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 PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2005 8:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

The temple of elements

“Are you certain of this?” a first voice spoke. There lies ruler of dragons, before her, a parchment of unknown ages. And before the parchment, there was Emarius. “I have begun questioning the wisdoms of our ancestors. And this certainly warrants it.”

On the parchment there was a diagram of the draconian staff in a form never seen before. The center of it was the elaborate staff, carved from torquoise and silver into many-layered filigree. It was the staff currently held by the queen. Surrounding it was staff of four archons, each wind around up the staff of kings, at one end of staff, held there by the four serpents, was the orb of disjunction.

“I doubt I need to remind you the implication of this.” Alexandra spoke in a concerned voice. “It was clever but entirely too suicidal. It was meant, to do no other by destroy every sentient using the power of gods themselves.”

“Please elaborate” Emarius thought as he gazed upon the parchment.

“The original design is simple enough. Andraxal-Kerlazor meant to transform himself into a being of darkness. That way he would defeat Krolm using his own power. Failing that, excess energy would be transferred into the orb. Should anyone attempt to saturate him with raw power, the orb would be charged up detonate, with consequence we all know too well. Have you ever wondered why it takes power of a deity to charge up the orb?”

“No, your majesty, such a sinister scheme has never come across my mind. I always knew the orb is a storage device of negative energy, and the shadow form invert the two forms of energies, but I have never realized connection between them. However I do suggest this as an option, nothing more.”

“There are three problems with the ‘option’, as you put it. First, should I fail to defeat Xyra in the shadow form, everything on this world would be wiped out, and only the moon is safe from it. The second, we still need to find out the last ten runes of the shadow incantation, without which it would be impossible to assume that form even with the staff. Third, I am not sure if anyone could control that much negative energy, for such energy is all together evil. I have heard they consume the mind and make undead vicious creatures they are.”

“I think I can we can address all three problems. I trust you have enough skill to defeat this … Xyra with the form. A human with an imitation managed to defeat me. I doubt you are weaker then Xyra by more then a mount a human is weaker then me. The second, Human and elves has being put to work to search for the last phase of incantations, they should have it soon. The last, the only being in the world known to control shadow energy is Krypta, as such it would be an excellent demonstration to our rivals if you should be able to master it. I trust if there is anyone who is up to it, it should be you.”

“Emarius, I still doubt. Something makes me feel uneasy, as if a whisper speaks at back of my mind. It’s holding me back … It has no desire of this … I should dwell on it, for this is a gambit for a checkmate.”
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 PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2005 1:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

The city of New Valmorgen lay peacefully under the noon Sun. It looked much the same as when Xyra had first seen it. To be sure, there were a few extra defenses in place, but nothing he had to worry about. He, or even his army. Especially ... Xyra frowned.
"Where are all the soldiers?" he muttered to himself. "The walls are empty, the Ballista Towers are empty, the streets are empty. The entire city is empty." His tail lashed in sudden anger. "They've evacuated it! How dare they rob me of this victory! How dare they remove my victims! This is a plot of those miserable gods! Well, it will fail in the end. It doesn't matter where they hide their mortal slaves, I will take possession of them in the end! In the meantime, their monuments will have to go!"

Only one man looked on as Xyra destroyed the Temples of New Valmorgen, and brought a second and more complete ruin to the Houses of Parliament. Wither had arrived in the capital days before, waiting for Xyra's attack and the city's response. During that time, he had purchased a new sheath for his sword and a sleeveless coat that fell to his ankles. Now he stood, rune-twined arms crossed, and impassively observed the fall of New Valmorgen from atop its outer wall.
"Xyra is truly the most powerful being in Ardania," he said to himself. "He is peerless in strength and skill; he knows oppurtunity and takes it. Yet he can never rule the land. The most he can accomplish, is to destroy it. I see that I must seek elsewhere for a worthy master."
He turned and jumped down from the wall, setting off west to the city of Cheswick. Behind him, smoke billowed above the great centre of Ardania.
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 PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2005 2:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

East Cheswick, central keep

Another council is held in the keep, only this time two were absent. Their ghostly magical image took their pace in the chambers. And one of them spoke though the communication amulet.

“All right the ambush is in place. We are in the vaults under the city.” Karth spoke; the dripping of water can be heard in the background. “The dwarves have drilled wells and set up mushroom farms. We should be fine until we are tired of the dwarven food. How are things going back there?”

“We are fine, the camouflage field is active now and this town doesn’t exist as far as anyone outside is concerned. We do have a problem of black fog seeping into the surrounding regions, but the undead will not attack if they have no idea we are here. How’s Starfire.”

“Mother Lifesbane is fine. The priestess and she are working day and night to complete a ritual that is supposed to cause a massive undead uprising. To be honest Sivion, My men are not training as hard as they should.”

“Then make them, what are you waiting for. If Dauros have an idea he might have a good one. Now go on your business …” then there a large rumbling could be heard, followed by sound of falling materials.

“All right, it looks like someone has managed to turn the temple above into a pile of rubble. I had better go and make sure they don’t find us. I should speak with you later.”

With that, the image of Starfire and Sir Siverblade vanished from the room.

“How’s the refugees” spoke the arbiter, who seemed to be the only person concerned.
“They are all right” replied Magistrate. “We have relocated them into the chapter’s barrack and priestess quarters for now. There are so many of them that we have to put up some lofts. Our farm should be able to handle them, baring anything unusual happens.”
“So have anyone figured out what is happening.” The arbiter continued, and the knight commander immediately responded. “The capital is evacuated, your honor. The civilians were cent south, and large number of them happens to head into our gate, they speaks of impending attack, and such.”

