Thursday, August 30, 2012

[Raeslyn's Story] Chapter 1.6: Shade of Regulos

     Aedraxis looked nothing like what I'd imagine a king would look like. In fact, he looked quite the opposite; a crazed evil overlord bent on ruling the world. Which I guess is quite fitting considering the circumstances. He was wearing black outlandish looking armor from head to toe, with a full face helmet and a long black cloak. He was totally going for the black on black theme here. He gets even less points for that. I hate solid colors. I mean come on, a little splash of color here and there never hurt nobody!

     The tyrant surveyed us heroes standing in front of him, and he didn't look all that impressed or frightened. In fact, he looked annoyed. Hey, at least we can annoy the guy. My pulse was in my throat and I know that if I dwelled on my situation, I'd be positively terrified, which is probably why I'm resorting to sarcastic wisecracks to myself to keep me calm. I don't know how we're supposed to beat this guy.

     "What is this?" Aedraxis demanded in a cold, steely voice. Just the sound of it had me stepping back a pace. Right at this moment I really didn't want to be Ascended. "Did I not slay you before?" His sneer was directed at Cyril. He idly flicked nonexistent dirt off his gauntlets and gave us all a beady look, as if sizing us up for dinner. I gave a quick glance to Cyril, reassured by his stoic and calm stance. I wish I could be brave like him.
     "The gods brought us back to destroy you, Tyrant!" Cyril called in response to Aedraxis's question. Aedraxis gave a mirthless laugh and swept his hands out wide.

     "You are too late, Ascended. The ceremony has already begun. Your gods cannot stand against the Dragon of Extinction!" Uh oh, that didn't sound good. My fears were confirmed when Aedraxis turned from us and raised his arms in the air, speaking in some guttural language. Finally he called out "Regulos, I give my life to you, from which springs power eternal!" I backed up a step, and glanced at my erstwhile comrades again. Perhaps we should uh, be moving away. This doesn't seem like it will end well.

     A sinister looking mist surrounded Aedraxis's form, obscuring him from view. He cried out suddenly, and then the clearing was silent for a moment. Absurdly, I could hear the tentacles from the Death Rift as they snaked along the barren ground. Than the mist cleared as quickly as it had arrived, leaving a nightmare in its wake. That's the only way I can describe it...him.
     A nightmare straight out of legend. The creature was incredibly tall, floating above the ground a good two feet. It was covered in the tattered remains of Aedraxis's black armor, and was covered in some dark scales. Spines grew out of the head, which was so malformed now that it was unrecognizable as anything recently belonging to a human. A long, whip like tail extended out from the form, and its arms ended in needle point claws. I so didn't want a hug from that thing. Not that it was in the hugging mood.

     "In life, I ruled Mathosia, but with Regulos, I shall rule all of creation!" Said the creature. It had a duel voiced quality, as if more that one person was speaking. Which is probably right. From it's comment, I knew that Aedraxis must still be in there somewhere, for I know from stories that Regulos cared naught for ruling, or creation at all. In fact, all he cared about was death and destruction. I wonder what Regulos thought about sharing a body with someone so ambitious. Beside me, movement caught my eye, and I was dismayed to note that Cyril was stepping forward, sword raised. Obviously he had no problem taking the initiative.

     Before he could say or do anything though, another man ran up beside him. I blinked. It was Carwin Mathos! I'm not sure it was a good idea to have him here. He'd only antagonize Aedraxis/Regulos further! I gave Carwin a concerned look and he smiled warmly at me. Lady Shyla also gave Carwin a smile and a nod. Holding his shield aloft in front of him, Carwin took a pace forward.

     "You're insane brother! I will end this if you can't." Carwin's sharp, commanding voice cut through the thick air like a knife and I cringed. That was so not the words to say. I held my breath, dreading what would happen next. We should do something! But we all just stood there, staring at the creature. It turned and regarded Carwin with mildly curious, apathetic eyes, and a cold chuckle emitted from its lips. I gulped upon seeing rows of jagged teeth in its mouth.

     "Carwin." Said the creature, staring down at said man. To his credit, Carwin stood his ground and stared defiantly back. "My bastard brother. You will address me as Regulos, or not at all!" On the last word, the creature flung out its clawed hand, quick as lightning, and a coil of death magic flew from his hand. I watched in frozen horror as the beam hit Carwin in the chest. With a strangled scream, Carwin crumpled to the ground, where he lay, glassy-eyed and unmoving.

     I stared down at his dead body for several seconds, unable to comprehend what I'd just witnessed. No! This can't seriously be happening. Not to Carwin. I became aware that my mouth was hanging open, but I made no move to shut it. My mind was in complete shock. Lady Shyla also looked stricken, staring down at Carwin with a confused expression. The longer I stared, the more I wished this was a dream. A dull pain in my hand had me glancing down. I hadn't even realized it, but I'd been gripping my daggers so hard, my hands were white. Noticing this made the fury rush through me like a hot wave. How. Dare. He! I swiftly turned back to the Shade of Regulos and growled.

     "Regulos hungers for your souls." Said the creature, upon realizing it now had everyone's attention again. "You will all fall before me!" Not bloody likely! I bared my teeth at him. I'd kill that monster if it was the last thing I did. If only to avenge my newfound comrade Carwin. He did not deserve that death. I glanced at Cyril, and gasped as a dragon spawn materialized out of the Rift behind him. Cyril noticed my look and spun to meet the foe. Using his large sword as a shield, he blocked the beast's jaws from tearing his face off. That's when Lady Shyla pointed behind me and cried a warning. Without thinking, I rolled to the side and spun to meet the new enemy. It was another dragon spawn. Both of them were the size of ponies, and had a mouth full of teeth to make a croc proud. I left Cyril to take care of his own drake, since he seemed like a capable warrior type. Not to mention he's so tall. That left me to take care of this drake. No problem...
     I swiped at the creature with my dagger, to gauge its reaction. The drake pulled back from my dagger and hissed angrily. It kept a short distance, circling me like a cat watching a mouse. It was large and it was deadly, but it was clumsy and ungainly with those overlarge wings and large feet. My guess is, it's just a youngling and hadn't grown into its body yet. Too bad for it. Shyla hit the drake from behind with some kind of leafy spell, which exploded when it hit its scaly back. The beast roared with fury and instantly turned to attack her, which gave me ample opportunity to put my roguish skills to good use. Quickly I dashed under one leathery wing and planted a dagger right above the drake's shoulder blade. With luck, I'd hit the heart. The creature turned back to me with lightning reflexes and I barely dodged getting eaten in time.

     Thankfully, my dagger thrust seemed to do the trick, as the creature expired soon after, although it put up a good fight right till the end. As soon as it had slumped to the ground and didn't appear to be getting up anytime soon, I turned to help Cyril out. He was holding his own but was having a hard time actually getting a hit on the creature, as he had to keep defending himself from its claws and teeth. Shyla moved up behind Cyril and made a strange motion over the crystal at the top of her staff. The crystal glowed green, and then green leaves appeared over Cyril's head. Instantly he stood straighter and seemed to be more alert. Huh, impressive. The benefits of having a Cleric around I suppose.

     While the drake was furiously trying its hardest to get ahold of Cyril, I snuck up around to its vulnerable side and promptly did the same thing as before. I stuck my dagger to the hilt in it's side, right above the shoulder, and watched with vicious satisfaction as the beast gave a gurgled cry and toppled over. I grinned wickedly at Cyril over the drake's body and he raised an eyebrow at me. Before I could congratulate myself or boast, the tentacles of the Rift disgorged another foe. I groaned. Oh come on already! This isn't fair.

     This time, the creatures that stepped through the Rift were Ettin. I hate Ettin. Big, lumbering, tough as rocks and almost impossible to kill. We're definitely in trouble. Brother Jebiah muttered a prayer and threw a spell at one immediately, drawing its attention. The spell, unfortunately, didn't seem to have any more impact than a fly though, and I studied the creatures quickly for any weaknesses to use. I zeroed in on their necks, which seemed fleshy and soft, unlike the rest of the creatures. They were at least 11 feet tall though. At least. I'd need some kind of leverage to reach my target. I glanced around swiftly. Nothing I could see nearby that would be of use. I assessed the two Ettin again as they thundered around trying to get a swing at the others. The rest of my Ascended comrades seemed to have caught on to the fact that the Ettin were very slow and even slower in the mind, so all they had to do was run in circles. But that wouldn't last for long. We needed a way to slay them, and fast, as the Shade looked right pleased with itself, which means it was going to try something else nasty in a few minutes.

     Finally I decided I'd just try to scale the Ettin's back. I sent a quick prayer to Tavril for luck, than took a deep breath. I gauged the distance to the Ettin, waited till it had turned it's back to swipe at Cyril, than ran like mad. A few feet from the Ettin, I pushed off with one foot and leaped as high as I could. I lodged my foot in the Ettin's conveniently placed belt. The belt was so big that it was an easy feat to keep my balance with one foot wedged between the belt and its flesh. Best not dwell on that overmuch or I might get grossed out. The Ettin straightened and made a non intelligent noise of confusion, and twisted around to look behind it. I almost lost my grip when it did that, but thankfully grabbed ahold of a fleshy ridge in its shoulders. Holding on with one hand, I reached to my own belt and pulled out one of my sharpest daggers. This was also one of the daggers I'd coated in poison earlier. I grinned as I stuck the dagger in the back of the Ettin's neck. It roared and shook itself, reaching behind with a massive hand to grab at what was causing it pain.

