Wednesday, February 27, 2013

[Off Topic] Patch 2.2 and World Event!

     Yay, Patch 2.2 of Rift brings back the Carnival of the Ascended and I'm quite pleased because it was one of my favorite world events! I loved the parades and the games and puzzles as well as the neat cosmetic rewards. Let's see what this patch holds!

Key features:

  • Carnival of the Ascended: Rift celebrates its two-year anniversary! To honor this, Trion is giving us the second Carnival of the Ascended, a month long festival to celebrate the return of the Ascended to Telara and the defeat of most of the dragon gods, as by this time in Rift history, most have been successfully vanquished by the high lvl Ascended heroes!
    • The Carnival this year brings you fun new puzzles and games in Meridian, Sanctum, Shimmersand, and now in Tempest Bay.
    • You can earn new masks, mounts, and costume pieces, as well as end game gear and rewards and other "shiny" goodies
    • The parades have also returned, although somewhat changed, as well as the piƱatas.
  • Wheel of Fate: A new alt mode pvp battle in the Codex. Challenge and excitement await in this warfront! Try your hand and see if you can spin the wheel of fate.
  • T3 Planar Attunement: For those who eagerly await it, Tier 3 Planar Attunement is coming with Rift 2.2, unlocking a whole new system of perks for Planar Attunement, with more rewards to come.
  • Attunement of War: T2 of the pvp Planar Attunement, another highly awaited feature that a lot of players have apparently been asking for all over the forums. Let's just hope it lives up to their expectations.
  • Cape: A new, unique, 2-year celebration cape that you can buy from the carnival vendors to show off your Rift pride!
  • Free to Play for March 21-25. Like all major patches/world events, Trion is giving us a weekend to play the game free without the penalty of subscription bonuses.
  • New addition to the Rift mobile app lootables. "Carnival Candy" lets you scratch 3 in a row of the carnival rewards. If you get cake, you win carnival themed rewards.
From what I can see, this patch is mostly a filler patch while they (hopefully) work on more content, as there wasn't any new and interesting content added this time! Although I don't really mind as I've been so incredibly busy with real life things that I'd be sad if I missed out on some fun new content because I didn't have the time. Also, the Carnival will no doubt prove quite the successful distraction by itself. The game in Tempest Bay to remember the colors all in a row, for instance, is incredibly fun. I love memory games.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

[Karazhan's Story] 1.2: The Town of Lastlight

    The town of Lastlight wasn't really much of a town. It looked more like the last hope for refugees wanting to escape the madness and destruction of Regulos and his Endless Court. I was beginning to loathe these creatures and cultists. I've never felt hatred and vengeance toward anyone or anything to any level before, but I think I'll make an exception here. I paused on the well worn path leading down the hill toward Lastlight, glancing around me. Standing here, at the crest of the hill, one could appreciate the scope and magnitude of the evil choking Telara. I'd been raised to respect the land and the other denizens of the world, to live quietly and thoughtfully and strive my utmost to make my family proud of me. Wanton death and destruction just for the sake of it was rather sickening and I found myself actually looking forward to putting an end to Regulos's destructive plans.

     Ahead, past the meager defense that is Lastlight, far off in the distance, I could see black clouds and even blacker skies. Where the sky meets land, a giant explosion of black rock and red lava warred with each other. A volcano. If I squinted my eyes just so, I could even make out a more vibrant red path that led down the side of the volcano. A molten lava trail, no doubt. Everywhere one looked, signs of the planet's death were visible. Far distant winged beasts soared on the air, a sight that raised the hairs on my arms.

     A sharp yearning to be back at among the dusty libraries of home, attending to my duties and performing new spells as I trained to become a mage suddenly washed over me. An image came to my mind, unbidden, of a quite, sun dappled ledge overlooking a valley. I could imagine I could even smell the distinctive dry scent that clung to the desert canyons. Despite my wariness with these souls I seem to have absorbed, I was grateful for the shared memory I'd just had, even though I was pretty sure it was from the soul of a Bahmi. The meaning was still clear. Hoisting my staff onto my back, I plodded down the dusty path toward Lastlight.

     The closer I became to the outskirts of the little village, the more I realized that it was in just as much trouble as Koke's hold, or the Life Factory. Savage cultists were harrying the sentries, trying to get into the town. Thankfully, the defenses seemed more solid here, and the defenders were quite capable of dealing with the threat. But you could sense from the atmosphere that everyone knew it was only a matter of time. The same taste of death and despair hung thickly in the air here. A couple sentries stood straighter and made as if to block my path, but one look at me had them both going pale. Instead, they allowed me passage, watching me with widened, hope-starved eyes.

     The denizens of Lastlight were a myriad variety of many races and cultures. A large, dark skinned Bahmi stood, discussing strategy with a red robed Ethian, while a beautiful Kelari in ceremonial dress lounged, coldly eyeing all who passed. I stared at her a few moment's longer then necessary. She looks familiar. A dark skinned, dark eyed man swathed from head to toe in white desert garb paced around a magitech contraption in the center of the little village, while a woman with strange swirling tattoos along her arm and leg made animated gestures to one of the sentries. The strange woman had short-cut auburn hair and carried an exotic looking wickedly sharp sword. At her back stood two more guards, both alert and watchful. Seeing as she was the only one who appeared to warrant guards, I assumed she had to be Asha Catari, the woman I was supposed to meet up with to discuss my plans with the Failsafe. Hopefully she could help enlighten me more on what was going on here, as so far I've only been able to make guesses and suppositions. I preferred facts and proof.

     "Ah, welcome to Lastlight, Ascended." Even as I approached her, Asha had turned and noticed me. She gave me a genuine smile, lighting her face up. It made her look younger than she no doubt was. I gave her a polite inclination of the head, pleased to meet someone who spoke warmly and with sincerity. I was quite used to the fact that everyone knew me on sight, but it was still a bit distracting to be singled out for Ascended before I'd even opened my mouth.

     "And you must be general Asha Catari, of the Defiant." I responded smoothly, coming to a stop a few feet to the left of the woman. The sentry she had been talking to saluted and curtly walked off. Asha nodded, pleased that I'd recognized her.

     Off to my far right, I caught the tail end of a conversation that made me feel uncomfortable. "Lastlight is all we have left. I hope Sylver's plans are a success." I couldn't see the speaker, but I could feel the emotion in the words, and it was like a blow to me. The scholarly, inexperienced side of me cringed while the tough new Ascended part of me wanted to go out and smite some bad guys. I bit my lip, turning back to regard Asha.

     "Times have been a bit tough here. It is good to finally meet you in person," Asha waved a hand at me. "Karazhan, was it? I believe that is what Sylver's report said your name was. Unless you would prefer a different name?" She waited a beat, and I shrugged and shook my head. I didn't feel much like the young Kelari girl who had earned the name Karazhan anymore and I definitely didn't even look like her anymore, but it was a familiar name to me and the last remnant I had of my past life.
     Asha nodded again. "I have heard tales on the wind of your great power. Sylver finally engineered a masterpiece when he made you." As she spoke that last sentence, her eyes tightened, as if in pain. I was curious. Was there more like me? Perhaps...earlier trials? I know that when conducting experiments and tests, there's always the initial failures and false starts. I wonder what happened to the others of my kind, the ones that came before me. I dared not ask however. Some things are better left unknown.
     "Yes, well, I only do what duty requires. I owe my new life and existence to Sylver Valis and the Defiant. I would do anything in my power to make it up to him. And I would never let such an evil creature take my home." My voice came out sharper than I intended, but I didn't mind. I meant it. Only just now, as I said it, I realized it really was true. I would die for the newly created Defiant. What I had been before my rebirth was washed away now. I was a different person. All that I am now is because of Sylver and this new order and I was quite ready to attach myself to the Defiant as my new family and community. I had been taught to embrace the changes that time brought and to make do with circumstances beyond my control and this seemed the perfect example of that.

     "It is time you know exactly what is in store for you here, Karazhan." Asha's words brought my focus back to her and I stood straighter. Finally, some real answers! I nodded eagerly. "There is nothing we can do for Telara here, as much as it pains me to say this. Nothing lies beyond these canyon walls but oblivion. Nothing. The only hope we have left is to send as many Ascended back in time, before this disaster, so that this, all of this, never happens." I didn't even blink, riveted, trying to absorb this information. "Fortunately, Orphiel built a Failsafe. It has the capacity to send you back to the moment in time that it was installed. As far as we can tell, that appears to be twenty years ago. Unfortunately, you will need to travel into areas held by the Endless Court and undead-filthy minions of Regulos-to activate all of its components and make it ready for you."

     Okay. Regulos has literally destroyed Telara. Nothing beyond this canyon? I reflexively glanced around, spotting the distant volcano. For there to be was shocking. No Atia. No Ember Isle No more vast, mysterious jungles. No more dreams of visiting the farthest shores. No more curious desire to dance in the sun at some of the hidden pools I found. I admit, I was a bit shell shocked. Only the presence of the other souls inside me, a now-familiar weight upon my own soul, kept me from feeling ill with shock. I felt a soothing blanket cover my thoughts and took a deep breath, sending a prayer to the Spirits for clarity of thought. Distantly, I wondered who this Orphiel was, but it seemed insignificant among the greater situation.

     "I..I understand." It took quite an effort to keep my voice to its usual, measured tones. I paused thoughtfully. "You say I need to activate the components before I can access this Failsafe device? Where are the components? I'd better get started immediately. Who knows when Regulos will get around to squashing us." I meant it as a joke, but Asha's grim expression wiped any hint of levity from my own face.

     "You first need to activate the temporal flux in the sinkhole to begin the process of powering up the Failsafe. Unfortunately, at the time that the Failsafe and all its components were installed, this dire threat wasn't so widespread. The sinkhole is now crawling with undead. I would send men down with you, but truthfully, I cannot spare even one and truth be told, from the explanations I've gotten from Sylver's letter, it seems you won't need them anyway. I'm sorry and wish you the best of luck." She looked genuinely distressed and I offered a lopsided smile.

