[empty for moment - keeping space as i may need it later while adding scenes to the story]
May 4th, 2004, 01:34 PM
"This mage, Bass, you mentioned?" Suzé squinted at Arleena.
"I don't know. I doubt it. And he wouldn't have access to elven assassins, would he?" Arleena leant back in her chair, and took a breath.
"You never know, do you?" Suzé said. "He's got the bottle, doesn't he?"
Arleena nodded slowly. "I see what you mean. But you've always got options, even when dealing with deities." She closed her eyes, thinking. "Sacrifice..." Her voice trailed off.
"Deities!" Suzé scoffed. "It's beyond me why mortals keep falling for them. Perhaps I should be a deity, huh?"
Arleena tilted her head and gave Suzé a look. "Occasionally, you do behave like one. And if you could reconcile the two aspects of you, you'd have the power, wouldn't you."
Suzé smirked, "And would you worship me?"
Arleena laughed at the thought.
"Who are you?" Sacrifice asked.
"Oh, just someone who clings to life just a bit too much," Gilli replied. "Much like you, come to think of it. You don't make a perfect sacrifice, I must say."
"That is not for you to decide," Sacrifice said. "You shouldn't have found me."
"And yet I have." Gilli drifted closer to the chained figure. "Imagine my surprise. There I was, drifting merrily along the streets of Derudin, scouting, and then there's this trace of someone... incomplete. In a place that isn't a place... Oh, I'm not good at that kind of talk, but you send out pretty powerful signals."
"Incomplete? I have given myself to the cause. I am Sacrifice. Nothing else matters."
"And I'm all dead, and not really here, and I don't care about that stupid gambler at all." Gilli giggled. "Just like you don't care about your daughter, at all."
Sacrifice remained silent.
"What do you think, she'll do, your Mistress, when she finds out that her sacrifice isn't complete?"
Slowly, sacrifice raised his head to look at the spirit.
"Tell you what," Gilli quipped, "you lay off Arleena, the Channel, and Reed, the Vortex, and I'll keep your little secret."
"Don't..." Sacrifice began, "don't mess with powers you don't understand."
Gilli drifted closer, still. "Think about what you would do to me if I threatened your little Myst." She gave him a while to let this settle. "Now, realize that you are threatening Reed, who happens to be as dear to me, as your daughter is to you." And with these words, Gilli dispersed.
May 5th, 2004, 07:57 PM
Tularis sank down on a hard bed, stretching his aching limbs. The small bedroom was strange and unfamiliar. White painted walls confronted him, supporting a low sloping ceiling strutted with beams. His head thrummed with a dull pain. He closed his eyes, weak and drained.
The last few days flashed before him, a sequence of events caught as still images. Seeing the distant smoke. Realising the town was under attack. Riding frantically to reach it in time. Confronting the marauding wolfmen. Witnessing death and destruction. Suffering and sacrifice.
Already, the fighting and heroics seemed so very distant, so far away. A lifetime ago. Time had disappeared, swallowed up by a hundred and one tasks. Repairing town walls and gates, evacuating women, children and injured men, tending to wounds, feeding horses, housing troops for the night, dealing with petty disputes between 'allies', posting guards and watchmen, liasing and planning with Anton.
Unable to sleep, Tularis opened his eyes and looked around the room. The house was close to the city walls, deserted when he stumbled upon it, front door left open. The room was laden with momentos of recent occupants. A half eaten meal lay upon a round table. Wooden knights were scattered across the floor, majestic in their silver armour, carrying formidable lances.
A hundred years is a long, long time to live a lie. How do you tell your daughter that for most of her life she has not known her real father? That you gave away your soul when she was but a child? That everything she knows of you is a fraud, a deceit? That you are nothing but a construct, shallow and empty, a pale imitation of reality?
Mystiqe asked for the truth about my death ten years ago. What would she say if she knew i relinquished mortality a hundred years ago? Only to survive, bound in chains, awaiting the moment to sacrifice the last remnants of my existence? How would she feel if she knew her own life was rendered a mockery? That she lived with this apparition for ninety years? A cold and heartless creature, who struggled to act as a husband and father?
Derudin. The Kul'tar. Mystiqe. Juzzza. My last true connections to this world. My wife and other children lie dead and buried. Would i have made the same decisions, the same mistakes, if i had been whole and complete? Would i have risked so much and lost it all?
