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.

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