Saturday, October 12, 2013

[Karazhan's Story] 2.5: Advance to the Retreat

     After wandering around the unfamiliar area for what seemed like forever, I was able to figure out a way up to the promontory where I could find this alpha dog creature. Bomani, they were called. Such an odd race of beings. It was obvious they were planar creatures, summoned here to Telara as cannon fodder for the forces of the Endless Court. As such, I felt a bit guilty killing them, but I had no choice.

     The alpha, called a Veck, was sitting inside a little stone building at the very edge of the cliff. I'm not really sure what the building had been used for before. No doubt some kind of look out shelter for scouts who would use the location as a convenient way to keep a look out for enemies that would threaten the Ark. It was a good position after all. The highest point that I could see for quite a ways. Such a clever creature, was this alpha, for seeking high ground for a better tactical advantage. Could the creature think in those terms, or was he just directed up here? I shook my head. It didn't matter in the long run, I just loved knowledge for the sake of it. I smiled to myself. Nevertheless, I knew the alpha wouldn't be a threat to me. So far nothing I've come across had posed any sort of significant danger. Not that I was complaining or anything. I was quite grateful I hadn't been severely injured or maimed. I'd rather avoid that pleasantry of war, thank you very much!

     Warden's Point! That's what they'd called this spot. That bit of information suddenly sprouted inside my mind and I knew it wasn't actually my thought. At the top of the hill, there were several bomani milling around among large wooden barricades. With a few well-placed fire and storm spells I was able to dispatch the nearest ones quite easily. The more bomani I dealt with, the easier it would be for the Defiant forces to retake this area and secure it against further threats.

     The bomani alpha Veck creature was quite easy to spot. He was all by himself kneeling in the center of the stone building, facing away from me. How easy. As I drew nearer, I heard some kind of strange mutterings that I couldn't understand. The creature was talking in some guttural language that sounded like a dying cat. Not pleasant. I heard the word Regulos thrown in and shivered. The creature was quite large up close, heavily muscled and easily a foot and a half taller then me. Maybe not an easy fight after all. Good thing that the Optia Fairna had given me some device to use against him. I reached into my pack to pull out the artifact when the creature jerked his head up, sniffing the air. Suddenly he whirled around and his evil gold eyes narrowed in on me. Uh oh. I suppressed the urge to wave and say hi, instead keeping my staff up with one hand while I rummaged in my pack with the other, cursing my habit of collecting anything I came across that looked interesting. My bags were so full of useless things that I couldn't find the stupid dissolution thingy. Seconds before the creature could decide if it wanted to attack me or not, I grabbed the device and threw it on the ground between us, stepping back cautiously. I wasn't exactly sure what the artifact would do, after all. The bomani cocked his head like a dog, staring down at the device curiously. Seconds ticked by.

    "Uh..." I said, unhelpfully. Was the device broken? Suddenly a light shone from within the apparatus, and a beam seemed to strike the bomani. He visibly shrank a few inches and seemed to lose the threatening aura. I blinked as the blinding light became brighter, shielding my eyes with my free hand and covering myself with a magical barrier spell as I did. The creature roared with fury and finally the light dimmed and winked out. The bomani lunged at me. Or rather, he meant to. But instead it looked like he was attacking in slow motion. The veck looked just as puzzled as I was about it. Aha, the device must be working! The creature came at me with a speed that was almost annoying, seeming to push against some kind of invisible weight. Before he'd even taken a step, I'd slammed a fire spell into him, throwing him back several paces and causing him to howl in pain. This didn't sit well with me. The device was very powerful and left the bomani alpha no defense against my magic, but I knew my duty and cast my lightning spell, causing the bomani to jerk and spasm. He finally fell to the ground and lay unmoving, smoking slightly. There was a moment of stunned silence, then I heard the telltale sound of a portal opening and spun around. Sure enough, a magical portal sprang into existence behind me. I stepped back, stumbling slightly on the uneven ground. Now what?

     Out of the portal stepped a tall, red robed woman with deathly pale skin and long black hair. Her expression, if you could call it that, was as cold and deadly as black ice. I knew that face....somewhere. Didn't I? I studied her and it came to me. The woman, Alsbeth! That evil witch who'd attacked us at the Failsafe Device when I'd gone into the past. She'd seemed to have some kind of personal vendetta against Lady Asha. What did she want, I wonder? I opened my mouth, perhaps to ask that, perhaps for something else, but she spoke instead.

    "Incompetent Veck! The Endless Court does not tolerate failure!" I raised my eyebrow, even as I backed up a few more steps to keep away from her, glancing around for a better way off the promontory. She was between me and the path leading back the way I'd come. To either side of me was sheer cliff wall. I licked my lips nervously. She stepped closer and I noticed something strange. She seemed almost....hazy. I could see the grassy highland through her body if I concentrated enough. An illusion? A projection maybe? Still, I didn't want her touching me.