The humans and the rogue thought they were dealing with the future. Working with someone who could restore the light to the elven people. Did i lead them astray with false hopes and dreams? They believed i could be that redeemer, a future emperor, one who could think differently and had the courage to act upon his beliefs.
But they liaised and worked with a construct. A mere construct. A being whose body and spirit are interminably separated. I could not keep going. Ninety years of decay left me with a weariness, an exhaustion, so absolute. My spirit was drained, the sacrifice in danger. I had to surrender the charade, to give up my hold on the things that mattered. Derudin, the Kul'Tar, my daughter and that rogue.
I tried to return one last time, to restore the elves to the light, to complete what i started... but i am crumbling away, dissolving, losing myself day by day. Fragmented and inconsistent. The sacrifice is in danger once more.
I can only hope that my faith in Juzzza is rewarded and that he is able to complete what we started so long ago.
May 5th, 2004, 10:30 PM
Juzzza sat in front of the small firepot that he shared with Myst. He took a long draw on his pipe and looked at the ebony features of his lover. She seemed content, which was not something Juzzza was used to. Myst was fiery, dangerous, and filled with passion, but she was not content…
“Are you going to tell them what comes tomorrow?” Myst asked quietly, her gaze suddenly intent.
“Aye, love, I’ll tell them what I can. Best be about it, if it’s to be done.” With that, he slowly stood and began collecting up the others. In a few minutes, the entirety of the LRI was collected in a half circle near Myst. For once, he thought, even Boldar appeared serious, if not precisely concerned. Mik and Crom were, as always, ready for whatever came, and Mya looked a bit fierce and protective, hovering just behind the squatting Boldar. Bass stood apart a bit, and Albert was no-where to be found.
Gravin stood in the shadows to the left, his hand on Quinot’s shoulder.
Juzzza began. “Tomorrow we enter Derudin. More precisely, Myst, Gravin, Albert and I enter Derudin.” He met the chorus of protests firmly. “As I said, Myst, Albert and I will enter Derudin and will seek to enlist the aid of several key nobles houses.”
“But they will seek to stop us in finding the Kult’ar!” Mya broke in.
“I already know the location of the Kult’ar.” Juzzza spoke calmly, evenly. Instead of the expected outburst, the group simply looked confused, perhaps suspicious. All but Bass and Gravin. Bass looked satisfied, and Gravin looked… expectant.
“The get the damnable thing here and let’s do what we came for and leave this damned place!” Boldar surged to his feet.
Mya put her hand on his shoulder and pulled him about a half turn. “Have you forgotten what else we must do? Have you forgotten Gina?”
Boldar grimaced. “Sorry lass. You’re right of course, but still, we could destroy the Kult’ar and then find Gina!”
“Aye Mate, perhaps we could, but there are… complications. The destruction of the Kult’ar will have many repercussions. More importantly, we must find an ally in the battle against the Advisor.”
“The drow? You want an alliance with the bloody drow?” Boldar seemed shocked. “No chance of that, they created the damned Kult’ar as a tool to destroy us all in the first place didn’t they? Why not let the Advisor do their work for them?”
Suddenly Albert materialized from the darkness behind Juzzza. “The Kult’ar has gone beyond what the drow intended, and the evil of the Advisor exceeds the forces of the Northern Kingdoms and the forces of the drow. The Advisor is utterly deadly, and must be dealt with. We must make common cause with the drow.” He paused. “And, we must destroy the Kult’ar.”
“We must solve for it, agreed…” Juzzza interceded.
“No Juzzza, destroy.” Replied Albert.
Juzzza finished. “So, I will use Albert to get a meeting with the ruler of Derudan seeking to make a truce against the Advisor, and Gravin will seek a truce between the only two powers available to stop the Advisor. The drow will see the reason in this.”
Albert pushed in again. “And if they don’t we will offer them the destruction of the Kult’ar as a concession.”
Juzzza gaped. “God’s man, we can’t put it in their hands…”
“We won’t. We will destroy it, which is something that they likely understand the need for by this time as well as we do. Its existence guarantees the destruction of all they hold dear too…”
Juzzza stared for along minute at Albert. “It may mean their destruction either way…”
“Perhaps they don’t know that.” Albert answered.
Bass stepped forward. “You presume much, Albert. I hope you know what you are doing. There is a goddess involved here…”
Albert smiled. “Yes, and she needs to understand that I am involved.”
