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 PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2003 10:02 pm    Post subject: Apocalypse Reply with quote Back to top

Xyra's Memory

The World Birthing. Snap. The Kingdom Age. Snap. The Imperial Age. Snap. I remember them all, for I was there. The humans' histories only go back so far, but my memory goes back farther. For my people perished at the dawn of time, crushed and burned by the young wyrms called Dragons. then Krolm, in his jealousy, crushed the wyrms. Then his children overthrew him, and their children surpassed them. Then mortal man attempted to rule Ardania alone, but a wise man released the gods. And all through the ages I have waited. But in the interim between the fall of Imperium and the rebirth of the gods, when darkness all but consumed the world, I finally came out.
My people were slain before they could name themselves. I have sat in the dark throughout history, knowing the jealous gods would crush me if they sensed my power, and so am unknown in all the histories. But now,
now they are weak, and I stronger than they. Foolish human Wizards, smarter than they were wise, have created the perfect soldiers - strong, pitiless, without loyalty to the gods they never knew. So I will now succeed where my ancestors and predecessors failed. I will take what is mine and fulfill my destiny as the last of my race. And Gods, Dragons, and Men will tremble before the name of the scion of the nameless ones.
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 PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2003 1:18 am    Post subject: Apocalypse Reply with quote Back to top

Dramatis Personae

Bragor the Rogue Lord
Fabulariax Ajust
, Lord of Shadowood City
Fervus/Chaos Mask[/b], God of Whim and Chaos
Hifhim Yimabaaph, Chaos Mage
Iscara, renegade Lycolongus
Nwnllyr, Advisor to Lord Bragor

, apparition; in life, Protector of Mankind
Cao Nan Liang, a Wizard of New Valmorgen; son of the infamous Magelord Cao En
Darac, son of Tarac and Prince of the Lycolongi
Kynoto Flagfinder, bounty hunter

, Alchemist of East Cheswick and leader of the surviving Gold Dragons
Amasteryx, oldest of the living Fire Dragons
Ocimillium, Archon of the Black Dragons
Emarius, gold Dracomage under Alexandra
Erenull, female Fire Dragon; object of Infernuvar's and Vestreun's jealous affection
Infernuvar, Fire Dragon and brother of Vestruen
Vestruen, Fire Dragon and brother of Infernuvar

, Vampire; servant of Ocimillium

Supporting Cast
, Goddess of Death
Kuvellon Windthorn, Alchemist of the Star Fortress Lunord's Gate
Luna, daughter of Lunord and Protectress of the Moon
Marcon Silencia, Captain of the Shadowood Guard
Morkiorosiph, son of Krypta; in life, Master of the Warlocks
Regina, Guildmistress and Representative of the Sellswords' Guild; also Queen of the Lycolongi
Tarac, Lord of Sanctuary and King of the Lycolongi
Zadta, a Harpy under Rogue Lord Bragor

Tale of the Apocalypse

The Star Fortress of Lunord's Gate was a blossoming community inhabited by Dwarves, Elves, and one human Alchemist. The Dwarves maintained the Fortress, keeping it operational and habitable in the void of near-empty space surrounding the sphere whereon lay Ardania. They also provided the Fortress' main garrison, for they were armed with the dragonmouths, the magical flame-spewing weapons invented by their race and the Alchemists some time before. These Flamcarls, as they were called, provided the Fortress' first line of defense against void-borne monsters determined to crush the mortals' incursion into their realm.
In contrast to the grim Dwarves were the blue-skinned Elves. If the Dwarven mechanics kept the Fortress habitable, the Elven bards kept it livable. The elves provided entertainment, with songs, dances, poetry, and story-telling. They also directed the shipment of the precious artemite ore to Ardania, where it was processed and turned into such useful things as the mystic runeblades, wielded by the Elven Blade Sorcerors.
Then there was the Alchemist, Kuvellon Windthorn. He provided the vital magic force that kept the Fortress aloft. Aided by Dwarves, he maintained the precarious balance of the ether winds within and without the Fortress.
That daywatch they were passing over the continent of Ardania itself. A Dwarven aeroship was to come to deliver fresh supplies and transport the artemite back to the refining stations. It was a time of celebration, for as the Star Fortress orbited more slowly than the Moon, this occurence happened only once every two weeks. That daywatch, however, was different.
Kuvellon was the first to sense it. There was a subtle shift in the ether winds. He alerted the captain of the Flamcarls, then forgot about it. But when the captain reported that nothing was sighted, Kuvellon frowned. He dismissed the captain, and sat alone, staring at the panel of enchanted glass that told him the status of the ship. He jumped as a shiver passed through the winds, and he knew that someone had just entered the room.
"Surprised?" asked a light, slightly raspy tone. The Alchemist stood, and turned to face the speaker. He gasped in shock at what he saw, and raised his hands to cast a defensive spell.
Before him stood an apparition born from some strange dream. Over six feet tall the creature stood, not counting the horn that swept up from the back of the head or the long tail that swayed behind it. It was garbed in a silver robe, which blended oddly with the pale green tint of its hairless skin. Eyes the colour of wine looked out at him from beneath high brows. The creature was smiling, barely revealing the tips of fangs beneath its lips.
"W-what are you?" stammered the Alchemist.
"My name is Xyra," answered the creature. "That is the only name I have; the rest of my race was destroyed eons ago."
"What - what do you want?" The Alchemist licked his lips.
"I desire a great many things, human. If you make the wise choice now, you will come to learn some of them. If your choice is the foolish one, I need not explain myself further."
"What choice?"
"My dear Alchemist, surely you are not so dense. Your choice is simple: bow down to me as your lord and master or perish. And be quick; I haven't got all day."
The man's mind was reeling. He had never heard of anything like this; how should he react? He sensed great power about this creature, but only mistily, like seeing the Sun on a cloudy day. But then his mind snapped to a decision.
"Never," he answered. "My loyalty is to the Guild and to Lunord my patron. I shall never bow to you."
"Your loyalty does you credit," said the creature. "A pity it is so sadly misplaced." It raised a hand, extended a finger. A small point of light formed there; the creature pointed at Kuvellon, and the spark jumped out. It was the last thing the Alchemist saw in this life.

The captain of the Dwarven aeroship squinted at the approaching Star Fortress.
"Strange," he grunted. "I haven't received Kuvellon's welcoming message. And what're all those strange lights in the Star Fortress?"
The Fortress was indeed filled with "strange lights." They flickered and danced, first on the inside, then on the outside. And then - the whole Fortress exploded! The blast rammed the aeroship backward, smashing it into the outer layers of the atmosphere. Even through the void of space the captain could hear a faint rumbling, the merest echo of the catastrophe that had overtaken Lunord's Gate.
The rapid descent through the atmosphere began to burn even the aeroship's tough armour. The blast had damaged the propulsion system; now all the crew could do was strap themselves in and pray to whatever gods they followed.

The Dwarf awoke with a terrible headache. He looked up blearily, and saw an orange glow above him.
"Like happy festival fireworks, yes?" said an unfamiliar voice. "Fitting to herald my return to the outer world."
The Dwarf got up. He glared at the pale green monstrosity standing beside him. "Who in blazes are you?"
"Really, is that any way to address me? You should be thanking me for saving your miserable life. Your companions were all killed in the shipwreck."
The Dwarf looked around. He was surrounded by smouldering wreckage. He ground his teeth when he recognized the captain's insignia on a charred corpse.
"You'll pay for this, whoever you are," he growled.
"Sorry for disagreeing, but I think you are the ones who will pay, in blood. I shall quite enjoy collecting the bill." So saying, the creature vanished. The Dwarf was left to make his way back to his Guild and report.

Last edited by Falotar on Mon Oct 18, 2004 1:21 pm; edited 2 times in total
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 PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2003 4:02 pm    Post subject: Apocalypse Reply with quote Back to top