“Well, I guess they are right, in that case” Sivion interjected. Unless her lordship has anything to add, the meeting is disjointed, until there is need for another one, which by my guess, should happen every soon.
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 PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2005 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Expletives seemed to be the sum of Infernuvar's speech any more. Since the disaster in the great cavern, nothing had gone right. It was not that they encountered any more invincible monsters; it was that they encountered nothing at all. Unless they figured out how to derive sustenance from stone, they would all starve. And that was not the end of their problems.
Infernuvar had figured that at least the loss of the golems would enable them to move faster. He was correct -- except that a quicker pace did them no good when it took them nowhere. They had travelled for days, covered hundreds of miles, and they had gone in circles.
Infernuvar recognized that he was caught in an enchantment; a maze within a maze, so to speak. However, he had no idea how to break it. He could find no landmarks at all, not even their original entrance point. Everything looked the same, and he had long since lost all sense of direction. Until, finally, his scout reported a wonderful find.
"Bones!" cried the young drake. "The bones of some large animal!"
"About flaming time," growled Infernuvar. He winged his way down the passage, to land beside the scout and his discovery. It was indeed impressive. From the structure, Infernuvar guessed it to be the skeleton of a much younger version of the titan they encountered back in the cavern.
"Right!" he barked as the other Dragons came up. "Take your pick! These bones should have enough marrow to sate us all!" And, he added silently, finally give us a landmark.
After they had taken their pick -- from what was left after Infernuvar had eaten his share -- they continued down the passage. Infernuvar was pleased to note that it was a straight tunnel, with no more side passages. With luck, they should be able to escape this enchanted maze.
They had luck indeed. They passed only two side passages, which Infernuvar ignored. Suddenly the tunnel began a sharp decline. At the same time, the sense of enchantment lifted. Nearly mad with joy, Infernuvar burst ahead of his flight, to finally erupt through a layer of dead lumina into wide freedom. He glanced around, and saw to his pleasure that he was flying over the subterranean sea he had discovered earlier.
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 PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2005 9:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Darac emerged from his latest battle exhausted but triumphant. The monster whose carcass he left behind him was relatively small, about half the size of the Ubervargs. Still, it had put up more than a decent fight. Not only did it prove resistant to his energy blasts, it channeled its own spirit energy through a pair of underdeveloped wings, creating a dazzling -- and deadly -- shower. It also had a penchant for spewing noxious vapours, which had seared Darac's lungs and probably would hve killed him a few days earlier. Never mind its teeth and claws, which were nearly as sharp as those of the Xiphers.
After carving off some of the flesh to replenish his rations, Darac moved on, leaning against the wall to support his tired body. At first he did not notice the chittering sound that echoed before him. When he finally did notice it, he could not recall where he had heard it before. Then the light from his makeshift lumina torch shone in thousands of liquid, sightless eyes, and he remembered the caribes.

The caribes were not the only creatures attracted by the sound and smell of death. Amaru's ears flicked back as he caught the sound of hissing breath behind them, but he said nothing. The sound was distant; given the manner in which this particular tunnel reflected echoes, it could be out in the cavern.
Amaru was now in the rear, with Liang leading. thus he did not know at first why they had stopped. He heard Malphax whistle, and coming around his shapeshifted brother he could see why.
Once more they were witness to the chaos that Darac could wreak. Blood slicked the entire passage before them. Long gauges marred the tunnel, ofset by craters both large and small. The mangled remains of some dragon-like creature lay in several parts in the middle of the carnage.
"Another kill for your Lyco friend," observed Malphax. "Well, at least we won't have to go hungry."
Liang blanched. "Master Malphax," he said, "do you intend to ... eat ... this thing?"
"Rascal has a point, Master Liang," said Amaru with a smile. "We are running low on provisions. From now on, the food we brought with us shall be reserved for you and Kynoto. Rascal and I will live off the land."
"As you wish," murmured Liang, too polite to say more.
"Speakin' o' the lass," said Malphax, "shouldna I put her down no'? It'll be hard fightin' otherwise."
"Fighting?" asked Liang.
Amaru nodded. "Yes; Rascal must have heard them too. I was not sure at first, but we have been followed. They are, I would guess, after the leavings of our friend the Prince."
Amaru turned to face up the tunnel, readying Ender's Spear and Ancients' Sword. Liang grasped the Tridusa; Malphax drew out an ebony wand.
The hissing drew closer. Nothing was to be seen, however, beyond the light cast by the apparition. Then the darkness in the tunnel shifted, and a liquid shadow detached itself and blurred toward them. Amaru cried out as the creature struck him. His sword spun from his grasp, pain tore through his belly.
Liang screamed in horror as a black sabre pierced out Amaru's back. The light dimmed as Amaru's will wavered. Malphax, however, kept his head. He cast two spells in quick succession. The first set orbs of fire blazing above their heads so that they could see. The second slammed a blow of concentrated energy into Amaru's assailant.
The Blacktooth Xipher snarled and wrenched its forearm from the apparition's fading body. A blow from its tail splintered its presumptious assailant's wand. The shapeshifted Dragon dodged its following strike, but the third shattered his breastbone and pierced his lung.
More Xiphers appeared. Six had red teeth; two more had white teeth and silvery markings on their black bodies. Sensing Liang, as the only remaining threat, the hissed their challenges and charged him.
The Eastern Wizard had recovered his composure. Deftly he wove the power of the Tridusa into a powerful spell. Uttering the incantation, he made a stabbing motion with his hand. The air before him combusted, forming swords of super-heated flame that drove through the hearts of his monstrous opponents.
He shifted to the Blacktooth, which had just tossed aside the bloody form of Malphax. Quicky he wove another spell. A series of runes flashed before him, emitting dozens of rapid, powerful lightning blasts that struck the monster on its shimmering black carapace.
The Xipher hissed contemptuously. Unfazed by the electirc barrage, it prepared to strike down its last foe. However, its sensitive hearing caught a rustling. It turned, and received the Ender's Spear through its heart.
"Master Amaru!" cried Liang in mingled shock and relief. "I feared you were - "
"Dead? Not I, Master Wizard, but there is no time. Rascal, the old fool, will go into shock if we do not treat him swiftly."

