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 PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2005 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Nearly everyone had followed Iscara out to meet Xyra. Very few of any race were left inside the city. Of these, only three were foreigners. All other travellers had departed after the battle, but these arrived afterwards. Undeterred by the knowledge that Xyra's attention was on this town, they found their way to The Sellswords' Lodge. Two of them were together; both Southerners by their loose garb and relaxed manner. One was dressed in the travelling clothes of a Brother of the Night, and carried an odd weapon that looked like an iron rod with a crossbow's stock. The other wore silver robes and hood, and was presumably a Wizard. The third stranger was markedly different. He was taller, wore massive boots, and was covered with a travelling cloak of Hellbear fur. Across his broad back was slung a tremendous sword, the hilt of which looked to be stone. Obviously a Barbarian from the West, he nevertheless seemed to recognize the Southerners and made his way to them as soon as possible.
The innkeeper, loyal to the memory of King Tarac, had gone with Klamath. Before he left, however, he noticed that the three men had entered the common and were seated around a table. He pondered their uncaring attitudes, but did not stay to learn the secret of their nonchalance.
"So," Trolban said, gazing at Varren. "You want a clear shot at the abomination with your strange weapon, right?"
"Its name is Cloud," he drawled. The thickened accent was the Brother's only sign of excitement. "And yes, I do. My assignment from Lunord was to assassinate Xyra. Ah can't very do that if'n you cause a big hullaballoo."
"I can be patient." Trolban leaned back in his chair, and glanced at Krystallion. "What about you, Ancient? What will yhou do?"
"I intend to aid Varren. We need to secure a position without being detected."
"We also need to know where Xyra will be, and when. That'll be you' assignment, Trolban. Find out what this monstah intends to do after he defeats those Lycoes and they surrendah. If he entahs the city to flaunt his victory, then we can lay for him, and our task will be easy. On the other hand, if he goes back to Shadowood or elsewheah we'll have some work catchin' up to him. Eithah way, we can't move until we know his plans."
"Varren is right," agreed Krystallion. "As a Barbarian, you will draw less suspicion than either of us. Also, your people are nearly as accustomed as Varren's to acting in stealth."
"Very well, then." Trolban rose to his feet. "I will go out and learn the enemy's plans. Where you be here?"
Varren nodded. "We won't move muscle. You take care now. don't let the monstah discovah your true identity."
"I'm not such a fool."
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 PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2005 10:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Luciendus flew over the northern isles, watching the spread of his newly founded empire. In the past weeks Luciendus had expanded his domain onto other nearby islands, building fortresses and outposts in strategic places. After nearly being hunted to extinction and forced to go into hiding, Luciendus had made the ice dragons into expansionists. Destroying the ice dragon empire would not be done in one strike. The frozen northern islands were veritable fortresses now. The engineers had forged a huge army of ice automatons in anticipation of the coming bloodshed. Most of the automatons had been ferried across to the mainland and deployed in the mainland outposts. Luciendus watched as Frostwing, his second-in-command approached him.
"My lord, the Enchanters are ready. They only wait for your command to begin." Luciendus hesitated for a moment.
"Very well. Begin the enchanting." Frostwing flew back in the direction of the ice citadel. Luciendus had gathered a select group of the very best ice dragon spellcasters to serve as the Enchanters. They worked in unison, forging complex artifacts and weapons, and weaving powerful spells. The Enchanters were about to begin their most difficult project yet. The Frost Gem was intended to be a powerful gem forged from pure ice essence and magic. The Enchanters would pour their power into the artifact, and still it would take weeks, even months to complete. The Frost Gem would not kill Xyra, Luciendus was sure, but hopefully it would weaken him. Luciendus sighed as he thought of the struggle to come.
"I hope this works."

Meanwhile on the northern coast of the mainland, Luciendus's influence was spreading quickly. More and more of the northern towns were unknowingly swearing fealty to the ice dragon archon. The townsfolk had quickly gotten used to the mysterious voice in their heads that called itself Luciendus and were not surprised when it called to them once again.
"Greetings, my servants, it is I, Luciendus" the soft voice in their heads called "It is time for you to learn the ways of combat. War comes to these lands and the only way to save yourself and your fellow townsfolk is to listen to me and learn to fight. Will you fight for me?"
"Yes, of course Luciendus. We are always faithful" the townsfolk answered.
"Tomorrow, a great flying dragon will come to your town. Do not be afraid. It is a follower of the word of Luciendus and will teach you all you need to know. If you are willing and faithful, I will make you my personal champions."
"Your are most kind, Luciendus. We will be faithful." replied the townsfolk
"That is all. Tomorrow you will meet your destiny"
All hail Ithacus, the Great Ranger-Mage and loyal servant of Krolm.
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 PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2005 10:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Ithacus continued to travel. He had no idea where he was going, only concentrating on following the energy source that he thought was Xyra. To an observer Ithacus certainly did not look like someone who intended to find and kill an entity with power to rival the gods. If Ithacus had any apprehension at the coming fight, he showed none of it, marching calmy down the dusty road, humming a merry tune. Ithacus could see a city on the horizon. He would likely get there by nightfall.
"Whatever that city is, I hope there's good food there. I haven't had a good meal in days." Ithacus said to himself "hopefully someone there will have something to tell me about Xyra. I probably need to catch up with my old friend Trolban. I admit that I probably lack the power to defeat Xyra myself." Ithacus mused on this for awhile before continuing to march toward the distant city.

