Sunday, April 27, 2014

[Karazhan's Story] 2.13: Something Fishy In Lakeside

      I was in the Meridian library, reading a fascinating book on the Endless Court when a man dashed past me and activated the magitech device in the middle of the room that allowed one access to different floors. Of course I'd already investigated the fascinating piece of technology earlier and had enjoyed myself immensely flitting between different levels of the library until the head librarian had told me to knock it off. So, feeling like I was a novice again, I'd settled down on the second level and decided to dive into reading up on the threats I'd be facing when protecting Telara. I rather fancied the idea of being a hero to the people, and my new body was specifically equipped to handle any situation. I'd even begun mastering other spells that the various other souls housed inside had employed themselves. I'd learned a few healing spells, which would no doubt come in handy for helping out those injured or in need of aid, and I'd also gleefully played with a few new weather and even fire spells. Yes, I was definitely having a good time in Meridian, learning so much about this time period and the goings on of the great world of Telara. It was a larger world than I'd ever dreamed of! But I'd distracted myself again.

     I watched with avid curiosity as the man activated the device for the top floor and quickly blinked out of sight. I pondered the device a moment before getting up from a pile of cushions and setting my novel aside, placing a shred of cloth between the pages to mark my progress. The top floor, I'd learned, belonged to the Unseen, a shadowy, covert part of Meridian's military that was dedicated to espionage, intel, and investigation of suspicious activity. I hadn't even realized I'd been getting restless from all my sitting in Meridian until a flare of excitement had me quickly heading toward the teleportation device as well. If there was some urgent matter that this man was bringing to the Master of the Unseen upstairs, than I definitely wanted to be in on it. I'd learned that these Defiants and their allies were so in awe of me and my kind, and so unsure of what our rank and status was in the war against the planes, that it seemed I'd become a de facto leader. Or maybe just someone of high standing and authority? Whatever it was, it came in quite handy when I wanted information, or when I wanted to be included in some clandestine action. I set the dial on the machine, activated the switch, and felt the tug at my breastbone that signaled travel through space. An entirely different sensation from traveling through time that was for sure! Moments before I disappeared I caught sight of Alyete still reading that Abyssal tome avidly in the corner and I frowned. I didn't think it was healthy to spend such an amount of time poring over such a suspicious book. She'd even confessed to me earlier her obsession to learning the secrets contained within. I'm pretty sure that's what led to many joining the Abyssal cult to begin with, since I'd heard they were big on promising you knowledge and arcane power. I can only hope her road to knowledge doesn't lead to madness.

     I arrived on the top floor with a slight jolt, keeping my feet quite easily. I glanced around and spotted the man talking animatedly to the Faceless Man and Kira Thanos. Yep, the Kira Thanos that everyone at the Kelari refuge down by the ocean had been going about. They called her the Azure Viper and named her a remorseless assassin, but what I saw when I looked at her was someone who had grown cold because she'd had no other defense against the harsh reality of the world. It made me sad, although I would never say that to her. She was Ascended as well and I really have no desire for a knife in the back. The Faceless Man was another interesting enigma that I remember from my "days of future past" as I'd amusedly started calling my time at the end of the world. He was so odd and mysterious that it begged to be asked about, but again, self preservation was a strong motivator for keeping my questions to myself, since he also wasn't the friendliest of men. Well, no matter, I remember seeing a historical scroll on the Abyssal cult down in the library; I'd have to read it sometime. He himself even admitted that he was a former Abyssal cultist after all.

     "Ah, Karazhan, how good to see you." Uriel Chuluun, a beautiful Bahmi woman standing behind Kira said as I walked over. Uriel kind of gave me a strange feeling, like goose bumps along the arm, when I was in her presence. It wasn't exactly a good feeling. She felt like death magic, and that was one type of magic I'd sworn I'd never mess with. Nothing good came from learning the dark arts. I smiled a greeting at everyone and waved at Kira. She gave me cool, assassin eyes back.

     "Sorry if I'm interrupting." I began. "I saw him head up here and thought, if there was something going on, maybe I could offer my aid?" The Faceless Man turned his horn-helmeted head in my direction and I was again thrown by the fact that I couldn't see his expression, or even his eyes very well, to gauge his reaction.

    His voice, when he spoke, echoed oddly inside the mask. "Yes thank you Karazhan. Since you're here, I might as well inform you of what's going on. You could be a valuable asset." I preened, grinning, and Kira rolled her eyes with amusement. "I have ways of keeping track of my old...compatriots in the Abyssal cult, and I believe something is afoot in Lakeside. It's a small village to the east of here. One of my Unseen, Ziara, had been stationed there to keep an eye on the Lakeside docks, since that is a likely route of attack by sea, and she has reported some troubling findings about the villagers acting oddly, and strange attacks in the night, but she doesn't have any concrete proof and she can't blow her cover, so I need someone to go investigate these things and find out what's really going on. Be warned, the villagers aren't a friendly lot and don't agree with Defiant occupation here in Freemarch so they may be hostile and unfriendly to a machineborn such as yourself." He gestured vaguely in my direction and I glanced down at my self. I did rather stand out in my long heavy fabric robes, exotic enchanted gloves and glowing staff.

     I nodded. "Understood. I'll go look into things at Lakeside and see what's going on. Anything I find out, I'll report to Ziara and she can send a letter here to you." The Faceless Man nodded in agreement, and I turned, feeling anticipation surge through me. An actual mission! Finally some action, something positive I can do to help out the Defiants and Telara! And of course a chance to try out my new spells and abilities. I felt a thrum of eagerness from the other souls and grinned.

     I activated the machine and teleported back to the second level, where I quickly picked up my discarded book and tucked it back into its niche in the wall, marking the location in my memory so I could come back and read it later. The head librarian also seemed to frown upon absconding with books to who knows where and I didn't think she'd like it if I took it with me on my adventure. Oh well, it would be here when I returned. Not many of the scholars or the various people who lived in Meridian read in the history section of the library, having already learned most of it as they grew up. I suppose you could call that a failing of the Kelari, in that we/they were quite the xenophobic race and none of the priests and priestesses ever cared to teach world history in their lessons.

     The porticulum system that the Defiants modified for their own use wasn't connected to anywhere near to Lakeside, so I ended up walking to the village. Not that I minded in the slightest since it actually turned out to be a nice day. Outside, the breeze was light, even if it carried it with it the faint hint of planar magic, and the sky was blue and cloudless. The sun shone down brightly onto the vibrant green of Freemarch and I could well believe it had once been known as the Emerald March back when it was in the hands of the Mathosians. I'd definitely learned a lot while reading the history books in Meridian. I took a deep breath at the foot of the stone dais that led to the city proper and noted the well traveled highway that led to the east. It made sense that the road would eventually lead me to Lakeside, since it was a rather prominent village in Freemarch. Not the most populated town of course, that was Smith's Haven, Freemarch's capital, but still, quite a few Freemarch natives lived in Lakeside. Over the years since it had been first claimed, Freemarch had known many masters, and as such, the citizens were quite diverse, sporting Mathosians and Eth working side by side, as well as elves and I'd even heard there were a few Dwarves who had set up craft shops here. I wonder what the more religiously inclined raced thought of us Defiants setting up shop here. Well, too bad.

     Several hours later I slowed as I saw a town ahead. That had to be Lakeside. As I grew nearer, I could feel the wrongness in the air. There was definitely something fishy about the village, Ziara was right. Speaking of the Unseen spy, I wonder where she'd holed up. She'd want a good view of the goings on, but the Faceless Man had said that the villagers were a suspicious and withdrawn lot, so she probably stayed out of the village. I let my eyes wander idly over the landscape, and spotted a high ledge of rock overlooking a crossroads of the highway up ahead. If I were her, I'd camp out there. Perfect spot to keep an eye on both the village and the roads leading up to it. The highway branched off in different directions right below the ledge, and I peered curiously down each fork before shrugging and making my way up to the top of the ledge, huffing slightly at the exertion. I was a mage, not a mountaineer, for spirit's sake. At the top, I got an eyeful of the business end of a magitech gun and blinked, slowly holding up my arms. The short, thin woman at the other end of the gun eyed me with sharp eyes, looking wary.

     "Uh, hi." I said, striving to stay calm and neutral so I didn't end up shot. Not a priority of mine. "Don't worry, I'm not a cultist, or anyone wanting to cause trouble! I was sent here by the Faceless Man in Meridian. Are you Ziara? He said he had a contact out here that I should collaborate with on the investigation of Lakeside." I bit my lip as I waited, hoping I didn't just blurt this all out to a member of Lakeside instead of the spy. The woman eyed me up and down slowly, as if taking my measure, before her gun slowly lowered, and I felt myself relax. Staring down the barrel of such a device was pretty intimidating.

     "Prove you are who you say you are." The woman demanded, backing up a step but still keeping me in sight. I licked my lips and frowned. "Well, my name is Karazhan and I was granted a new body after being raised from the Soulstream by Sylver." The woman didn't look impressed and I realized that didn't exactly prove anything. "Oh and um, Sylver really fancies Asha, even though she's really in love with Zareph Mathos. It's all rather tragic really." I trailed off as I indeed thought it was tragic. Poor Asha. The woman finally relaxed and nodded.
     "I suppose that will work. You said your name was Karazhan? I'm Ziara. And I was indeed set up here to watch Lakeside. I don't really care about whatever special abilities you got from that crazy scientist Sylver, I just want to make sure you can handle yourself in a fight and you won't end up a liability to me." She gave me another once over, and I resisted the urge to fidget.
     "Rest assured, I know my way around a battlefield." I replied, feeling slighted. If she only knew! And Sylver was a brilliant man!