The Central Plains had been scorched for a week by the unforgiving Sun. According to legend, this land had once been fertile and pleasant, but the Cataclysm transformed it into arid scrubland bordering on desert. That day promised a change in the weather; it was sultry and clouds could be seen billowing out from their fastnesses in the Mountains of Sydrian in the southwest.
It was punishing weather to work or fight in, but that did not stop the battles held in the Coliseum, centerpiece of the city known as Sanctuary. It had been constructed by the Lycolongi, a race created by the Magelord Cao En to serve as his elite guards and assault teams. Outcast from human society, the Lycolongi had been in danger of dissipating in lawlessness and banditry. But one, Tarac, formerly En's Captain of the Guard, who was respected by everyone who knew of him, built this city and began raising the Lycolongi from the dust into the clouds. Bred with an unquenchable love of fighting, the Coliseum had been built to curb their lust for battle and hone their skills at the same time. Every day, a Lycolongus would be there, challenging another of his kind or any warrior who came to Sanctuary. And there were not a few who did; other teratogenics who prefered the freedom of Sanctuary to being hunted by heroes or kenneled in Temple asylums, and also humans, Elves and Dwarves, who came to hire the renowned Lycoes or test their skills against the teratogenics'.
Such a battle was going on that day. On one side of the fighting ring of the Coliseum stood a tall, graceful Elven warrior wearing a blue cloak and a fanciful mask. For a weapon he bore a runeblade, the mystic swords created by the combined efforts of Dwarven smiths and Elven sorcerors. The Elf was a Blade Sorceror, whose complicated movements not only served as effective melee combat but channelled the ether winds as well.
On the other side of the ring stood a model Lyco. He also was tall, though more muscular than the Elf under his flexor combat armour. His skin was bronzed from living in the desert heat, his hair grey-green and falling to his waist. From his hairline rose two strands that looked like stiffened hairs but were in reality antennae, the function of which was to detect the movement of air and so maintain balance, as well as sensing nearby movement. His eyes were gold, and smiled in anticipation of the clash.
There were not a few people up in the seats. Most noticeable was Tarac himself, Lord of Sanctuary, for the Lyco below was his son. He raised his hand in the signal to begin, and the herald - a dainty little Elfrat - called out: "Darac son of Tarac of the Lycolongi versus Vermuth Rosewine of the Elves! Let the battle begin!"
"Interesting sword, Elf," said Darac, beginning to circle towards his opponent.
"Yes, beautiful isn't it?" drawled Vermuth drily. He switched his relaxed pose into a guard stance.
Darac was no fool. He knew quite well that those fragile-looking runeblades were deadly even to cross with, for their strange musical ringing would throw a fighter off-balance. The thing to do was not to touch it. This he was quite capable of.
The humans in the audience saw only a flash of light as Darac slipped behind the Elf. A kick to the back of the head knocked the Elf to the dust and his mask flying across the ring. The Elf rolled aside and sprang at Darac, who dodged the blow and cuffed the Elf. Vermuth staggered but kept upright, licking a trace of blood from his lip. Eyes narrowed, the Elf began his counter-offensive.
Vermuth began swinging his sword in perfectly described arcs, creating a humming tune as the wind passed through the slits in the runeblade. His whole body began to move to the rhythm, and he swayed and swirled as the ether winds coalesced around him.
Darac laughed to himself. He brought one hand up, focusing the ether winds there into a sphere of energy.
The Elf finished his spell-casting. He was covered in dazzling light, and his least movement cast sparks into the sand where they shot upward in little fountains of luminescence. He raised his sword, light gushng from it like a fountain.
"This battle is over," said the Elf. "Nothing can penetrate the Armour of Light!"
"Nothing physical, perhaps," replied Darac, sneering. "But I don't intend to use a physical attack. If this is all your dance amounts to, you would have spent the time better in fighting!" He threw his energy sphere. It met the Elf's armour, and there was an explosion of sparks and smoke. When this cleared, the Elf still stood, his Armour of Light somewhat dimmer but intact. He laughed.
"A duel of magic, then? In that case, know that the armour can also be used as a weapon!" He brought his runeblade down to point at the Lyco. The light beamed out of it, draining away the armour and focusing it all against Darac.
Darac's smirk never left his face. He backflipped into a crouch, producing at last his own weapon: a handaxe that was small in comparison to his frame; it had a brightly polished mithril head. This he held up. As the light struck it, it reflected back. The beam hit the Elf in his chest, burning away his light armour (that is, light-weight chainmail) and knocking him unconscious.
"Fool left himself wide open," said Darac as he rose to the sound of the applause of the watchers.
"And Darac is once again victorious!" cried the herald. "Five times in a row in this terrible heat! He is amazing! Are there any more challengers?"
At this, the stands fell silent save for snickering from some of the younger Lycoes. Darac glanced around, his eyes dancing devilishly. "Come on!" He cried, his voice roughly grating compared to the young Elfrat's. "Don't worry about tiring me out! I've still got some fight left! Anybody care to try me?" He pointed at one of the snickering youths. "You there! How'd you like to test your mettle? You'll laugh all the harder once you're in the ring!" The laughter, of course, ceased.
"I guess that's the answer, then!" cried the herald. She herself was grateful; it was miserable up in the herald's stand and her dark blue fur did not help the matter. "The audience remains silent! Today's matches are over!"

"You did well, son," said Tarac as he and his heir walked away from the Coliseum. "Your speed and skill have greatly improved, and your confidence is commendable. Still, you have the bad habit of talking in battle."
Darac laughed scornfully. "Why should I worry about it? These aren't real warriors anyway!"
"Maybe not, but bad habits are hard to break. The day may come when you fight someone as good as yourself, and then you will need all your attention on your opponent."
They walked on together in silence. They were heading home, to the Palace of Sanctuary. It was called "Palace," but it far more resembled a barracks. The best Lyco warriors all lived and trained there; they formed Tarac's court, and he preferred them to the dandified sybarites found in human cities.
He and his son climbed the granite steps into the front hall. The two Lycoes on guard greeted them, and Tarac nodded to them in return. Inside, the hall held dozens of chairs and a long desk. This was for customers; powerful lords often came here to hire the very best to hunt down some particularly difficult monster. The desk was normally manned by an Elf, but she was not there when they came in.
"Silqua?" called Tarac. "Where are you?"
"Here, my lord," she said, emerging from the far end of the hall.
"Why are you not at your post?" he demanded. "If you have finished all the wine kept here for you, that is your fault. You are not allowed to go for more."
"That isn't it, lord," she said. Tarac noticed that she looked unusually troubled, and he had a premonition that something was vastly wrong.
"What is it?" he asked, his sudden apprehension showing in his voice.
"Your wife, Regina, was summoned to the Parliament. They're holding an emergency meeting."
"Why?" asked Darac. His mother was the elected head of the Sellswords' Guild, the whimsical name his father had given the official organization of the Lycoes.
"A terrible disaster has occurred. The Star Fortress Lunord's Gate has been destroyed."
Father and son looked at each other, anger and consternation in both their eyes. Their thoughts mirrored each other: Who would do this? Who could?
"When is the meeting to be held?" asked Tarac.
"Tomorrow. That will give all the Guild representatives a chance to assemble in New Valmorgen, and most of the lords as well."
"Yes," said Tarac. He paused, then added, "I shall go too. This is a serious affair, and the lords need to have our insight as much as the Guilds."
"Then I shall also go," said Darac.
Tarac shook his head. "Not now, son. You must stay here and run the city."
"I know nothing of running cities!" Darac said angrily.
"Then you must learn. I will die eventually -- nobody yet knows how long we live naturally, but we are not immortal -- and then you will be Lord of Sanctuary. You must get used to it." Once more Darac began to protest, but Tarac raised a hand. "Enough! You will stay, and there is nothing more to be said on it."

<small>[ 06. August 2003, 03:42 PM: Message edited by: Falotar ]</small>

Last edited by Falotar on Sat Oct 09, 2004 5:49 pm; edited 1 time in total
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 PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2003 1:35 am    Post subject: Apocalypse Reply with quote Back to top

The spiritual realms of Ardania are not to be comprehended by mortal minds, nor described in mortal language. Therefore, it is necessary to describe them allegorically, using figures and forms familiar to our minds to represent the incomprehensible.
Picture then a long staircase enclosed in stone. It descends down, down from a region of dim twilight which is the final resting place of those who served no god nor any great cause, but did no great harm either. The staircase goes higher than this - let us call the tower it runs through the Well of Eternity, for it goes beyond the highest of the Celestial Realms and down to the gates of the Netherworld, where dwell those who have offended the gods and broken their laws.
In these deeps a figure could be seen, glowing palely against the pitch stairwell he descended. At last he came to the very bottom, and stepped lightly onto the cold, hard gravel. He glanced around, for he did not feel what he was expecting. His gaze sought out the dark archway which gaped before them, and locked with the pair of burning eyes that were visible there.
"You!" said the white figure. "Why do you guard the Gates of the Netherworld? Where is Url-Shekk?"
"Mother's guardian hound is being punished," replied the owner of the eyes. "While Krypta was away, the three-headed demon grew bored of tormented us poor souls, and ventured into the mortal world. Now he is being chastised for his presumption."
"I see," answered the white figure. "I hope Krypta is not administering the punishment herself, for I have pressing business with the Lady of the Dead."
"Indeed?" The burning eyes sparked. "What would you say to mother dear?"
"A great disturbance has been felt throughout the Celestial Realms. Ardania is in grave peril. I can help."
"You seek resurrection!" The eyes flared with hatred. "You presume too much, mortal! If the human scum want your assistance, let them call for it!"
"They do not realize the danger. The entire race may be dead before they even find my tomb."
"What is that to me?" sneered the other. "The fools deserve annihilation! Why come to Krypta, then? Will not your precious Agrela restore your life?"
"Truly, I do not seek real resurrection. I wish only to walk the mortal world again in a semblance that will allow me to aid them."
The owner of the eyes laughed. "An undead! Being a teratogenic in life wasn't enough for you, you must now haunt the world as a wraith!"
"Say, rather, an apparition. I will have more power at my disposal in that form than if I was truly corporeal."
"And why should I let you pass?" The eyes burned fiercely, illuminating the face around them. It was wasted, pale, but still proud with a trace of the nobility that had been its in life. "You know that this is my fondest wish! To be reborn, reanimated, even brought back as a mewling ghost! Why should I let you pass, to achieve what I can only torment myself with? Why, Amaru?"
"Because, Morkiorosiph," answered the white figure quietly, "you have no choice. No-one can forbid a spirit audience with the Lady save Krypta herself. If you break that law, what little privilege you have left will be taken from you."
The face of Morkiorosiph twisted in fury, his eyes glowly brightly enough to outline the black hood he wore. Then they faded to bare embers. "Very well," he said. "I know when I am defeated, as I knew so long ago. You may pass. But I warn you, Amaru, we in the Netherworld felt this disturbance too. Its cause is yet to be fully revealed, but know this: its originator wields a power to rival that of my own! And do not forget who nearly dethroned the gods so many centuries ago!"
"I do not forget," replied Amaru. "I never forget."

