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Friday, 8 June 2012

Mark's Journal #22: The Return of the Ring...

Mark’s 22nd Journal – 11-04-11

Upon waking, we decided to go to the Roost, there to research a little more into some old stories. Avaron mentioned that some of her father’s old books contained fairy tales that mentioned this dark queen and that finding out more about her might be a good idea. Upon attempting to use our door to make the portal, all that happened was a tiny note fell to the floor. It stated that long-distance teleportation had been canceled by the Imperial Magister.

Frustrated, but more so curious, we decided to go talk to this Magister and find out the reason for the teleportation block. We were directed toward the northern sector of the city, and it was a long walk. It is amazing to think that this whole nation is one large city, everything self-contained. Along our walk, Avaron, Leviss, and Gabriel pointed out how beautiful the area was. The walls were made of a purplish, polished looking brick, there were gold, red, and purple flags hanging everywhere, and not one thing appeared out of place. Gabriel pointed out that most of the buildings here were shorter than in the other parts of the city, except for some spiralling towers. Avaron mentioned that these must be wizarding towers as they reminded her of the ones in Aristaal, only these were much larger, and the architecture was quite extravagant. Some towers looked as if they were built straight up, then bent almost in half, and then extending off on an unnatural angle, and yet, appeared as if this was all part of the plan. Off to one side, the others saw a tower being made and described the sheer wonder of it. Wizards, presumably geomancers, were hefting the largest and smallest stones and brick, bending it all as if it were cloth, and doing what would take 100 men more than a month in a half hour’s time. Everyone was pretty impressed, and even I, the usual naysayer of magic, had to admit that the control and power were formidable and amazing.

Not too far into this area, some guards made their way over to see us. Looking tough, but not unfriendly, they asked for Avaron’s staff. Upon asking why, it seemed that only those with a proper licence for practicing magic could wield a staff in this area. Attempting to convince the guard of Avaron’s training in Aristaal, he chuckled and said that this was the only wizarding area, and that Aristaal did not count. Seeing as there wasn’t any other way to continue on without granting their request, Avaron surrendered her staff.

Directed by the guards to the admissions office, we talked to a Magister. He said that the King shut down teleportation as a precaution against possible invasion. After questioning the Magister concerning the details of any invasion, or any threat, the Magister seemed most ready to agree in any actions taken by the King and that it was better to be safe than sorry.

Walking back, the four of us agreed that the more likely reason is that the King does not want us to leave and that he does not want the Queen or her forces to enter, not that invasion was really likely at this point. Avaron retrieved her staff from the guards and we walked back to the inn. It was a long day, as the walk took about five hours, each way.

The next morning, as we enjoyed a breakfast, we observed the patrons at the Comfy Chair Inn’s tavern. Everyone seemed very concerned with their business, and all seemed to be excited at how much business and progress they could make today for the city. It would be inspiring if we didn’t know of the oppressive hold over the city and its people.
Making our way to the palace, thereby to possibly learn more about the King’s motives, Leviss saw a bunch of wizards hustling out, carrying my ring! After attempting, and failing, to make a distraction to possibly take it from them, the wizards hurried down a busy street. Following as best we could, we rounded a corner just in time to see thugs finishing off the wizards and disappearing into a sewer. These thugs meant business, having beaten the wizards’ faces beyond recognition. Appalled by this, but also curious as to this abnormal display of crime within the city, we followed the thugs into the sewer.

Dirty, dark, exactly what one would expect from a sewer, we made our way until we caught up to the thugs. Attempting to make a trade, some of Gabriel’s alchemical supplies for the ring, the thugs grew highly suspicious of us, and the fact that we seemed to have everything they wanted to trade. By this, they must have meant explosives, as Gabriel had plenty of supplies made for just such a purpose. Their suspicion grew and our situation escalated into a fight. There were more of them than I thought, and they seemed to have a hexer. Upon being hit by him, Gabriel turned into a frog, and I changed into a titmouse. Unbelievable that feeling was, let me tell you. I think, with my shifting ability, I was a bit better prepared than Gabriel for this, but it was still highly unusual. Changing back and forth, I attempted to draw the attention of the thugs nearest me. The hexer retreated, and Gabriel followed. I heard some rubble fall, and Leviss shouted out that some areas of the ceiling looked vulnerable to collapse.

