiliar lands to us. We must both make capable progress and stay off the main road for fear of being discovered. Icyveins skill and the rest of our determination allow us to not lose track of them. They cross a ridge and enter a village, some sort of celebration seems to keep the villagers entertained this evening.
We chose to set up camp just below the ridge. The light cast from the village's fires. We hope for a secreted evening. Unfortunately, Gharric snipers ambush us during my watch, incapacitating my right arm not long after we make camp. The snipers' sure shot nearly severing my arm at the elbow. The snipers quick action does not prevent my voice from alerting the knights who rest within the shelter. The response from Icyveins was unreal.
The three of them swarm the half-dozen archers who invariably were sent from the horde we seek, and are working to remove us from their trail. Louie and Siva begin the attack, despite Louie's exhaustion. Siva's claws glimmer and whip through the evening. Icyveins then erupts from the shelter in a whirlwind of magic and arrows; firing over Siva's shoulder, multiple Gharr topple from a sudden growth of arrow shafts from their eyes. Icyveins is the best wilder-man and best of companions with which I have had the pleasure of journeying. My opinion changed quite a bit from my weariness upon initially meeting him. Siva may not appreciate his style; however, his actions are astounding. Siva's rage brings her to run down the last Gharr as he retreats. He didn't stand a chance. While the Gharr may be stronger, few can match the Cree-tah's speed. Hopefully, preventing his escape will keep our opponents off of our efforts for some time that we may find rest.
During the night, Siva slinks off to the village. Her curiosity driving her forward to watch the display presented before her. I am in no condition to do more than just lie where I am put. The pain in my arm is too great. The sight she recounts is beyond believing: Elder Gharr throwing Gharric children into a pit with rabid dogs. The child and the dog fight in an oddly erotic life and death struggle. No wonder they are such fierce opponents.
Luckily the harsh terrain is working for us rather than against us. As we draw nearer to the capital, we find ourselves traveling through broken canyons littered with caves. Be much as we strive to keep up the chase, we must rest to regain our strength sapped from our constant struggle against both the horde and nature herself. Gaea is playing but a neutral role in our grand quest. We know that at least two of the moogoths have broken off from the main body of the caravanning horde. We can only guess that they have gone looking for their lost companions and therefore, us as well. Thankfully, the great beasts will have trouble should they come looking for us in the narrow caves. Unfortunately, we believe they will just lie in wait for us to emerge from our shelter.
Chapter 9 - Hell's Canyon
Shocking, the potential kindness of the horde, however, in truth it is Icyveins' skill at obscuring the group's presence within the cave network that allows us to rest undisturbed. A full day of rest, while cutting severely into the time already gained by the horde, it provides the needed recovery of both myself and the power of my companions. Thanks also to Icyveins magic, his power provides me use of this arm once more. While it may be sore, mobility grows over time and once it's back to full-strength, I can set out again after our prey.
Reaching out into the warming dawn of the new day, we set out towards the Gharric capital. Tension surrounding us increases, knowing that the horde is out there and we are at the disadvantage. The horses can already feel that the predatory moogoth groups closing on our position.
Finally the flood gates loose as the moogoth with accompanying 6 Gharric archers and 1 troll crash over the edge of canyon, pouring into our midst as we scramble for safety to deal with the assault. A hail of arrows rain down as the conflict erupts. Yet with cool confidence Icyveins' returns fire with deadly accuracy. His shots drop the first two Gharric warriors quickly before they can recover from their long drop aboard the monster of a mount. I focus my efforts upon the great Troll whose own dim perceptions are trying to take stock of the current situation. Using the rocks to assist, I bound upon the troll's shoulders working to use my own great, for an Elf, strength to incapacitate the befuddled troll. Louie's skill with his whip disarms one of the other Gharr despite their strength. Meanwhile, Siva, struggling with the harsh winter conditions, found touching her fire difficult causing her to fall back to more mundane combat with her quarterstaff using her skill to assist Icy and Louie.