Ithacus stopped and stared up at the city gates that greeted him. This certainly could not be Mayhew or New Valmorgan. It had a different sort of look to it, far from the elegance of parliament. Ithacus also noticed varied races mingling. There were humans,but there were also a lot of another race that Ithacus couldn't identify. A young human boy walked passed Ithacus and Ithacus called to him.
"Boy! What city is this?"
"Sanctuary, sir" the boy said softly before hurrying back into the crowd.
"Sanctuary" Ithacus thought to himself "It sounds interesting." Ithacus took one last look around before heading to find the nearest tavern.
All hail Ithacus, the Great Ranger-Mage and loyal servant of Krolm.
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 PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2005 6:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

The contest was over in less than a minute. One after another, xyra defeated three of the greatest Lyco warriors Ardania had to offer. Trolban looked on as impassively as he could, but was deeply disturbed by the ease with which Xyra knocked out his challengers. Worse was the suppressed joy that the observant chieftain caught in the monster's attitude. The Lycoes, impressed and maybe a little frightened, readily joined themselves to Xyra. Finally came the important part, as far as Trolban was concerned.
"Lord Xyra," said Iscara, stepping forward to kneel before the victor. "Please, enter into Sanctuary. The city is your legitimate prize. I and my kindred would be honoured if you were to stay the night in the Palace."
"Very well," replied Xyra, no longer concealing his pleasure. "But you must go to Shadowood. Rally what's left of the army. When you're finished, contact me. I will dispatch the Sanctuary forces to Valmorgen, where you will launch a joint attack on the erstwhile capital."

Trolban and Ithacus arrived at The Sellswords' Lodge nearly simultaneously. The door had just slammed shut behind the Avatar when the other opened it again.
"Trolban!" he cried. The chieftain turned around, drew his brows together at the sight of Ithacus.
"Who are you? There's something rather familiar ... "
"I am Ithacus, the Ranger-Mage and servant of Krolm," he answered. "I know you, Trolban, if you don't recall me."
"Ah yes! An Explorer with strange practices, you had yourself inducted into one of the tribes recently. Why are you here?"
"For the same reason as you." Ithacus shrugged. "I intend to kill this 'Xyra' creature, but I realized I couldn't do it alone."
"Hm." Trolban studied him, and nodded. "I realize the same thing. come, let me introduce you to my companions." The chieftain guided him over the table, and introduced Varren Kyth and Krystallion.
"Ithacus the Rangeah-Mage?" drawled Varren. "The pleasure's mine."
"Likewise," said Krystallion politely. Ithacus smiled.
"On the contrary, it's not every day that one meets the Avatar of Lunord and a Wizard of such extraordinary power."
"You finished?" interrupted Trolban. "Time is wasting. By the cheering, Xyra is already inside the city."
"Quite." Varren glanced around. "Now then, time to plan our strategy. Ah and Krystallion will head for the Palace. Trolban, you and you' friend get as close as you can to Xyra. Aftah I shoot him, the city'll be in an uproah. Y'all will have to secure an escape route."
"couldn't you just teleport out?" objected Ithacus. Varren shook his head.
"Spells can be traced, and who knows what abilities some of these terries have? Besides, if somethin' were to happen and I couldn't fiah the shot, the pair of you will have to deal with Xyra."
"Understood," agreed Trolban, rising. "Anything else?"
"Nope; I reckon that's about all. Come on, Krystallion." He and the Wizard got up and headed for the exit. as he pushed the door open, Varren turned and nodded at the two servants of the Elder God. "Good luck, y'all. Don't do anythin' rash if y'all can help it."
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 PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2005 12:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Xyra strolled into Sanctuary unopposed. In so doing, he knew he had conquered Ardania. With the Lycoes by his side and his enemies in disarray, any remnant of doubt was swept away. All that remained to do was to eradicate any remaining pockets of resistance. The only regret he had was that the destruction would be over so quickly.

"Heah he comes," murmured Varren. He and Krystallion behind the parapet of the Palace gatehouse. Behind them lay two unfortuante terry Guards that had been slain to prevent their giving an alarm. Below them, in the street, came the procession, led by Xyra. The conqueror was absorbed in his own thoughts. He would not have noticed if Varren had walked right up to him and stuck Cloud's muzzle in his belly. Varren lifted his weapon. He sighted.
"One moment," whispered Krystallion. "I am familiar with firearms, having watched them constructed. Unless yours is very different, there is a loud explosion when one is fired. allow me to cast a silencing spell, lest the repercussion alert Xyra. His reflexes are preternatural; he could conceivably dodge or deflect your shot if he is aware."
"Get on with it," hissed Varren impatiently. Krystallion muttered a few words, and a bubble of soundlessness closed around them, blocking out the fanfare of the crowd below.
Varren nodded, and pulled the trigger.

Xyra's rapture was broken by a searing pain in his chest. He collapsed to his knees, clutching at his heart. Pale red blood seeped between his fingers as the stunned Lycoes looked on.
"What ... " he gasped. "Who dares ... " he fell forward, barely catching himself with one blood-stained hand.
"A trap!" cried Iscara, running up to kneel by her fallen master. she glared about at the shocked teratogenics. "Who is responsible for this? I shall personally see to - "
"Prepare to die, in the name of KROLM!" A Lyco gave a death-cry and pitched forward, nearly cut in half. Behind him stood Trolban, wielding his massive stone blade in both hands. In an instant, he cut down two more Lucoes. Then a wave of fire washed out over the crowd, emanating from another man dressed in the fashion of the wilds.
"Behold!" he cried as flame sprung from his upraised hands. "I am Ithacus, servant of Krolm! Witness the power of the Elder God!"
Iscara snarled. Lifting her hand, she fired an energy blast at Trolban. "Don't just stand around gawping!" she barked at the others. "Fight! There's only two of them!"
Stirred by her words and the scent of blood, the Lycoes sprang into action. One caught Trolban's stone blade with a great sword of his own. Half a dozen rushed Ithacus, energy shields deflecting the flames. The rest began circling into position, ready to overwhelm the interlopers.
Iscara, satisfied, turned to the Palace. She was met by a powerful blast of ice that brought her to her knees, benumbed. Gazing helplessly up, she saw a silver light fall upon the parapet. Up from the Palace gates rose the awesome form of an Ancient, pure scales flashing in their own light. The creature opened its jaws, preparing to engulf both her and Xyra in holy fire.

