Thursday, July 26, 2012

[Raeslyn's Story] Chapter 1.1: Stirrings of War

      I spent several days at the Sanctuary of Rebirth absorbing all the shocking information that the priests of the Vigil relayed to me. And there was a lot to absorb, I'll say that much. I'm a practical person. A realist, you might say. I tend to only think about the things in front of me, rather than philosophy, what the gods have in mind for us all, the end of the world. You know, that kind of thing. But now I have to kill the king, save the world, and stop the mythical Blood Storm. Just your average day as an Ascended apparently. I also took time to understand and retrain my newly resurrected body, complete with perks. I was now, once I'd settled back into my body more fully, much faster, much stronger, and much more aware of my surroundings. I had lightning fast reflexes and I suddenly knew many more tricks and abilities. These last two come compliments of the souls that share my body. Creepy right? The Vigil, in their all-seeing way, knew that in order to stop the Blood Storm I would need incredible power and skill. In short, I'd need an entire army. So they fused the souls of ancient and powerful men and women with my soul, making me, essentially, a better fighter. In a way, I'm very uncomfortable with it, but these other souls are just like a tool to me. As long as I don't directly focus on them or think about them overmuch, it's like they aren't even there. I can access their knowledge, skill and combat expertise, but they don't influence my own personality or thought process at all. At least, I don't think they do...And while I would have liked to be given a choice, or at least have a hand in my grand future, I find that I don't really mind being a chosen warrior for the Vigil. There are other Ascended here as well, newly risen from the now quite famous Battle at Thedeor Field. I shudder even thinking about it. All those souls, destroyed in an instant by that maniac Aedraxis. I knew there was something fishy when I'd heard the rumor, all the way over in Silverwood, that the old king had died suddenly and his son had taken up the crown upon the very same night. But Mathosian civil war wasn't my business at the time. As an Ascended, it's a different story. Time to kick some royal ass.
       To keep myself busy and to accustom myself to my new potential, I'd constructed practice battle dummies and other odds and ends within the cathedral. The devout of the Vigil want to make sure I'm capable of defeating any enemy I come across. They seem pretty confident that I'll be able to best anything, with experience. And I do need experience. Although I have all this knowledge of new abilities, powerful and unique attacks and traps, how to set arrows on fire and all kinds of nifty, death dealing tricks, I don't actually know how to do that. It's like the difference between reading the entire encyclopedia on the subject of war and than going out and waging war, if you know what I mean? So I've practiced some simple forms and attacks, gotten used to my new reflexes and speed, and I know I'm ready to go out there and raise some hell. Or rather, put it down. Ah, that priestess is staring at me with alarm, perhaps I should stop grinning now.
Once I had made up my mind to leave the Sanctuary and seek knowledge of the happenings of the outside world, I was ushered to a large, elaborate opening at one end of the Sanctuary. In place of a physical door, there was a fine, shimmering web across the open entrance. It rippled outward from some central point, cascading and overlapping like a sheer, magical sheet. I hadn't even noticed it until I'd almost walked right into it. Startled, I stepped back a pace and gawked. I'm a rogue. We don't deal in magic readily. Best leave that to the crazy and suicidal mages who trade good blades and proper armor for flimsy cloth and volatile spells. No thanks.

My, my, color me impressed. It seems that the Mathosians had learned many things about the properties of magic and it's near limitless power in the past years. Perhaps I had more than I thought to catch up on. Spending most of my time in the forests of Silverwood or at the Quicksilver College, located in Silverwood as well, I hadn't much had the chance to venture outside the forest limits.

     It was my sacred duty to protect the divine wood after all. Silverwood is the most sacred home of Tavril, containing many powerful and defensible places of note. So to see a spell of such magnitude being employed effortlessly and continuously really amazed me. And worried me truth be told. Will our audacity and thirst for power know no bounds? Where is the stopping point before we become as corrupt and damned as Regulos and his brood?

     As I stared blindly into the array of magic, thoughts elsewhere, I noticed another angelic being floating serenely to the left of the entrance. I glanced behind me curiously, wondering if it was the same one as I had met when I had first woken up here, up on the terrace. But of course in the gloom of the windowless fortress I couldn't see that far, even with my acute elven senses. Seconds before I stepped outside the sanctuary, the Vigil's Messenger whispered in my ear, "Remember this, Raeslyn. You are the Vigil's chosen, restored to life to fight Regulos and his unholy servant Aedraxis. Go with the grace of the Vigil."

     So I went. Stepping through that shimmery, hazy web of magic was almost like stepping through a spider web. It sort of clung to you even after you've moved past it. The net of magic felt cold and wet, although it left no dampness on my skin. I shivered once I reached the other side. And stood on the steps, staring around me. It was like entering another world, truly. One so different from my last memory. I had been on the outskirts of Silverwood, on my way to warn lady Shyla of the treachery of the Aelfwar when I'd been cut down. And I'd been resurrected in the heart of the Mathosian Empire, far to the north. The land looked like it had once been beautiful, but the scent of blood and death hung heavy on the wind. Occasionally a brightly colored ball of flame would shoot by overhead, hurled by some far distant projectile. Clouds of black smoke billowed up from over the hill and the cemetery that surrounded the cathedral of rebirth was swarming with undead monsters, brought to some evil semblance of life by the power of the death rift. These must be remnants of men and women who had died in misery and pain on Thedeor Field, the ones who's souls were rent so far beyond recognition that they couldn't be Ascended, or were twisted by Aedraxis's evil powers.

