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Friday, 8 June 2012

Mark's Journal #23: Unwanted Presence...

Mark’s 23rd Journal – 18-04-11

Lying there in my bed, drifting off to sleep, I heard Leviss tossing and turning. Instantly awake, I feel the hairs rise of my arms as I hear Leviss whispering. It’s almost a hiss as he mentions the King and Queen. I try talking to him, to calm him down. He murmurs about how the Queen will arm us, and that a great battle is coming. Grabbing him by the arm, I repeat that everything is going to be alright until he rolls over and is silent once more.

Suddenly, my body tenses, and I feel the world swirling around me. Waking up in a soft bed, I roll over and throw up. I’ve been teleported! Half kneeling next to my bed, I can smell the damp, cold air, feels like a cave. The floor is stone, but not hewn. Calling out to everyone, Avaron and Gabriel say we’ve been taken to a cave somewhere, and that they were drugged during their watch. Leviss groans and says it would be nice if people asked before taking us somewhere.

Gabriel, moving noiselessly around the room, although I could follow him by scent alone, says we’re in a room that doesn’t seem fitting as a bedroom, its walls being wet, the room being cold, but yet there are four beds, one for each of us. Avaron wonders aloud how we could have been teleported as the King shut that down.

It also seems that all of our gear is with us. Putting most of it on as fast as possible, Avaron moves to open a door at the far end of the room. Giggling outside the door is a voice I all too easily recognize: Nala.

She says, “The King doesn’t hold all the cards, and I’m not the easiest to trap or keep away. Come, the Queen wants to talk with you.”

Moving down one long hallway, which had many paths on either side, we finally make it to one large room. Among the many things I could smell and hear, the Queen stood out. It’s hard to describe, really, it’s like, her presence overpowers everything else, but in a subtle way. Take your sense of smell; most of you don’t really think about it that often. Say you’re in a room, and suddenly, you take notice of the smells. That’s when you realize that there’s one scent, be it sweet or not, but that one scent, unnoticed by you before, is the strongest smell in the room, and now you can’t ignore it, you can’t help but smell it. That’s what the Queen smelled like. That’s what her presence felt like to me.

Taking all of this in, I asked her why she summoned us here. Moving slowly, purposefully, she tells us that she is disappointed. She made one simple request, for us to get the ring, and it seems that we have failed. Trying to be diplomatic, I explain how difficult it’s been. Suddenly, she stiffens, stops talking, and growls a little bit. Growing upset, she demands to know who made a deal with him. Confused, we ask her what she’s talking about. She asks us if the King gave us anything, or if we took anything from him. Gabriel pulls out the coin, and tells the Queen how he stole it from the King. She makes sounds of disapproval, and I can almost see her pursing her lips when she says that in doing so, Gabriel has bound himself to a promise, that this is old magic, and it seems he has chosen a side. Remembering my lectures, as a child, on law and order, I question her claim, pointing out that since the terms of the promise were not made, as the King said no such thing, how could one be expected to hold true or even agree to such a thing? She laughs and tells me I know nothing. She shrugs it off and says it doesn’t matter, as her army is ready anyway. Telling us to leave, to join her later for dinner, she promises gifts for us. Remembering Leviss’ dream, I feel apprehensive. Leviss demands that we be released. He tells her that he has had enough of being toyed with. The Queen tells him we can leave when we want, but we may not want to just yet.

Nala offers to escort us around or back to our room. Deciding to take the opportunity, Avaron suggests the tour, and begins asking Nala questions. Nala explains how the Queen found her in the King’s breeding camp, and saved her from a life of pain and torment. Nala shows us many rooms, a grand dining hall where she says we’ll be eating later, among other decorative rooms. Gabriel seemed intrigued by one of the rooms, but I didn’t ask why just yet, better to talk later. Nala tells us that she has been watching Leviss, Avaron, and me, for years. Avaron, being the daughter of a very powerful mage, and we, her friends, bear watching, to see what we might do with our lives. I ask her if she was watching us in Aristaal. Nala says yes and no, that her mission there was a little more important than watching me. I can’t but help feel that her voice is more melodic when she speaks to me, not sure how I feel about that. Avaron says the Goblin Invasion was her mission, wasn’t it? Nala says, sure, it created a bit of chaos, and we all can use a bit of that, can’t we? Apparently, Ori has been a bit of a testing ground, trying out things before striking the mainland.