Xyra's hand clenched into a fist. His talons dug into his flesh, but he ignored the pain, which was nothing anyway next to the bullet lodged in his heart.
"Wretched ... mortal scum," he gasped. An intense glow surrounded him, melting away the bullet and the pain within him. Iscara, beside, was blown back by the force of his power. A shockwave rolled out from him, staggering the press behind him. The glow waxed brighter. Another shochwave rolled out from him, causing the nearby buildings to great. Electricity began to flicker as the energy radiating from him ionized the air.

"By Lunord," muttered Varren from atop Krystallion. He could barely look at Xyra now, so bright was his aura. He could sense nothing else but the power washing out from the being. He had never experienced anything like it. Lunord's power, sensed in his dream, was drab and pallid in comparison.
Krystallion beat his wings to gain altitude. As an Ethereal Dragon, he was keenly attuned to the winds. Xyra's power did more than just deafen him to other mystic phenomena, it was a growing pain. He shook his head, but the motion only made it worse. Finally, with a scream of agony, he wheeled about and climbed into the heavens.

"Oh no you don't!" shrieked Xyra. He rocketed into the sky after the fleeing Ancient. Silver collided with silver as Xyra rammed into the Dragon's chest. Krystalion arched up; Xyra disappeared into his dissolving chest cavity. The Dragon's corporeal body began to glow. Xyra burst out through the Ancinet's back, catching a brief glimpse of the terror-stricken face of his would-be assassin. Then Xyra was half a mile higher up, and Varren had teleported in panic.
The light from the Dragon's body grew brighter as Krystallion thrashed about in his death throes. Suddenly the shape dissolved into pure light which burst out in all directions. Immediately following it was a catastrophic explosion, which leveled every wooden structure in Sanctuary and slew the weaker terries.

Trolban rocked on his feet as the titanic shockwave smashed over him. All his foes were knocked to the street. Even Ithacus staggered and fell.
The Avatar of Krolm shook his head. Regaining his bearings, he looked around. The Lycoes were picking themselves up. There were hundreds of them, and he had already suffered several wounds. Weakened by the successive concussions, he was no match for them. Besides, up in the clouds there continued to shine an ominous light -- Xyra was preparing another stroke.
"Ithacus!" he bellowed. "Those who fight and run away live to fight another day! The time has come to retreat!"
Nodded in comprehension, the ranger-Mage spat out a spell along with a couple of broken teeth. Both champions of Krolm vanished.
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 PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2005 1:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Temple of Elements

“Your majesty”
“You may speak”
“Krystalion’s spirit has returned.”
Spirit, you imply he didn’t succeed.”
“Your majesty, it seem to be the case.”
“Bring him before me.”

The two specs of lights in the darkness glow in intensity, then, with a burst of brilliance, the dragon woke. A pair of great violet wings spread out into the blinding flash, ever so slowly. And a voice spoke with contempt.

“I do not believe you had my instruction.”

Krystalion may now see the form of one who spoke. The creature slowly rose from the mountain of gold that made her nest. Her eyes burnt intently with purple flame.

“And you disturbed my slumber. So I hope you have a good reason.”

The Ancient bowed, his great head touched the marble floor of the temple. And he spoke.
“I take upon me the sole responsibility of my failure. Please accept my apologies, your majesty.”