     Ziara smirked, as if she knew how much her words needled me, and set her gun down. She rubbed her chin and turned to gaze down at the village beyond the crossroads. I cautiously came up and stood beside her. From here all I could see here the straw and thatch roofs of the village. Since Freemarch was quite far south, the climate was quite humid and warm and there was no need for fires, so I could see no smoke. I opened my mouth to ask for details about the situation when Ziara started speaking, as if sensing my curiosity.
     "Something strange is certainly going on here. The way the Abyssal works, though, makes it difficult to tell if there are actually cultists stirring up trouble in the village or if it's just the villagers being their usual hostile, mysterious selves. Everything the cult does is hidden beneath layers of secrets and occult mysteries. I've seen...very strange things here of late. I don't even want to understand what I've seen because when I try, it starts nagging at me mercilessly, like a voice in my head that won't go away." As she finished speaking, Ziara began rubbing her temples and wincing, as if just the reminder caused her headaches. I gazed at her curiously. Maybe her solitary position was getting to her?
     "The Faceless Man seems to think the Abyssal is operating here, do you have any proof of that?" I asked finally when she wouldn't say anything else. Her words just sounded confusing, and I wanted to make absolutely sure before I went and confronted and/or possibly maimed someone for being a cultist. Ziara hesitated, and dragged a hand through her hair.
     "It's hard to say. I was definitely skeptical at first, but people seem to be acting really strange in the town lately. And I always feel like I'm being watched by unseen eyes. I need a fresh face to look at the situation and analyze it better. Sorry I can't offer more than that." She did indeed look sorry for not having any concrete information, and I just shrugged.
     "That's fine, it might be better if I went in without any bias coloring my investigation anyway. I'll go talk to some of the villagers and see if I can find anything suspicious or overtly cult-like." She raised an eyebrow at my words and said "Cult-like?" with a chuckle. I grinned. The tension between us seemed to dissipate and I relaxed more. "But hey you know, I haven't had lunch yet. How about we eat and than I'll go snoop around?" I offered, and started to open my pack. "I have quite a few tasty treats packed from the markets in Meridian that I bet you don't get way out here." Ziara's eyes lit up with excitement and she practically started salivating.
     "You bet I don't!" She exclaimed, laughing. "Thank you Karazhan, for sharing."

     We settled down on the ledge and shared a meal of mild cheeses, boar sausages and a chilled berry wine. It was quite satisfying, as was the expression on Ziara's face when she ate. It felt good to help someone out, even if it was something as simple as sharing a meal.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

[Lore] XXVII: The Mathosians

      The Mathosians are a clan of northern humans who banded together under prominent family lines such as Kalmar and Mathos, erecting a mighty and far reaching empire in the days following the disastrous fall of the Ethian Empire. The Mathosian tribes were the last humans to leave the sheltering embrace of the High Elven forests and learned much of honor, law, and justice from the High Elves as well as philosophy, spirituality, and art. Eventually, they left the forests of Tavra and ventured north into the harsh mountainous terrain of Telara. The Mathosian "Northmen" were warlike and strong. They battled each other, the Dwarves, and even against the Elves, and became well known for their ferocity and courage in battle. There weren't many who wished to venture into the cold northern regions, for fear of coming across a roving band of tribesmen, who would take any excuse to start a fight. Eventually though, the races sought peace with the warring Northmen. The Dwarves taught them metal and woodwork and the plans for large soaring edifices, and the Elves taught them the wonders of magic and arcane skill.
     After the fabled Ethian cities fell to the cultists, the southern tribes fell prey to abominable magics, cultists, and horrifying beasts of the desert, and they sent for aid from the proud Northmen in reclaiming the southern lands back from the dragon cults. The Mathosians, with the aid of the Dwarves, went south and made war with the tyrants and cultists. When the battles had finally been ended, instead of returning to their northern winds and frigid mountains, the Mathosians were given the honor of governing the lawless and chaotic southern lands that had been left bereft of leadership after the fall of the city-states. Any protestors to this were swiftly silenced, and so the Kingdom of Mathos was born, and their first king, Tored Mathos ruled the people with chivalry and fidelity. The kingdom was prosperous and far reaching. It boasted land as far south as what is now known as Freemarch, in which they took much pride. They honored Thedeor, the god of war, with fair battles and duels, as well as skirmishes along the border and great tourneys. For Bahralt, they built great shining cities in his name, free of the taint and corruption of magics and sourcestone machinery, the greatest of which was Port Scion. To honor Tavril, the goddess of nature, they left the forests alone except for the minimum requirement of wood required for progress on the kingdom, and would not plunder the sacred forest of Silverwood. In Thontic's name, they sent merchants far and wide to trade in distant lands, even as far as across the seas to exotic lands such as the famed Shi Ming. And to honor Mariel-Taun, the heart of the gods, they made peace and plenty, filling their cities with light and compassion and music.

     Through the centuries, the line of Mathos endured, strong and unbroken in their kingship of all Mathosia. Until the reign of King Jostir Mathos ended suddenly and abruptly. Before his demise, King Jostir named his eldest son and heir, Aedraxis Mathos, as the new king of Mathosia. Due to corruption in the court, and the betrayal of Aedraxis of the faith of his people, the younger brother, Zareph Mathos, then waged a bloody civil war against his brother for the throne. The people of Mathosia, having not known the dark truth of Aedraxis's fall into darkness, had at first sided with the kingdom against Prince Zareph in what became known as the Shade War, the darkest period in Telaran history since the Blood Storm Wars. Eventually, Aedraxis's corruption, brutality, and cruelty, as well as decisions such as lifting the ban on Sourcestone research as fuel, swayed the citizens of the kingdom toward joining Zareph. In a desperate attempt to avoid losing the kingdom to his brother, Aedraxis turned to the famous scientist and heretic, Orphiel Farwind, who had been the brothers' tutor when they were young. Orphiel had extensive knowledge of the ancient Ethian technomancy, including knowledge on magitech weaponry. Promising to provide funding into sourcestone technology as a way to improve every day conditions of life if he created powerful weapons of war, Aedraxis won Orphiel over to his side of the war and ruthlessly employed sourcestone technology against Zareph and his army in a bid to destroy them. In his eagerness, Aedraxis destroyed the Ward around Telara, letting in the planar forces. He called up a massive Death Rift over the battlefield and everyone was slain. But the Vigil sent their Messengers among the fallen and resurrected the heroes of the war as immortal Ascended, the chosen of the gods, and sent them back into battle against the forces of Aedraxis. Soon, the tide was turned and Aedraxis knew he had lost. In a last desperate bid to retain his power, he gave himself body and soul to Regulos the Destroyer, one of the dragon gods of the horrendous Blood Storm invaders. He used unholy magic to further weaken and fracture the Ward and drew a part of the Plane of Death itself into Telara. This event became known as the Shade.

     Thousands of lives were lost during the Shade War and the Kingdom of Mathos was sundered, its people scattered and broken and leaderless. The remaining forces retreated to Port Scion to continue waging war against the Endless Court, the cultists who follow Regulos, but were betrayed from within by a noble of the Mathosian court, Alsbeth Rothmann.

     When Sanctum became the headquarters for the famous Guardians-those that survived the fall of Port Scion as well as many heroes and adventurers from around Telara who flocked to the city in response to the call for aid-many Mathosians eagerly joined in the effort, voyaging to the shining city that stood out like a beacon from Silverwood. They proclaimed their new allegiance to Cyril Kalmar and the Vigil's Guardians, finding hope and restored faith in this new faction, as well as a chance to redeem their fair kingdom from the dark deeds of Aedraxis.

     Despite the tragedy that has befallen their kingdom, the Mathosians stay true to their roots, leading lives of honor and oath. They value justice, hard work, and honest combat, staying humble and pious in their determination to redeem themselves in the eyes of the Vigil for the destruction of the Ward. The Mathosians are a brave and stalwart people, loyal, steadfast and strong. They keep to a strict military code in order to maintain order after the fall of the kingdom. They revere the Vigil and seek to mend the evils done by the Endless Court as well as put a stop to the Blood Storm and the enemies of Telara.

  • Average Lifespan: 60 years
  • Culture: Viking
  • Homeland: Stillmore (and to a lesser extent, Iron Pine Peaks); the kingdom's center being the great fortress of Caer Mathos, named after their first king
  • Leader: Cyril Kalmar
  • Spirituality: Vigil Worship (emphasis on Thedeor)
  • Favored Mount: Mountain Horse
  • Known Families/Tribes: Rothmann, Wyvernjack, Waldemar, Valnir, Kalmar, Mathos
  • Faction: Guardian

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

[Raeslyn's Story] 3.8: Death's Defense

 Location: Gloamwood-Tearfall Run
Time: After Midnight
Date: Year 1509, 9th Moon

     "Yes, I'm back. Again." I exclaimed in exasperation as the Waykeepers once again scrutinized me when I approached Tearfall Run. Honestly, they were acting like I was some strange intruder. Again. You'd think they'd remember I was here only this morning. I huffed as they finally, grudgingly, let me up the path that led to the main encampment. Not wanting to waste time, I strode right for Fiona Leone, who was seated placidly on a crate reading a leather-bound tome. She glanced up and blinked as I stood over her. She was a Mathosian, young and pretty with long dark hair. Her robes were dark colored and strange magical artifacts hung from her belt. She smelled faintly of dark magic, which didn't please me in the slightest. I did not like working with magic users. At all.

     "Fiona Leone, right?" I asked her up front. I'd rather not be in her company any longer than required to ensure she was fine and that her spellwork to help Gloamwood was progressing. Fiona's face seemed to crinkle in confusion, before awe slowly filled it and she scrambled hastily to her feet, patting and brushing at her robes as if trying to make them more presentable.