Darac howled. The bestial sound was the best, the only channel for his emotions. He had slain over a million caribes, leaving only gore and ashes, but the victory was once again bitter. Because, beginning the battle exhausted, he had been easily overwhelmed by the little monsters. If it had not been for the amulet, he would be dead.
Still howling, he grasped the chain and ripped the amulet from his neck. He bounced against the all and slid away into the darkness. Although an observer probably could not have guessed it, this was not a further example of Darac's rage. Frustrated he was, stupid he was not. The amulet had resurrected him three times; its magic was now expended. If he lost again, it would be the end.
"And that's the way it sould be," he said hoarsely. "If the fate of my people were not riding on this, I would never have accepted such a device. But I'm finished with it now. Good riddance!"
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 PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2005 5:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

In the Southern town of Daring, two men stood on a hastily erected watchtower, gazing down into the forest. The trees were tall, and had once been thick with foliage. Now they were sere, the few leaves still clinging to the boughs curled and dead. Thanks to this, the two had an unobstructed view of the space beneath the trees. Jumon, Lord of Daring, would have preferred the foliage. He would also have preferred just about anyone else standing next to him.
"Fall seems to have come early to your district," observed the other, as if to mock his thoughts. He was elegantly dressed in black silk lined in silver thread - clothes better than anything Jumon could wear. His polished ebony staff decorated with soft grey tassels proclaimed him to be a Superior Commander of the Brotherhood of the Night.
Jumon made no reply. He was viscerally weary of the Superior Commander's patronizing remarks. Brother Astartine was from Crescendara, the great metropolis to which Jumon himself owed fidelity. The Superior Commander viewed himself as doing an inestimable favour to these frontier rubes by bringing his elite unit north to "deal with their problems for them." Jumon could only pray that when the time came, the urbanite would be able to vindicate his arrogance by saving them from destruction.
The time was soon to be upon them. A cold wind arose in the north, rattling the dying branches of the trees. Jumon shivered, but not from the chill.
"This wind," he said. "The runners say that a similar wind sprang up before the towns of Challenge and Thrust were destroyed."
"It is a wind," replied Astartine, irritated. "The winds blow by Lunord's command."
"Do all of them?" Lumon pointed north into the forest. "Look there! What do you think that is?"
However, now it was Astartine who stayed silent. As they watched, a darkling mist shrouded the forest. Borne on the wind, it crept around the foot of the tower and seeped through the palisade.
"Light the torches!" commanded Jumon. "We cannot allow this mist to steal our vision!"
Below them, the city guards hastened to obey. Many times they attempted to strike up matches and kindle the torches and lanterns hanging upon the palisade, but they failed.
"It seems your wood is wet," Astartine remarked, while failing to explain how anything could be wet after three weeks of drought. "If only I had thought to bring some Dwarven lamps with me." He turned and began descending from the tower. Over his shoulder he called, "Stand back, my Lord. In the darkness the Brotherhood has the advantage. You'll only get in the way if you try to fight."
Just as the Superior Commander's boot touched the ground, grey streaks sped through the darkness. The palisade splintered and shook as the blurs resolved into the bony forms of Shadowbeasts. Astartine cursed and shouted a command. Immediately forty black- and grey-clad men appeared outside the palisade and engaged the monsters with staff and sword. Astartine unbound his own staff and used it to vault over the wooden rampart and into the battle.
Jumon had to admire the Superior Commandment's skill. He and his men, although outnumbered five to one, swiftly dispatched the Shadowbeasts with only a few minor wounds. As the least monster fell, Astartine sent several men to reconnoiter the woods.
There was a scream and a flash of electricity. Two of the scouts came dashing back out of the woods, followed by misty shapes barely discernable in the already obscure air. "Phantoms!" they cried. "BLack Phantoms!"
"What of it?" retorted Astartine. "There are but three! Trust in Lunord and fight!"
The Brotherhood responded with a cheer and rushed to engage the vague figures. More electricity and great whorls of flame erupted. By this magical light Jumon saw that Astartine had engaged one of the Phantoms in single combat. The Superior Commander delivered a flurry of rapid blows, preventing the Phantom from retaliating. Finally it dissolved, its incorporeal form joining the dark mist.
He turned to aid his men against the other two Phantoms. The Brotherhood was suffering casualties now; not all of them were as good as their leader. But, with Astartine's help, they managed to defeat the dreaded Phantoms.
The last Phantom dissolving, the unseen general launched anothwer wave of assault. Hundreds of zombies and skeletons shambled out of the forest, pressing back the Brotherhood by sheer numbers and threatening to encircle them. Although a single blow from a staff was enough to destroy most of the undead, their numbers were so great it made little diffrence.
Suddenly a cry of alarm sounded from the city. While the zombies occupied the Brotherhood, more Shadowbeasts had circled around and were now attacking the town on three sides. City and Elite Guards rushed to defend the palisade, supported by archers in the Guardhouses and a few Elves who had wandered into town. It was little good. The palisades could not endure the claws and horns of the Shadowbeasts. The City Guards fell nearly as easily. Alone, the Elite Guard could not hope to withstand the seething onslaught.
Then the assault stopped. The Shadowbeasts broke off and meted back into the gloom. The undead ceased to fight and were scattered by the Brotherhood.
"Victory!" cried Astartine to the cheers of his men. Jumon slammed his fist on the parapet of the tower, mindless of the danger posed by the slivers of wood.
"Don't be a fool!" he yelled down at the Superior Commander. "The town's defenses are breached! Our forces were being decimated! The only reason why they would have withdrawn is because they have some worse fate planned for us!"
"You are the fool!" returned Astartine. "No scrounging undead is a match for the Brotherhood of the Night!"
"You should listen to Lord Jumon," said a cold female voice. The Superior Commander turned. Emerging from the forest was single figure, bright in the darkness but terrible. Her flesh was white, smooth like armour and banded with sinew. Her joints were protected by tough, sharp sheathes of cartilage extruding from her skin. Her bare feet were clawed, so were her hands. Her face was stark, without colour except for the slitted green eyes and the wiry black hair. She was clothed in a tunic and kilt of tanned hide, and an oddly contrasting sash and cape of black velvet.
"What manner of creature are you?" demanded Astartine.
"I am Novagena Arx," she answered, her voice still biting like a Northern wind. "I am the Queen of Lord Tyrhail. I am nothing else."
"And what do you want?"
"I? Ask rather what Tyrhail wants. From this day forward, you serve him."
"Do I? I shall decide that for myself." He spun his staff, and feinted at her. Novagena shifted and caught his staff with one hand. With her other she struck him across the face. He staggered back and fell, his leg twisted under him. Grasping the staff in both hands, Novagena snaped the enchanted ebony and tossed the fragments aside.
"All of you!" she cried. "I speak this message only once. Surrender or die!"
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 PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2005 8:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

