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Friday, 8 June 2012

Mark's Journal #24: All Good Things...

Mark’s 24th Journal – 20-04-11

Losing a limb is a feeling with which I can almost relate. Having a limb forcibly ripped apart and grafted as an unwanted gift from a self-proclaimed Queen is another matter altogether. As we stood there, taking note of the situation, Leviss was angrily telling us that he would not live with this undead, flaming, boned arm. He demanded that we hold him down and cut off his arm right now. We argued for a long time. Finally, I grabbed him by the arm, feeling it burn my fur but not caring, and I told him that he needn’t be afraid, that we were here with him and that, while strange looking, his arm could not be made to serve evil, to hurt me. I then issued a challenge to him: instead of losing an arm because of the Queen, he should endeavour to shove it down her throat. Leviss seemed distracted enough by this to agree to leave his arm for now.

Investigating the other rooms, we found a variety of treasure. Leviss constructed some bags of holding, and with that, we took nearly 25 000 pieces of gold and 10 000 residuum. I said it would be a good idea to spread this worth among the people. We certainly didn’t need the money, and she probably stole it from the people anyway. In one room, there was one door we could not open. It had four secure locks and after half an hour of trying, Gabriel was only able to breach one lock. The door wouldn’t budge, and it was too strong to be destroyed, so we decided to leave it so we could try to hurry, find the Queen and warn the people of Ori of an upcoming war.

Avaron felt the dark magic of the Queen moving toward Hampton. We set off, through the swamp, but we had to rest as we had not had proper sleep in almost 2 days.

When we got to Hampton, it seemed quite deserted. We went to the Sheriff to warn him, but it seemed we were too late. The Sheriff, busy packing his bags, told us that most of the people had already left. We climbed on top of the roof of the Sheriff’s building, hoping that the others could get a good view of things. To the north, Leviss pointed out the last group of people leaving Hampton, and to the southeast, Gabriel and Avaron could see darkness moving out of the swamp. Zombies, ghouls, and other dark creatures started attacking empty buildings and before they could get to us, we decided to quickly portal to the Roost.

Once there, we rode out, making our way to Aristaal as quickly as possible. Avaron checked our licensed job board and it said, “All hands to Fur-Lonn!” With this in mind, we made our way to the central city, making the journey in half the time.

Upon landing in the city, everything looked normal, except that there was a large concentration of purple tents on the northern side of the city. Gabriel pointed this out, and even had we not known already, it would be easy enough to see that it was the King’s forces. A Disciple of the Shield, upon seeing us, told us that a lot of the city had been evacuated. When the King landed in Portsmouth, a council was called with leaders from each of Ori’s major cities, and it was agreed upon that the people of Ori had enough of the King’s rule, so they politely refused to welcome him and his men.

Making our way across the city to where the Erathis Temple used to be, we find that it has changed quite a bit. No longer a temple, it was more of a community centre. A new building had been built and people were rushing to and fro, conducting business. Inside, Avaron pointed out that there was a small statue of P3TR. A Disciple greeted us and explained that the temple had been a focal point of the community of Fur-Lonn and that the Disciples had upgraded and brought the people together, turning this building into an unofficial town hall. Community events, city business, as well as the organization of the entire Disciple of the Shield order were conducted within this building. Congratulating him and his order for all the good they were doing, we asked if there were any rooms available. I could tell by the excitement in his voice that they would be all too happy to house the Guard. Apologizing for the mess of our gear, as we had no time to rest let alone clean up after our journey, a Disciple offers to clean our gear. Asking to be informed of any change in the state of the city, we all fall sound asleep.

Awakened, later in the day, a Disciple escorted us to the civil room. There, a group of elder Disciples awaited us. Described to me later as strong looking, but obviously diplomats, these elders told us that they were worried about the King’s men and what was approaching from the south. We offer our services in helping with the evacuation, and the meeting is over.

