Sunday, October 28, 2012

[Raeslyn's Story] 2.5: Investigating Quicksilver

     The first thing I did upon entering Argent Glade was follow up on the advice given to me by the shade of Carwin Mathos. As he instructed, I sought out the renowned Dolan Ashwalker, who apparently had the ability to augment my Ascended aura to give me more powerful and unique abilities to fight the Rifts.

     "The Vigil was indeed wise to bring you back from the stream, Raeslyn." Dolan said while examining me. Apparently, he thinks my aura has grown more powerful since my appearance in Silverwood. I can't really tell; but than again, would I be able to? Maybe it's like aging. You age, but the process is so slow that you don't really notice it until many years have gone by. Or maybe I'm overthinking this. Again. I smirk.

     "The aura given to you by the Vigil can be augmented by other Vigil-granted powers to help in your fight against the planar invaders. And believe me, there's a lot of planar beasties that need killin'."
     So I spent some time with Dolan learning how to augment my aura with planar charges so I could tap into the full potential of the Vigil's gifts. Using them for the first time was like...nothing I've ever felt before. I felt powerful, invincible. I felt like I could take on anything. I felt larger then I was, and my skin prickled and crackled with live energy. Even Dolan looked impressed as I examined my hands. Somehow, I could see more vividly and feel more strongly. It was like I was hypersensitive and yet, removed from the world at the same time. All too soon, though, the effect faded. Dolan informed me that in order to use that augment, I needed to have a store of planar energy. And since I couldn't harness planar energy myself, I had to get it from an outside source. So in order to be granted these gifts, I needed to gain planar energy first. And in order to do that, I needed to do combat with the planar invaders. Seems kinda odd to me.

     "You truly are a marvel of the Vigil, Raeslyn! With your full Ascended powers activated, the planar invaders won't stand a chance against us Guardians." Dolan grinned at me proudly. I still felt a bit skeptical. Sure, I was learning new tricks, but I was still just one Ascended. There wasn't much I could do against a whole swarm of planar creatures, or a particularly powerful planar enemy. I knew my own strength.

     After leaving Dolan Ashwalker, I entered the outskirts of the town. A thrill went through me as I recognized so many things from my past! It was such a painful feeling, almost like coming home, but not quite. For things had changed indeed. Myself, for one. But there was a subtle air of...something, about Argent Glade now. It didn't have that harmonious, tranquil feel that I fondly remembered from my school days. The people seemed serious and grim, and there were guards stationed everywhere.

     A curtain of shimmery blue caught my eye and I spied another one of those porticums that I'd first seen in Divine Landing. That reminded me of what the porticum master had suggested there, and I stepped up to the blue curtained arch. A young looking Mathosian woman was standing nearby, staring off into nothing with a bored expression. I discretely approached and eyed the shimmery blue veil curiously. The porticum master at Divine Landing said that I could use these doorways to move rapidly from one place to another, over any distance. The mechanics behind that boggle my mind. Best not to think about it. Hopefully the process is safe. I'd hate to end up inside out in some kind of inter-dimensional plane.

     As soon as I approached the veil of blue energy, I could feel a tug at my own Ascended aura. There was more pull the closer I became, until finally, I felt a felt a slight pop, kind of like when you gain altitude quickly and your ears pop from the leveling pressure. I guess I had been "attuned" to this gate and could now access it's powers to move to a different porticum. Huh, nifty.

     I wandered around Argent Glade, investigating all of my old haunts and hang outs. Some things had stayed the same, but a lot had changed and it was hard to reconcile the new with my old memories. Finally, my feet took me to the Quicksilver College itself. I hesitated at the gate, not sure if I wanted to find out what all had changed here since my absence. But if I wanted to find my place as an Ascended in the world, I couldn't avoid my old home forever. So taking a deep breath, I stepped inside the college grounds.
     I was pleased to see that the atmosphere hadn't really changed in the college. To the left, a group of students lounged on the grass, deep in an animated discussion about arcane theories. To my right, two students practiced battle spells on each other. Occasionally, a professor would stroll by, usually trailed by one of their mastered elemental pets. I took a deep breath and felt a smile grace my features. A professor in long blue robes hurried by and I overheard him mutter, "Oh bother, I left the cauldron on in my office again." I snickered. A young student by himself with a very worried expression drew my eye, and feeling nostalgic, I wondered over.

     "Hey there, you look pretty stressed, what's the matter?" I asked curiously. The student looked up and seemed rather taken aback by my appearance.