     The constant moving finally dislodged my foot and I tumbled to the ground. I tucked myself in and rolled with the fall just like my mentor had taught me, and gave silent thanks to his patient tutelage. Well, that was one Ettin down. Only, it wasn't down yet. It staggered a few steps, and glanced around wildly, roaring continuously. Uh oh, looks like I only made it mad. I was sure I'd stuck the dagger in as far as it would go. I glanced down at the dagger in question. Sure enough, it was coated in blood. I tried not to dwell on that fact. It was either the Ettin or us, and I'd rather we survive. While the Ettin was disoriented, Cyril hacked at it with his ridiculously long sword. Go Cyril! The poison seemed to take effect soon after and the creature fell to the ground. I swear I felt the ground shudder with the impact. They are that big, seriously.

     Seeing its comrade fall, the other Ettin roared in anger and rushed at Cyril, the last person to harm the other Ettin. Ugh, here we go again. While Cyril played tag with the Ettin, I quickly ran over to my discarded pack and grabbed my vial of poison out. The dagger I'd used was no good now, covered in blood as it was, so I carefully placed it next to the pack for cleaning later, and pulled out another dagger. Never fear, I have plenty of these babies laying around. With deft hands, I poured the thick, deadly fluid over the blade of the new dagger. I put the stopper back in the vial, shoved it back in my pouch, and waited impatiently for the poison to turn shiny. That's how I know that it's properly bonded to the metal of the blade. Working with poisons is iffy stuff. Sometimes, it just melts the metal. Other times, it slides right off. Those times are the worst.

     Thankfully, the blade took on a reflective sheen and I knew it was all good. I quickly reversed the hilt for ease of movement and dashed back into the fray, hoping no one else had been slain while I'd been preoccupied. They all seemed to be doing good. Cyril kept the Ettin distracted, Jebiah wacked at it with his magic, and Shyla stayed in the background healing injuries. Just like before, I waited till the Ettin was distracted, than ran at its back. This one's belt was made of cloth, which sagged when I placed my weight on it. I cursed when I almost fell off again. I'm not an acrobat, and this is the most combat I've seen in my life!

     I sank the dagger into the Ettin's neck and jumped free before it could reach around and grab me or shove me off. This time I landed on my feet, bending the knees to absorb the impact, and danced out of reach when the Ettin made to swat me. A few more lumbering steps, and down it went. I grinned and nodded at Cyril and Shyla.

     "I see my minions proved ineffective against Ascended. No matter, I shall destroy you myself!" The cold, deathly voice from behind us wiped the smiles right off our faces. Oh light, I'd forgotten all about the Shade. Which was obviously a foolish mistake. The Aedraxis/Regulos creature lowered itself to the ground to stand on two clawed feet that resembled dragon feet more than human, and raised both hands above his head. The sky seemed to darken. Uh oh. A lash of wind seemed to radiate out from the Shade's form. It was so sharp I felt a sting on my face and when I touched it with my fingers and inspected them, they were covered in blood. Cyril had similar slices on his throat and hands and Shyla had a long slice on her forehead. She quickly hummed something and her scratches disappeared, but the Shade was quickly calling up the wind again. We needed to finish this because we weren't going to stand against that for long.

     Cyril had the same idea as me and charged into battle with the Shade. Jebiah followed suit with a rapid succession of spells. I felt the pain under my eye lessen than fade, and knew that Lady Shyla had healed me. I gave her a grateful smile, before tossing aside the poisoned dagger and grabbing two more unused ones from my boots. Showtime.

     I dashed into the fray, trying my hardest to dodge the winds that Regulos's avatar threw at us. I have to admit, if not for Lady Shyla's constant healing, we'd have been in serious trouble. She was like a soothing breeze at our backs, constantly keeping us safe and whole. There was one curious soul inside of me which seemed to hum to itself in tune with Shyla's chanting, which I found somewhat distracting while I was trying to fight. I kept dividing my attention between the Shade and the humming, which was filling my ears, but wasn't actually a physical noise. In my mind's eye I pictured a young, black skinned elf with a lute, sitting on a mossy boulder and playing a haunting melody that ensnared her enemies with its deadly song. I shook my head to rid myself of the image, but it kept trying to impose itself over my eyes.

     I'm trying to stay alive here! I growled in my mind. A sense of calm amusement floated back to me and I sighed. Fine.

     The battle seemed to last ages. My arms were beginning to tire and I felt exhaustion creeping up on me. Keeping up a fight for that long would tire anyone, even an Ascended! I knew at some point one side of the other would make a mistake. And I was right. It was the Shade. He began uttering his wind spell when Jebiah hit him with an ice spell that didn't do any damage as far as I can see, but it did seem to make him lose concentration. In that moment, he was vulnerable and Cyril immediately rammed his sword in the creature's stomach. I followed suit with my daggers wherever I could. The avatar staggered and shrieked, an ear shattering sound. When he didn't immediately continue assaulting us, I hesitantly stepped back. Cyril did as well. We all waited with bated breath, hoping that was it.

     With a dramatic shudder, the creature collapsed on its face. "I have fallen...but I will return!" Was the last words the Shade spoke before it expired. Cold words, those, that made me shiver all the way to my boots. It seemed to deflate after death, and didn't look nearly as imposing as it did earlier. I took a deep breath and wiped my brow. I suddenly felt so tired, I just wanted to sleep for a week. I couldn't wait to get back to Valor Hold.

     Lady Shyla silently ghosted to Carwin's fallen form and stared down at him sadly. "I...I can't believe Carwin is gone!" She said in a quivery voice. Cyril came up and put a hand on her shoulder. Gods he's tall, was my inane thought. "The cost was great but we, we were victorious." Shyla murmured, the words almost too low to catch. I nodded mournfully, staring at Carwin.

     "This isn't over yet." Cyril said firmly, drawing back from Shyla and turning to look down at the corpse of the avatar. He gestured to the Hammer of the Vigil, which lay forgotten behind me from the beginning of the battle. I turned and gave the weapon a blank look. "You must shatter the body of Aedraxis to sever Regulos's hold on this place." I blinked at him. Seriously? Why can't he do it?? After staring at Cyril for a minute, wherein he looked back at me expectantly, I groaned and threw up my hands. Fine! Ugh. I stomped back over to the Hammer, where it lay innocently, and resisted the urge to stick my tongue out at it. Instead, I picked up the overly heavy weapon and trudged back to the Shade's body. I raised an eyebrow at Cyril and he gave me a serious nod.
     "For Carwin!" He shouted. And I echoed him when he said next, "For the Vigil!" As we finished the cry, I struck downward with the hammer onto the Shade's skull. There was a blinding flash, my eyes were filled with a vision of thousands of white-gold wings, and than...nothing.

Monday, August 13, 2012

[Glossary] I: Battle Terms

     A list of interesting words to describe a battle, or weapons used in battle. I came across this idea while watching a battle scene in Lord of the Rings one day and I was curious about what the terms were for different attacks and such. So here it is, enjoy!
General Terms:
  • Abort: To terminate a mission.
  • Accuracy: The precision of fire expressed by the closeness of a grouping of wounds at and around the center of the target.
  • Advance Guard: A detachment sent ahead of the main force.
  • Adversary: A party acknowledged as potentially hostile.
  • Ambush: Surprise attack, usually from a well covered area on an unsuspecting foe.
  • Caster: A combatant who uses mainly magic to take down their foes, usually known by the long robes they wear.
  • Casualty: Killed or wounded in combat.
  • Center Up: Move back to the center of the field.
  • Close to melee: Use close up weapons such as daggers, knives or swords.
  • Companion or Minion: A fighter's battle pet or summons, who will offer any and all aid they can to keep their master alive, including sacrificing their own life.
  • Collateral damage: Damage to anything not pertaining to the fight or the war against the Blood Storm and their cults. Refugees or citizen deaths.
  • Command Appointment: Putting someone in charge of a unit of soldiers or guardian troops.
  • Dance: A more fancy and musical term for a fight, usually when the fighter(s) are so fast and fluid they appear to be dancing.
  • Decapitate: Literally, to cut off the head. Can be taken literally, as in, you cut off someone's head, or figuratively, meaning if you kill the leader, the army will fall.
  • Dual: A personal fight usually between two opponents. A way to settle a score, measure skill, or defend honor.
  • Engage: To close weapons with an adversary; cross blades.
  • Fighting Arc: A 90 degree arc extending out from the center point of the fighter where they are able to effectively deliver their blows.
  • Finishing move: A more powerful attack, usually designed to end the life of your opponent in one fell swoop, using more strength then usual and possibly with magical aid.
  • First Blood: Score the first hit on your foe.
  • Flurry: A fast series of blows, often too quick for the eye to follow.
  • High ward: Holding your weapon over your head at a 45 degree angle, facing forward.
  • Low Blow: A shot struck on or below the knees.
  • Low guard: The weapon is held along the center of your body, facing downward.
  • Lunge: Striking forward with your blade by keeping one foot secured to the ground and stepping forward with the other.
  • Measure: Judging the distance between yourself and your opponent, skill wise or physically, in a fight.
  • Molinet: A circular motion with a weapon starting at the wrist, a fancy flourish, usually to show off.
  • On guard: To ready yourself and your weapon for a fight.
  • Range: The distance before foes engage in combat.
  • Stealth: To move unseen among your foes. Usually the favored method of rogues and assassins.
  • Stances: A ward or guard. How you hold yourself before battle and during fighting. A specific way of standing. There are three main stances, defensive, offensive, retreating.
  • Melee:
    • Swords-Long melee weapons, usually made of steel or strong metals.
    • Knives-Short, sharp weapons, usually a last defense.
    • Daggers-The choice weapon for rogues and assassins.
    • Axes-Heavy, often double bladed stout weapons.
    • Sickle-Short handled weapon with a crescent-moon shaped thin blade.
    • Kama-Similar to a sickle, but with a longer handle.
    • Staff- A long, non-sharp pole, usually as an aid in defense or in magic casting.
    • Polearms-Very tall two-handed staff with a bladed point.
      • Halberd-Like an axe, but with the reach of a polearm.
      • Spear-a throwing staff with a deadly point.
      • Glaive-A type of polearm, usually bladed at both ends and ceremonial.
    • Club/Mace-A blunt, short-handled weapon made for bashing.
    • Morning Star-A mace with a chain and spiked ball attached.
  • Ranged:
    • Bow- Strung weapon that shoots arrows
    • Shiruken- A palm sized multi-bladed disc.
    • Gun- Weapon that shoots metal from a barrel.
    • Slingshot- Simple Y shaped weapon that flings objects.
    • Spear- A thrown polearm with a sharp tip.
    • Throwing axe/dagger- A small, balanced thrown weapon of deadly accuracy.
    • Javalin- Similar to a spear, another name for one.
    • Dart- A needle thin sliver of metal or wood, usually poisoned.
    • Catapult- A massive field artillery that hurls large heavy objects.
    • Ballista- A type of catapult, lighter and faster.
    • Cannon- A metal catapult that has better accuracy.
    • Grenade- A thrown explosive.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

