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Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Mark's Journal #18: The Foreboding...

Mark’s 18th Journal – 02/18/11


That’s the word that Avaron used. That’s the one word I could not believe. Erathis Temple, the largest temple in the city, the beacon of life, civilization, and order, was gone. I couldn’t believe it. I must have seemed as shocked as James was when they took him away. According to Leviss, the entire temple except for the basement was rubble. Even Gabriel, gruff as he seems to be, stated that there was significant structural damage and that nothing was left to even call a building.

Looking by chance in at the open window
I saw my own self seated in his chair
With gaze abstracted, furrowed forehead,
Unkempt hair.

“But, surely there are survivors? Clerics ushering the injured? No? Oh, maybe they’re over at the Avandra Temple showing those travelers who’s boss?” I pleaded more to myself than to the others, but their answers rang in my ears. Bodies were strewn here and there, and no one was left, save for looters.

Looters? In this time of crisis, there were still those who preyed on the weak, on the helpless. Instead of helping their fellow man out, these people chose to root around, among the rubble and bodies of MY home looking for gold, or riches. I couldn’t believe it, did not want to believe it! I smashed my sword and shield together and screamed at the scum,

“Listen up! The city has been attacked, that much is obvious. Your first job is to get home, to get your loved ones safe; then, to help others in need. We are The Guard, and we are giving you 1 minute to get yourselves out of there, where you do not belong, before we make you leave!”

It didn’t work. According to Avaron, they looked nervous, but unwilling to leave, so I jumped in. Little did I know that there wasn’t even a front door anymore. I rolled and smashed and landed in the basement. Calling on anyone who would dare challenge me, I could feel the rage running through my body. My shoulder pauldron, a gift from Atlas and usually a pale blue, erupted in flames. I could feel its heat all over my body, but I did not get burned. The human looters, for human they were, were armed with lashes and clubs and while they fought back, they were nothing we couldn’t handle. I heard Leviss tumble after me, and Gabriel slid down the hill with more finesse and helped flank the monsters. Avaron provided damage and control from above ushering tornados and acidic blasts all over the place.

I took 4 of them on at once. I was bloodied. I could feel the change come over me. Bones breaking, muscles growing, blood boiling, I became the animal I had been hiding all my life. Erathis was calling to me, there was screaming in my head, or was that from the humans? I was not merciful, did not pull my punches, and in the midst of one final strike on a foe, my rage was so great, that my sword erupted in fire. Erathis was granting me the power to slay these fools. The fire threatened to spread up my arm, but I felt Atlas’ presence, keeping it, and me, at bay.

I thought that I had suddenly come to die,
That to a cold corpse this was my farewell,
Until the pen moved slowly on the paper
And tears fell.

With the fight over, I reverted back to my original form. Things were calming down, I was breathing normally again. Leviss led me around, looking for survivors. Making our way around the temple, Leviss led me to the sole survivor. He was sitting, propped up against the wall, and I could hear him sputtering before I even got to him. It was Ted! Checker champion Ted. All-around good guy, and the nicest person I have ever met. I kneeled beside him, ran my hands over him. He was done, there was nothing I could do, but he was still muttering something. Suddenly, his hand shot out, grabbed the back of my head and pulled me close. I will never forget his final words to me.

“Justice! Not vengeance!”

He had written a name, yours, in printed letters
One word on which bemusedly to pore:
No protest, no desire, your naked name,
Nothing more.

The rest of the walk back to P3TR’s shop passed me by. I shuffled my feet, just keeping one foot in front of the other. My old friends, my family, my home, all gone, and all I could do was get angry about it.

Another thing worth mentioning is the magical resonance within the city. When I came to my senses, I asked Avaron, Leviss, and Gabriel to tell me more about the condition of the city. Leviss said that it looked very similar to Aristaal, except on a grander scale. While that catastrophe had been mostly caused by goblins, this one was caused by something bigger. Gabriel told me that he knew a little about building design and that these buildings seemed to have been shaken from the ground up. Avaron told me that there was so much magical static in the air that she could hardly concentrate. It seemed clear that the origin of this disaster was the Erathis Temple as it was the building with the most damage. Some kind of magical blast, followed by an earthquake, seemed to be the cause of the city-wide disaster.

We talked to members of the other temples, checked their status, and talked to the Red Cloaks. A cleric from the Raven Queen Temple said he saw a man wearing a black cloak walking south-side, exiting the city. We couldn’t believe it, we questioned him a few times, and each time he gave us a description of a man who sounded exactly like Gary. After talking to P3TR, he suggested that Hampton might be the place to go. With the other cities having already been attacked, and Hampton being south, we decided it was the best place to go.

Saddling our horses, and buying an extra one for Gabriel, we set off. After crossing the ferry, Gabriel tracked footprints looking to belong to Gary along the road. I must say, a little leery at first with taking on another person within our group, Gabriel seems to be fitting right in. A quiet man, Gabriel is quite adept at living, thriving even, outside of city limits. Hunting, tracking, setting up camp, nature is his element and following Gary’s path allowed us to get to know Gabriel a little better. One night, after making camp, Leviss asked me for my sword and shield. An unusual request, to be sure, I let him have it. Relaxing, and listening to the sweet melody of Gabriel’s music, I awaited Leviss’ return.

He returned sometime later with a gift, or rather, an upgrade. My shield, an old Erathis Temple hand-me-down, was a worn but solid piece of metal. With a blue Erathis gear and P3TR’s handprint on it, along with some war wounds, that shield is almost as close to me as The Guard. It’s part of me, without it, I feel naked, unprotected. Leviss had simply enhanced what was there. Telling me it was now a Guardian Shield, he told and showed me how he had added some extra metal, taken from the altar of the Erathis Temple, to make it a more formidable, and fancier looking piece of armour. He also made himself some archer’s bracers that matched my shield, also made from the metal taken from the temple. I was impressed, I was honoured. The trip had been such a confusing path of darkness for me, trying to sort out what Gary was doing, and why it happened, that this symbol, this token of friendship, really helped put things in perspective for me.