    "By the gods, you're the Ascended!" She blurted out, face shining with fervent excitement. I sighed and crossed my arms. "Yes I am. My name is Raeslyn and I was sent to secure Gloamwood and find out what darkness has befallen it. Specifically though, I'm here on Marshal Oakheart's orders to....check up on you." I said the last bit with a wrinkled nose, not really sure how else to phrase it without making it seem like I'd been dispatched to babysit her. But to my surprise, Fiona didn't seem mad or insulted. She laughed, a low dark chuckle.
     "Why thank you, Raeslyn. I'm glad Oakheart sent you. As you can see, I'm alive and well. I'm sure he was concerned because of the lack of updates but well..." She gestured around her helplessly and I raised an eyebrow. But well what? What was her excuse for not sending reports on her progress? I waited, resisting the urge to tap my wolf-hide boots and red spots appeared on her cheeks. She ducked her head, looking sheepish. "Well...I'm at a bit of an impasse. I've gotten to the point where I feel like I can make a practical demonstration of the defense shield I'm crafting to go around the town and keep out the dark magic, but I need some very specific samples from some very specific sources. Specifically, I need the flesh of the undead, and the anima of a spirit." She shrugged, looking frustrated, and I tried to keep my face blank as prickles of disgust wormed their way through me. Using death magic was so against everything I believed in that I wanted to get as far away from this mage as possible.

     "Okay, so what's the problem? How come you can't just go fetch these things?" I demanded finally when she just stood there staring at me expectantly. She then looked off to the side and I saw two Sanctuary Guards lounging on crates a bit behind her. They both appeared casual but had Fiona in their sights. I frowned. I still didn't see the problem here. I opened my mouth to voice this when Fiona spoke up again. "My ....uh, escorts, say that it is unsafe for me to be out in the wood alone. Especially after what happened last time. They don't think they are sufficient protection against the undead that swarm over the mill. But I need those samples! To create a defense against death magic, I need to be able to study its effect on creatures from the other planes. Certain creatures are resistant to death magic around here and I need samples of their flesh for my protective spells. I know I'm on the verge of a breakthrough here, but I can't go any further until I have those samples!" She wrung her hands, genuinely distraught over not being able to get her hands on the death magic samples she wanted. Sadly, I could see where this was leading, and my shoulders stooped.

     "Fine. I'll go get your bloody samples." I snapped out, feeling extremely aggravated. If it wasn't for the fact that Oakheart seemed to think she could be successful with this defensive shield, I'd have said forget it.

     Fiona looked over the moon at my offer, not even seeming to notice my sudden bad mood or irritation. She clapped her hands and whirled around, snatching up a tiny notebook and flipping open its cover. "Okay, this is what I need!" She gushed, and darted over to my side. I was taller than her by a good half foot, and glared down my nose as she barged into my personal space and shoved the journal at me. "Right here is the formula that requires the anima essence. My studies show that the death magic sample will react favorably with the siltreaver glands I've harvested from planar water creatures. They are the most resistant to death magic, you know. Quite fascinating actually. One wonders why they are so resistant. Perhaps it has to do with the rumored madness of...."she trailed off as she finally noticed my impatient scowl.

    "I don't need a lecture on magic, or your personal experiments, I just need to know what I'm looking for so you can finish your shield spell and I can bring the formula for it back to the Marshal. I can only hope that it is as powerful as you say it is." Fiona's face feel slightly at my brusque dismissal of her passion, but she nodded.
     "I've trekked across the realm studying the lasting effects of the rifts, you know. Gloamwood is so saturated in death magic that I've made extensive advances in my research in just the little time I've spent here. I'm confident I can create a powerful enough shield that it will keep out any creature touched by the plane of death." She set down her journal. "Okay, what I need is perhaps..." she glanced off into space, a small frown between her eyes as she considered. "several fingerbones from an undead creature. Preferably a humanoid one, as the magic is more potent in them. Thankfully, the nearby mill appears to be a magnet for the fiends and they have been congregating there for the past few nights. You should be able to easily gather up quite a few bones. I also require a spirit anima, but I have one of my guards fetching that." I nodded, then something occurred to me.

     "Wait, what? What do you mean, the undead are congregating to this mill? What mill?" I glanced around as if I could spot the pack of undead from here. Fiona shrugged, not seeming to be bothered by the fact that she was surrounded by undead.

     "I'm not sure why they are here. They just showed up. I'm not sure what scares me more, the hordes of undead just beyond our camp or the fact they are interested in something other then attacking us! Millrush Pond, where the mill is, has always been rumored to be filled with dark magic and curses, even back before it was abandoned. Now it's filled with angry souls and elusive spirits. The mill used to belong to the Mathosian nobles who lived at that old keep? The locals call it Shadefallen Keep now. I don't know if it had a different name. Scary, huh?" She grinned at me and I frowned. Well, that was worrisome news. On top of all the other things going wrong in Gloamwood, now we have a horde of undead who are just...milling around doing nothing? No pun intended...Well one thing at a time. Get Fiona her silly samples so she can finish creating this defense magic she says will protect Gloamwood Pines. If it works, I'm hoping it will cleanse the town and from there we can find the source of the dark cloud of evil that seems to choke the forest. I've never had any trouble dispatching the undead minions of the Endless Court so it shouldn't be a problem now. After a few more lectures from Fiona on what to look for and how to properly stow the samples, I left the camp carrying a small, spell crafted sac to place my gruesome samples in. I shuddered. Good thing I had decided against becoming a caster when I was younger. Well other then the fact that I had no affinity for magic.

     Seeing the mill for the first time, I could believe that there was something sinister at work here. It was huge, creepy and dark. A large, stonework building with only three walls and all manner of machinery strewn about, the whole area gave off a feeling of wrongness. I didn't like it one bit, and my Ascended sense was prickling at the back of my neck that bad things had happened here. Were happening still. And just like Fiona said, there were undead fiends everywhere! They just seemed to be wandering around, never straying far from the walls of the mill. Every once in a while, one would suddenly turn and viciously hack at some small woodland animal that was unfortunate enough to get too close, or even swing at each other. But for the most part, they just seemed like empty shells. Or...puppets. Waiting for their master to come and take up the strings. Now I felt even colder. I just knew that this tied in with all the other strange and dark tidings of Gloamwood, but I couldn't yet see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together yet. Something was still missing.

     I gathered shadows to my form and bent reality until I'd disappeared from sight and crept silently and quickly through the undead throng. Fiona said she needed as powerful a sample as she could get, and I was looking with my Ascended sight, testing the auras around the undead minions. Many were only weakly attuned with the death plane, barely given enough to animate them, and I didn't think that would work. Then my senses lit upon a beacon of death magic, a glowing torch of evil black taint by the mill wall. This one looked different from the others, and wasn't wandering. It stood still, ramrod-straight, staring off into nothing with unseeing eyes and a rusted sword across its back. It wore fine clothing that didn't look too badly damaged by the passage of time. Alright, showtime. I tensed my muscles and pulled at the fabric of the universe using my attuned senses, and felt the painful sensation of my body being dragged through time and space to appear directly behind the undead man. It was something that I was sure I would never have been able to do without the special augmentation that Ascendancy had given me. In the blink of an eye, I could travel short distances. It was most beneficial when I needed to appear quickly to dispatch an enemy without being detected too soon, or at all. It made it excellent for finishing blows.
     With one swift and sudden thrust, I sank my longest dagger into the undead's back, piercing straight out his chest. The creature had enough awareness to make a small grunt and grapple at the blade feebly, as if trying to pull it out or somehow seal the wound, but what would merely anger an undead planar minion if I were a mere mortal soldier caused the creatures abrupt and final demise with an Ascended. There was just something about my Ascended status that made me particularly lethal to planar beings. I'm not sure what it is, or even if I want to know how it works, but it definitely makes my mission to protect Telara much easier.

     The undead minion sank to the ground with a strange moan, the unhallowed light dimming from its eye sockets. I stared down at the skeletal body and muttered a few choice curses. This is revolting. And totally beneath me. I nudged the pile of fleshy bones with the toe of one boot, then squatted down and used one of my least favored daggers to begin hacking away at one dried up wrist, turning my head in disgust. Ugh, yuck. This spell of hers better work, damn it. I wasn't exactly sure what Fiona's idea of a good sample was, so I just stuffed the entire skeletal hand into the sac. A tingle of dark magic seemed to shimmer along the bag's opening when I drew it shut, sealing the hand inside in a kind of stasis so that it wouldn't deteriorate before Fiona could use it. I will-grudgingly-admit that magic did have its uses, like stasis spells on food and drink so it wouldn't go stale or spoil. Or protective enchantments on armor to keep one safe. Not that I'd ever admit this.

     Suddenly I heard a very peculiar sound. It took me too long to remember where it was from. It was the kind of sound that always accompanied my return to the visible spectrum after cloaking myself in shadows. Since I was already visible and kneeling down by the body, it had to be someone else. I gasped in acute surprise and immediately let instinct take over, diving to the side and rolling, before expertly flipping to my feet, daggers drawn and held in front of me in a protective stance. I was shocked to see that some undead creature was now standing in front of me. It stared down at the mutilated undead I'd killed, then turned red eyes on me. This one was very different from the other undead around here. It seemed to possess self-awareness, and at least some semblance of skill. And how was it able to meld into the shadows like I do? I wasn't aware that was something that non-Ascended could do. I felt cold just thinking about it.