     "As for you, Ascended!" Came her high, cold voice, and I focused back on her face. "You should have chosen to join Regulos! Now your fate is sealed!" I felt my eyes widen and fear caused my heart to speed up. This is it, she's going to kill me! I never got a chance to truly live. To explore, investigate, learn new spells and help save the world! I never...what? I blinked in puzzlement as the woman, Alsbeth, simply winked out of existence. The portal behind her took a little bit longer in disappearing. Now I stood alone up on the grassy hill, wind smelling of the sea dancing in my hair. I was still alive? Not even harmed. Weakly, I leaned on my staff. That woman was one frightening lady. Somewhere deep, deep inside me in a place I didn't even want to acknowledge, my mind whispered that maybe I should take her up on her offer of joining Regulos and be on the side of power instead. I could be my own ruler. I would bow to no one. I'd be so powerful, the entire might of the Defiant army wouldn't hope to defeat me. But I pushed down on those evil thoughts. I'd been raised to know the difference between right and wrong, and I remembered quite well the death and chaos that had destroyed my beloved island home.

     As quickly as I could, I made my way down the cliff and trotted back into the camp surrounding the Ark.

     "You've shown the bomani that even the strongest of them can't stand against the power of our technology. Such work demands praise for the might of the Ascended! If there is anything you require, I'd be glad to see that you got it." Lady Fairna was smiling at me gratefully, and I shuffled, feeling a bit disgusted at myself for my earlier thoughts of betrayal. I gave her suggestion serious thought. What exactly did I want? Well, a lot of things, most being impossible right now.

     "If it's not too much trouble lady, I would appreciate a better weapon. Perhaps one that has been enchanted. I would prefer to choose it myself. And possibly some travel rations. I may be Ascended but I still feel hunger like anyone else. And is there anywhere around here where I can learn information on the current goings on in Telara? The latest news on the rifts and what happened to get to this point? I'm rather lacking in information on that." I paused and Fairna nodded, looking relieved. I wonder what she thought I'd ask for. I snickered.

    "All that is easy enough to grant you, Ascended. There are several men in the camp who can outfit you with proper gear and vittles. As to information, the best place to do that would be in the Defiant capital and our base of operations, the city of Meridian. It is our military headquarters and it also has an extensive library. You can find plenty of information on all manner of subjects there, as well as the leaders of the Defiant, who no doubt would love to meet you themselves. A real live Ascended! In fact, you can find Sylver Valis there!" I grinned at the last bit. I would like to meet Sylver again. Although...he wouldn't remember me would he? He'd created me in the future. In a different time zone then the one I am in now. I wonder if that means there are any number of potential alternate realities out there playing out any number of different senarios. Maybe even one where that soul that Regulos had stolen had taken control of this body and I was nothing more than a kernel of a soul tucked away in that one's mind like the soul remnants that are in mine.....I shook my head. All this was giving me a headache. And then I was reminded of something else pressing I wanted to know about.

     "Oh! If you could, can you tell me anything about the Kelari and the Ember Isles. What happened on the isles, do you know? Did anyone hear about what happened to them and if they survived? I must know!" It came out sounding rather desperate, but the last I'd remembered, it felt like my world was being ripped apart at the seams in all sense of the word, and I dearly would love to know if any of my kin were still alive. I wasn't sure I could cope with the thought that I was the last Kelari. And I could hardly even call myself that anymore, stuck in the body of a Bahmi as I was. Optia Fairna's face clouded over and I felt my shoulders slump.

     "Unfortunately, the Kelari were hit hard by the Shade War. Their lands were overcome by tsunami and tidal waves and I've heard that their longtime allies, the Spirits of the isle, turned against them, becoming too maddened and powerful to be reasonable. The Ember Isles were lost, along with most of the Kelari race." She paused, eying me as I let out a strangled sound that may have been a sob. I wasn't even sure. My mind was reeling. The isles, lost? All my friends, allies, teachers, family, lost? Fairna was saying something else, but I wasn't listening, lost to grief. I remembered the vast household I'd grown up. The beautiful estate I'd explored, cherished, took for granted. The first time I'd been tested for magical potential and how proud my parents had been of me. My younger siblings, all eager to see what kind of spells I'd learned. Venturing into the vast city of Atia to find a teacher that would mentor me and help me learn my craft. My first pact with a spirit. Hands were shaking me and I blinked, frowning through tears I didn't know were falling into Optia Fairna's worried face. She searched my eyes and I wondered what she saw.