With a third, the troll finally succumbs to the pressure upon his massive throat. He was thankfully never able to got his massive chain weapon into the fray. As the dust settles what remains of the attacking band can be seen in the mangled bodies, fully half crushed under the mass of the moogoth who never got up again after the hard landing on the canyon floor. A sigh ripples through us at our turn of luck. Picking up the pieces and continue the quick ride through the canyon to the capital.
Chapter 10 - Descent into Darkness
The way to approach the Gharr, at times is to become the Gharr. That method proves useful even if it does disgust Siva. She needs to think outside of normal convention for a change, but as long as she doesn't obstruct what we do, it should be cause for too much difficulty. The mind of the child of fire diverges from the needs and minds of the rest of us. As she tries to hold on to something, that for the time being, must be forgotten. We enter a time for civilization to be locked away in the dark recesses of our hearts in order to survive the savagery that surrounds us. We become the darkness to survive the darkness. The potential for despair is lost once you enter the kill-or-be-killed mindset. Is it possible that Siva has never needed to fight for her life like she does right now? We all must in order to continue the drive into the Gharric stronghold.
We found a pair of tunnel entrances miles from the city. Upon further investigation, they appear to be part of a city defense that allows for quick escape or flanking and harassing a besieging force. It's quite an unexpected and ingenious idea, considering the disrepair of the city's outer wall and primary structures. This should work to our advantage, as the tunnels seem to lead us right to the wall, and should allow our movements to be unobserved by the hordes ahead.
The couple of Gharr who guard the hidden entrances are quickly dispatched, and in the process, one of them looses their head. Giving me an idea from my youth of when the warriors would go off to hunt down a particularly troublesome element of the horde. They would make themselves up to look like Gharr. Thus, helping their survival rate and chances on getting in deeper before being noticed. With that, I cored the Gharric skull, leaving the outer bone and skin intact, fashioning a mask for myself. These dark corridors, along with the muck from the bogs should help with the illusion for the intended purposes. Add my size and strength, and I should have a reasonable opportunity to increase the damage inflicted on these evil beasts.
Chapter 11 - Shipping in a Land-Locked City
The tunnels lead nearly up to the broken outer wall. The offered cover provided exactly what we hoped for, a route that prevented alerting the patrols that covered the ground above. However, the exit was potentially perilous. The exit into the warrens of the city used a sporadically timed gas jets expelling gouts of flame from the outer wall *into* the tunnels. Then there was a barren no-man's land between the tunnel exits and the entrance to the city. Melted glass and bits, charred bone littered the paths from the blackened tunnel exits to the city wall. It was Siva's affinity with her element that provided the necessary key to navigate the trap.
Our preparation included climbing spikes to scale the walls. Any guards that we confronted were quickly dealt with. Icyveins skill could make any Onasera envious. My Gharric disguise aided in moving through the fireside chats with ease, on their way to the main tower in the center of the city. During the trek, I was confronted by a large Gharr and so I started poking fun at him. Using my skill I caught the troll off balance and threw him over the wall. Claiming victory the other trolls and Gharr laughed and we were able to press on. Siva with her gifts used the illusionary properties of fire to aid the group in stealth and camouflage.
The final distance to the tower was spanned by a rope bridge and guarded by nearly a dozen of the Gharric Horde and a troll with a chain. Siva and IcyVeins combined their gifts to detonate a fire therefore remove the Gharr from the fight. Meanwhile, my task to remove the troll was not so well played. The chain, once in motion found a ship's anchor at the business end. In squaring off, using my own, very limited chain weapon, engage the huge troll. The next thing I know, I'm airborne after failing to evade the massive anchor head, slamming me hard into a nearby boulder. Quickly, Louie distracts the troll and the two other knights finish it off with their gifts. The party limps across the rope bridge, cutting the ropes once we reach the other side.
Chapter 12 - Miracles from Towering Darkness
Hell hath no fury like a giant scorned! We failed. The Gharric shaman has fled with the child, leaving us to the hordes below. If it was just Gharr and trolls, that would be one thing. But no, in the frothing sea of bodies that shifts at the base of the tower, a giant stands, assisting those Gharr who are working at trying to scale the sides of the tower to reach us in its peak by throwing them up towards us.