“I will accept your apologies on one ground …” The dragon finally landed, bracing the impact with her front legs. “I have scanned though many tomes here while I slept, for the purpose of deception. I will not saddle you with details but you will enter the celestial realm and obtain an Audience with Fervus. He will be allowed to manifest here. He is fickle, but I do trust you will not be barred from that realm also. You don’t want to know what would happen, should you fail. Now go, before my mind is changed.”
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 PostPosted: Mon Aug 29, 2005 6:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Luciendus growled with satisfaction as he watched his rapidly growing human army. The humans of the the northlands had proved eager and willing to learn to fight and most were proficient in combat by now. A small group of humans had been chosen to be trained by his ice dragon spellcasters to learn magic. Human spellcasters did not have as much potential for power as ice dragons, but they could be useful nonetheless. In addition to the great army of ice automatons the engineers had created, thousands of humans had joined Luciendus's army to become Ice Warriors, who formed the core of Luciendus's troops, trained to use specially ice-enchanted swords and axes with great proficiency. The humans who showed the most potential were trained to be the Frost Guard, Luciedus's elite troops. Each carried a longbow and ice-enchanted arrows, and were trained to be an excellent shot with it. The Frost Guard had spent weeks practicing swordsmenship with rapiers and sabres and had skill to surpass any human swordsmen. The human spellcasters formed a group known simply as The Cold Surge, who were kept seperate from the rest of the humans and taught to be masters in the manipulating of ice magic. Now that Luciendus's army was complete, all that was left to do was observe and wait to strike. Luciendus's second-in-command, Frostwing appeared next to him. "M'lord, the Enchanters inform you that the Frost Gem is nearly half done."
"Good" replied Luciendus "When the Frost Gem is finished we will be ready to strike and rid the world of the menace that is Xyra forever."
"Icindar reports that the humans are adaquetely trained and are ready to march at your command, Luciendus"
"Icindar has done well with the training. Make him a lieutenant and tell him to continue to train the troops, but keep them ready to march at a moment's notice."
"Yes, M'lord". Frostwing left him to head back to the ice citadel. Luciendus continued to ponder the state of things. If everything went according to plan, they would be rid of Xyra within a month or two.
All hail Ithacus, the Great Ranger-Mage and loyal servant of Krolm.
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 PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2005 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Another divine meeting had been called following the failure of Lunord's Avatat to assassinate Xyra. Once again it was held in the Celestial Realm of Order, and once again Krypta and Fervus were not present.
Agrela nodded as Lunord remarked upon this fact. "Yes. Although Fervus has returned to the Celestial Realms, he has yet evinced no interest in resuming his functions as a member of the pantheon."
"And that's the way it should stay," cut in Helia. "He's done enough damage. He should be sealed in his own Realm, to prevent him from starting any more mischief."
"I must agree with Mother," added Dauros. "Fervus must be kept out of the way, at least for the time being. This crisis could be made forever irreperable by his mad whims."
"Fine," rumbled Krolm. "One less problem to deal with. But what about the rest of you? And Krypta? She has begun flexing her temporal muscles again -- no thanks to you, grandson."
"One issue at a time, All-Father," replied Dauros unruffled. "First and foremost is Xyra's apparent immortality."
Lunord nodded in agreement. "My Avatar shot him in the heart, and the monster was fazed for only a minute. The power he displayed thereafter was greater than any he has shown hitherto."
"This calls for a modification of our plan," concluded Dauros. "Sister?"
Agrela nodded. "Dauros and I, as well as many of the Wise among the dead, are now of the opinion that we must await the issue of Amaru's journey in the Labyrinth before making another move against Xyra. No creature on Ardania can match Xyra in single combat, and he has vanquished two armies single-handedly."
"Referring to the undead horde assembled on the Isle of Krolm, and the garrison of Mayhew." Helia nodded. "Go on."
"As you say, mother; and the undead horde included some ninety Black Phantoms. Now, the army assembling in Western Ardania is vast, and it does number some powerful Heroes in its ranks, but it is doubtful that they could take on Xyra. Even if they should win, the destruction brought about would render Ardania unlivable."
"So what do you suggest?" growled Krolm. "That we sit on our hands in the hope that Amaru and his merry men survive the Labyrinth? There are monsters down there that make Andraxal-Kerlazor look like a kitten!"
"As also does Xyra," Lunord said, favouring his father with an acidic smile. "That is why the Guardian went there; because only the experience of conquering the Labyrinth could prepare his champions for the task of fighting Xyra."
"And Amaru has the Ender's Spear," Dauros pointed out. "That seems to be the only weapon capable of ending Xyra's life."
"All right!" snapped Helia. "I for one will abide the outcome of Amaru's quest. But in the meantime Xyra is rebuilding his army. He plans to move on New Valmorgen now. By your counsel the city cannot be defended for fear of provoking another Cataclysm. What then?"
"We let it go," said Dauros calmly. Krolm snorted.
"And what, then, of the wonderful plan to smash Xyra between my army and your city? You would have us bind the hands of the assembled horde and hand Xyra our anvil as a bonus!"
"Xyra may take New Valmorgen," said Dauros, "but we will not have given it up. There are vaults beneath my Grand Sanctum there were a large number of men may hide. I will dispatch the newly formed Order of Crimson there, to lie in wait until we are ready to challenge Xyra once again."
Krolm grunted. "Fine. Do as you will."
"Meanwhile," said Helia, "we have another problem. I don't suppose you've noticed, but an evil shadow is spreading south from the Mountains of Sydrian."
"You need not patronize us, sister dear," returned Lunord. "I, for one, have noted it; three of the villages under my patronage have fallen to it. Even now I have advised the Grand Master of the Brotherhood to dispatch agents to the city of Daring to determine its cause."
"Don't bother!" spat Helia. "Daring is already enmeshed in the darkness. As for the cause, its name is Tyrhail. A Vampire lord who has built himself a castle over the ruins of Caer Sydrian."
"And who did you find out?" demanded Lunord, nettled.
"Bravery accomplishes more than skulking in the shadows, brother. Especially when shadws are your enemy."
"In other words," interposed Dauros, "you sacrificed your Flammifers in order to penetrate the clouds that shroud Mount Sydrian."
"Nightsbane and Ignitia died well, and not in vain," retorted Helia. "By their sacrifice, Braziere was able to return with the knowledge we needed."
"I did not criticise." Dauros paused, considering. "So, this Tyrhail seeks to extend south? Once Xyra takes Valmorgen, he will also be in a position to expand south. The two will come into conflict."
"If Xyra does try to expand South," objected Lunord, "he will over-extend. Unnaturally powerful he may be, but he is stretched tauut as it is."
"He has shown a marked disregard for strategy so far," Dauros reminded him. "Also, in order to replenish his forces, Xyra needs men. Consider: the eastern provinces are nearly empty as all have fled South or West. The West itself, past sanctuary and Cheswick, is nearly wilderness. There are few points there for Xyra to take as a base. The Southlands, on the other hand, are filled with rich cities. Since he is so starved for support, it is natural to turn his attention to that which will satisfy his hunger."
"And the South will surely fall," said Agrela sadly, "caught as it is between Tyrhail and Xyra."
"And undefended except for my brother's assassins." Helia stood up and glanced about angrily. "What a bunch of cowards! I will withhold my hand from Xyra -- for now -- but I will not mourn defeat before it happens! Sit back if you must; I and my daughters will fight!" And so she stormed from the chamber in a whirl of flame.
"Let her go!" commanded Krolm as Lunord made a motion to follow her. "She is in the right of it. Lunord, you will support your sister without any more arguing or jealousy. As for myself, I have resposibilities to my people. Granddaughter, you will help me keep the peace between my children and the townlings. As for you, Dauros, go hatch your plots with your cold-hearted sister. I only hope that they will do some good!"
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 PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2005 12:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Liang and Malphax finally slept, but Amaru remained awake, having no need of sleep. Also, impressed as he was by his foster brother's skill, he did not trust the Ubervargs to be held at bay so easily. So he stood watch, aided, he guessed, by Malphax himself, who like all elder Dragons slept with his eyes half open.
When all had awakened, Amaru gestured Liang to his side.
"It is time that we rejoined our companions," he said. "Malphax, I see you are still in human shape; does this mean you will travel with us?"
"Aye, brother," said the shapeshifted Dragon, grinning. "Infernuvar will jus' have to stumble along without meh fer awhile."
"Fine," snarled Infernuvar, not really pleased at the news but too proud to intimate that he would miss the older Dragon's counsel. "Take him and good riddance. Just don't try to take any of my golems -- I need those."
"And a fond farewell to ye, too, young Archon," chuckled Malphax. Infernuvar snorted, and he, the other Dragons, and the golems vanished.
Before Amaru and the others could teleport themselves, they had to wait for the Ether Winds to calm down from Infernuvar's massive transport spell. Amaru took the time to inform his companions of what he had discovered while probing the Labyrinth with his mind.
"You will understand that much is dark to me," he said. "The Labyrinth is filled with enchantments that impede my mental vision. However, two things I saw clearly. First, Darac and Kynoto have barely triumphed over a trio of ancient beasts known as Xiphers. Although Kynoto is grievously wounded, Darac has grown much in strength as a result of his brush with death.
"The second thing I witnessed is worse. The southern portal between Labyrinth and surface, the one beneath Caer Sydrian, is weakening. Darac guessed -- and I agree -- that Xyra used that gate when he escaped the Dungeons and reemerged into the world. Then, the entrance of your army, Malphax, weakened it still further. And, while you slept, another power has breached it. The physical block is now wholly removed, and the magic weakened to the point where any creature with the willpower of a Harpy could break through."
"Then time is of the essence," said Liang. "The ethereal storm has died down; let us then make haste to rejoin our companions."
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 PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2005 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