   The creature than smiled, displaying a full set of jagged, yellow teeth with rotten flecks of flesh in the creases. By the gods....what was this fiend? "I am Morticus the Unholy!" The creature spat out, as if answering my thoughts. The voice sounded strange, hollow and echoing. "When you get to the Plane of Death, tell them I sent you! You can get a group discount!" He seemed to laugh, a choking, guttural thing, and I felt my eyes widen in disbelief. It was mocking me? This thing was so dead. I hissed back at it, showing I wasn't impressed, and the creature roared, rushing at me with daggers of its own. It must have been trained in the arts of assassination as well, I mused as we clashed, daggers a blur. I spun and ducked, trying to get in a mortal strike on the fiend, while it seemed merely to be toying with me, as if it thought I wasn't even worth the effort. Ha, underestimating your opponent was the best way to get yourself killed. I'd learned that at an early age. Steel rang loudly off the stone walls of the mill as we fought and ducked and rolled and stabbed. Morticus slashed open the inside of my arm, a deep gash along my elbow, and I felt a cold burn in my arm as the death magic began fighting with my Ascended ability to regenerate, but I wasn't worried. I'd survived death, after all. So I gritted my teeth and ignored the pain, as well as the burn of exhaustion in my muscles and the blood that dripped in my eye from a cut on my brow, and continued trying to find an opening. The creature was a good fighter, I'll give him that much, but undeath had done him no favors and the fiend was slower to react and had no armor to protect himself. And my daggers had been with me so long now that they had become imbued with the same inherent power that my body had upon resurrection. All I needed was one good opportunity...there! Morticus lifted up his arm to stab down into my shoulder and I easily twisted in too close for his weapon to effectively get a good purchase. Instead, his dagger glanced off the hardened leather shoulder pads I wore to protect my collarbone. By doing so, he left his left side vulnerable. The fiend seemed to realize this too late, death-touched eyes widening in fury, before I was able to sink both daggers into his chest, right through his rotten unbeating heart. The creature wailed, ad a strange dark mist emptied out of his mouth. I quickly scrambled back to avoid being touched by it and he toppled headlong to the churned up ground. I leaned over and panted, hands on my knees, and felt my vision blur slightly. After a few seconds when I could breathe properly again, I rummaged in my bag for some fresh linen strips and bandaged my arm up. The cut was clearly healing, but it still looked angry and red and was slowly weeping blood. I didn't need any more trouble by attracting who knows what with the scent of blood. I felt so tired and my eyes kept wanting to shut. Using my Ascended abilities in a fight always seemed to exhaust me afterward. Thankfully sleep and a good meal always made me physically and mentally as good as new within a few hours. Because the undead rogue alarmed me, and I was feeling resentful, I hacked off his hand too and added it to the sac.

     As I turned to leave the mill, I heard the strangest high pitched sound. A hair-raising keen that seemed to originate from the large pond just beyond the mill. The sound came again, followed by splashing of what sounded like something rather large. The eerie keening shriek coupled with the undead-littered mill grounds made for a very harrowing experience and I'm not one to scare easy but even I was getting uncomfortable out here. I wouldn't ever admit it, but I made the trek back to Tearfall Run in half the time, eyes scanning the undergrowth along the road as I went. The samples I gathered will just have to do, because I just couldn't imagine myself going back there without an actual, serious reason.

     "Here, Fiona." I said gruffly, shoving the sac of undead bones at her. She grabbed it, eyes going wide with anticipating. She yanked open the drawstrings and peered inside, and exclaimed in delight, then sobered and looked back up at me. "Thank you, Raeslyn. The risk you took getting these samples will pay off, I promise. You have a knack for this sort of work. You wouldn't want to work with me on a more permanent basis, would you?" I stared at her, aghast, and she chuckled wryly. "Ah well, that's a shame." She said, and gave a lop-sided grin. I snorted, then settled on the ground cross-legged to clean my daggers and watch out of the corner of my eye as Fiona examined the undead bones I'd brought her. The death taint made me uneasy, even now.

    Several hours later, when I was becoming increasingly drowsy and debating whether I should just stay the remainder of the night here or head back to Gloamwood Pines, Fiona suddenly gave a cheer from somewhere off to my right. I jerked back upright and turned to glare at her. Several others around the camp all gave her varying looks of irritation, resentment, and resignation, as if this was a common occurrence they'd had to endure. Another good reason to not get involved with mages and clerics. They were always obsessing over some scholarly assignment and waking you up at gods-forsaken hours with their excitement. I sighed and climbed to my feet, approaching Fiona silently.

     "Well, what is it?" I asked. I admit, I was, well, mildly curious. Fiona turned to me, her eyes fever-bright. "This is it Raeslyn! I think I have finally figured out a way to repel magic from the Death Plane! This death shield is made from the materials you brought me in addition to some other reagents and a very complex net of magic spells..."she trailed off at my glare and cleared her throat. "Yes, well, I think I've finally got it! Now we just need to test it. No time like the present, right?" She jumped off her crate and made her way to the center of camp. Seemingly without being aware of it, everyone else, myself included, followed her, where she knelt and began clearing away a patch of earth. She drew strange symbols into the dirt, and they began pulsing with magic, brighter and brighter as she continued. She finished creating a small circle of glowing runes, then stood and took out a rather macabre looking object that seemed to be a mash of undead parts, some kind of black sludge, plant seeds, and a few other things I didn't recognize. Not that I wanted to. I took a hasty step back as she approached me with the mass outstretched.

    "Here Raeslyn, I think you should have the honor of testing it! It was only because of you that I was able to perfect my spell." She beamed at me, unaware of my disgust. I shook my head firmly and crossed my arms, taking another step back. "Nope, I don't mess with this magic business. This is all yours, Fiona. Besides, all I did was kill some undead. Not even a challenge. You did the real work." I tried to sound sincere, as if casting the spell was the honor Fiona deserved. And hey, it was. It was her creation. If it worked, this was a big breakthrough for Gloamwood. She deserved the honors. Fiona gazed at me for a moment, then nodded, looking proud. She turned back to her casting, and settled the mass of spell components in the center. She than murmured a few words and I tensed as the atmosphere seemed to change, becoming heavier, laced with magic. The runes on the ground began to pulse as if to a heartbeat, and lines radiated outward from it, forming a circle of glowing white all around the camp. Shimmering walls of light sprang into being, the brilliance bringing tears to my eyes. It was so bright, brighter than moonlight even. The shining bright white seemed to burn away the shadows and darkness that shrouded the camp, and everyone unconsciously stood a little straighter. Like a great weight they didn't know was there had been lifted. Peace, light, holy energy danced around the camp.

     Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an undead wander over from the across the field by the mill, as if drawn by the beacon of pure white light surrounding Tearfall Run. Everyone tensed as the undead shambled into camp. Or rather, tried to. The moment it touched the translucent barrier, the undead was instantly turned to ash. The holy light flared up even brighter, and the Waykeepers all cheered. Even I clapped slowly, impressed by the strength of Fiona's spell. She was a powerful spellcaster, that was for sure.

    I walked up to Fiona and held out my hand for her to shake. "Well done, Fiona. I shall inform Marshal Oakheart of your success." I said, and smiled at her. She beamed back at me and curtsied. "I can't believe this!" She gushed, whirling to glance at her handiwork. "The shield is working even better than I hoped!" I glanced around as well, nodding, impressed despite myself.

     "Ya, that's right ya filthy undead!" Shouted one of the Gloamwood locals, shaking his fist out at the forest. Than, as I watched, he clutched at his head and swayed on the spot. I frowned. What was wrong with the man? Maybe the light was making him dizzy? I sharpened my focus on him and made to walk over and ask when he groaned and bent forward. To my horror, the man began ripping at his face and back. The familiar dark aura of a death-touched minion shimmered into being around him. Fur sprouted where his nails gouged, and I realized that his fingernails were now becoming talons. This was all horrifyingly familiar. The same thing had happened to that man Michael in the goblin city! He'd turned into a ravening beast. Oh gods. I unsheathed my daggers. There'd been no reasoning with Michael once he'd shifted into the werewolf, and I knew the same would happen here. One of the Waykeepers approached the man, looking horrified and concerned. Before I could warn him to stay back, the Waykeeper dropped to the ground and moaned, clutching his own head. Behind me, a long, wavering howl broke the silence, and I spun, only to see several more Waykeepers collapsing and tearing at their bodies. Oh no...this was bad. I don't understand how this was happening. It was well past the night hours, coming on to dawn, and the moon was no where visible. How on earth.....of course, the spell! The blinding white light worked just like the moonlight. But how were these men all affected? I don't understand. Did the spell force this on them, or were they already infected beforehand?

     Fiona gave a horrified scream and I concentrated on protecting her and the remaining people who hadn't had the misfortune to succumb to lycanthropy. The non-shifted men rallied around me, and together we fought off the ravening beasts, who blindly threw themselves on our swords and daggers in a frenzy of bloodlust and hate. Their eyes were empty of anything that may have resembled sentience. Nothing but a maddened, rabid animal remained. I warned the others not to let the monsters scratch them, as I'd read that a werewolf's claws could transmit the disease to another. At my back, Brother Jebiah smote the beasts with powerful clerical magic, all the while muttering nonsense about righteousness and evil, and I rolled my eyes even as I stabbed and slashed at the beasts myself.

     Finally, there was stillness and all the creatures lay slain on the bloodied ground. Not long after that, Fiona's spell finally exhausted itself and blinked out. Fiona herself began weeping, kneeling by one of the fallen werewolves. They'd reverted back to their former selves in death. "Why didn't the shield work? What's going on?!" Fiona cried, wringing her hands. "I'm so sorry. Gods save us all..." She whispered over the fallen man's tortured body. I put a hand on her shoulder in an attempt at comfort. Brother Jebiah planted his staff in the ground and glowered at me, as if it was my fault. "Once again, the might of the Vigil has conquered the forces of evil!" He proclaimed in an arrogant voice, spitting on the ground. I gave him my darkest glare. Get over yourself already, I thought to myself in disgust as I helped Fiona up.

     "It wasn't your fault Fiona. Something else is going on here." I said to her as I drew her over to sit down on a crate that wasn't smashed. She gazed up at me, looking shaken and dazed. "But, what just happened then? Did death energy get through the shield and corrupt them? Obviously the ritual must have been flawed. I'll have to return to the beginning and see if I can figure out what went wrong..." She trailed off and reached for her notebook, eyes wide still. I frowned. I wasn't sure if more meddling in the magic of Gloamwood was actually a good idea right now. It seemed that the more we tried to cure the forest, the more the forest fought back.