[Raeslyn's Story] Chapter 1.5: A Dim Dark Eye

   As I suspected, I was right. As soon as I had recovered my bearings and had gotten a quick meal by one of the many camp fires, I was summoned by Cyril again for a brief meeting.
     "Our troops can handle the lesser undead and abominations, Raeslyn. What we need from you, if you are up to the task, is to find a way to disable those necromancers! If we can get control of their catapults and assault their army from behind, it would put a significant dent in Aedraxis's army. Can you do this for us?" Even though he asked it as a question, I knew I couldn't just say no and walk away. I don't imagine that would be acceptable to a man like Cyril. So I nodded firmly, steeling my resolve. That battlefield was chaos. I quietly slipped out through the gate again. The sentries, having recognized me by now and used to my frequent comings and goings, just gazed after me with somewhat reserved eyes. Ya, I'd doubt my potential too if I were them. I shook off the gloomy thoughts as I actually left the safety of Valor Hold, knowing I'd need my mind to stay sharp and focused on the task at hand. I paused next to some type of artillery machine and scanned the battlefield, looking for an easy way to do this. There were sharpened stakes set up at random in certain parts of the field, where the enemy had used them for defense, before the death rift had ruined everything. Beyond that, pretty far afield, I could just make out the big, bloated bodies of Ettins. Horrible creatures those. Much like giants I would think. Thick witted and thick skulled, Ettins were a nightmare to fight. I remember hearing horror stories of Ettin attacks from the College. It took teams of 5 strong heroes or more to take down even one Ettin, let alone multiple creatures on a battlefield. I had no chance by myself, I knew that right off.

What I needed was some way to sneak by them undiscovered, and somehow get control of a few of their catapults. Back behind the cannon fodder and regular foot soldiers that Aedraxis employed, I knew he had necromancers, sorcerers, and other dread legions at his command, and I also knew that if I could get my hands on a catapult, I could do some lasting damage to any of the above enemy. I bit my lip self consciously as I watched, looking for a good opening to dash across the field. Aha, there! A skeletal rogue had just turned to dash after some random Mathosian soldier, and there was a brief gap in their defenses, where I could slip behind their lines without anyone noticing. Aedraxis's army wasn't all that intelligent, on the whole, and it seemed pretty simple to sneak past them.

     Now that I had a plan, I secured my belongings more firmly to my person and took a breath. Now or never. I took off from the shelter of the artillery set, sprinting across the grassy field. A light breeze at my back seemed to encourage haste and I blindly ran, not daring to look right or left in fear of inciting notice just by thinking about it. Quickly I slipped behind one of the wooden palisades set up by the enemy and took in gulping breaths of air. It's been a while since I've had to actually do something as demanding of oxygen as running. I'm more a slow and thoughtful creeper kind of gal, after all. Oh how I miss the leafy entanglements of the forest. Large, thickly woven trees, brush and vines, mossy logs to hide behind! This wide open and flat field makes me feel naked. I can feel myself reflexively shrinking down, trying to make less of a target. I even drew my ears closer to my head. Than I grinned, thinking of how someone might perceive me; a skinny elfling with shell pink hair crouched in the shadow of a row of sharpened stakes, breathing heavily and glancing around wildly. I must look like a loon.

     I narrowed my eyes as I noticed that one skeletal sorcerer was going to be in the way of my getting to the nearest catapult. Rats. Now what to do? I could try to find a way around him, or target a different weapon. But this catapult was very close, and was sparsely guarded. It was my best chance. I just needed to overcome that caster before he alerted others. And I needed to be stealthy about it so he didn't have the chance to get off any deadly spells. I'd rather not have to deal with being struck by magical attacks twice in one hour. I shuddered at the memory of that mage's frost attacks up on the Spire.What to do, what to do. I decided to chance the sorcerer, and leapt up before I could second guess myself. Quick as lightning, I had my daggers in my hand and was plane shifting up behind the sorcerer. He turned and even on his half rotten, skeletal features I could read plain shock. I grinned and couldn't help a smart mouth comment. "Evenin' there sir! Fancy seein' you here!" I said cheerily in my best dwarven impression. I brought my daggers up to block the swing of his staff and clucked my tongue as if reprimanding him. The skeletal sorcerer grunted in anger and threw the staff down. Foolish move that. A caster is nothing but a pile of rags without some kind of defense. Unless he has magical defense....rats...

     The sorcerer wasted no time in throwing his hands out and muttering a spell under his breath. I kicked him in the ribs to distract him and drive him backward. Thank the Vigil that seemed to work. The sorcerer's concentration broke and his spell fell apart before it was cast. His burning red eyes seemed to glare daggers back at me and I shrugged. Hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do. It's either me or him, and I'm so picking me. With the sorcerer on the ground, it was easy to pull out one of the explosive charges I kept in my pack and toss it at him. I walked away without glancing down, not wanting to see. There was a small concussive boom behind me, and I resisted the urge to turn and check. I did not want to see the results of those highly effective but brutal devices.

     I cautiously approached the catapults, keeping low and warily watching for any enemies. I didn't want to be the victim of a surprise attack feet from my goal. That just sounds embarrassing and if I was immortal, I didn't want that to be my first deathly experience. Apart from the lone sorcerer, there didn't seem to be a soul in sight. Ha, soul, get it? Yeah, it was kind of sad. I hopped up on top of the spring arm of the catapult and glanced over the weapon. Conveniently, it was already loaded and ready to fire. I just needed to readjust the firing distance and position and I should have Ettin soup. Hopping back to the ground, I looked for a mechanism for changing the height and trajectory of the machine. Aha, there it is. A wheel on the side, turned to adjust the throwing strength and length. I grasped it, noticing that it was wound pretty tightly. Thank the Vigil for the extra strength and power given to me upon Ascension or I might not have been able to turn it properly. Have you ever tried winding something up or tightening it when it was already full of tension? Not fun.

     It took about fifteen minutes of constant adjustment, eyeing the distance, and lining up the target, before I was satisfied that the catapult would do the maximum amount of damage it could to Aedraxis's troops. I grinned a rather predatory grin as I pulled the lever. With a groan of protest, the arm was released, flinging the missile into the air. Truthfully I hadn't really paid much attention to what exactly I was shooting off. Hopefully it wasn't just a bag full of rocks or something brainless. Who knows what those undead actually considered missiles. There was a whine as the object soared through the air, before it landed precisely where I had aimed, into the center of necromancers and Ettin in the middle of the field. Yes! I couldn't help the smile that spread across my face and the thrill of success that ran through me as the missile landed and seemed to explode into a violet light. When the light faded, all I saw was bodies. That's one way to get rid of the enemy. Eagerly, I looked around for some more mischief to cause. Aha, there was another catapult over on the left of the field, where the mountain soared up into the Spire. I made a beeline for that catapult, feeling more confident now.

      I took the rogue's daggers, to look over later. I don't know what I'd do though if I recognized the blades. I'd rather not think about it now. Another problem was that the next catapult was partly damaged, and it's load had slid off the sling. Now what? I tried reaching down to pick it up, but whatever the missile was made of was very heavy. Too heavy for just one person to lift. And I didn't want to try picking it apart. Who knows how volatile the stuff is? I'd rather not blow myself up.

     So I had to leave that catapult behind and venture in search of another one. I was garnering more interest from the undead flock of soldiers as well. More and more seemed to notice that was I not one of them and I was behind the lines. Avoiding the undead was becoming quite tricksy. Thankfully the next catapult I came across was intact, and loaded. Again I adjusted the trajectory and height, and shifted the direction it was facing. There was a similar group of necromancers huddled around one of the giant Ettin by a dead tree some distance off, and I aimed the catapult at them. Might as well, they were as good a target as any and I really didn't like the way they seemed to be in the middle of a complex casting. In my experience, any caster was bad news unless proven otherwise. And sometimes not even than.

     My arms ached something fierce by the time I had trudged halfway back across the field. I stopped to lean against a shelled out cottage and heard a soft whinny nearby. A horse? Here? And still alive? No way. I stood up straighter and carefully crept around the side of the cottage, following the sounds of shuffling hooves and the occasional whinny. The horse sounded agitated and afraid from it's calls, and I wasn't sure what I'd find. When I rounded the last corner and caught sight of the horse, I gasped.
   I did run into a few more minor problems along the way though. One was an undead rogue that proved to know most of the same tricks I did. It was rather disturbing and I kept thinking to myself as I fought him, what if this is my mentor, turned into an undead zombie by Aedraxis's foul magic? More than once I hesitated when I could have ended it. But than I reminded myself that the life as one of Aedraxis's dread minions is no life at all and my master would never want that, even if this was he. So I ended it quickly, wincing as the light went out of the creature's eyes. How silly of me, that it should hurt to see that. At one point in time, we could have been brethren, comrades in arms. Friends even. Different choices lead to different destinies.
     The poor thing was covered in tendrils of death magic. Death magic leaked out of its nostrils, and had a stranglehold on its hooves. Its eyes were nearly red with madness, and it kept tossing its head fearfully. I knew it was a hopeless cause. I knew it wasn't worth the chance. But my heart went out to that poor creature. I love animals. And I hate to see them suffer. If there was a small chance, however slim, I was going to save that horse. I glanced around, looking for any possible undead nearby. There had to be some. Everywhere else was infested to the eyeballs with undead, I'm sure it wasn't any different here. The horse stomped it's front hoof and snorted, drawing my eyes back. Inexplicably, it seemed to sense me, and turned to look toward the shadowy corner I was hiding in. I gazed into those death touched eyes, and I just knew she was mine.