"So, you wish me to send you back to the mortal world." Picture Krypta, Goddess of Death, as one of her former servants: a Priestess, robed and hooded, carrying a staff of bone. But her robes and cloak were black, and the skull at the head of her staff was horned. This was not just a Priestess but a High Priestess, the highest of all - she was the Goddess of Death, and her voice was both sweet and harsh. "Explain to me why I should."
"You know, perhaps better than any other, of the evil whcih stirs in Ardania. I would fight it."
"I see. And what raises you above all the other heroes? Oh yes, I know you helped to save the world, but so have others. Everyone from kings to sellswords, Dragons to Goblins. All have played their part in the battle to save Ardania, even the most unlikely. How are you any different?"
"Because of what I am. My father was a Wizard, my mother a Healer. My uncle, the teratogenitor, performed his greatest transformation on me and left to me to die when I proved rebellious. I was raised by Dragons; I mastered their magiks and learned their lore. And since death I have not stopped learning. I have studied with and fought with the greatest mages and warriors in the Celestial Realms. I have also kept my eye on Ardania, for I feared that this day would come."
"I see you were well-appointed the Protector of Men," said Krypta. Her eyes glinted a second in approval; a flash of emotion rarely seen by anyone, god or man. "Very well. You have been patient, I know. You have watched our follies without being able to interfere. Now is your chance. Prove yourself again, Amaru. Go as an apparition to Ardania, and try once more to save those ungrateful fools."

And so, when dusk fell over the Central Plains, a white-robed figure appeared outside the city of Sanctuary. He was slightly higher than the average man, and his hair was silver as though he was old. But his face was unlined. His eyes glowed yellow in the beams of rising Moon. Canine ears swivelled forward to better hear the sound of the chimes in the Temple to Lunord, heralding the Moon's rising. Fangs glistened in the moonlight, belied by the gentleness of his smile as he stepped towards the marble walls of the city. Amaru was glad to be back in the physical world, however briefly.

[ 06. August 2003, 06:50 PM: Message edited by: Falotar ]
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 PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2003 7:01 pm    Post subject: Apocalypse Reply with quote Back to top

Darac had been unable to sleep. Angered by being left behind in the city, which he felt would have been run well enough by the councillors and was probably going to be run by them anyway, he sought his solace in the Royal Training Arena. This was a large, sand-filled pit in the interior of the Palace reserved for Tarac's use and for those whom he permitted there.
Darac drew on his flexor mail. It was made of a material light and flexible, absorbing blows rather than deflecting them. It consisted of a chest-piece with arm-guards and leg-guards connected to it by a magical elastic material. He then produced his hand-axe, swinging it around in prepartion for his fight.
When he was ready, he want over to the racks where hung the automata. They are in fact miniature golems, modelled to four levels of difficulty: wood, stone, steel, and mithril. For his first battle, he activated nine of the wooden automatons, three of the stone and one of the steel. They were enchanted to act and react like normal men, falling from a "mortal" wound and becoming handicapped by a "less serious" one.
Darac began this round by whittling down all the wooden golems. after he had reduced five to splinter without even using his ax, one of the stone automatics came for him. He hurled his ax, embedding it in the granite of the golem's chest. The automaton fell, but the remaining two stones and four wood were circling in on him. He ducked a marble fist and picked up its owner, flinging the stone golem into its wooden counterparts. He laughed to see them all smash into the wall, chips of stone and splinters of wood spraying everywhere.
His antennae quivered as they picked up the movement behind him. He jumped into the air, landed on the steel golem's head, and catapulted off, shoving the steel automatic into the remaining stone. He landed next to his ax, which he kicked into his hand.
The steel golem wheeled, lefting a crudely fashioned sword wrought of the same substance as itself. It swung this in a high overhead arc, slamming it into the ground as Darac dodged. Darac brought his own enchanted weapon down on the sword, gritting his teeth in a grin at the screech of steel being torn asunder. He leapt back from the golem's counterswing, then dodged the hiltshard of the sword as the automatic launched it at him. Darac threw himself into the air, silently chanted words to give himself additional strength and agility. He landed just in front of the golem, bringing his axe cleaving down in a shower of sparks through the automatic's steel head.
After that exercise, he went on to try different combinations. at one point he launched the entire store of wooden automata - fifty-four in all, not counting the ones already destroyed - against himself, not caring what the others would think when they found their warm-up dummies gone. At last he worked up to the mithril golems, whose powerful enchantment included a few basic spells. He took down first one, then one with two steel automata, and was about to try two mithril when he was interrupted.
"Young Lord Darac?" said a feminine voice. He spun around irritated; who in their right minds would be up at this hour? He saw a young girl-Lyco standing on the balcony overlooking the Arena. Her name was Brieva, and it was rumoured that when Darac succeeded his father as King of the Lycolongi, she would be his Queen. Now, however, was apprenticed to Ferringor, one of the oldest Lycoes and Chief Herald for Tarac.
"What is it, Brieva?" he demanded, though his irritation was softened somewhat.
"There is someone to see you. He - he claims it is urgent."
"It'd better be!" snarled Darac. "Bothering me in the middle of the night! Who is it?"
"I - don't know, my lord. He is a stranger, but he looks like a teratogenic. Shall I send him in?"
"Might as well, though I don't see why this couldn't until morning."
Brieva bowed and departed the balcony. A minute later she showed the strange teratogenic into the Arena, then left.
Darac examined the newcomer. He was almost as tall as the Lyco. His skin was alabaster-white, his shoulder-length hair silver. Silvery-grey ears, like those of a wolf or fox, rose from either side of his skull. His eyes were a pale silver-gold. For garment he wore a flowing white robe drawn in about the waist with a red cord of silk and falling to his ankles. Darac noticed the feet were bare, but bore no sign of scratches or calluses. Darac also noticed the hilt of a sword peeping from behind the stranger's back.
"Who are you?" he demanded, his anger making his voice rougher than normal.
"My name is Amaru," replied the stranger in soft tones. "You, I take it, are the young Lord Darac, Prince of the Lycolongi."
"Who else would I be?"
"From your clothes, I would have said you were a common soldier ordered to do midnight training as a punishment for some failure or other." Darac follwed Amaru's eyes down to look at his flexor mail. The white chestpiece was covered with dust, and the black limb-guards were torn in some places. Darac snorted.
"All right, I don't look like a lord. But I am, so: What is it you want?"
"I want to seek help and to give help." amaru raised his eyes to the glass dome which roofed the Arena. The Moon was shining straight down, but through a veil of outlying cloud which blurred her and her light. "One of the Star Fortresses has fallen."
"So you know about that, do you What can you do about it?"
"Very little, alone. I will need other heroes to aid me in searching and destroying the perpetrator of this deed - destroying whomever before he destroys us."
"He?" Darac stared suspiciously at the strange creature. "Why do speak as if you know there is only one?"
"Well," replied Amaru, "of course I do not know, but I think it likely. You see, a hostile army would most necessarily be detected in orbit unless covered by a powerful twin cloaking spell. Someone with the power to do that would also have the power to destroy the Star Fortress single-handedly."
"You have it all worked out, don't you?" sneered Darac. "Tell me why you're bothering me with all this. I just barely came of age. If you're so clever, why didn't you go to the Parliament with your speculations?"
"I didn't choose where I came to," answered Amaru quietly. "You see, I am more than I appear. I am not truly human anymore - " a smile crossed his grave features, briefly revealing his fanged canines " - nor have I been for long centuries, ever since my uncle transformed me. But I do not mean I am a teratogenic, which you can see for yourself. Nay, I am an apparition - a spirit dispatched by the gods to aid Ardania in its time of greatest peril. In my former life, long ago before the Cataclysm, I was called the Red Wolf by family. Now, Silver Wolf might be more appropriate."
"Ha." Darac snorted again. "So you claim to be an emissary of the gods, do you?" He was silent, studying the robed apparition - if such he was -before him. "Ha! Very. One who has passed beyond, who has met with Dauros and Lunord and all the great warriors who stand among the dead would be quite skilled himself. If you are truly from the gods, then it should be easy for you to defeat me."
"As you wish it," replied Amaru. Darac stepped back, kicking aside the remnants of the golems. Amaru drew his sword and stepped after him. The blade was long and strangely shapely; it seemed to leap from the hilt like a fountain, then bend back in a gracefully shallow arc. It flashed in the moonlight, and Darac could feel enchantment throbbing through it.
"I made it myself using magic," said Amaru as he held the sword up, looking past it to Darac. "The dragons who raised me after my uncle left me for dead in the mountains were wont to use their great power to shape the earth into great subterranean fortresses and metropolises. I modified the spell to affect metal, and so forged the Ancient's Sword - I named it thus after the divine cousins of the Dragons, who taught them the spell before they clashed with the gods."
"Very pretty," snapped Daric. He held up his own weapon. "This ax doesn't have such a grand story behind it, but I use it with skill. Do you use your sword likewise?"
"We shall see," replied Amaru.
The battle that followed cannot be described in mere words. Its movements flowed too quickly, faster than any eye could quite follow. At first Darac taunted his opponent, but amaru made no reply, and when Darac found the Ancient's Sword sliding past his defenses while he talked, he too fell silent. The combatants flashed all over the Arena, sparks flying from their weapons setting alight the wooden carcasses of the automata. Now and again the two would seperate, gauging each other for an instant, then leap back into the battle. At times the ether winds crackled, for both new spells and tried to catch each other off-guard. But at length a spurt of blood shot up, and Darac's hand-ax flew aside to land in the dirt. He leaped away from Amaru's stroke, to land panting in a crouch.
"Are you satisfied?" asked the apparition, leaning on his sword. Darac looked up, his eyes burning yellow.
"Are - you - serious?" he panted. "I haven;t- heard you - ask for mercy yet. I will only be satisfied when I have defeated you!"
"So you fight to win," said Amaru. "But I meant whether you were satisfied of my claim that I hale from the Celestial Realms?"
"Of that - " Darac swallowed and drew in a great gasp of air " - of that, there can be no doubt."
"Good. Then it is settled for tonight." Amaru slid his sword back into his scabbard. "You should sleep, Darac. Tomorrow will prove tiring, I think."
"Of course," retorted Darac. "Tomorrow we fight again."
"Nay, not tomorrow. Tomorrow we begin our journey."
"Wait!" shouted Darac as Amaru began to leave. "I'm not going on any journey! My father, Lord Tarac, ordered me to stay here! Much as I would love to go, I will not disobey him!"
"I see. It is well to honour the wishes of one's parents. But I fear I must countermand his order. If he tasks you with your disobedience, lay it on me. I take the responsibility."
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 PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2003 4:20 pm    Post subject: Apocalypse Reply with quote Back to top