Lucky for us, the horde is not very intelligent, so it will still be some time for them to reach us. Icyveins has an idea on how we may be able to escape with our skins intact, though my condition notwithstanding. He pushes himself for my benefit. My crushed torso is mended through his great exertion. I am able to move and recover because of it. Without his power and sacrifice, none of us could rest, and I certainly would not be able to leave this place.
With the great struggle at a lull for now, the Knights rest. I take up the mantle of watch surveying our situation, and using the tools at my disposal to make the most of our situation, including enhancing one of Icyveins’ skillets with a rune of good cooking. It should help with our recovery and provide them with a hearty meal. We've been on the move for so many days without rest, that this very brief reprieve comes at a very necessary time. All this, as Gharric archers lob arrows through the open windows to harass our sleep.
When they wake from their rest, Icyveins presents his plan to us… A vision of the ancient silk tapestries torn down from the walls, and using Siva's heat and Icyveins' control of air to lift us out of the tower, a large-order hot-air balloon that will float us away from our troubles. Quickly we get to work, those of us with sewing skills beginning with the tapestries and the others preparing the “basket”. As we work, Siva relates a curious dream she had while resting:
"I am strapped to a cold molten-iron formed slab with bloody leather. A Gharric shaman is cutting open my belly. Agony. He is stealing my child, with my body still attached, blood spilling out into the floor as he walks away. He is mounting a wyvern and flying away. Stealing my child!
"When I awake, I am laying on a stone slab. Cool. Unfettered. Hagh approaches, looking as if he were of Gharric blood, but also of his kindly face, his nature.
“He takes my hand and raises me up. He points to a tower of Earth in the distance, and says this is our destination. As he speaks, the tower crumbles. He turns and points to a tower on the mountain, surrounded by wind and clouds. As we start out a great storm blows up & sweeps away the tower of air. He speaks of unrealized dreams. He gestures to a great lake, from which a tower of water grew. We started towards it and a great wave swallows it. And again he turns, pointing to a tower of fire emerging from the mouth of a volcano, and yet again we set out. Again, the tower is destroyed, this time by a tongue of molten lava. Hagh speaks, 'Perhaps there is nowhere to go.’”
As you may have guessed, you are reading this because the idea, as crazy as it may sound, actually worked. The thick tapestries were able to hold in the heat, and keep us mostly out of the range of the Gharric snipers. However, we are not very fast moving, and must make for the horses with all due haste as the hordes arrange for their pursuit.
Chapter 13 - Flight from Hell
As if moogoth weren't bad enough, the hordes' heavy horse are more like a cross between a Khazaric Rhinoceros and the greatest Valan War horse, and faster than the wind. A rough landing spurns us to get moving immediately. Luckily for our exhausted bodies, the magically guided flight landed us not far from our patiently waiting mounts. Fear keeps us quiet as the growing cloud generated by the 25 score mounted riders quickly approach our position.
Without hesitation, Icyveins' woodsman's skill rather than his magic misdirects the growing hordes tracking ability. We take advantage of the time gained by his actions allowing us success in getting away from the City so that we can regroup, rest, and determine the next step.
Chapter 14 - Return to Civilization
Icyveins leaves us to meditate about his options. The North Wind originally wanted to go North and West, but after a day of self-reflection, returns to us as we wait. He is morose, but comes along. I was ready to let him go on his own path, but much later I find out that it was my willingness to let him go that brought him back. He longs for someone. He longs to return perhaps to find Thye and Hagh, and the rest. He followed his heart to find us, and now it is almost as if he is torn between his two halves. Nearly a month will pass before I find out how much that decision will cost him. Our journey south, through the Khiralese wasteland, proceeds without incident. Icyveins melancholy increases as we travel.
We finally arrive in the port town and board a Penticionise ship, escorting a Randish merchantman that has a very large black crystal stone as its cargo. We believe that stone could have very well been payment to the Randish for the child's delivery to the Goblin Shaman.