The Dragons' teleportation spell brought them into a large tunnel several miles south of Darac and Kynoto. Infernuvar neither knew nor cared about the location of the two Heroes, however. Nor did he bother to consider the nature of the tunnel his little force now moved through. It was nearly as tall as the cavern of the Ubervargs, and wide enough for all of the golems to march abreast. It also showed signs of having been used before. If it had not been articifially made, it had been artificially enlarged.
The Dragons flew on for nearly an hour, matching the lumbering pace of the golems. After covering some twenty miles in this way, they came to yet another cavern, even greater in extent than the one which housed the Ubervargs. Water fell steadily from the porous ceiling, creating an effect recalling a rain shower. The perpetual, if light, downpour had worn many channels in the rocks, creating streams and pools among a patchwork of hills. Illumination came from the mats of lumina fungi on the dark rock of the hills, and from a luminescent relative of the water lily that floated on the calmer pools.
Infernuvar, pleased with his discovery, decided to rest. He and his flight were not completely recovered from the skirmish with the Ubervargs, after all, and the teleportation had greatly drained their remaining mage. So they settled on two hills, bearing less of the slimy lumina, and prepared to recuperate.
A quarter of an hour passed quietly while Infernuvar grumbled about the lack of external heat. Then a shriek arose from the second hill, causing the young Archon to snap his head up in irritation, which quickly gave way to rage.
His mage had been caught by what appeared to a thick, mud-coloured serpent. The Dragon's wings were pinioned by the thing, which wrapped several times around his body and trailed down into the lily-covered water. The draconic magician struggled mightly, but he could not stop himself from being drawn down towards whatever waited beneath the deceptive surface.
Infernuvar took to the air with a barrage of curses, interrupting them only long enough to order his Dragons and golems into action. The golems were the first to respond since they did not have to awaken from sleep. They trained their firelances on the thing, and fired.
Very little happened to the rubbery attacker, but the shots did draw a response from under the water. There was a sound like a deep, somewhat muffled moan. A single massive bubble rose to the surface of the water and burst. Then the hill started shaking, and Infernuvar launched an entirely new volley of curses.
Up from the water came the unmistable shape of a head. It was enormous, bigger than anything Infernuvar had or ever wanted to see. The fiery eye alone was bigger than any creature he had heard of; Infernuvar could have almost flown through the pupil. The worst of it, however, was the fact that the "snake" was extending from the thing's gaping mouth. It was the monster's tongue, and it was inexorably drawing the Dracomage to an obvious doom.
"Idiots!" shrieked Infernuvar. "Half-witted hatchlings! Gutless spawn of gorgons! Save the mage! Tear that -- that -- tear apart, or I'll eat you all myself!"
The other Dragons sprang into the air to obey, not out of fear of Infernuvar but because they did had no desire to be stranded without their mage. But even as they rose from the hilltop another aspect of the horror revealed itself. Perhaps a wiser wyrm would have foreseen it, but when the hill trembled and began to move Infernuvar was utterly confounded. It was no hill, just the monstrous creature's back.
The golems, registering the threat, turned their fire on the thing's colossal flank. The monster did not even blink. It rose even higher, water rushing away in cataracts as three pairs of massy limbs emerged from the streams, which flooded into the deep cavity created by the creature's resting bulk. Ponderously, it leaned its weight onto it right feet. Slowly it lifted all three of its left legs clear of the muddy ground, then dropped them with an explosion back into the muck.
An avalanche could not have been more devastating. The entire cavern shook. The force of the blow moved the muddy ground like liquid, sending it crashing into the line of golems. The golems floundered and collapsed, buried in a sea of sludge. Several low-flying Dragons were also caught in the blast of mud, and plummeted to the cavern floor, where they writhed half-submerged in the remaining pools.
Infernuvar snarled and shook a particularly vehement piece of slime from his eyes. His vision cleared just in time to see the screaming Dracomage pulled into the creature's maw. The vast opening promptly fell closed, and Infernuvar felt an army of unpleasant emotions conquer his stomach as he watched the massive jaws slowly grind his hapless mage into fodder.
The thing's short neck bulged slightly, and the monster opened its mouth once more. The expanse was now empty, save for the teeth, each of which would have down nicely as a keep for an Ardanian lord. The teeth, and the tongue.
Infernuvar recoiled as the dirt-coloured length shot out again, but it was not aimed at him. The braver dragons were attempting to burn the titan with their fire breath, to no avail. One of these had just passed over the creature began, bathing it in fire, when the tongue caught him.
Infernuvar had no need to watch to guess how this new struggle would end. "Retreat!" he screamed. "Pull back! We'll take our vengeance another day!"
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 PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2005 9:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Amaru, Liang and Malphax materialized in the tunnel where Darac and Kynoto had had their encounter with the Xiphers. They found that the carcasses had been pilled up off to the side. Kynoto was lying composed further up the passage, and Darac was standing guard over her pale form.
"Greetings, O Prince," cried Amaru as he stepped toward the Lyco, who leaned up against the wall. Darac's antennae twitched and he turned an unsmiling face towards the newly arrived trio.
"Apparition," he said, his voice biting. Amaru's smile faded.
"Darac," he sighed. "Have you not realized that Liang is not his father?"
"I see you've picked up another Wizard," continued Darac, ignoring Amaru's words. "A second Magelord, perhaps? An apprentice to Cao? Or -- no wait -- that aura. I'll never forget it -- you've brought a Dragon back with you! How thoughtful."
"Darac." Amaru's tone became cautionary. "This is Malphax, my friend and foster-brother. He is, as you surmise, a fire Dragon, but not like others."
"Aye," said Malphax, grinning. "It's not every Dragon as would go traipsin' around with a mortal's ghost."
"Your brother?" Darac's eyes narrowed. "So you were raised by Dragons? It figures." He pushed himself away from the wall and turned fully toward the trio. "How many other secrets are you hiding? I've had enough of it, apparition. You can keep your Magelord and your disguised Dragon. I'll find the exit on my own."
"Do you realize what you are saying?" asked Amaru, quietly.
"Of course not," snarled Darac. "I'm just an ignorant young fool. You're old, wise, experienced; an emissary of the gods, no less! Save it for someone who cares, apparition. I don't need your silver-tongued sentamentality."
"I am sorry to hear that." Amaru regarded the Lyco sadly. "You are certain that there is nothing I can offer you?"
"I wouldn't accept it if there -- wait. There is one thing." Darac shifted, assumed a fighting stance. "We never finished our match. Fight me, apparition. If you beat me, I'll even stay with your little party."
"As you wish." Amaru laid a hand on the Ancients' sword, then paused. "Your axe. Where is it?"
"Broken. Don't trouble yourself, apparition. I'll beat you bare-handed."
Amaru shifted his hand. Instead of grasping the hilt, he gripped the scabbard and pulled it out of his sash. He tossed the sheathed weapon aside. "I cannot fight an unarmed opponent while armed myself," he said.
"Suit yourself. Now, enough tlk! attack me with everything you have!"
"As you wish!"
The following duel moved so fast that neither Wizard nor Dragon could follow it. Energy flared and died around the combatants, sometimes blasting out alarmingly close to the spellcasters. Great holes were blown in the walls, floor and ceiling of the tunnel. Not all were from energy blasts, either. As the duel progressed, the sheer force of the blows left craters in the rock.
In ten minutes, it was over. Amaru lay twisted on his side, clutching at his chest. Darac stood further up the passage, just setting his foot down after delivering the finishing kick. His right arm was limp, his clothing torn to shreds, but there was no doubt he was victorious.
Darac grinned and licked away the blood that had dribbled over his lips. "I've beaten you, apparition. You can no longer hold your 'superior' skills over me."
Casting a disdainful glance at the dragon, and sneding one more piercing at the Wizard, Darac began limping down the tunnel. Even as the two watched, his gait quickened. Before he disappeared, Malphax saw him flexing his arm, broken just minutes before.
"One tough laddie," muttered Malphax. "C'mon, Liang, let's tend t' the fallen."
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 PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2005 4:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

