Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Writing Practice: Day two

[Writer's note:  I intended to submit this yesterday, but I didn't have a chance.  Today's submission will be pushed back a day.  So much for the 3k words a day challenge!  But I'll still make it to 21k words if I can.]

Will, bound for greatness, dreaming vividly for the good of all
Valor, the protector, learning, striving for the ultimate test
Pride the King descends to madness; Greed forever yearns... alone

The trip from the destroyed village of Hendric was peaceful.  Too peaceful, in fact... it was more accurate to say that it was dead.  Ranger-- there was no formal group to grant such a title unlike Knight or some other classes, thus Jenna needed only to think of herself as such-- was the first to point this out, fitting in to her new role nicely.  "It's almost as if the Necromancer infected the entire valley.  We should probably leave as fast as possible..."  "Aww, you're afraid of the big bad skellingtons?"  Sage shrugged.  "Don't tease the newbie, Rowan.  You didn't last that long against the evil adventurers either.  Laven, we need to grab you a hammer or something at the next town.  There's no flesh to cut, and the hammer will shatter bones easier."  "Aye, that we do.  You think you want a couple blackjacks, Rowan?"  "Don't mind if I do.  Always good to have back-ups. Jenna, anything on your shopping list?"  "A staff or spear.  Bows aren't made for hitting things."

The banter was pleasing to Wizard, though she did not participate in it.  It suited her place as the Wizard to stay quiet unless needed anyway-- nevermind the injuries she suffered so long ago, facing off against Ajaar the Utopian.  A madman, driven by Sorrow and Rage to rule the world, Ajaar was utterly unpredictable, and had captured Wizard, torturing her with knives, before she managed to take one of them.  As a Wizard, she had a sacrificial blade-- all of them did.  Most used it to sacrifice various spell materials, such as roots of various vegetables, or the blood of farm animals.  Three things were forbidden to be sacrificed in this way... the blood of humans, bones, and gold, for all three were representative of the three forbidden classes-- Bloodmage, Necromancer, and Deific Mage.

Wizard had, at one point, been all three of those.  But that was the past.  Now she was merely Wizard, sacrificing the electrons in the air in order to create lightning, or the mud in the earth in order to summon a stone spike to impale her enemies.  Back then, though... she was desperate.  Stabbing the knife she took from her captor in to him, she sacrificed all of his blood, and used the energy to banish him to the furthest reaches of the cosmos, to float forever amidst the horrors in the void between the stars.  In desperation not to be overcome by the lust for power, Wizard slit her own throat, and laid down to die.  How she didn't was beyond her knowledge.

"Hey, wizzy!  We should get you a staff as well.  Or maybe a sword.  I know you're not a Swordmage, but that dinky dagger won't help you that much against skeletons."  Brought out of her depression, temporarily, by Rogue's question.  It wasn't a bad idea.  A sword could also be used as a sacrificial blade-- anything with a properly honed edge could (though it had to be honed by the mage themself, to attune them to the blade).  It's the very reason that swordmages and battlemages existed, after all.  Cutting the air to gather charge, or to free up oxygen and hydrogen to allow for combustion would make her spells easier, if shorter ranged.  With a nod, Wizard assented to Rogue's suggestion, making Knight grin.  "Heh, what makes you think she can properly use it, though?  Only thing I've ever seen her use is that knife."  Ranger grinned.  "Only thing I've seen you use is your mouth, Laven."  "Ahaha, she has you there."  

Sage sighed, and stopped the group.  "We have company... I count five undead auras, under the ground in front of us."  Ranger muttered "Underground?  That's just unfair." as she readied her hatchets.  "Come on Jenna, at least you have axes.  My daggers might as well be bare hands against these things."  As they bantered, the undead opponents realized they had been noticed, and raised up from the ground.  Dirt melted off of them like sand, forming in to their attire and armor-- armor that ended up somehow... different and twisted.  Visions of their darker ambitions, perhaps... or maybe just a temptation.  Or a lie...

Knight's undead doppleganger, instead of his shining silvered platemail with greatsword, was standing in exquisite gold-embossed armor, wielding a royal blade and shield.  For Rogue, the leather armor and cape was replaced by a chainmail shirt and leather cloak, hood covering a shadowed, rotting face as it drew its poisoned blades.  Sage's counterpart wore tattered grey robes, a crown of crystal spikes upon its head as its black staff materialized in its hand, and next to her stood a skeleton with dual swords, full leather armor, and a repeating crossbow across its back.  But more peculiarly, Wizard's opposite stood as if it was entirely alive, its skin even becoming pinkish instead of pale as its wizardly hat formed upon its head, and a plain oak staff manifested in its hands.  