     "It's fine. I'm Ascended, remember? I should be able to handle a few undead cronies. If I can't, how would I ever be able to tackle Regulos?" Although, I realize now that they never intended for me to battle Regulos in some titanic and dramatic last battle. Thank the Spirits. I just had to go back in time and...what? Warn everyone? Find a way to divert this path? I'd have to make sure I kept on my toes in the past. I'd have to get as much information on the cults, and the Blood Storm gods as I could. I couldn't let them succeed.

     But first, I needed to outfit myself in some proper mage gear. Obviously those scientists meant well, but this shimmery armor they created for me, while effective for helping conduct my spells, wasn't exactly the best armor for all out combat. I needed to find a sturdy pair of gloves, a heavy pair of boots, and a few other things. I should also acquire nourishment and a few water skins. Just because my body can't be killed in combat didn't mean I still couldn't starve to death apparently; I was feeling just the tiniest bit hungry. Or at least, I hope I couldn't be killed. I was quite terrified of what would happen of my soul were severed from this engineered body.

     A large husk of a building had the feel of an Inn to it so I walked inside, hoping I could find some supplies within. Sure enough, there were plenty of refugees and displaced citizens huddling in the dim interior. I thought it would take a few minutes for my eyes to adjust, but it was like being outside. The lighting didn't change inside the building, even though I'm sure it should have, considering how dark and dreary it was inside. A small fire burned in the hearth, hardly giving off enough light to see the people crowded around the tables and broken bar, and yet, I could see normally. Another perk of being Ascended, no doubt. I made a mental note to conduct some experiments with my abilities when I had the time, and grinned to myself.

     Conversation seemed to stop as I entered and all heads swiveled to eye the newcomer. Used to the stares and silent awe since my recent resurrection, I ignored them and strode up to the harried looking woman behind the bar. A large cauldron beside the fireplace gave off tantalizing smells and I gestured to it.

     "May I?" I asked after offering her a respectful bow. The woman gave me a wide-eyed, awed glance and nodded.

     After I'd eaten, I found a nice old gentleman who called himself Welk the Bearded. A merchant by trade, he happened to carry quite a few odds and ends that I traded some coin I'd gotten off the cultists for, including a second pack since my first one was becoming filled a little too quickly. Thankfully, my strength and stamina had increased, making it no problem to tote around as much gear as I was. I also purchased some water and some preserved fruit. Who knows when I'd next get a meal.

     I rearranged my bags and discarded things I really didn't need to have with me, making sure everything was economical and sensible for the next leg of my mission. And that's when I came across the sourcestone chunks and remembered the elf woman...Vexa her name was? I remembered her mentioning something about how valuable sourcestone was to the Defiant's defenses. Perhaps I can give it someone here who will know what to do with it. I fished out the sourcestone I'd harvested on the field and considered it. After making some inquiries of one of the sentries standing just outside the Inn, I found the perfect candidate to pawn my sourcestone cache off on. A man named Kain Sunsworn seemed to have quite the extensive knowledge base on sourcestone and its properties and had designed quite a few of the Defiant's defensive machines. Perfect.

     "Excuse me, where might I find Kain Sunsworn?" I asked the nearest random citizen I could snag, keeping my voice soft and polite as I'd been taught. The young woman, clothed in rags, paused and glanced around distractedly. She than pointed out the man dressed in the white desert garb I'd seen pacing earlier. I nodded my thanks and walked over to him.

     "Hello, Kain Sunsworn? I was told--" I was interrupted as he turned swiftly to me and began mumbling. "I'm Sorry?" I asked hesitantly, still holding out the sourcestone.

     "Every time I see those hulking phantasms, I'm haunted by the memory of everyone we have lost in this death and misery. They have taken over everything. The blight on this land is so strong. But it reminds me of what we fight for, even when all seems hopeless. Oh beautiful Enqyeke." He turned to me and his expression was lost and haunted. I shifted uneasily. I don't deal with emotion well. I'd learned to keep my emotions in check, as they affected my spells. And yet I've seen so much emotion since my resurrection. So much pain and misery and hurt. It was becoming harder to stay above it all.

    "Pardon me, I apologize for my outburst." Kain waved a white clad arm. I shrugged, not sure what to say to that. "You said you had something for me?" He continued, a spark of curiosity forming in his eyes. Being Eth, he was shorter than me, and had to glance up to meet my eyes. Idly I wondered what color they were now.

     I nodded and held out the sourcestone again. "I was told this would benefit the war effort." Kain took the proffered sourcestone gems and studied them, breaking into a smile.

     "Excellent! We are going to need this sourcestone to power the generator and possibly even the Failsafe device. I'm glad it is out of Regulos's hands and into ours." He walked away, continuing to mutter, leaving me standing there. What an odd man. I shook my head.

     All tasks completed and feeling ready, I turned and faced toward where this sinkhole was supposed to be. It was a sharp drop off in land, into a deep impression, where I could make out the shadow of a cave entrance. That must be where the temporal flux is. I only had to get across that sinkhole and find a way to activate the temporal flux. I couldn't prevent the shiver of anxiety that washed over me as I stared.
   When a stiff breeze teased hair across my eyes I realized that I had different colored hair as well. It was thick and coarse, and deep black, a color quite different than my blue-silver of before. I dug in my pack and took out a leather cord, quickly and expertly twisting my new hair into a tight tail at the back of my head. Thoughtfully I considered the changes in me, wondering if it was something I approved of or not. Not that I had a choice though. I am who I am now. There's no going back...well, not back to my old life anyway. I was apparently going back in time though.

A large male Bahmi caught my attention as I prepared to head into the Sinkhole and I wandered over curiously. "Yes?" I asked.
     "I am Rahn Chuluun of the Red Sun Tribe. I am all that is left of my tribe now, and there are few Bahmi left at this, the end of all things. My own daughter, may the ancestors watch over her, was slain." He choked on that last sentence and I felt my heart clench in response. Family was everything these people. He was alone now, like myself. He cleared his throat, as if to rid himself of the sadness of the memory, and continued, "as you know, we Bahmi tell our stories and connect to our ancestors through our sefir tattoos." Actually, I didn't know that, but it seemed like an interesting tidbit that I stored away in my mind for later. I wonder if I have these tattoos on my engineered body.
        Rahn continued, "They remind us of who we are and of the great strength that comes from our ancient brethren. During the chaos that was the attack on Telara, after Meridian fell, many of my people were slaughtered. I am afraid that their souls, their very essence, is now trapped in Regulos's control. He keeps our people trapped, their souls tethered to this world by corrupted magitech devices created by the Defiant."

     I gasped, horrified. Bahmi, trapped? Their souls tethered to some device to eternally serve the Destroyer? I shook my head. No soul should endure that kind of pain, no matter their origins. "We must free them!" I demanded sharply. Rahn Chuluun smiled sadly at me.

     "Yes. I would ask this of you Ascended. You are the mightiest of us now, and we rely on you to go back in time and make sure this future does not come about. Alas, it is too late for the ones who have already died here. Their souls can never be recovered except by the magic of the Ascension process. They must be freed to rest eternally along the Soulstream. Please, free our brethren from this enslavement!" I grasped his clenched fist and looked him in the eye, giving a determined jerk of the chin.

     "I will rescue every single tormented soul that I can find out there, I swear it on the souls of my ancestors." I said solemnly. To swear on one's own ancestors was a serious oath to the Bahmi, I knew. Satisfied, Rahn bid me farewell and I relaxed slightly. Keeping up appearances was exhausting. Perhaps I should just tell him. But that would just require even more explaining.

      "May the ancestors forever guide your steps, child, no matter your journey." His words warmed my heart and lifted my own spirit. I took a deep breath.

     And off I ventured, heading down the steep, rocky incline that led to the "sinkhole". My new sourcestone engineered body was quite agile, more so than I was used to, and took to the climb with ease. I quickly reached the bottom of the impression and glanced around warily. There was the cave that I needed to enter to switch on the temporal flux. Brilliant of them to leave important devices unprotected in enemy territory. The priestesses and leaders of Atia would never have done something so foolish with such an important element. But than again, I did seem to have arrived late to this party so maybe there's more to it than the obvious. The sinkhole happened to be crawling with giant ghostly undead types carrying-well more like dragging-large heavy transparent chains. Those must be those hulking phantasms that the man Kain had been ranting about in Lastlight. I shuddered. They didn't look very friendly.
      The chains, despite being transparent, did the same amount of damage that any real chains would do. I found that out the hard way. I tried to sneak by one of the phantasms and a chain lashed out of seeming nowhere, almost snapping my wrist in half, which is saying something. I have discovered that I have a heavy bone structure. I couldn't help the small yelp of pain that escaped my lips as I was yanked backwards, almost off my feet. And that would have been the end of my savior days if not for having quick reflexes. The moment I felt the chain tug my wrist back, I concentrated, casting an absorption shield around myself to protect against damage. It didn't completely ward off the effects of the chain, but it did blunt the pain somewhat. When the second chain flashed, it bounced off the shield, doing me no harm and I stumbled back, trying to keep out of range. I needed to unwrap that chain from my wrist. I could feel the metal biting into my flesh, the links so cold that they burned. Using my bound wrist, I swung around so I was facing the creature sideways and threw a flame bolt at it. The burning magical flame struck between the eyes, causing the large, gray phantasm to roar with pain and anger. At least I could wound it.

     To my magic-trained sight, the Phantasm seemed to be eaten alive from the inside by the magical fire I'd cast. At least my fire-based spells had quite the effect on undead creatures. Thank the ancestors for that, since there were quite a few undead monsters around these parts. Unfortunately, it didn't seem to be slowing the creature down any.

     Thinking quickly, with my heart beating fast and frantic, I searched my mind for another effective spell. Being in mortal danger is not something I've grown accustomed to yet, I mused to myself. I murmured the key phrases to my favorite air spell, forked lightning. The familiar static energy crawled over my skin and slithered outward, charging the air with energy. I flung my hand out, palm facing the phantasm, fingers splayed. The lightning left me in a surge of vibrant lights. The manifestation sank into the phantasm just as it reared back its arm to lash the chain at me again. This time, the phantasm stumbled forward. I backed up uncertainly and realized that the blasted chain was still around my wrist. While the undead was occupied trying to fight off the effects of the lightning, I quickly dug my fingers under the burning cold chain and tried unhooking it from my wrist. It was harder done than said. The chain seemed to be wanting to greedily suck my life out and I shivered thinking that.