It became clear in the morning that they would not, in fact, start out that day or for morning days after. The rain that had been coming up inundated the Plains round the city, turning them into a vast expanse of mud of and quicksand. Even after the storm had vanished after the manner of desert storms, the Plains would not be safe to travel through for a week.
"Perhaps it is just as well," mused Amaru as he looked out through a window in one of the Palace towers. "This will give more of a chance to study the current situation. Many things are opened to the inhabitants of the Celestial Realms, but I can always make use of more information."
"We can also fight again," said Darac, leaning against the doorframe of the room with his arms crossed.
"Hmmm, yes. Perhaps you could use some more training."
"Ha! We'll see who needs more training, ghost."
"Do not let your pride obscure your judgement, Darac. You have not a half of my skill." He turned and faced the Lyco. "And this is not the time to save your vanity, either. We will have serious peril once we find this creature that destroyed the Star Fortress - or it finds us."
"Agreed. Then why don't you stop mooning around up here and come down to the Arena? If I'm truly so unskilled, I'll need all your instruction."
"Very well." The two left the chamber, heading back down to the Training Arena.

Two days later in New Valmorgen the meeting of the Parliament was held. New Valmorgen had been designed long ago by the architects of the Imperor Sian. The older, central sections combined Elven and Dwarven styles of building. The newer sections outside the inner wall had been constructed by funding from the Alchemists' Guild according to plans supposedly handed down from Dauros himself. It was this outer section that contained the two Houses of Parliament, the centre of Ardanian government.
The two Houses together formed a structure vaguely reminiscent of one of the ancient Temples to Dauros. The House of Lords was a vast, squat, round structure which loomed in the middle of Parliament Square. A long, double colonnade roofed by mosaics connected it with the slender, taller tower of the House of Guilds. This had been the original plan, but over time the colonnade had been enclosed and its roof raised, so that it became something like the central nave of a chapel. Minarets had been added to the domes of the two Houses, and so the Parlaiment had stood for nigh on a century. They were both larger than immediate use called for, especially the House of Lords, for it was to be hoped that new Guilds and new towns would render the Parliament more members.
That day both Houses saw all their members in attendance. Most of the various lords were already there, for one reason or another (principally shopping for their ladies; New Valmorgen was famous for its silks). As for the Guild Representatives, those that did not live permanently in the quarters built for them around the gardens of Parliament Square had had teleportation structures built in their home Guilds that would bring them to the capital instantaneously. Any others, such as the Lycoes, lived close by and had had ample time to arrive.
The House of Guilds opened their meeting with Templar Commander Tenerus, Representative for the Temple of Dauros, offering a prayer for guidance to the Law Giver. Then Idrian, Representative of the Alchemists' Guild and Head of the House of Guilds, called the assembly to meeting.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he caled out, in a voice that was still strong though its owning was nearing seventy years of age, "this meeting of the Parliament has been called on account of extremely grave news. Amethystir Mounthall, High Guildmaster of the Flamcarls, sent in a report three days ago to the effect that Lunord's Gate, the second Star Fortress, and the aeroship Cypran's Pride were destroyed by an unknown personage."
The members of the assembly who did not already know this gasped in horror; those who did gritted their teeth or shook their heads. Onyx Mounthall, brother of Amethystir, rose and confirmed the report by nodded his head.
"Aye," he said, pulling at his long black beard, "the Fortress and its entire garrison was wiped out in just a few minutes. There was only one survival: a Flamcarl name of Ixion Steelspark."
"I trust you brought him here?" demanded Gregarius, Representative of the Wizards. His voice was testy; the Wizards had long been opposed to the Alchemists and their ambitions for void travel and colonization. Besides, the aging archmage had a more personal feud with the Head apart from their ideological differences.
"We did indeed," answered Idrian. "But he is still incoherent, babbling nonsense about a green monster. We thought - "
"Bring him in," cut in Regina. The Representative of the Sellswords and Queen of the Lycolongi, she was not given needless courtesy in times of danger. "We need all the information we can get."
"I second that," said Sir Warbind. He was Representative of the Elite Guards, masters of weapons of all varieties. Once called Warriors, they had been melted into the Imperial Guard only to re-emerge when the Imperium fell apart. "A good general always knows what he is dealing with."
"Very well," replied the Alchemist, a little put out over his decision being questioned. He gestured to a Guard (a City Guard, not to be confused with the Elite Guards) who left the main assembly chamber. The Guard soon returned, hauling along with him a Dwarf, whose red eyes and sopping beard shown he had been through great bouts of grief.
"This is a Flamcarl?" demanded Regina, disgust in her voice.
"He looks more like a sodden puppy," commented Redember, who sat on a fireproof mat to keep her fiery skin from burning down the House. She was a Flammifer, the pale women who were the new servants of Helia. They wore only flames for clothing, and prefered using wings of fire to walking.
"Shut up!" screamed the Dwarf, startling everyone. He glared around the room, his hands clenching and unclenching. "You weren't there! You didn't see what that bilious fiend did to my comrades! You didn't see the Star Fortress explode! 'Happy fireworks,' he called it!" The Dwarf's face jerked, and he began laughing hysterically.
"Calm down, man!" said the Representative of the Explorers. "Can you describe this fiend?"
"Like my mother," answered the Dwarf, once again locking his emotions down. The Representatives were all beginning to feel fear gripping them at the sight of the unwonted emotion within the Dwarf. A stoic race, only a terrible tragedy could break their mental armour. It brought home to them just what had really happened when the Star Fortress was destroyed.
The Dwarf began to describe the creature he had seen: tall, pale green skin, with tail claws andfangs, and a single straight horn thrusting backward from his head. He repeated the few flippant words. And, even as he concluded, the grand doors leading into the chamber from the Square outside exploded inward, spraying the room with wood, and mithril, and blood from the Guards whose duty it was to keep the meeting private.
"I heard you were talking about me," said a voice light and lilting and raspy at once. "You know, it's not nice to discuss people behind their backs."
The Representatives turned as a body towards the wreckage of the door, fear running cold in their blood. There they saw the creature the Dwarf had described, dressed in a silvered robe. As the Dwarf himself, his face twisted in fury.
"You!" he cried. "I'll kill you!" He charged the creature. The creature raised his hand in a motion of command, and the Dwarf fell dead.
"You should keep mad animals like him chained up," continued the creature, malevolent laughter in his eyes and voice, "if you haven't the heart to kill them."
"Monster!" cried the Flammifer. She launched herself into the air, raising her hands to summon a great orb of fire, which she hurled at the intruder.
The flames washed around the tall green figure. When they cleared, the Representatives could see the creature floating an inch above the melted sandstone of the floor. Not a thread of his robes were singed.
"Ohhh, a hot temper," crooned the creature mockingly. "You should calm down; anger nurns up too much energy."
"I'll burn your energy!" screamed the Flammifer in reply, her fires growing white in the heat of her rage. A spear of flame appeared in her hand, and she swept down from the ceiling upon the monster.
Without appearing to move, he dodged the Flammifer's attack. She shrieked and came back at him from behind. Without turning or looking he flicked his tail out, caught her neck and its collar of flames, and broke it.
"Hm-hm-hm-hm," the creature laughed. "Naive girls should be kept at home, and not allowed to play with fire."
"What do you want?" snarled Regina. "You've murdered two people right before our eyes, and spoken nothing but taunts!"
"Well, well, well. Impatient, aren't we? But if you really want me to cut to the quick, I came here to kill you all. That, on top of the destruction of your precious Star Fortress, should completely demoralize the commoners, and without you to lead them they won't know what to do. The poor sheep will be helpless once the wolf has devoured their shepherds!"
"Will you slaughter us all unarmed?" demanded the Elite Guard, anger burning in his face.
"No. I find it much more amusing when my prey thinks it has a chance to defend itself." The creature gestured in an arc as if pitching them each their armament, and indeed they found themselves wearing battlegear and holding their weapons.
The Elite Guard did not waste his time. "You'll regret this!" he cried, jumping from the assembly table to meet the monster. His weapon, a massive glaive, cut through the air, to ring against the floor. The creature had dodged behind him, and now kicked him even before he had landed from his jump.
"Oh, I would also like to have my victims know my name before I kill them," he said, levitating up near the ceiling, crossing his arms and facing the assembly. "It's Xyra."
"Isn't that wonderful?" called Gregorius sarcastically, trying to cover his own fear. He lifted his staff. A glowing green ball of energy formed there, and he shot it at Xyra. Xyra twisted like light - and caught the energy sphere.
"Ah, a game of catch," he said. "Keep your eye on the ball, old one!" He drew back his arm, and hurled the sphere at the Wizard. Gregarius cried out in agony as his fragile life was shattered by the blast, his body snuffed out in the release of his pent-up magic.
"These games are beginning to bore me," Xyra said, pretending to muffle a yawn with his hand. an instant later he had flung out his arms, the ether winds snapping like whips around him. "Time to bring down the House!" He brought his hands up, then forward and down. The walls of the chamber buckled, the ceiling began to fall in great blocks of masonry. The Representatives died with the crash of stone in their ears, overtoned by the mocking laughter of Xyra.
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 PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 1:08 am    Post subject: Apocalypse Reply with quote Back to top