     Jebiah came over and grabbed my arm, yanking me down to his much shorter height. The dwarf looked positively fanatical. "So, the beast is revealed!" He yelled in my ear, and I jerked myself out of his hold, giving him a look that dared him to try that again. He waved a hand in the air, and his eyes narrowed. "I knew this would happen! Oakheart's barghest alpha wasn't the culprit. I knew it! I don't believe that fool Drusk is part of this, but I know Doctor Oswell is in on it." He rubbed his hands together and I frowned.

     "What on Telara are you going on about?" I demanded. Doctor Oswell? In on what? The lycanthropy mystery? Did Jebiah know more than he'd let on? I was so sick of everyone keeping secrets. "Tell me what you know, dwarf. Now."
     "I only know this: Doctor Oswell in Gloamwood Pines, has been investigating some bodies that seem to have been bitten by large rabid beasts. The bite marks are unlike any beast found in Gloamwood, and yet he says it was nothing more than a rogue barghest attack. Obviously he knows more than he's letting on. I can't go against orders and leave Tearfall Run vulnerable, but you better go make yourself useful and investigate why Oswell's making fake reports on these "infected" victims." Brother Jebiah gave me a stern look, which I threw back at him. If I didn't want to find out what's going on, I would have definitely challenged him. As it was, I let a flare of my Ascended aura touch his clerical magic, overpowering it briefly. Brother Jebiah's eyes widened and he hastily stepped away from me, hands up and muttering about righteous fire and staying on the path of good. I scoffed and turned my back on the little menace. Yes I believe in the holiness of the Vigil but I wasn't a blind fool like Jebiah that saw the world only in black and white. Well, at least I had a direction for this werewolf problem. Who knows, maybe this will lead me finally to a solution on cleansing Glaomwood of its evil taint. Time to pay the good doctor a visit.

[Lore] XXVI: Meridian

     A majestic city located in the heart of Freemarch and backed by imposing mountains, Meridian is the capital and headquarters for the Defiant faction's offensive war against the planar evils that threaten Telara. The main faction and racial leaders for the Defiants can be found here as well. Meridian prides itself on its soaring towers and technomagical constructs as well as a strong sourcestone-fueled defense system that rivals that of the Guardian's holy city. Scholars and scientists are continuously coming up with new experiments and research into the planes is an ongoing project filled with risk, but also great reward. Mortal and Ascended alike call Meridian home. Portals located in the Plaza allow for instant travel to other regions of Telara and there is a wide variety of services offered for the intrepid adventurer, whether they are looking for new and powerful armor, ancient relics and artifacts, or companions in their aid against the many dangers of Telara.
     Meridian was built over a conquered Abyssal Cult site, ruled by a high ranking Abyssal cultist named Tidelord Brenin, who captured the position when it was a famous college and library. Meridian the college and learning center had been around for hundreds of years, as long as Quicksilver College in fact. It had been erected by the Mathosians long ago as a holding tower for all the old and ancient forbidden tomes full of powerful spells and instructions of the Ethian magitech that they didn't want to fall into the wrong hands but was just too valuable and potentially powerful to destroy (or so I assume is in there. They don't actually mention what forbidden knowledge is sealed in the tomes). The tower had been taken and converted into an Abyssal nest after spies and traitorous cultists infiltrated the tower, corrupting the scholars and knowledge protectors with temptation to open those forbidden books and read them. Thus the great Telaran Library (who knows what it was actually called) fell under the sway of the Abyssal cult. Tidelord Brenin and Tidelord Faceless Man (since he says he doesn't have a name anymore that's what I'm calling him) were gifted the tower as reward for their efforts in securing it for Akylios. After some time, the Faceless Man "woke up" from the evils that the cult perpetrated and approached Orphiel and his Defiants with the promise of giving them the means to take the nest from the cultists and make it their home, in exchange for amnesty and a position high in the Defiant ranks. Orphiel agreed and together they successfully launched an attack on the Abyssal base, swiftly and violently removing all cultist presence from the area.

     After Meridian had been won from the cultists, Tidelord Brenin was able to secretly escape, to later cause more trouble and mayhem in Moonshade Highlands. The successful taking of the cult nest was only made possible by the betrayal of the Faceless man, this ex-cultist oversees the spy and mission network of the Defiants' stratagems now and employs several deadly Ascended assassins and spies such as Kira Thanos the Azul Viper, in his special task force called The Unseen. He and his officers can be found in the central section of the city, in one room of the tower that leads ever upward to Orphiel's Spire. Orphiel himself, the infamous founder of the Defiant and designer of the Failsafe Device, never leaves his tower and can be seen standing at his impressive balcony peering through the largest telescope ever known and muttering strange things.
     For Defiants, Meridian is a place to call home, a sanctuary from the constant strife and hazards of the wild and evil choked regions of Telara, as well as a place to gather supplies, meet friends, and form guilds to take on challenging foes with. For Guardians, Meridian is a threat, both to their armies in a literal sense, and to their spiritual campaign to free Telara from the corruption that the heretics spread by refusing to relinquish their research into Sourcestone as fuel. Meridian stands as a sore thumb that the Guardians find an aggravating insult to the Vigil, at best. Technology is used freely and openly in the streets of Meridian, experiments and research are performed daily, and sourcestone constructs stalk the stone walkways between the different levels of the city. If one looks closely, one can even see the remnants of the Abyssal's presence in the city; otherworldly weapons carefully sectioned off in the research center, crates of exotic, bright blue Sourcestone canisters that seem to ripple like the plane of Water they were created in.
     If you're looking for Sylver Valis and his trusty companion Stavel, enter the left archway in Meridian where the College of Planar Studies diligently works toward further understanding of the Planes and their denizens. Sylver can be found there in the thick of things, trying to perfect the art of engineered Ascended and thus prove himself in this timeline as worthy of the title of inventor. As for Asha Catari, she is located in the opposite direction, on the far right in the Command Center, trying to keep peace among her fellow Defiant commanders: the illustrious High Priestess Anthousa Mona, unspoken leader of the Kelari, and Chieftan Rhan Chuluun, the appointed leader of what is left of the Bahmi tribes. Individually, the three races that comprise the Defiant faction are so different that it would seem they would never trust or tolerate each other for long, but the threat of annihilation and total destruction that the planar forces promise Telara has drawn them all together to save their beloved homeland from eternal darkness and slavery.
     Interesting Side Notes:
  • The guards that stand at the door to the Foyer (the room that leads to the Faceless Man and Orphiel's Spire), are called Praetorian Guard. This is curious, as it is different than any of the other guards and soldiers around Meridian. When researched, Praetorian means bodyguard or protector of a powerful, high ranking general in the Roman Army. I can only assume these guards are there because of Orphiel, and are his to command specifically.
References: Well, Meridian is definitely an interesting and fun city to learn about, but it's frustratingly mysterious and backstory on it is very hard to come by. For instance, I would love more information on what stood in Meridian's place before it. I heard it was a college first, and had been corrupted by the Abyssal. I would love to hear more on this, or to even have it confirmed. The information behind this post is gained from doing the introduction quests when first entering Meridian, as well as reading the old lore pages that Trion had up on their Rift site and looking over every artifact set related to Meridian that I can find! If anything else relevant becomes known I'll add it in at the end. All lore belongs to Trion and isn't mine. I only play with it!

Monday, April 21, 2014

[Karazhan's Story] 2.12: This Fair City

     The sun was just cresting over the mountains that backed the grand city of Meridian as I reached the fork in the highway that led to the city, a commotion behind a large pile of boulders caught my attention. I paused, frowning as I gazed that direction. It really wasn't my business, whatever was going on, but at the same time, if someone was in trouble...a strangled cry for help solidified my determination and I sprinted around the large rocks, tugging off my packs and unslinging my staff as I ran. I wasn't sure what I'd find, but I wanted to be prepared just in case.

     I skidded to a stop, taking in the scene. An outlandishly colored man in fine blue and gold armor was attacking a small handful of Kelari. Two of the dark skinned elves were already motionless on the ground, and the rest were huddled behind what had to be their guard or leader, who looked like he was barely able to keep the attacker at bay. As I watched, the armored man neatly sidestepped a cautious sword strike and violently knocked the weapon out of the guard's hands. The Kelari behind him whimpered in fear and shrank back even more. Before anything else could happen, I quickly called upon my magics and quickly put a barrier between the attacker and the Kelari. Frostkeeper's Ward isn't technically an appropriate spell for this situation, but it was the first thing that popped into my head and I had to do something quickly. The man quickly backed away from the group and eyed my warily. Keeping one eye on him, I beckoned the refugees to get back. They murmured grateful praises and pleas as they all scrambled away from the threat, and hot anger coursed through me, bright and blinding. It was one thing when we were at war and to defend oneself or home, but to slay innocent women and children? Civilians? I don't think so!
     With an expert flick of a wrist, I sent a spear of ice hurtling toward the man. To my surprise, he seemed to sense the magical attack and managed to dodge the deadly projectile. I frowned. Magical attacks were hard to avoid. Obviously whoever this soldier is, he was well trained. Come to think of it, he didn't look anything like the usual sycophantic minion of Regulos; clean shaven, clear eyed, and alive.

     "Who are you and what do you want?" I demanded, conjuring up flames to surround my staff. The man warily circled around to my left and I turned to keep him in my sight, while keeping away of where the refugees were huddled. At my question, he said something under his breath I couldn't catch, and bright golden light bathed his sword. I scowled. Fine, if that's the way it is. But than the man glared at me with such disgust and loathing, and spat out, "Defiant scum, you violate everything natural in Telara." I was so taken aback by his vicious words that I only barely reacted in time to avoid his lunge. His long sword whistled through the air and just barely missed slicing my arm off by a hair's breadth. He lashed out, a kick sending me sprawling to the side and I felt hot embarrassment flush my neck as I realized that these Kelari were watching one of the Ascended heroes get their bum handed to them by some fanatical foot soldier. I used my staff to climb hastily to my feet and his sword clanged off the shaft of it. I quickly removed one hand to avoid getting sliced, and pushed outward with the other, shoving him away from me to buy more time.