"Soo, it seems ye saved me again." Malphax smiled weakly as Amaru helped him to his feet.
"Save your breath, brother, and concentrate on maintaining your human form." Amaru shook his head fondly. "Your fangs are starting to show, and we cannot possibly lug a Dragon around these tunnels -- especially one so fat as you."
"Ha! If you weren't made of ethereal fluff, Ah'd bet ye'd be no featherweight, either. Never mind that ye've got fangs too. A dooble standard, tha's what it is." Despite his words, Malphax made an effort and regained his full human form.
Amaru nodded encouragely. "Now lean on Liang. I will carry Kynoto."
The Easterner extended an arm, grunting as the shapeshifted Dragon accepted his help. Both spell-casters watched as amaru heaved Kynoto onto his shoulders.
"Master Amaru," said Liang, "we cannot go on like this. Lack of time or not, Kynoto is still unconscious, Malphax badly hurt, and you will not deny that you yourself are wounded. We must find a safe place and rest."
"Weel spoken, laddie," said Malphax. "But there ar'na safe places i' the Labyrinth. Ah'm fair ta weak ta make another seal."
"You may not need to." Amaru closed his eyes. "Not far from here is a cross-tunnel, protected by a spell of confusion. Any monster in there will be disoriented, while my preternatural abilities will protect us from being overly affected."
"If it is our only option, Master Amaru, then let us waste no more time."

Darac climbed up out of the sea. He had had a harrowing journey through a tunnel overgrown with vines whose foliage whose covered with razors. Even his toughened skin had born torn by the serrated ridges. Then had come a clash with a monstrous cat, larger than the Ubervargs. He won easily enough once he located it, but that had been a hard task given that it was dark grey striped with black and shifted colours every time it moved.
The sea had been refreshing at first. It washed the blood and slime from his body, even if the salt irritated his scratches. Then the next thing he knew he was wedged in the throat of a giant eel, being forced down into its belly by its powerful muscles. Before he could deal with the monster itself, he had to battle its intestinal organisms, which resembled fish with wings and kinfe-like teeth. After wiping out these nuisances and bursting the eel's abdominal section open, Darac had still to swim another six miles or so.
He shook himself off and starting picking his way across the slippery stones of the beach. He snorted in grim amusement when he noticed that there was only one tunnel ahead. Considering the fact that he had no idea where he was, it was nice to know he would not be lost in a maze of tunnels.

Amaru and his companions entered into the miniature labyrinth that, only a few hours earlier, Infernuvar had escaped from. As soon as they came into the region amaru said was under enchantment, his ears perked up.
"This magic," he murmured in amazement. "I have never felt anything like it. And of all the places to find such a pattern -- here, in these Dungeons!"
"It is quite pleasing," agreed Liang. Malphax, half-asleep, grumbled something.
"It is almost as if it were a melogy, music sung by the Ether Winds." Amaru indeed seemed to be listening to a enrapturing song. His ears were cupped forward, his eyes closed, his breathing slowed. Finally he sighed and gestured forward. "There. This spell is not a random occurence, nor is it malevolent. It was erected and maintained to guard something of great beauty. What that may be, or who wrought the enchantment, I cannot yet tell, but in this direction lies a haven. Praise the gods, Master Wizard; we have found the haven you desired."

For days they wound deeper into the enchanted maze. Finally Amaru halted. Before them was a long, smooth tunnel. At the far end was a blank wall.
"It cannot be a dead end," said Liang, mystified. "The pattern is stronger and more vibrant here than anywhere else. By the type of the pattern, the focal point should be the location meant to be protected."
"And so it is." Amaru pointed towards the smooth end of the tunnel. "Examine that wall, Master Liang. You will find that it is an intricate illusion, and what really lies there is a door."
"So it is," assented the Wizard. "Yet it might as well be the other. This door is closed and sealed. we could force it open, but I hesitate to destroy what somebody else worked so diligently to create."
"If we are correct about the nature of these spellcasters, there should no need." Amaru walked forward. Gracefully he paced down the tunnel until he came to its end. He laid the fingertips of his right hand on the wall. As he did so, a delicate pattern of runes, pale red and blue, appeared, tracing the outline of a double door eight feet tall and wide enough for two men.
"O Masters of the Ether Winds," began Amaru, his tone firm yet humble, "we are weary travellers who have suffered greatly in the Dungeons. Finding your beautiful oasis, we have come here to seek your aid. In the name of all that is good and holy, open your gates and admit us into your realm, if only for a brief span."
Silence fell. Amaru's words faded. Then another voice spoke. It was wonderful beyond comparison; sweet and sharp, light and resonating.
"For many years have we dwelt here in peace," said the voice. "Exiled, but also safe from all evil. Now have you, Stranger, come and disturbed us; what do you want, why do you journey here?"
"The lands above are in grave peril," answered Amaru. Although his tones were slightly rougher than the invisible speaker's, Liang hearing perceived that they were yet alike. "We have come here as the only place where we might gain the experience necessary to defeat the danger."
"So do you speak, yet evil you bear with you. The discord of your corruption mars the harmony of the Winds around you. What dangers you do face, you must bring upon yourselves."
"This present danger is not of our making," replied Amaru. "Search our hearts; I know you have the power. I will not deny that there may be darkness and error there, but we try hard to amend it."
"You speak well, O Stranger, and truthfully. Your heart at least is pure; the trials are many which you did suffer, and they have tempered you. The other there has suffered too; his heart more tainted, but he strives to throw it off and redeem his father and himself. The girl's heart is of stone and ice. Thaw would seem impossible, and yet in your light, O Stranger, I sense that the coldness does recede. And what of your fourth companion? Here I find much that we dislike. A Dragon, and that is bad; a dissembler, and that is worse. And yet a wisdom and an innocence of thought we never looked for in his kind. Truly your party is a rare one and a strange. Tell me, O Wanderer, whither have you come, to have such influence over souls so wide apart?"
"I am Amaru, Guardian of Man, and I come from the Celestial Realms. I do not mean to boast, but I must answer."
"Answered and well, Amaru. Welcome to our exile lands, where the Zymphoni have long kept our singing taintless and without harm."
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 PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2005 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