     Finally I was able to unwrap the foul chain and I flung it from me with disgust, immediately backing up. I didn't want to move too far away because I didn't want to draw the attention of any more of those horrid hulking phantasms, but I did want distance between this one and me in case my lightning spell wasn't enough. Thankfully, after a few moments, the phantasm succumbed to my deadly spell and collapsed onto its front. I gave a sharp nod at the corpse, rubbing my raw wrist. Already, the pain was receding as my Ascended cells repaired themselves, but I could feel phantom pain still-no pun intended. I chuckled to myself.

     I had been carefully making my way across the open sinkhole in front of the cave, avoiding those undead minions, when I came across a strange mechanical device set into the ground. It was a small metal disc with a revolving band on the top. At first I thought it must be some kind of land mine or bomb, but when I looked closer I could see a shimmery white ball floating within the band and gasped at my sudden realization. Here was one of those corrupted devices that Rahn Chuluun said kept the spirits of the Bahmi people captive. I glared darkly at it. To do something so dark and twisted to innocent people. Evil and dark magic indeed. That is why magitech needs to be watched and carefully administered, so that the ability and the weaponry does not fall into the wrong hands. Now I needed to see about freeing this poor tormented soul.

     I crouched down, glancing around cautiously. Now would be the perfect time for one of those phantasms to ambush me. The other souls I housed assured me they would stay alert for any incoming threat, so I focused on the device. It was definitely to my benefit to share this body with several different souls, at least it was when they weren't fighting me for control of said body. I shook my head and concentrated on the device. It looked simple enough, but deadly effective, capable of keeping a soul trapped for many years, drawing strength and knowledge from the soul unwillingly. After a few silent moments of studying the device, I noticed a small latch and a depressed section on the side. Flipping the latch and clicking the depression in the other direction turned out to the proper sequence and the revolving band quickly snapped to one side. The shining ball of light immediately soared out of the device and hovered in the air in front of me. It bobbed back and forth a few times, before dissolving into a shadowy form in the shape of a young Bahmi girl. The girl glanced down at herself, than at me, looking delighted.

     "Thank you for releasing me! May the strength of my ancestors aid you in your quest!" The Bahmi soul than slowly faded out of existence, no doubt on her way to the Soulstream. My heart soared with happiness and pride. I had finally done something that I thought was truly effective.
     I bent to similarly free a second trapped soul not far from the first, and thus narrowly missed being decapitated by another one of those hulking phantasms. I left the corrupted device where it was for the moment, instead instantly rolling to the side and coming up to face the creature, staff across my chest. It flicked one ghostly arm and the chains went flying in my direction. My wrist still ached from the last encounter with those accursed chains and I couldn't help an instinctive flinch at seeing the chains coming toward me. But I held my ground; bracing my feet, and setting my staff at an intercepting angle. The chains wrapped around my staff rather harmlessly and I yanked on it to make sure they held.

     The phantasm was furious and confused, tugging on the chains and being too far gone to realize that they were wrapped around my staff. I transferred my staff to my off hand and thrust out my casting hand, pelting the undead minion with wave after wave of fire and air magic. I could feel its essence weakening and finished it off with a well placed fireball. I bent down to inspect the gruesome creature, wrinkling my nose in disgust. Moving forward, I found myself in front of the cave that housed the flux.

      The cave was fairly well lit thankfully. I'd hate to run into one of those buggers and their chains alone in the dark. Speak of the devil, one of the fetid undead things popped out of a side passage moments after I'd walked by. I had been cautiously making my way toward the back of the natural-lit cavern, where I could make out a large magitech device of some sort.

     After I'd ended the creature's existence (I was getting quicker on the draw, if I do say so myself), I was again surprised when a haggard looking woman darted from the shadows behind it, face grubby and darkened with bruises. She was dragging a chipped and dull pickaxe and looked, in my opinion, quite mad.

     "Hey, thanks! I thought I was done for!" She exclaimed to me before dashing out of the cave.

     "Just doing my duty." I called after her, though truthfully, I had no idea she'd even been there. I blinked a couple of times as the woman disappeared from sight, vaguely concerned. I hope she didn't run afoul of those things outside. There was nothing I could do in any case. I had my mission.

     Facing forward again, I stumbled along the uneven ground, nerves on end as I strained for any sense of danger. It was lit, was the cave, but dark shadows seemed to swallow the crevices and recesses of the cavern and I had no idea what might else be lurking here.

     At the back of the cave was the device I'd spied earlier. To be honest, I didn't really know what I was looking for, but the device was the only technological machine in the cavern. I could sense it. It was a large machine, standing nearly to the high cavern ceiling. Cylinders and containers ringed a central rod. At the base were several pods containing blue-white stones. Sourcestone chunks, I'm sure.

     As I crouched before the machine, studying it's complex exterior and keeping an eye out for more phantasms, a miniature hologram suddenly flickered into existence, appearing on a small pedestal attached to the machine. It was so abrupt that I almost died of fright. Stifling a shriek, eyes wide in shock, I glanced around before glaring at the tiny hologram of a Kelari.

     "Greetings Ascended. Are you here to reactive the sourcestone generator and temporal flux?" The hologram, what looked strangely enough to be a replica of Sylver Valis, had a distant, metallic voice, like a recorder. I waved my hand in front of it, wondering if it was indeed a recorded message. No reaction to my hand. It must be keyed to sense a body kneeling in front of it? Or perhaps I'd stepped on a pressure pad. The hologram seemed to be regarding me.

     "Uh, sure, I'm here to start the temporal flux, please." I said with a reflexive bow of the head, feeling foolish talking to a recorded message and glancing around nervously. Hopefully my voice was low enough that I didn't garner any more unwanted attention from my friends the phantasms.

     "Wonderful," the hologram responded in that strange smooth tone. "Simply use the device at my feet and the rest should be a snap. Have a nice day!" With that last comment, the hologram winked out, leaving me blinking as the cavern seemed to suddenly become darker. I hadn't realized that the hologram had made it brighter. I waited a beat, but nothing else happened. And than I felt offended. By the unholy planes! Have a nice day? What kind of nonsense was that? I was expecting instructions, hints, some step by step guidance. An instant start button. Something! I stared at the machine, feeling frustrated. The spirits we made pacts with usually helped us gain whatever we needed and set up all the glorious things we required within Atia, so while I had read quite a bit on the application of magitech, I hadn't had much opportunity to learn about it hands on and how it worked. Looking at the machine now, I saw nothing but a mess of metal parts, magical parts, and tubes and wires. It was nothing like those defense consoles that I knew instantly how to activate.

     "Riiiight...." I muttered irritably, than whispered a curse. The more I stared at the magitech device, the more confusing and foreign it looked. I closed my eyes and tried to recall anything useful that Asha Catari might have said to me back in Lastlight.

     It took several moments, but I eventually became aware of something strange. There was...a presence in my mind, not unlike the feeling of being touched at the nape of the neck, or feeling fingers run lightly down your arm. At the same time, it felt like I was being hailed from a distance. I focused my mind inward, similar to the meditation techniques I'd been taught by the healers. In my mind's eye, a young Eth woman appeared. I could see her clearly, despite knowing that it was all in my head. The scholars back home would love to get ahold of me, I thought with amusement.

     Even though I knew this was one of those foreign souls implanted in my mind, I didn't feel alarmed or threatened like before. I felt...peaceful. Right. Like this was another part of me. Like we shared something so intimate and deep that there was no words for it. The woman smiled at me and her thoughts, memories, emotions, touched mine. With sudden clarity I knew how to turn on the flux. The woman's thoughts and knowledge became like mine and our souls twined together even closer than before. Not only did she know how to activate the temporal flux, but she had such extensive knowledge of history, culture and a different array of magical castings that I've never even tried before. I am definitely going to have to investigate the potential here when I'm finished saving the world, I thought.

     Looking at the machine now, my new knowledge let me know that some parts could use an upgrade. Some places had sourcestone leaks. Aha, there was the switch to power up the device. Seizing upon that last bit of information, I eagerly leaned forward. Focusing on that one thing allowed me to not be overwhelmed and dragged along on the current of knowledge streaming into my consciousness from that other soul.

     When I hit the last button on the panel, all the lights suddenly glowed blue and the machine emitted a whirring motorized noise. Rings of sourcestone material began spinning and long siphon tubes that snaked off into the darkness began filling up with the ghostly blue sourcestone energy. I reached into the recess of my mind where I knew those other beings resided to thank the familiar stranger. I received the sensation of a warm smile in return. Well, I suppose it's on now?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

[Lore] XII: The High Elves

   The Elves walked beside the gods in the youth of the world. Favored by Tavril, they were given long life, wisdom, and a special affinity for the land. In return for these gifts, the gods appointed them stewards of Telara, to watch over the wild places and defend all the beings that called Telara home. The Elves took to this task with natural elegance and focus and guarded Telara with faith, magic and skill for thousands of years. This was called the Covenant, and it became such a potent and pivotal feature in the lives of the High Elves, who lived and died by their sworn word to their goddess. They named the great forest that covered the majority of the world Tavra, in honor of their patron. Through the years, the world changed, becoming more civilized as mortal men were introduced into Telara, tribal creatures with short life spans who's barbaric nature and ignorant ways caused the Elves to feel sorry for them and teach them how to survive in the vast forests of Telara, raising the human tribes to look after nature, to worship the gods, and to follow the edicts that they, the Elves, set down. Of course, the humans, being short lived ambitious creatures, ventured out into the far reaches of the world, some scorning the teachings of the Elves and going their own way. They began to build towns and cities, to create tradeskills and militia. To experiment with the powerful material called Sourcestone.

     When the Blood Storm invaded Telara, Crucia, the dragon of the Plane of Air, took particular interest in the High Elves. As the most beautiful and oldest and wisest of the creatures of Telara, she took personal offense to them. She summoned her armies and bade them destroy all the High Elves and their sacred groves. The savage and bloodthirsty Orcri went to war against the High Elves. Their Heart Grove, the seat of the High Elves' power and their council's meeting place, was systematically destroyed by the monstrous orcri. After the creatures were pushed back and defeated by the Elves, they moved their seat of power to Cliffside Vale. After the Blood Storm Wars, the Elves' numbers were vastly smaller.