"Hey Wizard, why do you get the opposite that's alive?  I hate fighting undead."  As the five pairs squared off, Wizard against Mage, Sage against Lich, Ranger against Strider, Rogue against Bandit, Warrior against Slayer, the Wizard and Mage stood there, simply watching eachother.  None of them seemed ready to make the first move, until Mage spoke.  "Alive...?  That's impossible..."  It stood dumbstruck at its newfound life, and the comment shocked its undead companions, allowing the group to get the first strike upon their dopplegangers.  Now with the advantage, they began to corner the four, forcing them to stand back to back surrounded by the real copies.  Then, Wizard's soft voice spoke out in the minds of everyone here.  "We should leave now.  Nothing good will come of defeating them."  The other nine stood in shock at the comment.  "What... how DARE you ignore us!" the Slayer shouted, charging forth only to get kicked down by the Knight.  "Hey, when Wizard speaks, you listen.  Wizard, explain yourself."  

"These aren't dopplegangers.  They're the spirits of your ancestors, pulled across time and laid as a trap here.  The only exception... is me."  Wizard pulled her knife out, and laid a cut on her arm.  Covering the knife with blood, Wizard sealed the wound and then pushed the knife forward towards the Mage.  A hologram of a golden sundial appeared, rewinding itself as Mage began to vanish, before disappearing altogether along with the sundial itself disintegrated in to light.  "So, that's how I was revived, then." Wizard mused to herself, as she collapsed on to one knee.  "Make peace with your ancestors... you have no need to hate eachother."

The group looked at her in shock.  How was she excepted... and what exactly was Wizard?  So did the ancestors... they already knew what their role was, such was the magic within Necromancer's spell that they could not have remained ignorant of that.  But for a mortal to find it out so fast... and for a mortal to have no ancestor to call back?  Lich began to wonder how exactly this paradox started, as well, because she had recognized what was going on with Mage instantly.  "Time travel is stupid" Wizard muttered, and collapsed on her side.  Sage looked towards Lich, then ran to heal her companion, knowing that blood loss wasn't something to let slide lightly.  "Hm, so my descendant is a healer.  Either way you control life and death... even if our paths are different, I am pleased.  Especially since that one defeated Ulrik the Necromancer and freed me from my debt."  Amused, the Lich created a portal and stepped through, leaving its temporary companions to wreak revenge upon its captor's soul.

"Hmph.  So my descendant is a Knight?  At least you're good with a sword."  "Better tahn you, old man.  After all, I forced you to back up."  "Ahahahah, I think I'm fine with this.  That fat bastard pulled me out of Valhalla for his petty plans, but at least I can see that my blood has not been misspent by my descendants."  Strider nodded.  "I'm eager to rid myself of this unnatural form as well.  And you, Herald?"  Bandit shrugged, not speaking from under its mask, as he began to let himself go.  One by one, they vanished, the spell broken... the heroes stood there in anticlimactic shock.  "What ... the hell?"  Ranger shouted, then repeated herself all the louder.  Though Knight and Rogue said nothing, they certainly mirrored Ranger's shouted objection.  "Calm down... Wizard just helped us avoid some stupid nonsense."  "I just... I expected something more, Felicia.  And what the hell was with that Mage?  I thought you can't travel back in time?"  "You can't... or... I thought you couldn't.  I don't know what Wizard did, but that shouldn't have happened." 

"No, really, you think?  Come on Felicia, I think we really do need to turn her in this time.  Blood magic and deific magic both used in a single spell?  She has crossed too many lines..."  Rogue raised his eyes wide.  "Wait, that was deific magic?   How do you know?"  "Because only deific magic can defy the laws of nature like  that!"  Drawing his sword, Knight moved over the unconscious body of Wizard, and prepared to decapitate her.  "Laven, no!"  Sage moved, blocking the blow.  The force of the swing and the weight of the greatsword forced Sage on to her knees, though the enchantment on her staff held.  "Don't stop me, Felicia.  This is for the good of everyone."  Ranger moved to draw her bow and notched an arrow.  "I'm siding with Felicia here.  I don't know your Wizard very well, but even if she IS in the wrong, we can't be making hasty decisions about killing our friends."  "Yeah, Jenna's right.  Put the sword down, Laven."  Rogue moved to push against the sword with his daggers, helping Sage stand up despite Knight's great strength.  "You... all of you... you'd betray God for this... blood mage?"

"So you're a paladin now?  I thought you were a knight."  "I swore an oath!  I let her blood magic slide because she had not shown herself to be evil, but... I cannot forgive Deific magic.  I will not let a Deific magic user threaten the throne of God!  Despite his words, he let up on his strength, until Sage and Rogue were able to force him to sheath his sword behind his back.  "I'm going... I cannot stay with this group any more.  I can't let up on any more of the evil stewing within."  Turning his back on the others, he walked away, ignoring their complaints.  "Goodbye, Felicia... I hope this does not lead to your doom."  Sage was crushed, and dropped to her knees.  Though she could never act on her feelings, they were still there. Rogue hugged her, honestly caring and not wanting to take advantage of her loneliness.  "Wow... I... never knew Knights were like that."  Jenna said, heading to prepare a camp on a nearby hill.  The party wasn't likely to move much further than this today... and the sooner they had a defensible camp, the better.