     I was so used to the dead, mindless and incompetent minions of the Endless Court that this man was actually a real danger. To prove that, he swung at me again, and I had to admire his bravery and determination, even as I cursed it. Most would have run when they found they were up against an Ascended alone. I cautiously extended my attuned senses, trying to get a feel for the man's aura. If he was another Ascended, I really was in trouble. I blew a sigh of relief when I felt nothing but the mortal coil that kept the man on this plane. And then I finally recognized the insignia emblazoned across his tabard. A fisted gauntlet in silver with a beautiful star pattern on it. A Guardian! In our territory. A single Guardian here, so close to Meridian, meant a spy. Who even knew if he was the only one. Now I knew for sure I couldn't let him leave alive. Who knows what information he'd gathered on the city before attacking the band of Kelari. The man seemed to know when I finally recognized who I was up against and he smiled with no humor. A trained Guardian spy and assassin he might be, but I was an Ascended, augmented by sourcestone technology and he stood no chance against me as long as I kept my wits about me.

     I twisted my hand into the air and shouted out a spell key, and it seemed the sky darkened above us. Large chunks of ice hurtled down upon the man, dazing him and knocking him back. He shouted a curse as one smashed into his sword arm, knocking the weapon uselessly the ground. With the other hand, he drew a second blade and grimly pressed the attack. I sidestepped and stumbled, cursing the unfamiliar terrain and his single-mindedness. I hated direct physical attack. Not least because I could avoid thinking about the deaths I caused if I was a distance away from my target. Of course, being in range of an angry man with a sword was another downside, I thought in dismay as his sword sliced through the fine fabrics along my arm, leaving a shallow graze before I could pull back in time. I wet my lips and whispered another spell, feeling a headache come on from mana use. A bolt of lightning suddenly sizzled out of the air and struck the man dead center. He roared and charged at me, but fell several paces from my new position, a blackened husk. The sky seemed to clear as the spellcasting faded and I wiped perspiration off my forehead. Uneasily, I gazed down at the dead body and felt somewhat sick. I would much prefer to be attacking mindless cultists than a sane, Telaran citizen who's only fault was that he considered me an abomination and a heretic. Suddenly I was engulfed from behind and I quickly jerked around, spell on my lips, before I realized it was a young Kelari child, who had run up to hug me in thanks. Her dusk colored cheeks were dirty and streaked with tears but her eyes were shining with awe and admiration. Somehow, this made me feel even more uncomfortable.

     "Thank you! Thank you so much, stranger!" The guard/leader exclaimed, coming up and steering the girl away from me and back to her mother. I smiled wanly at him, and gestured to the body without looking. "What happened? How did this man come to attack you?" The leader looked downcast, and glanced at the two fallen Kelari. Already, several of the women had knelt by the bodies and were performing the Kelari rites of death as they helped the souls into the afterlife. "He just came out of nowhere, really! We didn't even have time to send for help or defend ourselves. Either he was laying in wait for us, or we ventured too close to his hiding spot. I can tell he's a spy, that's for sure." The man angrily kicked the body. I nodded absently and sighed. I'd better inspect him for any information just in case. I knelt down and the Kelari leader watched me curiously as I carefully riffled through the Guardian's pockets and pouches, being very careful not to actually touch the body. I didn't like the reminder that I could easily deal out such devastating death. In a hidden side pouch I retrieved a tiny, tightly rolled up scroll with the Guardian crest on it, as well as another crest I didn't recognize. I frowned somberly as I stood up, debating whether I should open the scroll and see what it held, or if I should just hand it to Lady Catari unopened when I saw her, since it no doubt pertained to official Defiant business and I haven't as yet considered myself an official part of their faction. But than again, if it was just nothing more than a list of flowers he was studying...I would feel distinctly foolish.

     Mind made up, I gently lifted the wax seal off the scroll and unrolled it. The Kelari leader pressed close eagerly and I gave him a look, walking a few steps away. He was hardly someone I'd let see such potentially sensitive information. The writing on the scroll was incredibly tiny and barely legible, the light scrawl of letters filling most of the parchment. It took me longer than I'd care to admit to decipher even if he was using the common Telaran language, since the writing was so horrible and my memory of the written word foggier than I was expecting. Which in itself was rather alarming. Was my slow comprehension due to death or was it some side effect of becoming this augmented magitech being? Was so much combat and defense and soul knowledge shoved into my brain that I would  begin to forget even basic things? I gripped the parchment tightly as an icy jolt of fear shivered down my spine, and I resolved that I would definitely spend some time in Meridian's famous library reintroducing myself to the many ancient languages and written word of Telara. I refuse to let go of my sense of self, of who I am, and my skill at research and study was something I'd always been proud of. I shook my head to focus back on the scroll and forced myself to understand what had been written. It was so frustrating, knowing I should be able to quickly read this, but not being able to. Maybe it was a symptom of having so many souls with all of their memories and knowledge locked inside. My mind was trying to comprehend so many different and outlandish cultures from the different beings that made up the soul matrix of my engineered body that my mind couldn't unravel one specific piece. That made me feel slightly better.

     "So? What's it say!" Demanded the Kelari, hovering just out of reach, curiosity brimming in his eyes. I rolled my own eyes. "Obviously it's highly classified information that should be kept to a limited number of individuals. But he was indeed a spy sent here to investigate us. I will give this to Lady Catari immediately." The man gaped at me at the mention of Asha Catari, looked dazed, as if his favorite celebrity had just walked into the room. "You know the General? Just who are you anyway?" His eyes slid down to the blackened husk of the Guardian spy and his face morphed through various expressions, the most telling of which was nervous fear. I felt a stab in the region of the my heart at that. I would never in a thousand years wish for anyone to fear me, and it made me feel very alone and saddened that a Kelari, a member of my own former people, would feel that way. I pursed my lips, keeping my face blank of the brief hurt I'd felt, and shrugged with affected casualness.

     "I'm one of the hand chosen Ascended created by Sylver. My name is Karazhan. I'm just glad I got here in time to help." I offered the words quietly, with respectful neutrality in an effort to assuage the man's sudden cautiousness toward me, and he nodded, still eyeing me sidelong. I sighed. Rather then call him out on it, I turned and headed back toward the highway, retrieving my packs and belongings that I'd dropped in my haste to help. It seems that no matter what I did, the barrier of being different, of being thought of as above even your average soldier, kept anyone from wanting to associate with me. Sharp loneliness twanged inside suddenly as I tied my pouches to my belt and slid my staff back into its harness. It's all well and good to have such power at one's fingertips. To know that you could rival the gods if you so desired, that if given time to gain experience and knowledge you might even be a challenge for the Blood Storm, but if you are forever alone in the world, what was the point? Then I snorted in dry amusement. Mayhap I needed a dog.

     "Thank you again...Karazhan." The Kelari leader offered hesitantly from the side and I turned to see all the refugees huddled together, watching me with wide, liquid-bright eyes. I tipped my head silently at them and headed for the city, trying to shake the melancholy thoughts that seemed to blanket my mind.

      I passed a signpost with indications on what each fork in the road traveled to and was mildly intrigued to realize that the highway leading to Meridian was called Way of Past Kings. I briefly wondered where that name might have come from before continuing on my way toward the city. The closer I got to the city, the more excited I was getting, and I felt almost like a child at Fae Yule. I could practically feel the emanations of ancient knowledge and magic rolling off the city wall in waves. In fact, I was so distracted by the imposing sight of the outer city walls that I literally didn't even see the two guards that stepped into my path and stumbled right into an upright, crossed spear that blocked my way forward. I blinked, and then smiled apologetically at the two men, who frowned at me. They didn't look overly alarmed or suspicious of my presence, and I was grateful that I was quite obviously wearing the Defiant colors, and carrying a Defiant issued battle stave.

     "Greetings traveler. What is your business in Meridian?" The soldier on the left inquired, politely but sharply. I gave a low, courteous bow and cleared my throat, lamenting yet again the loss of my soft, melodious elven voice. It was hard to accept the fact that I now had a gruff voice rough enough to rival that of a smoker of Creeperbrush root.

    "Hello. My name is Karazhan. I'm here with important information for La--General Catari. I am an Ascended created by Sylver. I'm also here to enjoy the sights of Meridian." I added the last part with an admiring grin as my eyes tracked back up to the impressive walls around the city. I noted the rather long stretch of flagstones and steps that led up to a landing, which then met with even more steps that disappeared from my view. I couldn't wait to actually get into the city. To be surrounded by everyday Telarans instead of soldiers, military, death, and cultists. It would be quite the welcome change. A jangle of positive emotions soared through me and I knew the other souls were in agreement. I wonder if eventually, our souls would merge into one and we'd become one individual. It was a rather alarming thought, because I didn't want to lose my individuality and sense of self, but I also felt almost as if I was missing something, each time I felt the edges of each separate soul identity that lined the soul matrix. I noticed the guards were giving me strange looks and shook my head ruefully. "Sorry, it's been a long day, and I ran across some worrying information just recently." I glanced back the way I came, and noticed that the band of Kelari refugees were slowly making their way up the highway behind me. The two legionnaires asked me a few more detailed questions to ensure I was who I claimed to be, before they were satisfied. They uncrossed their spears and watched me as I walked past.