I wrote once before about Leviss and his dreams. Leviss has been given the gift of Sight, the ability to see things before they happen. Most of the time, this just helps him in combat, by anticipating the enemy’s actions, but sometimes, it is more than that. His dream about our deaths was what saved my life, he saw that I was about to be fatally attacked, and acted just in time. On the road to Hampton, Leviss had another dream, another ominous dream. He had a dream in which he was surrounded by darkness, a sad, lonely darkness, when a voice of light said, “In seven days, in seven turns, I shall awake and take over all.” Or at least, that’s about as much sense as we could make out of Leviss. I make a note of it as I have grown accustomed to these things being important later.

Would it be tomorrow, would it be next year?
But the vision was not false, this much I knew;
And I turned angrily from the open window
Aghast at you.

Speaking of sight, and visions, I have been trying, as of late, to expand upon my senses. I have noticed, since the first change came over me, that my sense of smell, and sense of hearing, has greatly improved, or at least, that I’ve paid them more attention. Sometimes, I almost feel like I can see again, or better put, I feel I don’t need to see as much. In combat, I like to fight with the enemy close enough that I can reach them. With my allies along, I really don’t need to worry about ranged as they will warn me, usually, about distant threats. However, I know my place; I know I am a defender of the innocent, and I’ve been trying to not be a handicap in battle or otherwise. It is tough work, I’ve spent a lot of time in self-reflection, learning to listen more, also, I’ve been talking to Leviss about his prescient abilities, and to Avaron about Jello, her ooze-like companion, and his ability to feel vibrations. I don’t know what will come of it, but, all too often in battle, the smallest bit of detail, the tiniest observation, has saved my life, or helped me to deliver a crucial strike when least expected.

Finally, after a long, winding trail, we make it to Hampton. Of course, the first thing I noticed was the smell. Old, dusty, like the air hadn’t blown through this town in a long time, it reminded me of Portsmouth, like a presence had settled here and refused to budge. Gabriel said he had been here some time ago, and that nothing ever really changes here. Avaron and Leviss made note of the old-fashioned way of things. Buildings made of wood, houses of simple design, Hampton was an old town, and it looked it. Avaron could not sense the magical aura within the town, but there was definitely some old, old magic located somewhere south.

It was also very quiet, and apparently no one was to be seen on the street. As we rode a little closer, a welcoming party of sorts, 4 or 5 men on horses, rode out to meet us. The leader of their group, a fancy looking man, better dressed, with a top hat with a hole in it that amused Leviss quite a bit, rode forward to talk to us. Introducing himself as Jebediah, leader of this town, he was well-spoken and quite insistent that we did not stay too long. We tried to tell him that we were passing through, looking for an elderly man in a black cloak, but Jebediah questioned our motives. We told him to move aside, that we wanted no trouble but we, The Guard, had business to attend to. He seemed well informed since he not only knew who we were but also of the recent events in Fur-Lonn. We were getting nowhere and it seemed like a fight was about to begin when Leviss spoke up and proposed a deal. We would pay Jebediah some money, allowing us to move through the town at our leisure, in return. I must say, I was impressed by the idea. Too quickly do our actions seem to dissolve in violence, and frankly, it is not only tiring, but tactically, not the best course of action. The idea interested Jebediah, but he hesitated and filled in the gap of conversation with insults toward us. Before we had a chance to decide one way or another, Jebediah and his men attacked us.

Blasted magic! No offense to Avaron, Leviss, or Gabriel, but I will forever doubt the safety and wisdom of magic. It seems too unpredictable, and all too easy to lose control of. These men, seemingly lacking in magical ability, still had access to wands of some kind. Leviss told me, and Gabriel showed me later, that they wielded magical L-shaped wands that fired a bolt of arcane energy that never seemed to miss. An intense, but short-lived fight ensued where I held down most of their men, while Avaron and Leviss shot them from the sides, while Gabriel took the high ground, taking out enemies from the roof of a nearby building. In all honesty, it was an annoying fight. It was not for any purpose other than one man’s own pride and stupidity, it wasted our time, and I dropped twice from needless bloodshed. I am not proud to say I fell so easily, but at least I kept most of the enemies at my side and not after the rest of The Guard.

Finally, we defeated them, and with their defeat, the rest of the town seemed quite relieved. Apparently, these thugs had been running the town and with their defeat, the townspeople were once again free to do as they pleased. It felt good, but that feeling was short-lived.

Avaron suddenly felt a great disturbance in the magical force that she had been feeling. It was as if a million voices of magical energy called out and were silenced. Contrary to where we were and the path we had followed, this disturbance seemed to be coming from the northwest, from Aristaal! It seemed P3TR had deceived us! Never once did he tell us to go to Hampton, but he suggested it an awful lot. Now, it seems that either he has something to do with this magical energy, or he led us astray, perhaps in an attempt to protect Avaron. Either way, we felt betrayed, Avaron most of all, and we then set quick pace to Aristaal.

Even with all we’ve been through, I have a bad feeling about this. I feel the battle for Ori is about to begin.  

Why never a warning, either by speech or look,
That the love you cruelly gave me could not last?
Already it was too late: the bait swallowed,
The hook fast.

(The italics is from the poem, The Foreboding, by Robert Graves. It fit nicely here, I think.)

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