     Don't ask me how, but I knew this horse and I, we had a destiny. She quieted immediately upon spotting my form, and seemed to just gaze at me, eyes pleading for rescue. Without thinking about it, I slowly stood and stepped out of the shadows. And that's when the warrior attacked. A half rotted fiend with rusted armor came hurtling out of some hidden doorway, cutlass raised high. I quickly ducked under the sword, coming up beside the equine. I placed a calming hand on her withers and had to recoil hastily as I felt the death magic try to worm its way into my flesh. Disgusting. How dare they do such a thing to one of Tavril's followers! All creatures were sacred to her.

     The undead swung again at me and I quickly dodged to the side, bringing the creature further away from the horse. I didn't want her injured on top of being afflicted with death magic. Pulling a tiny, slim dagger, I quickly held it in two fingers and flung it at the warrior. It embedded itself comically in a groove near the neck, wobbling there like an obscene piece of jewelry. The warrior roared at me in anger and charged. I ducked my head and grabbed my attacker's wrists, locking them together and twisting them sideways. Predictably the creature dropped the cutlass and it hit the ground with a muffled thump. I kicked at the kneecap, hoping to cripple the fiend, but it didn't seem to have much effect. Duh, Rae, it's dead. No pain receptors there, girl! Letting go of one wrist, I unsheathed a dagger and stuck it in the warrior's eye in one fluid motion, before it had a chance to retaliate. The undead backed up, staggering slightly. I released the other wrist as well lest I was pulled off balance, and watched warily, wondering if I'd need to defend myself further. Thankfully the fiend slumped to the ground, miasma leaking out from the cracks in the armor. Eww.

     The horse snorted again, bringing my attention back to her. She was a fine mare, if a bit malnourished. If I could cure her of the death spells and affliction, she would make a fine battle steed. I whispered soft elven words to her as I drew near again, speaking the old tongue taught to us by Tavril herself. The horse perked her ears forward and followed my movement as I drew near. Despite all that she had undoubtedly endured, the mare was not overly skittish in my presence. I patted her a few times, and slipped some rawhide ropes from my pack. I quickly fashioned a simple loose halter and gently slipped it around the mare's head. I waited a few minutes to let her get used to the feel of it, constantly glancing around and feeling the press of time on my back. I really needed to get back to Valor Hold and report my success. But I also couldn't just leave the horse behind. I pictured what Cyril Kalmer would say when I rode into camp on the mare, and chuckled. As long as those fool sentries don't shoot me down first, thinking I was the enemy.

     The mare took it quite calmly, being ridden by a stranger. Thankfully I had a small blanket in my pack as well, because I really wanted something between me and the filthy death magic infesting the poor horse. She took off at a ground eating pace, and I leaned down across her neck. I didn't even think about it, but I fisted her mane in my hands and tried willing my cleansing Ascended magic into the horse through my fingers. I couldn't tell if it was working or not, but it seemed that the further we went across the field, the lighter her steps became. Her coat stayed black as night though. But perhaps that's what color she was, a black horse.

     I kept a firm grip on the mane the entire journey, and kept willing my healing light into her. At the entrance to valor Hold I gently tugged on the reins to slow her down to a walk and she responded instantly almost before I even made the motion. Amazing! I knew she would be an amazing animal. I was right pleased with my find as I rode into Valor Hold and stopped in front of Cyril. By the gods he's tall. Have I mentioned that yet?
     Cyril raised a large bushy eyebrow at my mode of transportation, but thankfully didn't say anything derogatory. When I gave my justification for rescuing her, and said that I think she'd make a fine battle steed, Cyril nodded agreement and watched as a soldier led the horse to a stable, promising to have an animal trainer take a look at her.

     "One horse is a small weapon in this war. But than, so is one sword. But wielded by an Ascended like yourself, our enemies will shriek in agony as they are trampled underfoot like twigs." Said the ever enigmatic Cyril. I snickered. Cyril graced me with a bland look. What, I couldn't help it? He's always so full of some kind of cryptic message.

     "Go take a bit of a rest, Raeslyn, you've earned it. At dawn, we'll strike at Aedraxis himself." Now that wiped the smile off my face real quick. I nodded wordlessly and walked away, feeling a bit shaken. I know we had to confront him at some point, but it just seemed to soon! What if  I wasn't ready? Was I ready? I don't know?! I'm scared, truth be told. I don't want to die. I couldn't sleep, but I did have a tasty meal of biscuits and some kind of venison stew. I spent the night with my newfound steed, the mare I'd rescued. The pet trainer had looked her over, given her some medicine, and had been astonished at her quick recovery from the touch of death. I'd like to think I had a hand in that, actually.
     Whatever the case, she was almost completely healed, and was in better spirits now. She even tried stealing my biscuit, the sneaky thing. Regretfully, dawn came all too soon.

 "At last we come to the end. This is what the Vigil brought us back from death for! With their guidance and power, and our might and determination, the Tyrant's hordes will fall away from us like rain against steel. Ride to the Eye of Regulos, and slay the King. Shatter his body with the Hammer of the Vigil and sever Regulos's grip on this land. If King Aedraxis wants oblivion, we will give it to him!"
      I listened to Cyril Kalmer's impassioned speech with the other various soldiers and Ascended Guardians gathered in front of him. I'm not one to get all stirred up over grandiose talks and claims but I have to admit that I felt...something as Cyril talked. I don't know what it was, or how to explain it, but I felt a tingling in my chest, right below my breastbone. My eyes also felt kinda prickly. It's just one of those moments, where many people are all highly involved, and willing to do what it takes to see a task through to the end, no matter their own personal views.

     When Cyril had finished his little speech, he beckoned me over for a private talk. I hesitated. If it was something he wanted to ask me specifically, I was probably not going to like it. Whenever there'd been a danger to the forest, the elven council had often chosen me to scout ahead, or infiltrate the group responsible, because of my small stature and convincing acts. Although, now that I think about it, that also made me the prime suspect whenever something went wrong, was stolen, or had been endangered. To be fair, only half the mischief at the college was my fault. Honest.

     "Raeslyn, I ask a special task from you." I knew it! I crossed my arms to let show how unimpressed I was by this. I'd gotten over my misty feelings from a minute ago real fast. "The Vigil asks of you the task of destroying the pillars holding the death rift up at the Eye of Regulos. Our troops will be too busy fighting Aedraxis's undead army, and holding the monstrous legions of the Endless Court at bay. We ask that you go on ahead and disable the Rift and even out our playing field." He placed his hand on my shoulder and I gave a resigned nod. Hey, someone had to do it right? And of all the Ascended present, I was the only one who wasn't some kind of military commander who was needed for the fight against Aedraxis's army.
      " Okay. But I'm taking Naesa." I stated, inspecting each of my daggers to make sure they were all combat ready. I should probably pick up a few more before I leave on this hare brained venture too. You can never have enough daggers in my opinion. Such wonderfully simple but effective little tools, are daggers. Perfect little devices. I smirked.

     "Naesa?" Cyril asked doubtfully, brow furrowed. Mathosians looked so dull when they frowned like that. They could at least try to look intelligent. Gods. I spun a thin dagger idly between my fingers as I casually responded, "Oh, my new horse. You know, the one I rescued?"

     Cyril blinked at me, than pursed his lips and scowled. "Very well, you earned the right to ride the beast I suppose. After all, you did rescue it."

     I expertly flicked my dagger back into it's sheath and wrinkled my nose, crossing my arms. "Her name is Naesa. She is not an it." I said, calmly but forcefully. I do not approve of people just calling a creature "it" just because they were creatures. Hello, they have genders too! A little respect goes a long way among the wilds of Telara. If you don't learn to respect the creatures of nature, you won't live long in the forests of the world. I turned and walked away, leaving Cyril to stare after me with exasperation, muttering something about elves.

     I commandeered a few more daggers for my cause from a helpful weapon maker, found a nice-fitting saddle for Naesa, and was ready to go within the hour. The sun was just breaking over the mountain range, coloring the field in its golden radiance. I couldn't help but feel my spirits lifting by the sight. So beautiful, is Telara. By Tavril's blessing, this land is ours to protect, and I will do my duty to the Vigil, as I had sworn long ago. I only hope that after today is done, I will be free to seek my own path. I wish to find my family again and persuade them of the evils of House Aelfwar, as well as find my mentor and see if he is indeed safe. If he is dead than I shall give him a proper elven funeral and go into mourning. But, I don't even want to entertain that thought until there is irrefutable proof.

     Clucking lightly to Naesa, I set out of the gates of Valor Hold for possibly the last time. I stopped not long past the protective walls of the camp and shaded my eyes, gazing back the way I'd come. I looked up, past the camp, past Bloodmurk Grove, even past Ardenburgh. In the far distance, up on its lonely hill, I could just make out the large stone edifice that was the Sanctuary of Rebirth, where I had begun this mad journey upon reawakening. It feels surreal, in a way. As if I was having a dream. A daydream, like I so often have...had, at the college. I'd slip away from my classes and escape to the woodland, where the song of the trees would lull me into a half sleep and I would dream of all manner of far off adventures. And now look at me. The biggest adventure of my young life and I want nothing more to do with it. Ironic.