The underground world of the Zymphoni was a place of beauty unsurpassed by anything the wanderers had yet seen. Even Amaru, who had witnessed the ethereal majesty of the Celestial Realms, was awed by the splendour. No more can be said to describe it; the tongues of mortals have no words for such delicate radiance. The Zymphoni were like the realm they had created. They were fragile, yet filled with a strength beyond understanding.
The party stayed with the Zymphoni for what seemed like many days. Yet, when Amaru expressed concern for the urgency of his task, the Zymphoni gently rebuked him.
"For," said Choras, the one who had admitted them from the outer enchantment, "we are not unaware of the necessity which drives you. Did you we think we would hinder you? Be at ease; time flows here only as we wish it; fast or slow, its speed is determined by our will."
Still, even the Zymphoni could not halt time. Although Amaru and Malphax were completely restored, Kynoto's wounds were more severe. Even after what seemed a week spent in their care, the Zymphoni had been unable to wake her to consciousness.
Finally, Amaru had declared that they must go. However, as Kynoto was still unfit to travel, he asked the Zymphoni for one final favour: to keep her until she awoke, then help her deal with the changes wrought by the elixir that Luna had given her.
"It is done," said Choras. "The young bounty hunter will remain with us, and we will teach her what we can. Further can we aid you, however, though you ask it not. The enchantment that is laid over the entrances to our land reaches even to the Gate of the South. The Elders have conferred and agreed that you may use it to speed your way. The path shall be straightened for you; for make haste, for it is still many leagues from here to the surface!"
"This is more than we could ask for!" Amaru bowed deeply. "Thank you, Choras, and thank your Elders for us. We and all the mortal races are forever in your debt."
"We have done but little. You have the heavy burden, O Guardian. Go! And if you wish to repay, then cleanse your world of evil."
"We shall do the best we can."
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 PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2005 12:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

The high valley where once the fire drakes met had perished. Like its new master, it had risen agian to a new and terrible form. The ground was bare, drained of all life. Only grey dust remained of the hardy grasses and shrubs which had once covered the valley. The very structure of the mountain was weakened, so that great fissures had opened up, casting fumes and a red glare up into the clouds. These were black, with no promise of rain but only lightning scarlet with anger. The natural order could no longer sustain Tyrhail's vile presence. The Vampire knew all this and laughed to himself, for he would soon have the entire world at his disposal, and in the meantime the decaying elements gave his castle an excellent defense.
The castle was terrible enough in itself. It had been hewn from the deeps of the earth by magicks similar to those used by Wizards. But this was a dark edifice, built of black stone and steel. Turret upon turret reached up to spear the clouds; walls tipped with cruel spikes ran around keeps filled with fire and unliving sentinels.
Far down on the first level of the stronghold, adjoining the empty Great Hall, was Tyrhail's council chamber. As the forces of nature attempted to tear the castle apart, its dark master gathered up his advisers with one sweep of his eyes.
At his right, Novagena, Regina Venatrix. To his left, her former peer, Andravian the Cold. Next to to Regina sat the newest addition to his lieutenants: Astartine of the Eclipse, the traitor Brother of the Night. Unlike Andravian, he was under no compulsion. He had joined after being defeated by Regina not for fear but for ambition.
"Now then," began Tyrhail. "It is time to review our situation. Regina?"
"Our Southern flank is secure," she said, bowing her head before turning to face her husband. "And the Dragons' claw-lickers are holed up in Cheswick. Unfortunately, I shall not be able to lead any further expeditions South."
"Oh? And why is that, my Queen?"
She smiled. "Because I am with child."
Astartine twitched at this. Tyrhail turned to him next. "Yes? Have you something to say, General?"
Astartine cleared his throat. "If Lady Novagena is unable to resume comand, then I ask to be allowed to take her place."
"You would attack your own people?" asked Andravian, raising his eyebrows.
"They are not my people any more."
"Do not worry yourself about it, Wizard. But tell me, how goes the Orb?"
"Sire." The Wizard bowed his head in a deeper gesture than Regina's. "The Orb of Dysjunction is complete. However, neither I nor any of my subordinates have determined ow to activate it. Also, it seems to require an enormous amount of energy in order to function."
"Again, worry not. I will deal with the Orb from now on. Now, I sense you have something else to report?"
"Indeed. A week again a tunnel was discovered during the digging of a new dungeon. It was blocked by rubble, but the fall seemed to be recent. We have cleared it away. The passage thus revealed seems to wind deeper into the earth. I sent some younger wizards to scout it, but that were turned back by a magic barrier. Upon examining it, I discovered that it was not strong. I could have destroyed it completely, but felt that you should be informed first. I await your orders."
"Excellent job." Tyrhail thought for a moment, then rose. "Andravian, fortify this tunnel. Once it is secure, send a scout force beyond to probe it. Many secrets lie buried beneath Ardania. Regina, you are released from all duties. Take care of yourself. General Astartine, your request is granted; go and conquer the Southlands."

