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Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Mark's Journal #13: Once more unto the breach, dear friends...

­­Mark’s Journal 01/20/10

I’ve been all around this continent. I’ve seen things that you probably won’t believe. And time and again, I’ve been witness to the fact that there are powerful forces influencing everything. How else can you explain our fate? We’ve come up against some terrible things. We’ve rushed in, foolishly overconfident, unprepared, and still emerged victorious. I thank the gods for this, and pray that they give us the wisdom we need to continue.

This is the first time I’ve had to rest in days, and here I am, unable to relax until I get some things off my chest. We barely made it out of that last encounter alive. By now, you might be accustomed to my reflections and think that I am exaggerating, or being too hard on myself and my group. The fact is that I am not. We should have been killed, almost were several times, and only through Providence were we able to crawl out. Here is what happened:

After freeing 200 or so wizards from the supply warehouse, we turned our attention toward the library. Weighing the options, we realized that this was the best chance we would have of taking the library by force. We had 200 angry, powerful, battle-hungry wizards more or less at our command and we had the element of surprise. Marching to the library, I approached the main door. I approached with confidence, with anger, with impatience. Insulting the goblins, and their siege, it was my hope that we would anger them and force them to fight. If I had been thinking properly, I would have realized that these goblins acted odd; that their behaviour was inconsistent from all that I had learned of the foolish, blood-hungry goblins of lore.

Their refusal to leave was demonstrated by shooting an arrow into my shoulder. Reeling back, I fell back to treat the wound, and defer to the advice of my comrades. We couldn’t just wait for them to leave, nor could we attack from this entrance, as an ambush would be all too easy for the goblins. Talking with Ed, and Avaron’s instructor, we learned that there was a basement to the library. Splitting our forces, 20 Summoners, and Ed, came with Avaron, Leviss, James, and me, while the rest stood guard in front and planned an attack through the Bestiary, in hopes that no one would expect an attack from there.

Ed drilled quickly using his Geomancy, and it wasn’t long before we were in the basement. Rarely do I lament the loss of my vision, but I would have given almost anything in order to view the information in this basement. Leviss told me that there were scrolls, parchments, and documents, going for a mile in all directions, on shelves, to which only the pages of the library had access, Ed said. It was a relief to know that the goblins’ influence had not made its way down here; that there was still some of the city’s accumulated wealth and knowledge left untouched. We made our way up a spiral staircase which ended at a trap door. James took the lead, and I followed close behind. I warned him to be careful, and he put a hand on my shoulder and said, “Hey…it’s me.” I smiled, thinking of the old days. Of fights started, and fights won.

Lifting the trap door, James found that something prevented him from putting the door down. I realized this when I heard someone say, “I’ve got that for you.” To which James replied, “Thank you, sir.” There was a moment of awkward silence as we realized that this helpful person was a goblin, and he realized that we were not. The goblin let out a yelp, which was stifled by James grabbing him. Holding him above the trapdoor by the throat, we froze. If we killed him here, he’d surely call out, but so too would he if we left him.
[James] “What do I do?”
[Me] “I don’t know, get rid of him.”
[James] “How? Ok, ok, move.”
[Me] “Where? I can’t see, you’re in my way, there are people behind me.”
[James] “Just duck!”

Just then I felt it as the goblin went whizzing past my head, down the staircase, yelling all the way until he hit the bottom. Letting out a sigh of relief, and patting James on the shoulder, I heard more noise coming from below. Boom…boom…crash…boom…as the many shelves crashed and fell like so many dominos, tipped initially by our not-so-helpful goblin.

Moving out, James told me that many goblins were sleeping on the shelves outside. I could smell death, had smelled it since the goblins invaded, but this time it smelled like rotting meat. Remembering the basic layout of the library, I suggested moving toward the main hall. There, we might find the main defense, or at least bring the wizards inside.