     With Cyril's troops engaging the undead on the field, it wasn't that hard to slip past the enemy and make my way for what Cyril described as the Eye of Regulos. It was a pass in the mountains, barely noticeable among the other grays and browns of the mountain. Just beyond the indent that meant a way through the mountains, I could see a giant mass of tentacles and violet miasma that could only be the effects of the Death Rift. Disgusting abomination. As I neared the pass, I slowed Naesa's pace with dismay. Oh great. The whole pass was blocked off by a veritable army of undead. Ascended or no, there was no way I was getting past that mass of bodies. They'd swarm me. Now what was I supposed to do? Wait here for Cyril and the others to catch up to me? That didn't seem like a sensible option. Besides, they were counting on me to bring that rift down. I had to go forward. But how do I get past those guards?

     As I was thinking over possible solutions, a slow golden mist coalesced to the left of my position. Surprisingly, Naesa held fast and didn't so much as paw the ground in reaction. Out of the light appeared another Messenger of the Vigil. Crucia's fangs, did those things stalk me or something? How do they keep finding me? I'm awed to be so esteemed by the Vigil, but I'm really starting to get a little annoyed. Maybe next time they could just write me a letter? I nudged Naesa forward and moved over to where the Messenger hovered above the ground, long wingspan effortlessly keeping her/him? It? above the ground.

     The voice, always multi-faceted like a cave echo, formed in my mind like always. "No evil can stand against the might of the Ascended. Step into the light and let the power of the gods course through your body."

     The Messenger turned gracefully and gestured to the wall of sentries, who were now all focused on little old me. A beam of golden light appeared a couple of feet in front of the seething mass of undead. Far too close to the mass to effectively get out alive. I eyed the beam of light a moment, than gave the Messenger a doubtful look. Seriously? I have faith in the gods and all, but come on. This was asking just a bit much, don't you think? The Messenger just stared at me serenely, the same irritating look it always wore gracing its features. I glared. Great, just great. If I was mauled by those zombies over there, I was going to rant and rave to the Vigil for an eon when I got to the Soulstream.

     I took a deep breath and gave one last, resentful glance to the Vigil's Messenger. The white wings swept the creature aloft, and than it was gone in a burst of extra golden light. Show off. I focused back on the undead fiends in front of me. I glanced down at Naesa. She craned her long neck and glanced back at me, than tossed her mane and shook her head. "Ya, I totally agree with you Naesa. This is crazy." I said to the horse's actions, than grinned. I clucked my tongue and set Naesa forward at a slow trot. Here goes nothing. The closer I got to the wall of undead, the more tense I became, until I felt like anything would set me off. Finally, after what seemed forever, Naesa's nose touched the ring of gold light. Nothing happened. Hesitantly, I stepped all the way into the light. The moment the light hit my body, I felt my whole vision light up like  a Fae Yule tree. Blinding white iridescence produced spots in my vision and no matter the amount of blinking, I couldn't clear my sight.

     When the light was reduced enough that my poor retinas were able to process what they were staring wide eyed at, I was amazed. Instead of the mass of bloodthirsty creatures out for my blood that I expected to see, there was nothing but a pile of charred bone, all layered outward from my position as if I'd been ground zero for some type of mass destruction weapon. Wow. Color me impressed. If only I had that kind of arsenal at my disposal all the time. I glanced down, noticing that my hands were still glowing brightly. And even more shocking, My back sported two large golden wings that extended well past my shoulders. Even as I gawked, the wings of light slowly faded into nothing, leaving me feeling bereft. It was only than that I realized that I really had been blessed by the Vigil. They did actually care about their people. My faith and love swelled, and I felt proud to be one of these newly established Guardians. I am a Guardian. I am Ascended. And I will protect Telara from the forces of Regulos the Destroyer and his ilk.

     Once the afterglow had faded, reality set in and I sobered fairly quickly. The pass I had cleared was a nightmare. Literally. The ground and canyon sides were crawling with spikes and odd plant-like tentacles that pushed up from the earth like macabre cherry blossoms. The air was thick and heavy with death magic, and a low, black fog hung over the ground, dissipating with a hiss whenever it touched Naesa's hooves. Lovely. The clearing beyond the pass was choked in vines and deadly tentacles, and I could see undead patrolling the area. I glanced downward at my mount. This was no place for a horse. She had loyally gotten me this far, and ahead of time as well, but I could not ask her to fight for me here. She'd already had her fair share of battles against the darkness. So I dismounted and slapped Naesa on the rump, sending her back down the pass the way I'd come. With luck she'd find her way back to Valor Hold and I could retrieve her after I was done here.

     The sky was black as night, despite just early morning, and was shot through with streaks of violet lightening. In the middle of the clearing was some strange looking contraption made of a silvery blue metal. The device was twice as tall as I was and studded with tiny blue dots. The tell-tale glow of magitech. Those cursed Defiant must have had a hand in this. Just what were they thinking when they built this? Did they know what they were doing? What Aedraxis had planned? Gods, I hope not. I'd like to think that anyone, no matter how corrupted, would never agree to such a high price as this for power.
     That device must be what is keeping the Rift open and keeping Telara in contact with the other dimensions. If I can disable the machine somehow, the Rift should collapse and Telara should drift out of alignment with the planes and back into its own proper dimension. Ha, if only it was as simple as it sounds!

     Just getting to the device was proving to be more of a challenge than it should. The undead seemed to sense what I was there for, and they all swarmed me as I was making my way toward one of the pillars that arose on either side of the device. Fighting two of the creatures at once was less of a challenge than it would have been days ago. My skill in combat, as well as my Ascended power, had been steadily growing as I worked on them, and I am proud to say I held my own quite well against the creatures. Of course, keeping my attention divided between the two was a challenge all in itself. The other souls inside me sent me encouraging strength and skill as well and I was able to use a few tricks to down the zombies.

     I systematically dispatched all the undead I could find, not wanting them to ambush me while I was concentrating on dismantling the device. I cursed as an undead managed to slice open my arm. Where the hell were Cyril and Shyla? He said they would be right behind me, and I could really use some back up right about now.
     When the last undead fell (as well as two Defiant mages who had apparently been sitting and keeping the pillars intact as near as I can tell), I was able to actually get a good look at the device and it's accompanying machinery. A raised dais was touched on two sides by tall, oblong pillars, the tops of which had some bizarre lightning rods. Or at least, that's what they most closely resembled; something I'd seen a few times at the college by the few eccentric professors who studied astrology, weather, and other random subjects. Orbs had been placed at the base of the pillars, orbs that resembled what I'd seen the specters carrying in Ardenburgh.

     I studied the entire piece of technology silently. The pillars seemed to be the key. They held the actual power source to the device. What if I used the Hammer of the Vigil on those orbs? They would break, thus disrupting the power cycle and shutting off the network of sourcestone siphoning, and causing the main device to malfunction. If the power flow was disrupted, there was a high probability that the magitech would fail, as it relied quite heavily on the sourcestone generators that were powered by the orbs. Woah, did I really just think all that? In the back of my mind I caught the hint of an exotic giggle. Ah, that explains it. My Bahmi companion strikes again. Her suggestion seemed the most sound, despite my feeling that she might have a conflict of interest here and I had no other viable ideas anyway. I could feel time ticking away and I really needed to shut this rift down as quickly as possible, as I had a feeling something bad was coming.

     I hefted the Hammer, which I'd kept tied to Naesa's side until I'd arrived here and than had stashed by the pass when I'd let her free. It was a good sized weapon, with a thick handle and a large, solid head. The weapon was covered from top to bottom in holy runes, the language of the gods, and the runes lit up with a blue-white glow as I lifted the hammer above my head. That had to be a good sign right? I took a deep breath, than swung the hammer down with all might, sending it crashing against the orbs on one pillar. At the last moment I shut my eyes on instinct and turned my head, expecting some kind of reaction.

     There was another explosion of light behind my eyelids as well as a sudden gust of wind that
nearly knocked my back when it swept outward from the orbs. I dropped the hammer, finding it suddenly very heavy, and turned to gaze upward at the massive tentacle-infested rift that had been floating overhead like a fat tick.

     To my dismay, it seemed that if anything, the Rift had swelled, grown larger. To prove my point, it began pulsing and suddenly disgorged two large dragon spawn, which immediately set their sights upon my small and innocent form. Of course....

     I'd have been in some serious trouble if Cyril, Borrin and Lady Shyla hadn't conveniently shown up just than. I almost demanded to know what took them so long, but I was just grateful for their assistance. While the others held off the dragon spawn, I picked up the Hammer and went around to the other pillar. Still one cluster of orbs to knock out. Hope this works. This time when I hit the orbs, there was an even more dramatic reaction. The pressure knocked me back, than seemed to suck back inward. The sky became darker and the Rift seemed to flicker ominously. Thankfully, it did shrink a bit though. That should be a good sign, right? I grinned triumphantly.

     And that's when Aedraxis appeared.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

[Special Feature] I: Cyril Kalmer

     Cyril Kalmer is a living legend, a hero of times past. Even before the civil war between Prince Zareph and the traitor king Aedraxis, Cyril was known for his daring exploits in battle. Songs were sung of his steadfast courage, friendly disposition, and cheerful good humor. He is larger than life, taller than most, and is quite well known for his heavy white plate, ornately and meticulously designed in a Champion's colors. He was one of the first Ascended resurrected by the Vigil after the fall of Mathosia.