     Wardens of all life, the Elves were unprepared to pay the toll of duty. It wasn't the Blood Storm or any war with other sentient races that whittled their numbers down so much, but the many temptations of the world. First, the rebellious Kelari broke the Covenant, following their passions and ambitions to distant islands. Then, as the other mortal races advanced and built great cities, more and more Elves forsook their ancient duty and settled down in the various cities to lead easy, peaceful lives, teaching the men and women of the villages the ways of nature and magic.

     Those Elves who remained true to their calling and their duty called themselves High Elves. They kept the Covenant and formed their home in Silverwood, sacred forest of Tavril herself. They wandered the forests and wild spaces of Telara, enforcing Telara's will with arrows and arcane spells, their deadly accuracy and cold commands granting them a reputation among the peoples of Telara. Secretive, keeping their agendas even from those they protected, the High Elves were often treated with suspicion and fear. They always took the long view of a situation and did not always work in the favor of the local citizens. Was the Elf there to save the farmers from the wolves or the wolves from the farmers? One could never tell when dealing with the High Elves.

    When the Mathosian tyrant Aedraxis pledged himself to Regulos, the High Elves debated throwing in their limited numbers against the grotesque legions of the Endless Court that Aedraxis had summoned from the dead. The prince of the Elves, Hylas Aelfwar, argued against committing themselves to what was clearly a Mathosian problem. Shyla Starhearth, priestess of Tavril and Hylas's lover, disagreed, and made an impassioned plea to her people, imploring the Elves to take up arms against the mad king Aedraxis and the dire threat to Telara. She said that if he was not stopped, Aedraxis would bring ruin to Telara and all those that dwelled within it, even the High Elves in their sacred forest would not be safe. Most of the High Elves were moved by Shyla's words and agreed to join her in the fight against Aedraxis, but Hylas's royal house Aelfwar decided to stay out of the fight and safeguard Silverwood, citing that the Covenant was more important and needed to be followed to honor Tavril.
     None of the elves who went into battle and fought beside Shyla and the Mathosians against Aedraxis survived when he performed the most unspeakable of acts, unleashing the rifts upon his homeland and his own people. The Ward was cracked and Regulos and the Blood Storm were again allowed to interact with Telara. After the battle had been ended, the messengers of the Vigil, winged heavenly beings, swooped down over the battlefield and resurrected Shyla and her people in reward for their sacrifices that day, giving them the gift of immortality and Ascendency. Shyla and the Ascended High Elves returned to Silverwood victorious after having stopped Aedraxis and the avatar of Regulos, reborn into the powerful warriors of the Vigil. They found that many of their kinsmen who had remained behind were different, changed. Loyal only to Prince Hylas. They acted wary, suspicious, even hostile to the returning elves, saying that they didn't believe they were actually Ascended and it could be a trick of the Blood Storm instead. Hylas was withdrawn, angry, volatile. He shut himself and his Aelfwar away in Overwatch Keep and would not allow anyone to sway him to the side of the newly created Guardians. And so another schism rent the Elves as the Aelfwar broke from the Covenant of the Vigil, wanting nothing to do with the Ascended and the Guardians.

     When the rifts came again to Telara, Tavril joined with the other gods to create the collective known as the Vigil, ceasing to be a single god with a favored race. As a greater entity, the Vigil requires a stronger bond  with its followers and so forged a new Covenant with the Ascended High Elves. They pledged to rid the land of Regulos and the Blood Storm and deliver Telara from the darkness that was descending upon it and its innocent citizens. Now the High Elves are all but gone. The only remaining true High Elves are mostly Ascended, still following the ways of their beloved goddess but also now following the guidance of the Vigil. They venture all over Telara ensuring that the citizens of the world are safe as well as removing the taint of the cultists and the planar threats that seek to usurp nature's will upon the land.

  • Average Lifespan: 300 years
  • Culture: Irish peoples, Mayan
  • Faction: Guardian
  • Favored Mount: Valmera
  • Homeland: Silverwood
  • Leader: Shyla Starhearth, Pentarch of the Vigil
  • Spirituality: Worshippers of the Vigil, Tavril in particular
  • Society: Nomads and wanderers, the High Elves are aloof and solitary. They take their vows of stewardship of Telara seriously. The High Elves are the most spiritual of the Guardian races and the closest to the Vigil. They are also the oldest and wisest of Telara's sentient races.

References: So, the information I got for this post is no longer available on the interwebs, or least, not that I can find, and trust me, I looked! It's kind of disappointing that it isn't available anymore for other players to look at. Because of this, I had to guess at the culture part of the stats. I'm pretty sure, they are based on ancient Irish and Mayan people, but I'm not 100% sure, so if anyone has any more solid info or a link to a page that shows it, please I'd appreciate it! All the information contained here belongs to Trion Worlds and Rift and isn't mine, I'm just posting it here for informational purposes only! So don't shoot me k?

Friday, February 15, 2013

[Raeslyn's Story] 2.13: Among the hedges

   The next morning the smell of cooking and soft voices woke me up. The chill of early morning was just leaving the air and I shivered as I clawed my way out of my borrowed blankets, making a mental note to add heavier clothing to my list of supplies as I did. Tristan was seated on a tree stump holding a metal dish full of steaming broth. My stomach protested being empty. I may be an immortal Ascended but it seems I could still starve to death. Funny. I allowed myself a moment of indulgence wondering if I could actually starve to death as an Ascended and what would happen after that. Morbid thoughts. I shook them away and stretched, going through my morning ritual of limbering up and getting my blood circulation going good. I stopped as I saw everyone in the camp was staring at me.

     "What?" I asked, somewhat sharply. I really hate being stared at. Tristan chuckled and shook his head. "Nothing, we are just unused to seeing such a powerful being in our midst, and doing something so mundane as stretching!" I scowled at him. I'm just like everyone else, I wanted to argue, feeling my hackles rise. I don't want the attention that my new status gives me, I just want to free Silverwood from the evils plaguing it and go on my merry way. To where, I wasn't sure yet, but somewhere isolated and peaceful sounds awfully tempting right now.

     "Ok Alecourt, tell me what you know about this Lord Twyl and how I can take down that maze up there. The longer we delay, the stronger the hold that the realm of the Fae has over Silverwood." I settled down a few feet from everyone and accepted a dish of broth that a woman named Mila Darina gave me. I nodded at her as she introduced herself, muttering my name in response when she continued to watch me. Tristan nodded, wiping some juice off his chin with one hand.

     "From what we've been able to gather so far, it seems that the Fae here are being led by a powerful and malignant faerie named Makirn. He is a favored minion of Lord Twyl, the leader of the Fae, and he's been suspiciously absent for several days. He has a small patch of the maze to himself at the top of the hill leading into the mountains, and he hasn't left it. Some nights we can see a strange green glow from his position. He's definitely up to something sinister, but we haven't the strength or ability to get to him through the maze and the many Fae roaming it. They steal children and even grown men in the night, torturing them for amusement, but when we venture in to rescue them, the maze just twists and confuses us, forcing us to stay back." Tristan's fingers clenched into fists as he said this, impotent fury in his eyes. I nodded.

     "I'm quite positive that if we were to take out Makirn, it would gain Lord Twyl's attention. From there, we might be able to find out something of their plan here in Highglade and even a hint of their overall reason for being here in Silverwood. It's no doubt something horrifying. An Ascended should have no problem navigating the maze because of your attunement to planar energy and your blessings from the gods." I nodded again, this time more slowly as I turned and studied the maze with new eyes. Yeah, I'm sure I could do it. And I knew in my heart that this is what the Vigil would want me to do, to free Silverwood of the clutches of the Fae. I stood up, checking my knives and various weapons as I did so. Everyone watched me with hopeful, shining eyes, making my skin prickle. Rogues do not like attention. At all. I almost snapped at them to stop gawking at me, but held in my temper. I asked the man who had made the meal to pack me up some of it, then gathered up the rest of my packs. Climbing up a slight hill, I was able to see the maze better. It seemed to breathe, a shimmering energy of planar power expelling with each "breath". The shrubbery and flora shivered in a breeze that I couldn't feel and strange creatures moved among the leaves. Taking a deep breath and praying to the gods that I wouldn't get killed, I moved closer. After walking along the maze wall and studying it closely, I found an opening and slipped into the maze itself.

  To say it was confusing and misleading was an understatement. There seemed to be something in the air that prevented one from thinking clearly and remembering a path. I shook my head in an effort to dispel the feeling, calling up my Ascended gifts to shield me from the planar influence. Concentrating, I blended into the natural shadows and foliage, becoming invisible to the eyes of the Fae crawling all over the maze. There were dozens of the tiny, fragile looking creatures and I wrinkled my nose in disgust. Horrid, evil, disgusting things. They did not belong in Telara and certainly did not belong in my beloved Silverwood. I'd drive out the corrupted beings if it was the last thing I did. But I had a mission to complete. It amused me to stealthily approach and bypass the Fae that roamed the mazes. Some of them, the more powerful ones, seemed to have a suspicion I was there, sniffing the air and scanning the area, but my abilities kept me well hidden from their life-touched sight.

     I heard sobbing eventually as I crept down one long pathway. Tall green walls towered on either side, effectively blocking out any sunlight except a few slivers that leaked through the branches. The longer I was in the maze, the more tense and jumpy I became. Rounding a corner, I saw a small boxed in clearing. In the center was a large green cage. It was made entirely of planar life magic, twisting tendrils of Fae plants woven together to form an intricate, but disturbing bower. Inside, a dirty and grey-faced man knelt, weeping. His clothes were torn and dirty and he looked gaunt, like he'd gone days without food. My mind conjured images of a woman back at camp who'd been wailing about her husband to one of the guards, demanding that they search for him as he'd been missing for days. I wondered if this was him. I glanced around cautiously, before bringing my eyes back to the man, hesitating as I considered. I couldn't just leave the poor man here to be faerie amusement, or worse. But I did need to be quick before I was discovered. Not to mention, I had this feeling that things were moving faster now and I needed to get ahead of the Aelfwar and the Fae before they did something that couldn't be undone. I just knew that something big and disasterous was coming. I crouched, wavering in my decision.