     "An Ascended!" He gawked at me in awe, before remembering his problems again. "Oh, it's horrible! I'm in so much trouble. My midterm project in wand mastery is due tomorrow and I haven't even finished the written portion! What am I going to do!" He clutched his hair and moaned in distress, causing me to remember my own midterms from all those years ago.

     "Anything I can do to help?" I asked. Why not help the poor kid out? I'd like a break from all the running around and slaying monsters for the Guardians. The student looked up with hope in his eyes.

     "That would be amazing! If you can help me with the practical portion, that would be a huge help. I could definitely get the project done in time if you could do that. My name's Alan by the way!" The boy continued to babble happily, explaining what I had to do and handing me a practice wand. I studied the wand curiously. Being a Rogue, my studies had leaned more toward learning about the natural world, learning how to use daggers, poisons, and the lay of the land to remain in the background. The power in the wand thrummed in my palm, but did nothing else. Obviously I wasn't meant to wield one of these. But hey, I said I would help, right?

     While the kid ran off to write the written portion of his midterm, I considered the wand and my surroundings. According to Alan, his midterms involved casting spells on fellow students and studying the effects. That's all right with me. I remember causing all kinds of pranks in college, so casting spells on fellow students wasn't something I was unfamiliar with. Grinning, I spun the wand in my fingers and strode through the college grounds, falling back into that familiar role with relish.
     Two unsuspecting students sitting on a bench reading a book were my first victims. A beam of light arched from the wand and hit the nearest student in the back. Instantly, the student was transformed into a small, wooly sheep. I laughed at the other student's expression of shock. After only a few seconds, the polymorph spell wore off and the afflicted student found herself on the ground on all fours with an annoyed expression. "How rude!" She huffed.

     "Sorry, homework!" I called in return. I continued on my way, polymorphing a few more students to observe the effects.
     "Awww man, I thought I was going to be a sheep forever! Is my tongue still black!?" One student cried, turning to his companion.
   After growing bored of that, I set out to create some elemental wands for him. I remembered where a few of the cauldrons were for specific planar energies and walked through the college ground looking for them. After submerging the wand in each of the cauldrons to create the specific elemental energies that Alan wanted, I was satisfied.

     As I finished up with the last cauldron, the planar Life one, I happened to look down and saw a few destroyed barrels smashed on the ground near the outskirts of the college grounds. I frowned. That's odd, vandalism was one of the few things the college never had a problem with. I wonder what happened. I hopped down from the teaching platform and approached the smashed barrels cautiously. There was a strange smell around the barrels, and it felt familiar. Kneeling down, I inspected the damage and found that the barrels had been destroyed by Flametouched magic. I blinked in surprise and glanced around out of reflex. Flametouched magic means the minions of Maelforge are somehow involved. What were they doing here, in the college? A chilling notion. Perhaps those dratted creatures were still around. This bore investigating. I got up and scanned the area. Spotting another barrel up against one of the teaching alcoves, I purposely strode over.

     I wacked the barrel experimentally with a dagger and was rewarded. A small, angry goblin hopped out, brandishing a flaming torch. I didn't react openly to the appearance of the feisty little creature, but I did feel my pulse quicken at it.

     "You'll pay for disrupting the master's plan!" The goblin snarled in a thin, reedy voice. I didn't bother to reply and instead drew my second dagger. The goblin was quick on its feet, I'll give it that. But it had no real skill in combat and I quickly disarmed it and thrust my dagger through its ribs. The creature moaned and toppled over and I made a face of disgust. Why anyone, lesser creature or not, would want to join forces with the likes of the evil Maelforge, is beyond me.
     Other barrels around the edge of the college grounds yielded the same results. The barrels were all meticulously placed so that the Argent Glade guards wouldn't notice them in their patrols, and were positioned where they could do damage if exploded. Following the trail of barrels, I found myself on one of the lesser used teaching platforms. Two suspicious looking scholars were standing around what looked like a cauldron of boiling pitch, along with several jars of explosive materials.

     "Hello friend, have you signed up to study at Quicksilver College?" One of the scholars asked me absently, nervously eyeing his companion. Both men looked on edge and I moved my hand nearer my dagger hilts, sensing something amiss.

     "Uh, no, I'm just passing through." I said casually, than gestured to the circle of isolated materials between the two men. "So, what you got here than? Anything interesting?" Before they could protest, I bent and inspected the materials.