     Cyril's origins are unknown. Stories suggest he is Mathosian, but others say Ethian. There is no definite proof of which land and which people he hailed from. It seems he sprung, fully grown, into the world of men. His exploits inspired and spurred hope into Mathosia's citizens. When Zareph declared war on Aedraxis, he could not sway the people of Mathosia to his side. They were loyal through and through to their king, and to the descendants of Mathos and believed that Aedraxis was the loyal king. When Zareph found himself besieged in Gloamwood at what is now called Shadefallen Keep, he was hard pressed to win the citizen's support in defending the keep against Aedraxis's onslaught. Watching from a safe distance, Aedraxis ordered the charge on the castle walls, thinking victory was at hand. But suddenly Cyril dashed out of the keep and attacked Aedraxis's "men" with fervor. Severing the head of one of the Knights in Aedraxis's employ, he deftly tossed the head back onto the battlements of the keep. The citizens and soldiers then realized that it wasn't the head of a man, but rather the rotting and grinning skull of an undead abomination. They knew than that Zareph was right and Aedraxis was a monster to be dethroned. And with a man like Cyril Kalmer fighting at Zareph's side, they knew he was in the right.

     All of Mathosia rejoiced when it was announced that the Champion Cyril Kalmer was joining Prince Zareph on his crusade against King Aedraxis. They knew that with the famous general at his side, Zareph would surely topple the false king and restore peace and balance to the land.
     Cyril Kalmer died in battle at Thedeor Field the day that Aedraxis summoned and subsequently unleashed the terrible Death Rift onto the field. Everyone died that day. The Vigil's messengers sought out his valiant spirit and brought it back to the land of the living, commanding him to lead the newly Ascended Guardians of Telara against Aedraxis and his undead army, forever putting a stop to his terrible reign. Cyril eagerly embraced this charge, and walked again among the living, becoming Prince Zareph's top general and leading the Mathosian army again against Aedraxis's unholy legion. Once Aedraxis and the avatar of Regulos was defeated, Cyril faithfully followed his Prince, now turned King, to Port Scion, where Zareph made it known that the city was scene of neutrality among the strained southern and northern tribes. Port Scion became a sanctuary for all races, where peace, trade, and commerce flourished. After Zareph's death, Cyril was enraged at the heretical and abominable Defiant, who he blamed for Zareph's downfall. He led an army against them, crossing the bridge Founder's Threshold on the hopes of destroying the new Defiant city of Meridian in Freemarch, but was unsuccessful in this time sequence.

     Cyril can now be found in Sanctum, where he stands steadfast as an icon and a leader to fellow Guardians everywhere, forever a representation of hope, courage, and watchfulness against the darkness and evil that would sweep Telara away. He is very vigilant and strong, commanding fellow Ascended into battle against the Blood Storm and the ungodly Defiant.

References: Most of this information was taken from the Rift website, because I've only been playing Guardian for so long and I don't really know much about the main Guardian NPC's. A few things I used my own theories on, based on the information I'd gathered from talking to him in the game and from the site. 

Sunday, August 05, 2012

[Raeslyn's Story] Chapter 1.4: Army of Regulos

Location: Mathosia
Time: Early morning, 2 days after resurrection
Date: Year 1489, 8th Moon

     I woke to murmured voices nearby. It wasn't the slow, leisurely type of wakefulness, where you become aware, than your eyes slowly open, and than your brain kicks in. Nope, I was asleep, than I was awake. For several seconds I felt confused and disoriented. I had the feeling of being in several different places at once, doing several different things. Okay, that was odd. Must be another one of those lovely side effects of being a vessel of godly powers. Oh joy.   

      "Oh, you're awake! Thank goodness Ascended!" I groaned and slowly turned to glance at the speaker. It was a tall blond woman wearing a long cloth dress. What did she want?

     "We can use all the help we can get, repelling these undead from our defenses. We most hold until more reinforcements come through!" I had the urge to ask her what kind of reinforcements she was obviously expecting, but held my tongue. Who was I to dash someone's hope? Instead I nodded as I climbed to my feet, stretching out the stiffness of lying on hard ground. Nevertheless, my body felt refreshed, new, healed. I felt like I had had weeks of relaxing sleep and lounging. Silently I sent a thank you to the ever benign Vigil, who were always looking after me. I may not be a blind and devoted follower of everything the Vigil tells us, but I do adhere to their code and I look to them for guidance in life. So I am always grateful for any evidence of their continued faith in me. Of course that could just be because I've found myself in a position of power, but I'd like to think that they'd care about me no matter my status.

     I stepped outside the small tent and glanced around. In the early morning light, weak and reddened from the unusual sky, I could see that activity hadn't lessoned from last night. In fact, the camp seemed even busier. There were soldiers and couriers running all over, people shouting, tents being set up, food being prepared, weapons being crafted and sharpened. It was so....full. Of everything. I hated it. I longed for the quite, tranquil steadiness of the wood. The peace of nature. But alas, I must do what I must to make my -our- homeland safe.

     "Master Kalmar, Ardenburgh is still under attack. If they don't get reinforcements soon, they will be overrun!" The rather frantic sounding voice drew my attention to the central area, where Cyril Kalmar was still standing receiving updates on the war and other news, as well as issuing orders.

     I almost felt sorry for him. I don't envy him that job. At least he gets a nice tent out of the deal. And it was a nice abode. Large, royal red, with gold tassels. Rather a bit of an obvious target though, if you ask me. Oh well, not my problem. I strode over, wanting to offer my services. When he had finished giving orders to the courier, Cyril turned and noticed me. He looked so relieved that I sighed.

     "There you are Raeslyn! Did you get a good night's rest? I'm glad you are awake, we could use your legendary might to stop Aedraxis!" I gawked at him. Legendary might? He's not serious surely? I've only just come to terms with my...affliction. And now I'm considered legendary already?

     "Those Defiant cowards have somehow snuck past our lines and established themselves in Bloodmurk Grove." Cyril continued grimly. I nodded. That I already knew from my own encounters in the grove. "But before we can deal with those traitors, we need to first deal with this undead problem on the front. Aedraxis defeated us when we were mortal, but he will not defeat us now that we are Ascended. Chosen for our might, not even Regulos can stand in our way!" He sort of softly shouted that last bit and I blinked, not quite able to help my knee jerk reaction of stepping back a bit. I'm not comfortable around loud folk. And jeez, he's making some pretty boastful claims. I hope Regulos doesn't hear that...wherever he is now. Hopefully still trapped beyond the Ward or we're all probably screwed. I chuckled at my own word choice.

     "This field is where our armies were slaughtered by Aedraxis when he opened that Rift; Thedeor Field. Aedraxis's fleshless minions erupted from our fallen friends and now weaken the Ward further by birthing Regulos's loathsome brood at our holy altars." Oh yum, I thought sourly, wrinkling my nose. Not only are they violating the sacred altars to the gods, but they are using them to summon dragonkin from beyond the Ward?! They must be stopped!
     "Here, place this Warding Orb at one of those tainted altars and disrupt their rituals. Be warned, the spawn of Regulos will not be pleased." Why do I always feel like I get the short end of the stick with these tasks? I nodded and accepted the Warding Orb, a rather large, brightly glowing ball made of a glass-like material. Like I was going to pass unnoticed out there toting around a miniature sun. This should be interesting.

     "Oh, don't forget, you are Ascended!" I rolled my eyes. How could I not, what with everyone reminding me every two seconds. "But there are specialists in the ways of combat that you excel in that can teach you new skills and how to better survive in this world. Go visit Rovena Karn when you are finished out on the field and have her teach you a few moves. Perhaps you'll find a style of fighting that will compliment your present skillset." Cyril said in his booming voice. I winced and nodded. Although, the idea of meeting another rogue, one that is experienced in the field and knows a lot about combat, seems incredibly promising. I look forward to meeting this Rovena Karn! But first things first, my mission.

      I snuck out of Valor Hold by squeezing between some posts on the far side and set out in search of one of those tainted altars. I've not been to Mathosia before so the by now famous Thedeor Field was quite foreign to me. I stumbled around the front lines for a few hours, blindly looking for an altar. I did come across many undead scourge and abominations though. One such, a sorcerer, actually gave me a bit of a hard time. I've not come up against an efficient caster before it was a bit of a challenge to slay the creature. He kept dodging out of the way of my dagger strikes. Finally I delved into the knowledge of the other souls inside of me and lit my blades with flames, burning the sorcerer from the inside out with one blazing strike of my daggers.

     And ironically, it was at that point that I found one of the altars. After the sorcerer collapsed to the ground and ceased smoking and twitching (a rather disturbing visual trust me), I was able to make out what was behind him. The altars were tainted indeed. They were coated in foul smelling blood and had profane and obscene items littering the offering surface. Filthy beings! How dare they defile a sacred space! Gingerly walking over the corpse of the sorcerer, I placed the orb in the center of the offering plate and stepped back, not sure what would happen when holy light met corrupt death. There was a blaze of bright white light that stung my eyes so much I had to turn my head. Suddenly a roar had me clutching my daggers and rolling to the side to avoid being skewered. A skeletal, red eyed caricature of a man had apparently appeared out of nowhere while I was entranced with the altar's transformation. I quickly brought my two daggers up crosswise to block the skeleton's downward stroke of his sword. The resulting clang vibrated clean up to my elbows. I stumbled back a few paces to give myself distance and almost ran into another undead minion.
     Well, what the hell? That's just great. Now they were ganging up on me? I bared my teeth in challenge. I hope I'm up to this fight!

     "I've got your back, Ascended!" Huh? I turned by reflex and was nearly gutted by the skeleton I had been facing. The creature's rusty cutlass sliced into my side and I barely deflected it away from me before I got to find out if I really was immortal! The pain didn't register at first, but than I suddenly gasped and doubled over, holding my side. A pair of steel boots came into my limited view and I glanced up while still bent over. I couldn't even keep the surprise off my face when I beheld my apparent savior. It was Carwin Mathos, the man I'd fought with in Ardenburgh! How'd he make it out here so quickly? Never mind, I was grateful. Carwin quickly swung his large shield at the creature's face to get it's attention and I scrambled out of the way. Holding my breath, I was able to stand up. Ye gods, the pain was intense. I wonder if I could suddenly develop the skill for healing spells? I snorted at my musings. Ya and perhaps I'll grow wings and fly too! The pain slowly ebbed as Carwin kept the two skeletons off me. Unfortunately, although he was really good at keeping their attention, he sort of lacked in the slayage department. While the one skeleton skipped around, it's broad boney back presented such a tempting target that I couldn't help sticking a dagger in it. Hey, I am a rogue after all. Despite not having any flesh or organs to speak of, the thrust of my dagger to where it's heart would have been made the skeleton falter and seize up. It fell to the ground with a final thump and I grinned. Carwin raised an impressed eyebrow. Oh ya, who's the big bad rogue now huh? I smirked cockily, before forgetting that my side hurt and groaned. Although, the pain seemed to be diminishing by the minute. Another perk of being Ascended. I silently sent a prayer of thanks to my patron goddess Tavril. Still one skeleton to go though.