Three airships hovered above the unnatural shroud over Mt. Sydrian. These were not like the Dwarven Aeroships, but were wide and unroofed. Their decks were crafted of enchanted wood that would not burn. Upon them stood a legion of the fiery champions of Helia.
"We have received the goddess' order!" declared the Phoenix. Incensa stood upon the raised foredeck of the lead ship, her gaze meeting every pair of eyes from her hundred followers. "This abomination must be brought to an end. We may not strike against Xyra, but this his spawn shall not escape the cleansing flame! Sisters, prepare to attack!"
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 PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2005 4:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

East Cheswick

“The council is now in session” the fiery shout of Erenull fills the keep as others took their sit.
“Are you compelled to say it, or you are just so insufferably proud?” spoke an annoyed Revered mother, her disembodied voice, projected by magic, and echoed the room.
“A bit of both, and mostly the later” The shape shifted dragon replied cheerfully, apparently with the sole purpose of insulting the priestess.
“The first order of business is the staff” Spoke Sivion, who apparently ignored the bickering among the court. “We have completed the incantation for the transformation spell.”
“That we have” The Elf interjected, over vast distance “it was really pretty simple, we had hundreds of wizards, and so we had each of them tried a few different combinations a day. We have exhausted the probability within a few months, simple divide and conquer.”
“I beg to disagree” the old man said. “Staying awake for days at end may be fine for a half-dead priestess, but not senile old men. I hope the council does not agree on using brute force again.”
“That’s last of our problems” Karth’s voice boomed out of thin air, A large map rolled down from the roof as the warrior. “While the lot of you is busy trying to put together the old, dead puzzle, our enemy had being walking all over us, quite literally. We are not sure how much longer we can hide out under this ruined and occupied city without start to squeak.”
“Ah patience is a greater virtue now then it is ever.” Said the arbiter “In this test the law giver reward those who have strength to endure it …”
“All right all right” Came a very annoyed reply “I wonder why the rats don’t build temple in his name. But don’t call for help if you are siege, because I am not going to pull out now after all the work I put into this stunt.”
“As you wish, warrior” the arbiter replied to source of voice. “I just hope you don’t beg us to pull you out …”
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 PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2005 12:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Darac pushed himself along the side of the tunnel. He had been travelling steadily for two days, without food or water since leaving the sea. Although he had slain the eel, it looked as if it might have its revenge -- Darak's supplies had been ruined. And the seawater was salty.
Emaciated and parched, Darac unknowingly wavered in a perilous limbo between two deadly states. His energy level was just high enough that weaker monsters avoided him, while stronger monsters took no notice of him. Thus, he was undisturbed as he continued on through the passages.
At first he had stayed in the main tunnel; a wide affair with a high natural vault. But as his mind wandered with fatigue, so did his path. He had left the ,ain tunnel unwittingly. When he realized his mistake, he had already become entangled in a small net of side-tunnels. He shrugged and continued on. After, he reasoned hazily, he never knew where he was going anyway.
As his second day drew to a close -- relatively speaking -- Darac made a new discovery. But this one was far more heartening. He finally noticed that the tunnel was running up. Awakened from his dull state, he also realized that the air was moving, flowing from behind him and up to an invisible exit. He also sensed that the oppressive nature of the Dungeons was lightening, being dispersed with the air that rushed to escape.
Escape. He muttered the word in his mind, his throat being too dry to form the sound. He shoved himself away from the wall, and began stumbling up the centre of the passage.

Tyrhail slammed his fists into the Orb of Dysjunction. The dull black surface made no response. The frustrated Xyr-Mares turned away from the black expanse of crystal that rose above its cradling dais.
"What is the purpose of this?" he demanded of the air. "The amount of energy required to activate it -- absurd! What could possibly be worth it all? Ocimillium, you fool, what did you intend to do with it? Destroy the world? Faugh! All that effort -- wasted!"
"Sire." A lesser Vampire stood in the entrance the chamber, appearing nervous before his master's dark temper.
"Yes?" The Vampire shivered at the angry word, but nonetheless delivered his report.
"We found someone coming out of the new tunnel that Lord Andravian discovered. It appears to be a Lycolongus. He is in a very poor condition. We have taken him to the dungeons, but Lord Andravian wished to inform you and ask for instructions."
"A Lycolongus?" Tyrhail's mood quickly changed. He had long desired to have a Lycolongus in his forces. Possibilities ran through his mind. "Ha! Transfer him at once to the officers' quarters and see his needs are tended to. I want no harm to come to him until I have interviewed him personally."
"As you command, Sire."

Darac to find himself in a well-furnished if somewhat small room. This did not reconcile with his memories, which ended in a blur of undead faces and limbs crowding about him as he collapsed. He sat up and glanced about. Light was coming from a lamp set on a table. Next to it sat a bottle and a platter of food. Shrugging, he got up and went to see what his hosts had provided.
The bottle contained only water, and of a flat taste, but Darac cared very little. The food was somewhat better, and very satisfying. Just as he had filled himself, the door to his chamber was pushed open. He turned to find himself looking into the pale, bony face of what was obviously a Vampire.
"Welcome to Caer Sydrian," said the undead. "I am Tyrhail, master of this castle and the mountains surrounding it. My servants found you and brought you here. Please, tell me your name and why you came to my realm."
Darac's antennae twitched. This Tyrhail was attempting to probe his mind. He stood up warily, noting that the Vampire was still standing before the door, the room's only exit. "I am Darac son of Tarac," he answered. "I came to your 'realm' because it happened to be here. I only sought a way the exit from the Labyrinth said to be in the Sydrian Mountains."
"You have found it." Tyrhail frowned. "What 'Labyrinth' do you speak of? I have never heard of any maze beneath ancient Sydrian."
"The Labyrinth Dungeons extend throughout Ardania, or so says the apparition. Anyway, I've answered your questions, so now stand aside so I may get on with my business."
"Do not be absurd, Lyco." Tyrhail took a step closer; Darac's antennae quivered violently. "It was a fortuitous chance that brought you here, wherever you came from. Come, join me. I could use your strength, and reward you highly for it."
"Who's being absurd?" snapped Darac. He shifted his stance, preparing to fight. "You must be ignorant as well as stupid. I am the Prince of the Lycolongi! Me, swear fealty to you? As if any Lycolongus would serve a putrid undead hiding under a heap of rocks. Now move it before I send you back to the grave!"
Tyrhail's face twisted in anger. Blue lines appeared on his flesh and began shining with a cold light. But before he could speak or attack, a great shout of alarm was heard, as well as the deep clangour of gongs. Explosions sounded from above.
"Sire!" came a hoarse voice from beyond the door. "Flammifers are attacking! They have already captured the upper towers!"
"What!" Tyrhail turned, then cast a deadly look back at Darac. "Your fate is sealed, O Prince, remember that! Once these burning fools are destroyed, you shall join -- or wish you could!"
Tyrhail passed through the door, which slammed shut behind him. Red runes appeared and flamed upon it, barring egress from the chamber. Darac grinned.
"My fate isn't yours to make or break, corpse," he muttered. He cupped his hands, and began focusing energy.
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 PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2005 1:01 am    Post subject: poised to strike. Reply with quote Back to top

Temple of elements

“It’s not the task of this humble servant to question your authority” Emarius commented as the runes began to appear on the Scepter, one by one. “But I wouldn’t advice it. The kings of old must have incorporated all four elemental staves for a reason.”