     Finally, with an elven curse, I crept forward and moved around the cage, studying it from all angles. It didn't appear to have a door, so I'd have to just break the twining vines that made up the bars of the prison. They had to be tougher then they appeared though, since the man was trapped in there and wasn't able to get out himself. Then I noticed a small, leaf shaped indent in one of the bars which was wider then the others. I studying the design for a moment, before sweeping my eyes over the faeiries and satyrs that loitered around the cleaning. They didn't seem to be paying attention to the wailing mortal so I surmised that indeed he had been here for a while, enough that the novelty of him had worn off on the Fae. One of the satyrs standing nearby shifted as he whittled away at a strange chunk of wood and I saw a small metal disk attached to his hip by a chain. It was the exact size and dimension of the design on the cage. Aha. Feeling smug, I silently approached the satyr. The creatures made me uneasy. They were among the tallest of the Fae races and were the most unpredictable. They could be almost friendly to the mortal races, and in a blink of an eye go from sharing a drink with you to skewering you through the ribcage, for no reason at all. Or so I've always heard. Careful not to draw attention, I reached out and unhooked the chain, being as slow as I dared so I didn't cause a disturbance. I wasn't sure if my invisibility would hold while interacting with something so this was a bit of a risk. My fingers trembled and I held my breath as the chain came loose. The moment the chain was attached to me fully, it became invisible like everything else about my person and I breathed a sigh of relief. The satyr whipped his head around, eyes darting around sharply, and I skipped back hastily as he swung his chunk of wood in my direction. When he met nothing but air, he continued to look for a moment, before mumbling something I couldn't understand and turning back around. That was close...
   Running quickly back to the cage, I moved to the other side of it so it was between me and the Fae.
     "Psst. Hey, you in the cage. Can you hear me?" I whispered urgently. The man immediately jerked his head up and glanced around wildly. The movement drew the eye of a young, beautiful looking pixie. Her gossamer wings beat the air lazily behind her as she plucked petals off a large flower. "Don't draw attention to yourself, fool!" I whispered harshly at the man, keeping an eye on the pixie. The man looked chagrined and dropped his head again. I thrust the leaf shaped disk through the cage and tossed it at his feet. "That's the key to your cage. When you have the chance, when they aren't paying as much attention, or if they leave, use it and escape! I can't stay and help you, I have something important I need to do." I stayed still a moment as the man reverently snatched up the key and glanced around again, this time less obviously. Fresh tears grew in his eyes as he hugged the key to his chest and whispered a soft, fervent thank you. I nodded, forgetting he couldn't see me, and turned to go. "Just be careful and don't get caught again! If you head due south and keep the light of the sun at that angle, you'll make it to the outer wall of the maze. Get out and get to Tristan Alecourt and his camp. They can help you." I wasn't actually confident in his ability to escape and get free of the maze successfully, but I had given him the means to do it and that was all I had time to do. The feeling that something dark and powerful was coming was pressing down on me.

     The smell of otherworldly creatures and planar energy hung heavy in the air as I moved through the maze. Eventually the strain of holding myself invisible became too much and I hid behind a tall shrub, relaxing my steel grip on the ability. My head began to pound in time with my heartbeat, no doubt a side effect of using my planar Ascended powers. I rested a moment, drank some water from my provisions, and scanned the area again. I knew where I was in the maze and I could pinpoint the way out easily, but it was still frustratingly confusing. I didn't know where exactly Makirn would be, or how to get to him. My gaze wandered over a slight hill to the left and I caught a strange green light flashing from over the top of it. Green light? Didn't Tristan say that Makirn was known to be meddling with something that caused green light after dark? I swiftly jumped up, new determination causing me to forget my exhaustion. The adrenaline allowed me to again cloak myself in shadows and I carefully crept forward, avoiding the Fae as much as possible.
  I did end up having to kill one pixie who saw through my cloak of inivibility when I was too tired to maintain it for a few seconds. As I cut her narrow throat, I avoided looking into the child-like face. The Fae looked too much like innocent children for me to think about. Swallowing any irrational twinge of guilt that wanted to spring up over murdering something so ethereal and tiny, I moved up the path. The path wound around the hill and was nearly overgrown with wild planar magic. Grimly, I avoided touching any of the planar flora. This is what all of Silverwood would look like if they weren't stopped.

     As I'd suspected, I found who I knew had to be Makirn at the top of the hill. His back was to me and he was bent over a strange brazier that fel-green light was emanating from. The brazier seemed to be surrounded by strong fae magic, and Makirn was chanting something as he stirred a cauldron that sat next to it. A few feet away rested the torn up body of a man and I winced, knowing this had to be some poor sod that the fae had gotten their hands on. The fury of seeing the man's needless death overcame my other thoughts and I found myself lunging forward across the distance, crossing it in the blink of an eye. With an expert twist, I planted my dagger in the faerie's back, right at the top of the spinal cord. He stiffened in surprise, before going limp without a sound, effectively dead. I slit his throat as he lay on the ground. A spray of blood coated the brazier and green flames eagerly leapt upward. I stepped back cautiously, not expecting that. The flames rose higher, and wove themselves into the image of a large and beautiful looking male fearie. He looked like no other Fae I'd seen yet, with large, golden colored wings that were twice as large as his lithe frame. A crown of wood and flowers sat on his head and he carried a thick oaken staff. Even though I knew it was just an image, I stepped backward, clutching my daggers and shifting into a defensive stance. The faerie man glanced around, annoyance twisting his fine features.

     "Makirn!" The Faerie growled furiously, tapping his staff. The green flames flared up slightly, distorting the image. "I told you, for the last time, No!" He narrowed his eyes, and seemed to notice Makirn's still body on the ground at his feet. "What's this?" He didn't look particularly concerned over his loyal subject's demise, just irritated and confused. His eyes lifted and bore into mine and I gulped at the planar power swirling in the depths. "Oh, I see now. Makirn was a useless brigand anyway. You're in over your head here, little Ascended. I've made a new friend, and you will not stop our plans for this forest! Hylas and I shall unleash the magic of Greenscale and your last breath will be stifled by the vines of the wilderness!" He glared at me a moment more, before scoffing and waving his hand. "It's a shame I am not actually there. I'd show you a true Fae lord's power. Ta ta for now!" The green flames suddenly flared brighter, growing in height and breadth and I gasped, stepping back further. Suddenly the flames died completely, and the image of the Faerie disppapeared along with it. I shakily picked up a dropped dagger and sheathed all my weapons. I think I'd just met Lord Twyl. Thank the Vigil it wasn't in person. Eventually I was able to shake off the chill that had clutched at me. The heat of the maze pressed in on me, but nevertheless, my arm hairs remained raised and I could still feel chill in my bones.

     Now that I'd found my goal, it was an easy task to get myself out of the maze and back down to Tristan and the others. They smiled at me with radiant, surprised faces, no doubt amazed that I'd survived the evil maze of doom. I marched up to Tristan and explained what had happened. Tristan looked alarmed. "Great sun, you actually saw Lord Twyl? I didn't think it would work." At my glower, he chuckled. "Uh, I mean, you did great, Ascended! We need to inform Cerys about Prince Hylas's alliance with Lord Twyl immediately!" I tilted my head. Cerys? The name sounded image came to me of a woman in Argent Glade who'd helped me with a paper on the Mirror of Ages once when I was still enrollled at Quicksilver.

     "You can find Cerys at the Blunted Quill in Argent Glade. At least, that's where she was at the time of our last correspondence, last week. I doubt she's moved since. She mentioned wanting to be close to the action. For a historian, she likes to live rather dangerously." Tristan shook his head, as if the idea of someone embracing danger for knowledge was foreign to him. No doubt the reason why he was still safe at Highglade and not locked up somewhere in the maze. Or worse. Which reminded me.

     "Hey, did a dirty, skinny guy come out of the maze at all while I was gone?" I asked, glancing around the camp. Tristan raised an eyebrow, his face clearing. "Actually, yes! He wasn't really making much sense. Seemed half mad with starvation and torture. Poor man couldn't even remember his wife. Thank you for rescuing him, Ascended." Tristan smiled at me. I snorted.

     "I didn't really do any rescuing, I just threw the key at him and let him find his own way. I'm actually surprised he made it." Tristan's smile melted somewhat as he searched my eyes for any hint I was jesting. I stared back cooly. "I...see." Tristan finally said. "Well, you'd better hurry and inform Cerys of this. I have a bad feeling." I nodded in agreement.

     Off in a corner I spotted the poor man who'd been a prisoner, sitting vacantly on the grass and staring at nothing. A beautiful elf in blue leathers knelt at his side, petting his hair and crooning to him. The wife, I imagine. I walked over and watched them silently a moment. The woman looked up, tears in her eyes. "Thank you for freeing my husband! I know it was you, Ascended. No other would or could have done it! Now I just need to see if there is a priestess or someone who can clear his mind and help him remember who he was." The woman choked on a sob as she finished, turning to look down at her husband again. I mentioned that perhaps Shyla Starhearth would help and the woman gave me a wide eyed, grateful look.

     I headed back to Argent Glade, thinking over what the Fae Lord had said and considering what move Hylas would make next.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

[Off Topic] Festival of Mariel-Taun

I've decided to add a special entry on February 14th due to an interesting event in game today. I checked my email today and got a newsletter from Trion detailing a unique event, called the Festival of Mariel-Taun. Mariel-Taun is one of the gods of the Vigil, which makes me wonder how the Defiant would pull off the festival, but oh well, let's not pick apart the semantics of that eh? From what I've read about the event in the newsletter, it's going to be only a few days in length, if not only for today. I'm not sure on that yet but I'll check later. The point of the Festival is to celebrate Valentine's Day of course in the game. It's also for in game married couples. A few rewards I received in my mailbox in game were 4 Mariel-Taun flower stands, which look very pretty, and 2 Mariel-Taun pillars, which also look very pretty. I can see that being a spring themed design as well!

     The exact nature of the Festival is unclear to me at the moment, but it seems that select Ascended will receive a letter in their mail from Mariel-Taun herself celebrating the Festival named after her. Mariel-Taun is long thought of as the "heart" of the world. The goddess blesses all those who's love is true and selfless. She is the center of community, the one who keeps all together. She shows us love and compassion and care. Mariel-Taun is also the patron of the arts and healers. Every year at around this time, all Telarans celebrate a festival in her honor.