Bass turned and walked away a few paces without further comment. Juzzza was staring fixedly between Quinot and Albert.
Boldar closed the conversation. “Fine then, but I’m only waiting around here for one day while you make your plea. Then Mya and I are going our own way.”
May 5th, 2004, 10:37 PM
Stalking the perimeter of the town, Kahn checked every blind spot was covered and all the guards on full alert. The fighting had become endless and he'd trudged knee deep through the bodies of friend and foe many times recently.
He was no stranger to the carnage and had fought countless battles against odds that had felt insurmountable.
That was what berserkers were for. What they specialised in.
Breaking the lines, driving through tightly ranked formations of defenders and driving them back with a combination of fear and brute force.
Shock troops empowered with the Berserker Rage.
It was originally a gift from the Earth Goddess to her children, to defend their homes from the more "civilized" warfare of paid professionals, but instead of just skin paint and animal fur, she had endowed them with primal ferocity and killer instinct in the forms of all Earth’s natural born killers; the bear, the wolf, the cobra, the crocodile amongst many others.
Despite the recent clashes with this renegade berserker force, Kahn felt contempt toward them. They were weak by his standards and fell far too easily in battle to be considered worthy of his ilk.
They had the rudiments of a berserker tribe, but they lacked the passion that counted in mortal combat. As well as the innate fighting instinct that he had seen many times before.
"We should all have been killed a long time ago." he scoffed to himself reflectively.
Kahn finished his inspection and sat by the door of the tavern. He took a pipe from it’s pouch and filled it with dried leaves and then lit it, drawing deeply on the smoke, feeling it’s remedial effects within seconds.
The pain left his limbs and his wounds tinged with the sensations of regeneration.
“Praise the Goddess”, he muttered to himself enjoying the brief respite, "She still has need for her brood."
May 5th, 2004, 10:49 PM
Several hours later, after a brief rest, Juzzza, Albert, Mystique, and Gravin were ready to leave. Quinot was left with Bass of all people.
"Keep the boy safe at all costs!" Juzzza instructed.
Bass nodded, understanding settling in finally. All the pieces fit. "With my life, and those of the rest of the group if needed."
Juzzza nodded, satisfied. "Thank you, mate."
As he and the others walked off, Boldar approached. "Why did pretty boy leave the boy with you of all people?"
"The boy is very... special, and Juzzza wants me to ensure his protection. I have promised such Boldar, on my life."
Boldar looked moderately surprised. "Then my life is pledged to old man, as you well know by now."
Bass smiled. "I know. And I already committed it..."
"You could ask a man first!" Grumped Boldar.
"Yes, I could. But then you'd have nothing to complain about big man."
Several hours later, following directions from Myst, the group entered the massive cavern of Derudin from a little used side passage. They found themselves on a small shelf of rock about a hundred feet above the cavern floor, a jagged winding stair carved into the rock led down.
The city itself was something beyond imagination. The entire cavern glowed with a dreamlike glow of reds, blues, and greens, all soft. It appeared that the very rock produced the various glows.
"It is glowstone, and only exists in this one place in the world, to the best of my knowledge. If you remove it far from this cavern it stops glowing, though even the great mages know not why."
Gravin, who had never been to the underdark city, nodded in appreciation of the fact.
The city itself was carved into the features of the cavern itself. The stalagmites and stalactites, the stone outcroppings and the very walls of the cavern in places had been carved into massive compound complexes. Between these more standard stone buildings had been built, though the architecture was odd, appearing much like clusters of toadstools in many places. It all glowed in the flickering colorful lights.
"It's like a dream!" Gravin said dreamily.
"Derudin can be more of a nightmare for outsiders..." Juzzza answered knowingly.
Myst nodded agreement. "Let's get going. We are going to the Dome of Dominion," she pointed vaguely towards a great domed stone structure in the center of the massive city. "We'll find the Emperor there."
"But first," Juzzza inturrupted, "we have a city of about 50,000 drow to pass through, most of which would enjoy taking us as slaves or playthings..."
Myst shook her head. "Not true, Juz. There's more like 80,000 drow who'd like to enslave you. Then their is a few who might just rob you."
Myst smiled. "But, a capable group, well armed, can often travel safely. We do, after all, have traders from the topside that visit."
Juzzza motioned to the stairs. "Well then, luv, after you."