“Fear paralyses the mind” The other replied. “One missing staff is hardly an inconvenience, as long as incantations are in place and the Scepter remain intact, I can look for the other components. Seeing the orb is ready I should cease it first. We will look for the staff of water later. Assemble the flight in new Cheswick and wait for my arrival. I would like to see how much resistance these rotting corpse can provide to an ancient god.”

“As you command, your celestial majesty”'

New Cheswick, fortifications

Sivion laughed as he watches the undead force siege the city in futility. The undead advanced towards the city in a solid wave until they come into the range of the mighty bastions, at that point they crumble immodestly.

A massive blast woke him up, the crystal on the nearest prism tower glow a terrible blue, and in a blinding flash, nearly a whole company of undead were sent flying. Dwarves are firing rather inaccurately into the horde of advancing undead, falling the weaker ones left and right.

“I am not quite sure why are they even trying” the old wizard chuckled to himself. He was about to smite the horde with some meteor when he caught a glint in the corner of his eye.

The cloud parted. Three dots descended upon his enemy with a speed too great for naked eye. Within moments the cloud above turned black and crackled, great pillar of lighting touched down and obliterated all in its path. And as suddenly as it begun, it was over, the cloud thinned, and sun shined as if nothing had taken place.

“That was … impressive” muttered the mage as the three dots leveled out in flight and transformed into bolts of lighting, before he could act, three dragons spiraled down towards the keep.

“Guess I always have more work to do” he whined and departed for the keep.

New Cheswick, central keep

“The bulk of our force is staging an ambush at the capital” The arbiter reported as he pointed out location of New Valmorgan on the giant map. “The airships have established a supply link from here to the continent in the south. They have being ferrying supplies in and refugees out. With ample supply; we are resisting attacks from the east effortlessly, as you have seen on your way here. However I am not quite sure how they discovered our location, apparently concealing an entire city is not quite simple as we thought it would be.”

“Very well” Emarius’s wizard form spoke apathetically. He waved his hand at the map dismissively before continuing. “Do you have enough supplies to provide a single meal for ten dragons?”

“Yes your excellence.” The arbiter bowed, “I am quite certain, the magistrate will fill you in on the details.”

“Very well, I should see her shortly. Remember that fate of the whole world might depend on it. You are dismissed.”

At the moment, Sivion entered, he eyed the Archon for a moment, and frowned. “Master, is there anything I can do to help?”

“Beside being quite, I am afraid not.”

Ancient ruins

Infernuvar made his way back to the settlement with no treasure, and a lot less dragons. There has luckily being no further incidence involving bone worms. He thought he will finally be rich after he persuades the Guardian to join him on a treasure hunt.

And he cursed as a fireball roared into town. The scout resumed his normal form near a rampart, and landed. And what he communicated immodestly trigged a string of obscenity from his leader.

“I have finished my round today, my lord, phantom sighted in the tunnel leading to the surface, likely a scout. I have dispatched it for you, any other orders.”

“If you are asking for gold you have it. But I need you to do another round before we call it a day, dispatch anything you can but don’t die, we need everyone alive down here, Dismissed.”
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 PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2005 3:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

The admixture of several hundred Flammifers to the corrupted atmosphere of the high valley had results unforeseen by either attackers or defenders. The Ether Winds became over-charged with fiery essence. This caused the air to literally explode as the Winds dumped their superabundance into the physical world. The firestorm that now engulfed the roofs and towers of Tyrhail's castle was the result, as was the the new discharge of the clouds. It was raining pure fire.
In this chaos, the Flammifers easily penetrated the fortress and begin a fiery purge of its vile inhabitants. Hundreds of zombies were instantly incinerated, and waves of heat emanating both from the Flammifers and the angry Winds rendered helpless the living mind slaves and more intellignet undead that sought to stop the rampage. However, the Flammifers had to pay a price for this success as well. Their bodies were rapidly drained by the amount of power they channeled, and the ethereal entropy which seemed to be their ally was in fact sapping their strength.
Deep below Tyrhail was in shock. Images of terror and pain flooded his mind as the links to each of his mind slaves activated in a deluge of panic. intimately connected to the Ether Winds as well, the sudden conflagration further distracted him. He came near to losing mind in these first moments, but Tyrhail's will was an alloy of strength and resilience. Finally he managed to let of his connections go, leaving his thralls, undead and alive, without direction, but freeing him to plan a counter-assault.
This attack came in the form of ninety Black Phantoms - the core of the fortress' garrison. These dire spectres where untouched by the fiery maelstrom, and had no difficulty navigating the wreckage of the upper reaches of the fortress. Although their own fire-based spells were useless against the Flammifers, they could and did attack with their claws.
At first it seemed that it would become a stalemate, as neither Phantoms nor Flammifers were significantly superior. But the loss of strength the Flammifers were suffering soon became apparent. One by one the Phantoms extinguished them, and Helia's forces were rapidly decimated.
Tyrhail, exhausted from directing this conflict, collapsed in his throne. He paused, trying to think what he had been doing.
"Ay, yes, the Lycolongus - " His thoughts were violently interrupted. A massive tremor shook the castle. This was followed by an explosion and a sudden taughtening of the Ether Winds. The currents of magic wer all suddenly redirected, the strnage pattern locking onto the officers' quarters. The pattern seemed vaguely familiar, but why would it be focused in the officers' quarters? They were empty, and only he and his Queen had that kind of power -- unless -
"The Lycolongus!" he cried, in a much different tone of voice. Once again the castle shook, unable to take the physical strain of so much energy gathered in one place. cracks spread through the floor, and ominous, dazzling light streamed up through them. Tyrhail sprang from his throne, but the castle shuddered one last time, the floor buckled, and the Vampire found himself flung against the wall by an immense shockwave.
"No! Not this!" he shrieked as more cracks appeared and bits of masonry began to fall. "Not another one! This isn't right! Nothing will be spared! Nothing!"
A great beam of concentrated energy blasted through the forward part of his throne room. Tyrhail quickly cast a spell, and winked out just before the entire chamber collapsed.