     I glanced left and right as I finally came to a stop at the first step that led into the city itself. An interesting building had been set up to the far left, in the shade of a few large sycamore trees, and I was relieved to recognize the aura of Ascendency coming from within. I wonder if that's where the Ascended "hung out" for drinks and conversation when relaxing. It was awful tempting to head for the building instead of going up the stairs. My desire for companionship must be stronger than I thought. After my errands had been completed, I vowed to myself to come back and visit the place, which appeared to be a makeshift tavern of some sort. Perhaps erected specifically for the Ascended even, although it was rather disappointing that it was so obviously outside the city, as if the city folk wanted to distance themselves from their strange new and powerful allies, or weren't sure what to do with them. I wondered if Ascended metabolism and unique status even allowed us to become inebriated, and smirked as I imagined myself attempting that. I climbed up the multitude of steps to the first landing, distracting myself from the long climb by counting the steps. The stone was ancient and a coolness seemed to seep into my sandaled feet. It wasn't unpleasant; in fact, quite the opposite as with the sun shining directly overhead, I was beginning to feel quite warm in all this heavy fabric and armor. I couldn't wait to find some fine mage robes that were light and airy but with the same protections of armor. And I could always spell them for added enchantments and protection.

     I stopped on the landing and wiped sweat off my dark brow, taking out a waterskin and having a hefty sip. A handful of Kelari stood at the edge of the landing, talking animatedly amongst themselves. A large glowing ball of pure energy hovered at one's elbow, and I could feel the power of the being coming off it in waves and lapping at my Kelari mind. A wave of homesickness shot over me and I felt tears prick my lashes. It may not have been the most amazing of experiences, but I missed the temple in Atia where I lived. I missed being among my own kind. I even missed my own tiny little spirit that I had bonded with at a young age. Nyrtotle had been a welcoming companion on late nights as I read my way through the temple library. I tarried a moment longer and gazed longingly at the group of Kelari, but I didn't want them becoming annoyed at me for eavesdropping so eventually with a heavy sigh I continued up the last bout of steps. These were longer and steeper, and I was definitely feeling overwarm when I finally reached the top. Immediately I sought out some shade and hovered by the second wall that seemed to divide the inner workings of the city from the military aspect of it. As I cooled down, I watched as, in a large open field nearby, a group of young aspiring warriors strove to copy the moves being performed by their teacher. Several training dummies had been set up along the edge of the field, and a few archers decked out in impressive leathers were firing arrows into the targets. From this distance I couldn't tell if they were Ascended or not, and I didn't have the energy to find out magically, so I stood and watched passively. Presently I noticed the ground was shaking in a regular, gentle rhythm and glanced around. No one else seemed to be taking much notice of this, and I tried to not look so obviously concerned as I sought out the source of the thumping. A large construct lumbered into view from the inner city, followed closely by a woman in a long robe. She had on a pair of goggles similar to what I remember Sylver wearing, and carried a scroll in one hand in which she made vigorous notes, every once in a while glancing up to keep an eye on the construct. I watched them proceed past with interest.

     The city was bustling with activity, like a kicked beehive, and there were men and women dashing to and fro constantly, weaving amongst the many carts, animals, and processions of soldiers that seemed to be a constant. I could practically feel the weight of the history that Meridian had witnessed, and I hoped they had a large section on recent historical events so I could finally catch up on everything since my death and resurrection. Every once in a while I caught the tail aura of a powerful Ascended and would notice a flashy horse or other saddled beast prance by, the Ascended seated straight and majestic on its back. I was quite impressed by the diversity represented in Meridian. There were Eth, Bahmi, Kelari, even a few Dwarves and Mathosians, all mingling amongst each other with little or no outward reaction of distrust. The only stir was when an Ascended rode or walked through, and it was hardly worth noting. Meridian was quite inured to the idea of Ascended by now. This was definitely a city I could find my place in. I even spent a whimsical moment imagining myself settling into the residential area, going to the market, and plying my gifts to those in need. Which got me thinking of what my gifts actually would be, and I knew that I'd love to be able to help others as well as keep practicing my magics and Ascended powers. Definitely a healer than, although I was already thinking up ways of modifying it and augmenting it with my weather magic so I wouldn't lose the ability to defend myself if the need arose. And I'm quite sure it would, and often. Right, time to find Asha Catari and let her know of the serious happenings in the Scarred Mire, as well as my recent brush with the Guardians. This new interaction with that fanatical faction of Telara hadn't given me any more of a better opinion of them. They were just as fanatical and zealous as they had been in the future, which was rather disappointing, because I was hoping Telara would be better united and prepared to face the Blood Storm threat this second time. You'd think that we would have learned something from history during the Blood Storm Wars.
     After asking a passing centurion where Asha Catari's command center was (and having to explain to the suspicious woman why I wanted to know), I set off for one of the arched openings that sporadically interrupted the second walled edifice located past the plaza.

     "First time in Meridian, huh?" The voice, off to my right, caused me to swing around with an embarrassed expression. A man was sitting idly in the shade by a large planar porticulum. I moved closer so we weren't in the way of city traffic and chuckled.

    "I'm that obvious?" I asked ruefully. The man grinned and shrugged. He was a dark skinned Eth with fine wrinkles around his eyes and mouth and grey speckled in his hair.

     "Only to those who are paying attention, don't worry kid." I rolled my eyes at being called 'kid', but grinned back. "But hey, don't let the judgment of others get in the way of your enjoying the sights. Meridian sure is an amazing marvel and you should definitely explore around and become more familiar with her. You're entitled to, after your heroic efforts for Telara." I squinted my eyes with hesitant wariness at that last bit, wondering suddenly how he would know I was an Ascended. He waved a casual hand at my intense scrutiny. "Relax kid. You don't need to be so suspicious. After observing the Ascended in the city, I'm pretty confident I can spot one on sight now. Sorry if that freaked you out a bit though. But go, explore what the city has to offer. And hey, if you're feeling really brave, go say hello to Sylver Valis. He loves meeting the Ascended. But I will warn you, he's been known to blow up his lab on occasion." I snickered, imagining Sylver Valis deep in his natural element, excited over the smallest new invention like a child on Fae Yule.

     "Thank you sir, I shall do that." I waved at him as I wandered back into the stream of the crowd moving toward the command center, and was happy to be in out of the hot sun when I entered the cool stone archway that led downward. The command center smelled slightly of old stone and mildew, which would be expected I suppose, and the din of voices drew me around a few turns and twists until I entered a large, open room with multiple levels. A railing encircled a deeper, inner room below, and stairs led up to a hallway that encircled the room. It was lit with sourcestone lamps and constructs to the point that it hardly seemed dimmer than outside. I spotted Asha Catari immediately, as her unusual garb and the tall, strange looking beast looming over her seemed to draw the eye. As I drew closer, I slowed my step when I recognized the others standing around her as well from my time in the disastrous future timeline. Rhan Chuluun was eyeing Anthousa Mona with a jaundiced eye, while she just looked irritated. The monstrous being standing a few feet behind Lady Catari gave me a hard look before it seemed to dismiss me as no threat and went back to watching her with a strangely fond expression. How...odd.

     "Oh look, another Ascended!" Asha exclaimed with genuine pleasure when I was abreast of the group. I gave a low sweeping bow to her, and a formal nod to Rhan and Anthousa. It was disconcerting, to say the least, to look upon Anthousa Mona and have her not recognize me as even a Kelari, let alone as Karazhan Anthanos.

     "Greetings, lady." I said formally. I felt that the familiarity I'd had with her in the future wouldn't be as obvious here, as the end of the world tended to make one forget such silly things as rank and name and nobility. "I come with news from Freemarch. Specifically, the outpost in the Scarred Mire. Also, I had a worrying run in with a Guardian spy on my way to the city." As Asha's expression grew increasingly grave, I relayed all that I had seen and heard since leaving the Kelari Refuge what seems like weeks ago.

     When I finally finished my report, Asha cupped her elbow with one hand and tapped her lips, a worried frown between her large almond eyes. ""You say you took care of this scout then? Good. It worries me that others may have been able to return to Sanctum with information but at least this one in particular hasn't made it. And I must admit that while unsettling, the news about Jakub isn't new to me. I've been receiving quite a few distressing reports mentioning similar findings from other Ascended and soldiers. I fear we will need all the able bodies we can get to fight off Alsbeth and her new pet."
     She took a breath and than looked me over, with a more appraising look. "I think it's important that you familiarize yourself with our headquarters. Unfortunately, I'm much too busy myself to escort you, as much as I'd love to pick your brain over the events in that future timeline, but you are a resourceful sort and should have no trouble finding your way around Meridian. Settle yourself into the city, maybe even see if you'd care to make it a permanent residence? It would certainly be beneficial to have as many Ascended as we can living within the city walls to help bolster its defenses should the need arise." I nodded thoughtfully. I'd already planned on touring the city, and was excited to see what kind of research was being conducted by Sylver and his colleagues, and the idea of having an apartment in the city definitely appealed to me. It was better than feeling like a drifter that just moved from place to place, which is how I'd been thinking of myself of late.

     So off I ventured to check out the sights of Meridian. To my surprise, I bumped into the lord and lady of Todrin Estate, and had the unfortunate task of explaining to them that their beloved home had been turned into a cultist nest while they were away at the capital. Lord Olangden was so angered he swore he was going to march out there this instant and put an end to them, which wouldn't have been a smart idea. Thankfully his wife pointed that out so I didn't have to. I than spent a few minutes listening to them reminisce about their time at their sprawling estate, which then segued into a story about how they met.

     "My lady and I fell in love when we both were after the same volume of History's Greatest Wars in Meridian's fantastic library. We are both extensively schooled in military strategy you know. We advice General Catari on day to day military enquiries." I nodded along with Lord Olangden, even though he'd already mentioned this earlier.

     "Well if you will excuse me, I must go find myself some proper robes and perhaps something hot to eat." I finally said, just to get away from the chatty couple, although I realized I actually was quite hungry after I said it. "Thank you for the information, and I hope to see you again under better circumstances." I finished, and after waving goodbye, went in search of some tasty treats. There was a whole row of merchants and outdoor market stands along the wall in the shade to my delight and I lost track of time as I perused them all.