"I hope you're happy, Wizard..." Sage said, still going through her emotions.  yet the look on Wizard's face was anything but.  Just more of that self loathing that Sage had seen earlier... much more in fact.  Sage did not get her title without being at least a little sagacious, and psychology and sociology were required studies for healers anyway... she could see that Wizard was already beating herself up over it, inside of that scarred up head.  A pained whisper came from Wizard's scarred throat in response, almost more like a mouthed breath than a whisper.  "I'm not... but ... some things had to be done..."  Coughing up blood, Wizard turned away, leaving a worried Sage to try another healing spell upon her.  

Rogue continued to sharpen his blades, asking:  "Is Wizzy gonna make it?"  "Yes, I think so.  I certainly hope so... she has some questions to answer."  "Yeah, no kidding."  Ranger said, finishing up their shelter and keeping the fire from the wind with a few large stones.  "Our priest had told us that no Mage had tried Deific magic in centuries.  If that's actually what it is... well, I'd be surprised."  Wizard sat up, and sage pushed her pack behind the hooded woman.  "It wasn't... deific."  The wizard shrugged, using magic t o replicate the sounds taht her throat could no longer do.  "That nonsense term... no such thing as deific magic anyway.  Gods don't use magic.  They're another level of beings entirely."  This explanation at least would make sense to the others, Wizard thought, perhaps it'd save her from saying something truly heretical.

"I guess, but what exactly did you cast back there?"  "It doesn't have a name.  Like Jenna said, it hasn't been used in centuries.  It doesn't make sense, not to mortal minds... it's more fair to say the magic was using me, to create a causal link to prevent the paradox that had happened, but in doing so it caused paradox that needed to be prevented in the first place, turning it in to an infinite causal loop... I died shortly after I defeated Ajaar, decades ago.  Then I appeared somewhere else... lived up until this time, and met with my past self just as that Necromancer revived me, and knew instinctively that I had to send her back.. creating a knot in time, as it were.  Your priests call it deific magic because supposedly only a deity can truly understand what's going on."  Even sage looked dubious at that explanation, yet Wizard seemed to think it sufficed.  At the very least, they thought she was hiding things from them still.  It couldn't have been that simple or that complex....

Sage recalled hearing the woman say "time travel is stupid"  shook her head.  "So it's time magic then?  No wonder the priests would forsake it.  You could do more damage with that than with what they say Deific magic is.  But you used blood, not gold." Wizard meekly smiled and shrugged, not having the magical energy to speak again yet, she simply let it slide.  There was no contradiction in her mind, at least, but to those not experienced in magic use, they didn't know how magical energy wasn't really all that different between the various forms.  Blood was a source of energy for everything, which is why blood mages are so powerful.  And why they, took, were forbidden.  "Let her rest.  We all need to sleep.  I'll take first watch tonight." Ranger nodded, and Rogue nominated himself as last watch, leaving Sage to take middle.  

The night was cold and dreary, the only sound being the mild wind that picked up only a couple times each hour ,and even then it was quiet-- no rustling leaves, no spooked animals, no hunting predators... the forest was dead.  Even the air in it felt dead, and Rogue woke them all up early to have breakfast at the dying campfire so they could get out of it as early as possible.  The woods would be haunted soon, he suspected, remembering some tales from the Thieves' guild of things similarly happening in the heartwoods of each nation.  They were haunted, and any adventurers that came out were twisted... and cruel.  "Uh.. shit, I just thought of a problem.  Felicia?  Do you have any way of indicating that we are not evil when we arrive at town?  After what's happening to these woods, they may think us evil adventurers, not good."  "hm.  I suppose I can use a bluelight spell.  It is harmful to the eyes of innately evil beings..."  

With a shrug, she asks:  "Do you really think it's going to be that bad?"  "Yeah... this is the last nation for it to happen in, so there's been time for rumors to go around the thieves' guilds about what's happened to every other nation... it's like... the nations, and indeed the spirit of adventure, are rotting from within, and they say nothing good can come out of these forests untainted."  Ranger responded:  "No animals have come out yet... they're all hiding, all running away, or all dead.  So I can see why they'd say that...especially if each adventurer had to fight their undead dopplegangers-- I don't know how many of them could have won in a normal fight."

Wizard began to wish she had a staff already.  The blood loss from the two fights has not been easy on her.  The others-- aside from Knight, who recovered quickly with his immense fortitude-- had taken mostly minor injuries, but Wizard had been hurt more in her fight with the Necromancer than she let on, and then she had to sacrifice so much blood to send herself back in time... she was looking forward to a hot meal and a warm bed more than anyone else in the group.  Not that they were looking forward to it much less than she... none of them were ascetics like Knight was, and even Sage could enjoy the comfort of a warm tavern room, sitting next to a candle reading a book.  Rogue no doubt would try to seduce a young lady.  Ranger, however, was unlikely much like the idea of reporting the news from her village... still, she had friends in nearby towns, so at least she could take comfort in meeting them again.

And so, with both hesitation and joy, they broke from the forest and came upon the town of Eldricsburg, and hailed the guardsmen atop the walls.  It took an hour before the doors were open, but they were allowed in... only to find themselves escorted to the guardhouse under the guidance of Sage's blue light.  

"We have some questions for you.  You're the first ones to come out of the Hendricsfir alive..."

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