May 6th, 2004, 01:08 PM
"This is gonna be interesting", Mystiqe murmurred, leading the party through a concealed doorway. "Juz and I are still on the Emperor's most wanted list. It will be fun walking in on him unannounced."
She turned around and grinned at Sir Gravin.
The human shifted uncomfortably. "I hope you know what you're doing. I've only ever heard bad things about the Emperor."
"How shall i put this?", Juzzza remarked wryly, "He's greedy, selfish, malicious, vindictive, cruel and egotistical. And those are only his best features. He'd sooner drive a dagger through my heart than speak to me. And he'd do far worse to Myst".
"Then we don't stand a chance of an alliance?", Gravin queried, concern etched on his face.
"We have to go through the proper routes, my boy", Albert replied, chuckling under his breath. "If we went straight to the heads of the four noble houses, bypassing the Emperor, all hell would break loose."
Mystiqe pulled four dark cloaks down from a set of hooks on the wall. She tossed one to each member, donning one herself. "We're going to use the underground passages, built by the assassin's guild. One of the tunnels leads directly into the Emperor's chamber. If we encounter any dark elves en route, stay concealed and leave the talking to me."
Reaching up, Mystiqe grasped the third cloak hook from the left. Deftly, she twisted the hook around in the wall, rotating it a full 360 degrees. Gravin and Albert shot backwards, bumping into Juzzza. The rogue laughed. In front of them, a flagstone tilted downwards, revealing a dark passageway.
"Juz will walk at the back, closing the secret doors after us", Mystiqe said quietly. She stepped into the gloom, eyes adjusting to the blackness.
"I will, will I?", Juzzza teased, watching her carefully.
"Yes, you will, rogue", Mystiqe said softly, voice dancing with mischief. She glanced back, fleetingly catching his eyes.
"I have very fond memories of these tunnels", he replied, slowly looking her up and down.
She grinned at him, eyes flashing in the dark, and headed further into the tunnel, disappearing from view.
"How the heck can we see in here?", Gravin muttered, stooping down to follow the dark elf.
"Humans can't", Myst whispered, still grinning. "Just stay close, keep your hand on my shoulder. Walk if i walk, stop if i stop. Albert will watch your back".
"Well, it's big enough", Albert mumbled, descending after the knight. "I can scarcely lose you in here, Gravin. Light or no light."
"It's been a long time, honey", Juzzza murmurred, slipping into the velvety blackness. He blindly probed the tunnel wall until his fingers encountered a brick that gave under their pressure. Gently, he pushed the brick inwards. There was a faint click, barely audible.
Above their heads, the flagstone slid back into place.
May 6th, 2004, 10:26 PM
Note to all -- there are some area's where we have interesting inconsistencies (not surprising with all of us writing). I just noticed that Myst seems to be fighting the Advisor and in Derudin at the same time. Best bet is likely to just keep running, and fix it all in editing...
Boldar watched the others go, and as soon as they were out of sight, stood up and began packing his things.
"What are you doing?" Mya was watching him interestedly.
"WE," he emphasized the word, "are going to get Gina."
"But Boldar, we have to stay and wait... we... well, hell, I didn't want to sit around anyhow..."
Boldar smiled broadly and walked over to Bass. "Old man, the lass and I need to go find Gina. Don't trust Reed any farther than I could throw him... actually, I could throw him a lot farther than I trust him, come to think."
Bass nodded, unsurprised. "I'd expect no less of you Boldar. Don't worry, Mik and Crom will keep the camp safe with me."
Boldar nodded and shouldered his pack. Mya joined him, also ready, a savage smile on her face.
"I don't know the back way in Boldar, only Myst knew that."
"Aye, but I know the front way, and I think two lost caravan guards who's faces aren't well known just may get in."
"How do you know... wait, they do know our faces!"
"They won't after Bass casts a spell on us... he has a few nice illusions that have come in handy over the years. And I know the way because I was a caravan guard for a decade... been here several times lass."
A few moments later, each looking very different than they had before (Boldar looked like a middle aged and much shorter brawny man, and Mya looked like a slender young man), the two head off towards the larger cavern leading to the main entrance to Derudin.
"Boldar," Mya purred. "Give me a nice kiss..."
Boldar shuddered. "God's above stop that! It could set my recent advancements back a decade, if you know what I mean!"
Mya laughed a silvery laugh. "Don't worry big man, you'll be fine... Besides, I don't like short men."
Boldar grimaced. "And I don't like any men."