     "Hey, get away from there!" The one scholar yelled harshly, making a move toward me. Suddenly, a fire demon sprang from the shadows, and the two scholars shimmered. Moments later, two goblin infiltrators stood where the scholars had been. I can't say as I was surprised, but I was rather dismayed that such a strong demon could sneak into the college unawares.
      "No, what have you done!? I was planning on creating a blazing inferno that would destroy this whole area! Well, you may have stopped my plans, but you'll never stop Maelforge!" The demon howled with rage, waving a staff around. He than began chanting a spell. Quickly I rushed forward, not wanting to be struck by any of his magic, despite that it had a lessened effect on my new Ascended form. It still hurt. I was able to get a good stab in with my left dagger before the demon let off a curse that caused pain to explode in my head. I gasped and nearly dropped my daggers. Only the thought that I'd be defenseless without them kept them in my grip. After a few seconds, I was able to adjust to the pain the curse was causing and again slashed the demon with my daggers. Throwing a quick flame spike at him with one of my daggers, I was able to turn his own element against him, to burn him slowly over time. I grinned at my work, and turned to dispatch the two scholar-goblins. Those two were easier to get rid of, being just underlings. I hissed in a breath as one goblin landed a lucky blow on my wrist, but again I was able to easily dispatch them. When all three minions of Maelforge lay dead on the floor, I stepped back and sheathed my daggers, breathing hard. Things were looking serious here in Silverwood. I had to find a way to put a stop to Maelforge's advances permanently. Quickly, I headed back to the main training yard, searching for Alan. I'd better give him his research and head back to Colten to continue my mission as Ascended. I see that I have much work to do before Silverwood can be safe and cleansed of Maelforge's taint.

     "Oh thank you very much! You saved my grades and my midterm!" Alan was incredibly pleased with my work and had run off to work on who knows what else. I smiled fondly. I wish so very much that I could still be back here, in college.

     Unfortunately, getting back on track was harder than I thought. After aiding Alan, others had noticed my appearance and soon I found my day full of errands for the various people of Quicksilver. I didn't mind overly much, but in the back of my mind I knew that Maelforge wasn't going to just wait for me to run side errands to destroy Silverwood.
     For Jerome Drift, I collected some neglected library tomes on the Vigil and on flame magic. In return for my aid, I was quite pleased that Jerome offered me a very fine dagger, which he jokingly said he had no use for, seeing as how he merely looked after things at the college.

     One other thing I'd like to mention that happened before I made my back to Colten. I came across a bit of student hazing trouble near the grand entrance to the college. Apparently, a small, newbie Dwarf was getting some pretty bad heckling for his lack of experience. Never one to see the younglings hazed, I strode over to offer help. Not to mention, Dwarves were a rare occurrence at the college and I'd hate to see one driven away by cruel students.

     "Hey, what's going on here?" I asked no one in particular. The group parted and a bearded Dwarf turned and looked up at me.

     "Oh good, maybe you can help us, Ascended!" Said the Dwarf, looking disgruntled. I shrugged, "I can try at least," I said honestly.

     "My cousin, Scotty, wants to enroll, but the student hazing committee won't let him in until he undergoes their hazing trial. They are going to subject him to the energies of the Planes. Specifically, Fire, Death, and Air. He could die! I have an idea to help protect him from the full assault of the energies, but I need to get some elemental cores first. Some of the professors have elemental minions following them around. Would you mind using this device and gathering up some elemental cores for me? I can create a shield for Scotty so he won't be harmed by the hazing!" I blinked. That's a rather unconventional solution to a hazing problem. But I knew that Scotty no doubt wanted to undergo the treatment. Usually, if you chickened out of anything the students were doing, you never lived it down. The poor kid already has enough problems, being so small, and being an uncommon race at the college. I bit my lip.
     On the one hand, sure I'd love to help. But it seems a rather extreme solution to the problem. Surely there was something better we could do? But I didn't really have the time to think about it. It was getting darker and I wanted to get back to the Inn for the night, get a good night's sleep, and than head over to Colten tomorrow to see what I could do about that goblin problem. So I reluctantly agreed to do what Scotty's cousin asked. The professors weren't going to like me very much...