Sparks flew as the two combatants leapt apart. Darac slid backward until his feet were braced against the wall of the Arena; Amaru stood leaning on his sword, smiling, though his silver hair was dampened by sweat.
"What is with you?" growled Darac. "You're even better than you were two days ago!"
"I've read your tactics," replied the apparition. "I am prepared for whatever you do."
"You were - " but the Lyco Prince broke off. His golden eyes widened. He fell to his knees and howled, a single word ripping from the animal sound: "Mother!"
"Merciful Agrela," whispered Amaru, his sword slipping from his hands. "All that power . . . all those people."
"What in the name of the gods is happening in here?" A great press of people came running to the balconies and through the doors; the one who spoke was Silqua the Elf.
"Something has happened to my mother!" Darac had pushed himself. His eyes shone with wrath. "She is wounded - or worse!"
"How could you possible know?" asked Silqua, cross and frightened.
"We Lycoes can sense when someone close has been hurt," said a grizzled Sellsword from the balcony. "I would believe the Prince, Elf-lady. Queen Regina is in trouble."
"Not just trouble, I'm afraid," said Amaru. Pain was in his eyes as he looked up at the people gathered about. "I sensed a burst of energy, distant but strong, and then the death of many people. I am very sensitize about such things, I assure you."
"It must be the same one who destroyed the Star Fortress!" snarled Darac. He picked up his axe. "I'll destroy that fiend myself if I ever see it!"

All the Representatives had been powerful people in their own ways. The energy released into the ether winds, combined with the power used to destroy them, rippled throughout Ardania. Amaru was not the only one to sense it.
In the Sydrian Mountains ancient creatures began to stir. Centuries old, and the oldest having lived from before the Cataclysm, these creatures were known to Ardania as the Dragons - or, more specifically wild or fire Dragons. They had not stirred since the return of the gods rekindled hope in the hearts of the people of ardania, choosing to bide their time. Now, however, the two powerful acts of destruction following one after another had stirred them from their slumber.
They all gathered together in a valley, really a crater within one of the highest peaks. Once it had been a volcano, and before the location of Caer Sydrian, capital of the united Ardania of the later Kingdom Age. The charred ruins of Palace could still be seen, scattered across the valley floor. Being hidden from the outside world, and below the snowline, it was a most excellant spot for the Dragons to assemble.
Not that had much cause to do so. Wild Dragons are distrustful, especially of their own kind, for each lives to garner treasure and power to himself. Therefore they are not social creatures, save when they choose out their mates or in times of great upheavel.
Such a time had apparently come upon them So they were all gathered in the valley - all fifteen of them. There had never been many, and the Cataclysm followed by years of attrition at the hands of a dracophobic Imperium had reduced their numbers further.
"So," boomed out the voice of Amasteryx. He was the oldest; he had been hatched in the dying days of the Kingdom Age, when tensions between the gods had been escalating towards the final battle. "You have all come." He swung his head round to look at each of them: Infernuvar, Erenull, Vestreun, Baal'inzykh, and the other younger Dragons whose names he could not recall nor cared too.
"Why have you summoned us?" hissed one of the latter.
"Because of the ethereal disturbance which I'm sure you all felt."
"So?" Vestreun riffled his wings in irritation. "The humans are up to something. Who cares?" There were growls of agreement from the others.
"No, fool, it was not the humans. Nor the Elves, Dwarves, nor any of the other monstrous races they have created. I have lived for over a thousand years; I am familiar with their casting patterns. No, this was different. Also, I sensed that it was destructive - a destruction on a scale we might envy. Since it wasn't Dragon magic, either, that leaves but one possibility: some powerful evil has come to subdue Ardania. I needn't tell you that this will affect us, too. Whether it be mad Wizard, jealous demigod, or a scion of a race ancient and fell, I neither know nor truly care. All I know is that, if he follows the pattern, he will eventually come to subjugate us."
"What do you suggest we do?" asked one of the younger drakes.
"We must send out an agent, or two, into the human world. Find out what we can. When dealing with this sort of thing, it is wise to act with circumspection. Which of you are adept at shapeshifting - at assuming the form of a Man?"
He had to ask, for no Dragon would ever reveal this to anyone else unless under dire necessity. Upon the answer of this question might very well hang the fate of the world.
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 PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 3:14 am    Post subject: Apocalypse Reply with quote Back to top

Silence felt over gathered great reptile briefly, they looked at each other, but for a time not a sound can be heard.
“We!” finally hissed one of the dragons. “Since when did this word have any meaning to any firedrakes?” she continued, as her temper is easily as hot as the fire she breathes “and since when do dragons sit in a circle to listen to an elder in the way of the rats?”
“Calm, My Erenull” Echoed another voice, calm and calculated, yet there was no lack of warmth. “From what I have sensed, Amasteryx might have a true word or two.”
“Your Erenull? That is rich” the third voice sneered “My baby brother here has more heart then a singing elf.”
“Maybe all the scars you carry has not taught you enough, Vestreun”, Infernuvar
Replied, his voice has lost none of his calmness.
“More then those dusty tome of yours put together, great wizard” Replied Vestreun in his usual cynical tongue.

Amasteryx grows tired of the bickering, and decided it’s in his best interest to leave the gathering to them. He knew that lusts for more treasure and power would drive these imprudent young fools into his plans easily enough. And what is another brawl anyways, the infamous brothers are known to fight over Erenull every moment they are awake.

And he was not wrong.

A pair of peasants has left Sydrian Mountains the very second day. Riding a donkey pulled caravan carrying timber, they are not looked at a second time by any eyes. In fact, the road is often empty at this time of the year, as most travelers prefer to avoid the heavy rain that last a big part of the summer. The lonely caravan slowly lumbered towards the Sanctuary, as rains washed over it endlessly.

Lighting flashed in the distance, a storm is coming.