"You seem to protest a lot, big man... perhaps your comments about Gina and me were subtle signs of..."
Boldar interupted. "Crap on a stick, it was not a sign of anything woman! Leave off!"
"Oh, I think I came out on top of that one, big man."
"I don't mind the thought of you on top... just not NOW." Boldar smiled lecherously.
"Keep you mind on business, big man." If Boldar could see clearly he would notice that Mya was blushing.
Two hours later they passed the guards after mimimal questioning at the main entrance to Derudin and walked down the gently sloping path towards the city.
"Where to big man?"
"Don't know, but I do imagine that the one place I know is the right place to start."
"And that is?"
"Caravaneers quarter taverns of course. Most likely place to find Gina, or find news of Gina."
May 7th, 2004, 01:50 AM
Albert brought up the rear, Daniel trotting at his heels.
"Yum... rat." Daniel commented as his dinner squeaked.
"Two or four legged?" Albert asked as his eyes began to glow.
Daniel peered up at his companion ,"Show off."
"I am not stumbling around in the dark for anyone. "Albert retorted.
"Seems to me that's all you do."
"So much you know."
"I know a lot more than I let on." Daniel huffed and eyed up another rat, licking his lips.
"That is par for the course for everyone and I have gotta go." Albert answered and stopped dead, watching the others fade down the tunnel.
"You should of thought of that before we started. Rare, medium or well done." Daniel changed the subject of conversation as a small plume of flame trickled round the cornered rat.
"No go as in upstairs." Albert said sadly.
"They want a progress report?"Daniel sat back on his tail and his prey made a break for freedowm, it was a bad move. Daniel trapped in under his right foreleg, the talons click on the stone floor.
"Seems like it, I have a horrible buzzing in my head."
Daniel swore; bit the head off the rat and vanished along with the Hat Man. A blast of chill air drove down the tunnel battering the others. Juzzza glanced back narrowing his eyes, trying to see in the darkness. "Damn what is he up to now"
"Who?" Myst asked and sighed knowing very well who.
Albert was standing on a small outcrop of rock. His hair was unbound and floated round him. He was wearing a long dove-grey robe, with a twisted belt of gold, from which hung a basket-hilted blade, which looked as if it had been made of crystal. Daniel was nestled between his feet sitting on the hem of the robe, his whirling eyes on the lights that seemed to be flashing above Albert's head.
"What they saying?" Daniel whispered.
"Shussssss" Albert replied and narrowed his eyes.
"Shusss, thought he was dead."
"Be quiet!" Albert hissed.
"Yes, please do..." A soft, female voice said. It was followed by a deep male laugh.
"Oh sh""e" Daniel covered his eyes with his forepaws and lowered his muzzle to the ground.
"You have a great deal of patience with him" The female voice remarked.
"Far too much." The male agreed.
"Daniel is useful" Albert replied.
"We didn't mean the drake as well you know." The female voice said.
"Hmmmm well..... It will all work out in the end." Albert sighed.
"Yes it will, you know what will happen to you when the Kult'ar is destroyed."
"I am out of there" Albert said a little sharply.
"In more ways than one." Male voice replied. "We won't let you back."
Daniel snorted at this.
"You have an opinon?" The female asked.
"Errr yes... you haven't managed to stop him doing anything he really wants too as far as I know."
"On the contrary we prevented him from dying."
"You wanted to die?" The drake looked up at Albert in amazement.
"Still do..." Albert sighed.
"One thousand years to pay off your debt to the "powers that be" Then you can go back and live out your normal span, or rather as long as you wish."
"Gods, worse than tight wad money lenders." Daneil said.
"You will not go back... once that device is rid of."
"Alright I promise "Albert" won't go back." Albert said winking down at his small companion.
May 7th, 2004, 04:30 AM
Note 'Myst seems to be fighting the Advisor and in Derudin at the same time.' - it's not quite as bad as it looks, and can be repaired when editing by altering the scene sequencing - i've assumed that Mystiqe rode towards Derudin after the fight at the town, catching the party up - i should probably write an earlier scene explaining that - the two threads are out of synch timewise, the events at the town were all on a single day/night after Juzzza and Albert departed, the events in the underdark are several days ahead.
Edit - I've moved some of the scenes i wrote backwards and added new ones in to fit the story timeline better and explain why Mystiqe returns to the LRI party. The storyline is more synchronised now.