     "Ascended? Are you alright? What's wrong? I wouldn't have thought that one such as you...would ah...have had any close relations to any Kelari. I'd heard that before the Shade War the Bahmi hardly ventured outside of their ancestral home." Fairna looked genuinely concerned and I took a deep breath, shoving my emotions down. Apparently being Ascended meant that everything was heightened, even emotions. Surprisingly enough, while I'd had my little break down, the other souls that were housed inside the Sourcestone matrix were silent. Maybe they too were shocked by my show of emotion. Feeling a bit awkward, I shrugged.

    "It's alright. I'm alright." I said, voice low and gruff, reminding yet again that what others saw was a rugged, tall and incredibly muscled desert being, a dark skinned Bahmi. Not a fair haired, fair skinned Kelari from the isles. "It's fine, it's just...emotion runs high in an Ascended." I said to deflect any further questions. Fairna still frowned but nodded.

     "Well, as I said, there were several ships of refugees that survived the purge. Most of these poor dears are staying down by the sea in a small fishing village they've appropriated for themselves. It's just over yonder, shouldn't be more than a few hours walk from here, actually." I stared. Some had survived?? I felt like leaping and cheering. And laughing. Oh my stars, I wasn't alone anymore! Just thinking that made my heart lighter.

     "Thank you, Optia Fairna." I said sincerely. She still looked rather concerned, but smiled and nodded at me.

     "I'm just telling you what everyone around here knows, dear. I can see you can't wait to go running off to see those Kelari, but if you don't mind, I have one request before you do?" I waited, feeling somewhat irritated. Of course they wanted something more from me. I was their miracle Ascended after all. But I tamped down on that thought. I owed everything to these Defiant. And if I didn't prove my word and my loyalty to them, then how better was I then the cultists who allied with the dragons? Or that evil Alsbeth?

     "You're timing has been fortuitous here, Karazhan, I won't lie. You were a huge asset to the Ark. Without you we might have lost the Ark and that would have been a disaster beyond reckoning. We're in good shape now, after your aid, but I have received several disturbing reports in the last few days about fighting at King's Retreat. It seems that things have gotten out of hand there. If you are willing, they could use some...Ascended assistance? King's Retreat is our biggest company within the area and I dare say that if it fell to the cultists, Freemarch would be in dire straits indeed. The good news is, it's on the way to the Kelari refuge. Would you be willing to lend a hand in securing the base there?" Optia Fairna looked so hopeful that I couldn't even think of refusing. And if it was on the way to the little Kelari village, than it was something I obviously had to see to. I nodded, giving a formal salute, and Fairna laughed, waving her hand at me.

     "Off with you than. Live gloriously," I smiled and finished the phrase with "Die heroically," And she grinned at me, saluting back. I wandered over to the men she'd pointed out earlier who were skilled at armor crafting and had a long talk about what exactly I wanted in armor. Most of the things they had on display were far inferior to what I needed, as explained by the souls inside, who helped me find what I needed with tiny mental nudges and far off whispers. Idly I wondered what ordinary mortals would think of what my mind was now like and if they had a name for my new...affliction. I felt so happy now that I knew that there were Kelari alive, and here on the mainland as well! Of course that meant that my beloved homeland was gone, but I knew that the Kelari were a proud and determined race and we'd rebuilt a new home here, on Mathosia and when the time came, we would retake our isles.

     "This staff looks promising." I mused out loud as I tested out one of the staffs they had. It hummed with protective enchantments and wards, the perfect weapon for a mage of my skill I think. It was made of starwood, a strong material that could withstand the kind of magics I could channel through it. I nodded decisively and was grateful that I'd been given coin in the future to help pay for things. Of course, it was running low, but I was confident that I could find a skill I could use to make coin with. If anything, I could try my hand at one of the many tradeskills myself and sell what I created. I'd been good at potion making back in Atia, before my death and rebirth and it shouldn't be too hard to take up the art again. I had my whole life ahead of me, after all.

     After making a few promising purchases for new armor and a new staff, I gathered a few dried meats and cheeses and some fresh fruts to take with me. Quite satisfied, I hefted my pack, grabbed my new staff, and wandered down the path that led away from the Ark of the Ascended, where I'd spent so much of my new life, either now or in the future, and set out into the world for the first time since my rebirth. Well actually, since ever. Even before my death and Ascension via the resurrection forges I'd not gone anywhere significant in my life. I'd lived on my family's estate my whole young life and then spent what adult life I'd had in the city of Atia until my...demise. I hadn't done any of the exploring and adventuring I'd so dearly wanted to do. Look out Telara, her I come! Humming an ancient Kelari song in my mind, I set out for King's Retreat.

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