Chapter 15 - Trapped South of Prosperity
Seven days sailing on the medium sized Penticionise ship to Amar They already have a bid to travel there and will be freed up. Afterwards, renegotiate to continue on to Xaxyia.
While I remain below decks, Icyveins is confronted by a witch in the visage of a carrion bird: A woman made of onyx smoke, a deep dark void of seduction & evil rapture drawing upon his inner desires. During their parlay he learns she could prevent something that she was choosing not to prevent. He knows too much about some things and not enough about others.
Unfortunately my passion to write suffers dryly as my mind is more the feral warrior. Putting words together coherently grew in difficulty along the voyage. I spend nearly the entire trip within my sleeping area staring at the paper before my eyes.
Chapter 16 - Black Daemons over seas of White Sand
Sitting in a room with Siva I hear a knock on the door. Under the door slips a message in the form of a black envelope delivered to each of our party. Enclosed within are personalized invitations to a gala held in the estate of the city's Governor in celebration of the coming storm, the very same storm that prevents us from proceeding to Xaxyia. While reading the invitation, Icyveins booted steps can be heard outside. They resonate with purpose and with the weight of his gear as they fade down the hall. This claustrophobic atmosphere does not suit the North Wind.
Siva sits across from me, as a silent decision is made with Icyveins’ departure.
Siva gasps as I loosen my braided queue. Until this point, she had never seen it unbound. Then, my stripping from the worn traveling clothes and pulling what little bit of finery I have available, presents a clear sign to the Cree-tah that we will accept the invitation. The preparations taken as the standard Elfish ritual for formal events, Siva uses that time to also prepare for the formal evening.
The lord's coach is sent by the Inn to pick up those who would attend. The grand gala hosted by a pair of interesting individuals: the sorcerer vizier, Ebon Couer and the Lord Don, Reynardo El Blanco. Just as we were going to introduce ourselves, the vizier collapsed from fatigue, being escorted to a private area of the estate. Not moments later while moving through the crowd, I hear the familiar voice of Icyveins in my head requesting assistance to recover from an experience he just went through in the desert outside the city.
Traveling a few miles to his location, evidence of the carnage can be seen everywhere. Icyveins killed a daemon that was slaughtering a Bedouin village. Its remains made up of soot and ash. This magicked soot stains anything of a porous nature including my clothes, Icyveins' leathers, everything. Such a stain will not be cleansed, at least not with any method available to me or the rest of the party can manage, magical or otherwise.
A weary pall that has hung over my head for the last week or so has finally passed, but another finds its way to our midst, the weariness of travel. Our expendables are almost depleted: money, ammunition, foodstuffs. This journey has been extremely taxing, and yet the end of this cycle is now in-sight. I just want to get out from this Randish controlled place. We all long for Xaxyia.
Chapter 17 - Death and Prosperity
Icyveins has gone through much and perhaps his life has caught up with him now. While I write below decks, the great Aeromancer is attacked, possessed, such that he could no longer face the life with us. His decision to travel with us rather than to follow his heart sapped him of who he is. He denied his feelings and in the end, that was how the witch got into his heart.
Siva, I have found no more connection with her. I'm not sure why. Within the city of Amar, I believed that there might once have been just a glimmer of companionship, a spark of truth hidden by the weariness of our prior travels. But that is proven wrong when she gazed into my eyes pleading for guidance. I knew at that moment we did not function on the same level. How is it that she knows us so little? How does she know so little about what I believe is best? How is it that one can travel with someone for the last season and still not learn of him or her? Would not you begin to integrate your companions into who you are?
Voices call for me to the upper deck.
“What do we do?” asked by Siva and others.
“Kill him,” was my simple response. Appalled she recoiled from my presence. What about that answer could her mind, or perhaps her spirit, not accept? To me is it the simplest of solutions to a possessed Aeromancer, a man fraught with internal struggle.