[ 08. August 2003, 04:16 AM: Message edited by: Merlin the Black ]
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 PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2003 4:17 pm    Post subject: Apocalypse Reply with quote Back to top

Mayhew was one of the oldest cities in Ardania. It had been one of the few to survive the Cataclysm even partially intact. Always a centre of trade under the patronage of Dauros, the Cataclysm had actually made it more prosperous by transforming it into a seaside port. Overland Caravans and coastal trading vessels arrived every day in droves to collect the treasures found constantly by adventurers in the Isles of Doom. After the Alchemists ivented void-worthy aeroships and an Aerodome was built in Mayhew, making it a prime location to unload the precious artemite, it became the richest city in Ardania.
Of course, all this wealth did not go unnoticed. Among the many bandits and monster tribes prowling the salt marshes which bordered the city, the most feared might well have been that of Rogue Lord Bragor.
Mayhew was a republic; its citizens elected its lords to serve until death and a Council to check their power. Bragor, claiming descent from a noble line, had tried to win the post himself after the former lord had died. But his bullying and attempted fraud rendered him extremely unpopular, and he lost the election without having a chance. In a towering rage he declared himself the true Lord of Mayhew, and swore terrible revenge against everyone who had voted against him. He then escaped the city and collected a band of renegades as a foundation for the army which he hoped would enable his dream of revenge.
News had just reached the city about the disaster in New Valmorgen. The bandits learned of it from the master of a Caravan they raided. The Rogue Lord, as he was known, called together his most trusted lieutenants - Nwnllyr, once a Representative to the House of Guilds for the Temple of Lunord, and Iscara, a renegade teratogenic of the race called Lycolongi.
"What d'ya think of the news?" Bragor asked. The Rogue Lord was a man of immense size, in height and weight. A variety of axes, swords, knives and maces stuck out from the many belts and sashes he wore. A great violet cloak stained and faded with age and inattention marked him as the infamous chief.
"It is very interesting. What power that thing must have had, to destroy the entire House and all its members at one go!" Next to Bragor, Nwnllyr seemed only a slight figure. Indeed, his frame was slender and he was not much higher than five feet. But he was deadly with the poisoned cutlass he wielded, and knew the mysterious arts and powers of the Brotherhood of the Night. he was also far more intelligent than the lord he served.
"From the description the winesses gave, I'd say it was a teratogenic." Of the three, Iscara was the tallest and probably the strongest, though she was far lankier than Bragor. She had been the first bandit to join the group after bragor fled Mayhew. She wore blood-red flexor mail, as most Lycoes did; it was, after all, invented by their former master, the unlamented Magelord Cao En. Her long grey-green hair was braided into two hair strands which fell past her waist, and she used the razors hidden in them as supplements to her main weapon. This was a long trident, the haft made of bronze and the head of mithril.
"Hmph. What I want to know is, what the blazes the thing is, and who it's workin' for, and why it attacked the Parliament."
"Boss!" squawked a Harpy. Her name was Zadta, and she had been flying sentry duty. Bragor threw a dagger at her bad-temperedly.
"Shut up! Can't ya see I'm talkin'?"
"But boss! Theres someone in the clouds above us, watchin' us, and I don't like it!"
"In the clouds?" Nwnllyr squinted into the sky. "Yes . . . yes, I do see what might be a figure."
"A figure?" bellowed Bragor. "I thought it was an aeroship at least. Probably some stupid Wizard learning how to levitate."
"But if we should be spotted - " began Nwnllyr, but a hiss from Iscara cut him off.
"The thing has vanished!" Her golden eyes narrowed. "And it wasn't a human, I could see that much."
"No, definitely not human," said a voice just behind and above them. They scrambled up and around, and saw a pale green creature hovering above a hillock, its tail just brushing the top of the marshy ground.
"What in the name of the Netherworld - ?' cried Bragor, his mouth falling open.
"Ee-yarrr!" called out Zadta. "Identify yourself, intruder!" The creature glanced at the Harpy. Zadta squawked one last time before she exploded. Through a shower of scorched feathers, the creature continued speaking as if nothing had happened.
"Xyra is my name. I am looking to hire a force of elite fighters to use as enforcers."
"You've found the elite fighters," replied Iscara, warily. Of course no-one in the camp had liked the annoying Harpy; still, it was uncanny to see her destroyed with no more than a glance. "What do you want us to enforce?"
"Perhaps I used the word prematurely. After I conquer Ardania, then I will need enforcers. Right now I need a home, and people to guard it while I'm away. Do you think you're up to that?"
The bandits looked at each other. They recalled the description the merchant had given of the fiend that destroyed the House of Guilds. They did not miss the implication of Xyra's words.
"We're quite capable of doing that," replied Bragor. "And we're quite willing to serve you."
"Good. I noticed a large structure built of marble in that city. You can see its towers from here." Xyra pointed at Mayhew, at the tall towers of the Palace there. "Prepare to move, boys and girls. The deed to that house will be in my hands ere the sun sets." He vanished again.
Bragor spun round, his hands cracking together. "All right, ya lazy layabouts!" he shouted at his camp. "Pack up! We're going to conquer Mayhew." The bandits, thinking their lord had gone mad, looked at each other. But Nwnllyr added his own lethal voice to the Rogue Lord's bellowing.
"We've just had a visitation from the creature who destroyed the House of Guilds," he said. "We're following his commands now."

As it was, they did not have to fight for Mayhew. Xyra had merely broken into the Hall of the Council, where the former Lord of Mayhew had been conducting a session with the newly elected Councillors, and slain the lot of them. The city, recognizing the monster, surrended without resistance.
Bragor and his crew marvelled at the ease Xyra had taken the city even while they basked in the frightened silence of the townsfolk. Then Bragor caught sight of someone.
"You!" he called out. he ran over to the frightened Elf before he could slip away. "You're the one who accused of fraud! You humiliated me! Now you'll die for your insolence!"
"Maybe we should ask Xyra's permission, before you go slaughtering his subjects," cautioned Nwnllyr.
"Oh, I don't mind," said the rasping voice. "I don't care if you kill one or two or even half the town, just as long as you leave enough to keep my house in good repair. Go on, sir - oh, I forgot to ask your name. How very rude, but after so many millenia my memory is bound to slip. what is it?"
"Bragor, Yer Lordship."
"Very well, then, Lord Bragor. I make you Captain of the Xyres Guard. Please, carry on, Captain. I enjoy a good bit of sport, and this promises to be entertaining."
The Elf screamed as Bragor began taking his revenge. The noise mingled with the laughter of Xyra and his Captain. The Apocalypse had begun.
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 PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2003 5:04 pm    Post subject: Apocalypse Reply with quote Back to top

“We are nearing East Cheswick,” Said the peasant under his cloak, in an unusually educated voice. “After that, our path will turn northwest, to Camp Ravenwood.”
“If we can gather a few whispers of rumors along the way, so much better” whispered his wife, as willow leaves gently swept them by.
“I doubt it, Ellie.” Replied the men

The caravan slowed, and it eventually came to a stop in front of “the dancing gnome”. The only inn in East Cheswick. Charred ancient ruins predate the Sydrian hegemony stood ominously nearby. The carving “The crown of Sydrian was recovered here” is barely visible on its weathered walls. One can only guess magnificence of that once stood, and the sheer power wielded by the legend of a king capable of bring it down with a mere word.

The lounge was conformably warm; the scent of elven pinweed filled the air. The eyes of patrons are transfixed in an elven bladedancer performing his exotic martial art at the center of the lounge. They are so engrossed by the performance that they did not even notice the peasant couple.

The barkeep, however, had. He peeked at the dripping peasants and then turned his focus back at the performance. The couple looked at each other, and approached the bar.
“Evening, travelers” Said the barkeep, he did not take his eye off the performer
“We seek dinner and accommodations.” Said the peasant woman, her voice hinted that she is not particularly pleased with the attitude of the barkeep.
“There are some sausages and bread left in the kitchen, the beer is in the cellar, and there is a few peasant room left upstairs, 5 copper pieces a night.”
“Keep the change,” said the man, now obviously annoyed, as he threw down a single gold piece.
As couple left for their room, the barkeep quickly pocketed the gold piece and tapped 3 times on the door behind him.

Infernuvar woke in the dark of the night. Shouting of men and cling of metal could be heard outside. He bolted up, and saw that Erenull is already wild awake, leaning on the window frame. Weapons could be seen in the darkness outside, reflecting the moonlight.

“Must have being Vestreun” Said the woman, still looking out of the window, “He must have rode ahead of us and informed the townspeople.” She took a breath, and continued. “Around two dozen elite guards and half a dozen templar and alchemist, we don’t stand a chance, in human form or not.”
“So much goes the plan,” said the man, calmly, “we might have to surrender”
“And have armor made out of our hide.” Said the woman, apparently not very happy.
“We can always deny we are that we are”, said the man “If Vestreun appear to testify, we can bring him down with us.”
“So that is the best you can do, wizard” Erenull never had time to finish her sentence, as the door was kick down by an armored foot, 6 templar stormed into the room and circled the couple, as if they can suddenly turn into dragons.
“Die drakes!” Said the leading templar as he drew his sword.
“What drake? If you templar are around to kill perfectly normal merchants and peasants, go ahead, we surrender” Said the man.
“We will have none of your tricks, dragon!” cried the templar as he leveled the sword for the kill.
“Not so hasty.” Said a feminine voice behind the armored champions. A figure cloaked in arcane robes drifted forward. The robe is snow white and rimmed with gold. The figure dropped her hood and revealed a face off peerless beauty. Her voice, clear as crystal, continued. “These beasts will come with me; we alchemists will have some use for them after all. Your men can return to the castle, as they have worked tireless to trap them for weeks now.”
“But …” The templar doubted, yet a single smile of the alchemist wiped out the last of his doubts. “Regroup men, let’s return to the keep and call it a day.”
Infernuvar tried to say something, but he and Erenull were turned to stone before they could make a sound. With a gesture, the alchemist lifted the statue off the ground and teleport them away.