East Cheswick, Alliance citadel

“Captain Lachryma, how goes the training.” An old wizard leaned off a balcony and spoke at the crowed below, more then a few turned to face him, but all but one gave a glace before continuing their own business.
“Sivion, I was looking for you. And you found me first; I would like to speak with you.” A serious looking templar spoke, his expression relaxed somewhat.
“It’s easier for a young man to ascend then an old one to descend, don’t you agree?” the reply came.
“I will come up if that is what you desire.” The knight spoke. “Wait right there, if you don’t mind.”

Dauragon was quickly bought to the rampart of the chapter by his brisk pace. The old mage smiled as the knight arrived.
“Honestly, my men are hardly making any progress. There is no surprise really. The draconian weapons are nearly weightless, it’s impossible to judge its position without keeping one’s sight trained on it. I am afraid most of my men are spending more time looking at the sword then the target so they don’t cut themselves.”

“I wouldn’t blame them really.” The mage spoke as they begin walking towards the keep using one of many sky bridges connecting various buildings. “They have to trust their weapons; it’s more becoming one with the guardians, then trying to wield it.”

“Sentient weapons are insane idea only followers of Krypta would tolerate, yet their martial skills leave much to be desired. Tell me Sivion, whose idea was this?” The commander spoke, the eyes of archon can be seen in the distance, a towering pillar, the globe above which emits a shaft of light that pierces darkness.