Gabriel and Avaron decided to go to the Roost, there to prepare our supplies and research more about this situation. Leviss and I stayed behind to help in any way we could. At the Roost, Gabriel upgraded the party’s jolt flasks, and Avaron researched old magical items. Leviss also had a bit of time to make a scope for his bow. In addition, Leviss and I help to clear out the northern section of the city. The people, while war torn, were not devoid of hope, they were working together like never before and while it was a sad situation, it was good to see that from the aftermath of calamity, came a trust and respect among the people that possibly had not been seen before.

Upon Avaron’s and Gabriel’s return from the Roost, the Council informed us that the last group from Hampton never made it, and that the Queen and her forces had arrived. The King, sending a messenger, requested a table be set up in the centre of town.

In the centre of Fur-Lonn, there was a statue of the King. It has always been there, but now it feels quite strange as the King and Queen meet under it. The King was escorted by a dangerous looking drake guard, while the Queen had Nala at her side.

Not wasting any time, the Queen states that if she gets what she wants, she’ll leave. The King says her having it would be too dangerous, and that he doesn’t have it anyway. At this, the Queen pointed her finger at the King and with a sudden, shrill sound, the statue of the King was blasted to bits. Nala and the drake guard move to fight, but all eyes were on the King and Queen.

Terrible ripping sounds and cackling laughter came from both of them. The earth shook at our feet, and a thunderous noise pounded at my ears. The King growled and grew to over 20 feet tall, with golden scales, huge claws, a monstrous head, and wings. The Queen, dark as ever, grew into a slightly smaller but similar form, with scales that shimmered like a moonlit pool and hearing this description, I was reminded of the giant drake we saw through the portal at Aristaal. I do not know how, but witnessing this, I knew, somewhere in my mind, that these were dragons. These were the, so thought, mythical beasts that reigned over men and held no quarter for their enemies. Taking flight, they charged, swirled, clawed, and attacked each other, flying over the city.
Suddenly, more rumbling was heard, and screams started erupting from outside the city.

“It’s the armies, they’re attacking the city!” I yelled. “Disciples, get your men out, protect the people of the city!”

“We need to get those two out of the city, or they’ll knock what’s left into the ground.” Avaron yelled.

“Well, they want the ring, let’s give it to them, but only when we’ve cleared the walls.” Leviss chipped in.

Moving east, we figured that once we get out, the ring will bring the battle somewhere where the losses will be fewer. Running around city streets, cutting through alleys, we turned corner to be confronted by zombies. Just behind us, something hits the ground with a horrible crash. “It’s the Queen!” Gabriel says, and with that, she takes off once again, looking wounded. With our path cut off, we decide to hack our way through the Queen’s horde.

As the zombies surround us, and try to grab us, our work is made so much easier when Leviss is almost grabbed. The zombies burned when they touched him, and he used this to clear a path. Firing lighting and fire from his newly grafted arm, he clears a path through which we run.

It was only through Leviss’ quick thinking, and my innate balance, that I was able to avoid falling down at every turn, as the streets were unrecognizable, covered in rubble. Nearing the upper class section of town, Avaron sees a family trapped in a collapsing house.

I don’t even take the time to think, sliding immediately under a beam, preventing the house from collapse. Avaron and Leviss slide past me and start ushering people out. Before Gabriel’s able to make it in, I take an arrow to the chest.

“Release the lizard lion, Gabriel!” I order. Gabriel loads his crossbow and begins firing bolts from behind the creature. “What’s out there?” I ask.

“King’s guards, coming close," he says.

While I struggle under the weight, Avaron and Leviss make quick work, Leviss comforting and moving people, Avaron simply picking children up by their shirt collars and throwing them out. That’s when I took another arrow to the chest.

Coughing up blood, I fell to one knee, the gap barely large enough for someone to get out. I no longer hear anything, except the blood thumping in my ears. I feel tired, why can’t I sleep? It’s been a long day.