It seemed to be an eternity before Infernuvar awake. He found himself in dragon form again. Two gold dragons flanked him and another two of them flanked Erenull nearby.

“Where am I”, he asked, confused first time in his endless ages.
“The white citadel, five hundred miles off the southern coast, a thousand feet under the southern sea.” Said a strangely familiar voice from behind him, he snapped his head around, and saw a dragon behind him, seemly composed out of light itself. “I am Alexandria Silverwing, Alchemist of East Cheswick, keeper of the white citadel.”

“You can’t be serious.” Replied Erenull, as she was finally restored to flesh.
“Look up if you have any doubt.”

Erenull looked straight up, and what she saw was beyond words.
An endless ceiling of water hovered dangerously above her. The citadel’s many light illuminated the abyss of south sea, large and small creatures traveled the water above them, the largest are almost twice as large as a fully-grown dragon, and the smallest are almost invisible to naked eye.

“Please tell me I am hallucinating” said Infernuvar, as he coiled up and felt asleep from exhaustion.

[ 15. August 2003, 01:53 AM: Message edited by: Merlin the Black ]
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 PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2003 5:39 pm    Post subject: Apocalypse Reply with quote Back to top

Infernuvar was ceaselessly amazed by the luxury gold dragons enjoyed. Mounts of gold coins to rest on, masterly roasted fish and finely carved stone put his lair inside a cave to shame. For once, He found that gold dragons’ claim to be most civilized race on Ardania sufficiently convincing.

Yet he is still proud of one thing. He fined his own elder much friendlier then the aloof and holier-then-thy queen of gold dragons. The illuminating creature makes him feel insecure whenever she is near. Yet even with his best effort to Avoid Alexandria, he can feel the presence of the dragon wherever he is.

Therefore, he had no regret about leaving the citadel when Alexandria requests him to deliver a message To Amasteryx. The dragon queen told him everything Amasteryx needs to know gave him a large chest. The next thing he saw is the interior of an Alchemist guild, and the chest beside him.

He wasted no time shifting to human form, this time, an enforcer. Yet despite being in human form, his greed droved him. He is rewarded when he opened the chest. The container is empty.

“So much goes the legendry courtesy of the gold,” The rogue muttered to himself. His magical lock pick disintegrating into dust in his hand. “And if this is an inside joke between Amasteryx and Alexandria”, He clasped his hands loudly a few times in attempt to shake off the dust, “There will be no lack of dirty words from me …”

He went, carrying the strange chest, slowly trudging up the foothills of the snow covered mountain, attempting to find a shortcut. The footprints left in the mud confirmed his suspicion of his brother.

Infernuvar would never forget what he saw as he neared the nesting ground of firedrakes: every dragon nested in the Sydrian Mountains has gathered, hopelessly gossiping about sudden disappearance of their elder.

A gold dragon left the citadel approximately a week after departure of Infernuvar. He headed straight north towards the coastline, skimming over water as he went in order to avoided curious eyes of men. The a few airships that did saw him fired ballista at him. However, all they managed is a few splashes on the endless waves of the southern sea.

Upon closing the coast, the dragon involved teleportation and was transported to a place only known to the black dragons.

Under the sands of the central plane lays a legend. The dark citadel rest ominously in a large cave, its black wall stood on a field of scorched bones. Armies of Undead walk this realm of perpetual darkness, serving their masters tirelessly. Black dragons of every size flew in and out of the many opening on the wall of the fortress. If anything, the cataclysm fueled the power of the black dragons and made this more prospers then ever.

Then there was light, a tear in the fabric of darkness, undead minion scuttled away from the tear just as a gold dragon emerged. Gong of great bell was heard, then a great door slowly opened on the seemly smooth surface of the fortress, the ambassador flew in. The door then closed behind the gold dragon, as slowly as it opened.

The gold dragon lowered his head to pair of black dragons standing guard with due respect, yet the guard did nothing but gestured a gate behind them with their wings. When the ambassador passed under the gate, massive grating came crashing down, impaling the gold dragon on the cold stone below.

A black phantom watched with satisfaction as the gold dragon screamed and struggled, slowly dying in a pool of his own blood. Ocimilium eyed the black phantom, and spoke softly.

“I think you have the proof of loyalty you need now.” His head slowly rose from the bone ashes it rested on, and turned to the phantom.
“My master will be pleased with this, now you may come with me …”

Ocimilium slowly rose, bone dust felt out his scales. The black phantom is now drifting passes the copse of the gold dragon, whose blood is slowly drying.

As they left, the copse and the bloodstain turned into stone and disintegrated to dust.
Mayhew is a shadow of its former self, most human in the town is neither transformed to undead or chained up and used as slave. Ocimilium followed the phantom, and watched as delight as human slaves work endlessly to create armor for the army of dead.

Then the phantom in leading him exploded.

Ocimilium chanted with lighting speed, red runes appeared and shimmered, as if they are written on the air. They shifty arranged into patterns, and with a great burst of light, a massive portal shimmered into existence.

Meanwhile, under the southern sea, Emarius is very annoyed about the plan of his queen.
“Alexandria, if you tell me that illusion is going to be killed anyway, I wouldn’t possibly spend the last year carving it out of stone and animating it.”
“Yes Emarius, and the plan worked wonders, didn’t it ?”
“I don’t believe any of YOUR plans can actually work …”

A portal tore open in front of them, a corrupted Mayhew can be seen though it. Ocimilium is already fighting, his massive craw sent a dozen human flying into various buildings.

“There we go, Emarius. for Dauros !”

Ocimilium is almost pressed into the portal when Alexandria, Emarius and Erenull leapt out. The Mere presence of Alexandria caused undead to flee mindlessly. Erenull’s chain lighting bounce between heavily armored Xyres Guards, collapsing them to the ground. Ocimilium created another portal using the confusion, Amasteryx emerged as soon as the portal stabilized, followed by Infernuvar.

What followed, is an endless force of dragons, emerging from the portals and take to the skies. Fire and lighting rained, toppled buildings and turned defenders to ashes. Meteor felt from the sky, striking vantage points with deadly accuracy. Most human warriors and wizards turned against their former masters at this sudden change of event, taking them down with surprise. Slave broke their chains and struggled to find anything that can be used as weapons. Xyres Guards still fought valiantly against the surging tide, but they found themselves on the verge of being overran.

[ 16. August 2003, 06:59 PM: Message edited by: Merlin the Black ]
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 PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2003 9:57 pm    Post subject: Apocalypse Reply with quote Back to top

"Her name is Luna," explained Amaru. The two were riding in a specially-designed carriage. The wheels thrust out of two smooth runners, and could be retracted if the carriage had to pass through sand. The carriage was pulled by a pair of equimels, beasts created by Cao En when he crossed the wild horse of Ardania with beasts he imported from his distant homeland. They seemed custom-made for desert travelling, as did the Sandstealer who drove the carriage. Part of a small race created by the Magelord Ultimar, the Sandstealers were covered with white fur that deflected heat from their miniature bodies. also, they were adept at burrowing and climbing, and had been used by the Magelord to spy on those who attempted to penetrate his desert fastness. They now generally served to drive the Caravans of Sanctuary through the Central Plains.
"Never heard of her," grunted Darac. He stared moodily at the wasteland surrounding them. "Besides, I thought Lunord and Helia had only seven children - Grum-Gog, Rrongol, Url-Shekk, Dauros, Agrela, Krypta and Fervus."
"Indeed," said Amaru, amused. "Those are the seven children they created together. Luna came far earlier, and Lunord made her without his sister's knowledge or consent. Being more concerned with civilization than Helia, he needed someone to delegate the ruling of his orb to while he guided his city at Garuta. Thus Luna. and it is fortunate he did so."
"Really. Why is it so fortunate, and why is it so important that we meet her now?"
"She is not like her father. She never felt any enmity against Helia or her followers. In truth, she concerned herself far more with mortals than with the quarrels of the gods. Sometimes she can be impetuous, it is true - for she is a demigod, like Grum-Gog, and not a true god like her father. But she has a good heart, and has sometimes come to Ardania in physical form to aid men in their struggle against evil."
Darac turned his gaze to the apparition in the seat across from him. "You feel akin to her, then?" Amaru raised his eyebrows.
"You are wiser than you look, son of the Lycolongi. It is true I feel a bond with the demigoddess. She cares for humanity, as do I. She also was forced to stand by while her parents and siblings nearly destroyed the world with their feuding. And, I think, the Cataclysm sobered her wayward nature."
"I see. So, we're going to ask a demigoddess for help in vanquishing this creature. But I thought you said the gods themselves had the right to fear this creature. How can one of their lesser children help us?"
"By providing us with information. Luna has circled the world for centuries. She might know something of the origins of this creature, and his weaknesses. She also, I believe, has access to artifacts - mystical items which might enhance our own power."
"I would never accept such help." Darac's eyes flashed. "A Lyco's strength does not need to be augmented by such trifles."
"Indeed? But yet you wear that flexor mail." Amaru shook his head. "Nay, my friend, do not scorn whatever gifts she may give. Krolm himself needed an enchanted blade to bring down the Dragon King."
"So the legends say." Darac frowned. "Speaking of which, would not approaching the Elder God be wiser than this Luna? He is older by far, and more knowledgeable."
"Is he? Krolm has sometimes been, shall we say, indisposed. I mentioned the Dragon king, and that is a case in point. The All-Father spent decades or more in recuperation after that struggle. Also, his rage has often caused his judgement to falter. I would not call him the most approachable - even in the Celestial Realms,"
"You mean, as a god, you cannot meet him face-to-face. Tell me, then, how Luna is different. Doesn't she dwell in your Celestial Realms?"
"Not any longer. When her father returned, she left the Celestial Plane of the Moon, and swore not to return until he did penance for his part in the Cataclysm. As she feels the same about the other gods still in the pantheon, and she will not dwell in the realms of the dead, she had no other recourse save to fall back on her material symbol - the Moon. There, she has lived for a hundred years - and not too distant, I think, from the settlement there."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because of her concern for our race - beg pardon, our races." Amaru's smile grew bitter bitter for a oment. "She would nuild her citadel on the close side of the Moon, so that she could watch over ardania. Also, the great amount of magical ore found near the settlement seems to me to indicate the presence of a strong power."
"I see. Well. It's worth a try, I suppose."
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 PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2003 11:56 pm    Post subject: Apocalypse Reply with quote Back to top