Testing things out!? That’s what you call needlessly murdering, relocating, and destroying cities? That’s what you call giving goblins power, and possessing innocent clerics? Your tests have killed so many people and have been a blight upon this world. Trying to be calm, but not being able to stand for this, I ask, what could make her do such a thing, if she has given any thought to the consequences?

She stops, sighs, and says yes. For instance, P3TR’s death, she tells us, was “a side effect, a misunderstanding” and that she is sorry for our loss, but the lives she has helped destroy will be nothing compared to those saved by the Queen’s plans. Utterly disgusted, I tell her to take us back to our room.

Once there, I can’t sit still. Pacing, angry, but having nothing to distract me, and no desire to be at peace just yet, I tell everyone that we have to be very, very careful. We have to plan for the unexpected, as it seems that twists and turns are an everyday thing for us now. Everyone agrees, but no one seems to know what else we can do. I decide to try something unexpected myself. I move to Avaron, sitting on her bed, and I pick her up. Holding her by the shoulder, I demand to know what she would do, if grabbed in a fight, and unable to teleport? She says she’d be fine, and her hands crackle a little with energy. I say, okay, but what if your magic is worthless, unusable here? I say to Gabriel and Leviss, I have Avaron, she can’t escape, what are you going to do about it? Gabriel asks me where my bag is? Feeling with my other arm, I realize he’s stolen it? Okay, but I still have her, losing my bag won’t help that. Leviss whispers behind me that he has an arrow fixed on me and can fire 3 before I fell to the ground. Leviss chuckles and says that Gabriel has his crossbow aimed at me, knife ready in his other hand and that I have no idea where Gabriel is, that he could strike at any time.

Impressed, as always, with my comrades, I let Avaron go. I apologize for my behaviour, but I just don’t feel right not trying to be prepared, and I needed the reassurance that I wasn’t alone. Assuring me they are ready, we await dinner. Gabriel goes on to tell us that some of the tapestries in the various rooms we have seen, which bear images that seem to suggest a history. Remembering the visual history on the tapestry in Aristaal in what feels like ages ago, I ask him to go on. He says he doesn’t know what it all means, but it seems like wars fought with many and varying creatures.

Sitting in the dining hall, the Queen’s dinner is large and smells great. Reasoning that if she’d wanted us dead, she would have done so already, I dig in. Leviss refuses to eat, even with the Queen’s prompting. The Queen doesn’t eat, but goes on to say that some of Ori’s citizens have recently stood up to the King. Landing in Portsmouth, the people there told the King that he and his men were not welcome. This act of defiance forced him to travel by a longer road, around the city. She chuckled and says that it’s nice to see him having such a hard time. I make a mention of chess, how I used to play, and that it would be nice to know her big plan instead of watching it step by step. She says we will know enough, in time. As we finish our meal, she tells us that our gifts are not ready yet, and to go back to our rooms until they are.

Getting back to our room, Avaron laughs and says there’s a chess set there, obviously given by the Queen. I ask Leviss to play. Upon sitting, he touches one piece, says it was a good game, and walks away. I asked him what he saw. Who won? He laughs and says he did, of course. Telling him he doesn’t know that for sure, and shaking my head, Avaron says she’ll play a game with me. It was a good game, Avaron is a good opponent, and sometimes her unpredictability really throws me for a loop. I just barely beat her, and I thank her for the game.

During the night, we awake to Leviss’ screams, and I soon realize they are not coming from this same room. Rolling out of bed, I grab my sword and shield and ask what’s going on? Gabriel says Leviss is gone, but his stuff is still here. Grabbing that, he ushers me out of the room, on the trail of Avaron who had just gone through the door.