Suddenly a voice calls out to me. “SURVIVE!” Leviss shouts and with that, I feel renewed! Hefting the weight above me, I stand up tall and proud. “Here to attack children? Wait until I’m done here and we’ll see who’s the better man.” I call out to the royal guards.

A cross between a thundering roar and a hiss is heard, among Gabriel’s laughter. With a quick command, he raises the beast on its hide legs and charges all over the street. Trampling guards, knocking everyone out of his path, he makes some quick work.

“Come on, move!” Avaron shouts as she helps another out from under the building. My strength wanes, my muscles cramp, and an arrow hits me in the shoulder. Laughing maniacally, I ask how soon until I can put these muscles to real use.

“One moment, I have to deal with something”, Avaron says. She steps out past me, unsheathing her sword. Fire erupting on her sword, and lightning crackling on her staff, she slams them together unleashing a terrible storm. “There, let’s go Mark!”

Dropping the corner of the house, dust rises everywhere and I move into the fray. Rising out of the cloud like a demon, I surprise 3 men, swinging my sword two-handed through them. Leviss moves to my side and tries to intimidate the rest. “You’re done. Get out while you still can.” Whispering to me, he says, “It’s not working, but I’ve picked up your shield.”

Gabriel leaps off the lizard lion and puts it away, loosing three arrows in the process. I can feel the wind and heat coming from Avaron’s magic from across the street as Leviss and I hack and slash at our nearby foes. With a low spinning sweep, forged in practice, Leviss leaps over my back, dropping my shield just as I grab it to shield him from an attack. He stabs a guard in the hand with a light arrow, firing another as he hits the ground.

Gabriel told me afterward that none of the guards attacked him; they seemed to take no notice of him, most likely because of the unspoken promise made to the King.

As the fight ends, we are left with two families unsure of where to go. Leading them on, our path is cut off when a building to the left of us is destroyed by the King’s unexpected crash landing. Growling and taking flight once again, Avaron changes our direction and we cut through a building, miraculously still standing. Made of stone, it was obviously a noble’s pursuit of living in a castle. Hiding out, Leviss checks the backdoor.

“We’ve got a problem, there’s a hooded figure out there, controlling a whole mess of zombies,” he says. “We can’t go around them, and we obviously cannot go through them with these people.”

“But, no, yes, I can do it!” Leviss says, and with that, he opens the door, and takes a knee. Due to my connection with Erathis, I can always just make out, from sound and smell alone, what’s happening just next to me. Humming a little under his breath, with guidance from Gabriel, “Take into account the wind, see the grass swaying, it’s blowing softly to the north.” Leviss looks through his newly made scope and fires a shot.

Whistling through the air, it seems to take forever for it to hit its mark. With a whoosh and a thud, the zombie controller is taken out. “ we have another problem”, Avaron says, “the zombies are coming this way.”

Grabbing the families and making for the next street over, Gabriel stops me at an alleyway. “The royal guards are riding hard from that alleyway, just there. But, the buildings, they’re about to collapse this path, if only they had some help.” Avaron, Leviss, and Gabriel place some alchemicals into position, as I huddle around the families, telling them we’ll be okay. I hear the sound of hooves, and tell them to hurry up.

“One got past, but Leviss is almost done!” Avaron yells just I hear a battle cry from a guard. I rush at him, shield high, knocking the horse out from under him.

“Got it!” Leviss shouts as an arrow whirls past my ear and hits the guard. Sidestepping into his reach, the Kingsman’s next attack misses, the spear going over my shoulder as he slips and falls flat due to Leviss’ jinx shot. Grabbing the flag and slamming it down, I pin his cape to the ground, shielding him and myself from the explosion as the buildings collapse near us.

Making it out of the city, it seems the Disciples of the Shield have a phalanx going, trying to move the people who had the misfortune of being stuck between the two armies. The Shield next to me says that we are completely surrounded. I order his men to retreat on the western side, so that the armies can advance, but meet each other.