Charging into the main hall, I didn’t need the use of my eyes to tell that things were bad. I could hear the murmur or several dozens, if not hundreds of goblins. I could feel blood, slick, and fresh, all over the stone floor. Then, the laughter started. I had heard that voice, and knew without asking that it was the head goblin. But, this time, he was different. In a manner that could only be described as maniacal, he laughed, high-pitched, and uncontrollably. Bracing myself, I demanded that he challenge us directly, and let the victor take back the city. He laughed. He laughed and laughed, saying that we were blind, that we were weak. Leviss told me just then that there were two shaman with the head goblin, and that he held a crystal in his hand.

Standing tall, I invited him to fight us. Walking over to us slowly, it did not occur to me then that I was alone, among my comrades. Little did I know that the two shaman were draining all of the magical and primal power in the room, directing it toward the crystal and toward the main door. I could hear every step he made on the floor, slow and deliberate. Coming right up next to me, I had to look up, following the sound of his voice. He told me that I was the only one strong enough to face him, but that I was still too weak. Before I knew it, I was stabbed. Wrenching, horrible pain shot up through my body as his sword slipped between armour and out through my back.

I awoke what I could only assume to be moments later. Coughing up blood, I used my shield to rise to my knees. In my earlier encounters, whenever I was gravely hurt, my shifter side kicked in almost spontaneously, changing my shape slightly, growing longer fangs, claws, and fur, I became stronger and fueled further toward our cause. Since my understanding of the gifts bestowed upon me by Erathis, I feel more empowered when I shift, in full appreciation of the wild strength of nature, and almost feel an ability to control every aspect of the shift.

Rising to my feet, my nose elongated, my ears grew; my legs, one at a time, broke and bent backward, like a wolf’s. Smelling, I could make out not only the scents of my friends, but how sick they were. I could smell their vomit mixing with the goblin and animal blood on the floor. Sensing this, I wondered why I did not hear them before. With little time to wonder, I challenged the goblin directly, slashing at him with brutal and quick attacks. I could hear James’ chain, and knew he was up again. Leviss and Avaron rose, and before I knew it, we were battling the remainder of the goblin force in the main hall.

I said before that we were lucky. I feel more times than I will admit, and I wasn’t alone. I must remember to thank Avaron later, as her quick thinking and ranged attacks brought us all back numerous times. Just when all hope seemed lost, when it appeared that this battle would end with both sides in defeat, Leviss turned the tide. Making his way to the door, he yelled, “Trinity! Help!” He told me later that it just came to him, which seemed to be fortunate, as Trinity happened to be Avaron’s instructor’s name. I was told that Avaron’s instructor and several others moved as one, acting as a strike force against the remainder of the goblins in the great hall. Avaron’s instructor finished off the head goblin, with a kick in an unhonourable area, and an uppercut blazing with Evocotional power. Dragging our battered bodies outside, we were chastised by her instructor for being rash, foolish, but also, congratulated for a job well done.

I asked Leviss about the goblin’s crystal, and it would seem that Leviss had a gift for me. Just after I was stabbed, a portal opened, and the Man in Black appeared, severed the goblin’s hand, stole the crystal, and left a dagger, with the words, “You owe me one”, inscribed on the hilt. Looking at the scar on my chest and the daggers in my belt, I thought, yes, I owe him a few. Leviss also told me that before the goblin fell, he noticed that the head goblin’s laughter was directed at the crystal, as if he were communing with it. This confirmed my own suspicion that the goblin was insane, or at least being controlled from an outside force. Who or what controlled the goblin? Where had the Man in Black come from and gone? What was he planning, by stealing all these artifacts? All this and more, questions, without answers. 

Sitting here, straightening armour, tending wounds, Leviss tells me the day is bright. With the sun high in the sky, Leviss can see the death and destruction of the once beautiful city. I am reminded of my last conversation with Atlas. I cannot feel the hope that we had expected; cannot feel a sense of conclusion or completion. We’re not out yet.      Bolstering our spirits on I say, once more unto the breach dear friends, once more.

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