Bragor looked in horror out the window as the city of Mayhew erupted in flame and magic.
"Of all the times for this to happen!" he groaned. "Why now? When Xyra is away?"
"I thought the Dragons were all dead," mused Nwnllyr.
"They are," Iscara pointed out. "A large percentage of these are black Dragons and undead. They must have thrived through al the chaos and death since the Cataclysm."
"What does your kind now about the Cataclysm?" sneered Bragor, eager to take his anger and fear out on someone. "You teratogenics were created barely a hundred years ago."
"The Lycolongi may be a recent race," she agreed pleasantly, though there was a barb in her voice, "but our ancestors are not. You forget that Cao En, like all teratogenitors, never creates but merely twists and blends existing life forms."
"Enough of this!" Nwnllyr pointed out the window. "We must make a decision, and soon. Xyra is not here, and our forces are no match for the Dragons without him."
"Well then?" growled Bragor. "We retreat!"
"Where to, my Captain?" asked a voice, which sent mingled feelings of fear and joy through the veins of his minions. They spun around, to see Xyra floating in the high arched doorway to the observation chamber, his tail just brushing the ground.
"Master!" cried Bragor. "We, um, we weren't really thinking of retreating, just pulling back to a more secure position - "
"Indeed." Xyra smiled. "And so we shall. I had not planned on confronting my ancient nemeses so soon. I think it will be most amusing to let them believe they are gaining ground against me. all right, then. We're leaving."
"Where to?" asked Iscara, echoing Xyra's own words.
"North, where else? Powerful artifacts await us on Krolm's Anvil. You could use some more power." Xyra made a motion with hand and tail, and all four vanished from the Palace, from Mayhew, and from continental Ardania.

A week had passed. Confirmation of Amaru's and Darac's premonitions had long since arrived. The ground being dried out enough to allow for travel, Amaru pronounced the time to head for New Valmorgen was at hand.
"Really, I don't see why you bother," grumbled Darac as he loaded a cart. The Lycolongi scorned the use of others to do their tasks for them, so no one paid the Prince a second glance as he worked at this menial chore.
"Why I bother going to Valmorgen, now that we know what exactly happened there?" Amaru smiled gently. "Because we do not know enough, for one thing. I wish to study the scene of the atrocity for myself. Also, New Valmorgen has something that sanctuary does not."
"What's that?" demanded Darac.
"An Aerodome. Now that Mayhew has falen to this mad creature, it is the only city left with one."
"If you believe the rumours of Mayhew's fall - " Darac narrowed his eyes. "What do need with an Aerodome, anyway?"
"You doubtless already know their use, as staging areas for the aeroships. That is what I require."
"What do want with one of those contraptiuons?"
"It is the only way to reach the Moon, Darac. And I feel that we will need her help."
"The daughter of Lunord, who makes her residence in the Moon."
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 PostPosted: Tue Aug 26, 2003 4:55 pm    Post subject: Apocalypse Reply with quote Back to top

Krolm's Anvil reared out of the chill waters of the Northern sea, a massive island plateau inaccessible save to those who knew the location of the hidden bay or were possessed of flight. Krolm's Anvil: of all the places in Ardania, one of the most deadly and one of the most rewarding for those with the skill and the daring to brave the freezing winds and the monsters to hunt its treasures.
In the southern reaches of this desolate isle, a bright streak of pale light like a green meteor flashed down to earth. The light vanished, revealing Xyra and his three remaining Xyres Guards. Bragor and Nwnllyr looked half dead, and Iscara as if she had fought a hard battle. Xyra looked over them with a smile playing about his lips.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I'd forgotten that you pathetic humans are not built for high-speed flight. Forgive me." He turned his back to them and stood, gazing south over the Sea. "so," he mused, "the Dragons know about me. Or do they? It has been ages and ages since their ancestors killed my people. Even the gods have forgotten. Perhaps they are simply responding to a threat which they don't even clearly perceive yet. Whatever, it does not matter. None of the ones I sensed matched the might of the Dragons of old, the Kings and their Knights. Hmmm." He turned back to his minions, who had yet to pick themselves up off the ground. Xyra frowned. "Well you idiots! Don't just lie there! Get up! Scout! Must I do everything?"
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 PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2003 11:27 pm    Post subject: Apocalypse Reply with quote Back to top

Rainy weather dominated the past month, the sky above Mayhew was obstructed with Thick cloud. The ashes washed out from remnant of burnt down ruins fueled many muddy creeks that now crisscross the city. The sewer was soon obstructed, and litter filled the street.

An uneasy peace as settled between the dragons and citizens who chose to stay. For many generations the inhabitants of this city have passed down the legends of the beasts of fire and air. The ferocity of which the dragons descended upon the city has realized their fears.

Rhythmic clang of metal echoed in the rain. Lighting flashes across the sky and clear away the grey monotony for an instant. During the instant, one can see Large Humanoid silhouette tugging slowing under the heavy rain, working restlessly.

In the distance, light shone though many windows of the castle. The castle suffered relatively light damage. In the hall of the castle, a meeting is in session.

“Ocimilium, I very much doubt human would give that much wealth out of gratitude.”
A voice singed, it seemed to fill the room with warmth and sorrow.
“They did use some encouragement,” Replied a cynical voice, “and it’s not like they need the gold anymore.”
“One can not be more desperate for gold then these people,” Objected Alexandria, “The gold can hire additional labor for reconstruction and repair works.” Each dragon attending the meeting has assumed human form in order the preserve the sanity of hastily elected counselors of Mayhew.
“Why one need any human labor when your new toys work just fine”, Said the black cloaked wizard. He was sitting comfortably in a large chair, playing with a small segment of charred bone.
“You have a point, Ocimilium,” Said a lady in white, flowing robes “However, The automation can not replace everything lost in the battle, for one, they aren’t adept at weaving textiles into cloth.”
“How compassionate”, said the wizard, crumbling the piece of bone in is hand and blows the dust onto the table. “I can’t think of a better way to waste gold then buying cloth and finery for the mortals, you might as well give them a ride while you are at it.”
“Without that gold, it will take those years to replace the properties your kind so carelessly destroyed.” Alexandria is clearly irritated. “It’s most cruel to take away the last flickers hope from these desperate people.”
“I take that an s a compliment. Consider it a privilege that I even participate in this act of liberation, don’t push your luck”, Said the wizard. He tried to wipe his dusty hand on a banner of Mayhew.
“More like act of banditry” Amasteryx stood in his human form, his fiery robe flow without apparent wind. Before the black archon could reply with equally cynical words, he whispered something to Ocimilium, who nodded silently.

Emarius was surprised at the pair of black gloves that appeared on the table before him. He was sure it was not there a while ago. What followed, he could never forget.

“I challenge you, Emarius of the white citadel, to a duel of wizards. Tomorrow I will face you in the fairground at midday. If I win, I will take the gold and will not leave one coin behind. If you win, you can keep the gold and are free to use it on your foolish endeavor. Do you accept the challenge?”

“An archon challenges Archamge, Where is your dignity, Ocimilium”, Protested Alexandria.
“An egg layer is not illegible for challenges”, Ocimilium countered sharply.
“I accept.” Emarius said calmly as he casually threw his wizard glove at Ocimilium before Alexandria drew her sword.
“So be it.” Ocimilium disappeared.

[ 29. August 2003, 12:32 AM: Message edited by: Merlin the Black ]
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