     Those who receive a letter from Mariel-Taun are infected with a harmless and loving virus. The "love bug". Infected Telarans are then able to spread the infection to other Telarans. The point is to infect as many as possible, to bring light and love to this war torn time. The Festival is also a popular time for weddings and romance.

     There are unique achievements and titles we Ascended can earn by participating in the Festival. Infect others with the love of Mariel-Taun and be ready to receive it yourself. A couple of the achievements I've seen so far are "Quantity over Quality" "Quick on the Draw" and "Try Not to Look Too Desperate". Those are achievements I've seen around me while in Meridian. It appears that most of the achievements center around the two capital cities, Sanctum and Meridian. That's probably because when they did it last year, those were the only two major cities available, as Tempest Bay was added just last November in the expansion.

    So, rewards include dimension items, titles, achievements, and perhaps more that I'm not aware of yet. I've only just found out about this so haven't had time to investigate yet. I'll update this entry when I have time to play more.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

[Lore] XI: History of the Life Factory

     The original Life Factory was uncovered in the 20th year of Prince Zareph's reign near the city of Port Scion. It was built by the Eth city-state of Arkeen and it was used to conduct experiments into the replication, creation, alteration and resurrection of life in all its forms. The Eth had only begun the initial design on the machines they called "resurrection forges", aspiring to return people from the dead with their magitech. Their study became the basis for the experiments we among the Defiant would conduct when we explored their halls many centuries later.
     Following the initial discovery of the Life Factory, more were found in the vicinity and we expanded them for our purposes. When the Guardians destroyed Meridian, we shut ourselves within to continue our studies, barring the doors and creating magical fortifications to keep ourselves safe to pursue Project Omega. We have long since lost contact with all other bases. It is our belief that all other such Life Factories have since been destroyed by Regulos in his destruction of Telara. May we find a way to return our lost comrades through Eldritch Technology and put a stop to Telara's destruction.
     Resurrection is a relatively simple matter these days. Clerics have long been able to call on their gods or to high spirits to pull souls from the Soulstream, but such beings can be fickle and unresponsive, so the ancient Eth endeavored to create a technological way to bring a person back to life. They were close, but it was not until Orphiel Farwind found their technology many years later and completed the project that we actually saw a machine resurrection. The resurrections were insufficient, however. Of Orphiel's original Defiants, only Asha Catari ever possessed true power. She is said to have stolen some of the power of Regulos himself when she encountered him in the beyond and this explains her un-replicated power. All others were disappointingly mundane and not the equivalent of the Guardians' Ascended. It is only with recent breakthroughs that we have been able to bring back our own true Ascended, reformed with the capacity to hold not one, but many souls, as well as be able to harness the power of the Planes themselves.

References: I found this while exploring the Terminus starting zone and it gives some really interesting info on both Asha and how we Ascended were created! I'm not sure who wrote that bit of info but I believe it was Sylver who spoke the info to me. It can be found by talking to one of the Knowledge Collectors in Terminus! The information does not belong to me and is Trion's work!

Friday, February 01, 2013

[Karazhan's Story] 1.1: Apocolypse Now!

     Outside, the sun blazed down upon a scene of desolation and despair. And I do not say this lightly. Looking out across the land, I knew fear. A spear of it stabbed down the back of my neck and I clenched my hands tightly. To look upon this was to look upon madness, I thought to myself. In the distance, the skies darkened ominously over a patch of mountainous terrain. A bit farther than that, I could make out the distant shape of a large single mountain that, incredibly enough, was actively spewing molten lava. Despite the sunlight, the air felt cold, unfriendly. Evil even. Which seems silly, one would think. How can you "feel" evil, after all? But I tell you true, I could veritably feel the malevolence in the air. I found myself in what looked to be a kind of valley, or bowl in a mountainous region.
     With cold dread, I wondered what exactly I was looking at. It took a few moments before relief set in, followed immediately by horror. For a second I had thought I was looking upon an entirely new world. The ground was covered in dark colored spines, the rocky walls of the basin jutted outward like the claws of some great nightmarish creature. Where am I? This looked like nothing I'd ever seen or read about. I paused thoughtfully. Could this be the end result of some mad battle with Regulos? Everywhere I looked, Death tainted the environment. I wondered, somewhat uneasily, where the great and terrible dragon god had made off to and hoped he wasn't anywhere nearby. Than I gave a strangled laugh. Here I am, calmly hoping that Regulos wasn't hiding around the nearest rocky pinnacle. Regulos. The Destroyer who was only spoken of in harsh whispers and mentioned in all the historical scrolls as an evil like no other. Not that getting worked up about the situation was going to help anyone anyway, but I marveled at my calm acceptance of everything so far and thanked my ancestors for a level head and sensible mind.
     A scream of despair from the left startled me and I turned and gasped in horror at the sight of some ghoulish, undead creature hacking away at some helpless woman. She reached out her arms, wailing for help, before the ghoul silenced her forever. Before I even realized I was moving, I found myself running in that direction, various spells at the forefront of my mind. Before I'd gotten far, however, I was jerked back by a hand on my arm. I turned to protest and saw that I was staring at another Bahmi! Compared to my own body, this woman was taller, and had strong muscle tone. She looked like someone to be reckoned with. That didn't stop me from feeling a bit betrayed.
     "Why are you stopping me?" I demanded, voice sharp. I gave her a searching look, before glancing back out at what looked to be a ruined town. The other woman's eyes held regret and sorrow as she shook her head and tightened her grip on my arm.
     "I'm afraid there's nothing we can do for them. Leaving our post to help those poor doomed citizens will just leave us open to attack and we can't afford to leave the Life Factory vulnerable." I glared at her, but turned to glance around again. Sure enough, I was behind what appeared to be a hastily constructed barrier of stakes and debris, creating a sort of bottleneck where the pass through the valley was thinnest and faced up against the chambered underground lab I'd just emerged from. A Life Factory, she'd called it. Well, the name makes sense, since they seem able to bring long dead souls back to life.
     "I am Dacia." The woman continued in a more gentle voice, letting go of my arm now that she saw I wasn't ready to dash off. "I saw you exit the Life Factory. I need to know, are you what Sylver has been striving to create all these years? Are you an Ascended?" She leaned in, eyes intense, full of hope and pain and determination. I looked back into her eyes and nodded. "Yes. I have been resurrected here, made more powerful then I've ever dreamed. I can feel the potential humming under my skin. I am called Karazhan." I replied honestly, keeping my voice low. I didn't mention that I was actually a different soul then they had originally planned on, that I was far from confident or comfortable with the new situation I'd been thrust into, since that wouldn't exactly help instill trust and confidence. I glanced away finally, catching sight of several injured men and women leaning up against the rock face of the valley wall. A beautiful, white robed woman bent over one of them, furiously casting spells and bandaging up bloody gashes. Despite her dark Ethian heritage, her face was grey with exhaustion. More men and women, garbed in silver and red armor, stood alert around the meager barricade. They faught off and killed any ghouls that ventured too close to their long spears, but stayed put behind the barricade. Though their eyes lingered painfully on the few unfortunate citizens that managed to be caught and butchered by the ghouls, they didn't stray from their post. I glanced behind me and up, noting the strange symbols carved into the stone wall that housed the only exit and entrance into the Life Factory. She was right, what they were doing in there was the difference between success and defeat against Regulos and his minions. These foul undead couldn't be allowed to destroy Sylver's work. We needed as many Ascended as we could get to challenge the dragon of death.
     "Thank the ancestors he was actually able to bring you to life, Ascended! You are sorely needed! We have managed to hold Regulos's forces off long enough to engineer you, but we are running out of time! It's time to prove you are worth all the people who died to give you life. Are you ready for that. You can fight, right?" She eyed me with concern. Of course I could. I had no choice, did I? I'd been plucked from the Soulstream, from everything I knew, from my homeland, and placed here at the very end of a very long battle that Telara never had a hope of winning in a body that wasn't even of the same race as I was. If there was any chance that I, with my newly acquired immortality, potential, and raw untapped ability to stop this from happening, I would do my best, or die trying. I would never let such filthy evil befoul my beloved world and snuff out any more lives. Before I could say anything along those lines, though, Dacia resumed speaking, her voice becoming a bit strangled and frantic.
     "You are the best of us, Ascended. We cannot defeat Regulos without you. We can't change the future without your intervention. With the unique way that your soul has been reconstructed and fused to your new body, only you can survive the trip through the Failsafe!" I tilted my head in confusion. The Failsafe, right. I'd forgotten about that. The so called time travel device.
     "You must go, Ascended. We can't help you or protect you, but you need to leave now and get to the Failsafe before Regulos figures out our plan! This is the last patch of Telara that Regulos hasn't swallowed yet. We have managed to hold out this long with the last of our Magitech weapons, but the Sourcestone we use to fuel them are running out and we don't have much time left. I regret not being able to send men with you, but I can't spare them and with your ability, fighting your way through shouldn't pose too much of a problem. Be safe, and may your ancestors give you strength." I turned and glanced in the direction that Dacia was nodding. Sure enough, I could just make out a path that led through the destroyed town and down a hill, out of sight. It was hardly a path. So much debris littered the path. It was also crawling with those rotting creatures, who were shambling along aimlessly like macabre, bloodthirsty puppets just waiting for their strings to be pulled. I didn't know what a Failsafe was, or what I had to do once I reached it, but I had a feeling that there wasn't time for details. The pertinent information here was that with it, Dacia said I could save Telara. I took a breath, glancing skyward for calm and control. And blinked in shock. Great, leathery creatures where circling in the air overhead, bat like wings churning smoke as they wheeled and dived out of sight, only to appear again. What sort of monstrosity were those? I shook my head. I couldn't let such things overwhelm me. I let my eyes slide back to Dacia, and she gave me a small, genuine smile and a nod. I nodded back.
     "Good luck, Ascended." She called softly, as I stepped forward. Cries and sounds of battle raged all around me, and I clenched my hands tight in order to keep myself from rushing to help. My assistance would do nothing but stem the tide for mere moments. As much as it pained me, these few lost lives were nothing compared to the entire planet. I unslung my staff from its clever harness on my back, swinging it expertly and testing its weight and balance. Perfectly crafted and perfectly balanced. I drew myself inward and focused on becoming centered. Interesting, I felt something inside of me that felt different...but part of me all the same. Some kind of power that was different, yet familiar. Still magic, but of a different vocation. I had been infused with many powerful magics that were foreign to me when I was brought back. I suddenly knew quite a few new spells that I hadn't learned before. That I hadn't thought I could know since as far as I knew, one could only focus on one clerical discipline at a time. But apparently being Ascended opened the doors to the other forms and elements of magic. Now I felt that I could actually cast a multitude of spells from different disciplines. Drawing upon this new magic felt different, like I had touched something personal that belonged to someone else. These other souls I'd been told about, perhaps? I reached out more delicately, and felt something else reach back. Intriguing, but I hadn't the time right now to experiment. I felt a thrill of excitement at my new potential. Tentatively touching my personal well of magic, I drew upon mana to test out a fire based spell, something I'm not normally skilled at. Immediately I felt the passionate force of fire leap at my command.

