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Sunday, 26 February 2012

Mark's Journal #9: Darkness Falls...

Mark’s Journal 11/28/09
So much has happened in the last while that I do not even know how to begin. I write these journals to calm myself, reflect upon events and so there is a written record of history, but there are times when writing does not calm me, and I do not want to reflect, but I need to maintain discipline, I need to maintain a record.

When last I wrote, Leviss, Avaron, and I collapsed upon our beds at the Warmhearth Inn after losing an artifact to the Man in Black, and being saved by the Archmage from a giant drake. Sometimes, I feel like a character in a much larger plot, acting as I am instructed, weaving a tale for the entertainment of the gods. Events transpire without apparent meaning, but are actually pieces of a larger puzzle slowly coming into place. If I had known then what I know now, things might have been different, but that is not worth thinking about.

Leviss woke first the next day, and the rest of us woke shortly thereafter, listening to him scream about a nightmare that he had. More than a nightmare, he said it was a vision of things to come, and it involved us getting killed in this very room. Still clothed from the night before, we got ready and the four of us went to see the Archmage. We found him arguing with the other instructors. Before we could find out what they were talking about, a giant mass of darkness erupted from the west. In no time at all, it surrounded the city completely causing day to turn into night. Making our way to the top of the Evocationists’ Tower, what little we could see of the city was being sacked, burned, and attacked by goblins. Avaron’s instructor, apparently in charge of defense, was grief-stricken by the fact that an invasion had occurred under his very nose. Seeing as though there was no way to help here, we made our way to the ELPS Tower where we were told an attack was currently underway.

The city was being evacuated by the Red Cloaks, and people were leaving via the energy field toward the southern end of the city. Tori wanted to go and help them, but the rest of us thought the Tower’s defense could use more help. Making our way on horseback, around the library, we noticed some goblins ready and waiting to burn it down. Our horses were brutally attacked, and some barely escaped. It was so dark that even I, with low-light vision, could barely see. Killing the library raiders, we made our way south along the main walkway, only to notice two Red Cloaks surrounded by more goblins. I have to say, I was quite impressed by their fighting skills. The Red Cloaks work better as a team than even the Guard at times, literally fighting side by side, and hand in hand, linking arms and using each other as weapon and shield. After helping them, we tried to make our way farther south, as one of the Red Cloaks was badly hurt. Suddenly, it seemed, we were being chased by dozens upon dozens of goblins. Jim, our old friend, appeared out of nowhere, and told us to hurry up. Spinning a white baton in his hands, he slowed down to a crawl and then to a stop. Seeing as though the party could barely move, with one seriously wounded, and Jim concentrating with all his might, I thought we were done for. But, staying close to Jim, we noticed that a light was surrounding us, which I thought would not help matters, but actually worked as some sort of invisibility. The goblins ran right by without stopping or noticing us. We were just about to get into the hospital when the Archmage was captured by two teleporting goblins right before our eyes.

From what little I know of goblins, I know that they rarely use magic, and this, along with everything else going on, flat out confused me. Seeing the Red Cloak and Jim into the hospital, it seemed like many members of the city were housed inside. That was the first thing I noticed, the second, was that the goblins had stopped attacking and were merely surrounding the hospital. A giant goblin, presumably their commander, made his way to the front. He told us that our city was in ruins, and that we should surrender now, as all hope was lost. Obviously, we refused, expecting certain and swift death, but the goblin commander merely said that he would be back later. With the rest of the goblin forces watching us, we barricaded ourselves inside.

Despair. That was the single most obvious feeling in that hospital. All around us were wounded, physically and emotionally, crying and dying in darkness. Tori immediately tried to tend the wounded, but found not only had the patients no concern for their own well-being, others who could be helping found the whole thing pointless. The instructors, as we could see, had made it into the hospital, and were of course arguing amongst themselves. I could see that the Archmage was all that was holding them together, and with him gone, the rest descended into madness. With barely enough light to see five feet in front of you, I sat down, unsure of what to do.

Leviss, upon smashing his head on the wall, found a torch. With barely enough light to read by, he discerned that the torch was made by Alan, Avaron’s father, when he was sick and staying in the hospital. He was young, and after acting quite foolishly and recklessly, had wounded himself and possibly his future. But, without giving up on himself, he crafted the torch to show that hope comes from within. Standing on my shoulders, with the torch lighted by Avaron, Leviss told us this brave story, in an attempt to rekindle the long-lost hope of this city. Slowly, cautiously, but surely, people started coming around. No more were their eyes glazed over with grief. No longer were their hearts heavy with despair. Before not too long, the entire hospital was cheering, and chanting, calling, “Aristaal! Aristaal!” and with their newfound hope, the torch burned brighter and brighter, eventually filling the room and some of outside with light.

It was an amazing event. Here, in this tiny building, we were all able to work together to overcome one of the greatest of enemies: despair. Too often have we encountered hopelessness. I tell you, seeing those people rekindle the hope in their hearts was one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen.

Now that everyone was back on track, we spoke with the instructors. We needed a plan, and now that there was a will, we hoped to find the way. Encouraging everyone to work together, we decided to have the Evocationists and the Geomancers work together excavating a tunnel under the hospital in order to get everyone out. The ELPS wizards would help bring everyone out, while the Summoners, Illusionists, and Bards would work with us and the Red Cloaks, mounting a defense at the front door. Before we stepped out, Jim gave Leviss his baton. Jim told us that it was never really meant for him, but that it was meant for Leviss. Giving it a trial spin, Leviss couldn’t get it to work. I told him to keep trying, and before not too long, he found its purpose. Holding it in front of him, and pretending to notch an arrow, a beam of green light spread from the ends and an arrow appeared. Leviss started the battle off by lighting an arrow into the middle of a crowd of goblins, there to serve as marker for the Summoners.

All was going well. The tunnel was being built, and while we were losing people outside, we all worked well enough together to make the enemy casualties far outpace our own. During one attack, I became bloodied, and so I began my longtooth shifting. But this time, something unusual happened. Instead of the normal transformation, I became more like a werewolf than ever before. My nose elongated, my ears stretched out, my fur grew long, and my body became more canine. With bones breaking and reforming, I barely had the chance to notice what was actually happening to me. There, for no known reason at the time, I transformed into not just a shifter, but with the traits of a full werewolf. With my mind full of battle, and too focused on dealing justice, I barely noticed these 
 changes. I only noticed my sense of smell, now supremely heightened.

I have struggled all my life to avoid the animalistic nature within me. I came from the wild and it was my hope to squash that part of me out forever. I became blind to that part within me, and turned a blind eye on anything savage. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.

During our defense, with me transformed, Leviss had another vision. Seeing an attack on me reminded him of this vision earlier foretelling our deaths. Pulling me just out of the way, an axe missed my head, and instead, struck my eyes, rendering me blind. There I was, bleeding through the eyes, newly changed into a wolf of sorts, completely lost and confused.

That was when I passed out.

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