“I believe the original weapon was quite ancient. The dragons encountered opponent with great skill in affecting the mind. So they turned to creating autonomous construct that has no need of a wielder. The first blade guardians are simply that, processed blade that moved under their own power. They would float up to an opponent, and defeat him all on its own.”

“So why do them suddenly need a wielder now?” The knight spoke, yet his mind is lost in thoughts.

“It’s not entirely necessary. However it’s good to maintain some manner of control. Blade guardians are not entirely pleasant to be bought back from the dead, so to speak. They need to be … counseled.”

“How do you know all these?” the knight is suspicious.

“Well, just like how anyone knows anything. I was told.”

Suddenly the light on the eyes turned to them, for a second they were both blinded by the intense beam, yet as suddenly as it came; it left for another part of town, where another large structure is being assembled by magic. Vast blocks of marble float and shift, to slowly take form of a stepped pyramid. As the two entered, they found Erenull waiting for them. Karth and Mother Lifebane were present also.

“Magistrate, what order of business do we have today?” Sivion spoke as he leaned on his staff. Dauragon took his sit with the rest of the council. Across from him sat Starfire, next to her was sir Silverblade. To his left was Tarsha, and to his right was a shape shifted Erenull. Two sits were left open between Erenull and Karth. One was quickly filled by Sivion, and then the arbiter slowly came out of a side room and placed himself on the other sit.

“The law giver decree that we reinforce New Valmorgen. As such, we should do as he speaks. The holy words are not to be questioned.” The arbiter spoke first.

“Manners!” spoke Sivion, we have not yet introduced each other and you are already making demands.

“I do not make demands, the law giver does …”

“I disagree. Her celestial majesty demands we secure the Sydrian foothills less the undead spill into the south. That is her decree also, as such it cannot be argued.”

“Not if I have a word about this!” Dauragon speak. “The gods may have their request, but the first sword makes his call. Listen, we barely have enough men and equipment to hold this fort, much less going anywhere. So these ‘decrees’ will wait. However, I did hear something that would end all our problems.”

“Then let’s hear it.”

“Alexandra has found something. We all know the Tridusa was an artifact of the kingdom age; it was manufactured by a sorcerer of that age, whose name is unfortunately lost to history. However, as we understand now that all sorcery are derived from the draconian magic …”

“So you are saying …”

“Yes, you might have guessed, ‘The Tridusa’ The book that described this item was recovered in horde of Emarius. He was apparently know as Venmortax-Jiiprathor, or simply known as prathor at the time…”

“Oh my …” An expression of shock fills the face of Lady Starfire, who suddenly become more rigid in her priestess’s robe.

“Upon much research, Emarius decided that The Tridusa was apparently a pale imitation of the draconian staff. One now carried by Alexandra. Since it was possible to temporality transform the user of the Tridusa into a shadow form of himself. The dragons naturally wondered if there are alternative uses for the draconian staff as well.”

“recently” Sivion interjected, yet the knight commander did not mind much. “We had made some headway into a type of transformation spells seldom used. Certain powerful artifacts can transform its applicant into a shadow variant of itself. It’s like flipping out a bag in a sense. It seemed that the spell caster is replaced by a hole left in space if he is not there. However we don’t understand much more.

Such, the dragons has commissioned construction of the institute of magic in hope this center of enchantment will finally complete the pinnacle of spells used in their ancient kingdom, and completely whatever research they have not complete. It seemed that Krolm’s creations will finally complete whatever he has tried to stop.”

“I say we stop this, it’s not worth it. First processed swords, then shadow dragons. Whatever they are trying to do next will probably kill us all.” The arbiter is none to pleased to hear the plan.

“I must remind you whatever Alexandra does, she have good of the land in mind” Sivion countered.

“Good of the land, not the people”. Rebuked Starfire, “I like the dragons, but not all their reptilian ideas. They think we are all numbers, a few more or less humans or elf don’t matter much to them.”

“So you do wish to place all your hope in that guardian” Said Sivion. “He is not reliable, trust me. He might come back after we are all dead.”

“killed off by shadow dragons, I might bet” Said the elf. Either way it looks ugly, this is like the chose between hanging and decapitation.”

“Looks that way” Karth finally interjected. “Let half of us choose hanging and the other half choose decapitation, and all pray we survive that which is to come.”

“I agree” the elf added immediately “I will take half of our forces to capital with Karth to stage the ambush, since attacking that vampire is pretty much a moot point now. I will only take a few engineers to set up a momentary hideout. Arbiter, you and the captain stay here with Sivion to figure out how to turn a dragon into shadow. I just hope to be really far away from Alexandra when she tries it; I suggest you do the same.”

“Thank you for the advise, Starfire” Sivion spoke. “We believe we can control the transformation this time. The psychosis side effect in the kingdom age was an accident. I agree with your proposal. We should have the teleportation gate tuned within the hour. If you need materials, the merchant guild will arrange to lift them.”
“I second that as well” The shape shifted dragon smiled. “I will try to conceal this town from both of our enemies for as long as possible. Good luck, may your gods be with you.”
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 PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2005 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