  I was so absorbed by this new discovery that I almost missed the fact that the energy I'd tapped into was spreading outward. My staff was now glowing with an inner light. I stared in awe, than turned and eyed the nearest undead, considering it's weak points. I felt glee at being able to finally do something, and having a goal. I narrowed my eyes in focus and flung my hand out, murmuring the keys to the spell and directing at the undead creature. The fiend gave an angry snarl and launched itself at me. I dodged to the side, blocking the creature's progress with my staff and keeping it from my person. Without thinking, I transferred my staff briefly to one hand and thrust out my free hand, spreading my fingers and whispering something incomprehensible that I somehow knew, instinctively.
     "Spirits grant me strength!" I cried as I released my pent up magic. The brilliant bolt of flame that struck the fiend startled me at first, before I realized that I had been the one to cast it. Just that small, simple spell gave me a measure of my true magical potential. I may not be the strongest in my craft, but I could certainly train to be with all this power inside. I had power unmatched. Such a vast well of it that I felt I wouldn't ever reach the bottom. A few seconds ticked by in which I back stepped out of reach swiftly, than the fiend howled in confused pain and flailed around. While the creature was distracted and wounded from the weapon it couldn't fight, I stepped in under it's defense and clouted it about the head. Swiftly, before it could recover, I cast another spell, pleased with how effective it was. The spell also struck the fiend successfully, knocking it back and causing its howl to be cut off as it fell. Thankfully, despite being an undead creature belonging to Regulos, it did not regenerate or show signs of having survived that.

     I eyed the creature sharply for a few more minutes to make sure it was really dead. I'd learned my lesson on turning my back on a seemingly defeated foe during an attack on the tribe one night. When I was satisfied that it wasn't getting up again, I left the rotting corpse behind me and turned to survey my surroundings. Burnt and crumbling half walls were all that was left of this small town. Destruction and death for its own sake was just pointless and sickening, but I knew that that's how Regulos was. He reveled in that which us mortals shied from. I shook my head and headed straight for the path that led over the hill at the far end of the pass. Every fiend that chose to attack me met its end at my feet.
      It wasn't hard to kill the fiends. They were shambling shells, without thought, skill, or cunning. Putting them down was a mercy. I was sure they were probably what was left of the citizens that used to live here and I wondered idly what had turned them to this. Such a horrific ordeal. I can only hope that there is nothing of the original soul inside those husks.

      Once I'd cleared the edge of the destroyed village, I stopped and stretched to relieve my stiff muscles. Despite the surreal atmosphere and the bizarre circumstances that brought me here, I was beginning to feel...not happy or satisfied, but accepting at least. What could I do after all to change the situation? And I feel it's my duty to help the beleaguered people of this new world. It helps to think of it as a new world altogether, than to know that I'm still on Telara in some war-torn and destroyed future where all my loved ones are long dead and we're at war with a being we can't hope to beat. Although I clung to the hope that I could somehow find my tribe again, someday. I had to hope they had survived, somewhere on this mad new world.

     Down the path I travelled. The valley gently sloped downward in a lazy way that gave a better view of the land beyond. Not that I was much reassured by what I saw. The situation looked just as grim from here as it did back at the factory. I also began noticing that the strange...vegetation for lack of a proper word that I had seen earlier was becoming more prominent, seeming to choke off all life that might have otherwise found a hold. It looked like long twisted tentacles had burst upward through the earth from some deep fissure. Often there was a long crack in the dry earth around the tentacle-plants as well. The tentacles themselves gave me shivers just looking at them. Sinister, evil, dark, malevolent. I figure it must be a reaction to Regulos's touch upon Telara. Even the very planet was being slowly corrupted. I tried not to dwell on it overmuch as I walked briskly down the path. Sight was limited due to the amount of haze and death magic coating the air, but thankfully the path was easy enough to spot.
     To my surprise there were people at the base of the slope. A large male Bahmi, and some others. One, a healer, was casting a healing spell over her comrade, while the Bahmi was busy sharpening a blood stained polearm.
     The male Bahmi glanced up sharply as I approached and gave me a good solid look with a raised eyebrow. "Ah good, the Ascended is here." He said matter of fact, as if stating a change in weather. I smiled a greeting and inclined my head. "Let's have a look at ya, than." He continued, giving me a more interested glance. I suppressed the urge to shuffle my feet, wondering if he had the ability to see that I had the soul of a Kelari inside this Bahmi shell. Than he grunted and seemed to dismiss me. "You look like every other Bahmi I've met. Smell like one too. They say there's something different in you. I'll believe it when I see it." I felt annoyed and disgruntled. That wasn't very hospitable of him. But I kept my tongue, not wanting to give the man the satisfaction. Besides, I had more important matters to attend to.
     The man winked then, and gave a large smile. "I am Koke Tegus. These here are my companions, Vexa Ix'thla (and here he gestured to the Elf) and Dorona Keris (to the Eth woman). I have been tasked by Asha Catari to defend this position and I'll be here till they drag out my stinking corpse." I couldn't help wrinkling my nose at that. Really, did he have to be so descriptive? And Catari...that name sounds familiar. I nodded at this and gave my own name. Koke tilted his head, no doubt puzzled as to why I had such an unusual name. But then he shrugged.
     "The fiends have driven us back to this small hold, and I'm counting on you to turn the tides." Continued Koke. "You'll have no choice but to fight em to get through."
     I pulled back a little, feeling a bit like I was missing part of the situation. Again. Not having the full story, or even a summary of events so far, or what exactly a Failsafe was, would be very convenient right now. Suddenly a wavering black shadowy thing with red eyes rushed at us from the left, the attack so sudden that I froze, eyes wide.
     "By the Sp--er, Ancestors, what is that!" I exclaimed in surprise as it honed in on our group. I'd decided to keep my secret of being Kelari to myself unless it was necessary to reveal, so acting like a proper Bahmi seemed to be in order and invoking the Spirits or mentioning Spirit pacts didn't seem like a Bahmi pastime. I stepped swiftly back from the shadowy thing.    

    Thankfully, a red laser shot out from a nearby Magitech device and struck the shadowy creature. Seconds before it could get its inky claws on the elf, it exploded. My eyes fell on the small, gray device that the laser had come from. Some kind of mechanised defense system, I would guess. I wonder how it worked? Such curious machines, these Eth had! I would love to learn how to make something like that!

     "That is one of the reasons we've been pinned down here and are unable to get reinforcements from Lastlight." Koke replied grimly. I swiveled back to stare at him. Before I could say something he continued, "Don't worry about us, you are the key to our salvation, Ascended. No matter how many lives are lost, you need to get to the Failsafe and fix this! To the Northeast and over this rise, is the destroyed town of Lastlight. That's where Asha Catari, the Defiant general, is located. She has more information on the Failsafe, and the status of the temporal flux than I do. Hurry, before Regulos finds this corner of the world and destroys Telara for good."
    This is all happening so fast, and there was such death and destruction. I shook my head firmly. I couldn't dwell on anything here, or it would drive me mad. Just focus on the mission at hand. I was an engineered Ascended, a powerful, non mortal being now, and I had the strength and power to change something in this world. I could do this. For the first time in my life, I felt like I really had a purpose, that I really had found my calling. Koke nodded at me, as if he could sense my determination. I turned and eyed the field beyond Koke's hold, trying to find the best way to this Lastlight. The quickest was straight through the enemy. Those black planar shadow creatures made me a bit leery, but I was stronger then I was before, and I knew I could best them. In fact, I was becoming stronger the longer I was awake and functioning in this body. It was my body now. It had been infused with so much sourcestone and planar power that I felt like my eyes and skin must glow with the planar infusion. And the addition of ancient souls being woven into the matrix of sourcestone just increased my own innate abilities and enhanced my spellpower.

     "I'll see if I can get the lady Catari to send reinforcements to help you here, Koke." I said softly, glancing back at them as I moved off. I wasn't sure, but I thought I could see a brief flare of admiration light up the man's eyes before he hid behind an expressionless mask. "May your ancestors watch over you." He replied. I dipped my head respectfully as I'd seen Dacia do.

     Two more planar creatures attacked the camp as I was leaving and I flinched away as the eldritch device burned them to a cinder before they could be a threat. At least nothing could get into the camp, but neither could they leave without being vulnerable to the swarm of planar beings. They were well and truly trapped there, with no suitable weapons except what they carried and no way to survive the trek to Lastlight by themselves. I'd have offered to protect them till Lastlight, but I had a feeling that would be too great for Koke's pride, not to mention I didn't think I'd be able to fight off so many attackers as well as keep them all alive at the same time. I wasn't a healer, although I did know a few healing spells. Nothing to brag about though. I can't begin to image the bravery and sacrifice it took for all these people to have survived this long. The death of Telara could be tasted in the air, and somehow these last defiant few were giving all they could to spite the dragon of destruction. It made something undefinable inside me swell with such emotion that wetness prickled my eyes and I gave a wry chuckle. I felt such pride and admiration for this lone faction, fighting a losing battle against such an ultimate evil. I was glad to be a part of them, to part of this force. The "Defiant" they called themselves. Defiant of what, perhaps? The gods? That would make sense since the gods had forbidden the use of magitech or sourcestone as a weapon or a tool. Defiant of the Blood Storm? Also feasible, as they were literally spitting in the dragon's face, even at this late hour. Whatever the case, I was with them till the end, whatever that may be.
     Steeling myself, I moved beyond the small black device that protected the little camp. I swept my eyes over the devastation before me, fighting to keep the disgust and fear off my face. Tall grasses waved in the slight breeze, along with sinister looking tendrils of planar plants and strange twisted tentacles that thrust out of great cracks in the earth. The black shadows combed over the area like ants. They seemed to be diligently searching for something. Bodies and remains were scattered around and I realized a battle must have been fought here, perhaps the last defenders, before they had been pushed back to the very steps of the life factor. This was madness. Explosions and voices drew my eye forward, beyond the long stretch of field. The valley dipped out of sight ahead, leading downward into a deeper impression. That's where Lastlight was. Time to kick some butt. Calling spells to the forefront of my mind in readiness, I stepped forward quickly. The sooner I reached Lastlight, the sooner I'd be able to get to this Failsafe and do whatever it was they wanted me to do.