As at Valmorgen, a single impassive figure looked on as Tyrhail's great stronghold collapsed. The flames at its peak still unquenched, its foundation was now being blasted out by great streams of energy.
"How sad," observed the figure. "You have proven to be nothing more than a nine-day wonder, Vampire. I thught you were something greater. But now, your bid for power is over."
"It is not!" spat a voice from the darkness. Wither had appeared to be talking to himself, but he was not. Tyrhail emerged from a crater below him, his pallid face stil defiant in the light of his burning citadel. "I shall rebuild -- if the world is not destroyed in the interval! Darac and Xyra -- if they fight, what will happen?"
"One will win, the other will lose. It makes no difference tp you, Vampire, because it is time you left."
"What do you mean by that? And who are you? I have never seen you before!"
"My name is Wither, but in this case, I am the emissary of death." The man raised his arms. The red runes carved into his flesh begin to glow. "For you, undead, the battle is over. Go to Krypta and leave your dreams behind!"
What are talking about? I shall not die yet!" Tyrhail took a step forward, then halted red runes appeared around him, entwining him in a crimson cord. He struggled, but the runes only multiplied. Suddenly they flashed and were no more, and Tyrhail crumbled to dust. Wither lowered his arms and vanished into the darkness.
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 PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2005 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Sydrian Mountains

The reminders of house silverwing sat atop a great heap of rubble, pecking though rubbles. A Lycolongus saw them passing overhead, but paid a little attention. Alexandra was dying to use the transformation yet the pitiful resistance offered by the phantoms did not warrant it.

The voice that whispers to her in her sleep has grown louder. Its sinister words can now even be heard in her waking mind. The dragon winced; perhaps soon she could see him with her waking eyes. Not that she would tell the rest, Emarius should not be concerned over this; she is not a hatchling anymore.

At the moment, the voice speaks of the location of the orb, as if they were one. The orb calling to the voice, and the voices responded in kind. It was an eerie feeling, as if the dragon was seeing though a dream with her living eyes.

She dug, guided by strange will who beguiles the mind. And there it was: lying under the heaps of rubble was the complete orb. It was completed, as the voice foretold. And as expected, the voice wish her to complete the staff, strangely it had not mentioned the last staff.

But should I listen, Alexandra thought, so far the voice has not lead her astray, but it could have done so only to own her trust. Maybe she should seek council, but how absurd is the image of a dragon that cannot make its own judgments.

Perhaps, when the need comes, it will be used, for now, it should be finished, that wouldn’t hurt

Would it?
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 PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 12:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Amaru, Malphax, and Liang stood at the end of the Zymphoni's tunnel. Before them was an intersection, where two other tunnels met with theirs and formed a wide open area. Across from them was a wide passage sloping up. Far above, they could see a faint glimmer.
"The Sydrian entrance to the Dungeons," said Amaru. "We are on the verge of re-entering Ardania. But," he added, frowning, "I cannot help feel that something is wrong. The barrier -- it is weak, far weaker than the one guarding the Anvil entrance."
"Perhaps it is a result of Xyra's escape," suggested Liang.
"Perhaps. He might well have forced his way through. And the fire Dragons coming in might also have weakened it." Amaru fell silent, gazing up at the wavering light.
"Well?" prodded Malphax finally. "Dinna ye have business up there?"
"Yes." Amaru sighed. "I forbode that more evil will come of this, but we cannot tarry. Come. The final battle awaits us."

Darac stirred. He had collapsed in exhaustion after his spectacular exertion. The castle had collapsed around him and over him, but his aura had still been strong enough to keep him from being crushed.
Shoving aside the rubble, he peered up into a pale, washed-out sky. No clouds were visible, nor any creature fair or foul. He stood up, surveyed the rest of the area. Nothing but broken stone and twisted iron. The wreckage spread far down into the valley. Again, there was no sign of any creature, living or undead.
Darac snorted and turned to leave. As he did so, however, he heard a sound. Wind rushing beneath vast wings, claws scraping as they found purchase on stone. He glanced over his shoulder to see that a gold Dragon had landed atop a particularly massive pile of debris. Her wings were silver, and her entire body had a strange blue cast to it. She glanced at him, but showed no interest. Darac also had better things to worry about. Like getting out of here.
He took a step, but felt something odd shift beneath his feet. Bending down, he grasped it and held it up. There was no mistaking the black haft and red gems. This was the Ender's Spear.
"Apparition?" he murmured. "Were you here? This is a strange token to leave behind."
-Keep it, Darac.- The Lyco started, but he was not really surprised.
-Amaru. I should have known you could communicate this way. anything you'd like to tell me? Such as why you left your little stick with me?-
-Because the Ender's Spear is the only thing that can defeat Xyra. I and my companions have gone ahead, to East Cheswick. There I will lay out my plans, and we will weaken Xyra as much as possible. Then it will be up to you. You are the only being now who has a chance of defeating tis monster. Go to Mayhew. That is where Xyra is, for he has withdrawn there after taking Valmorgen. Take no action, however, until the proper time.
-And when will that be? Don't answer. I'll know, right?-
-You will indeed. Farewell, O Prince, until we meet in the Celestial Realms.-
Amaru's presence disappeared. Darac frowned at the spear. "Bloody strange way to end his speech," he muttered, and set off on his journey. Behind him, the Dragon lifted a dull black spehere of massive size from the rubble.
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