"Master Amaru!" said Liang anxiously, bending over the apparition. "Are you all right?"
"I will be," he replied. Painfully he sat up and shook his head. "My body is not exactly flesh and blood, you know. What you perceive as corporeal is actually a manifestation of my will."
"So it's an illusion?" queried Malphax with interest.
"Not exactly that, either. Let us simply say it is a unique arrangement between myself and Krypta and leave it at that. I will be fine. It is Kynoto we must tend to."
"Aye," agreed Malphax. The Dragon helped Amaru to his feet, and the three walked up to examine the bounty hunter.
"Sound sleeper, this," joked Malphax as they knelt beside her. "She didna stir throughout yer little tussle."
"She is in some form of shock," said Amaru, studying her. "That is a terrible scar on her side. She must have lost quite a bit of blood."
"It is a miracle she is not dead," marvelled Liang.
"Yes. Her determination to survive, acting through the elixir Luna gave her, preserved her life. Still, her body is exhausted. It may be days before she is well enough to regain consciousness. And that is a delay we canot afford."
"Agreed." Liang fingered his staff, and looked back down the tunnel. "We must not tarry here, or Darac will gain such a lead as to make it impossible to catch up."
"That is not so worrisome as what is happening in Ardania," said Amaru. "In our battle, Darac showed that he has what it takes to survive the Labyrinth on his own, if he is fortunate. If not, I can still sense his presence and a teleportation spell will bring us to him. The lands above, however, are another matter."
"I'll say," interjected Malphax. "Vestruen's still up there, as well as Elder Amasteryx. The trouble those two could get into is beyond imaginin'!"
"Never mind Xyra," added Amaru grimly. Gingerly he rose to his feet. "Rascal, carry Kynoto. I shall go first, and Liang will take the rear. Quickly!"

They walked for nearly eight hours. They had come to an intersection of passages; Amaru choose one of immense size, that apparently had been travelled recently. According to the apparition, both Dragons and Darac had passed this way before them.
Coming to the end of the tunnel, they entered into the chamber where, earlier, Infernuvar had experienced his disaster. But the great cavern had changed since the passing of the Dragons. The titanic creature that had devoured the Archon's cohorts lay twisted in death. Its corpse was half-submerged in a crater formed by its own agony; the water slowly filling it was thick and dark with blood. More water poured from gaping holes blasted in the ceiling. And, as the travellers stood gaping at the scene, a large section of the ceiling fell away, causing even more water to cataract down into the cavern.
"What is that thing?" wondered Liang. "And what could have slain it?"
"I do not know what manner of creature it is," answered Amaru, "but I think I can answer your other question. Darac passed through here; I believe he is the one that brought it down."
"It least it explains those tremors we had aweel back," remarked Malphax.

Darac collapsed after finally dragging himself from the cavern. The stupid beast had learned its lesson. After crushing him between its castle-sized teeth, that is.
"What humiliation," he panted. "To be defeated twice in two days." His fingers tightened on the amulet around his neck. "Two down. This gewgaw's almost used up. Good riddance. But at least it's working."
He sighed in frustration, and passed out.
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 PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2005 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

The ring turned one last time, then one by one, the runes glowed, when the last of them did so, an image of the capital city can be seen beyond the gate. The image is blurry, as if seen though water, yet the towers and walls are unmistakable.

“Well, we are dead on target” The dwarven engineer shouted at Karth and Starfire as he lifted his mug for a drink. “Hurry now before we have to shut this thing down.”

And before the two could muster their troops though, a flood of panicking peasants and other refugees rushed though the gate into New Cheswick. “What’s the meaning of this?” shouted the engineer, as he rushed to shut down the magical gate.

“Stay your hand!” Said Mother Lifesbane “They are probably fleeing the city for a good reason, cutting them of seem cruel. Beside, the town may find use for them.”

So the procession stood aside to let the refugees pass. They seemed to be in shock, and no communication with them is successful. They rushed blindly onwards and came to a stop near the keep; the portal was kept open for another hour for the refugees to cross, and it closed at that. All the while not a single refugee spoke a single word.

“Now that is just weird” Said Karth.
“I second you” Said Starfire.
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 PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2005 7:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

After the fiasco in Sanctuary had been more or less cleaned up, Iscara set out for Shadowood. She was using spirit energy at a phenominal rate to mimic the effects of a Speed Potion. In this way, she made it back to Shadowood in less than a day.
The next day, recovered from her bout of super-charging her leg muscles, she sent out scouts to rally the strugglers from her army. About three thousand had made it back to Shadowood -- being Xyres Guards, they had, like her, been able to increase their speed, besides being equipped with teleportation amulets -- but another thousand remained strung out between the two cities. She calculated it would take two days to round them up and bring them back, and she informed Xyra of that.
She did not inform him that Chaos Mask had disappeared. Remembering his attitude when Tyrhail had vanished, she dreaded reporting that the assumed God of Whim had followed his example. Not reporting this little fact was actually Fabulariax's idea, since Iscara was loathe to withhold anything from Xyra again. But, as Fabulariax pointed out, Xyra had no method of discovering otherwise. His only use for the little imp was to create twisted monsters, which function Yimabaaph could perform admirably.
As it turned out, Vaseetinju did more teratogenic work than the Chaos Mage. The Dryad Xyr-Mares had a ready number of subjects in the form of the wretched Parliamentarians she had captured. As the last of the remnant army returned, Vaseetinju reported her success to Iscara: some three thousand half-men, half-beast warriors, some with magic capabilities, and all under her control.
Meanwhile, in Sanctuary, Xyra was recovering from his wound and the following display of power. He was hurt more than he admitted, and he was fortunate that his primary enemies were preoccupied. However, at the end of two days he had recuperated sufficiently to order the Lycoes under his command into two forces. One hundred were to remain in Sanctuary to hold it; they were to be aided by whatever other teratogenics had sided with Xyra. The rest, five hundred and ninety-one all told, were to march on Valmorgen with Xyra at their head.
After giving his instructions to the lieutenant of this force, a Lyco by the pithy name of Mace, he contacted Iscara. Her orders were to take the Xyres Guard and Vaseetinju's slaves and attack Valmorgen, while leaving whatever was left behind in Shadowood under the command of Fabulariax, Areex, Yimabaaph and Chaos Mask, which latter two were to resume the Xyr-Mares project. All orders issued, with his armies in motion, Xyra decided to take a little break and scout out his target.

Last edited by Sorotor on Thu Oct 06, 2005 7:05 pm; edited 1 time in total
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