     Movement drew my eye to the far left, where a man in strange dark robes was bent over a the twisted remains of some kind of magitech device. I nearly shouted out something to him, thinking he was a potential ally, but when he stood, he had dead, lifeless eyes and blood smeared along his front. He clutched something large and glowing and blue in one fist that he'd ripped out of the machine. It took me a moment to recognize sourcestone that had been refined and turned into fuel for the machine. This man must be one the cultists that had swore themselves to Regulos in the hopes of endless power and control over death. Disgusting. I couldn't just let him do who knows what with that sourcestone though. Glancing around I saw much more of the sourcestone littering the area, mostly around large magitech machines and constructs. It spilled over the ground like bright little beads. I stooped down and snatched up a chunk of it as I walked forward, keeping an eye out for anything that might attack me. Interestingly enough, the planar creatures seemed to want to keep their distance from me. As I stared at it, the strangest thing happened. My mind just went blank and I began to experience double vision. I began to feel lightheaded. Images floated through my thoughts, images of a beautiful desert city, of magical and immense magitech constructs, of laboratories and experiments and a quill scratching away in a journal. I shook my head, calling on my ancestors for clarity and the visions slowly faded. I came back to myself, clutching the sourcestone chunk so hard that my fingers were white. A feeling of sharp yearning shivered through me, as the part of me that wasn't "me", wanted so badly to fix these fallen constructs, to make them "alive" again. To destroy the cultists robbing the constructs of their heart and blood. It took quite a good deal of mental wrestling to gain control of myself again. By the gods these other souls were strong. It made me stronger and faster, but it also messed with my head. I gave myself a sharp mental warning that I was in control and I decided what we would do, not anyone else. I was the pilot of this ship. There seemed to be a relaxing in my mind, a tentative sense of agreement. An inquiry. Hmmm. That soul wanted me to snag some of that sourcestone up. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea. Less sourcestone for the enemy to get their hands on. The hold the other soul had relaxed at this and a tension left my shoulders.
     I stored the shining sourcestone chunk in one of my packs at my hip and strode forward, keeping an eye out for any more laying around as I pondered the souls inside me. I hadn't given it much thought before, how they would impact me or interact with my own sense of self, but it was apparent that the souls were equally as strong as I was. Just as long as they didn't rise up against me or something. Did this have something to do with my soul not being the one intended for this vessel's matrix? Or was it just that all us souls were equally strong and so would always vie for control of the constructed body? A thought which disturbed me on many levels. My lips quirked with amusement. It was convenient though, that one of the stronger of the souls was apparently an Eth, and no doubt one that knew their way around magitech technology and similar. It would no doubt come in handy.
    A slight hiss from behind me had me on the defensive and twisting to the side quickly. Oily black claws swiped the air I'd just been occupying and I had a moment to thank the great spirits that I now had exceptional hearing and reflexes.
     Looking at the Planar creature head-on was disorienting. It kept wavering in my vision like a mirage. It had no definitive shape and seemed more like a distorted shadow than any kind of recognizable being. It was obvious from the outset that it was not from Telara. Was not natural in any sense of the word. The creature darted toward me again, melting its form suddenly like spilled candle wax in my direction. I jerked backward and quickly unslung my staff, positioning it between myself and the Planar creature. It made that sinister hissing again, raising the hairs on the nape of my neck and I hissed back mockingly.
     I quickly went through the list of spells I knew that I felt secure in casting in my new form and wondered frantically which would work against a Planar creature. I'd been trained to fight all manner of beasts and people by sparring with the Warriors and battle Mages at the temple, like all Kelari children, but I'd no experience in fighting something from the Planes. Something told me I better get used to doing things that I had no experience in. Grimly I gripped my staff tighter and quickly swung it downward in a practiced arc. At the bottom of the arc, I murmured the spell phrase and jerked the staff forward. A flame bolt seared into the creature from the tip of my staff. The wood grew warm under my hand but I was used to this side effect.
     To my relief, the flames seemed to actually have an effect on the Planar creature. It made a hissing shriek, presumably in pain, and flailed about. I took another step back and planted the staff in the ground, conjuring another spell. The air around me crackled with dry energy and I felt my hair lift as if by a breeze. Sparks of static energy danced in the air around my staff, showing up as jagged forks of lightning. The lightning descended upon the Planar creature, crackling as it struck home.  I quickly sidestepped the minion's lunge, taking the time to concentrate on my next spell. Again I called up this particular spell, one of my favorite simply because of the visual aspect. Forks of lightning began fizzling around the tip of my staff and than a long fork of lightning arced upward and slammed into the planar creature, bathing it in blinding blue-white light. I felt a shiver of satisfaction at the sight. As much as fire magic did appeal to me, I did so love playing with the wild energy of lightning. The creature's glowing sourcestone eyes dimmed and it wavered toward me. I backed up further, panting. Casting spells might not be as physically draining as swinging a giant axe, per se, but it was still an exhausting endeavor, especially when I'm not used to combat and using my spells to attack. Suddenly the creature seemed to collapse into itself, folding downward like a popped balloon. evaporated.
     Startled, I jumped and glanced around warily, half dreading that the creature had been pretending and would jump out of the shadows and ambush me. When moments ticked by wherein nothing happened, I relaxed slightly.
     I wish I could say I was more prepared the next time I heard that soft, dry hiss, but I startled just as badly and only narrowly rolled out of the way in time. Thankfully all my training on in the deserts had honed my reflexes and I was grateful that I still had them. In fact, I'd say that my reflexes, instincts, and reactions were all much faster now. Of course, I knew by now that this wasn't actually my body Than the creature rushed me and I focused on the fight. I ducked to the side and rolled, grateful at the armor I'd been clad in that didn't hinder my movement in any way and seemed to actually enhance my every move. As I righted myself I twisted and flung out my hand, sending deadly air magic slamming into the planar monster, electrocuting it and flinging it back and away. The problem with the electrocute spell is that you have to keep concentrating on it to channel the air magic into a viable weapon. The longer you can keep the spell active, the more damage it does to your foe. But it also leaves you vulnerable and I had to end the spell quickly as the minion came lunging back at me. I blocked its shadowy claws with my staff and paused long enough to conjure and fling a fireball at it. Using the same tactics as I had when fighting the other one, I was able to whittle its health down and finally finish it off with a well placed flame bolt. Thank the Spirits these Planar minions weren't that intelligent.

     "Ha, take that, fiend!" I said, rather snidely, then giggled. Obviously stress must be getting to me.
    As the black hazy substance melted into the air, I turned and scanned the field carefully. I was making small progress through the field, having to walk carefully to avoid the sharp broken metal and the many dead bodies. I very carefully did not look at anything on the ground that wasn't round and shiny. Very carefully. I ran into my first cultist just as I had collected my third chunk of Sourcestone.
     "This world will be remade into a graveyard of death and despair!" Shrieked the cultist in a feverish, zealous voice. Cultists are always a bad lot. Mortals of Telara who have fallen under sway of the malevolent Blood Storm, they seemingly only live to serve their hellish masters. Or so I've always viewed them. I've not met a cultist that has proven otherwise. Their intelligence is low, insanity high, and fanaticism unusually disturbing. I would never describe a cultist as a worshipper of their patron. To worship is a sacred, holy phrase that shouldn't be degraded by the likes of those filth. The faith, trust, and loyalty that flows between one and their patron deity or Spirit allies is nothing like what the Cultists feel for their dragon gods. If anything, a pale mockery.
     This cultist in particular seemed pretty far gone down the path of a true fanatic. I wondered idly what he was before he had the misfortune and weak mind to fall into the trap of Regulos the Destroyer. Not wanting the man to suffer, despite his crimes and evil soul, I tensed. Quickly I threw my staff out and cast my spells in quick succession, one after the other. I was also curious to see if I could actually cast multiple spells at once and what affect it would have on me.

    Usually when I'd been casting spells for some time I felt incredibly exhausted afterward. The more casting I performed in a day, the more bone tired I became afterword and often had to rest for long periods. So far I hadn't suffered any spell-exhaustion and I felt a sort of thrill of excitement as all of my spells reacted as I wished and assaulted the cultist before he could even raise his rusty blade against me. I reflected inward to assess my inner magical reserve and was delighted to find that I appeared to have had no problem casting so many spells so quickly. I wonder what else I can do! 
     For the first time since arriving, I was actually eagerly looking forward to finding this Failsafe device. I couldn't wait to save the world, explore and research everything I could, and learn many more new spells and powerful abilities. I felt I had unlimited power that I hadn't even become aware of yet and I admit to looking forward to annihilating more of Regulos's army. To save the world of course, but also, just a small part of me couldn't wait to test out spells and incantations, to test my limits and explore my new potential. For once in my life, I knew my path, and I knew what I did would make a difference.
     I kept my staff at hand as I continued on through the field. I engaged any cultist or Planar minion who had the misfortune to wander too close to me. I did not go out seeking death, but I was quite prepared to defend myself. In that way, I was quite pleased to see that I was indeed clearing out a bit of the threat to Koke's Hold. Hopefully he can better defend his position now. Perhaps he can even send one of his companions for a request for aid, because I'm pretty sure the three of them won't stay safe there forever behind their meager magitech defenses.