      I tried sneaking up behind this one, but for some reason Carwin chose that moment to shift position, thus forcing the skeleton to shift position. I guess it had some form of rudimentary intelligence. So I attacked it head on, alongside Carwin, feeling a sense of giddy, little girl shyness for being next to someone so famous and esteemed. Everyone's heard of Carwin Mathos!
     Our double assault seemed to throw the skeleton off kilter and it swung wildly from me to Carwin, not sure who to attack first. Carwin fixed that by bashing it in the face with his shield. I heard bone crunch and winced. Ouch. The skeleton flopped onto it's back, where it struggled to come to what senses it had. I didn't give it the chance, stabbing a dagger in one eye socket. I know, violent work, but these things did not deserve the mutated half life they had been given. They were no longer who they were in life, and were merely empty shells strung on a thread being pulled by Aedraxis. Best to dispatch them and move on. Carwin nodded at me and I smiled gratefully.

     "How're you doing?" He asked, concerned. I flexed my arm, and although my side muscles pulled with the movement, the pain had mostly ebbed by now. Three cheers for Ascended. Still, I could feel the wound, still fresh, and was afraid that any heavy movement would tear it open again. I'd best be careful for the next few hours.

     "Come on Regulos, is that all you got? Bring it on, I'm ready for you!" Carwin's sudden angry shout made me jump, than wince. I glared at him. What the hell? He's asking for battle? Obviously something wrong with that chap! Carwin seemed to either not notice my glare, or was ignoring it, for he didn't even look twice at me. I was just about ready to demand to know what he was doing when I heard a keening shriek. I sighed, now what!?

      A large, leathery, milk white beast materialized out of a hazy sickly yellow light that seemed a mockery of the beautiful golden light I'd witnessed earlier. The beast, the size of a large horse, with the bonus of having a mouth full of teeth, swung it's heard and seemed to hone in on me. Not Carwin, who had been the one bellowing for trouble, but me, the poor defenseless wounded elf girl. Okay, not defenseless, but still! It's just not fair. The beast was wrong on many levels. It had dead fish eyes, sagging reptilian skin, and large bat like wings folded along it's back. It also had a long whip-thin tail that would probably cut your head off if in the right position. Just what I needed!

     I crouched into my familiar fighter's stance and gripped my daggers tightly, roving over the creature for any sort of weakness. Sharp teeth. Sharp claws. Long tail. Heavy wings. Ya, this will be fun...

     Before it could hurtle itself at me, Carwin charged it first. With an overly dramatic shout, he launched himself at the beast like it was Aedraxis himself. I must say, it looked rather impressive, if you were into the whole overly dramatic battle charges. I'm not. I'd much rather sneak in, decimate the foe with a series of strikes and slices, than dart away. As soon as the creature seemed fully occupied with Mathos there, I put action to thought and darted in wherever there was an opening, scoring multiple tiny cuts along the creature's hide. It may have seemed insignificant at first, but I know how effective many shallow, fast bleeding cuts are on slowing a foe down. I didn't have the best mentor in Silverwood for nothing, after all.
     Carwin got in a lucky jab with his sword when the beast swung to attack me. Infuriated, it roared it's frustration. I ducked to avoid a nasty tail swipe and leapt in again, this time slashing along the front paws. After what seemed an eternity, I noticed the beast slowing down. It was becoming more sluggish, and slower to defend against Carwin's sword strikes. Carwin feinted a low strike to the chest and when the drake bent it's head low to get it's horns in the way of the jab, he swiftly took the opportunity presented and quickly flipped his sword straight up through the neck. Thankfully his sword was quite sharp and cut right through, for I'd hate to see the beast suffer, despite what it was.
     Breathing heavily, I leaned over and poked a scaly shoulder, jumping back, daggers raised when it twitched. But than it was still and I relaxed. I glanced at Carwin. He glanced at me. I shrugged. Not much to say after that. I sheathed my daggers and turned to regard the altar. To my pleasure, the Orb had done it's work, cleansing the tainted aura that had surrounded the altar. I grinned. Things were looking up!

     Despite my suggestion to come back to Valor Hold, Carwin parted ways with me there at the altar, which sounds odd now that I write it in my journal. Perhaps we'd meet yet again before this was over? Third time's the charm? That time I couldn't help giggling. I made my way back to Valor Hold, where I took the time to clean and hone my daggers, as well as find a few ingredients to form a few vials of poison for them. I was forced to use a small crystal vase for the last poison sadly, as the camp didn't have the kind of materials I'd required. After that was done, it occurred to me to seek out that Rogue specialist. So I wandered about camp looking for this person, who I assume is a female due to the name.

     I was right. Rovena Karn was a small, slender woman in dark leathers sitting in the shadows carving wood. I hesitantly approached and she didn't even glance up.

     "So you're a rogue eh? Come here to learn a few tricks from Rovena? I might be able to teach you a thing or two."
     I spent the next few hours having my butt handed to me by this diminutive woman who looked better suited to the roll of a priest or a mage. After being thoroughly trounced time after time while sparring with her, I had to change that view. She was definitely a rogue of some skill. After she'd defeated me for what felt the hundredth time, she called it off and walked me back to her dark shadowy corner, where I sat exhausted and listened to her lecture about rogue ethics, ironically enough, as well as certain stances, dagger weights, the art of weaving planar magic into your weapons, and many other things. The time passed oh so quickly as I sat and listened and watched. It was so fascinating!
     Eventually my eyes began to droop and with amusement, Rovena sent me on my way to catch a quick nap. Apparently the enemy was becoming bolder and more desperate so I should nap while I could. I took her words to heart and was asleep instantly.
      Later, after a quick bite to eat, I was again summoned to Cyril's side, where he informed me of another important task I needed to do.

     "I hope you are well rested, Raeslyn, I have another task for you." Cyril boomed, looking down at me. By the Vigil, he's tall for a human. I think I've said that before, but it bears saying again. I grinned to myself.

     "Orphiel, the leader of the Defiant in the Grove, has been spotted up at Vigilant's Rise. We've seen him using the undead to steal the remains of our gallant heroes from the battlefield. We can't let Orphiel use our own soldiers to fuel his foul work. Slay these abominations that defile our fallen heroes and return their remains to Valor Hold where they may have a proper burial."
     I nodded at Cyril. I gathered my things, strapped on my daggers, and headed out into the field again. In the distance one could hear the shriek and boom of canon fire and magical missiles still, as well as the cries of the wounded and the moans of the undead. I recall what Cyril said to me before I left Valor Hold: "The flood gates of evil are opened, Raeslyn, and we are the ones chosen to slam them shut." Well, I hadn't agreed to be chosen, but I was glad for this opportunity to exact justice and vengeance.

     Time to go investigate what this Orphiel was up to here. To the far right of Thedeor Field was the path that led to Vigilant Rise. According to rumor, it was at the Rise that the Messengers had taken the bodies of us fallen and imbued us with the strength and power of the gods. In essence, it was here that we had been reborn as Ascended. I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with going up there, but what choice to I have. As I came to the base of the path that wound it's way up to the high peak, I stopped and glared irritably. The entire path was crawling with undead. And they were scary looking undead too. Incredibly tall and thin, they were wraith like and carried long ghostly chains.
     I stood back against the rock face of the Rise and considered the best way up. Unfortunately it
seemed I would have to break my way through. As I studied the abominations, I noticed that Cyril was indeed right. The wraith creatures were toting around sacks of grisly remains that dripped blood now and again. Yuck. When one undead came too close to my shadowed position against the rock, I suddenly sprang into motion. I called up fire along my blades and felt the thrill of the flames light up my pale features. I laughed, a short, abrupt sound. The abomination whipped its chain at me, but I thrust a dagger through one of the links and held it fast at my side, putting the creature off balance. Using my other dagger, I hacked off the hand I held pinned, wrinkling my nose in extreme distaste as I did it. Thankfully the undead's flesh parted easily and the hand fell to the ground with a soft thud. The abomination made a sort of long keening groan and I hoped to the gods that that wasn't some sort of signal for help, because I'm quite prepared to take on multiple foes yet.
   I twisted around, dancing out of reach of the second chain, and sent a flaming dagger flying at the creature to distract it. It would be tricky getting in close again to score a hit, what with that second chain flailing around in the air. Despite being wraith-like, I'm pretty sure the chain would still hurt if it lashed me. Let's not find out. I circled the abomination, trying to find out how quick it's reflexes are, and keeping an eye on activity further up the path at the other creatures. I did not want another one crashing the party. Thankfully the abominations appeared rather dim witted and didn't seem to realize that their comrade was being attacked. Either that, or they didn't care.

     Watching the creature swing the chain, I noticed a pattern in its movements, and on the next downward stroke of the chain, I darted in and planted a dagger in its hollow chest. Than I spun around and kicked outward, hitting the dagger squarely and driving it all the way in. The creature fell back, stunned, and the chain fell to the ground, limp. I grinned. Ascended 1, abomination 0. I quickly moved past the downed creature, making sure it wasn't going to get up again before I turned my back to it.
     I slowly inched my way up the shallow incline to the top of Vigilante's Rise. The abominations weren't too difficult to kill but I found myself spending a lot of time dodging those chains. And there never seemed to be an end to the creatures! At the top of the Rise was a flat plateau. There were fewer of the wraith creatures up here and I avoided them easily while I made my way to where a stone platform extended out from the natural plateau of rock. Large carved pillars arched overhead on either side of the stone platform. If I had had more time, I'd have liked to study the work of those pillars. That's some interesting history, right there. As it was, I eyed them enviously.