     Sure enough, the first professor with an elemental pet that I came across wailed in dismay when I used the device on their precious pet. I wasn't too concerned for the elemental, because I knew that they were tied to the planes and could be resummoned from the planes whenever required or when the professor had enough magic for the summons. After some hunting, I was able to find the elemental pets that Scotty's cousin, Murbo Malm, required for the wards. Quickly, I made my way back to the hazing grounds, to see both Scotty and his cousin facing off against three older students. I handed Murbo the materials and watched with curiosity to see how he would go about this.

     "I'm so glad you were able to get the cores!" Murbo exclaimed over the elemental energies I'd gathered, showing them to Scotty. Scotty nodded, looking rather scared. I don't blame him...sometimes the students can get pretty bad. I glanced across the way and Murbo pointed out the hazing students to me. Fiona Lechtum stood closest and carried herself like the leader of the gang. I smirked. Women make the best leaders. Her henchmen were Wilhelm Nibor and Gene Sagemm. I stood to one side and eyed the three, before glancing at poor Scotty and his determined cousin. Than I sighed.

     "Here, give me those things," I said, with resignation. Murbo happily handed the elemental cores back to me and I sighed dramatically. How do I let myself get pulled into these kinds of situations, I wonder? I chuckled to myself. Working quickly, I set up the cores on some nearby benches and tweaked them a bit. There. Now, as soon as that Fiona wench casts her hazing spells, the planar cores will activate to protect Scotty from the raw elemental power.

     "Prepare to be hazed, Scotty!" She called mockingly. Being a student herself, it took her some time to get the spells ready and Scotty tensed. I breathed a sigh of relief. For a moment I wasn't sure it would work. From Scotty's stunned expression, he didn't think it would either. He gave me a grateful look.
     Again, Scotty gave me a grateful nod, but I could see him trembling. Poor Dwarf. I smiled at him to offer encouragement, feeling a tentative friendship form between us against a common enemy. Fiona looked rather displeased by my aid, but she couldn't protest, as there were no rules about others helping. Grudgingly, she had to admit that Scotty was able to enroll at the College. Scotty cheered mightily and his cousin smiled through his beard. They both thanked me profusely, making me feel light hearted as well. It felt good to help those students.

     "Ey lass, I think that professor wants a word with ya now." Murbo's gruff voice drew my attention from Scotty and I glanced across the bridge. Sure enough, Professor Bedstraw, the Professor of Nature, was beckoning me over. I sighed. Now what? I remember Professor Bedstraw from my time at the college. Even than, he'd looked old. Now he looked positively ancient, with a gray beard almost to his ankles. I waved good bye to Scotty and his cousin and made my way over to the Professor.

     "You wanted to talk to me?" I asked, somewhat warily. I hadn't exactly been the best of students, after all. But Professor Bedstraw seemed not to recognize me.
     "The reason I called you over here, Ascended, is that we have a spider problem." The Professor's words, blunt and straightforward, caught me off guard. I frowned. A spider problem? Since when was that my problem?

     "I know your busy, Ascended, with many other important tasks in Silverwood, but please, if you could help with this, we here at the college would be very grateful." I folded my arms and nodded. I might as well listen. And besides, if it was something serious, I was probably the most qualified to deal with the threat. Although I was still reminded of my promise to Colten to return and deal with the goblin threat as well. So much to do.

     "The spiders have lived in Silverwood for quite some time now, as you would know, being a High Elf; skittering down from their caves in Gloamwood, to the northwest. Lately, though, they seem to have multiplied. This is very dangerous for travelers in general, and our college students in particular. I don't want anyone to get hurt from these rampaging spiders. I think I can mix something up to keep them off the road, but I'll need some ingredients and I have little time to go herb gathering. Could you, please, gather some herbs for me so I can help keep the spiders away from the main paths?" I pondered for a few minutes. It was just another delay, but at the same time, I can see his point, and I didn't want anyone hurt either. Also, it would be benefitting Silverwood in the long run, as the spider infestation was no doubt causing havoc with the balance of nature.

     I nodded. "Sure, I can gather herbs for you. Which ones do you need?"

     Professor Bedstraw looked grateful. "Thank you Ascended! I need capsicum mushrooms and some spider entrails. The spiders are deathly afraid of the smell that their entrails gives off. I can mix it with the mushrooms and--" I held out my hands to halt his explanation. "I don't need all the details, prof. I'd rather not know what your mixing." I wrinkled my nose. Yuck, spider entrails...note: find a worn out sack to bring with me when I went out, because I did not want those things anywhere near my person. After getting a quick description of the mushrooms from Bedstraw, I left the college grounds behind.

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