She did not realize or just could not accept that he has been lost to us since before we left Khiral, when he turned his back on whom he loved. He chose the immediate companionship of two lost souls, Siva and myself, rather than follow his heart. In truth, I didn't want to see it at the time. I didn't want to believe that he was lying to himself this whole time. But at this threshold, there is no alternative. He should have abandoned us, but chose not to. Therefore I cannot abandon him at this stage.
His challenged state, on the border between sanity and loosing himself to the world, Siva and Louie provided him guidance, a light to come home to. I gave him the truth. I challenged his answers, every answer. He was lying to us and lying to himself. He could not survive in that state against this witch, and that was true. Eventually, tied to that main mast, he died. Death took him in one last blast of mana. The blast rocked the ship, and then fizzled like a tornado that's finally blown itself out. Still, he needed to be brought to the Sisters of the White Veil. I will not let the superstitions of the Pentesionese sailors get the better of what his future demands.
“Who are you?”
“I am Icyveins.”
“I don't believe you.” My eyes narrow at his words and my rejection of them. “What do you want?”
“Liar! I don't believe you. What do you want?” Again I reject him, this façade he presents in this vision to me. I can see what is in his heart.
Icyveins' half-empty form gasps for an answer. His strength wanes. Speech and hearing are all he has at this point. His voice even was a struggle for him.
“Who are you? What do you want?” I, as a lone wind-whipped, cloaked figure represented his truth, the challenge of his life. Siva and Louie worked to provide him that light at the end of the tunnel. The pair working in shifts just to keep him alive, until after that final burst of power from himself; he died. One last strike against the darkness and it failed.
His death brought about a purging of the black stain. His leathers, skin, and hair, all have returned to their normal color. But that would be bleached by the elements further during the rest of the journey. Despite his death and cleansing, he could, should not be removed from the mast.
Each day of the remaining journey, four in all, I caught a glimpse of hope. I know that the rest of the crew missed it. The rest of the crew wanted to commit his body to the sea. If this were Louie, I probably would have let them as that is his home. But Icy could not go that way. And with what hope I had, I paid them an extra gold for every day they left his decaying form on that mast.
At some point he came to me in dream. That is what really gave me hope, that somewhere in death, or just before its call, he found that point, found the truth, even when he did not like its answer. He loves a forbidden woman. He wants vengeance against that Goblin Shaman who has the child.
“Now, I believe you,” acknowledgement that this test of his is concluded. How did I become the one to judge him? I am not the Father or Mother. That is left to They alone. And yet, all this felt right. Are these my words? Inspired?
In the end, we recovered him to the Cathedral of the Sisters of the White Veil. Recovered in a few days from our hardships during this last season, and to see the New Year, and winter upon us. Icyveins' recovery however, did not recover his sight. Such a painful thing for him to endure and yet, I too see it as a blessing. Not just for the reasons Louie mentions regarding the Tower of Water.
I am wholly in Icy’s debt. I don't know if he will ever feel the balance paid, nor do I, so I will be his mundane eyes for this journey. Until he has no further use for me, I am more than just his voice; I am now his sight… and whatever else he needs of me. It is for Siva and myself that he died. It is for Siva and myself that he endured this possession, and hardship, away from the woman he loves. Siva feels little tie to others, and perhaps that is her fire and her path as Cree-tah. But I cannot bear the thought of Icyveins enduring any more than his broad shoulders can bear.
There is a long journey ahead of us. To travel from here to the Tower of Water, by land, through recently more hostile lands than I could have expected. Icyveins will be my ward. Any elf, any being that would wish him harm will have to go through me. The assassination of my King and Queen is odd news. The tools of the attack spill out their truths to just the handful of us. We are even more painfully aware that our lives took a turn for the worst, and that decision was made at my hands, at such a cost. Icyveins could have kept us on the track of the Wyvern. He could have kept us fed and surviving in the elements. It was my choice to go with the safer route. And now my king and queen are dead at his hands.
My hands, stained with blood of so many.
I travel with Icyveins perhaps for I now want as much vengeance as he can offer. I too want to see that shaman pay the price for his deeds, but that remains to be seen. There is the more immediate journey at hand, the second act of this grand adventure.