“What do we do now? We can’t release the ring here, but we have to help these people!” Avaron shouts.

“What about the lizard lion? Could we make a defense?” I ask.

“No, he was hurt pretty badly back there.” Gabriel says.

Suddenly inspired, I look at Avaron and Leviss and say, “Let’s try it your way.” Taking the model of the lizard lion, I throw it as far as I can, into an oncoming hoard of guards. “Shazam!” I yell over and over causing the lizard lion to grow and shrink repeatedly, throwing guards everywhere.

Avaron, reaching for the ring, utters a cry of surprise as she realizes she doesn’t have it. Looking around, Leviss finds it on Gabriel’s belt. “What are you playing at Gabriel?”

“I don’t know, I had nothing to do with it!” Gabriel protests. “Must have been done without my knowledge, by the King’s promise” Avaron suggests.

“Well, whatever it was, here we go!” Leviss pulls the ring out for a single moment and as he does so, a shriek is heard from the city. The Shields call out that the dragons are coming right for us, just as the two armies clash around us.

Slamming into the ground, the King lands among the zombies who rip and tear at his flesh, while the Queen lands among the royal guards who cut and stab at her. Sweeping out an area around them, the Queen rushes at Leviss lifting him up. Moving way too fast, Leviss puts one bag of holding into another, creating sounds of thunder and lightning.

In an instant, he is gone.

The crossed bags created a vortex that swallowed him and all of his stuff whole. Rising to my feet, I scream!

Before I can say or do anything, the Queen flips out, thrashing around. The King slams into her, and throwing him off, she stabs into his chest with her arm. Laughing and saying this will do, she rips out his heart; still beating, larger than my head. The Queen starts to chant.

Magical energy crackles all around us, and with a heavy thud, something new hits the ground. An evil looking machine, and at its core, she tries to place the King’s heart. Gabriel pushes past, takes a knee and with a deafening boom, fires his wand. The energy hits the heart, throbs with the next heartbeat and then explodes, blowing the Queen’s head right off.

The heart moves into the machine and the King, with his dying breath, says it’s too late. Avaron shouts out that all the magic in the area is being drawn into the machine. I rush to it, and without thinking of anything except Leviss and how quickly life can be extinguished, I try to rip the machine apart.

Nothing works. It won’t budge, it won’t yield, and going mad with grief, with pain, anguish, I thrust my hands inside hoping to gum up the works. Pulled inside, I am cut, struck from all sides, and I feel death wash over me.

The machine fired a beam of arcane energy into the sky. The sky, now darkening in the evening appeared to be cut, but other than that, nothing changed. The Guard, or what was left of them, looked on as one friend was gone, and another, the one called Mark, was lifted out of the machine. Suddenly opening his eyes, he says:

“I can’t believe you’d survive. What’s going on here? You were given up for dead, how did you survive?”Explained to us all later, it turns out that the voice of Bahamet, the dragon god, the seeker of justice, was speaking through Mark.

Another voice answered him, and off to the side was a blue, spectral figure whose presence held strength, and wisdom. The Guard explained to us later that Bahamet explained that this world, the land of the Capital and of Ori, had been cut off from all other worlds, from all other planes. During the spell plagues, a sickness that threatened and ended the life of many dragons, the King and Queen, simply two dragons, created this shard of a world in order to attempt to create the perfect world, where all would adore and worship dragons. The King, obviously still working within this plan, ran this world for ages, while the Queen, it seems, wanted out, thus the machine.

Bahamet, growing angry, says that justice is needed. Atlas reassured Bahamet, saying both dragons are dead, pointing to their dead bodies on the field of battle. Bahamet, still speaking with the shifter’s voice, laughs and says that this world will no longer be cut off. It is open, to the rest of existence and all its wonders, and all its dangers.

The above was taken from a cleric of Ioun who, recovering from a leg wound, started recording the events of the day. The rest, continues my story.