This was one of the more unnecessary fights I have ever been in, fighting over a ring these thugs obviously did not want, in a sewer, when a trade would have been perfectly reasonable. Don’t get me wrong, I have spent years training my body to be ready for a fight, but I have spent more of my time training my mind for the purposes of avoiding and resolving conflict.

Helping Avaron finish off some nearby foes, I was trapped beneath some rubble as I rounded a corner. Frustrated at this situation, and fuelled by the desire to get the ring back, I shifted from within the rubble. Punching my way out, my body cracked and broke in that oh so familiar way, and when I stood up, my eyes blazed with a blue, spectral fire. Avaron told me, later, that it was pretty intimidating. Like my armour from Atlas, or any other part of me, I’m sure it looked worse than it feels. Laughing, thrilled by combat, Avaron and I made our way farther into the sewers. We rejoined Gabriel and Leviss who were loosing arrows at the rest of the hexer’s comrades.

The battle ended, and we got the ring back. It was indeed the same ring that Atlas gave us, but this time, Avaron sensed some magic within it. She tried wearing it for a time, and upon taking it off, noticed that it was warm to the touch. Experimenting with it, we came to the conclusion that the ring was a magic absorber, something we never would have realized had I continued to wear it. Now, that we had it back, how were we going to hide it from the King? That is when Avaron and Leviss realized something quite extraordinary: my bag, the one given as thanks for our raid on a storage warehouse in Aristaal was a Bag of Holding. As Leviss explained to me, the bag was capable of holding almost 200 pounds of material but the bag itself never weighed more than five pounds. It was, let’s see if I can remember correctly, “ extra-dimensional space in which items were no longer part of this material plane.” Basically, we could hide the ring inside, and the King could not detect its magic or its presence.

As we looked around, we asked many questions. What were these thugs doing? Why did they want explosives? Obviously to destroy something, but what? Was this just the first of an entire system of crime run under the city? Crime is not something we wanted, but honestly, it was a relief to think that some of the city’s citizens were willing to defy the King.

Investigating some more of the sewers, we realized that part of it followed a curved path that must align with the wall aboveground. The walls of the sewers at this point were made of the same magically tough material as above and nothing we did could make a dent in it. We made a plan to return to the inn and investigate these sewers more lately. We hoped to continue the work of the thugs and possibly break the slaves out of the King’s camps.

Coming back to the inn, I am sure we were a confusing and awful sight. Our group is already quite unique looking, but adding the muck and toil of a battle in the sewers, and well, we were an absolute mess. Making our way back to our rooms, we found the King and his guards there to greet us. With a deep, confident voice, his next words, “Clex Adar”, boomed out through the room, cleaning us of the mud and sewer water. Explaining that he knew his wizards had been assaulted, he asked if we knew anything about where the ring had gone. Hesitant about telling him, we sidetracked the questions enough to settle upon telling him that we knew where it was and that it was hidden where no one could find it. However clever we thought we were being, he knew right away that it was in a bag of holding, but thankfully, did not push the matter any further. His main concern was hiding it from the Queen, and he said that as long as we did so, everything would be fine.

After he left, I stayed up most of the night, thinking about our current adventures, and writing this journal. We seem to be, as I said before, mere pawns, in a fight between two large forces. The King’s plan seems obvious: power, absolute, at any cost all for the “good of the people”. The Queen’s motives, however, seem elusive for the time being. She seems to be an agent of chaos, and Avaron seems to favour or at least be willing to favour her side. I know that mostly this stems from the idea that nothing can be worse than a citizen-eating power-crazed King who encamps half-breeds for slavery. I don’t know what is to lie ahead, that’s Leviss’ job, but I hope that we have the strength and conviction to change things for the better.

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