There, in the big hall, we found him. Avaron, talking aloud but to no one, shockingly says how the Queen has him on a table and seems to be ripping his arm off! Appalled, I charge in the Queen’s direction. Smashing right into a wall of dirt, I realize the dirt is moving. It swirls around me, rising, taller than I am, forming some sort of maw, and a bladed arm, sharp as glass, smashes into my sword arm.

Telling the others to get to Leviss, I make to handle this dirt gollum. Taking a wide stance, and wiping the sweat from my brow, I clench my teeth a little.

Gabriel rushes past, I block an attack from the gollum, and Avaron says we’ve got another problem. More dirt creatures spawn, all over the room, and make their way to Avaron. Leviss screams again, as I hear a blast of arcane energy from Avaron. Hmph, she says, they double when you kill them.

Gabriel leaps around 2 such creatures and fires 2 quick crossbow bolts at the Queen. They bounce off of nothing, falling at her feet as she rips the skin off Leviss from hand to shoulder. Groaning, screaming, and just talking incoherently, Leviss sounds like he is barely holding on. Calling to Gabriel, asking him what happened, he growls back that he didn’t miss, she blocked the shots. Avaron, on the other hand, was laughing. Calling out to her, she said the dirt creatures couldn’t touch her. Hearing her voice bounce all over the room, one second to the left, the next, to the right, I realize she’s keeping out of harm’s way by teleporting. Digging my feet into the stone, I brace myself against the gollum’s attack. An avalanche sweeps by me, dirt, rocks, all cutting my face, as I turn my sword flat and smash through what would be its body.

I take a big hit, cut across the shoulder by the glass-edged arm. Avaron’s saunter through the room is halted, as I hear her call out in pain as she hits the floor. Gabriel says the Queen is gone and he’s almost at Leviss.

Calling out to Erathis, asking her for help, I smash my shield and sword together. For an instant, the world, dark as it normally is for me, shines blue with a flash of light from my armour that spreads, lighting up the room, and washes over Avaron. Her eyes snap open and I see dirt creatures moving toward her as my vision goes dark once again. Spinning on the ball of my foot, I swing my arm around, catching most of them with the tip of my sword, finishing in a crouched position behind my shield.

Gabriel lets loose a trick arrow, packed with glue, at the dirt gollum which immobilizes it, avoids two quick slashes from dirt creatures, and vaults over the table. Calling out in confusion, he says that Leviss’ muscles and skin have been ripped off of one arm, but that he has stabilized the young Kobold, for now.

Slash, withdraw, thrust, spin, shield block, spin, shield smash, I continue my dance, drawing as much attention to myself as possible. I hear Leviss’ voice across the room, filled with the same wonder and curiosity he has for the Keepers, saying, “This is a lot easier now that I can see my bones!” And light arrows rain down on the foes beside me.

But it wasn’t enough, as the dirt creatures attacks sift through my armour, I drop. Gabriel moves quickly, helping Leviss with cover fire, and revives me. I hear Avaron’s voice say, enough of this, as she twirls her staff around, slamming it into the ground, hurling a blazing fireball of sand, acid, and fire, right at the dirt gollum. Hearing her step, I know she is taking great care to inflict as much damage as possible. Moving as her teacher from Aristaal taught her, even I can almost feel the energy rippling out of the air, channelled by her heart, through her arms, and directed at minion and gollum alike.

Smashing my sword and shield together once more, the blue radiance sweeps out, killing every minion within 25 feet around me, but I can hear them doubling, can hear them getting back up. Gabriel runs, pulls his rifled wand out, slides under the swinging sword arm of the gollum, and just as the gaping maw comes down, surrounding Gabriel in a storm of sand, glass, and acid, he pulls the trigger, completely annihilating the gollum!

With that, the battle is over. Moving to Leviss, I could feel the heat coming off of him. Gabriel wasn’t exaggerating before; Leviss’ arm is only bones now, but it seems to work normally. Surrounding these bones is the source of the heat, a green fire which burns like my blue ethereal armour. Asking him how he feels, Leviss tells us that he feels fine, extremely sore all over, but in that way from which one knows they’ll come back. Telling us that the Queen thought she was giving him a gift, he wants us to remove his arm; and we stand there, quite shocked, alone, in an otherwise quiet cave.

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