     My main objective was just sitting out in the open in the center of the stone platform. There was no one else on the windy platform, let alone an Eth scholar who may or may not be named Orphiel. Instead, there was a tall, odd looking metal thing connected to some cables. It looked remarkably like what I'd seen in Ardenburgh. The machine connected to that poor woman that was sucking her life out. I glared at the metal creature. A travesty, this was! It was obviously designed for something horrible.

     Upon cautious approach, the metal construct didn't even twitch, so I assumed it must be offline or disconnected or something. I've not much knowledge of Magitech, which is just how I'd like to keep it. I considered the small control panel that the wires all connected to, and glanced around. I should probably find a way to disrupt this machine. Can't be a good idea that it's up here like this. I knelt down in front of the small control panel and swiftly glanced over the intricate surface of switches, controls and buttons. A large red one on the left caught my eye and shrugging, I depressed the button. Instantly there was a zap of electricity that ran through the cables behind the panel. I jumped, startled, and fell on my behind. The electricity snaked up the wires and hit the construct, and next thing I knew, it had come to life. Uh oh.
     "Master Orphiel would not approve!" the creature actually spoke.
It's voice was smooth and metallic and sent chills down my spine from the unnaturalness of it. So I had been right, this construct had something to do with the Defiant's leader. The construct straightened up and I realized it was even taller than I had thought previously. This can't be good. Perhaps we can come to some sort of peaceful compromise? The construct roared and advanced on my prone form. Or maybe not. I swiftly leaped to my feet and rolled past the construct, to come up behind it.
      Drawing my daggers, I held them ready before me, blades sparkling with planar power. No way some hunk of metal was going to get the best of me! The construct knew a weak form of magic, and cast a sparkling net of power at me, though I was able to easily dodge the spell cast. Moving in swiftly, I parried one of its metal claws and tried quickly searching for vulnerable parts. Unfortunately, what is vulnerable on a giant metal thing?! I was forced to retreat again, panting. The construct threw another net of magic at me. This time I barely dodged it, feeling the electricity raise my hair up as I dodged out of the way.

     "So, what's a girl gotta do to shut you down eh?" I asked the construct rhetorically as I dodged a metal fist. The construct didn't answer, and I didn't think it would. Than I remembered those constructs in Bloodmurk Grove. The only way to disable and destroy them had been a small paneling of wire at the base of their metal heads. Perhaps it would be the same here. But how can I get behind this thing long enough to look? I hardly think it's going to stand still while I analyze it for potential weaknesses. Still, I had to try. Calling up my Ascended power, I planar shifted through different dimensions and transported myself behind the construct. It was very quick to react, and almost sliced me open with one of it's metal arms, but I did get a good look at the back of the head.

     Indeed, there was a wiring panel attached to the construct, with a small blinking green light in the center. I just had to find a way to deactivate it. Permanently if I could. I took stock of my inventory, and was depressed to realize that I didn't really have anything to work with here. Perhaps one of my small throwing daggers would work. I unsheathed one and rolled to the side, tossing the dagger as I dived. The dagger struck true and the construct eyed me suspiciously, obviously more intelligent than your average undead, trying to figure out what my angle was. I thought for sure that it didn't work, but than when I approached again, the construct was disabled and couldn't move to attack me in time. As quick and agile as I've ever been, I launched myself at the construct's back. I had to pull myself up slightly as the metal creature was taller than me. I felt it stiffen under my hand, and I knew I had seconds before it tried to dislodge me. Working fast, I stuck a dagger blade under the panel covering and pried it off, not paying attention to where it landed. I than jammed a small explosive device into the panel and leaped clear, landing on my feet some distance away. Good thing I took the time to learn new tricks from Rovena because the ability to craft little bombs and incendiary devices was pretty handy.

The construct turned around remarkably quick and glared accusingly at me. And that's when the device went off with a muffled boom. The construct's glowing red eyes flickered, than faded, and it slumped to the ground, a pile of metal parts. I stood, holding my daggers loosely, and glanced around. Something felt off here. I'm not sure what it was but something--A man materialized out of thin air behind the fallen construct. He was tall, human in appearance, and wearing the strangest clothing I'd ever seen. He stared down at the remains of the construct with such a sad and despairing look that I had to repress the urge to apologize. But than he glanced up and his gaze landed on me. I gulped and couldn't stop myself from instinctively taking a step back. That is one scary looking expression.

     "What have you done, foolish child! Ethect would have allowed me to siphon off the Vigil's power and create my own Ascended! You will regret this!" I scowled, not liking being called foolish, but the man was already muttering something and I felt now was not the time to protest. When he finished, he flung out his hand and a stream of ice blue mist raced toward my position. Woah, what the hell is that? I barely ducked in time and the mist hit a pillar instead, causing the entire pillar to become encased in an impenetrable sheet of ice. I stared, wide-eyed. Uh oh. Undeterred, the man was now weaving his hands together. A jet of white arced from his staff at me. Darn he's good. And here I was so proud of my own paltry abilities.

     I dived to the side to avoid the white colored magic, but it followed me. The second the white mist hit me, I felt frozen. My breath caught in my throat and I immediately began shivering. What magic is this? I've never actually fought someone who was adept at the magic arts before and I made a mental note to find someone to spar against, because I was completely unprepared for this guy's magical assault. When he started muttering the same words as before, I admit I panicked. My mind just went blank. And that's when someone else took over. I don't know who, or how, but one of the other souls seemed to slide into my place. They guided my hands, expertly wielded my daggers, and knew such advanced techniques, I would have been in awe if my mind wasn't half frozen.

     As if from a distance I watched as I manipulated the shadows, weaving through the half seen
planes that layered over our own on Telara. My daggers began glowing a vibrant blue, and my whole body thrummed with power. The man, who I assume, now that I had time to think, is Orphiel, the leader of the Defiant, hit me again with a spell, this time something swirling and clingy. I found myself slowed down to a crawl for a few precious seconds, before shrugging it off and continuing on. I was within a few paces of Orphiel when he hit me with another spell. This one froze me in place, but I did fling a dagger at him. I can't say if it hit him or not, because my vision suddenly went white from all the spells being cast on me.

     "I can't die like this. One day I will replicate Ascension and destroy you all!" I heard Orphiel shout, as if from a distance. I couldn't reply even if I wanted to. Suddenly, the feeling of being a bystander in my own body faded, leaving me bereft of the power I had felt previously. I slumped, held in the magical casting, and shivered violently.

     Eventually the wan and distant sun did manage to thaw most of the ice from my form, and I used my daggers to shatter the rest. That was one powerful mage and I hope I never met another until I had been sufficiently trained. My body still felt weird, stiff and cold, and I moved with a sort of jerking motion. At least I could still move, I guess. I must have hit Orphiel with my dagger or I'd probably be dead right now. Thank the gods for small miracles. Speaking of gods, glancing up, I caught sight of the telltale white wingspan of a Messenger of the Vigil, hovering at the very tip of the stone spire. When I had recovered enough strength to walk properly, I hesitantly walked out to meet the messenger. A warm and soothing presence filled my mind as I came closer, and I felt my shivering cease.

     "You have done all as the gods have asked, Raeslyn. We are very proud of you. Alas, now they must ask for more. You must be prepared to give your life to push Regulos back through the Ward. To become strong enough for the coming trial, you must make use of the ancient power that lives and breathes inside of you!"

     The Messenger's soft, multi voiced words echoed in my ears and I felt a chill of a different sort. All this work I've done, everything I've accomplished, and I still hadn't even laid eyes on Aedraxis, let alone defeated him. And the Messenger says I must be prepared to give my life? Again? I don't know if I'm ready for that. It's different to lay down your life in the heat of battle for the sake of a comrade or your faith, but to be told, flatly, that you may be forced to give up your life to combat an's a bit much to take in. Especially after what I had just endured. I realized that I did not want to die again. Ever. And I would do what I could to make sure it didn't happen.

     I gazed into the Messenger's eyeless face and said nothing. I wonder if they can pick up on my thoughts. The Messenger's bell-like laughter sounded in my mind at that, and I felt lighter. My stress melted away like the ice that had coated me earlier. I couldn't help but smile. All hail the Vigil.

     "This place is a nexus of power, where the gods met and reached out their hand to bestow souls upon the chosen of Telara. Walk the path of the Vigil and you will never walk alone. If you wish, I can send you back to Valor Hold very quickly using the power emanating from this place."

     I nodded eagerly. I had no desire to traipse all the way back down that hill. Not to mention that I hadn't killed every abomination on the way up and I was in no shape to be fighting anything right now. I was exhausted, physically and mentally, and had drained quite a bit of my Ascended power. I needed something to eat and perhaps a quick rest, but I had a feeling I wouldn't get it. Things were coming together rather quickly now, and end game was almost upon us.

     The Vigil's winged messenger lifted up her arms and a soft white glow descended upon my shoulders. I felt weightless and warm, my mind encased in a web of light and love. I felt myself float off the edge of the spire, to where the ground was some hundred feet below, but felt no fear, for I knew the Vigil looked over me. My body floated gently but quickly along the currents of power and arrived safely in the center of Valor Hold, where I stumbled upon regaining my normal mass and physical shape. There was a sharp gasp behind me and I whirled, tiredly going for my daggers. It was only Cyril though.
     "You truly are illuminated by the Vigil, Raenyn!" Cyril breathed with awe, gazing at me.