     I watched the death-touched creatures for a few moments from the relative safety of the sanctuary steps before taking a deep breath to keep myself together, because hey, we can't let the locals know that their great big hero is kinda concerned. I strode forward into the cemetery. The priests had told me that if I was to have a chance at defeating the endless army of Aedraxis and stopping his mad bid for power, I'd need to reunite with the other Ascended at Ardenburgh. It is a Mathosian border

village, hardly noted except that it was on the border of Mathosia and the southern lands. It was also near to the castle where the King of Mathosia usually ruled from. Movement drew my eye to a tall elf in blue robes fighting off one of the undead creatures by the rusted gate that led down to the village. I ran over to help, daggers in hand, just as she smote the undead creature with a flash of white light. The woman introduced herself as Fayne Doran, an Ascended like myself. But unlike myself, I was horrified to realize that Ascension had blinded her, although she assured me that as a Cleric, she had other, deeper vision that allowed her to see the world around her in a better light.

    "I cannot see your face, yet I know you well, Raeslyn," she said softly, which was a bit on the alarming side.
     Several of the rotting citizens attacked us as we stood there, but my Ascended abilities warned me ahead of time and I was able to easily dispatch them. And then an astonishing thing happened. A pure white spirit form rose out of the bodies of the rotting corpses and hovered in the air in front of me. The spirit thanked me profusely before dissipating. The steady assault of rotting corpses thinned as I worked my way down the hill into the outskirts of what had to be the village of Ardenburgh. I could scarcely call it a village though, such devastation had befallen it. The village had obviously been victim of the death rift as well.The priests at the Sanctuary had led me to believe that it would be an easy thing; go to the village, offer my newly acquired Ascended powers, and then off to confront the Tyrant, but that wasn't exactly how it went. 

      Whole houses were now nothing but charred remains, some still burning fiercely despite being days after the event. As I wandered further into town, beginning to lose hope of finding anyone alive, I came across more and more dead bodies attached to strange mechanical constructs. And patrolling the streets and alleys were large, plated men bearing the crest of Aedraxis. More than once I had to hide behind a stairwell to let a patrol march by. I admit, I was getting a bit anxious. What if the troops I was supposed to meet up with had been overrun by these knights or some other evil? What was I supposed to do then? Keep going? Confront Aedraxis and his army alone? Hardly something I was looking forward to.
     But when I saw one such "knight" attacking a hapless citizen, brutally and savagely beating her, I knew I had to do something. Using my skill as a rogue, I snuck up behind the larger man and quickly planted a dagger in his back. Unbothered, the man casually turned and backhanded me, throwing me some feet away to slam against a stone stairwell. The tight alleys did not make for good fighting conditions. I called upon the Vigil's power as I picked myself up off the ground, feeling renewed strength and clarity course through me. The knight just sneered at me, clearly not impressed. His folly. Faster than an eye blink, I had danced within reach, quickly landing three successive hits with my daggers before he could even retaliate. This did have some visible effect, as the knight grunted in pain and slouched forward. However, he did not fall and kept coming at me. Thinking quickly, I pulled on the knowledge of the other souls that shared my body, and was able to shift through half a dozen different levels of the planes in a space of seconds, appearing directly behind the knight. Before he could react, I jumped up and slashed deeply at the back of his neck, severing the spine. He immediately slumped to the ground, leaving me panting from the exertion.

     As I stood there recovering, I noticed that his weapon was rather out of place for such a lowly soldier. It was a broad sword, quite long. The metal it was made out of struck a chord of familiarity. It was a strange, shimmery blue color, with tiny stones set in the pommel. Finally I recognized it. This was a Sourcestone-made weapon! I couldn't believe it. Where had this knight gotten the weapon. Was he the only one wielding one, or were all these so-called knights carrying that precious and magical material?
I couldn't let them just wander around with Sourcestone-imbued blades so I picked up the sword. It was pretty heavy though and I really didn't have anywhere to put it. Using my Ascended strength, I smashed the weapon against the cobblestoned alley. The result was as I intended. The blade shattered into convenient sized fragments and I quickly scooped up a fair amount of the Sourcestone metal, placing it in a large pouch on my belt.

     Thrice more I was forced to either defend myself or a hapless citizen as I made my way through the eerily still byways of Ardenburgh. I was becoming increasingly exhausted as I walked. My body was still not quite up to the kind of exertions I had been putting it through, and I could feel my muscles aching. I had almost given up hope of finding any sign of a defensive position set up in the village like the priests had said there were, when I rounded a corner and there it was.The town square sprawled out in front of me, dominated by a large and simple fountain dedicated to Thontic. A wooden barricade and been hastily erected around the fountain. From within, I could make out the telltale shale-pink hair of my Lady, Shyla Starhearth. Oh, I was so very glad to see her! As well I saw various other people of differing race, even a dwarf. Feeling such a relief and a fresh surge of adrenaline, I made a beeline for the fountain.

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