    "Oh yes thank you, this cloak looks lovely!" I exclaimed when one merchant held out a cloak of fine damask silk for me to look over. I felt along the edge and was happy to realize that the thread had been spelled for protection and endurance. "This is perfect, how much?"

     "For you Ascended, the small price of 20 platinum." The merchant responded easily, and my eyes almost popped out of my head. 20 platinum??? What did she think, that I was rich simply because I was an "Ascended hero". I managed to haggle the price down, as well as trade a few of the precious baubles I'd squirreled away from my journey so far, and came away feeling satisfied, the weight of the beautifully edged cloak a comfortable presence at my back. At other stands I tasted a roast fowl kebob that was so delicious, I was tempted to purchase more, before wisdom prevailed and I realized I had to keep a tight leash on my coin if I still wanted to purchase myself some lodgings here. I had no idea what the sale price was on apartments in the city, but I was hoping that my title would earn me some favor, despite the fact that I felt uncomfortable using it as a bargaining chip.

    After visiting a real estate agent, I came away feeling almost guilty, because I had actually been given a plot of land outside of Meridian! Something to call my very own. I was over the moon excited when handed the keys, and eager to check it out, but first I went to visit Sylver Valis and his trusty assistant Stavel in the College of Planar Studies.

     "Sylver!" I cried with genuine happiness when I entered his personal "lab" of sorts in the Planar Studies building. He started and a strange whirring noise began. I noticed Stavel off to one side and waved at him as well. Stavel turned, gave me a blank look, and then an exasperated look when he turned back to Sylver, just in time for the nalthema elf to grab me by the arm and drag my surprised self behind a crate of mechanical parts. "Wha--?" I began, before a loud bang shook the room and a cloud of red smoke wafted over me. I blinked. "Uh...was that m fault?" I offered sheepishly as we all three stood up and Sylver cheerfully dusted himself off. He cocked his head at me, and I couldn't help but grin at seeing his ridiculous goggles again and his garishly colored outlandish outfit. He certainly hadn't changed since I'd first met him in the future. Sylver contemplated me a moment silently.

     "I'm sorry lovely lady, but have we met? You seem familiar, but I'm not sure where..." he trailed off and turned to Stavel for support. The Ethian man shrugged. I slapped my forehead. "Right, I forgot! You wouldn't know me because it hasn't happened yet. Although it won't ever happen now, hopefully...I hope it doesn't anyway....I think I averted it...." I muttered as I tried to work out the confusing mess that was time travel and alternate timelines. Stavel just looked more confused, but Sylver flipped his goggles up and peered closely into my eyes. "Great sun, you're one of those Ascended I created when the world was ending, aren't you? What a beautiful specimen, fine structure, the matrix looks solid." He danced around me, sudden energy visible in his movements, while I stood still and endured his attention. It was so similar to how he behaved in the alternate timeline that I wasn't even bothered. Stavel rolled his eyes with a huff, muttered something about exploding experiments, and walked back to the giant contraption that had exploded. I spared a moment of guilty concern about the machine, and really hoped that I hadn't accidentally damaged it when I'd startled Sylver, but he didn't seem overly worried. Of course I remember that things blowing up was a common occurrence to him after all.
     "You, my dear, are a fantastic marvel of science and magic and sourcestone! Of course, so are all of the other Ascended machineborn I've supposedly created." His shoulders slumped slightly. "Alas, I just wish I had actually done it, instead of a future me. I feel like I'm being praised for someone else's work. Which is silly of course, but...oh you know what I mean!" I nodded slowly, because I actually did know what he meant. "I am working on a new way of augmenting an already existing Ascended, to further their...well your....powers and have you rival the gods themselves! I need to do something to prove myself in this timeline, after all. Can't have my alternate self showing me up!" He danced away, laughing almost crazily, and I wondered idly how often he got away from his workshop, because he could obviously do with some down time. It was obvious that the miraculous success of crafted Ascended that his alternate self performed was bothering him more than he wanted to admit, and it made me sad that he felt he needed to further prove himself. In a way, he felt almost like a father figure to me, since perversely, he was my creator, and I couldn't help but feel a familial concern. Which, when I thought about it too deeply, was incredibly creepy.

    "So, how are you enjoying our fair city, eh?" Sylver shot at me as he continued to tinker with the magitech device in the center of the room. I sidled up behind him and watched with interest as he played with sourcestone levels, gears, and panels, occasionally eliciting angry beeps and whirs from the machine.

     "It's quite the lovely city actually! So very different from home, that's for sure. Loud and busy. I'm very interested in the innovations the Defiants have added to it, like the laser guns, the construct guards, and the mechanical drones in the training fields! I haven't had much exposure to magitech and technomancy, but it definitely looks fun and exciting." Stavel gave me a long look, as if thinking 'oh great, another nutjob scholar/scientist', and I grinned impishly at him. He wrinkled his nose before Sylver's demand for a calculus wrench drew his attention back.

     "Well, if it's science and technomancy you've an interest in, you've definitely come to the right part of town." Sylver mumbled as he worked. He gestured vaguely upward, toward the upper level of the room, where the walls were lined with interesting scrolls and dozens of different, glowing gadgets. Men and women bustled to and fro, reading scrolls, checking sourcestone levels, and discussing probability figures for rifts and planes. "There are plenty of scientists and scholars who would love an assistant, if you're sincere, and I can point you to a few guilds that focus on the scientific aspects of sourcestone. Fighting back against the cultists and the dragons doesn't have to be all about the physical smash and kill that others enjoy." He straightened up, wiped glowing oily gloves on a dirty rag, and squinted at a pressure gauge set into the artifact.

     "Wow, thank you, that's exactly what I wanted to hear!" I exclaimed, feeling excitement bubble up. Already I was thinking of how I would apply to one of those guilds, and what I could bring to their order, as well as what I would like to gain from them. "I've finished most of what I meant to accomplish in Meridian actually, and was heading over to view my new lodgings before I went back to worrying what that dratted Alsbeth was up to. Lady Catari requested that I offer my aid to the Defiant legionnaires on the front lines against the Endless Court. Cursed abominations, they seem to always spring up like cockroaches whenever there's a flux in the Ward. I had heard it was all but broken this time, though. Something to do with these Guardians." I trailed off as Sylver was staring fondly off into space for several moments. "Are you okay?" I asked.

     He blinked back to himself and turned to me with a gleam. "Oh yes. You've been to see the beautiful Asha, then?" He added, and it sounded more like a statement than a question, but I nodded. His look grew even more sappy, if possible. "She is an amazing woman, no? So full of life and courage. She survived a direct brush with Regulos you know? Even came away from it with some pretty impressive powers over death magic." The awe in his voice was so thick I almost replied with something sarcastic, but I knew it wasn't a fair thing to make fun of an infatuation. We can't help who we fall in love with, although I've heard enough about Asha Catari to know she'd have no interest in Sylver. Her heart belonged to someone else. It was all very tragic actually. Stavel gave his mentor a pained look, then glanced at me, and I nodded. We both understood not to crush his hopes too harshly. It wasn't up to me to stomp on his dreams.

     "Well, you've certainly given me some promising advice, Sylver, and I appreciate it." I said finally. "I'm definitely going to see about making a name for myself here. I am proud to be chosen as a Defiant Ascended and woe our enemies who think to take Telara from us." I said, rather dramatically, but it seemed to do the trick, lightening Sylver's mood. he beamed at me with fatherly pride, and patted my hand.
     "Child, I've no doubt you will be a force to be reckoned with, and even Regulos will tremble when the time comes to face the destroyer himself."

     Back outside in the sunlight, I squinted and considered what else I'd like to accomplish while in the city. Oh yes, the library! How could I have forgotten? I quickly made my way to the central Foyer building, where I'd been told the library was, eager to get a peek at all that knowledge written on scrolls and tomes and parchments. I'd definitely missed the joy of a good book on a chilly evening. Inside, the building was lit with eldritch light, and many red robed scholars and acolytes scurried about the place, each with a determined air. I took a deep breath and could smell the scent of old pages. It felt like coming home, and a pang of loss hit me again. I wonder if I'd ever get over the loss of my home, my old life, and then I wondered whether that would be a good thing or not anyway. Shouldn't one remember their roots?

     "Ooooh, wow!" Was the first thing out of my mouth when I stepped inside the foyer of the main capital building. It was quite the sight. The ceiling soared high above my head, and even squinting, I couldn't make out how many floors and balconies I could see high up there. The walls were lined with row upon row of books. Many robed individuals strode around the spacious area with determined airs. A woman in a beautiful flowery dress was discussing something intently with a man and a woman holding hands, who couldn't seem to avoid giving each other sappy looks every two seconds, while a hard-looking Kelari man with scars all down his arms stood to one side and discussed a large map laid out on a table with two other Kelari. Both wore tabards and insignias in red and gold but bore marks I didn't recognize. Perhaps members of a certain guild here in the city? The smell of old parchment and sourcestone was sharp and I took deep breaths, feeling giddy. How absolutely amazing! I could literally spend hours in here reading these books! Just to prove my point, I scurried over to the wall and began reading titles: A History of the Eth, The Day the Rifts Came, Exodus, A Prison for a Dragon. Even just those few titles I read made me itch to sit down and read them all. Knowledge is power, in a mage's world, and I felt that especially applied to a mage who had been resurrected and dropped into what amounted to an unknown world with an unknown future. Hells, I didn't even have a firm grasp of past events! I went in search of a librarian or a scholar to ask about borrowing books from the library, and was delighted to find that I could indeed take books from the library as long as I returned them in a reasonable time and didn't damage them. I signed my name off on a few of the books that hinted at events of the past twenty years and ensconced myself at a sourcestone-lit table in a corner, content to sit and indulge myself in one of my favorite pastimes.