Waking up, feeling very battle worn, I look up, and feel Avaron and Gabriel at my side, and I see Atlas. I see him, as clearly as I once did, and I ask him what is going on? He explains all to us, and says that before, Moradan’s words were whispers, muffled by the veiled wall of this world. Now, all is open, and he can hear and see Moradan in a way he never thought possible. In time, continuing my work, perhaps I could hear Erathis, Atlas prompts.

“You are free now. You have grown so much in such a short time, but there’s still more out there. So much to see, so much to learn. The planes are open to you, and I, your guide as always, can take you there.”

Excited by this offer, but worried about leaving things as they are, Atlas says, “Don’t worry lad, the offer is open, take your time here, wrap things up, think it over, I’ll be around.” And with that, he left.

Avaron, Gabriel and I spent the next few weeks cleaning things up. The Disciples of the Shield made quick work of everything, getting all the cities back in living order, and helping to make the connection between Ori and the capital more harmonious and civilized than ever before. We visited the Roost, there Avaron spent much time among her father’s old things. With Gabriel’s help, we tracked down Tori and her druidic flock and family. Telling her of our adventures and Atlas’ offer, she wished us well, whatever we decided. She has had enough of adventuring and she assured us that she would take care of this world, if we chose to leave.

Back at the Roost, Gabriel, Avaron and I spent most of our time alone. Gabriel made alchemicals in the workshop, and made meals to delight royalty from the kitchen. I organized all the books and materials in the main room, spent some time taking care of Quinn, and our other horses. Avaron spent most of her time, in her father’s old room. None of us really knew what to say, or what to do.

One day, merely two weeks after Atlas’ offer. We had a meeting in the main room. No one called a meeting, but all three of us suddenly had things to say. Gabriel said that he has seen many things, but this world does not offer to him the same chances of discovery or wonder as other planes might. He told us that, his whole life, he has been free to go wherever he likes, but now he wants to stand by our side no matter what. Avaron said that she has been studying her father’s work and that she feels better about everything. She has always pursued truth and knowledge and she feels quite sure that she’s outgrown this world. She wanted to go out into the planes and learn what she could, in honour of her father.

Sighing, the others, knowing I had been moody, waited for me to speak. I told them that I missed Leviss. Not only did I lose a friend, but I lost a brother.

“Leviss and you, Avaron, have been more a part of my life than anything else, I guess that’s why losing my eyes wasn’t so bad; I knew I still had you. But, now he’s gone. Leviss, my right hand man, always cheering me up, always stirring up fun, trouble, and adventure, now he’s gone, and I have a hard time not hardening my heart because of that. Erathis has not spoken to me, as Atlas suggested, and I feel terrible.”

“Erathis has always expected you to speak for yourself. She will speak to you when you’re both ready,” Atlas suddenly said, putting a hand on my shoulder.

“Also, Leviss is not gone. He’s out there. The bags merely opened a tunnel to another plane taking Leviss with them. I can feel him, he’s out there, and if you choose to go, you can find him.”

“As for you, lass, the same thing happened to your father. His portal didn’t kill him, it merely misplaced him. He’s out there, probably scaring bad guys as we speak.”

It was like a cloud had been lifted. Leviss, alive? Alan, Avaron’s dad, out there, a chance to meet and reunite Alan with Avaron? It seemed too good to be true, but here Atlas was, saying it was so.

I leave a copy of this journal to you, my avid reader, to think what you see fit. I cannot claim to have all the answers, but I wanted the world to know what happened, from one who was there. Knowing our past is a good way to learn and grow as a people, so don’t make the same mistakes I have.

I leave you now, my sword sharp, my armour fit, and my shield solid. Gabriel joins us on our epic adventure, Avaron goes in search of her father, Leviss, and answers.

I go...for the chance to bring light and order to the universe.

I get my friend back.

I search of fate.

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